Day 102 – San Miguel, ES to Choluteca, HN

Day 102 – San Miguel, ES to Choluteca, HN     12/01/10     Mileage: 96

**  Warning: Salty language in this post.  **

After breakfast and packing the bikes, Brian and I set off for the Honduras border.

Saddled up and ready to ride…

Picking our way through the San Miguel traffic…

Crossing into Honduras, and at this border crossing in particular, is legendary in the annals of adventure motorcycling…and not for a good reason. It’s bureaucracy, seemingly pointless complexity and grift have brought grown men to tears. So vast is the complex bureaucracy of paper pushing that an entire industry of “helpers” has grown up around it, itself full of pitfalls, thieves and crooks. No amount of words can adequately describe the mind numbing maze of paperwork, photo copies, stamps, signatures, documents, duplicates, triplicates, offices and officials that need to be pushed, signed, filed, paid or otherwise processed. It all starts miles from the border when “helpers” try and stop you to offer their brothers/cousins/friends/brother-in-laws/uncles services at the border. Next, was the El Salvador aduana checkpoint to cancel our bike import permits…which is still 3 kilometers from the border, and another swarm of “helpers” descends on you offering their assistance to help you process through the border.

The El Salvador aduana checkpoint to cancel the import permits…and get swarmed by “helpers”…

Smile for the camera, asshole…

After saying no “adamantly” some 300 times to 20 different pushy bastards, you continue to the immigration building where the crowd of helpers gets really thick! They descend and swarm on you like Alaskan mosquitoes only these blood suckers want your money.

This guy is calling the other “helper” a crook…ha!

NO, NO, NO, NO, and NO!!!

Would you trust this guy with your critical documents? Yeah, me neither…

Changing currency with the other blood suckers.
(Tip for BlackBerry users, XE.com maks an app for BlackBerry’s which is very useful for changing money at the borders, so at least you know how much you’re getting screwed by.)

We ignore their pleas and go about our business, first to the El Salvador immigration window to process out…and then onto the Honduras window to pay $3 to “begin” our entry process into Honduras. Next it’s off to the guard shack before the bridge into Honduras, and of course he needs a copy of the canceled El Salvador bike permit.

Off to the guard shack at the bridge.

But of course the guard needs a copy, and there’s the “helper” still trying to push his service.

So we park the bikes, and go to a random office to make a photocopy for the guard. Once complete and the guard has his copy, we cross th bridge to the Honduras aduana and immigration buildings.

The guard has his copy…

…..now it’s across the bridge.

But first you have to get passed this rather unpleasant chap on the other side with a badge and a chip on his shoulder…

…and of course he needs to inspect your documents. And of course more “helpers” trying to “help”.

This is where the bureaucratic machine really starts to try and grind you down. First you go to the aduana where “jefe” comes out from a closed door and asks for your passport, bike title, driver license, canceled El Salvador import permit and 3, yes 3 copies of each of those documents plus the originals…16 in all. Then it’s off to the photo copy office for 3 copies of each, then back to jefe.

The Honduras aduana office.

This is me on the left, “jefe” on the right. Let round one begin. Ding!
(I set my helmet on a chair to get shots of this on purpose. Helmet cams rock for border crossings!)

He then disappears back inside behind the closed door. You are left to stand there in the heat waiting for someone to come out from behind the door. When jefe comes back out, he tells me he also needs my bike registration (the first time I am ever asked for this at any border!) plus 3 copies of it, so it’s back to the photo copy office for more copies, then back to jefe. Failure to produce any of these documents I’m quite sure opens the door for “jefe” to ask for a bribe, and he does not get the chance with me or Brian.

And so we wait…

Me and Brian…good times.

After more waiting, jefe emerges with a stack of paperwork and documents, each requiring more photo copies of newly applied stamps and signatures from nameless and faceless officials behind some door through which we can not pass. Brian and I alternate so that one of us is always with the bikes. This seems to aggravate the “helpers” but we are not going to be easy victims. After the new round of photocopies, we are now told we have to pay for the import permit at the bank, but of course the bank is closed, and won’t reopen for 2-3 hours…or so we are told by the “helpers”. This is of course a problem, but for a small “fee” a “helper” can “get it processed now.” Ha…nice try you fuckers, we told them we’ll just wait for the bank to open, we have plenty of time and I rather like the tropical heat! This made the “helpers” very mad, as they prey on impatient travelers and hope that you will use them “to speed things up”. Well, wouldn’t you know the bank opened up again in just 15 minutes…how about that.

The aduana building were the bank office is located.

Once Brian and I had these fees paid, it was off for more photo copies of the newly applied bank stamps for jefe and the faceless bureaucrats behind the mysterious door.

And more copies…

At least the copy girl was cute, and I got my 9 lepiras worth.

Next we were told we had to pay a road tax in another office, which we did. Then jefe emerged from behind the door with our paperwork, now with yet more stamps that required yet more photocopies for other officials at the “fumigation” station. So after 3 hours of paper shuffling and a square acre of trees felled for it, we were finally on our way into Honduras.

Back on the bikes, but one last stop at the fumigation shack, which is total BS by the way.

Time to get the fuck out of here!

Ahhh, on the gas at last!

Of course, at the first police roadblock 10 miles from the border, we were stopped and told that he was going to write us both tickets for not having reflective tape on our side cases. Ha! Nice try motherfucker, Brian and I had had enough and we laughed in his face. We both suddenly forgot all of our spanish and started yelling back “no ticket, no ticket, my oval sticker is refelctivo”, referring to the reflective ADV sticker on our boxes.

Smile for the camera, douchebag.

Well, when his cronie cop buddies didn’t back his play, he backed down and handed our licenses back. Ha! Score one for the gringos and the ADV sticker!! We got stopped again another 15 miles up the road, but just the standard questions.

Back on the road and making tracks at last…

After all that though, it really does leave a bad taste in your mouth and make you want to leave Honduras as soon as possible, which is what we are going to do. I am not going to give this country one more tourist dollar, and tomorrow we’re going straight for Nicaragua. It’s a shame the asshole boarder officials and their cronies are ruining it for the rest of Honduras, as the country looks every bit as nice as the others in Central America. But on principle, I’m going to put my tourist dollars where they are welcomed, and not torn from my pocket. El Salvador did not cost a dime to get into or out of and the borders were for the most part straight forward and professional. In hindsight, I would like to have spent more time there voting with my tourist dollars. As for Honduras(border officials), they can go suck it.

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20 Responses to Day 102 – San Miguel, ES to Choluteca, HN

  1. Deborah says:

    OMG!!!! This is, possibly, one of your most brilliant posts ever! Hilarious. Lenny…if I were in the book business, I’d be offering you some cash right now! I can not wait ’til your next installment! Love what you do with that helmet-cam…excellent work! Have fun!
    Deb
    ps… I love your mom’s comments! Arlene … have a great time in Alaska!!!

    • Lenny says:

      Ha…thanks Deb!! It was definitely a surreal experience…and I’m glad it’s behind me!! Yeah, I was beginning to doubt the usefulness of the helmet cam, but it’s so worth it for the borders and checkpoints when a regular camera is too obvious. I’m using it for every border crossing now!

  2. Jill says:

    OMG! what an ordeal, glad they didn’t pull too much over on you, although I’m questioning all of those copies?!…..btw – nice “high & tight”! it’s a good idea to not go rasta so you don’t have to be fumigated too!!

  3. Paul Bell says:

    Fuuuuuuuuck

  4. Arlene says:

    When we spoke this morning, you said it was bad crossing the boarder and for us to wait for your blog postings. OMG……..can you imagine me and Dad going through all of that??????? So glad you were with Brian and you each watched each others bike and backs. Now just watch your back when you go to the other borders if someone reads what you wrote on the bike blog that you put your stuff on. They have your picture and name.

    Deb, glad that you think my comments are funny. I do have a good sense of humor and enjoy laughing at myself. With a son like Lenny, I get lots of laughs and worry alot……….he has always been much more adventurerous than us and he is so very, very informed on so many things and amazes me. We are very proud of him. But, he didn’t get that cursing in our house.

    Be well and be happy, Mom

  5. lisa says:

    Holy Shit! I am exhausted from just reading this! Crazy! I am glad you guys are together so you had each others’ backs. Its too bad about Honduras b/c I did a whole lesson on it this week! loving all the comments and pics. I laugh out loud constantly while reading. Happy Hannukah and miss you , lisa

    • Lenny says:

      Hey Lisa! Yeah, it did make the whole Honduras border ordeal more manageable with a teammate. If I was solo, I’d bet for sure something would have been stolen off the bike while I was off in some random office making my 10 thousandth photocopy! Happy Hannukah! Oh, and turn your Skype on every now and then, I’d love to call you and catch up…. Love you, -Lenny

  6. Paul Bell says:

    The teacher in me is scoring your phenominal word choice– like douche-bag and fuckers earning you an A in my book!! I wish my kindergarteners could write so elloquently!
    Xo
    kim

  7. Arlene says:

    OMG every is so excited about your border story and glad that you had Brian there. Two is better than one.

    Lenny, the postman delivered your package. It had green tape all over it and it was inspected. Did they do that when you went to mail it or after??????

    Be talking to you. Love ya, Mom

  8. Arlene says:

    Glad that the CMA are enjoying the blog. Kurt, my husband and I are very proud of Lenny. He is a very good person and would help anyone. To me it is very important, in life, to be a good person. We truly appreciate your kind words and the wonderful work that your group does. The world would be a better place if we had more people like your group. We wish you all good health and happiness always and a good holiday.

    I personally believe that if you do good and look for nothing in return, you will not believe what good comes back to you.

    Be well and be happy and safe riding. Arlene, aka MOM

  9. Arlene says:

    Hi Lenny, the crew were here today for Hanukkah and we had a real treat. Reby and Mickey are here in the USA and called around noon and said they were coming to visit and it was fabulous. They got to see Maya and Raquel and all of us. They saw Maya in the Hospital when she was born and it was so nice for the girls to have a visit with them. They are a very special couple.

    As you may remember, the day you told us about this trip Dad and I had coffee in NYC with Reby and Mickey and Mickey felt that I seem to have adjusted to your trip and I showed him your blog and he thought it was great how we can keep track and keep in touch. I gave him your blog address and they will check in you out also. They thought it was great that day back in June and still do………following your dreams.

    Missed you and stay well and stay safe. Love ya, Mom

  10. Arlene says:

    Thanks Deb. When Lenny was younger, I always said that if you curse all the time it comes out very easily and even at the wrong times……….on a job, someone important, etc. Once it is said it is hard to take it back. If I had to go through what he and Brian went through at the boarder…..I would turn around and come back to the USA!!!!

    Yes, we have always been very proud of Lenny and people have complimented him to us even when he was 15 and working. Both our children bring us lots of joy and now that we are grandparents it is even better.

    Deb, be well and be happy. Thanks again for your kind words. Arlene.

    • Lenny says:

      Mom and Deb… Thanks for all the nice words! But what I’m doing really isn’t that hard…just one day, town and mile at a time…that’s all there is to it. 🙂

  11. Tracy says:

    Guess your buttons were really being pushed, gheesh. Such foul language Lenny. I love it! ha.

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