[This was written the day before yesterday in Honduras]
I'm not in love with the Honduras experience, at least not yet.
I really wish that, during the various territorial wars in Central America, El Salvador or Nicaragua had faired slightly better in the Pacific Campaign. Honduras has a tiny stretch of coastline on the Pacific, about 150 km along the Golfo de Fonseca. Unfortunately this means anyone driving south through Central America must spend at least four hours in Honduras - two to drive plus another two (or more) at the border fighting with customs. There may be another couple hours involved in the egress.
It's not that I don't want to explore Honduras. I do. It's just that I want to explore it on the way back, and right now I'm in a hurry south.
The Honduras border experience is the nightmare that everyone says it is. It wasn't even that busy. I paid a helper, which probably cut the amount of time down from six hours to two because he muscled his way to the front of every line and practically stood over all the officials and they performed their typing and stamping. The process is byzantine. It required three separate trips to the photocopy "store" to get copies of my papers and the ones they are stamping and preparing, plus another to have them type a document. It cost me about $50 to get into the country, and I don't even want to be here!
A couple miles from the border was the first police checkpoint. Here was the first clear, unmistakeable police shakedown I've experienced on the trip. The officer tried to tell me that I'm missing a receipt for a $20 dollars for "using the highway" that I needed to pay at the bank (beyond the receipts I already had from the bank). When I said I will ride back to the bank and ask them about it, he hemmed and hawed and eventually just said to go on. Duh. Aside from the fact that my helper was very thorough, the bank doesn't take dollars for official transactions. As I was leaving he half-heartedly asked for a "propina"; I just smiled and rode off. What bothers me most about the experience is that he was one guy in a group of several officers at the checkpoint - it's not one rogue cop, the corruption is an institutional problem.
I had made up my mind to stay one night in Honduras, but I realize now that it was a mistake. There is nothing of value in the Honduran Pacific experience. There are two towns on the coast big enough to cause a mark on a map; San Lorenzo is on the Interamericana and gets a poor review from the Lonely Planet ("hot, sleepy, and largely unattractive...with a few seedy bars and hotels" and the fatal phrase "If you get stuck...") and Cedeņo, which is about 30km off the highway and goes entirely unmentioned. I gambled on the unknown and lost.
Cedeņo is little more than a series of bars and comedores adjacent to some kind of shrimp hatchery. Pigs and dogs roam the beach in packs. I found one hotel in town, with electricity but no running water. There are bugs here. A fan is pointed at my bed, but it's placed only a short distance away from the lightbulb. About every thirty seconds some poor unfortunate flying creature wanders just a little too far from the light and gets sprayed all over me.
Something prettier to look at:
Hondurans, I have discovered, do not speak Spanish. They speak a language that sounds vaguely like Spanish but is clearly evolving into something that future Hungarian anthropologists will likely consider novel and unique. They seem to understand me just fine though.
Tomorrow I will be in Nicaragua.