We left Chiquimulillaand headed north to Antigua. Our route took us through the Fuego eruption zone and the road we were traveling on had only recently been reopened. As it was prone to be reburied by mudslides if it rained, which it had the night before, we were a little apprehensive. We were in luck, the road was open. The eruption zone was stark and strange. The view out our windows was green and lush and alive and then, boom….black and dead. It was a haunting landscape maybe 2 miles wide where we were, but stretching out as far as the eye could see. Rows of palm trees coated in ash with their leaves limp and hanging. Houses half-buried. Melted pavement. A new gorge was torn into the earth by lava and pyroclastic flow. Eric told us that what made this eruption so deadly was because Fuegoerupted in a direction it never had before…like ever in the known history of the volcano, so there were villages in its path, whereas there are no villages on the other sides of the volcano. Driving through it felt a little bit like we were trespassing on hallowed ground.
By the time we reached Antigua, about 10 miles east of Fuego, it looked like nothing ever happened. Antigua is where you find all the language schools, ex-pats, and tourists. You also find some gorgeous examples of Spanish Baroque architecture, both intact and in ruins. This is also an excellent place to indulge your inner magpie, as there are lots of shops carrying shiny silver and jade jewelry. The outdoor artisan market is huge and set up as a series of square courtyards with a central fountain, each of them a little different from each other. One of my favorite market purchases was a patchwork quilt…handmade from different squares cut from old traditional shirts worn by women called huipiles. I had no idea if that quilt was going to fit in my suitcase and on top of that it was pretty heavy, but I was going to try. (spoiler alert: it fit and my suitcase weighed in at 50.4lbs….whew!). My other favorite market treasure was a small drawing of midwives assisting a laboring woman. It was just sitting on a random shelf by itself, and, of course, it caught my attention. Turns out, Nancy bought the same drawing here last February and this was the last one like it. Shortly before we left for Guatemala I found out I got into grad school for midwifery and Nancy was absolutely certain this drawing was there for me and I was supposed to find it. I completely agreed and added it to my basket.
We had dinner reservations at Casa Santo Domingo, a restaurant built gently and beautifully among the ruins of a monastery that dates back to 1527. The ruins are meticulously preserved and exist as an indoor/outdoor museum that guests can walk through at their leisure. At dusk, hundreds of candles are lit around the site The food was amazing, but the setting amid the candlelit ruins was what really made it magical. After dinner, we headed back to Guatemala City. Our first-day teaching at the midwifery school was the next day and we had to be up early….again.