Crossing from El Salvador to Nicaragua

2017/02/05: La Union, El Salvador, to Potosi, Nicaragua

Consider crossing Barkley Sound from Ucluelet to Bamfield in a considerable wind

When we first agreed on making the crossing, the boat operator had urged us to hurry to the immigration office so we could set out before the winds picked up. Off we went to find it closed. We sat on the steps for almost three hours, and periodically the would-be boat operator or one of his mates would get news of what the officer might be doing, or when he might arrive to open the office. He finally appeared. Our passports and the boat operator’s license to transport us were photocopied to create a document allowing us to proceed, and our passports were stamped.


No pictures of crossing itself due to terrified passengers hanging on for dear life

In a rising wind, our bags and bikes were loaded into the skiff, covered with a plastic tarp, and secured with ropes. Gasoline was purchased and loaded aboard. We set off, and our knuckles were soon white from gripping the gunwhales as we crashed downward after cresting each wave. The anchor was placed on top of our gear to hold the flapping tarp, and there was a metallic thunking sound as we descended from each crest. Chris remarked that at least we’d never worry again when entrusting boxed bikes to baggage handlers.

The driver pointed out Meanguera del Golfo as we passed the disputed island now deemed to belong to El Salvador. As we approached a spit of Nicaraguan land, he paused …either as if he was unaware of the port’s location, or as if he was testing us. Chris pulled out his cell phone with gps capability, and directed him onward. Then a boatload of Nicaraguan border personnel pulled alongside, to inspect our documents and cargo. After over two hours of battering travel, we finally landed on a black sand beach.

The volcanic sand was hot as blazes. Our feet were bare to get out of the boat and move bikes and bags up the beach. Chris put shoes on with sandy feet, but I didn’t – and I have never done such a fast high step to get to the immigration office. I was yelping to get them to open the gate because it felt like walking on hot coals. When I got to the women’s toilet, the fastest way to cool my feet was to dip them into the toilet bowl, so I did.

After filling in forms and paying a $12 entrance fee at immigration, we mounted bags onto the bikes. Our gear was inspected by a customs officer, first at the office and later at a gate, as we pushed our bikes up the concrete slab. To our surprised relief, we’d arrived unscathed, and we moved on to something like a motel, a simple place run by a cheerful pair of animal lovers who welcomed us. Chris carelessly parked his bike under the perching parrots, and realized his mistake when they saw what they did to his bike.

This boat crossing meant we missed two or three days in somewhat sketchy Honduras, and would also put us on a nice quiet road for a day. Chris’s first Nicaraguan beer arrived in an insulated sleeve to keep it from warming too quickly. Yes, it was hot. Possibly hotter than El Salvador.


5 responses to “Crossing from El Salvador to Nicaragua

  1. Glad to hear you made it safely across. We are back from our somewhat subdued adventures { compared to yours} in Cambodia and Vietnam with 8 day cruise on Mekong on the Pandaw small ship cruises…only 40 passengers. Some of the villages and markets look very similar to what you’re seeing but we got to come back to the luxury of our boat at end of day and air conditioning! You put us to shame…happy travels and keep safe. When are you back to Alma street?
    Sue and John

    • Hi Sue,
      Very tentative plans are afoot to wrap up in Costa Rica, come home for a few weeks down time, and go to Portugal to hike with friends. Not decided yet, and still might continue to Colombia. Would love to have news of Marguerite C. If you have any, could you email us?

  2. Haha, loving your adventures! Peter and his bride spent a couple of months honeymooning in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, and loved the latter especially. Stayed with a family near the lake with the volcanic islands, to learn Spanish. (That’s Peter our youngest, who was one of the leaders of the summer program at UVic where John had his “noose” adventure—or rather, it was an adventure for everyone else, as John slept through it).

    On Wed, Feb 8, 2017 at 11:05 AM, Chris and Margo’s Wanderings wrote:

    > chrisjoram posted: “2017/02/05: La Union, El Salvador, to Potosi, > Nicaragua We sat on the steps of the immigration office for almost three > hours. Periodically, the would-be boat operator or one of his mates would > get news of what the officer might be doing, or when he m” >

  3. We have been away since beginning of January so no new news re Marguerite we are now in desert. What have you heard?

    • Nothing’s since we left. She was frail but cheerful, and I’ve wondered how she copes with the snow. I believe Justin helps. I should write to a neighbour who is there.

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