Around the world by bike
(1 137km - 26days)
9/7 - 3/8/2012
9 - 10 July - Ocotal – Danli - 57km
It was a slow and steady climb up to Las Manos and the Nicaraguan/Honduras border. After we crossed the border it was an easy downhill ride to the first town in Honduras. Danli was a fairly small but lively town with a good number of cigar factories. I did not feel well due to a chest infection, so we stayed another day. It was rather boring just lying around doing nothing, but I thought it a good idea not to cycle as I did not expect to have any easy riding in Honduras.
Honduras is quite a mountainous little country and there appeared very few flat sections.
11 July - Danli – Zamporano - 65km
As expected the road slowly crept up the mountain for about 20km after which we descended into a valley of sorts. Once we cleared the valley it was up yet another mountain pass. By the time we reached Zamporano we decided to stay there for the night and tackle the next climb in the morning. We found quite an interesting room (a bit expensive) but quite luxurious. It even had hot water so we showered for hours, washed our hair and enjoyed the luxury for one night.
12 - 13 July - Zamporano –Tegucigalpa - 37 km
It was a short but once again very hilly ride over the mountain. Tegucigalpa (teh-goos-ee-gal-pa) is situated in a valley at an altitude of 975m. So once over the mountain it was mostly downhill into the city centre. As is the case with most Central American cities the centre of Tegucigalpa consists of a central plaza and church. Although it is the capital it is not much of a touristy place and one feels a bit out of place. We had no idea where to go so we hauled out the old Lonely Planet to get an idea of where to go.
The central plaza was a rather busy and interesting place with loads of down-and-outs, street performers or what is often called “human statues”. I can watch them for hours as I think it quite impossible to stand that still for such a long time.
The city is not known for its safety and many traders prefer to trade behind bars, not something that inspires confidence! We did the necessary laundry, shopping and internet and was ready to move on again.
Not only is the city dangerous, safety wise, I also understand that the capital's international airport, Toncontín, is notorious around the world for its extremely short runway for an international airport and the unusual maneuvers pilots must undertake upon landing or taking off to avoid the nearby mountains.
Besides the main Cathedral there was one more interesting old church, the Iglesia Los Dolores. One of its most interesting features is the main facade. It is in Baroque style, with a central and two lateral towers. It is decorated with glazed terracotta sculptures and figures representing the Passion of Christ - his unseamed cloak and the cock that crowed three times - all crowned by the more indigenous symbol of the sun.
14 July - Tegucigalpa – Valle De Angles - 33km
A clean shaven Ernest and I set off up the mountain and as expected it was a steady climb (and rather steep) up the valley. We stopped ever so often to fill our water bottles and after 33km we arrived in a small but interesting village by the name of Valle De Angles. A former colonial mining town with old restored buildings, it looked so interesting we turned in to look around a bit. The village was quite lively and seemed a place where city folk come to spend the weekend. We followed suite and stayed for the night. Ernest rightly remarked that it’s most probably called Valle De Angles as one needs wings to get out of there again.
15 July - Valle De Angles – Gauimaca - 73km
We awoke to the sound of macaws and green parrots, not a bad way to wake up. There was nothing to do but set off over the mountains again. We climbed steeply over the hills, at times doubting whether it was a good idea to have come this way. Again we descended down into a valley and then climbed up and over the mountains. I realised that we were way off the beaten track, as we hardly encountered any traffic, just the odd horse or bus. The paved road came to a surprising halt and we battled along a dusty and rutted road until we reached the junction town of Talanga. Talanga was a bit of a Wild West town with an ancient central plaza and dirt roads, and the stretch of paved road coming into town was being used for drag racing (police were the time keepers at the finish!). The road was not even blocked off, and we had cars racing towards us like bats out of hell!
We continued on up and over another set of mountains until we reached Gauimaca where we found a simple roadside room. The room was so cheap that we booked in there, instead of camping.
16 July - Gauimaca – Juticalpa - 86km
The weather did not look too good as we awoke to a drizzle, but fortunately it cleared up and by the time we left it was overcast but not raining. Just outside town the paved road once again came to an end, but just as inexplicably it fortunately reappeared later. That was to set the trend for the day. The road went from bad gravel to perfectly smooth concrete, and then back to no surface again. Fortunately the pine-forested hills were not as steep as the previous days! That is not to say that there were no hills!!
We arrived in Juticalpa and first looked for a bank. No bank wanted to dispense any cash and I was worried that the card may be damaged. In addition, Ernest could not draw any money as he had lost his card. In the end we had to settle for a rather expensive hotel where I could pay by credit card.
We understood from the locals that the road to the coast was a dirt road and very steep in places. It was not very reassuring that they indicated that it was also very dangerous…..indicated by pulling an imaginary gun and by pointing two fingers to the temples. Apparently it is an area well known for drug trafficking, but somehow I don’t think they will bother with us.
After all this happy news we took a walk to the supermarket and found an ATM that was prepared to spit out some money. We stocked up on food as there appears to be very little along this lonely and sparsely populated, 300km stretch of road to the coast.
17 July - Juticalpa –roadside camp - 43km
Shortly after leaving Juticalpa we turned left at a heavily guarded turn-off. The road immediately started to climb up the mountains and after 20km we reached our first village where we filled up with water. The road slowly deteriorated and we struggled along a narrow dirt road higher and higher up the mountain. We climbed and we climbed and we slipped and we slided but still there was no end to the hills. Once we spotted a half-built structure and we asked permission to sleep there for the night. The owner had a house lower down the valley and was in the process of building a new one next to the road. It must be a slow process. It suited us just fine as we could camp out of sight of passing vehicles and had running water. No sooner had we pitched our tents and curious locals came to look at us, some peeping shyly around corners and others just staring expressionless, mothers brought their babies so they could have a look at the strange looking foreigners. Eventually it got dark and they headed home leaving us to our own devices.
18 July - Roadside camp – San Esteban - 64km
We continued to crawl up steep hills, no faster than walking pace, and then got completely bogged down in clay, eventually coming to a complete standstill. It became quite impossible to even push the bike any further as the wheels became jammed in the frame. I tried dragging it but kept on sliding backwards down the hill and in the process my feet got stuck and I broke my sandals (the only shoes I have). Fortunately nothing lasts forever, and after a kilometre or two the clay gave way to more manageable mud. At last we rounded a corner and could see a large valley down below. The road mostly headed downhill and along the valley to the small village of San Esteban. We found ourselves a room, had a shower and washed most of the mud of the bikes.
19 July - San Esteban – Village - 72km
Uphill for about 20 km out of town we seemed to have reached the high point as the road headed steadily downhill. The going was however incredibly slow as the road resembled a dry riverbed more than a road. Stones, sand and deep ruts made the going very slow, the traffic we encountered along the way made no faster headway than us. This is a rarely visited area and we passed small indigenous communities where taking out a camera made kids run for their lives!! In fact you don’t even have to take out a camera, just spotting us made them run for cover. We continued down the road at a snails’ pace and at sunset we decided to set up camp next to the road.
20 July - Unknown village – Saba - 80km
We were definitely out of the mountains and after a short cycle the road spat us out at the coastal lowlands amidst oil-palm and banana plantations. We were back in the hot and humid tropical region of Honduras. Finally we were back on a paved road; not only was it paved it was also flat!! How quickly things change. We reached Saba early but decided to stay there for the night and tackle the last 80km to the coast the following day.
21 July - Saba – La Ceiba - 83km
La Ceiba is located on the Caribbean coast and is surrounded by lush jungles, mountains, large rivers, and sandy beaches. It was therefore not surprising that we had to climb yet another mountain before finally arriving at the coast. It was Saturday afternoon and the streets were hectic with cars and busses. We weaved through the traffic to the city centre, found ourselves a room and I was more than happy to flop down on a bed and watch TV.
22 July - La Ceiba
It was Sunday and the city centre was dead quiet. We wondered down to the beach, had lunch and spent the rest of the day chilling out, doing very little except for some much needed laundry. Seeing that we were at the coast we decided to take the ferry the following day to the nearby Bay Islands. The island of Roatan is well known for diving, be it snorkeling or scuba diving.
23 July -La Ceiba – Roatan - 27km
We packed up and cycled the short 7km to the harbour where we found a large ferry ready to take us to the islands. The islands are located about 50km off the coast and after about an hour and a half we were dropped at Dickson´s Cove. From Dickson´s Cove we cycled about 20km to West End where there were plenty of accommodation, a few small shops and a lovely bay with crystal clear water.
Accommodation was quite expensive but Ernest set off on foot in search of something more reasonable. He came back with good news as he found a nice room with a shared kitchen, veranda and hammock. The room resembled a house as the kitchen was well equipped with microwave, stove, toaster, coffee-maker, pots and pans. Three rooms led off the kitchen and Miriam and Doris (from Austria) were two pleasant people to share the house with.
Roatán is the largest of Honduras' Bay Islands. It´s approximately 50 kilometres long and less than 8 kilometres cross at its widest point. The islands are surrounded by the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the largest barrier reef in the Caribbean Sea (second largest worldwide after Australia's Great Barrier Reef).
The islands have an interesting history. The English occupied the Bay Islands on and off between 1550 and 1700. During this time, buccaneers used the islands as a safe harbour and transport. English, French and Dutch pirates established settlements on the islands. They frequently raided Spanish cargo vessels carrying gold and other treasures, which the Spanish in turn stole from the locals. At one time, it was estimated that over 5,000 pirates lived on Roatan.
24 - 25 July - Roatan
I set off to the local dive shop, determined to do at least one scuba dive. Unfortunately they could only do it the following day so I rented some snorkeling gear. I snorkeled until my hands and feet were completely wrinkled. The water is not only warm but crystal clear and the reefs are close enough that one can snorkel from the beach. I don’t think I had ever seen so much life and colour underwater; it was plain amazing.
The following day Ernest and I took a walk to West Bay, a half hour walk along the beach. If at all possible, the beach at West Bay was even whiter and the ocean even bluer!! We snorkeled and spent most of the day on the beach.
26 July - Roatan – Dickson´s Cove – La Ceiba - 33km
It was unfortunately time to back up and go back to the mainland. We cycled back to Dickson´s Cove where we got the 14h00 ferry to La Ceiba. Once in La Ceiba we went straight back to our previous hotel, which was centrally located in the centre of town and close to the supermarket.
27 - 28 July - La Ceiba – Tela - 103km
It was an easy ride to Tela, and although it was extremely hot, at least the road was fairly flat. We ambled along and reached Tela in good time. We found a good room at Bertha´s and Ernest immediately set off to the supermarket to find ingredients for a salad. He came up the most awesome salad one can imagine. It had just about everything in it that one can imagine, from olives to boiled eggs and avocadoes, all on a bed of lettuce. What a life!!
Tela is a small but busy and interesting Honduran town with a lovely beach stretching for quite a few kilometres both east and west of the town. The centre of town was a hive of activity with narrow and busy streets, a lively market and hectic traffic. I strangely felt quite at home. A short walk down the beach brought us to La Ensenada - a small indigenous village where kids played carefree in puddles and rustic restaurants served fresh seafood right on the beach. Colourful fishing boats on the beach completed the picture.
29 - 30 July - Tela – San Pedro - 98km
Not a bad day on the road, the road was good and not to hilly. San Pedro is a rather large city; fortunately it was Sunday and the roads quiet. We found a nice room, Ernest cooked some pasta and soon it was bed time.
31 July - San Pedro – Quimistan - 63km
After our morning cuppa, which was free, we headed up the Western mountains of Honduras. We were back in the mountainous regions of Honduras (en route to Guatemala). We slowly headed up the valley which looked very fertile, judging by the amount of fruit stalls along the way. Along the way we found a bamboo pipe, squirting out cool, crystal clear water. Perfect thing on a hot and humid day!! We arrived around midday at the small village of Quimistan, found a room with a TV and watched the Olympics for the rest of the day.
1 August - Quimistan –La Entrada - 55km
It was a short but hot and hilly ride to La Entrada where we arrived fairly early, found a hotel (with TV) and watched the Olympics for the rest of the day. Not that there was much else to do in La Entrada, it’s a hot and dusty crossroads town with hectic traffic and busses zooting off in all directions.
2 - 3 August – La Entrada – Copan Ruinas - 65Km
We had a rather interesting day. Although it was once again very mountainous it was a beautiful stretch of road with coffee plantations next to the road. We soon spotted one of the famous Copan coffee farms and popped in for a cup of high grown coffee.
10km from the Guatemalan border we reached the beautiful and tranquil village of Copan Ruinas, famous for the nearby Maya ruins. We soon found a room as just about every second building appears to be some sort of hotel/hostel.
I was up early as the gates to the Archaeological site opened at 8h00. This was my first visit to Maya ruins, so I went a bit overboard, taking loads of photos. Although not the most impressive of Maya ruins, it is said to be one of the most important, dating back to AD250 – 900. Today the site is situated in a beautiful park. Archaeologists are still hard at work discovering more and more structures. I quite like the names of the early kings, Great Sun Lord, Waterlily Jaguar, Moon Jaguar, Smoke Jaguar, etc. Archaeologists are still working out what happened to the Maya at the end of the classic period and what caused the collapse and abandonment of so many cities. The best evidence at present, points to a series of droughts around the 8th century.