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Nicaragua to Guatemala City
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Nicaragua to Guatemala City

While volcano boarding was fun, I had some active volcanoes to tackle up ahead.

Have you ever been in an art or history museum and someone in your group ends up lingering too long in one of the areas that you have absolutely no interest in? Of course, we’ve all been both the lingerer and the person moving on to the next room in this scenario, and the best thing about this trip was that I didn’t have anyone pulling me in one direction or hindering me from moving along. I met an Israeli girl on the way who just had no life of her own – she was at the whim of whatever travelers she met up with. It seemed like a pretty pointless way to explore Central America, but I guess everyone has primary needs to be met. Mine is adventure and hers was companionship. She was stringing along one of my boys and messing with another one of our friends at the same time – I told him to stop worrying about it and hit on other girls, but that didn’t work; she had really big boobs.

So I did Nicaragua to San Miguel El Salvador in a day. Two borders, almost 500 kilometers, and I started at 11AM. Such an idiot.

All pics click open in this window.

I uploaded this three weeks ago and put a note under the picture “this is me just before running out of gas and getting my money stolen.” I almost forgot about that.

I left Leon for El Salvador, passed a sign for the next town that said “35 Km” and figured I would make it. Didn’t. Hailed a cab, told him I needed gas, gave him $5, took the next video that you will see in the set, and he came back with a tank of gas for me.

I only had a $20 US and I wanted to pay him about $8. Great deal for him, I am happy to pay it because I am pretty much SOL without help from somebody. He says he wants $15, we agree on a price of $10, and since no one in these countries has change for bills any bigger than $5 US, I hand him the $20 and we go to the taxi stand a few miles ahead to change it.

At the taxi stand, the cabbie calls his friend over to change my bill, and I alight from my bike to buy a water and some gum. As soon as my bike is off and I am off of it, the cabbie bolts, leaving his friend that changed the bill with $3 for change.

I’m trying to figure out how to get my money back. I tell the other drivers what was up; they agreed that the price I wanted to pay was fair, and that the price he wanted me to pay was a full day’s work for any of them, and they tell me to wait, because this was the local taxi stand and he would be back.

I can wait for the jerk that stole my $17 bucks, or I can get to San Miguel, El Salvador at a reasonable time.

I leave.

I forget the name of this volcano, but as you can see, I am completely enamored with this cross-section of geology.

And you can’t tell that I am taking a picture of the entire 360° of the sky, but trust me, I am.

Close up of the volcano . . . I promise, last one until the lava.

I know now why I am doing so much of my photography at the borders – I have shit else to do when I am there but look at my camera and scratch my nutsatch. They really aren’t all that interesting except that I am getting a new stamp on the passport and being ripped off by some English speaking Latin American.

See the soot I have all over my face? Yeah, well I didn’t know it was there until I got to the next border and was watching this video. I looked like a homeless guy through two borders and my bags weren’t even looked at.

I didn’t know until I entered Honduras the second time that my Costa Rican bike cost $5 to get over the border and not $20 as was shown in English at the customs window. I had agreed on paying Luis $8, but ended up paying him $23 because I was stupid. That brings my grand total of theft today to $32 (and it’s not over yet).

So let’s get right to that other $20 that was stolen from me today – I agreed to pay $5 to a guy that was helping me out at the El Salvadorian border, and he told me that I had to pay $20 to leave Honduras.

Not true.

I paid the $20 and then, just before this video was taken, I paid him $5. He did have all my papers in order when I left, which was worth the $5, but not the other $20. When will I learn to stop paying people at the borders?

It turns out that this was the last time I used anyone’s help. Hooray for me.

I took three other videos of this border: One of drug dogs searching a woman’s bag in the bus that you see pictured, one of the watermelon lady, and one of me contemplating the meaning of life. I deleted the others. I think I made a good choice.

I had been hearing bad things about El Salvador for a while, and just after I entered Honduras, there was a minefield of potholes that I would have wiped on. I mean, it was a road that looked like it should be perfect, but every other kilometer, there was this deathly pothole that a truck or car could take, but a bike – no way. If I had been impaired by night driving (I technically need glasses to drive at night . . . I don’t think I ever told my mom that), and this was the road I had encountered, I would have bit it for sure. That’s why I was a little worried about this place.

Turns out the infrastructure in El Salvador is just about the best in Central America.

I think this was one of the things that made me like El Salvador the most out of all the countries I went to; the community feel of the cities. I thought this was a good rendition of how busy the park was, but it seemed much busier than the video.

So I got to the park and was looking around for a while, and these high school and college age kids were playing soccer in a cage. A few of them started practicing their English with me and invited me to be on a team. Obviously, I got on the pitch/court and prepared to be humiliated by these kids who grew up with cleats on (well, they probably grew up with a ball of socks and bare feet, but either way, you get the metaphor).

We won four games. Other teams were winning one or two and losing from what I had seen, but we dominated. I can’t say it was my immaculate futbol skills that were the deciding factor, but I was definitely the star player in the eyes of the onlookers.

That last sentence was supposed to be self-deprecating, but it didn’t quite come out that way . . . Let me explain.

I am a striker. A striker, like a wide receiver, always thinks he is open. I am no different, and am vocal about it, just like any egotistical striker usually is. The way I let my teammates know that they would be utter morons not to pass me the ball then and there is by shouting “WOO!” Not like a Ric Flair “WOOOOOOoooooo!” but more like the background in It Takes 2 by Rob Base and DJ EZ-Rock; “It takes two to make a thing go riiii-hiiiight yeah . . . Woo!”

They really liked that, and pretty soon, every time I touched the ball, ten or so “WOO!”s came off the sideline. They called us Team Gringo.

I had fun. One of the guys who was practicing his English with me invited me to stay at his house for the night.

I should have taken him up on his offer . . .

Crank up the brightness on your screen before you watch this one.

When I joined that soccer game, I was pretty much forgoing any chance of getting to an internet cafe and checking in to any available hostels. It was a tradeoff of mixed blessings.

I ended up going to a Comfort Inn and getting online in their business center. I found a few places that were reviewed by lonely planet as cheap and nice, but I had no idea where they were, and was still a bit sketched about San Miguel because of the advice about wrong turns that I received from my friends at the park. I wrote some addresses down and went out to the parking lot to ask some security guards how to get to the areas. They told me that I would be better off just going down to the (Damn, I forgot the name – I was hoping I had said where I was in the video, but you can be assured that it was something like “The Golden Riviera” or “Paradise Palace”) because it was close and only $12.

I met the night manager in the courtyard and we talked about the rooms. He told me that I got my own garage, private room and bath for $18. I told him that the guys at the Best Western told me $12, and he told me, “Yes, for three hours.”

At this point, I didn’t really understand what he meant by that. Why would I only want three hours? I need to sleep more than three hours, and I am definitely going to need a shower with all the soot on my face and sweat from the soccer game.

I kept trying to get the price down to absolutely no avail (usually by this time, they would have conceded a couple bucks), not understanding this three hour rule. After about three minutes of haggling, a very attractive couple walks through the courtyard, the gentleman gives the night manager a kind of nod, walks into a different condo (when I was writing this, for some reason I was thinking “stall” . . . I think it works much better in context, but it debases this cultural phenomenon a bit), and closes the automatic garage door.

And then it dawns on me.

I quickly explain to our price-sensitive friend in broken Spanish, sounds, and hand gestures that I will pay the $12 and they can save $6 in money shot cleanup, for I won’t be needing those services (inadvertent double entendre!). He laughs and obliges. $12.

It is the most interesting bed I have been in all trip. It’s basically plastic (obviously), the pillows are cut from the same swath of protein resistant material and about as soft as salt-water taffy, and the sheets are thin and practically brand new.

They also gave me three towels.

I realize when uploading this picture that I didn’t take any pictures of the Honduran landscape when I was there. Not so much because it wasn’t beautiful (because it wasn’t) but more because I had to punch it to the border to attempt to make my journey with some daylight left.

Right about now I am wondering where all of the American businesses are in downtown San Salvador. I think I saw a few, but nothing too built-up or expensive looking. The difference between Guatemala and El Salvador is Foriegn investment.

Yes, I know, I haven’t been to Guatemala yet in the photoblog, but but I’m telling you ahead of time, that’s the difference. Oh, and I just cleaned a toilet in the internet cafe I am in with soap and toilet paper, and some drunk guy came in and peed all over it. I am at odds with the water at the current time, so I am pretty sensitive to my toilet cleanliness, and I won’t remember this when it comes time to write about where I am right now. It’s five AM and I decided to spend the night in here instead of a hotel room for the night since I slept for six hours on the bus.

A few days after I left El Salvador (long after this pic had been taken), a lesbian friend of mine saw that I was in Guatemala (from my facebook updates) and invited me to San Salvador, where she was staying. I guess they walk their talk down here.

At a salon, I got a haircut for $1 and a pedicure for $4. The pedicure was worth $30 and the haircut . . . I would have gladly paid $10 on the spot to have my cut hair reattached. Still in the black on that transaction. My right big toe has this weird cuticle thing going on on the inside edge of the nail, and this girl knew it. This weird phenomenon started during a week of soccer camp one summer in junior high or high school and has plagued my digit ever since. She worked on that area with everything she had for at least half an hour, and for the entirety of my trip, it seemed fixed.

When I got off my bike in Guatemala, I put on a black sock, and it looks like the problem has reared its ugly head again.

I have been cashless for 20 hours and already I am writing some seriously boring shit like how much lint is stuck in my toenail.

This was the place where I learned that I couldn’t be a surf bum or live in one of these towns where the only business was tourism and the speed was slow. It is a beautiful place, and I am sure that the people are very happy to be down here surfing and making barely enough money to live or retiring on the little they have, but I couldn’t do it full time.

I haven’t had a cigarette in three weeks now and I feel pretty good about it, although my sinuses are having a bit of trouble adjusting to the difference in humidity. When I was down in Central America, it seemed like there were a lot more foreigners smoking than locals. I wondered; if they had found that their life was so much better here, why were they still smoking? I’d assume that shortening their lives would limit the satisfaction of the life in this fantastic new place they had found.

A lot of people that had relocated down here were attempting to escape life or their lives as they were wherever they came from. If the small adjustments they need to make to acclimatize aren’t sufficient obstacles to send these truly unhappy people back to their mother country to face whatever real problem they were having before they decided that a change of scenery was going to cure them, they stay.

I was thinking that a psych practice would be great down here for almost a millisecond before I remembered that people actually have to believe they have issues before they seek treatment. I realized before I came on this trip that changing locations (i.e. moving to China) wasn’t going to help me become a happier person.

Neither was smoking.

I rented an eight foot board to go out and learn to surf. It was foam and it seemed like it would be easy to get up on.

I don’t know much about surf lingo, but the waves crested from two directions at that point over there. I guess it was a left to right break (or a left break or a right break, beats me) with rocks right in the middle. You’re supposed to paddle out to the area right before these waves crested, which was about 100 yards from the shore, so I undertook that task.

I kept seeing guys whiz by me after hitting a wave and getting out to the break with relative ease, but it seemed I was stuck. I kept paddling and paddling, and using the shore as my bearings, I might have been getting further from the shore, but I was also being pushed away from the break area by the currents. I’m thinking “My upper-body strength isn’t weak enough to explain how these guys are streaking past me . . .” I attribute the problem to my huge board and try to find suitable waves to surf closer to the shore. These dump me headfirst into the shore consistently for a few minutes before I give up.

I saw an American that needed a few stitches in his eye after having a run in with his girlfriend’s board. He was telling me how great a deal he negotiated on his accommodations at $50 US a night. I wasn’t really on his two-week vacation level in my $8 an hour room across the street (sans AC, private bathroom, and pool).

Yo tomo un pelicula, pero ellos es prohibido. Yo aqui es en la frontera de Guatemala y El Salvador. Yo tengo mierda otro hagar.

That’s my best Spanish. I can make simple sentences. You can check them out on babelfish, they’re pretty good.

It didn’t cost me anything at the border except the fees that I was legally supposed to pay.

I was talking to a crowd of about six truckers who were hanging out with their freight getting processed, one of the guys (let’s call him Juan) starts hanging on the other guy (Julio) feigning homosexuality, and the conversation goes like this:

Juan: (sarcastically) So, you like girls?
Me: Yes, girls with big boobs.
Julio: You like . . . (he makes the tongue-pressing-out-cheek accompanied by the go-team-go hand motion that is the universal sign for the blowie)
Me: Yes, but I am sorry, I am not gay. But is he good?
Julio: Yes, and cheap too!
Me: How much?
Julio: Five.
Me: Dollars or Quetzales? (five Quetzales is about seventy cents)
Juan: (sarcastically, and still hanging onto his friend) Quetzales for you, cutie
Me: How much for the butthole?

I had a laugh track built into this convo a second ago, but I’m better off without it – I think you guys can imagine the scene.

That’s it, I am taking a photography class. I recall this being a much nicer place than the picture shows.

The bus drivers here were ridiculous. Remember the scene in “Clear and Present Danger” when they were roped into the ambush? Just before that, the convoy of cars were being stewarded through the streets by motorcycles who would block off traffic at all upcoming intersections so the trucks could whiz by at top speed.

Basically, that’s how fast the buses were going, but they didn’t have the protection of the motorcycle guys up ahead. They just had a big, scary bus barreling down the street at about 80kph that meant business.

I guess it is better to be feared than loved.

t’s not my fault this isn’t Pacaya. I think that some people told me this was the direction of Pacaya and not actually Pacaya, or they could have literally not known that this volcano wasn’t Pacaya. Either way, it’s Volcan Agua.

You can tell how excited I am to see the lava.

It turns out that when I got to the turn for the lava, I didn’t believe it was the right one, since I thought that the volcano in the video was my destination. Pacaya is on the other side of the highway.

It was too late to venture out to the park when I passed, so I forged ahead to Guatemala City.

I just wanted to reiterate that the difference between El Salvador and Guatemala is the amount of foreign investment in the country. The major highways in Guatemala are bordered with McDonalds, KFC, and Pizza Hut. The highways in El Salvador are bordered with local businesses with a few Pollo Camperos scattered here and there.

People say to avoid El Salvador, I say avoid avoiding El Salvador.

I have a knack for using ten minutes of internet in hotels where they charge $3.00 US for fifteen minutes of internet. I promised the girl at the Westin that I would try not to search for too much hard-core pornography – she laughed and told me that if I only needed ten minutes that she wouldn’t charge me. Fantastic.

I went out of the business center looking like a guy who just came from El Salvador on a motorcycle and walked down the hallway to this presentation. There were tall, beautiful women handing out wine and pamphlets on (I’m assuming) the company/exercise equipment on stage. They invited me in to check it out, and I stood there for a couple minutes, fitting in like John Rocker on the seven train.

I don’t know what they were talking about, but I hadn’t had wine in a while, so it was a nice respite.

A few seconds after I took this video, a Palestinian came up to me smelling of cheesburgers and stank.

Why do they always think they can get more money from you if they tell you a story about why they are deserving? I told him that he had the wrong guy if he wanted money since I nearly shit my pants at the cost of the beer in the hostel. He left emptyhanded.

If these homeless guys just showered once every few days, they would be much more convincing salespeople.

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