Tuesday, April 14, 2009

4/14/09 Anitigua-Monterrico-Xela. 375 miles

So I had a few days off from Spanish school for Semana Santa (Easter). It's the biggest holiday in Central America and especially in the colonial city of Antigua, so I decide to ride out that way for a couple of days. It's a 4 hour ride through the mountains and by 4:00pm I'm in the neighboring town of San Felipe where I get a room for a bit cheaper than in Antigua, where prices have tripled for the holiday. Antigua is a well known gringo tourist destination and combined with hundreds of Central Americans for the holiday, it's bursting at the seams. It is still one of the prettiest cities in the world, framed by three volcanoes, cobblestone streets, 400 year old churches and ruins and houses painted in bright colors framing the walkways. The town is also known for it's spanish schools, but I decided not to come here to study because of the huge amount of english that is spoken here. It's such a nice place I may study here for a week though. Met a bunch of great people the past few days here. Blanca who runs a hostel in town (and where I will stay when I come here again) and pretty-ass Nancy who works there and who just kept blushing and smiling when I was trying to get her to come to the beach with me (she really wanted to , I swear!), Mason who has been here for TWO YEARS in a little village building water systems for the Peace Corps, Charlotte, a beautiful light-skinned knockout who he has been seeing for a couple of weeks and who may stay with me a while in NYC in a couple of months, Sean, a cool guy from Oregon who is a week into a 6 month trip of some soul-searching, and several other cool travellers. Mason, Sean, and Charlotte asked me to take a 5 day hike to the ruins at El Mirador in the far north of Guatemala but I think I have to pass on that one. I gotta buckle down a bit and study a little more. I did however meet Sean and Charlotte at the beach in Monterrico for a day. I left Antigua on Easter Sunday after a weekend of watching some amazing processions and looking at "alfombras" which are carpets painstakingly made of colored sawdust in the streets only to be walked over and swept away by the highly detailed floats and processions. I actually happened to walk by where I parked my bike when one of these processions was happening to find several guys trying to lift my bike out of the way and put it who knows where. Shit!, sorry guys. I was lucky to happen upon this when it was going down and I sheepishly led the bike through a mass of observers. Anyway, back to leaving Antigua. It was another leisurely 2 hour ride to the beach when all of a sudden I hit a river. WTF? I find out I have to load my bike and myself onto a little barge and float to the beach a half-hour away. Sounds cool, but I forgot to go to the bank and the guys are trying to hit me with an exorbitant "gringo tax." Frankly, Im getting a little sick of this. I understand an increase for non-locals but they try to nail your ass for up to 15 times the normal price. Granted, that usually means going from like 25 cents to a few bucks but it's still all relative. I find 5 bucks American and we settle on that. Soon I'm in Monterrico and meet up with the other two. We swim in the pool at our hostel, the ocean (the waves are extremely violent here and I had a real scary situation where I was getting pounded and almost swept away, lesson learned!) have a great big meal for really cheap, enjoy the small town at night, have a couple of drinks, talk for a few hours and crash out. I leave the other 2 in the morning as I need to get back to classes and a fast 4.5 hours later through really dangerous and aggresive traffic, I arrive back "home" in Xela.

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