A bus can carry almost anything in Central America! Photo by Madelyn Given.

Honduras: Tegucigalpa and Chicken Buses

View from Picacho Hill, looking down over Tegucigalpa, capital of Honduras. Photo by Madelyn Given.

View from Picacho Hill, looking down over Tegucigalpa, capital of Honduras. Photo by Madelyn Given.

Tegucigalpa is the capital of Honduras and the third largest city in Central America, with 1.5 million in population. My guide Patricio and I took time to drive to the Basilica of Sayapa that sits high on a hill, with a great stone balcony overlooking the city. Inside, the windows are beautifully designed and colorful, and the entire edifice is quite simple in design. Patricio explained that two weeks prior to our visit was a great annual celebration, the birthday of Sayapa, The Virgin Saint of Tegucigalpa. The festivities go on for a week, with a holiday from school and work. The remains of colorful decorations were being torn down by residents along the streets in the area; not even Christmas compares to this local celebration.

Statue of Christ on Picacho Hill. Photo by Madelyn Given.

Statue of Christ on Picacho Hill. Photo by Madelyn Given.

We drove to Picacho Hill, which is part of a National Park, and saw the giant statue of Christ at the peak. Here was a great lookout over the capital below us. Patricio pointed out the National Soccer Stadium, the old colonial section of the city, the business districts, and the airport.  The airport is considered one of the most dangerous in the world because of the short runway and the hills and mountains next to it. There is an ongoing political debate about relocating it.

We departed the city for Santa Lucia, a colonial mining town in the hills when the conquistadors came hunting for gold. This town is set on steep hills and very picturesque. We spent part of the day walking around the historic buildings, old homes, and churches. I found obsidian, which was not mined here, in the cobblestone of the street. We drove to Valle de Angeles, a restored artisan town for the wares of Honduras craftsmen, mainly leather and wood. We drove back to Tegucigalpa that evening, as Patricio was staying with his sister-in-law and family. The next morning, he told me the family had held a birthday party for him. His mother-in-law, wife, daughter, and two-year-old son drove many miles to surprise him. Family gatherings are very important in Central America.

The transportation system in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua uses recycled US school buses. It is very universal and the thinking here is that the buses were only used a little in the U.S., to take the students to and from school just 5 days a week for part of the year, so they are still in good condition. Here they are used 7 days a week, many hours a day, year round. They are privately owned and gaily colored, with racks added to the roof of the buses. Everything is carried on the buses, including chickens, and many people are squeezed into the buses.

There are some city buses in the major cities, but the long lines were waiting for the chicken buses. It offers a cheaper transportation option, and it is more widely used to go from the city to the neighboring towns and villages.

School children walk to school. There are two sessions of school each day. After the morning session, they go home at 12:30 to work, play, or study for the later part of the day. The second session starts at 1 pm and goes until 4:30 or 5pm. We would see many school children coming to school or going home, walking on the side of the road; there were no sidewalks, but the students, clustered in small groups, were cheerful and happy. The children were in neat, clean uniforms, and all of the students carried backpacks.

There is much to learn from travel, from the natural hiking environment in the forests to the types of mass transportation for the people. Being with the local people is a great education. Each trip is an adventure, worth all the effort, with lasting memories.

(posted October 3, 2017)