Roatan 2000: September 17
Get off the Island
On Sunday we woke up at 5am (sadly enough, that damn rooster woke up about 4am) to get ready to return the car to Marco and get on our way home. Shower, quick pack of the rest of our goods and we were out the door just about sunrise, heading into West End.
Turns out Roatan Rentals was open, Marco seemed to have a bigger staff than when we rented the car in the first place. An assistant took our travelers cheques, and someone else got our stuff in the small bus (well, ok, minivan) that was going to take us to the airport. Turns out Marco was going fishing that day and had delegated his tourist duties.
Quick drive to the airport since there wasn't much traffic up and moving yet, and we were all set. Or so we though.
I walked up to the Groupo Taca counter, to the exact same terminal we'd confirmed at yesterday. "No, no" the lady behind the counter starts "you have a SOSA ticket." And began waving us frantically away. I protested that we'd confirmed with one of her people yesterday but she didn't want to hear it, she kept insisting I not even talk to her since we held SOSA tickets. I finally got out of her that the SOSA people didn't even man their counter until 7am, the time the tickets said we should be on the plane and leaving. I also got it out of her that Taca didn't have a 7am flight either, so I'm not sure why the woman told us we were confirmed for 7am the day before.
Waiting, waiting, waiting till 7am. Still no SOSA people. Finally a whole busload of Anthony's Key refugees come into the airport and walk right up to the SOSA counter where mysteriously the first two employees appeared. Great, after waiting more than an hour now we were the 20th people in line or so. When I finally wade through the mass and get some face time I hand my ticket across the counter, they scan their handwritten list of passengers and inform me that we are not on the list.
They then asked me when I confirmed. I told them I tried the day before but they waved me off and told me to go talk to Taca, and that Taca had our reservation but wouldn't talk to me because I held a SOSA ticket. After their repeated insistence that if I had a reservation with Taca I should talk to them, and my growing anger at being pushed around yet again, one person finally walked over to the Taca counter with me. After explaining to the Taca employee (someone who looked about 15 years old and never even looked up), I was informed that I'd "have to pay the difference". "What difference???" I asked, doing my best to stay calm. "The difference between the SOSA and the Taca flights". "Fine, how much" (thinking if I could just get off the island I could cancel the credit card or something drastic). 85 Lempira each. All told about $11. "Fine, will you take my travelers cheque?". "No". That's it, just no. No further answer, no attempt to work with me, nothing. The SOSA employee finally agreed to cash my $20 travelers cheque for me and help me out. I paid, we got our boarding passes, then went to see about our Departure Tax.
You'd think on an island where just about everyone (tourists and locals alike) speak English, sitting at a booth that says "Information" in English first, then in Spanish, that the person behind the counter would at least pretend to be bilingual. No such luck on this island. She finally managed to get our boarding passes, then pronounced the verdict: "10 Lempira". Ok, so this wasn't where I paid the $25US departure tax, this was apparantly where I pay the "you moron, don't tell anyone you're leaving the island" tax. I handed her exact change, grabbed two reciepts (for what, I still don't know), and Kate and I shuffled through the metal detector and into the "International Departures" waiting area. Through the glass doors at one side into the "Domestic Departure" waiting area.
At least the flight to San Pedro Sula was non-stop this time, and aboard a much bigger plane (this one had more than one engine, and something resembling overhead compartments above the seats!)
Get out of Honduras
Arriving in San Pedro Sula we headed down the stairs, across the tarmac, and into the airport where it turns out we didn't have to go back outside and come in again, the walkway actually spat us out right near the Continental ticketing area. Walking up we were greeted by a large man with exceptionally good English who announced that now was the time to pay our departure tax, which, just to make it easy on us, could be paid at a booth build directly into the line we were being ushered to. We paid, got our boarding passes, then made a break for the Wendy's and the bathrooms. Yes, you heard me right, those great American burgers, right there in the airport! Woo hoo, we were set! Except the menu was entirely in Spanish and the prices were of course all in Lempira. At least this was a chance to get rid of the rest of the Lemps I had recieved from the SOSA counter (they only had $10US, so they were forced to give me the difference in Lemps). Ordering wasn't nearly as difficult as you might think (I mean how hard is it to figure out that a conquesoburgerusa was a cheeseburger?) and we sat down for the cheapest meal we'd had yet. Up the ramp, into the International Departures waiting area, then 2+ hours of sitting waiting for our plane. Finally they call it and we head out. One slightly annoying thing, a plane full of people, flying Continental to Houston. Odds are good this is mostly tourists on their way home. You think they might have announced the flight in both Spanish and English? That's right, not a chance.
Get through Customs
The flight was boring (as most are), with Kate napping while I read. We land in Houston and prepare for our arrival back into our own country. Then we stop. Not because we wanted to, but because of the massive line of people stopped in front of us while they have two police officers check to see that people filled out their little customs papers before even getting near customs. Two cops to filter through what must have been 5 planes worth of passengers emptying the planes all at once. We finally get through them and are moved into the customs area where we stand in a line that proves what we just went through was just a bit of preparation for what we have to wait in now. Finally through that, then race off to find our bags. They finally come down (oh, did I mention we're fighting the clock to make our connection into Denver?) and we sprint down the airport to... ANOTHER DAMN LINE FOR CUSTOMS. Fortunately their just double checking the little paper and making those who made the mistake of answering "Yes" to any of the boxes go open their suitcases for the world to see. Then into yet another line to get our bags back on a Continental conveyor belt for our plane. Still fighting the clock we race out of Concourse D, down to Concourse C (instead of waiting for that slow train), and up to the gate where we find out that our plane hasn't even landed yet, so just slow down there.
Another boring flight back to Denver, off the plane, into Nathan's car (which he parked in the "immediate loading and unloading area" for an hour and a half and somehow didn't get a ticket. Back home to the bliss of the unpacking and getting back into the daily routine...
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