Guatemala: Waters With a Taste of Mountain


27547_5240b6dc3e5cd7.58223664-big (1)“First the earth was created, the mountains and the valleys. The waterways were divided, their branches coursing among the mountains. Thus the waters were divided, revealing the great mountains. For thus was the creation of the earth, created then by Heart of Sky and Heart of Earth, as they are called. They were the first to conceive it.” -Popol Vuh

Very gently, like a thief entering a sleeping house, the fairy Morgana slides through the gates of the mountain: the mouth of Rio Dulce. It is the entrance to another world. Rocky shores (temples without roofs) overgrown with dark trees. Dark trees (sorcerers with sleeping birds and snakes in the hair) stretching thin fingers down, down to the green waters of the river. Green waters of the river (messenger of the tallest mountain and forgotten places) carrying aromas and the petrified reflections of ancient gods.

Nothing happens. Like in a vacuum. Like in a dream. Rocky shores, dark trees, green waters of the river-serpent. Only forest butterflies, men of maize in cayucos carved from trees fishing with nets made of Mayan secrets, and our alien boat sailing through the mountains perturb the slumber of this enchanted world.

Nothing happens for three days and three nights. We remain anchored near Cayo Quemado, a few mile before the town of Rio Dulce, unable to continue, slowly letting Guatemala soak in our bones through our skins, through our eyes, ears, and mouths.

Our mornings are populated by crystal drizzle, the smell of small fires, and the cry of a black forest bird.

A silent cayuco sneaks next to our boat. A mother with three children older than time are selling tamales. She made them this morning over the fire, with her hands and her magic. She put a chicken bone for a skeleton in the middle of corn-rolls and wrapped them, like a newborn baby, in palm leafs. Over the fire, under her spell. They taste of palm leafs, smoke and flesh.

Our afternoons move slowly in the heat of the summer and even stop for an hour or go backwards. Time here is not the same.

On the second day we meet the river people. Half human half fish they live in the river from the waist down and in the forest from the waist up. They have small wooden houses built on the river banks. Their cayucos glide like snakes on the surface of the waters. They have no other roads but the rivers. Their enemies are the invisible river crabs.

Our evenings are purple with white dots. Purple like the mountain. The white dots are the lilies near the shores and the egrets returning to sleep in the trees.

Our nights are filled with the distant songs of frogs and cicadas, and the melancholic cries of the river manatees.

About the Author: Mira Nencheva is a photographer, writer, and a nomad. Her house is a 38-foot sailboat called Fata Morgana. Mira, her husband, and two children travel around the glove exploring natural and cultural sites of interest, living off grid, volunteering, and making art for social change.

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