We're being followed!
It was lovely to see Guillaume and Coline, friends we'd met in Guatemala, as we returned back to the van from the islands. After an evening catching up, they headed off for a PADI course in Utlila as we headed into the Parque Nacional Pico Bonito and some white water rafting down the rather swollen Rio Cangregal. The heavy rains meant we only ventured down the lower section, but the class IV rapids were enough for me. No photos, too busy holding on, although Declan almost manged to fall out at one point, quickly grabbed by one of our giudes. The following day we took a more sedate, albeit rather strenuous, hike in the rainforest to El Bejuco waterfall.
Our next stop was Lago de Yojoa, Honduras' only volcanic lake, ringed by dense tropical forest. We camped on a beautiful coffee and cocoa farm in the village of Los Naranjos and took a local walk (climb?) through the bananas and coffee to a beautiful lookout over the lake. The following day we followed the trails through the plantation with equally spectacular views and some beautiful plantings.
From Lago de Yojoa, we headed back towards the Guatemalan border and the Copan Archaeological Site. It was while camping at the Aqua Park that we met Henry and Andrea, out looking for their neighbours' missing dogs. VW combi owners and enthusiasts, they invited us into their home with a welcoming 'mi casa es su casa'. We were fed and watered. A nice hot shower and the most comfortable bed I've ever slept in, and let's not forget the two huge loads of washing I managed to sneak into Andrea's machine! Thanks to you both and to Rosa and when your travels bring you to Europe - 'nuestra casa es suya'.
Copan Ruinas, a UNESCO World Heritage site is amazing. The stelae in the Great Plaza, the ball court, the hieroglyphic stairway, the Temple of the Inscriptions, las Sepulturas and of course the Guacamayas (macaws) that are breeding there - Honduras' national bird. We didn't explore the tunnels or make it to the Museo de Escultura, maybe next time!
From Copan Ruinas we headed in the general direction of Nicaragua, south and east, passing through the colonial towns of Santa Rosa de Copan, Henry and Andrea's home town, Gracias, La Esperanza and Comayagua (Hondura's former capital). We got so stuck in the mad Friday traffic of Tegucigalpa so any plans of visiting the Museo para la Identidad Nacional went out of the window as we retreated to Valle de Angeles and the beautiful Parque Nacional La Tigra.
Arriving later than planned in La Tigra, we climbed the narrow, steep and winding road above San Juancito to the Centro Visitantes El Rosario in the dark. We parked at the end of the dirt road, a level-ish spot not too close to the edge. Ronaldo, the very chatty night watchman, made sure we knew where the bathrooms were, should we need them in the night and joined us for a 'cup of tea' in the morning.
The following day we embarked on a beautiful walk up through the park. An 8 hour hike through cloud forest, past waterfalls and mining history and we were lucky enough to stumble upon a rather curious Mico de Noche (he should have been asleep). The hills around El Rosario are full of silver and gold and for some 74 years, from 1880 to 1954 it was an active mine. It was so important to Honduras, locals claimed that the capital was moved from Comayagua to Tegucigalpa predominantly to be closer to this wealth. Certainly the US's first consulate in Honduras was in El Rosario, an imposing brick structure. The Visitor's Center was the old hospital and many of the larger wooden structures in the village housed managment or were administrative buildings. The mines closed in 1954 after a strike. Locals told us a better story - it was because the water that comes out of these mountains feeds the valleys below, including the capital, and needs to be kept clean, free of contaminants from mining, and that the health of the people is more important.