Published: August 4th 2010August 3rd 2010
(Day 851 on the road)
In travelling, a companion. In life, compassion.
I am not much of a philosopher most of times, but can't help to be utterly fascinated by this ancient Japanese proverb. In travelling, a companion. In life, compassion. (In Japanese: 旅は道連れ世は情け たびはみちづれよはなさけ - Tabi wa michizure Yo wa nasake). There is so much in this short saying that it is simply mind boggling. No matter how much time I spent thinking about it, on endless bus journeys or at night when I can't fall asleep, I can never quite get to the bottom of it I feel.
I can't remember where I heard it first but recently, and totally unexpectedly, I came across it again in a Murakami book (Kafka on the Shore), where the 15-year old protagonist, Kafka, explains it "that chance encounters are what keep us going". Interesting, but of course that goes well short of the depth of it.
Why I mention all this in a travel blog? I am not entirely sure, but it is connected to me travelling with my friend Tino for the past three months, which is a completely different travel experience from travelling mostly alone for the
two years prior to that. "In travelling, a companion" came to live.
And for the last week now, the second part of the proverb, "In life, compassion", has become reality, as Tino's soon-to-be-wife Kristina joined us for her four-week break from work. And compassion is certainly the right word as I observe them sharing their life together. Just as one has the need for a reassuring companion whilst travelling, it is also important to have compassion and kinship in life.
But ah, there is just so much more in the saying I could write a whole blog just about this topic alone - if only I could put the fine nuances and ideas that I have in the back of my mind into words!
So quickly back to real life before I get carried away here, in this philosophical state of mind I am in. Kristina's eminent arrival in San Pedro Sula, in the north-west of Honduras, saw us leaving El Salvador in a little rush. But not to worry, we will go back later to see the bits of the country that we missed.
After a one-night stop-over in Nuevo Octopaque near the El Salvador-Honduras
border we pushed on to the second biggest city of Honduras, San Pedro Sula. Our bus was only a few hours late due to some unidentified break-down on the bus, which caused us to first drive at snails' pace for hours through the mountainous countryside, and then to wait for lengthy and hectic repairs that involved a lot of welding and the changing of two wheels.
Eventually, we got to San Pedro Sula, where two thirds of the country's GDP are generated. We expected a prosperous, vibrant city, but soon found out that San Pedro Sula can really only be described as a ramshackle and dangerous-looking dump, best to be avoided at all.
In this rough city we somehow ended up staying in a very rough neighbourhood close to the centre of town, where all the hotels were employing armed security guards. That was certainly a first - whilst you see them everywhere across Central America- at shops, banks, restaurants - we never had one in our numerous hotels so far.
A little later, as we were, unsuccessfully, looking for any sights worth mentioning (there are none), it wasn't long before I was offered a prostitute on
the city' main plaza. But as San Pedro Sula holds the sad title of AIDS capital of Central America, I regretfully had to decline the kind offer of his "little senorita" from the toothless pimp. Gracias anyway, amigo.
The next morning it was time to pick up Kristina from the airport. She got here well enough and without delays, and both she and Tino were as happy as snowmen in winter after the happy reunion. Less fortunate was Kristina's luggage, which had somehow taken a wrong turn somewhere between Germany and Honduras. And thus we spent a frustrating and ultimately fruitless morning chasing her backpack through the unhelpful TACA airline (who are notorious for loosing baggage). To say it up front: It would arrive six days later and required us to drive to the airport rather than it being delivered as one could expect. Good job, TACA.
Travelling in a group of three, the other two being a couple, meant having my own room again. Awesome! After Kristina's arrival, it was my first night alone so to speak since almost three months. I did all the things you can only do when having your own room: Going to
the toilet without closing the door. Playing my music as loud as possible. Dancing naked to it. Niiice!
How much I have to write about the next six days reflects how much happened: Not very much at all. Just as we had wanted it to be. We spent a few truly lazy days on the beautiful if rather touristy island of Roatan, part of Honduras' Bay Islands. Prices were pretty steep thanks to an abundance of US tourists that are flown here from the US on direct flights, but lucky for me I met Courtney from Australia on the ferry over from the mainland, and we shared a room on the island and thus kept costs down somewhat.
During our stay on the island, Tino did a dive course (and loved it); Kristina didn't finish her dive course (didn't love it) and spent time instead on the beach enjoying the start of her holiday; and yours truly took a much needed break from travelling. I snorkeled (with turtles, yes!), slept, talked for hours on our comfy veranda with Courtney and the interesting Irish couple staying next door, and generally just took it easy. In the evenings, we would
utilise the comfy kitchen of my hotel (three rooms were grouped around a lovely communal area) and listened to the torrential downpours outside, which happened every night and which brought much-needed relief from the heat of the day.
Back in La Ceiba on the mainland we had a look at the pretty Swinford Park, sponsored by the United Fruit Company (now Chiquita). The park was one great propaganda project, with bronze plagues telling us of all the wonderful contribution UFC has made to the noble people of Honduras. It conveniently forgot to mention all the atrocities the United Fruit Company
, in cooperation with the US government, has committed in Honduras and Central America in general. Have a look in the linked Wikipedia article to read the story behind the story, including the abuse of its workers and the violation of their civil rights, wide-spread bribes, its frequent payments to paramilitary groups to help achieve its business interests, and of course its involvement in the numerous political coups in the entire region.
We ended our stay in north Honduras with some great whitewater rafting on the Rio Cangrejal near La Ceiba. The operator we used, Jungle River Lodge, was
No price for guessing the nationality
Leave a comment though if you think you got the correct answer! :-)
a bad joke unfortunately and cannot be recommended at all (there are others). The guaranteed return transport to their lodge was not available (they only brought us to their remote hotel and then couldn't care less how we got back to the city), plus they tried to charge us considerably more than we had previously agreed for in writing, which resulted in a nasty scene during check-out. Not cool at all, and completely unnecessary.
The rafting itself however was pretty good, if a little short. It was the first time I had done whitewater rafting in my life, and rushing down the class three rapids in those sturdy inflatable boats was simply thrilling. Kristina, Tino and I had a boat and a guide for ourselves, but none of us fell in during some of the fiercer rapids. However, a Norwegian girl from the other boat took it upon her to amuse the rest of the group and managed to fall in twice, much to the laughter of everybody, including herself. It was a great morning, and was rounded off with a scary nine-metre cliff jump into the rushing and wild river below.
Next stop: Gracias (Honduras). Also have a look at my pictures at http://pictures.beiske.com