Last week, I ended the post by saying I was going to the South of Honduras to see the Pacific Ocean for the first time in my life. It’s something else I can now tick off on the list of things I’ve done before I die, which I hope isn’t too soon. First though, I want to mention a fundraiser I went to in an unlikely little haunt called, as you can guess from the title of this post, KFC. Yes, Kentucky Fried Chicken, in Blvd. Morazan in Tegus. I didn’t know KFC threw events like this for charities, being a big fast food chain and what not. It was certainly for a noble cause. I can’t see them doing the same at Robin Hood Island in Hall Green, but there you go! It was a week and a bit ago that I went, and it was in aid of Nueva Esperanza (Hope in Honduras) which I wrote about a month or so ago in an update you might remember – http://hopeinhonduras.org/, which is a day care centre run by the church in a Reparto Por Bajo, quite a poor, dangerous area of Tegus. 20% of the meals bought that evening went to Nueva Esperanza. There were Christian songs and recitals and plays and recitals. After all the free refills of a sickly sweet fizzy strawberry beverage I had, I think I almost put KFC out of business. Nevertheless I was bouncing off walls by the end of it and had enough energy to dance all night. It was nice to raise money for someone elses cause especially after so many people raised so much money for me to be here. The rush of it all reminded me of the poetry evening I organised last October and it brought back fond memories, even though I was quite stressed at the time! There were a lot of American missionaries as well, which also reminded me of my first month or so in Tatumbla with the mormon family.
The next day, it was arranged with Hazel and a girl called Lidia that we would go down to the south to keep Lidia company in a project she was doing with turtles in the forthcoming weekend. As it turned out, Lidia couldn’t go due to a rotten cold so Hazel and I went anyway for the craíc. We went on Friday after a drinking many units of Salva Vida (beer) on the Thursday. We had lift at 7am the next day through Hazel’s work to go down and visit some medical centres and hospitals in remote towns and villages in Southern Honduras. I’ve not felt so rough in a long, long time. A mixture of hangover, heat and windy mountainous roads left us stopping for me to be sick. Twice! Not my proudest moment, I must say.
We got to San Lorenzo in the south. I was warned about the intense heat. I was a little smug and arrogant about it, having lived for a few months in Sevilla in Spain, I felt I could survive any type of heat. After all, I thought, San Lorenzo sits on the coast of the largest ocean in the world. How hot can it be?! Unbelievably, there is no breeze at all. It’s heat, heat, heat, polverising you, killing you. I was a state. We went into a restaurant and I had fresh king prawns in garlic for breakfast. I’ve never done that before. It was delicious. We then stopped off at some medical centres in villages and then went to Nacaome, a big town. While Hazel was busy, I talked with her colleagues mum who was driving us. There is a very lazy attitude in the south. You can ask for directions from people and they just look at you – ironically with frozen stares (despite the heat) – as if you’re speaking in some language from Mars. I have been told, because of the poverty, they are quite depressed in the south. A majority of people in the south move to Tegucigalpa to find work – it’s only two hours north and 50 lemps to get there (less than 2 quid!). The land in the south is arid in places, because of the heat, so it can be hard to grow crops. However, you can still see rolling hills of green around. It’s not all desert. In fact, I saw very little desert. The south doesn’t get the tourists (they usually go stick to the north) so for the locals it’s quite strange to see foreigners around. They rely mainly on what they catch from the sea there too. Near the town, it’s quite common to see pigs strolling around and chickens everywhere. I didn’t take many pictures while we were there, just in case of theft, but I found this picture of a Nacaome pig in Google, pinched from a website.
It is a little backwards there, but more about that later. We had to visit one particular town in the middle of nowhere which we were warned has many bandits on the long stretch of road there, so we were escorted by the medical centre in Nacaome. I cannot remember the name of the place. We all got in the car rather nervously and made our way down a gravelly road almost expecting some gang to pop out of nowhere and take everything. It never happened, thankfully. We saw the state of the medical centre. Hazel and her colleague did their surveying and architectural stuff (it was a different language to me, but I could see they weren’t impressed with what they were seeing). Another organisation who had been working on it made a complete mess of it. It did look like a building site from an untrained eye point of view. My hangover and the heat made me lethargic and sleepy. I then went off to get snacks and a drink, but I was told not to walk around this sleepy little village by myself as it was poor and dangerous. I was given a lift, and yes, they were right, the people did look a little dangerous. I bought a few snacks but the looks I was getting from the locals were far from friendly. It made me think of the Wicker Man, the Honduran version, so I got back to the centre and we got going back to Nacaome soon after.
Hazel’s friends then dropped us off at a cheap enough hotel. We had little choice but to stay there because when we arrived, the heavens opened and they remained open until about 10:30pm. It was an okay hotel, although the toilet reeked of sewage and the air conditioning was broken, which would have been unbearable if we were anything above half-awake. Luckily, we weren’t, and as soon as we got into the room, we pretty much collapsed into sleep. We agreed that we would get food about 7pm but our bodies and minds said no, and before we knew it, it was 10pm and our stomach’s were growling that they were empty. We hit the streets and looked for somewhere to eat but everything was closed and it seemed very quiet and eerie. There’s a reason why there aren’t many postcards of Nacaome by Night, and that’s because it’s not a very colourful place, apart from a karaoke bar/possibly a brothel, with lots of neon lights playing 70s/80s cheesy latin ballads and there seemed to be a few trannies walking around. All we wanted was something to eat and drink, honestly, and there was nothing else open. It was like walking into a scene in the Mighty Boosh. They made me feel at home with a big poster of The Beatles on the wall though, so at least they were welcoming. We still decided to depart from the place sharpish nonetheless. We had our water. Now we needed food. Luckily we found a pulperia on the other side of the street still open. I didn’t trust the place even before I could smell the place (it smelled horribly of dog hair, and I f–king hate dogs); a man was shouting and being aggressive with a woman. The woman was shouting back. They saw us and smiled and said they were closing. They were kind enough to sell us some snacks which were like cheesy Wotsits. That was our dinner. We were famished. We accepted it. Then a man who had lived in New York for eight years or so wanted to practice his English. He was drunk and we were tired, but we tried to be polite and leave quickly. On the way out, the man who was shouting at the woman then suddenly had a man wielding a machete in his face. I didn’t believe what I was seeing at first. Hazel did and said, “Com’on, let’s get the f–k out of here!” so we went sharpish yet again, almost legging it, not wanting to see what was going to happen next. We heard behind us someone kicking or punching something metal. Not quite a knife fight, but it seemed to be the only thing happening in Nacaome on Friday, so we have to make the place sound interesting somehow.
When we got back to the hotel, we ate our snacks and watched a crap American film about a couple adopting a baby. They fall in love. That’s all you need to know. You can tell that from watching the front cover of the DVD cover. It has Katherine Heigl in it. That’s all I can tell you. I can’t remember the name and I don’t want to burden you with it so I’m not going to research it. It will be a memorable film for two reasons: 1) I saw it with a hungry stomach in Nacaome with my mate Hazel 2) the classic line in it, “Darling, you have shit on your face”.
The Saturday morning’s weather was certainly sunnier than the night before. There is an expression about the heat in Nacaome but I’ve forgotten what it is exactly. It’s something to do with the devil taking off his sombrero. It is also the hottest place in Honduras, apparently. Anyway, we paid for the hotel and then we went to the bank to get some money to have breakfast. Our stomachs were now screaming at us to be filled. On the way to the bank, we bumped into a colleague of Hazel’s who offered to drive us to the bus-stop in San Lorenzo, which is only 10 minutes away, but as we were starving, it felt like 10 hours. We caught the bus to Coyolito that took us up mountainsides that looked over the Gulf of Fonseca. The thirty odd scattered islands in the area, mixed with the rivers going into gulf, gave the landscape an Amazon look about it. I wish I’d had my camera handy but my mind was on food.
We caught a colectivo boat from the small Coyolito town, which had great views of the amazing inactive volcano, to Isla El Tigre, where the main town Amapala is. Both Hazel and myself commented, as soon as got to the island, how similar it was to a lake or loch in Ireland or Scotland – apart from the tropical heat and the fact that here the scavengers are pelicans, not vicious seagulls. It had an atmosphere about it, one that almost feels like time’s forgotten, this is especially evident in the centre of Amapala when you can see crumbling buildings and houses that almost like windswept down. It was a quiet bay we arrived in, not quite in the centre of Amapala as we would have liked but it was nice enough. We ignored the calls from the tut-tut drivers to take us somewhere on the island and we found ourselves a restaurant pretty much straight off the boat to have yet another fish breakfast. It took some time for the food to come to the table, due to the fact they hadn’t caught our fish yet, but the way of life in the south is slow anyway that even people in Andalucía in Spain might think is slow. We saw the fishermen come in with the fish anyway, and my stomach has never squealed in such delight when I started munching on it. I’ve always been a meat man, but this fish was up there with the best steaks I’ve had. And it was only around 4 quid. We both agreed that it felt fantastic to get away from Tegucigalpa and work and see somewhere completely different. I also took pictures of the bay, which you can see below.
Part two continues!