15 September – Day 55
El Tunco, El Salvador to Somoto, Nicaragua (through Honduras – where we didn’t stop other than at the border on either side of the country)
Distance: 388kms (including two border crossings)
Having stopped earlier than anticipated the day before, today was going to be a long day on the bike… particularly with two border crossings. However it was a Sunday – and a major national holiday (for Independence Day) throughout Central America, so although we knew we’d be delayed by parades, we were hoping for less traffic than normal (and shorter queues at the borders). And – we were right!
All of the border crossings were easier and faster than I expected… although they did, as per usual, involve lots of photocopying including both before and after certain documents were stamped. Also as per usual, the crossings involved the swarm of local ‘helpers’ insisting on walking us through the process… which is totally unnecessary, as we’ve got a rough idea of what to do from previous travellers, and almost without exception, the officials we’ve met have been incredibly helpful. And the locals hanging around the border are generally friendly too. I was only asked for money once, by a woman in Honduras who came up to me while I was watching the bike and essentially said ‘ hey, give me some money.’ This was after she’d offered Adrian a swig of warm coke from her half-finished bottle, then told him that she wanted to marry him! He declined both offers.
I can’t say much about Honduras, as we didn’t stop there at all. The border did feel a little less safe than some of the other borders, but it wasn’t too bad. And we didn’t get stopped by police at all – we’d heard of other bikers being stopped multiple times and hit up for a significant fine for some breach of a rule at each stop.
By the time we crossed into Nica, it was getting late… and it was pouring. No surprises there; it generally rains from about 3pm until morning. A few kilometres after the border we passed a hotel which Adrian had read about from some other bikers… www.twomotokiwis.com very, very basic (a cabin/shack, with an outside shower and long-drop toilet) but apparently a fantastic experience. And it was! It was like a homestay with a local family. We were the only tourists there and there was at least one, if not more, of the family (the parents plus six sons and three daughters) chatting with us at any one time. Or, to be more specific, there was at least one of the men in the family chatting with us. The women were hidden away in the kitchen and we didn’t see them other than when they served our food.
The family are also local guides to the canyon in the area, Canyon de Somoto. We decided that, if it wasn’t raining in the morning, we’d go canyoning and experience the famous Somoto ‘jump rocks’ for ourselves.
Border crossings along the Panam by Adrian
After researching for potential hazards, tips and tricks for the border crossings in Central America, I came to the conclusion that no two crossings ever appear the same and that generally border crossings have improved a great deal lately. Looking at blog posts from two years ago, it revealed a culture of corruption and bribes leading to extended delays and stressful border and country crossings. I had started writing a bit of a blow-by-blow of our Central American border crossings however they have all been comparatively straight forward. Obtain a temporary vehicle permit and stamp in your passport, cancel the vehicle permit and stamp out your passport. The specific requirements do vary considerably as well as the number of photocopies required however most of the officials have been professional and helpful in their requirements to complete each procedure and I have been able to get by with a minimal amount of Spanish. If any future overlanders have specific concerns, please email us.