We are back in Rio Dulce, Guatemala. After a wonderful, hectic visit to the USA we are now aboard Atalanta. While in Vermont we wed and bought a house in Colchester all within 5 days. As homeowners and boat owners we will begin to discover a new rhythm to balancing our lives on sea and on land.
The Guatemala we are discovering is a country of contradictions. It is rich in agriculture with farms and ranches spanning from the Atlantic to Pacific shores. It is a country of great physical beauty with volcanoes, rainforests and lakes and varied wildlife. It has a rich Mayan culture and kind people. On the other hand, there is a history of prejudice, crime, and corruption plaguing Central American countries that have struggled with occupation, revolution and the economic overreach of the United States. Nevertheless, we are in Rio Dulce, safe and sound. Surrounded by many other seafarers, we hide from the Atlantic storms in this idyllic setting 30 miles up the river and we empathize with those currently in the path of Hurricanes Matthew and Nicole.
While rich in resources, Guatemala remains a poor country. Provisioning is a weekly activity for us and we find certain items (like beef and fish) difficult to obtain. Chicken and fresh fruits & veggies are available based upon what is in season locally and what is imported. We were here during peak season for mango, watermelon, pineapple, and bananas. Currently, rambutan is plentiful. Restaurants offer simply prepared grilled or fried meat with a side dish. Rice, beans and tortillas are always on the menu. We buy 20 hot, freshly made-while-we-wait, hot tortillas on the street for under $2 USD. Gallo is the local beer, wine is fairly expensive, and fresh fruit shakes are popular beverages.
Kay is an avid admirer of the traditional clothing (traje) worn by many indigenous Guatemalans especially in the rural highlands. Traje’s intricately woven thread, beautiful colors and detailed craftsmanship create a work of art. However, the clothes also tell stories of identity, geography and cultural preservation. Each community can be identified by the patterns, colors, and style of embroidery used. Traje should be worn in its entirety: blouse (huipil), sash (faja), shawl (rebozo), skirt (corte) and hair wrap (cinta). For men: overshirt (capixay), shirt (camisa), belt (cinturon), pants (pantalon) and sombrero. When entirely handmade, a single piece can take months to complete from spinning cotton into thread, dying it, weaving on a backstrap loom, and then embroidering. A complete traje can cost $250 USD – a small fortune! I have been shopping in pacas, aka second-hand shops and acquired a beautiful beaded sash.
Boat services here tend to be high quality and relatively inexpensive. Docking fees are reasonable although electricity is very expensive. The RAM boat yard provides repair service at a rate of $25.00 USD/hour. We often paid $100.00/hour in the United States. Consequently, we have decided to have Atalanta’s hull repainted in November-December, a 6-week job. This will extend our stay in Guatemala to almost 6 months.
Next week we hop on a bus to Flores and visit the ruins at Tikal for 4 days. Thanks for following.
Richard and Kay