The next day we left Livingston and went on a beautiful boat journey along the Rio Dulce, where we cruised along and saw amazing rare tropical birds and lush tropical jungle scenery. We stopped for a while at the Biotopo Chocon Machacas - a 7,600 hectare reserve that protects the riverscape, mangrove swamps and the beautiful giant 1 ton Manatees (AKA sea cows and I have still yet to see one - they are very elusive). Heading upriver we eventually arrived at the village of Rio Dulce where we planned to stay for a few days to explore.
Rio Dulce is on the Lago De Izobel - Guatemala's biggest lake - and is home to many foreign expat boat fanatics and people sailing around the world (or some of it anyway!). It really is a sailor's paradise being so near Belize and the Honduran Bay Islands and although very beautiful, it still didn't feel like the 'typical' Guatemala that we had kind of imagined. Still, we found a great place to stay and call home for a few days - Casa Perico. This idyllic lodge is situated along a river inlet and only accessible by boat. The place was built over a period of 3 years by 4 Swiss guys and the love and attention to detail they put into it is wonderful. All lovely furniture made from bits of tree roots and varnished, candles at night, hammocks all over, a reading corner with comfy seats and little wooden bridges that are lit up at night (as it's built over swamp land in the jungle by the river).
However, it is also super jungley and the bugs are in abundance...There was a HUGE praying mantis that sat on Marcus's shoulder (without him realising), a few BIG tarantulas running about, loads of lizards, toads, multicolored dragonflies, mammoth crickets, big funny beetle things and a big rodent like thing that looked like a GINORMOUS rat. There was apparently a 'harmless' boa constrictor in the grounds too but thankfully we didn't see that.
The Swiss guys had dug out kayak type boats you could hire for free so we had a go..and ended up back in Rio Dulce village - a mere 40 mins of us paddling away unevenly - Marcus being so much stronger than me so we kind of went in circles for most of the time!
We also went to El Paraiso - a very beautiful spot in the jungle where a hot sulphur spring waterfall drops into clear, blue waters. You can stand behind it and have a hot shower and also climb over some rocks to a bit where you can sit in a natural pool with the hot water flowing down some smooth rocks into it so you have your own natural jungle-jacuzzi... amazing!
Here we also met more great people - Amanda who was the first British person I'd met since Zipolite and I loved sharing some typical British humour with, Carl & Elody from Canada who were very funny, Claudia & Berndt from Germany (Claudia who made us laugh because she screamed so loudly every time she saw a tarantula that she could be heard in the nearest village... and they were planning to go on a jungle trek!) and Daniel from Spain - again! And then there was Ron & Tomer from Israel and Emilio from Italy - 3 great guys we would end up traveling with on a very fun journey later on...