Tora Adventure

Two people exploring the world, seeking adventure & unique experiences.

Roatán to Copan Ruins for Christmas [Day 119]

Honduras safety and where to stay for Christmas

We regularly discuss our next destination and mode of transport amongst ourselves and with other travellers. This is based on a mix of other travellers’ suggestions, guide books, online reviews/photos and personal desires. My gut feel is that Honduras is safe if you travel smart. The problem is our Spanish is not strong enough to negotiate our way out of a dangerous situation quickly. We would like to have explored more places; but there are too many warnings to simply ignore. The north coast has some amazing national parks, some nice beaches, river rafting and other activities. The reputation of crime and homicide is just a little hard to ignore. Discussion seems to point to tourists rarely getting in trouble and violence occurring between gangs only. However, San Pedro Sula is the murder capital of the world with around 20 per day. The rest of the country has hot spots that change all the time.

We chose to do the Copan Ruins for Christmas. In Honduras, it is traditional to celebrate Christmas on the 24th of December. That works well for us; with Australia nearly a day ahead, we can celebrate together.

Luxury buses in Honduras

We’ve learnt that we both get a bit tired and cranky on long days of travel; especially when we’re on the move in the very early morning. We were up at 4.45am to get a taxi for a 7am Ferry from Roatán to La Ceiba. This being their day before Christmas, it was set to be a nearly full Ferry and we wanted to beat some of the crush. It was then into a taxi to get to the Hedman Alas Bus terminal. We debated doing Chicken buses, but with a certain stop in the previously mentioned San Pedro Sula, we wanted a little more piece of mind. Hedman Alas runs some quite luxurious buses for long journeys. It was scheduled to depart at 10.15am and we crossed our fingers that we would get onto it without pre-purchased tickets.

The terminal in La Ceiba is tiny. It’s a little odd looking as well, because when the taxi drops you off, it’s a small strip mall of maybe 5 businesses and the terminal at the end. The bus parks just out to the back of this building with security fences around. There were two armed guards who waved a security wand over us as we entered. We successfully bought our tickets for 692 Limpera’s (US$35) each. The bus was fairly full, but still a number of spare seats. We didn’t see anyone in the luxury seats at the front. I do wonder how popular those are at nearly double the price.

We arrived into Copan Ruins at nearly 7pm after stops at Tela, San Pedro Sula and a couple of others. We would definitely recommend this transport for those wanting to use it. Obviously price is a consideration, but for the ease of travel across that distance, we loved it.

Hedman Alas first class seat. No these weren't our seats.

Hedman Alas first class seat. No these weren’t our seats.

Transfer at San Pedro Sula

So for those that have never heard of San Pedro Sula, you can take a look at this (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Pedro_Sula#Crime). Yes it is the murder capital of the world on a per capita basis, due to all the gang violence and drug activity. Even the Honduran locals are relatively cautious of this city. Unfortunately the main transport hub connection is via San Pedro Sula, so all tourists have to go into San Pedro Sula for a connection to get most places in Honduras. When we drove into the city, it didn’t look that bad, looking like any large no name Central America city. Windows on houses were boarded up, and there were large fences; the same height of the building around all houses. It sure isn’t setup to be a tourist destination that’s for sure. We did meet several people who said it wasn’t “that” bad there, but ending the sentence with “we were told not to go out after dark”.

Staying at Via Via hotel in Copan

When we first arrived we were bombarded with touts and tuk tuk drivers asking if we needed a hotel. We had already booked a place and told one of the touts; however he insisted it was closed so we should go to another one. This sounded dodgy as we called the hostel a few days ago to confirm our booking and they knew we were arriving late. So the tout ended up following us to Manzana Verde. Unfortunately it was closed and no longer existed, so we ended up going to the hostel next door. There was a girl at reception that helped us out. We started the conversation in Spanish trying to explain we had a booking but don’t know where we booked because Manzana Verde didn’t exist. It turned out after 5 minutes of Spanish she was Australian. When we realized she spoke English the conversation became so much clearer. It was funny though that no one realized at the start we all spoke English. We told her that it was weird the place didn’t exist as we spoke to them, then we used the internet to work out that Manzana Verde had the same owners as Via Via so that must have been the place we booked and were correct.

Hotel Via Via is absolutely beautiful. The bar was beautifully lined with Christmas lights, and the restaurant/bar was full of candles. I was thinking oh no where did we book as this place looks fancy so could be expensive. But as it turned out we only paid $16 for a private room with a hot shower including a free cubre libre (rum and coke) every night, bargain. The important thing is hot water!!! Yes it has been a month since we have had a hot shower, as it’s an added “luxury” for hot water in Roatán, Livingston and even in Belize. I think it must have been one of the longest showers I had (besides the shower I had after Everest base camp (i.e. no shower for 2 weeks). It felt so good to not have any salt or sand on me and finally wash my hair properly. Another long travel day (leaving at 5am and arriving at 7pm) we were exhausted. Too tired to walk around town we opted to eat at the hotel which had a great reputation anyway. We ran into someone that was staying in the same place as us in Roatán. Yes, the backpacker route is a small world and we do keep running into the same people at the same hostels. The reviews for the place are high on trip advisor so we decided to spoil ourselves since we had been self-catering for 3 weeks. Absolutely delicious and the reviews on trip advisor are absolutely right. Also the prices are reasonable at $5-$6 per meal (plus we had our free drinks). This place is known for its fusion international food specials see picture below.

Dinner at Via Via

Dinner at Via Via

The next day we spent the morning doing administration tasks that were impossible to do in Roatán. The internet in Roatán was extremely slow and virtually non-existent so it was a luxury to finally have fast reliable internet. I also did a load of washing because couldn’t wash anything in Roatán due to the humidity, which meant nothing ever dried. Then we had breakfast at Via Via, French toast, mmmm so delicious.

Giving up our lunch

We didn’t end of leaving the hotel until midday so opted to pick up some lunch to eat in the Central Park square.  I had to get fried chicken because it was next door to the hotel and smelt so good. I wanted it also because I missed my local chicken shop in Guatemala. When we got to the park and began eating, this poor skinny dog came up to us and sat there staring because he was hungry. He was so skinny you could see his ribs and you could tell he hadn’t eaten in a long time. It was so sad that we couldn’t bear to eat in front of him and ended up giving up some of our lunch. We felt really bad for the little guy as it didn’t look like he was going to last much longer. Toby went exploring for some food and found a butcher in the local market and bought a pound of beef. We sat patiently feeding it a little at a time so as not to make it sick. It was really sad when we decided it was time to leave and he tried to follow us. He physically was not able to keep up, due to lack of energy. We didn’t want him to waste any more energy so we went as fast as we could so he would stop. I really hope he lasts until next Christmas and beyond.

The dog we fed in the park.

The dog we fed in the park.

For those of you who have travelled around these countries, I’m sure you can tell similar stories. Dogs and animals in general are very poorly looked after. We have encountered countless strays, usually designated by having no collar. Guatemala so far has tended to be the worst, with a story in Livingston that we won’t share, just shameful.

Understandably, we can’t help every dog out there, but this particular one had a nice temperament and no apparent flea problem common with so many dogs. He was happy to sit and be scratched and given some love for as long as we gave it. We spent some of our time the next day trying to find him, hoping we could give him more food. Sadly, no luck as yet, but we’ll keep trying.

Plenty more to explore. Keep following the blog and our Flickr account for updates. http://www.flickr.com/photos/toraadventure/

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