We are feeling alive and well here in Honduras. Gone are the rental cars, the borrowed cars, the chauffeurs, the drivers and the friends with cars. We are riding the bus! I guess we backpacked in Morocco but that seems like ages ago.

Day 2 in Honduras and the family climbs aboard the Sultana Express heading to Santa Rosa de Copán. Okay, it’s not an express but we do have seats. Sal and I climb aboard and take in a deep breath: it is so fun being in Latin America and on the bus. Buses are the BEST way to experience this region.

Sultan Express somewhere between Tegucegalpe + San Pedro, Honduras

The bus honks it’s horn, the luggage doors of the bus are closed, there is a whistle from the terminal, the luggage doors go up, a person scrambles up the stairs to the bus, the luggage doors go down, the driver revs the engine, there’s a shout from the back of the bus, the bus door is opened, a passenger(?) climbs off the bus, the door closes, the bus grinds into gear and SLOWLY ascends the hill, the door opens, bus staff after doing a head count jump off the bus, the door closes, a shout from the footpath, the door opens, an evangelical minister boards the moving bus, bible in hand and leads the bus in a full-on prayer, the prayer chant continues for 2 minutes to be followed by a 10 minute passionate sermon at full volume. As the bus reaches the city limits the preacher hops off and the bus eventually roars into full speed.

The car that DIDN'T quite fit between the Transport + the Bus!

Then there are the food sellers. At the terminal hawkers rove the side walks and bus aisle selling pizza, bread, tacos, burritos, liquados, pop, salty nuts, pretzel type bread, sweets! En route, vendors will hop aboard the bus and ride from one end of town to the other selling their food. At the end of town they will off and hop aboard a bus going in the other direction.

Our trip continues with people embarking and disembarking throughout our 9 hour journey. It was only a 300km trip but you have to understand that the terrain here is very hilly with lots of hair raising turns. Sure you go fairly fast down the hills but all traffic crawls up them. The bus also stops regularly for breaks (no toilet on the bus) and accidents (you betcha – Taurus crunched between a semi-trailer and our bus).

All aboard the Chicken Bus, Santa Rosa to Gracias, Honduras

Day 5 had us packing onto a local bus (chicken bus) from Santa Rosa to Gracias. It was amazing, as there had to be 70 people packed into a Canadian style school bus. We represented numbers 67-70 standing at the back. As well as the Jesus and Mary paraphanalia pasted on the windows, the bus was equipped with a killer stereo (speakers front and back). A flat screen TV at the front entertained us with Latin American traditional music videos. Think fantastic facial hair and matching suits. The music was really good, the videos were, well… passionate.

I write this and realize that the message may come across as sarcastic or cynical. I am neither. I LOVE traveling in Latin America on the bus. If only Canada had a service that was as convenient and economical as here. Having just completed week 1 of 14 here in Honduras, Sal and I look forward to many more miles on the road.


Rather arbitrarily, we chose to spend 3 months of our sabbatical in Honduras. Many people have asked us why. Here are the main reasons: What we are looking for is a place to learn Spanish, beaches, hiking, quiet towns, no big cities, interesting geography and history. Honduras offers great beaches and jungles, lots of national parks, Mayan ruins, reef… Another reason we chose Honduras is that I travelled here 18 years ago and loved it.

Jugo de Naranja por Desayuno

Our first impressions:

1) It is very familiar in a Latin American way. The striped shopping bags, the buses with the loud music and dust, the speaker trucks driving slowly around the city blaring something or other at top volume and enthusiasm, the refried beans, soft cheese, and slightly charred soft tortillas.

2) We are getting used to a new currency (Lempira), food, language, ice cream, transportation and accommodations. Before we came we were tired by the idea of everything changing again. Once we got here though we clicked in to travel mode and it has been exciting and interesting. We are feeling seasoned.

3) Honduras is the cheapest country we have visited yet. We can feed the whole family a full dinner for 12 CDN dollars, accommodation in nice hotel with hot water, Internet and TV is 30$ a night.

Ninja Tai Chi High Step by Empty Pool, Santa Rosa de Copán

4) The Internet is great in this country. It is everywhere. Every corner has a shop, the hotels are wireless, and it is fast and cheap. On the down side, our phones won’t work because the frequency here is 850 GH and our phones are 900-1800. Weird and too bad because mobiles really cheap here too.

We are in backpackers mode for now. Carrying everything on our backs, taking buses and following guidebooks. We are getting a feel for things; walking around, visiting cemeteries, watching soccer, drinking fruit drinks, eating street food… Soon we hope to settle in one place for 4-8 weeks and make a little home, have a routine, learn and play maybe have visitors? Anyone? Pretty cheap to fly here… let us know.

Clue: We are in Honduras.

Alec, Janine, Luc, José Cláudio and Sabrina

An Essay by: Esker Gaffney-Knox

Date: 23-03-10


In the 1960´s the Brazilian government decided to build a whole new city just to be the capital. This new city is called Brasilia. This essay tells the story of how the city came to be.

Ultra Modern City of Brasilia (photo: Brasil tourism)

A Short History

The Portuguese discovered Brazil in 1500. They looked for supplies to export and discovered brazilwood. Brazilwood was harvested for its rich red dye. By the 18th century, almost all the brazilwood was gone. The Portuguese soon realized Brazil was the perfect country for sugar production. They made sugar plantations and brought in slaves from Africa. After sugar there was a gold boom and a coffee boom.

There were different capital cities of Brazil depending on where the fortunes of the country were. For instance, when they had sugar, the capital was Salvador. When gold was coming from the state Minas Gerais to the coast and coffee was being produced in the state of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro was the capital.

The Birth of Brasilia

The government decided to change the location of the capital city because they wanted more of the population in the center of the country. The President Jusculino Kubitschek decided on architect Oscar Niemeyer, urban planner Lucio Costa and landscape architect Burle Marx to build the city of Brasilia.

They ended up building the center of the city to look like an airplane with sectors for hotels, malls, accommodation and the government. Kubitschek, Niemeyer, Costa and Marx made a dam to form an artificial lake at the front of the airplane. The government buildings are on the wings of the plane and the residential areas are at the back of the plane. The city is a world reference of urban planning.

The centre of Brasilia is shaped like an Airplane

Brasilia Today

In 2010, 50 years after Brasilia was built, the population of the city is 2,557,000 (3,599,000 in the metropolitan area). Brasilia holds the headquarters of many Brazilian companies such as the Banco do Brasil, caixa economica federal, correios and Brasil telecom. Brasilia is also the seat of all three of the brazilian governments branches. The city empties out on the weekends because everybody goes to Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo because they have better things to do there. The city has turned into the exact opposite of what it was supposed to be as is quoted from The Guardian “What was supposed to be a shiny citadel with huge attention to detail and organization has in places degraded into a violent, crime-ridden sprawl of cacophonous traffic jams”.


The Brazilian government decided to build a planned city to be the capital. I think it was smart to take some of the population of the coast. I also think that it was a success in some ways like how they built a city out of nothing and not a success in others like how it is a dangerous city. Overall, I am still amazed that they can just think up a plan and get some people together, and they have a city.







Lonely planet Brazil

Lonely planet South America

Sugar in My Coffee

An essay about the economic booms and busts in the coffee and sugar industries of 14th to 21st century Brazil.

By: Brazil Gaffney-Knox
March 3 2010  Campanha, Brazil

Sugar and Coffee (stock image)

Most people consider Brazil a second or third world country, they consider it developing. In my mind that assumption is very wrong because Brazil’s economy is huge and rich. Unlike some first world countries, it can function on its own. If all its imports are cut off, the country could still survive. They might not have everything but they would still have all they need to survive, (food, fresh water, clothes…).  Some people say they are not a first world country because of their illiteracy, some say it’s because they are surrounded by third world and developing countries. But think about this: Brazil is roughly the size of the US and in 2006 Brazil was the top producers in the world of coffee, (they produced 2.59 million metric tons). This essay describes Brazil’s Sugar and Coffee economy from the 14th to 21st century, so you can better understand Brazil’s national economy, its place in the world wide economy and its place in all of our understanding as a developing country.
Sugar cane is a plant that looks similar to bamboo, it outer shell is tough and shiny. It has a sweet woody inside, this inner fruit is what they grind up to make sugar. History picks up its first trace of sugar in Polynesia spreading to India in 510 BC. It spread from India to China by way of an ancient Chinese emperor from 606 to 647, and then much later around the 10th century sugar found its way to east and eventually all of Africa. It traveled up into Europe in the 12th century. Then in around 1540’s Portugal brought sugar to its new colony in Brazil.
Portugal and Holland had total control over the sugar trade up until the17th century, when Spain took over Portugal.  Spain was at war  with Holland therefore Portugal was too. Being occupied by Spain didn’t bode well for Portugal: it grew less and less of a threat to Holland as an economic competitor in the sugar economy. In 1630 to1654 the Dutch took over the northeast of Brazil’s sugar area and now had complete control over the worlds sugar supply. Eventually in 1654 the Dutch left Brazil and brought the sugar economy with them. They helped bring sugar to the Caribbean. Without it’s sugar exports Portugal knew it could not maintain Brazil for long. They knew they had to find another export. So in the early 18th century they struck gold, literally. And so began the great gold rush of the 18th century leading into the coffee boom.

Coffee is said to have started in Ethiopia and moved to Yemen in the 6th century. The first coffee houses were in Cairo and Mecca, at some point the trend spread to Italy, the rest of Europe, Indonesia and then finally to North and South America. In the beginning the cultivation of coffee was concentrated to the mountain around Rio de Janeirio, later it spread along the Paraĺba Valley toward Sao Paulo state. They eventually built railroads for transportation. It started around Rio de Janeirio, then went into the Paraĺba Valley and on into Sao Paulo. The railroad turned out to be at hit, and from 1860 to 1885 it went from 223km to 6,930km of railroad in roughly 30 years. Just as the coffee trade was expanding, the slave trade was dying. This was bad news for coffee, no slave trade= no free labour= trouble. Just as the shortage of labour was becoming critical they came up with a plan, and they started gradually incorporating free immigrant labour. In 1880 Sao Paulo state produced 1.8 million 60 kilo coffee bags wich was 20% of all Brazil’s production. That number went up and up through the years. In 1888 it was 40% of all Brazil’s production and in 1902 it was 8 million bags and 60% of Brazil’s Production. Though other exports like sugar, cotton, tobacco, coca and rubber were very important to Brazil’s economy, coffee still stayed strong and was 63% of all Brazil’s exports in 1891. In 1900 to 1930 the Brazilian economy expanded but World War 1 and The great depression often pushed the coffee economy towards overproduction. In the early 1930’s, there was huge overproduction in Sao Paulo due to cyclical fluctuations in prices, causing price supports from the government leading to exaggerated expansions of coffee cultivation. Sadly, the growth of the economy in the 19th century was not spread equally between all the regions in Brazil, and the south became much more developed than the north due to the huge coffee export boom.

Brazil’s boom-bust economy is what made the country rich in the first place. First brazil wood which was a major boom and therefore a major bust when it ran out. Then there was the sugar trade which helped for a couple years then left for the Caribbean taking all of Brazil’s riches with it. After that gold made a huge boom but sadly gold is not a renewable source and went down with a major bust. This bust gave way to a new export: coffee, a huge boom made the country rich. Sadly as with the others there was a downside, the wealth generated by the booms was not spread equally and even to this day the south is much more developed than the north. Yes the boom-bust economy is what made the country rich but it is also the reason it is viewed as a lesser country. The boom-bust economy is what made the country half developed and half not. The boom-bust economy made Brazil too dependent on certain exports (e.g. brazil wood, sugar, gold…). When there is a boom everybody gets excited and the country begins to rely on that one sole export. But in a boom-bust system what goes up must come down. And when the export they rely on for everything busts, as is must, the country is left hanging, frantically searching for a new boom.
Brazil’s history has set it up to be unstable, going up and down and around with it’s booms and busts and it’s economic inequality and everything else. Every time it is on the verge of change, there is another bust and everything goes under and they have to start fresh. But I believe that Brazil is well on it’s way to overcoming the boom-bust system.


Embu, Sao Paulo, Brasil

Brazilia with Little Black Puffball

We went to a town called Embu. In Embu there was a big market and they had to close the streets. We entered the market and were immediately drawn to a stall. The stalls had puzzles and tons of clothing. We looked at jewelry, incense burners and papier mache dragons. We stopped for lunch at a little stall and we had crepes suica with ham and cheese.

Later on we had Acarajé which was a deep fried bun sliced open with fish stew. We saw a sign with dogs on it and decided to go take a look. There were tons of dogs and I got to hold one that looked like a puffball.

When we had dessert we had red current popcorn. We finished one box and everybody wanted more so we got three more boxes. When we looked at our tongues, they were bright red and it looked really funny. We left the market and headed back to Sao Paulo.

Eating this popcorn turns your tongue...