Running out of gas on Lago Izabal

Published: April 8th 2006
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Hot WaterfallHot WaterfallHot Waterfall

The water coming over is very hot. The stream that feeds into to the pool from the left of the waterfall is cool water.
Remember the theme song to Gilligan's Island: something about thinking they were going out for a three hour cruise? Well, that's about how our adventure as three middle aged couples lost in the marshes of Lago Izabal began...

We had great trip out to Finca Parasio in the morning. We took a boat with the same captain as we used yesterday for the Livingston trip, and brought along our Canadian friends and another couple from their marina. The trip to the finca (ranch) takes about an hour from our hotel, along a lakeshore populated with wealthy residents at first, and then abruptly changing to mangrove swamps interspersed with cattle pastures and an occasional fisherman's home. The Mayans living in this area were attacked by the military during the uprising in the 80's and some villages were almost wiped out, I've heard.

The falls were a 40 minute walk through pasture land. The falls themselves were beautiful. The setting looked a lot like Denny Creek (known to all of you have been camping with my class!). But it was absolutely amazing to swim out in the cool water fed by a mountain stream and then go under the hot water
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I am under the falls!
coming over the falls! The water is almost too hot to stay under....and you can go beneath the ledge at the bottom of the falls where the rocks are brilliant green from the sulphur and it feels like a mini sauna! It was wonderful...we spent two hours or more there and then walked back to the shore where our boat was waiting for us....

The trip back was uneventful, but very windy and rough... until our captain started looking quite worried, and scanning coast for something. In a minute, it was clear: he had been looking for someone who might have gas at their house....The boat engine cut out and we began drifting in the wind and waves.

And quickly the situation became more serious as:

1. The one cell phone on board did not pick up a signal
2. The boat drifted (even with the anchor) out of sight of the path of any possible passing boats, into a cove
3. The shore we were headed towards was a jungle of mangroves with no place to land
4. And there were no signs of humans near enough to signal....

The boat finally came ashore
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This where we drifted ashore..into a swamp, possibly filled with snakes. We didn't actually see anything alive but horses in the distance.
at place where we could get out into the swamp. We could see a building across the cove, and watched a dug out canoe return to shore there. We decided to try to walk to the house and get help, but turned out to be impossible because of a river blocking our way. Next we decided to walk along the shore, but this was difficult because the water was muddy and there were many submerged branches. Then the captain returned after trying to get the house himself and told us to get out of the water because there were poisonous water snakes! The men found wood to use as poles and with the one paddle on board and the poles, we made some progress towards the house, only to be turned around by the wind. At this point, we realized that groups of poeple had gathered to watch us by the house...but made no attempt to come to our rescue.

Finally we spotted the dugout coming towards us! The two men in the canoe quickly boarded our boat, and paddled us to what turned out to be their village in minutes...and they were small men!

As we neared
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One of our rescuers, paddling us into shore.
the village, all the children ran down to water to stare. The men told us they had seen us and heard our calls for help, but were afraid of us. The people were talking to each other in a Mayan dialect, but understood our captain's request for gasolina. Unfortunately, they were out and the headman had gone into town to get some, but wouldn't be back til dark. The phone still had no reception.

The children were shy at first and then began to try to talk to us. They found us extremely amusing, and clearly had little or no contact with gringos before. There were about 40 children in all, and I soon found out that the main building was the school, where they all went (first to sixth grades) with one teacher. It got later and later and our options quickly became:

1. Walk to the dirt road and hope somebody drove by. This was unlikely the later it got.
2. Camp in the school for the night
3. Hope gasolina showed up soon

It was technology that rescued us...after an hour or so in the village, someone appeared with a different company's cell phone
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Our welcoming party
that did get service there, and help (in the form of our captain's boss and an extra tank of gas) was quickly on the way.

Everyone gathered on the shore to see us off. By everyone, I mean just the kids. Only one or two of the men came out while we there, and the women stayed a distance from us. Some of the teenage boys spoke with us, but otherwise it was the kids that interacted with us.

We decided to return the next day (Bill and I postponed our departure) with school supplies and other stuff we had amongst us for the village. A man who works here at Tortugal went along and will be our liason for future aid for the village. Unfortunately, the teacher wasn't there when we came, but the whole village turned out for our return! Our friends, Cosmos and Donna, had hats, pocket knives, and binoculars for the men who paddled us in and gifts of rope, soap, and razors for the parents. They had school supplies left from their trip to Cuba earlier this year and I added the rest of the crayons (thank you kids from my class). Kevin
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Some of the children
from Tortugal brought pencils for everyone. We bought each of the kids a bag of chips from the tiny we were leaving, a girl with some kind of palsy came up to us with a gift of bananas and gave us was a marvelous morning! And very hard to leave....

And now it is our last evening here..the sun has set, I've been for a swim and taken a shower (Tortugal has the best showers in Central America)...tomorrow we take two buses and will hopefully end up in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. We will spend the dreaded Semana Santa there (the traffic has already increased today with those leaving for vacation early) and hope to do some hiking in the national parks. But we are leaving a very wonderful place....

Additional photos below
Photos: 12, Displayed: 12


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The kids looking at their pictures with Donna
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The day we returned to the village: this is inside the school. The kids were so happy to show us the classroom and their few books.
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Me with the kids and their new pencils
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Walking through the village, on a tour lead by the kids..this is the church.
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The giant ceiba tree in the middle of the village commons. These trees are sacred for the Mayans, so they have not been cut down. The Mayans believe that the cieba is the axle of the earth.
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Getting ready to leave the village

8th April 2006

What an adventure!
They say it's not really an adventure unless, while it's happening, you wish only that you were at home in your own bed. I'm really enjoying following your travels. And not at all surprised that you were adopted by a cat.
8th April 2006

WHich Gilligan character where you? ha ha. At least you didn't loose your keys.
8th April 2006

In God We Trust...
Behind that kind man rowing you to sure, does it actually say "In God We Trust" on the boat bow? That quote must have been first said before the discovery of gasoline... so glad you survived... another memory maker! That waterfall looks like heaven! Will you ever return? Love, SC
10th April 2006

well, there ya go....the "BIG" adventure of your trip.... glad you all stayed safe, and didn't get bit by a poisonous snake! great pictures....keep them coming! fran
5th May 2006

I meet those kids too!!
I met those kids too. When I was in the farm, I played with those kids all day. Their were crying when we had to leave. I plan going back soon (hopeful) and next year I am taking Spanish as an elective next year, so I am going to push myself until I learn it. We had so much fun on the last day we had a carnival and we taught how to make s’mores. We help them swim in a warm waterfall (cold water) and we played on a HUGE swing for hours. It was so much fun. I hope you had so much fun as I did. Good wishes, Ella P.S. When are coming back to school!?

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