Introducing Alex to Rio Dulce
19 January 2014 | Cayo Quemado, Rio Dulce, Guatemala
Beth / hot and showery
After a full morning’s worth of breakfast and massages, Alex and I walked to town with Heather for groceries, banking and fun. We roamed in and out of shops and dodged trucks and bought produce from this stand and that stand, groceries from the Dispencia, TiGo time from Edder (and he even set up my voice mail in English!), wine from Ingrid, bacon from Jim, and finally a beer from Bruno’s. I do love introducing new folks to the sensory overload shopping experience that is Rio Dulce! Alex took the “Look straight ahead” approach, but kept grabbing my arm so we didn’t get ourselves killed crossing the street. I’ve gotten little blasé about the tuktuks and collectivos – I haven’t seen any dead or injured bodies yet!
This time, we took the collectiva lancha down river. Casey usually sends up a ride for us but everyone was busy today and we found that this worked just fine. The regular 2 pm boat came to pick us up at Tortugal and took us right to Casey’s dock. Mind you, we paid the fare to Livingston (125Q each) but it was still cheaper than a private trip. We landed minutes before the skies opened and a torrential rain came pounding down. Welcome to Rio Dulce, Alex!
The next morning, Alex and Josue took the double kayak out for a meander through the creeks. Jim and I took our turn in the afternoon – with me in the stern this time – and with a whole new appreciation for how hard it is to make that thing go straight! I am used to having a foot controlled rudder – and/or being in the front seat where all I have to do is set the pace. We took Kilgore Trout out exploring later – to introduce Alex to our frequent routine of aimless wandering and happy discoveries.
First stop – Chris’s boat to set up a time to see the school with Kelli. Then up the steps at Burnt Key Marina to see the restaurant bar … that wasn’t there any more! We had heard about the renovations – but that place is being rebuilt from the ground! And then we had to stop at Gaston and Helene’s beautiful home on the end of the point – to admire his careful craftsmanship and her artful décor – and to enjoy great belly laughs with these two wonderful Quebecois. We couldn’t go back home without stopping by Jennifer’s where she and Sophia were covering schoolbooks – just like we used to do at home – and then finally at the end of a very full day, we landed back at Madcap where we enjoyed drinks and pasta (and Casey’s stories) in Madcap’s cosy salon. For the first time this year, we had to break out the fleecy blankets during the night.
Friday was a day of continually changing plans. We got off to a slow start after arising in 15 C temperatures, and so rather than just dropping off our computer bag at Martin’s and continuing on to the creek and a walk on the road there, we replied “Sure!” to Martin’s invitation to join him and Karen for another cup of coffee. Soon Keith the plumber arrived, and Tim the woodworker and then we decided to walk around Martin’s newly cleared trails in search of a nice piece of Santa Maria (the tree) for Tim to use in a piece of furniture he is crafting.
After a quick lunch, we toured the Cayo Quemado school with Kelli – said hi to the students (20 of them attend Basico - Junior High in the afternoons), and to Axel, the head teacher and Senora Hortensia, a long time staff member. We contribute to the scholarship program administered by Kelli that enables children to attend school past the mandatory grade 6 and it was really helpful to see the place for ourselves. There is a constant need for money for tuition, books, uniforms, as well as help with teachers’ salaries, sports equipment, books, computers and everything else that is part of getting an education.
Back in the lancha – we zipped down the river to see the yellow Tower house – built by Casey and inhabited at present by Keith – with a fabulous wide open view of the river from the second floor. As we circled back through a winding creek to Texan Bay, we discovered Matt and Renee (Outlandish) and of course we had to introduce them to the neighbourhood! So they piled in along with Gidget – the dog – and we zipped through the little cut to see where Madcap lies at Casey’s dock, and then to Jennifer’s dock for a quick chat and to her lovely garden for a wander, and then back to Outlandish for cocktails. Whew! What a schedule!
Unfortunately, the weather forecast for our planned Saturday departure from the Rio wasn’t a good one for us, so we adjusted our expectations, left Madcap on the dock and spent the day on two excursions: walking the trail up to Quebrada Seca – a tiny, rustic cluster of houses (with school and women’s clinic) way back at the foot of the mountains, and taking the lancha to Livingstone to see Raul about our departure papers, show Alex this Garifuna town and get some produce. We managed to fit all that in and still meet Matt, Renee and Casey at the mothers’ restaurant in Texan bay for robalo. It’s not my favourite place to eat, but the fish was good, the accompaniments OK, and the company great!
Although we thought we might finally get ourselves over to anchor in Buenavista Bay, Sunday turned out to be a rainy day so we opted to stay at dock where we could at least use Casey’s dining room for game playing, his hammock for napping, and help out by watching the place as he went to town for an overnight stay.
The damp grey day fit with our mood. We were feeling a little melancholy as we thought of my Dad, sister and cousins gathered in Amherst to celebrate the life of my uncle, Ivan Lusby, and mourn his passing. These are the times when the joy of this cruising life is tempered by the reality that we can’t always be home for important events.
And so we arrived at the last day of the Rio Dulce visit. We moved to Buenavista Bay, swung the compass (so the icon on our chartplotter matches the direction we are actually moving) and settled down for one last day in the river. Unfortunately it was an overcast one so we didn’t swim and play, but Alex and I did try out Martin’s cayuco. Two minutes after we got in, and just as I was saying, “This feels surprisingly stable!” we tipped over and both of us landed in a foot of water. Cayuco tipped, water drained, back in again (verrry carefully) we took a little paddle around the bay with a huge appreciation for how the locals manage to paddle, stand, throw fishing nets from dugouts much like this one.
I visited Annie in Texan Bay to learn more about the project she is starting this year. She is expanding on the girls clubs she started last year to providing the place and means for children in more remote communities along the river to go to Basico. Classes will be in the school next to AkTenamin. (I will write a whole posting some time on these two projects right here in our part of Rio Dulce, as well as a couple of projects we got enthused about up near Antigua.)
For our last dinner, I roasted the chicken Jim bought from a little local tienda. Now that was a real chicken – all yellow and plump with no additives or fancy feed – and recently dispatched from someone’s backyard. A fitting departure dinner – and leftovers for the passage.