As winter approaches (wah!), hot weather memories seem to creep their way slowly but surely into every waking thought. Cycling around Amsterdam with wind, rain and the ever decreasing temperature makes me long for the long, warm days of summer. These memories replace the woolly coats with minimal clothes, an idyllic, paradisaical setting and the only cold thing to be found floating in an alcoholic concoction somewhere in your vicinity. Although my time spent in Honduras wasn’t all play and no work, it was certainly an experience that sparks reminiscence every winter.
Like Mongolia’s capital before it, I’m not entirely sure why it’s taken me two and a half years to get around to this post. I have such great memories of Honduras, and although I have written about the internship elsewhere, I’m yet to write about why I loved it so much.
Honduras is, unfortunately, often skipped out on the well-worn backpacker route of Central America. Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala – they all seem to make it on to the checklist, leaving their lesser known neighbour in the dark. This may be to do with the reputation; Honduras is renowned for a bloody and brutal capital city, drugs, gangs and kidnapping, which aren’t the most enticing of qualities.
Although there is of course truth in some of the headlines, it’s exaggerated. You will not take one step of the plane and be taken hostage by a group of armed gangsters. You will not be forced to strap 12940189kg of cocaine to your body and get back on aforementioned plane. And you probably won’t be murdered in a brutal game of ‘attack the foreigner’. It’s a crying shame that Honduras has built up such a reputation around the world. I travelled and worked there from the UK as a 20 year old, pretty clueless girl with a few phrases of Spanish under her belt, and, surprise, surprise, I made it out alive, and with some of the best memories and experiences I could have ever made.
I stayed in the capital of Tegucigalpa for the majority of my stay with a warm and welcoming family. They let me in to their home, cooked me food every day, invited me to family events and helped me really delve into an authentic Honduras. True, the city itself is dangerous. I rarely walked anywhere on my own, even in the day, everywhere has armed guards and I wouldn’t have ever have gone to a bar by myself. If it wasn’t for my internship and the homestay, then I would not recommend the city. It’s overly Americanised whilst inhospitable to tourists, with big relatively uninteresting buildings, a lot of shops all centred in a pool of wealth surrounded by a ring of poverty.
The real gems come towards the north, nestled in the Caribbean Bay islands of Utila, Roatan and Guanaja. Boasting the second biggest reef system in the world (coming second, of course, to the Great Barrier Reef) and one of the cheapest places to get your diving qualifications, it really is paradise in a nutshell. I stayed on the island of Utila for a week. I paid a small amount for my great hostel complete with pool, hammocks and tarantulas (…), I partied on 50 cent fat, tequila shots, and most importantly, learned to dive! It’s an island that’s small enough to walk from one side to the other and bump into almost everyone you may have met the day before and befriend the locals selling fruit by the side of the road. It’s an instant home away from home. A home with considerably more sun, sea and spiders. My break in Utila was followed by a stop in Copan Ruinas, a Mayan site famous for the intricacy of its artwork, and another blog post altogether.
I returned to Tegucipgalpa, didn’t die, finished my internship and left happy and content with an amazing month. Even though realistically I barely scratched the surface of the expanse of Honduras, I managed to balance work, play and travel to make the most of an absolutely underrated destination. It’s a country without obvious charm to the outsider, but once you’re in there it’s hard not to be permanently enamoured.