Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Serene Rio Dulce, Guatemala

Cliffs on Rio Dulce
The impression that we receive from a new place depends on how we got there! After sailing solo overnight through squalls from Roatan, Honduras to Rio Dulce, Guatemala, it felt like I entered a different planet. Earthling has not seen fresh water for a long time and being in fresh water is just like being clean at all the time.
Rio Dulce is a river that runs into the Caribbean Sea from Guatemala. It’s connected to two large lakes and there are tons of rivers and creeks running into the lakes. The main River is around seven miles long from the ocean to the first lake and that distance is absolutely spectacular. Entering the river can be tricky, since it’s less than 6ft deep! Most sailboats with a draft of 4-5ft or more must wait for the high tide to pass through the channel.   
The natives around this area are Mayans and some still indigenous.  There is abundant of life here from birds (lots of them, different colors, types, and sizes), to fish, fruit trees, flowers, etc. The first Tarzan movie was filmed in the jungles around Rio Dulce. You certainly can enjoy the sound of nature in most of the anchorages, since roads and cars are absent in a large part of Rio Dulce.
After a day here, I noticed tree branches on deck, I look up and there were two birds building a nest by the radar dome on the mast! The following day, I moved and the birds flew with till they realized that the wind is slowly taking their nest down, after a few miles into the lake they gave up living on Earthling and flew back into the forest. Now there is another little bird that has been building a nest on the mast! But Earthling is going a sea tomorrow and the bird is welcome to stay but she is better off staying in her beautiful neighborhood of Rio Dulce.   
Birds on the boat everyday
Guatemala has lots to offer. There are many sites of Mayan Ruins and the nature is absolutely exquisite. A visitor cannot see and do it all in only two weeks time. The area around Rio Dulce and Lake Izabal has so much to offer that one could wander around and get lost! Earthling got the chance to sail around and explore Lake Izabal.
One of my childhood dreams is to have a horse, an animal that I love. Around Lake Izabal, there are numerous small villages and many people ride horses. At Denny’s Beach, I got the chance to ride a horse through the fields, rivers, villages, and jungle and live my dream partially. I have to admit that living expenses in this part of the world is very low. Not in so many places in the world, four hours of horse back riding would cost only $13!

Horseback riding through fields
Another village that is rarely visited is Mariscos, not much is happening here besides a few small stores and restaurants, but there are buses that go over the mountain to the “Quirigua” ruins. I had to visit at least one Mayan ruin and this one was the closest and conveniently located. When you observe old structures, it makes you go back in time and try to picture yourself in that era. The Mayan ruins are over 2600 years old and it makes me wonder how those people lived then in this area!
Quirigua Ruins
On the north side of Lake Izabal, there is the village of Finca Praiso. A 30min walk from the waterfront takes you to one of the most amazing waterfalls ever. This is not a regular one; it’s a hot waterfall into a cold river, absolutely spectacular. Note that you can take a bus to all these sites and not necessarily your boat, unless you like the thrill of exploring and being the only boat in the anchorage. Sightseeing by boat and taking a dinghy ashore sometimes puts you in through the back door! I walked on the little trail by the river to the Finca Praiso Waterfall and as I was entering the waterfall area, a gentleman asked for my ticket, what ticket I replied? He said where did you come from, didn’t you come through the gate? No, I walked by the river! Then I realized I had to pay to get in here!
Finca Praiso Hot Waterfall
 Earthling anchored off the Castle of San Felipe also, I rowed ashore to the fort! When I got in to the fort structure, I was asked for my ticket, I don’t have a ticket! Once again the security was wondering how I got in there, and I explained. So I had to walk to the entrance and purchase a ticket!  
Castillo de San Felipe
At the end of Lake Izabal, there are the major rivers that feed the lake, like the Polochic River. Every night, out of the four on Lake Izabal, there were lighting strikes and they all seemed to be right at the end of the lake. As much as I wanted to go to the end and explore the rivers, I had to hold myself back and save that for the next time I visit Lake Izabal and Rio Dulce.
The main river

Women and Kids in Livingston

San Felipe
San Felipe Castle
Horse Back Riding through Fields

Sunset at Denny's Beach

Cows Following the Horse

A cave in the mountains
A view of Pueblo Nuevo
Main Strip in Mariscos
Quiriqua Ruins
Quirigua Ruins
Quirigua Ruins
A view of a house by the river
Tuk Tuks, cheap way of getting around in towns
Dinghy Sightseeing in the river 

A True Artist that Touched my Heart

Con Mucho Amor de Rio Dulce

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Bay Islands of Honduras

The View from the Peak
There are several islands off the Northern coast of Honduras, the major ones being Roatan, Guanaja, and Utila. Earthling landed in Guanaja after 360 miles, 75 hrs passage from Providencia. When we rounded the North Eastern tip of Honduras, the winds changed against us blowing from west and made the passage much longer. I was fortunate to have my friends, Marcin & Darius as crew, especially since the autopilot would not cooperate at all the time and somebody had to be behind whelm! 
Marcin behind the wheel
“Guanaja” is another less visited island by outsiders. Which makes it more pure and quiet. This place is 45 squre miles (55 Sqkm) in size but most of the people live in the main town of Bonnaca, which is less than one square mile cay. It’s interesting that there is so much land around but people prefer to live close to each other! The houses on Bonacca are mostly build on stilts. Some refer to it as the Venice of the Caribbean, I wouldn't go that far! There are absolutely no cars or scooter on Bonacca. 
Checking in to Honduras for sailors is very cheap ($3 pp.), which gives Honduras a big plus to stop at! When you go a shore to check in, you will probably be greeted by Red (Rojo)! He is a local friendly guy that is working like an agent. Helps the boaters to check in, find things and he is a source of information. In these smaller islands, many are trying to be a guide and make a buck, and be aware if you get a quote for one thing, it might change by the time it’s done! That’s common in many less developed places. 
There is one airport in Guanaja where Darius flew out of to Ceiba and further to San Pedro Sula. Flying in and out of these less visited islands can be a pain sometimes. It took Darius over two days to get back to Chicago. However, in the sister island “Roatan” there are daily nonstop flights to and from Houston!  
The mountain across Bonacca (800ft Altitude) is a good steep hike, and when you get up there, the view over the cays and the different shade of blue is breath taking and spectacular. One could sit here for hours and watch over the ocean!
The best hikes are up to waterfalls and in Guanaja, there are a few of them, but it’s on the north side of the island. The fastest easiest way to get there is to hire a lancha (motor boat) through the canal by the airport. If you are adventures like these Earthlings, then you anchor off “Savannah Bight” and walk 2 hrs on the only road on the island by “Mangrove Bight” and on the beach through the jungle to the secluded waterfall.  

The main dock on Bonacca
Houses on stilts

Walking through the narrow streets of Bonacca
Central Strip in Bonacca
More Houses on Stilts

Rojo is walking into his house
Rojo's Nephew Playing with Fish
Going to the Airport
Graham's Cay
Dunbar Rock (Posada)
The Best Shower
Following Guanaja, Marcin and I sailed down-wind to the tourist capital of the bay Islands, Roatan. This long narrow landscape (100mile2) has many coves that are beautiful and perfect for anchoring. Some of them are secluded but Earthling anchored in the largest one where all the cruisers are, close to Fantasy Island in the French Harbour. Roatan has a different vibe; there are mostly Americans that come here for vacation and for diving. The long reef barrier around Roatan makes it to a diver's heaven. Roatan also offers several beautiful long sandy beaches, which of many are occupied or owned by resorts and hotels. 
While Marcin was departing from the airport, I got an opportunity to rent a scooter from a local person. For the following two days over 200 miles was driven up and down the hills through towns and around Roatan!
West Bay, Roatan
West Bay, Roatan
The East View on Roatan, Santa Elena, Isla Morat, and Isla Barbareta 
Camp Bay, Roatan
Parrot Tree Beach Resort and Marina
A View of the Village of Sandy Bay
Roatan Divers in West End, owned and operated by Swede Karl
Boats from Coco View Resort
Sleeping Iguana at the Sanctuary

Love from the Bay Islands