Toto, I Don't Think

Toto,  I Don't Think

were in Nicaragua anymore . . . .

Limpiar la brisa? --Si, Gracias. Bien lleno? --No, suficiente. In Nicaragua bien lleno means a gallon pumped on the ground to prove that the tank is indeed full . . .Smiling young attendant does ALL the windows, earning him a $2 tip. Gaggle of young school girls wander by, uniforms but with tailored skirts. I've always liked El Salvador.

Texaco station across from the Mirage autohotel we stayed at in San Miguel, early in the morning.. We'd left Nicaragua late the evening before ... I had to do some begging to get a car permit into El Salvador, the window for personal vehicles at La Hachadura (Amotillo) is only open from 6AM to midnight, and we got there at 12:20.

They clear the trucks in 6 Km north of the border, so I went there, was told by the security guard that they couldn't help me, but got into the line anyway . . Chatted with a young missionary in the line who was bringing a truckload of religious tracts from Costa Rica (great printing job, eight cents each, hell of a deal . .) He'd been there since 4:30 that afternoon. His problem was, his load was being split between El Salvador and Guatemala, and the system simply wouldn't accommodate this. He finally decided to drop half of it there (minimal risk for theft, and besides,, Jesus would be watching his goods), do the El Salvador run, and come back for the Guatemala portion. He's spent the previous night in Managua, his church organization had a facility there too.

When my turn came I made my case to the young guy who was checking the trucks through . . He'd said that he'd never done a car before, said that he was by himself and there wasn't anyone to check my load. I explained we were on our way back, had nothing but some clothes and coffee, and it was a long time to 6AM. He handed me a form to fill out . . .came out to look at the car, checked the VIN, and started to do my document.

Looking at my passport, there was no entry stamp into El Salvador. I searched for several minutes for the stamp, my passport is so full that we are using the personal information pages in the front and the back inside cover now for stamps. The migration guys just look for some free real estate to put their stamp.

No stamp. So we went the 6 Km back, ostensibly to get stamps, only to be told by El Migra that he didn't stamp passports when there was already a stamp into a C4 country. He entered us into the computer, that was all that was necessary. That was true, we later cleared out of El Salvador without anyone looking for a stamp.

Back to my truck processor friend, explained what I'd just learned, he apologized, said he didn't do this routinely, all he saw was stacks of truck documents and cedulas,, and I had my car document in five minutes. El Salvador is free. He graciously made me the extra copies I needed to get out of Dodge (or into El Salvador in this case),, and we were on our way . .

I've found that, with the right attitude, some workaround to a problem is often available at the border crossings. When we got to Guatemala we found that the car permit for the van had been mysteriously cancelled in December when we had exited Guatemala for El Salvador. The computer system simply wouldn't allow another car permit to be issued within 90 days of the previous issue date. The young guy who was helping me told me to go get a Carta Poder authorizing Shelley to import the car into Guatemala, with that his butt was sufficiently covered, and the computer would accept the combination of a new name and the same vehicle, And we were able to move down the road a bit further . . .Without Shelley along, I would have had to wait for some random mochilero to wander by: "Hey, you got a driver's license . ..??"

Thanks to this glitch we met Nery Soto and his charming 13 year old daughter. She had been studying English until her English teacher absconded to the US. She practiced her limited English on us while Nery (pronounced Neddy, I still don't under this use of d for an r, Like Jaido for Jairo) ---did the Carta Poder.

We've never driven north before . .but the routine is the same. It's a lot easier without the cargo: "Yeah, it's all books, clothes and personal articles . .",, said with a straight face to an already skeptical aduana agent.

The journey is the destination, something I learned in the 60's. As long as I keep believing this, I think I'll be OK