Guatemala title photo.

Early morning arrival into the bay of Santo Tomas de Castilla, Guatemala.

 

Containter ships.

On the left is a Del Monte ship, loading bananas in this busy port town.

 

Navy Base

The Santo Tomas Navy Base adjoined our pier, featuring fast interdiction boats donated by the U.S. Ahead is the beach/recreation area for this port town with a couple of inviting restaurants perched on stilts.

 

 

 

 

Pat at breakfast.

Pat enjoying breakfast in scenic surroundings before catching a city tour.

 

Ryndam docked in Guatemala.

These small boats, usually used as water taxis, take the tourists on a tour of the bay. Pat and I caught a trolly bus on the dock which did a tour of the town of Santo Tomas and the larger city of Puerto Barrios.

 

Narrator on the trolly tour.

Our tour guide was a school teacher. School is not compulsory in Guatemala. Rural schools usually only have one teacher and schools can barely afford school supplies. One of the ship's tours was to a school, where tourists were encouraged to bring paper, pens and leave donations.

 

Guatemalan shopping mall.

This was one of the more up-scale strip malls we saw. Businesses here met practical needs. One would have to travel to a bigger city to get name-brand and luxury goods.

 

 

Graveyard in Santo Tomas

Because of the shallow water table, the graves are above ground in Santo Tomas. Our tour guide described celebrations in which the extended family visits the grave, cooks a meal, plays music and dances, taking up most of a day.

 

Casava growing wild

We asked the tour guide about these cassava plants. She said it was not a plantation, but that they were just growing wild.

 

Fruit stand

Much of the fruit was familiar to one who had grown up in Taiwa: papaya, mango and watermelon. However, there was fruit that I did not recognize.

 

A hardware store.

This strip mall featured hardware of various kinds.

 

Canal

This canal did not deture someone from building on the location.

 

Marimba

This marimba group was playing western pop songs until I asked them to play Guatemalan music. They brightened up and played some spirited Latin music, with not quite the same rhythm as reggae.

 

Our Guatemalan experience felt much like the blind man and the elephant. It is unfair to judge a country nor its culture by a bus tour. We were clearly in an industrial, port city. There was frenetic activity, with semi-trucks, smaller trucks, SUVs and motorcycles crowding the two lane roads. The roads were in very poor condition. The paved ones were pot-holed. Many of the side roads, including the main street of Puerto Barrios, were unpaved, this in a city of 90,000 people. The shopping areas were, if anything, poorer looking than what was available in the cities of Taiwan in the early 1950's. Yet, the people seemed busy. The school we passed was full and the children waved and shouted when they saw the tour bus. It had the feel of a third world country, fighting hard to succeed economically, but not quite at the point in time when it could deal with infrastructure or ecology. Had I traveled to rural parts of the country, I might have received a very different impression. Had I interacted with local people in a natural setting I would have had a different viewpoint. Trujillo was also poor, but in that small town the lifestyle seemed relaxed and even comfortable. In this more industrial community, there seemed to be more goal setting and a much faster pace of life.

 

Sunset over Guatemala.

Sunset over Guatemala.

 

Pat enjoying the Promenade Deck.

We've experienced high winds south of Cuba before, and once again we had warm temperatures, in the 80's, but winds 30-40 knots. Sitting forward on the Promenade Deck near the bulkhead was comfortable and allowed us to enjoy the busy sea.

 

At sea

Moving at 17 knots around Cuba.

 

 

Our dinner companions

This was our first cruise with what is called, "Open Seating." Before we have always been scheduled a time and table at which to have dinner. On our first night we so enjoyed our table-mates that we agreed to repeat the time and table, and with the Metred's concurrence, did so for the rest of the cruise. Closest are Heather and Sylvia, long time friends, well traveled, with lots of stories to tell. Ren and Doris had cruised and had recently done work for Wycliffe. There was little silence at our table, except when a new course was served, as we enjoyed a widely ranging conversation.

 

Ship's theater

Assembling for a show in the ship's theater.

 

Showtime.

The theater group does a spoof on classical music. The music was quite good. In the evenings I particularly enjoyed a classical duo from Romania called, "Adagio," and a jazz trio, "Nautique."

 

Warm weather, a relaxing schedule and some interesting ports made for a good cruise. Alas, it was one of the latter cruises for the M.S. Ryndam, at least as a part of the Holland America fleet. The ship has been sold to a company in Australia and will make its final repositioning cruise in October, 2015. A brand new, much larger ship will be delivered to replace the venerable, Ryndam.

As one who grew up in Taiwan in the '50s, this visit to Central America took me back in time and in its tropical feel. Trujillo could easily be a town on the East Coast of Taiwan, with it's mountains and jungle plunging down to the ocean. Santo Tomas was not unlike Kaoshung or Keelung in the '50s. I hope this has given you a taste of our small exposure to Central America and the bit of nostalgia we derived from visiting Key West.

 

by Don Webster