Our last side trip in Guatemala was to the Pacific Coast and the tourist friendly beach on Monterrico that boasted menacing waves and the black sand beaches that are commonly characteristic of a volcanic region such as this one. This was another memorable destination as it wasn’t at all what I was expecting. I heard beach town and I immediately pictured lots of souvenir shops, hippie college students on gap year and tiki bars with endless happy hour cocktail specials catering to the foreign boozehounds that undoubtedly swarmed about the place. In essence, I thought of Montañita in Ecuador. This wasn’t the case until the final day as we actually stayed in a sprawling hotel complex off the beaten path that catered to large groups who loved playgrounds and waterslides.
One of the highlights of our stay was the forever clueless and/or stoned waitress. She was one of those people with whom there was nothing you could possibly say that would make sense. This was one of those instances where I was really relieved that Claudia was around for the sake of my confidence in my developing Spanish speaking abilities. Normally when I make a request that falls on flat Spanish ears, I assume it’s due to my faulty pronunciation and my soul dies a little. However, hearing that the waitress was equally confused upon hearing requests from Claudia who is a fluent speaker, I realized it was her, not me. After more dumbfounded looks she then proceeded to smash a mosquito against her arm and twist its wings between her fingers while trying to debate the ingredients of a margarita with Claudia. This was clearly one of the more special and memorable moments I’ve had abroad with waiters.
The beach itself at Monterrico was unexpectedly quiet and desolate, which we would later found out was due to the fact that our hotel was bit off the beaten path. The black sand was a fine cocoa powder that reminded me of pumpernickel bread when it got wet. Here, the water was a bit foreboding and looking at the riptides, I didn’t venture any further than my knees. In fact the knee deep water quite quickly became chest high water on a moment’s notice and I quickly found myself trudging my way out of the foamy liquid. That was far enough for me and I returned to dry land where I worked hard laying on my back to re-establish my tan from the previous year.
Nightfall came and up to this point we were well aware that this beach hotel didn’t afford the same luxuries as our previous accommodations, though to me, it was on par with what I normally stay in. Still, panic took hold when we retired for the evening and found our hotel room overrun with some new critter friends – about three cockroaches and one scorpion. I guess they wouldn’t have been so bad if we didn’t found lurking through Vanessa’s pile of clothes or the scorpion that was tenderly hanging on to the wall just next to and above my bed. Not knowing much about scorpions we immediately went first world and texted Claudia’s uncle on the iPhone to determine whether or not a scorpion was something to be concerned about. Apparently it was and my penchant for sleeping with my mouth wide open gave me cause for concern about the night ahead of us. Therefore we all spent a rather restless night moving mattresses and sleeping with the lights on. Luckily I woke up in the morning with a mouth that wasn’t swollen shut.
Next morning found us enjoying a much more typical beach scenario. We finally figured out where the main beach town was and wandered up the coastline until we found it and found Johnny’s Turtle Place. This was the typical hangout of the Westerner expat who moved to paradise and never went home. A variety of reggae music was playing and lots of fruity cocktails were served. Considering the alternative of potentially poisonous critters and oddball waitresses, this suited us just fine until it was time to return to our base camp near Guatemala City.
Last stop: Antigua, the Arequipa of Guatemala