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June 10, 2013

Postcards from Nowhere: Peoria to Panama - Day 22: Choluteca, Honduras to Diriamba, Nicaragua

Update: I am alive and well resting quietly in the Mi Bohio Hotel in Diriamba, Nicaragua.

Monday June 10, 2013

Motorcycle Odometer (at start of day): 4,407
Motorcycle Odometer (at end of day): 4,595
Miles driven today: 188 miles

Local Currency: Nicaraguan Cordobas

1 US Dollar = 24.47 Nicaraguan Cordobas

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In the morning, I wake up and go back to sleep a few times.

When I finally wake up, it's 11:00 a.m. So, I guess I have to get up now. Ugh. I love riding, it's just that I'm so tired. I'm fine once I'm on the bike and rolling. That's never an issue.

Finally, I stand up, throw all my stuff in a suitcase, and I blow out of Choluteca, Honduras.

Driving south now, heading for Gassaule, Honduras, on the Nicaraguan border.

As I roll south, in a light rain, the road suddenly gets noticeably worse. Huge potholes all over the road. I slow down. The rain lets up. But now, it slowly dawns on me that I'm the only one on the road. This is not good. I'm in the middle of nowhere. Looks like a casting call for Locked Up Abroad, essentially. So, I slow way down...to about 50 mph, and drive the next 50 miles dodging potholes. This is easily the worst road of the trip so far. The potholes are like 6" to 9" deep. A real nightmare.

In this situation, the vehicles that are on the road just drive wherever they choose. I pass busses and trucks on the wrong side of the road. I drive on the shoulder. It's a nightmare. And a wet one at that.

Now, it occurs to me that I'm probably not technically on the PanAmerican Highway, per se. I mean...I must have taken a wrong turn somewhere. But I don't really care. I'm heading for the border with Nicaragua. And that's good enough for me.

Now, I should mention here that there's a yellow bird...it must be fairly common...and I've nearly killed at least 10 of them so far. They fly across the road in front of my face, and pull up, just short of crashing into the visor on my helmet. I can't tell you how frightening this is, but it's pretty intense. I've not hit one yet. It's a miracle.

Now, at we get closer to the border, the road deteriorates. It gets worse and worse. And now, because the road is so bad, expectations are lowered. Now, we have free-range horses, cows, goats, children. So, now, I'm rolling down this highway, dodging livestock, birds, children, bicyclists, men with machetes. Just a real 3rd world nightmare.

And this type of driving is very draining. It's nothing like driving in the U.S. I mean, lets be honest. No one really expected that I would be able to drive 6,000 miles through Central America without getting killed. Certainly not I.

This is the most intense type of driving I've ever done. Everything you ever learned about driving in the United States was a complete waste of time. Not only does it not apply, but in many cases, you leaded exactly the wrong way to drive, so you're in no way prepared to drive in Latin America.

Missy asked me to get some more shots of the people, so I'm stopping and shooting the people more. I ask for their permission by pointing at the cameras and saying "no hay problem?" and they never care, of course. They're as amused by the gringo on the orange motorcycle, as I am by the people lying beneath the shade tress on the shoulder of the road.

Now, I'm clearing going back in time, somehow. I'm passing people that are riding in horse and buggy carts. Passing people that are just begging on the side of the road, something I have not seen up until this point.

Now, I get to the town of Gassaule, Honduras. I'm at the border now, and I roll into a hellish nightmare. Total strangers are running up to me in the street and I am not comfortable with this. They're showing me some badges. I have no idea what they say. But they don't look very official. So, I tell them to fuck off, and I roll past them. So much whistling, and cat-calling and caterwauling. Just the type of thing that keeps people away from Central America.

Finally, I just decide to keep driving. There's way too much commotion here. People swarming around me in a disorienting 3rd world sort of way that makes me very uncomfortable. I don't know what this is, but I don't like it. The worst nightmare of the trip so far. Easily. By far.

They all whistle at me, and slowly I realize, I'll have to stop here. I can't just blow by customs and immigration for Honduras. I'll have to stop.

So, I stop and go inside. One of the young men comes with me. He's showing me where to go. This is Immigracion. This is customs.

Gradually, it dawns on me what's going on here. These vermin are showing off some sort of badge, and their role is, ostensibly, to help you get through customs and immigration. In reality, their goal is much less altruistic. They're trying to separate you from your cash. And, of course, the money changers are everywhere, and I'm about to enter yet another country where I have no idea what the exchange rate it, or what the currency is called. Brilliant.

So now, we have to get through immigration and customs. This guy is helping me. We make copies of everything, which he assures me I'll need in Nicaragua.

After we make copies, we come back, and the Customs office is closed for some reason. Won't open until 1:00 p.m., about 8 minutes from now.

I'm just melting in this third world hell. This is the worst part of the trip so far. Easily. Makes me want to roll the bike into a lake and fly home tomorrow.

I tell my man servant that I'm hungry, and want a CocaCola Light. We walk out front, and I'm seated in the shade next to a woman selling carne-asada tacos covered in flies. I'm like "good enough. set me up."

Someone comes running up with a CocaCola. No CocaCola Lights, of course.

A money changers comes up, and I explain to him that i want Nicaraguan Cordobas, not Honduran Lempiras. So, I get 1,900 Cordobas for $100 USD, when I should have gotten 2,500 Lempiras. These people are thieves.

My man servant takes my camera and starts going around taking pictures of everyone.

At some point, his friend starts helping me. Now, I have two servants for whatever reason. I'm trying to eat my lunch. They're scolding all of the little girls for bothering me.

A sixteen year old girl with a 3 month old baby doesn't have enough money to eat lunch, so she eats a bag of chips instead.

"She's fine. It's not a problem." my man servant assures me.

A boy comes up and begs for the rest of my CocaCola, and I give it to him.

But now, I'm kind of bummed that he says she can't afford lunch, and I don't doubt it. Doug was giving me hell for not taking photos of cute girls/women, so I get my picture taken with the 16 year old girl with our love child to show to Doug. Then, I give her 100 Guatemalan Cordobas, which is about $4.00 USD.

I'm ready to move on, but the guy with my camera has disappeared. This is not a good feeling. I mean...all of these people are swarming around me. I'm clutching onto everything for dear life, but on the other hand, I had to turn over everything to my man servant. Passport. Driver's License. Motorcycle Title Everything.

I'm like...."ronde su amigo con mi camareta?"

No hay problema, amigo.

But I'm not liking this at all. I have zero control. I'm outnumbered. I'm completely at the mercy of these bureaucrats, and the little piranhas that are supposed to help me through this process. This is as bad as it gets.

Finally, we get through everything. I pay for lunch. I pay my man servants off. And roll across the border.

Now, the exact same nightmare on the other side, but worse. And the guys in Nicaragua rob me. Like...I think it ended up costing me $200 USD to get across the border. It was a total scam. I don't care to go into it. It really sucked. In a big way.

3 hours after I first approached the Nicaraguan border, I have all my papers in order, and I'm rolling through Nicaragua. The roads are not as bad as on the Honduran side, but they're not a lot better. Also, I'm driving in a light rain, which sucks.

I don't really care any more. I just keep driving. Border crossings are the absolute worse. This is something that the Europeans figured out. Now, they may have problems with a single currency, but you don't have to stop at the border to each country in Europe any more. Central America needs this in a huge way. Otherwise, you spend all of your time in Customs and Immigracion. It's really hurting their economies, they're just too dumb to realize it.

I'm rolling south in Nicaragua, basically driving down the coastal plains., in a light rain I can see the mountains in the distance, but the land we're rolling across is fairly flat.

I'm not sure how far I'll make it today, of course. I never do know, really. Sometimes I have a plan, but not often. My plan today was to get through customs and drive as far as I could.

But driving in the rain sucks. Eventually, the skies clear, and I drive out of the rain. Now, probably never in your life will you experience this, but it's a good feeling. Like, if someone offers to let you out of a bad marriage for two grand in cash. It may never happen to you, but it's a good feeling when it happens.

So nice to be driving in cool cloudy weather down the coastal plains of Nicaragua. I'm following signs for Managua. But other than that, I have no clue really. I don't have a map of Nicaragua. Not even a free one, and I asked for one at Immigracion and Customs. I got nothing. Doesn't really matter. I'm just driving. Trying to clear my head.

It's so hard to believe that people live like this. This deeply entrenched soaking wet poverty scrolls by like a dream.

Missy wanted me to shoot more people, so I stop and shoot more, using the long lens The image stabilizer is broken, of course. Both cameras are so hammered they're practically useless at this point.

Slowly, I begin to realize that, in Nicaragua, people drive differently. Whereas in all of the other countries, passing using the other person's lane was perfectly acceptable, here, they flash their lights at me. So, it's kinda tricky, because every time you cross into another country, there are different unspoken rules of the road.

This is somewhat hard to get used to, once you're really comfortable driving in Guatemala and Honduras. In those countries, you come to believe that there really isn't a bad time to pass. You just go around. In a blind curve on a solid yellow line? Of course. On the shoulder? Certainly. But now, things are different, it would seem.

I come into a town and a policeman motions for me to pull over. He's a royal asshole. Makes me show him my driver's license and the paperwork for the bike. Nothing like this has happened to me once in Central America. Always, they just wave me on. Occasionally, they want to see my passport. But this guy is a complete dick. Telling me how I'm supposed to hand him my driver's license and paperwork. Showing me how to hand it all over when asked next time. Complete dick.

I get pulled over also in the next town or so. But this time, he just waves me on. Didn't ask him to show me anything. I think he wanted to see my bike. It's hard to know.

See, apparently, Nicaragua didn't get the memo that you're not supposed to harass the tourists. They certainly know the rules in the other countries I've passed through.

Eventually, I get to Managua. I have high hopes of spending the night in a hotel, finding a battery charger for my camera batteries, since I've left both chargers in hotel rooms across central america. But instead, as soon as I hit the outskirts, I'm like..."forget this dump. I'm outta here" and I just blow around Managua, heading instead for El Crucero. At El Crucero, I turn south again, heading for the border with Costa Rica.

This is a beautiful part of the trip, but it's dusk and It's trying to rain on me, and it's getting dark. This is the bad part. I never drive at night. I tell people it's because I don't want to hit a cow. And that's a big part of it. But it's also that you can't see anything at night. Can't view the countryside as you drive through, so what's the point?

Now, it's getting darker, and images pop out from the road at me....a person walking...a person riding a bike....a vendor on a tricycle. This is insane. I'm going to kill myself, someone else...or a horse. I have got to get off of the road.

Finally, I come to a little town, and I'm lost as hell. I tell a guy driving a moto-taxi that, if he'll lead me to a hotel with internet access, I'll pay him. And he does. And that's it. I'm in for the night. We pull my bike into the garage. Tomorrow, I'll cross into Costa Rica.

In hindsight, I'm sure now that I crossed the border into Nicaragua at the wrong place. I clearly was not on the main road. But I'm OK with this. To me, it's all an adventure. I don't care if I get off of the beaten path. That was the reason I came down here, after all.

Posted by Rob Kiser on June 10, 2013 at 9:14 PM



You keep referring to $2,000 to get out of a marriage: wtf, care to explain?

BTW, I lost two of my chargers 5 days ago, right after my hellish crossing over the Canadian border near Osoyoos. The brutish Canadian border police made me cool my heels in their air conditioned gulag for 10 minutes while they ran a background check on me. They must have discovered my peeniewallie bookmark. But back to the chargers; they magically reappeared in the bottom of my bag this morning at Chico Hot Springs, MT.

And (hellish Canuck border crossings aside), it's not exactly a bed of roses on this ride either. Take yesterday, for example. How did the bee manage to make it over the lip of the windshield, under the lip of my half-open visor, past the sunglasses, and still manage to be alive enough to crawl into my right ear?

Yet somehow I manage to push on, day after day.

--Your one-time motorcycling buddy.

Posted by: Doug on June 11, 2013 at 7:57 AM

I think I've been stung once on twice on this trip. The bees do have a way of working their way down to the skin somehow, even though I'm wearing a leather jacket, gloves, helmet, visor, etc. Sometimes they come in around my neck or up my sleeve. The $2,000.00 was a test, as it turns out, to see if I was marriage material. I passed that test, and we were back together for about a day or so. But 30 hours later, I was unceremoniously kicked out. I can assure you, it was money well spent. The best investment I ever made. ;)

Posted by: Rob Kiser Author Profile Page on June 11, 2013 at 10:39 AM

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