Border crossings. Never a dull affair. In this post I recount a particularly long day we spent getting into Honduras from Guatemala. The photos are taken with a lomography style four lens camera. I was glad I had it in my pocket. A while ago I posted about this same crossing, but going in the other direction.
Our day began in Livingston, the Garifuna town on the Caribbean coast and along the Rio Dulce in Guatemala. We awoke reasonably early and strolled ourselves down to the dock where a small boat departs for Puerto Barrios every so often.
Puerto Barrios serves as a main port for the export of bananas. As we pulled into dock, a Chiquita ship laden with containers looked almost set to leave. As we wandered around town attempting to hail a bus, the evidence of former US habitation was clear. Whilst the standard house construction around most of Central America utilizes the cinder block, abodes in towns such as Puerto Barrios are often of weather-board construction, raised slightly on stilts. They are a legacy of the early to mid 1900s when an influx of banana company employees arrived. That however is a whole other story involving terms like “Banana Republic” that I won’t delve into here.
We eventually hailed a mini-bus which screeched to a halt when it saw potential passengers. As is typical, it was already loaded. One of the highlights of Central American travel is definitely the level of intimacy you share with people on public transport. We took our inappropriate positions and settled in for the short trip. The ride out from Puerto Barrios to the border is usually about a half-hour affair with a quick stop at the Guatemalan exit. Due to recent storms and floods however, a bridge had been knocked out which meant it wasn’t as straight forward as normal.
We departed the mini-bus at the beginning of the bridge. A couple of men grabbed our packs down from the roof and slid down a fairly steep slope to where some long, rickety looking timber boats bumped in the fast flowing rapids. We too clambered down, and carefully stepped out into one of the boats. The missing gape in the bridge was pretty big and clearly not going to be fixed for a while, so the guys running the boat shuttle service had a good business going. I greatly admire the sense of entrepreneurship of the Central American people. Hole in bridge = business opportunity. Out the other side, we took another short mini-bus ride to the Honduran border.
The building at the border is quite new. Years ago when I first made this crossing, it was but a small shack beside a mud road. Its good to see at least some progress (despite the fallen bridge). We waited in-line behind a girl who was clearly having trouble with the immigration official. Overhearing her conversation, to make a long-story short, she wasn’t allowed in the country because she was from the Ukraine and had failed to get a Visa prior to her arrival. She was clearly frustrated, and who can blame her. I guess with the relatively young “Central American 4” system, there was some confusion somewhere along the line and neither her nor the official really knew for sure what to do. Apparently she had already been there for an hour and with no end in sight, moved aside so we could get through. I had a guilty feeling as with barely a word, the official opened our passports, punched a stamp on a random page and sent us on our way – the luxury of being a citizen of the US and Australia respectively. I can’t tell you how the girl got on since when we left, there was no progress.
Back in Honduras again, and for Jess her first time, I didn’t mess around and headed to the first Pulperia (corner store) in sight to get myself a delicious baleada and introduce Jess to this Honduran delicacy. A baleada is essentially a flour tortilla filled with refried beans and cheese. They are amazing.
Three buses later, we arrived in Tela, the sleepy Caribbean town I lived in for a year. Thankfully we had managed to catch the last bus out of San Pedro Sula with only a few seconds to spare. The final section from SPS to Tela almost felt like a home-coming of sorts. The rows and rows of palm trees rhythmically whizzed past the window as I recounted my days spent here.
It’s no secret that crazy, unexpected stuff goes down as you traverse the globe. It’s good to be covered as you ride a rickety timber boat struggling through rushing rapids. Check out cheap holiday insurance and worldwide travel insurance for some ideas. And for those jet-setting silver foxes and foxettes travel insurance over 65.
These epic days of travel that at the time seem like a nightmare, are for me often some of my fondest recollections. Got any experiences to share?