Copan, Honduras to Antigua and Chichi, Guatmala

Antigua Travel Blog

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In my twenties, I spent several years exploring the world with all my possessions on my back. I travelled from place to place, making temporary homes in different countries for a few months at a time as I worked as a dive instructor to fund the next plane ticket. Then I got married, had two boys, got separated, and resigned myself to staying in one place for awhile. But after a few years, my feet have gotten itchy again, and I have recently forayed into the world of travel with a bus trip in Guatemala, this time with a 2 year old (Auri) and 4 yr old (Deo) in tow.

My home base at the moment is a beautiful island paradise called Roatan, one of the Bay Islands in Honduras. Roatan was the last spot of my travels as a single backpacker: it was where I met my husband, and after spending several years back in my native country Canada, my boys and I moved back here in November.

I've travelled a few times with my sons, but always just back and forth between here and Canada, or to visit with friends in North America. What I was missing was exploring some new terrain, but with two young boys, I didn't think it would be happening anytime soon. And then a window of opportunity opened.

My friend Tammy from Maryland was coming down for a visit for two weeks. We had met years before, when she was on vacation at a dive resort that I had worked at, and kept in touch over the years. She had been to Roatan several times before, so she was interested seeing something new for part of the time that she was here. So we started talking about the possibility of visiting the neighbouring country of Guatemala. Once she arrived, we sat down with a Lonely Planet guidebook and planned our itinerary.

For those of you who might be considering doing a little bit of 'adventure travelling' (meaning not having all your travel plans booked in advance, hopping on some public transportation and digging a bit under the 'tourist' layer), two adults along definitely makes things much easier. As we only had a week to work with, we would be on the bus a few hours almost every day, so it just wouldn't have been enjoyable on my own. This way, there was always one person to be with the bags and children as the other went to the bathroom, got snacks, checked out a hotel. If you're a single parent and can't find a travel buddy, but still long for a travel adventure, I would suggest picking an end destination that you can settle in for a few weeks, and trying to break up your travel into stints of a few hours at a time, to save your sanity!

Packing is a bit of a fine science, striking the delicate balance between making sure you have everything that you'll need for yourself and your children (knowing that it is impossible to keep young children clean!), and not wanting to pack to much, as you'll be hauling around the bag from place to place.

I was quite proud to have limited our things to a small backpack: three days worth of clothes, planning for a laundrimat stop mid-trip. In addition, we were bringing Deo's little backpack as carry-on, an umbrella stroller, and a backpack carrier for spots where the stroller wouldn't work, like crowded markets and cobblestone streets.

We opted to fly to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, and then it was bus transportation from there. The first day, we took a 3 hour ride to Copan Ruinas, some Mayan ruins near the border. Both of my boys travelled free, as long as they would sit on our laps if the seats were all sold. We loaded up on snacks: as every parent knows, this is a crucial part of any outing, be it 5 hours or 5 minutes! I had a little toy container with a couple miniature cars, animals, bubbles and crayons to combat restlessness.

The boys slept a large part of the way, and just started to get a little cranky the last 15 minutes or so of the ride. The bus was full, so our laps got a little sore, though the lady across the aisle held Auri (my youngest ) for quite a bit of the ride.

On our arrival, there were some guys trying to get some business for their hotel. We decided to check it out, as they were offering a free ride there. It was cheap and adequate, close to everything, and it was only for one night, so we stayed. Once we had deposited our bags, we set out to take a look around the town, and find some dinner. We also booked the next lag of our trip, to Antigua, Guatemala. There was a shuttle bus that went direct in the afternoon, so we bought our tickets for the following day.

Copan Ruinas is a pretty little town, situated a 15 min walk from the Mayan ruins. It has cobblestone streets (a stroller nightmare!), and a pretty park at it's centre, with several bars and restaurants all in close proximity. We settled on a spot for dinner, and met a fellow traveller that we recognized from the bus, whom we made plans to meet up with the following morning, to split the cost of a guide at the ruins.

After dinner, we returned to the hotel: two young boys mean fairly early evenings! The boys slept with me, and Tammy had the other bed. The next morning, we found a restaurant for breakfast (pancakes, the boys were happy!), and then met up with Lorenzo for the walk out to the ruins. Part way out, Auri had a leaky poop, making me very relieved that I kept in a change for clothes, hand sanitizer and sarong (the wonder item that can be a changepad, blanket, towel, skirt, sheet- you name it!) in our little bag .

We had an emergency change by the side of the road, then resumed our journey.

The ruins were beautiful. There were a few things that couldn't be touched, which was hard for Auri, but it was set in a big, grassy area, and the boys were both excited to climb to the top of one of the temples. The tour was over two hours, so we dropped off near the end, as by that point the boys had had enough, as had I (carrying Auri up and down the steps so that we could keep up). We walked back to town, picked up some lunch, piled our bags onto the stroller and went down to the shuttle bus.

The ride from Copan to Antigua was 6 hours long, and I was dreading it. I was amazed at how well it went! We had an extra seat, so we had the backseat of a minivan to ourselves, and Deo and Auri slept about half of the way.

The other half of the trip was occupied with our small toy stash, making a fort under the sarong, and playing spot the 'Gallo' (rooster, which is the name of a Guatemalan beer very heavily advertised all along the row- we had a contest to see who could spot the most). A police cruiser followed us for part of the drive, and the boys had fun waving to them out the back window.   Some of our fellow bus passengers recognized us from Roatan, they had bought our banana bread when they were there.

When we arrived in Antigua, it was already evening and the sun was down, and we needed to find a place to stay. We walked up one of the streets and passed a McDonalds, so we took a dinner break in there for the boys, thinking we'd find a restaurant for us a little later.

After the boys had refueled, we started walking around, with Auri in the backpack, and our bags piled on the stroller. An hour later, we finally decided to splurge on a hotel that was a bit over budget, as the other ones we had been to were full, but when we went back to it, that room had been taken as well, so we settled for a place that was a bit rundown that we had passed at the beginning, never ended up bothering with our dinner or the cold Gallo we had planned on.

What a cold night! Luckily I had two children to cuddle with. The next day, we took an early start, beginning with the golden arches, conveniently located just across the street from our hotel. It had a great playland, and internet! (unfortunately, that wasn't up and running until 9am).

We consulted our constant companion, the Lonely Planet guidebook, and mapped out a path to a few hotels that looked good. We inquired in about 15-20 hotels, about 2 hours of circling the city, and finally found something with a vacancy that was a set up from where we had stayed the night previously. We later found out that there was a celebration to celebrate the beginning of Lent: too bad we hadn't known before hand! That big task finally finished, we booked our tickets for the next day to the market at Chichicastenango (the most wellknown market in Guatemala). Then we finally sat down to a cold Gallo and early lunch.

After lunch, we relocated to our new hotel, and tried unsucessfully to get the boys to nap, so we decided we'd check out the market in town.

Auri fell asleep in the backpack after about 5 minutes. Deo was making friends with all the vendors, and Tammy and I were just enjoying all the sights of Guatemala: women in traditional dress balancing huge baskets on their heads, with babies and toddlers strapped to their backs, vendors with mounds of fruit, clothing, tools, toys, as well as handicrafts like beautiful woven bedspreads, rugs, hammocks, clothing, carved wooden masks, jewellry, embroidered blouses. We had heard the prices were the best in Chichi, so we were planning to do most of our buying there, though I picked up a mask and drum for the boys.

We refreshed ourselves at the hotel, and then ventured out for a stroll around town, followed by dinner. Antigua is beautiful. It's surrounded by 3 volcanoes, and the streets, like Copan, are all cobblestone.

Lots of pretty churches and buildings scattered through the town, and it's incredibly clean: very unlike what I've experienced of the rest of Central America. A few of the streets were blocked off from vehicles, and a little band was set up, so the boys danced for awhile. We found a great restaurant for dinner (thanks to the recommendation in the Lonely Planet), only about $3-$4 for a delicious meal, and there was a fountain and gardens in the middle. Deo was getting pretty tired and cranky by that point, as he had skipped his nap, so we headed back to the hotel. On our way, we passed by the parque centrale, where an orchestra was setting up in front of the church.   One of the setbacks of travelling with kids: very early bedtimes!  I stayed at the hotel with my sleeping boys, Tammy went to check out the entertainment.

The following day, we headed to Chichi.  The shuttlebus was picking us up outside our hotel- Tammy made a breakfast run to the bagel shop around the corner (so helpful having a friend along!).  The bus ride went well (I continue to be amazed at how great my boys have been on all this bussing!).  When we got to Chichicastenango, I loaded up Auri on my back, and we prepared to brave the crowds.  The plan was to do a kind of re-con loop to see what was around before we made any purchases, so that we wouldn't have to carry things for too far.  That plan fell apart about 10 minutes into things :)  The market was so huge (and crowded), I wasn't sure if we'd navigate our way back to the right vendor if we had spotted something we liked.  Plus, I wanted to get an idea of pricing, and then as soon as I started asking, I got caught up in the bartering game- I love markets!  So before I knew it, I had two bedspreads (so beautiful!) for the boys beds. 

We took a little break at the cathedral in the middle- Deo was getting a little cranky from the crowds and noise, so we just sat on the steps while Tammy went in.  The steps were all covered with fresh flowers for sale, and there was a processional of people swinging burning incense.  After a ten minute breather, we faced the crowds again.  This time, I scored with a gorgeous rug for our livingroom (which Tammy carried, since I already had 30 lbs on my back).  Got some little animal-face backpacks for my nieces.  After a bit more wandering, we found a restaurant that overlooked the market. 'Oh, regarde, c'est la fille qui vende le pain de banane!' exclaimed a couple sitting inside.  More banana bread customers from Roatan, that was so funny, they recognized us everywhere! 

I was happy to shed my weight for awhile, and the boys ran a little wild in the restaurant.  We all had some lunch, and then we set out to do some final bargaining.  The crowds had thinned out, so it was a bit easier getting through.  Found some beautiful scarves, and I put my bartering skills to work for Tammy and I.  I was down to my last few quetzales of what I had budgeted for the market, and I was determined to spend them too!  Got a couple beaded bracelets, and Tammy picked up a hammock.  I sat down with the boys, broke, while Tammy looked at a few of the stalls.  Then along came a lady, determined to sell me a pretty woven cloth, about tablecloth size.  She remained unswayed when I told her I was out of cash.  Her price dropped, and dropped, and dropped.  I couldn't take it anymore, it was just too good of a deal!  I fished into the depths of my bag for our dinner money ('for everything else in life, there's Visa!'), and she smiled knowingly-'I knew you still had some money!' she said.  Meanwhile, the boys were getting a little out of hand, running in and out of the fabric store.  Another vendor strolled along, offering to trade his merchandise for my watch when I said I had no money.  I asked him if he'd consider a trade for one of my kids ;)

Tammy finished up her purchases, and we made our way back to the bus, loaded up to the hilt.  The boys crashed out on the ride back to Antigua.  We carted all our treasures back to our room, and took a little break before heading out to dinner.  We revised our itinerary, since I was broke, and it seemed like a trip into Guatemala City to see the zoo was going to be a bit of a hassle to get around (and a few travel agents told us all the hotels were full).  We decided we'd just start making our way back the following day.  So we picked up some shuttle tickets, the pickup was for 5am-yuck!  Then we took a wander around the city before dinner.  Found a store called Nim'pot, which wasn't too much more than market pricing, and accepted creditcards, so I added a hammock and a bag (to help carry all the stuff!)to my growing collection of Guatemalan handicrafts.  And then we found a restaurant with the all-important 'VISA' sign on the door.  Enjoyed a few last Gallos with dinner, before heading back to try to stuff everything into our bags.  Not an easy feat!  As I have been ranked in the top 10 of packers in the world, Tammy relinquished her bag to me, and I packed for all of us.  Rolled, and stuffed, and crammed, and squeezed- I don't think that anything more could have been added to those bags!  The stroller came in handy: we had all our bags strapped to it.  Sometimes travelling with kids can be a bonus!    Once we were all packed up, we set the alarm, and asked the security guard to knock on our door as well, just in case we overslept.

The morning came way too early.  I left waking up the boys until the last minute- carted all the stuff out to the front, and then we scooped them up 10 min before we were supposed to be picked up.  Well, true Central American timing, we got picked up half an hour later.  The boys were awake and grumpy by then, but they fell asleep shortly after the bus got moving. 

Again, another amazing bus ride (no drugs given, I swear!).  We had a break halfway, and got the boys some pancakes.  The shuttle was supposed to be door-to-door, but they just dumped us all out a the same spot.  Luckily, it wasn't far from the hotel that we were splurging on for our last night of travels.  So we loaded up the stroller once again (too stretched for cash to pay for a tuk-tuk), and headed for Plaza Copan, complete with the VISA sign, and a swimming pool- freezing cold, not worth the splurge!  The afternoon we just spent relaxing poolside, and met a nice family from La Ceiba.  Went to the bus station and got our tickets for the next morning, and picked up some snacks for the trip (snacks, the most important item when travelling with small children!) Then we found a great little restaurant for dinner (who's name escapes me at the moment), where the waitresses served chips and salsa balanced on a bowl on their heads.  And they accepted VISA! 

A good night sleep in a nice, soft bed.  Then Auri disturbed the peace with a middle of the night wailing session: I was sure half the hotel was going to wake up!  I took him for a walk in the hall to stop his crying, finally got us back to sleep again. 

Up in the morning for our final bus ride.  This one was even better than before!  The bus was actually really nice for just the regular line of buses, and there was enough spots that only one of them had to sit on a lap.  Arrived in San Pedro Sula, and negotiated our cab price, and we headed for the airport.  Found a bankmachine, Tammy got out some more cash so we'd be able to pay for a cab in Roatan.  Deo and Auri got to be very good friend with the security guy there: poor man, they wouldn't leave him alone! 

So the end of the trip: back in Roatan, stuff everywhere, boys running around like madmen (I guess all that pent-up energy had to break loose sometime!).  Glad we went, glad to be home!  Nomad wandering has a whole new take when it's with kids!!!  I'd definitely do it again, but wish that we had had more time, and of course, more money, and a nanny along would have been great :)  My home looks incredible, with the new rug, bedspreads and hammock.  And I am happy to be in my own bed, without two little pairs of feet in my face or stomach!

ewa_1304 says:
Nice story :)
Posted on: Apr 19, 2015
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photo by: monky