Sunday, July 10, 2016

Honduras

In My Moment
Through the fog of evaporating sleep the scream of the rooster sounds like a woman discovering a body. As I enter consciousness it slowly comes to me that I’m in a camper in the jungles of Honduras.
Out in the wild, not in a park
I step outside to give my “maquina de libertad” a walk around. The cabover jutting forward makes Elsie look like a female Elvis impersonator in full pompadour glory. This is such a wonderfully weird life.
That's an unearthed Mayan pyramid in the background

Goodbye El Salvador
My last night in El Salvador was spent parked on the main street of Suchitoto. I loved that town ten years ago. This time around it bored me. What does that mean? Am I becoming a little jaded around the edges perhaps?

The next morning I began the extremely long journey to Copan, Honduras. The slalom course that is the Honduran highway in my seven ton sled took weeks off my life in mere hours. Dodge a manhole here, straddle a sinkhole there, scream aloud when an under horse powered car tries to pass me on a curve. I literally earned a blister on my finger from death gripping that wheel for 8 hours. Shoehorn a 3 hour inefficient border crossing into the center of the timeline and that forced me to spend the last 1.5 hours driving on truly dangerous roads in the blackest of inkwell nights. I swore I’d never drive at night. Either they don’t have street lights or someone stole the bulbs. I coached myself aloud as the behemoth semis avalanched past me.
But I made it, and I loved Copan.
It’s no Tikal, but it’s good, and the little town that has grown up around it is a pleasant place to frit away a week of your life.


First Impressions of Honduras
This is the 61st country I’ve visited. I was warned it was the most dangerous country in all of Central America and you’d have to be nuts to go there. My camper is a research vessel. I conduct my own studies, thank you very much. I never had an issue and I spent a month in Honduras. The explanation I got while in country is that the danger exists for the locals, and that the organized crime element has a strict “hands off policy” regarding the tourists. They bring in lots of money and everyone has at least one family member who works in the tourist industry. They don’t want the bottom to fall out and one murdered tourist will do that in a single headline. Now, that doesn’t mean some desperado won’t cut your neck for your phone but it didn’t happen. 

Como?
The worst Spanish in Central America is in Honduras. Mush mouth slang makes it very hard to comprehend. I’ve never returned so many blank stares. I didn’t see one Spanish language school and that’s a first. I like Hondurans and I can vouch for them unequivocally, but make sure your Spanish teacher hails from a different nation. 

Honduras at 30MPH
In the other countries I was disappointed because I had to drive so slowly. Not Honduras. This country is over the top gorgeous. It’s the Switzerland of Central America. I slowed down to enjoy it. Western Honduras had terrible roads – I averaged about 15 mph. The eastern side was pretty good – 35 mph.
Nothing about Driving Elsie (good band name?) on these roads is relaxing. She’s enormous, so when I’m in these old Spanish colonial towns she doesn’t really fit on the tiny ox-cart streets. On the highways their low level of engineering is suspect – I just end up bouncing and then I have to greatly reduce speed because I’m so high and heavy and these roads aren’t even close to flat.  A couple drawers have broken free of their runners, my 2 doors are no longer square and don’t close correctly, I sometimes have to prime the water pump after a particularly rough pounding, a shelf has broken twice, only half of the lights are functioning, and the microwave is dead. You can’t jar this camper for 12,000 miles on these terrible roads without realizing breakage. It’s all part of the deal. I’m a mobile repair unit servicing one client only.


Goin to the brink, Of oblivion, Gonna need a shrink, To get back again - - The Cramps
The Central Americans often endanger their own lives and in so doing, mine as well. When they pass me going into a curve and they are directly alongside, where do you think they are going to go when a vehicle comes around the bend in their lane? They are going to run me off the road without thinking twice. Because I get tired of yelling at the top of my lungs as I sit alone in the cab how stupid they are once per mile, I’m just going to decide that they simply have a “lower level of safety consciousness”.
Stupid is so much shorter and easier, but I’ll spend the extra syllables since I really do like these suicidal bastards. They aren’t stupid, they just haven’t evolved their level of safety consciousness to the same level as first worlders. There is no doubt that we have a heightened sense of cautiousness in the first world. Maybe good, maybe bad. I’ve passed on a curve exactly once, and in mid pass my self-preservation gene kicked in and I realized that it was stupid and unsafe for everyone on the road, and when it was over I remember thinking “I could have been killed, I’m not gonna ever do that again!” I guess they never say the following words, “My life is pretty sweet, why would I risk passing on a curve?” Defensive driving in Spanishland is constant. I have to assume that danger is about to fly at me around every turn. I always thought I’d die at sea but these drivers have given me reason to rethink that.
Overlander of yesteryear


Today's detour brought to you by the collapsing bridges of Honduras

The Police Woman
I parked for one night in Esperanza. There is no reason to ever go there. The prison dominates everything and they give the citizens of the town free wifi since all cell phones are blocked to prevent the inmates from calling out (does that make any sense when nearly every phone has wifi capabilities?) I was in the town plaza catching up on my internet stuff when I was approached by a police woman in uniform. It was a pleasant meeting and it seemed she only wanted to practice her English. Then she asked me to accompany her back to her hovel. I want to see how the locals live and I couldn’t be rude. She took off her hat, unbuckled her belt and let that gut fall out, then she reclined on what I’m sure was a stolen prison mattress and propositioned me. Repeatedly. God am I glad I’m not a pretty girl. Those were horribly awkward moments. I barely got out of there with my Honduran virginity intact. Exquisitely unattractive and obviously insane, I hid in the camper and hoped the knock would never come. I was out of there at first light.

There is a Brewery
Lago Yojoa is barely worth visiting. There is a brewery that is located near there. It’s the perfect example of creating a tourist destination location. It has only 2 draws: the other white people who are on the backpack trail, and something other than thin tasteless beer. You’ll speak English with tourists from all over the world, and can collectively convince yourselves that you are really doing something extreme. This is where I lose readers, friends and open myself up to ridicule from the few among you who are real adventurers.

Up in the mountains above La Ceiba
Here's the hierarchy bottom to top: 4.) Those without passports, 3.) Weekers (my code word for “tourists”), 2.) Travelers, & 1.) Adventurers. I don’t even strive for the top slot. In fact, I often fall short of being a traveler. I like sleeping in Elsie with my faithful pillow, screen doors, constant fans and inconsistent aircon.  There are those that are absolutely sure they are well traveled, and they have spent lots of money on international flights, and they do rank above those who don’t own passports but they are still weekers: They fly into a place for 2 – 4 weeks, “Do the country” and fly back knowing that they are now authorities on all things Central American. This is most of you. Then there’s Nick. www.theamazonadventure.com. I first learned about this guy from my buddy Todd who told me he was pedaling a bike all the way to South America. He rode thru the Darien Gap! And what about these people who are walking? I don’t qualify as an adventurer, not on this scale.

Here’s my challenge to you who do own passports: Stay longer, go deeper, learn the language, avoid other white people, and try to go a couple days without using the words, “Awesome” or “Amazing”. You’re better than that.

Utila

I parked Elsie up in the mountains and paid for a safe spot so I could abandon her for scuba diving on an offshore island. My dive buddy was a regal looking gentleman from Nashville named Howard Rosenblum.
Photo by Howard Rosenblum
 
Photo by Howard Rosenblum
I’m a big fan. First, his photos are gorgeous and he allowed me to share them with you. But more importantly, I credit him with keeping scuba diving in my bag of tricks.

After that horrendous experience in a cave in the Yucatan of Mexico this would be my first dive. The boat dropped the hook; we geared & buddied up and splashed into the water. I gave the “all clear sign” but my pulse was a little quick. I opened the valve on my BCD, dumped my air and let the weights on my hips do their trick. About 15 feet down the panic gripped me. “Out! I want out!”
Photo by Howard Rosenblum
I surfaced, everyone else surfaced, I sheepishly explained that I’d had a bad experience, I thought I was over it, but apparently I’m not. I swam back to the boat in total defeat.
They completed their dive and when they returned everyone treated me like the kid in the wheelchair. Except Howard. I don’t know him well, but I’m guessing his kids think he’s the greatest. He was patient, sympathetic, and a good listener. After our surface interval, I made the second dive, and then 2 more the next day. And there was Howard, looking after me the whole way. I’m back, but that cave really spooked me.

Pulhanpanzak
Fire hose to the eyes.
























Lost Civilizations – Goodbye To The Mayans

The Mayans didn’t expand their colossal empire south of Honduras. How I have loved exploring their ruins, but that’s over, and I suppose I will look forward to the Incas. Here’s one thing I learned and I think it’s telling:  They hit their peak of population around 900 AD and disappeared shortly after. Did you catch that? They peaked and then their civilization hit a near total collapse very soon thereafter. Civilizations lament their recessions, but maybe what we should really fear is the apex. These are happy times folks.

I can look anyone dead in the eye, and all dogs like me. That must count on some level for living honestly.

Your man on point,

It takes only 17 pounds of pressure to take off a finger. These things deliver 800
Blacktop Bobby

2 comments:

B and L said...

Yet again another awesome tail with photos and so well written, love your blogs and wish I were doing something similar. Hugs and cheers, keep diving and you know good beer and fish in a bag is on the way 😎

SoberDave said...

Thanks Bobby... your writing keeps getting better.

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