Saturday, February 22, 2014

Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala & Belize.


Panama.

Distance: 588.5 kms
Moving Average: 67 kph
Max Speed: 108 kph
Moving Time: 8hrs 31 mins
Total Distance: 17,482.3 kms


The Avianca flight from Bogota to Panama, was good, so I am told. I slept the whole way. A $US45 taxi ride and we were in Panama city. It was hot, bloody hot. I like that. The city is modern and vibrant. They are doing there best to attract retires from the U.S. Not that I am interested. I had to have a “nannie nap”.

We spoke to the first couple of people we had to deal with in Spanish. They replied in English. I am going to like this place.

My pasta dish that night was scrumptious. After 4 months eating Pollo (chicken) most days, I am over it.

Saturday morning and a taxi ride back to the airport, this time to the freight area to collect our bikes. Customs, Quarantine and a couple of other departments stamped our papework and we were outa there. The airline had strapped my bike down hard, fcuking hard, on her side stand. Which was always a bit dodgie. Now it is totally rat shit. Qantas stuffed it last time, Air Cargo Pack finished it this time, 28 days more riding leaning the “Rooney” against a pole or a wall every time I get off. What a bastard.

Caught up with Bill (from Bendigo, R1200GS, ex Cuzco), Peter and Mishka (from Germany, two 650 Yamaha Tenera's, ex Valparaiso, Scotty would love them) who were traveling together. They had a team of about 6 or 7, including Wendy

Visited the Panama Canal. Bloody incredible. Spent most of the afternoon there. I even took some photos. Many photos. Followed Bill and his gang back the their hotel. They were in a Taxi, whose driver, although a good bloke, drove like Taxi drivers do. Us, being young at heart motorcyclists, and not wanting to lose our mates, did our best to keep up. The first red light was red, very red. No problem. The second red light was only a little red, actually orange for Dale, Lindsay didn't see it and it was probably more than just red for me. Did the shit hit the fan! Coppers blew whistles, yelled and shouted, mostly at us. They took our licenses, yelled and screamed. Bill's Taxi driver tried to intervene. (to little avail) We acted dumb, (not hard for us) told them we didn't speak Spanish and eventually it all got to hard for them. We got our licenses back and rode off, in a very, very law abiding fashion.

We stayed at Bill's hotel, and had our last meal in a superb restaurant. Their hotel had a very large and secure parking area. The downside was on Saturday night the yobo rednecks on the 2nd floor next door got pissed, even more pissed than us, and  threw their empty beer bottles at our bikes. Just for sport. They got Bills with two direct hits before he and I braved the enemy fire and pushed our bikes to a safer spot. Fixed them early on Sunday morning when I flashed up and revved up my “Rooney” right under their fcuking window.

There is a new bridge over the Canal, we rode over it twice on our way out of town. Had to stop and (illegally) take a couple of photos. I think the Panama Canal is an incredible engineering feat, and it turns 100 on 15th August this year.

Panama. Out of the city, has good roads and little traffic. The scenery was less exciting as we went further north. There were many beautiful, clear “skinny dipping” rivers and streams running past.

I saw an 80kph sign and slowed. I policeman signaled for me to stop. No problem as I was only doing about 83. Fcuk me! Talk about spit the dummy. The only thing I could understand from his tirade was “dos gringos”. (two white tourists) When he paused for breath I said “no espanol”. He explained, in broken English, two gringos had blasted past and ignored his signal to stop. I said I thought I knew who they might be and if I saw them I would explain how silly and dangerous their behavior was. Eventually we parted good mates. Well it was more like a truce. I think he loved me because we both rode BMW's. It turned out Dale had missed the 80kph sign and Lindsay didn't care about it. They had both done the good red blooded Aussie thing and “done a runner”when they saw the Copper.

We stayed the night in Conception, another shitty border town. Panama was definitely worth seeing.

Costa Rica.

Distance: 563.6 kms
Moving Average: 64 kph
Max Speed: 109 kph
Moving Time: 9hrs 54mins
Total Distance: 18,046.4 kms

We stayed at some inconsequential shitty little hotel near the Costa Rican border, which took us 3 ½ hours to cross. Rode past mountains covered in magnificent rain forests. Stop to talk to Martin, a German BMW Airhead Rider, who owns a full on HPN BMW. Saw the best “skinny dipping” pool ever.

Costa Rica is great. They have their act together and are trying to attract attract retires from the U.S. as well. We rode to a beautiful Hotel on the beach Esterillos, swam in their pool, surfed and drank beer. Costa Rica is great.

Someone had the bright idea of a late start. Finally left at 11.00, after a walk along the beach and breakfast. Co-indecently, this is the hottest part of the day. Over 35 degrees.

On the road about 5 minutes and Dale had our first flat tire of the trip, a rear. Fixing a flat in 35 degree heat is not much fun. It turned out to be a fortunate thing as Dale found he had another 4 broken spokes. My Andy Strapz electric tyre pump worked a treat.

Dale suggested we ride to a bay close to the Nicaraguan border. Playa Papaturro turned out to be one of the top 5 Kite Surfing destinations on the world. Blows it's guts out nearly all day. Kite Surfers love it. We stayed in their hotel. Good bunch of girls and guys. Got to ride about 40kms of lovely gravel.

I dropped it first time for the trip. Bastard! Turning into the parking area of our hotel. Shit happens.

Another bright idea. Get up early and ride the 33 kms to the border before it gets hot. We were up and ready to go at 0630. One problem, we couldn't pay our bill until 0730. Still, breakfast was good and we were at the border relatively early.

I really liked Cosa Rica.

Nicaragua.

Distance: 389.1 kph
Moving Average: 64.0 kph
Max Speed: 121 kph
Moving Time:6hrs 4mins
Total Distance: 18,435.5 kms

The Costa Rica/Nicaraguan border was a doddle. We paid a guy $5/each to lead us through the process. There were seven different desks/offices to go to, so he was the best investment of the day. Through in 2 ½ hours.

We met Martin Kues, a 70 year old German guy on a F800 BMW, on yet another 3 month leave pass from his wife. Without knowing her, I love her! Martin worked and lived in Castle Hill for 4 years, so understands our sense of humor. We all rode to San Juan del Sur. Had a magnificent lunch at a lovely beach.

Our best mate, Allan Sinclair, and Martin Kues, told us about Flor de Cana Rum. We even tasted a couple of gallons of Allan's. We had to go to Chichigalpa to visit their distillery. It was a good, if unexciting 220 km ride.

On the way, I was leading, a cop pulled me over, threatened to give me a ticket. I could not understand what I had done wrong. It was hard trying to understand his English, while Lindsay and Dale were bagging me over our intercom. Bastards. It seems I overtook another motorcycle while roadworks were in progress. He threatened, but did not write a ticket. Once again,shit happens.

Our tour of the Flor de Cana Rum Distillery was excellent. I even bought a “T” shirt. Why does a rum that retails for less than  $10 in Chichigalpa cost $69 in Sydney? Nothing tastes like a 18 year old rum, served in the distilleries own bar. This rum is the grouse. I think I may be addicted.
It is amazing how quickly we have gotten used to armed guards every where. At service stations, banks, restaurants, in hotel foyers and today, sitting on top of the load, on the back of a truck, which was driving down the highway at about 70 kph. I don't know what was in the bags he was sitting on, obviously worth shooting someone over though. They even have armed guards on Coca Cola trucks in some central American countries.

A quick blast down another one of Nicaragua's excellent highways, 1 ¾ hours at another border crossing and we were in Honduras.

Honduras.

Distance: 137.6 kms
Moving Average: 60.1 kph
Max Speed: 101 kph
Moving Time: 2hrs 17mins
Total Distance: 18,573.1 kph

I think Honduras is over rated. Perhaps we should have used the east coast (Caribbean) route. Travelers say it is pleasant.We stayed in a shitty little town in a shitty little hotel. I was glad to get to the border with El Salvador.

El Salvador.

Distance: 438.1 kms
Moving Average: 52.2 kph
Max Speed: 109 kph
Moving Time: 7hrs 41 mins
Total Distance: 18975.2 kms

Another border crossing, this time a little under 3 hours. Another battle with a 'border helper” trying to rip us off. We won again. We rode 150 or so kms to what we had been told was one of El Salvador's best beaches.

Our little hotel was interesting. Had only been open 4 weeks. No shower and no running water. Took me back my to early backpacking days in Asia, bathing by tipping a bucket of cold water over ourselves, out in the open. In full view of everyone on the beach. We thought we would spend 2 nights there. A surf, cold beer and a great seafood meal. Followed by some of my Flor de Cana Ron. That was magnificent. I think Allan is right. Definitely the best rum in the world! Then we got the bill for our meal. Jesus K Rist!

Still, we went to bed happy. I even got some sleep after the dogs stopped barking, at about 2.30am! Then the bloody rooster next door, under our fcuking window, started to crow at 4am. Made sleep impossible. I got up, jumped the fence and threw half a house brick at the bastard. The fcuking thing was to quick for me.

A quick surf in the morning and we were out of there, headed for El Salvador's 2nd best beach. Turned out to be a brilliant 80 km ride along the coast, good surface, nice corners, little traffic and no Cops. Barra de Santiago was a genuine fishing village. We rented a Cabina in a compound about 20 metres from the beach. Extremely private and with our own pool. The Manager brought us a bucket of beer on ice. The girl across the road cooked and delivered us lunch, dinner and breakfast. Lovely meals and at a good price. Try $9 for 3 evening meals. We did our washing, surfed, walked,and dozed in hammocks. Probably would have stayed longer if we had something to read. Lindsay and I even skinny dipped and drank cold beer in the pool under a full moon. No sex though!

On the road by 0730, another good ride to the Guatemalan border. Our quickest crossing in Central America, 2 hours.

Guatemala.

Distance: 838.5 kms
Moving Average: 66.7 kph
Max Speed: 127 kph
Moving Time: 12hrs 34mins
Total Distance: 19813.7 kms
Total Distance, including by Dong Feng S30: 24,363.7 kms

I think I will like Guatemala. Good roads, not much traffic, nice flowing corners and benevolent Coppers. The mornings ride finished off with a lovely uphill section full of great corners. A couple of locals on sports bikes overtook me. I tagged along behind them. Just had to show them what an Aussie on a “Rooney Special” could do.

Antigua oozes atmosphere. I love it. And the internet good enough to post a Blog.

I had a relaxing day off in Antigua. Walked the streets and got on the turps with Tiffini, a lovely girl the boys had met. She was staying at our Hotel and cooked us a magnificent meal. Tiff is a cook on Sea Shepherds Vessel “Bridget Bardo” A really interesting girl to talk to. And an excellent chef.

A rather late departure. Something to do with beer, red wine and rum. Another great 500km ride to Flores, just enough rain to cool us down and slow us down. I don't bother putting my wet weather gear on in these parts. It pisses down for a while, then I am dry in about 30 minutes. No problems.

A brilliant Hotel near Flores and a relatively early start to Tical, where there are some fantastic Mayan ruins in the jungle. We walked 6 kms in temperatures well over 30 degrees. I was wearing my riding gear and boots. Pretty damned hot. Our guide was excellent and knew the best restaurant in town for lunch. By the look of him, he ate there regularly.

Guatemala saved some of her best roads for last. After lunch we had over 200kms to ride to the Belize border. Once again, fantastic roads and little traffic. The last 50kms were a blast. Maybe these are our last really good riding roads of the trip.

Most border towns are pretty shitty. Melchor de Memcos wasn't an exception. Still, our Hotel was only $5/ night. We asked around for somewhere to have a cold beer. Being 3 good looking single guys we were directed to a pub, which had a rough sort of “beer garden”. Full of girls. Actually they were all hookers, bloody ugly hookers at that! We met a cattle farmer from Belize, he drives across the border most afternoons for a beer, or 6. Assured us he never sleeps with the girls. And I don't believe in the tooth fairy either. He said prostitution is illegal in Belize. If he came to Australia and saw what our girls look like, anything could happen. He would probably neck himself.

We asked our new best mate what Belize City was like. Without hesitating, he said “Don't even go there. It is far to dangerous”. This from a guy who had just spent an hour or so telling us how good his country is!

Currency is bit weird in Central America. They all have their own currency, except Panama and Ecuador, who use $US. Most countries we can get $US or local currency from the ATM. The good old $US is accepted everywhere. Even in Bars that double as brothels.

I think Guatemala has been a great country, worth coming back to.

Belize.

Distance: 277.5 kms
Moving Average: 58.7 kph
Max Speed: 111 kph
Moving Time: 4hrs 43mins.
Total Distance: 20,091.2 kms
Toatal Distance, including by Dong Feng S30: 24,641.2 kms

We hit the Guatemalan/Belize border at sparrow fart. These guys, border crossing wise, have their acts together. We were out of there in a little over an hour. Our quickest yet. Belize is still in the Commonwealth. Unfortunately one guy told Lindsay it has the worst corruption, anywhere in the world. Sad for a relatively new country, and one of only 300,000 people.

Most people in Belize speak beautiful English. You have no idea how easy that makes things for a dope like me. Speed limits are a little more realistic in Belize, at 55 mph (about 90 kph) on the highway, it means we will not get arrested. A lot of Central America has 40 kph on the highway, we do 90 or 100 and are constantly looking out for Cops.

Arrived at the Atlantic Ocean, again. A very special day for me. Even took a photo.

Still, the roads were good and once again stuff all traffic. We did the 277 kms or so in pretty quick time. If anything it was a little boring. The country was nice. Nice and green. The people were nice. The roads were nice. Everything was nice, nothing was exceptional. All was nice.

Some people say Mexico is classed as North America. I tend to agree. If that is the case. We are nearly finished. What a bastard!! Only about 5,000 kms to go.

Like the computer klutz I am, I deleted most of my Central America photos from the SD card. I know a guy in Mona Vale who can retrieve them. Watch this space.

Bring on Mexico.

Chris.
xx 

A "Chicken Bus"
Most are ex US school buses, driven down here, painted up, then flogged to death.

Dale, Tiffini, Sabrina and Lindsay @ Antigua.

"Rooney" leaning against another pole.

Tical Mayan ruins. Guatemala
.

Note the white spot on the lower right side.

This Guys job is to pick the weeds from between the blocks.
No safety harness.

Big spider.


Is Prince Harry alive, well and living in Belize?

A bit of a special day.

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