I was bordering on having empty pockets.
Finances have been in a rather precarious state for far too long now.
As the Honduran joke goes:
“Money come and sit next to me.”
“Okay, I’m sitting, how can I help you?”
“Well listen money, I want you to explain to me exactly what it was that I did to you. Why do you never want to be with me?”
That, being how one feels at times. It can appear as if one has deeply upset money hence its sheer reluctance to stick around for long.
I found myself in a such a predicament within the Tica bus station at Managua. To describe the journey in one word – I’d choose ‘hideous’. One spends the best part of two days sitting on a coach trailing at a snail’s pace through Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. It is however, a less expensive form of travel than going by air.
Hence the motive to subject myself to such a ‘punishment’.
The reason behind my trip being that I needed to renew my visa for Honduras. A tourist visa, which is only valid for three months at a time.
One must leave the C4 zone, which encompasses Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. Belize, Mexico and Costa Rica being the nearest places on offer for a snappy visa renewal thus forcing the traveler to touch Costa Rican, Belizean or Mexican soil, whereupon after a period of 72 hours – one is able to return to one’s point of departure. In my case, this has always been Honduras.
I had already conducted the journey twice in the past. It is an experience. The good parts of this gigantic trip (starting in San Pedro Sula, HN) being that one gets to see the landscapes of these three nations as well as spend a night in Managua, the capital city of Nicaragua.
The landscapes change dramatically, especially within Honduras. I journey from the white beaches and palm trees of the Caribbean coast to San Pedro Sula; a vast concrete jungle which gradually disintegrates into masses of fields – lying upon its outskirts. These fields abound before one slowly climbs up into pine-forested mountains bordering the capital city Tegucigalpa – on having passed the most picturesque, dark blue lakes of Yojoa. After the capital ‘Tegus’, one enters the desert on moving through the southern zone of Honduras. From there-on-in it pretty much remains the same view – arid flatlands predominating. That being the general scenery before finally arriving – with a nasty, stiff backside and quite exhausted – in Managua.
It is a city, which I took an instant liking to three years ago (my first occasion there) on account of its radiant selection of ‘illuminated trees’. These statues (please see photos) are dotted around the abundance of large boulevards and traffic-dense highways running throughout the city. These were a gift from the former Chavez administration of Venezuela; even ‘old Hugo’ makes his appearance at a certain point. His face, lit up by an array of multicolored, sparkling ‘Christmas lights’ – sits by a roundabout.
Sandinista support is to be encountered throughout Managua, throwing the conscious historian back in time to the terribly uncertain and ultra-violent days of the Nicaraguan civil war. A part of their turbulent history, which is indeed very, very fresh in living memory. The civil war having ended in no less than 1990…
The Nicaraguan Revolution (Spanish: Revolución Nicaragüense or Revolución Popular Sandinista) witnessed the rising opposition to the Somoza dictatorship in the 1960s and 1970s, followed by the violent revolutionary campaign undertaken by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) to oust the dictatorship in 1978–79. Nicaragua then suffered the subsequent efforts of the FSLN to govern Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990. This being the period in which the Contra War came into play – waged between the FSLN-led government of Nicaragua and the United States-backed Contras from 1981–1990.
Painted murals, statues and flags are to be seen quite literally all over the length and breadth of the city. Red and black being the revolutionary colors sported on the FSLN flags hung across all manner of objects within Managua – from house doors to lampposts.
Therefore, an ambience of ‘civil war aftermath’ amidst an evident modern day fear of delinquency exists. On passing by any pedestrian at night within the obscure and unfriendly-appearing, darkened neighborhoods, frightened faces are exchanged between those who pass each other up, which implies deep fears of street robbery or worse.
One must move swiftly through such zones for it is an uncomfortable venture. Shady youths stare one down, police patrols appear suddenly and without notice from blacked-out alleyways and drunken prostitutes make a scene of themselves outside Managua’s array of ‘filthy’ bars; frequented by what appeared to be middle-aged male down and outs who engage themselves in billiards, heavy drinking and seedy sex acts – I assume.
Street corners stink of alcohol-induced vomit at random, unexpected intervals. Territory marked by the drunks. Stray dogs dart between a constant onrush of buses, cars and motorbikes. Noise is everywhere. It is pure chaos as in any Latin American metropolis. Small stands are placed here and there between gas stations and hotels where chubby Indias fry up meat and serve fast foods from behind the clouds of smoke, which rise above their many steaming grills – covered in steaks and chorizos.
I always pay for a single room at The Tica Bus Station Hotel. About $US10.00 a night. They do resemble prison cells yet some are equipped with air conditioning for an additional $US10.00 I believe. Departure for San Jose, Costa Rica is always an early occasion – the bus leaving at 5am the next morning. One arrives late at night after having to cross the Nicaragua-Honduras frontier, which is an extremely slow, dragged-out process. As I had on the previous two journeys, I took to the semi nerve wracking, uninviting-looking, darkened streets of Managua in the pursuit of taking photos and finding myself some street food. Honduran cuisine is better – I shall quickly add. In my humble opinion.
On leaving the hotel’s confines, one must deal with the ubnoxious taxi drivers, who line up outside the establishment chatting amongst themselves whilst they await anybody of Caucasian features. Taxi drivers in Latin America (speaking from my experiences) are under the strong impression that white folk who do not walk anywhere. Turning down their services comes as a true shock and is often met with a fairly unpleasant response.
One such gent was desperate for me to step up into his battered, box-like, red taxi cab. He felt for some reason that what I needed were some girls and clubbing. Had the expense account been decidedly healthier I’d have most certainly agreed with his bold assumptions. Sadly, tragically – even, I was unable to take him up on his offer of 70 Cordobas for a ride down to the city’s club zone.
“Yo te llevo hermano, vamos a conseguirte una par de chamacas para pasar la noche bien.”
“I will take you brother, let’s get you a couple of chicks to have a good night.”
“No mano gracias pero estoy cansado.”
“No bro thanks but I’m tired.”
Instead of chamacas, I instead located a fine chicken/rice and beans combo after snapping a few fairly decent photos of the Managua streets, all done before retreating back to the stifling prison cell at the hotel. The fan barely worked at all. It was a ‘heated’ dinner session – I must say. Should have eaten that chicken combo out on the street. Trying to sleep was even worse for I am not at all accustomed to having to shower and then go to bed without drying myself off. Thus soaking up the sheets as one gazes up at the ridiculous fan – clothed in one’s dripping boxer shorts. As such, I attempted sleep. A pitiful attempt, which resulted in me watching various episodes of ‘The Office’ (UK version) until 5am came through.
At one point, around 3am, I wished to get myself a bottle of still water from a vending machine down in the blacked out, empty reception area.
The wretched thing took my coins and chose not to work.
On proceeding to awaken a sleeping night guard, I was informed:
“Yo no sé cómo funciona, usted dele su buena patada.”
“I don’t know how it works, you – give it a good kick”.
So I did. A few punches too. The thing was built like Mike Tyson. It could take a beating. I thus stormed back to my room cursing the heat, the fans, the vending machine, the bus ride – my life.
Thankfully, I made it down to San Juan the next day with no hindrance nor issue of any sort. A most succulent coffee was enjoyed at a pit stop somewhere in northern Costa Rica (on passing the border) that left me in such good spirits – I further purchased some pastries. I rarely do so as my sweet tooth has been missing in action since my late teens.
I now prefer a nice few rounds of strong rum accompanied by a chubby cigar…
Vices, which I continue combatting as we speak – in my attempt to be healthy.