So. I returned on the 11th August 2015 from my 9 week sojourn in the Honduran mountains of Cusuco National Park, with Operation Wallacea.
I’ve been wanting to write a blog post to summarise my adventures for a while, but I have so much to say it felt as though I was starting a novel each time. Needless to say, I finally managed to shorten it!
What was it like?
Put simply: incredible.
The wildlife, the flora, those views!
We were told pre-arrival that we would need to be of reasonable fitness. This was a vicious lie. Every day we would walk up and down some sort of semi-vertical slope in the name of conservation and biodiversity research. At first, I felt like an overweight hippo struggling uphill, with gasps of breath that probably reverberated around the slopes and could be heard for miles. However, after just a couple of weeks, the transects got much more tolerable, despite seeming to get steeper and longer. We gained thighs of steel, bellies of rice and a heavily degraded knee support system.
What was the toilet situation like?
Urinals and trenches. Depending on the satellite camp you would get a different shaped trench, which was always exciting. Or terrifying, in the case of the giant grave-like hole of the Guanales sat-camp. You could fall in and nobody would know.
On the west-side (the further sat-camps on the other side of the park), we even had hand-made seats for our trenches. Life doesn’t get much better than that! They were always very scenic too. The best I can get back home is swinging the bathroom door open and gazing down the hallway. Even though the toilet roll is nearby, you can put the paper in the toilet instead of a bin AND you can actually flush the toilet- it’s just not the same!
The urinals on the other hand, were something else! Aiming in the dark, at a small tube, whilst trying not to silhouette myself against the tarpaulin was not the best experience. I was a big fan of the jungle-pee (rogue wilderness peeing).
How was sleeping?
I slept in a tent the whole time. There was the option of hammocks, and I heard plenty of fantastic things about them, but I simply preferred someone else sleeping next to me. In Cantiles (the highest satellite camp) it felt like a matter of survival it was so cold! What kind of heating system did those hammock-dwellers have?! And they don’t get the experiences of mad tent-mates sleep talking/ walking/ spooning. Good times.
Rice. Beans. Plantain. Tortillas.
I couldn’t eat the pasta due to digestive issues, so I got rice. A lot. However, even saying that, I genuinely enjoyed the food most of the time. Even when I simply ended up with ketchup and rice, either because of miscommunication with the cooks, or because they hated me, I still enjoyed it. Who knew I would end up loving fried plantain and ketchup? That’s basically banana and ketchup. That sounds wrong even writing it.
And pastalitos! Essentially fried pastrys. If you were lucky there would be the tiniest bit of beef/ chicken with potato, if you were less lucky it was full of rice. But it would still taste some kind of beautiful.
Breakfast initially started out less exciting: tortillas, oats, or cornflakes. With GRAPE jam (why grape? WHY?!), peanut butter, or honey. In the beginning I did not like peanut butter. By the end, it was a great addition to my morning oats. Now even at home I’m buying the stuff. But that grape jelly… just no!
Either an icy waterfall, an icy pool, or an icy tube of water splashing you (if you were in base camp). Always icy, no matter how scorching the day was. I’m not sure how the physics behind that even works. You became an expert at the quick-wash, really quickly! My favourite were probably the pools: you were forced to go all the way in, so you got the initial ice-blast over with quickly. In the waterfalls there was lots of dipping in and out and internal(/external) squealing.
Was it worth it?
Hell yes! I would do the whole thing again in a heart beat. Waking up to the calls of the birds (even the creepy highland guan), or the howler monkeys; every day coming across some incredible view; seeing all sorts of wonderful species, all of the time; and most of all living with some of the maddest bunch of enthusiastic researchers ever.
Take me back!