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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

DAY ELEVEN (After a couple of chill days): Santa Tecla, LL, El Salvador, to Choluteca, Honduras

I had the good fortune of having a beautiful landing spot (thanks to my uncle) with the luxury of a couple of days of R&R.  I saw some childhood friends and visited with family.

After three nights in the same bed, it was time to go.  I got Opie packed and enjoyed one last breakfast with my uncle before taking off.  I blindly followed Google's suggestion as to which route to take.  Once I was stuck in various logjams of San Salvador rush-hour traffic I cursed this decision.  I had been routed towards the airport and could've taken the road to the beach, then hung a left to take in at least some views of the shores of the motherland.  This idea seemed especially prudent in retrospect as I chewed on black exhaust on the southern outskirts of San Salvador.

Nicaragua and El Salvador are separated by the beautiful Golfo de Fonseca. Though I drove right by it on a couple of occasions, I only got passing and obstructed glances at it in two countries.

The majority of my travel today was in El Salvador, and I was pleased with the conditions of the road.  There was one massive pothole which I managed to spot and j u s t evade but other than that it was relatively perfect!

It took longer than expected to reach the border area with Honduras, a country I'd spent many years in the vicinity of, but had until today never stepped foot in.  I could tell I was getting close because people started getting really friendly!  Grown men were waving rags at me and motioning me to stop; I had to semi-swerve around one dude who was of a girth which might have prevented him from jumping out of the way had I not adjusted course.

I was in the tramitero market, but I wasn't going to go with a guy on foot.  Sure enough, a dude pulls up on a dirt bike and starts mouthing something.  I roll the window down and he utters my government name.  I think, "how in the hell...?", and then I remembered that Jorge, at the Guat/ES border, told me his buddy Lino could help me pass at this, the Amatillo border.

Trailing Lino on our way to exiting El Salvador; note the tuk-tuk approaching
We went through all of the crap they make one go through.  Lino came to me at some point and practically whispered that I can pay $12 three times for them to inspect my car and run the risk of their having me take everything out to catalog everything or I can pay $30 and have it "taken care of" (he mentioned buying the customs agents cokes) while Chucho and I took a tuk-tuk to the animal inspection area.  I opted for the latter and Chucho sat on my lap for the tuk-tuk ride, known in these parts as a moto-taxi.

They quizzed me about Chucho and we were told to wait five minutes for them to emerge from their air-conditioned portable with the requisite stamp.  I really got the urge to urinate and, upon seeing an employee of the animal importation department come around another portable while adjusting his belt, I decided to do as dogs do and splash my scent over his.

I asked the tuk-tuk driver about the roads and he said they were awful.

Lino was efficient, though I got the feeling he was less honest than Jorge.  I gave him $20 for his trouble and he asked if I could give him some for his buddy, who'd been tangentially involved.  He said, "I'm going to give him a cut of this but anything more you can give is extra for him."  I gave him a 20-quetzal bill and he tried to get more and I said that was solid.  He wished me safe travels and on I went, fully puckered from the whispers about the terrible roads I'd encounter.

The roads were AMAZING.  They'd just reasphalted them and I was cruising.  There was one point where we reached the end of the road work and I was on an awful driving surface for a few hundred meters but the rest of the road was fine.

We came up to a police checkpoint and much to my dismay I was waved into the inspection area for the most thorough check of the trip, which lasted all of seven minutes.  The guys were very nice and joked around with me.  They asked me what was in some of the boxes and inspected some of them and then let me go.

We got to Choluteca and the roads got pretty bad, but luckily it was only ten minutes' worth of driving.

While still in Mexico, I'd been addressing the problem stop on this trip, which was this one.  Neither booking nor tripadvisor had any hotels listed which would accept pets.  I looked outside of these portals and still couldn't find any, so I cold-called hotels through facebook.  I mentioned I had an old dog who just needed a place to eat and sleep and that he wouldn't be any trouble.  I copied and pasted the message multiple times and I got one no and one yes!  I was really amped because it meant I wouldn't have to squeeze two border crossings in one long day of driving.

They reserved the room for me and I arrived road- and border-weary.  I approached the front desk and introduced myself as the guy with the pet who'd reserved the room.  The lady behind the counter said they didn't. take. pets.  She said the person with whom I had communicated surely told me that.

I snapped that I would never have reserved the room if I'd been told that.  I whirled around in my anger, then asked if she would do me a favor and let me use the hotel's wi-fi.  She gave me the code and I prepared myself for having to get back in Opie and hoof it to Nicaragua, since apparently no other lodging options in southeast Honduras, including airbnb, allowed pets.

A man who'd overheard the exchange asked what kind of pet it was. I told him.  He asked if he had a cage in which he'd be kept.  I said no, but we've been traveling since the 26th and there hasn't been even one complaint.  I mentioned he was old and would never be left alone.  I forlornly checked my options on my phone, all in Nicaragua and he said, "I'm going to trust you and let you have a room".

The woman behind the counter booked me for less than I'd been quoted over facebook and we retired to our room and its AC.

Not five stars but it'll do!

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