Wobbling into my twelfth hour of fixated itchy feet, interest feigned standing at yet another trailhead. The path quickly disappeared into the coffee plantation; the Macaw Mountain guide thoroughly detailing the plants, the trail, the potential overlooks, the… Since it was almost the 5-o’clock closing time, I thought I’d do us both a favor and make tracks to the nearby exit instead.
The young moto-taxi driver was still parked under a shade tree, whether waiting for me or taking a break to catch-up with his buddy we’d picked-up on the way out of town. Much to their wonder and even somewhat mine, I kept right on trodding towards the dusty road. They sprang into action, making sure I realized it was well over 3km back into town and I didn’t need to walk. In hopes of prolonging the perfect day, that’s exactly what transpired!
Macaw Mountain is a considerable distance from town. Ride there was quite the good-humored jolt along a washboard road. Bouncing like a bobble-headed doll afforded random flashes of rural scenery while tucked-away inside the canopied contraption. I was determined to rivet the full scope, regardless of how washed-out the road and my legs were. Besides, it was all downhill in direction but quite the opposite in regards to perspectives.
This rural route curves and swerves through forests and farmlands, where livestock peacefully grazed in shaded pastures. Chirps of fluttering songbirds permeated the silence, ruptured only by the rumbles of random passing vehicles including mis amigos in the moto-taxi. They slowed asking for a "last chance" opening. Waving them onward, the experience was mine for the taking; something I’m sure few if any visitors have ever considered.
Easing closer to town with each shifting step, my dogs weren’t the only ones barking as random homes began appearing along the road. Ferocious sounding canines were always ready to gr"eat" me; their barks worse than any bites as indicated by the nonchalant locals that were coming out of the woodlands to share the road.
As to what officially constituted the afternoon pilgrimage was anyone’s guess but ramblers of all ages continued to join the processions, now beginning to head in both directions. Curious stares of children melted into reciprocated smiles; even from the unsupervised ones playing naked in ditches and yards. Beyond the touristic gleam of downtown Copán Ruinas sprawls the humble truths of Honduras subsistence. To share in these simplicities, even in the briefest of passing moments, are the travel experiences that keep me questing for more.
Passing over a shaded bridge, a massive flamboyán tree captured my attention blazing against the green spectrum. Looking downstream, the waters meandered through a maze of boulders and abandoned piles of laundry. Despite the obvious destitution, this was someone’s idyllic backyard; simple country living at its finest. The stolen moment was anything but silent from whatever was unfolding below other side of the bridge.
Rowdy boys were frolicking in the waters where rocks had formed a natural pool. I had a few seconds to observe unnoticed before the real show started. Antics only escalated one spotting camera. There was quite the feat trying to capture a shot that didn’t include exposed bare body parts; ever the conscientious one hailing from a land where something so innocent has reason to be misconstrued.
Departing with an "adios", another rumpus scattered jaywalkers as a young catracho came thundering around the bend on his horse, perfecting the Wild West ambiance. Cowboys and horses are still as much a part of this rustic venue as are the age-old adobe buildings dotting roadsides; some in various stages of forsaken decay. Others as viable sanctuaries and humble abodes of 21st Century Latin America.
The route edges toward legitimate barrios layered on either side of the mountainous road. Preparing to refresh inside a pulpería, a "señor, señor" paused my entry thanks to a posse of children approaching with urgency. It was the band of bathers; still wet but somewhat recognizable semi-clothed. Actual acknowledgement seemed to throw them off; suddenly they didn’t know what to say and took off giggling down the road.
What ensued was a playful game of cat-and-mouse with the youngsters popping-out from various places and scurrying just as quickly once noticing them. I must confess the rascals gave quite the startle when appearing overhead from a roof. Mustering all the courage in the world, one put-forth their best broken English to request, "Please, take our picture."
Responding in Spanish almost seemed to rupture fascination that had ensued chasing the foreigner down the road, but they still wanted the picture. Construction workers in the street halted briefly with approval, whether from a watchful eye or to reflect upon their own carefree childhoods; likely right here on the side of this mountain. The boys disappeared as quickly as they had appeared; never to be seen again, and the clanging and banging of progress resumed.
Shadows were beginning to deepen colors as afternoon sun slid behind the ridge. Even without this timely cue, weighted-down truckloads of people heading home for the day indicated it was well after 5:00pm.
The closer I advanced towards the town’s civilization, the more my steps decelerated even with heading downhill. Less and less imagination was germane with each passing block. And while I hadn’t even been in Copán Ruinas for 24-hours, the methodical cultured slant was already beginning to seem inhibitive compared to this untamed, liberating jaunt accomplished in less than a piddling hour.
My legs and feet were sore, but there were still fleeting moments of daylight left to burn. Landing on the nearest Parque Central ledge to plot my next course of action, I hadn’t been there long when my amigo in the moto-taxi pulled-up and shut the engine off. I didn't think much of it till he came rushing forward and asked, "¿Todo bien?"; "Everything’s ok?" Apparently my response was not nearly convincing enough.
In his mind, he or his friend must have done something highly offensive at some point in the day for me to chose walking all the way back to town rather than catching a ride. He went out of his way to apologize and assure how much he enjoyed his job. I’m not sure this young man ever believed my sentiments, nor that the only thing I might bother reporting to his supervisor was what a considerate tourism ambassador he was for the entire town!
He seemed to relax with a smile, offered services for anything needed, and seemed disappointed; almost paranoid when finding I’d be leaving first thing in the morning. Detailing my plans, the driver seemed somewhat satisfied until asking, "but why’d you do that?" – in reference to my walking back to town from Macaw Mountain.
"Simplemente porque"; Simply because – an explanation that sidesteps all international language barriers with significant meaning only to the inveterate traveler.