Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Traveling Adventures

Once a year I usually return to the States to visit family, replenish goods that I cannot get in Honduras or, just to get away for a while. The trips are always rather involved as nothing is done in a Third-World country with much ease.

I made an early return to the states this year towards the end of March. Originally my husband and I had planned on visiting a friend off the coast of Washington State in the U.S. Rather, I will plan a trip and when all arrangements are made I will then advise my husband that a trip has been scheduled! He doesn't take part in planning trips as he usually does not want to leave the island. Anyway, my son decided to take a new job with a sub-contractor as a mechanic servicing military vehicles. While this was a good move up for him (more money and travel to foreign countries), his final destination is not what I had in mind for his relocation. He had signed up for a year to go to Iraq with this company and work on a military base there! Needless to say, I felt he would need much help in moving out of his apartment, setting up his finances for bill paying and having access to money, along with just getting all his ducks in a row! It was a good thing I did go to help as the two weeks I was there was nothing but a lot of work and a lot of time spent getting him ready.

Anyway, this year I thought I would give Spirit Airlines a try. I had grown tired of Taca and American Airlines and their "haughty" attitudes ever since 9/11. It seemed that whenever I traveled on these airlines the attitude was "You are lucky we let you fly with us and if you want a smile or friendly service - that is not going to happen!" The only downside I could see with Spirit were the hours of travel as they leave the departure city late, late, late in the evening.

Either way, I booked the flight and on the date of departure arose at 6:30 a.m. to get ready to start my trip.

I left Guanaja on the 10:30 a.m. flight (arrived at the airport at 9:45 a.m. as instructed). We now have 2 and 1/3rd terminals on Guanaja. The first one is a little Casetta which has been the mainstay for years. '

The second is a building that someone decided we needed as the first one had no bathroom facilities. It was built but never really functional. The needed bathrooms never worked, the electric power was never hooked up, the building had small windows and was extremely hot inside, there was only one door in and out and, basically, it was never used except to store building materials for the next terminal which "someone" felt we needed!

The third building was started a few years ago by some individuals but never really got off the ground. After sitting for a couple of years, construction has resumed and once again there is activity indicating that something will be done - but we are not holding our breath on this one. Never really understood why the government (or whoever is handling this project) felt we needed a big terminal as tourism is down and even if it is completed the local airline offices sell their tickets on the Cay and I cannot see them manning this building every day just to sell tickets! People go to the airport to leave, not buy tickets. They use the present original building to wait for their flight to depart and/or people to arrive. They bring their luggage and pile it on a cart to be wheeled up to the plane. We have no need for luggage checks (scanners and such) as who in the world would hijack a plane from Guanaja to the mainland? I don't know who plans on paying for electrical power to the new building, that is if it is ever connected, or who plans on maintaining the place or staffing it. Either way, it is there (part of it anyway) and we will see how far the building goes this time.

I landed in LaCeiba on time and sat in their waiting area for my next plane to San Pedro. The new airport in LaCeiba has one of the nicest views of any airport in Honduras and, as airports go, it is not built for personal comfort. I mean, who would want to spend much time on those plastic chairs not to mention that they keep the temperature in that building (especially the waiting lounge) at meat locker temperatures. I paid my airport tax, waited in the lounge with a few others and left for San Pedro on time (11:30 a.m.)

I arrived in San Pedro for my longest layover - 11 hours until I left for Fort Lauderdale! It always strikes me as rather funny when we leave the plane and go to pick up our luggage to transfer it to our next flight. I mean, the luggage belt is in a huge room with about 15 chairs on one wall. There are no luggage carts and, since there is only one belt, one does not have to be concerned about where they should go to get their luggage. The funny part is that the luggage never comes on the belt! It is wheeled into the terminal via the same door we walk into to go to this area and brought to this large room. I chuckle every time someone unfamiliar with this airport arrives as they all stand around the belt waiting for their luggage to come.

The outer room of the San Pedro airport is large and open. It is a much improved airport over the original one they used many years ago. It is continually undergoing revamping. Not the kind you see in Miami or stateside airports. No, shops come and go. Once there was a great Internet cafe but, evidently, it was not used enough and it is gone. There was a money changing booth but that disappeared. There was a cigar store that was never open and then it closed only to be replaced by another one. There was a restaurant/bar on the third floor where one could watch planes land but that too is closed. There were two waiting lounges for departing passengers; one for local flights and one for International. The local lounge is now closed and all flights go out of the former International lounge. Wendy's came in and has stayed and it is the only place to get food during the long wait.

Sitting in San Pedro for 11 hours leaves a lot to be desired, but really no matter what airport one is in, 11 hours is way tooooo long! I read, sat, did Sudoku, walked around, ate, sat, looked in the few shops, sat and just waited. Our flight departed about 12:30 a.m. and we made it to Fort Lauderdale (which it was too late to dig out the camera and take photos) at about 5:30 a.m. their time. I left there about 7:00 a.m. or so and landed in Orlando at 8:30 a.m.

Orlando is a nice airport, as airports go. I definitely hate the Miami airport as one must walk for miles to reach your gate. At least in Orlando the gates are placed with some thought and there are no big hikes to get to the departure gate. I proceeded to get my luggage and rent a car to drive to Tampa where my son lived. All in all I was awake two full days on this leg of my travel.

My two weeks, as I said, were busy and when my departure date arrived, I was ready to go home. I arrived at the Orlando airport at 7:00 a.m. for my 8:45 departure. BUT I had failed to note that my flight left at 8:45 P.M. NOT 8:45 A.M.! My reaction to this fact was not a happy one as I did not look forward to sitting in this airport (even though it appeared to be comfortable) for the whole day. The agent at the check-in allowed me to use their phone (I did not have a functional cell phone for the states with me) and I called my step-daughter simply to tell her what an idiot I was. She immediately said she would have my son drive her to work and then come pick me up at the airport. Boy, was that a relief.

I returned to the airport at 6:30 p.m. and the flight departed about 20 minutes earlier than anticipated. Hooray! However, upon arriving in Ft. Lauderdale we were advised that the plane we would be taking to Honduras was flying in from New Jersey and, due to weather, it was 1 hour and 45 minutes late! Boo!

I finally arrived in San Pedro at 1:15 a.m. and got to my hotel about 2:00 and to bed about 3 a.m. and maybe slept for 3 hours! I had things to do in San Pedro the next day and had a scheduled flight to leave for LaCeiba at 2:00 p.m. I had called my husband the morning of my departure asking him to make my reservation from San Pedro to LaCeiba (where we would meet) as the counters were closed when I came in and I was not in the vicinity of a ticket office to make the reservation. I arrived at the airport only to be told that their flight was full and there were no other flights on Sosa that day. However, there was a flight arriving from the states and many times people would come to book with them to go on to other cities. If this happened and they got at least 6 people, I could get a plane out! At the moment there were 2 people on the list.

I wanted to check with Islena Airlines regarding a flight but their people would not arrive at the counter until 2 p.m. and there was no way I could tell if they were full. The thought of going back into town and getting a hotel was not high on my list. So, I waited and hooray - Sosa got 6 more people and we had the go ahead. Now, they did not add another plane as one may have thought, they simply got a bigger one to take the original passengers plus the 6 more!

So, I got to LaCeiba, spent a couple days there and arrived back on the island on a Saturday announcing to my husband that after visiting the doctor in LaCeiba I had to turn around on Tuesday and fly back to San Pedro for some tests! Not what I wanted to do, but necessary.

Well, as fate would have it (and maybe it was a little reward from the travel Gods), I called my hotel in San Pedro only to discover there is a convention in the city this week and there are no rooms available! Wahoo - I can stay home - only to leave next week!

After all of this, I must say that in spite of the late hours of the scheduled Spirit Airline flight, the stewards/stewardesses were all helpful and very friendly and my flight, albeit late in the evening, was a much more pleasant experience than I have had on the past on American! But, I don't think I'll be traveling to the states again for quite a while.


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  2. When I was looking for flights down, I found one round trip flight for $118/person. I was so excited - that is until I realized the flight left Dullas, then you changed planes in Texas, Puerto Rico, Panama, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Florida, Chicago, El Salvador, then to Honduras. And then it would have been a 6ish hour bus trip since I would have landed in SPS. If I was traveling by myself maybe. With 7 children, that was so not happening. Its bad enough that I have to make 2 plane changes by myself with them all, LOL. But at least I save myself the 6 hour bus ride from SPS to Tocoa. Now its just an hour car trip from La Ceiba. (and the tickets were only $324. Love that)

  3. Felicidades por tu blog. Te recomiendo el mío, titulado El Chischil (http://el-chischil.blogspot.com). Espero que también te guste. Un saludo. JL.-

  4. Well Sharon, I'm glad you had a good, safe trip. But sheesh, what a hassle! It's pitiful. Just goes to show, Guanaja will never develop as a tourist destination. As the old joke goes, you can't get there from here!

    Makes you either: a) never want to leave, or; b) never want to go back.

  5. Sharon,

    First, the comment above from from Jojosho is one of those malicious links that I wrote about. Delete it!

    Your trips sound even more harrowing than when you told me in person. Yikes! You must have been exhausted going in both directions.

    What Bob says is true. Travel to and from Honduras can be so difficult and I'm sure has an effect on tourism. I read once long ago that Taca did the worst damage the tourism industry in Honduras -- but then that is setting aside what Honduras does to itself. ;-)

    Glad you made it home safely. It was nice meeting you in La Ceiba.