Souvenirs from our trip to Guatemala
Barry and I been overwhelmed by all the positive comments we've received on our blog postings on our recent sailing cruise to Guatemala. We've heard from readers in blog comments, on Facebook, on the Ambergriscaye.com forum (where the moderator posted each daily update), and in person. We're delighted and honored that we were able to share this incredible journey with each of you and appreciate knowing that you enjoyed our words and photos.
Since Weebly makes it difficult to find older posts at times, and scrolling through posts with many photos takes awhile, I wanted to include a list of direct links to each day's postings on the trip for those who may have missed it or want to bookmark this page for later reading. I hope this is helpful -- it will even help me find each page in the future!
As I mentioned at the end of yesterday's post
, I nabbed the 4:30 am night watch shift, which meant I'd get to see the sun rise. Even though I hit the hay early and got everything ready to go the night before (binoculars, camera, windbreaker, hat, etc.), the alarm on my cell phone startled me when it rang at 4:25. It was pitch dark, and as I struggled up into the galley, I was relieved to see Ruthie just getting off her shift. She very kindly made me coffee before retreating to her cabin. Nothing had ever tasted better.
I took the helm with Simon, and it was eerie not being able to see anything in front of us. To the port side, I saw a city and asked him if it was Caye Caulker or San Pedro. "Belize City", he replied. Duh...I really was
sleepy. Obviously we weren't far enough along for either of the Cayes.
The sunrise was as dramatically beautiful as I'd hoped thanks to the low cloud banks, so I was sure I had nabbed the best watch time. Only Simon and I got to witness this amazing sequence.
I was glad I'd brought my binoculars as Simon needed help seeing some markers of shoals and later, lobster areas. These were mostly just sticks coming out of the water or milk jugs and difficult to see. We actually saw the depth sounder read .1 foot (yes, that's "point one"!) of water under the keels for a short while. Scary! He reminded me that we didn't even have a depth sounder on the way down. He had been nervous when we passed this same way heading south, while most of us laid around oblivious on the trampoline!
Barry had thought he might get up with me, but he didn't quite make it. He did finally stagger out of bed around 6 am or so and grabbed a couple of photos of Simon and me at the helm.
It was a bit chilly in the early morning hours
Eventually everyone else groggily emerged from their berths and greeted the day. I am sure Chunky and Ruthie were very tired as it sounded like they both stayed up for at least part of the other's watches. From what I heard, Chunky and Clive were so busy chatting it up at the helm that they went a bit off course and got a stern talking to from Simon. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall for that one! And when Ruthie and Clive were at the helm, sounds like Ruthie's electronic tablet "Tabby" got quite a workout. Simon and I were both too tired for that kind of frivolity.
When Ruthie got up, she scrambled up all the remaining eggs. She even got creative and fried all the leftover lunch meat (ham and salami), since the breakfast sausage was gone. I broke down and ate eggs and meat to help out the cause -- I hate wasting food. It was truly delicious.
Barry cut all the mangoes up for breakfast
Nice big breakfast for one and all on our last morning aboard
Chunky enjoying his breakfast
After breakfast, we started getting close to our final destination, San Pedro. Barry commented that it felt strange to be returning to San Pedro as "home" rather than coming here on vacation. True, true. It's a great place to come home to, and we had a gorgeous day for a homecoming.
San Pedro comes into view
Colorful San Pedro waterfront
Simon docked the boat to get fuel, then left the dock and anchored a bit away. S/v Hope had to stay at anchor until we all checked in with Belize Customs and Immigration.
Clive tosses a line to a helper on the fuel dock
Simon gassing up the boat
Belize flag and yellow Quarantine flag flying until we clear customs and immigration
Ruthie filling out her immigration form for entry into Belize
It's hard to believe our journey is almost over
Barry casting off the line as we leave the dock
Clive setting the anchor
Emily filling out immigration form
Bruce and Clive checking that the anchor is set
The crew setting off in the dinghy
Simon secures the dinghy as the crew hits the dock
We all walk to customs & immigration to check back into Belize
Crew waiting as Simon checks us in
I learned a valuable lesson about checking back into Belize. Always verify the date they write on your passport for your "length of visit" while you are there. I had filled out both Barry and my forms indicating we would be staying 30 days, the longest you can stay on a tourist visa without a renewal. We didn't check our passports when we got them back from Simon nor until the next day at home. When I finally did check them, I was given the full 30 days, but Barry was only given 7 days! We went to Immigration the next day to try to get it corrected, but they refused to budge. I don't know if they don't keep copies of the form or they just won't pull them, but the officer insisted that we asked for 7 days, we got 7 days. It made no difference that I filled out both the forms or that we live here, so asking for 7 days would have made no sense. It was her word against ours. Very frustrating, but there's nothing we can do about it now. Lesson learned.
After we checked in, Simon and Clive had to accompany the customs officers onto s/v Hope for customs inspection, so they headed out in the dinghy. This is where they verify that you don't have any prohibited items onboard, like Mexican beer (sob). They also checked the duty-free quantity of rum that we had declared. We had to leave all our bags and luggage aboard for this inspection.
Customs officers heading out to s/v Hope with Simon and Clive
s/v Hope cleared to return to the dock
Once Hope was safely tied up at the dock, it was time to climb back aboard one last time and grab our luggage. Barry and I had planned to ride back to our condo on the Coastal Xpress water taxi, drop our gear, grab our bikes, and pedal back to town to pick up Paisley at Pampered Paws. Unfortunately, when we got to the taxi dock, we found out that we were smack dab in the middle of northbound runs that were two hours apart. It was too early for lunch, and neither of us wanted to wait an hour, so we made a quick decision to splurge on a land taxi. We walked down to Pampered Paws to pick up Paisley, then grabbed a taxi to take all of us home. I confess that I was kind of happy not to have to ride my bike as I was really tired and a bit off-balance from the boat travel and really wanted a restful afternoon.
Picking up Paisley at Pampered Paws -- she is at the bottom of photo on leash, and her new friend Tyler is behind the puppy fence
The good folks at Pampered Paws posted the photos below on Facebook. The one of Paisley and Biggy playing tug-o-war was posted while we were on the trip, and Ruthie actually brought it up on her tablet, Tabby, while we were out at sea. It was great to see that Paisley was having fun and had been reunited with her friend Biggy from her first visit there. The second photo was posted the day she left and is one of the sweetest pictures I've ever had of her. Thanks Pampered Paws!
Biggy and Paisley playing
Paisley at Pampered Paws
What an adventure! All in all we sailed/motored approximately 400 miles. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Chunky and Ruthie for telling us about this amazing opportunity, and to TMM Yacht Charters
and Captains Simon Backley and Clive Forman for letting us join the makeshift crew on s/v Hope's
voyage. As Simon said on Facebook after the fact, to him, this trip was just work, but to some of us, he now realized it was the trip of a lifetime. Yes it was, Simon, yes it was!
When you last left our intrepid crew, we had just left our morning tour of the Castillo de San Felipe.
After that, it was time to venture into town for more exploring. Simon had advised us to catch one of the vans that rides through the area picking up passengers to go to town. This area is not populated enough to support full-size buses, I guess, so the vans stood in, and it was amazing how many people they managed to pack into these utilitarian vehicles.
We were able to catch one fairly quickly and hop aboard along with several locals. More stops were made to pick up additional locals along the way as well. The ride to town was approximately 10 minutes and cost 35 Quetzales for the five of us (just under $5 total).
Ruthie, Bruce, and Chunky in the van in front of us
The town of Rio Dulce (aka Fronteras) was bustling and definitely a new experience for us. This was not a tourist town, so it was populated with locals going about their daily marketing and business. All the signs were in Spanish. There were fruit markets, clothing markets, hardware stores, convenience stores, pharmacies, and street vendors. And traffic. Although I sometimes complain about the traffic in San Pedro, there was much more here, and as pedestrians, we really had to watch our step to avoid all the motor bikes and vehicles zipping along, not to mention the large trucks. It seemed that the town was just this one long road, so all the traffic had to share this road with the vendors and pedestrians.
Right as we got out of the van, we ran into Clive, who had come to town on an earlier van to buy a few items. We immediately grabbed him and appointed him our guide, since he'd been here before and spoke Spanish, an excellent and handy combination.
Clive leads the motley crew down the busy street
Emily and Clive, with Bruce, Ruthie, and Chunky not far behind
I would love to see fruit stands like these in San Pedro -- they had it all!
MANGOES! Can't buy them in Belize this time of year, so we were happy to find this fruit market and planned to return
Street food vendors
The vendor in the pink apron did not look like she was having a very good day
Clive suggested we walk over the big bridge that we'd seen from the boat, and that sounded like a good plan to us. It was a warm day, but we badly needed to take advantage of the opportunity to get some exercise after so much time onboard s/v Hope. And we knew the views would be fantastic.
Clive leading the way
Views of valleys and mountains...
...and the river below
We noticed that the unmistakable smell of cows (and cow manure) in the air as we began walking up the bridge sidewalk. We soon figured out that this smell came from cow trucks that drove over the bridge loaded down with their bovine cargo. The trucks had slats on the side through which the cows frequently "let the shit fly", and it was deposited on the road. This was a truck you would not want to get too close to!
Going back the other way - for some reason the sidewalk on this side was only half the width of the other side
More views from the bridge
After finishing walking over the bridge and back, our crew was getting pretty peckish for a bite of lunch. Clive thought he knew a good place to take us, so we trekked back down the road to get there.
Though the town was interesting, I couldn't live with this much traffic on a day-to-day basis.
We did like these little cabs that zipped around
Bulk food market -- love it!
Another interesting store, especially if you needed rope
The colors of Rio Dulce -- I love the plants along the shelf of the apartment on the third floor!
To get to the restaurant on the waterfront we had to walk right past this large supermercado (supermarket), so we stopped in to have a look at prices. We decided we'd stop in again on the way out so we wouldn't have to carry any packages with us. When we did return, Barry and I bought a bottle of 12-year old aged rum at the stunning price of $10 US and some sensitivity toothpaste. Ruthie and Chunky bought a couple of bottles of the rum and some more eggs for the boat. Belize allows bringing in one liter of spirits per person duty-free, so we figured we'd take advantage.
Onward to the restaurant
Guatemalan currency: Quetzales
We were the only customers in the restaurant, but we were still a little early for lunch (i.e., before noon). We sat down and ordered beverages and were a bit surprised to see the young waitress leave the restaurant to go purchase them. At the time, we didn't really think too much of it, since this was a different country, and we weren't really sure what was "normal". We enjoyed the great view and good conversation while she was gone.
(L to R): Ruthie, Chunky, Clive, Bruce, and Barry
Lovely view from our table
Boats and water hyacinths
Before too long, she came back with our beverages, and we asked her about a couple of items on the menu. One Mexican choice sounded really good, so most of us ordered it. She left the restaurant again, and we joked that she was off buying the ingredients. At some point not long after this, someone noticed that she was back, and I believe that Clive went over to talk to her. It turned out that she really wasn't prepared to serve lunch and the owners weren't there. I am not sure why she even took our order, but since it was now apparent we were not going to be eating there, we paid for our drinks and left. Fortunately, this entire process didn't take too long, and Clive knew of another waterfront place we could eat. We laughed off our Guatemalan "lunch" experience and proceeded on our way.
No, we didn't break down and take one of these...we continued on foot
Our next stop, just a few blocks down, was Bruno's Hotel & Marina. Bruno's had a restaurant, bar, and swimming pool, and was a pretty cool spot.
They had this cool canoe sink to wash up before or after eating
(L to R): Clive, Bruce, Chunky, Ruthie, and me -- hoping to get fed this time!
Another beautiful view from our table
We first ordered drinks from their extensive menu. Barry and several others ordered mojitos, but I saw a Caipirinha
on the menu and remembered that it had been recommended by Rebecca on her SanPedroScoop
blog, so I had to try one (and it was so good, I ended up having another!) This is now my new favorite drink, but since it requires a special kind of rum that is not widely available in Belize, who knows when I will find one again. Since it's the national drink of Brazil, I guess we'll just have to visit there one day -- hopefully when our Spanish is a bit better!
We had Mexican food on the brain since our first attempt at lunch was foiled, so Barry and I both ordered the chicken quesadillas with black beans and fresh salsa. By this time, it was getting close to 1pm, and considering that we had eaten breakfast before 7, we were starved. The food couldn't have been more tasty.
After lunch, we bought some fruit, which was amazingly cheap. Barry and I got two small mangoes, two bananas, and a lime for 2 Q (approximately 27 cents -- are you kidding me?!?!) Chunky also bought some mangoes.
An embarrassment of mangoes
Clive helping Chunky buy fruit
The sundress incident.
Our group decided we'd had enough sun, fun, and walking, but the next van back to Abelle's was not leaving town for about 30 minutes, so Ruthie and I decided to do a little "window" shopping while we waited. I happened to see a cute gauzy Indian sundress (used, certainly, but I'm an ebay shopper, so that kind of thing doesn't bother me) hanging at one of the open-air shops and was wondering if it would fit and how much it was (no prices are marked in these little shops).
Ruthie encouraged me to ask how much it was, saying that it would look great on me, so I finally asked the lady how much it was. "Veinticinco quetzales" (25 Q) was her reply. I knew this was a really low price, under $4, so I ran back over to where Barry was standing to get some money from him. When I got back to the shop, I immediately handed the lady the 25 Q, before Ruthie could say "Wait!" Turns out, she had already given 20 Q to the young man also working there, and was looking for the other 5 Q in her wallet. Now we had a problem. We'd overpaid, and they would not return Ruthie's money! Of course, the language barrier was a bit of an issue, but we knew that they knew that we'd overpaid. They kept pointing at the other clothing hanging up, indicating, I suppose, that Ruthie could pick another item. But our money had disappeared into their pockets, and they just smiled when we tried to explain (in English) that she should be given her money back since I had paid in full.
Turns out that Ruthie was trying to buy me the dress as a gift, which was super sweet of her, but because we didn't communicate, we got burned. The amount lost was less than $3 US, truly insignificant in the big picture, and Ruthie was quick to forget it, but I was angry because of the principle of the thing. But there you have it: a lesson learned; fortunately, not an expensive one. It would have been much worse if the little boy hadn't brought Ruthie her forgotten camera that morning, so putting it into perspective, it really wasn't a big deal, it just offended my sense of fairness.
Yelling about how the little shop behind me ripped us off!
Back at home, I do like the dress
Ruthie had a bit of fun at my expense on the van ride back to the boat, talking about how I was about to punch the guy for taking her money, but of course I wasn't really. Really I wasn't! I might have a sharp tongue at times, but violence is not in my repertoire. :-)
Back at the boat yard, s/v Hope was at anchor. The transducer had already been repaired on the hard, and she'd been put back into the water. After picking us up in the dinghy, Simon told us he'd had a problem with one of the engines after they splashed the boat, but they were able to find the appropriate part and get it fixed quickly, so we were still on schedule for a Tuesday morning departure. I am sure he and Clive were really relieved, but the rest of us probably wouldn't have minded another day aboard. We were having fun!
s/v Hope at anchor, and Simon speeding over to us in the dinghy
Local ladies doing laundry in the river
Simon picking up Clive and the motley crew...er...tagalongs
Nice view of the fort we'd visited that morning from s/v Hope at anchor
Once the engine repair was complete, Simon informed us that we'd be pulling up to the other dock for the night, since the dock we'd stayed the previous night was now full.
Clive weighing the anchor -- it had a remote control!
Bruce assisting with docking
Bruce swabbing the decks to clean up after the workers left
After everyone relaxed for awhile and had showers, we got ready to head out to dinner at Rosita's at a nearby marina to meet Lori and Peter, who were friends of Simon, Chunky, and Ruthie. I guess they used to live in San Pedro but were now cruising on their boat in the area. We got to ride in the dinghy to the restaurant.
Simon, Emily, and Chunky on the dinghy ride
Bar at Restaurante Rosita's
In addition to Lori and Peter, Captain Roberto from the Winnie Estelle came and joined us. He had some really great stories.
(L to R): Lori, Peter, Simon, Bruce, Clive, Roberto, Barry, Chunky
We were having our usual difficult time with the Spanish menu, and Clive was trying to help our end of the table, while Lori helped the other end. Barry wanted what he thought was baked fish with salsa, but ended up with what looked like pan-fried fish with no salsa. When Clive reminded the waitress of the salsa, he ended up with a big bowl of tartar sauce, which was perhaps correct, but not the type of "salsa" we had imagined. Also, one of the side dishes that could be substituted for French fries was rice and beans, which Barry thought Clive ordered for him, but he ended up with fries anyway. Barry really never eats fried food, so this was not the meal he was hoping for at all. After the chicken soup fiasco the night before, I felt so bad that he was having yet another dinner disaster. He did say it tasted good, but just wasn't what he expected.
My meal, on the other hand, was perfect. I had the shrimp and conch platter. Yum!
In retrospect, Barry and I really wished we'd just stayed onboard s/v Hope, made our own dinner, and let the others go hang out with their friends. As introverts, we need more recharge time than we had been getting, and we were over tired from our long and busy day. This made the dinner seem to go on forever. Then trying to deal with dividing the check and the currency exchange rate took much longer and became far more complicated than it should have. We just wanted to get out of there and get some much-needed shut-eye. Simon wanted to leave the dock by 4:30 am, and by the time we got ready for bed, it was already 11 o'clock, when we would have liked to be in bed by 9-ish. If we'd known what the next day had in store for us, we might all have done things a bit differently.
Stay tuned for Guatemala Cruise Day 4: The sea was angry that day, my friends