My stay in Guatemala was very enjoyable but it was also very short. However, unexpected invitation from another biker extended that short stay by one more day. David, a Mexican American who now lives and settled down in Antigua asked me to visit their home and spoilt me with generosity by taking me out showing me the beautiful historic city and of course with good food and a soft bed. The walks through the town were very refreshing. Though I’ve had the chance to visit a few historic cities in the past couple of weeks, Antigua must be the most impressive of them all.
But then I heard the road calling me once again. There were two possibilities. But either way I had to go through Honduras to travel further down south. There was a direct route to Honduras or go through El Salvador. I had heard lots of negative reports about El Salvador. Some of those reports painted the “gateway to hell” and that fed my undying appetite, to go for the more challenging option. So I headed towards El Salvador through the city of Guatemala. The ride through Guatemala City was a piece of cake comparing to other major cities. Don’t forget, Guatemala City has four million people living in it. I was surprised by how flashy it was. It was nearly as good as a city in a developed country. The only annoyance was the amount of black smoke emitted by busses and trucks. Actually, ever since I left Mexico, the pollution caused by traffic was horrendous. It was difficult to ride behind a truck without getting blackened (in my case you won’t notice it so much anyway.)
I reached the El Salvador border after dark. As soon as I arrived there three men in civil cloths started to delegate me. “Stop here” they said before I could ride close to the immigration building. Without knowing who they were, I started obeying their commands. Then it occurred to me that these couldn’t possibly be any government officers. So I demanded their identification and promptly one of them handed me an identity card. Probably with the hope that I won’t take a good look at it. But It said something about “touristico” and from there onward I started to ignore them and rode the bike to the Immigration counter. But one of them started following me saying that he could speed up the process. But even without speaking Spanish, it took me less than 5 minutes to get through the border.
I wasn’t really relieved yet. Because now comes the bigger hurdle crossing into El Salvador. Upon entering they handed me a form to fill. They wanted photo copies of my papers which I didn’t have. I was struggling to fill the form because I hardly understood it even with the help of my dictionary. But then a customs officer who walked by saw me and ripped the form out of my hand and started filling it for me. My first thought was, he is a very unfriendly man. But then he even walked into an office and made photo copies of my documents free of charge. In the end all the customs and immigration officers turned out to be super friendly even making jokes, some of which were pretty inappropriate about ladies. The best thing of this border crossing was it did not cost me a single cent. Free visa for me and permit for Bruce also free.
After the formalities were done, I stopped at the next city and had something to eat. People were very friendly wherever I went. I begin to notice prettier women than elsewhere. I think I should correct myself there. I notice more frequently pretty women than elsewhere.
Around 9p.m. I started looking for a place to camp. Again I found a fuel station to overnight. After a pleasant rest, I started riding early, towards Honduras. But my riding didn’t last long because of a puncture in the front tire on a busy road without a shade. I had an inner tube put in. So there was no way fixing it quickly as you could with a tubeless tire. But fortunately, I had done some modification so that even with a puncture, I was able to pump it up and ride a few kilometers to a desirable place to work.
After about five kilometers I found a shabby looking tire repair place. So I stopped there and did most of the work myself. Because, the workmanship I saw there was not worth mentioning. But I was able to impart some of my knowledge to the workers. At the end of the day, it cost me two dollars for the repair but the next bikers who goes there will certainly get a better quality service.
Back on the road I notice there were signs of police check points. Until now I have not been stopped by police to check my papers. The last police check point where I had to dig out my papers was Sri Lanka. But then again, according to other travellers, central and South Americas are notorious places for corrupt police. As I was closing towards San Salvador I see a road block and a few officers were waiting for their victims. They had found one already. I see a car parked on the side and one of the officers was already at work checking. The best thing to do in such situation is to slow down. Then I notice all of the officers are females and without an exaggeration they are pretty. I scream inside. Stop me! Stop me! Stop me PLEASE! But they simply stare at me with a hint of arrogance and let me pass. Damn! Don’t they see that I ride without insurance? Don’t they see that my bike got a defect blinker? What about the worn out front tire? I am thoroughly disappointed and continue my journey towards Honduras….