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Published: November 18th 2009
Getting a bike out of one country and into another requires a lot of queuing and patience. Generally the sequence goes
1.get yourself stamped out of country A - usually quite quick and painless
2.get the bike stamped out of country A - this is a multi-stage process. First you queue to hand back the temporary import licence, the details of this are then typed (usually with one finger) onto a computer with a very small, slow brain. A print out is produced and handed to a second man who goes outside to check the registration number and VIN on the bike. Its not unusual for there to be mistakes on the typed form so you have to go back to the beginning of the process. When the form is correct the second man passes it onto a third man who puts lots of stamps on it and in your passport. Then that's it your bike is out of the county.
3.find a money changer so you have local currency ready for the next stage
4.get the bike fumigated before entering county B - this involves handing over money to a chap who randomly directs a jet of water vaguely at
you tyres then waves you on.
5.get yourself stamped into country B - again relatively painless.
6.get the bike into the country on a temporary import permit - this has all the same steps as stage 2 but you seem to have to pay each man an arbitrary sum of money to perform his part. Sometimes you get a sticker put on the fairing of the bike as well, often with important numbers, names, dates etc. on it which wash off in the first tropical rainstorm.
7.sometimes you have the added excitement of having to buy local insurance. This usually involves finding a man sat under a shady tree with an official looking pad. You had over some money and he fills out a few details on his pad and hands you a piece of paper. This stage often has to be completed part way through stage 5 as the insurance man needs the piece of paper from stage 4 man 1 and you have to give the insurance 'certificate' to stage 4 man 3.
Confused? - so are we most of the time. All this takes place in sweltering heat & humidity in little huts randomly scattered around the
place with no labels announcing which hut they are. There are usually lots of locals milling around that all offer helpful advise, the only problem is they all tell you something different. At every stage you have to double check all the paperwork. If you get to the border at the other end of the country and something is not correct they make you go back to your entry point and get it corrected there. If you get through in 4 hours that's considered good going.
The Guatemala-Honduras border is fairly typical and takes the standard 4 hours to negotiate. We only travel a few miles into Honduras to Copan Ruinas so haven't got a feel for the country yet. As the name suggests Copan Ruinas is next to the Mayan ruins of Copan and clearly gets a lot of tourists, its a real backpacker hangout sort of place. The ruins are pretty spectacular. Here its not about the buildings it about the stelae and statues which are some of the most finely carved in the whole Mayan empire. They are enormous with depictions of the ruler who erected them on the front and his history in glyphs on
the back. King 18 Rabbit was around for a while and expanded his lands substantially so he features quite a lot.
We had a day at Copan Ruinas then made a 300 mile dash across Honduras to get to the Nicaraguan border. So we didn't really get to experience that much of Honduras. Getting out of the hotel in Copan Ruinas was quite a challenge. Overnight a bulldozer had deposited a huge mound of soil right across the road, luckily (?) there was a 6 inch gap between the mound and the 20ft drop at the edge of the road we could squeeze past. From here we zipped along tarmac for 100 miles or so through fresh green, mountainous country side. Then to get to the capital, Tegucigalpa, we had to take a 60 mile dirt track up and over the hillside - well it should have been dirt but it seemed to be mostly large sharp rocks. This seemed to be the main route as was quite clearly marked on the maps as the main road and none of the locals seemed at all phased by a load of large bikes trundling through their villages. Back on tarmac
story on the back of the stelae
it we negotiated the capital, which thankfully had a ring road of sorts, although the lorries and buses seemed to think it belonged to them and that the white line down the middle was just for decoration. You would round most corners to find a car overtaking a bus overtaking a lorry on a road that was only two lanes wide - no photos sorry I was too busy closing my eyes. Another 100 miles or so through more green and pleasant land and we are at Danli, a little border town. We will have to come back again - 3 days in Honduras is not enough to find out what makes the place tick.
PS - 2 days after leaving Honduras (ex)president Zelaya, removed by a military coup a few months ago, snuck back into the country and holed up in the Brazilian Embassy. So the military have re-imposed a curfew and restricted travel. We jsut got out in time
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