The Cave Expedition

 

 

The week after our first failed attempt to visit a cave, we (FiendShip and Fata Morgana crews) sailed to Finca Paraiso on the north shore of Lago Izabal. We leave the boats anchored there, sneak past the Agua Caliente hot springs and waterfall and after about 40 minutes hiking through the jungle, we finally get to the entrance of a big deep dark cave.

 

Maya walking through the jungle

Maya walking through the jungle

 

The members of the this time successful cave expedition are: Daeli, Noial, Lovam, Spirit, Ivo, Maya, and myself. Three adults, three kids, and a dog.

 

Mira walking towards the cave

Mira walking towards the cave

 

The walk through the jungle is fun, the kids are running in front, and even Lovam, the youngest member of the expedition doesn’t complain. I am at the back of the group, stopping from time to time to take pictures and am the last one to arrive at the cave entrance. I hear the others go „Wow!“ one by one as they come out of the forest and very suddenly face a giant gaping black hole in the rocky wall of the mountain. I go „Wow!“ too.

 

Entering the cave

Entering the cave

 

There she is, finally, awaiting, hungry, her sharp teeth drooling with underground waters; spiders, the squeaky sound of bats, disturbed. We enter, eager, cautious, our flashlights illuminate her bowels: strange textures and shapes.

 

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Our eyes widen in the dark, we cling to each other. Her breath is humid and cool: the sweet-and-sour smell of guano. Our voices travel the dark walls of the cavern’s huge chamber in a weird way: bumping, disappearing, coming back again.

 

Inside the cave

Inside the cave

 

We go further. We get to a place where it becomes impossible to continue without ropes. The cave plunges some ten meters down and we don’t know what lies beyond. There is nothing more mysterious than the entrails of a cave.

 

The kids staring in the dark

The kids staring in the dark

 

Cave Picture Gallery

 

 

 

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Noial, Maya, Ivo, and Lovam

Noial, Maya, Ivo, and Lovam

 

 

 

 

Mira

Mira

 

 

 

 

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Daeli and Ivo lightpainting

Daeli and Ivo lightpainting

 

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Twenty Kids in One Kayak

 

Where I live is practically a paradise, the country is so beautiful. There are no big roads, and no cars. Only people can reach it. Everything is taken down the mountainside on horseback or else we carry it ourselves. 

-Rigoberta Menchu Tum

Finca Jocoro

Finca Jocoro

„Ivooooooo, Ivooooooo!“

We hear the kids calling from the shore.

„Ivooooooo, Ivooooooo!“

The kids have remembered Ivo’s name. The kids remember how much fun they had playing football with Ivo and his jokes. We told them we would return to play with them again and bring kandies and we kept our promise. They have been waiting for us for three weeks, and now they have seen the boats near the shores again. They have been expecting us. They are excited and happy.

 

The kids waiting for us to come ashore

The kids waiting for us to come ashore. Fata Morgana and Friendship anchored in the distance.

 

Three weeks ago we sailed to Finca Jocoro and spent a day there playing with the kids. Finca Jocoro is not one of the tourist attractions in the cruising guides, as there is nothing there for the tourists to see, no beach, no waterfall, no cave, no restaurant, no shop. Only a tiny village of a few wooden houses populated by kids who speak Q’eqchi and a little Spanish. There is a school, a church, and a football field. When we approach the place from Lago Izabal we recognize the great hundreds of years old ceiba tree, a few small buildings and a bunch of children playing near the waters.

 

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View of Finca Jocoro from the lake

 

There are no streets in the village but a few narrow paths between the houses.

 

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The main „street“

 

The houses are small wooden constructions with dried palm leaf roofs, same as they were a thousand years ago. It takes a couple of weeks to build such a house, and the entire community helps.

 

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A traditional mayan house.

 

Up to twenty-thirty people could be living in one of them, along with chickens and other domestic animals.

 

A boy and a pig in front of a house

A boy and a pig in front of a house

 

The houses are grouped in communes: six or seven homes separated from the others by a fence. In Fnca Jocoro there are four or five communes, or aldeas. We walk around escorted by kids. For them a visit by „estranjeros“ is a huge event.

 

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Kids in one of the aldeas

 

Every time I pull my camera to take a picture, the kids pile up in front of the lense. For them it’s a fun game. They pose, often very serious, and then come around me to look at the picture on the small screen of the camera and lough.

 

Posing for a picture

Posing for a picture

 

Then we play football. The field is at a slight angle and there is cow poop everywhere, but that doesn’t stop anyone from enjoying the game.

 

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Football game in Finca Jocoro

 

At the end of the day the kids don’t want to let us go. They devise a plan: to steal our kayak so we cannot return to the boats.

 

The kids steal our kayak

The kids steal our kayak

 

Their mean plan works for a while, but is overall unsuccessful. Ivo brings them back making sure all of them fall in the water once or twice at least.

 

Ivo pulling the kayak loaded with kids back to shore.

Ivo pulling the kayak loaded with kids back to shore.

 

As we paddle back to the boats, the kids swim after us and try to convince us to stay a bit longer.

 

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„Ivooooo! Ivoooo!“, they shout.

We promise, again, we will return.

The kids of Finca Jocoro

The kids of Finca Jocoro

 

 

 

 

 

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Most of all, I need a friend

 

Maya with candies

Maya with candies

She was crying.

„You know how much I need a friend? I would give up all the candies in the world and all my toys for a friend right now… And every time I make a friend we leave or they leave… You know how many friends I’ve lost? Too many…“

„Don’t cry, Maya, you are making me sad. A friend you never really lose. You always keep them in your heart. Your heart will become a piggybank of friends, a map of the world with a million pins: a pin for each friend, you will see. You will become Million-Friends-Maya.“

“ I only need one now…“

 

 

This was weeks ago.

Maya met Noial on a Friday, at noon. By 2 pm they were best friends.

 

Maya and Noial. Breakfast after a sleepover in the boat.

Maya and Noial.
Breakfast after a sleepover in the boat.

 

Since then, they have been together all the time. At school, at the boat, at the pool. In jungles, in rivers, in caves.

 

At school

Noial and Maya In the schoolyard with chickens

Noial and Maya
In the schoolyard with chickens

 

 At the boat

Noual and Maya Making art while sailing

Noial and Maya
Making art while sailing

At the pool

Maya and Noial At Nanajuana Pool

Maya and Noial
At Nanajuana Pool

In jungles

Maya and Noial Hiking up the river

Maya and Noial
Hiking up the river

In rivers

Maya and Noial Chilling in the river

Maya and Noial
Chilling in the river

In caves

Noial and Maya Light-painting in a cave

Noial and Maya
Light-painting in a cave

They have been taking showers together, dancing together, jumping together.

Shower together

Noial and Maya  Taking a river shower off the boat.

Noial and Maya
Taking a river shower off the boat.

Dance together

Maya and Noial At a school party

Maya and Noial
At a school party

Jump together

Noial and Maya  Jumping off the boat

Noial and Maya
Jumping off the boat

The best moments are the ones we share with a good friend.

Maya and Noial  Taking El Poderoso (the kayak) for a ride

Maya and Noial
Taking El Poderoso (the kayak) for a ride

Maya and Noial In traditional Guatemalan costumes at the school dance.

Maya and Noial
In traditional Guatemalan costumes at the school dance.

They even cried together once…

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FriendShip. The Extraordinary Story of One Family.

 

Why do we love traveling?

– Because the world is beautiful. It is not a big world, if you think about it. The Sun, which is not bigger than a shiny pancake in the sky, is about a million times bigger than our planet Earth, which makes our planet Earth as small as a pancake crumb! But, still, it’s a beautiful planet. So many amazing places to explore…

But that’s not all. We love traveling also because of the other people who love traveling. One of the best thing happening everywhere we go is meeting incredible folks and making new friends. We become magnets for people with similar interests, values, and worldviews. We form a tribe based on common dreams.

The very first day we arrived in Rio Dulce we met Daeli, Joni, Noial, Elan, Lovam, and Spirit, presently living and traveling aboard a 39-feet catamaran Solaris Sunstream named FriendShip. We became inseparable.

 

FriendShip in Lago Izabal

FriendShip in Lago Izabal

Their extraordinary story captivated us. It begins like this:

At the foot of a volcano a tall French guy met an American girl who was reading his favorite book: Papillon by Henri Charriere. They climbed the volcano together and kept going; never stopped.

We were in a town slowly getting swallowed by the Sahara desert. Today probably it doesn’t exist anymore, covered by sand, the last town before the desert. The last time it rained there was ten years ago. It’s one of the driest places in the world. That’s why they keep metal there, mountains of iron, it never corrodes. The people in this town are really tall. They wear white jilabas and blue turbans, completely covered from the head down. There was this doctor who let us sleep on top of his roof for three nights. He told us, ‘I think she is pregnant’. He was speaking good french. The morning we found out Joni was pregnant we smoked our last cigarettes and started down the road hitch-hiking. A car saw us and pulled over. There was a goat near the road but the driver didn’t see it and hit it. The goat was badly injured. „Don’t look the goat in the eye, Daeli said, an exchange of evil spirits might occur!“ Noial was born in 2003, the Year of the Goat, in Reunion Island, after we have been traveling for months around Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and Mauritius.

 

Most of the time we would hitch-hike and camp out. But sometimes we would take the train. The trains in West Africa are tricky. People from the surrounding areas start arriving at the station days before the train and camp out for up to a week next to the railroad tracks waiting for the train to arrive. The whole thing turns into a huge party. Finally the train shows up, one of those iron trains: carts loaded with iron. That’s the heaviest train in the world. The passengers hop on top of the iron chunks and that’s how we traveled, on top of the iron. They even serve tea up there, pass it around to the people. After Noial was born we spent two years traveling around Reunion Island, Madagascar, Mauritius, Rodrigues, Comoros Islands, Kenya , and Ethiopia. Back in France we bought two bikes. The plan was to go around the world on bikes. We traveled for eight months around Europe as far north as Tromso in Norway (even to Svalbard). Then we went south to Tunisia. There we found out Joni was pregnant again. We couldn’t do a bike trip around the world with two babies and so we decided to get a sailboat instead.

 

We started looking for a sailboat while biking. We biked around Guadeloupe,  Martinique, and St Maarten where we finally found a boat. A 31-feet aluminum Brise-de-Mer named Josee. We knew nothing about sailing, we didn’t even know how to move the boom but we were so happy.

 

We enjoyed our boat and life at anchor, swimming and splashing around even though the anchorage was so dirty and polluted by the nearby boatyard. No one else was going in the water. Maybe that’s where I got the infection, I’m not sure. Elan was born in 2006 in St lucia with hypotonic cerebral palsy. In the beginning we were so worried. What is he gonna be like? Is he gonna walk? But then we realized there is no point worrying about those things and accepted his condition as part of our life.

 

We kept going. We sailed to Venezuela, Aruba Bonaire, Curacao, Colombia, and Panama and did land trips there. We travelled inland in Colombia and Venezuela for 4 months. Two years later, in 2008, Lovam was born in Guadeloupe.

 

We now had three small kids, one with PVL, but we never stopped traveling. I think it’s genetic. There is this theory about the nomadic gene. You either have it or you don’t. If you are born with it you start to get depressed if you stay in one place for too long, you can even get physical illnesses. I think both Daeli and me have the nomadic gene.

 

In 2011 we bought FriendShip, a 39- feet catamaran, as we needed more space.

 

In the beginning of their travels, in Africa, Europe and Latin America, Daeli and Joni didn’t record their journey as they didn’t have a photo camera. They were traveling mainly on foot, hitch-hiking and biking trying to keep it really light, getting their backpacks down to 7 kilograms each. They slept by the Alley of the Baobabs in Madagascar, and on top of Piton de la Fournaise volcano in Reunion, they camped at the edge of the Limestone Forest and Isalo Park with white lemurs in the trees around them. They sailed with the Vezo, semi-nomadic people on the west coast of Madagascar, on a small hand-carved pirogue. That is when they first got the taste for sailing. They were welcomed to pitch a tent in a Masai village in Kenya. They met the turkana people of lake Turkana, and visited the medieval town of Gondar in Ethiopia. They went on bike trips around France,Denmark, Norway, Finland, Italy, Germany, and Sweden and later around USA with the three babies, four months camping out, never slept in a hotel. They biked the Olympic Peninsula and the coast of Oregon. They lived in Slab City for a while. Then they got an old 1986 van and did van trips in Canada, and from Canada down to Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Honduras.

 

I kept going to the United States in between trips to do therapies with Ilan. We tried everything:  all the traditional physical, speech and occupational therapies; we tried alternative ones: Craneosacral therapy, Conductive Education, the Feldenkrais Method. They were all really good but very expensive. My hope is that one day they will be covered by insurance.

 

People ask us how we finance our lifestyle. We work from time to time, but most importantly, we live really cheaply. We have no bills. We make handmade jewelry and sell it. When we work, we save up to buy the big things, like the boats and the van. Our most precious possessions are our experiences and memories.

 

The following pictures are from their later travels with the kids, when they got a camera.

Joni, pregnant, and Noial with bikes.

Joni and Noial with bikes.

 

Daily with in Slab City

Daely with Leonard Knight in Slab City

 

Lovam

Lovam riding Daeli’s bike

 

Noial climbing the mast

Noial climbing the mast

 

 

Ilan

Elan

 

Joni

Joni with Elan

Noial and Daily

Noial and Daeli

Daily and his super-bike (100kg)

Daeli and his super 100 kg bike

 

Camping out

Camping out

 

Noial in Slab City

Noial in Slab City

 

 

Joni with the kids

Joni with the kids

 

 

Joni with the kids in their dinghy, two days ago. Photo by Mira

Joni with the kids in their dinghy, two days ago. Photo by Mira

 

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Viktor’s Trip Achievement List. Difficulty Level/Points : 1-6

People ask How is Viktor doing? I usually answer: He mostly stays on the boat and plays video games. He is actually programming a video game. Whatever it is, I get pissed off. I wish he would stop being lazy, antisocial, and plugged all the time and gets out a bit more. He has been in denial about our boat trip and we have been fighting a lot, until today. He just announced he wants to learn everything there is about sailing and become a captain!

It is not easy for a 15-year-old guy leaving behind everything he knows: his home, school and friends, and being stuck on a tiny boat with his parents and a younger sister 24/7. It takes time to adjust to a new life at that age. He mostly misses his friends.  And they miss him too. Check out what his best friend Nikola did for him.

Viktor’s trip achievement list was inspired by video games and sent to him via e-mail by his best friend back in Montreal, Nicola Guekov.

Nick and Vick  in 2008

Nicola and Viktor
in 2008

1)My pet rock
Find a pet rock and name it rockio. : 1

2)Rockio heh
eat 100 tacos during your whole trip. : 1

3)Hooker daisy
Find a hooker named daisy and give her a high five. : 4

4)Lost relic
Find a necklace in public and bury it under the sand on a beach. : 2

5)Journey of a life time
Spend 1 whole year on the trip. : 1

6)Yucky green
eat some raw seaweed. : 1

7)Armory
Find a wild sword fish and touch it. : 2

8)Slippery hands
Touch 100 wild fish. : 2

9)Bigote mexicano
Find a Mexican and comb his moustache. : 5

10)Seafood express
In a seafood restaurant order 5 different meals and eat them,you may have a helper but the order must be yours. : 3

11)Wrinkled skin
On a beach go for a swim and stay in the water for at least 1 hour. : 2

12)Lazy pancy
On a beach stay on the sand and rest for at least 1 hour. : 2

13)You you’re ok, this one, REAL FUCKIN UGLY
Find a pare of black shades and wear them for 3 hours straight. : 1

14)Ivo dedication
Shave you’re head. : 3

15)Far far away
Sail fair enough to not see any land. : 2

16)Fuck you greg
Find a shiny male numel without a gameshark or hacks. : 5

17)Scared lips
Find a NON poisonous blow fish and kiss it. : 3

18)Collision
Hit a boat with your boat. : 4

19)Harpoon kid
Catch 5 fish with the harpoon gun. : 1

20)Harpoon wielder
Catch 25 fish with the harpoon gun. : 1

21)Harpoon hunter
Catch 50 fish with the harpoon gun. : 2

22)Harpoon god
Catch a whale with a harpoon gun. : 2

23)Spongebob?
Find a pineapple under the sea. : 4

24)Lost city
FIND THE CITY OF ATLANTIS. : 6

25)Library lurker
Read 5 books in a library. : 1

26)Space connection
Acquire internet for the boat. : 1

27)Player
Play online with nick from the boat. : 1

28)Zero motivation
Disagree with whatever your parents want you to do 5 times. : 3

29)Bulk up
During your trip workout enough to get muscles and keep them. : 2

30)The green past
Go back to being a vegetarian for 1 week. : 2

31)Endless hunger
During your trip for one day do not eat. : 2

32)Day of birth
During your trip reach the age of 16. : 1

33)Blogspot
Help your mother with a post on her blog : 1

34)Internet star
Do something crazy enough that’s worth mentioning in the blog. : 2

35)The kid on the block
Get acquainted with 5 new people. : 2

36)Magic destroyer
Beat someone you have met during your trip in MTG. : 2

37)Mini engineer
Help your father to fix the boat. : 1

38)Treasure hunter
Find something underwater that’s worth keeping. : 3

39)The alpha male
During your trip get a girlfriend. : 3

40)Viktorai tha PIMP
During your trip get 5 different girlfriends. : 5

41)Dirty Dee
During your trip do not shower for 1 full week. : 2

42)Spice searcher
Visit India and acquire some spices. : 5

43)Indian enemy
visit India and take a shit on ground in their land. : 6

44)World trader
While you are in the ocean trade something with another boat. : 3

45)Mind of an RPG
Create an RPG game. : 2

46)Bottle capzz
During your trip collect over 1000 bottle caps. : 5

47)The loner
Spend a night on the boat far away from land. : 2

48)Fears
Find a sea monster. : 6

49)Another killing on the dancefloor
Dance in a party that is hosted on a boat. : 4

50)Frozen tongue
During your trip eat at least 50 ice creams. : 3

51)Impenetrable defense
During your trip do not get sick. : 4

52)Ocean rodeo
During your trip find a seahorse and name it Horsilicok. : 3

53)Maya’s present
Fart in Maya’s face. : 1

54)The lie
Turn your boat into a spacecraft. : 6

55)Fancy Georgiev
During your trip on a day with your family eat breakfast,lunch and dinner in restaurants. : 3

56)For Pete’s sake
Sneak out from the boat at night and jump in the water when everyone is asleep. : 2

57)Shortcut
Dive under the boat from one side to another. : 1

58)Sand savior
Dive underwater and grab a handful of sand and bring it back to the surface. : 2

59)Did something touch my foot
At night in the boat watch at least 2 scary movies related to the sea and after go for a swim for at least 20 minutes. : 2

60)Nightlife
On the boat stay up all night and stay busy 5 times. : 2

61)Gamer
During your trip acquire 5 new different video games. : 1

62)Action movie
During your trip ride a jet ski alone. : 1

63)Serious air
During your trip somehow stay in the air for more than 10 minutes. : 2

64)Human jaws
Eat a shark. : 1

65)HM03
surf on the beach. : 1

66)Alien food
During your trip eat at least 100 sushis. : 2

67)The ancient stuff
During your trip watch all of the episodes of ancient aliens. : 5

68)Mineral boy
Find something made of gold or gold itself. : 3

69)Sea rover
Find a real life pirate. : 2

70)Sea rover +
Find a pirate with an eye patch. : 3

71)Stranded fellow
Find a person who is stranded on an island. : 4

72)Wishes
Find a genie lamp and wish for an infinity supply of sesame seeds. : 6

73)Unforgettable Vacation
Spend 2 years on the trip. : 2

74)Hawaiian style
Attend a hawaiian themed party and ruin the party by taking a diarrhea dump on the dance floor or if there is no dance floor on a table. : 4

75)My friend the ocean
During your trip never get sea sick. : 3

76)Yellow assassin
While in the water take a full piss next to someone without being caught. : 3

77)Green assassin
While in the water puke behind someone without being caught. : 4

78)Brown assassin
While in the water draw something on a piece of paper with a brown crayon without being caught. : 2

79)Naked assault
While in the water remove your swimming trunks and go super close to someone. : 5

80)World traveler
By boat visit 20 different docks. : 4

81)Aquatic lungs
Hold your breath underwater for at least 4:31 minutes. : 3

82)My own way
While all your family members are in the water go take a shower. : 1

83)Towel saboteur
While in the water with 3 or more people sneak out and throw their towels in the water without being noticed. : 4

84)Swamp crook
Visit 5 different swamps. : 4

85)Jungle boy
Jump in a lake by swinging from a rope/vine etc.. : 3

86)L.O.S.T
Find a bottle with a message in it in the ocean. : 4

87)Medical boat
Out in the ocean find a boat with a injured passenger and help them feel better. : 4

88)Life saver
Help someone who is drowning survive. : 3

89)HAHAHA
While on the boat push Maya in the water without her knowing that you will. : 2

90)Midnight swim
At night swim 50 Meters away from the boat. : 2

91)Shits ahoy captain
Pilot the boat without your dad’s permission. : 2

92)Water game genie
Flawlessly win a game of marco polo by never becoming „it“. : 1

93)Addicted
Spend 3 years on the trip. : 4

94)Day of birth 2
Reach the age of 17 on the trip. : 2

95)One for the price of two
While fishing catch 2 fish with the same hook before reeling in. : 4

96)While he was riding his bike there was a lightning strike and now he reads real fast he’s good at science and math
During your trip visit a black doctor. : 2

97)Midshipman
During your trip find a sailor with white hair and a pipe in his mouth that like fish sticks. : 3

98)Ocean lover
By boat visit the pacific and atlantic ocean. : 4

99)False nick
During your whole trip do not encounter any inconveniences. : 5

100)Oh and before i leave…
End your trip by coming back to Canada. : 7

*We will be posting regularly and updating Viktor’s achievements and score.

Nick  2008

Nick
2008

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The Trap

 

 

“I call it ‘the trap’. You think you gonna go there and stay for a week; you get there and stay for a year. Some people stay there forever, never leave,” Leonardo, a sailor and a dear friend of ours we met in Cuba, told us a few weeks ago.

Notorious among cruisers for being a place protected from hurricanes, Rio Dulce has become a main destinations for boaters from around the world during the stormy summer months. We also came here to hide from the hurricanes and Rio Dulce quickly became home.

 

View of Rio Dulce from the bridge

View of Rio Dulce from the bridge

 

Rio Dulce is a small area nine miles upriver from the town of Livingston, at the edge of Lago Izabal. All there is here is a bridge linking two aldeas (small villages), Fronteras and El Relleno, and the many marinas and anchorages in the waters around them.

 

The Rio Dulce Bridge

The Rio Dulce Bridge

 

In 1980 a massive cement bridge designed by the US Army Corp of Engineers was built by a Puerto Rican company. Standing 90 feet above the water, the bridge connects the east and the west banks of the river and the main road between Guatemala City and Tikal with lots of heavy truck and bus traffic. On the east bank of the bridge is the small village El Relleno, and on the west bank is the bigger town of Fronteras.

 

The Anchorage in front of Fronteras

The Anchorage in front of Fronteras

 

In the past few years Fronteres grew from a bus stop to a small town with everything that a small town might need: a school, a clinic, a post office, a few banks, many small shops, hardware stores, panaderias (bakeries), cernicerias (meat shops), shoe shine stands, pharmacies, fruit and vegetable stands all perched on both sides of the main road, the same heavy-truck-and-bus-traffic-road.

 

Quiché women making and selling tortillas in Fronteras

Quiché women making and selling tortillas in Fronteras

 

By the way, there are no sidewalks, you exit a small shop and you are on the street. It is an adventure shopping there especially on market day, which is Tuesday, when the vegetable stands are packed with fresh produce (always at very low prices) and everyone, locals and cruisers, are out to stock up.

 

Fronteras Main Street

Fronteras Main Street

 

El Relleno, on the other side of the bridge, is nothing like Fronteres. It never grew up. There isn’t a busy market street, but a few tienditas (small shops) on the ground floor of people’s houses and a small primary school where our daughter Maya, almost ten, has been accepted in fourth grade and is currently studying along with the local kids, learning Spanish.

 

Noial, Kaila, Sofia, and Maya in front of El Relleno Primary School

Noial, Kaila, Sofia, and Maya in front of El Relleno Primary School

 

And then there are the surrounding waters with their many marinas and anchorages, a city of masts. There are probably more boats here than houses in the two villages, and more boaters, mainly Americans and French cruisers, than locals. Twenty five years ago, there was only one marina in the area. Today there are about twenty competing to attract clientele. Each one has excellent services and amenities. Electricity, water, hot showers, laundry 24-hour security, book exchange, trash disposal, open air community rooms under grass canopy roofs and hanging flowers, work-shops, tiendas, beautifully decorated restaurants and bars under thatched roof, swimming pools, Wi Fi, gym, beach volleyball, tennis and pool rooms. Many of these marinas are accessible only by water and are surrounded by jungle. Some even offer jungle bungalows for rent. The best thing about all these marinas is their prices ranging from US$ 150 to US$ 250 per month. In United States you would pay more only for your monthly gym fee.

 

Maya and a friend enjoying the swimming pool at marina Nanajuana

Maya and a friend enjoying the swimming pool at marina Nanajuana

 

Us, and all the other boaters not staying in any marina but anchoring out for free wherever we chose for the week, are welcome to use some of the nearest marina services gratis. We have been welcomed to all the dinghy docks, swimming pools, volleyball courts, book exchange, and Wi Fi, as well as to free popcorn movie nights, Wednesday at Mar Marine and Saturday at Tortugal, yoga and Pilates groups every morning in Mar Marine and Bruno’s, watercolor painting groups Wednesday mornings at Bruno’s, Pot Luck Dinner Monday evenings at Mario’s marina. Every Sunday there is the boaters’ inter-exchange market happening at Mar Marine, where cruisers bring anything they want to get rid of and try to sell it. Here you can buy used boat parts, anchors, generators, cruising guides, even used clothes and shoes.

 

Ilan, Maya, Noial, and Lovam drawing a Quetzal bird. In Mario's Marina

Ilan, Maya, Noial, and Lovam drawing a Quetzal bird. In Mario’s Marina

 

It is easy to feel home in a place like this. Here we met new friends, young cruising families with kids, and with all those activities our days are pretty busy. And there is so much to explore around Lago Izabal and beyond. Rio Dulce is a trap, such a lovely place…

Mira choosing fruits at the Tuesday market in Fronteras.

Mira choosing fruits at the Tuesday market in Fronteras.

 

 

 

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Cayo Levisa to Cabo San Antonio

Close to shore or offshore?

We leave Cayo Levisa together with Harley and April and we get to our next destination, Los Morros at Cabo San Antonio, almost at the same time, after over 30 hours of sailing. Only, Harley and April, who have more than 10 years of experience crewing aboard mega-yachts sailing 4 times around the globe, kept close to shore and stopped to sleep for the night anchored behind the reefs, while we took Fata Morgana way offshore and sailed non-stop the whole time, day and night, battling with current and waves, dealing with squalls and electrical storms. Turns out, sailing close to shore is way faster and the sea is much calmer, with less currents and waves, and about the same wind as offshore.

Lesson learned.

April and Harley

April and Harley

 

Marina Los Morros

We arrive in the afternoon of the next day.

Los Morros is technically a marina, if you can call a small wooden pier and a small concrete building with a couple of toilets a marina. The nearest village is over 100 kilometers away. But, there are the officials waiting for us: customs, immigration, coast guard, the entire gang, and that’s what qualifies a small pier in Cuba as a marina. We drop anchor near by and we clear in for a fourth time… Soon El Karma joins us. We sleep for 12 hours straight and the next morning we are ready to explore.

Mira witha Cuban military truck

Mira witha Cuban military truck

The place is so tiny and charming, so far away from everything, at the end of the mangrove world, it feels like a childhood memory. An immigration officer gives us directions and we start for the beach. A bunch of slow sun-stricken cows roaming around the shore are paying close attention to our actions while chewing their breakfast for the second time.

Fata Morgana anchored at Los Morros, Cabo San Antonio, Cuba

Fata Morgana anchored at Los Morros, Cabo San Antonio, Cuba

 

Bug-infested walk to the beach

Turns out, the beach is at the end of a three-mile road through the jungle, where the bugs live. We need a bug repellant fast if we don’t want only our dry skeletons to arrive at the beach. „Hay que inventar“ (Have to invent) I remember the phrase everyone uses in Cuba, and soon we solve our problem using palm leafs as fans and hats against the insects. We camouflage so the unintelligent mosquitoes think we are some sort of walking trees and leave us alone.

Viktor, Maya, and Ivo walking with bug-repellent palm leaf hats. This is how we showed up at the beach.

Viktor, Maya, and Ivo walking with bug-repellent palm leaf hats.
This is how we showed up at the beach.

 

 

The Beach

Cabo San Antonio Beach

Cabo San Antonio Beach

The one-hour bug-infested walk is worth it. We get to another secluded mini-resort: little bungalows with tiki roofs at the edge of the forest and just next to the beach, little piglets running around.

Piglet

Piglet

There are a total of four tourists and six pigs on the entire beach (before we showed up all covered up with vegetation). We spend the afternoon chilling, having lots and lots of fun in the water. Best time in Cuba!

Ivo, Viktor and Maya, The human pyramid

Ivo, Viktor and Maya, The human pyramid

 

Mira, Ivo, Maya, Viktor: a rare picture of the four of us

Mira, Ivo, Maya, Viktor: a rare picture of the four of us

 

 

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Our Key West

Key West is a fantastic little city. A quaint drinking village with a fishing problem. If only there were not so many tourists…

Still, we absolutely loved living on a boat anchored just opposite Mallory Square; riding bikes through the narrow streets carpeted with tiny yellow flowers fallen from huge trees and iguana droppings; eating sandwiches at The Cuban Coffee Queen tossing occasional crumbs to the paranoiac wild roosters proliferating all over Monroe County; roaming through downtown in the evenings with friends and a backpack full of beers; or making a small fire after sunset on the coral covered shores of a mangrove island.

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Most of all, we will miss our friends. We played a six hundred year old plastic bottle game in front of The Green Parrot, we waited for the afternoon rain to stop on the terrace in front of Turtle Kraals looking out at the grey waters calm under the raindrops. We sailed. Aboard Fata Morgana, Rocksteady, and The Liquid Courage, we dreamed together and planned the future.

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It’s time to leave, one more time. To part. It has been twelve years since we arrived in America. We didn’t land here by plane, we got here swimming across a dark river. We arrived wet. And that is how we are leaving, twelve years later, the waters again will carry us some place else.

As you are reading this, we will be probably somewhere in Cuba, if not at the bottom of the sea.

Farewell Key West, we left a lock of Maya’s red hair and a piece of our hearts on the dinghy docks, next to the tarpon pond.

And farewell friends and boats, we will be seeing you some crazy day in Guatemala, Tonga Tonga, or at the bottom of the sea.

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How to Eat Poisonous Fish for Supper

That particular evening started with a benign game of chess between Ivo and Tyler aboard Rocksteady.

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But then Ryan and Stacie showed up with a bucket of fish a friend gave them.

„Lionfish, Ryan, who loves animals and nature more than anything in the world, explained, is a non indigenous invasive species here in Florida, and you can catch it and eat it all you want. It has poisonous spikes, but if we manage to cut them off without getting stung, we can eat the meat and we will not die! “

This sounds almost reassuring…

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So basically, you need to fillet the fish without touching it much…To do so, you need to stab it with a knife in the head using a coffee pot.

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…Use pliers, knifes, forks, and all available instruments…

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…and band up with others if necessary. Team work pays off.

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Discard all bones, guts, and spikes. Keep only the fillets.

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Repeat as many times as fishes there are in the bucket. Do not forget: Operate with caution!

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Then cook the fish! Add salt, lemon, some pepper, and it is delicious! And ask a friend to make the salad!

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What’s left to do is eat the fish, with lots of salad, beer, friends.

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I tried it and I loved it!

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„Lionfish are an invasive species that threaten Florida’s saltwater fish and wildlife. The FWC encourages people to remove lionfish in Florida waters to limit negative impacts to native fish and wildlife. Lionfish can be speared, caught in hand-held nets or caught on hook and line.

A recreational fishing license is not required for recreational fishers targeting lionfish while using a pole spear, a Hawaiian Sling, a handheld net or any spearing device that is specifically designed and marketed exclusively for lionfish. There is no recreational or commercial harvest bag limit for lionfish.“ (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)

I just want to add to this that it is extremely tasty and safe to eat if correctly prepared and: Thank you Ryan, this was the greatest tasting poisonous fish ever!

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Ryan and Scabs

 

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Breast Milk Crepes

As we left our home and friends embarking on this journey, we invited everyone to come and visit, whenever they want to and whenever they can. And we are hoping to see you guys all, sooner or later, in some beautiful part of the world.

The first to visit were Kotze and Desi, our Bulgarian friends who we first met in Saint Petersburg Florida a few months ago. The visit was short, only three days, but full of fun and emotions.

Kotze and Desi aboard Fata Morgana at Sand Key, Florida

Kotze and Desi aboard Fata Morgana at Sand Key, Florida

 

We sailed to the Marquesas, we snorkelled in the reefs, we fished and we grilled our catch on the BBQ, we saw dolphins, sunsets, mysterious things glowing green in the dark waters at night, and skies filled with stars. It was truly beautiful.

Kotze and Desi snorkelling at Sand Key

Kotze and Desi snorkelling at Sand Key

But for me, personally, the highlight of the visit were the pancakes.

You see, Kotze and Desi have two daughters, Dahlia who is 6 and Lilly, who is barely 8 months old. The girls didn’t come this time, they stayed home with their grandparents. But Desi, who is still breastfeeding little Lilly, had to collect the breast milk every day. You see, the breasts cannot take a vacation, cannot just stop producing milk for a couple of days, so the milk keeps flowing even when the baby is not around.

Desi's breast milk

Desi’s breast milk

Us, on the other hand, don’t often buy milk, and so milk on the boat is a sort of a rare commodity. And so, I carefully took Desi’s breast milk, added a couple of eggs and some flower and I made crepes! Maya was a bit shocked at first, but when she tried them decided that these are the best crepes ever. Viktor ate a whole bunch, and we all followed, and yes, these were the best crepes ever!

And if you react like most people, shocked or disgusted, think about it! Why not? How much more natural, organic, whole, milk can get? If a baby can drink it, why can’t we?

Thank you Desi!

Desi and Maya eating breast milk crepes. Yum!

Desi and Maya eating breast milk crepes.
Yum!

And thank you guys for the wonderful visit! We can’t wait for the next time, and bring the girls too!

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