Drink Too Much and you’re Honduras

Last week, I crawled my way up two giants on the mystical island of Ometepe before attempting to dodge bullets in the capital. This week, I left a nation that has been highly unstable since April, for one that has been highly unstable for the last fifty years. Better keep my bullet-proof long johns on.

Day 36 – León, Nicaragua

Word on the backpacker’s grapevine was that León was one of the safer cities in Nica, and that was the impression I got on my first wander around the gaff. The roadblocks were clear, street fires extinguished, and I didn’t see one person wearing a balaclava: win. That was until a crazy meth-head lady pushed me into the road and I was suddenly like a meerkat on my hind legs. At least until I realised that she was just a schmecker of the sort you would find in the forlorn parts of any city in the world.

I decided that I would take today off, from whatever the hell it is I do, and spend it reading in the hammock and admiring the catholic paraphernalia located around the very comfortable hostel I found myself in. ViaVia is owned by an extremely friendly Belgian guy who couldn’t have been more thrilled to see a guest in his lodgings – for which he rewarded me with a free night’s stay as well as a medal of honour for ignoring the travel warnings (sanctions in disguise) handed out by European countries in a blatant attempt to squeeze the government. However, the main squeeze is felt on the ground by the regular Josés – who are just trying to get by.

Day 37 – León, Nicaragua

Well, now I am the only lodger remaining in the forty-person guesthouse (quite possibly the only one in the city), and with every visit outside of the hostel, I stand out more than a Republican at a MENSA conference. Not that it bothers me, I visited every church in León without having to wait or queue, whilst also having the full attention of all the wonderful and polite local street sellers offering me their high-quality goods and wears. Ha, that even makes me chuckle.

Following a visit to every single building with any remote colonial connection, I realised that León was far smaller than I had imagined – and I was extremely grateful to see Tuur and Bri (whom I had first encountered in San Juan) turn up at the same hostel as I. As is customary whenever we bump into each other, the beer and rum begins to flow and a ridiculous plan is formulated for the following day. Firstly, it was climbing Volcan Concepción in the pissing rain, this time: volcano boarding somehow entered the conversation. It just so happened that a shady character from the corner of the bar was selling tickets for a slide early tomorrow morning. “What a superb idea!”, my rum-fuelled-self proclaimed.

Day 38 – León, Nicaragua

I was awoken by an enthusiastic Belgian a full five minutes before our tour was scheduled to begin, “with sleep crusting my eyes, snot clogging up the very back of my nose, swollen sinuses, itchy scalp, no energy and my left trouser leg damp with cold piss… This is when the world is truly my oyster and I know I am an unstoppable winner” (not my quote but summed up my condition quite nicely).

I rolled over and was quite prepared to forsake our trip until Tuur reminded me that I had already paid for it upfront the night before (in some sort of drunken frenzy), and if there is one thing I hate more than a suicidal hangover, it is wasting cash on volcano boarding package deals. I clambered into my hiking gear, stumbled toward the jeep and began the day-long battle of keeping my bodily fluids in their correct locations.

Cerro Negro is the youngest volcano in all of Central America, and I was actually quite glad I had plucked up the motivation to scale it. The views of its crater, and surrounding lava field, were worthy of the trip alone – in fact I wish that was the trip alone. Unfortunately, I was required to don a highly pungent Breaking Bad yellow jumpsuit, climb aboard a flimsy plank, throw myself down the side of a volcano and (most difficult of all) pretend I was having a good time. After going down slower than John Prescott does on his wife Pauline, I thanked God for not disposing of me today and returned to the bus a broken man.

Day 39 – León, Nicaragua to Choluteca, Honduras

It took until the following day to regain some form of vivacity, and it was just as well I did, as we needed to undertake an eight-hour journey north to the tourist mecca (and capital of Honduras): Tegucigalpa. If you didn’t know anything about this part of the world you would probably take my word for it being a backpackers hotspot. In actual fact, the Honduran capital is avoided by nearly all tourists, has been visited by Ross Kemp, and is currently the most dangerous the city I have ever frequented – in terms of murders per thousand people (at least until I get to El Salvador). However, it was on route, had an interesting name, and things are never as bad as the statistics say…

Along with Tuur and Bri, we must be the only tourists in history that can actually say “we were attempting to visit Tegucigalpa, but missed the last bus”. A sweltering three-hour queue at the Honduran border scuppered our plans of reaching the capital today, and a hasty search for accommodation in the wonderful and thriving city of Choluteca ensued. If you are unable to grasp my extensive sarcasm by now, you have no hope.

Day 40 – Choluteca, Honduras to Tegucigalpa, Honduras

Well, ‘accommodation’ was found, and an early bus acquired for the final leg of my journey to the thirty-fifth most murderous place on planet earth (they must have been furious to lose their crown to the Mexicans). As always, I want to give every location an opportunity to prove the articles wrong – to set the record straight. After all, over a million people live here, it surely cannot be as dire as Mr Kemp portrayed it to be…

Turns out, it’s not. The odd roadblock, heavily-armoured vehicle, and decapitated body aside (the last one was a joke), Tegucigalpa appeared about as drab and uninspiring as any other modern city. As apathetic as San José, and as chaotic as Managua, this is just how Central American capitals work. Locals always tell you to avoid them, and imprudent tourists always say, “well there must be something to see there” and visit them anyway. I took this opportunity to wash my smalls and reload my revolver.

Day 41 – Tegucigalpa, Honduras

I woke up to the news that the water and electricity (and therefore internet) wasn’t going to function for the day, whilst the hostel manager also suggested I stay indoors (for some indecipherable reason). I tried explaining, in perfect Spanish, that my Philadelphia Eagles were playing the Dallas Cowboys this evening (I haven’t missed a game for almost seven years whether in Korea or Kyrgyzstan), and that I am more than happy to give up my life to watch them play. I don’t think he quite understood.

I heard rumours on the breeze of a wing restaurant located in a mall a ten-minute walk away (surely a good spot to watch the game), and so I donned my clandestine boater, turned up my collar, and headed out into the Tegucigalpan darkness. Believe it or not, not one person stole my hat or shot me in the legs, and I made it just in time for kick off. The fact that the Eagles lost comfortably was a small blow, especially as I then had to avoid becoming a statistic on way back to the safehouse. Which I managed again – maybe I’m just a little lucky or…

Day 42 – Tegucigalpa, Honduras to Los Naranjos, Honduras

Whilst utterly dull, Tegucigalpa is not as perilous as the articles maintain. Yes, I am sure there are certain parts of the city best not wandered through in a boater and bright white Hit the Road Jack t-shirt (get yours today), but the same could be said of London? Or Birmingham? Or Swansea? Well, all parts of Swansea are best avoided as it is a living hellhole, but you get my drift. My next step was a four-hour bus journey across the very heart of the country towards Honduras’ largest natural lake: Yojoa – I was not expecting much from the journey.

In actual fact, this was the first bus ride I have enjoyed since the start of my trip, forty-two days ago. The yellow school bus was empty, cool, and the Honduran countryside beautiful – with constant rolling hills, spectacular switchbacks and views that wouldn’t look out of place in British Columbia. It is unsurprising that it’s one of the poorest nations in the region, given that it appears to have absolutely no flat land to build on and no motivation to ruin the spectacular scenery (although the government is also corrupt as hell). It was sundown as I arrived on the shores of the lake, ready to kick-start my Honduran escapade. To the… microbrewery?


J

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