|As those of you who know me well, no matter how organised I try to be (such as bagging up various items in preparation a few weeks in advance) it always turns out to be last minute, rushed, and forgetting something. Well, I set off knowing that I had too much in my bag (i.e. a little on the full side, though still only weighing a respectable 13kg) and a nagging feeling that I should take something out - though they are seem really important!!! Anyways!!
Spent a very nice evening with my family, my lovely sister even stayed home that night, something she´s not done since moving out 4 years ago! My Mum even made my favourite pudding for me, though my poor Dad fell asleep whilst I was zoombily packing and chatting away. Thank you to my lovely friends and relatives for last minute calls, texts and emails, it´s a really nice send off!
As expected, did not get the early night I knew I should be getting, but decided that it would be a good way to acclimatise to the local time, as should be very very tired when arriving at the hostel in the early evening. Mum and Yuk came to see me off, although Mum´s friend Pinkey, who kindly offered me a lift, almost took me onto the M25 when she took a wrong turning.
Surprisingly got to the airport with enough time to even have a breakfast, which I´m now very grateful for, Yuk, as the first flight to Madrid did not offer me food!!! Take note, future Iberia passengers!! Luckily I ignored my grumbling belly by catching up with some sleep!
Upon arriving in Madrid, everything felt totally different, as English was no longer the dominant language. Started to feel a little worried, and it hit me why people thought I was brave, travelling by myself for a year, with no Spanish skills!! That, it turned out to be the good fortune of the Spanish lady I sat next to on the 11 hour flight to Guatemala, as it meant I had to leave her alone to enjoy the inflight entertainment.
It didn´t really feel like my Big Trip was beginning on that uneventful 11 hour flight, perhaps due to tiredness, or that strange sensation of being in a contained space knowing you´re on a plane, but not really feeling you´re going anyway as it feels so still, apart from the occaisional vibrations from the engines or turbulance. Besides was caught up with the movies showing, so felt closer to the American government/army conspiracy in the Manchurian Candidate than my landing in Central America shortly.
However it was still exciting to catch my first glimpse of the Guatemalen mountains, as we were descending into Guatemala City Airport, and making a mental note that at 2000m above sea level (on the plane) the mountains still appear to be below us, so the climb up to them wouldn´t be toooooo long.
Didn´t meet many other young travellers on the plane, as I had hoped, and nobody else seems to be going to Antigua (about 40km away), as I thought most people would do. I had a few options; taking a taxi, which would cost quite a lot; a mini shuttle bus (the preferred option) or the very cheap, but taking longer route on the public buses, AKA chicken buses.
The touts for the shuttle to Antigua couldn´t find any other passengers apart from me, and the price went up dramically. So I decided to take the brave and total immersion option to dive right into the deep end on the chicken bus, and stretching my limited Spanish to the limit.
Yes, it took longer (detouring to the bus stop, due to lack of understanding helpful local´s directions), but was a lot more interesting to see what the local people are really like, how the transport system works and some of the local sights. Although I was very good at asking non-English speakers for directions, they were very helpful at telling me which bus I could take, how much it costs, where to get off and where to get the connecting bus - which were not very well signposted.
On the 1.5 hour bus ride to Antigua, sat next to a very friendly young lady Evelyn,who was very eager to practice her English, and thought I was very intelligent to be able to get on that bus. I had to explain to her that a random bus driver had to walk me to the awaiting bus, because I had no clue where he meant. Although Evelyn, from a nearby village in Antigua took me all the way to the hostel, I felt nonetheless very proud of myself for getting to my final destination with all my possessions (those I did not leave in the UK), still conscious, with miminal use of money and no encounter with snakes.
The only things were giving in to Dominoe Pizza (the easy way out) and getting lost on the way back - but seeing more of this pretty cobblestoned town. However my hostel is very nice, with an internal courtyard right opposite my room, and the receptionist very helpful, though we had some communication problems. After taking my first cold shower and hanging my mosquito net for the first time ever, I settled to my long anticipated sleep, with no alarm set...