"Interesting" Excursion to Honduras
28 December 2013 | Puerto Cortes, Honduras (crew)
Beth / hot and humid
Our Kingston, Ontario friends, Mona and Nancy, were visiting Puerto Cortes, Honduras as part of their Mayan cruise. We all thought, as we sipped martinis together last summer, that it would be a grand idea to meet there. Of course Plan A called for us to sail there, have them come aboard and do a little toodling around the area, but that one went out the hatch fairly quickly because of complications in exiting Guatemala, entering Honduras, exiting Honduras and re entering Guatemala over the course of a few days. Plan B – we would take the bus and have a lovely beach or exploration day with them and … that one partly worked.
We left Madcap at Tortugal Marina and at 9 am, bought tickets (110 Q each) for the Fuente del Norte bus. The full sized bus roared up at 10:30, fully loaded. But this is Guatemala, so we joined the dozen people already standing in the aisles and set off toward Puerto Morales. After 20 minutes, enough people had wiggled off for us to slide into seats. 10 minutes later, we stopped at a restaurant for a break (this bus left Santa Elena at 6 am) and we stayed on, thinking the bus went all the way through. Mistake #1 – never assume the bus you are on goes directly to where you want to go. It wasn’t a serious mistake though because when the conductor checked tickets again, he crooked his finger at us and said, “Wait here. Next bus.” So we waited another 20 minutes and sure enough a lovely little Tourismo bus (smaller than full sized, bigger than mini van) pulled up and we climbed aboard to enjoy air conditioning and comfortable seats all the rest of the way. It let us off just before the Guatemalan Immigration office, we changed some money to lempiras, (there were 3 or 4 fellows there waving big wads of cash and the exchange rate wasn’t too bad) walked up to the window, showed our passports and boarded the bus again. 15 minutes down the road, we got off, showed our passports to the Honduran official, paid $3 US each and got back on. By 2:30, the bus dropped us off at the intersection where it would head to San Pedro Sula. A helpful man hailed a taxi, negotiated a price and we hopped in for the 5 minute ride to Hotel Azul County Beach. Yippee! First part of the adventure accomplished!
Hotel Azul County Beach is lovely. Spotlessly clean, right across the road from the beach, pretty little pool in the courtyard, good restaurant upstairs, very helpful English-speaking desk clerk. But it is set along a busy road across from a dirty beach in a commercial port city. There would be no swimming or lounging on the beach here.
Mona and Nancy arrived, bright and cheery the next morning and we decided to hire a driver to take us to the museum in San Pedro Sula – one of the tour options from the ship, and a place that looked interesting. Mona needed new reading glasses, and Nancy needed gin so Christian, the desk clerk, called Giovanni, we negotiated an $80 US price for the day and set off for errands and exploration. We drove along very good roads past many many container trucks and packing plants. But – the museum was closed! We couldn’t understand it but there was nothing to be done. Giovanni ushered us to an optical store and we were a little worried that it would have only prescription glasses, but after much broken Spanish and gesturing, and puzzled looks, the clerk produced reading glasses (for only about $5 US) and then thanked us in very clear English and said she didn’t know why the museum across the street was closed and no there wasn’t another one. We were a wee bit irritated that she hadn’t found it necessary to display her English during all that time we were asking about glasses.
Next stop – lunch. Giovanni drove us to a local BBQ spot where we enjoyed platters of pork or chicken with rice, plantain chips. I think perhaps our friends were a little bit worried about eating at such a “local” spot, but we assured them that we’ve had no trouble doing that so far. (I sure hope you suffered no ill effects, ladies!)
With a call to Christian to interpret, we arranged to be driven to the beach in Omoa which was supposed to be good for swimming. But something went wrong in the translation because after another hour in the car, we climbed out to find a 10 square metre of gravel between several restaurants and a half dozen hawkers trying to sell us things. Yes there was water, but it was not a beach.
At that, we cried uncle and said, “Supermercado, then back to hotel.” Gin must not be a common drink here because he couldn’t seem to understand what it was, but the word “alcohol” got us to a big supermarket with 2 bottles of gin on the shelf. One of them disappeared into Nancy’s backpack – and hopefully onto the cruiseship!
After a short walk along the beach path – where to our surprise giant tire tracks and a vastly reduced amount of garbage showed that a cleanup had taken place – the ladies’ cab driver reappeared and they headed back to their ship. Soon afterward, Nancy sent an email saying that the museum had been closed because of a death, and no one from the ship had been informed either – meaning there were more disappointed people than just the 4 of us.
The finale of the night was the very loud music from the nightclub next door that pounded away until 4 am. I had read in a hotel review that if one wanted peace and quiet, one should go there during the week, but I sure underestimated the degree of difference!
And on Saturday morning, we set off on the adventure to get home. (We had learned the route and the stops on the way over so we felt OK about taking the collectivos.) Giovanni showed up to drive us to the bus station, we got seats on the 9 o’clock (very nice) bus and headed for the frontier. Once again, we got off, checked out, got on a mini bus (in seats) and drove to the Guatemala office where we checked in (no money needed). Back on the same bus, we drove to the intersection of the Puerto Barrios road, got off and found seats on a school bus type vehicle. Next stop, La Ruidosa where we climbed off and waited for a mini bus. This was the interesting part. There were no seats left and precious little room of any kind, but we tossed our packs to the guy on top and shoved most of ourselves inside. I managed to snag a corner of the ridge over the fuel tank and perched there – every part of my body jammed against someone else. Jim had his head and shoulders, legs and feet in but the rest of him hanging outside for about 15 minutes. Then some folks got off - I got a seat and he got my perch and 2 men were totally hanging out the door. The young conductor must be an expert at this. He braced his feet on the floor, his head and neck just inside the top of the open door and used both hands to make change for fare payers – all while we are rollicking down the road. People got on and off every couple of miles and we averaged about 28 in a 16 seat van. By the time we reached Rio Dulce, 30 – yes three zero – of us – men women and children - unfolded ourselves and piled out. So we have done it! We’ve ridden the mini buses and survived to tell the tale! And we did it for $10 less and 2 hours faster.
It was a crazy few days, but thank goodness Mona and Nancy are great sports, we had an adventure, and we are all safely back on our respective boats again.