Days 177-178 Sunday-Monday October 14-15, 2007
The small town of Livingston sits isolated on Guatemala’s Caribbean coast and is only accessible by boat. The boat ride from Rio Dulce takes around an hour and half downstream and is considered one of the must do activities in Guatemala to partake in. The first boat of the day was at 1pm and we were at the dock ready to go by 12:30. While waiting for the boat, we witnessed women washing their clothes in the river and old men trying to convince us to patronize their hotels. What a treat!
Upon arriving, the boat quickly filled up and Shawn Reece (who was free) was forced to sit on our laps with his life jacket on. The boat itself was very similar to the ones used as ferries on Lake Atitlan. During the journey, the boat wound through almost endless narrow passages flanked on both sides by steep limestone cliffs. Every once in a while, a break in the rocks would reveal a small indigenous village where the local population was going about their daily lives. Unfortunately, the camera couldn’t capture the essence of the atmosphere and the boat ride was nothing short of spectacular.
Livingston is home to the Garifuna in Guatemala. The Garifuna differ from traditional Guatemalans in that they are typically darker skinned and practice a different culture. Upon arriving in Livingston we disembarked and were immediately approached by a tout. (A tout is someone trying to “assist” you in finding accommodation) Jasmine decided that she wanted to let him lead us on a wild goose chase and it took us an hour to find an acceptable hotel to stay in.
Livingston is famous for its coconut based Tapado seafood soup and we quickly set out to find a restaurant serving it up. It wasn’t long before we discovered a dozen restaurants on the main drag featuring it on their menu. After passing on a couple of slums, we finally chose a place and I ordered the tapado soup while Jasmine ordered a more traditional Guatemalan seafood soup and Shawn Reece opted for spaghetti with tomato sauce. All of the seafood was fresh and the soups were delicious. Everything was also served up with Pan de Coco (slightly sweet white bread roll), which is another local specialty.
After dinner, we went back to our hotel to settle in for the night as Livingston didn’t seem like the kind of place to be loitering after dark. At the hotel, we met the owner’s grandchildren, a six year old boy and nine year old girl who were very friendly and seemed happy to see Shawn Reece. Before long, Shawn Reece and Jasmine were playing basketball and UNO with them for what seemed like hours. The little girl grew up in Los Angeles and was sent to live her grandparents in Guatemala about a year ago. It seemed like all she could talk about was her want to return home to the U.S. While we couldn’t resolve her sad problem, maybe playing with us for awhile gave her a little happiness.
While the food was good, we didn’t really take to Livingston. The culture is great for people who are more of the Bohemian variety, but not really for a family and we weren’t interested in visiting the lackluster beaches (according to the guidebook) after our time up north in Mexico. Perhaps the biggest reason that we didn’t really care for Livingston was the almost unbearable combination of heat and humidity. The fan in our hotel room worked at a speed so slow that it almost couldn’t be considered on and we almost died in the middle of the night. At one point I pondered whether they tricked us and threw us in an oven. Flashes of Hansel & Gretel suddenly popped into my head. In the morning, upon realizing that we weren’t going to be that night’s entrée after all, we decided to move on.
From the hotel, we headed to the dock to book passage on a boat destined for Puerto Barrios. After the thirty minute boat ride, we caught a bus in Puerto Barrios five hours south to Chiquimula, a town in Guatemala’s eastern highlands. All of the boat and bus connections worked out great and by early afternoon we arrived safely in our destination. Chiquimula turned out to be a typical mid sized Guatemalan city, much like others we have seen before. (Which is not necessarily a bad thing!)
We decided to use Chiquimula as a base to visit the world famous Catholic Church in Esquipulas as well as to travel over the border into Honduras to see the Mayan ruins at Copan. The first day in Chiquimula was spent recovering from the exhausting heat, as the weather was a bit cooler in Guatemala’s Eastern Highlands than it had been on the Caribbean Coast. In the next installment we visit the world famous Black Christ and cross over the border into Honduras. Thanks for being there!
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The Coomer Family