Vagabond Dreams Outtakes # 4 — Dust Was My Companion



Vagabond Dreams Outtakes are “deleted scenes” from my book. Think of them as a “Special Features” disc of outtakes and curios. This incident took place in Honduras…

Stamped into the Republic of Honduras, I stood beside the bus while two mangy German Shepherds sniffed the luggage well. The chief drug cop was a short moon-faced man. He wore black pants and a fading navy t-shirt with the police logo ironed onto the front in peeling yellow ink. An old .38 revolver was tucked into his waistband, tied to his belt loop with a twine lanyard. He picked his teeth and watched with disinterest while two subordinates conducted a superficial search. It was just too hot to work that day.

 The Western Honduran hills were parched and barren. Stumps of trees poked up like amputations from blanched, lifeless soil. Deforestation seemed only to compound the heat and the dust, to further the vicious circle. Along the roadside were the familiar clapboard shacks I’d seen since Nicaragua, but they looked shabbier somehow: fragile dwellings constructed from garbage; a scrap of sheet metal slapped on here, an old packing crate patched on there. They stood for the temporariness of life and the struggle for existence.

Barefoot children stood on trampled earth and kicked at chickens as they watched the bus rumble past. Their hair hung like greased rope. They drooled and picked at open sores. Their clothes were faded and threadbare, and they looked wormy. Groups of children seemed to share a wardrobe: the boy wore only dusty shorts, the girl a dusty t-shirt.

 I heard the black turbine roar of our diesel engine as a high wind filled with sand coursed over the denuded hills and lashed the bus with clouds of grit. It shuddered with the force of it, threadbare tires struggling to retain a slim grip on the cankered road. Far to the west, the sun glared white off the gunmetal waters of the Gulf of Fonseca, the very same waters that Maya and Martina had navigated in a Salvadoran patrol boat.

The highway forded several dry riverbeds, where the road swerved in sharp S-curves to cross one-lane metal Bailey bridges. A permanent bridge was apparently being built over ruins that lay collapsed in a twisted heap, the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch several years before. Like the sheet metal on the dying homes, the bridge was a hasty patchwork on the country; first aid to prolong the life of a terminal patient.

In such places the wind forgets — the wind is always forgetting — but the sand and the sea remember.

This patch of desolation has always been like this.



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About the author

Ryan Murdock

Author of A Sunny Place for Shady People and Vagabond Dreams: Road Wisdom from Central America. Host of Personal Landscapes podcast. Editor-at-Large (Europe) for Canada's Outpost magazine. Writer at The Shift. Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.


  • A picture is worth a thousand words but your words paint a thousand pictures. Keep it up Murdock! Good work!

  • Excellent stories and accounts of your travels! Thank you for sharing them. Makes me want to dust off the backpack, tent and head out. 🙂

  • Thanks Ben, glad you’re enjoying these. 🙂
    Umm… Jorge…. I’m pretty sure tents and backpacks are frowned upon at the sort of five star hotels you frequent 😉

  • hello,
    coach murdock, gotta echo the words of ben waddell. just one question though.
    wormy? what is this?


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