Thursday, March 13, 2008

Tegucigalpa- Welcome to Honduras

I get off the bus and am immediately overcome by the suspicion that we should just get back on and continue the journey on up to San Pedro Sula. I pick up my bag and see a girl examining her pack. A large wet patch is developing on the lower section of her backpack, and there’s a puddle running it’s way down the pavement. She unzips the bag and pulls out a pink sarong wrapped around a smashed bottle of Flor de Caña (Nicaragua’s favourite rum). Its hard to feel too sorry for her; anyone silly enough to store a bottle of liquor in the very bottom of their 15 kg pack should expect problems in transit.

Meanwhile, Angie is arguing with a shady looking taxi driver of the pedigree that seem to be constantly hanging around bus stations preying on exhausted tourists. I’m so sick of these guys. He seems shocked that we don’t want to pay over double the going rate, and a couple of his brethren are equally surprised when we brush them off after similar offers. Ten dollars for a 16-block ride is excessive, regardless of the traffico. It’s nice to see him drive away from the depot without passengers.

We eventually find a driver closer to honest, and he takes to our hotel, which of course, is full. No problem though, the owner has another hotel around the corner, which turns out to be a caged-in concrete patch surrounded by three depressing dorm rooms. The myriad of empty pot plant holders and broken cement slabs gives it a warzone-like flair. As tempting as the prospect of a stay in a dilapidated prison-pen is, we move on and with the help of a wonderfully friendly local, find a room I would go as far to say is passable.

Our bags dismount in the room and we are left free to explore. Explore for food. Cuisine in Tegucigalpa consists solely of American fast-food. The centre of the city is clogged with chain burger and chicken chapels, and a hearty portion of Dunkin’ Donuts fills in the gaps between value meal vendors. There are even mini-Dunkin’ Donuts outlets, called DK’D, that fill in the gaps between the gaps, just in case you’re too tired to walk around the corner to an ordinary outlet. With a large serving of Burger King onion rings in my belly we set off for a wander, but quickly lose interest and instead opt to deal with the internet-based administrative details that hound us even on the other side of the world; email, bills, money management and future hotel reservations.

We retire to the room, where Angie sleeps and I work on an itinerary for the next few weeks. Travel around here isn’t based on a straight line like it is further south, where there is fairly obvious direction to head and a single road to move along. To get us around this upcoming tangle of Guatemalan roads, planning, my most loathed of tasks, needs to be done.

Later, we ‘dine’. An entrée of hope (searching for an independent restaurant) is followed by a main of grim surrender (more fast food). This is followed by desert- the inevitable shades of depression that hit when your two meals for the day have both been designed in shiny aluminium American R&D kitchens and marketed using a strident palette of primary colours. Not only marketed, but also created and designed using a shocking array of primary (and bold secondary) colours. I reflect on this as I stare down at my baked potato with unnaturally green broccoli drowning in a sea of cheese flavoured Tonka truck paint.

And so now I am here, typing away after a blisteringly cold shower in our aromatically challenged bathroom. Big Fast Food, taxi scam drivers and soulless hotels. This has been the Tegucigalpa Experience (however, as unpleasant as it sounds, the people were lovely).

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