Along the Dirt Path
A long time has passed since the Honduras trip. It has taken me awhile to process and get to the point where I want to write about the experience on my blog.
A large part of the men’s trip is to challenge ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually. We get plenty of opportunity to do all three. The part where all three happen at the same time is on the hike. This time the team hiked 12 miles and this was further than we have hiked on any of the previous trips. Did I mention we carry our gear in backpacks the entire way.
I have learned on these hikes that it’s not just about arriving at the end point. It is also about what you see along the way and the people you meet. I believe God places “divine appointments” in front of us but can easily be overlooked if we are too focused on reaching the end goal. There are a lot of life lessons that are derived from these hikes. Often times humans become focused only on the end goal and not the path that has gotten us there. It is in those little moments that we learn about ourselves and others.
There are times on this hike when the body shuts down and cannot handle the stress (mentally and physically) put upon it. In this moment you become forced to rely on someone else to get you through. As guys and Americans that is a difficult thing to do. But many guys learn this on the hike and they come out on the other side a much more humble man than there were before.
Vinny leading us on a part of the hike
This is a view of a section of the trail that we were about to climb
One of my favorite photos from the trip
That is one amazing view
Deep in the jungle
This is the section of the hike that is commonly known as Jurassic Park. Why has this section earned that name.. .you ask? I will tell you… its muddy, its steep, you will fall and there are dinosaurs… ok not really.
I met some kids on the hike and they stole my hiking pole… they were nice though and gave it back
stole borrowed my camera and snapped this photo of me
I think this is a house or part of house that I saw along the trail
That guy there with the quirky smile is Greg. It was his first time to Honduras and his life was changed forever. I will let his words finish out this blog post. He does a great job of capturing what it is like to be on this hike and to let go of the control that we think we have.
Thursday, we packed our gear for a ‘hike” up into the Opalaca Mountains. Along with the 26 guys from Cincinnati and Texas, we had 3 interpreters and 4 other guys from Mercy International, so 32 in all. It was another rough 4 hour ride to where we would begin the hike. The hike began around 12:30 pm and would cover 12 miles in 6 to 8 hours, depending on the individual. This hike took us from a road like path, to a woodsy trail, through the “jungle” rainforest, numerous towns and villages and finally to Los Crossidos. I don’t know how to spell it, but that is how it sounds.
My “amazing adventure” began about the half way point of the hike. I stopped to take some photos and never saw my comrades again. I waited for folks behind me, but they never appeared. It turns out several were not doing well and become dehydrated. Mules had to be brought in to take them the rest of the way. Yes, it was an extreme hike. The most difficult any of these 26 men had ever experienced. Back to me, lost and alone in a foreign country – a third world country at that! (are you feeling the drama?) Yes, all sorts of scenarios began to play out in my mind. What if I am lost and don’t make it back. What if I live amongst the mountain people for weeks or months? I might be an international news story. In this region there are NO phones or cell phones, NO electricity, TV’s etc. How could I contact anyone, even in an emergency? This is like living 300 years ago. I’m not kidding.
I came upon a village, Santa Maria, where some kids were playing. I spoke to a man named Arel, who was there as a social worker. He had lots of questions about where I was from, where I was going, what we were doing etc. The kids were all quite interested in my gear – walking sticks, camera etc. Arel took the picture I’ve enclosed. As I went on my way, two of these kids followed me. We came to a fork and I really had no idea what to do. The two boys seemed to think I should go to the right, but I wasn’t sure. They spoke no English, and I basically don’t speak any Spanish. They seemed to think I was quite hilarious because they sure laughed a lot. They got me to lighten up and laugh a bit too. A third boy came along with a very large machete. I laughed a little less and thought I’d better make a decision sooner rather than later. Like I said – the machete looked quite large. I finally took the road to the right and went on my way.
The next town I came to had a group of about 12 kids that flocked around me. Again, they were all smiling and laughing. I strained to remember some Spanish words. I remembered two. I told them I was “loco” and “stupido” – they laughed even more. I got my camera out and showed them pictures I took of my fellow hikers to see if they had seen these other gringos come through. I still wasn’t sure I was on the right path. They just laughed like I was “loco” and “stupid”. I began to hike ahead and they followed. I was getting very tired and my feet were feeling quite sore. I groaned, the kids groaned. I grunted, they grunted. I went “whoo”, they went “whoo”. This made me laugh. I threw more out on purpose and they mimicked everything – and laughed. This made me crack up laughing. I began to make the sound we all made as kids where you cover your mouth off and on like an American Indian on the war path. They went nuts and all started doing it too. It was hilarious. In that moment, I think I fully entered into my Honduran experience. I wasn’t worried about what was going on at home, were they making it without me at work, when will I see my emails and facebook page, etc. I wasn’t worried about surviving the hike, being lost, or what was ahead. It was a beautiful moment and that’s all that mattered. I think it is known as “present centered living”. It’s a beautiful thing.
The kids finally went back and I continued on. It was getting darker and I wondered if I might have to ask some locals if I could stay the night with them. Now, I haven’t mentioned this guy yet, but several times on the hike a guy on a moped mountain bike passed us back and forth several times. The weird thing is that he had a cooler strapped to the bike. I had no idea what he was doing or what the cooler could be. He spoke a little English, and he seemed to think I was on the right path, but I still wasn’t sure. I later found out that this guy had ice cream in his cooler that he sells in the villages. I guess he’s quite the entrepreneur.
The final hour of my journey was excruciating. The entire route is nothing but uphill and downhill. You would think that downhill would be great, but too much downhill is a bad, bad thing. My toes were getting jammed into the fronts of my shoes. At this point I had to walk like a 90 year old man. Every step was painful. The final stretch was a HUGE, rocky downhill. This was like a trail that only a mountain goat could love. At the bottom of this, it then went straight uphill – and finally to the town of Los Crossidos! I yelled to the tiny figures still far ahead “Amigos, I made it!”
After finally meeting up with those that “left me behind”, I learned that those yet behind me had serious issues and were coming in on donkeys. Frank was the worst. He arrived around 8 pm, dehydrated and delirious. We made him drink some Gatorade like energy/recovery vitamin supplement that one of our guys had. It took a few hours, but Frank finally came around. Other guys were extremely exhausted and had minor knee and foot injuries. We all prayed for God’s strength at the outset – to do what had we had to do. He got us this far, and we knew we had to trust him for everything. Read the rest of his blog post –> The Amazing Honduras Adventure.
Stay tuned for the rest of the posts about Honduras. I will be writing about the experience we had once we were in the mountains, around the farm and the hike back.