Two border crossings and three countries in one day.
Okay so many have written about this (Andy & Ellen and Brett ...ones that we have read) but its a thing to ride through El Salvador and then straight through Honduras in one day into Nicaragua.
The eastern islands and coast of Honduras are meant to be beautiful but we were running out of time and that was a good weeks worth of travel time.
Its known to be a stressful time as crossing borders with not one but two vehicles means getting Temporary Important Permits for both checked in and out of countries we visit = time ...and you never really know how much time!
We got to the first border at 6:30am and there was already a good line to get stamped out of El Salvador. We (cheekily) parked our bikes next to the migration windows and queued up.
Next it's off to a warehouse to get the bikes signed out.
So far so good! Next we cross to the Honduras side to their immigration.
Hahahahaha one thing we hadn't factored into this day was it was a week before Christmas. So many buses ...full to the brim buses all wanting stamps in and out of countries. One of the buses seemed to be fun of nuns ...or women dressed at nuns BUT it seemed like they had husbands in straw hats, and a few seemed to be pregnant so we really don't know how that worked???
It was chaotic and we couldn't find anywhere that looked "safe" to park the bikes so we put them in front of a ladies clothes stall in the market area and Nick gave her $10US to watch the bikes ...I tell you what, when we returned to her 3 hours later she was hovering over our girls live a Rottweiler! Money well spent!
The stamp into Honduras cost us 2 hours, and the TIP another hour ...but we were still smiling at this point.
We were into Honduras and riding to the next border just before 11am after several stops and checks.
...and then we were at the Honduras/Nicaraguan border by just before 1pm. According to Nick this is the primo time to arrive just before they knock off for lunch and he was right as it only took us around 15 minutes to get ourselves and the bikes stamped and checked out of Honduras.
Wow, this was meant to be the really mentally challenging border and so far it was a piece of cake. We high fived and smug smiled each other!
To quote Julia Roberts in the film Pretty Woman... "big mistake, BIG MISTAKE" because then the buses started arriving again and the bureaucratic red tape hit the "on steroids" button!
Getting ourselves checked in was okayish, even though we had filled their online "we want to check your social media pages" online form only 3 days before and not the required 7 days before, but getting the permits for our bikes was so complicated and confusing.
There is this one little form that had to be signed and stamped by various officials before the guy handing out the permits would even look at our paper work. We had to go back to him and queue up 4 times and each time we would be sent back to get another signature. We also had to unpack ALL our luggage from the bike and get it put through an X-ray machine.
They were looking for drones I think; apparently some bikers before us had created havoc by trying to smuggle drones in and now they trust NO foreign bikers.
Its okay, they have there rules (as in NO DRONES!) and we 100% respect them ...we just didn't understand a lot of the process with our still limited Spanish.
It was very hot, and very frustrating and eventually we just had to succumb to the process and had a little giggle at it all and go with the flow ...if we had to ride out of there in the dark then cest la vie; not ideal but we would make it work.
In the end while Nick was re packing the luggage onto the bikes Bec returned back to the temporary import permit guy waving the form like a white flag while crossing her fingers with the other hand ...and it was still incomplete! This time the very stern guy folded and cracked a wide smile and physically took us to the place for the last stamp!
Phew! finally we were ready for our bike permits.
We were on the road by 5pm as the sun was starting to go down and had a beautiful ride to the airbnb we had booked in Chinadega.
We passed tradespeople and farmers going home for the evening with their horses and carts and oxen and carts, we passed by hustling towns full of smiling people and vistas of volcanoes. The pace of life here seemed like it had just turned back 5 notches and we loved it!
The past 11 hours of tortuous border crossings had definitely been worth it, this country was amazing.
Unfortunately the photos of the airbnb posted online didn't really represent the reality of the place or the neighbourhood. The 9ft secured perimeter fencing had all been sheeted up so you couldn't see in or out ...unfortunate we could see in and recognise where we were going in the dark!!! BUT fortunate the we couldn't see out (once we were in!!) as there was raw sewage and rubbish running down the road outside! we asked the airbnb hosts where was a good place to eat and they looked horrified we would want to go out and said nowhere ...hmm... not ideal when all we had eaten all day was a banana each! we managed to discover there was a shop next door that sold water ...a shop where they handed the stuff to you through bars.
We then used the very basic kitchen and our own bowls etc. to cook up a sachet of dried potato that we mixed with a tin of corned beef we had been carrying for such emergencies. It was one of the best meals we have ever tasted!
Fed and watered we then went to our room for a shower (it had been mid 30's for most of the day) and sleep.
The shower looked amazing, unfortunately I think there was a water problem ...as in little to no water. We sparsely washed under a slow dribble and collapsed in bed which was at least comfortable and clean.
Nicks turn to write the next update of our adventures exploring the amazing Nicaragua.