Hot Spring Waterfall at El Paraiso
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999 Days Around Africa: The Road Chose Me
We continue to explore Guatemala, staying a night in a tree house at the Finca Ixobel, a working farm that provides accommodation, great meals and a bar. My eyes light up like a child when I hear the food is an all you can eat buffet and when told the uneaten food will go to waste, I make certain to do my part. A group of young dentists are staying here, they have volunteered to work in the local communities for a few weeks providing much needed dental care. At night we wander down to the great little bar hidden in the jungle next to a great swimming pond.
In the morning the drizzling rain continues and we move along and find El Paraiso, a hot spring waterfall close to the shores of Lago de Izabal. After checking out the area we find great camping at Finca El Paraiso, with the tent about five meters from the water and then head back for a soak.
I’m told the water is around 70 °C, which flows down a narrow little stream and cascades over a waterfall about five meters high. The spring water is obviously high in dissolved minerals, as the falls are coated in orange and yellow deposits, forming textured surfaces and even little stalactites. At the base of the waterfall is a beautiful clear river, with a couple of really deep pools ideal for swimming.
There is a lot more hot water here than any spring I have ever seen, and I go crazy exploring the whole area while normal people soak.
We soak for an hour and a half in the evening and again first thing in the morning when we have the entire place to ourselves for a while. The guys working here do a really good job of keeping the place safe and spotless and we’re more than happy to pay just over $1 USD each for entry.
On the way out we make a brief stop in the market lining the main street of Rio Dulce, which has the claim to fame of having the longest bridge in Central America. The market is bustling and we buy enough extremely fresh fruit and vegetables to last many meals for $3 USD. Unreal.
Kate brought two travel guides along and somehow the maps in those books and the road map I have from Mexico all disagree with each other more often than not. We choose our route and quickly find ourselves on one of the worst gravel roads I have ever driven on, rarely getting out of first gear. This road is actually marked as a major highway on my road map so we wonder if this is what Guatemalans call a major road, or if a map printed in Mexico in useless for Guatemala. Locals drive up and down and when I stop to ask what conditions are like ahead I’m told “It’s fine, just like this”. The mud and potholes continue for hour after hour, to the point where it’s really not funny anymore. In six hours we cover 90 km for an average of 15km/h. Ouch.
We make it out to civilization and find ourselves on an extremely good sealed highway leading right up into the heart of the breathtaking mountains. Before long we are once again bouncing our way along a tiny dirt track, this time stuck to the side of mountains. Dusk comes and goes, as does Kate’s patience for the day of horrible roads. Hours later when we expect to be at our destination we pass a sign saying it’s another 12km, and it turns out to be so steep I use low-range 4×4 on the downhill sections to control my speed.
When we finally make it into town we’re both too tired to navigate and a very kind local man shows us the way by having us follow him on his moped. I’m not sure I’ve ever been more thankful. We fall out of the Jeep at the hostel El Retiro in Lanquin, right in the heart of the mountains. We’re just in time for the buffet dinner and are both stunned to find about 50 backpackers milling around the dining area. I once again do my best to make sure no food is wasted before putting myself to bed early after an exhausting day of driving.
I smile while thinking about the adventures to come tomorrow for about 10 seconds before falling sound asleep.