Honduras


Choosing the route we do (mountain dirt roads in the middle of nowhere) we usually manage to stay away from cars, but sometimes roads are unavoidable. Starting at the Artic Sea, we have been constantly and consistently warned about the drivers with whom we will have to share the road further south.  First were the “extreme truckers� on the haul road, whose loads are double long and oversize, and who literally own the road.  Then the “crazy cannucks� whose country is so sparsely populated the mere idea of traffic paralyzes them, and therefore don’t worry about little things like lanes and turn signals.  Next, “those Americans� who drive too much and too fast, “and they all have guns….�  Followed by “the Mexicans� who “have no laws down there� and so on until we learned to tune it out, as we do a large percentage of the advice we receive: “don’t go that way – the road is terrible – you’ll never make it� etc.

 

            Sure, drunk driving is a national past time in Mexico, and first time RVers up in Alaska, tend to leave their steps down (blocking/sweeping the shoulder), but the vast majority of drivers we have encountered have been competent, and courteous.  “South of the border,� drivers, forced into awareness by the condition of the roads, and used to sharing them with non-cars, are in general good drivers. And thanks to the cost and relative novelty of cars, drivers are much more likely to be professionals.  People who drive for a living, tend to be good/safe behind the wheel. In general, our pavement experiences have been much mellower than the advice-givers would have us fear.  Safer that is, until we hit Honduras, and the Pan-American Highway.

 

            Forced onto the ‘carretera’ by a tropical storm that flooded us out of the Caribbean coast, we were initially optimistic; the main roads in Mexico (the last place we had ridden highways) were nicely paved and equipped with generous shoulders, a little boring perhaps, but at least safe…no reason to assume Honduras would be much different.  The Pan-Am was nicely paved and provided reasonable shoulders. Unfortunately however, these factors didn’t add up in our favor.  The smoothness and width of the road just seemed to encourage recklessness. Drivers clearly didn’t feel constrained by the two lanes the engineers and road painters had provided for – thanks to the shoulders, there was plenty of room for a center (shared) lane or two if you didn’t mind squeezing, which they clearly didn’t.

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On New Years Eve we crossed into country number five of our bike tour: Honduras. In the week previous, Jacob had broken both front and rear derailers rendering his bike into single speed mode, and I, suffering from some stomach infection, couldn’t hold down anything more than plain tortillas. With the both of us enduring system failures, we desperately needed some R&R. Luckily the resort advertisement billboards lining the highway hinted that we were approaching an appropriate destination for a much needed break. Faded and discolored by countless tropical storms, they still managed to conjure the image of breathtaking white sand beaches, coral reef diving, rivers of rich rum, and a booming night life.

Upon arriving in Puerto Cortes we were disappointed to find a gloomy industrial port city; suspension cranes towering over warehouses, eighteen wheeled semi’s racing out of freight yards. An advertisement displaying a large hand gun offered directions to the largest arms store in Central America. The ambience made me daydream of shady underworld dealings which, perhaps wasn’t completely far fetched considering that this port was used as a sitting area by private foreign interests for soviet made firearms destined for Nicaraguan Contras in the 80’s (1). We changed our currency (stuffing large denominations under the soles of our shoes –Goat in the secret compartment of his top-hat) and walked around looking for a cheap hotel.

“Can you feel the Holiday cheer?� Jacob enquired, as we passed through a nearly deserted park dimly lit with Christmas lights.
“Festive.� I nodded. “Though, only a fool would stick around for the party without a flashy piece to shoot holes in the sky. We’ve got to visit the arms depot.�

Unfortunately the gun shop was already closed, and not wanting to make the mistake of screwing up the secret after-hour handshake I decide to find medicine for my stomach bug instead. At a Pharmacy, an old lady who claimed to be a medical practitioner diagnosed my symptoms as amoeba, and advised me to take an over the counter anti-diuretic.

“I’m already stopped up.� I pleaded with her in Spanish. “I haven’t been eating. I want to know what I can take to kill the Amoeba�.

She starred at me quizzically, hinting that this tiny pill was all I needed.
A man standing next to her, who I took to be her friend or co-worker, finally interrupted the stand-off, rephrasing what I had already said. She deliberated his words, heaved a sigh and fetched two different packages; one holding ten white tablets, the other holding four green tablets.

“These are more expensive…â€� She pointed to the one holding the green tablets (the package was marked Secnidazol). “but more effective.â€� (more…)

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Check out the photos of our most recent off-road travels through Honduras.

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 Russ and his Surly Instigator/Xtracycle has joined up with us for a bit riding.  His bio is to be posted soon.

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Check out the article about us in my hometown newspaper.