Star Date: December 2012
Hello Dear Family & Friends!
"Como estas, vos?"
Tegucigalpa, (silver mountain) 1000 m above sea level deep in a mountain valley, hits you square between the eyes when you first step foot on the winding crowded streets. Arriving by bus in Comayagua, it is so congested with buses, cars and noisy hawkers that you want to crawl back on the bus. But give Honduras' capitol, founded in the 1560's a chance. Breathe. Take a taxi (60) to a quiet hotel near the old city Plaza Morazán. There you will discover the hidden colonial charm of this rough cut gem.
Mainly Catholic, 85 % are 'ladino', a mixture of Spanish and indigenous ( Maya Chorti and Lenca) in Honduras. People of all descriptions pass by. The main square laid out in the usual colonial fashion showcases musical events on the weekends and you can sit and soak in all the charms and flurry of activity of fresh food, clowns, shoe shiners, and children running through the intermittent 'surprise' water fountains, giggling as they get drenched. Adults caught up in their heads rushing through the square were never happy when a surprise shot of water forced them to notice the moment! Cathedral San Miguel, 1782, with its recently refurbished facade, is one of the best preserved in Central America. The Baroque gilded alter and font were carved from a single block of stone by indigenous artisans in 1643. The National Museum boasts a 3-D video presentation that transports you back to Mayan life in pre-Columbian Honduras. The only problem is that it wasn't working - "Sorry".
Wandering the streets is a real treat with large sprawling trees, small parks and hidden churches all through the central area. Parque de Concordia is an especially relaxing place to eat your take out Chinese lunch, with several levels of reconstructed Mayan carvings and artifacts.
The brown, dirty waters of Rio Choluteca separates the capitol from Comayagua. Pungent markets and a gridlock of traffic keeps you on the other side of the river and the threat of violence from 'manos' or street gangs after dark keeps most people indoors. A strong police influence discourages any crossing of criminals into the quieter central area.
We will often check out the highlights of a country not to be missed and in looking on the map try to work our way through remote areas to reach our destination. Joseph maintains that if there are people living in an area there is some sort of transportation; bus, truck or van getting them home. So it was that we struck out for Catacamas. Midway along the Valley of Catacamas, dwarfed by the majestic Sierra de Agalta mountains, we took the road to the end of the pavement. The rich valley was fresh with rushing rivers and green fields all with a verdant mountainous backdrop. Hardly anyone comes here and in fact one of the first questions we were asked was, "Why are you here?" Walking the quiet colonial streets for a couple of days and climbing up for a view of the valley below we decided to explore the dirt road further down the valley. On a crammed, twice a day bus we bumped down the dirt road towards the Cuevos de Talgua. Only 8 km from town it took over 1.5 hours to reach, telling the condition of the road. The caves, discovered in this century, were in fact an ancient prehistoric burial ground, with hundreds of skeletons symmetrically arranged in chambers deep below. The paint used to paint the skeletons was found to contain large amounts of mercury so the caves were closed until a solution could be found. If this paint was used in everyday life it is possible mercury poisoning put many natives horizontal in the cave eventually. Taking the Talgua bus at 11am or 12 pm allows enough time to explore the river area, have a bite to eat and hop on the only returning bus at 4pm. We chose to stop by a family home selling bean tamales on the porch and had a great time hanging and eating, before walking a good portion back to town. Exercise is always good.
Machismos is alive and well in Central America, even when Joseph is with me. But it is different from other parts of the world. There is no leering just looking and enjoying the view! On the way home a young gentleman handed me a note and with an air of embarrassment hopped off the bus. It read,
"This is the community of Colonia Agricola.
Later Union, Talgua Caves.
Good luck in your journey. My name is Selin.
You have beautiful eyes."
He brought a smile to my face!
Never really wanting to backtrack we heard some of the only words that still send chills down my spine after 10 years of non-stop travel, "The only bus leaves at 4am!" Corrected to 5am we still had to arrive in the dark and after changing buses in the next town we embarked on a wild west adventure through the Honduran mountains. Bumpy dirt roads wound precariously upwards, then followed the ridge tops, at times allowing views down both slopes. We bumped along, jostled with our Honduran neighbors until stopping at a large rustic eatery. They feed the overflowing busloads from delicious bubbling food cooked over the fire.
Racing down the other side we somehow, by the grace of God, reached the azure fringes of the 300km Caribbean coast. Ahhh! Once again the end of the road, Trujillo is perched above a large tranquil palm fringed bay, with a picturesque mountain backdrop. Only 90 miles from the tourist center of Ceiba, this town has a completely different feel. Good old Christopher Columbus (whose statue stands overlooking his newly gobbled bounty) was greeted by the Pech and Tolupan groups in 1502. They will think twice about talking to strangers next time around. The area was settled but often abandoned because of marauding European pirates. As rivaling governments turned a blind eye on the activities of these criminals or pirates (today called terrorists) several hundred former slaves, Garifuna, from the off shore island of Roatan settled here in the late 1800's. Good old William Walker, the criminal (adventurer and filibuster i.e. modern term terrorist) who took over parts of Central America, was captured here in 1860 and executed. He lies in the town cemetery, his grave covered in weeds, never to be thought of again.
We got a 'royal' town tour of Barrio Cristales with a couple of Garifuna ladies from our bus. Up a hill behind the town the road was so rough we almost got stuck and they had to get out mid hill. A patchwork of lanes and small cement houses, this interesting barrio or neighborhood is worth a look. Markets line the streets all the way down to the town square. The beaches below are the drawing cards for the many local tourists on weekends. Music blares, so loud that it makes your head ache and your ears ring by the second song. Too bad as the music is lively and often well done, if only they realized that cranking up the big old speakers from America only drives people away, especially tourists valuing their hearing. Time for our hidden fantasy tool, a sound seeking missile set on MUTE!
Tela is in an idyllic setting, with pristine beaches stretching in either direction. Only a destination for local tourists on the weekend, we didn't see any foreigners in over 8 days. Another lesson in going with the flow, we went to guesthouse after guesthouse only to find them closed or really grungy. Thinking the beach was too expensive we were slowly led toward the crashing surf. Not a soul in site we became the only clients in a view with a slightly bedraggled room attached. Right on the water we enjoyed walking the beach daily and being lulled to sleep by the surf. Having a coconut daily with our new Garifuna lady friend and sitting in the Parque Central, the hub of activity, we cruised through the market for our fruits and vegetables. We cooked nightly with Doris, Abaluz, and Raul in the large kitchen and spent many hours chatting and laughing at times at my funny Spanlish. Like asking for a knife (cuchillo) to eat my soup (rather than cuchara - spoon). If we can bring a smile to someone's face it is all worth it!
We took a local shared taxi out to Trifuna de la Cruz , one of the many Garifuna villages dotting the coast. Totally isolated these little communities resemble what life was like two hundred years ago. The Garifunas have maintained their African traditions including language, music, dance and food. Walking in the village we stopped to talk with a family lazing in hammocks. Asking where we could eat vegetables the family flagged down a young girl who scooped us up and led us to the outdoor cooking place on the side of her home. We patched together potatoes, onions, tomatoes, peppers and greens between their pantry and the rag a muffin store a block away. The result was one of our amazing experiences of hanging with a local family while enjoying a tasty meal cooked before our eyes over the fire.
Tela used to have a seedy coastal reputation but things have been cleaned up recently. The river divides the old and new parts of town - the old being much more interesting. The only concern nowadays is walking the remote stretches of beach in either direction. For this reason we walked to the headland and reluctantly backtracked to catch a shared taxi back to town.
The coast is famous for conch, seafood and unfortunately turtle eggs. Funzel, the Zoological Foundation of El Salvador has released more than 3 million leatherback and Hawksbill sea turtles back into the ocean. Collected from unprotected beaches the eggs are guarded 24 hours a day and released once they hatch. Instead of poaching eggs and turtles, (you are still asked if you want turtle soup) the villagers are given a job and a way to protect the environment rather than destroying it by earning a few cents on the black market. For a donation tourists are shown the process of helping the turtles then each release their own turtle, with a new name or sent off into the surf with a prayer. Lost in our thoughts we all know that every good we do helps our ailing environment. One knows deep in their heart when holding a little hatchling to never give up hope.
La Mosquita or Moskitia - NE corner of Honduras, comprises 1/5th of the country and has little infrastructure. It is extremely remote and hard to maneuver the swampy low coastal areas. About 30,000 Miskitos and 2,500 Pech call this formidable area of remaining virgin rainforests. After 6 weeks in SE Nicaragua, traveling the remote rivers and coast we decided to try something different. The backlash from the recent east coast Hurricane Sandy cancelled boats out to the Bay islands and the ensuing rain sent us inland. Leaving the rain behind we arrived at the spectacular view of blue Lago (Lake) Yojoa. The reed shores of this natural 17km long lake attracts over 400 bird species and sitting by the lake or hiking the surrounding hills is a flurry of colorful feathered activity and song. This quiet is shattered on the weekends when middle-class Hondurans descend like a swat team assault with loud music and jet skis. Interestingly enough we evacuated towards the mountainous interior on Friday morning!
We have visited many of the Mayan or Aztec temples and pyramids at Tikal and Chitzenitza so we decided to give Copan a miss and instead explore the surrounding mountains. Spending all day on the bus through the mountains we were treated to one spectacular view after another. We arrived at Esperanza just in time for the colorful local weekend market. Another end of the line town we spent two days hanging out with the Lenca farmers who walk for miles to town to sell their produce.
A true frontier town the market was filled with colorfully dressed villagers selling anything and everything. We frequented the food stalls in the back of the market daily sharing a stool in a tiny dark stall with the locals having lunch. We enjoyed beans, potatoes done in a variety of tasty ways and vegetables from the next door market. Breakfast could be of all things a national favorite: Cornflakes! A 'licuado' is a sort of fruit smoothie with juice, milk, fruit, a banana and cornflakes thrown in for good measure. Another option is a 'balcada' - tortilla filled with beans, cheese and crema or homemade white cheese or guacamole as a veggie substitute. We did pass when offered 'huevos de toro' bull's testicles though, not a favorite of vegans!
I gave my collection of 10 brightly colored shampoo packets to a large family of scruffy looking farmers. You would have thought I had given them bars of gold! I always try to buy a little from each blanket displayed - spread the wealth as such. I noticed a woman shivering in the brisk mountain wind, so I bought some extra vegetables from her. Later I saw her busily buying a second hand polar-tec sweater from a small vendor. I felt the warmth as she popped it over her head. A little kindness goes a long way!
onward bus wove it's way through the sharp turns of the
mountain roads. We passed through Gracias and continued
towards the border. Traveling for over 10 hours we
arrived in Oche - at almost dark. A big juicy
watermelon and a soft bed were just what we needed.
And so it goes.........................................Next down to El Salvador, through the mountains down to the coast, haven of surfers from all over the globe. A little taste of our home, Hawaii. Until next month only we know what goes on inside our heads. Maybe time for a look, time for some Spring housecleaning of old destructive negative thoughts, the never ending tapes we play, the 'stinking thinking'. Clear the cobwebs, let the fresh air and sunshine in. New positive thoughts create a new, more positive life around us. Once again OUR responsibility/our choice. Happy Spring! We are glad you stopped by. Thanks for keeping in touch! Take care!
Love, Light & Laughter,
$1.00US = 20 Lempiras
Eclectic Vegetarian restaurant (our name for it) serves vegetables and all the traditional dishes but substituting soy meat. Tasty and an interesting experience. Find the front door of the Post Office. Walk back a block and on the street behind is this little hole in the wall place open 10-2. Run by a vegetarian local family. 30 L per dish - always with a salad. Ate twice without a problem.
Good Dentist. reasonable. Near Boston Hotel Barb Romero or her Mother 2238-2757 cell: 9925-3484
All buses across the river. Take a taxi and get dropped off at one of the seeming scores of private bus companies. Your hotel can phone to find out when the departure times are.
Taxi 25L pp from the terminal 1.5km from town. Not a lot of selection so get dropped off here and then look around.
The lively market has everything you need and more. Just up the boulevard in the 'new' part of town is a large Chinese restaurant with very large portions (1 for 2 persons).
Walk up towards the mountains for a lovely riverside hike
5am bus north first to Jutigulpa then a 9am chicken bus through the mountains and down to a crossroad. There you are 'turfed' out and wait for a passing bus to Tela
Phone # 448-2904
Lago de Yojoba:
Great views and endless waterfowl. Quiet, basic rooms
with a cozy restaurant. Taught the friendly boys how to
cook vegetarian with the produce we got in town. Lots
of fun kitchen time.
Hotel Maya nearby looked interesting also.
Cross the border at El Poy - a simple shared taxi ride from Ocetabtecabe to El Poy.