Thursday, July 17, 2008

Gracias, Lempira

We're home now, and settling in to our schedules. The final days of our trip were some of the most interesting, as well as some of the most remote in terms of internet access and time for blog posting. I have some photos and stories from the last two towns we visited that I still want to share, so I'm going to drag the trip postings out a little. Today I'm going to post some photos from the first town we visited after Copan.

The town of Gracias, Lempira (Lempira is the name of the district) has only a few thousand inhabitants. Unlike most of our other destinations, Gracias sees far fewer foreign visitors. Those tourists who do make the trek are mostly only there for the cloud forest expedition from just outside of town, and don't seem to leave their hotel.

Town of Gracias with El Celaque mountain (the moutain is much higher than it looks, but almost always covered in clouds):

We didn't have the time or the equipment to attempt the two to three day exhausting trek up into the cloud forest, but our guidebook said, "The sleepy colonial town of Gracias is worth a visit all in itself." Okay, we thought, we'll visit Gracias.

The town had mostly dirt streets, very simple architecture, only a few restaurants, and one touristy hotel.

After a few hours we had seen most of what the town had to offer, and were questioning whether the three ancient, tightly packed school buses we'd tracked down to get here were actually worth it. In fact, I would still say that the bus rides were probably the most interesting part of the trip.

On the bus to Gracias (as I mentioned, the third school bus we'd been on that day), there were quite a few more people than you might imagine could fit into a school bus, all sitting. As more and more people boarded the bus, they were asked to scoot over, allowing people to sit down. Children don't get a seat, they are expected to sit on parents laps. Adults sit three to a seat (yes, these are the school bus seats you remember). So, imagine three women sitting in one school bus seat, each woman has a child sitting in her lap. This means there are six people sitting in one seat. In other seats of course, there were only three people, but needless to say, the bus was full.

As it started to rain, the old man behind me wanted to close the window. I asked if he wanted my help. Hearing that I spoke Spanish, and not seeing many Americans on that route, he wanted to ask some questions. First he asked me where I work (this tipped us off to the fact that we were in fact, not on the way to a quaint, touristy town, but actually headed to a town where people wondered what we could possibly be doing there if not some kind of work). He also wanted to know whether the U.S. was just like Honduras. "No," I said, "It's desert where I live, much drier." How could I begin to explain the differences? That it feels like a completely different world? Then, in the generous tradition of the people who live in that area, the Lenca, he reached over the seat and handed me four little yellow cherry-looking things and said, these are for both of you to try. I am always amazed by the generousity of people. This little family packed into one seat on the bus, wanting to share their culture and their little bag of goodies with us. I was quite touched.

Despite the fact that the town was somewhat less spectacular than what we expected, here are some of the photos I took there.

This is one of my favorites from the entire trip:

This one is actually from Copan, but I didn't have a chance to add it before. It reminds me of on that I took in San Cristobal de Las Casas, Mexico.

I have more to share, from the town of Santa Rosa de Copan, but I think this is enough for now. I'll share the rest of them soon.


Amy said...

I love how you've captured both the exciting and the boring times of travel. And it is that balance that makes it all so worthwhile.
The story of the sharing cherries.
The ups and the downs.

Thanks for your emails and messages. I'm studying, and wasting time too! See you soon chica.

glo said...

I love your pictures and descriptions. It's like getting a long letter from you - illustrated!
I really like the red flowers...