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Old 05-13-2011, 12:23 AM   #61
Gage
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So how is the ninja 250 for the job? Enjoying it? Anything you would do differently to set up for an adventure?

thanks!
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Old 05-13-2011, 06:32 AM   #62
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Originally Posted by Gage View Post
So how is the ninja 250 for the job? Enjoying it? Anything you would do differently to set up for an adventure?

thanks!
Short answer: the bike is wonderful. Reliability wise, it's outstanding. Ability/performance wise, the only problems are the modifications done to the bike after it left the factory.
Comfort wise, surprisingly good. And I'm a big guy.

If I were to do the trip again I would figure out some way to keep the centerstand from hitting the chain, stiffen the suspension (ex500 rear shock, different fork oil), and maaaaaybe lower the gearing if I was doing more dirt roads.

I'll do a detailed breakdown of how the bike was at the end.
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Old 05-13-2011, 08:05 AM   #63
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Just out of curiosity, did you guys consider the bike's GVWR when planning your trip, or did you just pack and go?
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Old 05-13-2011, 08:32 AM   #64
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Thanks for writing this up!

I'm really enjoying your adventure! I spent a bit over a year tromping through the same areas in the mid 90's and your stories and photos bring back many fond memories. It seems that the Tapachula border crossing hasn't changed. I think it's one of the nastiest border towns I've ever been in.

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Old 05-13-2011, 09:47 AM   #65
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Originally Posted by Operator7G View Post
Just out of curiosity, did you guys consider the bike's GVWR when planning your trip, or did you just pack and go?
Payload limit is 345 pounds or so on the ninja. I'm 200, Michelle is 130, and who knows how much our stuff weighs. I'm guessing we're pushing 400lbs.

So yes, I considered it. Then disregarded it.
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Old 05-13-2011, 11:13 AM   #66
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What an awesome adventure

I put 66,000 miles on the Ninja 250s big brother, an 89 EX500. That was one of my favorite bikes. You don't need 1000ccs or more to go touring.

I'm looking forward to the rest of your report. Keep enjoying your trip. I'm sure you will remember it the rest of your life.
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Old 05-13-2011, 05:18 PM   #67
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So yes, I considered it. Then disregarded it.
Ah, the best line of practical people. I love it!
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Old 05-13-2011, 05:33 PM   #68
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I'm so enjoying this RR! Wish I had the guts to do the same. Keep it coming!
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Old 05-14-2011, 04:41 AM   #69
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Great Read....

Thank you sir for posting your RR.



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Old 05-15-2011, 10:02 AM   #70
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1/24/11 Choluteca, Honduras

The border to Honduras was a little frustrating. We had to make about 15 copies of various documents, and we had to pay about $40 in fees to enter. The women working at the office were young and not helpful. First they accepted our US dollars, then when we pointed out a math error (in their favor, of course) and insisted on getting a receipt for our payment, they decided they were no longer going to accept dollars and insisted we get Lempiras instead. Time consuming and frustrating (well, for Michelle anyway, she is fluent so she deals with the borders), but we made it through. It's only a few hours from the border of El Salvador to the border of Nicaragua, but we decided to at least spend a day or two in Honduras since we payed so much. Honduras may have much to offer, but since we were on the wrong coast the bulk of Honduras will have to wait for our East coast trip.

Soon after the border we came across an 18 wheeler which had somehow lost control in the middle of the road and was completely blocking the two lanes. No shoulders, so cars were offroading around. Ninja is turning into quite the dirtbike. Michelle got hit with a low hanging treebranch right after taking this shot, so enjoy it.


We headed to the first major city we could find (I was starving, as usual), Choluteca, which at first appeared to just be an unremarkable dusty, small town. We were surprised to be able to find an ATM! However, soon enough we found the historical center of town, and an affordable hotel (Hotel Central, L$200). I actually quite enjoyed Choluteca.
Town cathedral at night:

A Honduran Taco:

I was so hungry I ate two plates.


The next day the guy at the front desk told about Corpus, a little pueblo near there, accessible only by dirt road. We were told it had gold mines and very cool architecture. Very safe and friendly. We ventured out to find this city. About 15 miles of dirt road between us and the pueblo. Another river crossing!

When we ended up behind trucks or buses, the dust was so thick in the air that you couldn't see anything. Here is a picture of us approaching a dust cloud.


We found the little town and went to the central cathedral. We enquired about the gold mine, and the locals directed us to the main town office, where the town mayor was. He seemed somewhat surprised we were looking to see the mine, but he called up a guide to take us to there and in a few minutes we were being escorted. It was about a mile away, and the views were amazing.

When we got to the mine, we had to wait another hour for the head honchos at the mine to decide what to do with us. I imagine this is the first time any tourists have shown up to see the mine. I was a little skeptical, but Michelle had her charm about her and soon enough we were being escorted in with vests and hardhats under the pretenses that I was a geology student from University of TX (Sociology is close enough, right?).

Entering the mine with Fuast and the company lawyer:

Reflective vests make photography difficult!

It reminded me of the muddy caves of Texas.


We were walked through the whole process, from extraction, to filtering, to the labratory where they pull out the precious metals.
Filtering tanks:

This is what a good rock looks like!

Our labratory tech guide:


Now we know how gold is extracted!


We walked back to the town center and enjoyed fried chicken (all we could find) and icecream in the plaza.

You can't tell in this picture, but these stone streets were terrible for the bike! Big dips and big stones jutting out randomly. Probably the worst surface for the bike yet.

The Cathedral and our guide, Don Tino, who has lived in Corpus all his life.


We came back to Choluteca. That night an increasingly large number of ants were invading our room (and bed), so we switched to a different room, with slightly fewer ants. All part of the experience.

My right rear turn signal stopped working. Turns out the bigger tire was rubbing my re-wiring job (had to relocate turns for bigger bags) on the right side. I pulled out my electrical fix kit and whipped up new wiring for the turns, and moved them up so they wouldn't get rubbed. At first I was concerned my bike-fixing kit was overkill, but the last 2000 miles have shown that is not the case.

Next day we sent postcards and headed to Nicaragua, a short 45km´s away.
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Old 05-16-2011, 08:26 AM   #71
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1/26/11 Leon, Nicaragua

The border between Honduras and Nicaragua was easy enough. Insurance was mandatory, $12us for a month. Also had to pay $30US or so for various permits. Not the cheapest, but it was relatively quick. Stopped once by a police checkpoint and were sent on our way after showing our insurance document.

Nicaragua!


Shortly after entering Nicaragua we began to see some of the many volcanos that make Western Nicaragua famous.


We heard Leon was nice, and it was close to the border, so we followed the signs and were soon in Leon. Very beautiful city. Definitely was a big backpacker destination. Hostels were everywhere. We first stayed in "Hostel Colibri", which was cheap, but not the cheapest at $15. They advertised "free continental breakfast" so we figured those savings would make up the difference. I had very low expectations, but it turns out "continental breakfast" in Nicaragua means "toast". I generally have a huge appetite, so this would not do! Free coffee was nice though.

The next night we switched to Hostel Bigfoot, a very popular and lively hostel, with dorms for $6 and private rooms for $13. I got a pretty heavy hippy vibe, probably due to the enormous mural on our wall...

The rest of the place was similarly decorated. The "green tours" building across the street let me store the bike in their garage for $1usd the first night (the next night I had "free parking" at the police station, story later).

Did I mention Leon is a good looking city? Massive and beautiful Cathedrals around every corner.


The Leon people love their lion statues. They are everywhere.


I normally take a road trip to Colorado to snowboard in the winter, but this year I had to skip out due to my Southern adventure. To compensate, we went "Volcano Boarding" down the Cerro Negro volcano. This is a volcano that errupts about every 8 years, and the surface is entirely made up of loose volcanic gravel. A bunch of companies in Leon offer volcano boarding, the most affordable and popular being the program run out of the bigfoot hostel ($28pp). They only do the type of boarding where you sit though, and I wanted to do the standing, so we went with a smaller company. $30 per person! Ouch!
The road to the park:

The Volcano, quite an incredible view!

Very dangerous Sulfiric gas pouring out of the side of the mountain.

The ground is very hot, our guide said you could cook an egg in 5 minutes if you buried it.

View from the top:

Goofy suits you are given for protection.

Michelle on her way down.

Some people have reached up to 87kmph going down on the sitting boards. I don't think Michelle quite hit that mark! She was having a little trouble. I had a little trouble myself, mostly with the sandboard bindings not quite slipping off my enormous boots.

We both made it down alot dirtier than we started, and we had some incredible views to remember. The high price did turn me off of the whole "pre-packaged" tourist trips that are all over the backpacker destinations of Central America. If we had a bigger budget or less time it might be more appealing, but we've got time to burn and no money to spare, and the best memories of the trip so far have been free and unplanned.

One thing I definitely enjoyed was the opportunity to talk to our native Nicaraguan guide about the food of Nicaragua. He gave us many recommendations for typical foods of Nicaragua, and when/where we could find them. I love food, and perhaps my favorite part of travelling is all the new flavors. Nicaraguan cuisine is the best I've had in Central America. Heavy on yucca (sort of like potato) and even heavier on plantains than the the other countries. Also cheapest.

Favorites of Nicaragua:
Vigoron - Big pieces of fried pork skin (chicarrones) over a bed of yucca and cabbage salad. 20 cordobas ($.95usd) per plate in the market, also found in the street sometimes. Very cheap and hearty.

Moronga - 20 cordoba. The strangest one. I found it amazing, many people (even Nicaraguans) do not. A patty of fried pig blood and rice. Agains served over Yucca and salad. Hearty

(not my photo)

Carne Bao - 35-50 cordoba. Found only on Saturdays in the market. Ask around for it, we found it at a produce stand in a huge basket covered in banana leaves. This keeps it hot I guess. Big delicious pieces of beef cooked together with Yucca and topped with salad. Perhaps the tastiest meal of the trip.


"Enchiladas" - 5 cordoba each. No similarity to the Enchiladas of Mexico. A simple tortilla filled with rice and heavily fried, covered with cabbage salad. We found this incredibly cheap dish in the dirtiest part of the Granada market.

Fritanga - 30 cordoba. We found this often on the street at random times. A plastic bag is lined with plantain leaves, then filled with fried plantain chips, fried soft plantains (maduro), cabbage salad and grilled chicken:



On the second day of our Leon experience, we made the short 20 minute ride to the beach of Las Penitas. Very pretty, completely deserted. Incredibly strong waves, definitely explains all the surfers staying at the hostel.

We swam, drank a coke a little restaraunt on the beach, and headed back feeling great.

We were heading back at a reasonably slow speed (we weren't in full motorcycle gear so I was taking it easy) and we were "randomly" stopped at a police checkpoint to check our documents. The officer wasn't being clear with his hand motions, so I didn't realize he wanted me to stop at first. I had to brake pretty hard to stop without going too far past him. He asked for our documents, which we had foolishly left back at the hotel. All we had was the dummy wallet with my expired driver's license.

Uh oh! He motioned for me to pull off the road. He said he was going to have to give us a ticket for 500 cordobas ($25usd) for not carrying our insurance and "cirrculation document" (which we never actually got, we got something different at the border). Michelle tried to argue a bit, that it was an innocent mistake and we had all our paperwork at the hostel and that we couldn't have entered the country without those documents, ect...

It was clear he wasn't going to budge. I knew we were in the wrong, and I was prepared to pay the ticket through the proper channels. He didn't just want to give us a ticket though, he was going to impound the motorcycle. He demanded I give him the keys. Michelle said we weren't comfortable letting strangers ride the motorcycle. He said the bank was closing soon, and that we could give him the C$500 cordobas and he would go pay it for us right now. Uh... yea right. He was fishing for a bribe and we weren't biting. He claimed the fine would be double if we didn't pay today, and that the motorcycle would be impounded until Monday (it was Friday), first at the Las Penitas police station and then it would be moved to the Leon station. He was also claiming we were speeding dangerously. His partner was generally silent or sympathetic to our cases, he didn't seem comfortable with the other officer's handling of the situation.

We had 0 confidence in the situation, and there was no way we were giving him the keys to the motorcycle. He tried to make me sign a document turning the motorcycle over to him, and I refused. He whipped out his cellphone and "made a call" to the truck that was coming to pick up the motorcycle to take it to the police station. We locked the bike with the ignition lock and the rear wheel with the bike lock and quickly hitched a ride back to Leon to pick up the documents.

Our ride was a very friendly guy named Rafael. He had studied in the USA and come back to Nicaragua. His family owns some businesses in Leon and he had a cattle ranch out near the coast. He was going to pick up some money in town, then he was returning to his ranch, so he could give us a ride back too! What luck!

He dropped us off at our Hostel. We got the documents and 25 minutes later he was back, going out of his way to help us out. Really incredible friendliness.

Michelle was definitely agitated, she was scared for the bike. I was more upbeat, it was a memory in the making! During the ride I was still imagining the scene of a few disgrunted cops manually loading my immobilized bike into the back of a pickup. The damage could be severe. I was mostly hoping my bike would be there and the cops would be gone. Michelle and I could ride back to Leon and laugh about the whole situation over dinner and drinks.

We arrived back at the checkpoint. The cops were still there, waiting for us. Thankfully, the motorcycle was there too, to my great relief.

"Good luck! If I see you walking back to Leon again I'll give you a ride!"

We produced the documents, hoping that would satisfy them that indeed the motorcycle was legally in the country and legally ours. Unfortunately, but not unpredictably, this did not satisfy the angry cop, and now he had our documents which we really did need. Since we wouldn't let him take the bike himself, we demanded we follow him back to Las Penitas to impound the bike for the night. We didn't have a choice this time, so we obliged.

The Las Penitas police station is a little cinderblock building with a tin roof and one typewriter. I sat in a plastic chair at the desk while a rooster stared at me and Michelle told her story to the police chief. He was not sympathetic, and said we would have to leave the motorcycle there overnight and that an investigator would come in the morning.
Investigate what you ask? He claimed he had complaints of a "yellow motorcycle speeding dangerously, almost killed a kid". What!? I wasn't speeding and there were no kids on the road back to Leon! Since this was "the only yellow motorcycle he knew of" the bike was under investigation. Furthermore, my ID looked fishy with it's corner cut (he was right on that count, expired license).

What a night! We caught a bus back to Leon, my first taste of the backpacker experience. Aside from the fact that my 6'5¨ legs do not even remotely fit in this seats, it was a fun time. The bus was blaring a very loud mix of beatles and disco while we bucked and rattled down the night highway in a crowded yellow schoolbus. At least I didn't have to pay for parking that night!

The next morning we were 25 minutes late to our 9:30am appointment with the inspector, which was OK because neither the inspector nor the chief had shown up either. The chief seemed in better spirits that day, and actually listened to Michelle's story, understanding why we weren't cooperating with his officer. He said he would have been mad too, and that the offending officer would be punished. Soon the bike release paperwork was underway on the old typewriter. We never recieved any tickets and never paid any money. Nothing more was said on the expired license or the alleged reckless driving.

He said that the Nicaraguan police force is the smallest police force in the world, per capita, and that he is very proud of how well they operate given their very meager size and budget. Most Nicaraguan police we spoke with have a similar pride, though to be honest we have had more problems here than with the rest of the continent combined. Perhaps they are just overzealous.

We now had our bike, the stuff was packed up and ready to go at the hostel, and we were anxious to see more of Nicaragua. We headed out to Managua, the Nicaraguan Capital. We planned to just stop through and sleep in Grandada, which was highly recommended.
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Old 05-16-2011, 03:36 PM   #72
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You guys are awesome, keep it up.
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Old 05-17-2011, 01:32 AM   #73
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tell us more!

Nice RR...looking forward to the rest of the saga.

Marjorie
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Old 05-17-2011, 05:54 AM   #74
Free Radical
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Really enjoying this, guys. Keep it up!

Y a proposito, La Michelle es una belleza!

OK, there. I said it. Carry on, please.
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Old 05-17-2011, 11:43 AM   #75
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Awesome RR. Gives me hope for my little Ninjette.
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