Hi all! Please excuse the delayed updates, we're pretty much caught up now. At the last few places we stayed at there was wi-fi but no actual computer access, and typing all these updates on my iPhone screen is beyond even me :)
Today we're chilling out at Hacienda Tijax, our eco-lodge perched on the edge of the Rio Dulce river, near Lago de Izabal in central-eastern Guatemala. The lodge is really nice, with cute little cabanas out in the jungle for us to sleep in, raised boardwalks over the river/jungle (depending on the water level it could be either, or both), a pool, a marina, and beautiful views.
We were scheduled for the sunrise/Howler monkey kayak tour at 5:30am this morning but a pretty consistent downpour all night, morning and into this afternoon put the brakes on that, as well as the other potential outdoor activities. So we're all perched in the river-front restaurant, eating, drinking, making friends with the folks moored in the marina, catching up on our emails & travel blogs, and making sporadic dips in the pool when the rain ebbs. It feels exactly like a rainy day at summer camp, like we should be making arts & crafts or something :) No one will admit to it, but I can tell everyone's enjoying a nice laid-back day on the edge of the water, rain not withstanding :) Oh, and we say rain, we mean RAIN - the torrential, freight-train-loud kind of rain. The river's actually come up a foot or two since this morning, but this is normal for Guatemala in rainy season. If the weather clears, we might have a chance for kayaking early tomorrow before we leave for Antigua.
Yesterday afternoon gave us perfect weather for our outing to Finca Paraiso, a hot waterfall that falls about 40 feet to join with a mountain-fed river. Did we mention the water is actually hot?? Swimming under the falls feels like the best hot shower ever, and swimming in the deep pool underneath is very warm and plesant; the current created by the falls makes for a good workout! The deep pool under the falls is sufficient for cliff-diving as some in our group discovered. Not us though, we were too busy exploring the caves behind the falls and playing the water :) We spent most of the afternoon there, swimming, diving and sunbathing. Finca Paraiso is truly a slice of paradise, well-hidden from the rest of the world!
We brought a picnic lunch of warm tortillas, guacamole, ham, and fruit, which we ate on the rocks surrounding the steaming pool. We chatted (in weak spanish) with the two older men who take care of the place, acting as self-appointed voluntary custodians, caretakers, and lifeguards. We brought way too much food, which we ended up giving to the mob of kids who came to greet us in the parking lot. It was Sunday, so they weren't in school, and WOW, what a charming and cheeky bunch of little hellions! They were quite happy to take our food off our hands, and it sure brought a smile to the old gentleman's faces. The kids and the two old men were all from the indigenous Mayan settlement on the other side of the river, which we understand was once a temporary work camp but is now an official municipality with about 500 people living there.
We've seen a lot of rural Guatemala on our trip - you wouldn't believe how beautiful the landscape is! The people are equally awesome, very warm and genuine. Its lovely here!
After our trip to the falls, it was a short drive and a 5 minute boat taxi to our eco-lodge, where we swam again (in the pool) and had a nice dinner. The rain started pretty late in the evening, so its really only put a dent in today's plans - though pretty minorly. There's a raucaus card game going on behind me, a beautiful marina view in front of me, my husband (!) beside me reading a good book, and a cute stray dog sleeping somewhere under my table. Life is good, wish you guys were here!