One day while traveling in Honduras, Patricio, my guide, asked me if I would like to go to a bird sanctuary for relocating birds back into the wild. We were staying in Copan and it was a short distance so we took a tut-tut. The way was up a steep hill on a narrow bumpy road. That little three-wheel mini transport hardly made it.
We were the only visitors and the director stopped his work and took us around, explaining that this was not a zoo and the sole purpose of the sanctuary is to relocate native birds and to educate locals about not keeping native birds as pets, especially the endangered macaws. The sanctuary began the long process of reintroducing a single pair into the wild a few years ago. Now there are 52 pairs in the area. The macaws that have been domesticated as pets unfortunately will not survive in the wilds as they have spent a lifetime depending on humans. Also to get a pair is very difficult because a male and female are alike in coloration and size and only though DNA can a pair be matched. There were owls, ducks, toucans, parakeets, and other native birds.
On the way to the bird sanctuary was a public zip line. I asked Patricio if he was up for some fun. We stopped and made arrangements. Once we were harnessed up with a pair of heavy gloves, we took off in a truck high up on a small mountain. There were 16 long lines going though the passes and down to the valley and over the trees. It was great fun, quiet, peaceful and magnificent scenery. At the end we caught a ride into town with the zip line crew as it was the end of their work day.
We went to a cocoa museum as this is the heart of where it is grown. Chocolate was the drink of Mayan nobles and royalty. Their chocolate (ate at the end of the word means hot) was made with honey, chili, chocolate, and water. Ekchua was the Mayan god of chocolate.
I had chocolate, good coffee, and good food while traveling. I enjoyed typical dishes of beleada made with fried beans, chicken or beef, fried egg, avocado, cheese, and sour cream inside a folded tortilla. Casado was another typical dish made with fried beans rice and fried bananas with a fresh salad.
Early one morning, Patricio and I hiked on a trail through a rain forest part of a national park. Patricio brought his binoculars and we saw a number of birds. Three red-crested macaws, the national bird of Honduras, heard us coming and warned the forest animals with a loud continuous cry. Other birds were moving about including the blue crowned mommot, the national bird of El Salvador, woodpeckers, black birds, and small songbirds. Butterflies and frogs are colorful attractions when hiking. Monkeys are noisy and sound an alarm before you usually see them. Where ever we walked came across Mayan ruins protruding from the vegetation. The weather was hot and quite dry and there was no one around to disturb the natural setting but nature itself.
After our walk in the rainforest we met up with an archeologist near Les Sepulture, a cemetery for nobility and craftsmen. The site is closed to the public but he offered to show us what was happening there if we took no pictures. Part of the area will be a new museum to be completed in the next five years. It is a major project to find and match pieces for entire buildings, sculptures, benches and carvings. We spent a long time there, even though we had a long drive planned for that day.
After only a few more miles, we made a stop at Welches coffee plantation. The owner, a barrister, made me a cappuccino frio. After a walk in the tropical rain forest, it was a grand treat. I went with the young owner, of many generations, here into the sorting rooms of a big building for processing the coffee beans. Coffee has such humble beginnings: hand picked up in the mountains, carried down in heavy sacks on the back of workers and dried on cement parking lots. The beans are picked red when just right, 15 days later more are picked from the same trees, and this goes on from September through March. Trees produce up to 15 years and then are destroyed and new trees are planted. It takes 15 beans for a cup of coffee. The traditional coffee is dried over three days: each day the beans are laid out of doors on the cement, bagged up each night, and brought in, and the process is repeated for three days. Then the beans are pealed and roasted in big roasting machines. Honey roasted beans are not washed of the little juice or peeled. Much of Welches coffee beans are sold to Starbucks.
We drove many miles for a short hike to Pulhapanzak, the largest waterfall in Honduras. There were locals here enjoying a natural swimming pool of the stream above the falls and people were enjoying a picnic on the grass beside the falls. It was very hot in this tropical area and walking up the steep path was a bit of an effort. In the town of Taculpan we passed a large fish processing plant. Tilapia is raised on fish farms near the falls.
We drove around part of Yojo Largo, the largest lake in Honduras. Here we decided not to go to a place for native fried fish as we had several stops to make and our long visits at special places and many miles on the road made a late arrival at our sleeping destination.
We drove on dirt roads, country highways, and toll roads. We made a special stop at Comayagua, in the 1500s a Spanish colonial capital, now restored for tourism. For several days Patricio had told me he could hardly wait to take me here to show me the oldest functioning clock in the Western Hemisphere. It was getting dark when we arrived at the central plaza and sat on the steps of a grand old church and listened to the chimes go off at the hour and half hour. It was worth driving the last few hours to this historic site. We walked around several of the old streets. The area was beautifully restored, clean, and safe. The mayor had done a good job with this small city.
(posted Sept 13, 2017)