After a very quiet night off the coast of Guatemala in the company of AIRBORNE - a sailboat from Topeka Kansas where I once did Navy Reserve duty - I passed over the famous sand bar at the mouth of the Rio Dulce and anchored off Livingston, Guatemala. With the "Q" flag flying I was visited by the customs and immigration people. We were both offered the services of Raul, a local agent who comes highly recommended by the sailing community. Major and I decided we would do the walk around in Livingston without the services of an agent. Since AIRBORNE had already launched its dinghy I hooked a ride and we headed into town to get Quetzals and pay our clearing in fees. Livingston is built on the side of a hill so we climbed up to the top and started the process of checking in. As is typical of these evolutions one has to visit each office, sometimes more than once, to get the proper stamps and papers. In between one visits the local bank to pay the required fees.
Livingston obviously has a crime problem. Many of the buildings were surrounded by fences with concertina wire on the top. To visit the bank you have to go into a man trap with a guard. The outer door opens, you go into a small vestibule, and once the outer door is locked the inner door can be opened. There were a variety of street beggars and various people offering services. In broad daylight I felt pretty comfortable but it is not a place I would choose to visit at night. Having finished the check in procedure we adjourned to the dinghy dock where we paid off the "boat boy" who watched over the dinghy (he was 60 if a day) and headed back to the boats.
We headed up the Rio Dulce. The lower part of the river is a 500 foot high limestone gorge full of birds, power launches and canoes. The local population fishes the river and the major form of transportation in this area is by motor launch. With the exception of two very thin spots (neither was marked in any way except for a rapidly declining depth gauge) the trip was beautiful and uneventful. For once I was the following boat so all I had to do was stay in AIRBORNE's wake and hope they did not stop abruptly.
We arrived at the lower end of El Golfete, a large bay in the river. Just off to our port was the Texan Bay Marina where we decided to spend the night. They have great food, cheap cold beer (what a change from Belize) and good company. After a fun evening talking to the owners and other cruisers I retired for the night at cruiser's midnight (8 PM.) What a beautiful place.
I have decided to stay here for a day or two and unwind and then head further up the river.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
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