With a boat from Belize to Guatemala. Fish Soup and Caribbean feeling in Livingston. Another boat trip up Rio Dulce. Bathing in hot springs.

Travelogue 2002 Belize to Guatemala

May 10th, 2002

Dear friends,

to say it right away: I couldn’t see any whale sharks because the sea was too rough. And it means something when the tour operators cancel the tours because I am not sure how much they care about their customers. Nevertheless I want to express my thanks to those who wished me luck. But maybe some of you may want to look inside themselves and ask themselves: "Did I really wish him as much luck as I could? Or was there a tiny bit of envy and that was just too much, this lucky bastard …"

So it was another day in my hammock, nobody rocking me, me myself looking for coco nuts and opening them (second part is HARD work). I noticed that there are two types of local people at the beach which you can easily distinguish: The first type is female of arbitrary age between 5 and 80 offering you baskets. Can anyone tell me what I need a small handicraft basket for? The second class is male, in their twenties and offering … grass / marihuana … This is about as much you can see in Placencia and so I went on. Anyway my holiday was starting to get a little to laid back for me.

I took a boat to Mango Creek / Independence and from there a bus to Punta Gorda in the very south of Belize . Here I had to wait for the first time, three hours before the boat left to Livingston through the mentioned rough sea. If you like getting wet I can really recommend that one. In Guatemala once again my loved and this time quite heated discussion with the immigration team whether I pay the fee though there are no receipts or not. Meanwhile my Spanish is good enough to get through situations like that and we agreed, that I would come back and pay in the next morning, because everybody knows that there never are any receipts on Sundays (because the banks are closed?!). Everybody know, that I won’t come back, I got my stamp and they didn’t have to admit that the fee does not exist.

Livingston is part of the very short Caribbean coast of Guatemala , about the only place in the country where there are black people. Finally I could speak Spanish again! One thing was even more extreme here: There was this old man with only one leg asking for money. The second I give him a Quetzal he turns from a beggar to a dealer and offers me grass. About every 10 meters you get offers like that. A friend even got an offer for cocaine. Some might like that, but for me it was to much. Once again I spent a day in my hammock (without coco nuts and without swimming, the water didn’t look very nice) and I ate myself through several restaurants. I can tell you that those Garifunas (black people coming from Jamaika to the main land after the end of slavery) brought a recipe for the most delicious fish soup with coco milk and platanos (plantains, bananas for cooking), a whole fish … . Wonderful, only for this giant bowl of soup it was worth going there.

Guatemala: Pelicans on Rio Dulce
Going up Rio Dulce we passed pelicans
Guatemala: Huts on Rio Dulce
And huts which look the same since hundreds of years
Guatemala: Dentist on Rio Dulce
But then we saw this boat: It is not easy to see on the picture but this is the modern consulting room of a dentist. This is what I call service: the dentist comes to your home.
Guatemala: Rio Dulce, Finca El Paraiso
Hot falls for bathing
Guatemala: Timber
Huge trees – horizontal version

After two nights on the road again. We (that’s me and Sara and Brian, brother and sister from Canada with the interesting mixture of Japanese and Swiss ancestors, who had the same route as me since we left Placencia) took a water taxi up the Rio Dulce. First I thought it was expensive, but the captain did not go straight up but took us hot springs in the river, to lagunas and lots of animals: wonderful, many photos. The town Rio Dulce is not worth seeing it. We spent there two nights and visited the finca "El Paraiso". There is a little river forming a nice pool to swim in. This isn’t anything interesting but in German we say that everything good comes from above: into the pool falls a second little river with very hot volcanic water giving the pool a interesting mixture of cool, warm and hot water. The water contains sulphur (hopefully very healthy) and some places are a kind of natural Jacuzzi. Another thing you can do there is walk up the cold river until you come to a cave in which you can swim until you get to another waterfall. But we didn’t. I already had enough caves during this trip and my flashlight broke. Anyway the others seemed to be quite content with the first pool. We had dinner together and then separated. In the morning they left to Honduras and I to Guatemala City and Antigua where I am right now.

I want to tell you a little story of Peter a guy from Stuttgart I met today. This is not a story about how bad the people here are because most of them are wonderful, but I tell it to you to make you a little more sensible for things that can happen travelling. In a bus Peter met a Guatamaltecan guy, they talked and the guy offered Peter to show him some sights around Coban. So he did for two days until he got the chance he was looking for and stole Peters backpack. The worst about the story is that the thief got only like 25 US and almost no valuable stuff, but Peter lost his clothes, his diary and the photos from two months travelling, and you can imagine what it means to loose your passport, ticket etc.

Now what are my plans? Tomorrow I will take some Spanish classes and then I think about going to El Salvador for a week, but I would like to get some more information about the situation after the horrible earthquake in January 2001. If not I could revisit Lago Atitlan or the Guatemaltecan Pacific coast. I will let you know.

All the best and love from Antigua, Guatemala, CA


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© Volker Umpfenbach

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