Nearing the end of Nicaragua was sad as I had assumed there wasn’t much to see and yet it seemed to be limitless. Although I was excited about heading north I was nervous about the next two. Honduras which had the highest murder rate in the world in 2012 with a murder rate of more then 2,100 people and in 2015 is averaging 85.5 people per 100,000 then I would get through Honduras and arrive in El Salvador still with a strong gang culture and has surpassed Honduras and is currently 90 deaths per 100,000. To give you an idea it would be the equivalent of having 7,740 murders in London per year.
I had been advised to travel the coast road but knew there were no guarantees. I had however met several cyclists that had ridden through both countries and told me how amazing the people were. This didn’t surprise me as many of the dangerous countries I had been to I had experienced the nicest people. For me I felt that the danger was slight and that living in fear your whole life would be so much worse. It was time for me to go and see for myself and keep my eyes open. I would always follow my instinct and had kept me safe up to now but with no way forward other then to cross the border I just had to hope for the best.
Saturday 3rd November
Wanting to get to the border early I got up a little after the sun and started to load my bike. It didn’t take long as most of my things were already loaded. Thanking the hotel owner I set off into town to see if my spot tracker had worked before heading off for the border. Being 3 miles away I was soon stamping out of Nicaragua and into Honduras. It took a while to stamp out but with no issues I set off so stamp into Honduras.The moment I arrived 3 lads were desperate to look after my bike for a dollar. It was apparent from the moment I entered that Honduras was a poor country and one I had been warned about. Riding west the road was shocking. I was on the Pan american highway and there were pot holes I reckon I could pitch my tent in and be out of sight.
Just one of the thousands of potholes that scattered the road
It was comical how the cars and truck weaved up the road trying to avoid the huge craters making them look more like a warmup to a grand prix. As I rode I saw many people in the road filling the holes with earth and as I passed they would ask for money. I thought at first it was just me but saw them putting their hands out to drivers. Getting further away from the border I spotted a cyclist coming the other way and stopped to chat. His name was Ben and was from England not far from where I live.
Always good to meet a fellow cyclist
It was really great chatting to him and felt good being able to give advice and tips as he did for me. Ben was travelling really light and I couldn’t believe just how light especially compared to the two germans I had meet in Costa Rica. Knowing that I wanted to get as far as I could and Ben wanting to cross the border we wished each other well and set off. As the temperature rose I went to grab my water bottle to find one was half full and the other totally empty. I couldn’t believe it as both had looked full when I left. Having only a big note I knew I couldn’t buy a tiny bottle of water with it and so I would have to wait until breakfast. Wanting to get to the first town I pushed on with a screaming thirst until I came to Choluteca.
Spotting a restaurant I pulled over to order some dinner and asked if my water bottles could be filled up. I couldn’t believe how thirsty I was and finished both bottles before my dinner arrived. Once finished I asked for one more bottle but she refused and told me to go to a shop.
This surprised me as I sat to have my lunch
It really surprised me as I was in a restaurant so I set off and looked for a shop. As I was about to head out of town I Passed a KFC and went in to ask for some water. They were more then happy and not only did I get my two bottles filled but it was really cold. I headed on once again wanting to get to the next town when I met my second cyclist. His name was Josh and was from Australia. He had ridden down from Canada and was heading to Ushia? I asked if everything had gone well to which he said his bike was hit by a driver who had fallen asleep only a few days before. Not being on the bike he went to grab his water bottle when the car took off one side of his panniers came off the road, then swerved back onto the road causing another accident further up the road. Luckily for Josh it was just a few things that needed to be fixed which the driver paid for. Feeling relieved he was still standing to tell the tale we swapped advice and told me I had some amazing scenery to come and instead of El Salvador he said Guatemala. I had been told this several times before and so was excited about what lay ahead. Telling me he had some Guatemalan money we worked out how much it was and so I exchanged it for the Bolivian money I had found way after I had left Bolivia. Being a perfect exchange as the value was about the same we wished each other luck and headed off.
It was amazing to see all these kids having so much fun
Still getting through my water I pushed on and stopped a bit later to refill my bottles. It had been a long time since I drank so much and compared to Peru where I was drinking about two bottles a day, I was now drinking 6-7. As the sun got lower the scenery became more stunning, I sat on my bike and rode taking it all in. As the road turned north my mind started to drift when I hit a huge pot hole I hadn’t spotted. being so deep and violent it ripped both rear panniers off leaving them dangling from the side. It took me about an hour to fix both and felt annoyed I hadn’t seen it. Once done I set off again and reached the town of Nacaome by 4pm.
Here we go again, It was starting to get annoying now
With an hour and a half left of light I looked for a hotel and once I had found one I booked myself in and needing yet more water the owner let me fill my bottles before I had a shower and headed out to eat. Being told time and time again how dangerous Honduras is I was surprised at how everyone was so friendly and so sat chatting to the locals as I watched the dark clouds move in from the east and were already lighting up the sky.
Here it comes
Wanting to pick up a few bits I went to the supermarket to try and spend the little money I had left. I cued at the till when a guy asked where I was from and what I was doing. I just told him I was cycling through and that’s when he pulled a beer from his pack and gave me one saying he hoped I enjoy his country. It was so kind of him and so thanked him and set off back to the hotel. It had been a good day with a worrying start but I was warming to a country that I would leave tomorrow. With the road between the borders so short I wasn’t going to change it but meeting the people I had had changed my view on the place and wouldn’t think twice about coming back.
Sunday 4th November
Feeling tired when I woke isn’t great when I wanted to cross the border and get to the coast. With the sun lighting my room I got up ate my packet of granola biscuits and orange juice for breakfast to save time and finished packing my bike.
Heading out of town through the markets and on to the border
Once I had filled my bottles I was on the road and riding through the market by 7.45am. With 20 miles to the border I got my head down and reached the Honduras border by 9.45am.
The Honduras border control
I stamped out of the exit and went to the entrance window. They process my passport and I asked how many days did I have. They then told me I had to go to the El Salvador immigration.
Wondering whether I had stamped out twice I crossed the bridge and stood in line with an old lady that was almost stood in my heals pushing me. Luckily we didn’t have to wait long and I was soon in my 34th country. With no real towns I set off west at first then south to follow the coastal road west.
As I headed towards a volcano in the south I knew I was in for a climb but at least for now it was fairly flat. As my mind drifted I rode into the shadows of a tree and hadn’t spotted another large pot hole. It took me by surprise but looked like everything was still in tact. I reached the town of La Union by lunch time and found a restaurant to have lunch. Seeing it was really busy I went to find another when both my panniers fell off. It took me another 15 minutes to fix them then set off again for somewhere to eat. I was so thirsty and hungry it was a perfect time to stop and eat. Still needing to cover around 35 miles I set off again to climb past the volcano. The road climbed steadily for six miles before undulating the last bit before the descent the other side. As I climbed past the volcano I could feel something strange in my left peddle. As I pushed down on them I suddenly felt a crack then my left peddle shirred off. I couldn’t believe it.
This was what I had to ride on for 25 miles
These peddles were new four months ago and were now broken. With no other choice other then to ride for the next 25 miles pushing down on a short steel axel I arrived in a village and asked where I could find a bike shop. Pointing just down the road I found what I needed and ten minutes later I had one snapped spanner and one new peddle.
This guy was a star for fixing it
Although it had only cost me £6 as I offered to pay for the spanner I could at least ride my bike. As the sun got lower I had to keep going to try and get to where I needed to be. As I got close to the turn off for the beach a vehicle stopped and I was met by Jose a warm showers host. Inviting me to stay at his home a couple kilometres away I agreed and set off back down the road to meet his family.
Jose’s new house he was building was huge
I met them at the house that they were building before heading on to their house where they were staying. I was so tired, hungry and smelly and had a few jobs to do before I could relax. With all my jobs done I was given some food along with a coffee which was amazing then jumped in the shower. As I took my shirt off I noticed it had ripped right down the back and felt gutted.
My poor shirt it was amazing how it had been battered by the sun and just given up
I couldn’t believe my day, first my panniers, then my peddles and finally my shirt. It wasn’t that much of an issue but knew I needed to go through some of my kit and work out what I would need to order from home. I joined the family inside the house where they looked at the videos on my phone and just enjoyed their company, they were lovely and a welcome break from the highway.
Monday 5th November
Once I’d got rid of all the Mosquitos I could see and finally get the ones that I couldn’t I slept well in my tent out in the yard. With the flashes of lightning in the sky I thought I was in for a down pour and felt good to be under a shelter but I never heard a drop fall. I woke to the sound of the kids heading off to school and this was my cue to get up. Jose invited me to stay for the day but knowing I still had a long way to go before Mexico I wanted to get going.
Jose and his little girl
He and his family were lovely and I would’ve loved to have stayed but something in me needed to keep going. I had felt privileged to have met him and hear his stories about the civil war and what his country is like now and could have listened to him for hours. I thanked him and his wife for their kindness in giving me a safe place to stay and headed off west and the first climb. It was hot even by 7am and I knew it would only get hotter. Once over the hill I headed towards Volcan San Miguel which stood proud over the low lands at over 2,000 metres above the ground. It looked huge and imposing and yet mesmerising. I dropped the other side and thought I would have to climb around it but the road stayed flat.
Making good progress I had almost covered 60 miles by 2 pm when my peddle broke again. It was a day old and annoyed me that these things were made so badly. I pushed on once again with a broken peddle and spotted another cycle shop on the side of the road. With another new peddle on I set off again only to find it didn’t feel right. I took a look and found the threads were gone on the crank arm and the peddle could fall off at any moment. Not having anything to eat for the last four hours I stopped at the next town where the ladies were lovely and gave be a big plate of food. They told me where I could find a cycle shop so climbed up into town where a guy tightened it. I thought to myself I could have done that and set off but something was still not right. When I checked the peddle I found it was cross threaded and knew it wouldn’t last long. If I could only make it another 1000 miles I could get another from home but knew it may need to be changed before that. I left town and already being 3pm I knew it would be tight to get the last 35 miles to the sea before night fall. Knowing El Salvador wasn’t safe I had to get my head down.
Everyone I saw was nice and so many waved but I wasn’t going to take any chances. I pushed on not even having time to drink water and after 3 and a 1/2 hours I arrived at the coastal port of Libertad. Having been told of a nice beach further on I pushed my luck and kept going. With the roads now turning orange from the light of the setting sun I reached the small beach town of El Tunco. I rode through some steel gates and found a small pretty village with loads of hotels. I asked at the first one to find them nice and the prices good. With my bike in the room and showered I could now rest, have a couple beers and enjoy a night and a day off, hopefully with a surf planned for tomorrow.
Tuesday 6th November
After passing many signs showing surf beaches i headed into town to have a look. I reached the water front to find a pebble beach and quite good surf. I headed back into town to book a surfboard and then back to my room to get rid of the things I didn’t need.
The tiny pretty village of El Tunco
With a few snacks in hand I reached the surf shop picked a board and headed for the water. I looked for a good spot and paddled out to meet the waves. After several successful surf trips i was feeling confident until the first wave hit me like a hammer. It wasn’t even that big and could’t work out why it was so hard but one after another I was hit and eventually I reached the back where I sat to recover. Seeing the next set come in I caught a wave which didn’t last long before it dragged me down and spat me out. I couldn’t believe it. These waves were brutal and being on a pebble beach my ordeal wasn’t over. Being so steep I had to time my exit with precision and after trying a couple times with the waved pushing me up onto the pebbles and then dragging me bag out with large stones hitting my feet I finally got out and away from the pull of the out going surf. Deciding not the push it I returned my board and spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and catching up on a little work.
It was amazing watching the beautiful sunset after a day off
My day hadn’t gone to plan and I was starting to feel low. My hotel was empty and i wasn’t having a great day. This would often happen but I would normally be ok but I couldn’t snap out of it. With the clouds getting darker it seemed to represent my mood and just wanted to feel happy and have company. As the rain started to fall I sat at the bar with the nice bar man and we watched videos on youtube while the storm got ever closer. Wanting to leave in the morning I didn’t want it to be a late one but I felt unsettled and knew I wasn’t going to get to sleep anytime soon.
Wednesday 7th November
As I tried to sleep I could hear thunder in the distance and wondered whether it would start to rain again. My questioned was answered shortly as a few drops started to hit the tin roof and the thunder getting louder. After around an hour the storm was right over the town and the thunder so loud it would make everything shake and ring. The storm was so intense it was unreal, with the sound of thunder so loud followed immediately by the lightning it made it impossible to sleep. As the storm slowly moved away after a few hours I feel into a deep sleep but knew I wouldn’t have had enough sleep. I was up around 7am had breakfast and was on the road by 8am. Wanting to get to and across the border by the end of the day I knew I would need to get on with it. I headed out to the highway and started the numerous climbs and descents as the road dropped into various bays then to climb out the other side. I had looked before to see what sort of day I was in for and noticed most of my climbing was in the first 25-30 miles. Although all the climbing and descending slowed my progress the views down to the ocean were nice.
The south coast was like this for mile after mile
There were surf spots everywhere making it a great surf destination but after my day yesterday I wasn’t going to find out. As the main climbs came to an end the road levelled off and headed towards a junction. I passed three cyclist in full Lycra and aero helmets being followed by smart cars. They didn’t seem to be going that fast and wondered what they were doing.
It was a beautiful highway
I reached the junction and stopped for a snack at a garage. It was midday by this point and I still had a long way to go so pushed on until I had covered the miles I wanted before stopping for lunch.
The countryside was beautiful and wished I had longer to have a good look around
By this time it was gone 2pm and most of the food in the restaurants had sold out. Managing to buy a bit from different sellers I sat and enjoyed my chicken rice and salad. Once finished I set off again not knowing how long it would take me to cross the border, reaching it by 4pm.
All I seemed to be doing is crossing borders, I wasn’t complaining
It was good to reach it by this time and after standing for five minutes in the cue a bus arrived with a load of passengers. I felt pleased I had got here before them and was soon stamped out and allowed to cross over to Guatemala and my 35th Country.
It felt strange stamping in and out so frequently after many of the other South American country’s were so big but it did feel good and I wasn’t complaining. After a few minutes I was allowed to go and enter into my next country. Once out of the worst of the traffic and hustle and bustle I stopped to refix my rear pannier.
It felt strange that in just a few days I had crossed two countries and was now in Guatemala country number 35
They seemed to be falling apart more often and so started to think of a way to fix it and try and have a plan for when they did break again. Once back in place I pushed on away from the border and try and get to the next town. I checked the time and distance then found I would be a long way off getting there.
As the sun got lower I passed a large house where the people waved and looked friendly. I stopped and asked if I could camp and were more then happy. At first they showed me a piece of ground outside but in the end they invited me in to the garage where it would be dry if it rained. I showed them my tent, my route and a few pictures which always seems to settle any suspicions as to my purpose for camping and was soon trawling through the map of Guatemala getting some useful tips of where to go and the route to take. I soon had a route was formed and although it had a few twists and turns, it would mean I got to see some amazing places. As we stood chatting in their garage everyone was swatting Mosquitos making it hard to relax. They were everywhere and relentless. With all my things in my tent I decided to give dinner a miss due to the Mosquitos and try and eat in the morning. I knew I should eat know but they were so bad. The family left to go somewhere leaving me to get through a few jobs which I could do in the tent before hitting the sack and get some sleep. I had a border to cross and a new country to explore which meant I needed my sleep.
Although I was saftley through both Honduras and El Salvador I felt guilty for being nervous. Although poor I was waved at and greeted by all and met only with smiles. Yes there were people working on the roads asking for money but they asked everyone and not just me. Both countries had lost so many people through gang crimes, drugs and mercy killing and didn’t seem that it would stop any time soon. Even though the people were amazing there was an underlaying nervousness that permiated the air and I didn’t envy it. I hated linking one country to the next as many said Honduras was much safer these days but the numbers still showed highly on both. With endless civil wars, drug cartels and gorilla groups these two counties had a long way to go but with many warm hearts there was hope and thats what many looked towards. If I ever went back I would approach both of them with less fear and hopefully see more and relax.
I was now in Guatemala which still has its problems but a third of the death rates of the last two. With its cultures and history Guatemala was set to be impressive and after what so many had told me I was excited and I couldn’t wait to explore.
Thanks for reading xxx
Currency: Lempira £1=42 $1=21.65
Number of days in country: 1.5 days
Total distance cycled: 84 miles / 135 km – running total: 27,397 mls/ 44,082 km
Total altitude gain: 840 metres – running total: 428,361metres
Altitude gain per mile: 10 metres/mile
Totals from Ushuaia Southern tip of Argentina
11,504 miles/ 18,510km total alt gain 234,557 metres
Currency: US Dollor £1=$1.5
Number of days in country: 3.5 days
Total distance cycled: 231 miles / 372km – running total: 27,628 mls/44,453 km
Total altitude gain: 2,709 metres – running total: 431,070metres
Altitude gain per mile: 11.73 metres/mile
Totals from Ushuaia Southern tip of Argentina
11,735 miles/ 18,887 km total alt gain 237,266 metres