Honduras Jeep Adventure Week-Part 2

    Roco Adventure Week

    Harry WagnerPhotographer, Writer

    Last month we began telling you the story of Roco Adventure Week (RAW), an eight-day, Jeep-powered journey across Honduras. We winched through mud, jumped off waterfalls, and picked coffee beans on lush mountainsides. When we left off, the group from Roco 4x4 was enjoying a timed tough truck–style course on Gaspar Pineda’s property along the shores of Lago Yojoa. Now we’ll find out how much they enjoyed fixing the carnage from running that course and learn more about the the discoveries and challenges encountered on the rest of the journey.

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    Day 5: Lago Yojoa to Gracias

    Damage from the tough truck–style course was limited to a damaged driveline and a bent tie rod, which were quickly replaced with spare parts at Gaspar Pineda’s repair shop. You don’t go wheeling for a week in a foreign country without bringing some spare parts or without making friends with the right people. The next morning, we enjoyed breakfast on Lago Yojoa, the largest lake in Honduras. Spanning over 30 square miles, it is an important ecosystem for migratory birds and provides commercial and recreational fishing opportunities for residents of the villages dotting its shores.

    With full bellies we headed to Las Vegas, but not the neon Nevada variety. The Honduran version of Las Vegas is a town of 25,000 people nestled in the mountains. There we visited the Escuela Para Angeles, a school for children with special needs. This stop provided a glimpse into Honduras that few tourists ever see, and our group made generous donations to the school.

    Leaving Las Vegas, we wound our way up through the Cordillera de Celaque mountain range along sparsely traveled dirt roads. The rain had subsided, which was a blessing, as it would have taken days to traverse what we were able to cover in a matter of hours once the route had dried out. Along the way we passed Toyota pickups packed with 20 people and coffee plantations on hillsides so steep we don’t know how you could even stand on them, much less cultivate them. Needless to say, there isn’t much demand for tractors in the mountains of Honduras. We stopped for the night in the city of Gracias, which sits in the shadow of Cerro Las Minas, the tallest peak in Honduras at 9,420 feet.

    Day 6: Gracias to Copán

    After the previous day on the road, we started the morning with some technical rockcrawling outside Gracias that required low range and lockers. Everyone had fun trying to work their way out of a steep, loose gully while the rest of the group shouted encouragement and driving advice. We were really impressed by how all of the Jeeps from Roco 4x4 could take a beating on the trail, air up the tires, and then drive for hundreds of miles down pothole-strewn roads.

    We traveled from Gracias to the village of Copán along the Lenca Route. Now a popular overland trip, the Lenca Route is named for the indigenous people of the region. The Lenca descended from Chibcha-speaking Indians who came from Colombia and Venezuela to Central America more than 3,000 years ago. They number around 100,000 in Honduras and 40,000 or so in El Salvador, known throughout the world for their earthenware pottery.

    Day 7: Copán Ruins

    Day 7 of the trip fell on Thanksgiving, but that didn’t matter in Honduras. Rather than wheeling, we visited the Mayan ruins at Copán. At the peak of its power around A.D. 600, the kingdom of Copán had a population of at least 20,000 and covered an area of over 100 square miles. The ruins we visited were the capital city of this kingdom, renowned for their distinctive sculptural style.

    Our guide Marvin was a wealth of information, explaining the ancient Mayan civilization in detail—their writing system, art styles, architecture, mathematics, and astronomy—and how they changed throughout the centuries of Mayan rule. At the end of the day, the staff of Hotel Marina Copán made us a Thanksgiving dinner complete with turkey and all the trimmings. We had not felt homesick during our trip to Honduras up to this point, but after a week of travel we really appreciated the traditional meal.

    Day 8: Copán to San Pedro Sula

    On Day 8 we had to drive all the way back to where we had started—San Pedro Sula. Rebeca Olavarrieta of Roco 4x4 told us we had to get an early start in order to make our afternoon flight, but if we got back early enough we could play in the rocks. This was all the motivation the group needed to wake up early and hit the pavement back to San Pedro Sula. We passed through the mountain villages of La Campa, Belén Gualcho, San Manuel de Colohete, and Mohaga. These rural towns are full of charming adobe houses, corn and bean fields, colonial churches, and beautiful mountain views.

    With two hours to spare before our flight left, Guillermo Hepburn felt that we had plenty of time to conquer the boulder-strewn wash he had discovered along the fringes of San Pedro Sula. “It will only take half an hour,” he assured us. But like the infamous “three-hour tour” on Gilligan’s Island, vehicles were still stuck on the trail when we were supposed to be at the airport. Half of the group had decided against attempting the challenging boulder field and were already at the airport, doing their best to hold the flight. In the end, one vehicle (not a Jeep, it should be noted) had to be left and rescued later by friends of Guillermo’s, while we rushed to make our flight. Our group had almost all of the seats for the flight to the nearby island oasis of Roatán, so the airline was nice enough to hold the flight until we arrived. Thankfully, long TSA security lines are not an issue in Honduras.

    Day 9: Roatán

    After the adventures of the prior week (and particularly the adventure getting to the airport the prior day), we were grateful for the opportunity to relax on the beach. Roatán is a popular destination for cruise ships, scuba diving, and ecotourism. While Spanish is the predominant language in mainland Honduras, the Caracol people of the Bay Islands speak a Creole version of English, a reminder of the island’s history as a British outpost. RAW organizer Carlos Flores had investigated taking a ferry to Roatán instead of flying, but the colonial roads of the island are narrow, and there are no wheeling opportunities to make the ferry ride worthwhile.

    Instead of wheeling, we visited Little French Key, where we had the opportunity to go snorkeling and kayaking when we got bored with lounging on the beach holding drinks with little umbrellas in them. The true mark of success on a trip is when it both seems to have flown by yet also is so rich with experiences and memories that it seems like you set off on it ages ago. Roco Adventure Week was just that, and watching the sun set on a white sand beach with our new group of friends was the perfect finale to an amazing adventure.

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