Throwback Thursday – Guerilla Warfare

Inspired by the Throwback Thursday concept and a recent blog post written by Journeys of the Fabulist about a crazy driving adventure in Japan, I decided to write a throwback post about one of my favorite travel memories as a kid.

When I was 14 years old, my parents took my little sister and I to Honduras. My mother was born and raised in Tegucigalpa. Her brothers and their families were still there, so we went back on occasion to visit family, one of the reasons I’ve had a passport since I was 10 months old. My Dad was big believer in travel, and always looked for ways to include vacation, sightseeing and learning on these trips. This time we decided to go to Copán, to see the ruins of the capital of the Mayan people.

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The Mayan ruins at Copán in the early 1990s

After a hazard filled 6 hour drive to Copán (which including driving on mountain roads where entire lanes had been washed away down the mountain due to rains and landslides), we stayed in a nice Western hotel and went to see the ruins the next day. During the trip my father studied a map and noticed that the border between Honduras and Guatemala was a mere 12 miles away. “Is this the road to the border?”, my father asked the front desk pointing to the map. “Yes, but we advise our guests to not go there”. That should have been our first clue. But my dad was not one to be put off by a slight warning. “Thank you!”, my dad said and then whispered to us with the characteristic twinkle in his eye “We are going to Guatemala today!”. I could just imagine him thinking of himself as a veritable Indiana Jones.

After our tour of the ruins, my dad asked directions to the 12 mile road. After much difficultly, my dad managed to convince someone to give us directions and we were on our way (That should have been our second clue). The road started out like all the dirt roads in Honduras, difficult but manageable. Then slowly, the road got worse. There were large craters and bumps we had to drive around. Soon there were rocks in the way that my sister and I would get out and move. This 12 mile trip was not even 1/2 way done and had taken well over an hour. The mud made it harder and at times we had to get out and help push the car. We were in a sedan, we were starting to worry we’d get stuck.

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How most dirt roads looked in Honduras

At some point, we saw a Jeep coming in the opposite direction. We stopped them and asked how much further, and if the road got better. He claimed it wasn’t bad further on. Turns out that is an easy thing for someone in a Jeep to say. The road continued to have large holes and I hit my head more then once as we bounced along.

Finally, we got to the border. There was a parking lot and the border patrol. We had made it! Then came the surprise. Sure, they would let us cross to do some shopping…if we left our very valuable US passports with the agents. Oh, and by the way, they leave and close the border at 5pm. It was already 4pm.

We had come all this way, we weren’t about to give up. So we handed over the passports and went straight into the first shop next to the border patrol hut. While my dad and mom took turns keeping an eye on the hut (and our passports), we shopped for a few souvenirs to say we had been to Guatemala. Then we collected our passports, loaded back in our sedan, and made the slow and treacherous drive back to our hotel.

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Photographic proof that we made it to Guatemala. You will appreciate it once you stop laughing at my stylish 1990s outfit.

A few days later, we were back in the safety of my family’s house in Tegucigalpa, laughing and telling the story with flair and fun. Then we noticed our family’s horrified faces. Finally, my aunt said “Did you really drive on that road?” My dad said “Yeah, it was bad but no big deal, we made it”. My uncle said “Do you know why it’s so bad?” We all shook our heads and stared at my uncle. “It’s because guerrillas keep blowing it up!”. As my sister, my mother and I sat there with our wide eyed, wide mouthed expressions of astonishment, my dad had a guilty smile on his face. “Oops. That would explain the large crater shaped potholes in the middle of the road…”.

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3 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday – Guerilla Warfare

  1. Yep, you win! To be fair on your Dad, they could have been a tiny bit more specific in their advice. Not sure how much of a language barrier you were facing, but is it hard to mime guns and explosions?
    The first part of the drive (to the hotel) sounds adventurous enough for most!

    • Wish we could use language barriers as an excuse but no we can’t. Both my parents we raised in Hispanic communities speaking fluent Spanish. Even if they told my Dad, I’m still not sure it would have stopped him. This is just one of many interesting situations we got into in Honduras over the years. My stories from traveling with my family as a kid could fill a blog themselves…

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