On The Steamy Shore of Lake Izabal

Hi there, I am writing this from a little internet cafe in El Estor, a block from Guatemala's biggest lake. I have decided that this place feels hotter than anywhere else I can ever remember being. I say feels because I dont know exactly if it technically the highest temperature, etc. I think its somewhere around 38 degrees Celsius. The nearest city that shows up on weather maps is Puerto Barrios, where its supposedly only 33. (91 F). Who knows? the important thing is that its also insanely humid, and unless you're right down by the water, there is almost zero breeze. At least in Livingston, where I was before this, it was just as hot but seemed cooler because there was a nice breeze from the ocean most of the time.

So I found this internet place and walked in and its actually the only place in town that is airconditioned, which at first seems heavenly but the AC doesnt really help much. it might have dropped the temperature by 1 degree, and only when you are standing right in front of the machine.

Constantly dripping with sweat, and even thinking too hard make me seem hotter. Not to mention trying to pick bones out of a fish for dinner. Thats hard enough work to leave you drenched with perspiration.

But, I like it. Its all worth it. I think I last blogged from Copan. Here is what happened since then, briefly. on Monday morning I grabbed breakfast and then caught a bus for the border. I crossed back into Guatemala and got another bus to Jocotan, about 30 kilometers and a half hour away, and then another bus from there to Chiquimula, about 45 km and an hour away. Then I got hustled onto another bus to my next destination, Puerto Barrios, 4.5 hours away.

I noticed that the best thing for short local bus trips is to get on a little minibus, because they fill up fast and then they go faster because they dont stop, because no one else will fit in. Unless someone gets off. If I ever have time to do a not quite so political documentary I would like to come back to Guatemala and do a film about the guys who work on the buses. Not the drivers, their job is pretty straightforward. They just drive. But there is always another guy who basically does everything else. Takes money, advertises the bus and its destination to people on the street (usually by shouting the destination and then 'Hay Lugares!', which literally means 'There are places!' (on the bus, still, for you to sit). Often a 'place' is definied quite loosely here. It might be an actual seat, or it might be a tiny patch of floor on which you are welcome to stand, wedged between 2 other people and a giant sack of potatoes, for instance, for 3 hours.

To make a long story short, the trip on monday was hot and long but I was lucky to get a seat on all the vehicles and none of those vehicles were school buses, meaning they were actually designed with adult-sized bodies in mind.

I got to Puerto Barrios at about 3pm. Puerto Barrios, on the Carribean coast, is Guatemala's main sea port. It used to be basically the monopoly property of United Fruit Company, and the only way to get there was by the railline that United Fruit also owned. Now there's a highway. Theres nothing in Puerto Barrios really but dust and sweat and noise, so I immediately found my way to the boat dock where the ferry and other boats go to Livingston. The usual entreprenuerial spirit is alive and well there, with guys trying to sell you passage on the smaller faster and more frequent launches. i saw that they were the same sort of plastic bathtubs that i experienced at Lago de Atitlan, and I also wanted to save money, so I waited for the ferry. No tengo prisa, I said, I'm not in a hurry. I also noticed a gaggle of 18 or so blonde white gringos get on the launch and I was like, nope, definitely not. I relaxed at a little diner near the pier and had lunch, since I had not eaten since breakfast 8 hours ago.

The I got on the ferry, with the locals, and it was so much better. Over and over I make these kinds of decisions and am so happy with them. At first I argue with myself, thinking, oh wait, maybe you should go where all those other tourists are going... but no. There are so many reasons not to. Usually I get more chance to practice my spanish, to relax, to pay less money, and its usually less stressful. Like in this case - Those little boats are scary!

Anyway, then at 630 pm i found myself in Livingston, a little town you can only get to by boat, where a river meets the Carribean. Shipwrecked African slaves formed their own society with Carribeans natives on the island of St Vincent in teh 18th century, and when the British finally kicked them off they ended up in Livingston and a few other places on the Honduran and Nicaraguan coast. The culture is very different there.

Tuesday I went on a tour around the town and area, went swimming and walking on the beach. Wednesday I left Livingston and took another boat down the Rio Dulce to the town of Rio Dulce. Its classic tropical jungle kind of surroundings. I'll write more, i hope, about my thoughts about archetypal images during this jaunt. Anyway, in Rio Dulce, which is where the river flows out of a huge lake, the aforementioned Lago de Izabal, I then caught another bus to this little town, El Estor. It gets its name from a store that these gringos had here for years. People said 'vamos para El eStore', cuz thats how you pronounce an english word like Store. (similarly they pronounce my name 'Esteev'). So gradually the town that grew up around the store just got called El Estor.

Anyway, I was here to see this huge nature reserve, a river delta that drains into the Lake. Shortly after I got to town, which is really a very small town with hardly any tourists (yay!) i ran into a woman from Holland who had just arranged with a guide to go to the delta. Its cheaper with more people and so i was happy to have met her. it was really great luck. and it was fun hanging out with her. We found 3 other travellers, all from Italy and Switzerland, who also wanted to go, so at 6am we met Benjamin Castillo, local boatman and nature expert, and he took us into the reserve. It was really really great and beautiful.

Ive been sitting here too long already so I will end there for now. Hopefully soon I will upload some of my amazing photos of the tour this morning. Great birds, howler monkeys, turtles, mangroves, manatees... it was super. okay, chao for now....

re: On The Steamy Shore of Lake Izabal

the sweat details make it very real.also, I think workers and the busses would be a good documentary.

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