Friday, April 6, 2018

Running on Roatan, Honduras: a West End story

No, not a West Side story, I didn’t get caught into a rivalry between two local gangs, fortunately! With the bad reputation of this country in terms of security and political instability, that would have not turned into a good musical… Thankfully, we stayed on the Roatan island, home of 80,000 Hondurans, such an amazing melting pot of ethnicity, with inhabitants who came over the past 5 centuries from Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas. A rich maritime history with quite some troubled times between the pirates who inhabited the many coves and the colonial navies conquering the American continent. Nowadays, though, it’s all about eco tourism leveraging the rain forest and its canopy and the corral reef accessible right off the beach. All while trying hard to preserve these natural and fragile wonders with 3 cruise ships stopping by 3 days a week...

On such a peaceful Caribbean 26-mile long island, I was hoping to get some good running now that my back is back on track. As soon as I asked for directions though, I was first told not to venture alone in the jungle for the risk for bad encounter with not only humans but also snakes. And that might have been a moot point since I didn’t see any trail around; another opportunity to remind how blessed some of us are to live in areas rich of pristine single trails. The second advice was to stay on roads then, although, with no driving licenses, car insurance, aging vehicles, narrow and windy lanes, it came with its own danger too. Indeed, the biggest danger came from the white taxis which seemed to purposely have fun pushing you out of the road, not really enjoyable. But, again, no other options as the beaches weren’t long enough to run either.
Actually, the best tip to run on the island is to get up at dawn and beat the traffic early in the morning. You certainly don’t want to be on these roads at night anyway. From 6 am, that leaves you an hour or two before the traffic and the temperature heat up.

Note that the West side of the island is much more touristic and accessible than the east side where the only paved road is so damaged that even SUVs pass potholes at under 5 mph.

On the West side, special mention for a 2-mile section of a road with sidewalk, feel free to go back and forth because I believe that’s the only flat sidewalk in the entire island, a real treat!

8 miles on Sunday, 12.5 on Monday, 14 on Tuesday and 17 on Wednesday, I started recognizing faces on the side of the road and knowing every turn and pothole on the road!
On Thursday, and from the second place we stayed at on Sandy Beach, I actually ventured on a dirt road, along the North shore, toward the East. Way less traffic there but some serious ups to the ridge of the island (~400-600 feet) and downs, unless you try to cut along the beaches.
I actually took Thursday off as we toured the island on a motorcycle, and Friday to fly back home. We were supposed to land at SFO by 9 pm then drive to Folsom for American River 50 this Saturday. The weather is so bad in SF that all flights are delayed so not sure if I’ll have a real night before the start… Or even make it to the start at all, a bummer! What a way to leave the stress-free Caribbean life; welcome back to planet Earth, ouch!

Meanwhile, here are a few pictures from this West End loop.

The beach of West End, paradise-style!
As you leave West End: palm trees can get you some solid and natural road side poles!
 The Carambola gardens:
 Better keep your finger crossed in this rural hospital...
 The intersection for the dirt road going for a few miles along the coast (my Wednesday run):
A boutique in Coxen Hole:
Coxen Hole cemetery:
The water zip line near one of the cruise ship docks (Norwegian):
The nice 3-mile long side walk along the South shore:
Fresh fruits on the go!
And gas truck going door to door too.
The end of the South section of the loop:
At the top of the hill, on the way back to West End, where you turn left onto a serious roller-coaster
 A lighthouse over West Bay (great views but doesn't look like it's operational).
And, to finish this series, a picture of a large cordage they use as speed bump. Well, in case you doubt, it really works, it slows down cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles to almost a halt. As for pedestrians: yikes, I must have been distracted by the views, or the shadow, but this 1-inch thing tripped me on my Monday run and I made a pretty hard face plant plus rolling over on my side, worth 6 bloody bruises (each hand, left hip, left shoulder, left knee, left ankle)! Will I really make it through this year, I start wondering... ;-) Nothing broken at least but it made snorkeling more interesting as the salty water reopened the wounds every day. Oh well, just some skin and a bit of flesh, it's already getting better after a few days.
Overall, I highly recommend this destination for authentic ecotourism and a great variety of activities on land or at sea. Definitely if you are into diving, but even if you are not, there is something for every style, from a few bigger and luxurious resorts on West Bay, to very remote and more rudimentary places on the East side. Contact me if you have any questions!

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