Tag Archives: Travel

Home sweet home

24 Sep

“Here I am, safely returned over those peaks from a journey far more beautiful and strange than anything I had hoped for or imagined—how is it that this safe return brings such regret?”

~ Peter Mathiesson

I’ve been back in Australia for more than a month and write final blog post has been on my ‘to do’ list ever since I landed at Sydney airport.

Time flies when you’re having fun, but apparently it also flies when you’re settling back into your normal routine. I’m back at work, back at the gym, back dragon boating, back at Spanish class and back to my usual busy social life.

Blogging has naturally taken a back seat. I’m still debating whether or not I have the time or the inclination to retrospectively blog about my South American travels, or whether this will be the final post for Honduran Hiatus.

Another item on the ‘to do’ list is upload and organise trip photos. Sorting through my photos may well be the inspiration I need to start waxing lyrical about the last two months of what I’m affectionately describing as a trip of a lifetime.

Watch this space.

In the meantime, there’s always the next trip of a lifetime to start planning…

Advertisements

We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming…

2 Jul

“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.”

~ Oscar Wilde

While I’m backpacking around South America for seven weeks, I probably won’t have regular or reliable access to the internet. This means my blog posts may become few and far between.

What I imagine I’ll do is continue to write regular posts offline, then publish them when I have next have internet access, or (worst case scenario) when I return home to Australia.

So what I guess I’m saying is stay tuned for tales from South America, but don’t hold your breath. They may take a little while to actually appear on the blog.

I fly out of Honduras at 5pm today. I can’t believe the Honduran portion of my trip has come to end. Time has certainly flown.

Look out South America here I come!

Gracias Lempria and Gracias Suyapa

2 Jul

“I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything.”

~ Bill Bryson

My last weekend in Honduras was spent with my host-mum and her friend Claudia in Gracias Lempira. It was a relaxing, terrifying and lovely way to end my trip.

I’ll get to the terrifying bit in a moment, first the relaxing part. 😉

Gracias Lempira is a small colonial town famous for its aguas termales (hot springs). It’s about a six hour drive from Tegus in the north-west of Honduras.

We left at about 3.30pm on Friday after work and arrived around 9.30pm that evening. My host-mum said the first thing we’d do after checking into our hotel was visit the hot springs.

I thought she was joking, but she was serious. After four and half months of having a ‘night time is dangerous’ mantra drilled into me, I have to admit I was a little nervous at the thought of being out and about so late.

Gracias Lempira is a tranquil and secure little town though, so people visit the hot springs at all hours with no worries. It was lovely. There were families and groups of friends and everyone was chilled out and relaxed.

The water was the perfect temperature and I swear I fell asleep for a moment while floating. It was like being in a giant bath. We returned to the hotel just after midnight and as soon as my head hit the pillow I slept like a rock. Bliss.

The next day we strolled around a local market before heading to a store that sold a huge variety of jarred and pickled fruits and vegetables, chutneys and chillies. I loved all the vibrant colours and shapes in jar after jar lined up on their shelves.

Pickled veges

They also sold a range of natural paletas (ice blocks). I had a pineapple one on day one and a passion fruit one on day two. Both were delicious.

Paletas

That afternoon we headed out to an even smaller town called La Campa. This is where the terrifying aspect of the weekend comes into play.

La Campa is famous for having Central America’s highest canopy zip line. There are six lines that zig zag across a canyon, the highest being more than 300 metres above the valley.

My host mum and Claudia had both indicated they would throw themselves off the cliff with me, but once we were there and they could see the impressive drop they both chickened out. I was abandoned!

Extreme Canopy

The first line was the scariest. Waiting and watching the others only increased my nerves, but once I’d done the first zip line (and my hands and legs stopped trembling) it was simply a blast.

This is a video of me on the second line. I was calm enough to hold the camera reasonably steady.

And after the second line I even got up enough confidence to give myself a running start off some of the other platforms. It was a huge amount of fun.

There are two sets of hot springs in Gracias so that evening we headed out to the other aguas termales. This time I remembered to take my camera, although it was a little difficult to take photos with all the steam.

Aguas termales

Before I knew it, Sunday had arrived and it was time to head home to Tegus after a brilliant weekend away.

* * * * *

I’m dedicating this post to my host-mum, Suyapa. In our short time together she has travelled with me to an amazing number of Honduran cities and towns. I can’t express how grateful I am for her generosity and the time she’s dedicated to showing me her country and culture.

She’s been a wonderful ‘tour guide’ and friend. I feel blessed to have been placed in her family and to have had her support throughout my stay.

Suyapa, gracias por todo. ¡Le extrañaré un monton!

A pre-emptive strike: Final verdict

27 Jun

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.”

~ W. C. Fields

A few weeks ago I officially resigned from my efforts to keep fit and eat healthy in Honduras. Declaring myself a lost cause, I relaxed all my standards and started eating whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.

Using “I’ve put on weight” as an excuse to relax your diet is not the smartest move, but I’ve decided to focus on weight loss when I’m back in the Land of Oz, not while travelling.

In How I Met Your Mother, one of Marshall’s five reasons for wearing a nightshirt is: “no elastic waistband leaving its judgmental pink teeth marks around my Thanksgiving belly.”

Oh, how I emphasize with this! While I’m still able to fit into my pants, by the end of the day I can’t wait to get home so I can take them off and start breathing again.

This week, believe it or not, both my regular taxi drivers made comments about my weight.

M, who I hadn’t seen in more than a month, declared as I entered his cab on Tuesday, “Wow, you can see that you’ve really liked Honduran food!”

And yesterday JC said to me, “You’re going to return home a little fat, aren’t you?” This sounds harsh in English, but said in Spanish it’s not quite as offensive. It still stung a little though.

Not as much as being asked if I was pregnant (who does that?) but it’s never nice to be reminded you’ve porked up.

Despite the weight gain, I wouldn’t class my pre-emptive strike program as a failure.

My main aim, if you recall, was to lose enough weight before I head to Honduras that it will offset the extra padding I expect to acquire while over there.

And I’ve been successful in that respect. Late last year I was about 10 kilos over weight, which I lost before leaving Australia, but then put on again in Honduras.

If I hadn’t conducted my pre-emptive strike on rice and beans I would have arrived in Honduras 10 kilos overweight, put on another 10 kilos and returned home 20 kilos heavier than I should be.

I’m much happier with the prospect of losing 10 kilos once back home than 20. Hugely happier. (Pardon the pun.)

Plus I’m harboring the (slightly delusional?) hope that during my 7 weeks of backpacking through South America, all the walking will miraculously melt away my extra kilos. Never mind all the delicious South American food I’ll be eating.

Stranger things have happened, right? I like to be an optimist. 🙂

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to find some chilenas de leche. Now that I’ve reached my final week in Honduras, I’ve decided to remove my self-imposed ban.

¡Buen provecho!

Related posts:

Stairway to trim, taut and terrific

A pre-emptive strike: Final update

A pre-emptive strike: Update 2

A pre-emptive strike: Update 1

A pre-emptive strike on rice and beans

Money, money, money

26 Jun

“Money speaks sense in a language all nations understand.”

~ Aphra Behn

The Honduran unit of currency is called the Lempira (HNL). Twenty lempiras is roughly the equivalent of one US or Aussie dollar.

Lempiras_front

Compared to Australia, everything here is cheap. After a few weeks of mentally converting prices from lempiras to dollars, I gave up the habit as I never found a price tag that was cost-prohibitive.

It’s funny how quickly you get used to the new ‘normal’. In my first month here I decided a second pair of jeans would be a useful addition to my wardrobe so went shopping.

I wandered around the local equivalent of Myer* until I found a pair of jeans that not only fit, but were on special for HNL$525.

*A department store called ‘Carrion’, which always makes me imagine vultures feasting on dead animals.

Five hundred and twenty five. That seems like a fairly large amount. Especially when you write it out in words and not numbers.

I ummed and ahhed for about 20 minutes. Did I really need that second pair of jeans? Was it worth spending so much money? Were there other more important purchases I should direct my budget towards?

My indecisiveness was quickly eliminated when it occurred to me HNL$525 was only AUD$27.50. Not a huge expense and certainly not worth the 20 minutes of dithering.

But when you consider the family I met with TECHO had an income of $4750 lempiras per month, HNL$525 suddenly looks like a huge amount of money again.

And the Zara jeans I saw for HNL$1190? Exorbitant.

I guess it’s all relative. Five hundred and twenty five. A pittance for some, a huge amount for others.

Which leads me to the best $25 I’ve spent while here in Honduras.

No, it’s wasn’t spent on my pair of new jeans, or on chilenas de leche, or on my hammock. (Although I am pretty damn excited about the hammock.)

It was a $25 Kiva loan to Don José so he could buy raw ingredients for his business, selling breakfasts and lunches in San Pedro Sula.

If you haven’t heard of Kiva I strongly encourage you to check out their website and consider making a loan.

$25 probably isn’t much for you, but it can make a huge and lasting difference to a Kiva loan recipient.

Lempiras_back

Note: I have no affiliation with Kiva, apart from having made several loans; I just think they’re a super organisation and well worth supporting.

Rabbits Of Unusal Size?

22 Jun

Buttercup: “Westley, what about the R.O.U.S.’s?”

Westley: “Rodents Of Unusual Size? I don’t think they exist.”

~ The Princess Bride

Every time we’ve taken the highway north I’ve been fascinated by these animal advisory signs.

R.O.U.S. sign

Either the rabbits here are a LOT bigger than the ones we have back home or someone has seriously overestimated the damage a rabbit could do to a car.

I really can’t think of a rabbit vs car scenario where the car would come off second best.

Whenever we pass these signs I always joke with my host mum that we’ll have to keep a careful eye out for the gigantic rabbits. They could be dangerous.

Never mind the cows, horses, donkeys and dogs we’ve regularly seen (and slammed on the breaks for) on our highway travels; it’s the oversized rabbits you really need to worry about!

On the home stretch (almost)

21 Jun

“The whole object of travel is not to set foot on a foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.”

~ G.K. Chesterton

I have a week and a half left in Honduras. As the old proverb goes, time flies when you’re having fun. And my 132 days here have certainly flown.

I’ve started thinking about what I’ll need to do and what I want to do when I get back home. Things like buying a new car, finding a place to live, and finally sorting through my boxes of belongings stored at dad’s place.

I’ll need to start back at work, start back at the gym, and start paddling again with my beloved Diamond Phoenix dragon boat club.

I’ve been daydreaming about (and drooling over) what foods I’ll eat first (lamb chops, dad’s spare ribs, and pavlova) and which favourite restaurants I’ll visit (Shanghai Dumpling Café, Sammy’s Kitchen, and The Artisan).

As I was mentally compiling ‘to do’ lists in my head I suddenly realised I’m not quite on the home stretch yet. While my time in Honduras is ending I still have seven weeks of travel ahead of me.

Seven weeks! That’s a really long holiday. It’s definitely going to be worth it though. Vic and I have planned what I’m sure will be the trip of a lifetime.

Vic’s flight from Mexico to Ecuador and my flight from Honduras both transit via El Salvador, so we’ll be meeting up in the San Salvador airport. From there the rough outline of our trip is as follows:

Ecuador: Quito, Atacames (where my World Vision sponsor child lives), Otavalo, Mindo, Galapagos Islands, and Cuenca

Peru: Lima, Arequipa, Lake Titicaca, Cuzco, and Machu Picchu

Argentina: Buenos Aires and Iguassu Falls

Brazil: Iguassu Falls, Rio de Janeiro (where I’ll say goodbye to Vic), Blumenau (my host-family’s town), and São Paulo

We haven’t planned everything down to the last detail (unusual for me) but have a holiday mix of pre-organised tours and choose-your-own-adventure days.

I think this will work well; provided my obsessive compulsive side can cope without always having a plan.

I have mixed feelings at the moment—I’m sad to be leaving Honduras but also really, really excited about my upcoming South American adventure.

Me and Mr. French

20 Jun

“The happiness of the bee and the dolphin is to exist. For man it is to know that and to wonder at it.”

~ Jacques Yves Cousteau

Sun, sand and surf. Swimming, snorkeling and sunbathing. Just another day in the Islas de Bahía (Bay Islands) of Honduras.

Last week my host-mum and I spent a lovely and relaxing four days on the Island of Roatán. We drove from Tegus to the northern coastal town of La Ceiba and then took the hour and a half ferry ride to the island.

Las Islas are made up of three main islands: Roatán, Útila and Guanaja. Roatán is the largest of the three and has two main tourist areas, West Bay and West End.

Útila is known as one of the best (and cheapest) scuba diving sites in the world. Guanaja is the smallest island, with less tourism, and is only accessible by plane or a twice-weekly ferry.

We stayed in West End, which has the most nightlife and a large variety of bars and restaurants. We also visited West Bay, which has a beautiful beach and is the location of some of the slightly more upscale resorts.

West Bay

One of my favourite moments of the trip was getting up close and personal with a dolphin at Anthony’s Key Resort.

Meeting a dolphin has been on my bucket list for a long time so I was ridiculously excited to be introduced to the lovely Mr. French.

Me and Mr. French

He even gave me a sweet little dolphin kiss on the cheek.

Dolphin kiss

It was a really entertaining afternoon, and meeting Mr. French is a moment I’ll treasure for a long time to come.

Another special moment occurred when I went snorkelling in the small bay our hotel fronted. I saw my first ever cuttlefish. Five of them in fact!

It took me a couple of moments to work out what I was seeing. I thought they might have been squid, but then from the shape of their little bodies I realised what they were. The cuttlefish were tiny and a very pretty brilliant blue.

I’m not sure where they were headed, but I trailed behind the little cuttle club for a few metres, before they spooked and swam away faster than I could follow.

In a not so special moment, I also met my first tarantula on one of the hotel paths. It’s a bit hard to tell from the photo, but trust me, it was a very large spider.

Tarantula

I checked my bed very carefully before going to sleep that night. I’m not sure how common it is for creepy crawlies like these to be found inside, but I certainly didn’t want one as a bed fellow.

And what beach holiday can be called complete without a refreshing piña colada?

Piña colada

Before I knew it, our holiday was ending and it was time to catch the ferry and start the drive home. Our pre-road trip breakfast in La Ceiba was baleadas de la linea.

These are baleadas sold from street stalls located where the railway line used to run.

The baleadas were yummy, but best of all I suffered none of the potential aftereffects that can occur when eating street food. I must be toughening up!

¡Buen provecho!

12 Jun

“You can get through life with bad manners, but it’s easier with good manners.”

~ Lillian GishTela coconut prawns

One of the more endearing Honduran customs is to wish anyone and everyone you see eating, ¡buen provecho!

Buen provecho doesn’t really have a literal translation that makes sense—it’s the Spanish equivalent of saying ‘enjoy your meal’ or ‘bon apppétit’.

And by anyone and everyone, I literally mean anyone and everyone.

Joining friends or family at the table to share a meal? ¡Buen provecho!

Walking past other diners in a restaurant to get to your seat? ¡Buen provecho!

Ducking into the office kitchen to get a cup of water where colleagues are eating lunch? ¡Buen provecho!

Sitting at a table in the mall food court close to other shoppers munching on fast food? ¡Buen provecho!

Wandering past someone who looks like they might be contemplating eating a meal? ¡Buen provecho!

Ok, so that last one’s not true, but you get the idea.

It’s taken me a little while to get used to, and to remember to say it to people I see eating.

My first couple of weeks here I was always barging into the lunch room at work without acknowledging those eating. Hopefully my foreignness gave me a get-out-of-jail-free card and people didn’t think I was too rude.

Once I return home I’ll have to train myself not to say it to any strangers I see eating. Although maybe instead of getting odd looks, I’ll be able to get it to catch on?

It is a nice, friendly custom after all. And one that’s more understandable than belly flashing.   🙂

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the standard reply back to buen provecho is either gracias (thank you) or gracias, igual (thanks, you too) if the person who has wished you a good meal also happens to be eating.

One year later…

11 Jun

“There are far, far better things ahead, than anything we leave behind.”

~ C.S. Lewis.

My last relationship ended a year ago today. I woke up on the 11th of June 2012 expecting it to be just like any other day.

Instead I found myself having a brief, unanticipated conversation with my boyfriend. The end result being a couple of nearly intelligible phone calls to my family asking them to help me move out of my now ex-boyfriend’s apartment.

Later I would joke that if we had been playing Survivor it would have been the best blindside in the history of game. I had no inkling I was about to be voted off the island.

After three and a half years of being a “we”, when you suddenly become a “me” you find yourself facing a future unknown but one full of new and previously unthought-of possibilities.

Rather than wallow indefinitely in the misery every break-up invariably brings, I allowed myself a brief window of time be sad and then wholeheartedly threw myself into the process of moving on.

It was during this period I decided now was the time to turn my dreams of ‘one day’ of doing volunteer work overseas into concrete plans.

As I’ve written previously, with no partner, no kids, no pets, no lease, no mortgage, and all my worldly possessions neatly packed in boxes, there was never a better time to seize the day.

And so, one year later, I find myself in Honduras.

I was hoping for another once-in-a-lifetime experience and Honduras certainly hasn’t disappointed.

I’ve …explored ancient Mayan ruins …written press releases for UNICEF …toured a volcanic island in a mototaxi …nearly sparked an diplomatic incident while playing paintballvisited families living in extreme poverty …traveled to another country for the love of seafood soup …been bogged in an airboat …celebrated my birthday Mexicatracho style …suffered through the ‘Honduran hurl’ …marveled at rugs made of sawdust …experienced a wild and crazy electrical storm …stomped around a coffee plantation in the rainand spent many, many hours lazing in my favourite hammock.

I’ve also had plenty of time to think and reflect. I’ve come to realize I’m happy both with and by myself. I may be alone, but I’m certainly not lonely. Becoming single wasn’t my choice, but I’ve owned it.

I’m not sure what’s over the horizon for me, but all I can say is, “bring it on!”

I’m ready.