Date: 3rdth April – 5th April 2012
Where: Santa Rosa de Lima (El Salvador) – Choluteca (Honduras) – San Marcos de Colon
Distance: 1703 to 1800 miles
We’ve come to realise you don’t just need physical and financial means to cycle-tour, but real mental strength too. We’ve been travelling together for nearly 3 months now, and feel it is time to describe some of the mental challenges and pressures of long-distance cycle touring. There seems no better time to tackle this topic than Honduras. Before leaving England we were warned that policemen were holding up banks here, and on arrival, heard tales of cyclists being robbed of everything, on the main road, in broad daylight. We’ve had plenty of time to concoct all sorts of weird nightmare scenarios in our heads!
In leaving Britain, we left the British media, and thus hoped to lose the fear factor which bleeds into society from all angles. However, these countries all have their own version, which seem to relish being able to splash all kinds of gore on their front pages. These strong images quickly become mixed with the imagination to form countless warnings to worry the cycle tourer. The stories, are however, based on truth, and we would be foolish to outright ignore them. It is hard to find a sensible balance between naivety and paranoia when you are dog-tired at the end of an exhausting day. In all this confusion, our experiences suggest that the road is still our most dangerous adversary. Recently, when riding through the tunnels on the coastline of El Salvador, we could hardly see anything save the light of the end of the tunnel. A lorry then approached from behind and, blinded by the light at the end of tunnel (ironic?), only saw us at the last second, whereupon they let out a long loud hoot of its horn. I guess you can all imagine the noise, it was pretty terrifying!
When cycle touring we were prepared to be under the spotlight. After all, you are a tourist, but you choose to travel with a bike covered in lots of strange, dusty bags. We weren’t prepared for dealing with this often unwanted attention when tired and hot. Imagine you’re ending a 70mile day in sizzling temperatures, bouncing over the inevitable speed-bumps into town. How do you respond to the near continuous waving, hooting, shouting (gringo! gringo!), and blown kisses (in Sarah’s case anyway). This has been going on all day, but suddenly it overwhelms you…AARRRGGHHH!!! The tiredness doesn’t just affect your social capacity with strangers, but even each other, often leading to states of complete befuddlement when trying to answer simple questions, like: ‘Shall we stay here for ten dollars or in the identical room the other side of the corridor for five dollars more?’ We guess there is little more we can do with this attention than get used to it!
Life on a bike certainly gives plenty of time for the many random thoughts to manifest themselves into all kinds of bizarre fantasies and questions, good and bad! ‘Do we have enough money? Are we going quick enough? Am I having as much fun as everyone else? I seem to spend all my non-bike-time, fixing, washing, shopping, chopping, cooking, eating, sleeping! I wonder what tasty delight we’ll find for dinner tonight? How do you say “…” in Spanish? Why do some countries work in miles and some in kilometres? What will we do when we return? Some questions may never be answered and some are plain pointless. Speed worries, for example, are easily solved as there seem to be enough fleets of buses to catch up any with any itinerary we dared to dream of.
Some recent minor retail therapy has helped us. A nice cake here, a beer there (only one, otherwise we’re on the floor), a watermelon if our tummys are feeling brave and plenty of other road side fruit. Beats military rations of tuna and tortillas any day! Hell, Geoff even splashed £2.50 on a spare set of shoes that look like crocs (quickly, and rather unfairly, renamed ‘craps’).
It took a while to face up to the fact that we are not your average tourists, who can relax and have fun all the time, being shuttled around the country at speed visiting all the highlights. It’s not such a lonely planet after all. We do however manage to land ourselves in some splendid situations that some people only dream of. We’ve also been lucky to meet some lovely tourists/travellers along the way and have shared some meals, drinks and stories together. Needless to say the cycle tourists we’ve met have also been great and always give a welcome confidence boost by reminding us that there is no right or wrong way to do this journey.
As for Honduras, we passed through without any problems. Sarah was even offered $20 from a passing car in support of our trip. The only dangers we noticed were the enormous pot-holes and a random piece of fruit that got thrown at Geoff from a passing car (unfortunately it wasn’t ripe, else it could’ve been a tasty snack). We spent two nights with Simon, an endlessly optimistic French Canadian who lives in Choluteca, an ideal stepping stone in the middle of Honduras. We shared Simon’s ‘warm showers’ hospitality with Andrew and Arran, a cycle touring couple from the US. We cooked together and were able to share some of our resources – thank you both for the map software! Simon somehow came through the day smiling despite being bitten in the leg by his neighbour’s enormous rottweiler, finding a rotting lizard on his doorstep washed out by the storms (which his puppy Mitch feasted on), a power cut and a broken water pump which meant no running water in the house and NO AIR CON (he had also been robbed twice that week). Simon’s positivity infects us as we go on to Nicaragua.