It hasn’t been a great week for the crew on Bandit. Systems onboard have come to a crashing halt meaning we’ve missed our cue to get across the river bar on the high tide of Dec 10. Frustration is high and pressure is on to get things working and leave before we are forced to do an expensive visa run to Mexico or Costa Rica – our Guatemalan visas run out on December 20. Hmm…it’s weeks like this when cruising certainly isn’t the cocktails at sunset lifestyle many think.
All that however was put firmly into perspective when we heard the sad news that our good mate Jimma Dillon had died unexpectedly back home in Marlborough. Jimma had a great week sailing with us on Bandit in Sardinia a few years ago. What wonderful memories we have of one of life’s great enthusiasts….he will be so sadly missed.
As everything went wrong for us this week we figured that Jimma, a sailor from way back - in fact the first person David sailed with in Marlborough - would be having a chuckle to himself. As all yachties know, boats are never straightforward.
The Rio Dulce is a pretty amazing place to be while we’re in fix-it mode. We’re at Tortugal Marina which is gorgeous, we can swim in the river (avoiding crocodiles!), enjoy the lush tropical gardens, hike in the jungle and there’s a hectic social scene here if you choose it.
But back to Bandit. Just as we were about to leave the river our turbo charger on the engine seized. We’ve had to send it to Guatemala City and hope to have it back next week but as things here work on GMT (Guatemalan Maybe Time) we can never be sure! It does give us time to fix all the other things that have given up the ghost. Our generator is in bits, the wind generator needs attention, the cockpit speakers aren’t working and to top things off the outboard motor packed up yesterday. Luckily, a young Guatemalan boy saw our plight and came onboard and within minutes had it going. Last week we had a visit from Petra, a Slovenian economist we met at language school in Antigua. After years of intense studying and working, trips to countries such as Vietnam, Yemen and Iran made her realise there was more to life than being on the treadmill. So she quit her job and came to Guatemala to learn Spanish. It was wonderful to have such an inspirational person on board for a few days.
With Petra we took a day trip to Finca Paraisio – a steaming hot waterfall near here. Boiling water bubbles up out of the ground and spills over rocks into a tepid pond below. It’s a wonderful feeling to stand under the hot sulphuric water then dip in the cooler pond water.
The trip there was yet another interesting Guatemalan experience. We caught a “collectivo” - a 16 seater van into which we managed to squeeze 23 inside plus two hanging out the door and one on the roof.
Last week we spent a day at a friend’s house down the river. Wendy (a relative of David’s) and her husband Peter live in Guatemala City but have a fantastic holiday home here. How amazing to live in a climate where the living areas are completely open – no walls, doors or windows! The house is set in lush grounds with beautiful tropical trees including papaya, mango, coconut, cacoa and cashew.
The sleeping quarters are in a separate block and they do have walls, doors and windows which are obviously needed as 13 year old Hannah showed us her latest pet – a scorpion she found and is now keeping in a jar! Snakes are also frequent visitors – the joy of living in the tropics.
We had a delicious lunch and spent the rest of the day just sitting around being waited on. Oh and a bit of swimming too.
A week later, Wendy phoned and asked if we’d like to have a day with them on their boat. They picked us up and we headed off down the river, ending up at Livingstone which is at the mouth of the river.
On the way back we stopped at a great open air waterfront restaurant for a traditional lunch of prawns, fish, crab and conch in a spicy coconut broth. Peter runs a coffee business in Guatemala City and was flying himself (and the family) back to the city the next morning. We hope we’ll see them in New Zealand one day.
Provisioning has been an absolute joy here in the Rio – produce, meat and chicken is the cheapest we’ve ever found. Fruit and vegetables are fantastic and we’re enjoying fresh pineapple, papaya and strawberries for breakfast each morning and eggplants, peppers, courgettes, beans, brocolli, avocado and salad greens for dinner. We’ve also found fresh herbs including mint, coriander, parsley, lemon grass and basil!
Depending on how things shape up with the turbo charger we could still get out of here before Christmas. If need be we can get towed over the bar at Livingstone…..for a fee of course. Watch this space.