Dec
09
2008

Lago Yojoa to Tegucigalpa

D&D Brewery / Hostel was a bust. Partly because the Oregonian proprieter was away with his family in the States, so there was scant local information to be had. Reading past reports, it seems he is the life of that place, so without him there, it was pretty dead. It was cool seeing how he built a brewery into a shipping container in the States and shipped it down here. The beers were good, as were the blueberry pancakes, but the place is really in the middle of nowhere.

I took a long walk trying to get to the lake, but was constantly stymied by washed-out pathways. I wandered into a large archaeological site that is slowly being excavated and developed for tourism, but at this point is really just a large park with mounds that presumably contain temples under all the growth.

After recovering somewhat from the food poisoning, I moved on. I didn’t really know where to go that day. I wanted to go to Gracias (the great name comes from when it was founded – the settlers had been searching for weeks for a flat plane to build a town on, but the region is so mountainous. At last when they found this spot, they all said “Gracias!”) It’s meant to be a pretty village up in the hinterlands, worth seeing. Yet I couldn’t figure out any way of getting there that didn’t involve multiple chicken buses on rough tracks, and it wasn’t clear I would be able to do it in one day. Mind you, as the crow flies, it’s only about 50km away!

One thing that’s very different about Honduras compared to Guatemala is the lack of tourist infrastructure, which has it’s pros and cons. On the positive side, it’s nice to be treated as a human being instead of as a walking dollar sign. I’m often charged the local rate for things, which is shocking. Now, I don’t mind paying 2x – 3x the local rate, because after all, I am rich compared to the locals – it’s when they get greedy and really price gouge that it bugs me. [I still believe that rampant, unchecked capitalism is the death knell of society… but that’s another topic.]

It’s also nice not seeing mobs of other tourists and all the tackiness that goes along with that. The downside is that it’s much more difficult to get around in Honduras compared to Guatemala. In Guatemala, there are organized shuttles running anywhere you want to go, and people to tell you how to do it. Here, it’s a lot trickier, and you have to figure it out yourself.

After a couple of chicken buses out to the main national highway, I still wasn’t sure where I was going that day. A great feeling indeed! Standing by the side of the road, warm sunny day, it’s still early, the possibilities are endless. Finally I decide to take the first 2nd class (not chicken bus, can’t handle those for more than a couple of hours at a stretch. too cramped) bus that came along, to wherever it was going. There were only a few choices, and I ended up with Tegucigalpa, the capital. Which meant skipping seeing more of the highlands, but frankly, I was tired of being wet and cold, and I didn’t think it would be that different than similar terrain I had already seen in Guatemala.

Transportation is incredibly cheap here. The 2nd class bus that went about 150km that day cost 90 Lempiras, or $4.75. The chicken buses I had taken that morning cost 60 cents each!
I like the enterprising entrepreneurs who swarm the bus whenever it’s stopped, offering all manner of food, drink, potions, remedies. And it’s all pretty healthy, homemade food, much better than McDonald’s crap. [As long as one chooses wisely! No more water/milk based foods for Yosh..] My favorite are the plantain chips.

Food in the stores is a mixed bag. Things that are grown here (corn, beans, bananas, etc) are quite cheap. I bought 3 bananas by the side of the road for 1 Lempira (5 cents). But things that are cheap back home are really expensive here. Apples, which are imported from Washington State if you can believe it, are about 50 cents each. Peanuts, which I would have thought came from somewhere down here, are also pricey. It’s rare to see other nuts which is too bad, since they’re one of my staples.

Another fun thing about the buses are the assistants. Every bus, whether it’s a microbus, chicken bus, or 1st class bus have the driver, who only drives, and an assistant, who does everything else. They lean out the door while passing through towns yelling out the name of their destination, trying to solicit rides. They put your bag up on the roof, tell people to move their children and chickens so more passengers can be packed on, and collect the money. Invariably colorful characters. On the 1st class buses, they organize the passports, give you blankets and pillows and drinks.

Honduras seems to be quite U.S.-friendly. You see the occassional U.S. flag, meet people who have family in the States (or who have lived there themselves), stuff like that.
The people of Honduras are quite different than their Guatemalan neighbors. I talked before how they’re much lighter skinned. The women wear “Western” (an odd phrase, but I mean to say North American/European) revealing clothing, makeup, and jewelry. The men continue to impress me – no matter how poor they are, they always look sharp in slacks, decent shoes, and nearly always a button-down shirt, or at least a nice polo. Even the laborers.

The road we took descended from the cloud forest to reveal a much drier climate. Think of the American Southwest. This I was happy to see after all the rain! Some of my clothes haven’t been dry for weeks.
On the bus I met a guy (George) who grew up here, but has lived in the States for the past 10+ years. He’s back visiting family and stuff. I’ll write about what we got up to in the next posting…

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