Anxious to finally see the ocean, I headed towards a remote Caribbean town called Livingston. The draw here was the Garifuna culture, which is a distinctive blend of Africans, Mayans, Europeans, and other various indigenous people.
I broke apart from the gigantic group I had been traveling with and only had one person in tow. We took the 6 hour bus ride to the mouth of the Rio Dulce River, allowing us to catch a boat to Livingston (which is unreachable by road). The ride along the Rio Dulce has been rated as one of the best journeys in Guatemala, and I was thoroughly impressed. The wind was ripping across the water creating swells, allowing me to become fully drenched within five minutes. Don’t get me wrong…almost everyone was wet, but since I choose to sit in the front row, I broke the waves for everyone behind me. I just thought it was a gentleman thing to do. Luckily, the sun was shining, and along the way, we were able to witness extremely beautiful scenery with various people groups on the shore.
Livingston and the surrounding area is composed mostly of people from African descent. In 1795, there was a Garifuna revolt on the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent. The Africans were mad because the finally got a sunburn, and were sick of the white people not providing them with sun screen (editors note…the reason of the revolt was actually not researched…so what is described here is just a theory). The British saw that the slaves were actually quite powerful, and upon this realization (which was the revolt), they forced them to settle on the island of Rotan in Honduras. Sounds like a good gig to me…kill some bastards who enslaved their people and all of their ancestors, and then get their own island. From Rotan, they spread along the Caribbean coast, from Belize to Nicaragua. The Garifuna race wasn’t nearly stuck up as the Europeans, so they made friends with whoever came along rather than throwing them in chains and making them suddenly change their lifestyle. Because of the “Hey I’m not going to have a stick in my ass such as my masters (Europeans) had,” the Garifuna race became intertwined with Carib Indians, Mayans, and even shipwrecked sailors….thus creating the culture of Livingston.
I spent the day hiking along the beach with a few of my friends to some waterfalls. They ended up being nothing great, but they did have a place to jump off of. I like jumping off of stuff…especially when it’s water beneath (as opposed to land). After a few jumps, I called it a day and made the hike back.
I have finally came to the conclusion that as much as I love hiking, I like beach hiking the best. You are in flip flops and a pair of shorts, letting the sun beat down on your back while listening to the waves crash along the shore. Anytime the urge arises, you have the ability to jump in the ocean to cool off. See, this is what I call “lazy mans” hiking, especially when the shore is dotted with various restaurants and watering holes. When you hike in the mountains…it’s just to much work. You have to wake up early, cook food and all of that jazz, and then put on boots to do hard core hiking. Don’t get me wrong…it’s a blast, but very rarely can you stop in the mountains whenever you so choose and enjoy a cold beer while conversing with the locals. As of now, I, Eric Tabone, promise to seek out as much lazy mans hiking as possible.
Reading up about Livingston before my arrival, I stumbled upon a local concoction called “guifiti.” Made from coconut rum and natural herbs, it is supposed to have medicinal purposes as well as recreational. Described as suitable for only “adventurous” drinkers, I was determined to sample a few…only to improve my health of course. We found our place to stay, and on our way down to walk along the beach, I saw the sign for guifiti. A shot was a little over a dollar, served with lemon and salt. Due to the herbs, the rum gives off a rose color and has a sweeter taste. After taking the shot, it is best to lick the salt and then bite into the lemon. We toasted to our health, and experienced the great and extremely smooth taste…and even better aftertaste.
In addition to guifiti, the town of Livingston also has a drink called “Coco Loco.” For those with the Spanish ability that only allows you to order from Taco Bell, it translates to Crazy Coconut. After a shot of medicine (aka…guifiti), I ordered a Coco Loco. Pulling an entire coconut out of the ice box, they chopped a hole in it and poured a shot of guifiti. I couldn’t believe it…not only was I getting the vitamins from the coconut, but they also were giving me the nutrients from the herbs in guifiti! How nice of them!
It was quite refreshing…especially since I had just spent the entire day in the sun. The coconut milk was ice cold, and it was the perfect dose of rum in addition. Walking around town with a coconut and a straw sticking out of it, I soaked up the rest of the day and the culture of Livingston.