Facts and Figures
May 2nd - May 16th 2011
Costa Rica and Nicaragua
Start Mileage - 38,757
Miles - 57
Almirante (Panama(Hostal Colon) - Puerto Viejo (Costa Rica(Crocodile Camping)
Another short day today, we are heading for Puerto Viejo, a nice seaside town so we have heard. While we are packing the bike we got talking to a local woman and her kids, all very pleasant to start but then the request for money came, when we refused she got all anti and wandered off muttering and putting curses on us!! Seems to be a lot more spongers here.
The road from Almirante to the border at Sixaola varied in condition, starting off with good tarmac but soon deteriorated into good and bad ripio. We arrived at Sixaola around lunchtime. Following the nice new road we thought took us over the river, we came to an abrupt stop Ö no more road, just a large drop off into the river below, they havenít built the bridge yet! Turn around and we are directed by some locals up a crappy dirt track to the border post. First stop immigration, US$3 each for the exit stamp, guess thatís to pay for the new bridge. Customs wasn't so easy, when we entered Panama, for some reason and without asking us they had put our exit point as Paso Canoas .. on the other coast of Panama. Customs are refusing to let us out of Panama. After a lot of discussion they eventually gave in 30 minutes later and let us through, no asking for money either which we thought was going to be the only way out apart from backtracking to Paso Canoas.
The crossing over the river into Costa Rica was a rickety old wooden railway bridge with 3 sections to the deck. The middle section would have been the easiest to ride over as the planks were crossways to the bike but the cop at the barrier said no so I had to ride up the side where the planks were going with the direction of travel. Not an easy task to get across, the gaps between the planks in a lot of places were big enough for the front wheel to drop into and get stuck, there was also wire meshing along the side which was catching on the panniers and forcing me out towards the railway line. On top of everything else there were pedestrians to contend with.
Safely across we are stamped into Costa Rica by immigration, customs again were the problem. We had to get photocopies of everything including every page of my passport, even the empty ones, and no photocopier in their office. Lorraine trudged off in search of the kiosko that did the copying, 20 minutes later she is back. The customs guy wonít accept my ďworld wideĒ insurance, it is law that any foreign vehicles entering CR have to buy local insurance, another US$15 wasted. Two hours later and we are cleared into CR, I need a coffee. Watches back an hour.
Arrived at Puerto Viejo around 17:00, not a bad looking place but another surfer dude town. Lots of bars and restaurants and white people. We found a camp site that allegedly had all the requirements although it turned out they didn't. the hot water didn't work and the wi-fi was only available in the restaurant next door, if you buy something, and they shut it off at 23:00. Weíre also starting to notice the difference in the cost of things, getting a lot more expensive. When we first pulled up at Crocodile Camping they had said that for US$12 we could put the tent up on the beach, an open area with people wandering about, wouldn't have felt safe leaving stuff there, they eventually allowed us to put the tent up next to one of the huts inside the fence.
Had some visitors through the night, lots of land crabs using the tent as a short cut!
Purto Viejo (Crocodile Camping)
Lazy day around town. Found another campsite that looks much better and cheaper, not worth moving though as weíre heading out tomorrow.
More crab visitors tonight.
Start Mileage - 38,814
Miles - 175
Puerto Viejo (Crocodile Camping) - Cartago (Los Cuadros)
Still no hot water and the free breakfast they have advertised was only for the Easter weekend, take the sign down then!
Taking the tent down we could see why we had so many crabs in the tent, we were parked over a couple of holes that must be their nests.
Nice and cool ride along the shore today.
Stopped and chatted to another biker going South, he told us there was a Boy Scout campsite near where we were heading at San Jose though we couldn't find it when we got there. The GPS had a campsite listed nearby so we headed for that, turned out to be a sports complex and they didn't allow camping. The woman there made a few phone calls and found the Scouts camp site, but it is closed and only used for the Scouts and church groups, no public camping. Back into town to check out a few hotels that were on the GPS Ö 1st was non existent, 2nd charged by the hour and the third was a tour operator!! Not having a lot of fun now, itís getting late, the traffic is a nightmare and any semi decent hotel we come across is charging Western prices. We decide to head on to Cartago. The first grotty hotel we checked was US$75, looking like we will be staying in a MacDonalds car park. We eventually found a hotel for US$20, we weren't expecting to be paying these prices just yet.
Bad day today, the cost of things is hard to get used too after South America, everywhere so far has been very American, not what we were expecting and all the roads are tarmac. Definitely not enjoying Central America so far.
Start Mileage 38,989
Miles - 116
Cartago (Los Cuadros) - Santa Elena (Hostel Camino Verde)
05/05/2011 - We found a place on the internet in Santa Elena that has cheap camping, we will park ourselves up there for a few days and try to sort ourselves out, carry on with the trip or arrange shipping back home. We have had a few ďbad daysĒ that I haven't written about here and it is hard to find a reason to keep on going.
A drizzly start to the day. We decided to just get onto the Pan American and get to Santa Elena as quick as we could. We got to the turn off for Santa Elena, this stretch of road was really bad so we were told by a Swiss couple in a 4x4 that we met in Panama Passage. For us it wasnít, I think they may struggle once they get to South America! The road was narrow in places, twisty, steep but it was a good ripio/dirt road .. Iíve missed that, tarmac gets boring. The only problem we had was the wind which caught me off guard near the top of the mountain and took the front wheel out nearly pushing us over the side .. I donít miss that!!
We found the hostel that had camping but there was no parking and the owner wouldn't let us camp anyway because there was supposed to be a storm coming in, we could have a room for US$27 though. No other camping in town and it was getting a bit cold and wet so Lorraine did the tour to find somewhere else. We got a place that did us a deal for US$15.
Had an email from Stephane Ö he, Juan and Jason are not too far ahead of us on Ometepe Island in Nicaragua, we might catch them up.
Had a good pizza for dinner.
Feeling a little bit better about things today.
06/05/2011 - Not a lot to do, it is rainy and windy out so that takes care of the hiking around the volcano! We walked around the town last night, only took about 10 minutes, hotels and tour operators abound again.
Start Mileage - 39,105
Miles - 142
Santa Elena (Hostel Camino Verde) - Moyagalpa, Isla Ometepe (Nicaragua(Hospedaje Soma)
07/05/2011 - Hopefully if all goes to plan today we will meet up with Stephane et al again at Ometepe.
We have two ways we can get off the mountain, back the way we came or out the other side of the village, which might be the bad road the Swiss people told us about. We asked the hostel owner about the 2nd option, he says the road is not too bad maybe a bit worse than the one we came in on but only 19KMís and we would be back on the Pan Am. We decided to take the 2nd option. The road was in good condition, a few loose rocky patches but nothing to worry about. 25KMís into the ride and we havenít got to the Pan Am yet, I donít remember missing a turn! We stopped and asked a local if we were on the right road, yes we are, another 25KMís and we will be on the tarmac, we must have missed a turn somewhere. It was a good ride and it didnít cost us much extra time.
Back on the black top we got the speed up and reached the border around 13:00, I hope the 8KMís of stationary Artics that we have just passed is not an indication of the wait ahead!!! Talking to a truck driver while we are getting the paperwork sorted he told us that they are usually held up for at least two days at this border and that the queue of trucks we just passed is small compared to what it is normally like!!!!!
Paperwork sorted and we can leave CR but first we have some Costa Rican Colon to change. Weíve been getting hassled by money changers since we pulled up but Lorraine decided to go with the first one that approached us because he left us alone after we told him we werenít ready to change money yet. Money changed we leave CR and hit the Nicaraguan border, 1st stop US$3 to get the wheels disinfected then we can move on to immigration, police and customs. While Lorraine was off getting the passports stamped I got talking to an American couple, Brian and Deyanira. Deyanira is from Mexico so we got some contacts from her to stay with her family and friends when we get there. While we were talking another group of bikes pulled in, mostly Brit registered, talking to a few of them we found out they are part of a bigger group travelling with Nick Sanders (holder of the world record for fastest circumnavigation of the world on a bike). They are riding from Ushuaia to Alaska and have been on the road now for 5 and a half weeks!!!! Itís taken us nearly a year to get here from Ushuaia, they couldn't have seen anything along the way, not our idea of a fun trip.
Lorraine comes back and says that I have to get the bike stamped into Nicaragua because it is in my name, the first three stamps were easy to get, the fourth required stamp I had to get from a customs guy who didn't have an office. I ask around but no one seems to be able to or want to help me. I spot Deyanira walking across the car park and ask her if she has all her stamps and where to get the last one. We find the guy for the last stamp, in civvies and in his office, which is wherever he can hide.
Checking the money we changed at the CR exit we realise that we have been bumped to the tune of about £50 .. Not very happy again.
Paperwork all in order we get back on the road around 16:00 with 40 or 50 KMís to go to San Jorge before the last ferry departs. We got to the ferry in plenty of time, bought our tickets for the hour and a half crossing then had a beer while we waited for the boat and fumed about being ripped off at the border. 30 minutes later we were told the boat was coming in and to go on to the jetty, I parked up and waited for the boat to discharge and for them to load a truck before they called me on, key in, ignition on, press the starter and Ö nothing, dammit, a no start problem again. A couple more tries and I was about to start pushing, one last try and it finally fired, hope it starts the other side. By the time we got to the island it was pitch black, luckily the bike started on the first press of the button. We found Hospedaje Soma easily enough, just a couple of minutes off the ferry, and were greeted by some familiar faces at the gate. By the time we had had a few beers and caught up with everyone it was too late to put up the tent, Skinny (because he isnít), the owner of Soma said we could have the last bed in the dorm and a bit of floor space for a sleeping mat for the same price as camping, quick unload of the bike and back to the beers.
Steph and Juan had been here for a day or two when Steph was out on his bike and a crazy Gringo jumped into the road in front of him, it was Jason. Jason was stuck here because he blew his bikes engine in Rivas and is waiting for parts to be shipped from Canada.
08/05/2011 - Weíre going for† a run around the island today. Maria and Su Yung, two American girls staying here, asked if they could come along as well. Not a problem but then Juan says he is going to stay put today and Jason, who was going to hire a moto hasnít been back to the hospedaje since meeting a new friend last night.
5 people, two bikes, doesn't fit. Jason returns with his hired moto and his new friend so we are still one seat short. Steph solves the problem by going native and takes the two girls with him, why not? the locals ride three up and more. Two minutes on the road and we get tugged by the law for riding three up and no helmets, luckily Maria is fluent in Spanish and she talks us out of it.
A stop for a swim at Ojo de Agua, a naturally fed fresh water pool then on to Playa Santa Domingo for lunch at the beach. Took a while for us all to get served but weíre in no rush and itís raining now anyway. Had some nice Talapia fresh out of the lake. Jason has to have his bike back for 18:00 so we decide not to go any further and head back. Stopped off at a rodeo on the way but there wasn't much happening apart from all the Gauchoís getting hammered, they obviously hadn't had enough yet to get the show going!
Juan is still at his laptop when we get back, haven't spoken much to him this time.
09/05/2011 - Said farewell to Juan this morning, Steph and Su Yung left for the midday ferry. A really hot day today so not going to do too much.
10/05/2011 - Jay has heard that his parts are now in Customs in Managua, he will go and get them tomorrow. Another hot, not doing anything day.
11/05/2011 - Jason went for the 09:00 ferry but missed it, next one is 11:00, heís pushing it a bit to get to Managua and back for the last ferry.
Steph told us about a good kayaking trip we could do on the other side of the island so we set off to do that today. Everything was going well until we got to a really rough bit of road, very steep, very rutted and lots of rocks, we were doing fine for about 5KMís and I was managing to ignore Lorraineís complaining until she just got too annoying. I copped, turned the bike around and headed straight back to the hostel and stayed in a mood all day, she gives up too easy, we could have made it to the end Ö ***^%$#(%$#@!!! I tell her no more off road, itís going to be tarmac all the way to Alaska and then ship home!! Ö. Very quiet for the rest of the day.
Jason hadn't made it back for the last ferry.
Start Mileage - 39,321
Miles - 130
Isla Ometepe (Hospedaje Soma) - Leon (Hostel Clinica)
No sign of Jason this morning, guess his parts were there and he stayed in Managua or took them to his mechanic in Rivas.
We have been in contact with a guy from ADV Rider who has a place we could maybe stay at in Managua but we haven't heard from him for a few days so donít have any directions, will check email again at Granada. Skinny has recommended a hostel in Pozo Oro that is supposed to be a good stop off but I donít think itís far enough up the road, weíll see.
We made the 11:00 ferry, another very hot day in the saddle. E-Mail checked at Granada and still no reply from ADV, guess weíll keep going on towards Leon.
Just outside Granada we were waved down again by the cops, they said that their colleague up the road had radioed through that we had crossed a yellow line and that is an infringement and we must pay a fine Ö.. This is starting to get to be a very boring game now. Cut the engine, helmets and jackets off, hand over dodgy license, no hablar Espanol and wait for 15 minutes ignoring them. One of the cops could now, surprisingly, speak some English and repeated the alleged offense and fine to us. I asked for proof and he said they didnít need any, OK, lets go the police station to talk to your boss I said. More conflabbing with the other 3 cops then he comes back and says the infringement is a court appearance and a US$200 fine, I get my licence back after the court case Ö. Or .. I can pay an on the spot fine of US$100 and be on my way .. Hmmm, let me think, no, lets go to the police station and see your boss. More conflabbing and they must have realised they werenít going to get any cash from us so they gave my licence back and told to go and ride carefully.
Back on the road and Iím thinking back ... that bus I overtook, I crossed the yellow lines, ah well, maybe that was the only legit pull out of all we have had so far!!!!
Stopped at Leon for a coffee and decided to call it a day. Found a hostel with parking but it was just a small garage with a car already parked that was leaving at 06:00 so we would have to get up to move it .. not happening. We managed to persuade them to do a bit of shuffling and got the bike in so it wouldn't need moving.
Start Mileage - 39,451
Miles - 91
Leon (Hostal Clinica) - Matagalpa (Plaza Hotel)
13/05/2011 - Moving up into the mountains again today into the coffee growing and to escape the heat, nice run with lots of ripio and little villages with coffee beans and tomatoes drying on the road side.
Arrived in Matagalpa around 14:00, a big town so we opt for a cheap hotel rather than traipsing around looking for camping. Found a cheap hotel with parking, settled in then went out to the coffee museum in town, we had been there 20 minutes when we were forced to leave when they started fumigating the place. They could have waited another 30 minutes until they were closed. No museum so we called into a tour office to see about trips to a coffee plantation, wrong time of year, just our luck again!
14/05/2011 - We are really not sure about our plans for Central America, the Mayan ruins are what we came for but we hoped it would be more like South America than North America. Spent the day trying to come up with a plan.
Huge storm tonight.
Start Mileage - 39,542
Miles - 92
Matagalpa (Plaza Hotel) - Ocotal (Hotel Belrive)
15/05/2011 - We have made a decision Ö sort of! We will head for Honduras and plan a route to Mexico via as many ruins as we can (not on the Pan Am), and maybe drop into El Salvador, the plan will change tomorrow!
We don't want to stop at Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras so we will stop just before the border tonight and get an early start into Honduras so we can rack up enough miles in to miss the capital.
Still raining heavy this morning so we had a late start, lucky we arenít going too far.
Took the opportunity of practicing sneak tactics on the road. Tucking up close to the rear end of trucks to hide from the checkpoints, to prepare for entering Honduras, supposedly the most corrupt cops in Central America.
We got to Ocotal around 14:00, a nice, quiet, friendly town, no MacDonalds, Burger King or Wendyís.
Found a really nice and cheap hotel.
16/05/2011 - Such a nice place we decided to stay another night. Caught up with everyone back home on Skype, did an update on the website and walked into town,