About seven months has gone by since my last written post. Since then I’ve converted the measly, one screen blog into a fully functioning website. Almost all of my photos have been uploaded and categorized. I’ve fooled around with different editing softwares. Business cards have been created and distributed to anyone who would have one. My stash of technology has been expanded and upgraded. Behind the scenes, I have continued writing with the hopes of refining my skills. My end goal is to have an article published in a newspaper. Maybe if I fully adopt the pseudonym Backpackmatt I will be more marketable. I may not have been traveling these last seven months, but I certainly haven’t been idle. As my Uncle Mike so appropriately wrote on my going away card for Malaysia, “It seems like you are ready for an adventure.”
My flight from Boston to Tegucigalpa (capital of Honduras), with a connection in Miami, left at 5am on Sunday, June 19th. Strategically, I stayed up the entire night with friends and was able to sleep for the majority of the plane rides. Miami sure looked cool for the seven seconds I was conscious. Unlike the life draining, twenty-plus hour flight to Asia, this felt more like teleportation. I was in Honduras by 10:30AM local time. I arrived at the hostel, jammed my belongings into a locker and immediately inquired about a map of the city. With only two days to explore, I wanted to see as much as I could. Armed with my camera, lenses, and a tripod, I plunged into the chaotic scene of Tegucigalpa.
Originally, I thought that finding the historical sites would be effortless. The map showed a few main avenues, and the old churches I was seeking were plainly marked by circled numbers. What greeted me instead was a maze of alleys, one way streets, and few sidewalks. Over the course of a 20 minutes walk I probably asked about ten people for directions. They were all willing to help, but my limited Spanish left me only understanding izquierda (left), derecha (right) and any subsequent hand gestures. I’d reply with an exaggerated head nob, a few ‘si, si’ and continue down the road to ask someone else. Anyone cringing while reading those last sentences must understand that those challenges are part of the adventure!
Right away it was clear that Honduras is a third world country. From where I sit on the balcony of the hostel, I have a clear view of the capitol city and there stands only a handful of buildings more than a few stories high. There are no skyscrapers, and the majority of the city is comprised of two story dwellings or shops. At first I was a bit anxious to explore this city unaccompanied. Part of this was due to my hesitancies traveling abroad alone for the first time, and the other was the negative stigma most people have when they think of Honduras. I kept a watchful eye over my shoulder and found my way through the narrow, bustling streets. The two churches I visited on my first day were the Catedral de San Miguel, and Iglesia Los Dolores. I sat amongst the Honduran people in the square near to where these were located before eventually building up the courage to go ‘full gringo’ and set up my tripod. Without a travel companion, my tripod has become the photographer and it takes awhile before all of the elements of photography are perfected. What results as a snapshot usually takes between five and ten minutes to plan and execute. I ended my first day in Honduras gorging myself on enchiladas. A graduate student from the University of Texas, Caleb, who was also staying at the hostel, joined me as we watched game seven of the NBA Finals (in Spanish), and then Game of Thrones.
The plan for my second day in Teguc was focused around nature. My goal was to reach and explore La Tigra Parque Nacional, located just north of the city. While that goal may sound simple, few things are in a third world country. I had no interest in paying an exorbitant amount for a private taxi so I decided to conquer the public transportation system. To say ‘system’ is gross exaggeration. After a few questions regarding destinations, I was ushered onto a bus that was packed to the brim with Hondurans. My legs couldn’t fit behind the seat so for an hour I was stuck protruding into the isle, standing and apologizing every time some one needed to pass. There are no predetermined stops along the bus routes, just a chorus of whistles and honks that indicate the desire to get on or off. Eventually we made it to the last stop and I reluctantly got off. The young man in charge of collecting payment on the bus saw my initial confusion and pointed me in the right direction. What was deemed the stop for La Tigra was actually a few kilometers away from the park itself.
By the time I made it to the visitors office, I was already sweating profusely. The man at the desk took one look at me and chuckled. With the help of a map of the park, we traced a route that would take me about four hours to complete. Before the land was recognized as a National Park it was mined for gold and silver. My first stop along the trail was at one of the old mining tunnels. With no signs or lights, I ventured precariously into the pitch-black darkness for about 200 feet before claustrophobia prevailed. Additionally, the tunnel became narrower the farther you went along which was not conducive to my body type. Along my route I saw a plethora of exotic birds and lizards but unfortunately none of the larger mammals of which I had hoped to catch a glimpse. My second stop along the trail was a waterfall where I relaxed and splashed the refreshing water on my face from the main source for the entire city. I also hilariously attempted to get a picture of myself on a boulder facing the waterfall. I set up the camera and tripod, pressed the ten second timer, and raced off to get into position for the picture. All of them failed miserably. It was about this time that I realized most of my trek, after the initial uphill part, had been primarily downhill. Here I was, already exhausted and facing an uphill battle, literally. It took every ounce of sweat, water, and determination in my body to return to the entrance. My calves burned from the inclines while my feet screamed with every step on the declines. If I could do it over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Once I eventually made it back to the hostel, I was ravenous. One of the workers at the hostel, Jorge, who is a jovial and helpful man, recommended a local spot where I could get some carne asada. This was your typical ‘street meat’ stand, and for the lofty price of $2 I was provided with the meat and accompaniments to fill four tortillas. If I was staying in the capital for longer, I probably wouldn’t have eaten dinner anywhere else for the remainder of my time. Tomorrow I head west to the region of Intibuca where my school is located. I am meeting a medical brigade from the states at the airport and then we will all hop on yet another bus. So far I’ve met a ton of welcoming Honduran people, as well as other travelers from all parts of the world. I’m excited to meet my students tomorrow and transition back into my alternate-teaching English as a foreign language-personality. From what I’ve been told the wifi will be sporadic so I wanted to get at least one post completed. It’s great to be back exploring, and even better to have people in your life that are so genuinely interested that you feel obligated to share your experiences.
Until next time,