Welcome to Honduras!

Trip Start Aug 09, 2007
Trip End Jul 29, 2008

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Flag of Honduras  ,
Monday, November 5, 2007

So even though we were sad to leave Guatemala, we immediately found Honduras to be an equally amazing place and, at least near Copan, even more friendly than Guate...hard to imagine!  We hopped a microbus from Antigua to Copan Ruinas that took about 6 hours or so.  Along the way, we were slightly delayed by large herds of yaks hanging out, with their farmers, in the centre of the road.  We stopped at a gas station for a break where everyone and their dogs was carrying a very large gun, saw a couple of monkeys pass us playing in the back of a truck, and finally had no troubles passing through the Guate border (we told them that we had already paid, ie/been bribed, on the way in...ahhhhh corruption). 
Copan is a beautiful town only 1km from the actual ruins of Copan.  Our friend Jose who we met right off the bus hooked us up with a good hotel not yet discovered by the LP books and we headed straight away to check out this amazing sculptor in town who does replicas of the carvings at Copan.  These items are solid stone with over 40 hours of carving each and he wanted between 200L and 400L for them ($10 and $20).  So we got two pieces which suck for carrying around but they are incredible and absolutely worth it. 
We headed for the real deal the next day, a short walk to the Copan Ruins.  The front gate is lined with about 10 scarlet macaws, super noisy, huge, and really beautiful.  After scoping them for a bit, we headed into the ruins along this pathway which is also right near their food, so on our way in these birds flew right over each of my shoulders and then repeated going the other direction, it was pretty amazing.  The carvings at Copan were absolutely stunning.  There was so much detail and they were immense, maybe about 10 feet tall and 4 feet wide.  They also have this amazing hieroglyphic stairway telling the history of Copan on each step...that we don't understand.  We visited the museum afterwards where they have the majority of the originals and now have replicas displayed on the actual grounds, just to help them preserve and study the artifacts. 
The next day was pretty incredible.  We hopped a chicken bus (much less flashy than those of Guate) and took off to a place called Santa Rosa where I had heard they have a cigar factory.  We changed to a microbus half way - my legs didn't fit between the seats and the 25 people really didn't fit inside the van either (designed for 14).  Either way, we arrived at the town, paid a taxi to bring us to parque central where we learned from information that our factory was right near where we caught the taxi from.  So we walked back down, found the factory and then the guards told us that we couldn't do the tour today because there was some reunion or party.  So basically, we would've traveled 6 hours for nothing! So by a stroke of luck a couple from Costa Rica came just then so they had to give us this tour, which was amazing!!
A quality control worker (ie/cigar smoker) from the factory brought us through.  First, we saw the bags of packed raw material from Puerto Rico (typically end use of chewing tobacco) and other Latin American countries that sit drying in these bags for 3 months.  At the end, they are boiled in vinegar and then sorted and made into full flat leaves by about 60 ladies working in the first room.  After they were made flat, the full leaves are separated from the broken leaves and each are compressed and bagged separately via the use of a super cool compression machine.  The guys then carry these 60lb bags of leaves to be stored for 1 to 5 years aging and drying - part of what makes one better than another.  In the next room, the dried leaves are being rolled through a machine to soften them so they are pliable to be wound around the final cigar.  Next room is where the men and ladies, maybe 200 of them, are packing the cigars.  They use a specific blend of dry leaves and moist leaves and use a rolling machine to make it tight.  They then put their product into a mold to perfect the cigar shape.  A lady then measures the air resistance through the cigar by holding every single one up to a machine. If the air pressure nears 3 inches of water, it's sent back to the worker to redo.  The cigars that pass this test are sent to the other half of the room who puts the nicest leaves around these cigars to finish them off.  If you prefer a darker outside to the cigars, those leaves just go through an additional vinegar boiling process that you pay more for since many leaves are damaged and lost there; otherwise it's the same leaf. 
Then our nice tour guide gave us each a couple of their cigars, each worth at least $60CDN, and showed us where all the workers test their products each morning for an hour...sweet!  But they also need to work 12 hour days with an hour break and this work looks hard and monotonous and they don't talk to each other (because they have quotas to reach, about 400 cigars per person per day) and the vinegar they use in there burns your eyes something wicked...sooooooooo....but it sustains the town and employs over 1000 people total...Anyways, next we saw where they put the stickers and sleeves on the cigars and finally where they hand build all of the boxes, including painting of them.  Finally they package them and send them off.  All the boxes are labeled as 'Made in Honduras under Cuban supervision', but we never found the Cuban despite asking for him many times...weird.  They make the Cuban cigars there for export to the US, clever.  The brands they were popping out of their were Romeo & Julieta's, Flor de Copan (Name of Factory as well), Santa Rosa ...  It was a really interesting tour for lots of reasons - the product they make and how they make it mostly. 
After possibly the most delicious breakfast of our lives the next morning in Copan (banana nutella crepes with a tropical smoothie...oh my god it was good), we hopped a super swanky bus to head north.  Unfortunately, this swanky bus likes to keep all the blinds closed etc and the road was really windy, so I soon said good-bye to my lovely breakfast.  Finally, we arrived in La Ceiba, the port town where you head to Utila.  This town was so much less nice that Copan.  Our taxi driver brought us to the hotel we wanted but oddly enough, it was closed...so next he brought us to the hotel *he* wanted which was astronomically expensive and super corrupt as the biotch at the desk got a cut along with the drivers etc.  So we were pissed, but it was late and dark and a shady town and every time our driver brought us somewhere new, he charged for it.  So, whatever -  we didn't get it as bad as the other couple there who were charged about $10 for their taxi ride (we paid about $5)...ouch...Then, the next morning we arranged a taxi to the pier to get the f* outta there, but the other couple told us that the ferries weren't running, bad weather.  Our taxi driver then assured us that that was only the ferry to Roatan, the one to Utila *always* runs...Jerk!! He dropped us there only for us to find that it *might* run which means only stupid tourists like us are hanging around while all the locals know that means it's not running.  So back to La Ceiba for another night, found a couple to split a taxi and then stayed in a dive to recoup our costs.  While in La Ceiba we discovered a neat hairy looking fruit, it was called lychees, tasted like a grape and were pretty addictive.  Luckily we were out the next day and the hurricane warning we overheard was false.   
Utila is beautiful, I'm sure, but it is hard to see with all the rain in my eyes...Fortunately we are here to dive and below the water, the rain doesn't really matter.  It is still equally beautiful down there!!  I am just doing the open water course due to some ear troubles, so that gets me to 18m, while Nik is doing the advanced and rescue divers so he can go to 30m and then save people too, hahah says Nik.  He is out looking at a Haliburton wreck right now (you know that must've been bad...) which is 30m deep and also 30m long.  I was pretty happy just to see the beautiful reef and jellyfish and schools of fish.   Nik  says that the wreck was sunk to help coral grow in an area that is sparse in coral.
That's it for now!! Hope everyone is great at home, we are going to go to Nicaragua next which should be really interesting - an amazing and successful history!
Lots of Love, Niko y Sarita
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ustariz on

Lychee fruit or not

the fruit in your picture is not a Lychee, its a Rambutan (a close relative).

I´m sorry you had a bad experience with the cab driver/bribe hotel in La Ceiba.

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