Friday, September 19, 2014

Central America's Independence from Spain

This past Monday, September 15th,  was Central America’s Independence day. In 1821 a congress of Central American Criollos declared their independence from Spain, effective on 15 September of that year. That date is still marked as the independence day by most Central American nations. Kiwix

Parade patrons walked through the small town of Rio Dulce. We gathered with the rest of our cruiser friends, (more than twenty of us), cameras in hand  and waited and waited for the parade to begin. No one really knew when it would start, so we just waited. Eventually we saw the lights coming. It was led by a police pickup, an ambulance and a fire truck followed by hundreds of people each representing their own group, school or organization. There were no costumes, only those in uniform. No one danced, occasionally someone smiled. It must be a ‘big deal’ for their culture, but we certainly couldn’t see it on their faces. They did, however, really enjoy having their picture taken. When they spotted Jimi or me, their faces lit and they were smiles galore.

This ambulance driver was very happy to smile for the camera. Unfortunately, I snapped the picture seconds before we saw it.

These locals were standing on the balcony above us. They got my attention so I would take their picture.

Police standing around to make sure all goes well with the parade.

The volunteer fire department.

Some dancing.

After the parade, we walked across the bridge and back with Allan and Marsha. The bridge is one of the biggest bridges in Central America, tall enough for most sailboats to get under. The view from the top is gorgeous. It’s not uncommon for vehicles to stop at the top to take in the sights.

Our friends, John and Lisa going under the bridge in their Dinghy while we were on top of the bridge.

We heard there would be fireworks in various places around us, but we didn’t watch, anyhow just about firework time, mother nature hit us with a massive thunder storm. We were safely tucked in Sanibel’s belly. After the rain we heard music from a distance. I suspect the festivities continued just across the river from us under the bridge.

We’re thankful for the thunderstorm. We got enough rain to fill our fresh water tanks. Not really knowing their level, only that we haven’t filled them in what seems like months, we have a feeling of ease now.

This floating island is a common sight to see on the river. We had one four times this size stuck to our anchor lines a few weeks ago. Birds take advantage of them for a free ride and as a means for hunting.

A local boat crossing our bow.

Fruit and veggie stand in town.

The street in town at one of its less busy times, as we are waiting for the parade to come.

We’re off for a ten day adventure inland. Traveling with two other couples, first we’ll pop in to Guatemala City and then Antigua. We’ll be back with ya when we return.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Tikal, Guatemala

Monday, September 8th we left Rio Dulce on a bus just after twelve p.m.; our destination was the ruins of Tikal, Guatemala. The nearly four hour bus ride was uneventful. In fact, it was more than we needed with first class seats and air conditioning.  When we arrived in the town of Santa Elena, we took a tut-tut to the bus terminal. Our plan was to take a collectivo to Tikal, but we were told the last one had left at 2:30 p.m. and we’d missed it. We had to take a taxi the last 40 kilometers. Transportation to get from the Rio Dulce should have cost us $30, but with unexpected changes to a first class bus and having to take the taxi, we spent $74. It just seemed we were forking over cash at every turn and the  start of our ‘get away’ wasn’t going well.

Upon arriving at our hotel, we were pleasantly surprised with the grounds and the staff and just relieved to settle in for the night. We shared a meal at the hotel restaurant and retired to our room.
Jimi left at 5:30 a.m. the next morning hoping to get in to the park early for a sunrise photo of the pyramids, but the gate keeper did not want to let him in before the park opened at 6 a.m. Finally the gate keeper gave in and let Jimi enter at 5:55am. He captured some great photos, which he put together into a time lapse.

 Copy and paste this address into your browser to watch the video:

After a few hours, Jimi came back to the room to get me. We walked all over the property taking photos of all kinds of things. The pyramids are such amazing structures. I can’t image the Mayans building them with only the strength of their arms.  The grounds are quite spread out, therefore, it’s most certainly an all day event.  Besides the pyramids, we saw many howler monkeys, agouti, kota mundi and trails of worker ants carrying leaves to their casas.

Here’s a little history of the Tikal ruins taken from Kiwix.

Tikal has been partially restored by the University of Pennsylvania and the government of Guatemala.  It was one of the largest of the Classic period Maya cities and was one of the largest cities in the Americas. The architecture of the ancient city is built from limestone and includes the remains of temples that tower over 70 metres (230 ft) high, large royal palaces, in addition to a number of smaller pyramids, palaces, residences, administrative buildings, platforms and inscribed stone monuments. There is even a building which seemed to have been a jail, originally with wooden bars across the windows and doors. There are also seven courts for playing the Mesoamerican ballgame, including a set of 3 in the Seven Temples Plaza, a unique feature in Mesoamerica.
Though monumental architecture at the site dates back as far as the 4th century BC, Tikal reached its apogee during the Classic Period, ca. 200 to 900 AD. During this time, the city dominated much of the Maya region politically, economically, and militarily, while interacting with areas throughout Mesoamerica such as the great metropolis of Teotihuacan in the distant Valley of Mexico. There is evidence that Tikal was conquered by Teotihuacan in the 4th century AD. Following the end of the Late Classic Period, no new major monuments were built at Tikal and there is evidence that elite palaces were burned. These events were coupled with a gradual population decline, culminating with the site’s abandonment by the end of the 10th century.

This pyramid has not been fully excavated. 

The root of this tree followed the path at least twenty feet in several directions.

One of the paths.

Standing on top of a pyramid, we could see at least four others peeking over the trees.

I'm standing on top of the pyramid. Jimi is below taking his own pictures. He's the one in the white shirt centering the photo.

I could have spent the entire day taking photographs of the ants diligently working. But, we were there to see the ancient pyramids of the Mayan people.

Home Sweet Home

Thursday, September 4, 2014

All is well on Sanibel

Freddy the paraplegic pig.

There is no shortage of things to do on the river. Jimi and I find ourselves going non-stop. By now we’ve met up with most of our friends from French Harbour in Honduras, and we’ve made a number of new friends since we’ve arrived. Now settled in, I’ll touch on some of our highlights and what has also become routine for us.

We made  another trip to the natural hot springs by way of Guatemalan public transportation called a collectivo. There’s one thing to remember about riding in a collectivo – there’s always room for one more. We’ve heard there have been as many as thirty people in one of these twelve passenger vans. We haven’t witnessed that, but we felt like we had on our way to the springs. Thankfully we had seats, but six or seven people did not and two of them were hovering over me. I held a bowl of corn for one lady while she payed for her ride. A couple of road workers slide their machetes under my feet as they stood for the ride. The van’s doorman took a seat on the van’s roof when it became full.

We were the first ones to arrive at the hot springs, which gave us ample time for some photos. But it  wasn’t long before the tourists and some locals piled in. The pond was clear and cool. The water falling from above is warm. Over time the minerals in the spring water has created an overhang on the rocks which allows visitors to gather under the overhang. If you can keep your balance you can let the hot water hit your shoulders and slide down your back. The small fish nibbled at my feet and ankles from time to time and I didn’t like that.

 The water is clear and calm.

 An incredible peaceful place.

It really is this beautiful. 

Under the rock ledge looking out.

Our selfie!

On the trail back to the road we met up with some locals selling finger foods; even though we had no clue what it was, we bought some and ate it. It was delicious. A family with several children were working  to collect fire wood. The father carried two large tree logs on his back with the load on a strap that went across the top of his head. Then he walked somewhat hunched over down the trail. A young boy, looking about eight or nine was trying to follow his father dragging a long cantankerous limb. We could see he was struggling and yet, still trying his best to do the job. I picked up one end of the log and motioned for him the pick up the other end. Together we carried the limb down the trail until he said we’d reached the destination. I realized then that the front of my shirt was covered in mud only in one precarious spot. I couldn’t travel on the collectivo and through town like that, so I took my shirt off and washed it in the river not far from another local doing her laundry. There’s nothing like jumping in to the culture when you least expect it.

The limb was heavier than it looks.

On a separate occasion we rode horses through a non-profit organization called Freddy’s Friends. Freddy’s Friends was started by a lady named Pam. Her and her husband moved here for Texas about six years ago. To occupy her time, Pam rescues animals, spays and neuters cats and dogs, deworms them and provides any medical attention needed. The money she raises, by taking people horseback riding, helps pay for of all these things. She has six rescued horses. All of which came to her underfed, overworked and skinny. The most touching story is Freddy himself. Three years ago as Pam and her girlfriend, Julia, were riding they came across a wee little piglet who’d been hit by a car. The right side of his face was crushed, as well as most of his body,  but he was alive. Pam took him home and began nursing him back to health. Now three years old, Freddy is fat and happy. He’s roughly three hundred pounds and spoiled rotten with mud pits, a swimming pool and lots of love.  His back legs never recovered, but that doesn’t stop him, he drags them behind him wherever he goes. He loves people and all the attention he gets from the visitors Pam brings. She has many other animals too: foxes, various cats, dogs, iguanas and something that we’ve forgotten the name of.
Freddy posing for his picture.

This cat jumped on my shoulders and refused to leave.

The name of this animal escapes us.

One of the foxes.

One of Pam's dogs.

The horse barn.

The horse ride itself was easy going and not at all a limited trail ride. We could gallop, go ahead or let lose if we wanted to. We crossed swift flowing rivers, rode through rural villages where children waved with big smiles upon their faces and stopped for a cola in the village. We rode past pineapple fields and corn fields where the horses tried to sneak a snack.

We took another collectivo to the town of Morales with friends, Harry and Melinda. I had a large shopping list. Unfortunately I didn’t find anything on it. Nevertheless, we walked, window shopped, ate lunch and had ice cream. It was a enjoyable outing with friends.

We met a couple on vacation who stayed in one of Captain John’s bungalows for two nights, Jon and Lynne. We instantly hit it off and spent the weekend together including getting up at 6am on Sunday to dinghy over to Monkey Bay. Monkey Bay is an area off the main river covered in overhanging trees and brush. The floating vegetation is a carpet on the water. Using our ores instead of the motor gave us an advantage to find the howler monkeys. After more than 30 minutes of incognito stealthily rowing  following  their loud calls, we found them. We weren’t close enough to get great photos, but it was captivating all the same.  When we were finished, we all retired to our respective abodes and slept until noon. Jon and Lynn are continuing  their vacation inland and will then head back home to Jasper, Texas. We  wish them well and only regret that we didn’t have more time with them.

Howler monkey and baby.

Some of our daily and weekly rituals include immersing ourselves in the swimming pool once and sometimes twice a day to cool our cores and fruit and veggie shopping on Tuesdays and Saturdays. I attend a bible study on Friday mornings, we listen to the net every morning, except Sundays, at 7:30am and I do yoga in the mornings at 6:30ish with the dock kitty, except I’m missed the past several days.  A gathering to play Mexican train dominos is Sunday afternoons – we’ve played once. Tonight we’re joining friends for a game of trivia. We’ve sat in the pool with new friends John and Lisa and old friends Harry and Melinda and dock neighbor Rich. We have more friends than we could possibly mention without losing your interest. Trust me when I say there is no shortage of friends, drop-ins and visiting.

The dock kitty doing yoga with me in the mornings.

Boat work – I try not to do any. Just kidding. I do what I need to; daily cleaning, cooking and dishes. Jimi has made us a nice drip tray mounted under the grill in the cockpit and took on a major project to redesign the holding tank plumbing and engine exhaust hoses. He also rebuilt a large manual pump used to empty the holding tank when at sea. He had to get creative with the materials and make the parts from items he scavenged at a local tire shop. The  look on the employee’s face clearly showed he thought Jimi was a loco gringo (crazy white guy) when Jimi asked if he could rummage the trash pile and asked if he could have the piece of inner tube he found.

I cook breakfast after the net , we have a light lunch around noon and a smoothie in the afternoon daily. We try not to cook in the evenings, but rather plan our menu ahead of time so we don’t need to heat the cabin. We’ve found that it’s much more economical to buy local foods for one of our meals each day. The restaurant, Sundog, sells a very large sandwich called The Italian for $5. Loaded with three types of meat and veggies, it’s large enough to share. About once a week we buy a roasted chicken. When supplemented with steamed vegetable and rice or potatoes, it lasts us an easy two meals. The food is unlimited and we’re still in awe at the amount of fruits and vegetables, all fresh with smells that float through the city. The size of the carrots and other vegetable is almost unbelievable. Our last purchase included a bag of strawberries, a potato, a carrot, a bell pepper, two jalapenos, two avocados, three tomatoes, green onions, three apples and a papaya for $5. The prices are as well unbelievable. 

This pile of fruit and vegetables cost us $3.25. The carrots are as large as, and often larger than, a banana.

Next week we begin some inland travel. We’ll leave Sanibel for three days as we travel to the ruins of Tikal. Stay tunned…