Live the adventures of Dan Walker's travels through reading his travel journal. The travel journals are listed below in descending order of date. To search the travel journals, use the keyword search at the bottom of the page.
|Wednesday, January 19, 2011 16:18:46|
Rolls Alaska to Argentina & back: 11 Puerto Quezal Guatemala to Costa Rica
Friday, January 14, 2011
*Miles for the day: 279 (449 km) Miles to date: 7,261 (11,685 km)*
We were on the road in the dark at 5AM, navigating over bad road and monster speed bumps on the way back to the four lane express road from Puerto Quetzal to Esquintla. Along the way we got lost in the town of Iztapa. Took both of us pulling on the steering to get the car turned around on a dead end street, as there is no power steering still. We decided to buy power steering fluid keep pouring it in to keep the steering functioning. It is now leaking from the steering column inside the car as well as from the engine area.
The Guatemala roads were better from Esquintla to the El Salvador border. The only problem was a closed bridge that caused us to backtrack until we found a detour on incredibly bad gravel road. At the border there were swarms of hustlers trying to assist with the incredibly complicated formalities. One of them, Roni, said he would help us free, and he did quite well, getting us through in about an hour. At the El Salvador border he showed up again so we hired him to get us processed. We were concerned about this border, as friends had a terrible time getting a permit for a right hand drive car. A couple from Vancouver Canada had been there for over 17 hours trying to get a right hand drive through.
Fortunately, having been forewarned, I had a copy of the El Salvador law from their embassy in Costa Rica, which clearly states that right hand drive vehicles cannot be imported, but that tourists can use them. Even so it took about 3 hours, cost $40 and they gave us only 24 hours to exit El Salvador or be fined $1,245.50. This ended our idea of spending a couple of days in Salvadoran beach resorts.
The road was good in Salvador, with only a couple of speed bumps the whole way. We took the coast road, as opposed to the Pan American, and it was a pretty drive. Lunch was at a small open-air restaurant perched between the road and a cliff that dropped to a sandy beach. The plate of shrimp we each had was superb!
We had planned to exit El Salvador to make sure we would not face the fine, but by the time we reach La Union near the border it was getting late so we stayed at a nearby Comfort Inn. It was the hotel deal of the trip! The cost was $29.95 for both of us, including a full breakfast complete with egg chef. The guy who did the border work for us today arranged for someone named Ron to meet us so we phoned and changed the meeting to 8AM - we must be out of the country by 11AM. We had a swim and dinner in the pub, where we talked to two local fishermen. They said the gang problem was out of control in El Salvador, and even they would not go into the local bars in the town after dark, as it is too dangerous.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
*Miles for the day: 247 (398 km) Miles to date: 7,508 (12,083 km)*
Today was the worst day of the trip. After a good breakfast we drove to the border with no problem, and were met by Ron and his brother, who turned out to be a con man and thief. By the time we entered Honduras we had paid over $350. The system is incredibly complicated, requiring visits to many offices in various buildings. Officials are on a profit sharing arrangement with the hustlers who herd travellers through, so they are not helpful to those trying to get through the system on their own.
Immigration, customs and police are incredibly corrupt in Honduras, and the murder and theft rate from the Mara Gangs is high. We didn't even change money; we just drove for the other border. We had a guy travelling with us who said he knew the Honduras/Nicaragua routine and would get us through for $30. When nearing the border we were flagged down by someone introduced as this fellow's brother, who said the border on the Pacific side was closed due to a strike and wouldn't open until the morning, however he could get us though the border on the Pan American Highway, so we drove over an hour to get there. It was the same well-rehearsed hustle, and we entered Nicaragua over $300 lighter. The only advantage of the two hours of processing was the local fellow who gave the car a terrific wash and wax job - he would ride with us from check point to check point, continuing his work when we stopped.
It was a long, fairly slow drive to Managua due to traffic. It was well after dark when we arrived, but before entering the city Vic spotted a Best Western Hotel, so I backed up on the highway to get into the exit road. It was a great place. We literally dropped everything in our room and headed for the bar for a much needed drink and some food - we hadn't eaten since breakfast two countries ago. There we met an Englishman who was part of a group of seismic engineers who had just finished a contract with a petroleum company. We soon joined them at the bar, where they were mixed in with a number of peace corps volunteers. The petroleum guys had rum by the bottle, and someone kept lining up shooters along the bar to which we all helped ourselves.
Between the several beers we had already downed, straight rum on ice and the shooters it was quite a night. I even got lost on the way back to the room! The most sensible thing we did all night was turn down an invitation from the oilfield guys to join them on a trip downtown where they were determined to party until their 6:45AM flight!
Sunday & Monday, January 16 & 17, 2011
*Miles for the day: 168 (270 km) Miles to date: 7,676 (12,353 km)*
Once again the hotel had a great breakfast included, but at a higher cost than El Salvador ($90/night). While breakfasting I recognized the restaurant. Marilynn, Alfredo & Elizabeth Fournier and I ate and drank here on our way back to Costa Rica from the Corn Islands last year. It is right in front of the airport.
We got lost a couple of times finding our way through Managua, but fortunately the Sunday traffic was relatively light. We made good time to the Costa Rican border on reasonable road, stopping only to use up my Nicaraguan Cordobas on gas. At the border a guy tipped off by the crooks at the last border approached us, and Vic sent him packing on no uncertain terms. We refused to allow anyone to assist us. Vic became acquainted with a bus traveller from Israel, which later proved fortunate. After some wrong moves I navigated through Nicaraguan customs and immigration, then we were required to run the car through a chemical fumigation spray, which we not only had to pay for but which made one hell of a mess of our nice wash and wax job. The gravel road from the spray continued through a kilometre long canyon of parked trailer trucks.
Unknowingly, this road bypassed all Costa Rican checkpoints except the final one, something we found out when we finally reached the main road and had no papers for Costa Rican. We retraced the road, building by building, each one telling us there is another step to be done first. When we finally reached immigration there was a line hundreds of people long, so Vic went to join the line while I checked the insurance office. He found his Israeli acquaintance 80% through the line, so Vic talked to him while moving along, and thus reached the door to immigration in about 20 minutes instead of two hours.
The Israeli was headed for Liberia to catch a bus, so we offered him a ride. The rest of the process was quite straightforward - the insurance purchase was about $13. Large signs stating that services were all free and persons requiring the services needed to be present eliminated the hustlers - there were none.
We made good time getting to the Liberia bus station, where we got the Israeli fellow organized before driving to our Serena Suites condo development in Playas del Coco. The beautiful gardens and pool were a real breath of fresh air. We arrived in time to get our gear into a condo, go for a swim in the ocean, and then have drinks and a long awaited meal at Father Rooster's beachside restaurant.
The following morning was filled with meetings in the condominium and with business associates in the Playas del Coco area. Vic drove with me as I did some business before stopping for lunch. Back at the condo there were more meetings before we headed for the beach for another swim and a light dinner.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
*Miles for the day: 168 (270 km) Miles to date: 7,676 (12,353 km)*
We were underway by 8 AM on a secondary road down the east coast of the Nicoya Peninsula. I stopped to meet with the municipal administrator in Jicaral, to buy some treats for our guard at a large subdivision nearby before meeting with him, and finally to have lunch at a hotel we have near the ferry to Puntarenas, where I was introduced to a new pale ale beer that had come onto the market while I was away.
We bought a couple of more beer on the ferry, did a sightseeing run around the City of Puntarenas and headed home, stopping for one more gas fill up.
Gas prices were by far the lowest in Mexico at 70.4 cents per litre for regular and $1.015 for premium. Regular gas per litre in Guatemala was 95 cents, in El Salvador 95.1 cents, Nicaragua $1.213 and Costa Rica $1.146. The border crossings of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras are among the worst I've seen.
The next few weeks will be spent getting caught up on work and getting the car readied for shipment to South America, currently scheduled for February 14. Within a day John Peirson of the Rolls Royce Club had found parts and instructions to rectify the power steering, so they are being couriered and will be installed by local mechanics. Hopefully that will have us in top shape for the next, and longest phase of the trip.