Joined: Sep 2008
Location: Santos - Brazil
Honduras, Border Crossing and other not so nice experiences
OK. As promised, here is a description of what we have been doing to cross borders and face any attempt of………let me think the correct word in English………”CORRUPTION”…….sorry my poor English. I cannot think of a better word.
First, it is important to explain that this is not the “100% Perfect Border Crossing Plan or your money back guaranteed”. It is simply what Paula and I decided to do, after reading so many awfull and terrible border crossing experiences.
So, we decided that we were journalists working for a newspaper and television network, preparing this documentary on Latin America.
We are brazilians (we really are) but working for an American newspaper and TV Network (we don’t).
Since Paula is really a photographer, we decided that our main weapon would be our cameras.
So, here is what we did in Honduras (but we have been using this “strategy” in several places – not just borders):
In Honduras, about 5 miles before El Amatillo, a lot of helpers start jumping in front of the motorcycle. We simply did not stop.
However, about 1 mile before the border, a cop (yes a cop) stops you and forces you to talk to a couple of helpers. They even have a tent and a couple of tables in an attempt to make you believe they are officials. Ohh….of course they have those beautiful offical badges (shit nothing). We had about 6 or 7 of those HELLpers around us.
At that stage, we notice that things were not correct as this guy was just checking our documents. So we started using our counter-attack strategy. Paula quickly got the camera, came to the “Official Guy” and said:
“Excuse me. A couple of pictures.”
The guy asked what was that for. We explained that it was for tomorrow’s column in the newspaper. We were documenting border crossing.
The guy hesitated a bit to continue “analyzing” our documents.
I went to him and said :
“Is this really the place where we are going to process the Temporary Import of the bike ? Because this is going to be published on a newspaper.“
And Paula kept on “shooting” pictures.
The people around us tried to avoid the camera. And Paula kept on shooting. It was blood everywhere.
Only then I realized that I was married to a Serial Killer.
The Official Guy holding our documents just said:
“This is not really Customs. But I can help you….blah blah blah”
We just grabbed the documents from his hand and left the place.
Next, we were there. One of the worst places I have ever been in my life: “El Amatillo”. The Customs Shit Place in Honduras.
Of course they have no signs to show you what to do. The idea is to force you to use the HELLpers.
So, we just stopped the bike and stayed put for a moment, looking around.
One helper who followed us from the Fake Police Checkpoint to El Amatillo came to me and said:
“Look. I know you are journalists (periodistas). But, I can really help you to process your paperwork for US$ 5.”
The only thing is that he asked us not to take any pictures of him.
So, I told the guy that we were going to document the whole process and we wanted to do it by ourselves. But he could stay around just in case I needed him. And in the end I would give him a few bucks.
He showed us where we had to go.
I noticed that as soon as we got to the Customs Window, our “helper” went into the office and talked to a cop.
From that point on, things were perfect. I was invited into the office, they found a chair for me and another one for Paula, offered water and processed our paperwork in 30 minutes, costing us US$ 33. We didn’t have to move from there. Amazing Perfect Efficient Honduran Public Service.
We even got Flu Masks for free to protect us against the Swine Flu.
Ohhh…….and we didn’t have to go to the other building to have our documents typed or keyed into the system, as some reports I’ve read. It was just handwritten by a Clerk.
Paula kept on taking pictures of the Clerks in the office and asking for their names. More shooting and blood everywhere.
So we left the place with our permit.
Next, I gave US$ 3 to our “helper” who didn’t have to help us at all.
Ohh….I asked him if I could take a picture with him. He didn’t want it. But, in the end, accepted. Have a look below what he did to avoid showing his face.
After this, we clearly saw the guy going and handing the US$ 3 over to a lady who was talking to other helpers.
In my opinion (I cannot prove this), Helpers are just poor guys hired by the Officials to force tourists through the whole corrupted process. Depending on your behaviour, they keep on creating additional steps to rip you off.
We have read terrible stories of people going through “typing” steps, 40 photocopies, charged US$ 150 etc etc.
Anyway, in half an hour we were on our way.......................on our way to be stopped by the cops on the road………….6 checkpoints in total (150 miles to cross the country).
At all checkpoints, we performed the same routine :
We would stop the bike. Paula would quickly jump, grab the camera and start taking pictures.
The cop would come, say hello and ask what she was doing. As soon as I explain, they would say :
“Ok. Thank you. You can go.”
Honestly, I never expected this strategy to work so well. In other words, I never expected these guys to be such cowards. They were F*** scared of two fake journalists.
You should see these Macho Cops hiding from a camera, even behind cars.
We didn’t even have to use our additional tools :
- The camera supposedly had a chip and was transmitting the pictures online to the Newsagency. Just in case they wanted to steal the camera.
- Our motorcycle was being monitored via satellite and the Newsagency knew exactly how long we were riding or not. That is, if we were being held for too long, they would know something was not right.
At the last 2 Checkpoints, we were already laughing of the whole stupid situation.
At around 2pm in the afternoon, we were saying goodbye to Honduras and riding into Nicaragua.
I must say: a very sad goodbye.
We are not proud of what we did. We just didn’t want to be ripped by corrupted people without doing anything.
We were just sad because we missed the opportunity to visit this beautiful country.
We just didn’t feel safe enough to stay there.
So, this is what we did in Honduras and what we have been doing anytime we feel people are starting to act in a strange manner towards us.
This also worked in the Panama Border where the Customs Lady kept on processing several documents from Helpers, jumping the line in front of us. As soon as we grabbed the camera and told them who we were, they processed our Vehicle Temporary Permit in 5 minutes. As Paula kept on taking pictures, this Customs lady looked at her and said :
“Look. I am processing your permit. What else do you want”.
Ohh….and this strategy also helped us when we were stopped by a cop in Panama. Apparently I was speeding “somewhere else” and his buddy cop called him and asked him to stop me. Apparently, I did not stop for the other cop….blah blah blah.
There are also other stories using this “Journalist Strategy” but I will leave it for some other time.
Anyway, since these events, I have been thinking that maybe we should create an organization to help Riders crossing borders or in any difficult situation in a foreign country. I am not sure if this already exists, but it might make an International Ride safer and simpler.
We should report these events to Governments and Embassies in those countries. I will for sure, as soon as we finish our trip, send a “nice Ride Report” full of pictures to the Honduras Embassador in the US explaining what his Officials are doing in El Amatillo.
Maybe, with the use of some technology, this organization could put some pressure on these "Officials" to respect a bit more tourists riding their own vehicle.
Let me know if you want any additional information.
luciosiq screwed with this post 06-07-2009 at 04:43 AM