Day 103 – Choluteca, HN to Leon, NI

Day 103 – Choluteca, HN to Leon, NI     12/02/10     Mileage: 112

Coffee, it had been days since Brian or I had a (good) cup, so this morning we set off to the Cafe Americano coffee shop around the corner from our hotel. Inexplicably, they don’t open until 10am. What kind of @#*% ing coffee shop doesn’t open until 10 in the morning? If Starbucks in the US didn’t open until 10…there would be bloodshed in the streets. Well, just one more thing I hate about Honduras. So, across the parking lot was a Wendy’s…yes, that Wendy’s! They were at least open, so I had an egg muffin and (decent) coffee, all under the watchful eye of a security guard toting a shotgun. It’s funny what you get used to, because security guards, which most stores and better restaurants (and Wendy’s!) in towns have, all tote shotguns or assault rifles. So does every delivery truck…which quite literally has a man riding shotgun! Don’t try to steal a 6-pack of Coke off of a delivery truck down here, or you will for sure get a 00 buckshot enema. Anyway, after our Wendy’s breakfast, we packed up the bikes and split for the border.

This cutie worked the front desk at the hotel…the only appealing thing in all of Honduras!

Leaving our hotel in Choluteca…

On the way out of Choluteca…

….and the roads have huge potholes.

I couldn’t wait to leave Honduras…it was giving me a bad vibe, and I didn’t want to be here one second longer than I had to.

And another police checkpoint. Smile dickhead.

At the border, the first order of business was to cancel our bike import permits at the aduana (customs) and then to immigration to stamp ourselves out of this hell hole. Of course, the “helpers” were there to try and sell us their services, but we told them very succinctly to go bugger off…we were onto their game.

Border cop and a helper trying to intercede.

To this border cops credit, he was the only one in 7 countries to notice the license I gave him was expired. Brian and I always give our “dump” licenses (in my case an old expired NJ license) whenever any official asks for a license, just incase they get confiscated. He accepted my AAA “International Driving Permit”, which I am also happy to give away. I never give my current valid NJ drivers license, and have not needed to yet.

On the way to the border after the police checkpoint.

At the Honduras border building…

Changing money…

After processing out, we hopped on the bikes, gave Honduras the 1 finger salute and crossed the bridge into Nicaragua(country number 8!).  AMF!

 One last police check before the bridge.

Here’s another helper…yep, that’s a camera dickhead, smile…  🙂

The Nicaragua border was refreshingly straightforward and relatively inexpensive at $24 in total. It was $12 to enter the country (which is really only $2 plus what amounts to a $10 mandatory tip or bribe if you will) and $12 for compulsory vehicle insurance. The bike import permit was free.

Arriving at the Nicaragua side….and glad to be out of Honduras!

This guy was driving down to Panama from Colorado in his FJ Cruiser. That rig on the roof is a rooftop tent…..very cool!

Standing around waiting I started chatting with this Nicaraguan girl….I was practicing my spanish and she was practicing her english.

One last checkpoint, and we were in Nicaragua!

With that we fired up the bikes and pointed them for Leon, a nice colonial town about 90 minutes from the border. On the way we passed an active volcano spewing smoke which is as common down here as shotguns and as easy to become accustomed to.

In Leon we settled into the Lazy Bones hostel which had private rooms, a pool and wifi for $20…not too bad.

This was an impressive cathedral on the main square in Leon.

Around town in Leon…

We took a walk around town, had a bite and a few beers and then I called it a night.

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, 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…

… 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.