Guatemala diaries :2

When I first read about Rio Dulce I wondered why a river was considered sweet; probably it looks beautiful, I thought to myself. Early morning on our fifth or sixth day in Gautemala, our guide hustled us to Amatique Bay to take a ride on Rio Dulce. He had not prepared me for the fact that we had to start at Amatique Bay on the Caribbean Sea. Just as we sat in the small boat with the nine of us ( two people to sit on each bench) Arty( that’s my name for him)the guide, casually mentioned,” Oh the Caribbean sea will be a bit rough but once we get to the river we will be fine!” He did not mention how long ( or maybe by then I was too paralyzed with fear to hear him say that; did I forget to mention that I am terrified of boat rides since I feel sick even on the passenger seat of a car?) or how rough.

Well we got on the boat with life-jackets on ( did I mention that I am helpless in water?) and for a while as the driver got the boat going we moved slowly. Then he speeded up  and each time we hit a wave( the water had these tiny waves in them) we moved up and came down. It was terrifying for me and I closed my eyes and held on to the seat in front of me. My hands were tensing on the seat and I kept saying words in Tamil in an undertone.  Then I started counting in my head: one-thousand and one, one thousand and two……. this is my way of passing minutes since my husband sweetly informed me that it would take an hour to cross the sea.  For a while( I would say’while’ equalled about fifteen minutes) I did not see or feel anything around me except the water splashing on me.  But suddenly, I thought of all those people who had plied their boats on this sea taking goods back and forth for centuries,they probably had smaller boats those days, what kind of attire did they wear then? Did they speak different languages? How did the spanish communicate with the mayans? I could actually look at the water around me, see the distant shore on the left of me and even say ” Whoa!” like the other passengers each time the boat rocked up and down.  I was ready to ask Arty some questions and the first one was, ” Why was the river called sweet? Is it because it is calmer than this sea?”  ” Not really, I think the Spanish carried sugar cane from the Caribbean to the ports to carry them across to their country. That is where that name came.”   responded Arty with a laugh. By then I was fine with the rocking and stopped holding on to the front seat telling myself that if I died, we would all die together.

The hour  passed by without my counting every second of it. Soon I could see brown pelicans and gulls skimming near the water, looking for fish. I knew we were close to the shore. “Livingston!’ said Arty as we craned our necks to look at the red 363roofed houses and green foliage dotting the shore.

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