Living on an island can feel a bit like living in a tin can at times. When our friends in Utila suggested we go to Pico Bonito, Honduras for a weekend we jumped at the chance. I have to confess we knew nothing about Pico Bonito besides there are some pretty intense white water rafting.
Getting to Pico Bonito from Utila was really easy. First we took the ferry to La Ceiba, the town we look at across the blue ocean everyday. This is the mainland of Honduras. A cab met us at the ferry dock, and drove us to the meeting point for Pico Bonito. (La Ceiba can be pretty dicey so arrange a taxi before hand through your hotel if possible.) After waiting about 10 minutes (they are still on island time in La Ceiba), a 40-year-old Land Rover pulls up. It was a welcome sight after the 5 of us had been literally sitting on each others laps for over 45 minutes.
For those of you who don’t know I have an obsession with vintage 4-wheel drive vehicles. So this gorgeous Land Rover instantly made the entire trip worth it. The top was off, and this stately vehicle was ready to take us up the mountain to Pico Bonito.
Pico Bonito means little beauty. It was easy to see where the name came from as we wound our way up the road. Massive mountains sandwich the river where we were to spend the weekend. Everything in the area, each tree, plant, animal and human was carefully protected and preserved by the government. The river was speckled with huge grey, white, and black granite boulders bordered morning. Most had fallen from the mountains thousands of years before. These boulders were taller than most homes in the States. They stood majestically keeping the jungle from creeping into the amazing river.
The view from the Jungle River Lodge was completely mesmerizing. The open air dining area looked out over the river and the massive jungle on the other side. The only sounds were the flowing water and the wild birds. While the motel was on the extremely modest side the service, food, views and natural pools made it a great stay.
Since our trip was so short we took advantage of the sunshine. Getting dressed immediately we headed down the river. The two guides split the five of us into two different rafts. At the time we were rafting the river was at a category 4 level and the water was quite low. The tricky thing about rafting in Pico Bonito is skirting through the massive boulders. Our guide had been on the river since he was a child. He knew exactly when we should lean, paddle and pray.
If you haven’t been white water rafting in your life please go! Maybe a category 4 or 5 in Pico Bonito, Honduras isn’t your thing but find a level and place that is. There is such a rush being in nature and facing the elements, the unexpected and the strength of the water.
As we paddled, balanced, and held on to make it down the river, through the boulders and over some small drops I couldn’t help but laugh and smile, no matter how much water was flooding in. We almost lost J. at one point, a big bump threw him way off balance. But a strong Honduran guide, be he ever so small, grabbed on and pulled him back in the raft. There are times along the river when the water calms down and in those moments I leaned back and took in the massive mountains, jungle and the clear blue sky. It is a lot like life-bumpy, crazy, fast and unpredictable. There are glorious moments of calm and beauty to reward you for your effort.
Against my better judgment I did jump into the cold water to swim and float when the waters were calm. The water was low because it was summer so we couldn’t go too far before we were back in the raft, floating to the end point. Our hotel offered a photographer to travel along the shore and take pictures. The photographers skills were exceptional. He captured moments we would have missed. I am SOOO glad we hired him. (Although I have to admit I was a bit nervous turning my camera over to a complete stranger.)
And The Rest
The rest of the afternoon was spent lounging on boulders, soaking up the sun, drinking Honduran beer and sitting in the natural pools. The pools were formed by the rain and natural crevices in the boulders.
The following day it was time to jump from the tallest boulder into the rapids. This I didn’t do. I chose to stand down river and take pictures. While it looked like fun watching one of my friends get sucked down the wrong path and struggle to get back to shore was all the evidence I needed I made the right choice.
Later that afternoon, with as much clothing as we could handle in the heat we headed into the jungle along the opposite side of the river. The five us walked the crazy suspended bridge, probably last maintained in 1950. After making it across we trekked through the mosquito riddled jungle. The beauty, serenity and views were worth every bite. (Definitely bring spray if you intend to spend anytime in the jungle.). In some ways we were all glad to be fighting against an insect we could see rather than the sandflies in Utila.
In Pico Bonito I found a peace and calm rarely experienced. We watched snakes and lizards move through the trees, laughed and told stories with our friends. All in this little haven away from the rest of the world. As we packed up and loaded into the Land Rover we knew what we had just experienced was so special it would stay with us forever.
That my friends, is why I travel. And why you should too…
Thanks to my friend Lany for the jungle photo.