La Ceiba, Honduras, C.A.

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Utila, Honduras

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My Aquarium

We have passed through La Ceiba during our previous Central American experiences, but we had never stayed any longer than it took to board our connecting ferry. This time was different. We had several days planned in Honduras with a couple excursions in the works.

We arrived from Roatan on the Galaxy Wave. It is a comfortable ride between the islands for a low cost. Getting to Utila, on the other hand, was a completely different story. But I'll save that for later.

The Pico Bonitos in the background of La Ceiba port always makes for a nice photo opportunity. The cloud cover present on arrival was gone by the following day making for an excellent afternoon. After collecting our luggage we were off through the parking lot to find our guide.

We met Christian, one of our guides for the trip, and climbed into their 4WD and began our climb up the mountain.

The main road in the city was actually very nice - surprising to me.

But once we left the main road things changed in a hurry.

It didn't start so bad, but eventually we slowed to about 5 - 10mph for the remaining couple miles of the journey.

Unfortunately it was near impossible to get decent photos because the vehicle was bouncing all over the place. Truthfully I was more worried about protecting my head from bouncing off the windows, seats, and roof than trying to snap photos. But I did manage a few. From this point forward this part of the vacation was a scenic masterpiece. Every direction I turned was a photo opportunity.

If I recall correctly, this is the bend where we actually took out of the river when we were whitewater rafting. In simpler terms, the trip ended right here. But I happened to snap this picture on our way up into the valley on our arrival. Finally we turned off the washed-out mud road and started to climb straight up the mountain on a cobblestone path.

For a second there I think I preferred the flat winding mud road, but before long we arrived at the lodge...

...and once again Hank gave me that stare of "Just what in the phuck did you get me into this time?" All I had to do was turn and point.

This was my very first trip into a rainforest. Let me tell you, it was wicked cool and ridiculously loud at night. Like an outdoor concert hall, but rather than keeping me awake it was tranquil and encouraged a peaceful nights rest. We were doing this eco-adventure with Omega Tours and I highly recommend them. If I find myself passing through their area again I will without a doubt stay with them again. A truly first-class operation in a third-world country.

Those are the steps coming down from our cabana. You obviously didn't make frequent trips up to your room, and even once you got to your room you weren't done yet...

....but once you got up there it was well worth it.

That's the sitting area of our mountain top cabana. There is no glass anywhere - its completely screened in. The view was completely unobstructed of the peaks of Pico Bonito National Park. I climbed up even further into the loft area to reach my bed.

So I woke up the first morning and couldn't believe my eyes. Without climbing out of bed I reached for my camera on the night stand and snapped a photo right where I lay.

I could wake up to that every morning. Unseen in this photo is a rushing waterfall that made for a nice low rumble throughout the valley. If you spot the grove in the trees just to the right of the cabana support post - that's the waterfall. The tree to the far right had Toucans sitting in it eating some sort of fruit. You better believe I wasn't in a hurry to get out of bed. But we had some whitewater rafting to do, and we were rewarded with near perfect weather and river conditions to do it.

He thinks he is ready for what he is about to experience...

A brief hike through the rainforest began the journey to the river. It afforded our first view of what we were about to drop into.

If it looks like we are high above the river it's because we are. And we had to climb down there without a ladder, stairs, escalator, or elevator. And we had to get the boats down there, too.

Hank was proud when he made it to the water's edge.

No time to rest now Hanky-poo. Our guide Al takes us up-river in some "practice grounds" to learn how to fall out of the boat and get back in. I'll say that again because it is important... this is just the practice area where we are intentionally falling overboard so we can climb back in. Right...

All good and wet and pre-game jitters gone, we are off down river for what became the experience of a lifetime.

I always knew I would try whitewater rafting at least once in my life. It was an adventure that always seemed right up my alley, but I always figured it would take place in Tennessee or maybe even in Arizona or the off chance West Virginia. Never did I ever envision riding down the Rio Cangrejal of the Pico Bonito National Park as my first rafting experience. It is widely ranked as the eight-best river for rafting worldwide. In the future I may have to be rather picky about where I do my rafting.

This particular waterfall is called the "Little Fucker" by the tour guides because it swallows up so many clients.

That, I'm told, is classified as a Class IV rapid. The photo below depicts what it looks like when my father and I come down the waterfall.

Look closely - we are in there. You can see two of our oars sticking out of the frothing water. Also in the picture (but not shown) is myself, my father, Al our tour guide, a third oar, and... I think I'm forgetting something... Oh yeah, our raft! Our photographer apologized to us for not capturing our image on the waterfall. I'd say he did just fine, wouldn't you? I'm proud to say we cleared the entire gorge without falling out of the raft one time.

About midway down river we pulled off for a break. On the left is our river guide Al. He was born in Ireland but lives in Scotland leading tours down river there when he isn't in Honduras doing the same.

After our break Al took us "surfing." As I would soon find out, surfing on a river is comprised of rowing upstream and placing your raft under the waterfall. It is done as a game to see who is the first person to get thrown out of the raft by the rushing water. I lost. But in my defense I was setup! Al placed me in the front seat of the raft and then paddled me head first into it. I highly recommend you view this video and get a laugh at my father and I. You'll hear us laughing and screaming like little school girls on the playground. If you listen carefully you can even hear the last words of the tour guide to me before placing me underwater, "If you can't breath just turn around!" Oh boy! At first it didn't register and I holler back "What!?" but it was too late and into the waterfall I went. Funny, though, at just the exact moment I needed it, I realized exactly what it was Al was telling me to do.

After clearing the gorge we were in for a much more calmer ride down river for the second half of the day.

The easier riding gave me a chance to do some photography and even a little videography as well. Check out this short video of us rolling down a small waterfall.

Near the end of the day it was time to ditch the old man in his own surfing accident. He took it gracefully and drifted alongside the boat for an extended time before allowing us the opportunity to give him "encouragement spankings" to get back in.

All-in-all an absolutely fantastic day!

After we pulled off the river for the day we headed back to the lodge, chowed on some awesome pasta, took a nap up in the mountain tops, and readied for an evening of drinking Franziskaner beer in a Central American rainforest. Odd that we were drinking a German beer in Honduras? You bet your ass. The lodge owner is Udo, direct from Germany, and still in love with his German wheat beers. So cheers to him for me enjoying beer in Central America. Not only that, but the lodge also had a German section on the menu with any type of 'wurst you could want. Yummy for thy tummy. If we ate like shit at Fantasy Island, we were sure eating like kings once we got off the resort.

One thing that disappointed me about Fantasy Island was how shitty the actual facilities were. Doors and windows didn't fit their frames, peeling paint, rotten wood, etc. The place has the location, and could be a gold mine, with only a little bit of TLC and some attention to detail. In stark contrast was Omega Lodge. The facility was immaculate. Everything was hand built by Udo the owner from local wood or on-site available stones and trees and attention to detail was to the extreme. I'll show you a few examples.

The pool. No big deal, right? I suppose, but it was hand molded by Udo and it functions almost exactly like my aquarium does. The pool is filled by a nearby stream falling from the mountains. As the pool reaches a certain height, the water falls over this "overflow" or dam, and flows back into the stream. The pool is essentially a big aquarium made from dammed up mountain spring water. Every couple weeks it needs to be cleaned of algae since it doesn't use any chlorine. He has a drain valve at the low point of the pool and was able to scrub/drain it, close the valve and refill it. Genius and really eco-friendly.

This is the entrance to an outdoor shower. Note the placement of the stones for a stairwell. It also functions as the run-off drain for the shower.

And there is the all-natural shower. Top of the photo you see the shower head, center of the photo you see the hot and cold water valves. Built into the stone wall are shelves for soap, shampoo, etc. The blue object on the right of the photo is a candle - there were maybe a dozen I counted throughout the shower. Note the ivy and other plants growing throughout. The roof was a tree canopy.

Note the floor of the shower. It was one single solid piece of stone. It wasn't placed there. The owner built this shower around that stone. So have you ever showered in a more awesome place?

The following day we were headed to the coast of La Ceiba to do some lagoonal kayaking. A pit stop at a gas station for beverages produced this fine fellow.

He apparently needed an attack shotgun to preside over the gas pumps. I'm hopeful it has never been used but I'm skeptical. Sitting at the corners of the property were concrete gun turrets. I shit you not. If this wasn't already the most well guarded gas station I've already visited an armored truck pulls up. No, I'm not shitting you.

If you've ever witnessed these in America (who hasn't?) you've seen the door pop open and an old man with droopy pants hop out followed by a young overweight guy pushing a hand cart. Not in Honduras. This shit was straight out of Hollywood. The door popped open and all you see are barrels of rifles and head checks. One guy drops out sprints to the corner surveys his perimeter and gives the clear call. Another second guy does the same. A third guy sprints into the gas station while a fourth guards the truck. Color me impressed. So what do I do? I, the 6'4" 270lbs American walk straight up to the lad and say, "Yo hablo english?" (Do you speak English?) ...No answer... "Mind if I take your photo?" ...No answer. And so I took this photo. He didn't seem delighted but I think he was perhaps relieved to see it was only a camera I pulled out of my jacket pocket.

And so we left before getting shot to death and along the way we came across a pair of cyclists working their way out of town. Gotta give them some love. Staying at our lodge was this awesome Dutch chick cycling her way across Honduras. Brit, if you read this, thanks for letting me use your satellite connection! This wasn't her, but perhaps they were doing much the same. Eventually, once again, we turn off the paved road. Once again, things get interesting quick.

The toll keeper.

In all seriousness, when you got off-road in Honduras everyone carried a large machete. And I do mean everyone. Women and children were not an exception. I don't know if they were used for protection in particular, but I can say they were often used for many chores or work activities. Mowing the lawn or chopping down trees to splitting bricks, machetes are a very integral part of the Honduran livelihood. Where I have a water bottle or D-lock located on my bicycle, a Honduran has fashioned a brace to mount their machete on their bicycle.

We finally arrive to our natural lagoon. Not the river we just rafted, but other outlets from mountains springs flood down to the valley and form this lagoon. It eventually flows out into the open sea, but before doing so creates a very unique habitat of mangrove swamps for several species of monkeys, all sorts of tropical birds, butterflies, etc. The dock you see above never existed until the hit television show Survivor came to town. This is where they filmed Survivor: Roatan. The interesting point to be made here is this isn't Roatan, or even a remote island. It's mainland Honduras, 10 miles from a fairly major metropolitan area. We passed the hotel where the cast and crew (yes I did say cast) stayed. Oh, what, you thought those people starved for food on a remote island location? Silly you.

We paddled out through here, but if you look just above the boat you can see some of the pillars the cast of Survivor: Roatan would stand on when they were voted "off the island."

Since Hank is old he had the pleasure of getting towed for his entire afternoon by our guide Al. I, on the other hand, was subjected the full experience.

I can say I enjoyed the afternoon, but I also won't actively seek out another opportunity to do some kayaking.

This is where the lagoon flows out to sea. You can see by the dark colored water wrapping down the coastline (above) and the area of rapids in the shallows (below) that a large amount of water is flowing out of the lagoon.

Looking back into the lagoon.

The village chief's son was at the docks to help us pull out and load up the boats. We tipped him with our leftover cookies from lunch.

Before we knew it we had to leave mainland and head out to sea. Our time here had expired and we were due in Utila. Follow our trip into Utila by following this link.

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Vacations

Utila, Honduras

La Ceiba, Hondura

Roatan, Honduras

Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles

Minocqua, Wisconsin

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