Scandinavia -Day 5 – Tuesday, June 5, 2018

We woke up a reasonable time, but it seemed we were both jet-lagged. I suppose traveling the night before really tired us. In any event we were excited about the day and found out what everyone says – there is no way to describe the Norwegian coastline landscape. Pictures do not do it justice. We landed in a little town called Risøyhamn about 10:30AM, but we stayed on the ship, since it was a short stop.

We had a wonderful lunch onboard, then landed in Storkmarknes and we did disembark. We only had an hour, but we walked around the little town just checking it out. It was 43 degrees and a little misty, but it was nice to see a town North of the Arctic Circle. Probably 20 people got off the ship, so it was not crowded at all. This is the “home town” of the shipping company “Hurtegruten” and we are actually on a cargo/expedition ship. I suspect that cargo shipping along the coastline is not as financially rewarding as it once was and that tourism seems to help the shipping company. We quickly found it is not the usual cruise line you find in the States. The only entertainment is the Expedition Team and they give talks about the region throughout the trip and this is announced throughout the day. We got our first real look at the ship today, as we were so tired when we boarded that we never looked at it.

The name of our ship is the Nordlys and it is considered an expedition ship. It was built in 1994 and has a passenger capacity of 590. We found out there are only 200 on board and nothing ever seems full. The length is 400 feet, but seems huge, particularly when navigating the fjords. We found out that they do a Christmas trip every year with the ship being decorated and special events. It was really enticing to hear about that. When we first boarded, we were encouraged to upgrade to a suite for $500 more, since our cabin was in the back of the boat with a lot of boat noise. We declined, since we had wanted an inside cabin because of the 24 hour a day daylight. We were told there were no inside cabins left. We didn’t find out that there were 200 on board until later, so I think this may have been a fabrication. In any event we are happy with our cabin and it was actually nice to have a window. The curtains keep most of the light out and we have had no trouble sleeping.

We have been cruising along the coastline until we entered a fjord near the town of Digermulen. It seemed you could almost reach out and touch the rock face, but it was probably 20 feet away on either side, which is still incredible considering the size of the ship. It looked as if we had entered an area that was larger, but ahead, it didn’t seem we would fit. Sure enough, it seemed we nearly stopped then we heard the engines and the ship’s captain guided us into a 180 degree turn and exited the fjord. It was totally fascinating and an incredible navigational feat. There were waterfalls coming from the rocks and also tiny fissures that allowed water to escape. Some were so small that it looked like a water hose was just inside the rock. It has to top my list of one of the most incredible things I’ve witnessed. This was around 5:00PM and we rushed to dinner to get finished prior to our excursion (horseback riding in Lofoten). Dinner was fabulous with every type of fresh fish you can imagine and everything was delicious. Shannon even tried several things and liked every one of them.

At about 6:45PM, we disembarked and met our driver outside of the ship. There were 5 other people on the excursion. We drove along the coastline for about 40 minutes and arrived in Gimsoysand around 7:45PM. We elected to wear coveralls, since it was 45 degrees, and it proved to be the right decision as we were toasty warm. Only our faces were exposed. We met our guides who gave us coveralls and a hard hat and then took us to meet our Icelandic ponies in the barn. Mine was a mare named Embla and Shannon thinks her’s was named Frieda. They had just gotten my pony a couple of weeks ago, so I was test-piloting her. Shannon’s pony was very gentle and followed the guide pony. The only problem she had was that her pony wanted to eat along the way. Mine wanted to be in front and we were scolded right off when I tried to get out my phone without dropping it and my pony wanted to get beside Shannon’s pony. We walked around a riding ring to get accustomed to the ponies and then we went across the road to the beach and took pictures. We then followed the lead horse around a track for about 90 minutes, then returned to the ring for those that wanted to ride a little faster. The scenery was breathtaking and seeing the midnight sun was just an amazing experience. It was overcast, but we still got a sense of what it was like to have daylight for 24 hours. We saw camping on the property and some fabulous vacation rental homes that faced the ocean. We finished about 9:15PM and raced back to the ship to meet it before it departed. It rained the entire way back, but our driver was experienced and got us back safely. The ship was at a different port.By the time we left it was 43 degrees, but our phone said it felt like 37. We were not quite ready for bed when we arrived at 10:00PM, so we went upstairs for a coke and beer. Afterward we both went right to sleep.


Scandinavia – Day 4 – Monday, June 4, 2018

Today, sadly, is our last day in Oslo, but happily, our flight out does not leave until 8:00PM.  So we decided to make a trip to Vigeland Park, which I had read about.  We learned that the best way to go would be by tram (what we used to call “cable car”) and we should take the number 12 tram.  HOWEVER, before we were able to leave, we had seen that the street was cordoned off and there was a military band marching up and down the street.  We also noticed that there were military personnel stationed about every 10 feet along the street with their assault rifles at the ready.  We found out that the president of Slovakia would be arriving around 10:30AM, so we had to stay and find out.  We watched the precision of the military as the officers went up and down the line checking them and telling them exactly where to stand.  The street was lined with the Norwegian flag and the Slovakian flag on every pole.  There was a very slight breeze and the flags were fluttering.  Finally, we saw blue lights and a line of black cars.  Sure enough, I saw him drive by quickly, but there was no doubt who it was.  He waved to us.

We decided that although they had given us a 1:00PM checkout time, that we would not be back in time, so we went ahead and checked out and stored our bags there.  Since we had yet to see the City Hall where the Nobel Peace Award is presented, so we walked down there and went inside.  It took us awhile to figure out how it was arranged when presented, but after looking at some pictures on the wall, we were able to figure it out.

We knew that we were to take the number 12 tram to the Vigeland Park, but we had not planned well and had to walk the block or so back up the hill.  We were told we could buy tickets at the magazine stand, but he was not selling them.  We walked a few steps further and bought them at the National Theatre store, then headed backs down to the harbor to catch the tram.  As always when doing something for the first time, it took us a few minutes to figure out which side of the tracks we needed to be on.  But once we decided, we were committed and sure enough, the tram arrived.  Lots of people had come off the cruise boats, but I was able to get a seat.  Shannon preferred to stand.  It was only a few stops and we were there.

The majority of the people on the tram also got off and the entrance to the park was right there.  We heard it described as something along the lines of the circle of life, i.e., birth, life, death and reincarnation.  The bronze statues were numerous and beautiful.  There were various poses with various people –  men, women, children, babies and old people.  The main part of the park had all the statues along a promenade that rose to the pinnacle, which was the obelisk that mirrored what we had already seen.  The park was in beautiful shape and it was a perfect day to go.  It was cooler than it had been, but the sky was brilliant blue.  We passed by the obelisk and found a shady spot with benches to have a picnic, which was really nice.  We left about 2:30 or 3:00 and headed back to the hotel.

We stopped by the Parliament House because it was directly across from our hotel and we STILL had not seen it.  We were there during a parliamentary session, which was interesting.  Shannon particularly enjoyed that.  We were sad that we didn’t understand Norwegian.  The parliament was small and like the US, not every seat was filled.  There may have been 20 people in there, but the speeches were heartfelt.

We went back to the hotel and picked up our luggage, then walked the 2 blocks to the train station.  It is always interesting trying to figure out which kiosk to get the right ticket, but with a couple of questions, we were able to get a ticket.  Remember—-Shannon rides for free with a paid ticket for an adult.  I also now qualify for the senior discount!!!!

We made the trip with ease and exited right at the airport.  We had not printed our tickets and since it would only text to a Norwegian number, we did not have our boarding pass, even though I had checked-in last night.  Not to worry!!!!  They printed us out a boarding pass and we went through security easily.  We had emptied our water before we went through security and had no issues.  We did have to take out our electronics, but we were able to keep our shoes on.  We are sitting in the Oslo Airport now as I write all this and are excited about our next adventure — Tromsø.  We will be going from 80 degree weather to a mix of snow and rain, so it will be a vast change.  As we navigate the coastline of Norway, we hope the weather will improve.

Scandinavia – Day 3, Sunday, June 3, 2018

We woke up a little late and had breakfast at the hotel, then walked down to the dock to pick up our boat. We arrived on time and boarded the boat to go across the harbor to see some of the maritime museums. We decided to do the folk museum first as it was already hot, so we merely took a right from the rest of the people walking. This was really fantastic and required a bit of walking, which probably ended up being the best thing to do first off. We spent a couple of hours there and could have spent longer. Everything was marked well.

We then walked maybe a quarter of a mile to the Viking museum — again, much better than we could have ever expected. There was a wonder movie that played across the arch in one of the main halls. The Viking ships (2) were amazing and the exhibits were really interesting. There was a room that had cloth-type artifacts that you couldn’t take pictures of, but everything else was picture friendly. We were pretty amazed and Shannon was impressed, too. Hard to impress a 13 year old, so put this on your list.

We stopped at the outdoor cafe and had hot dogs and some snacks that we brought. It was really smart to bring a padded bag to keep things cool. We had wanted to go to the Kon-Tiki Museum, but it is closed on Sunday. Not good planning here, but we now know that if we wanted to, we could take the number 30 bus. We know we could also take the underground, but find it nicer to stay above ground, so that we can see the sights. We walked back to the ferry and rode it to the next stop to see the Fram Museum, which bills itself as the best museum in the world. Well…….. it may be because it was TOTALLY AWESOME. We watched the video, which was very good, and explained about exploration of the two poles, but particularly the North Pole. The museum has several floors, so make sure that you go to the top floor, and also make sure that you look at the inside of the Fram ship. On the top floor, we sat on a bench that moved as if you were on a rocking ship and the video that played made it feel alive. The video was on every wall and the ceiling, but you didn’t notice it until you were on the second floor (I think). It showed the huge waves that the Fram had to endure to get to the North Pole and it showed the icebergs passing by. It showed an expedition leaving the ship and showed the ship covered in ice. Then the ice broke and you were back in the smooth water and then the crashing waves. It was incredible.

We left the museum and walked around a little, then got on the ferry and made our way back to the harbor. We did a search on Yelp for pizza and found a place called Mama’s Pizza just about 10 minutes from our hotel, so we decided to try it out. The pizza was good. We ordered a Margherita pizza (tomato sauce, cheese and basil), some bruschetta, which was VERY good, a coke and a beer. It was $52, which is pretty typical for Oslo. We did find that things like hot dogs were somewhat reasonable, but wine, beer and coke is very expensive. Tap water is free and abundant. Since it was 88 degrees, most museums were very hot and the restaurants were hot. We probably should have eaten outside.

Our plane leaves tomorrow night for Tromso, so we are trying to plan out our day a little. We have missed the Cathedral, City Hall and the Vigeland Park, so we may try to see these. They are letting us check out at 1:00PM, but our flight doesn’t leave until 8:00PM, so we will have a few hours to kill. We are back in the room at 7:30PM, so it is the earliest night yet for us.

Scandinavia – Day 2 – Saturday, June 2, 2018

Our day started with the fact that we had to move rooms because we had no hot water. Fortunately, it was a very nice upgrade to a suite and we were very happy. We started the day with a very nice breakfast in the hotel and took a few snacks. We started to walk to the King’s Palace and saw signs for the National Museum, so we took a detour. It was warm inside the museum, but we really enjoyed it. You never think about Norwegian artists, but this museum slowed off their talents as well as the talents of many European artists. It was well payed out and an easy visit with each room numbered, which is typical, but also nice since it is easy to get turned around. Since we had wanted to go to the Palace, we went ahead and continued there. We realized after we arrived that the English tour would not start until 2:00, so we took a short break on the shaded lawns.

We found out that the tour doesn’t start until June 23.  It has been so warm here, that we assumed it was still summer!!!  It is warmer here than at home, which was a real surprise.  In any event we decided to check out the local shopping and while en route, decided we would stop for lunch.  I had read that the hot dogs at the wharf were amazing, so we had to try them.  Shannon was a little shy about it, so I ordered one.  It was very long and served on more of a bread pancake.  We ordered one with bacon and it was delicious.  Even Shannon liked it, so we are sitting at a table with the view of the bay.  There are dozens of sailboats out today and they make a beautiful picture on the bay.

Since we were right there, we went back to the Nobel Peace Museum and actually went through the exhibits. Since ICAN (against nuclear proliferation) won the last Nobel Peace Prize, there was an entire exhibit dedicated to them. We also saw a great exhibit by an American woman about wealth and the quest for gargantuan wealth. It really spoke to me, as it does seem that extreme wealth is obscene. Why does anyone need 25 bedrooms or even 10? In any event, the exhibits were wonderful and we ended in a room with all recipients that was lit by tiny lights. It was beautiful and inspiring. We then tried to go to the City Hall, but it had already closed, so we decided to make the long awaited trek to the Opera House. We sunned for awhile and I dipped my feet in the Oslo Fjord. It was not as cold as I had thought it would be, but it was too slippery to go far. Then we walked up the Opera House “slide” for lack of a better description and walked all the way around the top and came back down the other side and went inside the Opera House. It was beautiful and cool inside, so we stayed for awhile until it was apparent that nearly everyone was there for the opera “Don Giovanni”. If we had come prepared, it might have been nice to go. I noticed that they had the opera texted to you in either English or Norwegian. It’s been awhile since I’ve been to the opera, but I don’t remember anything like that in the States. We had noticed a Ferris wheel and decided to walk in that direction, since it looked like it was on Omar way to our hotel. It was and we decided to take a ride. It not as big as the London Eye, but it was probably nearly as big as the one in Atlanta. It overlooked the pedestrian road that led by our hotel. We then walked back to our hotel and had drinks at the bar. I had a Fjellbekk, which is supposedly a Norwegian drink. It was VERY good and I will probably try to make one at home. We came back to our hotel to rinse off and get ready for dinner.

Scandinavia-Day 1- Friday, June 1, 2018

The day before began early with many plans before departing for the Atlanta International Airport on Thursday, May 31, 2018. Again, I am traveling with my 13 year old granddaughter, Shannon, and we are pumped. Neither of us has been to Scandinavia, although it’s been on my bucket list for many years. Our flight to Amsterdam left on time at 3:05PM with a full plane. The flight was uneventful until about 30 minutes out when we were told that the fog was so thick, that we would feel the plane touch down before we saw the ground. However, prior to landing, we could see the cloud cover and very strangely, wind turbines above the cloud cover. That would have been at 800 feet or so. It was surreal and Shannon was able to get a video. We ended up landing 15 minutes late and knew we had a tight connection to Oslo of 50 minutes. After landing, it took forever to get off the plane and then it took forever to find that our flight was leaving Gate B-20. We were at the E Gates. We did get in a special line for tight connections for passport control, but walked very quickly once through. We arrived about 15 minutes prior to take-off wondering about our bags, but realized that no one was boarding. The fog was too thick to take off, so they asked us to just wait at the gate rather than the plane, which was nice. We received confirmation that our bags were onboard and we started boarding at 7:30AM. The airport was nice and had great WiFi, so we were happy.

We had a wonderful flight to Oslo and I had read that the way to get to the city center was to take the “fly to get” train. We found out Shannon was free (under 16) and mine was about $20. It was a fast train and we were taken to the city center in 25 minutes. Our stop was called the National Theatre, which ended up underground, so we came up from below and arrived in the most beautiful park. We turned on our Goggle Maps to find the Grand Hotel and walked maybe 3 blocks through the park. Our hotel is older and very upscale and in a super great location right on the main drag. We took a shower and cleaned up a little, then decided to explore. We were trying to find the Opera House, but ended up at the Akershus Fortress, which overlooked the harbor. An unintentional find!!!! We stopped for a beer and coke (it cost $18.00) :-(. I had been warned it was very expensive.

We walked all through the fort and because of its position on the hill and the point of land, we were able to see several views of the bay. We then walked back around towards the harbor and did some people watching at the harbor. We saw the building where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded each year as well as the museum for the Nobel Peace Prize. We did some shopping at the gift shop, then walked back towards the hotel and had an early dinner (pizza) in a sidewalk cafe along Karl Johans Gate, which is the major thoroughfare in Oslo. We walked back to the hotel and checked out the terrace on top of the hotel.

Honduras, Day 11, Tuesday

March 27, 2018

We woke up early again and had breakfast at the hotel, then did some last minute shopping. We then went to San Rafael to have a last coffee and chocolate. We all bought coffee beans and chocolate powder to take home and then went back to the hotel to wait on the tuk-tuk we had ordered for 10:15AM. He first picked up CIndy and me, then went back for Tony and Laurie. The bus station was only 5 minutes away and much smaller than the one in San Pedro Sula, so it was easy to figure out what to do. Our bus was to leave at 11:00AM, but actually didn’t leave until 11:30AM. They wanted our passports before we boarded and opened our carry-on bags. I assumed they also looked in our checked bags, too, but am not absolutely sure about this. The trip would take between 4-4-1/2 hours, but there was much construction on the road and there were times that we stopped for several minutes waiting to go around construction. In addition, there were lots of tractor-trailers on the road and it was slow going through the mountains. We had hoped that construction would not be taking place on Holy Week, but we did not get our wish. We arrived in San Pedro at 4:00PM. Cindy had called our driver, David, and he was waiting for us. We arrived at the hotel (Casa Blanca) at about 6:00PM and wet straight to dinner at the little coffee cafe next door, then back to the room for Cuba libres and canasta for now just Tony and Cindy.

Honduras, Day 10, Monday

March 26, 2018

We awoke early once again, since we had paid for a day at a local finca (farm). We walked to Cafe Via Via to meet our guide. Carlos, whose family owned the finca, picked us up along with another American, Jacinda, who we had met at the Hacienda San Lucas the night before, strangely enough. We all realized we had seen Carlos and Jacinda at the German restaurant (Sol de Copan) when we first arrived, which was so amazing. We rode in his truck for about an hour to get to his family farm. We drove on a dirt road over the mountain and it was apparent that they had had more rain than in the valley of Copan. Most people would call it an agritourismo and the name of the farm was Finca el Cisne (farm of the swan). He showed us around the farm a little and talked about the cacao (chocolate beans) that they were growing. We tasted several plants and several beans, mostly smelling of chocolate. He opened up a pod of Cacao. There were many beans in the pod and they had a very sweet coating of some sort of “goo”, so we put the bean in our mouths and sucked on them. We did this several times to taste the various different kinds of cacao. We also tasted chipolin (sp?) and chicosuporte (sp?).

I had not realized that we would be talking about chocolate on this farm, so that was a complete surprise. We did, however, talk about coffee, which was not a surprise We then walked over to the coffee bean processing area, where Carlos explained the various processes. I learned that the higher the elevation, the more acidic the coffee. I had once heard that elevation affected the amount of caffeine, but found out that was not true. We also found out that this particular finca had an educational program on nutrition for the locals and that the family employed about 30 full time employees. During the harvest season, they employed more. I believe I remember him saying that they would have two different harvest seasons. Beans were hand picked every few days, so that only the ripe beans would be harvested each time. We found that only 20% of the coffee fruit is actually a coffee bean. The ripe fruit was a pinkish-reddish color and the unripe was green.

In the processing area, we noticed the cacao in various stages of drying. We also saw a box of just picked cacao that was being fermented in this “goo”. It was in a small box with a cover of banana leaves and then a lid that actually pressed down on the cacao. They would mix them up every so often so that they would ferment equally. I believe I remember him saying this would take 3 days, but I could be completely wrong about this. We saw 3 piles of cacao beans, each a little darker. They were not really piles, but were spread out like the coffee beans, but on a piece of plastic type cloth, like a bag, in the shaded of a building.

We also noticed two different colored coffee beans. They were laid out in the middle of a concrete area in the sun and I saw a rake and then something that looked like a very wide hoe that they used to mix the beans so they would dry completely. These beans were very blond colored. The other beans drying on the side were darker and had lots of chaff with them. He explained that these were the rejected beans that would be sold in grocery stores (probably in the states was my assumption) to people that did not understand the difference in good and bad coffees and, of course, would be much cheaper. He showed us the washing areas and told us that the lesser quality beans would float. He also showed us another drying area in the event there was no sun, which included a huge fan and a giant heater. Then it was time to go on a horseback ride. He selected horses based on riding ability. Cindy has only ridden once or twice in her life, so they picked an 18 year old gelding for her. The rest of us had varying abilities. Most of the horses were purebred Peruvian and were gated horses, so they were very smooth and comfortable to ride. THe saddles were western with a horn. I believe my horse may have been the smoothest of all, but when he cantered, he was extremely rough and it was obvious that this was not his favorite gate. We rode for two hours and saw a good deal of the farm. We saw cardamon plants and tasted them. We also found out the farm raised cattle and horses, as well as various other crops. We saw a newborn filly (born that day) and a colt that was born the week before and we saw other young horses, yearlings maybe. There were also several paint horses in the herd.

Everyone enjoyed the ride and we got back to the main part of the farm (the house/office/kitchen) and had a most wonderful lunch. We ate yucca and something called guajada that I believe I remember being a pickled radish and red onion. We had rice with carrots with some sort of flowering plant that I can’t remember the name of (a yellow flower). We had a wonderful cheese that they made on the finca, zucchini, a beef dish with some sort of gravy and some tamarind juice that was wonderful. We also had a jalapeño dish that I did not try and something with some cilantro in it. Actually, all of it was wonderful and all came from the finca. After lunch, he drove us to a hot springs that was only minutes away and still on the dirt road. I had not looked forward to this as I thought it was going to be out in the open and hot. It was actually next to the Copan River and in a forest. There were areas that were in the sun, but most of it was shaded in the trees. We got into our suits in a co-ed hut that had 4 different dressing rooms. They were open from neck up and if someone wanted to, they could certainly look over the door. No one did, or they would have received a horrific surprise in my case.

In any event we followed Carlos, who showed us the various areas of the hot springs. In the beginning, it was exactly as I had imagined with swimming pools, picnic and camping areas in the bright, hot sunshine. It looked like you could rent a camping area with a tent set up under a roofed area. It was very strange. We walked across an awful swinging bridge to get to the rest of the hot springs. I had trouble keeping my balance and was not happy about the height of the bridge. Once across, though, we found that there were many pools that were built out of rocks in the woods sort on a slight hill. The pools had something like flagstone on the bottom and the various pools would dump into each other. Some were cold, some were hot and some were warm, so you had your choice. So, it was actually much, much nicer than I had imagined. We did want to get back to Copan early so that we could go to the tea and chocolate house that we had heard so much about, known as T & C (oddly enough) so we asked Carlos to pick us up at 4:45PM. I could have happily stayed longer, but the tea and chocolate place that we had heard so much about, closed at 6:00PM. Tony and Laurie went off on their own and Cindy, Jacinda and I hung out together. We stayed away from the pool that had 90 degrees Celsius water, since we would be burned and decided to try out the cold and hot pools. We then decided it was time to get dried off and head back, so we recrossed the little bridge and changed back into our jeans. Then Carlos drove us back to Copan.

We all, including Carlos and his friend, went to the tea and coffee house and ordered various drinks, including the chocolate drink, which Carlos recommended. It was served in a gourd, which was nice, and we sat on the open porch to watch the sunset. They also brought us samples of tea that aclually tasted a lot like chai. They told us later that it had allspice in it. It was packed with gringos. Carlos then drove us into the city center where we asked about the best place for pupusas. We got them to go and while we waited, we did a little shopping. We then went back to the hotel, fixed ourselves some cocktails and ate our pupusas. Tony, Laurie and Cindy played a little Canasta and I went to my room to take a shower and pack. We would be up early in the morning to catch our bus back to El Progreso.

Honduras, Day 9, Sunday

March 25, 2018

We had asked the hotel about what to do in Guatemala and she arranged for a driver for us. The only problem was that we had to leave by 7:00AM. He had 8 other people that he would be taking into Guatemala and he would pick us up after them. The restaurant wouldn’t open until 7:00, but they said they would open at 6:30AM just for us. We stayed up with Tony and Laurie until late, drinking cuba libres and margaritas and learning to play canasta. I think I won twice. We woke up early and did have breakfast. It was a little confusing about the coffee because we asked for Americano coffee and got espresso. I cannot drink espresso first thing in the morning, so we asked for a larger cup and some milk. They told us THAT was espresso.

In any event Enrique arrived early and we climbed in the van in the front seat. I had to sit in the middle, which was sort of like a jump seat. We had to go through immigration at the border, which meant exiting Honduras and entering Guatemala, which meant 2 lines. Fortunately, the lines were not long, but we realized later, we were the only ones that had to go through immigration. The stamps were very colorful in our passports.

Once we arrived in Guatemala, we realized we didn’t have any Guatemalan money, so we stopped at an ATM and got some Quetzals. We dropped off the other people at the bus station in Chiquimala and Enrique took us shopping in the flea market, which was actually an amazing experience. We ate slices of pineapple and bought a plastic shopping basket (both of us). Then we went to another market and bought an article of clothing that I had forgotten to bring duplicates with me. Shopping for that was very interesting, since Enrique was a part of the search.

We stopped at a grocery store to do some shopping, mainly for limes, but also for a cold beer. We popped them open in the van on the way back to Honduras. We also stopped at a hot springs somewhere between Chiquimala and El Brasilar called Mama Brenda. It was right by the Copan River and the springs were definitely hot. They also had beautiful pools and some interesting yard art. It would be wonderful to come there at night, but it was really too hot for the very warm day. Since we had made a stop and taken so many pictures, we bought another beer from them, a Guatemalan beer called Brahva. I liked the beer we bought at the grocery store called Gallo better, but it was not bad.

Tony and Laurie had gone to the Copan Ruins with a guide (Cindy and I had been 5 years ago), so we wanted to get in touch with them to let them know we were on our way. We were to meet at 1:00PM at the hotel (Yat Balam), but we thought we might be late. As it turned out, we had to go through immigration again and that took one hour this time, so we were late. They had been waiting at Cafe San Rafael, which I highly recommend, so Cindy and I split a sandwich, which was gracious plenty and then we tried some of their coffee. I had the coffee with cardamon flavoring, which was excellent. They had various coffees that had chocolate in them and then a regular coffee with a different filtration system. It was delicious. We have a reservation at Hacienda San Lucas, so that we can watch the sunset, at 7:00, but we will leave at 5:15PM to get there for the sunset. We were told to have a glass of wine and watch the sunset from there. We shall see.

Yes, it was as wonderful as everyone said. When we arrived about 5:30PM, we watched a woman hand grind corn, thinking it might be for tortillas. Then, it took us a few minutes to get our wine and mixed drinks. But when we did, we walked down the front lawn to get to the chairs to watch the sunset. There were just enough clouds to make it perfect and the lights of Copan after the sunset were like stars in the sky. We met an archeologist from Guatemala City, the owner of the chocolate and tea house in Copan, someone who worked in the bird sanctuary and some others. They were very friendly. Then we went up to the main house to have dinner. They served us a typical Mayan dinner with corn soup, which probably started with the ground up corn we had seen. We then had some chicken to die for served in a corn husk, some carrots, picked vegetables and rice. We t bought it might be the best meal we had during our vacation. We spoke with the owner who told us about the history of the plantation and the coffee and tobacco that had been and still was planted in the valley. He is a soil conservationist, so he was planting cedar trees that would be harvested in 25 years, but the soil was too spent to plant much else. He was kind enough to give us a ride back to town in his Kia truck, which took about 10-15 minutes. He was exceptionally nice and when we come back to Copan, we will eat there again. All in all — a wonderful day in paradise. Tomorrow, though, we have some fun plans.

Yes, it was as wonderful as everyone said. When we arrived about 5:30PM, we watched a woman hand grind corn, thinking it might be for tortillas. Then, it took us a few minutes to get our wine and mixed drinks. But when we did, we walked down the front lawn to get to the chairs to watch the sunset. There were just enough clouds to make it perfect and the lights of Copan after the sunset were like stars in the sky. We met an archeologist from Guatemala City, the owner of the chocolate and tea house in Copan, someone who worked in the bird sanctuary and some others. They were very friendly. Then we went up to the main house to have dinner. They served us a typical Mayan dinner with corn soup, which probably started with the ground up corn we had seen. We then had some chicken to die for served in a corn husk, some carrots, picked vegetables and rice. We t bought it might be the best meal we had during our vacation. We spoke with the owner who told us about the history of the plantation and the coffee and tobacco that had been and still was planted in the valley. He is a soil conservationist, so he was planting cedar trees that would be harvested in 25 years, but the soil was too spent to plant much else. He was kind enough to give us a ride back to town in his Kia truck, which took about 10-15 minutes. He was exceptionally nice and when we come back to Copan, we will eat there again. All in all — a wonderful day in paradise. Tomorrow, though, we have some fun plans.

Honduras, Day 7, Friday

March 23, 2018

This morning we were to make the long drive to El Progresso to spend the night and leave on our extended trip. The rest of the group were to leave from El Progresso to catch the plan. We started out very early in the morning and made a couple of bathroom stops, which is always interesting, and then arrived at a hotel in La Ceiba, which was right on the beach. It was absolutely beautiful and the lunch was delicious. They had a beautiful pool, which would have been inviting, it the cool breeze was enough for us. We had some beer and blue margaritas (at least some of us did). Sadly, we left and got back on the bus, again with a couple of bathroom stops and got to El Progresso 9 hours later, bone tired. Cindy and I would again room together, so we went to the store for a couple of beers. Strangely, I am not much of a beer drinker normally, it this seems to be the safest thing to drink. We had a very good dinner, then went downstairs to visit some more with a slimmer crowd of our closest friends. We retired to our rooms to do some final packing. I would be taking a backpack on our trip, so I wanted to hone it down a little. The hotel agreed to keep our bags while we were gone.

Honduras, Day 6, Thursday

March 22, 2018

This morning, again, it seems everyone went in different directions. A large group went to the village that was the furthest away. That village seemed to have the most workers and we went to the village that we worked in. The name of the village sounds something like Conquistador. They planted 30 fruit trees and had a fiesta with the villagers. Another group went to LaVenta and they had a fiesta as well.

My group went to La Jagua and we put together the water filters and delivered them to the houses that were the closest to the school. I was able to deliver to an elderly lady that kept her home as neat as a pen. Then Ralph and I were able to deliver a water filtration system to the lady that we built the latrine for. I think her name was Sandra. She had baked some yeast rolls in her outdoor oven and gave us each one. As we were leaving the village, she slipped another one to me inside a napkin. I will eat it tonight.

At her house we were able to see that the septic tank was nearly finished as far as the blocks were concerned. It did not have a top, which would be next and then a toilet with a pipe out the back would be placed inside another building and the pipe would lead to the septic tank. This building also had a shower. In order to flush the toilet, you have to add water to the bowl. There is no tank behind the bowl and the pipe fits at the back of the bowl. When you add water, it flushes automatically. It took me a couple of years to figure out this system, since we rarely used these toilets ourselves. I figured out several years ago when we stopped at a little store along the road when Cindy and I went on our 3 day road trip in Honduras. In any event, we then gathered together and drank some Gatorade and ate some chips.

Then it was time to say our goodbyes and leave. We traveled back to the ranch and took a short break to regroup before we went to the school. We drove back to Initituto de Esperanza for an assembly. There were several speeches and the Bob and Susan Hope award was made to the two students (girl and boy), who most exemplified what a good student should be. The students sang their national anthem, then we sang ours. Then two students sang solos — one in English. We then dispersed to visit and share candy with the students. Afterward we went back to the ranch, had lunch, visited and packed. Tonight would be the talent show.

Talent night started with the band from the Ranch, which was very good, except that we found out the guy with the turtle shell had been kicked out of the band because he was too slow. :-(. Then we saw Byron’s video from the Mariposa Miracle, which can be found on Youtube and was very good, as usual. Then talent night began. It was probably the best talent we have ever seen. We had some great singing from several and some jokes. The vet team did a short skit about castrating a pig with Andy as the pig. It was dressed up in a costume, too. The ending was that the owner never wanted him castrated. They also gave out the golden testicle award to Patrick Mannelly, who really didn’t know what to say for the first time that week. David did some jokes and sang a song called “I don’t look good naked anymore” that had several stanzas. It was his best yet. Elyse told stories about her work as an EMS and took questions. All in all, it was a very good night. We went back to our dorms and packed for an early morning. Our bags had to be outside our room by 5:15.