Monday afternoon, I got a call from a friend asking if Jake and I wanted to take a few days to travel to other parts of Guatemala, Honduras and possibly Belize. The only catch was we could only pack a backpack each and our transportation and room and board would be kept to minimal expenses. Making sure it was ok to take off another week from teaching with Lucy, we agreed.
In order to make this story flow a little better and it be less of a novel, I will try to keep my commentary out (as much as possible) and will begin with an introduction of all the travelers.
Ashley: female, age 24, U.S. citizen, missionary in Zacapa, and fellow translator for the Alabama team last week
David: male, age 20, Guatemala/U.S. dual citizen, missionary in Zacapa, and fellow translator for the Alabama team
Jared: male, age 23, Chile citizen, full-time missionary everywhere, 3 week old groom, and Ashley’s friend
Paloma: female, age 23, Mexican citizen, full-time missionary everywhere, 3-week old bride, and Ashley’s friend
Jake: male, age 13, U.S. citizen, summer missionary in Zacapa, my son
Jennifer: yours truly
Day 1 – Tuesday, July 24
During my morning devotion, I prayed that we would have a great trip, but that the Lord would spare our comfort. I wanted our faith to be stretched. At around 8:45am, Debora drove Ashley, Jared, Paloma, Jake and myself to the bus terminal where we met David. We got on the bus to Puerto Barrios. It was about a 3 hour drive. We arrived mid afternoon and our first stop was…the bathroom! We then stopped at a little place for linner (late lunch/early dinner) of tacos. After a hearty meal, we walked to the dock and boarded a small charter boat for a 30 minute ride to Livingston. Livingston is a remote area that can only be reached by boat. It is a very diverse area. The diversity of the Guatemalan heritage was in full display; Mayan, African, European.
We checked into our hostel for the evening, Casa de la Iguana (House of the Iguana). The quaint little place was run by a bunch of British blocs. The rooms were separated in little dorm-like bungalows. Each bungalow had 1, 2, or 3 rooms. The 6 of us shared a room with 3 bunk beds and 1 fan. We shared 2 toilet stalls, a shower and a sink with the guests which stayed in the room above us. My prayers were being answered.
Once we checked in, we took an approximately 2 mile walk around most of Livingston just enjoying the culture and the beauty of it all. On our way back, we stopped at the dock to arrange our activities for the following day, then stopped at a small restaurant a local woman and man from the States owned. They were known for their pizza so we all ordered pizzas and shared them among all of us except for David who craved chicken, so he ordered Chicken Marsala. After dinner, we headed back to our room and all settled in as best as we could . Those of us on the top bunks did not feel the fan, but where blessed to have a semi-cool breeze come through the one window we had. Ashley had several ants in her bed, so she went to bed after fending them off.
Day 2 – Wednesday, July 25
Ashley is training for a half marathon, so she woke up early to get 6 miles in. David couldn’t sleep past 5am so he went for a stroll. Jake didn’t sleep at all so he was a tad cranky. The newlyweds went for an early walk and I stayed in bed as long as I could. We had to be at the dock by 9:30am, so we all gathered at the common area of the Hostel for breakfast. The common area had the dining area, the only bathroom with hot water, a book exchange bookshelf and an array of interesting characters, including the colorful native crabs. For breakfast, we all ordered either french toast, or an extremely large plate of fruits and granola with a few pancakes hidden underneath.
After breakfast, we checked out and headed to the dock where we boarded another small boat and headed to our first stop, Siete Altares (Seven Heights). Here we climbed waterfalls!!! It was so amazing! This was, by far, all of our favorite part of the trip! When we reached the top, Ashley jumped off while the rest of us decided to walk into the water carefully…it was FREEZING!!!
After Siete Altares, we boarded the boat and headed to Playa Blanca (White Beach). After Siete Altares, the beach was not impressive whatsoever. We had lunch there, then climbed on the boat and headed back to Puerto Barrios, where we walked to the center of town and boarded a bus to the Honduras border. At this time, we had decided not to go to Belize since the charter boat was super expensive.
It was a short ride to the Guatemala/Honduras border. We first had to stop at the Guatemalan immigration office to check out. After a small hiccup with Ashley’s status which the Lord quickly cleared, we walked a little bit towards the Honduras immigration office to check in. After officially being approved to enter the country, we walked a little way to catch a bus or a taxi to our next stop, San Pedro.
After finding out there were no longer any buses running for the evening and the only 2 taxi drivers refusing to take us on the 2 hour trip to San Pedro, we began to walk the 1 kilometer to a local hotel where we thought we could spend the night and catch an early bus. As we walked, David, Jared and Paloma flagged down a pick up truck to drive us to the hotel. He agreed and, in true Central American style, we all climbed into the back of the pick up.
On the way, David (reaching around the side) tried to convince the driver to drive us to either San Pedro or to Cortez, which was on the way to San Pedro and only an hour drive versus the 2 hours to San Pedro. Our intention was to get to those towns sooner so we could have more time in Copan which is a great tourist area and our final destination, but too far to make it in 1 day. After some negotiation and camping out under someone’s front porch to shelter us from a sudden downpour, we agreed on a price for our new friend to drive us the hour to Cortez.
Once again, we all climbed into the back of his truck. By this time, the rain had stopped. I suggested we pray. Everyone was aware of my request to the Lord to make our trip an uncomfortable one, so they all nominated me to pray. I agreed. I prayed for a safe trip and for the Lord to hold off the rain until we arrived at our destination. Although quite cramped and uncomfortable, we had so much fun. We sang every praise song we could remember in Spanish and English.
Our driver dropped us off at the bus terminal in Cortez, but when we arrived it was not certain that a bus to San Pedro would be coming so we decided to catch 2 taxis to a local and inexpensive hotel to spend the night. The hotel, Hotel Juan Griego (John the Greek Hotel), was also a quaint little place, but in a different way.
This place was like a normal hotel/motel except the owners, a man, his wife and their little girl, Sarah, lived there and there were no other guests. It was as if we were sent from Heaven to them. They were so accommodating. The rooms only had 1 full size bed, so we split off into twos; Paloma and Jared (of course), Jake and David, Ashley and myself.
After dropping off our stuff, we went out to find some dinner. We were told that if we walked a little way towards the beach area, we would find some food. It was a beautiful, cool evening with no rain in sight (Thank You, Lord!). We reached the beach, but did not see any open places, so we stopped and asked. We were directed to walk a little bit further and we would find it. We did find it…it was a carnival!! Rides, games and FOOD!! We sat down at one of the areas and ordered some yummy tacos!!! After dinner, we took a short stroll through the carnival and headed back to the hotel…If you hadn’t noticed, it had been a long day!! 🙂
Day 3 – Thursday, July 26
Ashley woke up early again and went for morning run. While she was gone, I began to document all of our journey thus far and was so amazed at all we had already done! It was so crazy!! Throughout dinner the night before, we all would randomly laugh thinking about what an adventure we already had been on in only 2 days!!
Once we all got ready, we said our goodbyes to the lovely family who owned the hotel and crossed the street to a very tiny place that barely fit all 6 of us in the outside (and only) dining area. We all ordered tortillas with either eggs, refried beans, cheese, potatoes or all the above. After eating our very large portions, we climbed on another bus to San Pedro, where we would catch another bus to Copan (there were no direct lines to Copan from where we were). The ride to San Pedro was only about an hour or so long, but something incredible happened on the way…Sorry, at this point, I can’t help but share my emotions.
As we were on our way on this crowded bus of about 22-25 people, Jared stood up. He excused himself for interrupting everyone’s trip, introduced our team and then proceeded to present the Gospel. This, normally, soft-spoken shy guy was standing there with confidence, speaking of the saving grace of Jesus. His words were not condemning nor intrusive, he was genuine, inviting and spoke like he just wanted them to get to know his good friend, Jesus Christ.
Tears streamed down my face. I was overwhelmed by his boldness to freely speak as he did. When he was done, he prayed for our trip and everyone on the bus and handed out a little pamphlet explaining all he had just said. Everyone had been so attentive to his words and now they were all quietly reading what he had handed out, including the little boy (around 7 or 8) who was sitting next to me.
When it was all back to its normal bus-filled volume, Paloma turned to me and said “that is my husband”. At that moment, I understood my tears. I, too, one day want to travel to different countries with my husband. I want to one day be proud of my husband for freely and boldly preaching the Gospel to anyone who will hear him! Oh, Lord, hear my cry!!
I think this is a good point for me to stop since my hands are super tired from typing and I am ready for bed. I will continue my trip narrative tomorrow. Hope you have enjoyed it so far!! Plenty of pictures have been posted on FB!