TBT - (1979) "Trouble With Borders - El Salvador"

An interesting border experience happened in 1979 - going from Honduras into El Salvador. I was traveling with some friends from San Pedro Sula in the North to Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras in the South. The plan was to meet up with a Honduran friend in the capital to discuss some business and then push on to the El Salvador border so we could cross over for a couple days and renew our Honduran visas for a return trip and lengthly stay in the country.

As a favor for my Honduran friend in Tegucigalpa I was bringing a small 35mm plastic film canister with some primo seeds in it for his farm. The seeds were a gift from a friend in SPS we called "Crazy Steve" - one of the countryĆ­s more colorful characters at the time. Unfortunately, that part of the mission was forgotten during the Tegucigalpa stop over.

So we left the capital and headed for the border. As we were crossing the international bridge on the Pan American Highway I started my usual mental check list of what I had with me that might cause a problem - and as we pulled into the Salvadorian customs shed it hit me like a lightning bolt - the forgotten canister of seeds in my briefcase!

Pulling out the canister I looked up to see the inspectors moving towards us - so I slipped the canister into the elastic of one of my socks and stepped out of the truck. They gave the vehicle and baggage a thorough inspection - but that was it. Getting our tourist visas for El Salvador, we are back on the road within an hour. As we cleared the inspection point I told the other three about my little screw up and everyone was quite agitated about the prospect of jail time and fines for everyone if the canister had been found.

Then, within 10 minutes of leaving the border behind, we have an unpleasant surprise when we drive around a sharp curve of the highway. We are stopped by a military checkpoint. With a half dozen solders holding weapons on us we are ordered out of the truck and told to put our hands on the passenger side of the vehicle. Not looking good - especially when an officer orders a solder to search us. I am on the end of the line and watch as each of my friends get a good pat down - right to their shoes. Melvin is the closest to me and I can see the sweat beading on his brow as he gives me an accusing look.

Lucky me again. When the solder doing the frisking pats down my leg he stops just short of the canister in the top of my sock! Another 10 minutes of solders looking through the truck and the officer is satisfied - we are free to go. Back on the road again and everyone in the truck is yelling at me - so I give up on the idea of running anymore gauntlets to get the seeds to my friend in Tegucigalpa and just toss the canister out the truck window.

So we continue again down the road another 10 minutes and it is deja vu all over again. But at this second military blockade I get searched right down to my toes.

Border crossings can be tedious and boring - but not always!