Archive for March, 2009

Bingo in Honduras

Monday, March 23rd, 2009
Bingo in Honduras

Esteli, Nicaragua, 23 march 2009

I leave San Salvador with a tear in my eye. In just a few days I got accustomed to this bizar city. The people I met, Walter whom I teached counting in German so he could phone his brother his cellphone number in German, Mirna (‘la Bonita’) of my hotel who takes care of me in daytime sending me to various great destinations (‘puerte de diablo’), the security guys who take care of the bike day & night and who are just nice guys. It is in El Salvador where the best question about the bike so far is posted: ‘is this the bike in the old days of the president of the US?’. He was sure, he had seen it in the movies and on tv.

The El Salvador customs is easy. Just an exit stamp and I can go on, it´s almost 4 ´0 clock. I decide to use one of the locals as a helper (´tramitadore’). My passport is OK. I am already on the Honduras side and have a lot of trouble with a few drunks, junks and beggars. Then the situation changes for the worse. The customs guy sees a problem with the papers for the bike. ‘Problemo, problemo’. The year of manafacture is incorrect on the El Salvador form (by treaty the bike travels on the same type of form from one Central American country to the other). The year of manufacture they filled in is 1954, which is the date the bike got it´s civil registration after being in the Dutch army since 1946 (and being in Canadian army service since 1943). That year is also on my papers. I try to make it clear but to no avail. Then he spots some oil on my bike. ‘What´s this´he asks, ‘is this oil?’ and he looks as if the Exxon Valdez just came by. ‘Problemo for inspection’. Review with collegues is reguired. This is where the bingo starts. After review for quite some time it is decided that if I pay some dollars they´ll let me go. ‘OK’. The formal payments have to be made at the bank office. BINGO. The bank just closed because it´s 5 ‘o clock. ‘Opens on monday’… After 70 dollars for the bike and 20 dollars for my passport in bribes I can go. I get a permit for just 3 days because of the so called problems. Welcome in Honduras.

On the road again I feel as in a Mad Max movie. Fires next to the road, shacks, animals, some people. In the first real town the hotel is fully booked, with some luck I find a room in a convention center.

Next day the bike gives me headache. In the blazing heat it stops time after time just after some miles. After a short prayer and some work the bike starts and keeps going.

Leaving Honduras is easy and with the Nicaraguan helper I set a fixed proce. For 39 dollars of which 20 as a bribe I am within an hour in Nicaragua!

For all the dirty & nasty details of this story please use Google Translator on the Dutch text. Thanks!

San Salvador

Friday, March 20th, 2009
San Salvador

San Salvador, 20 march 2009

Nothing could have prepared me for San Salvador. I enter the city in the dark. From La Libertad (along the coast) it’s only 33 km’s but about 10 km’s are under construction. So I arrive in the dark. The guys at the Texaco are friendly and direct me to a safe hotel according to them. Unfortunately it has no own parking but a guarded parking further down the street. I decide to look further. In between buses I cross the market. in front of the rundown, downtown buildings I pass a layer of one, sometimes 2 or 3  rows of market vendors. The smell of food, diesel and waste are mixed and mostly disgusting. The hotel I aimed for is closed. Going further I ask armed security for directions, eventually I find a nice place. The bike is parked in front of my room and in the hall are two armed guards.

In daytime I visit Oscar Romero’s tomb. He is the bishop who suspended the building of this cathedral to finance projects for the poor and who was killed during a sunday service in 1980 (in 5 days exactly 29 years ago). I always wondered how 3 (or 4) men could enter a church, shoot the man up front and go a without being catched. I know now. The cathedral is in the middle of this crazy market with it’s thousands of vendors, hallways and noise. His tomb is under the cathedral. In the cathedral only a stained window with a dove in between stars made of broken glass, reminds the visitor of it’s bizar history. The possible problems I was warned for due to the elections last sunday, didn’t occur, although a party won that were ligitimate targets in Romero’s days and were a Dutch journalist was also killed for (see e.g. oliver Stone’s movie ‘San Salvador´). The times they are a changing, also here, slowly.

My route goes on via the Panamerican on to San Miguel and the border with Honduras.

El Libertador

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009
El Libertador

Guatemala Ciudad (city) is huge, three million inhabitants. The city is divided in 11 ‘zonas’, my destination the Harley-dealer is in zona 9. C.O. Jones Motorcycle Company is Guatemala’s only Harley-dealer. It wasn’t difficult to find zona 9, but after that is wasn’t easy. Some fellow motorcyclist brought me over. I wanted to buy some original old-style oil. The last time I bought oil was in Phoenix, Arizona and I’m running low. Mexico has 11 dealers (110  million inhabitants) but not one of them on my route. Unfortunately the agencia has no oil for me. “Do I have some time?” Of course, coffee, enthusiasm, lots of good luck hugs from customers and employees, so I’m happy. After our lunch, Hugo, one of the mecanics goes away on his bike to buy me some oil. Wow, that’s great service!

In the afternoon I meet Juan & Sabine, he’s half German and Guamaltan and she’s full German, they invite me over for what turns out to be a great dinner with close friends of them. Lots of talk in German, English and Spanish about the difficulties of Central America. They are pretty surprised about my staying and working with the Bomberos Voluntarios. I didn’t realise that, but the Bomberos are highly regarded for their iron discipline and mentality.

On sunday I run in Antiqua into a procession, Easter is on it’s way. Literally hundreds of people are dressed up in purple to accompany a huge statue of Jesus carrying the cross. With all the mirr the streets are filled with smoke. It brings me back into the dark time of the Conquistadores. How nice it is to go with my bike, nicknamed in Holland as a Liberator, to go with my Liberator, El Libertador in Spanish to El Salvador, the saviour. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Only on prescription

Thursday, March 12th, 2009
Only on prescription

Sick again. I was a few days sick in Malacatancito but it hit me again the night before I wanted to leave Antiqua. Looks like the flu or a bad cold but probably some allergy. Very tired, headache, not much sleep and I’m feeling exhausted. Little wounds don’t want to heal. So, went to the pharmacy, got some allergy medicine and some creme for the wounds. Nice thing is here, although the package says, ‘Only on prescription’, you just pay the bill, take the pills and leave. Hope to leave soon, the bike is ready.

Back on track again

Monday, March 9th, 2009
Back on track again

Yihaa, the first miles on the road again feel great. Although at some places the road is bad, it’s still a beautiful route. From Malacatancito to Lake Atitlan (Panachel) on to Antiqua. I find a room in a so called Casa. Those are private homes that are widely used by a lot of the language students on the many Spanish courses in town. Antiqua is a beautiful old town (much like San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico) with all facilities for Westerners. In this it is different from the other cities in Guatemala as well Mexico. Here the streets are clean, no dogs all around, nu buses and trucks crawling through narrow streets. It’s much more nicely regulated here and that’s a welcome change!

From here on I will go directly to the coast (contrary to the previous message) and from there in to El Salvador. I’ll lave the mountains (warm in daytime, cool at night) behind and will be in the Tropics again. Yes, back on track again.


Antiqua, Guatemala