Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Last Days In Honduras

April 1st to 4th

From Sigatepeque we make the short steep 35km climb up to Comayagua. It's a short day's work, but welcome after the tough climb of yesterday. On the way we pass a number of shanty houses cobbled together with sticks, plastic sheet and tin clinging to the rock face. This family sells hand made miniature hammocks from a stand at the road side to buy rice....

Comayagua was founded by the Spanish in 1537 due to it being centrally located in their newly captured territories. They made it their political capital of Honduras and it later became the religious capital too when the church moved from Trujillo on the north coast, partly due to better climate, but also to be closer to the gold and silver mines in the mountains....

In stark contrast to some of the modern structures we see, history has left a legacy of beautiful colonial buildings around the central plaza....

As we arrive, Easter celebrations are just getting under way - known here as 'Semana Santa'. Semana is the Spanish word for 'week' and gives an indication of how seriously they celebrate this most important of festivals. Today being Maundy Thursday, the streets are eerily deserted; the people's absence explained by the calls to prayer in the churches which are chock-a-block with the faithful. We don't have time to see the grim re-enactment of the crucifixion of Christ scheduled for Good Friday and ride out on roads bereft of traffic.

It's 85kms to the capital Tegucigalpa over them there hills....

After 25kms and a tough 4 hour slog we reach a geographical milestone. The Cordilleras de Montecillos mark a continental divide where any rainfall beyond this point now makes it's slow way down to the Pacific Ocean. Behind us, rain eventually becomes part the Atlantic Ocean and I add a drop to each ocean from my water bottle without even having to move from this spot....

It's never a good idea to ride into a big city at the end of a hard ride and we are lucky to come across a hotel and comedor at a cross roads just short. This is a holiday weekend and all along the route we have seen army and fire brigade recruitment tents advertising and publicising their good works. The football field behind the hotel resembles an episode of M*A*S*H as the red cross set up camp just before a torrential storm deluges the area.

The following day we ride downhill into the urban blight that is this nations capital. Tegucigalpa comes with an unenviable reputation and we had no desire to visit, however, it is firmly on the route to Nicaragua and there is no way around.

Central American metropolises don't always work! All that easy going, relaxed organisation makes smaller towns such a welcome relief from the strait jacket of westernised rule-making.
Big cities, by contrast just need structure in order to function.
This is just chaos!
Dirty, smelly, debris-strewn chaos....

Rubbish skips overflow with litter - and people! We see four or five raggedy people to a skip searching through more fortunate people's cast off belongings for things of value; or the next meal.

Set in a wide bowl shaped depression sunk deep in amongst the mountains, the city's wooden shanties climb the steep banks to either side of the highway. It's almost like a giant stone dropped into a polluted lake and washed flotsam and jetsam up the shores....

Despite the lack of traffic it's still a harum-scarum dash through the craziness and I would hate to see the place on a normal day. Tegucigalpa is not on the list of mankind's crowning achievements!

We escape back to the natural world and away from man made madness....

We climb slowly back out the other side of the bowl for 20km passing nothing but hourly rate hotels before finally reaching the long drop into the Chuloteca valley. Amazingly we ride 60 kilometers from the capital before we spot the first proper hotel. The owners are fully aware we cannot go elsewhere and we pass a night in a scandalously overpriced hotel where we pay luxury prices for a room without running water. To save cash, we avoid their restaurant and turn the bathroom into a combined laundrette and kitchen. Chicken stew for supper. Mmmmm... chicken stew!

Next day the screaming descent out of the mountains continues and the air begins to warm noticeably as we drop to the lowlands. The wide valley round the Choluteca river is prime growing land and farming is done on an industrial scale with grand fincas set back from the road amongst tobacco, corn and coffee plantations. A climb takes us back out the other side of the valley and on to Danli, the last town of any size in Honduras.

It's been a bit of dash from La Ceiba on the north coast 500 kilometers ago, but tomorrow we cross the border to our next country... Nicaragua.


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