Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sweet Water & Bob Marley

We left the group after Tikal and took a 5 hour bus ride to Rio Dulce Town, where we boarded a boat for a hour and a half ride down the Rio Dulce (sweet river) toward Lívingston, Guatemala.

We were pretty much accosted by the local tour guides in Rio Dulce and escorted to the dock to board our lancha (boat) for the tour down the river. Along the way we viewed a castle a bird park and stopped at a natural hot spring.

Castillo de San Felipe

taking a soak in the hot water

When we arrived in Lívingston we were again accosted by the local Garífuna unofficial tour guides and shown to our cute hotel Gil Resort.

The Garífuna culture of Livingston is unlike any other part of Guatemala. The Garífuna people are a Reagge loving, Bob Marley worshipping, laid back group that trace their history back to the island of St. Vincent in the eastern Caribbean. In 1635 when 2 Spanish ships, carrying slaves from Nigeria to their colonies in America, wrecked off St. Vincent and the survivors took refuge on the island. A century later Britian attempted to take full control of St. Vincent, but was driven off by the Caribs, with French assistance. 20 years later, another attempt was more successful, and in 1783 the Briitish imposed a treaty on the Garífuna, allowing them more than half of the island. However, this treaty was never accepted and the Garífuna continued to defy British rule. The colonial authorities could not allow a free Black society to survive among slave-owning European settlers, so it was decided to deport the Garífuna population. They were hunted down, their homes destroyed and hundreds died of starvation and disease. The survivors, 4300 Black Caribs and 100 Yellow Caribs, were transported ot the nearby island of Balliceaux and within 6 months more than half of them had died, many of yellow fever. In 1797 the survivors were taken to Roatan, one of the Honduran Bay Islands, but in 1802 150 of them were brought as wood-cutting laborurers to southern Belieze, from where they moved along the Caribbean coast and settled in Lívingston in 1806.

Starfish straight from the shores off Livingston

The Garífuna speak Spanish and some English plus a unique Garífuna language that blends Arawak, French, Yuroba, Banti and Swahili words. They enjoy Garífuna music, or punta, a furiously rhythmic, characterized by mesmeric drum patterns and ritual chanting. Learn more about the Garífuna culture at www.garí

Siete Altares

In Lívingston we dined on Tapado (coconut-based fish soup) and took a side trip to Siete Altares (7 Alters) an imposing series of waterfalls and Playa Blanca a private beach. While walking the shores we discovered a bunch of natural pumice stones. Look out feet, you're in for a treat!

Playa Blanca

pumice stones

* Information about the Garífuna culture was taken from The Rough Guide to Guatemala

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