After five weeks in one spot, we finally started the truck and drove out of our personal “Overlander’s Paradise.” By this point, we had made plans to return home on June 25th to work a few months and visit friends and family, so we knew we had less than a month to drive the 800+ miles, and three countries, between Guatemala and Costa Rica. We set out for Antigua figuring on a quick stop, but the beauty of the city and the free breakfast at Hostal Antigüeño made it tough to spend less than a few days there!
The city of Antigua as we know it today was founded in 1543 by the Spanish conquistadors. For more than 200 years, it served as the seat of the military governor of the Spanish colony of Guatemala, a large region that included almost all of present-day Central America and the southernmost State of Mexico: Chiapas. In the 18th Century, the city was devastated by three major earthquakes, causing damage that is still visible today. The city is currently dotted with old monasteries and convents, churches, and original buildings, some of which are just facades and a few walls, but that add incredible detail and beauty to the city. Walking through it feels like walking through history and the present simultaneously. On your left can be a 600-year-old convent that is now an incredible museum, while just across the street is an equally as old building, but with a Subway in it. It’s a juxtaposition that frankly, I love!!
We rolled in to the city on Saturday afternoon in search of Hostal Antigüeño, a cool hostal that lets Overlanders park in front of the building and use all the amenities, including the free breakfast, while we stay in our rigs. We were staring at our maps making sure we didn’t miss the turn and head down the wrong small cobblestoned street, when a site in the distance told us we were heading to the right place. A Land Rover Defender with a roof-top tent, and a full-size Dodge Ram Pick-up with four-wheel camper (our first since Baja) came in to view and we knew we were headed to the right place.
We were quickly ambushed by the kids of Clunk Monkey, a family of five from California traveling full time and heading south. They were excited to see another Four-Wheel Camper, as were we, and quickly showed us the ropes of the hostal. They had been there for almost two months, so long in fact, that their oldest son Wyatt was practically running the place! Next we met Benjy Davenport of Cornwall to Capehorn, who had also been at the hostal for a couple months while he got some work done on his Defender. He and his dog Jake became our unofficial tour guides in our first day in the city, taking us on a hike up the mountain to a beautiful lookout, and showing us a local farmer’s market and bakery.
We passed a few days playing three hour games of Monopoly, convincing the owner Christian to start Omelette Tuesday and French Toast Wednesday, and wandering around the beautiful city trying not to fill up the memory of our camera with pictures of fountains and doors. We even shared a home cooked meal together, all eight of us, on our last night there. Only downfall was Antigua is an expensive city. Most of the meals and drinks are priced the same or more than the US. So, after our fourth night we got up early and headed for El Salvador, but not before hugs all around with our new Antigua family.
Next Monday we list our favorite things for Guatemala and cross a few more borders on our way to Costa Rica! Here's a look at what our route will be for the next couple weeks: