Tuesday, June 30, 2015

One night stand in Honduras and bordercrossings El Salvador - Honduras and Honduras - Nicaragua

A short travelogue covering our one-night-stand in Honduras as well as the two hilarious border crossings into and out of Honduras.

Bordercrossing El Salvador - Honduras
It was Tuesday June 16th 2015 when we approached the border at El Amatillo, CA-1. Already a few hundred of meters before a check-point there was the first guy heavily waving at us. I ignored him as he did not look very official to me. With all those guys running around in T-shirts it is sometimes hard to tell who is who. Anyway, we stopped at this first real check-point. Some other guy came jumping to us saying "moto papers" a few times very quickly. I barely had opened my document folder and dug out the required papers, when he took them out of my hands and said he had to make copies (which cost 1USD for two copies).

By now the first fixer (fixer1) which I nicely avoided earlier arrived and took over. The first big blablablablaa was when he told that I would need to show a second title for the sidecar. What a bullshit! Well, sidecars are not common here, yet if they can read papers and check for vehicle classes then they would get it. Fixer1 hassled around and jumped from left side to right side booth, took copies, sorted them, got some stamped, took more copies when suddenly everything was ok and he told us to follow him.
He drove ahead with his moto and Skippy and me followed. Next stop was immigration, pretty straight forward. Then it was time to continue the bike work and get the import permission canceled. It was a stamp on a stamped copy and made another copy of that (or something like it). Fixer1 was hassling so much - likely on purpose to give the impression they do something.

Due to the fact that this fixer1 was yelling all over the place about our dogs, we kind of were forced to show the dog papers and somebody wanted to put another stamp on them. After this was done and a few copies later we had all the papers to exit El Salvador. A last check-point before the bridge and then we could leave.

After we crossed the bridge the paperwork started on the Honduras side and smoothly fixer1 handed over to fixer3. Fixer2 already had a small-talk with us earlier at first check-point and suddenly appeared also at the Honduras side, having another small talk. I do not like this kind of small-talk. I was on a mission to cross this border!

Now fixer3 did lead me to the customs office and I handed title, passport and driving license. The guy started the paperwork and it was again a slow process. As soon as I got the passport back, fixer3 lead me to immigration (small building on the right side, opposite of the big center building). This was again painless and after I paid the 3USD per person we got our entry stamp. Fixer3 was crawling in my ass as well and mostly flirting with the officer-lady.

Back to the customs guy and after a while there was something ready and to be copied. Off to the copy shop then. Fixer3 told me also that I would need to get an import permit for the dogs and instructed which copies to take and where the vet is. Not totally useless guy I must admit, yet I would have gotten the same answers from others.

By now the fixer1 said that his work was done and he wanted some tip. I told him that I did not hire him and besides that I thought for some time that he works for the customs office. He repeated himself "tip tip" and "blablablaa", and since in fact he was helping (even though sometimes it was more like crawling into my ass, grabbing papers from an official and giving it to me whereas I was 15cm besides him), I gave him 2USD. He looked at me like I am from a different planet. Since obviously he did not want the 2USD, I took them back and put them into my wallet.

His friend (fixer3) suggested that he better take the 2USD, he accepted the tip now(!) and I gave him the 2USD. I wonder what would have happened if I would have given only 1USD (call it depression). But then again, those guys do have friends and I do not want any trouble. 2USD for a tip is fair.
Finally all copies were made and back to customs. 40USD lighter (for each bike) I walked away with all required papers.

Fixer3 demanded payment and I thought that 2USD is an excellent tip for an unwanted yet helpful service. Fixer2 also wanted some tip and I told him kindly that he absolutely did not do anything useful in this entire affair and said goodbye to him.

We got our stuff together and headed for Honduras. After the road joined together with the truck-traffic there was the final exit check-point. Our passports and bike papers were ok but this guy wanted to see the import permission for the dogs. Darn - I wondered whether they talk to each other with their walkie-talkies. We had to go back to get the permission for the dogs. This place is a green container besides the white/blue ones where the truck-traffic is handled (It's on the right side when coming from El Salvador).

This official went with me to some other container and they were able to make the papers for the dogs. Plenty of laughter as I did not get what info they wanted. In the end we sorted it out: total dog weight (in my opinion - they think in terms of livestock) and exit-point of Honduras were of importance. Then the guys told something about customs and as I did not exactly understand I went to the customs point where I cleared the bikes. However the guy told me that everything was fine and all papers were ok.

Our second attempt to get by the exit check-point succeeded and after 3.5 hours we were finally in Honduras.

In total we paid 103.25USD (3USD/person for the tourist visa, 40USD/bike and 12USD for the dog permit, 1.25USD for copies, 4USD fixers) - a very steep price for riding some 150km across a country.
Plenty of mosquitoes and huge cracks in the door frame are not a good combination.
Our night guard at the hotel.
Strange looking sculptures in the city.
Good attempt to recycle - failed badly.
Wolfi adapts local parking habits :D just park where ever you want!

Bordercrossing Honduras - Nicaragua

We crossed the border along CA-1 on June 17th 2015. We passed a few standing trucks and rode all the way to the first barrier at the Honduras side. A policeman approached as well as one of those keen and annoying fixers (I do not call them helpers any longer as they cause more hassle and stress then help). I dealt with the policeman and he looked at the papers and told me to get one copy of the vehicle transport permit, the passport face page and the passport page with the stamp of the bike.

The problem (i.e. MY problem) was that there was no electricity and thus the copy machines did not work. The fixer still buzzing around me similar to a house fly told that I need to go to the Nicaragua side for copies. Obviously he was right in that matter or pulled a good show - I was not able to tell the difference.

Off I went to Nicaragua to get copies (Hint: take of your bike pants!). The Nicaragua border guys were first looking like WTF is this gringo wanting here and I was afraid that the fixer (still buzzing around me) will ruin my attempt to get copies.

Anyway, I got the copies done (copy booth is inside the big yellow building), came back and the first policeman was happy, but now I needed to go to the customs to get the exit stamp for the bikes into the passport. And THEN I need to give that guy a copy of the passport page which showed that the bike had an exit stamp. He kept the driving licenses to make sure I would come back.

In the meantime (and this is where the buzzing guy became annoying and hassling) I went to the vet and started to deal with girl's papers. The officer was a really cute and good looking lady also needed copies of the page in girls' passports with the Rabies vaccinations and a copy of the stamped copy of girls' passport front page.

After the vet I went to immigration to get the exit stamp for ourselves into the passport. The buzzing fixer was yelling at me that I need to pay 3USD per person. I told him to hush because I already paid those 3USD when we entered. I felt that I would soon punch this guy. Then I went to customs (other side of the building) to get the exit stamp for the bikes into the passport. The buzzing fixer was still around and offered his services to get copies, or give me his bicycle or whatever. I told him that I have not hired him and I will not give him any money. He said ok and started to make a few push-ups.

After I had all the required stamps, I walked again to Nicaragua to make copies - sounds great does it not? :D

A few minutes later I went with the required copies to the vet and got back the Honduras papers of girls with all the stamps. Then I gave the first policeman the copies of the passport page with the exit stamps. Except for the copies, all services were for free and we left Honduras.

Next stop was first passport check in Nicaragua (it was now my third visit to Nicaragua) and fumigation of the bikes. Some other guy came and told us to fill out an A5 paper related to health and whether we had anything to declare. First we took girls out of the sidecar while a guy in mask fumigated the bikes. I paid the fumigation fee (82local or 3USD per bike) while Skippy watched the fumigation (should have taken our helmets with us). It took us a few minutes to fill out the paper and gave back to the guy who gave us those in the first place. After some corrections and additions, we put girls back into sidecar and went to the yellow main building.

Instantly a guy came buzzing to us and sold us the obviously mandatory vehicle insurance for 12USD/month. While this took a while I asked Skippy to go to immigration to get our passports stamped. She went there and soonish told me that she needs money. I forgot that the tourist visa costs in Nicaragua so I went over to her and paid the guy the fee (20USD per person - actually we were not sure whether it was 24USD per person or 24USD for both of us but in the end I gave the guy 40USD). Then the officer demanded that we provide a tiny piece of paper to him which we did not have.

At the same time the bike insurance cards were done and the insurance guy told me to go to the customs counter. Since the passport is needed everywhere parallel processing is not possible and then there was again hassle (darn - should have known better by now). I decided to go first to handle the bike matters and then come back to deal with immigration. It first started so well at the customs and then the guy had what-so-ever trouble to get the bike data into his computer, went to the computer of the colleague, had to come out to see what kind of vehicle my hack is.

Sidecars are not common in Central America and border officials have a hard time to deal with them (see El Salvador - Honduras border crossing). There was also talk about having another title for the sidecar (Really?). It took over one hour to get the sidecar cleared and about 15 minutes for the Suzuki. There was no need for copies because he scanned everything straight into the system. In the end we got the transit permit for the bikes.

In the meantime the immigration officer was pissed and harassed Skippy because we let him hanging there. As soon as I was finished with customs, the insurance guy (also a fixer - less buzzing at first, then he also became a big buzzing fly) was answering some questions to the customs guy like color of the bike which he anyway got wrong (guy must be color and black/white blind as my bike became grey and Skippy's bike violet ) and then pushed me to go to the vet. How I hated this! I think I need to learn "piss-off" in Spanish!

I went back to immigration first. Obviously the guy was so annoyed that he did not need this tiny paper slip any longer and instead filled out some papers which he kept for himself, stamped our passports and gave me the slip for the usual police check point at the exit.

While I was dealing with customs and immigration, some other official made it clear to Skippy that we need to see him because of the dogs and so I went there. This guy wanted copies of my passport, title, girls passports Rabies page and the famous stamped-in-out-in copy of girls passport. I got him the copies and he filled in some papers. A few minutes later and with 15USD less in my pocket I left the place and we were good to go.

The buzzing insurance guy told me that the policeman who was hanging around the area would need a copy of the bike transit papers, so I went to get a copy and gave it to the policeman. He looked a bit like what am I suppose to do with that. Well. Now the fixer wanted payment, and as before I told him that I have not hired you and I am not giving you any money. He was unhappy but maybe he learned a lesson (I actually doubt it).

After spending over 3 hours for this border crossing it was time to hit the road. The last hurdle was the check point at the exit. I gave the paper slips from immigration but this guy also wanted copies of the bike transit papers and I had to go back to make two more copies. Once I returned to the check-point and gave him the copies, he was happy and said we can go. Nobody cared about the dogs even though they saw them so I guess I could have saved those 15USD for the dog permit.

In total we paid 49USD (12USD/person for the tourist visa, 3USD/bike for fumigation and 15USD for the dog permit, 4USD for copies). 

While Skippy waited at the different stations she saw many dogs crossing the border from one side to the other without any papers... :)

Our track from El Cuco to Somoto through Honduras (abt. 263km)

Monday, June 29, 2015

Beach life at El Cuco (13. - 16.6.2015)

Be with us at our beach life at El Cuco

Entrance to Rio Mar - kind of hard to find unless you know what to look for.
Sleeping in a hammock: 1.25USD/day and 2.5USD for day&night :)
Our room had this great patio with two walls being only mosquito nets - very airy.
Plenty of beach walks and girls liked it a lot.
Cool waves and still manageable to swim here.
Supportive Skippy to help me getting a great shot ;)
Sunrise at the beach.
Left our mark at the kitchen chalk board.
Our track El Tunco - El Cuco about 170km
Don't trust your GPS - the last 4km was bad gravel with small steps. It would be a real challenge if you ride uphill towards Intipuca.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

From rain to tropical heat - our visit to El Tunco, El Salvador

Enjoy with us our ride to and walk through El Tunco.

Hostal Sol Y Mar - very basic and cheap.
Bikes were parked where one can pitch a tent. The black sticky sand was all over already and when it started raining I was happy we had a room :)
Our track from Santa Ana, via Cerro Verde to El Tunco (116km).

Friday, June 26, 2015

Rainy green mountain - a short visit to Cerro Verde National Park

When it rains it rains in El Savador

If you dare to ride this road and it's warm, stay at Casa Cristal - it's just beautiful up there!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Relaxing in the dangerous Santa Ana and our first visit to a Maya ruin at Tazumal

Enjoy with us our stay in Santa Ana. Invasion of one-day flies, wild bus rides across Santa Ana and in the end Skippy was at her best cooking mood.

Our first hotel in Santa Ana, Hotel Livingston (don't go there unless Casa Verde is full and then max for one night)
Inner yard and view over the city
Hostal Casa Verde (I called it "the oasis of Santa Ana" in Tripadvisor). Hard to find especially while riding.
Typical picture: sewer lids, manhole lids were stolen to get some money from the scrap metal. Deadly if you step or ride into one.
I love this T-Shirt but since it was literally falling apart I needed to find a new one which was not easy in Central America.
Been there, done that: Cathedral of Santa Ana.
Santa Ana has a problem with gang-related crime. The streets around the hostal were totally empty after 8PM and those doors just illustrate the applied security.

Note the little window here. The one which is on the inner side will open this one first before opening the door. We had also such one in the hostal.
Tazumal, Maya archeological site in Chalchuapa
Beautiful flowers at the site.
There was basically one major pyramid to look at (and mostly covered in what looked like concrete... maybe?).
Some of the digging was left open and in original state.

Beautiful forest within the site. We had a walk in peace, silence and fresh air.
Cemetery was besides the site.
More cool looking flowers :)
Tazumal from air.
Interesting looking sculpture in the museum.
Left our mark at the ceiling at Casa Verde ;)
Our track from Escuintla, Guatemala to Santa Ana, El Salvador (about 200km).

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Skippy gets all muddy and dirty in El Salvador (30.5. - 1.6.2015)

Enjoy with us a moment of relaxation

Wolfi made vegan fast food - whole wheat spaghetti with ready made tomato-basil sauce.
The big pool at the restaurant.
Cascades of hot pools.
Delicious breakfast with plenty of fresh fruits and the typical Skippy-being-annoyed-look before breakfast :D

Border crossing Guatemala - El Salvador

We went over the border at Valle Nuevo/Las Chinamas at the CA8. Just before the Guatemala check-point there come the first guys who want to change some money (first he offered 7.9 then 7.7). Those guys are followed by some others who want to help you with the paper work which is straight forward and easy - no need for that.

At first we got the bikes stamped out of Guatemala. That took some time because the copy machine was broken. Anyway, some time later all was clear (Note: if you intend to come back to Guatemala, then the formalities might be different). At the next section of the building we got our exit stamp into the passports. One guy said something about the dogs which I did not understand and obviously it was nothing important because we were allowed to leave Guatemala after we presented the stamped bike papers to him. Anyway those guys could see where we go and so on and if there would have been missing something important, I am pretty sure they would have yelled after us. Not the German way but it works as well :)
At the same time a handful of stray dogs were crossing the border station just like that :D
After crossing the bridge the hassle started at the El Salvador side. First we were told to park behind the booth and the guy wanted a copy of the title, passport and driving license. Then he disappeared for some time into the booth and another guy - I call him Hugo - took it from there. Hugo was quite helpful and maybe because we came all the way from Finland he tried his best English. As those papers proceeded I went to see the vet for paperwork - first time in CA!

I presented girls' passports and some older papers. He took some copies, stamped one and gave it back to me. He also stamped the international health certificate which we got in Mexico. At least he was happy and even more after he saw our cute little monsters. The vet also spoke a few words English, anyway enough to get the paperwork done.

Then Hugo guided us to the next check point for the bikes. On the way he indicated where the restrooms are - that made Skippy worry. We proceeded with the bike papers and that took a looooong time (maybe one hour). Finally we got all those papers, got to our bikes and then rode towards the immigration point. This guy wanted to see our passports, the bike papers and the tiny slip we got from the Guatemala side. All was clear - a big smile and we went off.

Until we got stopped for the last time about 200 meters later. The guy checked once more the biker papers, made some stamp on them and finally we could continue our journey.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Hellride through Guatemala (26.- 30.5.2015)

Guatemala - an adventure ride for both of us. Lean back and watch how we struggled...

Scary electrical connections on the shower pump.
Guatemala way to compress aluminum cans for recycling... at least there is recycling :)
Coffee plants as far as the eye can reach.

Close up - must be a hard job to pick all those beans!
Cool looking volcano edge (We were inside the volcano).
Skippy at the hotel.
Some of the moto taxi looked really great and fun!
A typical back alley where one can only walk - maybe get there with moto.
The beautiful flower tree at the hotel
At last some signs indicating whether the street is one way or two-way.
An entire stray-dog family.
Somebody tries to educate kids to take care of trash (basura) and to do recycling.

Jungle-kind backyard with all sorts of fruit trees and some coffee here and there :)
Road to the hotel had a steep grade.
Lake Atitlan
Skippy's bike suffered after this really bumpy road - maybe the extension piece was too heavy and caused too much extra vibes?
Another gorgeous roof-dog :)
Our track - 475km
Accommodations to Guatemala can be found here.
Tracks and waypoints can be found here as gbd and here as gpx.