Due to the large number of photos, this day is divided into two parts. Part 1 includes up through our morning trip to the Castillo de San Felipe, and Part 2 will cover our trip to town, lunch, and dinner.
We got up early(ish) on this beautiful, bright Monday morning so that we could have breakfast, wash dishes, and be off the boat by 7 am as Simon had requested. It turned out that our space on the dock was a great place to watch the local boats come and go in the morning at the complex of buildings and boat ramp next door to the boat yard.
View from s/v Hope
Morning men's club, Guatemala style
Our spot was also a good place to do some birding. There was a lot of action in a bank of trees across the water, though we wish it had been just a bit closer so we could have identified more, but our binoculars did help a lot. Bruce and Chunky joined Barry and me in the bird watching while Ruthie prepared the daily eggs and sausage for the crew. (Barry and I made our usual oatmeal.)
We were particularly impressed with this "oriole morning meeting" we witnessed. The one male with orange breast was glowing so brightly it looked like neon through the binoculars. I suspect he's "top bird" in this flock.
Orioles and friends
We were excited to add a new bird to our life list, the Montezuma Oropendola. We got a better photo of one later, at the park.
Promptly at 7 am, the boatyard workers splashed the Moorings catamaran, as promised, so that s/v Hope could take its place on the hard.
Worker under the Moorings cat
After everyone had eaten and the dishes were washed (a rotating duty among the crew, although Captain Clive often beat us to it and did it so fast we hardly realized he'd already done it), we debarked s/v Hope to begin our day of sightseeing in Rio Dulce.
Cap't Simon bidding (L) bidding farewell to the motley crew
We happened to see this boat with bleating cargo nearby as we were leaving. Somehow I don't think these cuties were destined to be someone's pets, but perhaps at least "mama" will be kept for wool and milk.
Barry and I led Bruce, Chunky, and Ruthie to the park we had found the previous day. Here are some of the sights we saw on our walk along the way.
Chickens alongside the road
Cute Guatemalan making tortillas for sale
The pool hall from the night before, in the light of day
Castillo de San Felipe
The park that Barry and I had discovered by chance on the walk the day before turned out to be a national park, much to our surprise. It was the site of the Castillo de San Felipe de Lara
, a Spanish colonial fort located at the entrance to Lake Izabal, just beyond where s/v Hope
was docked. According to Wikipedia
, King Philip II of Spain
ordered the fort to be erected in an attempt to reduce pirate activity in the area.
The park proved to be a super interesting and beautiful spot, whether your tastes ran to history or flora and fauna. The entry fee of 20 Quetzales per person, or a little less than $3, was a ridiculous bargain (for a national park?!) We had a brief conversation in our very best "Spanglish" with the two friendly government workers who took our fee. Since were the only tourists there at that time, I am sure they were glad to see us.
The park was surrounded by water on three sides, and there were beautiful trees, foliage, and greenery on the walk to the fort, which lay at the end of the road.
There were a ton of leafcutter ants
in the park. I'd never seen these interesting creatures before and found them fascinating.
Leafcutter ants bringing leaf pieces down tree trunk
Lovely road to fort through the lush, tropical foliage
Ruthie and Bruce
There was a graveyard in the park
We thought the lace drapings on the graves were interesting
Huge tree with snake cacti and orchids growing all over the branches
Park gift shop
Orchids were even growing on the wires
Approaching the fort -- these cannons meant business in their day
Castillo de San Felipe looks small from this shot, but inside, it's HUGE
The first tower of the fort was built in 1595
The fort was rebuilt for the second time in 1651
Moat around fort
After signing in, we were free to roam at will all over the fort. I only saw one guard on the second level. We had tons of fun exploring it at our own pace. We were the only people in it the entire time! When we left, we finally saw some other folks signing in.
Emily signing in
There were many rooms and passageways all over the fort. Easy to get lost in!
This room had a large, old wood dining table in it
Chunky on the stairs
Bruce and me
The view was stunning!
Chunky and Ruthie on the "rooftop terrace"
Barry got this view from a high tower
Barry is a bit too tall for this doorway
Chunky, Bruce, Ruthie, and Emily
The drawbridge over the moat
These are the cranks and chains used to raise and lower the drawbridge
Barry bravely ventured down into some dark, dungeon-like rooms that he lit up with only his camera's flash
Emily up in the tower
Steep steps to the tower with no hand rail -- this would certainly be roped off in the US, but no one stopped us from climbing them here!
On our way back through the park after thoroughly scoping out the fort, we heard the most interesting bird song. We finally found the singer up high in a tree above us -- the same species as we'd seen in the morning from the boat: the Montezuma Oropendola. What an exotic bird!
We spent even more time watching the leafcutter ants on the way out. We were amazed to see the trails they had created in the forest, like miniature hiking trails. And the mound they were going to and from was absolutely huge! I could have watched these industrious little guys all day long. One thing I wondered about is all the ants going along with the ones carrying leaves that weren't appearing to do any work themselves. Are those the "manager ants", barking orders to the workers?! Some things are universal, I guess....
Army of leafcutters
Leafcutter ant mound
A leafcutter ant trail -- just imagine the thousands of trips back and forth it must have taken to create this path.
After leaving the park, Ruthie wanted a cold drink, so she stopped at a little shop on the roadside. She was also trying to explain that she wanted some ice to put in her water bottle, but found it hard to do with hand gestures, since the woman running the shop spoke only Spanish. Fortunately, Barry and I had brought along our Spanish for Cruisers book, so we were able to come up with the term hielo (ice). The woman immediately understood and went over to chip her off some ice from a block -- not cubes, as we would have expected.
After leaving the little shop, we were all standing around discussing what to do next, when a young boy (likely the son of the woman running the shop) came running over to us. Ruthie had left her camera on the counter, and he was returning it. What a wonderful thing, and not something we'd necessarily have expected in a third-world country. Ruthie went over to thank him again and took him a US dollar as a reward, which I am sure made his day. His simple act of honesty brought a smile to us all.
Stay tuned for Guatemala Cruise Day 3, Part 2: A Long Day in Rio Dulce