I liked Antigua. It's an interesting city. Originally slated to be the capital of Guatemala, it was established as the main city with all the expected buildings and twenty years in an earthquake struck and levelled the place to the ground. So they rebuilt. Some time later, another earthquake, more rebuilding.
Two hundred years and a lot of devistaing earthquakes later, they decided building a capital between three volcanos was probably not the best planning decision and they shifted it to a new location and declared the old location closed. But people being people, not everyone left and so the remains of the city linger on.
Because of the earthquakes no buildings can be over two stories high, plus now it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site so if new buildings are built, they have to be built in kind with the existing ones. Most buildings have conservation orders on them, so they can't be knocked down. So places like McDonalds and Burger King are in lovely old buildings with a tiny plaque on the outside with their name. No garish neon lights.
The thing I loved about it is the history. The place is literally oozing history. The streets are cobbles and the place it littered with old buildings, but they're in completely different states of repair. This one might be fully restored, that one could be a shell with a modern building inside it and over there, that one could just be a wall and nothing else.
At one point I was staring at a wall and realised I was actually looking at the inside wall of a church, except the rest of it has long since gone. I just found that sort of thing amazing.
Antigua was also the site of my first ride in a chicken bus. Some of us caught one out to a the Valhalla Macadamia Research Station where we saw how they're promoting macadamias over clearfelling the jungle. An interesting trip.
We also climbed up Pacaya, a volcano about an hour out of town. I think that was the most physically demanding thing I did on the trip. A seven kilometre round trip going about one kilometer vertical before coming back down. That's a one in three gradient and once you start walking it does not let up. That was the killer for me, just a flat section to catch your breath, but nope.
Also, on the wya up you're being followed by a guy on a horse going "Taxi? Long way to top... not even half way yet." I was tempted. Really tempted. I probably would have paid up and got the horse, if one of the other guys hadn't beaten me to it.
Reaching the top is worth the hike though. You come out in a desolate expanse. Not quite a lava field, more like a debris field scattered with lava tubes. There is no where where you can actively see lava, but quite a few places where you can feel the heat coming out of the earth. We were walking on rocks that didn't exist four years ago and we went through a patch which was only two years old. No wonder there are big signs warning you volcanos are unpredictable. We did not go all the way to the top, that's considered too dangerous, but it was still pretty memorable.
Antigua also marked the end of one trip and the beginning of another. Four of us were continuing through, so one evening we said goodbye to those folk and the following day picked up the new crew before starting to head east.
Images and content © Ryan McConigley, 2012
Not to be used without permission, for profit, etc.
Last modified: May 27 2012 06:08:30.
Contact: web *at* madphin.com