A Photo Journal
After the River-Cave Expedition we sail west to El Estor, the biggest town on the shores of Lago Izabal located at the foot of Sierra de Santo Cruz on the far north-west corner of the lake.
Less than ten kilometers east from the town flows Rio Boqueron cutting a deep 250-meter-high limestone canyon through the mountains.
The three boats drop anchor in front of the main docks of El Estor and we all except Josef head to El Boqueron Canyon. Josef has already visited the canyon and prefers to stay and keep an eye on the boats. El Estor is not the safest place to leave three yachts unattended.
Our journey starts with an epic thirty-minute ride from El Estor to the canyon in an old packed to the rim minibus. Way too many people are already piled inside before our group of twelve board the vehicle. The mothers are holding bunches of sweaty kids in their laps (us included), the men are sticking on the outside of the minibus (our men included), holding on for deer life while the driver goes with a hundred km/hr, accelerating on the curves, stopping abruptly a few times to pick up some more passengers!
El Boqueron Canyon
Finally we arrive at the canyon’s entrance, safe and sound. There are no other visitors but our group. A few young local guys are sitting around all day waiting for tourists, charging 5 quetzals (less than a dollar) entrance fee and another 10 quetzals for a lancha (a boat) ride up the canyon.
Joni, Jana, me, and the kids take the lancha while Ivo and Daeli decide to swim upriver, for free.
We enter the canyon.
It is a different world: a world of giants. We are like a small family of ants in our little boat drifting in the yellow river, huge rocks towering above us.
We reach a boulder in the middle of the stream and the lancha stops. Our lanchero explains that this is our destination, the boat cannot pass, and so he leaves us stranded on that boulder and heads back. He will return to pick us up in a few hours.
We are left alone on a huge rock in the middle of the river. The rock is fun: we sit on it, we have a picnic there, but soon we get pretty bored and decide to explore further, on our own.
And this is where the adventure begins.
The twelve of us, men, women, and children, with Elan, who is disabled, born with cerebral paralysis, and the two little girls Kachka 4 and Anichka 2, start heading upriver walking or swimming against the current.
The water is cold and the day is rainy and cool.
When the current is too strong, the men swim ahead and pull the rest of us one by one or all together with a rope we brought, women holding children, children clutching the rope, struggling to stay afloat.
We reach a point where the river curves slightly and we have to cross to the other side. The water is deep and fast.
Ivo manages to swim across holding one end of the rope, Daely is holding the other end and the rest of us are in the middle.
In order for Ivo to pull us to the other side we have to grab the rope and hold on to it, and then Daeli has to let go.
But we have to do it all together and quickly, we have only one chance.
The weight on the rope is too much, it drags us down, and we all struggle to stay afloat. But we succeed.
After probably about 30-40 minutes of this ordeal we reach a small beach where we can finally step ashore and rest on the rocks.
The kids are tired and frozen, their lips blue, but no one complains. We love the adventure. The place is so beautiful.
Ivo and Daeli want to explore even further. There is always further. The human curiosity is infinite. Who knows what will they discover upriver.
They „discover“ a small cayuco left on the bank of the river and decide to borrow it for a ride downriver.
A cayuco is a small traditional wooden canoe carved from a single tree trunk which the mayans use as transportation and to fish. Usually, it takes one or two people. We are twelve.
And I am sure that this is the one and only time in the long history of this particular cayuco when it took ten women and children, safely, back to the end of the canyon, Ivo and Daeli swimming beside it guiding it down the stream.
It is a fun ride. When the lancha guys see us arriving triumphantly all piled up in the little cayuco, happy and wet, they can’t believe it. They have never met a crazier bunch of gringoes before, that’s for sure.
Then Ivo and Daeli have to swim back upriver dragging the cayuco, which almost broke and almost sunk twice, to the place where they found it. We wait for them probably for over two hours.
When the guys return we have to figure a way to go back to El Estor and we decide to hitchhike.
The first car that passes down the road doesn’t stop, but the second does.
A pickup truck pulls over and we all pile up on the back, twelve men, women, and children. No one wants to sit in the front with the driver, riding in the trunk with a good company is a lot more fun.
We are back at the boats in the late afternoon, hungry and tired, but ready for the next adventure.