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Canyon Calling

 

A Taste of Honduras
- a Mosquito Coast Eco-adventure

 

Canadian Phyllis Vernon has long indulged her love of new experiences by exploring unusual travel destinations with her husband and two sons. Lately, their jaunts have focused on the flora, fauna and people of Central America.


My skin didn't burn; it baked. Seven hours in a tuk tuk on a jungle river in Honduras does that to you. The two hour hike through dense jungle afterwards probably didn't help either.

My travelling partners? My husband and our nineteen year old son.

Our destination? Indian villages in the Mosquito Coast (La Mosquitia).

The tour description we found in a South American Tours brochure read, "Travel by dug-out canoe, overnight in guesthouses in traditional native villages." A guide, flights within the country, native paddlers, food preparation and accommodation were to be provided.

We signed up in a burst of enthusiasm. Yet, as departure day approached, my enthusiasm was edged with apprehension-- the issues of health and insects in a remote and malarial area began to assume real proportions.

Our pre-trip visit to the tropical disease doctor yielded inoculations against typhoid, hepatitis A and malaria medication as well as an antibiotic for dysentery.

We started our journey on a Jumbo jet, transferred to a small prop flying over the jungle and squeezed into an even smaller version, landing on a grassy field at the western extremity of La Mosquitia.

Our Spanish-speaking guide Eli immediately piled us into a tuk tuk (a long narrow motorized dug-out canoe) and headed upstream. On the river banks, women, with small children playing nearby, scrubbed clothes in the river. Our travelling companions, a number of natives who were dropped off at habitations along the river, included (if you can believe it) a man with a briefcase who rolled up his pants and waded to shore at the appropriate thatched hut.

The Honduran Mosquitia is the most sparsely populated territory in Central America. Remote, without roads or electricity, it is one of the last great primary rain forests in the world. We were to explore the Rio Platano River from the Ibans Lagoon to its headwaters near the small village of Las Marias. This meant five to seven hours a day in canoes and a number of one to two hour hikes, as we made our way from village to village.

One of the highlights was a day-long trip up the rapids in dugout canoes. Poled and paddled by natives who strained and struggled against the white water, we eventually made it to the �petroglyphs�: ancient etchings on rocks whose origins remain mysterious. We clambered out and sat in the hot sun, eating cold refried beans sandwiched between last night's tortillas and watching one of the paddlers spear fish for our dinner that evening. At day's end, after a refreshing swim, we set out on the rather riotous ride downstream, madly bailing the canoe with a shoe as the water washed over the shallow gunnels.

Certainly, under these conditions, I felt no danger or discomfort because I was a woman traveler. However, I did not, for one minute, receive any special considerations. The picture is outhouses (sometimes even suspended over the river!), very basic accommodation (on the floor on sleeping pads with suspended mosquito netting) and rice, beans and tortillas for every meal. The one time we actually showered rather than bathing in the river, the facility was a small bamboo enclosure where we poured jugs of water over our heads.

And my earlier trepidation about the trip? It evaporated completely with the excitement of all the new sights and experiences. Our guide was wonderful, constantly trying to make our time as informative and enjoyable as possible. The Indians that we met were extremely friendly, seemingly pleased to show us their corner of the world. Thankfully, we were always accompanied by Eli who translated and facilitated. We really could not imagine what it would have been like to be alone.

And, was it a real adventure? Well, there was the vampire bat in our sleeping quarters - and the hand-sized spider the next night - and the ankle-deep mud in the rain forest - and the tree bridge across the deep river-bed and ......

 

IF YOU GO - YOU SHOULD KNOW

Target coastal Honduras' driest season (March through May) but be prepared for rain at any time. This is the rain forest!

South American Tours International Inc. offers individualized packages to a variety of destinations in Central and South America and Spain (through your travel agent only). To arrange directly, contact MC Tours in San Pedro Sula (Tel./fax (504) 57-3076).

We began our Mosquito Coast adventure with a 4-day four stay on Roatan, one of the Bay Islands. We spent time relaxing at the remote but beautiful Paya Bay Resort (http://www.payabay.com/resort.htm) and then at the more populated west end of the island at Seagrape Plantation Resort (Tel: (504) 45-1428).

The snorkeling and diving were truly spectacular!

Isn't nature great?

Nature has been for me, for as long as I can remember, a source of solace, inspiration, adventure, and delight; a home, a teacher, a companion.
(Lorraine Anderson, Sisters of the Earth 1991)

I can do without it!

Nature has her enthusiasts, but on the whole, I am not to be counted among them....I am not the type who wants to go back to the land--I am the type who wants to go back to the hotel.
(Fran Lebowitz, Social Studies 1991)

Journeywoman Suggests...

If you are planning a trip to the rainforest, you will probably be interested in reading the JW article "Packing for the Rainforest" written by American journalist Sandy Huff. We think Sandy's advice is terrific! Read on...


Book helps find stylish inns in Central America...

Carol Schimke is a member of our network of Journeywoman classified advertisers. She is also the author of Central America: Lodging in the Bed & Breakfast Tradition. This is what her ad says about her travel guide... "The finest B&B guide ever seen" (Grande Book Reviews) and "brilliantly executed" (www.Planeta.com), Incredible Inns of Central America: Lodging in the Bed & Breakfast Tradition is the only book with a distinctive collection of stylish inns in Central America. You'll find places with generous hospitality and amenities that rival standard hotels. Whether a 200-year-old Spanish colonial, a capital city manor or a mountain lodge, you'll discover the perfect accommodation to make your journey unforgettable. Website: http://www.bookofinns.com Email: frontdoorpress@cs.com

 

 

 


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