Tegus: First impressions

6 Mar

All cities are mad: but the madness is gallant. All cities are beautiful: but the beauty is grim.

~ Christopher Morley

I feel I need to preface this post with a ‘these are first impressions only’ disclaimer. I’m sure that as time goes on, and I’m able to see more than just the surface layer, my feelings about Tegucigalpa will evolve.

First impressions? Tegucigalpa is not a pretty city. I have seen it described elsewhere as the ugliest city in Honduras. Poor Tegus. I have to admit that at first glance it is a little hard to single out many redeeming features

When shopping for clothes in Canberra before I left, I was excited when one of the shop assistants had travelled extensively in Central America. My excitement was diminished somewhat when, upon hearing I was going to be living in Tegucigalpa, she exclaimed, “that place is a s*** hole!” Nice.

Although even the Frommer’s tourist guide starts by saying, “many travellers would rather not try to pronounce the name of the capital of Honduras, let alone visit it” and then describes Tegus as “a fairly pleasant place, if you can get past the smog, shanty towns and traffic.” Talk about damning a place with faint praise.

From what I’ve seen though, smog, shanty towns and traffic are all words that do partly sum up Tegus. Add in rubbish, crime, bush fires and socio-economic disparity and you’ve expanded the word picture. I don’t want to sound terribly negative here, but it’s immediately obvious upon arrival that Tegus isn’t really a tourist destination.

It’s a sprawling city, mushed awkwardly into the hilly topography of a valley surrounded by mountains. The traffic is frenetic as old yellow school buses, beaten up taxis and sleek SUVs compete for space on pot-holed, three-lane avenues or on narrow, one-way streets. There are signs of poverty everywhere, interspersed with the glowing beacons of a multitude of fast food outlets.

View of Tegus from my office building

One of Tegucigalpa’s many hillsides

My first Sunday here my host mum took me for a drive to the centre of town. We stopped near the Parque Central, but didn’t get out of the car just to be on the safe side. Most of the churches and museums are only a few blocks away from the park, however there doesn’t appear to be too much else to see.

Before Hurricane Mitch it was apparently much more vibrant, but post-Mitch many of the shops and hotels and restaurants never rebuilt. It’s made the centre of town a rather sad, rundown and empty place in parts. It’s also, to quote Frommer’s again, “dirty, crowded, noisy and dangerous at night.”

My guide books all say that it’s reasonably safe to walk around the centre of town during the day, so long as you don’t wear jewellery, don’t take a mobile, and only take a small camera. My host mum has a friend who often goes to the centre of town so another time we might do a bit of exploring with her. It pays to go with someone who knows the area you’re visiting.

Safety and security are two issues that are always at the back of your mind here. I can roam ‘freely’ in our gated community (like a hamster on a hamster wheel) but outside the gates things get trickier. I’ll expand on this in another post.

Despite what it may sound like I am enjoying living here so far. It’s chaotic and crazy but also really interesting. I’m looking forward to getting to know Tegus better and will try not to make snap judgements. As the AFS saying goes, it’s not right, it’s not wrong, it’s just different.

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2 Responses to “Tegus: First impressions”

  1. shamsplanet April 5, 2013 at 7:39 am #

    Yep, that pretty much sums up how I remember it, you left out the tranny hookers, but they’re probably only out at night.

    • honduranhiatus April 5, 2013 at 8:09 am #

      I haven’t been out and about too much at night, so I’ll have to take your word for it!

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