Hot and cold water
For the second time in a row we spend Christmas away from home. Last year we were in San Francisco with the Christmas-crazy Americans. The sound of Christmas classics and flashing lights on our retinas were permanent at that time. Here in Latin America you only see a bit of tinsel on an artificial fir tree, if you are lucky. In other words: there is hardly any Christmas spirit here. We spend the holidays at the Finca Ixobel and simply enjoy doing nothing for two days. Of course, we connect briefly by video call with our families in Switzerland and wish each other all the best. But in the evening of the 25th we will have a Christmas menu after all. With Josh, a solo overlander from Santa Cruz and the two Dortmunders Jutta & Christian (www.cooltouren.wordpress.com) we sit together in the evening with Turkey, Gravy, Stuffing, various salads and delicious Pecan & Pumpkin Pies and are happy to spend the holidays in good company.
The next day we drive on to Río Dulce. This is a small village at the Lago de Izabal. From here you could take a boat trip to Livingston, which is located on the Caribbean coast of Guatemala. But let's leave this, Belize is not long ago... Instead, we try to get something in our stomachs in the village itself, because the little hunger has come up. This mission turns out to be more difficult than you might think. Not because Río Dulce lacks restaurants. No, the street layout here is once again very ... hmmm ... creative. If you don't find the right loophole between the fruit stands, car seat cover sellers and smartphone repairers, you'll be crossing the bridge before you know it and out of town. But on the third attempt we make it and after the refreshment we tackle the last stage for today. The El Paraiso waterfalls are our destination.
Give me, give me, give me your...
Already from a distance we see a pack of children running towards us. "Give me pence, give me pence" they scream and hold their little hands through our car windows. One rebellious boy even jumps up on the running board and holds his open hand in front of my nose. I take a pen from the centre console and hand it to one of the girls. She grabs it, passes it a row backwards and immediately extends her hand to me again. "More pence, more pence," she demands insistently. I am slightly overwhelmed at this moment, we have not seen such a bad begging since Africa! We solve the problem by cranking up the windows and rolling on.
Actually we only want to go to the hot waterfall that is here. This one is actually on public ground and would therefore be "common property". Of course the family in front of whose hut we have to pass in order to get to the parking lot, but they demand a toll. A seemingly dead stooped man stops us and rubs the fingertips of his left hand together. As we react to this with "Cuánto me cobra" - "How much do you want?", he looks over to the massively younger, fat, thumbscrewing Trulla in the rocking chair in the shade, who then screams the ridiculous amount of 100 GTQ (=13 CHF) at him. We finally agree on 40 GTQ and are let through.
Unfortunately we don't have the waterfall for ourselves, but the bath in the warm water is still very relaxing. The temperature is just right, so that we could let the falling water shower us forever. Shortly before webs begin to form, we leave again and take a more adventurous route ...
In El Estor we turn right and exchange asphalt for dirt bike. The first kilometres are tiring, as we have to ride behind fully loaded trucks, which cart ores mined in this area between the different mines, in a huge dust cloud with zero visibility. Because of the bad visibility we unfortunately also have to watch how a little piggy runs between the wheels of an oncoming truck and dies.
When we have finally left the trucks behind us, we drive on a beautiful route through the mountains of Guatemala, where the women still wear traditional costume, the men machetes and the children their siblings. The road is bumpy, but well passable. Only once does it get narrow as we have to drive through a village market, which is built on the only through road. We manoeuvre Baloo with millimetre work between the stalls. Fortunately we don't do any damage, although the Vendedoras have to hold on to their melons quite tightly.
Only at nightfall we reach the village of Lanquín and find a perfect place for the night at the Retiro Lodge. The next morning we take the road to Semuc Champey. Many have warned us about the "breakneck" road there. But we don't find it that bad and arrive at our destination after about 45 minutes. The attraction "Semuc Champey" is a turquoise coloured limestone pool, which is fed by the river Cahabón. The interesting thing is that the river flows under the limestone bridge. The hike to the viewpoint of the pools is quite exhausting. All the better that afterwards one can cool down in the clear water.