Monday, August 04, 2008

honduras, the roundabout way

so my fourth trip through honduras was pretty amazing. while it really was not what i expected it would be (things in central america rarely are) i was really glad i was able to see this part of honduras. like i mentioned before, most of the trip was spent on the beaches, but they are such historical places in the history of the colonization of the new world, that it wasn´t just that we were ¨on the beach.¨ we decided to take the maximum number of vacation days that the peace corps allows you to take at one time, and so for 21 days we explored lago yojoa, cerro azul, trujillo, roatán and triunfo de la cruz.

so back on july 9th, we started out in tegucigalpa (honduras´s capital) but only for the night. with the exception of the twisty road leading from el salvador to tegus which made both me and courtney frightfully nauseated, that part of the trip was rather uneventful. we had come on that road before the last time we visited tegus, but we were on a chicken bus that time and because of the frequent stops, the bus never got a chance to get up any real speed around the curves. this time we took a tica bus for $15 and it was cruising along....getting us there quicker, but definitely sicker. after spending the night in tegus, we headed out the next morning for lago yojoa.


this lago is about the size of lago atitlán in guatemala (or so i guess) but doesn´t have any volcanoes around it (there are no volcanoes in honduras). we arrived late in the day and decided to stay at this cheap place called D &D, owned by an expatriate american from oregon. he has a nice little place set up, along with a microbrewery (?) and a restaurant. the odd thing was, we didn´t really get what ¨the¨ thing was about the place or the owner. when we got our room, we were browsing around the sala outside of our room and found these old and current guest books. that night, after we ate dinner, we sat in our room like high school girls and read the comments from the guest book.....we really didn´t have anything better to do because it was raining cats and dogs. we drove ourselves to hysterics reading the comments people left in the books: ¨i´ve found paradise on earth here at bob´s place...¨ ¨oh, the blueberry pancakes are sooo good..¨ ¨thanks bob for showing us your artifact collection....¨ ¨i´ve been searching for heaven on earth my whole life and i´ve found it at the D&D...¨ and on and on and on. one after the other about bob and the D&D and all that. we passed bob in the driveway a couple times and he was nice and all, but why all the comments? we figured there must be a special club or something. the comment about the artifacts was quite funny though, as one night we decided to go for a walk down to the main road and we ended up by the soccer field. there was a game going on, so courtney and i found a bench and sat and were watching it when this jeep pulled up and parked next to where we were. then a couple minutes later a pickup with two guys in it pulled up behind us and asked us if we were the owners of the jeep. we´re like ¨um, no.¨ the jeep had illinois plates, which was strange. the guys from the jeep said that it was theirs and then later, one of the jeep guys comes up and asks us where we´re from in english. turns out, he´s from the states, but lives in mexico now. his friend, the owner of the jeep, is a latino from illinois (which is where courtney´s from) and so we started chatting with them. they had started a central american road trip some months back and ended up in lago yojoa. they initially were going to stay at the D&D, but didn´t like the idea that they´d have to be back in the hotel by 9:00 p.m., so they found a family that was willing to let them stay for however long they wanted. so they had been hanging around the locals for quite some time now. anyways, they told us that all the local people that live in the area called los naranjos (where D&D is located) think that bob, the D&D ownder is down here just so he can steal ancient artifacts. they kept talking about how he already has a huge collection of stuff and all this. courtney and i were laughing because of what we had read in the guest books about how he shows his artifact ¨collection¨ to all the gringos and backpackers that come through.

anyway, whatever it is that bob is doing, he´s got a nice, cheap place to stay. it seems to me that it´s like a little gringo enclave, though. for the life of me though, i don´t know why people want to travel to honduras and then eat, drink and sleep like an american while they´re there. why go to honduras when you can do that at your local pub and in your own home? it has to be cheaper, right? well, enough about that. let´s talk about what we did at the lake. our first day, we went outside of town to a huge waterfall called ¨pulhapanzak.¨ we took the bus and then had to walk a couple kilometers to the entrance of the park. the falls were amazing, and i liked the park because it had all these different trails to follow. there were so many crazy bugs and tons of anthills, as well as birds and butterflies. across a bridge there was also a really tranquil area by the river, before it went over the falls to just sit back and hang for a while. there are also caves behind the falls, but we decided not to go because it costs money to get a guide to go through them. everything costs money it seems, and seeing as we didn´t have that much and we were on the first day of a 21-day vacation, it was wiser to just enjoy the falls and leave the caves for another time. (besides, i see enough bats as it is every day of my life living in el sal, so having them fly around my head and freak me out more than normal i can live without!)

the pulhapanzak falls

some of the flying creatures around the falls

the next day we decided to try our chances at rowing from the canal out to the lake itself. we figured, how hard can it be? well, it really wasn´t that hard. it was a lot of rowing, that´s for sure. and it was the only day during the entire vacation that i got a hell of a sunburn. we were told that we could rent a lancha from this old man, don oscar, that lives down the road from the D&D. we headed over there and he gave us some oars and told us he´d walk down to the banks of the canal with us. we got down there, got in the boat and after a bit of a rough start we finally made our way out of his eyesight. the canal was so peaceful, just birds singing in the surrounding trees and the occasional other rowboat passing us. we finally made it to the marshes and the mouth of the canal out to the lake. it was hooooot and we tried to get out into more open water, but the sun was fierce and before long, we just decided to go back. i didn´t realize how far we´d gone out into the lake until we started rowing back. i thought we´d never make it! once we did though, we were rewarded by seeing these pretty, colorful little birds on the shores by the marshes. we rowed across one of the bays and a couple of fisherman in another rowboat passed us by near this humungous tree dripping with spanish moss. we decided to row back as we had been gone for more than three hours, but we still took our time, stopping to take pictures and just enjoy the scenery. when we finally made it back to where we started, don oscar was standing on the bank waiting for us. apparently, the two other fisherman that had passed us had come back and told him that they thought we needed help or something. don oscar said he was about to row out and see if we actually did need help! we were like ¨no, we were just taking our time.¨

the canal leading out to the lake

a view of one of the highest peaks in honduras from across lago yojoa

the big tree with the spanish moss where the fisherman thought we were in need of help

those two adventures made up our trip to lago yojoa. there are more things to do around the area, but we would´ve had to get a guide and spend at least two more days there in order to do everything. i really wish i knew more about birds...i know the basic birds of the states, and even now the ones in el salvador. but as far as all the birds that can be identified at lago yojoa, i really wish i knew more about their sounds and names and all that. oh well. we had a reservation for our hotel in roatán and sort of needed to stay somewhat on schedule in order to make the ferry to roatán the following week. so we packed up and on sunday morning, we left for probably the biggest mistaken detour of any of the trips i have been on!


on the way to the desvio for the lago when we had first come, i saw this sign on the side of the road. it was maybe 20 minutes on the highway before we had to get off at the desvio to go to our destination at the lago.

so on that sunday morning, i thought ¨we have to go retrace our steps and go back to that area where i saw that sign.¨ i told courtney what i thought we had to do and she´s like ¨ok,¨ so when we got back to the desvio, i saw another bus going the way we needed to go and i told the driver and he´s like ¨hop on.¨ we got on and the bus took off and the cobredor asked us exactly where we were going and we said ¨cerro azul¨ and he didn´t know what we were talking about. so i explained where i thought it was and he said, ok, it´s 50 lempiras to go there. i thought that was really expensive, but we both paid it. then later, the cobredor came back and was like ¨we don´t understand where you want to go.¨ so the bus driver is looking at me in the rearview mirror through the door and tells me to come up front. so i did and i sat there in the seat by him and i tried to explain the entrance and the sign i saw and whatever. then the cobredor comes back up with courtney´s travel book and the bus driver pulls over to consult the book. i was embarassed because what did all the other passengers think when the bus pulled over like that? so i say, ¨i can tell you when i see the sign.¨ so he kept going and finally, i saw the sign above. so we got off the bus, got 2o lemps back each (because the driver thought the trip was longer), said gracias and were now on the side of the highway in front of this sign wondering what to do next.

we walked a few yards up the road we assumed led to the park entrance of cerro azul. we asked a couple women standing on the side of the road how far it was to the entrance and they both got this look on their faces like we were out of our minds. they said it was about an hour and a half climb. we asked if there were pickups or anything that went up there to the entrance. they said no. ok, so we decided that we were just gonna have to walk, even though we had our huge backpacks weighing like 50 lbs. on our backs. but what else were we gonna do? so we started walking and got about 1/2 kilometer when we see these two guys over on the side of the hill we were climbing. one of them, believe it or not, drove a mototaxi, and he kept saying ¨it´s a looong climb, you know you´re tired. why not just let me give you a ride for 75 lemps.¨ we thought it over and just decided to go. so this guy picks us up, he´s a real character, totally cracking himself up the whole ride up. after about 15 minutes in the mototaxi we realized we made the right choice in paying for the ride because there were no signs and lots of cutoffs and it was a lot of uphill insanity. so we get all the way up to this cluster of houses and he stops in front of this little white house and he says ¨ok, we´re here!¨ and i´m like ¨what? this is the entrance to the park?¨ i expected to see a ranger station or something and an entrance gate and all that. but no, we were in front of this little white house.

the driver keeps saying ¨this is where all the gringos come!¨ and we´re saying, ¨this doesn´t look much like an entrance to the park.¨ he gets this confused look and drives us up a ways to another house. a woman comes out and we explain what we want to do and she then explains to us that we´re looking for los pinos, the official entrance to cerro azul, which is on the OTHER side of the mountain, back where the desvio we had come from when we left the lake was. courtney then mentions that she saw a sign there at the desvio and i´m like ¨huh? i didn´t see anything, and why didn´t you tell me you saw another sign?¨ so anyways, as it turns out, no tourists really ever come to the part of cerro azul where we were...just scientists and researchers who are studying the biodiversity there. and also as it turns out, the little white house where the mototaxi driver took us is the home of two peace corps volunteers who are married and doing their time in the little village of cerro azul where we currently were standing wondering what to do next. the volunteers weren´t home at the time - they had gone to guatemala or nicaragua (we got several different stories on that) for vacation.

so the woman that came out to talk to us, odelia, she kept saying that if we wanted we could stay in a house there, but there weren´t any real marked trails or anything to follow. we´d basically just be in cerro azul, not able to actually hike cerro azul. finally after trying to figure out what to do, odelia just said we should stay there. because by the time we got down to the highway, got on another bus, hiked up to the park entrance at los pinos, the day would be over and we were planning to head out for trujillo the next day. i heard her mentioning to another woman who had drifted up and was observing our predicament that it was good because we spoke spanish, not like all the other visitors that come there only speaking english. we finally just took odelia´s advice and she walked us up to ¨the house¨ where we could stay. well, after some placticaring with odelia, we found out that they are trying to start tourism there, and the community had built a couple cabins behind this other woman´s house. that explained why odelia was somewhat trying to get us to stay, but was still a little unsure of herself in telling us that there were cabins for people to stay in. turns out, odelia is one of the people in the community group trying to get tourism started. the other woman, magdalena, said she would fix us food and all that and we could stay in the cabins for like 200 lemps a person. so it was a pretty good deal...that´s roughly $10 a person. by this time like 5 people had heard how were the ¨lost girls¨ and how we hadn´t even meant to come there. but we got our cabin, which was quite nice, and ate some breakfast with magdalena and her daughter, mariela.

after breakfast, magdalena told mariela to take us to the was the only place they had carved out a trail to. so we took off with mariela and her cousin up the mountain to this waterfall. the mountain basically had two things: bananas and café. there were other trees and what-not, but the mountain was just covered with these banana trees, and then rows and rows of coffee trees. we made it to the waterfall, which was damn pretty, and damn cold as well. after checking it out and watching courtney fall down on the rocks (ha ha!), we headed back to the town.

later that day, we decided to take a swim in the river that ran behind the house. i don´t know why i wanted to because it was cold outside and the river was even colder. but i figured as long as i was there, i might as well try it out. the water was crystal clear and the swim felt great. but it did feel nice getting OUT of the water as well. after the swim, we ate lunch and then we decided to take a walk further up the road to another cluster of houses. it was a long walk up, and we saw another trail in the distance that we thought perhaps we could tackle. but when we got back to the house and asked magdalena what she thought, she gave us the same look of ¨are you nuts?¨ that lots of people seemed to be giving us lately. later that night we were eating dinner and this guy comes in with this book and he´s like ¨so you´re the turistas perdidas?¨ everyone in that town must have heard about us by then. he wanted us to sign the ¨visitor´s log¨ for cerro azul and when we read the list of names, sure enough, the only people that had visited were biologists, researchers, zoologists, etc. he brought a map of honduras as well, and i was really surprised to see that we weren´t at that high of an altitude. i´m always surprised to see places that i think are at a higher altitude and find out that they´re still not as high of an altitude as apaneca.

me and mariela in front of the waterfall

this tree was completely hollow and so courtney and i took turns crawling in and taking our pictures. then when i got out, mariela and her cousin were looking inside it and found a snake skin! i was grossed out! i hate snakes and would have died if one was in there when i was!

the river where we took a swim

the big community stone oven up the street from where we stayed

in front of the mountain called ¨cerro azul¨ - even though you can´t really see it because of the cloud cover, this mountain was HUGE

our little cabin

after a crappy night´s sleep (i thought the sound of the rushing river below would put me to sleep, but instead it kept me awake), we caught the 7:00 a.m. pickup back down the road to the main highway. that was a nice ride, just passing along all the trees and birds and naturaleza. at the highway we sat and waited for a while for a bus to pass going to san pedro sula. i talked with this old woman that was down on the drunks. it sounded like she hadn´t had a very good life on account of her drunk husband and one of her sons. i felt kind of bad for her, but you know, that´s a lot of women´s stories in el salvador. husbands/fathers/sons hooked on the guaro. we finally caught a bus and were on our way to trujillo, by way of san pedro sula.


we ended up having to stand in the front of the bus we boarded because there were no seats. that gave us the chance to freak out oncoming traffic, which did lots of doubletakes at seeing two gringas standing in the huge front window of the bus! it also gave us the chance to realize that the cobredor of our bus looked EXACTLY like moe from the simpsons. seriously, he could have been his non-cartoon twin. the rest of the trip up to san pedro sula was uneventful, except for the high number of dead cows with vultures feasting on them on the sides of the road.

when we arrived in san pedro sula we were dropped off in this huge new bus terminal - seriously, it was like being in an airport. we had to get a cab to get to the place where the buses go to trujillo and so tried negotiating a cab. the first guy we talked to gave us this ridiculous price and i was like ¨wtf?¨ he then said that ¨you´re norteamericanas, you have money to pay the fare.¨ you know, fuck him. and fuck everybody else who goes around judging other people before they even know them. i mean it....this is an open letter to whomever goes around stereotyping and generalizing people before knowing ANYTHING about them other than their physical appearance. knock it off already. anyway, we finally got a cab for a not-so-unreasonable price and high-tailed it over to the other bus station. there we boarded a bus bound for trujillo.....we had a long six-hour bus ride ahead of us and i was not looking forward to it.

slowly we came to tela, then to la ceiba. i was chatting with the guy next to me, santos eugenio, and he was pointing out all the different trees and what-not. he then told me to look at the pineapple plantations and at first i was like ¨um, ok, they´re just a couple fields of pineapples.¨ but then those couple of fields turned into millions and millions of pineapples in like 100 fields or something. i´ve never seen so many of anything in my life! not even corn fields in the states.

after la ceiba we entered into kind of a no man´s land. most people who come to the coast, end their trip in la ceiba in order to take the ferry to the bay islands. we were headed for the bay islands as well, but we were going to visit trujillo first and then make our way back later in the week. the highway to trujillo became less and less populated with people, and more and more populated with groves of palm trees. i think they were date palms...they looked different from the palms that bear coconut trees, plus i didn´t see any coconuts on any of them. also i had read something about how some guy came to the area and planted african date palms. anyway, there were millions of these as well, on either side of the road. nothing but palm trees for miles and miles. then the occasional desvio or town.

finally we got to the end of the line. the bus dropped courtney and i off at this deserted-looking desvio because we were headed out towards puerto castilla, not actual trujillo. we had read about this cheap place to stay on the beach which was about 5 kilometers outside of trujillo. this desvio was deserted though, nobody in sight. then this kid comes out of nowhere, out of the sugar cane fields and immediately comes up to us and asks us for money to buy food. i gave him a 5 lemps and he took off and i was really hoping the bus came because that desvio was giving me the creeps. we waited what seemed like forever for the bus and it never came, so finally we were able to hitch a ride in the back of a pickup from these two guys. they had no idea where casa kiwi (the place we were staying) was, but offered to take us until they saw the sign. finally we arrived at this battered sign saying ¨casa kiwi¨ with an arrow pointing to the left. the guys asked us if that was it and we said yeah, but there was this really long road and we felt bad making them drive us all the way down it. they took us anyway and when we came upon the place, it looked abandoned (much as everything did since we left trujillo). we got out of the truck and offered to pay the pickup driver and he said something about how our amistad was payment enough. hombres, i swear. anyway, someone came out of the back of the restaurant at casa kiwi and we breathed a sigh of relief that it was still in business.

standing in the middle of the road to casa kiwi this is what you see.....

.....and when you´re leaving casa kiwi this is what you see

why did we want to come to trujillo? well, for some time, both courtney and i have become somewhat intrigued by a certain guy with the name william walker. in both of our travel books there are short blurbs about this lunatic filibuster from the united states who came down to central america in the 1850´s and basically tried to create his own republic in central america. he tried in nicaragua, costa rica and honduras. he was actually ¨president¨ of nicaragua for a short period, a presidency declared by himself. anyway, he tried and failed this republic like three times and finally, when he was driven out of nicaragua, he was captured by the british off of the coast of honduras. they eventually turned him over to the hondurans in trujillo, instead of sending him back to the states. so the hondurans took advantage of the opportunity and executed him by firing squad! so he was buried in trujillo and there is a monument in the old fort there marking the spot where he was killed. i think that´s a crazy story and both of us really wanted to see where all that took place. plus we heard trujillo was a nice relaxing area to chill out. unless you´re william walker.

so casa kiwi was something different. it´s pretty much a backpacker´s place, but there was hardly anyone there when we arrived...a few guys from germany and the czech republic and the u.s. casa kiwi is - as the name suggests - run by a new zealander and is one of the cheapest places to stay in trujillo...$4.50 a night! it´s set on a bay that includes trujillo and puerto castilla...from the beach at casa kiwi you can see trujillo to the left and puerto castilla to the right. there is nothing but vegetation on either side of casa almost deserted beach. the place got a real battering during hurricane mitch back in the 90´s and you can tell because there are no wild palm trees on the beach. they were all destroyed, along with all the other trees in the area. but even without the huge palm trees, you can still tell you´re in paradise! the only bad thing about trujillo were the sand flies. ugh, they went to town on us even though we had bug spray and baby oil and all that. they ate our skin and left us with what looked like chicken pox. i didn´t get it as bad as courtney did thank god....i got more bites on my arms, while courtney´s legs looked like she had some awful disease. and oh my god do the bites itch! yuk.

the beach in front of casa can see trujillo across the bay

we left the following day for trujillo. we first visited the fort which is one of the most beautiful places i´ve been. obviously, the fort was built by the spanish who came and conquered the area. it´s set up on this hill and everything out front is pure crystal blue caribbean sea. trujillo is also one of the areas of honduras where there are a large number of garifuna. i wrote about the garifuna when i went to livingston back in december 2006, so i won´t write too much about that this time.

one of the buildings from the fortaleza in trujillo, which houses the little museum there

standing at the front of the fortaleza, overlooking the huge sea

anyway, there is a small museum there with artifacts from both the native indians that lived there before the spanish conquest, as well as things like swords and whiskey jugs (those were great!!!) from the spanish conquistadores. we also saw the little statue where william walker was executed. (by the way, if you want more info on william walker, email me, because my friend ben says that i have enough information on psycho william walker for a master´s thesis or something..ha)

we met these nice, if not really touristy, families from the u.s. there. they were real chipper and friendly and kept offering to take pictures of courtney and i in front of the fort by the cannons. then they asked us what we did, and when we said we were peace corps volunteers in el salvador, they were kind of like ¨oooohhh.¨ everyone always gives us that reaction when we say we live in el salvador, like it´s this war zone and it´s sooo dangerous. i mean, it´s dangerous, but i´d say it´s no more dangerous than any other central american country. but hondurans and guatemalans and everyone thinks el salvador´s like iraq or something. it´s not. anyway, these two families we met were not related, but the two fathers were best friends. and one of the men, his father was actually born and raised in trujillo. he was white as white could be and had some kind of an accent, but i couldn´t place it. anyway, so this old man, in his 80´s, was showing his son´s family and the other family around trujillo and talking about how things were when he lived there. the old man said that now he lives in siguatepeque (near lago yojoa) and he´s a surgeon and spends most of the year in honduras, when he´s not visiting his family in the states. that was pretty interesting.

an old map of the fort in trujillo...this was in the little museum that had all the interesting artifacts

the monument marking the spot where william walker was executed

we stayed there a bit and then ventured off through town to try and find the ¨cementerio viejo¨ where william walker was buried. trujillo does not have a latin american feel, despite the reggaeton and ranchera music blasting in the streets. the houses are all wood plank type houses, not the adobe or cement ones found in places farther from the beach. even houses near the beach in el salvador don´t look like the ones in trujillo (and livingston and triunfo de la cruz, etc.). we found the old cemetery and the man working there was like ¨here´s william walker´s grave!¨ there is a little cement sidewalk leading to it, and the grave/tomb itself is enclosed in an iron gate. the cemetery was quite strange because the tombs were all like you´d find in an old cemetery in the bright pink and turquoise and purple tombs like you find in almost every latin american cemetery. and the names of the people....all english, european people. i saw inscriptions with people from israel and palestine and spain and france and many from england.

flowers in the cemetery

william walker´s grave, which says he was killed by ¨fusilado¨

the cemetery entrance

we left the cemetery and made our way back to the center of town and walked down to the beach. the sun was absolutely fierce and we took shade under a roof on one of the piers. we decided to walk back up to the park to get the next bus out to puerto castilla and casa kiwi. as we were walking, we saw a bus coming and we were like ¨if we´re lucky, that bus will be the one we need and we won´t have to walk up this huge hill.¨ so we asked the driver if it was going to puerto castilla and he said yes, so we hopped on. we were patting ourselves on the back for timing it so well when the bus climbed the hill and back through the park. all these guys got on the bus and they were real loud and rowdy and we made our way through town, back out to the desvio where courtney and i had been dropped off that first night we arrived. but as we got to the desvio, the bus turned the other way...opposite of puerto castilla! courtney and i were like ¨whaaat?¨ the guy sitting next to me said they were going to turn around maybe. and then the driver started saying how the bus wasn´t going to puerto castilla, but the other town on the way to ceiba. we were like ¨wtf?¨ and courtney´s trying to yell at the driver, in spanish, how he told us the bus was going to puerto castilla. so we got up to get off the bus and hopefully catch a bus going the other way.

well, the joke was on us. the whole bus was playing us big time and when we went to get up they all started laughing and were like ¨no, we´re really going to puerto castilla!!¨ me and courtney were busting up laughing and saying how there must not be much for people to do in trujillo if this is how they get their jollies. but it WAS good joke, because we believed them!

the lovely sunset behind puerto castilla

anyway, we spent our last days at trujillo just sitting around and enjoying the beach. at one point, on our last day, we were relaxing on the beach when i turned to see what i thought was a mirage.....a herd of cows and goats coming down the beach! i did a double take and said to courtney ¨is that what i think it is?¨ sure enough, it was a herd of cows, goats and a few dogs, being driven by their owners down the beach and up to a ranch way down on the other side of casa kiwi towards puerto castilla. only in central america.

what´s this? a herd of cows?????

¨don´t mind me¨

one afternoon we were sitting in the hammocks by the restaurant and this guy comes out, says his name is otto and he orders us two rum and cokes. we´re like ¨who is this guy?¨ well, he´s the owner of the christopher columbus hotel, further towards trujillo. it´s this resort type hotel and it´s named christopher columbus because like every other beachland up and down the u.s. and central america, columbus landed there in trujillo. anyway, we suspect that otto is joy´s ¨special friend¨ (joy is the new zealand friend of the owner of casa kiwi. joy and the owner split the year working at casa for six months while the owner travels, then joy goes on vacation while the owner ¨works.¨) anyway, otto was just one of the many characters we met on this nelson, the poet/writer working at the fort in trujillo who was trying to get his book published; the czech dude and his german friend staying at casa kiwi, who bought brand new machetes because they were continuing on to the mosquito coast at some point, but who couldn´t even crack open a coconut with the new machetes...otto had to do it for them.....i wonder if they ever made it to the mosquito coast?; the man who we met at the abandoned desvio the first night we arrived, who was on his way back home from selling vegetables in the trujillo market all day and who´d just gotten deported from the u.s. like 3 months ago; shane, another backpacker we met, who cracked us up and told everyone he was 32, when he was really 40, because he didn´t want to feel like a ¨grandpa¨ amongst all the other younger backpackers...he fessed up on his little lie after i told him i was 35!!!

i really regret not planning to go the mosquito coast instead of some of the other things we did. we were so close to the mosquitia when we were in trujillo. but i think a trip to the mosquitia is a trip in and of itself, so maybe one day i´ll make the trek.


joy gave us a ride in the casa kiwi van back into trujillo on friday morning and we had to flag down the bus going back to la ceiba. it stopped and we got on and we were then in for another 3 hour bus ride. when we finally arrived in la ceiba, it was pouring down rain. the bus stopped right in front of these huge puddles of water and we couldn´t do anything but step right in them. we hauled our backpacks off the bus´s undercarriage and under a little tiny roof where there were cab drivers hollering if we needed a ride. ¨taxi? taxi?¨ we asked one of them if he could take us to the grocery store because we wanted to get some last minute foodstuff and boozestuff there. the hotel we booked for roatán had a kitchen: we were figuring that food prices were going to be sky high on the island, so we wanted to be in charge of cooking our own food so as not to be forced into paying ridiculous food prices. the cab driver said he could take us over to a grocery store, so on we went. but then came the dilemma of how we were both going to go into the grocery store but leave our backpacks in the car. the cab driver kept saying that he was honest, he wasn´t going to drive off with our stuff. but we were like on the fence, because that was all our stuff. obviously we were going to take our money and passports and all that in with us, but still, if our backpacks were stolen, we´d be screwed. we decided that i´d go in, but just as soon as i got in, courtney came in and said that our cab driver parked the car and got out and was chatting with other cab drivers. so she kept going out to check on him, and he´d wave at her. i felt bad that we were being so suspicious, but i guess it never hurts to be.

after we got all our stuff at the grocery store, we were then off to the dock where the ferry to roatán leaves. it was a little clearer, but as we bought our tickets ( a whopping 1,024 lemps!!! a huge surprise there....) and waited in the lobby it kept raining off and on. we sat there in the lobby watching revenge of the nerds on the lobby television (so hilarious! i forgot how funny that movie is...although it was even funnier when the part came where the nerds put those video cameras in the girl´s dorm room and they were showing everything, because one of the workers came over and changed the channel and waited like 2 minutes and then turned it back. apparently classic revenge of the nerds nude scenes are more offensive than reggaeton videos, which are shown everywhere, no matter if there are kids around or not! haha). anyway, finally we all boarded the boat and courtney and i were excited to finally be leaving for the bay islands! little did i know that i was in for one of the most horrible experiences of my life.

as we sat there waiting for the boat to leave, the crew started passing out barf bags and i was like ¨i´m not gonna need this!¨ the sky was a bit oscuro, and it kept raining, but the boat took off and we were on our way. from about the moment we left the shore line until we got to roatán, was hell. the boat picked up speed and the water was really choppy and so we were slamming into these waves and going up and down and side to side and immediately people started barfing. it was horrible! then courtney started barfing. i felt like i was in the story of gordie´s in stand by me where that fat kid makes everyone barf. at one point i looked to the side and the boat was really far over on its side before it righted itself. a young guy sitting next to us gave us a couple t-shirts to put over our heads because we were getting soaked by the incoming waves, so i was trying to just huddle underneath it and not think about how shitty i felt. i hardly ever get seasick...christ i was on that sailboat for 7 days and i never once got seasick. but i was definitely getting really close to barf bag time. finally, we approached roatán and we were about 10 minutes from docking when the guy behinds me barfs (thank god, into his bag) but with this sound like he was hacking up his kidneys and pancreas and liver and everything. i thought i was gonna lose it, but thank god, we slowed down and finally docked the boat. as we were slowly trying to get off the boat, courtney says ¨welcome to paradise.¨

but on dry land, everything seemed to get better! the queasiness went away and we got our bags and it was time to be really robbed on a cab fare to west end, where our hotel was. after about a half hour we arrived in west end and in front of our hotel, the argentinian owned posada arco iris, right on half moon bay. we had an awesome little place, with a kitchen and a balcony with a hammock and everything. the place had free use of its kayaks as well as a lovely little beach right out in front of the hotel. that first night though, basically all we did was crash.

the next morning we went out to try and rent bikes for the whole week, and when we did, we got the lowdown on where to go and what to see. we took the bikes back to the hotel and decided what we really wanted to do was hit the beach. so we set up shop out on the beach in front of the hotel and there we stayed for the rest of the day. it was so relaxing and the water was so tranquilo and calm.

so what are the bay islands other than caribbean islands off the coast of honduras? probably the single greatest thing about the islands is that the amazing coral reef lays right off the you can swim out about 10 feet and there it is! this unbelievable coral reef with colorful fish and sea turtles and coral like you´ve never seen is all right there, super close to where you were just sunning yourself. it´s also one of the cheapest places in the world to get certified in scuba diving. i´ve already written previously about how i´m not into scuba diving, so i won´t get into it again. but i still like snorkeling and boy is it fantastic on roatán. west end, where the cheaper hotels on roatán are located, is pretty much all foreign-owned. americans and europeans have set up shop in one of the most beautiful places i have ever been. the nice thing is, i didn´t get overwhelmed with all the tourists, as i have before in guatemala and other parts of honduras. i guess it´s because the whole place is like that, i don´t know. west bay, about 5 kms away, is foreign owned as well, but it´s much ritzier. it´s where all the resorts and fancier places are, and where lots of rich people have homes. i say ¨all¨ the resorts, but there really aren´t that many. i think i pictured roatán having MORE hotels and businesses than it did. but it surprisingly had much less.

anyway, the next day we decided to take the bikes over to west bay and see the beach there, as they say west bay has the most beautiful beaches on roatán. when we rented the bikes, the guy there told us that the road between west end and west bay was hilly and curvy so ¨bring water and sunblock.¨ we chugged like 2 liters of water before we went, but even then we weren´t prepared for the hell trip it turned out to be. we ended up walking half of it....riding down the huge hills and walking our bikes up them. i thought we´d never make it, but after much sweating, we did.

the view from the mirador along the road we biked to west bay

in the far right of the island you can see half moon bay, where we stayed in west end

courtney had made a contact back in el salvador when she accompanied her mayor to the international tourism fair in san salvador. the contact was this guy named tommy who is sales manager at this place called infinity bay, a resort in west bay. he said to call him when she got to roatán, so when we got to west bay we decided what the hell, might as well call him. courtney called him and he told us to come meet him at the bar in front of the resort. we locked our bikes up in the back of the place and then headed up front, feeling seriously like the hick cousins of all the well-to-do people that were out enjoying their sunday afternoon. we were all bit up (thanks to our stay in trujillo), we were sweating and we were beet red. tommy talked to us for a bit, but i wanted to go down on the beach, so we casually moved on and set up shop under one of infinity´s umbrellas. i couldn´t believe i was looking at that water. i´ve never been to the caribbean before, and sitting on that beach was like being in friggin´ paradise. the water was crystal clear, and it was the most amazing blue and turquoise colors. and you can see where the coral reef begins...where there isn´t turquoise water, that´s where the coral is.

nos llegamos! finalmente! the amazing waters off west bay. where the water isn´t bright and turquoise, that´s the coral reef

we sat and sunned ourselves all day and finally around 4:30 we decided we´d better try to get back to west end. i was not looking forward to that, because i knew every hill we rode down on the way to west bay, we´d have to climb up to get back. but somehow, the trip back didn´t seem so bad...maybe because i knew what to expect. we coasted into west end and about all i could do was crash. thankfully, i hadn´t gotten sunburned at all...i was just seriously drained of energy after biking/walking that road twice in one day.

the next day we went and priced snorkel gear, but by the time we ended up getting our asses in gear, we figured we wouldn´t really be able to do much snorkeling that day. so we planned to get it the next day and go back to west bay (this time by water taxi!). so it was another day just lounging around the beach, only this time we decided to lounge and drink beer...mmmm those tasty honduran salva vidas. by the time dinner time rolled around, we were both feelin´ pretty good and wanting to go out and do something other than sit on the balcony and ponder our thoughts. i said it´d be nice if we could go listen and/or dance to some music other than the boring american music all the establishments in west end played. a honduran guy selling sunglasses on the beach told us that all the latin music is in coxen hole (the capital of roatán, where our ferry came in)....none of the latin stuff can be found in west end. problem is, taxis to coxen hole are like $20, and we couldn´t pay that. so courtney decided to go down and see if there were any taxis that would take us for $10.

she came back with good news! when she told the taxi guys (who all hung out at this desvio at the entrance to west end) that she wanted to go to coxen hole and dance, she said ¨and i´m not paying more than $10 to go there.¨ one of the taxistas was like ¨if you go and hang out with us, we´ll take you for free!¨ we didn´t really know what to do...because hey, it was a free trip into town! but on the other hand...who the hell were these taxi drivers? well, we ended up just deciding to go and went with one guy, jonas, and another guy, roberto, followed in his taxi. we went to this place called the breeze bar..hahaha. they had reggaeton and bachata and everything! we didn´t dance much, but we got out of west end which was nice. we met another taxi guy, colin, and then this hilarious older black guy, we didn´t catch his first name, but his last name was walton, so we just kept referring to him as ¨walton.¨

anyway, walton was born on roatán, but lived in the u.s. for 35 years or something. he kept saying ¨the united states is the best damned country in the world!¨ he kept saying how it´s the only place in the world you can make yourself what you want to be. he kept saying ¨if you´re a hard-working son-of-a-bitch, and you save your money, you can make something of yourself!¨ he came back to roatán, he said, because it was too expensive to retire in the states. but here on roatán, he´s got everything he could ever want. walton was a character. it was his birthday too! and he was there all alone. so jonas bought him a beer and then it was getting late, so we all left. but right before we left, walton gave me a mango. i was like ¨huh?¨ jonas drove us back to west end and roberto gave courtney his number because he said that thursday would be super fun at another bar there. so we half made plans for thursday.

the next day, tuesday, we rented snorkel gear and took a water taxi over to west bay again. that water taxi ride was much more relaxing than the bike ride, that´s for sure! we docked near infinity bay and finagled our way under another one of infinity´s umbrellas (the lounge chairs and umbrellas are supposed to only be for guests, but we kept saying how we ¨knew tommy¨ and he said it was ok....ha). so it was off to go snorkeling! we got out in the water and courtney was having trouble with her mask, but we got going. some guy swam up to us and said there were some sea turtles out by this boat, so i started swimming out there. but the coral in that area was really close to the surface and i was afraid i was going to hit it. you´re not supposed to touch the coral because first of all, it´s endangered and any time something hits it, it kills that part of it and can kill the whole animal. plus, if you do touch it, it stings you, and you can get some pretty nasty infections from coral poison. anyway, i started feeling claustrophobic because i´d get to a bunch of coral that was really close to the surface and i´d have to swim over it really fast. it was weird. but the reef was amazing. i saw a lot more different types of coral than the last time i was snorkeling off the belize cayes - and there were just these huge walls of reef, like a whole other world! these little blue and yellow striped fish (like the birds, i don´t know fish names that well either) that would come up and look at me through the front of my mask, like ¨hey, what´s up, can i help you find something?¨ and those long pointy nosed fish would dart across, just under the surface of the water. i looked up for courtney and i realized she was way back where we started, and i started getting the creeps being out there alone, so i turned back. courtney was having major problems with her mask, so we just decided to take a rest.

views of the beaches as we took the water taxi to and from west bay

later, we went back out and decided to go on the other side where more people were snorkeling. i took my underwater camera and tried to get as many good pictures as i could....mostly of the fish that were every color of the rainbow. i couldn´t believe it. and the brain coral....that was so freaky! this area had more open spots...bright, white sand surrounded by HUGE walls of coral on all coral, brain coral....with fish darting in and out of every crevice. i was out there for a while and realized courtney still wasn´t around, so i went back to where she was and lent her my mask so that she could at least go out and get a look around. i didn´t see any big animals (sharks, turtles, rays), but the fish were like something out of a photo book or something. i seriously felt like i was trying to find nemo, it was so cool. definitely the highlight of the trip for me. even though i am really weirded out by the whole is a whole other world down there and i´m up there floating on the surface. it really is creepy.

the next day we wanted to try out the snorkeling in half moon bay, right in front of our hotel. we decided to take the two-man kayak out and possibly go out a ways and then get in the water from there. well, that turned into a disaster! ha. we took the kayak out, past half moon bay and were maybe a mile out....coral was EVERYWHERE....obviously, i mean, that´s what a reef is. anyway, kayaking over the coral it was hard to find a place where you could get in, without jumping right on top of the coral. we found a couple open spots, but then courtney decided she didn´t want to get in. i did, but then i told courtney she had to keep the kayak where i was, because i´d freak out if i came up and she wasn´t where i was. courtney wasn´t sure if she could keep the kayak around me...she doesn´t think her coordination´s that good, which it wasn´t the greatest, but i thought she could at least keep the kayak in the general area where i was. but then i started thinking about being out there in the open water and it was creeping me out, so i just decided to not jump in. we could just snorkel out from the beach later. so we´re kayaking along, and i look over the side to look at the coral from the top of the surface and all of a sudden courtney screams and we´ve capsized the kayak! whaaaaat?!!!! so we´re treading water, with the kayak on it´s wrong side and all of our stuff is in the water! our snorkel gear, the kayak paddles, my camera (which thank god i put in a plastic bag), EVERYTHING! we were somewhat nervous - me, because i was afraid we were gonna hit coral. courtney wanted to get the stuff, but i said, let´s get in the kayak first. so we used all our strength to lift that damned kayak up on it´s right side, which was NOT easy....try lifting something up like that without having the use of your´s all arm strength!

so we got the kayak flipped over, i managed to get myself back in, but when courtney tried to climb in, we capsized again! now i was like - wtf!? we had to find whatever strength we had left to try and lift that stupid kayak up and over again, and we almost couldn´t do it. we finally did, and this time courtney managed to get in first. i was totally out of strength and tried a couple times to get in and my arms gave out. after a little rest, i finally climbed in and we were both in the kayak again. but our stuff was floating with the small waves all over the open water. so we paddled over to where the stuff was floating and collected all of it. however, courtey´s mask and snorkel tube sunk, as did my tube. and my sunglasses. all the rest of the stuff we recovered. we paddled around a while looking to see if we could see the mask and tubes on the bottom, but couldn´t see anything. so we paddled back to the beach....both of us a little freaked out. not so much because we were out in the water, but because it took us by surprise.

i took the snorkel gear back and said we lost the stuff we lost and the owner said we should go back out and we´d probably be able to find the stuff if we just paddled around long enough. that was the last damned thing we wanted to do, take that kayak back out again. but we did, and we were probably out there for another two hours and didn´t find anything. so we just took the loss and had to pay a small fee for the lost stuff. so everything turned out ok, it wasn´t that big of a disaster. and anyway, what stories would i have to tell if i didn´t have any disasters????

the tengereche that came to visit us one day on our balcony

the palms in front of half moon bay

just some of the sunsets on the beach in front of posada arco iris

thursday was our last full day on roatán and we just explored the area a little bit, mostly the beach again. it was sad to be getting ready to leave, but i suppose it was time. i can see why they give you an open return on your ferry ticket because it would be very easy to stay longer than you intended on roatán! that night, we met the taxistas down at the desvio and went with another couple of taxi drivers, victor and lando, to a club in coxen hole. the place was packed and they had karaoke and all kinds of latin music. courtney and i, the only gringas in the place, felt a bit overdressed as all the ladies in the place were hooched out big time. we hung out and drank buckets of beer and danced and had a great time....even if it left me feeling a bit hungover the next day.

i didn´t want to do anything the next day except sleep, but we had to return the bikes and pack up and ship out. we got a free ride to the ferry dock from a very, very hungover victor. i felt bad for him. courtney and i had a few beers left over from the beer that we had brought with us to roatán. we didn´t want to waste it, so we drank them in the taxi on the way back to the ferry and victor was like ¨how can you drink that!?¨ ha. anyway, we made it to the ferry and bid farewell to lovely roatán.

hanging out in coxen hole

the ferry ride back to the mainland was much more tranquilo and calm than the ride over. i don´t think i could have taken another ride like the one over. once we were in la ceiba, we caught a cab over to the bus terminal and then back to another bus terminal because our cab driver was an idiot. we were now on our way to triunfo de la cruz, another garifuna beach town near tela, about an hour and a half away.

goodbye roatán......(the remains of a shipwreck off the island)


....hello triunfo de la cruz!

we rolled into triunfo de la cruz by way of a taxi we shared with this older woman named virginia. she got off the bus with us at the desvio outside of tela and she said we could ride into triunfo with her and the cab she had already called. it was around 6:30 p.m. when we finally got to triunfo and we had no idea where we were going to stay. we had a vague idea of one hostal, but when we asked the cab driver where it was, he hadn´t the slightest idea. so we just rode around in the cab until he dropped off virginia. then we just let the cab driver take us wherever he thought we should stay. he stopped outside of this place called ¨panchy´s¨ and the next thing we knew we were staying there. it was super cheap....about $7 for the two of us! we were pretty tired, so we crashed almost immediately and i fell asleep to the sounds of the AA meeting that was going on in the restaurant outside of our room.

the next day we decided to check out tela, because supposedly there was a garifuna museum there. we shared another cab into tela and then went in search of the museum. we ended up down this dead end street and saw no signs or anything, so we backtracked and asked a couple people and they said that it indeed was down at the end of that dead end street. so we walked back down there and hollered ¨buenos días¨ and some guy answered and we asked what was the deal with the museum. he said that ¨fijense,¨ which you know some shit is coming after that....anytime anyone starts out their sentence with ¨fijese,¨ you know it´s not gonna be good. he said that the museum was now closed because there was shitty management and they lost of bunch of the pieces that were in the museum. so we turned around and walked back down to the tela´s beach, but i was somehow uninspired to take it all in. it was a another beach. same as the one in triunfo. same as the one in trujillo. it was beautiful, but it was the same thing i´d been seeing for the past 2 1/2 weeks. the only thing that could have added a bit more to the ¨beach town¨ thing was the museum, and that was closed. we walked along the beachfront and stopped at a restaurant to get something to drink. courtney got her hair braided and i bought some earrings from this guy selling them along the beach. his name was benjamin and it was his birthday that day. he talked and talked and talked how his dream was to work on a cruise ship. he was a real character.

chillin´ out

baby coconuts!

later we headed back to triunfo on the bus and the rest of the day we just hung on the beach. there was not that much else to do. later that day, courtney was laying on the beach and i, tired of all the sun, sat in a beach chair under the palm trees reading crime and punishment. next thing i know, i look up and courtney´s chatting away with this garifuna guy. this guy ¨works¨ up and down the beach seeing if anyone wants to go see punto izopo or playas escondidas. he´s a guide, but not a very serious one. we didn´t have that much money left - which is why we couldn´t go to any of the national parks that were around the area. the only way you could get to any of these places is if you take a boat, and the only tours offered are ones through this outfit called ¨garifuna tours.¨ they have a monopoly on the area, and their tours cost something like $25 per person - which is outrageous - especially since what honduran family can pay to go on that tour? it´s like the only people they want visiting these national parks are tourists. what about the hondurans? anyway, we were so poor we couldn´t even afford this guy´s tour.

this guy´s name turned out to be victor too. only panchy, the woman who runs the hotel we were staying in, called him ¨vicky fresh.¨ i know, ??? he said he would walk with us down to the discoteca and maybe to see punta dancing - which is a garifuna dance - later that night if we wanted. so later we met up with vicky fresh and went to a local home where they were having a balnorario (i´m not sure if i´m spelling that correctly). a balnorario is a party that a family and community have on the anniversary of someone´s death, to celebrate them. a guy who was there explained to me that it can take place 3 months after someone dies, or 6 months or a year or whenever the people want to have it. we have something similar in el salvador, but it´s always held a year after. people stay up all night and have music and dancing and food and drinks. at the balnorario, everyone formed a circle around these drummers and then men and women danced in pairs, one at a time, in the middle. it was really cool to see the african influenced dance and see the people interacting with another because it was such a happy time. we were given cups of atole with avena and some other ingredient, i couldn´t tell.

after a while, we left to go down to the discoteca, which was supposed to be fun because everyone was in town for this balnorario. so we ended up there, but i was not feeling it. i just wanted to go back to bed. of course vicky fresh wanted to dance and so did courtney, so eventually some other friend of vicky fresh came and we all danced. we only stayed a couple hours or so and finally made our way back to panchy´s and to bed. the next day was more of the same...the beach. i was ready to go back to apaneca! we took our last pictures of triunfo and the next morning we left. or so i thought we were going to leave right away.

instead, we stood at the intersection outside of panchy´s waiting for either a taxi to pass, or for the bus to pass. some other dude came up and started talking to us forever and i was all talked out. i just wanted to leave! then we saw vicky fresh again. he said he was going to ¨work¨ - he was carrying a machete and said he was going out to work in the milpa or something. 15 minutes later, we saw him again, walking by the same intersection. this was life here in triunfo. when we had gotten up earlier around 6:00, not a soul was awake. me and courtney were saying how in el salvador, women are up at 5:00 making pupusas and frying up chicken for lunch and cleaning. not so in triunfo. people kind of just ease into the day there. finally the bus passed and we got on and were the only ones on the bus. the roads in triunfo are horrible...sand/dirt with huge potholes everywhere. so the bus crawled, and i mean crawled, down the long road to the desvio where the road then either goes to the highway or to la ensenada, another garifuna beach town. we get to la ensenada and the bus picks up a few people there and then turns around and crawls back to the desvio. then, instead of going up the road to the highway, the bus crawls back through triunfo! i was like ¨get me out of this town!¨ the bus crawled, picking up more and more people, women got on the bus and were like ¨buuuueeeennnnooooos dddddíííííaaaasssss........¨ all long and drawn out and it was like this for like another 1/2 hour. FINALLY, we made our way to the highway and in no time we were at the desvio to wait for a bus to san pedro. i thought we´d never get out of there!

we caught a bus and before we knew it we were in san pedro sula. i had been trying to get to the post office for four days now...we originally were going to stop in roatán, but victor the cab driver was too hungover to stop there, then we tried in tela and the post office was closed. so our last chance was san pedro sula. the cab driver who was taking us to the terminal agreed to take us to the post office, and when we got there he walked with me down the street to the entrance. finally with that errand over, we got to the terminal and were on our way to el poy. we decided to take the six hour bus ride to a different border...the one that goes to chalatenango in el salvador rather than go to tegus and stay the night and take the tica bus back to san salvador.

the bus ride wasn´t too bad and by the time we got to nueva ocotopeque we were making good time. after we crossed the border into el salvador, we went to the little bus terminal there and found out that the last bus to san salvador had left a half hour earlier! so we sat there for a minute while all the mototaxi drivers told us they´d take us to la palma for $25 or something. instead we called our friend ben who lives in citalá, a pueblo right there next to el poy. we took a mototaxi there and he met us and let us crash at his house for the night. the next day we were off and i slowly made my way back to apaneca and was glad to be home. it was a great trip, but really, there is no place like home (even though i´m still dreaming about roatán!).

the sunset in apaneca, where it´s just as pretty as anywhere.