After our short stay (8 days) in El Salvador we headed for Honduras where we had made plans to stay on the small Caribbean island of Utila to get our Scuba Diving Certification. We pretty much had to cross the whole country from West to East to get there. Utila was our main destination and where we spent most of our time but on the way there and back we had great experiences.
Exiting El Salvador was no problem and pretty quick, but entering Honduras through El Poy, took a few hours. Immigration was quick, we paid $3 USD each. The process for the Temporary Import Permit (TIP) for the vehicle was quite longer, we paid 745 Lempiras ($32 USD). We just had to patiently wait, something Joe has been getting pretty good at!
Country #7. Do you recognize the flags? USA, Canada, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
Honduras Customs! This border crossing is mostly used by large commercial trucks.
After a long border crossing and driving 135 miles we were glad to arrive at our camp for the night and meet another couple of Overlanders from Canada; Doug and Fran Calder, Calder Escapes. They are on the same route as us and travel just as slow. We were just in time for Happy Hour so we had a few beers at Finca Bavaria were we camped then all walk to town for dinner. Great way to be introduced to a new country!
Founded in 1526 the little town of Gracias has a population of 13,000. It was, for a brief period in the 16th century, the capital of all Spanish-conquered Central America.
We love small Colonial towns and Gracias was no exception! Thanks to our friends Josh and Jenna from Travel Amateurs for the recommendation.
The next day we walked around and discovered a lively and bustling little town with a beautiful central Plaza.
Notice the volcano peaking through the clouds!
We had breakfast and shopped for new sim cards for our phones. New country, new number!
Not a bad ride! Perfect to navigate the narrow streets.
Joe dreams of owning a Tuk Tuk! Maybe one day! This brand new one was $5,000 USD.
Cataratas de Pulhapanzak (Pulha)
Pulha Waterfall is located in the small town of San Buenaventura near Lake de Yojoa, the largest lake in Honduras, an increasingly popular tourist destination. It’s about half way between Gracias and La Ceiba where we will be catching the ferry to Utila so it was a perfect overnight stop. Besides the waterfall, they offer beautiful cabins, a restaurant, swimming and zip lining in a lush tropical setting.
Like I have mentioned before, we try to visit local attractions during the week when there is very little people. We camped alone in the parking lot and stayed 2 nights.
Joe showing off is agility!
The 43m waterfall on the Río Lindo is the main attraction.
Before arriving in a new country I try to read as much about it as I can, to understand it’s history and traditions and to locate the main attractions. While researching Honduras I read the blog of another couple of Overlanders that have inspired us: Song of the Road. Erica described a crazy Cave Tour behind a waterfall! So of course I wanted to do it! I casually told Joe about it and off we went!
OMG talk about an adrenaline rush! Our guide Carlos started out with no conversation, in either English or Spanish, on the kilometre walk to the base of the falls. Then he stoped, tied his shoe laces, turned around and in perfect English said: “Are you ready for this? Just follow me as close as you can!” And then it began … we started our climb through narrow passages in the huge boulders as water pummeled us from above. We reached a pool of churning water and BAM! the guide falls into it and franticly swims to the other side before being pulled over the edge! Joe looks at me and said: “I guess we’re suppose to do the same” and we did! The beating on our heads and shoulders from the water was scary but exciting at the same time. I couldn’t stop laughing, that usually means overwhelming anxiety!!! We continued on and arrived under a large part of the falls. Carlos told us that more than 20,000 gallons of water falls over per second, we felt every drop but it was amazing. Thinking this was it, and it was by then quite enough, Carlos looks at us and says: “want to see more?” So we continued, he told us to look down and breathe through our mouths, it just got more and more thrilling. But what made it so crazy is that we did not have any kind of security gear, at anytime we could have just fallen or been swept away by the current!
We came out unscathed, ready for a beer or 2 and memories that will last for ever!
The tropical island of Utila is located about 18 miles from Honduras mainland port of La Ceiba where we left Silver in the secure parking lot of the Port Authority and hopped on the Utila Dream ferry. We spent 2 weeks enjoying our Caribbean Island Paradise on the smallest of the Bay Islands group, you may have heard of Roatan which is the neighboring and more popular and bigger island. Utila is only 11 km long and 4 km at its widest and surrounded by vast coral reefs, it is renowned as being one of the least expensive and most beautiful places for Scuba Diving Certifications and vacations.
While dining in a restaurant in Flores, Guatemala, we met an American couple who had been living in Utila for the last 25+ years. Carrell was a nurse who had started a clinic on the island and it turned out that her husband Marty was from the same area as Joe in Pennsylvania and their respective high schools were football rivals. To make a long story short, they offered us to stay in their home in Utila while they were away. Since they have been retired they go back to the US during hurricane season. We were blown away by their generosity! 2½ months later I sent Carrell an email to see if their offer still stand and sure enough we worked out the details and agreed on a price to cover their expenses. Meeting extraordinary and inspiriing people is always the best part about traveling!
Their handyman Javier was waiting for us at the dock when we arrive and took us to the house where Delsey the housekeeper had prepared us dinner: Chicken, mash potatoes, rice, vegetables, coleslaw and a Tres Leches cake! Welcome to Paradise!
The house was perfectly located in Blue Bayou which is less than a mile from the hustle and bustle of main street!
Eagle Ray House! Our home for 2 weeks! (September 29 – October 13, 2016)
Caribbean Beach across the street and a mangrove bay in the back yard!
The house came with a scooter that we used every day to go to our diving classes, to get groceries and to explore the island.
BICD is located on main street less than a mile from our house.
Our group for the next five days! Bob the curly blond on the left was our instructor.
I’m so proud of my husband. At 65, Joe is always ready to try new things, Scuba Diving is something he though he would never do! He did great and passed his certification with flying colors!
We are always surrounded by young people and we love it! 3 Canadians, 3 Americans, 1 British and 1 German! We were actually only 4 newbies, the others were interning for their Master’s certification so we had plenty of help and guidance!
I did my PADI certification 35 years ago when I was in College, even though it was still valid (they had me in the PADI system) I haven’t done any diving in the recent years so I wanted to do the complete course again. I’m glad I did because there’s a lot I didn’t remember and the equipment has changed quite a bit.
Across the road from our house was this adorable little pink cottage!
During our five days of classes we were pretty tired by the end of the day so we didn’t do much besides relax at the house and watch a few seasons of Downton Abbey. During our second week we really got to enjoy our surroundings. We kayaked, snorkeled, swam, did a fun dive that was included with our certification, drove around the island on the scooter, tried a few restaurants and just took it all in trying to imagine what it would be like to live on a small island in the Caribbean. We are for ever grateful to Carrell and Marti to have given us the opportunity to experience island life like a local in their beautiful home.
The house came with kayaks that we could use right off the backyard into this wide open bay that turned into a canal through the mangroves and opened up to the Caribbean Sea on the North side of the island.
We paddled for about an hour through the mangroves looking at all kinds of Wild Life.
Hurrah! We made it to the North side called Rock Harbor.
We packed a lunch and found a nice spot in the shade to eat it. Unfortunately we saw a lot of plastic and trash all along the beautiful deserted beach! A reminder to always try to reduce the amount of plastic we use.
After kayaking in our backyard we snorkeled in our front yard!
To be able to just grab your snorkeling gear, walk across the street and get into the unbeilivably clear water whenever you feel like, reminded Joe of when he lived in the Bahamas!
If you come to Utila, inevitably you will spend at least one night in REHAB!
REHAB: great spot to watch the sunset and have a drink or 2 or 3…
Main street is lined with diving schools, bars, restaurants, hostels, coffee shops, bike rentals…
Time to say Goodbye! Back on the Utila Dream ferry to reunite with Silver and new adventures!
Back on the main land in La Ceiba, we got Silver from the secured parking at the Port Authority then headed for Walmart where we stock up on groceries and then met up with Doug and Fran at a Hostel 1877.
La Ceiba, Tierra de gente alegre! (Land of happy people)
While in Utila we made plans with Doug and Fran for a White Water Rafting tour. We met them at 1877 Hostel where we camped in the parking lot for a couple of nights.
1877 Hostel is a good place to stay in La Ceiba before or after a trip to the Bay Islands. Close to stores and restaurants, they can also book tours.
Fran made reservations with Jungle River for a White Water Rafting tour on the Cangrejal River only 30 minutes from La Ceiba.
Meet Doug and Fran Calder, Calder Escapes, our new travel buddies! Traveling with another couple is fun for companionship and for security reasons in remote or questionable areas. After being on the road for a while we’ve learned that when we part ways nobody gets offended and when we run into each other again down the road we’re always happy to see each other. They become members of our Overland families. With all the Overlanders we met, it’s very comforting to know that we always have friends nearby!
We loaded up in Oscar’s cool Toyota Land Cruiser to go up river!
We were surprised to learn that before rafting we were going to do some Canyoning (Canyoneering) which is basically climbing, scrambling, jumping and swimming down a canyon river. Why not! We’re always down to try new things! Because of the time of the year, the water level was pretty low and we were not going to get the class IV rapids they advertise, so they added the canyoning to make sure we had a good experience.
The canyoning turned out to be more thrilling than the rafting!
Swimming across that river was a lot tougher then it looks! Now all we have to do is float down current!
We’re ready for some rafting!
Looks like our guide is doing all the work!
Even though the rapids were smaller than we expected, we had a wonderful experience! For $40 USD/person including transport to and from our hostel in La Ceiba, it was an amazing deal and the owner Oscar and the guides of Jungle River Lodge were super professional and friendly!
Parque Nacional Cerro Azul
We left the Caribbean coast heading towards Nicaragua. On the way we stopped for a couple of nights at Cerro Azul National Park, it rained a lot but it was nice to get cooler temperatures.
Following Tigger on this beautiful little mountain road on the way to the park.
Tigger and Silver on the very wet lawn of the camping area. Look at all the tracks we left! Tigger is Doug and Fran’s home on wheels, a 2005 Provan Tiger CX Chevrolet 2500HD 4wd made by Tiger Vehicles.
Short hike to a beautiful little waterfall, just a few minutes from our camp site!
The next day we did another short hike. We can see Lake de Yojoa
Time to go!
We stopped for lunch and a quick visit of the Central Plaza to see the ancient Moorish clock, dating back to around 1100AD, it originated from Spain and was donated to the City of Comayagua in 1620 by the king of Spain.
Notice anything? Someone was not paying attention when it was time to learn roman numbers! (The 4 is IIII but should be IV)
We wanted to try Baleadas so we stopped at this little restaurant in the centro!
Baleadas, a traditional Honduran dish composed of a flour tortilla folded in half and filled with mash fried red beans and chicken or chorizo. Perfect for a quick lunch!
We new about this camp spot (Aqua Splash) just before the capital City of Tegucigalpa from our iOverlander application, but when we got there the gate was locked because the park is closed on Mondays. None the less the security guard let us in. A free secured parking for the night!
This was our backyard, a water park! Too bad the grandkids weren’t with us!
Time for more groceries at Walmart in Tegucigalpa. Tegucigalpa was a City we were not looking forward to cross but it turned out that the drivers were courteous (for Central America standards) and even the Police showed us the way when we made a wrong turn!
Coming out of our last camp spot near Danli Honduras, ready for another country!
Many Overlanders drive through Honduras without even stopping. It’s possible to drive from the border of El Salvador and cross Honduras and make it to Nicaragua in one day. We’re glad we got to explore a little of this beautiful country. Again we only met friendly people willing to help. Honduras has a very bad rap about gang violence and a very high crime rate but we can honestly say that we did not encounter any of it. We followed our rules of never driving at night and avoiding known dangerous areas.