Travel Story 

Honduras to Nicaragua by bus: a slice of life and history in a ‘Banana Republic’

Travels in Central America, Part 5

The sleek, comfortably appointed, Galaxy II seems strangely out of character with the ramshackle town of Coxen Hole, where we boarded her for our voyage from Roatan Island back to the mainland of Honduras. The two hour sailing to La Ceiba was the first leg of our 600 km trip from the Caribbean coast of Honduras, across the Interior Highlands, and down to the ancient city of Granada on the Pacific Lowlands of Nicaragua.

Travelling on local busses, stopping at local markets, talking to the friendly people who shared portions of our trip, it gave us a glimpse of the physical and cultural landscape. But more importantly it put a human face on the turbulent history of these two tragically poor countries. From the injustices of Spanish Colonialism to the insanity of the Contra/Sandinista conflict, both countries have been victims of foreign intervention and the corruption of their own leaders, and both continue to struggle with poverty and injustice that still afflict so many of their people.

At La Ceiba we boarded an express bus destined for Tegucigalpa, the capital city of Honduras. At the beginning of our trip the Coastal lowlands resemble one vast banana plantation. In fact bananas, along with coffee, form the basis of Honduras’ fragile economy and whenever world prices on these two exports drop the loss in revenue filters down to farm workers who, even in the best of times, are among the lowest paid in the Western Hemisphere.

From the fertile plains of the Caribbean lowlands our bus wound its way into the interior highlands where the forest-covered mountains rise to more than 2,500 metres. Occasional small fields have been hacked out of the steep slopes to form subsistence, slash and burn, farms. Scattered towns, and villages, as well as larger farms and cattle ranches, occupy flat-bottomed valleys surrounded by steep, densely forested mountains.

The capital city of Tegucigalpa (known affectionately as Tegus) is nestled in a valley of the central highlands. At an elevation of about 1,000 metres it has a pleasant, moderate climate – a welcome relief from the heat and humidity of the lowlands.

As soon as we arrived at the bus depot a crowd of hyperactive taxi drivers started competing for our business. The successful bidder gave Betty and me one of the wildest white-knuckle rides I have ever experienced – through red lights, a screeching U-turn on a narrow street blocked by vegetable carts, short cuts the wrong way down one-way streets, playing chicken with other horn-blaring cabs, and finally, as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened, pulling up in front of our hotel, where we drew a stuffy, windowless room.

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