I don’t really know where I am going next- I toy with the idea of Belize but I have also just entered Guatemala and I don’t feel like another border just yet. I get on the road and head south towards Coban, instead. Then, as I miss the turn off to Coban I decide then to go further south to Rio Dulce. This is the way my travel goes at times. I am not a good planner for the little details. I like to keep the process fluid as I dislike the pressure of time constraints and needing to be somewhere.
I arrive in Rio Ducle just on dark, as the first drops of rain are starting to fall. I stay in a backpackers over the water and it pours all night. The sounds of the loud bar rock me to sleep.
The next day I take leave from the bike and head down the river on a lanche towards Livingstone. The river winds through a jungle clad gorge, and the bird life on the water is phenomenal. Huts line the water, and at times children paddle out towards the boats in dugout canoes selling shells and starfish and jewelry.
The boat stops in Livinstone, a place unlike any I have seen yet in Central America. It has the feel of the Caribbean. It's home to the Garífuna (descendants of indigenous Carib and shipwrecked African slaves), many people speak a laid back English and local dialect, and I hear much less Spanish. As I am walking into town from the dock with a girl from Belgium, we meet a man on the main street, Philip. He is Garif and proud of it.
He talks about his culture, and trying to keep the pride of the people, and begs us not to by the coral, and starfish for sale in all of the shops as it is killing the reef. I talk about the local food and he says he will take me on a tour of the local town and show me the restaurant. He states that he is one of the town leaders and asks that we donate to the local children’s feeding program instead of a tour fee. He talks about the poverty of the Grafi and how as a minority they are not represented in government. He points out that the shop owners are all Spanish speakers and states that there is ‘an unofficial l apartheid here”. He goes on to talk about how the feeding program is set up to feed the children of the village one meal a day to try and assist the single mothers from selling their bodies to make money to feed the kids, creating an ongoing cycle of poverty. We walk through the back alleys of the Garífuna community, he shakes hand with everyone and calls out to all that we pass. The children run up and ask for photos, at times playing to the camera.
I delight in the Tapado De Pesccado, a local specialty seafood stew, with coconut milk and plantains, served with coconut bread.
Later that afternoon, sitting on the floor of the room I feel another little shake. I look at my location and think of Tsunamis, my mind seeing my bike washed into the ocean on ending up on a strange beach of another land. But the internet tells me another little earthquake has hit the south of Guatemala, on the pacific side, so at least for me I felt a little better. This time thankfully there was little damage.