Throwback Thursday: Goodbye Guatemala

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

November was a bit of a low month for us in the Rio.  Not long after our trip out with Nacho and his friends, we moved the boat out of our slip at Tortugal Marina and enjoyed being on the hook once more.  Not only for the tranquility of it but also to escape a certain neighbor we’d been having issues with.

It was finally time to go though.  After waiting out winds for a week and a half and then quickly replacing an alternator bracket when it broke on us, we were ready to go.  Time to get moving again and time to fill our sails with wind.  On to the Cays of Belize and eventually Mexico where we hoped to meet back up with our friends Luki and Elmari. The best part of it all, was that after arriving in Guatemala with the thought that I was done traveling via sailboat, the excitement once more took over me and I couldn’t wait to get back on the water.

You can find the original post here.

Tuesday December 3, 2013

12.3.13 (1)

This morning we were up with the sun, only to find out that most of the other boats in the bay had already gotten out before us. I swear, I didn’t even think I was sleeping that hard, but I heard no engines running or anchors being weighed. Our only hope is they don’t get to the agent’s office in Livingston before us and clog up his day with paperwork, forcing our departure back until late afternoon. It didn’t matter to me though. Once again, we were moving. And the best part of the Rio was yet to come. The rocky cliffs, the immobilizing thick jungle, and being deposited into the Amatique Bay, leading out the the Gulf of Honduras and Caribbean Sea. We were about to be set free once more.

Reaching the town of Livingston about half past eight in the morning, we dropped the anchor off to the side from the flow of traffic and put the dinghy down to get ourselves to shore. None of the other boats from last nights anchorage were resting in the same place, which means they must had checked out previously, going back up the river for the night and heading back down to catch this mornings high tide. We had contemplated that as well, but since we want to arrive at our destination tomorrow morning, a mid afternoon low tide departure will suit us just fine. We tentatively powered the dinghy up toward shore, scanning the horizon between all the shouting children that were pointing for a spot to go, until we saw the older Rastafarian man that had kept an eye on our dink when we first arrived here, and mentally reminded ourselves to save at least $5 before we spent the rest of our Guatemalan cash so we could tip him when we left.

Rounding the somewhat familiar streets, we walked up the steps to the agent’s office and found out that even though it wasn’t quite 9 am yet, the door was open. Raul, the agent we were used to working with, wasn’t there, but in his seat was a younger man of around 15-20. Maybe his son or a nephew? Just as friendly and outgoing as Raul though, this new guy mentioned Raul would be in shortly and that he could get our paperwork started in the meantime. Going over the fees, he told us what we could expect to pay to check out, and that we should be back in an hour to collect our zarpe. Other than that, we were free to roam the town.

I had been able to sneak my laptop in my bag with me, along with all the necessary boat papers that had to make their way in, and after walking through a few of the backstreets and realizing we didn’t have a need (or want really) for any of the goodies in the thrift shops on the main street, we decided to stop for breakfast at a brightly blue colored restaurant, taking seats in the shade on a covered patio. Proud of myself for speaking only in Spanish, I was able to order a coffee along with some delicious sounding coconut bread and jam I keep hearing about, and procure the password to their wifi signal. While I was doing last minute Facebook updates and assuring both our parents that they we may be out of internet range for the next week and they should not alert the authorities about us if we’re not heard from in the next two days, Matt did some last checks on his email and the weather.

Before we knew it, our hour was up and we were back in Raul’s office, shaking his hand and getting our zarpe, the whole process already completed for us. Man I love dealing with an agent. One stop shopping. What we did realize after checking out though, is that it cost us a good deal less than we thought it would, and we were still left with 300 Q, or about $40, in our pockets. I looked at the pretty sundresses billowing in the wind while resting on mannequins, but Matt just shook his head no. I already have too many dresses, and they never get worn. True. So instead we hiked up the hill to the bank and exchanged our Guatemalan cash for US and began our descent back to the dinghy.

Rio Dulce, Guatemala

Rio Dulce, Guatemala

Getting to Serendipity once more it was still about three hours before our slack tide, but the waters looked so calm that we didn’t think going out against a small opposing current would be a big deal.  The dinghy was quickly hauled up on deck and secured and before we knew it we were motoring out through the bar, following our previous tracks from our entrance back in June, and my heart in my throat until we hit steady depths of 12 feet again, although we only saw under 7 ft once or twice.  The winds were on our nose just enough that we were able to motorsail with the mainsail up, sacrificing just a little speed so that we could point high enough that we didn’t run ashore on the point of land in Guatemala that hooks out at the end of Amatique Bay.

For hours we cruised on like this until just an hour before the sunset when we were able to point more north, prepping ourselves to sneak into the inner channel between mainland Belize and it’s outlying cays.  We found a coordinate that allowed us to take open waters for a great portion of the southern point, and then duck in with ample safety once we reach it in the dark.  Matt took a nap to prepare himself for the first night shift, and when he woke up I heated the chili I had prepared the night before.  Seas were mostly calm and I didn’t even get sick below deck which I was very thankful for.

I have to say, our first day back out, and everything was perfect.  Oh right, except for that one issue.  The issue of a bolt shearing off on the engine, one of three that holds in the new alternator bracket we just had fabricated.  And what’s that?  Oh yeah, we’re in the middle of a channel.  In the dark.  With the wind still on our nose.  Having a running engine is kind of an important thing.  Matt shut the whole thing off for a few moments as we bobbed around, losing all forward momentum, making sure the issue didn’t look like it was going to get worse.  We could survive with 2 out of three bolts, but if either of the others went, we would be fu@%ed.  Thinking quick, he took some wire and wound the bracket on tighter, but now the rest of the passage will consist of 30 minute engine checks to make sure it’s all still running smoothly.  Dear god, do not let anything happen until after my night shift.  I don’t think I could handle sailing through this channel while left to my own devices right now.

Gulf of Honduras at sunset

mountains of Belize at sunset

 

You Might Also Like:

Throwback Thursday: Guy Co (& Jessica)

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

Still in the Rio Dulce of Guatemala, we had now been left behind by all of our cruising buddies.  Ana Bianca and Alfredo had made their way back to Miami and their off season work; and Luki and Elmari were on their way to Mexico to pick up family for the holidays.  Things were starting to feel a little lonely around the marina.

Before we could get too bummed out though, we received a message from Nacho that he would be at their river house, and although his wife and daughters were back in Guatemala City with other obligations, would we like to join him and his father out on their boat for the day?  Also, his friend Jean Louis that I had already met in Antigua was going to be in the area with their other mutual friend Nico, whom also had a weekend house on the Rio.  After a day speeding around on Hula Girl, Nico had invited the lot of us over for dinner at his place.

It kind of sounded like a guys day out to me, but how could I refuse the offer to come along?  It sounded so fun!  And trust me, this is a day to go down in the record books.  And not just because I most likely drank bat piss at one point.

You can find the original post here.

Saturday November 16, 2013

at Nico's

I swear I’m just one of the guys.

Part I: Un Almuerzo de Langostas

Wherever we go, it seems like good friends are never far away. Although we had to say goodbye to Luki and Elmari on Thursday, which was incredibly sad although we do plan on meeting up with them again in Belize or Mexico, we happened to be sticking around the Rio long enough from another visit from our friend Nacho. With one catch. All the girls were back in Guate City, keeping busy with things like dates with long distance boyfriends or riding competitions, so it was just going to be Nacho coming. Along with his dad, and friends; Jean Louis and Nico. So it was essentially to be a guys weekend. And Jessica. Which is totally fine, since I essentially consider myself one of the guys anyway.

After doing a little bit of communication by means of VHF radio this morning, Nacho sent his lancha to our marina this morning to have us brought out to their river home. When we arrived, Hula Girl was once again being stocked up with soda and beer, ready to start another Saturday on the water. We were also introduced to Nacho’s father, Javier, who thankfully spoke English, because Matt and I wondered if this might turn into a day of charades, something we would have been fine with, but this made things a little easier. Nico and Jean Louis were out duck hunting for the day and were to meet back up with us at Nico’s river house that evening for dinner, so it would just be a small group out on the boat.

Before we knew it the five of us were rushing down the river and into the Golfete, Matt and I getting way too comfortable with these 20 knots speeds, and I’m sure when we take Serendipity down this path shortly it will feel like we’re moving at a standstill. Just like the last time we were taking ourselves into the bay, we made a stop in Livingston for a few provisions and I was given a tip that some of the shops here sell the local beer, Bravah, for 2Q, or $0.25 a can. Did you hear that Matt? We are doing our beer stocking here before we leave!! As soon as the deck hand, Randy, arrived back with the cold cans of beer, I popped one open and watched as a few local kids shyly wandered over asking for spare change. Randy handed them whatever leftover money he had and they excitedly scampered off to buy themselves a cold Coke.

Hurican 1 & 2

Livingston Guatemala

Guatemalan children

Crossing the bar at Livingston, I noticed how we were able to just gun it across the shoals, while other cruisers (like us) who were eager to depart, had to wait for the high tide to come in so they could get at least six feet under their keel. The bay was once again calm and I kept my fingers crossed that it would stay that way for the next week or so, since we’re hoping to make our own departure within that time. Hula Girl found her familiar spot and dropped hook in five feet of brackish salinated water. We barely had time to get ourselves secure before a lancha was headed our way with lunch. Which, let me explain on this.

Since Annica and Maria and Camila were all back in Guatemala City, there had been no one to prepare a tasty little spread for us to enjoy on the boat. Nacho had made a few calls while we were temporarily provisioning in Livingston to have some fresh lobster brought out to Hula Girl, apparently there is a (lobster) farm near the point where we’d anchored the boat. As the kid came out to us we spied a large bucket filled to the brim with lobster inside. Nacho began talking and negotiating with the boy, a scale was hung to weigh the lobster, and before we knew it we had 12 glistening lobsters in our possession. Nacho turned to Matt and I to mention the boy would be back shortly with some tortillas and fried yucca, and that “I’m sorry none of the women were here to prepare us a tasty lunch, so we will just have to survive”. On lobster.

Since Matt and I are somewhat versed in cooking lobster, after all the ones we caught in the Bahamas, we offered to clean and prepare them. First we ripped off the antennas to stick up the lobster’s…you know, maybe I’ll just skip how we cleaned them. Anyway, by the time we had five of them prepared and ready to go on the grill, slathered with a little oil, our tortillas and fried yucca had been shuttled out to us and we were ready to get this lunch going. After the lobsters had gone on the grill and turned a brilliant red we each made ourselves a plate and dug in without any care or even need for utensils. ‘Surviving’ has never tasted so good.

Lunch was followed by a relaxing swim, partially to ward off the early afternoon heat, and partially to cleanse our sticky, lobster laden fingers. When it was time to raise hook we headed back toward the slowly wilting sun, dragging fishing poles for fun, and getting ready to rally ourselves for the evening ahead.

las langostas

Matt with Caribbean lobster

And that’s just one of the small ones.

cleaning lobster Lobster, get ready to meet your maker.  And then get ready to meet the grill.

lobster on grill

‘Let’s put another langosta on the barbie!’

Javier fishing Randy

Part II: Punta Monos

While speeding back up the Rio and watching the sun slip behind the last few hazy clouds of the day, we had a strange phenomenon, something we hadn’t experienced since in Bogota. We got chilly. That’s right, this little town of seemingly endless heat and humidity had actually cooled down enough after the sun had gone down to bring a chill through the air. We honestly never thought we’d see the day where goosebumps would appear on our skin while we were in the Rio Dulce.

Wrapped up in a towel to fight off the cold, we brought Hula Girl to dock in front of Nico’s river house which was just at the end of the Golfete. Him and Jean-Louis were still out duck hunting, but we were just dropping off the remaining lobsters so they could be used for dinner if the duck hunt wasn’t successful. From the text messages we had been let in on earlier, so far it wasn’t.

Pulling into Nacho’s house just as the moon was rising, we were told his lancha would bring us back to the marina to give us time to rest and clean up before dinner that evening. I had just enough time to get a shower and a cup of coffee in before getting a call back on the VHF, notifying us that the lancha was back on it’s way to pick us up. As soon as we arrived back at his place, Nacho was ready to go (Javier was staying behind), and he traded places with the lancha’s driver as we flew toward Nico’s place. (Funny side note, all of the guys had literally flown in from the city for the weekend. Nacho and Javier on a rented plane, and Jean-Louis and Nico on his helicopter. Not a bad life.)

sunset on Rio Dulce

Nico's River home

sunset on the Rio Dulce

As we pulled up in front of the home we noticed the ‘big’ boat was back, which meant that Nico and Jean-Louis were there now as well. It appeared that both men had just gotten back and were in the process of showering and making themselves presentable after spending 12 hours cooped up in duck blinds. It turns out that later in the afternoon, they had been successful. We busied ourselves by the bar behind the open air seating area and as Nacho was taking orders I had a sudden nostelgia for our days on Rode Trip while nestled in the Ragged Islands of the Bahamas and Stephanie would prepare us gin and tonics as a pre-dinner cocktail. I never really drank them before that, and I certainly haven’t had one since then, but for some reason I really wanted one at that moment. Nacho scanned the bar and came across a few kinds of gin, but we ended up pulling out the Hendricks, something that I guess is pretty top shelf although I would have no idea since I’m not normally a gin drinker.

As soon as each of us had a nice cold G&T in our hands we went to sit on the couches just in time for Jean-Louis to come in. I already knew him a little bit from my girls weekend in there when Nacho and Annica joined us we enjoyed both amazing wine and views from Jean-Louis’s home in Antigua. I introduced him and Matt and let them talk about sailing since Jean-Louis also has a history in it, while I helped myself to some crackers on the table. I was probably mid face-stuff when Nico, our host wandered in. Another set of introductions was made and while we complimented him on what we had seen of the house so far, we ask for a tour of the rest of it. The area we had been sitting in had the kitchen, dining room, a seating area, and things like bathrooms and pantries. All of it was open air (ok, not the bathrooms or the pantry) and all of it was beautiful. Next we were taken up the stairs which housed one more open air sitting area and two bedrooms.

Scaling the stairs with my G&T in hand I thought it was strange that my hand had become wet, I didn’t remember sloshing my drink on the way up. I couldn’t have been too tipsy, it was my first drink of the night after all. When we stepped onto the landing at the top Nico looked up and made a comment about a few bats that had nested themselves there, complaining that they had taken a tinkle, pointing to a wet spot on the floor that I had just passed by. Oh, so that wasn’t gin on my hand. It was bat piss. I laughed it off, but Nico promptly led me into one of the bedrooms ensuites so I could wash my hands. He then asked if I wanted a fresh G&T since we no longer knew how ‘fresh’ mine was anymore, but I just waved him off. A little bat pee in my drink? That’s fine, I can handle it.

Next we left the main living area for the private ones. Apparently Jean-Louis is such a frequent guest here at Punta Monos that he has his own cabin here, a spacious room with a four poster bed and an ensuite bathroom. His cabin is even named Monkey Cabin, very fitting seeing as he owns the Monoloco (crazy monkey) chain of restaurants in Guatemala City and Antigua. Nico showed us his cabin which was a very similar layout, only much bigger. Then we were taken on the walkway to a sunning platform and bar area on the water, and finally to the monkey viewing area hidden deep in the trees. I guess howler monkeys are very popular in this area, and Nico had set up an area to watch them in the morning. It’s how the place also got it’s name, Monkey Point, and I was pretty determined to force my welcome there until at least 4 am when the monkeys came out.

Nacho w. Hendricks

 Nacho looks pretty comfortable behind that bar.  I think he’s done this before.

guest room at Punto Monos

I can be ready to move in on Tuesday!!

upstairs open air seating at Nico's

Back down in the main living area we hung out by the grill and swung around in hammock like chairs and freshening our G&Ts while watching Nico start dinner, placing the remaining lobsters on the grill after they had been cleaned and seasoned.  When the table was set and we sat ourselves to dinner I couldn’t help but look at the lobster and steak and salad on my plate and realized that I have never eaten as well as I have in Guatemala.  Then again, I guess it’s all about who you know.  And we seem to know the right people.

Dinner was nothing short of divine and I tried to savor every bite on my plate.  I did happen to make the mistake of getting up mid meal to use the water closet and came back to find my plate had been cleared away.  Before I even had the chance to try the lobster brains, something that Javier had been preaching about all day as the best part of the lobster.  I guess I’ll just have to save that for next time.

Nico grilling

 Nico manning the grill.

surf and turf A little surf and turf for dinner.

 

Because of the incredibly early morning that he and Jean-Louis had, Nico excused himself shortly after dinner to retire to his cabin for the rest of the night.  Matt and I gave him our most sincere thanks for inviting us into his home for the evening.  It’s sad that we had only met him just before we’re leaving the country, but we were happy just to have the opportunity.  If we had left with Skebenga as originally intended, we wouldn’t have even been here tonight.

The remaining four of us hung around the dinner table, finishing off the bottle of wine that was served with dinner and continued to get inebriated on top shelf gin.  While Matt and Nacho sat on one side of the table talking about, I’m not sure what exactly, I got into a conversation with Jean-Louis about things I had found out about him after the first time we met by doing a little internet stalking.  Like the fact that he started a company called Urban Reclamation that employs Guatemalans and reuses vinyl from billboards and turn it into useful items like totes, messenger bags, and even tee shirts.  It turns out he had just made a stop at the factory the day before and had a few business card holders that he gave me.  They’re so cool looking and our boat cards are going to look awesome in there.  I only wish the items were available to buy online because I’ve already drooling over the unique messenger bags and girl purses but can’t get my hands on one.  Do you hear me Jean-Louis, you need to sell these items online!  People will buy them!!

Before we knew it the clock had gone well past midnight and I’m pretty sure we all were ‘fully drunk’.  A new quote from one of my friends that sounds 100 times better when slightly slurred and with a Spanish accent.  As still determined as I was to stay and see the monkeys, Nacho and Matt and I piled back into the lancha to make our ways home for the night.  Although I’m sad that we didn’t leave with Skebenga since we have some last minute things to finish up in the Rio and we’ll be traveling on our own again instead of an amazing buddy boat group, I’m fully glad that we stayed long enough to spend this day with Nacho, Javier, Jean-Louis and Nico.  Fully happy, and…fully drunk.

Jean-Louis and Jessica

 Fun time with hats for me and Jean-Louis.

Punta Monos

 

You Might Also Like:

Throwback Thursday: Running Away with Strangers

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

When I last left you I was ready to throw the towel in on cruising.  Moving too fast through countries that all looked the same from the waterfront without ever getting the chance to fully experience them.  I’d had enough and needed a change.  Luckily the universe provided it for us in the form of our hurricane hole for the season, Rio Dulce Guatemala.  When we arrived we were able to slow down and settle in, as well as meet back up with our friends Luki and Elmarie of s/v Skebenga, whom were staying in the same marina as us.

For once there was no worry about what kind of weather was on it’s way, dreading an upcoming sleep deprived passage, or even making sure we were provisioned enough to last us until our next supermarket stop.  It was time to sit, take a deep breath, and enjoy.

It didn’t take us long to meet even more friends a few days after arriving, or for that matter, run away for a weekend with a person we’d just meet.  A circumstance which rekindled our love for this lifestyle and reaffirmed that what we’re doing is the right thing.  We don’t need to turn our tails and run as soon as the going gets hard.  Sometimes you just need to stop…throw away your plans of what you think you have to do..and just go with the flow.

You can find the original post here.

Thursday June 27, 2013

El Estor, Guatemala

A kind of unusual thing happened when the four of us returned from the market the other day. We were all walking down the docks with bags in hand, when Luki was stopped by an older Latin American man along the way. It took only a moment to find out that he had a boat here at the marina as well, and the two dove right into a conversation that they must have been having on and off for the past few weeks that Skebenga had already been there. Then it popped up in conversation that Luki and Elmarie must be going somewhere with this gentleman, and he asked them to come aboard his boat to have a look at what would be their cabin. Then turning to Matt and I to ask if we’d like a tour of the boat as well, we set our belongings on the dock to hop on and take a look. It took only a moment to find out that the gentleman we were talking to was named Luis, that he was originally from Cuba, and that he had been here on his 42ft motor vessel for the past two years. The four of us climbed on to his boat and were astounded at what kind of space a 42 foot motor vessel could afford you. It was a tri-level space, with a salon, galley, and navigation space on the main floor; a small berth, steering wheel, controls, and a large foredeck with a bench on the upper level; and a head plus two cabins on the lower level.

As we wandered from level to level, gasping with ooooohs and aaaaahs at all the livable space, Luis showed Luki and Elmarie their master cabin, and then as we passed to the guest cabin, turned to Matt and I, and with a smooth Cuban accent said, “You two must come as well, this will be your cabin, I insist.”. Who…Where…What?! Go where? For what? How long? And who are you? It turned out that a town called El Estor, situated on Lake Isabelle and about 20 miles west of us, was having a Regatta in a few days, hosting a celebration and inviting all the local yachts in the are to come participate. It would just be two days, leaving on Thursday morning with a dinner and celebration that night, anchoring out in the harbor to sleep, and then maybe spend some time sunning and swimming the next day before making our way back to the marina. Although we already have a list of boat projects the length of our arms piling up, we agreed. Two days was short enough to leave Georgie on the boat alone (with tons of food, water, and ventilation), and we needed a little fun. We we worried about hopping on a boat with a guy we just met? A little. But all we had to do was make sure we could out-run or out-swim one person on Skebenga.

So at 8:00 this morning, with one backpack stuffed full between the two of us, we climbed on m/v Hydromax once more and got ready to push off. We found out it was not just the five of traveling as we had originally assumed, we had picked up two more people. One was a local girl named Janita that was Luis’ twice a week house/boat-keeper, young sweet, about eight months pregnant, and also in need of some rest, relaxation, and fun. The 7th was another young girl, Nicole, who’s also originally from the States, and has been traveling south for the past few months, already hitting Mexico and Belize. The five of us boat-knowledgeable people as well as a few deck hands from the marina, prepared to push off and join the fleet already heading up the river. It didn’t take long for everyone to congregate around the wheel, sitting four across on the berth that lay behind, with a few people taking turns to get some fresh air on the bench on the foredeck. The day was sunny with just a little bit of haze, and the water was flat calm. It didn’t take long for drinks to start being served, and not even the alcoholic kind. Luis went to work making everyone a cup of espresso, deliciously sweet, and then we moved on to the cool refreshing bottles of soda stored in the freezer. Everyone was having a great time, enjoying the slow pace up the river and into the lake.

espresso on Hydromax

Luki at the helm

Lake Isabelle

Elmarie on deck

foredeck of Hydromax

Matt at the helm

A lot of the other boats making their way up the water with us had all of their flair out, flags running up and down all of their spreaders. The ride took about four hours, where the seven of us soaked up sun and fresh air, working our way from coffee, to Pepsi, and finally the cold Gallos (local beer) stocked in the freezer. Arriving at the town of El Estor, we wound our way through the other boats already sitting at anchor and dropped ours. Since the festivities were not starting until that evening, we took advantage of the extra free time to take a dip in the lake. At first it was just little jumps from the transom and the railing surrounding it, but then we got more daring and went to the upper deck, getting a running start and feeling the rush as we fell the fifteen or so feet into the water. Any previous apprehensions we had about getting in the water since we’d heard reports of alligator sightings on the way up, were quickly gone as we dove, swam, and played in the water until we were too tired to keep ourselves afloat anymore. Changing into street clothes, we called a lancha over to take all all in to town so we could do a little wandering before the big banquet dinner that was being held for all the boaters that night.

view of El Estor

dropping anchor

boat coming in to El Estor

The shores were lined with hundreds of locals, and just on the water front a band had been set up, playing Latin music as children ran around and vendors sold hot food. Making our way through the masses, we eventually fell out on one of the side streets. It was a little larger than Fronteras, but most of the shops looked the same, large street shacks with all of their goods stacked or hanging on display. We’d heard this was a large mining town run by Russians, and they were the ones putting the regatta on for the boaters. It turns out that although this town is beautifully situated on a large lake, no one uses the water other than for fishing. I guess they wanted more people to take advantage of it for recreational purposes (locals or cruisers, or both? I’m not sure) and they put on this big festival complete with a banquet including free food and drinks for anyone that came on their boat. I’m glad we found someone to come with, because after trying to back her in one time, I don’t think Matt wants to take Serendipity out of her slip until we leave for good. As we got further back into the streets of El Estor we found out that there was also a carnival set up. Along each side of the streets were games where you could win prizes, mostly cheap plastic Disney toys and coloring books that would be found in most dollar stores back in the states. We took a pass on those, and just slowly meandered through the streets, taking the whole scene in.

We were having so much fun getting to know a new culture that we almost forgot about the time and missed the parade of boats. Practically running back to the water, we watched as about 2/3rds of the boats that came, sail or motor around the bay.  Having come in a motor vessel, there wasn’t a big need to have participated ourselves, we had no flags or sails to show off, but we were more than happy to watch the show from shore. When it ended we slowly strolled up the dirt road to the boardwalk and sat down for some good people watching. This must have been a very big event for the residents of El Estor, and the cruisers were outnumbered by the locals at a rate of about 10 to 1. Long before we ever got to Guatemala, we kept hearing about how the women will wear very bright and colorful outfits, and even though it wasn’t every woman, many girls in the younger generation wore jeans and t-shirts, there was still a fair share of women in their traditional clothing.  There was a little boy that was coming around selling fried plantains, and each of us bought a bag for 1Q each, or $0.13.  I’m never leaving here.

streets of El Estor

fabric/clothing store in El Estor

fresh coconut water

carnival in El Estor

parade of boats on Lake Isabelle

Lake Isabelle

our group of misfits

fried plantains for sale

Dinner that night was in a large hall that was filled with about 80 cruisers.  True to their word, they wanted to keep us full with food and drinks.  I’m even guessing they over-purchased on the Stella Artois, since as soon as dinner was brought out to us, someone was right behind giving each person two bottles of beer, regardless of what they were drinking.  While we ate we enjoyed live music from a group of men playing instruments ranging from drums to cellos to xylophones.  Some of the songs they played were very traditional, but they even tried to appease their fellow visitors by playing things like ‘Thriller’ by Michael Jackson.  After the plates were cleared a few people got up and began to dance, but we were ready to head outside and see what the town had to offer after dark.  On the waterfront there was a large stage set up with another band playing more American instruments, but no one was out dancing.  Nicole, Luis, and I decided to change that and, after about 3 Stellas, had no problem shaking our money makers all by ourselves.  It was enough to bring just a couple other people out to dance, but mostly only other cruisers.  The locals seemed content just to sit to the side and tap their feet to the beat.  There was one local guy though, that took me hostage, and after three dances in a row, Luis had to come rescue me from his grasp.  The guy wasn’t being vulgar in any kind of way, he was just very excited to dance and didn’t get the hints (or Spanglish) I was throwing his way that I was tired and needed a break.

Our whole group was exhausted from the fun filled day though, and at the late hour of 8:30 pm, we hopped a launcha to go back to Hydromax for the night.  It wasn’t quite bedtime yet, so the five of us boaters brought a bottle of wine to the top deck to enjoy some conversation and a lightning storm off in the distance.  We were all taken by surprise when a fireworks show began at 9:00, and we sat there in awe as the bright colors exploded before our eyes.  It was a special thing for us cruisers, yet I could help but feel grateful that everyone in El Estor was able to enjoy the show as well.  I’m guessing this is the first fireworks display the town has ever had, and even though it was meant to be a treat for us gringos that came for the regatta, that people who had made their way down from their mountain villages were able to experience it too.  It was such a perfect day and I feel so lucky that we were invited.  We’ve only been in this country for a few days, and it has been so good to us.  I can’t believe that just a few days ago I wanted out of this lifestyle  What was I thinking?

banquet for regatta

dancing in El Estor

 

You Might Also Like:

A Photo Essay of the Rio Dulce

November 13, 2013

11.13.13 (1)

I could start this post by saying ‘I can’t believe we’ve been in the Rio Dulce for over four months and I still haven’t taken photos of the town to show you what it looks like!’  No, there is a reason I have waited so long to do this.  Being a gringo with a camera glued to your face makes you somewhat of a target here.  Not in the kind of way that someone’s going to flash the gun in their holster and mutter something like “We don’t take kindly to your type around here”, but it does leave an impression on the people going about their every day lives here that, to you, they are something to speculate.  These same people that we buy our produce from or smile and say hi to on our trips to the market because they’re there day in and day out.  Oh no, I did not want to be labeled as that person in their minds.  The one who is blood thirsty to capture anything non conventional of Northern America or Europe.

But at the same time, I couldn’t very well leave Rio Dulce without some documentation that I’d spent a third of a year there.  This thought was not lost on me alone.  Luki and Elmari also wanted to get out and record the ins and outs of this town, but luckily for them, they’ll be gone in two days.  Making this probably their last trip into town, it is now of no consequence to them if the last memory the man that rings up their tomatoes has of them, is of them pointing a camera in his face while he goes about his work.  Taking photos of people who have not outwardly asked to have their picture taken can sometimes be an awkward thing, but as Elmari stated, “Today, I am not going to let that bother me.  If I see a good photo, I will take it.  I will be ruthless”.  Which almost sounded idiosyncratic coming out of her mouth, since ruthless is the last adjective that would pop into your mind while thinking of her, but I understood where she was coming from.  ’For months I was the resident.  Today, I am the tourist.’  So out we went, armed, and with cameras glued to our faces.

11.13.13 (2)

11.13.13 (3)

11.13.13 (4)

11.13.13 (5)

11.13.13 (6)

11.13.13 (7)

11.13.13 (8)

11.13.13 (9)

11.13.13 (10)

11.13.13 (11)

11.13.13 (12)

11.13.13 (13)

11.13.13 (14)

11.13.13 (15)

11.13.13 (16)

11.13.13 (17)

11.13.13 (18)

11.13.13 (19)

11.13.13 (20)

11.13.13 (21)

 

You Might Also Like:

View from the Bridge

Thursday November 7, 2013

11.7.13

One of the most distinguishing things about Rio Dulce is the large bridge at the edge of town that crosses over the river.  It’s long and fairly high, I think just over 70 feet at the center, and has a nice little arch that actually makes it quite pretty instead of something plain and boring.  It’s so dominant in anyone’s mind that has been there that you could show a photo to a person that only captures the bridge and the water, and it wouldn’t take them two seconds to reply “Oh, that’s Rio Dulce!”.

One other thing about this bridge that is very noticeable is how many locals will sit at the top of it and sometimes spend hours watching the world pass below them.  It’s not uncommon to see 2-3 cars or tuk-tuks pulled off to the side, even though there is no shoulder and everyone must now move around them, as they enjoy their lunch, dinner, or just a cold beer with the views that surround them from the top.  Although we’ve gone over this bridge a few times on buses we’ve only been able to get a quick glimpse of what made it so special before we were already at the other side.  We, actually meaning Elmari and I, decided this needed to change.

One afternoon when all of us had finished our boat projects for the day and we were now entering the golden hour just before sunset, we dragged our men along as we all piled into t/t Skebenga and motored over to the local marina where everyone leaves their dinghies, before hitting the main street and turning left to get to the bridge instead of going right towards town.  Walking up the incline, we stopped ourselves at the center and were shown why it was such a popular place for the locals.  The views were genuinely beautiful, and the sun making it’s descent made it even more so.  Having packed a very small cooler, I offered everyone a beer and we stood there, among young lovers and families with small children, and took it all the splendor around us.  I’m just sad it took us four months to do so.

bridge in Rio Dulce

 

Backpackers Hostel, Rio Dulce, Guatemala

Elmari and Matt on bridge, Rio Dulce, Guatemala

passenger truck, Rio Dulce, Guatemala

view from bridge, Rio Dulce, Guatemala

birds flying under bridge, Rio Dulce, Guatemala

sun sets behind power lines, Rio Dulce, Guatemala

main street, Rio Dulce, Guatemala

dinghy dock at Bruno's, Rio Dulce, Guatemala

 When the four of us arrived back to the marina we found out that we had enjoyed out time atop the bridge so much that we were running late for the dinner club!  It only took us a few moments to gather necessary items off our boat and were soon enjoying great food with great company.  I love this arrangement.  I have no idea what’s going to happen when we leave here.  It will be back to orange spaghetti and cans of soup.  I think I have picked up a few things from the great chefs at our table though, and I hope they stick once we’re left to our own devices again.

And as usual, our night wasn’t complete without a visit from a dog that lives across the bay and occasionally likes to trot over for scraps or to lick our plates clean.  He’s gone though a few names since we’ve ‘adopted’ him at the ranchito, but for now we just call him Foxy, due to his foxy looking appearance.  Matt is actually so smitten with him that part of me thinks we might have a new dog aboard once we leave Guatemala.

flan by Luis

Luis made us flan!

Elmari talking to a marina guest

Foxy coming to visit

Foxy, our soon to be skebenga’ed dog.

after dinner cigars

Enjoying an after dinner cigar.

Ana Bianca and Luis Ana Bianca and Luis

 

 

 

 

You Might Also Like:

Cost of Living in Rio Dulce Guatemala

Friday October 25, 2013

produce from Rio Dulce market

 What $4 can buy at the market in Rio Dulce

 

This is actually a continuation or a tribute to a post my friend Genevieve wrote on her own blog, where she tallies the cost of living where her and her family are spending their hurricane season in Luperon, Dominican Republic.  I thought it was a great idea to give other cruisers an idea of what the cost of living in one certain area is like, and with her permission, she’s letting me basically copy her post on my own site, just switching the location to Rio Dulce, Guatemala.

As she states on her site, the monthly cost of living in any one area will vary from person to person based on what you want to focus your spending on.  For ourselves, I’d say our budget here gets broken into the categories of living in a marina, buying necessary odds and ends for the boat, and most important, food.  Which is where I’ll be putting most of the emphasis on in my list below.

I have converted all prices to the US dollar by using the conversion rate of 7.82 Quetzal to 1 Dollar.

 

Bar/Marina Restaurant

Coca-cola – $1.25

Beer – $1.50

Meal – $7.00

 

Grocery Store

Gallon of milk – $3.84

Loaf of sandwich bread – $1.53

Full boneless/skinless chicken breast – $3.20

1 lb of ground beef – $3.40

Dozen eggs – $2.81

Generic cereal – $2.30

Can of corn – $1.15

Ramen noodles – $0.32

2.5 L of Coke – $2.43

3.3 L of Pepsi – $1.60 (I guess they favor Pepsi here. Me too.)

24 pk of Gallo (domestic premium) beer – $19.18

24 pk of Bravah (domestic) beer – $10.23

Liter of wine – $3.20-$5.12

Bottle of Gato Negro – $6.40

Bottle of Bacardi Gold rum – $7.70

 

General

Pack of cigarettes – $3.20 (don’t worry, it’s not me that’s smoking)

Off Skintastic – $5.12

30 day 10 gig data plan (Tigo) – $38.36 Initial purchase of card – $6.40

1 lb of propane – $1.25

Gallon of diesel – $4.60

Gallon of gasoline – $4.48

Monthly slip at a marina – $220

*Entrance into the country with a 90 day cruising permit – $155

*Extending to a 12 month cruising permit – $250

*Exit paperwork from Guatemala – $70

* – All using the help of a local customs/immigration agent.

 

 

I hope this information helps any of you that are thinking of using Rio Dulce as a hurricane hole.  It really is a wonderful place to stay.  The cost of living is very cheap and the locals here are extremely friendly.  Staying at the Tortugal Marina we’ve had nothing but smiles and genuine care from the staff at the marina and they are there to assist you right away if you need anything.  I have to admit, cruisers themselves have been a little cliquey in this area, usually just staying with the people in their own marina, but luckily for us, we’ve found a great group of people at our marina that have made this an amazing summer and fall and a wonderful place for us to wait out the season before we can continue cruising again.

You Might Also Like:

Photo Caption Day: Boating with Hula Girl

Saturday October 19, 2013

 

As soon as we got back to Guatemala after traveling through South America, one of the first things we did was to contact our friends Nacho and Annica, who have a weekend house on the Rio, to let them know we were back and looking forward to their next visit.  It happened to come a few weeks after our arrival back, with an invitation to go out for a day on their powerboat, Hula Girl, a Marlin 30.  Along with Luki and Elmari, we were picked up and shuttled to their home where we were able to meet two members of their family we’d never seen before, their eldest daughter Marina, and their dog Nala.  Along with their younger daughter Camila, we all hopped aboard with plans to exit the Rio and and enjoy some time on the open waters on the bay just outside of Livingston.

The day was such a pleasure with more fun that we’d had in a long time.  There’s no way I wouldn’t be able to turn this day into a novel if I tried to write about it, so instead I decided to turn it into a photo caption day.  Enjoy!

Nala

Upon approaching, we met their adorable dog, Nala.  So cute, I want, I want, I want!!

Maria on Hula Girl

Maria catches some sun as we speed through the Golfete.

engines on Hula Girl

We’re not used to this kind of power, we were flying along!

Luki and Nacho on Hula Girl

Luki and Nacho man the controls while the girls catch some sun up front.

Livingston Guatemala

A quick stop in Livingston kept us stocked up on fuel and cold water.

swimming in the bay

Anchored out in a bay, we got our first taste of salt water, and currents, in four months!

swimming in the bay

The group, swimming and playing keep-away from Nala with their noodles, which she was trying to devour.

relaxing with a beer

I preferred relaxing in my noodle with a cold beer in hand.

lunch on Hula Girl

We enjoyed a delicious lunch spread with a tuna salad and potato quiche.

drinking wine on Hula Girl

And then the wine came out, which they know very well that I can’t turn down.

clouds over the bay

Towering clouds built in the distance, but luckily never came closer to us.

Elmari and Maria chatting

Some girl chat between Elmari and Maria ensued after lunch.

eating arequipas

Before being served a sweet dessert of caramel spread between wafers.

Matt, Luki and Elmari

Matt, Luki, and Elmari enjoy the ride back up the river.

traveling up the Rio

Winding back up the entrance of the Rio.  These sights never get old.

powering up the Rio

Nope, still not old yet.

tree in the Rio

Every time we pass this lone tree sticking out of the green I fall in love with it, so I’ve decided to claim it as mine.

boat sailing up the Rio

Didn’t this boat get the memo that it’s time to head out of the Rio and not into it?

Nala and Maria

Maria with Nala, who’s hamming it up for the camera.

Nala at the river house

Matt tempts her with games back at the house.

Maria and Nala paddleboarding

And Maria tries to tempt her with a paddle board ride.

Nacho and Annica's River House

 Time to head up to the house for some coffee.

unwinding in the Rio house

Before unwinding with some wine.  A perfect end to the perfect day.  Thanks again Nacho and Annica!!

 

 

You Might Also Like: