Highway of Death

First of all, let me apologize for my ridiculous new poll. The question was recently featured on a test Mike and I took for our Nitrox scuba diving class. I realize that you could not possibly begin to know how to answer this question without being scuba certified and having an Equivalent Air Depth (EAD) table and a Recreational Dive Planner (RDP) in front of you. Nevertheless, I couldn’t resist posting the question, if only to demonstrate that we aren’t letting our brains rot while on vacation. We have been answering complex story problems and doing math. Besides, you can guess just as well with this question as with others.

The RDP, one of the many charts and tables a diver needs to plan a dive properly.

A charming pic of me trying to answer a similar question.

We’ve left the Caribbean coast long behind now, and we’re on our way to Nicaragua. When we get there, we’ll be pretty close to the Pacific Ocean instead. I’ll fill you in on the last couple of days and our endless adventures.

After getting back to the mainland and leaving La Ceiba we biked southeast toward a town called Saba. I wasn’t feeling too peachy, but luckily the ride was pretty easy. We only had a few hills to climb. It was awfully hot, but when isn’t it? The highlight of this day was the amazing hotel we found in Saba. Our book listed it as the best budget hotel in Honduras, and according to our experiences it fits the bill. It was fairly inexpensive ($13-ish) and it had air/con, nice comfy beds, a clean bathroom with hot water, and a TV! I watched The Departed in Spanish with English subtitles that night.

The next day we biked about 30 kilometers to a junction, where we caught a bus headed south. Due to its steep and sketchy gravel roads, its remoteness, and its forbidding nickname (“Highway of Death” anyone?), this particular road seemed a prime candidate for a safer and speedier bus ride. Since the roads are so bad, it is a long bus ride though. We got off about halfway done the highway and stayed in La Union for the night.

We met Carlos in La Union that night. He thought Mike looked like Fidel Castro because of his beard — go figure. Anyways, he spoke English so we asked him advice on where to eat. He sent us on a wild goose chase, looking for a restaurant that turned out to be closed. As we were walking back toward the square to find an alternative, Carlos spotted us again. He felt bad that we hadn’t found food, so he told us to follow him. He insisted that we come home with him so that his sister could cook us food. I felt a little bad that he would impose us on his sister in such a manner, but we didn’t have much choice. We had to accept his offer. The sister graciously cooked us an excellent dinner of fried chicken and plantain chips while we entertained the kids. I don’t know whose they were, but there were about 5 of them. Alternately shy and very giggly. We did pay for our meal, but it was very nice of them to invite us to dinner. Made an interesting change of pace.

Today we caught the bus from La Union and took it the rest of the way down the Highway of Death. Tonight we’re in Guaimaca and tomorrow we’ll hop on the bikes again (Thank God!). The buses can be a bit crowded. Riding the school bus in Honduras is only a little like riding the school bus in elementary school. Sure, buses are always bumpy and hot, but there are some fundamental differences. In elementary school it was cool to have a seat to yourself. Try that in Honduras. All of the seats on our bus today were filled with at least 3 adults or 2 adults and multiple children. Plus there were loads of people standing in the aisle. Throw in 2 bikes and countless bags of who knows what kind of produce, a handful of live chickens, and a VERY fat ticket-taker and you’ve got yourself an interesting ride. When I was in elementary school I used to hope for a train to cross our path so that we’d be late for school. On the buses in Honduras I pray for the cattle crossing the road to move faster so that I don’t have to smell the armpit of the man next to me any longer than necessary. Good times.

Cows getting ready to cross the road…better hurry up!

That’s all I have for now as far as new adventures go. Mike, however, has gradually been compiling a list of things that irk him, and I have a few things to add as well. Given the countries we travel to, we expect to take a few cold showers, to share a few buses with chickens, and to be constantly hounded by touts or children begging money. There are a few things that are simply unforgiveable offenses, however.

1) No free refills. C’mon! Most restaurants serve pop (soda) in glass bottles which get empty rather quickly. Those glass bottles bring us to the second offense…
2) Too-short straws. There’s a standard glass bottle size, right? Well, every where we go we are given a straw with our pop — makes sense since the bottles are often quite dirty on the outside and nobody want to put their mouth on that kind of grime. What doesn’t make sense is the fact that inevitably we are given straws that are about 1 inch too short. Always. Wouldn’t it make sense to make straws just a little bit longer? There’d be a huge market for such a novel invention…
3) No change. The ATMs only spit out large denomination bills. Nonetheless, everyone expects you to have exact change. We could walk into a hotel that charges 250 lempira a night, but damned if they’ll even have that much in change. The lady last night asked us to find change somewhere else. If the hotel can’t change a 500 lempira note, what do you think the chances are of a taco stand managing that transaction? You can’t buy a 20 lempira taco with a 500!

I’ll keep adding to this list as we think of things, but that’s all that comes to mind at the moment. Take care, everyone!

3 Responses to “Highway of Death”
  1. Anonymous says:

    Great picture! You look good! I know you are having great adventures and wonderful experiences (except for smelly armpits, short straws, long crowded bus rides–but even on those you probably have some funny experiences! Mike, your’e moving up in the world–from looking like a lion, to Fidel Castro! Glad God is keeping you safe and sound–and sending good people along to feed you when you’re hungry! Will be seeing you soon–time goes by so fast. Leave Sat the 29th of Sept to go to KC–spend the day with Dan on Sun, then head for IC on Monday–so will have almost a week to spend there before wedding. From there I’ll go home with Terry for a week or so. Love ya, Gma

  2. jenn says:

    i am a big believer in straws…so i feel your pain…when you come back to the states, you should buy a big box of long slurpee straws (remember those?)…this way you will be good to go…i looked at your travel map at the “highway of death” and i can only imagine your experience riding on that road with a bunch of unwashed smelly beings…maybe you should carry febreeze to spray them with… 🙂

  3. Deb says:

    Yesterday I spent 20 minutes trying to fish a short straw out of a bottle of coke, and 3 times I lied and told a shopkeeper that I knew had change for my large denomination bill that “no I don’t have anything smalller” ’cause damned if I’m giving him my precious small bills and coins!We feel your pain. Our newest irk is tuk-tuk/auto rickshaw drivers who pretend to know where something is, then ask 25 people en route for directions and still can’t get us where we are going. 🙂

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