We knew this day was coming. We knew it was gonna suck. We knew it could be dangerous. Today, we went to Honduras.
As a country, Honduras has it pretty rough. It is one of the poorest countries in Latin America and its legitimate economy is almost nonexistent. After a military coup in 2009, the country has been in political limbo, making it prime territory for drug trafficking. Additionally, Honduran gangs have gathered a strong presence there and strike out viciously against their rivals. Police corruption is rampant and goes all the way to the top of the judicial system. In 2011, there were over 7000 murders; the highest in the world by far. Let's just say this place is sketchy.
So despite how nice of a picture this paints in your mind, passing through Honduras is unavoidable on our trip to Tierra del Fuego. Even by going through El Salvador, we'd still have to pass through a small portion of the country on the way to Nicaragua. The plan was to arrive at the El Salvadoran border town of El Amatillo as early as possible, ride the 131 km from El Amatillo to Guasaule, Honduras as quickly as we could and pass to safety in Nicaragua, all in the same day.
It sounds simple enough. Google Maps says the time to drive from border to border will take a little over 2 hours. It's less than a tank of gas. So what's the worry? Well, the catch is that processing all of the paperwork at each crossing can take an unnecessarily long time. Latin America is notorious for tedious border procedures involving stamps, original documents, copies of original documents, copies of copies of original documents, etc. Before we left, TJ and I made the decision to never ride after dark. With the potential delays at the borders, this could make getting to Leon, Nicaragua before sundown rather challenging.
In order to be the first in line at the border, we left the Pacific paradise of El Cuco, El Salvador just after 5:00 am. It was still dark, but within a half an hour, the sun began to soften the night sky. With a tough day ahead, we saw something today that we hadn't the whole trip: a sunrise. It was magnificent over the desert floor and towering volcanoes.
We made it to the border by 6:45 and were approached immediately by people wearing badges and polos, demanding to see our paperwork. When we showed them, they took us to the front of the lines at checkpoints and ushered us from window to window at customs and immigration. TJ asked if they were with the aduana (customs). They replied, "Yes, yes! Aduana!" and followed us all the way through the process. With all of our I's dotted and T's crossed, we went to the bikes to leave. It was then that these people wanted money. As it turned out, they weren't with customs at all. They were fixers.
Fixers are people who provide direction and expedite the processes at borders. They can be very, very helpful, but they always come at a price. Border fees and paperwork cost us around $40 USD to get into Honduras. Fixers cost each of us about $20, but probably saved us over an hour. Got taken a little, but...oh well.
We were finally there.
Time to put those 81 miles to Nicaragua behind us as quickly as possible.
The trick was though, we had to be patient. We couldn't speed because that would put us at risk of being pulled over by crooked cops looking for a handout. We had to try and blend in as best we could and hopefully make it through unnoticed. Franz and Hans are massive in comparison to all the motorcycles in every country we've been through. As for us, we look like spacemen to these people in our full face helmets and riding gear. We crossed our fingers and clicked the gear levers down.
With 2 plus hours ahead of us in the saddle we settled in and tried to enjoy ourselves as best we could. When we weren't dodging the worst potholes we'd seen the whole trip, we were checking out the scenery...which...was...amazing! We had both thought that it would be jungle, but we were naive in our assumption. Volcanoes and rugged mountains grew out of arid hills. Despite the dry climate, beautiful rivers cut through the land in turquoise bands. Locals were out swimming and washing laundry as we'd pass. It was such a shame that this place was so dangerous because I really wanted to stop and take it all in.
Before we knew it, we were pulling into the border outpost at Guasaule. I'd never been happier to see drafty buildings and automatic weapons in my life. With an exit stamp in my passport and a new temporary import permit for Hans, our party left out of Honduras and into Nicaragua. We'd made it out unscathed and with a newfound appreciation for this deeply troubled nation. I will close with two things:
1. We're alive.
2. Get your shit together Honduras. Next time I ride through, I want to get off the bike and stretch my legs a bit.
And sorry for the lack of pictures. We were a little preoccupied.