Horse crossing the street, seen during my 2017 travels in Central America. Photo by Madelyn Given.

Central America 2017: Guatemala and Honduras

At the domestic airport in Guatemala City I met Patricio, my new guide. It was late at night and Edwardo, the owner of the Honduras Travel Company, had been with me to Tikal and back until Patricio could take over for the rest of my trip. I had good vibes about Patricio from the beginning, and the next morning Patricio was there on time, prepared with a cheerful greeting. I knew I would recognize his van; it felt large for only two of us.

Off we went on a long day of driving through mountain passes down to fertile valleys and long delays with miles of road construction. This main interstate was being widened, and in this mountainous region, it was a massive job. In the fertile valleys were large fields of cantaloupe or watermelon or pineapple or squash.

We followed the Rio Dulee and went to the Quirigua Maya ruins, a small but important site. Two inscriptions were found here, accurate to dates of ninety million and four million years ago. Astronomy and mathematics were top priorities at the time of the great civilization. The last monument was erected here on June 26, 810 A.D. Quite interesting—Quirigua and four other major Mayan cities erected their last monument on that day.

In Quirigua’s heyday, the city grew cacao and avocado. The valley was surrounded by fields, until the civilization died out and the forests over ran the fields, walls, and plazas for a thousand years. Much of the ceremonial areas are covered with silt from the Motagua River. The largest stela in the Maya world is here and mounds indicate where great buildings once stood. Upstream, the Rio Motagua links Quirigua to the ancient capital, Copan.

We stopped at a roadside café and had baleada, a homemade tortilla filled with fried beans, ground meat, fried egg, avocado, cheese, and sour cream. Delicious! It was made up in front of us with all local ingredients. When we came to any long stops due to road construction and there were long delays, there were locals who walked between the long line of cars offering to sell sugar cane water, coconut meat, slices of mango, crystallized sugared pineapple, and other items.

An antique musical instrument outside my resort room in Honduras. Photo by Madelyn Given.

An antique musical instrument outside my resort room in Honduras. Photo by Madelyn Given.

We had no trouble at the rural border crossing from Guatemala to Honduras, and we arrived in the town of Copan before dark. I checked in to a lovely resort owned by the Welches, owners of a local coffee plantation. Patricio met me and we walked through the streets of Copan before having a traditional Honduran dinner. I looked forward to hiking days and a walking day in the ruins of Copan.

I also was looking for a post office. When we reached Copan I still had a couple of post cards to mail from Guatemala. In Antiqua, I tried to mail them. The response from the local guide was, “No, we no longer have a post office here.” A couple of days later I asked at the hotel in Chichicastenango and my guide there said, “There is no longer a post office here. “ In Guatemala City, the hotel clerk said not here. No one seemed to know anything about it—only their location was closed—try another town.

On the way to Copan, Patricio said he knew where there was a post office in a small city and we would stop. After leaving the main highway, we were on narrow, busy streets, with locals buying and selling on the streets. Some streets were closed off with venders selling in the streets.

Patricio found where the post office had been, but now was a store. In Copan, Honduras, while walking the streets, we spotted a tiny post office, but it was closed that evening. The next day was Sunday, but before leaving on Monday morning, we walked to the tiniest little closet-sized post office and went in to mail my post cards.

The post office attendant was combing his hair, not expecting anyone. He told us the government of Guatemala closed down their postal service a few months ago, like the El Salvador government had shut down their National Banks and mint now using US currency. Each day was a learning day in these countries.

(posted August 1, 2017)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *