Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Day 22 - Esquipulas, Guatemala to Siguatepeque, Honduras

RobC:  In yesterday's blog I forgot to mention that in Guatemala and Honduras Christian religion is really front and center to the culture. There seems to be a serious rivalry between the Roman Catholics (the religion brought in by the Spanish) and protestantism in all of its denominational forms (brought in primarily by missionaries from the US). For instance, on a Friday, in Santiago de Atitlán (Guatemala), we encountered hundreds of men, pastors, of a pentecostal denomination, attending a national pastors' conference. A local student told us that the Catholic church makes noise by shooting off big, noisy rockets and the Pentecostals counter by singing louder and longer. The people we encountered on the streets, in shops, in restaurants, on ferries, etc. were all very willing to speak of their faith and identify their particular religious affiliation.

RobT:  We had high hopes of sailing across the entire country of Honduras today.  Notice I said, "had".  We get to the border at around 9am only to be told we had to wait half hour or so because the person who signs our bikes out of the country was in a meeting.  The first person to approach us was a money exchanger (guy with a big wad of cash and a calculator).  They can be found at all border crossings.  We have come to realize that these guys give fair exchange rates and they accept left-over money from the last country and also accept US dollars. It's dead simple to get some cash exchanged right there.  No searching for ATMs.  Some locals take interest in our bikes and RobC talks to them to pass the time and ask questions about local life and places to see.  In the meantime a "fixer, Giovanni," approached us with his services.  Getting out of Guatemala was easy.  Getting into Honduras was a horse of a different collar.  For 200 Lempiras (10 USD) Giovanni would take care of everything and save us at least an hour, so he said.  Excellent, hassle free solution.  Hour and a half later she walks out of the customs office.  We get our papers signed and we are on our way across no-man's land to the Honduran side.

Guatemalan border at Agua Caliente.

Honduran border gate.

We get to the Honduran side, which resembles a wrecking yard.  All eyes on us as we entered.  Garbage strewn everywhere, a lady cooking chicken on a grill placed over a rusted out 45-gallon drum, and your token drunks. Our fixer goes to work.  Takes our passports, registration and driver's licenses and leaves.  Not sure how they get away with getting your passport stamped without the owner of the passport present.  He comes back half hour later and says it will cost an additional 80 USD for each person because it is Sunday and the customs people are doing this as a favor,otherwise we would have to come back on Monday.  Note:  this includes the mandatory bank fee of 35USD but the bank is closed (at the border) as its Sunday.  The extra "fee" is for Customs to handle this situation.  RobC manages to talk the fee down to 66 USD total.  So we pay.  The fixer comes back again but this time has to go back to the Guatemalan side to get 4 photocopies our documents. as the copying facility at the Honduran side was closed.  All told, 3 hours of messing around, but the fixer did the work and we paid the fees and the bribe.  BTW, we ran into the same guy on the 650 BMW Dakar we met in Tikal several days previous.  Forgot to ask his name, again.

Off we go, right?  Wrong.  RobC is worried about the grade in the road where he has to turn his bike around.  I offer to stand guard in case he needs help.  He's off with no problem so I get on my bike, push it off the center stand.  Note:  bike is backed into a spot that is on a pretty good incline.  I go to kick the side stand down and the bike starts rolling backward toward the ditch.  I couldn't stop it or get the side stand down in time.  Yup.  Over it goes.  After some locals help me with it I get to the border gate where RobC is getting annoyed with the police, as they are telling him that he has to go through immigration again.  All that straightened away and we are off.  It's  now noon the entire border crossing event took all morning.

We were warned about the ubiquitous potholes in the roads in Honduras and it doesn't take long for that truth to reveal itself.  Potholes are everywhere and in the most precarious locations, around blind corners, the other side of speed bumps, bridges, etc. There are even sections of road that seem like they are under construction but in fact have simply deteriorated.  Usually, you can find 2 kids at these locations who raise a rope across the road in front of you to try and get you to stop.  They would then ask for handouts stating they are helping repair the road.  A little unsettling when you first experience this as you don't know what the kids will do.  They usually drop the rope when you get close enough and they see you're not going to stop.

 The gravel road we ended up on.

Well, we are on our way and resigned to the fact that we will only make it to the capital city of Tegucigalpa before dark ... so we thought.  As luck would have it, not only does the Honduran government not have money to fix potholes, they they don't have any to post signs either.  We get turned around and end up going toward San Pedro Sula,  the long way to the capital. We decide to go back and find our shorter route.  We notice there is a gravel section we want to avoid as it's getting close to evening and the sun sets at about 5:45 pm.  We get turned around again and end up on some back road into La Esperanza.  It started out as a new road, then to a tarred dirt road, then to a dirt road and finally to what seemed like an ox cart track until we made it into La Esperanza via a back road.  We get into this frontier town where the streets are dirt, rocks, gutters, dusty and littered with garbage.  The odd thing about this was that everyone seemed to be dressed up, guys in slack and dress shoes and girls in high heels and dresses.  We ask a couple of teenage guys how to get out onto the main road.  They offered to guide us out of town with their car. We followed Miguel and his friend.  Wow.  Nice guys!

So now it's dark and we have no place to stay.  We press on.  I know, we vowed NOT to ride at night and were warned by the guys that there was a landslide part way along the road we were travelling on.  We slowed our speed to 50kph as we were in the mountains on curvy roads filled with potholes, no lighting or lines on the roads. 

Well.  You might guess what happens next.  Round a bend and there appears a sign that blocks the road ahead.  "Danger!" No prior indication, just this sign with one pylon, no lights or beacons.  I look to the left where the road "appears" to go and I don't see anything but a dirt run-off with a berm at the end.  Put on the brakes.  At this point I'm only traveling about 5-10 kph, front tire locks as I hit sand, slides and down goes the bike and yours truly takes out the danger sign with a body slam.  :)  All good though.  (RC editor's note: Because of the incline, Rob came catapulting off his bike as if his bike seat had ejected him.)  Tank bag came apart at the seams and the right pannier was pushed up against the bike, which means that if I want to fuel this beast again, I will have to pull the pannier frame back somehow.  Looks like the mounting structure has been bent.  We'll worry about that tomorrow.

So, we had a good day on the bike. The only thing that could round out the day would be if I were to fall out of bed tonight.

All in all, what was supposed to be an easy border crossing and a high mileage day turned out to be quite the opposite.  I guess you could call today an adventure day. :)

RobC:  Here is a picture of the sunset over the Honduran mountains - to give us new hope for tomorrow.


  1. I've had those kind of days,.. At the Corumba, Brazil/Pto. Suarez, Bolivia border crossing we were sent back into Corrumba to get bribed (with official looking "timbre" stamps) by the Bolivian Consulate (at $66 each) before we could cross into Bolivia!

    These are the ones that make great stories!

    Cheers, Toby

  2. Hi Toby,

    I remember that story from your ATB-1 blog. I also thought of you yesterday as Rob had mushy front brakes on his 800 GS. We stopped at a moto mechanic and he bled the front brakes a little, which fixed the problem. His explanation: there is an o-ring between the brake piston and cylinder, which can let air into the closed system when hot. Is this plausible to you? We were in mountain twisties in Honduras.

    Best to you, RobC

  3. *shakes head* Robbie, Rob, Rob.... Let us know how your old body feels tomorrow ;) Next time, just kick the sign, okay? No need for full body contact unless it's being recorded...and YOU'RE the one with the camera, so that's not gonna happen! Stop showing off!

    P.S. Hope the bike's okay :S

  4. Smart ass!If I were to show off It would be a tad more spectaluar than that! :p