May 2013
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Month May 2013

Water three ways

(Being written from sick-bed about yesterday’s ride, which became increasingly exhausting as I prematurely ran out of energy, went back to the hotel and threw up. Things have got progressively worse and based on other symptoms it appears I’ve contracted a bug)

But yesterday was brilliant. I decided to combine a ride along the shore with a ride up into the hills northeast of Managua and Granada. The track, at the end of the day looked like this, nicely between both giant lakes, only 118 miles, but some hard earned
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It started on a small road that ran along the shoreline

Cows out walking the beach

It turned to dirt. Lucinda resting in the shade in a small village

and passed

The road went inland a mile or so and the riding was good


Then we came to a big river with egrets

And, perfectly, a small ferry

Which we shared with a bike and a pick-up

The works were carefully supervised by the mechanic


When we rode off, a truck with a couple of cows rolled on

Then about 10 miles later we came to a river and the dirt road ran out. i had been wondering why there was no road shown on either Garmin’s Central America or my open source map, but a dirt road was shown on my paper map. I drove up and own the river and this was the only crossing I could find. No problem, obviously, but no way is this a car bridge, which made me wonder about what was ahead

Crossing the bridge, which was made of salvaged iron plate, watched by some boys who looked like they’d never seen a bike like Lucinda before, which I guess they hadn’t


There were tracks on the other side which surprised me. Maybe the ubiquitous car-wheeled, cow-pulled rigs…

Then our first water crossing. I walked it to check depth and the bottom surface. Slippery

Then after another few miles a much bigger water problem. This time a small lake.

The rain the previous night had flooded the area out. Only three steps in and the water was over my boots, another couple and above the height of Lucinda’s air intake (three inches above my knee) and I though oh shit, we’re stuck. After exploring a bit we found a good route around the edge with only one deep bit at the end. Deep enough to be over the cylinder heads. Very slippery with rocks so we crawled and zen’d our way across. No way did I want to go down


Later, a farmer very nicely showed me how to navigate cows


Then later we met the main road, rode up in a loop through some hills, then back

Villains 2 and 3

In 1665 the Brit pirate Henry Morgan entered Nicaragua from the Caribbean via the San Juan river, crossed Lake Nicaragua, looted Granada (Spanish rule at the time) of 500,000 pounds of silver, sank all the Spanish boats and burned Granada to the ground. We forgive him because of his boldness and daring and because he exclusively preyed on the Spanish, who had it coming. A quick skim of his Wiki and it looks like he had say a 40/0 win/loss record against the Spanish despite being nearly always greatly out-numbered, which is awesome and I hope the indigenous Central Americans were going yay! yay! in the background. He died of liver failure from hard drinking aged 53.

But unglamorously, about 200 years later, in 1855, the American opportunist William Walker sailed from San Francisco and for power alone killed everyone in sight and made himself King of Nicaragua. This enraged neighbour countries and six weeks after making himself King, the Salvadorans and Guatemalans arrived and he fled, but on his way out he burned Granada to the ground. The Hondurans caught him and hung him.

This church is still soot stained from that fire


I toured Granada on foot today and made this video of the impressive street market


Lucinda stayed here


Villains 1

I pulled over onto an 8′ wide paved shoulder to key in an alternate on my GPS. A few minutes later I pull out only to immediately get flagged down by two Nicaraguan police. This is now the third time in about a week. The first two times I was riding with the Panamanians. Nicaragua is crooked cop heaven.

The meaner looking of the two asks for my documents, which I gave him. He then told me that I’d committed an infraction and the shoulder was reserved for bicycles. This was bullshit. He said he had to fill out the form on the clipboard in front of him and I was free to come down to the police station the next day and pay my ticket and retrieve my license and Guate title. This was a carbon-copy of the shake-down we’d received further north. Eddie had managed to negotiate a 1K cordoba fine, about $12/head. So I asked him what the fine would be if I wanted my licence back now. He says $100 US. This is a fortune on the bribe scale, maybe two weeks wages for this bastard. I knew Eddie would negotiate this down, but he knows the subtleties having lived here for years. This is only my third bribe and I really don’t want to screw it up and end up being arrested for offering a bribe by pissing him off. So I pay it in full, putting the cash on my seat, not giving it to him, as is the correct form. He duly picked it up. Yes, I’m ashamed of myself. I’ll get the correct storyline on handling bent cops from Eddie next time I see him. This is why I don’t post on ADV: why get crucified by the experts there for bailing early on the fun part. But learning, slowly.

Up at 4:00 this morning as part of my two-day mysterious disappearance and was on my bike by 10:00, super tired and so headed for Granada because it rhymes with Canada. It started with a nasty ride through Managua – these Centroamerica cuiadades are very tough but probably just a warm-up for Asia. Actually Fred emailed me a strong warning about riding through Lima, which he said was hell, and that’s only a couple of months away, so we’ll see.

We took a diversion and rode through the countryside. This is Volcan Mombacho

And we’re on Lake Nicaragua, so rivers running across our path

And this smaller one, at lakeside, with horses grazing. You see all that white stuff. Garbage. As beautiful as these countries are, the rivers are often where people dump their garbage. No fault here, it’s as it’s always been and they’ve got us beat on some more important things that where to dump the trash.

Here’s village and trash life – a shot of a slum in Guatemala City

And those steps at the bottom of the above pic lead to the river where they dump the garbage

I love rivers and notice this, so now the subject’s covered, no mas

Down to the Lake. Like El Salvador, there are cattle everywhere

Then into town, past a creepy pond

Through the outskirts

Through this beautiful, and typical burb

Then this

To this, the oldest church in Central America

More on this tomorrow (when I get the facts straight) and the story of a hyper-villain. Well two actually.

Here’s a gecko poo. Thanks to Hugh for pointing out that only gecko poo has a white bit at the end

to Managua


There were incredible storms during the night. We set off for the ferry early. It was raining. The rainy season has started. Back to the mainland, goodbye Ometepe, you’re beautiful.

Gassed up and said goodbye to four very fine guys, although I’ll be seeing Eddie in a few weeks in Panama City. I hope to ride with you all again when you come to BC. Don’t forget – bananas, tomorrow in fact, haha

Then they headed off for the Costa Rica border and I headed north to Managua, where I have to take care of some business for two days.

A lagoon to the west of Lake Managua


So here’s where we’re headed
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It’s likely to be the last time I ride with my new friends who are headed south on a quicker path than mine.

We set off for the ferry terminal to the Isle of Ometepe, which is the largest island in a lake in the world and consists of two volcanoes, one of which is still active. It’s also home to fresh water sharks, bull sharks in fact and they attack people. Cool.

At the ferry terminal

While we’re waiting for the boat we’re surrounded by millions of tiny flies. None of us had ever seen anything like it and it’s driving us crazy


Hugh covers up, Colin leaves his helmet on

Then the boat arrives

The boys ride on


We tie down the bikes

The ferry ride’s terrific, about an hour

The island dock

I think boats and motorcycles are a great mix. Specially at home, on the BC Ferries, mostly the small ones. I can’t wait to take Lucinda to Lund with the two beautiful crossings. Nothing better, really.


Onto a wonderful road



and by the water


Through the two volcanoes

Then the hamlet of Santo Domingo, where we jumped into the water

A micro storm came through, lasting about 10 minutes. I named it Tropical Storm Lucinda



Panamanians and the sea

This is a two-day post. In the below track the magenta lines are just route calculations, the cyan is the path
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After the long borders day yesterday, I’ve crashed for the night at a place in Chinandega with no internet. In the morning I walk up the street, iPad mini concealed in my pants to check on emails and stuff, to anther hotel and guess what, there are four distance bikes (3 KLR’s and a KTM) in the parking lot, hidden behind a building.

I go in, have a coffee and wait for them to appear, curious.

The first guy walks out, we introduce ourselves and guess what, he’s an engineer and all-around bike God, I tell him I’m having intermittent starting issues and he says no problem. How is it that people appear at exactly the right time? His name’s Eddie and he’s riding with Hugh and his two sons Blake and Colin. They’re riding from Florida to Panama. In fact they’ve spent many years in Panama.

So they have my starter assembly off Lucinda right away and get to work diagnosing the problem.

They’re headed the same way down the track to Leon so we ride off together.

The first thing that happens is we get busted for passing on a solid line. This is the first traffic violation I’ve had since the US. In fact  I was going to post that in Central America you can ride like a fool without fear, but apparently this isn’t true. So the cop is about to bust us big. He collects out licences and is about to confiscate them, to be picked up from a police station the next day, where we pay a fine. Eddie, who’s Spanish is fluent has a little chat with him and we get off by bribing him the equivalent of $12 each and get our licences back. He we are parked while they talk

The downside of riding with others is no photo stops. So into Leon.

Where I get a group shot. From the left, Blake, Colin, Hugh, Lucinda, Eddie

And we decide to head to the sea. Busted again. This time Eddie does the charm thing and it ends up being a friendly bike chat

There are cows everywhere

And then the route turns to dirt and we have a long fast ride to the sea

That goes like this


Then down to to San Juan del Sur

Two borders, one day

I have a good friend down here who rides confidently through Central America with few security concerns but balks at Honduras. This same friend is mulling over buying one of Lucinda’s sisters and has entered a quiet stage on this, which we take to be a good sign.

So, with some time on our hands, but not enough for dithering we decide to blast through Honduras in a day and deal with two borders, which is possible, look at Honduras with an open if paranoid mind and decide the next move from the other side, backwards if need be.

Two borders means four sets of hassle, as explained in another post. My new Guate plates should save me time. But 4 to 5 hours per border with non CA plates is not unusual so we’re cautious and pick a safe fast destination and budget a 10 hour day, hoping nothing goes wrong
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Getting close

Not many photos or video, I was just concentrating on getting the job done. The first border sign

Then, same as new American friends I met a day later, I get nailed by this guy. He notices I’m running video and makes a grab for the camera,. I fake turning it off and ignore him. But he asks me for all my documentation and sits down in a chair to read it. Then after about 10 minutes says the Gaute stamp on my title is no good. Bullshit. He’s looking for a bribe. I sit it out, and eventually he gets bored and gives me my papers back. The Americans, I’m guessing from their story are about three hours behind me and he does it again to them. A standard crook in police uniform.  Here he goes


Then into the mess

they check you over before you even start. You’re constantly pulling out your passport, licence, title

Then the ‘helpers’ start in on you. I refuse to use these guys


then, some luck. An insurance woman is grabbing business at the same time as Lucinda has to suffer the indignity of bug spray. You need all these papers to go further


Then the tough stuff starts. Immigration and customs. I shut the camera off, no need to risk having it confiscated.  I have a medium-fast crossing, about 1 1/2 hours. Some would think that’s fast but my plate has shaved off maybe 40 minutes

It’s so hot, way over 100F, I’m worrying about dehydration, despite having downed two big bottles of water. I’ve sweat through my suit but it’s my wallet, housing everything so don’t risk taking it off and carrying it. Soaked through

Then on through some town. Not very happy because I’m so hot, have a two hour drive to the next border, and the town’s streets are all torn up. But we stopped for a pic of this bridge just to have one Honduran shot for the time being

As it happens, an ADV rider had posted a warning about the road conditions between borders, saying the potholes were bike-busting. The post sounded a bit hysterical so me and others sortof ignored it, Turns out he was right. CA3 was a disaster. The holes were up to 10 inches deep and even the sixteen wheelers were slowly snaking around them

Small village trucks were filling the holes through corners with a clay mix

And then on through the Nicaraguan border, too tired to take photos or risk video, which I hoped would be a breeze but was just what we didn’t need, much worse, between 2 and 3 hours, and into Chinandega, Nicaragua, wasted. A typical bad ADV day, nothing exceptional either way and every gringo on a bike goes through this. A rite of passage.

to Perquin and San Miguel

We hadn’t been north in El Salvador and I’d heard that the old FMLN guerrilla stronghold was north of  us, close to the Honduras border. But it would be a long day if we were going there and back again to set up in San Miguel for the Honduran border, so we set off very early.

There’s a connecting road between Chapeltique and Gotera in the track below
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that turned out go through the most prosperous land we’d seen yet in this country. The countryside was beautiful

Rich people

Lots of this

And of course what would riding be in Central America be without one of these in almost constant view

Then we started gaining elevation, slowly and constantly. We were under time pressure so not a lot of shots of this day. Villagers doing the wash in the rivers. A constant

Good basic riding


Up more into thick forest


To the town of Perquin, which is definitely the meanest town I’ve passed through in the last while. I didn’t take pictures of much because I didn’t want to piss even a dog off. Money here too, maybe bad money, who knows

But plenty of steel doors . Lucinda doesn’t even want to go on the kickstand here. I think this house is an inside joke

Because this is the norm

Or like this

This might even be a B&B

This guy’s cheering up the neighbourhood with his red steel doors

Then a long ride to San Miguel down through the mountains