Friday, 4 January 2008

Honduran ride - Utila, one way trip!

With the Christmas rush I completely missed the ride through Honduras. Not wanting to miss a vital part of my journey, I'd like to fill in the gaps. The ride up through Honduras was a desperate one, despite knowing I was going to make it to Utila for xmas! By the time I got through the border I didn't want to hang around. The crossing was a pain, the most blatant corruption seen yet. There was a huge poster warning of corruption, stating quite clearly the amount shown was the maximum to be charged for vehicle tax: trouble was, the amount had been blacked out! After I was on a mission, barring the traffic bumps I gave my throttle plenty of exercise; it can look quite impressive hitting one whilst opening the throttle wide. I assume those around me thought the massive wheelie was intentional, they must have thought it utterly mad, or dead cool; probably both!

Having been warned about the drivers here I was a bit wary to begin with, but this has become a habit with new countries. Chill out, allow the subtle differences to come to light and adapt my riding accordingly. Generally the knack is to travel at a faster average speed than those around you, given slow moving traffic, and my innate ability to overtake more efficiently, I make better progress and am rarely a concern for other road users. The road acclimatisation is more to discover the little foibles of each country, Mexico with rough sections, Guatemala with its minor landslides; Honduras is deeply potholed, with un-announced rows of metal domes across the road. Whatever they are, they become apparent quite early on.

The first 50 km or so of Honduras seemed much the same as Guatemala, lovely lush green hills, high and well cultivated. The small villages were Mayan in appearance, from the dress of the women anyway! This didn't last too long, as the hills reduced in size, and the potholes increased the nature of cultivation changed. No longer was there the smaller, self sufficient style of agriculture! Banana plantations became as common than as a home stand of plantain, date palms lined the road for a number of miles, so dense it was impossible to estimate how extensive the plantation was. Large spreads of crops were seen everywhere, making it more of an industry than I've so far seen in Central America. The methods of tending the crops are all on the industrial scale too, no oxen here, all mechanised!

My first port of call was the town of Copan, cash was desperately needed, the border guards had stripped me clean. It was so hot I was in danger of melting, the town roads were cobbles, not cobbled, so very uneven. It was a nightmare for slow speed control, and there was no way you could travel faster. Why, oh why, do I insist on wearing full bike gear all the time? Mission successful anyway, cash withdrawn, partially cooler and re hydrated, I got on my way. I was in no condition to consider visiting the Mayan ruins of Copan, too hot and nowhere to store my bike gear; no way was I going to walk around with it!

A warning I'd had off a few people was San Pedro Sula; you can't avoid it, but don't stop are stay there. One in particular advised me to keep going, even if someone walked out in front of me; knock them down and keep going! It wasn't quite that bad, but I didn't fancy getting stuck there over night. The City centre looked nice, architecturally, the presence of police where-ever I looked made it feel a bit risky though. Some cities just aren't meant to be stayed in, and I don't need much for me to avoid them. Anyway, my focus was much further afield; I didn't think I'd make La Ceiba in one day, but it wouldn't be for the lack of trying.

From 4 pm I start looking for a place to stay, recently this has meant hotels. The intention is to be settled before dark, bike parked safely and me safely ensconced in a luxurious hotel; well a cheap dive anyway! I overshot the mark this time, I hit five and I'd passed all the road houses, next stop was Tela. It was nearly dark and I still had over 20 km to go, I hit town well after dark and just left the bike while I found myself a flee pit to sleep in. I'd promised myself a spot of luxury, that had to mean hot water; as none could provide that I went for the cheapest option, but without the woman included! Tela was meant to be a seaside resort, it was like Blackpool; without the illuminations, the fun fares, the abundance of restaurants or choice of bars.

However, pushing it that day meant only having to travel a short way to La Ceiba the next; just as well too. I thought finding a port wouldn't prove too hard for me, follow round the coast, you can't go wrong. OK, so if you do go wrong just ask! Yep, and get sent to the Airport; they tried that one twice. Luckily I found an Internet cafe, hey presto, a map and the port was reached in a jiffy. I couldn't believe it, I'd been heading to it when I realised I'd overshot the city by some way, and turned back. What a delight it was to reach the ferry, until they told me they couldn't get the bike on the ferry. Boy, wasn't it just my lucky day, a freight boat was about to leave; yes, they had room, for me and the bike! Phew!! So I arrived two hours before the punters on the ferry, got my bike off, found a hotel and was in a bar before the ferry was even in sight.

I felt relief at reaching Utila, but to be honest, it wasn't what I was looking for. The beaches look great on the approach, but they are almost non-existent, are far from private. If I was going to find a place to sun myself for the festivities, it would have to be somewhere else. And Jewel Cay was the answer, it still didn't have a beach; a private sundeck was the next best thing! The dive boat turning up each morning on our dock was an added bonus, as was finishing the dive and stepping straight into my room for a sluice off and change of clothes. But the squeezing in and out of a wet suit proved too much for my swim shorts, a good excuse to buy some more new clothes. And to bare my arse!! At least its a chance to show my tan, without my bits on display!

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