Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Long Jalón

I'm in Siguatepeque. I need to get to La Ceiba, 4 and 1/2 hours away, by 3pm. I have a ticket for the 9am bus. But now it's 10:30am and the bus hasn't showed. The guy at the ticket counter walks over and explains that the bus has been delayed by strikers in Comayagua who have put up a roadblock on the main highway.

"But the bus will be here soon," he says.

"Are you sure? Do you know when the strike will end?" I ask.

"Well, no, but I'm sure it'll be here soon."


I relay the information to my travel companions, and we decide to try our luck buscando jalón - hitchhiking. We figure that jaloning (as it's referred to in PCV spanglish) will get us to Ceiba, but probably not in time to make connections to our respective destinations. We know people we can crash with in La Ceiba, so it's no big deal. Strikes, roadblocks and travel delays are so common in Honduras that you just deal with it and don't get too upset.

A half hour later, roasting in the sun, choking on exhaust fumes from dirty trucks whizzing past us, the plan doesn't seem so great. Maybe we should just stay in Siguatepeque and hope the buses can get through tomorrow.

Just then, a tricked-out electric blue extended-cab pickup truck with chrome rims pulls up to us. "Where you goin'?" says the catracho in english with a half-honduran, half-NYC accent.


"We're going to Ceiba! Get in!"

"Is there space in the cab for us?"

There is space, but only for two. And we are three. Being a gentleman, I take the bed of the truck (paila), sitting with our backpacks on the hot black plastic that lines the bed of the truck. We take off, careening through the curves of the mountain highway at breakneck speeds. I slather on sunscreen, don my wide-brimmed hat, and hope for the best.

Riding in the back of a truck is pretty fun for short distances over smooth roads. You get a wide view of the countryside, and are frequently gestured at by honduran drivers amused by seeing a gringo in a paila.

Riding in the back of a truck for nearly 5 hours is exhausting. It's like sitting in a tanning bed during and earthquake while getting blasted by a 200-horsepower blowdryer. But despite the sunburn and dehydration, this was a fantastic jalón. We stopped for a sit-down lunch and still made it to La Ceiba by 3pm.

The guys dropped us off at the mall, and I felt waves of relief as I entered the air-conditioned sanctuary. Two soft-serve ice creams later, the echoes of roaring wind had mostly stopped ringing in my ears and I began to feel human again. That night, I slept for almost 12 hours.

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