We got up at 5:30 AM to catch 2 taxis to the airport for our plane which was supposed to leave at 8:00AM. The flight was delayed about an hour so we waited around at the airport. We had to each pay a $32 departure fee before we got on the plane. In Miami, we had to pick up our bags, go through customs and check our bags again before we could get back on a plane headed to Newark. This combined with the hour that we lost from changing time zones got us to our flight just as they were finishing boarding. We arrived in Newark close to 6:00 and waited around for our luggage for a while longer. Two of our bags got misplaced but will be delivered to us soon. We are going back to class early tomorrow morning and are looking forward to coming back to Honduras in the future.
Pepe helped us book a Taxi back to San Pedro Sula. It was supposed to pick us up at 8:00 but was delayed until after 10:00 from all of the rain that we got yesterday. The river has raised close to 8 feet and is brown in color where we are staying. The rocks that we have been jumping off in the past were only above the water just a little. The taxi took us to the Grand Hotel Conquistador. The rooms were about $35 American, cheaper than when we stayed at Ejecutivo, but in the same area. We tried to go to a market that we heard was a good place to get gifts for cheep if you bargain, but the market closed at noon. Instead, we walked around and found some stuff at some of the street vendors around Parque Central before we went out to eat baleadas again.
We woke up this morning to a lot of rain. In the early afternoon, we went up the road to visit with our friend in the peace corp Anna Richter. She has been working with a program and with some of the locals to build some cabins for people to stay in with a small restaurant all managed by the locals and owned by those locals who helped build it. It is a very nice place to stay for anyone looking to visit the Rio Congrejal for about $15 per night per cabin and use one of the tour companies to go rafting or hire a guide to walk up to the waterfall. We visited the house of some of the people that have been working with us, met some of their family and played a game of soccer in the pouring rain before a dip in the river. It was a lot of fun. They took us out to eat at the small restaurant. They made us some very good local food. Fried Bananas, Potatoes, and Chicken. We will miss them when we get back home. They are some of the nicest people that we have met. We hope to stay in contact in the future.
Most of us worked part of the day while Ricky and Dan F stayed behind because they were exhausted from this long week of work. Kristin, Matt, Mike, Cecelia, and Ron worked on finishing up the parts of the trail. Dan M and Kritsy walked the trail with a member of REHDAS to give suggestions on how to plan on working the rest of the Mapache trail that goes up to Bahooka waterfall and connecting it to another trail with the goal of making a loop. Mary went to Pepe's office to go to a meeting and talk about some of the other projects that are currently happening. All but Mary met up at Expatriates for lunch up just up the road from the trail. There were some horses that Kristin and Matt went out to ride while waiting for food. Ricky and Dan F went out later. after lunch we went swimming at the river-house followed by dinner at the Expatriates in La Ceiba. We got to meet the owner, Joe, who has been working with the FUPNAPIB and REHDAS to increase tourism in the park. He was very helpful, he gave us some good tips and a history of what has happened in the past.
There was a meeting from members of REHDES, FUPNAPIB and others interested in increasing eco-tourism in Pico Bonito came to walk the trail. They wanted to see what we have done and see what else needs to be done. In the future, they want stopping points on the trail to point out plant species and special views. Matt, Kristy and Dan walked the trail and went to the meeting afterwards, while the rest worked on our trail restoration just past one of the streams. The lunch was at Omega tours. There was a very good meal with BBQ before a group discussion. They talked about how to make a plan for the future. They would like to keep up with our work and try to make the cable car safer and more usable to cross the Rio Congrejal however, they are limited on funds. They said that they would enjoy it very much if we were able to come back in the future and thanked us for what we had done.
Another tuff day at the office. We all worked mostly on the trail up by a stream. We have built 2 main rock walls for support and need to work on a bunch of smaller projects. We need to strategically bury rocks to keep the trail from being as slippery. There also needs to be some leveling done so the slope of the trail in a couple areas is less. Our first main project is nearly finished. It needs a few more big rocks for stairs and some rubble off the trail to keep people on the stairs.
We made a lot of headway on the beginning of the trail. Matt found more huge rocks up the muddy slope that he was able to bring down for the stairs and some for the wall. we split up again and had some work on placing debri when people have been walking off the trail and clearing some of the logs that have fallen in the way. Carlos and some of the other guys created a new path to go around one of the steepest climbs past a stream that was running when we first came but since dried up. We decided to also start what will probably be our biggest project yet. It is just past one of the streams about half way up the trail. It needs probably two rock walls and maybe some stairs. The trail will be rerouted to a zig-zag pattern with some large trees between the zigs and zags. This means that we are going to have to find a lot more huge rocks for the walls but it looks like there are some around.
The group that was out in Utila got back this morning in time to be an hour or so late for our 7:30 start. We worked at the very beginning of the trail close to the visitors center. The trail had to be rerouted after the hill slide and the new route is a steeper. We need to build a rock wall followed by a set of stairs. We had a tough time finding rocks big enough but found a few in the mud. We need a lot more to finish all of this work though. The trail has been muddy and it doesn't dry fast when we are working on it and there is such a dense canopy. We will try to get a lot of work done this week.
Today there are some of us that came to the island of Utila for the weekend. It is about noon as I write this but it has been rainy all day. We will head back to the mainland this afternoon or early tomorrow morning. The trails are going to be tough this week because of all this wet weather. It will take a long time for the trails to dry out since there is such a dense canopy in the forests. We will probably stick to rock work in the major areas.
It has been raining all day. in the morning, Ron, Mary, Ricky, Kristin and Matt decided to go with Mike and Cecilia to the island of Utila which is just off the coast since we are not going to be working till Monday. There is a lot of scuba diving and snorkeling on this island. The island is very small and touristy in comparison to some of the parts of Honduras that we have been through. Since the island is swampy, there is a large problem here with septic which just runs in the ocean and sometime on the side of the streets. We dropped our stuff off at Hotel Trudy where we will stay until we leave for $4 US per person per night until we leave. The ferry ride over was rough but once we arrived the weather was much nicer than it was in La Ceiba. We ate a nice dinner at Munchies and walked around by the beach and up to the water tower on a hill stopping to enjoy a few sights. We looked at the Jade Seahorse hotel which is a living piece of art with a few themed rooms and a large courtyard. I will have pictures soon but I left my cable to upload pictures in La Ceiba so I cant do it until we get back.
We got up this morning and had to say good-bye to our friends who are leaving. They will definitely be missed. Interacting with them helped up learn some Spanish and helped them learn some English. They were also a funny group.
It has been raining pretty heavily. We stuck to minimal work today since we realized that we may do more harm to the trails than help while it is so muddy. Hopefully we can get a good start on Monday and work hard all next week.
Yesterday, Ricky, Ron and Matt, hike to the top of the trail to assess the proposed lookout by the waterfall. We came to the conclusion that it would be a very nice addition to the trail in the future but would be hard to do on this trip. We will probably modify the existing plans which rely heavily on a tree which overhangs the cliff to braces which are securely fastened in the rock. We also have to look at material to use. The wood that they have used on small bridges has only been constructed for about a year and is already visibly rotten. This is something that we can research in Syracuse better than here.
This was another hard working day. We put in a rock wall, some steps, and water bars along the beginning to middle of the trail. Matt, Mary and Kristin took the morning to go into La Ceiba to send some pictures back to the webpage, make some calls and pick up some groceries. On their way back they met up with ex-ESF student Mike Illig and his girlfriend, Cecelia, who are on vacation in the area. They have also agreed to help us out with the trails for the next week. After work we again jumped in the river to get cleaned off.
The Honduran researchers who have been staying with us took us to La Ceiba to eat since we took them up to Omega tours last night. We had some large baliadas which were delicious and surprisingly cheap. We paid about 30 lps each which is a little over $1.50 US. We will probably try to come into town more often since the prices are cheaper. The ride in will cost a minimum of 200 lps each way though.
Today was a day of hard work. We rose at 7am and met a group of trail workers from the Pico Bonito Foundation. With the help of everyone, we started rebuilding the trail at the beginning, rerouting the trail to reduce trail erosion. Everyone worked very hard, cutting wood, moving stones and earth and building rock walls. Already there was great success and the trail is in better condition. A group of members hiked to the top of the trail, where they accessed the area for building a lookout tower to the waterfall.
At night we went, along with some Honduras biologists from the National Historic Foundation, to Omega Tours (rafting tour guides) for some grub and spirits. All had a great time and it was a great break after all that hard labor.
Today we split into two groups. The first traveled to the city, La Cieba to figure out more logistics with building the trail including budget and supplies.
The other group met with a Peace Corp worker and two local high school students who will be working with the group. The high school students have been part of a group the Pico Bonito Foundation has been sponsoring that educates them in different aspects of eco-tourism. So far one of the students has completed a workshop for trail building as well as being trained as a white water kayaking guide. We hope to teach the two students as well as the trail workers for the Pico Bonito Reserve sustainable train building as well as preventing trail erosion. Currently there are three major projects underway by US-AID MIRA. The first is to restore a trail within the Pico Bonito Reserve. The current trail is in moderate condition, however there is a great amount of soil erosion, unsafe slopes and bridges that are rotting. The other project US-AID is working on is the reconstruction of a visitor's center that was lost due to a hurricane last year. The third project is the re-design of a zip-line that passes across the river 100 feet in the air. These projects are an initiative to help bolster the Honduran economy through eco-tourism. As one of the members of the US-AID MIRA project have said, "there is already a large contingent of eco-tourists that travel the trails built through Guatemala, Mexico and Costa Rica, we hope to take advantage of these tourists crossing through our backyard in Pico Bonito."
The EWB group accessed the trails with the high school students under the knowledge of Dan McCormick, an ESF Masters LA student. Dan has had many years of trail building experience and showed us better methods to build trails.
At the conclusion of the evening we all made a big dinner (trail building is hard work!) and jumped into the beautiful Rio Conjereal to wash off.
We got up the morning to go the the internet Cafe. We plan of meeting in La Cieba with the USA AID MIRA office in La Cieba to access digital maps of the Pico Bonito area. We plan to utilize the digital maps to plan out trails and provide a more detailed map for potential visitors to use.
This was an easy day. We had the day off since it is a holiday. A couple of us did a little more white water kayaking. The rest were swimming at the beach.
We got packed this morning to go on a hike to view some of the trails that need work. We crossed the river on a raft and hiked up to a water fall stopping on the way to talk about the trail. The trail is bordered by the preserve area of Pico Bonito marked in orange flagging which is prohibited. The trail gets worse as we climbed. We came back and hiked over to where the visitors center used to stand. The visitors center was built about a year ago and destroyed this year by a hurricane. This is one possibility for us to help out. The new visitors center is proposed to be built on the opposite side of the river next to the road. There is a cable that connects the 2 banks. That was made to carry a number of people in a little boxcar. The boxcar was to heavy for the motor that they could buy so a small wooden cart was substituted. This is another place where Pepe is looking for some engineering advice to utilize the existing cable more effectively. In the afternoon, some of us again went kayaking with Pepe. We celebrated the new year at Omega River Tours. They have a nice restaurant with a pool that is fed by a stream. The food was extremely good.
We woke up this morning and took another taxi back to the airport where a bus leaves San Pedro. After we arrived, we decided it was better just to take one 15 passenger van for everyone to fit in. We met up at the USAID MIRA with Pepe Herrero and a couple of other people that we will be working with. They gave us a ride up to Pepe´s River house where we will be staying. Pepe was on his way up the Rio Congrejal to go white water kayaking and took Dan and Ricky with him while the rest of us got settled in and swam in the river.
We flew into Miami this morning and took a cab into South Beach. We had a long layover so we ate lunch in South Beach. When we arrived in San Pedro Sula, we took 2 cabs into the city to stay at the Ejectivo Hotel. We ate dinner at a nice place and talked to some of the people from the area.