Sunday, February 3, 2008

Days 19, 20 and 21

The last two days included two seperate border crossings. Three, if you count the process of leaving one country before entering another. It´s a demanding difficult process that has gotten harder, not easier, as we´ve travelled south. It´s a necessary evil however, in order to enter the country and finally be able to experience all the positives. And thank goodness for the positives. Without them all you´d have to remember is the border, and that´s NOT the mental picture you want to carry from the journey.

Day 19 La libertad, El Salvador - Choluteca, Honduas

Honduras is a difficult country to like - and I really tried to like it. But......

The early morning run from La libertad to the border was great. Beautiful sunrise, morning mist, good roads: ah, this is going to go well!

And then we arrived at the border.

Or should I say, a junction about a klm short of the border. Where, as we started to slow down to make the turn, ``handlers´´appeared out of the woodwork and ran up to us and along side of us shouting and waiving quasi-official name tags. (Like we don´t know that a copy machine and a laminator is all you need) They converged on us as if we had a baton to pass in some surreal relay race. What they were really trying to do was beat the rush down the road and hold us to some wordless contract based on eye contact alone, whereby they could claim the prize rather than a handler further along. Like it or not, we finally had to stop as we neared the border, and we were litterally desended on by a shouting mass of in your face, look at my card, I saw you first, pick me, PICK ME, desperate handlers. In it´s own weird way it´s almost humerous, unless of course like me, you have a slight bout of tourista, a pounding headache and you´re sweating like a pig at only 10:00 in the morning. I left this go around to Steve and Brad and anyone that approached me got an earfull of angry gringo using language that would put any self-respecting trucker to shame. This time they soon learned to leave El Loco alone.

We eventually settled on a pair of handlers that claimed to be brothers but at least one spoke English. I can´t stress enough the emotional and physical toll this whole process takes. All along we knew we were being taken, which adds anger to the mix, which is not only useless and pointless but decidedly unhealthy, but there´s quite literally nothing you can do about it. The Honduran system is as chaotic as the rest but also has an added layer of difficulty and seems designed to confuse. At this crossing we had to pay our first bribes (twice) trust our handlers with money, and generally had to be willing to be put our trust in people we absolutley knew to be untrustworthy. It´s compounded by the fact that you just know the officials are in on the action. By keeping you on the defensive and by avoiding any signage or instructions whatsoever they´re able to take advantage of you at every step of the way. Oh yes, I was SUCH a happy camper! But at the end of the day, it really doesn´t matter what a couple of Gringos think. It is what it is - and in this this case it was our first reality check where we were definitely faced with the Third World. All in all it took 3 1/2 hours, $50 each in actual fee´s, $50 each in ´´unofficial´´fee´s and another $20 each in handler fee´s. All to get into a country we were leaving the next day.

Once this whole ordeal was over we were spent. We did our best to put on some miles but we called it a day in Choluteka - total klm = 336

So yes, it´s a difficult place to like.

But, as well left Choluteca the next morning it was like a postcard. Beautiful lush green countryside, children walking to school, dappled sunshine filtering through tree´s completley overhanging the road and farmers hearding goats and cattle on the way to the fields. And then the moment that put it all into perspective. As we came around a corner an old man stood at the side of the road. In his arms was a young girl of no more than 3 or 4 years old. He was
stooped with age but proudly held her aloft with the pride that only a gradfather can feel. And she, dressed in her finest, waived madly at each of us as we passed one at a time. For her it was the parade she seldom sees. And as I waived back I wondered; what will her future hold? Will she get the education she needs to break the cycle of poverty she´s trapped in? Will she be able to get a job that will take raise her above this place? I hoped so - but then I realized. In twenty years she could be the next bitch I have to deal with behind a Honduran customs and immigration counter!

Yes, it´s a VERY difficult place to like - but I tried. I really tried!

Day 20

Day 20 started out great - especially the young girl waiving as we went past at 90kph. An early start got us to the Honduras-Nicaragua border by 8:00, where we had to pay even more money to the Honduran Govt, to process our exit paperwork. The good news though, other than some street urchin steeling the brand new watch I purchased in San Salvador the day before, was the speed that the Nicaraguan Govt processed our intake documents. The whole crossing this time couldn´t have taken any more than 2 1/2 hours. (hard to believe I´d ever get to a point where a 2 1/2 hour border crossing would be seen as good news)

Once we crossed into the Nicaraguan side our eyses were really opened to just how bad road conditions could get. We were hit with two things at once. First the road - or lack there of - was incredibly bad. In many cases the pot holes were larger than the road itself and just as I said no pavement would be an improvement over this, the pavement ended and we went to dirt track for at least five klm. I was wrong, the pavement, even such as it was, was better than nothing at all. Brad and I had a few very worrisome moments because we were both thinking the same thing: If this was the state of the road we´d NEVER make any progress and, there was no way our Honda´s could take much more of this pounding. Luckily though, this all ended after about ten klm and we hit brand new pavement - part of new highway construction - and the next 100 klm os so were fantastic.

The other interesting thing we however, was a HUGE trafic jam just inside the Nicaraguan border. Trucks of every size and description were jammd into each other at all angles. Imagine a 50 vehicle pile up on a foggy US interstate and you´ll have an idea of the situation, just without the pile up portion. We waited for a bit but no one moved and we couldn´t make out any rhyme nor reason to who or what was going to sort it out. This is where being on a bike paid off. With some help from the locals and different truck drivers we were able to weave our way through the maze and eventually got spit out the other side.

Which brings me to another point about riding vs. driving a car. I´m fairly new to this so I didn´t know what to expect but it´s completly different from driving a car. It´s fanastic! I think it´s best described as organic. You´re one with the environment as opposed to simply passing through it. I now this sounds way to Zen for me but it´s true. On a bike you feel every temperature change, hear every sound and smell every smell. Your field of vision is much better and because you always have to be in the moment you have a much better sense of where you´re at and what you´re doing. In a car you adjust the AC, roll up the windows to keep it quiet and set the cruise control. On a bike you cough when it´s smoky, sweat when it´s hot, shiver when it´s cold and shoot dirty looks at cars that cut you off. Viva La Motorcycle!

Day 20 continued with great roads and good time until we made the mistake of simply ´´popping´´ into a town we passd so we could get some local currency at an ATM. Us and towns don´t mix and five wrong turns later, the last of which lead us directly to the busiest market street in town, we eventually hit the road again a full hour and a half behind schedule.Oh well, we arrived into Granada with lots of daylight to spare. At least a full ten minutes! Yikes!

We found a very nice hotel though, and today, day 21 has been a good down day. Cold cervaca, multiple cuba libre´s and some great meals - followed by a well deserved nap as soon as I´m finished here.
Day 20 mileage - 312 klm
Total mileage including stops, starts, short cuts and wrong turns etc = 5,640 klm

Tomorrow the journey continues. I just wish there was some way to enter Costa Rica with out another freak´n border crossing!
Adios Mi Amigos


  1. hello boys we are amazed at your strength, stamina, and fortitude, while dealing with the border crossings and the roads , and all that goes with it! we are waiting for you in La Fortuna Costa Rica , we have changed our minds as women do and are at a different location! please read your email today for info. ! We are waiting here with open arms!!! mucho love , your loving wives and mum. xoxoxoxoxo

  2. WOW! Quite the journey Gentlemen. I wish I could have done it with you. I don't think I could have handled the borders though, but I do speak Spanish though. The writing is fantastic, keep up the good work. I will keep my fingers crossed for y'all the rest of the way. A special Hello to Stevo.