27 September 2011

Guatemala hates us

When we first boarded, we only bought tickets for the shore excursions that looked interesting. There was nothing of particular interest in Puerto Quetzal, so we decided to do our own thing. The night prior to our arrival, just before dinner on Day 6, I asked the internets what to do. The internets just laughed. Not even tripadvisor.com had a single activity. Uh-oh.

Clearly it was time to sign up for a shore excursion. Any would do. Actually, that wasn't true. Any that left after 9:00 would do; no one in their right mind wakes up for a 7:30 tour of a coffee farm on vacation. With that in mind, we bought the last two tickets for a self-guided tour of Antigua. In other words, we bought bus tickets.

I can only assume that this bus was designed to make airplane seats appear roomy by comparison. There was, and I kid you not, barely eight inches between my seat and the one in front. Just in case that wasn't painful enough, the bus came with a tour guide instead of air conditioning. About twenty minutes into the ninety minute ride, a fellow passenger asked if the a/c could be turned up. The guide said that wasn't necessary as we'd soon be arriving in the mountains. Let's just say that the increase in altitude did not convert the sauna into a palatable environment.

For most of the journey, there wasn't anything of value to point out. That didn't stop the guide from yapping, each sentence punctuated with "you know" at random intervals. Clearly he didn't know.

Having studied a map during the ride, we immediately headed towards Museo de Armas de Santiago, home to weapons used by the Spanish and Mayans during the conquest. When we arrived at the location indicated on the map, we found the wrong museum. However, we planned on visiting the Museo del Libro Antiguo, so we went inside. It was going to close in fifteen minutes for a two hour lunch, so we elected to do the same.

After lunch and ice cream in freshly made waffle cones, we still had an hour and a half before the museum reopened. Since we'd be coming back anyway, we headed towards Casa del Tejido Antiguo. Big mistake. The light drizzle turned into a major downpour. Neither of us thought to bring our rain gear when disembarked under sunny skies and into the humid port.

The rain didn't stop us, and we made it to the museum. A nice, big padlock indicated that we wouldn't be going inside any time soon. And there were absolutely no signs indicating when that might change. Fine. On to the artisan market.

Just our luck, the market was outside, with bootleg DVDs and t-shirts as far as the eye could see. Clearly they have a different definition of artisan and we high-tailed back to the cafe to wait.

We discussed the prolific security guards everywhere while waiting out the rain. All of them had pistols, but many had pump-action shotguns as well. The one in the cafe had one sticking out the top of the back of his jacket. A debate ensued on how effectively he could pull it, but neither of us wanted to test our theories.

At 2:00, I practically pushed Matt out the door and into the now-open book museum. He knows some Spanish, but the desk clerk pretended to not understand Matt's questions about payment. The guard was nicer and told us that they only accepted Quetzales.

We returned to the museum after a quick trip next door to BAM, Banco Argomercantil, to exchange some money. Even though I handed him a 100 Quetzal note, he purposely ignored my outstretched hand to give Matt the change. I demoted him from asshat to douche-nozzle. 

Once inside, I was rather disappointed. The only book of interest was a first edition of Don Quixote. Even worse, the 1660s printing press was made in 1974 from the archived plans for the original.

I inadvertently discovered the weapons museum soon after we left. It had been misplaced down the street, but that wasn't a big a deal. The sign saying that it was going to close starting on March 22nd for renovation was.

By then it had finally stopped raining, so we headed back to the bus stop/market via the jade museum. We wandered around the small market, looking at trinkets, until it was time to play sardines again.

While the bus ride back was equally uncomfortable, it was marginally more bearable due to the active volcano just waiting to be photographed. I was more than happy to oblige, but not nearly as happy as I was to take a long, hot shower as soon as we got back on the boat.

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