Rio Dulce and Livingston

After Lanquin and Samuc Champey, I traveled to Rio Dulce. This is a town / lake / river that’s meant to be pretty. And it is, when you get away from the town itself. A lot of the rich bigwigs from the city have weekend houses out here – our captain pointed out a few (the owner of Gallo beer has several large boats – and he lives alone..)
There aren’t any decent places to stay in town, they’re all a boat ride away. Which sounds nice, but once you’re there, it means you’re trapped. You can’t even go for a walk, since it’s all marsh beyond the boardwalks connecting the few buildings. You have to take a boat to get anywhere, which costs money and is a pain. As a result, the lodges can soak you for food. I happened to stay at one that was Swiss-owned, so it attracted a lot of Germans. Not that I have anything against the German people, but I do find their language grating.

So I got out of there the next day, along with a few other folks I had traveled with. First, we visited a natural hot spring waterfall. Crazy! There is a large natural pool with a cool river flowing through it. And from above, a very strong, very hot waterfall of sulfuric spring water pouring down. Twas nice.
Trying to come back into town, we waited for a bus for a while before I finally flagged down a passing truck. They graciously peeled back the top cover, and we all climbed aboard the feed bags. Much better than being crammed into a packed bus, and cheaper too. I’d like to travel in the back of trucks much more. You do get pretty dusty, but the view is unparalleled.

After that, it was a long boat ride up the river through the gorge to the town of Livingston, where I am currently holing up. This town is only accessible by boat. Which is pretty incredible when you look around and see all the huge things that could only have come in by boat – roads, walls, water towers, cars, etc.
I was feeling a bit lonely and down (more on that later) when who should I run into walking down the street than Marisol, my dear friend from Spanish school! Oh, that was such a blessing. It really made my week. She was on her way from Belize to El Salvador to go surfing, and had stopped here for the night. We had a nice time catching up and such.

Livingston feels much more Carribean than Guatemalan. Mainly because it’s populated by Garifuna, so they’re black and have a completely different culture and language than the Mayans. The Garifuna have an interesting history – they were slaves that got run from one island to another in the 18th century. But they’ve gone from only 2,000 survivors in 1797 to 50,000 in New York City alone today. There are also strongholds in L.A., New Orleans, even London. Most live on the Carribean coast of Honduras, with a bit in Belize, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. Their language is a unique blend of Arawak, French, Yuroba, Banti, and Swahili, owing to their mixed heritage. Their dugu (religion) is similar to Haitian voodoo, and death is seen as a freeing of the spirit; a celebration involving dancing, drinking and music. Punta is the name of their style of music. It’s very up, fast, and rhythmic. At dinner the other night, a group of musicians suddenly set up and regaled us all with some fierce rhythms. Congas, turtle and conch shells, maraccas, with chanting too. Locals wandering by stopped to dance. Kids taking turns showing off their moves. Here is a bit of it I recorded on the iPhone. Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera with me! I would love to see some Punta Rock, but the clubs that supposedly usually present it have been dark.

I can see that it would be a nice relaxing town if the weather were better, but it’s been raining off and on (mostly on) for three straight days now. I’ve been trying to arrange transport to the Bay Islands in Honduras, with little luck. I might have to take a whole series of local buses, which I’m dreading. Plus, the weather is meant to be similar over there, which doesn’t bode well for snorkeling and diving, the main activities on the Bay Islands. If any of you have been to Honduras, I’d love to hear recommendations of where else to go.

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