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.
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.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.
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).
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.
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.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.
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!