Where in the world are we?

Where in the World are We?

18 August 2008

Tela, Honduras to San Pedro Sula

Tela, Honduras

Tela is a small beach community on the Caribbean in northern Honduras. We stayed at the Maya Vista Hotel, which is built on a hill (somehow we managed to have all of our stays include some sort of uphill walk or staircase, and were often just outside of town). The hotel does have several flights of stairs,but boasts the best views of the sea and the town according to Lonely Planet (we'd have to agree). It was worth the daily climb! We had the Azul room with a giant painting of a Maya warrior on one wall. Right outside was one of the many patios of the hotel with three hammocks where we often sat to look out over the sea as we read and relaxed – and sometimes ate ice cream, too.

Our sweet ride from Copan to Tela...Woohoo!!!

Our first night we ate at the hotel restaurant and had pasta dishes (one with a pesto and one with fresh veggies and cheese) and shared ice cream. It began to rain when we arrived, so we only walked a little around our immediate street below and of course popped into the nearby shop for some treats for breakfast and snacks for the next couple days. As we looked through the Honduras Tips magazine (a seasonal guide published to give information on sites and activities throughout the country, which also included a bus schedule for the entire country), we decided we would head out to the Lancetilla Jardin Botanico since it sounded like a nice place to see some birds, wildlife and many beautiful flowers.

A view of Tela town from the roof top balcony at Maya Vista Hotel

The beach at Tela stretched for many miles in both directions. The beach not only serves as a respite for locals and visitors, but is also home to many Garifuna village settlements

In the morning, we went into the central part of town and checked in at the Garifuna Tours office for information on the trips out to Punta Sol where you can do some hiking, snorkeling, and visit the national park. Turns out to be ridiculously expensive (even if not on a Peace Corps budget) so we left to think about it for the day. We were given directions to Lancetilla, which is listed as more than 5 km outside town (3.5 of them heading inland) so we decided to rent bicycles. The rented bikes are not meant for ladies, or people who are a lee shorter than average since they were all pretty tall and seemed built only for men. Despite the discomfort, we headed out of town and tried to work the worn gears and rusty chains. As we rode, we really didn’t know where we would find the entrance to Lancetilla since it is just described as on the road, which is a major highway. We heard some fruit vendors shouting as we rode and realized the women were yelling to say that they were at the entrance to Lancetilla. At the entrance, we traded bikes with one another, but I don’t think that really made a huge difference (says Ginnie), then headed for the 3.5 km to the park, in the blazing sun over a very rocky unpaved road, (editor's note: These are not just little rocks either, but big pointy ones that made bicycling that much worse). The distance had to be greater than 3.5 km, every time we came around a bend or down a hill, we were shocked to still not see the entrance. When the building finally came into view, we were elated. We hopped off the bikes and locked them up so we could go into the visitor’s center for a map. The map leaves off several of the paths, but we also got the guide which sort of walks you through what you are looking at, but there is a point where both veer off and we ended up losing our way among the trees. The gardens were founded by United Fruit Company for the purpose of experimenting with the cultivation of tropical plants in Central America. There are also many areas designated for experimental plants and endangered species that are not open to the public.

The bamboo arch/tunnel at Lancetilla Botanical Gardens

The area we visitied consists of fruit trees from every continent, cacao, fine timber plantings, nuts and palms, and a long tunnel formed by an arch of bamboo. The tour begins in the bamboo arch tunnel, which is so cool in temperature due to the shade and very cool in appearance as well. After that, it was a lot of trees. Once we found our way out of the trees, we went back to the entrance. Not ready to get back on the torture bikes, we stopped in at the snack stand for ice cream, but they weren’t selling it since the power was out. A bag of chips and Gatorade would have to do. Finally, it was inevitable and we had to return to the bikes. We reached the town around 45 minutes later and couldn’t wait to return the bikes and be back on our feet. A walk around town and the beach brought us to Mama Mia! for pizza. We headed to the hammocks for some relaxation time and then went back for ice cream at Sarita since we would soon be back in Belize and not have good, affordable ice cream again until our next trip. The afternoon was nice and restful. We spent some time at the top of the hotel just enjoying the breeze and the views of the whole town, the sea, and the mountains. It was a perfectly relaxing afternoon, but the rain clouds rolled in and the evening was filled with another downpour. We headed out during a lull in rain and made our way to the central park then turned down a street too early for the restaurant we planned to try and instead stumbled upon Casa Azul, the best little place we’d found in Honduras. They had the best gringas (which was two flour tortillas with big pieces of grilled, white meat chicken, fresh chirmol – same thing as pico de gallo – and cheese, the tortillas are just put on top and bottom like a sandwich rather than folded like a quesadilla) and chicken fingers (which were cooked in tasty seasonings and baked rather than grilled) with fries. The prices were small and the portions were huge! It was one of our best meals of the trip. Of course, then it began to pour heavily when we were finishing, so it was a lee sprint back to the hilltop, but we made it without any slips.

This was a hand painted scene done by a local artist that was on our hotel room wall

We had decided not to take the tour the next day because we read about the Pelican Resort, where it said we could spend the day at the pool and enjoy the two restaurants down on the west side of the town in Tela Nueva. We pictured a nice relaxing day at the pool with the sea as a backdrop, since neither of us loves swimming in the salty, sandy water, but we like to be at the beach nonetheless. We got ready for the day and found a taxi to take us out to the resort, which is a ride out to the main road and then through a Garifuna village to the resort. When we arrived, it seemed pretty eerie and deserted. We made our way further in and a man finally came out to greet us and ask if we wanted to use the property. We let him know that we wanted to use the pool and asked for the price. It’s not too much, so we say we will stay. He went to get the bracelets and then brought us up to the pool, which looked pretty filmy and had a sign saying not to use it. He asked the pool cleaner when it would be ready, the reply was 1.5 hours, but we’re skeptical. We figure we’ll spend that time at the beach, so we go ahead with the bracelets both feely a bit uneasy. After a few minutes at the beach, we both decide we aren’t too keen on staying since it’s so deserted, the “restaurants” are not open and the pool could not possibly become clear in an hour and a half, especially since the cleaner disappeared. We went back in to let the man know we were going to leave – we could see the town from the beach and figured we’d just walk back. After a bit of an argument with the manager (albeit in lone Spanish), he only returned half of our money ($5). We cut our losses and made our way along the beach. It actually was a nice walk, but we hadn’t anticipated the river that divides the eastern and western parts of Tela! We had already walked under a pier and now pondered swimming around the river part, but it was looking deep and dingy. We doubled back a bit and made our way up a sloping grassy area which led to the busier main road and then were able to cross the river by bridge along the road. After returning to town, we had a nice lunch at Luces del Norte where Ginnie got a nice peanut butter and banana sandwich and Anthony had a big piece of baked chicken and more fries to share. It was back to the shop to pick up more ice cream (really, we had to have what we could before returning to Belize where it’s expensive) and then return to the hammocks and the roof of the Maya Vista. More rains came as we walked down to town, so we just hopped from shop to shop looking at the various items for sale and spending some time in town before returning for dinner at Pizza Roma, claiming to be the best pizza in Honduras. It was comical that Ginnie ordered one with mushrooms and the girl took the order, yet returned 30 minutes later with pepperoni and when we inquired they said they didn’t have mushrooms – so they just put meat on in that case. They made a new one with just cheese, but the original cheese pizza for Anthony was waiting. It didn’t take as long, so we had our pizzas and returned to the hotel to enjoy them and rest for the evening before we had to leave the following day for San Pedro Sula.

San Pedro Sula, Honduras

San Pedro Sula (aka San Pedro) is the second largest city in the country of Honduras. It was our last stop as we flew out of there bright an early on our last morning. We took a Tela Express bus in the morning and arrived a little over an hour and a half later. We quickly got in a taxi and arrived at our Hotel – Hotel Real – not long after. The Hotel is on a busy street in the middle of the town and we both wondered a little about the surroundings, but as soon as we entered it was a quaint little place with rooms surrounding an inside little courtyard type place. We had A/C which was nice for the hot, humid city. Being our last day on vacation, what better way to spend it than at the mall as we had done to start the trip? Really, there wasn’t much else we could do in San Pedro and we just had the afternoon, so we went to City Mall, a huge mall (not city blocks like MetroCentro, but tall and with lots of stores) that is clearly the upscale mall since it had Tommy Hilfiger and stores selling really expensive items from the Limited, Bebe, and other American stores. The food court was overwhelming to us since they had so many things we would not have again upon returning to Belize – they even had Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin Robbins – but we were quickly full from our new Chicken Philly sub from Quizno’s. We walked over to the nearby mall MegaPlaza, but it didn’t have much more to offer, so we just returned to the A/C of City Mall where we walked through department stores feeling envious of all the wonderful kitchen appliances, games, soft towels, and other things. They even had a bookstore, which was so nice to just browse through for a while, even with the majority of the books in Spanish, a bookstore is one of our favorite places. Time passed and we picked up dinner to take back to Hotel Real. With so many options, it was challenging to decide, but we went with Pizza Hut for Ant and Wendy’s for Ginnie, just one more frosty was needed before leaving! Our evening was filled with repacking since we needed to be up by 4:30 to get our 5am taxi and head to the airport.

We're guilty! We just had to have one last indulgence before heading back to the land of rice and beans.

The interior of our hotel. A mini indoor courtyard of sorts, complete with trees, plants, and fountains. Anthony was clearly caught off guard in this photo.

While it would be nice to have more time in many places we visited, we really enjoyed our trip and are now getting back into things here in Belize slowly, but surely. With still two more weeks until school begins, we have time to plan, prepare, and work on our other projects as well.

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