We had only planned to stay two nights in Copan Ruins, Honduras before heading into Santa Ana, El Salvador to travel the Ruta de Flores. However, multiple inquiries confirmed that there were no shuttle busses going to El Salvador at the moment. It turns out that there are only two that make that trip. We were told one blew up a few weeks ago and the other is driven by an alcoholic on a bender. Interesting…
Frustrated, we decided to return to Guatemala and take a bus from Guatemala City or Antigua the next day. We knew the bus leaves around 2:00 p.m., so after touring the ruins we walked the mile from the center of town to the Hedman Alas bus station (in the scorching heat) to purchase tickets. To our dismay, all the cheaper return tickets were sold and only first class (twice the price) tickets were available. We bought tickets for the cheap class trip the next day and trudged back (up the hill and sweating profusely) to Via Via and a lukewarm shower.
Revived by the shower (despite the temperature) we set off to our favorite pupuseria, La Pintada (it’s just past the only ATM in Copan Ruins). The owner is super nice and speaks English very well. If you haven’t tried a pupusa, you need to. Basically it’s a grilled thick tortilla-like thing filled with your choice of pollo (chicken), carne (beef), jalepeno, queso (cheese), broccoli or a combo of any or all. It is served with purple pickled vegetables (cauliflower, beets, onion, and other unknowns) along with shredded marinated cabbage. If you are thinking…sounds gross! I agree. However, somehow the combination works because pupusas are muy delicioso! and a cheap meal at a mere 15 Limperas (less than $1) each.
Next, we roamed through town in search of someone willing to give us conversational Spanish language lessons the next morning. Why waste the day sitting in the hostel watching the World Cup? We found a great Spanish language school willing to give us each 4 hours of private, one-on-one lessons for $25.
To our delight, as we exited the hostel on the morning of our lesson we ran into our favorite lollipop boys. They were selling pastilles (sp?). We had no idea what those are, but we bought two from them. Turned out to be a fried thing filled with rice and potato. Interesting breakfast, but it worked!
During the Spanish language class, my instructor (who was very nice) spoke insanely fast. Despite that, we managed to carry on a conversation and I learned a lot about the laws and politics in Honduras. For instance, it is illegal for two hombres to ride on one motorcycle, but not illegal for a man and a woman to ride one motorcycle. This is in sharp contrast to the law (or lack of) in Guatemala where it was not unusual to see an entire family of six on one motorcycle, with a baby bouncing about in a sling, a 3 year old perched on the handlebars and big brother clutching a 32″ plasma screen television to his chest. We were told the Honduran motorcycle law is likely an attempt to reduce gang violence because it is easier for a motorcycle to weave in and out of traffic while the passenger showers the streets with his AK-47. Yikes!
I also learned that according to the Honduran constitution the government is required to provide education for its children. My maestra explained that it is, nonetheless, very difficult for parents to send their children to school. The government provides the building and the teacher and considers that to be in compliance with the constitutional mandate. Education is obligatory, but parents must foot the bill for the (required) uniform, transportation, books, paper, pens or pencils, lunch and anything else needed or required. The approximately ten USD dollars per month expense to educate a child seems cheap, except the average monthly income in Honduras is only $183 USD. Add on the fact of multiple children in most families. You can do the math.
After our lesson, it was time to catch the bus back to Antigua. It’s about a 6 hour trip. This time border crossing (from Honduras into Guatemala) was so easy! And free!
The Hedman Alas bus is really comfortable and they play movies (bring your own headphones) in English or with English subtitles. Between sleeping and watching movies, the trip wasn’t so bad. But, it was about to get bad…
When we finally arrived in Antigua the shuttle (you switch from big bus to minivan in Guatemala City) took us only to the Hedman Alas office. It was dark outside (about 8 p.m.) and pouring down raining. We had huge packs on our backs, and no confirmed place to sleep that night. Luckily, on the bus we met Jonathon, a fellow traveller in the same boat, so we had a guy with us and felt a little safer. The three of us grabbed a taxi to a hostel called “A Place to Stay” which had come highly recommended by another traveller. We banged on the door and asked to see a room. It was the most disgusting, smelly, dirty hostel we had ever seen. There was garbage, grime and seedy looking cats everywhere we looked. The room we were shown had a dehumidifier gasping its last breaths. (Seriously, a dehumidifier? In Central America? That’s like trying to defeat a tornado in Kansas with an anti wind machine. What’s the point?). So, despite the pouring rain we shook our heads and left. The owner (or whoever it was that showed us the room) basically told us to get out as soon as he knew we were not planning to stay.
The taxi was long gone so we trudged down the main road near the market (apprehensively) and flagged a tuk-tuk who drove us to Holistico, the hostel we had stayed at just three days earlier. We banged on the door and the night employee told us there were no beds available. We were dumbfounded! How was that possible when just three nights earlier the 20+ bed place was empty but four us and 3 other travelers? We felt abandoned.
Luckily, this time we were smarter and had asked the tuk-tuk driver to wait. We asked him to take us to Casa Amarilla (Yellow House) hostel, a place Jonathon had heard of. For the third time that stormy night we banged on a heavy wooden door hoping for a place to crash. Here, a man slid a little door to reveal only his face through the barred opening. Sopping wet at this point we desperately asked about bed availability. He shook his head, declared “No es posible,” and promptly shut the window. Uh-oh. It was nearly 10:00 p.m., the streets were empty, and we were homeless in Guatemala.
At this point, I said we should go to hotel Casa Cristina. It is more expensive than a hostel, but I had spent a week there previously and knew the night shift employee. We crammed ourselves and our bags back in the tuk-tuk and bumped our way to the other side of Antigua. Knock knock. No answer. Oh, shit.
Pound pound. Ring ring on the doorbell. No answer. Fear rising. The tuk tuk could not take us anywhere else because they are not permitted to drive past 10:00 pm. Frick…..
And then…the door creaked open and there was Carlos, smiling with open arms gesturing for us to come in. I have never been so happy to see someone in my life! Relieved we dumped our bags in the room and quickly went in search of dinner before everything shut down. There is a tienda only a block away and we were able to buy dinner….cervezas and Ramen noodles. Lol.
Back at the room, safe and dry, I went to crack open a beer only to pull the tab off. Seemed a fitting end to the night from hell. Determined, I grabbed a lollipop out of my purse and banged on the top of the can.
It was one of the best beers I have ever had.
Audrey, Rhiannon (and Jonathon) – three travelers who were abandoned in Antigua, but at least we weren’t alone!