Are You in Search of The Ultimate Expedition?
I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up I loved reading the monthly copy of National Geographic. My grandfather used to give me a yearly subscription. This was always my most treasured Christmas gift. Reading about faraway places, where nature and beauty converged. I wanted to be in every one of these unique places. Later as I grew older, I got my hands on a copy of Incidents of Travel to Central America. I also read Incidents of Travel to Yucatan.
These adventures of John Lloyd Stephens and his faithful companion Frederick Catherwood were captivating. You see, I was born and raised in Mexico City. The idea of finding a magnificent archaeological site was always exhilarating! The dream of being an explorer out to discover the world has always been fascinating. I believe that every one of us has an “Indiana Jones” adventure spirit within ourselves. That is why most of us love the Indiana Jones movies.
Sadly, the World has gotten smaller and smaller with the passing of time. The possibility of exploring a far out site and feeling that few have been there before us is rather low. This is especially true if you live in the so called “first world”. Yet, if you do your research, you can still find different possibilities.
The Honduras Moskitia is the Ultimate Expedition
I believe that the ultimate expedition still exists, and is easier that you think it is! The remote north eastern corner of Honduras is ideal for the ultimate expedition! The region, known as “La Moskitia” is remote and inaccessible. It is home to the Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve. Many of you have read or seen news about the Lost City of the Monkey God. National Geographic featured a documentary film about it last year.
The area is home to extensive tropical rainforests and pristine rivers. It is home to native indigenous people known as “Miskitos”. There are no roads into the area, and access is difficult because it is remote. A native half Miskito entrepreneur created a tour outfitter company about 20 years ago. His goal was to provide the ultimate expedition in the land of his forefathers. Having grown up in the area, and knowing the native language gave him an edge over his competition. He put together one heck of an expedition!
The Adventure Begins!
The goal is to traverse the length of the Platano River. His tour starts in the eastern highlands of Honduras, in the department of Olancho. The first night is spent in the colonial city of Catacamas, in Olancho. Expeditioners then board their 4X4 trucks early the next morning. The destination is a village called “Bonanza” . This is as far as the road takes you. From here, you will need to walk or ride a mule to the headwaters of the Platano River. The hike is about 4 hours long. But during the rainy season, it could take longer because of muddy conditions.
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Before the hike, some time will be spent packing the mules. River rafts, camping equipment, food for the 10 day expedition, backpacks, first aid kits. There is a lot of equipment to carry on a trip like this.
The hike will take you through some agricultural land. There are also some cattle farms in the area. Soon you will find that the vegetation gets denser, and that you are entering the rain forest. By the time you get to the river, you will need a bath. Mud from the journey, and sweat from the effort will be omnipresent. After unpacking the mules, its time to get air in the rafts. Depending on the time of the day, you may pack the rafts and push them into the river for the first part of the journey. Otherwise, its time to set camp to spend your first night in the jungle.
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Camping on the Banks of the Platano River
This ultimate expedition will have you camping on the river banks for 7 or 8 nights. This means that at night you will be in the middle of the jungle. The sounds of the jungle will fill your senses and set your imagination reeling. Enjoy a clear night with the sky filled with stars. Remember that an ancient civilization that lived here did so centuries ago! Set up a bonfire next to the river, and listen to your guide tell you local stories.
You are now in the headwaters of the Platano River, ready for the ultimate expedition. Yes its 2016, and there are still places in the world where you can live an “Indiana Jones” adventure! The trip will take you through calm waters. The tropical rain forest is dense on both river banks. Since you are floating down the river, chances of sneaking up on wildlife are high. Most animals come to drink water at the river. With plenty of luck, you might see a jaguar or a pecari, the two largest mammals in this part of the world.
Birds are abundant. Wild scarlet macaws are common. These are the national bird of Honduras! The green, and rare buffoon macaw is also native to the area. If you are into birdwatching, make sure that you bring your binoculars. You will be in awe by the quantity of birds and different species! Half way through your trip you will come up to a tricky part of the river. It is “The Subterranean”. This is a class V rapid and you will need to portage around it.
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Meeting Primitive Communities in the Honduras Moskitia
A short distance below this rapid, you will see evidence of an ancient civilization. Carved petroglyphs on large rocks along the river will start to appear. These are especially obvious during low water. These works of art are the creation of ancient people, who built the Lost City of the Monkey God. The indigenous community of Las Marias is in this part of the river. Here you will feel like you are arriving at a primitive community. Commodities are scarce here. The locals use the river as their trails to come and go. Dugout canoes, ax-carved by hand from one single tree are the means of transportation. Some are small, but others are quite long and can take several people.
Many rivers are shallow and have strong currents, so moving up the river is done with the use of poles. Usually two men (or women) are standing up on the canoe, each with a long wooden pole in their hands. They use the pole to push the canoe upriver. They do so by sinking it to the bottom of the river and pushing hard. The act requires a lot of personal balance. I would end up in the river, with the canoe upside down in a heartbeat!
At Las Marias you will give up your camping tent and sleep in a local community owned hostel. Although rustic, you will love sleeping on a bed once again! If you want to set out to seek for the Lost City of the Monkey God, Las Marias is the best place for your base camp. Local guides can take you trekking through the rain forest to different archaeological sites. Now here you will have the chance to feel like Indy Jones!
The Trip Back to Civilization Driving Along the Beach
For most people, the end of the expedition is when they get to the Miskito Community at Palacios. From here they take a flight to the city of La Ceiba, in AtlantidaAtlantida Honduras, on the North Coast of Honduras. Yes, after 10 days, most people need to get on back home after enjoying their ultimate expedition. Yet, there is still more to come if you can get the time together! From Palacios, there are no roads. Yet there are trucks that come and go from a more “civilized” world. These trucks use the beaches as a road. Because of this, they only use 4X4 vehicles! The trip will take you past small, beachfront Garifuna Villages. There, you will see children playing, fishermen setting out to sail in search of their daily catch. Ladies at home preparing the daily meals, or doing their laundry at the rivers.
The route crosses several rivers. Depending on the time of the year, the sand bar at the mouth of the river may be closed. This means it’s easy to cross the river. During the rainy season these sand bars are open. In this case, the cars must be put onto barges. Some barges have an outboard motor and others are hooked to a cable that moves the barge across the river. In any case, you will be amazed at how life goes on in these remote villages. Under normal conditions, you can make the journey in one long day. Since you will be traveling in a truck, make sure you bring a hat and lots of sun screen!
The Perfect Expedition Outfitters…
Few people live this experience, and it will be the perfect complement to the ultimate expedition. Of course, you will say that such an expedition needs a professional outfitter. You could not be more on the ball! There are a couple of different outfitters that offer such an expedition. Perhaps the most outstanding of all is La Moskitia Ecoaventuras. Their home base is in La Ceiba, and they have been operating this ultimate expedition for many years.
The company is under the leadership of Jorge Salaverri, a Honduran who grew up in the Moskitia. , the company has led many expeditions in the region. Jorge is a bilingual chap who is a Forestry Engineer. He has extensive knowledge of the area and its natural history. This together with his understanding of the idiosyncrasy of the Miskito people make the perfect combination. This is the perfect opportunity to let the little adventurer in you out. Come to the Honduran Moskitia and experience the ultimate expedition!