Happy Times makes its way down the Rio Dulce at morning rush hour. A Mayan woman kneels in a panga with a basket before her as she ducks under leafy branches along the river. She pulls up to a ramshackle house with a thatched roof where laundry stretches between two trees. Further down the Rio Dulce a fisherman casts his net from one panga while his buddy in another boat pulls the net outward to catch more fish.
Happy Times continues snaking down through the canyon lined with tall limestone walls where thin trees reach to the sky. Three hawks circle overhead as they look for a morning meal. Clouds puff and billow over the distant mountains before another bend in the river hides everything from view but the canyon walls. A couple of seagulls traveling inland scour the top of the water for food.
Suddenly a motor grows louder and a lancha roars down the river to Livingston. The father at the wheel waves a friendly hello as his son leans over the boat’s bow and watches for swollen logs. Mother and daughter sit in the middle with black hair blowing in the wind.
Further down the idling current a few jungle lodges dot the riverbanks. They stand two stories tall under thatched roofs. Kayaks leaning against the porch rail are a giveaway that backpackers stay there. Hammocks are strung between the trunks of cashew and mango trees in view of emerald green and yellow crotons. One inn, the Sierra Linda, sits next door to the Iglesia Nazareno painted a forlorn shade of blue.
We are the last boat to leave the Rio Dulce. Other cruisers have either made their way to Isla Mujeres, Mexico, the jumping off point for Florida, or they’ve already hit Key West and put away a few beers at Sloppy Joe’s. Or they’ve traveled in the opposite direction and motored up the Rio Dulce to Fronteras and anchored there for hurricane season.
Mike and I are eager to make our way to Florida, too, but the Rio Dulce doesn’t hurry. It follows its own slow pace to the Bahia of Honduras that leads to the sea.