Leaving El Cuco in El Salvador we headed to the border with Honduras at El Amatillo. It was a relatively painless border crossing which took about 2 hours in total. I’m certain the border guards must have some deal going with Xerox as they required at least 3 copies of everything and when I say everything, I mean everything! Steve had to make about 50 copies in total, he couldn’t even do all the photocopying in one go. He kept on having to return to the copy shop to give the next office evidence that their colleague in the preceding office had done their bit, all in triplicate and he also had to keep track of it all. Sometimes the meticulous and fastidious side of him absolutely drives me up the wall but at times like this I’m so pleased he is the way he is.
Many overlanders cross in and out of Honduras in one day. The Pan American highway route is only about 150km. Although there is quite a bit to see in the rest of the country, on the Pacific side there isn’t much. Moreover, it has the reputation of having unending checkpoints with very corrupt policemen. We’d put our fire extinguisher in the front, 2 warning triangles ready and stuck reflective tape down the sides ready to take on them on. We’d heard that even with everything present and correct they would still pull you over and fine you from something spurious. However that didn’t turn out to be our experience at all. The one time we got pulled over at a checkpoint, the policeman was happy to look at a colour photocopy of Steve’s licence before he waved us on. It was a very pleasant surprise. We had decided to spend the night halfway through. The thought of a double border crossing in a day, didn’t appeal. So we had our second pleasant surprise when we pulled into the hotel car park we had found online to stay in overnight. Although the road and surroundings had been very dry, dusty and with quite a lot of rubbish on the side of the road. The hotel on the outskirts of Choluteca was a green oasis. They had a lovely grassy, shady area for us to park in, great wifi, a good restaurant and even better than that a pool. The temperature was 36 degrees Celsius in the shade, so we were in the need of some cooling off.
The following day’s crossing to Nicaragua was also relatively smooth, taking about 1 1/2 hours all together. Driving south-west towards Leon, we were treated to some great views of volcanoes. We also saw people selling huge live iguanas on sticks beside the road. “Bamboo Chicken” was a popular dish in Belize until they banned it but it looks like it is popular here too. This one is definitely not on my culinary to do list!
We hadn’t got any info on where we could stay in Leon, online we’d found a possible hotel that might let us stay in their car park but unfortunately when we go there they wouldn’t let us and their other suggestions didn’t work out. We were very keen to see this former capital city that is famed for its colonial architecture and huge cathedral. Steve had seen on Facebook that another overlanding couple, Erika and Michel from Duchiesgoglobal were just ahead of us and staying near Leon. He’d sent them a message the night before and they’d told him that they were staying on the beach about 20 km away from Leon. As we’d lucked out in Leon we headed to beach at Las Penitas to see if they had space next to them. Luckily they did and the bus went every hour to Leon from the beach. It is a surfing beach with black volcanic sand but it was perfect for cooling down and they were parked in a little beachside lot filled with palm trees and hammocks.
The following day we headed into Leon by bus to have a look around. The city was as picturesque as we’d heard and although it was baking hot we had a good wander around the streets. Being Sunday morning the churches we were hoping to see had services going on, so we headed to an art museum. Returning to the main plaza after lunch we found the place almost deserted. A second service had just finished so we got chance to have a quick peak at the biggest cathedral in Central America. The church was planned for Lima, the capital of Peru but after submitting the original smaller plans to the town council in the 18th century, the architected switched the plans and they ended up building the cathedral planned for Lima instead. We’d hoped to see the inside of some of the other churches that the city is famed for but they were all closed on Sunday afternoon too.
We also wanted to do a bit of shopping and whilst we could get groceries we were unable to get a SIM card, so the following day Steve was back on the bus again.
The rest of the day was spent cleaning, enjoying the beach and the girls enjoyed their first bath since Las Vegas.