The refit has finally come to an end. Samadhi is looking good in her new paint color. She has been painted top to bottom. We painted the topsides with just as they were. The hull has been painted a light gray with the same dark blue stripes. And we had a new coppercoat bottom paint installed. The coppercoat bottom is supposed to last up to 10 years as opposed to the normal 2 to 3 years for conventional bottom paint. We also replaced the primary windows and painted the window frames. The rudder was removed and properly serviced. We replaced the shaft seal and cutlass bearings and serviced the maxi-prop. We had as many as 8 guys working on her for at least 3 months stopping only due to weather. We are very happy with the work and plan to return to the same yard for future work.
While we waited for the work to be completed we had a few weeks enjoy the resort and the local area. We met a lot of great people and had some fun adventures. We organized a community duathlon at the resort and had participants ranging in ages from 7 to 71. People from the community and cruisers participated. We had representatives from the U.S., Panama, Brazil, Argentina, Guatemala, Wales, and the UK. It was a really fun day and I think everyone enjoyed themselves. The resort that we stayed at and had the event was kind enough to donate some prizes for the participants so that made it even more enjoyable.
We thought that Samadhi would be finished a little sooner that she was so we sold our car as soon as we arrived in the Rio Dulce. That turned out to be a bit of a mistake. So for any longer trips we had to rent a car. One such trip was to visit a waterfall of geothermally heated water that falls into a cold river flowing perpendicular to the falls. It was about an hour drive from our hotel to the trailhead. We found the trailhead parking where we were met by a group of 4 girls from the small village nearby. As soon as we got out of the car they offered to guard our car while we visited the falls. They each wanted one Quetzal (about $.20). During our negotiations of a 1 Quetzal plus one song to be sung all four girls got the googley eyes for Alexander. They soon forgot about the Quetzal and just wanted to look at and giggle about Alexander. They were absolutely adorable. They did sing us a song from their school and I gave them each 10 Quetzales. We were joined by a nice old man from the village who hiked back to the falls. He wanted to make sure that we go there safely and picked a good spot to swim and enjoy ourselves. We tipped him too and thanked him for helping us find the only falls at the end of the trail. Oh well, he was a very nice man and it is always good to support the local economy. After we waded out into the cool water we crossed the river to the roaring falls of the hot water. The hot water cascaded over large rocks and into a nice waist deep pool of now warm water. The hot water was just a degree or two from being too hot to stand. My guess would be that the temperature was about 110-120 degrees. The water in the river was about 70 degrees so it made for a perfect combination. The mud from the river was said to be great for the skin and many people there were rubbing it all over their bodies. So when in Rome… When we got back to the car Alexander’s fan club was waiting to continue their flirting and giggling. I offered to take their pictures and they jumped at the opportunity. They were very sweet and Alexander, though very much embarrassed, was a good sport and smiled for the pictures.
Thru other cruisers, who have been coming to the Rio Dulce for 15 years, we were able to see how some of the local Mayan people live on the river. Our cruiser friends asked the cruising community if they had anything that could be donated. We had lots of clothes and some school supplies that Victoria and Alexander no longer needed or used. So we joined a small flotilla to visit some Mayan homes along the river. Our first stop was a home built on stilts to accommodate the rising and falling of the water levels throughout the year. The family was very welcoming to show us their home and had many pets to introduce us to as well. They had new puppies and kittens and also a big parrot and 2 parakeets. We brought them some art supplies and clothing and they were very appreciative. This family spoke zero English so communication was a little difficult but Victoria stepped right up and translated for all the cruisers. She was quickly the center of attention as they do not meet many gringo kids that speak Spanish so fluently very often. Another of the homes that we visited offered to cook us lunch and gave us a small tour of the property that they lived on. It was beautiful thick jungle right along the river. They too had many animals including two young raccoons. These little cuties were very curious and always looking for food. They would climb right up my legs to see if I had anything to feed them. Here, too, Victoria was the center of attention as her language skills allowed her to fit right in and have fluid conversations with the Mayan families; both kids and adults.
Our most notable adventure while in the Rio Dulce is still top of mind for all four of us. It began with an evening in the resort’s pool. Victoria, Alexander and I were playing catch with a football in the pool one evening. I struck up a conversation with a nice couple from Guatemala City. We discussed our traveling and our lifestyle. We discussed Guatemala and the opportunities for work in Guatemala. This wonderful couple told me of their son’s work in medicine as well as their daughters work in Veterinary medicine. The reason for their visit to Rio Dulce was to visit her at the animal sanctuary that she worked for. They told me that she may be able to give us a tour of the work that they do. Kathie gave me her phone number and told me to text her when we would like to stop by and see some animals and that she would find a way to show us around. A week later we drove out to the large nature reserve that is set aside to protect these animals in need. Kathie is a veterinarian tasked with taking care of various animals recovered from illegal activities, injured or no longer wanted from zoos. She met us at the gates and hopped into our car. We had zero expectations as to what we would experience so we just played along to see what we would see. The first area that she took us to had many kinds of birds, lizards, monkeys, deer, and an ocelot. But the one, Murphy family favorite, that stood out and made our day were the river otters. They had four river otters that would come right up to the fence for us to see and hear. They were absolutely adorable! And I am certain Kathie thought the four of us were nuts with how excited be all got to see otters so up close and personal. We could have stayed there all day. When we left that area the four of us thought we could go home right now and this day would be amazing. We had much more excitement ahead. After leaving the otters we drove to an enclosure near a medical facility. Kathie said she wanted to introduce us to someone she works with. The four of us were still flying high from our otter encounter that we barely noticed the black ball of fur hiding in the bushing inside the enclosure. Kathie pointed to the dark spot in the bushes and called out for Moana. Moana burst out of the bushes, at full speed and right up to the fence. Moana was a four month old black panther! Kathie stuck her fingers through the chainlink fence and Moana immediately began licking and rubbing against Kathie’s hands. Having forgotten about the otters, the four of us just stood there in awe at the fact that an adorable baby black panther was inches away from us and our friend Kathie was petting it! She turned to us and said you can pet her too. There was no hesitation, instantly we all were scratching and rubbing this amazing animal thru the fence. It was simply amazing. Moana was just perfect. She was excited to be pet and was very gentle. She would lick my hands and rub her face and ears on all of our hands. I could not believe we were there petting such an amazing animal. When it finally came time to say goodbye to Moana, we all got back into the car and headed to our next stop. However, after first the otters and then Moana, I didn’t see how this day could get any better. I guess I hadn’t met Simba yet! We continued to the next area of enclosures where they keep the large cats. She told us they have a tiger, 2 leopards, another panther and a lion. These enclosures are similar to what you would see in a zoo. Only they are much, much larger and not designed for the animal to be seen by crowds. This sanctuary is not open to the public and exists to help the animals not put them on display. So it was not a surprise or a disappointment when we did not see the tiger or one of the leopards. We did see the lion. He was sitting up on a raised platform about 6 feet off the ground and watching casually us as we wondered the area. When we finally turned toward his enclosure his demeanor of indifference toward us changed drastically. We were about 20 feet from his enclosure and walking toward it when all of a sudden he rose and raced toward the gate in front of us. His speed was incredible! The gate was thick enough to hold an elephant and at least 15 feet high but I was very nervous being so close to this animal after seeing it move so effortlessly. The four of us stopped about 10 feet from the gate as Kathie continued right up to the bars. This huge male lion eyeballed us sternly but then quickly relaxed and began acting like a big house cat. Kathie reached through the bars and called him over! He ran up to the bars and leaned his back up against her hands and she began scratching him all over! She turned to us and said you can pet him too it you would like. Now this was no 4 month old little ball of fur. This was a full grown 400lb male lion! There was some hesitation this time. But soon all four of us were reaching through the bars and petting this lion. And I don’t mean we touch it a pulled back quickly. I mean I am rubbing his mane and scratching his back and neck! And he loved all of it. He was just like a cat whose owner has been away at work all day. It was simply incredible to have all four of us there petting a lion! Kathie showed us more animals, we walked among zebras and antelope. We played footsy with a full grown black panther, and we had a staring contest with a full grown ostrich. The day was more that we could ever have imagined and we have been talking about Moana and Simba (the lion) ever since. Thank you again Kathie for a experience we will never forget! And thank you Eduardo and Carmen for introducing us to your wonderful daughter!
We left Guatemala on a rainy morning. It was more than a little sad. We have all come to really love this country and its people. Crossing the bar to get into the river is more than a little stressful but absolutely worth it. We will return to Guatemala. We do not know when but we know we will return. Until then, on to Belize.