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Old 07-03-2013, 12:39 AM   #16
UltiJayne OP
Sister on a KLR
Joined: Mar 2012
Location: Calgary, Alberta
Oddometer: 74
Originally Posted by 175grams View Post
ah man, you're making me jealous. Hanging out with my good friend's Eric and Steve on the roof, you got in with the right crowd.
Stay tuned - this wasn't the last time we saw these guys!
Arctic Circle to Patagonia - on the road - started July 25, 2012

2007 Yamaha YBR125 with L plates! (UK)
2006 KLR650 (Canada)
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Old 07-03-2013, 10:41 AM   #17
aka Mister Wisker
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Joined: Jun 2013
Location: Back in Canada
Oddometer: 84
Touching a Hurricane, riding to Xela -Guatemala

I left San Pedro la Laguna at 10am. The rain started minutes later, and steadily increased in fortitude. When I was stopped by construction 30 minutes later, it was a solid deluge of water from the sky. And now I was just standing around in it.
If the spike strip doesn't get you, the cones will.[/caption]

I eventually made it out of the switchbacks to the highway, finally able to soak up the rain at much greater velocity. I had opted not to bother with the rain proof lining of my riding pants, as they had proved not to work back in Mexico. The water soaked through my riding pants to the point that water ran down my legs, filling my boots, my right one less than my left of course. My Jacket was still waterproof. It was, now less so. With the amount of water I was riding through, I'm sure just what ran down the front of my neck was enough to soak everything on the inside. I'm really sure of that actually. It was like what I imagined riding through a Hurricane would be like, only without as much wind.

A damn fine imagination too, I might add.[/caption]

Hurricane Barbara hit land on the Oaxaca coast on May 29th. It was barely even a Hurricane. (Category one hurricane cut-off: 74mph winds. Hurricane Barbara: 75mph winds). Where I was the winds didn't seem that much worse than a standard issue storm.
This barely-a-hurricane that I barely encountered sure got me wet. so wet.[/caption]
It took THREE days for all my gear to dry. The boots took a week.[/caption]

It was the rain that got me, and caused most of the problems Barbara caused: lots of flooding in Mexico. I'm whining about a barely category 1 storm that I wasn't even close to. I have now lost all thoughts that it "might be interesting", and thus DO NOT want to encounter a storm at full force this trip.

So why was I riding in complete and utter misery while a barely-- hurricane was spraying rain all over me? So I could go make fun of Alexander, of course, and Alex was in "Quetzaltenango" (commonly known as "Xela" by everyone who ever has to write it).

Alex with his recently-upside-down Georgia. (the bike, not the girl)[/caption]

Alexander had recently had a crash when he encountered a patch of spilled diesel fuel on the highway. While his bike suffered some harsh cosmetic damage, Alexander came out mostly unscathed. Being the good friend I am, I rode up to scathe him in a friendly, put-your-head-on-my-shoulder-so-I-can-laugh-at-you-to-sleep, what-friends-are-for type of way. I also had his share of the care-package our parents delivered to Cozumel, and I needed to pass his parts on to him before Jayne and I headed south.

I couch-surfed Alexander's couch-surf, and though I got a bit sick from my ride through the rain, we had a fun 3 days catching up. We also had the most productive day I've had this trip. Standard expectation in latin america is that you can expect to get one thing done each day. If you do that, you're doing well. Alexander and I got NINE things done, none of them small items, and all completed in a short break in the downpour from Barbara:

-We took Alex's bike, Georgia, out for a test ride.
These boys are very impressed at the size of Alexanders tank. We all are, really.[/caption]

-We took Alex's bike back in for repairs (of the 'repairs')
Repairing the 'repairs'. Task complete![/caption]

-Alex ordered replacement license plate ordered for Alex's stolen plate ("lost" in Mexico)

-We made indistinguishable colour copies made of Alex's title

Can YOU tell if this is the copy? (p.s. Always fold your copies. makes them look more legitimate)[/caption]

-We had both of our damaged shoes taken in for repairs

I have sewn this shoe back together FOUR times. This man glued it. That's why we pay him the big 10 Quetzals (1.25$)[/caption]

-Alex had a haircut
Haggling for your haircut might not be such a great plan.[/caption]

-We bought groceries in the market

-I siliconed all the holes closed on my right boot. The "speed holes" ventilation experiment was officially a failure.
Speed holes, they make your boot drain rain faster.[/caption]

-Number one top task of the day: A new reinforcement bar custom made and welded onto my rear rack.

Sitting in the mud to fix jugs.[/caption]

Ever since before Mirador, and certainly afterwards, my boxes have been bending inwards from repeated drops and beatings. It was bad enough at one point that the left box was hitting the swingarm over bumps. Sure I could stop dropping my bike and bending the boxes back out. OR I could have the rack re-inforced so that it looked and worked like everyone elses. I'll take option number two please.
Trick so the bar doesn't kink when bending: pack the bar full of dirt![/caption]

This gentleman was incredible. He dropped everything he was doing when I walked in the door and custom built me a new reinforcement bar. Measured, bent, cut, welded AND airbrushed in a little over an hour. For 40 Quetzals. That's just over 6$. Six! While some things in Guatemala haven't been as cheap as had been foretold, services here are fast AND great workmanship.

My cameras retinas are burning[/caption]

Well jugs, looks like I get to drop you a whole lot more now.[/caption]

After our incredible productive day of triumph, the rains came back, as hard as before, so we played cards for two days.

In that time of playing of cards, we were able to meet up with Hugo from KLR Moto Adventure club of Xela.
Notice the lack of rain in this happy family shot.[/caption]

Hugo invited us over for breakfast with his family before we left town, then joined us as a KLR trio to the highway.

2005, 2000, 1990. KLR's, they just don't make'em like they used to.[/caption]

Preride fix: Is your brake light stuck on? check for mud in the switch. Easiest roadside repair yet.[/caption]

Alex and I had been gifted with the first sunny day in a week when we rode out of Xela. Sadly the sun wasn't to stay. I had been hoping to head inland to experience Semuc Champey, while Alex was heading for his first time to the lake. Sitting at the turn off going back to Lago Atitlan, I watched the clouds darkening, covering the sky where the sun had just been moments earlier. I din't want to go back down to the lake. As nice as it is, I had already been there three times. I hadn't yet been to Semuc Champey, and heard such great things about it. We were short on time in Guatemala (Real-sized Kelly had booked a flight to Nicaragua where we were to meet her. We had a schedule again). If I didn't go to Semuc Champey today, I wouldn't get to go. I looked at the clouds again.

Semuc Champey was another 4 hours away... when the road are dry. The thought of riding through a storm again, when my boots had still not yet dried from the first one, while still getting over the cold Barbara gave me, was too much for me. I didn't want to go through it all again, not this soon.

I rode with Alexander back down to the lake. We just made it when the skies once again opened. I probably made the right call.

(Note: Since I'm writing this so far in the "future", I can happily tell you I did indeed make the right call. I would find out days later that Semuc Champey had been hit HARD by the storm, was completely flooded and closed to the public. I would have ridden 4 hours in the rain only to have to turn around and ride back.)
By heading back to the lake, we were also able to reunite the incredible foursome. As it turned out Ida had made her way to the lake too![/caption]
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Old 07-03-2013, 08:22 PM   #18
UltiJayne OP
Sister on a KLR
Joined: Mar 2012
Location: Calgary, Alberta
Oddometer: 74
Cool2 Yo hablo español: San Pedro La Laguna, Lake Atitlan

I waited 20-30 minutes to be let through the barrier and continue on my journey. I dread to think how long the queue of cars I passed to get to the barrier had been waiting!

[caption id="attachment_4014" align="alignnone" width="225"] The fog obscures just how many cars were in this line...[/caption]

It started to rain gently as I finally started the bike and started along the steep, twisty, under-construction road that leads down to Lake Atitlan. The rain turned torrential and I was very proud of myself for staying calm and navigating the potholes and gravel under the newly formed rivers running down and across the road. I suffer from irrational fear when on difficult roads which is a constant battle for me to overcome.

Luckily by the time I reached the switchbacks on the lower half of the road the rain had stopped.

I reached San Pedro La Laguna in the afternoon and called Phil when I no longer knew which way to turn. He showed up beside me within a minute, I had stopped only a few meters from the narrow alleyway that lead to the Flor del Maiz Spanish School, my new home. I was so happy to see my little brother! Two weeks apart had reminded me how much I like travelling with him. We make a good team!

Javier is the owner of the school, and the head of the beautiful Guatemalan family Phil had been living with for the week.

[caption id="attachment_4015" align="alignnone" width="300"] Lola, Magda, Javier and a teapot enraptured by the laptop[/caption]

To reach their three story house/school one must walk down a passageway between buildings, narrower than most sidewalks, filled with chickens and dogs. There was no way our bikes would fit down there, so Javier kindly arranged for us to park them at his brother's house down the hill.

[caption id="attachment_4025" align="alignnone" width="225"] Our Guatemalan home. This is taken from as far back as I could get before hitting the house across the "road".[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_4035" align="alignnone" width="300"] Parking with the chickens[/caption]

I arrived on a Thursday - my schooling started at 8am on Friday. For my first two lessons Javier was my instructor.

[caption id="attachment_4037" align="alignnone" width="300"] Maestro Javier and I chill out over home grown coffee at break time[/caption]

The concept of living with a local family, whilst studying Spanish four hours a day, is an excellent one. For less than $200 a week we were fed three wholesome meals a day cooked by Javier's lovely wife Lola, given one on one instruction, and comfortable beds.

[caption id="attachment_4042" align="alignnone" width="300"] Some of Lola's delicious cooking[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_4038" align="alignnone" width="225"] Phil learning Spanish with Demis[/caption]

It rained so much in the afternoons that I rarely left the house in the first few days. I went downstairs to the kitchen for meals, upstairs to school, and then studying, blogging and reading in my room in the afternoons and evenings.

Javier and Lola have two energetic, beautiful daughters, Lolita (12) and Magdalena (2). Lolita was obsessed with playing Angry Birds on my iPhone and Magda was into everything!

[caption id="attachment_4034" align="alignnone" width="300"] Don't let her innocent smile fool you - this two year old is full of beans![/caption]

[caption id="attachment_4044" align="alignnone" width="300"] When not playing on my phone, Lolita was playing basketball. (She's in the Yellow)[/caption]

It is a sign of globalization that a girl in a small village in Guatemala knows how to use a smartphone and is aware of what games she likes best!

The whole family spoke only Spanish with us, although I soon realized that they were often speaking a completely different language with each other. Tzutujil Is their mother tongue - a Mayan language that is only spoken in three villages. (Less than 75,000 people!!)

[caption id="attachment_4016" align="alignnone" width="300"] The heart of the home[/caption]

The main living area of the house was the kitchen, where all the cooking and eating and hanging out with the family took place.

[caption id="attachment_4017" align="alignnone" width="225"] Despite having a gas stove, the vast ,majority of the cooking was done on this fire.[/caption]

Phil and I had lessons on Saturday morning, but we had the whole day off on Sunday. When we were in Playa Troncones in Guerrero, Mexico, our new friend Sarah told us that we should go meet her friend Angela at Lake Atitlan. Angela lives in San Marcos, a short boat ride across the lake from where we were staying in San Pedro. I had contacted Angela when I first arrived at the lake, and she had invited us to attend a Cacao sharing circle, and then a Cacao Ceremony with a local Shaman (her mentor) called Keith.

When Sunday morning rolled around, it was the morning after the night before (the one Phil wrote about in this post), and we were both feeling tender, Phil much more so than I as his evening had kicked on several hours, and 3 or 4 walks up the hill to our house, longer than mine had.

[caption id="attachment_4089" align="alignnone" width="300"] Lake Atitlan really is stunningly beautiful.[/caption]

We managed to get to Angela's apartment by 9am, where she welcomed us very warmly and gave us big mugs of special cacao. This cacao is unprocessed, bitter, and pretty strong. Apparently 99% of the active ingredients of cacao are removed in the mass market chocolate we usually eat. We added sweetener and a bit of chili to our mugs, and joined 10 others in Angela's warm, comforting living room.

We each introduced ourselves, and gave our mother's and grandmother's names. Angela then led us in group meditation. The cacao raised my heart rate and made me feel very mellow. Phil was struggling to stay awake over on his side of the circle. I have been learning to meditate and this was a very deep meditation - I liked being surrounded by others who all had the same purpose.

After the sharing circle, we walked down the road to the Cacao ceremony at Keith's house. It was the last one of the season, meaning that everyone had come. There were 40 or 50 people crammed onto the shaman's front porch. We squeezed into tiny spaces between dreadlocked hippies.

[caption id="attachment_4040" align="alignnone" width="300"] Me in my tiny space on the porch[/caption]

To be honest we didn't get a lot from the cacao ceremony, there were too many people to be comfortable, the hangovers were worsening, we hadn't eaten anything, and it went on for hours. Phil hated every minute of it.

The cacao shaman spoke a lot about empaths, people who take on other's negative energy. I feel like I am a bit like that, in that I find people often tell me all their problems, even when I don't know them very well. He was talking about how to not hold those negativities in our bodies. It was a bit "new age" with a lot of visualising energies etc, but there was a lot of meditation too. I still found it interesting. For the first couple hours. After that, I was uncomfortable, couldn't adjust my position, and just wanted to leave.

[caption id="attachment_4039" align="alignnone" width="300"] The Cacao Shaman[/caption]

Finally there was a break in the proceedings. The ceremony was not ending, but Phil and I exchanged a look and made our move to freedom. It's likely that the only people who noticed we were gone were the people sitting next to us who would have had a bit more room to breathe!

The next day was the start of my "official" week of classes. Phil went to see Alex, and so Demis became my teacher.

[caption id="attachment_4021" align="alignnone" width="300"] The view from the roof terrace classroom was nice when the sun shone.[/caption]

Our four hours consisted of chatting in Spanish about life, and doing verb exercises. So many verbs. Regular, irregular, ones that changed letters in the middle (sometimes) and ones that didn't. Home grown coffee and muffins or cookies at break time. When the weather was good we would go for walks around town, walking and talking. We even went to see Demis' son play soccer.

[caption id="attachment_4024" align="alignnone" width="225"] Demis outside the Catholic Church, a key landmark.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_4023" align="alignnone" width="225"] Demis' son Diego (on left)[/caption]

I found it very interesting talking to Demis and Javier about life in Guatemala. They get married young, and have lots of children who will look after them when they are old. Women tend to stay home and cook and clean and look after the kids. While the men dress in modern jeans and t-shirts, the women mostly wear colourful traditional dress.

[caption id="attachment_4019" align="alignnone" width="225"] Two girls in traditional Mayan dress[/caption]

Their society suffers from the same issues as all societies, including alcoholism, child abuse etc, but because families all live together in multi-generational units, everyone in the village knows everything that is going on. This does not however mean that justice is served - being staunchly religious, they feel that God will punish offenders.

It rained a lot. Eventually I grew tired of staying home all the time, and went out, getting caught in the rain a few times.

[caption id="attachment_4041" align="alignnone" width="300"] Wet flip-flops and steep streets flowing with water make for precarious walking![/caption]

[caption id="attachment_4028" align="alignnone" width="225"] No washing machine? No problem. Wash your clothes in the lake![/caption]

[caption id="attachment_4027" align="alignnone" width="225"] With no outlet for the water to escape to, many people have lost their homes in the past 5 years as the water level rises.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_4022" align="alignnone" width="225"] Me with the view from the balcony outside my room[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_4026" align="alignnone" width="225"] Magda at the entrance to the main level of the house[/caption]

Magda was thrilled when her friend "Filipe" came back!

[caption id="attachment_4018" align="alignnone" width="300"] Little and large[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_4029" align="alignnone" width="300"] Filipe eats children for breakfast[/caption]

My schooling finished on Friday morning. I am really glad that I finally had some proper lessons, and learnt to change all the things I'd been doing wrong. I only learnt verbs in the present tense though, so need some more lessons soon to learn to speak about the past and future! I can hold a conversation in Spanish now, which is a big step forward, although the person I am speaking with needs to be very patient.

After school ended Phil and I took a boat to Panajachel. Pana is the biggest town on the lake, and was where Erik and Tanya were staying. We had a nice visit with them, Tanya apologised for hitting me the previous weekend, and we walked around town a bit. It was much more touristy, and expensive, then San Pedro. We were glad that we had chosen the smaller village for our school.

[caption id="attachment_4088" align="alignnone" width="300"] A volcano poking out in the distance[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_4045" align="alignnone" width="300"] Visiting Erik and Tanya in their very nice rented house.[/caption]

We spent one last Friday night out on the town with Alex.

Saturday came, and we packed up our bikes. The past month had been a real rollercoaster for me, and I found being part of a Guatemalan family very cathartic.

It was sad to leave, but it was time.

[caption id="attachment_4046" align="alignnone" width="300"] Lola tied bracelets onto my and Phil's wrists to say goodbye[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_4036" align="alignnone" width="300"] Lola and Magda in the yard[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_4031" align="alignnone" width="300"] Lolita came to watch us pack the bikes in the street[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_4032" align="alignnone" width="300"] There were some lovely views on the road up away from the lake[/caption]
Arctic Circle to Patagonia - on the road - started July 25, 2012

2007 Yamaha YBR125 with L plates! (UK)
2006 KLR650 (Canada)
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Old 07-04-2013, 07:50 PM   #19
aka Mister Wisker
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Joined: Jun 2013
Location: Back in Canada
Oddometer: 84
A great goodbye to Guatemala - Antigua for the last time.

It was time to go.
Guatemala was great, but we had to be in Managua, Nicaragua by June 11th, when real-sized Kelly arrived. (Who is real-sized Kelly? Not Micro-Kelly). One last weekend in Antigua for some fun and Ultimate frisbee before we left, complete with surprise special guests!

We were fortunate that my friend Eric had an empty room for us to stay in.
New window being installed in Erics "jail cell" room. Perfect for us to crash in and hide from the children.[/caption]

We stopped in at the MotoCafe as I think is required in the bylaws and had a good chat with Frenchie there. Speaking of ADV'ers; once in awhile I read up on our twomotokiwi friends' blog to catch up on their travels. I randomly to read it in Antigua, and coincidentally the Kiwis happened to be in town too! Great to catch up, as we hadn't seen them since Oaxaca city. Sadly they were in a holding pattern for awhile with Andi having broken some ribs in an off, and needing time to recover. As it turned out, Gene and Neda (ADV Lightcycle) were also in town (last seen in Baja California), relaxing after their adventures through the Caribbean! Throw in the local talent Julio (Guaterider), and we arranged a big meet up for dinner and to do some graffiti.

Dinner in the ceiling with a bunch of motoheads[/caption]


Having marked our territory, we had a great group catch up. I look forward to seeing these guys again down the road. Heal up Andi!

Antigua was the only place we had encountered Ultimate frisbee for a long while, so we made sure to play one last game before heading south. There were extra players in from the states volunteering at a charity, so it was a great send of game for us with great people.

Great game by the volcano, ending in a layout perfect rainstorm[/caption]

To pack our short time in Antigua even fuller, we met up with Juan Manuel, a KLR owner who also owns a whiskey bar in town. KLRs and whiskey? Sounds like my kinda guy.
Jayne pretending to be shorter[/caption]

It would turn out we had met Juan Manuel's KLR before we even met him! (It's the one on the right at Kawasaki)

We had a great time chatting, playing games and sampling his wares. Wish we happened across him on a previous visit to town! If you find yourself in Antigua and love whiskey, infused rum, coffee or card games, stop in and say hi at the Whiskey Den.

Fun and games over, next stop El Salvador!
Top to the bottom with a frisbee:
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Old 07-05-2013, 07:10 PM   #20
aka Mister Wisker
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Joined: Jun 2013
Location: Back in Canada
Oddometer: 84
Cool2 The Guatemala-El Salvador Border -La Hachadura crossing

Another in our series on borders. Information for the Guatemala-El Salvador Border at the La Hachadura crossing. Hope this helps anyone in their travels. We also use, and find it pretty helpful. (disclaimer: we're writing this a month after the fact, memory is not perfect).
Total cost for one person and one motorcycle: 15$ US
What you need:
-Passport, plus 2 copies of the photo page (plus a copy later of the stamp they give you)
-Registration/title, plus two copies
- Drivers license, plus two copies
-Sister, no copies available.

"the border? Just follow us!"

After getting led for 30 minutes towards the border by men in uniform in the back of a truck, we wave goodbye and soon arrive at the border.
To leave Guatemala, your only costs are for photocopies. Go to immigration, get your passport stamped. Then to customs:

We stamped out the bike documents at the "in" door. It's all one office, just pick the best parking.

The customs agent will come out, check the bike serial number, then give you paperwork to go photocopy. You need a copy of your canceled bike import document, and a copy of the stamped page they just put in your passport. You will need the page showing your bike has been stamped out of Guatemala.
Then to El Salvador. As with every border, ride past the line of trucks:

ALWAYS ride past the line of trucks.

A man will check your papers. He felt the need to write on ours. We let him.

yep, appear to be paper

Entering El Salvador is not hard, but is a bit slow.
Go to migration, where they will scan, but NOT STAMP your passport. You should have the CA-4 stamp from Guatemala, that covers you through to the exit of Nicaragua. But you still need to present your passport at migration.

Lean in close at the window, you can catch a bit of their air conditioning flowing out.

Then down to the Aduana (customs). They will want a copy of the page showing your bike exited Guatemala, along with your passport photo page, and bike title/registration. The customs agent will check the serial number on the bikes, and buy your sister an ice cream.
Take all this paperwork over to the office across the road where it will be typed up. CHECK THIS PAPERWORK THOROUGHLY. Our paperwork had more errors than correct info. Once correct, sign the documents and you're good to go..
After you purchase FONAT. They call it "seguro" (insurance) but really it's a fund that helps the victims of automotives accidents. A small distinction maybe, but either way you have to buy it. 10$ for a month or 45$ for the whole year. Keep your reciept and the insurance card handy: they will check it when you leave.
A final police check once you're on the road will result in needing to pay a community road tax of 5$. This might be specific to this border and/or a scam. but they give a receipt and the police would not let us go without paying it. Locals we talked to thought it was legitimate.
You're done!

Welcome to El Salvador!
Top to the bottom with a frisbee:
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Old 07-06-2013, 12:38 PM   #21
UltiJayne OP
Sister on a KLR
Joined: Mar 2012
Location: Calgary, Alberta
Oddometer: 74
Thumb One Country in Four Stops: El Salvador

We walked through the front door and into a sermon. The preacher paused from her impassioned message when she saw us. The congregation looked at us expectantly. We had walked through the wrong door and we had nowhere to hide. I was about to slowly back out of the room when the preacher started introducing us as her motorcycling Canadian guests. What?!? As she asked our names Phil slowly used his hand to cover the logo on his t-shirt, the one he'd been given from the Cancun "666" Biker Bar.

[caption id="attachment_4167" align="alignnone" width="180"] The mark of the beast[/caption]

After crossing the border from Guatemala we headed to the city of Sonsonate to our couchsurf with Francisco and his family. Turns out his mum holds Christian services in their front room/garage twice a week.

[caption id="attachment_4157" align="alignnone" width="300"] Phil, Francisco, Kenny and Jayne[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_4158" align="alignnone" width="300"] Dinner by candlelight on our first night in El Salvador when the power went out[/caption]

Our first couple of days in El Salvador were spent with the wonderful Golcher family. Elizabeth, Francisco, his younger sister Kenny and their 9 turtles became our family too.

[caption id="attachment_4155" align="alignnone" width="300"] Hanging out in the sun[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_4131" align="alignnone" width="300"] It didn't turn into a prince unfortunately.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_4134" align="alignnone" width="225"] Elizabeth with some of the turtles.[/caption]

We reluctantly tried to leave the next afternoon, we bid our tearful goodbyes, and rode down the road, but two minutes later the skies opened, and we turned around.

[caption id="attachment_4156" align="alignnone" width="300"] Jayne Kenny and Elizabeth at the first goodbye[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_4141" align="alignnone" width="225"] An experience we are going to have to start getting used to - being wet.[/caption]

That evening we went for a dinner of the local El Salvadorian specialty, papusas. We were joined by Elizabeth's brother, who was in town visiting from the USA.

Papusas are handmade tortillas, stuffed with cheese and other fillings. They are then fried to scalding temperatures before being served with a thin tomato based sauce. They are delicious!!

[caption id="attachment_4154" align="alignnone" width="300"] Team papusa after the feast.[/caption]

Six of us ate and drank for the equivalent of $11.

The next day we left in the morning so as to avoid the afternoon rains. We're trying to get used to the reality of rainy season.

We took the fun twisty coastal road down to El Sunzal. While surfing in Mexico 5 months ago we met Martine and Tommy, a Dutch couple who recommended that we stop at the Surfer's Inn in El Sunzal when we made it down to El Salvador. They even gave us a note.

[caption id="attachment_4151" align="alignnone" width="300"] Martine's note at the Surfer's Inn[/caption]

We love advice from people in the know, so that is exactly what we did.

[caption id="attachment_4137" align="alignnone" width="225"] Phil after tackling huge, scary waves[/caption]

The waves on the El Salvador coast while we were there were much bigger (6-11 feet) than I would ever consider attempting to surf, but Phil was un-deterred.

I found Phil looking reminiscent of a drowned rat in a hammock. Turns out that after the very long paddle out to the break, he got hit by a wave, and the leash pulled out of of the board. Phil found himself 200 meters out to sea, without a paddle (or a surfboard).

A very long swim back to shore resulted in his passing out in the hammock where I found him. Luckily someone found the board when it was washed in to shore and put it against a wall for him.

[caption id="attachment_4139" align="alignnone" width="225"] Best when the leash stays attached to the board[/caption]

The wonderful family who own the Surfer's Inn had given us a huge room with four double beds in it for $10 a night. They even said we could keep our motorbikes in it if we wanted! (We didn't.) There was one other person staying at the Inn, an American called Stephen.

[caption id="attachment_4152" align="alignnone" width="300"] We made a new friend, Stephen, then we all climbed a giant rock and took a picture[/caption]

It was really hot, as we walked down the beach we all wanted desperately to jump in the water. Unfortunately the waves were just too ferocious. As we walked towards El Tunco we came across a beach club with a beautiful pool. Stephen and I jumped in, but Phil didn't quite make it before making eye contact with the armed guard storming towards us. Needless to say, we didn't spend long in that pool.

We went into town and got lunch. While we were at lunch we looked over and who was sitting at the table across from us? Northern Irish Jeff from our Spanish school, and his girlfriend Heather who we had not yet met. It's a small world!

[caption id="attachment_4140" align="alignnone" width="225"] The national beer of El Salvador is my friend[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_4153" align="alignnone" width="300"] Look who we found in El Tunco! Jeffand his girlfriend Heather.[/caption]

After lunch we renewed our efforts to find a pool to cool off in. Stephen remembered a pool in a hostel he'd visited the other day and so we headed there.

We walked through the reception area like we owned the place and the small, slightly grimy pool looked like heaven to us. We ended up in that pool all afternoon. Even when some real residents of the hostel joined us, they didn't mind us interlopers.

[caption id="attachment_4138" align="alignnone" width="300"] Pools are even cooler when you're not supposed to be in them[/caption]

We had to keep going towards Managua, so we left the next morning to head towards San Salvador. Just as Phil pulled out of the gate, a large motorcycle (Honda Veradero) with an enormous amount of luggage drove by. He radioed me to hurry and took off after the bike.

He flagged over the biker, and that is how we met fellow Canadian, 62 year old Al. Al is on a 10 year, round the world trip. He also sounds exactly like Adam West. We baptized him "Batman".

[caption id="attachment_4150" align="alignnone" width="300"] When we first met Batman[/caption]

We adopted Batman and brought him with us to meet Mario, our host who we met through (Marior97). Mario had agreed to let us stay on his coffee plantation which is located on the side of a volcano.

[caption id="attachment_4149" align="alignnone" width="300"] Mario and his daughter met us in San Salvador[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_4148" align="alignnone" width="300"] A pow wow before attacking the hill to the coffee plantation[/caption]

Mario met us on his BMW and led us to the coffee plantation. He was concerned about how big and heavy our bikes were, rightly so it turned out.

The road up to the plantation was very steep and rocky. Batman dropped his bike a couple of times. Unfortunately it's so heavily loaded that he needs help to pick it up. Luckily there were plenty of us there to help.

[caption id="attachment_4147" align="alignnone" width="300"] Batman's bike is BIG and very heavy.[/caption]

We left out bikes about halfway up the hill, before it got REALLY steep, and walked up the rest of the hill to the house.

[caption id="attachment_4146" align="alignnone" width="300"] View from the coffee plantation[/caption]

We had a lovely evening with Mario and his family. We BBQ'd and chatted the night away.

Mario came back the next morning to show us the way out via the crater of the volcano.

[caption id="attachment_4145" align="alignnone" width="300"] Mario helped me get my bike up the tough parts.[/caption]

I am still suffering from panic when riding offroad, and Mario kindly rode my bike over the difficult parts for me.

It took quite a while to get down the hill and off the dirt road. Batman dropped his bike again... In one of the drops Batman bent his bike's crashbars and broke a clamp.

[caption id="attachment_4144" align="alignnone" width="300"] It sucks when your bike goes down...[/caption]

The ride up to the crater was fantastic.

[caption id="attachment_4143" align="alignnone" width="300"] Cruising round a corner[/caption]

When we got up to the crater, Phil, Batman and I walked the trail up to the viewpoints.

[caption id="attachment_4136" align="alignnone" width="225"] Our first view of a real volcano crater[/caption]

Mario bought us all lunch before he had to return to family duties. What a stellar guy!

[caption id="attachment_4135" align="alignnone" width="225"] Mario was an awesome guy, we were sorry to only meet him so briefly[/caption]

Batman had decided to join us on our double border day, when we were going to cross into, and out of, Honduras in one day.

We decided to stay overnight in San Miguel, so we would be close to the border in the morning.

We found a hotel, it was more expensive than we wanted to pay, but Batman was tired and offered to pay for it in return for us helping him across the borders and helping him to get his crash bar fixed when we got to Nicaragua.

[caption id="attachment_4132" align="alignnone" width="225"] The bikes were REALLY well protected at this hotel[/caption]

Next day: Double border crossing of some of the most difficult and corrupt borders in the world.
Arctic Circle to Patagonia - on the road - started July 25, 2012

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Old 07-08-2013, 11:22 AM   #22
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Na na na na na na na na Batman! Batman across borders. El Salvador- Honduras-Nicaragu

Batman sometimes needs help. Often Robin is handy. Robin does good work and adds a splash of colour. Our Batman didn't have Robin with him, so a couple siblings would have to do.

I'm Batman.

The mission: to cross the most difficult and corrupt borders in the Americas in one day. Into Honduras from El Salvador, then out of Honduras into Nicaragua.
Batman had been fleeced in Mexico at a homestay Spanish school there. 2 months and $4000 later, he had struggled across the Guatemala border taking over 6 hours. Our Spanish is still coming along, Batman still couldn't even order food. Why two borders in one day? We had to get to Managua, Nicaragua to meet real-sized Kelly at the airport. We were cutting it all a little close.
Our day didn't start smoothly. While getting the bikes loaded Batman said he needed gas, so we sent him ahead to "save time". Note: NEVER DO THIS. The meetup plan wasn't followed, and we lost half an hour searching for Batman in the morning sun without a spotlight. We had actually given up on finding him when we ran into him riding the other way on the road. Re-connected, we made our run to the border.
The El Salvador border: Fight off the helpers. They reportedly have their spotter phone ahead to tell their buddies you're coming down the highway.

Stop at the box. It's a couple kilometers from the actual border. You'll know when to stop by the guns. Get copies.

Jayne dealt with the paperwork as per usual. This time with Batman's added into the fray.
His passport had an unnecessary entry stamp to El Salvador that he had insisted on after his troubles in Mexico (where he missed getting a stamp), so we had Batman deal with his own passport at immigration. Good thing too, as the stamp triggered some extra questioning. Otherwise the paperwork was simple stamps and away we go.

Get "stamped" out, then have money changers swoon over your sister.

Until we get to the bridge. These guys check our paperwork, all fine, then Mr. "I hold a gun" asks for our bike export paperwork.

Mr. "I have a gun" only needs copies, but will ask for, and insist on taking, your originals.

Passport and paperwork check. This dolt then agrees with Mr. "I have a gun" about taking our originals.

We question him, and double check with another border agent to make sure that this is correct. We have no other copy of these pages. Assured all is fine, we ride across the bridge into Honduras.

Weeeeeeeeeeeelcome to Honduras!

Welcoming committee wearing their official distinguished baseball hats. Don't just hand them your paperwork.

Greeted by tourism folks and border "DEI" workers. One such DEI employee, only identifiable as an employee by his DEI baseball hat, asks Jayne to hand him all our passports and paperwork. While we are still sitting on the bikes. Absolutely out of the question. Jayne explains we have heard of scams at this border, this sounds like one of them. The man agrees such scams have happened, and allows us to take it into the office ourselves.
The first thing we are asked for in the office is the export papers Mr. "I have a gun" took off us. Groan. I rode back over the bridge, and scowled at Mr. "I have a gun". "If you need copies, just ask for copies. Why would you insist on wasting everyone's time?". His amigo looked sheepish, and Mr. "I have a gun" tried to maintain an official air about himself, but neither could hide their beard envy. I got Mr. "I have a gun" his copies, frowned in his general direction, and sped off. This would be our only border snag.
The Honduras border, and the 140km stretch to Nicaragua after it, has the worst reputation in the Americas. Many reports talk of being stopped and ripped off by the police 3 or 4 times in that 140kms. And this is after many lost hours and bribes paid to make the border agents do their jobs. Reading ahead didn't make Honduras sound very pleasant.
We would sit in the office for the next two hours, while the only man for the job uses an incredibly inefficient computer program to input all of our information. Over 2 hours. For three of us. If there had been anyone else in front of us importing a vehicle, we would have been there all day. There is only ONE man who does this job.

A nice man.

A very nice man indeed. It is not his fault the process takes forever. The computer program he has to use is atrociously designed.
Honduras also requires an obscene number of photocopies. 3 copies of everything. Then more copies after they sign those copies.

So many copies (Use Limpiras: half price)

However the tales of scams and corrupt officials and police, while true, are apparently a thing of the past now. Multiple people acknowledged Honduras's shady past, but all told us that in the past year or so they replaced their ENTIRE police force and have cracked down on the corruption in an attempt to encourage more tourism. I would say this is all true.
But that doesn't mean that the locals won't rip you off if you aren't a little street smart.
To kill time and practice Spanish, I often bullshit with the locals. During one such bullshit session, Batman walked over and said he needed to buy some water. I pointed over to the little tienda (store) about 10 feet away. The guy I was talking to quickly said "I'll go buy you some" and stuck out his hand... and Batman gave him money. Needless to say this was now the most expensive water in Honduras. I told Batman not to give the man any more money, shook my head and walked away.
While it took ages, the process for paperwork was straightforward. 35$ for the papers, and 3$ each for the immigration stamp. The most expensive border since Mexico, and we were only going to be here a couple hours. Riding into the country, we then immediately encountered our first Honduras police. Here we go...

Less than photogenic, but honest, police officer stayed out of frame

Unlike the stories written all over the internet, it was a straightforward paperwork check and we were on our way. Honduras has indeed cleaned up their act. Soon the rain would clean up their highway.

Wind and clouds ready to attack, time to gear up

none too soon. WET.

Splish splash

Our first real downpour since my experience heading to Xela, this one came complete with high winds, forcing us to stop under cover at a gas station. The real danger with so much water: hidden man eating potholes.
Best to stop and wait. No matter how good your raingear, nothing seems waterproof in torrential downpours.

All rain must end.

Honduras was beautiful. The winding road took us through green, sweeping mountain vistas and quaint small pueblos. Since we weren't ripped off at the border and getting shaken down for bribes, we started to sadden at skipping the entire country. Oh well, you can't do it all.
Nicaragua border: 3$ Fumigation, 12$ insurance, 10$ tourist card and 2$ admin fee.

Never skip a border booth. They hold your ID to wait for your export paperwork. We didn't like it, but that was the way.

Paperwork goes in here. Then they check the VINs and away you go.

Welcome to Nicaragua.

Batman stands guard, loudly saying English words the hazmat-coated fumigation man doesn't understand.

Batman fending off the evil insurance pushers.

So well marked and easy to find: the policeman office to sign off the papers. (to the right of the blue and white building)

Batman became frustrated with the insurance salesmen, and snapped at one of them. He hadn't liked how they had approached him earlier on, before he had a chance to get off the bike. Tensions were running a little high, and we were losing daylight. Our hope had been to teach Batman how to cross the borders himself, but the long drawn out paperwork process and Spanish only conversations made that challenging, so he felt a little like he was being led along blindly. He was. We gave Batman a fish instead of teaching him. We had to keep pace. Sorry Batman.
Our lost half hour in the morning, and 45 minutes in the rain had put us a bit behind schedule. We don't like to ride at night. We especially don't like to ride at night, on a highway, in a new country, after a long day, WITHOUT LIGHTS...

...but sometimes you have to do things you don't like.

Fuse at fault.

Finally able to pull over and defuse the situation

It was a narrow road with no shoulder, and nowhere to pull over. Jayne rode in front of me riding off my headlights for about 15 minutes until we could finally pull over to replace the blown fuse that had killed her lights. A few minutes later we were in the city of Esteli at our couch surf, and more than happy to be off the road.

Squeezed into the yard

It was a long day. Tomorrow we had to find a welder and help translate for Batman to fix up the Batmobile, then get ourselves to Managua for the arrival of real-sized Kelly in the evening. Plans. We have plans. And we're sticking to them. The impossible CAN happen.
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Old 07-13-2013, 06:24 PM   #23
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Then there were two. Then there were three again - Managua, Nicaragua

"I feel like we really aren't getting on all that well" said Batman.

I felt the same way. As did Jayne. There were a variety of reasons for it from all sides I'm sure, but we indeed weren't "getting on". I know I for one wasn't being particularly agreeable. Funny thing though, as soon as Batman verbalized it, I felt we started to get on a little better in the last minutes before we went our separate ways. I appreciate Batman for coming out and saying it. Talking about how we weren't getting on helped fix the situation. Well how about that? It's something I think we all knew, but I'll be doing it a lot more from now on.

To the Soldadura (welders)! We left our Couchsurf with Ivan and Priscilla early, too early, but we had work to do. We hope to be back in Esteli to get to know them properly and meet their son and daughter. Batman's front crash bar was injured from some of his tumbles in El Salvador, so our morning mission was to find him a welder. We were successful, and I translated Batman's needs to the welder. The job was done an hour and 300 cords later (12$).

Jayne found street piglets. They could not weld.

Agustin just bought a KLR of his own. We talked bikes while waiting at the welding shop.

Batmobile in for repairs.

It was after the welders that Batman and our paths split. Thank you Batman for stepping up and clearing the air. It made things better, and we wish you better luck and safe travels.
Our own travels continued towards Managua, but not without a short pit stop. With the Police.
We had been warned DO NOT pass in Nicaragua on a single solid line, so we didn't... but the police pulled us over anyways. Turned out he just wanted a chat about the bikes and a picture.

Well that's a relief!

Onwards we arrived to a warm welcome at Salvador's (ADV Salcar) mom's place! We had a delightful chat with Reina for a while, then her worker Roberto took us for a quick tour of Managua before heading to the airport to pick up Kelly.

On tour to the water's Edge with Roberto.

So many colours! Thanks to the president's wife apparently.

Kelly escapes from the baggage claim

Micro and real-sized Kelly reunite! Twinsies!

Welcome Ms. Kelly to the crew! It had been an adventure to get here in time, but well worth it! With Kelly in tow, we had to reorganize the bikes a bit: Jayne carrying my gear bag in order for Kelly to fit.

Cricket stacked high with bags.

Two-up for two weeks

Bike model showing off my new red "Pucca" bags.

I had been looking for a while for some backpacks to mount on my crash bars. Kelly's arrival made extra space urgent, conveniently the cheapest bags in town (4$) were also the most stylish. "Pucca" is a hit with the youth these days.
All three together, we hit the Masaya markets. While parking the bikes, as per usual, a gentleman came over and started chatting about the bikes. Roberto had a KLR of his own, a 250, that he kept over on Ometepe island. Next thing you know, Roberto is drawing a map in my book and we have a place to set up camp over on Ometepe!

I love meeting folks when we're parking the bikes!

The touristy market had some pretty items, but we think the whole market might be a racket all owned by the same person. There was little flexibility for haggling, and workers were always running off or phoning someone to see if they could sell us things at slightly more reasonable prices. In the end Kelly bought a wallet.

Jayne doesn't love these belt pockets, tries them on anyways.

And what a wallet!

If you go to Masaya, there are other markets nearby. More fun, with more locals and cheaper food. They also have roofs, convenient for downpours of rain. Though you still get to walk through the mud afterwards.

The "flip" part of flip-flops apparently applies to flipping up mud.

Back in Managua, we were treated to delicious meals and great hospitality by Reina. We were given another taste of the sudden downpours that remind us we are in rainy season.

"The flowers will be happy" said mothers everywhere.

Fortunately Kelly brought me down a "onesie" rainsuit from by buddy Nate. I'll soon be putting it to use. Thanks Nate!
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Old 07-14-2013, 09:12 AM   #24
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Joined: Mar 2012
Location: Calgary, Alberta
Oddometer: 74
Cool2 Driving Up a Live Volcano and Sleeping in a Tree: Volcan Masaya and Granada

It was dusk as we turned off the asphalt onto the dirt road that led to the Poste Rojo treehouse hostel. Somehow it seems we always encounter the most difficult sections of road at the end of the day, often with fading light. This time we had an even bigger challenge, Phil had Kelly and her bag on the back of his bike riding a balding tire, and to make room I had Phil's heavy duffle bag strapped on top of my bag.
We got about 100 meters down the road before Phil dropped his bike on a muddy section. Kelly's first off. She even got a bruise to prove it!

Kelly shows off what a tough biker chick she is!

I don't enjoy (to put it mildly) riding offroad at the best of times; before reaching this dirt road we had had a full day riding from Managua.
Our first stop was riding up Volcan Masaya in search of lava. According to our father, Volcan Masaya is the only active volcano in the Northern Hemisphere where it is possible to drive to the crater. We didn't know this at the time.
Part way up was the visitor's center, with exhibits very reminiscent of junior high school science projects.

Kelly inspects a model of the volcano

The final drive up to the crater provided us with beautiful views, although I felt fairly unstable on the steep, twisty road, not yet used to the extra weight piled on Cricket.

View on the way up to the Volcan Masaya crater

We saw the billowing smoke before reaching the crater. An unbelievable amount of smoke.

The helmet keeps out the smoke

Kelly and I falling into a live volcano

This sign was impossible to decipher. It was probably as useful as the one telling us to hide under our car if we got showered with rocks.

In fact there was a path that led to a higher viewpoint, but the ranger would not allow us to climb higher, due to the toxicity of the smoke. This did raise some concerns and we decided to move away from the smoke to the other viewpoint.

Some signs were legible. Viewpoint rules.

See that path on the hill? Too dangerous to go up there and breathe. Totally safe where we were - closer to the smoke.

View from the non-toxic side of the parking lot

After escaping the toxic fumes, and without seeing any lava, we rode to the very pretty town of Granada. Once in the town center, we parked and covered the bikes, and set out in search of lunch. It was one of the few times we have left our fully loaded bikes in a town, out of our line of sight, and it made me very nervous. My whole life is on that bike... All it would take is a couple of guys with a pick up truck for it to all disappear.
We lunched at the Irish pub (there's one in every city in the world) and ended up staying there a bit longer than we should have (sunset at 6pm makes life difficult). When we realised the time we hurried back to the bikes, which, fortunately, were still there, and headed to the treehouse.

Mirror shot of the Nicaraguan countryside

After Phil dropped Jugs, (and only Jugs, neither Phil nor Kelly actually hit the mud) we both proceeded more cautiously along the dirt road. I resorted to sitting on my bike "walking" her along many sections, because it was so muddy, I was so top-heavy, and it was getting darker by the second. I was extremely jealous of Phil being able to have Kelly get off and walk for the tougher sections.

I was not in a happy place right about then. (This was on the way out).

After asking several local people the way, we eventually made it to the hostel. We parked our bikes in a clearing, intending to come back to them for our belongings once we had oriented ourselves in the hostel.
I didn't end up coming back to my bike until the next afternoon.

When we got back down to our bikes, Phil's had been moved. We guess by the truck delivering water...

We started up the roughly formed steps, using flashlights to show the least treacherous path. We went up, and up, and up. Turns out the hostel is not only in the trees, it's in the trees on the top of a hill. A big hill.

As we climbed up the hill into the unknown it sounded like someone up above was playing an old arcade game. One where you shoot lasers at something. We climbed and climbed towards the sound, sure that that must be coming from the main hostel building.
A treehouse with lights on appeared above us, but confusingly the arcade game sounds seemed to be coming from a dirty pond beside us. Our first introduction to Laser Frogs - more commonly known as Tungara frogs.
I entered the hostel feeling shaken from the ride in, tired from the climb up, and thirsty, very thirsty. I discarded my hot, smelly riding gear on a bar stool, placed my helmet on the bar, and ordered a beer.

The scene at the Treehouse bar

Beer turned into rum, and the two young, enthusiastic employees behind the bar kept plying us with dubious shots. Kelly and I were loudly propping up the bar, setting the world to rights, for several hours. I'm not entirely sure what Phil was doing, playing in the trees and trying out hammocks I guess, but somehow he seemed to escape most of the dubious shots.

Kelly and Phil at the bar

One of the employees was battling foot-rot, Kelly decided to clean it with babywipes over the bar. Lovely.

My evening ended with the bartenders helping/dragging me further up the hill and putting me to bed in a room under some stairs. I feel this was a result as the other option was to pass out in one of the many hammocks and be eaten by insects all night.

Suspended bridges led to other treehouses... Easier explored in daylight.

I made a friend

Needless to say, Kelly and I didn't feel very well the next day.

Hammocks are excellent places to be hungover.

Pretty flying bird in a nearby tree

Everywhere we looked there was a new, fun structure.

It was afternoon by the time we gathered ourselves enough to slip and slide down the hill to our bikes, and face the dirt road out again, this time with the benefit of daylight. I was shaking and feeling terrible. Phil kindly rode my bike over the worst part for me.

What the hill to the treehouse looked like on the way down - better with daylight.

We wanted to visit a local lake, Laguna de Apoyo, which was supposed to be only a ten minute drive away. Mis-communication and the usual lack of road signs meant that this is as close as we got to it, because we had spent too much time trying to get there and it had started to rain.

A brief glimpse of the Laguna - not as good as a swim in it!

We were headed towards the largest freshwater island in the world. After suffering one of the worst meals I have ever attempted to eat, in Rivas, we eventually found a hotel beside the ferry port in San Jorge.
Arctic Circle to Patagonia - on the road - started July 25, 2012

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Old 07-14-2013, 03:57 PM   #25
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Location: Back in Canada
Oddometer: 84
Lost on a Volcano - Ometepe island, Nicaragua

We banged a Lesbian (lurched left) when we should have hung a Roger (run right). Now we were lost on a volcano, in volcano jungle, nearing sunset. "Lost" in that we didn't know where we were, though there was only on direction to go really: Down.

Getting lost took a lot of steps. Number one was getting on a ferry to Ometepe Island: the largest freshwater lake in the world. We were told to wait to load last, which left only a little space for us to squeeze our fat bikes into.

Jayne waiting to load, sneaky policeman takes the inside position.

Jayne fit fine, but the a sneaky policeman zipped into the space left for me. The policeman moved over as much as possible, but for the first time in my life I found myself facing a fact: I was too fat.
"The next boat is in an hour, you could just take that one, fatty" the ferry worker said.
"True, but this one is here NOW, why can't we put the little police moto in the back of that truck" I replied, pointing.
Moments later, 4 men were lifting the police moto into the back of the empty truck and I was squeezing onto the ferry.

Police moto up in the truck, along with a scooter who had also initially been denied aboard.

The two fat kids squeezed onto the ferry. Truck made a great tie-down point.

We stopped for lunch upon offloading, and that's when the 6.6 earthquake struck off the coast of Nicaragua. Reportedly. We never even noticed it, but our dad told us all about it later. Missing out on all the fun we are.

Jayne is more stable after moving our bags from her seat to the top of her boxes.

Arrived at the Finca! Roberto is fantastic, he even interrupted his lunch to come welcome us to his Finca Tiguilote. His KLR 250 looks tiny up against Jugs and Cricket.

Jayne was a touch Jealous of it's small size and weight

Roberto set us up in his little guest house.

no camping required! Thanks Roberto!

We had an outdoor shower with beautiful views, and an outhouse that you couldn't help but staring into... it was ALIVE down there.

Thankfully it was NOT alive in the shower however.

Roberto's Finca (farm) Tiguilote (name of his farm) was incredible, with everything from Papaya to Banana to Teak growing on it. The volcanic soil is supremely fertile.

Plantations at the Finca

He also introduced us to Alberto, who would later take us under his wing and give us a tour of the lower reaches of Volcan Maderas. We had hoped to climb it, but had set out too late in the day. We settled on petroglyphs and river walks, and had a great wander.

We are deeply indebted to Alberto (left). Muchas Gracias!

Jayne molests hundred year old petroglyphs

The girls frolic and cool off in the river

After said tour, we happened upon an all too common sight: tourists scraped up from a scooter accident. I offered to use my nursing powers to scrub dirt out of some wounds, and they accepted.

Her protective gear (shown) didn't quite cover everything.

Surgical scrub to clean the wounds...

"this won't feel nice"

I didn't say my nursing powers would be pain free.

The friends loved my "Hero" shirt. The patient just loved when it was over.

The next day we set out a little earlier so we would have time to climb Volcan Maderas. A LITTLE earlier. If we hiked at average speed I figured we would make it down just before sunset.

Jayne, fighting rumbling lungs and hearing it would be 2 more hours, wisely turned back soon after this photo.

The hike was nice, but challenging, getting muddier the higher we climbed.

Mud and slippery logs, oh my.

We also had to battle these deafening beetles.

With a posted round trip time of 6-8 hours, I had estimated our turn-back-time should be 2:30pm.

View from near the top

At 2:30, we met folks who said we were really close to the goal of the Laguna, and that people were having sex there. We figured being this close, we really should go check it out. When we arrived 15 minutes later, the couple still going at it somewhere out of view. (turn up your volume for the full experience)

We left those fine folks to do their thing, and headed out from the Laguna around 3:15. We would now have to hurry to beat the sun.

Tread lightly at the laguna

is Roger a Lesbian?

Then there was a "y". The left option looked more heavily travelled so I chose that one. Soon we were seeing views that we didn't see on the way up, and not hearing those annoying beetles. By the time we realized we had made a wrong turn it was too late to go back for fear of hiking in the forest in the dark. Those howler monkey's are scary. Oh dear.
Being lost wasn't without it's perks though:

Nice place to rest... but seriously that sun is setting right now.

Ok, that's enough sunset staring, MOVE IT!

Light began to wane.

"I don't wanna hike in the dark"

...too bad, the Darkness cometh.

Many hours since brunch, were feeling a little like starvin' marvin' on the way down. Error: no snacks in our pockets! Fortunately as we emerged from the Volcano forest, we entered farm land with banana and Mango plantations!

Never before have unripe mangoes tasted so shockingly good.

Then we found people who cultivate those bananas and mangoes. It was now officially dark: 6:30pm. The people who cultivate the bananas and mangoes kindly pointed us lost white folk towards the road. We may have become lost again with the now ample choices of criss-crossing paths in the dark, if it wasn't for a family going our way. We just hopped in line and followed them the last 15 minutes out to the road.

Thanks for leading us out family!

After a short hitch-hike; we were home! It was night. But we didn't die on a volcano. So all in all that's a win!

Meeting up with Jayne, who we had texted earlier to say we were taking a "different" route but omitting that we were lost, we went for a recovery dinner at Cafe Campestre. Good food if you're on the island.

...also good for mid-day rocking chair naps.

The next morning we packed up and head for the ferry. Just as we were leaving, Jayne noticed one of her crash-bar bags had been stolen. A flip through the camera showed that it had been missing since before we even came to the island. Our first theft off the bikes for the trip: a bag of useless-for-you but really-useful-for-me tools, tape and rags. Annoying.

Waiting to load on El Rey, after a 2 hour Phil-delay. Note Jayne's remaining crash bar bag.

One last error delayed our exit from the Island. I misunderstood "doce y media" (12:30) as "dos y media" (2:30) for the ferry departure time, so we missed the boat. We rode to the other port and took the same ferry we had taken over, the "El Rey". Turns out the "El Rey" costs half as much, so it all worked out. 2$ each bike and 2$ each person. Ooooh the savings!
Onwards to San Juan del Sur!
Some other nice photo's from the island:

Volcano butterfly. The advantage of climbing Maderas over Conception (the other island volcano) is that there is nice nature on Maderas.

Rough road to get to Merida for sunset (Jayne skipped the trip), but worth it! Locals treated us with rum and mangoes, the sun and volcano did the rest.

ugh, tourists

For Fran

Take care of Granny's knees when you're lost.

Thanks again to Roberto for letting us stay on your beautiful Finca Tiguilote!
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Old 07-14-2013, 05:50 PM   #26
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Location: Seven Springs NC
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I'm in for the ride!! If possible, Please make all pics big! It's hard to look at some small pics. I hope this request isn't difficult?? Thanks!
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Old 07-14-2013, 06:55 PM   #27
aka Mister Wisker
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Location: Back in Canada
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Originally Posted by WhicheverAnyWayCan View Post
I'm in for the ride!! If possible, Please make all pics big! It's hard to look at some small pics. I hope this request isn't difficult?? Thanks!
Not difficult at all. In fact I just changed and made them smaller my last post or two. But we write on a netbook with a tiny screen so I suppose they look ok sized to us.

What's a good size?

How's that last one in my most recent post (the one that's bigger than the rest)?

Appreciate the feedback!
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Old 07-14-2013, 06:58 PM   #28
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Ah, no problem! 800x600 is good size!
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Old 07-15-2013, 09:31 AM   #29
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Joined: Mar 2012
Location: Calgary, Alberta
Oddometer: 74
Cool2 Beaches and the Irish: San Juan del Sur & Playa Maderas

Everyone raves about San Juan del Sur. This surfer's party town on Nicaragua's Pacific coast was recommended to us many times.
We rolled into town and did a tour of a few hostels searching for one with secure parking for the bikes. At hostel number 5 we finally found a hostel with both parking and room availability. The discovery of my stolen bag was fresh and I had become paranoid about thieves.

Happiness is parking with a locking gate.

The hostel was called the Surfing Donkey, grungy but it had a pool. The pool turned out to be a lifesaver as the town's water supply had been off that day, and we were three motorcyclists in need of being submersed in water.

Hostel lounge area and pool

Along with secure parking for the bikes, Northern Irish Jeff and his girlfriend Heather who we'd met in both Guatemala and El Salvador were sitting at the bar. We did suggest that they may be stalking us...
That night we discovered cheap Nicaraguan rum. What we learnt is that the good stuff (Flor de Cana) is cheap enough that the really cheap stuff can, and should, be avoided.

Kelly meets Heather and Jeff

Hanging out on the beach

We tried to love San Juan del Sur. We played frisbee on the beach, spread our laundry among the local lavanderias, found a very good pizza place and an awesome coffee/book shop - El Gato Negro. You can go there and spend hours just reading their multipage menu, which includes details about superfoods, book recommendations, as well as their selection of food and drinks.
San Juan was okay, but we just didn't find anything there to make us want to stay.
We were keen to surf, which you can't do in San Juan itself, so we packed the bikes and headed a few kilometers down the coast to Playa Maderas. We stayed in the hostel right on the beach there - Los Tres Hermanos.

Navagating cow obstacles on the road to Playa Maderas

My hermano in front of the "Los Tres Hermanos" hostel

Our first night we were treated to a stunning sunset.

Sunset over the ocean rocks


The next morning Phil rented himself a board and Kelly and I decided to share one. While Phil was out in the big waves, Kelly and I took turns attempting to surf in the long whitewash. It was here that I stood up on a surf board for the first (and only) time. My glory lasted about 3 seconds.

Skipping down the beach

It was great to hang out on the beach watching the surfers and soaking up the sun. We stayed for two nights before we were feeling a bit roasted and decided it was time to head North.

(Sorry about the pics not being bigger in this post, I had already finished it before your request!)
Arctic Circle to Patagonia - on the road - started July 25, 2012

2007 Yamaha YBR125 with L plates! (UK)
2006 KLR650 (Canada)
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Old 07-17-2013, 07:51 AM   #30
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Location: Back in Canada
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Wicked Sliding down a Volcano on a board of wood. Leon, Nicaragua

Rocketing down the side of the volcano at 90km/h, with volcanic rocks bouncing off my teeth like M&M's, I realized that there's a reason Volcano boarding doesn't happen in Canada, and it's not our lack of Volcanoes: This is INSANITY.

First we had to get there. A little by accident, we rode to Leon on the "old" highway. Potholed asphalt, which gave way intermittently to rough dirt, with the occasional cow. It was 40 kms of great fun. Jayne disliked it heartily.

Asphalt randomly turns to dirt...

... dirt back to potholed asphalt

Leon is a popular tourist stop, and Volcano boarding is certainly one of the main draws. There are several tour operators who provide the lunacy, but we went with Bigfoot hostel. Bigfoot was the first to do volcano boarding, so naturally they must be the best. They are.
The first crazy person to try volcano boarding was an Australian (shockingly) and he started with a sand board. It disintegrated. The car door and ride down in a mini fridge also didn't go so well. Eventually he came up with this:

A board just like this one.

Fast forward years later and tourists try to keep their skin as they fly down the volcano on these boards for 30$ a pop.
The experience is more than just a ride down the volcano though. First it's a ride in the back of a big truck down a dirt road.

Jayne and Kelly waiting to duck more branches.

The branches from passing trees load on the truck roll cage, then catapult into the face of whoever ducks last. I'm one baaaaad ducker. You get to know other folks at the hostel on the bumpy ride, making new friends as backups in case your current friends don't make it on the ride down.
Once we arrive in the park, those who weren't beheaded on the truck ride are given boards and an orange goodie bag to carry up the Volcano.

The girls practice riding style. orange bags not pictured.

Then we start the hike.

The goats start marching, orange bags in hand!

Happiness is not blowing off the Volcano on the way up.

The board acts like a kite when it's windy...


Once up top, Rosco our fearless leader gave us some pointers about the volcano itself. Cerro Negro is the youngest volcano in the Americas, it's currently active, and produces lots of heat. Dig down just an inch, and the ground is almost too hot to touch.

It's hot, damn hot, real hot!

Stand there too long, and your clothes might just burn off.

Where'd they go?

So hot right now

Then it was time to get serious and open our orange goodie bags. Inside was a pair of lightly scratched goggles and an orange canvas prison jump-suit.

Pick a bag any bag

Ready to go back to jail.

Everyone paid attention closely as Rosco gave us a lesson on how to go down safely. "Remember, dig in your heels if you need to slow down." He also made a few comments on how to make the board go as fast as possible. "Lean back, keep your feet up, keep it straight." I listened more intently to that part.

Hold onto the handle to avoid losing the skin from your palms on the rocks.

After his demonstration, Rosco RUNS DOWN THE VOLCANO (run clocked at 43km/h), and leaves us to slide on his signals. This day was amazing. Away we go!

Ready? set!...




Jayne and Kelly reach the bottom, at 32km/h and 29km/h respectively.

One thing about "digging in your heels to slow down" is that it's only realistic if you keep those heels dug in from the start. Once you drop over the rise and you're flying down the 41 degree slope with more rough volcanic rocks flying in your face with every touch of your foot... you decide to stop putting your feet down. Then you go faster. And faster. It was insanity. And it was incredible. And I thought I might die. And it was incredible.
I hit 90km/h. The record was 91. Soooo close. The record fell anyways, as the second last run of the day broke it at 93km/h! Video above. Nice work Matt!

New record holder!

Feeling so alive right now!

Kelly and Jayne, also still alive

If you are in Nicaragua, I highly recommend a stop in at the Bigfoot hostel. It's cheap (6$), and they run an amazing trip to slide down the Cerro Negro volcano. You might die, but you'll have had a blast on your way out. Oh, and ride to Leon on the old "highway". I recommend that too.

Happy pile of convicts about to throw themselves down a hill.

Happy pile of convicts about to throw themselves down an active volcano.

Post Leon, we rode to the coast to meet Max. Our parents had met Max months earlier while on a cruise. They left some wires with Max that I wanted to re-wire jugs.

Thanks for holding those wires for months Max!

Max has stories. Amazing stories from his time being a sailboat captain doing the Panama-Colombia run. We sat and listened to his stories while sitting on the beach. He gave us good tips for the San Blas Islands. We're really looking forward to them now. We also met a British couple on a Honda Transalp, Oliver and Heather. We had to leave, but they're heading our way, so I'm sure we'll cross paths again.
From the coast we head right back to Managua, as Kellys flight left first thing in the morning. Nothing is that far away though. Many folks had warned us not to pass on a solid line in Nicaragua. When you're stuck behind slow trucks, you recognize that you are ignoring that advice, scan down the road and pass anyways.

Best to also scan the road BEHIND you too.

Turns out the police had been following us since we had passed them on the side of the road. They pulled Jayne over, and she radioed for me to come back. They were very upset with me, yet laughing with Jayne. Smile with Jayne, turn his head and YELL at me. My reckless passing on a solid line was "dangerous and crazy". I had hurt his feelings. So he hurt mine back: "you should ride more like your sister!".

"But officer, she rides so sloooooooow" was not a good defense.

Fortunately perfect-riding Jayne was able to convince him not to give us a ticket. Kelly sneakily took photo's of the ordeal after being explicitly told not to by the officers. We're going to miss Kelly!
In Managua we were again warmly welcomed by Reyna into her home. Muchas gracias un otro vez Reyna!! Great to have such a nice "home" base.
Kelly and I were up before sunrise to head to the airport. Very sad to see her go. She's hoping to rejoin me in August/September for a longer stint. Until then, I'll just laugh at defecation paintings with Jayne.

Micro-Kelly looks on as Real-sized Kelly heads for security.

To end on a happier note: These kinds of Paintings are all over the place in Nicaragua!
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