I'll try to post a link to this page on a few chat forums - I will be interested to see if the page gets any traffic from them - if it does I might do this kind of thing more often. If you find the following helpful, please let me know in the comments below [edit - unfortunately about a year after posting this, the site that hosted my travel blog shut down, so all of those links are now dead].
It looked like going north and cutting back through Guatemala was the best way to do the trip from Apeneca to Copan - certainly more direct than going via the El Salvador/Honduras border, which would involve a circuitous route via La Entrada.
Going through Guatemala turned out to be very doable by (9) local buses over 9 hours, with not much waiting between buses (although there was some waiting once on board).
Apaneca, El Salvador to Copán, Honduras via Guatemala 9 Dec 2016
Total time - 8.55 minutes
Total cost - $7.20 USD plus $3 to enter Honduras
Total amount of fun - quite a lot
5.20 Apaneca - Ahuapachan
Journey time: 45 min (arrive 6.05) Cost 50c
Left Massimo's Star Wars/Italian football themed house/home (see last entry) around 5 and walked to the bus stop in town.
On arrival at Ahuachapan, immediately got onto a 'directo' bus that was leaving for Santa Ana
6.05 Ahuapachan - 'Terminal de buses Fransisco Lara Pineda' Santa Ana
Journey time: 50 min (arrive 6.55) Cost 50c
The 'terminal' in Santa Ana seems to be little more than a busy crossroads in the north west of town - maybe there was an actual terminal somewhere that I didn't see for the buses, street stalls and general chaos. After wandering around wondering what bus went to Metapan and from where, some helpful folk pointed out that the No 235 from exactly the place on the road where the bus from Ahuachapan 'terminated' (i.e. everyone was told to get out).
Also note - no-one I asked knew the terminal by the name above - but that's what it is called on Google Maps - so if you are looking for where you'll have to get off/on the bus - that's the name Google uses.
7.05 No. 235 Santa Ana - Metapan
Journey time: 1 hr 15 mins (arrive 8.20) Cost 80c
As the 235 arrived at Matapan, another 235 was loading up and leaving for the border (Anguiatu). Everyone got off the first bus, and some got on the second. Perhaps it would have been possible to pay for a ticket from Santa Ana all the way to the border as it was still the 235 route, but I didn't ask for one when I got on, so I bought another ticket for this leg. Anyway...
8.30 No. 235 Metapan - Anguiatu/Guatemala border
Journey time: 20 mins (arrive 8.50) Cost 55c
Customs was a breeze, no hassle, no cost, into Guatemala by 9.10.
I asked the friendly Guatemalan immigration officer if there were any buses going straight to the El Florido border crossing. He said that there weren't and that I should take a bus bound for Chiquimula and change at (what I heard as) Madondo crossing.
At the border, the place where the bus stops, drops off and picks up is less than 100 metres down the road from immigration, outside a small restaurant. An old fella sweeping the street said that it would arrive at 9.30 and he was bang on. So after a hurried breakfast of eggs on bread...
9.30 Anguiatu - 'Madondo'
Journey time: 1 hr 52 mins (arrive 11.22) Cost 15 Quetzales ($2)
The bus had only a couple of people on it. The bus driver quoted 12 Quetzales for the journey. The route was via every little village along the way. At one point (9.47), while heading off the main road into another village, another bus was just leaving the village - our driver told his passengers to get on that bus (we had not paid) as it would be quicker. I did notice that the conductor on the second bus gave the one on the first 10Q for the passengers - and we were later asked for 15Q for the journey to Madondo on the second bus.
The drive was pretty slow, and stopped in a few more villages (but maybe not as many as the first bus would have). One stop was for the best part of 30 minutes in Conception Las Minas - but at least it gave me a chance to practise my Spanish with the chap sitting next to me, who was quite chatty, but surprised to hear that Australia was closer to Asia than it was to either America or Europe.
The conductor made sure to tell us when we arrived at Madondo (aka Route 21) where a minibus was waiting.
11.23 Madondo - El Florido/Honduran border
Journey time: 56 minutes (arrive 12.19) Cost 15 Quetzales ($2)
15Q for this trip was clearly over the odds, but it was hard to bargain too much (the smiley young conductor initially asked for 20 with a hopeful look in his eye) as I only had a 100Q note.
A bent old man with a lived-in face who got on just afterwards seemed to be able to bargain his fare down to completely free - I couldn't understand much of his gravely Spanish, but I thought I heard the words war (guerra) and Nicaragua. He told such a good story (whatever it was) that a fellow passenger gave him 2 Quetzales (perhaps for a connecting bus to wherever he was going?) without being asked. Now that's what I call haggling!
Anyway, after another change of bus in the town of Jocatan (the conductor said we could stay on his bus, but it would be 15 minutes faster in the other bus and there would be no more to pay - although the second conductor did ask to see the ticket from the first bus), we arrived at the border
The border was again a breeze - although there was a bit of a wait and a $3 charge (which seemed legit as there were some fancy finger-print machines, and the charge came with a receipt) on the Honduran side. A short walk up a hill - maybe 100 metres - to a waiting minivan by 13.33.
One minibus had just left, so there was a 22 minute wait for this one to leave.
13.55 Honduras/Guatemala border - Copan
Journey time: 20 minutes (arrive 14.15) Cost 20 Lempira (85c)
Not much to report on this journey except that Honduran men seem to be wearing more cowboy hats than their Guatemalan or El Salvadorian counterparts.
As you'll see in the next post, the journey to Copan was definitely worth the journey!