Although I didn’t think Chris would depart from Newark in the face of the latest East coast apocalyptic blizzard, he showed up as planned on Thursday evening. Three days with Chris weren’t nearly enough, but we covered the basics: San Mateo, tortillas, sunshine, mojitos, and lava. Next time, we will make it to the beach.
Liquados and views of Volcán Agua from Café Sky
On Friday, we took a chicken bus up to San Mateo where confusing games, rhythmless dancing, and running in circles gave Chris an idea of what I do every day. Always a little shy at first, the kids stared Chris down before making two important judgements: he can’t dance, but he is a buena onda.
Chris’s interactions with the kids were graceless and thus hilarious. As Chris doesn’t speak Spanish, but will quickly remind me that he knows some French, the kids spent a lot of time communicating through body language, namely, grabbing his hands and jumping on him.
He wasn’t totally lost in San Mateo, however. As it turns out, Chris is actually quite good at making jewelry—and I dare say that he enjoyed it.
After our trip to San Mateo, we wandered along the cobblestone streets of Antigua. We had dinner at Las Palmas, a noncommittally Cuban restaurant thats cuisine and decor have been cross-bred from various Latin American cultures. We didn’t learn much about Cuba by dining at Las Palmas, but we did enjoy two fantastic steaks and learn that there are four glasses (if you pour like Chris) or six glasses (if you’re more urbane) in an average bottle of wine.
On Saturday, we deferred our excitement for the volcano trek and filled the morning with ruins: La Catedral de San Francisco and Las Ruinas de Santo Domingo as pictured above and below, respectively.
In 1717, Antigua suffered from a 7.7 magnitude earthquake that destroyed 3,000 of the city’s majestic colonial buildings. Again in 1773, a string of earthquakes caused yet more damage, the remnants still visible today.
With much anticipation, it finally came time to climb Volcán Pacaya. Most who travel through Antigua make this hike within the first few days, but I have been waiting patiently for Chris to come so that we could sweat it out together. And sweat we did.
I have been going to the gym religiously in Antigua, but no amount of time on the elliptical could have prepared me for this hike. We stayed at the head of the pack, crossing the hardened lava with the more experienced explorers, but the people to our left and right didn’t break a sweat nor skip a beat in conversation.
The messiest without exception were Chris, me, and “el gordo” (the fat guy who the guides kept teasing, offering him a horse as a “taxi.” After 999 adamant “No, gracias’,” he forfeited his dignity and got on a caballo).
Approaching the lava was like walking into the deepest depths of Mordor; I kept waiting for Gollum to emerge and alter my reality. With or without Frodo, though, the thick mist gathering on the mountainside was too eerie to be anything but the end of the world.
The lava was just a few feet away from us. With uneven footing and masses of tourists navigating their way toward the lava, it is a wonder there aren’t more burn victims. Gotta love safety standards in Central America.
And here’s the mouth of the monster where Chris made himself useful and roasted some marshmallows, melting his shoe soles and charring his leg hair in the process.
While Volcán Pacaya was the highlight for both of us, the whole weekend was incredible. I was so thrilled to introduce Chris to my little life here and share the sunshine with someone who needs it (first time ever that I am tanner than him). Now, I just need to get everyone else to visit…any takers?