August 26, 2006

Trip to Trujillo

Grab your sunscreen because we are going on a trip to Trujillo today! These pictures are from a trip El Jefe and I made three years ago and another trip I made in 2000 before moving here to Honduras. Trujillo (pronounced true-he'-yo) is one of the four largest towns (including Puerto Cortés, Tela, and La Ceiba) on the narrow, flat plain north coast of Honduras. Trujillo is a sleepy, little coastal town of about 30,000 people, a nice place for a quiet get-away.

Christopher Columbus arrived in Trujillo Bay in 1502 during his last trip to the Americas. The town of Trujillo was founded in 1525 by the Spaniard Juan de Medina but it wasn't colonized by the Spanish until some 20 years later. The Fortaleza Santa Bárbara was built in 1590 in a largely unsuccessful Spanish effort to defend the colony against British, French, and Dutch pirates.

Trujillo was sacked and burned by pirates and totally abandoned on several occasions leaving virtually no trace of its Spanish Colonial heritage except for the decrepit remains of the fort. Those cannons are 300 or 400 years old. It is amazing that they haven't completely deteriorated from the salt water and humidity. If you are into forts, Omoa has a better one. The picture at the top of this article shows that below the fort are several champas (palm-frond covered huts) housing restaurants and bars on the beach.

In the early 1900's, North American companies Standard Fruit (Dole) and United Fruit (Chiquita) both acquired lands in the area. Dole still owns much of the land around Trujillo today; in fact, Dole controls much of the land in the entire north coast. The economy of Trujillo today is still largely dependent upon the banana industry, as well as the (mostly failing) tourist industry and the activity of the nearby port, Puerto Castilla, where Dole still ships most of its produce to the U.S. and Europe.

Traveling to Trujillo from La Ceiba means a four hour hot, dusty bus ride or a 45 minute picturesque but somewhat scary plane ride along the coast. We flew there and took a bus back to see some of the countryside. The plane ride was definitely better. Interestingly, our direct flight to Trujillo was sidetracked to include a stop on the Honduran tropical island of Guanaja to drop off some passengers.

Trujillo is a nice little town for a laid-back, relaxing vacation. Not much to do there except lay on the beach and drink piña coladas while you decide where you will eat dinner that night. Guided boat tours of the Guaymoreto Wildlife Refuge lagoon provide an opportunity to view birds, monkeys, alligators, and other wildlife, if you are lucky.

This and the next picture were taken from the window of our first hotel room at the Villa Brinkley Hotel. We changed hotels three times and only stayed at this hotel one night. The hotel advertises itself as a "Complete Spa and Resort Hotel with a gourmet restaurant and the best view of Trujillo." The view of the bay was pretty but the hotel was so depressing. Dark and dusty, I think it was empty except for us. We went to the hotel restaurant for dinner and we waited so long that I think the waiter must have gone into town to get the cook to come back to work.

The little house is typical of houses in small towns or the poorer areas of larger cities. They are usually one room with a curtain drawn across the middle to separate the sleeping area from the living and cooking area. It doesn't appear to have electricity or running water, like so many of the houses here in Honduras.

This is the front of the Christopher Columbus Hotel on the beach a couple of miles outside of town. That concrete in front of the hotel is the airport runway. Well, just runway would be more accurate because there is no airport. It's very convenient, though. You just climb out of the plane and walk across the runway to the hotel. No need for a taxi. ;) Pack light, though, because no one will come out of the hotel to help you with your luggage.

The Christopher Columbus hotel is the best and most expensive in Trujillo, but that isn't saying a whole lot. We have learned to never rent a hotel room in Honduras until we have looked at it and checked that the lights and air conditioning work and that it has running water in the sink and shower. Not all do! Even though this hotel was virtually empty, too, they managed to assign us a room with no lights in the bathroom and a shower that didn't work. The beach and the restaurant are nice, though.

But you can use the beach and the restaurant and stay at the La Quinta hotel (no relation to the U.S. chain) just the other side of the runway for about half the price and it's not a bad hotel either.

The La Quinta Bay Hotel advertises it's "oceanview rooms a few feet from the best beach in Honduras" and "convenient airport access." Actually, the only view of the ocean is if you exit the hotel because the rooms all face east or west and the ocean is to the north. It does have convenient 'airport' access as you have to cross the runway to get to the beach. The service was actually much friendlier at the La Quinta and they give away free condoms. Sorry, I don't know why, but they have a bowl of them on the reception desk, just like some hotels have bowls of candies for the guests. (And no, it's not that kind of hotel!)

Every town of any size has a Parque Central (Central Park) located on the main street. The park is jam packed with people on Saturdays. Hondurans like order, so they always put up fences around their parks and concrete curbs around the sidewalks within so that you know where you are allowed to walk and where you aren't. There are some of these 'cobblestone' streets in parts of La Ceiba, too.

The Catholic church is near the central park, as they are in most Honduran towns. Trujillo was the site of the first cathedral in Honduras, but it was destroyed long ago. This one was originally built in 1832 and was remodeled 1930-1939.

Trujillo wants to be a tourist destination, but as you can see from the look of beach in town, they don't work at it very hard. The beach could be attractive with all the champas, but it really needs some sprucing up.

The last picture is sundown over the ocean. I hope you enjoyed your tropical paradise trip!

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