Jan 13 & 14. By the time we reached the border with Honduras,
the landscape was pretty arid and the few trees we had seen were gone. Herds of cows meandered along the road or right
through the middle of it, and occasionally we saw horse and ox-carts being driven around.
|Hazards of the Road
|Ox-Cart Through Dirty Window
we hit the 'frontera' the usual gang of men tried flagging us down. We drove past a good many of them, but eventually
an official stopped us and the gang quickly caught up. I grabbed both our passports and brought them to the necessary
office for the ceremonial first round of photocopying, while the boys fought over eachother and tried to convince me that
their competitors were not good persons. I have a hard time ignoring people... it is not in my nature...but I never
agreed to need anyone's help. None the less, one guy seemed to win and when I got back into the car to proceed, he jumped
into a tuk-tuk and cruised off ahead of us.
the next stop, our man was there. I told him again I would figure things out myself, but he didn't listen. It
is an odd thing, because though I can figure things out myself, it usually takes a while. Buildings are not marked and
the order of operations is never clear. So when someone who knows what’s going on is at your side telling you
where to go, and you know he is most likely right, you tend to do as he says. These guys are always right because they
do it every day. If you walk toward the wrong window in the wrong building, they will tell you and you can be stubborn
and ignore them and find yourself back-tracking 20 minutes later after waiting in line or you can follow their instruction.
They know you need two photocopies of the car title, three of your passport, two of your license, two of your registration
and three of your country issued papers, BEFORE you go to window 6, building 3 (the building that looks like it
hasn’t been used in a decade, but, in fact, has a tiny and very important office with a tiny and very important
window) They know that half way down the street on the right there is a little unlabeled shack amidst a dozen other
little unlabeled shacks that has a photocopier for hire. So you end up getting their help or ignoring them and going
your own way, which you already know is wrong because they told you so and they know. This is how you get a helper.
were in a tough position at this crossing because it was nearing 5 and people like to stop working around 5. My helper
informed me that we needed to move quickly, and he did pull some strings for us, because I saw him track down different officials
who were chatting out on the street here, and visiting their buddy in their office over there. Once again a lot of papers
were out of my hands and once again I am sure we were paying way too much money, but you are kinda screwed at that point because
you are checked out of one country and not checked into the other and no-man lands are dangerous places to spend a night.
We wanted to get on our way.
All in all it
took about two and a half hours. At times I hung with Eli at the car (Eli's job in these situations is to watch the
car...which is very important) and at other times I was here and there, changing money with the money changers on the street
to pay this fee, hanging around this window for a while and following our helper around. One time I was approached
by a really wasted guy...maybe 45 or 50 years old. His eyes were as red as his toothless gums, and he was slurring something
in Spanish about me. He seemed a little angry and a lot deranged and I couldn't tell for the life of me if he wanted
something or was trying to insult me. When he tried to put his arm around me and pull me closer to him was about when
I changed from my friendly 'give everyone a chance' self to the defensive 'get the @$#% away from me' self and I pushed
him away. It was a good thing because some other guy said something to him that contained the words 'cuidado' which
means caution and 'policia' which you can figure out. The crazy hombre looked over, saw the police a few hundred
meters away and backed off. Moments later my helper ran over and scolded me for getting near that guy...'he'll stick
an knife in you' he said. This reminded me of a time in India, but I'll save that story for
we finally finished up at the border, it was dark and we knew we were going to have to break rule number one: No driving at
night. It was sketchy driving at night. Very dark with lots of potholes and cows in the road. We kept checking
to make sure we were not being followed, which happens sometimes we have learned. All went well until we reached our
first police checkpoint, where we were immediately pulled over. Three machine gun toting police scrutinized all
our papers and questioned where we were coming from, where we were going, ect. Finally one, a tall pale man with bad skin
all dressed in black, walked over to Eli's side and noticed that Eli was not wearing a seat belt. They had us! He told me that they were going to need to seize my license and I could get it in such
and such a town tomorrow when I paid my $25US fine. So the negotiations began. We didn't have much cash left.
I had $6 in my dummy wallet and that was it. The border crossing burnt up all our handy and small US cash.
Of course we had some more money hidden, but I wasn't about to reveal our stash spots. I told him we ran out of cash
and needed a bank machine (cajero automatico) to get more. (We were in the middle of nowhere...far from any bank machine)
He didn't believe us. We argued and he kept pretending to start writing a ticket. He would start to walk away
and then come back. He got angry that we weren't coming up with more money, but I knew he wanted to write us a ticket
just as much as we wanted one. He wanted cash for his pocket, not the government's. So it was a cat and mouse
game for a while. $6US was probably seeming better and better to him, but he couldn't lose face. We weren't going
to pull out more cash because it would probably be a 50 or a 100 and he wasn't going to make change. Finally I arrived
at a solution. I had a few quetzals left from Guatemala. They were basically
useless to me, but I had a couple 20 notes that I had forgotten to change over before I left. I pulled them out of the
ashtray and handed them to the guy. Hardly 25 bucks, but he didn't know how much they were worth. 'Approximente
viente-ocho dolares' we told him. He saved face, we saved face and we were on the road again. The first town we
stopped at we bought a jug of water and a six pack and just a little further down the road we found an empty hotel with
its empty restaurant still open. Cold beer never tasted so good!
Pulled Over No Seatbelt
|Buring Sugar Cane
Pulled Over No Smoking And Driving
Our next day’s drive
was a pretty straight shot through Honduras. On
CA1 (Central American 1 aka the Pan-American Highway) route, you can travel through Honduras in a matter of a couple hours (with two time consuming border crossings
on either end.) Nonetheless, Honduras
had a good many police checkpoints for such a small stretch and we got flagged over at all of them. Each time they looked over the papers, each time they looked us over carefully. A lot of other cars were just waved through…not Silver Al.
We kept a tight ship, the two of us, but they found a couple holes in our game.
One time, perhaps we didn’t stop quickly enough or they thought I was driving into the checkpoint too quickly. One time I couldn’t understand what the problem was, but there appeared to be
one. One time I was driving while smoking a cigarette. We stuck to our ‘no comprendo’ (I don’t understand) technique when the small talk began
(often the truth) and we eventually got waved through…I imagine perhaps because they figured that it was going to be
just too hard for them to explain to us that we should give them a buck or two. Or
maybe not…I couldn’t understand much of it, honestly.
Eventually we made it to
the Nicaraguan border and were cruising past the ubiquitous battalions of ‘helpers’ again.
Approaching Nicaraguan Border
Honduras to Nicaragua No-Man's Land