Antigua Guatemala is a city all it’s own, only a few blocks from the dilapidated sprawl of Guatemala City. The transition - from the ugliest of Guatemala’s cities to the prettiest - is abrupt. The old capital is surrounded by volcanoes, some of which erupt regularly. But life goes on uninterrupted in the city, where cobbled streets are lined with inviting bars, restaurants, plazas, shops, and a tolerable balance of tourists and locals.
Jean and I were checking into our hostel when I heard an enthusiastic “No fucking way. No fucking way!” over my right shoulder. I turned to see Lau, one of my closest friends from the month at Hulakai, standing there with her dog, grinning. It was the last of perhaps two dozen chance encounters throughout my travels, and was a very pleasant surprise.
Enchanted by the city and excited to see Lau, I passed on a trek I shouldn’t have. The overnight hike summits a dormant volcano with an active neighbor, and if the pictures I’ve seen are to be trusted, the sight of Volcan del Fuego spitting lava above the clouds at dawn would have been a lifetime highlight. Missing it was one of the biggest mistakes of my trip, but I’m not being too hard on myself. I had an unusually good night bar hopping with Lau and Jean, and we cheered from the hostel terrace as the volcano erupted into the night sky.