As expected, I felt fine this morning. I didn’t want to get too crazy, but I did eat some pan dulce and drank a little orange juice. We worked some magic and found a nice Airbnb on the beach in Monterrico, rented some cars from Alamo, and headed south for a beach adventure.
Our Airbnb hosts were hurrying to make our unit ready for us and said they could have it available by 2:00 pm if we returned the Excel spreadsheet with our passport numbers and license plates. The form had to be filled out by us, then signed by the owner of the unit and returned to the property management and security dudes prior to our arrival or we wouldn’t be allowed in the gate. Of course, we couldn’t fill out the form until we knew our license plate numbers and we wouldn’t know those until we picked up our rental cars.
Renting Cars in Antigua
We were lucky to be able to rent cars in Antigua. Alamo used to have a lot of rental locations, but since covid hit they closed all but 3. I’m glad they have one in Antigua, because it changed the game for us. If we had to take a shuttle to Guatemala City in order to rent cars we probably wouldn’t have done it. But walking across town to pick up some cars was fantastic.
Charmaine reserved the cars for 9:00 am, but we didn’t get there until around noon. The woman waiting for us was very nice, but also made sure to let us know she had expected us earlier and had been waiting for us. The office has desks for 5 workers, but it’s clear 3 or 4 of them have not been used in a long time. We were probably the only car rental all day, maybe all week.
We reserved two Toyota Corolla (or equivalent) cars. I got a silver Corolla. Brett got a Yaris. I think the Yaris was supposed to be cheaper than the Corolla, but they charged us the same for each. We didn’t really care because the total cost per car for 2 days (excluding gas) was like $50 USD.
We started walking to Alamo around noon. It took about 20 minutes to walk across town and another 20-30 minutes to fill out the paperwork and inspect the cars. The drive back to the house from Alamo took almost as long as it took to walk there in the first place. Traffic in Antigua never seems to be good, and today was no exception. After we got back, we took pictures of the license plates, filled out the form and sent it back to our Airbnb host, and had lunch. After lunch we packed up and headed out. It was about 2:00 when we left our house in Antigua.
Driving from Antigua to Monterrico
Google Maps decided to route us on some dirt roads on our way out of Antigua to dodge some ugly traffic. It worked pretty well. It was so nice to leave the cobble stone roads of Antigua. I hate that crap. It sucks to drive on cobbles. It sucks for locals to maintain the cobbles (we see workers replacing broken and missing cobbles all the time and it’s not an easy process). It sucks to ride your bike on cobbles. It sucks to run on cobbles. It sucks to walk on cobbles. There is nothing good about cobbles. I understand the argument for trying to maintain the character of the city, but it doesn’t need to be the entire city. They should pave everything and only leave the cobbles around the center of town. Rant over.
After leaving Antigua the traffic seemed pretty normal. A few slow trucks here and there, a few corners and merges that had little backups, but nothing too crazy. Around Escuintla we merged onto the Autopista and got to drive really fast. At some point after that Google had us leave the highway and take a dirt road. Charmaine immediately questioned the decision (she was looking at the map and traffic on her phone). Google picked it because it saved a few miles but estimated the time would be the same as staying on the highway. The road was pretty dusty, but not too rough. It was sometimes a little dicey when oncoming cars would pass in the dust, but it was fine. The further we went down the road, the smaller it got. I always felt bad when we had to pass people on scooters or bicycles, but there wasn’t much we could do other than make them eat our dust. One time a lady and her daughter riding a scooter without helmet or goggles came out of the dust behind Brett’s car towards us. She had her eyes closed to avoid the dust. I was a little concerned. She kept her eyes closed and continued to drive down the road past us. I guess she really knows the road well.
At the end of the dirt road we hit the biggest traffic jam of the trip. This is where the two routes came back together and crossed a bridge. It turned out to be a toll bridge. Nothing we had seen or read lead us to believe there would be any tolls. And we only had 10 Quetzales. There were no signs at the bridge to indicate how much we needed to pay. We pulled up and a man with a shotgun moved some barrels in front of our car while a woman in the booth stuck her hand out. I gave her the 10 Quetz. She looked upset and said, “Quince!” I grabbed a one dollar bill from Charmaine (the exchange rate is about 1 dollar to 7.5 Quetzales) and handed it to her. She said, “No! Quince Quetzales!” I responded back in English, “I only have dollars!” and shrugged my shoulders. She glared back at me and waited for me to produce more of the Guatemalan currency. I looked around and realized that we were blocking traffic in both directions at the bridge because traffic behind me had cut off the traffic coming back across the tiny two-lane bridge. She realized the same thing. There was already a traffic jam when things were flowing, but now it was getting crazy. People were starting to honk. I looked back up at here and asked (in English), “What do you want me to do?” She handed me back all my money and told the man to let us go. I guess we were too much trouble. That was a magic 10 Quetzales bill.
Hurry up and wait
It wasn’t much further till we were at our destination, but it would be quite a while before we could go inside. We pulled up to the luxury gated community where we had rented the condo for the weekend, there were a few cars in front of us, but they were stopped and in park. A guard came out to see who we were and which room we were renting. We showed him the email from the owners (our Airbnb hosts) and the Excel spreadsheet we filled out. He already had a copy from them and just needed to see our passports. Well, he really just needed mine, which he kept. I’ll get it back when we check out on Sunday. He checked us in, gave us wristbands, etc. But we still couldn’t go in because the cars in front of us were not moving. What seemed like several hours passed (probably more like 50-60 minutes), with many more cars pulling up behind us, checking in, getting wristbands, and waiting. Sometimes the new people would honk, but nobody ever moved. Until suddenly they did. A few cars finally moved out of the way and everyone else got to go in and park in their assigned spots. Later we got an email from our Airbnb host apologizing for the snafu at the front gate. Apparently one group had rented a unit, filled out their paperwork, but the owner of the unit had not sent it to the property management company. So the guards didn’t have any reason to trust the people and were not about to let them inside. The people who had already paid (and had nowhere else to go) were not about to leave either… so the standoff cost all of us valuable pool and/or beach time.
Once we got inside the condo, we realized it wasn’t the lap of luxury we are getting used to at the house in Antigua. They sent us a list of recommendations before we came. The list included things like eggs, oil, towels, soap, etc. The condo is fine, nothing to write home about, but not bad. It is pretty bare-bones though. No hand soap? Only five towels for eight guests? whatever. It has a huge network of well-designed pools and direct access to a good looking beach. This was obviously why we were here. We got into our swimsuits and did a little swimming in the ocean before sunset. After that we were hungry. That’s about the time we realized we had neglected to bring any food. I think we thought we could just hit a restaurant after settling in, but there were no restaurants on the road in to town. There is a little snack-shack looking place in the middle of some of the pools, but it looked like they might not be open today and we suspected they wouldn’t really have any real meals. So Brett and Jess got in the car and drove back to a Super Veinticuatro (convenience store) we passed on our way in. They picked up some ramen, milk, granola, drinks, and a few other things we didn’t have at the condo like hand soap. We each ate our cup of ramen, played a few games, sat in our private pool (each ground floor unit has its own private patio and pool) and then got ready for bed. Every room has its own air conditioner, so I think I’ll be able to sleep even if the beds are not very comfortable. Charmaine and I chose the small room with bunkbeds because I figured it had the least amount of air needed to be cooled by the little air conditioner.
I’m not sure I need to go back into the ocean here, the angle of the beach combined with the roughness of the volcanic sand made it a fairly brutal place to play in the waves, but I’ll probably give it another shot with everyone else tomorrow.