The fourth peak on my list of Central America's high points was Cerro Las Minas in Celaque National Park, Honduras. The name of the park means "box of water" in the local, extinct Lengua language possibly owing to the fact that the park contains 9 rivers supplying water to 120 cities and pueblos
. The peak is not very high, 2,849 meters or 9,347', and the visitors center is at an elevation of 1,400 meters so there is not a lot of vertical to overcome. However, that is a bit misleading as I found out. The trail is very steep in places and crosses many creeks, dropping and rising through each one, so the cumulative elevation gain is much more. Not only that, I am certain that the trail is much longer than the reported 7.5 km from the visitors center. Many locals in Gracias suggested making a 2 day trip out of it which would have been too long. But even though we made it battered but unscathed, one day was borderline madness.
Yesterday crossed to El Salvador and today summitted El Pital which is the highest point here. It was a piece of cake compared to Cerro Las Minas
Once again trees all around and shrouded in mist, Celaque National Park, Honduras.
as there is a road almost the entire way to the top most likely to service the antenna. Probably could have done El Pital 4 times in the time it took for one go around on Cerro Las Minas.
$US ≈ 20 Honduras lempiras
Staging area for Cerro de las Minas summit. OK town but not as nice as Santa Rosa. Accommodation and food
On the way to the tourist office in the central park I passed Hotel Colonial. I checked out a room but continued to the tourist office which looked like it had been abandoned years ago. Back at the Colonial, I took a a room with private hot water bathroom, a fan, and cable TV for L200 (later split with Ben for L250). No WiFi but coffee and H2O were provided. Next to the hotel is a comedor
with a pizzeria alias serving platos tipicos
for L55 and refrescos
for L15. Several places to get breakfast for L50. Dining scene overall is very basic and places close early like much of Honduras. Transport
Buses to Santa Rosa leave from the terminal by the highway 1-2 times an hour for
Victory Cigar, Flor de Copán's Finest
Celebrating after tackling the highest peaks in Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador in 11 days.
L50 taking ~1½ hours. Cerro Las Minas Summit
I briefly met Ben from England on the bus from Copán Ruinas to Santa Rosa. He transferred to a Gracias bus while I stayed in Santa Rosa one night. We ran into each other the next day after I arrived in Gracias and plotted our one day death march to the top of the highest mountain in Honduras. First order of business was to arrange a moto-taxi to the trailhead the next morning which we did for L100 for the 5 km ride.
Our driver, Darwin (presumably no relation to Sir Charles), failed to meet us at the prescribed time of 6:00 so we scrambled around the center of town where there were few moto-taxis operating that early in the morning. Our first quote was L200 so we moved on and eventually got a ride from the police who said they could take us 2 km from the visitors center. They dropped us very close to the center of town more like 7 km from the visitors center so we did end up paying L200 to the park which was not nearly as big a deal as having wasted 30 precious minutes of daylight.
We reached the end of the gated road at 7:01 located 1.8 km from the visitors center which we knocked off in less than 30 minutes. There was no one to collect the entry fee so we hit the trail. After a unintentional detour, we got back on the main trail and quickly reached Campamento Don Tomás at 9:20 am. Only rested and hydrated for a few minutes then set off for the second camp El Narajo which was a long generally rising traverse descending to 4 or 5 small creek crossing and probably added several hundred extra meters of elevation gain. At 11:20 we reached El Narajo where we took another short break. The trail from there was very steep and muddy and I was depressingly deceived upon reaching the false summit still ~40 minutes and another descent from Cerro Las Minas which we reached at 13:22. Like Nicaragua's highest peak, the summit was mostly covered in trees and what little view existed was shrouded in clouds. The black flies were insane so we bolted at 13:44 after the obligatory summit photos.
The descent was endless, the worst part being the traverse between the 2 camps where the trail descended and ascended the numerous creek crossings which were thankfully dry or only flowing very little. Back at the visitors center ~17:30 there was still no one to collect the entry fee which was a nice reward for the punishment inflicted by the mountain. Just as it was getting completely dark, we reached the gate at 18:01 making for exactly 11 hours of hiking round trip including several stops. Someone living nearby phoned her moto-taxi driver friend who picked us up and took us back to Gracias for L150.
Santa Rosa de Copán
At first glance from the highway bus terminal, Santa Rosa did not seem worthy of a stop. But take a ride up the steep hill to the quaint colonial center and the town becomes much more appealing. Accommodation and food
My first stop in town was the tourist office where I got the 4-1-1 on cheap digs in town. Hotel San Jorge was the first recommendation but that was a bit pricey (~L400 for a nice room with WiFi but no breakfast). Just down the street was Hotel Aldronas where a similar room with private hot water bath, cable TV, WiFi, drinking water, and coffee with breakfast baleada
was L330. Don't remember much about the dining scene but there are a few comedores
near the bus terminal and a recommended pizza restaurant in the center that I could not find. Transport
Chicken buses to Gracias leave frequently for L50, taking a little more than 1½ hours. Share taxis and urbanito
buses run up the very steep hill from the bus terminal to the center of Santa Rosa for L20 and L7 respectively. Flor de Copán Cigar Factory
A couple of blocks from the bus terminal is the fabica
offering tours every weekday at 10:00 and 14:00 for L40/person with a minimum of 3 people. If less than 3, then L120 has to be paid which I did as I was solo. Highly recommend the tour if passing through on the way to Copan Ruinás or Gracias. Unfortunately company policy prohibits taking pictures but a couple of stogies for recuerdos
were included with the tour. Border Crossing to El Salvador at El Poy
First arrived in Santa Rosa from Gracias just before 12:00 and a few minutes later was on another bus heading to Ocotepeque for L100 that took 3 hours. It was pouring rain when we arrived and so had to wait for it to let up before tossing our bags in a share taxi to the border (passing the bus stop every few minutes) for L30/person. The driver dropped us right at Honduran immigration and after a couple of minutes we were officially stamped out and walking towards the nearby El Salvador immigration post. My passport was seriously scrutinized by the official and I received the third degree regarding where I had been prior to Honduras and where I was going. I think this was because of the CA-4 agreement which allows 90 days total in El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. After I added 48 pages to my passport in San Jose last month it has become a challenge for many officials to find my entry and exit stamps and I figure that's what the grilling was about. There are buses to San Salvador leaving from the border (last bus 16:00). We went only as far as San Ignacio 20 minutes away ($0.50, conveniently El Salvador's official currency is the US dollar) for Cerro El Pital.
Town famous for the Mayan ruins of the same name which I opted not to see because I've already seen the preeminent Mayan ruins at Tikal and I am going to see several ruins in Mexico. The $15 entry fee was also a turn off since I didn't think I'd be able to spend too much time at the site as it was insanely hot that day. Accommodation and food
Tried to find Hostal En La Manzana Verde which had apparently been closed for a year even though their website was still functioning. Settled on Hostal El Abuelo in a 3 bed dorm that I had to myself for 2 nights for $6 (or L120) which included H2O, coffee, and WiFi. At the end of the street is an unnamed comedor
for L50 among other dishes. Down the hill in the center are Sacbe Maya and Antojitos something-or-other serving decent breakfasts and comidas
3 direct buses/day to Santa Rosa de Copan at 4:30, 6:40, and 8:00 with Casasola for L100 taking 3 hours. Otherwise change at La Entrada.
Nicely restored colonial center but outside of that the town had a high sketch factor. Accommodation and food
After a long trip from Danlí via Tegus and hitting the bricks for an hour, I finally settled on Hotel America Inc. close to the park. It was very nice, comfortable, and quiet but also L380. Drinking water and WiFi were available but breakfast was not provided at the cash discounted price (normally L480). Near the Rivera bus terminal is the oddly named Comedor Jehovah Jireh serving platos tipicos
for L50 and nice breakfasts without steak or chicken for L35 (L20 more for meat with brekky). Great pastries, coffee, and WiFi at Pasteleria La Princesita. Transport
Rivera has frequent (and air conditioned!) buses to San Pedro Sula for L92 taking 3 hours. In SPS I transferred to a Casasola bus to Copán Ruinas (a few direct buses/day, I left at 13:00) for L140 and arriving just after 16:30. Can get to Gracias by first taking a microbus to Siguatepeque, changing for La Esperanza, then Gracias. Alternatively, can wait for a Tegus-La Esperanza bus at the highway stop at the Texaco station. Also direct buses from Comayagua to Tegus. All companies have their own "terminals" scattered all over town. The transport situation out of Comayagua is actually a bit of a nightmare unless heading to Tegus or SPS.
Stopped here coming from Nicaragua to check out one of the many cigar factories which were all closed on Saturday. Not really an interesting town, only other reason to stop would be if it's getting late heading to or from Nicaragua as it's probably nicer in Danlí than El Paraíso closer to the border. Accommodation and food
Pretty bleak. Checked out Grand Hotel Esperanza but took a cheaper but not as nice room at nearby Hotel Apolo for L200 with private cold water bathroom, fan, TV, and drinking water. Down the street is El Lobo Hambre (The Hungry Wolf) run by Billy, a very colorful ex-pat from South Carolina. Good grub but the avena
beverage needs major refinement. Transport
Frequent non-chicken buses depart for Tegus from the terminal and Uniplaza Mall (free WiFi) for L79 taking 1½ hours and dropping passengers at Terminal Kennedy near the capital's university of the same name. It is far from the main bus terminal area in Comayagüela, a L80 taxi ride away.
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