" Danger & Delirium in Honduras"
I left Estelli on the 6am bus. The three nights there were great, but I was a bit apprehensive about the amount of people who told me not to travel solo across to Honduras. I decided to ignore them and boarded a chicken bus that would take me as far as Ocotal. It was unbearably hot. Temperatures had skyrocketed into the 30's and it was barely mid-morning. I sought shelter under an awning and sucked down on a bottle of water. It was a Sunday so things were closed, and I found out that there were no buses heading to the border for another 2 hours. This mean't taking a taxi, and I luckily found one that was cheap. We sped off into the distance, the ride took about 40 minutes. Reaching the border I was the only person there except for a kilometer line of trucks waiting for permits or checks. I walked the long road to the post, stamped out from Nicaragua, continued walking over to the Honduran side where I spotted two travellers.
We ended up getting to know each other since the line for the immigration was delayed due to a computer outage. Andrei an American/Filipino conspiracy theorist and his French friend/girlfriend (I couldn't tell). After finally getting our stamps for Honduras, and being the only tourists, we jumped aboard another chicken bus that was waiting. It was intensely hot by now.
The bus took us to El Paraiso where we were told we had to flag down a mini van to Teguchigalpa. Hearing that name, and especially spoken in spanish by a person in Honduras sent a slight shiver down my spine. I've travelled to some pretty crazy places in my time, but a new challenge also comes with new fears. We buckled down and got dropped off on the side of the road and told to wait. Barely a minute later an obese man came running at us completely out of breath shouting "TEGUCHIGAAAALPAAAA". We nodded and he hastily signalled for the van to reverse and pick us up. We were last in, so we got the back seats, three of us squashed into the space for 1 normal adult. Not to mention that the bottom cushion was loose and kept falling off all the time exposing us to pure steel in it's rabid hot state. We survived.
Dropped off at some out-of-town bus station, and none of us fluent in Spanish we took the opportunity to eat before asking the waitress what the best way to get into town was. She recommended a taxi, and since I had already booked accomodation online, the couple(?) decided to follow and try get a room at the same spot. We drove through squalid parts, richer parts, dodgy as hell parts, eyes all glued to the scenes through the window. For some reason the address to the hotel was not clear so the driver spent the best part of 30 minutes taking wrong turns in what we later found out to be a very dangerous part of town (but it wasn't dark yet) until miraculously he managed to find the hotel up a hill behind a huge protective gate. Rooms sorted we talked briefly to the owner and his ex-wife who said they hadn't seen tourists at their place for a long while. They also informed us that they were having a family BBQ on the rooftop later and we were more than welcome to join. With the bus to Copan leaving at 6am in the morning what could possibly go wrong.
Andrei and I decided to walk to the nearest supermarket which was a 20 minute walk through some shady area's where we were greeted with stares of utter bemusement. Reaching the doors alive we bought a whole host of alcoholic beverages to contribute to the festivities. Rum, beer, vodka and of course some carne for the grill. Grabbed a cab back and loaded the bags onto to the table upstairs. By then the family had more or less assembled and music was blasting out over the neighborhood. In the far corner stood a 17 year old kid with a double barrel shotgun. "He is protecting us, don't worry". OK then...... We partied with them until 3am... time got lost in a myriad of pleasantries, stories, games, food, meeting Mario Blandon the 1974 Honduran goalkeeper and shots (not those kind).
I crashed so hard in my soft bed before the alarm clock woke me up 2 hours later to shower, pack and leave. The trip to the bus station was one of the worst experiences of my life, completely self-inflicted, but nevertheless... utterly brutal. In hindsight I would have traded that feeling over and over again compared to what I would be feeling in an hour. Since this was Honduras, the buses went from a sort of futuristic jail. Barbed wire walkways led you into the bus station, where you were x-rayed, frisked, pushed into waiting rooms until your exact bus came, then hustled on like sheep through another barbed wire walkway. We were told the buses were bullet proof, which provided slight comfort since we were stopping in San Pedro Sula on the way (Topping the worlds most dangerous cities most years running).
What I hadn't realised (how could I) was that a bullet proof bus meant no windows at the front. The driver had a bulletproof wall behind him, and me being smart and wanting to see something chose the front seat which turned into a nauseating battle to keep from vomiting all over the place since I was mortally hungover, yet couldn't see where I was going either. I honestly threw up at least 5 times in my mouth and managed to swallow with dignity. It was the worst, well not the worst, but the second worst bus trip of my life. Ok third worst.
FINALLY, after hitting another iron-gated bus station in San Pedro Sula to drop some people off and collect others, we arrived at the small cobblestone town of Copan. The ruins were glimpsed for a split second out of the bus window, heightening the expectation for tomorrow. We found cheap, comfortable accomodation and headed out for a fantastic meal at a gorgeous restaurant with private balconies and decent wine.
The morning came. Another 5 a.m. wake up, but this time by choice. It's always better to have these kinds of places to yourself for a few hours before the tour groups show up. We headed down to the office, bought tickets and filtered in to the park just as the sun was slowly rising over the tall trees. The next few hours were met with astonishment and utter magic. Statues, carvings, temples, ceremonial buildings, pyramids all poking out of growths in the jungle or cleared to preserve their vigour.
Andrei stayed at the first pyramid for an hour or so, reading every info-post and taking it all in. I split and headed to the back of the park where I could peacefully wander around at my own tempo without a single person annoying me. It was pure euphoria, to be in Honduras in such a sacred place, and have it all to yourself.
After a day filled with mysticism and wonder, bed called early, for a 4 hour (ended up being 8) van ride to Antigua lay in wait. Andrei and the French woman were heading east to try cross into Belize.
A few days later I got a facebook message that they succeeded. I smiled.
The Bitter Man
A backpacker by default since birth, have scanned almost 100 countries in the search for perfection and imperfection in equal measure.