Thursday, December 18, 2014

Honduran Roadtrip

The last weekend before I left to go home for Christmas, I took a trip to Honduras, checking my fifth Central American country off the list.  Chris and I left at sunrise on Saturday morning in what would be my car’s first international trip. Gas tank full, passports in hand, and Chris’s machete in the trunk for good measure, we were off.  The plan?  Drive to the small colonial town of Copan Ruinas (just over the Honduran border), find a place to stay, and wing the rest. 

The drive should have taken us 3 ½ to 4 hours, but because a landslide dropped traffic to one lane at one point of the drive (and I am not the type of person to swing into the left lane and pass 50 stopped cars), we were halted on the road for nearly 45 minutes.  The one good thing about this stop was that it is the reason we have a soundtrack to our trip. 

Don't mind the glare or the waterstains on the mirror...
I still like the photo.

Anytime traffic backs up in Central America, locals magically show up selling snacks, drinks, and other random useful items along the road.  Chris spotted a guy with compact discs and jumped out to ask him if any were music cds.  Turns out all of them were.  Chris requested reggaeton  and selected 6 cds for us.  We spent the rest of the trip listening to the music.  There turned out to be very little actual reggaeton,  but plenty of bachata and something we classified as “Latin pop.”  Just as we were pulling into Copan, we started listening to our only English music cd—something titled “Romantics Volume 6.”  The disc launched into a groan-worthy barrage of classic love songs from the 70s and 80s which eventually, thankfully, gave way to a host of Queen’s greatest hits.  We picked up where we had left off and surprisingly ended up listening to that cd for the entire drive home, too.  We were on track 140-something when we arrived in Guatemala City again, and had made our way through Queen, Bob Marley, Rod Stewart, Creedence, a few artists we didn’t recognize (like Gary Glitter?), and Madonna.  Who would have thought our roadside stop would yield such a treasure? 

The border crossing at Honduras went as smoothly as could be.  No trouble, no bribes, stamps from both countries…in and out in less than ten minutes.  After hearing a few horror stories about the Honduras crossing, I breathed a sigh of relief as they waved us through.

It was just about lunch time when we finally reached the town of Copan Ruinas.  We were coasting through the center square when I looked over and saw…Russell?  And David?  Sure enough, two teachers from my school were striding along the cobblestones.  We rolled down the window and waved them over.  They gave us the name of their hotel, and we decided to check it out.  Recommendations are always welcome, and their hotel turned out to be a good choice.

View of the hotel room/balcony from outside my room

Saturday afternoon, after checking into our hotel and having lunch at a somewhat sketchy pupuseria, we headed to the Maya ruins that the town is famous for.  It would appear that mid-December is not high tourist season, and we had the ruins mostly to ourselves.  We wandered around without a guide, enjoying the ruins and reading the signs near several temples to educate ourselves.  Our favorite part, though?  The tunnels.  Archeologists built them to allow tourists a chance to see the temples which were eventually covered with bigger temples.  (Apparently every 52 years the Mayas just added new temples right on top of their old ones).  Chris and I felt like “real” explorers in the empty tunnels, wandering this way and that, finding an alternate way out, and marveling at the “Court of the Jaguar Drain!” 

Imitating the stela

Court of the Jaguar

Residential plaza

On Sunday morning, we chatted with Russell and David at breakfast (included in the hotel stay) and decided to go together on a tour of a nearby coffee plantation. 
The four of us missed the 9am departure from the city, but it turned out we were the only interested parties, so when we called the company, then turned the van back around and came to collect us at 9:30am. 

The drive to the coffee finca was stunning.  We got out of the tourist-land of Copan and into the true Honduran countryside, which is quite beautiful.  We passed through misty, bright green mountains, farmland, and small towns. 

Once we arrived at the Welchez Finca, we paid our ticket price and hopped aboard a wagon pulled by a tractor to travel to the top of the hill where the coffee is grown.  Our guide, Edgar, began his explanation of the type of coffee (shade-grown Arabica) in Spanish.  After Chris stopped him and translated for Russell, Edgar surprised us all by saying, (still in Spanish), “You know, it’s a requirement for me and the rest of the crew here to speak English.  I thought maybe you wanted me to speak Spanish so you could practice, since you live in Guatemala.  Would you prefer I speak in English?”  Turns out his English was perfect, and he easily switched to our native language for the rest of the tour.  He told us all about how the coffee is grown and harvested, and we took a leisurely walk down through the picturesque plant.  

We paused at a treehouse restaurant overlooking a pretty waterfall in the midst of the undeveloped part of the farm (kept that way to maintain the farm’s Rainforest Alliance status) for lunch.

After a delicious, relaxed 3 course meal topped off with a cup of black coffee prepared with dedication by Edgar, we finished the tour talking about the cleaning and drying process. 

The tour ran a little longer than expected, and it was nearly 3pm by the time Chris and I got on the road back to the city. Thankfully traffic was light (and I was perhaps more assertive with the possibility of driving after dark on the poorly lit/signed Central American highways looming over me), and we made it back to the city in just under 4 ½ hours.  The Pollo Campero fireworks lit up the sky, visible from the city limits all the way to my condo, welcomed us back. 

It was a good trip. 

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