Cruising across the Guatemala border. Photos courtesy of West America.
James Crowe and Jordan Hufnagel of West America are two dudes riding bikes around North and South America. Yup, just two stoked, badass, fancy free travelers, living life to the fullest and photographing it along the way. As one of our 24 Best Travel Blogs and Websites we're happy to give you a peek into some of the awesome (hair-raising) situations they find themselves in. We'll start with this cannonball run from Guatemala to Honduras to Nicaragua to Panama, which they did in a week's time.
Jordan and I had a great time exploring Guatemala and could have easily spent a month bouncing around the country. However, our late departure from Portland put us in a bit of a rush to make our sailboat reservation that would skirt us around the Darien Gap between Panama and Colombia, and we had friends and family coming to visit us in Panama for the holidays before we jumped to the next continent. We had a week to cover four countries.
Watch for Potholes
From central Guatemala, we decided to traverse the guts of Honduras, crossing at the small boarder near the Copan ruins. The roads in Honduras were the worst we encountered: No lanes, and everyone weaved around massive potholes in sporadic jolts. It was a total free-for-all. Luckily, our route turned to dirt and things mellowed out. The scenery was reminiscent of the high cascades of Oregon, dry pine forest for as far as you can see. It was a nice, comfortable feeling.
Cloud Forest Ride
As we neared the city of Tegucigalpa, we could see dark clouds brewing in the distance. Knowing what lay ahead, we pulled over and suited up. The moment we got our rain gear on, the sky unloaded. As we peeked the ridge, the sky opened up for a moment and we could see the chaos of the city below. Tegucigalpa has one of the highest murder rates in the world and was a place we hoped to sneak around. We saw an exit that looked like it would detour downtown — so we took it.
A Wrong Turn in Honduras
What was a freeway quickly turned into bumper-to-bumper traffic. Suddenly, we were neck-deep in the slums and surrounded by flipped cars and piles of burning rubbish. I have never felt so uncomfortable in my life. We started splitting lanes and riding in the ditch when necessary. The whole wet experience was a total blur. As soon as we got to the outskirts of town, we pulled into the first shady motel we found. It came complete with barred windows, no lights, and a Chinese restaurant across the street.
We left early in the morning for Nicaragua. A couple hours of wading through border helpers, money changers, and photocopies had us back on the road. Nicaragua was beautiful, and my mind was lost in the surrounding volcanoes and lush fields. We spent a nice night in Leon and stopped off at Lake Nicaragua for a dip before dealing with the border crossing.
We dreaded crossing into Costa Rica, and it proved to be a daylong affair. There is only one crossing between Nicaragua and Costa Rica, so the lines and waits were long. By the time we got out of the border, the light was slipping away quick. Two flat tires in an hour had me sweeting like a pig in the humidity.
Crossing the border to Panama was pretty smooth. I teamed up with another motorcycle traveler from Argentina to do the dirty work while Jordan played in the parking lot with a couple of kids.
Once we reached Almirante, we split ways for the week. I continued on to Bocas to visit with friends on a surf trip. Jordan went to Panama City to spend the holidays with his fiance. We were both stoked to be off the bikes for a bit.