Monday, November 28, 2005

Thanksgiving on the Rio Dulce

We've been all over the place over the last ten days. KO's parents were in town for Turkey Day, and I guess we felt obliged to show them the whole country in that span. After returning from Tikal, they headed up to Antigua, where we joined them on Wednesday. We stayed at the fabulous Meson Panza Verde, which just may be the nicest hotel I've ever been to. I think the sink there was bigger than our bathtub. I'm not sure whether having a really big sink is actually recognized as a mark of opulence, but the Panza Verde did it with such panache that I'm guessing that anything they did, they were doing it right.

From there, we headed off to join a bunch of embassy types having Thanksgiving dinner in Livingston, on the Carribean coast. Which is the opposite direction from Antigua. I managed to show off how well we know Guatemala City by taking a wrong turn on the way back through town and practically driving us into the heart of the Gallito neighborhood, where the local constabulary is afraid to set foot. Fate smiled on us and we popped back out onto the main square, no worse for the wear, ready to haul ass down the mountains to the sweaty Caribbean, to the extent that any ass-hauling is possible down a windy mountain road following trucks in low gear.

We made a brief stop in Livingston where the kind folks at the Posada El Delfin cooked us a Thanksgiving dinner complete with turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce (jellied, if you're curious) and green pumpkin pie. The owners are a Guatemalan couple who lived in New York for thirty years, and therefore were steeped in the necessity of thick turkey gravy, but still Guatemalan enough to serve fiambre and Caribbean enough to have hired a Garifuna guy to play reggae-tinged Sinatra on a giant casio keyboard throughout the meal.

On Friday, the Onoratos made their way up the Rio Dulce in a swift boat, while I returned to the lovely town of Puerto Barrios to pick up our car and shuttle it up to the town of Rio Dulce, where the river meets Lago Izabal. If you ask nicely, KO may be willing to share some of the exotic tales of their Conradian journey upriver. I, on the other hand, killed a little time taking pictures of colorful buses and umbrellas and such.

At Rio Dulce town, we got our first taste of that panacea of Central American sustainable development, Ecotourism. We did a kayak trip at dawn to see Howler Monkeys, did one of those nature walks where they've built bridges through the jungle canopy, and abused the long-suffering Nissan with an hour-long drive over crumbling dirt roads to a thermal waterfall/swimming hole. In a more Mr. Rogers vein, we saw where bananas and rubber come from.

Lastly, on the way back to Guatemala City, we stopped at Quirigua, last of the major Mayan sites in the area -- now that we've seen them all, I guess we'll have to start looking at stuff from contemporary Guatemala or something. Quirigua is not much on the pyramids and architecture, but has the biggest and best-preserved stelae of the area, showing ancient kings and with glyphs on the sides reporting of their top 10 beheadings and such.

I think a good time was had by all, although KO's parents might generally prefer the dining options that were available when they visited us in San Francisco to the culinary delights of Cheesy Bread and refried frijoles available in the jungle.

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