The Good the Bad and the Hot

We were out of our El Salvador hotel before 9:00 AM after a hearty breakfast at the hotel with plenty of coffee. It was already over 90 degrees and we suited up and loaded our bags on the bikes. We knew it was going to be a hot one, again. We slogged through the coastal highway towards the border with Honduras. We knew it would be a full four hours in the blistering heat so we just settled in for the ride.

We stopped for gas and hydrated with electrolyte drinks. We filled out hydration packs and continued in the traffic dodging trucks, busses, cows and horses. Around noon we were picking our way through a bigger city and I was feeling symptoms of overheating. I was dripping wet and even the inside of my helmet was soaked. We pulled into a shopping center and I saw a store that had a cooler inside selling water. That was it. We went inside what turned out to be a very modern looking bakery, it was air conditioned. Yes. We could park both bikes right outside the big plate glass window and sit in the cool air while keeping an eye on things.

We weren’t really in the mood for bakery but felt obligated to purchase something to eat as we sat to cool off. We both bought something we couldn’t identify but tasted like bread pudding, it was actually pretty good. Out the window a guard with a shotgun over his shoulder took an interest in the motorcycles and stood over them the whole time.

We got to the border just after 1:00 in the afternoon. The craziness was about to start. Exiting El Salvador was actually pretty straightforward as they again did everything in an organized and efficient way. When we crossed into Honduras, it was totally different. Lots of people walking around, money changers, fixers and vendors on three wheeled bicycles selling some kind of food and drinks in plastic bags. Somehow we suddenly had a guy hanging around, his name was Osmond. I told him I wasn’t going to pay him but he said I didn’t have to unless I felt he did something to help. Oh great. He joked that I was Donny and he was Osmond and made a good pair. Geesh, how old was this guy? There was a lot of waiting and a couple of times when we had to go into the immigration building together. Osmond said not to worry about the bikes, he had a friend who would watch them. Hmmm. We got our passports stamped after waiting in a huge building that thankfully was air-conditioned. Next was getting permission for the motorcycles to enter Honduras. That was a little more complicated.

Here is the Aduana building.

After a long wait it was our turn and someone came out to inspect the motorcycles, check the license plates and VIN numbers. Here you can see the customs officer checking Deby’s bike while she let one of the local kids sit for a picture.

Although slow, things went mostly smoothly until we got to the last step where I was told we had to pay $85 US dollars each to import the motorcycles into the country. What? We went back and forth a few times, I hadn’t heard of this and it seemed excessive for a country that we would be in for less than 24 hours. And it had to be US cash. Geesh. Fortunately, El Salvador uses US dollars as currency and I took a few hundred out for just this type of unforeseen circumstances. I got an official receipt for the money and a bunch of stamped permission forms and a later check on the internet seemed to verify that indeed this was a legitimate charge. Wow.

Finally at almost 4:00 in the afternoon we were free to go. It was still hot and sticky as we gathered our things and loaded up. I figured I probably owed my new best friend something for his troubles, and, he was a pretty nice guy overall. I offered him a US $20 bill, he countered with $20 each. Ok, whatever. It’s not like he didn’t earn it after spending at least three hours with us. Osmond asked where we were going and I still had no idea because my phone still had no connectivity. He said he knew a place we would like, right on the beach. “You will love it, trust me. And, I’ll meet you there later for a beer, it’s near my house.” That’s how we ended up at Hotel Ranchitos Manglares in San Lorenzo Honduras for the night. We didn’t care, we arrived just before 5:00 and checked in.

We were both looking forward to a shower to rinse off the stink and sweat. One knobs or two we both wondered as we entered the room.

Ummm, ok one knob. Maybe it was extra for a shower head. It didn’t matter, we rinsed off in the luke warm water that felt refreshing and washed out a few clothing items before heading to the restaurant.

I have admit, the restaurant had a nice setting with seating under palapas on stilts over an inlet from the Pacific Ocean. The wifi worked only in that area so we could connect and get updated with the world. We both order a fish dinner since we figured it would most likely be fresh caught and were treated to a beautiful sunset as we ate.

The luxury room had AC but the knob on the door was broke and it wouldn’t close all the way. At night we needed to put a chair in front of it to keep it from blowing open. It’s funny, they gave us a key but the deadbolt didn’t align up at all so that was pretty much useless.

Oh, and our new best friend Osmond never did show up.

The next morning we were up early but the restaurant wasn’t open for coffee. It was 7:00 and we though we should just leave. A woman came out and said they would have coffee by 7:30 and we should wait because breakfast was included in the $50USD rate. Hmm, ok. We were all packed with our gear on when breakfast and coffee finally arrived at 8:00. Yea, it probably wasn’t worth the wait.

The flimsy plastic fork couldn’t even cut through the rubbery egg (singular). We were glad to get on the road by 8:30. It was already 90+ degrees and we had another border crossing. By 10:00 we were at the border with Nicaragua. This time the crossing was much easier. There were a few lines but the process was pretty smooth and organized. I exchanged money with one of the money guys and shooed away a few fixers. One of them came up to me and said he was a friend of Osmond and was here to help. He didn’t speak a word of English so I laughed and told him Osmond took all my money yesterday and he wasn’t going to get paid. He laughed and left me alone. There were two immigration lines, one went out the door and down the block, the other only had a few people in it. A sign said Tercera Edad. What? Old people??? Hey, that was for me. I got in line with the other people and was through in a wiz.

Getting the motorcycles in was pretty easy but time consuming. We waited a long time in a short line to get the paperwork stamped. The was a couple about our age behind us from Canada who looked Hispanic and spoke English with a Spanish accent.  They left Montreal by car at the end of December and drove all the way to Panama. They wanted to get to South America but found out there is no longer a ferry so they turned around and were heading back. Wow. It was super interesting talking to them. In true feisty Latina form, she told us stories about being pulled over by the police and her haggling to get out of tickets, then her opinion of their police and policies. I wish I would have thought to get a picture.

This crossing also had our first encounter with carbon paper. One of the last forms we signed had carbon paper inserted to get our signature on both copies. It’s good to see some of the old customs continuing. Oh, and there was this little piece of paper that needed to be signed at a few places. We shouldn’t dare loose it or I assume we would have to start all over. I’m surprised they didn’t ask us to go get a copy of it somewhere.

We were finally sprung free about 1:00 in the afternoon for a total time at the border of about three hours. We were glad to be back on the road with some airflow in hot sun. We booked a room in Leon, a large colonial city that we had visited before. I purposely picked a place right in the center of the city that boasted a gated parking lot, restaurant, pool and most importantly AC. The website didn’t say if they had hot water but we splurged and paid $75 USD for the night so we were hopeful. Here is the description according to their website,

Hotel La Perla resides in one of the oldest buildings of the nation, built in 1858. The house was originally built by a wealthy noble man when cotton production was at the center of the cities economy. It is one of the few neo-classic architectures present in the city. Our Hotel counts with 10 rooms in the original house, 5 in the pool patio and 8 in the contemporary annex.

It was a beautiful hotel with a courtyard restaurant, secure parking and yes, hot water. Ahhh.

We waited for dark before going for a walkabout town but it was still 85 degrees and we only went around the main square a couple of times before returning for reading and crazy 8s by the pool. Maybe we’re in a rut…

Where next? That is always the question. We sort of need to make progress to Panama where we will attempt to fly the bikes into South America but at the same time we were getting tired of riding every day in the oppressive heat and crossing borders. We took advantage of the good wifi in Leon to look for our next stop. One option was to take the ferry to the island of Ometepe in Lake Nicaragua. We had been there before and it’s an amazing place but we weren’t sure about the hassle of negotiating the ferry. We changed our mind when we found a hotel that looked promising on so we booked a night and headed for the ferry.

The next morning we were glad to get going, refreshed and glad to not have to deal with a third border crossing in as many days, we rode into the heat towards the island. Traffic was generally lighter and we were making good progress. As is typical, we rode fast and passed all the slow going trucks, busses, tractors and dodged cows and horse carts. On one particular long straightaway we came to a line of cars and trucks moving a little slowly so we started picking them off one by one. Although it was a perfectly straight road for as far as I could see there was a solid yellow line. That never bothered us before, or anyone else it seemed, so we just passed and passed to get in front of the line. Suddenly, out from the shade under a tree stepped two uniformed officials who stood in the middle of the road waving us to pull over. Dang, busted.

A young and cute police woman came over to give us the lecture. No passing on the yellow lines. She didn’t speak any English but I knew clearly enough what she was telling me. I argued in Spanish about the slow trucks, bellowing smoke and that everyone else was doing it. She smiled and I could tell I wasn’t making any progress. Then she said one word in English, ticket, and got out her book. Deby took here turn to chime in and try to talk her out of the ticket since she has had success doing that once before in Central America but this time it fell of deaf ears. The police woman said we would give us the ticket and we would have to go to the bank to pay the fine, 1,500 Cordobas. Wow, that sounded like a lot. I asked if I could just pay her… of course, she said with a smile. We went back and forth a little before just paying for our crime and figured it was still less expensive that paying tolls in Mexico to go fast. It was around $20USD each. Lesson learned, maybe.

We got to the ferry terminal about 1:00 PM, we just missed the ferry and the next one wasn’t until 2:30. We probably missed it because of the police stop, karmic justice I suppose. We parked in the blazing heat because we couldn’t find a shady spot. We had to pay some kind of entrance fee at the gate of 1 US dollar each. It had to be dollars. Luckily, I had two $1 bills in my wallet. I don’t even know where they came from but that was easy. After that, we had to go to another window to buy tickets for the bikes and then another window to pay a tax on the tickets for the bikes. Each window gave us a small slip of paper that we dare not loose or who knows what.

This time the ferry was a little bigger.

We rode up a steel ramp and pulled in forwards next to some big trucks.

The crew lashed down the bikes with ropes as people loaded onto the boat.

It was a choppy hour long ride to the Island. Once on the Island we rode another 10 miles or so to Hotel San Juan Ometepe. It was a narrow cobblestone road but this was the “smooth” kind of cobblestones like we learned about in San Miguel. We rode slowly going around the obstacles.

We came to the turnoff from the paved road to the beach. There was a sign that said the hotel was 2 km down a narrow path. I had visions of the deep sand getting to the last beach hotel. I missed the turn and had to turn around but in a flash Deby was riding down the rutted road with no hesitation, the hotel was near, cool water was near, food was near, we could get out of our hot clothes.

I wasn’t sure what to expect as we navigated deeper and deeper in the jungle. At points riding through a banana plantation.

We arrived to find a fantastic place on the shore of lake Nicaragua. They had individual cabins with AC, private decks and two knobs in the shower. Finally, a relaxing place to stay. We negotiated for a cabin for three nights and soon were unpacked and settling in for a vacation from our vacation.

This place was amazing with lots of outside common space, outdoor restaurant and a long private beach.

There was a little nook in our cabin where I setup my computer to get caught up with this blog.

There were amazing birds everywhere. The only drawback was a very slow and intermittent internet signal. Only a fraction of our pictures were able to be uploaded. Here are some white throated magpie jays at breakfast.

There were vultures, Neotropic Cormorants, Little Blue Herons and we saw a Bare-throated Tiger-Heron that was pretty cool. We could hear Howler Monkeys in the trees behind the cabin but never saw any. At night the bats came out…..

I think this is probably one of our best stops so far.

But, the thing that was really amazing was the weather. I almost can’t describe it. and it is a first for me to experience. There is a constant high speed wind off the lake blowing our cabin so hard that it shakes. When I say constant that is exactly what I mean. It never lets up, even for a second, for three days. Today is Sunday and we leave tomorrow. The forecast says the winds will get stronger tomorrow. Sitting on the deck of our cabin is like storm watching the white caps on the lake but the weird thing is it’s warm. Around 85 degrees, so we can sit outside in shorts and t-shirts reading and hanging on. I’ve been sitting outside with a silly grin on my face because it’s so crazy.

Two down days has been great. It feels good to be able to get caught up with the blog even though it’s slow going trying to upload pictures. Tomorrow we have another border crossing into Costa Rica. I’m not sure what to expect and we don’t exactly have a destination. The weather is still forecast to be hot so that may determine where we go.

And, thanks for the comments. They’re fun to read even though we don’t usually have the time or bandwidth for many responses.

More to come,

Donn and Deby





3 thoughts on “The Good the Bad and the Hot

  1. Your stories get more interesting with each new border crossing! I love the little antler thingies on the magpies. What a cool shot.
    May your journey bring you more beautiful beaches, two-faucet showers and amazing wildlife and local life.
    Can’t wait to hear your Costa Rica chronicles.

  2. That spot looks amazing bats and all!

    Tercera edad? that’s a new one, I’ll remember that LOL!

    Andale! a Costa Rica van!

    Buen viaje amigos!

  3. Just so great to follow along with you. I enjoy it all from my chair. I don’t know that I would have your courage, even if I was younger. You should write a book. It’s so interesting and fun but scary as well.

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