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Santa Maria El Carbon and The Pechs by Wendy Griffin


At 4:30 am Transportes Olancho leaves Trujillo going past the bus terminal. This bus will take you directly to El Carbon. It is also possible to catch it in Juticalpa also very early and go north to El Carbon if you are starting your trip from Tegucigalpa. If starting from the Coast, there are also buses that leave Tocoa both early and in the afternoon, which you can take starting in Tocoa or at Corocito on the road between Tocoa and Trujillo. Tocoa, Trujillo, and Juticalpa have nice hotels, restaurants, taxis. etc. The nearby town of San Esteban has hotels and restaurants, too as an alternative place to stay if you want to return the next day.

In El Carbon, there is currently no hotel, but one is expected to be built in August 2004. The Pech will put you up if you arrive. Get off at “El Colegio” and ask for Pablo or Lynton Escobar and they will help you find a place to stay and someone to cook for you. It is a good idea to bring with you whatever you want cooked like coffee, beans, rice. Etc. If you are coming just for the day, bring a lunch. From Trujillo you can do it as a day trip leaving Trujillo at 4:30 am and leaving El Carbon at 1:30 pm on Transporte Olancho going north. In El Carbon there are small stores that sell drinks (unless they are out.) The water here is definitely contaminated, so you want to bring things to drink.

There is a craft center in El Carbon. People make bags, hanging baskets, marraccas, rope twine, place mats. These are crafts that almost died out and have been revived. Also there is a school (El Colegio) that teaches boys to make chairs and other wooden crafts with no electricity.

The Pech members of the ecological committee “El Wata” have been trained to give guided tours of medicinal plants (Pablo Escobar, Natividad Garcia) and of the nature around El Carbon. There is path into the rainforest leading to a waterfall that is a doable one day hike. For those not into strenuous hikes, visit the coffee fields growing under rainforest shad trees. There are many rainforest birds in these forests such as the great currasow. The path to the waterfall is supposed to be one of the best places to see them, because there is an open field then a wall of rainforest. Bird watching is better in the early morning hours.

The Pech can lead specialized hikes such as a two day hike into the Sierra de Agalta to see the dwarf cloud forest. The wind on the mountains keeps the trees under 3 feet high.

I love visiting the Pech. In the evening sometimes the people are willing to sit around and tell traditional Pech and Honduran stories. During the day sometimes people will make traditional Pech foods like sasal (grated manioc or yucca cooked over a fire) or wines like coyol wine, yucca wine (munia) or corn beer (chicha). Sometimes the men go on hunting or fishing trips and salt dry the fish. Rainforest mammals exist in this area, but are scarce.

To visit the Pech take insect repellant as there are no see’ems whose itch will make you miserable. There is no electricity. If you stay the night you will want candles and matches, not available there. Before I leave Honduras after visiting the Pech, I take Zentel (L90) to kill any stomach parasites I might have picked up from drinking coffee not boiled enough. After Hurricane Mitch, the Pech had a latrine building project and soon they will have a running water project. There is a small Mesoamerican type archaeological ruin about an hour’s walk from the Colegio school.

The Pech are the friendliest Indians I know in Honduras, but the children are shy. The Pech do not easily give permission to have their picture taken. They welcome visitors especially those who want to buy crafts. They have a rainforest reforestation project that is interesting to visit. Besides coffee, they also grow cacao under shade, if you want to see how chocolate is grown. The Pech have lost their traditional dances, but they have a traditional music group called Piriwa. Very unusual drums made from boa skins and marracas are for sale. The flutes are more rare. There are no telephones in the area. The Pech receive messages by listening to Radio Catolica out of Trujillo, (next to the Post Office) which will accept to pass them the message.

 

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