Thursday, July 24, 2008

Pack it in, Pack it out

Our summer in Honduras is never short on adventure. Last Friday as we journeyed to Pueblo Nuevo for our first attempt to install the canal liner, we were turned back by rains and muddy roads as soon as we arrived. And as you may have read in an earlier post, we got stuck in the mud several times. That was a little too much adventure for this middle-aged fat guy, since I didn't want to use my grant money to pay the insurance deductible on my rental vehicle. Oh yeah, that and I didn't want the students to get hurt either.

So we found an easier, er... strike that, more vehicle-friendly way to get to the village. The M drove us out on a different road, a flat one, to a point about three miles away from Pueblo Nuevo, and then we walked the rest of the way on a foot path! It was really a fantastic experience and my only regret is that Nicole and Kim didn't get to experience it. We miss you girls.

The journey begins with the suspension bridge. It is locally made, mostly from long lengths of rebar tied and/or welded together. It was reasonably sturdy and passed perhaps 15 or 20 feet over a river. Then it joined a foot path that was remarkably well traveled like an interstate highway for pedestrians and horses, but not for cars and trucks. It was eye-opening to me because I got another glimpse at the day to day operations of village life. "Roads" such as these were the capillaries of rural life, and I realized that until this point, I had only been in the arteries of Honduras because my destinations were limited to places I could drive.
At first our trail passed through a village with houses on either side of the packed earth path. Barbed wire fences lined each side and delineated the small bits of land belonging to different families. After a while, we left the people behind and the path wound between farmers' fields, pastures, and untamed places.

Here we stopped for a water break because we were sweating like pigs. It was sunny and humid and mostly uphill (the net climb was 700 feet). We were rewarded with beautiful views and earthy smells and curious passers by greeting us with "buenas".

Shown above is our team, except for me. The back row is Jason, Ryan, and David, then the middle row is Lisa, Elizabeth, and one of Santos's many sons who had been sent to meet us and be our guide. The little guy is another of his sons too, but I cannot remember either of their names at the moment. I know my students would remember their names because they are all brilliant, but they are all asleep now so I can't ask them. Let's just call them both Sacagawea.

Soon the trail turned from packed earth to rocks and mud. We were able to hop from rock to rock with reasonable speed, although the Sacageweas were continually having to stop and wait for us on account of them being mountain goats.

Views like this were one after another, and we soon got tired of taking pictures.

It took us about 2 hours to go about 3 miles, but we were heavily loaded with food, hammocks, and tools, and it was uphill most of the way. I love this shot of David under the fallen tree. You can see his hammock hanging from the strap of his backpack.

For those of you concerned about the chronology of the blog, you're going to have to let it go, because this post is about the hike in and the hike out. The work we did was described on the last post, and the overnight story and the story about visiting lots and lots of people will be on subsequent posts.
Here we are on the way back out. We trimmed 40 minutes off of our time because we left our hammocks behind, ate our food, and used gravity in our favor. At first it was really easy because it was cool (a relative term) and breezy. However, after a while it started raining on us which made us cooler but the path slippery. The students said later that hiking in the rain was one of their favorite parts. Apparently "brilliant" is over rated.

Since I had the only rain poncho, I kept several of our cameras in my pack in an attempt to keep them dry. Unfortunately, I fell in the mud because I was talking on my cell phone like an idiot; the cameras were fine but my pride was bruised. Behind me you can see the hills obscured by the rain.

Here we are picking our way from stone to stone in the mud. This is not as fun as it looks.

In my last post, I said that we traveled to Pueblo Nuevo with three goals. Goal number two, to grease and/or replace the bearings in the generator, was not realized. We didn't have the right tools, despite dragging in 20 pounds of tools on our hike.

We decided the best thing to do was to bring the generator back to La Ceiba where our house is and where there are hardware stores and mechanics for hire. But this generator is large, bulky, and unbelievably heavy. I am not exaggerating, it must weigh 200 pounds. There was no way we could carry it back on the crazy trail.

So Ryan, who has been having lots of good ideas lately, suggested we try and get someone with a horse to help us. Santos knew how to make that happen. Before long another fellow, whose name I can't recall, brought his horse down to the river and we tied the generator to its homemade wooden saddle and went off like Juan Valdez crossed with MacGyver! Yahoo!

And at last, we arrived at our rendezvous point where The M came to pick us up. We were wet and tired and some of us were chaffing severely, but we had the satisfaction of a hard and productive 36 hours work.


Bluejay said...

Wow! Sounds like an awesome adventure.

Joy B said...

Your pictures and stories are great! They remind me of my youth in the mountains of the Philippines. The bridge, the rain, the villages, farms, everything... I'm sorry that I haven't ever taken Lisa to the Philippines. But I am thrilled that she is in Honduras.
Oh, be careful about taking your SUV across larger rivers on a bamboo ferry. Our brand new van was inadvertently baptized that way many years ago.