March 03, 2010
Bring The Vaseline When Visiting Honduras!
This border stuff is getting silly. The Salvador, Honduras border does not look as crazy as the last two, but appearances can be deceiving. As soon as I approach, I am mobbed by tramitadors, free enterprise border consultants offering to help me cross. One of them spoke English, so naturally I chose him. He had a partner, and between the two of them managed to empty my pockets with all kinds of phony fees, but they did get me across. Sadder (and broker) but wiser I pull into the first nice hotels I see to reflect on my stupidity. Fortunately the amount of money I was carrying was not large, because these con artists were skilled, or maybe I was an idiot, nuff said no real harm done. (On reflection, I will say tramitadors are more lawyers than consultants.)
Honduras looks a little less intense than Guatemala and Salvador, the window and door bars are more decorative than fuctional, houses are surrounded by fences you can see through, rather than cinder block walls. The houses look different as well, lower and roofed with hand made clay tiles, some are actually wattle and daub (sticks and mud), and the donkeys here still have jobs.
The next day I get my first introduction to police corruption. I don't know if this is normal for Honduras, but the police had road blocks all along CA 1 (the Pan American Highway). I hit the first one just a few miles from my hotel. An older cop asks for my drivers license, looks at it, and waves me on. Twenty feet further a young cop pulls me over again and tells me he is going to write me a ticket because I do not have a slow moving vehicle triangle thingy on the back of my bike (that's a laugh). By now it is fairly obvious what is going on. Fortunately I had not been able to find a cajero yet, so their cousins back at the border had all my cash except for a few Lempiras that I got from a money changer at the border. I handed over my Lempiras, (about 2 dollars worth), and the old cop intervened and told the young guy to let me go. I must have gone through a half dozen or so more roadblocks, each time expecting the worst, most pulled me in, one even wanted to see my passport, at that one they were taking a car apart with a cold chisel (really!), so it must be drugs they were after. No more phony tickets though.
Pretty quick I was at the next frontera, crossing into Nicaragua. This was the best crossing yet. This time the tramidor was helpful (you can't get rid of them) and I kept a tight eye on the money and the process. To repeat, it is all about the vehicle, every country I have entered so far except the US issues a temporary vehicle permit limited to a number of days, which has to be issued when I enter and cancelled when I leave. There are fees, and copias (photocopies) must be made, but the real fees are reasonable and so are the copia fees. My tramidor tried to sell me insurance, but I did not have enough Lempiras to pay for it (I would have bought it, he was OK, even though I was sure the insurance was bogus, but it was only $12.00). I gave him my remaining Lempiras as a tip, and this other dude tried to pretend he was a government guy and that I had to pay some tax or other, ($3.00), I showed him my empty wallet, and promised I would pay at the next police station as I found a banco with a trajero :-)