Sweet River, or Rio Dulce, is the river that connects the biggest lake in Guatemala, Lake Izabal, to the Atlantic Ocean. It is a wide, tranquil river and has rightly earned its name.
I went with some fellow volunteers this past weekend for a quick visit. We stayed at a river side hotel on stilts, one that is only accessible by boat. Night and day, we were able to jump off a rope swing and swim in the water right in front of the dock.
The first full day we climbed on a local colectivo and headed up the road to a hot spring in El Paraiso. It was already crowded, being a Saturday and the weekend after a national holiday, but we were early enough that we didn't feel like there were too many people.
The hot water is what is streaming down the rocks. The water at the bottom is cooler and collects from the hot spring but also is a part of a creek.
Afterwards we went for a beautiful stroll through the countryside.
Then we climbed on another colectivo and headed upriver to an area called El Boquieron. There we found canoes and drivers who offered to take us upstream into a canyon. It was beautiful but the best part was when we jumped out and swam down the river, back through the canyon, carried by the current.
After a late lunch and liquados overlooking the water we called our hotel and they sent their boat to pick us up.
The next morning we were up at the crack of dawn (literally, 5:30!) and we headed out again. This time on kayaks where we made our way over to Castillo de San Felipe, a local fort that was built in the 1600s. It was beautiful and awesome to be the only ones there in the early hours of the morning, climbing in and around the ramparts.
After breakfast at our hotel we climbed into a river boat and headed an hour and half up river to Livingston.
Livingston is where the river meets the ocean. It is known as a Garifuna town. The Garifuna are mixed-race descendants of West African, Central African, Island Carib, and Arawak people.
After a lovely day we headed back to La Frontera de Rio Dulce. We were able to make it back in time for Mass and attended one of the most upbeat services I have been to.
Our ride home was a bit trying. Our bus ticket said departure 10am but when we had waited for an hour, I called the agent and found out the bus was leaving Flores at 10am but wouldn't be in Rio Dulce until 1pm. So we left and came back at 12:30 and then waited until 2:30 only to find out the bus had broken down. At 3:30 a bus came, passed us and then didn't turn around. An hour later another bus with the same people from the last bus arrived, because they had changed buses on the outside of town. We finally hit the road to Guatemala City at 4:30pm but as luck would have it a car accident had us side-lined for another hour and a half in the middle of nowhere. We finally pulled into the bus station in Guatemala City around 11pm and into Antigua at 1am. A combination of safety concerns and miscommunication found us at a hostel where we curled up for six hours before climbing out of bed to catch a chicken bus this morning. Because duty calls and we here at NPH answer, we all tried to make it work on time. I was an hour late but that is neither here nor there...grateful I went and grateful to be back!