June 11, 2016

Possibly the first time in our history that we have cycled in three countries in one day.

What happened…

Andrew writes: The air was fresh from a night of rain and we left the “love” motel before 0700hrs, with the border to Honduras in our sights. We actually made short work of the 40km to the border. As we got closer, people started to offer to change our money for us. The first guy was offering us 20 Honduran lempiras to $1USD. On the El Salvadoran side of the border, people were offering 21:1. After we crossed Puente Amatillo to the Honduras side it was up to 22:1. Some of these guys are pretty aggressive and get right up in your grill. I joked with one that I was going to keep going east because it seems like the further I go, the better the exchange rate gets. Amanda and I had talked about possibly taking a chicken bus all the way across Honduras. This would keep us free from any perceived dangers that I had heard about the country, such as armed robbery, assault, and busy highways with little shoulder room for bicycles.

Getting into Honduras took about 30 minutes of standing in line while Amanda protected the bikes from would-be cutpurses and pickpockets. Once inside, the first bus we saw was just a big ol’ yellow school bus with nowhere for luggage on the top. It looked like riding across the country for the next 2-3 days was going to be our plan “B”. Then I saw a shuttle-bus that was going to the Nicaraguan border direct. I approached the driver and he told me it would be $6 each. There were only about 5 people, and he wanted a full load of 14, or he would be scheduled to leave in about an hour, it was around-about 1030hrs. Amanda and I took our time loading all of our bags into some new net bags that we had bought in Guatemala. Then it was a lot of sitting and waiting. Around 1115, things started happening. I handed our 3 bags’o’bags to be loaded onto the roof of the van, and then our two bikes. No one else had any luggage of consequence. The van started up and we were getting ready to roll. Then a nice old man came around to collect money, and the fun began when I tried to hand over my $12. All of a sudden, our fare had jumped to $18 because of course, the bikes cost $3 each. The old man was being a bit of a jerk, refusing to even take our money. There was another man behind him though who nodded and winked at me, and I knew we would be fine. I even offered to compromise and pay $15, just to make things easy. I thought the old guy was going to spit in my eye, but at the same time no one made any move to unload anything from the van, and so Amanda and I just sat in our seats and waited. Finally, the old man came along, took the $15 from my outstretched hand, and we were off.

Honduras looked much the same as El Salvador from behind the wheel, except instead of a nice wide shoulder, there was just a narrow strip, and sometimes not even that. The condition of the road was poor to fair, with a lot of potholes. Maybe I’m just poking holes to make our decision to bus a good one, but at the same time I don’t have any regrets. Passing through the only big town of our route, Choluteca, I spotted Ali and Lizzie across the street, so it looks like we have leapfrogged them. Then we passed through a real pisser of a rain shower just as we were leaving Choluteca and it followed us all the way to near the border. The lineup for trucks at the border was about 5km long, and the highway was still only two lanes. Our little microbus driver was driving into the oncoming lane and then just pulling off to the side of the road whenever a tractor trailer came at us slowly from Nicaragua. Finally around 1430hrs we were within a stone’s throw of the Nica border, and we gathered our gear and started putting the pieces back together while trying to fend off wandering hands from children.

Entering into Nicaragua took forever it felt. Amanda and I got separated when I had to go into a separate office to pay our entrance money ($12p/p) while Amanda waited with the bikes. A note to other touring cyclists, don’t be afraid to haul your bike right into the immigration office with you. I think if I was a single cyclist I would even stand with my bike in line with me. Latin America is really laid back about most things, and personal space is just different from what we are accustomed to in Canada. People have no problem with breathing down your neck, literally. Having a bike between you and them will give you some space to yourself. The money changer in Nica was this kind-looking grandmother surrounded by her “family”. She didn’t offer any argument or room for negotiation. She told me the rate that I would get and started counting out the money. I felt pretty good about getting 28:1, since another Canadian I had met inside said he had only gotten 22:1…but maybe he was talking lempiras to my cordobas. Argh, I’m still trying to figure out how many pesos this all is!!! Note: Mexico was 13:1 Canadian dollar, but since we are now basing everything on USD which is 18:1, er…maths. Anyways, we got through immigration and started riding towards Somotillo, about 5km away.

There are two hotels in Somotillo that we could find, the first one was a bit chaotic, with the family that runs is yelling at each other while I was trying to look at a room, and they also had a giant cock-fighting arena in the middle of the courtyard. Unfortunately the next cock-fight isn’t scheduled for the 23rd, and I was mostly looking to use this hotel as a benchmark for future hotels. The woman was asking for 500C or $20USD, which would be about 560C. The yelling of the family subsided enough for me to start bargaining, and there was some give, but I still wanted to see what the other hotel(s) had to offer. The only other hotel we could find, Hotel Fronteras looked nicer and was the same 500C, which I talked down to 450C so everybody made out happy. The recent earthquake the other day has left the entire town without running water, but we have lots of practice using a garbage pail full of water for both our shower, as well as to flush the toilet. That seems to be the worst of it.

It feels strange to have cycled in 3 countries in one day, something that I don’t think we have ever done before…it’s exciting that in the last week or so we have doubled the number of countries we have cycled in on this adventure and we are up to 8 now!

Amanda writes:After crossing into Honduras Andrew seemed pretty set on not cycling here and I wasn’t willing to put up a fight; we’ve done enough of that recently. I realize that Andrew has a good friend who used to live in Honduras who told Andrew before we left, that he does not recommend we ride through. And while we have yet to hear of any cyclists being robbed or assaulted; we’ll listen to Andrew’s friend. So we found the bus and knew they would try and charge us the ‘gringo-tax’ for the bikes so made sure we had no more than $15 in our pocket. If we had smaller change we would have armed ourselves with $12 instead, but oh well; $15 was better than the $18 he was trying to get out of us.

Changing currencies in countries with increased frequency is proving to be a bit more challenging. We’re trying to do research on rates and equivalencies in Canadian dollars, but we really do have to stay on top of it. It also makes it more challenging when we’re only scheduled to be in these countries for small periods of time because we don’t want to have too much of a new currency. As the budgeter of our trip, I’m having to put in a lot more effort than before with planning.

Nicaragua so far seems just like the other Latin America countries. No issues at entry as we were careful with our things and aside from the lack of water from the earthquake, it seems like a nice Country. Looking forward to exploring more of it soon.

Today’s Photographs