Meh. Lonely Planet tells me Antigua is Guatemala's tourism showpiece, the country's one must visit destination. Snore.
With it's perfectly preserved, heritage listed baroque architecture, Antigua is a pretty place. But I say the word pretty like I'm describing a good looking girl with no personality.
I tried. For six days I tried to like Antigua. We walked to the top of Cerro de la Cruz to take in the views of the pretty town. We sat people watching in parks and ate in restaurants recommended by locals, tourists and guidebooks. We visited the markets. We tried going out. Our choices were trivia night at an Irish bar, an abundance of ladies nights, or nightly movies at the Bagel Barn*.
Antigua is Guatemalan but unlike Xela it didn't feel Guatemalan.
Antigua is Colonial but without that striking combination of beauty and charm that exists in every other colonial town I've visited. I think of Cartagena and Leon and my heart squeezes. Those two towns, unforgettable.
But Antigua. I'm bored even writing about the place.
Let's move onto something more interesting.
That time we met Hamish and Andy and melted marshmallows on lava.
Ok, I'll stop Antigua bashing. Most tourists love the place. I loved visiting Pacaya, an active volcano we visited one afternoon from Antigua.
We had joined a tour group for the trip and while waiting for our tickets at the entrance to the trail, noticed a tall guy in a jumpsuit with the name Andy written on his back. Could it be? Lucy and I looked at each other. Andy turned around, noticed us staring and came over hand stretched out, I'm Andy! After some awkward conversation on our part (starstruck?) Andy called Hamish over for a photo. They were so lovely. And so tall! Swoon! I can't wait to see the episode of their show where they are at Pacaya.
There was one thing I had to do in Central America. Roast marshmallows on lava. Years ago a friend did it at Pacaya and I always had that picture in mind. Unfortunately there wasn't huge lava flows like she got, but who am I to complain. I GOT TO ROAST MARSHMALLOWS ON LAVA.
Literally in the middle of nowhere lies the most stunning spot in Guatemala. It took us eight hours from Antigua, two hours on windy gravel roads, to get to the tiny town Lanquin where we would base ourselves to visit Semuc. Since we were on a tight timeline we only had two nights, one day, in the area but you could definitely spend more time here, chilling out by the Cahabon River.
Semuc Champey is a 300 metre long limestone bridge, on top which is a series of pools. We spent the day swimming in the pools, jumping off swings into the river and grinning with glee at how lucky we were to be there.
To be fair, I've heard of worse bus journeys in Guatemala. I had met two people who had been hijacked at gunpoint.
For us, our seven hour bus trip from Lanquin to Flores turned into a 14 hour journey. Those extra hours were:
Three hours - spent on the side of the road waiting for our broken down bus to be fixed.
One hour - spent in the back of a Doritos truck after realising we were better of hitching to the next town than waiting for our bus to be fixed.
Three hours - spent going at the speed of a SNAIL, with the bus driver insisting he was doing it for our safety.
Our next stop, Tulum in Mexico (via Belize). Our fourth day in the last week we were spending in a bus. Jampacked backpacking isn't my ideal way to go, but the beaches of Mexico beckoned.
* I really liked the nightly movies at the Bagel Barn, in Antigua.