One important thing I forgot to mention in my last post was that outside of Antigua, Guatemala, I climbed Picaya, an active volcano that spewed lava only seven months ago. I went with a group of people, including a Dutch guy and American girl, who I traveled with to Antigua from Flores. When we reached the summit we were allowed to walk through the dried-over lava that was still smoldering below (I actually peed on the lava to see what would happen. Just a little smoke. My friends thought it was odd but funny nonetheless)…
Back to where I left off, I got stuck in the El Salvador mountain town Perquin for all of New Year’s Day because there were no buses into Honduras. It was a day of lounging and watching Hollywood films on the television (I swear I watched five-in-a-row).
When I was able to pass through the mountains from Perquin to Marcala, Honduras, what I thought would only take an hour or two, ended up being almost four hours in transit on a school bus with no shocks, on unpaved roads the entire time (I basically bounced the whole way).
In Marcala, the dusty streets and unwelcome glances from the locals told me I should head directly to Tegucigalpa, the capital city, to see the real Honduras. Another three-and-a-half hour terrible bus ride, this one I spent only half the time passing through mountains, I finally made it to my destination: ‘Tegoose’ or as I like to call it ‘Tegoo-tch’.
From the moment I arrived there I was confused. The bus driver pulled over on the side of the road, not into a bus station where I can usually check my guidebook map for a game plan. Instead, taxistas (the collective term for taxi drivers) started hollering at me, adding to my confusion of being dropped off in one of the worst neighbourhoods in Latin America: Camayguela.
It seriously looked like a bomb was just dropped in the area. Infrastructure was crumbling, garbage and refuse was all over the street, and everybody seemed to be carrying large automatic rifles and shotguns. I’ll admit I was a bit scared and knew I needed to make a move. So back and forth I went until I found my way toward somewhere to eat (Pizza Hut pretty much saved my life- okay I exaggerate a bit).
I found a budget hotel listed in the Lonely Planet called Hotel Plaza Real. It’s listed as one of the best options in town. To me, that means clean and comfortable. I regularly check under the bed sheets in a room to find out if it houses bed bugs. I admit I’m no expert, but a bad experience in Uruguay taught me to be cautious.
What do you know?
In the middle of the night I wake up, go to the bathroom, then when I return I see at least 20 bed bugs crawling all over the sheet. Luckily, I slept fully-clothed, on top of the sheet, so they weren’t able to attack me (meaning bite the shit out of my legs and arms). I escaped unscathed.
I woke the desk clerk up and brought him to my room. He refused to refund my money, so I walked around the city for the next few hours in the early morning daylight, figuring out when to catch the next bus to Nicaragua. A few hours later, more like six, I was back on the road, on my way to Managua.
I met a few other travelers on the bus. A Kiwi and a Swede who were heading to the same backpacker hostel, so we shared travel stories and talked about how many times we’ve been sick on this trip (I think I’ve been ill at least four times).
Managua, Nicaragua is a medium-sized city with not much to offer. But for me, I think it’s one of the safest cities I’ve visited so far and I felt at ease, not needing to be on-guard at all time. I loved seeing the red and black spray-painted walls and signs bearing the FSLN insignia (FSLN= Sandinistas).
Everywhere I saw slogans stating ‘Viva Daniel’ and ‘Viva la revolucion Sandinista’. A throw-back, no doubt, to the old days of the Sandinista revolution that happened in Nicaragua back in the late-70’s. Interestingly enough, the FSLN leader Daniel Ortega was elected president in 2006 after a long hiatus of running the country (about 16 years, now that’s sticking to the democratic process).
On my way to Granada, where I am writing this entry, I also saw many signs and billboards touting the success of the new Sandinista-led government in Nicaragua. It seems like their brand of socialism is popular with the public (from what I’ve seen so far).
Granada, Nicaragua is another charming, colonial-era city with many beautiful churches and parks. As I walked around it’s narrow streets, dodging cyclists instead of cars, I felt a little zen. My favourite site: a statue at the entrance of the city paying hommage to the heroes and martyrs of Granada, those who fought and died to overthrow a notoriously corrupt dictator, Anastasio Somoza from the 43-year-ruling Nicaraguan dynasty Somoza family.