Monday, April 12, 2010

Temperature Is Rising

March 25th to 28th

After another torturous sea crossing on the good ship 'vomit comet', we say our good-byes to new friends made on the island of Utila. In contrast to our drizzly arrival, the boat dock is now basking under a blazing sun and by 7:30 am the temperature is already pushing 90 degrees. As the heat builds we set about retracing the 170 kilometres or so along the coast and back inland to El Progresso and on towards the capital 'Tegucigalpa'...

Riding the route a second time has it's advantages as we know we can stop midway to Tela after 'just' 45kms. Believe me that feels like a lot after three weeks off the bike with a merciless sun scorching exposed skin. The next day is hotter still – over 90 in the shade, and way hotter under the direct sun, with heat cruelly reflected back from sticky black Tarmac. Tela is a beach town and we cool down in the lapping waves of the Caribbean Sea.

Leaving the coast behind, we head inland along the broad flats of the Ulua River flood plain, passing mile after hypnotic mile of palm oil groves in ranks of unnatural symmetry....

As we begin to climb, the land changes with small holdings and ragged adobe huts set amongst more natural coconut palms. Families supplement a subsistence income by selling their fruits to passers by. Children as young as eight sit dejectedly beneath palm thatched lean-tos for long dull hours, growing soporific in the turgid heat. We meet 'Brian' who displays uncanny skill with a blade as he expertly removes the husk and pierces the fruit for us to enjoy a welcome drink and snack....

It doesn't always work that way though as we notice a deep three inch gash on the inside of his wrist. It's a couple of days old, covered in grime and just starting to fester around the edges and he's pitifully grateful as I offer to clean the wound and give him our supply of anti-septic cream. It's really basic first aid, but sadly by his reaction, it just seemed that that level of attention was lacking in his young life. Time and again on this trip we've come across young children shouldering adult levels of responsibility, their eyes and mannerisms displaying a worldliness at odds with their tender years. Often that veneer of self assurance cracks when you just talk to them and the child slowly emerges from behind that weight of expectation. We vow to buy more street food and trinkets and stop to talk more often to these child providers. It doesn't do much to change their situation, but hopefully, it just helps that little bit.

We reach busy, chaotic 'El Progresso', all snarling traffic and American branded fast food plastification....

We hole up... and leave....

Back into the tranquility of a beautifully fresh mountain-scape at dawn....

A rest stop with a cold drink at a petrol station brings an unusual sight. All the countries we have passed through since the US have all proudly displayed their nation's flag in town centres and especially around border crossings. This is the first Honduran flag I have seen anywhere and this one was hard to spot, hidden away as it was - pinned to the side of an outdoor bar....

A bar... serving beer at a petrol station? Now why does that not seems like a good idea?

We are routed along a dirt track diversion as we approach Santa Rita 15 miles to the South and the reason soon becomes clear. The town has grown up around the river crossing where the road bridges the wide span of the Ulua River. Presumably weakened during recent hurricanes, the supports suddenly gave way three weeks previously. Obviously no one was aware of structural weaknesses and traffic flow was normal until the disaster....

Luckily no one was killed and enterprising locals have taken the opportunity to supply overheating car drivers and cyclists as they wait to cross the single file footbridge. Seven year old Mariana selling coco fria (cold coconut)....

Short delays are frustrating as we try to crack the miles early in the day in that brief period of semi-cool before the debilitating heat has a chance to build. We expected to reach 'Lago Yojoa' after 80kms (50 miles), but a sustained climb a few kilometers short is hit later than planned, when, like a mirage in the shimmering waves of air rising into the clear blue skies a hotel sign appears. On auto pilot both our front tyres twitch in unison towards a refuge away from the blinding sun and before either of us has a chance to talk the other into braving it out for a bit longer we are fighting each other to get to the cold shower....


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