Monday, June 29, 2009

Finca Paraiso and Agua Caliente

Beyond the bridge at Fronteras lies Lago Izabal, the biggest fresh-water lake in Guatemala, at about 30 miles long and 12 miles wide, and up to 50 feet deep. At first it's bordered by waterfront houses, but gradually they dwindle and land appears in the form of a coastal plain and a ridge of mountains to 4 or 5000 feet arising on each side.Photobucket

Most of the yachts don't go here. For one thing, there's hardly a proper anchorage. Like many inland lakes (I've read, hardly ever sailed on one in my life) when the weather comes up, the chop can be short and hard. Here the only place to shelter is the other side of the lake. And still, so far as I can tell, there's no way to know when and how the weather will change. We see lightning in still and discrete little clusters some nights, and other nights we're in them. Some nights it rains and or blows a little, and other nights you can wait until dawn in unrequited anticipation. Seems that 'rainy season' is a little overdue. I'm not sure what I think about that, as if it matters!

Part way up the north shore, and also accessible by road, is Finca Paraiso. Photobucket
One of the reasons to go here is because you're welcomed ashore and allowed to wander through the 'ranch', alongside the stream, between pastures, under some nice trees, including one where women, as well as boys, throw sticks at the mangoes in an effort to bring them down. Your primary destination is the Agua Caliente waterfall a mile or so inland.
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Yep, that's right, a waterfall of hot water which pours steamily down into a cool stream, and on to you, if you can stand it! My guess is about 140 degrees. Doug thinks it's less. But when I asked the 'attendant' for more information, he just told me that it was as God had made it. Claro! But Nico helps God by sweeping away all the leaves with a fine-twigged branch and whacking any offending limbs with his machete.

It's a beautiful spot and I could easily spend hours here adjusting my temperature. Photobucket

You can even duck under the ledge at the right and sauna-fy your head and shoulders, as hard-beaked nipping little fishies tidy up below. I once read of a Japanese spa where fish nibbled the calluses off your feet. Here they're less discriminating. Just keep moving!

But wait, there's more. There's a short little hike to the nascimento, the source, a little, linty-looking belly button of water at the top of the hill.
The nasciemento of Agua Caliente

Another twenty minutes further up the cool water stream there are a couple caves. It would have been churlish to bushwhack rather than pay the small sum the guide asked to take us to the caves. For one, he knew which of the several paths went directly to where we wanted to go, saving us the 'discussion'. And at every steep drop, where I'd be checking my footing, he'd pipe up with "no tocar" "don't touch" just as I was reaching for a porcupine-spined tree to use as a prop. He even kicked damp leaves off the rocks for me. It wasn't a particularly difficult trail for someone with two spare hands, but it was not a place for wet clothes draining into squawking Crocs.
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We'll definitely go back to Agua Caliente and the caves, better prepared. The upper cave is lovely enough (Fernando said it was a 'special Mayan place')Photobucket
A stream runs through the lower cave, another waterfall comes down inside the cave, and maybe you can swim through to the other side of the mountain. Photobucket
But you have to swim in, a hundred yards perhaps, so I'm not going without a good and waterproof light. It will take another couple dozen fish nips before I get inured to them, and able to look curiously around at the bats and whatever else there might be.

This is a big finca full of cows and people, at least 30 families if I understood correctly - more than enough to support a school, built by the finca but staffed by the state. The young man in the restaurant was happy to indulge my efforts at Spanish and we got quite a pleasant call-and-response going: "Una pregunta, por favor", "Digame".

I'll be writing more about cows after some additional Googling. Whooppee, I hear the cheers! But seriously, once you get away from the water, cows seem to be a main raison d'etre for this area. This fine animal is perhaps a Brahma, brought from India because of their heat tolerance. Photobucket.
And don't forget cowboys and their rides. All the saddles (and half the bicycles) have machete holders.Photobucket
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By the end of the day milk from these cows will have been turned into some kind of cheese.

So all in all, it was a pleasant stop, and I'll hope to go back several more times.
"Una pregunta mas, por favor!"

Finca: n.

A rural property, especially a large farm or ranch, in Spanish America.

[American Spanish, from Spanish, real estate, from Old Spanish fincar, to pitch tents, reside, from Vulgar Latin *fīgicāre, to fasten, from Latin fīgere.] (according to Answers.com)
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