Going Places: Tales from the road: Honduras--Paradise in the Rough

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Getting there is half the fun:
pushing the bus through mudholes
Shooting rapids in a ducky requires the attitude of downhill skiing mixed with the aggressiveness of mountain biking, and just a hint of the finesse and balance of surfing. All of which I realized eventually (beginner's luck got me through the first rapids), but not before I headed into "Third Strike," mistimed my turn, got dunked, and slammed into a nearby rock, tumbling head over Tevas in the feverish swirl.

Of course, this rite of passage took place after four straight days of torrential downpour, a lamentable situation made almost unbearable by the relentless Punta music 331K (.wav) | 41K (.ram) emanating from the convenience store below Kent's apartment. Along with Pepe (the most plugged-in man in town, known for a happy-go-lucky disposition that makes him the embodiment of the Sitcom Neighbor), we had awoken ready to flee the Punta music for some good-time, old-fashioned river running--and it would take more than a little rain to deter us from our chosen path.

The local kids think we're crazy
I made my way through the twists and turns of the swollen river with a modicum of composure until we came upon "Lava." Pepe decided to sit it out when fellow boater Stuart came up with the novel idea of tying two duckies together in an effort to keep them balanced (being inflatable, they tend to flip in big water). Nearly toppling in the first set of rapids and taking on water as we went, we bounced, caromed, and flip-flopped into the whirling brown madness, seemingly on the edge of a successful run. Then, with a crowd cheering us on as we neared the final chute, the two duckies jackknifed together and flipped completely. We got thoroughly trashed, loving every minute of it (when not drinking in the brown muck), and I was, for lack of a better word, a convert to the church of the Rio Congrejal.

Back in the Honduran community of La Ceiba, there is a bustling subculture that borders on a religion, one that revolves entirely around the lingo of the river and occasionally the seas--focused primarily on "pins," "rolls," "flips," "lip-curls," and always "whitewater." For though the Bay Islands off the coast of Honduras have always been known as a premium spot for diving and snorkeling, few are aware of the phenomenal breadth and variety of that country's rivers, which run thick and fast for most of the year, drying up only in March until the rainy season begins in earnest in July.

This subculture became abundantly apparent when Kent's friends Zack, Dave, Andrew, and Blair rolled into town from a recent river trip. River guides for a outfitter aptly named Rios (rivers), they live, breathe, and rap about boating. The Gang of Four had returned with footage of their trip and enthusiastically narrated the playback with colorful blow-by-blow commentary and an insistence that all conversation revolve around the waters.

©2000, Mariah Media Inc.

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