Thursday, June 9, 2011

Pulapanzak, This is Where Our Luck Changes

While planning our trip to Honduras Blake asked if I wanted to visit the biggest waterfall in the country. To be honest I was not too excited about it. I had seen many waterfalls, and played in the cold water. Beautiful?
Yes, but I did not want to go out of our way just to see a waterfall. 
But we went anyway. 
It was a perfect day for us to go, it was a little over cast so we did not have to worry about the sun finishing off out skin. When we got there we walked down the little path just enjoying the view and waiting for a tour guide to take us closer. I had no idea why we needed a tour guide, but I soon found out.

I have news for you, Pulapanzak is 100% different then any other waterfall I have ever visited in the Untied States. 

The water is warm, like bath water. There were little pools all over just perfect to swim in.
 After going as far as I thought you could go, the guide told me to take his hand... okay, sure Honduran man I will follow you into the rushing water
While walking even closer it felt like he was leading us straight into the falls. Blake compared it to standing outside during a hurricane (I can only guess the two are similar). As we walked there were times when we could not see anything for a moment because of the water splashing in our faces. We were climbing, and jumping from rock to rock, feeling our way across while trying not to take a wrong step, in fare of finding ourselves under the gallons of water spilling 130 feet down, just waiting to crush us. The guide was taking us under and through little tunnels behind the picture perfect scene that I had no idea existed because of water covering the entrance.
It was such and adrenalin rush!
I loved every minute of being under the fresh warm water, cleaning my body from all the sweet and filth of the day. The best shower I could have asked for.
We played in the falls to our hearts content.
 After, we did not really know where we were going to spend the night. We had read that you could camp on the same property as the waterfall, maybe just hang some hammocks and sleep there.  But that did not work out. They wanted $75 to stay in nice little cabins with AC... sorry not in our budget. So we took a few more pictures and were on our way back to San Pedro Sula.
This whole trip we had been taking bus after bus. Now busses in Honduras are not your public transportation you see here in the States. They can be any shape or size, from a charter bus, school bus, large van, or small van and more. 

These are privately owned vehicles, normally operated by the driver and a helper. The helper takes your money, finds a place for your stuff, and helps you on/off the bus. I enjoyed taking all the buses. As you are riding from city to city there are many vendors egger to sell you food and drinks along the way. 
Sugar Cane Juice 
Every time we stopped they were selling donuts, who would have thought?
Tajadas (fried plantains that people eat as chips, I LOVE THEM!)
Sliced Mango
We had been pretty lucky this whole trip, making it everywhere we needed to be, at the time we needed to be there. 
But here is when our luck started to change
It was 5:00pm by the time we were leaving Pulapanzak. We had to run to catch the last bus of the day leaving to San Pedro Sula (we ran with our packs right on our sun burnt shoulders). We had given all but 20 limps (about 1 dollar) to our tour guide, so we had to go quickly and take a taxi to the nearest ATM so we would have the money to pay for the bus. When we got to the ATM the power was out. That means the ATM was down and we had to give all we had to the taxi driver, leaving us with NO MONEY. Now all we could do was sit, and hope that we could convince the bus driver and helper to let us on the bus, with the promise that we would pay him once we got to San Pedro. 

I was so relieved when the helper agreed. So we climbed in the back of this old school bus literally the back emergency exit door and were on our way. This was not like any bus we had taken in Honduras. Everyone on the bus looked like labor men going home from work. Blake and I could not sit next to each other because it was so packed. So we just grabbed the first seats we saw. Sitting in the back, facing row after row of dark haired men, while the bumpy ride seamed to bounce ever so appropriately with the beat of the Spanish music.
Blake could not help but slip the camera out of my side pocket and take a short clip of the scene. I was a little apprehensive at this, not wanting to get robbed for our camera. But he promised that he did it sneakily and no one saw him.

After an hour the bus seemed to clear a little and a set opened near the front for Blake and I to set together. I told Blake to come (I was speaking in Portuguese because we did not want to speak very much English for safety reasons), but he motioned that he wanted to stay near our packs. The men sitting around him kind of snickered as if we were being a little overly cautious. But we stayed in our original seats in silence. As the day turned to dusk, two men, one that was sitting directly behind Blake and the other sitting to his left got up to leave. Finally we would be able to sit together. As I began to take the now vacant seat, I saw that one of the men had left his bag of delicious looking mangos. We called his attention and he turned back with uneasiness, sorry, mr I just wanted to returned your mangos. He took them from me and I was glad to see him go. But as he and his friend got to the front of the bus they both pulled out pistols and started screaming.

This is where you stop reading if you don't want to hear about violence.

Guns were waving and everything seemed to be happening is slow motion as we saw one robber kick the helper in the chest for all the money they had made that night. While the other robber “pistol whipped” (Blake told me that is what you call hitting someone in the head with the back of the gun) the driver to get all the money hidden away from the whole day. The robber hit the man several time, one time so hard the gun dropped to the floor and slid down the isle of the bus a little. No one moved because his partner was still armed.

While all this was happening Blake, two other men and me were still in the very back, thank goodness. Once they pulled out guns, my first thought was to jump out the emergency exit. One guy was already ahead of me, but I was right behind him... if it would have opened. But unlike you practice in elementary school this is no longer an emergency exit. They rig it up so you cannot get out the back door, in fear that people would leave without paying. The next thing that came to mind was MY CAMERA! Of course they saw when Blake took the short clip of the bus! I did not care if they took the thing, I just did not want the memory card to be taken with all the picture of our trip thus far. Maybe they would have mercy on me... maybe if I gave them the camera they would let me keep the memory card because I mean I was nice and returned the mangos... RIGHT?!
I do not know why I was more worried about the pictures then I was for my own life at this point.

I tried to open the side of the camera to get the card, while looking straight ahead of me trying not to look like I was doing anything with my hands. But in the moment my brain could not remember where or how to remove the memory card. In the end I broke the little latch that holds the batty and could not find the memory card. So I turn to Blake for help, and caught him stuffing his pants with all the important cards he had in his wallet. I tossed him the camera (trying not to bring any attention to myself) as I thought of anything vital we needed to get out of our packs. Nothing came to mind, even though our passports where still in there. So all I could do now was sit and wait.

We had heard of things like this happening, after taking all the money from the driver and helper they come and take money and jewelry from everyone else on the bus. And of course they were going to come back to get the two American tourist. I could only imagine what they would do to Blake; I mean do you think they were going to believe that we travel with NO MONEY!!!

After they had taken all the money from the front, one of them turned down the isle... here we go I thought. But something spooked them, maybe the rushing cars and busses that still passed the busy city street, maybe the sun still peaking through the mountain, or maybe we were just blessed. But the two ran off the bus and down a small farm path never to be seen again.

Once they were gone the bus took off like a race car given the green light. We flew till we got to the bus terminal no less the ten minutes down the street. Feeling so bad for the driver and helper for their negative income for that day. We payed them a little more then we needed to for our passage.
Ohh yeah and in the clip of the bus that Blake took he accually got a short clip of the robber sitting next to him.

Now don't let this scary you from traveling to Central America. Blake lived there for 2 years and never got robbed. I just don't recommend traveling far after 5pm.

Before the bus was robbed our plan was to get to San Perdro and catch the last bus going to Copan Ruins and find a place to stay there. But now the sun was down and we did not want to take another bus late at night. So Blake called a family he knew that lived close to the Bus terminal. In the hopes that we could take a taxi and crash on their floor.

The Family Peña.
Blake on his mission in the Familia Peña's house 
Let me just tell you how wonderful of a family this is. I have never felt so much love from a stranger in my whole life. Blake calls them and with in 15 minutes they are at the terminal to pick us up. This family does not own a car so they called their Grandpa to help them come get us. When we got to their house in Chamelecon they fixed us dinner. One of the daughters baught us more minutes for our cell phone, without even asking. The wonderful family lives in a two bedroom house so all we wanted was to sleep on the floor with the pillows and balncets we brought. They all insisted that we take a whole room to ourselves. In the morning they made us breakfast, and even called a friend to take us back to the bus terminal so we did not have to take a taxi or bus. 
Mama Peña told us over and over again how she was sorry for her humble home. She said it was a humble home but one full of love. She was right about the love part. This family is full of love for family, friends, and for the Lord. All I know is that I want to be more like Mama Peña. I want my home to be one of love. I want to share all I have will others. What better way to live then humble and full of love?
We will always remember and love this wonderful family.


  1. Oh my!!! What an experience to be on the bus getting robbed! I can't imagine! Wow, how scary. Glad you guys are okay! Nick and I were hanging on pins and needles as we read what you posted.

  2. Blake and Annalee, your blog is fantastic. The pictures are beautiful and the storytelling is fun and interesting. Thanks for putting so much time into this. Your children and grandchildren are going to love reading your life story. Excellent.

  3. Sissy. This story is wonderful. I love the waterfall, it looks like such a cool experience! I'm SO glad Blake convinced you to go!

    As for the bus incident, I cried through the whole thing. I hate that story, it breaks my heart. Ugh. I mean, it's a good one, something to tell the grandkids one day..but. Ok. I'm shutting up now.

  4. This was a fantastic blog. I hung on every word. So glad that it all turned out okay. You should make a movie because the story and pictures are great. Love, Uncle Bobby and Aunt Charlotte

  5. nancy and I both definitely remember you! And we're happy you found our blog :) We'll follow you too! Haha isn't it weird we graduate so soon?? :)

  6. wow i love my country san pedro is where im from and i love it!!!

  7. Oh my GOSH!! That is frightening! I took busses all over South America for my service trip abroad and thankfully never had anything like this happen. Wowww