Honduras

We woke up fully clothed in riding gear and ready to go at the San Francisco Hotel. I don’t know if there’s any legitimate health benefit to doing so, but we still felt it necessary that nothing from that hotel room directly touch our skin.

Aaron related to me the sounds he had heard during the night in a way that implied he was upset by having to endure it alone and envious of the semi-continuous sleep I experienced that he had not. Aaron claimed that noises he’d heard that night gave him a pretty clear idea as to where all the stains on our sheets had come from.

We were only there because we got lost the day before and when we woke up we were still pretty much lost. At least now we could see where we were, though.

Eventually we stopped at fancy sit-down restaurant clearly meant for business folk. We had a nice breakfast and used their internet to figure out how to get back on track.

We made it to Honduran border after that. Directly on other side of the border are the Copan Ruins, where our friends were staying. We’d hoped to reach them the night before, but getting lost ruined those plans.

Once at the border, leaving Guatemala was easy. It was a little late in the day and there was almost no one else crossing at that time

Entering Honduras was not as easy. For starters, the lady behind the counter demanded, in a very professional manner, that we both give her three copies of a certain form. We only had two copies. She calmly told us that we could not enter Honduras until we had a third copy.

Basically, it’s just us and her in a small office building. We can see a copy machine almost directly behind her less than five feet away.

“Can we use that copy machine?” Aaron asked.

“No. That’s not for you.” She said in a tone that allowed for no arguments.

So, unable to enter Honduras, Aaron walked back across the street to Guatemala to see what he could do while I sat with our things back on the other side of the street, No Man’s Land. This wasn’t quite as bad as our border crossing into Guatemala, nor even as aggravating as our visa situation in Mexico, but this was clearly becoming a theme. Crossing borders wasn’t easy for us.

Across the street, in Guatemala, Aaron talked to the guy who had just stamped us out of Guatemala. Again, because of the time of day, it was really just the two of them in the office. The man there seemed genuinely concerned about why Aaron couldn’t get into Honduras. When he was told it was a simple manner of using a copy machine, he chuckled, said something like, “Those Hondurans…” and offered the copy machine there as a solution.

Aaron was back much faster than I expected, as I thought he might have to go all the way back to a Guatemalan town to make a copy. That town was at least 30 minutes away. We had all the paperwork needed to get us and our bikes into Honduras. We didn’t have enough money, though.

It’s hard to remember now, but I think we were about $14 short of having enough money for both of us and our bikes to cross the border. (This wouldn’t be the last time this would happen)

As it was getting dark, Aaron jumped on the DR and rode into Honduras looking for the nearest ATM while I, again, sat and watched our stuff in No Man’s Land.

What was probably about an hour later he was back and we had the money for me to enter Honduras. We rode to the Copan Ruins to meet up with the Irish friends we made back in Semuc Champey.

It was nice reuniting and the Copan Ruins area is pretty nice. We settled in a pretty cheap hotel that was still a little rich for our blood, $30 or so.

The next morning, however, we had to leave. The next big deadline for us was Christmas. We promised our mother we’d be home by then and it was already November. We didn’t know exactly how long we’d get hung up at the Darien Gap and there was still the whole continent of South America to get through.

There were too many attractions to leave without enjoying any of them, however, so we went to some hot springs that were nearby. There was an easy off-road trail that led to them, so we had a nice morning ride and a good soak at a mini hot springs resort with pools of varying temperatures and a small waterfall of boiling hot water from a volcano or something.

This, of course, meant that we had a bit of a late start progressing to the next landmark, which we decided would be Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. The roads were reasonably nice and, mostly due to the incredibly unpleasant time we had in Guatemala getting lost the previous day, we use the internet at the hotel and found some in-depth maps for Central America and it gave us the option to ride off-road routes that paralleled the main roads, so we got to ride some fun trails. This, again, didn’t exactly help our time, but it was worth it.

It was starting to get dark and we were ready to stop for the night, but we fell far short of our goal of reaching Tegucigalpa.

We stopped at a No Tell Motel (you know, one of the hotels that has a garage) and were perplexed by the near $40 price. From what we had already experienced of these kinds of places, this was completely unacceptable.

We left there and went a little further down the road. We stopped for gas and noticed that the station was also a mart and, probably, a hotel. As we walked inside to inquire about a room, about 15 large motorcycles pulled up. They were all normal USA sized bikes, which was abnormal: several Harleys, a couple Yamaha Viragos (The next year Aaron would build a Virago).

One of the bikers saw our bikes and hunted us down. He asked how we got the bikes there and we told him that we rode them from home. After that we were friends. They were the Honduran motorcycle club called “The Iguanas.” They invited us to sit down with them for a couple of drinks on the white plastic furniture outside the mart.

One member in particular became interested in us. He was a geography teacher for a local school when he wasn’t riding around with his crew. He told us there was no reason for us to stay at a hotel near the highway that night when the city was so close. We were reluctant, but eventually we decided to just go with the flow and we followed him and one of his friends into the city.

We found a reasonable hotel. At first he brought us to a really nice hotel giant TVs and an included breakfast, but we explained that we would leave before breakfast was even offered, so we found a simpler hotel that was actually very comfortable.

Then we went out for dinner. We found a place that was the Honduran equivalent to a TGI Fridays. We were aware the Honduras tends to rank first or near it in terms of most violent crime, or homicides, or whatever, but our new friends assured us that it was very safe.

This assurance was again being offered to us while we were being padded down for weapons entering the Honduran restaurant.

The meal was alright and the company was good. He had to leave, as the next day was a school day and he knew we wanted to get an early start, so we went back to the hotel and got the best sleep we’d probably had in over a week.

On the way out of town the next morning, Aaron got his bike’s luggage rack welded again. That venture didn’t take too long, but he did have to walk back and forth between several nearby shops to find someone who was allowed to use the welding equipment at the first shop we went to.

On this day we didn’t spend much time off-road, but that didn’t stop the KLR for making more problems. Way out in the middle of nowhere, while starting the KLR on the side of the road, I heard a loud, deep pop/bang noise. I was feeling much more comfortable figuring things out on the bike than I had two months earlier, but this was a new thing. Aaron asked a series of questions regarding the specific sound of the noise I heard and how it was acting at that moment while we started taking it apart and came to the conclusion it was the carburetor intake. It had backfired and disconnected.

Oh, and of course, it was raining. It was always raining for moments like these.

We figured out the problem, but taking the Giant Loop soft bags off and removing the seat, fixing the problem, and reattaching and packing still takes a little while. During this process we attracted the attention of a strange middle aged man. He came down from a nearby hill. When we first saw him staring down at us we thought there might be some trouble coming, but he was just curious. Aaron played him a song on my untuned guitar and that helped lighten the mood. We were both getting really tired of these near-daily KLR problems and, almost even more so, unpacking and repacking everything on the bike.

We thought we’d fixed the problem, but the exact same thing would happen regularly until we replaced some parts in Panama.

The GPS went from being a piece of infuriating technology that we viewed with contempt and suspicion to an incredible and reliable source of information. It was giving us near turn-by-turn directions and, as we neared Tegucigalpa in the dark and could see the lights of the city on the horizon, Aaron was able to pick out a couple hotels’ locations to check out and we headed straight in.

We found the marked hotels immediately, but we not impressed by the prices there. Some of them were over $100US and we couldn’t rationalize this. So we rode through the city as if we would have without the GPS.

We just rode around the city and whenever we saw what looked like a cheap hotel, we stopped, one of us went in and one of us stayed with the bikes. For some reason, I was always the one who went in that night. I can’t remember why exactly this was our decision any more… I must have done something to deserve it. Aaron says it’s because it was a shady part of town and he felt that he might have some trouble and need to defend our things.

I went into some sketchy places that night.

We had two main requirements for the hotel that went in this order:

  • There must be space for the motorcycles where we can be guaranteed security.
  • It must not be a place anything like the San Francisco Hotel we stayed at two days earlier. In other words, it had to at least achieve a “1” on the 0-10 quality scale.

The first place I went to had an awkwardly narrow staircase leading to what looked like an abandoned asylum wing. I did not want to stay there, but I still asked for a price and if the motorcycles would be safe. The price was decent and he promised the bikes would be safe, so I thanked him and said I’d ask my brother about it.

I walked outside, got on the bike, and told him there was no way. Just no way we were staying there.

The next place looked about the same, but while I was making my escape from it, Aaron told me that we had to leave before I could relate my findings. A man drove by while Aaron was watching the bikes and by shaking his head and his hand and widening his eyes conveyed what universally means, “Please don’t go there. You don’t want to go in there.”

I walked up a staircase to the next hotel and found myself in a sort of smoky, greenish-grey foyer. Standing in the middle of the room was a large man talking to a much smaller, thinner man in hushed tones and, from what it looked like, making some kind of drug transaction.

Strangely, this did not surprise me, as the previous hotel gave me a pretty good idea of what to expect. Again, with no intention of staying there, I asked the questions, got the answers, thanked them and said I’d ask my brother, and left.

It kind of felt like I was on a scavenger hunt. The items/information I was collecting was of no personal importance to me, but I had to acquire them nonetheless.

We repeated this process another few times with similar results until we finally decided to stop at a bar that looked like it catered to travelers and ask them about hotels. The man there said there was a great one just across the street that would certainly have space for our bikes.

He stepped outside with me and pointed across the street to the balcony. “The guy who owns it is right there,” he said

Relieved, Aaron and I looked to where he was pointing.

Relief immediately became a sinking feeling in my stomach as I realized this was the man from the first hotel. Did I say I’d be back? I couldn’t remember. But the man was motioning towards as if he’d been expecting us and there was no way we were staying there, so we made a quick gesture of thanks to the bartender and the man on the balcony, mounted our bikes, and fled.

We’d made a complete circuit of that rough side of town.

At this point we stopped and reassessed our situation. Aaron and I wanted to keep it cheap. The hotels were cheap, but not as cheap as we wanted, and the ones that were that cheap were not suitable for human occupants that cared for their personal well-being.

So we looked at a different symbol on the GPS. We started looking at camping spots.

We ended up at the chain-linked fence of the boy scouts center in Tegucigalpa. The compound was about the size of a small city-block and had a little park area. After knocking on the gate a little, it was late, but not that late, a man came to the gate. We explained our situation and told him all we wanted was to sleep within the fenced area.

He reluctantly let us in. We warmed up to each other pretty quickly though. As we began to unpack our things, he told us to just sleep inside the center. This simplified things and we happily put our sleeping bags out on the tiled floor. This was exactly the sort situation we were hoping for.

In the morning we offered him some money, but he politely refused. Aaron said he at least wanted to donate to the boy scouts and the man agreed to take the contribution.

We left the city early and made it to the Nicaraguan border relatively early in the day. This was one of the few times in our trip when we made it to a border at the beginning of the day. Usually, we’d make it there just before dark or with very little time before closing.

We went through all the processes we were accustomed to at this point: visas, customs, extra copies made of unexpected forms, paying $8 a piece to have our tires hosed off, etc. The border routine is recognizably similar for each country, but there’s always just enough difference to make it unpleasant.

This time we made it all the way through uneventfully until, again, we didn’t have enough money for both of us to enter. This time I think we were about $20 short. We started thinking about selling something to someone there to get enough money, because the only other option that came to mind at that moment was for one of us to ride into Nicaragua, just like we did to get into Honduras, find an ATM, and come back to get the other one of us.

In the end, that’s what we did. I rode off, leaving Aaron with all the gear back at the border and made the trip to the nearest town, which was about 30-40 minutes away. While it had been raining all morning, as soon as I started riding into Nicaragua, the sky cleared up and it was actually should have been really enjoyable. I wish I’d been able to relax more, but the stress of the border situation was still fresh in my mind.

Often in these stories I omit fights and verbal disputes Aaron and I have. One reason for this is I’d like to conceal how often we bicker so you think we’re better people than we really are, and another reason is to keep the story moving. That being said, I may have blamed Aaron for refusing to take out the necessary amount of money before getting to the border and wasn’t incredibly pleased that I was the one doing the ATM errand. But because he rode into Honduras to get me in just a couple days earlier and because, as mentioned a while back, all money spent at this point was his and I was running up a rather large tab that I’d have to pay back, I was doing the riding today.

I made it back to the border with the money when it was about noon. This was actually a pretty good border crossing for us.

 

 

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