10/04/2012/12:26 pm, Rio Dulce, Guatemala
We're heading back down the river to Casey's place this afternoon. It's been a grand stay at El Tortugal and we'll be back up here again in the fall.
We made our last stroll through town, bought bags and bags full of fruit for less than $10 US. Wonderful abundance here. And we found the nut man again too - cashews, spicy peanuts, macadamias, sesame and honey coated peanuts, crispy salted lima beans - now even Jim can say he likes lima beans!!
Oh yes - the craziness on the water really did go away by Sunday night.
08/04/2012/12:00 pm, El Tortugal Marina, Fronteras, Rio Dulce, Guatemala
Holy Week (Easter) is a big time in Guatemala. If we were in Antigua, we'd be watching processionals with holy statues and painted streets along with thousands of people. For a number of reasons we are not in Antigua (primarily no reservations in a full to bursting town, also a long trip when we have to go again mid month, and end of season boat jobs to do here). Instead, we are in the Rio, near Fronteras.
Here in Rio Dulce, Semana Santa is not so much holy time as party time. And oh my goodness - they are partying. The river gets busy about mid day - that's also when the breeze comes up and the sun is hottest. Jet skis roar around, lanchas (little tour boats) loaded with people cruise up and down, private lanchas and sport boats speed along - some towing tubes loaded with children (no waterskis, interestingly - don't know why). Poor Madcap rocks and rolls at her dock, and because of our front row seat right out front, we also get to see all the visitors coming and going. We have a good view of the bridge too - where vendors set up stalls and folks stop their cars to look over at the boat traffic and they were bungee jumping the other day - and of course endless lines of cars and trucks keep moving by.
On most nights, we can hear music from the disco downtown, and on many nights, we also hear loud music from a highly sophisticated sound system at "the general's house" just along the way. It would make me crazy if it was always this way, but everyone - marina staff and resident cruisers alike - assure us that this is Semana Santa activity and come Sunday night, it will all go away.
I have been walking with the women (and one man) in the early mornings. We grab a quick cup of (free) coffee and hit the trail by 7am. These are serious walkers - all but me have dog's leashes in their hands - and we don't arrive back much before 9. Meanwhile, Jim has been working on cleaning stainless and decks so we are both ready for a swim by then.
The rest of our days have been filled with sorting and cleaning lockers, chats with other folks on the deck, with naps and reading scheduled for the midday heat. Siestas are not just a nice idea here. They make the difference between still being upright at dusk and having fallen down from heat exhaustion. We drink and drink and drink (water) and sweat it all right back out again.
On my walks, I've seen teak forests, fields of oil palms, and groves of cacao trees. We spied a herd of goats Saturday morning and a couple of water buffalo grazing in a field. Pick up truck after pick up truck loaded with smiling faces hurtled down the road - on their way to Semana Santa celebrations or picnics or parties. We walked up a little road behind lovely big houses that face out onto Lago Izabel and heard that many of them belong to families who use them just a few times a year. The yards were full of late model SUV's and the driveways were gated. And balancing that, we walked by many small, tin roofed houses with open doors, windows with no glass (there aren't many glassed windows anywhere - just mosquito nets over beds) and laundry hanging on lines. That would be the laundry that was washed on the rocks down on the shores of that same Lago Izabel. We met barefoot boys who watch the goats, and a grizzled old man with rubber boots and machete coming back from the field. And along a little canal later in the day, we dinghied past gorgeous docks with jet skis tied up and beautiful rattan furniture and crowds of adults and children laughing and playing together. It is all here.
We have seen only the tiniest bit of Guatemala and we know it's a place we want to allow lots of time for exploring next year. The geography, the cultures, the history are all multilayered and multi faceted and we well know that what we see right now is as deep as the lichen on the steps of the Maya pyramids.
04/04/2012/11:05 pm, El Tortugal Marina, Fronteras, Rio Dulce, Guatemala
After spending a couple of nights anchored and visiting a number of marinas, we moved to El Tortugal Marina (www.tortugal.com) for a week and have rapidly found our Fronteras home.
Jim and I both liked the look of the facility and enjoyed meeting Daphne earlier in the week; since we tied up, we've been into that "small world" thing again. Down at the end of the dock we chatted with Kathy (from PEI) - she says Hi Estelle! There is a New Brunswick boat next to her but they're away right now. Allan (Kristianna) is from Scotland, and flies a flag with the St Andrews cross (which makes up part of the Nova Scotia flag) so we count him as an "almost Maritimer" too!
This morning, over coffee on the El Tortugal deck, we chatted with Michael and Mam (Narak) and as we were both saying, "Your boat sounds familiar - where have we seen you?" we discovered that both Madcap and Narak were in the Tiger Point Marina in Fernandina Beach, Florida last summer. An hour later Ellen and Dave (Cordelia) walked by and we reminisced about a shared musical evening aboard Melodean in Vero Beach a few years ago.
We really feel like we are in a good place - and look forward to spending time here now and in the fall when we return to Guatemala. It is a quick dinghy ride to the free dinghy docks at Bruno's just the other side of the bridge - and a half hour walk through the hardwood forest and along the road - and has several scheduled lancha trips each day. It's just far enough along to be out of the noise and commotion of the town, and yet still easily accessible. Although there is no swimming pool, there is good swimming right off the boats and a small swim platform anchored just off the front dock. Kayaks are available for guest use, the restaurant is good and there are shady spots for lounging scattered all over the property. Loads of hot water and laundry service right here round out the services. So when we want to be in the thick of the action, El Tortugal is our place.
We have decided, though, to leave Madcap down river on Casey Brooks' dock while we are home for the summer. We want to have some woodwork done - Casey's specialty - and having met him, we know Madcap will have excellent and personal care.
I went for a great walk this morning with Daphne and Mam and their dogs. El Tortugal has its own series of raised boardwalks over the waterlogged ground and out to the highway. We turned left toward El Castillo, but a right turn would have brought us to town. While mid day brings intense heat, the mornings and evenings are lovely here so those are the times for walks and work.
We've booked a flight back to the US to pick up our car (April 16) and reserved a room near the airport in Guatemala City - so we are getting some of our "end of season" details taken care of. Now all that remains is to do the prep work for leaving Madcap, and fit in some good local experiences before we go.
(This pic shows an ingenious "sail" on a cayuco that went past our dock this afternoon. I guess you use what you have!)