Finally within reach of Antigua, we started the long descent into town. This is a brake burning, engine punishing drop that in an older, weighted, vehicle makes for an intense 13km ride. Arriving in town we’d previously discovered that the tourist police here allow you to camp in their parking lot for free, as there no other place to camp here. This also makes it safer for the campervaners and keeps us off the streets.
Rocking up to the gate, the guard inquired as to whether or not we had a toilet and shower. Caught off guard and with Matt’s bullshitting not quite up to scratch, in Spanish we admitted that we had neither and were rudely turned away. Bemused by this, as we could had found no information from previously travellers to note that this was a requirement, we pleaded our case and after 10 minutes the guard took pity on us and told us to return when the current Duty Manager had left at five o’clock.
Pissed off and kicking ourselves for not having our bullshit-o-meters switched on, we parked up and started to look for hostels that would let us park out from and pay for showers, toilets and WiFi. Luckily enough the first one we came across, The Jungle Party Hostel, were kind enough to listen to our plight, and if things didn’t work out at five that evening told us we were more than welcome to use their facilities for a small fee. Relieved that Carlos had given us a backup plan, we tried the tourist police again and found a new guard on duty, this time laying the bullshit on thick. Gate up, Porkchop in and parked up, we found that the Chileans we’d met in Flores, Victor and Caro, were also here.
With a total of seven campervans parked up, and with New Year’s Eve approaching, it was lining up to be a nicely social one with the biggest congregation of fellow overlanders we’d met so far. Labeling ourselves the ‘United Nations’ we had the Chileans, French, Argentinians, Germans, a German couple from Turkey/India, another German girl and her French boyfriend and us Aussies, almost covering every continent of the globe.
Deciding to go out for dinner as the day had been long and tiring, we stumbled upon El Faro Taqueria for the delicious and cheap super sized tacos. Feeling that it would only be polite (and in need of some liquid lubrication) we headed back to the Jungle Party Hostel and thanked Carlos for his hospitality. Buying the man a beer he soon extend his offer further, telling us to come in whenever and use the hot showers, supposedly the best in all of Guatemala, champion! Sticking around for a few with him and the rest of the crew, a Cubana band was headlining for the night so it was up to the roof top to soak in some tunes and the views across town to Volcan Fuego. The band kept everyone on their feet dancing the night away, with Fuego even letting off a fiery lava show during the set whilst they played a rocking version of Pink Floyd’s Brick in the Wall.
Waking the next morning to the cavalcade of fireworks that the Guatemalan’s are famous for loving, we decided to check out a little of Antigua before the big New Year’s celebrations this evening. With lack of WiFi at the police station we ended up at the Rainbow Café. Set in an open courtyard with a book exchange out front, these guys coffee and fruit smoothies soon bought us back to life and ready for the day. Strolling around town looking for our Guatemalan Christmas souvenir, the sprawling Nimpot store by far and away has the greatest selection around, and whilst you’ll pay a little extra for it, it’s all conveniently under one roof and price tagged so you don’t have to haggle.
Back at camp the United Nations all signed up to cook a dish or two each for our New Year’s Eve banquet. With the supermarkets going berserk and the markets rammed, we first tackled the market. Dotted with drunks and a soundtrack of fireworks, we did our best not to get ripped off by the little old ladies hawking their wares. Drooled on by a few drunks we beelined it out of there and back to the solitude of the police carpark, which by the way, is a nice grassed are with plenty of shady trees and also a toilet and shower they let us use (go figure)!
Leaving Sarah to start on the fruit salad, Matt’s off to the supermarket to brave the hoards of like minded, last minute shoppers in grabbing far too much booze and snacks. Wanting to keep the coppers sweet we decided to give them a box of snack goodies and some Coke-a-Cola for their little get together before the nightly patrol. Good Samaritan chore for the day complete we were asked by the chief not to drink too much and make pricks of ourselves. They have previous had trouble with this and them no hoper dope smokers taking advantage – after all this is still a police station!
Drawing together tables and chairs along with an improv BBQ, Victor slaps on the meat whilst we all get the drinks flowing and the party started. Breaking bread to a smorgasbord of travelers cuisine in good company, it wasn’t long before we’ve realised we’re getting a little rowdy and the time comes to depart for the festivities on the street. Loading up the camelback with a generous rum and pineapple concoction, we don dancing shoes and hit the calle looking for some fireworks and dancing.
Our motley crew rolled down the street, jiving to any old beat, and found a perch for the countdown to 2015, buying vodka jelly shots from a passer by and generally living it up until the closing minute to midnight. Once the display had finished and the smoke cleared we ventured off looking for that elusive dance spot so many locals had lead us to believe existed. Unable to find one, we led the troupe to back to old faithful, The Jungle Party Hostel. Not content with the atmosphere the others left and we continued here (well why not, these guys here are so much fun!). The others did eventually find a dance spot, but unwilling to pay the extortionate entrance fee, they started their own dance party outside on the pavement, managing to gather a partying crowd of their own.
Next morning with the festive juices still flowing through the veins, we again found ourselves back at the Jungle Party Hostel, only this time to find that one of the guys fathers had sadly passed away during the night. There to console him over Pinulito fried chicken (way better than Pollo Campero), midday turns to afternoon and swiftly to night we again stumbled out.
If you’re finding yourself bored in the office, there’s more Antigua and Guatemala photos on our Flickr page!