Speedboats are a pretty cool way to travel. Especially when it comes to border crossings. Another trip across the Caribbean sea and we arrived back in Guatemala, this time to Puerto Barrios.
We were instantly jumped upon by men offering to take us to Honduras, or Livingston, or lots of other places that weren’t where we wanted to be. We eventually worked out that we could either take a tour down the Rio Dulce for 5 hours, or get a taxi for 2 hours. Being hot and tired after the crossing, we went for the easy option and hopped in the cab of a very nice taxi driver, who was the Guatemalan version of Vince Vaughn. He seemed especially happy to be driving us. And when he stopped off at his house to pick up his wife and baby son, we realised why: he’d decided to turn this job into a day trip for his family. So there we were, racing down the highway, blasting middle of the road rock (just for us, he said), heading for the Rio Dulce and our hotel.
Cut to a couple of hours later and we arrived at Hotel Catamaran – a beautiful location on the edge of Rio Dulce with little cabins hanging over the river.
Catamaran is also a marina where loads of the boating set come to moor their yachts for the hurricane season in Central America, because the hurricanes never touch this place. So, we spent a few days hanging out with our new ‘best mates’ on their boats, wondering if any of them might just sail us to Panama. Unfortunately, no one was leaving. And given how lovely the place is, we don’t blame them. We now have a new plan for our lives – get a boat and spend all our time cruising around the world.
While there, we took a trip up the Rio Dulce which is breath-takingly gorgeous. The boat ride took us around the old fort that was used to fight off pirates, through lily-pad-filled tributaries, past small children in their dug-out canoes trying to out cute each other, and finally to Livingston – an old Garifuna town.
In Livingston we met Pollo Martinez, a Garifuna elder and musician. Pollo took us for an impromptu tour around the village and explained the poor situation of the Garifuna people there - unrepresented in government and pushed out by the Spaniards coming into Livingston they are clinging to their way of life. Pollo is doing whatever he can to protect his people, including a feeding programme for the kids and trying to educate them about how important it is to look after each other. It was quite an eye-opening 40 minutes.
As we were letting everything we’d learnt sink in, we sat and had a coke in a small bar where they were showing the Champion’s league final between Man U and Barcelona. Everyone was a Barca fan; cheering on Messi and the rest, while booing at Rooney’s antics. So we kept our voices down and smiled and nodded, hoping no one would realise we were a) English and b) didn’t really care less about who won. Football is a religion in Guatemala, so admitting we didn’t share their passion might have got us in a little trouble.
Back in our little cabin at the end of the day, watching the fish swarm around the cockroach we’d just fed them, we said goodbye to Guatemala and pledged to come back and explore it properly one day. Because tomorrow we were heading for Honduras and then our flight to Costa Rica.