Rio Dulce, Guatemala
Up came the anchor and at ten past eleven
Río Dulce - "Sweet River" is completely contained within the department of Izabal. The river exits into the Caribbean Sea near the Garifuna town of Livingston, our port of entry. It is part of a lake and river system that has become a popular cruising sailboat destination. Five years ago we would not have considered coming here as the area had a dreadful reputation for acts of piracy and theft. The local Navy set up patrols and slowly things improved to todays place in the books as a safe haven to hide during the hurricane season. Bear returned from doing the “logging in” bit, formalities complete, juice downed and off he went forward to raise the anchor.
From Livingston the river meanders for six miles in a spectacular gorge. The sides of the gorge rise up to three hundred feet on either side and are covered with teak, mahogany and palms. Wild flowers bloom throughout the foliage. Howler monkeys and toucans are regularly seen but we only spotted heron and pelicans. Waterfalls flow over the lip of the gorge after rainfall. The gorge is the setting used in the early Jonny Weissmuller, Tarzan movies. In fact it wasn’t until his eighth outing, dressed in nothing but his loin cloth, that any filming was done in Africa itself. Props in the early films included the use of Indian elephants with stuck on tusks and bigger ears.
We left the gorge and entered the area known as El Golfete a long narrow lake.
We began to see a few houses and a couple of small businesses on the shore. The lake is about ten miles long and a couple of miles wide, popular with local fisherman. These hard working men leave out long lines attached to anything that floats. El Golfete has several islands and a large natural anchorage, although the guide books suggest that the only safe anchorage is called Texan Bay.
We laughed when this boat passed by laden down with breeze blocks
We rounded several bends until we began to see many marinas on either side of the river.
Having passed the other marinas our next sight was this enormous bridge
This bridge was built by the Canadians and is one of the biggest in Central America, seeing the bridge was our cue to radio our marina to get docking instructions. On this side of the bridge to our right, is the town of Fronteras, commonly referred to by the name Río Dulce. This is the local centre of commerce for the area.
Fronteras has a vegetable market, attracting locals from the countryside who arrive in dugout canoes. Most of these boats are powered with Japanese outboard motors but many come to market day paddling these cayucos by hand.
We radioed Tortugal Marina who were ready to welcome us. This side of the bridge is known as Rellenos. A little further on from here, the river looks like it narrows considerably. On the corner we can see the small Spanish colonial fort, the Castillo de San Felipe, built to stop pirates entering the lake from the Caribbean when this part of Central America was an important shipping and staging point. Beyond the fort Lake Izabal stretches out for miles and miles, Bear has already read that there are cannons at the fort - a must then for us to spuddle to. Seems amazing to think of those early ships arriving, anchoring outside the bar at Livingston and sending row boats up the river to explore.
ALL IN ALL UNSPOILT BEAUTY