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Published: July 15th 2011
Out of Atlanta, GA my flight was delayed an hour for a myriad of things. By the time we touched down in San Pedro Sula I was crossing my fingers that John (my 2.5 hour ride to the ferry service in La Ceiba) would still be waiting for me. John is a salt and pepper hair American expat (gringo) in his late 50's that lives in Honduras with his Honduran wife and family. He provides secure transport for officials and tourists like me. Apparently he began traveling through here in 1984 when the US military hired him to do some kind of jungle spy work (?). Since he speaks Spanish and can defend himself, neither of which I (a 27yr old blonde) can personally vouch for, I suppose you could say he was my lifeline. Well, I am blogging from Roatan so you can see that he was there and I successfully made it in one piece, but not without hilarity.
I follow John out to his car, a black, scratched Honda Accord with darkest tint windows (and yes, even a majority of the windshield). I guess the idea is to make the vehicle look as inconspicuous as possible. John then proceeds to check the car for booby traps. The car had only been parked there for a little over an hour. Apparently banditos have been known to put spikes by the tires so when you back out it punctures the tire, bandito comes over to 'help' by robbing your ass. Welcome to Honduras!
Since I was late we were pressed for time to catch the ferry. John steps on the accelerator and a surprisingly meaty growl comes out of this rather run down Honda. We speed up and whip around a graffitied bus, two busted up motorbikes, and a decrepit horse pulling a cart full of strange fruits. Holy crap, I think to myself, so it's going to be like this. I tried not to watch the road too much as I began to get queasy every time he took a curve or huge pothole at 70mph. John proceeds to tell me about the extremely high rate of fatalities in Honduras due to traffic accidents. Apparently, just last week ten tourists died when their bus rolled down a cliff. Lovely. I just figured at this point if it's my time, then that's that. Along the way there were 5-6 police checkpoints where apparently they pull over random vehicles, make up bogus violations, and ask for money to let you go. John's method is to slow down slightly, roll down the windows, give a friendly wave, and not stop even if they ask him to. He said, "They can't run that fast after me anyways." Sounds good to me.
The small towns we drove past are very poor, I certainly wouldn't have got out of the car even if I wanted to. Even though every structure had that bombed-out look, the vibrant colors of the country were seen everywhere, between the clothing to the exotic fruit trees. The road was surrounded by misty mountains blanketed with tropical forest. John rolled down the windows for a little bit and the humid air of the Honduran countryside poured in. It smelled like mud, like the type of mud you just want to roll around in and squish between your fingers, not like sewage mud. However, I'm sure I could find that scent if we hadn't been driving so freaking fast.
Along the drive, John and I make good conversation about life. He gave me tips on how to stay safe in a third world country. One which included how to spot glue sniffers. According to the state department they are usually between the ages of 10-20 and carry around cans of motor oil. Often they are stark naked. They are on the hostile list and should be avoided. The state department also says that traveling Jehovah's Witnesses are non-hostiles and that they may be handing out panflits. Personally, I'd rather tolerate a naked, high person from a distance than have someone stuff religion down my throat. But I digress, John then told me how he has been attacked in his vehicle by banditos. "A bandito on a motorbike came up and stuck a knife through my window so I reached down and showed him this..." He then proceeds to reach down next to his right side between the seat and show me a giant, scary machete. I tried not to look too shocked but holy shit, that thing was gnarly! John then proclaims his expert knife throwing skills and whips out the throwing knife that he keeps on his left side. He also had two nightsticks in the console, another knife near the seat on the passenger side (for me), and two fighting chains (one in each door). John's instructions on using the fighting chain: "When the bandito threatens to rob you, give him what he wants and then as he is making his getaway, speed up next to his motorbike, throw the fighting chain in his spokes, wait for the crash, and then go retrieve your stuff as he bleeds on the road." I imagine John would get a pretty decent tip out of me if he could pull that off with my witness.
As we draw closer to La Ceiba, John tells me a story of how he unknowingly became a prostitute. When he was 32 (no Spanish at this point) and traveling through Honduras, he lost his wallet which meant that now he did not have any money to eat or transportation to the airport when his week stay was over. When he got back to the hotel, the bellhop asked if he would like any drugs or women so John was curious and asked what kind of women. Shortly afterwards there were three women knocking at his door. John then proceeds to bargain a price down to $12 for all three, all night. The next day they asked if he wanted them to come again. John's reply was 'no dinero'. So they hooked him up with a woman in the town he needed to travel to. She then invited him to her house where they had sex and the following morning she gave him money for food and continued on to work for the day. This happened the next two days and the third day he did not have sex with her. In the morning he asked for money, but she looked at him and said "no sexy, no money!". At this point John realized he was a prostitute. I thought it was an awesome story, John was a little embarrassed though. Through it all, he got me to the ferry with 30mins to spare, freakin sweet. Sometimes it's worth taking a risk with the road less traveled by. I would recommend his services to anyone needing a ride through Honduras.
Alone now in a foreign country with very little knowledge of the Spanish language I tried to put on my cool, I-totally-know-what-I'm-doing face. Fail. As I went through the security check to board the ferry the officer began making conversation with me in English. I was so nervous that I apparently forgot how to speak. Blank-look was about all I could manage. He then asked if I was from Europe. Then I snapped out of it. Duh. An hour and a half later I arrived on the island of Roatan where my friend Noel met me at the terminal (so grateful to see a familiar face!). Next thing I know I'm sitting in a comfy chair at Fantasy Island Resort, sipping Honduran beer, catching up with her, and listening to the gentle hum of the waves breaking on the reef just outside our room. I can't think of a better way to start this trip.
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