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Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Brian & Deya met in Vancouver Canada. After a few years together we were married and made choices. One was not to have children the other was not to take life for granted. The rest is yet to come.

May 20, 2011

Random Blurb from the Road…

I’ve been asked many questions about this trip, is it worth it, why, what made you decide, is it what you expected?  I know the answer for most people will be different but I think the answer is obvious and probably, ironically, the same in essence for all the people out there on the other side of the fold.

I never expected something and though I’m sure people go for many reasons I doubt that expectation fits the answer well.  Simply it is the adventure and the unexpected that pulls those solemn strings of travel in a person.  The chance to learn or not to learn, to explore or to sit and stare, exploring your own mortality before mortality explores you.  A dog doesn’t stick his head out the window expecting to find the tantalizing smell of beef jerky.  He happily absorbs the sights, sounds and smells of whatever it is that gets presented at the very moment it happens. A motorcyclist is very much the same, head out the window seeing the world, feeling it, a slight change in temperature, the smell of a particular flower in bloom, the colours and sounds presented at the very moment they are happening.

And so what would make someone decide to go on a grand adventure such as this?  Fame, admiration, a life long dream, vanity, stupidity or passion; I believe it’s a part of a person’s make up, their environment and their need not to be conquered by fear.  After all when Deya and I decided to do this it was precisely because, other than fear, we could not find a reason not to.  People say sagely to enjoy each day as though it’s your last, live for the moment, work to live not live to work and on and on.  Yet, these are the people who wonder how to do just that and secretly struggle to find that in themselves.  I have yet to hear one of the many travellers or adventurers out there to make those statements with any passion because in their hearts they already know.  It’s not easy, you cannot hide, you cannot run, you must live and sometimes it’s just dang hard.  But with every defeat or struggle there is a reward and out here the rewards, sometimes subtle or only for one’s soul, are plentiful beyond comprehension.

Is it worth it? I have always said, and you can quote me, “Change, good or bad, is good” and when the din of this life’s battle dies down and you are left with yourself, alone as you came into the world, what you have done to contribute and experience and grow will become more important than the title you had at work or the home the bank let you live in.  In fact, it will be the only thing that you have and the only thing that will matter.  Is it worth it?  We will find out.

At every turn there are opportunities out here, being available for them is key but certainly they are everywhere.  Each of us can probably agree that this is true, for what they are worth; each opportunity is another complex canvas of challenges and rewards.  So, if you ever think that there is nothing left in life, you are wrong and if the challenge seems too great – this too shall pass.  I would urge everyone to step towards their own challenge; be it a motorcycle journey, losing 20 pounds or excelling at an ungrateful job.  Pretty soon the challenge turns to reward and then comes the time to pay it back.


May 17, 2011

Border details compliments of Deya

Names of border crossings.

Mexico (entry)-Agua Prieta, Sonora

Mexico (exit)-Ciudad Cuauhtemoc, Chiapas

Guatemala (entry)-La Mesilla

Guatemala (exit)-Pedro de Alvarado

El Salvador (entry)-La Hachadura

El Salvador (exit)-El Amatillo

Honduras (entry)-El Amatillo

Honduras (exit)-Guasaule

Nicaragua (entry)-Guasaule

Nicaragua (exit)-Peñas Blancas

Costa Rica (entry)-Peñas Blancas

Entering Mexico.

A simple process if you have the required documents and a credit card.

***Immigration:

a) Tourist Visa (FMM Forma Migratoria Multiple), processed by INM = Passport (original) + Payment.

***Customs:

b) Import Permit or Permiso de Importacion Temporal de Vehiculos, processed by Banejército = Passport (original & copy) + Driver’s Licence (original & copy) + Title or Registration of the vehicle: (original & copy) + Tourist Visa (original & 2 copies) + Payment (with a credit card or a cash deposit will have to be made as a guarantee to withdraw the vehicle from the country in the time agreed). A sticker is placed on the bike, you must keep and do not lose it, it will be removed together with the permit at the exit border.

Exiting Mexico.

***Customs:

Once again a simple process; they will require the original permit of entry to Mexico for the vehicle and the sticker that was placed on the bike. With this they produce a document to prove that the permit has been cancelled, it is called: Importacion Temporal de Vehiculos / Certificado de Retorno / Retorno Definitivo.

***Immigration: a stamp was provided in our passports. They questioned the fact that we did not have a stamp for the entry and warn us to make sure we always get one. However we did have the Tourist Visa so that is clear proof we came into the country.

Entering Guatemala:

***Immigration:

-Passport: original.

-Fee of $0 /person, a stamp is provided in our passports and a period of 90 days is given to be in the country, this will be valid throughout Guatemala-El Salvador-Honduras and Nicaragua, this means you will not likely get a stamp at the other borders just entered in their system. However, we got charged 20 Quetzales to enter the country, it was a scam and no receipt was issued because there was no “system” at the moment.

***Customs:

Normally Customs would ask for a series of copies, but here they only wanted originals and they would get their own copies.

-Passport: original.

-Title or Registration of the vehicle: original.

-Driver’s Licence: original.

-Proof of exit from Mexico for the vehicle: original.

-Payment at the bank of 160 Quetzales/vehicle. Permit is valid for 90 days. They only accept Quetzales.

Exiting Guatemala.

***Immigration:

Original passport is required and a stamp of exit is placed. Here is where I confirmed that we should not have paid anything when we entered the country.

***Customs:

-Passport with the stamp of exit of Immigration Guatemala: original & copy.

-Title or Registration of the vehicle: original & copy.

-Driver’s Licence: original & copy.

-Permit of entry to Guatemala for the vehicle: original & copy.

With these requirements the permit is cancelled and a stamp is placed on the permit. This is how the legal status to withdraw the vehicle is finalized. You may wonder what happens if you do not follow these steps… Fines are given and they can go as high as $622 USD per month or fraction of the month that the permit goes over the expiry date.

Entering El Salvador.

***Customs: a stamp is required on the stamped (cancelled) permit of entry to Guatemala for the vehicle, this stamp is placed by a Customs officer who is at the bridge before reaching Immigration or Customs.

***Immigration: simple step where the officer registers the entry in the computer but no stamp is provided in the passports.

***Customs:

-Passport with the stamp of exit of Immigration Guatemala: original & copy.

-Title or Registration of the vehicle: original & copy.

-Driver’s Licence: original & copy.

-Stamped (cancelled) permit of entry to Guatemala for the vehicle: original & copy.

-There is no fee to import the vehicle.

This is how you get the document that will allow you to circulate through the country, this document should be available because it is requested 100 metres later. As well as a toll fee of $5 USD/vehicle is collected but we did not pay since we had no money, there are no banks or ATMs at this border.

Exiting El Salvador.

***After being chased we came to a booth where we had to show the original permit of entry to El Salvador for the vehicle to an Agent of  “Direccion General de Aduanas” (DGA).

We showed this document and the agent kept it, a copy of the same document was stamped as a proof of exiting the country. I had to get one more copy of this stamped document for a future step which we did at that spot. 

***Immigration: no stamp was provided in our passports but our exit was registered in the computer. An immigration officer (the boss) made a clear recommendation: “Do not speak to anybody who does not wear official uniform of Aduanas or Migracion otherwise you are at risk of extortion”.

***Customs again just before the bridge. Another officer asked for the stamped (cancelled) copy of the permit of entry to El Salvador for the vehicle.

Entering Honduras.

***Young kids and young men where asking us to stop at the bridge.

***Once we crossed the bridge we came to a stop and a man who claimed to work for Customs asked us to give him all the documentation so we can clear Customs. I did not accept his demand and asked him to let me know where the offices for Immigration and Customs were at so we can do the process ourselves. He got angry and claimed to be injured by Deya so the police had to come and finally I went to the little office set up just next to the bridge and asked for help. A man with an orange shirt helped and took me to the Customs office, The DGA officers on the bridge are there to point you in the right direction and should not cost anything. Unfortunately the only person who is authorized to sign the permits to import a vehicle temporarily was not there, so we waited from 11:30 am to 2 pm. Meanwhile we got a phone number to report any problems faced by tourists: 800-222-8687 ANOMALIAS TURISTICAS.

***Immigration: while we waited we dealt with this part of the process.

-Passport: original.

-Fee of $3 USD/person. A receipt as a proof of payment is issued and stapled in the passport.

***Finally by 2 pm I went inside an office that is not marked as Customs but it is actually where the process takes place. The place is named Secretaria de Finanzas Direccion Ejecutiva de Ingresos. By the time I got in there was a long line and I had to wait. When I was able to speak to this lady I explained to her our frustrating situation and asked her to guide me through the process which she accepted and in fact she said this is what she is working on, getting tourists to do their own paperwork otherwise those criminals outside take advantage and mislead the tourists. She said what would normally cost 635.72 Lempiras or $35 USD approximately and almost no time, it costs for those who get taken advantage of about $100-$150 USD and a long wait. In occasions the process would take a long time just because line ups or little things but it would take long regardless of who is doing it. That is the reason why that little office after the bridge is set up so tourists can  get help from Customs rather than criminals, but hard to say who is who at that moment.

***Customs:

-Passport with the stamp of entry of Immigration Honduras: original.

-Title or Registration of the vehicle: original.

-Driver’s Licence: original.

-Stamped (cancelled) copy of the permit of entry to El Salvador for the vehicle: original.

With these documents two forms are issued: Forma 9A-1 and Boletín de Pago, and the proper payment is now clear $35 USD or 635.73 Lempiras/vehicle. Also the passport gets a stamp with all the information of the vehicle in consideration.

Normally at this point a series of photocopies are taken and the payment is done at the bank but in our case the bank was closed (closes at 4 pm). So, we made the payment directly at Customs and got the following photocopies and delivered two of each at Customs, we only kept one of the copies of the Forma 9A-1 and Boletín de Pago for a future step.

-Passport with the stamp of entry of Immigration Honduras: 2 copies.

-Title or Registration of the vehicle: 2 copies.

-Driver’s Licence: 2 copies.

-Stamped (cancelled) copy of the permit of entry to El Salvador for the vehicle: 2 copies.

-Forma 9A-1 and Boletín de Pago: 3 copies.

We faced another problem. They only accept cash and we did not have enough, which meant one of us had to go back and get money at a close ATM. The nearest was in El Salvador and we decided I would go. I went back with the Customs Agent (the boss) to the bridge to get permission to go back to El Salvador, went back through Immigration to enter El Salvador, they allowed me to go without checking my passport. However, just when I was about to get to the place where we were chased previously I decided to go back, I was afraid. I turned around and in no time they were there again, impeding me to go through, they put their vehicle in the middle of the road and one of them jumped off the vehicle and took the other side of the road leaving me with the shoulder to drive through so I can escape from them. I did not know their intentions. Back again to exit El Salvador, I was not required to go through Immigration, and Customs in Honduras let me go back with no problem because they had instructions to do so.

At this point and after explaining the situation to the lady at Customs she sent one of her officials to accompany me in his truck to get money.

There we go again, back to Immigration and this time I had to enter the country again and went to the closest town to withdraw money. Came back an hour later and went through Immigration again.  The point is, have enough cash available before you get to the border.

With this payment we finalized the process and Customs offered us to go with us to the hotel where they stay at the end of their shift. So we did, we waited. In that wait, he showed up… Dani… he was also being followed and we worked with him to get him through.

***Customs again at the final exit gets a copy of Forma 9A-1 and Boletín de Pago.

Finally we made to the hotel in Nacaome, Honduras. Forty two kilometres of darkness and stress.

Exiting Honduras.

***Immigration: no stamp was provided in our passports but our exit was registered in the computer. Also a little stamp is given in a little piece of paper so we can deliver that at the bridge to an officer so we can prove we went through Immigration.



***Customs: simple process.

The Customs officer checks the vehicle in consideration, stamps the passport and takes Forma 9A-1 and Boletín de Pago away.

Entering Nicaragua:

***Immigration:

-Passport: original.

-Fee of $10 USD/person, the document issued is called Tarjeta de Turismo. $2 USD/person for Migración y Extranjeria.

***Customs:

-Passport: original.

-Title or Registration of the vehicle: original.

-Driver’s Licence: original.

With this the permit of entry to Nicaragua for the vehicle is issued.

***Vehicle Insurance:

It is called “Seguro obligatorio de responsabilidad civil legal de automóvil vehiculos con matricula extranjera y en transito”. This is not a requirement for Immigration or Customs but people will make you believe so. This is a requirement of the police and it is simply a Third Party Liability Insurance. If you happen to have an International Insurance Policy then this is not required by the police, but if you don’t then the police can force you to buy it and penalize you if you do not have this paper. This policy can be purchased after dealing with Immigration and Customs.

***Five kilometres later…

A fake police station was set up and a police office with a fat chick stopped us to ask for driver’s licence and insurance which sounds reasonable but not until they started to play tricks saying I did not look like the woman in the picture. I did not let them rip us off; they wanted money for a fee that was the last one to come into the country. Video of this…

Exiting Nicaragua.

The longest and stupidest process of all.

***Payment to exit to the Municipality of Cardenas Rivas, the receipt is issued as an Especial Contribution of $1 USD/person.

***There is a little booth where Immigration and Customs (DGA-Direccion General de Aduanas) check the passports and the vehicles and allow us to go to the next office inside a big parking lot.

***Immigration: here we have to show our passports and a stamp is placed. We also have to pay again a fee of $2 USD/person for Migración y Extranjeria.

***Customs: the best is to find the Customs office and ask for instructions. Otherwise it can be complicated.

-Get a signature on the permit of entry to Nicaragua for the vehicle in consideration from a police officer who is in the parking lot, who knows where and a signature of an officer of DGA (Customs). These two individuals suppose to check your vehicle but they do not, so really the signature is worth nothing. Someone may know the name of the police officer and the Customs officer and in that way it is easier to find them.

-With these two signatures in the document plus the driver’s licence and passport, another Customs officer will check the documents (in an office at the back of the parking lot). This officer will issue a signature on the permit of entry to Nicaragua for the vehicle in consideration. Another police officer in this office will do the same.

-The permit of entry to Nicaragua for the vehicle in consideration is given back to us and with all the signatures issued this paper is given back to another Customs officer at the end of the parking lot.

-At this point another Immigration officer checks the passports with the exit stamp.

Entering Costa Rica.

***Immigration: as simple as personally delivering the passport and getting a stamp which will allow Canadians to stay in the country for a maximum of 90 days. This is the first border, after Mexico, where they actually require seeing the person of the passport.

***Customs:

First the following documents have to be presented,

-Passport with the stamp of entry of Immigration Costa Rica: original & copy.

-Title or Registration of the vehicle: original & copy.

-Driver’s Licence: original & copy.

-Insurance called “Seguro obligatorio de vehiculos automores-poliza turista”, cost = 6736 Colones and it can only be paid in this currency: original & copy. This is purchased next to the Immigration office.

-Importation form called “Solicitud de Importación Temporal del Vehiculo”.

Second, with all these papers a little document is elaborated and the entire package is taken to another Customs office where the actual permit gets issued.

Third, in this other Customs office the package is delivered and a Customs officer prepares the permit of entry to Costa Rica for the vehicle. In return you get the permit along with the little document issued earlier to be able to exit the parking lot.

Fourth, little document is given to a guard at the end of the parking lot and Welcome to the Land of Civilized people again…

Deyanira Mendoza Dominguez – Adventure Researcher

May 16, 2011

Frontera Honduras – El Amatillo to Costa Rica


Bullshit! Absolute bullshit, I know people complain about this border and I’m sure a few have had an easy cross but ours was brutal.  But I’ll go back to our trip through El Salvador first.

El Salvador is nice and we had heard good things about it.  Of course the advice on the streets is to avoid Honduras but not El Salvador.  It was hot and we were making average time, the roads are pretty good and we stuck to the coast.  The coast for the most part is mountainous and rocky beaches.  By the time we got to Puerto La Libertad it was getting late and we found a safe place to stay.  It was out of our budget but again, the locals are all keen on telling us about the murderous gangs looming in the bushes.  They say it is not like the more civilized Cartels in Mexico who just go about their business and bury those in the wrong place at the wrong time or just those involved.  It’s more about the vicious youths who group together and get involved in gangs that used violence to get anything they want, even valueless things.
It just about got really ugly here, the first border check going into Honduras
After three nights on the coast we headed for the border early, our intention was to tackle this well known and difficult border during daylight with plenty of time to spare.  I told Deya that about 5 kilometres before the border we would stop, rest and water up and get prepared for the difficulties of the crossing.  I’m not sure why this never seems to work but as we rounded a corner about 5 kilometres out, there was a gas station on the left, I thought we should stop there and get ready then I heard on our right some guy yelling and running out of the bushes towards us.  We kept riding, I figured better to hit the next stop instead of stopping where people come out of bushes.
The road is long and straight, it’s hot and dry and other than the GPS telling us we are close you get a sense that you are out of sight and out of mind.  That is when I suddenly found a blue Nissan truck beside me in the oncoming lane.  The truck had 4 or 5 young men in it, wearing wife beater shirts and ball caps.  They were yelling at me and pointing to pull over and using their truck to try to herd me off the road.  I held my ground and waved them passed mouthing, “Get the fuck off the road!”.  Meanwhile I was thinking, is this an attempted robbery or hijacking?  An oncoming car was forced into the ditch because of these maniacs trying to overtake me.  I decided to hit my breaks, they would either overshoot and come to a stop or slow down in parallel.  They slowed down with me and started pulling in front to cut me off, just then Deya dropped two gears and hammered it passed us, just as we had rehearsed for this scenario.
People just hang out waiting to confuse the coins from your
pockets, the guys on the bridge were stopping traffic for
customs...?

Deya and I had discussed what to do in the scenarios of being overtaken or forced off the road, as well as coming to a barricaded road.  In this case I would attempt to slow the vehicle as bait, when the vehicle is slowed or stopped enough Deya would initiate the escape and I would follow.  Not many vehicles, especially down here, have the stuff to take off as fast as us so this would give us a chance to escape.  It worked as we had practiced.

I quickly caught up to Deya a couple of kilometres down the road and as the road rounded some corners, a line up of transport trucks appeared.  This was the first border point.  We came in pretty fast and right by the first police officer.  Two more came out with pistols and shotguns and ground us to a halt.  Deya told them we were being chased by some thugs in a truck.  I pulled up on Deya’s right and started getting off the bike when the thugs in the truck surrounded us like a pack of wolves, they were poking at us, grabbing at the bikes and shouting, completely dwarfing the police that were present. 

My first instinct was to fight, not understanding the language, but my mind was grappling with why the police didn’t seem concerned that they did not have control of the situation and these thugs could just burst in and take over the area.  I barked at the police, the aggressive and angry tone was clear, “What the fuck is going on here?”  Deya told the police officers that they needed to leave us alone and get these thugs away from us because her husband is about to lose it.  He clears the thugs out and sends them away.  We take a breather on the side of the road while the cop returns to stopping trucks and letting them through, I could not see the value in his presence. There was a Customs (Aduana) official there with a clipboard doing something.  It turned out the thugs are called ‘helpers’, of which I am sure they are there to help you empty your purse.

When we were ready Deya went over to the Aduana officer to ask questions.  It turns out we needed to get a stamp here and a photocopy of something.  Ridiculous but necessary process I guess, the Aduana officer took Deya to the side away from the police officer and told her not to talk to those thugs and only deal with Customs and Immigration folks with uniforms and in the offices.  Note taken, we moved on.

Guns, blood and high tension - this was the second time that morning
it just about got really ugly
We got to the Immigration office and went through the process, registered in the computer and checked the bikes out of the country.  The Immigration officer was again clear with Deya not to talk to anyone who was not in uniform or in the office else we would be at risk of extortion.  We typically found that the officials are good people surrounded by dirt bags, a hard work environment for sure.  They all had the same complaints about being threatened and having their cars damaged for helping tourists despite the ‘helpers’.

The next stop was at a bridge entering Honduras, it was the final stop for El Salvador, we dropped a piece of paper and passed.  At the end of the bridge, now in El Amatillo-Honduras side, there is yet another check point.  There were police officers and people with uniforms standing around.  We were stopped on the bridge by some random youths and then approached by a guy with a plastic ID in his pocket.  In no way did this guy seem official.  Deya said we needed to go directly to the Aduana office but the guy demanded all of our papers and passports.  Once they have them they will extort money from you to get them back.  Deya said NO, she’ll talk directly to the office, the man became upset and said she has no choice and must trust him. Deya drove past him, the man punched her pannier cutting open his knuckles.  He showed me his bloodied fist and I just looked at him like he was an idiot, which he was.  He then went over to complain that Deya had run him down causing the injury.  A police officer nearby told Deya to just leave and head for the Aduana office or this could get ugly. 

At this point an actual Customs agent came over to walk us to the unmarked office of the Aduana official who would process the paperwork.  For the first time, despite the level of intensity we had seen that day, I thought this situation might just spiral out of control, Deya admitted she felt the same.  Once we got over to the office Deya made quick work of getting our passports processed at Migracion but the Aduana officer was in El Salvador and then out for lunch.  The helpers would all claim, and we saw them produce for a few tourists, that they could get the documents cleared in mere minutes, we had to wait for hours.  The funny thing was and I hope none of those tourists get in trouble when they try to leave, but the official was out for lunch and at a meeting and she was the only person who could sign those documents.  So I’m not sure what the ‘helpers’ were giving to the unsuspecting tourists.  People can expect to pay $50-$200 USD for the helpers when the price for entry is $3 USD and the vehicle is $35 USD.  It’s a simple process too.

While we waited in the heat and the ogles of sorted folks wanting to know the cost of the bikes, I saw many ‘helpers’ taking blonde haired blue eyed tourists around corners and off in different directions not even close to the Migracion and Aduana offices.  By about 2 pm the officer had returned to a line up of people needing signatures.  By the time we got our turn and asked the right questions it was now 4:20 pm.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough money to pay Customs, so the Aduana got Deya clear to go back into El Salvador to get some cash, she road alone.
My guts where turning, one of our rules is to never get separated and here we were at the worst border in one of the most dangerous Central American countries and Deya has to go off alone to get money from an ATM with thugs and shit rats circling like vultures.  I don’t know what I was thinking but I should have gone, however the language barrier might have made it more difficult.  About 20 minutes later Deya returned pumped up and shaking slightly.  She had headed across, when she got to the first ATM near customs it did not exist anymore, she continued but as she got closer to the location of the chase she got a really bad feeling and stopped to turn around.  She was alone down a long stretch and out of the bushes the same truck full of thugs barricaded the highway, jumping out and covering the roadway waving their arms like soccer player defending the net.  She drove straight off the road and into the dirt, hitting the gas, she simply smoked past them, ran straight through the border check point and all the way back without stopping.  I was so relieved, but we still had no cash and by now it was almost 5 pm. 

The Aduana officer was very nice and helpful, she got one of her staff to take Deya back again in his vehicle to help her get the money and watch her back.  Deya got good intel from this official and they were plain about what was going on.  Simply, they said make a run for the other border it’s not worth staying in Honduras right now.  They talked about the ‘helpers’ and how they simply use confusion to take advantage of people, they said that if those other guys that chased us were real helpers they would be in town not road blocking people where they are most vulnerable and alone.  When Deya related her story the Aduana had heard it before, she commented that she helped an American couple earlier that morning who were literally in tears when they arrived. The officials live in a hotel about 45 minutes from the border and offered to guide us there, if we get pulled over they would get us out of it and generally just make sure we were safe.  What they would do for us deserves a commendation.

We were entrenched, everybody in the area was used to seeing us there, they had all studied us and the bikes.  The fact was we were at the worst border in Central America, lingering as you should never do, pissed off ‘helpers’ everywhere, sketchy dudes on every bench and around every corner and the riding day was nearing dark.  It was past 5 pm and I wanted to get going while we still had light but Deya felt that we must follow the Aduana officials to the hotel when they finish work at 6 pm, I begrudgingly agreed. By 5:50 pm we saw a good looking young fellow on a 650 Honda walking his bike towards us from the bridge, both Deya and I thought the same thing, “Good thing he found us, he’s in trouble.”

The Englishman, Danny, was tailed by four of the thugs that had chased us early and road blocked Deya.  The brains of the operation was on his left, they followed him all the way up to us where Danny said something about getting through this mess.  Deya immediately said we would help him through it and the ‘helper’ whose English was near perfect said he was doing it and he is with him.  Deya spat, "He doesn’t need your help.” I was sure fire was going to burst from her eyes and fry the dude on the spot. The ‘helper’ started to argue and Danny told him clearly he wouldn’t need him and that he would work it out with us.  Deya took Danny off to get the process started.  Since they closed in a meagre ten minutes there is no way Danny would have been able to get cleared of that border.  The office unsigned and ‘helpers’ working hard to extract cash from his pocket simply would have been left to figure out his long night at the worst border in Central America.

Fifteen minutes later Deya had Danny through the process and we were good to go, but in the meantime the ‘helper’ was grilling me for information; spitting pure foam without control.  I could see his elevated tension level and he was pissed at having been shuffled aside by our team.  Where would we stay, how far would we go, what’s our destination, when would we leave, would we leave with Danny or alone?  He offered subtle threats guised as cautious advice and recommended where to go for our own safety, clearly convenient if we were to be followed.   After each round of questions he would return to his other ‘helpers’ and have a short conversation, the body language was clear and they shuffled around preparing things for a departure, looking at us but trying not to stare or be seen looking.  Of course ever question I answered with enthusiasm which he passed on to his cronies, they sounded reasonable but were total bullshit.  Clearly these guys were dangerous.

Just before we were to leave I went over to the ‘helper’ and complimented him on his excellent English.  I told him I had a group of riders coming through and hoped they could contact him in advance if he would be willing to get them through the process smoothly.  When I said 6 riders all retirement aged he was really grateful and gave me his name and contact.  I excused Deya for being hot tempered and blamed some other things so he could see there was no foul intent.  He thanked me and I told him I’d look him up next time we came through.  He seemed very pleased with this.  I returned to my bike hoping I had accomplished my goal of disarming him.  As soon as I got back to the bike he went over to his cronies, in two separate groups and talked briefly with them.  Each group left their vehicles and areas they were gathered and went back to the bar/restaurant nearby and started ordering beer and food.  I still wonder if what I saw happening was really happening or if I was being too cautious, I hope I never know.
It was a kind of frantic and crazy race to the hotel in the pitch black of night.  Danny admitted and I agreed that every time we passed a vehicle on the roadside or got overtaken at speed by some lunatic that it might be these guys coming to get a piece of us.  In the end, we got to the hotel safely.  I have to again thank the Aduana team for watching our backs; they are good people in an impossible situation.

The next day we would hit the Honduran exit, it’s not as brutal as the entrance but has no lack of silliness in the process, we got through only to be staggered by the stupidity of the Nicaraguan border.  In the end though we would buy the mandatory insurance and head out.  As we hit our final check point and started on our way we came across a public bus stop, there we got flagged down by a fellow in a police uniform. He checked our documents and was answering to a fat chick that hovered around telling him what to do.  She tried putting the pressure on by telling the police that the girl in the photo was darker than Deya and there was a problem.  Deya gave a story about us taking this back to the Customs office to formalize it and so they said we could go but not before asking about my helmet camera.  Deya gave them another story about satellite signals and the government watching and then they really didn’t want us around.
That whole day was hot, damn hot, reaching up to 44.5 Celsius. The riding was good but by the time we got anywhere all three of us had serious heat exhaustion.  Both Danny and I struggled; I think Deya probably had the most going on upstairs.  We had a great dinner right on the beach with beer and plenty of water but by now we were all simple overheated.  The sun was going down so no time for a swim, I retreated to the room and hit the bed.  What I wanted was to have a shower, to cool down and try to scrub the fever like pain in my head out but the best I could do was curl up on the bed in a ball shivering madly.  The last thing I remember is Danny saying in his English accent, “Do you want your Mommy?”  In my head I laughed but I no longer had the stuff to do it out loud and no witty comment was possible, cursed my failure to respond but enjoyed being the subject of jest in this most fragile state.  It was a cheap shot that I wasn’t sure was real but enjoyed it anyway.
44.5 degrees and near puking, hot and windy

The next day we crossed into Costa Rica, of course exiting Nicaragua was a mess…  so many different stops, so many pieces of paper, hunting down police and Customs officials wandering around the yard to get signatures for inspections that would never happen, it was total crap. To enter Costa Rica takes a while at the border because they are thorough.  It’s organized and straightforward, someone actually checks your bike and wants to see the person who owns the passport, imagine that.  I chatted briefly with a few folks at the border who were transiting by bus, a young Canadian couple returning from their trip to Nicaragua got robbed, I wasn’t clear where though, Nicaragua or Costa Rica.  I should pay more attention really..lol…
Awesome....
We spent the night at Liberia, again with Danny.  By now travelling with Danny seemed like old hat and truth be told both Deya and I really enjoyed his company.  The following day we would head East towards Lake Arenal and Danny would head South towards Manuel Antonio.  We pulled over for the goodbye and bode each other well wishes.  We’ll see Danny again I’m sure of it, I hope he had better weather than us, it’s been all rain so far.  We took the northern route around Lake Arenal, it’s magical and both Deya and I felt fortunate to have made it this far, for our time with Danny and for the great ride we were currently riding.  We got to our friends farm late and in the rain, the neighbours helping us find the place but we were safe and ready for rest.


Borders, your first and last impression of a country.


Instead of heading straight to Guatemala from San Cristobal we returned West to Chiapa de Corzo to visit a BMW rider and the owner of one of the Canyon tour companies there.  It’s a nice town that has a significant history with a model of the Spanish King’s crown reproduced as a fountain in the centre of town around 1562 A.D.  It’s safe with plenty of tourists coming by, mostly Latino.

After staying with our host, Eduardo, for a couple of days and getting our process together for the entry into Central America we back tracked East along the 190 again, 3rd time, and headed for Comitan.  We figured we would get near the border then spend the day investigating the crossing before going in.  Instead we got there very early and decided to head straight for it.  It was hot by the time we hit the exit on the Mexican side of things and we were well cooked.

The Mexican Migracion and Aduana (Customs) were a piece of cake, Deya walked in and told them we were leaving, they stamped us out, we moved the bikes next door to the Aduana and after ten minutes the guy came out, peeled the stickers from the bikes and we were ready to go. 

We rode across a bridge and over a hill entering into Guatemala and the small but busy community of La Mesilla.  It’s an obvious entry and there is a gate, the first building you come to is the Migracion (Immigration), we stopped, we didn’t have Quetzales (currency) so had to get some from a money changer.  It’s always more expensive but it’s convenient.  We didn’t change much, a few pesos so it didn’t matter.  Deya went into the Migracion, it took about 40 minutes, the ‘system’ was down and the football (Soccer) game was on.  The agent asked if it was our first time in Guatemala, Deya said yes and he said it would be 20 Quetzales for the two of us.  Deya asked if she could get a receipt and he said no, they don’t make receipts. She paid thinking that it was dirt cheap anyways, about 4 Canadian dollars.  My job is always the same, watch the bikes while all the locals ooooh and ahhhh and say, “Beee M, Mucho Deniro! Do you have a dollar?”  I try to reply, “Not anymore but I’ll take yours if your offering” then they leave.
Money changer
 Then we moved next door to the Aduana, very professional, they had all the prices posted on the wall with a notice of when the prices had been adjusted, they inspected the bikes, no sprays or BS.  We didn’t have enough Quetzales to pay so Deya wandered into town to find a bank, it was a long and super hot hike, she returned haggard but had the cash.  I stayed with the bikes since me only speekee the Iglish.  Deya wears her gear, pro rally II (BMW), which you may know weighs in at about a thousand pounds wet, so you can imagine the walk up the hill she had.  Took another 40 minutes for the walk and 15 for the Aduana, they issued a receipt and the total was 160 Quetzales each.  We put the stickers on the bikes and left.  I talked to Deya afterwards about the charges, reminded her that there is no charge for entering ourselves into Guatemala.  She was pissed at getting ripped off even 20 Quetzales, in her defence though both of us were overheated and at the bottom of our game when we got there.  The topic won’t end there though; we have a plan to ‘stir’ the pot.
Guatemala is pretty cool, the roads were great for motorcycling except for the sudden appearance of huge holes, tumulos (speed bumps), and various animals.  There were a lot of tumulos which in my opinion is great and kept the drivers at reasonable speeds.  The bus drivers however are all nuts and when you see these flaming, flashing monsters coming it’s best to stay clear.  The riding in Guatemala is good and there are lots of good gas stations and relative security for travellers, people are nice and don’t seem insecure about their position in the world.  I noticed, not sure why, that people started to look me in the eye, were more interested in us and never jumped straight into the racial imprinting.  Maybe that’s why I felt so much better about the place than Mexico, generally speaking.

We made it to Lake Atitlan, normally I don’t like tourist traps but it is better to get your bearings where there are some familiar services.  On the way in we saw a sign for camping and decided to stay.  We ended up staying for four days; it was cheap and had a lot of services, close to town and easy living.  Only 50 Quetzales a day, included bathrooms, showers, pool, electricity and a covered area.  In town we found a good breakfast place owned by a German lady called “Llama de Fuego”.  Nearby was a designer clothing store with fantastic clothing that had Deya hooked, I pretty much had to drag her out of the place which is unusual for Deya and make promises to return one day to load up. 

Lake Atitlan is a nice place and worth spending some time there, riding around and checking out the sights.  We were camped beside the property of the owners of Pollo Campero, similar to KFC and probably as rich.  These folks had helicopters and all night parties going, the result was a bit of fatigue for us enduring the noise and action, despite their excellent choice of music. 
In town (Panajachel), we walked around and bought food at the local market.  The selection is limited because they simply don’t grow a variety of stuff.  On our walk along the main strip I kept getting approached by people trying to sell a boat ride to the other side of the Lake.  One young lad was persistent and when I refused the boat ride he began offering drugs.  I don’t care if people want to fry their brains but I do know what the money from illegal means does to innocent people and it certainly makes you wonder about the people on the street offering seemingly legitimate boat rides to tourists and their motivations.  What are you going to do when you’re in the middle of a lake going some place you really don’t know for sure with a drug dealer as a captain.  There are enough tourist police in town but once you are out of sight…..who knows. 

Despite this we had a great time and left having a really good breakfast at the same joint.  We were going to head South to Monterrico on the Pacific Coast, check it out and take a ferry a short ways inland to carry on route CA2 to El Salvador.  We ended up taking a route around the lake that I must admit was beautiful, short, dirt, somewhat technical epic.

Instead of the longer paved route we ended up climbing a mountain in 35 degrees heat. What should have taken 30 minutes turned into almost 2 hours with no water. Coupled with three sleepless nights, Deya had suffered a serious injury which resulted in her total lack of mental and physical stamina.  I had to leap frog two heavy bikes up some difficult roads for almost two hours in the heat.  Riding up and walking back, trying to encourage Deya to pick herself up and move on without unleashing the evil eye.  Most parts of the road, if you stopped, you’d start sliding backwards, there were washouts and ruts, large stones and sand.  If the bikes were unloaded and we were at full strength I would probably be saying it was epic awesome but under the circumstances it was epic brutal.
Deya, as the ladies can empathize, was suffering from her monthly injury and so I could forgive her for the weakness displayed.  She really was beat and when one of the team falls down the other one must pick them up.  Deya appreciated the tremendous physical effort and the heat exhaustion I suffered for her and I’d do it again and again, despite how pissed off I was.  We made it through and regardless the ordeal I would think that this route and all the routes around the lake would be fantastic.  The lake is worth seeing if you are in the area.
WTF!?! There is garbage everywhere??!! Zoom-in
We ended up with an easy drive to Monterrico, it costs 5 Quetzales at the bridge to enter and takes about 20 minutes to get there.  Once there we stayed at a place on the beach, it was hot and the town was dirty.  The beach has a lot of potential and we heard that it was beautiful, but to be honest it looked more like a garbage dump than a beach.  I have a pet peeve about garbage and in order not to drive Deya nuts I try to refrain talking about it.  But simply, people who throw garbage should be whipped, it damages the environment and what potentially could be a world class beach is just disgusting. For that, we left the next morning headed for El Salvador.  A note to people who live off tourism, pick up the garbage and police it carefully, we would have spent a week there if it wasn’t a dump.  How hard is that to understand? 

DON'T DROP IT!!!!!
We took a short ferry ride inland through a swamp, it cuts off a lot of time and kilometres and only cost 85 Quetzales for both bikes.  Unloading was difficult though as we had to back the bikes off the barge uphill.  It ended well and we were on our way until we got stuck in cattle traffic.  I had a very brief standoff with the head bull, not sure if I won or if he just realized I wasn’t pining for his cows.

 We got to the Frontera (Border) on the Guatemalan side at Pedro de Alvarado, La Hachadura on the Salvadorian side and immediately had a crowd of ‘helpers’ around us.  This pisses me off a bit, while I respect that they are trying to help people with the confusion of the border for a living, they often create the very confusion they suggest that they can help with.  I told Deya not to talk to these guys and go straight to the office, she continued to ask questions.  I left pissed off, they we’re pointing her towards a guy with a clip board sitting on the sidewalk, bullshit.  Once I road away, she got it and simply road over to Migracion office.  Once there the situation changed and Deya was able to get our documents done fairly easily.  We also got the contact to make a formal complaint against the fellows who charged us 20 Quetzales on the way in and an apology from the supervisor there.  We’ll let you know how that goes.
All 'helpers' waiting to run at you at the same time, bikes are so they can chase you down
The Aduana is on the other side of the building and there are 3 stations.  I think it was somewhat inefficient of a process though not complicated.  There are requirements on the wall near the office in English of what copies you need to get to cancel your stickers for the bikes.  It doesn’t cost a thing to exit the country and shouldn’t either.  The only hiccup was the volume of truck drivers but Deya said she would be documenting this clearance process and they started jumping on board.  Good stuff.
It’s important to have your papers in order, the clear out documents need to be presented to the Salvadorian officer, in this case, on the bridge entering El Salvador.  We drove past him but were stopped and told to go back to get him to stamp our papers. It was professional and well organized.  We returned and the guy just laughed, made sure our documents were in order, stamped the Guatemalan exit documents and let us go in.  When we entered it was obvious where the Migracion and Aduana were, there was a total absence of ‘helpers’ only money changers and police all over the place.  The Migracion was simple, cost nothing and took about as long as the short line up.  The Aduana process was clear and transparent at no cost but took over an hour.  It was long because they are thorough and go over the documents carefully.  You need to produce the exit documents that the guy on the bridge stamped and the agent reminded us that if you run your permit for the vehicle out then you get billed $622 USD per month of excess.  Now imagine you leave without clearing and return a year later to get stopped and fined $6000-$7000 bucks.  Smart for them, but better for us to make sure we take no shortcuts; I wondered how many other countries we’ve been to or will go to with similar rules, probably most.
In all Guatemala and El Salvador have good border crossings with the potential to improve. In my opinion, if they police the ‘helpers’ out of there the simplicity of the process will move the country to streamline their Migracion and Aduana process.

As soon as we left the border we were confronted by a police check point, they wanted to see our documents for the vehicles we just entered. Once that was done we could go, however, the road heading out is a toll and a young lady wanted 5 bucks each.  As luck would have it, we had no money, and had just used up our spare fuel too.  We had been unable to find a bank, ATM, or anyone else who accepted credit cards.  The girl phoned her boss and got us cleared to leave without paying.  I’m not entirely sure it was official but my guess is that, it would be if they could issue a receipt. 

The first thing I noticed about El Salvador was the lack of speed bumps compared with Guatemala, and the beautiful surf.  The people seem a little more serious but in general a welcoming sort.  We stopped for gas near Acajutla on the Pacific Coast, don’t go there it’s a sketchy dump, we had been warned about it but needed gas and when we got there, there were masked gang members looking dudes checking us out.  Some local riders stopped to say hi and chat, they confirmed that we should get our fuel and head elsewhere, there is a bad element.  Enough said, we headed for Puerto La Libertad.

We stayed the first night in a quiet safe place just entering town.  It was 30 bucks which just kills me when I consider our budget but we couldn’t find camping or anything better and I was suffering from heat exhaustion again, nearly puking at this point.  It had been a long day so Deya was calling the shots.  That night we had Pupusas and beer, a local dish and went to sleep.  I slept like the dead, the next day we found a place in town right in front of the beach with the surfers doing their thing and waves crashing in, way better (Hotel Renacer $15 USD). The beach here is rocky but the surf is very good, lots of surfer dudes around and clowns.  We’ll stay a couple of days before getting to the Honduran border.
The Honduran’s day should be epic, we’ll punch out of El Salvador, clock into Honduras, ride for 118 kilometres, clock out of Honduras and punch our way into Nicaragua.  I’ve heard that entering Honduras is full of shitz and giggles so this is going to make for a long day at 30-40 degrees… Celsius.

Later I’ll get a summary of the border crossing details for each country we have been in.





Clowns everywhere