This was the best day of the voyage so far. I remember back to Praxy and my honeymoon, and our best shore day was also in Guatemala, Antigua Guatemala; tied with Cartagena Columbia. What can I say except the people in that Guatemala are wonderful.
We exited the ship at about 8:00am and headed over the the merchant/shore tour building to meet up with Liz and Leslie. We weren’t sure of the departure time for our shore tour and it turned out departure was set for 9am. Time to shop, shop, shop!!
The quality of the goods and the prices were amazing. The vendors also would dicker on the prices. This made for a very enjoyable morning. We bought, coffee, jewelry, and head bands and had a great time doing it. I bought two pounds of fresh coffee beans for $11. Not too bad, and they smell heavenly in my suitcase. Leslie and Liz enjoyed shopping as well.
At 9 we headed back to Gus’ kiosk for our GowithGus tour, the Livingston Humanitarian Tour.
Liz has known Gus for many years, her book has a photo of Gus’s mother from many years ago. Gus is very outgoing and friendly, he treats everyone like family. Praxy and I were made very welcome and I felt like I’d known Gus for a long time as well, even though the only contact we had was over the internet. We hung around his kiosk and tried to attract more customers, it was fun! I also went over and enjoyed the marimba band playing nearby.
The photo with me in it didn’t turn out. Rats. I love listening to these little bands, it reminds me of my mothers record albums featuring the Baja Marimba Band. I’m trying to remember the name of the band leader.
Gus’s boat. It is roomy and fast. Good thing, it’s at least 20 miles to Livingston. He hires the local mail boat driver on tour days and that driver was excellent and professional. He had a crew of four with us at all time. Very safe.
This rather narrow defile is the mouth of the Rio Dulce river in Guatemala. The canyon walls are 300 feet high in places. The fresh water overruns the salt water, the salt water underneath goes 15 miles upriver (I believe that is the correct distance). Because of that, dolphins can be found far, far inland.
First stop was at a local school. The Livingston Tour is in place to deliver much needed school supplies to elementary schools along the river. These people are quite poor, but very happy and the kids seem eager to learn. Gus chooses a different school each time, I saw at least five buildings that I could recognize as schools along the river. A person that had been on this trip before remarked that they had to hike 20 minutes into the jungle to reach the school on their previous excursion.
Passengers distribute pens, pencils, notebooks, candy, and toys. I decided to do something a little different. I think outside the box, it makes me a good researcher.
I brought items for the maestra, “master” or in this case “teacher”. Colored sidewalk chalk and calculators for the school. I brought calculators that run off of sunlight so they never have to replace the batteries. I don’t know if they can use calculators, but I gave it my best shot. If not, they can trade them for something they need.
A toddler watches, with big eyes, a stuffed Pooh bear
Then, on to the canyon and tour. Some of the highlights…
The local watering hole. All, and I mean ALL transportation in the area other than the city streets of Livingston is by boat. The limestone makes a natural water filter and the hose comes off of one of the numerous springs in the area. Locals in the canyon come in by canoe to fill their water jugs, about every other day
Children came by canoe out to our boat for whatever we had left over. We saved school supplies and some chocolate. Some people brought candy, but I refuse to do that. The candy isn’t good for them or their teeth.
We stopped at a local restaurant for a tortilla making demonstration. Here is our cook, wood fired stove, and in the background Gus with the hot sauce. The chilies were called “diente de perro” or “Eye tooth of the dog”. Yowser, they were picante, but muy delicioso! A tablespoon full of hot sauce to tortilla made me sweat.
Gus in the kitchen. The oven is propane fired.
Praxy caught sight of one of her favorite treats, fresh coconut juice. For 1 dollar, the cook whacked one open with her machete and we had a cool drink. Several people got their own “coco” as well. There was more to see that didn’t photograph very well. Their was a nesting island of cormorants (Go to my Mexico section to see nestling cormorants up close) and a lily pad bay that sadly had no manatees. They feed in the morning and disappear for the day. Also the local gringo enclave with 20-30 fancy sailboats. We then turned back down the river for the local hot spring.
Gus soaks his feet. I forgot my flip flops, so I didn’t get in the water. Instead, I took a quick walk to the nearby limestone cave.
It was quite warm in the cave, and my camera did not like the dark, open space. There was a very cool twisted limestone formation in the cave that I couldn’t catch. But I kept trying and finally got a bat in the dark part of this grotto. I only saw small bats in my flashlight, but this one is quite big, maybe a foot from wingtip to wingtip. I was startled to see the size of this guy. I could here the babies nearby chirping to be fed but I couldn’t see them. And no, they didn’t fly into my hair. I don’t have enough hair to trap a bat anyway. I was sweaty and hot by the time I got back to the dock.
This is the dock for the original petroleum loading in the area. That port has now moved about 10 miles away. But it makes a good perching spot.
Drying fish. No flies, no smell.
Finally, to Livingston, Guatemala. Gus has a beautiful and clean motel. A person can fly into the area, the closest international airport is in Honduras, and Gus or his people will pick you up. The area is completely safe. The only way in and out of Livingston is by boat and the locals are friendly. www.posadaeldelphin.com Lots of motels and restaurants nearby. Lunch was included in the tour and it was scrumptious. I also had a couple of the local beers.
Two types of beer in Guatemala, Goat and Rooster. Rooster is supposedly the best, I didn’t get to try Goat. Afterwards, off to see the sights.
The local laundromat.
A wooden mortar and pestle, size large.
A drummer. Leslie was talking to this guy about buying a drum. There were four of them in their band.
We had a one hour boat ride back to Santo Tomas. Gus had to make a side trip to the ferry terminal to pick up a letter. This trip took us right next to this large ship owned by Dole. A shipload (shi*load?) of pineapples heading to the US. There is another terminal nearby that loads Chiquita bananas 24/7. Those are also heading to the US.
We got back to the port at 4pm with 1 hour left to finish our shopping. Whew, what a day. We were totally worn out. If you ever visit Santo Tomas, this is THE way to spend the day.