Our lives over the past week and 2070 km have revolved around border crossings through intense heat. Intense when wearing riding gear and it’s over 90F everyday. Intense also when we have no idea what we’re doing at border crossings. Each one is different so it’s not like we get into a routine of sorts. The immigration/vehicle import buildings all look different. The process, about 2-4 hours at each crossing, is for us to first find immigration of the exit country and get our exit stamp in passports, then find the vehicle import office and cancel our temporary vehicle import for both bikes. After this we cross into the new country, find immigration to get an entry stamp then find the vehicle import office (might also need mandatory insurance, depending on the country) and temporarily import both bikes. We pay the same cost as importing a car and we pay it twice because there are two bikes, so we kind of screw ourselves there. Each border can cost anything from about $5US to $80US in immigration or vehicle import/insurance fees. We pay these fees and go through the vehicle importing process, sometimes stopping to have the bikes sprayed for fumigation, and we may be in the country only one or two days.
Unfortunately, we are travelling through Central America quickly in order to make it to Argentina before the snow falls and keeps us stationary for 6-8 months, which our bank accounts can’t take.
On Jan 30 we crossed from Guatemala into El Salvador. Two days travelling in this country, which was quite expensive and not really impressive from the parts we saw anyway, (although I would have liked to have had time to explore the country more). On Feb. 1 we crossed from El Salvador into Honduras. This was the only crossing thus far where we saw some amount of corruption. First when we paid a $6 fee for something, the cashier took my $10 US and came back a few minutes later showing me a $5 US and saying she needed another dollar. We argued that we’d given her $10 US. She must have seen she was up against it because she caved and came back with $4 US change. The next possible scam was our vehicle import, which we’d read cost $30 US each and could be paid at a bank close by. No bank and suddenly it was $40 US. We were travelling with our friend Ismail. The three of us pooled our money and only had enough to pay for two bikes out of three. We are sure the guy took an extra $10 US off the top as we had done our research and it wasn’t $40 US. Despite my pestering him to show me a receipt of some sort he just got more and more angry and scary.
As we didn’t have enough cash we asked where there was a bank. There was one back in El Salvador 15 minutes away, which would mean re-immigrating. So no. We imported Dave’s bike and he was getting ready to ride into Honduras looking for the nearest bank, when I said, “We needed a good Samaritan,” then spotted the only traveller we’d seen in a few hours. Walking up to him I explained our situation and asked if there was any way we could borrow $40 US. He hardly hesitated, only asking once if he could trust us to send him the money. (Check his Facebook page out at Jan Diblik Deaf Adventurer). We assured him he could harass us on our Facebook page if we didn’t pay him back in a timely manner. He smiled and gave us the money and went on his way. When we saw him hitchhiking later on, we stopped to offer him a ride on the back of Dave’s bike but he said he’d be more comfortable hitching. It’s debatable what’s riskier; travelling as a hitchhiker in Central America or as a helmet-less passenger on a motorcycle…
On Feb. 3, we crossed from Honduras into Nicaragua. Immediately we felt it was a cleaner, safer country. For miles after the border we rode a highway lined on both sides with the most delicate blooming white and pink flowers on the trees above. It was 100km into Nicaragua where we parted ways with Ismail, whom we’d been travelling with for about a week. He was fun to have along during our travels and we miss his Spanish translating, which extends much father than mine. As we were heading to the Costa Rica border we were both pulled over by cops near Granada, Nicaragua (said to be Central America’s oldest city). We were fined for passing a (very freaking slow) bus on a solid line. It’s hard not to when you come up on these vehicles moving at a snail’s pace and taking up the whole road. It’s safer to pass than slam on your brakes. After handing over our licenses, the cop informed us we had to go to the nearest bank, pay the fine, come back with a receipt and he’d give us our licenses back. So wait… it’s illegal to pass on solid line where we can see for miles ahead but totally OK to drive without a license… I zipped the two yellow tickets into my tank bag, left Dave with the cops and our licenses and rode back about 20 km into Granada where I knew of the nearest bank. Here I paid the fine, only $36US, got a receipt and rode back to Dave hoping the cops hadn’t changed their stake-out location. After all this, we weren’t sure we wanted to add a border crossing into the mix but we did.
The crossing into Costa Rica on Feb. 4 from Nicaragua was our longest to date and very, very hot. Our bad timing landed us at the border minutes after a bunch of tour buses showed up. I stood in line with about 100 other folks waiting for our immigration stamp out in the heat. Despite the long crossing, we loved Costa Rica. It is a much more well-off country than any of the Central American areas we rode through. I’m not sure if there’s a law in that country against burning garbage, which seemed to be an everyday roadside occurrence throughout Mexico and most of Central America, but the air quality was the best we’d seen since Baja, Mexico. We spent 5 days travelling through Costa Rica, which gave our bikes quite the workout with many rough dirt roads. One night’s accommodation stands out in San Luis, near Monteverde, when we were invited to stay at a guy named Pato’s house in a remote location in the mountains with no electricity. After meeting us for 5 mins at a hostel, Pato drew us a map to his house (he was staying in Monteverde that night celebrating his birthday) and told us how to ‘break in’ if the door was locked. His house is used also for volunteer trail builders and others giving of their time. Although we never saw Pato again, we thank him very much for the great night in his house with three others, Nat, Laura and Kyler. Nat was kind enough to walk a mile with us along a dirt road into a nearby village where he would open the community centre for us to use internet. The building was very impressive after walking along the rough roads in this remote village. The volunteers also cooked us dinner and breakfast the next morning. It was a great stay with great people. Perhaps our most pleasant day was when we rode high into Costa Rica’s ‘Andes’—where once there were glaciers—toping out at over 3350 metres in the very cool rainforest air, hovering around 47F. After many days spent riding in temps of over 100F, this was a godsend, although we could have done without the strong trade winds, which put both Dave and I down once each on our bikes. For Dave it was after cresting a hill on a backroad and coming to a stop to merge onto the main road. A gust caught him off guard and I pulled up to see his bike down. For me, it was when I came around a corner, also on a backroad, to find an oncoming bus taking up the whole lane in a very tight turn. I put on the brakes hard and came to a stop just in time for a gust to knock me over.
On Feb. 9 we crossed from Costa Rica into Panama. Our plan is to get into Panama City as soon as possible to arrange our transportation over the Darien Gap into Columbia. Until next time!