Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Just another week in the office - tour planning on Montaña Santa Barbara

Baking the biscuits
The women are busy by the “horno” - a large clay oven that looks like an outdoor pizza oven. Scrumptious looking breads and biscuits are emerging from the fire on trays balanced on the end of a long-handled spatula. A young girl darts around, gathering any crumbs that happen to be left on the trays. Nearby a barbacoa is being set up and the tables and chairs are being loaded off a truck. We’ve organized a community barbecue for the families of all of the members of the committees and working groups that make up our project - Montaña Santa Barbara - La Fuente de Vida (the source of life). To my surprise,  the community here has little idea of what a barbecue is - I guess rice, beans and tortillas are not the ingredients for a barbecue. It also seems that people getting together for social events not involving the church or political meetings are virtually unheard of here. But in spite of this, everyone is involved in the makings of a novel social event. 

Firing up the barbecue

Our challenge here is that different people turn up to all of the different meetings and activities that we organize and only few people have a good understanding of what we are trying to do, so the purpose of the barbecue is to bring together everyone that is involve to try to ensure that they all have a common understanding of the project.  We’ve also invited their families as this project requires lots of community support and a good starting point is to ensure that the spouses of the participants are supportive. It turns out that few of the men actually inform their wives of what they are doing and one women told me that they were not sure if the men were using it as an excuse to go off to visit other women!

Getting the formalities out of the way

The reality is that they have all been working incredibly hard. Over the past past couple of months we have put together a package of tours that we can offer to tourists. This has involved workshops to identify all of the potential points of interest and much hiking around the landscape to design routes, identify features of interest, assess trails and develop a consistent  story that the local guides will be able to share with tourists. With the incredible help of Williams, my birding guide, translator, bar tender and Honduran extraordinaire, we have have been able get a group of the community involved and motivated and the amount of effort that they are putting in is inspiring. All of this builds on great work done by a couple of Peace Corpse volunteers, Alecia and Alex who did a fantastic job of building the foundations for this project but, unfortunately had to leave when Peace Corpse were pulled out of the country. Thanks guys for all of your great work - the community constantly talks about you!

Lining up for the food

The award ceremony
So the barbecue today is really a critical point between planning and doing - while there is a lot of work to do, we are almost ready to start promoting the tours - the real test of whether we can get people off the Lonely Planet gringo-trail (hanging out in all the standard places with other gringos through central america) and up the mountain to visit the real Honduras - local communities with so many challenges yet so much to offer at the same time. Isn’t it always the case - those with the least to share materially seem to be the most willing to share the little that they have! What they certainly do have is a warmth and strength of character and a beautiful landscape, so I’m hoping that this will draw people out of the guide-book comfort zone. If you feel in need of a holiday, you could always put this on your list - you wont be disappointed, unless you just want to hang out in bars or laze by the pool. 

We arranged some certificates of appreciation to a couple of the older guys who have shown real leadership in understanding and appreciating the environmental and cultural wealth of the landscape - again, a simple action that appears not to be normal in these small communities but one which carried a lot of weight. On of the recipients said with great sincerity “now when my grand children see this they will realize that I’m not just a crazy old man.”

So stay tuned - hopefully I’ll soon be blogging about our first tours.

Out with the guides

Trip planning in the field