Danger In Honduras
As we sit in front of the 'Welcome to El Salvador' sign, a man about our age walked towards the truck. Like at the previous borders, we sat in the truck, as asked to by our runners. At this point in our trip, we definitely stood out having a newer truck. We had people staring our direction ever since leaving the southern parts of Mexico. It didn't bother us. We knew that could happen, and expected it.
We just treated everyone like we wanted them to treat us, with kindness and respect.
We knew to stay in our boundaries as we were invading their space, their country. We had our eyes on this man, watching him as he walked up to the driver side window that was rolled down. Smiling, and surprising to us, he spoke English. He did some sort of hand shake with BJ and asks us what we were doing in his country. BJ politely responds that we were just driving through heading to Costa Rica, where we were moving to.
Smells like Booze
I sat in the passenger seat and could smell the alcohol that was coming from his breath each time he opened his mouth to talk. I'm all for a good time, but it was 9am, and this dude was lit. We try to make small talk and let him know we were on his side, whatever that was. We compliment him on his English and asked if he had lived in El Salvador for his entire life. I honestly can't remember now, because I was so shook up in the moment, but I recall him saying something about working in the States at one time.
His curiosity quickly turned to aggravation which eventually turned to complete anger within just a few seconds. He yelled and started putting his head inside of the truck to get as close as he could get to BJ. For once in my life, I felt like an outsider. He repeatedly yelled and spit would fly out of his mouth as he told us to 'get out of his country'. We had nowhere to turn. We've never been in that type of situation before.There were people there, but acted like nothing was happening. We saw our runners, who were previously standing in line just across the street from where our truck was parked, start walking towards my window that was rolled down. He hand motions for us to roll the windows up.
Runners to the rescue
Even though we had never met our runners before and hadn't a clue about them, at that moment, that was all we had to trust. I rolled my window up instantly. BJ, however could not, due to the fact this mans arms were leaned on the inside of the car. Trying to still have somewhat respect for that man, BJ tells him "sorry bud, I gotta roll up my window." As the window rolled up, the man did not move his arms like any normal person would, preventing them from getting pinched. He placed his arms crossed (left arm on right bicep and right arm on left bicep) on the window up, in hopes of not letting it roll up. It actually pushed his arms away and the window rolled up slowly. Even after the window was finally rolled up, he sat there yelling through it. I told BJ not to look at him, just look straight ahead and pretend like he isn't even there. We both did just that. And he walked off.
The Waiting Game
Hour after hour, we watch the time change. Our runner comes back and forth asking us questions that we have an answer to each time, with confidence. We knew no matter what, we were not going to take 'no' for an answer. Busses come back and forth to do pick up's and drop off's. So it was no surprise to see small groups gather around our truck to load and unload. Having not much else to do, I people watch each bus. I looked out of my side view mirror so I wouldn't look so noticeable for staring.
Out of nowhere, I noticed a man that seemed to be yelling, towards us. Was he yelling AT us? Surely not, we thought. As he yelled, he motioned 'go away' signals with his hands, almost as if he were trying to shoo something off. He made a point to walk completely around our truck while holding a stick in his hand so we would see him. I knew for sure, by his facial expressions and body expressions, we were about to be in big trouble. Remembering what we had before, we do not make any eye contact with him, although he constantly stared in our direction, mumbling somewhat loudly. Loud enough for us to hear him with our truck running, and windows rolled up. Not speaking much Spanish, we can't tell what he was saying, but know by the looks of it, we had yet again pissed someone off for being in 'their country'.
We keep telling ourselves we are halfway there and we just have to keep on keeping on, moving forward. No matter how long we sat at the borders, as long we kept moving forward and didn't have to go backwards, we were doing good. We kept a positive spirit, even with the crazy encounters. The man eventually walked off and stood under a pavilion, still within an eyes distance of us. Every so often I would look and see what he was doing, so I could stay in the know.
After about five hours of them going to the other side of the border and back with their motorbikes, we were about fed up and asked as calmly as possible, how much longer it was going to be. They kept telling us in Spanish that everything was okay and to keep calm. We really had no other choice, as our future literally laid in their hands.
High fees and death stares
Finally, we see them walking towards us, with a little bit more of a pep in their step. "We've got the passports for you, but for the truck, you have to have the title to pass through this country. However, if you are willing to pay, you will not have any issues." We look at each other thinking "what the hell". We begged and told them we had done research and had what we needed to have in order to pass through. Going back and forth with them, it seemed as though the choices we had, were to pay them what they asked, or turn around and backtrack the entire route we had just came. The latter was not even an option in our minds. Our mouths about dropped when he said it was going to be $300 USD.
We grudgingly hand over the money and in return were able to proceed on our route to our hotel. We had hoped to make it through El Salvador and Honduras in one day, yet we couldn't due to the fact we had been at the border for such a long time. As we drove through El Salvador, we noticed it was absolutely stunning. The mountains were out of this world.
We knew what happened at the border could not let us determine the entire country was like that. The people we had passed were friendly and acted as if we were just apart of them. It was a very calming feeling. Every turn would put you in a new direction of another fabulous view.
We noticed at every store, gas station and restaurant stood armed men at every entrance and exit. School busses were packed with so many people that they couldn't shut the front or back doors of the bus. As it drove down the road, people would just stand on the back of the bus, half in half out, holding onto the top. It was not something that I see everyday, however I can imagine that being a way of life and something they were used to. All in all, if it gets you from point a to point b, you will do what you have to.
We drove down the road, searching for a gas station to fill up on. I couldn't quit starting at the armed men, mesmerized by the big guns that they held in their hands, wondering if they've ever had to use them. We also noticed that once it was dark, it truly didn't matter if you had lights on your vehicle or not. More than half of the people we passed had no lights, they would just drive in front of others cars that do. What else could you do other than chuckle, not really believing what you are seeing?
Since it took so long to cross the border to get into El Salvador, we decided it would be best that we stay the night close to the border and cross into Honduras the following morning. We woke up with the sun and packed our belongings and headed to the border. Like before, we hired a runner at the border, who would help us across. Getting out of El Salvador was easy. We knew of the trouble we had in the past at the borders, so we were prepared for the worst. We were told that we would have to park our truck on the Honduras side of the border so we can enter the building to have our passports stamped in Honduras.
All Eyes on Us
We could feel the stares as we pull to a stop. We grabbed the paperwork we needed in order to proceed and locked the doors. We checked, double checked and triple checked to make sure everything was locked and secure before we walked in. We were told to follow the runner to the counter and we did just that. I scrambled behind BJ making sure that I was within arms reach just in case anything were to happen.
Some people walked up to us, asking us things that we could not understand, while others just stood with a grim look on their faces looking at us following each and every move we made. In the building, stood a line that led out the door. Everyone was there for the same reason, getting their cards or passports stamped. We assumed it was Hondurans working in El Salvador being so early in the morning. Before driving and seeing for myself at each border, I would not have ever believed that so many people border hop for work each day.
Standing in the back of the line, the runner grabs BJ and points to the front of the line. Knowing these people were waiting and have never been a line cutter, we just looked at the runner in disgust. He then literally pulls us out of line and stands us in the front, being the next ones to be called up. I could not look at anyone. I kept my head down, knowing what we just did, even being forced to, was wrong on every part. We didn't know what else to do other than stand waiting for our turn to come next. We quickly get stamped in and head towards the exit following our runner. We had to pass the same people we had just cut in front of. Worst. Feeling. Ever.
Windows Rolled & Doors Locked
The runner leads us back outside and to our truck. He told us to sit and wait until he came back. Not having another person there to ask any questions, we waited. Before he left us, he sternly told us to keep the windows rolled up and the doors locked. We were already nervous from the stares and him being commanding didn't make it any easier. I remembered how we were done at the previous borders and tell myself to just look forward or down, not making eye contact with anyone. We didn't know their intentions, if any at all. At first I kept trying to tell myself, that I was making a big deal about nothing. Little did I know those instincts were right on point.
As we sat waiting for our runner to return, a man walks up to the driver side of the truck and starts talking to us in Spanish. We had the truck on, but the radio was off so we could hear him muffle through the window. We kept looking straight ahead knowing he was there, but not wanting to cause any problems or make anyone mad. At first he asked for money. Then he just stood there, not quite pressing his head against the window, but close enough you could see his breath on the window. He stood there and stared. I never did look over, but with my sunglasses on, I would look as hard left as I possibly could, not wanting to move my head from facing straight. I just kept repeating out loud to just keep looking forward and pretend like he isn't even there.
"I'm Sorry, you cannot enter the country."
What felt like an hour, was probably about 30 minutes or so. Our runner finally reappeared and the man that stood staring, slightly walked off. For some reason, we felt a huge sigh of relief. Not even that the runner was looking out for our best interests but it was someone that could speak a little English and at that moment, that was all we had. He rushed us over to the next check point where the border patrols check our passports and vehicle information in order to proceed into the country. Once okayed, we were shown the way to exit. But not before, we had to pay up for their services. Another whopping $600 USD gone just like that. We'd even tell them we didn't have the money. And all they would say in return was, 'I'm sorry, you cannot enter the country'.
They would act like it was illegal since we didn't have the 'title' of the vehicle and would seem as if they were 'doing us a favor to let us in'. Sweat rolled down my cheeks, not only scared for what we had already come across at the border, but having to face the fact we would be in their world now. I have never been so scared for my life. People would ride in the backs of trucks which was something we had seen plenty of times before. What made it so damn scary, was the looks they would give us as we would drive behind them trying to get to the border as fast as we possibly could. We didn't care what we had to do, there was no chance in hell we were going to stay in Honduras for the night. We felt threatened. We felt in danger. We were terrified out of our minds.