Ten Days in Another World

It may as well have been ten days in another world, because that is what it felt like during my journey in Honduras. For those who have read my previous blog, I am back from my honeymoon with a totally different perspective of life in Honduras than when I left.

My initial reaction was one of awe. Upon landing in San Pedro Sula, Carlos and I traveled by car to his uncle’s vacation home in Tela about 1.5 hours away. As we drove, I was a sponge absorbing all of the new scenes around me. The landscape was so very different from anything I have seen back home: towering mountains, lush greenery, palm and mango trees, and dirt roads met my eyes as we drove along. Horses and cows grazed along the sides of the roads, not fenced in. The first big shock came when we stopped at a gas station enroute to Tela: outside the station was a guard toting a very large rifle, ready to shoot whomever might try to steal.

The small country town of Tela was quiet. The road to Carlos’s uncle’s house was dirt, and because of all the deep holes it felt as if we were riding a bucking horse every time we drove on them. The houses in Tela and across most of Honduras are made of concrete and are square with usually just one floor. All have concrete walls or fencing around them and they have bars over the windows for safety. Lawns are uncommon. And there are also many homes which I can only classify as shacks: one room structures without even running water.

The appalling poverty and the tremendous amount of garbage that lined the streets and covered the beaches was shocking. Before I arrived in Honduras, I did not envision the reality of life in a third-world country. Trash seemed to be everywhere, and especially plastic … piled along the road, washed up on the beaches, and heaped around people’s houses. One day as we were walking on the beach I barely missed stepping on a broken glass bottle with my bare feet. There were no recycling bins and I felt bad every time I had to throw a plastic bottle in the trash can … but I realized that amidst such poverty, recycling must be the last thing on most people’s minds.

Beyond the impoverished areas, however, is a tropical paradise. I was fortunate to be able to spend a relaxing six days in Tela, swinging on hammocks, drinking coconut water right out of coconuts, and swimming in an ocean that felt as warm as bath water!

We took a day trip to Punta Sal National Park, a beautiful jungle island with only a few native human inhabitants. Walking through the lush greenery with our guide, we spotted huge blue crabs that scurried to their holes as we approached. There was an abundance of large spiders hanging from webs across the paths and we had to be careful because some spiders have a bite that could cause temporary paralysis. We came across several large brown masses on trees and the guide stopped at one and explained that they were termite nests. He poked a hole in it with his finger and a dozen tiny termites crawled onto his finger, which he then inserted in his mouth while exclaiming, “Go ahead! They taste like carrots.” I must admit, however, and probably to your horror, that I did indeed “go ahead” and try those termites, and yes, they did in fact taste like carrots! I still can’t believe I did this, but I was curious after all and they were so small that no chewing was required. After our termite snack, I was delighted to see white-faced and howler monkeys swinging around in the treetops along the coast. The guide called to them and a symphony of monkey howls erupted throughout the forest around us: so cool! The day was ended with a home cooked meal of fresh fish, rice and beans with coconut milk, and plantains prepared for us by the natives.

The next part of the trip took us to the island of Roatan via a ferry-boat ride from La Ceiba (another beautiful town with many pineapple plantations). The boat ride was less than enjoyable, as I and about half of the other passengers became seasick. Nevertheless, with seasickness behind me, I fell in love with the pristine warm waters and white sandy beaches spotted with with palm trees. Our Roatan trip included a snorkeling trip that brought us into the world of beautiful corals, vividly colored fishes of all sizes, sting rays, lobsters, and even huge starfishes. Our guide also took us to see dolphins who lived in an enclosure not far from where we stayed. The morning of snorkeling ended with a delicious lunch of creamy conch soup–que rico! One particular service that I loved on the island was the water taxi: if we wanted to visit the shops and restaurants a little ways further up the coast, all we had to do was wave down a water taxi from our spot on the beach, hop aboard, and be whisked away across the water to our destination … often a journey of less than ten minutes. The rest of the days on Roatan were wonderful, enjoying life under a large coconut leaf umbrella on the beach and letting the ocean and island breezes sweep over us.

Conch Soup

Our last day in Honduras was spent in San Pedro Sula, the city where Carlos had grown up. It was crowded and very hot, and according to Carlos, it had changed quite a bit since he had left. Since it was a city, we needed to be extra careful about where we went or what we did because the crime rate was much higher. It was nice to be able to see where Carlos had grown up, his old schools and some other places he had frequented. However, neither of us felt as relaxed in San Pedro as we had in Tela and Roatan.

Preparing to visit a foreign country or want to explore it in literature? Check out some of these materials OWL has pertaining to Honduras and other Central American or Latin countries!

Searching for Crusoe: A Journey Among the Last Real Islands by Thurston Clarke has two chapters at the end about the authors visit to Roatan and another small Honduran island named Utila (where he says he discovered the real Crusoe!).

Frommer’s South America 2010 will get you started if you are planning a trip, or if you just want to learn more about the countries of South America. The book contains detailed maps and helpful hints about what to bring, and includes a “the best of” section for each country for stays lasting up to two weeks.

Where to Go When: The America’s by Joseph Rosendo is a beautifully illustrated book with a lot of information about various places throughout the Americas. Pages 66-67 of the book describe places to see in Honduras, which they recommend visiting in March. The book offers tips on where to stay, where to eat, and how to get around as well as explorations of excursions of interest.

1,000 Places to See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz lists Roatan and the Bay Islands of Honduras as a places to see, well, before you die. “The reefs fringing these mountainous islands are home to the greatest diversity of coral, sponges, and invertebrates in the Caribbean.” Go and see for yourself!

The Blue Planet’s Seasonal Seas and Coral Seas DVD will take you under the sea to explore coral reefs bursting with color and abundant in wildlife. They describe it as “the rainforest of the sea.” The Seasonal Seas episode shows the ever-changing life under the water as the seasons change from warm to cold.

Although I didn’t get to see any sea turtles while snorkeling in Honduras, they do roam the waters there. I enjoyed looking through the colorful photographs in Sea Turtles of the World, especially the ones of the tiny babies making their way to the sea.

Jacques Cousteau’s The Ocean World is also a fascinating look at the abundant wildlife below the water’s surface. Some of the fish pictured on pages 151-154 look like ones I had seen when snorkeling.

Look for Honduras and the Bay Islands 2010 due to arrive on our shelves sometime in March 2011.

Sarai is the Publicity Coordinator/Library Assistant who has currently been spending her downtime reading The Postmistress and watching the late summer shadow’s play out across her lawn.