White water rafting, 30ft cliff jumps, and an idilic location on the bank of the Rio Cangrejal, the little green book was right when it said that backpackers end up staying here longer than expected. Just 10 km up river from La Ceiba, I stayed at the Jungle River Lodge, the sister hostel to the Banana Republic Guesthouse (NB. it seems irony isn’t lost on the locals) for an escape from the coast I’d had hugged for so long.
My first day in La Ceiba was a bit of a chores day. I nipped down town for a bite to eat of breakfast and very quickly realised that I was going to need to learn some Spanish. And fast. I just about managed to order a Chorizo breakfast with a coffee, but could’t quite finish it, which is odd for me, but I’d completely lost my appetite. It was at this point I tried to ask where the toilets were and the waiter just looked at me completely gone out. I could have sworn I’d pronounced baños correctly, but obviously not.
It becomes apparent at times like these why trans-national corporations, gobalisation and the ubiquity of American fast food restaurants where ever you go is not all that bad a thing. So whilst the site of my sausage, egg and refried beans hadn’t induced a rabid hunger from within my loins it had induced a certain something else from within my bowels. But no fear, for a Wendy’s was at hand. Oh beautiful Wendy’s, never have I been so glad to walk into a wall of air conditioning and chip fat. Needless to say, as occurs in all these cases, I made the obligatory purchase afterwards to justify my intrusion.
Getting back to Banana Republic was a little harder than I’d imagined. Partly because The Lonely Planet Central America on a Shoe String guide has the location of the Banana Republic Guesthouse incorrectly marked on the map of La Ceiba. For anyone reading who plans to visit, the guesthouse is located between 12th and 13th street on Av La Republica (the street running parallel to Av San Isidro to the west or left as you look down towards the coast and the centre of town). Hopefully if you follow those directions you won’t end up going round and round the block for an hour looking in entirely the wrong direction like I did.
The following day I tagged along with a few Irish guys to go white water rafting. It was class. The first half of the morning we spent working our way upstream by foot. This was a combinatioon of rock hopping and then strategic jumps into the river leap frogging it back and forth when we could no longer continue along the bank we were on. This ultimately ended in two final cliff jumps. The first a 15-20ft jump into a deep pool from which you swam like hell to the otherside to avoid the current whereupon our short but unbelievably strong guide would hook a rope onto a carabena of your life jacket and literally haul you out of the water onto the opposite cliff face. From there it was a scramble to the final jump at around 30-40ft. Of course there were some that didn’t fancy the final jump, so like the gentleman I am I stayed with them to keep them company and take photos of the guys doing the big one.
That afternoon we chilled out, had lunch and did a spot more cliff jumping from just outside of our hostel. Nevertheless it was all called a bit short as the heavens opened and I was treated to my first proper Central American rainstorm. Our game of Gin Jummy was called off, we moved tables to somewhere a little more sheltered and ultimately did what only we could do – drink beer, eat, and listen to the odd selection of Country music that was on the barman’s iPod.
That evening I made two very good friends, Max and Matt, both studying at Prescot College in Arizona, the former orginally from Oklahoma and the latter New York. They were down hear as part of the aftermath of a field trip to Costa Rica (can’t be bad eh?). Anyways, they were kind enough to extend an invitation for me to tag along with them to Utila and whatever may follow after that.
TECH NOTE – The zoom on my camera has broken. Bollocks.