5: Hotel Juticalpa
Hotel Juticalpa is a lot like I imagine Hotel California to be: maybe 10 rooms surrounding a courtyard, complete with beaten cots, blood-stained sheets and a communal bucket for showering. The owners were great and offered full hotel security by guarding the entrance with a fully loaded machine gun…as they are asleep on the couch watching some Latin soap opera. But really, I would go back there and even recommend it to you…I like cheap and don’t expect luxury.
We unloaded our packs, now introduced ourselves as brother and sister since the Saved Christian from New York marked us sinners for traveling together and were in search for a place to eat. Anywhere we go, we look for Balleadas: flour tortillas filled with mashed black beans, sour cream-like stuff, and avocados for an added cost. They are divine, I promise! Every restaurant we went into either used to sell them, had never heard of them or were out of the ingredients. Our last stop, at the point of a dire need for food, was May’s Cafï¿½.
May was behind the counter and told us she could make us balleadas but happened to be out of tortillas and avocados. Mashed beans and sour cream just wasn’t going to suffice so Juice and I quickly went to the market and stocked up on the missing ingredients. We went back to May and told her that we needed balleadas. She laughed, slapped the beans onto our tortillas and charged us some 50 cents for labor. Needless to say, we went back to her the next night with a pineapple she was willing to peel and cut – as well as balleada ingredients as needed. Tip included.
That night on the town we met a man named Fransisco who worked for OFORE, a forest protection agency. (Find him in a local car mechanic garage) He knew two guias who could take us on a 2-4 day trip through a protected forest – called Sierra de Agalta. We woke up the next morning at 4am to catch the bus to Gualaco, where we found Ramon, the recommended guia, currently suffering from a serious hangover, evident in the lack of clothes he answered the door in as well as the three empty vodka bottles tossed between a pile of laundry in his living room floor. I didn’t trust the guy – not for a trek through jaguar infested bush, at least – and we opted for option B: a hike to caves a little outside of Gualaco, in Jicalape. Five hours later, after getting lost in the cow pastures, we found the caves. Bring a swimming suit and head lamp. The top caves are dry and extremely tight and dark. The main cave is bottomless, filled with ice water. If you can find your way, which we certainly couldn’t, they are on the to-do list.
I was more thirsty than I have ever been in my entire life: and this is where I get E-coli. The Safe Water filter bottles are great but heed the warning on the back: only filters 99.9% bacteria. Fact! We found a pulperia and each bought an “orange juice” and pineapple juice and headed for a little restaurant to use the bathroom. I soon find out that it was a men’s bar…the only toilet being a urinal. We ordered our liquados (milk shakes) and quickly left. (We really were thirsty!)
And this is how our Juticalpa/Gualaco/Jicalape adventure ends…no more buses are expected to come until Monday. The only hotel in the town is closed and Southbound traffic is hard to come by, if not non-existent. We wait at the bus station forever until our newfound police officer friend informs us of our hopeless situation. Stay overnight or jolong back to Juticalpa, he tells us. We were exhausted. I just wanted my Hotel Juticalpa. Our friend stood in the middle of the street, ready to stop any passing car with his loaded weapon – and he did! Hours later, a truck was, and “his friends”, us, hopped into the truck bed. We slipped some limpiras into the cab and Juticalpa welcomed us.
We got our ice cream fix at KOBS and fell asleep.