Alarm buzzing again… so disoriented. I showered then woke up Bill. I went out to see the pool that the hotel advertised, which was quite inviting. Too bad we didn’t have time for a swim. We checked out and walked to the bus station a few blocks away. It was a different station for buses into Honduras. The walk took us through a busy market being set up for the day. It was bustling with shop owners setting up their wares. At the end of the market a man asked us where we were going. Then after some bargaining, coaxed us on his bus for Copan, Honduras.
The small minivan was slow and made frequent stops. After about an hour and a half, the ticket seller told us that he would let us off early since they apparently decided they weren’t going to the border after all. We entered a small town and the driver beeped and waved down another minivan. We got off our bus then headed to the new bus. This one was more packed but still had seating. It was interesting to see how the locals keep their machetes under the seats. The metal sliding on metal sound is a bit uncomfortable to hear when the pick up their machetes to get off the bus. Everyone dressed like a cowboy in this area, large cowboy hats, plaid or horses and lassos print shirts, and jeans with big shiny belt buckles.
We didn’t have much trouble at the border crossing. The Guatemalan side asked us how long we were leaving for. We said one day and got a stamp on a piece of paper that said “Copan ONLY” but no exit stamp. I guess this was a stamp for tourists jumping the border to visit Copan then enter again back into Guatemala at Florida. Only we were planning to enter through El Salvador. Well, we’ll cross that bridge when we cross that… bridge. The Honduran border was a simple in and out, paying the entrance fee and getting a stamp.
We walked up the road and a kid directed us to a bus to Copan. The bus was empty so we had to wait 15 minutes before making any headway. It was a short ride into the town. Copan had a very relaxed feel to it. Narrow cobblestone roads lined with colonial style buildings. We stopped at two ATMs before finding one that would let us get some cash. The town square was very nice with a church and well maintained garden. We walked to the ruins, which were just a km or so out of town.
The ruins were quite small but interesting because it was grouped very closely together like a Mayan metropolis. They weren’t as impressive as Tikal or Chichen Itza, but still fun to explore. These ruins were restored with the help of Japanese investment, so it was very well maintained. Angkor Wat also had restoration done by the Japanese. We hiked up the main structure and walked around the ruins. The view from one of the walls next to the river was great. It was also a really clear day. The park wasn’t too crowded either besides a big group of local students on a field trip. We noticed two soldiers walking around with M-16s dressed in full military camo. On vacation? Bill got a good picture of them while he pretended to take it of me.
They had a system of tunnels excavated by the first European explorers. It wasn’t very interesting unless you are big on macaw face carvings. We did see some real macaws at the entrance of the park. They were in the trees and would fly down to eat from the feeders. They were very colorful and squawked nonstop. While taking pictures of the macaws we spotted this weird rodent the size of a big rabbit on a rock pile. I went up for a closer look when the thing just bounced away. The heck was that? (Turned out to be an “agouti“)
On the way out this girl from the field trip asked us for a picture. Sweet. I’m not use to that since in China it’s only my blond foreign friends who get asked to be a photo prop. Now it’s my turn too!
Back in Copan we stopped for lunch at a highly recommended local restaurant. We didn’t really know what we were ordering but it tasted great. I felt great to be off our feet for a bit as we went over the guidebook planning out our next move. That’s when we realized we wouldn’t make the cigar factory tour. We figured we wouldn’t make into San Salvador today either, but still decided to get to the border town, Ocotepeque. Before leaving, we checked out a few cigar shops and stores. Then we went to the bus area and a kid directed us to a school bus headed for La Entrada.
The crossroads town, La Entrada, is notorious for its drug trafficking. Glad we had to go there to change buses. Apparently there was no direct route to Santa Rosa de Copan, our next stop.
The bus dropped us off right in the middle of a busy street with lots of shady characters standing around. Taking out the lonely planet for the map was probably not the best idea. So we moved. We asked several people where the bus for Santa Rosa was and they pointed up the road. The road looked like a dead end, but after three people gave us the same information, we followed it. Fortunately there were lots of people around and after walking two blocks we saw the line of buses. A crowd of ticket collectors for different buses surrounded us trying to pull us into their respective buses. We let them conduct a quick bidding war and went with the one that was slightly cheaper in a bigger and full bus. Full is good in this situation because it means you don’t have to wait around for additional passengers.
It was a quick ride to our next destination. Again the drop off point was a dump, but not as bad as the last one. We asked for directions to the cigar factory. We wanted to see if we could get in anyway. The directions we received were not great and a walk around the area didn’t seem like a good idea, so we hopped in a cab. The ride was only 2 blocks away. The driver however pulled a good trick. The price was per person not the total ride… you win this round senor.
We stepped out of the cab and the air smelled of tobacco. The factory was indeed closed and the guard at the gate said we couldn’t get in unless it was during one of the designated tour times. There were many employees leaving so we started chatting with one guy who was very friendly. We asked him what he thought of their cigars and strangely, he doesn’t know because he’s never smoked them. Go figure. We were headed in the same direction so we followed him a few blocks and he pointed us to the center of town, up the hill. We walked up the road passing auto repair shops and workers lounging around. Then we arrived in the center with the typical square with a prominent church on one side. In the center was a tourist information booth/café. We stopped in to ask about a place to buy cigars.
The store looked closed and something like a museum when we first walked in. The one lady working there showed us the cigars, meticulously kept in humidified display closets. We ended up buying a box of Flor de Copan, Toro style cigars and two local not for export cigars. All were hencho a mano.
Cigar shopping depleted our local currency, so we took a cab to a mall with an ATM near the bus station for the border. We got some drinks and out of curiosity checked the pricing of the cowboy hats. They were pretty expensive comparatively, around US$200 a piece.
Back at the bus station, it started getting dark. We sat under the one street lamp of the station with a few other passengers. Our cab driver who drove us to the station happened to be there and waved us over. I was a bit hesitant but the guy was really friendly before so I wanted to hear what he had to say. He was offering us a place to stay near the border town. I told him we were fine in the town center near the bus station. Then he went on to tell us how he had family who went to the US to work. He also had a short stay there in Boston. Seems everyone we met had to make the US pilgrimage for some financial stability, before bringing their earnings back and starting a life in their home country. This guy got his cab and has been a cab driver since. He said he liked the town he was living in and was happy with life. Another local guy came up with a small gnarled right-hand and leaned against the cab next to the driver. He didn’t talk at all, just smiled once in awhile with the conversation. The driver seemed to know him. Then this loud homeless looking guy came up to us asking for money and then high-fived the cab driver before stumbling off down the sidewalk. We had a good chat with the locals for about 30 minutes.
The bus was late of course. We shook our friends’ hands and said goodbye, then jumped on to secure our seating. It wasn’t a very long ride, but it still put our arrival time at just before 10 pm.
We saw a hotel right from the bus stop, so we headed over along with a group of passengers from the bus. The rooms were ok, so we took it. They had a late night eatery open, so we had some decent Mexican food. Outside a dog was chowing down on dinner as well.
After dinner we briefly walked around but found the town was pretty much closed and quiet, so we headed back to the hotel. We were drained, set our alarms, and happily fell asleep.