After an early night, we were ready to embark on another epic travel day but this time, the thought of arriving in Antigua for New Year’s Eve celebrations made the prospect of a 6 hour bus journey that much more bearable.
The morning was whiled away with sleeping and daydreaming of starting another life in Central America (well for me at least) but towards midday, the beers and rum came out and the party atmosphere took over.
Once we reached the beautiful colonial town of Antigua, I knew we were in for a fun evening. Although the town appeared tranquil and relaxing, with just a few people milling around the streets, you could feel the anticipation for what lay ahead hanging in the air. As soon as the sun set behind the giant volcano leering over the edge of town, the fiesta could begin!
Before heading out for dinner, Kaylie (our tour leader) warned us to stick together that evening. She really drilled the message home that under no circumstances were we (especially the girls) to walk home alone. I couldn’t help but think she was overreacting a little, what could happen in a picturesque little town like this? But obviously she was right, and appearances can be deceptive…
A group dinner was the perfect start to the night. We dined on the most delicious steaks, drank fine red wine and toasted to the end of 2013. The party didn’t stop there though as next we headed to a local open air bar to carry on the merriment.
But despite the celebratory mood and copious amounts of alcohol, I was feeling a little melancholy that night. A combination of tiredness and missing loved ones at home meant that I wasn’t really in the party mood and someone ‘accidently’ spilling a drink on me didn’t help matters much! I was almost tempted to sneak back to the hotel to lick my wounds when a talk dark stranger caught my eye…
So I carried on dancing, my mood improving as time wound on and soon we were making our way out to the main square (handsome stranger in tow) where groups were gathered, letting off lanterns into the dark night sky and watching the fireworks illuminate up above. Natalia and I soon got talking to Carlos and his brother, both from Guatemala City, and as we began the countdown to midnight “10, 9, 8, 7…”, I knew who I would be kissing as the clock struck 12 and it seemed that Carlos had the same idea in mind.
Not much later, it was time to head back to the hotel. Thankfully the evening had been saved and I couldn’t help but reflect on what a fitting end it had been to what was undoubtedly a roller coaster year.
New Year’s Day
I was determined that 2014 would be a more positive year for me and I started it out the best way possible, with a delicious breakfast at Fernando’s and plans to make the most of our day in Antigua with my new friends.
We began the day by climbing Cerro de la Cruz (the hill overlooking the town) for the perfect view over Antigua.
Followed by a walk around the town, taking in the Jade Museum along the way. Around midday, we spotted Kaylie walking through the main square and stopped to say hi. I noticed a large graze on her head and when we asked how she’d got it, she recounted her tale from the night before. As she’d left the bar where we were celebrating, heading off to meet some friends to take in the New Year, someone had crept up from behind and pushed her to the floor where she banged her head, her phone flung from her pocket, never to be seen again. It turns out her warning from the night before had more weight to it than we had thought!
Another day, another city. After filling up at Fernandos, which was fast becoming my favourite breakfast place, it was time to wave goodbye to the cobbled streets of Antigua and get back on the bus for our next stop, Panjachel. But not before we’d spent a few hours trawling around the bustling Chichicastenango markets.
By now 12 days into our trip, I’d managed to restrain myself quite well from purchasing trinkets and gifts along the way, holding on to the promise that Chichicastenango would be THE place to purchase all of these goodies at the best possible price. So after 30 minutes of walking round, I was a little disappointed at the lack of bags in my hands.
If you’re looking for fabrics or colourful bags, then yes, this is the market for you. But if, like me, you covet the beautiful Jade stone jewellery then by all means learn from my mistakes and buy it as and when you see it.
Right on Lake Atitlan, Panjachel is the perfect spot for a night or two of relaxation. There’s plenty of bars and shops to keep you amused along Santander Road, but it’s San Pedro across the lake where you really want to be heading as a backpacker.
Still, Panjachel is a nice pit-stop along the way!
We arrived late in the evening, just in time to order in some pizzas for our ‘pizza party’ in the hotel’s private lounge room. Despite the evident lack of sleep from the past few nights, it seemed everyone was in the mood to party and so after stocking up on gin and rum, the antics soon got a little out of control…
A hilarious game of charades ensued, followed by ‘flip-cup’ and then it was on to the highlight of the night, a surprise piñata arranged by Kaylie.
Most people wrapped up the night there but a few stayed up to continue the drinking, ending the night with a ‘you-had-to-be-there-to-know-what-happened’ game of truth or dare! 😉
The next morning was understandably blighted by hangovers but we soon had to shake them off as we headed across the lake to San Pedro…