BFFN (Best Friend For Now)

This blog entry about the events of Sunday, December 09, 2007 was originally posted on December 13, 2007.

DAY 20:  I don’t know if I mentioned this on the Blog before, but you readers may have come to be familiar with what many solo travelers have come to experience, the situation in which you meet someone somewhere, travel with him/her for a day — all before he/she is out of your life forever.  I used to refer to these one-day travel companions as the “best friend of the day,” but I will update it now for our acronym-obsessed, text-messaging culture:  BFFN (Best Friend For Now).

“You want to go for a bike ride?” I asked the other girl at the eco-lodge in the Honduran jungle, looking quite bored.

“Okay,” she said.  “There’s nothing else to do.”  She took out a bike and a helmet that she didn’t use and then called out to her friend, unseen in a shady area up the stoned path. “Hey!  I’m going out with that guy we met a breakfast!”

“Okaaay!” called back the motherly voice.

AFTER A CAB RIDE to the airport in San Salvador, a flight in Honduras, a layover in San Pedro Sula, and another flight to La Ceiba, I found myself in another taxi en route to the Pico Bonito National Park, a northwestern Honduran jungle preserve encompassing 500 sq. km of territory, including the eponymous Pico Bonito mountain peak and the main draw for visits there: the Rio Cangrejal, known for its whitewater rafting.  The park is also home to the eco-lodge of Omega Tours, an eco-tourism/rafting outfitter that I found on the internet with a Google search — not realizing it was one of the original places to bring tourism and rafting to the region in the early 90s.  Praised by Lonely Planet, it is a popular, yet peaceful place of all budgets in the middle of tropical greenery and wildlife. 

It was a forty-minute drive from the airport, in the Honduran coastal city of La Ceiba, to the lodge.  Upon arrival I was shown around by owner Udo, a south German guy who seemed to be stressed out all the time, picking up phones and managing the lodge.  The eco-lodge was more than one building but a mini-resort, with a few connected thatched-roofed buildings, a stream flowing in and out of a swimming pool, hammocks, hiking trails, great homecooked meals, a bar, accommodations from from the basic to the more luxurious, and of course, several mountain bikes to take out when you weren’t on a rafting or horseback riding tour.

“Don’t think that if you’re in the right side of the road, the cars will stop for you,” said Jeff, an older British river guide who worked there, quite fatherly.  “They drive everywhere.”

With the parental send offs from mom and pop figures, my new BFFN and I rode two mountain bikes along the rocky road that hugged the Rio Cangrejal.  Her name was Jenny, which was a sort of appropriate girl’s name on an innocent day of mild-mannered nostalgic fun.  We were like two twelve-year olds riding bikes around; I was a babyfaced 33-year-old boy that sometimes gets carded for rated-R movies at the theater (seriously), while she was a skinny, young-looking girl from Olympia, Washington whose tomboyish twelve-year-old facade was only accentuated by her ponytail braid and metal braces.

“Remember when you were a kid and bike riding was so fun?” Jenny said, pedaling down the road.

“Yeah, you could take little jumps off the curb and stuff,” I said, before we started doing little jumps and pop-a-wheelies off the little divets of the unpaved road.  We crossed bridges and rode through villages full of chickens, little piggies, kids waving hello, women hanging laundry, and men walking around with big machetes — something I used to feel weird about but have come to realize is commonplace.  On our way, we chat about, I don’t know, stuff, and even found out the answer to the old elementary school joke, “Why did the chicken cross the road?”  (Answer: To peck at pig feces on the other side.  Ew, gross.)

“I can already see how different it is to travel with a guy around,” Jenny said to me.  She and her friend Christina had been backpacking around Central America and had been harassed with many cat-calls everywhere they met aggressive machissmo men.  (In fact, my Let’s Go guide advises women not to travel in Honduras alone under any circumstances — much to Camilla’s chagrin, who could handle herself.) 

We pedaled the gradually ascending undulating road (picture above) until the point we were advised to turn back — “when it looks like there’s nothing left” — and then gunned it down the road the way we came.  “Race!  Race!” Jenny called out whimsically.  We sped down the road, first me ahead, until she caught up and passed me.  “Looks like my bike is faster!”

The two of us rode down to the suspension bridge that went across the river gorge, where we paid a guy to let us on and walk it — only for us to sway it back and forth like fearless children, trying to cause the other to lose balance.  The bridge was also the stage for what the tomboyish Jenny did next:  spit water out of her mouth, to see it disperse into dozens of little water droplets that fell in an almost gracefull slow motion, before crashing onto rocks below.  Cool.

“Over here, into the water,” I suggested, moving over above the river.  The droplets flew from our mouths and fell down like Wile E. Coyote, forming small cartoon-like ripples in the river.

“This thing is held together by four bolts,” I said, noticing the bridge was under some repair.  “Look there’s a cable cutter.”  The cutters were no match for the machetes we saw soonafter, when a group of machete-toting men walked peacefully across to get to the other side (hopefully not for pig turds). 

TIRED, AND WITH A LAYER of sweat and melted sunblock glistening on my arms, we walked the bikes back up the hill to the Omega Tours Lodge.  Jenny and I hung out at the main table by the kitchen with the other kids, Jenny’s friend Christina and two young-looking Dutch Boys, Jon and Raoul, who were traveling to Central America’s best rivers to do sport kayaking.  While the four of them had all arrived the day before, but it was only the girls who would leave the following morning after one day — like I said, “best friends of the day.” 

For the rest of the evening, we just chilled out chatting, swinging in hammocks, having yummy chili for dinner, and playing with the resident rottwelier.  Jon continued to smoke cigarette after cigarette, even after Jeff the fatherly guide’s constant lectures for kids to stop smoking.

That night, over rounds of beer, we did as young teens who just discovered drinking did:  played drinking card games.  The Dutch Boys (actual teens) and Christina giggled on things that happened the night before — before I my arrival. 

THE NEXT MORNING, my BFFN Jenny had to leave the lodge, as she and her BFF Christina from Olympia had to head off to another Central American destination.  I held my hand up to Jenny for a hi-five.  “Give me a hug,” Jenny said.  “Thanks for the bike ride yesterday.”  She paid me back the dollar I spent for her admission onto the suspension bridge.

The Dutch boys said their goodbyes too.  “It was nice sleeping with you,” Raoul said to Jenny, shaking her hand.  The four giggled again.  Crazy kids.

And so, another BFFN had come and gone, with more days ahead to make and lose new ones.

Next entry: Waiting With Horses While Looking For Snakes

Previous entry: Made In El Salvador

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This blog post is one of thirty-nine travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip: The Central American Eviction Tour* (*with jaunt to Colombia)," which chronicled a six-week journey through Central America, with a jaunt to Bogota, Colombia.

Next entry:
Waiting With Horses While Looking For Snakes

Previous entry:
Made In El Salvador


Confused at some of the jargon that's developed with this blog and its readers over the years? Here's what they mean:

BFFN: acronym for "Best Friend For Now"; a friend made on the road, who will share travel experiences for the time being, only to part ways and lose touch with

The Big Trip: the original sixteen month around-the-world trip that started it all, spanning 37 countries in 5 continents over 503 days (October 2003–March 2005)

NIZ: acronym for "No Internet Zone"; a place where there is little to no Internet access, thus preventing dispatches from being posted.

SBR: acronym for "Silent Blog Reader"; a person who has regularly followed The Global Trip blog for years without ever commenting or making his/her presence known to the rest of the reading community. (Breaking this silence by commenting is encouraged.)

Stupid o'clock: any time of the early morning that you have to wake up to catch a train, bus, plane, or tour. Usually any time before 6 a.m. is automatically “stupid o’clock.”

The Trinidad Show: a nickname of The Global Trip blog, used particularly by travelers that have been written about, who are self-aware that they have become "characters" in a long-running story — like characters in the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show.

WHMMR: acronym for "Western Hemisphere Monday Morning Rush"; an unofficial deadline to get new content up by a Monday morning, in time for readers in the western hemisphere (i.e. the majority North American audience) heading back to their computers.

1981ers: people born after 1981. Originally, this was to designate groups of young backpackers fresh out of school, many of which were loud, boorish and/or annoying. However, time has passed and 1981ers have matured and have been quite pleasant to travel with. The term still refers to young annoying backpackers, regardless of year — I guess you could call them "1991ers" in 2013 — young, entitled millennials on the road these days, essentially.

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