So, today was my first proper day travelling across Central America!
I didn’t really get a great night’s sleep, but seeing as I went to bed at what would have been 5am British time, I think my body clock was still stuck. We headed out at 8am to grab some breakfast in a tiny outside cafe in Antigua.
I had granola, yoghurt and fruit: it was gorgeous, especially the fruit. I even tried papaya for the first time (which, according to my room mate, means “pussy” in Cuba, to everyone’s amusement). I also got to meet the rest of the people in my group, and they’re from all over – four others have come from England; a pair of friends from Ireland; a teacher from Switzerland; a young Norwegian guy; a girl who teaches in Hong Kong; an older man from New Zealand; a couple from the Czech Republic; a mother and daughter from Portugal who are currently on an around-the-world trip. They all seem really friendly.
Soon after breakfast we left Antigua to embark on a seven-hour coach journey through the winding hills of Guatemala, to cross the border into Honduras. We have been told that we will be experiencing a day of travel then a day of rest – sounds boring but you really cannot stop looking out of the window! The scenery along the way was stunning: we went through main urban areas with plenty of outside stalls, and even the odd man strolling casually through the traffic with huge bunches of bananas. Also the valleys and hills were breathtaking and through the more rural areas, what caught my eye especially was the huge number of butterflies there are in Guatemala, of so many different colours. Our tour guide Marvin, who is very lively, told us more about the culture of Guatemala – citizens there speak five different languages, wear different clothes depending on their social or religious group for identification, and also casually call each other “sirrotti” (literally: ‘piece of shit’) as way of greeting.
Before we got to the border we stopped off for lunch; I was served some real lemonade, which was beautiful. Soon after we crossed the border into Honduras we reached the town of Copan; we are staying in a hotel called the Acropolis for two nights. It is really beautiful – the view from the terrace is amazing, there are birds and dogs there, and we even get double beds! The town itself isn’t really tourist-orientated; we seemed to be the only visiting group in the area that I saw. It is so inspiring to see Central America for what it really is, with people just going about their everyday lives, eating and playing music in the street. Loads of shops, even souvenir shops, are open until very late at night too, which gives the town atmosphere.
We had dinner in the hotel restaurant, and I (along with many of the others) tried the local speciality, baleadas. It is a tortilla wrap containing re-fried beans, cream cheese, eggs and chicken. I was really impressed with it, I might try and make it when I go back to university!
The remainder of the evening was spent in a local bar sampling the cocktails, which are really cheap. We’re paying in the currency of lempira, 20 of which are equivalent to one US dollar. As you can imagine, getting 3000 lempiras out of the ATM was rather alarming! We have decided that we must sample a mojito at every bar, naturally, as they appear to be very different everywhere! I had an enjoyable evening learning about what people do for a living – a lot of them have travelled much more than me. We for some reason spoke about animals a lot, as there are many ‘stray’ dogs around the area, but Marvin told us that they have owners who have taught them to hunt for their own food! He also said that when he was very young he was made to eat monkey meat, and it cured his asthma. Anyone believe this?
Anyway, I am really looking forward to the adventures of tomorrow, where I can get to know the people in my group better. I am off the see the Copan ruins early in the morning. I’ll let you know what it’s like, but for now I’m hoping that I’ll be more alert and attentive tomorrow. Today I managed to look like a prat who doesn’t remember her birthday, because I paid no attention to what I was asked – I won’t be doing that again!