The Central American adventure continues…
True to form, having taken the night bus up to Tikal in northern Guatemala and gone directly to the ruins on arriving in Flores, my friend Annie and I booked onto a 5.30am shuttle pick-up to get back to Santa Elena, where we took a “second-class” bus to Rio Dulce. It was not uncomfortable but we had the by now familiar late departure with countless stops to drop people off, pick people up, and to get breakfast from various street corners along the way.
In Río Dulce (it sounds more tempting than it is), we had a traditional cheeseburger-and-fries lunch at the Río Brava restaurant and booked onto a 1.30pm lancha to take us downstream. It was very hot but there was a welcome breeze from the river.
A lancha, from the Portuguese word for “barge”, is a motorboat. The journey down the river took a little less than two hours with no stops, passing by what looked like luxury beach huts and thick jungle in between. It’s possible to take the journey in either direction, and travelling by boat is in fact the only means of transportation to and from Lívingston, which lacks road connections to the rest of the country.
Arriving in Lívingston, we were met with the usual “Hostel? Hostel? Taxi? Taxi?” but continued up past the docks where we checked into a triple room – we only paid for a double as long as we didn’t use the third empty bed – at the Río Tropicales. Yes, everything here starts with Río. We headed back down to the harbour where we had coconut coffee and settled down on the pier to enjoy the afternoon sun.
Lívingston was quite different to the other areas of Guatemala we had visited – Guatemala City, Antigua, Atitlán, Flores. This is the hometown of the Garífuna people, descendants of the “Black Caribs” as the British called the Central and West Africans brought to the continent as slaves. Lívingston is also home to the Rastafarian minority within the Garífuna, which as you might imagine gives the town quite a special vibe.
At this point, we had a bit of an itinerary crisis. As you may have noticed from the last few posts, we were travelling at quite a pace, spending just one night in each place before quickly moving on to the next destination. This was pretty tiring but it was a situation we had created for ourselves given our arrival at one end of Central America and our planned departure two weeks later from the other end.
To be honest, it’s not something I’d recommend. Having said that, if you’re in a full-time job with just a few weeks of vacation each year then you don’t have a lot of choice, assuming you want to do a good bit of travelling and not just lie on the beach.
In any case, we finally agreed to keep moving and hoped to be able to slow down a bit in our second week.
So the following day, we had our first leisurely morning (hurrah!), indulging in waffles for breakfast in the hostel, before heading back down to the docks. (I can’t say that without thinking of Monica. What’s the opposite of man? Jam!)
If you look at a map, you’ll see that Lívingston is actually very close to the southern border of Belize, and you can take a lancha across to Puerto Gorda or, in fact, to La Ceiba and then on to the Honduran Islas de la Bahía where the diving and snorkelling is meant to be amazing. We were headed in a different direction, and once 15 people had gathered to fill the boat, we took off on another course, across to Puerto Barrios.
From there, we would travel into our second country, Honduras.