Checked out of my little windowless dungeon and walked straight into a passing funeral procession. I was expecting Olanchito to be a little more bustling than the previous day, but wasn’t expecting this. Scores of locals, sheltered from the already blistering sun with umbrellas, slowly walked behind a vehicle carrying the dearly departed. I respectfully waited for the cortège to pass before continuing on to the bus terminal.
Touts accost you as soon as you approach the buses as they get paid to get backsides on seats. There’s a sense of urgency that feels as if the bus will leave without you if you don’t jump on. Now! But then you end up waiting ages for the bus to fill and the driver to get his act together. One of the touts starting chatting to me on the bus, asking me where I was from. When he found out I was travelling solo and that I wasn’t married, he decided to try his luck and asked for my phone number. I explained that my phone didn’t work in Honduras, but he was persistent. Just before we were about to drive off, he came back over again and tried to charm a phone number out of me. He was really cute and funny, but I was leaving the area so not much point. I bid him adios as the bus roared off.
I was hoping to do a loop to travel a different route, but it turned out the only way back was the way I had come. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful journey and well worth a second visit. As it was, I had travelled between Tela and San Pedro Sula in the dark, so was surprised to discover several aquatic parks located along this stretch of the road. We drove past the ubiquitous plantations of banana, palm oil and sugar cane. As I always try to take the local buses, we are forever stopping to drop off or pick up passengers along the side of the road. This slow pace allows one to experience the finer details of everyday Honduran life; vultures feeding on a carcass, wooden carts pulled by oxen, a panicky foal running along the road in search of its mother.
Mid route, we stopped for one of the numerous police/military checkpoints and were directed to pull over on the side of the road. The two bus assistants got off and started talking to the police while the driver handed over the necessary paperwork. Then, a heavily armed police officer with hard hat and bullet proof vest climbed on board and addressed the passengers. Basically, he said they were going to conduct a routine search and that all the male passengers were to exit the bus. As the hombres exited the vehicle, I saw them lining up alongside the bus and being patted down by waiting policemen. Then, several armed police officers climbed on board and began a fairly thorough search of the luggage. For some reason, they didn’t ask to look in my day pack, for which I was grateful as I carry all my valuables in it. Probably would have been fine, but easier not to go there. Their search completed, the policía exited the bus and the waiting passengers got back on.
We were stopped a few other times and it looked like we were going to be searched again, but our driver managed to talk his way out of it with a little greasing of the palms. After a brief rest stop a couple of hours out of San Pedro Sula, one of the assistants took over the driving and the driver sat next to me. It was really interesting talking to him. His story was not that dissimilar to others I had heard from locals. His family had emigrated to the US where he worked ridiculous hours on minimum wages for several years. Returning to Honduras, he bought a bus and started his little business. He now owns four buses and seems to be doing quite well for himself. But he continues to work long hours driving the bus. Our trip was over seven hours and he still needed to drive back to Olanchito. Nevertheless, I guess he is back in his homelands.
We eventually arrived at the main bus terminal in San Pedro Sula and it was nice to stretch out after such a long bus trip. I caught a taxi to a hostel I found in the guidebook and organised myself a bed and a beer. Saturday night appeared to be party night at La Hamaca and the little courtyard outside my dorm room filled with locals and marijuana smoke. San Pedro Sula, according to homicide rates, has been the most dangerous city in the world since 2012. That said, if you keep your wits about you and don’t go looking for trouble, it probably won’t come looking for you. I certainly didn’t loose any sleep worrying about meeting my maker in the midnight hours.