|Chucho and Bambino frolicking in Guate. This was easily Chucho's favorite hotel.|
|Nice view to contrast with the dude on motorcycle passing on my right (visible in mirror)|
We got to the border and the seemingly endless line of semi-trucks finally parted. I followed the motorcycle and we went from department to department, window to window. This time I made sure it was me who paid for everything so as not to have to deal with yesterday's BS, though it helped that I had some quetzales left over and El Salvador's currency is the US Dollar.
If one is crossing on foot or even on motorcycle, you can do without hiring a guide. My two wrinkles, Opie and Chucho, pretty much demanded the use of a guide. There is no set of instructions, no checklist, nothing in either English or Spanish to let travelers know of the steps involved.
The guy who was driving the motorcycle, Jorge, is the guy I shadowed the whole time. The guy whose ID I'd been handed through the car window at speed, was on Chucho duty. They checked Chucho's Guatemalan stamps on his papers, as well as Opie's. They were surprisingly thorough. I thought Mexico would be the nastiest border crossing and that once other countries had seen I'd crossed into Mexico first they'd coast a little but I couldn't have been more wrong.
One detail I'd forgotten (and my experience at the Mexico crossing didn't help in this regard), was that when crossing by land, one has to first exit the country they're leaving officially, then enter the new country. There are two sets of processes.
On both sides of the border, Chucho passed his very superficial visual inspection (we brought him to the window on the ES side). El Salvador customs were a breeze, MAYBE because of my trick...
When I came to El Salvador in 2012, I saw one of my mom's maids from the mid-90s. She talked to me about Jesus and I politely listened. The next day she brought me a Santa Biblia, a Bible, which I set on Opie's dash, right by the VIN number (keep in mind the VIN number is checked at each border). While moving out of our house, I found someone's (wasn't mine, wasn't Raquel's) Christian fish necklace, which is hanging from the rear view mirror.
Although no one has said anything, I'd like to think these two items are to credit not as some good luck charms but a subconscious good vibes/let's not hassle this nice man feeling.
Long story short, I opened up one side and the back of Opie and she nodded and signed a paper saying no import duties are due.
After a little over two hours, I was granted passage into El Salvador. I gave Jorge and his buddy $20 and he was amped. Unlike Jose Alfredo in Guate, Jorge was very efficient and informative; even giving me advice on which border to take into Honduras to avoid the terrible roads 😐.
I'd made the decision to visit Chuleta's (Pando's biological brother) hotel near El Tunco. He had no idea I was coming and was amped to see me. I had lunch there and I insisted I be allowed to pay for it (the last time I ate at a Rivas family restaurant my payment was refused). We hung out for a while as I ate and I met his six-year-old daughter Ximena and his nephew Eduardo.
I drove up to Santa Tecla, which sits at 3000' elevation to my uncle's house and checked out the latest changes he's done to the house (he purchased it from my mother in 2008).
We'll hang out here for a few nights so I can visit friends/family and recharge our batteries for the final push into Honduras and Nicaragua.