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In Palestina, there is an internet café, local bank and several shops selling basics. The two accommodation options are: Hotel Viajero, Norma Hernandez (89931699) 70 L/night and Hotel California, Mandina (97460660) 150 L/night. There is also a small hostel down by the river, with similar prices.
If you plan to explore the region a bit, disembark before Krautara, and visit some of the original Tawakha villages. Be sensitive, some villages are used to persecution from rancheros upriver and other ethnic groups downriver, so may regard you with suspicion and fear. The first town that is more or less used to foreigners is Krautara, a collection of 30-40 thatched wooden huts. Here, ask for Bayangol, he can help organize a 2 day Sutawala-valley expedition for 1500 L. You can also buy here local meals and hang your hammock under one of the abandoned roofs for free, although a small contribution for this is always appreciated.
From Krautara, you can walk along a small jungle trail to Krausirpi (1 hour), or rent a cayuco (small wooden kayak for paddling) downriver (50 L). There is no shop or such in town.
A true expedition trail takes you up the Sutawala river, from there it is a 2-day trek to Rio Coco, bordering Nicaragua. You hunt your own food, sleep in the dense forest where only drug traffickers and smugglers venture occasionally. Not for the faint-hearted.
The first place of any size after Palestina is Krausirpi. Named the capital of the Tawakhas, it has a shop, a church built from stone (this is a very important fact locally), a big regional school and even an internet café! Gileardona Salinas [email protected], a young local teacher speaks some English, and can accommodate you in a big, clean room (you will need a hammock, though), if you buy meals prepared by the family (25 L). He can also organize several activities, including fishing, hunting for clams, jungle trips with local medicine men or visiting a cocoa plantation.
A recommended trip (100 L/person) takes you over the river by cayuco, where you visit the bean and corn fields and understand the difficulties of farming on a riverbank that is flooded for almost 6 months every year. After, you head into the rain forest, learning about local herbal and medical plants, while looking for the tunnu tree. Once found, watch as your guide peels of the bark, folds it up and carries it back home, where the women go trough the long process of preparing it. Once ready, the material is used for clothing, bags or decoration.
Also in Krausirpi, Oscar ([email protected]), the evangelical and Cristobal ([email protected]), the catholic pastor are also great, helpful people to be trusted with anything. If you have the time, they can tell you realities about the Sandinista war, guerillas, atrocities against minorities in the region and local traditions. A good source of local information, including political, historical and economic stuff can be heard at the local shop from Dixon ([email protected])
Here, ask for Juan Bence Rosa, who can arrange accommodation (an empty room with bunks) for 70 L/person (meals: 30 L). A huge military plane crashed into the nearby mountains a few years ago, local guides can take you for a visit to the site (50 L/person), where a small memorial shows the names of the 63 victims, and big parts of the plane are still visible between the trees, scattered over a big area. Also nearby are some great, mostly unexplored limestone caves, and a vast rainforest stretching all the way to the Nicaraguan border, giving you plenty of possibilities to organize a real expedition.
A stop is worthwhile if you are interested in nature conservation. As part of a project (www.forcuencas.org) funded by the EU, young local women with no families are employed at the tree nursery, where they plant mahogany and cedar, to be later planted on fields that were clear-cut illegally in the recent years.
A pleasant, quiet little Miskito village on the right bank of Rio Patuca. The local pastor, Expectación Sanchez Mona can help you with everything, from visiting nearby cave systems (50 L/person) to making your own hammock from macao plants. Other possibilities: tunnu clothing and artesanias, night fishing, crocodile and turtle spotting, hiking to the peaks nearby. Accommodation and food is available locally. Ask for Lucia Telavera Kendri, the local woman in charge of the Associacion Mujeres, she sells local handicrafts and is a well of information on traditional life in the region.
Josep Aguilà i Fité is the man you need in Wampusirpi. A former catholic priest from Spain, he runs a small library and internet café near the telecom towers. But this is not all. Aguilà is the leader in rural development and charities, employing over 50 women on a chocolate manufacturing project, from the cultivation of cocoa plants to producing organic chocolate and cosmetics from raw cocoa. He also supports the local hospital, and pays the airfare to La Ceiba in cases of medical emergencies. Every year, he supports the studies of several local young persons in schools and universities around the country.
There are several shops in town, and 3 resident Cuban doctors also work for the local hospital.