Bob and Trish( from Barnacle) took us for a gentle cruise around the Rio on Sunday afternoon. It was an opportunity to explore some of the myriad of smaller creeks and rivers that join the Rio Dulce.
Well I say gentle(!), actually they have a rather smart lancha (local fiberglass boat) with a 50HP OUTBOARD!
That's the same size as the engine in our big boat! Its the fastest speed we have traveled at in over a year. Oh boy I had a great time, wheeeeeeeeeeeee! I want one.
It always surprises me how different an area looks from the perspective of another boat. Must be something to do with the different height and speed that you are looking from. I certainly saw a different river to the one that we observe from our 10' rib with its 4hp outboard. for a start a lot of my photographs ended up blurred......slow doooowwwwn Bob!
What was surprising was how little jungle is left in this area, just a quarter of a mile back from the river all the trees have been cleared and big ranching operations have taken over. It brings home the fact of deforestation in a way that simply reading a book or article can never do.
There is a small tribe of howler monkeys just across the river from the marina and most mornings you can hear their haunting screams coming across the water. Bob and Trish took us into their usual habitat and it was sad to see what a tiny piece of land they are left with. Hemmed in by the river on one side, ranches and development on the others. Trash littering the bases of the mangroves and trees where they spend a lot of their time. We have a lot to answer for us humans.
It's a beautiful place this in some respects. The fort at San Felipe, has been meticulously restored and remains on guard at the entrance to Lake Izabel. Conjuring up visions of conquistadors, slaves, pirate ships and the like. What an extraordinary historical inheritance this place encompasses.
Coming from Europe we often feel we have a monopoly on 'history' but the further I travel the angrier I get at the education I received.
Why is that? Well nobody ever taught us in the classroom about the tremendous civilizations that occupied this part of the world. The only lessons I recall were a few about the rain forest in the Amazon basin....not exactly enlightening.
I just read a really interesting book, 'Ancient Americans - rewriting the history of the new world' by Charles C. Mann. It made me think!
Our guides spoke about the lack of wildlife in the area too. They have been here for three years now. As you explore there are few indigenous mammals to be seen, all been eaten probably. It's a big contrast to Panama where it was impossible to move around without seeing anteaters, sloths, monkeys and other wonders of the tropical world.
Guatemala is a relatively crowded country, with more than its fair share of political and historical upheavals.It has a population of 11.2 million,6.4 million of whom live in poverty. With a difficult geography encompassing volcanoes and earthquakes it makes for a massive challenge to the population for the future.
Will they succeed in creating a sustainable country? I don't know but I don't have a good feeling about this place.
Our contributions to date don't look too magnificent!
It is a far cry from the splendor of the Mayan temples and virgin jungles of yesterday.