Thursday, January 12, 2012

Honduras: Rio Cangrejal

We had read in the guidebook about a nice-sounding hotel along the Rio Cangrejal, associated with an environmental organization training young people as guides and photographers. We couldn't get them to answer their phone to confirm they had a room available (or even if they were still in business -- we learned to question our guidebook at every stop). But we hired a taxi and headed in that direction anyhow, with a backup hotel in mind.

When we arrived in the tiny village of Las Mangas (after a very bumpy 10 miles that took about 45 minutes), not only was CabaƱas Aventura del Bosque open, but we liked it so much we stayed four nights. Our days typically went something like this:

1. Wake up and watch birds from our balcony, while eating breakfast.

2. Go hiking or birdwatching with one of the local guides or on our own.

3. Go swimming

4. Siesta

5. More birdwatching and/or hanging out by the river

6. Dinner either at our hotel, or from the woman down the street who would cook fried chicken and plantains (if you gave her some advance warning) and serve them at a 2-person table in front of her house. (Those were the entirety of the dining options in Las Mangas.) We were kept company during the wait for fried chicken by a variety of cats and dogs.

On one day, we followed a local volunteer's suggestion that we make the little village of Juan Pablo II our hiking destination. The village is located about a hour's walk from Las Mangas, on the other side of the river from the road. There is no bridge. Instead, you get into a basket attached to a metal cable and you zipline halfway across, then crank yourself the rest of the way. About 60 feet above the river. We made it across and back with the help of a woman who worked with the Juan Pablo II sewing coop.

She also took us on a walk through old-growth forest to a small waterfall. As she told us a story about the time she saw a jaguar at the waterfall, her love and awe for the forest and its creatures was clear. It was such a treat to meet her.

Eventually we knew we needed to move on if we were going to see other places on our list, so after one last birdwatching tour, we hopped the bus to La Ceiba, stocked up on groceries, and headed out for the Cuero y Salado wildlife refuge.