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Copan Ruins to Tegucigalpa 4-18-08 – 4-25-08

April 28, 2008

We took a day off from the bikes in Copan Ruins, a tourist town just inside the Honduran border.   The ruins at Copan were impressive – 15 to 20 large stalae (sandstone columns carved into figures of past kings, 3′ x 3′ x 12′ tall – very beautiful), several large temples, a ball court and a large stairway with hieroglyphic inscriptions depicting the lives of kings of the city.  We had complete cloud cover, perfect to combat the jungle heat.  While in Copan we also toured a bird sanctuary with very large, colorful parrots and macaws, and rounded off the day with a tour of a butterfly sanctuary that had brilliantly colored butterflies of all sizes (up to 5” wingspans!). 

 

The locals were obviously fried on tourists, so were very unfriendly toward us.  We found ourselves getting nickel-and-dimed by shopkeepers who would shortchange us or add a “tax”.  It was annoying, but only amounted to a few cents up to a dollar each time.  It seems odd to us that a shopkeeper would risk losing repeat business or get a bad reputation over a few cents.  We saw an Australian tourist argue for 15 minutes for an overcharge of 50 cents for internet time.  We decided it would be more productive to cut our losses and work an extra 5 minutes when we get back home to make up the difference.  So far, Honduras is a strange place!

 

We gladly left Copan bright and early after a killer cup of coffee.  Honduras has GREAT coffee – it is shade-grown all over the valley here.  We rolled along a high mountain river valley where pastures (lots of cattle in this country) and cornfields checker-boarded the steep green hillsides above – absolutely gorgeous!  The local people appear poorer than in Guatemala, with most living in 10’x15′ adobe huts with dirt floors, no doors or windows, and dirt yards full of chickens and pigs.  They are also very reserved – typically staring with dropped jaws at us aliens pedaling by.  We have to initiate any conversation, and most times the people will not respond, or will possibly give a weak “buenos dias” and continue their slack-jawed stare.    We are in country rarely traveled by bikers.

 

We ended the day with a relentless climb into the clouds and the cool mountain town of Santa Rosa, where we got a room in an immaculate B&B for $27 US.  We met Linda in the plaza, a traveler that had biked China and Southeast Asia for 6 months on a previous trip.  Inspiring information, maybe our next trip!?! 

 

The next day’s riding was short with a very long drop, followed by a short gradual climb to Gracias, where we found another wonderfully clean hotel overlooking the town.  We ran into Jan and Jay from Colorado whom we had met in Copan briefly, and Max, whom we had met in Santa Rosa.  We had a great dinner and lots of talk with our newfound friends about all sorts of wonderful places we had all seen.

 

We kicked back a day in Gracias, paying a visit to the local hot springs, making Ralph realize how much he misses his daily soak in the hot tub back home! 

 

The next day we had another bright and early start (lots of them these days – riding at 6 am to beat the heat).  9:00 found us in San Jose, best described as an undesirable south-facing piece of the Honduran anatomy, where we waited 1 hour for a meal, only to get served really bad deep-fried tacos!  We had asked for an egg breakfast, and even though she was standing in front of a 3′ tall stack of eggs, the waitress told us we couldn’t have eggs!  After we got our meal, that by the way tasted as if they had found a way to get rid of at least one stray dog, she served eggs to a local lady sitting at the table next to us!  Typical Honduran hospitality so far – wish they’d take lessons from the Guatemalans!  After San Jose, the road turned to hard-packed dirt.  It was under construction with most of it ready for paving.  It was pleasant riding  with little traffic.  We steadily and gradually climbed the remainder of the day through rolling hills, then mountains of ponderosas that reminded us of the Black Hills.  The road cuts were of bright gold, yellow, orange and red dirt, which looked gorgeous against the dark green hills.  When we finally reached La Esperanza, we ran into Jan and Jay.  We took their advice and got a room in the hotel they and Max were staying at.  We had more great conversation with them over dinner.

 

The following morning while climbing out of town, we got dished up some more Honduran hospitality – a rock thrown from a passing truck full of farm workers.  This marks the first time anyone has thrown anything at us while driving by.  The rock hit Ralph in the leg.  He promptly gave them the mile-high salute and motioned them to come back.  They of course were way too cowardly for that and continued on their way. 

 

We topped out the climb into the clouds and super green forest, and did a screaming 15 mile descent through beautiful forested mountains and eventually ended up in  the toxic heat of a parched lowland river valley.  After lots of conflicting directions from a host of locals, we wandered several dirt roads in search of the back way to La Paz, our supposed destination for the day.  After 25 miles of a route that would have looked like etch-a-sketch scribbles on a GPS, we gave up, went back to the highway and took the longer, but more obvious route.  We climbed in the then mid-day heat to Siguatepeque, where we found a very large, beautiful hotel.  After taking forever to show us several rooms, the clerk informed us that the hotel was full.  Thanks a lot!  So we ended up at a hotel where they were surprised we wanted a room for the whole night (a “no-tell” hotel – lots of them in Latin America – complete with garages to hide your car in for the hour you are there!).  Needless to say, we slept on our sleeping bags again and had nightmares about rolling off them!

 

We had a gradual climb the next morning followed by a long drop into yet another toxic, hot valley.  We stayed the night in Camayagua, where we first tried to get a room at another really nice hotel.  They were also mysteriously booked!  I guess we are the wrong type of clients.  We ate at a great BBQ restaurant, and across the street was a mall straight out of the US, complete with Dominoes and Wendy’s.  Now in the states we are definitely not fast food chain folks, but I must admit a baked potato and a GREEN Caesar salad sure tasted great – and we got our meal right away, from someone that was smiling, and didn’t have to ask for the bill!  The restrooms were spotless too, complete with toilet seats!  And, get this – the next morning on the way out of town, we stopped there to really test them.  We got there at exactly 6:30 (the opening time posted on the door), went in (THEY WERE OPEN WHEN THEIR SIGN SAID THEY WOULD BE!!!), and ordered a cup of coffee (you NEVER get coffee before 8:30 or 9:00 in Latin America – NEVER!!!).  They actually had coffee brewed – great tasting Honduran coffee!  Maybe fast food restaurants aren’t a bad thing in Latin America – maybe.

 

We rode through more parched plains, climbed into pretty forested mountains, then plunged into smog-choked Tegucigalpa, which is a very undesirable-looking city surrounded by mountains you can’t actually see.  We kept trying to find a hotel as we rode the busy highway skirting the city, but saw, and quickly passed up 2 seedy-looking “no-tell” hotels.  It was close to sunset and everyone we asked had no clue where we could find a hotel, until finally a friendly man named Daniel (he was pulling a block-long wheelie on his downhill bike when we spotted him!) offered to ride with us to one he knew of.  The blood red sun was just setting as we started following him for what ended up being several miles down into the city.  After taking us to the hotel, which turned out to be very nice, he chatted with us for a few minutes about our trip and about the local downhill biking scene.  There are apparently a number downhill courses that locals have made in the hills around the city.  Before he left, we nearly shook his hand off with gratitude! 

 

We kicked back and rested 2 days in a city we initially tried to avoid and never envisioned  ourselves being in.  I always wondered and somewhat doubted if places with wild names like Timbuktu, Lake Titicaca and, yes, Tegucigalpa actually exist.  The city is pretty good to stay in – the people were very open and friendly – the exact opposite of what we expected.  Finally some warm folks in Honduras!

 

A note about riding in Central America:  The riding has been much more pleasant than we expected.  The roads are in far better shape than Mexico, all with 4′ wide shoulders.  The traffic is lighter, the cars and trucks are smaller and quieter, the drivers much more courteous.  We typically still ride almost 60 miles a day, but the riding is far more strenuous than the Alaska and Canada riding we started the trip with.  On a typical day we get up at 5 AM, have bread, peanut butter and fruit in our room and start riding by 6 AM to beat the heat.  We will usually climb steadily for the first 10 to 20 miles into pleasantly warm forested mountains (we can’t call it COOL!), then dropping for 10 or 20 miles into toxic hot, parched river valleys and only to climb back up again!  Challenging riding, but the high country makes it all worthwhile.  The temperature is similar to riding in Colorado on a hot summer day, with low valleys being toxic hot and mountainous areas being pleasantly warm.  We end the day by finding a hotel, finding a restaurant, finding a grocery store for the next days breakfast and snacks, washing out our bike clothes in the sink, and finally collapsing into bed looking forward to a 5 AM alarm to do it all over again! Crazy – We don’t think so – maybe just “LOCO”, as they say down here!

 

 

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2 comments

  1. LOCO, I could definitely think of a few other choice words. I’m so glad that your trip has been a great adventure. Pat, I talked with your mom the other day and she said that they had a great time on your b-day, but you were surprised. Can you believe it “50”. I had a surprise party for Dan a couple of weeks ago on his. He turned 50 also. Man I hang out with old people. I love following along on your journey. Thanks for sharing. Love you both, Barb.
    PS Pat, Give Ralph a big hug. I’m so sorry about your dad.


  2. This is a nice story as it has 2 essential elements: biking and beautiful places. I wish I had told this story!



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