School children in Nicaragua. Photo by Madelyn Given.

Honduras to Nicaragua

My guide Patricio and I drove out of Tegucigalpa, capital of Honduras, going southbound to Nicaragua. What I remember most about this day were the long, continuous highway construction delays in Honduras. During the day, especially on our long drive and during the highway delays, Patricio would help me practice my Spanish, and talk about his country: political, geography, history, and economy. The scenery was changing from the tropical mountains of coffee and cocoa trees to the valleys of fields of cantaloupes and many types of vegetables. Corn is used as a natural pesticide bordering the large fields of crops. Groves of orange and fruit trees are everywhere, and oranges are harvested year round, whereas cantaloupes are produced from March to July. There were signs with the word TUMULO and Patricio would slow down—BUMP in English.

We stopped for lunch at Chesters, a national fast food franchise that came to exist as competition when KFC from the US came to Honduras. The people have widely supported the business and claim better food. We drove south to the Fonseca Gulf on the Pacific Ocean which is shared by El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. It is semi arid, a great area for growing crops and much hotter on the Pacific Coast at sea level.

Illegal iguanas for sale in Honduras.

Illegal iguanas for sale in Honduras.

Before we crossed the border, a group of five men ran out of the woods to stop our car. They rushed towards us as we slowed down. I kept my window up and my door locked.  They were selling their prized possessions. Each man was carrying two live iguanas, their legs and tail were tied and their mouth bound. They were selling them two for $10.00. I asked Patricio to take a picture. This made them mad and they shouted dirty remarks at us. I am sure they knew they were doing something unlawful.

We reached the Honduras-Nicaragua border and things went okay, but it was a slow process, with many unorganized steps. We cashed in our lempiras currency from Honduras.

In Nicaragua, US currency is accepted everywhere. President Daniel Ortega, a dictator, keeps order here. It is safer here, and the roads are better; progress is slowly improving, as there have been many rebellions in the past–as recent as the 1970s, when the US sent troops to Honduras and Russia and Cuba sided with Nicaragua. There is a mix of old and new technology, manual labor, and new machinery. Help has come from Denmark and the Netherlands with wind turbines, and a great influence from China and the US is seen everywhere.

We reached Leon before dark. This beautifully restored Spanish colonial city dates from the 1500s, with narrow cobblestone streets, and it is a clean, safe, and welcome place for tourists. Patricio dropped me off at the wrong place. While he was trying to find a place to park, I met a gentleman who was from Chicago. Patricio soon returned and we found my place, a former convent built in the 1500s, a very historic placed filled with antiques along the walls and covered walkways in the interior garden. It is next to San Francisco Church in the center of the old town, in a restful setting, and near places to see and dine.

We walked around the old narrow streets with the restored buildings, old cathedral, and churches, and we saw a very long, narrow, one-story seminary and the central plaza. Leon was the hottest place I have yet encountered in Central America. It was beyond hot to me and I needed to retreat to cool inside sanctuaries every so often throughout each day.

(posted October 17, 2017)