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Utila and the road to Tikal
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Utila and the road to Tikal

So I’ve been home from the trip for a while and I miss CA (I know, it’s the American abbreviation for California and not Central America) . I dream of opening my own poutine stand, starting a hot dog stand (that’s from Senator J), renting a place out and hosteling it, or becoming a real estate agent. There are all sorts of occupations to do down here to make Central America more hospitable for travelers and I’m going to find one to entice people to explore the world more than currently do.

Everyone tells me that I should just keep writing, or make a book out of my travels . . . I think they’re right.

And the photography. Oh! The photography! It opens in the same window.

OK, I’m kind of losing it here. I have been writing since 8 AM (it is now 2PM) and I think I am going to take a break for now. This picture is of the door to the hotel I kept my bike at when I was in Utila, and I do have a something to write about the trip to La Ceiba and how tiny this tiny gecko was, so the next sentence will be about that. And I need more instrumentals: I can’t write listening to songs with a whole lot of words in them. I have been cranking it to M83 and Thievery corporation for the entire day, now I’m on Chromeo, an LP completely devoid of instrumentals

Damn.

As I began to complain about how sick I was of writing, I got this writing adrenaline kick and killed four sentences. Should I keep writing? OK, let’s keep writing for a few more captions.

Maybe it’s the Chromeo, who knows.

My ride from San Pedro Sula (pretty much the capital city of Honduras) to La Ceiba (the jump off point to Honduras’ Caribbean properties) was quite the bear. I woke up in the hostel to the sound of POUNDING rain and knew it was going to be an exciting day. I jumped on the bike at 9AM and planned to get to La Ceiba before the second ferry left at four. I figure if I budgeted seven hours for a three hour trip would be more than long enough, right?

Well, my plan in El Progresso (about 20 miles outside of SPS) as I had already changed into a bathing suit, under armor, and a raincoat, was to ditch the bike with a mechanic, have him do the maintenance over the next week and pay him to garage it while I hopped into a warm bus to La Ceiba.

It’s 10:30 and I finally find a mechanic. I tell him my plan, and he says “Oh, the rain will die down, it won’t be this bad all day, and I will have this work done for you in two seconds.” Even one of those statements isn’t a lie, I will be pretty much fine, so I agreed and let him fix the bike. I tell him when I need to leave by to make sure that I am able to get to the ferry on time, and since that time is 1:00 PM, even if he takes just about forever to fix my bike, I’ll be fine and get there before the boat leaves.

Turns out that every one of the statements in the sentence was a lie. It wasn’t so bad, though, because I had the best tortilla in Central America that morning at the restaurant in the same yard as the mechanic’s shop, and the mechanic and his son were hilarious. There was a severely delusional character that spoke limited English; just enough to tell me that he was running for the Honduran Presidency and wanted my support. He also claimed to be dating four women in three different countries as he borrowed tools from the mechanic to fix his fifteen year old sheep (scooter of this type; looks like a sheep). The mechanic was making fun of this guy to his face in front of the rest of the shop guys and his son, who were all busting out laughing at “El Presidente.”

My bike was fixed and I was off. Three hours more in the rain and I arrived in La Ceiba to find a hotel for the night and bike storage for a week. I found a place near what I thought was the center of town and haggled for a room. I was pretty excited to get clean and get a hot shower, only when I got into the room, the guy pulled the old switcheroo on me and let me know that my hot shower days were behind me. Thoroughly dejected, but equally exhausted, I accepted the room and washed up.

As I dried myself off and put on some warm clothes, I remembered that my camera was in a pocket of my raincoat. I took it out to find it soaked through – turned it on and it was taking pictures with half the screen obscured with solid horizontal rainbowy lines. I fell asleep at six after a huge meal of jerk pork chops and hoped it would dry out.

I woke up at 2AM, thirsty as hell, and went to look for some water. I opened the door and this guy was chilling out, catching food and keeping my skin mosquito-free. I grabbed my camera, flicked it on, and took a shot of this inch long insurance ambassador.

Congratulations, Hagan – your camera still works.

The last caption took an hour, and this one took fifteen seconds.

I’m on Girl Talk right now.

The morning I woke up to get on the ferry to Utila, I thought that it left La Ceiba at 6:35 in the morning. I got up at 5:30 to make sure I caught this boat out there. I got a cab ride out to the terminal and they wouldn’t even let me in – turns out that it leaves Utila at 6:35 in the morning and leaves La Ceiba at 9:00.

The cabbie wanted to charge me 150 Lempiras (they call them Lemps, but it sounds like Limps) for the ride, but I let him know that the hotelier told me it would be 100 (even though he hadn’t, it just didn’t seem to be worth 150 Lempiras). I ended up paying him 120, even though I found out later that the local price was 100.

So i was stuck there – there is no reason to pay 100 Lempiras to hang out in La Ceiba. I had no book, no internet, nothing to eat or read, it was certainly the longest three hours of the trip thus far, outdone only by a five hour stint at the Belize border importing my bike.

This was the first time I was witness to a pimp slapping one of his hos.

The art of pimp-slapping is a true art indeed. I must have walked fifty yards past this ho train when I heard some commotion followed by a thunderclap smack in the darkness behind me. It was loud, it was solid, and it was authoritative.

I turned around. There were to people who had walked by the action as it was going down. I asked them if I had indeed heard and actual pimp-slap and they confirmed my suspicions. I did a Tiger Woods fist pump into the air and took out my camera solely to commemorate the occasion.

My first pimp slap! Awesome.

$250 gets you:

A PADI certification
Six Dives
Accommodations for four days

And if you’re lucky, a local girl to accompany you in your accommodations.

I had one on one instruction for the whole week. I thought this was pretty stupid. No one else was taking any classes, so for that week, I was their income. Five people in the payroll for this place and I was the only one.

There were a ton of people from various dive shops at the ferry when I got off the boat competing for business. It didn’t make sense to me that none of them had an agent on the mainland to sell the packages, because it would have been simple.

I mean, you couldn’t pay me to live in La Ceiba to be the one passing out the flyers, but I am sure you could get someone to.

It was nicknamed The Cleavage View Hotel because you look directly down onto the main street and people barely knew you were there.

Everyone spoke English here – I am pretty sure this isn’t technically a Caribbean island, but it sure had a lot of Caribbean influence.

Pretty much minutes after I took this shot.

I had been getting pretty bad in Central America. It seems like I smoke more in other countries than I do in the US. A lot more. For some reason, more travelers smoke down here than locals per capita. I thought it would be the other way around – but I digress. They have these little 10 packs of cigarettes down here. I would buy them and figure that I might smoke less than I would if I had bought a pack.

Turns out I was going through more than one of these a day, so my theory was shot.

Then I started only buying the loosies at the store. That helped me cut back on the intake pretty seriously. Now, if I met up with someone who was a smoker, whenever they wanted to have one, I would bum from them and then buy them a beer in return – and the beer was always more expensive than the amount of cigarettes I could possibly bum, so I felt good about that deal. The fact remained that I was still smoking.

Then I got to Utila.

Phillip Morris has this Island on lockdown. It was clear that being a smoker was a prerequisite of residency on the island. It was really hard to get away from bumming the cigarettes when everyone was lighting up around you. So I bummed, then I bought a pack and left it out for people to have as reimbursement for my bumming. Then I bought my own packs. Then I was up to more than half a pack a day. All of that happened in the matter of three days.

The night I took this picture, we were out on the deck, drinking and having an overall great time, looking at boobs and shooting the shit. I had bought a pack of cigarettes minute before we started drinking, and six hours later, they were gone.

I woke up on the couch around 2AM and grabbed a tissue to blow my nose. I had some phlegm, so I hawked that up and spit it onto the tissue. The phlegm was streaked with blood.

That was it. Haven’t had a cigarette since then.

I forget this guy’s name, but I felt like he was channeling Jack Sparrow. He was the divemaster at Deep Blue. He and Chris (there were three Chris’ that worked here, so I remember the other ones) had just taken over the place and were bringing in more revenue than the last guys.

I don’t think he wanted to be photographed.

My man in Amsterdam here – Jeremy had been here for a few months and was getting his advanced open-water diver cert. He had some good stories.

This is usually the face I make before I have my picture taken. I like to stretch out my smile so it doesn’t look fake. He got me a few milliseconds too early.

I was planning on driving six hours on my motorcycle today, and I saw the cumulonimbus clouds threatening the coastline – three of those six hours.

Didn’t think I was going to have that problem coming back, considering how unlikely two rainy days would be this time of year in Central America. Even as such, when I got back in, I hit more than my share of rain going to Guatemala that day.

So this was the day that I actually logged the most kilometers. Probably somewhere around 500.

Almost a month later, and my ass is still vibrating from the ride. Should I get that checked?

This is the beach the white people used to go to . . . in the 1500s.

It’s a total dump. I am advising that no one who reads this ever go to Puerto Cortes. I mean, it isn’t even worth telling you how bad it is.

Just click the next video, you’ll know what I mean.

But it’s bad enough to take a video of it. Pretty much all the bright white spots that you see are trash (cigarettes, paper, or plastic wrappers).

I stopped in Puerto Cortes because it was a beach on the way to my location and I thought I was making good time. I bought a few slices of watermelon from a kid on the street and drove around.

I went down this one road, and there was a group of guys hanging around, drinking beers. There was a bum near the road looking rather intoxicated, and he jumped out into the road and shouted something like “hey!” right when I drove by.

Thinking about it right now, drunk bum jumping out at you in a beach town – not too big of a deal, but in context, it was the most scared for my well-being I was on the trip.

Since the stabbing, at least.

And this was a seriously interesting border – between filling out the paperwork for leaving Honduras and entering Guatemala was 30 kilometers! I know that happens a lot in these types of countries – I was still perplexed.

This picture was taken at the bridge right where these two roads intersect.

I can’t tell you the name of the place, because I forgot, and I think it is some kind of Americanized nickname for the place anyway. I took this picture because my bike is completely f-ed again. I have spent just as much time at the mechanic’s place as at any border, I have usually just had a place to rock the internet when I was waiting.

I originally agreed to a hundred Quetzale charge for services rendered. The mechanic told me he would be done at 11:00 and when I got back from an hour of internet, my bike looked like this.

Now he says 200Q. I have the money, it’s just in Lempiras. You know, the money from Honduras? The place that is less than 60 miles away from where that I am currently? Yeah, that country.

I have been to every bank in the city and it turns out that I can’t exchange money in this town. No one accepts it, and no one is willing to trade with me for some Quetzales. I had a ton of them in the last town because I wanted to avoid this $5 charge that they had been levying on each transaction. I ignored the memory of the moneygrubbing locals at each border offering to screw you out of your cash with an inequitable exchange rate. Then I ignored what they told me at every border, “The money doesn’t work in the other country!” I thought that was a lie because some people in SJDS actually accepted the Costa Rican cash and they definitely exchanged it at their banks.

You can see why all of that compounded into me stuck with Lempiras that weren’t useful in Guatemala.

With the 120Q that I had, I used the internet for a few more hours, ate the best steak tortilla in Central America, had a frozen banana, a piece of chicken, some orange juice, and I think I had some other ice cream as well (this was my pig-out day, I had been good with my diet the rest of the time.) I was down to 80Q in hand and somewhere around $6 US in my bank account until the next day.

I still needed to get to Tikal, so I wasn’t going to be giving him any of the Quetzales. I explained what had happened and after thirty minutes of haggling, they accepted the Lempiras that I was offering, which was an amount 10% more than what we’d agreed to.

And little did I know, the mother$*%@ would make changes to the bike that would cost me almost $100 US.

Oh well.

Guatemalan Mass Transit.

I diagnosed a problem with my bike, had the parts on me, and fixed it.

I was so pleased with myself.

This was the old spark plug. I put in a new one. It started working again, for like 30 kilometers, then the problem started again.

I think I have a picture of when I actually diagnose the problem and fix it for real – I will tell the rest of the story then.

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