Cruising Around Lago Isabel

One day tends to blend into the next here on the Rio Dulce. We often have to check the Tigo cell phone, yup we have one of those things here too, to remember what day it is. Something’s always going on, and time flies by so quickly that it’s frightening. We’ll wrap up one little project and before you know it, it’s time for swap meet (Saturdays) or potluck dinner (Sundays) or Happy Hour (every day). There’s no lack of things to do. Every restaurant in the area has lunch specials every day, and those lunches are incredible. Recently Joy and I ate lunch at Bruno’s and Joy thought she’d have a simple little lunch of a baked potato with salad. Here’s that lunch off to the right with 3 baked potatoes, salad, salsa, cheese, home baked bread, and all the extras, all for Q26. That works out to about $3.60 US. After that lunch, dinner was about the furthest thing from our minds. Oh, off to the left of her plate is a “liquado de pina con Agua” (pineapple juice with frozen water blended into a frothy cold refreshing mid-day thirst quencher), one of our favorite drinks here. What’s not to like about this place?

Bruno's Restaurant
Bruno’s Restaurant

One bright Sunday morning we decided to take a dinghy ride after breakfast to do a little lake front exploring. With the dinghy on plane we can cover a lot of territory in short order, and we thought it would give us a nice little outing. We loaded a couple of bottles of water into a cooler, grabbed the camera, and ventured out first heading west into Lago Isabel to explore the big lake. Just after passing under the big bridge the Castillo de San Felipe comes into view on the northern shore of the lake. This historic fort at various times defended against pirates and other marauding bands, but today it is a beautifully maintained historical family park with picnic grounds, play areas, a small beach, plus the original cannons there to joggle your imagination into seeing a pirate or would be bandito lurking in the distance. The fort was built in 1595 by the Spaniards to guard against pirates entering the lake, but sometime in the 1600’s British pirates badly damaged the fort. It was rebuilt and later served as a prison, then abandoned, and finally found its way to become the park we see today. We approached it from the water with the lake almost as still as a mirror.

We wandered in close to the fort and found lots of families enjoying the day with kids playing games or splashing in the water at the beach or simply sitting in the shade enjoying the day off from work sharing a picnic lunch. The grounds are immaculately maintained. This level of cleanliness is in sharp contrast to the sprawling crowds, smells, and confusion we find downtown.

Castillo de San Felipe
Castillo de San Felipe

Rounding the point where the fort stands silent guard we gaze out on the vast expanse of beautiful Lago Isabel with her distant shorelines nearly thirty miles off to the west. Somehow we’d managed to pick one of the prettiest days of our adventure to take this little trip, and these few hours close to the water refreshed us, but at the same time made us sad that we could not feel safe to take the big boat for a trip down the lake to explore all the beauty she has to offer. I’ll tell you a little about that in just a bit. 

Lago Isabel
Lago Isabel

The distant cloud lines are probably 50 or 60 miles away where the mountains begin to rise from the western shores of the lake towards the highlands in the central parts of the country. (When we ride the bus to Guatemala City it is a near constant steep climb up through these mountains until we reach the capital.) There are dozens of small villages, a few larger towns, and a couple of resort properties scattered around the lake; all kinds of places to explore, but you notice nary a boat on the water – why? Starting the day we got back to the boat there was a rash of terrifying thefts from anchored boats with evil doers brandishing machetes and guns boarding boats in the night, even when several boats were anchored together. For a week or more, every night brought tales of stolen dinghies and motors. One horrible incident not far from our marina ended in the tragic death of an American boater. When that happened, you could say all hell broke loose on the river. The American Embassy became involved, the Guatemalan Navy and Police became involved, and without over dramatizing what happened, suffice it to say that within 5 days, all the evil men had either been killed or rounded up. In the week after all this mayhem occurred, much of the stolen property had been recovered. It’s a small world here, and that kind of crime is not tolerated. It was the first murder of this sort in ten years, so it was frightening news. But, it still has everyone pretty shaken, and none of us are venturing out in our boats to stay overnight on the lakes.

Another View
Another View

   
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