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Seasquirt

The adventures of Fe & Chris

Archive for June, 2007

Our new home

We are now in Cusuco National Park in north-west Honduras. We shall be here for two months working for Operation Wallacea, so our map marker is unlikely to move for a while. We arrived here two days ago after enjoying a very scenic, if bumpy, ride up the mountain in the back of a pick-up truck.

I have been getting up at 0500 to go out birding. I am rapidly learning the bird songs of the forest with the aid of an iPod. On Tuesday I am going to a field camp to count birds for a couple of weeks. It was sold to me as being some of the finest forest in the park so I happily agreed - I have since found out it is also the wettest and inhospitable camp!

Fiona is just polishing her PhD before she magically submits it remotely. She spent all yesterday meeting with the different science groups so she can ensure the project database is correctly set up for their needs. There are about 50 scientists here and 50 university students. Next week they shall all disperse around the forest to the different field camps, but then school kids will arrive!

Our living conditions are thus:

We are living in a little tent and get force-fed corn tortillas. A diesel generator provides power during part of the day and a satellite dish provides a sluggish internet connection. It rains every evening (so far). We have been given copious instructions in how to deal with snake bites. The showers are very cold and only mildly alarming. Fiona calmly endured her cold shower whilst chuckling at the girlie screams of a man in the next cubicle. 

San Pedro Sula

We arrived here this morning after a warm and breezy bus ride from Pena Blanca. I don’t know why ‘Sula’ is in the name - that means Gannet where I come from. We never did get Fiona to that pesky lake.

SPS is the second largest city in Honduras and it is rather hot. Really very hot. Humid too. We are in a posh hotel for the evening as we are meeting people from Operation Wallacea there tomorrow morning. All being well we are heading off into Cusuco National Park for the next two months.

We’ve got to go now as we have to get our money’s worth and use all the facilities at the hotel.

Friendly people with guns and knives

I have found the best people to ask stupid traveller’s questions to are the Hondurans that carry big guns and knives; everywhere seems to have a security guard, and they are usually bored and happy to help.

 Last night a very nice man with a huge sheathed machete guarded our hotel of which we were the only residents. He had a nice rocking chair to sit on though.

Lago blurghhh

Hmm, well after our high hopes of a nice relaxing time by the lovely Lago Yojoa with lots of birds, it came as some disappointment to arrive at the much touted D&D B&B & brewery (”Beer and Birds”) to find our room was “very ensuite” in Chris’ words - i.e. the toilet was actually in the bedroom. Lovely. So we got over that, and then they poisoned us with their food, so I spent a nice relaxing Sunday in bed, alternately throwing up, and ermm, I’m sure you can imagine the rest. Needless to say I was not impressed, especially since it meant we were trapped in the horrible place for another night.

Chris escaped for a bit and went for an apparently nice wander towards the lake (I still haven’t seen this blumming lake by the way!).  He also had to continue to eat at the place since there was nowhere else in the vicinity, so he of course got ill as well.. poor boy - twice in a week. Oh and he looked after me very well you’ll all be pleased to know!

So anyway, today we managed to get out of there, and tried to go to another hotel, which was unfortunately full, or closed, or something. We are now in the small town of Peña Blanca, which is kind of near the lake, so with luck we may get there tomorrow.

Butterflies and Birds

Today we have managed to fit in two different nature reserve/parks - in the morning, after rescuing Chris’ cash card we set off to ‘Enchanted wings’ a butterfly and orchid park. The owner, Robert, was very nice and showed us round the place. We started off at the hatchery where the pupae, larvae and eggs are kept - we even saw a newly hatched butterfly spreading its wings for the first time. The enclosure itself had lots of beautiful specimens, although their names mostly escape me now! We may even have some nice pics, but have to find time to have a look…

The orchids were equally impressive, although unfortunately most were not in flower - he has a collection of over 100 (there are at least 800 species in Honduras), some of his finds are thought to be new to science!

Our second outing of the day was to “Macaw Mountain” - a sanctuary of sorts containing, strangely enough, Macaws as well as other parrots and toucans which have been rescued from being kept as pets. We were shown round by a nice guide and were even given some to play with (photos will definitely appear soon!). One managed to poo on me, although successfully avoided my clothes and bag, phew! We cooled off (and I got clean!) by taking a dip in the river… lovely! Oh and Chris got attacked by an enormous ant and hopped around for a while, much to my amusement (sorry!).

Tomorrow we will leave Copan in search of new adventures at Lago Yojoa, presuming we successfully navigate San Pedro Sula - Honuras’ second city, which sounds quite, ermmm, interesting!

Ruins

Having safely arrived in Copan Ruinas, Honduras, we decided to check out its main attraction as early as possible (for us anyway), in an attempt to avoid the heat.

We made it to the Mayan ruins for about 9am, just in time to beat a coach tour to the entrance…

The ruins are very impressive and are the main ones in Honduras (there are others in Guatemala, Mexico etc). They are most famous for their sculptures which were indeed well preserved in places. One of the most impressive sights was the hieroglyphic staircase - 78ish wide step, with each stone fronted with a carving - it has to be covered to protect it from further weathering, but was still an interesting sight.

The other impressive feature was the museum - an open air affair with a huge recontstruction of one of the temples they have found underground.

Photos will hopefully follow….

Fiona made me write this

After Fiona’s self-documented incompetence (and here) earlier in our journey, and Lachlan’s stylistic advice, I am compelled to inform you of my bungling activities. On our arrival at Copan Ruinas Fiona bravely set off to find us appropriate accommodation whilst I took on the challenge of acquiring some local currency. I found two nice men guarding the bank, one with a pump action shotgun, the other with a metal detector. The latter waved his instrument at me, fortunatously the former did not. I duly entered the bank brandishing my card and attacked the ATM with great gusto.

Rather pleased at myself for finding the Change language button I merrily continued my financial transaction and extracted 3000 Lempiras (80 GBP, should you be interested). Happily stuffing the cash into my wallet, I went back to Parque Central to find Fe. Both pleased with our respective transactions (actually, that’s a lie, Fe was hot and irritable at having to visit three places before one would accept us), we went off to our new hotel.

Two days later, over breakfast, I noticed my bank card wasn’t in my wallet. Most problematic. We searched our room to no avail, until we decided that we should return to the site of the last sight of the offending item - the bank with the man with the gun. Frantically trying to remember any of the Spanish I had learn’t, and with the aid of a phrasebook, I managed to communicate to a nice gentleman that I may have left my card in or near the ATM two days ago. Upon presentation with my passport he extracted a wad of cards from his desk and started to search through them. There is was! My card! My incompetence had been rectified! I was very pleased.

Before we left I had to endure a tirade in Spanish. I’m not sure what it all meant, but I think the message was don’t be such a f***wit in future!

Across the border…

Our departure from Antigua was slightly delayed due to my gut situation (see the comments on the previous post - six hours in a minibus might just have been too much). We started waiting for our bus at 0345, as instructed and 45 minutes later it arrived. By 0930 we were at the frontier of Guatemala and Honduras in glorious sunshine and unbearable heat. The highlands of Guatemala enjoy a rather pleasant temperature, now we are in real tropical heat.

The border was a quiet affair compared to our last crossing from Mexico - just a few eager beavers attempting to induce us to change currency - all terribly civilised. The one curiosity was that the Guatemalan immigration office towards the Honduran side of the border and the Honduran office on the Guatemalan side.

How queer.

Musical experiences

Whilst in Antigua, we came across three different live music events - the first was an outdoor classical music affair in Parque Central and was very nice (especially the fairy lights). We then moved on to Rikki’s bar where we had previously seen a poster advertising “Ignacio” from Buena Vista Social Club, playing with two other blokes. We duly stood for an hour in the Rikki’s bar section of a building containing a couple of other bar areas, waiting for the ‘gig’ to start. Yes, you’ve guessed it, we were in the wrong place - we finally looked at the poster again and realised it was referring to another section of the place. Ah well. We did manage to catch over an hour of their music however, and I even got the occasional wink from the man himself (suitably dressed in white shirt and trousers and shoes, and gold chains, lovely!). We then saw him on the street the next day disappointingly only in scruffy jeans and t-shirt. The music itself was great - he played the bongo/drums things extremely well. All in all an enjoyable evening (we even treated ourselves to Mojitos, how decadent!).

The next day, having been followed by Mr Ignacio, we came across a group of 8 men playing xylophones and drums - it was very cool, and perhaps known as ‘Marimba’, but not entirely sure…

Antigua Guatemala

Our current position, as surmised by Chris’ mother is indeed the Antigua in Guatemala! It is a former capital of Guatemala, from when the Spanish first invaded (colonised?). It is a lovely place full of old buildings, churches and ruins of churches due to earthquakes over several hundred years, enough to make the Spanish abandon it for Guatemala city. It is also surrounded by three volcanoes - one of which dominates the town (photos to come…) and the other two I think must be hidden in clouds and behind the other hills that surround. All in all a nice, relaxing town.

We will have been here five nights in total, which has taken us on a tour of three hostels - due to funny smells and bad bookings (i.e. getting kicked out!). Tomorrow we leave for Copan Ruinas (missing accent due to american keyboard!) in Honduras - 4am start, urgh! There are ruins of Mayan origin there which should be very interesting too.

Sorry this is a bit brief, but we need sleep now…!

More to follow - including a run down of Chris’ gut situation ;-)

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