We are travelling through Central America for a few months including Guatemala, Mexico, Belize, Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama. Our journal is separated by country and while each stands alone they are part of one journey.
Arriving at the dock at 6.20 am we see the 6.30am launch has already left…. we fill in the hour watching the morning activity and board the 7.30 launch which leaves at 7.15 because it is already full! Clear skies, calm seas and armed with our new knowledge of water taxis we take the two front middle seats just in case and because they were the only two left. Twenty minutes into the one-hour trip, the black plastic is rolled out and the passengers take cover from the sudden drenching. The black plastic isn’t quite enough to cover the two front middle seats, another lesson in Central American water taxis.
We have heard there is now a land crossing from Guatemala to Honduras at Corinto, but no one we speak to has actually done it, and depending which map we look at, the road does or does not exist and the instructions we have are ambiguous. From the dock we get a ride to the border with a local who assures us it is possible, we pay him $10 for an hour’s drive along a well-made road to a beautiful new bridge, it’s a smooth 40 km exit from Guatemala.
We get our Guatemala exit stamp and walk over the new bridge, along a muddy track and welcome to Honduras. We walk into the little place called Corinto which is merely where a couple of muddy tracks intersect and a simple shed houses the single immigration officer. However, he is only in attendance for 30 minutes before the daily bus leaves for Omoa which is not until this afternoon, so we hang around the crossroads trying to be inconspicuous. With our passports stamped we now board another old school bus for the two hour 40 km ride through forest and farm land, over bumpy dirt tracks and sometimes roads, across rivers and creeks, some with rickety old bridges arriving unceremoniously at Omoa, where according to locals, five hours is a pretty good time for this border crossing.
Omoa: is a cute little seaside resort about an hour from Puerto Cortes so we spent a couple of days here, there are lots of restaurants on the beachfront all with the same menu – fish.
From Omoa we catch a local bus to Puerto Cortes where we are accosted by three minibus providers all seeking our custom to San Pedro Sula. We successfully negotiate, but are then forced to buy an extra seat for our two packs. We sit next to a volunteer missionary from Arizona and have a long chat as he gives us a mini lesson in Garifuna, which is a sort of afro-carib English: It seems ‘Is your mother or your father home?’ becomes ‘is mudda fadda er?’
The bus companies in Honduras all have their own terminals scattered around the city. Lost, we see our express bus to Copan Ruinas and wave it down, but unlike every other bus we have come across in Central America it ignores us and drives on. Half an hour later with the assistance of every passer-by we find a truly grotty terminal and wait for the 11am bus to Copan Ruinas.
Copan Ruinas: is a cute hillside town with cobble-stoned streets and lots of local and international tourists here to visit the ruins about one km out of town. It seems each ruin has an area of specialisation and differentiation. Tikal has high temples, Chichen Itza has friezes and Copan has deep relief sculptures. It is a huge complex with some outstanding ruins, many still to being excavated. We spend the day in drizzly weather trying to imagine these ruins as the centre of a society a couple of thousand years ago.
We think it might be fun to take a few days to explore some of the other smaller hillside villages, so we head off to Santa Rosa de Copan. Checking the map it seems a good shortcut to the capital, Tegucigalpa. A bus ride to Santa Rosa, change buses onto the CITEC line to Gracias. ‘Gracias’ of course is also sspanish for thank you and creates complication when asking the local ‘is this the bus to Gracias?’
Gracias: is a lot more rural than we expected. When we enquire about the bus to La Esperanza, we are directed to a Dutch restaurant whose owner speaks English. ‘There is no bus, you walk down to the bridge on the road out of town and wait for a pick-up truck to give you a lift to San Juan. From there you catch the bus to La Esperanza’. So, we head out of town, find the bridge and manage a lift in a luxury air-conditioned four wheel drive to San Juan. In San Juan we get a lot of attention and are told in Spanish ‘there is no bus from here, but if you wait over there where the other locals are standing next to the small shop you will get a lift in the back of a pick-up, it’s very bumpy and it takes two hours on dirt roads’.
Our shortcut is getting longer and harder but the locals see great humor in our enthusiastic attempts to get into the back of the crowded ute while simultaneously hanging onto our pride and packs. From San Juan we head towards La Esperanza and past the turn-off to Dolores, which we considered a good omen. As luck would have it, we arrive in La Esperanza with 20 minutes to spare before the direct bus to Tegucigalpa leaves. Five hours later we are in the Hotel Boston in downtown Tehoos – ‘four blocks north of the river, one block back from the Cathedral, close to the underpass, you know in the street full of barber shops’.
Tegucigalpa (te-hoos) for short is the only town let alone a capital city that we are still totally confused how to pronounce. No one uses the full word, no one says it and the only way to learn the proper pronunciation is to contact the ABC. Anyway it’s a dirty, polluted noisy town, so it’s off to Nicaragua.