Saturday, 30 June 2012

Day 80 to 81 – through Honduras to El Salvador

9 to 10 June    Kms travelled – 19,405

The easy exit from Nicaragua was tinged with a bit of sadness.  Despite the junior Laurel and Hardy style police I encountered, I was sorry to leave after such a brief encounter.  What a wonderful place, and what wonderful people.  Perhaps not necessarily the greatest riding I have enjoyed to date but the overall package left me wanting to return and learn more about this previously troubled country.  Perhaps I will.

Getting into Honduras was a different matter.  All my pre-flight checks had revealed that everyone gets ripped-off in Honduras, and perhaps the resignation that I would have to put my hand in my pocket left me a little unguarded.  Or perhaps it was just that I hit the border at 8:00, and was still a bit sleepy after the previous night´s storms.  As usual I will be updating the border process on the dedicated page on this site in due course, but I want to note one or two things here.

The first being that the ´guides´ at this border were the sneakiest to date.  The officials at many of the other crossings have only just tolerated these ´helpers´ but here I was to encounter a very different approach.  I have relied on my ability to converse in Spanish to fend off most of the touting so far, but this time as I was crossing the international bridge I was flagged down by a woman dressed in a black skirt, white top and sporting a police baseball cap.  So I stopped, and handed over my documents on request thinking that this was a checkpoint, such as I had encountered when moving between a number of other countries.  As soon as she had taken hold of my documents, she set off at a run towards Honduras, while tossing the baseball cap back to the laughing policemen on the bridge! 

I´d been had.  She was a guide, and already setting up the immigration aspects of the crossing by the time I had parked up and reached her.  I was interested in how this would play out, so went along with it.  And in a way I was glad I did.  It cost me around $25 in total more than if I had done it myself (15$ of which was retained by the border officials), but those sly old foxes had hidden the unsigned Aduana office in a shack on the other side of the road, through a truck park and behind a number of trees, so it was virtually impossible to find if you didn´t know where it was.  Well I am sure I would have got there eventually (the crossing was still very quiet at that time in the morning), but it did save time.  Having Mrs Fakecop do the running around and photocopies etc for me was also a blessing as I was still not feeling 100% - skinky cold was still with me.  Using one of these people was an interesting experience, but I vowed not to pay anyone else for the rest of the trip.

I was in two minds when I entered the country as to what route to take; which included how long I would stay.  So I set off with no fixed plan, and quickly came to the conclusion that Honduras would be a strong contender in the “Game Over Pothole World Cup” competition.  So I weaved further, dodging oncoming traffic that seemed to think a head on with a bike preferable to driving through potholes over their side or, heaven forbid, slowing down!  After a time I got fed up and decided to take a run to the coast to see what I could see.

On the way there I rode through a police checkpoint, and waved to the 8 or so police as they raised their hands.  Little did I know that this was a dead-end and, after a break, photos and a chat to some flirty young ladies at the coastal town, I was heading back.  And you guessed it, was met by a line of police standing across the road.

After apologising sincerely for running their roadblock earlier, and making a joke of the fact that I thought they were just waving like so many other police and military I had seen along the way, I fell into my now well practiced routine of explaining what I was doing, including the fundraising for Unicef, while ignoring their demands for papers etc.  They seemed ready for a laugh, so I did what I could to make light of the situation, making jokes when they half-heartedly suggested that I gave them my gloves and boots.  In the end they let me on my way with the promise that I would pop a wheelie as I went.  Which I didn´t... but who cares I was on my way again having dodged a bunch of officials who were clearly out for what they could get.  That decided it, I was not far from the border, it was still morning, so I headed to El Salvador.

While probably the sweatiest crossing to date (thanks to having to wait an hour at the Aduana offices some 3 kms from the border), I soon found myself inside yet another country without incident and still within my 2 hour maximum for a complete crossing. 

The road took me alongside a necklace of volcanoes through a series of towns and now familiar greenery, before stopping for the day at an “auto-motel” some 40kms shy of San Salvador.  I could see the clouds quickly gathering, and I managed to get me and the bike safe inside about 10 minutes before the sky split and emptied its contents.  Another spectacular storm, and a surprisingly spectacular seafood dinner ordered through room service.  Odd places these – but clean, safe and relatively cheap.  It did the job for another day.

Thought for the day
What a shame about Honduras.  My view of a country was tainted by a number of bouts of corruption (and near corruption) within a few hours.  I am sure there is more and better to be found, and as I was riding through El Salvador I was thinking about possibly heading north back into Honduras towards Copan Ruinas the next day, and heading into Guatemala from there.  But the idea of having to tackle another Honduran border left me cold.  Who knows what I would have to pay to get back in, and what hoops would I have to jump through?  I didn´t have the energy for more of that, so decided to spend more time in El Salvador instead. 

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