Gracias Lempira, Honduras – Welcome to banana republic

In the morning the weather is reliably good, and so we really can see El Salvador’s valleys, the volcanoes, and to Guatemala. The descend from El Pital mountain is gigantic: In 9.4 km (less than 6 mi) we descend 1214 m (3649 ft) of elevation. The border crossing El Poy to Honduras is situated only few kilometres north on CA 4. In El Salvador everything goes so fast and free that we nearly regret to leave the country.

Did the Salvadorians amaze us with their efficiency and professionalism, Honduras fulfils nearly all of our expectations regarding a Central American border crossing. Nearly, we have to be fair. No tramitadores appear, border helpers, for whose obtrusiveness Honduras is otherwise famous. The border crossing El Poy is a busy truck crossing, but there are probably not enough lucrative tourists at a distance from Pan Americana. Passport processing is fast. We fill a form that remains in the passport and pay 3 US$ per person, then we head to aduana where the vehicle papers are issued. Here the officers fill in all forms themselves. Contrary to all my expectations this doesn’t accelerate the process. Quite the reverse! Perhaps we aren’t lucky and didn’t catch the brightest officer in the squad. Several dozen times (I missed to count) she shifts the papers from one side to the other and back. In doing so she throws about 50 % of them on the floor, picks them up and drops them again. The immigration paper nearly gets lost, that’s why she takes the plucky decision to staple the receipt to a passport sheet.

My travel guide asserts that Honduran graduates of the minimum six years school master reading, writing, and the tables from one to ten. After ten years of education they can speak some words of English and talk to a normally educated adult. I grant her that she might have overcome the first obstacle – although reading is such a thing. Despite the Salvadorian form in Spanish is with her she has problems to find the correct lines. Unfortunately she doesn’t like to be helped. On the side she must stuff some sweets down for strengthening and maintaining her figure. As everything has to be transferred into the computer it becomes even odder: The country Germany isn’t to be found and our vehicle type doesn’t exist as well.

No sooner the extensive problems are commonly solved than the bank is closed for lunch where we have to pay the fees. Who cares for one and a half hours more waiting time? Actually, the bank is situated on the left and not on the right side as the lady claimed, but we don’t want to be petty. At least I find out that the office wants to have each three (!) copies of all documents and stamps and I ask to receive all papers back to complete that in the meanwhile. After paying 635 Lempira (only cash, only in domestic currency, 100 Lempiras / HNL are around 5 US$) another officer takes over and then the rest is done quickly. After three and a half hours the customs officer wants to peak into the cabin but goes without entering it.

Then we are on the way on the up-and-down-roads typical for Central American highlands. The beggars are back, we didn’t see too many since Mexico. Especially kids like to stretch a rope over the road to stop cars. Honking and continue driving helps. One of several traffic controls stops us, but thanks to “tourist bonus” we just can continue driving. In the city of Gracias Lempira we look for a swimming bath with adjacent small hotel. After short consideration the boss approves us to camp. She leaves it up to us if and how much we pay. We think 100 Lempira to be proportionate (Balneario Villas de Ada, at the bypass of Gracias Lempira, signposted).

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