Hitchhiking tales #7
Dude, you are Mexican. They hate Mexicans in Nicaragua, there´s no way they are letting you in - my pessimistic bro said just one day before saying goodbye.
Well, if they don´t let me in I will just jump the border, it´s not like it is the USA - México border with walls, snipers and eagles, this is Nica mate, I´ve heard plenty of stories of people crossing like it is a walk in the park - I replied.
I was bluffing, obviously.
I am kind of crazy but not stupid - I guess? - but I couldn´t show I was truly scared about this exact same thing. It is known among travelers that the Nica border is tough if you are coming from Honduras, especially if you spent a lot of time there and even more if you are Mexican. No one knows for sure why. Some backpackers say that it has something to do with Honduran Mafia The Maras and others say it has to do with Mexican drug cartels; there is even a rumor that Nicaragua does not allow Mexicans in their country because they know we´ll steal all their women and drink all their tequila. Ok that one I made up but the part of Nicaragua does not like people, especially Mexicans crossing their ground borders, it is true and it is known among backpackers. It is known Game of thrones reference, got it? No? Ok :( Moving on.
There is more than one ground border between Honduras and Nicaragua but they are so far apart that in order to visit the Somoto Canyon - I´ll tell about this adventure in the future - you have to cross through one of the most non-touristic borders. I know, I keep crossing borders using the less touristic roads but hey, that is why you read me right? I am not a pretty girl writing about Paris or a fancy trip, I have to tell stories a bit differently than the average pretty boy/sexy girl with a loose budget.
I was determined to go to this Canyon
If I crossed through a southern border from Tegucigalpa, Honduras (which can be done) I would lose a day just by going back North once I was in Nica. So there I went, without hitchhiking because I knew it was going to be hard enough as it is to convince the Border control I am not some dude trying to close some sort of deal with my southern neighbours. So I took my chicken bus like every other normal bro would do and after six hours of bumpy roads made of rocks, gravel and dirt we got to the border.
In my mind borders are starting to blend in and if I try to remember each one I can only visualize perfectly the México-Belize one and the Honduras-Nicaragua. This border was different. I counted no less than 100 trucks aligned on what could be called a grass sidewalk. They were just waiting. I don´t know if they were expecting something, they were just hanging out or what was happening. What I know is that at some point the road was closed and blocked by 4 trucks aligned.
I started to get nervous.
How or why is the two way road blocked by four trucks - one for each way and one for each sidewalk. I thought this was a ruse to rob everyone but I looked around and I looked like the wealthiest person in the bus and that one is hard to achieve because I tend to hit the road looking as poor as I can so robbers think I am not worth the trouble. So no, this was not a robbery. This was just normal Nica life.
All the passengers jumped out of the truck and started walking towards the border, some good 500 meters from where we stopped, according to the driver. I decided to follow their lead while trying to act as normal as a situation like this allowed me to. We weren´t a lot of people, no more than 20 and I was the last one. But not for long, I sure wasn´t going to wait a freaking hour waiting for all of them to cross before me - Ok, that was an exageration but Central American border control dudes take their time when it is about letting foreigners inside. They act all tough and detective-like trying to find out if you are thinking about living permanently in their country or something like that. The point is, I knew I was going to wait a lot but if I could just pass some of this people that would be great.
I started to walk faster and my longer strides - yep, I am very tall for Central American standards - gave me the edge I needed. I was the 4th person to reach the border control booth. This felt like the beginning of a positive time in Nica.
Oh you are Mexican...
You have to go to the Nicaraguan side of the border to give some information to them and then they will tell you if you are clear to make the paperwork with us, the Honduran side, to cross the border. We don´t want to waste time by doing all the paperwork here in case the Nicaraguan side denies your entry and then we´ll have to undo everything we did so you can re-enter Honduras.
Yep. That was word by word what the woman from the Honduran side of the border control booth told me - well, word by word in spanish haha. Un-freaking-believable. What the hell? That Ohh you are Mexican... really made me want to punch that smug smile out of her face but I kept my chill and did as I was told.
I crossed the imaginary line between countries without any papers or signs in my passport and just as I was reaching the Nica Booth a police man sitting on a chair on the grass sidewalk called me. I approached him and told him what the lady had told me and he just replied: Hah you must be mexican. You have to answer some questions, he said while pulling out a piece of paper and a pen.
Holy crap, I am doing an official tramit with a random dude in a police uniform just sitting on a plastic chair on a grass sidewalk in no man´s land, writing down my information in a petty piece of paper torn from a Note Block; and all of this just to be able to start the paperwork necessary to cross an imaginary line between two countries that HAVE a tourism treaty - Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua are considered like a Central American Schengen area.
Some questions were pretty standard like How many days are you planning to stay in the country? but some of them made me feel uncomfortable like How much money are you planning to spend in Nicaragua? or Why do you have so many stamps on your passport? But I answered all of them as polite as I could after a 6 hour drive in a chicken bus.
The police dude told me "You seem ok, go back to the Honduran side and tell them you are clear while I give this info to my boss so he can check it out"
I went back to the Honduran side and had to wait in line again. When it was my turn I explained to the same woman as before how my conversation went with the peculiar policebro and she asked me for the paper signed by the police saying I was clear.
My tilting point was almost reached
I was about to lose my temper but my inner adult came through. I smiled and went back to my police friend. All of this because Honduran migration ladies are too lazy to do their jobs. I got the signature I needed. On a piece of paper very similar as the one where he wrote down my info. It was just a signature in the center of the paper. I mean, I am Mexican and couldn´t believe this special type of bureaucracy and believe me, we have useless paperwork on every corner.
Anyway long story short I did all the migration stuff in Honduras and proceeded to the Nicaraguan booth. I waited in line and when it was my turn they already knew who I was because they received the police notes a few minutes before. They asked me the same questions (I guess to check if I was lying on something) and they told me to wait by the benches. In the sun. At 2 pm. Yep, kill me.
An hour passed and I could see how civilians came and went and how people with uniforms went inside and came outside. I started to worry. I was sitting a few meters from the door and everytime the door opened I could see perfectly how 3 people - including the dude who asked me the questions for the second time - were sitting in front of a computer, most likely double checking if I was not in fact "El Chapo" reincarnated.
I could see them struggling so I took a step further and wrote down my website page and my facebook address. I think that helped, kind of. They thought I was a tour guide and I was coming to Nicaragua to work and steal the locals job. They thought I was trying to deceive them and told me I should have asked for a working visa and that I was a fraud telling them I was just traveling as a tourist. My access to the country was compromised.
Then they asked me to access my bank account on their computer to prove I had 3,000 USD - which was the quantity I told them I had, but in reality, as you know, I only have a 100 bucks at any given time and every week I get more money from steemit - and my sweat started to freeze my neck. I was in deep trouble.
How was I going to get out of this one?
There were only men on this interrogation team so I couldn´t search for allies by using my charms; They are biased against mexicans; I don´t have the money I said I did; They think I am a job usurper; My facebook has little to no activity in the past 3 years except for photos people tag me on or the ocasional tag I get in some meme picture so yeah, I was never getting into Costa Rica.
And then one of the interrogators found something online, something I didn´t even know existed and to this date I haven´t been able to find anywhere and trust me, I know how to lurk the interwebs. Later, while trying to find this, I stumbled upon a reference that might have led to them finding this information, you can read it here, wow, that was in 2001.
While watching the screen, the one who until now had been the most aggresive one between these three bros said:
Eric *** *** , only one badge to become a Tiger Scout in México city, why did you quit so close to reaching the ultimate goal in the middle level of the Boy Scouts asociation? (Yep, not typing my full name on the blockchain yet, even though you can easily find it via my website or so)
That was my cue and I could see a small window opening.
This dude is a scout (even if you left the organizatino a long time ago, you are and always be a scout, hence the IS) but is trying to hide it from me. He is intrigued. Unconsciously he want to like me but his job is telling him otherwise. Oh boy, I am so getting into Nicaragua.
I raised my left arm waiting for a handshake. He understood and gave me his left hand and we did the scout handshake - yeah we have a secret handshake very subtle and non-scouts do not pick anything up besides the weirdness behind the fact we use the left hand, it is known worldwide and the moment two persons do it, they know the other person shares the same life values, has a similar moral base but most importantly, is a good person and you can trust him/her. On that moment he was ready to let me in but he couldn´t just decide it like that, I had to earn it otherwise his partners would suspect this change of heart.
While doing the handshake I started to speak and said very eager - More than how I should have - I started to follow Baden Powell steps too late, I became too old to be elegible for the Tiger scout emblem. Sir, can you give me the chance to explain what is my website for? Also I can show you the webpage I also write in - I introduced him to steemit, never mentioned bitcoin in case none had heard of crypto, that could have ended very bad, "the wizard of false digital money" shall not pass - and we can go into my dad´s facebook, he has tons of pictures with me where you can see I am a regular person.
You guessed correctly
Ten minutes later I was walking on a Nicaraguan Highway, trying to hitch a ride from one of the million trucks I saw on the other side, heading to my next destination, the Somoto Canyon.
Remember, Be Here Now