Hiding out in Pico Bonito National Park…

Thoroughly relaxed and recovered from our hangovers we pushed towards La Ceiba, Honduras and Pico Bonito National Park.

Semana Santa (Holy Week) was rapidly approaching. During Semana Santa the entire latin american populace takes the week off and heads to the coastline to party it up. On the beaches of Tela we were sitting at ground-zero for the madness. The hotel owners all said we should get the hell out of dodge before Monday, every single hotel room was booked up for the next 8 days and people were flocking in by the thousands when we hit the road.

We headed for the hills! Specifically Pico Bonito national park located outside the town of La Ceiba, Honduras. We stopped by the grocery and stocked up on supplies. We were planning to be gone for at least a week up in the mountain, vowing only to come out once the madness had ended.IMG_9308 (Large)

The Rio Cangrejal winds through Pico Bonito park. Rio Cangrejal is known for its world-class white-water rafting.IMG_9296 (Large)

We followed dirt roads all throughout the park searching for free place to pirate camp. Unfortunately you had the river on one side and crazy dense jungle on the other. Not many opportunity’s for camping. Beautiful country though.IMG_9319 (Large)

I had some fun mashing through some wild river crossings and getting some weird looks from kids wondering why this gringo was driving in their swimming holes.

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On the road we pass this hut slinging some sort of jungle hooch. We, of course, pulled over to have a taste.IMG_9358 (Large)

Guifiti/Gifiti is a Garifun native drink made out of sticks, herbs (including that good good), spices, and rum. It tastes like crap but they say its good for your health and vigor.

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They also had this bottle of AIDS for sale. Surprisingly it was pretty damn good.

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Spotted our first Mot-Mot! Sorry the point+shoot doesn’t have the best zoom.IMG_9312 (Large)

Sun was starting to set and we still had not found a place to camp, We passed a few hostel/hotels on the way up the mountain so doubled-back to check them out.

We found a spot called “Omega Tours” who offer cabins/camping/rafting tours in Pico Bonito. $5 a night and they have a bar. Sold!

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Setup camp beneath the palm trees.

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Night falls and the moon comes out.IMG_9325 (Large)

We spend the night drinking at the bar and messin’ with the pool frogs.

Woke up the next morning and hit the trails. We heard about a hike through the Pico Bonito jungle to some nice waterfalls. Even though we started at 730AM the temp was pushing into 90F by 8AM. Did I mention its hot here in Honduras!?

Lauren looking down at Rio Cangregal from the suspension bridge.IMG_9490 (Large)IMG_9383 (Large)IMG_9378 (Large)

Hit the trail!

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Passed a few smaller waterfalls.IMG_9397 (Large)

And lots of these creepy alien-pods growing on the trees. The Greys are coming!IMG_9409 (Large)

Eventually we made it to the waterfall. We were the only people out there and took a dip in some of the pools at the bottom of the falls. Very refreshing after sweating our balls off on the hike.IMG_9442 (Large)IMG_9439 (Large)IMG_9431 (Large)

We hung around Pico Bonito for a few more days, The Omega Tour folks were having some computer issues. I got them sorted out and got our campground and bar tab bills comped for the 4-days we were there. SCORE!

After a while though we got bored and decided to break our rule. We headed out during Semana Santa. Destination: The Moskito Coast.


Heatin’ up in Honduras

Before our trip we researched all the countries we would be visiting on the PanAm. Overwhelmingly, overlanders reported the most issues with border crossings, corrupt cops, bribery, and theft in Honduras. From what we read the cops seem to like to play it fast and loose in Honduras with “official laws” changing daily or even in between car checkpoints…

We came prepared with our “Anti-Bribery toolkit”. 3 reflective triangles, 1 fire extinguisher, roll of reflective tape, crappy porn mags and cheap cigarettes.

We mentally prepped ourselves for chaos and headed towards “El Florido”. We reached the border, nestled in a small valley between some large green hills.

What we found was not quite the insanity we expected. In fact it was actually a pretty sleepy frontera with just a few trucks idling about. Not a single scamming tramidor or corrupt official to be seen.El Florido (Large)

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Livin’ it up, Guat City style.

We made some friends off the internet (surprise, surprise) who offered up their place for us to crash in Guatemala City while we got some 4runner repairs done (by another friend from the internet!). We pushed into Guat City with no real idea where we were going. Guatemala City is a crazy town, traffic is horrible, the streets are a maze, and the signage slim. After driving around in circles for a while, making a few payphone calls, and being lost for about 2 hours we finally found our way to our friend Julio’s place. Probably the nicest home we have seen so far in Central America.

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Julio and his wife Karina welcome us into their home. We busted out the bottles of booze and became fast friends. They asked us what we missed most from the states. Our answers were… #1 Chinese Food. #2 Movie theaters. (It doesn’t take much to please us…)

That night we went to get some Chinese food. Wantons and Brahva beer!DSCN2236 (Large)

Our new friends, Julio and Karina.DSCN2240 (Large)

After stuffing our face we went to the movies and watched Girl with Dragon Tattoo (subtitled in spanish). In one fell swoop Julio and Karina satisfied our American desires. (Tickets were $2.50 each for a state of the art movie theater, Julio couldn’t believe we paid $10-$15 to see a movie in the states)

Next morning we took the truck to our mechanic Adrian in Guatemala City. I had a laundry list of things I needed done/fixed on the truck. Adrian said he would treat the truck as his own and we placed our baby in his hands.

The repairs ended up taking a while and we spent the next few weeks partying it up with Julio and Karina. We met all their friends and family and got to see a side of Guatemala City most travelers never see. DSCN2260 (Large)

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Guatemala Cities “Eiffel Tower”

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The worlds biggest plate of Guatemalan typical snacks. Julio got very excited.IMG_9239 (Large)

Capital building of Guatemala (The Green House)IMG_9244 (Large)

Guachitos! Guatemalan Drunk food. Greasy delicious hamburgers served up till 4AM.IMG_9068 (Large)

Old town Guatemala City

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Most of our days waiting for the truck to be fixed were spent playing with Julio and Karina’s crazy ass dogs, Mozy and Tuto.

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Karina loves to salsa dance, She took us to her friends school where we took some salsa lessons. I proceeded to make an ass of myself, trying to salsa in sandals.

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It turned out to be tons of fun, even if I my feet don’t do what I tell them to. I’ll spare you the awkward videos Karina took… Lauren of course took to it like a duck to water and got all the steps instantly.IMG_9039 (Large)

Lauren’s birthday came around while we were in Guatemala City. She was feeling pretty homesick while we were out taking care of more truck errands. We get home from our errands and find Julio and Karina waiting with a birthday cake and an entire house full of family and friends there to celebrate! DSCN2341 (Large).

Our new Guatemalan family!DSCN2349 (Large)

We have never felt so welcomed, loved, and accepted by strangers. Karina and Julio’s family accepted us instantly as their own. We were invited to dinners, events, family outings, anything we needed they were there for us.

Family is an important part of Guatemalan life. Coming from the U.S.A where most kids move as far away from home as soon as they can, We thought it was odd, at first, how much time Guatemalans spent with their family. But after spending a few weeks together we understood. These people loved each other dearly, understood each other, supported each other, and most importantly of all. Partied together!DSCN2267 (Large)

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We told Julio and Karina that we planned to just cross into Honduras and skip El Salvador all together. We were kind of bummed about not being able to say we visited all the central American countries. 10 seconds later the laptops came out and we had booked a hotel in El Salvador, next day we were in Julio’s truck headed to El Salvador!

We stocked up on Roadtrip supplies!DSCN2274 (Large)

Karina downing a MicheladaIMG_9101 (Large)

Julio, our fearless leader staying lubricated for the long drive.DSCN2273 (Large)

The border crossing into El Salvador from Guatemala was the easiest border ever. Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua all share an agreement where residents can freely travel trans-country permit-free. Lauren and I got a quick free stamp into El Salvador and we were good to go. Damn, these border crossings are easy without our truck!IMG_9206 (Large)

We headed down to Playa El Tunco, on the pacific coast of El Salvador.IMG_9117 (Large)IMG_9163 (Large)IMG_9153 (Large)

TripAdvisor.com described the hotel we picked in El Salvador as “Paradise”. The price was insanely steep for central America and I am not sure how the dorm-style bunk bed rooms could be described as “Paradise”. Oh well, We had plenty of rum. We made due.IMG_9170 (Large)

Karina hurt her ankle a few weeks before we showed up. She never let her busted leg slow her down, She hit the beaches full-force. Crutches and all! What a trooper.

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We chowed down on the El Salvador staple. Pupusas. Kind of like a tortilla pancake stuffed with deliciousness.DSCN2279 (Large)

Hangin’ at the Pupuseria (.40 cents for a freshly made Pupusa)DSCN2275 (Large)

We headed back the next day, Our truck was done and we went to pick it up from Adrian from Krazy Kustoms in Guatemala City. He installed new overload springs, fixed the leaking gas tank, replaced my leaking power steering box seals, did our brakes, replaced our oil pan seal (turned out that we were missing a bolt from the timing cover, $2 and a new bolt later, the “oil pan leak” was fixed for good), and most importantly of all. Fixed our Air conditioning!!IMG_9241 (Large)

We sadly said goodbye to Julio and Karina and hit the road headed for Honduras.


Adios San Pedro La Laguna!

We spent 4 weeks in San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala taking spanish school. It was a great learning experience and we really enjoyed slowing down our pace and getting to know one location intimately. However, after a month in one spot our brains were burned out on spanish and we were ready to move on.

Our last night at school they threw a big bash for all the students. We cooked up a traditional meal of Chuchitos and Jicacma tea. Laurens teacher loaned her a traditional mayan outfit for the event.

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Iximche Ruins and the Mayan New Year Ceremony.

Carly spent the rest of the week hanging out with us and touring around San Pedro. One thing she wanted to do while in Guatemala was to visit some Mayan ruins. In a country where over 50% of the population is indigenous Mayan it would be sacrilege to not visit one of their ancient sites.

We got to googling and did tons of research searching for nearby ruins to check out but came up bupkis. During our search however, we did find the Iximché ruins just outside the town of Tecpan. I knew we passed Tecpan on the way to the airport in Guatemala City. We figured we could head out the night before Carly left, drive to Tecpan, wake up early, tour the ruins, and get Carly on a plane around noon. Sounds like a plan to me!

During our spanish class we told our teachers about our plans to drive to Tecpan that night.

“Oh, you picked a very special night to go to Iximche.”

“Por Que?”

“Tonight is the Mayan new year!, of course”

… Of course? Our teachers explained about the Mayan Haab calendar, the long count-calendar, Tzoltin, equinoxes etc etc. The Mayans expounded upon 5th century BC knowledge of time and came up with a system to track/predict important events long before they ever heard of a Roman/Julian/Gregorian calendar. It is actually a series of several different calendars combined into one all-encompassing date keeping system.Pretty cool and complicated stuff.

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