I headed out of La Palma in the morning – ready for my first solo border crossing. This border might have been the sleepiest and easiest one yet. It still took 2 hours of course. But I didn’t need a helper and none approached me.
Oh yeah – I dropped a $5 bill on the El Salvador side, which is probably like a $50 to the average Salvadorean. Some random guy came running after me with it. This might have surprised me earlier in the trip. But now that I’ve been in this part of the world for months, I’d be surprised if someone saw me drop it and pocketed it.
Lake Yohoa / D&D Brewery
I made my way to D&D Brewery on Lake Yohoa in the West-Center of Honduras. This was a place I really wanted to check out as I’d heard about from multiple traveler forums. Southwest Honduras coming from El Salvador is high in the mountains and an absolutely gorgeous drive. I never expected to see so many cypress trees in a place this far South.
I got in about dusk and was a little spooked during the drive. For one thing I had read on the Pan-American forum that Honduras is the one place you don’t want to push rule #1 “Don’t drive at night”. Like even at 4pm the roads get dangerous with bandits or something. Well if you’ve been reading my blogs you know a recurring theme is listen to other travelers – but take everything with a grain of salt – especially if you don’t back it up with multiple sources. At least everywhere I went in Honduras – this one turned out to need a lot of salt. I’m sure there are unsafe areas, and random crimes can happen anywhere. But personally I found Hondurans some of the friendliest people I’ve met, and I never felt unsafe the entire time I was in the country.
However the other thing that spooked me I have yet to hear a good explanation for. About 50km into Honduras, on a rural stretch of highway I saw a guy walking on the road and thought to myself – “that dude looks naked”. I quickly convinced myself he must just be wearing some weird-patterned outfit. But as I got closer – yep he was naked. He was a young tall good-looking guy, mid 20s to low 30s. He had shoes on and was carrying a purple plastic cup. He didn’t look distressed at all. Nor did he look crazy. As I passed, he gave me a somewhat sheepish look like “Yep, I’m naked.” I didn’t think to get my camera out, nor would I really feel right about snapping a pic of this guy on what may very well be the worst day of his life.
Yes I could have stopped to help him. But he made no gesture like he wanted help. And I have no idea what’s going on in this country or with this situation. I just know that it’s ostensibly one of the most dangerous countries on my trip. If he had gestured for help I would be in a big quandary. What if this is some gang trap? I honestly don’t know what I would have done.
So that’s it. You have all the facts I have. Any guesses? I asked a number of Hondurans who could offer no more insight. Some said he was probably crazy. I know crazy when I see it, but this dude knew exactly where he was and what was happening. What does the purple cup mean? My best wild guess is he was robbed, and sent on his way naked – which I have heard about in at least 2 other cases over the years – one in Mexico and one in El Salvador.
Interestingly I saw a similar thing about 20 years ago in San Francisco. I rounded the corner at Bush and Polk, coming back to work from my lunch – and was greeted with a completely naked woman wearing purple plastic pumps and carrying a see-through purple plastic purse that was more like a cube cage with some stuff in it. I had been to Burning Man a few months earlier, so my first though was “Oh, a naked person”. Then my next thought was “Wait, this isn’t the right context.” Yes it’s SF. But in that part of SF this would be about as abnormal as any other major city in the world. I said hello, as it was all I could think to do. She said hi back and kept walking. I watched her walk towards downtown SF, attracting ever increasing attention. To this day I have no idea what was happening there. But the purple plastic stuff in both cases makes me wonder – is this some weird secret society hazing ritual. Probably not.
So anyway that stuff had me a wee bit unnerved. But once I got off the main highway and onto the dirt road towards D&D, I felt a lot better, as I could tell it was just farmers and normal rural activity. Then when I got to D&D I felt even better, as they had a sign offering parking for “overlanders”. This means they know exactly what’s up and are specifically targeting people like me driving across Central America. D&D turned out to be my favorite place to stay so far on the trip – a fun multi-aged mix of hostel crowd, overlanders and locals that somehow does a really good job of getting everyone to socialize. I think its secret is a combination of the free-flowing beer, and the fact that there’s not much else in this part of Honduras so everyone winds up here, rather than splitting off into self-selected groups.
Another thing they do really well at D&D is clearly detail all the stuff to do there. A lot of places could use a board like this.
After a fairly drunken night where I met a bunch of new Instagram friends (it’s a great light-weight way to keep up with fellow travelers imo), I went on one of the guided hikes the next day.
The hike was perfectly nice. But somehow at the top I managed to piss off a bunch of ants. The workers were small, but the soldiers were huge. They weren’t bothering anyone else. But everywhere I stepped near the hill they’d start attacking. I really think that I stepped in their hill, and the workers put some kind of scent marker on me to tell the soldiers to find and attack me where ever I went.
They made it all the way up my boot and even got into my sock – but amazingly none actually bit me. Pulling them off my shoe was actually pretty hard as they were biting with incredible strength. In the movie Apocolypto – they use the heads of these ants as sutures. They get the soldier to bite down, then rip off the body and the ants stay clamped on. I can absolutely believe that feeling how strong they were biting my boot and socks. The kid in the movie was screaming in pain. Glad I miraculously avoided that.
For some reason ant attacks seem like a constant theme with me this trip.
After a couple nights at D&D, I drove up to San Pedro Sula to pick up my friends – Tommi and Steph. I also picked up a new Belgian friend – Sietske. She was coming along for Copan Ruins, and a ride back to D&D. I checked with Tommi of course, and she replied “Sure, your call! Rule is always, if it goes south you get to fix it :). Meaning you have to take her and her shit and drop her off at center camp lol”. HAH! I also gave 3 other backpackers a cramped ride to the bus stop.
We retrieved Tommi and Steph at the airport and headed south to Copan. Along the way google maps lady got creative and sent us down this dirt farming road. It was a good introduction to driving by the seat of your pants for Tommi and Steph.
Passing this beast reminded me of the big evil truck in Speed Racer.
Our first destination was Luna Jaguar Hot Springs – a nice hot springs complex an hour north of Copan Ruins. However we took another google maps-recommended rural shortcut – purposely this time – as I knew there was a ton of construction on the main road, and my car can handle anything.
Anything except a cow’s rear-end that is. As I was passing pretty close to a group of cows, I heard a thump on the right side of the car. I looked in my rearview mirror – all cows were still standing. Instead of stopping I decided to just keep moving as I don’t need any pissed off farmers coming after me for hitting their cow. Which to be fair I did not. From what we could reconstruct, one cow got spooked, probably by another cow, and backed into my passenger side door – leaving a big dent and a nice cow shit stain along the length of the door. Luckily it was a glancing blow, or my car would have been messed up.
Problem though is the passenger window wouldn’t roll down with the new dent. Except, trying to roll the window down then somehow pushed the dent back out. Woo hoo. Now there are just a few little dents around the door handle, which I can totally live with. Lesson is give cows a wide berth, especially if in a group. And if you’re keeping count – that’s one crunched bumper, a chipped side mirror, and a dented door – all fixed for $25 or magically fixed themselves. Running pretty good so far on car issues. (Why did I have to say that?)
Jaguar Luna Hot Springs (Agua Caliente)
Copan Ruinas Town
After Luna Jaguar we headed to Copan Ruinas town. There are little places near Tikal and Palenque that are mostly just a few overpriced hotels. I was expecting something like that, but this was a lot more – cute cobblestone streets and lots of tourist-friendly amenities.
The next day we ate at a fun Mexican place, owned by a Canadian of course, Carnitas Nia Lola.
Copan is my 8th Mayan Ruins of this trip I think. They’re all different. The coolest thing about Copan was the Sculpture Museum, which had a full scale replica of an earlier sarcophagus on the site. The real thing was buried under a pyramid, which is standard practice, as one king has to build his bigger peni— pyramid over the top of the previous.
However apparently this building was so special that they took great care not to destroy it in the process and keep it intact. Archaeologists have burrowed into the pyramid enough to see the edges of this and map it out. If you also take the tunnel tour you can see a small piece of it apparently. We did not, Tommi tried to “unwittingly” sneak into one of the tunnels and was rebuffed by a guard from across the open square. BUSTED.
Out on the grounds the other big highlight is the hieroglyphic stairs.
After Copan we headed to the nearby macaw sanctuary. Apparently Copan used to be the home of wild red macaws until they were captured as pets and decimated. Some doctor saw a few breeding pairs being fed on the grounds and realized they were close to a self-sustaining population. So the macaw center is working to bring the birds back to their indigenous area. Also you get to pose with the birds (these are tame birds used for breeding I think).
The next day we headed back to D&D Brewery – this time through the mountains and a popular colonial town called Gracias. Unfortunately I didn’t really figure out the time properly and we wound up driving back at night – on the Pan-Am Highwary – which at night in Honduras is one of the most stressful roads I’ve been on this trip. Once we turned off for the lake though it was all good.
Interesting row of lakeside restaurants that all look the same – this is only half of them. Must be a popular truck/bus stop as well.
D&D Part 2
We made our way back to D&D, which didn’t have quite as fun of a crowd this time. But it picked up after the first day.
In the afternoon we walked over to a nearby coffee plantation where Steph and Tommi obsessed over how to get the over-abundant air plants back to the US, and I dropped my phone but somehow found it again.
That night we wandered off the grounds looking for other food options. Tommi and Steph discovered that food on exterior signs rarely matches the dish cooked inside. This place had tacos and a bunch of other stuff on their sign – but literally none of those things were available. In these kinds of places, I’ve learned to just point at something someone is eating and say – “uno por favor”. If no one is eating anything I just say “Uno please” then they say “[… something …]?” in Spanish and I say “Si!”. Tommi tried to order one of the mystery items they did have. But after about 30 minutes of chopping and sizzling – they came out with 3 of these pork chop local delicacies called chuletas (I think). I was already stuffed and gave mine away – but Tommi and Steph seemed pleased with it.
I don’t think we took any pictures so here’s one off the web that’s kinda close.
The next day we went to Cerro Azul (also called PANACAM) – a really cool national park that has amenities and well marked trails – an absolute rarity in this part of the world. It was a gorgeous hike and I was able to get a cheeseburger at the end. That was a good day.
The next day we headed to La Ceiba for the ferry to Utila – that will be in Honduras post #2.