Saturday, September 17, 2011

3 days in Honduras

El Poy also seemed to be a trucker´s crossing as there were a lot of trucks, but no line at the aduana to check out of El Salvador.  Also absent was anyone in the office to check us out. Once someone made it back from their meeting/coffee/smoke/nap  break, it was quick and painless to check the bike out of El Salvador. Immigration was also very quick on the Salvadorean side. Next up was immigration into Honduras, taking only a couple of minutes and $3 each.

The aduana for Honduras is a bit down the road, an obvious newer building on the left hand side (if you hit the gate you went a couple of meters too far). We were told we had to wait 20 minutes until the person got there to handle the motorcycle paperwork. And sure enough, she got there right on time and took our paperwork right away. Things were stamped and paperwork was filled out within 10 minutes...... and then she took about 2 hours staring at the computer to get the paperwork finalized. After that, Mike had to get copies (doesn't really help to get ahead of time because they need a copy of recently stamped documents, $1 total for 12 copies) then return to the aduana with copies where they collated and stapled, then back to the bank. There are 3 banks at the border, none with an ATM or that accept or exchange dollars and you must pay the fee in lempiras. The fee for paperwork was 500 lempiras and the bank charged 135 lempiras, totaling around $35 US. At least for all of this walking and time spent Mike got to see a snake being killed with a rock. Jill got to watch border traffic all morning and thinks a local taxi with no passengers would be a great way to smuggle drugs.

(almost out of El Salvador, kind of)

(Mike isn´t really that tall)

The first major town in Honduras was Ocototepeque, where we found an ATM and a wonderful restaurant called Hot Food. We had not eaten yet and it was already noon, so the buffet ("comida a la vista") was just what we needed.

We drove for the rest of the day, ending up in Gracias. The views were beautiful through the mountains but the major roads were in worse shape than we have seen yet, with lots of potholes and surprising, unannounced transitions to loose gravel found midturn. In the worst spots there are also children yelling at you to give them money.

Gracias had a nice feel to it and we found a nice hotel downtown for 200 lempiras (about $10). It had a tourist feel, but almost entirely Honduran tourism, lots of activity, seemed safe at night and we found good food for cheap. That´s a good combination in our book!  And for some reason, Mike got priceless looks of confusion when he spoke to people here in Gracias.

We headed out pretty early to go towards Esperanza, which on our map is a secondary road. But until about 20k from Esperanza it was better than the primary road. We hit a police checkpoint right away. At first the officer was pretty stern, but then he saw our sticker of Romero (archbishop of the Catholic Church in El Salvador who was assassinated in 1980, one day after a sermon where he had called on Salvadoran soldiers, as Christians, to obey God's higher order and to stop carrying out the government's repression and violations of basic human rights.) we had picked up in Perquín. Then he just wanted to talk about reading boods and organizations in the Catholic church similar to the FBI. He did look at our moto papers and Mike's license, but Romero had already won him over and we were free to go. The last 20 km to Esperanza was a mix of packed gravel into mud-with-construction.

We stopped in Esperanza to ask directions to Marcala when we were approached by 2 cops who were happy to give us directions and wanted to ask a lot of questions about our trip. Eventually we were able to get out of there (they really wanted to talk.  And they were nice about it.  Never any consideration given to bribing, issues, troubles, nothin) and once we were almost out of town we got stopped by another police checkpoint. Again needed to show moto paperwork. He was impressed with the 600cc and said, I bet once you hit the open road this bike goes really fast, with a huge smile on his face, and then let us go. After asking several more people where the road to Marcala was, we finally found it. The 36 km started with a well packed dirt road, which quickly led into huge slabs of bumpy rock road, where a semi was stuck (after seeing what some of the turns further down this road looked like, I´m not sure why he choose this route) and the road kept transitioning into gravel and washed out sections. Coming into Marcala we were surprised to see a major paved highway coming from Esperanza that we joined for the last few km.  Although the old mountain road was definitely slower, it was well worth it.

In Marcala we found a Chinese restaurant that we thought was pretty expensive at $10 per plate so we only ordered one. Come to find out it was a huge amount of food and we were both able to eat it for lunch and dinner.

Leaving Marcala we hit another checkpoint where we again had to show papers and license. At all three checkpoints they were not stopping many people besides us, but they were very friendly and seemed like they just wanted to check out the bike. We stopped at La Paz for the night and found a sweet place called BSF Hotel for 250 lempiras. They owner was extremely nice and gave Jill a bracelet from her shop made by the local indigenous people. We would highly recommend the place.

The next day we drove to Danli, passing several more checkpoints, but only having to stop once. Again, just a look at the moto papers and license and we were on our way. Danli was a bigger town than we expected and we spent probably an hour looking for a cheap hotel. We didn't find anything as cheap as we wanted, but ended up at a nice place called La Esperanza. About a half block north from the hotel we ran into a small restaurant that had a sign out front for American food. Turns out the owner, Billy Peters, is from S. Carolina, moved to Danli in 1998 and is now married with a son. Super nice southern guy. We got salisbury steak, mashed potatoes and corn for a good price and then he told us he would have breakfast waiting for us at 8, so we went back for bacon, scrambled eggs and pancakes. All tasted a lot like home.

We stayed in Danli because it is about 40 km from the Las Manos border crossing. We got to the border around 9. This border had a lot more helpers and other random people standing around. With Mike´s Spanish and Jill watching the bike, we really don´t see a need to hire any help. Getting the bike checked out of Honduras took about 5 minutes, free, immigration out was also about 5 minutes and also free. As soon as we crossed into Nicaragua, the insurance guy led us to fumigation (free), and then to buy mandatory insurance (300 córdobas or $13), but while the insurance was getting done we somehow picked up a helper who had said he was aduana and the insurance guy handed him our papers directly. Immigration was fast, but expensive as we had to pay $10 US per person for a tourist card and an extra 88 córdobas for some kind of paperwork, for a total of 560 córdobas. Probably rip offs involved there but he was the only immigration officer present and he gave us receipts for everything. Since we had the helper, he worked on the moto immigration while we were at immigration and the moto was free. Make sure to check paperwork before taking off from any borders - its easy to transpose VIN digits or mess up the license number and those simple mistakes can be a real big hassle later on (luckily we´ve caught most at the borders, and an aduana official just laughed another one off when leaving Guatemala). We tipped the helper 50 córdobas (around US$2) as he was actually helpful and saved some time.

While all the official stuff was happening, a crazy Indian guy (Indian, as in, from India) kept insisting on drawing a portrait of Mike. Then he followed us from office to office insisting that he needed to finish and that we pay him. However he was somewhat unintelligible in both English and Spanish and we really didn´t feel like dealing with him since there was a lot more going on at this border. We refused to give him money and he refused cigarettes and candy. He even complained to immigration officials about us.  When we finally were able to leave the border, after getting our paperwork checked twice and having to pay $1 each to the alcaldía before we could leave, we passed the same crazy drawing guy on the highway with his eyes bugged out, staring us down, likely wishing us badness.  He was a weirdo.  Even with that, things worked out pretty well for us our first day (and all others) in Nicaragua...


  1. That was me!!!! I have an Indian alterego and I thought if I stared you down, you would recognize that look. Mike has seen it before when he doesn't crush one of my perfect sets!

    I miss you guys so freakin much!

  2. Hola. Just caught up a little on your journey (Wow) after a crazy busy fire season. It was cool to see some familiar places, Tikal and Rio Dulce. Too bad you didn't take the long way through Semuc Champey. It would have been an amazing place to recover from sickness, minus the adequate medical services. A cool ride too. I so wanted to go to Copan. Oh well. I will be in Peru for January. I will try to keep updated on your whereabouts if there is any possibility to come early or stay late and meet up somewhere cool. I love you guys. Kevin

  3. Just read a little more and saw a bunch more places I recognize. You did make it to Semuc Champey and stayed the same place I did. Signing out for real this time,
    PS I can't figure out how to sign in. What is a URL? I don't feel like researching.