Friday 29th June – Livingston to Rio Dulce town via Rio Dulce.

This morning I caught a public boat for the epic river journey up the Rio Dulce (Sweet River). This river journey is really famous – heaps of rich people bring their boats hear to shelter from the Caribbean Hurricanes.  It’s also famous because of the beautiful limestone cliffs that surround the river in the part closest to Livingston before the river widens into Lake Izabal. The scenery really was amazing and we stopped off to look at a hot springs and some floating lily pads along the journey.  Rio Dulce town has an enormous bridge spanning the banks of the river to allow road traffic to head towards Semuc Champey, Tikal and Guatemala City. The bridge is very impressive when viewed from the water. I didn’t linger in Rio Dulce town but was picked up in a boat (lancha) and taken to my accommodation in the mangroves a little way back down the river. I was staying in a little resort called Casa Perico – hidden in the mangroves in a side branch of the river dulce. It was a simple but beautiful place, run by a Swiss guy and his son. I used one of the canoes to paddle out into the river proper for a swim before relaxing the afternoon away in a hammock. It was a very relaxing way to end the day!

Friday 29th July. Livingston to Rio Dulce

This morning I took the famous boat trip from Rio Dulce to Livingston along Rio Dulce (The sweet river). I took a small local boat called a lancha – which is a lot cheaper than a tourist boat tour. The lancha took me up the river. In one section, Rio Dulce has high limestone cliffs on both sides covered with jungle. It’s really beautiful and at one point there was a place where a hot spring mixed with the river water making a natural hot pool for swimming. We didn’t have time to get out of the boat and swim which was a shame, but it was a little bit of a strange set up anyway so I don’t know if I would have gone swimming anyway! After a while we passed out of the narrow part of the river into a more open part – this is where the Rio Dulce joins Lake Izabal – the largest lake in Guatemala. We passed through a section where lilipads floated on the surface of the lake and continued our journey into the town or Rio Dulce. The town has a huge bridge which connects the north of the country with the south east and the capital Guatemala City. The boat driver kindly called up the owner of my accommodation to come and pick me up. I was staying a little bit back down the river in a place nestled in amongst the mangroves on a side part of the river. The place was really relaxing but there were a lot of mosquitos – and they surprisingly were interested in biting me! In the afternoon I took the canoe and paddled out the main lake where they had a pontoon that I could relax on and jump off for a swim. The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing in the hammock and enjoying the solitude of the place. 

Saturday 30th June

Took the hotel boat today back into Rio Dulce town to take some time exploring Lago Izobal. First stop was to walk over the impressive bridge for a great view down to the lake from both sides. There were lots of boats busily making their way to and fro on the water. Lots of cars stop at the top of the bridge (there isn’t a slip lane) and everyone gets out and takes photos. This creates quite a bit of traffic congestion but no one seems to mind too much! My next stop was for the hot spring waterfall. It was located in a place called Finca Paraiso – about 40 minutes in a very crammed microbus around the edge of Lago Izobal. I paid the entry fee and walked down the well marked track to the waterfall. Before I got there I reached the car park which I was surprised to see was full of cars and buses! It seemed that I wasn’t going to have this “secret” place all to myself! Another 5 minutes up the path alongside the river and I arrived at the hot waterfalls. This place was amazing! You could see the steaming water of the waterfall pouring over the top of the rocks and into the cold pools below. People were milling about in the water – transitioning between the hot and the cold water and standing under the flow of the hot water as long as they were able to stand it. Others were climbing up to the top of the waterfall and jumping the 5m or so into the water below. There was a spot where you could work up the stone and create a face mask too. It was paradise! I spent about 3 hours soaking in the water – relaxing and exploring the different areas of the rock pool. You were even able to duck underneath a stone edge at the foot of the waterfall and stand behind the falls which was something completely different! It was an amazing place! Very very cool. 

After the falls I visited a place called El Castillo (The castle). This castle was built in the 1500’s to protect the town from Carribean Pirates. It turned out though that the pirates were going out of fashion at about that time and so the strength of the castle was never tested. Now it makes a great place for photos and a picnic or swim for the locals. A lancha driver who was taking some Guatemaltecos on a tour, offered to take me back into Rio Dulce town for a reasonable price and so I got a bit of a tour of the lake from the water for really cheap which was great.  

Sunday 1st July.

Marked the new month by heading to a new country on an epic day of overland travel. First a boat from my hostel to Rio Dulce, Then a couple of buses to take me to the border with Honduras. After paying the exit fee and getting my passport stamped, I walked into Honduras and caught a local bus to a place called Puerto Cortes. As I was wondering how I would find my next bus to take me to San Pedro Sula – a guy jumps on my bus yelling out “San Pedro Directo!”. So I was off onto the next bus – direct to the city which used to be the murder rate capital of the world – San Pedro Sula. I was only there for a couple of minutes before the next bus set off my final destination for the day: La Ceiba. The last bus took 3.5 hours so all in all a long day of travel. I had some delicious Papusas for dinner and treated myself to an airconditioned room for the night.