No hay sistema = There is no system.
This is what the scrap of paper poorly taped to the window read as we approached the Honduras customs office. And that pretty much summed up the process of importing our car into Honduras…
Armed with the standard documents (car title, licenses, insurance papers, passports etc) and countless photocopies we headed straight to the little system-less window, skirting the crowd of young men scrambling to “help” us through the process. Both of us were pretty determined to do it on our own so their pleas and postulations fell on deaf ears and, after the initial onslaught, they reluctantly left us for greener pastures.
Here’s the thing, I suspect that everyone at immigration gets a little kick-back when one of these paid guys helps you out with your paperwork. So, when we appeared at the window minus a “helper” our customs officer wasn’t overly friendly. He started off in rapid-fire Spanish, I asked (in Spanish) if he could slow down as we were still learning the language. He stared at me and continued to list off all the necessary photocopies. Being prepared, we pulled each of them out as required and, of course, he then insisted that we make copies of the two documents we had just filled out. So, we patiently overpaid for our photocopies from the border guard’s niece, returned and were waved to another office for another random document, where the smirking official told us that there was currently no system and that we would have to pay everything back at the customs window. He then sent us to the bank where they too reminded us that there was no system and directed us back to customs.
After handing everything in we waited hopefully at the immigration window for about 30 minutes. An officer turned up to confirm that our paperwork was in order…everything was ok he said, we just needed to make another photocopy of our application. He came out for the car inspection, lazily pushed a few things around, returned to the office and asked for $40 USD. We paid, knowing we had no other option and asked if we needed anything else..
Me: Nessecitamos mas copias? We need more copies?
Officer: No, no mas. You don’t need more.
Me: Seguro? This is sure?
Officer: Si listos! Yes, you are finished.
Tom: Entonces no mas copias? Then, no more copies?
Officer: No puedes salir. No, you can go.
We hurried back to Marlin and made a break for the border… the solitary Honduran official flagged us down (they often do this to check your papers) and we pulled over to hand him our permit and other documents. He looked at them and requested a photocopy.
I just about burst into tears and bit my tongue to hold back a flurry of vicious retorts. Tom bared his teeth and snarled at the official before throwing the car into reverse and furiously backed up the 300 yards to the photocopy shop finishing this maneuver with an erratic three point turn. Immediately after his wild display of frustration, the police knocked on the window to inform us that they were not impressed by his sweet driving skills and that he had committed an infraction. At this point, I was so irate I grabbed the documents, slammed the door and headed in to get more damn photocopies, muttering about how I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of Honduras.
I left copy world madness to find that there was no Tom and no car. I walked directly back to where I’d left them. Panic set in as I started to wonder if he had been arrested for rapidly reversing the wrong way down a two lane highway. At the same time I was berating myself for not having any money or ID on me whatsoever and wondering how I was going to get Tom out of jail … would anyone one lend a gal a lempira or two? Just as I start to feel nauseous I spotted Marlin in between two parked semis and Tom waving, looking beyond irritated, apparently he had decided to just drive away and hide from the police.
We drove back to the border crossing, threw photocopies at the border guard and, hoping the police weren’t on our tail, sped off into Honduras–the land of no system but lots of photocopies.
Tags: border cross, border crossing, Driving the pan american, driving the pan american highway, driving to central america, driving to south america, Honduras, no hay sistema, no system, photocopies, road trip