EPISODE #9 (Part 2)

Wednesday, 04-10-02

We also did our part as Dutiful Tourists and purchased a package tour that finally got us to Copán ("co-PAHN") in Honduras, and Rio Dulce ("DOOL-say") and Livingston on the Atlantic coast of Guatemala.  We had talked about renting a car and driving, but decided that by the time we paid $40 per day plus gas, insurance, and all the hassles involved in driving and parking, the shuttle was the way to go.

Monday morning started at 4:15, and I got up feeling that it was entirely too early in the morning.  Also had a little diarrhea, but it seemed to be over by the time we left.  The shuttle from Antigua picked us up just after 5:00, bringing another couple from the U. S.  Headed through Zone 5 and out of town going east on CA-9, the Highway to the Atlantic.  Then Deb realized that she didn't have her passport, and you don't leave the country without one.  Oops!  Turn around and go back to get it.  Oh, you mean the real one, not the photocopy that I carry in my wallet.  Oops, I don't have mine, either.

Well, that delayed us long enough to get some early trucks in front of us, so the driver was trying to make up as much time as possible.  We were in the back and it was rather bumpy, so it wasn't long before I was feeling a little queasy.  When we stopped for a breakfast break I didn't eat.  Did manage to move to a seat more up-front.  We turned south, went through Zacapa and Chiquimula ("chee-kee-MOO-la"), the area where there is so much famine and starvation due to a long drought.  Gave me a funny feeling to be there.  We who have so much...

The border crossing was interesting.  You have to go through a checkpoint to leave Guatemala, then you go through another one 100 yards further to enter Honduras.  The driver collects all our passports, and takes care of everything, another advantage of doing the "package".

Got to the town of Copán a few miles inside the border, and noticed that it seemed very clean; no trash all over.  Same with the ruins; they keep things clean there.  Would like to come back and explore the town.

The ruins were interesting; we had a guide that spoke understandable English, and was telling us all kinds of interesting things.  The ruins are just mounds of jungle with trees growing out of them until you start digging and find all the stones underneath and start reconstructing the building that was there. 
But I wasn't feeling well; in fact, I started feeling dizzy (probably because it was very hot and I hadn't been drinking any water all morning because of my queasy stomach), so I turned back, leaving the camera with Deb.  Water helped, but I still needed a bathroom.  Made it back to the visitors' center, found an out-of-the-way bench and took a nap. 

After they returned we drove to a restaurant to eat, and I was feeling better so ate lunch.  Continued north back to CA-9, stopped for the night at a hotel with swimming pool.  Another driver would pick us up in the morning.  I was still feeling a little "sour", so stayed in the room to rest while the others went for dinner.  Finally "lost it all", including some I didn't know I had, then started to feel better.  By the next morning I could eat a couple of rolls and felt much better.  Was fine the rest of the trip.  Have no idea what caused it, and both Deb and Kristy were fine.

Our new driver took the five of us and some other passengers east, stopping at another set of ruins at Quiriguá ("keer-ee-GUA").  This time I was in much better condition to appreciate them.  Several stele there, the tall columns preserved under thatched roofs to prevent further weathering.  Next door was a Del Monte banana plantation, so got to see how they grow them. 

Then north to Fronterras, where the bridge crosses the Rio Dulce ("Sweet River").  Magnificent view from the bridge, and a lot of people stop to look.  Were mobbed when we came off the bridge, people wanting to sell us boat rides.  We finally chose one (covered), and were to meet the shuttle driver back there at 4:00 for the return to Guate.
The boat ride was very interesting; a lot of birds all along the river, as well as flowers and a hot springs area. 
Stopped at the Biotopo Chocon Machacas (a nature preserve) long enough to take the circle nature walk.  Beautiful, with huge palms.  They don't have tall trunks, but the fronds are 10-12 meters long, the longest in the world.  Look like giant fans.  Also saw huge bamboo there, not like the little stuff along our driveway.

Got to Livingston, and you thought you were in another country.  Along the Atlantic coast is where the Garífunas ("gar-EE-fu-nas") live, the descendants of African slaves.  Most of the populace, therefore, were quite dark; we don't see many Blacks (O. K., African-Americans) in the City.  And many women and girls are offering to braid your hair, the little braids with a colored bead at the end of each.  Kristy decided to have hers done while we ate lunch.  Said it was hard to eat her soup while they were braiding her hair.  At Q2 per braid and 120 braids, it cost her about $30, much cheaper than in the States, but good income here.  (Back in Guate and Antigua you could tell all the people who had been to Livingston during Semana Santa; they all had their hair braided!)

When we got back to the dock in Fronterras we decided that we wanted to stay another night instead of returning on Tuesday.  The thought of another long van ride that evening was not exciting.  The other couple we had started with also was staying, so the driver got on his cell phone and made arrangements with his boss.  O. K., we would be picked up the next afternoon.

Spent the night at the Tijax Resort ("TEE-hash") that you take a launch "around the corner" to get to, where there was a pool (but they were cleaning it so we didn't get to swim until the next day), you sleep under mosquito nets, and the shower alternated between warm and cool (not sure why, but everybody had the same experience).  Good food. 
The next morning we were supposed to go horseback riding at 9:00 (Q70 for an hour, $8.75).  Were late getting there, and somebody else went.  Had to wait until 11:00.  In the meantime we hiked up to a "natural pool" to swim ( it had been "paved" with flat stones, but the water was refreshing), and temporarily got cooled off. 

But by the time we got back it was too hot for Debby, so only Kristy and I went riding.  Our guide took us up a hill to a rubber plantation, and we rode through that, seeing the sap being collected, and the new trees growing.  It was nice being able to ask questions and understand the answers!  I got to interpret for Kristy.
Our shuttle driver coming back must have been tired; he wasn't particularly nice, and when I asked when we would be stopping he said we weren't!  We did finally stop for gas, and we got to make a much-needed potty visit and stretch.  Then it was on to Guatemala City, only as we were going through the city the signs weren't looking right, and when Deb asked, the driver was headed for Antigua.  Supposedly nobody told him half his load wanted off in Guate, even though another couple had specifically told him "Holiday Inn in Guatemala City"!  He tried to play "dumb", but finally took us back to the Holiday Inn, not far from our apartment.  Three other people going to Zone 12 he put in a taxi.  He wanted to get home!  It was good to be back in our own bed.

Easter Sunday started at 5:00, up early to attend a sunrise service (where you can actually see the sun, unlike some in Oregon) at the home of a member who has property on a bluff facing east.  [Sorry; no photo.]  After a finger-food breakfast it was back to the church for choir practice, then singing at the 8:15 service.  Then coffee and donuts and visit for an hour instead of Sunday School, then do it all over again in the 11:00 service.  Hey, we haven't had a choir for a long time (our new music director pulled this one together for Palm Sunday and Easter), and he wanted to make the most of it, robes for second service and all!  The music was muchly appreciated.

After two weeks of shopping (which can be so much fun here; bring lots of money!) and sightseeing, Kristy had to pack up and return to the "real world" of work and Oregon springtime.  I saw her to the airport Monday morning, then back to school for me as well.

Stay tuned for the next Episode when I will describe an Adventure of a different sort.


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