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Day 15 San Sal to Santa Rosa Honduras

Written on: Tuesday August 7th, 2007

A journal entry from: Central America Road Trip 2007

Started the day by taking care of more business. Since yesterday, was some sort of bank holiday I still needed to replenish my funds. This time I just went to a local bank near my hotel. Despite, warnings I had read to the contrary, the process proved much easier than say it was in Nicaragua. Back there I had to wait in line to see someone at a desk, then after much review and doublechecking sent to wait in another line at a window, then back to the desk to pick up my passport PLUS a service of 5%. In El Salvador (at the Scotia Bank at least), I just went to a window and was in and out of there in less than 30 minutes AND at no charge for cashing my travelers checks. I can see how dealing with funding could be an issue on a more protracted trip. Obviously, you can´t take all of your funds with you in cash for security reasons. Using plastic for cash advances is more secure but can have costs as well. And then there are the tradeoffs of frequent withdrawals vs. carrying around too much cash.

Went back to the hotel and checked out. And then went looking for the bus to take me to the bus terminal (no. 9 is direct). I let a beggar guide me to the right bus even though I probably could have found it on my own and tipped a few bits. I don´t know how frequently the buses to the Honduran Border _(at El Poy) run but we were off within 20 minutes. It was a 3 hour ride to the border but the views particularly as we got up into the mountains were amazing. The road was pretty good too although very windy towards the end.

As I got off the bus at El Poy, another disaster struck in the form of a twisted ankle as I landed partly on a large rock in the bus yard. I wasn´t sure where I was. In a bus yard obviously but where and how far was the border. A kid offered  take me to where I needed to go. Anxious to get off my throbbing ankle I popped into the first bicycle cart I found not realizing it belonged to a different kid This led to the first kid laughing calling calling my new driver "un ladrone y mierde" (a theif and a piece of shit) but he didn´t seem to put out. As we pulled out of the yard, I could see that the border station was actually only about 100m away. But given my ankle, my heavy pack and the fact I wasn´t exactly sure which office I needed to go to since there was no one else to follow, I was more than happy to pay the small fee to have the kid ride me and my pack through on the back of his pedicab.

Immigration couldn´t have been easier. The room was empty when I got there since all the other passengers from the bus were either Salvadorean or Honduran and could just walk past the building entirely. I had to stop and pay a $3 exit fee. then back on the pedicab and through a guard post where they checked my reciept and on to where some cabs were waiting. The kid on the pedi cab charged me another $2, well worth it to me at that point. And the cab cost another $2 on top of that to take me on to Nuevo Ocotepeque, 10 minutes away and definitely much further than anyone would probably want to walk. And it cost another $1 for what I knew was a bad exchange rate for lempiras, but I always change a $20 to get me started whenever I first get into a new country (El Sal being an exception since they use dollars)

My timing seemed to working out pretty well as the next bus for Santa Rosa was leaving in 10 minutes. I believe they said the last one for the day was at 5PM but I wouldn´t recommend others risk going through that late. If one had to stay on the Salvador side of the border El Poy didn´t look to bad but Nuevo Ocotepque on the Honduran side looked like a fairly dreary highway reststop.

The 2.5 hr bus ride on the Honduran side of the border was every bit as scenic as the Salvadoran side if not more so. Better views were on the left side in the beginning but after a while it didn´t really matter.

Some general impressions We passed through stands of mostly pine forest but with a mixture of all sorts of vegetation. The surrounding hillsides were steep with various shades and textures of green with patches of trees and farmland. The weather was cloudy with occasional patches of light rain (this was cloud forest terrain after all) but the views were mostly clear with perhaps a light mist over the more distant mountain tops. And the air was cool and crisp. I actually wished I had on more on top than just my t-shirt.

Along the way as we descended along the winding road, in addition to the great vistas, there were a variety of other interesting sites along the road. Often there would be an understory of dark green coffee plants beneath the taller trees, making one wonder what else was also hidden behind the vegetation further away. Periodically, the bus would stop at waysides or dirt roads where either someone might get on or else get off to wander up those dirt roads to who knows where else in the surrounding hills. We´d pass by many types of houses. Some well-maintained with freshly painted stucco walls over the cinder block, weathered barrel tile roofs and well tended yards. As often as not the houses were not so well tended with flaking stucco or no stucco at all exposing cinderblock, brick or adobe and roofs of corrugated tin. Overgrown vegetation obscuring the house and junk scattered around. Sometimes the houses were abandoned altogether with trees growing up through where the roofs used to be. Often the roadside home double as a pulperia where odds and ends were sold to augment the family income. We passed a couple of pineapple stands where one could actually smell the sweet smell as we went by (though I´m sure the pineapples themselves must have come up from the lowlands). The coffee plants gave way to more corn, cabbage and other vegetables as we entered a long relatively flat valley still surrounded on either side by low hills. At one point we even passed what appeared to be a fish farm with 4 or 5 closely spaced small ponds and a shack on a small plot of land in the middle. After a while, the road got twister and hillier as we reentered a more mountainous area, though whether we were going more uphill or down it was hard to say.

After 2.5 hours the bus let me out at Santa Rosa, and I hoped in a cab for 65 cents to take me up the hill to the center of town. I was expected a small somewhat sleepy mountain town but Santa Rosa was actually fairly large and bustling. I got out in the center of town and walked a couple of blocks in a direction of some hotels I knew were there. The 1st one I came to looked pretty decent and at only 250 lempiras or $14 was priced quite right, so I took it. After I dropped my pack I walked around the corner to the Hotel Elvir, which was supposed to be one of the nicer hotels in town, to check it out. It had a fancier lobby, internet, a pool on the roof and air conditioning, but the rooms themselves did not appear that significantly better and the price was 570 lempiras. I was tempted to change hotels if for no other reason than the a/c but figured with the cool evenings that would not really be necessary anyway.

After I got settled, I went looking for local info, first at the Hotel Elvir which was not very helpful and then at Pizza Pizza on the other side of town. Warren Post the gringo promoter of the Santa Rosa area was not around but I got some good advice from his son Jared and made my plans for the next day. With that all settled I headed over to El Rodeo Bar & Rest. which had gotten some good write-ups and had dinner but IMHO it was dead and not all that special. I walked back through the central plaza where they were showing The Godfather on an impromptu screen that had been set up there, but I opted to return to my room, get off my feet and watch TV.

Total cost for the day $38: $13 for the hotel, $8 for the border crossing (including taxis), $6 for my steak dinner and the rest split between various transportation food and drink