12.12.08 Copan to Sula, Honduras

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12.12.08 Copan to Sula, Honduras


What fun we had today! 


We traveled with Mauricio and Tecjada, the parents of the nice family, about 30 km on a sometimes trying road up the mountain to the Welches’ Coffee Plantation.  Honduras has 18 Departments (which are like states) and 15 of those have coffee plantations.  Of all those, Copan has the BEST coffee and this is the best plantation.  So we got to visit the best of the best! 


We were able to pay with American Express, which requires a phone call to confirm payment of the amount.  Then they are given a code, which they write on the old slips of credit card papers with carbons.  Then they put the card and paper on the machine and drag it across twice- it is not a quick process, but I was grateful to not use all our Limpera on the tour.  (If gas stations take credit cards, it is usually only Visa and typically, they have the fast swipe machines in the office.


A tractor pulled a nice wagon with benches up the mountain path.  Then we alighted at the top and hiked down.  Along the way, Mauricio taught us so much about the trees, medicinal plants, Maya beliefs, pointed out a partially covered Mayan temple, and we particularly learned about every aspect of coffee growing.  We tasted yellow and red coffee beans (don’t eat anything but the juice), smooshed paprika fuzzy flower gumballs and painted our lipstick and rouge on our faces, and chewed natural sugar-substitute leaves.  We admired enormous Ceiba, Mahogany, and Wild Orange trees, saw colorful birds, and walked across long suspension hanging bridges. 


We learned about the 2 coffee seeds to each pod, the “soldier plant” that develops with the partial seed pod attached, then the plant is grown in small pots for 6 months, and then it is planted in the field on the hillsides in an arch where it grows for another 18 months.  Then in January, the plants bloom so they’re completely covered in white blossoms, like a winter snow.  In February, the beans are harvested.  On the best coffee plants, which are at the highest altitude, the beans can be harvested, not just once like the lower-altitude lesser coffee plants, but FOUR times before summer, when the growing season is over.


Then we hiked down (yes, we liked the downhill trek!) to a beautiful open-air restaurant in the jungle and ate a traditional Honduran meal of meat, cheese (with a soy texture), rice (without spicey taste of Mexico), potato pieces, fried cheese with syrup on top, a salty and cruchy meat piece, corn tortillas (served in place of bread), and a natural fruit drink of Tamerine.  We were the only ones there and sat a table near, but not with, Mauricio and Tejada, but I think that made them feel more comfortable.  We would have preferred eating with them, but did as requested.  I’m sure they were being polite, but we really enjoyed them.  At the end of the meal, we all (including the kids) enjoyed exquisitely prepared cups of guess what?!  Coffee that was served with artistic designs in the freshly whipped cream, chocolate syrup, and cinnamon!


At the bottom of the hill, we got to see the entire coffee operation from the beans being delivered in sacks by the workers, to the sorting of the beans at a table in a room where they have a dryer, roaster, bags with the sealing machine, company stickers to put on the bags, and boxes to load the coffee for shipment.  Of course, we had to support the business with some purchases of coffee beans!


Mauricio knew that the kids had wanted to ride horses and had requested, as a surprise for them, that 3 horses be saddled up.  Boy, were they happy!  Off they rode for a brief ride (it was misty raining) and really had a great time!  That was so nice.


Then we said our goodbyes, provided tips to all our helpers, and headed down the road.  We had driven this morning since it was in the direction of San Pedro Sula, but it was already 3:30 pm by the time we headed down the curving, sometimes hazardous road through the misty mountains.  At a top speed of 45 mph, typically 30 mph, we did not get far before 5pm.  We made it through a police check at the next Department, where gave some directions to help.  Although we got further from touristy Copan, surprisingly the people along the road did not wave and smile back very often- in fact, one man provided a not-so-nice hand-signal.  We were feeling rather uncomfortable by the time we headed through the mayhem of Entrada, which was intense chaos, but blessedly brief.


We are now on CA-4, one of the major roads that is fine until random, deep potholes.  We stopped near dark at a small town, named Sula, where we saw some pullouts in front of stores where we could park.  A kind police officer in a truck told us that it was a fine to stay and is safe. 


So we parked and walked next door, buying sodas at the little store and asked her permission, which was instantly granted, again saying it is safe.  Then we walked across the street where they have internet at a computer inside the lobby of what I think is a little hotel.  They also have a photocopier, which I want to use for my passport stamps. 


Next door was a little restaurant where locals were dining, and we joined them, figuring out (with a wee bit of difficulty), how to tell the buffet server what we wanted.  Being tired, uncomfortable, and obvious make things harder, particularly for teenagers who want to appear anything but that!  But we survived enough to get dinner, buy some milk, and get seconds even.  I think Charles might waste away if I don’t feed him more. 


A kind family in the booth behind us said “Hello” and asked about our vacation- they were practicing their English and helping us feel more comfortable.  Later the kids and I talked about how infrequently we help visitors to the U.S. feel more comfortable in a local restaurant - and how we can be more hospitable.  It made us feel so much better to hear a kind word from nice people!


We’ve returned to the RV now where we’ve sealed up the curtains and hope that we are indeed saguaro for the night.  We hear truck traffic from the nearby 2-lane highway and hope our earplugs help.  We are right in the middle of this small town, so hopefully all will be well.  We really don’t have many options as there are no campgrounds from the reports of fellow travelers in Honduras. The locals that we’ve met have seemed kind.


Honduras is a beautiful country, but families here are struggling.  One family that we met had no refrigerator, cook at an outdoor wood-burning grill, and use water at an outdoor spigot.  Things are very primitive here, survival seems difficult, and I don’t see peacefulness in the faces of these hard-working people who struggle daily for basic necessities.  The water is not potable.  I try to figure out what might make a positive difference.  I wonder if education for the children is really considered a priority here, what the family-planning situation is for the women who seem to have many children and a weariness on their faces, and what the work options are in their economy.


There is so much to learn and it seems difficult to find out without seeming judgmental.  I really don’t think that missions work to build volleyball courts are needed in this country.  It just seems out of touch with their daily struggle.  But I have no answers either.  Fortunately the beautiful, lush land provides bananas, fruits, medicinal plants, and rich agriculture for self-sustenance.  The people are very resourceful and creative with the natural gifts from their land.



kspitler68 says:
We're looking forward to some awesome Christmas photos of the Hill Family! Be sure to get one of ALL of you together. :) Miss you all. Merry Christmas! Love, Kristina
Posted on: Dec 24, 2008
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