2018 marked a milestone for the Roco4x4 Adventure Week (RAW) since it would be the first year that the event was held internationally.
It has become globally accepted that the internet has made the world a smaller place. We are connected in one form or another during most hours of the day, and we have become addicted to a real time stream of information. Yet we crave going off the grid. We have realized that the fuel that lights up the passion for adventure is the intricate desire to walk the fine line of the unusual, the typically hazardous… to prove to oneself that fears, once faced, are immediately overcome.
Ad•ven•ture adˈven(t)SHər,ədˈven(t)SHər To engage in an exciting activity, especially the exploration of unknown territory.
But as with anything in life, only 20% is knowledge and 80% is action. Most people can define the word adventure, but there is only a small percentage of the world’s population that has lived one.
When scouting for locations, Carlos Flores, Marketing Manager at Roco4x4, quickly realized that this would be the perfect opportunity to showcase his birthplace of Honduras from a different lens. With the location set, many trips followed that allowed scouting of the route to ensure that participants would be able to enjoy the best that the country has to offer.
On November 9, 2018, four containers arrived at the Port of Cortes loaded with eight rigs which would endure the responsibility of transporting their owners through 1000 km of the most hardcore terrain Honduras has to offer. Reliability was a big factor when deciding which 4×4 components were chosen, as there was no room for error.
Exactly seven days later all the drivers, co-drivers, media and the support team embarked on American Airlines flight 1550, departing from Miami International Airport with a final destination of San Pedro Sula, Honduras. And like a loyal dog waiting for its master, each rig was parked in the front lot of the Ramon Villeda International Airport. It was a surreal feeling to have just landed in another country, yet sit on a driver seat that’s so familiar.
One of the best kept secrets in RAW is the route. Only the starting point is disclosed, and the rest of the journey is discovered by the participants as the journey unfolds. In order to keep everyone on the same page in a foreign land with this many vehicles, VHF Rugged Radios were mandatory.
The eight rigs were not alone. Three local and well-prepared 4x4s joined the roster:
1. 2000 Nissan Xterra. Ricardo Olavarrieta (Venezuela)
2. 2015 Jeep Wrangler JKU. Rebeca Olavarrieta (USA)
3. 2018 Jeep Wrangler JLU. Carlos Flores (USA)
4. 2011 Toyota 4-Runner. Manuel Alejandro Hoffmann Asuaje (USA)
5. 2016 Jeep Wrangler JK. Jose Luis Maza Carballo (USA)
6. 2018 Jeep Wrangler JKU. Jose Ignacio Gayoso Estrada (Spain)
7. 2016 Jeep Wrangler JKU. Tyrone Jones Sprintex (UK)
8. 1999 Jeep Cherokee XJ. Jose Alexander Mauco (USA)
9. 2010 Jeep Wrangler JK. Dr. Abel Sandoval (Honduras)
10. 2016 Toyota Landcruiser 70 Series. Gaspar Pineda (Honduras)
11. 2006 Jeep Wrangler TJ. Guillermo Antonio Hepburn (Honduras)
Fortaleza de San Fernando de Omoa was our first stop, where the Vice-Minister of Honduran Tourism gave us the official welcome to the country. How is that for a welcome?!
Each driver received a survival pack consisting of a Pelican case packed with a Roco4x4 custom Zippo Lighter, a Benchmade knife, a YETI tumbler, a Rigid Industries flashlight, and a personalized bottle of Johnnie Walker. As the sun was setting we left behind the coastline and entered the mountain range. Our first night was to be spent at Paraiso Hotel, but to get there our rigs got their first taste of Honduran mud. Once we arrived at the property we hiked a small waterfall and we were received by the third generation owner of the property with a cinnamon infused liqueur, local beer and a folkloric version of cheese fondue. The food only scratched the surface of our introduction to the local culture, which also included traditional Garifuna dance and music while we enjoyed fresh fish for dinner. If you have never heard Garifuna music, just know that the instruments consist of a drum and a conch shell!
The following morning we woke up to a full tank of gas and a hungry odometer and entered the trails of La Suiza. The roads that go through this town make a JK on 14″ travel coilovers get a workout, and the mud swallowed 42″ tall tires.
It was challenging weather that screamed quagmire, but perfect conditions to get drivers to cooperate with each other. While everyone on RAW had a close relationship with Roco4x4, they didn’t necessarily all know each other prior to the trip. As the rain subsided we approached the home of one of the locals. No power, no windows, no floor, yet the head of the household was a single mom and entrepreneur who grows, roasts and brews her coffee for locals. She not only satisfied the caffeine itch, but also offered our group a typical Honduran snack: tortillas rolled up and filled with a saltier version of sour cream called “white butter”, shredded cheese, and ground beans nationally known as “baleadas”. These would be a recurring theme throughout the trip. After thanking her for her hospitality we continued our route for the day.
The sketchy cliffhangers started to become invisible as the sun set, and it became obvious that we needed to advance at a faster pace. Unfortunately, the moon rose before we were able to exit the mountain, and as the roads twisted and turned we lost track of the tail end JK. One of his front tires had become stuck in a ditch. Fortunately, Dr. Abel Sandoval was behind the wheel, and thanks to many years of 4wd experience he was able to use his Warn recovery gear to get the Jeep back on track and rejoin the group.
All 11 rigs exited the grueling mountain trails without any mechanical issues. The drivers were tired and hungry, but we had one more stop before dinner. The locals had arranged a car show in the local convention center where the dirty rigs had a VIP spot reserved for them.
Dinner followed, sponsored by Monster Energy, and then we laid our adrenaline pumped bodies down to get some rest.
It was hard to believe it was only Sunday morning, and we were only approaching 48 hours in the country! At the 7 a.m. drivers meeting: safety, communications and pace were the main topics. As we headed West, further away from the coastline, the landscape changed dramatically and our eyes feasted on a foggy mountain range. A large river crossed the mountain range and the only path to continue our trek meant included crossing a paper-thin suspension bridge whose maintenance schedule, well… let’s just say the records were not available. The clanking, squeaking and screeching of the cables as each of the rigs crossed made the drivers’ hands slightly sweat as they gripped their steering wheels.
We entered the town of San Antonio, a picturesque remote location with mostly dirt roads. Since November is the rainy season, big rigs that usually can trek comfortably on these roads are not so lucky during this time of the year. Jose Gayoso, one of the drivers from Spain, used his Sprintex supercharged JK to pull a 18-wheeler out after it had fallen into a ditch. “I shipped my JK from Spain to Roco4x4 in Miami bone stock with 30 km and after driving it for only two days I’m positive there’s nothing this JK can’t tackle!” confessed Gayoso.
It became clear that time flies when you’re having fun, and before we knew it the sun had set. We arrived at Pulhapanzak Waterfalls, which inspired some of the scenes in Disney’s The Jungle Book. Their staff had our pork belly dinner ready, and the cabanas would host us for the night.
Pulhapanzak is considered one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Central America, so our group decided to take a few hours away from wheeling to experience the tour and have the opportunity to walk behind the waterfall. Filled with excitement, we hit the road with a destination most drivers didn’t expect. Gaspar Pinera wasn’t just a participant on RAW, he was also instrumental in the planning of the trip.
As we entered the area of the Yojoa Lake Gaspar surprised drivers with a man-made obstacle course. The 1/8 mile long frame-twisting rock garden, and 25ft deep man-made holes with a muddy floor, which kept our tires fighting for traction. All the rigs raced against the clock, but hometown hero Gaspar Pineda Jr. took the victory in a V8-powered FJ40.
We spent night four at Finca Las Glorias, but the best part of our stay there was the following morning. Part of the facility borders the Yojoa Lake. Imagine the Florida Everglades surrounded by the Tennessee mountain range. Breakfast was served on a boat that fit all of our group, and we were given a 30-minute ride around the lake allowing us to see firsthand the wonderful birds, wildlife and flora.
The calmness of the lake didn’t ease our excitement, though, as we were ready for more action! We headed out towards a town called Las Vegas where we had another surprise for the group. We learned that in this town there’s one of the few schools for children with special needs in the country. As a group we collected funds and made a donation that allowed them to get much needed computer equipment. The best part was to see the awe in the children’s eyes as what could be described in their minds as monster trucks appearing at their school.
We continued our trek through the National Wildlife Refuge, “Montaña Puca” with the highest peak at 2234 meters above sea level.
The views, trails and fresh air reminded us how small we are on this vast planet. It was only Tuesday, and most of us we’re almost forgetting to charge our cell phones at night. The fresh mountain air reminded us that in the end technology is not a vital part of life. Final stop for the night was Posada Don Juan at the town of Gracias, Lempira. One of the reasons this location has become increasingly popular over the last few years is the thermal water that exists there. That night a group of drivers headed for the thermals and got the much-needed R&R to be able to stay energized and focused the rest of the week.
We woke to a typical Honduran breakfast at our posada, and then headed to historic Mayan route through the mountainous region. After dusty gravel rocks, river crossings, and climbing boulders, we made it to Hacienda San Lucas for dinner. That night it was Tyrone Jones birthday, and after a surprise birthday cake he blew the candle with the heartfelt wish, “no more beans!” Mainly due to the fact that the Honduran gastronomy calls for beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner in different serving styles. Unfortunately, our planned meals did not grant his wish.
The following morning was Thanksgiving and we were ready to continue to immerse in the local culture. Our civilization has evolved so quickly in the scheme of time that while being in Honduras we couldn’t allow ourselves to skip the UNESCO World Heritage site: Copán Ruins. We headed toward Copán ruins for a complete tour of the site. The first signs of human existence date back to 1500 BC.
It’s incredible to realize how much Mayans were able to accomplish without modern technology or equipment. Following this we were delighted when the hotel Marina Copan wanted our group to feel right at home, so they provided us with a complete traditional Thanksgiving dinner.
Friday was our last day on the road, so we needed to drive back to the long drive back capital city of San Pedro Sula where we had one more surprise for our group. We let the cat out of the bag and unveiled our final destination. Known for its crystalline beaches, Roatan is one of Honduras most famous tourist locations. The problem is that Roatan is an island, so we had to leave our rigs behind and catch a plane off of the mainland. Don’t think we didn’t try to get our rigs to Roatan—it just wasn’t practical. Instead, this meant on the last trail all bets were off and the rigs were pushed harder than ever! With the clock ticking, the most built rigs in the group attempted a boulder strewn ravine within the confines of San Pedro Sula. The trail was so challenging we almost didn’t make our flight!
This epic week left many road rashes in the rigs, stamped unforgettable experiences in our minds and created lifetime friendships. However, the most important lesson learned was to change the perspective that some people have of Honduras has in the world. Everyone in our group agreed that without a doubt Honduras is place of beauty and history that everyone should experience.