Overnight we cruised from Cozumel to Trujillo, Honduras, arriving there around 10am. The wind was up a bit, so there was some gentle rocking and rolling overnight, but nothing to be concerned about—sufficient to gently rock you to sleep.
We anchored offshore at Trujillo. This place has only been hosting cruise ships for the past six months (since October 2014), so there’s no pier for ships to dock at, and not a lot of tourist infrastructure beyond the port. We were tendered to shore on our lifeboats, and then, as we were on a ship-based shore excursion, we were directed to our tour bus for our trip to Campo del Mar Nature Park, which has only been open a few months too. The bus ride was over some very basic roads.
At the nature park (which is very well manicured), we went on a 2+ hour guided walking tour of the main tropical food plants (jackfruit, cashews, mangos, papaya, bananas and plantains, pineapple, and many more) and the ‘sort of’ botanic gardens. After that, we saw the cages where they keep some rescued animals and birds. Our guide was at pains to emphasise that these cages were NOT a zoo, but were only a place to keep rescued animals until they could be released into the wild (if that was possible—some animals were rescued from private situations and would never survive in the wild). They had some different varieties of monkeys (white-faced capuchins, howlers, and spider monkeys), some other mammals (coati, 2-toed sloths [unable to be seen]), and some tropical parrots, including the scarlet macaws that are native to Honduras and are the country’s bird. The macaws, especially, were just beautiful. Almost none of the plants were currently in season, and some of the newer and smaller plants were looking a bit straggly. Our guide was very informative and spoke very good English. The headsets he gave us to use to listen to him speak were brilliant as we could wander off a bit and still hear every word he said to the group. They sure saved him shouting, and/or gathering together 50 or so people to listen at once.
After we were dropped back at the pier, many people went back to the ship, but we stayed and grabbed a taxi to take us to the central market square. Well, that was an exercise in communication. Fortunately, Sue speaks a little Spanish, and the driver spoke a little English, so we were able to communicate to a degree. We saw plenty of the back streets, and went past the market three times before he stopped and we got out to check out the wares of the local artisans. I never felt in any danger, but I was concerned that we seemed to be going around in circles because of the communication issues.
The back streets of the town showed how ill-prepared the town is for cruise ship tourism. Roads are in a bad state of disrepair (big holes in the middle of some roads; chassis-twisting lumps and bumps in many others; detours; etc.), and there are few paved roads in this town of some 50,000 people. Electricity supplies look very basic, and there are few hotels and restaurants. Taxis are plentiful near the port, but the state of the vehicles leaves a lot to be desired. English—the language of much tourism—is not spoken by many people. In many ways this is a third-world country trying hard to make a go of it with cruise ship passenger dollars.
No doubt the nature of this town will change dramatically over the next 12 months or so with the influx of tourism. This sort of change is a double-edged sword—those in the tourism industry will prosper, while those outside it will battle to make minimum wage (currently about US$60 a week, with the average wage about US$100 per week, according to our guide). Hotels and restaurants will pop up, bringing with them western values and goods and services. Homes along narrow roads may well be resumed to make way for wider, 2-lane paved roads, with subsequent displacement of those who live in those homes. The infrastructure will try to keep up with the demands made on it (roads, water supply, waste disposal, electricity, telecommunications, etc.), and likely have problems doing so. People who have livestock (we saw pigs, goats, sheep, horses, and cattle) roaming in their yards may well be asked to keep the livestock away from the front of the house if it is on a tourist route.
And after all this money is spent on infrastructure, if the cruise ships decide not to come here any more, it will all be for nothing. Trujillo is not on the main tourist map. According to our guide, it’s three hours to the nearest airport that services other parts of the Caribbean and eight hours to the nearest airport that takes people to international destinations. (I assume those times are based on how long it takes to drive, and, based on our experience of the local roads, a short journey by western standards [e.g. 30 minutes] may well take three hours in this part of Honduras.)
I was cognisant that just being tourists here, gawking into people’s homes and yards from the air-conditioned comfort of a tour bus and waving at the children waving to us, we are contributing to the problem—and possibly the solution too. Every tourist dollar spent in the local community hopefully goes back into that community and ultimately does good for the people who live there. But I’m not so naïve to think that that is the case, or will always be the case even if it is now.
Back to the cruise…
Once back on board ship, we relaxed for a bit, had our afternoon canapes on the balcony of our stateroom while watching the Trujillo town start to light up for the evening, then had dinner for the first time in the Grand Dining Room. And very grand it is too! Full-on service and superb food (the sweet barbecued pork chop I had was the second best pork chop I’ve ever had in my life!). The surroundings were opulent and sumptuous, as was the food. Just brilliant.
We had no room for dessert!
We reset the clocks again tonight (this is the third clock reset we’ve had in as many days, with another one to come at least—some places are on daylight saving time and some aren’t, and there’s at least one time zone change between the places we’re visiting.
More photos from today: