When the Tough Get Going...

They go to eastern Honduras, the wildest stretch of idyll that our hemisphere has to offer

Oct 1, 1998
Outside Magazine

Rugged and mostly unpopulated, the eastern reaches of Honduras are not for everyone. They're best savored by the traveler who prefers a vacation with a side order of bushwacking. The type who doesn't mind ditching the beach chair's quiescence for a vicissitudinous itinerary of activities like sitting hunched in a dugout canoe that barely clears water level with two guides poling you upriver through the jungle, trying not to jostle the boat as you eye the gator eyeing you. Or shooting the breeze in broken Spanish with a few cowboys in the back of a pickup bouncing its way up a remote mountain track.
Central America's second-largest country, Honduras attracts only about a third as many tourists as nearby Costa Rica. And most of those who do come stick to the country's fringes: the Mayan ruins at Copan, just south of the Guatemala border, or the Bay Islands, a diving mecca in the Caribbean. Both are nice places, but they're not what you'd call the real Honduras. No, the only way to discover the more secluded, arcadian charms of the original banana republic—its wild rivers, remote peaks, and the biggest swaths of all-but-untouched cloud forest and tropical jungle to be found in Central America—is to load up a backpack and head east, into the empty half of the map, where the roads first turn from pavement to dirt and then dwindle away altogether into an unbound patch of empty green space.

Out here, you won't find many people at all, apart from a few cowboys, frontier farmers, Pech and Miskito Indians, and the occasional shovel-equipped and wild-eyed foreigner who babbles madly about discovering rich gold deposits or the ruins of a mythical pre-Hispanic city. Four-star service, you may have guessed, is not a widely prevalent local attribute. Cuisine is heavily heavily oriented toward beef and beans, and hotels are basic and inconceivably cheap—when they exist at all. But as seasoned bushwhackers know well, a few hardships are worth the chance to venture into one of the least-traveled frontiers between the Yukon and Tierra del Fuego.

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