When it comes to write about Rio Dulce and Guatemala I really don’t know where to start and how to summarize all our time spent there. Since arriving from Guanaja island we lived there whole 10 MONTHS! Longest time we’ve spent in a same place living on boat since we started our adventure on 2014. For us, nomads, believe, that’s A LONG TIME!
But here need to highlight, that it was a very special time spend there during which we made amazing friends, got to know amazing country and enjoyed their amazing people and local life. And after all it doesn’t surprise us anymore why Rio Dulce is called cruisers paradise and the best HURRICANE HOLE in whole Caribbean Sea.
Despite really hot and very humid climate, mosquitos, crazy noise from the tracks crossing the river by bridge near Fronteras town and lots of water during rainy months, this is a place where one can live on his boat for a long time.
Because of that in the area you can meet many cruisers (it is true that most of them are retired couples) who comes here every year for hurricane months or even lives in Rio for few years.
In our cases we did not plan to stay so long, but because of Covid our time in Guatemala got much longer.
And for making the story a bit shorter and more structured I will divide it to -life in the river of Rio Dulce and discovering Guatemala inland.
HOW IS THE LIFE ON THE RIVER OF RIO DULCE
After the long and hot quarantine weeks in Nana Juana marina finally we were ‘free’ and started exploring surroundings. In the first two months as the COVID restrictions followed being quite strict, we stayed by boat at the marina. The prices of keeping your boat in the marinas in Guatemala are low comparing to others in Caribbeans, so it was not so painful to our pocket.
Nana Juana marina & resort is really AMAZING place – it’s enough to see what a beautiful and big swimming pool it has to like this place immediately. Being able to swim every day in a big pool was the best salvation from the crazy heat of Rio Dulce during the summer month. At the same time it became a place where we got to know most of the cruisers and spend hours talking around. Jura loved it as well and because during those months he was the only boat baby around ( apart from his little friend Theo, son of our friends Ezequiel and Xenia) everybody got to know him very well and became his aunts and uncles.
In a short time, we made so many friends and turned the place our home again.
Days were passing making small jobs on boat, enjoying swimming pool, making morning yoga, playing football with great guys working on site, enjoying amazing sunsets in the river and visiting the little town- FRONTERAS for shopping.
To be honest, for the size the town has, it provides all necessary stuff one can need. Good supermarkets which you can reach easily by dinghy, wide variety of cheap and fresh veggies and fruit in local market along the main street, restaurants, banks, chandlery shops, pharmacies, dentist, doctors, upholstery services (here we use the opportunity to recommend JESSICA CANVAS place ! They made us very good boat cover and the cushions), local mechanics, welders, wood workers and so on. And more you stay and walk around more you discover! Honestly it is a right place to start some big project on your boat because in a small area you get all you need. Ok, maybe some material it will cost you more (because of import) or will be difficult to get, but what concerns fibre, wood, steel, paint, soft fabrics it’s a right place to be. Just be ready to stand a crazy noise and chaos around?
What concerned us, we did not started any big project on boat. Having baby on board its was quite impossible to start any big job:) We postponed it for some time later. Maybe our boat suffered lack of attention, but instead of that we enjoyed the time discovering surroundings and knowing the people.
In the beginning we were moving around by dinghy or tuk tuk ( you can take it directly from the marina of Nana Juana). Later on, when boats could sail around took our Grain to explore the river.
In general, most of the locals moves around by fast lanchas because there are many places which you can reach by water only. Our dinghy in this case helped a lot, but what for local takes 5 minutes for our 3.5hp outboard it took ages. Like, for example, trip by dinghy to supermarket LA TORRE. And if you leave around midday be ready to suffer devasting as well. So going to supermarket usually was the trip of the week, which we cheered up taking a cold beer at town and buying to JURA his favourite CHOCO BANANA (frozen banana submerged in hot chocolate).
When the trips by pleasure boats were allowed again, we made some tours along the river and visited lake Izabal and our friends there. What is so good about cruising in river is that you can anchor anywhere you want and enjoy being totally in the wild listening howling monkeys and birds around. And enjoy the fresh water shower in the river! This is a kind of pleasure you dream about when you cruise in salty sea.
Rio Dulce is jungle river, where the crocodiles and snakes lives around. But after spending some time in Guatemala you get confidence that these creatures do not like to get closer where so many people lives and so many fast boats run around. Same about the manatees, which if you are lucky can see mostly on early mornings.
We heard stories about SNAKE entering the dinghy through pontoons, about big CROCODILES seen around some boats in one of the marinas, about the SCORPION sting to some friend and so on, but it happens so rarely, that you just can’t be afraid of everything and do not enjoy the place. And, here , we usually follow our rule- do what locals do. Although its true that we also once saw a coral snake passing close by Jura, manatees swimming next to dinghy …..
Its can be little scary and at the same time really beautiful - be a part of the life on river and little by little accept all things as normal.
Here Jura celebrated his 2 years birthday. In Nana Juana we organized his party and don’t know how much he enjoyed buy we did have a really great time. Despite being far away from our families the birthday did not lack anything on it!
Same as CHRISTMAS and NEW YEAR eve !Especially because we were lucky to have Egoi parents with us what made these dates more special.
They spend with us two months arriving just when the hurricane Eta was starting. At that moment we were in Guatemala capital. Egoi flew to Miami for boat delivery job and me with Jura together with his parents were planning our trip back to Rio. But then HURRICANE ETA came and because of the strong flood one of the bridges on the road to Rio broke and the road become inaccessible.
Many places in country got flooded. In Rio Dulce water in the river raised so much that pontoons in the marina became under the water. Luckily our Grain was ok and Nana Juana marina workers did a good job looking after of it. When we could finally get back to marina, we moved our boat to other place were the dock was higher and was easier to access. But not for a long time! In a short time, another HURRICANE IOTA came and it brought much more water!
Its important to tell that, when hurricanes hit Guatemala coast , because of the high mountain (canyons) on the entrance of the river, wind loose it strength and the area, where most of the boat stays gets just huge amount of rain ! Because of that river start growing and in IOTA case it raised so much that many houses ashore were flooded and families lost their homes.
Our Grain was OK (boats are made to float, no? ) , just the dock got totally under the water, electricity was cut of and the only possible way to reach it was going by dinghy. Thanks to Nana Juana owners till the water went down we were invited to use their beautiful resort room.
And despite this natural disaster it was so special to have our family with us. Especially when because of Covid we were never sure when we can meet again… Together with them we made nice trips to Guatemala inland- visited old towns, lakes, volcanoes and pyramids, but about that in next post.
For sure there are things I am forgetting or intentionally not writing here being afraid it going be too long or too boring to read. But if you have some questions about Rio Dulce , practical or personal ones, please, write in comments or personally to us.
This is a story about our life journey or better said is a story about our life afloat a sailing boat. Our trips, our adventures, our challenges and problems found on the way. Our everyday life floating and our unforgettable moments of sailing and tasting the worldl!
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"Cruising has two pleasures. One is to go out in wider waters from a sheltered place. The other is to go into a sheltered place from wider waters."
"The lovely thing about cruising is that planning usually turns out to be of little use."
"There are more sharks on the land than in the sea"
If you are going to do something, do it now. Tomorrow is too late.
Don't worry about the world ending today. It's already tomorrow in Fiji.
" Land was created to provide a place for boats to visit."
"A sailor is an artist whose medium is the wind. Live passionately, even if it kills you, because something is going to kill you anyway."
"A bad day at SEA is still better than a good day at work"
"The perfection of a yacht's beauty is that nothing should be there for only beauty's sake."
"Remember 'It was a professional who built the Titanic, It was an amateur who built Noah's Ark"
"Sailing - The art of slowly going nowhere at great expense. "
When life gives you a hundred reasons to cry, show life that you have a thousand reasons to smile.