Our Honduras Travels
We’ve been fortunate to travel to Honduras just about once a year since Cathy's first trip in 1991. Since many aspects of our travels are the same from year to year, here is a detailed list of some of the typical features.
Grueling flights. We often get asked how long the flight is to Honduras. Since there are no direct flights to Honduras from Minnesota, our travels always involve two flights, each about 2.5 hours long. Depending on the airline, we catch a connecting flight out of Houston, Miami or Atlanta. In order to arrive in San Pedro Sula mid-day (to avoid staying overnight in this murder capitol of the world), our first flight usually leaves MSP at 5:00 am and we need to leave our home at 3:00 am (after a mostly sleepless night). Sometimes we will take our first flight the night before and stay in a hotel (or less comfortably somewhere in the airport). Regardless, we always arrive significantly sleep deprived. A small group of family members warmly greet us at the airport in San Pedro Sula with a couple of vehicles. We load our many bags in the back of a pickup (We always maximize our weight limit of 1 - 50 lb checked bag plus carry-on per person) and settle in for a 3 hour drive to Comayagua. For years now, the Honduran government has been talking about moving the Tegucigalpa airport to Comayagua. (The History Channel’s program Most Extreme Airports ranked Tegucigalpa as the second most dangerous airport in the world!) We look forward to the day we can land right in Comayagua and avoid the last part of the trip.
Large Family. The Velasquez family is, of course, the most important reason we travel so frequently to Honduras. Guillermo has a large loving family. He is the youngest of 8 siblings. He is very fond of his parents, Maximo and Natalia, and enjoys visiting with his 4 sisters and 3 brothers, their spouses and our many nieces and nephews. Our three children enjoy hanging out with their many cousins. Thanks to the fine Spanish Immersion programs in the St. Paul Public Schools, all three are fully bilingual and can communicate comfortably with their Honduran family members. Two of Guillermo’s sisters and one of his brothers live in Comayagua. One sister is in Jutigalpa but often visits Comayagua when we are there. One brother lives in Rio Negro on the coffee farm. Three siblings and several nieces and nephews are here in Minnesota. Guillermo’s parents valued education highly and made sure that all of their children had a chance to get a college degree, even moving the family to Tegucigalpa for a time so they had access to better schools. As a result, one of Guillermo’s sisters is a dentist, one is a lawyer, one is an economics professor at the University of Honduras in Comayagua. Two of his brothers are coffee farmers.
Comayagua. At the beginning and end of our trips, we stay in the modest but comfortable cement block houses of Guillermo’s sisters in the quiet outskirts of the city of Comayagua. This colonial city dates back to 1537 and still has cobblestone streets, historic churches and picturesque plazas. With roughly 70,000 inhabitants, it is much smaller and quieter than the capital city of Tegucigalpa (with 700,000+) and industrial center of San Pedro Sula (400,000+) and it’s higher elevation makes it generally cooler too. http://www.honduras.com/comayagua/
Rio Negro. After a few days in the city, we are eager to get to the coffee farm. Before we leave, we stock up on food and other items in the marketplace and then begin the climb up into the mountains. The first half of the trip to San Jeronimo has a paved road now, but after that the dirt road becomes very rough and bumpy, crossing mountain streams, up and down, around and around, with many terrifying drops on either side (as well as many breathtakingly beautiful mountain views). The steep and often muddy dirt roads require the best 4 wheel drive vehicles especially when it rains. The road passes through several mountain villages, through the lower pine forests, and then as we climb vegetation gets greener and more diverse and the temperature cools.
The Rio Negro mountain community has about 100 households, a school and church, a soccer field and a huge beautiful, empty and completely unused visitor center that cost about half a million dollars to build (Honduran corruption at its best). Instead, Guillermo’s brother Avilio’s home serves as the defacto visitor center with several cabins for rent, excellent food served up by his wife and local school master, Bertilia, and connections with local guides who can provide tours up the nearby Comayagua National Mountains park trail to several spectacular waterfalls. A much shorter hike on the road beyond Guillermo’s parents house takes you to the lovely Rio Negro stream with several smaller but still lovely waterfalls of its own. The stream takes its name (Black River) from the fact that the river runs clear unlike Rio Blanco nearby that is cloudy due to minerals and other sediments in the water. The community benefits from a fine water project that pipes clear mountain water into homes. We have often stayed in the farm home of Guillermo’s parents. But a few years ago, we remodeled a partially constructed structure into a modest 3 room cabin and we’ve enjoyed having our own place to stay the past 3 years.
Weather. Since Guillermo’s family traditionally gathers over New Years to celebrate his mom’s January 1 birthday (and it works well with our school and work schedules too), we often travel to Honduras at the end of December into early January. Unfortunately, this is usually winter in Honduras, which means overcast and 60 degrees in the city and rain and mud in the mountains. Nonetheless, this is always a huge improvement over Minnesota weather at this time of the year. We’ve often experienced near 100 degree changes going from subzero temperatures in Minnesota to upper 80s or 90s in San Pedro Sula which is typically warmer regardless of the season. We’ve learned how to dress in layers to accommodate weather extremes while traveling there and back again. And we’ve learned to pack clothing for every season -- shorts and tank tops for when we land, light jackets for cooler evenings in Comayagua, and sweaters, rain coats, mud boots, hats and even scarves for chilly days and nights on the farm. Sometimes we’ve traveled over Spring Break or Holy Week when the weather is hot and dry. The best weather seems to be June when the weather is warm and just rainy enough to make everything lush and green.
Food. Most Honduran meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) contain red beans and corn tortillas. Guillermo’s dad affectionately calls beans “carne de vina” (meat of the vine). Corn dates back to the Mayans who worshiped maize gods and believed their ancestors were formed out of maize.
In addition to these two key ingredients, Honduran meals often include eggs, salty Honduran cheese (hard and crumbly or soft like cottage cheese), montequia (like sour cream, but runnier and saltier), fried plantains or bananas, and avocados. The mid-day meal, often includes soup and rice and when available chicken or beef. Tamales are prepared for Christmas and New Years and other special occasions. We usually enjoy going out for pupusas at least once during our trip (a Central American treat you can now enjoy in St. Paul). http://www.tcdailyplanet.net/news/2013/10/09/pupusas-600-year-old-tradition-comes-st-paul