We have come travelling to the hottest place on the planet. At least, that’s how it feels to my English whiteboy body!
The average temperature of any given day since we arrived in Honduras has been around 34 degrees – and it only drops to the high 20’s at night. The new theme of the trip is sweating.
We started our first day in Copan Ruinas nice and early in order to try and avoid the hottest part of the day. We also thought that arriving at the ruins of the ancient Mayan city of Copan at opening time would prevent the experience from being ruined (no pun intended but pun plaudits gratefully accepted) by the usual hordes of tourists that these places tend to attract. How wrong we were – on both counts!
The short walk out of town to the entrance to the ruins was done slowly, the heat of the day already beginning to be felt, even at 8am. Once inside the compound it became clear that in this area, out of season really does mean out of season – there was virtually no-one there! It is a truly incredible site and, after wandering around for a couple of hours, I decided that it was one of my favourite ruins of the trip so far. The area of the city that we saw was used for ceremonies and the like and is exceptionally well preserved in places. It must have been an amazing thing to find, hidden in the jungle, hundreds of years after the whole place was abandoned, the Mayan people who lived here having plundered the land so indiscriminately that they destroyed their environment and could no longer feed themselves. I was sure that their demise reminded me of something similar in the modern day but, for the life of me, I could not recall what it was.
There was another, more residential area of ruins further down the road so we decided to head there when we’d seen the main part and it was this walk – merely 2km down the road – that began to hurt. We wandered through the jungle, looking at the ruins of people’s houses but by this point I was beginning to melt and the walk back nearly killed me. On our return, we devoured a rejuvenating lunch and spent the afternoon sitting in hammocks at the hotel, reading.
The evening was notable only for the entertainment of splashing around town looking for a restaurant that was open as it was lashing it down with rain again and most places had closed.
We’d booked another day trip for the next day – a visit to a local finca where they grow coffee and cocoa as well as a myriad of different types of fruit. The day began with me trying to quiz our flatbed truck driver, Alex – a local guy – about Honduras’ up and coming World Cup campaign as I’d promised to find out some info for my other website, The Real FA Cup. The ‘interview’ was quite hard work as we bounced along an extremely rutted road at breakneck speed on our way up to the finca and at times it was a struggle to remember all that he had said.
When we arrived, it was time to find an appropriate cowboy hat and, once again, climb onto the stupidest of the animal kingdom for a couple of hours of horse riding. I was informed that my steed’s name was, reassuringly, the Spanish word for ‘Lightning’ and I set off into their small paddock to practice driving him, for I am sure that’s the correct word. As it turned out, he only wanted to go left so we agreed that that’s what we should do and set off – left.
The ride, through coffee plantations and cardamom fields was pretty spectacular and my confidence on Lightning increased as time went on and, by the time we were heading back – having sat and watched helplessly, while three of our guides administered some much-needed medicine to an ailing bull in one of the fields – I was really ‘at one’ with him, even managing a proper gallop towards the end.
Exhausted, we all sat down to some superb food cooked by the finca owners family and then relaxed in the garden, talking to Alex about the political situation in the country at the moment, their ex-leader, Manuel Zalaya, having been forced to flee the country recently but promising to return any day and oust the new, US-backed regime.
The afternoon featured a tour of the coffee processing facility which was built in three years in the 1930’s and is incredibly rudimentary and an hour or two spent in yet another area of hot springs, soothing our aching muscles from the horse riding.
Next morning, we had to take a ridiculously early bus – at 5.15am – to try and make it to La Ceiba in time to catch the last ferry to the Caribbean island of Roatan. We made it, but only after spending a total of five hours waiting for various bus connections on the way. We arrived on Roatan at 6pm, the journey having taken nearly 14 hours – and there was me thinking that the long bus journeys had finished.
The last few days, and possibly a few days more after today, have been spent on the island as we are a bit ‘travelled out’ and need a rest.
We’d booked an expensive hotel for the first three nights and simply lounged around, reading for the first two days – staying out of the incredible heat and limping from shade to shade. Our hotel, as it turned out, wasn’t exactly the luxurious accommodation the price demanded though, so we’ve now moved to a cheaper place which has it’s own kitchen, allowing us some more freedom to cook some of the local fish and do some diving. However, our new place is buried in a woodland of mango and coconut trees and they are both in season at the moment. Every 4 or 5 minutes, a small rustling sound can be heard before one of the aforementioned fruits dislodges itself from its tree and demonstrates Newton’s 2nd Law by plummeting to Earth – stopping only briefly on the way down to thud onto someone’s roof before landing.
The diving on Roatan (well, strictly speaking ‘off Roatan’ I suppose) is absolutely superb. Most of my dives so far have required a reasonably long boat ride to get to the dive site but here, they are all within 20 minutes of the island which means less faff and more time diving. Our first dive was slightly ruined for me by my mask constantly letting water in, causing me to spend more time clearing it than looking at the fish. By the second dive, however, I had it sorted and really enjoyed the whole dive, seeing huge grouper, large crabs, some barracuda and a massive shoal or two of bright purple fish with white mouths whose name I can’t recall, some of which I nearly touched, they were so close! We even saw a turtle the previous day when we were out snorkelling. All in all, it’s a great place to dive and to prove it, Annika is, at this very minute, out learning how to deep dive (nitrogen narcosis, anyone?!) and we’re both off out again later.
Our future plans are still undecided as yet. We are going to spend another couple of days here but whether we’ll be here for England’s first World Cup game or not, I don’t know. There are a lot of Americans on the island and I have a sneaking suspicion the Yanks are gonna turn us over. Do I really want to be surrounded by them if they do? Hmmm.