Cindie's Travel Journal for Honduras
From the Guatemalan Border to the Nicaraguan Border
(Jan. 7 - 31, 2003) --

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Jan 7 Puerto Barrios, Guatemala - Omoa, Honduras.   We got up early and ate breakfast.  We tried to get our exit stamp at immigrations in town and were told that we had to get it at the border.  Then I went to the bank, it had a huge line and it took me 45 minutes to change quetzales for dollars.  They had the US dollars under lock and key in a vault, it took the clerk 20 minutes to return with my money.  Finished at last we were ready to ride.  So we thought, as rolled into the street, Tim said, "I have a flat".  OK this is the 5th one.  I thought we fixed it before but obviously something was still wrong.  We inspected the tire closely and found a piece of glass in it.  The only time we got a flat was when there was pressure on the tire.  So all that moving around in buses and boats did not cause a problem.  Now we are an hour behind and we haven't even started.  Regardless, it was great to get on the bike again.  It took us only an hour to get to the immigrations on the Guatemala side.  We paid 10Q ($1.30) each to leave the country, changed money, and got our exit stamp. 

We actually had a tail wind, the rain was ahead of us and the scenery was beautiful.  Banana trees everywhere.  I noticed that all the bananas had plastic covering them, I wonder why.  I soon found out why.   As we were gliding along we noticed a crop duster flying over the bananas.  Oh that was it.  As we turned the corner we saw him flying towards us, spraying red goo, obviously a pesticide, all over us. (turned out that it was a fungicide, no fungus here)  Ugh! that was nasty.  I thought, well he saw us so he  won't spray us again, in actuality he sprayed us two more times before we crossed the river into Honduras.  Then the real fun began.  The border crossing was a quagmire, mud up to our ankles.  At the border we stopped for a break and lunch.  While sitting in the cafe the English family we met in Palenque came walking up.  They certainly looked like they had been traveling hard.  I am always impressed to see people traveling with children.

We left the border at 2:00 PM with 50 kilometers to go.  The road was muddy but it was drying out in the sun.  We had about 20 kilometers of dirt to ride.  The road was not to bad and I foolishly thought that we would get through it pretty fast.   Then the sky opened up and covered the road in water.  Suddenly, we were fighting with banana trucks for our space on the road.  We were actually riding faster than they could drive around the pot holes.  About 7 kilometers (4 miles) into the mud bog the bus with the English family passed us.  We were in sight of the bus for maybe a half hour.   By this time we were covered with mud and the sun was going down.  Finally, we hit the pavement and started making time again.  I wish we had a little more time to take in the sights.  It really was beautiful, the jungle on one side of the road and the ocean on the other.  We stopped at a gas station to take a break.  We must have looked pretty bad because a local Garifuna man who spoke English started washing the mud off our bikes.  We were getting tired but we had to push on.  We rolled into Roli's place at about 6:00 PM after dark.  There were no rooms left so we put our tent up in the hammock area.  So we are in a tree house open on the sides.  The cost is 80 Lempiras ($4.70) for two people.  The exchange rate we got at the border was 15 lempiras for 1 US dollar.

88 km

(55miles)

Jan 8 Omoa.  Mostly Sunny Met Evelyn and Vincent from Holland.  Vincent is the second geologist we have met on the trip.  He is a structural geologist.  We talked about the politics of Europe and the US.  It was nice to rest and relax from the big push yesterday.  We started to realize what it took to clean up our gear.  Our bikes needed the mud washed off of them, the drive train completely striped and reoiled.   I tried to wash off our bags with just water but it became obvious that we needed soap and water.  
Jan 9 Omoa.  Partly sunny but rain in the evening. We strolled over to the fort today.   A fascinating look into the past.  The fort , San Fernando de Omoa, was built in the shape of a triangle and finished in 1777.  It was built to protect Puerto Barrios from pirates.   Unfortunately, 2 years after completion the fort was captured by the British.   While touring the fort, we noticed a huge iguana living in one of the walls.

We spent the remainder of the day cleaning our equipment and moving from the hammock area to the ground.  It was a little rainy today.

 
Jan 10 Omoa - Puerto Cortez - Omoa.  Sunny. Rode the bikes to Puerto Cortez.  We were in search of an internet cafe.  First we found a Pizza Hut.  Now Pizza Hut does not sound like a gourmet restaurant but they actually had an all you can eat salad bar.  We were in heaven. Tim got all you can eat salad bar for L64 ($3.75) , and I got a personal pizza and salad for L55 ($3.23).   We then headed to the internet cafe, at a cost of L25 ($1.47) per hour.  The ride to and from Omoa was flat, a welcome change. 40 km

(24 miles)

Jan 11 Omoa.  Rain and more rain.  We headed back to the internet cafe.  It took 5 hours to post the web page.  We sat around Roli's place with the other travelers.  A couple from Slovenia, Gregory and Natasha, a couple from Australia, Scotty and Kate, a couple from England, Matt and Sharon. A couple of girls from Canada, an American from Colorado and a couple of Dutch guys.  It is really interesting learning about other peoples countries.  Australia sounds like the place to go.  
Jan 12 Omoa. More rain.  (this is getting old).  We finished cleaning our gear and barely got it dried out before it started to rain again.  We took the kayaks out and played around with them at the beach.  It didn't matter that it was raining we were all wet anyway.   We met an American who was doing work here in Honduras.  He has a Ph.D. in geography and is studying an Indian group in the mountains of eastern Honduras.  He brought his two boys with him, Sebastian and Gulliver.  I am starting to feel like I am marooned on an island.  We decided to head for San Pedro Sula tomorrow, rain or shine.  
Jan 13 Omoa - San Pedro Sula. We woke up to a sunny morning.  The weather quickly turned cloudy with a slight breeze from the ocean.  We rode to Puerto Cortez without incident.  Tim noticed that his seat was low.  So when we stopped at a gas station Tim adjusted his seat.   As he was tightening up his seat post the bolt twisted in half.  Yikes.   We were suddenly in need of seat binder bolt.  The gas station attendant told us where the nearest bike shop was.  We asked some bikers where the shop was along the way.  One volunteered to show us.  We ended up at two mom and pop shops and neither of them had a binder bolt.  Now we were looking at everyone's seat post and noticed that the man who was showing us around had a quick release seat post clamp.   We asked him if we could buy it from him, he said yes and we paid him L50 ($2.94).   Of course it didn't have all the parts, it was missing a few washers and spacers but it worked just fine.  A night in Puerto Cortez narrowly missed.

From Puerto Cortez to San Pedro Sula is a four lane highway with a large paved shoulder.  Traffic was light most of the way and we had plenty of room on the side of the road.  The terrain was slightly hilly and we actually had a good tailwind.  But for some reason, I did not feel well.  When we stopped to take a break, I felt myself overheating a bit.  I can not imagine what it would be like if the sun was out.  We made it into San Pedro Sula by 4:00 PM and did not get rained on at all.  We got to the plaza and rolled our bikes to a bench as we always do.  Suddenly, a police officer came out of no where saying we could not have our bikes in the plaza at all.  This meant we had to leave, he told us where a hotel was and we headed for that.  We found Hotel Terraza for L265 ($15.58) a bit out of our budget but we needed a secure hotel.  Plus we had a hot shower.  Yeah.

We went out to eat and retired early.  Both Tim and I did not feel well.  We were both feeling bloated and I  was achy all over.  Later in the evening Tim threw up a couple of times.  He was pretty wiped out.  I on the other had just felt miserable.  I feel like I have the flu.

 

42 miles

Jan 14 San Pedro Sula.  Rained all day. Miserable.  Hope we can get out of here on a good weather day.  Tim and I both are feeling bad.  I slept for most of the day.  Tim was feeling a bit better.  I think we have the flu.   Neither one of us have a fever so I am ruling out malaria and dengue fever at this point.   We still need to do our laundry and find a bike shop again.  
Jan 15 San Pedro Sula. Finding a laundry is proving to be easier the finding a bike shop.   We have walked 15 or so blocks and have asked everyone.  We seem to be sent in circles.  I think it is time to get on the bikes and go searching.  I still feel a bit under the weather.  The weather outside has been improving.  Cloudy and rainy in the morning and partly sunny in the afternoon.  I hope tomorrow will be good weather for our ride out of here.  We went in search of an ATM machine, found one and tried our card.  We have yet to get any money out of a bank machine in this country.

We retired early. I was still not feeling 100 %.

 
Jan 16 San Pedro Sula - Km 203 Pan American Highway.  Sunny in the morning then turning cloudy.  I think the sunshine lifted my spirits. We got up early and had our free breakfast at the hotel.  It was pretty good.  I even had cafe con leche, coffee with milk.  We have been procrastinating about getting all our chores done so I needed to clean the water bottles inside out.  Finally, all of our equipment has been cleaned up from the border mud bath.  We also had to go to the bank, I never did find a bank machine that worked.  So I found myself waiting in line for money, again.  I never realized what a time saver an ATM machine was.  It was noon by the time we got out the door a little later than usual.  The good news was that it was not raining and the streets were dry.  We headed out of town, traffic was light at first and steadily got busier.  The bus traffic is the worst, it seems we play tag with them at all the bus stops either we are stuck behind them or they are driving right behind us.

We knew that we would not make it to the lake today a total of 80 km away.  The map showed a flat ride for the first 40 kilometers and a climb after that.  We rode by factory after factory.  It turns out that a lot of companies send there textiles here where garments are assembled cheap and then are sent back out on barges.  My first look at a sweat shop, actually the locals make better money here then they would in the fields, three times more.

We started looking for a place to camp.  We came across a Christian church and decided to ask if we could camp in their back yard.  They even had a guard on duty.   Bob and his son invited us in and said we could stay in the house.  They were busy renovating a number of buildings that will serve as a school to teach local missionaries.  It turns out that they knew exactly where Prescott is.  They have relatives in Chino Valley.  They even get donations from the Prescott Christian Church.  I will have to take some pictures of the place so I can show my sister Cherie where some of her church donations go.  It turns out that Bob's son Marco married an Indiana girl.  She is from Mooresville where Tim's brother Tom and his family live.  Sometimes the world can be a small place.  It just goes to show that you never know where you are going to end up and who you will meet.

40 km

24 miles

Jan 17 Km 203 - Parque National Cerro Azul Meambar.  We started out early for us, 9:00 am.  Our elevation is 50 meters ( 164 feet) and we plan to ride up to Lake Yojoa at an elevation of 680 meters (2230 feet).  We took the right fork at the Y in the road and headed towards Pulhapanzak falls.  The first 10 K (6 miles) was flat, we rode through sugar cane fields and it was harvest time so the trucks full of sugar cane were all over the road.  Once we passed through the town of Rio Linda we started to climb.  We climbed for an hour and stopped at the turn off to Pulhapanzak falls.  We decided to take a look at the falls for our lunch break.  The falls were beautiful we had a guide that spoke English and the grounds were set up for camping. Tim wanted to stay, I wanted to push on.  So Tim said OK and we headed for the cloud forest.  We climbed steadily for the next two hours.  Time was flying by and while taking a break I read that the park gate closed at 4:00 PM.  It was 2:30 and we still had 5 km to ride to the turn off to the park.  Yikes.  We put it in high gear and got to the turn off.  We negotiated a ride to the park.  I am glad we did the grade was steep and the road was very muddy.  We arrived at ten to four.  We gave the driver 100 L ($6.00) for the lift.  We are not sure how we will get out of here.  I sure do not want to slip and slide my way back to the highway.  Houses lined the road along the way and some of the people looked pretty miserable.  The climate here is rainy and damp.  We got a cabin more like a bunk house for 80 L ($5.00) per person a night.  We were given a map of the park, there are essentially 2 hikes, a 4 hour and a 1.5 hour.  45 km

28 miles

Jan 18 Parque National Cerro Azul Meambar.  We got up with the sun to see if we could get a glimpse of some tropical birds.  I could hear all kinds of birds but only saw a few.  The canopy is so high it is difficult to find them.  We took the longer hike today.  It was a 1 hour climb to the look out on a well maintained trail.  We traveled from a lush green secondary growth to what seemed like the original growth cloud forest.  Of course it was cloudy and wet, to be expected.  We traverse the mountain and climbed down to a waterfall.  We saw every house plant I have ever owned except the leaves were much broader here.  The air felt super oxygenated as well.  The bridge was out at the water fall so we had to ford the creek.  The hike took us a total of 4 hours including breaks and lots of photo opportunities.  This park is rarely visited, we had the place to ourselves.  It takes a bit of an effort to get here but I personally feel that it was well worth the trip. 8 km (hike)
Jan 19 Parque National Cerro Azul Meambar.  It was a damp rainy day.   This is the coldest I have been since the mountains in Guatemala.  We took a nap in the afternoon.  I woke up to the sounds of someone speaking English, I thought I was dreaming.  It turns out that one of the park creators was up visiting with a group of Americans.  It was so good to hear that familiar accent.  
Jan 20 Parque National Cerro Azul Meambar - Km 124.  Cloudy with some rain. We arranged to have a ride back down the mountain.  We really did not want to take another mud bath, to much work to clean up everything and it is hard on the equipment.   Since I sat in the back this time, I got a good look at the local housing. Some of it is pretty basic.  Wood houses with a clothes line and mud all around, kids playing in the mud and chickens running around.  We got dropped off at the highway and headed south.  We had not even ridden a mile, Tim was riding around some kids on the side of the road and he ran over a fresh piece of glass.  Boom, another flat and right in the middle of shanty town.  The kids got a kick out of the whole production of changing a tire.  On closer inspection of the kids they were a motley crew. The youngest had bed bug bites all over her face, she was no more the 10 months old.  Her sisters, around 5 and 7 were taking care of her.  They were all dirty, their hair was matted and their cloths did not fit because they were to small.  Up on the hill, mom was cleaning dishes and dumping the wash water into a ditch in front of us.  The house was a wood shack, dirt floor and no doors.  What a terrible existence.  I knew that the coffee farmers were really hurting because coffee prices have dropped but this was at the bottom of the ladder.  I hate to see people living in conditions worse the most animals in the United States.  Once again, I feel so privileged to be an American, not everyone has the opportunities that we all have.

So Tim fixed his tire and we rolled down the road and stopped for breakfast.  The gash in Tim's tire is fairly wide. We had to use a Lempira note (money worth 3 cents) between the tube and the tire.  It seems that Tim has had bike trouble since we entered Honduras.  The next 20 kilometers (12 miles) were relatively flat and slightly down hill.  Then we started to climb and continued to climb from 600 meters (1968 feet) to 1200 meters (3936 feet).  As we climbed we got closer to the clouds and eventually were riding in the clouds and then it started to rain.  It was wet and cold, yet when we rode up hill we would sweat like crazy in our rain jackets.   Soaked to the skin in wet jerseys we decided to stop at the first hotel we found.   Hotel Esmeralda, L100 ($6.00) for the night.  I can not believe how damp and cold it is.  I would have thought we would have been roasting in the jungles of Honduras, instead we can not seem to find the sun.  Maybe tomorrow.

43 Km

27 miles

Jan 21 Km 124 to Comayagua.  The sun came out today and we had a chance to dry out our gear.  We continued to meander through the mountains and then we descended down into Comayagua.  We kept seeing down hill signs and then we would descend down a 100 meters (300 feet) and then climb up again.  This happen at least three times.  Finally, when we came to the final decent of 600 meters (1900 feet) there was no sign at all.  The valley of Comayagua reminded us of Cottonwood, Arizona, a valley surround by mountains with cactus and high desert grasses.  A pleasant change from the wet, damp and cloudy coastal plain. 

We arrived in the colonial town of Comayagua around 2:00 and went to the plaza.  We again were asked to leave, bikes were not allowed.  It seems to be the norm in Honduras.  We did speak to some friendly locals and they directed us to a hotel.  We stayed in Hotel Americana for L180 ($10.58).  We had hot water and cable TV.  I was in dire need of a hot shower.  We strolled around the plaza after dinner and found the only internet cafe in town.  While we were interneting Scotty and Kate from Australia walked in.  It was good to see them.  Some how we managed to get ahead of them on our route south.  We made plans to meet tomorrow at the internet cafe.

45 km

28 miles

Jan 22 Comayagua.  Slept in and then met Scotty and Kate at the internet cafe.  We went out to lunch afterwards.  They met a local teacher while in the plaza and were staying with them.  It turns out that we are pretty much heading in the same direction and traveling at a similar speed.  So we may meet up with them in Granada or the volcanic islands in Lake Nicaragua.  We met the Aussies for a beer, they  plan on leaving tomorrow in the morning, we are staying another night.  
Jan 23 Comayagua.  Worked on the gear, fixed Tim's gloves, sewed some buttons and super glued a number of breaks including Tim's tire.  I have never super glued a tire before.  This will be a test to see how long it lasts, we had to try something.  We watched movies the rest of the day.  
Jan 24 Comayagua - Km 43.  The first 20 km was flat with a tail wind.   Then we hit the climb and our pace slowed down considerably.  We again climbed from 600 meters (1968 feet) to 1100 meters (3608 feet).  We camped in the pines.  The weather was partly cloudy and seemed to be drying out. 45 km

28 miles

Jan 25 Km 43 to Tegucigalpa.  Tegucigalpa is a mouthful so the locals call it Tegus.  I prefer Tegus myself.  We continued to climb up to 1400 meters (4552 feet) and descended into a valley at 500 meters (1640 feet).  We saw our first coffee roasting plant, Cafe Indio.  There was a soccer game going on near-by.  We again climbed out of the valley and over a mountain pass.  For some reason I always thought of Honduras as a tropical jungle.  Only a part of Honduras is tropical the rest of the country is a pine forest or what is left of a pine forest.  Honduras is not particularly touristy like Guatemala either.  Traveling here is easier and more low key.  We still get the beggars coming into the restaurant asking for money but not as often.

The ride into a city of 1 million is always a challenge.  First a taxi driver showed us the way and then a cyclist showed us into the city center.  We were concerned about riding through the industrial side of town.  It turns out that we took the highway around it and then circled back to the downtown, a little longer but not as sketchy.  Our maps of this area are not as good as the ones we had in Mexico and Guatemala so we tend to rely on locals more.  We have found Hondurans to be helpful and friendly.  We stayed at Hotel Granada, there are actually three of them.  We stayed in Granada II, a large room with a private bath, hot shower is L232($13.60)

53 km

33 miles

Jan 26 Tegucigalpa.  I found an American style grocery store today and was mind boggled by all the choices I had.  The grocery stores I have frequented in the past month have all had the same thing, beans, rice, eggs, vegetable oil, chips and cokes.   In this store I could buy poptarts if I wanted, I passed it was $4.50 for a box.   However, I did buy some peanut butter, a 1 LB jar for L58 ($3.41), Ginger snap cookies L36 ($2.12), a loaf of wheat bread L14 ($0.82).

We also saw a movie today with Matt Damon, Bourne Identity for L20 ($1.30).  It was in English with Spanish subtitles.

 
Jan 27 Tegucigalpa.  Checked out the US Embassy today.  Interesting, it looks like a fortress with guards and barriers in front of every entrance.  The embassy is not that far from the American style grocery store.  We picked up travel info on Nicaragua and Honduras, something I would not want my mother to read.  They always make things sound so dangerous.  Also picked up some tax info.  We may be traveling outside the US yet we are not immune to taxes.  
Jan 28 Tegucigalpa. We originally were going to head out of town today but we decided to take one more rest day.  We dropped off our laundry at Super Jet.  They charged L6($0.35) per pound, they measure weight here by the pound not the kilo.  Got on the internet and made a few phone calls using Dialpad.com, the cost was $0.04 per minute plus L30 ($1.76) per hour to call the US.  The connection seemed to be working better here then in other places we tried to use it.  
Jan 29 Tegucigalpa to Km 15 Pan American Highway.  It is always a challenge to ride out of a large city.  We found our way out of town and then started climbing out of the valley toward Los Manos the border of Nicaragua.  We climbed form 970 meters (3182 feet) to 1400 meters (4592 feet). On the way out of town we had a pretty steep climb up a canyon through a pretty large shanty town.  We began to meander our way higher and higher towards the mining town of San Antonio de Oriente.  We originally thought we would try to get to this town at the end of the day.  The weather did not agree.   As we climbed the weather changed from cloudy to windy and rainy.  We decided to find a place to camp before the rain really started coming down.

We found a nice area to camp away from the road, houses and in the pines.  We had a pleasant nights sleep and a mellow morning.  As I was changing into my bike cloths I found a tick, my least favorite insect, in my leg.  It was a small tick but a tick just the same.  I search for more and did not find any.  Tim did not appear to have any either.

25 km

15.5 miles

Jan 30 Km 15 to Km 70.  We went through the three season today.   Initially, the weather was cool and cloudy.  We climbed some and then began to descend rapidly.    It soon began to rain but we decided to ride until visibility got bad.   It did not really rain to hard so we kept on going.   By the time we stopped for lunch it was clear and actually hot.  We road down to a river and through the valley and then back up into the mountains again.  It was getting late so we started looking for a place to camp.  We are in pine forest but the under brush is tall grass.  The grass comes up to my shoulder.  Tim did not know it but, I have a phobia of walking through tall grass  all I can think of is snakes running under my feet and not being able to see them.  Tim wanted to push our bikes through the tall grass, I didn't.  In the end we meandered through the grass until we climbed to the top of a small hill that was clear of tall grass.  We set up camp and were both happy.

Even though we were some distance from the road we still could hear the traffic whizzing by.   Consequently, I did not sleep as well as I would have liked.

55 km

34 miles

Jan 31 Km 70 to El Paraiso.  We descended down out of the mountains into another valley.  We had lunch in Danli, a town of about 100,000.  We had a great lunch of shish kabob and watched green parrots fly from tree to tree.  On the way we passed a number of cigar factories.  The air had the sweet smell tobacco.  We had descended back down into a valley.  We passed coffee plantations and coffee processing factories.  The air was rich in the smell of fresh coffee, not the smell of roasted coffee, but more like a ripe fermented pungent smell all at once.  The last three days we have been riding in a more prosperous part of Honduras, also more arid.   A lot easier traveling then the low, wet and poorer northern coastal area.    Although we have had difficulty finding water.  The local stores carry little 300ml bags and sometimes they do not sell water at all.  We have used our filter daily here.

We found a hotel room at Quinta America.  We had a room with a hot shower for L150 (US$8.82).  We cross the border tomorrow, I am always apprehensive when we are about to cross a border. Something out of the ordinary always happens.

49 km

30 miles

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