11/04/2012/5:14 pm, Gringo Bay
We've been tearing ourselves away from one place, only to tear ourselves away from another in a day or two. I can't remember if all our departures felt like this.
We celebrated Easter Sunday with a pot luck. The resident cruisers came bearing bowls of multi coloured salads, food for the BBQ, (I bought some thinly sliced pork that turned out to be tender and tasty once marinated and threaded on skewers) bottles of wine, and Ellen's blueberry cake. We met some new folks - including a Swiss couple, a young Russian guy set to head off across the Atlantic with his father, Canadians Honey Lynn and Ted (Patron). There is a Belgian man, a Scot, a few more Canadians and a few American boats here so we are truly an international crowd. Dave (Cordelia) brought out his guitar at the end of the evening for a fine finish.
I took my last walk at Tortugal - this time going down the road that leads to El Estor. Andree and I both have long fast legs and the desire to see what's around one more corner so with Jefe on the leash we wound through grassy hills and vales dotted with tall trees and herds of Brahmin cattle. Although the fields look green, they can't be too nutritious because these cattle aren't fat. There are lots of them though, and we saw them both in fields and in the backs of the dusty trucks roaring along the road and through downtown Fronteras. Although it was a beautiful road, it was most definitely a dangerous one. Cars and trucks routinely pull out to pass on blind corners and hills here. Sometimes they pull back in and sometimes they screech on by with horns blasting. With no protected pedestrian lane (as there is on the main road to Lago Izabel) we could not ever afford to take our personal safety for granted. On more than one occasion, I kept a wary eye ahead and was prepared to leap into the ditch as trucks filled both lanes behind us.
On our last day, I decided to take advantage of the 200Q (less than $30) price for a massage. Although I didn't realize I could use one, Blanca soon found the knots and stiffness that come with age and balancing on boats (and maybe twisting around to watch for trucks?). It was absolutely the best massage I have ever had. She is one of those strong, short Guatemalan women; she knows how to use her skills and has the hands to do it. Add in the fact that she uses the massage table on Daphne's deck - up on the hill under swaying palms where bird songs, sweet almond oil, gentle breezes and warmth of the tropical sun on the roof brought all my senses into play. It was so wonderful I booked Jim in for the afternoon!
With foresails down and put away, decks all washed, lines soaked and softened, fuel tank topped up and water tanks mostly drained, we untied ourselves and backed off the dock on Tuesday.
Even with the activity of Semana Santa over, the marina district was still busy and the mountains seemed far away, often shrouded in haze. There was still noise from the bridge and light from the marinas and the town. We could feel ourselves relaxing as we motored down river, through Lago El Golfete to the westernmost of the 3 little bays at the eastern end. We dropped anchor among the other boats - Genesis, Androsian, Campania, Scrammin' and a little boat we had last seen at San Pedro, had a swim in the beautiful clean water and settled into the peacefulness - for just a couple more days.
The stars came out, lights flickered along the waters edge, the occasional lancha motor was heard as the fishermen came back from laying their nets, Madcap moved gently on her anchor and all was well in our little corner of the world.
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.