Sunday, May 25, 2014

Stunning potholes

What a great picture: the cat, the crooked window frame and the cracks in the mud. No glass, yes this is a house where people live in and no we're not in Africa! This was such a 'capturing' moment. 
Whenever we asked someone about what to expect in Honduras, the reply was always 'nothing much to see, just a drive through country'. According to the 'experts', the scenery was nothing to write home about either, the roads terrible and to top it all off the border crossing a nightmare. Honduras was one of those places that you, unfortunately, had to ride through to get to Nicaragua. Most travellers, perhaps therefore, take the shortest route possible through Honduras.

As Easter Holy week would result in 250.000 people visiting Antigua in Guatemala, we decided to give that a miss and head for Copán in Honduras instead. Quite frankly I wouldn't have minded to give that a miss as well… We had seen so many ruins by now that they were just about coming out of my ears. Still, the 'other' option would have been to travel through El Salvador, which seemed to be by all accounts in civil unrest as a result of recent elections or something.

As you can read in the previous posts, we're happy we went to Copán. More than happy! We had no idea what the rest of Honduras was going to be like though. There certainly didn't seem that many camping options for a tent, which is usually not a good sign. Only half an hour later… we knew better! The ride through the mountains towards San Pedro Sula was stunning! Despite grey weather, which usually turns scenery into a vague grey blur, this place was still amazing. A beautiful road through the jungle with stunning vistas over some very traditional farm land.

The houses here are made from mud, either mud bricks or walls built from sticks and plastered with mud afterwards. As we go further south through Central America, people seem to get poorer and poorer. As I wrote earlier; where Mexico is poor by US standards, Guatemala is poor by Mexican standards. Honduras is poor by… well you get the picture. The above statement doesn't apply to all Mexicans, all Guatemalans or all Hondurans of course. Here too are people that have money and wealth. The gap between rich and poor is widening though. This results in strange pictures on the road too. Where we saw new cars overtaking old cars in Mexico, in Honduras expensive cars overtake people on a horse… or barefoot with absolutely nothing but the bundle of wood on their back. Yet unlike Guatemala, people seem much more happy and friendly. The happy faces were definitely back again! 

Riding in Honduras is dangerous. Partly because of the people with money that, like everywhere else in this world, drive like idiots. They are in a hurry to make even more money, it seems, and do so without caring for anybody else. Add to that very poor driving standards (if there are any) and you get absurd situations like three vehicles side by side through a blind corner on a two lane road. 'Oh yeah, I've seen that before' I hear you say. So have we. We've also seen 4 vehicles side by side on a two lane road. But how about 5 vehicles side by side on a two lane road… and two of them are full size trucks…! We saw it today… yes it is possible but only in Honduras, I hope!
If that isn't bad enough yet, the roads are the worst we've had so far. Whoever's riding in front warns the others about the potholes and other dangerous situations like trucks flying around the corner on the wrong side of the road for instance. The one riding behind warns about idiotic overtaking manoeuvres as the riders in front have their hands full already. On days like this our UClear intercoms are used every second! In the end, communicating the potholes became all but impossible as there were just too many of them. At the same time there were so many dangerous situations that the intercoms were in full use anyway. Installing wireless intercoms is one of the best things we have done! The UClears are real life-savers in these conditions. Days like these are extremely tiring!

Filling the tanks is still a full-service operation in Honduras. You don't do it yourself but watch someone doing it, and hope he doesn't mess it up and cover your bike in petrol. So far that hasn't happened though. In Mexico and Guatemala they expect a tip, in Honduras they fill your tank and disappear…!

In Guatemala I saw scenes that looked like Africa, strangely enough I didn't see them here in Honduras. When we entered the town of La Entrada though it felt like we had landed in India… Take Mexican traffic chaos and madness and multiply it by 10… Insane isn't even the word. In that madness I had to find a bank with an ATM. Honduras is a cash society and people don't seem to have bank or credit cards as there aren't many ATMs to be found.

One of the better roads… on the really bad ones we
didn't even think about taking a photo...
As parking is all but impossible too, unless you park on the road like everyone else does, I decided to walk. Every bank had a long line of people waiting and the customary security guard with an AK47 in front of it. Asking about a Cajero Automatico resulted in puzzled looks from the security guard, when I showed him my card he said 'Ah, ATM!' and pointed me to the next bank just around the corner. They had the same long line of people waiting for their paycheck to be cashed but again no ATM. Three more banks followed before I did find an ATM. The good thing about Honduras ATMs is that they charge you nothing for the service! A Bank that doesn't charge for a service… funny place this. Amazing to visit in more ways than one.

No, we're not about to ride off the road here, we're simply zig-zagging around the potholes...
Building a shed (?) with mud and sticks...
After San Pedro Sula, the roads became lots better but the traffic even worse. Quite frankly I rather have potholes in the road than drivers with potholes in their brain but we weren't given a choice. Checking my e-mail resulted in a message from that they had blocked my account as they had found 'a suspicious login attempt from Honduras' That was me… trying to read my mail… thank you! It's happened every time I crossed a border and is getting rather tiring now… Again I had to go through a process of security codes, which again didn't work and resulted in my whole account being blocked…! Mr Microsoft: Computers' primary goal should be to make life easier for the user. Obviously you haven't been able to do that with Windows, but can you at least make your Live e-mail system Liveable? It took me almost an hour to get things restored again. To add insult to injury they then send me a message that I should verify my account via my mobile phone… I don't have a mobile phone, but even if I had I; I'm in Honduras! I made a mental note there and then to switch providers at the first opportunity. 

The D&D Brewery was the planned camping stop for the day but turned out to be a tacky backpacker place. Trendy music and a manager that only knows two words: 'no possible'. We were told to park our bikes in the parking lot and then walk all our camping gear to the tiny sandpits they call campsites. We are not leaving our bikes unattended, told them why, but he didn't care. So we didn't care either and left. 

Only a couple of kilometres up the road is Finca Paradise… which is indeed a paradise for camping. We liked it so much that we ended up staying 3 days! More on the campground in the next post