Copan Ruinas and La Ceiba

Trip Start Aug 16, 2003
Trip End Apr 21, 2004

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Flag of Honduras  ,
Monday, March 1, 2004

We had ANOTHER early start in order to make our way to Copan Ruinas, just over the Guatemalan border, in Honduras. Fighting the urge to return to sleep, we rose at 5.30 am and quickly packed up and checked out of the hotel. Waking up a hotel employee to unlock the gates, we were greeted by our mini-bus driver and boarded the bus, bound for the border and beyond! A few hours into the journey, we had the bus to ourselves as the other passengers were all deposited in Guatemala City. More leg-room!

We stopped only briefly at a service station before crossing the border at El Florido where we had to present our passports at immigration on both sides. I felt a little apprehensive leaving all our belongings on the bus as the driver pointed us in the right direction and through mime and occasional words of English, conveyed the message that he would meet us on the other side of the frontier. Thankfully my fears that he would turn tail and disappear back into Guatemala with our luggage proved unfounded and we proceeded to the town of Copan a few kilometres away.

Throughout our travels, I have always been unable to refrain from role-playing certain 'worst-case' scenarios in my head, deciding how I would act in certain situations like plane crashes, muggings etc. I had concluded that I would be prepared to tackle one, maybe two muggers, perhaps even if they had a knife, but I would probably just hand over my valuables to anyone with a gun (but try and keep my credit cards and disks with all the photos!). We have experienced a number of armed security road-blocks since travelling through Mexico and Central America, which while disconcerting to us at first, have all presented no problem and no real worry as they have all been in military or police uniform.

As we rounded a bend a few kilometres from the border, I soon spotted a group of half a dozen armed and very menacing looking, young men. None were in uniform. We were about to lose our valuables and perhaps more, if we were not careful.

Despite all my survival plans and strategies in my head, my heart lurched upwards and lodged itself in my throat, my stomach flipped and all colour drained from my skin as unrepeatable expletives sprang uncontrolably to mind. I just thought "This is it, we'll just hand over all our stuff and then have to head back home."

And then I saw a small gold badge, like those shown by cops in American crime shows and realised that this was an official road-block and the Hondurans just weren't as fussy about uniforms! Phew!

Andrea maintains that she was completely nonplussed by the event and that I have an over-active imagination. Fair enough, but my argument is, that in reality, it happens.

Safely dropped off in the tiny village near the ruins, we checked into a hotel and had a great evening meal at "Twisted Tanya's". Copan Ruinas is very much on the 'Gringo trail' and as a result, there are a number of establishments catering to the needs of the tourist. I had a lovely filet mignon, whilst Andrea enjoyed a succulent salmon - what a fantastic change from tortillas and refried beans!

Having decided that we would press on after visiting the ruins, we allowed ourselves a whirlwind tour, followed by an enjoyable stroll along the adjacent nature trail. The ruins themselves were attractive enough, which plenty of intricately carved pillars and a hieroglyph stairway, but by then, we both felt that we had seen our fair share of Mayan sites. I feel ashamed to say it, but we spent almost as much time sitting with the brilliantly coloured parrots by the entrance afterwards - they were pretty entertaining!

After a spot of lunch we began our journey Northwards to La Ceiba on a rickety old bus along with the locals. Throughout Central America, the public buses frequently comprise reconditioned U.S or Canadian school buses. In Guatemala, they are generally re-sprayed in garrish colours, have highly polished chrome and have nick-names and Nike stickers! Our bus in Honduras had no such extravagence lavished upon it - in fact, I watched with morbid amusement from the back as a floor panel surrepticiously worked itself loose, exposing the rear axel and road beneath, and claimed the foot of an unwary passenger as he strode blindly forward! (I did help him up after a mumbled call of 'Peligro', which I thought meant 'Danger'!)

Passing coffee plantations and hovels along the way, we pulled into San Pedro Sula for a change of bus, before continuing to the coastal town of La Ceiba. We had to wait an hour and a half for the next bus, and so it was not until 9 pm that we arrived. We jumped into a taxi and were taken to Partenon Beach Hotel, described as luxurious in the Lonely Planet. Oh, how we were fooled, yet again! The lobby WAS actually quite nice, until you looked closer at the cracks and shabby notices. Our room WAS actually quite large, with two double beds. But the place could NEVER be described as luxurious. We hesitantly sat down in the attached restaurant, but changed our minds upon seeing the stained tablecloth and grimy, insect-splattered walls. Nobody else was dining there, and we agreed that there must be a reason.

We settled for a couple of bottled beers at the poolside bar and went up (avoiding the gaps in the 'marble' stairs) to our room for an early night. Only to be kept awake throughout by the competing bar and disco. We heard George Michael's 'Careless Whisper' a total of four times, 'blended' discordantly with a mixture of techno, strange accordian style music, a thumping bass, and God knows what else, as well Foreigner's 'I Want Know What Love Is' played similarly, at least three times! I tried stuffing toilet paper in my ears and we had the air-con cranked up high, to no avail. It was a Saturday night, and the Hondurans love their music loud. After decapitating a cockroach in the bathroom, I eventually claimed a couple of hours sleep in the lull from 5 am to 8 am. I can only assume that the people in charge of the various sound systems had gone to look for more outdated ballads.

Walking swiftly past one the offending bars, lest I took a swing at the 'dj' we made our way into the town for some breakfast. Consulting our 'trusty' LP guide we sat down in El Portal - a recommended restaurant...where they had no coffee, and took over half an hour to provide us with some scrambled eggs.

We had come to realise that things had certainly changed since the Lonely Planet guide to Central America was written, and this was further reinforced when we arrived at the ferry terminal at 1.30 pm for the stated 3 o'clock crossing to the Caribbean island of Roatan. It seems that the ferry company had changed its schedule and now operates at 11.30 am and 4.30 pm. So we sat down and waited for a few hours.

Once (and delighted to be) aboard the ferry, we began a choppy two hour journey, where I was gratefully able to keep my sea-sickness at bay. This was mainly due to my pre-occupation with being extremely frustrated with Andrea for not spotting any of the hundred or so flying fish that I dutifully kept pointing out to her. The whole of our side of the boat (except Andrea) could see them as they flitted away from our wash, skimming the surface of the sea. With my patience exhausted, she finally saw 'one' as we neared our arrival at Coxen Hole, on the island!

Dan and Andrea
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