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Sunday, September 4, 2011

Driving in Paradise

I thought I knew how to drive, I started traveling when I was 15. I had an adventurous spirit that took me all over the United States and Canada. Then I lived in Alaska for a while, with all the icy roads, blizzards, caribou and of course the motor heads that love to drive big foot at 80 miles an hour in a snow storm. But I found out real quick when I landed in San Pedro Sula, Honduras that there was a difference between knowing how to drive and actually driving! 
My  wife and I were headed to Trujillo to look at real estate. We  had flown  into San Pedro Sula which was almost on the other side of the country. We thought it would give us an opportunity to see the country. ( What was I thinking? You can't see the country and watch the road, too!) Soon as we exited the airport the craziness started! As an American, traffic laws are important. So you're thinking this should apply here also. Wrong! The speed limit sign was just a
recommendation. I tried to follow the speed limit so as not to get stopped for a traffic violation. That caused even more problems. Stop signs, "ALTO" were just there to let you know there's an intersection up ahead.  As we left San Pedro Sula, I was almost in tears by the time I had reached the out-skirts of town. I was in no way prepared. I had a map and the road system seemed comparable to that of the U. S.What could possibly go wrong? 
There wasn't anyway I could have prepared for the insanity. Auto and foot traffic, bicyclist pedaling with me and against me. And of course we can't forget the mule drawn wagons that happened to be in my lane. I didn't want to pass due to the chaotic traffic that steady flowed at and around me. C'mon, who doesn't pass a mule?  Once out of town, the congestion slowed and the beauty of the country opened up.
Wow, talk about deja vu it was all coming back to me. My first time driving through Nashville at rush hour. Yeap, that was the feeling. I wasn't in control then, and I wasn't in control now.  

We meandered through a few small villages that were surprisingly picturesque. At this point mainly scooters and bicycles dominated the road. Having driven for several hours, we arrived in Le Ceiba. The directions we had were sketchy and the roadways were hard to navigate. But, we had made it this far and the sun was going down. Half lost, the traffic was just as crazy as before. Taxi's everywhere and despite what you might have heard they are far worse than any New York cabby. And everything has a horn. If you pass someone, you honk. If you see someone you know, you honk. If you are aggravated with the car in front, you honk. If the sun is shining, you honk. Everyone honking for one reason or another. All the honking and chaos will confuse the hell out of you, add a side order of nervousness  and you'll be totally as freaked out as I was.

The next morning we headed off to Trujillo, except for taking a wrong turn it was a pretty mellow trip. After doing a walk through of the property we had came to see, we were headed to Roatan to visit an old friend. We dropped the car off in Le Ceiba and caught the ferry over to the island.

We grabbed a taxi to take us to our friends house which was halfway across the island. Thinking this was a good idea since I was a nervous wreck from driving back on the mainland. But then we weren't too sure about anything at that point. Let's just say we now know where all the guys that run the NASCAR must come to try out. I think the gas pedal must have been pressed to the floor the entire time. Our stock car driver only applying the break when absolutely necessary. Wow, is all I can say, truly amazing. By the time we reached the water taxi, my stomach was turning. Fortunately the boat trip was very pleasant, and the guy that shuttled us across the inlet was helpful.

We weren't sure where we were going exactly, there had been a fire a couple of days previous that shut down all cell tower service and we hadn't been able to reach our friend, John. With the aid of our driver we were able to locate our friends house and it was great when we pulled up, he was waiting to greet us at the dock. It was nothing but relief to just relax in the hammock and drink a cold one after the taxi journey. We have been back several times and have somewhat gotten used to unique Honduran traffic.

Taxi are the only way to travel. You get to sit back and enjoy the country and let some one else worry about what all that honking is about. (This also give you 2 free hands to hang on for dear life during your journey). So, if you haven't experienced driving in paradise, may I suggest  a taxi ride first. Get a first hand look at how the locals drive, then and only then rent a car or a jeep and go see what paradise has to offer.
And for all those who have had the luxury of this experience, please do share!
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