As soon as we got off charter we had to get Melody ready to leave Belize. The Belizean authorities only give you a three month cruising visa for your yacht and to renew it you have to leave the country, unlike a lot of other cruising destinations in the Caribbean. Unfortunately Belize is not a very cruiser friendly country – it is ridiculously expensive, there are five different governmental departments you need to pay and for some of those fees they cannot provide you with receipts for cash paid… Need I say more? If you have ever taken your boat to Chaguaramas in Trinidad you will know what I mean when I say the Belizean authorities are as “friendly and welcoming” as the Trinis…
They are not very understanding if you overstay your allotted time and since we left to South Africa for three months, directly after sailing Melody to Belize from Trinidad, we were already over our time and had to move her fast. Luckily there wasn’t too high of a “facilitation fee” involved in our exit and we left as soon as all the paperwork was sorted.
Our awesome boss Cliff was once again so understanding and helpful (he loaded melody with food and other nice goodies from the charter boats) and helped us off the dock along with the Marina Manager, Collette and her team.
We decided to sail down to Guatemala, into the Rio Dulce, which is a popular spot for cruisers to hide out with their boats during hurricane season. Guatemala borders Belize to the south, a 5 hour bus trip from Belize City, if you go by land. This would be our first time in Guatemala and we were super stoked to check it out. We had heard a lot about it from friends and other cruisers and the reports were all positive.
The trip down is very short, we left at lunch time and arrived at Livingstone, at the mouth of the Rio, a few hours after sunrise the next morning. The first obvious indication that you are near a river mouth is the change in water colour and then something I didn’t expect, the smell. To me, when we are out at sea it doesn’t really smell like anything, not like the “sea/fishy” smell of a harbour etc. The river smells sweet. Its the only way I can describe it. And because the river banks are basically tropical forest, extending right into the water, the sounds of the wildlife and the birds is something magical.
We anchored right at the mouth, in front of the town of Livingston, to check in and take care of all the formalities, changing USD to local Quetzales (pronounced Ket-za-les) and of course the essentials: food and a cold beer!
colourful hand-made goods for sale all along the main street motorbikes and scooters are everywhere, seems to be the most popular mode of transport, especially for the ladies.
pano of the town launcha on its way into town – the most common mode of transport up and down the Rio this boat has seen better days – now home to a tree