If only I had brought a shirt with the phrase ‘no gracias’ across the front to point to each time I was haggled to buy something from one of the vendors, stalls, dudes/women/infants who wandered around with a basket full of cheap goods resting on their heads. But alas, it takes much more to dampen these spirits than a few pushy locals trying to make a living. It just would have been easier to point to the shirt. And I’m all about efficiency.
Guatemala ended with a night in Guatemala City, a place where in 2010, there were on average 55 murders reported per week. That’s roughly the same, if not more than all of Iraq over the course of the year (according to an American I met who works for the Department of Justice). So by that logic it is safer to visit Iraq than Guatemala City. I hear Baghdad is beautiful at Christmas. Anyone?
Murder City was just a stopover for the night before returning to Honduras for the final leg of my Central American escapade in the sleepy beach town of Tela, nestled cozily along the Caribbean ocean in the northern part of the country. I am stayingabout 10 minutes outside of town in a Garifuna village in a beautifully rustic place right on the beach. Emilio, a Peruvian expat who has been living in Honduras for the past 2 decades or so, owns the beach inn and lives here with his family. I’m the only guest at the moment and it has been amazing. They are a very genuine and pleasant family hellbent on making my stay as comfortable as they possibly can. The food is unreal - each meal prepared with items purchased fresh daily at the local market - fish, chicken, rice, fruit, vegetables - all prepared in the language of delicious.
Days are spent lazing in a shaded hammock reading books, dozing, generally contemplating, quick dips in the ocean and aimless walks along the beach. Nights are spent talking to Emilio, eating, reading and falling asleep to the gentle lap of the waves while the warm ocean breeze blows across my room. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect setting to finish my trip.
Yesterday I spent half the day exploring a nearby nature reserve with a local Garifuna who is part time guide, part time park ranger and full time lover of the outdoors. Part of the way there was on a horse drawn cart until the horse decided he had had enough. We hiked the rest of the way along a path surrounded by fields of various vegetation and the occasional iguana eyeballing us with its creepy little suspicious iguana eyes. When we reached the park we jumped into a boat and paddled down a river surrounded by mangrove trees and thick jungle underbrush while on the
lookout for the interesting mix of birds and animals that reside within the reserve. My guide, who spoke a reasonable amount of English, was able to point out the various species of herons and
monkeys that roamed around us. We spotted one crocodile and some sort of super raccoon that was hunting for crabs within the thick tangled jungle. About halfway through the expedition we decided to do some land exploration to see if we could get a closer look at one of the white faced monkeys. We pulled the boat to the edge of a mangrove tree and hopped up on land to enter the dense jungle. Constant harassment from mosquitoes and other pestering insects did nothing to slow us down as we faught our way through the brush sometimes ankle deep in mud and while being watched by the thousands of crabs that scurried about, pincers at the ready. We finally caught a glimpse of one monkey as it jumped and hollored from tree to tree.
Back on the boat we continued on, slowly making our way through the narrow channels off the main body of water. With the midday sun blistering above and the windless heat reaching and surpassing 100 degrees we decided to head back to drink from the cool refreshing water from a few coconuts that we had set aside before departing. Apparently the natural filtration system built into the trees makes the coconut one of the cleanest sources of water. And it tasted amazing.
We took a different path back as we opted for the breeze off the ocean which was a 3 km hike along the beach to where I was staying. It was all quite glorious.
Tomorrow I leave but not without a head full of memories, a camera full of pictures and a heart full of appreciation for this small corner of the world tucked neatly between north and south America. There is so much more to see and one day I hope to return, but for now I am more than content with the journey I have taken, the people I have met and the pure enjoyment that traveling brings. Adios Central America, you have been good to me.