At the dock we find pale skies and earthy-green water fogged up by yesterday’s rain. The river meets the ocean and its end here. The boat we board putt-putts as it turns to cruise inland.
Soon the canyon looms. Jungle surges skyward; swampy undergrowth and swollen mangrove roots topped with sun-seeking fronds and a lofty, leafy canopy. Sentinel storks observe the scene from scattered branches. A pelican glides alongside us, skimming the water with its wings.
The river narrows and bends, the lazy current barely resisting our single-engine water taxi. As we turn a corner we shrink… or the gorge quadruples in width. It’s flanked by a colossal limestone wall – an insurmountable barrier draped in vines – and for a moment it feels like we’ve hit the edge of the earth. If the Truman Show-esque wall had a voice, it would bellow:
‘Welcome to the wild. Prepare to venture beyond your bubble.’
Continuing our course, we skim past men paddling dugout canoes and children washing in the shallows. A Mayan woman carrying a startled turkey in a tote bag disembarks at a lonely dock and is swallowed by the jungle.
We pass the odd wooden hut and waterfront restaurant, punters guzzling fresh fish and cheap beer. Most souls greet our meditative gaze with their own as we journey deeper into the unknown.
Some time later, Rio Dulce delivers us to the shaded jetty of Hotelito Perdido – the little lost hotel: our sweet escape on the river that lives up to its name.