Honduras Part 1, Valle de Angeles to Trujillo

Trip Start Aug 30, 2007
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9
14
Trip End Jun 30, 2008


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Flag of Honduras  , Trujillo,
Saturday, May 3, 2008

Itīs been ages since my last entry, what with travelling to remote parts, or finding only useless internet cafes etc. But Iīm here now with a few hours to spare, and Iīll try and cover the last three weeks briefly, and pīraps fill in a bit of detail later.

So, we left Nicaragua for Honduras on 11 April.  Pepita had just had her under bits welded and oil leak sealed, but had come back from the garage with a passenger door that no longer closed and a new whistly whiney noise. After a delay of the kind we are now well used to, we headed straight for the border. Super quick. No bribes, no delays, not even a stamp in our passports (apparently you enter Central America and youīre good to travel).

Happy travellers we drove merrily into Honduras. But, within four hours we were stopped by the police, twice. In an unfortunate spot of timing, the wind caught my sun shade and flipped it out the window just as we were approaching a police checkpoint. They pulled us and accused us of committing an infraction. Here we go, I thought. They were accusing us of littering, and uttered the hilarious sentence, "You might litter in your country, but you canīt do it here." Hilarious because Hondurans are world class litter bugs. (On one bus journey we took through stunning countryside we stopped at a restaurant for everyone to get their lunch served in polystyrene boxes. After 15 minutes 40 polystyrene boxes, coke bottles and assorted plastic bags were thrown from the windows.) Anyway, I explained repeatedly that it was an accident and I wanted my sun shade back, and walked back up the highway to get it. They muttered again about our Ļ"infraction", tried to get us on a couple of other things, and one of the coppers walked away, seemingly to make it easier for cop no.1 to extract a bribe, but we held fast and eventually we got away without losing any money. Aha!

Couple of hours later we were stopped again, but this time they just checked Chrisīs licence and gave us an "esta bien". Weīve since discovered that police checkpoints are everywhere in Honduras, identifiable by the oranges cones down the middle of the road. The "Cones of Power".

Our stop for lunch was in a quaint colonial town set on a hill called Santa Lucia. Cobbled streets, red tiled roofs, pretty church. Then we moved on to Valle de Angeles, another similarly beautiful colonial town with an attractive plaza, and outdoor cafes to idle away a few hours with a cold beer and watch the world go by. Town like this donīt seem to exist in Costa Rica. Costa has raced ahead, modernised, developed and lost much of its colonial charm, by comparison with Nicaragua and Honduras anyway. And the earthquakes havenīt helped, admittedly.

Lots of quality artesanias in the town, so we bought some pottery made by the women of the local indigenous Lenka tribe. Airline baggage allowance having been busted long ago we are no longer holding back and leaving that problem for another day. Chris bought another scary mask to add to his collection that I hope will remain wrapped up in a box until in imagined large future home it can be placed in Chrisīs own playroom.

Spent the night in a cheap, dark and dank room with no windows. As we were driving out of town next morning we spotted a funky little hotel where the French Canadian owner gave us a beautiful room with mezzanine and spotless hot water bathroom for just $15 because he was not yet fully open. A spot of luxury we stayed two more days and visited another pretty town with cobbled streets and red tile roofs called San Juan de Flores where we tasted our first baleadas, tortillas filled with mashed beans and crumbly cheese, and a delicious licuado (ubiquitous natural fruit shakes in Central America)

On Sunday we visited the nearby La Tigra national park and hiked a few hours to a waterfall On route met a friendly bunch from the states and their Honduran friend, who were "Like, wow, omg, youīve come all the way from England, wow." La Tigra is in a former important gold and silver mine region that boomed in the 1920s to 1950s while managed by a US mining company. The miners lived in a town below the mine called San Juancito, from where they walked four hours up a steep hill to the mine. During the time of mining activity all the surrounding mountains were entirely deforested to provide timber fuel for the mine machinery. Since the Americans moved on the forests have grown back but San Juancito has crumbled into a rather dejected ghost town.

Moving on, Monday 14 April, we drove to Lake Yojoa about half way up the country where the highlight has to be the string of 40 or 50 fish restaurants by the side of the lake where for $4 you choose your fresh fish from a plate and then eat it freshly cooked straight off the bone with deep fried plaintain chips. Scrummy yummy delicioso. Stayed the night near the lake at D&D brewery, a hostel owned by a bloke from Oregon that set up here and brews his own beer. The first pint of IPA Chris had in while. Happy lad. While enjoying beer and food and chatting to a few Canadians, we heard a few gunshots. Looked at eachother bemused. Should we be alarmed? A few more gunshots. Uh oh. Much conversation about the gun culture in Central America ensued. (There are guards with pump action shotguns in the most unlikely, safe-seeming places. Guns are everywhere. Takes a bit of getting used to.) A few minutes later one of the staff came in holding three dead chickens. In the morning we found out the ownerīs wife had been shooting at a stray dog that had killed all of her 15 chickens.

Tuesday we drive on. Itīs wet and getting wetter all the time. We reach beach town Tela where we had planned to stop, but itīs wet and miserable. We drive on to La Ceiba, a bigger town, but itīs underwater. The rain is falling hard and  the street with the hotel weīd chosen was knee-deep in water. I had visions of Pepita swimming away while we slept. Driving around in thick rain, Pepita is leaking badly, itīs rush hour and itīs dark, we pull into a smart looking hotel. Turns out to be "5 star" and $60 a night. We walk out. Then we walk back in again, tired and a bit desperate.  We look just a little out of place in our dirty, torn clothes and flip flops as we follow the porter pushing our backpacks on the brass trolley to our room. But the shame was worth it. Proper comfy bed, clean white sheets and a real hot shower. Everywhere else a hot shower means electrical wires taped to the shower head. We call them suicide showers, although the shocks they give are not fatal, apparently.

We spend the following two days at Omega Tours lodge near the Rio Cangrejal in the Pico Bonito national park near La Ceiba. On arrival we are given the "Tours book" to choose from. We can go on a "4WD adventure" up a nearby hill to local villages for about $50 a person. Having spent the last few months on 4WD adventure of our own, we chuckled at the price and thought weīd try this one for ourselves and invited a couple we just met who were from the English-Scottish borders to join us. It was a great drive, with great sweeping views and lots of smiling waving children on the way. We stopped at one village ( a few houses along the road) and bought some beers from a pool house. Every village, no matter how poor or small, seems to have a few pool tables. The locals taught us their rules, then Chris challenged the local champion to a UK -rules match, beat him unashamedly and we left).

Another tour the Lodge offered was a guided walk through the national park for $45 per person. Shocked at the price, we wandered down to the park entrance and paid our $7 each and hiked to the beautiful B.... waterfall (forget the name, will add when I check the book). Beautiful rainbow greeted us at the falls. Good hike. Pretty wild, and dense forest. I got stung by some beasty right between the nostrils. Nose and lip swelled a treat. Looked like Iīd had some dodgy botox accident for a day or so. Saw a little snake. Chris saw a toucan but it flew away before I clocked it. Darn elusive toucans. My goal on this trip is to spot my own toucan. After the hike we climbed down to the river and cooled off in the cool waters. Lush.

The following day, Friday 18 April, we travelled to Casa Kiwi, a hostel on the beach outside Trujillo, another north coast beach town. Run by a Kiwi, obv, but turned out she was on holiday in Peru and had left the place in the not necessarily so competent hands of four individuals: Boy 1 from the states, Boy 2 from the Bay island of Roatan where they speak English, Girl 1 from the states and Girl 2 from London.

Had a chilled, uneventful Friday night. Chris taught me to play pool. Turns out Iīve been doing it all wrong
all these years, hence my refusal to ever get involved in pub pool, and with a few simple tips Iīm now, er, ever so slightly less rubbish at it than I used to be. Day spent in hammock by the ocean. Managed to scorch my chest and lower legs even though I was in the shade of a tree. The expected tropical tan has strangely refused to take hold on my stubborn Irish complexion. No comments along the lines of "Arenīt you meant to have been to hot countries?" when I get home please.

Anyway, Saturday night, slightly different story. The staff are getting pretty merry by the time we have dinner, and by the time weīve all had a few beers, Staff Boy 1 is dong a yard of ale (really badly) and then vomiting it all back again. He is challenged by one of two female guests from the States who does a much better job of it.  We, and an Aussie couple decide weīll join the staff on a night out in town to experience a bit of Honduran nightlife. We head out at about 10pm with the US girls and one quiet lad from California.

At the discoteca we walk in to a sea of stares. Admittedly few of these are in my direction since the girls from the states and Staff Girl 2 are all hanging out of their tiny weeny tops. I hate that itīs true, but in this country where machismo rules, where white girls in particular get stared at, but girls generally get hollered at, hissed at, and
often treated sin mucho respeto it wasnīt the best way to discourage the lewdy comments! The bar, right on the beach was the hangout of lots of gangster looking types sizing up the clientele. Michelle, Staff Girl 2 and I got up for a bit of a dance, but quickly found that we didnīt really know how to move to Reggaeton, which basically involves not moving very much but trying to look a bit sexy while youīre at it. After about 4 and a half seconds in which some bloke unsubtly attempted to grope me, we headed back to the table. I accepted a tequila to liven things up a bit, but soon decided not to drink anymore as I couldnīt face using the only toilet available for the whole bar, which was dark, flooded and used more often by men going in in pairs or threes to carry out transactions. Before long the quiet Californian boy started vomiting on the table. Then an enormously enormous Honduran man staggered out of the loo and fell down hard, timber style, smashing glass everywhere. Itīs all a feast for the eyes. At about 3 am Chris and I thought "Nah, letīs go home", but couldnīt get a taxi. Staff Boy 2 and Staff Girl 2 (from London) sloped off to the beach together, so we waited while the bar slowly died until 5 am. Finally fell gratefully into bed around 6 am. So that was our experience of Honduran nightlife. Wicked!

Slept it off in sand fly infested hammocks, and got an early night before our early start for our adventure to the Mosquito (La Moskitia) Coast, on which we had persuaded Tom and Michelle to join us.
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