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Driving on Roatan

31 Aug

Driving on the Island of Roatan has a few, ahhhh, unique qualities. There is one main road, a few village roads (some paved, some not) and the entire Island is approximately 35 miles long, so you would think it wouldn’t take too long to travel from one end to the other—that would be true if you could drive as the crow flies. Take into consideration: the curves, bends, hills and valleys, and nothing is as close as it may appear on a map.

Then there are other considerations, such as, who you are sharing the road with; the requirement to get your driver’s license on Roatan is showing ID that you are at least 18 years old, an eye test—sort of, a physical exam—sort of, and a friend who goes with you because they want to get a driver’s license too (the camera at the DMV takes two pictures on one sheet of photo paper, hence the requirement to have two people apply for their license at the same time.) At no time through the process will you be asked if you know how to drive, or be tested to prove that you know how to.

Roatan is a bustling metropolis (not really) but the traffic is quite steady, including a vast assortment of SUV’s and cars; taxis—only equipped with four-way flashers and annoying horns; tour buses crawling along so the occupants won’t miss any of the sights, or zooming by with just the driver, on the way to pick up the next batch of passengers; work trucks that seat 30 (the majority in the open back); scooters—the preferred minivan for many; pick-up trucks jammed full of rubbish, household items, and/or supplies—I’m always fascinated by how high stuff can be stacked—and there is usually a guy sitting on-top of the pile—holding it down. I’ve even seen a transport truck navigate the winding road. That wouldn’t be such a big deal except the main road is only exactly wide enough for one vehicle travelling in each direction, and being such a long vehicle requires using the middle of the road to cut the corners. Oh wait—most vehicles claim the middle of the road as their own personal lane on the bends, so length of vehicle is irrelevant.

The majority of the main road is, ahhh, paved. When it starts to rain the surface is slipperier than an ice rink, extreme caution is required to avoid a collision! There are few street lights, but, quite a few vehicles don’t have working headlights or tail-lights either—so it balances out.

Then there are the pedestrians sans motorized vehicles; I’ll include bicycles here, lots of those too! Very few areas have actual sidewalks lining the road, lucky if there is a gravel shoulder, or a path trampled in the ever encroaching jungle. You will encounter: children walking to and from school, entire families on their way to wherever, individuals heading to work, and groups of friends strolling side by each (so they can have a conversation) oblivious to on-coming traffic since they usually walk with the direction of traffic, instead of facing it. The only ones facing the vehicles zipping by are the joggers, ready to jump to the side if necessary. However, the runaway horses, dogs, iguanas, crabs, chickens, and other assorted creatures and critters, have no preference for which side of the road they use to get from point A to B.

I enjoy driving on Roatan, it’s always an adventure! It’s great fun to freak out visitors, especially when I take them down switchback roads, or ones that are so steep it looks like we are going to fall off the face of the earth—I know the road is there! One of the features I like best about the Roatan roads is that there are few signs blocking the view. You’ll see the occasion “bend in the road” sign, a few “one way” signs, and we even have a couple of “stop” signs. But, for the most part that’s it.

However, there is one road on Roatan that could use some signage:
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This story can also be read at Honduras Weekly, retitled: The Adventures of Driving on Roatan

2 Responses to “Driving on Roatan”

  1. Johnny 01. Sep, 2011 at 6:46 am #

    Aahahahaha…. So true!!!

  2. Dorothy Reid 01. Sep, 2011 at 7:43 pm #

    I love this piece. When I arrived on Roatan there was no road just a bull dozed path and 2 vehicles on the island. I watched the roads, sinkholes, mud, develop into a rough one lane road where you had to pull over if you met another truck. Years later the road was roughly blacktopped and we still had potholes etc. So my friend this article was great and I hope you all enjoy I-95 Roatan style.

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