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Old 07-28-2012, 07:58 AM   #91
Malindi OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nopantsflyer View Post
i am refering to post #3, is this an austrian number plate by any chance? beiing that i am austrian myself!
It is ... It was an Australian (Chris Addison) on an Austrian licensed KTM bike he got from the factory as a demo.
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Old 07-29-2012, 04:26 PM   #92
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July 15, 2012 - Costa Rica, the most civilized of the Central American countries was the hardest to get into. With Nicaragua being exceptionally hard to get out of, this was a day to forget.

The border was a mix of confusion, hawkers, lineups, conflicting documentation requirements and other nonsense. After all was said and done, three and a half hours had passed before I was rolling towards Liberia. In hindsight, Liberia was the wrong place to stop and the next day I moved on to Playas del Coco, a mere thirty or so kilometers away. Once there, I lucked out and found a place right on the beach. This was my office for a few days.



This part of the trip was promising to be quite different as compared to the last few months. My friend Illa planned to meet me here for a week or so and as such the bike got parked and a car was rented. The car was a tad dusty when I returned it nine days later. The roads in Costa Rica are nothing to sniff at and even the main road to the Tambor airport near Santa Teresa is a dirt road. I am sure the oil pan was volumetrically somewhat diminished when I returned it.



The immediate side effect of having Illa here was an upgrade to my level of accommodations.



We had no real plans as to what to see or in what order, but in the end we covered everything and more, as well as building in some beach time and lounge time in the various places we stayed at.
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Old 07-29-2012, 08:55 PM   #93
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July 20, 2012 - Our first stop after a night at Playa Ocotal was San Jose. As one of the local resort owners told us later, there are only three things to avoid in Costa Rica. The first one is San Jose, the second is San Jose... You get the idea.

We got out of there after spending a night in hotel Barcelo San Jose Palacio. One of the fanciest places in town, booked for a fraction of the price through Priceline. She knows all the tricks.

Our next destination was Tortuguero, or rather, a parking lot at the end of a thirty kilometer dirt road, at which point you need to take a "ferry" for another hour packed with locals and a few tourists to the town of Tortuguero.



Tortuguero is the jumping off point for a number of tours, such as a two hour boat ride through the jungle during which you spot everything alive in its natural setting.



Swimming is not encouraged.



If the crocs don't get you, these little guys will.



Despite the pictures and obvious natural beauty you are surrounded by 24/7, it does not compare to what we considered the highlight of our two days there. We took a night tour of the local beaches, with a guide and strictly controlled by "spotters" to see giant sea turtles come on shore to lay their eggs. It was amazing to watch these huge creatures having lumbered a few hundred feet up the beach to dig a hole and then lay around a hundred eggs before camouflaging the lot and returning to sea. In total, we observed three turtles in various stages of egg laying, hiding their nests and returning to the ocean. As it was pitch dark, cameras and flashlights were not allowed. We got to within three feet of the turtles and their eggs at one point.
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Old 07-29-2012, 09:06 PM   #94
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July 23, 2012 - The next installment of our itinerary was the Arenal volcano, a popular stop on the Costa Rica tourist circuit.

The car seemed to not have suffered too much damage from our race to make the 1 PM ferry the other day, so we casually made our way to the Arenal volcano, having booked a spot at Volcano Lodge. Sadly, the weather was such we didn't get a single peak of the volcano and we also found out that the thing had gone silent a few years ago, sapping our desire for a hike to the top.

The patio of our room bordered on a garden with a wild variety of flowers which turned out to be a feeding ground for dozens of hummingbirds. We sat very quietly on the deck and watched the air-to-air combat of the humming birds, cameras at the ready.





Our next stop proved to be the most challenging but the most rewarding.
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Old 07-29-2012, 09:09 PM   #95
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July 24, 2012 - GPS's are wonderful things, unless they lead you astray due to faulty roadmaps. A nice solid line on the screen does not mean there is actually anything resembling a road nearby in some instances.

On the way to Santa Teresa, we turned off on a nice hard-packed road with lots of traffic. We knew the roads on the peninsula were sometimes of dubious quality, but all was well for now. As we got closer and closer to Santa Teresa, the road started to shift into mud, slippery bridges and at some point we ended in a field with no road to possibly carry us any further. This was after numerous very steep uphill tracks we struggled up. The way down was far more treacherous. We decided to detour but to no avail. Even the main road to Santa Teresa is all mud and gravel, so too the road to Tambor Airport. At 6 pm, right at sunset, we set out to cover the 58 kilometer dirt track to Santa Teresa. Never again.

We made our hotel at 9 PM, and thankfully the trek to Santa Teresa turned out well worth the struggle.



The town is part beachbum surf town, part high-end resorts and part secluded Yoga retreats. A smattering of fabulous restaurants rounds out the lot. We could not figure out why the roads were so decrepit, but later we were told it was part on purpose, as Santa Teresa believes in "bad roads bring good people and good roads bring bad people".





Playa Cielo was our favorite hang out, for obvious reasons.



It was a very relaxing three days with good food, some beach time and naps in the hammock while Illa went for a massage. We were very sad to leave this little paradise. We took the easy way out. Only 10 kilometers of dirt and ruts to the ferry at Paquera to the mainland.
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Old 07-29-2012, 09:12 PM   #96
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July 27, 2012 - With Illa's visit coming to a close, we made out way back to Playas del Coco, but this time we had our eye on the top-end resort there, Rancho Armadillo.

On the way back, we stopped at Las Pumas, a refuge for local wildlife. Started as a wild cat sanctuary, it now houses about eighty different species of pelted and feathered wildlife.

This little guy used to be a pet and really wanted a cuddle, but his beak just looked a tad too sharp.





Rancho Armadillo was amazing and we had the place to ourselves.



From the hammocks on the overlook, we could see the ocean and hear howler monkeys all around us.



A nice dinner at Villa Italia that evening rounded out a fabulous week.

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Old 07-29-2012, 09:24 PM   #97
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Oh, and just in case any of your wonder why I abandoned my bike and riding buddy for a week .... :-)

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Old 07-30-2012, 06:45 AM   #98
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I was wondering when we'd get a pic of Illa. Worth the wait.
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Old 07-30-2012, 09:18 PM   #99
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Well that certainly make sense. Take your time, brotha.
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Old 08-04-2012, 06:06 PM   #100
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July 30, 2012 - I caught up with Jan in Dominical, a small beach town built around a dirt road and a few hippies. The beach was not much compared to Santa Teresa and the best accommodation in town had no windows, just mosquito netting. This is what traveling is all about.

After a day or so of catching up on email, pictures and generally hanging around contemplating life, I sent a casual email to Tea, our contact with Evergreen to let her know we were getting closer to Panama and we'd be looking for a container to share in the next week or so, if one was available.



After looking around at the various options of crossing the Darien Gap between Panama and Columbia (no, there is no road connecting Central and South America), we decided a shared container was the best of the available options.

Tea's reply was instantaneous and urgent. She had a container with two cars and some space for two bikes. The trouble was we were 700 kms away, still in Costa Rica and crossing from Costa Rica into Panama is fraught with all sorts of problems. After some discussion and weighing of options, we decided to be foolish and try to cross a border and cover 700 kms in a day to get there in time. And so ended our hammock time with the hippies.



At 5:00 AM the next morning, we were ready to roll.
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Old 08-04-2012, 06:09 PM   #101
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July 31, 2012 - The ride to the border was mostly fast on good roads, and once there, we wasted no time and enlisted the assistance of a "helper" to speed us through the process.

The dire warnings of previous travelers, documented painstakingly on Drive Nacho Drive and Life Remotely, two websites run by travelers who were a few months ahead of us, proved invaluable. Mistakes on documentation, insurance forms and vehicle permits are rife and even after a few rounds of corrections, mine were still incorrect. I was assured at the border that the manual corrections, extra stamps and signatures would suffice.

Hours later we rolled into pitch-black Panama City, a place so developed we felt teleported back to cities the likes of San Francisco. The hostel where our fellow container dwellers resided was full, so we ended up in Hotel Latino. To say this place is a caricature of Central American life would be an understatement. We lugged our bags to our hotel rooms, dodging curious looks from bespectacled business people and prostitutes alike. Later we ran into a "shaman" who was staying in our hotel, wandering around bare feet but assuring us he was "enlightened" as well as able to program an Android device. Since he was Swiss, we presumed he was expelled from his home country with good reason.

The next day at 8:00 AM, we met Amy (Tea's daughter) and the other drivers and cars and rode in convoy to the police inspection, our first frustrating stop in the hurry up and wait game that was to be our lot the next few days.



Not only the riff-raff needs to have the correct VIN numbers on their various permits, even the the elite don't escape. Note the pre-Euro Italian license plate.



Of course the various stamps and corrections were rejected on my paperwork and together with Amy, I went off to customs to get things straightened out. What would be a simple five minute affair in any other country turned into an hour and half ordeal, despite Amy's excellent management of insolent and lazy officials to get things done. A guy waiting next to us was told his paperwork would take two days to process. He just remained seated, infusing guilt into the woman who brusquely rejected him, only to receive his paperwork a few minutes later. We later heard from our Argentinean container mates that even by South American standards, the Panamanian process was horribly inefficient.

The next day we were to meet at the "Super 99 Mercado", apparently the only one in town. We found three of them online the night before and of course the four parties didn't end up in the same spot at the agreed upon time. This was in Colon, the port from which we were sailing, described as "dangerous" by a native of Johannesburg. In the end, we found one another and we set off to customs with Luis, our handler in Colon.

We spent a few hours waiting here and there.





Finally, the drivers of the four vehicles were allowed into the port to load the cargo. But where was our container?



Success at last. After three days of running around to police checks, clearance to leave the country, customs checks and rechecks, we had a full container.



We grouped together behind the container and counted cash to hand over to Luis. Nobody ever mentioned first world concepts like "cargo insurance", "dangerous goods inspection" or the like and after seeing the container closed and sealed we bid farewell to our babies.
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Old 08-04-2012, 06:12 PM   #102
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August 3, 2012 - After three days in which we barely had time to eat, we focused on the simple delights in life, like sleeping in and eating breakfast. After that, we headed into the old town called "casco historico".

The old Panama City clings to its rich history through countless grandiose buildings in various states of disrepair.



The old town is in full reconstruction mode in every nook and cranny. Below is a good idea of a "before" and "after" picture when it's all done.



The place very much feels like it could turn into the next Havana, with parts of the city wonderfully restored while other areas miss out on much needed repairs.



Some places, like this concert hall, have been meticulously maintained throughout the decades.






Graffiti is everywhere.



The new city, seen from "casco historico".



As always, there are more pictures in this slideshow. Tomorrow we'll head for the Panama Canal.
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Malindi screwed with this post 08-05-2012 at 07:25 AM
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Old 08-05-2012, 02:30 AM   #103
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Fantastic stuff, I am hooked.
I might try to meet up with you in France or Belgium, to buy you both a beer or two Ride safe, have fun.

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Old 08-06-2012, 10:36 AM   #104
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August 4, 2012 - The ultimate tourist trap in Panama is the Panama Canal. It's really not all that wide and at any given point there are far larger ships hanging around the harbor in Vancouver. We were expecting towering ships of unimaginable size.

We saw one "panamax" vessel, boats built specifically for the canal to shuttle containers back and forth to be loaded onto ships too large for the canal. I suppose if you don't live near a harbor it's worth a visit.





We were expecting the canal to be busy, with ships lined up on both ends trying to get through, but when we arrived, we were told we needed to wait about four hours prior to the next arrival. We bailed on the canal and went to Albrook Mall. One of the things I wanted to do was buy a wifi USB stick as my laptop range was limited.

Upon our return, the place was packed and two ships were arriving.



It had started raining and we bailed failure soon afterwards, beating the crowds to the waiting taxis.

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Old 08-13-2012, 08:42 PM   #105
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August 12, 2012 - A large majority of people in the world spend their time waiting. It's often not clear for what. Maybe for harvest season, maybe for their life to improve. Waiting was the start of our South American adventures.

Our entry into South America went smoothly enough. Aside from the fact I was questioned about a bottle of contact lens solution - do you have beer in there? - and the merciless confiscation of Jan's rusted nail clipper at customs, we swiftly swapped continents in a short one hour flight that was probably one of the most expensive I've ever flown for the distance covered. That was the easy part. A fabulous little hotel in the shanty towns of the old city of Cartagena was the other highlight of day one.



Coincidentally, the welder who fixed my broken side stand, a result of the container shipment, is the shirtless guy standing in the doorway of the picture below. The building behind him is the workshop.



In the evening, we connected with our container mates and the next morning, bright and early, we headed to the port, hoping to clear the bikes out that day. I can lament for hours at the incompetence, bureaucracy and administrative stupidity that would give any African country a run for its money, or I can just stick to the statistics to give you a sanitized version of what we went through.

Elapsed time to get out bikes out of the port: two days. Taxi rides taken: eight to ten. Hours waited in various air-conditioned offices: about fifteen. Hours waited outside: about five. Photocopies made: about fifty in three or four different locations. Hours worn a hard hat: about five. Signatures and fingerprints taken: countless. People allowed into the port to actually empty the container of bikes and cars: one, yours truly. The fact it only took two days was solely because we had two Argentineans with us who carried out all the negotiations and did so in a very professional manner. We were mere wallflowers in the whole process.

Needles to say, we will never do it this way again. For those considering something similar, drop me a line and I can fill you in on some of the details.

The next few days we did absolutely nothing, aside from wander through town. Cartagena is a beautiful old town, very safe and very expensive in places.



I walked through town and shot a handful of pictures.



It's always fun to shoot alongside a professional photo shoot, I'm sure much to the chagrin of the photographer.



I hopped into the gold museum as well. Aside from the fact that the items on display were very interesting, they were mounted in such a way it was a pleasure to take some pictures without a distracting background. The lighting was superb.



Cartagena also seems to house a fair number of graffiti artists. At one point I found an entire street covered in graffiti.



After a few lazy days we are heading into the mountains. Mainly to do some hiking but also to escape the heat and humidity.
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