Rio Dulce, Guatemala ~ January 1, 2020

by Amy

What better way to ring in the new year than pushing aside the cobwebs in my brain and diving into a fresh blog? Meanwhile Kenny is out in the blistering heat varnishing the cockpit. I think I got the easier job. He’s in week three of his battle with shingles, but at this point he’s winning the battle.

My new year’s resolution for 2020 is to drink more and gain some weight. Why not choose something in which I’m sure to do well? Actually I’m practicing reverse psychology. Get it? So shhhh, don’t tell me, and I’ll certainly succeed! But seriously folks, my real resolution is to do everything more slowly and mindfully. Eat more slowly, bathe more slowly, walk more slowly, shop more slowly, drive more slowly, talk more slowly, ponder more slowly. This will have the dual effect of making me more calm and peaceful and driving those around me insane. (Hopefully the latter part is not true).

Getting out of Florida at the end of November was fraught with small trials and tribulations. As we were in our frenzy of last minute shopping, packing, and stowing all our personal items to make the Bradenton condo vacation-renter-friendly, I managed to lose my primary credit card. After much self-recrimination and gnashing of teeth, I called the credit card company, canceled it and requested a new one, which was due to arrive the day prior to our flight; the day on which we planned to drive to Land o’ Lakes. If it didn’t come in time, I’d have to arrange to have it sent to me in Guatemala via a complicated network of neighbors and cruisers. There is no postal relationship between the USA and Guatemala. Luckily the card arrived in Bradenton via FedEx at 4:30. With it in hand, we loaded up our luggage and headed out to Kenny’s brother’s house in Land o’ Lakes where we would leave our car for the foreseeable future. (Thank you, Jack and Mary!)

We spent our last night on U.S. soil in the empty house, as Jack and Mary were visiting their younger daughter in Washington. We dined on our Thanksgiving leftovers and booked a Lyft for 4:00 AM. the following morning. Although Lyft confirmed that we had scheduled a ride, no driver’s name was provided. We should have taken that as a signal to arrange for a proper taxi, but we thought eventually a driver’s name would emerge on the cell phone’s screen. At 3:45 AM., a driver’s name had yet to appear, so we resolved to drive ourselves to the airport, park the car in economy parking, and ask Jack and Mary to fetch it from the airport when they returned from their travels. Not an ideal situation, but we didn’t have much choice at that point.

Because we had a ridiculously large pile of luggage (8 pieces including carry on) Kenny dropped me curbside at the Tampa airport and went to park the car. I worked my way inside the airport with the help of a cart, and eventually Kenny reappeared at my side. Phew. Rather than troubling Jack and Mary with fetching our car, we elected to ask their older daughter, who lived nearby, to pick it up instead. She confirmed via email that she would happily oblige. Thank god for Kenny’s relatives!

We were quite pleased when we scored two seats together in the exit row of the aircraft. That is until the largest person I’d ever seen, sat in the window seat next to me spilling well over into my territory causing me to reside on one butt cheek for the entire flight from Tampa to Houston. He made up for it with pleasant chatter, explaining that he’d wanted to sit in first class, but it was all booked and he’d been told the exit row seat next to him was empty. It was a jolly ride despite the conditions. Thank God I had Kenny to lean into on my left side.

Arriving at the next gate for the second leg of the journey to Guatemala City I went to pull out my Kindle. After frantically searching every nook and cranny of my backpack, I realized I’d left it in the seat back in front of me on the previous flight. There wasn’t enough time to run back to the other gate, so I asked one of the airline employees if she could call over there to see if it had been found. No luck. I began to wonder if one of the cleaners had pocketed it or if the seemingly nice man seated next to me was a kleptomaniac. After playing host to a number of unpleasant thoughts, I decided to let it go. After all it was just a pile of circuitry encased in glass. The trip from Houston to Guatemala City went by quickly, and before we knew it we were banking through mountains and volcanoes preparing to land.

Kenny had brought a small wad of Quetzals, the local currency, left over from our last sojourn in Guatemala, so we didn’t stop at the ATM in the airport. We breezed through immigration in no time. While I pulled the baggage off of the carousel, Kenny combed through his backpack and then his other carry-on for the cash. It was nowhere to be found. He started going through the checked bags as I dragged each one over to him. In his search, he cut his finger on one of the zippers and was dripping blood on the floor. I found some paper towels in my purse and he wrapped it up. I then searched for a bandaid. While Kenny staunched the flow of blood, I took stock of our situation.

Fortunately we did have a few U.S. dollars between us. They were accepted by the man renting baggage carts. I found a worker who would help us with the bags and asked him if there was an ATM beyond customs. He said yes he’d take us to one in the parking lot before taking us to a taxi. Perfect. We flew through customs no questions asked regarding our ton of boat gear, found the ATM and were in a taxi headed for Antigua in no time. Exiting the airport through the sea of humanity waiting for their relatives silently, expectantly always leaves an impression on me. They are such a kind, gentle, humble people. Why must we treat them so brutally at our borders?

The taxi ride to Antigua moved at a glacial pace. It was Saturday and everyone was leaving Guatemala City for the weekend. I felt for our driver who would only charge us the agreed upon rate regardless of the time it took. We resolved halfway there to give him a generous tip. When our driver stopped for gas, I ran into the store for water and snackums. Everyone else was buying beer, so I thought why not? I recalled from before that it was permitted for passengers to consume alcohol in a vehicle. Or at least I’d seen it done. I was giddy with this prospect. I got back in the cab and handed Kenny one of the beers and opened the chips. We did ask the driver if it was okay before opening them up. He assented.

Our four nights in Antigua flew by. Our first night there was a Christmas parade with floats of everything from Sponge Bob Square Pants to Santa Claus and numerous marching bands playing Christmas favorites. We were treated to dinner our first night by our friend Worth and his girlfriend Nancy who cooked up a lovely chicken dish for us. We spent the next few days enjoying various restaurants and wandering the beautiful old colonial capital oooing and ahhing at the architecture and looming volcanoes. We were even treated to a concert by the national symphony orchestra playing Christmas carols.

While in Antigua, Kenny had a chance to more thoroughly check his backpack and found the missing money in a somewhat secret hiding place in the pack. In all fairness to him, it was a new-to-him backpack and he wasn’t yet used to it’s features. (But didn’t he put the wallet in there?) I was able to contact United and placed a lost Kindle report. To my surprise, they got back to me that it had been found. So, I asked that they mail it to a friend of Nancy’s where she (Nancy) would visit in a few weeks. She would then collect my Kindle and give it to Worth who would deliver it to me on his next visit to Rio Dulce.

Kenny and I are loving life back in Rio Dulce, Guatemala aboard Mary T. We feel at home here among our sailing tribe and friendly locals, who are very patient with my remedial Spanish, which I’m always vowing to improve. Tortugal marina, Mary T’s fourth home since 2015 when we arrived, is very comfortable and well positioned to catch the afternoon breezes. A cool spot can always be found in the open air restaurant and lounge, where movie nights are held every Friday night.

For new year’s eve, there was a little party in which everyone brought hors d’oeuvres to share in the upstairs boaters’ lounge. One of the cruisers played guitar and sang a bunch of pop tunes, originals and some jazz standards. He was excellent. Because he had a microphone, people asked me to do a little stand up comedy as they had enjoyed my act the previous Friday night before the movie. (I had done a bit riffing on the cruisers radio net which is a forum on the VHF radio every morning where boaters discuss goings on about and share information). I didn’t have anything planned for NYE, so I dredged up some old material and they were quite appreciative. I never had such a fan base before! I will be performing the radio net piece again at Mar Marina (our previous home) before their Saturday night movie. Never a dull moment on the Rio.

January 6, 2020

A bit of time has passed since I started this. God knows what kept me from it. It’s not like I have a full time job! Anyway, the stand up act at Mar Marine was well received. One man who I’ve seen before at movie nights was laughing so hard he was crying. I must say it was very gratifying. The movie that followed was Marriage Story, which had some good moments, but the consensus was that it was too long. Too bad I can’t use the act beyond Rio Dulce. It is specific to this place.

At this point we’ve completed all our boat jobs. We (Kenny) replaced the faucet in the head and varnished parts of the bright work in the cockpit, repaired our oven, put the chart plotter back together, had some other things fixed by other people, and had a new genoa sail and dodger built. Luigi, the sail maker, gave us a lesson in geometry, physics and textiles when he came to discuss the best design for the sail and how we might best employ it. He’s a world champion racer and has been sewing sails for forty years, so you don’t argue with Luigi! He’s also quite delightful. We’ll take him for a spin when we leave the dock, so he can inspect his work. Four years ago he built us a mainsail.

So today we’re off to Flores a cute touristy town on a lake north of here and then on to Tikal, site of the most famous Mayan ruins in Guatemala. Who doesn’t love a ruin. We’ve heard the sunrise tour is to die for, primarily because of the howler monkeys which make a real racket at that hour.

We learned some very sad news today about another denizen of the Rio. A Polish man named WW (no one can pronounce his name) who sold his boat to some Polish friends, just returned to the Rio to help the new owners with some repairs and show them the ropes. Yesterday morning he departed Captain John’s Marina in a small dinghy. His friends who we’d met at movie night, were very concerned when he hadn’t returned in the afternoon. Last night his dinghy was found next to tiny bird island, just down river from us. This morning his body was found floating. It appears that he was run down by a larger vessel that just kept going…Maybe we’ll learn more if there is an autopsy. Naturally everyone here is a bit shaken up. With all the crazy motor boats zooming past, I’ve never heard of an accident here. I feel for his poor friends.

It will be hard to say goodbye to Rio Dulce when we take off later this month. Our plan is to visit Belize, the Bay Islands of Honduras (Roatan, Utila, Guanaja), Isla Mujeres, and then jump over to Key West, sail up the east coast of the USA and arrive in the Chesapeake Bay by June. We hope to take our granddaughters Madyn and Trynity and their aunt Brenda out for a ride when we arrive. Of course all this is contingent on the boat, the crew, and the weather holding up on the trip north. Hopefully our Buddhist shrine will protect us and grant us blessings along the way! We will also request protection from Poseidon and Neptune upon departure.

January 12, 2020

Returned from Tikal and will cover that trip in the next installment.

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