Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Fuentes del Norte, Rio Dulce Guatemala, el tricero de inero, 2017

My sleep was okay; it should have been fine seeing as I went to bed about 8 pm!  However, even though my hotel was very clean, the window opened onto a busy street - city buses, taxis and pedestrians.  The door opened to the 3rd level courtyard, open to the restaurant below on the first floor so it was pretty noisy too.  But the really hot water flowed faster than at home in the shower and the staff was very accommodating.  When I left the hotel at 4:50 am, there were as many people on the sidewalks as there had been yesterday afternoon.  Public buses were full - the city was alive.  I'm not sure if Guate ever really sleeps.

The Fuentes del Norte bus depot is a 3 minute walk from Hotel Ajau.  There were 4 big coaches loading up and the one I was getting on was the rubbiest!  The windshield was smashed on the passenger side and the driver's side had lots of silicone looking type repairs.  The bathroom was padlocked shut - from the outside.  I had chosen my seat early-sitting in the front, not behind the driver, so I could see out.  I went into the bus as soon as I'd given my maleta away - (I hoped I would see it again) to check on my seat.  The lights were off and I don't see that well in the dark.  I could see a large, a very large mass of something in my seat.  I thought it was maybe a huge black garbage bag full - ha!  That would be something wouldn't it!  TIG - this is Guatemala!  I reached out to touch whatever it was and it was a man, the hugest man I have ever seen in my life.  I screamed - wrong thing to do as he turned out to be the driver and was snappy to me the whole trip!  As it turned out, seat #4 in 'this' bus is against the window behind the driver.  That turned out to be fine though because I had my seat to myself for almost the whole way.  We left Guate at 5:25 - early!  That is unheard of as most people function on Guatematico time.  The air conditioning was blowing full blast.  I had read about this so had my towel and hoodie along but I was still freezing.  I finally asked if it was possible to turn it down. "No!"  Then, I moved over to the non driver side to see out the windshield and was immediately told those seats were 'private'.  That's where the suitcase of the driver rode!  The driver also played loud Guatemalica musica but he didn't like many songs so he'd switch part way through, and the bass part of the speaker was broken because it constantly vibrated on the low notes.  So, to combat all of this, I slept and slept and slept.  The bus stopped numerous times, similar to a chicken bus, to pick up and let people off but when we cruised, we really cruised.  

A couple hours in, two women got on with baskets.  I made room for the larger one, (basket I mean) beside me and she produced a restaurant-

She made tortilla chicken sandwiches with chilies, frijoles and other condiments.  They also sold gaseosa from a pail.  Plates were partial sheets of paper.  Once the passengers were full, they got off at the next town.  She had at least two full cooked chickens and she chopped them up in seconds!   

A man passenger asked about a baño about 3 hours in to the trip and was directed off the bus.  I decided I should maybe use it too but was told 'no,no,no'.  I don't think the driver was being nasty, it was probably a filthy hole in the floor for men only.  Luckily I didn't need it.  Our first bathroom stop for the passengers was 5 hours into the trip.  Can you believe that!  I was so glad I did not have coffee this morning!  

We arrived at my destination, Rio Dulce town at 11:50.  I have had my hotel booked for tonight in Livingston, an hour down the river, for a while, but not my transportation to there booked.  All I had to do, once I got off the bus, was walk down under the bridge to the lancha site-

They are bungie jumping off the bridge but I don't seem able to catch them in the act-

The river is very wide and there are lots of boats and seadoos-

It takes about an hour in a lancha-

 to get to Livingston.  Along the way is the Castillo de San Felipe, first built in 1643 to defend the coast against pirates-

We spotted a lot of white pelicans-

And double breasted cormorant-

My room is hot but I do have a fan.  Hope it cools off tonight-

Tomorrow I'll explore Livingston until 2:30 when my lancha leaves to go back to Rio Dulce.  Looking forward to some Garifuna food!

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