11 January 2013 | El Tortugal Marina, Rio Dulce
Beth / shorts and T shirt
We started the day with gratitude - for a clean 15 passenger collective bus with good springs – and the16 passengers plus driver who were cheerful and smelled good. Such good fortune is no small thing when we were crammed (note: more bodies than seats) into this little bus for an hour of togetherness, travelling up hill and down with every bit of our luggage tied on the roof!
Our brief stay in La Antigua was a pleasant one too. We had a triple room at Hotel Aurora – just a couple of blocks west of Parque Central – and a lovely oasis of colour and calm in the hustle of the town. All the rooms here open onto the wide shady patio that forms the four sides of a flower filled courtyard, complete with tinkling fountain. The rooms are well lit, beds comfy, bathrooms modern with lots of hot water. One of these days we’ll try another hotel for comparison, but so far our pattern is: why mess with a good thing.
We have our son, Liam, with us for two months and enjoyed giving him a brief glimpse of this old town that has been reborn as a UNESCO heritage site, and is a destination for many tourists and language students. We revisited the Jades SA factory, museum and store on 3a Calle oriente where we bought a Tikal mask last year and confirmed our memory that this is the best Jade store to visit. (We toured another one with Sue and Terry in November, and while it was interesting, the guide was not as well informed and we felt more herded around with the hope that we would buy something.) Here, Carlos knew his jade (Jadite is found in Guatemala and Myanmar and is different from the Nephrite type of jade). All the workers were having a party that day so we didn’t see the factory in operation. While Carlos was helpful in the shop (and of course would have liked to sell us a piece of beautiful jewellery or a statue) there was absolutely no pressure and when the time comes for us to buy – this is where we will go. (A navigational note: Calles are streets, running east and west – oriente and poniente; avenidas are avenues and run north and south – norte and sur)
We toured the cathedral with Elizabeth Bell last year and received a thorough description of the ruins and what is being done for restoration, but we hired an on-site accredited guide this time. Unfortunately, his English for encouraging us to hire him was better than his English for guiding so we found him hard to understand, but he was serious about what he was doing and wanted to make sure we were all paying attention, and despite beginning every explanation that involved dates with “more or less” he always came up with a precise number. As we paid him the $10 US at the end of 40 minutes, he thanked us, asked if his tour was OK and said that he wants to do this as a service, not just a way to earn a living. While we could have wandered around on our own for just the $1 per person (foreigner) cost, we didn’t feel we wasted our money doing it this way. (But take Elizabeth Bell’s tour for a top notch experience)
Of course Happy Hour time found us at the now familiar Ocelot bar, where amiable bartender Dave recognized us and waved, dropping by with a question, “Have you been on your boat? I haven’t seen you for a few weeks.” It is always nice to be remembered! Liam and I visited the Antigua Tobacco Shop on Calle 3a poniente where he picked up a few cigars and we shared some good Scotch. Jim skipped this bit of entertainment because he is neither a scotch drinker nor a cigar smoker. Christa gave excellent advice to Liam regarding the merits of all the different cigars – Honduran, Cuban, Guatemalan among the assortment – and I just enjoyed the evening with my kid!
And as for food – we enjoyed two lunches at different Calle de Fonde Real locations – with every selection a success. I don’t think you can go wrong here. Our dinner at Fusion was less successful, with fish, pork and pasta that all tasted a bit off, a little less than fresh maybe, and service that was on the slow side.
We snagged a “good bus” this time for the trip to Rio Dulce and made an uneventful 6 hour trip east to the Rio, ready for the next stage of our trip back to the boat. It rained a bit as we drew near the coast but stopped before we reached town, and we arrived at El Tortugal with a mountain of dry luggage (3/4 of it boat parts and supplies) to hugs and “Welcome back” from familiar cruising folks.
Jim booked us into the Ranchito – an open air loft in the palapa down the wharf from where we have docked Madcap before – a whole new sleeping experience. It’s really cute and I’ll let you know how that works out – right now there is still loud music coming from the “general’s house” across the bay … and we have no walls.
But anyway, gratitude was our state of mind the whole day long – and the very most wonderful thing was all those sweet-smelling folks in a warm bus!