Pico Bonito National Park

Posted on November 5, 2018

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Pico Bonito National Park lies on the mainland of Honduras close to the coastal town of La Ceiba. Named after the beautiful Ceiba trees that populate this area. A spectacular, raw and almost unspoilt rainforest landscape, Pico Bonito makes up part of the Mesoamerican biological corridor.

I’ve trekked through many NPs in my time and this is a very special place. It’s not visited by many people and there is continuous pristine rainforest in areas which make hiking impenetrable. The biodiversity is rich!

The area has several waterfalls, some are found in Nombre de Dios NP the others in Pico Bonito. The two parks are separated by the river Rio Cangrejal. For hikers it’s an Indian Jones-like walk across the bridge suspended high above huge boulders and rapids.

I have been stunned by the number of people on Roatán who have never visited here, despite its proximity. Just 90 minutes on the ferry which runs twice daily. I was informed of this jewel by an eccentric American who’s lived on Roatán for 20 years. His exploration of the park is to another level however, involving a helicopter and establishing a base camp, with topographical mapping to boot. I on the other hand am budget traveller and will do as the locals do. Where possible I might throw myself a treat! For this weekend the treat was a two night stay in a boutique b&b with a double bed. Privacy and being able to rollover without head butting a wall or hitting the floor was heaven. No 42 year old should be sleeping in a bunk bed for this long.

Villa Soledad is close to the river and depending on the rains, the strength of it can be heard in your rooms. It’s an incredible location and I’d come back in a heart beat. The property is open plan and surrounded by nature. Soledad is a phenomenal cook and she and her husband go out of their way to make you feel at home. Not only did I hike this weekend but I learnt first hand how to make traditional tortillas and pupusas (tortillas stuffed with beans and cheese). It’s a skill I need to practise. Slapping that corn flour pancake into a perfect disc shape with just your fingers and palms isn’t easy.

My hike to the waterfall (cascada) began at 7am after a hearty breakfast. Adolfo my guide arrived early with a broad grin and a pair of binoculars as I requested. He’s a biology student, slim build and fit. The stamina of a racehorse compared to hop along here. He loves birds and during our trek we spotted Inca Doves, Mot Mots, and rare, yellow eared toucanets. He pointed out numerous indigenous trees, insects and frogs.

Most people do the trek to the falls and may well feel adventurous to climb down to the bottom. The height of the cliff face makes the falls dramatic and jaw dropping. But as you know, I am not most people. I also requested a climb to the top. That’s right the ridge. I wanted to see the drop off.

“It’s not an easy climb,” said John peering over his reading glasses at me the night before the hike. His soft Mexican accent filling the warm air.

I chewed my mouth full of food slowly. Putting down my cutlery, while holding his gaze I said, “If it was easy, where would the fun be John? Let’s give it a shot. What’s the worse that can happen?”.

Ten minutes into a verticle climb up on all four, the following day, sweat pouring into my eyes, heart thumping, hands grasping rocks and branches to keep pulling myself up, i wondered how long this workout would continue. Thankfully my backpack was light, but the scramble is not for anyone unfit. It’s doable at a slower pace, but I had whippersnapper setting the speed. Every so often he’d turn around to check I hadn’t slid down the hillside or impaled myself on a broken stump.

This steep gradient climb lasts about twenty minutes depending on your speed, it eases up to a switchback trail and then you descend down. I slipped twice. The climb in total is about 40 minutes. The reward is stripping off and sitting in rock pool of mountain water as it gushes towards the drop off. The view is unbelievable and you can get as close to the edge as you want. I was cautious as I’d fallen over the wet rocks a few times barefoot. I’m not a graceful explorer. It’s been a while since I’ve spent some time in a rainforest and yesterday it made me long for Uganda and the smells and sounds of the Budongo Forest Reserve. Happy nostalgia.

We made it back to the villa in good time and by 1pm I was sprawled out on the garden sofa working my way through a pot of strong, black coffee. Later I played with the dogs, Nina and ten day old Coco, on the lawn all afternoon. That evening there was a Hallowe’en party at Omega lodge. I went with John and Soledad, and i met some interesting people. An Aussie bird who’s been in Mexico and rafts for a living; and an American family from Alabama who now live here and some random guests. The party was, well typical of all parties. People drinking too much and repeating themselves. We left early and I was grateful.

Today my morning rafting excursion was cancelled because the German couple running it, expected hangovers from the night before. So I took a two hour walk along the river and found a suitable spot to get in and bathe and lie in the sun.

It’s a magical place Pico Bonito and I really didn’t want to leave so soon. But work beckons, the consolation is I’ll be back in the ocean tomorrow. Hardly a chore – beats working in an office any day!

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