T: Nobody goes to Honduras. One out of 30 travellers that we have met on this trip have spent time there. Apparently, it’s dangerous. So naturally, we needed to thoroughly explore this country before we could be convinced. It began in Santa Rosa de Copan, our first stop after a somewhat easy border crossing. Our first surprise was that Honduras is more expensive than thought, considering how few tourists check out areas other than the Bay Islands. We had anticipated the less populated areas to be cheap as chips. Santa Rosa is a super cute little hilltop colonial city/town; cobble stone streets winding throughout its center with the rugged outskirts below. Erik found us a luxury little boutique hotel, extremely comfortable, clean and with exceptional service- all for $20 a night, running only a few dollars more than the super dingy hostel listed in the Lonely Planet. This proved an excellent choice, as Erik fell very sick mid-slumber on our first night in our cozy new bed. Despite the smiling locals, adorable shops and colourful homes, it had proven difficult our first night to procure dinner. Much to my dismay, we ended our hunger march at Erik’s choice- a sports bar. We sucked back several Salva Vidas, the local beer. While Erik dug into a horrid attempt at lasagna, I went for fries and chicken strips, going for simple and safe. I believe the red meat in Erik’s meal is the suspected culprit of his sickness which lasted for two full days. He still thinks it was sunstroke. Luckily, the hotel staff were lovely, bringing him tea and water and rushing in to clean the washroom when I convinced Erik some fresh air might be nice and dragged him around the block. Despite the illness and incessant rainfall which flowed like rivers down the steep streets, we were pleasantly surprised at how welcoming, friendly and approachable the local Hondurans were and therefore, excited to venture further.
E: Santa Rosa de Copan was one of my favourite towns on the trip so far. It is a pleasant colonial town in the highlands of Honduras, with few modern conveniences and not a tourist or traveler to be seen. The local people were so amazingly friendly and helpful which was a nice (although not altogether astonishing) surprise after the myriad stories we had heard about how perilous it can be to travel in Honduras. I’m sure most of these stories come secondhand or are gleaned from western news reports and statistics because you will not find a more tranquil or laidback town than Santa Rosa. Unfortunately, I succumbed to sunstroke for the third time on the trip after the long, hot ride from El Salvador the day before. I suppose that when I’m riding, the wind convinces me that I’m cool while the tropical sun is actually cooking me inside my riding gear. I was thankful to have Tanya to fetch me soup and Piedialyte and the hotel staff were lovely bringing me whatever I needed and rushing in to clean the room whenever Tanya coaxed me out for some fresh air. After a couple days, once I was again able to stand without hallucinating and keep my food down, we spent a couple of relaxing days wandering around the main plaza and chatting with locals in the surrounding neighbourhoods. I found an amazing hairdresser down the street from our Boutique Hotel, who actually gave me a decent, non-Latino haircut. To be sure, I had showed her a picture of Tatum Channing on my computer and was ecstatic when I walked out of the salon looking like GI Joe, not 1-1/2 hours later. The haircut was $5. I was so pleased with the result, I tipped the girl another $5. She was beside herself not only because of the tip but because I liked the haircut so much and, of course, because she got to cut a gringos hair. I wish my Supercuts experiences at home were this rewarding.
When it was time to depart from this wonderful hamlet, I took Tanya down to the bus station and she caught a bus to another town called Copan Ruinas a few hours away. As soon as she was off, I got on my bike and quickly raced back into town to grab some prezzies. She had found a real well made pair of cowboy boots in a leather shop in town during one of our walks. The cowboy boots which she had brought from home and which garner her tons of attention by the locals, were pretty worn and needed an upgrade. But my real mission this day was to find an engagement ring! Unbeknownst to Tanya, I had placed a Skype call to her Dad to ask for her hand while we were in El Salvador. She was taking a nap in our hostel room in Suchitoto and I had snuck out with my laptop and made the call, seeking to be extremely quiet, from the corridor where I was able to get the best internet signal. Twig was happy to receive this call and gave us a rousing endorsement saying he had figured an engagement may have been in the cards before too long. So now I had the requisite permission from the father but no ring with which to propose. I had earlier made some inquiries about getting a ring made in Vancouver and sent to one of the capital cities, but basically realized it would be pretty silly to give Tanya a piece of jewellery worth a few thousand dollars which she wouldn’t be able to wear. Muggings are probably more prevalent in Central America than in any other place in the world. I had shrewdly been sizing Tanya’s finger by trying on her rings over the past couple months. Although I had searched the jewellery quarters in both Guatemala City and San Salvador, I hadn’t been able to find a ring that I thought Tanya would like. All of the engagement rings were the classic skinny band with a big stone in a claw setting. I was looking for something more unique with some artistic appeal. Trust me, trying to unearth an engagement ring for a goldsmith with a family in the gemstone business while in Central America – not an easy assignment. I had a good feeling about Santa Rosa though and had seen a number of joyerias that did custom work scattered around the plaza. After visiting five stores, I hadn’t found anything suitable and was beginning to panic again thinking about the possibility of having to propose with a pipe cleaner or a plastic Cracker Jacks ring. I strolled into one last store a little ways from the center of town which didn’t have much of a selection at all. I scanned through the glass counter at the same generic rings that I had seen in every store I had thus visited. Fornlorn, I said “Gracias” to the store clerk and was about to walk away, when I noticed a second glass shelf beneath the first that had just one tray sitting near the back of the display. There was one ring in it; a simple gold band with an elegant filigree design on top. I called the girl over and asked to see the ring. When she handed it to me, I tried it on and it slipped perfectly over the first knuckle of my pinky finger, which was the exact size I supposed Tanya’s ring finger to be. I knew instantly that I had found the ring. And… well… if she didn’t like it, I’d be hedging my bets by showing up with the cowboy boots as well. Having made these two noble purchases in addition to my new crew cut and no longer retching, I must say, I was in pretty high spirits this day.
T: Copan Ruinas was our second stop, a very popular tourist spot known for the Mayan Ruins nearby. We were growing tired of ruins since Mexico and Guatemala, but decided we shouldn’t rule them out as they are known specifically for the carved hieroglyphs. To put it bluntly, these ruins were kind of shitty, I mean, compared to what we had seen so far. The highlight is a stone staircase which contains the longest pre-Colombian hierglyphic inscription in the Americas. Over two thousand hieroglyphs recounting the Mayan Dynasty. However, the stone stellae scattered across the remainder of the grounds fell short when measured against the grand scale of Chitzen Itza or Tikal. To top it off, they were the most expensive ruins we had visited, with separate entrance fees for the ruins and museum. The one saving grace were the beautiful macaw parrots that live at the park entrance which you can walk right up to and admire. But overall we felt the entrance cost to be exorbitant and after only an hour we had run out of things to look at, despite Erik’s attempt to find a walking trail which abruptly ended at a chain-link fence after five minutes.
The town of Ruinas Copan itself is cute and cobblestone (these seem to go hand in hand) and I did find us a killer deal at a great hostel, but it wasn’t enough to keep us there for long. After our one hour, $60 visit to the ruins, we were left with quite a lot of day to fill. We were lucky to find a cute butterfly refuge tucked into the forest on the outskirts of town. Here we spent almost two hours marveling at the exotic plants and trying to identify the different butterflies from the sheet we were given at the entrance. The cost of admission was $3 apiece… a much better return on our investment, we thought.
It rained pretty hard later that afternoon. As we navigated through the streets which had turned to rivers, we found ‘Twisted Tanya’s’, a fantastic home style restaurant serving a backpackers four-course special. We lounged on the balcony and enjoyed some excellent fare accompanied by numerous margaritas and other frothy drinks as the sun disappeared behind the houses. This in fact, was the highlight of our time in Ruinas Copan, and after two nights we headed further into the country hoping to have a more authentic Honduran experience.