Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Melissa wrote: Well, we have been getting feedback from friends for not updating the blog in awhile…so just to go back a little in time, here is what happened:
After getting caught in the Martial Law/political situation in Honduras, my little travel memoir was beginning to feel more like a Steven King novel. After 2 days of being trapped in the Hotel Telamar in Tela, a small beach town about a hour from San Pedro Sula (Tela is the former HQ town of Chiquita Banana)due to the curfew and going a bit stir crazy (the pool was under renovation) we were still waiting, hoping that I would be able to fly out of San Pedro Sula when the airport opened. We had gone to the hotel reception area, the only place with internet, to go online and register our passports with the U.S. State Department as advised. Suffering from cabin fever, we went down to the beach in front of the hotel, the ‘safe’ beach, and went for a walk. I never carry my passport, but I didn’t feel like going back to the room, so had it with me. We both had our small day-packs with books, our cameras, some cash, and Chris had the bike keys as there is an alarm which goes off on his keychain if anyone tries to mess with the motorcycle. We walked along the beach, and as we turned to head back to the hotel, 3 guys who had been sitting on the sand at the water’s edge jumped up right in front of us, yelling in Spanish. One grabbed Chris and one grabbed me, waving broken bottles in front of our faces. I realized that they were saying “Give us the backpacks!” We took off our backpacks they yelled at us to get away. We ran back to the hotel, to a restaurant right on the beach, asking for help. The security guard, Fernando, got on his dune buggy and went screaming up the beach in pursuit. There was an old graveyard back behind the beach directly across from where they had robbed us, and they had run through there. Fernando found 2 of them and had them held with his gun. He radioed the hotel manager, who was now at the restaurant, that he had apprehended them with our things. At that moment, the 3rd one came back with his gun and fired 4 shots at Fernando. They then ran away, leaving Fernando unharmed save for an injured knee. At that point the police came. Chris went in the car with the police and Fernando and unbelievably, they spotted the thief with the gun wearing Chris’ backpack. They chased him through some bad neighborhoods, and he escaped by jumping over a wall, with the police unable to get to him.
The police came back and asked us to go to the police station (I use that term loosely) to file a report. I rode in the police car with Chris following with Fernando. The small shack housed 3 cubicles where the police did their work. I filed the report with a young woman wearing a big gun who pecked away at an ancient Smith Corona typewriter while I recounted what happened. The cubicle next to me was lively with a shouting man and woman arguing over her filing a restraining order. God, I love Honduras.
We returned to the hotel pretty shaken and upset. At that point, with no money, no credit cards, and no way to leave the hotel there wasn’t much else to do but retreat to the bar. Multiple tequilas and cervezas later, we met with Captain Victor, who is Fernando’s boss and the head of Security for the hotel. He is a former Army captain, a real Rambo-type of guy who inspired confidence in us. He told us that we could go out and try to get our things back. So, the next morning, at 8am, all of us were walking through an overgrown, bombed-out, really eerie cemetery, hoping that they had discarded our possessions there. We searched for 2 hours in the heat, and found our books, some papers from my bag, and some small things of mine. We actually found the broken bottles that they had threatened us with, but Victor told us that the police there have no way to process fingerprints. We had hoped that they tossed my passport and the keys aside but no luck. Let me tell you, being in that cemetery with the fear of those guys coming back was not a nice experience.
It gets better. After that, Captain Victor took us driving through some very bad neighborhoods, where he asked locals if they knew anything about the muggers (Tela is a small town.) No luck. We then went into the center of town and started visiting Pawn Shops looking for our things. That was an experience. Funny how in a town like this there are 6 Pawn Shops…the front of the store is bars, and you do business with the guy behind the counter through the bars. Still no luck. The next day, Chris and I visited the pawn shops again and even bought some announcements on the local TV station, Canal 24—we saw the announcements later while watching the soccer game…a small thrill in all of the chaos…but no results. So, we had spare keys sent via DHL from the office, and they arrived 2 days later.

The minute they arrived we headed for the border of Guatemala. I managed somehow sweet-talk the man in the border office at Puerto Barrios and he actually let me into the country without a passport……that was a first!

We spent the night in Puerto Barrios and then headed for Guatemala City the next day. Then the gods smiled on us. We found a ‘motorcycle guest-house’ run by Beto and Lizzie Lau in Guatemala City. Their business is called Adventure Planet, and includes a store which sells accessories and equipment, a guest house, and some rental dirt-bikes on which they take people on adventure rides up the volcanoes, across rivers…true adventure riding. Aside from the thrill factor, Beto and Lizzie are the nicest, kindest, most down-to-earth people that you could possibly meet. A few nights with them as I went to the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City, arranged a flight home, etc. really took the edge off…coupled with some big glasses of Beto’s sangria. We would highly recommend a stop, or even a detour, to spend some time with these great people in their home…you won’t be sorry!

I have been home for a few weeks, and Chris for a little over a week, replacing our cameras, my passport, visiting with friends, and just getting my mojo back….this Thursday I head for Panama to re-join Chris, who has ridden through El Salvador and Nicaragua with various biker friends he met along the way. We will do some riding and exploring in Panama and Costa Rica, and then on Nov. 11 we will load the bike onto a dugout canoe, and board the Stahlratte, a German-run sailboat which will take us to Cartagena by way of the San Blas Islands (the bike will be lifted by a winch onto the sailboat…should be interesting…) The adventure continues and we are on our way!

I guess that all experiences teach you something…but this is one lesson I could have lived without!