After being picked up by taxi at 6am from the hostel in Flores, I was brought to the bus station to catch the bus to Rio Dulce. The roads from Flores to Rio Dulce were fantastic, such a nice change from the crazy roads around Semuc! After about 2 and a half hours, I arrived in Rio Dulce and joined a Spanish girl in a tuk tuk which brought us directly from where the bus dropped us off to the port. The tuk tuk didn’t cost anything as the guys get tips or commission from the ports where they bring tourists to take the boat. We got there about 11am and the next boat to Livingston wasn’t until 1.30pm so we had a few hours to kill. The boat trip would take about 2.5 hours and it cost 125 quetzals.
There’s not that much to do around the port area, but there’s a few cafes so I was able to grab a typical Guatemalan breakfast of eggs, beans and tortillas with coffee for about 25 quetzals in the place just beside where we got the boat. I met a group of German girls who were travelling around Guatemala and Honduras for a few weeks and we all got the boat together. The weather wasn’t too great, slightly overcast and it had been drizzling on and off, but thankfully it didn’t rain when we were on the boat. I have to say, I felt a bit anxious about my backpack that was just thrown in the front of the tiny boat that was speeding down the huge river sometimes at breakneck speed! Thankfully it survived the voyage!
The boat trip takes you down firstly to view a castle (the tiniest castle I’ve ever seen!) and then turns back around to make the journey to Livingston, stopping off at natural hot springs where we dipped our toes. I had my swimsuit but the water was BOILING hot and I didn’t much fancy dipping more than my toes into it for fear of literally burning the ass off myself! The banks of the river are dense jungle and it was really cool to see all the activity by the river, lots of locals fishing, bathing, washing clothes, canoeing to nearby villages and docks. The nearer we got to Livingston, the more we could get the vibes of the Caribbean and see the colourful huts lining the riverbanks. There were tonnes of pelicans swooping overhead and swimming in the river too.
We arrived at Livingston at about 4pm and decided to check out the Casa de la Iguana hostel – we’d heard it was a party hostel but also quite cheap and the German girls invited me to share their private four bed room which worked out as 40 quetzals each. As we arrived we got a very in-depth induction to what the hostel offered by a Scottish guy called Hamish, the room was fine and even though it was right beside the bar area, it wasn’t that noisy as thankfully there wasn’t too much of a crowd there that night. We explored the town for a few hours, but as the weather was pretty dull and overcast we reckoned that the town would look a lot prettier in the sunshine, like most places I guess! The beach was a bit miserable looking too, nothing like the Caribbean beaches of Mexico! I’ve been spoiled.
Livingston is home to Guatemala’s only Garifuna community, a mixture of shipwrecked African slaves and native indigenous people, who were initially living on St Vincent, a faraway Caribbean island. The Garifuna resisted all attempts to conquer the island for years but finally the British defeated them and they were deported to the island of Roatán, one of the Bay Islands off the east coast of Honduras, where they later spread along the coast all the way to Belize. I was told that the ambience and vibe in Livingston is very similar to that of Belize and the Garifuna community are fiercely proud of their traditions, distinct customs, food and music.
We made our way back to the hostel after a few hours exploring the town, where our Scottish friend had put together a special pub quiz for us (even though it wasn’t a quiz night) which was really nice – everybody who was there was put into different teams and even though my team didn’t win (argh!), it was great fun. We arranged a shuttle with the hostel to take us to Honduras the next morning, I was planning on going to Utila and the other girls were going to Roatán, two of the Bay Islands off the east coast of Honduras. In all, I didn’t spend that much time in Livingston, but I was glad to have taken the boat trip down the Rio Dulce and spent a bit of time there before making my way to the next stop!