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Feb 06

Amapala – Mi Pueblo Querido

by Tony in Amapala, Honduras

El Burro

Having spent three weeks in Honduras celebrating Christmas and relaxing, we finally decided our itinerary for 2011. As it stands, the trip has to end by mid-April as I have finalised my back to work date. Between now and then, we will visit as much as we enjoyably can of Latin America. Where to start was the big question. The contenders for next stop after Honduras were Cuba, or Mexico. Mexico had never been in our plans, but after a few weeks of listening to Mariachis in Honduras, a trip to the famous Plaza Garibaldi and its hundreds of Mariachis for rent was making a late claim for a place on our tour. Yet more late considerations had to be made for Costa Rica, Colombia, and another newcomer in the Galapagos Islands. And never mind that none of these places had been on our original list for South America. How to fit it all in? As it was, after much procrastinating, everything seemed to be decided in a few hours on our last full day in Tegucigalpa. And so the itinerary is (drum roll please):

1. Cuba (Havana & somewhere else in Western Cuba – to be determined)
2. Ecuador (Quito, maybe some day trips, and book a last minute tour to the Galapagos Islands)
3. Peru (Lima, Cuzco, Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca, Amazon Rainforest)
4. Bolivia (Cross by land from Peru, La Paz, Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats)
5. Chile (San Pedro Atacama desert, then on to Santiago?)
6. Argentina (Mendoza (maybe in time for wine festival), Buenos Aires, Ushuaia, Iguazu Falls)
7. Uruguay (Colonia del Sacramento (from Buenos Aires), maybe Montevideo)
8. Brazil (Iguazu Falls, Rio de Janeiro)
9. Antarctica (hopefully a last-minute cruise)

Countries 6 to 9 are yet to be put in their final order, and that will probably depend quite a bit on how lucky we get with our cruise to Antarctica which will be by far the greatest cost we will incur on the trip, and hopefully worth every penny. Sadly, we will not have time for Costa Rica, which is unfortunate as Ninfa had lots of friends there who promised to show us a great time, but we hope that offer still stands for the time when (rather than if) we get to go there. Colombia was just too big to squeeze in also, and being serenaded by cohorts of Mexico City Mariachis remains a dream for another day.

Locals in Pespire, Southern Honduras

Three domed church of Pespire

Having finally taken a great weight off our shoulders, it’s time to get packing again and hitting the road. After over four weeks of staying with family, we’re thinking it may be a little hard to readjust. So, in order to find our rhythm again, Ninfa’s parents proposed that we take a few days before we leave to visit the South coast of Honduras. Honduras has a long Caribbean coast that stretches long from the North right round to the East of the country. To the South is the Golfo de Fonseca in the Pacific Ocean, which is a small gulf shared to the North by El Salvador, to the South by Nicaragua, and on a small stretch in the middle, Honduras. The gulf itself is rich in seafood, and is dotted with volcanic islands. The gulf lies two hours drive away from Tegucigalpa, and we set off early on a Friday morning for a three day break.

Sunny Pespire, Honduras

Our first stop en route was the sleepy colonial town of Pespire. Pespire is famous for its “quesillo”, a milky fresh cheese popular in Central America, and Ninfa’s favorite. We rolled into town and drove slowly along some of the old cobblestone streets past beautiful, brightly-coloured houses before parking opposite the church in the main square. The Pespire church is one of very few in all of Latin America to have three domes. Further down the street, locals heaved heavy loads on their heads, while others cantered by on horseback, and groups of lazy onlookers took shelter from the hot sun under the shade of the trees in the park. The main square is situated on a plateau and we drove down one of the side streets and stopped at a snack shop and ordered some hot tortillas with quesillo. It was a messy and all too delicious snack. On our way out of town, we stopped at another shop and bought a generous supply of quesillo to take back with us to Tegucigalpa at the end of the trip, yet proceeded to eat it all on the roadside outside the shop and then had to go in to buy some more. Although there is probably not a whole lot to do in Pespire, it’s well worth a visit due to its quesillo, its beautifully preserved colonial buildings and town plan, and the friendly, laid-back pace of life that is typical of rural Honduras.

Ninfa and Ada at Coyolito port

Golfo de Fonseca, Honduras

We continued on to our destination, the Gulf of Fonseca, and the village of Amapala, on the island of El Tiigre. We parked the car at the port of Coyolito and boarded a small boat (lancha) to take us across the bay to the volcano island of Amapala. We had booked a night on the far side of the island at Playa Negra courtesy of an entertaining local tout, Cleto, who was hanging around the port. We were then picked up at the port in Amapala and driven around to the other side of the island on the back of a pick-up truck (paila).

Catch of the day on Playa Negra

Streets of Amapala

The weather in El Tigre in January is hot! And we spent the rest of the afternoon checking out the black sand beach of Playa Negra which was full of local children playing and swimming in the muddy gulf waters. Later on, we took a tour around the island in one of the numerous tuk-tuks which are the main form of local transport on the island, before watching the impressive sunset on Playa Negra. The island is very laid back and very peaceful with lots of beautiful birdlife and beautiful scenery of the other volcanic islands in the gulf and the volcano on Amapala itself. The hotel we stayed at, also called Playa Negra, was not exactly what we expected though. We had an all-inclusive deal with meals. When we went for dinner, we were told there was no shellfish, which was surprising as the Gulf of Fonseca is famous for them, and we could have was “plato tipico” – beans, rice and eggs. Ninfa and Ada just happened to be passing by the office a few minutes later and saw the staff eating big plates of shellfish! We ended up getting a few pieces of fish and eating lots of the quesillo we had bought in Pespire, and decided to move out the next morning. Playa Negra Beach – recommended; Playa Negra hotel – no thanks.

Teenagers in Amapala, El Tigre Island, Honduras

Sunset on Playa Negra, El Tigre Island

The next day, we took a boat tour around the Honduran islands in the Gulf. Our first stop was a small island, Isla Comandante, almost completely uninhabited except for one shack on the beachfront where a young woman was playing with her child. We hung around in the sun for a bit and the Chacon’s took a swim while I soaked up the rays on the beach. We passed near the water border with El Salvador before continuing on to our second island, Almeja (I think). It’s a tiny island, more like a sand bar, with lots of different rock pools and a few vultures hanging around. Just 100m away was La Isla de Los Muertos, the final resting place of the locals of El Tigre, with it’s weather-beaten wooden crosses dotted across it’s surface. Our next and final stop was on El Tigre again, and the Playa Grande, where we stopped to have a tasty lunch of prawns and plantain chips (plenty of shellfish on Playa Grande!) and watch the locals playing football on the beach, and swimming in the sea fully-clothed, as is the Honduran way.

El Commandante on Playa Commandante

The Little Mermaid of Amapala

Tony El Tigre

That night we stayed close to Amapala village in the Hotel de Las Gargolas which was significantly better than our previous night. Ninfa and I borrowed some bikes at the hotel and went down to the village for a look around. Personal security is a consideration anywhere in Latin America, but that seemed to fade away in Pespire, and then completely disappeared in Amapala. People were very laid back, and were quick to engage in conversation and more than happy for us to take some photos. Amapala was a snapshot of real, traditional village (pueblo) life in Honduras. As the sun began to set and the air to cool, the people moved out onto the street setting up tables and playing cards, or eating their dinner. We stopped on one street corner where a lady was selling baleadas and had a few of those with lots of the locals. The buildings of Amapala village are almost entirely wooden, and the old weather-beaten wood, painted in numerous different colours makes for a wonderful place to relax and enjoy a slower pace of life. In all Honduras, this has to be my favourite place of all so far. That night we had an early night – the sun had taken its toll and we had an early start back to Tegucigalpa the next day. The El Tigre island will soon be joined to the mainland by a new landfill bridge, so is a place best visited sooner rather than later while it still retains its pure island charm.

Locals play cards in Amapala

Ada travelling in style in Amapala

On our way back, we made another stop at Pespire (we had eaten all our quesillo in Playa Negra) and then back to Tegucigalpa. In Tegus, we had one and a half hectic days of packing and last minute organization before a sad farewell at Toncontin airport. And so, we take with us some great memories of Tegucigalpa, a new favourite place in Amapala, and a renewed sense of adventure which takes us next to Cuba!

Check out our photos of Pespire, Amapala Village, Playa Negra, Coyolito, and the Golfo Fonseca.

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10 Responses to “Amapala – Mi Pueblo Querido”

  1. From Ruth:

    Glad to see you guys had the opportunity to enjoy Honduras. Good luck planning the rest of your trip. It has been an incredible journey so far.

    Tony Reply:

    Hi Ruth, thanks for the best wishes. If you make it to Honduras, we highly recommend visiting Pespire and especially Amapala. Hope you make it some time soon, and hope you follow us through South America.

    Posted on 09. Feb, 2011 at 4:03 am #
  2. From Yorleni:

    Tony, so glad you’re back !!! This blog made me want to go eat quesillo and enjoy the easy, breezy, beautiful life of Amapala !!! I am happy that there are still unspoiled gems in my country, even if you got short changed on the fish :( Did you like the curiles ?? Looking forward to your next posts !!!

    Tony Reply:

    Hola Ana,
    I skipped the curiles but had some in Tony’s Mar in Tegus. I think I prefer quesillo. :-) Hasta luego!

    Posted on 11. Feb, 2011 at 2:24 pm #
  3. From Ada:

    Tony! No sabía que este es tu pueblo favorito. Que pasó con Tela ? Aunque sí, este es mas tradicional, conservando aún muchas de sus casas de madera; lo que lo hace más típico pueblo costeño.
    Dice Fafa que sabía que te iba a gustar. Abazos.

    Tony Reply:

    Hola Ada! Tela, ya no me recuerdo mas. Debo volver otra ves. A Tela, no hay Cleto! Fafa tenia bien razon. Hasta luego!

    Posted on 13. Feb, 2011 at 10:54 pm #
  4. From Monica T:

    We loved Amapala too when we went year before last! The lancha ride was an adveture in itself- we did however fail to visit Pespire. You guys have inspired me to take Charles and baby Nicolas to walk around the town. I will also have to stock up BIG TIME on quesillo and mangos “San Juan” (if they are in season!)
    xoxo
    Moni

    Posted on 14. Feb, 2011 at 3:35 pm #
  5. From Tony:

    Moni! Seria buenísimo hacer un trip así juntos! Oime mandame un update! xx

    Posted on 14. Feb, 2011 at 6:16 pm #
  6. From CJ:

    I live in Tegucigalpa, the capital city of Honduras. It´s been so many years since I last went to Amapala, which is really a beautiful place to visit. I´ll try to go to Amapala soon. Shame on me that I don´t go to Amapala often. Most people in Honduras go on vacations to the beaches in the Caribbean shore of Honduras, but Amapala is a great alternative in the Pacific, and it´s so near to Tegucigalpa…

    Tony Reply:

    Thanks for your comment CJ! Had a look at your website and it’s really good. Congratulations! You are right, almost no one knows where Honduras is…

    Posted on 30. Sep, 2011 at 11:10 pm #

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