Thursday, May 14, 2009

A birthday greeting and a tourist shakedown.

Happy Birthday Mom. With the dodgy internet this is the best I can do (and in reality it’s a month late, oops. It’s the thought that counts). But today we spent the day on the road. Yes another travel day – my favourite.

We packed up and headed out of the Iguana Azul hostel – not the warmest of owners but definitely one of the best places we’ve stayed. Clean and comfy and awesome water pressure. But after the warmth of everyone in Guatemala, Hondurans seem less friendly and gruff. And so far the country reminds a lot of Belize – stuff is more expensive and the only things to see appear to be on or in the Caribbean or the ruins on the border of Guatemala. Hopefully the buses would be better.

After breakfast (where Adrian managed to convince the waitress to give him some proper baked beans), it was off to catch the bus. The information board at the hostel said there was a direct bus to San Pedro at 1pm. Arriving at the bus pick up area, the locals told us there wasn’t one until 2:30. I didn’t know what to believe – there was no reason for them to lie. And I didn’t see the bus or anyone else waiting. They told us the chicken bus would take us to La Entrada where we could catch another bus to San Pedro Sula. On the map, La Entrada was only about 65km away but the book also mentioned that it would take 2hrs to get there – even at the slowest speed that seemed like a long time. So we could either bake in the sun until the direct bus or see the scenery on the chicken bus.

We chose to sit on the bus. And for the first hour the bus ride was hot but scenic. But after 1.5 hours of passing through a lot of towns, I was confused. I didn’t remember there being any dots on the road between Copan Ruinas and La Entrada. So I opened that guidebook to look at the map only to discover that we were taking a very scenic route. But rather than stress (after all there was nothing we could do) we just zoned out until we were dropped by the side of the highway just outside La Entrada – actually it could have been in La Entrada sometimes it’s hard to tell with these towns. Before we could get our bearings we were immediately ushered on to another chicken bus albeit a bigger one that was a bit more comfy. We were seated at the back of the bus right below the speakers. As the driver started up the movies and music at full volume, I dug out some earplugs from our bag so we wouldn’t lose our hearing during the 2 hour ride.

In San Pedro, we pulled into a huge brand new bus terminal that rivaled some of the ones we’d seen in Mexico City. And we could still catch the last bus to Tela which was leaving in 45 minutes. We chilled in the air conditioned waiting room (erm, sorry about the pun) and hoped that our third bus of the day would be the charm. And indeed it was. Although not air conditioned, the seats were super comfy which saved our butts from becoming completely numb. And after 7 hours we were finally in Tela, dumped at a gas station just outside of town along with an Aussie couple.

We chatted and discovered we were all going to to try for a room at the Mango Hostel so we decided to split a cab. The driver quoted us 20 Lempiras but of course when we arrived at the hostel he claims it was 20 Lempiras each. We argue that he didn’t say that and refuse to pay. He countered that he was going to call the cops. We called his bluff and told him to call the cops. Yes we waited for the cops over 3 dollars but the 2 minute cab ride was going to cost us more than our 2 hour comfy bus ride. As we waited, the clerks came out to see what was going on. We could tell by their expressions that we were being overcharged but they were unable to help. They also couldn't help us with a room. The cops arrived 30 minutes later (once the driver actually called them rather than just pretended to) but they sided with the taxi driver and we had to pay up. Bless the Aussie girl - she tried to instruct the the taxi driver and police to require that it is always specified the rate is per person to avoid future confusion.

With the cops gone, it was no time to find a room. The Aussie’s went in one direction and we went in another. The second place on our list was closed for renos so we moved on to third. The town was dark and deserted which was not a good sign and it didn't make us feel any better when the police stopped us to give us directions to the hotel. They then followed us to make sure that we got there safely. The price was almost $40 Canadian. But it was air conditioned, has wifi and tv, and its clean. After our long trip, we were sick of searching and grudgingly took it.

Now it was time to find dinner. Everything was still deserted and without our police escort we popped into the first open place we could find. We haven’t eaten in almost 12 hours and scarf down our pizza in record time as the restaurant closed around us. On our way back to our hotel, a local offered us a hammock to sleep in for $20/night which makes us feel better about how much we paid for our air conditioned comfort. Between the taxi drivers, the three buses and the high cost of hotels, we weren’t enjoying our time in Northern Honduras. But I hope you enjoyed your birthday Mom.


Ayngelina said...

muahaha I'm the first to comment again!

What's with your lame family and friends not sending you comment love?

Are Cheryl and I the only ones hanging on your every word/post - well really maybe it's only me since Cheryl took a break. In fact I saw a new post even before google sent me the alert. Is that sad?

Okay enough of me, back to you. I'm shocked the cops would make you pay. I'm shocked you paid. No thumbs up for Honduras.

liz and adrian said...

I like this informal competition you now have with Cheryl. keep it up and I'll keep posting.

I wasn't surprised the cops made us pay - We're foreigners, they're locals. But I did notice that the cops were careful to say that the rate was per person and we had to pay. Really it was only $1.50 each so no big deal but it was the principle.

And no, I don't have a lot of love for Honduras. So be prepared for some slightly cranky posts. Although I'll try to temper it so I'm not Debbie Downer.