In future days, the old men will sit around the campfires (or plasma pits or whatever future people sit around) and tell frightening tales of the man-eating potholes of Honduras.
“And then the pothole swallowed up the motorcycle and the rider… and they were never heard from AGAIN!” they’ll say, and all the children will cover their ears and shut their eyes tight from the sheer dreadfulness of it all.
Okay, maybe not. But the potholes of Honduras are dreadful. I was specifically warned about them while still in El Salvador. I was told that the distance from El Salvador across Honduras and into Nicaragua was only about 130 highway kilometers, but that I should expect it to take at least two and a half hours to cover because of the condition of the road. It took me just over three.
The road across the country more resembles the lunar surface than anything a sane person would attempt to negotiate, but since I had no other option and my sanity is questionable at this point, I gave it shot. It is not only that the potholes are nearly bottomless vertical pits and that there are so many of them, it is also that all of the other drivers on the road in opposing lanes of traffic are constantly swerving wildly to avoid them. This means that semi trucks, cars, mopeds, coach buses, and “chicken buses” loaded down with people, their roofs piled teeteringly high with cargo, are all zigging and zagging into each other’s lanes while trying to avoid both each other and having their axles ripped off.
There is an added level of difficulty to this manic choreography. That is the kids who set up traffic cones every few miles and arrive with shovels and buckets full of sand to fill the holes in a ten-yard stretch of highway, whch is about as effective as putting a band-aid on a shotgun wound. They then run out in front of traffic while sucking in their cheeks and rubbing their stomachs in an attempt to gain sympathy and coins from passing motorists. This is obviously very dangerous not only for the children, but for the motorcyclist who is now trying to avoid a “chicken bus,” a pothole, a traffic cone and a vehicular homicide charge all at once. I felt bad for the children, who all seemed to be about elementary school age, and I have a hard time believing that this is the Honduran version of a lemonade stand. I have to imagine that these kids are put to this task by their parents in an effort bring in a little extra income.
I stopped at the first hotel I came across on the Nicaraguan side of the border to get some rest after this bizarre obstacle course and woke in the morning to head to the historical town of Granada on the shores of Lake Nicaragua. Since it was a Saturday night, I spent the evening partying in the streets among the street performers and weekend revelers. I even ran into some familiar faces from my last visit five years previous. The next morning I extricated my motorcycle from behind the pool table, where the hotel had let me park it the night before, and headed for the Costa Rican border.
I’ve gotten these border crossings down to the point where I now need very little hand holding throughout the process and so it wasn’t long before I reached Playas del Cocos, a fun beach town on the Pacific, popular with beach bums and backpackers and wayward motorcyclists. I found a mechanic to help me locate some replacement screws for my front brake fluid reservoir, the previous ones having been destroyed by an overenthusiastic mechanic in El Salvador whose only tools were a pair of vise-grips, a hammer, and a misapplied sense of determination.
At the sports bar down the street from my hotel, I met James and Heather. They’re a truly sweet newlywed couple from San Jose, California who share a true love of travel. Their month-long honeymoon itinerary reflects this. Costa Rica was their first stop, which was to be followed by Peru, a jog over to Brazil for a time with a visit to Iguazu Falls in there somewhere, then back up to Belize with a final stop in Las Vegas for a weekend on the way back to California to catch a Jimmy Buffet concert at the MGM Grand. These are not the type of folks that never leave the resort and we hit it off immediately.
Sitting there, speaking English with a plate of Buffalo wings on the bar and the Colts playing the Jets on Monday Night Football in the background, it felt a little bit like home and I suppose that after these months of being a nomad, in a way it was… until the next stop.