Leaving Santa Rosa de Lima, we rode along the eastern edge of El Salvador and neared our next hurdle: Honduras. I really wasn’t sure what to expect from Honduras. The people I met along the way told me it was one of the most dangerous countries in Central America. Locals didn’t seem to give it much more credit. We crossed into the country and were greeted by the most obnoxious barrage of paperwork yet; the border crossing required our running around to multiple buildings, getting about 1000 copies of everything. I don’t understand how Honduras can have fingerprint and image scanners in their offices, but no copy machines…
After spending about 2 hours at the border in blistering heat and soaking humidity, we finally entered a new country. The first mile of riding thoroughly set the pace; the border road immediately declined into dirt, construction and miniature cliffs in the road disguised as typical potholes. Fortunately, crossing the whole lower portion of the country was only about 140 kilometers or 87 miles, so we wouldn’t be suffering for too long.
The Honduran countryside looked distinctly different from that of El Salvador and Guatemala. Here the rainforest gave way to rolling hills speckled with open fields and stones. It was reminiscent of the storybook-esque road riding into Yosemite. If not for the hodgepodge road work that demanded all of my attention, I’d almost say it was a great ride.
We plowed through the mess at a rate of 10,000 potholes an hour (actual speed was irrelevant in the face of such terrible road conditions), while we carefully dodged an endless barrage of drop-offs and pitfalls. Occasionally, the shadows cast by trees would hide the gnarliest of these mini cliffs in the road until you were diving headfirst into oblivion and trying to keep it upright. It’s mind-blowing how different infrastructure priorities can be when traveling from one country to the next.
Despite an early start, we finally made it to the Honduras/Nicaragua border around 1:30pm. Once again, we sat through endless paperwork as we now figured out how to get back out of Honduras. Then it was another 2 or 3 hours waiting around at customs to get into Nicaragua. I would complain about how long it took to get into Nicaragua, but they had air conditioned buildings and that made all the difference in the world. A comfortable Tiff is a happy Tiff. Things become a lot less annoying when you’re not purging a gallon of water a minute from every pore, turns out.
We found a place to sleep not too far from the border, and then started making quick work of the country. I had some plans for things to do and see during our return trip through Nicaragua, but this first pass was more of a scouting run. The road conditions instantly improved, and it was an easy ride toward Managua. The landscape was much like that in Honduras, but now the horizon was speckled with active volcanoes, and the streets were lined with iguana vendors (apparently the government has mandated replacing chicken with iguana? Are those… similar?). We grabbed a spot for the night in San Jorge, near the island of Ometepe, which rests in the largest lake in Central America. From the swimming beach on the lake shore, we could admire a view that took in the massive cones of smoke and magma.
The next morning, we opted to make the run south into Costa Rica. We got a late start and arrived at the border midday. We ran into another rider we had seen way back in Baja, a dude on a BMW named Kevin, and his riding partner who he picked up along the way (I guess it’s not as hard to find partners as I thought! Why’d it take me so long to find Hollywood?!). But unfortunately, borders are such a stressful hassle, we barely got a chance to catch up with one another. We ran around checking out of Nicaragua, and then started the slow, document-heavy process of checking into Costa Rica. For some unexplainable reason, customs and immigration were nowhere near each other on the Costa Rican border, so we spent a good 3 or 4 hours running back and forth between customs, immigration and insurance buildings, plus places to copy important papers (I STILL don’t understand why they don’t provide copy machines to border offices. El Salvador is the only country to get this right so far).
By the time they set us free in their country, we were just about out of clear skies and out of daylight. We had entered Costa Rica during the rainy season in Central America, so at this time of the year nighttime almost always meant thunderstorms. This wasn’t a problem most days, as the weather seemed to function like clockwork: hot and sunny til 4 or 5pm, then pouring rain all night long. So we’d typically ride all morning and then settle in for the day before the weather took its daily turn. Unfortunately, today we had to take the brunt of the storm as we made our way along the Pan-American Highway in Costa Rica. We rode over some road construction that smelled oddly sweet—we were told they use molasses to keep the dust levels down. This is the first time road construction has ever made me oddly hungry for dessert! We eventually stopped in the town of Cana where we got an overpriced but dry room (yay for dry!). Fortunately, the rain was quite tropical so the temperatures weren’t the worst, but I still found myself somewhat chilled as I pried off my base layers for the night.
We left Cana with no plan beyond making some distance. But the traffic on the Pan-American Highway was slow and hypnotizing, and I found my mind wandering and losing focus as I got stuck behind one slow-moving semi after another. No matter how many people you passed, there were always 10 more just waiting to build a freight train of “I hope you’re slow and dead inside like we are.” Eventually, we veered off toward the coast and followed the road until we were both too tired to continue. We grabbed a room in a hostel in the town of Quepos—an entirely too-expensive tourist trap of a town, despite having nothing particularly interesting about it. Costa Rica is just expensive, I guess. We spent the night hanging out with other young travelers. I’m not 100 percent sure where we’re going from here, but I hear Golfo Dulce, just a bit south from here, has bioluminescent plankton, and I’d really love to see what that’s like. So maybe we’ll take a detour before entering Panama. It feels like it’s been forever since we crossed the border down to Mexico. I can’t believe we’re finally so close!