November 16, 2009
15º51.32´ N 88º33.23´ W
November 14, 2009
We left the Rio Dulce the same way we entered: on our side, tipped over by a masthead halyard being pulled by a fishing boat positioned to our starboard, “Antares” sliding through the mud of the river bar. Actually, going out was a lot easier than coming in. We probably could have made it on our own. We only touched bottom once. However, we had already contracted for the tow, which was sensible given our first experience, Now we’re anchored in a beautiful bay on the other side of the Bahia de Santo Tomas de Castilla from Livingston (a curious name for a Spanish pueblo), the town at the mouth of the Rio Dulce.
“Antares” only moved twice since arriving at Mario’s Marina in June. Once was a shortly before leaving shakedown cruise/party attended by around 15 boats to Lake Izabal, the source of the Rio. The other was a pre-exit trip to Texan Bay, closer to the river mouth. True to it’s name, everyone there “tolks lak thee-is” (and smokes a lot of “herb”). Once again, the trip down the river gorge was stunning.
We made two land trips since coming back from the States. One to Lake Atitlan, the other to Peten. The Lake was a joy: cool weather, cool water, and a spectacular (but surprisingly affordable) hotel (Casa del Mundo), which climbed up a lakeside hill, every room with a perfect view of the (then) full moon, surrounding volcanoes, water and sunsets. The trip to Peten Province was also a success. First, we visited the island town of Flores on Lake Peten, kind of a more compact Antigua with good restaurants and the usual tourist shops. Then, a day at Yaxha, a Mayan archaeological site. Next day, we went to the more famous Tikal. Both were interesting in their own ways, but, the best part of both places was trekking through the jungle, seeing lots of wildlife and flora. We had a great guide, who was also a naturalist. Of course, we learned a lot about Mayan history (the captain of either the winning or losing team in their ballgame had their hearts cut out, which brings up lots of interesting questions about motivation and sportsmanship). Finally, I felt like (to coin a phrase), you’ve seen one Mayan pyramid, you’ve seen them all (I really didn’t coin that phrase). As an aside, I have a great idea about all these ancient ruins. They should pick one, and instead of partially restoring it, they should completely restore it, with plaster, paint, sculptures, etc. This would have the practical benefit of protecting it from the elements, and give the average schmuck an idea of how they really looked. They could even hire current Mayans (or Incas, or Greeks) to dress up and hang around. It would be good money for these, usually, poor people. Maybe they could even stage a ballgame, and cut out the heart of the losing captain. Think of the pictures we could bring home to show our friends (“here’s Phyllis, holding the still beating heart of the losing captain”).
And another thing. I’m constantly amazed at the comical scams being tried on gringos. Millions of years ago, we drove down Baja California. There, in the middle of the desert, with nothing else around, was an old Mexican guy with a vaguely military hat, who had placed a log in the middle of the highway. We had to pay a “toll” (maybe one peso) to get through. This trip to Flores, we paid bus fare to Flores (makes sense). It even said Flores on our ticket. Sure enough, about 10 miles from Flores, the bus stopped, and a guy got on to inform us that we had to get off the bus, and take a mini-van from there to complete our trip (for more money, of course). I may have gone for it, except that I noticed he only told the gringos that. So, I told him we were staying on the bus. He shrugged, walked to the next gringo, and, of course, the bus took us directly to Flores. Ay, caramba!
So, what to make of our 5 months up a river? We did it to avoid hurricanes (but this year, everybody avoided them by going anywhere they wanted to)(don’t listen to this, you hurricane gods). It’s a long time to stay in one place, although we weren’t on the boat for half of it. The Rio was beautiful, but very hot. The marina we chose was good, mainly because of the delightful swimming pool with shockingly cold, clean, spring-fed water. We made many friends, who we saw and played with nearly or actually daily. It’s one of the odd things about cruising. One spends more time with recently made friends than with one’s old, land based friends (you know who you are, you old friends), and then they’re gone, mostly for good (as I’m writing this, we just waved goodbye to Doug and Anne on “Galavant”, who we’ll probably never see again). It’s like being a kid again.
Traveling in Guatemala was great. It’s an interesting, very colorful and artistic country (Phyllis was a big hit with the locals), mostly because they’ve retained so much of their Mayan culture. Splendid squalor. It’s a bit dangerous, but unless something happens to us tonight, we will have gotten out intact (don’t listen to this, you gods of mayhem).
At this point, I feel a little like I’ve escaped. I guess I didn’t like being “trapped” up a river.
Next stop, Belize. Clear water, thousands of cays (pronounced keys), a huge barrier reef, snorkeling, diving, and living on the hook again. We’re ready to go.