Lovely Lenca Girls
It was nice to see children in La Esperanza celebrating their culture
To actually get to Honduras required a chicken bus ride of the bumpiest proportions, more dust than the Australian Outback, oh and the best border we have been to yet! There is no official immigration post on the El Salvador side due to some kind of dispute, so we merely bumped on through and up the hill to the Honduran side. There everyone piled off the bus and we duley followed. It turned out they hadn´t got off for a stamp though, they were all stocking up on fruit and veg from the little shop there. Predictably immigration was closed!
Luckily Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala have an agreement which means we can travel between all four without new stamps, so we jumped back on the bus and arrived in Marcala an hour or so later. You might recall that David was fast running out of room in his passport so it has been a huge relief to be able to pop in and out of these countries with stampless ease. From Marcala we got ourselves to a little town called La Esperanza through a combination of a long walk uphill in the
Not The Best Camoflage
The beautiful beak of the Toucan
sun with our packs, a long wait in the sun for a bus that never came and a great free ride in the back of a truck.
We went to La Esperanza with the hope of experiencing a bit of the culture of the Lenca people who live in the region. Luckily for us the very next morning a huge paradencelebrating the foundation of the region marched right past us. There were dancers in tradtional costume and campesinos carrying their farming gear through town. All the men have brilliant cowboy hats and so many had wonderful smiles when we said hello. Esperanza is actually quite a dusty desolate place and having had just about enough of dust and bumpy rides we decided the parade and a day in the town eating local food and shopping in the market was enough for us and on we moved to Tela.
Tela is on the Caribbean coast and differs from much of Honduras due to the strong Caribbean influences there. A lot of slaves were brought over from Africa during the colonial era and as luck would have it we arrived just as they were holding a
festival celebrating the arrival of their people on the Central American continent. (Is it luck or are we some sort of festival inspiring gods?) After finding the one hostal that doesn´t charge the earth we spent some time on the beach there (surprisingly litter free for a city beach) and also visited La Ensenada just up the road. This was much prettier and gave us a more realistic idea of how the Garifuna people live. The resturants are supposedly famous for their seafood soups which explains why they were so expensive! We can only assume there is a different local price for this food because villages would not be able to afford what restuarants were charging (By restaurant we mean some kind of building with a few tables and chairs, nothing posh). One man we were chatting to even tried to get us a discount at the (totally empty and desperate for business) restaurant we were standing outside, but to no avail. It seems they would rather lose custom than drop their price. We eventually found a place to eat and knocked back our delicious soup with a nip of "Guifiti". This is local moonshine that gets made in huge
David finds the moonshine in La Ensenada
buckets then sold in whatever plastic vessel you care to take along to be filled. It was actually pretty tasty, though a few quick swigs off the back of the long walk we had just done to get there soon had Tracey´s legs feeling a bit wobbly! David decided this was a good thing and bought half a litre.
We also visited the Lancetilla Botanical Garden & Research Centre, which was set up by the United Fruit Company in 1926 to try and work out which fruits grew well in the area and which did not. It was a tranquil place to wander around for a while but unfortunately we were in the wrong season to see all the fruits on their ´biggest collection of Asiiatic fruit trees in the western hemisphere.´
Is The Past Participle Of To Dive, Dove?
Armed with our Guifiti we headed out to the Bay Islands...to Utila to be precise. These islands are famous for great diving, bargain prices if you want to learn to dive and a generally chilled atmosphere. Because there are so many dive shops on Utila competing for custom they all offer really good deals with free
The grouper guard outside the wheelhouse
accommodation if you are learning to dive or doing some kind of course to further your training. They also all bombard you on the dock the second you step off the ferry.
We spent a long time deciding where we would dive and ended up at a place called Underwater Vision because the people seemed really nice, it was locally rather than foreign owned and there was a lot of communal space to chill out. This turned out to be a good choice and we spent a great 5 days there diving, partying and relaxing. In fact a bit too much partying as Tracey ended up catching a cold from dancing in the rain for too long at a party being thrown by the owners of the dive centre. David benefitted from this as he used the package deal dives she couldn´t take due to her sinus issues! The diving was great because most of the sites are very close to shore so you can return to the dive centre for your surface intervals. One of our dives was on a briliant wreck, where you can swim around the open cargo bay and through the wheel house too..if you
The beach in Utila
dare. There is a VERY large grouper who hangs out there with VERY large pointy teeth. We also saw a huge green moray and countless other fish around the wreck. One day snorkelling we spotted a beutiful eagle ray swimming beneath us. We followed it for a little while then with one effortless flap of it´s "wings" it was gone. On other dives the coral and swim throughs were great fun, though if we are honest Sipadan in Borneo and Tofu in Mozambique were better.
There is a refuge for an endangered species of iguana on Utila too. The "Swamper" only lives on Utila island and has a habitat of just 8km squared. It is trapped and killed for its meat, even though it is illegal to do this. The females are often caught on their way to lay their eggs, which means there is no chance of new hatchlings being born. The refuge tries to protect the Swampers and has a breeding program, but they have a tough fight on their hands. A few weeks ago someone broke-in and stole a breeding pair from one of their enclosures. Disgusting.
Our Trip Turns to Ruins
The temples at Copan
We moved on fairly swiftly due to the rapidly approaching volunteering date we have set up in Guatelmala and managed to get from Utila to Copan Ruinas on a combination of a ferry and three chicken buses by late afternoon.
Copan Ruinas is the first Mayan site we have visited and we were not disappointed by its size or how well restored it has been. It was one of the most important Mayan strongholds with up to 20,000 people living there at one time. We went along with a group of 6 American sisters who are all travelling together so we were able to share the price of a guide with them. A guide is really worth it at a site like Copan because there is so much to see and take in. A lot of the carvings and temples, not to mention some of the less restored piles of rocks would mean nothing without an explanation.
Our guide was hilarious. He would suddenly stop in the middle of the path and say "oh, wait a minute, I remember something..." then proceed to tell us some story or other about one of the Mayan rulers who lived at
If you can read it you are a better man than us!
Copan with names like Smoke Jaguar and 18 Rabbit. He had the funniest way ever of saying Jade too. It went something like "J´aaaayyyyyyy. De. " By the end of the tour it was all we could do to not collapse into fits of giggles everytime he said it. We also suspect he is working for a commission from Kodak because he would stop at one moment or another and insist we took a picture. "Look, come here, see that, take a picture...come on, from here, take a picture" Thank god for digital and the delete button or we would now be wading through about 80 snapshots of rocks and trees!
And Then It Went To The Birds
We also visited Macaw Mountain while we were in Copan. It is a refuge for rescued birds. They mostly have macaws but also some toucans, owls, hawks and other kinds of parrot. The colours of the macaws were beautiful, some were scarlet, others turquoise, and others green. They were all rescued from tiny cages or as hatchlings being illegally sold at the side of the road. The enclosures are all pretty big and you can walk through
Is Plastic Edible
This Toucan went for our camera
the inside of several of them, which was brilliant. We also had a chance to hold a few of the birds. They were suprisingly heavy! The best fun was playing with the toucans. they love coming up to the side of the enclosure and trying to have a good old look at you. Because of their collosal beaks this is harder than it sounds while balancing on a branch and it led to plenty of funny posturing from the birds and from us. There are points where they have put glass instead of wire mesh so you can take photos and the birds love hammering this with their beaks in a strange kind of pattern like they are spreading wallpaper paste. As soon as you move, they move, but we got the distinct feeling that in a game of cat and mouse they would definitely win!
Our time in Honduras is sadly over now and we are about to try and get to north western El Salvador then back through Honduras and into Guatemala. This shall all be done as the World flies into a panic about Piggy Flu and Tracey continues to cough and choke as though she
may be the latest victim! We´re not sure if we´ll be stopped at borders and thrown into some kind of quarantine until she stops spluttering, but hopefully you´ll get an El Salvador blog from us soon!
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