Written by Jose Kevo on 12 Feb, 2008
Optium Viewing; Wobbling into my twelfth hour of fixated itchy feet, interest feigned standing at yet another trailhead. The path quickly disappeared into the coffee plantation; the Macaw Mountain guide thoroughly detailing the plants, the trail, the potential overlooks, the… Since it…Read More
Optium Viewing; Wobbling into my twelfth hour of fixated itchy feet, interest feigned standing at yet another trailhead. The path quickly disappeared into the coffee plantation; the Macaw Mountain guide thoroughly detailing the plants, the trail, the potential overlooks, the… Since it was almost the 5-o’clock closing time, I thought I’d do us both a favor and make tracks to the nearby exit instead. The young moto-taxi driver was still parked under a shade tree, whether waiting for me or taking a break to catch-up with his buddy we’d picked-up on the way out of town. Much to their wonder and even somewhat mine, I kept right on trodding towards the dusty road. They sprang into action, making sure I realized it was well over 3km back into town and I didn’t need to walk. In hopes of prolonging the perfect day, that’s exactly what transpired!Macaw Mountain is a considerable distance from town. Ride there was quite the good-humored jolt along a washboard road. Bouncing like a bobble-headed doll afforded random flashes of rural scenery while tucked-away inside the canopied contraption. I was determined to rivet the full scope, regardless of how washed-out the road and my legs were. Besides, it was all downhill in direction but quite the opposite in regards to perspectives.This rural route curves and swerves through forests and farmlands, where livestock peacefully grazed in shaded pastures. Chirps of fluttering songbirds permeated the silence, ruptured only by the rumbles of random passing vehicles including mis amigos in the moto-taxi. They slowed asking for a "last chance" opening. Waving them onward, the experience was mine for the taking; something I’m sure few if any visitors have ever considered.Easing closer to town with each shifting step, my dogs weren’t the only ones barking as random homes began appearing along the road. Ferocious sounding canines were always ready to gr"eat" me; their barks worse than any bites as indicated by the nonchalant locals that were coming out of the woodlands to share the road.As to what officially constituted the afternoon pilgrimage was anyone’s guess but ramblers of all ages continued to join the processions, now beginning to head in both directions. Curious stares of children melted into reciprocated smiles; even from the unsupervised ones playing naked in ditches and yards. Beyond the touristic gleam of downtown Copán Ruinas sprawls the humble truths of Honduras subsistence. To share in these simplicities, even in the briefest of passing moments, are the travel experiences that keep me questing for more.Passing over a shaded bridge, a massive flamboyán tree captured my attention blazing against the green spectrum. Looking downstream, the waters meandered through a maze of boulders and abandoned piles of laundry. Despite the obvious destitution, this was someone’s idyllic backyard; simple country living at its finest. The stolen moment was anything but silent from whatever was unfolding below other side of the bridge.Rowdy boys were frolicking in the waters where rocks had formed a natural pool. I had a few seconds to observe unnoticed before the real show started. Antics only escalated one spotting camera. There was quite the feat trying to capture a shot that didn’t include exposed bare body parts; ever the conscientious one hailing from a land where something so innocent has reason to be misconstrued.Departing with an "adios", another rumpus scattered jaywalkers as a young catracho came thundering around the bend on his horse, perfecting the Wild West ambiance. Cowboys and horses are still as much a part of this rustic venue as are the age-old adobe buildings dotting roadsides; some in various stages of forsaken decay. Others as viable sanctuaries and humble abodes of 21st Century Latin America.The route edges toward legitimate barrios layered on either side of the mountainous road. Preparing to refresh inside a pulpería, a "señor, señor" paused my entry thanks to a posse of children approaching with urgency. It was the band of bathers; still wet but somewhat recognizable semi-clothed. Actual acknowledgement seemed to throw them off; suddenly they didn’t know what to say and took off giggling down the road.What ensued was a playful game of cat-and-mouse with the youngsters popping-out from various places and scurrying just as quickly once noticing them. I must confess the rascals gave quite the startle when appearing overhead from a roof. Mustering all the courage in the world, one put-forth their best broken English to request, "Please, take our picture."Responding in Spanish almost seemed to rupture fascination that had ensued chasing the foreigner down the road, but they still wanted the picture. Construction workers in the street halted briefly with approval, whether from a watchful eye or to reflect upon their own carefree childhoods; likely right here on the side of this mountain. The boys disappeared as quickly as they had appeared; never to be seen again, and the clanging and banging of progress resumed.Shadows were beginning to deepen colors as afternoon sun slid behind the ridge. Even without this timely cue, weighted-down truckloads of people heading home for the day indicated it was well after 5:00pm.The closer I advanced towards the town’s civilization, the more my steps decelerated even with heading downhill. Less and less imagination was germane with each passing block. And while I hadn’t even been in Copán Ruinas for 24-hours, the methodical cultured slant was already beginning to seem inhibitive compared to this untamed, liberating jaunt accomplished in less than a piddling hour.My legs and feet were sore, but there were still fleeting moments of daylight left to burn. Landing on the nearest Parque Central ledge to plot my next course of action, I hadn’t been there long when my amigo in the moto-taxi pulled-up and shut the engine off. I didn't think much of it till he came rushing forward and asked, "¿Todo bien?"; "Everything’s ok?" Apparently my response was not nearly convincing enough.In his mind, he or his friend must have done something highly offensive at some point in the day for me to chose walking all the way back to town rather than catching a ride. He went out of his way to apologize and assure how much he enjoyed his job. I’m not sure this young man ever believed my sentiments, nor that the only thing I might bother reporting to his supervisor was what a considerate tourism ambassador he was for the entire town!He seemed to relax with a smile, offered services for anything needed, and seemed disappointed; almost paranoid when finding I’d be leaving first thing in the morning. Detailing my plans, the driver seemed somewhat satisfied until asking, "but why’d you do that?" – in reference to my walking back to town from Macaw Mountain."Simplemente porque"; Simply because – an explanation that sidesteps all international language barriers with significant meaning only to the inveterate traveler. Close
Written by Jose Kevo on 28 Dec, 2007
With such close proximity to La Frontera, the town of Copán Ruinas and further afield Copán Archaeological Site, have became one of Guatemala's most popular daytrips; especially to anyone searching for Mayan Ruins. Guatemala guidebooks all include special sections for making this border run…Read More
With such close proximity to La Frontera, the town of Copán Ruinas and further afield Copán Archaeological Site, have became one of Guatemala's most popular daytrips; especially to anyone searching for Mayan Ruins. Guatemala guidebooks all include special sections for making this border run that's became even easier than outdated information suggests.The greatest improvement is that all connecting roads on either side of borders are now paved at all three crossings, minimizing listed travel times. Checkpoints at El Florido (outside of Copán Ruinas) and Agua Caliente are also now open 24-hours; the Caribbean coastal crossing at Corinto closes at 6:00pm.These days, greatest decision involves whether to use public transportation, major bus companies such as Hedman Alas, or numerous private shuttles popping-up.From Copán Ruinas, the latter two offer direct service to Antigua, with stops in Guatemala City. These are priced considerably more but cut-down on travel time without making frequent stops. The hitch is that nothing leaves until 1:00pm, or later in the day. To those looking for flexibility and adventure at a fraction of the cost, public transportation is certainly the way to go!Colectivo vans regularly depart from Copán Ruinas a block west off the northwest corner of Parque Central. For 12Lps, it's about 20-minutes to El Florido and the Guatemalan border. The first van leaves at 6:00am. After this, exits run about every hour or when a full-load has been collected.Tip #1 If leaving on the first van, make sure to have purchased water, snacks, or whatever needed the night before. Nothing is open in Copán Ruinas, and there's no time for buying anything at the border with that first, quick-connection waiting.Crossing the BorderThe van unloads passengers just short of the checkpoint for walking across the border. Just beyond on the right are the shabby immigration offices. They'll request to see passports, but won't stamp them for exit or re-entry at land crossings. There's a 20Lps tax for leaving Honduras, and Lps25 fee to enter Guatemala. Either station will accept Lempiras, Quetzales or US-$.The border wasn't nearly as harrowing as information described; perhaps because it was still so early in the day. A couple of food stands and a tienda/store were already open, but the connecting colectivo was obviously waiting. There's a small bank branch on the Guatemalan side but also roving money changers. Official exchange rate was Q7.5 on the dollar; I got Q7.4 rapidly in the street.Tip #2 Especially if planning to return to Honduras, keep the Lempiras. Exchange rate was marginally better if cashing-in US-$.Venturing into GuatemalaColectivos regularly head for Chiquimula; the major transportation center for this part of the country. In-transit, this was where the fun began! Unlimited stops were made through the rural region. As last passenger in at the border, I was sitting at the open, side-exit door; a front-row seat for the entertainment as riders hopped on-and-off. With such a full-load, some were left standing in the open door while clinging to the outer-roof!Photo ops were too genuine to resist; the curious crowd chuckling at my camera monitor while begging for more. Not only did this cause peculiar distractions, I was also obstructing progress -- my 6'4"-largeness preventing more passengers from squeezing into the rear section, and also blocking the entire rumble board jammed between the first row and front seats. Driver insisted it would be more "accommodating" to move me upfront.After a quick roadside shuffle, I got sandwiched in the middle between driver and passenger as wide as I was tall! They pleasantly addressed me as gringo; I counter-feigned as Boricua, and we were off through the rolling hills and mountains; oblivious to how many were finally crammed into that 15-passenger van.In the picturesque valley town of Jocotán, passengers going to Chiquimula transfer to another van at no additional charge. Ride from the border to Chiquimula was Q20; the 2-hour endeavor from Copán Ruinas roughly costing $3.30, not including the $2.40 for immigration entry/exit fees.Tip #3 When traveling by colectivo vans, luggage is tied onto roof racks. While contents may be secure, this method risks serious saturation and/or damage during random downpours, or traveling during the rainy season. Fortunately I was lucky during my entire trip, but never would've considered need for a waterproof bag. You should!Chiquimula was quite bustling! Transportation hubs are absorbed within blocks of the outdoor markets. Upon arrival, barkers and porters immediately whisk foreign travelers off in a hustle without the hassle. Simply tell them where you're headed. And no, they didn't expect tips for carrying bags. Hospitality only speeds-up the process!The entire country of Guatemala is accessible from this town, and changing buses again in Río Hondo is no longer necessary as information suggests. Travelers have a couple of long-haul options on battered, charter-type buses -- local, or so-called directo. The latter costs more, and either make innumerable stops in towns along the way. I recommend taking which ever one is departing first.Tip #4 If coming to Copán Ruinas town and the Copán Archaeological Site from Guatemala, just reverse all these instructions and expect much of the same. The first van headed towards the Honduran border also leaves Chiquimula at 6:00am. With an approximate 8:00am. arrival, this leaves better part of the day for exploring the park and time to head-back if you don't plan on staying. Lonely Planet has numerous hotel and restaurant listings for Chiquimula, and I certainly wouldn't have minded looking around with more time.-- Departing Chiquimula shortly after 8:00am, I was in Guatemala's Caribbean coastal region well before noon, for only Q40; slightly more than $5.Re-entering HondurasWith a last-minute change of itenerary, I headed back to the interior rather than crossing the coastal border at Corinto which links Puerto Barrios, Guatemala to Omoa, Honduras.From the Guatemalan town of Esquipulas, famous for its monstrosity of a basilica luring pilgrims in search of miracles, crossing borders was just as effortless. Colectivos, in the form of taxis or vans, regularly leave from 11a Calle; the main street, one-block west of the park and cathedral. The 10-minute ride to the border goes for Q15/$2.Drop-off is in front of Guatemala immigration, which check passports without stamping them and charged no exit fees; perhaps because I'd only been in the country four days. Outside, another shuttle makes the 2km-run to the Honduran bordertown of Agua Caliente for Q5; it's too far to walk.Upon arrival, this is where things got a little confusing simply because there's no signs for where anything is. There's quite a bit of development and activity though still nothing intense as guidebooks would have you believe. There's no need to wander off the main-road. Beyond the border crossing, immigration office is on lower-level of the large building to the right. The tax for entering Honduras is $3 or 60Lps.Money changers are available in the street to cash in Quetzales or Dollars at fair rates. There's also a plethora of foodstands, stores, and even small hotels; likely for truckers that get jammed-up at the border. (The entire 2km stretch between the two immigration offices was lined with semi-trucks waiting for clearance.)I had just missed the bus leaving for Nueva Ocotepeque; the nearest town of any significance which also serves as a transportation hub. It was a brief wait until enough had filled a taxi for the 30-minute ride into town costing 20Lps. The countryside is stunning as roadway weaves through pine-clad mountains.-- From Nueva Ocotepeque, buses head north along Carretera 4 to Santa Rosa de Copán; gateway to the Ruta Lenca (90-minutes; 60Lps; sit on the right side for best views.) From Nueva Ocotepeque, it's also a brief 10-minute ride south for crossing into El Salvador at El Poy.Tip #5 The pair of southwestern Honduras border crossings are not only close together, both must first connect through Chiquimula. If wanting to cross at Agua Caliente, simply request going to Esquipulas. Why? Mention border or la frontera, and barkers will automatically try to ship you off to El Florido towards Copán Ruinas and the Archaeological Site -- because that's where the majority are usually going! Close
Written by firstname.lastname@example.org on 27 Jul, 2005
I did a lot of research before my trip about the safety of the roads between Guatemala and Honduras. More so than the other roads in Guatemala, this path seemed to suffer from the majority of road blocks and robberies. Therefore, I asked one of…Read More
I did a lot of research before my trip about the safety of the roads between Guatemala and Honduras. More so than the other roads in Guatemala, this path seemed to suffer from the majority of road blocks and robberies. Therefore, I asked one of the employees at Antigua Tours, which had set up our transportation from the airport, where we could go for the safest transport into Honduras. He directed us to the Hedman Alas office in Antigua, 502/919-7473. Click here for their website.
This had to be the most expensive bus ticket I would ever buy in Central America. The cost was nearly US$41, or Q323.50, each. I had no idea what made this bus company so special, and I could barely bring myself to hand over the money. But my respect for Antigua Tours' recommendation, along with the fear of possible robberies going another way, enabled me to bear the high price.
We were up early for transport to the capital to catch the Hedman Alas bus. Amazingly, our hotel staff in Antigua knocked on our doors a full 30 minutes before we expected the shuttle to arrive. There was a first: an early bus! We were taken swiftly to the capital, avoiding traffic or running around to pick up other passengers. Our driver helped us with our bags into the Hedman Alas terminal, which was small, clean, and quiet.
Immediately, I noticed the fresh coffee brewing in the waiting room. I confirmed our seats on the bus with the receptionist, who directed a staff member to tag our luggage and stow it underneath the bus. I was immediately weary (as I always am) of my bags leaving my sight, but I knew that there was something much different about this company. Dad and I sipped coffee while we watched the Discovery Channel and waited for the bus to be ready.
It was apparent that we'd be the only gringos aboard the bus that day, and it seemed that only the Guatemalan middle and upper classes were taking Hedman Alas. We were witness to a very touching scene of a family who was obviously parting ways for a long while; the mother and grown son could barely let each other go. The mother cried quietly while her son kissed her forehead and petted her hair. After several "final" goodbyes, the son would always rush back to his mother and hug her once more, until she finally boarded the bus and he had to stand and watch her go.
A security team checked all the bags being carried into the bus, and we had to cross a metal detector. We noticed they searched us far less than they did any of the other passengers, but I'd expected that to be opposite the case. I had heard once that the Guatemalan government trusts foreigners much more than they do their own citizens, and suddenly I wondered if that might actually be true.
The bus was definitely first-class: it was immaculately clean and a Jennifer Aniston movie played for our entertainment on overhead television screens. Our ayudante was dressed in a collared shirt, tie, and a badge holder that said "I Love Jesus." He served us a small loaf of cinnamon bread and juice, gathered our passports, and handed out appropriate forms so he could do all the work at the border for us.
At one point, Dad and I caught a glimpse of our real security team, which was following behind the bus in a personal vehicle. As we stopped to get gas, we saw the truck pull in with four male occupants, each with an automatic weapon. We gasped, and I felt again the pang of nervousness for my decision to travel here, but realized then why the great expense and felt a little more secure. By the time we reached the border, the security men had gone, and we were left alone for the final 30 minutes of travel on Honduran roads. Even in the dusty dry season, the scenery along the way from Guatemala City to Copan Ruinas is interesting and varied.
Pleasant, comfortable, and safe, I'd recommend this company for the traveler who can afford it, or for someone whose sick to death of the slow and cramped conditions of chicken-bus travel.
Written by savvy_artist on 28 Mar, 2008
I arrived by Hedman Alas bus line, thinking I knew where I was going. I walk thru the bus station, and, at the other end, I find taxi drivers and hotel promoters, at the front door. I asked, "Do you know where Hotel Carrillo is"?…Read More
I arrived by Hedman Alas bus line, thinking I knew where I was going. I walk thru the bus station, and, at the other end, I find taxi drivers and hotel promoters, at the front door. I asked, "Do you know where Hotel Carrillo is"? A hotel promoter said "Oh no, that's 30 minutes from here, up on a hill. I was stunned by his comment. Then, he kept promoting the hotel he works for Hotel San Jose. At one point, I can say the taxi man shook his head no, now I realize, to let me know the promoter was lying to me!! But I realized later, they work together as a "team". Unfortunately, I ended up agreeing to go to Hotel San Jose. I think I was still stumped that supposedly my hotel was 30 mins away, on a hill, because when I checked in to Hotel San Jose, I never checked the showers. I paid. Then, that night, I realized the hotel had the "suicidal showers" Moon Handbook refers to, with the electrical cord hanging over the shower head. I checked out the next day.So, I learned from that experience to always make statments not questions; it makes sense now! Advice: Know where you're going before you get there and if you do not know act like you do. Especially in a small town like Copan Ruinas, everyone knows every hotel and place in town, of course, they do! Or ask a bus station personnel when in doubt!Hotel San Jose may be great for some but it was a sour experience for me. May be it was because I was manipulated into agreeing to stay there.$25 for 1 single room with hot water and a fan or $40 some for hot water and a/c. Close
Written by Ngibson on 27 Nov, 2002
The first time I went to Copan, I really wanted to see the Rosalia. At that time, it was not open to the public. As it happened, a friend of mine had given me a picture of one of the guards to give…Read More
The first time I went to Copan, I really wanted to see the Rosalia. At that time, it was not open to the public. As it happened, a friend of mine had given me a picture of one of the guards to give to him. And, as it happened, we saw him on the site. In my very poor Spanish, I gave him the picture and then he held my hands in his. In what can only be described an human telepathic communication we crossed all the boundaries of our abilities to speak English and Spanish and soon I found that I was being offered a personal tour of the Rosalia.
Now, the Rosalia is open the public. This temple has been ritually encased in an opaque mix. So the building appears to be white. I don't know about anyone else, but I personally feel a presence and energy inside this space. I felt it four years ago and I felt it again this time.
The Maya usually ritually deface temples when they are getting ready to build the next incarnation. However, this one was ritually encased instead! Instead of releasing the energy -- they wanted to hold it in. For archealogists -- it is literally FROZEN IN TIME.