After just two nights it was time to roll out from Jorge’s. He’s a delightful man and I could have easily stayed longer, but Bernice, an American friend of mine from my time teaching in Korea, was in Nicaragua and the one time our schedules might overlap is the 3rd and 4th of June when we will hopefully both be in Granada, Nicaragua. With other things between Zambrano and Granada I had to leave. First on the list was a short ride to Tegus where David, a Costa Rican working for the Honduran Philarmonic had offered to host me, and Katya, a Honduran that had stayed at the same hostel as me in Havana back in March, lived.
The ride was short and pleasant until the outskirts of Tegus when the traffic got heavy and the pollution horrible. Mexico City always gets criticised for terrible air, but Tegus seemed much worse. It wasn’t helped by the poor road quality, or the worst thing, the lack of manhole covers. I’d read about the problem on someone else’s blog so knew it was probable, but, when you’re going downhill with traffic squashing you in, it’s rather disconcerting to have a hole in the middle of your path bigger than your wheel. Some of them had some kind of mesh a couple of feet down the hole, but others seemed to have a good few feet drop into the sewers with nothing to stop you. I don’t know if they’ve been stolen or what, but it’s not only ridiculous but also incredibly dangerous. Combined with toasty temperatures, horrific drivers undertaking each other at each available chance, buses randomly stopping and starting and sharp climbs and drops it made riding through Tegus one of my least favourite experiences to date. That’s before even thinking about the poverty of some of the neighbourhoods I went though.
After all that, I did end up having a good time in Tegus. True, being locked out of David’s place for 4 hours after the key he had lent me broke in the door isn’t something I’d necessarily like to repeat, although the two kids I ended up hanging out with while hiding from the torrential downpour were a blast. But David was a nice guy, although very busy with work on his way to one day hopefully conducting the Berlin Philharmonic, and I really enjoyed meeting up with Katya and her sister, Andrea. They spent the day driving me round the city, which gave me the chance to see not only the highlights such as the viewpoint of the city from the side of the mountain, but also that going around Tegus is nearly as terrifying in a car as on a bike.
From Tegus it was south to Choluteca, the 4th city of Honduras and the plains near the Gulf of Fonseca where according to accuweather.com there was a ‘realfeel’ of 42c (107f) because of the humidity. Before I could experience such delghts, I needed to ride through Tegus in rush hour traffic, and then climb my way out. Thankfully at least on the climb nearly all of the traffic was heading into Tegus so in the other lane which meant that the main danger was from people overtaking others on blind corners, which are generally less panic-inducing than traffic trying to pass you on a blind corner.
Later, having made it up to the top of the climb and then the subsequent drops and climbs working the way through the group of mountains that make up the bowl around Tegus it was time for a delightful descent, only spoilt by the ever-increasing temperature. Even having left around 6am, I still had about 50 of the 140km to go when noon came around and so seeing a petrol station, pulled over to rest and refill my water bottles. I pulled out my Kindle, to read a bit, and noticed that they had wifi, which meant a couple of hours hanging out there. By the time I was back on the road, some of the heat had gone, and I was feeling rehydrated.
The rest of the 50km was pretty flat and so I soon made it to the bridge leading into Choluteca where Jaime, my host, was waiting for me. He’d described it as just like the Golden Gate bridge, but a little smaller. It was the one bridge that survived when Hurricane Mitch devastated Central America, including Choluteca, in 1998, although there was the slight problem that while the bridge survived the river didn’t, as it got re-routed elsewhere.
My host, Jaime was born in Spain, but raised in Choluteca. His father is Honduran, but his mother, Carmen, from Sevilla. They were wondreful people and I really had a great time there. Talking to his mum about Europe, and her travels back there, and also the way some people treat her poorly in Central America for being Spanish, as if she was somehow to blame for the atrocities of the conquistadors and the subsequent events. I could also meet some of Jaime’s friends, including Josue, a close friend who is from Nicaragua but lives in Iowa and hanging out in Honduras for a couple of weeks. We went out driving round the city, and I got to see the Latin American stereotypical machismo of wolf-whistling and them telling nearly every woman, irrespective of age and apperaance, that we went past “Mi amor! Te amo!”. They say it’s done to show their appreciation, but I know that at least Sydney and her friends in Gracias find it at best a pain, and solo-female cycletourists have also commented on their infuriation with the constant attention. Seeing it from inside the car, and how much Latin Americans talk about loving their mothers, it’s definitely not meant that way although I can’t see them stopping it.
Looking down over Tegus
The other side of the hill