"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.
|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