I'm a bit embarrassed about how I spent my time in Honduras. I basically spent all my time on its most famous island, Roatán. Yes, I crossed the entire country, from one corner to the other, by bus, so I did traverse the whole country. However, it reminded me of what one politician remarked, "Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything."

Coming within two centimeters of my death in Honduras

Honduras beach on the country's east side
I nearly didn't make it to Roatán. Just two centimeters is all that separated me from death. After a two and half hour choppy boat ride from Placencia, Belize to Puerto Cortez, Honduras, all the gringos on the boat boarded a van that would get us to La Ceiba by 9 p.m. Our driver seemed to be on a mission to get us there by 6 p.m. The Honduran towns of San Pedro Sula, El Progreso, and Tela were all a blur. Our lunatic driver took insane risks by passing cars in a two-lane highway, around blind curves, all in the pouring rain.

We all gasped when, during one of his suicidal maneuvers around a blind curve, an enormous truck appeared barreling right for us. Our shortsighted driver was in the middle of overtaking his 274th car and he hadn't given himself a way to slip back into his lane. We were trapped. The Grim Reaper was rushing toward us at 100 kilometers per hour. I only had enough time to think, "I'm going to die."

At the last possible moment, the massive truck violently swerved onto the shoulder of the road, thereby avoiding a fatal head-on collision by just a centimeter or two.

People love to point out the risks I take when climbing volcanoes, camping in snow with little insulation, and sleeping in abandoned homes in Kosovo. However, driving is still riskiest activity I do. Fortunately, our hell-bound driver picked up his girlfriend along the way and she convinced him to slow down and drive at only twice the speed limit.

Roatán: A not-so-Honduran island in Honduras

After staying in a dodgy hotel, my fellow van mates and I took a large vessel that would take us on a three-hour voyage on the Caribbean to the most famous place in Honduras: Roatán. Although we were all independent travelers, we weren't feeling particularly independent as we all disembarked and grabbed taxis to the same place: the West Bay of Roatán. I was feeling like a tourist sheep ever since I left Belize 24 hours before.

Roatán's West Bay has a classic beach with plenty of snorkeling and diving opportunities. It's just like those places you read about in Conde Traveler's magazine: perfect warm weather, bathtub-like seawater, barefoot people strolling through the dirt streets, seafood aroma in the air, and drunken party animals everywhere.

The highlight of Roatan's West Bay is West End, which is the end of the island, and has an underwater wall that makes for nice snorkeling and diving. The West End's white sand beach, fruity cocktails, and bikini-clad babes finish off the vacation fantasy.

Unfortunately, my hostel was not so idyllic. The shared bathroom smelled of urine, the shower's water flow was barely more vibrant than someone drooling, and water from the shower on the floor above dripped on the bed.

Although Roatan is part of Honduras, this island has little to do with the rest of the country, which is rather poor and not so touristy. Moreover, even the island people aren't typical Hondurans, who are a mix of Spanish and Native Americas. Those who populate Roatan are neither. They are Garifuna.

The proud Garifuna

Silouette on the beach in Honduras
Underneath Roatán's beauty, there's some fascinating history that few tourists know about. Until the 18th century, shipwrecked and escaped African slaves who ended up in St. Vincent were happy because the locals there had successfully resisted the European imperialists. Those Africans mixed with the local Caribbeans and produced a unique people: the Garifuna, the people who the Europeans failed to enslave. Although the British finally took control of St. Vincent, the Garifuna refused to be their slaves. Therefore, the British deported 5,000 of them to a remote, sparsely populated island named Roatán.

The Garifuna befriended the locals and managed to eke out a living on Roatán. They ultimately fanned out throughout the Caribbean side of Central America where their descendants still live today. Today, the Garifuna are proud to be one of the only indigenous people who were not enslaved.

"I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move." - Robert Louis Stevenson

As I mentioned at the beginning, Roatán was about all I really saw in Honduras. Someday I hope to return to see its fabled Mosquitia, or Mosquito Coast, one of the most remote places in Central America. However, this time it was time to go to Nicaragua, which has two of the most spectacular cities in Central America. More about that next week!

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