Justin and Silver Al

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Silver Al Makes A Friend

Jan 13 & 14.  By the time we reached the border with Honduras, the landscape was pretty arid and the few trees we had seen were gone.  Herds of cows meandered along the road or right through the middle of it, and occasionally we saw horse and ox-carts being driven around. 

Hazards of the Road

Horse Cart

Ox-Cart Through Dirty Window

When we hit the 'frontera' the usual gang of men tried flagging us down.  We drove past a good many of them, but eventually an official stopped us and the gang quickly caught up.  I grabbed both our passports and brought them to the necessary office for the ceremonial first round of photocopying, while the boys fought over eachother and tried to convince me that their competitors were not good persons.  I have a hard time ignoring people... it is not in my nature...but I never agreed to need anyone's help.  None the less, one guy seemed to win and when I got back into the car to proceed, he jumped into a tuk-tuk and cruised off ahead of us.


At the next stop, our man was there.  I told him again I would figure things out myself, but he didn't listen.  It is an odd thing, because though I can figure things out myself, it usually takes a while.  Buildings are not marked and the order of operations is never clear.  So when someone who knows what’s going on is at your side telling you where to go, and you know he is most likely right, you tend to do as he says.  These guys are always right because they do it every day.  If you walk toward the wrong window in the wrong building, they will tell you and you can be stubborn and ignore them and find yourself back-tracking 20 minutes later after waiting in line or you can follow their instruction.  They know you need two photocopies of the car title, three of your passport, two of your license, two of your registration and three of your country issued papers, BEFORE you go to window 6, building 3 (the building that looks like it hasn’t been used in a decade, but, in fact, has a tiny and very important office with a tiny and very important window)  They know that half way down the street on the right there is a little unlabeled shack amidst a dozen other little unlabeled shacks that has a photocopier for hire.  So you end up getting their help or ignoring them and going your own way, which you already know is wrong because they told you so and they know.  This is how you get a helper.


We were in a tough position at this crossing because it was nearing 5 and people like to stop working around 5.  My helper informed me that we needed to move quickly, and he did pull some strings for us, because I saw him track down different officials who were chatting out on the street here, and visiting their buddy in their office over there.  Once again a lot of papers were out of my hands and once again I am sure we were paying way too much money, but you are kinda screwed at that point because you are checked out of one country and not checked into the other and no-man lands are dangerous places to spend a night.  We wanted to get on our way.


All in all it took about two and a half hours.  At times I hung with Eli at the car (Eli's job in these situations is to watch the car...which is very important) and at other times I was here and there, changing money with the money changers on the street to pay this fee, hanging around this window for a while and following our helper around.  One time I was approached by a really wasted guy...maybe 45 or 50 years old.  His eyes were as red as his toothless gums, and he was slurring something in Spanish about me.  He seemed a little angry and a lot deranged and I couldn't tell for the life of me if he wanted something or was trying to insult me.  When he tried to put his arm around me and pull me closer to him was about when I changed from my friendly 'give everyone a chance' self to the defensive 'get the @$#% away from me' self and I pushed him away.  It was a good thing because some other guy said something to him that contained the words 'cuidado' which means caution and 'policia' which you can figure out.  The crazy hombre looked over, saw the police a few hundred meters away and backed off.  Moments later my helper ran over and scolded me for getting near that guy...'he'll stick an knife in you' he said.  This reminded me of a time in India, but I'll save that story for another website.

Old Bridge


Into Honduras

When we finally finished up at the border, it was dark and we knew we were going to have to break rule number one: No driving at night.  It was sketchy driving at night.  Very dark with lots of potholes and cows in the road.  We kept checking to make sure we were not being followed, which happens sometimes we have learned.  All went well until we reached our first police checkpoint, where we were immediately pulled over.  Three machine gun toting police scrutinized all our papers and questioned where we were coming from, where we were going, ect. Finally one, a tall pale man with bad skin all dressed in black, walked over to Eli's side and noticed that Eli was not wearing a seat belt.  They had us!  He told me that they were going to need to seize my license and I could get it in such and such a town tomorrow when I paid my $25US fine.  So the negotiations began.  We didn't have much cash left.  I had $6 in my dummy wallet and that was it.  The border crossing burnt up all our handy and small US cash.  Of course we had some more money hidden, but I wasn't about to reveal our stash spots.  I told him we ran out of cash and needed a bank machine (cajero automatico) to get more. (We were in the middle of nowhere...far from any bank machine)  He didn't believe us.  We argued and he kept pretending to start writing a ticket.  He would start to walk away and then come back.  He got angry that we weren't coming up with more money, but I knew he wanted to write us a ticket just as much as we wanted one.  He wanted cash for his pocket, not the government's.  So it was a cat and mouse game for a while.  $6US was probably seeming better and better to him, but he couldn't lose face.  We weren't going to pull out more cash because it would probably be a 50 or a 100 and he wasn't going to make change.  Finally I arrived at a solution.  I had a few quetzals left from Guatemala.  They were basically useless to me, but I had a couple 20 notes that I had forgotten to change over before I left.  I pulled them out of the ashtray and handed them to the guy.  Hardly 25 bucks, but he didn't know how much they were worth.  'Approximente viente-ocho dolares' we told him.  He saved face, we saved face and we were on the road again.  The first town we stopped at we bought a jug of water and a six pack and just a little further down the road we found an empty hotel with its empty restaurant still open.  Cold beer never tasted so good!

Pulled Over No Seatbelt

Buring Sugar Cane

Pulled Over No Smoking And Driving

Our next day’s drive was a pretty straight shot through Honduras.  On CA1 (Central American 1 aka the Pan-American Highway) route, you can travel through Honduras in a matter of a couple hours (with two time consuming border crossings on either end.)  Nonetheless, Honduras had a good many police checkpoints for such a small stretch and we got flagged over at all of them.  Each time they looked over the papers, each time they looked us over carefully.  A lot of other cars were just waved through…not Silver Al.  We kept a tight ship, the two of us, but they found a couple holes in our game.  One time, perhaps we didn’t stop quickly enough or they thought I was driving into the checkpoint too quickly.  One time I couldn’t understand what the problem was, but there appeared to be one.  One time I was driving while smoking a cigarette.  We stuck to our ‘no comprendo’ (I don’t understand) technique when the small talk began (often the truth) and we eventually got waved through…I imagine perhaps because they figured that it was going to be just too hard for them to explain to us that we should give them a buck or two.  Or maybe not…I couldn’t understand much of it, honestly.


Eventually we made it to the Nicaraguan border and were cruising past the ubiquitous battalions of ‘helpers’ again.

Approaching Nicaraguan Border

Nice Ride

Honduras to Nicaragua No-Man's Land

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