Sunday, February 15, 2009

Valentine's Day

This weekend was the big Valentine's Day. Jesse and I had discussed our Valentine's philosophies, and we both decided that instead of buying flowers and chocolates, we would get out of town for the weekend and play tourist for a while. We are running out of time here in Honduras, and there are still places that we want to go, or visit again for one last time. We headed to the bus station, with the intention of going to Copan Ruinas. We have both been there before, both with large groups, and when family has come to visit. Going to the Mayan museum, shopping, and sitting while watching the Mayans in their traditional dress in the town center sounded like the perfect V-Day celebration. However, once we got to the bus station, we came to discover that the premier bus company of the country had not updated their website in awhile, and therefore, there were no buses to Copan on Friday. We headed back home, feeling a little defeated. We talked to some friends about their plans, and decided to go with them on a day trip to Tela.

Tela is a town on the Caribbean that is about 1 hour and 45 minutes away from San Pedro. It is the closest clean beach to San Pedro, and it is possible to go and enjoy it on a day trip. It is surrounded by two national parks, one on each end, and some Garifuna villages. The Garifuna are decendants from West Africa who have settled along the Caribbean in Belize, Honduras, and Nicaragua. They have a very distinctive culture with music and dance being very important aspects of their life.

Last year in January, we had come to Tela to visit one of the national parks called Punta Sal. We hiked along trails in the park, saw howler monkeys, went snorkeling, and ate a traditional meal of fried fish, rice and beans, and fried plantain chips. This time, we went to Punto Izopo, on the other side of Tela. This national park covers the area where the Rio Platano empties into the Caribbean. Mangroves grow in this area as well as many different bird species, monkeys, crocodiles, caymans, and snakes. The tour we took was a kayaking tour along the mangrove swamp area, to look for wildlife.

The freshwater from the river mixes with the salt water from the ocean and created a swamp. We kayaked for a few hours along different parts of the river looking for wildlife and enjoying nature. We had a guide with us, who actually had grown up in Minnesota. Talk about a small world!! Now, I'm not exactly an avid kayaker, so we did occasionally run into trees and get stuck on roots in the water. Jesse and I used a double kayak, and since Jesse is abnormally tall, the kayak was a little bit small for us. We made due however, and really enjoyed the trip.

This is me, in the kayak, with mangroves behind me. The mangrove is really an interesting tree, since its roots grow from the trunk of the tree down into the water to stabilize it and provide it with nourishment. It provides a very good habitat for many different animals and generally grows in brackish water.

Can you see the Central American crocodile in the picture? We actually saw four crocodiles during our adventure, one of whom was eating a huge fish.

Caymans are a small, crocodile-like creature. Our guide told us the difference between caymans and crocodiles, but I only remember that caymans are smaller. Here is a baby cayman sunning itself on a log. We also saw blue herons, white herons, many other birds of which I don't recall their names, and the coolest thing ever- a toucan in flight. Now, I've seen toucans on the Froot Loops cereal box, at zoos, and at the bird park in Copan, but seeing a toucan flying across the river in its natural habitat was the most amazing thing ever. We could see the colored rings on its beak as it was flying across the river. It was too fast to take a picture, but was absolutely beautiful.

After our kayaking tour, we went to the second largest Garifuna village called Triumfo de la Cruz. Its population is 8,000 people, with most of their sustenance coming from fishing and farming. The community is right on the Caribbean with a white sand beach. They have started to join the tourism route, introducing people to their traditional ways and their culture. Their dancing and music is especially interesting to listen to and watch, however this trip didn't include any of that. It had been rainy and cold for quite a while, so with the sun shining on Saturday, we sat on the beach and enjoyed the sunshine for awhile. We ordered food from a Garifuna restaurant: fried fish (with the head still on- the entire fish) for me, shrimp for Jesse, and fried plantains. Very traditional food and absolutely delicious! Jesse and I then returned to San Pedro, incredibly tired from the kayaking and the sun. Overall, a wonderful Valentine's Day.

1 comment:

Bizzle said...

I'm glad you guys had an exciting day! We ordered sandwiches from Bill's, and then Ben played XBox while I watched The O.C. and looked for a puppy online. Then I went to bed around 10. Very romantic. :)