To prepare you for what comes next, here is a dog in a hammock.
We left Guatemala early on a sunny Friday morning and as we climbed the surrounding mountains we found the fog and mist again. But it was short lived as we dropped down towards Guatemala City, which we were hoping to skirt. Unbeknownst to us, there was a volcano simultaneously erupting to the west, but we couldn’t see it and didn’t know it was there until the next day.
We also had no such luck escaping the city. The GPS doesn’t know that some streets are one way, nor does Siri know that sometimes the road we are on will split into two roads with signs pointing not the direction that the roads go, but the area of the city that they go to (which is not helpful to me). So instead, we wound up taking the wrong split in the road a few times and going literally in circles for an hour before we found our way out of the city. We did manage to stop for some street food which consisted of incredibly tasty fried chicken and weird bean and salsa sludge.
After that it was a straight shot to the border. Yay, a border. When you leave Guatemala they give you a very important little white piece of paper. It looks literally like somebody cut a sheet of paper into one by half inch rectangles and put a stamp on it. Not a stamp like a passport stamp, a stamp like you did well in kindergarten stamp. Then you drive over a bridge and you’re in El Salvador. There’s a bunch of dudes standing under an EZ-up and they tell you to pull over and start filling out paperwork. Our dude was super helpful, filling in some things on the bike forms that we didn’t understand, like how much the bike weighed in kilograms.
Then we go to the Aduana building and deal with all the importation, then we get confused for a while because no one has stamped our passports, and then we think the lady who is standing under the EZ-up by the exit road must be the one to stamp our passports. So when we have all our customs paperwork and we are ready to go, we see the lady under the EZ-up and she looks at our passports and then takes that important piece of tiny white paper. Then that’s it. No passport stamp. Kind of concerning, but we go on our way and head towards the house of Chris’ great friend, Juan Carlos. Who isn’t there. But his mother and wife and cat are there!
We got to Juan Carlos’ house in the late afternoon and met his wife, Krissia, for the first time, and his cute cat, Por Que, who still has his tiny little cat balls and is very rambunctious. JC had work in the city and was arriving the next day so we went out for pupusas with his mom and Krissia. We had shrimp ones, and cheese and bean ones, and lorroco and cheese ones. So we got to eat tasty pupusas and learn about a new vegetable. It tastes like broccoli rabe but is tiny. Next day Krissia made us amazing Salvadorian breakfast, which is one of the best breakfasts I can envisage: scrambled eggs, fried sweet plantains, beans and that sour farmers cheese that is the only local cheese. Finally Juan Carlos arrived on the bus and he and Chris got to bonding.
We were meant to leave early the next morning, but you know how those things go. Someone always falls in the toilet for an hour or two. So we got on the road a bit late, and planned to take a smaller road to the coastal highway. After about an hour into the mountains on this small road, the map told me to turn left for no reason, and off we went into a small town. I realized shortly after that it was a mistake, but by that time we had made one too many twists and turns through the tiny village. I looked at the map again, ignoring its pleas to make six more lefts, and saw that there was a road on the other side of town that went in the right direction, and met up with the main road just before the coast highway. So poor Chris put his trust in me.
We found the aforementioned road and it turned to dirt in about three minutes. Then there were cobblestones. Lots of cobblestones. Then dirt again. A dude on a horse came by and gave us the stink eye and I got a bit nervous but I looked at the map again and it said the coast was only 17k away, so we kept on. Then it started going uphill, and then the cobblestones came back and it went downhill. Super downhill. Super steep switchback cobblestone awesomeness. And then a pick up truck came up it so at least it was actually a road. At the bottom of the hill it just turned into a dirt trail and went by some “homes” and was quite fun. Just when I thought the road should be just around the corner, we turned that corner and stopped dead. We could hear the cars on the highway, but the noise was muffled by the rush of the river that lay directly in front of us.
So after our brief dirt bike ride we wound up at the border a little later than planned. By this time it’s Sunday afternoon around 3:30pm. Now let me give you some context for what is about to happen. We have been reading for weeks, months really, about a) how corrupt Honduran officials are, b) how especially corrupt the border police are, c) how there are at least 14 police checkpoints in the 150kms from the Salvadorian border to the Nicaraguan border, and d) how Honduras is the murder capital of the world. Now remember that we are so close to the equator that the sun always sets around the same time: 5:30pm. Include twenty minutes of dusk and I want to be in a hotel room by ten to six.
Now rewind to how it’s 3:30 and we decided to cross the border. You know I’m not dead cause I’m writing this, and we didn’t get robbed silly cause we are still on the trip. Either it’s not as bad as everyone says it is, or we got some late Sunday afternoon luck. There was no line at the border so waiting was minimal. The officials were more pleasant than most, although the Aduana lady’s printer wasn’t working so she had to walk down the road to another office which was painfully slow. But generally, it went as smoothly as a border crossing can go and we were out of there in two hours. Unfortunately the nearest hotel was 30k away. We drove off into a beautiful sunset, and I can only assume all the police at the checkpoints went home for the night because we didn’t get stopped once. And because it was before 7pm there weren’t any night prowling banditos out yet. We have been trying to not ever drive at night, but somehow we managed to choose the most murderous country on our trip to try it. Luckily, we got to the hotel without incident, and I got to eat my favorite Salvadorian breakfast for dinner!
And for breakfast. We were on the road again the next morning at seven, so once again, cops straggling into work on a Monday morning means our money gets to stay in our pockets! When we can practically smell Nicaragua, we finally succumbed to the biggest problem with driving through Honduras: the giant, man eating pot holes. The road is by far the worst we’ve driven so far, and the constant pot holes are not just regular chunks in the pavement. It’s perfectly fine road and then all of a sudden there’s a crater six foot across and at least six inches deep, with jagged black top edges, just waiting for you to crash into it. Some of the deeper ones had flags on little poles stuck in the holes so you’d see them. And ten km from the border Chris’ rear tire bit it on one of these monstrosities.
A record 34 minutes later we were on the road again, rushing to stand in line at the next border. But I could hear Rebecca calling my name 300km away and we breezed through like we spoke the language. A couple hundred km on some decent roads and then 40k down a fun dirt road until we finally got to squeeze Rebecca Hinden in person!
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a story for another day.