collectivo

Morales,Morales,Morales!

Tuesday July 16, 2013

collectivo

It’s kind of funny how once you know you’re going to be in a place for awhile, it’s easy to fall into a rut. With 4-5 months here in Guatemala, there’s certain things we want to do and see, but they keep getting put on the back burner.

“We should go visit the ancient ruins at Tikal.”

“Yeah, but we have plenty of time for that. We’ll get to it later.”

“Copan is also relatively close you know.”

“We have all summer.”

Even our neighboring town of Morales, something that’s a 20 minute drive away, a larger town that carries much more than Fronteras, was put on the back burner. “There’s nothing we really need there, if we’re just going to check it out, we can do it later.” Three weeks we’ve been here, and in three weeks the only sights we have seen outside of our normal trek to town for necessities was our first weekend in Guatemala where we were swept away to El Estor. Every day after that has been focusing on boat work and nothing much else. Even though while we’re actively cruising we usually sweep through a country or destination in a week, we can’t seem to be bothered to take a hop to the next town over right now. So the other morning while I was having coffee at the ranchito and Matt was sleeping in (our sleep schedules seem to differ a little bit these days) and Luis came by to ask if the two of us would like to go into Morales the next day with him, Ana Bianca, and Luki, I agreed on behalf of myself and Matt.

This morning as I got myself ready for ‘the big city’, I finally got myself out of my athletic gear that’s become my new uniform for our days at the marina here, and into something more presentable. The five of us shuttled over to town in Luis’ lancha and made our way up to the main road, where I was told we’d be taking a collectivo into Morales. The only thing I knew about these is they were the cheap, local transportation. Thinking in my mind that it would be a bus, I almost walked right past the mini-van looking vehicle that Luis had stopped at. Ohhh, so that’s a collectivo! And the gibberish I’d heard them yelling out every time we walked by was “Morales”. Or as it sounded to me “MoralesMoralesMoralesMorales”.

This collectivo was a twelve seater van that had three rows of seating holding three people each running through the back, and then three seats up front for the driver and two passengers. Being the first people to get in, Matt and I slid into the first row of seats, with our other three friends taking the row behind us. Silly me, I thought we’d wait until we had eleven passengers and leave, but even before taking off we had about fourteen people squeezed into that tiny van. Even sillier me, I thought it would stay that way. All along the way to Morales we’d make a stop for anyone that was on the side of the road and waved their arms to flag us down. As each person joined, we squeezed in tighter with me eventually sitting on Matt’s lap as we fit five people into our row alone. By the time we made it into Morales, I kid you not, we had 28 people in that van. Four were small children, but that still meant we were double capacity for adults. I’m surprised that no one was hanging off the racks on the roof. One saving grace about Guatemalans though is they hold personal hygiene very highly and probably smelled even better than we did, which was a big bonus for us as we sat in such a cramped enclosure.

As we pulled to a stop in town and the door slid open, we all spilled out as if the closed door was the only thing keeping everyone in place.  I don’t know exactly what I was expecting form the ‘big city’ of Morales, but I don’t think it quite delivered to my expectations, not right away at least.  It could have been my recent researches of Guatemala City, or the repetition of hearing “Morales will have everything you need!”, but I was dropped on to a dusty road that looked like it had very few shops.  Fret not, it turns we weren’t quite in town yet.  We had chosen to get out early to check out a hardware and lumber store just on the outskirts.  I have to say, it’s a bit better than what we’ve been finding at the concrete mall, and may even give the hardware store in Grand Cayman a run for it’s money.

hardware store in MoralesI can see why they have an ATM at the front of their shop.

 

Matt and I didn’t make any purchases here, just wandered around converting prices from Quetzals to USD.  “Oh look, this hammer is only $6.50.  Look!  Drill bits for under $10!”.  We all came out of the store empty handed, but it was good to know the kind of selection offered just a 20 minute, 28 person van ride away.  That was really the end of our necessity to visit town, the rest of our time could be spent wandering around for fun.  I did pop in and out of a few pharmacies to see if they carried a prescription we were running out of, and although they did have what we were looking for, no one carried a generic and wanted $90 US a month for it.  Are you effing kidding me?  No thanks, I think I’ll wait until we’re back in Michigan and take advantage of Walmart’s generics for $10/month.

After doing a little more walking through the desert Central American sun, my shirt was soaked and I needed a little shade.  We found some at a fruit stand that was sitting on the side of the street, and even talked the woman running the stand to hack open a fruit that we were clueless on so we could all take a sample of it.

fruit stand in Morales

unnameable fruit

Still couldn’t tell you what this was if my life depended on it.

bag of...yellow stuff

 

The closer we got to the center of town, the more stores and shops we came upon.  Again, in my head we were going to a mini Guatemala City and I foolishly thought there’d be many more Americanized stores instead of the concrete cubes that house stores like back in Fronteras.  Nope, they were the same.  Just many many more of them.  Not that this is a terrible thing, and we browsed the stores and talked about how we really need to get Matt a set of cowboy boots and a cowboy hat to help him really fit in here.

cowboy boots

In the end we just did a big loop of the town before ending on the main road that would take us back to where we had originally been dropped off.  We stopped for lunch in a little cafe, and although it took all my strength not to order a cold beer or a tasty margarita, I instead opted for the free natural juice that came with the meal.  I have to remember that every dollar counts now for our South American trip.  Paying the bill at the end of our meal we were given Halls cough drops as mints.  Because, well, why wouldn’t you get those.  As our visit neared an end, the only thing for us left to do was step outside and hail down any vehicle yelling “RioDulceRioDulceRioDulce!”

market in Morales

Matt in Morales

butcher shop in Morales

 

 

view from Tortugal's common room

A Tour of Tortugal

Monday July 15, 2013

view from Tortugal's common room

It’s occurred to me that we’ve been at the marina here in the Rio Dulce for a few weeks now, and I haven’t really shown any photos of what our new happy home looks like.

First, let me start off by saying that all marinas are not created equal.  Even though we had done no research before we came here and simply picked the place because our friends on Skebenga would be here as well (that,and we heard they just had a new wifi system installed), we lucked out with what I think is the best marina on the Rio Dulce.  It’s light, it’s airy, it’s even eco-friendly, set right in the middle of a nature reserve.  Even though there’s rarely anyone here, the complex is spread out which gives a feeling of privacy.  We’re tucked into a little cove away from town which affords great views of serene palm trees and mountains, and to top it off, we’re one of the few places on the river that enjoys a gentle afternoon breeze, something that is very needed in these hot and muggy conditions.  Here I introduce to you, our sweet little home for the summer.

Tortugal restaurant

The restaurant and bar area, which doubles as a movie theater under the stars every Friday night.

TV at Tortugal

Couch and TV in the common area.  Perfect for catching up on my telenovelas.

pool table in common area

Billiards table in the common area.  We’ve played, hmmm,…once.

swimming platform

View out to the swimming platform.  They recommend you don’t jump from here.

bungalow at Tortugal

Bungalow’s available for land travelers.  They see our boats and are probably jealous of us, but really, we’re jealous of them.

entry to men's room

The saloon doors to the men’s restroom.  I love the photos.

entry to women's room

Seriously can’t get enough of them.

 

kyaks

Kayaks available for tooling around.  Or in case your dinghy breaks down.

bench at Tortugal

Cute little bench along the walkways. I don’t think anyone ever sits there, but it’s still cute nonethenless.

Ranchito at Tortugal

The ranchito right next to our boat.  My favorite place to hang out.

Dorms at ranchito 1

The 4 person dorm above the ranchito.  One of Georgie’s favorite places to sneak off to.

Dorm at ranchito 2

There are times I want to pay the $10/night just to be able to hang out up here.

walkway to bathrooms

The walkway from the ranchito to the backpackers showers and restrooms (which we tend to use as well).

backpackers restrooms

Showers to the right, and toilets in the back.  And plenty of mosquitoes after dark.

backpackers showers

The backpackers showers.  They don’t always have hot water, but in the middle of a hot day, they’re a nice place to cool down.

view of the boats from the bathrooms

 View of the boats at dock from the bathrooms.  We’re the hillbilles with the blue tent covering our boom.

house for rent

 The four room hut for rent at the end of the dock. Sometimes occupied by families, but usually drunk college kids.

lounge area at Tortugal

 A lounge area looking onto the bay and river.  A perfect place to get eaten alive.

breakfast on Hydromax

The Breakfast Club

Sunday July 14, 2013

breakfast on Hydromax

During our few weeks here in the Rio Dulce, we’ve developed a bit of a breakfast club.  But to tell you how that came about, I’d have to back-up a little bit, and tell you about our dinner club.  Ever since the crews of Serendipity and Skebenga threw a dinner party for Luis at the ranchito last week, Matt and I have not had a chance to prepare a dinner on our own.  First it was ordering a pizza at the marina with Luis, where he told us more about his restaurants and all the special dishes he used to cook.  Then it turned into Luis wanting to fix us one of those dishes the next night.  While raving to him about his cooking skills, he’d tell us about the his next favorite dish he wanted to prepare for us the next night.  Throw that in with the weekly Friday pizza and movie special here at the marina, and we haven’t done more in our galley than heat up some top Ramen for lunch every day.

Through the dinners on Hydromax, we’d try to offer bringing sides or even money to cover at least our portion of the groceries.  Each time we were turned down for those but did turn into the official dishwashers afterward.  Our dinners saw us through the departure of Elmari as she left to spend the summer with family in South Africa, and the addition of a new friend at the marina, Ana Bianca.  It seems like everyone in our group, Luis, Luki, and even Ana Bianca have a special dish they like to prepare, and Matt and I have been basking in the fruits of their labor.  Work on the boat during the day, gather for dinner and drinks in the evening.  It’s been absolutely perfect.

After only a few nights of this dinner routine though, we realized there was a problem.  Between the five of us eating, there’d always be just enough food leftover to have no reason to throw it away, but no way to incorporate it into the next night’s meal.  This is how the breakfast club came about.  After one night of dinner, Luis started talking about how he could turn some of our leftover dinner into a delicious breakfast the next day and invited us to come over the next morning to enjoy it with some fresh Cuban coffee.  We thought it was a one time deal, Matt even dragged himself out of bed by 8 am for it, but that same night over dinner Luis began talking about what would be for breakfast the next day.  The tradition has been continuing and now we’ve all been meeting twice a day for good food and company.  Matt and I have finally been able to contribute something by brewing our Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee inside our Thermos brand French Press and bringing it over to Hydromax every morning.

eggs and bacon on Hydromax

 While eating one of our meals the other day, Ana Bianca mentioned she had a juicer on board and wanted to break it out sometime.  After a trip into town and a bag full of fruits and veggies later, we were ready to try it out this morning.  We made two different juices.  The first one was simple, but really tasty.  We cut up a pineapple and added some mint leaves.  It sounds like an odd combination, but it worked out great.  The end product was frothy and sweet, with just a little kick from the mint.

Our next glass was a combination of everything else we bought.  You name it.  Carrots, oranges, beets, apples, they all went in.  To me it didn’t seem like these should mix in any kind of way, but Ana Bianca promised that it would come out very sweet tasting and all the flavors would blend together.  We watched the liquid turn a bright red when the beets were added and after all the ingredients went in, filled four glassed and topped them off with ice.  Our apple, orange, carrot, beet juice was…not quite as sweet as I thought, but not too bad either.  I can see why people do this for it’s health value, but it still seems like a lot of work to me unless you’re on a real big health kick or trying to lose weight fast.  Just give me my morning coffee and omelette.  Or a pineapple mint juice.  I’ll still take that one.

Matt washing veggies

bowl of beets

oranges and carrots, ready to be juiced

pineapple juice

the non juice parts

beet juice

7.10.13 (3)

In Stitches

Wednesday July 10, 2013

 7.10.13 (3)

I can’t believe I was actually worried that we’d get here to the Rio Dulce to spend four months with the boat, and that I’d be bored out of my mind.  That there would be nothing to do everyday, and I’d be sitting there, twiddling my thumbs, watching the seconds on the clock tick by.  But if there has been one thing to describe our time here now, it is busy.  My whole day is spend in front of the computer, trying to catch up on my two months of backlogged posts, planning our upcoming backpacking trip to South America, and on top of that, learning Spanish so I can actually get us around.  Matt keeps his days busy as well, but all of his attention is focused on the boat.  We had a list of things we wanted to tackle once we got to a spot that we’d be sitting at for awhile, and what better place then when you’re at a marina.  There’s no tipping back and forth while you’re trying to concentrate, although that hardly ever bothers Matt, extra electricity is just a few short feet away, and a decent sized town with a lot of the supplies you could need is only a five minute lancha ride away.

So this day had been passing pretty regularly.  I’d gotten up about two hours before Matt to begin my day on my laptop, sitting squished up in the v-berth with my fan pointed directly at me.  When he finally got up we did our routine of breakfast before he started disassembling the salon and moving all parts and cushions up to the v-berth, which forced me on to one of the picnic tables at the ranchito next to us.  Doing our separate work for a few hours, we took a break to make our way into town when our friend Luis offered us a ride since he was going in anyway.  About 7 liters of Pepsi were stocked up along with a couple bags of nacho queso chips, one trip to the concrete mall for hardware supplies, and we were on our way back to the marina.  As usual, Luis asked if we’d need the lancha any more that day, and after not being able to think of any other reasons we would need to go into town again, we told him to secure it for the night.  Rain was threatening, so I moved the tower of cushions around in the v-berth to make a spot for me to sit once more.  Matt, waiting for his latest coat of varnish on the starboard side salon to dry, took to his other project of making a sliding board to fit over our stove and give us more counter space.

Concentrating as best I could, I tried to drown out the banging and clanking and drilling sounds that were coming from the aft cabin.  Then I heard a big clatter, followed by a painful groan and then “Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit”.  Craning my neck back, I could see him holding his hand up in the air, and it didn’t even take me two seconds to grab the medical bag that had been conveniently replaced right next to me for the day, and throw it on the settee while unzipping it.  Taking a look at Matt’s hand, I found out that while holding down a stainless steel tube that he had been drilling, the bit broke and the end still attached to the drill went right into his index finger.  It wasn’t gushing blood at the moment, which was nice, but I still had no idea what to do.  I grabbed him a paper towel to keep pressure on the wound, and then raced to the head where I sent bottles from our medicine cabinet flying, trying to search for the hydrogen peroxide.  When I finally got to a bottle, I splashed a healthy amount on the wound as he winced in pain.  Ok, so we have it disinfected.  Now what?  Is it going to need stitches?  Will a butterfly bandage be enough to make it heal?  The cut looked fairly deep, and living and working in the environment we do, infection was my number one concern.  There just looked to be too much of an open area for things to make their way in if we only tried to remedy it with a bandage.  Time for the skin stapler maybe?  Matt had always been looking for an excuse to break it out.

The other good thing about being in a marina at the moment as opposed to out at anchor, is there were other people close by to consult on the matter.  Jumping off the boat and on to the dock, I ran in search of any sign of Luki or Luis to give a second opinion.  Coming up on Skebenga, I didn’t see anyone aboard, and then turning around I saw Luis making his way onto the dock at the same time Matt was.  He took one look at Matt’s finger and said, “It’s fine, just put a bandage on it for a few days”.  Ummm, I’m not sure that a simple Bandaid is going to cure that flap of skin that’s hanging off his finger.  I really wished Luki was around, him and his wife Elmari seem to have a good knowledge about medical training, but since they weren’t, I wanted a trip to the clinica in town.  Matt looked to be on the same page as me, and as Luis went about untying the lancha and getting it ready to go, I flew down the steps of the companionway to grab both our shoes, cash, and the ATM card.  Before I knew it, we were headed towards Fronteras, and all in less than five minutes after Matt had drilled into his finger.

It was another lucky thing that we had Luis with us, since not only did we have no clue where the clinica was, but there probably wouldn’t have been enough Spanish between the two of us to find it, explain what we needed (although I’m sure just pointing to his finger would have done the trick), or most importantly, understood what they were telling us in return.  I guess we were kind of over dramatizing the situation back at the marina, we must have given Luis the impression that there were no extra seconds to spare, and as soon as we stepped foot onto the main road he hailed a tuk tuk to drive us the half mile up to the clinica.  As he paid the $2 fare,  we walked inside, or through the open garage style door I should say, to find a nurse/assistant standing behind the pharmacy counter.  Luis explained the situation, and she took down very basic information such as Matt’s name, age, and nationality on a blank sheet of paper.  Very official.  She said it would be 200Q ($25) just to see the doctor, and then whatever the extra cost would be for what else needed to be done.  We agreed, and were then told to wait until the doctor could see us.

The only place to sit was a bench outside, but assuming the doctor would be right out, we began flipping through the local newspaper sitting on the counter.  Which, on the first few pages at least, were filled with images of bodies covered in white sheets due to murders, auto accidents, or whatever else might leave a dead body behind.  I’m pretty sure images like these would not fly back in the States.  It took about 30 minutes, but we were finally led into the doctor’s office with Luis in tow to translate.  After giving a two second look at Matt’s hand, the doctor explained that he could give him a shot of novocaine and fix him up with a few stitches.  We agreed once more, and just as I was pulling out my camera to get a front row seat to the show, both Luis and I were ushered out to the ‘waiting room’ (i.e. the bench sitting outside in the gravel lot) while they went to work on Matt.  I think the doctor spoke just a little bit of English, which made me feel a lot better about leaving him alone in there, because both of us have found that when someone begins asking us something, even if we have no clue what they’re talking about, we just bob our heads up and down and respond “Si, Si”.

“I don’t like the way this finger is looking, I’m going to have to take it off”.

“Si.”

“As long as we’re hacking you open, I’ve always wanted to try and put a goat heart in human. Would you be willing to try this?”

“Si.”

“I’m just going to need you to sign this legal document saying I am not at all liable for anything I do to you.”

“Si, Si.”

But 20 minutes later, after Luis and I had gone through a few bags of Cheetos and two bags of water (Yes, I said that right.  The water is drunk out of plastic bags.), Matt was returned to us with four stitches and a nice little bandage taped between his fingers.  He was given a prescription for antibiotics which he was told to take twice a day for a week, and to pull out the stitches one week later.  After paying 300 more Q ($39) and being told to come back if the whole area turns yellowish-red, let’s hope not, we were on our way home.  For having an accident happen in a small town of a third world country where we don’t speak the language, I actually think it went pretty well.  But just so we don’t have any repeats, I think all drill bits should be kept away from Matt until at least this wound heals.

7.10.13 (1)

 Our ambulance driver.

7.10.13 (2)

Getting ready for surgery.

7.10.13 (4)

May as well enjoy a bag of water while I wait.

bucket laundry

Bucket Laundry & Big Adventures

Monday July 8, 2013

bucket laundry

If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you’ll know that Matt and I are pretty cheap.  Stingy might even be a good word.  If we don’t have to spend money on something, or there’s a cheaper way to do it, that’s usually where we’ll turn.  And with absolutely no incoming flowing in, we need to be that way.  Whatever we have saved up in the bank account has to last us through the next couple of years, and neither of us is ready to cut this trip short so we can blow our money on extra trips out to restaurants or really happy Happy Hours.  Sometimes we happen to be ‘those people’ which others look at with disdain and mutter “Why don’t they just spend the extra couple of bucks”.  Today may have been a case of that while I sat dockside, taking up the art of bucket laundry.  That’s right.  No $8 a load, wash, dry, and fold, for this girl.  I’m doing it by hand.  ‘Why be that incredibly stingy?’, you may ask?  I’ll share that with you in just a moment.

First, in case anyone is curious, and since the #1 question (I kid you not) from friends and family before we left was “How are you going to do your laundry?”, I’ll share my method on this.  Usually, there is a coin-op facility, or in the case of our marina here, a service that will take care of it for you for a fee.  Or….there’s bucket laundry.  I hadn’t read up on any tips or tricks on this pocket, I just taught myself to think like a washing machine.  I divided our clothes up into loads, with each load containing five items.  Then in our big bucket, I filled it about half way with fresh water from the spicket, and took one article of clothing at a time for an initial rinse.  I didn’t know if soley dunking it in a few times would do the job, so I sat there with each t-shirt, pair of shorts, or set of pajamas, and plunged every item individually 50 times.

When I was sure the initial grossness was off, I emptied the bucket, rinsed it out, added a little detergent, filled it half way again, and then started the process over again.  Each item received 50 dunks or swishes just to make sure that the detergent fully seeped in to every thread.  It has to be close to how a washing machine works, right?  After the cleansing came one final rinse, again at 50 dunks per item, and then I was satisfied enough that they were clean.  Up on the clothes line they went, ensuring our hillbilly status here at the marina.  It was a time consuming process, close to 45 minutes a load, but the extra few dollars every load saves will come in handy.

pajamas getting washed

clothes hanging to dry

 

If you’ve guess the reason as our saving every penny is because of a boat baby on the way, you’d be wrong.  Sorry, but not this year.  We’re saving pennies where we can, because, we’re throwing some land travels into our mix!  Not that the Rio Dluce isn’t a great place to spend your summer.  The town of Frontera is quaint, there activities going on at a number of marinas every day, and you’re only a bus ride from visiting ancient ruins in Tikal or Copan.  We just want a little more from the free time we have on our hands while sitting here.  Talking about the next step, as we spend much of our time doing, we lamented about the fact that we’re so close to South America, and it’s too bad we won’t get the boat there to do a little exploring.  Then it hit us that we don’t need a boat to explore South America.  So over the past six weeks or so, we’ve been discussing a visit there while the boat is sitting safely at the marina in Rio Dulce.

Then came the question of how much time we can afford ourselves, what we want to see, and how much land we could cover.  We knew we wanted Peru on the list, just because of the number of sights to see in that one country: Machu Picchu, The Nazca Lines, Lake Titicaca; as well as it’s diverse terrain.  After looking at other areas such as Angel Falls in Venezuela and Iguazu Falls in Argentina, we ruled that they would be just too far to travel to from Peru without a plane, and we couldn’t afford the extra tickets.  So now the new plan is to fly into Lima Peru and then one month later, fly out of Medellin Colombia.  There should be plenty to keep us busy while in Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia, so we don’t feel like we’re missing out too much, and still hope to hit the eastern side of South America sometime in our travels.

We don’t know exactly what we’ll do or where we’ll go, but the beauty is, we don’t have to.  As long as we can make it to Colombia for our flight out, we’re good.  No dependency on wind or weather windows, we’ll be free to travel where we want, when we want.  There is also one more surprise in this trip that is making us super excited!  Since we’re using Spirit Airlines because it’s the cheapest we could find (see, I told you), and Spirit is forcing us to Ft. Lauderdale before we can take a connecting flight to Lima, we decided that since we’re going to be shuttled into the States, why not go one step further and make a visit home as well?  Yes!  We’re now adding a 10 day stop in Michigan to our travels as well!  Friends, family, fast food.  It’s more than I could have hoped for for our summer.  Matt just purchased our tickets for an August 13th departure.  Five weeks until we get to go home, and the countdown starts now!

Matt booking our flights

We have a notebook full of airline dates, times, and prices.

 

 

I can’t wait to see sights like these!

Guatape-Lakes-Pano

Guatape Lakes – outside of Medellin Colombia

Botero Sculpture Park

 Botero Sculpture Park – Medellin Colombia

(Photos courtesy of Tamarisk, Round The World)

 

 

PE Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

PE Nazca Bones

Bone cemetery in Nazca Peru.

(Photos courtesy of Bumfuzzle)

 

 

 

Mar Marine

Rio Dulce Swap Meet

Sunday July 7, 2013

Mar Marine

On the first Sunday of every month, one of the marinas here in the Rio Dulce holds a swap meet for all the boaters in the area to seek out little treasures for their boat or cruising lifestyle, or to try and make a little extra space in their boat and sell things that are no longer needed.  As full as our boat seems to be with useless items  (ok, so they’re all backups that will come in handy sometime) we had nothing to bring with us, and just wanted to check out the scene with Luki and Elmari as they wanted to try and rid themselves of seven years of paper charts covering every nook and cranny of the world.  As usual, Luis was our chauffeur, and the five of us arrived there in the late morning heat, ready to see what kind of treasures could be uncovered.  The place we went to, Mar Marine, was already packed and tables were set up all across the stone floor.  For several minutes we just wandered along, seeing what kind of goodies we could come across.

entrance to Mar Marine

swap meet at Mar Marine

Luis and Matt at swap meet

 

It ended up being a little different than we expected.  Not quite the same items that were for sale back at the swap meet we came across in Cape May.  That one was full of boat parts and boating or fishing related items.  This one was, how do I put it?  Like a very eccentric garage sale.  Barely anything there had to do with boats or boating.  Sure, there were the few nautical items.  A couple of navigation lights, the odd winch or wiring set.  But most of it was…anything but nautical.  Old movies, cook-books, jewelry, cell phone chargers from 2004, ect.

Not that I’m too into boat bits anyway, but I walked around from table to table, admired some of the jewelry, flipped through a couple of the books, almost choked at the fact that people were trying to get $30 for their 10 year old Waterway Guides, and then made my way to the couch that Luki and Elmari had set their charts out on.  The heat and humidity are so bad here that all I had the energy to do was sit in one spot and readily accept the cold Pepsi that Luis offered to buy me.  I was able to pull myself away for a few minutes when Matt wanted to show me a Lewmar winch 32 that he thought could replace the one we use to raise the main, currently a Lewmar 16.  At a price tag of only about $16 and the chance of making the main easier to raise, I told him to go ahead and get it.

That ended up being our only purchase of the day, although, had I had some of my own money on me, I probably would have spent a lot more time at the table of handwoven items from a local Guatemalan woman.  In a little bit of Spanish and in a quiet voice, I told her I’d be back to buy something the next month.  We didn’t stick around for too long, the heat and humidity were making us all basically fall asleep while standing.  We gathered our things and all the charts that didn’t sell and made our way back to the marina.  Maybe we’ll have better luck next month.

tortoise shell

Anyone want a tortoise shell for $45?

Skebenga's paper charts

jewelry for sale

handwoven headbands

Matt looking at winches

turtle at Mar Marine

 Don’t you belong at Tortugal?

 

And just so you know I’m not kidding about the heat, here’s the clock/thermometer we keep in the boat.  Do you know what the humidity is here?  About 90%

7.7.13 (10)

Mario's Marina, Rio Dulce

American Holidays, Taking over Foreign Countries

Thursday July 4, 2013

Mario's Marina, Rio Dulce

So I know it’s kind of common for countries to steal another country’s holiday, it happens all over and we’re definitely guilty of it in the States.  St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo.  They have nothing to do with us, yet we like to party for them like they were our own.  But I do have to say, I was slightly surprised when on the net, we kept hearing promotions for a 4th of July party at one of the marinas.  Yes, I get the fact that of the 15 or so marinas in the area, few to none are going to be housing boats of native Guatemalans.  What did surprise me, is that we haven’t found a lot of Americans in this area either.  I know that Americans bring their boats here, but they’re usually the first one to jump ship (no pun intended) and get back home to the States for the summer, or do any other kind of land travel.  In fact, of the 40 boats currently in our marina, only 5 have people staying with them.  Everyone else is gone.  Then, inside our little buddy group we’ve formed, we’re the only Americans.  So then why would a marina cater an American holiday to all the Canadians, Europeans, and others in the area?  Because We’re #1!  No, I’m kidding.  It’s probably just an excuse to get everyone together and drink.  If we’ve learned one thing about the cruising crowd, it’s that they love their drinking.

Calling in a last minute reservation for the five of us just the other morning, and snagging the last available seats I’m pretty sure, we made plans to have Luis shuttle us over in his lancha around 4 in the afternoon.  We’d heard that last year they’d run out of food for late arrivals, and we were not about to let that happen to us.  We did end up being some of the first to arrive, and picked a table in the back, I think the only one that had some kind of breeze forming over it.  Some cold drinks were purchased from the bar, and Luis and Elmarie were served margaritas that were just as big as our daiquiris in Honduras, but opposite of those, were full of liquor and little of much else.  Still being new to the area, we didn’t see too many familiar faces, but did have a nice chat with some other Americans from our marina (ok, so I guess there are a few), from Jasdip and Unplugged, the same people that joined us at Denny’s Beach.  Dinner was served shortly after, and although Matt and I were a little wary of having any local fare again, it didn’t take us long to dig into the fire roasted pig.  The potato salad however, was pushed to the side this time.

crowds at Mario's Marina

This place filled up fast, I’m glad we got seats.

margarita at Mario's

I’m pretty sure this thing could have knocked two grown men on their asses.

view from Mario's Marina

I don’t think I could ever get sick of these views.

 

 

It wouldn’t be a party without games, and while the dinner plates were still being cleared from our tables, they were ready to get into full swing.  It started out pretty innocent, and for the first few minutes, I didn’t even know what was going on.  A woman got on the microphone and asked who in the crowd liked rum or tequila.  That’s a silly question, of course I like rum and tequila.  My hand went right in the air.  At that point I was asked to come up front, along with about seven other men that had also risen their hands.  Wait, that question was leading to something?  I thought it was just a survey among cruisers.  I expected everyone’s hand to be up.  Tentatively I walked up with the other men and found that the question was going to lead to a spirited game of musical chairs.  Yes, that game which is normally reserved for small children and birthday parties.  Then the alcohol question began to make more sense.  ‘Oh’, I thought to myself, ‘When you end up without a chair, they must make you take a shot for losing, and send you back on your way.  Thank god you only have to do that once.’

The music began and we all kind of nervously giggled as we paraded around the chairs, feeling a little silly playing games that were meant for people 20 years our junior.  Or 50 in the case of most of my rivals.  But, as soon as that music stopped, it turned into a real competition.  We all sprinted and dove for any empty seat, and while I had tunnel vision and could not account for exactly what the others were doing, all I know is I landed in and empty chair.  ‘Ha!’, I thought.  ‘Too bad for that poor sucker that lost and is going to have to take a shot.’  I was still smirking when a shot glass was placed in my hand and I was asked “Rum or tequila?”.  Thoroughly shocked, I sputtered, “But I didn’t lose?!”.  “Oh no”, the woman laughed, “You take a shot each time you advance to the next round”.  It seemed like a cruel punishment for achieving, but I mumbled, “Either is fine”, and forced myself to choke down the straight liquor through three attempts.

I wasn’t so sure I wanted to ‘advance’ any further, but my competitive side got the better of me and I was determined to go to the end if I could.  The music began to play again, and all of us who remained started to relax a little, hopping, skipping, and making our jolly way around the chairs.  Twice more I dove into an empty seat when the music ended, and twice more I choked down shots of straight rum.  Which must have been going straight to my head, because on the fourth round my brain was distantly away as silence rang out and I was left without a chair.  I wouldn’t say I was quite upset about it.

drinking a tequila shot

This is the face of winning.

musical chairs

‘Round and ’round we go, where we stop, nobody knows..

losing at musical chairs

What?  I lost?  That’s it, I’m taking my beer and I’m going home.

 

I didn’t go far though.  I wanted to see how this turned out, so grabbing my camera from Matt, I stood front and center to catch the rest of the action.  Maybe the guys had just been playing nice when I was around, or now that there was one more chair out, they realized how serious this competition was getting.  The next time the music started to play, the remaining guys got a little….nonsensical.  Desperate to keep ‘their’ chair, they would do everything from keep one foot on it, to pick it up and continue in the circle with it, or in one guys case, start running around with it up in the air.  The women helping to run this game were not very happy, but it was all they could do to keep themselves from laughing as they tried to tell these gentleman with a serious face that they needed to play by the rules.  Two rounds and one remaining chair later, I started to worry, wondering what kind of antics might come out for the win, but it was the same as you’d get in any elementary school classroom.  Slowly shuffle your feet when you’re in front of the chair, and then race around the back to get front and center again.  When the music finally stopped, there was a little tug of war with the chair, but one guy was able to firmly plant his ass in it as the other tried to tip him over or drag him off.  Ahhh, kids.

nearing end of musical chairs

“This one’s mine!  I call dibs!”

dive for last chair

Silly boys.

 

There were a couple more games to follow, but none of them involved alcohol.  I sure know how to pick ’em, huh?  We stayed long enough for me to get dragged out on the floor one more time, a big dance circle for all the women attending while we sang along to ‘We are Family’ by Sister Sledge, and enjoyed another fireworks display.  Thousands of miles from home and anything resembling the good ‘ol US of A, I have to say, I’m glad they decided to steal borrow this holiday from us.   We may not have sat around listening to the national anthem or thinking of the day’s original meaning,  but bringing all of us cruisers together for one great night, I think it served it’s purpose.

One nation, of cruisers, indivisible                                                                                    With fair winds and rum drinks for all

most interesting man in the world

The Most Interesting Man in the World

Wednesday July 3, 2013

most interesting man in the world

 Photo credit, Dos Equis

 

Do you remember those Dos Equis beer commercials, featuring ‘The Most Interesting Man in the World’?  You know, with quotes like ‘Police often question him, just because they find him interesting’; ‘He once had an awkward moment, just to see how it feels’, and most importantly, ‘I don’t always drink beer.  But when I do, I prefer Dos Equis’.  Of course you remember those.  Everyone does.  So hang on to that thought, because it becomes important.

After having had Luis take the crews of s/v Serendipity and s/v Skebenga out on his trawler for almost three days where he fed us food, drinks, anything we needed for nothing in return, we decided we needed to give him a big thank you.  The only way we could all think of, since he wouldn’t accept money or gifts, was to cook him a nice dinner to be served at the ranchito to pay him back for his hospitality.  The crew of Skebenga, much more talented in this area than either of us, took care of the food, and we were given the responsibility of drinks.  So off to the DF we headed that morning to grab a 24 pk of Bravah, and then pulled a few bottles of wine out of our ‘cellar’ to go along with it.  From what we’d seen, no one in this group was heavy into drinking, so we figured these items would suffice.  When the dinner bell rang, we stepped off the boat to find out that Elmarie had beautifully set up one of the picnic tables with fancy glasses and dishes, and Luki was standing off to the side, ready to make mojitos for anyone who wanted them.  All of our hands shot up, and moments later we were handed freshly prepared mojitos with a secret ingredient that gave it an extra little kick.  (Yes, I know what it is, No, I won’t tell you)

mojitos, ready to be mixed

 

We all settled into the empty picnic table to enjoy an appetizer of fresh guacamole that Luis had brought to share.  Have I mentioned already that he’s an amazing cook?  Best guacamole we’ve ever had.  I seriously need to take lessons from this guy.  We stuffed our faces on this until we remembered there was still a main course to come.  Moving ourselves over to the dining room table and filling our plates with the tasty chicken dish that Luki had prepared (maybe I need lessons from both of these guys), we were finally able to talk Luis into telling us the history of his life, something he was hesitant to do on our boat excursion, telling us he’d save it for another time.  These are the things we found out about Luis that night.  He grew up in Cuba, and even though his father was a doctor and their family was very well-to-do there, they all packed it up to move to the States in the late 50’s when the Revolution was beginning, when Luis was around the age of 17.  I won’t go into too much detail since it’s not my life and not my story to tell, but we also found out that he had fought in the Cuban Revolution twice, once for Castro, and once against him.  For his second service, the one against Castro, he went through harrowing details on how one by one, his group fell apart and he was the only one left, roaming through the countryside of Cuba, just trying to survive.  He was eventually captured in a small town and thrown into prison for two years where he received daily threats from Castro himself that he would be executed.  They were all scare tactics, and eventually he was bailed out by the US government.

Moving back to the United States, he became an entrepreneur, going into the restaurant business.  His first restaurant was a little local hole in the wall Mexican restaurant, mostly filled every night with immigrants and bar fights.  He didn’t even have a name for the place, so when the cops hassled him that it was illegal not to have a sign for his establishment, he just told them “I call it 2nd Left At The Light”, something that was already posted up the road, a government sign put up referring to something else.  He sold that place after a number of years, tried a French restaurant for awhile, which did really well, and then ended with an Italian restaurant in Florida, which did even better.  As if it was no big deal, he told us of a time that Oliver Stone (writer of Scarface) came in to eat one time, complimenting him later and asking how a Cuban did such a great job preparing Italian food.  He replied to Mr. Stone, “You tell me how an Italian did such a good job writing a movie about a Cuban!”.  It was around the time Luis was recounting a story that while running a restaurant in Chicago in the 70’s, he turned away a mafia heads, some big guy called Muffy I think, since he refused to accept a tip to seat the guy right away, knowing what it would eventually lead to, when I nudged Matt.  “Guess what I just realized”, I quietly exclaimed, “Luis is the Dos Equis guy! The Most Interesting Man In the World!”.

It took him a half a second, but then he fell into a silent laughter with me, because we both realized I was right.  Hell, he even looked and sounded the part!  The stories kept going on and on all night, and all four of us sat there, mouths basically hanging open, as he recounted his life, mundane and ordinary in his mind, but to us, a cumulation of some of the most interesting stories we’d ever heard.  Did you know they wanted to have a female companion to go with the Marlboro Man and his wife was asked to be her, but she turned it down?  Or that his mother, a seamstress, was personally asked to do work for Yves Saint Laurent?  The kicker was at the end of the night when dinner was winding down and Luis asked for a beer, after having drank Orange Crushes all night.  I told him I had some chilled Bravahs in our fridge, ready to break out, and he goes, “No, just grab a Gallo from my fridge.  I don’t normally drink beer, but when I do, I prefer that”.  I almost died.

dining table at ranchito

chicken stew

Leelanau Cellers Wine

Representing with some Michigan riesling.

wine and kissesOn a quick side note, Georgie has figured out how to jump from one boat to the other, and now we’re constantly chasing her down after she decided she prefers our neighbor’s far more shaded deck than ours. With four more months to go here, I could see this turning into a problem.

Georgie on neighbor's boat

 

Georgie lounging on Serendipity

Boat Work & Getting Sick

Monday July 1, 2013

Georgie lounging on Serendipity

Georgie is loving watching all the fish swim around her.

I never got to go over my little project of finishing our deck shade/cover before we ran off to El Estor over the weekend, but first, a little recap of what happened when we got back.  I’m a pretty big believer in yin and yang, good and bad, and a bit of balance in the universe.  If something good happens, there’s usually something bad preceding or following it.  Which is why the whole time we were in El Estor and Denny’s Beach, I kept thinking to myself “This seems too good to be true.  Too perfect.  Something bad is going to happen to balance this out”.  And it did. When Matt and I got back from our little tour with friends on Saturday afternoon, we were both struck with the worst case of food poisoning we’d ever had.  It came on slowly, starting on Friday, but we both just shook it off as a little stomach bug, a change in diet, something that would pass in just a few hours. Saturday afternoon was a bit worse, maybe one or two extra trips to the head, but still manageable.  I think our minds were subconsciously telling our bodies to hold it together just long enough for us to get back to Serendipity, because as soon as we stepped foot on her, we were done for.

We could barely eat, we could barley move, and, TMI, neither of us could make it more than about 30-40 minutes without a trip to the head.  And then there were the stomach cramps, oh, the stomach cramps!  I don’t think I’ve ever felt so much pain in my life!  All of that coupled with the dehydration we were experiencing, and I was starting to wish I was dead.  Even though both of us were trying to stay as hydrated as possible, actually switching from our beloved Pepsi to water, it got so bad that first night that each time after using the head, I literally wouldn’t have the strength to make it back up to the v-berth without first stopping and chugging a glass of water.  There were a couple of times I’d have to sit on the floor and drink my water because I couldn’t stand up or walk without getting lightheaded or dizzy.  We found out through ‘the net’ this morning that there was a rash of people who had suddenly come down with ‘some kind of bug’ over the weekend, but we knew better.  It was the food that was served to us at the regatta.  We’re thinking it was probably the potato salad which hadn’t been properly chilled and went bad (even though it tasted fantastic).  But then again, who wants to come out and say on the morning net, “A big thanks to El Estor for inviting us cruisers out.  Half of us got food poisoning from it, but we appreciate the gesture!”.   ‘A bug going around’ sounds much nicer.  I do have to admit though, I’d probably still do it all over again, even knowing we’d get as sick as we did.  When we look back at it all, I’m sure the good memories will far outweigh the bad ones. In dealing with sickness, being prepared with medicines from trusted pharmacies, like the Canadian Pharmacy, can be a huge difference-maker.

So now that’s out of the way, back to my story on the shade cover.  One of the first things I noticed when we got to the marina last week, is our slip is parked right in front of this little ranchito, furnished with a hammock and two picnic tables on the main level (and dorm beds for travelers on the upper level).  The next thing that came to my mind when I saw the picnic tables was ‘Wow, finally a nice big area I can lay my fabric out on and work on my sewing’.  Which is exactly what I did when we got back from grocery shopping the next morning.  There wasn’t much left to be done to the cover, luckily.  All that was left to do was add strength to the areas the grommets would be punched into, so that the stress of the lines tugging at those areas would not weaken and destroy the fabric.  Matt cut out little triangles of fabric for me, and first I sewed them together (two in each area for double strength) and then to the cover.  There were six areas that needed this strengthening, so although it wasn’t complicated, it was a little time consuming.  I, however, was just happy to be doing this in an area where I wasn’t rocking back and forth and getting sick from concentrating while lightly dipping from side to side.  My sewing machine and I were getting along for once since I think I figured out where our issue lies, so there was no screaming or threats of it going in the water.  Throw in a Tervis tumbler of cold Pepsi, and I was actually enjoying myself.

Only three to four hours work on my part, and I was ready to hand it off to Matt.  He hammered in the final grommets and went about stringing it up.  I sat up on the foredeck while it was raised, happy as can be that my part was finished.  It took a little tweaking to get it just right, but soon it was in place.  I swear that within an hour you could feel a difference in the temperature of the deck, having it nice and cool in the shade, but blazingly hot in any area the sun was still touching.  With daily highs inside the boat around 91 degrees, and only going down to 87 or so at night, we’re hoping this will make a big difference.  Was it worth the $175 we spent in fabric alone?  I hope so.  But for the aft part of the boat, those 3mX3m pieces of already cut and stitched fabric being sold in town are looking pretty good at the moment, even if it will make us the mis-matched hillbillies on the dock.

working at the ranchito

Setting up shop at the ranchito.

cover laid flat

Our shade/cover, laid out flat.

strengthening patches

Sewing the strengthening patches.

sewing patches to coverAdding the patches to the cover.

finished product

Finished product!  We now have shade on half the boat!

hazy sunrise at Denny's Beach

Photo Caption Day: Return from Denny’s Beach

Saturday June 29, 2013

hazy sunrise at Denny's Beach

Hazy sunrise at Denny’s Beach

 

Last night we had a storm that rocked the boat and had everyone running around at 5:30 am with worries that the anchor was dragging.  Did I forget to mention that it already did it once after we got back to the boat last evening?  Luckily we were all here and with the work of all five of us boaters we were able to get it secure again after about three attempts, rain pouring down and blinding all of us that were up on deck, shouting directions to Luis.  We were lucky this morning when it did not drag, but after hearing foot steps clattering up around on the main floor and having some water somehow run across the ceiling of our cabin and drip right on my face, we decided we should join the rest of the crew to make sure everything was it should be.

The rest of the afternoon didn’t hold too much excitement, a stop in a little town called El Dorado before we made it back to Fronteras and the marina.  So instead of going into a spiel on what little happened, I’ll instead capture the day with captions.

chocolate cake for breakfast

Cake for breakfast!

banana boat lancha

 Lancha ride to town…with a banana boat on top?

dock to Hydromax

Dock leading to Hydromax at anchor

Nicole and Luis at breakfast

Nicole and Luis, waiting for breakfast

cat on a roof

Kitten on a roof

kitten in a chair

Kitten in a chair

lancha to Hydromax

Time to head home