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Waking up in Rio Dulce

Hearing the pitter patter of raindrops outside is one of the most pleasant ways to come back to reality. I lay in bed and just listen with my eyes shut for the next ten minutes. Hearing the different sounds the drops make as they fall on the tin roof overhead, the leaves taking a beating outside my window, the steady stream of water running off the roof hitting the deck, and the plop plop sound as the river takes on more water. There are no dogs, no roosters, and only the occasional chirp from a bird. Pure bliss. All I slept with was a sheet and now I am rather chilly so I pull the blanket over me and hunker down to enjoy the song of nature.

The nature jam session comes to a close and I head downstairs for a morning cup of joe. First an espresso and then I switch to regular coffee. Due to the rain this morning we are all a bit slow about getting around. We get the low down on the local hot springs and start to plan our day. We were told its best to take some lunch with us. The couple we met the night before comes in for coffee and we start to plan our day.

We pile in the boat, Luis pulls out of the dock, and we head to town. We stop and buy some mango in a bag (the local snack and quite delicious to boot). The supermercado is on our way to the “bus station” so we pop in and wander around contemplating on what to eat for lunch. We ultimately decide to buy a whole chicken (already cooked), some bread, mustard, cheese and a few apples. We are all set so we walk down the street dodging cars and people alike.

As we approach the micro buses we are immediately offered a ride. We follow the man over to his bus and take a look inside. There are already twelve people packed inside like sardines. We all have a pretty good laugh about it and respectfully decline the ride telling him we will wait for the next. He insist that four more people is no problem at all! We decline again. He then proceeds to tell us who knows when the next bus will be it could be hours. I wonder if he is a part-time comedian because I can clearly see three other buses. Finally after he finds a few more willing people he climbs in the driver’s seat and pulls out towards his destination. He has been gone for all of two seconds when the bus parked in front of his backs up and offers us a ride. Hours he said it could be HOURS! He wasn’t even out of sight and we were already in an empty bus waiting for others to cram into the uncomfortable positions we were offered.

It was about a forty-five minute drive maybe a little longer but there was never a dull moment. It was still drizzling outside but as you know a drizzle while driving constitutes the use of windshield wipers. I’ll explain this man’s windshield wipers. Yes it was a real wiper blade. However this was a special blade. The mechanics had clearly broken and so he had rigged it up himself. So, there is a rubber band attached to the blade which is also attached below the windshield. Also attached to the blade is a piece of string running up to the roof and into the drivers window. Pull the string, release and voilà! The windshield has been wiped! This provided for some entertainment along the way. I couldn’t help but laugh to myself every time he reached his arm upwards for the string.

Every time the bus slowed down to let people off I wondered if it was our stop. When it was finally our stop I was a little leery to get out. Our drop off point was essentially on the side of the highway with no clear signs pointing anywhere. Had it been another road I might not have been so worried. I did forget to mention that this is the most dangerous stretch of road in Guatemala. There are numerous robberies and just a few weeks prior there had been a hold up of a tour bus. The tour bus passed a police check point and then a few miles up the road they were robbed of all their belongings.

 

A straight and paved road quite the treat!

A straight and paved road quite the treat!

Getting to Rio Dulce

Unlike my other long bus rides where I buried myself in the pages of my book, this time I watched The Punisher, in Spanish of course! I have already seen the film a few times so I thought what the hell, I could either read my book or try to pick up the local language. I think I fooled the Guatemalan man next to me into believing I spoke fluent Spanish. At some parts I would look over at him and we would share a man’s moment of guts and glory. The movie finished and then guess what The Punisher 2 came on! Now this I could not watch. Five hours later the bus arrived in Rio Dulce. The bus emptied out and everyone crowded the luggage holds underneath holding out tickets, shouting, and pointing for their bags. I sat back waited for calmer waters and then effortlessly lifted my bag onto my back, walked across the street to the Sun Dog Cafe and phoned my hostel for a ride.

Aside from a few, all of the hotels/hostels are located on the river and are only accessible by water taxi. Luis the taxi operator from Hotel Kangaroo (my hostel) pulls into the dock and I toss my bag in the boat. He is in his mid twenties and from Mexico City. Pulling out of the dock we cruise past a small island with pelicans perched on top of the trees. It’s a beautiful sight and I take a mental photo. Luis is standing behind me hammering down on the throttle of the outboard motor as we pass under the massive archway the bridge forms. We veer off of the river and head back up into the mangroves winding our way past private residences with fancy yachts. It’s a totally different side of Guatemala than I am used to and I find my self thinking about the unequal distribution of wealth in the country… and in the world. In moments like these I feel defeated, it seems like there will never be an end to it. Maybe I am young and naive or maybe I just long for a better way of living for all mankind.

The mangroves are thick and the waterway comes to a head, we split to the right and arrive at Kangaroo. I am a little unsteady on my feet as we unload the boat and it makes me realize how long I’ve been on dry land. I am ready to get back to the ocean, back to diving, back to my garden of eden. Checking in is no problem and the lady is super friendly. I take my bag upstairs, change shirts, and head out to the deck. The deck sits on the water’s edge and hundred feet across on the other side is a family enjoying their last days of Semana Santa. The children are playing some sort of “king of the kayak” game while the adults sit around a table enjoying conversation. My mind wanders and I can’t help but think of times with my extended family. I have nothing but fond memories of our get togethers but at the same time I feel a sense of sadness. I realize how much I took for granted. The family vacations, the reunions, the times we were able to run around and be fools. Why can’t those times last forever? “Quieres algo de beber?” I’m brought back to reality when the waitress ask me what I would like to drink. I respond “Un limonada con soda por favor.”

I see a kayak coming around the corner with a couple paddling their way back to the dock. I say hello as they walk on past into the hotel. After a while they come and join us on the deck. We have some dinner, exchange some stories, a few laughs, and make a plan to visit the hot springs the next day.

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Captain Luis

 

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Take me into the mangroves

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