Tuesday, December 13, 2011

New Blog Site

Hello to all....sorry for the detour, but we have moved our blog to www.sunshinepdq36.wordpress.com.   See you there....

Phil and Margaret
s/v Sunshine
Rio Dulce, Guatemala

Thursday, April 21, 2011


"In a few moments we entered the Rio Dulce.  On each side, rising perpendicularly from three to four hundred feet, was a wall of living green.  Trees grew from the waters edge, long tendrils descended to the water, as if to drink and carry life to the trunks that bore them.  It was, as its name imports, a Rio Dulce, a fairy scene of Titan land, combining exquisite beauty with colossal grandeur.  As we advanced the passage turned, and in a few minutes we lost sight of the sea, and were enclosed on all sides by a forest wall; but the river, although showing us no passage, still invited us onward."  .... John Lloyd Stephens, 1841.

That description of entering the Rio Dulce by John Lloyd Stephens is still accurate today, 170 years after it was first written.  It's breathtaking and beautiful.  You feel as if you've stepped back in time. 

If you look very carefully in the middle of the picture,  you can see a Mayan boy paddling his cayuco along the edge of the river in the shade.
The view over Phil's shoulder as we enter the Rio Dulce.

The river twists and turns for six miles through a spectacular gorge.  Maya Indians in their dugout canoes (called cayucos) paddle along the edge of the river where it's shady and they can escape the strong current running down the middle of the river.   The only other evidence of civilization is a traditional Maya thatched-roof home here and there.

Literally thousands of Great Egrets roost in the trees and swoop low across the river in front of our boat.   

After six miles, the river opens up into a wide lake called El Golfete.  We anchored the first night at Texan Bay just off the lake.

The next morning, a short 8-mile trip brought us to Mango Marina which will be Sunshine's home for the summer while we return to Indiana.
Right now, we are one of two boats at this marina.  Other cruisers will be coming in soon to leave their boats for the summer.
This is the view from our deck across the wide Rio Dulce.
And our view to the south shows the mountains.
Snuggled up between the dock and the land, Sunshine should be safe from strong storms.  We don't need to worry about hurricanes up this far on the river. 
 We are glad we found this little marina.  When there are more boats here, everyone meets under the palapa at 5:00 for happy hour to discuss the day's activities.  There's also a television with cable if we need to watch the news (which we don't very often), a kitchen that we are free to use, and a refrigerator stocked with beer, which is on the honor system.  If you drink a beer, you just put a mark by your name on the list by the door.  Ten beers:  ten marks.
The nearest town, Fronteras, is a 10-minute dinghy-ride from our marina.  It's an unusual town in that it isn't built around a public square, as are most Central American towns and villages.  
 Fronteras grew up along either side of the only main road in or out of this region.  It consists mostly of small tiendas, or stores, crowded along the highway.  There are no sidewalks, and pedestrians share the road with buses, cars, cattle trucks, and semi's.  The drivers speed along and it's up to the pedestrians to stay out of the way.  Amazingly, we have not seen any accidents...so far.

This is the Dried Fish Store.  You can't really appreciate this store without experiencing the aroma.  I am sure there are delicious dishes that can be prepared from these dried fish. I try to be ready for new culinary adventures.  Someday I will be ready for this, but not today...or tomorrow...or next week...or next month.

I call this the "Plastic Store," for obvious reasons.

This store has lots of plastic, plus other kitchen ware.

Herbs and spices of all kinds, for both cooking and medicinal use.

My favorites are the fruit and vegetable stands.  The widest variety of fresh produce I have ever seen.  My biggest problem is how to get the melons, papayas, mangoes, bananas, and strawberries into the dinghy and then back to the boat.

The Easter Celebration here is a week-long festival of parades, carnival rides, food, dancing, drinking, and, oh yes, Catholic Mass.  This day's parade was celebrating agriculture.

The horses and tractors in the parade had traffic stopped for miles.  Remember, there's only one road through town.

We called him "Table Man," a walking furniture store.

Street food, Fronteras style.  We haven't tried any street food here yet.  Not sure whether the board of health has checked out these stands right along the dusty street.  But it still smells very good.

Here's where this adventure ends for now.  We'll be catching a bus Sunday morning for a 6-hour ride up into the mountains to Guatemala City.  (I hope to God it's not a chicken bus.)  
Then a flight to Ft. Lauderdale.  Then a rental car to Tampa, where we left our car last November.  Then a two-day drive home to Indiana.  If all goes well, we'll be in Greenwood by Wednesday or Thursday.

You're all caught up on our adventures for this season.  It's been a great winter. Thanks for following our blog.  We hope to return here in the fall and begin a new cruising season.  

Fair winds and following seas....
Phil and Margaret
s/v Sunshine

Monday, April 18, 2011


When we left Key West in December, our plan was to sail to Isla Mujeres, an island near Cancun.  We got comfortable in a marina at Isla Mujeres and began learning our way around town, and picking up enough Spanish to get by.

Several other cruisers at our marina had been to the Rio Dulce, a river leading inland from the Atlantic coast of Guatemala.  It sounded exotic and beautiful and everyone said we HAD to go there.  So, after two months at Isla Mujeres, we headed south.

We took our time, making day trips and stopping at night to anchor.  Sometimes, the anchorages were in the lee of a remote island.  

Other times, we stopped at small fishing villages along the coast.  Once, we stayed several days at a marina associated with a four-star resort.  Our marina fee was $25/night and included use of all the resort amenities.

In no particular hurry, we day-hopped down the coast of Mexico, then on to Belize.  There were a couple of overnight runs when there wasn't a good anchorage, but most of our trips were slow and uneventful.   

The second largest reef in the world extends down the Yucatan coast.   In Mexico, it comes and goes very close to shore.  In Belize, it is several miles off shore in some places and we could travel between the reef and the shoreline, giving us protection from any bad weather.

Cay Caulker is a small island off the coast of Belize.  It's very laid back, as you can see by the sign in front of this bar advertising "happy day" instead of "happy hour."

There are dozens of islands off the coast of Belize between the mainland and the reef.

I asked these kids if I could take their picture and they immediately went into "pose" mode.

 Finally, we reached the Rio Dulce.  I'll show you what we found in the next post.


So far, we have found street food in every city, town and village that we have visited this season.  All through Mexico, Belize and Guatemala, folks sell food they have prepared themselves.  And it's usually delicioso!

Both men and women sell street food.  Sometimes they set up card tables.  Some have carts.  Some even have customized bicycles.  Street food can be as simple as fresh squeezed orange juice or as complicated as deep fried empanadas.  

Corn on the cob is always a favorite.

Spears of fresh fruit...good and good for you!
We  never found out what Pibes are.  My Spanish dictionary says a pibe is a "kid"....seriously!

Nice presentation!!!

Pies, cakes and flan.  Flan is the national dessert of Mexico, I think.  Egg custard with caramel sauce.

You can translate this even if you don't speak Spanish.

Don't know what he is offering, but he's obviously very proud of it.

This young man is making marquesitas, rounds of waffle-like dough cooked on a grill, spread with Nutella and Edam cheese, then rolled up.

Pappas y churros.  Churros are fingers of dough, deep-fried then rolled in cinnamon sugar.

Your choice of chicken or pork, on a bun....with hot peppers.

Always bebidas whever you go...these are very sugary.

Mango man...and there's Waldo in the background.

Pork rinds and bebidas...m-m-m-m-m.  Don't you get the feeling he loves his job!

Can't remember what he was balancing on his head.  And there's Waldo again.

Watermelon...and Waldo.

And I just had to take a picture of this little princess.


Phil and I had been talking for several weeks about visiting Merida, a beautiful town founded by the Spanish in the 1500's.

We first planned to take a bus while we were docked at Isla Mujeres.  For one reason or another, that didn't happen.  Then, we thought about taking a bus from Puerto Morelos.  That didn't happen, either.

Finally, when we were "weathered in" at Puerto Aventuras on the way down the Yucatan coast, the time seemed right.  As it turned out, the timing was perfect.

I had sent an e-mail to Luz en Yucatan, a small hotel rated #1 on TripAdvisor, but had received no answer.  When we got there, we discovered that they had been sold out, but someone had canceled right before we arrived, so they had a room for us.  Our first stroke of luck!

We stayed two nights in this amazing, beautiful town.  It was founded by the Spanish in 1542 on the site of a Mayan city.  The architecture makes it look like Old Spain, with beautiful churches and government buildings, cobblestone streets, and plazas every few blocks where people gather in the evenings.

As we checked in, we found out that it was Carnival weekend in Merida, and our hotel was just half a block from the parade route.  Our second stroke of luck!

The weekend we visited Merida, the town of a million grew by many thousands as villagers poured in to celebrate Carnival with music, dancing, food and FIVE different parades, one per day.
It's difficult to adequately describe the costumes and the music.  Friendly people and food vendors crowded all of the downtown streets.
Carnival Merida 2011 ran from March 2-9, with float parades five straight days beginning on Friday the 4th.  Over 2,300 people participated in those parades, not counting thousands of staff and hundreds of police officers who controlled the crowds and kept everything on schedule.  More than 30 musical groups performed on different stages all over town.
The parade that we watched on Saturday night lasted at least two hours.  I lost count of the floats and groups of dancers in elaborate costumes.  They must have come from all over Mexico and perhaps even further.

It was our first road trip of the season and we felt fortunate to have participated in our first Carnival and visited such a beautiful place.