El Cuco to León

Y El Cuco to Leon
I feel naked.

As I was biking through El Cuco this morning, a bunch of guys said “nice bike!” and I took the opportunity to ask if they wanted to buy it.

I suggested $70 USD, as I actually really wanted to get rid of it. I also wanted to include my pump, padlock, spare tire and repair tools in the deal, since I’d have no use for it anymore. But they were a tough crowd (probably more experienced businessmen than I), and my bus was about to leave, so after a bit of haggling, I accepted $50 for the bike but kept the rest of the stuff.
rip bike
I hope to get at least $10 dollars for my remaining bike stuff later somewhere. Throwing it away seems dumb, and no way I’d give it to those guys, even though they tried to get their hands on them for free after the deal was done.

I think I could have done better with the haggling, but getting back half of what I paid for the bike still seems okay. With this, I should have enough cash for my final week in Central America! No more Western Union! \o/

Bus from El CucoAt 8:30, I took the bus from El Cuco to San Miguel, arrived at 10:00 and immediately left with the next bus to Santa Rosa. Got there an hour later, and once again switched bus very quickly to reach the Honduran border. Three hours of travel time, $3 in total.

To be fair, El Salvador seems very bikeable. Flat roads, not very far between cities. Would have been nice if I were not already tired of this biking thing!

pupusa
The goal of the day was to reach as far as possible towards my final destination, which is Managua, Nicaragua. It was not yet noon, and I took a break at an eatery by the border to have my first and only authentic El Salvadorian pupusa for $1. It was okay I guess.

imigration honduras
So far on my trip, there has barely been any lines at all when crossing borders, but now they felt endless. Definitely another advantage of biking and not arriving at the same time as a lot of buses. Had to pay $3 once again to enter Honduras.

I got through the customs at 12:20, and this time I wasn’t to lucky with the timing: The next minivan leaving for Guasaule by the Nicaraguan border didn’t leave for another hour! I was not in a hurry though, and sat down in the shade to read.

Amatillo - Guasaule
The trip in the van was $6 USD, was long and uncomfortable. My leg particularly was hurting more and more, as we made no stops and I couldn’t stretch it once during the 2.5 hour drive.

Endless line of trucks
This does not seem to be a touristic border crossing. Mostly tons of trucks that we could luckily pass.

It was very nice to finally get off! Then I was attacked by loads of people wanting to drive me to the supposedly impossible distance to the border, but it’s just 400 meters and a nice little walk. Don’t get fooled!

Exiting Honduras was fast, but entering Nicaragua is a little more complicated. Lots of forms and receipts I need to keep, and there’s also a $12 USD fee! I didn’t have smaller bills than a ten and a five, and he told me he only had $2 to change. Hard to believe that the entire office was out of one dollar bills, but I didn’t want to make a fuzz, and agreed to pay $13 instead.

wild west
The small town on the other side of the border was like coming to the wild west! Ducks and chickens running around, people getting around by horse. An old lady had her boobs hanging out.
wild west horses
So many horses! Felt like a big contrast compared to other places I’ve been recently.

I got on the bus, but it didn’t depart until an hour later, at 6pm. And when I arrived in León two hours later, it was already dark outside. Also, the terminal was four kilometers from the hostel I had looked up online.  If only I had a bike, it would have been no problem, but now, I had to catch a taxi, another $2 spent.

All in all probably my most expensive day on my trip:
– Buses from El Cuco to the border, $3
– Enter Honduras, $3
– Minivan to next border, $6
– Enter Nicaragua, $13
– Bus to León, $2
– Taxi to hostel, $2
$29 US dollars excluding food!!

That’s what happens when being in three countries the same day, I guess.

At least the hostel, Punche de Oro, is really cheap. $5.5 per night, including breakfast! The guy working tonight was really friendly as well.
We’ll see tomorrow if it’s a good breakfast or not.

laundry
Before going to bed, I did manual laundry. I’m new at this, so I hope the clothes won’t stink tomorrow.

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Tegucigalpa – El Cuco

X tegucigalpa to El CucoToday would be a change of pace. After a month of more than 1200 kilometers of biking, I decided that I’m nearly done.

I bought a ticket for a flight that leaves Managua, Nicaragua on September 6, and decided to use buses to do a detour to El Cuco; a small beach town in El Salvador. It’s a distance that would take three days by bike (plus three more to get back on track again), but this way, I could arrive there the very same day.

I left the hostel at 7:30 to bike the four kilometers to the bus station in La Granja. Once again it was a lot of fun to bike through the city and pass all the cars stuck in traffic.

Bus in Tegucigalpa
Finding the bus station was easy, and just upon arrival, a bunch of guys shouted “Choluteca!” and I basically rode the bike straight into its trunk and I hopped into the bus.

So far, so good!

It left at 8:20 and I paid 73 Lempiras to get off at Jícaro Galan (roughly 3 USD), which is the closest town the bus gets to El Salvador. It was frustrating to be on a bus and have frequent snack/toilet/drop-off breaks and stand still for minutes during trafficy sections. I felt the urge more than once to just get off and bike the rest of the way.

Also, at one point the driver almost drove into a truck in front of us, and had to turn to the side to avoid it, almost making us drive off the road. It was pretty interesting.

Jícaro Galan
Three hours later, they dropped me off in Jícaro Galan, and I waited for a bit in the shade, and then the next bus arrived twenty minutes later. I paid 60 Lempiras (I think 30 for me, 30 for the bike) to take me to El Amatillo by the El Salvadorian border. The trip was roughly one hour long, and it was one of those old school buses that are now used for public transportation! My bike was placed between the seats.
jicaro to border

At 1pm, we had arrived to the border. Everyone wanted to talk to me either in broken English or Spanish, asking for money, if I wanted to change money, if I want to sell the bike. I suggested 100 dollars, but they didn’t bite. But it’s good practice, I’m gonna start trying to sell it from now on!
El Salvador
Showed passport to exit Honduras, crossed the river, showed it again to enter El Salvador. The usual stuff. No fees.

On the Honduran side, they offered 5.20 USD (which is the official currency here) for my remaining 132 Lempiras. On the El Salvadorian side, I got 5.50. Again a slightly better offer once you cross.

I was lucky to get on a new bus (2 USD) just as I was done, and by 1:40pm, I was on my way to the largest city on the eastern half of El Salvador; San Miguel.
full bus

I arrived later than planned, and since the internet had told me that the last bus to El Cuco would depart at 4pm, I only had 40 minutes to:
1. Get my new 60 USD from a Western Union
2. Get something to eat
3. Buy some groceries
4. Find bus

I hurried out on the streets on my bike, asking around for a Western Union. Always people pointing in opposite directions, and when I did find one, a sign said it was not working today.

It was stressful! But finally I did find one in a small shop, and I got my money pretty fast this time, maybe because I explained the situation, and they even knew the hostel I was going to stay at!

Still, it was already 4pm, and I hurried hurried back to the bus terminal, maybe a little too risky, zig-zagging between cars against traffic.

I arrived! Only to learn that the last bus of the day was actually 5:20pm! My info from the internet had failed me!

Bus to El Cuco
Bus to El Chuco.

It was a good thing though, as I could finally pee for the first time today, and get something to eat.

People beg for money all the time here, which I actually haven’t encountered earlier on this trip. People also always start conversations with me, and I’ve begun to automatically say “no hablo español, sorry” so they will give up faster.

The bus played super loud Latin dance music that made my seat vibrate. It felt like the ride kept going forever and I was so sleepy.

Finally I arrived at El Cuco, and the sun had already gone down. I biked in the darkness (though now I had a flashlight that I got from my La Lima host as a present!), and I could quickly find Casa de Canela. It’s a cute little hostel, 10 USD per dorm bed, individual fans. Pool table, towel included.

Also, they have little kittens running around, and one became my friend.
Cats in Casa de Canela 2

I have to say that I feel weird going by bus all day. In a way, it’s just as exhausting as biking, but with biking, there’s some kind of satisfaction to it. Now, there’s just tiredness.

At least tomorrow I have all day to just relax and explore the town and the beach!

Puerto Barrios – Puerto Cortés

S Puerto Barrios to Puerto Cortes
The first 15 kilometers to get back on track were peanuts except for a bit of uphill just outside the city. I had felt it was mostly slightly up when going the other direction, and I had been right. Well felt, Fredrik!

Just a few kilometers on the road towards the border, there’s a motel called Hotel Escorpión, and out of curiosity I went in to ask for the prices. They charge 125 Quetzales per room, so that might be an option if you want to bike 30 kilometers less, especially if you’re two people!

I also stopped at a motorbike repair shop and had my handlebar screwed tighter. It had gotten dangerously loose lately. He didn’t want any money for it.

Straight road
After passing a few buildings, there’s just a long well paved road; a surprisingly calm one.

Palms
The road continues through enormous amounts of African oil palms and banana plants. A big sign said Chiquita. How nice that some American company is making profits off of land in other countries.

Coming storm
With two kilometers left to the border, the clouds got threateningly dark again. Luckily I only got a little wet, as it didn’t pick up for real until I was under the roof of the immigration building.
immigration rain

I’ve traveled a lot, and as far as I can remember, it’s only here in Central America that they have fees to cross borders. Greedy people! At least it’s only 30 Quetzales to enter Honduras, so it’s not too bad.

Immigration went smoothly, barely any people there, and I was officially in Honduras before noon. I changed my last 40 Quetzales for 126 Lempiras, and waited for the rain to stop so I could continue my journey.

Honduran road
There, this is Honduras! Looks the same as Guatemala.

I had planned to rest and eat by the border, but somehow, none of the small eateries seemed inviting, or manned. I just kept biking and biking.

CuyamelSuddenly I had arrived in Cuyamel; the town where I had planned to make my first Western Union withdrawal in the country. I only had 42 kilometers left to get to Puerto Cortés, and it was not yet 2 pm! Biking has become a piece of cake!

Unfortunately there was a power blackout in the whole town, and I couldn’t get more money. But I sat down at a small eatery and got a big meal for only 60 Lempiras! (About 2.5 USD)
Honduras seems to be even cheaper than Guatemala.
fried banana
I ended up getting this typical northern Honduran dish. Rice and beans (called casamiento), chicken and tajadas, which are super tasty fried bananas. I want more of those!

I must say the entire road from Guatemala to Puerto Cortés is an easy distance. Long, but constantly good roads and no uphill to talk about.

Omoa
I passed through the coastal town Omoa and saw cozy little beaches (that I didn’t take a picture of for some reason) along the road. I thought of taking a break and swim a little, but decided to keep going and reach my new couchsurfing host.

And I arrived in Puerto Cortés! It’s a big city, but easily navigated. To reach the center, you have to pass one of several bridges.
Bridge to Puerto Cortes

I found the house of my host, but she didn’t show up, so I went to a park nearby and got free WiFi, but she didn’t reply!

It was getting dark, and the bugs were getting frikkin’ annoying. I was waiting at that park for more than an hour, and she didn’t answer.

bugs
I entertained myself by taking bug slapping selfies.

It had gotten dark, and I couldn’t wait anymore (I had already been asked for money by men with alcoholic breath, twice), and I decided to go back to her house. Maybe to shout her name and hope for the best?

Just as I arrived, a man shouted my name! I was confused at first, but it turns out that he’s another couchsurfer, and that my host had not replied because she was at the gym!

And so, I finally got inside and could take a shower, and when our host came back, we went to have some traditional baleadas (big tortillas filled with beans and other things, not unlike what I ate several times in Guatemala).

I had survived yet another day!

Couchsurfing people
Why on the floor? I don’t know. It was for the blog!

Bacalar – Corozal

i bacalar to corozal
As usual, the conditions for the next long distance were less than ideal. I woke up at 5am, realizing immediately that the aircon in the dorm had died. It was a sauna. And it seemed like no one else had enough energy to go and fix it, so I put on some clothes and walked to the reception.

No one there, and it was locked. My rescue mission had failed.

I’m not sure if I managed to sleep anymore, but I got up at 8am, had breakfast, packed my things, chilled a little, and then left Bacalar at 9:40am.

62 road
It was a really nice ride until 50 minutes later, when I reached the road split where left goes towards Chetumal and right goes to Escarcega. Here, the Caribbean wind started working against me again.

I frikkin’ hate the wind!

After 50 minutes of biking on a lower gear, I reached the second road split, where right would take me to the Belizean border. Now the wind was at my back again, and it was joyous!

Footnote:
There are two entrances to Belize in this area; one on the highway and one through the town Santa Elena. I tried the highway first, but a guard told me I have to take the other way.

I arrived to the border after less than two hours of biking. Except for my tire once again being very soft (I really have to do something about it), the day had started perfectly!

63 park in santa elena
There are lots of stores and eateries in the town by the border. I bought two liters of water for my final 17 coins (the price was actually 18 pesos, but the lady was nice) and I decided to just have another banana sandwich in a park as lunch, to get to Corozal as soon as possible.

Let me tell you more about banana sandwiches! For me, they’re among the best and cheapest food you can get. Buying a loaf of bread (preferably something whole-grain or just not the basic white one) is cheap, and bananas are amazing to put as filling; you just peel it, put between two slices of bread, and squeeze the banana mush evenly.

Written while eating my lunch:

Why the banana is the best fruit?
1. It has a natural cover, so you don’t have to clean it and it doesn’t make a mess.
2. You can have dirty fingers and still eat without touching the food part.
3. It’s soft and juicy, and can even get a little warm or mushy and be just as great with bread.
4. It’s generally cheap everywhere.
5. It’s tasty. I suppose this is a matter of opinion though. For me, banana works with everything. It goes with cereal, in yogurt, on pizza (especially with some curry powder sprinkled on), oatmeal, ice cream, fruit salads, or just by themselves.

Alright, I’m glad to finally tell the world about this magical creation of nature.

After my lunch, it was time to cross the border.

64 banana sandwich
This is a banana sandwich.

Crossing the Mexican-Belizean border:
Sometimes you have to pay 500 pesos to exit Mexico. It’s quite a large sum, but I had read online that if you’re insistent, you can say that the cost was included in the flight ticket. I tried, hehe, but the guard’s mind was very set. I had to pay 500.

Now, I had thought a few days ago that I’d better have 500 pesos left at this point, just to make sure I could enter. But because of my credit card accident, I now had exactly 170 pesos left.

I was stranded!

I started thinking about how I could get money. There’s no free WiFi in the town, but I found a “cyber” (a place where you can pay to use computers), and they let me borrow one, so that I could see if there was a Western Union nearby.

No such luck.

I sold the 6 USD I had left from my USA trip earlier in the year, and got 90 pesos for them. But I was still 240 pesos short!

The other thing that came to mind was a pawnshop. I could sell a few unnecessary things, like my jacket or my shoes, neither of which I ever use in this weather, and frankly I’d be glad to get rid of them.

I asked around, but there is no pawnshop in Santa Elena.

I could only laugh at the situation. Would I really have to beg people on the street to buy my things, to save up for the exit fee?

I went to a supermarket, trying to ask for help. They were quite interested as I showed my shoes, jacket and Kindle. Together, they’re probably worth 2000 pesos (new at least), and I hoped someone would pay 240 for it all. A guy joked about how I could sell my body to the girls, but that was the best offer I got. (And it was probably a joke anyway!)

After standing there for a while, lost and out of ideas, I started walking, thinking that maybe I’ll be lucky if I keep telling my story to people.

At the next shop, the cashier and a big man were talking, and I explained that it costs 500 to enter Belize, I’ve only got 260 and my credit card is lost. And that I have a few things to sell if needed.

This guy turned out to be my hero! He reached for the cash machine and fished up 250 for me! I thanked him dearly, and asked what things he wanted, but he just shook his head.

65 hero
I thanked again and asked if I could take a selfie with him! They laughed and I took the picture.

I returned triumphantly to the emigration booth. The guard was nice this time, and as a young teenage girl came to ask if he wanted to buy a Jamaica (some kind of fruit juice, tastes like Swedish lingonsaft) for 15 pesos, he said he’ll buy one, but for the young gentleman. Me, that is. Then he asked her if she had a boyfriend, and tried to put us together…
I thanked for the drink and crossed into the neutral zone.

Normally, the emigration and immigration are within 20-100 meters at country borders, but here, I had to bike for a while to even find where I could get a stamp in my passport. It was confusing, so be prepared for that!

66 imigration
The Belizean border control was nice and relaxed, and since there were no other people there at all, I got through very quickly.

67 belize
I had made it to Belize!