We arrived in Rio Dulce (also called Fronteras) by shuttle from Semuc Champey. It was a long, uncomfortable day on unending, unpaved roads and we were very happy when it was over.
Our hostel, the Hotel Kangaroo, is on a small tributary off the main river a short boat ride from town. A quick call from the office at the main dock (just under the big bridge) and a boat was on its way to fetch us. A boat ride to a hostel. I was going to love it here, I could tell already.
Gary, Hotel Kangaroo's proprietor was super friendly and a great story teller. At evening gatherings he regaled us with fascinating tales about this time in Guatemala over the last decade or so and how much the country has change over the years. From gun toting to yachts, we could have listened to his adventures for days. Wherever your next destination after Hotel Kangaroo was going to be, Gary would figure out how to get you there. Evenings spent sitting around, eating lemon pie and drinking Gallos while Gary sorted out everyone's travel plans for them for the following day will forever bring a smile to my face. Graciella, the other half of Hotel Kangaroo's proprietorship, is an amazing chef and we really enjoyed chatting to her at the bar. Mexican food..Ozzie burgers... homemade chili oil...oh my.
Our favourite day trip from Hotel Kangaroo was to Finca Paraiso aka: the hot waterfalls. I have no idea how this place isn't busier than it was. (Go first thing in the morning) First, it was a spectacular setting. The water casacades into a small, cold pool surrounded on all sides by lush jungle, rocks and tree roots that climb the rocks. The roots double as a climbing ladder that you scale to the top of the waterfalls- where the most amazing thing happens- the water is hot! Again, the recent flooding worked to our advantage, cooling down the normally scalding water at the top of the falls to the most perfect temperature for lounging. We were lucky enough to visit the waterfalls with the most perfect accomplices for this aqua adventure: Ash and Bi, an Aussie/Brit couple who were partaking in one of our favourite pastimes: long term travel. We got along really well and enjoyed spending the day with them.
After soaking in the hot pools at the top of the falls, some of us wanted to delve deeper into the possibilities surrounding us. Some of us followed a local guide back through the jungle to a special mud puddle to scoop up some exclusively organic exfoliating mud and slather ourselves in it. Some of us got a little far ahead of the guide and slathered ourselves in the wrong mud. To which the guide (when he caught up) made a panicked, disgusted face and told us to wash it off- quickly. Which some of us did. Some of us got left behind, almost fully submersed in the natural, relaxing hot water pools as the perfect, clear water rushed over our faces, necks and shoulders, awaiting a courier to deliver this exceptional mud from the correct mud puddle and slather it on from the comfort of our personal hot pool.... All of us considered the excursion to be a success- regardless of what mud we slathered on ourselves. I could have stayed up there forever. Sitting in a hot private mini pool right at the brink of the falls, like an infinity pool surrounded by the thick jungle... sigh...but there was more to explore down at the base of the falls.
Some of us were even brave enough to jump from the top of the waterfalls down into the cold water below. The water at the bottom was super refreshing while the waterfall was super hot. It was a rare phenomenon. It was a pretty spectacular massage to tread under the water and allow the hot water to beat down on your shoulders. You can even swim behind the waterfalls and sit up on a rock in a little grotto were a whole bunch of bats were going crazy all around you. Seriously, this place has everything!
Prices for Finca Pariso: collective from town Q15, Entrance Q10, tip Q10 (tip was for a "guide" (term used loosely), who showed us how to get to the top of the falls, where the "proper" mud was and watched our bags while we swam)
Shout out: To the group of travellers that happened to be at Hotel Kangaroo while we were there some of whom we were lucky enough to meet up with again, in classical backpacker fashion: You were awesome. Hopefully we'll share dock beers, tall tales and travel tips again one day!