Monday, July 17, 2006

Is that a Jack in the Box?

photo by Robin

After 3 breakdowns on the way to Gracias we finally made it. The town of Gracias is located high in the mountains in the Department of Lempira, so it has been a wonderful break from the heat. It only gets hot for a couple hours during the day and you can count on a refreshing breeze in the evening followed by a thunderstorm. Unfornately the daily thunderstorms are not enough to fill the rivers.

After getting the Land Rover towed behind a banana truck, we dropped it off at the local mechanic, Julio, and began developing a strategy for scoping out the local creeks. We decided to scout out the creeks flowing from the Parque Nacional de Celaque. This is the largest national park in Honduras and contains one of the largest remaining cloud forests in Central America. From the topo maps, it looked like the watershed had a couple of creeks with just the right type of gradient for creeking and locals spoke of an abundance of waterfalls. We packed up enough gear, food, and ammunition for 3 days in the jungle and caught a ride with our bilingual friend Walter to the park entrance. Robin carried the GPS and water filter, Jessie the tents and food and Laura, the machete, along with a determination to slice something up.

Ironically, the park´s name, la Celaque, means ´box of water´. Unfortuantely for us, the box of water was more like a box of rocks... all the rivers and streams we scouted were far too low, even after a torrential downpour our second night there. We did, however, salvage the trip by summiting the tallest peak in Honduras, glimpsing a ketzal and killing a scorpion. I felt a little bad about the scorpion incident, but in our defense it was the middle of the night, it was right next to my bed and Laura insisted it was ´hella poisonous´. We ate dinner with a 75 year-old woman who had been living in the park her entire life. She cooked in a one-room shack over an open fire some of the best food we´ve had on the trip so far. The experience there was priceless, and my only regret is our Spanish wasn´t good enough to fully comprehend the abudnance of her knowledge and experience.

Right now, it is 2 PM local time and we are having a down day to figure out some logistics. I am writing this blog, Robin is running around town doing who-knows-what and Laura is sitting at the bar drinking cervezas with some locals who are pretending to understand her hack Spanish, but really they are just looking at her boobs. We are going to continue studying the maps and try to figure out our next course of action. The sickest waterfall ever seems to still be eluding us, but hopes are high we will track it down soon. Keep your fingers crossed for us. Updates soon...

Rio Aracagual...

Photo by Robin

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Broke Down In the Jungle

Stuck in the middle of the jungle with a broken 33 year old truck, all we could do is laugh at our ridiculous situation...

We finally made our way from the comforts of Struth, La Ceiba and our gracious hosts at the Jungle River on the Rio Cangrejal and headed towards Gracias. We did everything we thought appropriate, studied the map, decided on our route, filled the gas tank and double strapped all our boats and bags... Unfortunately this wasn´t enough. We were about halfway between La Ceiba and nowhere and the story goes something like this - Robin was getting into her new four wheeling in the third world skills and Laura and Jessie couldn´t have been more encouraging. We made our way down some mountain gravel roads with proud gradient when the road abruptly went into the river. Laura and Jessie went to scout but instead only found an old toothless naked man with a machete and some fish on a stick. So we then ran back to Robin and told her to get turned around pronto. But the truck was really, really stuck. So we giggled and video taped in case our families needed the closure of actually seeing our deaths on Robin´s new camera. Luckily our machete-wielding local man was friendly and probably thought we were crazy. Plus Laura took ownership of our machete and swore she could take him. We ended up getting turned around but by this time the truck was smoking with a vengeance and it was about pitch black outside. So I guess that is how we got our first camp spot in the jungle...
Robin set up her hammock and Laura and Jessie shared Laura´s one-man tent and to quote her journal entry, it was ´tight and hot´. Morning came with lots of locals on horseback trotting through... Laura and I went to get antifreeze, aka agua de radiatore. We had some interesting experiences hitch hiking through rural Honduras but we finally did get the truck working, made it back to the main road and a town where we proceeded to burn through our fan belt. Finally AFTER that was fixed, we began our journey, on only major roads, to Gracias. Our new route had us driving about 4 hours out of the way. Perfect. So now we are finally, at 10 pm the next night, close to our destination - the elusive town of Gracias, Honduras. We miss you Katie and Stacie - we wish you could be here with us!!!! Love Jessie Robin and Laura

Friday, July 07, 2006

Indepence Day to Nightmare

July 4-July 7
July 4- Independence Day and Struth's 26 birthday... We spent the day on Struth's boat wakeboarding and roughing it in Roatan. We saw a local man spearfishing and bought lobster off of him. Katie started to feel really sick. She was having horrible muscle spasms in her stomach. She was a trooper though and did some 360's on the wakeboard. She could not keep either breakfast or lunch down. That night she could not handle the pain anymore so we woke up Struth and Rachel and headed to the local clinic. The doctor there examined her and said that the local hospital on the island was on strike. He said we needed to go to the mainland to receive medical treatment. The only flight out was at 6 am so we waited two hours and boarded the plane. At the hospital a man in a beige coat with staples on the pockets examined her in a room with blood on the floor. They admitted her to the hospital. The "internalist" (if they actually have those there)said that they did not know what was wrong but they were going to operate on her the next day. We thought this sounded like a bad idea. I, with the help of Rachel, called Katie's insurance company and started the medical evacuation process.
July 5- The medical evacuation people picked us up at the hospital at 6 and we headed to the airport in an ambulance. We boarded the private medical jet and they whisked us back to Birmingham, AL. We spent a record 3 minutes going through customs(they met us at the plane) and sped off to Brookwood Hospital. The flight nurse thought it could be kidney stones so we were really optimistic. The doctor examined her and they did a CAT scan and found a mass.

July 6- Katie was operated on today. She went in with a positive attitude and a fiery will. That is pretty much how she lives her life! They found the mass and under further investigation discovered that it was cancerous. The doctor believes that she has had it for 6-8 weeks. They sent off her lymph nodes to further investigate. She will be given time to recover from surgery and then begin chemo. This is all I know at this time. We are all floored but we are trying to stay positive. Please keep her and her family in your thoughts! If you would like to get in touch please e-mail me at I love her so much as I know all of you do too. Life is a crazy thing . The other ladies are headed down the next couple of days to represent. Katie and I will be here getting better.


July 3

Our first night in Roatan found Katie and I sleeping in our hammoks at Marble Hills Farm where Rachel and Struth work. They grow all kinds of fruits and make delicious jellys. We found an incredible place to sleep on the two story dock at the ocean. The breeze was blowing and it was a marvelous night until a bad storm with horrible lightning blew in in the middle of the night. Katie did not bring her tarp so when the rain began she escaped her puddle and crawled in my hammok with me. The weight of two people lowered the hammock below the tarp and we were once again sleeping in a puddle. After weighing the pros and cons of getting struck by lightning, we decided to escape to Rachel's casaitta. We woke the next morning to beautiful skies and hot temperatures. Roatan has the second largest barrier reef in the world, which is right at Marble Hills Farm's backyard. They gracefully let us have full use of all there beach equipment. We picked the glass bottom sea kayak and took a voyage out to the reefs. We spent a delightful day snorkeling, exploring the reefs and irritating the fish. We then headed back in for banana and pineapple smothies.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

A salty bath is better than nothing

July2-We woke up this morning refreshed from a bug- free night of jungle sleeping. After a breakfast of eggs and frijoles with tortillas at the Jungle Lodge we headed to the truck. We got there just after a raft bus rolled into the back of Struth's truck. Part of a rack and Struth's bike tire later, we loaded up the truck to go back up river to the Rio Cangrejal. Struth droped Katie, Rachel and myself off at the top. Rachel took a refreshing bike ride in the mid-day Honduran sun while Struth went to the "cousin" of the guy who hit the truck(a welder) to get the racks repaired.
Katie and I had an exceptionally good day on the river. It was higher than the previous day due to a heavy rain the night before. The killer heat drove us to periodically stop to swim in eddys in the river. To cool off, we jumped off a ~20 ft cliff into the river at the take out.
The truck needed to be put into the shop for some repairs so we headed to the island of Roatan. We took the 2 hour ferry and headed to the top deck. The waves were so big we hid in the life boats to protect ourselves from the huge waves crashing on the boat. American refugees in Honduras...a first?

Monday, July 03, 2006

Man Boatin'

July 1- The first day on the river. Katie, Struth, and I paddeled the Rio Cangrejal. After paying some local elementary school kids to watch our big-honkin' truck, we put on the high volume Rio Cangrejal. It was higher than normal due to the rainy season but fantastic for kayaking. This is a local run that is rafted commerically even though it is risky due to abundant undercuts and large hydrolics especially at higher flows.

It is hotter than Alabama in August here. While paddeling we felt things crawling down our legs but after checking we realized that it was just sweat. On the bright side we are paddling in near to nothing, and traveling light. The views were incredible with locals cheering us on as we decended downstream.
We took out at Jungle Rivers and relaxed in the fresh spring pool and jumped off of the 20 ft. cliff next to the river.

At night we hung out with Oscar, the owner and a few of the guides at the hostel bar. We even helped in the removal of a scorpian spider(nice name huh?) from another guest's room. We returned to our hammocks for another night of spider/scorpian spider free sleeping.

Spiders, Hammocks, and Jungle Fever

June 30- Well the trip has begun. We arrived in Honduras unscathed. Paul St. Ruth and Rachel Van Sloun picked us up in a 1972 brittish army issue land rover with racks large enough to fit Cox's army on top. We head to La Ceiba to a place called Jungle River on the banks of the Rio Cangrejal. The hostel/ rafting outpost is a lush beautiful paradise deep in the heart of the jungle at the take out of a solid class IV+ run complete with bilingual mecaws. Culture shock first set in at bedtime when we went to our bunks. As I laid down I happened to notice the largest hairy spider I have ever seen in my entire life a foot above my face. After screaming like a little girl, Katie and I decide to embrace the out of doors in our spider free netted hammocks.