We spent a month in the water at Nana Juana, preparing the boat for haul out and planned work, and getting to know the Rio.
The night before docking, we anchored outside the marina, being greeted as we arrived outside by a beautiful rainbow and stunning sunset. The next morning, dock master Edgar- who speaks impeccable English, coordinates an excellent team, and leaps into the water to secure lines (the kids especially enjoyed this!)- and his team had us docked nice and early by the boat ramp, so we could catch up with Orlando, the manager of Dry-Dock, the company managing yard work at Nana Juana (more about the boat work in a separate post). A few days later, we moved to the main marina dock, where we spent the rest of the month.
Nana Juana is immaculately kept- lush gardens with open green spaces and diverse tropical plants, a number of pretty bungalows for hotel guests, and a beautiful swimming pool. The area of the Rio Dulce around the bridge doesn’t appear to be especially clean for swimming, so a pool was a must if we were going to be in a marina, and the Nana Juana pool was not a disappointment. Wading areas and a shallow section tapering down to a diveable depth- as far as I know, this is the only pool where the kids were safe diving. The downside was the lack of shade.
There are two palapas (traditionally built open-sided, shaded platforms), one of which that was by the boat docks and a great space for cruisers to escape from the heat of there boats! At the time, this palapa was being refurbished and so was empty of furniture, meaning the kids could spread out hammocks, drawing materials, books and games, or play chase with other boat kids. At the time we left the marina, the furniture was being reinstalled, so I guess it is back to being a more formal area with tables/chairs etc. Still a great space though! The other palapa was closer to the pool and used for events and such- a fellow crusier offered free yoga classes here, and I know there were film nights too. The boys also enjoyed fishing with the gardeners and other people using the marina, and messing around in the Guatemalan tropical rain!
There is a restaurant onsite- they delivered to our boat, and the food was delicious, but definitely a bit pricey for us. I think it has a refurbishment since we ate there last August, so I won’t comment on the exact menu, restaurant layout, etc. The restaurant is right on the river front, so has beautiful views day and night- a great place to watch boats of all sizes working and traveling on the river.
We spent some time getting to know Las Fronteras, the town that grew up along the main road after the iconic bridge over the river was constructed. It is a bit of a difficult place to navigate with kids. We usually love walking through new places, buying fruit and veg from the local stalls, sampling street food and taking in the new sights, but as soon as we got onto the main road, I knew it would be more difficult here. Arthur immediately clamped his hands over his ears as huge lorries and trucks passed within a foot of where we were walking. As there are no pavements, you have to walk along the edge of the road, jostling for space with other pedestrians, parked tuk tuks, hand carts and fronts of stalls that encroach on the road. Even writing this a few months later and with more experience, it can still a bit difficult taking three kids, though we have found a navigating a shorter stretch to the fish market, or a longer one to the Pesqueros to look at fishing lures, works fine! Saying that, with Dave working, me watching the kids, and us packing/organizing the boat, while at NanaJuana we did much of our shopping at the supermarket in the new shopping centre.
We were lucky to meet Joanne and Bill, sailing the triamaran Ultra, at Nana Juana. They have been crusing for years, and contribute to both the local and cruising communities wherever they go. Joanne offered free yoga and exercise classes at the marina, as well as running a weekly film night and organising cruiser BBQs. She also organised for a small play area to be constructed by the BBQ area at Nana Juana, which we all helped out with- the Humpback crew made some bean bags for the bean toss game and helped set up some of the equipment.
We made a trip with another family to Castillo de San Felipe de Lara, a bit of a long ride for our electric outboard, though we managed fine with a full battery. The castle was Spanish Colonial Fort, though the site was inhabited before the arrival of the Spanish, starting sometime between c.1000-400BC. The castle was originally built to protect south shore of Lake Izabal, predominantly from English pirates. Situated at the narrowest part of the river, at night a large chain was placed from shore to shore to prevent boats from reaching the lake beyond. There was a tower on site as early as 1604, and the castle has undergone many changes and redesigns between then and the addition of new fortifications in 1797. The present version was reconstrued in 1956, and was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site tentative list in 2002. The castle is situated within beautiful gardens, with areas for picnics and BBQs, stalls selling gifts and a restaurant and pool, making it a really great place for a day out with kids. One of the features they enjoyed most was the pitch-black tunnel leading to the prison (the fort became a prison after the Spanish departed) and sloshing through a layer of river water at the bottom. Apparently, the prisoners were kept chained in the water up to neck-deep!
We spent a lot of time packing up our possessions for storage ready for the planned refit of our boat. We were under the impression that Nana Juana had indoor storage for our things, but we ended up having to transport a great deal of stuff to the house were staying in for three months in the owner’s pick-up. Thanks again to the cruisers who helped move our many boxes and bags up to the car park, especially since the trolley we managed to borrow from the marina was not as large or durable as we expected. Dave travelled in the pick-up to our first land home in more than 4 years, whilst the kids and I finished up in the boat and dinghied across the river to the marina, where the house was based. A few days later, Humpack was hauled out onto the hard standing at NanaJuana, and so started our 8.5 months of enforced land-life…