Thursday, March 11, 2010

To The Caribbean

February 24th to March 1st

We decide to spend one more day in Copan in order to visit a bird sanctuary near by.... the real reason is we can't tear ourselves away from this lovely little town. Our hotel doesn't help either... it's one of those places where the rooms are built round a lovely garden complete with poodle, toad and rat! (There's a nursery rhyme in there somewhere)

The old dear running it has a list of rules as long as your arm BUT it doesn't mention petrol stoves so we happily brew coffee. She came over for a look to see what we were doing, and rather than worrying about the flames, was just very impressed that you could cook on something so small! Clothes washing here is done in big cement sinks... all houses have them outside. It's basically a big concrete tank on one side and a washboard on the other. The more modern houses occasionally have washing machines but only for the richer families. The norm is to do things the hard way, but it's so nice to have clean clothes for a few days!

We backtrack 60kms along the Yellow River valley and over the shoulder of the Sierra del Gallinero range....

So; unusually for us we know where we're staying for the night. We pull up to the same little place we stayed at a week ago but the puppy and the chickens seem to have forgotten who we are!

Now we leave the mountains behind for a while and ride along a broad valley along Rio Chamelecon. For the first time in as long as we can remember we have a more or less flat day passing farmsteads and fields full of crops....

It's great to be spinning the legs again and it's an effortless 80km to Quimistan under cool grey skies. Businesses in Honduras run casually it seems when we find a hotel - not by spotting a sign, but by happening to notice numbered doors over a car park. The place doesn't even have a name. Travelling with a small toolbox pays off when I set about repairing the plumbing and suddenly we have water for a (cold) shower.

Continuing along the river it's another easy ride as the land angles gently down towards the Carribean Sea. The wild flowers at the roadside once again put the 'Ruta de Flores' to shame....

Our next stop is a town called La Lima, we've been told there's loads of hotels there so we're a bit surprised when we can't find any. We are told 'over the bridge' and all of a sudden we're in small town America.... lots of clap board houses all on neat lots though looking a little worn round the edges and in need of painting. It's all a bit strange. There's signs for bilingual schools everywhere and some are in English. Prices are suddenly in dollars too and super sized to match. Defeated, we retreat back over the bridge and find ourselves in another hourly rate place. We persuade the nice chap running it to let us stay a whole night, provided he gives us fresh sheets and It's possibly our most 'interesting' stop yet....

We find out that 'over the bridge' is a 'company town' for Chiquito bananas. Most of the American managers that used to live there moved out when Hurricane Mitch flattened most of the plantations in 98. Now much of the land has been given over to Palm trees for their oil which is used in the manufacture of fuel ethanol.

As we ride out, we pass through mile after mile of carefully laid out groves of palms. Their symmetrical patterns lend a hypnotic quality to the ride as you trace ever changing diagonal pathways through the trees. They look like green columns in a great natural cathedral....

Commuters take the tools of the trade to work - massively elongated scythes with wicked looking curved blades for cutting down fruits which are then pulped to extract oil....

The land has changed, but there are still large banana crops too....

Next day we make it to Tela and we're back in a tourist town again right on the Caribbean Sea. Amazingly, skies are still overcast, nights are almost cold and days are not up to lazing on the beach. It's a bit of a shock to see how ordinary a Caribbean beach can look under Manchester style grey skies. Instead there is the second largest botanical garden in the world to explore. The garden was set up in 1926 as a research centre for 'The United Fruit Company' a massive American organisation which has huge holdings in Central America. Here they developed different strains of fruit, ornamental and lumber trees to ascertain which would thrive in Honduras's climate.....

Nice place but a bit lost on us.... one tree starts to look pretty much like another after the first thousand, but it's a nice wander along shady paths through lovely gardens.

We plan to leave the next day but again I am struck down by some dodgy food and we kill a day drinking ice coffee on the beach. Back in town (a walk of at least 3mins) there's a demonstration just getting going in the central square outside City Hall. The police and hired guns turn up as per usual....

But it all passes off in typically Central American tranquillo style. Vendors are protesting at not being allowed to sell their wares along the beach in front of more up market cafes and restaurants. Tela, it seems is trying to move up the tourist food chain....

Hopefully tomorrow we can ride for Ceiba about 90km away. From there it's a short 20km ferry crossing to 'Utila', one of the Bay Islands renowned for the second largest reef in the world and an abundance of diving schools....


Unknown said...

Hi both of you.
Sounds like you are having a brill time of it. The photos are fab. Take care and keep safe!
Jenny x

Anonymous said...

Despite my lack of comment, I do keep up with your venture. Things are going well here in the US. Last week we saw the last pre dawn Shuttle launch at Cape Kennedy. This week we are in St Petersburg with what appears to be most of the inhabitants of the British Isles. Welding has been delayed, but is still on my mind.

Keep your wheels turning,

Alexbrowardflorida said...

I just want to say congratulations for all entusiasm and effort to do all that and i want to give you and advice you say en choluteca they charged to much money for the hotel room but lwt me tell you im from choluteca and i know my people they thinking all the american are millionaries and that the reazon why they charged to much money they just take advantage of you i would like to meet you one day and heard all the experiencies on that trip

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