Boarded the plane in San Pedro Sula for Miami. On our way back to the 1st world.
When we returned to the Rio in September we were unsure of our plans to travel back to the States before next summer and planned on leaving to cruise the western Carib in early November. However, after we got back to our home Linda's family resolved to schedule the dedication for their father's memorial for Thanksgiving week so we made plans to travel back for that and to stay through the Thanksgiving holiday. Traveling back also gave us an opportunity to bring back more supplies to supplement what we brought back in the summer although we knew the weather would be cold (not something we're used to) and every trip back is expensive.
Spending time back in the States gets costly for many reasons. First there is the cost of the trips itself although we were fortunate enough to work off our high point balance of frequent flyer miles. Before we started cruising we had about a million frequent flyer miles and about three-quarters of a million Marriott points but each trip back whittles that balance down quickly. Then of course while we are back we visit with friends we go out to eat a lot and buy groceries to help with the meals for those with whom we are staying. But, unlike here in the Rio where $20 buys us groceries for a week, in the US that buys us not much. We can go out here in the Rio to the best place for dinner with lots of drinks for $40. Less than half of that gets us sandwiches at Panera. Then on top of all that are the supplies we need to bring back with us to continue our too civilized life in the jungle. This trip over Thanksgiving we brought back thousands of dollars of stuff that included boat parts (one very expensive), healthcare items, some food and maintenance items. A big item was our new solar oven that required a new bag because it was so big. Coming through customs at San Pedro Sula in Honduras we were worried about being questioned on our many personal supplies. After our bags passed through the scanner the monitor asked us if we had a book in our bags. Almost amazed I asked him again what he was asking about and he asked us if we had a book. I said yes and he asked how much it cost. Well, we had several books so I said I didn't remember exactly but said "about $20." He said "ok" and that was it. We were on our way home.
Our luggage back home in the cockpit after running the gauntlet of customs and political protests.
Our time in the States was very enjoyable as we celebrated Al Lee's memorial and the Thanksgiving holiday. During the 2 weeks we got to visit with friends and family and suffer through being cold. In fact, I got sick about the second day there with a cold that lingered pretty much until we got back here. We joke about temperatures under 75 being chilly but after spending most of the last 3 years in temps above 80 everyday 30F is really unbearable now.
On the way back home from Chicago we landed right in the middle of somebody else's war. We left the airport and as we we're leaving, Otto, our driver, told us that there might be protests on the way home because of the Presidential election that had just occurred and no winner had been announced. We took the news stoically as we saw the security around the airport and the heavy security around the Honduran Air Force base just off the airport. The drive went well until we saw vehicles driving the other way on our highway shoulder just before the traffic stopped.
Our solar oven working on the dock. Did a great job on veggies 2x. Would have used it more but it has been so overcast and rainy.
Once we were stopped we had no idea if it would be a few minutes, hours or days until we could continue. We had no food, little water and there were no comfort facilities anywhere around. The best we could hope for was a sudden downpour of rain that might drive off the protesters so we could continue. We had no idea how safe we were from collateral violence or deliberate violence that might be directed against us as Americans or just as indiscriminate crime victims.
On the 9th of December RAM Marina held a celebration for the 1 year anniversary of the great paint shed and to celebrate the accomplishments of a local school at Cayo Quemado.
People walked past us all night heading to the protest. Many looked like folks out for a party. They were joking, some carried balloons or children, bags of food and most totally ignored us which was comforting. We saw trucks going toward the protests loaded with pallets and tires and we saw the flames of the fires not that far ahead. But mostly, we were surrounded by trucks and cars with people just suffering in boredom waiting to go on.
An article about the protests going on in Honduras.
Finally there may be a ray of sunshine in Honduras.
Our big concern was that the border to Guatemala closed at 1800 until 0600 the next morning. Otto suggested that we could walk around the protests and get a cab that would take us to the border and we could cross and then take a cab to the Rio. I had several concerns with that. The big one was what if there were protests down the road and we got stuck again. Then we would be with someone we didn't know, in a place we didn't know with someone that probably spoke less English than Otto. Linda and I both agreed we should stay in place and just wait it out. From my years of experience in the Army it seemed like a well-blended position would be less conspicuous than being out alone someplace where we had no support.
Sharing a Happy Birthday with our good friend Nina at Dreamcatchers.
We did have some nutrition bars that we ate and we drank our water sparingly sharing with Otto and after dark walked off the road to relieve ourselves until finally at 0130 the road was open and we were able to get past the sites of the protests. As we drove through the protest sites we saw the burnt tires and debris that was still burning. At one point there were lots of rocks on the road that I guessed were probably thrown at the police but hoped that was not the case. Finally we made it to a 24 hr
A wonderful paella at Dreamcatchers.
We shared the evening at Dreamcatchers with our good friends Bert and Dorothy.
convenience mart in Puerto Cortes where we stopped to get some water, snacks and use the restrooms. The mart was full of people who asked if we had come from San Pedro Sula because they were all waiting to go there. We told them the road was now open. We bought a little refreshment before driving to the border arriving about 0300 to wait for it to open at 0600. We finally got some sleep as we waited with many other vehicles in the vicinity of a nearby Army security station that provided some comfort against assaults. At 0600 we got over the border and from there the trip was uneventful.
Up the mast.
After we got back and over the next several days we read up on what was going on in Honduras. A curfew had been imposed and a number of folks had been killed in the rioting. Apparently the electoral Court ultimately declared the incumbent the winner over the challenger who is allied with the Maduran government in Venezuela. The protesters were wearing Che Guevara hats and bandannas. Honduras is a beautiful country with lots of treasures. Hopefully, peace will arrive soon.
A view of the marina from the top of the mast.
Looking down at Linda on the bow.
Since we got back we have been, well, living in the style to which we have become accustomed. Enjoying the fresh fruits and vegetables purchased at the local tiendas. eating out cheaply when we like, visiting with friends, getting all our prep work done and suffering through the cold and rainy weather of the end of the rainy season. Any day now the rainy season will end and we will get lots of bright sunny days.
We have pulled out all the halyards and bent on all the sails to get the boat rigged. We had taken them all off when we got here in June to protect them from the sun but with the sun now at its lowest its safe to get rigged and ready to go. I rebuilt our fender board with new hardware and repainted it as the old hardware was corroding and leaving rust stains on the deck. Also painted our deck boards and bought a new one here in Rio that I painted and bolted on to the stanchions so we can attach all our fuel and water jugs securely in the rough water we will face on our upcoming passages. Also accomplished our annual canvas cleaning and waterproofing. The tasks completed here pretty much exhaust our "to do" list and completing all that is a wonderful feeling.
One night we had a dinghy raft-up with friends just before they left the Rio.
Living in the Rio has become very comfortable. The weather is pleasant; abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables available very inexpensively; inexpensive dining out; friendly local people and cruisers; most of anything we need is available here; and the chance to finish every project on my deferred maintenance list. With the work the yard did and what I've been able to accomplish the boat is looking great! Hopefully when we leave here the boat will be in the best condition since we've owned it. This all makes it more difficult to leave plus the fact that we haven't been offshore since we got here. As anxious as we are to get on with our trip it is hard to leave. We also know that after a month off-shore much of the maintenance work we accomplished will be obliterated. It just gives us challenges to keep it up.
Amekaya stripped of canvas for cleaning and waterproofing.
Since we got back to the Rio after Thanksgiving the level of activity on the river has increased dramatically. There are many Guatemalan tourists here to celebrate the season and lanchas are running frequently providing lots of wake to our boat at the dock. Inventories at stores and tiendas have been increasing in quantity and quality as locals look for food and gifts for their holiday festivities. The streets are busy and it is a fun time to be here. Unfortunately we missed the Christmas parade in town because that happened the day we were stuck in the Honduran protests.
The cruisers and ex-pats generously support Casa Guatemala that is a local orphanage that is a very complex organization. They run the Hotel Backpackers that not only provides rooms, meals and laundry services for travelers to generate profits to support the orphanage. They also have a boat that comes around twice a week with supply items that they sell to generate profits to support the orphanage. The cruisers and the locals team up to provide a Christmas party with Santa Claus for the orphanage complete with donated gifts and food to support the children.
Our cockpit with Christmas lights.
The cruisers and ex-pats in Rio Dulce do a lot for the community. Their mere presence here provides opportunities for local folks to do work on boats, increase sales at the tiendas and the marinas hire local people for full-time positions providing good jobs. Beyond that the charitable work through Casa Guatemala and a cruiser organization called "Pass It On" all contribute to improving life in the local towns and villages. But, there is so much to do. Most children have little or no schooling. Children work from the time they can do something productive to help contribute to the family income. Children can typically be found working in most of the tiendas or even in the boatyard along with other family members.
The RAM Marina Christmas Tree
The tourists are now coming to the Rio. The hotels and hostels around town are full and lanchas cruise around full of tourists. Many of them pass by the marina here slowly with the passengers looking at the boats. One day recently when I was at the top of the mast to retrieve a halyard when the leader line got wrapped around the jib swivel a boat full of tourists was going in circles near our boat so everyone could gaze at the gringo up the mast while causing wake. Of course they had no idea that their wake was causing me to slam into the masthead keeping me from accomplishing my mission as I had to hold on to keep from banging into the mast.
One day on the Cruisers Net we heard that the local dispensa (grocery store) had turkeys for sale. We got excited. We don't eat much in the way of animals except for chicken or turkey so we thought this might be an opportunity to enjoy something we liked for the holidays. Since the turkeys were small we could handle them in our small oven. But, we decided to cook half in our oven and half on our grill. After an afternoon of prep and cooking we shared a nice turkey dinner with our good friends Bob and Nina from Moondance.
Christmas dinner with 8 of our friends.
Christmas eve at midnight fireworks were launched all around the Rio. In all the holidays we've witnessed here on the Rio this is the biggest celebrated with fireworks. For Christmas we enjoyed dinner at one of the local marinas with several of our cruising friends. The food was horrid but it was a great time socializing with our friends. During the day we took the opportunity to call our kids and family to wish them the best for the holidays.
Christmas in the tropics is different. The images of sleighs, snow and glowing fireplaces that we knew for so many years have given way to camaraderie, fellowship and wishes for our family still in the cold world. With so much work we prepare for leaving this wonderful community and venture forth in the new year for new horizons and new adventures.
Watching a double feature of the original and new versions of Miracle on 34th Street on Christmas Eve.
It's always a challenge as we prepare to leave a place where we've become comfortable to head out to new adventures. The conflict from leaving the familiar to going into the unknown raises the anxiety level. But as much as we love it in the Rio we are anxious to get going on new adventures. Some cruisers just go from point to point after hitting the highlights without much thought but we enjoy gaining understanding and familiarity with the local folks as we settle into the local culture. That's the joy of cruising.
A holiday weekend in the Rio. Boats and PWC;s everywhere.
The lovely Mayan woman that helps us each week at the tienda where we buy lots of fruits and vegetables.
Around the Rio the time between the holidays was really busy. Lots of tourists from all over the region to celebrate the holidays. New Year's Eve was hectic with about an hour worth of fireworks beginning just before midnight. But here we are in the New Year as we get ready to finally get back out on the water cruising. The Rio has been very comfortable but we're ready for new adventures.
Peace and love for all our family and friends and best wishes for the new year as we all embark on new opportunities. Next update will be from our adventures in Belize.