Saturday, August 7, 2010
Choluteca, Honduras to Leon, Nicaragua. 97 miles.
It is with the best of intentions, that on days we cross the border our plan is to get going early, so far this has not happened and today was no exception. We got up, ate and discussed... the generator. It seems to be laboring a little and when we start it up, it splutters. So Tom gets the owner's manual and starts to read. We decide to take advantage of the internet and order the parts needed to give it what amounts to a tune-up. Something else for Danny and Nicole to bring. This took up the better part of the morning and it was almost noon before we started the drive to the border, about 28 miles with 2 more checkpoints. The second was the worst and the police were just looking for an excuse to get money. They checked the vehicle, all the paperwork, our fire extinguishers, emergency triangles, etc. Finally, after wandering around the RV, they noticed our laminated rear license plate. Ah ha! "Fine or a ticket", they said. No, said Tom and I. We have the original but people try to steal it. For about 15 minutes we are at in impasse. Tom gets a scredriver and puts on the true license plate. Now we are not in violation. With much grumbling they hand us back all our documentation and we drive off. We will both be glad to be out of Honduras. The country is nice, the people seem friendly but the police and all the hassles make it all hard to enjoy. We exit Honduras with no further problems and get to the Nicaraguan border. Here an official stopped us, checked our vehicle exit stamp and then smiling broadly and shaking Tom's hand, welcomed us to Nicaragua. He pointed us in the direction of immigration and customs. A very polite young lady approached us. She had a clipboard, an official looking shirt and a badge. "Aduana?" I ask. "Si" she said. Passports, vehicle paperwork (license, title, registration) and Winston's paperwork. "That will be $40.00" she said. Lights should have gone off in my head but with all the frustrations, I wasn't thinking. Neither, apparently was Tom. We handed over $40.00. As she walked away, I grabbed Winston's leash to walk him. After a couple of minutes, I hurried back to Tom. "Go after her, she has all our original paperwork and we always have to find customs, immigration etc., they don;t look for us. We had broken a cardinal rule. Never, never give up your original paperwork to anyone unless it is in an office of a bona fide official. Fortunately, Tom finds here and she is processing our paperwork but he also realises that she works for a well organized tramitadore agency. Our costs without her would have been $30.00, so they made $10.00. By the time they returned, it was about 3 pm and all our paperwork appeared to be in order. We were not happy with ourselves for being suckered in but we let it go, smiled, high-fived and considered t another successful border crossing. We knew we wanted to make Leon our first stop, which is about 70 mile from the border but we didn't know the road conditions or stop points. As it turned out, the roads are better maintained than Honduras but not as well as El Salvador and we were stopped three times. We were asked for our vehicle permit and Tom's license (we are now using the laminated, fake one like it was legal issuance) and sent on our way. Just like at the border, the police were polite and courteous and treated us with an ease and friendliness that was lacking in Honduras. However it is now 5pm and in these parts darkness falls at 6 and dark, ominous clouds are starting to form. Within 5 minutes we are in a dluge of rain, thunder and lightening and Tom is having a difficult time seeing anything. In addition, because this is a border road, there is a lot of traffic of both trucks and cars. In fact our overnight stop in Leon is an Esso gas station that is a truck stop. Suddenly the traffic comes to a dead stop. Accident. The traffic slowly starts to ease forward, past the emergency vehicles and police cars. We are still about 20 mile from Leon and losing whatever light there is. We push on and finally see, on the outskirts of town, our stop. Esso Gas. We pull in and see that there is still plenty of room although trucks are pulling in quickly. We have learned that no-one really wants to be driving after dark. We had read that the place is safe and secure and sure enough, within the space of an hour, our small RV was sandwiched between huge trucks and anyone would have been hard pressed to find us. Truckers also turn in for the night early and so after some fast food chicken and a burger at the on site cafe, we to went to bed. Exhausted. Two crossings in two days. Give me a week to chill!