Up The Rio Dulce

Lori and I spent her holiday break traveling around Belize and Guatemala for 17 days with her brother, Dan. On Day 11 of the trip, we slipped the surly bonds of Belize and headed across the sea for Guatemala.

Looking back, I’m surprised I was able to travel 17 days with these jokers!

Due to our fast-paced 17-day travel schedule, we were only able to spend one night at Finca Tatin, but we knew we’d be back. One night just isn’t enough. We spent the previous day taking Dan around the PG area before hopping a boat the next afternoon to Livingston. The crossing was one of the smoothest we’ve had and took about 30 minutes from dock to dock. We checked in at customs and then onto Hotel El Viajero on the road to Casa Rosada where we caught our boat up the Rio Dulce to Finca Tatin!

As mentioned, it was a quick stop — arriving at around 4:30pm and departing around 10am the next morning — but we managed to make the most of it.

We stayed in the ‘Jaguar’ bungalow, about as far back into the jungle as any of the lodging options at Finca.

This is not where we stayed, but would have been kind of cool. No, actually, it would have been very, very hot! This is Finca’s on-site sauna (temascal)!

The water is just about perfect for swimming…perfect temperature, slow current and no crocs (so they tell us!) There’s also a rope swing at the dock. On this particular visit, there were a couple of children who seemed to get a kick out of pushing Dan off the dock. We got a kick out of it too.

Skip-Bo and beers on the banks of a jungle river…ahh yeah.

We woke up at the crack of dawn…actually Dan and Lori work up at the crack of dawn…grabbed a kayak and headed up the Rio Dulce to find some hot springs. I slept in…for about 15 minutes until I couldn’t go back to sleep and wondered what the heck I was doing sitting around our lonely bungalow. I threw on some clothes, ran down to the kayaks and pulled a single, and paddled out after them. Apparently, I made good time as they hadn’t been at Aguas Calientes for long when I met up with them.

The hot springs were quite unique from what I had seen before in the respect that the heated section was just a small area along the river bank where hydrothermal activity mixed with the river water. The closer you sat/stood to the river bank, the hotter it got — and it gets HOT!!!

At 10am, we gathered our things and boarded a public boat for Rio Dulce Town (aka Fronteras) about 45 minutes up the Rio Dulce.

This cracked me up…this boat is flying down the river at top speed and we’re towards the front. And here’s these two guys sitting next to us trying to get a handle on this very large, very unruly map flapping around violently. I mean, who tries to hold up a map in an open boat flying along at full speed? Not once, but over and over and over. Hilarious. The photo above was taken just after they seemed to get a handle on the map…but trust me, it was all over the place. Ah jungle entertainment…

And here’s the mighty Castillo de San Felipe (St. George Castle). It’s impressive…until you see someone walking along the ramparts, then you realize just how miniature it actually is. The fortification is left over from the 18th century to protect Spanish interests from British pirates. At night, a chain would be dragged across the water from the fort to stop all river traffic. The Rio Dulce was a vital link for the transport of Spanish goods into the interior. These days, the Castillo is a popular tourist attraction on the grounds of a public park.

However, Rio Dulce Town is anything but sleepy. One of Guatemala’s busiest transport hubs, Rio Dulce is where the river meets the highway (Livingston is cut off by land from the rest of the country). Here you can hop a bus to Guatemala City, a boat into Lake Izabel, or land transport to all points north. We’re here to catch a 4×4 shuttle to take us to Lanquin.

1 thought on “Up The Rio Dulce”

Leave a Comment