Antigua was somewhere behind us. At 4:00 AM on a Friday morning we’d hoisted the suitcases to the roof of the crowded shuttle van and headed for Guatemala City and the waiting bus which labored on our behalf during the uneventful six hour drive to Rio Dulce, the river route to the Caribbean coast of Guatemala.
Rio Dulce is a haphazard town that has grown up on the banks of the river for which it is named. It possesses a muggy humidity much different than the rarified air of the Guatemalan highlands. It continues to grow thanks to the influx of wealthy Guatemaltecans who build trendy vacation homes with large boat houses.
The only concession to historic importance is the old military fort, Castillo San Filipe de Golfo built in 1657 to keep the safe sanctuary of the lake, Lago Izabal, out of the hands of foreign pirates. In Rio Dulce we engaged a pushcart driver for our bags and backpacks and headed for the river. The launch from the Kangaroo Hotel, which had come highly recommended by a friend in Antigua, arrived shortly. As the name implies, it is an Aussie operation. Gary opened shop about five years previous and is one of a handful of foreigners on the river. The Kangaroo, more a hostel than a hotel, is a rambling, comfortable and welcoming place to visit and our stay there was an enjoyable experience. Nestled in a dead-end branch of the river it was quiet, isolated and inhabited by polyglot travelers from around the world. With our sight-seeing itinerary and Gary’s knowledge of available resources we found ourselves up a creek, so to speak. The following morning we boarded the Kangaroo launch and headed for the collectivos (shuttle vans) in Rio Dulce. Forty minutes later we were dropped at the trail head for the Cascada Agua Caliente, the only reported hot water falls in the world. A national park, it retains all its natural beauty, the trail being the only concession to progress. Here you can swim in a natural pool, stand or sit in the hot waters of the falls or climb a short distance and take a mud bath. Afterwards, depending on both bravery and adrenalin, you can either jump from the ledge or climb back down to the pool. With the canopy overhead the creek is nearly protected from the direct glare of the sun. When we felt sufficiently sated with the agua caliente we headed back to the highway and flagged down the next bus headed for Valle Boquerón. Boquerón is a deep canyon cut through lime stone hills creating a sun dappled creek bottom with towering cliffs, fissures and shallow caves. We set off up the creek in a long canoe, manned by our guide, and tied off on a gravel beach above a small set of rapids at the terminus of the trip. Here in a quiet pool of water, sparkling in the sunlight, reflecting the deep greens of the trees and limestone cliffs in the steeply cut canyon we spent our time exploring, swimming and relaxing. For the second time that day we found ourselves up a creek, fortunately with a paddle. By Richard and Anita, August, 2013