AN UNEXPECTED VISIT TO MIRAMAR
The place: near Jamastran, Honduras
The time : a few years ago
The Team: Juan Castellon, driver and interpreter
Henry Dawkins, U.S. physician
Sally Hayes, nurse
Josh Logan, evangelist and interpreter
Mark Stubbs, nurse
Rolf ' Chico' Martinez, driver
Alan Patterson, Medical Brigade coordinator
Susan Patterson, general helper
Katrina Melcher, nurse
Ron Abledo, helper
The Mission: to bring medical care to isolated villages
in the mountains of Honduras
The team had been in the tiny village of San Marcos since mid-morning. The trip from Jamastran was uneventful. The return trip would never be forgotten.
Some of these tiny Honduran villages never had outsiders visiting them to provide medical care. So, when the team from St. Mark's Catholic Church of Austin, Texas made their annual trip to provide simple treatments for a variety of illnesses, the villagers were appreciative and knew that they were not totally forgotten in the backwoods of a less developed country. Usually, the team had about 4 to 5 hours of clinic time before they had to break off and return to town, as compensation had to be made for bad roads and bad weather. You did not want to be on a back road after it got dark.
"What's the weather doing, Ron?" asked Dr. Dawkins, to one of the general helpers that had accompanied them to Honduras.
"It's getting dark, and I can see rain over the next mountain top. Getting down from here is no problem, it's the getting across the swollen creeks that we have to consider."
"Should we leave early?"
"Well, Doc, it wouldn't be a bad idea. Once we get to a paved road, we're okay, but, if the creeks flood, we may have to spend the night here. We'd never be able to drive back up the mountainside, though, as it'll be too slippery to drive uphill."
Dr. Dawkins continued: "Maybe we better shut things down in a little bit, only see the serious cases, otherwise we could be up in the mountains when it's dark."
Alan Patterson heard the conversation and added, "You're right, Doc. As dark as it already is, by 5:30, we'll have to use the headlights to see the road."
So, the team packed up their equipment into their two vehicles and set out, down the mountainside. They could chat via 2 way radios in each SUV.
As they proceeded downhill, the rain got heavier and they had trouble seeing. Shortly, they came up one of the creeks, by now swollen with water. They realized it was now impossible to get across there, and they would have to find another place.
Rolf Martinez knew of an old military road in good condition that went in a northerly direction to a small village where the Honduran army once had an outpost. The building wasn't there, but the road was at a right angle to their desired route, but with it: the possibility of crossing the creek then going back to the original trail they had used in the morning.
They drove for about an hour, as they could not exceed 15-20 kph, due to the fierceness of the rain striking their windscreens.
Shortly, they arrived at the village of Las Luminas, where the old army outpost had once been. Villagers told them the best way to get back to the main highway was to continue on the old military road. Although it would take the team further north, they would eventually come to a crossing about 20 kilometers away, where they only had to cross one creek then they would find a paved highway that would take them back to Chichicaste. That meant the team might not arrive back at Jamastran until very late, but… it was also preferable to spending the night in their vehicles.
The team drove on through the diminishing rain. Nonetheless, the creek was swollen, as they could see during lightning flashes.
Finally, about 9 P.M., they came up rather suddenly to a paved road at a T-intersection. They stopped and Dr Dawkins and Chico got out and surveyed the choices. To their left, a bridge crossed the creek, and the highway continued on into the darkness. Unfortunately the bridge wasn't finished and could not be used. On the other side of the highway, no road existed. The only choice remaining was to turn right, thus going further away from Jamastran.
As they turned their vehicles onto the highway, the headlights shone on a sign: " Miramar 2 Km". Talking between the vehicles via radio, they decided to drive into this village and make a phone call back to the hotel they were staying at, assuring the others that they were safe, but would be late getting back.
With the rain getting heavy again, they drove into Miramar. It proved to be either a large village or a small town, as there were several houses on each block, and there were quite a few blocks in the populated part of town.
A floodlight was shining on a sign on the side of a two story building, " Hotel Miramar y restaurante". "Let's stop there, get inside, and see if we can make a phone call" said Dr Dawkins.
So, the team members jumped out of their vehicles and ran to the front door, opened it, and filed inside.
The hotel manager was behind the bar, and looked a bit surprised when they came in. Over in a corner, two men sat at a small table, drinking beer, and watching tv, and paid them no heed.
"Hello, my friends. Come in and dry off. Come, come, we have lots of cold beer and hot sandwiches, or anything else you would like on the menu," the manager told them in good English.
Dr Dawkins asked him about a phone.
"Oh, I'm sorry, my friends. In this weather, the phone lines don't work. Perhaps a pole fell or the lines are just wet. I'm sorry. Maybe in the morning…."
"Well, is there a police station? Some sort of emergency or security building that isn't cut off?" asked Josh Logan.
"Oh, we are much too small to have a police station. No, there isn't anything I can do. You are invited to spend the night; we have nice clean rooms."
The team looked at each other, realizing they were, once again, spinning their wheels.
The manager invited them to sit at a table. In fact, he put two tables together so they could be in a group. "We have covered parking in the back. You should pull around and you can unload without getting wet," he said to them as he brought coffee to their table. "The coffee is free. Please, relax; no need to go off in the dark tonight."
The team sat down, sipping coffee, and trying to come up with a solution. Dr. Dawkins proposed: " We may have to spend the night here. We're safe, anyway; I just want to get word back to Jamastran that we're safe. We may not even get out to tomorrow's assignment if we don't get in tonight."
Alan Patterson nodded his head and added : "Yes, it's safe here, at least. Maybe we just better sit it out until tomorrow." He turned and looked at the manager, " How do you people get OUT of this village when it isn't raining?"
"Oh, Senor, we will soon have a new bridge."
"Yeah, we saw it, but how do you get across the river NOW?"
"Senor, when it's dry, you can drive across the river. It has a rocky bottom, no one gets stuck… " as he passed out menus.
The team decided to eat dinner and sit around, making more plans.
The manager called a boy, who ran out and returned shortly with two women, who were the kitchen help.
Alan brought up the matter of paying for one night and one meal. "If we put our money together, we can pay for this. No one need worry; if you don't have the cash on you, I'll cover you."
"Senor, the entire meal and rooms: $20 american. If that's too steep…"
The team was surprised at such a bargain rate, and quickly agreed.
They ate dinner and brought the vehicles around back, brought their luggage in and went to their rooms, and got ready for the night.
After everyone was settled in, Alan sat at a small table in the room he shared with Dr. Dawkins. "There's something very strange here, Dawk. Did you notice: the manager seems to want us to stay very badly, and at the same time, puts obstacles in our path. Do you think he wants to keep us here until some bad guys show up and hold us hostage?"
Dr Dawkings replied, "I don't know. I sort of doubt it; he didn't know we were coming and he hasn't, as far as I could tell, sent out a message. After all, if the phones aren't working, he can't call anyone either."
"Ahhh, I'm being paranoid; not enough rest. Let's get some shut-eye."
The next morning, the team members awoke to find a bright sunny and slightly chilly day greeting them. They congregated in Dr. Dawkins' room then went downstairs to breakfast.
The manager was still behind the desk, and the same two men were still sitting in the corner, drinking beer and watching the television.
"Ah, good morning my friends," the manager greeted them.
Alan Patterson returned the greeting, then asked " Is the phone working now?"
"No, I'm sorry, it might be later today, maybe in a day or two; who knows?"
Alan returned to the tables where the team was sitting.
A woman brought them menus, which had both Honduran and North American dishes listed.
The manager walked over and spoke to them: "Don't worry about the prices. Breakfast is free with room, like ' bed and breakfast' in the States."
The team didn't mind this at all. However, in the back of Dr Dawkins' mind, he was thinking how the ridiculously low prices could possibly bring a profit to the hotel? He didn't bring this up until later, however. The topic at breakfast was : how to get back to Jamastran.
The team loaded up their two vehicles and headed out, back the way they had come last night. Arriving at the uncompleted bridge, they found the low water crossing, drove across, back to the pavement, and on to the next town.
At this time, Dr Dawkins brought up the topic of how the people in the hotel didn't seem normal.
Susan Melcher said, " Yeah, those same two guys were still nursing their beers from last night. Weird."
Josh Logan lifted his eyebrows, " Sure was. I never saw anyone in the town. The residents should have been out and on their way to work. But : no one, not a soul. It's like the hotel had the only people alive in the town."
In two hours, they had made it back to Jamastran and the hotel there.
The manager was glad to see them and said he had told the army there might be some stranded medical brigade members stuck in the mountains. He was quite relieved to call the local army post and tell them the medical brigade was safe and back in Jamastran.
The manager asked where they had been and Alan Patterson told them about their strange experiences in Miramar.
The manager pulled slightly back and spoke, " Miramar, Senor? Miramar? No, you could not have been in Miramar. The town was destroyed in a flood forty years ago. No one survived, except a few people in their old hotel, who stayed on the roof until help arrived. All the buildings are gone now, even the hotel. There is no road to where the town used to be, either. No one should go there; people say it is not safe, and the spirits of the dead can be seen walking around whenever it rains. Senor, why do you tell me this? I've been worried. Please do not make humor. "
The medical team members looked at one another with a feeling of horror and disbelief.