In travelling, a companion. In life, compassion. (Bay Island, Honduras)

Published: August 4th 2010
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(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 a bad joke unfortunately and cannot
No price for guessing the nationalityNo price for guessing the nationalityNo price for guessing the nationality

Leave a comment though if you think you got the correct answer! :-)
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).

To view my photos, have a look at And to read the full account of my journey, have a look at the complete book about my trip at Amazon (and most other online book shops).


4th August 2010

ha ha, that last pic just makes your blog complete! Especially the subtitle... ;-) Anyways, I keep on saying this but your blogs are really worth reading. I get a cup of coffee and take a 5min break from what I am doing at that moment to immerse into central america as if I'm there myself. As you can imagine, I spend the next 5min after reading the blog daydreaming! Enjoy life to the fullest!
4th August 2010

hey Ben nice one bro
realy lovely to read your travel blog again. your writing has improved in time , you seem to realy have become a traveller , philosopher , which is great to hear . travel is a privelage as you know, not everryone who drams of travel can do it but those of us who can have to do it with open hearts with compassion and happyness, and thats what I see you are doing , and taking those great pictures along the way , go go my traveller friend ! all the best Patrick from NZ
4th August 2010

Hahaha I agree.. that last picture is amazing. Keep writing!
5th August 2010

Rather disappointed...
Ben, glad to read that you're having a good time in Central America, but a little surprised by your caption on your last photo, esp. considering that you spend a significant portion of the entry writing about compassion and your philosophical state of mind. To end the entry with such a cheap shot seems, well, rather immature. Yes, we all know Americans are fat - but so are most of the citizens of today's developed countries. And you could go just about anywhere in the world that's a popular tourism destination and find overweight folks that are on a short-term trip from a nearby developed country there - as I'm sure you've no doubt noticed on your journey. So while it may make you feel smug to poke fun at those less fortunate than you (i.e. overweight and w/o months of free time to travel), it really reflects poorly on you. The Xenophobic commentary obviously doesn't help in the slightest. BTW, since you're taking a cheap shot, I figured I'd take my own - by WHO's latest surveys, Germans are only .2% behind the American's on the fattest countries list - you guys are #4 to America's #3, maybe you'll catch up in the near future?
5th August 2010

I like!
Finde besonders den philosophischen Teil sehr spannend und war irgendwie berührt, wie ehrlich und offen Du schreibst - muss aber auch zugeben, dass ich nicht zu den regelmäßigsten Lesern zähle... ;-) Pass auf Dich auf und lass es Dir gut gehen! :-)
5th August 2010

I've just been taking some time out to catch up on your last few entries and photos - a joy as always. I like the way you've sparked off a bit of controversy AGAIN!! haha. Who's #1? Us Brits? I wouldn't be surprised. A friend has had my blog printed into a book and gave it to me as a surprise present. I flick through it often and remember the happy days.... seems so long ago now. Our first meeting in China was over 2 years ago now. (By the way it's a mere 94 pages long... I thinks yours would compete with the Bible in volume). Keep safe, well and happy x
5th August 2010

When you get back to El Salvador
Hi, I read your blog on Salvador, then saw this one. If you are going to Gracias and head back into El Salvador afterwards, head to the Department of Chalatenango, right across the border, and check out La Montañona, a village up on a mountain that is populated by ex-guerrillas. You can visit the tunnels they dug during the Civil War. Really interesting place. Enjoy your trip!
5th August 2010

Whitewater rafting
You did whitewater-rafting before! On the Fraser-river in Canada! As you was a little boy about 15 years old. Gruß Mama
6th August 2010

Well they're not locals....!
too funny Ben!
7th August 2010

Photo Caption
Hmm....are they Honduran? Swedish? I bet they're Canadian ;) Love how riled up some get when making assumptions (ahem - Kevin. Haha!) even if they are probably right. I, for one, find the 'spot the American tourist' abroad game to be quite hilarious and play it myself on occasion. It is attitudes like that which 'defend' the obesity of a nation (or, more specifically, of persons) as being acceptable or even pitiable when it runs counter to that very nation's national standard (ie: the so-defined "healthy/normal" weight) which 'really' which leads to perceptions of American as a 'fat nation' in my opinion. If these ladies have enough money to fly to Honduras, they have enough money to walk around the block every evening and stop slurping soda. Also, glad you mentioned UFC - seriously, so few people who eat bananas realize their social cost.
7th August 2010
No price for guessing the nationality

Guess Their Nationality
They sure look German, to me.
12th August 2010

I really enjoyed reading this blog
5th September 2010

those are DEFINATELY fat chics from the states ( southern most likely)
25th March 2011

Honduras, Central America
Hi!! I read your blog about your ventures in Honduras and am a little abbrehensive with so many differing views/experiences. I'm 27 and from NB Canada (now living in Ottawa) and am very open minded, adventurous and am looking for a new traveling experience. My first travels in 2004 were to the UK and Europe. Stayed in hostels, hotels, and later alone in Ireland to meet my family who I had then never met. Also been to Bahamas with my family, Dominican Republic (stayed at a resort in punta cana) last year. My favorite places so far visited: Ireland (for its views but mainly, the people), austria (white water rafting with incredible scenery), punta cana (beach/water/relax), and st andrews by teh sea in new brunswick (home away from home - i go twice a year) I used to swim competitively and am very comfortable in teh water. My friends are organizing a trip to Central America. One of them has been to Belize and thought to explore Honduras next. I read a lot.. safety issues, culture, snorkeling and etc. but don't know what to think. From your blog, the waterfall experience, Ruins, and Bay Islands appear to be the most appealing to me. Thought I'd ask if there was a specific tour that you'd recommend for the waterfalls. Also - if there is another country in CA you would recommend instead of Honduras. All advice/recommendations are welcome!!!!
23rd March 2012
Whitewater rafting on Rio Cangrejal

I need this photo!!!
Hello. This is a picture of me and I would love to have it. I am starting a business and need all the pictures of rafting I can get. If you could send me this picture to my email address that would be great.

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