Thursday, 29 November 2007

Along the roadside.

Yesterday I headed off with the marina trip to Puerto Barrios, the nearest 'big' town to us. It has a small Mall with a serious supermarket that stocks lots of 'stuff' that we cannot buy locally here on the Rio.

Its a 7.30am start and there were just three of us going yesterday, goody that meant I didn't have to worry about space for my shopping on the return trip. My fellow travelers were Jim, owner of the marina, and his girlfriend Oona. We left from the marina on the pontoon boat for the trip upriver to where the marina van is stored. Yup, thats right, there are no roads to Mario's! It's a twenty minute ride to the bridge and one of the nicest starts to a shopping trip that you can imagine. The boat is loaded up with propane tanks for refilling, three big ice chests, to bring back chilled and frozen supplies for the kitchen and store.

We glide along the still river passing a couple of chaps in their cayacos, busy with their morning fishing. A lancha speeds past filled with tourists headed downstream for the excitement of a jungle ride to Livingstone, ready for a days adventure.

The frigate birds have almost vacated the nesting sites and great egrets are moving in to claim the territory for their annual chick raising session.

Jim backs the van down to the dock and we load up and set off towards the great Metropolis. It's a treat to travel along the inland roads and watch the every day life of Guatemala unfold along the roadside. The land is still lush and green, although the rainy season is supposed to have come to an end, it has pissed down this week and the fields are flooded and the rivers and streams rushing full of brown coloured muddy waters. Brahma cattle and the occasional horse graze unbothered by the knee deep water, each animal accompanied by a white cattle egret working around its feet to snap up any small frogs and insects that are disturbed by the grazing beast.

Driving in Guatemala is a hazardous business, the locals seem to exhibit almost no road sense, understandable when you consider the relatively recent advent of heavy traffic to this area. Accidents are frequent and very often serious. Last time I did this trip we passed three bad smashes and yesterday there was one.....not a place to lose your concentration!

Cowboys on their scrawny mounts trot along the edge of the road, small kids dash from hut to hut. Women loaded down with great bundles wait patiently at the roadside for...who knows, a bus, a relative, may be just watching! There is a lot of just watching here in Central America. Us watching them, watching us, watching them! A smile is usually returned and a shy hand wave.

You may see a number of small hotels laid back from the road behind discreet concrete walls. These are called Auto Hotels here but in Panama they are, more descriptively, know as Hotel de Amor y Fantasia! To begin with I marveled at the libido of the Latino male, such a huge market demanding so many brothels!. But that's not the reason for such proliferation. When you realize the number of people that share one small living space in these Central American countries, the many generations that live together, it quickly becomes evident that privacy is a rare commodity. Hence the 'Auto-Hotels', the 'Amor y Fantasia palaces'. A room of your own for even a few hours must be a treat beyond belief !

Small farms , some offering live fish ( some kind of fish farming?), dairy cattle, small plantings of corn. Wayside stands selling fresh cut pineapples and, just in season, huge bunches of the red husked prickly fruit known as rambutan, similar to the lychee.They look like massive Christmas decorations.

Lines and lines of laundry drying in the sunny spells between the torrential downpours. Its all a fascinating scene on the way to town.

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