Time in the jungle

Trip Start Aug 23, 2006
Trip End Apr 15, 2007

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Flag of Guatemala  ,
Sunday, September 10, 2006

So the last time you heard from us we were in San Ignacio, a small Belizean mountain town right on the border with Guatemala. Since then we've bused to back to the Caribbean, overnighting in Dangriga before moving south to Punta Gorda where we decided that while it's nice enough, Belize is a bit boring and it was probably best if we headed for Guatemala after all. Where we had nearly been two nights before.

We escaped from PG and it's army of dope selling Rastafarians (whose sales pitch invariably contained references to the truly high quality product from Humboldt County...California is famous for so many things) by water taxi, arriving in Livingston, Guatemala an hour later. We bought tickets to go upriver to Finca Tatin, a jungle camp/resort that sounded cheap but interesting. We parked ourselves at a local restaurant to wait for our departure, where we eventually met a local guy who claimed to be a reggae musician named Polo Martinez. He entertained us with stories of traveling to Holland and the U.S. To perform, and gave us a great capsule history of Livingston and its Garifuna people. He also called the owner of Tatin and scored us a free ride. So meeting Polo turned out to be very fortuitous for us. Especially considering he's probably dead. We're not completely sure, but a quick Internet search has us thinking our Polo was an imposter. But considering how much we enjoyed and benefited from the encounter, we'll just call it an homage to Polo.

We stepped onto the dock at Finca Tatin late in the afternoon on the 6th, and immediately felt at home. Set in a swampy riverside jungle, it's an incredibly peaceful place with a variety of activities to keep you busy. In the day and a half we were there, we partook of nearly none of them. One hike through the jungle was enough, we spent the rest of the time talking with the few other guests, fishing off the dock, reading, playing cards with the owner's kids, and wandering the paths between bungalows looking for exotic critters. Giant frogs, jungle possums, Jesus Christ lizards, Jurassic grasshoppers, scorpions and legions of one clawed land crabs saluting each other in endless repetition. What is it about hot, wet places that results in the strangest creatures?

Overall, Tatin was great, but we were quickly driven off by the never ending dampness of the place. It was fine in the daytime, in fact it was quite a bit cooler in the jungle than anywhere else, but at night the clamminess of the place made a good nights sleep difficult. That and the two encounters with scorpions that Karen had in our bungalow. Even so, it was a great place that we hugely enjoyed. Dirt cheap, unique, managed by a quirky American expat (Dennis) and serving great food, you would be stupid to pass by without spending a day there.

Leaving Tatin, we only made it an hour upriver to Rio Dulce where we stopped to catch up on laundry and arrange transport north towards Tikal, the huge Mayan ruin Guatemala is most famous for. We're surrounded by the sailboats and motor yachts of the American sailing scene here. Apparently this is a preferred harbor during hurricane season as it's well away from the sea and a cheap place for repairs. Strange to see so much wealth in an otherwise poor area.

In Rio Dulce we ran into Amy and her 8 year old son Gus. We first met them in Livingston and hit it off immediately, so it was great to have the chance to hang out with them a bit longer. Gus was a bit bored there, so for entertainment Amy bought him three baby chickens. We actually had a great time watching their antics. The next morning they headed downriver for Finca Tatin, but I have the feeling we'll see them again.

One night in Rio Dulce and it was back to the road. Wanting to see Tikal we needed to head north, so it was finally time for our first Guatemalan bus journey. We hopped on a retired 30 year old Greyhound with shattered windows held together with tinted film, and spent the next 4 hours flying through beautiful mountainous countryside, engine redlined, careening around curves with our broken suspension thumping complaints up through the floorboards with every left turn, passing anything and everything that got in our way. Trees bent in our wake, paving stones were torn from from the road, mothers clutched their babies tighter and we arrived nearly an hour before we left. At this rate we'll be home sometime in 2005.

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