Honduras

Posted by James Anderton on December 7th, 2018


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Wherever I cycle in the world I often get politely warned about the neighbouring country. When in Bosnia they will tell you to be careful in Serbia. When in Serbia they will tell you to be careful in Bulgaria. When in Ecuador they will tell you to be careful in Colombia. When in Colombia they will tell you to be careful in Venezuela and so on. In Honduras they tell you to be careful in Honduras. The country comes with a fearsome reputation. It has the unfortunate claim to have the highest murder rate in the world. It has also been in the news a lot lately with the migrant train that originated here making it's way up through Mexico towards America. Giving Trump another opportunity to prove he's the biggest asshole on the planet. For these reasons many cyclists tend to pass through Honduras as quickly as possible. This is a shame. There is plenty for a cycle tourer to enjoy if you apply some basic safety common sense.

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Local street celebrations in Danli

If you are on a cycling trip through Central America Honduras cannot be avoided but you can pass through the south west of the country in little more than a day. I decided to see a little more of the country and came in through the mountains of Las Manos in Nicaragua. In recognition of Honduras reputation I made some rare concessions to how I normally cycle. I decided not to wild camp and stay in hotels wherever possible. I kept to the main roads and didn't go out after dark. Exploring the back roads is all part of the fun of cycle touring but the locals were adamant that there is little law and order out in the sticks and I would be putting myself at risk. It is also a good idea not to 'dress to impress' but I didn't have to do anything different here. I couldn't dress to impress if my life depended on it. I have a natural flair for looking like a hobo which definitely has it's advantages in Honduras. It makes sense not to show off any fancy technical equipment you have and if you look like you haven't had a wash in a week then so much the better.

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Mountains in the South of Honduras

Safety concerns out of the way my first impressions of Honduras were excellent. The roads were in good shape. Lots of wide hairpin climbs and rapid descents through the mountains. Friendly cries of 'Hey Gringo' every couple of minutes as i zipped by. A wonderful array of delicious fruit for sale from the bamboo huts that line the roadside. I passed through the beautiful mountain town of Danli surrounded by pine and broad leaf forests. I saw a few deer and an amazing range of colourful birds I wish I knew the name of. The mountains are said to home a small number of jaguars but needless to say i didn't see any of these. I cycled up to a pass and there was Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, set in a central valley surrounded by mountains. It's always a great way to see a city for a first time. The vast sprawling cityscape definitely looks a lot more beautiful from above than it does in the middle of it.

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Mountains north of Tegucigalpa

Tegucigalpa, colloquially referred to as Teguz, is known for its well-preserved Spanish colonial architecture. In reality it is just a sprawling urban jungle. Not the kind of place to go wandering around after dark. I descended through grim looking slums alongside rivers of trash thinking now would be a bad time to get a puncture. Once in the city proper I did what I always do when i arrive in an unknown metropolis. I spend a couple of hours randomly taking left and right turns down side streets. Going this way and that observing everyday life, marvelling at the chaos, trying not to get run over until I've completely lost my bearings. Eventually I stumble across a cheap hotel and hole out for the evening. It's a good way to get a feel for a city as opposed to going from one tourist attraction to another.

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Tegucigalpa, capital of Honduras

From Tegucigalpa I headed north towards Comayagua. Through steep pine covered mountains stopping only for cocunuts as they cost about 10p and have a litre of water inside. The scenery is pleasant if not especially dramatic but the roads are good and once away from the city the traffic is light and gives you a wide berth. I did not venture any further than Comayagua. I decided to give the northern part of Honduras a miss. It was off route as I was looking to head down to El Salvador. The roads are bad and the main city in the north, San Perdo Sula, is considered to be the most dangerous city in the world. This is the place where the migrant caravan originated as the locals seek a way out of the cycle of poverty and a better life for them and their families. Instead I headed west towards the El Salvador border at El Amatillo. Fabulous views of the Pacific as you drop out of the cool mountains into the intense heat of the coast.

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Woman selling watermelons

I am glad I took a little time to have a look around Honduras instead of boshing straight through. Everywhere I went I got a warm welcome from the people. As is often the case in countries seldom visited by tourists everyone is genuinely pleased to see you and curious to know more about you. I had a long conversation with a water melon seller in the mountains who says she hasn't see any tourists in years. She is sad for the reputation of her country. She believes in her people but political stability and corruption has led to extreme poverty all over the country. As a result violent crime has grown year on year. One in 5 Hondurans live on less than $2/day. Honduras lived through a military coup as recently as 2009. It remains a troubled place but certainly not one that should be avoided at all costs.

Roads:

Mixed. If you want asphalt then stick to the main roads that connect towns. They are almost all paved. Any road that doesn't lead to a major town is likely to be a dirt road. In the north of the country even the main roads have long stretches of rough dirt road.

Time to Go:

The dry season between December and April is generally considered the best time to go. May and November bring hotter, more humid conditions and afternoon downpours. The latter months of the year carry the threat of hurricanes.

Wild camping:

It is possible. Away from cities there is plenty of space to camp and it is easy to find water. Be sure to be very discreet for safety reasons. Camping gas can be bought in big supermarkets but only the pierce-able kind and not the screw on canisters.

Visa's:

No problem. No need for proof of onward ticket. You just need a valid passport.

Border Crossings:

Las Manos (Nicaragua/Honduras). El Amatillo (Honduras/El Salvador). Both quick and painless.

Bicycle Shops:

There is an excellent bicycle shop called 'BikeMart' in Tegucigalpa. They fixed me a new bottom bracket for next to nothing and gave my bike a free clean. They also have a great array of parts for all kinds of bikes.

Side of the road:

Right.

Tips:

Honduras was the first country in the world to ban smoking in one’s own home. If you are smoking a cigarette in Honduras, you must also stand at least two meters away from the nearest person to you.

Interesting Fact:

Alongside the Afro-Caribbean and Garifuna populations of the Bay Islands, you’ll also find a lot of blonde hair and blue eyes – and no, these aren’t all tourists. These are Honduran Bay Islanders, direct descendants of the pirates that once hid out here.

Electricity: