By “Awake!” correspondent in Honduras
OUR 175-mile trip is a two-day journey, and our bus leaves at 3 a.m. We are traveling to San Pedro Sula from our home on the Caribbean coast of Honduras. As we climb aboard the bus, we note that it is full, so we have to stand for five hours in the back, next to the luggage in the rear compartment. But we are on our way.
As we look over our fellow passengers, we see persons of Indian background and persons of Spanish ancestry. Then there are the Morenos, Negroes whose ancestors came from Africa. How colorful the women’s dress is! And the men with their straw sombreros and sparkling eyes greet us, even at 3 a.m., with a happy, “Buenos dias.”
As the bus winds its way along the sandy road through the jungle, we bounce along listening to the buzz of happy conversation. Every so often we stop to pick up or discharge passengers. At one of the stops, there is a man selling iguanas. He has about twenty of these jumbo lizards with their legs trussed up, tied by their tails to a stout pole. Some of the passengers lean out of the windows and purchase these dragons of the jungle to prepare for a meal when they arrive at their destination. We only hope that they are not going to be put with the luggage in the part of the bus where we are. Much to our relief the iguanas are placed on top of the bus with the excess luggage, for we would not relish riding next to a live, four-foot-long iguana.
It is interesting to view the “manaca” houses in the villages as we pass by. The houses are made of poles tied together with vines. The house is then daubed with mud or clay and is plastered over with bright red clay. The roof is made of poles and covered with long branches of the manaca palm. We are told that these palm tree roofs will last for six years, keeping out the tropical heat and winter rains. These homes with their bright red roof and high clay walls are indeed a colorful sight.
Finally our bus reaches the railroad station. Here in several manaca buildings we can sit in the shade and drink a beverage made from powdered milk, fruit flavoring and shaved ice. There is no hurry. We even visit a nearby village, as we have a considerable wait.
The train finally arrives, and people rush to get aboard, including many women with heavy bundles carried on top of their heads. The train is pulled by a modern diesel engine, but the cars must date from the turn of the century. We find that all the seats are taken. The only place left to ride is at the end of the cars, on the outside where the cars join together. We pick a place on the steps and get settled, noting that there are eighteen others riding on the platform with us, baggage and all. The hours pass quickly as we enjoy the breathtaking scenery.
Our train makes very few stops, and in between it just slows down so that people can either jump on or off. We see one fellow racing down the tracks behind the train on his horse, trying to catch the train. As he nears the train he stops to tie his mount to a tree and the train outdistances him. We watch as he again races to catch the train, only to be foiled by a narrow bridge. We last view him as he races off on a jungle trail, presumably to get aboard at another spot ahead on the line. Getting off the train can be just as much of a challenge.
One young woman jumps off the train and falls into the soft grass alongside the tracks, and a young man jumps off with a baby in his arms and lays it gently in the grass. Someone throws off the lady’s baggage. Next she picks up her baby and her bundle of clothes and she disappears in the thick foliage. Does that sound strange to you? To these people it is not.
At our next stop, we are surrounded with many little girls and boys and some women who are selling tamales, a tortilla plate, filled with fried fish plus frijoles, or beans, fried platanos, which are like French fries except that they are sweet. If we are thirsty we can buy a coco de agua, a coconut filled with sweet milk, opened on the spot by a girl with a machete. She wields a two-foot-long blade and whacks off the top of the coconut, leaving a hole just large enough so that we can drink this delicious tropical treat.
Soon we are on our way again, and late at night we reach our destination, San Pedro Sula. What an enjoyable, exciting trip it has been, traveling Honduran style!