Archive for the '06 Honduras 2007' Category

Getting up before sunrise (april 9th to may 23rd)

Posted by on May 22 2007 | 06 Honduras 2007, English

Guests

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We are rolling again, cruising along a ridge. My eyes wander over red earth and green pine trees, I-m breathing fresh air and a soft breeze is cooling my sweaty face. It feels good! The view is incredible with the red and green coloured valleys disappearing into mist in the distance. Cliff is now on his way back into the city Tegucigalpa. He gave us a ride to the top of mountain to spare us a ride through dense city traffic. We had spent the last eight days with him and his family in Honduras capital, where he is working for USAID.

It had been time for a few days of resting after and exhausting journey through the countries mountains. We were in Comayagua about 80km away from Tegucigalpa, short Tegus. It was late afternoon and we were looking for a restaurant to eat dinner. We had already wandered around town for a while when Florian said he had seen other tourists in another street. I turned around at once.Tourists usually know places for eating. So I walked up to the small group with a toddler girl and asked: “Do you speak English?”, “Yes actually we do!”, Cliff replied. “Do you know the town a bit?”, I went on. “A little, yes.”, said Cliff, “What are you looking for?” “A place to eat, a restaurant.”, I replied. Cliff smiled: “We are looking for the same thing, there don’t seem to be many places for eating here.” We continued talking about the usual things like “why here”, “where from and to”, etc. When Cliff heard, that we we were biking, he immediatly to their home in Tegus, even for more than just a night. We exchanged e-mail address and phone number and then each went on searching for a place to eat.

That night Chan had a fever and neither him nor I slept well. We stayed in town for another night and left early next morning. The first 20km were easy riding and we moved fast. But then we had to climb a long curvey road.

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It was hot and half up the mountain my muscels started aking. I didn’t feel well. Finally we were at the top and started cruising down. Only 4km further was the village, where we had to decide if we wanted to stay or call Cliff and Nicole, to tell them that we would ride to the gaz station at the periphery of Tegus, where they would pick us up by car.

We took a break, ate something and asked people how far it was to Tamara, the town with that particular gaz station. The answers were 18km of which 5km would be slightly up hill, the rest down hill and 15km all down hill. We were so much looking forewart to a rest, a house and a shower, that we thought we could easely ride another 20km. It was just 11am. So we hit the road again, after we had called Nicole and arranged to be picked up arround 3.30. So we would have some time to eat before they would arrive there by car.

The down hill ride was nice though not for long, just about 5km and we entered a hot dry valley filled with smoke from the coffee roasteries. Now the terrain was more or less flat but the wind was blowing into our faces and after about 10 more kilometers the road started climbing again. The hill wasn’t ending and there was no sign of Tamara of the described gaz station. Flo was getting to his limits and so was I. My body felt really weak, my muscels were aking, but now we had to push on. I stepped from my bike a few times to walk it. The road wound its way up and up. By kilometer 25 from where we had asked people how far it was, we were ready to just camp next to the road. But now we had reached a top again and could tell by the amount of traffic and buildings and signs along the highway that we were very close to Tegus. So we peddeled around a curve and speed down a short hill to that particular gaz station. Cliff was waiting for us, but poor him, Flo ignored him altogether and just looked for a shady place to park his bike. I tried to apologize for our late arriving, but Cliff just smiled and offered us home baked enery cookies. Just what we needed! I went into the store for some cold poweraid drinks and aftera bite and a drink Flo was approachable again. Chan had slept for most of that last stretch and was now happy and fit for the car ride. We had covered 75km with two big hills and been on the bikes for more than 7 hours!

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At their home, Nicole waited with a tasty pasta dinner for us. They prepared their daughters room for us to sleep in and that’s just what we did after a nice long shower. Next morning I was sick with a fever, sore throat and muscle aking. I stayed in bed for 3 days. My body was exhausted and i had never given it the time to recover from a cold, picked up in Honduran’s mountains. Now it decided it was time to shutt down.

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Gringo is rich

Honduras was the most wearisome counrtry so far, but we also really liked it. We didn’t take an easy route and travelled on gravel for two days, but it was worth it!

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From Copan Ruinas we had to cross a mountain range into a wider valley from where we turned south to Santa Rosa de Copan. The road to this town was sinuous and in places very, very steep. It ws on this part, that whole groups of kids accompanied us for somethimes a few kilometers, walking or jogging behind us, calling:”gGringo, gringo…!”, or “Mira es iun nino!”. Some would ride their bikes next to us for a while, but only very few dared to ask questions.

I had parked my bike and run back down hill to help Flo push the trailer, when again two boys walked next to him, observing his every move with curiosity. The hill was still long and I too was losing my strentgh, so I just asked the boys, if they wanted to help.Andhow they did! With sparkling eyes they started to push at once and Flo soon disappeared behind a curve. I gotmy bike and followed. At the top, Flo had given the boys some money and happy they walked off. But somethimes people, kids of adults, would walk next to us, asking for “dolares, dolares!”, as if we would stop pushing up a hill just to hand themmoney. Somethimes we answered with: “No tenemos dolares, somos en Honduras!”, but mostly we just said “no”, wishing to be at the top, wher they couldn’t keep up with us anymore.

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There is a huge gap between poor and rich in Central America. It is challenging , especially for me, to be confronted by this discrepancy day after day. Am I rich? I wouldn’t say so, but in the eyes of the majority in Central America I’m rich as hell. I can afford to travel for a long, long time, staying in hotels as well, how can I not be rich? So why don’t I give money to the poor, who ask for it? Because I can’t afford it, because I need the money to live my dream. But people here aren’t dreaming. A majority is fighting to survivie day after day. But can i change that by giving my money away? Does it help or make the situation worse? I’m struggling to get my peace of mind. This is part of traveling, to be exposed to the beauty of the world but also its poverty. It is important to travel and get out of our bubbles, to experience different realities and get a more differentiated image of our world. But it makes me feel helpless as well and ignorant and selfish.

In Honduras at least, people didn’t seem to be starving and their animals weren’t just bones either, like so many down here in Nicaragua. Hondurans seemed to be a bit better off. In every town are new looking SUV’s abound, most houses are built with concrete or adobe blocks. People usually have nice gardens with banana and mango trees and colourfull flower beds.

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People have bikes or even motorcycles and TV’s are everywhere. The shops are full with junk food and sodas and people all over the country, no matter how poor, are dressed very well. Hadly anybody is wearing clothes with holes or even spots and everybody has a cell phone!

Illogical routed highways

Santa Rosa de Copan as well as Gracias are pleasant spanish colonial towns with cobblestone streets, adobe houses and red tile roofs.

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We spent a day in Gracias, wandering the alleys and visiting the thermal waters – a weird experience in this heat! For the next two days most of the highway gravel and dirt. They were working on paving the whole highway, a slow process that started almost four years ago. We can’t understand the logic of Honduras highway system. None of the highways are following valleys. They all criss cross the country like there weren’t any mountains. So we climbed needlessly just to drop down again many times, when in our opinon the road could have followed rivers or valleys to get to the same place. Often we thought: that’s it, now we made it up, just to realize, that the road turned towards the next uphill, when it could have easely been built arround. The roads were much more enjoyable as soon as we crossed the Nicaraguan border, and followed the terrain again. But we loved the landscape neverthless. Beautiful forests, red earth, coffe plantations covered by bananatrees, neverending hills disappearing into mist.

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In San Juan Chan got a fever and we stayed for three days. Luckily our Naturopath in Vancouver supports us by e-mail, because the village doctor never showed up when she was supposed to. We continued the ride when Chan was completely healthy again, but I had a cold now and experienced a few weak moments on the road. In Esperanza the owner of the hotel said we didn’t pay, when we wanted to leave early in the morning. But we knew that we had paid the night before as we always do, because we are leaving so early these days, between 5.30 and 6am. Now we always make sure to ask for a reciept. We have learned our lesson!

We had an easy day leaving Esperanza. For one hour we pushed the bikes uphill, though not steep, then we cruised down for one hour, 30km, into a hot valley, where we arrived at the hotel at 9.30am! We stopped there because now the highway was leading up the flank of the valley again for about 20km into another valley. By 10am it is usually hot and almost impossible to move without a fan, riding is really hard. Already at 8 in the morning we are usually sweating without moving at all! The next day we left early again. The climb wasn’t too bad for the road wasn’t steep and we were riding in the shade of the mountain for most parts. At 11am we arrived at the intersection to Honduras main highway between Tegus and San Pedro Sula in the north. Since the highway was supposed to be much flatter now, we decided to ride the 15km left to Comayagua and expected to arrive there before 2pm. Florian was really looking foreward to Tegus, for some days of rest and to see if all the packages of our families and the spare parts for the trailer had arrived. So we kept pushing to ride a bit further than we otherwise would have.

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After a typico lunch at a street tienda we continued the ride on a much busier road than we were used to after those days worth practically no traffic at all. Suddenly the air was filled with exhaust again and a steady motor noise was filling our ears. And of course the road wasn’t flat. We rode down into a narrow canyon and passed street stand after street stand with colourful hammocks, clay pots in all sizes and bottles of honey and pickled somthings. If we wouldn’t have been on bikes, it would have been really hard not to stop and buy souvenirs. But it was hot and we had another climb ahead of us before we would whizz down into the lowlands of Comayagua.

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Nicaragua

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From Tegus it took us five more days of ups and downs on Hondurans straining highways. The border to Nicaragua is on top of a mountain of course. While still pushing up, money changers and boys which declared themselves as “border crossing helpers” came up from all sides to get some buisness with us. When we told them off and just stopped to get a cold drink and give Chan a break before getting our entry stamps, they gathered around us quite close to watch everything we were doing. Only after maybe 15 to 20 minutes, when nothing interesting was happening, tehy slowly walked away and we crossed the border and organized our papers.

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The first 20km in Nicaragua were exclusivly downhill. The country seemed much better organized than Honduras, the pavement was much better quality and the lanes were actually separated by lines. There were notably less people in the mountains, but the further south we got the more houses lined the highway and the more people were everywhere.

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We took a break in Esteli to visit the Nature Reserve Miraflor. Early one morning we caught a chicken bus (local bus where people take everything, from food to furniture to chickens inside) to a bus stop we were told to get off by the tour operator (UCA…) We had asked the conductor to tell us where to get off teh bus since there weren’t any obvious signs along the gravel road for bus stops. The bus just stoped anywhere, where people wanted to get on or off.

Suddenly the conductor turned to us and asked if we weren’t to get off at La Rampla? We had passed it 2km earlier! So we got off and walked back. A beautiful walk in the mountains with a cooling breeze. When we had almost reached the house of our host family, a rider came galloping from behind and introduced himself as our guide. After a hearty breakfast we went riding horses. Chan was riding with me and loved it. Our trip was shorter thanusual. We visited a waterfall and rode through different vegetation belts. Then Chan started to get tired. His day had been long and filled with lots of new and exciting experiences. The sun was burning down hot and we were all thursty. We shortened the riding loop and visited a coffee plantation and a hollow tree before we rode back to our host family to be served a very tasty lunch. We all went for a nap after eating. There was no fan, because there was no electricity and it was sweltering hot in our room. Chan neverthless fell asleep quite quickly and slept until I woke him shortly before it got dark. We got a beautiful dinner served and talked with the father of the family, a dairy farmer. The weirdest thing for us was, that the whole family ate and lived in the kitchen during our stay and we were served in the living room. A bare room with only a table and chairs in it.

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From Esteli it was mostly downhill into the flat parts towards the Pacific and a row of vulcanos which streches from the border to El Salvador all the way to Costa Rica. Some of these vulcanos are still active and we visited the vulcano Masaya which we could see from far away, not because of its hight (only about 600m) but because it was spitting lots of smoke. We biked up an incredibly steep road to the crater without luggage. The park rangers referred to us as the “three bikers” and we got a private tour and explanations about the vulcano.

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We had been told by other travellers, that Nicaragua was a really poor country and that its poverty is especially visible arround the cities of Managua, Leon and Granada. We haven’t seen as many cart bord houses the size of an average americ bathroom, lining the highways before, like on the highway to Managua and Masaya. In Masaya, returning from the trip to the vulcano, there came a boy falling from the roof of a bus into the middle of the street, right in front of us. Under his t-shirt he was hoding a pet bottle. He got up and together with his friends, who must hae gotten of the bus earlier, watched us crossing the intersection, sniffing whatever they had in their bottles. Another said story are the horses with now flesh arround their bones pulling cartridges arround. never have we seen so many dead horses alongside the highway.

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We are in Granada now. A beautiful colonial town; the cobblestone streets are wide, the houses painted in yellow, orange, blue and white with red tile roofs. Never have we seen that many tourists on our journey like here. The nights are cooling off nicely and we are just enjoying the city, trying to get a few things done like laundry, getting bike parts, e-mailing. Here we met a couple from Argentina, which is biking from Argentina through Brasil all the way up to Mexico. Although we still don’t speak spanish well and they hardly speak any english, we have good conversations and understand each others ways, necessities and difficulties very well.

Soon a boat will bring us to the Isla de Ometepe in the laguna de Nicaragua, where we will be staying on an organic farm and then continue on to Costa Rica.

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