We slept poorly. From the street came sounds of conflict: dogs barking and snarling, people shouting, the noise of a fight down the street. Every 15 minutes a man walking up and down the street, carrying a billy club and a machete, blew his whistle. All's well, the whistle said, we thought. But at night Managua felt hunched over, crouched in preparation for a bombing or invasion. It is low slung, ramshackle, the fallout from the devastating earthquake of '72, and we were constantly on watch as we walked the streets.
At 3:45 the alarm went off, and we were escorted down the block to the bus station by a man in a hooded sweatshirt with a machete tucked under his arm.
Tica Bus is the luxury line of the buses we've taken so far. Cushy seats that reclined(!), curtains for the windows, and air conditioning. The AC was pumping the whole way, in fact, so I didn't sweat at all, and even rummaged in my backpack at the Honduran border for a warm fleece.
"If they aren't trying to drown you in your own sweat," I told Bean, "they're trying to freeze the hell out of you." She smiled and snuggled down under her fleece.
The countryside turned flat and grassy; wide plains with yellow waves of grass, Dr. Seuss trees dotted all over, more like the African savannah than Nicaragua. We slept to the Honduran border, where the grassland turned to hills covered with pine trees and pastures, then we stopped for an hour to get through customs.
We talked with an American at the border, Adam, who had been a tour guide for 8 months in Leon, Nicaragua. He was going to check out Tegucigalpa. He knew the exchange rate - 18 lempiras per dollar, preferably 19 lempiras if you can wrangle it. I had just gotten 15 lempiras per dollar from a guy on the street, but I didn't figure that out until an hour later. Stupid!
"Where are you going?" he asked.
"Roatan, the Bay Islands," I said.
"Everyone is going there!" he said, smiling. "Must be nice!"
We nodded, said we were hoping to get our SCUBA certification and move on. Plus lie on the beach a little. We established that he was from the Bay Area, and then the bus started up and we moved on.
Honduras was hilly, with mountains in the distance and the clouds closed in as we made a stop in Tegucigalpa. Where Managua was flat, Teguc seemed plastered to the side of a hundred hills, much older and more established. It began to rain, and as we pulled out I saw a swollen muddy river with pieces of trash bobbing up and down in it as it flowed away. The bus played some violent movies, and we napped and watched the hills careen by. The bus driver, trying to make up time lost at the border, had the pedal down and we were smashed against the window or slung nearly into the aisle as he slalomed down the hilly roads.
We reached San Pedro Sula, the second city of Honduras and the new manufacturing center (lots of textiles made around here), in the dark and in the middle of a downpour. We got in a taxi and drove through streets turned into muddy rivers 6 inches deep. People huddled in doorways, ran from corner to corner. There are no storm drains, so all the water pours downhill, and the cars splashed through the water sending off bow waves. We swam ashore at the Hotel Terrazo, where we claimed a room on the 4th floor for $23. The thunder banged outside and we curled up for the night with the rain drumming on the roofs below.
Today we are doing some errands, then we take a bus to La Ceiba and the ferry to Roatan (we may have to do that part tomorrow).