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December 12, 2005 12:28 PM

Rio Dulce - Sweet River

Caroline's Birthday - Rio DulceDespite around 200 decibels of Guatemalan folk music blasting out of the speakers on the bus ride from Flores, our ears (and indeed the rest of our bodies) made it to Rio Dulce intact, to be greeted by a crowd of locals selling tours, boat trips, and everything else we didn't need right at that precise moment. We checked in to Hotel Marilu and were immediately reminded of the opening scene in Apocalypse Now, of Martin Sheen sweating it out in a hotel room in Saigon. To give you more of an sense of it, Willie commented that this type of hotel room was the exact style that he'd imagined suffering malaria in. And in Ryan's words it was, "sparsely decorated with peach-coloured walls, cracked and graffitied just a little, a ceiling fan positioned directly above a single light bulb creating a strobe effect when both were turned on. And the humidity - heavy and thick. A great place for malaria; a perfect place to die from it." Get the picture?!

However ropey our surroundings, we awoke refreshed the next day, my 28th birthday, and stormed a nearby thrift store for bargains and birthday presents before crossing the river to check into the Hotel Backpackers, a friendly riverside guesthouse affiliated with an orphanage called Casa Guatemala. Deciding it would be a nice treat to potter about on the river for the afternoon, I enquired about the possibility of taking a boat out by ourselves instead of signing up to an organised tour, but evidently this was a comical and unconventional idea and the staff laughed in my face! However, before their giggles had died down a cheeky tour guide called Eric had contacted his people and found us a boat to rent - a lancha emblazoned with colourful paintings of wildlife and the words 'Jungle Tours'. We set sail and scouted the mouth of Lake Izabal via the Spanish fort, picked out our favourite sailboats of the many hundreds docked in the area, then ventured into the dense foliage of a tiny tributary of the main river. We paused before entering, lest we damage our borrowed boat in any way, but proceeded after Brian rightly pointed out that, "this boat's got jungle tours written all over it!" Our group escaped unscathed only for Captain O'Neill to pull the choke slightly too hard so that it actually came off in his hand. Oops. But needless to say he soon got us moving again.

My birthday treat that evening was a slap up meal at a local riverside restaurant courtesy of my lovely family (they contacted Ryan via this website and promised they'd reimburse him for the cost, bless them!), after which we plotted up on the deck outside our hotel and celebrated with copious amounts of rum and coke. We stuck it out until 3.30am, a sun umbrella sheltering us from the tropical showers that threatened to drown us in our seats. It was only when we decided to crash out that we realised a moody-looking security guard had been lurking just a few feet from us, a sawn-off shotgun carried nonchalantly in his hand. Nice to know someone's got your back.

- Caroline


Jonathan said:

It's -11°C right now but its going to climb to a swealtering high of -9°. Don't you miss it?

December 12, 2005 01:05 PM
a different Jonathan said:

Rayn... no beard?? So weak.

December 12, 2005 01:31 PM