Headed deep into the jungle of La Moskitia (of -movie- Mosquito Coast fame!) a few days ago (scheduled this post to upload) so we won’t be back for a few more days yet. Don’t worry, although the name implies its Mosquito heaven, the region is actually named after a local indigenous tribe, the Miskito. No electricity means no hope of Internet so we’ll post again when we return.
This should be a post about whitewater kayaking on the mighty Rio Cangrejal. This should be a post about getting thrashed on a giant Class V river. This should be a post about how we’ve completely upped our kayaking skills in do or die situations. Instead this is a post about how we enjoyed the chance to play in nature for a few days, and save a few bucks at the same time, because the river was about 5 meters (reminder, that’s 15 feet) too low.
We arrived here at the lodge of Omega Tours early in the morning prepared to hit the river. We started asking questions about the river and realized that on account of the low water, the usual run was shortened to less than 3 kilometers…about an hour of boney, pain in the ass whitewater. Unable to justify spending that much money (it was a little expensive for our long term adventurer budget) we passed on the kayaking and spent a few days hanging out at the lodge and Pico Bonito National Park.
With temperatures probably in the 90s, we headed out on an uphill hike around the property through orange groves and jungle. Led by the lodge’s very fat Rotweiler who was more interested in chasing pigs and swimming in the streams than in actually showing us the right way, we huffed and puffed our way up and down the mountain. Hoping to cool off we headed down to the Rio Cangrejal for a quick dip. Met by a group of Hondurans at the river, we splashed around in the strong current and watched rafts squeeze through rocks no more than a yard apart.
Usually when we find USAID projects the money has paid for nothing more than some tourist brochures for a local travel company…however Pico Bonito park was paid for by USAID (which probably costs a fraction of what our national parks cost). Complete with a very fun suspension bridge, we hiked through the jungle for what seemed like hours until we came to a beautiful waterfall. Hiking in the jungle of Honduras is about as hot and humid as it gets and the weather coupled with limited food and water made us hustle back to the lodge.
Our Swiss friends, Eton and Myeka, who we met at the CA CS meetup joined us at the lodge that night and we spent the following day swimming, climbing, caving, falling, and sliding our way upstream. We swam rapids, climbed over some as well, and generally had a great time playing against the current.
At the lodge we slept in the ‘Grand Tent’ which cost us a mere $7 a night and has space for all our stuff and a double bed…sweet! Falling asleep to the sounds of the jungle and having flushing toilets and working showers just meters away…. life is good.
We earned our PADI Open Water Certifications through Underwater Vision in Utila, Honduras. Recommended by friends of ours, Underwater Vision was a great place to learn to dive or just dive in general. At the time we were certified (May 2009) PADI Open Water Certification was $250 including accommodation, equipment, certification classes and dives, and two fun dives. In total we had 7 dives for that price, which we thought was pretty good!
A laid back atmosphere, Underwater Vision has a comfortable feel in the classroom and in the living area, but a professional feel out on the boat and while diving. We felt that it was the [ad#reviews] right balance of island laid back and professional. Our instructor, Dave, was great about taking care of people in the class, splitting us into small groups to lessen the impact on the reef, as well as provide personal attention to each student. We really enjoyed our classes and felt like safety was a big priority for the dive shop. On our dives we were accompanied by divemaster’s and divemaster’s in training, adding to our level of comfort underwater. Beyond open water certifications, Underwater Vision offers PADI certifications through Divemaster.
Accommodations at the dive center ranged from backpacker dorms (with the most comfortable beds in Central America) to private rooms with and without air conditioning, and suites with kitchenettes. A small on site kitchen provides a cheap place for meals and cold water. 🙂
Overall we would definitely return and highly recommend Underwater Vision for fun dives and PADI certifications.e
We planned to whitewater kayak with Omega Tours, but unfortunately water levels were low and ultimately we found out that only 3 km of the river was available to Kayak. [ad#reviews-image-only]Being adventure travelers on a budget we decided that $50 for a 3km whitewater kayak trip was unjustifiable. Having gotten ourselves out there we decided to spend two days at the Omega Tour lodge exploring the surrounding Rio Cangrejal valley. Omega tours offers a number of tours in the area from hiking to whitewater rafting to horseback riding in and around the Rio Cangrejal. None of these were within our budget, but other guests seemed to have great time on all of them. We spent our two days hiking from the Lodge up the mountain through orange groves and hiking in the Pico Bonito national park which is just down the road. With the water level so low it was also easy for us to hike along the Rio Cangrejal, taking a swim whenever the weather got too hot.
Accommodations at the lodge range from tent space to a guest house, to private upscale cabins. I highly recommend the outdoor solar shower in the afternoon. Meals were reasonable compared to US prices and a daily happy hour kept guests chatting all night. Despite not whitewater kayaking we had a great time at the lodge. It would be a great place for a vacation, and even though the tours are expensive for backpackers, its a great place to just enjoy the surrounding environment on a backpacker budget. Tours are reasonably priced for families or couples on vacation from the States, Canada or Europe, especially because tour prices include accommodation and lunch. The atmosphere is laid back and comfortable with plenty to do in the surrounding areas. Overall this is a great place to stay, the grounds and accommodations are clean, the staff is fun and friendly, and the tours sound like a lot of fun.
We rushed into and out of Utila because we had a very important meeting to attend; the first Central America Couchsurfing meetup in the history of the world. Active in couchsurfing back in Washington, DC, we’ve been trying to CS when possible on this trip and so far have had two amazing CS experiences. Hoping to meet more CSers in Central America, we emailed the meetup organizer and headed down to Comayagua, Honduras without so much as tent.
Arriving in Comayagua early Saturday morning, we met the CS group that we would spend the next 48 hours with and everyone hit it off quickly. Sometimes groups just click and as we’ve found time and time again, with couchsurfers the groups always seem to clilck. In the end, the original group of 30 CSers from all over Central America turned into about 10, mostly long term travelers and Honduranos from the capital. We took a quick tour of the city, the former colonial capital of Honduras, piled into the back of a pickup truck (two trips) and began our camping trip. Once outside of the city, we began an hour long walk to get to our hosts coffee plantation. With no less than three stream crossings, getting there was a fast bonding experience for the group.
Most of the group was not native to Central America and so it made for some interesting learning and a great cultural exchange. Besides us there were two others from the United States, both working in the capital and another US traveler. Several Europeans as well, each of whom speak 5 or 6 languages…talk about us to shame and finally a big group of Honduranos. Hiking to our campsite, everyone shared jokes and travel stories in a mix of Spanish and English.
Our host, Rony, and his family own some land bordering a national park in Comayagua so we walked to their finca where we set camp, swam in the river, started to make a fire and began to cook some dinner. It wasn’t long before the heavens opened up, killed the fire, and sent all of us (and our rum) into our tents for the night.
The next morning though, it was a new day filled with adventure for us. We packed up our campsite and headed back down the road for our hike to the waterfall. Rony told us that there would be five stream crossings and, although this was technically accurate, he neglected to tell us we’d be walking about 100 yards upstream – while in the river – as well. Eventually, soaked with water and grinning from ear to ear we reached the waterfall and we all dove right in. The water was frigid and powerful as it came over and standing under it was nearly impossible. Nonetheless, we swam in and out of the cave under the falls and just all around enjoyed the cold water after the long hike. Some of us, myself included, were stupid enough to climb the rock face up the falls to see what laid upstream…more waterfall.
When it came time to make an attempt at a group picture, we put our CS teamwork to the test. One person had a tripod and another rigged a couple of logs to set-up the tripod in the middle of the river. A third (that’d be us) supplied the waterproof camera with a 10 second delay and a fourth figured to tie the camera to a vine so that if everything fell off we wouldn’t lose an of our valuables.
We had a great time with this group of people and hope to see many of them again once we arrive in Tegucigalpa, the capital, a little while from now. Our only regret was that we had to rush out in order catch the boat to Belize where we met some family and had another great time…and an earthquake too!