Journey to Guatemala

Tomorrow we leave Guatemala and cross the infamous Gulf of Tehuantepec and should arrive in Huatulco, Mexico on November 2. We have a narrow weather window that should allow us to have a “decent” if not calm crossing…….

We enjoyed our stay in Banana Bay Marina and met some new friends aboard Navigator and Bella who we hope to see again. The restaurant is very good and the exploration by dinghy between rain showers was a lot of fun. We loaded up on wine at the duty free zone and headed of to Los Suenos Marina. We decided to take a chance on the logs and travel at night and although we did hear some thumps we did not have any problems. Los Suenos is just as advertised in the boating magazines……beautiful and expensive. Actually if you can stay a month the rates are not bad and we only had a week but it was worth it. The restaurants and grounds are terrific and we could rent a car right there and travel the area. Steven’s highlight was a stop at the infamous crocodile bridge where he strung raw chicken onto fishing line and teased the poor crocs below. You can share this special moment by looking in the picture gallery!! We also visited Jaco and Quepos by car and the weather was torrential rain so I will reserve judgment for another time. Our last stop on Costa Rica was a gorgeous anchorage Santa Elena Bay. I wish we had a week to spare as it is a scenic and protected anchorage but time rolls on and we are off to El Salvador.

Our passage from Costa Rica to El Salvador was NOT what we planned. Six hours into a 29 hour cruise the seas are building and the winds are 30-50kts. Steven does an engine room check before his watch and discovers the oil temperature for the stabilizers is reading 200 instead of 140 degrees. Now we have a problem!! He determines it is the cooling pump that has failed. The good news is we have a spare the bad news is the seas are huge and the location to install the new pump could not have been worse!! Poor Steven decides we really do not have a choice so without stabilizers I head out to sea so that we are heading directly into the waves and Steven heads down into the 124 degree engine room to replace the pump!! What should have been a 30 minute job under normal conditions was three hours by the time the fittings were installed on the new pump and it was wired and operational. Steven emerged totally dehydrated and shaking like crazy. He had ignored my nagging to drink water and had to down 5-6 bottles and rest for several hours before he came around. It was pretty scary to see him like that!!

Barillas Marina was wonderful reward for an awful passage. It is located about 9 miles up a river in El Salvador and they send a panga to escort you through the entrance and over some shallow bars. Barilla does not have docks but moorings for their guests. The harbor is flat calm and we have not slept so well since arriving in the Pacific. They have beautiful grounds with a restaurant, pool and bungalows for guests. The management and staff are so kind and gracious you never want to leave. We took the free shuttle to town that is 45 minutes away and there is a decent supermarket as well as local markets and shops. Our highlight was a walk to a local farm where the caretaker and his family of 13 live and care for endangered spider monkeys. What a treat we had feeding the monkeys bananas and visiting with the family. The “boss” monkey decided that Steven was not quick enough with the bananas so he took matters into his own hands, climbed his legs and tried to steal the bag!! Unfortunately I did not get that on film but there are pictures in the gallery.

We had planned to go from El Salvador directly to Huatulco, Mexico but the weather did not cooperate so we set off for Pez Vela Marina in Guatemala. We had been warned about the outrageous fees for entering and exiting Guatemala so we checked in advance with the marina management and were told that $125.00 would cover all fees. The agent and a contingency of 6 officials arrive and we make all the copies they need and fill out all the forms and after they leave the agent hands me a bill for $265.00. We showed him the emails and he lowers his price to $200.00 which we paid. An email to the manager (in Guatemala City) results in a $35.00 refund so the total bill was $165.00.

We took advantage of our time in Guatemala by visiting Antigua, Chichicastenango and Lago Atitlan. What a great adventure we had in 3 days time. One could easily spend weeks visiting the highlands but we certainly took advantage of the time we had. One surprise was the change in temperature in 50 miles and once again we were not prepares for the very cold mornings and nights. Antigua is a fascinating city and the Mayan culture is really interesting. One foolish but fun adventure we had was hiking an active volcano called Pacaya. We were assured that it was not a difficult hike as my knee is still a bit gimpy.,,,,, WRONG it was 1.5 hours of hiking up a trail and a ½ hour up and over hot lava. The lava runs in crevices that you must step over and it is hot!! Steven actually toasted a marshmallow on a stick in the lava. Take a look at the picture. The best was yet to come… is now dark and we have to get down so we can take a dangerous bus ride back to Antigua. Well we made it but not without a few falls, curses and a very swollen knee… Guatemala is one country we would like to revisit. The food has been excellent and the towns are clean and the culture is colorful and interesting.

On a totally different subject we are amazed at the “boat boy” culture in Central America. To those of us that come from the North East USA you are fortunate to find someone to wash your boat. As soon as we came through the canal people were lining up to wash the boat. We were both kind of tired from the trip and a local American on a sportfishing boat recommended this one guy. He said it would cost between $40 and $60 dollars, which is very steep in an economy where there is no minimum wage and laborers get less than a dollar an hour! He finished the job in under 3 hours and charged $60!! Like I said, we were tired and agreed to it! Today, one of the other guys came over to the boat and was not doing anything, so I ( Steven) asked how much he would charge to wash the boat. He said “How much did Juan charge you?” I told him that is not the issue and now that I am fully sane, I was not going to pay anywhere near that much. I said that I paid $30 in Panama and the guy turned up his nose and walked away! He would rather get nothing than 10 dollars an hour! I get the picture. There is a little Mafia here. The guy who washed the boat the first time sets the rate and everyone else has to follow or he will not be able to work here again. He also doles out the sub sublet. He will be washing the boat and another guy comes begging, so he subs some of the work to him. Once someone sets the rate, no one DARES charge less! Hopefully we can find a good guy in Mexico
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