Getting into hot water can be a good thing. At Agua Caliente, Spanish for warm springs, you can get your neck and shoulders pounded by a thermal waterfall while standing in a freezing mountain stream. Your body can’t tell if it should break out in a sweat or chill bumps.
We motored Happy Times to Finca El Paraiso, about 15 kilometers from Rio Dulce. Paradise Farm is a popular spot with locals who come to fish, lie on the beach or shoot a giant slide into Lago de Izabal. The resort also houses guests, frequently medical teams who visit local villages to provide health care.
Mike, Mikayla, her best friend Gina Gardner and I cut through the finca and walked about 40 minutes to Agua Caliente. We followed a gravel road past sun-drenched cows, a couple of huts and a horse ranch. The stream created by the waterfall meandered nearby.
At the road’s end a toothless farmer directed us to duck under a barbed wire fence. Then he collected Q40, $5US, to enter the property held by a private landowner. As the farmer guided us to the waterfall, we passed village women standing in the stream and washing their laundry. A half-naked girl stood on a log and watched her mother work. A couple of mongrels began barking when they spotted Belle.
Other visitors in search of a soothing dip had arrived before we did. About half a dozen people had gathered on a large stone near the base of the falls and watched as Gina climbed a muddy path to the top. There another guide, named Francisco, showed her where to safely jump. Thirty seconds later she took the 20’ plunge into the pool below.
After a while Mikayla, Gina and I waded through the stream at the top of the falls. We sat in a steaming bath where a pool had formed from the hot springs. Gina found some mud that Francisco gathers for the gringas and soon she and I were slathered in ooze.
Back aboard Happy Times, Mike and I shared a glass of wine while watching the sun set, a sight we seldom enjoy from the confines of Mario’s Marina where we’re spending hurricane season. Lake Izabal is notorious for sudden storms that can gust up to 40 knots and, sure enough, one blew up shortly after dinner. We all agreed that the choppy wash was worth the cool breeze that came with the storm.