27th June 2019 Meg Hello and apologies for the delay since our last posting! Time seems to have really sped up in the last month as we’ve been busily making our way through Central America and into Mexico. I’ll do my best to give justice to our adventures over the last month…. Panama: When we left you last we flew the bike from Colombia to Panama. It all went pretty smoothly except when the police in Bogota Colombia wanted to search our boxes, they had already been searched, cleared, and sealed by the Police at the Medellin airport and the keys were with us in Panama! The guys from Car-go-rider came and picked up the keys from us at our hotel at 10pm and they were flown back to Colombia on the early flight. Luckily they didn’t find any of our contraband and the bike arrived just a day later. We were really happy to have the assistance of Carolina and Enrique from Car-go-rider to help us with the paperwork and logistics at the airport, and we were all finished and having a beer on the Causeway in no time. We really enjoyed exploring Panama City, the Parque Municipal allowed us to see a family of sloths, a toucan, a deer, monkeys and lots of woodpeckers! We also visited the Miraflores Locks and saw a tiny sailing boat and a huge car carrier come through the Panama Canal. It is certainly an impressive engineering feat! The Panamerican Highway from Panama City to Santa Carolina was fairly long and uneventful but there weren’t too many options and we make it to Santa Carolina for a couple of nights by the beach. We then turn towards Volcan avoiding the big piles of rotten mango hazards along the road! Who knew mangoes could be a road hazard? Costa Rica: We cross from Panama to Costa Rica at Rio Serena and we couldn’t have had a more pleasant experience! It may have helped that we brought ice blocks for the immigration and customs people but it all went very smoothly. We stop for gas over the border and meet the friendliest of attendants who provide us with water and lollies for buying fuel there! We also meet Luca, an Italian guy on a Kawasaki KLE who is riding in Costa Rica for 10 days. Luca has had his bike stored in Costa Rica for over a year and unless he came back his bike would have been seized. After this, in the torrential rain, we find the amazing cloud forest in San Gerardo and although we may not have spied the elusive quetzal we really enjoy seeing so many different flowers and hummingbirds! After a beautiful sunny morning, we again find ourselves in the torrential rain as we head down the mountain to seek sun and find Esterillos Beach. To be honest it wasn’t our favourite beach stop but it’s got palm trees, warm water and a mermaid statue so can’t complain. We stop at Tree Chocolate on our way towards the border and enjoy meeting ‘Bonito’ the chilli eating toucan and having a couple of passionfruit liqueur shots. We have met so many friendly locals along our journey. We get so many waves, thumbs up and people coming over to say hi and enquire about the bike or our trip, it has been an amazing experience to meet so many different people. We stop for the night at Cano Negro where Mike did a brake pad change and a few other bits and pieces on the bike and we went on to have a hilarious evening at El Fogon, the local bbq joint, with Oscar, the 77 year old owner of the posada, who’s ever lasting line is ‘one more, no more’. This turns into quite a few beers and a couple of rum shots. Poor Oscar got into a fair bit of trouble as he was supposed have just been picking up dinner for his wife. As expected we are both feeling a little dusty the next morning, but nevertheless we hit the road towards the Los Chiles border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Nicaragua: We find the border crossing between Costa Rica and Nicaragua fairly hassle free. There are quite a few steps in the process but we find everyone very helpful and friendly and the whole thing takes about 2 hours. After hitting more rain we decide to stop for the night at a hotel along the road and happen to find the Miss Teen Nicaragua competition. We see lots of hair rollers, high heels and make up as we park the bike up under the veranda and peel off our helmets, boots and jackets, and I lock Mike away safely in the room. Not sure you could get much more different attire from what we turned up in. We head towards Granada next and as we came round a corner a Policeman steps out and starts flagging us in to a secluded spot on the side of the road. There was no Police vehicle, any other officers or anything else to indicate it was legitimate so Mike did the slow down, pretend to start pulling over then nailed it past him. He was most unhappy and started running after the bike. A little further down the road we were stopped by the real police for overtaking on a yellow line and we have a good chat about the bike and are allowed to pass by without any problems. We arrive in Granada and find our nice hotel, Miss Margrits, with a pool and plenty of beer in the fridge! We meet Dominic and his son Stefano by the pool and Dominic offers to help put us in touch with a guy who may be able to repair our leaking sub fuel tank. Granada is a really pretty town, lots of colourful buildings and cobblestone streets but we find it a little uneasy, there are lots of closed restaurants and we hear that tourism is down over 80% since the political unrest in 2018. After meeting Kristy we get a tour of Argencove, a fine artisan chocolate company. Kristy and Matt, a couple who lived in Darwin for over 20 years, bought a cattle farm 2 years ago and now make and sell fine chocolate from Nicaragua. We had no idea how complicated the chocolate process was! We are very happy to have lots of taste tests here and hear a bit of their story of living and working in Nicaragua. We also visit the Dona Elba cigar shop after our chocolate shop adventure and have an interesting tour of the process of making cigars. Mike gets handed a huge cigar that had just been rolled and not pressed. He proceeded to smoke it in record time. Despite me being a bit worried about how pale he was he insisted he was fine and enjoying it. It was short lived and the man from the shop had to rush out and get a bottle of water. We sat down for a while then made a rush for the hotel, where Mike proceeded to bring up his lunch then crawl into bed with what he describes as “The world’s worst instant hangover” Nicaragua is famous for its rocking chairs and we have an enjoyable evening reclining in the chairs while deciding on our next stop. We picked up the repaired tank and Mike slots it back on the bike. We decide to move fairly quickly through the rest of Nicaragua as there are mounting protests and national strikes. As we leave Granada we stop at the fuel station and Mike notices the fuel line and fuel filter have split. (Mike. How I didn’t notice this while I was putting the tank on the night before I have no idea. I blame it on the cigar) It is pouring with rain and poor Mike trudges off to find a moto parts shop while I mind the bike. A short while later a friendly local then takes my helmet and goes off on his scooter to pick up Mike and take him to the shop. (Mike. This was really nice as I had walked about 3ks through what was essentially a waterfall in all my gear) After Mike expertly installs the fuel filter we hit the road. We are stopped by the Nicaraguan police 3 times in about 10 kms to show our paperwork and explain where we are heading next. It was a big show of force by Maduro to try and keep the protests under control. We make it to Somoto early afternoon and find an excellent lunch spot – El Puente – where we have a fabulous lunch of beef ribs and chips and plantain, chicken, cheese and salsa and have the most excellent attention that we have ever received from any restaurant! After a few photos with the bike we farewell the friendly lads from Hostal San Jose and make our way to Los Manos the next day to make our way into Honduras. Honduras: We make it through the Nicaragua/Honduras border in about 2 hours. The usual rigmarole with photocopies of pieces of paper but no particular hassles. The most entertaining part was waiting for the aduana guys in Honduras who were participating in a slideshow presentation on transparency and efficiency with some trainers from the city. This wash highly ironic as this stopped the entire process, as none of the windows operated while the presentation was in progress. So the line of truckies and locals increases dramatically. Our first stop is Valle de Angeles, a pretty but touristy place, however our Airbnb was out in the sticks so we bought a pineapple and beer for dinner strapped it to the bike and got in out of the rain. The next day we met Madeline who works for a small newspaper in Honduras focussing on positive news stories. She says she is keen to write a small article on us writing about our experiences travelling and why people should come to Honduras. We’ll keep you posted when it comes out! We then jump on the bike and head towards Lago de Yojoa. We read about D & D Brewery so we booked a night there. Unfortunately, it was a major disappointment for us – terrible tasting expensive beer, inedible food (the only food we have had to send back on our whole trip so far) and poor staff attitude means that we cook tuna and noodles outside our room and head into town to buy supermarket beer and find a lovely spot on the river. We meet Lindo, the original kayak operator in Lake de Yojoa, and spend a great afternoon chatting with him while reclining on the banks of the river. We have a fairly busy and chaotic highway ride to La Ceiba the next day. The traffic is manic and we realise that last night was their major festival for the year. The place looks like a bomb has gone off, people are sleeping on benches, corners, there is rubbish and confetti everywhere. We head indoors to our Airbnb and chill out for the afternoon. The next day we get the ferry to Utila in Bay Islands in Honduras. It causes quite a stir when we turn up with the bike ready to go on the ferry. The captain and the whole crew get involved and she is tucked nicely into a corner ready for the crossing. Other than passing a sinking ship it’s an easy crossing to Utila. Utila is a hilarious little island, crazy narrow streets and high speed traffic on a mixture of bicycles, motorbikes and quad bikes coupled with a lot of pedestrians. We start our intensive PADI open water course the next day and after 4.5 days we are re certified and enjoying the magical underwater world. We were due to leave Utila and continue our journey north following our open water course, however we hear that there are large protests and road blocks on mainland Honduras. Locals are protesting about the President privatising education and healthcare and people are understandably really upset. We see on the news and hear stories of the American embassy entrance being set alight and some trucks and cars being set on fire on the Panamerican Highway. After some deliberation over a couple of beers we decide to stay on in Utila and see what happens over the next few days. To be honest it’s no hardship as it allows us to enjoy an adventure by kayak to the other side of the island through the mangroves, do some more snorkelling and also to sign up for our PADI advanced open water course! We have a great couple of days with Kelly and Barclay who we met on our course and do some amazing dives including a night dive and a wreck dive. The visibility in the water on Utila is amazing and it is the second largest reef in the world so it’s a pretty special place to hone your diving! Finally, it’s our last night in Utila and after a few beers and games of Pass the Pigs which become very competitive it’s time to say adieu. We are up at 5am the next day a bit dusty and bedraggled to catch the ferry and have a long and hot ride to Copan Ruins. We have no problems along the road but can see a lots of scorched patches of road and big piles of rocks which were obviously used to block the road until yesterday. We have an amazing bbq lunch/dinner and then escape to the air con as the gauge says its 41 degrees Celsius! Tomorrow we’re off to see Copan and into Guatemala! Guatemala: It’s a slow border crossing between Honduras and Guatemala and we only just make it through before the 2 hour lunch break! It’s a fairly long ride to Antigua and the road varies greatly – 2 lane highways through to gravel. Passing through Guatemala City is tough at the end of a long day with a huge build up of traffic but it’s nice to arrive in Antigua where we see cobblestone streets and colourful colonial style buildings. We have a great couple of days exploring Antigua, getting lost in the markets, coming across some local games of soccer and seeing the incredibly ornate churches and monasteries. We also have time to sample the local beer of the region as well as try the wine and tapas and finally tempt fate by trying the hottest taco of all time! The next day we are on the road to Lake Atitlan. We stop at a café which has an incredible view of the lake for a beer and nachos before arriving in San Antonio Polopo where we stayed for the night. After a quick explore around the town which was setting up for its annual fair we retreated to the hotel. We had a funny vibe about the place and we met an American guy who had been living there for 10 years who painted a poor picture of the town after dark. The view from the deck of the hotel was pretty special so no complaints there. The owner kept the icy cold large bottles of homebrew “Artisanal” beer coming. (Mike. I’ve worked if you add Artisanal before the name it means the beer is worth three times more) After this stop we had a lovely drive around part of Lake Atitlan and then headed on the mountain roads to Huehuetenango. It was election time in Guatemala so there were posters and trucks with huge speakers blasting slogans everywhere. We had a long ride to the border the next day along roads filled with topes (speed bumps) and a combination of tar and gravel patches. There was some very questionable overtaking by large trucks filled with people sitting on the back and we saw two vehicles that must have been carrying about 8o people combined trade paint at one stage. We were pleased to get off that road when we got to the border. After a bit of a wait on the Guatemalan side as there was some unknown problem with our temporary import permit we were allowed to leave and head across to Mexico. So that wraps up an awesome time in Central America. Mexico update and photos to follow soon, I promise!