Last morning at the Pico Bonito lodge. We got up early this morning for the “early bird” walk. Our guide proceeded to whistle up a pigmy owl, cuckoos, tucans, mot-mots, and a variety of other awesome birds. When I say “whistle up,” I mean that we would walk into an area and he would whistle and sing these insanely realistic bird sounds, listen for who responded, and then walk us right over to the tree where the critter was hanging out. It was amazing. He also had a mini-telescope to die for. Who knew that some birds are furry, while others are hairy?
Yesterday we went to the nature preserve. It was a car ride to the mini-train. The mini-train was built by Dole corporation to help with the pinapple harvest, in the days before tractors. Once upon a time it was pulled by horses, but now it’s got a little diesel motor. This is what the mini-train at Epcott center wishes it could be. This thing was rusty, dangerous, loud, and totally 100% functional. We had to walk perhaps half a kilometer over the part of the track that was being repaired. I had never seen men rebuilding railroad track before … those dudes work hard. First they dig out the old trestles, and then they dig underneath and build the rock bed back up. Then they lay out straight lines, level the dirt, put down railroad ties (8×8 beams) and finally stake the tracks back in place. All of this is done by hand.
Other people who work hard: Pinapple farmers. Weeded by hand, picked by hand, packed by hand. I feel a vague guilt about being the tourist and having my meals cooked and my linens washed … but the alternative jobs here suck a lot more than that. When we came through, there were perhaps a dozen men walking in parallel through the pineapple fields, harvesting the fruit and putting it on a conveyer belt that led up to a tractor. On the tractor, three more men were hauling ass to get the fruit stacked and packed into wagons. All of this in the 45 degree (Centegrade) equatorial sun. We’re told that this system is a big improvement over the backpacks that the pickers wore before they got the conveyer belt. They were exepected to bring in 50 fruits at a trip.
The nature preserve was stunning. We took a guided boat ride through the mangrove forests. redmed attempted to list out the birds we saw. We even saw families of howler monkeys in the trees. Hooogh! Hooogh! Hoooogh!
On our return, after a nice lunch, we visited the butterfly farm and serpantarium … were we learned that baby vipers are more lethal because when they bite, they hit you with their entire venom sack – while adults are more likely to hold some back in case they want to hurt your friend too.
Appropriately enough, we had a snake scare on our walk yesterday afternoon. redmed nearly stepped on a 4′ green snake. Non-venomous, but still quite intimidating. Impressively, she was able to say “BACK!” while levitating about 5 feet away from the thing. I would probably have just gurgled. We agreed that she had earned her “snake name:” “Backs the F* off.” There is still disagreement over mine, but “never would have seen it” is in play as an option.
The other travellers here are nice, but few. Apparently the economy is not being kind to the tourist industry. To this I say: Go! Go and spend those Euro Dollars!
Today we take a trip to Tela to meet up with medyani and continue the adventures!
Amusing anecdote: We were in Copan, hanging out in the hotel in the evening – smoking a cigar and reading a book. A couple of white folks stopped by our table and started a conversation. After a bit of conversation, we realized that this was Rob Davis, of the Whale Shark & Oceanic Research Center … with whom medyani had recently had a meeting! We agreed that the world is indeed small when you strike up a random conversation in the hotel bar and find that you’re one degree of separation apart. Perhaps it’s just that the world of white folks in Honduras is small. That could also be it.
As usual, I’m inordinantly proud when people guess languages other than English to address me, off the cuff. Spanish? French? German? Wait … you’re American? I’m proud of my country, but given the distinguishing characteristics of the average American, I’ll take that as a complement. I interpret it as “but you’re neither loud and obnoxious, nor poorly dressed, nor overweight.