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Part 1 left off Sunday morning before daybreak, woken from a fitful sleep in a generous bus ticket vendor’s hammock in the El Savadorian town of Aguilares (see also companion UNESCgo post on Joya de Ceren).
5:00 am at the Aguilares bus stop. The first bus from San Salvador soon to cruise through on the way to the Honduran border.
Bus duly arrived and made good time winding through the mountain roads. As 8:00 approached the bus rolled through towns like La Palma, but everything was shuttered and The Rapid Traveler pressed on to the border.
Border formalities were efficient. The early buses piled up into large crowds but most traffic was local, requiring only an ID card, quickly processed. Passports are not stamped on exit from El Salvador or Honduras. Entry to Honduras requires payment of USD 3. The atmosphere was so casual it seemed possible to saunter across without any formalities, and indeed, some little-used crossings are reportedly unmanned. The banks were closed for Sunday and the moneychangers gave rates of 18 Honduran Lempiras to USD 3, negotiated up to 18.5 to 1, lower from the official 19 to 1
The nearest town is Nueva Octopeque, reached by taxi or shared minivan. Typical square and cathedral. Buses run up to Santa Rosa de Copan, continuing on to La Entrada, branching west to Copan Ruinas and east to San Pedro Sula, Honduras’ main commercial center. The road network in Western Honduras so limited that buses east to the capital, Tegucigalpa, go all the way northeast to San Pedro Sula and then down southest. Those going direct from San Salvador to Tegucigalpa have a direct route to the east.
Difficult to make much drama out of nine hours of bus rides. The buses are ex-US school buses in trippy colors. They stop everywhere. Farmers check their gigantic machetes at the front. Vendors hop on and off with filing snacks.
Time was the constraint, needing to reach Copan Ruinas by 3:00 pm in order to see the museums and ruins. The Rapid Traveler grew in agitation as the minutes slid by, peering at road signs with no distances. He reached La Entrada at 1:15, over an hour later than planned, but fortunately his Lonely Planet directed him to an alternate bus stand to bypass the infrequent Copan Ruinas-bound departures from the main station. The road twisted downhill and the whippersnapper behind the wheel let it fly. The hour-long trip took half that.
The Copan Ruins are mainland Honduras’ biggest draw and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The companion town is Copan Ruinas and has all the typical boutique travel and backpacker facilities, guesthouses with wi-fi and restaurants with granola. The Rapid Traveler found a guest house, slapped on some sunblock and loped to the Museo Regional de Arqueologia Maya to catch it before close – except it has been closed for renovations for some time. So it was off to the ruins (see tomorrow’s feature on the ruins).
The ruins closed sharp at 5:00 pm, just when the animals were out to play.
Back in town The famished Rapid Traveler gorged on a pizza (guilty pleasure after so many pupusas) while empathetically watching a dedicated cheesehead, jersey and all, view her Packers fall to the Giants.
Shower time was a bit of a hassle, no towel and too tired to go out in search of an open store. An air dry seemed a good idea, despite the chill creeping in from the storms, but the shower never got hot. Brrrrr.
6:00 am, bus to La Entrada, transfer to a San Pedro Sula-bound bus which took two hours more than the guidebook suggested, so it was a direct taxi to the airport, no chance to partake in the blue collar city. San Pedro Sula’s airport is small but contains good eats. Tellers at the airport departure tax window accept whatever lempiras travelers have left and then make up any difference with USD.
Less than 48 hours on the ground, but a challenging glimpse of two countries, two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and a bus ticket vendor who took in a stray traveler who could not speak his language. A great weekend and not a minute of vacation time used!