Saturday, December 30, 2006

A very busy Christmas

Mom and Maya came to visit last week, and hung around for nine days with me in Honduras so I could be all accompanied and stuff for Christmas. My last blog entry was during the first stage of that trip (picking them up from the airport in Tegucigalpa) so this one will pretty much pick up right where it left off.

I spent some time that first day I got to Tegucigalpa trying to get bus tickets arranged in advance for our travelling the following day, but wasn't able to do it because the bus lines here apparently don't sell passage in advance during the holiday season. But I did manage to make some hotel reservations and figure out the best option for a bus line, and when mom and Maya got to the airport and we had our happy hug-filled reunion, I already knew at least where we had to go next. Mom had changed some money into Lempiras in Houston so she already had some cash (although she got totally ripped off there), I had money, and we changed some dollars at the airport so by the time we got on the bus going north towards Lago de Yojoa, we were set to go for the next few days.

It was night time when we got to the turnoff to go to our hotel Agua Azul, and I got a nasty surprise that the bus lines which I knew ran from that turnoff in the direction we were going stopped at 5:30 (it was like 6:30), but luckily, there was a family getting off the bus with us in the exact same situation, and they had sent their relatives or friends in the area with a car to pick them up. They immediately offered to help us with a jalón (hitch) to cover the few kilometers down the road we needed to go. So off we went, Maya giggling every time the truck's wheel wells scraped against the tires because the shocks were bottomed out from so many people in the cab.

We got to the hotel and gratefully dumped our stuff in the room, a really nice cabin with wooden floors and walls (almost everything is cement or maybe brick around here, when it isn't adobe), and basically stretched out to relax. Mom and Maya were really tired from the trip. We shared an exhorbitantly expensive plate of comida típica at the hotel's restaurant and hit the hay.

The next morning, we got a leisurely start and hopped on a local shuttle around 9 am going farther north towards Peña Blanca, a small crossroads town that I knew pretty well from previous trips to the area when I was getting some training in coffee processing. We asked around about good places to see and how to get there, and had two locations recommended to us - a private ¨ecological park¨ called Puhlapanzak that mom had read about in a guide, and an archaeological park called Los Naranjos. We opted to check out Puhlapanzak and hopped another bus in Peña Blanca, a short ride that took us to a dirt turnoff. From there it was maybe a kilometer walk to the park, which was a pretty well-kept place with a lots of big trees and a river that had some places to bathe in at the upper end of the park, and an awesome waterfall down at the lower end. I later learned that it was 47 meters tall, which I guess is about 150 feet.

We had managed to while away most of the day by the time we left Puhlapanzak, but since Los Naranjos was only 3 kilometers from Peña Blanca, we decided to check it out real quick before heading home. A 15 passenger van (which they called a ¨taxi¨) took us to the entrance, where we argued with the gatekeeper about paying the $5 ¨for non-residents¨ entrance fee until they let us in for 35 lempiras, which came to about five bucks for all three of us. We had to walk through a sugarcane field to get into the park, because the first few hundred yards or so of the official trail were under water due to the lake's being at the highest level it had in years. Los Naranjos was extremely deserted and really pretty, especially the part where a raised wooden walkway went through an inundated forest. It felt kind of like being on a bayou in the states, at least in my imagination.

We had to leave Los Naranjos pretty quick because it was getting late. We grabbed some takeout food from a cheap comedor in Peña Blanca and went back to the hotel, packed tighter than sardines into an airport-shuttle sized vehicle that probably had something like 40 people in it. Maya didn't think we'd get on, but as I explained to her, one of the rules of transportation in Honduras is that there's always room for one more on the bus. :P

Back at the hotel, we relaxed some more and once again went to bed shamefully early. The next day, we were thinking about trying to get up someplace high on Montaña de Santa Bárbara, a national park that sits right on the edge of the lake, but we sort of realized that it was going to be too time-costly and we had no idea how to do it. So we went back to Los Naranjos instead and saw all the parts that we didn't have time to hike to before, including a somewhat undeveloped archaeological site that felt like a tropical park, although it was hard to figure out where the things we wanted to see were. We ran into a french-canadian couple that day looking for the rather scanty archaeology, and hiked around with them for awhile. As far as I can remember (maybe someone can correct me on this), they were the only other foreign tourists we saw the entire trip.

That evening, we got home a little earlier to have time to rent a boat at the hotel and paddle it out on the lake, which I did with mom. Maya stayed home, fearing the wrath of the mosquitos I think. We got some nice pictures I think of the lake at sunset, and possible of some white egrets although it wasn't possible to tell because mom had a digital camera with a busted screen. An hour and a half of that was enough, then we rowed back in and jumped in the pool before it got totally dark. That night, since it was our last one there, we splurged and ordered some of the hotel's fancy dinners and a few cocktails. Their margaritas were cheap and unbelievably good.

The next day was Christmas eve, and I was pretty worried about the transportation situation so we got up pretty early and got out to the main highway heading back south to Tegucigalpa. Getting on a bus outside from the side of the road like that often means you won't get a seat and have to stand up all the way to your destination, but we lucked out somehow and the first bus to Tegucigalpa that came by had seats for mom and Maya right away. A little farther down the road someone else got off and I was able to sit down also. Yay!

We got to Tegucigalpa a lot earlier than I'd expected and went over to Juanita's house (I had called her husband from the lake to let them know we were coming), because he'd invited us to spend Christmas eve and day with them. The reason for this, besides having a nice place to spend Christmas and hang out with a great family, was logistical - no transportation whatsoever runs on the 25th, and we wanted to get to my place by the 26th which meant having to spend the night someplace reasonably close to Choluteca so we could get there by 12:30 am that day.

Christmas at Juanita's house was a lot of fun. Although we felt pretty awkward at first, and were even thinking the whole thing might have been a mistake since mom and Maya didn't know them at all previously, we all sort of warmed up to each other and pretty much had a great time. Humberto took us around to see parts of Tegucigalpa on the 24th and on Christmas day, driving out to pick up some special rum that he was looking for on the one occasion and going to see the biggest, fanciest church in the city on the next. We sang and danced and had lots of fun on Christmas eve, and on Christmas day we made an apple crisp to share one of our special gringo holiday foods with them.

The 26th, all transportation concerns went relatively smoothly, except for the Agua Fría bus being way more crowded than normal. We just stopped for an hour and a half or something like that in Choluteca to go to the bank, get some lunch, and check email and arrived at my site around 2 pm. Mom and Maya, once more, were pretty tired so we grabbed some necessities at the pulpería and went right to my place to set up camp. We relaxed the rest of the evening and visited.

The two days we had at my site were both pretty relaxing as well; almost exactly the way it was when Dad and Daya were there. We got out and went on some hikes, going to the top of the Cerro Guanacaure and heading to Agua Fría a couple times, but did nothing real ambitious. We got to eat some more good Honduran Christmas food when Isaí's wife Elsy brought us down some chicken tamales wrapped in banana leaves, and squash cooked with so much raw sugar that it was turned black.

As all good things must come to an end, so did this trip. Mom and Maya's plane was going to leave from Tegucigalpa at 1:30 on the 29th, which I was slightly concerned about. 90% of the time I can make it to Tegucigalpa by 11 am using the normal transportation, but we were worried about possible problems and it was a flight they really couldn't afford to miss. Luckily, the pulpería owner Neri was making a trip to Choluteca anyways that day so he gave us a ride and we got there nice and early, rolling out of Cholu by 7 am and arriving at the airport in Tegucigalpa by like 10:15. I hung out with mom and Maya there for an hour and a half or so as we ate some pizza hut and said our goodbyes. Then I got on a bus and headed home.

So I'm back in Choluteca, typing up this report. I should be getting on a bus pretty soon to go back to my site, where I'm planning on staying for awhile heh. New Years' should be fun and from there I am going to start right away giving computer classes to a local girl as full-time as she or myself can manage. As always, I send my love to you all as well as hopes that you had a great Christmas and that the New Year will see you with health, spirit, and determination.



At 12:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy New Year, Gabe!



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