A battered welcome sign greeted us
Arriving at the border station of Aguas Calliente we were greeted by many trabajadores and money changers. We headed to immigration where we had our passports examined and stamped, paid the $US3.00 each, and presto we had a 90 day visitors pass.
Then on to the Aduana (customs) window where they required 3 copies of Grants passport, vehicle title and registration. A surley looking lady took all the papers and passport and presently shut the office and proceded to serve lunch to all the workers in the office from a large cooking pot. Obviously it was Lunch Time!
An hour passed and it appeared the office was re-opening. Four people came out with an antiquated typewriter and began quibbling over how to fill in the vehicle permit. They asked us numerous questions regarding the bike including vin chassis number, colour, number of cylinders, make and model. All of this information is clearly stated on the documents we handed them earlier. We felt like they were just toying with us.
After about 45 minutes they sent us to another window across the aisle where a young lady sat in front of a computer, there we had to pay approximately $7US.00 for the actual forms. We received our receipts and our papers and were then directed to pay the permit fees of $US30.00 at the bank. Again all paid and receipted. We returned to the surley lady at the first window where we had to make another set of copies of everything, she then sorted them neatly, stapeled them and requested an additonal fee of $US60.00.
We asked what it was for and she told us it was for the permit. We argued that we had paid customs and the permit at the bank already to which she again replied that it was for the permit. Asking for a receipt she stated that it was all clear in the documents. We knew this was not true.
Our vehicle permit and Grants passport was held hostage until the illegal fee was paid. We barely had the money and the bank only takes deposits (no withdrawals, changing of travellers cheques or cash machine). So what could we do, we had already spent over 4 hours at the border, we were hungry, tired and eager to get out of there. Both feeling furious at the situation and trying really hard to maintain a pleasant demenour we handed the money over. They took what we had and for the first time the surley lady smiled and handed us our documents.
Since then we have heard of other people having similar difficulties at this particular border crosssing. Feeling some what violated by the whole experience we continued. Stopping at a small restaurant 30kms on where we found the proprietors to be very helpful and friendly. This friendly nature has been endemic in all of Honduras so far, and we were not going to let the Customs experience taint our stay.
Our cheap hotel in Santa Rosa Copàn was full of surprises. One was cable tv showing funny Aussie movies, our bed had springs protruding through the cover so we had to sleep on a thick covering of towels. Also running water - not just in the shower but on the floor, under the bed, through the walls and out the door! Interestingly enough with all these soothing sounds of trickling water we slept better than we had for weeks. However it was boots on and tippy toes in the morning.
Miss Piggy in Santa Rosa de Copán
From Santa Rosa Copán we continued on through rural honduras greeted by outstanding mountain scenery and thick forrested areas. Whilst Julie was able to appreciate much of this Grant seemed somewhat preoccupied with keeping Miss Piggy upright, for the main highway before the turn off to Ruinas de Copán was littered with road repairs.
Large square sections of pavement many the size of a car and as deep as 15cms were cut straight out the of tarmac. It was like riding on a patchwork quilt with only some of the squares at all rideable. Grant wondered why they maintained the road in this manner. Was it some peverse way of minimising speeding traffic? Or had they some how mistaken the good sections for the bad? We did not know, perhaps we should have been thankful that there was an attempt to repair the roads.
Ruinas Copán is a pretty village, multi-coloured houses with terracotta roofs line the cobble stoned streets. We parked at Parqueo Central and Julie headed off to check out the accommodation options.
Jules - Copán
In the mean time Grant was kept amused by 'The One Eyed Man' who reeked of the local fire water. He would constantly asked very personal questions and continuously touch every thing on the bike and Grant's amusement soon faded when he tried to don Grant's helment. Apon Jules return 'The One Eyed Man' dragged her off to find a cheap hotel which we did not find suitable. Of course he wanted a propina (tip) for all the work he had done for us (guess it cut into his drinking time). We gave him a token ammount whilst he tried to touch Julies purse and look inside. 'No Tocar' (Dont Touch) Jules pronounced firmly and sent him on his way.
We met many friends whilst in Ruinas Copán. Fred and Anne and thier wee baby Isadore, a French familily living in Tegucegalpa. Helen a mad scientist from Sydney, living in New York for many years. Lana (again) who we had met in Xela, Guatemala.
Both Helen and Lana had dealings with 'The One Eyed Man'. Helen even pushed him in the chest and told him very firmly 'NO TOCAR'. Over drinks and dinner Helens story became more and more involved until she became the psuedo-heroine of the Parque 'Señorita NoTocarita' (Miss No Touch) and he evolved into 'Señor Solo Ojo' (Mr One Eye).
Jules, Grant, Helen and Lana
The ruins at Copán are marvellous and worth the $US10.00 per person entrance fee. The intricately carved stella are supurb and full of fine detail.
Stella - Copán
Definitely the best Maya carving we have seen. We had, yet again, a wonderful day wandering around the ancient site.
Ball Court - Copán
Scull carvings - Copán
On our walk back from the ruins Grant with his eagle eye spied a piece of light mesh on the side of the road. He instantly knew that (if it was the right size) it would be perfect as a radiator guard for the Suzuki. Later that day with a bit of fiddling and banging with his tools hey presto the old guard had been supersceded by the new and improved version!
Grand modifying radiator guard
The cobble stone streets of Ruinas Copán were always interesting on Miss Piggy and we expected many Honduran colonial towns to be similar. Though having said that, nothing could have prepared us for Gracias Lempira. The few cobble stone roads in the town seemed only navigable by 4 wheel drive Monster Trucks and the dirt roads (which comprised 90%of the town) were something akin to riding on a river bed. We were thankful (Gracias a Dios) that it was the dry season.
Our hotel street - Gracias
Gracias, once the capital of all Central America is now a sleepy town and a great place to hide from the festivities of Semana Santa (Easter Holy Week) with three impressive cathederals and a fully restored spanish fort perched on a hill over looking the town it was easy to spend a week going for rides in the country side and exploring the town.
Spanish Fort - Gracias
There are no cash machines or banks that will accept anything other than Honduran currency and as everything would be closed for the 4 days of Easter it was necessary to take the ride to Santa Rosa de Copán for ready cash. The return ride is very picturesque and an excellent ride on a bike, however we were stopped no less than 4 times at Policia check points to have our documents and identification inspected, a common occurance in Honduras, however, frequency stepped up for the long weekend.
To be fair, on one occasion a coursery glance was given and a discussion on our trip ensued and we bid fare well to the Captain and his crew with a hand shake. At another check point Grant was asked sincerely if he was at all tired or stressed and needed a rest!
Posted by Julie Rose at April 13, 2006 10:47 PM GMT
Gracias 'Ass ´Street
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