Central American Entry Fees

Here is what I had to pay when I entered each of these countries (July 2009).

Guatemala: ~$1 (I forget exactly)
El Salvador: free (and they don’t even stamp your passport)
Honduras: $3
Nicaragua: $10 [$7 to enter with lots of paperwork, then $1 to enter the border area in Sapoa at Costa Rican border (weird), then $2 to exit the country, paid only in Cordobas or US Dollars (so don’t change your money until you get to the other side – I made that mistake)]
Costa Rica: free (but long lines at Penas Blancas, coming from Nicaragua)
Panama: $1 (for a stupid passport sticker you buy from an unofficial-looking guy who hangs out by the immigration area, but apparently you need it)

You get 90 days of travel within the four countries of “centroamerica:” Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

Advertisements

I Hate Tortillas

I’m getting sick of eating tortillas with every meal. They’re the thick, home-made ones and they’re tasteless and boring. I usually have to get through three or four of them for each meal because I feel bad about just letting them sit (and they offer a cheap way to get full).

In Guatemala and El Salvador, they’re thick, but across the border in Honduras, they’re the thin kind. Nicaragua also. Still pretty boring though.

Escuintla to El Obraje

As I was getting ready to leave at 7:30 am, I realized I had left my rain jacket in Jamie’s truck. Ahhhhh, there’s a major delay. I had to run down the street to the payphone to call Jamie, but he wasn’t picking up. I did this about every 15 minutes for two hours, waiting around for this deadbeat to show up.

Escuintla_Waiting

And he finally did, at about 9:30, and then I left.

Escuintla_Jamie_Eoin

I stopped at a trucker restaurant for breakfast. I told the lady that I had a few bottles that I needed filled with water. The breakfast wasn’t good, but I got 4.5 L of water for free.

Escuintla_Ride_Road

It was mostly a boring ride that day. When I stopped at a panaderia, a bread place, for lunch, a couple of small girls kept peaking out from behind a wall saying “Hello” and “How are you?”

Escuintla_Ride_Girls

I didn’t want to get to the border town to stay the night, so I stopped at El Obraje, a small town about a mile away. I asked at a comedor about accommodation. There was no hotel in the area, but I didn’t want a hotel anyway. I told them I had a tent. They told me I could put my tent up in the adjoining, roofed area next to the restaurant part.

Obraje_Camp

I was able to wash my clothes in their big sink where they had a gutter system rigged up to bring in rain water. And then I “showered” in their bathroom, pouring rain water over the most necessary parts of my body with a basin. I took a poo in their toilet and flushed it down by pouring a basin of rain water into the bowl, as the tank didn’t work. A natural, rain water washing system.

Obraje_ToiletObraje_Shower

The lock for the door.

Obraje_Door_Lock

Soap.

Obraje_Soap

Toothpaste.  Use everything.  I cut open my toothpaste in San Pedro too.

Obraje_Toothpaste

The comedor was run by two sisters in their sixties, one of their sons, and his wife. The sisters were hard to read, and my interaction was limited because my Spanish sucks. They would mumble something rapidly, I would give them a big smile, excuse myself for my Spanish, and ask them to repeat it more slowly. Without a smile, they would repeat it with the same speed and mumble; no compassion for my situation. When I was washing my clothes outside, one of the sisters came up to the door. I turned around and smiled at her, and she shut the door. But at the same time, they were attentive to my needs, making sure I was comfortable by turning on the light for me when it got dark, offering me a glass for the gallon of water I bought, and asking if I needed anything else before they went to sleep.

Obraje_Chicken

The son and his wife were much more friendly. Alvardo came to offer me mosquito repellant, and hung around to give me advice about the border and El Salvador. He was interested in my trip too. I complimented him on his bicycle, especially his front rack, and asked where I could get one like it.

Obraje_Corn

The town was tiny. It was only a few scattered comedors (cheap restaurant), tiendas (small shops), and houses with a big abandoned gas station in the middle.

Obraje_Town

Getting a place to stay at a comedor was great though, since I was able to eat there too.

Guatemala Lost Photos – Biking

I was able to recover some photos that I hadn’t backed up before I had my camera stolen.  This guy copied all my photos to his computer, and then deleted everything with me in it.  Kind of weird, but I´m grateful that he kept some.

View before a storm

Guate_Storm

In the clouds

Guate_Clouds_Rd

Trash on the Mountain

Guate_Trash_Mtn

I love this dog.  Look how sad he is!!  His posture, his eyes, and tail between his legs.  I fed him with some of my bread, but he remained sad.  The saddest dog I´ve ever seen.

Guate_Sad_Dog

CouchSurfing in Xela, Guatemala

Xela_Room

House and Small Farm on the way to San Pedro La Laguna

Guate_Village_House

Guate_Village_Rd

Guate_Misty_Cow

Descending to Lago de Atitlan

Guate_Steep_Atitlan_Rd

Guate_Atitlan_Steep_Rd_2

Lago de Atitlan

Atitlan_View

San Pedro La Laguna to Escuintla

I took the boat from San Pedro to Santiago instead of riding on the road around the volcano because I was told it was dangerous. Banditos.

When I got off the boat, I was excited to get on my bike. It had been so long. I was ready to ride. I rode up a steep, cobbled street from the dock into town. It was probably only 100 feet, and at the top, I pushed a little harder to get over the lip in the road. But I lost my balance and toppled over, me and my bike, still clipped into my pedals, and in front of the center of town. As I was on the ground, I looked around to see who noticed. A lot of eyes were on me, the gringo dressed in all black with an egg-helmet on his head, lying in the street with his pack-mule. My pride was hurting. It was the first time I had fallen since I got these clipless pedals.

I descended from the lake into the lowlands for about an hour, covering 30 miles quickly and easily. Then I got on the Pacific Highway, CA-2, a boring road. The air was steamy. I thought it would be a flat, easy ride, but I had to climb a lot. I struggled – I must have lost my legs. I was slow.

I stopped at a roadside pineapple stand and had a lady slice up one for me. Her hands were all over it, so when she was done, she dipped them in her bucket of water. Brown water.

The road was killing me. So boring. There was nothing around. I started feeling an urgent need to poo. I figured the pineapple had sped things up. But there was nowhere to go. I found a ditch that was partially obscured by a tree, offering some privacy. I took off my gloves, got my toilet roll, and prepared myself for something weird. I pulled down my sweaty bike shorts and that disgusting crotch-sweat smell hit me. My forearms and face and shirt were dripping sweat. And I had to add to the unpleasantness by doing a very natural shit in the ditch. It was bad. A fresh pile of human brown. I felt bad but I figured the rain would wash it away.

Downsizing to a New Setup

Before Eleanor came to visit, I was realizing I didn’t need my two front panniers. Everything I had packed in there was light, and it could all fit into my two rear bags. I didn’t like how easy it was to detach the front panniers. The rear ones, on the other hand, are strapped down underneath my tent and sleeping bag. Getting rid of the front panniers would give me a couple less things to worry about. I could also get rid of my front rack, which is probably about 5 lbs.

Surly_No_Front_Rack

And I wrapped a green strap around my seat tube.

Inspired by the possibilities of downsizing, I took a hard look at everything else I was carrying. Did I really need it? Was I realistically going to use it? The other major item I decided against was my pot and homemade stove. With food so cheap and so good and so easily available, I couldn’t see myself cooking up some pasta while passing up a much tastier meal for $2. Plus, then I wouldn’t need to carry food or fuel for the stove. It was a pretty easy decision.

The downside to losing my front panniers is that all the weight is in the rear. The handling of the bike is less stable, and I feel bad for the rear tire because the weight from my butt is on it too.

And although I’ve lost some weight and bulk, I’ve upgraded on water carrying capacity, and water is heavy, so it’s hard to tell if I’m actually lighter.

I’m thinking about some way to carry my extra 1.5 L water bottles in the front. I was thinking about attaching two hose clamps at two points on the fork, on each side, but that would mean I would have to screw and unscrew them each time I wanted to fill up. Getting a cheap rack here would also be an option, and I might be able to strap my sleeping bag onto the top of it too, so I can spread the weight more evenly across the bike.