Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Honduras to Nicaragua, with Permission from El Presidente – 28 December 2017

28 December 2017 – Today I am going to cross the border from Honduras to Nicaragua. Oh God, that damn alarm is going off. Can’t I stay in bed until 8:00 a.m? Actually, I woke at 3:30 a.m. begging God to let me go back to sleep until 4:30 a.m. Nope, nerves weren’t going to let that happen. I laid there awake thinking about crossing the border today. 4:45 I got out of bed and started this day. I could already hear the trucks heading to the border. I brushed my teeth and set about loading my motorcycle. Those of you who know me personally will actually laugh at how I do this:

1st - the shaving kit and shower shoes in the right saddle bag, paper work and laptop I put in the top box and Blanche my GPS is put back in the handle bar mount and locked. I put the paddle locks on the top box and wire tie them immobile. The right saddle bag is locked.

2nd – The bottom bag is carried out with bungee cords. It is put into place and bungee corded in place. If I have access to open sky I send a Spot personal locator beacon to Mary letting her know I’m leaving the hotel. Sometimes this isn’t possible because of trees or I’m in a concrete jungle and Spot can’t find a satellite. She will find a satellite if her view is not blocked in less than ten minutes. My cell phone will rattle when Spot finds a satellite. I then know a message has been sent to Mary.

3rd – While that’s going on I get my 2nd bag, bungee cords and netting that holds it in place. Electrical cables must be in it along with the motorcycle cover. Also, must bring along spare water and the kickstand block. By this time, I will have received a message saying a message was sent to Mary. I put Spot back in the bottom bag and continuing securing the 2nd bag. I push in the spare water bottle between the bag and top box on the right side and put the kickstand block in between the two bags up against the top box on the left side. Double check everything is secure.

4th - Back to the room and grab the tires and any other extra water. I put the spare tires on top of the top box. Center them up on the box so I can see through my mirrors and bungee cord them down. From here on out I’m going to lock them on my bike. I have seen one too many hungry eyes looking at them. There have been a lot of comments about how nice those tires look.

5th - With that all done, I go back to the room put on my red Aero-Stich riding suit and double check that everything is out of the bathroom, check the bed for lost money, keys, electrical cables and sometimes check under the bed. Give the key and TV remote back to reception and depart.

Leaving today is a little more challenging. Somebody backed their pickup truck into the same garage I’m in. I had to check the space between the front bumper of the truck and door frame. I found this old handle for a paint roller laying around. I grabbed it and checked the opening width. I then used it to see if my saddlebags are wider than the opening. Saved by the stick. My saddle bags were 4 inches / 11 Centimeters smaller than the opening. I can get out of the garage. The Hotel Colonial receptionist asked me if I could get out. I said yes. I asked her to watch that I didn’t scrape the pickup bumper with my saddlebag and I watched that I didn’t scrape the door frame. I squeaked out into the open without a scrape or rub anywhere.

It was 6:00 a.m. and I was running a little late. I said goodbye to receptionist started driving to Customs and Immigration La Fraternidad. It was a short drive and I was there in about 20 minutes. I was met by a Customs Official wanting my paperwork. My helper immediately showed up. He started asking for papers. I asked him for a moment please while I take them out of my orange folder. The Customs Official compares the title of my motorcycle to the paper work. Everything matches up. I have to get something copied. He then wants to copy my passport, driver’s license and title. I said, moment please I have copies. I give him 2 copies of all three items. These copies are in color not a poor quality gray. There’s a lot of talk about that. Next is Fumigation. They spray the wheels with some kind of insecticide. There’s a fee for that. Something like $3 USD. Then it’s down to Immigration.

5 minutes or so later, a tour bus comes in and unloads 50 people ahead of me to go through Immigration. My helper tells me that for $4 USD, you can go to the head of the line. I told him I would stand in line and wait my turn. I stood in line for 20 minutes and not one person moved. Not a single soul. When they started processing passports, 4 people had bribed the Immigration Official and jumped in front of the line. They ate up another 10 minutes. All the while this tall American is standing in line watching this. Eventually the line starts moving and moving pretty quickly. By time I reach the window my helper is standing by me. Everybody in front of me had their right hand electronically finger printed, then their left hand and then their thumbs. I watched how it was done so when it was my turn I didn’t get hollered at. They also take a photograph. Here’s some irony: the Immigration Officially scanned only the fingers of my right hand. He didn’t scan my left hand or my thumbs. He also didn’t take a photograph of me. Now I’m worried; was something skipped that will show up missing when I reach the Nicaraguan / Costa Rican Border? More things to worry about. I have to assume everything was done correctly. Now it’s off to Customs / Aduana.

I have to wait for an English speaking Customs Official. My helper is running around, doing what, I don’t know. He’s been trying to run down the Customs Official that needs to speak to me. About 20 minutes later he shows up. He brings a form asking all kinds of personal questions like are you I married, are I divorced, do you have any children, what is your job, how much money do you have on you, US Dollars, do you have credit cards, how much money do you have in the bank, etc. etc. My blood was boiling even though he was asking all these questions very nicely. Like he was a good cop. I was wondering when the bad cop was going to show up. He left for 15 minutes and then asked some funny questions. “We have it here that you left the United States 15 December 2017”, he said. I could hardly keep from laughing out loud. I told him I left the U.S.A. sometime around the 13th or 15th of November and he left.

He came back again and asked more questions, I can’t remember about what. The last time he came and asked if I filled out a letter to the President of Nicaragua asking for permission to enter the country. I said, no. He said, that is a regulation and that people like me have to fill one out before you can enter the country. So, he goes and gets the form which he and I both fill out. When we get it filled out he says to take a picture of it and e-mail it to these two e-mail addresses. I tried four times to e-mail the form. My cell phone won’t e-mail very well unless you have a strong wi-fi signal. At least not down here. So, he comes with somebody’s cell phone and takes a picture of the form. He then e-mails the form to whoever.

In the meantime, an English speaking family comes over asking why it taking so long for me to get imported in to Nicaragua. I tell them about the letter I didn’t send in and all the personal questions they were asking me. They asked how long I had been waiting and I told them about 4 hours. They were pretty shocked. It took them less than 2 hours to get processed through Customs, and that was with a car. Of course, they were Nicaraguan and spoke Spanish. The wife was from the U.S. and husband was from Canada with family in Nicaragua. I think he may have been originally from Nicaragua. They asked, me about my motorcycle travels. The lady asked me if I’ve ever been scared and I told her, yes. I also told her that if she ever decided to travel like myself that she must think the best about people. If you can’t, it will be a difficult journey. They shared some type of fruit with me and said it was good for stopping diarrhea. He said the seeds of the fruit are what stops the diarrhea. Well, I’m going to keep an eye open for that particular fruit. They left with their friends, wishing me a safe journey.

 I sat there waiting and about every 20 minutes the English speaking Customs Official would come over and tell me to be patient it will only be a little longer. Eventually, I was called over to sign some paper work and pay a fee for insurance and road usage fee. A few copies were made and I was given all the appropriate paper work. I was free to go. I gave a tip to the Customs Official and we went outside. I put all my paper work back into their appropriate folders and then I paid my helper. He wanted U.S. Dollars. I told him I only had Honduran Lempira. He asked for another 100 Lempira so I gave it to him. Then I saw him give it to the Customs Official.

I asked my helper to find the money changing guy. I tried to get face value for my Honduran Lempira in Nicaraguan Cordoba. He wouldn’t hear it and undercut me by $20 Dollars. I tried to bargain higher but it was no use. So, I accepted his exchange rate and took my Nicaraguan money and left. I went back to my motorcycle and checked that everything was in order: passport, driver’s license, motorcycle title and cell phone. I said goodbye to both of the guys. I had to stop at the check point up the road to give one form to a Custom Official and one form to some other official.

If you would ask me how everything went going through Customs and Immigration, I would say this, it wasn’t anything really difficult. It took time and everyone talked in a civil tone of voice. I believe if I would have wanted to ratchet up the stress level it would have been very easy. Being calm and not being pushy probably made the experience more bearable. I read one motorcycle rider’s opinion of Central America Customs and Immigration. He basically said that no U.S. citizens would put up with standing in line for 30 minutes / 1 hour and not have it move. They would riot. I thought about that all the time I was waiting in the Immigration line and while waiting for Customs /Aduana to complete my paper work.

I was now through Customs and heading to Somoto for gasoline. I had close to 300 miles / 483 Kilometers on my tank. When I filled up, the gas station attendant ask me how I was going to pay for the gas. It was over $16 USD / 500 Nicaraguan Cordoba. I guess not too many motorcycles come into his gas station and he put in 4 gallons / 16 liters of gas. I paid him and he was happy. A lot of younger guys were looking at my bike and admiring it. Several people took pictures and one guy want to take a picture of it with me. I needed a break from Customs and Immigration, so I pulled an apple and a Snickers candy bar out of my top black bag. I found a place to sit down and ate them both together thinking how glad I was that I’m through that border crossing. It could have been much worse.
After my break, I saddled up my trusty steed and started driving to Hotel Boutique Colina Real, located in La Thompson. I found it on the Google Maps and it looked just right for me. I was using GPS coordinates to locate it. Blanche, my GPS, put me dead nuts on location where Google Maps says the hotel is. When I get there, there is no hotel. I drive farther into the city and still no hotel. I had Blanche search out another hotel for me. She found it off the PanAm Highway. I drove there and I went inside. I asked if they had a room. They said they did. I asked if they had secure parking for my motorcycle. They didn’t. They said I could leave it parked on the street and the night watchman will watch it.  I didn’t. I declined his offer and left. While I was talking with this guy, I saw the Hotel Boutique pop up on Google Maps again. I went outside to see if I could find it again, with no luck. A couple of girls came out of a clothing store across the street from hotel. I asked them if they knew where Hotel Boutique was. They answered me in English and said they were from the United States and didn’t know where the hotel was. I told them I was also from the U.S. They hurried off and were gone. I did spot a Burger King thought, which I locked into memory for later.  I turned around and drove back out of town.

I saw an old guy who looked a little ornery and maybe has been in the area for some time. I gave him the address of the hotel and he recognized it and said it’s 1 mile / 2 Kilometers down the road. Luckily traffic was light and I could look around a little more than usual. I passed the one kilometer mark and I kept going. I saw the sign at the last moment and drove by the hotel. I stopped and turned around. I drove to sign and made a left turn to a side street that went up the hill to the hotel. Nothing but pot holes and ruts. This can’t be too good for business. I get to the gate of the hotel and drive in. I ask if they have a room and they did. It was the perfect hotel for me. My motorcycle was out of sight. I unloaded and covered it up. I also noticed one of my bungee cords was missing. That ticked me off. Somebody must have stolen it at the last hotel. I didn’t have it covered up and plenty of traffic was running through the garage those two days. Nobody could have stolen it when the bags sat on top of it when it was pretty much out of sight. So, it was ripped off by someone in the Hotel Colonial or the truck that blocked the doorway. I have to make a note to myself to cover the motorcycle anytime it’s setting for the night, even if it is in a private garage. I went to bed early because I had been awake since 3.30 a.m. and the border crossing was intense. Tomorrow I will concentrate on getting this blog updated.

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