Dona and I got on the bus at the Police Station by the highway near El Pino, the town closest to The Lodge at Pico Bonito. It was early afternoon, 14:15. Our goal was to get to the national park at Cusuco, but we figured it would take two days. So our goal for the day was a hotel in San Pedro Sula. The bus from La Ceiba got us to the main bus terminal outside of San Pedro Sula. From there we got a Collectivo to near the Hotel San Pedro. San Pedro Sula was hot, muggy, and smoggy. Blech! Our hotel room was on the third floor. It had a fan that worked, a shower that worked, and a toilet. What more could we ask for...
We got up reasonably early and caught a collectivo back to the bus station at the outskirts of San Pedro Sula. It dropped us off by the highway across from the bus station, where there is a pedestrian crosswalk over the highway to get to the bus station. So we walked over to the bus station and started inquiring for a bus to Cofradia, the town at the bottom of the mountains where Cusuco National Park is. The taxi driver we asked said you can't get a bus to Cofradia from the station, and that we had to go back to town to get one. But he would take us for 301 limpera each. We said no thanks. We went inside, found a bus, and asked the driver if he could tell us where a bus to Cofradia was. He said no, Cofradia buses are at the other end of the terminal. So we went to the other end and asked again, and they said no too. Hmmm... After a lot of questioning and pointing at the map, I figure out we go back out, back over the pedestrian crosswalk to where the collectivo dropped us off, and catch a bus coming down the highway. Eventually, after many buses not going the right place, one came. As Dona put it, "This is the first one actually labelled to where we are going!"
Once we got to Cofradia, we needed to get to a small village named Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires is most of the way up the mountain behind Cofradia, and at the edge of Cusuco National Park. The information we had was that there was a bus that went to Buenos Aires from Cusuco. Cofradia has a town square, and somewhere on that square was a store called Bodega Mabel. We were supposed to ask there to find out when the bus came. We found Bodega Mabel easy enough, and when I asked the proprietor if there was a bus that went to Buenos Aires, and what time it went, he didn't know. But he went back outside and asked a guy sitting on a bench and he said yes, there was a bus, and it would come in an hour or so -- sometime between 9 and 10. Cool, we thought, and sat down on the sidewalk out front to wait.
We waited, and waited, and waited. Busses came and departed, all from the same place across the square. But they all said they were going to Cofradia or San Pedro Sula, and none of them went by us and none of them went down the road that went up the mountain to Buenos Aires, which went right in front of us. A woman came and sat down by us and we learned she was from Buenos Aires. She said someone was going up there, but not for a while. She asked around and then took us to talk to her cousin or something like that, and he said he would take us up but it would cost about $50 each, and we said no thanks.
It was stiflingly hot, and we were really low on energy. While we were waiting, we couldn't help but notice the electrical system in town. There was an outlet on a tree in the middle of the town square, simply a hot tap off of the power line, unfused. There were "bandit" taps in several places, a real rat's nest of wires coming down to serve some of the stores and houses. I'd hate to be walking barefoot through the park when it's raining...
|Cofradia town square|| Cofradia town square
||Town square outlet||Power taps||Power taps|
We finally met another guy named Mike, who is the administrator of the school in Cofradia, and he told us when we got to Buenos Aires to look for the house of Walter and Nina; Walter is a friend of his who is setting up a hostel but it isn't ready yet. They have the one television in town and everyone watches with them. He also confirmed what we had come to realize, that there was no bus that went up to Cofradia.
Our friendly acquaintance who lived in Buenos Aires then put us in touch with a guy who had a pickup, who said he would take us up for 700 limpira each, about $5. That sounded better. He said he would be leaving about 2:00 p.m. We finally left Cofradia at 14:45, piled in the back of a toyota pickup with eight other people, three rolls of black plastic tubing, five bags of cement, and our two packs. Our 100 limpira was the same price the locals paid.
Wow, what a ride! It's a steep, bumpy, 28 km dirt road that winds its way up several ridges. It was weird terrain, pine forest with tall yucca -- "Elephant Yucca" -- and tropical plants.
|Our ride up the mountain|| On the way up
to Buenos Aires
It was a gorgeous sunny day, but we were going up into the lowest part of a cloud forest. Sur enough, just as we got to Buenos Aires, we were in the clouds. We could see hints of sunshine, but not much else. We got off at what seemed like the main part of the village and went to La Pulperia, the only place to eat. We asked what's for dinner, and the woman rattled off a bunch of stuff. The only thing I caught was eggs, so we ordered that, scrambled. We ended up with a full plate of beans, two hot-dog like things, eggs, french fries, and cheese. All of which must have been the other stuff she rattled off -- not choices, but what constituted the only item on the menu.
| La Pulperia, restaurant
in Buenos Aires
|Dona at la Pulperia|| Gary at la Pulperia
||Chickens at la Pulperia|
We soon discovered our biggest problem was going to be fluids, as we didn't have our water purifier with us (I'd stupidly left it on the boat) and we didn't have any bottled drinks. We quickly consumed several at the restaurant.
We had heard there was some kind of backpacker / eco-tourist accomodations, and after some asking around we met "Wilmer" who was the proprietor. It seemed like we walked 500 feet down the mountain to get there, but it was a nice setting -- if the fog ever lifted and we could see something. It looks out over some of the ridges going down the mountain. The accomodations are expensive for what they are, $20 / night. who said he had a small eco lodge we could stay at.
Wilmer said he could be our guide to the park, and we agreed on 500 limpira for a ride to the park and back, plus 300 limpira for him as a guide all day.
|Gate to Eco Lodge||Eco Lodge Sign||Eco Lodge|| Dona,
Eco Lodge Road
The next morning we hiked up the road, met Wilmer and a friend, and drove up the last five km to the park proper. Apparently Wilmer's friend owns the truck, and we were employing him for transportation. Along the way we passed the intake to the Buenos Aires water supply, basically a spring-box by the road. Boy, I'll bet they have good water pressure -- we had come quite a long ways up!
|Cusuco Park Sign||Buenos Aires Water Intake|
We made it to Cusuco park headquarters, which consisted of two buildings kind of like U.S. Forest Service back-country rangers' cabins, and some palm-covered palapas.
|Truck and Driver|
|Park Headquarters Sign||Park Headquarters|
There was a map of the trails, which we had read about. They aren't very long, and it looked like in a few hours we would have walked them all.
|Dona on Bridge||Tarzan-like Vine Swing|| Tarzan-Gary
We came to a small inholding. It looks like if you abandoned a place for more than six months it would disappear, overgrown in no time.
|Tree Vines|| Stream
||Stream Crossing||Stream Crossing||Bridge|
|Hummingbird||Forest||Dona on the Trail|
There were some pretty amazing vines with huge spikes on them. You wouldn't want to run into them by mistake...
|Spiky Vine||Munched Leaves||Stream Crossing||Dona, Stream Crossing|
Like most tourists, we were hoping to see one of the elusive Resplendent Quetzals. There weren't many birds at all. Our guide, who wasn't particularly good, said we weren't likely to see one today. They wouldn't be flying much, and were next to impossible to find until they flew.
|Looking Straight Up||Dona, Stream Crossing||Flower||Park||Creek|
After we had hiked all the trails, and a few twice, it was time to head back down the mountain to Buenos Aires.
|Mist||Mist||Park Gate||Pines||The Road Down|
|Buenos Aires Eco Lodge||Buenos Aires Eco Lodge||View from Eco Lodge||Evening View from Eco Lodge|
Our original plan was to stay for several days, but when we got up the next morning it seemed like it was going to be just another misty day, and the likelyhood of seeing any cool birds seemed pretty small. Dona had a fever and wasn't feeling very well, and her wounds -- a combination of her infected ankle laceration and a reaction to bug bites -- seemed to be getting worse, and we thought they needed looking into. So we hired the truck that took us up into the park to take us back down to Cofradia the next day.
Wilmer had told us what a Quetzal sounded like, and as I was waking up the next morning I swear I heard one outside the window. But it was still pretty dark, and I was too tired to get up and look. When I finally did get up, it was still pretty misty. There were birds flying here and there, but I didn't see any Quetzals.
We had breakfast on the "porch" of our lodge / hostel. It was very enjoyable looking out over the valley, and would have been outstanding if the sun had been shining.
|View from Eco Lodge||Buenos Aires||Buenos Aires Soccer Field|
| Ride down to Cofradia
||Ride down to Cofradia||Ride down to Cofradia|
Before departing on our trip back down the mountain, we met Wilmer's parents and talked to them about coffee growing in Buenos Aires. He showed us the hand crank "sheller" they used which takes the husks off the beans. At that point the beans are slippery on the outside. Then they soak them for 24 hours, dry them in the sun for two hours, and then grind and brew. I don't know what they do if the sun isn't shining, maybe dry them by the fire.
It took us two hours to get down to Cofradia, riding in the back sitting on 100 lb. sacks of coffee beans. When we got to there, the upper reaches of the mountains were still engulfed in fog. So we didn't feel so bad, as we wouldn't have been able to see much more had we stayed.
We quickly caught a bus to San Pedro Sula, then another to Puerto Cortes. From there we caught another bus to Omoa, arriving about 16:00. We hired a three-wheeled "cab" to take us to Roli's Place. As we approached, the whole beach area was evacuating the other way... not a good sign. We stopped and our driver asked what was going on. It turns out a gang of about 15 people with 2 guns had showed up and shot and killed somebody. The taxi let us off at the corner, and we walked the rest of the way to Roli's. After we got settled, Dona lay down to rest, and I walked back up towards the highway to find some O.J and bottled water. There was a trail of blood on the sidewalk. As I was coming back the police came by, leaving town, sirens blaring to make them feel important, I guess.
We left Omoa the next morning on an old school bus. The bus was overstuffed, and with our packs it would have been difficult to walk to the back, so we got in via the rear emergency exit. Dona rode on the spare tire, and I sat on a milk can they had exchanged (empty for full) earlier.
After numerous bus switches, all of which claimed they were "directo" to Puerto Barrios in Guatemala, we finally got to P. Barrios. In P.B. we picked up paint and varnish I needed for boat projects, filled up on ice cream, and then caught a collectivo for the Rio. Except it stopped in Morales for half an hour. When we finally headed for the Rio, we had 36 people packed in there.