Knocking another of Lonely Planet’s Guatemalan highlights off the list, we took a boat trip on the River Dulce from the village of Rio Dulce itself to Livingston.
Although it had been raining during the night and also at breakfast, we had hoped that the clouds would disappear and make way for the sun. Suffice to say that our optimism did not quite pay off and we didn’t need our sunglasses or sun lotion on this particular day. Somewhat laughably only 2 days before, some other tourists had told us that Rio Dulce was the hottest place they had visited in Guatemala and their visit there had only been the previous week. Well, how quickly the weather can change: there’s now a tropical storm in the making off the coast of Guatemala and Mexico bringing lots of rain to this region. To be fair, we have so far been shielded from the far worse storms that have recently been hitting the US so we can’t complain too much but it is fair to say that it’s a little soggy at the moment.
The guidebook describes the ride as a “spectacular journey through a jungle walled canyon” and the scenery as we approached Livingston was indeed pretty impressive. It was just a bit hard to see anything what with the rain sheeting down coupled with all the river spray making for one very wet experience. True the boat had a canopy of sorts but this wasn’t particularly effective in these inclement conditions. By the end of the trip I had both my waterproof trousers and my waterproof jacket on and just wished I had something to cover my face too! What a shame.
Still it was interesting to get to Livingston which is not connected by road to the rest of the country and is only accessible by boat. The town sits at the mouth of the River Dulce where it meets the Caribbean Sea and its local indigenous (Garifuna) population call the place “Buga” which means mouth. Here the ethnicity of the local inhabitants is very similar to that of the residents of Roatan in Honduras, another somewhat isolated group in the Bay Islands.
In Livingston, we tried the local speciality called tapado which is a coconut milk seafood stew as well as the more widely available ceviche, another seafood dish although this one was heavily tomato based which I hadn’t tried before. Satiated we primed ourselves for our soggy return trip to our hotel set in the rainforest on the edge of the river (another destination only accessible by boat and in fact most of the buildings themselves were suspended over the water on boardwalks (this was not the place to be careless and drop anything as some of the boardwalks had rather large gaps)). It was a pleasant enough setting albeit a little limiting in such wet weather.
Before our visit to Rio Dulce, we knocked off another guidebook “highlight” when we visited Semuc Champey. This stepped series of limestone pools over the River Cahabon (which actually flows underneath the limestone “bridge”) is touted as the most beautiful place in Guatemala. And it certainly was a picturesque bathing spot and with a free fish pedicure to boot, what’s not to like? For us, it was a strong reminder of our trip to the very similar and equally beautiful Kuang Si waterfalls just outside of Luang Prabang in Laos (which were also full of nibbling fish): see Blog post dated 11 July, 2018: “A different pace in Laos”. All a reminder of how lucky we are to see some of these amazing wonders that Mother Nature has created.
Semuc Champey; L: the view from the viewpoint; R: where the River Cahobon disappears down a natural “drain” and flows under the pools and waterfalls on the limestone “bridge” above (that are visible in the picture on the left).