Three countries in one day
Crossing 2 borders in 1 day Nicaragua Honduras El Salvador San Miguel. Then to el Tunco.
We had a rather late start to our border crossing. I was in two minds whether to stay another day. We loved our time by the beach, but we have an agenda so decided to move on.
Firstly, we took a $15 taxi to Leon. He drove us to the mini-van. They couldn’t work out if we were to have the mini-van or the ‘chicken bus’ but I told them I would pay for our bags to be out inside.
They charged me 3 seats for the bags. As soon as we took off we stopped. All our bags were shoved into one seat, and parcels loaded. So much for paying for 3 seats for the bags!
1 hour later we arrived to change buses. No big deal – except it was a ‘chicken bus’. The guy was driving off as another guy climbed the roof with one of our bags. I ‘hoped’ the next bag went in the back door along with our backpacks.
I shoved my son in the bus front door hoping for dear life we had not lost our luggage. He shoved our way down the aisle and there were a few groans from locals.
One lady did the poison fingers at our eyes and back at us, telling us to keep a watch on the bags. So I moved the backpacks to near us, and hoped the luggage was ok – I had worked out one bag was at the rear inside.
Numerous people loaded things through the back door so it was hard to focus. Two hours later we came to a bumpy off-road. We offloaded into a pedicab and had a great guy.
Now borders are a matter of trust. On the Nicaragua side, we go into one office and pay. Our ‘driver’ dutifully watches our stuff.
We then need to find a bathroom. We get a lousy exchange rate for Honduras, but seeing I had no clue as to what it was, I was pretty well scammed between him and his English speaking mate.
Note, you do NOT need anything but US$ for Honduras buses. So I wasted money on this $50 exchange – Was told I needed at least $40 for buses, and more for the frontier.
Anyway, our pedicab man worked hard. He had to get help from a mate to get up the ridge on the bridge with our load. It is meant to be $1 per person. He earned $5 I say.
Next was another bus – for about 3 hours – by now we were hungry. Our pedicab driver here was good. He rode us to the fruit stand. He rode us to the bathroom – we missed it so he back-tracked.
Explorason was wanting to help with pushing the cab. Along with a tiny 11-year-old local, they had a great time running along.
Now we get scammed – not right royally, but it was lunchtime, and so I am ‘told’, the officers have gone to lunch. But a helpful guy comes along, fills out the forms, and takes our money plus a few extra $$ so we don’t wait for 1 hour. I doubt the truth on this, but I would say they have a good system going. But I get a bit ticked when the ‘helpful guy’ wants extra $$.
Suddenly my Spanish doesn’t understand him. This day is getting expensive. So take note – each border has 2 sides, plus a middleman crossing you with a Pedi-cab, plus whoever you get as a ‘helper’ to deliver the form and passport to customs.
Next came a local bus. We wait as it starts to rubble thunder – I think only 15 minutes and we head off. But the assistant wants Burger King. The bus waits a good 15 minutes whilst he goes off and gets his order.
Explorason – a Burger King freak – who is suffering withdrawals has a meltdown. Had I known, I would have jumped off and bought the biggest burger I could find. But we sit till he arrives back.
After 3 hours we finally arrive in San Miguel. We are meant to be about 5 hours further on than this. We decide to terminate here as it is nearly dark.
There is a hotel right next to the bus terminal named “Hotel Jerico‘. For $10 a night you get a clean room with fan and en-suite. Or across the road is a nice hotel with a pool for $30 a night, but the guy was a bit unhelpful, so we left our bags and found the one next to the terminal.
The owner speaks English. He laughs and his kids instantly want to play with my son. The helper helps me – he comes and helps us retrieve our bags. I am stuffed – I want a nice glass of wine and a good healthy dinner. I ask the hotel owner and he rings a 5-star restaurant for us – except we don’t know it is 5 star. He offers to drive us there – along with his family, and gives us a tour of the town, showing us the safe vs unsafe areas.
Later that night the hotel owner comes back for us. He is so kind. Our meal was fabulous. We had complimentary beef soup and garlic bread. My son hates both, but he devoured them and loved them. The joy of hunger can change and appetite.
He had a chicken fillet with a load of vegetables and potato and finished it and was still hungry. I had the best king butterfly prawns and a mass of extras. The red wine was excellent except the glasses were more like sherry glasses and hardly touched the sides of my throat. Seriously a great meal. I can’t remember the name – might have been The Barron but it isn’t – honestly, I can’t remember – but if I do I will add it here, as it was the best meal I have had in months. The prices were not cheap, but the food was awesome!
The owner returns to collect us. Next day we go across the road to Pastelería Francesa for breakfast. They made me a special croissant but I was so tired I had had enough of travel food.
We bought a few groceries next door for our journey – more weight in those big bags – great – not!
Then we returned the grocery purchase to the hotel room. It was only 8:30 a.m. and the town was alive. It was the most un-catholic town I have been in so far. Most do not trade. This one was alive!
We met a lady making Tostadas and she gave us a lesson.
She was happy and helpful and also showed us other local food nearby. We bought 4 for 25 cents, and they were more filling than the breakfast across the road.
As we wandered the streets we were aware of how most shops had a guard with a gun on duty.
We headed to the square and the whole town seemed to be out.
The cathedral was packed.
The beggars were out, so we decided it was time for some Random Acts of Kindness. We nearly always ask before we take a photo, and many we do not take photos of. But because we get support from some people to help the less fortunate, we sometimes ask if a photo is OK.
Yesterday, for instance, we saw a little kid playing in the rain. Maybe 18 months – 2 years old. I could not tell if it was a boy or a girl. It was playing in the trash with a dog. Filthy.
My son cried and was so upset. These are the people we want to reach. If we can help one person, then that is a start. If we could all help one person, and not just think about ourselves, what a different world we would have.
We then found a great fruit seller – and a Homewares store. My son selected a Christmas gift – but it was like a seriously overpriced “Cheap as Chips” or $2 shop to Australians. I daresay the stuff was half the price in Australia and all out of China. But it was a comfort shop and a nice distraction with free iced water and coffee.
Next, we found a couple more beggars. She was so delighted when we helped her. She could buy fruit and they were both so skinny their bones stuck out. I don’t think either of them was quite right.
It was sad. But hey, they were so happy with us helping them. We found them on a side street. Genuinely needing help.
We had better get a move on – it was 10.30 a.m. so we passed the beautiful theatre – mid-restoration.
This is an old colonial town.
The street opposite was filled with not one, but at least 20 shoe repairers. I daresay most work 7 days a week here to make ends meet. Sad. But colorful.
We passed another guard with a gun.
Behind my son is another guard with a gun. They will duck in the doorway if they see us taking a photograph.
We went past the street meat market. Smelly wet and dripping with residue meat juices to entice the local dogs.
All done, we headed back to the hotel. The helper aided us to the bus next door – just in time. We caught the mid-day bus that was meant to take 2 – 2.5 hours to San Salvador. Explorason was whipping through another book.
Locals were trucked to and from church including many Mennonites I failed to photograph.
It was hot in the bus. The TV failed to work and the so-called air-conditioning was the windows. We were on the sunny side so that didn’t help. After our starving day yesterday, we were shocked with more than 100 sellers hopping on and off the bus over the journey.
We decide to buy some Yucca chips. Time for some fun making Gene Simmons tongues. I won!
When we finally arrived at San Salvador it was nearly 4 hours later. My son had already had an emergency stop and the bus pulled over for him to ‘water the grass’. I, however, had no hope of this.
When we finally got the bus terminal it was only a gravel driveway with a grotty back trough. Yikes. The area behind seemed to be the only toilet area – I was horrified. So we headed across the road to get the bus to el-Libertad, El Tunco.
What amazed me was the local police stopped the whole roundabout and helped us the bags. They consulted another and finally led us to a taxi and for $4 we were taken to another terminal.
Here we had to wait 45 minutes for another mini-van and pay for 2 more seats for bags at $1.50 per seat – $6 total – I was happy.
We finally arrived at El Tunco. But not without our mini-van stopping so close to the edge the aluminum water bottle rolled into a muddy 3 feet ditch I had to scramble into.
The I could scarcely get the bags out without dragging them under the bus and nearly landing in the ditch. Turns out we were on the wrong end of town.
An old man turns up with a pick-up and loads us in. We crawl along with Explorason in the back tray with the bags. I pay him $5 and we arrive.
I was a bit shocked at how different Posada Luna looked from their website. But the staff were friendly and we ended upstairs with a room over the river. If I had time again I would select one nearer the beach, or on the beach. But for now, we are here.
We can sleep and we have a great deal, and I am really, really thankful. One good thing about this location is it is actually near the exit to the main road. And – Moses the night guard – is a champion and so helpful.
Note: We do NOT recommend Posada Luna
Questions and Comments
- Have you ever traveled to three countries in a day?
- How did you schedule your time to ensure you maximized everyplace you went to?
- Do you believe its possible to travel to more than one country in a day?
- Do share your opinion and comments with us below.