Saturday, March 22, 2014

Starting up the Rio Dulce

Posted by Scot

Coming in to the Rio Dulce from Livingston.
The first seven miles of the Rio Dulce in Guatemala was like nothing we have experienced on this boat, or any boat we have ever sailed.  Leaving the salt water estuary off Livingston, we pushed out into the current, giving Monashee her first freshwater taste of the Sweet River.

The jungle, reclaiming a boat outside Livingston.
As we slowly motored along, working our way against the gentle flow, we passed the last reminders of the busy port town of Livingston.  Old fishing boats covered in pelicans, some half sunk on the edge of the river, bade us a welcome to Guatemala.  We started to see locals paddling in their traditional dugout canoes, some enjoying the free ride as the current pushed them along, others working their way back upriver in the eddies along the banks.

Pelicans taking a break at the mouth of the Rio Dulce.
Mayans paddling downriver in their cayuco.
Quickly, the broad river mouth gave way to a spectacular gorge.  We were hemmed in on either side by vertical walls of jungle, climbing 500 feet up both banks.  Trees grew right down to the water’s edge, and even into the water, with curtains of vines hanging off of them.

In awe at the amazing scenery as we start up the Rio.
Jungle right down to the water on both sides.
Bird life was everywhere.  The pelicans at the entrance to the river, gliding along inches above the surface, gave way to their freshwater cousins.  Beautiful white egrets sat in the trees like Christmas decorations, while swallows and butterflies flitted around the boat.

Birds were everywhere.
A view worthy of Joseph Conrad.
Periodically, boats full of tourists roared past us up and down the river.  Their speed made us glad that we had the opportunity to go slowly and enjoy the peace that descended after they passed.  We laughed at the sight of their cameras and flashes all pointing at us, as if we were one of the attractions in this magical, wild place.

For tourists on the Rio, we were part of the scenery.
Tourist boats weren’t the only ones plying the river, though.  Local Maya Indians, fished the river from hand carved dugout canoes, called cayucos.  Those that weren’t fishing paddled effortlessly on their way to run their daily errands, some with their kids in the boat.  For them, the canoe is the family car, and the river is their main street.

Looking for the afternoon catch, on the Rio Dulce.
After a breathtaking couple of hours navigating the hairpin bends and the shallows of the Rio, we came out into El Gofete, the lake above the gorge.  We turned in to Texan Bay, following two other boats who had just come downstream.  Dropping anchor in the bay, we jumped into the fresh water for a swim and a cool down.  What a welcome to Guatemala! 

Coming out of the gorge into El Golfete
Following two other boats into Texan Bay.  We didn't know it, but there was a regatta scheduled on El Golfete the next day, so there were lots of boats in Texan Bay that night.

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