I am now in Granada Nicaragua, and crossing borders cannot be done to quickly when driving a campervan. Permits are required and I could not get insurance in three countries, Guatemala, El Salvador and possibly Honduras. I tried hard to find insurance. Many locals thought I was Loca [ Spanish means crazy.] In Honduras, I was charged $35.00 US for only a three hour drive through the country. I have to be careful
When I arrived at the El Salvador border, I hired someone that said he was an agent for the country of El Salvador. Badge number #169 never gave me a price until we were all done. His price was $40.00 US. And I questioned what he really did for me? Well, he did help with the translation as well as get me moved to the front of the line which saved a bit of time. I did pay him, no problem. I thanked him for showing me what needs to be done when I to go through my next 4 countries. In a sense, I guess he helped prepare me, a good thing!
Exiting El Salvador, as well as all the countries I go through, I must go to emigration to suspend my visitor’s visa and campervan permits until I cross the new country line. I have to renew everything again. In most cases, there are big delay's at both ends, very frustrating waiting in line ups. It would be so much easier taking a bus.
While exiting El Salvador, I saw the back up of many truckers waiting in line. I then decided to drive around them, just like agent #169 instructed me to do ,in order to save loads of time .Suddenly, I had no less than 10 agents all over me screaming and yelling, angry with me? In my loud English voice, I said "no, get out of here"! "I know how to do this myself" ,but they kept on coming. Again, suddenly, one of the agents yelled my name, "Pete". I looked at him curiously, and asked "how do you know my name"? He said that his friend helped me at the opposite end. He said his friend charged me too much. But that he wasn’t really his friend....Wow?... My solution to the problem of choosing an agent was to pick the quietest one in the noisy group. I told him I am paying $10.00 dollars, US tops! He was happy with that amount. Can you believe he did not even have an agent # badge, but he did have a name, which I forgot? My Dutch bodyguard Peter [kidding, as if I need a bodyguard but we do watch each other’s back], could see it in his eyes that I was having problems. He knew I paid way too much at the last border. In the end, I gave no name a $5.00 tip but drove away with tons of valuable experience!
It took about three hours driving time through Honduras to the Nicaragua border. We drove through some real bad roads and it was getting dark..It is not a good idea to drive at night, very difficult to spot potholes. I suggested to Peter that we get a hotel once we cross the border and he agreed about the danger. While waiting at the Nicaragua border, we met another nice traveler coming through from Guatemala. He asked me if I spoke Spanish, I said a bit but I get by with laughs and smiles [you know me!]. We agreed that we couldn't do these roads at night, so he and his wife followed me to the next town. They would be a great help with my Spanish at the border. We got through the Nicaraguan border with ease this time. About ten K’s from the border, there was a road block. I did not know wither they were Policia, or Militar? They waved l me over. Opening my window, I said "I’m English (Ingles)",and he asked me for some "water" (agua)! I said "yes I am drinking one now", and he took it from me and immediately blew a whistle and pointed to proceed. I drove away laughing!...The roads were really good in Nicaragua , ended up driving an hour to a bigger city still with the couple from Guatemala. I gave the couple my card ,thanked them and told them I hoped to hear from them again!
Pete Montgomery from TravelCheapWithPete.com
I heard my whatsapp has been not working the past week. Now in Nicaragua for the New Year then Costa Rica Sunday. My new number in Nicaragua is 505-7810-6075. I will change my number again when I arrive in Panama or you can email me at email@example.com Cheers Pete
Merry Christmas to my friends and family. Off camera I had tears of joy after the family figured out what I was trying to say giving them a bicycle for a Christmas gift, they were all so excited. Drove them all home afterwards and they invited Pete and I to their place anytime. It all started off a couple of days ago when I asked the manager of the hostel if he knew of any family that are in need in the area he told me about the grandparents bringing up these four young children. I ask if he can invite the family to the hostel to have dinner with them. The dinner was really nice, the kids were so good. The family was polite and we had fun trying to figure out what we were trying to say to each other which is always a good time.
The 64 year old grandmother who takes care of 4 grandchildren with age range from 8 to 13 ran around the hostel hugging and thanking everyone. In the restaurant they had a TV, the children were so excited to watch the TV but when dinner came they turned it off, washed their hands and really enjoyed their meal with Dutch Pete and I. We had a great three days staying in a small surfing village in El Tunco, El Salvador just relaxed and the highlight was having the family over for Christmas.
This is what Christmas is about to me, giving to strangers and to see the smiles and joy in their faces. So many in need that need our help in this world. If you see a homeless person, just make them smile make them feel good tell them a joke, maybe give them food, or clothing you no longer need. Let’s work together to make this world a better place. Merry Christmas to my two daughters and their extended families love you and miss you all, You don't even have to speak the same language to communicate.
We made a wrong turn on our way to Lanquin and therefore had to take a scenic road. It may have been longer but well worth it: About a 6 hour drive in the jungle and mountains on roads that look like we should not have gone through... but old faithful (the van) made it. Even though we had to stop over night in a place where we did not want to stay, but I didn’t want to drive at night... especially on those roads! Next to that, the brakes had to cool down as they were smoking.
I was driving while shooting this video. Pete Montgomery from TravelCheapWithPete.com
Pete Montgomery from TravelCheapWithPete.com
After experiencing all the wonder, beauty and people of Mexico, it was time to leave. I love it there and will always go back.
I invited all of my facebook friends to join me on the remaining part of my trip, Cancun to Panama. Hey, guess what, no responses…? As a result, I met a very experienced traveler at the Hostel in Cancun, named Fokke [Peter] from Holland. He agreed to join me on the exciting final leg of my journey! our last night in Playa Del Carmen with my long time Mexican friend Yax-can.
We started off at a campsite in Bacalar, Mexico called the Green Monkey. Legend has it that there are seven colors of blue in Lake Bacalar.
This is where I heard the saying “Don’t Worry Be a Hippie”…. Everyone was so laid back, playing guitar, singing, dancing, so in tune with the surroundings…A large community dinner followed that evening and yoga began at 6:30 am the next morning. I talked to a few people on the dock in the afternoon to see if we could find another traveler to join us on the trip. Another person would help reduce expenses. A young lady from Germany approached me that evening, asking if her and her and her two friends could get a ride with us to Belize city. I said no problem, absolutely yes!....Backpackers try to look out for each other on the road ,one helping the other. We now have two Germans, two Canadians and one Dutchmen driving to Belize city. It was a fun drive. After we dropped the girls off in Belize city ,Peter and I carried on to San Ignacio, Belize for the night. We stayed at a nice hostel and they charged me $10.00 for use of all the amenities. I slept soundly in the van. There was a funny situation that happened in Belize. Peter and I were still trying to speak Spanish to the people ,but Belize is an English speaking country. Wow, it felt weird speaking English again, wink wink[my Spanish is a little better]…. Great city to visit, very friendly people and lots going on with families in the Centro park and small streets.
During our stay in Flores, we chatted with a young lady named Stephanie. She has been traveling for a year and a half now, on her own through South and Central America. She is also a blogger. We let her know that we were heading to Rio Dulce in the morning, the same place she wanted to go. She asked if she could hitch a ride? We said of course, see you in the morning. Next day ,while picking her up, another girl Cyriara ,asked if she can join us for the 4 hour trip south. It was no problem for us. Again, backpackers like to help each other out. Arriving in Rio Dulce, Stephanie informed us that she had been here before, couch surfing on a boat. So off we went to the marina and asked the owner if there is a campsite close by? They gave us directions through a gated campsite. The site had no trees. We asked the hotel the cost to set up a tent as well as have my van parked there? They gave us a real good deal $30.00 USD[ $7.50 each for a 4 star resort]. Outstanding Deal! We get to use everything, including the use of the large, scenic pool overlooking the lake. Oh, so fortunate that I brought my tent along to share with others, looks like we may stay two nights at least. Travelling is so fun and exciting! Pete Montgomery from TavelCheapWithPete.com
The cities are much bigger in Mexico than I first thought. I see much more driving that I do by bus, or flying over!
Driving through Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Merida, I noticed many new developments, particularity in the outskirts of each city. To my total surprise, the colonial city of Merida has a skating rink in one of its big shopping centres. They are copying West Edmonton Mall, maybe?
Thanks to the Mayan hostel in Cancun, I was charged only 50 pesos (less then 5 bucks Canadian) a night for total use of their facilities. James, from Nova Scotia, is a volunteer at the hostel and made me an amazing spaghetti dinner when I first arrived. Wow, how did he know spaghetti is my favourite meal?
I have met many good people in Mexico. Marcella’s brother Silvano, his wife Maria and their three children invited me to their home in Merida.I got introduced to their Mexican culture quickly. After we saw their son play soccer, Silvano and I took off to Izamal city known mostly for it’s bright yellow buildings. The City of hills are actually the remains of ancient temple pyramids. Merida is known as the “white city” and also capital city of Yucatan. This area is famous for its rich Mayan history as well as some of Mexico’s most important archaeological sites.
The one thing I always like to do while travelling, is visit cities and explore the culture. I want to experience first hand how people live presently and as well as learn about their past existence. In most cities, something is always happening at the main plaza (Centro park). In Merida, I watched a couple of amazing shows. One was a game similar to soccer with a hard rubber ball. Players could only use their hips or butts to move the ball ,a very difficult athletic technique.. Watching another game similar to volley ball, a burning fire ball was introduced .Object was to try and get the team through a vertical basketball hoop. One team on one side of the hoop and the other team on their side of the hoop…..Wow , unbelievable to witness, so amazing and different to see!
Time for me to leave Mexico. I hope to leave Sunday, hitting the highways to Belize. Time moves on and my apologies for missing friends that are coming down during the Christmas break. I will always love Mexico, for the people, culture, history and scenery….
Pete Montgomery from TravelCheapWithPete.com