Saturday, 15 November 2008

... Central America: Teg-huh what?

Well today started off with a bang that's for sure! At around 420am I happened to be awake when I heard Aoife shouting 'fire'. It took about a nanosecond to register before I was throwing on my pants & money belt (has $ and passport in it of course) and running to her.

What greeted my eyes was a huge flame engulfing the fan in the corner of the two girls room. I began yelling 'Get out! Get out! Get out!' at them both until it registered. They grabbed a few items, ran out and I closed the door immediately.

'Get everyone out, get everyone out and DO NOT GO BACK IN THERE'.

In the darkness I ran to my room and told Zarah to grab her passport whilst I threw all my bags on my back. Thankfully we had both packed the day before and our stuff was right near the door. We fled our room and tried to make our way to the exit - unfortunately past the room on fire. As I stumbled through the darkness I went into my smaller backpack and grabbed my trusty Fox 40 whistle then I blew that thing like there was no tomorrow. The electricity had gone out, there were no smoke/fire alarms and people were still in their rooms. It was a total gong show. None of the staff appeared to know what to do and kept wanting to open the door to the room!?!

'Get everyone out, get everyone out' as I continued to blow my whistle because quite frankly my life DID depend on it. There was no 'like' here.

The smoke was acrid burning my throat and someone still kept trying to open the door to the room. I will admit to you all that I was crapping my pants because I didn't know how we would be able to deal with the locking system on the door and I also knew there was a gate then on the outside of that. What if it was locked? All crazy thoughts running through my head whilst I am trying to multi-task. Thankfully Liz & Aoife were on it and quickly had the doors open. Someone (staff) back in the darkness was trying to use a fire extinguisher and it either didn't work or they didn't have a clue.

We got everyone out and waited across the street for the fire brigade. It took them 20 minutes! By that time the hotel staff had put out the fire. I don't know how nor do I care - we were all safe and breathing fresh air again. The girls think it was an electrical fault though state the fan hadn't be left on although had been left plugged in the wall. Ursula unfortunately lost a bunch of stuff; the hotel lost it's room and everything in it. The room went up in flames and much later on when the girls were allowed back in to try and salvage stuff left in there, most of it had melted - that is how hot it got. I am still blowing black stuff out of my nose. No-one went back to bed after that. We basically sat around waiting for the Waffle House to open for breakfast before we left for our roadtrip.

I will openly admit that, despite the calm exterior everyone has commended me for and the actions I took this morning, I was scared. But I am OK. Everyone else is OK. Please do not worry about me and I promise this will be my one & only non-typical Nic-style humour-filled post of this entire trip.

So onto what this post should REALLY be about ... after a 13 hr journey (coupled with the 'obscenely early start' described above) through Nicaragua across the border into Honduras we finally arrived in Tegucigalpa, the capital. Our tour leader had actually told a bunch of us that it was 'the murder capital of the world'. Before that sends various members of my family & friends into a panic-induced coronary (although c'mon after this morning's events I don't really think I can top that), I would be actually more inclined to think it's probably on a smaller scale... say Central America. That probably still doesn't do much to calm the nerves. So, I will quickly follow that with how I read that 'if you believe the papers' then you'll expect to be a victim of crime as soon as you step foot into the city. I'm sure the city, like any other in most developing world cities, can be a tad dodgy. But, like anywhere in the world, 'exercise common sense and you should be able to enjoy it without putting oneself at any undue risk'. There! Better? OK, how does 'we're only here merely as a overnight stop to break up two 12+ hr travel days!' sound instead? Considering this will lead me to my tropical diving heaven of Utila (one of the reasons I chose this trip), it really is a small sacrifice if the generalizations are to be believed and they shoudn't be. I actually figure you probably stand more chance of dying at the airport anyway after I read that it is classed as one of the most dangerous in the world! Good job I wasn't flying in or out.

First thoughts upon arrival is that this is like any other large Central American city. However, if you stop for a minute to take a good look around beyond the huge traffc jams, urbanization and shantytowns you see that Tegus (for short) is surrounded by a ring of mountains, a setting which is rather amazing. Then you'll notice an old church or three, the cathedral, museums, parks & plazas. Almost makes me wish I wasn't here for just a night.... OK, a very distant 'almost' especially when being stuck in fume-belching traffic does not make me the happiest of campers. We also got lost - 'we' being the driver of the minivan we rented. We had to flag down a taxi and get him to lead the way. They drive worse here than they do in Vancouver, I know shocking huh! I saw umpteen fender benders. Rules of the road? What are they? The police also all walk around carrying very large guns!?! Hmm... on second thoughts the 'almost makes me wish...' has become an 'I do not wish...'.

Tomorrow sees a 630am start to head by public transit to Utila! Nic will be a happy camper again I promise, I got two days of scuba diving planned in what is described as a Diver's paradise. Sounds bloody good to me!

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