We crossed into Honduras at El Poy. As like all the other borders we had to surrender our current vehicle permit for El Salvador and get a new one for Honduras. Thankfully both offices were in the same building. However, we got there at 11am and everyone goes on lunch at 12pm for supposedly an hour but it was really two hours. So we had to wait three hours for them to process the new permit. For the first time ever a quarantine official for El Salvador asked for Francie’s paperwork. I showed him everything and he stamped it all and took a few copies. We thought we were done but then a quarantine official from the Honduran side came over to look at the paperwork. I had everything for him but he still insisted that we needed to get a transit permit for Francie. Of course he couldn’t do it there and he said we would have to go to one of the international airports! Then we had to wait another hour while he typed up a bullshit compromise letter to allow us to enter the country with Francie. Meanwhile they were several mangy, skanky stray dogs just walking over and back across the border. He also put on some rubber clothes and gave Francie a half arse examination. By the time we left the border it was after 4pm so we just found a hotel to park beside in the next town.
The next day we drove to Copan Ruinas near the Guatemalan border. We were stopped at five different police checkpoints who asked for everything from our passports, licenses to Francie’s documents. We had to go through the whole thing of explaining that we needed to go to the airport to complete Francie’s paperwork. As we were driving through the country we noticed the difference in the people right away. For one they didn’t have the indigenous look that the Guatemalans did and secondly they weren’t half as friendly. We were getting some mean looking stares and the kids were worse, they kept flashing some sort of gang signs at us. The people here are a mixture of Indian, Spanish and European ancestry. There is only 7% of the population that are pure Indians. Been so close to the border we were tempted to go back to the nice people in Guatemala. We arrived in Copan Ruinas and it turned out to be a gorgeous little town. It was really touristy and there seemed to be mostly elderly American tourists. The streets were really narrow and because everyone was honking their horns at us we just happened to turn down this side street. We drove up with the intentions of turning around but passed a hotel that had a decent sized parking lot. I went in and asked and they said no problem for $4/night. They even let us use the showers in one of the guest rooms. We were delighted. The gates were closed at night and they had a full time security guard plus we were only a two minute walk from the center of town. The street food there was pretty good. It consisted of beef kebabs which they served with tortillas and cabbage coleslaw for a $1, hard to beat that. In the restaurants we could get “chulatas”, like a pork chop, with plantains and rice for $4 which were really good.
Our main reason for going to Copan Ruinas was to see the Mayan ruins and try and compensate for not going to Tikal. We drove down to them the next day and spent nearly four hours wandering around. The ruins were really impressive. There are really complex carvings on these 3m columns of stone on which the passage of time was originally believed to have been recorded. There are also royal portraits with inscriptions recording deeds and the lineage of those portrayed as well as dates of birth, marriage and death. Ball courts were revealed during excavation and a Hieroglyphic Stairway which leads up a pyramid. After the ruins we did the nature trail walk around the ruins and saw some strange looking animals and plants. One animal looked like a mix of a huge rat and a guinea pig. There were loads of parrots around there as well for some reason. The following day we went hiking with Francie to some waterfalls a few miles out of the town. We thought we would have to turn back as we had to cross a narrow rope bridge. It seemed like a scene from Shrek when donkey had to cross the bridge! Francie was terrified but with a little encouragement he made it across fine. Afterwards we drove to this farm/hotel I had read about to see if we could stay there instead as it was in the country and there were some nice hiking trails around. They wanted $15 just for a parking spot so we went back to our $4 spot in the town. The beer is only a $1 a bottle so we went to a bar called The Red Frog for a few. Every tourist that goes there signs a one limpira note and sticks it on the wall so we signed a couple and stuck them up. We met an American guy and his girlfriend who works as a tour guide back in the US. He gets sent all over the world on different tours. He informed us that it is possible to drive from Capetown to Cairo with a company called Caravan tours so our cogs are turning again!
After a nice few days in Copan Ruinas we decided we better go and get Francie’s paperwork sorted out. We didn’t want to go to the capital city so we drove to San Pedro Sula, the second biggest city in the country. The airport was outside the city and wasn’t too difficult to find. Instead of trying to struggle with our Spanish to explain what we needed we just walked right into the airport with Francie. With a big dog with us it wasn’t hard for them to understand what we were there for. A cop brought us down to the quarantine official who handed us a list of vets telephone numbers that we needed to call. A woman at the Rent-a -Car desk spoke English and made the call for us. We thought the vet was in the airport but it turns out she had to call a few different vets in the area until she found one that was available to come out. We didn’t really understand why we needed a vet but just went along with it all to try and get it sorted as quickly as possible. The vet arrived after and hour and half. He went in the back with the quarantine guy for a few minutes and when he came back out the first thing he asked us was if we wanted to know how much it would cost. We said yes and he said $132 and we said get lost. It was obvious he had cooked up the price with the official. Apparently he needed to examine Francie in order for us to get the permit. We said no thanks that our dog was perfectly healthy. Then he wanted $35 for his taxi fare back to his clinic. After a lot of arguing the vet eventually got pissed off and left in his car I presume. We were left with the quarantine official then who said we could stay in the country for five days with Francie but he wouldn’t give us back the paperwork we had got at the border. He walked off and Jimmy took after him through the security gates and tried to get his name but he wouldn’t tell him. He tried to cover his badge number too but Jimmy got it in time. Bunch of bloody crooks. After three hours we left worse off than when we got there. It was getting late so we drove to the next town and got a hotel to park at.
We decided to head for Tela on the Caribbean coast as we read that there was a Tourist Police station there. The local people along the coast are called Garifunas because they are a mix of Indians, Europeans and the black slaves that were brought by the British. So were also interested in meeting some of them. We got to the town and found the tourist police station no problem down by the beach. We explained what happened at the airport and they said not to worry. As we were only passing through the country we didn’t need anything for Francie and there’s no way it would cost that amount of money anyway. We felt a lot better about it then and are hoping there will be no hassle at the border when we are leaving. There was a huge parking lot beside the station so the police said we could park there for free. There was another RV parked there twice the size of ours. It was all painted with kids paintings and had a map of the world painted on the back. It looked like they had driven a similar route to ours. On the side was written “more miles, less cancer” and a website www.milesofhope.net. We were all excited to meet the owners as we hadn’t seen another RV since Mexico. We waited an hour and finally saw a couple with four blond haired boys walking towards us. One of the kids said “are ye the Irish people with the big dog”!! Apparently they had been hearing about us everywhere they went and it seemed we were always a couple of days ahead of them. They are a French couple, Stephan and Lydie, travelling with their four sons, Jeremy and Axle both 12, Liam 9 and Julian 6. We have done more or less the same route through Mexico and Guatemala and they are heading all the way to Argentina as well!! Their son Liam was diagnosed with leukemia when he was three and went through three years of operations and treatment. All the time they promised him if he got better they would travel the world. So when he got better they sold their house in Austin, bought and RV and have been on the road for six months. They are such a fantastic family and both of us are so happy to have met each other. There will be a comfort for the rest of our travels knowing that there is someone else out there doing the same. We have been here for the last three days hanging out with them. Jimmy was teaching them rugby yesterday and then they played soccer for most of the day. The similarities between our two trips are so uncanny. Last night we had a jamming session with them in their van. The kids play everything from recorder, trumpet, piano, drums, saxophone and guitar, all of which they have with them. Stephan is brilliant on the guitar and piano and Lydie plays the flute. We cracked out the accordion and bodhran and had great fun with them. The kids are already teaching me loads of new tunes. We are both leaving tomorrow on pretty much the same route all the way to Panama where we are spending Christmas. The weather was beautiful when we got here but it’s raining now and will be for the next few days. We had planned to do some tours along the coast but they are fairly expensive and the weather is going to be crap. Please check out their website, it such a heart warming story and you can also subscribe to it to help them along the way. That’s all for now, take care……..