The bedrooms were sparsely furnished, and the overall decor was very Miami, but more the Golden Girls’ Miami than the Kardashian sisters’. A generator controlled the electricity, but we could never figure out how to work it. Luckily, there was also solar power, so we were able to turn on some lights. There was no telephone or television set. Our only means of communication was a two-way radio. We’d stocked up on groceries in Utila and cooked our own meals.
But what Little Cay lacked in luxury it made up for in natural beauty. Our house was surrounded by coconut trees. (We tried to crack open a coconut, but you see if you can do it without a machete.) My friend Rebecca and I walked around the island in less than 10 minutes, counting five beaches, enough for each of us to sunbathe on alone. For two days, we lay in the sun, swam and watched pelicans dip into the clear water for fish. Our only appointments were watching the sun rise and set.
When we needed more supplies, we called the island manager, Barry Jackson, who showed up with his boat and chauffered us to Pigeon Cay, a small island about five minutes away with restaurants and shops. But why dillydally on Pigeon Cay when we had our own island? We returned to Little Cay as soon as we could.
Two days later, we headed back to San Pedro Sula, where we hired a car and driver for our journey along the Lenca Trail, which began in the town of Gracias, the capital of the department (or state) of Lempira, named after a Lenca chief who resisted the Spanish conquistadors in the early 1500s. Legend has it that Gracias got its name when the Spaniards, exhausted from hiking through the mountainous terrain, exclaimed “Gracias a Dios!” (“Thanks be to God”) upon finally reaching flat land. Which is exactly what I said at the end of our stomach-churning three-hour drive through the mountains from San Pedro Sula.
Now a town of 25,000, Gracias was once the capital of the Spanish empire in Central America and an important administrative center for Honduras. In recent years, it has reinvented itself as a tourist destination, emphasizing its rich history and beautiful natural environment, which includes the cloud forest and several hot springs in junglelike surroundings.
From our hotel, La Posada de Don Juan, we walked to La Merced, an ornate historic church from the 1600s that’s a well-preserved example of colonial architecture. A few short steps away, towering over the central park, is La Iglesia de San Marcos, homelier and newer than La Merced.