Monday, June 23, 2014

Tegucigalpa, Honduras

Tegucigalpa was not a recommended location in our Lonely Planet book. And nearly everything we read about the capital city of Honduras advised us to stay away if we wanted to survive our backpacking trip. But we had to go to Tegucigalpa because we had to see our friend Wendy. Seriously. There was no way we were going to go to Honduras and not hang out with her. 

I met Wendy when I was a missionary in Texas, and 6 years ago she returned to Honduras. So this was the first time I've been able to see her in 6 years! It was a much needed, and super fun reunion.
Wendy took us all around the city to show us some of the famous sights. Her friend Juan Carlos, who is a chauffeur by profession, take us around so we could see more places in a safe vehicle. The crime rate in Tegucigalpa is out of control. Although I don't feel as though we were ever in danger, this was the only time on our trip that I was actually worried that something bad might happen to us. Even on the first night we were there we heard gunshots right outside of the house. Turns out there was a drunk guy celebrating his birthday by shooting off his gun into the air on the street corner. Drinking and firearms do not mix in my opinion.
All Latin American cities are similar to the United States and are full of people going to work and dressed professionally, as well as fast food places, and statues of important political people. Downtown Tegucigalpa was really pretty. We really liked walking around in the parks and seeing the different statues and churches. But we didn't spend too much time there.

We went up to Valle de los Angeles and Santa Lucia, which are two different towns set up in the mountains outside of Tegucigalpa. 

Santa Lucia had some amazing views from the top of the mountain, and Valle de los Angeles was an artisan mecca. Seriously, we spent hours there going through artisan shops and markets. 

After spending some time in the mountains, we returned to Tegucigalpa and enjoyed touring the grounds of the LDS temple located near the airport. The temple was just recently constructed so it was fun to see one of the newest temples in Central America, even though we didn't have time to go inside.

I remember when I went with Wendy to the temple in Houston for the first time. It was such a great experience. I absolutely love spending time at the temple. Even just going to the grounds, there is a different feeling there. It is immaculate and since it is up on a hill with plenty of area around it, it was surprisingly quiet and peaceful. 

I think Juan Carlos liked going to the temple too. He had never been there before so it was an adventure trying to find the roads that would take us up there. Tegucigalpa is located in a valley surrounded by mountains and a ton of hills. So you can literally be driving on the freeway and see the temple, then a hill will get in the way and you'll lose it and not know what exit to get off in order to find it again. It was a fun process. But in the end it was totally worth the trek.

And of course, after going to the LDS temple, it was only fair to pay homage to one of the Catholic cathedrals. This particular cathedral is dedicated to la Virgen de Suyapa - or the virgin of all of Central America. This particular cathedral serves as a meeting point for Catholics from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. It was completely massive. I don't know if you can really tell it's immensity in these pictures, but it was huge. 

And of course, they had a gold statue of the pope in front of the church so we had to take a picture with him. I've never had my picture taken with a pope statue before. 

On Sunday we went with Wendy to church, which was such a great experience. I love going to church and enjoying that time with great friends and family. 

One exciting thing that happened on Sunday was that I found out that someone in Peru had stolen our ATM card number and sucked out all the money from our checking account. Such a crazy experience, but luckily while Chase was fixing that problem we had already pulled out enough Lempiras to cover our expenses for the next few days - but seriously, all of our money from our checking account, plus they overdrew our account so Chase had conveniently transferred money from our savings to our checking to cover the extra transactions. Don't worry though, after many conversations with Chase everything got fixed and now I have a new debit card. :)
After church we went up to Picacho, which is a hill that overlooks Tegucigalpa and has a huge statue of Christ at the top. The view was amazing. Although Tegucigalpa doesn't have the same amount of skyscrapers we had seen in other cities in Latin America, it definitely has the largest amount of housing. The entire city is like one big slum built up on the hillsides. Wendy took us to a spot very close to her house where a mudslide had taken out an entire community. It was tragic to see and scary to know that she only lives a few blocks away from where that happened. 

Hanging out on the top of the mountain was cool. The park was put together really well and there were tons of lookout points. 

And of course, there was the giant statue of Jesus. Can you see him behind us?
By the time we actually made our way over to the statue the park was nearly closing, so we only had time to snap a few pictures before taking off. It was a very relaxing way to spend a Sunday afternoon with good friends.
We had to take off early Monday morning to head to our next destination, but we really enjoyed our weekend in Tegucigalpa. It was definitely a highlight of our trip, and although we don't know if we would like to visit the city again, we are excited to spend more time with Wendy in the future. 

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