Wednesday, January 24, 2007

El Salvador

Friday, January 12, 2006

We got on the road by 8:30 AM and by 10 AM we were at the El Salvador frontier. What fun. All of the frontiers follow the same pattern. You pull into a cluster of small buildings, people, buses, tractor-trailers, dogs, and horses. Young men flock to us in an effort to get us to employ them as guides through the local border crossing process. At some of the crossings the lads are licensed and most will speak a little English. We used them. Ginette did most of the contact work because her Spanish is a lot better than mine.

First you have to clear Immigration. That involves finding the correct office and paying a small fee and getting the passports stamped. Next the car has to be cleared because each border attempts to limit the ability of car thieves to move cars across borders. You have to find another office in another building and prove you own the car and sometimes pay another small fee. Fees are frequently paid to another office, the local branch of the country’s central bank. Now the passport is stamped to indicate that you are bringing in a car. This passport stamp must be cancelled when you exit the country. It is hot. Lines are long. Sometimes the officials require an hour to look over your documentation. Ah, now it is lunchtime and the border shuts down for an hour. Ok, now find the customs office and convince them you have nothing to pay (that was never a problem) and possibly have you belongings searched (never happened at any border for us). One more office…got to prove the two dogs are healthy and have their documentation stamped. And I forgot about the fumigation…got to have your car sprayed for bugs.

While Ginette is tending to all that, I am trying to keep the dogs from passing out…they need water and fresh air. A heard of goat, 12 of them, seemingly belonging to no one come wandering through. Our two dogs thing that is great! They want to try herding but the goat want none of it. Horse-drawn carts come through. Again, the dogs are impressed.

Two or three hours later we leave the cluster of offices and approach the “final checker” official who is blocking the road. There is always a “final checker” who looks over the paperwork and says go or go back. No problem…we are on our way.

Opps ! Car overheated. Turned off the air conditioner. Had to find water. Found a great gas station and good folks to put water into our parched car.

Fifteen minutes down the road a cop has set up a roadblock and is selectively stopping vehicles to check paperwork. Ah, he finds that we are missing one $10 stamp of some kind on the dogs’ papers and we will have to go back. Seems clear that he wants the $10 deposited in his pocket. Ginette refuses to pay; arguing in rough Spanish that we paid enough. 15 minutes of arguing later the cop gives up and lets us go. He seemed to be new at this stuff.

Great drive through El Salvador. You never know what you will find. Animals of all kinds wander on to the roadway. This is all ranch and farm country. Our two dogs loved the cattle drive we found ourselves behind. All their barking made us think seriously about letting them out of the car…forever. But we eventually passed the cattle drive. A little later a pig darted across the road just in front of us, like he was a squirrel!

One more police check at a roadblock. Nice people, papers all in order, thanks be to God.

Once more we got into a town big enough for a motel before the sun set and laid serious darkness upon us. And this motel accepted dogs; they had 6 dogs of their own. $17 per night. All the basics of a motel were there and not an inch more. Good people.


Anonymous said...

Hi you two....thanks for the heads up on you blog was wonderful. Enjoyed every word of it. We wondered about the small space in your car for your dogs and stuff....guess you had to stop periodically for the dogs to have pit stops...even yourself too. Guess your blog is a sort of log...hope you have a longer one written of your experience as time has a way of removing lots of little nothing things that really make the trip the trip. Do you expect to add more to this blog from time to time?
Take care .... much love....
Your two other friends from NJ.
Gail & Tim

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