Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Good Company

I've been enjoying our stay here so much. Although we have seen very little of the area so far, the company here is excellent. So far it has been a great mix of people traveling for many months like us, the teachers who are living here and some people on short trips for only a few weeks. We have been to a lot of the same places but the different perspectives are interesting. The teachers from Gracias left this morning and I'm a little sad but there is a constant influx of new people here and so far, everyone has been cool and fun. Mostly, its been non-stop games. Its the kind of place where you can sit down at a table with almost anyone and just start talking and eventually, a game will start. I will miss the teachers because they came with a collection of fun games which I imagine is important for keeping your sanity when you live in a small town in a foreign country with only a small group of the same people to hang out with every day.

Yesterday morning, I tagged along with the teachers to check out a finca nearby which supposedly contains some Lincan ruins. We managed to find every trail except the one leading to the ruins but it was a nice hike anyway. In the afternoon, we made an attempt to go to the hot springs which are only reachable by car but the gas station was out of gas and so was the car so hopefully we will try again today or tomorrow. It looks like this morning will be another relaxing morning since most of the other folks headed to the waterfalls. I've acquired a new book so I'm torn between internet time and finishing the book before monday when we will head back to Roatan.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Traveling Central America

I've been asked many times "How can you travel like this?" and since I have some time, I will finally address this. Just to let you know, I wrote this entire post out and my computer froze before I saved it so I hope this 2nd post turns out as good as the first.

I will start by saying that I was born lucky. I happened to have been born into a great family, in the developed world. My parents taught me many important things which I was lucky enough to learn easily. Education was the top priority which served me well in the job market. I was also taught to live within my means, to save my money and the importance of not getting into a mess of debt. I socked my money away for the future, and lived simply. I have no kids, drive a 10 year old car, and bought a cheap house that I could easily afford. The house was easily rented out for a year for enough money to cover the mortgage and expenses (hopefully). My parents also passed on to me a love of travel and the drive to see the world. Luckily I inherited my dad's love of no-frills travel rather than my mom's love of nice clean bathrooms.

I chose Central America because it is cheap and close enough that the airfare is cheap. We chose to travel for an extended amount of time because we can move slowly which actually makes our money go a lot further. Our budget is $60 a day for the both of us which we try to stay below if at all possible.

Food might be our biggest expense but we have learned to manage it. We eat no more than 2 meals a day and try to keep at least 1 of those meals to under $2 which usually isnt too tough in most places. Our veggie intake has gone down drastically but we are adventurous with our foods and are willing to eat like the locals to keep in budget. We have had many meals of simply chicken and tortillas or tortillas and cheese but if we are smart with our money, we can spring for seafood or something nicer a few times a week. Here in Honduras, we can get a baleada for less than a dollar or 2 which is like a huge quesadilla with cheese and beans. In Guatemala we could get meat and tortillas for a similar price. Alcohol can add up quickly but we will have a drink every now and then if the prices are right. Here at D&D we can get a mug of micro-brewed beer for $1.50.

Transportation can also be expensive. Staying in 1 place for a while saves on that. We also use local transportation as much as possible. For example, the Hedman Alas fancy luxury buses cost about $20 for a few hours ride while a local bus might cost $3 or less. The ride takes longer since they stop all the time to let people on and off but I enjoy the people watching and even find that the old school buses get a great breeze with all the windows open. We dont take cabs unless absolutely necessary for safety sake which is fine because most of the towns we spend time in are small enough to easily walk anywhere we want to go.

Tours and activities are the biggest budget blowers. In Belize we spent $75 a person on the ATM caving tour. For the most part, we spend our days, wandering the towns on foot, people watching and exploring and talking to people which is free. Here at Lago de Yojoa, we can rent a rowboat to go to the lake for $2.50 which will be a great budget activity. I've been enjoying the free wifi and colorful birds and flowers on the property which is free.

We keep our accomodations to below $20 a night if at all possible. Here at D&D our little double room is about $13 a night. For that we get a small room with a double bed, a sink, a shower and toilet. There is free wifi and a wonderful garden and pool that I can enjoy all day long. Our room is small, the bed may sag a bit and the bathroom does not get cleaned daily like at a fancy resort. Central America on a budget is not for everyone. Its more comfortable than camping but if you are a person who is bothered by dirt, mildew, bugs, germs, noise or discomfort...stick to the developed world, short vacations and resorts. Luckily, Rob and I dont mind these things too much. Sometimes we get a hot water shower, sometimes just warm enough and sometimes they are downright frigid.

That is really the long and short of it. I thoroughly enjoy this lifestyle. There are people successfully traveling on larger and smaller budgets than us. We suprisingly found Guatemala to be cheaper than Honduras.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Apparently this is a great place for birding. I took a picture of this Motmot. Look at his fancy tail.

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Tinney's in Copan Ruins 2 weeks ago

These pics are not where I wanted them to go. I am a moron and could not figure it out and I have no patience right now to try and figure it out. The first are our girls and the second is a picture of the ball court for "The Ballgame".

I have to say I am sorry this has taken so long. I first started this entry while I was still in Roatan. However, I am glad that I procrastinated because it has given me time to reflect and time to read everyone else's blog and fill in the blanks.

Hello to all!!! I don't even know where to begin! I guess I have to start by saying that this place is so amazing!!! I can see why Debbie and Rob chose this place for their adventures. It is very laid back. Everyone is so friendly! Totally their style! In planning the trip we had no idea what we would be in store for us. It is absolutely gorgeous here.

I guess I will begin with the plane ride from Houston to San Pedro Sula. In Houston Stokely, Hannah, Rae, and I met up with Jessica. We boarded the plane only to find out that we were in First Class!!! We didn't even pay attention to our tickets. It was a very nice surprise! We had waffles and ham and quiche and eggs and bloody marys (jessica) and screw drivers (me)! Each of us had our own tv monitor with Directtv! I couldn't believe it. Jessica and I got a little tipsy (9:30am) and we had headphones on for the tv so we were talking above them to each other and laughing! It was hilarious. Who cares! We are on VACATION!!! It was a very fun plane ride. The girls sat quietly watching tv and taking pics out the window and Stokely slept. When we got off the plane we had to go through customs. No biggie right?! We had nothing illegal on us. Apparently travel scrabble looks really bad on xray because they took me off to the side, took my bag, started searching it, then this lady carefully takes out travel scrabble. She slowly unzips it holding it far from her and she opened it up. I said its a game. She didn't speak english. She totally examined it for a couple of minutes and then laughed and put it back. All was good!
On the bus ride from the airport in San Pedro Sula to Copan Ruins, we were amazed at how green and lush the land was. My girls were..... lets just say that there was a great fear of the unknown. The amount of poverty was very overwhelming to them. Hopefully they will realize how good they really do have it.

When we got off the bus in Copan Ruins; the first person I saw was Debbie. It was sooooo good to see her. She looked amazing! Very tan, happy, and very relieved. Not as relieved as she was when Jamie got there. Oh Jamie! That is another story. You have to read her blog. She totally explains the ordeal she had to go through just to get here.

Copan Ruins has to be one of the quaintest towns I've ever seen! The first night we were there we had some very yummy very cheesy pizza at this restaurant owned by a man from Houston. The kids (and grown-ups) were very happy about that meal. While we were eating there was this little boy (about Hannah's age -11) who kept walking by our table looking at Hannah. It was so cute. Every time he walked by he would try to make himself look cooler and cooler to Hannah. I think Hannah was embarrassed. Maybe because everyone was pointing him out to her. Over and over again. LOL!!! Grown ups can be mean! Unknowingly of course.

After dinner we went out to the street and there were tables set up with handmade jewelry. The girls were in heaven. We told them that they had a certain amount of money to spend on souvenirs for the whole trip. They decided to browse and come back the next day so that they could watch the kids actually make the bracelets and necklaces.

The next morning we woke up and had baleadas. Its a flour tortilla with re fried beans, cheese, and scrambled eggs. The tortilla is huge and they put all the other stuff on it and fold the tortilla in half and then cooked it on a comal. (Cast iron griddle) It was so delicious!!! On this day we went to the Mayan Ruins. What an amazing place. After we got our admission tickets we entered the site and the first thing we saw were a bunch of scarlet macaws! They were gorgeous! They just flew all around us. It was cool because they didn't mind people being around them. It was their feeding time and they were not at all bothered by us. I guess we were about 3 feet away from them while they were eating. Next to the birds eating was a pathway about 15 feet wide with huge trees on either side. At the end of the path you walk into this gigantic clearing. Right in front of you is a pyramid. Hannah and Rae's mouths could not open any wider. "Oh my god! Look!" and they were off. They ran straight up the pyramid. They had a blast there. I don't think they could quite grasp how old everything was. It was so neat stepping back in time like that. To stand where the Mayans would soak in steam baths 1200-1400 years ago. (Why a steam bath in Copan? I would like to know. It is so hot there!) Or to stand in the same spot that blood from a spiritual sacrifice drained into. It was a trip!!! OH! There is this game the Mayans used to play called "The Ballgame". Lol! No joke.

The object of the game is to hit this stone circle with a rubber ball (sometimes the ball had a human head in it!) that is many many feet up a slanted stone wall and you can't use hands and the ball can't touch the ground. This is what caught my interest more than anything else we saw. Partly because it is the first team sport ever. Mostly because this ball weighs like 20 lbs!!! Could you imagine a rubber ball that weighs 20 lbs sailing through the air and you hit it with your shoulder??? I don't know about you but mine would shatter! After we saw the ruins we had lunch, girls got their little bit of shopping in, we rested a bit, and then we went to a Mayan kid museum. It had a replica of the ball used for the game hanging from a chain. OMG was it heavy! So I stood to the side of the display and pushed the ball away from me so it would start swinging. Then, stupid stupid me, stood firmly planted with my shoulder out so that the ball would hit it. When it hit me it hurt bad and I could feel every bone in my body vibrating. I didn't even swing it that hard! There was a short medical bio of one of the kings who had shattered hips, ribs, and FEMUR! All from this game! Sorry to go on and on; it is just so fascinating to me. After all that we went out for dinner. I can't remember the name of the restaurant but it was suggested in the guide book and it was really good. Rae had spaghetti and meat sauce. Hannah had chicken alfredo. All of us grown ups had a Anafres con Chorizo. Debbie said that Rae's spaghetti was the best she has ever had. Hannah didn't seem too thrilled with her food. She ate off of Rae's plate mostly! Lol! The Anafres con Chorizo was like a cheesy chorizoie (i know. not a real word) fondue. The way it was served was awesome. There was a clay candle holder with a lit candle in it. On top of the holder was a cast iron bowl. The anafres was in the bowl sizzling and lining the insides of the bowl were super delicious fresh homemade corn tortilla chips. So you get a hot chip and scoop out a bite of chorizo and the cheese seems never ending! It just keeps coming and coming until you break it off yourself. It was a great last meal in Copan Ruins!

Oh one last thing about Copan Ruins, whenever we needed to go back to the hotel we had to climb up this gigantic cobblestone hill. Rae absolutely hated it. Every time we were about to go up she would stop and say "Can't we just get a tuktuk!" One time we were almost up the hill; we could actually see the hotel and Rae just sat down and said "I don't want to walk up this mountain anymore Dad! Just get a tuktuk!" The hill was big though. Very uneven stone roads. What baffled me was that all of the local women wore stilletos. Stilletos! Disbelief!!!

Roatan is next!!! More pics too.


I apologize for the lack of spots lately. Those of you who have visited us know that its easy to forget AND its hard to get them to actually take. This place is surrounded in trees so I will need to inconspicuously put it near the pool later today which is the only place with a clear view of the sky.

On Vacation

I feel like we are on vacation from our vacation. Its a weird feeling. Semana Santa is this week and we are pretty much hiding out here at the brewery. Its a really mellow place that is great for reading, napping and talking to interesting people. We are about 1km outside of a nothing village which is a km or 2 outside of a very small town. We are surrounded by nature here and I'm realizing that its been since Semuc Champey that we have been somewhere remote like this. After the last 2 weeks of entertaining, its nice to be back in nature, away from the cities. We have been hanging out with some teachers from Gracias who are on vacation from work for the week...maybe that is why I feel like I'm on vacation.

Rob is doing a couple of hours of work each day helping the owner, Bob, finish the 2nd floor addition to his house. I hope that he is enjoying some productivity...maybe it doesnt feel as much like a vacation for him.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

D&D Brewery

Written last night from our room at D&D Brewery

Its back to just the 2 of us and I think that I will be able to get back to my normal blogging self. Being surrounded by my friends actually made it a little harder for me to get my thoughts together for the blog but I can tell its coming back quickly. I guess that I've been treating this blog like my letters home and being surrounded by friends made it harder to blog since I had so many people to talk to who were experiencing everything with me.

Last night was our last night with Jessica. In the afternoon, we headed back to San Pedro Sula for another night at the hostel. We arrived to find only 1 other girl there. The 4 of us went for an early dinner of baleadas (like a big quesadilla but with beans, sour cream and a crumbled cheese). We went back to the hostel and taxis began arriving full of backpackers from all over the world. By 10pm, every bed was full and there were people will all different accents discussing their central american travels. It was the true hostel experience and I'm glad that Jessica was able to experience it. Rob and I have avoided the hostels for the most part, since hotels are pretty much comparible in cost in most of the places that we've been but it had been awhile since we were surrounded by backpackers and we all enjoyed the company.

We woke up this morning and were talking to the guy who made #4 in our 4 bed dorm room and it turned out that he and his sister had the same plans as us to go to the brewery. His sister is a teacher in Gracias, where we had spent a few days earlier in the month and even had met one of her other teacher friends at our hotel restaurant. After we sadly, said goodbye to Jessica, we shared a cab with the brother/sister pair and headed to the bus terminal to find the bus that would take us to the brewery. It turned out to be a chicken bus...not the colorful kind like in Guatemala but just an old school bus, which was a little suprising because Honduras has a lot of old luxury buses. Honestly, I find the school buses more enjoyable anyway...with all the windows open, they get a much better breeze and there is generally some interesting people watching and lots of stops with people getting on to sell anything from radios to juices to fried chicken to fruit. We were lucky enough to share the bus with a little boy who 1 mile into the ride became car sick...yay. The 4 of us were feeling pretty confident since most of us had been in Honduras for a while and were familiar with the bus systems. We told the bus helper that we were going to D&D and felt good that he would make sure that we found our stop. The directions from the website said something like "2 km outside of Pena Blanca, look for the soccer field and then a sign for the brewery". The ride was nice and not too hot like some of our more recent bus rides and we could tell that the scenery was getting pretty nice so we must be close...then the bus stopped and everyone got off and changed to another bus. They told us that we should follow and this was were we started to lose our confidence. One of the helpers from our previous bus got on the new bus but not the guy that we had talked to. Finally, our new teacher friend asked the lady sitting next to her with the delicious looking birthday cake on her lap if we were close to Pena Blanca and D&D brewery. She knew exactly where it was and we were able to relax again. A few minutes later the bus stopped to let us out in front of the sign for the hotel and we happily walked a little bit until we arrived here.

So far this is a nice quiet place. Our room is small but will work for us. The food and drinks are good. The pool is clean and cool. We already saw a really cool looking bird in the trees. We havent met Bob, the owner, yet but he had mentioned on the phone having Rob help him with some work on his house and I think by tomorrow, Rob will be very ready to get busy doing anything. Our new friends will be here until wednesday and tomorrow will be met by 2 more of their teacher friends. I'm hoping that there is at least a little internet access but we still have a lot to figure out about this place.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Last day for Jess

Well I'm leaving tomorrow and I would be lying if I said I am ready to leave. It is such an amazing feeling just picking up and heading wherever you feel like going. I have come to realize that most of the planning for a place is mainly to make you feel better before you arrive, since when you get there the plans seem to completely change. This experience has definitely changed me, I think for the better.

I am so glad we ended up in Tela, it felt like I was really seeing what life is like here rather than being in a tourist destination. The city is a beautiful beach town but different than what I expected... I'm not sure exactly what I expected but I couldn't imagine a better experience. I got to practice my Spanish some more and found that being able to ask a question that a local would understand (even though I'm sure I butchered the sentence) means pretty much nothing when I can't understand the answer. Even when the person repeats it 10 times.
Our last day in Tela was pretty much perfect. I am so thankful to have met Liz. I could've talked to her for another week and still not heard enough of her stories. She has seen and done so many incredible things. She was so warm and made us feel so welcome and comfortable. Meeting the other travelers and hearing their experiences is really inspiring, also. There are so many more single girls than I thought. Central America is so close, so beautiful and affordable that I can see why so many people come here.

The little boy, Mario Garcia, that we met on the beach is another of my most memorable experiences here. He had a basket of bread that he was selling but that's not why he followed us to the beach. He was very concerned that we were going to swim and since it was a red flag day he was worried about our safety. We sat with him for a long time watching him do math problems and write cursive in the sand. He made my day when he wrote my name in the most beautiful handwriting. Before we parted we bought some of the bread that was homemade by his mother. Very delicious. Mmmmm...

I'm going to miss almost everything here (not the ice cold showers, though I am glad I got the experience) but I'm really going to miss the fruit. The pineapple is divine. I didn't get to sample everything I wanted but that is a great reason for me to come back. I also need to do some more body surfing, we rode some good waves but I couldn't quite catch the perfect one.

I want to see more of this beautiful part of the world before heading on to explore the rest of it.

Pina Colas - We never got our coco locos.

This is a totally real, un-photoshopped picture.

On the patio of Liz's paradise beach front apartment.

Last Day in Tela

I wrote this last we are back in San Pedro Sula.

Yesterday evening, things got really interesting here in Tela. It ended up being a really great interaction with a bunch of really interesting expats. Last night, we went back to the same restaurant that we had enjoyed the night before...the Bungalow...its a little wooden building in town run by a Louisiana guy, Norman. The other night, we enjoyed having the place to ourselves. The food was great and we ended up hanging out pretty late with Norman. We were the only ones there but last night it ended up being a packed house...both tables were filled. We had brought along Jen, a nice girl from our hotel and the next table was full of some expats who all live in Tela. We have seen very few other gringos here and sometimes its nice to know that we arent the only ones here. It seems strange that there are so few travelers here because during the week, its like having our own private beach...ok, there was some trash on the beach, left over from the thousands that come on the weekends but for us, it was easily overlooked as our eyes were drawn to the palm trees and the waves.

We were enjoying ourselves with great conversations and kind of listening in to the other group. We started discussing our next destinations and the people at the next table overheard and turned around to help us. It turns out that over at that table was Liz, a Nova Scotian, who quickly joined us at our table. She was really great! She helped out with a ton of information about Utila for Jen and before we knew it, we were deep in conversation entranced by her amazing stories about Tela, Honduras and her other worldly travels. She offered up some extremely handy information for Rob and I about our future travels...I'll just say that we will not need to go back to Belize after Semana Santa. We got some great perspectives on expat life here which is pretty interesting since its such a small community and there are very few women. I think its very different for these folks in Tela than it is in a place like Roatan which has a lot more expats and travelers. Then she invited us to hang out the next day since she has an apartment right on the beach.
We woke up this morning to a clear blue sky and just knew that it would be a great day. We walked down the beach and found liz's apartment and then spent all afternoon playing in the waves and enjoying the sunshine...probably a bit too much since Jess and I ended up a little sunburnt but it was worth it. The waves were big and fun and we laughed a lot as we fought the undertow to get out far enough to body surf. Then we went back to Liz's for a shower and spent some time on her huge deck overlooking the palm trees and the Caribbean. It was great to really connect with someone so interesting, nice and helpful. We all went to dinner (Jen ended up re-connecting with us) at the little restaurant around the corner from Liz's apartment for a delicious fish dinner and more wonderful conversation. It ended up being the perfect end to our stay in Tela.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


As promised, here are some pictures from Tela. Yesterday it was cloudy and a little too cool for swimming so we spent the day just wandering the beach.

We ran into an adorable little boy, Mario Garcia, who warned us that it was a red flag day and that the waves were too big for swimming. We ended up spending some time with him discussing school and how easy it is for him. He showed us how great he is at math, drawing out math problems in the sand and then showed us his beautiful cursive writing talents. We bought some cinnamon rolls and coconut bars from him. What a cutie!
We ended up sitting on the beach for a long time watching 4 other little boys playing an intense game of soccer in the palm trees that line the beach. We were cheering for them and they were showing off for us. They were really good and were such good sports it was heartwarming and we were grinning the entire time.

The town is really nice, too. This is a weekend destination so during the week it is really quiet. There are only a handful of other tourists here so we feel like we are off the beaten path. This morning we decided to check out one of the nearby Garifuna villages, Turnabe. I think we got there too early, because there was absolutely nothing going on. The town was on a beautiful stretch of beach but again, it was a bit cool for swimming and too early to find food so after less than an hour, we caught a cab back to town. I think we will spend the rest of today just like yesterday, wandering around, enjoying the beach, eating some good food and maybe having some drinks. Tomorrow will be our last day in Tela so hopefully the sun will come out and we will get to swim in the ocean.

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Hi from Jess

Wow. Wow wow wow. I don't even know how to start. Words can't express the experience I've had so far. I think Jamie and Hannah covered last week but I have to comment on the ramora. I was snorkeling behind Deb and thought I saw some kind of strap floating on her leg so I swam closer to her just in time to see her begin flailing and spinning around. When I realized it was a fish harassing her I busted up laughing hysterically through my snorkel thinking how glad I was that it liked her and not me, sorry Deb. Don't worry though because karma kicked my butt there because later I felt something tickling my stomach and realized Gus(we named him) had decided to hitch a ride on me. I did my share of flailing and spinning... with no success. Oh well, at least he cleaned of some funk that was apparently on my tummy.

I really like Tela so far, it is a cute little beach town and as Deb said I will be quite disappointed if I don't drink rum directly from a coconut. The fruit is amazing and I plan on getting some more pineapple (oh YUM) in the morning. For lunch today I ordered what i thought was some kind of fish, nope not fish. The flavor was good but I will pass on that texture next time. The people are amazing and I'm enjoying trying to communicate. I end up kind of miming while repeating the 10 spanish words I know. So far eventually I get my point across. Ok well, maybe that's not true. I usually look at Rob or Deb with a bewildered pleading look for help on my face and they mercifully fill in the gaps for me.
Since I'm sitting on the balcony of the Mango Hotel and it's absolutely gorgeous and beautiful and peaceful and amazing and warm with a nice breeze, I think I will continue to watch the mountains which I can see from where I'm sitting and people on the street below us play soccer in the street while others ride by on scooters or cringe as a taxi squeezes between two cars with half a millimeter to spare so I'll sign off for now. Oh, I think I forgot to mention that this place is amazing.
Oh, I think I heard something about all the flights out of Honduras being cancelled forever so I may have endure gorgeous, warm, tropical paradise forever... oh wait, maybe that was the dream I've had every night since I arrived.


We are here in Tela with Jessica.

Last night we enjoyed a real hostel (Hostal Tamarindo) experience with Jamie for her last night. It was the first listing in Lonely Planet so there was a nice international mix of travelers. We lucked out and got a 4 bed dormroom and slept like logs.

This morning, we grabbed a taxi early to the bus station and got on the bus to Tela. The temperatures stayed nice as we got off the bus and headed into town to find a hotel. It did start to get hotter as we walked more but happily found a room at Hotel Mango with A/C and a TV. Then we headed out for our usual first day walk about. The beach is beautiful here and was absolutely packed with locals. There were dozens of school buses that had brought people out for the day. The sand is white, the waves were just the right size and there is a ton of shade from strategically planted palm trees. We enjoyed just walking the beach and watching the people swimming, playing soccer and playing in the sand.

Now we are back at the hotel, showered and relaxing. There is a solo Canadian girl here also that is going to join us for dinner tonight. Its funny, Jessica is getting totally inspired to do some backpacking now that we have run into some solo travelers and really experience what a true community the backpackers have here. Everyone we meet are friendly and not afraid to just invite themselves to join the group for dinner...maybe the cute boys are helping....she'll kill me when she reads that.

Tomorrow, I promise that we will take some pictures of the beach and town here.

For all those people who are thinking about Jessica, I can assure you that we are taking great care of her and that she is really happy and enjoying herself and constantly gushing about how cool this is. The last week was wonderful but this week, she is getting the real backpacking experience. She is already a pro at the buses, she can pack up in a matter of minutes (which was handy this morning when I woke up to pee at 7am and was confronted by the hostel cab driver who convinced me that the only bus to Tela left at 8....even though I read later on the bus that there are 18 buses to Tela every day). She is happy to wander aimlessly with us, sweating our butts off and just watching people and hunting for fresh pineapple. Our goal for tonight it to drink something with run out of a coconut...everyone who prayed that Jamie's travel would work worked so now please say a prayer that we can find some alcohol in a coconut tonight.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

San Pedro Sula

Today was a little sad. Rob, Jamie, Jessica and I woke up very early and took the ferry away from beautiful Roatan. We must have been very tired from the week because we all slept the entire boat ride and then the entire bus ride here. As we got further from the island it got hotter and hotter and now we are here at a hostel and it is very hot so we are just lazing around.

We really enjoyed the week with everyone and especially enjoyed Roatan. We met a ton of people who had gone for visits and ended up moving there and its pretty easy to see why. We have a few more weeks of travel, a week in Tela with Jessica, Semana Santa at the brewery and then we need to get to Belize for a visa run. I think after Belize, Rob and I will head back to Roatan and rent an apartment. We are going to kind of check the place out and see if it is livable. It seems like a big enough island to keep people busy and is full of american and canadian expats. We were told repeatedly that there is a huge need for good electricians. It sure would be nice to find a place for ourselves in a real paradise.

I can tell you one thing, so far, San Pedro Sula isnt really paradise. Its not a big dirty city like Guatemala city but its hot, and in a few hours, I've managed to get more itchy bites than the whole week on the island.

I think I'm going to take a shower and try to find a cool place to sit.

Friday, March 19, 2010

A week in Honduras! (Jamie's blog)

Well, it’s our last day together as a group, and I’m finally sitting down to write about our wonderful time together in Honduras. After my traveling fiasco, I met up with the group in Copan, which is such a beautiful little town, like something out of a movie. The streets are all cobblestone, and there are bright colors everywhere. ..buildings, fruit stands, umbrellas. Our hotel was at the top of a grueling hill, and from the top of it, we could see over the top of the buildings to the forest all around us. The hotel was so cute. You walk through the gate into a courtyard filled with tropical trees and flowers and a little outdoor kitchen and sitting area. We spent Sunday at the ruins, which were absolutely amazing. We took about a million pictures…I’ll post a few of my favorites. After the ruins, we went back to town, where we grabbed some lunch and walked around the town. The whole day was kind of surreal. Every so often, Jessica and I would turn to each other and say something like, “Oh my god, I can’t believe we’re here!” It somehow seemed so random to be so comfortable, with a group of my best friends, and in the middle of Central America.

It was an early night because our bus to La Ceiba was leaving Monday morning at 5:15. Ugh. I set my alarm for 3:45! Jessica and I were about to go pack our stuff but got sucked into a game of travel Scrabble with Jesi, Stokely, Hannah, and Rae. After that, we got back to our room, and just as we started packing, power outage. It was the blackest blackout I’ve ever experienced…I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. Luckily, Jessica had a little flashlight, but it was solar powered, so we didn’t know how long it would last, and we were worried that we still wouldn’t have power by morning and might forget something in the room. An hour or two after we fell asleep though, we were both awakened by the ceiling fan turning on, laughed at ourselves, and fell back to sleep (despite the roosters crowing outside of our room…I always thought roosters only crowed in the morning…nope, all night long).

The bus ride to La Ceiba was long, but this time, I was able to see the countryside during the ride. It was very pretty…lots of banana trees. We got to the dock a couple of hours early…more travel Scrabble. We were all anxious to get to Roatan and see our house, especially Jesi, who was singlehandedly responsible for finding it. The ferry ride was beautiful. We had a spectacular view of mountains behind us, and we watched the sun set as we pulled up to the dock in Roatan. Baggage claim was chaotic to say the least, but we all managed to get our bags pretty quickly and head out. We had someone waiting for us with a minivan, which we had decided that day to rent for the week. She took us to our house, and oh my god, it was perfect! Jesi did a fantastic job with that!! The Tinneys had the entire upstairs area complete with a bedroom and a loft area for the girls, plus a screened in patio. Downstairs was a bedroom for me and Jess, a bedroom for Deb and Rob, a good sized living room, kitchen, and a huge wrap-around covered patio. Our house was literally a few steps from a gorgeous pool and the property owners, Lynn and Bob, who were so sweet and helpful throughout our whole stay. Lynn, apparently, was a marine biologist for 20 years and gave us a ton of great tips for snorkeling. We walked to the Blue Parrot for dinner right around the corner from the house. It’s run by a Jamaican lady, who makes the best Jamaican food I’ve ever had! We all splurged on dinner, but it was totally worth it.

The next morning, Jesi and I ventured out in the minivan to find a grocery store, which we eventually did and got stocked up on food for the next few days. Then, we all went to the west end for snorkeling gear for the Tinneys and to get fresh fruit off the side of the road…mangos, pineapples, avocados, peppers, bananas... After that, we went down to the beach by our house (a 2 minute walk!) with our snorkeling gear. Debbie, Rob, Jessica, and I swam out to the reef...oh wow, it was so beautiful! We had 2 underwater cameras and got a bunch of great shots. The funniest part of that excursion was our little friend, who we names Gus. Gus, we found out later through a little online research, is a remora, otherwise known as a sucker shark…it’s not really a shark, but it looks like one, only about 6 inches long. It attaches itself to boats and bigger fish and eats bacteria…well I guess we were really dirty or something because Gus would not leave us alone! It was crazy! He would target one of us and swim along under our belly, around our backs, up Rob’s swim suit, trying to latch on! I even reached out to touch him at one point, and he let me pet him! I’ve never seen anything like it. Snorkeling is hard work, and we were all getting hungry for dinner, so we sent out the guys to get some fresh fish. They came back with snook, which Stokely cooked on Lynn’s grill, along with all of our fresh fruit. It was delicious!

As I’m writing, I’m realizing that somehow, my days are off because I think I’ve left one out, but whatever. Thursday was unseasonably rainy and chilly, so we spent most of the day in the house being lazy, but with all the great company, no one seemed to mind. We decided we would just get an early start on Friday so we could snorkel at West Bay, which we were told was the best snorkeling on the island, and do one of the canopy tours. So, Friday morning, we got everything together and headed for West Bay. It did not disappoint! As per Lynn’s instructions, we walked down the white sand beach until we saw the big black rocks. That’s where the reef starts just a few yards from the shoreline. As soon as we stepped into the water, we were surrounded by huge schools of fish. It was amazing! We all swam out to the reef, which was very shallow at points, so we had to navigate through it to avoid getting cut. I guess about a hundred feet out, we found a great spot to swim around and look at all the beautiful fish and coral and take more pictures. We spent lots of time poking each other under water and pointing at various fish…it was a blast. After that, we ate sandwiches in the car on our way to the Pirates of the Caribbean canopy tour. That was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. Everyone was very brave, especially Debbie and Jesi, who aren’t too comfortable with heights, to say the least. Luckily, they were allowed to do the ziplines together, so they just screamed and hung onto each other for dear life…it was pretty hilarious. Jessica and I, on the other hand, swung our legs up into the air, let go, and zipped over the trees upside down…what a rush! Hannah and Rae were both very brave too, and after a couple of zips with the adults, they both did it alone…Hannah even hung upside down once or twice. Everyone had a great time. It was the perfect activity to end our adventures together.

And now, we’re sitting in the house on our last night. The Tinneys fly out of Roatan tomorrow. My flight leaves out of San Pedro Sula Sunday morning, so Debbie, Rob, Jessica, and I will head out there tomorrow and probably spend the night in a hostel. I’m really looking forward to that…should be a fun day!

Jamie's journey to Honduras

Hi everyone! It’s Jamie. So, if you’ve been keeping up with Debbie’s posts, you know that the beginning of this amazing vacation, for me, began in near disaster. Not even my friends here have heard the whole story, so I’m just going to tell it all. This post is just about my plane ride fiasco. I’ll write about the vacation in a separate post (fyi). So, I arrived at DFW an hour and a half early on Friday. Of course I’d been preparing for weeks and was elated to finally be on my way to paradise to meet up with my friends. I was taking a different route, since I was flying on miles. It was taking me to North Carolina, where I would spend the night in a motel, then to Miami first thing in the morning, and on to San Pedro Sula to catch a 5 pm bus to Copan, where everyone would be waiting for me. So, I’m standing in line to check in, bags in hand, my dad on his way home from dropping me off at the airport….when my phone rings. Hmm, strange, the caller ID says American Airlines. I pick up and get a recording, “We’re calling to notify you of a cancellation. We’re sorry for the inconvenience, but your flight from Greensboro, NC to Miami has been cancelled.” No explanation, no number to call, nothing! Sorry for the inconvenience??!! I was completely panicking! I already knew that every flight to Miami had been booked for months, being that it was spring break. I get to the ticket counter and frantically explain what is happening to the lady behind the counter. She tells me I need to talk to the other guy there, so I walk over to that line. By this point I’m shaking, fighting back the tears. I call my dad and tell him he should probably head back to the airport. After what seems like forever, I get to the ticket counter again and explain my situation. I can tell this guy feels really bad for me….he can tell I’m trying not to cry, and meanwhile, I get 4 or 5 more calls from American Airlines with the same recorded message, and each time I get a call, I’m getting more and more pissed off. So this guy is typing away at his computer, apparently checking every flight to Miami in the entire airport, every few minutes shaking his head and looking a bit frustrated. ..not at all encouraging. Finally, he looks up and tells me that the best he can do is to get me to Honduras Sunday night at 9 pm. I lost it. I held it together surprisingly well on the outside, but at that point, I was sure my trip was over before it began. I pictured all my friends having a great time at the Mayan ruins, while I sat depressed in my little house in Denton. I was devastated. Exasperated, I told him that 9 pm on Sunday was not acceptable. I had already spent a ton of money on this trip, people were expecting me Saturday afternoon, San Pedro Sula was too dangerous for me to fly into alone after dark, not to mention that I had booked my flight months ago! He was really nice about it…kept saying that he understood, and he was really sorry, as he continued to type away at his computer looking for a better solution. By that point, I had called Jessica, and Debbie and Rob in Honduras to tell them what was happening (Jesi, Stokely, and the kids were in the air on their way to Houston at that point, so I couldn’t call them). So, after a few more minutes of extreme anxiety, the ticket counter guy tells me he a flight has opened up to Miami on Saturday, so I would get to San Pedro Sula Saturday night…better, but I still know that flying in that late is risky, and I would have to find my way to a hotel at night. He books it. My dad is almost back at the airport to pick me up. Then, the guy says, “I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before, but I can get you on standby for a flight to Miami tonight.” He tells me there are 2 more flights, one of which is already boarding. They are both oversold, and I’ll be third in line on the standby list. I ask him what my chances are of getting on. “Pretty bad” he says, but it’s worth a try. He tells me I’ll have to check my bag at the gate because if he checks it there, my bag will get on the flight, but I might not. I quickly ditch all my big bottles of liquid at the counter, he gives me directions to the gate (at a different terminal!), and I yell a very sincere thank you for all of his help as I sprint to security with my bags. I run all the way to the gate, out of breath, and still fighting back tears. I get there and not 2 minutes later, they announce that the flight is full. Everyone on standby should go to gate so-and-so where the last flight to Miami will be taking off shortly. I speed walked to that gate. Right after I get there, they announce that they need 3 volunteers to get off the plane in exchange for vouchers. I’m completely deflated. I’m 3rd on the standby list, and they’re paying people to get off the plane. It’s pretty much hopeless. A few people give me compassionate looks. I’m tearing up. I’m watching all the happy travelers with tickets board the plane, and I just want to fall on the floor and cry. They finally finish boarding, and I walk up to the counter to wait. There is a Hispanic woman and her daughter there, who also look very stressed. They are the 2 people ahead of me on standby. All I can do is pray, and I am praying as hard as I can, trying to make bargains with God to please please please get me on that plane! Then I hear my name. My name! I think I screamed. That’s me!! Can you get me on?? Please tell me you can get me on! The lady tells me to come around. She’s got my boarding pass in her hand! I’ve never been so elated in all my life. She tells me they’ll have to check my bag. “Just take it!” I say, “I don’t care!” “Go!” She says. I run to the plane, so freaking happy!! So, I get to the plane. I call Jessica to tell her I’m gonna make it. I step on the plane. As I’m telling Jessica that I got on, the same lady runs up behind me... “Ms. Schwartz, come back.” What??!! She tells me that I might not get to go! She tells me that she’s really sorry, but there’s a guy that they thought was on the plane that might not be. The reason I got a seat ahead of the Hispanic lady and her daughter was because there was only one seat, and they couldn’t split up the mother and daughter, but if he’s not on the plane, they will get the extra seats. I went from elation to utter despair in a split second. I stand there for a minute or 2…back to praying. Then, a flight attendant comes up from the back of the plane, and says that he’s there. The lady that gave me my boarding pass gave me a big smile and told me to get on. I walked to my seat as fast as I could and sat down, shaking and half crying from all the stress and emotion. I smiled all the way to Miami. It was a freaking miracle. I felt like the luckiest person on Earth. Disaster averted….or so I thought. Well, actually, the rest of my traveling problems were really nothing in comparison to the drama that I had just been through, but the rest of my journey was far from stress-free.

My flight arrived in Miami around midnight. I got my bag from baggage claim (it was one of the last ones off, which is always a little nerve racking). I went to the airport phone that calls hotels to try to find a room for the night. After the 5th or 6th person told me they were completely booked, I realized that I might be sleeping on the airport floor. I wasn’t thrilled about it, but it wasn’t the end of the world…at least I was in Miami. After a few more calls, a guy walked up next to me. “How many have you called?” he asked. “Pretty much all of them,” I said. He told me that he knew of one hotel with rooms, but it would be a $50 cab ride to get there. He said his wife was really tired and upset, so he was thinking about just paying for the cab. Would I like to split it with them? I said sure, as long as they had a shuttle to get me back the next day. He called, and they said they had a shuttle, but it might be full. I’d have to call in the morning to find out. I was tired. I decided to chance it. I took the cab with Greg and Michelle, who were on their way home to Cincinnati from their honeymoon in the Florida Keys (they had missed their connecting flight, along with lots of other stranded travelers, due to a storm in Miami). After a 20 minute cab ride, we made it to a cheesy casino hotel, whose name escapes me now. I didn’t have the voucher that Greg and Michelle had for the discounted rate, but Greg was nice enough to talk the hotel staff into giving me the same rate. We wished each other good luck and parted ways. The room was comfortable, aside from the foam blanket (wtf?) I woke up at 8:20 and decided I’d better call about the shuttle, even though my flight didn’t leave until 1:45. They told me there was one leaving at 9, so I’d better hurry if I wanted a ride. I took a super quick shower and headed downstairs to check out. I met another nice couple on the shuttle (I can’t remember their names), who laughed about the weird hotel with me and told me about the pizza they ordered that arrived half frozen. I arrived back at the airport, 4 hours before my flight, but that was ok with me. I love airports. I’d never been to the Miami one before, and it’s very nice. I checked in, found my way to the gate, got a grande skinny vanilla latte from Starbucks, found a sunny spot by some big windows, laid my head on my backpack on the floor, and put on my headphones to listen to my ipod and people watch. About an hour before I was supposed to board , I got up from my spot to go to the gate. I was at the wrong gate (it was 2 not 21). I found my way to gate 2, plugged my ipod into the charging station and sat down. We were scheduled to start boarding at 12:45. The flight was scheduled to take off at 1:45 and land at 3:05, which would give me plenty of time to get through customs in Honduras and get on my 5:00 bus (the last bus of day to Copan). Around noon, they changed the status…delayed until 2:30. Ok, I was definitely concerned. I’ve been on many delayed flights, and they are rarely only delayed for 45 minutes. I did the math in my head. I’d gain an hour in the air because of the time zones, so the flight should be about 2 and a half hours, give or take a few minutes. As long as we left by 3, I would still have a chance of catching my bus. Jessica, Jesi, Stokely, Hannah, and Rae landed in Honduras at 12:15, so I called Jesi at 12:45 to let her know that I was delayed. She told me that they got through baggage claim and customs in 15 minutes, so I would probably be ok. 1:00 rolled around, and there was still no plane. Oh god, here comes the stress again. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I don’t deal well with stress, especially in situations that are out of my control. 1:30, still no plane. Now, everyone at the gate was looking stressed. I saw a lot of people on cell phones. I heard a guy call someone to tell them that he would most likely miss his 4:00 flight to Roatan and would have to find a hotel in San Pedro Sula. It was some comfort knowing that I wouldn’t be the only person stranded in San Pedro Sula if I missed my bus, but I was still very worried. Everything I’ve read says that there are gangs and violence there, and you should never be out in the city after dark, especially not alone. Since my 5:00 bus was taking me to the big bus terminal in the city to catch a 6:00 bus to Copan, I figured I might be able to get a cab from the airport to the bus terminal and still make the 6:00 bus. I called Jesi again, and she told me she would find out how to get a cab and call me back. She called back a few minutes later with very detailed instructions, so I felt a little better. $16 she said. I knew that was a ripoff, but it was the least of my concerns. They announced at the gate that our plane was late flying in from Columbia. It would be there soon, but it would have to be checked out by customs before we could get on. Everyone was on pins and needles. There were at least 3 babies were crying. It was tense. 1:45, the plane finally arrived. I approached the counter and asked what time the plane was really taking off. She said that it should be around 3:00. There was no way I was making that bus. I called my mom, who reminded me that there was nothing I could do, and at least I would be in Honduras. She was confident I could handle it. I wasn’t so sure. I watched very impatiently as they deboarded the plane, got the baggage off, and got it set up for our flight. By that point, the flight had been officially delayed until 3:10. We got on, and I sent Jesi a quick text to let her know we were about to take off. That was the last time I would be able to use my phone. It wouldn’t work in Honduras. I had my Dad’s blackberry, which I was told would get internet access (no phone service), but even that was iffy. I would be virtually incommunicado once I left the States and basically on my own. There was a definite sense of relief once we were in the air. There was no turning back, and I would have to deal with whatever happened. I struck up a conversation with a girl across the aisle, who had lived in Honduras and was returning to visit. She told me that the flight was short, and I should be able to catch a cab to the bus terminal if I missed my bus. That set my mind at ease a little. I also told a flight attendant that I was afraid I’d miss my 5:00 bus, and she told me that there was another girl at the front of the plane who was supposed to be on that bus as well. I was still anxious, but I was pretty sure I would at least be safe with other stranded travelers from the States. By some miracle (I think it was the 3rd in 24 hours), the plane touched down at 4:30. I took Debbie’s advice, threw my manners by the wayside, and pushed my way past as many people as I could to the front of the plane. I bolted to baggage claim, where my bag was already on the carousel, made it through customs, and was in a short line of very relieved travelers to get my bus ticket by 4:45. I could finally breathe! Everything was going to be ok. I emailed everyone as soon as I got on the bus to let them know that I made it. It was a short ride to the bus terminal, where I bought a Coke and waited to board my bus to Copan. I guess the 6:00 bus to Copan isn’t too popular because I was the only person on it! I stretched out on the roomiest seat I could find, put a movie on my laptop, laid back, and enjoyed the 3 hour ride across Honduras. I felt I deserved the break! It was quite an enjoyable ride, most of it in pitch blackness, aside from the light of my laptop. I arrived in Copan promptly at 9. My friends weren’t at the terminal yet. I was offered a taxi (by tuktuk), and I tried to explain with the few Spanish words I know that my friends were coming to get me. One of the men offered me his blackberry to call them…so friendly and helpful! I called, and Rob told me that he was on the way. He and Stokely arrived a few minutes later in a tuktuk, and we were off! I was so giddy with excitement, I could barely contain myself. A few minutes down the road, we came across the rest of the group walking back to the hotel. They practically pulled me out of the tuktuk, and we all hugged and proceeded up the hill to the rooms. It was then that I found out that my emails had not gotten through to anyone, and they had all been worried for hours about whether or not I had made the bus! I felt terrible to have put them through that, but we were all just so happy to finally be together, the anxiety of the day melted away. I was so elated to be with my friends, I could’ve cried. So that’s my story. Let me tell you, I’ve have some stressful traveling experiences in my life, but that one takes the cake, hands down! I’m not complaining though. I am so incredibly grateful to be here, words cannot even express. I’m sure I would not appreciate it as much had I not come so close to missing it. I had friends, family, and forces beyond my control looking out for me that day, and I will not soon forget it.