Rio Dulce, Guatemala …Siempre Algo …

Siempre Algo … translation, Always Something … A Winterlude update while we were waiting on weather in the Rio Dulce, Guatemala … a few years ago…

I thought we were FINALLY going to leave today, but alas another strong norther came through yesterday with winds 20+ and 10 foot seas outside (not here in the river) … NO THANKS!  .. we’re all ready – the 236 slats in the louvre doors are all Murphy Oil clean & lemon oil fresh, the exterior teak has a shiny new coat of gloss, the freezer is full of chorizo, longaneza, skinless boneless chicken breasts, pork loin, pork chops, hamburger …. plus we’ve stocked up on toilet paper & rum (and vino — “it’s not good wine, but it’s Clos!”)!   

Our original plan was to leave immediately following Thanksgiving.  But norther followed norther…. and then, one of our best friends, Doug on Serendipity, returned to the marina.  Since Serendipity has no plans to cruise this year & we spent lots of time together last year, we’re enjoying hanging out with Doug.  The latest forecast is for pouring rain (monsoon-style) for the next 6 days … 100% chance of rain almost each day… dinghying in to check out & cruising during a monsoon is no fun, so I guess we’ll stay some more.  I love the Rio, but I’m ready to be gone!!!   

We’ve not done alot since our last update, since we’re just hanging out, but every day contains new experiences.  Two nights ago, we went out for dinner after dark for the first time in the Rio.  You might wonder why we never go out to dinner after dark & happy hours here start about 3 PM, ending at sunset. The biggest reason is that dinghying after dark on the Rio is an adventure in itself (remember, there are no roads).  Boats fly around at full speed with no lights.  Night fishing nets are set everywhere.   M.E. across the dock told us that the single most important thing we should add to our dinghy was a sharp knife.  She said that the worst that would happen would be getting tangled in a fishing net, shutting down the outboard.  She also told us to take our phone to call her when it happened!   🙂  Nice to have concerned neighbors!!!  🙂

Heading into the famous Rio Dulce Canyon National Park

Heading into the famous Rio Dulce Canyon National Park


We saw an unusual sight, even for the Rio.  A launcha, with a big outboard, was slowly towing a small launcha.  King asked David if he noticed anything unusual about the small launcha.  David thought there was a strange anchor on the front.  But King called his attention to the straps around the boat …. turns out they had a TRAILER strapped UNDER this boat, towing it to a different location.  Keep in mind, there are few roads here & access to most anything on the Rio is via boat.  SO if you want to move a boat with a trailer to a different location, apparently you just tow it, trailer & all!!!  When you get to the new location, you pull the trailer out & the boat & all is relocated!  Highly unusual, I say … not sure we’ll be trying it on Lake Mattoon anytime soon! 

Unlike the frantic shopping frenzy following Thanksgiving in the US, our shopping the last two days consisted of an adventure to track down someone to replace the zipper in our Harken cooler.  It’s a freebie cooler and in the US if it broke, we would have simply trashed it.  Here, I’ve not seen any soft-sided coolers for sale, so we decide to try & resurrect it.  The zipper had corroded & salted in so that it refused to zip either way.  We further damaged it beyond repair by attempting to “fix” it with an ice pick. 

Luis did such a good job on our cooler that we took our shadetree awnings back for restitching and velcro replacement.

Luis did such a good job on our cooler that we took our shadetree awnings back for restitching and velcro replacement.

After asking, we learn that there’s a guy that fixes canvas & could probably fix our cooler  in El Reyeno – but no one seems to know his name.  The only address we have is to “take the dinghy to Chiqui’s at the base of the bridge, walk up the street & ask” …. feeling adventurous, we’re off.   We walk up the street & after David is sure we’ve gone too far, spot a window that opens onto the main street that says “boat canvas” above it … there are two ancient sewing machines inside, this must be the place!  Inquiring at the window, the young lady tells us (all in spanish of course) that yes they can replace the zipper, BUT the only zippers they can get are about 4 times the size of ours & the only available “pull tab” is very expensive.  We ask how much & she can’t tell us … after all, the project’s not complete. 

The famous Chiqui's tienda on the Rio.  We searched in vain for Chiqui's until some kind soul let us in on the secret -- on the building it says

The famous Chiqui’s tienda on the Rio. We searched in vain for Chiqui’s until some kind soul let us in on the secret — on the building it says “Reed’s Tienda” — now how were we supposed to know that? 🙂

We inquire when it would be ready & the answer “MANANA” brought knowing smiles to our faces.   (Manana in Central America only means “not today”!).   She didn’t ask our names, our boat name, nada.  I figure she has our nice red soft side cooler & if we don’t come back, she’ll sell it for more than we’ll pay to replace the zipper.  So the bottom line is, we don’t know the name of the place, or how much it will cost, only where we walked to & we’ll return manana (tomorrow).  Lo & behold, miracles never cease!  Manana we show up at the window (which is now covered with a blue hanging tarp so we walk right by a couple of times before locating the place). 

Today, Luis, the owner, who speaks good English, brings us the cooler with a brand spanking new zipper.   He apologizes that the only “pull tab” they can get is VERY expensive, 20Q and because of that the overall price is 50Q.  We have a 100Q bill & only 47Q in change.  But Luis doesn’t have change for the larger bill & says 47Q is good enough, that’s $6.26 US.   We’ll return with our sunshade for Luis to replace the rotted out velcro because he does excellent work at reasonable prices.    Good thing we know about that hanging blue tarp hiding the location — and good thing it wasn’t there yesterday or we’d have never found it!  Turns out it keeps the dust out from the 2 lane paved highway less than a sidewalk’s width away … dust is especially bad when those frequent cattle trucks & semi’s blow through!  🙂

Arnulfo hard at work stripping our teak.  If you're at Catamaran and need teak work, we can highly recommend Arnulfo!

Arnulfo hard at work stripping our teak. If you’re at Catamaran and need teak work, we can highly recommend Arnulfo!

One thing that we’ve noted, unlike the US, 3rd world countries are not preoccupied with diet, health & exercise.  Mostly because the inhabitants struggle just to get through each day and have no time, and no energy left over to “waste” on exercise.   When you have to grind the corn to make the flour to make the tortilla before slapping it on the open fire, there’s just alot more time consumed in daily living.   The Mayan population especially … they just shake their heads at boaters, most don’t work, we do a bit of maintenance on the boat every day, but we also walk 3 miles a day.   A perfect example was trying to explain my pedometer to Arnulfo, a 28 year old Guatemalan who’s revarnishing our companionway & speaks good english.  I put the pedomoter on my wasteband causing Arnulfo to ask, “what’s that, an alarm?”  No, not an alarm, I show him how it counts my steps every day & explain the theory behind the 10,000 steps a day program.  He just nods his head skeptically & you can tell he thinks this is just another crazy american thing. 

The next question is “muy caro?” — translation, very expensive?  I say, no, and proceed to tell him it cost $15 US. I need to keep in mind, $15 US is more money than the average Guatemalan makes in a few days …. because Arnulfo is skilled at teak, he commands more, but you can see the wheels turning in his head … crazy americans have money to burn… WHY would you waste perfectly good money on something telling you how many steps you take in a day?….   I must admit, living here, it strikes me as strange too, but I still use it.   

The Catamaran Marina gang at the Thanksgiving dinner pitch-in.  Yum!

The Catamaran Marina gang at the Thanksgiving dinner pitch-in. Yum!

Just before Thanksgiving, Arnulfo was sanding teak in the companionway & I practiced my spanish while preparing my homemade applesauce (you cannot buy applesauce here) and green beans, sister-in-law Tammy style for the upcoming pitch-in.   We were chatting in espanol about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday … I THOUGHT Arnulfo said “Dia de Grazie” — my mistaken translation was an incredulous “DAY OF FATTIES???” It amazed me that even the Guatemaltecans know Americans consume WAY too much food on Thanksgiving!   After a few chuckles, it turns out my translation was wrong … a common occurance.  He really said “Dia de GRACIAS”!  or Day of Thanks.   🙂   Of course, later I screwed up…. during our conversation,  Arnulfo & I were talking about the holiday, what it is, what the customs are & he asked if we were having Thanksgiving dinner with anyone.  So I, my normal straightforward self, say “yes, the boaters are all going to Kevin’s house for Thanksgiving” — Kevin’s house is within view of our dock, not far.  Later I was chastised by others in the marina for letting ANYONE know that we’ll all be off our boats at the same time.  No one mistrusts Arnulfo, but if someone else happened to overhear, we might all be missing “stuff” when we returned stuffed with turkey.  This really isn’t a problem at Catamaran, but better to practice good safety techniques all the time because you never know when you might be someplace where it is a problem.  


Today is December 1st … last year at this same time, we had just been robbed in Utila, an island in the Bay Islands.  We spent the day (after spending most of the night of November 30) working with the mayor & police dept on Utila trying to recover our stolen Dell laptop, digital camcorder, digital camera, 3 cell phones, cash & various other stuff…  Of course, after the experience, we’re convinced that the entire island, including the authorities are all in on the breakins …. nothing’s ever been done & the rash of robberies has caused cruisers to skip Utila even though it’s the easiest & geographically safest place to check into Honduras!    So I guess this year’s cruising is light years ahead of last year’s, even if we’re held hostage by weather! 

Have any fun stories to share about your stay on the Rio?  Please comment and leave a link to share!  CHEERS!  Jan

Jan & David
still at 15.4N & 88.6W

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