TheRio Dulce - Guatemala
29 September 2017 | Rio Dulce
We left Belize on May 13th, and headed out for a 32 miles sail to our next anchorage, we ended up motoring for most of it, was a bright and sunny day but very little wind. Our first stop would be at Frenchman's, but we couldn't anchor before of the changing conditions, neither guide books or charts were of any use for this area. So we started to the next place which was only 1.5 miles at Moho Caye, we couldn't get too close because of shallow water. There is a resort on this little island but it looked to be closed at the time, we did have a fisherman drop by to see if we had a phone charger, he told he stayed there on a regular basis.
The next morning we headed out again to Res Punts, this was a 14 mile trip in flat calm sunny conditions. This would be our staging point to jump off to Livingston to clear in. The island looked beautiful from the boat, lots of nice houses, and lots of boat traffic, it looked to be a tourist stop. We could see the big tankers here anchored of Guatemala.
We had a good nights sleep here, got up early and motored over the bar without any problems, arrived Livingston around 9 am. This place is a very busy spot lots of boat traffic and other sailboats headed to the Rio. We called the port captain to let them know we had arrived, and 6 of them came out to our boat, we filled out some paperwork here, they were very pleasant, we told them that we had an agent Raul, they said perfect and left. The captain went ashore and I stayed on board as there is a lot of boat crime here, it took about an hour for customs and immigration, we them pulled anchor and headed up the Rio Dulce.
It was another beautiful day and we were then in a magnificent country, the motor up the river was absolutely breath taking, as all the little houses and the mouth of the river passed by we came to the gorge with tall palm trees and thick brush on both sides of the river. We passed many a little canoe, dugouts, and launchers on the way, everyone was out fishing, or going somewhere. We passed a huge rock formation around 500ft straight up and it went on forever. I took a lot of photos along the way, we passed huts on stilts on the river to beautiful homes with big boats, what a perfect view.
We arrived at Cayo Quemado “Texan Bay” in about 2.5 hrs, and anchored in what looked like to be a swamp off the river, not much room here lots of sailboats. Got ourselves in the dinghy and headed to Texas Mikes restaurant on high recommendation from other cruisers that we meet on the way. This is just a small place over the swamp, no WiFi, but they did have cold drinks and food. We tried the Texas fried steak which turned out to be fried chicken with cold gravy on the top, it was very disappointing. We stayed here only one night as when the sun went down the mozzies were out in droves.
Left early morning and motored the rest of the 12 miles to Fronteras, as you went further up the river the nicer the homes and some hotels along the way. We arrived at Mar Marine around mid morning and I might say the captain did an awesome job of backing the boat in between 3 other boats. Got everything sorted and went to explore, this is a beautiful marina with a restaurant, cruisers lounge, and beautiful pool and gardens.
The following day we decided to head to town for some provisions, our marina is at the end of the bridge outside of town, we could walk or take the dinghy, we decided to walk, it took about maybe 20 minutes, lovely view of the river and all the marinas. But the town oh my, it is bustling with vendors, tiendas tuk tuk's, buses, big rigs, a ton of people and lots of cows. Of my 3 years sailing the Caribbean I have never seen anything like it. You can get anything here, from live chicks to dead ones being fried up right on the street. I was a bit overwhelmed, but it certainly did have a great vibe. We did know what to expect as friends of ours told us about it and said that they thought we would love it here. Well
I was still awed at this place, and yes I did think we would like it here.
Rio in the spring is hot as hell, so we spent most of our days by the pool having a drink, reading a book and taking a dip every half hour. We had planned on leaving the boat here and going inland for two months but we could not find an apartment in our price range and that would take a cat. So we decided to just stay on the book, and take a few trips in to the city to get my passport renewed. We headed in for a five day/4night trip, left Zoe in the care of Julia, the bus trip was something else, the mountains and the green farmland almost reminded me of Ireland, it takes about 6 – 8 hrs, as they are doing road construction up the side of a huge mountain, outside Guat city.
We stayed at the Santander Hotel for two nights, it was in Zone 10 close to the Canadian Embassy, as there are over 9 million people here. The first night went without incident, however on the second night I woke up with the building shaking, car alarms going off, people yelling, we where having an earthquake. Tried to get the captain up he said your dreaming go back to sleep, but I wasn't it was all over the news the next morning that it has been 7.9 magnitude.
After we had applied for my new passport we caught a bus to Antigua, this is about an hours drive northwest of the city. This is a very old city with cobblestone streets lots of churches, and everything is behind a big wooden door. This is a tourist stop, its not cheap here, but its a must see, you are right below an active volcano “Pacaya” which was erupting, a great photo opt, there is another one here that was not active, Aca Tenango. We stayed 2 nights in a rustic hotel called Naif, it was lovely everything was antiques, set in a beautiful garden under the volcano.
The next morning we caught our taxi, which was all arranged by the tourist place back to Guatemala City bus station, this trip back to the boat took us over 8 hours with road traffic and a blowout. It was not bad, the buses are very comfortable with big reclining seats and AC, we would get to do it all over again in 3 weeks.
When we decided to come to Guatemala, we knew that we wanted to do some volunteer work while we were here, it is our last hurricane season before we head home to Canada. Julia from Pass It On Guatemala, was looking for someone to take over while she headed back to England for 5 weeks, so we jumped right in, thinking this would be a great opportunity for us. Needless to say it was a busy 5 weeks, of swap meets, collecting donations, picking up supplies for the nursing home, and getting everything we needed for our next Solar Panel install.
Roberto, Sandy, Andy and I traveled by bus to the local nursing home an 1.5hrs away from the marina, I can honestly say I was not prepared for this event. It is concrete building with a couple of dorms for men and one for the women, it is nothing like Canada's. They have no government funding they rely on donations from the public and the church. They don't have a whole lot, it is very basic, we brought along cleaning supplies, clothes for the old folks and we hung curtains that Sandy had sewn to keep it cooler in the dorms. Although it was very sad to see everyone seemed happy but then again where else would they go. At least they were clean and fed 3 meals a day. While we were there some inspectors came bay and the director took the opportunity to tell them about the kindness of the volunteers from Pass It On, he said they wouldn't be able to keep the place going without our donations.
I left that day with saddness in my heart, remembering both our parents and there stays in nursing homes, before they passed, compared to here, there's were as upscale as you can get. We had quite the adventure coming back we caught a collectivo van, which is a 16 seater that they squeeze 22 ppl in. about halfway back to the Rio, the road was closed due to construction so the driver kicked us out, after he took all our fares, which he refused to give back. Everyone got off the bus, people carrying baskets of food, mothers with newborns, and toddlers and started walking in the high noon heat, no sympathy here. It was suffocating as we walked the 3-4 mks, no one had water as we didn't expect to be huffing it. Finally a guy came by with a truck and offered us a ride, we were quite happy, even though it was a slow drive back.
By the time mid July rolled around it was time to head back into Guatemala city to pick up my new 10 year passport, we were about to leave to catch the bus and Roberto our translater called and said don't go the roads are closed again with protestors and it could get ugly. So we rescheduled for the next week and headed in without any incident. This time we stayed at San Carlos Hotel, it was beautiful, breakfast was included and they gave you a welcome cocktail of your choice. We were only staying the one night so after checking in we got our taxi guy to take us to the super Walmart, oh it was so nice to be there, to see real food and real things from home. After scoring everything we thought we needed we headed out to the steakhouse for supper, it was expensive but it was really worth it. Next morning we were up bright and early had a lovely breakfast and headed to to the embassy, then the hotel was kind enough to give us a shuttle to the bus station. We had a lovely ride back, it is such a nice way to see this beautiful country.
As the weeks passed by we were working hard making money for Pass It On, we had some help from other cruisers, we had to get ready to do our next Solar Panel Install in the little village of Santa Helena. Andy and I along with 4 locals, the driver, translates, installer and driver headed out on a beautify sunny morning. We drove about and hour or so along a mountain road in a 4 wheel drive truck with all our gear and hanging on in the back. It was amazing the country side with the huge ridge, the farms, and the little villages along the way was very picturuce, I had taken the SLR camera Score.
We got to the village and pulled up to the school house and all the children in there best clothes were there to greet us. They don't get to see Gringos that often. The solar install went pretty well, we put lights in 3 classrooms and the principals office. We also gave a luci light to the outdoor kitchen for the kitchen. We also gave the kids some soccer balls, which they were very excited to have. I loved hanging out with the kids while the guys were working, all the girls wanted to touch my white hair. Everyone had bright smiles, they were very interested in my camera, they liked to see the picture when I took it and wanted to make the lens go long or short. After the install all the kids disappeared home for lunch and the kitchen ladies made us a lovely fruit plate along with coconut water that was very tasty. On our return trip back to the Rio, the captain took the camera he got some beautiful shots, women doing there laundry in the river, the pine tree farm etc.
By the time August rolled around Julia had returned she was quite pleased with the books, and asked us to stay on while we remained in the Rio. We did a couple more swap meets that went well and a group went back to the nursing home with a solar chinney for the cookhouse, donated by Steve on Slow Flight. Andy arranged for a launder to take 10 of us down the river 20 miles to Livingston to get our boat papers and visa's renewed. That ended up being a beautiful trip, the driver gave us a little side tour on the river, and I got to explore the town, we also had Chinese food believe it or not and it was really devious. Livingstone is made up of Mayan's and Garifuna, the only town with Garifuna in Guatemala.
Sadly we have had a couple of tragedies happen while we have been here, my dear friend Rose Marie passed away from a long battle with Pulmonary Fibrosis, I had just chatted to her the night before about her going home to live out the rest of her days, my last words to here was Sweet dreams girl I love you. I will miss her especially when I get home, she was always there for me, and I will always have her in my heart. Then we got the news our friend Gary from Mahone Bay was killed on the highway down here on his way to Mexico to get his visa renewed. He and three friends were driving there motorcylces when a truck lost control and headed into there lane. Gary was killed instantly, I had chatted with him a few times he told me he sailed here 11 years ago and loved it so much sold his boat and decided to rent an apartment and stay, he was 73.
At the moment our pool is under construction so the days are long and hot. A good time to do my blogging, hadn't done it in 6 months because our laptop was on the blink. But we have informed the marina that we will be moving Sept 1st, to Nana Juana, we will be getting work down and we have a free month there, we had prepaid last year when we were headed here. But we didn't make as Andy had
a very life threatening experience.