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Old 03-17-2013, 08:52 AM   #1
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La Moskitia Honduras (Plus Broken Leg)

A few weeks ago I broke a leg on a 4 month trip from Oregon down to Panama. The broken leg happened in a really interesting and remote area called La Moskitia (aka Mosquito Coast) in northeast Honduras. Wanted to share some info on this really remarkable and cool area.

The La Moskitia idea started in Copan Ruinas near the Honduras border. I went out for a few beers with a fellow moto-traveler named Andreas (Andreas are you on here?) who I met at the border crossing. We went to a bar called ViaVia where the owner (Gerardo) is a moto guy. I told him about my desire to cross Honduras spending as little time as possible on pavement. He said that if I REALLY wanted to do something interesting, I should try to get across through La Moskitia. He had heard it was possible but had never heard of anyone trying it with a bike.

La Moskitia is a really remote corner of Honduras with no roads. It is famous for narco trafficking. I read something online that about 1/3rd of the cocaine traveling to the US stops in La Moskitia. Because it is flat, planes can land almost anywhere, plus it has great water access with tons of rivers and bays. The traffickers buy or steal a plane in Colombia, land it in la moskitia, destroy the plane on arrival, transfer the drugs to a water vehicle (boat or sub), and then take them the rest of the way north to the US. There is no army or police presence in La Moskitia so it is truly like the wild west out there.

Gerardo said that despite this rep for narco trade the area is ok to travel through and really, really fascinating. So with this idea firmly lodged in the back of my mind, the next day I started off with a day exploring dirt roads in southern Honduras between gracias/la esperanza in the north and the el Salvador border in the south. This is a beautiful area and I was having fun, but it was similar to some of the riding I had already done in mexico and Guatemala and I was ready for something new. Plus I could not stop thinking about Gerardo and his obvious excitement about La Moskitia. Decided I HAD to try. Figured the worst case was that I could backtrack out and cross Honduras in the south like everyone else.

Here's a map of Honduras. La Moskitia is (approximately) the area in the box. There is no road that crosses it. If you can get to Puerto Lempira, there is a road that connects to Puerto Cabeza in Nicaragua, and from there you can head SW to get back on the main travel routes.

Here's a pic Andreas snapped of Gerardo getting me fired up on La Moskitia. I'm the tall guy on the right. If you're headed through Honduras on a dualsport and looking for dirt, I highly recommend stopping to talk with Gerardo. He has tons of route info. Great little bar/restaurant and I think he's got a hotel there as well.

Gerardo told me that, approximately, I could ride from La Ceiba to Batalla on roads which would eventually just merge onto the beach. Then from Batalla I could get a boat to Brus Laguna, from Brus Laguna I could get a boat to Ahuas, and then from Ahuas he wasn't sure if there was a road to Puerto Lempira or not. If not, there would be a boat. So that was basically the info I set out with.

Will post pics/details of the trip here as I get them sorted.
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Old 03-17-2013, 09:38 AM   #2
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Wow, you have what I would consider to be a high tolerance for risk!
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Old 03-17-2013, 10:54 AM   #3
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copan ruins

southern honduras dirt roads

In la esperanza. from here, the next morning I figured I would ride north through Honduras on all pavement to get to la ceiba. it was Saturday and I had heard la ceiba was a fun party town so figured if I could bust all the way north in one day I could maybe have a fun night out on the town.

damn but a couple ice cold cuba libres in a can is a pretty good way to unwind after a day of riding. wish I could get these back home.

next day just ripped across Honduras to la ceiba.

La ceiba it turns out is a proper shithole (no offence meant to anyone who lives there). I stayed in the official "party zone" which is marked with signs. I guess that awhile ago la ceiba was becoming a great party town before tourism collapsed in Honduras. now the "party zone" is basically these really dirty looking strip clubs and brothels mixed with a few proper discos spread out over 4-5 blocks, and all interspersed with abandoned buildings and empty lots full of garbage. when I was there the sewers were backed up so there were big puddles of sewage water in the street which stunk. the whole place had a ridiculously seedy vibe.

the downtown is nicer than the party zone. heres a pic of downtown.

Went out for drinks around 10 pm. I was a little spooked leaving the hotel. figured i would hop through a couple bars then find a disco to hang out at late night. headed to an all black garifuna bar a couple blocks from my hotel which was the only place that had a bunch of people in it and some rocking music. sat down for a beer and almost immediately some guy tried to shake me down for cash. He just walked straight up, got right in my face, and said (in English) "give me 10 lempira, boy." I said no, he said it again and moved to where he was like 6 inches away from me. I stood up and said no again. Then he tried to grab the tip I just left for the bartender. I was faster and pushed the cash off the bar and into the bar well. he gave up after that. Then like 5 minutes later some other guy came up and tried AGAIN!

At that point I was more spooked so I left that bar and walked nervously a couple blocks down to the biggest, nicest, most expensive disco in town where at least there was an army of bouncers outside with big guns. Decided to stay there for the night, order some drinks at the bar, and just wait for other people to show up since it was pretty empty. Eventually the place packed out and made for some fantastic people watching.

Met this great couple and we had a nice chat over beers and shots and more beers about Honduras politics and narco trafficking. they were both professionals working in the medical field. In short: they have a much higher opinion of narco traffickers than they do of Honduran politicians, which I thought was interesting. In their view, at least the narcos bring jobs, money, infrastructure, and some level of security to the community, whereas politicians are lazy and dishonest and live big by taxing normal people who actually work.

stayed with them drinking and dancing until about 5am. one weird thing i remember about this bar: the bouncers were packing guns on the dancefloor. just handguns tucked into pants, no holsters. I was thinking shit, if something goes wrong it's going to be a f-ing bloodbath in here! anyway nothing did go wrong and the nice couple above gave me a ride back to the hotel in the wee hours of the morning. definitely did not want to be walking the la ceiba streets at that hour.

Next day back on the bike and continued to Trujillo where I found a great hotel called "kiwi" on the beach which was unfortunately shutting down that very week. Spent two great nights there, made some new friends.

from there I headed out like Gerardo had said toward batalla. pavement led to dirt roads, and eventually the dirt roads emptied out onto the beach.

they squeezed me on the side of this ferry with another truck. pretty dicey. almost went for a swim with the bike.

beach had two tire tracks that were reasonably well packed out but still soft. had swapped out my worn rear knobby for a pirelli scorpion when I left Baja. was regretting not having a knobby but still had a blast ripping along the beach.

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Old 03-17-2013, 02:26 PM   #4
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I studied abroad in Honduras in college and am always happy to see RRs through there!
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Old 03-17-2013, 09:48 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Sideoff View Post
one weird thing i remember about this bar: the bouncers were packing guns on the dancefloor. just handguns tucked into pants, no holsters. I was thinking shit, if something goes wrong it's going to be a f-ing bloodbath in here!

Worked with a medical team in Tegucigalpa back in 2006. I remember security guards in front of stores and banks
with 12 gauge shotguns

Looking forward to the rest of your story.
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Old 03-18-2013, 09:05 AM   #6
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Continuing along the road to Batalla

It's a really nice ride along the beach

Here we had a traffic jam because one of the trucks got a flat tire. A fellow gringo named Kevin jumped out of one of the trucks and came over to say hi (and snap this pic). Kevin is retired and is one of very few gringos who live full time in la moskitia. He travels 200 miles each way by 4x4 and boat once per month to buy groceries. This was his once monthly trip. He said he had a boat in batalla and offered to give me a ride and invited me to stay with his family in Belen. Sounded good to me!

Man the water was really flowing out of this river. The trick was to ride out into the waves a bit and then back toward shore. I stopped to watch the trucks in front of me do it first.

All along this awesome road I kept passing through these little garifuna villages with great scenes of families cooking outdoors or doing laundry or whatever, but wasn't totally comfortable breaking out the camera.

The boat area in batalla. This is where I heard my first totally random blast of automatic gunfire in the background, something which I would hear several times a day (and night) for the next few days.

Got the bike loaded into kevin's boat.

Headed to belen

We had to go slow due to the extra weight of the bike and this resulted in us driving for about 3 hours after dark. It was a beautiful night. The boat kept getting stuck in the mud and we would have to push/pull the boat through. At one point we hammered into an underwater tree and almost lost everything into the river. Making the whole experience even more trippy, every now and then a (presumably drug running) boat with no lights would blast by us at full speed unannounced.

Here you can see the moon over the bike, kinda cool.

Eventually we made it to Kevin's place in belen, met the family, and had some dinner. Really amazing folks.
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Old 03-18-2013, 01:23 PM   #7
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This sounds like fun! Honduras is on my bucket list!
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Old 03-18-2013, 04:19 PM   #8
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I was on a tiny rock called Bonacca off the tiny island of Guanaja about 15 years ago. Everyone was carrying guns and machetes. Bonacca has no roads only foot paths around the island which actually is above water so all the refuse and sewer flushes out to the ocean. All the big drug runners stop by and party. Everybody is related and everybody is everybodys cousin. They had two or three beatdown hotels that were dirt cheap. I only planned to stay there one night but stayed 5 days because every one treated me like family. However like family that are drinking all day together, trouble always follows at night. People shooting guns in the air and chasing each other with machetes and knives. Talking about drinking with your head on a swivel. Whew! Just be careful out there.
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Old 03-18-2013, 05:11 PM   #9
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Sounds and looks great so far
Looking forward to the rest of it
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Old 03-19-2013, 03:14 AM   #10
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Pete you are badass

From mapping narco routes in Michoacán to this.

Get on it boy, I've cleared the schedule to see how this turns out

Wait, I don't have a schedule. But let's go here!
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Old 03-19-2013, 08:18 AM   #11
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Thumb awesome

oh hell yea!

now this is adventure.

bring it on !

Pete do you speak any spanish ?
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Old 03-19-2013, 10:08 AM   #12
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Thanks for the comments! I recognize several of you guys from the Michoacán thread.
Swamp: I've learned some Spanish. Just enough to get around, get directions, and answer/ask the basic questions that always come up.
I’ll be working on my Spanish this year. Need something to do while this stupid leg heals.
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Old 03-19-2013, 10:16 AM   #13
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So, Casa Kiwi, in Trujillo is closed? I stayed there for a few days in 2006, and really liked it. Any idea if it got sold, or just being shut down? I looked on their website, and it only says they are closed.
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Old 03-19-2013, 10:17 AM   #14
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Very good report and very interesting. You've got good maps, great pics and a splendid story. This a real tale of adventure and discovery. Thank you for presenting your trip with us. Please keep it coming.

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Old 03-19-2013, 10:49 AM   #15
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I wanted to share some pics from my nights in Belen with Kevin and his family.

This is really a special family, truly living out there on the frontier. As I mentioned before it’s a 200 mile trip each way on trucks and boats just to buy groceries. They live entirely off the grid. Kids are home schooled. House power comes from 2000w portable generator and battery pack. Water is from a well. Sewage is septic. No cars, only boats to get around. Their meat mostly comes from cans except for the odd chicken or when someone in town slaughters a cow. The one luxury they have is a cell tower, thank the narcos for that.

They deal with stuff I never think about at home. A few years ago a group of commandos broke into their house with guns blazing at 3:00 am to kidnap their 4yo daughter Brianna. Brianna escaped (but just barely) thanks to some calm, quick thinking on the part of her mom. A few days before I arrived some drunk guy was in their front yard firing off a handgun in the middle of the night. He also attacked Kevin’s neighbor with a machete giving him a nasty gash. You hear gunfire in the background throughout the day and night. It’s really the real-deal frontier.

Kevin and Laura let the kids run free. It’s so cool to see these little blond haired blue eyed kids running around town half-naked with the locals. The kids are incredibly well mannered and polite and so intellectually curious, with a million questions for me all day long. Just an all-around amazing family, and so kind to have me as a guest.

Laura helping Jonathon with his schoolwork in the kitchen


Brianna took me on a tour of belen on her little bike. I am not sure I could possibly imagine a more charming guide.

The town's school. Kevin's kids are home schooled, but they did say the kids have occasionally attended classes at the town school as well.

Kevin has a problem with horses and cows coming into his yard and pillaging their little garden so he shoots them off with a pellet gun. He makes some extra money doing metalwork for the locals. Here he was fixing a boat propeller for these two guys.

Brianna's parrot

This is what a typical house looks like in la moskitia. So when you suddenly see an itallian villa with 3 speedboats out front and armed guards on the dock, not hard to figure out what they do for a living.

Kevin's house is on the far left. The building in the middle with the cross on it is Kevin's father in law's mission, which is the reason the family came to town. Frank, kevin's father in law, has been a missionary there for like 20 yrs. in this pic the bike is still in the boat out front.

A 5 minute walk from their house on the ocean side of belen are endless unpopulated beaches with nice warm water. went for a swim with the family.

kevin's neighbors. just noticed that if you look closely at the pic you can see a bandage on the guy's left arm in the doorway from the machete cut.

My second night an unknown boat landed on the beach next to the house and was unloading. I found myself on shotgun duty as we went down with a spotlight to investigate. Kevin wanted them to see that he had guns. There was definitely a moment when I was like "wtf am I doing here???" And then as soon as we got back in the house: "dude, take a picture!!" hahaha :)

Sideoff screwed with this post 03-19-2013 at 11:02 AM
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