Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Things aren’t always what they seem.

Honduran taxi drivers are the worst.

When we told told Tony we were checking out and heading back to mainland, he warned us that the ferry had broken down and might not be running tomorrow morning. We had stopped by the dock on our way back from dinner but there was no notice posted so we decided to take our chances with the 6am ferry, even though that meant getting up at 4:30 in the morning. I set the alarm when it was still pitch black it went off.

“Turn that bloody thing off,” the always chipper Adrian announced.
“It’s time to get up.” I replied just as sweetly.
“No it’s not. It’s 2:30.”

As soon as he said it, I knew it was true. It wasn’t the alarm’s fault. It had gone off at what it thought was 4:30. But the phone was still on Toronto time, a whole two hours later than Honduran time. Oops. I quickly changed the clock and reset the alarm hoping Adrian wouldn’t remember my mistake in two hours. It seemed that I’d barely closed my eyes when the alarm went off again. Now it was my turn to grumble. We finished packing and walked down to the ferry dock. A crowd was already waiting as we bought our ticket which were oddly cheaper than the ones we bought to come over. But that wasn’t the only thing smaller – the double decker ferry we had taken over had been replaced by a smaller one. I guess the other one was still being repaired, although this new one looked like they’d dusted it off from the storage shed. Well, it looked faster than the other ferry and that was good because we were ready to leave Utila.

We piled on the boat and amongst the crowd there were a few familiar faces from around the island. A Dutch couple who were two doors down at Cross Creek. And Melissa from Rubi’s. She came and sat beside me.

“I’m glad to see you guys,” she immediately started, “I wanted to tell you the real reason I took off.”

Her smile turned into tears as she told me about Tony and his lecherous ways. It seemed the nice old man with the nice hotel on the nice stretch of beach expected something in return for being so nice. When he entered into her room without knocking, she decided to leave. It upset her so much that for the first time in her three months of traveling she just wanted to get on a plane and go home. I told her she could travel with us into Nicaragua. But she was first heading back to Antigua to stay with the family she’d met until she felt comfortable to travel again. If she couldn’t fly home, she wanted to be in a familiar place where she felt safe.

My heart went out to her. Tony seemed like a really nice guy to us but apparently things aren’t always what they seem. And that’s when I was reminded of the downside of traveling by yourself. Sure it’s easier to meet people, but it’s also easier to meet people you don’t want to. For the hour+ long ferry ride we continued to chat and I tried to get her spirits and trust in people up again. I couldn’t let one lecherous old man spoil her trip.

So when we got to La Ceiba, we all got in a cab and headed to the ejecutivo bus station together. Thanks to her one month in Antigua, Melissa spoke awesome Spanish and the price was a reasonable 50L each. Even though Melissa was headed to Guatemala City and we were heading to Tegucigalpa, we would all be going to San Pedro Sula first on the 10am bus. The bus was cheaper than I thought but still twice as expensive as the chicken bus but with our wonky stomachs (yup day 4 of the stomach bug) and my lingering cold the splurge on air conditioning and an onboard toilet was a good one.

Now it was time to get some breakfast. The bus station appeared to be in the middle of nowhere, but when I asked the security guard about getting a bight to eat, he said there was a mall just around the corner where we could find something. A mall? I wondered if I had mistranslated what he said. But sure enough at the next intersection on the highway there was a western style mall complete with a Wendy’s. Adrian was running towards the entrance before it had even registered with Melissa and I. Sometimes the food you wouldn’t eat at home can be a taste of heaven.

The great thing (depending on how you look at it) about Central American fast food chains is that you can always get their full menu. And many people do. So when Melissa ordered a baked potato, chicken caesar salad and frostie at 8:30 in the morning, it was ready before Adrian and I’s breakfast sandwich combos. And looking around at the rest of the patrons, it seemed that our breakfast was the anomaly not hers. Adrian decided that he’d better get a frostie and apple pie just to make sure he didn’t stick out completely.

The bus to San Pedro was right on time and it was heaven. We were given cold beverages and cookies when we boarded and treated to an onboard film. However, almost everyone on the bus, including us slept for most of the way waking up when we pulled into the ginormous bus terminal at San Pedro. Hedman Alas had their own fancy terminal complete with executive waiting rooms where the Poseidon Adventure was playing on a big screen tv. It helped pass the two hours until our bus left for Tegucigalpa. Melissa’s bus to Guatemala City wasn’t leaving until 3:30 so we exchanged contact info and wished each other a happy journey. I really do hope that she feels better and has a great last month of her trip.

Our second bus was even more comfortable than our first complete with more snacks drinks and movies. Good thing too because it was a long ride to Tegucigalpa (Tay-goose-see-gulp-a, just in case you were wondering). We got in almost 6 hours later, to a dark city. But unlike San Pedro, there was no terminal. Instead the bus pulled into a gated parking lot and let us out, straight into the aggressive throng of waiting taxi drivers. Honduran taxi drivers are by far the most aggressive we’ve encountered so far in Central America and the biggest schemers. I had hoped that Tegu (that’s what the cool kids call it, or at least lazy bloggers named liz) drivers would be better. However, they were all over us and in our face until I angrily shooed them away like bees. They seemed to find this rather amusing but they did give us back our personal space while we got our bearings.

We got into a taxi who I could have sworn said 50L for both, especially since I repeated it twice, mostly out of surprise that the price was for both. I gave him the name of the most highly recommended and cheapest hotel in downtown Tegu – Hotel Granada 2. He tried to convince us to go to a better place but I refused claiming that we had a reservation here. When we got to the hotel then the guy pulled the whole “not 50, I said 150” scam – perhaps because he wasn’t going to get hotel commission. Grr, we’d been on the road for 14 hours and I was not pleased but I also had learned I was never going to win an argument with a Honduran taxi driver.

Despite all the glowing reviews from other budget travelers, the room was also not what it seemed. Sure we had a clean private bath but the bed was rock hard (I mean rock hard – coins bounced when dropped on the mattress). And it was on the fourth floor with no elevator. But we didn’t care. Although we hadn’t eaten since 8am we just went to sleep. Perhaps it will all look better in the morning.


Ayngelina said...

Do you think if you had a small pad of paper and wrote down the number it would help? I hate getting scammed.

liz and adrian said...

Maybe but I think being Honduran would be the only way to not get scammed. Honestly they are the worst - and since they were locals we interacted most with - they gave me a bad taste for all Hondurans. When we got to Nicaragua it was totally different. And here in Costa Rica they have metres in the taxi - wow!

cheryl said...

i think the pads a great idea. it might not always work...but it's worth a try for sure!

liz and adrian said...

I'm sure the Honduran taxi drivers would find a way to circumvent the number on the pad thing too. Don't know how but they'd do it I'm sure.

Yes I'm bitter. But they really spoiled our time in the country.