Published: July 2nd 2006July 1st 2006
It's been an exhausting couple of days of travel. Yesterday, following the all-you-can-drink fiasco at the dive shop in Utila, I arose early to catch the ferry to La Ceiba, where I caught another bus to Tegucigalpa. I met a cool guy on the bus there from Arizona, who told me quite a few stories about his travels. One in particular he told sticks in my memory, and I'll recount it..
A fellow he was talking to was traveling in Guatemala. This guy was from Australia, and keep in mind that there is no Australian embassy in Guatemala. The guy was accosted by the police on the street one day, and wanted him to simply give them some money, which is apparently a common occurence, although I've never experienced it. The guy refused, and although the officers did not persist, he decided to report their behavior to the police station. After making the report, the guy was walking down the street and the same officers from before came driving up and proceeded to beat him up within an inch of his life. A broken beer bottle was used, and apparently there were cuts and gashes all over his face and head as a result of this beating. The officers, realizing the guy was almost dead, took him and dumped him somewhere, which unbeknownst to the guy, was 30 meters from the hospital. The guy, unaware he was so near to a hospital, wandered around, bleeding profusely from the wounds in his head, not knowing what to do. He realized finally that he needed to do something, otherwise he would die of excessive blood loss.
His solution to the problem was to kick in the door to a random person's house, which he was sure would cause the police to be called and would eventually bring him to the hospital. He was correct. He awoke handcuffed to a hospital bed, with a doctor stitching up the wounds on his head with a needle and thread, not using any anesthetic.
As soon as the doctor was finished, he was taken to jail. Jail in Guatemala is absolutely the last place in world you want to be, especially if you're a foreigner. It is widely rumored that foreigners in jails tend to die sooner rather than later, most likely due to being beaten up by other prisoners. Luckily, the guy didn't see much of this on this particular occasion. However, apparently the policy at this particular jail was that if you wanted to go free, you have to pay 400 quetzales, which is about US$55, or you can also pay 300 quetzales (US$40) to have a bed to sleep in, otherwise you sleep on the floor. The problem, however, was that the guy had no money, it all having been stolen by the police during the brutal beating. He languished in jail for a few days, and somehow eventually, a representative of the embassy in Canada heard of his plight and managed to get him out of jail. He still had no money at all, though, not even any money in a bank account back home. He apparently gets a pension check from the Australian military on the first of every month, but he had no funds in his account at that time.
The guy I was talking to on the bus ran into this guy and got to talking to him, heard his story, and helped him get back on his feet. Bought him some food, got him a place to stay, got him a job, etc. This is a pretty sobering tale, though. It's got to be the most horrifying tale of tourism gone wrong that I've ever heard. This sort of thing is not common at all, and it's possible that it's all a fabrication, but it's also very possible that it's true.
Anyway, back to my story. I get to Tegucigalpa, where I'm again struck by the Central American taxi driver cartel. If there's a single thing I've learned on this trip, it's ASK FOR THE FARE BEFORE
YOU GET IN THE CAB. The guy drove me around for about 15 minutes, told me there was no bus to Choluteca when in fact there was one leaving right there in 2 minutes, and at the end of it wanted to charge me 700 lempiras, which is about US$35. He eventually decreased it to 400 lempiras, which is still about 4 times what it should cost, according to a guy I talked to on the bus later. I knew at the time it was highway robbery, but I felt that I had no choice but to pay him the amount in full. Fuck that shit.
On the bus to Choluteca, I met a mechanical engineering student that goes to the University of Honduras. Between his broken English and my broken Spanish, we managed to have an interesting conversation for a few minutes. It was very strange that I met this guy, too, because earlier in the day I had met a practicing electrical engineer, also from Honduras. I had a nice conversation with this guy, too. He spoke a lot of English, so I was able to talk to him in some detail about stuff. Apparently, EE's in Honduras make about US$10,0000-$15,0000 a year, which is about a quarter of what they make in the US. So that was interesting.
I eventually made it to Choluteca, where I found a nice room at a hotel that even had a TV. It was amazing, I got to watch the Simpsons in Spanish. I also ate at Wendy's, which seems to be quite popular in Honduras. It was good, too.
I awoke early to catch a bus to the Honduras border. I caught another bus to Chinandega, where I caught a bus to Managua. After my experience with the taxi driver the previous day, I was reluctant to take a cab to the bus station I needed to get to on the other side of town in Managua. So I opted to use the knowledge contained within my travel guide to take a public city bus. Like the inter-city buses, most of the local buses in Managua are decommissioned American school buses. And they are very very crowded. As in every seat is always filled and there are people standing in every available square inch of empty space. I boarded this bus, which I was fairly sure was going where I needed to go. Unforunately, I had left my digital camera in the pocket of my jeans, and someone proceeded to pick it from my pocket, which I only realized a few minutes later when I reached down to not feel it there. Needless to say, quite frustrating, since I'd already lost my first digital camera in Belize. I was pissed.
I caught a bus to Granada, and here I am at the Bearded Monkey, which seems like quite a nice place. I may change my plans and stay here an extra night and leave on Monday, leaving me with only one full day in Costa Rica. There doesn't seem to be a whole lot of stuff that interests me in Costa Rica anyway.
No more pictures. I'm tired of getting stuff stolen from me. On my next trip, I am going to take absolutely nothing of value. Thieves suck.