Biding farewell to Belen, I caught the 5am collectivo across the laguna and through the mangroves to Brus.
Jerusalem. Wonder who gave this village that name?
Fellow travellers of the waterways in a pipante, a dugout made from a single trunk of wood.
Reaching Brus Laguna, a clamorous little town boasting all the modcons - bars, a restaurant and electricity.
My first stop was Ahuas, which somewhat unexpectedly, sits on the edge of the massive pine savannah that makes up much of the La Moskitia. In Belen I'd been given the address of a family, who could help me figure out to the footpaths I hoped would lead me all the way to Mocoron.
A warm welcome.
Karla, and her son, little Nelson
A room with a view.
My reading matter. Paul Theroux' The Mosquito Coast. Appropriately enough, this part recounts the construction of the Icycle, a boat made from recycled bike parts to ferry ice deep into La Moskitia.
This is Hiroshi - named after a Japanese aid worker who'd lived in the area. His mum, Cruz, is a nurse and the Moskitian equivalent of a hippy. She loves to walk everywhere, simply to explore, and was often garbed a funky ti-dye dress. While others fretted about my safety, she encouraged me to venture off the beaten path.
Prop planes occasionally buzzed overhead.
The hospital, said to be one of the best in the region, and very affordable too.
This is Melgar McLeod, riding a handcranked vehicle donated by the hospital. His name reflects the British influence in La Moskita in the eighteen century, and at first I thought he might be a veteran of the Nicaraguan civil war that spilled over into Honduras. In fact Melgar was a lobster diver, big business in these parts. Like many, he's ended up crippled with nerve damage due to excessive diving, decompression sickness and poor safety regulations. On a couple of occasions, I saw young men hobbling painfully down the beach like old invalids. 'This is no way to live a life,' said one mournfully.
One of the doctors, Olvelio, trained in Cuba - as many Hondurans do - and kindly let me use the turtle-slow internet while we watched Honduras beat Costa Rica in the Central Honduran cup. Olvelio's cousin, from the tiny settlement of Iriona, plays in the Premiership in England!
And Ahua's church. Or at least, one of them. However you may feel about it, Christianity is firmly entrenched in La Moskitia. Missionaries have long been penetrating even the furthest reaches of this remote land - in fact, this region of Honduras is even called Gracias a Dios. Thanks to God...
Room for a growing congregation.
For the most part, it was hot and clear. But heavy rainshowers pelted down during the day. I was worried how this might effect my onward journey across the plains, but was assured the trails would be bone dry. (more on that later...)
Life is simple here. Cooking is done in an earth oven - here's some piping fresh coconut bread. There's no electricity or running water, though some families now own small generators which they turn on in the evening so they can watch telenovelas (latin american soap operas) and charge up their all important cell phones. Cell phone masts are becoming omnipresent, and changing the whole social dynamic of the area.
This is the shower block. It's the old, tried and tested bucket wash technology.
First you need water though from one of the wells, using a bucket lowered with a rope.
Might as well scrub clothes at the same time. Ready for the next round...
Biding farewell to Karla and her mother Yudina, who treated me wonderfully, plying me with simple, local food. Beans Beans Beans...
They fretted about my safety, as few people travel alone here, especially with no local knowledge of the footpaths. 'Where's your machete? La Moskitia isn't how it used to be. Only stay with Christians,' said Yudina, with complete seriousness. As a farewell, they loaded me up with lovely, energy-filled coconut pasties for the adventures ahead...
As usual, I’m loving being an armchair traveler with you and your photos at the helm. I lived in Honduras for several months many years ago, and can attest that, contrary to your interpretation, that while Catholicism may be firmly entrenched it is not well followed. In the slums of Tegucigalpa, and, by your own pictographic testimony (the Moravian [descendents of the pious Czech Bretheren] clinic, the Missionary Air Group airplane [probably], etc.), evangelical Pentecostalism has won the foot-vote. When you hear “Cristiano”, it is not Catholic they mean, but pious Protestant, or evangelical. The Protestants are particularly strict when it comes to moral behavior and dabbling in mind-altering substances (and the related businesses), which is why you have been commended into their, and not others’, arms.
Andrew, thanks for the correction, very interesting too. You’re quite right of course – I meant Christian in general, rather than Catholic specifically. Not quite sure why I wrote that. Certainly I’ve seen (and heard, more often than not – they can really belt out a tune) plenty of Evangelical churches all around this region. I’ve corrected the mistake.
I was asking around about the Moravian church, but was only told that they sing in Meskitian rather than Spanish, as favoured by the Evangelical church. I also heard that communities following the Evangelical church had seen a decrease in domestic abuse, as alcohol – the catalyst for some of the problems – is frowned upon.
The shower block! Ha! I remember this bucket wash so well from my first experience in Northern Belize where a kind family gave up their bed for me… I recall the walk across a muddy strip and having to lower a bucket into the well before sitting on a small wooden stool with a scrubbing brush… it was pitch black, I didn’t have a torch and two black scorpions hung out on the ceiling… amazing hospitality and beans beans beans… X
I always love reading your comments Susie! Thanks so much for posting them.
Fantastic photos and trip! I’m really disappointed I didn’t make it out that way now…
We miskitos are Moravians (about 80% now). Yet, it is an admixture of Christianity and native Animism. In the past the only significant Catholic congregation was in Butuka (Barra Patuca), but now there are Catholics in Puerto Lempira, Raya, Wampusirpi, Palacios, and othe miskito vallages because of the Meztizo or Ladino influence.
Thanks for the info Elmor.
I had a wonderful time in La Moskitia, and hope to return one day.
I put a link to La Ruta Moskitia here:
I liked your story very much and enjoyed your photos. I am a Honduran born, but know very little about my country. I was brought to the US very young (16). I never traveled outside of my birthplace. So when I find stories about my country like yours my heart begins to pump hard and my throght feels like shocking. I envy people that can travel and enjoy places like this. I was born in a small town and I loved the outdoor adventures. Thank you very much for your story and pictures. God Bless.