7 March 2015
Another long travel day today. We had the option of a 4.00am or an 8.00am start because in between we would hit peak traffic in Guatemala City – even on a Saturday. We meet at 7.00am to head out for breakfast and then on the bus by 8.00. Guatemala City is only 45km away but we hit a traffic jam pretty early and end up an hour behind time.
We head downhill to Guatemala City at about 1700m above sea level and reach the outskirts pretty quickly (there are 3 million people). We pass some really poor-looking neighbourhoods with shacks perched on the hillsides. One area was apparently so dangerous that not even the police venture there.
After Guatemala City we are basically just heading down to sea level. Heading out, the hillsides are very barren-looking with nothing like the lush farmlands we had seen driving up to the highlands. There is a ‘plateau’ area where there are vast fields of melons being grown and people harvesting. All along the side of the road are stalls piled high with different melons. We go through an agricultural check point for Mediterranean Fruit Fly but they don’t take much notice of us – we had been warned not to take any fruit with us.
Heading down again there are pine forests and lots of mixed trees, including avocadoes that are looking sad and virtually leafless after the dry season. Then we pass vast rubber plantations and more oil palms. These remind us of the problems the United Fruit Company (now Chiquita) had caused the locals by buying up vast areas of land at cheap prices, not using it but making sure there was no competition for them or the US.
The roads are narrow and filled with container trucks heading to and from the port. It rains most of the day and we are held up even more behind trucks, so we miss our opportunity to go by boat to Finca Paraiso (the hot spring waterfalls). We stop instead first on the top of the Rio Dulce bridge (the biggest in central America) to take photos and then for lunch in the town of Fronteras (often known as Rio Dulce – sweet river) at the Jake Brake Saloon (at 3.00pm and aren’t served until 4.30!). Of course, it stops raining and it would have been nice at the waterfalls.
Then we are transferred by boat to Tortugal River Lodge and shown our accommodation. The 8 women share an open air “villa” that has 4 beds upstairs and 4 downstairs. It is bamboo and built out over the river with mesh walls (mosquito heaven). We explore the board walk around the lodge. We are quite close to the 1km long Rio Dulce bridge that spans the river – it has a very high centre to allow sailing boats to pass underneath. The river links Lake Izabal (largest lake in Guatemala) to the Caribbean coast and it appears to be very popular with the wealthy boating community. There are all nationalities moored up around our lodge.
With such a late lunch we just have drinks and head to bed early wondering whether we will get up early to go to the waterfalls (if it isn’t still raining). All night we hear the rumble of trucks climbing up the bridge and then engine braking down the other side. There was also a surprising amount of boat traffic as well. On a more natural front there were all sorts of frogs, birds and insects (and many other unidentified sounds), all with the heavy rain that set in.
For this and other similar trips see:
Peregrine Adventures Travel Destinations (Comfort and independent tours)
Geckos Adventures Deals for South & Central America (for 18 to 30s)
Note: After people telling me they had booked an Intrepid Tour on my recommendation, I now have affiliate links with the Intrepid Travel group of companies and may receive a commission if you book a tour online within a couple of months after clicking through to these sites. So if you are enjoying my tips and stories and finding them useful in choosing your own travel, please click on these links and help me to bring you more ☺.