February 1 - 4, 2005

Crossing the border from Nicaragua to Honduras was not a pleasant experience.
Keep in mind, it was really hot and we were exhausted after traveling all day, so we were not in the greatest frame of mind to start with.  We had gotten up early in Poneloya to get on the first bus out of town, which of course was late, so we did not leave there until about 10am, and when we did, it was on a chicken bus (old school buses with no shocks, ripped seats, some with no padding, just pieces of plywood slapped on the metal frame to form a seat) on an unpaved bumpy road from Poneloya back to Leon.  Then, we got on - well were pushed and thrown on as it started to pull away - a camionetta, which in this case is a pick up truck with benches in the back and a tarp over the top that is consistently jam-packed with about 30 people at any one time - safety first!  The camionetta transported us from the bus stop on the outskirts of town to the bus station in the center of town, through the market.   From there, we got on another chicken bus for another bumpy dusty ride to Chinandega, about two hours Northwest of Leon.

As we were pulling into Chinadega, the bus to El Guasule, the border town where we were going to cross from Nicaragua to Honduras, was pulling out.  We jumped off one bus and onto the other, which was no easy task with all our gear and with poor Stacy and her broken foot.  Ruthie almost got left behind here because she had to use the restroom in the market/bus station - yep, she had to go that badly!  The bus driver gave her two minutes to go, and of course there was a line, and so she ended up using the men's room (which the bus driver thought was very funny), and then ran out and jumped on the bus as it was literally pulling away to embark on the 2 hour bumpy dusty chicken bus ride to the border. 

Needless to say, when we arrived in El Guasule, we were not in the best of spirits.  We were tired, dusty, thirsty, hot, and hungry (we had not eaten anything since breakfast and it was about 4:30 pm).  Before we even got off the bus, we were beseiged by bycycle "taxi" drivers who wanted to assist us in crossing the border for a "small" fee.  They were all yelling and pushing and pulling at each other and at us trying to compete for our business, which wewere not even sure we were going to give them.  However, they knew that Stacy and Pat needed their services since the borders were about 400 meters apart over a big bridge and Stacy obviously had a broken foot - so they had us over the proverbial barrell if you will.  After about fifteen minutes of yelling, jostling and haggling, we ended up just taking our bags and walking across the border.  Pat and Stacy managed to negotiate a good deal and got a ride across.  Not waiting on line made things a bit more pleasant, although the customs guy lied about the exchange rate - he said it was 20 to 1 when the bank right next door had a sign posted, that he could see, clearly saying it was 16 to 1 - so he could pocket a few dollars for himself.  This was our first instance of corruption, and although it was only a few dollars, it was nevertheless irritating, particularly given our state of mind. 

To make matters worse, once we got across the border, we learned there were no more buses to Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras.  Apparently, the last one left at 5pm, and it was about 5:15 pm, so we had just missed it.  As you can imagine, we were not very happy when we received this news.  But, we found a collectivo (a shared taxi) that took us as far as Jicarro, where we ate at a road-side stand - very good and very cheap - and then went straight to bed at a roadside inn that actually had hot water, a television, nice big beds, and accepted credit cards.   The next morning, we got up bright and early and got on the local bus to Tegucigalpa.  Thankfully, this bus was a bit nicer than the chicken buses, but we did have to stand for nearly the entire two hour ride(although the gorgeous mountain scenery and the BeeGees certainly made the trip more pleasant).   Stacy "got to" sit on a plastic stool at the front of the bus, right next to the bus driver, which moved every time we wound around one of the many curves.  

When we at long last arrived in Tegucigalpa, we took a cab from Comayaguela to downtown to the hotel we had picked out.  Unfortunately, they had no more rooms, so we ended up around the corner at the Tobacco Road hostel run by Teguc Tom.  Now, this place was cheap ($4.50 a person a night), but the accomodations were very much lacking.  Although they "rented" us a room with four bunk beds in it, we ended up having another guy sleeping in our room with us before the day was through.  Moreover, we had no door to our room, but instead used a large bookcase that we slid in front of the door every time we left our room.  And, for most of the time we stayed there, there was no water (not to brush our teeth or use the toilet, let alone take a shower).  Notwithstanding, since it was so cheap, we ended up spending two nights there, before moving on to El Salvador.  Although none of us took a shower the entire time we were there, which is saying something because Tegucigalpa is a dirty city.

Teguc is not dirty in terms of garbage, but dirty in terms of air quality.  The narrow cobblestone streets do nothing to alleviate the congestion, smog and soot coming out of the buses, trucks and cars jamming the roads, and you literally feel like you are taking years off your life walking around town (that or riding in the back of pick up trucks on unpaved dirt roads inhaling dust and gawd knows what else!).  As you can imagine, we did not do much walking around this city.  We did check out Central Park, the gorgeous colonial cathedral just off the park, the National Gallery of Art, a local and very large market just across one of the many bridges spanning the river, the market on the closed off street in downtown, After the Sunset at a local cinema (not very good), and a few frosties from Wendys (mmmmm.....Frosties)!  

One night, we went to an awesome soccer game at the National Stadium overlooking the city.  Two local teams, Motagua and Olimpia, were playing one another.  We bought some jerseys, drank some beers (served by 10 year old boys), ate a bunch of Honduran junk food (served by the same 10 year old boys - no child labor laws down here), including fried plaintains and homeade potato chips with chili and lime on 'em!  Team Motagua's fans had a bonfire in the stands (and we were in a wooden and cement stadium).  Team Olimpia's fans set off fireworks which scared the crap out of you whenever their team did something good down on the field.  They would also run from one side of the stands to the other with these huge red, white and blue banners.  And, both teams fans had big huge drums that they played throughout the game.  There was also almost a brawl down on the field when one team kicked the other team's goalie after he was down.  When the players started pushing and shoving each other, the security guards, who happened to be the national and local military police, came down in their riot gear and stood on the sidelines until the brawl dissipated.   Pretty crazy!

After the game, we asked our cab driver to take us to some place local, with good food, music and drinks.  We ended up at El Patio, a pupuseria, which was packed with people sitting at row after row of cafeteria-like tables, drinking and eating, and listening to very loud, but very good live music.  After ordering an assortment of food (we were starving) and some drinks, we noticed that the waiters and waitresses did not clear beers off of the tables.  It was almost like a badge of honor for people.  There were some tables with nearly 50 beers on them.  It was pretty funny, and of course, Pat and Mike felt like they needed to rise to the challenge and get some empty beer bottles on our table too.  However, the beers here are Salva Vida, Imperial, and Port Royal, none of which really lend themselves to this task as they are not great and not as cold as the beer in Nicaragua.  Mike likes Salva Vida the best, and you certainly cannot beat the cheap beer prices, which continue to hold here in Honduras. It literally is cheaper than the water.
February 3, 2005

Just outside of Tegucigalpa, there are a number of beautiful old colonial mountain towns set in sides of the mountains above Tegucigalpa, as well as a National Park, all of which have frequent bus services to all of them.  A visit to one or more of these is a definite must if you are going to be in Tegucigalpa for any length of time just for the views and clean air alone.  Honduras is a beautiful country, very mountainous, with a number of gorgeous coniferous forests.  In some ways, it resembles the terrain and climate of Northern California, particularly Sequoia National Park (albeit without theSequoia trees).  Nicaragua, or at least the areas we were in, is much dryer, more like Southern California.  Either way, the clean mountain air, sunshine and smell of pine in Valle de Angeles were a welcome change from the dirty and polluted streets of Tegucigalpa.  We took the local bus to Valle de Angeles (about 40 minutes by bus outside of Tegucigalpa) and spent the afternoon checking out the town and a number of small artisan markets with the standard Central American crafts of gorgeous wood products, woven garments, silver, and coffee for sale, and eating lunch at Restaurant Jalapeno, just off the main square, before heading back to Tegucigalpa.
To View Photos for Tegucigalpa
To View Photos for Valle de Angeles
To Continue to Read El Salvador Travel Logs & View Photos:
To Continue to Read Other Travel Logs & View Photos:
Mike & Ruthie Photo Galleries
US Itinerary World Itinerary Neroussis Art