Spending time on the road at Christmas

Posted by Diane Penwill in See & Do | South & Central America | Uncategorized

Holiday season in Honduras means fireworks and Fanta.

Article appeared in the Toronto Star

LA ENTRADA, HONDURAS – “Feliz Navidad!” cried the 5-year-old girl in the white party dress, cackling with delight each time a firecracker went off.

“Buena, muchacha!” her parents praised her as they handed her another firecracker, beaming proudly.

We arrived in La Entrada, a town a few hours west from Honduras’ business capital, San Pedro Sula, late on Christmas Eve on the first day of our seven-day cycling trip.

We found ourselves without a hotel in complete darkness in this tiny town on the way to Copan, which owes its existence to the junction of two roads. Here, they believe fervently in Christmas and just as fervently, that Christmas means fireworks. They would proceed to set them off all night and into the morning, until they were just too tired to light another.

We found a place to stay and walked around town to investigate. By around 10 p.m., the activity was really intense and each house had a sparkler brigade in front.

Once went off centimeters from my face. We escaped temporarily as we ducked into a place that looked like it might be a bar. Hard to tell, since there were no tables and few chairs. However, they didn’t mind selling us warm beer.

They found some seats and lined them up in front of us like some kind of Honduran stand-off. After a few minutes, we all lapsed into a comfortable silence, though and I was content to drink my beer, which provided me the courage to venture out into the street again to join the pyrotechnics party.

We had to keep walking around dark, dirty, dusty Entrada to find groceries to get us through five hours of pedaling the next day – Christmas. All the stores seemed to sell were chips, pork rinds and Fanta. Giving up on groceries, we left with double chips and pork rinds, all set for a grueling day of cycling, knowing there would be no more opportunities to find food because everything would be closed.

Somehow we managed to sleep through the ear-splitting fireworks going on at the front door of the hotel. When I looked down at about 2 a.m., the same little family responsible for the fireworks when I went to bed were still cheering each other on.

When I got up the next morning all was quiet. I stumbled from the hotel into intensely brilliant sunshine that washed over me in a wave of tropical heat.

A gentle breeze caressed me as we began to cycle. Even La Entrada didn’t look too bad on Christmas Day. Within an hour, we found ourselves in bucolic farmland.

“Sin botella!” “Without the bottle!” the woman at the store urged. We wanted me to drink the Fanta without the bottle to save me having to pay for it, as I attempted to quench my raging thirst.

I gave her back the bottle and she poured the Fanta into a little plastic baggie, inserted a straw and handed it to me. I gulped it back and asked for another baggie-full.

As we cycled through the hilly terrain of Honduras, at each village we came to we found the beer was warm, the juice non-existent, and the coffee instant; only the Fanta was cold, delicious and plentiful.

We were reminded more of England than of anything Central American as we whizzed by the pastoral Honduran farms.

Here, finally, there were no fireworks, no dust, not even traffic. Only rolling fields, which were becoming terraced as we headed into the mountains. We struggled up the hairpin curves, relishing the long downhills.

It is customary for the drivers of passing cars to honk, the louder, the better and then laugh as they pass. They were usually pickup trucks, packed with eight to ten people in the back. No Hondurans cycle, it seems, except one lone man with a load of firewood who was weaving his way precariously uphill.

As we passed him, he looked startled, then grinned and waved, echoing a “Hola” to our “Holas”. By the end of the day, at that magic hour just before the sun sets, we were rewarded with a heavenly downhill ride past villages and farms, a winding river valley opening up in front of us, the mountains retreating behind. Honduras was now as serene and peaceful as it had been raucous and noisy the night before.

For more information on Honduras, go to www.hondurastips.honduras.com.


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