We had our Tica Bus tickets ready and had to check in at 10am Sunday. Despite the fact that the other three in our dorm were still sleeping, we ended up making noise as we packed up the last of our things. Whoops. They were probably still in a hangover sleep. I hadn’t slept particularly well Saturday night and woke up at 5am. Being unable to go back to sleep I continued my Spanish lessons 😊. I can understand it when it’s written and when I listen and can also write it myself now, but it is still very different to actually conversing with someone.
The bus station was literally just over the road so we hauled our luggage over there to check in. As we got there, Nathan fell over with the weight of his bag on his back not helping and now has gashes on his knees and chest 😞. Helped to his feet by a friendly English speaking El Salvador man, who then proceeded to be our translator when I asked the check in girl if I could leave our luggage behind while we went and grabbed some breakfast.
He told us we only had half an hour and if the bus turns up it would go without us if we weren’t there. Hang on a minute, the bus wasn’t due to leave until midday? Hotfooting it to McDonald’s so Nathan could get some breakfast and I could find some water, we made it back at 1030am. Considering the day had started off well what with Nathan now bleeding through plasters, I went to sit on the floor to happily watch Spanish Harry Potter, when my bloody trousers decided to split up the arse. Ok granted, they were thin, cheap trousers bought from a stall in Panajachel, but they were my comfty travel trousers. I’d just find a sewing kit and patch them up.
The bus arrived and we got on only to see our translators father in law sitting in our seats. A fellow traveller explained to us that this wasn’t the bus to take us into Honduras. This bus took us to the other terminal in San Marco before we left at midday. That explained the need for early check in. We sat anywhere and the bus departed. It wasn’t long before we arrived at the next terminal. Midday arrived and we got back on the same bus we had just got off. As I sat back down I realised my trousers had split even more. They weren’t even the slightest bit tight but just very thin. I was gutted. We were on our way. 7 hours and we’d be arriving in Honduras.
Or so we thought. As we were leaving San Salvador we passed several bits of street art as well as extremely heavily armed guards at bus/train stations. Their guns were massive and they had balaclavas hiding their faces too! San Salvador does have a reputation for being dangerous and I didn’t particularly like Santa Ana, but where we were staying was absolutely fine! This area of downtown seemed a bit poorer and thus perhaps the need for added security? I nodded off for an hour and then continued my Spanish lessons.
We stopped at a gas station 3 miles from the Honduran border. Everyone was asked to get off and they all went and got food from the counter in the station. We just got some drinks. Bustling back onto the coach we arrived at the border in no time. We pulled over and an immigration office got on to check our passports. Once she had done this we then proceeded the Honduran immigration section.Here, we didn’t get bombarded by men with huge wars of cash. Instead we steadily walked inside and queued up. It cost $3 each to enter Honduras and they also take a photo of you as well as your finger prints. Whilst we were in the queue we swapped our $20 for 460Lempura. The whole process was very quick and with another stamp in our passport we got back on the coach. This was the view as we entered Honduras, with nasty looking storm clouds in the distance. Our interpreter back at the Tica Bus station warned us that the roads in Honduras were being fixed and that the journey would be slow, but my god, I didn’t expect it to be as slow as it was! The traffic was horrendous. There must have been a section where it was single traffic as that was the only bit we seemed to be moving on. The traffic waiting, with people out of their cars, must have been backed up 3-4 miles.
I’ve never seen anything like it! The roads were bumpy, and because it was taking so long we decided to watch the last three episodes of 13 Reasons Why. My god, how incredibly sad. I was hooked from episode one. A fantastic series to watch. Eventually we pulled into the Tica Bus station. The gate had to be opened by security and had barbed wire all along the top. As usual, we were the last to get our bags because we’re more polite than the other passengers fighting their way in and confusing the conductors with their tickets.
As we were getting our bags, the usual question of ‘taxi?’ Was heard. Yes we needed a taxi. $15 to our hotel, Hotel Excelsior, was a bit steep, but in this city, safety was paramount compared to cost, especially at night. We had arrived in Tegucigalpa, one of the most dangerous cities in the world allegedly. The danger mainly stems from drugs and gangs so tourists generally get left to their own business, but still, one needs to be careful. No bling jewellery, minimal belongings carried around, always use a taxi at night, steer clear of the chicken busses are a few tips! Nevertheless this city had some sights to see.
Our taxi drivers name was Carlos. He was quite chatty, the right amount of chatty. His English was good which helped us enormously. We passed two huge malls on the way to our hotel, as well as many fast food joints. Still, at 10pm, the traffic was bad! As he pulled into our hotel, he asked if we needed a taxi for Monday. I said we didn’t know as of yet but let him put his number in my phone to contact him on whatsapp if we did.
We were actually staying in a proper hotel. No bunk beds or cold showers for two nights! I was so excited to actually feel human again! Note…no staff speak English here. We checked in with the girl behind the desk using google translate. We’d only booked one night but wanted two and in the end we figured it out but it took about half an hour for us to actually check in and get to our room. A nice big bed, toiletries, a TV, air conditioning, space to unpack our bags and a shower that has hot water. It was like we’d won the lottery.
I was so tired that after finding the one channel in English that was playing reruns of CSI and Law and Order, I fell asleep. After a solid night sleep I didn’t wake until 930am Monday. Straight up and into the shower. I took full advantage of this new found luxury. I mean, I actually shaved my legs for the first time in two weeks, made sure all the grime that I felt was on my skin was washed off. I felt so sparkly after I got out. Next up was plucking my eyebrows, also not done in two weeks. Clean and sparkly and feeling human. The feeling was epic!!
What were we going to do today? Absolutely no idea. First plan was to figure out how to get to Copan Ruinas tomorrow morning. The bus company, Hedman Alas, has a coach that leaves at 545am so being unable to book online, I emailed and after a few exchanges, a very helpful guy called Emmanuel actually called me in the hotel room and booked our tickets for us. With that sorted, I whatsapped Carlos, but didn’t put the international code in for Honduras, so if anyone back home has a random whatsapp message asking how much a city tour would be, ignore it, I’m sorry!
After figuring out I needed to put 504 before his number, it finally sent. I asked if he could take us to an ATM, then to Cristo del Picacho, our lady of Suyapa and Iglesia de Dolores. He next replied, ‘I’ll be there in 10 minutes.’ Christ, we were nowhere near ready. Chucking on some clothes we got downstairs to the lobby just as he was pulling up. I asked him to take us to an ATM first. Surprise surprise the first one didn’t work, the second one he took us to was out of order, the third one has a massive queue so in the end he said he’d take us to the sights first.
His English was very good and he explained how Honduras is very poor, but there are some but in Tegucigalpa that are rich. The change is profound. There is a definite difference in the neighbourhoods. The first place we arrived was The Basilica of the Virgin of Suyapa.This beautiful basilica holds the statue of the Virgin Mary, Jesus’ mother, which is paraded round Honduras on February 3rd each year, the day she was found. So how was the statue discovered? In February 1747, a labourer Alejandro Colindes and an 8 year old boy were sleeping outside on their way back from Piligüin mountain. Colindes had a pain and realised he was sleeping on something sharp. Allegedly, he threw it far away, only for it to make its way back to him. He took the tiny statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary back to his mothers house where it stayed for the next twenty years. The first miracle allegedly occurred in 1768 and hey began collecting funds to make a chapel. Pope Pious XI made her Patroness of Honduras, Our Lady of Suyapa and February 3rd, the day she was found has been declared her ‘feast day.’ The large basilica was built in 1954 which is where she moves into just before 3rd February to accommodate larger crowds. She even has a group of men take care of her, known as Orden de los Caballeros de Suyapa. The state allegedly has miraculous powers, ending the war between El Salvador and Honduras and calming soldiers fears when at war. How incredibly powerful to have that much faith in something. I find it truly fascinating. Faith truly is a powerful thing. There is a cemetery at the basilica too, with brightly coloured tombs in keeping with the rest of the cemeteries we have seen in Central America. You can’t see the intricate detail of the stain glasses windows in the above photo but they were large and they were beautiful. I love churches and the intricate detail they often hold as well as the ‘stories’ that go with them.Aldea de Suyapa. This smaller church is certainly overshadowed in size by the almighty Basilica, but it is still just as beautiful. There were market stalls all outside too, so as we wandered around, Carlos went to get his lunch. We reconvened at the car and he took us downtown.Piñata shop anyone? Randomly on the side of the road! The roads here were narrow and bumpy, as we got downtown, the usual grid system of the cities seemed to appear. There are no rules of traffic here. Overtaking, tailgating, undertaking, undertaking at a junction, you name it it happened, and our driver, Carlos, was just as crazy.Cathedral of Tegucigalpa and Central Park. Built in the 1760s, the original church was destroyed by a fire in 1746. Security is high everywhere here, from extremely heavily armed guards, security guards in all the shops, barber wire atop gates and buildings and yet I felt better walking round here than I did in Santa Ana! They even had a street adorned with lampshades.Despite this being a poor city, I found myself sitting with my mouth agape looking at everything around. From the tiny houses, to the grand churches, the insane traffic, the different shops selling just one line of a product, the fact that there were next to no homeless people? Everyone seemed to be working or on a break from work.The beautifully old Iglesia de Los Dolores. It is a baroque style church built somewhen between 1735 and 1815. The Plaza outfront is quite run down with a few market stalls, but it also hosts a great view of more of the city upon a hill in the background. Our last stop of the day was to be Cristo del Picacho. Built in 1998 and Honduras’ answer to Brazil’s ‘Christ the Redeemer,’ this statue of Jesus Christ stands at an elevation of 4353feet, which you really feel as you’re winding up and up and up the hill to get there. Narrowly avoiding a head on collision, we passed through rows of small houses and some embassies as well as a university campus before we got here. We had to pay 30L each to get in which is just over $1 and Carlos pulled into a parking lot just after the zoo.I couldn’t quite understand the instructions to see if we had to pay again so we stayed outside and took a photo from where we were. It stands at 98 feet tall and can be seen from miles away. We saw it as we were driving into the city our first night here. It was lit up. Not only can you see it from miles away, but the view from up there is incredible. You can see most of the city. El Picacho is the highest point in Tegucigalpa, the statue is built 30metres below and 300 metres away from the highest point as it’s occupied by an important water facility. The view was just breathtaking. It really was. Everything was so clear, you could see the individual houses, the roads, the national stadium, everything in such detail. It was like watching a Tv in high definition! I wish we’d had bought some lunch to sit up here in the quiet and just take in the sights around us. Sadly, we were already nearly two hours over our scheduled time with Carlos so we walked back to the car.
On the way back to the hotel, Carlos was asking about our travels and where we’d been and where we were going. He informed us that Copan, our destination tomorrow, was nice. He then pointed out the Presidents house, randomly on the side of the road in Tegucigalpa. It was pink. He told us he’d been married for 28 years and that most people marry young in Honduras and stay married. He asked what the national currency of England was and laughed when I didn’t say the euro. He asked what the exchange rate was from pounds to dollars and then asked if we had to pay for a visa to the US. I told him we’d paid about $14 for our visas and he responded saying he’d paid $200 for five questions for a US visa and they’d said no. Finally he found me another ATM but my card didn’t work yet again. I had to resort to taking money out on my credit card this time. We arrived back at our hotel in no time, paid him and arranged for him to pick us up at 5am tomorrow. Whilst we didn’t walk miles round this city, we still walked a fair bit from where Carlos would be waiting. I’m not naive enough to think this isn’t a dangerous place else there wouldn’t be so many precautions taken and I certainly wouldn’t walk around at night, but during the day, so long as you’re not alone and you keep your wits about you, I think you’d be ok.
Being hungry, as always, we tried to order a pizza but it didn’t work so we went down to the desk with our trusty google translate ready. Yes, we could! The lady behind the desk called dominos and ordered us a pizza. I wrote ‘queso’ down as we just wanted a cheese pizza. She was using google translate which really isn’t actually helpful! Thirty minutes later, our ham and cheese pizza arrived? No idea where ‘jambon’ came from 😂. Anyway, the pizza was demolished, it was time to conduct a bit more research about how to cheaply travel round Honduras 😬…
Until next time….