There are a lot of reasons I choose to visit Guatemala. Right now my research interest is heavily focused on Blacks in America- in the future I would like to expand that to also include other parts of the African Diaspora. It was very important for me to visit Livingston, the city where the Afro-Latino culture is the strongest in Guatemala.
On Thursday morning I took a bus from Santa Elena (Peten) for Rio Dulce. Once in Rio Dulce I had to take a boat to Livingston. I survived the bus ride over without my pills (I think they are a Guatemalan form of Dramamine but they just make me really sleepy). I knew I couldn’t make it through a 2 hour boat trip without some sort of assistance. Thankfully in Guatemala they have pharmacy everywhere and they love to hand out pills to foreigners. I was on the boat with a 2 Germans, a Canadian and an American. I had pretty good conversation with them until the pills start kicking in and I went to sleep. As I woke up from my nap we were pulling into this place. Apparently this was part of the boat ride/tour. We were at a natural hot spring. Everyone got off the boat and begin undressing. The Canadian took off his shorts and jumped in; while the German man tastefully changed into his swim trunks under his towel. As the boys swam in the hot springs one remarked how it had been 5 days since his last shower. I had on my usually travel outfit, boots and long pants. I rolled up my pants and took off my boots. There was also an option to tour the caves which make a natural sauna, no one wanted to go. All my stuff was in the boat and I kind of thought it was a diversion to get us off the boat and steal our stuff. We got back on the boat and the next stop was Livingston.
I have not seen more than 10 black people since I left this country. I was excited to see some. I mean I do like black people- my parents are black.
Upon our arrival we were greeted by a group of black men “Let me take you to an Africa hotel” “You want a Rasta man” “Where you going Africa (referring to me)”. Oh My People. After getting past them I found lodging. Then I went off to search for travel agencies. Only to find out the trips that I wanted to take were not going out- the horseback riding, mountain biking and Belize trips. They claimed that they never had horses on the island and did not know what my guidebook was talking about. I decided to go to the Garfinua Museum which was close to further notice.
One man had the audacity to tell me “Welcome home”. Dude, we are in Guatemala- this is not Africa and this for DARN (I have to be good my mom reads this) sure is not my home.
After deciding not to go to Belize by myself- it is expensive and I know nothing about the country. I decided to go on the one tour that was available in Livingston- an all day walking tour to the waterfalls. At 8 am I went to the 2 travel agencies and town, both were unsure if they were going to do the tour that day. The tour was slated to start in an hour and half, they told me to come back later. I decided to have breakfast at my hotel. After pouring the honey on my waffles (they don’t really use syrup here) I discovered the honey was filled with little ants. The lady tried to give me a napkin to wipe off the ants. I called the hotel that the boys I meet on the boat were staying at, since I know they were going out on a tour. Of course, I got the same thing- call back at 9:15 and we will let you know. The guy at the hotel told me that all the guides were watching the World Cup game, which was one reason for they didn’t want to work. At this point I was annoyed at the whole town. Why should I beg them to take my money? So I packed my bag and took the next boat out of there, that next boat dropped me off in Puerto Barrios. All I heard when I got off the boat in Puerto Barrios were “You want to go to Belize? Honduras? The woman at my hotel told me to go to Honduras, it was cheap and the water was nice. I went to the “information” office, to figure out how I could get some place more desirable (my guide book said Puerto Barrios had a prostitution problem). The man had almost convinced me to go to Belize but he was getting too pushy. Going to Belize with no information on hotels, sights, etc was not a good idea anyway. I took a taxi to the bus depot.
After two buses and 2.5 hours I was back in Rio Dulce, where I started the day before. Tired-I picked the first hotel that mention Wi-Fi to stay the night. Of course, I picked the only one that you needed a boat to reach. After thinking the random Guatemalan in the street were trying to play me about needing a boat (my book didn’t mention this), I figured out how to get the hotel to pick me up. I meet a nice man name Ray (from Tampa) while waiting for the boat, he was going over to the hotel as well. Hotel Hacienda Tijax Ecolodge & Marina – my first Jungle Lodge. The place is made up of all these little cabins on the water; it was actually really nice and peaceful.
After eating I join Ray and his friends at the pool for the swim. Ray is 60 year old white man who had just spent the last month helping his 2 friends take their boat to Guatemala from Florida. The couple is spending their retirement traveling the world in their boat. While chatting with them I notice a couple and their child checking in- I had seen the couple in Tikal and later in Flores. They immediately recognized me when they came to the pool, not many black girls with short hair in Guatemala. They were recognizable because there weren’t many ethnic pregnant couples traveling with adorable 2 year olds. They looked really earthy- I assumed they were traveling the world and having babies. Turned out he was a 4th grade teacher and LA and she was medical doctor/ yoga instructor. Never judge a book by it’s cover. I ended up having a great time at dinner talking to all the different people at the lodge. The lodge was a little more expensive than most “backpackers” want to spend, so it helped keep out the dirty backpackers.
The next morning I planned to take a horseback riding trip with the teacher and his little girl. They got a little nervous due to the rain so I went solo. Raul was the “cowboy” who took me out. It was wet, muddy and fun. We rode for about 2 hours around a rubber plantation and the countryside. I was a tad bit nervous because of the language difference and the last time I had gone riding was in the Poconos with Jen in 28 degree weather. As always everything turn out fine and I had a great time.
After the ride I packed my bags, boarded the boat and left the Jungle Lodge for my bus.
Next Stop: Antigua