June 25, 2023 – Nicaraguan Border
We are in Nicaragua. We crossed two borders in two days – first El Salvador to Honduras, then Honduras to Nicaragua. Honduras is the only country (other than Mexico) that isn’t considered safe by many overlanders at the time of writing this post. Many Pan-American highway travelers cross into Honduras very early in the morning, drive across the whole country, and enter Nicaragua by early afternoon. They are only in the country for a matter of hours. Contrary to the opinion of many people our age (baby boomers), who remember the Sandinista’s overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship (1978-79), followed by the USA funding of the Contra War (1981-90), Nicaragua is actually very safe. I felt unsafe in Honduras (probably affected by everything I have read about it) but am very comfortable in Nicaragua. We chose to stay one night in a secure hotel in Choluteca, Honduras because the Nicaraguan border is notorious for taking a very long time and that can leave one driving at night. It was, by far, the hardest border we have crossed. We had to completely empty Lucy so they could inspect everything.
We also had our first negative experience with helpers. We had such great success with helpers crossing into Guatemala, and El Salvador, that we didn’t hesitate to hire another one for the crossing into Honduras. It was a two-brother team, and they ended up cheating us out of about $100 US, which is a fortune in that part of the world. We finally understood why so many blogs advise you to stay away from the helpers. It was a lesson learned for us, and we resolved to do our best to avoid them moving forward. However, crossing into Nicaragua was so hard that we relented and hired another one. This time we kept him on a short leash and questioned every payment he had us make. He almost cheated me as well, these guys are slick, but he left us without enough money to purchase insurance and he took pity on us and gave us enough for that, which erased most of the cheat. Now we have really resolved to cross borders without helpers.
Crossing the Nicaraguan border was also the site of our first bribery attempt as it was suggested we could cross a lot faster if we were willing to pay bribes. We turned that opportunity down. Many on iOverlander reported 5-7 hours to cross into Nicaragua, but it took us 2.5 hours, so we felt lucky.
June 25, 2003 – Manzano Numero 1
After our border ordeal, we checked into an Airbnb on the Pacific coast of Nicaragua. We stayed three nights for some beach time on wonderful beaches, where we often were the only people on the beach.
June 26, 2023 – Overlanders Badge
I took another step towards my Overlanders badge today as I successfully passed the next test – repairing a flat tire in the field. We have successfully overcome many obstacles including crossing borders with a vehicle in a foreign language, repairing Lucy when she broke down, getting tourista and holding up in a hotel until it was better, seeing a doctor for antibiotics, antivirals, and antifungals, passing police/military checkpoints without paying any bribes, and now not only changing a flat tire but repairing it in the field with my ARB tire repair kit. Those are almost all the tests you have to pass. I think shipping Lucy across the Darien Gap, and a river crossing, are the last tests. Of course, I am kidding, there is no such thing as an Overlanders badge, but maybe there should be, as I was very proud of my independent repair in the countryside of Nicaragua. You can see the bolt I pulled out of the tire and the repair. I was a little bedraggled after all that work in 36C and 100% humidity. I can hang with the real Overlanders now!!