Published: March 13th 2012March 11th 2012
Penny dwarfed in the Main Plaza
Perched on the edge of the precipice staring at a black hole barely illuminated by a pair of solar lamps, it was going to be a leap of faith in our guide's promise that the natural pool below was 50 metres deep.
We found ourselves here due to the type of about face that can present itself when your itinerary isn't exactly set in stone. The initial idea was to spend a week or so in the Honduran Bay Islands wallowing on a beach but instead wound up deep underground in this cave. The Bay Islands sounded exotic but the more people we spoke to, the more we came to the conclusion that the islands were a bit of a one trick pony, even if lounging around a Carribean island isn't a bad trick to have up your sleeve. Still, we were after something with a touch more edge which translated to a jungle jive.
Central American rainforests play host to a brace of evocative Mayan ruins. Whist Africa boasts a Big 5 in terms of game viewing, there also exists the ruins of a desultory Big 5 Mayan cities. Copan, a 3 wood over the Guatemalan border into
The Grand Plaza
Honduras, was the last of those we still needed to tick off. The Mayan city at Copan is not as visually striking as its Big 5 brethren but it scrapes into the club courtesy of its historical significance. It also has a couple of other trumps up the sleeve. One is the alluring Spanish colonial town of Copan Ruinas. Secondly, the ruins themselves are home to a multitude of particularly tame Scarlet Macaws. The Richie Macaws are a kind of cherry on top to the ruin attraction.
While Copan may not be the Head Honcho eye catcher, Tikal, back in Guatemala, is. We were a tad reticent to revisit (we were here 13 years back), trying to sidestep a "been there done that" anticlimax. No such issue. I'd go back again tomorrow. Placing my head on the chopping block, I'll place Tikal and Petra on the top pedestal of archaeological/anthropological sites I've had the privilege to roam amongst.
A few of the more steroided up temples at Tikal stick their heads out of the dense canopy like periscopes surveying the surrounds. That canopy also houses a multitude of fauna that provides a constant background soundtrack augmenting the ambience.
That soundtrack was at times totally dominated by an animal which, pound for pound, has to be the loudest on the planet. Drink a lifetime's worth of Coca-cola, save up the wind and let it out in one horrendous belch and you have an idea as to what a Howler Monkey sounds like, only they can do it for hours on end. I don't know about their bite but the bark is enough to stop you in your tracks.
Whilst joining the dots on Mayan ruins, we also squeezed in a few night stopover in a little jungle hideaway on the cusp of the Carribean coast. Finca Tatin is a clump of bungalows engulfed by rainforest on the edge of the mighty Rio Dulce which empties out at the Carribean port town of Livingston, about 20 minutes away by motor boat.
Apart from some major hammock chill out time, Finca Tatin also dishes up a bevy of fun side acts, a four hike through the rainforest to Livingston being one of those. As Burch pointed out, a rainforest has too much rain and too much forest to be comfortable. The foliage on this hike is as thick as
The scarlet macaws are rather tame.
the skin of an Indian call centre operator. And HOT! By the end even my teeth were sweating. For the entire walk I was secretly hoping that the first person we would come across exiting the jungle and into Livingston would be a doctor. I had my corniest line armed and ready for firing. Alas, "Turkey Farmer Livingston I presume" was never going to cut the mustard.
Then the kayaking. If ever there was a simple recipe for divorce, shove a married couple into a double kayak. Previous efforts at this activity hadn't always finished overly amicable. The solution? Take your time and soak in the surrounds, it's not a bloody race. Wonderful couple of hours which didn't require any marriage counselling on return.
Which brings us back onto that precipice. A one hour hike brought us to this subterranean waterfall cascading into that deep black pool. Who was going to be first? It's only a four metre drop but you can't see the bottom and the reticence was palpable.
I'm a fan of scissors, paper, rocks. The big fellas always plump for rocks so good old paper never lets me down. Didn't need to go down
that path in the end as The Big Fella Burch fell on his sword and took the initial plunge regardless.From there it was simple. The freshest of water and uniqueness of the surroundings made for a hell of an exhilarating experience, even though Penny may argue the lines are fairly blurred between exhilarating and raw fear.
Allow me now to tail off with a brief anecdote. Back in Honduras, the owners of our hostel have a son on the cheeky side of well behaved. Chino is about 2 or 3 years old and a ball of unbridled energy. One evening up on the first floor, Chino was peering over the balcony when down came his pants, out pops little Mr Pecker and Chino began relieving himself down below. From the screaming that ensued I'm assuming Chino scored a bulls eye on mum's head. No amount of castigating from Chino's parents could wipe the smile off Chino's face.
The jungle was a rush, Chino was a crack up.
Honduras, the men are small like their women. To compensate they all wear 10 gallon cowboy hats, even the boys. Cowboy boots are also a necessary fashion accessory
Hammock colours by the river.
as traditional garb is not on the menu.
Honduras was unfortunately short and sweet. The ruins were outstanding with very few fellow tourists. Plenty to see and do with our in house guide, the newly crowned "Señor Mucho Espanol", aka Craig Burch who has earnt the nickname via his rapid connection to the language. Great commentary and we didn't get lost once. There's a new career waiting for him once he decides to retire from "El Cuerpo de Los Bomberos".
From Honduras our next port of call was back in Guatemala amongst the jungle. We lucked out with both the weather and our bungalow at Finca Tatin. Perfect by day, if a bit hot, and for the first night literally had the jungle to ourselves. However, beware returning to your bungalow after dark, as Burch found out the hard way. One slip and the keys took off into the wild black yonder. A half hour of crawling around on hands and knees and the slippery rascals were found. The performance was repeated the next day on our Carribean hike, but did I laugh? Maybe a tad on the inside.We're now back on solid ground spending a few days
The wharf on Rio Dulce
in Flores, soaking in some more culture, ruined cities, early morning wake up calls and some of the cheapest eats around.
Until next time.
There are more photos below