10 Days in Honduras

Trip Start Jan 12, 2007
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Trip End Nov 19, 2007


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Flag of Honduras  ,
Sunday, July 8, 2007

We crossed into Honduras on June 30 by way of a tiny, sleepy border in the mountain pass town of El Florido. From there it was only 10 kilometres or so to Copan, our first stop. The Copan ruins, Copan's main attraction, are a 5-minute drive from the center of town, and the last of the "Big 3" Mayan ruins that we wanted to get to (the others being Palenque in Mexico and Tikal in Guatemala). They are known for the highly detailed and well preserved stone carvings that have been found there.

After 2 days in Copan we headed out to the Caribbean coast to the town of Ceiba, where we left the van at a hotel run by a Quebecois family and ferried to Utila, which is the closest of Honduras' three "Bay Islands".

Utila is to Honduras what Caye Caulker is to Belize, a small, backpacker friendly Caribbean island about an hour off the mainland. However, Utlia didn't work for us as much as Caye Caulker. It may have been because of the ferry ride to the island (see below), or because Utilaīs main claim to fame is that it is an extremely cheap place to get your scubing diving certification but we didnīt dive, or because Ades was feeling sick, or because the locals werenīt as friendly, or because there was an outbreak of dengue fever on the island, or because I forgot to bring any underwear, or because the bikes we rented had rusty chains, or maybe because we ran out of cash and the only ATM on the island wasnīt working and so we had to bum $15 bucks from the girl in front of us in line in order to buy our return ferry tickets. All that said, we stayed for 3 nights.

The ferry off Utila departs at 6:20 am and taking full advantage of the early start, we made it to the Lago (lake) de Yojoa region in north central Honduras. We camped close to the lake at a resort/farm called Finca Los Glorias, which felt like a Honduran Harrison Hot Springs - a little tired around the edges but still holding an appeal to us middle-class folk.

From Lago de Yojoa, we took 2 nights to get to the border with Nicaragua, staying the second night in Yuscaran, a town that has been declared a national monument by the Honduran government despite (or maybe because of) having only about 2,000 people and being in the middle of nowhere. From Yuscaran, it was only a few hours to Nicaragua.

Highlights:

-Continued cool temperatures: Much of central Honduras, including Copan, Lago Yojoa and Yuscaran, are at higher elevations, which has made the temperature so much more bearable.

-We weren't expecting much from Copan other than its proximity to the ruins but it turned out to be a picturesque little town with a quiet confidence in itself and the afternoon rains brought a dark, smoky feeling, making it feel like a late October day in Vancouver.

-Jimīs Pizza, Copan: Weīre glad Jim decided to relocate from the States to Copan, because he had the best pizza yet on the trip, a generator to use when the rain storm knocked out everyone else's power, and he was the first server since San Diego to provide the 2 minute `quality check`. The only thing we didnīt like about Jim is that, somehwat confusingly, he called his vegetarian pizza "The Italian".

-The duty free store, Copan: Great prices such as decent Chilean wine for $3. I had to talk Ades out of buying us cigars.

-Trading a forgettable book about Denzal Washington straight up for Lonely Planetīs guide to Guatemala: It didn't take quite the moxy of the guy who traded a paperclip for a house in Kipling, Saskatchewan but a major fear for us given our need for maps (see below).

-The fridge: This is a tired story by now but, after using every trick we have learned over the past 5 months, we managed to re-light the damn thing on like the 22nd try, buying ourselves another 2 weeks or so of cheap breakfasts.

-Yuscaran: It is perched on the side of a mountain, and has rough cobblestone streets and a little plaza full of palm and pine trees and Honduran cowboys. Hollywood couldn't have created a more perfect movie set for a western movie. And it was the type of place where everybody gave us a cheery "buena dias" when we walked by and escorted us to our destination when we asked for directions.

Lowlights

-The entrance fees to tourist sights: We almost choked in our coffee when we had to dig deep for the $15 entrance fee at Copan ruins that didnīt include the on-site museum (another $10 )...Yes, they are ancient ruins but they ainīt no Disneyland.

-The ferry ride to Utila: Pretty much the most harrowing boat ride either of us have ever been on. An hour of sheer hell, as we were pummeled by waves that only sailors in the America's Cup should have to deal with. Nine passengers filled their barf bags. All I could think of was at least the water would be warm to float in.

-Honduran drivers: In some ways driving in Central America is actually easier than it is in Mexico because there are far fewer vehicles on the roads and the vehicles that are on the roads tend to be in better shape. However, as was hammered home to us on a windy, hilly drive through central Honduras, every 2-lane highway has an amorphous/ambiguous 3rd lane straight up the middle that anyone can use at any time.

-Honduran Spanish: We have had to start at the beginning again, as our tried and tested phrases no longer work for us. Hondurans speak Spanish as if their mouths are full of marbles.

-No maps of cities: We didn't think this one through and only brought one guide book for all of Central America, rather than one for each country. This has left us at the distinct disadvantage of not having a map of most of the cities we go in to. This has tested the team members ability to be nice to one another as we drive around aimlessly for half an hour before getting our bearings.
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