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Old 07-15-2011, 10:03 PM   #46
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Old 07-16-2011, 06:24 AM   #47
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Photos from Guatemala, Part 2


Ian, who stuck by me during the Rudolf saga, now heading south, thanks Ian.


Street vendors outside of Antigua


Raul Toledo, a great help at Yamaha in trying to get Rudolf working again, Thanks Raul


Julio, always with his iphone and usually making me something fantastic to eat, a great help and great company.


Luis Hernandez, from Yamaha Canella in Guatemala City, a great and patient help in fixing Rudolf...on going.


A slightly ropey area in Guate City, here they shovel out the rubbish from the back of the chicken bus


Forced out of Antigua during the Holy Week festivities wasn't so bad, took us to this nice puebla nearby.


It was peaceful and free of gringos, and a change from the routine of waiting around in Antigua for parts and repairs


Haven’t I seen you on facebook this lady asked...not really


Our new home, forced out of the campground, then with rising prices out of the hostel we came to here, the macadamia nut farm, and a cabin in the woods.


Another broken piece of Rudolf, this time the clutch basket


Finally repaired...out for a test ride with Ian, here Ian rides to road to Palin


Our final meal, Ian and I had fun rustling up some interesting meals, our last one before I hit the road to Nebaj


Packed, at last, and ready to go....not confident in the bike gives me a lot to worry over.


First picnic spot, fresh air, no humdrum, claro.


The shackles are off, on the road to Joyabaj, great, just really great to be back on the road.


Just great, camping, freedom, peace, alone, warm and dry too...


A drunk slumped on the right, it’s pretty early too, maybe this is in Chinique


Mini finca home


The butchers block


The fantastic colours of Guatemalan clothing.


Top lass let me take her photo, one of few.


And here she is again, she was lovely.


Selling chicks from the sack, big business there were lots of women selling them, and not a few running loose being chased by giggling girls.


No rucksacks here, wrap it up and stick it on your head.


Weighing out the libres, though there seems to be no genuine weights to begin with.


Who painted my house...UNE, one of the political groups, everything is painted, the road, rocks, hard shoulders, mountians, pylons....


Three fellas cadge a ride, a rough and rather unsafe one.


Arguing whose machete is best


Walking up a hill on your knees, repeatedly, for a god of unknown name, the tree god maybe...


Lunch time yippee


In Nebaj, not as great as I’d hoped


School girls in Nebaj


Young boy fetches firewood and for once treats the dog nicely; usually they kick or stone the dogs.


A huge storm at night and too rocky ground to place pegs in the ground, meant for a wet night, but a great morning.


In Chajul, pronounced Cha Hool, a really great place that I spent hours walking around.


One of the main streets in Chajul


The butchers....always fascinating are the butchers, well to me at least.


A house in Chajul and the local colours of dress, each region or area has its own cloth.


Kids playing penny pitch in the street with coke bottle tops.


A chicken and a fancy designed door.


Kids play, a woman washes her hair, beans dry.


They wanted their photo taken, so I took it.


Hanging on the corner, the pace of life seems pretty slow here.


Girl studying outside her home.


The shoe repair shop and a woman bragging about being able to balance stuff on her head to her friend, who can’t.


Head gear, I asked the family if I could take the photo, I talked with them, one of them anyway, who spoke Spanish, but wouldn’t let me photograph them.


Men, seem to either work very hard in the field, or alternatively, just sit around in the market.


Brightly coloured threads for sale in the market for weaving


And here’s how they weave it, takes about 15 days to make one cloth, because they leave it under the porch hoping it will weave itself...not really, they work pretty hard.


Another wee boy working, lugging the firewood, which seemed to be the boys job, he’s just left his friend behind, they spoke like old men to each other it seemed.


Waterfall near Cotzal in the Ixil triangle, really great spot, and free, and no people, but still can’t find the road to Lancetillo.


Woman launders beneath the falls in the river, her grandson on the banks.


This also isn’t the road to Lancetillo.


Houses in the hills.


Too hot, hook your t-shirt over your nips, and usually rub your paunch or finger your belly button in the street....


This IS the road I wanted...finally. And it was MIGHTY steep.


Tent bound, raining again, I’m just thankful I’m IN the tent, just in the nick of time.


My camp spot, at Carlos's farm, gracias a dios.


Frijoles, black beans, staple food


"But Coban is that way." said Carlos, "Yeah, I know," I said, "but it’s about to pee it down." Luckily he understood and let me camp on his patch just before the rain


The road to Coban, still raining.


...and still raining...


...and now I’ve got a puncture. Gracias a dios.


...and now the roads closed.


Turning back I stop for a break and a fat cubilete cake, these girls bring their dried maize to be ground to flour to make tortillas.


Back the way I came, the road FROM Coban.


LLoyd Grossman doesn’t live here.


The rain, the cold, the puncture, no lunch, and back to where I was five days prior means I felt a bit down....silly really...


THE SUN....chance to dry my stuff.


Having found another way to Coban, on dirt too, I felt great again after some sleep and here a nice picnic spot in the shade by a river.


ANOTHER monster of a hill, Rudolf JUST made it up, though I thought the clutch was sure to burn out....here I let him cool off


If you think I’m mad, check these idiots out, getting a ride to town on a rocky track, standing on whatever space you can find on the back of a already pretty knackered pickup.


Rabinal market


Residents watch one of the political groups making a noisy stage show, not much seems to be said, little politics anyway, seems more like a concert, it’s a popularity contest I think.


A lot of the men have these little coffee sack like satchels, they cool.


The hill where I nearly fell 300m, it doesn’t look steep here actually, but I can assure you, in all truthfulness that it was.


Another new fruit to try, Guatemala has some great produce and usually cheap too.


Nick and Rudolf fall out, having realised another head bolt has probably stripped itself.


Bloody ants, ate through my tent and bit me to piece during the night, I wondered what it was.


Don’t stand there too long love, you’ll be painted like the pylon by UNE


Topshop, for Chapins.


In a vegetable pear field for lunch I realise without doubt that the head bolt is finished, and contemplate a trip back to the city.


Insert a lot of angry cursing here...actually just sighs.


Back in Guate, waiting for Rudolf, two shoe shine boys carry their little shoe shine work kits, they are very cool doubling as containers for the polish and foot rest.


Julio, picking out his favorite chocolates wearing his rather gay glasses.


Guatemala relief map...a bit of a rip off actually.


City Hall, I think, in the zocolo, top place, but also a rip off to get in...in my book.


Cathedral in Guate city.


The arch in Guate city, better even than Antiguas, though the street is not as nice I suppose. My guide is Raul, Julio's staff member, on the left.


Nosing around the old post office, now used for art and teaching, great use of the building, and dirt cheap classes.


Street vendors.


Inside one of the churches.


Jazz club.


I don’t know where this was, nice though.


A new hair cut, new luck....


Nice chair.


La torre del reformador, designed by a yank. Near the Yamaha store means I have seen this too much.


Found this in my bed, yummy.


I also see this on a regular basis, as it too is near Yamaha, nicew though.


Some naked stautes hold up a phallas...or something


Near the judicial court, coke infiltrates the minds of the people, Guatemalans drink the most cola per capita after Mexico or something.


The great Andres who has let me stay in his house whilst I work in the city all for free, top chap, here he plays bike mechanic.
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Old 07-21-2011, 02:38 PM   #48
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Day Rides...

Days ride photos whilst working in Guatemala City.


Some mayan ruins near the city, called Mixco Viejo. Nice and quiet I was the only visitor



And here they are again, whilst I get pestered by a wee kid for bread, a quetzal and he asks if I'm on my own, with conspiracy to "muerte"....perhaps.


And again...the boy now gone, watching me from up yonder.


Eddie Liz-ard. Funny if you're British...and have a low threshold for laughing.


Chinga! A very bad word in spanish....being repeated by both father and son alike whilst trying to get the oxen to lug the heavy load of rocks.


Having spent too long looking for hot things at volcan pacaya I get caught in the afternoon rain, it took only ten minutes for the road to become flooded.


Can you see Nick and Bike "No.2"...on the shortbut delightful stretch of dirt road between Santa Maria Jesus and Palin, near Antigua, on my way to Volcan Pacaya.


Standing on the ring of fire....Viewed from Volcan Pacaya; Volcan Agua looms in the clouds and in the background Volcan Fuego erupts.


Volcan Pacaya and perhaps an old visitors centre, now closed and graffited up.


...and the path where many a panting gringo has stepped to toast marshmallows on the hot rocks.


At Volcan Pacaya, I went off a-wandering looking for lava and hot spots....the closest I got was this where steam seeps out, rocks are hot to touch, and the air is thick with hot earthy smells...the volcano has been dormant for a little while now....


Reaching the caldera lake for a spot of lunch, a little bit of rain...and a lot of mosquitoes.


Volcan Ipala's caldera lake, magnificent.


Streets near Guatemala city, maybe Chichimecas....


On the road to Volcan Ipala, lovely stretch, despite being on my lesser favourite, asphalt.


...but soon on dirt...to San Luis Jiltopeque again, a Sunday football game underway on the old mine below...


On the beautiful trail up to Volcan Ipala....


...still on the dirt road....


Then a really great stretch of dirt to San Luis Jilotepeque (Hee-low-tuh-peck-ay)


Stuffed full of cheese, beans and bread...I still managed to find space for a "coco frio" a big drink of coconut milk and then a belly full of coco flesh.


And here the chap cuts open the coconut and scoops out the inside for me to stuff my already full of coconut milk belly.
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Old 08-15-2011, 11:48 AM   #49
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Wow, what an amazing journey. Excellent pictures and commentary.
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Old 09-25-2011, 03:46 AM   #50
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New newsletter

Whilst I'm at home for a few months visiting family, I've set up some new things on the website, one of them is a new mailing list, you can check it out on the facebook fan page, and sign up there or sign up on the homepage giving you no excuse for keepign up to date with my off road adventures in central and south America on my little Honda XR125!

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Old 11-20-2011, 07:30 PM   #51
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Guatemala....Finally, the Finale!

After several passes of curiosity, the boy comes over to my corner of shade outside the "tienda."
"Where are you from?" he asks shyly.
"England." I reply, taking a thirst quenching sip from my cola.
"Is that far?"
"Ohhh, yes! Very far!" I tell him.
"Is it close to Germany?" he asks.
"Mmmm, more or less, yeah."
"How long does it take with your motorcycle?" he says leaning closer now on his bicycle.
"Ohh, you can't go by motorcycle."
"What about a bus?"
"Nooo, there's no road!"
"No road!?"
"No. There's a big ocean, so you need a plane! It's about 6000km or so."
"A plane!"
"Yeah, it's about 16 hours...." I say to him, but he looks confused and add, "or maybe a month on a boat!"
"Farther than the city?" he asks after a moment.
"Oh yes! Much further!"
"Further than USA?"
"Oh yes," I say staring at my empty coke bottle contemplating, "Yup....." It is very far, and seems impossibly so now, when only days ago I was there saying goodbye to my family....

That fleeting moment, a goodbye. Apprehended, but unplanned. Not a moment for lingering, a moment when all the unspoken could be said, but for that the moment slips away and then you slip away, turning your back, time stopping whilst you move away, leaving a painful wake, that catches up with you sooner or later, for me at the baggage check.

So, I was alone again, fending for myself again, a peculiar and forgotten feeling after so long, but it doesn't last for soon I am with Andrés, at his home in Guatemala City, my home from home it seems. Here we fettle with bikes, me on the new unnamed one, and he on Rudolf which he has working again....for how long who can say, but he seems very pleased with his gift, the least I can give for all he has done for me. All Saints Day comes and a visit to Sumpango is in order to see the "barilletas gigantes" (giant kites), a grand day out and mightily impressive, where locals fly these giant kites in the hope of their dead loved ones being closer to the gods, to rid the lands of evil spirits and suchlike, and a hundred small and large kites decorate the sky, on what must be the longest pieces of string ever...some of them seem to disappear in to the stratosphere!



Andres and I return and spend days visiting welders and shops for spares, working on the bikes from early until late and soon the Unnamed One (the Honda bike) is ready - apart from a name - and I suppose I should be ready too, though I am far from feeling so. I think again of my early days leaving England; how come this doesn't get any easier, I should be an old hand by now, at goodbyes and stepping off into the unknown. But the unknown again terrifies me and I find myself trying to plan for every eventuality....with scenario after deathly scenario running through my mind.


The luggage leaves little room on the saddle; my first time on the loaded Honda and the first day is uncomfortable, though passing through roads I have seen before, several times when travelling back and to, to the city, when Rudolf was faltering and needed help. Now I head to Joyabaj, a camp spot I have stayed at too, several times.


I hate the loneliness, but I know now that it's a passing phase, it will fade and eventually I will be better for it. Wondering if we are not actually meant to be alone, solitary nomads, with only inherent weakness keeping us together, the fear of the unknown. Or is it only my own weakness and failings that push me away. The noise at camp is unbearable, how do I sleep amongst this! Buses and animals, music, the wind in the trees, or the falling pine cones giving me a jolt!


When I reach my old farthest point, where I last left off, my target is a small "aldea" (village), named Lancetillo, north west of Coban. Not much seems to be know about the road, even if it exists and my odd fixation with came about through not wanting to turn back from the more popular aldeas in the Ixil triangle (see last blog) - the norm being an out-and-back route. I heard that the road is "very bad," but when I get there and ask around it seems that actually it doesn't exist at all, only walking trails from Lancetillo. There is, however, another way and so I take this thinking that if I make it to Lancetillo this way, perhaps ther I can retrace my steps on this supposedly non-existent route. Or otherwise try to reach Coban directly. But again, when I ask on this route it seems there is only a road to Lancetillo, one must return back the same way.

I push on regardless, maybe they are wrong, or maybe this is just a waste of time, after all, there is nothing there and I only want to reach it for, well, for what? And I ride along wondering if this is a bit of a pointless road to take in mud and fog, only for me to have to return, no better off, at square one, the same person as before, only with time having passed.


I find a good camp at a waterfall, where I can contemplate my thoughts and decide over a good sleep, but in the morning, packed up and ready to go, I still can't decide until I find myself at the point at which I MUST decide; left, downhill and ride through the river to Lancetillo, or right uphill back to asphalt and maybe even sunshine. I don't decide, fate does that for me, or was it the Gods, or just gravity....whatever, I'm coasting down to the river, where taking a photo of the little crossing, my foot slips and I slam palm and camera first in to the gravel, breaking my new - and fifth - camera on day two. Mierd.

It's the darn balance again!! (karma - see previous blogs!). Perhaps I didn't deserve the camera - a fantastic gift from my dad - or the time at home even and I have an outstanding debt. Or maybe now I'm in credit, and can expect good things....yes, that's it!

But then it starts to rain and I must wade through trenches of slippy mud and a fug of fog, still wondering if this is a bit pointless.

"Yeah, Lancetillo's great," a man tells me roadside when I ask him, "lots of bars, food stalls, a hotel....and loads of women!" he continues. But he also tells me there are no other roads, I must come back this way. This does wonders to raise my optimism, though the rain seems to be trying it's equal best to cool my desires to reach Lancetillo and eventually I pull over to turn around. As I do so, a quad bike comes tearing through the fog behind me, passing by and stopping eventually half a kilometer further, before beginning to slowly reverse back along the cliff edge road.

Leon pulls alongside, dressed in a bright yellow mac with a hood that hides most of his face, save a pair of dark sunglasses, a black bin bag protects his legs from the rain.

"Where are you going?" he asks.
"Not sure. Lancetillo I think."
"What for?"
"I was thinking that myself..." I say, twisting up my face.
"For work....?"
"No, just a tourist."
"Aventura!"
"I don't know about that!"
"And after?"
"I don't know, I wanted to go to Coban, or maybe to Putul. But, I'm not sure if there are any roads."
"No, this is not possible, only walking trails."
"Then I think I'll go back then." I say, until he slips in,
"But there is a road to Laguna Lachua." And instantly everything changes. I was going to visit there anyway, but it's far north, far from here and I wonder if I can make it even on my fuel. Excited Leon phones his friend in Lancetillo and from the one ended conversation I hear, it is obvious tha tthe road is either hardly in existence, very hard and possibly dangerous, or maybe all three.

"But he is an adventurer with a big dual sport bike, he is very _______." Leon says down the phone, I'd like to correct him on all counts, even the one I didn't understand, but the conversation is animated t osay the least and shows no signs of abating, until suddenly Leon says, "Yup, there is a road, what are you waiting for, let's go!"

Is this fate, the work of the balance, or even, I wonder if there could be a god...in which time Leon has disappeared leaving only the booming resonance of his exhaust note behind, and I must catch him up.

I manage to do so only on a steep rocky section, where it seems, he is having trouble engaging any gear on his quad and I tootle past, asking if he is okay....
"Buen adventura, no?" he says, stamping on the shifter still trying to find a gear.

And it is, I suppose. Yes! he's dead right! And, trying to chase Leon, into the unknown, trusting only others, this is why I take stupid pointless roads! This is why I do it....people always ask, why? And this is why! And I smile a huge grin as Leon connects with first gear and disappears again far off in to the distance and I watch the yellow blob screech around the corner of the mountain on two wheels not to be seen again until I meet him at Juan's house in Lancetillo.

"So this is the idiot!" I assume they are saying when I arrive (actually I don't think that!) and they go on to tell me in detail the route ahead, which villages to go to, to ask for, which fincas, then a bridge and then La Playa. They mention one hour, plus three hours. I wonder if this is one hour is easy, then it's really tough or the other way about, and if this isn't the old "it takes 4 days in a car, but on THAT bike you can do it in ten minutes."

Lancetillo itself is a quagmire of mud and puddles, where people walk about barefoot and ankle deep in the stuff, ignoring the many planks of wood that have long ago sunk in to the ooze.


Beyond Lancetillo the road turns steep, and rocky; loose rocks, that along with the lack of power of the 125cc bike make progress almost impossible, trying to keep the speed up, to keep in the "power" band, tight hairpins must be hit at maximum speed, to ensure I keep in the band, and the large rocks buck the bike left and right and send the front wheel into a weightless wheelie, and eventually, one rock too many, I end up flat out in the ditch. The bike creaks and cracks, the sound of heat dissipating out through it's every square millimeter, and I must drag it down the hill to have any chance of picking it up, from where it wants only to slip down the precipice, and take me with it.

I manage to get it upright, and then must go back downhill, a hill start is impossible, to gain speed and try again. On attempt three, with deft use of the clutch and flailing legs paddling upwards, I make it to the summit....just. A little bit knackered, breathing a sigh of relief....and wondering "what next?"

What goes up, must come down and I'm faced with a decision, to go down the mountain, which could be worse; steeper, washed away, muddy, a landslide, impossible perhaps, and what about the bridge,m after the rainy season? Perhaps I should turn back, I could be riding into a trap.

But those little scallywags the gods, or fate, the balance or that little bugger gravity have other ideas, and somewhat reluctantly my left foot pushes me off and the mountain sucks me down towards the darkness of the unknown, downhill towards, I pray, a bridge of hope.

As the path slips beneath the wheels I scout the trail, muddy, steep, rocky with fallen trees, "I can't make it up here...."

"The bridge is that way," says a man sitting amongst the grass at the bottom, taking a rest from lugging wood down the hill in the harsh glare of heat, "but you can't pass," he adds, "the bridge is out."

I was afraid of this, and am left with only one other option, to go back....if I can indeed go back. And I can, though only by running, scrabbling, tripping, falling, and all the while pushing the bike ever upwards, and eventually back to relative safety my body again starts to contemplate things other than survival; namely food and water and rest.

When I pass back through Lancetillo I see Leon's friend Juan, who asks what happened. Onlyfor him to then explain that it was passable, with a rope or something that I don't fully understand (though I wonder if he is right) and I curse myself for not at least having gone to see the bridge and this thought plays on my mind all the way back to last nights camp.

Alas, there is plenty more on my horizons in Guatemala and next I head to Semuc Champey, passing through the delightful lakeside town of Santa Cristobal Verapaz; the essence of "tranquilo" and then Coban....which though in the guidebooks is an area not to be missed, seems to lack any personal appeal and should in fact be wholeheartedly missed.

Champey is reached through the slightly rough rough road through to Lanquin and beyond, down into the hot valley floor of the river Cahabón. I think about camping at the park when I arrive in the evening, but decide against it on account of it a) being 50Q ($6) and b) being crap.

Riding back towards Lanquin I wonder about my options - or lack of - when I see a man working in the cooler evening air in amongst his maize field and stop to chat. I approach him and ask about the possibility of camping at his place, soon surrounded by the entire family who have limited Spanish. But it seems, there's no problem and I start setting up my tent next to their house. The tent is a thing of amazement for them, and we are soon chatting as darkness falls and the mosquitoes rise.

"Do you want some tortillas?" the children ask as I cook my dinner.
"No, thanks, I have some already, and vegetables, carrot, beetroot, broccolli, onion and some biscuits, I always have biscuits!"
"So.... are you coming then? Vamos!" It seems they don't understand a word of what I've just said, so I decide to just go with them, led to the table, told to wash my hands....where....just there...what here, in the middle of the room, yes....okay.....and the boy tips some water on my hands. "Is that okay?" he asks, I don't know, they were kind of okay before I think to myself....

I sit down at the table with Manuel, the father, and somewhere in the candlelit darkness sit his wife and seven kids in a room that is the house, no bigger than a living room, along with three beds, a fire cooker and a years supply of maize. A bowl is brought forward to me, containing an egg and some soup, then chilli and salt and of course, tortillas!

"How do I eat it?" I ask sheepishly.
"Just put the egg in the tortilla." says Manuel. So I do as bid and put the whole hard boiled egg in the tortilla....and look at it, that stupid thing the egg, sitting there forlornly in the middle of a large tortilla, thinking to myself that this doesn't seem right, it looks a bit silly, the whole egg sitting in the middle of the tortilla, so I wait to see what the other do...how do you eat the soup....without a spoon....the kids come and stick their fingers in the chilli, then the salt, and mash a bit of egg in....and I follow suit. feeling kind of bad that I'm taking their food. I chat with Manuel as we eat, and soon coffee is bought over....the coffee granules floating about the cup.

"I think you need a coffee filter," I say, hoping my bad Spanish doesn't come across as rude, but luckily he doesn't understand. "Give me a moment...." I say darting out the door.


In my tent I grab a coffee filter I don't use and after some hesitation - for I love them so - I grab my biscuits, and go back to give them to Manuel. The coffee filter is well received but the biscuits are disliked by all, except the mother who seems content to eat anything! Darn it! Perhaps I should have kept them!!

In the morning I take a poo in the middle of the woods - at the actual toilet I should say - in full view of the road, the house and the shop, and the family. I wonder if they are playing a big trick on me, but it seems not. Then it's on to Semuc champey.


The tranquil aqua pools of Semuc Champey actually sit atop of the natural bridge that is created by the torrent of the river Cahabón, so whilst I swim peacefully amongst the fish in the pools, somewhere below me the river is raging foaming white and angry and pops out someway down to continue as the wide and deep rio.


From here I ride up to Laguna Lachua, getting another dreaded puncture along the way, a six inch nail which rips the rim tape too, a new experience for me coming from alloy wheels which don't use these anda trip back to Coban is necessary to replace my sellotaped repair. Still the balance has it that good things must come in return and soon I find myself sleeping at a large finca (rich guys farm) where the men are hard at work drying the beautifully yummy cardamon seeds.


Lachua is reached along an easy but arduous stoney road, but it's worth every effort for the lake that greets me on the far end of a the walk through the jungle is perfect, a million miles from the rest of Guatemala, peaceful, tranquil and alive with animal and plant life, monkeys, jaguars, huge fish diving in the waters and electric blue butterflies the size of my hand. I don't see any jaguars unfortunately, but other than the monkeys I see I feel at least that I am the only one in the park, for I see no one the entire time. Reluctantly I drag myself away from the lake, looking back all the while, walking back through the mosquito infested jungle to the bike and another camp at another house.


Here at camp, Augusto, the man of the house invites me to eat an orange with him, they laugh a I peel the orange by hand - for they use knives and when I go to set up camp I am surrounded by their three staring kids, amazed at my tent, my blow up bed and my stove and carrots....apparently they'd never tried them until I offered them some, with a tortilla for good measure!

I ride into the deeper jungle of the north then, into the region of Peten and instantly feel a change in the people, who seem at least from the outside not as warm as the rest of Guatemala as I have found and I camp alone in one of many a maize field that seem to have taken over the jungle. I am in awestruck by how much jungle has been razed to make room for "tortilla fields".

The reason for anyone's trip to Peten is usually always to visit Tikal, the site of some of the best regarded ancient Mayan pyramids. I was keen to avoid it, at $20 it seemed a rip off, until that is I visited the free El Ceibl (which was pretty dire) and spoke to the staff who had worked all over the archaeological sites in Peten, and told the prices of some others I had planned to see, all over $100. This made Tikal look a bargain, so I went there!



I'd seen pictures everywhere, on tourist posters and on the side of Bimbo snack trucks and was actually a little under-awed despite having the place largely to myself at 6am, though still an enjoyable visit nonetheless. I expected this actually, as I had considered that nothing had gone wrong on my way there and so the balance was simply, for the time being; on an even keel....!!! ....until after my visit and I got another puncture!! This time a watch strap pin! Hay caramba!

"Do you mind if I put my tent right by the lake?" I asked the staff member at the free campsite of Yaxja's archaeological site after having enjoyed the perfect sunset from atop one of the pyramids.
"If you want, but there are 'crocodrilos'!" he told me. I told him I had no meat for them to want to even bother me and he said it was fine, and it sure was! A great spot...though the beady orange eyes of the crocodrilos at night were kind of eerie...as were the howler monkeys!

Then it was simply a case of heading back to the city on my way south again, to write this pesky blog(!) and catch up with friends there, stopping at Laguna Flores, the unimpressive Rio Dulce and the much more enjoyable road from El Estor through the valley back towards Coban - top stuff - stopping along the way to get hit by what looked like a giant high velocity black bee at 40mph, then stuck in some lovely deep wet mud and then - with the balance tipped in my favour - at a fantastic house with the loveliest family in Guatemala surely..... and then the city, though feeling sick after a special treat; a meal out!



From the city it's to Honduras, finally I will get to truly carry on my trip, with the Unnamed One, south.
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Old 12-18-2011, 04:25 PM   #52
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Reading the Signs

Sorry guys, short of tiem today, so photos are only on the website and facebook a pages, links for which can be foudn in my signature at the end of the post.

Enjoy the read, I hope it's okay....

She sits upright, pulls off her damp t-shirt and slips into a clean cotton sweater. She walks through the villa out on to the terrace basked in sun, the terracotta tiles cold on her bare feet.

I imagine the cotton sweater, crisp with cleanliness, so starchy it's rough to touch and as dry as a grain of rice. I have to imagine it because the girl is fictitious, as is the villa and the sun, I'm cooped up in the tent, reading again while the rain pounds the tent like falling gravel. Damp after a week of rain, how I imagine that sweater.

I'd heard a few bad things of Honduras before I entered; crooked cops, unfriendly people, a difficult border, poverty, danger, drug gangs and too, of travellers who passed through in a single day to get through and even one who took a boat to Nicaragua from Guatemala to avoid it entirely! But no one said anything about rain!

I should have seen it coming, in fact I did; a bulbous cloud of dark squid ink growing before my eyes, clearly defining the border as I approached from Guatemala. An ominous sign I thought as I stamped out of Guatemala, looking back on the blue skies, the country I'd spent so long in, grown fond of and comfortable in....even the Guatemalan border guard smiled as he stamped down on the passport and into the grey of Honduras, made easy with a Guatemalan (Central American) motorcycle. After changing my money to Limpiras I hop on the bike and ride down in to the river valley, green with coffee plantations hidden amongst the wooded mountains, the tangy aroma filling the damp air, towards Copan Ruinas, where I stop to eat lunch. A nice town not unlike Antigua Guatemala with fewer gringos, but a very pleasant start.

It starts to rain then and after a walk around town I head off to find camp, trundling down a muddy track to a river. On the other side of which are some huts, time to meet the nasty locals. I cross the treacherous cable footbridge, stooping over to give balance and hold on to the knee height hand cables, and poke my head into the stable door of the first mud house, a room with five feeding people.

"¡Hola!" I say, rain beating down on my face. Open mouthed, the family stop eating, empenadas hanging mid air between plate and each gaping mouth. They say nothing so I continue...

"If it's no problem with you, can I camp over there...." Still nothing, beans dripping on to their plates, so I continue, "on the other side of the river, just tonight, only me, I have everything I need and just need the space for the tent."

Then realising what I want, and as if they'd been expecting me, the man of the house says "over there, yeah sure, no problem, that's completely fine...there's no problems here! Go ahead!" and they carry on eating again, almost to the point of ignoring me.

"Oh, okay...well, umm, see you later then...thanks!" And I head off to set up back, across the perilous bridge....they seem okay anyway...

The rain stops and instead falls darkness and I sit inside the tent studying my Spanish study book, when outside somewhere I hear shouts, laughs and screams....Oh No! Drunks! Coming to rape and pillage! I hope they'll just pass by the tent but they don't, instead shout out to me....I don't catch it first time....and nervously reply,
"Pardon?"
"Would you like some coffee?" says a woman, though I wonder if it's some sort of cunning ruse and open the tent cautiously! But it's not and a flask of hot coffee is laid before me. The commotion was them wading across the river, about six people!

"Isn't it better to cross the bridge?" I ask.
"Not at night it's too dangerous!" replies the woman.
"Is the river warm then?"
"Warms!" exclaims the man, "it's LIKE ICE!" And I laugh at them waist deep in cold damp jeans. We chat for a long while, and then they wade back through the icy waters with equal commotion!

In the morning a rather beautiful girls walks down to the far side of the river. I wave hello and pray she'll start having a wash, alas, she just fords across to me and brings me a bag of mandarins and oranges. Up close she's even more dazzling and if she's anywhere near as nervous as I am she doesn't show it, instead showing only the fiery Latino confidence I seem to notice in women here, which means she is happy to stand there, expressionless, at ease, waiting for me to strike up conversation, which probably began with,
"So, what do you do, grow maize?"

The next night's camp continues ever better after a ride to Santa Rosa de Copan, when the woman says "sure, camp wherever you like!" and I spend an age exploring their mountain grounds only to choose the first spot I picked out! Not only that but later I'm brought a plate full of dinner and coffee! Then in the morning with Julio, the farm owner, we chat and go to the house for coffee, which turns out to be another plate of food from his lovely wife, Gladys as well as more coffee (the best coffee I've had) and great company too! I can't leave without a gift, or even three; oranges, horchata (a drink made from soy flour, peanuts, sugar and pumpkin seed, made on the farm)...and even a gift of money (which needless to say I tried to decline).

Julio and Gladys seemed a bit sad about some people's view of Honduras and are keen to put things right, so much so that anyone is welcome to go camp there near Santa Rosa de Copan, if you want to go let me know and I can give you a GPS point. If you want to stay 2 or 3 days that's fine too, but you must help on the farm!

The ride down to a town called "Gracias" is supposed to be a good one, and the town itself good too, and indeed the ride was pretty good, on a quiet stretch of asphalt passing and crossing a river towards Honduas' highest point, Mt.Celaque and "Thanks" a town that turned out to be fairly lifeless. I buy empanadas, not realising through my naievity that they are just tortillas stuffed with frijoles (black beans eaten everywhere)!

Rodney (the name of the new bike, more later) barely makes the steep dirt track up to the entrance of Mt.Celaque park, where I ask about camping...
"You can camp here, 50Limpiras." (One Limpira is US5c)
"Here! But you can't see anything, just trees!" I say. I often find this, at parks and wonders of the world, the campsites are often on the other side of road to the attraction with zero views, the attraction out of sight. I tell him I'll camp down the road in a field and head off and after several attempts find Ronnie, another top Honduran who is happy to let me camp on his plot of land, that will be the site of his future home, a top spot with 360º views. He says he must confirm with the neighbour first, who also agrees as always with; "No hay pena."

"It's cold though!" she says later when she comes to inspect the casita that is my home in the field,
"Not as cold as England!" I tell her.
"And the dogs!"
"You call them dogs! My dog at home is twice the size!"
"Rain!"
"Tent's waterproof!"
"Snakes!"
"SNAKES!!" I say.
"You can go in the house if you want?" meaning one that is under construction, but I can't be bothered to move as I've set up and have a fine view of Mt.Celaque.

Nick 1 - 0 National Parks (Exc. African national parks which destroyed me on price alone).

The lady returns in the morning, wanting to know about dogs, snakes, wind and rain, and wants a book as a gift seeing me pack my two books away, I only have a Spanish dictionary and Spanish study book, and so offer her a map of Guatemala that I no longer need, she looks unimpressed but takes it all the same.

An unexceptional dirt road takes me out towards Lago Yojoa (yo-ho-ah), where there are also some 12km long caves that have been uncovered, 6km of which you can see....except you can't because I can't read....it was actually only 600m....I was bitterly disappointed and kick myself for wasting my money, slap myself for stupidity and curse myself for ever reading a guide book and head out swearing never to visit a cave again!

The lake when I reach it looks remarkably like a big grey pond under the sullen sky and the glut of ugly fish restaurants do little to entice me in and I'm starting to think that either today's not my day, or perhaps the balance will have it that things work out later? My final point on my day's itinerary is the difficult to say and spell; Pulhapanzak falls.

Luckily the falls are beautiful, even beneath the grey sky. A cave tour I hear, is supposed to be very good, but the voice in my head shouts at me not to do it; "Flippin guide books! What did we say about caves!"

(And yes, I talk to myself in the "we" form! left side and right side of the brain).

I see two others returning from the trip, they look pretty pleased with themselves, so I decide I must try these things, and head off to organise it.

"IDIOT! Don´t say I didn't warn you!" and I tell the right brain to just shut up for once.

The cave is shit. (Ha told you!!!)

BUT.... getting to it is really quite something! Barefoot and barefaced (no specs) me and my guide Raphael go head first towards the falls, through pools, over rocks and boulders. Water falling 43m washes over you with the weight of the earth, as we breach the falls to get behind them.

I say "Jesus! Bloody hell!" and "this is stupid!" repeatedly, then breaching the falls to come round the front edge slightly, I fall and cut my foot and back. "Ves arriba!" shouts Rapha, and I look up to see a myriad of droplets glistening down, the cascades splitting above, to fall hard and deafeningly loud to either side of us now. Spectacularly impressive, leading to more shouts of Jesus! Bloody Hell! Madness! from me.

Then, into deeper waters, heavier, tumbling waters; the main force of the falls.
"Keep your head down, ok." says Rapha,
"I can't see a thing without my glasses!" I shout back, but Rapha's off again, clambouring easily over the rocks, knowing instinctively where to place his feet, whislt I trip and slip behind him to try and keep up with his pudgy frame. The water washes over my face, pounds my head and dulls the senses, until eventually we reach the cave, and tranquillity!

Then back, to a half cave of sorts with a spectacular view of the falls, "I need a camera!" I say, but then it's onto a small cliff jump into the pools, where Rapha goes to fetch my glasses and flip-flops from behind a wet rock and I fumble on half submerged rocks like a drowning cat, pulling faces without the meow of desperation.

As we go Rapha says "Wana jump this?" as though the thought just came to him.

"Jesus! Bloody hell! It's pretty big!" I say, follwed quickly by "OK!"
"The current is very strong." he says, and it's easy to appreciate, as the force of teh falls is funneled down, down towards the HEP plant nearby, the waters frothing like milk in a whisk some 20m below....(actually it was 50m).

"Where do you get out?" I ask.
He points it out and then says "You'll touch the bottom ok, look wheere I jump and follow me..." and he jumps off.

Ten minutes later he hits the water (it was THAT far.) and I leap out to follow suit, whilst my vital organs do there best to stay on teh safety of the ledge with the right side of my brain "IDIOOOOOO....T!" is said.

SPLASH! I pull up hard and fast to beat the current before I end up making electricity and reach for RApha's outstretched hand,
"Jesus, bloody hell, AWESOME!" I say...and he pushes me back in. Not really.

I find a great camp that night between a river a nd a huge sugar cane plantation, though met by a fairly scornful looking local, who I fear will return in the night to plunder my things, but he doesn't come...but perhaps he put some curse on me, writhing through the night I wake up sick as a dog and I must visit 'El baño' numerous times before left and right brain agree that a hotel is required. I go to Omoa, a previously brilliant beach town, now the beach is lost due to a gas company's building of tidal defences for their gas tanks! Leaving instead only rocks and even more litter. Too, gringos seem to be quite wholeheartedly disliked, having to absorb the abuses as I make the painfull trip to a mercado to buy juice or gatorade! After aweek I'm feeling better and head out to a town called "Hope" (Esperanza), where I hope to be able to see the two groups of indiginous people the Lenca and the (I cant remember). But, save afew head scarves I see little of interest, though the ride is nice enough and I meet some great local people, in my hunt for local pottery makers, walking through the mountains to try and find Nicolas Cortes with a helpful man called Anastasio and his children. We reach teh house but Nicolas is not home, though his daughter who I meet outside I remember vividly as she grabbed my hand when I arrived and wouldn't let go, using me in some imaginary game with dolls and water...some kids aren't so bad.

I pass through the capital of Teguchigalpa, about 2million people, dotted over the hillsides, the roads linedf with truck reapiar, tire repair and garbage sorters. On my way to a gold mine! Though when I get there I find the mine is closed and the town itself has simply taken the name! Still this leads me to a great route through the mountains and whispering pine forests, through valleys to Victoria and onwards. Beautiful and tranquil are the forests, where the only sound is the wind slipping through the branches. Another lovely camp wit hlocals, who share freshly baked bread from their earth oven, still warm/hot the next day and coffee and conversation, pushing my Spanish ability to it's extreme!

In the morning 30 workers arrive, signaled by screams and laughs and shouts, they sound more like they're going to a party than to work! Ranging from 9 years old to about 70 the yget paid $5.00 per day, working 6hours, they say, from 6am until 12pm, though they certainly weren't here at 6am.

I'm aiming for LA Ceiba now, to take a ferry to Agua Caye, a small palm tree'd island of white sand, 700m in length, only for campers. I should be the only person there, and though the camping is cheap at $2 getting ther eis quit a bit more expensive and doubts run in my mind if this is really just a $80-100 camp spot! I ride there through Pico Bonito park, an awesomely impressive set of tropical forested mountains that have my gaze permanently fixed. After the heavy rains of camp here tha tnight, the trail to La Ceiba is a quagmire and I'm soon stopped by a fairly big river crossing. The locals tell me it's not possible at the moment, and I spend a long time looking at it wondering if it is possible. I've been thinking that I've ridden lots of different terrain and proved myself pretty well, but the one thing I have done is a big river crossing, now was my chance....but bloody hell. The water was angry and ripping down the valley towards the sea and I didn't fancy my chances, especially with the locals being negative. I decide to walk through and manage with the aid of a walking stick. But almost waist deep (which from experience usually means knee deep when you hear people say that, but it really was almost waist deep) and strong, hard to walk through I decide that it's probably a bit stupid, I will now doubt draw water in to the engine as it is higher than the saddle. So after about 30 mins looking at it, I turn about....and spend all day telling myself that I'm really not brave at all.

I'm showered by more rain on my way on the regular road to La Ceiba, as well as gifts too from a nice chap at a shop I meet. But for the next week I am continuously in rain, moving from camp spot to camp spot, in the hope of visiting the island, and then the Rio Platano reserve for two week boat hopping. But as these both cost a lot of money, I was only willing if the weather was good, and anyway, the ferries weren't running. I visit Sambo Creek, the Garifuna village of black settlers, descendants of slaves brought over by the Spanish I beleive. The ystand around looking angry at me (It feels) and beg me for money, reminding me of my time in Africa. No one seems to work, only drink and I wander around the place feeling more and more sully, wondering how could I have pt up with this in Africa for so long! I meet a nice chap though, and chat to him about his old times in Belize under the Brits and he gives me an English History lesson....before begging for a beer to cure his hangover.

I check the forecast for the area, and looking bad for days to come, and speaking wit hthe locals who tell me this is it for December and January, I very reluctantly leave the area behind. I don't get to ofar though, as my panniers break and then I get a puncture so I'm left camping in the rain again!

"Where are you going?" they always ask, and today I'm saying, "south, to the bloody sun! To Juticalpa." and always now they reply in a murderous tone "ORLANCHO!" which is the name of the state this town is in....am I being stupid or is it bad there?

The road was certainly in a right state after the rain, and I was uncertain wheter I should have just stuck to the asphalt on this occassion and got out of the rain! But I kept going, depsite Mr Right brain yelling "You're stupid! You'll get us killed one day!" He might be right, but it wasn't today, though lord knows it was a testing ride, deep mud, and huge puddles that I worried would be mud underneath, but after adays ride I'm not too far from Juticalpa, and even the weather looks a bit better. But looking for camp that night, my fears are confirmed when I ask the boy about camping here,

"I think it's best if no you don't camp," this is a first, everyone has said yes until now.
"¿Por que no?" I ask,
"It's very dangerous, the situation here, it is better you find a hotel."
"What situation?"
"In Orlancho. A man was killed just here," he points to the adjacent track, "last week."
"Righty o, see ya then."
"I think it´s best." he says.

I head off, but really hate hotels and ask another dumb twit before trying to sneak in to a field which I do and hidea mongst heaps of old bean pods, a very nice night actually, no lights, I assume as everyone lives together in the safety of villages, rather than alone in their fields.

With my plans scuppered, and finally in slightly better weather I've lost all aim, and the rain has soaked me and doused my spirits, forced me further into my shell, so that I don't know where to turn now, especially, thinking about Christmas fast approaching and fell into a bit of a low spot truth be told, though one knows I can't grumble, I am and have been very fortunate! So I put it down to tiredness! I will head south now, into Nicaragua, and hope beyond all hope that some idea should turn up in time for Christmas! Though for me there is only one thing Christmas is meant for, and that's family (and friends)!

So to everyone a super merry christmas and please cherish your families on my behalf! and eat lots of mince pies!

Apologies for finishing on a low note....but I must always tell the truth and never sugarcoat the stories (like I think many other travellers do).

RODNEY IS BORN! And as for the bike name, well, I was sat picknicking one day thinking about my family, in a pine forest and for some strange reason I looked behind me to see if out of some huge odd miracle my dad would be there smiling, and say "All Right!" he wasn't of course, I must have been tired, alas I decided to name the bike after him and as his name is Dave I called it Rodney. You'll have to be British to understand this one and know a fella named Del-boy.
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Old 02-15-2012, 07:35 AM   #53
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The Cure....Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama

"One dollar."
"For what?!" I reply.
"Policia,"

"Jeez, everyone wants a dollar here!" I retort angrily pulling yet another dollar from my fairly vacant wallet.




The officer at the gateway smiles a smug grin as he hands me the useless piece of paper in exchange for my dollar bill and waves me through into Nicargua, now $33.00 worse off.




Alas, there's no rain and a very pleasant town greets me, in the form of Ocotal where I sample Empenadas filled with meat, rice and potato before heading to camp in the mountains.





"What's that?" asks one of the family.

"Carrot," I say as I slice it into the pot.

"What did he say?" says another salivating. "Zanahoria."

*Plunk* *Plunk*

"what's that?" she asks.

"Potato." I say

"Mmmm, potato." "what did he say?".....

*Fiizzzsh Fizzzsh*

"Arroz!" I say, pre-empting the question to the group of people sat around my tent, eight all told, sat there, salivating and drooling as the pot bubbles over the purring primus stove

.

"Esta simplamente arroz y verduras!" I say, but apparently it's like caviar to them and I can hardly not share it and end up giving half of my dinner away despite, s always, being desperately hungry. You'd think they'd never eaten and, in this case, I believe they had at least never eaten these vegetables.




I leave in the morning, before eating to selfishly eat my breakfast and after which try to get a photo of the family printed as a gift but there is none and so I head along a dirt road through the mountains and damp cloud forests towards Nicaraguas coffee region around Matagalpa. Abundent with more coffee than I have seen so far, sacks and sacks, bean after bean drying in the sun as far, almost, as the eye can see and finding a great camp spot on Lake Apanas.




I loop down and around towards Estanzuela and it's gorgeous waterfall tucked away in a small cove, where the water sprinkles down peacefully into the tranquil pool below. I sit in blissful solidarity eating my lunch and jotting more notes in my diary before heading to Esteli; a long lattice of house and tiendas (small shops) running parallel with the fairly dreadful Pan-Americana highway. I replace the suspension seals here, the forks still full of the Honduran rain and mud, and oddly fond memories.







The map shows a trail heading east, a dotted line towards two of Nica's many volcanoes, turning north to run adjacent to them before east again on a rough track that bisects the two volcanoes towards the Pacific coast. I find camp nearby on the windiest place I could have found, but with a lovely family before starting on my way after cup of warm milk straight from the udder. The rocky road was quite rough for little Rodney, but the next day and half was some of the best riding I've had in a long time, chicken buses use part of the route so it's obviously not too bad.




I rise up again, up over mountains to a view of the vast distance ahead of me, like the map in three dimensions, the vastness of this one road seems huge and the trees on the plain give an appearance not unlike the head of brocolli, dominated at the far end by the two huge and smoking conicals of the volcanoes.




I get fairly well lost, fairly repeatedly and when finally back on track find a great camp spot looking out to the volcanoes and, despite asking for permission am asked why I won't camp with the locals in the village.....for the view of course, though they seem not to be able to comprehend.









I can't wait to get started again the next day and perhaps in my eagerness get lost following misinformation of a sun-shrivelled, silver moustached cowboy, riding ridiculous trails to several dead-ends. But the effort is worth it, as always, close now to the volcanoes I'd wanted to glimpse, to be dwarfed by, overshadowed.





I'm also surprised to find myself riding a deep "wash" where the water funnels down, reminding me of Anza Borrego and gave really fun riding in sand deep enough to keep you on your toes but not so much to be pain! The only downside is that it takes me back to the assfault of the Poo-Americana. But, all is not lost when I can find a great beach camp!


I spend Christmas here, on the beach around Leon and have the good fortune to meet lovely people to spend Christmas with, Jan and Leslie. I spend a few days at Leslie's place too, taking in a Leon Leones baseball game and checking out the city and eating fresh seafish! Special thanks to Jan and Leslie for your kindness, I really appreciate al you did!


The long Central American fault line of volcanoes continues, with Volcan Momotombo, a huge black heap rising abruptly from the green surroundings, on my way to Masaya; it's volcano and town. I camp at the Mirador above Lago Apoyo and visit the mighty Volcan Masaya, it's huge smouldering sulphurous crater, red, yellow, white and brown - the entrance to hell so the Spanish Colonials thought when they saw it, and placed a cross there in hopes of banishing the demons....or something....





In the town of Masaya I hope to find some of the treasures of it's famous artesans market, but find only tack.





"I can't know every rule in every country can I? You should give people a lawbook when they enter at the border so we can learn." I say in defference to the police officer who says I crossed a white line - apparently illegal - on my way out of Masaya where celebrations are kicking off already for New Years Eve with fancy dress, fireworks and food....




I find aneven better camp the next night at the samelake,lake Apoyo though this time right next to it with the beach and the lake, it seems,all to myself! The wind lapping waves gently on to the shore, the water clean and clear,turning purple as I sit in the setting sun drying off after a lengthy swim.




The tranquility there was far removed when I hit the bustinling market town maze of Rivas near the large Lake Nicaragaua, but I´m only there to stock up and head out to Chococente to watch migrating turtles arrive on the beach shore at midnight for my own unique new years eve celebration....alasthere were no turtles, perhaps due to a full moon. I wake tired the next morning and continue south
along the coast, some fine stretches of white sandy beachs, though often heavily gringoed or "ricoed" I do find patches of almost deserted sand.





Hoping t osee toucans I head to the cloud forest atop the extinct volcano Mombacho. A gruelling 5km hike leads only to cloud and wet green things andreturn completely knackered to buy empenadas ungenerously filled with pineapplejam and finda great camp with a friendly chap who hated Americans, Nica's president and thought Nica was the safest country in central America surrounded by robbers and drug gangs and guns...I tried to correct him,but alas inteh morning he played the same old tune.




I see a border crossing on the Pacific coast "Tourist Crossing," anything would be better than the Pan-am crossing, bound to busy. Alas, I was informed not to take this road andendup on the only other option....the Pan-am. I ride in as the rain begins to fall, slapping on the vinyl sides of the trucks queing up and long line of forlorn people returning after new years celebrations on the beach. The paperwork takes a while and I cross the gates inbto Costa Rica alltoo late and take the first campspot I can find. It's a beautiful spot as the sun sets, setting the distant volcanoes alight with a wild array of pinks and violet, but the ferocious wind here makes me fear if the tent will tear in two as it is stretched and quashed by the violent thrusts of wind.
A visit to the national park; Rincon de la Vieja is in order and whilst the main trail to crater is - unsurprisingly - closeddue to the highwinds an enjoyable trail among Ceiba trees, bubbling mudpots,steaming sulphourous pools, monkeys and iguanas isa fair substitute.


"There's this one...." says the shop owner at Motoshop in Liberia, gestering to a chinese made tire, "or this one..." pointing to a Korean made 'Golden Boy.' "You'll never get a puncture with this one!" he adds. I take the nobbly Golden Boy and four hours later have a puncture! I fix it up in the seering heat and meet friendly Anastasio who offers me a place to camp, at a place named Buenavista. He clears away a patch of scrub on the top of teh hill behind his house wondering why I won't camp at his house....because I want the buena vista! He and hisfamily sit up there watching the sunset and I am fairly sure it is the first time they have ever done so! preferring to normally hideaway in the shade out of the heat,behind the hill at the house.


I wanted to see the lavarousslopes of Volcan Arenal, but was beaten back twice, once by a deadend dirt track I attempted andrain and the other by more rain, cloud and ferocious winds...and another puncture! So instead I headto Nicoya,a peninsula in Costa Rica for soem fine riding along dirt tracks, beaches and rivers,ending at the delightful fishing village of Manzanillo with perfect views of the bay of Nicoyo and a friendly lunch time companion too, Oscar a fishermanwho had 10 children...all boys!
A short stretch on the poo-Americana takes me to and beyond Miramar where, with the help of friendly locals I find a great camp with huge views....all at the end of a very rocky and extremely steep track that sore me pushing Rodney again!



I walk in the fincas mountains and jungle, take a dip in the river and then judder my way back down the track, back down to sea level through to thecapital city of San Jose and then climb up into thin air over 3300mon my way to Volcan Irazu, above the fluffy blanket of cloud, Rodney stutters and splutters to a chilly nights camp with a lovely family and views of extraordinary awe.






Asalways I don't what to do, especially with the high prices here,and do the same thing as always; take the nearest dirt track I can find. This one I struggled to find, searching around San Jose and it's suburbs in search of it, but the effort was it and the track rising up out of San Jose's valley up over the mountains, steeply down, then backup into cloudforests on my way to a fairly large river crossing before reaching Perrita was a delight! Beyond the end of teh trail, breaking through the large groves of date palms, I searchfor a desertedstretch of beach I've heard about....surely it can't be true,but it's worth a try.


"Nah, myou don't want to go there!" the man says when I ask him, "there's nothing! Absolutely nothing!"
"That's what I want!" I say.
"No, youwant to goto thebeach there....or that way...there's people, bars, discos...."
"No really, I don't want any of that....I want nothing."
"OK if you want....but the road is like a minefield!"


It was a pretty bad trail, but not impossible and after much more effort I reach theend of the trail, two palm trees swaying away at the end...Iexpect the disco any moment andride up suspiciously....the club....bar....but....could I have done it...found the perfect beach...I step off the bike a remove my helmet walking on to the sand and was greeted by miles and miles and miles of deserted beach.




I ride several miles up the beach and find a spot, put foot prints in the sand, take a swim in teh virgin waters and get to work on one of the many coconuts,using my screwdriver,wrench and tire levers to open one up! Then Isit drinking coco juice, eating -somewhat sandy - coco flesh and watching the sun; huge and grapefruit red setting behind a small islet to the west.


Paradise is lost however, late in the night when Sergeant Arsehole arrives with his two cohorts; Privates Piles and Trump. They inform me in fairlyunfriendly tones,that I am infact intheNAtional Park - that I thought was further north - and that I must therefore leave, camping is not permitted. "30 minutes!" yells the Sergeant raising hishand in the air as he walks off,Piles and Trump stumbling to keep up behind him. So I pack up in the dark, back down the beach, back up the track through the thickmud of the date palm groves to find a new and slightly less inspirational camp...still, on a positive note I feel I got the best of teh campspot, was phenomenally happy andperhaps this was just the price i hgad to pay to reset "The balance"!


With Costa Rica costing a lot of money I push on with more haste than normal towards the border, and Panamas sleepy border crossing high up in the Chiriqui mountains. Eating a piece of bread near the border I see a man wholooks not unlike me, unkempt hair,scraggyfacial hair and the shuffling plod of a tired motorcyclist wearing an all-too-hot motorcycle jacket. He's dirty, a good sign, perhaps not a fairy staying in hostelseach night having hot showers. Olivier, a French rider turns out to be a nice fella, the only down point being his bike....almost ten times bigger than mine a BMW1150GS....and -sorry everyone,Oli included- I really dislike BMWs. We talk a long while there,catching glimpses over Oli's shoulder at the indigenous lady, in deep green and decorated smock, feeding her daughter who wears an equally green dress but with the huge red lappels of children, almost clown like.


We ride off together to the border, and get lost, though we find the sleepy border easily enough afterwards and patiently wait the three staff members there to meticulously finish our paperwork. We cross late in the afternoon and find campamongstthe damp green leaves ofa coffee finca and a welcoming party ofa fifty strong family....all cousins....Rodney struggling; spluttering again at altitude - though steep here - leaves me pushing him again (POS).


Luckily it's downhill next day to Volcan, then David; a dump, before heading to Boquete hoping to hike one of the volcanoes there. Alas, after two days andvariousreports from locals,the weather here isterrible and likely to stay that way, so we camp nearby with good views in the good weather that night before begining the first of many exciting andscenicrides into the mountains, and what would become our routine in Panama; riding into the mountains-and back again. Here the roads are often one way, leading only to the trailhead of an indigenous footpath, itself leading to the actual mountain villages. Burdeoned by several bags of shopping, the burly women dressed always in bright green, yellow, red or purple smocks plod along the dirt in flip flops, two and half hours walk away, further into the mountains, home!










We look each day for a trail, a river, a lake to reach and camp at...or sometimes, just roadsidewhen reaching a sheer vertical wall of loose walk that stops Oli's BMW in it's tracks...or more correctly wouldn't stop it when going back down the other side! We turn the bike round on one of the pannier lids, resting the bike on it's engine cover slipping andfalling ourselves all the while before dragging it off the road to camp,brewing coffee and tucking into our regular evening meal, pineapple, bananas and biscuits.


But it's my turn next to hault proceedings when the loose old chain on Rodney reaches it's limit,sagging badly and falling off. Olirides off to get someone to cut the chain off so I can fit the new one I have, alas,it being Saturday he comes back with only a drunk man, a machete anda hammer head. we try a few other tactics sure to fail before another helper offers - very kindly as my moodthanks to the annoying drunk is pretty foul - to camp at his place. And next day helps cut the old one off.


Atrip to Panama issurely not complete without a look at the infamous Panama Canala andwith much effort we find a camp spotr right next to the canal...seperated from the canal, by the panama canal railway anda fence, we couldn't legally be much closer.





In Panama City westock up on spare parts and carry out vital servicing, for me this means a new rear shock, a clutch cable, steering bearings, fork oil,engine oil, valve time check,engine oil and air filter.


Now comes the BIG question....crossing The Darien Gap, a gap in the Pan Americana heading south means there's no road into Colombia - though some locals tells us there are roads, but with the fact they are heavily used by only probably the military of Panama andthe drugsmuggling FARC of Colombia mean I'm not keen.....and that leaves several options, to fly, to take the more common yachts south via the Carribean. I decidedlong ago to tackle the lesser used Pacific route using only cargo boats, and luckily, Oliwas keen too....though I'd avoided telling him anything about he types of boats and motorboats we'd be using.....read about that adventure next!




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Old 02-15-2012, 02:12 PM   #54
kta
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Great update Nick! I read it this morning on Facebook. I'm anxious to hear about your crossing to SA. Cheers!
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Old 02-16-2012, 04:46 AM   #55
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Mate, You're a Legend !!!

Oh man that is just freaking awesome. Great ride
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Old 02-16-2012, 05:02 PM   #56
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Living the dream! Can't wait to see more. Be safe!
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Old 02-20-2012, 10:51 AM   #57
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Shucks...

Thanks guys, glad you are reading and enjoying it too! I've penned the Darien crossing in y book...just need to sit down and type it up...but after 10days on a boat I want to RIDE!!!
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Old 02-20-2012, 01:20 PM   #58
EmilianoXR650L
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Saludos

Muy buen reporte !!!!!

Especialmente el de Mexico !!!!!

Seguiremos pendientes ....
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Old 02-27-2012, 11:43 AM   #59
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Bloody excellent attitude,Nick!

Loving the whole thing.

Hope you have more sweet fly-camps than punctures....
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Old 03-04-2012, 03:25 PM   #60
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EmilianoXR650L View Post
Muy buen reporte !!!!!

Especialmente el de Mexico !!!!!

Seguiremos pendientes ....
Muchismos Gracias! Disfruto Mexico mucho!....TAmbien....Hacerme feliz que lea!

Thanks too Bonzodg....

It really is nice to hear people are enjoying reading!
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