Thursday, April 17, 2014

RD to RD (Red Deer to the Rio Dulce)

Posted by Scot

It kind of boggles my mind that you can start your day in Red Deer, Alberta, and end it in Guatemala City.  The differences between the two places are so vast – culturally, linguistically, geographically, economically and meteorologically -  that you feel like you’ve not only travelled a long distance, but jumped backwards in time as well.

To be fair, in order to cover that much distance, I did have to get up at 3:00 a.m. in Red Deer.  After a week of working nights, I couldn’t fall asleep until about 1:00, so I had a solid two hours of sleep before I had to get up and drive to Calgary to catch the plane.  Going through the Calgary airport to the States is pretty slick – you get to clear American customs in Calgary before you get on the plane.  I think the fact that these guys are not actually located in the U.S. makes them a bit more laid back.  Clearing customs at 5:00 a.m. was pretty quick.

I did manage to grab a few zzzz’s on the plane to Dallas, so I was feeling a bit better by the time I got there.  The Dallas airport is not a bad place to hang out for a layover – mine was 5 hours, which was a bit long, but it gave me a chance to catch up on email before leaving good internet access.  If you do have to hang out at DFW for any period of time, go to the international terminal (terminal D).  It is the newest, and by far the nicest of the four terminals there.  The place is huge, but all the terminals are connected by a train, so you can get from one to the other pretty easily.

Getting on the plane for Guatemala, I noticed an interesting phenomenon.  It seems like the demographics of the people on a plane are determined largely by where it is going, not where it is coming from.  When I flew out of Guatemala, the plane was filled with Americans.  Flying back into Guatemala, the plane was filled with Guatemalans.  I think everyone was heading home for Semana Santa (more on that later).  It was a very different group of people than I flew out with.  A lot more talkative and lively.  And when we landed, they all spontaneously burst into a round of applause.  It seemed like it was just expected, as everyone did it as soon as the wheels touched down.

I spent the night in Guatemala City, which was a little underwhelming.  5 or 6 million of the country's 11 million inhabitants live in Guat City, and it shows.  Apparently crime is a significant issue.  The bed and breakfast I stayed in was in a gated community, and even then it was still behind another big wall.

The next morning, I grabbed the Litegua bus on the way back to Rio Dulce.  The bus station was a full on party at 8:30 a.m.  I don’t know if it was because of Semana Santa, or if it is always like that.  There were clowns, and DJ on a balcony above the bus station blasting out the tunes.  Kind of fun to watch, but it was also pretty manic.

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Clowns at the bus station.  The girl I was sitting beside tried to teach me the Spanish word for clowns, but I instantly forgot it.
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DJ at the bus station in Guat City (up on the balcony).

The 6 hours on the bus back to the Rio was a reverse performance of the trip we had when we left.  The Guatemalan landscape, especially around Guatemala City, looks like a huge corrugated piece of cardboard.  And unlike in Canada, nobody has spent the money to blast through the mountains, or try and straighten out the roads.  Instead, the highway follows every curve and hill, which makes for a slow moving bus.
Eventually, though, I was back in the madness of Fronteras, the town of Rio Dulce.  I grabbed a cab as soon as I got off the bus, and it whipped me straight back to Ram Marina.  Two days and 19 hours worth of travel later, and I was back.

I knew the plan had been to put the boat back in the water at noon, so I was a bit surprised to see it still on stands in the yard.  The boat lift was poised underneath it though, so things looked promising.  Sara was there, supervising a last minute clean of the boat prior to it getting lifted.  So, half an hour after I arrived, I was watching our boat go back up in the slings, and get gently lowered in the water.  It was actually really great, as it gave me a chance to see all the work that had been done on the boat.  The bottom paint looks beautiful – better than what was on there previously.  I’ll write a separate post about the work we had done in the yard.

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Back in the water and looking good!
After we were in the water, a couple of other cruisers who are yard-bound helped us bring the boat over to one of the docks at Ram (thanks John and Sue!).  It was actually a bit tricky.  There is always a pretty strong cross wind here in the afternoon, and after not driving the boat for a few weeks, my reflexes were a bit rusty.  We managed to get it all tied up though, and we spent the evening meeting the cruising crowd Sara has befriended during the 10 days I was away.  They are all nice people, and it was great to get to know them.  We’ll stay at Ram for a few more days and finish up a couple more boat projects, and then hopefully get on our way back down the river and on to Belize!

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Part of the celebrations of Semana Santa at Ram marina is a 4 day promotion for Brahva beer.  The hot Brahva chica stands there and looks good all day, and the guy with the mike yells things in Spanish at the top of his lungs.  Doesn't really make me want to drink Brahva, to be honest.

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