June 26, 2006

Gracias Para Nada
El ParaĆ­so, Honduras

Crappy town of Gracias, I wish I never knew you.

There was no way I could make it over the border (and into Nicaragua) from Santa Rosa de Copán in a single day, so I figured I'd kill two birds by checking out/staying the night in the popular town of Gracias, and in doing so, move about two hours closer to my destination. If I could go back in time and slap myself for such a thought, I would.

I arrived in Gracias on the tail end of a nasty 24-hour bug that had hit me the day prior (think fever and stomach woes). As soon as I got off the bus I knew I had made a mistake.

I'm not going to sugar-coat it, the town of Gracias is a total hole. I have absolutely zero idea why the place is such a popular destination for tourists—I suppose it's because Lonely Planet likes it.

I ended up staying at the Hotel Los Angeles (mistake number two). I really just wanted to get my pack off and finish recuperating, but I had a hell of time just getting a room there. I didn't complain much when the surely, old, battleaxe of a woman made no attempt to slow her speech down to communicate more effectively with me, or when she decided to hike up the price of the room after I told her I was just staying one night. When I asked to see the room, she refused, demanding payment first. Yes, I'm sure the room is very beautiful, but may I see it first, please? (Holding up a wad of cash) Look, I have money, you mean woman.

At a stalemate, she actually walked me out into the courtyard and locked the gate into the hotel behind me. As I pulled out my guidebook, she decided to have a sudden "change of heart."

The room was way overpriced, but it had hot water in the shower, and each room was supposed to have a TV, but it seems I was given one without. No matter, I was only going to be in town for 15 hours. Huh, no power… I guess they shut it off during the day.

After sauntering around the dilapidated town, I returned to the hotel around dusk. I had to locate the circuit-breaker box myself, as there was still no power in my room.

The game plan was to wake up early and catch the first bus heading south out of town (destination: a connection in La Esperanza, with another connection in the capital, before heading towards the border). It was vital that I nabbed the first bus of the day, as departing transport going in this direction runs very infrequently from this town. My guidebook and a local (it took some time to find a useful one) confirmed the first was at 06:00.

Strike #2 for the Hotel Los Angles came when I awoke at 05:25 to discover that there was no water. None. The faucet, toilet, and shower were bone dry. Did the battleaxe shut it off at night, or was there a problem with the town—I'll never know. Needless to say, I was not pleased to be paying what I was and not even have an effective way to brush my teeth.


Strike #3 came when I tried to leave the hotel to catch my bus. The same gate that was so rudely locked in my face, was again locked. I absolutely hate it when I'm a prisoner in my own hotel (places do this to me from time to time).

Over the course of 15–20 minutes my polite knocking (on what should have been the woman's door) and buzzer ringing turned agressive—still no response. I couldn't believe it, I was going to miss the bus because I'm locked inside my hotel.

I searched for alternatives, and determined not to be thwarted by this woman, decided to pursue my only available option: Jumping from the 2nd story of the building.

Escaping from Hotel Los Angles

The end of one particular hallway opens up onto a shallow balcony, and in the early morning twilight, I could see the drop onto the concrete below, and the rain that was pouring down around me.

The clock was ticking. I said screw it, pulled out my daypack, quickly loaded it with breakable electronics, put it on, and tossed my backpack over the edge. I followed suit moments later.

Now I was outside in the courtyard, ready to rush to the bus, only to discover that the very large gate (with razor wire) at the exit had also been padlocked. Visions of being stuck outside in the rain until some unknown hour flashed through my head. I started pushing and pulling on the gate.

Fortunately for me, either it wasn't secured properly or I broke something, but the gate swung open (just as I was getting very concerned). I sped off, after taking a moment to curse at the hotel in person one last time.

It was close to 06:15 by the time I made it to the bus stop. I was concerned, and (as I waited on the corner in the rain) started asking everyone I could find in the vicinity about the bus to La Esperanza.

Yes, I was in the right spot, I was told. One guy said 06:00 was the first bus of the day (but hadn't passed by yet), another and two girls said 06:30, and another yet said 05:00.

By the time 07:00 rolled around, I was pretty convinced of two things: These people are totally useless, and that I've missed my ride.

Another bus heading north arrived to pick up passengers for Santa Rosa de Copán. I asked the driver about my bus, and he confirmed what I feared: Pickup was at 05:00, and the next bus would probably show up around one in the afternoon. Great.

I was un-showered and damp, sand flies were nipping at my feet, and bitter about my hotel (and the town in general). I decided to get on the chicken bus and backtrack to Santa Rosa.

I arrived in Santa Rosa about two hours later, and just 15 minutes shy of catching the last departing bus headed for the capital (Tegucigalpa). I figured the expensive ride would take me back past Gracias… but nope! The 7.5 hour trip went all the way north to San Pedro Sula, and then southeast to Tegucigalpa—take a look at the map (I referenced the other day).

From Tegucigalpa I hopped into a taxi that tried to charge me an insane amount of money to take me to another terminal (I gave him half his requested amount and left the cab), and caught the last bus of the day to the border town of El Paraíso (arriving there just five minutes before it departed).

The border had been closed for several hours by the time I made it into El Paraíso, so in the town I will rest until the tomorrow's journey begins.

I couldn't help but chuckle and shake my head as I recalled the events of the morning on the bus. Jumping off the ledge, backtracking to Santa Rosa… Yeesh, what a day—an expensive day. L$290 (roughly US$16) in transport costs alone, not to mention the 12 non-stop hours of bathroom-less bus travel.

Ahhh, but there's nothing like a great hot shower, and the first real meal in recent memory to make life good again. Hasta luego Honduras. Nice to meet ya Nicaragua.



June 28th, 2006



June 28th, 2006

Like always, great photos! Sorry about the whole hassle you got in Honduras. I'm fixing to leave to El Salvador on July 13, so I'm excited about the trip and I plan to update my blog and photos via my Powerbook.

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