On March 10, 2004 I went on a backpacking trip to go climb a supposedly pretty mountain close to Catacamas in Olancho. I went on this trip with Christine, Aaron, Becky, and Matt.
We left Thursday after class on a bus heading to Juticalpa for the night. Arriving in Juticalpa we found a relatively cheap hotel to stay in for the night. We went to a local restaurant and retired to bed early as we needed to wake up early for our 4:30am bus departure to Catacamas.
Friday morning we woke up and took the bus through the pretty countryside as we saw the sun rise. Unfortunately, it quite a bumpy ride that I could not rest at all (actually Becky somehow managed to sleep). I loved looking at the countryside and seeing the small cities we traveled through waking up. There were kids ready to go to school in their uniforms (all students here wear uniforms). Mothers doing laundry in the backyard. And lots of farms with horses, cows, and banana plants.
As we arrived in Catacamas, it started to sprinkle nicely. We decided to find a guide at the beginning of the trip as the path is not well marked, and they can provide a lot of information (and they are relatively cheap). After going to the park headquarters and talking about our hike that we planned on hiking we found out it is six day trip instead of a 3 day trip. We somehow found a local ‘comedor’ (restaurant) owner who has explored all the areas around. She then lead us to a two local guides and decided to go to some caves that she had mentioned.
Our guides were Juan Jose and Eddie. After meeting them we set out for these caves. After about an hour walk we arrived at the caves. We then had lunch there and climbed up the side of the hill a little to enter one of the caves. The cave ranged in size from small to the size of huge rooms. The first cave had been frequently visited so sadly the stalactites and stalagmites in the cave had ‘died’ leaving behind only worn down formations. It was fun exploring these caves without restrictions of what we could and could not do. When we turned off our flashlights and stayed quite the darkness and silence is completely amazing.
After exploring the dry cave we put on our swimsuits and went into the ‘wet’ cave which is a cave with a river running through it. This was incredibly scary as we swam into this pitch black cave where we didn’t know what was lurking ahead: fish, animals, loose rocks, or we could have swam over a trench in the cave a hundred feet deep. In this cave we saw alive stalactites, and stalagmites as we swam under them and climbed over boulders blocking our path of swimming. At one point the cave was extremely large (over 60 feet high) and we could see light streaming in from above adding visibility to the cave. I didn’t have a flashlight so at times I was swimming in complete darkness, which was quite scary but also fun (except when I would swim into a wall or kick a rock).
After we dried off we were ready to continue hiking. We started to look for a place to spend the night as it we getting late, so our guides led us to a field where we pitched our tent. Fairly close was the town soccer field where we watched a team practicing and Matt joined in. We started a fire and had a supper of toasted tortillas with cheese for dinner. We also enjoyed the stars, the fire, the sounds, and each other’s company.
Saturday morning our guides came and brought us to one of their families farms where we milked a cow and ate fresh sugar cane. To accompany the hot frothy milk straight from the cow we had granola, which was an amazingly delicious combination. The sugar cane was incredible also. To eat it you cut it down and then peel of the outside with the machete those exposing the juicy pulpy inside. You then bite of a piece and chew on it for a while and then spit out the pulp. It taste really good; basically its sugar water. It makes for a nice snack. We were quite thankful for Juan Jose showing us his farm with us.
Before we entered the farm we were warned about the ticks there as there are many and within two or three minutes they burrow their head in your skin. Compared to the ticks back home, these are a lot smaller and back home it takes several hours for one to burrow. We all knew about Lyme disease that ticks carry so this frightened us. After walking through the field, I had about two hundred ticks crawling up my pant leg. This freaked me out, and made it hard to enjoy being there. But after a little while I calmed down, but for the rest of the day we each had many burrowed ticks on us. While we went to the farm, Aaron stayed back and chilled. For a while he laid in the grass and later realized that meanwhile over a hundred ticks had crawled onto him and burrowed into him. At some point at the farm we found out that the ticks in Honduras fortunately do not carry Lyme disease! So we were and are safe from it.
For the rest of the day we hiked around seeing amazing pastures and mountain views. We headed towards the river where there is a hot spring and soaked our mildly tired feet. After that we headed to a different river that we could swim in. So we cooled off and cleaned ourselves, while also getting a few more ticks off our bodies. Afterwards we went to the top of a hill there and set up camp. Oddly, the spot our guides recommended was between the two water storage tanks for the city water supply. So we had another fire and once again relaxed and shared many stories. By our campsite was a beautiful prairie that glowed beautifully during the sunset.
Well, the next day we left for home on the bus. We rode a “chicken bus” home, which basically is a school bus that is cheap and easy. On the trip home though I had a suitcase from the racks above fall on my head. It really hurt, but luckily the suitcase seemed quite empty.