We took a little bit of a gamble in going to La Unión. It was not exactly out of our way, but definitely isn’t a place that holds a lot of allure for tourists aside from the vague possibility that we might be able to catch a boat to Honduras, cutting out a day’s ride and adding a little bit of variety to our modes of travel. We could have easily bypassed the town, but instead rode right into the heart of it. I was skeeved out from the get-go because I had read unflattering things about this port town in the guidebooks and my preconception of the place wasn’t challenged upon arrival. We found a hotel close enough to the central park and took it, even though my first impression was ‘murder motel’. Our room had two twin beds with a hammock strung haphazardly across the middle of the room, overhanging both beds. The walls were dirty and graffitied and the shared bathroom was what I imagine prison showers to look like. But we were hot and tired and not entirely convinced that there were any better bets within our price range, so we cleaned up and went out in search of the port, where we hoped to book ourselves spots on the next ferry out of town. If such a thing existed.
A common sight along the road- boys catch iguanas and sell them to cook and eat. We were offered a great deal- 2 for $20! Sadly, we had to pass it up.
On our way out the door, we asked the friendly young manager of the hotel about ferries to Honduras and he assured us that there was no such thing. This was not what I wanted to hear, so I insisted on a second opinion at the port office. We stopped for a truly terrible lunch, then found the Immigration building near the waterfront, where a local guard insisted that there was a boat to Honduras the very next morning and it could take our bikes, no problem. He led us into the Immigration Office, where we got a third opinion from the incredibly helpful and kind officer on duty. No, there were no ferries to Honduras, but there were private charted boats for about $100 each, not including the bikes. But there might be room on a boat to Nicaragua at a much better price, leaving anytime between tomorrow and 5 days from now, depending on when it had enough cargo to warrant a trip. He made some phone calls and put us in touch with the captain of the boat and even got us a reasonable price of $30 each, including the bikes on a boat all the way to Potosi, Nicaragua. We were very tempted but in the end decided that we could end up waiting way too long in a city I was already freaked out by or we could just get up in the morning and do the ride, getting us across the Nicaraguan borer in 2 days. We decided to ride.
I insisted on heading back to the hotel before night fell and we decided to try to handwash some clothes now that we knew we had at least 2 more days of riding ahead of us before we’d be in a position to stop again. As we were heading upstairs, we noticed a new-looking washing machine sitting near the base of the stairs. The manager and his wife were sitting nearby in the dark, so we thought that maybe there was no power in the building, but we thought we might as well ask to see if there was any way we could pay to use the washing machine when the lights came on. Turns out that the lights were fine, but electricity is so expensive for them that they only use power when it is absolutely necessary. Despite that, they were happy to let us do our laundry in the power-sucking machine and refused to let us pay for it. There was no drier, but the heat in that town would make short work of our spandex shorts and quick dry shirts. I had to say that my whole perception of La Unión changed after the kindness that the immigration officer and the hotel manager showed us. We did our laundry and spent the rest of the evening watching cable TV and hung our clothes to dry on the weirdly placed (but convenient) hammock in the middle of the room. Not even the appearance of the Largest Insect I Have Ever Seen In My Life could bring me down. Although it took R about 10 minutes and many audible swats at the thing with a beach towel to coerce it out of the room. That would have normally been a deal-breaker for me, but I was content to sweat out the rest of the night with the lights off and a smile on my face.
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