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28. Livingston

Guatemala

No problems leaving Flores on our second attempt, but we did scale down to the second class (or possibly third class) bus. The infamous Guatemalan chicken bus lived up to its name. We traveled over four hours to Rio Dulce on one of these gems, full to the brim with people and their live chickens. At several points women came on board to sell drinks and make meals to order for the passengers. Some of these meals were very much not alive chicken. I was glad the living chickens didn't understand their fate.

The boat to Livingston down the Rio Dulce was uncomfortable but a nice trip overall. What started as a huge, blue lake slowly turned into jade green river, flowing through a tree-filled canyon. A tiny castle (hardly worth the title) was pointed out to us, along with a bunch of birds on an island and some hot springs. The highlight was clearly the canyon itself, with the other sights being unnecessary fillers.

Cruising down the Rio Dulce.

In Livingston we made our way to a pre-booked hotel and checked into the cutest (but basic) wooden bungalow with a thatched roof. The back of the hotel was right on the river, and a pier had been built leading out to hammocks over the water. They were definitely going to get a workout from us at some stage.

Hammocks over the water.

There wasn't much to see in town - a handful of touristy restaurants, some hole-in-the-wall type eateries and a bit of street food. Do you notice a theme here? We had no choice but to check out the food scene. Livingston is comprised mostly of the Garifuna people, who have a local specialty: tapado. This was a seafood soup, so I wasn't touching it with a 10 foot pole, but Danny dived right in. Crab, shrimp, snapper, coconut broth, a few vegetables and some plantains. We hadn't had much experience with plantain, and after this the closest we could compare it to were unripe bananas or starchy potatoes. It wasn't so bad. I ordered a Thai curry that was great, even though there were pieces of ripe banana in it (I think the plantain would have been a better option here). After polishing off our coconut-based dinners and downing a coco loco (cocktail, made with coconut cream), we were well and truly coconuted out. I didn't think it was possible.

 

I tried running the next morning to work off some of that calorie-dense coconut feast, but I still wasn't used to running in such hot temperatures (I wonder when I will stop using that excuse?). It never seemed to cool down, even in the middle of the night. Great when you want a late night out and don't have a jacket, not great when you try to be healthy and get a workout in. You would have thought I'd be acclimatized by now. 

 

As the town didn't have much going for it, we decided to walk 1.5 hours up to a local waterfall, most of the trek being along a brown, dirty beach. Rubbish and small pieces of coloured plastic littered the path, to the point where we could barely see the sand. It could almost be attractive in an artistic sense, if the environmental impact wasn't so massive. The wildlife kept us somewhat distracted from the garbage, which included pelicans, chickens, ducks, dogs, turkeys and many other birds I still don't know the name of (have I mentioned that I have zero bird knowledge?). The falls were okay, small but with a nice pool to swim in. The long hike gave us a great excuse to chill out in the hammocks for the rest of the day.

The beaches weren't enticing.

Luckily we could swim here, as the falls alone weren't worth the effort.

We braved a hole-in-the-wall restaurant for dinner, with room enough for two tables and maybe five people. There were only two options on the chalkboard. We tried ordering one of each, not knowing what either really was, but ending up getting the identical dishes. Our Spanish was slowly coming back to us, and we could translate "fried", "flour" and "beans". It ended up being something similar to a savoury, bready pancake or foccacia, topped with a refried bean mixture, served pizza-style. It wasn't bad but it was so gigantic that we left feeling as large as houses. We couldn't do much after that except lie down like beached whales and watch TV on the iPad.