Like many tourist-heavy towns, Lėvingston has the usual cast of local characters who greet travelers upon arrival and remain omnipresent for the duration
. These folks liken themselves as the town stewards, the welcoming party who takes it upon themselves to make sure visitors are always in touch with local services such as shoe shines, hotels, drugs, nightclubs, restaurants, etc. Last year in Peru, my Cousin and I ran into just such a group whose members, despite being of obvious indigenous decent, all donned some fairly ironic names. "Jenny" was the club promoter - "Anderson", the pusher. The best was surely "Tom Cruise", the young fellow running about with broken shoes and a shine box.
Lėvingston´s welcoming committee has adopted a similar and equally amusing set of names. Cesar (whose first name we later learned was "Julius") starts spewing his hotel spiel the instant that visitors step off the boat. "Alexander the Great" ushered countless gringos to an admittedly nice restaurant at the other end of town ("Great" apparently referring to his habit - this guy seemed to be jones´n pretty good). "Achilles" was the man who always knew where the party was, day or night. Ironically, as my friend from the UK pointed out, Achilles cruised around all day with naught but sandals covering his feet, a move we all thought was quite bold.
Three days and as many nights passed in Lėvingston and the town showed us quite a time
. Despite some pretty intense hammock action, the relaxation was comingled with a nice, long day-hike to some small waterfalls. The nightlife was also exemplary, highlighted by two consecutive party nights at a local club featuring live drumming. This music, called Punta Rock
, or simply Punta
, is a distinct Garifuna creation of percussion and singing and is best described as a blend of reggae, soca and dancehall undercut by hypnotic drum beats (New York readers have heard Punta, either at the Caribbean street fairs or on late night radio). It´s great party music because you can´t help but move - even the biggest party poopers are powerless again Punta.
So now, I´ve decided to keep a list called "My Long List of Really Amazing Places I Would Like to Go Back to Someday." There´s a big, black checkmark next to Livingston, partly because of this little town´s big charm, but also because I had some great company during my stay. To those fine folks from San Diego: thanks, I´m looking forward to meeting up back home.
Lėvingston is a unique town and a pleasing anomaly. Reachable only by boat, this once-tranquil fishing village turned backpacker paradise sits at the mouth of the Rėo Dulce, where the river pours into the Caribbean from it´s source, the massive Lago Izabel. A sizable portion of Lėvingston´s population is Garifuna; these black Guatemalans, decedents of Africans and indigenous South Americans, speak English, Spanish and their own distinct language. Take the vibrant Garifuna culture, add some indigenous Mayan flavor, then stir in a little geographic isolation and a healthy dose of backpackers, and out comes Lėvingston, a charismatic and culture-rich concoction that borrows the best of Belize while making a fine introduction to Guatemala.