In the lead up to this exit from the country every single thing I’ve read says that Honduras is the worst most dangerous place in Central America and to avoid it like that weird religious cousin who always hits on you at family reunions. Next in that line on the bad rap list is the ugly step cousin El Salvador, loosely translated by the locals as “The Savior” or “Jesus Christ”. Ohh man could you imagine if say the USA or Canada was called “Jesus Christ”.
So Tom where are you thinking of visiting for summer holidays this year?
Ohh you know, just going to spend a month or so seeing Jesus Christ.
+++Insert strange looks here+++
Heck there is even a town called “Nombre de Jesus”. However I missed the photo of that town and managed to get one of its quite little country neighbour; Las Vegas.
Luckily I’d met several people who’d driven across Honduras and confirmed it was indeed great and I should check it out. I stencilled in about two weeks there in the back of my mind, then promptly spent about a month longer then planned in “Jesus Christ” and had a timeline to meet a friend in Managua, Nicaragua soon after and managed to revamp this plan to about three days in Honduras.
To make this all worth while I planned to exit El Salvador through the North and catch a few days across the country to Nicaragua. I made it to the boarder at La Palma and stayed in the wacky part cabins, part campground, part swanky hotel, part petting zoo complete with goats, rabbits, peacocks and so on up in the mountains about fifteen minutes before the boarder. The service was great at this flashy campground too, when my shoddy Spanish couldn’t understand how to get to where the pool was so I could use the showers they called a driver and had him and the cook drive me the three minutes to the showers, how nice I thought. Then when I was done twenty-five minutes later I came out to see them still waiting for me and they then drove me the two minutes back to my camp spot! I thought this was all magic until the cook came by that night after his shift and tried to talk his way into my tent, cheeky little guy I don’t swing that way.
The night before I’m meant to cross to Honduras a friend explains the route I plan to take is under heavy construction and it’ll take me easily twice as long as if I were to backtrack across El Salvador and use another exit. So that’s what we did, left the petting zoo back out of the pines and into some of the driest miles and miles of farmland I’d seen in my life briefly broken up by what I thought was a mirage. As I came over a hill, set in the base of two volcanoes was a lush green landscape, rolling river and tonnes of wildlife. I even went back up the hill on the bike to take a second look and snap a few photos. On this route from La Palma to Perquin I saw virtually no cars or trucks, let alone a tourist of any kind. This would be highlighted as me and the giant black spaceship I ride pulled into a little village for a drink and a snack with my little speaker system playing and the attention of everyone was permanently fixed on us. I tried to casually drink my chocolate milk and eat some bread while the locals would stop, pull up a piece of cement curb and watch me chew & drink every morsel, now I was the one in the zoo. Hahaha, I threw a few of them off guard when I opened my mouth to ramble off some Spanish pleasantries, they’d blink, shift their blank look, smile and remember to continue about there day.
We landed that night in Perquin in what used to be the FMLN headquarters during El Salvador’s brutal civil war, you could read hours of history about this spot. I’m sure much has changed however it’s still patrolled by military and I stopped to ask a sixteen year old kid in camo gear with a machine gun roughly ¾ his size for directions to the war museum. I found the museum and was given a brief tour by a former FMLN fighter of the smashed helicopter, various weapons and antiwar posters, as well a huge hole in the ground from a dropped bomb. This war started in the early eighties, basically as I was just beginning life. One photo on the wall of the museum was of a small boy naked playing in front of a row of military naturally oblivious to what was going on. The reality is that could have very well been me on the street growing up dodging bombs and evading starvation while my parents sought to migrate out of the country or join either side of the war. I think the appreciation of the country in which I was raised offset by the increasing number of tears shed on this trip will find itself in a number of these stories.
Back in town and after a brief chat with a local for directions to another campsite up in the hills and I found myself camped across from of all things and amusement park, wow what a contrast from years gone by. From dropping of bombs and bloody wars to the laughter of kids and splashing of water in the park.
That night I watched the sun set through the volcanic pine forest and enjoyed one of a hundred classic pasta dinners I’ve learned to enjoy from my little cooking set up. The following morning I set off by 7:30am to endure what would be three countries and two boarder crossings. Sadly my plans to stay in Honduras had been swapped for a marathon day across what was the shitiest “paved” roads I’d seen yet. I even made a verbal apology in my helmet to Guatemala for previously saying they had the shitest roads in the Americas. The silver lining of all this was meeting Carlos and his Mum on a bike at one of many stops for road construction. We chatted in the 36oC heat about how Carlos used to work illegally in America earning $100-$150/day and now back in Honduras he was looking closer to $15/day. Like most of my chats with the locals we then covered Canadian immigration followed by local and U.S. politics. Thanks Carlos for my only Honduran photo.
Enough boarders under my belt I was doing great with my fending off of boarder helpers explaing how hard it was to get across the boarder and it would be best if I paid one of them for help, seems if you reply in a few Spanish words they assume your fluent and beat it. I told them I’d crossed every boarder since Canada and felt pretty sure I could figure this one out. For boarder 1 of 2 this was true, by boarder #2 into Nicaragua, hour ten in the sun with my leather boots, gortex pants and grossly hot water I’d been trying to consume I was wearing a little thin. I’d premade some oatmeal and banana to eat in case I couldn’t find food at the boarder. Well the food had started to ferment in the heat and the spoon was to hot to put in my mouth, so I resolved to just drink the hot water, then I managed to screw up filling the same form out three times and eventually the lady walked me to the person I needed to have sign it. It all seemed like it was going rough until I met a lady from the real Las Vegas who had been at that boarder for THREE DAYS! She had the wrong paperwork for her daughter and they had been camping in their mini van in no mans land unable to proceed or go back, unlike other situations I’m sure she had been in I don’t think her DD implants we’re helping her out of this one. I decide my situation wasn’t so bad after all.
By hour eleven I’d found a grocery store in Nicaragua and proceeded to consume 1L of orange juice, 1L of cold water, 1 can of pop, one package of cheese, one package of lunch meat and some chocolate. The parking lot security guy watched me from just around the corner, likely wondering if I was going to puke or pass out!
By hour twelve I had my tent set up across from the beach in the back of a hotel next to a similar looking tent, and by hour twelve and a half I managed to have two broken tent poles. I passed out in the sweaty heat and would spent the next afternoon walking by asking who’s tent that was and laughing to myself.
Ahhhhh hello Nicaragua, we look forward to enjoying you!