San Manuel de Colohete
From the crest of the last hill on the road from La Campa, the view down over San Manuel de Colohete is exceptionally lovely. The village sits on a rise above the junction of three rivers pouring off the side of Celaque, which soars skyward in a sheer wall that dwarfs the whitewashed village. With clouds almost perpetually wreathing the hills above town, it feels as though San Manuel de Colohete has been lost in the mists of time, disconnected from anything save the stunning landscape surrounding it.
Similar in design to La Merced church in Gracias, the plaster, tile-roofed Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Concepción features an ornately sculptured facade, and remnants of centuries-old mud paintings are still visible around the beautiful painted gold-leafed wooden altar. Not one nail was used in the ceiling, which bears traces of centuries-old floral designs. Locals proudly claim that it’s known as “the Sistine Chapel of Latin America,” and only the most insensitive won’t be entranced by the church’s primitive elegance. Out front is a colorful flower garden with benches. Built in 1721, it has an air of decaying beauty, although a restoration plan is underway with financial help from the Spanish government.
Comedor Edin, opposite the turnoff to San Sebastián near the entrance to town, has baleadas and tacos for a buck apiece, and meals for US$2. Golosinas Conchita (6:30 a.m.–9 p.m. daily) has a larger menu, including licuados, and soup on Sundays, and Conchita will make anything you want (that she knows how to make) if you order in advance so that she can get the ingredients.
Just down the road is Hotel Emanuel (tel. 504/9949-5259), with nine simple rooms. Rooms with shared bath cost US$3.60 per person, while the rooms with private baths cost US$16–18 and can sleep up to five people.
San Manuel de Colohete’s annual feria is December 7–8. The 1st and 15th of each month are market days, where you can find wicker crafts and chairs as well as standard market goods.
Don’t be surprised if San Manuel residents don’t know quite what to make of a foreign visitor, especially if not accompanied by a Honduran. But the worst that will happen is everyone will stare wordlessly at you, and the children will pester you relentlessly, often asking for money to buy junk food. Keep a friendly smile on your face and all will be well.
From the grass square, look for the trail with the church on your right heading down to the river, for a place to cool off and admire the scenery. Here you can cross over and hike up the far side along trails as high as you’d like, or walk upriver to the aldea of San Antonio, where you can be sure they haven’t met too many foreigners.
Getting to San Manuel de Colohete
San Manuel de Colohete is 14 kilometers by very rough dirt road west of La Campa. One bus to Gracias passes through at 6 a.m., and a second bus departs at 6:30 a.m. From Gracias, the bus to San Manuel de Colohete departs at 12:45 p.m. (if it’s full, you can also take the 12:45 p.m. bus to San Sebastián and get off in San Manuel). The ride takes a little over two hours.
© Chris Humphrey and Amy E. Robertson from Moon Honduras, 5th Edition