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Old 05-17-2011, 12:29 PM   #76
pilot815
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Thanks for those pics of Honduras! I was in El Corpus a few years ago chasing down documents once. I lived in Choluteca for a year or so. Its actually a rather large city. I think its the 5th largest Honduran city. Its very far behind and undeveloped.

A friend of mine was good friends with the manager of a gold mine in that region, might be the one you visited. Once invited us to dinner when the owner was visiting from Las Vegas of all places.
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Old 05-18-2011, 06:46 AM   #77
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You both handled yourself great with the police issue, glad it worked out ok!

Just part of the adventure I suppose, can't wait to read more!
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Old 05-18-2011, 09:47 PM   #78
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Fantastic ride report. Please keep the photos and stories rolling out to us!
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Old 05-19-2011, 11:41 AM   #79
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Great ride report. Memories made for a lifetime.
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Old 05-19-2011, 10:47 PM   #80
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awesome story...I feel like we've been friends forever...
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Old 05-20-2011, 09:40 AM   #81
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1/28/11 Managua, Leon (Nicaragua)

Leon and Managua are two of the most important cities in Nicaragua, so I was somewhat surprised when the pristine highway quickly desolved into a huge mess of horrendous potholes and sections of dirt road. I thought for sure we had made a wrong turn.

So we asked this boy if this was the road to Managua:

And he confirmed it, as did the next person we asked. I had a lot of fun weaving through the maze of holes, but I think the bike did not enjoy it quite so much.

We arrived at Managua looking for cheap lodging. Apparently Managua doesn't really have a "centro", like most other cities, so we just rode around randomly. We found a few places going for a steep $20+, so we kept looking. One man said he knew of an area of town with cheap lodging, but it was so dangerous he wouldn't give us directions there. He recommended we look for the "Ticcibus" area and try to find lodging in a private house there, and he gave us directions. Well, of course those directions didn't really match reality, and soon enough we were lost again. I saw a little sign for a motel down the road and we turned and checked it out. Definitely an hourly motel, but the room was clean and it had a bathroom. Best yet, he offered it for 150 cordobas ($7.50). We'll take it!
As night descended and we walked to get dinner it was clear that this was probably the dangerous area that man had warned us about. The streets were dirty, unlit and filled with all manner of people. We saw this enormous cone of lights a few blocks away. The picture of the lights is from google, because the hotel proprietor warned we take no money and no valuables to the park because it was too dangerous at night.

It also had this monument built for the pope John Paul II's visit to Nicaragua in 2002.

We left in the morning, but not before we got a few good shots of Managua. It definitely had it's crazy charm.

Lake Nicaragua apparently only a few blocks away from our hotel.

National palace.

1/29/11 Granada
As we left Managua, we were again stopped at a police checkpoint. This was the fourth time in just 100 miles. Michelle was frustrated/amused by this point, and said "you guys sure like the yellow bike, huh?". He said that it was Americans, Columbians and Mexicans that were bringing drugs into Nicaragua, that's why we were stopped. We wondered how many Americans ride bright yellow sports bikes SOUTH to Nicaragua carrying drugs, but didn't say anything.
He was going to give us a ticket for our bags. What? Yes, apparently "this is a sports bike, it's not supposed to carry luggage". Michelle argued for a while. The luggage was designed specifically for motorcycles, it wasn't dangerous. This "sports bike" is all we could afford in the US. We have to carry alot because we are traveling. Eventually he let us go.
We found a little hotel/hostel on the main strip, around $9.50 a night, best deal we found

Lots of beautiful old churches, forts, train stations, what have you. We spent two days walking around.
Old Hospital, totally burned out and eerie:

Biggest Cathedral in Central America:

View from the Hostel:

Lake Nicaragua, apparently the only freshwater lake in the world that has sharks. It is an enormous lake, with sizable waves and islands big enough for full size pueblos.

Went to a museum of chocolate and drank at least 3 or 4 cups of the free tea brewed from cocao husks and bought a chocolate bar (the artisan chocolate of central america is a little grainy and the best I've ever had).
Also the museum of Pre-Columbian art (pottery before 1550):

Bought a very nice Cigar from the Dona Elba cigar factory. I just finished watching The Sopranos before I left on the trip, how could I not?

We considered going to La Isla Omtepe, a volcano island in Lake Nicaragua, but decided it would be a little expensive to ferry the bike back and forth. As we passed it I felt a little regret that we didn't, it seemed incredibly beautiful.

Oh well, next trip. We've got more things to see coming up!
Well, that's it for Nicaragua. My favorite country of Central America so far. I can't wait to return and see the interior. Next, Costa Rica.
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Old 05-20-2011, 08:10 PM   #82
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Awesome pix, guys!

Keep them coming...and be safe on the road. =) How`s the ninjette holding up?


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Old 05-20-2011, 09:21 PM   #83
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Old 05-26-2011, 02:59 PM   #84
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2/1/11 Liberia (Costa Rica)

The Nicaragua/Costa Rica border was quite tedious. On the Nicaraguan side, you get to wait in a few lines to get yourselves and the bike checked out. Then, you get your bike fumigated. Then you get to the Costa Rica side and have to go to the bank to exchange currency, wait in 4 different lines at 3 different buildings (including one that is hidden several hundred yards away), buy insurance, make copies.
The bank rate was 490colons = $1.
It was getting a little late so we stopped at the first major town we found, Liberia. We were greeted by the unholy quartet which we would see frequently in Costa Rica. Burger King + Churches Chicken + Papa Johns + Cinnabon. All in one location.

In Liberia we searched for a hotel. There was certainly no shortage, but nothing was cheap. We eventually found one for 10,000 colons ($20usd) and took it. Once we moved all our stuff in we began the search for dinner. Keep in mind we were coming from Nicaragua, where we were eating for $1.50usd per person. We walked for blocks and blocks looking for something, anything under $4pp. We failed. Eventually ended up at the little place near the hotel, and were treated to some of the worst food on the trip. Michelle got a hamburger drowned in mayo and ketchup. I got some sort of a meat on top of a healthy portion of shredded lettuce, also drowned in mayo and ketchup. Looking at the plates being served to other tables, it appeared that every plate was some combination of mayo and ketchup. I think our bill was 6,000 colones or thereabouts, the most we had payed the whole trip.
The next morning we went to find an ATM and go grocery shopping (very expensive in Costa Rica). No matter where we went, the fast food prices were about the same as in the US. In the US fast food is a cheap alternative to real food. I have no idea how fast food places survive in the rest of Mexico/Central America, where the money you spend at McDonalds could easily buy you two or three meals of higher quality at a local joint. In Costa Rica, everything was so expensive that McDonalds made sense once again. We had to do it, at least just once.
Michelle had a USA style pancake platter, but I went for the "McPinto". I got a healthy serving of "gallo pinto" (ubiquitous Central American rice and bean mix), fried plantains, cream and two tortillas. All served on the styrafoam containers that I haven't seen for 15 years in the US.
We then visited Playa Del Coco, one of a thousand beaches that cover the Costa Rican pacific coast. We pulled up, pulled off our riding suits, went for a swim and then lounged on the beach with the elderly cruise ship tourists.

We then headed to "La Playita", a secluded little beach in Golfo Del Morales, near the Morales port. It's only a couple hundred feet long and is only used by locals. There doesn't appear to be any tourism in this area of Costa Rica. We set up our tent at the end of the beach and relaxed.

Nicaraguan cigar pairs well with Oaxacan mezcal.

Went swimming and once again Michelle got stung by something, this time much worse.

Sunset

Driftwood fire

In the morning thousands of hermit crabs were covering the low tide areas.

Next morning we leave our deserted beach for San Jose, capital of Costa Rica.

2/3/11 San Jose (Costa Rica)
In San Jose we find a little hourly hotel downtown for $20usd. Initially, we weren't thrilled with San Jose. Seemed like another sprawling metropolis, this time with just a little more money. Once we got to know her though, we became quite fond. A few things I liked:
Beautiful plazas and gardens all over downtown San Jose. Costa Rica is richer than other Central American countries. Combine the Latin American love of public plazas, a wet climate, and the resources to maintain them and you get a pleathora of stunning, lucious public areas.



You couldn't walk two blocks without find another one.
Also, pasteries. If you wake up really early on any morning and walk around San Jose the only thing open on every block is a gormet pastery shop, and they're all full of people. The pastery isn't cheap, but it is amazing!
We checked out the contemporary art museum near the hotel, probably our favorite museum of the trip so far.


At this time I noticed that my right front fork seal was leaking. Not having the tools or the parts to replace it, I tried a quick fix. I took a few glossy advertisment pamphlets they had in the lobby of the hotel, ripped them into smaller pieces, and then ran between the tube and the seal to get out any gunk. Worked like a charm and haven't had any leaking since.
We spent two nights in San Jose and then packed up and moved on. We had the option to go straight South from San Jose or head East to Limon to see the Caribbean coast. We chose the western path, through the Braulio Carrillo national park.
Braulio CVarrillo is a cloud forest. lmost immediately upon entering the park it started raining. This was the first time on the entire trip that we had needed to break out the rain gear. Two months on the road and not a serious drop of rain.
Riding through the cloud forest was incredible. Everything, every inch of ground, is covered by vibrant, lush folliage. You are going in and out of the clouds. It's cool and everything is soaking wet from the constant rain or the constant fog. Visibility is very limited. Obviously pictures will do it no justice but we took a few anyway.

Once we got out of the clouds we were soon in Limon, the large port town on the East coast. We stopped at a souvenier shop to buy some postcards and enquire about any cheap hotels in town. The cashier started dialing and soon enough we were randomly on our way to a small wildlife preserve 20km north. It was dark by this time, our directions only halfway made sense and the road was all mud.
Road through the jungle! Quite an adventure when dark and muddy.

Eventually we found it. Normally people stay there for long term volunteering, but we negotiated to just spend a night there to check it out and help out. The preserve specializes in tree sloths, but it had a whole variety of monkeys, birds and miscellaneous creatures that had been confiscated or rescued.
The next day we woke up early and pitched in. First we fed the animals and cleaned the cages. The monkeys are quite friendly.


Fun facts about sloths:
1. They only go to the bathroom about once a week. Cleaning the cages is a breeze!
2. They require a certain temperature to digest food. They can starve on a full stomach if they're too cold.
Then we took the sloths out to excersize them.


The other volunteers we met (from Germany, New Zealand, USA and Luxemborg). Count the sloths.

Wonderful experience. I highly recommend the program to anybody looking to do eco volunteering. Unfortunately I can't remember the name right now.
The bike looking dirtier than ever.

We bid farewell to our hosts and headed for the Costa Rica/Panama border.
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Old 05-27-2011, 06:06 AM   #85
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What a wonderful random experience at the wildlife preserve! Great RR so far, keep it up, and stay safe!!
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Old 05-27-2011, 10:43 AM   #86
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This report continues to be amazing. I'm really enjoying it!
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Old 05-27-2011, 11:05 AM   #87
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We crossed from Costa Rica into Panama through the small Sixoala entrance on the Caribbean coast. Tiny border crossing. Checking out of Costa Rica you have to declare whether you are coming back into Costa Rica or continuing on. We had not yet decided, but it seemed there was no penalty for falsely declaring that you were coming back, it just leaves the option open to you. So we said we were coming back. On the Panamanian side you have to declare where you are leaving Panama. We had no idea about that either, so we just chose a different Costa Rica/Panama border town. The Panamanian border officials said that you had to declare your actual exit point, but we left through Puerto Obaldia (continuing to Colombia) and nobody mentioned anything.
To cross, we had to take the bike across this crowded pedestrian/train bridge, "paved" in loose boards. We crept along behind the foot traffic, hoping the front wheel didn't slip through the boards and topple the bike.

On the other side we met briefly with a Canadian couple who were going South on KLR650s. They told us where the insurance office for Panama was (down a path, up some stairs, through a dry goods store, on a balcony). Unfortunately they were finishing just as we were getting there so we didn't get to chat.
Total fees to enter Panama were $15 for insurance and $3 per person to get the passports stamped. We had about $20 left at this point, a dollar short and no ATM near the border. Michelle convinced a the border official to take some of our leftover Mexican pesos to cover the last of the fee.
Panama!

It was getting dark-ish so we spent the night in the first big border town, Changuinola. Cheapest hotel was $16 a night. A little much. But, on the plus side, supermarket prices were almost as cheap as they are in the US. I was in heaven when I saw jars of peanut butter for under $3. PB in most Central American countries, if you can find it, is $5+. PB became a staple of my diet while in Panama.
Next night we went to Chiriqui Grande, hoping to find a beach to camp on. No beach, just the dirtiest little port town ever. Hotel was $12 or so, nothing remarkable at all about Chiriqui Grande.
Next day we headed out to Boquete, through the Fortuna forest reserve. Lots of mountains, very cool, very green. Lovely drive. On the way we stopped and ate lunch at a river.


Indigenous were washing clothes, a few kids were taking an afternoon swim, and a couple in a Panamanian van stopped to take a swim as well. Very pleasant.
Fortuna forest reserve

An hour later the couple we saw at the river was having some trouble with their van on the side of the road, so we stopped and offered to help. They got it started again, and offered to take us to Boquete through the back way. Sure! Little did I realize that this old diesel Toyota van was about to embarass me. The ninja 250 isn't a quick bike, but it does fancy itself to be a sportsbike, and it should be able to keep up with an old van in the curvy stuff. No. I was pushing myself to the limit trying to keep up with the ridiculous van. Daredevil passes, swinging through the curves, full throttle. Obviously this wasn't his first time going down these roads. Eventually we made it to Boquete, where we learned that he had gone a good hour out of his way to guide us. We had coffee in one of many little coffee shops that cover this area.
The van:

Panamanian coffee from this area is amazing. He bought me and Michelle's coffee despite our protests.

2/8/11 Boquete
My uncle went to highschool with a woman who has now retired to Panama. My uncle told her about our trip and we were invited to stay for a few days with her and her husband. Kathy and Fred.

They live in Los Molines, a very nice Neighborhood of retirees from all over the continent.
View from the house:

Our time in Boquete was like a vacation from the vacation. Fred and Kathy's house is very much like a nice house you would find in America. After living for months out of tiny hotel rooms and tents, their spacious house was quite refreshing. The first night we arrived they had KFC ready for us, which I don't ever eat while I'm in the US, but it was a delicious change after months of beans and plantains. The next night, good old fashioned American pot roast. It was like a little slice of America. Plus, Fred is a car guy, and in the garage is his beautiful restored Ford Model A pickup.

We stayed three nights, eating delicious food, drinking delicious coffee. Evenings would be spent on the cool patio smoking cigars over cold beer.
Boquete is an affluent area where many people retire. Very cool, very clean, lots of little coffee shops and cafes. The roads are mostly new and in good shape. Lots of things to do. We would just take the bike out on little adventures each day.
First day, hot springs. Half an hour away, down a little dirt road, across a bridge and a short hike later, there is a hot springs. The owner charges $2 per person.
Hiking:

Another monkey gets hold of Michelle:

There are 4 different little pools, each one with a different temperature. We tried them all. Some are warm, some are extemely hot.

Following it up with a dip in the cold, clean river water:

Later that day, "Mi Jardin es Su Jardin", a house outside of Boquete surrounded by a huge garden. Ponds, thousands of koi fish, waterfalls, flowers. The house is privately owned, but the owner opens the gates every day, free to the public, so they may wander around the garden.


As we left the garden it began to rain, and soon it was a boots-full-of-water downpour. We didn't have the raingear with us since it was beautiful weather when we left in the morning.
Next day we ride to Volcan, a little town at the base of the Volocano that overlooked the whole area. The road is brand new, twisty and enjoyable.


Ate lunch and ice-cream in Volcan, then headed to David to get the bike fixed. The metal bracket that holds the mirrors, headlight and gauges had broken due to the rough roads of Mexico and Central America. First real non-wear-item problem of the trip. The broken bracket didn't inhibit the usability of the bike, but everything in front of the triple tree would shake wildly when going over rough ground.
We found a motorcycle shop selling chinese harleys, who directed us to the welder across the street. While we were waiting we met Ryan, (halfthrottle on advrider/youtube/horizonsunlimited), an American motorcyclist who had married a Panamanian and was now living here. He entertained us with his stories of his travels in Central America and we made plans to meet for lunch the next day.
Here is the "fixed" bracket (it would break again due to shitty welding before we got out of Panama).

Our time had come to an end in Boquete. What a relaxing few days. Thank you so much to Fred and Kathy for welcoming us into your home. It was a great time.
Our time with Americans was not yet over. First we went and met Ryan and his Panamanian wife for lunch at a casino. I got a real hamburger, the first since Texas. Ryan has worked, ridden and backpacked through Central America, and he is full of hilarious and amazing stories. He also told us about the beauracratic hell he was going through, trying to legally ride his foreign KLR650 that he bought six months ago and still cannot ride. We would be experiencing a taste of this in the days to come... Ryan is very funny and you should check out his youtube videos: YouTube - halfthrottle's Channel
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Old 05-27-2011, 11:37 AM   #88
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nice

Great rr!

Funny you ran into that turtle reserve - the company I used to work for set that up with USAID.

Thanks for sharing - sounds like quite an adventure.
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Old 05-27-2011, 12:18 PM   #89
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Looks like one heck of a adventure. I am impressed that you are doing it on the Ninja. What type of fuel millage are you actually getting riding two up loaded with gear ?

Thanks for sharing your ride and looking forward to more to come :)
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Old 05-27-2011, 12:24 PM   #90
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Beautiful!

What gorgeous pictures of the places you have been and the wonderful people you have met. Keep it coming. Stay safe and enjoy! (and don't forget to keep taking us along with you!)
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