We are, sadly, back in smelly dorm rooms after 10 days of absolute luxury in the Lodge at Pico Bonito. After scaring the reception staff with our dishevelled, smelly selves on arrival, we were allowed a plush welcome cocktail nevertheless and quickly settled into the lifestyle.
The lodge is just outside La Ceiba in the Pico Bonito National Park and is very popular with middle aged bird watchers, which is actually quite refreshing after months spent with other backpackers and smelly hippies. It was also incredible to take a week out from rice and beans and indulge in some gourmet specialities – mango roasted duck, scallop risotto and the best French toast I have ever eaten.
It’s also been fascinating to get to know Annie’s Mom’s Honduran friends who have shown us a bit of the ‘real’ La Ceiba. Anaite works for the department of tourism and they have a stunningly beautiful house in the mountains, so it was the first time we’ve caught a glimpse of the wealthier side of Central America. We even went to a shopping mall, which doesn’t sound that exciting but is a real thrill after months of struggling to track down shampoo!
Although we were pretty busy indulging in our luxurious food and comfy big beds, we still managed to fit in white water rafting, a visit to some hot springs, a Casabe (crisps made from Yuca) cooking class and a visit to the charities and schools that Anaite supports. We also took a day trip to the lovely Cayos Cochines, some more idyllic Caribbean islands which are far less touristy than the Bay Islands.
Most of the other travellers we have met all seem to be avoiding Honduras, other than the Bay islands and Copan and we might have done the same if we hadn’t been lucky enough to be shown around by locals. All of the Honduran people we have met are extremely passionate about changing the way their country is perceived by tourists. We’ve learnt that it’s wise to stay away from San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa, but that there are plenty of opportunities to explore the mountainous rainforests and flowing rivers safely.
Tourism has brought huge benefits to the country and they are keen to promote this and dispel some of the misguided views of Honduras. Anaite told us about the scores of people leaving Europe and America and heading out to Central America to take advantage of the rapidly improving business opportunities in the region.
Having said all that, we weren’t entirely comfortable with spending a night in San Pedro Sula on our way out of the country. Even the Honduran people we had met did not feel safe going there and, judging from the little we glimpsed of the city through our shuttle, it’s easy to see why. Our hostel was behind gated doors and we were advised not to go further than the street outside. Time for a takeaway pizza and a relaxed movie evening!