Batman sometimes needs help. Often Robin is handy. Robin does good work and adds a splash of colour. Our Batman didn't have Robin with him, so a couple siblings would have to do.
- I'm Batman.
The mission: to cross the most difficult and corrupt borders in the Americas in one day. Into Honduras from El Salvador, then out of Honduras into Nicaragua.
Batman had been fleeced in Mexico at a homestay Spanish school there. 2 months and $4000 later, he had struggled across the Guatemala border taking over 6 hours. Our Spanish is still coming along, Batman still couldn't even order food. Why two borders in one day? We had to get to Managua, Nicaragua to meet real-sized Kelly at the airport. We were cutting it all a little close.
Our day didn't start smoothly. While getting the bikes loaded Batman said he needed gas, so we sent him ahead to "save time". Note: NEVER DO THIS. The meetup plan wasn't followed, and we lost half an hour searching for Batman in the morning sun without a spotlight. We had actually given up on finding him when we ran into him riding the other way on the road. Re-connected, we made our run to the border.
The El Salvador border: Fight off the helpers. They reportedly have their spotter phone ahead to tell their buddies you're coming down the highway.
- Stop at the box. It's a couple kilometers from the actual border. You'll know when to stop by the guns. Get copies.
Jayne dealt with the paperwork as per usual. This time with Batman's added into the fray.
His passport had an unnecessary entry stamp to El Salvador that he had insisted on after his troubles in Mexico (where he missed getting a stamp), so we had Batman deal with his own passport at immigration. Good thing too, as the stamp triggered some extra questioning. Otherwise the paperwork was simple stamps and away we go.
- Get "stamped" out, then have money changers swoon over your sister.
Until we get to the bridge. These guys check our paperwork, all fine, then Mr. "I hold a gun" asks for our bike export paperwork.
- Mr. "I have a gun" only needs copies, but will ask for, and insist on taking, your originals.
- Passport and paperwork check. This dolt then agrees with Mr. "I have a gun" about taking our originals.
We question him, and double check with another border agent to make sure that this is correct. We have no other copy of these pages. Assured all is fine, we ride across the bridge into Honduras.
- Weeeeeeeeeeeelcome to Honduras!
- Welcoming committee wearing their official distinguished baseball hats. Don't just hand them your paperwork.
Greeted by tourism folks and border "DEI" workers. One such DEI employee, only identifiable as an employee by his DEI baseball hat, asks Jayne to hand him all our passports and paperwork. While we are still sitting on the bikes. Absolutely out of the question. Jayne explains we have heard of scams at this border, this sounds like one of them. The man agrees such scams have happened, and allows us to take it into the office ourselves.
The first thing we are asked for in the office is the export papers Mr. "I have a gun" took off us. Groan. I rode back over the bridge, and scowled at Mr. "I have a gun". "If you need copies, just ask for copies. Why would you insist on wasting everyone's time?". His amigo looked sheepish, and Mr. "I have a gun" tried to maintain an official air about himself, but neither could hide their beard envy. I got Mr. "I have a gun" his copies, frowned in his general direction, and sped off. This would be our only border snag.
The Honduras border, and the 140km stretch to Nicaragua after it, has the worst reputation in the Americas. Many reports talk of being stopped and ripped off by the police 3 or 4 times in that 140kms. And this is after many lost hours and bribes paid to make the border agents do their jobs. Reading ahead didn't make Honduras sound very pleasant.
We would sit in the office for the next two hours, while the only man for the job uses an incredibly inefficient computer program to input all of our information. Over 2 hours. For three of us. If there had been anyone else in front of us importing a vehicle, we would have been there all day. There is only ONE man who does this job.
- A nice man.
A very nice man indeed. It is not his fault the process takes forever. The computer program he has to use is atrociously designed.
Honduras also requires an obscene number of photocopies. 3 copies of everything. Then more copies after they sign those copies.
- So many copies (Use Limpiras: half price)
However the tales of scams and corrupt officials and police, while true, are apparently a thing of the past now. Multiple people acknowledged Honduras's shady past, but all told us that in the past year or so they replaced their ENTIRE police force and have cracked down on the corruption in an attempt to encourage more tourism. I would say this is all true.
But that doesn't mean that the locals won't rip you off if you aren't a little street smart.
To kill time and practice Spanish, I often bullshit with the locals. During one such bullshit session, Batman walked over and said he needed to buy some water. I pointed over to the little tienda (store) about 10 feet away. The guy I was talking to quickly said "I'll go buy you some" and stuck out his hand... and Batman gave him money. Needless to say this was now the most expensive water in Honduras. I told Batman not to give the man any more money, shook my head and walked away.
While it took ages, the process for paperwork was straightforward. 35$ for the papers, and 3$ each for the immigration stamp. The most expensive border since Mexico, and we were only going to be here a couple hours. Riding into the country, we then immediately encountered our first Honduras police. Here we go...
- Less than photogenic, but honest, police officer stayed out of frame
Unlike the stories written all over the internet, it was a straightforward paperwork check and we were on our way. Honduras has indeed cleaned up their act. Soon the rain would clean up their highway.
- Wind and clouds ready to attack, time to gear up
- none too soon. WET.
- Splish splash
Our first real downpour since my experience heading to Xela
, this one came complete with high winds, forcing us to stop under cover at a gas station. The real danger with so much water: hidden man eating potholes.
Best to stop and wait. No matter how good your raingear, nothing seems waterproof in torrential downpours.
- All rain must end.
Honduras was beautiful. The winding road took us through green, sweeping mountain vistas and quaint small pueblos. Since we weren't ripped off at the border and getting shaken down for bribes, we started to sadden at skipping the entire country. Oh well, you can't do it all.
Nicaragua border: 3$ Fumigation, 12$ insurance, 10$ tourist card and 2$ admin fee.
- Never skip a border booth. They hold your ID to wait for your export paperwork. We didn't like it, but that was the way.
- Paperwork goes in here. Then they check the VINs and away you go.
- Welcome to Nicaragua.
- Batman stands guard, loudly saying English words the hazmat-coated fumigation man doesn't understand.
- Batman fending off the evil insurance pushers.
- So well marked and easy to find: the policeman office to sign off the papers. (to the right of the blue and white building)
Batman became frustrated with the insurance salesmen, and snapped at one of them. He hadn't liked how they had approached him earlier on, before he had a chance to get off the bike. Tensions were running a little high, and we were losing daylight. Our hope had been to teach Batman how to cross the borders himself, but the long drawn out paperwork process and Spanish only conversations made that challenging, so he felt a little like he was being led along blindly. He was. We gave Batman a fish instead of teaching him. We had to keep pace. Sorry Batman.
Our lost half hour in the morning, and 45 minutes in the rain had put us a bit behind schedule. We don't like to ride at night. We especially don't like to ride at night, on a highway, in a new country, after a long day, WITHOUT LIGHTS...
- ...but sometimes you have to do things you don't like.
- Fuse at fault.
- Finally able to pull over and defuse the situation
It was a narrow road with no shoulder, and nowhere to pull over. Jayne rode in front of me riding off my headlights for about 15 minutes until we could finally pull over to replace the blown fuse that had killed her lights. A few minutes later we were in the city of Esteli at our couch surf, and more than happy to be off the road.
- Squeezed into the yard
It was a long day. Tomorrow we had to find a welder and help translate for Batman to fix up the Batmobile, then get ourselves to Managua for the arrival of real-sized Kelly in the evening. Plans. We have plans
. And we're sticking to them. The impossible CAN happen.