1 Year on 2 Wheels

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by CanuckCharlie, Aug 29, 2017.

  1. goodcat

    goodcat Changing latitudes, altitudes and attitudes

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    some great photos of your stops. And of course I like to see ruins haha

    Let me give you some serious advice..... Do NOT take photos of school kids !!!!
    Child trafficking is prevelant in Latin America and you could get into serious trouble if the wrong/right person catches you. Those kids weren't covering their faces for no reason.

    Be safe and enjoy
    #81
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  2. DavidM1

    DavidM1 Unicorn hunting

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    I'm not sure what's going on here, but I like it.
    #82
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  3. CanuckCharlie

    CanuckCharlie Been here awhile

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    That historic building is the Supreme Court of Belize. The sign post in the park in front of it was intended as a picture frame.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    #83
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  4. MR X

    MR X MOTORCYCLE MADMAN

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    Just found and read your thread today , Great stuff - Have a great adventure .:-)
    I will check out your blog also :-)
    #84
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  5. DavidM1

    DavidM1 Unicorn hunting

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    That's great. An enterprising local should be selling small ones as attachments for tourists' selfie sticks.
    #85
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  6. CanuckCharlie

    CanuckCharlie Been here awhile

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    That's a million-(Belize)-dollar idea...you better get on it quick! :lol3
    #86
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  7. mac w b

    mac w b Adventurer

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    Hey Charlie, great RR, I'm about 20 days behind you so all the border crossing info is very handy. Cheers
    #87
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  8. MrKiwi

    MrKiwi Love my Tranny

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    enjoying your trip report...
    #88
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  9. ROAD DAMAGE

    ROAD DAMAGE Long timer

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    What Mr. Kiwi said: :D

    Thanks for taking us along Charlie! :thumb
    #89
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  10. CanuckCharlie

    CanuckCharlie Been here awhile

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    Day 35 - 4335 Miles - Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala

    I enjoyed my brief stay in Belize but with another 6 Central America countries ahead of me, I had to get a move on. Also the intense heat and humidity in Belize City was getting a bit unbearable and I got a new layer of skin around my neck after a day spent on Caye Caulker.

    I tried to get an early start in the morning towards the Guatemala border but of course it rained since dawn. I gave up waiting after breakfast and decided to make a break for it. On the upside, I won’t be getting sunburned today.

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    There is only 1 main highway that connects Belize to the neighboring countries of Mexico and Guatemala so picking which border to cross was a no-brainer. Once out of Belize District, the land was flat with a whole lot of nothing for miles. It seemed simple enough that the main road would take me directly to the border crossing but there’s always something to make the day more interesting. When I reached the Macal River in Santa Elena, there was only a one-lane bridge with endless of traffic going the opposite direction. I waited and waited for a gap but it never happened. Finally a driver stopped and told me it was a one way bridge and I had to make a challenging U-turn on the steep street. I zigzagged across town and found the bridge going the other way as well as stop-and-go traffic through a touristy zone.

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    Crossing into Guatemala at Melchor de Mencos was an hour filled with bureaucratic paperwork and fees but it went fairly smooth at least. I exchanged my leftover Belize Dollars to Guatemalan Quetzales on both side of the border to even out the losses.

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    Exiting Belize

    · Pay 40 Belize dollar Departure Process Fee

    · Stamp out of Belize at immigration booth

    · Cancel vehicle transit stamp on the other side of the building

    Entering Guatemala

    · Fumigate the bike for 11 Quetzales

    · Stamp in at immigration counter

    · Apply for Temporary Vehicle Import Permit for 160 Quetzales (bring photocopy of documents)

    · Pay bridge toll of 10 Quetzales (Only for foreign vehicles; local traffic does not stop at toll booth)

    · Vehicle insurance is not required in Guatemala

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    My first impression of Guatemala is that roads are crap and drivers are fierce. Guatemala potholes put Mexican ones to shame. Larger vehicles dominate the road which puts me at the bottom of the food chain. Local drivers like to play game of chicken as oncoming traffic will initiate passing and expect me to move out of the way. Only if I had a dollar for every time I cursed inside the helmet I could probably fund my daily expense here in Guatemala. :p

    This is a major and the only road to Tikal...

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    I stopped to appreciate the beauty of Lago Petén Itzá. As I was leaving I saw a big crowd of people down the road and tree branches scattered everywhere. I really hoped this wouldn’t be another road blockade because it is the only way to Tikal National Park and I had no choice but to go through. Turned out it was just a dead guy lying in the middle of the road (from an accident I presume) and everyone is just standing around and looking. I rolled through slowly while all attention shifted over to me…what an awkward moment!

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    There were road signs for jaguars inside the Tikal National Park. Let me get my pepper spray ready…

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    I stayed at a hotel within walking distance to the Tikal ruins and it was dirt cheap. The catch was that there is only electricity for a few hours a day and internet was almost non-existent. But it was pure serenity sleeping in the jungle when the power goes out!

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    I spent almost an entire day the following day in the Tikal ruins. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the largest Mayan archeological sites. It was a ruin that ruined me for all other ruins. I will let pictures do the talking.

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    Damn tourists need to learn some respect.

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    Lots of bats were waiting for me inside the tiny temple passage.

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    Booby trapped entrance…I shall not be stung again!

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    Lots of sites are still being excavated. There could be a temple under every hill.

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    Temple V is one of the highest at 57 m and also one of the oldest in Tikal.

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    The new attraction in the ruins

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    To the top of Temple IV!

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    Temple IV is the tallest pre-Columbian structure still standing in the Americas and overlooks Temple I, II and III.

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    Temple II overlooks Temple I (Templo del Gran Jaguar) and Acrópolis del Norte.

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    What’s also impressive about the Tikal National Park is the variety of species. The sound of howler monkeys dominates the woods but they jump so fast between the branches, I could never get a good shot. Here’s a short recording of the sound in the rainforest.

    I headed south towards Guatemala City to get my bike serviced after 2 days of primitive living in Tikal. Roads were bumpy and patchy at best but on the upside all gas stations accepted credit cards.

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    I was able to cover 244 miles until a 4PM shower brought me to a halt.

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    There wasn’t much distance left to Guatemala City the next day but it was the road to hell. I lost count on how many construction zones I went through and the roads were covered in dust, mud and rocks. I had to constantly wrestle with the handle bar as my front wheel leaves the ground after going over each bump. The amount of concentration required worn me out quickly but taking a break was out of the question since all the traffic I just past would immediately get ahead. There’s no worse position than being stuck behind miles of crawling semis and I was covered with a layer of dust by end of the day. The only entertainment was watching snack vendors rushing up to the chicken buses with a basket balanced on their heads.

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    I arrived at Bavaria Motors in Guatemala City around 2PM and had the oil changed and broken turn signal replaced. The service was top notch and the bike was ready within 2 hours. In the meanwhile, I ran around the city on foot in search of a place to spend the night but all of the hotels in the area were well above $100 USD. Off to Antigua I went…

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    My bike was cleaned for the first time on this trip! However I do miss the street creds from pulling up on a dirty GS. :p

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    Leaving Guatemala City during rush hour was a good opportunity to practice lane splitting. I arrived in Antigua just before dusk but unfortunately young hippies have occupied all of the hotels and parking was non-existent so I settled for a place just outside of town.

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    Antigua Guatemala is a city in the highlands of Guatemala famous for its well-preserved Spanish Baroque-influenced architecture as well as a number of ruins and colonial churches. It has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hands down this is the most beautiful city I have visited on this trip so far.

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    They still repair the cobblestone streets the old fashion way, chiseling away each and every stone by hand.

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    Chicken buses roar the streets leaving behind a trail of diesel smoke but I’m fascinated by them. There is a good documentary on chicken buses called ‘La Camioneta’. Check it out if you are interested.

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    Volcán de Fuego is still active and eruptions can be seen frequently from the rooftop patio!

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    I found my home away from home at Casa Elena owned by two American expats Harvey and Diane. I also met a Canadian couple Christine and Jules who were robbed at gunpoint near Lake Atitlán while traveling on their motorcycles and are waiting for their new documents to arrive. Gail looks after the place while the owners are away and made us delicious breakfast and dinner every day.

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    On a side note, I’ve been on the road for over a month now and here are some of my thoughts:

    · Motorcycle traveling is very exhausting, especially when the road and weather conditions are unpredictable, but it is a very rewarding experience.

    · The one thing that makes me happy among everyday travels is seeing people smiling and waving back. It gave me a sense of belonging.

    · I have never felt more free, confident and content.

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    I will be hiking up Volcán Pacaya tomorrow…super excited! :D
    #90
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  11. mototrekkin

    mototrekkin Adventurer

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    Hey Charlie! Great pics! The jungle and the ruins in Tikal look amazing. So excited to get started. 3 days till I cross over into Mexico. Hey, I just got notification that a spot opened up for the Nov 27th sailing. I went ahead and told the Capt. that I would take it but haven't received confirmation yet. Are you still set for the 14th?
    #91
  12. CanuckCharlie

    CanuckCharlie Been here awhile

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    For now I'm still confirmed for the Nov 14 passage. However I will be traveling with the Canadian couple who got robbed in Guatemala and they are shooting for the Oct 30 sailing. I guess I will play it by year and see if there's an opening for the Oct 30 passage if I get to Panama early.

    There's so much to do and see along the way that I'm still missing about half the places I bookmarked before the trip. Give yourself plenty of time!

    Safe travels and maybe we will meet in S. A.
    #92
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  13. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial

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    Great report to wake up to this morning! I was going to sleep in a bit, but I checked my phone and when I saw a notification that you had a new post, I figured it was time to get up and read it. On my way back north, I am going to be using it as a travel guide. Those ruins look amazing.

    You’re correct about the drivers. I had the exact same experience in Guatemala and also in Honduras. I had some very close calls with oncoming traffic and was run off the road and onto the shoulder a few times. I thought the drivers were trying to kill me deliberately, until I realized that what they were doing was swerving to avoid the giant potholes. Of course without regard to oncoming traffic. My solution was too look out for potholes not just in my lane but also in the other lane. If I saw one and also an oncoming car heading toward it, I would slow down and ride on the shoulder so that the driver, when he did the famous last-minute high speed swerve, wouldn’t kill me.
    #93
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  14. CanuckCharlie

    CanuckCharlie Been here awhile

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    Thanks, glad I could entertain a few.

    Good tips! One really have to be vigilant on the road in C. A. and anticipate others' next moves, but at the same time it's never boring. :p


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    #94
  15. mototrekkin

    mototrekkin Adventurer

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    Good for you Charlie! yeah I wanted the later sailing to see more of Mexico and Central America. Safe travels my friend. I'll catch up to you along the way for sure.
    #95
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  16. whizzerwheel

    whizzerwheel Using Occam's Razor

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    This is a really good thread, thanks for all the info. Border crossing details and steps probably tedious to write up, but very helpful. Thank you!
    #96
  17. EvilClown

    EvilClown Reality show stunt double Super Moderator

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    In!

    :lurk
    #97
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  18. Ozarks Rider

    Ozarks Rider Adventurer

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    Nice job Charlie! Enjoying the RR. Continued safe travels.
    #98
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  19. CanuckCharlie

    CanuckCharlie Been here awhile

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    Day 43 - 4908 Miles - Granada, Nicaragua

    I signed up for a day hike up the Volcán de Pacaya which is about an hour south of Antigua. It’s an active volcano that had its last major eruption in May of 2010 with several lesser activities in the recent years. The hike itself was about 3-4 hours and they had horses for rent but I felt I needed the cardio. The trail is covered with volcanic ashes mixed with random drops of horse manure.

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    It was very misty and foggy at the top but occasionally we caught a glimpse of the volcanic valley steaming from below.

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    Horse taxi for hire

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    We headed down into the fertile valley of volcanic field.

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    Sneakers are not proper hiking gear. I slipped down this steep section but the horses were having a hard time gaining traction as well.

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    Hot pile of steaming volcanic rocks

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    We roasted (steamed) some marshmallows at a hot spot.

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    The Walking Dead

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    So much rain lately in Antigua somehow overloaded the pipe system and water supply was out for 2 days. Fire engine double duties as water truck for the community.

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    We met a French couple who’s been traveling the world on their bicycle for 11 years and counting! They sure made my trip look like a joke. The funny part is that I have only been on the road for a month and yet somehow I smell worse than them. Their website is: www.roueslibres.net...check them out!

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    Getting money out abroad is the most frustrating task on this trip. I have been sending money to myself through Western Union and picking up the cash at designated locations with my passport and a tracking number. This way I don’t have to use my debit card at an ATM and risk losing my card. It’s also cheaper than ATM fees in most countries. What was once a quick and easy process in Mexico turned into a 2-day scavenger hunt in the city and the only branch open on Sunday wanted two local references and their contact info. When I almost saw the light at the end of the tunnel as my money was being counted, the grumpy teller was dissatisfied with my signature because it wasn’t exactly identical to the one in my passport. All in all, I had to sign the documents three times to get the money in hand. I almost wanted to shower myself with Quetzales on the bed when I got back to the B&B.

    The sun came out for the first time since I arrived in Antigua so I grabbed the camera and went out for a little photo shoot.

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    I told this cop to pose on his LuKa EV motorcycle.

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    Apparently extortion is a big threat in Guatemala so every shop and restaurant has an armed security guarding the door. When was the last time you saw a shotgun in front of Little Caesar’s? The word on the street is that someone walked out with 2 slices without paying…

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    Working hard to provide you with quality bathroom reading material.

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    I originally planned to stay in Antigua for 3 days but ended up staying 5. Did I mention I love this city?

    I left Antigua for El Salvador with Christine and Jules from Québec and run into the French cyclists Bruno and Isabelle on the road. A police stopped by and ended the party by informing us that it’s dangerous to stand on side of the road as we would be targeted by banditos.

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    Crossing into El Salvador has been the most tedious border crossing yet. The whole process took over 3 hours and that's with a fixer skipping the queue on both sides of the customs.

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    Exiting Guatemala

    · Stamp out of Guatemala at immigration and receive El Salvador entrance slip (El Salvador does not stamp passport)

    · Make 2 photocopies of Guatemala exit stamp, Vehicle Import Permit, Passport, Driver’s License and Registration

    Entering El Salvador

    · Ride over to El Salvador border by squeezing through a long line of trucks

    · First checkpoint is to inspect canceled Guatemala Vehicle Import Permit and check VIN

    · Second checkpoint is down the road to hand over El Salvador entrance slip and check passport

    · Third stop is Aduana to apply for El Salvador 60-day Vehicle Import Permit for $10 USD and have vehicle inspected

    · Fourth checkpoint is further down the road to crosscheck Vehicle Import Permit with VIN and pay $5 USD road toll

    It was already late in the day and we were drenched in sweat after all of the border crossing BS was done so we settled for a cheap motel without hot water or Wi-Fi and called it a day. We took the coastal road CA-2 the next day and stopped for some tasty seafood for lunch while enjoying the ocean view.

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    We made as far as El Cuco which is a small surf town about an hour away from the Honduras border. No hot water or Wi-Fi seemed to be the common theme in El Salvadorian hotels. At least it was right on the beach and seafood is cheap and plentiful.

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    ADV 101: Go for a swim wherever you can

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    One border crossing per day was pretty much all I can handle in Central America so our goal for the next day was simply to cross into Honduras even though there’s only about 100 miles separating El Salvador from Nicaragua. As expected, it ended up being another two and half hour ordeal.

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    Exiting El Salvador

    · Stop at the checkpoint 3 km before El Salvador border to check Vehicle Import Permit and VIN

    · Stamp out of El Salvador at immigration and receive departure ticket

    · Stop before the bridge and hand over El Salvador departure ticket at another checkpoint

    Entering Honduras

    · Stop at the checkpoint on the other side of the bridge to check canceled El Salvador Vehicle Import Permit, Passport and Driver's License and Registration

    · Park next to Aduana and stamp in at immigration desk on the right for $3 USD

    · Apply for Vehicle Import Permit on left side of the building for $35 USD

    · Vehicle inspection and fumigation is further down the road and we were supposed to hand over a copy of the Honduras Vehicle Import Permit but the checkpoint officers waved us through

    While we were waiting at the Honduras border, a German (Peter) and an Austrian (Eckart) biker rolled in and suddenly an international biker gang was formed. These guys are professional grade at border crossings and were in and out in less than an hour!

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    Got forced off the road into some loose dirt and almost dropped the bike again

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    An Austrian leading a German (Insert your own joke here)

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    The Europeans ride hard and party hard…I can’t keep up

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    We rode together towards the Nicaragua border the next day. Roads kept getting worse and worse going down Central America. We were like a team of synchronized swimmers swinging from side to side to dodge the potholes while average about 20 mph. CA-3 is fairly straight on the map but you would never know after riding it like a slalom course.

    Third border crossing in 4 days!

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    Exiting Honduras

    · Go to immigration in the back of the building and stamp out of Honduras

    · Go to Aduana at the front of the building and turn in Honduras Vehicle Import Permit

    Entering Nicaragua

    · Stop at the first checkpoint after the bridge to check passports and receive declaration form

    · Go to fumigation (we skipped through even though the guy was waving and yelling)

    · Park at the immigrant building (blue one on the far left) and a couple of people will record your license plate outside. Stamp in at a booth inside and pay $12 (USD only, they do not access their own currency! Also bring photocopies of Passport, DL and Registration)

    · Go to customs on the far right in the same building with Passport, DL, Registration and Title to apply for Vehicle Import Permit (to be handed in upon entering Costa Rica)

    · At the final checkpoint leaving Aduana, show Passport and Vehicle Import Permit then hand in completed declaration form

    · Vehicle insurance is required in Nicaragua but we didn’t purchase any

    It didn’t take long to get into León after crossing into Nicaragua. Roads were USA grade for the most part. We still had a few hours of daylight to wander the streets of León.

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    León Cathedral

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    October 12th is Indigenous Resistance Day (Formerly Columbus Day) in Nicaragua and there was a parade going down the street.

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    Where do you stay when traveling with an Austrian? Hotel Austria!

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    We parted ways with Peter and Eckart the next morning but we will be seeing them again on the Stahlratte. :clap

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    We ran into 4 other bikers at a gas station before we even left León: Adrian & Andrea from Germany and Paul & Maryna from Australia. We were all booked for the same Stahlratte passage…small world!

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    Another international motorcade was formed. Go Team BMW!

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    Some night scene from Granada, Nicaragua

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    We reunited with Joe and enjoyed some cheap and delicious takeout at our Airbnb, also known as Casa Moto Diablos. :p

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    #99
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  20. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial

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    Stunning photos, amazing experiences, and legendary ADV-community camaraderie all along the way! In a word, nirvana.
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