Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Border to Border

Sometimes when I arrive and meet up with the Belgians (now the Belgians and French) we compare stories, and they'd have had the much better travel experience, like when I got stuck on the horrible road to Semuc Champey. Other times, it was better for me, whether because of bus conditions or because I was able to see a bit more than them. Arriving in Nicaragua was the latter.

I left El Tunco late in the morning and headed for Honduras. The road pretty quickly left the shoreline unfortunately and headed inland, but it was still a pretty nice road with good scenery. The day was mostly just a riding day, cruising through the countryside and heading for the border.

At the border to Honduras, I was (as usual) accosted by "helpers," and having experienced their "help" at another border, decided to go ahead and skip them altogether. Well, actually, I had a little fun giving them snappy answers in Spanish.

(Spanish in italics, English normal.)
"The Honduras border crossing is all new, it's different!"
"Awesome! I love learning new things!"

"I speak English, I help you!"
"I don't speak English, only French."

One guy asked if I wanted help, and I said no. Then he asked again, and I said no again. He kept talking, and this time when he asked me if I wanted help I ignored him and kept getting my papers ready to take to the window. He sat waiting in close proximity for a good 30 seconds before finally asking, in a frustrated voice no less, for a third time. This time I got a little irritated and told him (in pretty broken Spanish, but he seemed to get the point) that if his hearing was so bad that he didn't know I said "no" the first two times, he probably wouldn't be much help anyway.

The border was pretty standard though. A little bit of money, a lot of waiting, multiple copies of everything, and a lot of waiting while someone behind a counter filled out a form by hand. Eventually I got on my way into Honduras after an hour or so, and with my late start and the gas station snack break I'd taken, it was already close to 4:00 and the sun was getting low. I kept moving on the bike (enjoying but not stopping to take pictures of a gorgeous sunset) and made my way across most of the little strip of Honduras that separates El Salvador and Nicaragua, and finally settled when I saw a hotel in Choluteca.

I'd changed just enough money at the border to cover a hotel and dinner, so I after settling into the hotel a little bit I headed across the street and got an amazing plate of carne asada, which came with some potatoes drenched in a delicious sauce. The meat was cooked perfectly, juicy, with tons of flavor, and whatever the sauce was I couldn't get enough.

That was about it for Honduras - I went back to the hotel and did some bookkeeping and caught up a little bit on blogging, and then went to sleep on a wonderfully comfortable bed in an air conditioned room.

Meanwhile, my travel partners had arrived pretty late in Leon after an extremely long bus ride and two border crossings to find that there was a festival going on, and all of the hostels were booked up. The were stuck walking around at night with their backpacks asking if anyone had any availability, and ended up with a few of them in a room and the rest sleeping in hammocks in the courtyard of a hostel. When I say sometimes it's better for me, that's what I mean.

I woke up well rested, and took advantage of the nice parking lot to prop the bike up and do some quick maintenance checks, get the tires back up to pressure, lube the chain, and top off the oil. Then I took off for the border to Nicaragua.

On the way, I was faced with one of the worst roads I've had to deal with on the trip. This isn't some back road - it's one of the main roads people take to enter Nicaragua. But it was so poorly maintained that there were pot holes sometimes two feet across and almost a foot deep!

I had started early and was heading east, so it was made even worse by the glare off my face shield on the helmet. I'd put it up, but then I would have been taking bugs straight to my eyes, so I had to keep it down. But it meant that any shadow could potentially hide a pothole that I wasn't seeing until I got into the shadow as well and could get the sun off my visor.

Worst of all, the road (being a busy thoroughfare of international traffic) was full of buses, vans, and trucks who were also trying to dodge the potholes. And sometimes that meant they would leave their lane completely and come all the way over to my side of the road, or even on one occasion onto the shoulder on my side of the road, just to avoid a pothole or two. So while I'm dodging potholes, I also have to keep an eye on the oncoming traffic to make sure they're not going to be in my lane. Not to mention passing anyone going my direction (who were all going extremely slow because of the potholes) was a dangerous proposition because who knew when that semi truck would decide to avoid a pothole and go into the other lane where I was currently passing him.

It only lasted maybe an hour, but it was one of the more tense hours of riding I've ever had. I was happy to finally arrive at the Nicaraguan border and get to pull over and relax. I later heard from the others that the road was pretty scary for them as well in the bus, because they were one of the buses that was swerving onto the wrong side of the road pretty often.

The border was, as the rest have been, not much hassle but a lot of time. I first went to customs to get my exit stamp for the motorcycle from Honduras, where I was told I need to go to Immigration first. Then I went to Immigration and got my stamp, and then went back to customs, where they told me I had to go to Immigration. I asked what for, and they started getting frustrated and yelling at me to go to Immigration first before I finally explained that I already had, whereupon they got a little sheepish (but not too - looking down on the people on the other side of the glass seems to be a job requirement for a border worker) and finally stamped me out.

I then took the bike across the bridge and waited around again while someone filled out the same paperwork as always, made a few copies, filled out some more, and generally just seemed to take a long time. I stayed by the window leaning as close as I could trying to catch some of the AC that was drifting out of it, and watched as a line accumulated behind me. Apparently it usually doesn't take this long? Not sure what the delay was.

But finally I was through around 11am, and headed to Leon. I'd promised the group I'd do my best to get there by noon, and sure enough I pulled into town at 12:05. When I arrived, they were still pretty tired and just barely getting moving, since they'd had a late night and then hadn't slept well in their less than ideal sleeping conditions. Overall, this was definitely a travel win for the motorcycle.


  1. nice travels Eric, we all were recalling your trip few days back

  2. MERRY CHRISTMAS-It will be a lot different, will be one you'll never forget. One of the many memories you are making. We'll miss--and envey you. Enjoying your blogs. Love Ya--Grampa &"M"