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June 9, 2013

Postcards from Nowhere: Peoria to Panama - Day 21: Monte Verde to Choluteca, Honduras

Above: The grounds of the Honduyate Hotel in Monte Verde, Honduras on Lake Yojoa.


Update: I am alive and well resting quietly in the Hotel Gualiqueme in Choluteca, Honduras.

Sunday June 9, 2013

Motorcycle Odometer (at start of day): 4,197
Motorcycle Odometer (at end of day): 4,407
Miles driven today: 210 miles

Local Currency: Honduran Lempiras

1 US Dollar = 20.23 Honduran Lempira


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In the morning, I wrestle with the internet. 3rd World Internet is the worst.

Like trying to snorkel with a straw. Finally, after about 3 hours, I manage to upload my photos from yesterday.

I personally believe that every country south of the United States should have their borders sealed, until they can demonstrate that they understand how routers work, and can provide reliable internet to tourists.

At noon, I step outside to shoot the grounds of the hotel with the long lens. The image stabilizer broke long ago. I'm just shooting free-hand with no image stabilizer. The owner is a Brit that's been down here 40 years or so. He gives me free reign to shoot the grounds, and I move around carefully, shooting the flowers, the birds, and the lago.

Finally, I climb on the bike. I gave up on the jacket. It's too hot.

It's so hot I'm about to have a stroke. I drive about 5 km down the road, and see a restaurant on the shores of the same lake, and I pull in.

I need to drive, but I also need to live. I feel like it would be nice to sit on the shores of this lake and have a carne asada. So, I stop for lunch, on the shores of a great lake where no one speaks english. Not a word. The wind off the lake keeps most of the flies away.

Children come in off the street to sell snacks to the diners at the tables. This cute little Honduran girl...she might be six or seven...is selling something....I have no clue what...wrapped in plastic...looks like pig tongues? I have no clue.

Que significance?

Acitrones.

Quanto es?

Diaz.

So, I hand her a 20 Quetzal note. Wrong country. It's from Guatemala. I'm in Honduras. She's not falling for that one.

I fish around until I find a 10 Lempira note. (About 50 cents U.S.) I hand this to her.

She holds a wooden stick, with many treats sealed in clear plastic wrap. The trick now is to grab the one you want and pull. She tightens her grip and I pull loose a bag of pig tongues. Turns out, they're not pig tongues. They're sugared dates, of some sort. I guess. Delicioso. Also, there are other cute little girls selling various homemade treats. I buy some other treats. They're not quite as good.

And now, for some reason, they're playing our song, "I want you to stay", on the radio. I want to hang myself.

And the truth is that it's very easy to get away from Carrie, but it's quite hard to get away from the memories of Carrie.

I know that it's over. I'm well aware of that. But it's so hard to get away from it all. So hard. No matter how far I run, everything reminds me of her. Of us. And it's not like I'm dwelling on it. Not like that.

It's like...I get on a dirt bike and drive to Honduras and when I turn on the television in the hotel room this morning, they're showing the making of The Great Gatsby. And I'm in Honduras for God's sake. I just turn it off.

Maybe this is part of the healing process. Maybe this is what it means to heal. Maybe one day I'll be able to watch the Great Gatsby or listen to that song without reaching into the nightstand.

Maybe.

No one has said Jack to me since I sat down. I finally go into the kitchen. They're frying fish, apparently. The whole fish...eyes and all. I'm not sure I'm ready for that just yet. I'm feeling a little ethnocentric once I look inside the third world kitchen.

I tell them I want a carne asada, or a pollo asada. But apparently, they only have chicken, not beef. And it's only served fried, not grilled. I'm like...fair enough. No one ever comes to my table. Finally, I walk into a little side store and just take a CocaCola light and go sit back down at my table to deal with the nino street vendors, the flies.

The woman waitress ignores me like I'm a leper. Finally, when she walks by, I grab her by the throat and pin her up against the walk and bark "Donde es mi comida?"

"Una minuto," she squawks, and I decide to let her live and she scurries back into the kitchen to cry in the corner.

Finally, she brings me my meal. It's not bad. Fried chicken was OK. The dried-salted plantain chips were so-so. What was awesome though was that they bring this huge jar of pickled onions and jalapenos to your table, along with two shovel-sized spoons. And you get to dip out some of these hot pickled onions from the jar. Then, it goes away to the next table. And so it goes. They were insanely good. Never even heard of this before.

The entire meal, including two CocaCola lights, cost me 120 Honduran Lempiras. So, roughly $6.00 USD.

Now, rolling down the road again on CA 5. I'm beginning to think that CA means Central America, because I saw this nomenclature in both Guatemala and Honduras. Following the signs for Tegucigalpa.

Slowly, I begin to climb into the mountains of central Honduras. Now, the road twisting, curving up the mountain. Limestone mountains, with roads blasted through the limestone. Painted limestone walls serve as make-shift billboards. Signs for failed presidential candidates. Advertisements for motor oils. All hand painted onto the face of the mountains.

Now, as we climb, the pine forests that cannot live on the coast due to hurricanes. Here, they thrive. The air is clear and fresh in the mountains, not like the coastal towns.

The temperature drops. I'm wearing just a T-shirt, and the temperature feels great. Almost cold, for a change. A much welcome change.

On the side of the road, they're selling bananas, pineapples, carved trinkets. Lots of things.

I stop to buy a jar of honey from a little girl. She sits in the shade of a tree, alone, listening to a battery-powered radio. She might be 8 years old. It costs 120 Honduran Lempira (about $6.00 USD). Deliciouso. More than I needed, but I figure a jar of honey isn't a bad thing to have as an emergency food source.

She has to run across the road to get money from her father for change.

One thing I've learned is that, if you see a female selling goods on the side of the road, there is some muscle in the picture. You're just not setting it.

I found this out the hard way today. I stopped to take a photo of a motorcycle with a propane tank on the back of it. Some people can get pretty upset if you start shooting them without permission. Now, I wasn't shooting anyone. Just the bike...but the woman got upset and started yelling at me, and the man appeared out of nowhere and came at me in a very aggressive manner. But, as always, I'm just like "Amigo...no hay problema. Tourista photographia." And now, they're all smiles. It was all a big misunderstanding. And we're all laughing and smiling. All is good.

But, at that point, I realized...these women are not selling trinkets on the side of the road for money, without some muscle to protect them and their profits. There's a man in the shade of a tree somewhere, always. You don't see him, but he's there. And, at a bare minimum, he has a machete.

Honduras has nice roads. Lots of gas stations. No maps, of course. That would be asking too much.

At every point in the day, I usually find my groove, where I'm really enjoying myself. Really having the time of my life. This hits me now, as I'm scrolling through the mountain highlands. Stunning scenery. And the bike is just a dream.

Steve asked me "Did you make friends with the KTM yet?" Well, duh. Yes? The KTM is an insane machine. When I'm in the passing lane, and a bus is coming at me, and I'm passing an 18 wheeler in a blind curve on a solid yellow line, the KTM delivers an acceleration that I've never experience before. I can go from 60 to 100 in about a two seconds. So, it gets me out of trouble in a hurry. And I love that.

Everyone that sees the bike comments on how pretty it is. And it is stunning. There's no doubt. It's a good looking bike.

No one else down here is doing what I'm doing. I don't see any other riders that look like they're from outside the country. Today, I saw two people riding together. One guy on a Harley. They might have been foreigners. In Mexico, I saw one BMW GS1200R with saddlebags. And one Dakar. But I think the Dakar guy was a local guy.

It's sort of sad that people choose not to come down here because it isn't safe. I'll never believe that it's not "safe". It's as safe as it is in New Orleans, L.A., Dallas, or Houston. I promise you that. And, keep in mind that, for everyone that says it's not safe down here...women, children, and girls live her also. So, for everyone you know that's afraid to come to Central America, keep in mind that their are girls selling snacks in the streets alone at the age of 4. So, I just don't get how it's not safe. I don't buy it.

As I ride through Central America, I wave at lots of people. Total strangers. That I'll never see again. But I wave at them. And most of the time, they wave back. The psychology of this is interesting, but it's like...."Hey there...I mean no harm...It's all good...Have a nice life." And mostly, they sense this, and they wave back. Not always. But if they don't wave back, I'm OK with this. It doesn't cost me anything. There's no angst. It's their loss. Not mine. I'm as happy as a clam.

I come to a large town, which I erroneously assume to be Tegucigalpa. In hindsight, it was probably Comeyagua. But, basically, you could see that we were going to come down out of the mountains, cross the valley with a large city, and then climb back up the mountains on the other side. And that's exactly what we did.

Driving through the mountains of Honduras is like a dream. Too beautiful to be believed. You'd have to see it to believe it was real.

Eventually, I realize that there's really only one main road through HOnduras. And I'm just following that. I don't ask for directions any more. I don't look at the map. I just follow the main road, and watch for signs.

Doug has his issues, and he thinks I'm nuts for not having a GPS. And, yeah, it was kinda nice when I was using my iPhone as a GPS back in Mexico. Fair enough. But I'm not using a GPS now, and I'm fine without. The difference is that, I'm not in a hurry. And if I take a wrong turn, or if I get lost, I'm perfectly OK with that. It's not like I have an appointment to keep. I'm just out for a ride in Central America, trying to clear my head. If I take a wrong turn, and get lost for a little bit, well that's something that I can live with. I'm not stressed out about it. It's all good.

So, just relaxing, and following the "main" road gets me to Tegucigalpa, no problem. Now, I have to check the map to see which way to get to get into Nicaragua.

It's hard because the town names are in Spanish, so the names are not necessarily meaningful to me, so it's hard for me to remember the names.

The next town I'm looking for is called "Choluteca". So now, I follow signs for that. And I start into Tegucigalpa, I see a sign that forks off to Choluteca, and now I'm driving through the slums on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa.

The road is as bad as it gets. And we're in the full-on slums, at this point. But, I have faith, and gradually the road gets better and better and the signs start appearing that say "Cholugeca". So, I must be going the right way.

I keep rolling south along CA 5, and now I'm following a large river. Not clear which river it is. But I just keep driving. Want to try to get some miles in today. I'm not clear that I'll make it into Nicaragua, but it would be nice to at least get within striking distance.

I'm going through all of these tiny little villages. And it's tough because, I hate the big cities, and I love these little villages we pass through. But I have to have Internet access, so I sort of have to end up in a somewhat respectable sized town in order to find a hotel with internet access.

So, I'm rolling south. I try to drive until sunset, so I can make the most of the day, of course. And now, close to sunset, and huge atorm is blowing in. This is going to suck. In a big way. I just drive right into it. I dunno why I do this. If I had any sense, I'd stop before I got wet, but never I do.

It's raining cats and dogs and I can't see, so I pull over and shelter under a little road-side fruit stand that in not occupied. It's empty, and it shelters me fairly well. But the wind picks up and it's like a monsoon. Finally, it slacks off a bit. I wait under the shelter for maybe 15-20 minutes. It slacks off enough that I don't mind driving again. Take off again on the bike, in a light rain, heading south, burning daylight. Looking for an internet hotel. And, on the outskirts of Choluteca, I see a large gated hotel and I pull in.

Now, normally, you don't want the receptionist to see what dire straights you're in, lest she charge you more for the room. But I've long since given up all pretense on this issue. I walk into the lobby, dripping wet, and say "quanto es para uno?"

It will be $58 USD for the night.

It has A/C, internet in the rooms, hot water showers?

Si.

Perfecto.

And I'm done for the night.

Above: The grounds of the Honduyate Hotel in Monte Verde, Honduras on Lake Yojoa.

Above: The grounds of the Honduyate Hotel in Monte Verde, Honduras on Lake Yojoa.

Above: The grounds of the Honduyate Hotel in Monte Verde, Honduras on Lake Yojoa.

Above: The grounds of the Honduyate Hotel in Monte Verde, Honduras on Lake Yojoa.

Above: The grounds of the Honduyate Hotel in Monte Verde, Honduras on Lake Yojoa.

Above: The grounds of the Honduyate Hotel in Monte Verde, Honduras on Lake Yojoa.

Above: The grounds of the Honduyate Hotel in Monte Verde, Honduras on Lake Yojoa.

Above: Lake Yojoa at the Honduyate Hotel in Monte Verde, Honduras.

Above: Lake Yojoa at the Honduyate Hotel in Monte Verde, Honduras.

Above: Lake Yojoa at the Honduyate Hotel in Monte Verde, Honduras.

Above: Lake Yojoa at the Honduyate Hotel in Monte Verde, Honduras.

Above: A local fisherman offers some fish for sale in a common roadside manner at Lake Yojoa near Monte Verde, Honduras.

Above: View of Lake Yojoa from a restaurant in Monte Verde, Honduras.

Above: View of Lake Yojoa from a restaurant in Monte Verde, Honduras.

Above: Motorcycle with a LP gas canister on the back fender.

Above: Bananas offered for sale by a street-side vendor in the mountains of Honduras.

Above: Bananas offered for sale by a street-side vendor in the mountains of Honduras.

Above: Honey for sale along CA-5 in the Honduran mountains.

Above: Decorative small hammocks for sale along CA-5 in the Honduran mountains.

Above: Heading south on Honduras CA-5, towards the Nicaraguan border.

Above: Soldiers at a military checkpoint north of Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

Above: Trinkets for sale at a roadside vendor in the mountains of Honduras.

Above: Climbing the mountains in Honduras.

Above: Accidental photo triggering happens occasionally, showing how bad off my jeans are.

Above: Mural for candidate Esteban, painted on the side of a mountain in Honduras.

Above: More murals painted on the side of a mountain in Honduras.

Above: Cows are herded down the shoulder of the road by two boys on bicycles with switches made from plant limbs.

Above: Rabbit crossing?

Above: Climbing the mountains in Honduras.

Above: Descending into Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

Above: Descending into Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

Above: The slums surrounding Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

Above: Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

Above: The mountains south of Tegucigalpa.

Above: Descending into Tegucigalpa.

Above: A truckload of bananas.

Above: A river alongside Honduran CA-5.

Above: An aqueduct beside Honduras CA-5, just north of Choluteca, Honduras.

Above: Waiting out yet another rainstorm at dusk, just north of Choluteca, Honduras.

Posted by Rob Kiser on June 9, 2013 at 10:16 PM

Comments

Rob we are enjoying the photo's of Central America and my Nephew was stationed in Honduras with the Army as he was a Ranger so we are somewhat familiar with the scene. Just read on internet that there are plans in Nicaragua to build a canal similar to Panama Canal. They have China backing the project and estimate 11 years to complete which probably means 30 years and $11 Billion which will I am sure double. Enjoy the trip and keep the photo's coming they are terrific.

Posted by: jim nuxoll on June 10, 2013 at 12:46 PM

Thanks for the great pictures. We miss you. Hurry home. Fed Ex actually found the way from Belize to Monticello. love from all.Say safe. xoxo

Posted by: sl on June 10, 2013 at 6:32 PM

Well, Rob, I do indeed have issues. Fortunately they don't involve women. Or loose chains. Or chain adjustment tools. Unless you count Courtney, of course, in the women category.

Posted by: Doug on June 10, 2013 at 8:37 PM

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