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Living in Rio Dulce 2010

Rio Dulce, Guatemala
            Once back on the boat, it took a couple of days to get accustomed again to the heat (High mid 80s Low mid 70s) and the movement on the boat.  Next we had to find places to put all the 225 pounds of stuff we brought back with us.   It was also a great time seeing friends we had made before we left with people on other boats in the marina: Java Moon and Miss Goodnight and getting to know new friends on Zephyrus and Shared Dreams.  The boat looked great!  We are very happy with our decision to leave the Amazing Grace at Tijax .  We came back to the last tropical disturbance of the season which brought us a couple days of rain. 
            First on our list was to install the new forward scanning sonar.  Come to find out that Dan and Lorain off of Zephyrus also bought a similar sonar and will be installing one too.  So off we went to scope out Abel’s Boatyard.  We were quite impressed with their facilities and found out that they had room for us to come whenever.  So we made arrangements to be pulled out the next day, Tuesday, Nov. 23.  The engine started right up and I know it enjoyed being out on the water again.  We were out until Sat. Nov. 27 at about noon.  We installed the transducers, raised our water line, (due to all the stuff we have on the boat…mostly Scott’s stuff )  ;)  touched up the bottom paint that was scraped off by those logs in the Mississippi, and had them wax the sides.  We think it cost us about half of what it would have in the states and Scott was able to do the work he wanted to do himself.  We stayed on the boat, on the hard or on the land, while it was hauled out.  It was kind of a funny feeling being out of the water and in the boat and having to get on the boat by ladder.  We did have T-giving dinner on the boat:  chicken breast, stuffing, and green beans. The new sonar works great!  Now to learn all the features. 
            Once back at Tijax, we decided to take some time and complete some more projects that Scott has had on his Honey Do List.  A few days later, we couldn’t believe it that we got an e-mail from Jerry and Debbie from Czech and Mate saying that they were here on the river.  The next day we met them for lunch.  By coincidence, Frank off of Shared Dreams had just accepted the job of dock master for C and M’s marina, Tortugal.  So he left his slip right next to us and joined them over there as we went over to help them with a few projects. We noticed that our sunshade is falling apart, so we have made arrangements for a canvas shop here to make a new one.   After one week on the river completing projects, Jerry and Debbie planned to do a week of travelling…. So off we went with them on a road/bus trip. 
Copán, Honduras
            First a bus trip to El Florido on the border of Guatemala and Honduras.


We were told that it was about a 4 hour trip to the border and 7 hours later we got to the border.  This wasn’t a chicken bus but it did stop in every village and pueblo.


Thought for a minute we might be in another strike, but no just parade for the saint.   Next a quick 10 km taxi ride to Copán.  Found a nice little hotel, Hotel Lauro, with hot water, private bath, and cable for $25 a night.  Score!  Back when we were in Scotland I had told Scott that we hadn’t seen Blood Diamonds and that I couldn’t find it anywhere in his movies.  That night it was on TV.  We couldn’t believe it, another movie checked off the To See List seen in Copán, Honduras. 
            The next day we were off to the Copán Mayan Ruins. In 1980, UNESCO declared Copan a heritage of humanity site, continuous study of the city by archaeologists for over a century, make it the most studied city of the Maya.



Here we are entering the park and Scott with the map of the Mayan World.  At the peak of its power in the Late Classic Period, the kingdom of Copán had a population of at least 20,000 and covered an area of over 250 square kilometers (100 sq mi).  Some of the most important sights:  Alter Q which depicts all 16 rulers of the Copan Dynasty from 426-810 AD,

The Ballcourt  , the most impressive Hieroglyphic Stairway

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or as our guide called it the Mayan Encyclopedia.   It is 10 meters (33 ft) and has a total of 62 steps. The stairway takes its name from the 2200 glyphs that together form the longest known Maya hieroglyphic text, and the Tunnels.  Scott and I had never been to ruins with tunnels. By going in the tunnels you could see the evidence of two temples buried beneath the one that stands on top. One of the best preserved Temple16, with its highly elaborate painted stucco decoration.




Scott captured this beautiful shot and what we call the Mayan Christmas Tree. 
            The next day we took in all the natural beauty of the Copán area.  First we were off to Macaw Mountain: A Bird Park, Nature Preserve, Coffee Plantation or as they say a multi-faceted eco-tourism project.  The beautiful park is nestled in a small, heavily forested canyon with Sesesmil Creek running through it.  It has a nice collection of Honduran and Central American macaws, toucans, and parrots that have been recovered from captivity.  All the birds, which we were surprised to find out can live up to 70 years (what a commitment when you take on this pet!), were well maintained in large naturally planted aviaries.  As you can see we were able to hold them for a great photo op.



Next we decided to visit the forest canopy by zipline.  What an exhilarating experience!  A series of 16 ziplines took us through the forest covered mountains and finally over the Copan River.  The longest zipline was 1 km in length.  We only had to walk between the first and second line and after that every transfer was on a platform. We hung by a harness and safety line from the cable runner wheel that took us down the line with only our leather gloved hands to use for brakes.  A great time was had by all and for the next few days our right arms were a little sore.



            The next day we continued our nature study at the first hacienda in Western Honduras to promote and welcome, agrotourism, Finca El Cisne.  We headed out of Copán in a drizzle after a pretty good rain, so you can imagine the mountainous road we traveled on for an hour and a half.  Just before we got to the farm we saw many people in the road carrying wood planks.  As you can see from the picture, the only bridge over the river had collapsed under the weight of a heavily loaded dump truck and everyone was salvaging the wood. 


  Finca El Cisne was founded in 1885 by Don Armando Castejón Fiallos and has been owned by the same family ever since.  That is why El Cisne´s coffee processing plant is one of the oldest in western Honduras. What a visionary Don was by using the mountain springs and gravity to move the coffee beans through the process on the farm.  Here his grandson (or maybe great grandson??) Carlos shows us the roasting process.


  Since the beginning, Finca El Cisne was dedicated to sustainable agriculture including the production of shade grown Arabica Coffee as well as the basic crops of Honduras, corn and beans. Through out the years, the farm has diversified by raising Brahman cattle for meat and dairy, breeding horses, and most recently the growing of Cardomon, an indian spice. Because of the richness and fertility of its soil, the farm is also a botanical garden where avocados, breadfruit, plantains, oranges, star fruits, pineapples, guanábanas and other fruits and vegetables are grown.  During our day visit we were able to experience it all!  We went horsebackriding, enjoying the beautiful countryside and rounding up the cattle.



Here is Abel, a 16 year old bilingual guide who was also taking the day trip experience to be able to sell it.  As you can see he was our rodeo clown and here is the plant he used to add his paint. He was an wonderfully, unexpected entertaining addition to our group.



  Lunch was an epicurean delight with everything grown on the farm.  After a short siesta and tour of the coffee processing plant we finished the day by heading to the Aguas Termales (Hot Springs).  The philosophy of the spa is to make you feel you have been reborn to the Moon Jaguar, the 10th King of Copán and the entire atmosphere makes you feel like Mayan Royalty by enjoying the 13 mystical points of the Mayan Rebirth.


  What a gem in the middle of the mountains!  The pools were around 90 degrees and were heated from natural steam from the mountains.  They had a foot pool that gave a natural foot massage by walk on rocks in a pool of hot and then cool water, a mud pool for an awesome natural facial, and a natural massage shower falling from the hottest pool. Our tired aching muscles from the zipline and from horseback riding sure did feel better after this marvelous, spiritual, and out of this world experience.  Next time we would definitely spend the night on the farm. 
            We absolutely loved Copán.  It was a small, quaint tourist destination with friendly people, great food, and lots to keep you busy.  As we got ready to head out of town I had to get these last two shots….


a beautiful fan palm and


a hotel ready for my dear Patti McG to come down and run.  We caught a 16 person shuttle van out of
Copán, Honduras to Antigua, Guatemala.  We hit Friday evening rush hour traffic in Guatemala City so we didn’t break any land speed records.  Our first night we found a great Italian restaurant called DaVinci’s, felt like we were back at the Louvre.  They had this gorgeous Christmas tree.

            Antigua is considered one of the best conserved Colonial Cities which makes you feel like time stood still over 300 years ago. There are 33 temples that were built during the Spanish Conquest and there are 8 still in use.  There are also over 30 monasteries, convents, and cathedrals that combine Mayan and Spanish characteristics.  It has also been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Antigua was once the third most important Spanish Colony in the Americas and the Lenten processions date back to the early 1500s with the arrival on Don Pedro of Spain.  The city is surrounded by volcanoes:  Agua, Fuego, Actenango, and Pacayne.
 One of our adventures was to the Pacayne which exploded on May 27.   Back in May we had experienced the effects of the explosion when we were crossing from Light House Reef to Utila by having to keep close look out for all the debris in the water.  Also flights out of G City were canceled due to lack of visibility due to the ash in the air.   With two days warning before the explosion, only 50 journalists were present for the explosion.  One journalist lost his life when he was hit in the leg with a boulder and was unable to make it back down. No tourists were allowed to visit for 6 months.   We, or make that Scott and Jerry hiked the hour and a half up the mountain, while Cindy chose to take the local taxi.  From that point on we all walked the lava river.  You could most definitely feel the temperature difference.  We went into a natural sauna and you could even buy marshmallows from the locals to roast. 


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Pacayne continues to spew about every 15 minutes. 
Here are some more of the Antigua sights: 

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The Cathedral and Fountain in the center of town.


La Merced Church A 13 El Arco


One of the church ruins, caused by the September 29, 1717, 7.4 magnitude earthquake that hit Antigua Guatemala, and destroyed over 3,000 buildings


One of the beautiful gardens in the center of the buildings. 
The rest of the week-end was spent enjoying the town: walking the streets, visiting the jade markets (which Santa may have made a purchase for Cindy for Christmas), seeing the sights, and eating fine cuisine.  We even met a boater, Bill and Mary from the Rio, that also now own the Le Peña de Sol Latino Restaurant.
Monday morning we were off again to G City.  As we headed to town we got caught in, as our taxi driver called it, a manifestation, a strike that closed the two main roads to the city.  So we ventured off to find another way it.  It held true for all as it did with all other trips this excursion, two hours late (or more!), we got to our destinations.  First Jerry and Debbie to their hotel to spend the night before heading back to Oklahoma the next day.  Then we made it to Litegua Bus lines for our bus trip back to the river.  We would like to thank Jerry and Debbie for letting us tag along on their road trip and thanks for a great time!
Over a month ago when we were heading back to Guatemala, we were told that it is the most dangerous time of the year as people are getting ready for Christmas.  So as we thought about the road trip, we decided to travel smart, we packed in just backpacks and didn’t even bring a computer.  In both cities we did see increased police patrol to protect the tourists.  Also Scott searched with a medal detector to get on the bus and there were guards to watch the bus at every stop. We have heard of a few stolen dinghy motors and few other acts of thievery out there.  We are glad we decided to sit here until after Christmas. 
Back on the river we have continued to complete projects on Scott’s To Do List.  Scott also made a major repair to the floor and supports under the mizzen mast.  We also started checking all our systems, getting reading for heading out on the water again.  Refrigeration …√ Washdown Pump…not working… clean and lubricated and installed new pressure pump…fixed   Generator… √  Battery Charger….Blew up Again!!  Installed Back Up ..√  Now we look for a new one. Wind Generator..Solar Panels..
The weather is great, mid 70s during the day and 60s at night. The time of year we love, windows open and no AC.
            On Dec. 21 we enjoyed watching the lunar eclipse.  After getting up in the wee hours for that, Cindy then went and participated in a sunrise Mayan Winter Solstice Ceremony.  It was very interesting.  We honored the 4 coordinates of wind, water, earth, and fire, our ancestors, and the blessings of the past year by using candles, incense, rum, and cigars.  We also gave our “Christmas Giving Tree” to Casa Guatemala, a home and school for orphaned, abandoned or abused children, that will provide Christmas dinner and presents to over 600 children.  Our hearts were singing carols full of joy for the season as we wish you a equally joyous Christmas and hoping you bring in the new year 2011 happily.   We can say that Guatemala is a lot like the Grinch’s saying, "Oh the Noise, Noise, Noise"…..but here is the constant sound of music (not Christmas Carols either) and firecrackers.  We hear that New Year’s is even worse!
How does the old saying go??.... Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. For those keeping track we had planned that we would be through the Panama Canal and on to the Pacific by now.  We have learned to let go of the plans and enjoy the life that God has blessed us with.  We feel so fortunate to have jobs on the oil rigs to help us sustain our balance in the sailing kitty, not knowing what the economic future holds and by getting to know all the people along the way.  Listening to other cruisers….this is kind of the way of most cruisers.  We heard of one couple that planned to go from Washington, DC to San Diego, CA in a year and a half.  Right now, they have been gone 4 years and only have made it as far as Puerto Rico.  So, what does the future hold??  We can only plan as far as the next weather window. 
With this in mind, the first weather window after the first of the year, we plan to head north to Mexico.  From there Scott will fly to Bahrain for the next project.  Cindy will be staying on the boat for anyone who needs a spur of the moment vacation destination. 


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