Hello friends and fam! Coming to you yet again from our comfy Airbnb in Costa Rican paradise.
This was a packed week, so we’ll try not to be too long winded! As we mentioned last week, we had booked a flight to Guatemala on Monday, with a departure scheduled from San Jose on Wednesday morning at 6:00am. San Jose is a 4 hour drive from where we’re staying, so on Tuesday evening, we picked up the rental car, finished packing, snuck in 2 hours of sleep, then woke up at 12:30am to drive across the Costa Rican countryside in the middle of the night. The drive started easy enough on a highway, but quickly turned into a very dark two lane road with numerous big trucks also making the nighttime trek. These trucks were passing each other at terrifying speeds in pitch blackness, and we followed suit where we felt comfortable…which was hard since we couldn’t see and didn’t know the roads in front of us. After the stressful drive, we made it to the airport, parked at an astronomical daily rate, and got checked into to our flight. It was a quick flight to Nicaragua for an hour layover before we landed in Guatemala City just after 10am. We had time for a quick snack, coffee, and to change out of our travel clothes before our cavalry arrived to pick us up in a van at 11am. Jim’s mom was in town visiting sister Jamey for the week, so they had rented a van for us, along with Jamey’s adopted Guatemalan family, to take the trek to Antigua. Jamey is currently writing a book and making a documentary about this family’s story – the female taxi driver who lost her mom and two sons in a landslide two years ago, and the resilience she’s shown in moving forward with her life. Her name is Flory and it was so great to meet this figure we’d heard so much about! We also were accompanied by her daughter Makis, Makis’ husband Javier (our driver), and their two sweet kids, Angelica and Dominique.
After about an hour and a half drive, we made it to Antigua. It’s a beautiful, old, colorful city where apparently a lot of “gringos” have moved to and now call home. While you can see the old world beauty, it has been turned into more of a tourist hot spot, with its fancy shops and restaurants and signs mostly in English. We still enjoyed walking around, having a nice lunch, and doing a little shopping at the market that was brimming with locally made crafts and goods. We hear there’s a beautiful volcano view as well, but it was a rainy and overcast day so it wasn’t visible to us. We left Antigua after a few hours and fought a lot of traffic to get back to Guatemala City, eventually dropping off Flory and family and heading out for a nice dinner just the four of us. We went to dinner at a surprisingly fancy mall just up the street from Jamey’s house. We were surprised to see how nice of an area it was, and the crepes we ordered for dinner were some of the best we’ve ever had (yes, crepes in Guatemala, who would have thought??)
We turned in early that evening and slept late the next day, with the exception of a 6am wake up to the earth shaking! There was a 6.8 magnitude earthquake about 60 miles from us and it was the longest and most significant earthquake either of us had experienced! It lasted about a minute as we felt the room shake and watched the overhead light sway back and forth. As we got up and started the day, we had a final breakfast with Jim and Jamey’s mom before dropping her at the airport that morning. Javier, Makis, and Angelica stayed with us for most of the afternoon; they, along with Jamey, showed us around the historical district, the main local shopping street (including the spot Javier and Makis had their first kiss), and into the local market. This market was great, it was filled with fresh fruits, veggies, and flowers on one level, and filled with locally made goods and everything you could need to throw a wedding or quinceanera on the other two levels. We asked Jamey to show us the local cuisine, so we found a spot downstairs where we ordered pepian con pollo – chicken and starchy vegetables in a peppery sauce with rice. They served it with fresh, homemade tortillas and the most flavorful avocados you’ve ever tasted (Guatemala is an avocado mecca). After lunch, we stopped at one of Jamey’s favorite bakeries for some cookies, donuts, and fruit smoothies that they serve in an unsecured plastic bag…such an interesting way to drink a smoothie! After leaving the market, we headed back to Jamey’s for a quick refresher nap, before heading out to dinner at a fancy Asian fusion restaurant in another fancy mall. The dichotomy of these fancy malls and shopping centers against the poverty of homes that don’t even have running water was a surprise to us; we hadn’t expected to see so much luxury during our visit. Oh, but we were told right away not to drink the tap water; you can’t even use it to brush your teeth and have to be careful not to swallow any when you shower.
The next morning, our last full day in Guatemala, we woke up early to get ready to follow Jamey to her university. She recently landed a teaching job at the most prestigious university in the country and one of the top universities in all of Latin America, so we wanted to go see her teach in her element. She walks an hour each way to get there every day, through pretty crazy traffic and plenty of exhaust fumes (no emissions testing)…but it’s great exercise and was a great way to see more of the city, especially all the lush greenery in all directions. After her class, we took a taxi back to her house, took a little nap, then headed out for a 5 mile run through traffic and up a hill that lead to lovely views of the city. The run was particularly enjoyable for us, seeing as how we’d been in the Costa Rican heat and humidity for the past couple of weeks. Guatemala City has a very unique and pleasant climate – it’s near the equator, which gives it a tropical feeling, but it’s also at 5,000 feet elevation, so it’s not nearly as warm as most other Central American places and it gets that mountain-like feeling. The entire time we were there, it was an average of 70 degrees day and night…sure can’t complain about that!
Following the run, we cleaned up and took a taxi to the “hipster” part of town. Again, another surprise that in the midst of the city, there was a spot that was so trendy; it felt like we could have been in any big city in the world. We found a spot to grab a coffee and get a little productivity in as well. The coffee shop had a lovely breeze and a nice view of the city…and of course good coffee. We haven’t had bad coffee in Central America yet. The wifi wasn’t the greatest, however, so we headed up the street to a restaurant/bar, where we transitioned from coffee to beer and wine. After a few hours and a couple of drinks each, we decided to wander out to find a dinner location, eventually settling on a kind of Mexican fusion…well, Heather ordered a California burger with fries, so it wasn’t all that Mexican. We enjoyed a lovely last evening, some good food, a few margaritas and eventually called it a night.
The next morning, we were up and packed, taxi waiting as we bid farewell to Jamey. It was nice for us to be able to see the place she calls home and loves so much, she’s lived down here for two years now. After a long day of travel, we pulled up to our Costa Rican home about 5pm, grabbed a quick casado for dinner, and called it an early night.
Sunday morning we had scheduled a diving trip with our friend Dave (part of why the prior night needed to be early!). We were at the dive shop just before 8am to meet Dave and the group, before heading about 15-20 minutes out on the water. We had two dive locations – Monkey Head and Tortuga, both dives lasting about 50 mins. The visibility was pretty good, the water was mostly warm (it gets cold below 30 feet), and we had good luck spotting sea life. We saw two white tip reef sharks, quite a few large stingrays, moray eels, a sea turtle, tons of colorful fish and starfish, and even a few seahorses! We were quite pleased with the dives and glad we took the opportunity to go diving while we’re here!
Monday was the last day that Dave and Heather would be in town, so we wanted to spend a little more time with them before they departed. We met that afternoon for some fancy frozen drinks on the beach, before grabbing ingredients to make white sangria and watch the sunset at their place. It ended up being the most magical sunset we’ve seen since being here, they have a great rooftop pool at their rental place…we’re not sure if we’ll miss them or the pool more!
That’s about it for this week, as always thanks for reading! We have two more weeks in Costa Rica, that we anticipate being at a slower pace than the first two weeks…and we’re looking forward to it! Much love to you all.
Total RV Trip Miles: 17,502