5/16/19 – 5/20/19
“He’s digging a hole,” Soph said with little girl sad voice. The night before we noticed one of their puppies was disoriented. The old man had accidentally stepped on one, but he said that it was fine. This didn’t look like an injury. It seemed like a problem in its head or heart. It got up a few times to walk, but couldn’t make it more than a few feet before falling to the ground. It couldn’t have been more than seven weeks old. When we went to the main building to get breakfast, they informed us that it didn’t make it through the night.
Other than this, Adela’s was a great spot for a rest. A long narrow property between a dirt road and black sand Pacific beaches. Adela and her husband had worked in the medical field in San Salvador, but had retired a few years ago to buy their dream property. She had a small kitchen from which she cooked pupusas all day long. As the evening rains came, they told us we could move into a spare room from our tent. We rushed to pack everything up in the rain. Just after I had broken everything down a massive palm frond detached from the tree above and came crashing to the ground. It would have destroyed our tent had it still been there.
The seasonal rains remind me of rain in the desert. It’s as if it comes in waves from above. The ground can’t absorb it all and most areas flood. Even the lower floors of homes can have several inches of water. Nobody seems to be bothered. Cords for fans wind through puddles because despite the rain, it is still eighty degrees out. You start to realize that this might be why everything is made of concrete and tile. In addition to having a certain quality of luxury, a house built like a bathtub tends to hold up to flooding.
On the eighteenth we made moves for Pasaquina, a small town near the border with Honduras. Soph was riding in front for the first time in a while and I noticed certain differences in our styles. I don’t do well following. If you’re tucking behind somebody to benefit from them blocking the wind you have to ignore the scenery and stare at their backside to make sure you don’t rear end them. I tend to look everywhere but forward. We also react to threats differently. We get chased by dogs about a dozen times a day and when riding through traffic it is inevitable that a bus or truck will pull in front of us and then stop. Soph’s natural reaction is to brake and hiss at the dogs and to wait for the trucks. Mine is to double down on the cranks leave the mutts behind and to swerve around traffic. I almost smashed into her rear wheel several times. Eventually I decided to hang back thirty to fifty feet.
As we approached town there were semi-trucks lined up on the side of the road for miles. We gathered that it had something to do with the border, but nobody seemed to know exactly what the problem was. The roadsides were lined with truck drivers standing in the shade below the trees, drinking, and relieving themselves in the bushes. Some had creatively slung hammocks under their trucks between the axles.
The lone hotel in town didn’t miss a beat and had doubled its price. Not to be fleeced, we found a flower nursery with beautiful grounds and asked if we could set camp up. They showed us to a nice hill in the back and let us use the shower. There was a gas station nearby where we went for snacks. The parking lot was full of tuk-tuks. One of the drivers chatted to us. His name was Garcia. His parents had taken him to the states when he was four, illegally. He got into a bit of trouble as an adult and ended up getting deported after spending some time in prison. He barely spoke Spanish and didn’t know anybody in the country.
He looked like a guy that had done time. Shaved head and religious tattoos wrapping chiseled arms. “That whole experience was terrible, but it helped me to find God,” he told us. He went on about the future and how it would all be alright now because he was a follower and a believer. If we would allow him in the country he could have had a lucrative career as a motivational speaker. From what I can tell, American’s love a man that gets reformed in our criminal justice system and finds a greater power. We still wouldn’t trust him to count the milk money at an elementary school, but we find the rest of it uplifting enough.
Back at the flower farm we met the owner, Alo. He was piss drunk. He had two employees, from Nicaragua and Honduras which he creatively referred to as “Nicaragua” and “Honduras.”
“Nicaragua! Necesitamos cervesa.” he yelled from his hammock. “Honduras!, necesitamos comidas.”
And with that we had food and beer. I couldn’t make out a word he said. He seemed to like Soph though so I left her to fend for herself while I spoke to Nicaragua about the road ahead in his country. He assured me that despite a few recent political issues that involved slaughtering several hundred protesters, the country was still very safe.
“Mexico y Costa Rica estan mas peligroso,” he tells me.
Honduras and Nicaragua got up to leave after one drink. “Suerte amigo,” (good luck) one of them said with an upturned eyebrow to their boss. And Soph escaped as well. Our host was now hanging half body from his hammock with a finger pointed at me muttering drunken ramblings. He was an endurance drinker and I knew that we were entering the last two mile stretch in which he was going to give it everything he had. I tried to excuse myself, but he grabbed my hand, looked me straight in the face, and said something completely inaudible and “Americanooooos.” He then appeared to vomit in his mouth and washed everything back down with half a beer which he offered to let me finish the rest of.
Rather than hang out in the morning, we slid out and had breakfast at the gas station.
“Gas stations have become this strange beacon of civilization for me,” Soph remarked as we left.
“There are just certain things that you always know you can get there.”
“Right. Candy, condoms, and fuel additives.”
The trucks filling the shoulderless right lane force us to ride through a gauntlet of traffic in both directions confined to the left side of the road. We get through it though and come to customs. The crossing went relatively smooth although I got into an argument with a government representative about the exchange rate they’d given us. I missed what his closing remark was, but it felt like “shut up and leave.”
We spent less than forty eight hours in Honduras. Most of the landscapes outside the cities were as good as anything we’d seen in Latin America, but completely unique to Honduras. Semi-arid prairies with hundred foot monoliths jutting out from the scrub grasses. It made me wish that we were spending more time there. A good chunk of one morning was spent sitting at a DHL office trying to ship the drone back to the states as we’d heard that Nicaraguan customs has a reputation for confiscating them. The office was supposed to open at 8, but there was nobody there. The paint shop below said he should be there any minute.
"If they say he’ll be here soon then I’m sure it won’t be long."
"Not a chance"
"Because Latin america is the land of magical realism."
"What does that mean?"
"That means that he will oversleep and then come in and tell everyone that a possessed snake trapped him on the porch and he couldn't leave. Nobody will even consider second guessing this and we would be seen as unsympathetic for not buying it."
"Isn’t that prediction intrinsically magically surreal?"
"Just you wait."
Sat and watched traffic eating salty burritos. Garbage truck pulls up. F350 with some fencing to make the walls of the bed about twelve feet tall. A man whistles and everyone brings trash out. They pitch it up to the top. Occasionally a bag doesn't make it and gets caught on the fencing and tears open, spilling the trash everywhere. Other times they throw too hard and it goes all the way over and smashes into the street on the other side. I feel for the driver when he throws an old ladies garbage up and gets juiced by whatever had been marinating in it for days.
DHL guy shows up after close to an hour and a half. We have several disagreements about whether or not he can provide insurance for the package and ultimately I acquiesce and send it back without protection. I later noticed that the receipt he gave me was from UPS. I tried the tracking number online and nothing came up in either company’s system. As I write this, two weeks later, it has not arrived in the states.
We’d heard a few horror stories about the Nicaraguan border. Our hope was that on bikes it would be straightforward with very little to search. Checking out of Honduras was quick. We then filled out our declarations forms to enter Nicaragua. Everything was going nicely until somebody asked us if we’d sent the email to immigration to inform them that we would be coming. This was not mentioned anywhere online and appeared to be some kind of rouse. Still, they seemed to take it seriously and no we had to wait for the boss. Somebody took our passports, made copies, and charged us a few bucks. Somebody else put those copies in a drawer. A tough looking cop then asked me if I was a criminal trying to escape the law in the states. I couldn’t help but laugh at this. I sat down and they called me back a few minutes later and showed me a picture of a corpulent man with a mullet and truckstache and asked if it was me. I laughed again, this time a full belly laugh. Eventually they told us we could pass but had to register our bikes as vehicles. This seemed like another trick though and so we casually snuck out the door as they had already stamped our passports.
At this point it was dark. We try not to ride after dusk, but didn’t have a choice. It was eight kilometers, mostly downhill. Despite the dangers of potholes and drivers without headlights, I love riding at night. Symphonic hum of insects, yet it still feels silent. It’s cool, and you sort of just focus on what you feel because you can’t see anything except the light bomb of your headlight and the surrounding void. We pass a few women and children walking along the road, turn into a small village, and ask around until we find somebody who would let us camp on their land.
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