By American standards, driving 120 Km north in order to go 50 Km east seems a little crazy. However with the short supply of good roads coupled with the mountains (I guess there is probably a relationship between these two factors), that is just how it is in Central America and specifcally Honduras.
Essentially our plan was to only visit Copan to see the ruins, however it is on the western border, and in order to get to Nicaragua, there really is no direct or easy route. So we took the long road, which got a little longer than we anticipated. This was also the trip where we made the transition from ¨traveler¨ style buses to local buses, because in Honduras there is an option besides using Chicken Buses.
We thought our trip from Copan to San Pedro Sula in N. Honduras would be a quick ride as it was only 125 Km. In fact this last traveler bus was pretty posh with lay back seats and airplane-style service. They checked and recorded our passports and even took our photos before boarding the bus. For a trip of about 80 miles, I was sure we would make it in 2 hours on our executive style bus. Oops, I forgot about the mountains. Three and a half hours we rolled into a bus mall in San Pedro Sula where we made our first mistake.
We searched for a bus to go south toward Lake Jogua (on the road to the capitol city of Tegucigulpa) before going to an ATM to get some cash. OK, so maybe we forgot. At any rate we found out where the bus was loading to go south and a nice gentleman whisked us on the mini-bus (like the type of bus which shuttles you from an airport to the parking lot) which soon took off. The temperature is above 95 and this bus is from about 1970 which means the air has not worked since 1973. We were never so happy as to start moving so the hot air could blow in our faces.
We were starved as we only had a little travel food like crackers and cookies, but the good news is that you will never starve on a bus in Honduras or Nicaragua. From the time passengers started loading on the bus and until we arrived at our destination, there was a steady stream of entrepreneurs with food or drink in hand. They hop on the bus at one stop, sell their wares and get off at the next stop. During our 2 hour ride, I am sure that no less than 30 venders got on the bus, selling everything from small bags of ice cold water, soda, cookies, coconut milk or cut fruit in small bags, plums, tomatoes, home-made cookies, sandwiches, chiclets, candy suckers, donuts, fried pork rind, coconut nests (i.e. cookies) and probably some items I don’t yet know the name of.
Since this was a public bus, we weren’t quite sure of where to stop near Lake Jogua, however several very kind Hondurans were eager to help us and it seemed that they were looking out for us. One woman struggled to tell us where to get off as there was a hotel right at the stop. Decision made. We got off at the stop right next to Chalet de Laguna, which is on the very pretty Lake Jogua. This hotel, however is part of what looks like a resort and convention center – not exactly the type of place we have been bedding down. This was a resort only with no town within about 5 Km and for sure no taxi service.
The woman at the reception desk showed us a beautiful room for $80. Very nice, but we asked for something less expensive. She then showed us a cabin for $40. We agreed to take it and when we went to pay, we remembered that we hadn’t gone to an ATM. When we asked her for the location of the nearest one, her expression was priceless. This wasn’t ATM country. In fact the nearest one was probably 80 Km away in San Pedro Sula. Oh, yes, the VISA card, which we haven’t used to date but it worked for the night.
The next morning we stood at the side of the road in front of the Chalet and got on a public bus to Tegucigulpa and on south. This one was an old tour bus with tired seat coverings and much more, but it got us there. The stream of vendors continued, even though the bus made a mid-trip food stop.
Tegucigulpa to the Nicaraguan Border
Once in the capital city, we quickly found a bus that would take us to the Nicaraguan Border however there was a little time to transfer which meant no time for an ATM but the buses are cheap. Our goal was to get to Choluteca which is about 45 minutes from the border. There we would need to get another bus. However about 15 minutes into the ride with another old tour bus packed with passengers, we stopped at a gas station and the driver disappeared. About 30 minutes later he reappeared with grease up to his elbows. There was no explanation but we needed to wait for the next bus which meant we had to stay in Choluteca, Honduras and we missed the opportunity to cross the border. Oh, and there was an ATM in Choluteca!