Saturday morning we left D & D brewery and took a bus to Pina Blanca, then another to La Guama. From La Guama we tried to catch a bus to Comayagua but ended up standing on the side of the road for nearly two hours as one full bus after another denied us entry. Even by chicken bus standards these buses were filled beyond capacity with absolutely no standing room left available. The situation seemed to become more and more desperate as the amount of people waiting on the side of the road with us began to increase. We then knew that, even if a bus were to pull up, there would be a struggle and potential fight for the small amount of spaces available. I started to feel like we were trying to fly stand-by to Hawaii during spring break or something.
The situation with the buses started to feel so hopeless that the idea of trying to hitchhike began to enter my mind. I thought back to the image of Eric and me sitting atop a pile of stones in the back of the pickup truck that picked us up near the boarder. A few moments later, as if my mind had willed it, a closed-bed pickup truck stopped only feet from us. The man behind the wheel was wearing a blue baseball cap and had a handlebar mustache. The passenger seat was occupied by a woman with a baby on her lap and three small children filled the backseat. The gentleman driving inquired where we were heading and if it was just the two of us. “A Comayagua solo Yo y mi amigo,” I told him. “Esta bien,” he replied and motioned us to climb into the covered bed of the truck that was already partially filled with random produce and suitcases. I hesitated only long enough to ask “Cuanto Cuesta?” He responded quickly “Nada.”
Eric ended up seated awkwardly, among our backpacks and the jumble of items in the bed of the truck, while I sat comfortably with the three children in the backseat. The driver’s name turned out to be Antonio. He seemed very tranquil and the presence of the woman and children helped create an overall feeling of security and safety.
The only stop we made on the way to Comayagua was at a roadside shack selling watermelons. It was then that I noticed that Antonio had a revolver strapped to the side of his belt. Only slightly concerned, I resisted the urge to reach for my own sidearm located in my backpack, adjacent to Eric. Any feeling of uneasiness proved to be unnecessary as Antonio returned to the truck and drove us the rest of the way to Comayagua without incident.
After retrieving our backpacks and exiting the truck on the side of the road, Antonio and the family waved good-bye to us and continued on their way. It was then that Eric and I regretfully realized that we should have offered them some money for the ride. We had not only saved the money we would have spent on the chicken bus, but also arrived in record time, having avoided the bleak situation back in La Guama. We both regarded forgetting to offer him money as being a grim over-site on our part.
From the side of the highway where we were dropped off, we walked a good kilometer and a half to the center of Comayagua. It was just after high-noon and the sun was beating down on us like a scorned woman. After getting our bearings, we called our friend Leah and arranged to meet her in the central park. Less than ten minutes later, we were all together in the park, ready to have Leah show us around the town she had now lived in for nearly a year.
We spent the rest of the day hanging out with Leah and her boyfriend Gustovo. It was very interesting to talk with them and gain an insider’s perspective into what life is like as a local in Honduras. Leah’s situation is interesting. She teaches English in a private school and lives in a very nice house with several other teachers. The set-up of the house reminded me a little of a college dorm, only it was considerably nicer and even had its own security guard. She and the other teachers live in a neighborhood called Barrio Arriba, due to its location up on the hill. Her boyfriend is a 32-year-old local who speaks excellent English due to his having spent three years in the states.
Leah was very welcoming and provided us with not only a washing machine to use, but also access to an unoccupied room in a similar building next door. This proved to be our first free accommodation of the entire trip. We tried to repay her hospitality by buying her dinner and drinks later that night. We also were afforded the rare chance to right our previous over-site with Antonio, the driver who brought us into town, when we saw he and his family driving in Comayagua. He acknowledged us pleasantly with a wave, and we rushed up to him, thanking him again for the ride, and forced him to accept 100 limpiars for the ride. He did so reluctantly.
We learned a lot of interesting things from Leah. She explained things, such as the name of the popular, heavy-bass music we hear everywhere called rigatone. She also told us a lot about how gossipy, not only the school she works in is, but also the town in general. When we went out that night with Leah and her boyfriend, she confessed, “I know the neighbor ladies will ask me tomorrow, ‘Miss, I saw you with three bearded men, one of them was smoking a cigarette, who were they?'” I found this a little funny and confessed I was unaware that smoking a cigarette might ruin her local reputation.
Her boyfriend, Gustovo, was a pretty quiet and reserved guy. He made a few comments about thinking we were “brave or something” to travel through Honduras. I asked him to elaborate and he mentioned he thought Honduras was by far the most dangerous country in Central America. I had not heard this before but was still not concerned by his alarmist comments. He warned us about showing any tell-tale signs of wealth, making mention of my beat up old pair of Ray Ban sunglasses . I’m sure his comments came from a place of caring, however I detected a bit of condescension in his tone and took slight offense at being mildly lectured to about safety and world travel. Perhaps he took Eric and me for being a couple of Utah boys, mindlessly traipsing their way across the Americas, as opposed to being the seasoned, grave-digging, fight-or-die adventurers we fancy ourselves to be.
After staying out late at a local bar, we didn’t get to bed until nearly 1:30 a.m. Eric and I knew we had a full travel day ahead of us on Sunday, and the prospect of getting only 4 hours of sleep made us both anxious. In addition to knowing we had to wake up early, what had seemed a quiet town during the day, erupted at night with dogs barking loudly, roosters crowing, and even gangs of drunkards singing songs. I thought perhaps Honduras had just won the world cup and wondered what all the hullabaloo was about.
The next day we awoke at 6:oo a.m. and ended up traveling all day until arriving here in Leon, Nicaragua, around 7:00 p.m. It was taxing as usual, and we had little chance to eat; however, we are becoming conditioned and immune to this type of travel. The border turned out to be especially dodgy and was full of touts and money-exchangers that swarmed around us like termites on a fallen tree. Little did they know, the wood we are cut from is impermeable to such attacks.
**Due to some feedback I got about this blog, I feel it’s necessary to add this disclaimer: Please excuse any tone that may be perceived as cocky, cocksure, or manic. Eric and I are full grown men that are well aware of the dangers of traveling. As most of you know, I have been robbed before, as well having encountered several pickpockets and threatening characters. Rest assured we are being safe and are doing our best to stay out of trouble. I think I can leave it at that. **