|Check out this 4 legged spider!|
We had a very peaceful few days at Finca, watching the dug out canoes float past from the deck and listening to the birds from hammocks.
We were quite active at times: rope swinging off the rather high platform into the river, going on a morning jungle hike to a spectacular open cave called Tiger Cave...
We had an amazing lunch there called Tapado; the local specialty. It is a rich stew made from fish, shrimp, shellfish, coconut milk and plantain, spiced with curry and coriander. The result… absolutely delicious! And we don't even like fish. I think we need to stop saying that now and admit that our taste buds have developed a bit. You should have seen us trying to work out how to dissect the crab and de-scale the fish… Amateurs!
Typically this gave Kyle the chance to wander off to hide then scare the shit out of me “no one can here you scream” eek. The temptation to keep exploring through windy corridors into the darkness was too much, trying to remember our route for the way back was also a challenge.
Next we headed to a natural sauna in a mini cave in the steaming pouring from the rock, there were little wooden benches to sit on. We were sweating profusely! Finally we eased ourselves into the hot springs - Agua Caliente!! It simply spews into the river with nothing separating them. The stones were chucking super hot water- around 60 degrees so you could only bare getting so close! When mixed with the river water it made it a lovely warm temperature. If you'd lie still and let the water settle it would get seriously hot on the surface where the heat rises!
We went back to basics with hand washing on stone washboards - our clothes have not been this thoroughly cleaned in ages, usually resorting to hand washing in tiny private or shared bathroom sinks or even showers… luxurious eh?
Have a look...
We left on the 10am boat to Rio Dulce main town. We had a scenic route going past little communities that live on the river bank and amongst the mangroves, from restaurants to hostels and churches. This is a very popular spot for sailors to moore up off from the Carribean coastline for the Hurricane season. Our first friends Jessica and Matt were here a few months back with their boat for exactly that.
About 3 and a half hours in having climbed into the mountain the heavens opened. It was dark by now and heavy thunder and lightening began. We couldn't remember the last time we'd seen rain like this, in fact any rain at all! It was exciting!
The road was terrible, very rocky and bumpy. We hit a traffic block. I think there had been a bit of a landslide and so wasn't enough room for the traffic to pass easily. All we could make out in front of us through the steamed up windscreen was a truck that read 'peligroso explosivos'!! Our shuttle was full of girls bar Kyle and we all got a bit hysterical and giggly! Kyle moved to the front to sit with the driver; boys together getting in amongst the action. The girls thought Kyle was very entertaining, calling him a big kid. This was after watching him spend a good half hr hunting high and low in the mini-van for a lost camera lens cap whilst bumping all over the place “got nothing else to do eh?” he said! So anyway, after a good 20/30 minutes of waiting Kyle decided he had had enough. Much to the drivers dismay he got out of the van into the pouring muddy rain in a vesty, shorts and flip flops to add a little British organization to the situation. All the girls staring out the foggy windows in amazement. Before we knew it we were on the move again!
The next morning we went on a tour to the caves. More caves! The Caves land is owned by the hostel so when we booked the tour we get a little wonga off and a private guide, Awesome! And they were even better than before. In our swimmers and hiking shoes we entered the cave, and were given a candle each!
It was an incredible maze, wading through water sometimes up to our knees. At points the water was VERY deep and we were swimming through with one hand whilst holding our candles up. You had to be pretty fit and healthy, lots of serious scrambling and massive steps, no hard hats and no torches! We did a big jump from up high into the water. It was so scary because we couldn't see anything at all, where the rock finished and the water began! On another occasion we went into an enclosed space and the guide told me to sit in his lap- not having any idea what was about to happen and before Kyle could object, I was plunged down a shoot into deep water! What a shock!
Then came the relaxing part; tubing down the river back to Las Maria's. It was lovely and gentle, just taking in the surroundings, until Kyle spotted people jumping off a bridge and wanted to join in on the fun- 40 feet!! It was his highest ever jump and he survived! Thankful he was wearing shoes from the impact of the water!
That afternoon after showers and lunch we headed to the dock over the river to read and chill - well attempt to chill; a large group of Americans youths had arrived. We assumed another church group. They were playing on the hostel's rope swing (they seem to be everywhere in Guatemala!), being loud and distracting. Oh well!
Here we met locals, Anna and Jose; brother and sister, aged 10 and 7. They were selling chocolate which their mother had made. We chatted away in our best Spanish, Anna spoke a bit of English; which was really impressive. They were both very sweet. We learnt that they go to school in the morning which is a 2 hour walk away and in the afternoon they sell chocolate to the tourists by the side of the dirt road in front of our hostel. It was apparent how hard a life they were living, despite there big grins. I think all in all over the time we were there we bought about 10! Later, we also met Eddy, their other brother, aged 8. That evening all of us sat on the deck chatting, watching Kyle's films on our laptop and teaching them the full names of friends which they found highly amusing! They were great company, although they all had to disappear at 7pm because it was bath and dinnertime.
|In flip flops - opps!|
The following day we visited Semuc Champey National Park. We hiked up to the mirador (viewpoint) to find a beautiful aerial view of the stepped series of pools. The water ranged from turquoise to emerald green.
Being so hot and sweaty it didn’t take long to explore our way back down for a swim. Unfortunately the sun deserted us for the section of time that we braved the chilly water. Nevertheless we had great fun sliding and jumping into each pool and it soon felt warmer in than out.
We always get hungry on travel days and make our way through countless snacks and fast food. What we don't usually do is eat any local dodgy street food. Unfortunately our shuttle stopped at a locals' canteen for lunch. When we went to the counter, the dinner lady pulled back a big cloth to reveal warming meat (god knows how long it had all been there for) and as if it was day 1 of our travels and we knew no better we opted for some 'pork' and a strange looking sausage... Big mistake.
|Women's traditional dress|
After settling into our hostel and sharing one of their delicious stone oven pizzas for dinner we went for a drink at a local restaurant where we were met with the beautiful sound of the hang drum. A guy called Javier from Seville was playing it to a captivated audience. We hadn't seen or heard of this instrument in years. We came across a guy playing one in the Gaudi Park Barcelona nearly 5 years ago. We were really interested then because Kyle had been in contact with a guy in London that is apparently considered to be one of the most famous Hang Drum players in the world. It is a very young instrument and there are very few in existence. It is like a steel drum and looks a bit like a flying saucer. Kyle approached Javier afterwards and organized to collaborate with him in making a film.
Kyle worked his magic again and did another meal deal! Photographs in exchange for 3 evening meals for the both of us at Fe Restaurant in the village. Arriving some time after Kyle to the restaurant and setting up camp in the corner with my book and sipping on a piña colada, waiting for Kyle to finish his photos for the evening before we tuck into a few courses, he reminds me 'not a bad life for you eh Han?!'
We spent the day strolling through the canopy and doing a lot of climbing! The area was abundant with wildlife too. We saw so many monkeys up in the trees we started to get neck ache!
Towards the end of the day we climbed the tallest temple and could see others poking up through the jungle, very special.
We loved this country and would thoroughly recommend anyone to go. It is beautiful, diverse and so rich in culture. Looking forward to our return visit in the future. But until then: we’re Belize Bound!