Right after squeezing through the El Salvador – Honduras border we headed towards Tegucigalpa, which we reached in the early afternoon. Dricing through the capital city was short of events. Compared to Guatemalan capital seemed that we are in a clean city with medium traffic and fairly good roads. The houses were finished, aka plastered, a huge change since Mexico. Certain neighborhoods were just as nice as in any Canadian or US cities. It was sort of surreal that this might be the worlds most dangerous city. Anyways, we rolled through it, the we took the turny road up to the mountains. After thirty some kilometers we reached the end of the asphalt and started driving on a quad road towards La Tigra national park. About an hour later we were in the front of the El Rosario visitor center. Turning around the van was the last challenge of the day and thanks to German technology it was possible to turn around a 21.5 feet van in about 23 feet space. Our Big White produced miracles that day. We got down to dirty financials with the lady running the center and after a short negotiation the price went from 300 to 150 Lempiras for camping on the side of the road in the front of the building. A park administrator pulled in shortly and we had a good hour worth description of the history of the place, which evolved from American gold mining company to national park. The administrator assured us that there is vigilante (security) at night then he left. At about 8 PM the vigilante took off too on his bike. In the meantime the rain was sifting, bringing along some worrisome thoughts about next days descent. After taking in consideration the entry fees to hike in the park there was no reason to stick around, they were asking too much. I recall a saying from another traveler we met “they raise the prices and less people will come, then they raise the prices again and almost nobody will come”. Fortunately we woke up to a gorgeous sunny day next morning and the road was in “good shape”. The descent went well, breath held back only about 5-6 times when the inclination of the van was way beyond what a driver (even overlander) could take calm. But again German technology teamed up with angels and we made it down the road without problems to San Juacinto, where asphalt started again. It has been only two kilometers but for me seemed at least twenty behind the wheel.
Once the bad road behind, we took a break in the San Juancito a small pueblo with mostly ran down colonial buildings. Things were not always the same around here. The town was a prosperous mining center, ran by the New York and Honduras Rosario Mining Company. The first cinema in all of Central and South America was built in San Juancito, as well as the nation’s first telegraph. Pepsi built the first bottling plant in all of Central America there, and there was a fully operating American Consulate. In the early 20th century, San Juancito had a population of 44,000 and was a major trading centre in Central America. All that is not visible anymore. The mine shut down in 1954 and the majority of people left, some 2,000 people live in the area today. In 1998 hurricane Mitch washed away some sixty buildings.
Regina Aguilar, an accomplished artist, saw both the potential and need for teaching income-earning skills to the inhabitants of San Juancito. Today, she has two schools (one for adults and the other for children), many students and graduates, a factory employing 30 trained artisans, and a lovely guest house for visitors, including visiting teachers, to San Juancito. The old Pepsi building has been transformed to an art factory creating art from recycled materials as pop cans, can openers, bicycle tires.