An April 2004 trip
to Livingston by Vicho
Quote: Located in the river delta of the Rio Dulce on the coast of the Caribbean Sea is a conserved city of contrasts. Livingston’s inhabitants are a mixture of Mayas, Garifunas (Afro-Caribbeans), and whites, trying to escape the modern world. Don’t miss it!
Among the mixture of locals you can’t miss is the Rasta known as the Lobster, with his natty dreads and unbelievable lifestyle.
If you fancy a bit of proper tourism, then join in the local guided tour, which includes a canoe ride for a pleasant half of the day.
Don’t worry about money, as this place is quite cheap. Accommodation is from 20 to 60 quetzals, depending on the level you need.
The option from Rio Dulce is more expensive (around 70 quetzals), but you go all the way down the river, and you can admire little islands full of birds and small cottages just next to modern yachts. I chose this way to get there, as it is convenient when coming from the north (Flores, Tikal).
On the way out of the city, I chose a cheaper way. I paid only 15 quetzals. If you want to do it this way, make sure you will be at the port before 7am. That is the time when locals go, so the boat fills quickly and goes. Otherwise, you might end up waiting for hours in the port.
Your guide will lead you around, pointing out numerous cheap places to sleep, eat, and visit. They won’t give you any street names (that is because there aren’t any), but don’t worry, as Livingston is really easy to walk around, and you will soon find everything even without street names.
If you want to get something really cheap, you must try to look poor, make sure that you specify your requirements, and insist on your price-if you stick to it you will get it! I stayed in Africa Palace for 20 quetzals a night. The owner kept telling me that he didn’t have anything in that price for a while, and when I wanted to go and find somewhere else, he found the room for me.
The room was tiny, really tiny, the tiniest room that I have ever stayed in. It was the room where the receptionist slept, when they had one, and consisted of nothing more than a bed and enough floor space for my pack, but it was cheap, and obviously if you pay more, you will get a much better room.
The hostel is laid out around a pleasant garden courtyard, with a couple of tables and chairs scattered around for meeting with fellow travelers. A romantic river flows through the middle of the hotel, although this is best admired from a distance to avoid its pungent aroma. Crossing a small bridge across the river will bring you to the hotel’s bathroom and toilet facilities, which are at least kept reasonably clean.
The owner was very nice and tried to help in any way he could. I wanted to learn a few words of the local Garifuna language, and he gave me an illustrated Garifuna Bible to read, which, while not exactly making me fluent, certainly gave me many useful phrases.
All things considered, this is a good choice for those travelling on a tight budget. Admittedly it’s not exactly the Ritz, but I guess that if you want a luxurious holiday, Guatemala is probably not the place to go.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 9, 2004
A massive plate arrived at my table filled with all manner of tasty-looking morsels floating in a sumptuous white sauce. The aroma of sweet-smelling fish was overwhelming and whetted my appetite for the first taste-and that taste was out of this world, like nothing I have ever tasted before. Falling somewhere between sweet and seafood, it was a truly unique culinary experience. I quickly lapped it up, and I am sure that you will do the same.
Did you like it, but you had to leave? Never mind. Now that you know what it should look like, you can have a go at preparing it for yourself. Here is the recipe:
The restaurant is run by a big, old black woman who does her best to accommodate everyone, but it’s best to order in advance, so let her know that you are coming-tell her what time you will be there and your tapado will be ready for you when you arrive. The 55 quetzals price for a single portion seems a lot compared with the prices of other options, but go for it, as it is worth it, and although you can get tapado elsewhere, the local variety is something truly special.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 9, 2004
Leaving from the meeting point, your first stop will be at the local church, where you can see an exquisite statue showing representatives of all the different ethnic groups of the region offering up their prayers to the same god, and they really all do turn up on Sundays for morning worship. Outside is the local cemetery, where the gravestones have bright colours to bring good luck to the dead (note that none of them are black or red, as these colours represent sadness and blood).
The next stop is in front of a distinctly unimpressive wooden shelter that apparently comes alive when someone dies, when all of the deceased’s relatives gather together here to eat, drink, and be merry. These festivities continue for a week! Do you think that is a bit too much? Well, it is not enough for local Garifuna, as they gather again after 5 years and repeat the ceremony. Is this all? No, it is not. Anytime someone has a dream about the dead person after that period, they gather again and they keep celebrating, probably till someone else dies.
Leaving the dead to their destiny, you continue on your tour around the local Mayan village, where you will see how the locals make drums. Good guides will give you some exotic fruits to eat and point out flowers that close their leaves as you touch them. The tour also includes a ride on a canoe that may not look very stable, but will just about manage to get you to the final stop at Siete Altares (Seven Altars). Here, you can have a refreshing bath in the sweet water before heading along the coast back to the town.
You might be able to visit all these places on your own--the guide will tell you that it is dangerous, but you can make your own decision to pay up or take the risk. Either way, don’t miss it!
Guided Tour of the Town
He kept saying that in his place, I would pay less and have gorgeous garden with the birds waking me up...hmmm. I really did not fancy the idea of living "a bit far from the town" in the forest with Rasta, but I accepted his invitation for dinner, and it was the greatest decision of my life…
He bought few things on the way, and we soon disappeared into the forest; suddenly, a wooden shelter appeared in front of us. "That’s my house," he said before pointing to the jungle, "and that is my garden." I tried to persuade him that it was not a garden but a jungle, with little success. He took off his clothes and went down to the stream, stood on the stone, and started pouring water over himself: "Bath is important."
Then he ran around the garden, gathering wood for the fire and picking spices before starting to cook. Dinner was really tasty. Are you worried about hygiene? Don’t be. I have never seen such a carefully prepared dinner. He has a system of bowls, to wash everything without wasting a drop of water (after washing the dishes, he poured the water over the flowers in the garden).
After the dinner, we lay in hammocks and talked, and he explained to me that he doesn’t put the plants in the ground yet, as the moon is not right, and all the other things which will be done when the moon is right.
Unfortunately, night came really soon, and the romance was over with the invasion of mosquitoes. He swore that fire would make them go away, but I did not want to take the risk. You, however, still have your chance. Buy mosquito repellent and stay with him for a few nights, and after that, your heart will just not be the same ever again.
Leicester, United Kingdom