12.15.08 Esso Station Joya de Agua to Estelli Nicaragua

Esteli Travel Blog

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12.15.08    Esso Station Joya de Agua to Estelli Nicaragua


Terrific day!  Summarized, we crossed the border into Nicaragua at 1pm and were done by 2pm, no problemo.  Nicaragua is gorgeous and people are friendly.  Overnighting at a nice recreation center with refreshing pool.


Here are the details:

Last night I read in the essential book, The Central America Traveler’s Toolkit.  Terrific!  He spoke to my condition about getting road weary, eating nutriciously, slowing down, living in the present each moment, and chilling out when needed.  I felt badly for talking so unfavorably about Honduras.  Certain places are more challenging than others, but  this morning and throughout the day, Hondurans were very nice and helpful, including those at the Esso Station.


We bought more items at Esso again today.  Then headed 2 hours down the road through nice town of Danli and El Parisio (lovely!).


We stopped at a gas station along the way and filled some with water.  We really enjoyed talking with the guard and a loiterer.  They were so nice and it took so long just to fill a little water, that we got to practice mucho Espanol with them.  Finally, they were so curious about the RV that I let them look inside, which they thoroughly enjoyed and were complimentary.  We feel so lucky to have the conveniences that most houses around there did not:  running water, hot water, a refrigerator, a bathroom, a microwave and oven, a water purifier, comfy beds, drawers and hanging space for clothes- it is the lap of luxury in here!


Border crossing:

We arrived at the border during lunch.  We hired a guide.  How do you know them?  They come up to you to direct you to the border to park.  We must have passed a mile of trucks lining both sides of the road on the Honduran side of the border.  Anyway, the guides sort of overwhelm you with several trying to direct you at once.  I checked to see if any of them spoke English, then chose Christobal with a guide tag (likely homemade) as our guide.  He worked both Hon and Guate borders and I made it clear that he was the one we were using.  In the end he earned the 100 Limpera ($5.55 U.S.) I tipped him.


We checked out of Honduras at Migration and then took care of the car checkout (quick inspection of the license plate and VIN number, which is better on the door jamb than the dash).  “Seguaro” in uniform surrounded our rig and pointed out their name, their clipboard where they wrote my info, and that they were watching the rig for me (which was 20 feet from the wooden huts housing the authorities).  In the end, Cristobal insisted that we did not need to pay them or do anything else and instructed us to go ahead.  I’m not sure what that was about, but we did.


Here’s something interesting:  There is a CA-4 agreement.  We are not supposed to have to pay entry fees past the first border for Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador.  I was asked for $70 U.S. and I tried to explain the CA-4.  Well, that is no longer available for citizens of the U.S.  In fact, there was a sign in the window that said that this agreement did not apply to anyone from the U.S. or in the United Nations (we think- it was pretty long and in Spanish).  Regardless, I argued the issue (questioning how it worked, not in a mean way), until I sensed that this was not happening and they finally told me to fork over the 550 Limperas ($23) and I asked and received a receipt, so I guess it was on the up and up. 


We bought Eskimo ice cream from a street cart at the border.  I read that is a national treasure and the kids had to try it.  It was a bit hot (80?) today and the sun was intense.  Their ice cream was really appreciated and they were relatively happy at the border.


I asked Cristobal if that was right when they demanded payment, but sharp-eyed Charles saw one of the border guys give Cristobal the “be quiet” sign.  The agent was starting to get a little mad at me, particularly my lack of Spanish (although I can hack my way through pretty good!), and so I pushed as far as I could without him throwing the passports back at me.  I wonder how relations are going because the last time I looked, the U.S. was getting upset about Nicaragua’s recent election and withholding aid from USAID programs.  I wonder how things are now, a few weeks later?  It doesn’t yet sound improved.


Harriet’s tip to make photocopies of border docs to assist in the new vehicle form proved brilliant.  For the Nica vehicle info form, I pulled out the ones for Mexico, Guate, and Honduras, which really helped him complete his form on the computer and print out for my signature.  I corrected his typing of the VIN as he was doing it, and double-checked it and my Driver’s License number before siging.  A guy at the rope requested that paper, double-checked it and finally lowered the rope so we could cross into Nicaragua.  I’d rather they check it all there than 100 km down the road.


We also had an inspection.  I lock the cab door as I walk around to open the coach door.  The kids smile and say “Buenos Tardes” and I follow the inspector inside, telling the 2nd one “Uno momento, por favor” when he tried to distract me by requesting passports.  The Inspector that I follow inside just looked left and right and asked for the passports, so I showed him all of them and my vehicle stamp (which the Nica vehicle guy stamped “cancelled” when we asked about a stamp- he just cancelled the Honduras on with a stamp) and we were done with him.  No agricultural check or seizures at all.  They wished us a good trip and headed out.  No intimidation from anyone today.


When we were finished, we were accosted by 2 little boys (around age 5) who wanted money.  I had pulled out the Polaroid to take a picture of Christobal, which he really seemed to like.  I had the two boys stand together- they were so cute- and took their picture.  Then I showed them how to wait a minute for it to develop.  I gave them each $1 US while we were waiting.  They were most delighted with the picture and so excited.  Others came around them to admire their picture and they felt special. 


One of the things I read yesterday was to remember that we *guests* in their country.  We are really trying hard to be good ambassadors.  So I thought it was a positive thing for them to see U.S. citizens being kind.  I liked seeing their happy faces as we pulled away.  Total border crossing time:  1 hour.


Again, we were relaxed and having the guide is a terrific help, even if he only spoke Spanish.  I also slowed down and took my time listening to people, talking with locals who wanted to know what we thought of their country and where we’d been.  They seemed pleased that we went throughout the country and saw mucho. 


It was interesting that when one slows down and treats people as human, not pests, and communicates, the people are very nice.  There are about 7 guides and 4 money changers who make their living at the borders.  These hard-working people are a tremendous aid to the confused, like myself.  I’ve yet to see an ATM, so getting money at the border is a great service.  By taking it slowly and seeing the border crossing in the moment, part of the journey, we actually almost enjoyed it. At least it was an accomplishment.  I was glad to have $12 U.S. in exact change for the $3 each charge to get into Nicaragua.  The 550 Cordobas was more than I suspected, but I did have the money


Money changers:  We waited to change money until after the Honduran check-out so we knew how much we had left.  So I told them what I was doing.  Then 2 of them punched a rate into their calculator.  I’d updated the rate on the NUVI “travel toolkit – currency converter” Dec. 2, so I knew that the rate was 1 Lirmpera to 1.04 Cordobas.  His first offier was 80.  I laughed and refused.  Then he said 90.  Not yet.  The other guy punched 95 into his calculator and so did my first guy.  I took the calculator and punched 97 and multiplied it times 1500 and he did the same.  I guess he wanted to look like he won, which was fine.  We pulled out our money (which I’d already gotten arranged) and requested small bills, which he provided.  He counted it out and we were good to go.


Yesterday, stopping at the top of a mountain for a picture, a man from High Point, NC stopped to say “Hello!”  He’s lived in Honduras for 20 years.  It was fun meeting someone from near my hometown.


This Club Camstra is a nice place out in the country- nice a quiet.  The kids enjoyed the pool and rinsed in the shower afterward, saving RV water.  We went to order food, but the lady was just closing and we all agreed that tomorrow\ would be better.  We returned to the RV to eat a healthy meal tonight, finishing off the fresh watermelon and cantaloupe  that we bought in Sula.                                                                       


I was so proud of the kids swimming up to visit with the manager’s nice family.  They enjoyed practicing their English and created a wonderful first impression of Nicaraguans.


Roads:  The road in Honduras to the border was pothole-ridden.  But we were SHOCKED by the condition of the roads in Nicaragua.  No, they were not that bad.  They were perfect!  It was like being in the U.S.  Not a pothole to be seen for the entire 2 hours of driving to Esteli.  We were so surprised.


Finally, after my shower, a knock came at the door.  It turned out to be Canadians from Vancouver Island- Gene, Lee, and Chancha, who turned 4 yesterday, came by to visit.  They have been traveling since January and went to the “road’s end” in Panama.  We had a terrific time talking through the window and will swap notes tomorrow.  Jazy and I spent some time organizing overnighting locations.  They also reported some tough times trying to overnight in locations.  They couldn’t believe that the Texaco didn’t allow it, as they have a picnic table there where they spent time visiting with the staff.  Well, maybe that is the reason, now that I type it.  Perhaps the staff was getting too distracted with the RV’ers!  I am most eager to learn of the places they found south of here too!


What else… So far the people have been mainly friendly, waving and smiling.  They seem calm and kind.


I’m going to go pull GPS coordinates now for the places we’ve stayed.  Good night!




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photo by: Yoshu