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TRAVELOGUE LINK - Hopefulist's Honduras Adventure 2008

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Here's a link to the travelogue I posted on the Thorntree forum. There are links there to my trip blogs and photo collections as well. Let me know if you have questions - happy trails!

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa?messageID=14662474&#14662474

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    thanks so much for posting it! It sounds like a wonderful adventure (with a few extra-exciting spots)! I will savor the photos over the coming week when I'm not at work--it'll be like a mini-trip back to Copan.
    Thanks again for sharing.

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    Sounds like you had a wonderful vacation. What is the link to your Guatemala trip report on Thorntree Forum? I have not been able to find that trip report. Also, what hotels would you recommend in Antigua Guatemala for around $100/night and how would I book them. Some of the hotels in Antigua that I might be interested in do not have websites, only phone numbers. Would you wait until arrival (for a Feb. visit), or would you prebook? Thanks for your help.

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    Shelley -
    Here's a link to my photos. If you click on the Guatemala 2007 one you'll see links on the main page to the travelogue and a trip blog.

    We stayed at Casa Cristina in Antigua - clean, cute rooms with real hot water, great location, best ever owners, safe area, great location, free hot and cold purified water and internet, $25/night double. That's the only place I've stayed in Antigua since the 80's so that's the only recommendation I can provide. I realize you're looking for something fancier by the price you mentioned; they're out there - I'm just not familiar with them.

    If I have places I'm REALLY wanting to stay I book in advance. There's bound to be something open in Antigua but it might not be your 1st or 2nd choice if you wait till you're there. I've called many times for reservations when no internet was available but I have an intermediate level of Spanish and I've often needed it during those conversations. Sorry I'm not more help!

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    Since the Thorntree Forum is down, maybe for the count, I'm updating the links in my photo collections to take folks to the Fodor versions of my travelogues instead of the Thorntree ones. When I got to this one I realized I had just linked the other so I'm pasting the full version below since the link in my post is no longer valid. Happy trails!
    ____________________________

    Time for the travelogue from my recent trip to Honduras - sorry for the delay. This was my 3rd visit to Honduras in 4 summers and I enjoyed revisiting old favorites and discovering new ones. This trip had 2 distinct parts and you can check out some of my photos and brief synopses on the following blog sites:
    http://www.liveandlearninca.blogspot.com
    http://www.holemansinhonduras.blogspot.com

    I’ve posted a new photo collections for the Copán and island parts here:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/staceyholeman/collections

    The 1st 2+ weeks of a month-long adventure entailed escorting a group of friends and educational coworkers from my little town to Copán Ruinas for 2 weeks of Spanish study at the Ixbalanque School http://www.ixbalanque.com ($210/week including homestay and 1 activity). We flew Continental from Portland, OR to Guatemala City through Houston, arriving mid day; we chose the open jaw into GUA and out of San Pedro Sula, Honduras, based on cost. I had arranged a private shuttle to drive us to Copán since it was cheaper with a large group than nice buses and we could pick the timing. We traveled carry-on only and the flights down went smoothly. After a minor confusion with the driver (he wasn’t Miguel, didn’t know Miguel, and was expecting 8 instead of 11 riders) we were on our way. My grandma used the phrase “hell-bent on election” and that’s the way this guy drove. We miraculously dodged scruffy dogs, cats, cows, horses, multiple rock-slides (thanks to Hurricane Dolly) and a huge iguana, rarely slowing and stopping only once during the 4.5 hour trip for gas and bathrooms. To add to the stress, we passed the site of a terrible accident, dead body still in the roadway. Immigration into Honduras was painfully slow but uneventful and we arrived at the school in Copán to the warm greetings of the directors, Kathy and Amadea Guerra.

    Over the course of the next half hour they sorted us out to various homestays in time for dinner, some of us 2 to a household. Most of our families provided delicious food and comfortable rooms, and were very sweet and concerned for our happiness and safety; one friend switched families after a few days and another family proved less than ideal match by the end of the 2nd week, but overall the experience was wonderful. In addition to the 9 of us from The Dalles, 7 other educators met us in Copán for 2 weeks of study and cultural adventure; 1 member of The Dalles group and all 7 others had reading and assignments in addition to the usual fare and received credit I had arranged through a university. Thus began 2 extremely interesting, entertaining, alternately hilarious, moving, and exhausting weeks.

    Bugs weren’t a problem, the weather cooperated after 3 of the 1st 4 afternoons were soggy, and the main inconvenience was a lack of water to the town for most of the 1st week and a half, again thanks to Hurricane Dolly and massive rock slides; this was especially trying for those of us living with families who don’t have cisterns for storing water. Aside from minor stomach upsets, 3 folks became sick enough to need antibiotics, 1 from events in Guatemala prior to the start of our weeks in Copán, 1 from pork (we think) and another from a probable combination of creek water (don’t drink it even if it looks crystal clear!) and street food of questionable integrity.

    While one group studied 4 hours with a 1-on-1 tutor, the other embarked on the adventure of the day. In addition to it’s usual staff, both directors taught during the 1st week and additional teachers were borrowed from the Central American Spanish School http://www.ca-spanish.com in La Ceiba and Utila to support the unusually large number of students (the 16 of us plus a few others). Some of us retained the same teacher for both weeks and others switched; everyone in our group was pleased with their teachers and progress, and many were thrilled. When 4 hours became a bit much, groups of teachers and students would get together for a trip to the kids’ museum, play a language game, or pay a visit to the house next door to buy chocobananos.

    Copán was as lovely as ever with its cobblestone streets and brightly colored businesses and houses. It’s rough enough around the edges to still seem like Central America and the people are friendly and helpful. It feels very safe. During the course of 2 weeks we visited the kids’ and archeological museums in town (free and about $3, respectively), the Enchanted Wings Butterfly House ($6), Macaw Mountain Bird Park ($6 with discount from the school, $10 otherwise and you can return days later with the same ticket), the lovely Copán ruins ($15 plus $15 if you want to explore the tunnels) and its nature trail (free) and gorgeous museum ($7), the hot springs (now with a $10 option that’s worth every dime imo), Hacienda San Lucas ($3) including the Los Sapos site and La Pintada village (take money if you want to buy products from the women’s weaving cooperative or cornhusk dolls from the kids), a ceramic village for demonstrations and a hands-on experience, a rural school, and a local public school celebration of Lempira Day (those 3 arranged through the Ixbalanque School). We also tried our hands at traditional cooking (tortillas and pupusas), and our feet at salsa lessons (also arranged through the School). Most of us spent the 1st Saturday on a day-long birding trip ($25 each) with Jorge Barraza (504-651-4435) that included a wonderful traditional breakfast and lunch in the village of Sesesmil, time at a local tropical plant place and coffee finca, and lots of hiking. Jorge is a highly recommended, knowledgeable, personable guide who also conducted our tours of the ruins ($30 for each group of about 10). The 2nd week-end we loved the fireworks (thanks to a huge religious rally we didn’t attend) and the traveling circus from Guatemala replete with an overweight contortionist (she was really pretty amazing), 20’ python, and male acrobats in drag. We also rode horses up through tiny mountain villages ($10 each for 2-3 hours) and hung around the pool at Hotel Camino Maya’s recreation area just outside of town ($2.50 each for the day).

    We spent 14 nights with host families and a final night at the hotel Las Brisas de Copán ($21/double, very nice). That night the rain was torrential, the streets turned into rivers, and the next morning the road to San Pedro Sula was littered with rock slides. Our excellent shuttle driver (Miguel Martel 504-962-00372, whose van was out of commission 2 weeks before, thus the last minute change to a substitute driver at the start of our visit) delivered us to the airport with time to spare. After check in, taxes ($34/each) and last minute hugs, The Dalles contingent headed home and I headed to the other end of the airport to await the arrival of my husband, Mike, and the 2nd part of my 2008 Honduras adventure.

    Mike’s flight was several hours late but we made our Sosa flight to Guanaja with time to spare ($115 each). We discovered that only Sosa flies there now and there’s an apparent tendency to overbook well in advance and bump paid customers at the last minute; gratefully that didn’t happen to us either direction.

    Guanaja is mountainous and very green in spite of Hurricane Mitch’s devastation 10 years ago. It has filled in with good diversity and is really lovely, though I wish I’d seen it before Mitch. Transportation is by boat which adds an interesting dynamic. The vast majority of the population lives in little Bonacca town which occupies a tiny caye just off the south coast near the canal that runs alongside the runway and splits the island in 2. It’s a bit rough around the edges and the only place you’ll find stores and banks (no ATMs). Islanders were friendly and fascinating to watch and listen to - culturally and lingually diverse. Lodging is available there and at a few small lodges elsewhere around the island, including our choice, Bo Bush’s Island House http://www.bosislandhouse.com / islandhouse_guanaja@hotmail.com , currently no phone service ($70/day per person including meals or $650/week with 2 boat dives/day and airport runs).

    I had confirmed our arrival time a few days ahead but they didn’t show up at the dock by the airstrip. After waiting an hour or so we were able to scrub up a boat ride, paying more than the going rate since our options were limited ($35). Turns out Bo’s daughter Stephany remembered we were coming on Monday, August 4th but thought it was still Sunday - welcome to island time. We had a nice room with lots of wood, 2 beds, and a private bathroom with hot water - half of a duplex cabin with a big screened porch. Construction next to it was irritating a few times but overall we were very comfortable there. We ate our meals in the over-the-water restaurant/bar with Bo and the handyman, Bob - both good company with stories to tell. Bo’s wife and mother-in-law cooked our meals (good, lots of seafood), and daughter Stephany managed the internet and business side of things. Bo’s youngest daughter and his granddaughter were entertaining, too. We were the only guests for much of the week we were there though the population bloomed on Sunday when expats and locals gathered to eat and drink and an aggressive soccer game dominated the grassy area between our cabin and the beach.

    The diving was really fabulous, no 2 sites alike, all within a 5 minute boat ride: caves and swim throughs and pinnacles, great diversity of flora and fauna, lots of turtles, really dazzling. Bo was an amazing person to dive with - he practically has gills after many thousands of dives. I loved every site but my favorites were Paradise, The Cut, and Diane’s Reef; special thanks to the millions of minnows that spooled around and around us in a cave, the huge schools of chubs and Atlantic spadefish that allowed us to join their schools, and the turtles that paralleled us as we explored a shallow reef. Snorkeling from shore was almost as good as the diving so I spent nearly as many waking hours in the water as out. Mike stalked up and down the beach looking for bonefish and managed to find and land a few, so we were both happy. I really recommend Island House if you are looking for a laid-back island vacation and don’t need a lot of entertainment or fancy amenities.

    Next we headed to Graham’s Place http://grahamsplacehonduras.com/ ($80/day per person including breakfast and lunch and airport runs), Mike a day or so ahead of me since I wanted 1 more morning to dive. It’s located on a 6 acre caye off the south coast of Guanaja, surrounded by beautiful beaches fringed with palms and lots of colorful paint - restaurant, houses, cabins, even the tree trunks were painted turquoise, blue, pink, or yellow. Beyond the beaches are abundant flats and the resident bonefish are huge - sometimes we could see them from the bar. Mike hooked quite a few but the really giant ones took off so hard and so fast they’d snap the fly line.

    Our cabin there was gorgeous, spacious, 2 beds, private bathroom with hot water, air conditioning, and a small refrigerator. The snorkeling wasn’t great so I lazed around, watched Mike fish, read a novel or 2, and totally unwound. The meals were great, partly our choice and partly theirs, lots of fruit, great seafood and variety.

    After 5 days we headed back to the airstrip (no airport, the guy from the Sosa office brought his ledger to the snack shack to check us in) and flew to La Ceiba. There are no Thursday flights from there to Utila so we hired a colectivo to the ferry dock. The signs still say 2 daily crossings each way but in August it was once each way: La Ceiba to Utila at 4pm and back early in the morning. There’s an ATM near the dock but it was out of money. Turns out the new ferry hasn’t arrived and the usual one was out of service so we had the dubious pleasure of crossing through rough seas in a big, ugly, tall vomit-inducer (about $16 each one way) that bucked back and forth so hard people screamed (no joke). The crossing took nearly 3 hours. They’ll give you dramamine with your ticket if you request it, but know it might not be enough until the new boat arrives.

    As we made our way down the main drag to our hotel, the owner, O’Neill, pulled up alongside us in a golf cart, and asked if we might happen to be Mike and Stacey - yes! We piled on our luggage and headed to the beautiful Lighthouse Hotel http://aboututila.com/AccomInfo/LightHouse-Hotel/Index.htm ($295/week). The hotel sits over the water by the bridge on the way to the old airport, a perfect location for us: quiet and close to Alton’s dive shop, RJ’s Barbecue (a favorite restaurant), snorkeling and bonefishing. The rooms are clean and nicely appointed with 2 beds, a kitchenette, hot water, cable televisions, and sliding doors opening onto view balconies. We loved being able to shop and cook our own meals, though we took advantage of RJ’s ($5 for a huge serving of fresh barbecued fish and accompaniments) for a dinner out, a dinner in, and leftovers. We found the best fresh produce at Anna’s Market (peach colored, just west of Bush’s Market). We arrived Thursday and a produce boat arrived Friday. The best stuff disappeared fast; I believe there’s a 2nd boat each week.

    I bought a package of 10 fun dives at Alton’s ($250 + $15 in reef fees) and was pleased with my choice. The 1st afternoon the boat was packed with people half my age, uncomfortable music and no place to sit - a culture shock after my blissful week diving with Bo. Subsequent days I dove in the morning with a pleasant mixed-age group of 9-14 divers on the boat including staff. They were good about separating those of us with advanced certification from the students and chose a nice variety of dive sites. My favorites were Black Hills and Iron Bound; special thanks to all the juvenile spotted drums, the Spanish lobster, the huge barracuda patiently allowing remoras to clean its gills, the row of squid that stared back at us at Ted’s Point and the perfectly camouflaged scorpionfish I spotted at Ship Stern.

    After diving I’d return to our room to find a fabulous lunch would be waiting, thanks to Mike - fresh vegies and tropical fruit, guacamole, fresh-baked bread from the bakery. Mike would eat, too, then head out to bonefish. After reading and napping I’d fix dinner before he returned and we spent evenings walking, enjoying the sunsets from our balcony, and watching the Olympics.

    When I confirmed our Sosa flights ($106 each) to San Pedro Sula at Morgan’s travel I arranged for an early morning taxi ($5). After meandering around town and waking other customers we arrived at the airstrip just minutes before our flight was scheduled to leave. Not to worry - the pilot didn’t arrive for 15 minutes. The plane was a bit small for my taste and the part about the engines turning over and over before they took was a bit disconcerting, but we made it safely to La Ceiba, changed planes, and arrived at SAP for what should have been a 4 hour layover but became a 9 hour one. Of course we missed our flight from Houston and the next 2 heading to Portland. We were rerouted through Las Vegas where we filed a claim for Mike’s missing rod case and had less than 4 hours at the hotel (Double Tree - excellent, paid for with an airline voucher) before waking to head back to the airport. Quick flight to Portland where son Isaac met us. We arrived home to The Dalles Friday afternoon, August 22nd, about 14 hours later than expected; Mike’s fly rods arrived at our house by delivery van around midnight.

    As usual, we loved our lodging choices, the water, the people, and each other - this was one of the most relaxing, blissful vacations we’ve ever had.

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