Milk, thieves and cloud forests
Had my first contact with Honduran street crime. I was returning from a singularly unimpressive ‘milk festival’ in Olancho, a bleached and dusty region reminiscent of the Wild West. But it wasn’t until returning to Teguc that the gun-toting bandits arrived.
After a draining four-hour journey by rattling chicken-bus, I emerged from the taxi and had the key in the lock when I felt a hand on my back, hot breath on my neck and the cold steel of a revolver against my head. Rattling the muzzle, my assailant’s initial greeting was dinero; solo dinero. But after I’d fumbled with my wallet for what seemed like an eternity, he changed his request to todo, snatched it and ran into the night.
I’ve since convinced myself that it was an empty threat – we were right outside the door of the apartment, and bullets are expensive. It probably wasn’t even loaded. But it’s only money, and it’s just not worth the risk.
Catacamas, home of that infamous fiesta de la leche, had at least provided some humble rustic appeal. Hundreds of steps ascended the hillside to a white cross, affording magnificent panoramic views over the sprawling plains below. But its charms were scraped somewhat thinly over the eight-hour round trip, capped by assault at gunpoint.
Last weekend was spent in the incredible cloud forest of La Tigra National Park. Spread across several mountains, its rambling trails snake past mines, rivers and a 40-metre waterfall. As we set off for an early trek at 5am, the clouds descended over the jungle canopy and laced the valleys below with thick white mist.
Venturing off the track, we followed a brook stained red with iron ore, accompanied by toucans, roadrunners and a lizard or two as we swung from Tarzan vines and took deep, grateful breaths of the pure mountain air. Incredible beauty, but not unspoiled: the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Mitch was all too evident, the sheer valley sides irrevocably scarred by landslides that cut great swathes through the trees.
Tegucigalpa, Honduras – 19th April 2005