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John and Mandi

us --> van --> overland
1,803 days a wanderin'

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Damn Is It Beautiful, Honduras

Mar 1, 2017
by John

There is beauty that is in the eye of the beholder and there is beauty no one can fail to recognize. Times when our breath palpitates, overwhelmed with awe of what is before us. Stopped, staring with gaping mouths and eyes stunned. Bewildered, excited confusion of clarity, entranced. A moment of recognition, feeling at peace, at one, at home. Comfortable exuberance, without care, whole. There are places that move us and people we gravitate to. Honduras is full of both.

What We Did

El Poy: El Salvador to Honduras Border Crossing

We try to always spend the night as close to a border crossing as possible to make sure we have enough time in case we encounter any problems. That usually means we arrive fairly early, as we did at El Poy. It was an easy crossing that took a little over an hour and a half. On the El Salvadorian side we first were processed out at customs, interestingly having our information entered into a computer even though when we entered the country only our passports were reviewed...no stamp, paperwork, or electronic entry. We drove up to the gate where we cancelled the van's TIP, having to walk a block to make a copy of it for the official. Exiting took maybe 30 minutes.

Entering Honduras seemed a little disorganized at first but we soon realized the big mob of people were just hanging out and not actually in any semblance of a line, confusing sometimes to us westerners. At customs our passports were scanned, our fingerprints digitally taken, we were photographed, and charged $3 each. After a few attempts my fingerprints and photo finally were accepted by the system so it took a little longer than it should, maybe there will be a couple extra Juans in the US when we return ; ). As always, getting the vehicle TIP (just under $35) took the longest but it was an easy process mostly requiring us to stand around while the official pecked at a keyboard before having us walk to and from the bank when it came time to pay. Money changers were offering a slightly better exchange rate in Honduras.

Gracias

Another pattern we are falling into is finding a place just past the border that has internet and, hopefully, a functioning shower. We've been slightly slacking with the blog, writing one entry per country, so it's a little easier to do it just after crossing. We also like sitting around too so it's a good excuse to find a place with some basic amenities to help us put ourselves back together, something we need to do at least once per week. The less than glamorous truth about living in a vehicle, chore days.

Our first stop was Finca Bavaria, 150L per night, running back into Pete & Natasha who were already there. They gave us the skinny on the where and whats in town and we all munched on some street meat before heading back to camp for post sunset cocktails. They headed off the following day and we stayed true to our plan and completed our administrative chores before wandering back into town for dinner on our final night there.

Gracias, Honduras

No, thank you

Gracias, Honduras

Makes me want to eat cake

Gracias, Honduras

Great parking pal

Gracias, Honduras

Is this what Donald has in mind?

Termas del Rio, Gracias

A hot spring we thought about visiting and were convinced after talking with Pete & Natasha, becoming our favorite place near Gracias. At 140L per person per night it was a steal considering that 280L converted to just under $12 per night for the both of us. They let us park right next to the second hottest spring, the hottest was being cleaned, and allowed day and night access. We liked Termas del Rio so much we decided to drive back for a second night after our hike at Parque Nacional Montana de Celaque. On our last morning there the super hot spring was back in use so we pruned up in it while drinking our coffee, exactly what we needed!

Termas del Rio, Gracias, Honduras

I don't think so Garmin

Termas del Rio, Gracias, Honduras

It wasn't there a minute ago

Termas del Rio, Gracias, Honduras

Pool on pool action

Parque Nacional Montana de Celaque, Gracias

We were wanting to get in a decent hike, our commitment to exercising after leaving Lake Atitlan faded within the first week, so we drove up to Parque Nacional Montana de Celaque (120L per person, $10 in total). It was obvious Pete & Natasha were somewhere in the park, their rig was nestled adjacent to the main parking area. We decided to take the Mirador de la Cascada hike which averages between 3-4 hours, running into Pete & Natasha at the summit. We made good time up but had to slow down for the descent, I slipped and fell twice within the first kilometer of our descent due to wearing overworn shoes. Eventually we caught back up to Pete & Natasha in the parking lot and said our goodbyes before returning to Termas del Rio for a much needed hot soak.

Montana de Celaque, Gracias, Honduras

Ichabod...Ichabod

Montana de Celaque, Gracias, Honduras

Why is everything a friend of Jack?

Montana de Celaque, Gracias, Honduras

We're much tanner in person

Copan

The ruins of Copan were our main reason to visit but the drive in was horrible, arguably on the worst roads in all of Honduras, the mountain views were stunning. Our first visit to town had it stealing our hearts, the really good food might have swayed us a little. We realized long ago that we're not fans of big cities, we do appreciate their usefulness, the quaintness of smaller towns are more our style. Having been told that Copan has a charm, then experiencing it ourselves, we are now part of the group that insists on a visit. The camping at Hotel El Bosque was just ok, cheap at 100L or $4 per night. Each day we wandered the streets and could have easily stayed a week, leaving after three nights to make our Roatan booking in time. Well, we could have stayed longer but I made a calculation error which resulted in a confusion in dates...whoops. Mandi still doesn't want to talk about it.

Gracias to Copan, Honduras

We're driving a shitty pot holed riddled road for this

Gracias to Copan, Honduras

I want my money back

Copan, Honduras

Give me a second, my ass still hurts from that drive

Sol de Copan, Copan, Honduras

It was in focus when we took the picture

Copan Ruins, Copan

A set of ruins that has been on our must visit list long before we ever started our journey. At first glance the ruins don't seem like much, the more we wandered the more entranced we became. While some of the more intricate pieces have been restored or replaced, we never felt like anything lacked authenticity. Doug and Fran (Calder Escapes) recommended visiting the onsite museum in their blog, we are so glad we followed their advice. The almost $43 we spent in entrance fees, 506L per person, seemed really high at first but after wandering the grounds and the museum for almost four hours we feel it is more than reasonable.

Copan Ruins, Copan, Honduras

Olly olly oxen free

Copan Ruins, Copan, Honduras

This standoff has lasted for centuries

Copan Ruins, Copan, Honduras

That tree is oddly placed

Copan Ruins, Copan, Honduras

Iguanasaurus

Copan Ruins, Copan, Honduras

Chester Cheetah is every damn where

Copan Ruins, Copan, Honduras

The architect swore it would look much bigger

Copan Ruins, Copan, Honduras

Stairway to ka’an just won't sell as many records

Copan Ruins, Copan, Honduras

Like the creepy skulls weren't enough

Copan Ruins, Copan, Honduras

I'm just not sure about the red

Copan Ruins, Copan, Honduras

That ancient alien thing might not be so crazy after all

Copan Ruins, Copan, Honduras

Agouti you say, I don't see any pointy beards

Macaw Mountain, Copan

Another recommendation from Doug and Fran and another piece of sound advice. Macaw Mountain, also known as the Macaw Sanctuary, works to rehabilitate and release as many residents as possible. We knew this before visiting and were happily surprised to learn that they have several birds that were seized by government officials from individuals who were holding them in captivity illegally. While that doesn't seem like much, to us it solidifies the legitimacy of Macaw Mountain since they are working closely with government officials to rehabilitate and release birds from all over Honduras. They also provide a haven for those birds that can never be returned to their natural habitat. The little more than $18 it cost for the both of us was easy to hand over to people who are making a difference. Happy birds is an understatement and the natural setting is beautiful. We especially liked the walk-through enclosures (the Scarlet Macaw enclosure was closed for mating and nesting) and the supervised personal encounters with the different birds at the end of our self guided tour. We even bought a souvenir, although I already broke it but think it can be fixed.

Macaw Mountain, Copan, Honduras

He's up to something

Macaw Mountain, Copan, Honduras

Definitely happy to see us

Macaw Mountain, Copan, Honduras

Don't you turn your back on me

Macaw Mountain, Copan, Honduras

Showoff

Macaw Mountain, Copan, Honduras

Mr smart mouth you're grounded

Macaw Mountain, Copan, Honduras

Paul decided to not make eye contact, Polly made him pay for that decision later

Macaw Mountain, Copan, Honduras

Local comedor

Macaw Mountain, Copan, Honduras

Epitome of enthusiasm

Macaw Mountain, Copan, Honduras

We think we look better from that angle too

Macaw Mountain, Copan, Honduras

They feel the same way

Macaw Mountain, Copan, Honduras

All brains equally sized

Posada del Mar, Tela

Leaving Copan early, due to my inability to make sure the calendar we were using was for the correct year, had us wanting a place close to La Ceiba for our trip to Roatan. We had been undecided on visiting Tela but, due to its location and based on the incorrect fact that we needed a place for one night before continuing on, picked it as our next stop. Halfway into our drive Mandi realized we had four days to reach the port, not two. We immediately nixed the possibility of turning around and driving back to Copan so Tela would have to do. Posada del Mar, listed in iOverlander, sounded like a good spot even though it isn't the easiest place to find. Once we located the correct gate, parked, popped up, and checked out the location we knew it was going to be a great place to rest up before heading over to Roatan. At almost $13 a night it isn't a cheap place but the pool and access to a washer & dryer offset the higher price...that's right-a dryer!

The beach is just ok so we mostly spent our time by the pool, researching additional accommodations on Roatan, doing chores, and using the washer & dryer. We decided to stay two nights, then changed that to three after meeting a great French Canadian couple who were looping back home after reaching Costa Rica. Posade del Mar was a great surprise and a place we stayed at again after returning from the island, the dryer was broken during our second stay : (

Posada del Mar, Tela, Honduras

You like it now, just wait until the ATVs come back

Posada del Mar, Tela, Honduras

Kidney damage shape, interesting

Posada del Mar, Tela, Honduras

We love how photos make it look so clean

Tranquil Seas, Roatan

Our decision to visit Roatan was made after meeting two Honduran families who informed us "that's where the best beaches are". We don't plan on getting Scuba certified so visiting a premiere diving destination didn't make a lot of sense but we do love the Caribbean. On a whim, while in Copan, we emailed Tranquil Seas, an Eco resort on the edge of Sandy Bay near West End, to see if they had any last minute deals. To our surprise, they did have a four night last minute booking available so we jumped on it. Our friends Natasha & Pete and Mark & Sas were also going to be on the island too, in West End. While it may seem to many that our lifestyle is a vacation, it is not, thus requiring a vacation or occasional break from life on the road.

The night before we ferried to the island, we camped at 1877 Hostel ($16) in La Ceiba but couldn't leave our van there due to the number of rigs already being stored. They offer no guarantee free storage as long as you camp first, we've never heard of anyone having issues as the parking area is in the hostel's compound. We ended up driving to the port early and registering the van to be stored in their secure lot for what averaged to $4.87 per day, paying Lempiras in cash when we picked it up as required. The payment window closes at 4PM so taking the 2PM ferry back to La Ceiba could cut it really close, possibly arriving after the cashier is closed if conditions aren't optimal (we decided on the 7AM ferry by happenstance which is why we are sharing this). Since we didn't have a definite return date, leaving our options open if we decided to stay on the island longer, we purchased two 9:30 departure one way tickets to Roatan for $32 each. The return price was a little cheaper at $31 each. Mark warned us that the ferry was rough and suggested we get the free seasickness pills from the ticket agent. Both ways were very rough, several passengers got sick, flying from La Ceiba might be the smarter option as the seasickness pills made us really sleepy and the flights are reasonably priced.

Tranquil Seas could not be named more appropriately and is one of the best places we have ever stayed. The lush jungle setting overlooking the Caribbean is idyllic, the tree house meets lodge construction introduces an element of Swiss Family Robinson. The staff are accommodating and fun, a big part of our enjoyment. Access to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System is 100 meters from the end of the private dock, an artificial reef is 15 meters to it's side, both perfect for snorkeling. It was a great start to our Roatan excursion and a place we returned to many times during our stint on the island. Their happy hour should not be missed.

Tranquil Seas, Sandy Bay, Roatan

50 shades of blue

Tranquil Seas, Sandy Bay, Roatan

And thet're all named George

Tranquil Seas, Sandy Bay, Roatan

Stop touching me

Tranquil Seas, Sandy Bay, Roatan

That pole has crabs

Tranquil Seas, Sandy Bay, Roatan

2 no 4

Tranquil Seas, Sandy Bay, Roatan

Probably tasty on a salad

Tranquil Seas, Sandy Bay, Roatan

She can't help it, she was born that way

Tranquil Seas, Sandy Bay, Roatan

Fan-tastic

Tranquil Seas, Sandy Bay, Roatan

Why are you smiling?

Tranquil Seas, Sandy Bay, Roatan

Like we don't see enough of each other on the mainland

Tranquil Seas, Sandy Bay, Roatan

Tranquil, we'll see about that

Guava Grove, Roatan

Before reaching the island, while in Tela, we decided to extend our stay in an effort to marginalize the cost of the ferry. The thought was that it's expensive to pay $125 just to ferry to and from the island, not counting the cost of vehicle storage, for just 4 nights so a longer stay would be 'smarter'. We used AirBnB and booked 8 more nights in an efficiency at Guava Grove which was only half a kilometer from Tranquil Seas, also located in Sandy Bay. Their reviews were good and we read up about them on their website. We know our opinions have to be skewed a little since we moved to them from Tranquil Seas, but even if we had only stayed at Guava Grove we couldn't recommend it.

Apparently, the rate offered through AirBnB is for reduced services. That means there is a charge for everything, even though their regular rate isn't that much more than what is offered through AirBnB and is mostly inclusive. We have never felt more like 4th class citizens in our lives. None of this is conjecture, we were openly told "not for AirBnB bookings" and every time we interacted with the owner we felt as though we were bothering her. On our first night there we ate at the onsite restaurant for dinner and we asked for water, we were offered bottled for a fee, which we declined showing the waitress we had our own water bottles freshly filled from the garafon we already had to purchase. She then returned with two glasses of water which we assumed were complimentary, our mistake, $1.50 each! The dinner tasted okay, but the portions were tiny for the prices, even compared to other resorts we ate at, so we decided to buy and eat elsewhere.

Besides our interactions, the apartment we were in was insufficiently constructed resulting in the paper thin experience. Every footstep, conversation, glass placement, text notification...everything (imagination not necessary as we heard that too) was audible. Also, the screens didn't fit properly and there were large gaps around three sides of our door. This seems insignificant, but due to an additional $15 daily fee to run the A/C during the daytime, we struggled to cool the apartment while limiting the amount of biting bugs that were entering through the deficiencies. On one morning we were greeted by hoards of mosquitoes at 6AM that were coming in from around the door. We told the owner and she promptly responded with a can of insecticide, spraying all around and under the building, which too filled our apartment. The following morning we awoke to the caustic professional spraying under the building, joy. We made the most of it and spent the majority of our time elsewhere.

When it came time to pay for all of our incidentals we had one last surprise. Since we were paying in local currency we got the great bargain exchange rate of 24 Lempiras, the official exchange was somewhere around 23.5. Everywhere else we have been the exchange is fair or advantageous, we have never been charged extra to pay with the local currency. Then, when we pointed out that the local girl working there gave us too much change, the owner was demeaning to her in front of us and the patrons at the restaurant. In the end the owner thanked us for being honest, a somewhat positive takeaway, no credit of her own.

Our stay at Guava Grove was a disappointment but we made the most of it. We had met a great couple who were staying on the island, Robin & Fran, and they invited us along during some of their exploits which made our extended time on the island wonderful. We also hung out with Mark & Sas and Pete & Natasha a few times. We walked back to Tranquil Seas to snorkel, have drinks, and eat some fabulous meals. So our second choice in accommodations sucked, it's the people we surround ourselves with that make the difference. We didn't make lemonade, we made some wonderful new friends and tightened our bonds with others.

Steel Pan Alley, Gravel Bay, Roatan

Robin & Fran invited us to join them for a steel drum lesson, also known as steel pans. I was once a percussionist, many years ago, and have always wanted to play around with one, so of course we accepted. The instruction was both informative and fun as several local students participated in our training. It was a great experience and Deborah is another example of someone who is making a difference. Her school is run entirely on donations and is free for the local children. The $35 per person for our lesson, which included us playing three songs, was nominal compared to what she is doing. None of us could help ourselves when her shameless plug for merchandise came around. Each of us left with a new t-shirt, Robin & Fran also picked up a couple CDs, since after all...we were official members of the band now.

Steel Pan Alley, Gravel Bay, Roatan, Honduras

Just like the old days, not paying attention

Garifuna Drumming, Punta Gorda, Roatan

Usually our last day somewhere is spent doing mostly nothing, but Robin & Fran insisted we visit Punta Gorda to see the Garifuna drumming, so did everyone else. We missed the drumming in Belize so we agreed that we should catch it on Roatan, Robin & Fran used us as an excuse to go for their second time. We wandered the sleepy village, having lunch at the cultural center after a brief history of Roatan, as the village started to liven with the patterned sounds and hypnotic vocals. Eventually, we were seated directly in front of the percussionists watching the occasional adult, almost continuous children, shaking it as only islanders can. One last wonderful island experience with our friends.

Punta Gorda, Roatan, Honduras

1 guy is about the music, the other 3 are only in it for the girls

Finca Las Glorias, Lake Yojoa

Our last major stop in Honduras, before we would need to start heading to Nicaragua for the remainder of our CA-4 visas, was Lake Yojoa. We had trouble deciding where to stay so we planned on checking out most of the places listed in iOverlander, Finca Las Glorias being the first. We were able to park reasonably close to the lake, almost $8.50 for one night, but it wasn't exactly what we were looking for and the WiFi was spotty. It was late so we decided to spend the night, have breakfast, and move on in the morning. The location is very pretty, we just weren't feeling it.

Lake Yojoa, Honduras

Build bridges not walls

Lake Yojoa, Honduras

I went first the last time

D&D Brewery, Lake Yojoa

Sometimes parking in a mostly open grassy field is the best place to be, especially when it's across from a really nice hostel, which happens to also be a brewery, and only $3.50 per night per person. Our plan was to accomplish most of our administrative tasks and take it easy before catching a couple more sites on our way to the border. In truth, we mostly took it easy and accomplished very little, unless eating and drinking a lot counts. In our defense, like we need one, I celebrated my 43rd birthday at D&D over wine with new friends and an oversized dinner...they were out of cake. We liked the place so much we returned for one more night after camping at Cerro Azul. We met several other overlanders whom we hope to run into again and during our return stay Pete & Natasha unexpectedly showed up at our door. Our last night at D&D was spent having a great time together before we took off for the border the next morning. Thanks again for my second birthday guys!

D&D Brewery, Lake Yojoa, Honduras

Perfect shade tree mechanic spot

D&D Brewery, Lake Yojoa, Honduras

We finally get a picture and those two are making googlie eyes

Pulhapanzak Falls, Santa Barbara

Famous for the tour behind it but a spectacle all its own. We were both feeling a bit under the weather so we skipped the cave tour and wandered around on our own. Camping is allowed in the parking lot, we weren't feeling it, so after our short hike we decided to head to Cerro Azul. The $6 it cost to visit Pulhapanzak Falls was well worth it, maybe next time we'll feel up to risking our lives for a peek behind the curtain.

Pulhapanzak Falls, Santa Barbara, Honduras

Brought to you by Coca Cola, seriously

Cerro Azul, Cortes

We reached Cerro Azul and got situated just before 3PM, rather late for us. We noticed that there was a short hike to a waterfall at the edge of the camping area so we decided to take the stroll in hopes of it making us feel a little better, which it did. It was quite stunning, becoming our favorite spot in the park. While making food preparations for our upcoming border travel days, a couple rigs rolled in from Canada. We immediately recognized one from our time at Lake Atitlan and were all soon catching up.

The next morning we decided to take the loop hike which ascends into the cloud forest. A large group of middle school aged children were gathered at the trailhead, about a kilometer in we were behind a group of rowdy boys, loosing any chance of seeing lots of wildlife. It's a nice hike with several miradors and a couple of waterfalls. Just before reaching the end of the hike we had decided to return to D&D and started discussing what we were going to eat at the restaurant for lunch, so predictable. Our one night and couple of hikes cost us almost $13, our lack of sleep due to a somewhat rowdy group of late arriving tent campers was free. How can we complain, it was a beautiful place being enjoyed by many, as it should be.

Cerro Azul, Cortes, Honduras

Way better than a rain shower

Cerro Azul, Cortes, Honduras

They meshed the light of moon and sun

Cerro Azul, Cortes, Honduras

Far over the misty mountains cold


Say what? (3)
Mar 1, 2017 at 02:23 PM
Looks like you really enjoyed that country guys. Great medley of pictures. makes me envious...
Safe travel, take care.

Claude-Alain
Mar 1, 2017 at 02:26 PM
Nice write up. I'm glad you all "took a chance" on Honduras because it seems everyone had a marvelous time.
Mar 1, 2017 at 06:01 PM
Thanks Claude-Alain and Rhonda!

We probably should have broken this entry in two to give Honduras even more love. It is a beautiful country in many ways. It's a shame so many rush through, hopefully our post and those from others will start to change the stigma. Something tells us each of you will be sharing your Honduran tales sometime down the road ; ) Love to you both, XOXO
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