Our penultimate day of 2005 was going to be fairly chilled. We had a lazy breakfast (with Deet this time), after Eugene had run down the batteries of the camera trying to get a picture of the hummingbirds. Eugene spent the morning updating the blog and I almost finished another book. Our shuttle bus was booked through a tour agency in town for 1pm and it arrived already quite full with other tourists.
But of course, we all squeezed in, and headed back towards the El Florido border where again, our passage between countries was easy and efficient. All our other fellow travellers were off to Antigua.
Now, the idea about paying for a shuttle bus is it takes you to your destination, it doesn’t stop a thousand times and it is relative luxury……….
We were dropped off at Rio Hondo bus station on the main road and given a ticket for the Pullman bus to Rio Dulce that would arrive in 40 minutes time. It was warm, dusty and dirty but again, the people there were kind and offered us seats and smiles.
An hour later the bus arrived (Pullman?? Pull the other one!) and the guy from the bus station ushered us across the main road to the already packed bus – surprise! As I tried to get on with the day sack, the bus driver told me to get off as the rucksack would have to go in the hold. So I waited for him to stop wheeling and dealing with the cigar- sellers and he got off. As his back turned I walked straight back on again. Eugene supervised him putting the rucksacks in the hold.
There were no spare seats on the bus. The guy from the bus station was checking the tickets and ushered me to a seat near the back where he’d made a guy get up for me. Fortunately for my conscience, this guy got off the bus down the road. Eugene was left standing in the aisle with many others. He stood for the almost the whole journey which was over 3 hours.
The bus driver was a nutter. He drank Red Bull. He shouted at people. And he enjoyed speeding. As we climbed into the hills again it was clear that the bus went faster than the plodding great lorries carrying containers towards Puerto Barrios and the Atlantic. Every single moment he had the opportunity (not that any one else would have described it as such) to overtake, he went for it. This entailed being on the rear edge of the container in front, lurching out into the other lane, dropping a gear and driving like a man possessed. Sometimes it didn’t work out, which meant hammering on the brakes as the lorry ever so slowly plodded past until he was able to swing back in again.
We went past the police checkpoint while it was still daylight. There was a large sign at the front of the bus that said “No Standing”. He shouted for everyone who was standing in the central aisle to duck to the floor as we went past them. It was like something out of a film. Everyone seemed really pleased that we’d “got away with it”.
The bus made quite a few stops on the way to Rio Dulce. We decided that the tour office in Copan had made a few quid from us – we could have easily made our way back to the border and on to Rio Hondo and then Rio Dulce by ourselves. We’d already done half of this journey two days ago. It’s wrong that they get away with this, since we’d have saved at least 15 quid doing it on our own, and without the palavar of waiting around at Rio Hondo where the trucks roar past with such frightening speed that surely there must a death a week as street hawkers dart out to get trade from buses that stop momentarily. Nevermind.
The people on the bus were really friendly. Eugene was entertaining the kids with the Woolies plastic finger toys. The guy sat next to me was friendly and chatty. I kept saying “Si” to his sentences. it was only towards the end of the journey that I told him I only spoke a teeny amount of Spanish but he didn’t seem to mind.
At 8pm we got to Rio Dulce. Finally!
Eug went to find a suitable place for the launch of the Hotel Catamaran to come and pick us up. Then he sweated his way back to the rucksacks and I, we called the hotel and then walked down to one of the docks. Five minutes later the boat was there to pick us up and we sped off down the wide dark river. It was cool doing this trip at night and intriguing to know exactly what our surroundings were. We’d find out tomorrow…..
It was good to finally arrive at our destination, the Hotel Catamaran on an island on the Rio Dulce.