Roberto is as shiny and slick as they come. He charges tourist prices and more some, but damn he’s good.
We meet Roberto in Central Park where he immediately enchanted us with his knowledge and talking skill offering us a guided walking tour. About a week later we looked him up and accepted.
We enjoyed his walking tour so much that we decided to head on another tour with him to the surrounding villages. The morning he was due to pick us up my phone, which was based on Mexico time changed (probably due to their daylight savings) and while we though he was an hour late, he was on time. Our mistake!
He collected us from our house in a big van with his wife along for the ride and his cousin doing the driving. We originally had friends joining us, but her kids fell sick the day before so we were in the big van alone.
Santa María de Jesús
On our drive to Santa Maria, Roberto beguiled us with Guatemalan history from the state of the roads to the state of each town. He showed us how each town has a cross at the beginning so you can recognize it from another town. He taught us about how you know you’ve left Antigua when the cobblestones stop and how the former President’s house location has the best roads in the country.
Santa Maria is located under the slopes of Volcan de Agua 2,070 meters above sea level. Its central square has a temple built in the seventeenth century. Our van parked right outside the market and we had free time to wander through. What a colourful feast for your eyes. This little town charmed me.
The fruits and vegetables.
The second hand shoe stalls everywhere.
And then the ladies with their babies.
Beautiful ladies with amazing dresses and gorgeous aprons carrying dark eyed, dark haired babies in a sling on their back. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to wear those clothes everyday, but they looked so striking.
After Santa Maria we went back down the volcano to San Antonia for a brief visit to the laundry grounds. In each town is a giant pool-type tub where women gather to wash clothes, shoes, toys and enjoy a good gossip. We saw one in Antigua on our walking tour not in use, but this one had several lades and one gent actually washing away.
Part of this small town was also the typical tourist jade trap. Where the tour guide takes you to his “mate’s” house for the best bargains in town. They showed us how they work the jade, how they carve it and polish it by hand into earrings and necklaces.
We listened, looked and thanked them politely before making a hasty departure back into the van.
On our way out we were properly warned about the cheap land value here. The town is known for landslides and every wet season experiences a river-like water flow down the mountain and often mudslides, in which the tempting land offers the foreigners bought become a nightmare.
Next stop was also the typical tourist stop at a macadamia nut farm. We are from Australia we know nuts, but we actually really enjoyed this stop. We skipped the macadamia nut lesson and headed straight to the restaurant since the kids were very hungry by that point.
It was a gorgeous natural setting with macadamias hanging from all the trees. The kids ordered pancakes, while Josh and I shared homemade potato crisps cooked in macadamia oil.
We made friends with some travelling New Yorkers and then headed back to our van and guide.
Driving through the outskirts of Antigua we started uphill on the opposite side. Once parked we were in for a treat. An amazing ancient stone cross on top of the hill watching over the colonial town.
I could have looked at those views forever, but we were aware of our driver patiently waiting for us. We promised to come back and spend a lot more time here overlooking the beauty and views of Antigua and it’s backdrops of volcanoes.
Local folklore says that the stone cross was originally setup around 200 miles away but during the volcanic eruption in the 1770’s the cross was flung high into the air, landing in it’s current location.
After our tour Roberto dropped us back home. When Josh went to pay him there was quite the misunderstanding and a $40 tour turned into $40 per person, kids free. Okay so $40 was a steal for the 5 hours we spent touring the villages and $40 per person sounded more realistic, but still you know once you understand something and it turns out to not be true it doesn’t leave a great taste in your mouth.
Roberto is a great tour guide. He is well spoken in English and also well travelled. He understands both Mayan and Spanish sides of Guatemala and spends time vacationing in Antigua with his family. After two tours I would totally go on another tour with him, just be sure to agree on price before your tour so there is no surprises later.