19/04/2015/7:56 pm, boat in Rio Dulce, Guatemala/crew in Halifax, NS, Canada
We are safely back home in Halifax after a wonderful week at Tortugal Marina in Rio Dulce and a couple of fun and friend filled days in Antigua.
14/04/2015/9:10 pm, crew in Antigua, Guatemala, boat in Rio Dulce
In one of those small world experiences, we chatted with Diane and Dale at the mid-trip bus stop on our way to Antigua. They had been visiting with Marilyn and Glen on the catamaran docked next to us, and when they told us they live in New Zealand, we said, "Our son lives in Wellington and works at Gordon's outdoor store." "Well I bet he sold me my sunglasses!" said Diane. Wouldn't that be cool if it really was Liam?
We have stayed at a number of different Antigua hotels, but I think we have found our Antigua "home base" now. Two different friends recommended Las Camellias Inn on 3a Calle Oriente, and we wholeheartedly agree. It is mid-range, just a few blocks from the central square, spotlessly clean and pretty. So many of the Antigua hotels have lovely courtyards and this one is no exception. Breakfast is an extra $5. US and is well worth it.
We have spent quite a bit of time in Antigua now, so we didn't feel pressured to fill our days with exploring ruinas and striding along the cobbled streets. Instead, we sat in the leafy park watching families visit and children play and women in their colourful dress sell scarves and textiles. We drank excellent coffee as we watched locals and visitors crisscross the streets - and that is how we came to meet up with Angie and John (Angela G). Fortunately, they weren't in a hurry to be anywhere either so we followed them down the street and up the stairs to the gorgeous little terrace above the gardens at La Posada de Don Rodrigo. It is a wonderful new find for us and we spent a delightful hour with them recapping the sailing season before they go back to England and we go back to Canada.
The next day as we walked in the square once more, I looked at a gentleman on a bench and exclaimed, "Doug!" at the same time he said, "Beth!" We knew Doug (formerly on Serendipity) was in town but we weren't really expecting to see him so it was a lovely surprise - that continued when we saw Nancy (my yoga teacher last year) come around the corner. It's a funny thing when we are more apt to see friends in the square in Antigua, Guatemala than we are in Halifax, Nova Scotia!
Our friend, Lori, knows where to find music in town so we met her for drinks at La Taverna and moved on to Travel Menu where Zed was playing beautiful jazz guitar. We loved catching up on Lori's news over good food in a lively bar.
On our last day, we joined Kathy and Brian (Tundra) for a trip to Cello San Cristobal - for lunch on the terrace of their organic gardens high above the town. That turned out to be a little more of a mixed experience than we had planned. While all the reports of the place were glowing - free shuttle from N'im Pot in town up the winding road to the top of the hill, delicious food, beautiful views, opportunity to stroll through the lovely veggie gardens - the fact that we had to wait 2 full hours past the time we had expected to return, for a bus to come pick us up put a real damper on the day. It was even more frustrating because no one gave us any information for the delay for the longest time, and then when we were told there had been an accident and a new bus would come, it was a series of "Quinze minutos" (15 minutes) again and again. This became a problem for us, because we had arranged for Senor Soto, our cab driver, to pick us up at the hotel, and we were still on the hill with the sun going down when we were supposed to be meeting him for our ride back to Guatemala City. The lack of any particular concern about the delay left a bad feeling with us, and we won't be going back in a hurry. I won't say never, although I would pick a clear day when the visibility is good, have only salad for lunch, and call my own cab if I had to wait more than 20 minutes. As it was, Senor Soto was very gracious about having to wait for us (and very appreciative of the extra 100 Q we paid him.)
Back at Villa Toscana in the city, we repacked our bags, weighed them and fell into bed. The 5 am wakeup came early, but all the flights were on time (We were routed through Miami and Philadelphia on the way to Halifax) and our luggage arrived intact with us.
It never did feel like we were ready to come home but the stopover in Antigua certainly helped us make the transition between hot, humid weather on the Rio and chilly spring air in Nova Scotia, between boat life and land life. And now that we are here, it feels good.
12/04/2015/9:06 pm, Tortugal Marina, Rio Dulce, Guatemala
We thought we had lots of time to close up the boat, get massages, enjoy coffee and dinners with friends, and maybe even do some touring around the area (well - it was me with my wishful thinking who added that last bit.) Lesson #1 - things always take longer than we think they will. Lesson #2 - recognize that I am rarely ever "ready" to leave a place.
Our 6 days at Tortugal marina flew by in a blur of conversation, good eats - some on the boat and some in the restaurant, meetings with Byron the marina manager, the last massages from Blanca for the season, packing, cleaning, laundry, a walk along the nature trail. Ulli and Thomas (Toriba), Kathie (Ragamuffin), Jo and Steve (Tarka), Charlie and Karen (Gloria Maris), Jerry and Deborah (Czech 'n' Mate), Pat and Dave (Ten Years After) were all here - along with lots of others of course - so we had many friends to chat with. Andrew (Striker), the young man next to us - probably in his 20's - who built and/or repaired almost every single thing on his boat, and a couple of the older gents on the dock - surely in their 70's with years of experience on the water bookended the rest of us - mostly in our 60's 50's. It is an international crowd here too - Canada, the USA, Germany, Holland, with visitors from many other countries.
It gets hot there this time of year - up in the 30's daytimes - so free coffee on the deck at 7:30 is a good way to start the day. In between crossing items off the job list, we enthusiastically tried out the new items that Jo (Tarka) is helping to introduce to the regular restaurant menu - Asian Crunch Salad and Japanese Veggie Pancake (I wish I had taken a picture of that one - it looked and tasted spectacular). We enjoyed a fabulous lunch onboard Madcap - prepared and served by Blanca. She precooked ribs at home, prepared drunken beans (frijoles borrachos) to serve along with flour tortillas, yellow cake and pineapple. Jim grilled the ribs on our little cockpit BBQ and basted them with Blanca's BBQ sauce. I added a green salad and pulled out every piece of dinnerware in my lockers, and Blanca dished up all the goodies to share with seven hungry people. I sat with her for an hour the next day scribbling down lists of ingredients and preparation methods for Frijoles Borrachos and her special Chicken Curry and Chicken Escabeche - Belize style.
We gathered on the deck some evenings, and on others we simply fell, exhausted, into our berth by 8 o'clock. On the last day, I realized I had not yet walked the boardwalk through the jungle so I disappeared for an hour, stopping to breathe in all the oxygen, marvel at the profusion of greenery, peer at partly submerged logs for turtles, and simply absorb all that lush and organic growth. I laughed when I met two other women doing exactly the same thing - just meditatively moving, one step at a time, without any purpose except to be present in the greenness. What a gift. What a lovely balance to the hot, sweaty work of putting the boat to bed.
Byron spent a couple of hours with us - going over the contract for seasonal storage, taking careful notes on what we want them to check throughout the summer. It takes time for new people to get to know our boat. While we have left it at Tortugal for a few weeks at a time, this will be our first experience with seasonal storage. The sails are off and stored in the cabin in their bags. The dinghy is turned upside down on the foredeck. A sunshade covers the forward 2/3 of the boat and Byron will turn the boat stern in and tie a tarp over the cockpit after we leave.
Casey and his men took excellent care of Madcap for 3 summers, but we decided to leave Madcap in a licensed marina this year. Word is that the officials are looking a little harder at where boats are stored, as well as months in the country, and we really do not want a fine to gobble up the cruising kitty.
And then it was time to pile our bags into the lancha and catch the Litegua bus to Antigua for a few days.