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Day 456 - Rio Dulce, Guatemala (N 15° 39.0 W 89° 00.1)
13:42 hrs - August 29th, 2008
That's hot!

You know it's hot when the thermometer goes into an error mode, anything over 122 degrees Fahrenheit and the unit simply gives up and displays "H H", as though the thermometer itself is gasping for breath and unable to function properly. The manufacturer probably assumed that no one could live, or would want to live, in sustained temperatures of over 122 degrees anyway, so why bother displaying it.

Yes, it's hot here. In a rather disheveled attempt to provide shelter from the relentless sun, boats from all around the world, used to much more reasonable climates, are covered in a variety of canopy's and cheap tarps that are crudely suspended over decks and held in place by a web of colorful bungee cords, straps and spare pieces of string. Without shade, decks, stainless steel hardware, railings and precious bright work become too hot to touch. Cetol and varnish crack and bubble in protest as though under attack by a giant heat gun. It's not just hot, but scolding, like the rare days at the beach when the sand is so hot you have to hop from towel to towel to the water's edge. It's like that here, every day, all day.

We sweat constantly, not just a few beads of perspiration, I'm talking rivers of sweat. I spend my days looking like I just stepped out of the shower. It doesn't matter what I'm doing, if I stand still for too long I'm literally standing in a pool of my own essence. I've never drunk so much water in my life, gallons every day. For survival my body instructs me to drink more. I find myself drinking without consciously knowing that I was even doing it!

Forget working outside, the numerous projects I have to complete before we sail to Honduras will have to wait, at least for a cloudy day, which we've yet to have. The few hours marking the beginning and end of each day that offer sweet relief from the sweltering heat seem way too valuable to spend working.

There was a brief moment of panic a few weeks ago when our inverter/charger was fried by a lightening surge, without it we were unable to utilize shore power to run, what has now become the most valuable piece of equipment we have on the boat, our air conditioner. But necessity is a great motivator so we figured out how to hardwire shore power directly into Dream Time's AC system, the cabin temperature is now maintained at a cool and very luxurious 85 degrees. When compared to the outside temperature, 85 degrees feels positively refreshing.

Soon we will seek shelter from the heat and head into the cooler highlands of Guatemala where the guidebooks promise temperatures so low that long sleeves and perhaps even trousers are required. It's hard to imagine. Until then, we will continue to hose ourselves down regularly on the dock, sit quietly in the shade, drink water and think cool thoughts.



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Day 447 - Rio Dulce, Guatemala (N 15° 39.0 W 89° 00.1)
14:50 hrs - August 20th, 2008
Time for Tikal

Before I write anything else we want to thank everyone for all their kind and concerned e-mails to us following the awful events that happened here last week.  We are both doing fine and are busy re-evaluating all our existing security measures, to ensure we are fully prepared and as safe as we can be.  The 4 local people involved in the fatal attack on the cruisers were quickly caught and swift official and local Guatemalan justice was served.  It was all taken very seriously by the government here and they are trying to do everything they can to reassure tourists and foreign visitors of their safety in Guatemala, including visibly increasing the army and navy presence in the area particularly on the river itself which has been encouraging and comforting to many including the locals who depend heavily on income from visiting cruisers.  Unfortunately the huge economic gap between the average Guatemalan and the average American is beyond unjust, for all sorts of absurd reasons that make even less sense than the attack itself, so sadly what happened here was almost inevitable, but everyone here is determined that this not happen again.

After such a stormy and sad time in the Rio Dulce we were looking forward to a little diversion by way of a road trip inland. We made our way by bus to Tikal which being one of the largest of the Mayan temple sites, dating back to 200 BC and set in a dense rainforest within an enormous 550 sq km national park promised to redirect our attention to a more beautiful facet of Guatemala. The ruins and temples were truly as spectacular and astonishing as they had promised be and even the horribly early sunrise viewing after an even more horrible billion vertical step climb up to the top of temple 5, was completely satisfying (even without coffee) but some of the most memorable parts were in the unexpected, like at the hotel we stayed at Tikal in the park, that because of the extremely remote location only had power for 2 hours in the morning and 3 hours in the evening, which meant lights out really meant lights out, for the whole hotel! It also meant no air conditioning, no ceiling fan and utter black darkness in and around the whole hotel, and I can tell you the jungle doesn’t afford much in the way of ambient light, so unless you maintain good carrot consumption you may have a problem if you need to move around much after 9pm.  We stayed for 2 days and 2 dark nights and we were able to get into the park at 6am when it opened and stayed till it closed at 6pm and were back at the hotel in time to enjoy 3 hours of electricity before bed! We spent the next few days at Flores a beautiful little island village in the middle of a large freshwater lake, where we enjoyed 24 hour electricity.  Our journey back to the Rio Dulce turned out to be a hair-raising 3 hour bus ride care of an unnervingly enthusiastic bus-driver who clearly had Formula One aspirations.  He obviously knew the roads very well as he took advantage of every hairpin turn and steep narrow downhill with relish.  From our seats we could see him dramatically lean into each turn as he sped up to enjoy each tight bend, and this would all have been entirely entertaining had we had been on an empty race track but we were on small bumpy Guatemalan roads with unsuspecting Guatemalan drivers, mostly going slower than us or heaven help us, driving the opposite way!  I am still surprised but grateful we made it in one piece but I’m now a bit nervous about our next bus ride to Guatemala City in September!  Well keep you posted!



   

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Day 440 - Rio Dulce, Guatemala (N 15° 39.0 W 89° 00.1)
17:27 hrs - August 10th, 2008
Tragedy strikes!

It seems sadly ironic that this entry comes after Catherine's last blog regarding the safety of Guatemala. Today we heard the tragic news that a cruising couple, anchored just a few minutes downstream from Dream Time, were boarded last night around 2100 hours by four armed men and in the process of what sounds like a blundered robbery, were brutally attacked. The husband was stabbed and died on the boat. His wife, who was also stabbed and suffered a punctured lung, repeatedly broadcast a MAYDAY on the VHF radio pleading for help. She survived the incident and is recovering in a local hospital.

While we don't yet know the exact details of what happened, or why, like other cruisers in the Rio Dulce we are shocked by the news. Not necessarily just because of the seemingly random, senseless brutality of what they experienced, or even the close proximity of the attack. But rather because, even though we don't know the couple, they are not just another tragic story of unfortunate victims you read about in the news. They were a cruising couple, who just bought their boat, and were at the very beginning of discovering their dreams together, just like me and Catherine.

Now we all know, or like to believe we know that, the moment, is all we have. We're told to live our lives to the fullest as though it is our last, but not too many people really do, few believe it will be, we're all too consumed in life to consider the grim alternative, so we continue to take for granted what we have, believing that tomorrow will simply be another day.

The thing is, tragedy can strike, often without warning, wherever you are. Three nights ago, persuasively illustrating this point , Dream Time was struck by lightening. While we only suffered a burnt-out inverter/battery charger, another boat, just a few feet away lost numerous electronics, areas of the cabin floor suffered sever delamination and in an effort to escape, the lightening blew 50+ tiny holes through the fiberglass hull. The boat was immediately hauled-out of the water and will require weeks, perhaps months to make a full recovery.

Luckily though, their damage, while inconvenient, will soon be covered in new filler, fiberglass, painted and forgotten. The tragedy last night can never be repaired.


 

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Day 437 - Rio Dulce, Guatemala (N 15° 39.0 W 89° 00.1)
17:27 hrs - August 7th, 2008
Today we live in Guatemala!

Today we live in Guatemala and it still surprises me that we are even here!  Before we came I didn’t even know any one who had ever been here, it all seemed a bit dark and mysterious, so it’s still a surprise that we are actually here and that somehow we sailed here in our little boat.  For me Guatemala has always conjured up images of lush steamy jungles full of spiders with teeth, that could run faster than me, and stormy mountains full of covert rebel army’s ready to pounce, but that’s probably just too much Indiana Jones, and while the spiders are definitely on the surprisingly big side, I haven’t seen any with teeth yet, and thankfully the rebel army’s signed a peace treaty in 1996, so all in all there’s much less to worry about than I thought.  We are planning trips inland to as many places as we can get to in the time we have, so while I may have an update on the spider thing, I predict smooth sailing for the rest of our adventures. We’ll keep you posted!