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Steve and Emma's Travel Tales

Hopping Through Honduras, but is wasn't the End of the World!

HONDURAS | Saturday, 22 December 2012 | Views [260]

We only ended up visiting Honduras because it was in the way!  We’d found a route from Nicaragua to Guatemala whereby we’d avoid the capital cities of San Salvador, El Salvador and Tegucigalpa, Honduras.  This route also favoured fewer border crossings and we’d be able to sneak in a wonder along the way.  We were assuming that it would still be there.  Que?  We were going to a Mayan ruin the day after the world was supposed to end.

The Tica Bus office was well organised, including the handing out of immigration cards and the bus departed bang on its scheduled time of 5am.  By 8.30am we were at the border and, oh how hassle-free it all was – the conductor did it all.  He simply collected the passports/ID cards, immigration papers and border fees ($5 to leave Nicaragua & $3 to enter Honduras) then returned everything once it was all done and dusted.  We then continued along on our merry way enjoying our first glimpses of a new country.  It wasn’t quite all plain sailing as the DVD player then went on and much to our horror The 3 Stooges ugly mugs filled the screen.  Anything that necessitates a ‘comedic’ moment being emphasised by childish percussion noises accompanied by infantile slapstick ‘acting’ shouldn’t exist.

The bus went through Tegucigalpa and we had initially thought about breaking up the journey here but didn’t fancy another night in a grubby city.  Besides which we had no idea how to pronounce it so couldn’t ask for tickets!  The longer you can bear to cope with a bus journey the more cost effective the ticket is so we chose to go straight to San Pedro Sula.  This is considered the business capital of Honduras so we still ended up in a grubby city but at least we were closer to Guatemala.  The bus station is inconveniently situated on the outskirts of town and our Lonely Planet didn’t include this area so we simply hoped there was a hotel nearby.

By the time we reached the bus terminal everything was closing for the evening so we couldn’t get anything to eat, there was no obvious hotel nearby and it was tanking it down.  This put us in the undesirable situation of having to rely on a taxi driver to know a place nearby that was within our budget.  We got the message across and agreed what seemed like a reasonable fare and crawled through the rain drenched streets.  The first place he took us to was full but the proprietors were helpful and our taxi followed a car to another hotel.  Spring Palace Inn was a little expensive at $35 but we had no choice but to check in and just felt relieved that we’d found some honest, decent, friendly people to help us out.  It turned out that the man whose car we’d followed owned the first hotel, Guest House Inn and we were taken to his mum’s place.  Should you find yourself a bit stuck in this part of the world give Issac (we think his name is) a ring on 98343052 – he’ll pick you up from the bus station free of charge and ensure you have somewhere decent and secure to spend the night.

Unfortunately the hotel doesn’t have a café or restaurant but we were directed to an area where there were some fast food places.  Not our cuisine of choice but as Steve had pointed out; we didn’t need to be wandering round the most dangerous city in Honduras, which also happens to be Central America’s most dangerous country after dark.  I’m not quite sure it still deserves this dubious title as I’m convinced there are worse places on the planet.  Plus, all we’d encountered was warmth and people going out of their way to help us.  Not that we were so bowled over we were going to spend a second night there!  Our new found friend dropped us off at the bus station early the next morning and we walked into bedlam.

On hindsight trying to skip through 3 countries in 3 days, the weekend before Christmas, in a god loving area perhaps was a tad ambitious.  Every ticket booth had long queues and none of them were reducing in length – in fact just the opposite.  Luckily for us someone at the front of our line spoke English and he explained they were waiting to see if an extra bus could be laid on.  Apparently the 8am bus was full but after 20mins or so they started selling tickets again and we bagged a couple.  We found the platform and readied ourselves for an Asian style surge to board bus when it arrived – no one had been allocated seats.  My years in Asia have obviously paid off as I was virtually the first on and secured seats for Steve & I while he ensured the bags were stowed.  We were on our way and would at least make it to Copan Ruinas for Christmas.  However, we had a treat booked in Guatemala so seriously hoped we’d be able to continue our journey the following day.

It was still raining when we left San Pedro Sula so the roads were flooded and we crawled out of the city. We passed a sign indicating it was 190km to Copan Ruinas and at the rate we were going the scheduled 3hrs sounded very ambitious.  Once the bus had climbed up out of town we made better progress and even the clouds seemed to be thinning.  We reached our destination in reasonable time so would have the opportunity to make this chosen route worthwhile.  For once we allowed a tout to lead us to a hotel but it felt like a good move and we were right as there wasn’t any commission involved.  Marjenny turned out to be a good deal at $20 a night with private bathroom.  We soon realised that getting to Nicaragua the following day wouldn’t be a problem as there were shuttle buses being advertised everywhere.  We instantly secured two tickets to Antigua, Guatemala, breathed a sigh of relief and set off to look at the ruins.

Apparently there’d been 500 people camping out there the day before – I wonder how disappointed they were that the world didn’t end!  We were delighted that they’d all gone and enjoyed the site in relative peace and quiet.  The general entrance fee is $15 for the main site but if you want a guide or to enter the tunnels you pay supplementary fees for each.  This ancient Mayan site was much more extensive than we’d anticipated and the forest setting made it all very pleasant to walk around.  There is an interesting mix of; mounds of rubble that have been left to show how the vegetation took over, partly restored buildings and a few that are being painstakingly reconstructed.  Parts of the buildings you’re permitted to climb up but many are out of bounds, and rightly so, to protect the carvings. 

There are many intricately decorated stone statues dotted around this site and the surrounding countryside that depict the various leaders.  For once the grave robbers didn’t divest the site before the experts got stuck in.  What they discovered was that the newer temples had been built on top of the older ones which in turn were left totally intact.  Their findings were substantial enough to give them a clear picture of how the people lived and of their beliefs.  There’s still a lot of work to be done but we thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon looking around and reading the information boards.  Just to make the day even more enjoyable the forest is home to a flock of stunningly beautiful scarlet macaws.  There is a rehabilitation and breeding centre nearby and they use this protected ancient ruins as a release site.  From what we could see they’re doing great work and we hope that more forests will benefit.  The macaws’ amusing squawks and rainbow splash of colour can’t fail but to brighten everyone’s day.

Copan Ruinas itself is a nice little town with a pretty square, cobbled streets and low pastel painted buildings.  As I have said many people were around for the ‘end of the world’ and not surprisingly they tended to consist of the twizzling breed of traveller.  However, we were under the impression that the town attracted the great unwashed and those who forgot to go home on a regular basis.  The advantage of this being one of those tourist meccas meant there were plenty of places to eat, stay, shop and arrange tours and transport through.  We had some cracking and ludicrously cheap tortillas in the market by the way.  Unfortunately the weather was still rather cloudy but it looked like a lovely area and I’m sure we’d have stayed longer if we’d had more time.

 

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