It was no easy task to weigh anchor and leave our idyllic anchorage on the Rio Dulce River. I am so tired of travelling and would be content to just stay here for a while but we are homeless in this strange land so at the Captain's urging we carried on, just a little farther up the river to look for a place to spend the next 5 months of our lives. We have arrived late in the season and having made no reservations we are a little anxious to see what is available in the way of marina slips.
The skies were cloudy and it wasn't a picturesque trip. We entered what is known as the "marina district" of the Rio Dulce wher both sides of the river are dotted with small marinas, all offering a variety of services.
We pulled into the sleeping little Laguna Marina, just off the river in a peaceful little lagoon. The owner was enjoying his daily siesta but another boater gave us the scoop and showed us around. At first glance it was appealing with nice side ties (vs Med-sytle tie up ie. no dock beside the boat), and a friendly atmosphere but there was no internet availability so we cast off and resumed our search.
From the water none of the marinas looked appealing, with boats crammed in like sardines, with med-syle mooring which is basically an anchor out front and no dock beside the boat, just back access from the boat to the dock. That wouldn't be so bad but the boats are crammed in so tight it looks like you could reach out and scratch your neighbour's back.
We decided to anchor in front of the town of Fronteras (also known as Rio Dulce Town) for the night so we could tune in to the morning Cruiser's Net and ask which marinas, if any, had not only internet and an available slip. The anchorage is convenient to town and we took the dingy in and tied up at Bruno's Marina, which provides a dingy dock for all the boaters. We enjoyed a 'limonada con aqua', a most delicious, refreshing drink that we have discovered and ordered some lunch. Unfortunately the chicken alfredo was as cold as the limonada and I couln't choke mine down. I long for the delicious food we enjoyed back in Mexico and start to envision myself losing weight (a silver lining in every cloud).
Our Cruising Guide warns of a stimulation overload when stepping ashore in Fronteras and suggests visiting early in the day before the heat and odours become overwhelming. This is no exaggeration. At the west bank at the foot of the bridge is Fronteras, on the east bank at the other end of the bridge is the little town of El Relleno, which together are also known as Rio Dulce Town.
I was overwhelmed by the sounds of diesel air brakes from the large trucks descending the steep bridge into town, hornks honking to warn pedestrians filing between the busy roadside vendors and the traffic, the smells of truckloads full of pigs and cattle passing by, of fish laid out to dry and raw meat being sold in the shops and exhaust wafting up in the humid air from a steady stream of buses, trucks, cars and motorcycles. There is much to see and just about everything one could imagine for sale on the street, including caskets on display. Armed guards stand vigil in front of banks and goverment buildings. We managed to buy a Guatamalan cell phone, thanks to a helpful English speaking man standing on the street in front of the shop.
We looked at the slips at Bruno's Marina, the only marina right downtown. There is internet and a pool but the location right downtown is undesirable to us. The noise from the traffic on the bridge and the proximity to town makes me too nervous.
Later that evening we returned to town, braving the rain with our umbrellas and tried another meal. The rain increased in intensity and the staff asked us to change tables, pointing to the ceiling and the rain, obviously warning us that the roof leaked. We were waiting for our meal(always a very long wait we have found) with thunder and lightening surrounding us when all of a sudden the lights went out. The entire town was in darkness. We sat for a minute, not sure what to do. The walk to the restaurant with our feet at times under water, up and down steps and beside deep ditches that carry the water away was not something that I wanted to attempt in the pitch black. We decided to wait it out after the waitress said (or I believe said with my limited Spanish) that the power would be back on in uno momento. So it was, and our pizza came, mine about 10 minutes before John's but all was well and we made it safely back to the boat. We endured another night of torrential rain, with the boat closed up tight and 2 fans attached to an extension cord powered by our inverter blowing moving air on us as we slept.
We announced our arrival on the morning cruiser's net and were welcomed to the Rio Dulce. Two marinas replied that they had a slip available complete with internet so we hopped in our dingy and went exploring. There was no contest. We found a nice side tie slip at Mario's marina which offers a lovely pool, great restaurant and bar with daily happy hour and reasonable meal specials, a wide variety of social activities, nice clean laundry room and a small convenience store. The location was perfect, on a protected little bay about 15 minutes from town by dingy, not too far and yet not too close. An armed guard patrols the marina from dusk till dawn, shining his flashlight on all the boats, dingies and motors as he passes by all night.
Diamond Lil was greeted by staff in dingies who took our dingy as we entered the harbour, getting it out of our way which was a great help. They then guided us back into the slip with their dingies. All of the boats except 2 or 3 here are sailboats which are not as easy to maneouvre as our twin engine DL so they move boats around like this all the time.\
We signed our contract for a month and received our internet username and password, even though the internet is free.
The marina manager and part owner, Jim processed the paperwork for our 9 month extenstion. Our original clearance fees of approx $100 US only allowed us to stay for 3 months and since we are here for a total of 5 months we need the extension, which costs us another $150 US.
We have found our home for the next 5 months at Marios Marina.