Some Nonsense About The CA-4 Border Control Agreement

*WARNING* There might actually be some useful information contained in this post, somewhere (at last). Right or wrong, who the hell knows.


What time does the mall open?, I asked Boxhead over porridge and tea from England
Looking at his phone: 8 o’clock
All right, so we can go as soon as we’ve finished.
We walked to the Metrocentro, Managua’s poshest, most upscale mall. It wasn’t far to walk. The mall itself was open but all the shops were closed.
Hmmm, must open at 9
One of two main reasons for going to the mall was to extend our visas. An agreement exists between Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador called the CA-4 Border Control Agreement. It’s supposed to decrease internal borders or something, I don’t know. My understanding of the agreement was that on entering one of the CA-4 countries, you receive a 90 day visa good for all four, and that the visa would not get renewed when crossing borders between them. Meaning that unless you leave the region, you have only 90 days in Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
We had fifty days remaining on our visas, but thought we’d extend them by another 90 days (the maximum allowed) to give us enough time to travel all four countries without having to do a visa run to Mexico or Belize.
At 9pm the shops still weren’t open.
So while we waited we complained about some of the things that annoy us in Central America, like how the day before in El Rama, we’d walked off the dock and were told the bus to Managua was leaving NOW, and they hurried us over to it and when I asked what time it goes he said 9.30am. I looked at the watch on my wrist. It said 7.30am.
I asked if there was an earlier bus
NO! NO HAY! That bus there leaves at 7pm, that one at 4pm, and that one there, that one leaves tomorrow!
We didn’t leave until ten, and in the meantime the 7pm bus had already gone. Waiting to leave, I felt a kind of hurricane anger build up inside of me, violent and quick, the futility of it only growing it further like low wind shear (…), but what’s half hour? A couple of days earlier we’d been delayed by 15 hours.
And this, why open the god damn mall at 8 if only a café opens before 10?
Just before ten we went downstairs to the migration office. There was a LONG line outside it. We got hold of a form and queued up. The line was hardly moving and it was stuffy hot, like I was in a swimming baths and everything around me was on fire.
I had decided to wear trousers in this disgusting climate because I figure an immigration officer is the kind of person you’re expected to factor into your plans before ever laying eyes on them. Neat and shaved, well, shaved at least, I was out to impress. As usual, Boxhead had given it no thought and was wearing shorts and flip-flops.
Three hours later we were inside the office. We had our passports, a copy of our passports, the completed paperwork.
Visa extension?
Yes please!, I said, stretching my legs out a bit making sure she could see that I’d made an effort
She looked down at my passport, at the stamp I’d been given at the border.
I’m sorry. I can’t give you an extension.
Why not?
You don’t need one.
My trouser ploy hadn’t worked. She was as unimpressed with me as she would have been if I had turned up in –
This is your fault!, I hissed at Boxhead, looking him up and down
Sir? When do you leave Nicaragua?
Two or three weeks, but afterwards we go to Honduras, Guatemala and Salvador, and 90 days isn’t enough for all four countries
She explained it, why we didn’t need an extension.
You understand?
More or less… (I didn’t understand)
It was unexpected, I was caught off guard, shook, choked, unable to form the words in my mind quickly enough
Uhhhhhh… so… when we enter Honduras we’re given more time?
We got out of there. I wasn’t quite sure what had just happened. I didn’t understand it at all. A girl still waiting to go in clarified it for us. It seems as though the CA-4 Agreement simply means that you don’t have to complete paperwork or formalities when crossing borders, and it is possible to buy a new visa at the border, you just have to go through the paperwork and it will take a little longer.
The visa you have now is just for Nicaragua…
I looked at the stamp in my passport. She was right. It just said Nicaragua. There wasn’t any mention of CA-4, Honduras.
…you can stay in Nicaragua for 90 days and only extend with a week left…
You mean we have stood outside of this office for three hours, for nothing?
What a waste of fucking time.
I thought this a good time to get my haircut, so I’d feel better. Well, they cut it all off, my beautiful hair, gone as dead. I was a monster. I walked into the mall toilets to take a look at it and facing the mirror I told myself it wasn’t so bad, really, it was actually all right, yeah, it could be worse, oh Jesus Christ, then I couldn’t see it in the mirror anymore for the tears blurring my vision.
We retreated to the hostel for lunch after that, then headed back to the mall to get started on our second reason for being in Managua: to go shopping. We needed some new threads and had been planning this for quite some time. Managua’s our best chance, yeah, Managua’s the place, yeah. Boxhead had been desperate to leave the Caribbean paradise of the Corn Islands to go shopping. I was also in the market for some new flip-flops after the recent trouble I’d been having.
Just as in nature the process of life cannot occur without death to accompany it, hope cannot exist without disappointment. There was nothing. There were a handful of shops selling men’s clothing that wasn’t sport clothing. We walked around them all.
There’s one…
Wait a minute… WE HAVEN’T BEEN IN HERE
I have never seen so many t-shirts in one place, all of them shite…
It was hopeless. It was getting dark and we’d been in and out of the same shops over and over. The only thing I’d bought was a pair shorts to sleep in because my others had rotted through the backside and I was fed up of displaying my ass to whole hostels in climates too hot for pants.
Today has been a complete write off hasn’t it.
We’d wasted the entire morning, I’d lost all my hair, and I hadn’t found a new t-shirt or flip-flops.
And now I’m looking forward to the border crossing into Honduras even less, which I didn’t think possible.


I like Managua.


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