Tag: In Hot Water

Rio Dulce, Guatemala

Rio Dulce, Guatemala

Sweet River. Indeed.

Bye Bye Bikes

One too many topes. One too many crappy roads. The steel on our Yakima FullSwing severed in half, dragging our bikes on the highway. We were fortunate we checked our rear view camera when we did. We pulled over in a small village a couple dozen kilometers outside of Tikal. The rack was toast, ripped in half like a piece of toast. And we couldn’t fit all the bikes inside the van. Thus, the cheaper ones, Andrea’s and Paheli’s, were donated to the village, along with the remnants of the rack. We sold what was left of Everett and my bikes for pennies on the quetzal in Antigua.

The Funny Thing About Expectations

We’d been told from a fellow traveling family that it was a good stop. A great stop if you consider the quality of the showers. It was also a convenient half-way point between our previous destination, Tikal, and our next destination, Antigua. We didn’t see many other options on the map. At least other options that did not involve sketchy roads.

We’re not sure what we were expecting. A nice stop. A warm shower. Perhaps a flushing toilet. We weren’t expecting a gorgeous, otherworldly river.

It felt like floating through a scene in Avatar as we cruised up the river Rio Dulce toward the Caribbean. Limestone cliffs surround you. Volcanos overshadow you. Snowy and Great Egrets, pure white, glide from perch to perch over you. Northern Jacanas, Jesus birds as some call them, with their banana yellow beaks and scary, spidery toes, hop across lilly pads near you. Iguanas swim, yes swim, in front of you. And occasionally, an artfully and architecturally fetching hut, juts from the jungle next to you.

Fun Stops

We made two fun stops in route to Livingston, the town at the cusp of the Caribbean. The first was a restaurant slash place to extract tourist dollars for the local community (a non-profit restaurant, which is pretty cool). Next to the restaurant, a natural hot springs flowed into the river. It lived up to its name. You have to swirl the river with the spring water to make it tolerable. The second was a restaurant slash mini water park. A couple waterslides, a trampoline, a rope-swing, and several jumping platforms extend from the deck of the restaurant. You can eat here. You probably should eat here. But if you’re like the Lingle’s, you’ll be far too focused on the waterslides to concentrate on eating.

The Spanish Again

Spanish conquistadors sailed up the Rio Dulce to invade Guatemala. While, I suppose, it’s a bit sensational, a bit, como se dice, macabre, I couldn’t help but imagine what it would’ve felt like to witness the massive Spanish galleons wind from the ocean through the limestone cliffs, which get quite narrow in sections, to the mouth of Lago de Isabel, where they launched their attack on Antigua. But I’m fascinated by sailboats.

Ram Marina

Hence one reason we chose (or were likely forced, by me) to stay here. The facilities were immaculate, built for the yuppy yachters that dock here after a season sailing the Caribbean. It has laundry, a well-provisioned grocery store (one of the best we’ve seen in Guatemala), nice showers, and of course, bundles of beautiful boats. Most days, I found myself just strolling the grounds, ogling, lusting really, over the various catamarans “on the hard”.

Awesome Stop

This may have been our favorite stop on this trip thus far. Life mimics the tempo of the river here. Peaceful. Calm. Serene. It’s a place where you can, and you want to, just squat in a chair with a book and watch the sailboats meander by.

Rancho San Carlos Agua Caliente

Rancho San Carlos Agua Caliente

We’d read about this natural hot springs on iOverlander, our favorite travel app. The reviews and pictures ranged from acceptable to favorable, though each came with a disclaimer: the road to the Rancho is rough, 4×4 is recommended, and despite being only ten kilometers from Ensenada, the journey will take an hour. The Lingles dig hot springs. Andrea and the kiddos for hours; me for about ten minutes. We’d also been looking for an excuse to test the expensive 4×4 conversion on our van. Off we went.

The road was, indeed, rough. We crossed eight streams (see video below), dozens of mud puddles, and climbed up and down several hills. I hadn’t 4x4ed that much since I owned a jacked-up Jeep in college. The van, while no Jeep, handled the road fairly gracefully — the front tires hit the top of the front fenders on a few treacherous potholes, sending jolts through the van and our spines — arriving at the literal end of the road intact yet muddy.

The Rancho’s food source — chicken, Peking ducks, rabbits, pigs, and a sheep — greeted us upon arrival. Then we waited at the gate for what seemed like minutes but were likely seconds for an employee to take our money. Five minutes later, we’d found a pool- and stream-side spot and the kids were jumping in. Like most hot springs, the pools ranged from second-degree burns to why bother. Andrea and the kids spent most of the afternoon in or near the pools. I spent a reciprocal amount of time chasing the Peking ducks around the stream. I wondered why they stayed around, surely aware, given the frequent disappearance of their elders, that they’d be next. But they did. I suppose they’re just suffering from Stockholm syndrome.

Later that night, after all our bodies had taken raisin form, we dined on macaroni and cheese and Oreos in the van and crashed — our Mexican counterparts bathed and partied well into the evening. We left after a quick dip the next morning. The experience was fun and unique, albeit slightly watered-down by the numerous other “Agua Caliente” resorts we saw on the much smoother road to our next destination in San Felipe.

Ensenada, México

Ensenada, México

Our first stop overseas.

The San Diego / Tijuana border crossing is the busiest in the world. We were expecting lines and bureaucracy. Instead, we drove straight through during morning rush hour. We questioned if we’d missed something. Like a visa (turns out, you only need a visa to leave Baja California). Or a body cavity search. Or a child. But we hadn’t. We’d only missed the first exit and freeway to Ensenada — and then we spent the next ten minutes circling around Tijuana to reconnect to the freeway.

A couple hours later, we arrived at our campground, Campo Turistico La Joya, on the Southern tip of Ensenada Bay. We were assaulted by an infamous tope (Mexican speed bump) upon entering the campground, nearly sending all our worldly possessions through the front windshield. The topes are no joke. Mexico knows what they’re doing in terms of speed reduction. Then I proceeded to butcher my first conversation in Mexico in Spanish, a conversation I’d been practicing for two hours in route, but I got the gist from the friendly and patient attendant that she wanted money. We paid, the gate raised, and we proceeded to our beachside spot. Then I filmed the video below. Then I saw a drone mocking my feeble attempt at panorama and immediately became incensed with jealousy. I knew we should’ve bought one of those for this trip….

Several hour later, we christened our first stop on Mexican soil with quintessential American (of the United States variety) cheeseburgers at Mama Bear’s Pizza & Burgers. A lame choice, we know, but the campground and surrounding area was mostly deserted, and we didn’t feel like driving into downtown Ensenada. The burgers were, however — and I do feel I have some judgment in this varietal of food — excellent.

We returned to camp and swapped beers and stories with the owners of the drone, a nice couple from Arcadia, California, home of Humbolt State, where my sister-in-law Izzy is contemplating attending college. We talked about staying up to dig a hot tub in the beach. Evidentially, during low tide, hot water from a nearby fault-line flows beneath the beach at that section of the Bay. Steam seeps from the sand to reveal its location. If you dig a hole near the steam, ya got yourself a personal bath. This sounded cool and unique, but low tide was near midnight, and midnight is approximately two hours past my bedtime (one of my many nicknames in high school was “Ten O’Clock”). Plus, you know, you just can’t leave sleeping kids in a van in a foreign country. Or so I’ve been told.

The next morning, before departing Ensenada, we drove to La Bufadora to see North America’s second largest blowhole. No, not the US President (snare snare tom-tom crash-symbol)…but a marine geyser exploding from a small hole in a sea cave. The kids dug it (see video below). Then we had our first official Mexican meal for breakfast: tacos.