We took the overnight bus from Flores, arriving in Antigua around 7.30am yesterday. Our initial excitement of being in the front seat on the top deck of the bus was fairly quickly dampened by the icy winds blowing from the air con - or, rather, holes where the A/C used to be. As Anita said, it was VIP in the 80s but now, not so much: my travel towel and sarong didn’t quite cut it so if you ever do the trip, wear all your clothes. And maybe a sleeping bag. Our first view of Guatemala City, which was enroute, was seeing a gun-carrying man sitting atop the coca-cola truck in front of our bus - slightly confronting from our top seat view. It’s a grimy and charming city though, with crowds of people on the street even at 6am, and it would be good to explore it more another time.
Anyway, Antigua. So very beautiful and when we were dropped off at the Antigua Spanish Academy, the friendly receptionist soon introduced us to our Guatemalan mama - Olga - who led us through the streets to her casa overlooking the volcano and cooked us some eggs, tomatoes, black beans and plantains for breakfast and introduced us to our host family for the week. Such a warm household - despite none of us speaking the others languages (yet)! A young Aussie was also living there - the novio of Olga’s daughter - and he’d been living there for two years after coming once and falling in love.
We wandered the streets for a bit, stumbling upon our first procession for the Semana Santa, the reason we got here at this time (as well as learning spanish). About 20 little people, supported by some older children, were carrying a lovingly prepared mini-float with Jesus and a few saints on top, while the brass band behind the group played dirges. It was the children’s procession yesterday and, as well as the float, little people dressed in purple and white robes lined the streets to march while their parents, tourist and, it seemed, most of Antigua came out to watch.
We went home to sleep, only venturing out again to eat with the family - a yummy pork and tomato dish with guacamole on the side. Guacamole is included with everything, much to my delight. And then slept again for our early start to Chichicastenango this morning - a place I can’t pronounce no matter how many times people kindly repeat it for me and a place also worthy of another blog post (the next one).
But when we got back to Antigua this evening, we stopped a little out of town as the streets were filled with people - tonight was Maria’s procession for Semana Santa. Thousands upon thousands lined the streets to watch a group of young women - and then surly men - sway while they carried Mary on her float through Antigua, led by Roman guards and more purple-robed men. Incense filled the air and music filled the streets as it passed and it was an experience to behold. I’ve included a video - how I wish it also enabled smell so you could have a taste of what it was like. And yet again, today, a new, wonderful experience - experiences - and we both just keep saying how lucky we are to be here…