I never did much coverage of our 2008 trip to Guatemala, primarily because neither of us were wild about the destination. We found Antigua too touristy, the Puerto Quetzal area too run down, the rainy season (which lasts much of the year) a bit too restrictive and the no-see-ums that found their way into our beds way too itchy. But still, in every bad travel experience, there’s a silver lining.
While we were staying in the shantytown of Monterrico in a beachfront motel we booked upon arrival, we stumbled upon a gem of a restaurant, Taberna El Pelicano, that we found ourselves returning to nightly; it was just that good. On our second or third dinner there, the owner stopped by for a chat, then wound up inviting us to play poker with a bunch of locals at one of their homes. We went, and by the end of the evening—or dawn’s early light as the case may have been—one of the guys at the poker table offered to take us out on the river the next day.
Seeing as the rain prohibited many of our pre-planned activities, we had nothing on our day’s itinerary. Who were we to pass up an authentic view of the area through the eyes of a pair of locals?
We met him and his friend in town and they walked us to the dock, before hauling a canoe down the dirt path. Little did he know, SVV was about to be put to work, too. I guess there really is no such thing as a free lunch, right?
Being female gets you out of a lot of manual labor, and so I got to sit pretty while the three men did all the rowing. (I’m more than happy to exploit my gender when it works in my favor, let me tell you.)
The area we explored was an intricate system of canals rife in wildlife, particularly birds, and as green as could be thanks to the nonstop showers. The skies never did clear, but the rain stayed at bay for much of the day, and the moodiness of the landscape only added to the experience.
We rowed down the river and then rowed some more. For hours, I floated while the men worked. Apparently, canoe is the preferred method of transport around the area; we passed several during our half-day tour.
My butt was starting to get sore when, out of nowhere, our intrepid rowers pulled over and got out of the canoe. We followed and took a little walk through the swampy area—me, more tentatively than the others as I had had it with bugs on this particular trip—before boarding our chariot once more and heading back to town.
This little day trip may have been uneventful but it was a slice of kindness from perfect strangers and more than enough to turn our entire Guatemala trip around.