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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Day 101 – El Tunco, ES to San Miguel, ES

Day 101 – El Tunco, ES to San Miguel, ES      11/30/10      Mileage: 122

Last night I realized that I had left my white “Pure Big Sky Powder” t-shirt in the hotel back in Acajutla, some 50 miles back. Damn…I like that t-shirt! But was it worth riding 100 miles round trip to fetch it? Well, apparently it is, because I rode my ass back to get it! I don’t think Brian was that thrilled, but that t-shirt has sparked many conversations with strangers, whether it was because it was from Montana or they just liked PBR…and that’s what made it worthwhile to retrieve. Anyway, after spending two hours getting my t-shirt back, we hit the road heading for San Miguel. The ride was quick and uneventful, and now we were in good position to make an early run for the notoriously painful, mind boggling and bureaucratically infuriating Honduras border tomorrow. As it was an short day riding, I spent the afternoon getting a haircut and changing the KLR’s oil.

The hotel in San Miguel.

Volcano visible from my hotel balcony.

That night we splurged on a nice steak dinner…beef medallions for Brian and filet mignon for me…both under $15…nice! Tomorrow it’s on to Honduras…country number 7!

Day 100 – Acajutla, ES to El Tunco, ES

Day 100 – Acajutla, ES to El Tunco, ES      11/29/10      Mileage: 66

I felt slighted out of a beach day yesterday, so after breakfast we headed south along the coat in search of a hotel on the beach.

Our “expensive” hotel…

I had picked this road out because on Google maps it looked like 50 miles of twisty goodness right along the Pacific Ocean. It turned out to be an awesome road and could easily be confused with parts of the Pacific Coast Highway in California. (For you riders, take the CA-2 south from Acajutla to La Libertad)

We rode it to all the way to La Libertad and checked out a few places there. None that we liked were on the beach, so we backtracked a bit to where we had passed some of the famous surf breaks that also had some hotels catering mostly to surfers. We checked out a couple but none fit the bill. Brian was tired of looking and just went back to La Libertad but I pressed on with the search for beach hotel! I struck pay dirt after another three tries and landed at the Tortuga Surf Lodge.

It’s a cool little hotel in El Tunco with a pool and it was right on the beach. Beers we’re $1.25 and ice cold and they also served some lite food….perfect!

 It just so happened that two other bikers had pulled in a few minutes before me. Dave and Sparky are from Vancouver Island, Canada and are on their way to Panama and back on their BMW R1200GS’s.

We had a few beers and told lies from the road for a bit, but I wanted to swim in the ocean so I quickly striped off my riding gear and jumped in. The ocean was warm and the waves were perfect for swimming if not surfing, though the main break was farther up the beach. Oh, and it wasn’t too crowded…  😉

After that I adjourned to the pool and had a few more beers with Sparky and Dave. We had dinner that night along with some of the other surfer guests and had a great time swapping stories and adventures. After a short stumble back to me room, I crashed for the night.

Parting shot….an orignal artwork at the Tortuga Surf Lodge. I knew I liked this place…  🙂

 

Day 99 – Rio Dulce, GU to Acajutla, ES

Day 99 – Rio Dulce, GU to Acajutla, ES     11/28/10     Mileage: 129

Brian I were on the bikes by 9:30 for the run from Rio Dulce to the El Salvador border. We wanted to get there well before nightfall to leave ourselves plenty of time to do the notorious border paper shuffle. Despite a fair amount of rain, the ride to the border was uneventful and we were there by 1:30pm. The first step was to cancel our Guatemala import permits for the bikes, followed by getting ourselves stamped out of Guatemala by immigration.

The El Salvador border crossing.

It was all very straight forward and they even made copies of documents for the El Salvador side of the border for free without us even asking! That was a far cry from some of the horror stories I’ve read on ADV Rider (website). As we were crossing, a fellow started talking to us and “helping” to steer us in the right direction. Sometimes unsolicited help is good, and sometimes it’s not…and I couldn’t figure which bucket to put this guy in. He pointed us to the right office to start the El Salvador border process, yet wanted a copy of our canceled Guatemala bike import permit…which we were told he definitely did not need by the people in the office. We’ll never know in the end, because as soon as we had our El Salvador bike importation permits and stamps in our passports, we split. All in all, it took an hour and half of paperwork, but was easy and didn’t cost a dime. Bienvenudos a El Slavador…country number 6 on my trip so far! Even though it looked much like Guatemala, it felt in some ways different…it’s funny how a line on the map does that. Our goal was to reach the coastal town of Acajutla and perhaps find a decent hotel on the beach. The ride down to the coast was good and had a real nice twisty section that went on for 30 or so miles. We arrived in Acajutla around 5pm and it was kind of a shithole. Undeterred, we headed towards the beach in search of a hotel. We pulled into the first prospect which Brian went to look at while I watched the bikes. His face said it all when he came back, to which he added…”Call me old fashioned, but I do prefer a toilet seat on my toilet.” It was only $10, but a man has to have his standards. The next stop looked more promising, as it was 50% more expensive at $15 and the outside looked clean enough. It was getting dark and our expectations, while already very low by US standards, were minimal. It was just not meant to be however. We looked at the first room and it was a complete sespool…the sheets looked like they haven’t been changed…ever. The toilet, while fitted with a seat, wasn’t worthy of a stall in the men’s room at the old Veterans Stadium during an Eagles game just after halftime. This is quite a feat, given that the shower head (cold only of course) comes out of the ceiling directly above the toilet…yes folks…no shower stall…you have to straddle the toilet while showering. Then there is of course the floor, which defies explanation as to how a shower stall sized room with what is in effect an overhead sprinkler could accumulate such filth. Brian and I at least had a good laugh before we declined and opted to press on with the search in the dark. Fortunately, I remembered passing a hotel next to a truck repair shop a few miles back, so we pointed the bikes back to the highway. We arrived and although it was expensive ($31) for what it was, we were tired and there were quite literally no other options… So we took two rooms and called it a night.

PS: Sorry for the lack of pictures today! I can’t believe I didn’t take a picture of the hotel rooms…damn!