Published: December 18th 2011December 17th 2011
We expected to be picked up for the 45 minute drive from Copan Ruinas to Finca El Cisne, the coffee plantation we would be staying on for the next 2 days, in a pick up truck, which was a little concerning considering the light rain that was falling. So when a mini van arrived, we thought this is good, at least we will stay dry. That thought dissipated very quickly when we were sliding precariously along extremely muddy, steep roads not far from town. Alex was a very skilled driver but when your van with no seatbelts, full of 4 Australians, 3 Americans, 2 French Canadians and 2 Hondurans is sliding sideways, just inches from the edge of a very steep embankment, you start to get very nervous. There were several times where we called out - "We'll walk this bit. Let us out" but he said "no, no, we'll be fine".
Somehow we were OK - not including the stress attacks - and survived the very muddy, slow and much longer than usual drive to the farm, where Carlos Casteljon, our host, met us at the guesthouse and showed us to our rooms. The guesthouse is quite rustic and
simple, but very comfortable. There is a lovely covered verandah with hammocks to relax in, and two or three beds in each room. There is also an open dining area with thatched roof and adjoining kitchen where two local ladies cook our breakfast and dinner each day. Our two rooms shared a bathroom, but there is no hot water - I quickly decided two days without a shower would be fine, and no electric lights in the bedrooms - so night time reading is by candlelight.
Once we had dropped off our bags, Carlos took us in the pick up truck - with most of us riding in the back, for the ten minute drive to his parents homestead where we would be based during the day. After a brief walk around the farmhouse, we strolled down to the stables where the horses were being saddled up. Most of us were novices at horseriding and a little tentative to say the least, but Carlos had a good supply of calm, tranquilo
horses that he matched us up with. My lovely mare, Beatrice, was a mother of three and was happy to plod along in self drive, so I had
time to get used to the idea of being up on a horse. The boys were great - Piper's horse Lucera, was the oldest in the pack and very placid - which helped him feel comfortable whilst Taylor's horse wanted to chase down the French Canadians, who were cantering ahead at every opportunity. Michael's chose the middle of the pack, and that was good for him too.
The finca (farm) has been in Carlos' family for over 120 years and is now shared between his father and a few of the seven children. Carlos actively farms high quality, shade grown coffee and has also recently planted cocao for chocolate making. He is also a highly knowledgeable agronomist and has many interesting and exotic plants on the extensive property, some of which we got to enjoy during our home cooked meals and our walks in the gardens.
The countryside is green and lush with rolling hills, valleys and creeks. I don't think I would ever find trotting on a horse a comfortable experience physically but this is definitely the place to try it. Even the rain did not dampen the experience and we all headed back to the homestead
Coffee beans out to dry
Finca El Cisne coffee plant
a few hours later sore and ravenous, but very happy.
The group is not normally as large as we had on our first day - often it is just one couple or family with Carlos, as it was on our second day, but it made for interesting conversations over lunch and our starters of vegetable soup, followed by tortillas, cheese and the most divine delicate salad were eagerly devoured by all. We were then served rice and vergetables, a beef dish and salsa. Absolutely stunning, fresh and super healthy. And topped off with a very small cooked slice of banana, sprinked with cardoman and cinnamon. Yum!
Following on from lunch we walked over to the coffee processing factory and learnt about how coffee is made and the differences between good and high quality beans. It really is very easy to discern the difference and that is even before the beans have been dried and roasted. Most of Carlos's coffee goes to the German market, but they roast a small proportion for their own local sales and use and we enjoyed it during our stay.
Then it was time to take our weary bodies and drive to the
Agua Termales - Hot Springs
Amazing Thermal Pools near Finca El Cisne
- natural hot springs about 10 mins drive past the guesthouse. This place is amazing. Having been to a few hot springs over the years we thought they would be lukewarm water in a man made pool, but this was something else. First you cross over a pretty precarious timber suspension bridge, which is incredibly slippery as it is permanently wet. Then you walk on stone steps through a little "cave" and arrive in this thermal jungle, where the steam rises from the river and in the pools. A series of cascading stone pools have been very subtly built in the valleys, and the higher up you go the hotter the water gets. The pools are quite small and intimate and pretty private from each other and the hottest one was about 40 degrees Celcius. Perfect salve for our aching bottoms and knees!
After about an hour and a half soaking in the water, by which time night has well and truly arrived, Carlos collected us from the pools and returned us to the guesthouse where our family and the lovely American couple who were holidaying with their Peace Corp volunteering daughter, enjoyed another fabulous local meal
Back on the horses - day two
Beautiful Honduran countryside - Finca El Cisne
and really good conversation.
The next day was almost a repeat of the first (minus the coffee tour) - but this time we had Carlos and his stable manager to ourselves on the horses and we went on other beautiful trails around the property. Piper was put on a faster horse which he handled very well but I was staying put on Beatrice. This time I actually had to take the reins a bit more though - Carlos was watching, and on the way home his horseman unbeknowns to me kept encouraging Beatrice to go faster - so every now and then she broke into a canter, which had me struggling to stay on board!
Lunch was a simpler affair with just the 5 of us and then on our request Carlos took us back to the Agua Termales for more soaking and relaxation before the lovely ladies once again cooked for us and we played some games of 500.
The next morning Carlos drove us back to Copan Ruinas to catch the Hedman Alas bus to San Pedro Sula. This drive was a lot less eventful fortunately and we were very happy to be in a
4WD pick up on the still muddy roads.
The Finca El Cisne experience is rated on tripadvisor by many as one of the best tourism experiences you can have in Honduras and we completely agree. Carlos is such a warm, friendly and knowledgeable host and his farm stay experience is both interesting and highly enjoyable. A wonderful and memorable time for us all.