Friday, May 15, 2009

The trouble with Tela.


Why were we in Tela? Good question. Well the beach for one. Supposedly Tela had a nice beach which Utila (despite being a Caribbean island) didn’t. And also because it was one last opportunity to catch some of the Garifuna culture that we’d so far missed in every other city since Belize. After our exposure to a sleepy and kinda scary town last night, we weren’t hopeful. But a town that looks crap at night can be completely different once the sun is out.

So when the street noise woke us up (no double glazing on the windows here) we were happy. It meant life and people and action. But just in case I sent out some emails to places in La Ceiba and to a few diving schools in Utila in preparation for a quick escape.. Then we headed out to see if Tela was indeed better in the daylight.

Well there were definitely more people – in fact it was packed but it still felt like slim pickings. We headed to the one recommended place in the guide book for breakfast and hoped it was still open. It was and it was where we found the Aussie couple from the cabbie shakedown the night before. They had found a room and for half the price of ours but admitted it was definitely not worth it. And they were not feeling the love for Tela either. Good thing they were only staying a couple of nights before they had to go and catch their flight to Chile where they were heading for the the ski season. We wished them good luck and then headed out to find some of that stuff we were in Tela to see.

We followed the map to the Garifuna museum. Or where the Garifuna museum was supposed to be. That’s right. For the third time in the third city in the third country, the Garifuna museum wasn’t just closed – it wasn’t there. It appears that the Garifuna culture has died out on the Caribbean coast or at least any interest in it. We now believe that Garifuna translates into “invisible” in English. To make our walk out here worthwhile, we took some photos of the river which was chocked full of greenery as opposed to water.

Okay so next on our list of things to do was the beach. Now that should still be there, unless global warming had buried it underwater. It was already 36 degrees and about 80% humidity so we could use a dip in the ocean. But first we needed a blast of air conditioning in the hotel room. We really weren’t used to this heat. Of course by the time we left the hotel, the clouds had come out. And the weather went from super sunny to super cloudy.

But at least the beach was still there (photo above). Although it doubles as the boat launch for the town so it’s not the cleanest looking place. Despite this there was hardly anyone out. And in about 30 minutes we figured out why. It started to rain. Actually it started to pour. I guess the rainy season had finally begun. Adrian decided to stay out in the ocean while I sought shelter under a palm tree with all our clothes. That worked for a few minutes and then the rain began to pour down the trees. It took me another 20 minutes to convince Adrian to get out of the water and only when I let him know his book was getting soaked. The rain let up a bit and we headed back to the hotel. Adrian decided to walk, or rather wade, through the streets barefoot, figuring that they’d be mostly clean thanks to the downpour. I was a little less convinced and kept an eye out for glass and other unpleasantness.

Tela was not particularly pretty. The people weren’t particularly friendly. And the costs were way too high. Luckily there were some emails waiting for us when we got back. One scuba school sent a really helpful and friendly reply to all my questions about getting equipment to fit me as well as to calm my fears about diving. So I decided to go with them. I couldn’t remember if they were the one recommended by my scuba diving virtual friend Cindi (of bubbles and bugs – Hi Cindi) recommended but they were the first to respond and were very enthusiastic. With all good news comes bad news, the only response I received for a hotel in La Ceiba was for $50/night. Sure the air conditioning would be nice but our budget only allowed for so many nights of it. But La Ceiba is only 90 minutes away from Tela so we would have plenty of time to get there and find a cheaper room on foot. So I armed myself with a list of cheap options and marked their location on our crappy Lonely Planet Map. Tomorrow we’d leave Tela and hopefully all our troubles behind.

8 comments:

Nómada 23 said...

It is such a pity you have had this horrible time. Obviosuly I cant advice you anymore as this post says May 15. If I had known you were going to Tela I would have advised you plenty. It is one of my favorite places, still after 60 countries visited. Actually a friend from Belgium after visiting Tela and Roatan last month has decided to sell his business in Brussels and move to Honduras bc he fell in love with it! There are plenty of garifuna towns, culture, and the most beautiful beaches but around Tela, not in it. You need local knowledge to find them. I do agree that the police and most locals try to rip tourists off, that was probably my first comment on your blog, but I am glad you have learned this yourself. If you are still in Honduras do let me know. Hope you are having a better time now.

liz and adrian said...

ah, too bad we didn't get some recommendations from you. but yes, i'm a bit behind in my posts (although trying to catch up as fast as possible). but don't worry all the news from honduras isn't all bad - we did have some good times. and i'll be getting them posted soon.

Ayngelina said...

Nomada I'd still like to hear your recommendations. It's nice to know where not to go but even better to know where to go :)

Nómada 23 said...

Hi Ayngelina (sorry Liz to steal your space for a minute)
When in Tela, you can head west or east in the Bay of Tela to get traditional garifuna culture and beautiful beaches.Driving west from Tela to Punta Sal (a natural park) you will find many authentic garifuna villages, where they can make traditional food and play their instruments for you. Places like La Ensenada,Laguna de los Micos, El Miami and Punta Sal are really authentic and beautiful. As well there is the natural reserve Jeanette Kawas. From Tela to the east, head to Triunfo de la Cruz, which probably has the biggest garifuna population around, and you will see many villages in between as well. When in the center of Tela, probably the best option is going to the Hotel Villas Telamar. I wouldnt stay there, it is too big and expensive, but you can go in to have a drink (their pina coladas are delicious) at their famous "palapa" (huge wooden umbrella) in their beachfront and stay all day there. Traditional fish cocktails like ceviche are not to be missed. And in Tela center ask for "baleadas" at Tia Carmen's diner- one of the traditional foods - flour tortilla with beans and other stuff. Personally i do not like La Ceiba - but driving from Tela to La Ceiba, you find more private beaches like playas "El peru" - from where they can take you in a small boat to the Cayos Cochinos, really beautiful small natural keys off the coast, where there lives the only pink boa in the world. Unfortunately in a couple of years this area will not be so natural and virgin, as a huge project is underway and thay are building luxurious hotels and golf courses. This is just a small introduction, but let me know if you need more specifics, we can exchange emails. Thanks Liz for connecting trevelers!

itinerantlondoner said...

I didn't have much luck finding Garifuna culture wherever I looked either, which is a real shame

liz and adrian said...

Well, you can't say we didn't try.

itinerantlondoner said...

It must exist somewhere, I have a lovely CD of Garifuna music I bought in London which I've been listening to quite a bit on my iPod. Was hoping to hear some more here...

liz and adrian said...

thanks nomada for sharing all those good tips. i don't mind at all - in fact keep it up.