Finding Honduras! (El Boqueron, Finca Paraiso and Copan Ruinas!)

Published: December 2nd 2012
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Sadly, we have only two tickets left in our Gerlinde book. First up is the “private transfer” from Rio Dulce to Copan, Hunduras, which includes some sights along the way. Secondly, we have the 2 night stay in Copan. Although tickets sound boring, the stories that come from them are far from it! How we now wish we had documented our “normal” days at home all of these years or other trips abroad.

This morning, we packed up and headed to the dock and the awaiting ferryman. Without much fanfare, we boarded the small boat and were on our way. Once across the river from the Tijax (it was then raining), we hoofed our backpacks to the Sun Dog Café where we were to meet our driver at 8 a.m., whom we did not know, and we had no idea as to what type of vehicle to expect. After a few minutes and seeing some French people board a tourist bus at about 8:10, we were approached by a nice man who asked us if he could help. The quick rundown follows. The man knew our driver and where to find him. We hoofed down the street, into an alley full of market folk, down to a store (sort of). The alley was wet, muggy and we had to avoid a lot of dog poop, made nicely gooey by the rain. By that time we were sweating profusely and feeling as if something was amiss. However, after looking around, we spotted a sign that did indeed match our ticket, but no driver. A boy and woman, who spoke no English, looked at our ticket and made some telephone calls. We waited expectantly but were just given the “sinco minutos” that is so customary in Central America. After about 20 minutes, the man arrived and go figure, said he had been waiting at Sun Dog! We hoofed it back to the Sun Dog, into his well-kept mini-van and set off for parts unknown.

Our driver was perfect. He was quiet, yet helpful. He had many books in his van, which indicated he might be studying to be a minister. Since we were to spend most of the day with him, we were happy.

First stop… El Boqueron canyon. So, we entered this very nondescript park, if you call it that, and were told the entrance fee was $10Q apiece by a little semi-official looking man who controlled the rope gate. OK, we have been here long enough to accept that. But then we were ushered to a little river where you pay guides $15Q/person to take you on a boat to see the canyon where Maya previously used caves for various reasons. The boat (well, it looked like one) had a big hole in the back of it… so we were instructed, by our approximately 10 year old boy guides, to sit in the front end of the boat, facing backwards. They sat all the way in the bow of the boat and off we went… backwards. They spoke no English but were competent to paddle the boat and point to interesting rock formations. See photos.

It was indeed beautiful and serene. We reached a point in our brief journey where the lads had to paddle us through a narrow gap where the water was rushing fiercely. We felt like we should cheer them on and did so. Further upstream, we reached a small shallow area that resembled a rapid of grander waters. Our young guides rowed to the rocky shore and indicated that we should exit the boat. At first we were unsure as to why we should do so. However, our questions were soon answered when the only other boat on the water, also operated by a pair of 10 year old boys, came to rest beside us bearing its cargo of 3 passengers. Their vessel was capable of traveling bow first as that is how it landed and everyone was facing forward. After the boat landed, the crew instructed the passengers to disembark and make their way up the rocky shore and past the shoals. When the passengers disembarked, the young fellows jumped out of the boat and began to drag it up the mini-rapids. Upon seeing this, we decided that we would forego the salmon spawning exercise and asked that our young pilots return us to our original landing. The lads were delighted when they realized that they would not have to drag the boat (which is considerably larger than they are and now filling with water) upstream, they became quite animated and jovial. As the water runs toward the beginning, all they had to do was to steer. When we arrived back, the boat had taken on considerable amounts of water. We tried to gracefully disembark, but there was no way to avoid being wet to the knees. We embraced the wetness and jumped out of the boat and into the water, simply laughing at ourselves.

Next stop was the Finca Paraiso. The internet fails miserably at describing or illustrating the beauty and magical nature of this place. We pulled off the “highway” onto a non-descript dirt road, which did not identify anything relating to what lay beyond. Our guide parked the van and as soon as we got out, we were accosted by no less than five children under the age of 6, all saying in unison, “Uno Quetzale?” Apparently, asking for money is learned quite young. Our driver told us that he would wait with the van and that we should walk 10 minutes down a muddy dirt trail. Sure, why not… so off we went, alone. One the way, we met three more boys wanting Quetzales. We did not give in, but later, back at the van, we did give the youngest boy a deck of playing cards. He looked very confused, but happy.

Looking down to the river from the path, it became clear to us that it was laundry day. See photos. When we reached the end of the trail, we were not prepared for what awaited - a completely awesome and beautiful rock formation with water cascading from above. To actually reach the water fall and its accompanying pool of clear water, you must carefully pick your way down a stretch of rocks. However, at the end of the journey we were rewarded with a large stream of flowing water and a pool directly underneath the falls. The stream itself is a little chilly, but the closer you get to the falls, the warmer it becomes. When we had reached the cascading water, it was hot! Literally, it was far too hot to enjoy in some places under the falls. The water smelled bit like sulfur, but was certainly the best shower that either of us had had in almost a month… and certainly the most hot water!!! When we first arrived, it was serene, with just a few guys off to one side quietly enjoying the warm water. See photos. However, shortly thereafter, a herd of young men assaulted the place and formed a sort of Grecian bath area. It could’ve been a worse sight for Ann, but it was a bit loud and louder still when the idiots started climbing up the rocks and jumping into not so deep water. Thank goodness they were not drunk and we did not witness any fatalities. This place ranks second only to the Semuc Champay in this list of the coolest natural things in Central America. As it was the warmest, consistent shower we had had since we have been here, we did not want to leave. It was truly, that wonderful.

After figuring out a way to change into dry clothes without a show for the Quetzale hungry kids, we began our 4 hour trek to Honduras. Not knowing what to expect at all, we just sat back and enjoyed the scenery. About 2 hours later, we asked to stop for lunch. Shortly after, the driver stopped at a hotel/restaurant/water park. In a cafeteria we ordered what looked to be tamales with salad on top. We would never have thought to order this, but a local in front of us ordered it… how bad could it be? Cheap and filling, the tamales were stuffed with corn meal, black beans and asparagus and on top, some slaw/salad, salsa and crumbled cheese. The tamales… GREAT! The salad… wonderful! The cheese? Please close your eyes and imagine a dairy product which sat in a wet tube sock, shoved in a dark corner in a locker room for a week and you will know what it tasted like. All we can say is that we had a very similar taste experience in France, so we are not picking on our location, just telling it like it is.

The border experience made us feel almost like an inconvenience. First of all, roosters and chickens had the run of the immigration offices… right next to the bored gunmen. Random people were also hanging around to exchange money with you and others were selling nuts and sweets (with no license, no less!). When we went through customs into Honduras, a guy in a mask sprayed the van (and the big trucks before us) with some smelly, but potent looking liquid, for Guatemala cooties, we suppose. We were glad that we noticed and rolled up our windows. We paid our $3 fee into Honduras and began again.

Shortly thereafter, we came to Copan Ruins (also, Copan). What a quaint, little town, much like Antigua, Guatemala. It is located at the end of a little street which looks up to the mountain. Once inside the courtyard, it was clear that Gerlinde had saved the best for last! This hotel is absolutely beautifully decorated in a lush tropical motif. The garden is meticulous (a woman was cutting ferns with small scissors). Our room is spacious with wood floors and smells fabulous. The bathroom is indescribable in comparison to any time we have been in CA. There are four medium pillows!!!! The towels do not hurt the skin. Hot water in an even spray coats the entire body. The toilet is fully functional and the toilet paper roll is grande and Charmain-like. See photos. My, oh my, we are in the sweet life.

We had dinner at the hotel. A sign upon entry says “Best Steak south of the Rio Grande.” Sure, why not? We had chicken liver pate to start, which tasted just like succulent giblet gravy and was delicious!!! We then ate tender beef, cooked perfectly, alongside fresh vegetables, also well-cooked. To top it off - Tiarmisu, not like any we’ve had before, but rich, gooey and homemade. Along with fantastic service and unanticipated, natural entertainment in the garden provided by two black bats in search of good bugs, we have only kudos for Hotel Don Udos. A few no-see-ums were around, but the malaria infested mosquitos we read about before we came to Honduras (for which we have been taking two extra pills per day!), were nowhere to be found. After taking advantage of several hot showers in the morning, we will explore with hopes of finding new sounds, smells, sights, unique stories and new friends.

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