Tuesday, April 28, 2009 1:32 PM
Guatemala Road Trip - Rio Dulce and Livingston
This morning we all slept in and woke to a rainy day. Well rested and now a bit bored we decided to ignore the weather and hire a "lancha" to take us to see the nearby Garifuna village, Livingston. By the time we were ready to leave, the rain had abated and we set out on a lovely day on the water. From the marina we took a quick detour around the aptly named Bird Island then travelled east where the river swells into a wide expanse known as El Golfete.
Cormorants on Bird Island
Starting at Lago Izabal, the largest lake in Guatemala, and stretching 42 kilometers, over centuries, the river has quietly carved a stunning gorge through the mountains and out to the Bay of Honduras. Trees and vines seem to pour off the steep cliffs, surrounding us with a shocking cascade of green. This area is home to cormorants, egrets, pelicans, frigates and more than 280 other bird species. They can be seen everywhere, thriving in this healthy ecosystem. In this place, you can see and feel why the jungle is called "the lungs of the planet". In addition to the marinas and small eco-resorts, the river is home to many indigenous families who maneuver the river in hand-made dugout canoes, the design for which has not changes in centuries. Fishermen scour the river banks in their canoes, spear fishing and setting crab traps to feed their families. There is no shortage of food here. After a brief stop off at a small natural hot spring, we continued on through the gorges, past the steep white cliffs known as "La Pintada" and onward to Livingston.
Cole's favorite spot.
The gorges of Rio Dulce
After the fun we had in Hopkins, Belize last year, we were looking forward to checking out another Garifuna village. I also had my sites set on finding an authentic, locally made drum for Cole who has taken up Cuban drumming at Parque la Ceiba. Following the rhythmic beats coming from town, we happened upon a young group of musicans in a restaurant playing the traditonal drums, turtle shells and maracas. Cole was thrilled and we hoped we would run into them again during our short visit.
Coming into Livingston
Local washing area
We enjoyed a stroll through the villlage to the beach, which was as we had been told, dirty and poluted from run-off from the town. Unfortunately, we did not have time to venture further to Playa Blanca or the waterfalls called Siete Altares, both highlights of this area. Hungry and pressed for time, we stopped for lunch at a lively restaurant/tour operator called Happy Fish. I made sure to try the local specialty, Tapado, a fish stew made with green bananas and coconut milk. While waiting, Rob venture out to inquire where we might find the drums we were seeking. Just our luck, an elderly gentleman informed us that the last resident drum maker in Livingston had passed away. Now, they have to make the trip north to Hopkins to buy the drums for the village. *sigh* Oh well. I guess we have another trip to Belize in our future! Livingston is colorful and charming, but was filled with cruise shippers on this day. Without a night or two in town to explore and meet the locals, we came away feeling that we had missed out a bit.
When we returned to Bruno's, they were already entertaining the sunset expat crowd. We settled in with a few Botrans and had one of best meals of the whole trip, perfectly grilled "lomito" with potatoes and a fresh garden salad. After dinner, we took the kids back to the carnival for a few more turns on the ferris wheel and then tucked in for the night. Tomorrow, Flores enroute to the ruins at Tikal!