I like to think I’ve traveled a fair amount. Certainly not as much or to as many places as some, but I’ve seen a good number of places. In all that time, I have never stayed in a hostel. I have Couchsurfed, hitch-hiked, moved across the Atlantic alone, traveled Europe by myself and many other things – but I have never stayed in a hostel. At least, not until Central America. And I must say, it’s actually quite nice. The rooms are inexpensive, the locations are superb and you meet a crapload of fellow travelers. It was in Holistico that Audrey and I met Brittany and Evelyne. Brittany is from the US and Evelyne is from the Netherlands. Along with Trent, the five of us roamed around Antigua. Brittany had loaded a travel guide offline that mapped out a walking trail to Cerro de la Cruz. We all knew that the walk can be a bit dangerous in the mornings and at night because of thieves. Even though we were in a group during the day, we decided to take two tuk-tuks up the mountain, just to be safe, for 20 Quetzales per person (about $2.50).
I’m going to stop right there and attempt to explain what a tuk-tuk is. A tuk-tuk is a three-wheeled contraption that resembles something between a motorcycle and a lawnmower. They are cheap and a great way to get around a smaller city. Tuk-tuks are covered and have a passenger seat in the back. They can fit three smaller people comfortably (as comfortable as you can be bumping along cobblestone streets on the back of a lawnmower thing, that is); in a pinch, I’ve used a tuk-tuk with two other people including all our travel gear and we survived. Although this was taken in Honduras, a picture is worth a thousand words. Feast your eyes on a plethora of tuk-tuks!
Anyhow, taking the tuk-tuk was an experience. Our tuk-tuk drivers raced each other, up the mountain, but the second tuk-tuk barely had enough umph to get to the top. However, once we reached the summit, it was unquestionably worth it. The view was absolutely incredible.
Unfortunately pictures don’t do it justice, but you can see the entire city stretched out below. It was an interesting feat trying to get a local lady to take a picture with my camera, but she succeeded and the following is of the five of us are standing at the edge of the overlook. (Brittany, Audrey, me, Trent and Evelyne.)
Of course Audrey and I had to snap a selfie at the top.
We decided to attempt to walk back down the trail. There were guards posted along the way to deter thieves and mischief-makers, and we had a fantastic walk down the mountain and through the city.
The above picture is of the Arco de Santa Catalina. Originally it created a passageway from the Saint Catalina convent to a school, which kept the nuns from having to walk on the street. Today it pretty much leads to the center of town and is a focal point for getting around the city. Antigua is essentially a big square with even blocks throughout. You’d think it would be easy to get around, right? Wrong. It gets so confusing with every block being the same and every corner looking similar. But if you can get to the arch, chances are likely you can get to where you want to go.
Antigua is quaint and picturesque. Full of cobblestone streets, brightly painted homes and businesses, the mountains as the backdrop and motorbikes parked along the side. Now imagine a chicken bus driving around with tuk-tuks flying by and you’re picturing Antigua.
What is a chicken bus? That, above, my friend, is a chicken bus. It’s a revamped old American school bus with crazy colors and an interesting paint job. They come in a variety of different colors and names. They are the mode of public transportation here, and they were dubbed the name “chicken bus” because locals will bring – you guessed it – chickens aboard to go to and from. They are cheap and insane. Made to fit two school children per seat, chicken buses stuff as many people in them as they can hold – be it shoved under the seat, standing in the aisles, on top of the bus or hanging on to the back, chicken buses are an experience. A guy hangs out the side door shouting where the bus is going. It stops for a matter of seconds; the guy throws your bag on top of the bus and starts going before you’ve had time to figure out where you can fit. Then you hold on for dear life. I have yet to ride a chicken bus; I admit, it’s intriguing as well as terrifying. I’ll let you know what happens when I experience one. ;)