Intricate stone carvings at the ruins of Copan, Honduras.
The border crossing from Guatemala into Honduras was remarkably easy and fast. I crossed at the tiny village of El Florido. There were no "tramatidors" present (tamatidors are typically very insistent young men who often overwhelm travellers at border crossing areas and offer to guide one through the process- for a fee). As I approached Honduras, a gate was lifted and I entered the country. There were 6 Kawasaki motorcycles parked near the Honduran Migracion control. Soon I was surrounded by 6 very friendly Panamanian bikers. They had alot of questions about about the bike and I. They showed me where I needed to go and what I needed to do to enter Honduras, and in less than 30 minutes I had cleared the border and was on my way to the ruins at Copan.
When I reached the town of Copan I found the Panamanians in the towns central plaza. We chatted for a while in the hot sun. Standing downwind of the fellows I noticed they were quite ripe, the thick smell of aged sweat permeated the air. Having been on the road twice as long as these men, I suddenly wondered what odors I must be emitting! Speaking of odors...as we stood in the plaza, a young man appeared touting a $15usd hotel room with all the comforts of home. He introduced himself as Freddy- though he didn't introduce his body odor. It was a viable force. With Freddy trotting before me as I followed him to the hotel, I was tempted to vomit more than once.
When we arrived at the hotel I was surprised to find a heavy BMW in the secured parking area. It had Florida plates and was obviously on a long journey. At roughly 3 that afternoon I met the rider, a New Yorker named Jason. He appeared as I was unloading my bike. Jason was on his way back to the States after a year of riding in South America. He had a bag filled with cold beer and a bottle of Nicaraguan rum. For reasons not entirely clear to me, Jason and I got along famously. As it turned out, the man was a BMW motorcycle mechanic. We worked on our bikes and I asked many questions about my machine. A planned one night stay in Copan suddenly turned into three. We supported the local economy heavily.
The fairly famous Mayan ruins of Copan are certainly noteworthy. The site is well kept and famous for the most intricate carved stone in the Mayan empire. I arrived there alone, late in the afternoon. The place was alive with sounds of wildlife and bathed in a cool, glowing light. A light breeze blew as I hiked amongst the ruins, covered by thick jungle. At one point I stood at a place overlooking both the ruins and many miles of hilly Honduras. The history of the place was palpable. As I gazed across the vast green landscape of Central America I thought aloud, "we're miles from home."
After three days of fun in Copan, the time came for Jason and I to ride- he north, and I south. We rode to the one gas station in the area to fuel the bikes. I was low on cash and Jason suggested I ride back into town to visit the ATM. A close look at my Honduran map indicated there were plenty of towns ahead- of ample ATM size. I decided to ride on.
My goal for the day was Siguatepeque, Honduras. I had covered far greater distances in a day over the past 3 months, I even thought I might reach the capitol of Honduras, Tegucigalpa (aka teh-goose). My map of Mexico and Central America are very different in nature. A red line in Mexico means a two lane, paved road. This was not the case in Honduras and Nicaragua. My bike has a range of just over 300 miles. We tested that range in a hair-raising race with nightfall in the Honduran highlands.
Things went well the first 75 miles out of Copan- then the road began to deteriorate. Before long I was slowed to 2 or 3 miles per hour for hours at a time. There were no stores or restaurants- nor gas stations! At one point the road seemed to end- it looked like a creek bed. I stopped and asked a surprised young man if I was headed in the right direction. He assured me I was. He pointed up into the hills. I could see a trail cutting its way back and forth up through the wooded mountains. He didn't know how far I would travel before finding fuel. With an honest sense of curiosity, I started up into the western highlands of Honduras...
The road quickly deteriorated into sloppy single track. It was similar to the rough riding in the Copper Canyon- though without the scary cliffs to contend with. For hours I continued at slow speed as I negotiated the rocks, sand and mud. I carry two emergency water bottles and used them both on this day. My food was gone and I had't eaten in 8 hours. The sun was now dipping behind the mountains. There were no road signs of any kind. I soon found myself on a ridge line with a tremendous view. I scanned the horizon in every direction. There was not one man made stucture in sight, only the endless green forest. Time to take stock of the situation. I hadn't fueled the bike in over 200 miles. There wasn't a gas station in the last 200 miles. I was past the point of no return. Sipping my last water bottle in an effort to conserve, I rode on. Before long my fuel-low light illuminated, indicating we had some 60 odd miles before things came to a halt. My options were few- and unpleasant: 1) Park the bike in the woods and wait for daybreak. 2) Try to find a primitive home, knock on the door and ask to sleep next to their house. 3) Ride on.
I chose door number 3. After some 20 miles I came across a small village. There was a gas station! However, they didn't accept credit cards and I had very little cash. To be exact, I had enough cash to purchase .54 gallons of fuel. This extinguished the low fuel light for some 15 minutes. Crossing a treeless plateau, I could see a valley below, illuminated by the suns rays pouring through mountains. There was a town, a fairly large one at that. Before long I was entering the town and was relieved to find a well lit Texaco station. Then I spotted the visa/mastercard logo! Soon I was topped off and answering the usual questions of the attendants. I was sore from 10 hours of rough riding. The boys pointed me toward a hotel 100 meters down the road.
Pulling into the hotel parking lot I was greeted by a man with a pistol tucked into his belt and a pump shotgun slung over his shoulder. He was the hotel security guard. We chatted for a while as I went through my post ride routine. He even helped me get the bike up on the centerstand as I was exhausted. With the bike tucked in for the night, it was time to take care of myself. I walked into the hotel lobby/restaurant and was blown away. There was huge buffet in full swing and a built in grocery and liquor store. The staff there had been watching me unload the bike and began asking questions immediately. Within minutes the entire staff knew the whole story. They brought beer after cold beer. The smiling buffet workers piled my plates high with meats and veggies. I replenished my food and water supply that evening. Finally I made it to my room, showered and fell into a relieved coma.
The next day I enjoyed a nice ride to the somewhat ugly town of Choluteca (apologies to those of you from Choluteca), where I bedded down for the night. Tomorrow: Nicaragua.
Safe and sound in the hotel lobby!