Honduras Day 6: Hiking in Pico Bonito National Forest and Travel to Utila

Getting ready to go hiking with the Slovenians, I realized that I had an awesome Camelbak bladder but no day pack. Next time, I think I’ll bring the camelbak sleeve with the bladder. We started heading out of Jungle River and had a pal of ours decide to come along. Jungle River has a resident Rottweiler that is known for his hiking prowess. We were told the night before by a bunch of helicopter mechanics for the army that the dog had beat them to the top of the trail and was lounging around waiting for them. Rotty and the crew set out for the suspension bridge.

We stopped at the office for Pico Bonito National Forest which consists of an out building and one guy posted there with a transistor radio. We paid $7 each for him to open the gate and we were headed across the bridge and across the river. Hiking up the path, the trail was just technical enough to make it fun and a little challenging. There were some rock gardens to navigate through and small creeks to cross and a lot of switchbacking up the trail. We stopped at a look out point that showed an awesome view of the river and La Ceiba in the background. Breathtaking.

We took a little under two hours to complete the hike to the waterfall. We were hiking at a good pace and tired the dog out. We found him up the trail a few times laying in the creek or in the path waiting for us and panting heavily. I guess the army dudes have something to learn from us…

As we neared the waterfall the sound of the falls crashing onto the rocks became deafening. The rock climb down to the base of the falls was a little tricky. The rocks were extremely slippery and full of algae. It’s hard to grip the boulders to find a safe place to climb down. You can lean into the falls and put your head under – it’s COLD! It’s amazing how big the falls are – it falls from 2,400 meters above.

On the climb back up to the trail, D slipped and fell backward onto the rocks. There was a scary moment when he was speaking incomprehensibly (at least that’s what the other two said, I don’t understand the mother tongue) but he recovered and we sat for a few minutes looking out over the forest, river and La Ceiba. No major injuries, we headed back to the trail.

Back at the lodge, with a ton of regret, I left Jungle River and hitched a ride into town in the back of a jeep truck. Backpack on, I hit the road again. I was dropped off at Banana Republic in La Ceiba and arranged for a taxi (50L) to take me to the ferry. I had an hour to kill so I sat in a hammock and chatted with the owner of the hostel for a while. She’s American and is raising her three kids in La Ceiba. She’s struggled to get the hostel up and on the backpackers map and they are continuing to expand their services for backpackers. It’s definitely in a central location in La Ceiba for catching the bus or ferry in. A lot of backpackers were seen passing through. I sat in a hammock and browsed the web (free wi-fi!) and watched some dark clouds roll in over the mountains. The wind was picking up and it started raining. Not so great for a ferry ride on a CATAMARAN.

The "Ferry" aka Vomitorium

I got to the ferry dock about a half hour before the 4:00PM ferry was set to leave for Utila. Utila is a small island about an hour boat ride from La Ceiba that is world famous for its fantastic dive programs that are super cheap. Although not a diver, the idea of hanging out on a beach for a few days with a bunch of dive bums sounded appealing. Utila is also TINY and a small island visit was just what I needed at the end of my trip. Tons of backpackers on the ferry dock on their way to Utila or Roatan (another island off of Honduras) and the major language spoken appeared to be English. I talked to a woman from Utila (in Spanish) about how many backpackers were there and I asked her if Spanish was spoken on the island. She very begrudgingly told me that most backpackers know some Spanish but most of them choose to speak English so the common language on the island is English – although the islanders speak Spanish with one another.

I paid for my ticket (425L) and walked the platform to check out our boat. It wasn’t really a ferry. It was a Catamaran, at best, and the clouds were rolling in heavy and the wind was picking up. The water was extremely choppy. What used to be clear blue water, was quickly turning brown. The boat loaders told me my pack was too big to carry on board so I checked it and left it with them to load into the underbelly of our catamaran. One thing I’ve learned in traveling with a pack is to always do your best to keep your pack with you at all times. I asked him to let me keep it with me but he insisted on “NO.” I looked over and saw a ton of packs on a cart so assumed it couldn’t be too unsafe.

I stood at the edge of the dock and talked to a guy who owns a house on the other side of Utila. He explained to me that Utila is very UNDER-developed. There is a road that leaves from the dock that goes straight, one road that goes to the left and another to the right. After a certain while, these roads just…end. In order to get to the other side of the island, you have to take a boat. The guy told me it was going to be a rough ride today because of the wind and I realized I left my dramamine in my pack. My fate would be left up to the Sea Sickness Gods. He continued to invite me to visit his home and I politely declined (No abductions this trip, please) and we waited for the boat to start loading. I asked if we would leave on time but the translation came out wrong. In my attempt at remembering how to say “Will we leave on time?” I actually asked “Can we go immediately?” Which he interpreted as an acceptance to his invitation to visit his home. Whoops…I had to back track a little and explain that I had a reservation I didn’t want to lose (LIE) but had to save a little face…We all started to board so I quickly lost friendly guy and found a seat in the back of the boat next to two girls.

I introduced myself to the two girls and learned that one was from Utila and owned a local bar (Tranquila) and the other girl, Rachel, was her partner from Victoria, B.C. They had gone to Canada to get married. Exciting!

The boat was rocking pretty heavily back and forth – the windows in the boat are really high so it’s hard to see out or see the horizon. I looked at Rachel and she looked at me and we both had a strong look of doubt on our faces that we would make it through the trip. The boat attendants started handing out plastic bags to everyone – this could not be a good sign. We joked about whether we would need the bags or not and we drifted away from the port. The boat started immediately hitting big waves and was rocking at 45 degree angles in between popping out of the water and crashing back down. About 15 minutes in, a girl up front was the first to cave in and the throw up party began. I held out until #4 began and I gave up most of my breakfast to the plastic bag. The cute boat attendant who handed me my first bag came over and sat next to me, patted my back and handed me a new bag and napkin. How humiliating. Rachel started throwing up about then and the boat attendant kept himself busy for the next 40 minutes switching his attention from Rachel to me – giving us new bags and napkins every few minutes. He kept telling me that I needed to relax and that it was all psychological, all in my mind but every time he spoke I just threw up harder. I was a total goner.

It was the longest hour boat ride of my life. Over 15 people got sick on that boat and the few that held out were either on the verge of sea sick or were locals. I stumbled off the boat last, grabbed my pack and chatted with Rachel for a few minutes before I had to leave before I threw up in front of everyone again. I headed toward Ruby’s – a recommendation from the Slovenians who promised hot showers. After a few minute walk toward the right, I headed up the stairs of the veranda of Ruby’s which is a cute little bungalow of a place. There was no office so I headed out towards the back of the building where I could see water and a guy raking the sand. I asked him where the office was and a guy laying in a hammock replied, “Right here!” Ah, island life!

Unfortunately, no rooms were available so I kept walking down the road and found a party at Underwater Vision. For $5 a night, I was sold. Underwater Vision has strong, hot showers and a TON of people staying there. It’s right on the water with it’s own dock and has a nice, small beach front with a volley ball court, lots of hammocks and lounge chairs. I learned I couldn’t dive because it was too close to my flight time so compromised in hope of doing some snorkeling. Underwater Vision is a perfect place for people who want to hang out and party. The water was incredibly blue and the sun was hot – but I was still feeling sick from the boat ride so I checked into my room and passed out for a few hours. I awoke to my two roommates coming in and they invited me out to the party that was happening at the bar. Hedwick, a Norwegian and Siobahn, an Irish lady who was living in London gave me a recommendation of where to eat (I was starving) and I told them I’d meet them back at the bar.

I found a place still open after 9PM (Tricky on the island) and had a really fantastic mahi mahi meal (with diet Coke 136L) at Evelyn’s. The place was blaring Bob Marley and had Bob Marley posters all over the walls. The woman who ran the restaurant was Caribbean and the food definitely had a Caribbean influence. She was raving about her carrot and banana cakes but my stomach was still pretty upset from the boat ride so I didn’t eat much dinner and the banana cake was out of the question.

I met back up with my roommates at the UWV Bar – it was packed! 6 divers were graduating with their diving masters and everyone (including the instructors) were getting smashed. Thanks to my passage on the boat, I was only able to attempt a sip or two of a rum and coke.  We all transferred over to The Jaded Horse Tree House Bar – which I had heard about online and was excited to see. I tagged along and climbed the stairs up to the tree house. The place was super flirty and hook ups were happening all around. Utila is a party town, for sure. Not really being in that place in my life – and my heart definitely not being in that kind of place, I chose to sip on some water and laugh at the ridiculous attempts and pick up lines happening…


The Tree House Bar

The dive instructors made the graduates compete as teams on who could finish 1/5 of rum first – three on each team. After taking turns having a bottle of red or blue rum dumped down their throats, the red team won and the bar went crazy. There was a girl with a pink mohawk dancing on benches with sunglasses on and girls french kissing guys while taking pictures. We were literally up in the trees and as everyone got drunker the flirting became more intense. I stuck with my water and tried not to get stepped on or elbowed in the face (hazards of being small).

While dancing and hanging out at a bar table, a super drunk guy spilled his full drink down the front of my shirt. It was something fruity because my hands, feet and stomach were immediately sticky. He apologized profusely and I went to lose my shirt in the bathroom and try to get some sticky off. I went down the stairs and around a corner and came to an area that was full of glittery decorations and archways made of beer bottles. It was a fun land! The bathroom walls were decorated with mosaic mirror pieces and different colored glass pieces. I washed my shirt in the sink and gave up on wearing it and went back upstairs to the party in cargo pants and a bikini top. I was starting to fit in…

I got tired of being hit on every five seconds so I walked to the back of the tree house and sat down for some fresh air. Within a minute a guy came and sat down next to me. Sigh. He turned out to be an alright nice guy who was friends with the pink mohawk girl. We talked about traveling abroad and then I made an excuse to go find my roommates. He caught the bullshit but I wasn’t really caring so I told him good night and headed to find Hedwick and Siobahn.

Roommates found, we headed out and got home around 2am. Fun and interesting first night in Utila!



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