Subject: Re: Guatemala
Hi Ziners,

We just returned from Guatemala. Don't judge the country by the capital, which isn't exactly a tourist destination.

My favorite place in the whole country was Finca Paraíso, which the guide book claims is the only hot waterfall in the world. It is in an idyllic grotto, and you can swim in the warm pool beneath it, although there are no facilities for changing your clothes, except for a small cave. To get to it, take a bus from Guatemala City to Rio Dulce. We took a Litegua bus which left Guatemala City at 9 a.m. and cost us about $4.50 US apiece. It stops once along the way at a bus stop with restaurant for about 15 minutes. We arrived in Rio Dulce about 1:30 or 2:00. At the far (north) end of the long bridge the bus stops. We stayed at Hotel Posada del Rio, a new place 1/2 block away which cost us $13 a night for a double. Right across the street from the bus station are a couple tour offices. You can arrange a tour to the falls from there for about $20 per person. Ours was advertised as being by canoe with a fruit lunch (bananas). I almost didn't go, because I was worried about my videocamera getting wet if the canoe dumped us, but decided to put the camera in large ziplock bag. It turned out that the tour was by taxi the entire half hour or so ride to the falls, and we never even saw any canoes. It is a beautiful ride through rolling hills and pastures with palm trees and brahma cattle and past banana plantations. There is a sign, a small parking area, and restaurant at the entrance of Finca Paraíso. We drove to a small parking lot and then hiked a short distance (about five minutes) through the jungle to the idyllic falls. Upon leaving, we saw some people sitting by the roadside waiting for a chicken bus, so picked them up, since they were people we recognized from our hotel. The guide book had not indicated that the falls were accessible by road by a bus. The chicken bus would probably cost all of 50c to ride, plus then you would have to pay a small entrance fee to the finca. If you ask the bus conductor, he would be happy to tell you where to get off.

Another enjoyable thing to do while in Rio Dulce is to take a colective launch ride to the Caribbean coastal town of Livingston. It leaves from across the street from the bus depot at the Restaurante Río Bravo dock and passes through a beautiful gorge and past picturesque thatched roofed homes along the shore. You can return the same day or spend the night at Livingston. The cost was $7.50 each direction.

If I were picking up a new baby I wouldn't take him along on these activities. Maybe you can go a couple days early and see these sights first.

We also went to the market at the highland town of Chichicastenango, and did some boat touring and hiking at Panajachel on beautiful lake Atitlán.

Of course, don't drink the tap water anywhere in the country and avoid eating anything that can't be cooked or peeled. Carry some hand disinfectant or rubbing alcohol and use it any time you eat anything. Bottled water can be easily purchased anywhere in the country. Don't wander the streets of the city alone at night. Keep your money in a money belt. There are presently school strikes and other protests going on, but they are usually peaceful and should not be a cause for concern. Regards, Jeanie