The Wandke Wanderlust hit me about 3 months after settling in Placencia, and I immediately looked to my southern neighbor for an adventure! I started mentioning Guatemala to people around town, and everyone had a fantastic review or fond memory of time spent there, so I knew this was my ticket! The week before leaving, I heard a friend of a friend was planning on sailing his boat down to the Rio Dulce and he would be happy to have the company! Giddy up! With this news, Antony, my friend who recently moved here from England, said he was up for a road trip and could these two visiting ladies he met join us as well? Bobby said Heck Yeah, the more the merrier, just don’t forget the rum! And with that, Bobby had his Mother Goose Crew; Ant from Southampton, Noa from Jerusalem, Kate from Manchester, and Wandke from Peshtigo. Combined hours of sailing experience: Zero.
Lucky for us, we choose to leave on Tuesday, March 1st, a day with as much wind as we had experience! The sea was a glass mirror and there was not a wave nor a wisp of breeze...but no matter to us! We left
Placencia at about 8am and about 8 friends were there to see us off into the great blue yonder….although they all said later they could still see us off in the horizon for over an hour! We spent the day motoring along and getting to know each other through stories of travel and home. Kate and Noa met in Mexico while both beginning extended travels down the continent, and had been traveling together for a few weeks. Sounds so familiar! I obviously instantly bonded with these awesome ladies, as we had too much to share with each other about independence, global awareness, and boys! Hahaha! And of course Bobby kept us on our toes with stories from a lifetime sailor… Give a sailor a $20 bill and clean pair of underwear on Sunday and by the end of the week he won’t have changed either of them! The sail down to the port city of Livingston took about 8 hours, and we decided to sail (at 1.6 knots) the last hour into the stunning harbor of Guatemala and the Rio Dulce. The mountains began to rise in front of us as the sun started to set, and the anticipation of
a new country to explore was imminent! As we neared the shoreline, the sandbars got tricky, and our hull hit bottom as we were shipwrecked! We spent some time trying to rock free when a dinghy of two familiar faces motored up with a grin. It was the crew from the SeaDragon, a boat that had left Placencia the day before, and they threw us a line to assist. The plan was to tie up to the top of the mast and pull the sail and boat on its side while the crew leaned over the side hanging and laughing for our lives! It only took a few minutes and we were free; owing only a few Gallo beers to two helpful and interesting sailors!
Actually, that day was many a new experience for me - since I had been stamped out at the Immigration of Belize the day before, and we arrived in Guatemala after Immigration closed for the day, I was officially illegal to be in any country! Ignoring this, we planned to head onshore to eat dinner and check out the scene! The dinghy for Mother Goose was big enough for only three people and ancient, with
a plywood bottom and a tiny 5 horsepower pull start motor that took 83 pulls to start! It was always hilarious to avoid getting knocked out by Bobby during this process and even funnier when we would watch him from shore going back to get the other two people and the motor would stop 50 yards from the boat and he would have to start the pull process all over again! We explored the small town in about 10 minutes and found a cute garden restaurant serving up burgers and Fried Chicken. I capitalize that Fried Chicken, as it came to be known to us as the national food of Guatemala! It’s served everywhere, including almost every street vendor, and it was always Hot, Crispy, and Delicious! We called it an early night as there wasn’t too much for the town to offer, and we were staying on a sailboat! It is much more fun to have our nightcap in the harbor under the moonlight!
First thing the next morning, a boat full of Guatemalan Immigration officials boarded our boat - the five extra people added hilarity to our small space and they were so friendly it felt more like
a fiesta! They asked us if we had guns or fruit, and genuinely seemed more worried about a fruit smuggle. They took our passports back to the mainland and finished processing while we enjoyed a huge eggs and cheese and fruit breakfast with - my favorite - watermelon juice! We checked in with no problems, and were sailing down the river by 9am with two other sailboats in front of us and our own gaggle of pelicans and egrets! The Rio Dulce is a spectacular sight; as the river narrows, the canyon walls rise up in white stone and lush green plants and trees. Huge flocks of birds were constantly swirling around and enjoying the views with us! The river was home to thousands of black Cormorants; unusual birds that sit on the surface and then dive underwater to catch fish - they are constantly disappearing and popping up all over the river with their catches!
Bobby’s plan was to moor his boat at the Texas Bay Marina, and our only directions were the photos I took of the detailed GPS maps at the Immigration station! Lucky there were no surprise sandbars and we found it no problem by midday!
We pulled into the small private cove and instantly fell in love with the location and the mega-yacht parked next to us! We strolled up to the inviting lodge, and ended up spending the next nine hours swapping beers and incredible stories with sailors from around the world! Noa and I slipped away for a super refreshing swim in the river, but other than that we were all completely captivated and entertained by each other! The owners of the marina returned from a trip to the States mid-afternoon, and the party stepped it up a notch - to a Welcome Home Party! It took another few hours for me to find the random bin of hats that have been left at the marina, and soon after that, Bobby and the owner were scat/be-boppin and dancing on the bar! We had a hilarious night on the boat as well, with only two sleeping berths and one person required to sleep on the kitchen table booth it was a series of musical beds! And when the rain started in the middle of the night, we had to scramble to get all of our backpacks and gear off the deck and into the
The next morning, the owners of the marina were kind enough to take us into Frontera, the town that is nestled between the Rio Dulce and largest lake in Guatemala, Lake Isabel. Our hosts offered us advice on a great hostel to stay at just outside the town, and then joined us for a pizza lunch on the waterfront! They had had a Gallo beer in their hands since we woke up that morning, and by lunch they were a hilarious amusement - and the pizza was pretty great too! Our final boat ride with our new friends was back across the river to the Hacienda Tijax - a super awesome jungle lodge on the river where we settled for the next four days. It was absolutely tragic to part with Captain Bobby - as he was flying back to the states from Guatemala City - and I look forward to seeing him back in Placencia next season!
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