Central American border crossings
While riding through the relatively small countries between Panama and Guatemala, one of the most memorable thing is… border crossings. I guess for those, traveling South, from Canada or the US towards South America, these border crossings cause a lot of headache and seem like a “normal” thing in Latin American countries. But for us, after all the calm, easy and fast (and free!) border crossings in South America, these seemed like a real pain… The process is not complicated (this is what I was afraid of, after reading and hearing all the stories about oh so complicated border crossings in Central America), you have to go through the immigration process yourself: get the exit stamp from one country and the entry stamp to another (and make a lot of copies and the of the copies with the copies of your documents in between) and export the motorcycle from one country and import into another (which again requires copies and sometimes a disinfection process of spraying some poison on your wheels). With some basic knowledge of Spanish, we successfully went through all those processes with no problems and no famous “helpers” (the people who help you with the papers on the borders for some monetary reward) involved.
So for all those, who are planning on traveling Central America by motorcycles and are worried about border crossings, my advice is: STOP WORRYING, GO STUDY SOME BASIC SPANISH AND GET ALL YOUR PATIENCE PREPARED cause it will take time however well you are prepared with your Spanish, your documents and your copies of your documents and copies of those copies (yes, I was really, REALLY annoyed by the fact that sometimes those people even have the copying machine or a scanner on their desk, but they still send you walking 5 minutes in all your motorcycle gear in the blazing sun at almost 40C degrees to the other side of the territory, to find a copying service and make those damn copies for a few cents…), you will still have to sit and wait in some places unreasonably long time before someone will finally issue you a paper without which you cannot continue…. Oh, and BE PREPARED TO PAY SOMETHING BETWEEN 3 TO 70 US DOLLARS FOR YOUR “VISA” OR THE MOTORCYCLE IMPORTATION PAPERS. Yes, it’s official, I’m not talking about any bribes (which, by the way we haven’t paid anyone anywhere during our 5 months riding experience from the very South of Argentina to the North of Mexico).
So, border crossings excluded, we really enjoyed our time in Central America. People in these countries were exceptionally friendly. We spent some time with local motorcycle riders and other travelers.
Nature allowed us to take lots of chances to go camping in the beautiful scenery... The temperatures during the day sometimes would reach 40C degrees, but nights were cool and pleasant.
There are so many volcanoes in Central America - some of them are even active! They really add to the beautiful backgrounds of the local panoramas and made our rides and camps so enjoyable!
I took a chance to try surfboarding in Nicaragua, which apparently is a bit more difficult then motorcycle riding... :) After two days of trying to at least stand up on the board, I had the major part of all my body muscles sore... And I couldn't master the push-up and jump on the board even on dry and stable surface - it's just too hard for me! So I guess, I'll skip riding the boards and just continue riding my motorcycle :)
Meanwhile Linas had an unfortunate encounter with a sting-ray while jumping the waves of the Pacific Ocean, but luckily local surfboarders knew what to do and in an hour's time Linas was ready to go on with regular life.
And, of course, the exotic (and not so exotic :) ) animals surrounded us every day. We even had a friendly crocodile floating in the river right below our campsite one night...