Thursday, 18 October 2007, León, Nicaragua
The last week of travelling has probably been harder than anything before - every second step something happened which can make the best trip more than a little tiresome.
The first was our border crossing from El Salvador back into Honduras. Juergen had read several times that this particular crossing can be really chaotic and difficult, but that there are many Tramitadores who offer their service as a paperwork guide (until now we had managed all crossings without a guide). The tramitadores were obvious as soon as we had the first boom gate in distant view: from everywhere there were men running up to us, waving, and trying to keep pace with the truck. As soon as we stopped both side windows were surrounded by about 15 guys, all yelling (in Spanish) at the same time. An older one on Yasha's side had a friendly face, spoke reasonable English, and offered his service for US$5. Juergen actually beat him via sign language down to three, but behind Yasha's back, so she agreed to five (in the end we thought he was worth even more)...
And then the "fun" started: the first post at the boom gate needed a copy of the car permit, which we didn't have (never needed one before), but of course there was an expensive copy shop next door. Then we had to drive down the road a bit to find tin shed, well hidden from the road, with another office, where they checked the signature from the guy at the boom gate, stamped the vehicle permit again, and sent us to get another set of copies, this time showing their new stamps. One of these copies is collected further down the road by the Salvadorians; the other is kept by Honduran customs.
Next we had to rearrange our truck cabin - it is really only a 2-seater with some spare space between the seats for drink holders and our maps - because the Honduran border is some 4 kilometers down the road, and we didn't want our tramitador to have to walk there through the rain beside our camper.
There we came to a small yard clogged with trucks, where we parked next to the building to go to immigration. A security guard wanted to send us away for blocking the road, but a short word from our tramitador solved that. The lady at the Honduran immigration was actually very friendly and quick, the only delay caused by the interest in the hologram in Juergen's passport, which had to make the rounds through all hands.
Then we had to drive a few more meters and find another spot to park in order to visit the Honduran customs, who issue the car permit (it wasn't possible to re-use our permit from the first entry to Honduras because it had to be cancelled when we left the country). We went with the guide to a locked gate into the building, only to find the office shut for lunch - officially until 1:30, another 40 minutes. We hung around a bit, refused offers for "better guides", real Gold Rolexes, and other crap, and chatted a bit with our tramitador and a few other folk. Finally at 1:30 somebody gave us a hand signal and led us through the gate into an office, which adjoined a courtyard where a generator was droning (our first indication that the power was down), and signaled us to sit down. Juergen sat down on a chair with grubby brown fabric, holding on to all the papers, looking up at the woman across from him, her rolls almost bursting the seams of her top. She did her best to ignore us (and everybody else) and, for the next 15 minutes, did nothing but flip leisurely through an AVON brochure. Even our tramitador rolled his eyes.
Finally a Canadian and his guide walked in and started some movement in the place. He had commenced his process long before lunch and by then had been there well over 4 hours... His tramitador is holding all payment receipts, and the woman looks up, takes them, rolls the bundle in her hand, and continues to flip a few more pages in her AVON catalogue, then finally lifts her lazy ass off the chair, knocks on a locked office door and disappears with Canadian's papers. Our guide takes this as a hint to hand her our papers as soon as she re-emerges from office and, oh wonder, she looks at them and actually takes them inside the same mysterious office. 10 minutes later she comes back out, asking for our vehicle registration, which we don't have (we have never had registration papers from Oklahoma - only the title certificate and insurance confirmation - and our US registration is now expired). After a few words back and forth the guide convinces her to take the El Salvador car permit instead. 10 minutes later she comes out with all the papers and explains the next steps to the guide:
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