Thursday, May 9, 2013

True - HEE - oh !

12:45 PM 5/8/2013 - Long one.  I'm still pretty caffeinated :-)

I'm in Trujillo, state of Colon, on the Banana Coast of Honduras.  It's a bay (I can see that).  It's a BIG bay.

Yesterday morning, I woke at 5am, to pack, eat, and catch a taxi to Comayaguel, in order to catch the bus, at Transportes Cotraipbal, at 9:45.  I sat on the porch at Villa Marina Inn, talking to the security guard (24 years old) about Tegus, traffic, the woes of big cities, and the crime issues of the city.

People are REALLY happy when you say nice things about their city.  Truly.  It's very easy for me to tell the locals that I love their city, it's beautiful, the people are very friendly, and it's a great place to walk.

All true of Tegus, but it IS noisy, it IS crowded, the traffic IS nuts, and it's got Big City pricing.  Nothing surprising; just ... city stuff.

Very nice cab driver, in a near-new Hyundai (with air conditioning and leather seats !), got there right on time.  Bad traffic, but the guy knew some killer shortcuts.  I got there early.

The bus office (a "station," but only for this company) was a dump.

The "men's room" had a toilet with no lid, no light, and mucho filth.  In order to see what you were doing, you had to leave the door open, leaving open also the possibility (more of a sure thing) that you'd meet the next person -- male OR famale (the ladies' room was adjoining, and had the same issues) -- under rather odd circumstances.

The whole place looked like something from an old film noir movie, with the neon "H O T E L" sign flashing and buzzing out the window of the low-budget "Residential Hotel."

But ... having had much juice, much coffee, and much water ... I had to do ... what I had to do, with only two "Oh, Perdon !" interruptions.

Not bad :-)

This wasn't a chicken bus (a converted US school bus).  It was, however, a very basic tourist bus with the luggage compartments underneath.  In order to avoid direct wind, I took/got the front seat, with lots of leg room.

Pretty comfortable, considering the foam seat cushion had left for Panama some years back ;-)

We passed a gigundo lake, near Joyoyo (?).  It had lower-end resorts dotting the side we were on, and the occasional power boat visible from our road.

Shortly thereafter, we passed a sign saying there was a detour, because the upcoming bridge was "in bad condition."

There was a very rudimentary parallel bridge that took a lot of faith for a busload of people to cross.  From it, though, we could see the "in bad condition" bridge.

It looked like the classic videos of bridges that shook, twisted, and heaved during an earthquake.  While it was originally a long bridge, the middle third was gone.


The other two halves ended in twists, in the opposite direction from each other.  Like ... one had gone left, while the other went right, severing themselves from that now-forgotten "middle section."

Okay.  I'll give them this: that bridge WAS and IS "in bad condition."

The drive was beautiful, but we stopped everywhere and for everyone.  The scheduled 8hr trip took closer to 11-1/2 hours.  I avoided direct wind, had a great view, and rather enjoyed the trip.  Somehow, my eyes still took a thorough drubbing, though, and I was distinctly seeing double even before sunset.  Eventually, I had to deal with it by just closing my eyes.

These bus drivers are amazing.  This one drove the entire trip, stopping only for two quick snacks and one pee break.

He also speaks fluent Horn.

"Horn" is a language spoken when your vocabulary is limited to a single word, and you cannot use inflection or intonation.

But Horn is CLEARLY a language.  It can convey all kinds of information with all kinds of different feelings behind it.  Like Chinese: I don't understand a word of Horn.

But they do.

I also learned that this guy, typical of many Latin American bus drivers, is/was an absolute mad man.  He took chances with a bus FULL of people that I would NEVR have taken on my (much faster, much more agile) motorcycle.

He virtually knocked people out of his way to pass.  He passed with oncoming tractor-trailers, forcing all kinds of things to happen in the external world that would NEVER have happened in the States (ie, other drivers to bend to his will).

He also nearly hit several people, cars, bicycles, and motorcycles, locking up his brakes a few times, and leaving LONG trails of tread rubber on the ground.  I know.  Once, he was angered by a motorcyclist, and threw his full drink bottle AT the guy, after having locked up the brakes.

We missed the motorcycle, but backed up 150' so the worker bee guy could retrieve the driver's fallen liquid comrade.

He put the right wheels OFF the road, to avoid a very manageable pothole, and I felt the bus slipping and skidding as he tried to get it back on the road.

We also passed a gas (propane ?  Gasoline ?) tanker truck that -- having spoken Horn AND been a mad man -- didn't have Fritz's (not his real name) luck.  He missed a curve, and ended up inverted in a concrete culvert.  The truck was in bad shape.  Several fire trucks and a HazMat team (of sorts) were on the scene.

Fritz shook his head, as if overtaken by a moment of somber solemnity, and then went back to driving like a madman.  It was heartwarming :-)

Luckily, I had done some research, and found my intended hotel in Trujillo.  Less luckily, I had to message them through Facebook, asking them to e-mail me with a confirmation, a rate, and any discount available for a 1+ week stay.

Less luckily still, they messaged back, just before I left, yesterday morning: call us at either of the following phone numbers.  Ugh.  My phone is somewhere in my luggage, but I was packed and locked, and didn't have time to get it.  I'm also reluctant to couple speaking My Spanish with Telephone.  I may as well drink, too, and put a clothespin on one side of my mouth.

On arrival in Trujillo, I grabbed a cab who took me to the Casa Alemania Hotel.  The sign on the closed gate read "Sorry.  No rooms available" (in Spanish).

We saw the security guard who -- while flicking his 12ga. shotgun around on its slling, confirmed that there were, indeed, NO rooms available.

His tone of voice gave nothing away.  The gun made a pretty compelling argument ;-)

Okay.  Take me to the center of town, and I'll find something.

And I did.  A single room w/hot shower, a/c that they won't let me use (I wouldn't anyway), and a TV would cost L400 (USD$20/nt).  Sounded fairly high, but it was 9:30pm.  I'm in.

Know a good restaurant ?  Yeah.  Ours.  Count me in, again :-)

Two SalvaVida (not entirely sure how beer saves lives, but ... I'm good with that) beers and a shrimp burrito cost me about USD$7.  I'm back in budget, and the burrito was epic ;-)

I walked down to the water, just to see the Caribbean.  Odd how dark the Caribbean is at night.  I mean ... not truly odd, but ... I couldn't see jack squat :-)

Two beers.  Part of the world known for questionable safety.  All day in the saddle.


The town will be there when I wake up !

Took a long hot shower, watched some TV, and crashed, well.

The neighboring cathedral ensured that I wouldn't over sleep.  I think first bells were at 6am, but ... probably every 15 minutes after that.  Okay.  I'm up :-)

I spent several hours walking around this ... what could only be described as a sleepy little town on the Caribbean.  The water is beautiful, though not the stereotypical azure blue of the Caribbean waters I've seen before.  The beach is desserted.  The town is small, and a mix of Garifuna (African-Caribbean) people and Hispanics.

It's not a hotbed of commercial activity, nor does IT feel like the Gringo trail.  I tried to find the laundromat listed in the book, but ... no luck -- at least so far.

I DID, however, walk up the beach to Casa Alemania.  The owner explained that they lock the gates at night for security purposes, but that they DID have rooms.  She showed me two.  Beautiful.  Great beds.  View of the Caribbean and a palm tree with coconuts.  Refrigerator, a/c, swimming pool, right on its own swath of beach.  Breakfast included.

It has a small gym, too.  Yeah.  Work out.  THAT's on my list (yawn....).

It's more expensive than where I stayed last night, and will stay tonight, but ... it's beautiful, comfortable, set in a pretty spectacular piece of real estate, and will make a nice base of operations for a few days.

In fact, if I shop at one of the local markets, I can just eat breakfast, and have food in the room for after dark.  With my eyes, I don't do ALL that well on the streets, after dark, anyway.

I'll move tomorrow.

I saw an older BMW GS motorcycle in town.  Stopped to photograph it, and met Don, a British ex-pat.  We talked motorcycles, Latin America, his take on the crime (he's lived in Honduras for the better part of the last ten years), and coffee.  I promised I'd see him on the square, over the next few mornings, to have some coffee and catch up.

He's probably moving to Cuba.  He put his BMW up for sale, today.  I told him that I had very difficult decisions to make about mine.  I knew he'd understand.....

It's hot, here.  It's almost paralytically hot, here.  I haven't bothered with my temp/humidity gizmo, because ... I know all that: it's REALLY hot and VERY humid.

I mean ... the "lay by the pool and drink frou-frou drinks with little umbrellas in them, but PLEASE DON'T ask me to DO anything" kind of heat and humidity.

Which I've never really gotten used to, but ... might have to.

And I've discovered the estimable benefits of shade.  Shade is simply amazing.  Wow !!  Who'da thunk it ??

I'm also wearing shorts for the first time.  Literally.  I had to remove the tags.  Who bought these things ??  The waist is like a 34, and I'm probably a 30 :-)  Okay.  I've got the belt part all cinched up, and wrapped around to my spine, in back.  I look good :-)

Half the guys are in shorts, here.  Most of the women.  Other than Don, I can't comment on the Gringo population, because there simply isn't one.  It's pretty much just me, again :-)

It's Siesta Time in Latin America, and I'm down for 20 or 30 minutes, before I head back to the park.  I won't go to the beach, today.  May as well wait until I have my own, at Casa Alemania.  Besides, I need to try to use my prescription goggles, leaving nothing (but -- perhaps -- a towel) on the beach.  No point walking through town to do that, from here.

They can overlook much of my appearance, but the spaceman goggles ... I dunno.

Breakfast, this morning, was off the square, at an all you can eat place that had an ice cream and "licuados" stand attached.  Licuados are -- loosely -- smoothies.

I had a yogurt drink with granola, bananas, and strawberries, two cups of Darn Fine Coffee, a cheese omelet, fried plantains, and refried beans.

Uh.  Yum.

Uh.  Four bucks.

Still on budget :-)
Nine o'clock Thursday a.m.

I've been up since about 4:15.  Barking dog.  Can you stand it ??  As I finally dozed off, again, it was 0-chuch-bell-thirty.  At least -- as distinct from Antigua -- this bell guy has his act together.  He's actually quite punctual.

I walked for a few hours, this morning, stopping at El Sabor de Cafe (The Taste of Coffee), for the first time, for a cup of organic coffee (USD$0.50) and a milk, banana, strawberry, and granola licuado (USD$0.66).  Both were excellent.

I walked to a part of town higher up on the hill, and with a beautiful view of the Caribbean.  No.  No camera, this morning, but I'll be in town for a while, and will grab a few pics.

I came back to the square, and was chatted up by a local.  He tried out his three or four English phrases on me.  All were cute.  None was off the wall.  "Where are you from ?"  "Where are you going ?"  "Where do you live ?"

None stumped me, either.  Okay: the "Where are you from" part is a bit tricky, but ... I had some breathing room, there.  He agreed with my idea of going to Utila, instead of Roatan, if I were headed to the Bay Islands.  Cheaper.  Less touristy.  Very peaceful.

The Dole minibus has come by at least twice a day since I've been here.  It's immaculate, and seems to pick up and drop off employees, at the square.  I presume it's mostly about pineapples, and this DOES seem to be perfect pineapple growing weather.  I hope they treat their employees well.  They DO give them quite a nice ride home ;-)

I fired up the temp/humidity gizmo, in the room, last night.  89* and 81% humidity.  Inside.  After sunset.  Yeah.  It's hot.

I also did bathroom-sink laundry, and washed the venerable Tilley hat in the ... uh ... terlet.  I have a couple of packets of laundry detergent that does a really nice job.  The challenge is always drying.  I thought there was a laundromat in town, but it appears to have vanished.  Nobody knows about it.  It's like a "disappeared" story from a Civil War.  Weird.

But my clothes are darned clean, and maybe a day away from drying.  May string a line of my 550 Paracord, in the Casa Alemania room, and line dry the heavier stuff.

Laundry -- where there are laundromats -- is done quite cheaply, and -- when traveling -- is a real luxury.  I'll find a place in La Ceiba, and get everything nice and clean.

Because I'm worth it ;-)

Last eve, I wandered down to the beach, and had dinner at "The Pearl of the Caribbean."  It was relatively expensive, but ... my shrimp in salsa picante and two Cokes (yeah: wild man) were delicious, as was the sunset over the little thatched beach hut ... over ... the Caribbean.

I spent a  few minutes laboring over my Lonely Planet guide, last night, trying to decide what else to do in Honduras.  There's the infamous Mosquito Coast, to my east, but actually more easily accessed via tour companies in La Ceiba, to my west.

I'm just not sure the jungle, horrid mosquitos, and the wildlife thing is what I'm about, this trip.  It's supposed to be rather difficult and complicated travel -- not particularly a put off -- but the payoff has to be worth it.

And mosquitos love me.  They have bumper stickers on their tiny little back sides that read "I [heart] Neil."  Lonely Planet's "Insects Guide to Western Travelers" lists me by name, calling me "surprisingly tasty, if a bit spartan."

Yeah.  The stuff legends are made of.

La Ceiba is also a tranportation hub, from which you can easily hop to the Bay Islands, to Belize, and to other areas of the region.  I'll get there and see what my options are.  I've wanted to see Belize, but I'm not wed to the idea.  I'll have to poke around in the book some more.

The old real estate site selection guy likes this town, but it's not a place to spend any length of time.  It's simply limited.  Fairly low population.  No "attractions," in the classic sense.  In theory, La Ceiba is far more user-friendly.

Not ... that I've gleaned ANY idea of what I would actually DO in any of these places.  But you have to start somewhere.
Thursday afternoon.

I checked into Case Alemania, and my Lovely Room #1, overlooking the Caribbean ... which has whitecaps, today, because of fairly high winds.

I threw my bags down and washed my face, then headed out for A Walk.

It's what I do.

Eventually, I remembered that there was some sort of Lagoon several miles to the east of town.

And there was.  Pictures attached ... if my memory holds up :-)

On the lagoon was an eco-resort with boat tours, canopy tours, and a zip line.  What IS the deal with zip lines ?  They're ubiquitous in so many of these places.


I stood on each side of the bridge, and clicked off the aforementioned couple of pics.  Breathtaking.  I waved to Brooke Shields before heading back toward town.

During the Torrential Downpour in Tegucigalpa, I got a blister or three on my right foot, from the foot slipping on the bed of the Teva sandal.

Sucker hurts, now ;-)  I can't afford any more mechanicals, so i'll likely take it easy this afternoon, either jumping in the pool, watching some tube, or hanging out on their bar terrace, drinking yet another licuado.  Many of the home audience will know: I'm all about the smoothie, so this pains me not one bit ;-)

Gunther and his wife, Paula run this place.  Bought the property eight years ago and built it.  They lived in the States.  He (they ?) lived 15 years in North Miami Beach, about 2-1/2 hours from my Fort Myers digs.  We're jumping around from English to German to Spanish.  I think we'll have to toss back a few Warsteiner beers, tonight.  Not having to leave, or walk (nore than one flight of stairs, at least) makes a few beers a beautiful thing :-)

WiFi is up.  Internet is down.  This ... is Latin America.  I'd keep typing, but .. between the sun and my peepers ... I can't really see what I'm doing.

Wait.  It's up.  I'm going to post this :-)

So ... Ciao for now ... from ... the Alemania-Americano office of ... The Gulag.


  1. Sounds awesome!
    I was expecting to read more about helados, licuados, and other refreshments on the desserted beach itself.
    Not sure if it flies culturally/logistically in the town you're in, but last time I got blisters (from shoes that I wear /all over the place/ at home, yet somehow the wetness is "different" away), I ended up buying some cheap, near disposable Croc-offs. Maybe there are some sort of huaraches available?
    Excited to see some pics as you have time.

    1. So it isn't just me ??? Wow !

      I may have to stop into a store in La Ceiba. I'm a size 11 -- not freakishly big, but not necessarily easy to find in Latin America.

      Worth a look, though.

  2. PS: What are you seeing in terms of bikes (bicycles) there? In general. Everywhere. Just curious.

    1. Literally, nothing worth mentioning. Just the equivalent of Wal* bikes w/either bottom end Shimano or no name components.

      Not surprising, but ....

      Nothing seems horribly ill-maintained, and repair/parts stores (haven't walked into one) are not hard to find.

      Notably, in Xela, we did see what HAD to be the Guatemalan national cycling team -- full, matching kit, Cervelos and Scotts, and the boys looked fit.

      I snapped a pic or two. If I can find them, I'll post.

  3. well here is my first offical comment in your office away from home, man ive been reading for a long time here....i guess things happen while im away in the mean people do other things besides wood at it amigo.......maybe if you grow a stash and a chin beard, you might fit in more...well here is your kiss good night...bob