Mexico & Central America by Motorcycle 2008/09 travel blog

We were awaked by a knock on the door at 6:45 AM. It was the maid and she quickly rattled off something in Spanish (or what ever language they are speaking here). Who knows what she said but we concluded this must be another “check out by 8:00 AM places”.

This is just as well since we are very anxious to get out of El Salvador anyway. We loaded the bike, waited 20 minutes to get a cup of coffee and left the hotel by 8:00 AM. We were only an hour or so from the Honduran border.

Checking out of El Salvador was pretty simple. A temporary exit stamp for the bike permit and a quick look at our passports. Getting into Honduras was a whole other story.

This border is notorious for being slow, complicated and crawling with scam artists. We were approached by a dozen guides who would help us through the process. I waved them all off. We when through the immigration process, paid our $3.00 fee and we were off to the aduana for a bike permit. I Finally, I told one kid I would give him five bucks if he showed me where each window or office was.

It is just as well I hired the kid because nothing is clearly marked nor is it simple. The first I was directed by the border official to stop at a shack on the side of the road to get the permit form. Only problem, they had no forms yet. It was too early. (This seemed pretty strange since this is a 24 hour border)

So, we moved up to park the bike on the other side of the large, arched border station building where Janine waited with the bike.

We went to several desks at the main building but no one seemed to have the form. Then it was back to the shack, then back to the main building until finally I guy handed over the form. Looking back this is where the first scam started but the officials all appeared to be party too it. We took the form to another shack marked aduna where a guy took the form, put my information into a computer, then printed the form.

Then I was asked to give him $25.00 USD. I said sure, once I get a receipt. You will get your receipt once you come back with the other papers. I paid the $25.00 but never did get a receipt in the end.

Then it was back to the window in the main building where the official stamped the form, gave me another form, and off we headed to another shack. This guy looked more official and actually gave me a receipt for the $11.00 fee he charged.

Back to the window to hand in the stamped form. More forms given back. Now it was off to the bank on the other side of the main building. Total fees about $35.00 with official receipts issued.

Back to the window in the main building. Hand in my forms with my passport. The official put them on a pile and returned to reading the paper. The computers are down. We have to wait.

After about half an hour the kid said something to the official, got a reply, then turned to me and said you might as well take your passport back and we will come back in two hours, it will be at least that long.

I went to the window and the official handed me my passport. I asked the official was that right, 2 hours. He said no, not two hours, only a few more minutes.

We waited, and waited and waited in the steaming hot building which was swarming with people. All of the officials were now outside standing around chatting. Nothing was moving. (I could see the computers screens and they were all off).

About half an hour into the wait the guide said he had a friend who knew the official. For $10.00 he would sign and stamp my passport and forms without waiting for the computers. I said no.

After another half and hour he was talking to another guide who then went up to the window, talked to the official, then took off with some papers. The kid then tells me those are my papers and the other guide was going to get them signed and stamped. The official had handed over my documents to a stranger without even talking to me! Fortunately they did not have my passport or any of my originals. Now I was pissed off.

I went out to the bike where Janine was to cool off and figure out what to do next. The kid kept assuring me his friend would be right back. After a few minutes he did return. “All was set up. For $10.00 the official will come out, examine the bike, sign & stamp the permit and passport, I will be on my way.” I said no, give me my papers back.

A family from El Salvador who had been waiting were Janine was overheard the conversation. He said he lived in Texas and spoke very good English. Could he help.

He told me that yes, these guys probably could get it done right away for the $10.00 and yes, it could be quite a wait otherwise. Take the guys ID card, don’t give him any money until you get the stamp.

I was steamed but figured for $10.00, even thought it went against all my principles, if this is the way it works so be it.

They followed through. I took the guides card. In a few minutes the official came out, looked over the bikes plate & VIN number and we headed back to the window. I got the stamp in my passport and the stamped form with all my paperwork back. I paid the $10.00 to the guide and returned his ID card.

I am sure the first $25.00 was a scam since I did not get a receipt but I am not sure. How can a guy set up a shack next to the official government building, put up a government sign “Aduana” and run a scam right under the official’s noses? And with their help? The other $10.00 was nothing but a bribe I am sure but it did get the results.

Just as we were ready to get on the bike and pass the final checkpoint the side stand snapped and down went the bike. Just what I need at this point! Here I am, hot frustrated, pissed off at being scammed and now here is the bike laying on it’s side with no way to hold it up.

I picked it up and Janine and a trucker helped steady it as I ripped off the side stand and strapped to the bags. I got on the bike and we crossed the final check point. We were out of El Salvador and into Honduras.

A couple of miles down the highway the engine missed a couple of times then suddenly just died. My heart sank. What now! Could it be bad gas from the last fill in El Salvador? It seemed more like an electrical problem. Could it be a battery connection?

I looked around and there was not a tick of shade to be seen. It had to be in the high 90’s. The only person I could see was a little guy coming down the ditch in bare feet carrying a machete. He did not look like he would know much about BMW electronics.

I noticed to dash lights were all working so tried to start the bike. It started right up. I put it in gear and it quit immediately. Aha! Maybe the kick stand switch.

Sure enough, with the stand broken off and the spring off it the remnant was flopping around activating the switch. (This switch is designed to kill the engine if you try to drive off with the stand down.) I secured it with a tie strap and were back on the road.

Entering Honduras was like entering a new world. Clean, modern and the people were very friendly. We stopped at the first gas station and parked at the end of the building so I could lean the bike on the wall. Two policemen were there and immediately smiled and said hello.

We got some water and looked at our options. It was only 12:00 noon but we had already had a full day. It was only 2 hours across this section of Honduras so we could conceivable cross into Nicaragua today but what would be the point? No, better to go to Choluteca, which looks like a fairly big place, find a hotel and perhaps see about getting the side stand welded.

We rode to Choluteca and found it to be a fairly large, clean modern city. We had no map or any clue where to look for a hotel so we stopped and asked a moto delivery guy at a street corner. He was very friendly and in clear, concise Spanish gave us directions to a hotel. When we went to pull out a taxi driver stopped the traffic to let us turn.

We found the hotel with no trouble and checked in. It is very nice, very clean and reasonable. We cooled off then I took the remains of the side stand off intending to go looking for a welder.

I went to the desk and asked the guy if he knew of a welder close by. He looked at it, said no problem, and jumped on his moto to go get it welded. He was back in 20 minutes with it done and it looked like a very good weld. He had asked for 100 lempira when he left to see the welder and when he returned he offered some change. I told him to keep it. I realized after that 100 lempira is only about $5.50 USD. The weld had been less than $5.00!

With the bike back in order life is good. I went up the road to find a bank machine. I passed a police check point. On the way back they stopped me. With big smiles they welcomed me and asked if I needed directions since I had turned around. I said no thank you I was going to my hotel down the street. They misunderstood and told me about a couple of nice hotels nearby. We shook and I was off.

What a friendly place. We may have to stay a day or two.

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