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Rio Dulce Guatemala

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RIO DULCE, Guatemala- Rio Dulce is a crowded little highway town in the eastern jungles of Guatemala. It sits at the cervix to Lago Izabel, at the western end of the El Golfete chute. Rio Dulce is full of grizzled yachties who, apparently, ran ashore here long ago and forgot their sea legs on their gradually rotting, perpetually docked sailboats. This town is a fly trap.

Rio Dulce seems to be a good place to live time. My family sat in a restaurant that overhangs the river and drank melon liquadoes. We did not want to move — hace calor with thick blankets of humidity keeping me hemmed in cozy to my red plastic Gallo Beer chair. I just looked out upon the river, dreamt of sailing, dreamt of dreaming about sailing — which seems to be the most practiced aspect of the occupation here in Rio Dulce — and tried to figure out if I could drop 10 quetzales on a beer without feeling that tinge of guilt from spending money on an un-necessity right after spending money on a prior un-necessity. But the liquadoes were good.

My wife deserved a half dozen such non-necessities after I bailed while she battled with the baby on the bus ride from Guatemala City. I tried to play the “I don’t know what is going on daddy card, and got burned good.” I must say that I got off easy with a couple liquadoes and an ice cream sundae.

We moved into a 100 quetzale room in the Rio Dulce Hotel, and stayed there for two nights before finding cheaper accommodation for 60 quetzales across the river.

Rio Dulce was the place that we were looking for. A do-nothing sort of under the bridge town. I mean this in a literal sense: half of the town is positioned under bother sides of a bridge that is reputed to be the longest in Central America. This massive structure lends shade to the village that stretches around its base.

This town is the crossroads where the highway from Guatemala City stretches north to El Peten and Flores and the Rio Dulce. All transportation east of here is by river boat only. The boats come into town to resupply, drop off or reprovision themselves with tourists. There are many jungle lodges from Rio Dulce going east along the river to Livingston. You take a boat from one of these two towns and are delivered right at the lodge, where you sleep eat, and hang out all day long, and then get on another boat and go to another. There is no road access east of Rio Dulce.

I always thought it funny how the prime directive of taking a vacation seems to be doing nothing — sitting around watching the world pass. But, as I sat listening to my straw gurgle at the bottom of my liquado, I realized that I also wanted to do nothing. Active do nothing is the rule of the tropics, even the simplest of motion — even thinking about doing anything — does not seem to flow very well into the landscape.

Rio Dulce is a good place to learn how to let things happen. My wife, baby, and I sat on the docks, and watched the boats pass.

This is Rio Dulce. Someday, I will return here when I make enough money off of VagabondJourney.com to buy that beer. I am beginning to understand the dreams of the expat.

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Filed under: Central America, Guatemala

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 80 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3135 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Zhushan Village, Kinmen, TaiwanMap