Getting Lost And Drinking Coffee In Antigua, Guatemala
Dave and I arrive in Antigua around 8am in the morning, having taken a 12-hour overnight bus from the north of the country. It involved an hour’s layover in the Guatemalan capital, Guatemala City, which is an absolute hole of a place that radiates a horribly onimous vibe. Antigua, on the other hand, could not be more different. The streets are made of cobbled pavestones with high sidewalks and the lines of terraced houses are all painted in a similar shade of cream, with red tiled rooftops.
What really makes Antigua special though, is the two volcanoes that sit on the outskirts of the town, the Pacaya and the Acatenango. Back in 2012 I was lucky enough to trek the Pacaya with a female friend, but Dave and I have already spent more than our budgeted amount on this trip to-date, so we’ll not be trekking any volcanos this time.
Walking squares but going in circles
After checking in at our hostel and having a quick powernap, we set off exploring the streets of Antigua. The sun is shining but it’s a comfortable temperature, much better for walking than many of the places we’ve visited so far. The roads work on a grid system, so you’d think it would be easy to keep track of where we are as we wander aimlessly along the cobblestones. It isn´t. Half of the streets don’t contain street numbers and, because every road looks like an image from the exact same postcard, it’s impossible to locate where we are half of the time. Every time we reach something we recognise, a cathedral or small grassy square, we think we’re on the right track, only to find out five minutes later we’ve walked a complete circle – again!
Eventually, we give up trying to work out our bearings and head into the nearby Don Diego Cafe, where we’re overjoyed to get a mug of real Lipton tea and a delicious bagel filled with avocado, mozzarella and pesto. Energised from this, we head into a tour shop and book up to visit the Filadelfia Coffee Estate the following day.
Of course, it takes us a while to return to our hostel what with all the getting lost, but we make it eventually and spend the evening on its rooftop terrace, eating, drinking cans of Gallo beer and playing Yahtzee (there’s not much nightlife to enjoy in Antigua and as I mentioned we’re saving our cash already).
The Filadelfia Coffee Estate
Day two in Antigua and we’re collected around 10am by an awesome-looking pickup jeep…
… before being taken twenty minutes outside of the city to the Filadelfia Coffee Estate. Our tour guide speaks English which is a relief as many of the tours you book in Central America don’t have English-speaking guides. Perhaps this is a good point to mention that I don’t actually like coffee! I’d just read good reviews on Trip Advisor and it was a cheap day out. Despite this fact, the tour is really interesting. We learn all about the process of growing coffee beans and how to determine the quality of a coffee bean, from premium down to instant coffee- which by the way is made only from the beans that are overcooked and burnt. Here’s five of the only facts I can remember:
- Robust coffee beans are the worst type
- The coffee beans here are grafted with Arabica coffee beans to give them better quality
- Only women can do the grafting as men have too high pH on their hands
- The brand produced is R.Dalton (perhaps you know it?)
- Women also have to sort the final coffee beans manually three times at conveyor belts like those below
At the end of the tour we’re given a cup of real Guatemalan premium Arabica coffee and actually, it wasn’t that bad considering I don’t like the stuff.
England vs. Australia in the rugby
The rest of the afternoon is spent wandering the city streets again. It’s Saturday and the pavements are filled with locals and tourists alike watching street performers.
Dave and I are just sitting down on a park bench for a minute when we hear the unmistakable cry of an Englishman watching sport, “C’MON! GET IN THERE!”. Following the warmly familiar sound we uncover a small bar containing exactly six people; three Australians and three Britons. On the TV behind the bar is the England vs. Australia rugby world cup match (Dave’s happy with this as you can imagine) so we grab a couple of beers and watch England get defeated, much to the Ozzies undisguised delight.
On the way back to our hostel we grab a takeaway pizza and some more beers and settle on the rooftop again. We’re flying to Colombia tomorrow, so tonight is another chilled one in preparation to begin our South American adventure. Catch the next blog to read about our days spent on the Caribbean Coast, in Cartagena!