Monday I hung out around Antigua and found out what a boring place it was unless you wanted to shop or there was some kind of parade going on. Although there were some really good restaurants to be found. So on Tuesday I did one of the only real touristy things I've done on this trip - I went with another person staying at Posada Ruiz to one of the travel agencies and paid to join a group climbing the volcano Pacaya that day. For only $8US they drove us 1.5 hours to the mountain, guided and guarded the group of 12 up the 12,000 ft peak, and climbed up a live volcano with steaming vents and red hot rocks and the whole works. The little dogs from the village at the trailhead followed us up the whole way for the scraps of our snacks we brought to the top. But the best part of the climb was definitely the part when we ran down the pumice strewn slope from the summit, probably a good 500 meters vertical. The saddest part of the trip was the little kids at the trailhead when we got back to the bottom begging for scraps of bread, tortillas and money. Wednesday I went to Panajachel on Lake Atitlan with some other travellers, only to head back to Antigua at 5:30 the same day, which was one of the dumber moves I've made this trip, but that's another story.

OK, so back to Antigua and what was going on there… actually not much was between Sunday and Thursday, but here goes anyway. The tradition here in Antigua (and in other Latin American places) is to create "alfombres" for Semana Santa, rugs of colored sawdust, pine needles and/or flowers, which cover the width of the street and can be anywhere from 8 feet long to an entire block long. The designs are very artful, usually renderings from some story in the Bible, but some more abstract and interesting. The whole community participates - the number of processions/parades I've seen so far and the amount of community effort would make the Fremont Arts Council green with envy. So picture these alfombres, which take many hours to complete, coloring the streets, with a flurry of activity happening on the sidewalks, then Roman guards and purple robed or black robed processions of men come along with incense, followed by a huge coffin (mentioned above) carried on the backs of at least 40 men, down the middle of the street, trampling over the alfombres, followed by a marching band, followed 5 minutes later by a procession of women in dresses, as if in mourning, followed by at least another 40 women carrying a huge coffin like thing with statues of Mary and the Angels on top of it, with another marching band following them. Then multiply that by about 12 and you might have a concept of all the activity that goes on during Semana Santa. Because the processions follow certain streets at different times, and the families that live on the streets create new alfombres for each procession, people were constantly doing things.

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