27-29 April, Guanajuata to Los Mochis

I left Mexico City early to avoid the traffic for the 300k ride North to Guanajuata.

However, it still took me two and a half hours to get out of Mexico City.

Despite excellent roads and an impressive infrastructure of viaducts etc, the city is choked by cars.,

Eventually I hit the open road and had a good ride through pleasant scenery to Guanajuata

Cactus...Used to make Tequila

Guanajuata is really beautiful. It is set in the hills and the houses are painted in all colours. It is a University town and is literally teeming with students which adds to the carefree atmosphere.

There is a small square with a huge hedge and restaurants all around and musicians everywhere sitting on benches and trying to get into the many restaurants to play for the customers!

My Hostel was right in the Centre. They allowed Azulo into the reception area and as you can see he took up most of the space!

The town is also unusual in that the “through” road is under the city so you have to drive through the tunnels and try and select the correct exit to the surfice…This is nearly impossible when you don’t know the town……

Through Traffic underneath the City...You have to select the correct exit!

After several failed attempts, I hired a taxi to take me to my Hostel

My next goal was to reach Los Mochis some 1100 Kms North, on the West Coast. Los Mochis is the start of the Copper Canyon Railway.

Karen...More homework! What is this crop?

The Copper Canyon is bigger than the Grand Canyon and you have to take a train to see it. I was told Motorbikes were allowed on the train (with some difficulty getting on and off)…but was possible!

I rode 900 kms on 28th because I needed to get to Los Mochis early enough to check out the Railway and get a ticket. 900k’s is a long way but Azulo did it with ease!

So, on Sunday, I arrived in Los Mochis at 11.00 am only to find everything closed.

I spent most of the day getting contradictory stories about whether or not bikes can go on the train.

One Hotel told me I needed to get to the station at 5.30 am. I pointed out it would be frustrating to get up at 4.30 am only to find I can’t take the bike on the train!

Given this is the town’s NUMBER 1 tourist attraction it is amazing that nobody knows and everything is closed!

To cut a long story short, It seems I COULD get the bike on TUESDAY’S train but not TOMORROW, (MONDAY)…. So, It looks like I’m foiled and will miss the Copper Canyon! Pity.

Instead, I will head North to Nogales and the USA Border.

A word on Mexican food

I must admit I’ve never been a great fan of Mexican food….  Now I’m even less of a fan.

In fairness, I’m not eating at the best restaurants and generally have no idea what to order most of the time….I’ve certainly chosen VERY poorly though!

It strikes me that they seem to have heaps of chili with everything!…. I like Chili in moderation….but not with everything!

I had an omelette for breakfast the other day and they covered it with this horrible Chili sauce Yuk!…. They also seem to have this purple mushie bean  stuff. Tastes horrible.  It seems to  gets served up with monotonousness regularity. Yuk!

Tonight I went to an “expensive” restaurant in an attempt to have a good meal…Failed again and yes, there was heaps of chili in the fish!

It would be nice to have ONE nice Mexican meal before I leave!

Maybe if you have any suggestions, you  could email me some ideas which I could try before I leave!… Thank you!

 

 

 

26 April – Visit to Teotihuacan

I decided to give Azulo a day off and take a PRIVATE tour to Teotihuacan to see the ruins which are about 50 k north east of Mexico City

I say a private tour because I was the only tourist so I had the bus, driver and guide all to myself!

It was a great day and the ruins are spectacular.

First, we visited the Aztec ruins at Tlateloloco in Mexico City

Temple De Santiago

Frankly there isn’t much to see as Cortes destroyed everything after a seige. Later, the Spanish built a magnificent church nearby called the Temple De Santiago using the stones from the ruins. I believe it’s the oldest Spanish Church in Latin America.

Next stop, the Basilica De Guadalupe. This is a series of big churches dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe. Apparently, in 1531, Juan Diego saw the vision of a beautiful Virgin who asked him to build a shrine in her honour. Eventually this happened.

There is a HUGE square in front of the old and new Basilicas. Five Popes have given Mass here. Pilgrims enter the Basilica on their knees to seek redemption of give thanks etc. There are DOZENS of Confession Boxes.

Next stop a couple of “COME IN SPINNER” shops. (They always take you to these shops so you can buy something at inflated prices) Given I was the only tourist and the shops were empty they were eager for me to buy something!

Come in Spinner shops

At one of the places they gave me a taste of various local drinks.

First of course Tequila….Then Mezcal…made from another Cactus.

Another Come in Spinner shop

Next PULQUE. This is an old Aztec drink made from fermented Cactus juice.

The drinks come from Cacti like these

Next TUNNA and XOCONOSTLE made from the floweres of NOPAL Cactus.

I didn't drink it all!

They were all very nice and I was beginning to enjoy myself!

FINALLY, we made it to TEOTHUACAN

The area is huge, originally it covered 20 sq Kms. The ruins date back to Pre-Aztec TEOTHUACAN culture (not Aztec as I thought…The Aztecs came much later). The ruins date back to 1st Century AD. At one time there were 125,000 people living there. It was the biggest City in South America.

There is a magnificent main street that is 2.5 Kms long. There are the two HUGE Pyramids, Pyramid of the Sun and Moon. The Pyramid of the Sun is the third largest in the world after those in Egypt.

Steep and high..over 200 steps

The whole complex is amazing and the view from the top of the Pyramids is breathtaking!

(Yes, I climbed them both!)

It was neasrly 4.00 pm but they took me to lunch anyway.

The Driver, Robert and the Guide Lourdes entertained me by dancing. They are a sweet couple and made my day very special

Lourdes and Robert (Driver and Guide) dancing for me!

We got back to the Hostel at 7.30pm and they still wanted to see Azulo! Lots of laughter and photos… then I went and had a drink…exhausted!

 

 

23 – 25 April, Taxco to Mexico City

The ride from Oaxaca took me past Volcano Popocatepeti which is a wonderful site. Apparently there is talk of an eruption…Not today, I’m pleased to say!

Next stop  the beautiful town of Taxco.

It was a bit of a detour but worth it. Taxco is the most beautiful little place high on a hill with the most magnificent Cathedral.

Taxco

It’s very European and could easily be in Spain or Portugal.

Taxco used to be a centre for silver but that’s long gone and now it relies on us tourists. It’s only 150kms from Mexico City

Just one night in Taxco then off to Mexico City

En-route I met another biker, Hector, at a service station. It’s nice that people come up to you and have a chat. There’s a community amongst us bikers!!!

No mango this time but he invited me to stay!

Next, Mexico City….I was dreading finding the Hostel as the GPS  was no help and the maps not much better…. but with the help from a Taxi driver I arrived at my Hostel which is in a very nice suburb 10 kms from Centro called Coyoacan.

It;s great having Azulo but sometimes it’s like having a child with you. I always  have to find places that have parking. There was nothing in Centro except expensive Hotels which are off limits!

However, I chose well this time.

The hostel is like a home from home and Coyoacan is the most beautiful suburb.

Coyoacan, Mexico City

It used to be a little town that Cortes founded. It has it’s own magnificent Plaza and Church and is obviously an expensive place to live. Obviously as Mexico City expanded Coyoacan was gobbled up

I took a tourist bus trip around Coyoacan. There was a group of seniors….maybe a  local Probus Group?  …It reminded me of my Beaumaris Probus Group in Melbourne and the trips we do…(I am the functions co-ordinator)

Bus tour of Coycoacan

I’m  looking forward to taking the group on some great trips when I get back!…Maybe an off road trip through the Simpson desert???

Now Mexico City….I’ve decided that perception is a very dangerous thing. ! My perception of Mexico City was a big, smoggy, dangerous and grubby place…I don’t really know why I thought that. I almost avoided it!

Wow, that would have been a mistake. Why did I think that?

It’s an impressive and quite beautiful place.

There is no smog (at the moment) and the sky is blue…The city (or parts that I’ve seen) are as clean as any other major big Capital, The Metro is superb, clean, efficient and cheap. There are buautiful and big parks everywhere.

The Historico Centro is big and impressive and the main ZOCOLO is HUGE…It is one of the biggest squares in the world.

Zocolo, Mexico City

That photographer who takes pictures of crowds of naked people (who is he?) He filled the Zocolo with 18000 naked Mexicans…the mind boggles!

I wish I had more time here as there is lots to see and do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

21-22 April Oaxaca to Puebla, Mexico

I’m very impressed with Mexico so far.

The towns I’ve visited are lovely , the people very friendly, the roads excellent and the countryside very impressive. I have not had anthing particularly brilliant to eat yet but the Tequila is very cheap so I’m happy!

Typical scenery between Oaxaca and Puebla

Karen...What are these called?

One of the things I love about the Spanish Colonial towns is their huge City Squares (Called Zocolo’s here in Mexico)

I wish we had big City Squares like they have here!.

They make such a focal point for the people and are usually very beautiful with a Church one side and a Palace or Government building the other

Here in Mexico, the squares are packed in the evenings.

In San Cristobal, there is a large Indian population and they all come into the City in the evening. They have a huge market in the “Zocolo” selling the most beautiful local knitware and just about everything else too.

I met a very nice German couple at the Hostel, (as said earlier, the Hostels are nearly empty so I’m not meeting many people now!) We went to the Zocolo and had some nice taco’s and soaked up the atmosphere!

Tino & Johanna (German Couple)

Oaxaca, (pronounced Wakaka) has a huge Zocolo which has the most beautiful Cathederal which dominates. There are infact two big Plazas next to each other and they seem to compete for attention!

Cathedral Oaxaca

In one of the Squares there is a big market, bands playing, hawkers selling things and lots of Hot Dog stalls….

In the other square there is a big gazebo with a band and singers entertaining the crowd.

Band entertaining the crowd in the Zocolo

Dancing to the music..sorry about quality of photo...Not up to scratch!

The music they play isn’t rock music but a mixture of classical to light “Spanish” romantic type music as well as some big band music. Hundreds of people are in the square just enjoying themselves and dancing.

There is no drinking or arguments or louts showing off…Just families having fun.

It’s a lovely atmosphere and I wish Merry was with me

Oaxaca is another lovely town.

Typical street in Oaxaca

I spent two nights in Oaxaca so i decided to visit the Zapotec ruins at MONTE ALBAN

They are very impressive. The ruins are on the top of a hill which was flattened to make the City.

Zapotec ruins at Monte Alban (Photos don't do it justice)

It is HUGE! The Zapotec people lived here from 500BC to 700AD after which it was abandoned because the soil became degraded.

Next i stopped in Puebla, some 150 kms from Mexico City.

It’s another attractive Colonial Town but frankly to me not as nice as San Cristobal or Oaxaca…..

Cathedral in Puebla

Puebla

Yes..ANOTHER Market!

I’m visiting one last “Colonial Gem” tomorrow..Taxco. Then I think I will have just about “done” lovely Colonial Towns!

 

 

 

 

16 – 20 April Antigua Guatamala to San Cristobal, Mexico

Hooray…I’ve made it to Mexico. Only one more border crossing to go!

In case you’re wondering….I’ve delayed my return flight (with approval from Merry) to 14th May from LA. Still a bit of a rush but it should be sufficient time to see some key places.

My destination after leaving Copan Ruinas was Antigua Guatamala.

Antigua is a lovely place and well worth visiting if you are ever in Guatamala.

Antigua

Can't afford food but has a mobile phone!

I spent two very nice nights in a terrific Hotel called Las Marias. Expensive for me at $58.00…. It would cost $200.00+ at home though.

Hotel las Marias

Inner Courtyard of Hotel las Marias

Antigua is quite unique. It’s setting is beautiful with Volcanoes all around. The City was destroyed by a big earthquake in 1770 approx.

The town was moved and abandoned, most of the beautiful Churches were destroyed. In the past hunderd years or so people have been re-inhabiting the place and gradually it’s being rebuilt.

Typical street in Antigua

There are ruins everywhere. The town itself is quite big and very original. Lovely place to just wander about

On 18th I set out for Mexico…dreading my next encounter with the Aduana (Customs)

The ride was fantastic. Very beautiful scenery. I managed to get lost and found myself on a “goat track”…It got worse and worse and I wondered whether I should turn around.

Beautiful Guatamalan scenery

This time I stuck it out and was rewarded by ending up at a most beautiful lake (Lago de Atitlan) Simply stunning

Lago de Atitlan Guatamala

Lago de Atitlan

I eventually reached the border and crossed without much fuss! (actually there was ONE issue which worried me…I have been travelling on my UK passport as Aussies pay a “reciprocity tax” in Chile and Argentina. However, all my USA import visa’s etc are based on my Aussie passport. Therefore at some stage I have to change passports…this is my last chance and who knows what the U S is like!

One would not think that should be an issue…Wrong!

At every border crossing, you get and EXIT stamp from the last country. The new country won’t let you enter without this stamp. Now, I had my exit stamp but it was in my UK passport NOT my Aussie passport!

So, there I was trying to get an entry stamp in my Aussie passport with an EXIT stamp in my UK passport

They flatly refused to do it at first.

I applied my tried and tested technique of standing my ground and looking distraught…Eventually they relented and stamped my Aussie passport!

I’m now in San Cristobal de las Casas. It is a magnificent Colonial town. It is very well restored and appears much wealthier than Antigua or Granada.

San Cristobal

The weather is beautiful today and I’ve enjoyed wandering about and having a couple of Cappuccinos! (they are a bit odd though!)

This is how they serve Cappuchino

I rate San Cristonbal as second only to Parity, Brazil as my favourite towns on this trip. If you come to Mexico it is a “must see place”

Surprisingly there are very few tourists. The Hostels arew nearly empty and I have seen NO bikers! I haven’t seen much news lately so am wondering if the world economy has collapsed again!

Tomorrow I head North

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 – 15 April Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras

Lots of photos now added!

Joe's wife's mango...you'll have to go to the end of the post to find out more!

It’s been a tough few days in the “office”

Luckily I had my hair cut in Granada because if I hadn’t, I would have pulled it all out at the unbelievably awful border crossings…… Story to come…..I’ve put all this border crossing stuff in blue in case you want to skip it as it’s quite long!.

First though, I spent a lovely evening at the home of the mother (Hania), aunt(Roxanna) and Grandmother (Isabelle)  of my Swiss biker friend who I met in Las Lagas and again on the boat from Cartagena.

Dani Carina and Hania

She (Carina)  is travelling with her boyfriend, Dani. Carina is half Costa Rican. Her mother now lives in Bacares, North Costa Rica.

It was so nice being in a home and having some very nice local food. They were very sweet to me and the neighbour brought over a bed for me!

I  had some time to kill before meeting Carina’s mum so I visited a thermal mud pool and had a nice swim. Do you like the shower?

How's about this for a shower?

Costa Ricaan countryside

Beautifully painted fence posts!

The next day I crossed into Nicaragua without too much difficulty (just the normal two hours!!!!)

I spent a nice evening at Granada which is a lovely old town….still in need of a bit of renovation but nice anyway. Lots of Colonial buildings as well as the usual chaos and local markets. i had a good Hostel.

Granada

Market in Granada

The next day my “border crossing nightmare began”!!!!!

My experience(s) at the Honduras and El Salvador border crossings  simply defies belief….I take back all my criticisms of Argentina and Chile….they were a walk in the park!

Guatemala however is a breath of fresh air with relatively efficient service and very pleasant Customs lady.

The Customs staff at the Honduras crossings from Nicaragua and into El Salvador are incompetent inconsiderate, bloody minded and in some cases …corrupt…..

I’ll try and keep it brief but it’s worth reading as you won’t believe me!

I arrived at 12.30 at the Honduras entry crossing from Nicaragua…..

At these Central American crossings it is not obvious where to go or what to do. There are never any signs…… Instead there are “helpers’….who attach themselves to you…frankly you need them!

My helpers took took me in tow….first to the “FUMIGATION” centre where for a fee of $11 they spayed the bike (for all of 5 seconds)….. then to another window where I had to pay more to get the passport stamped….. then to the photo copy centre where I had to get copies of everything, (for a small fee of course) ……and finally to the place where I had to get my bike papers.

My Honduran "Helpers"

A young and quite pretty girl took my passport and all was looking good.

She put them on the table and promptly vanished…..OF COURSE…LUNCH TIME!

45 minutes later she reappeared, dithered around and eventually started doing my papers……… Then, to my amazement, two guys arrived and sat down at her desk. They all shook hands and started chatting

This was too much for me!….. I was FUMING!….. Now you must NEVER GET ANGRY in South America. (Mind you, It’s EXTREMELY HARD NOT TO GET ANGRY!) …..

I held my cool but entered the “RESTRICTED AREA” and nicely but very firmly asked her if she could kindly finish my papers and speak to these Gentlemen later!….. It didn’t work but at least I had made my point…politely!

Doing my papers...AT LAST!

Eventually, I was asked to pay a tax of $30.00 and then another $3.00 to get something else …then of course i had to pay the “helpers”….I gave them $5.00!

Just for the record….THERE WAS NO QUEUE HERE AND I WAS THE ONLY TOURIST….It still took 3.00 hours and cost me around $60.00.

Honduras is the only country that has charged me for anything and in any case, my aim was to spend only a few hours in Honduras and cross into El Salvador, $140 kms away,. Very expensive for 140 kms!

It was too late now to reach El Salvador so the next day I was at the EXIT for Honduras at 9.00.

The whole farce started again.

First my new “helper” informed me the power was out so to get my passport stamped it was going to cost an EXTRA $40.00!….. REALLY!

Honduras Passport Control

Then there was the Passport stamping fee…then this fee …then that fee! Get the picture!

Eventually I got out of Honduras and said “good riddance” …..

Next… El Salvador. There were no problems (or charge) to get my passport stamped. Next I needed my bike entry papers.

Things were looking good…it was about 10.15 am!……….SILLY FOOL! …

I was then told the computers were down and I would have to wait.

I waited and waited….5 HOURS I waited!

The computers were still down.

I  tactfully “suggested’ that maybe i could PAY for a manual paper…That apparently wasn’t possible.

Yes, believe it or not they told me there was NO WAY I COULD ENTER EL SALVADOR until the computers came back on line!  ….THEY TOLD ME THAT NO TOURISTS CAN ENTER WITH A CAR OR BIKE IF THE COMPUTERS ARE DOWN!…… Can you believe that?

I asked how long that might be and they said it may be an hour, A DAY OR LONGER!

Just to give you an idea how awful these people are….I was hot and all this was in a big hot tin shed…There was no water or anything.

I asked if I could have a cup of water. I could see water containers in the office…they said they didn’t have any cups! How’s that for “customer service?”

So…What was I to do. I had waited five hours and it was getting into the afternoon….. I could be stuck for an hour or days!

My other option was to RETURN TO HONDURAS! (UGH!!!!)…By returning to Honduras I could dodge El Salvador and go through Honduras to Guatamala.

I couldn’t stand it any longer so I decided to return to the dreaded Honduras Crossing!

Sorry folks….the story hasn’t ended yet!

i exited El Salvador (IE I had my passport stamped again)

My new helper promised me an easy passage this time as he “knew everybody!”

Needless to say he was totally incorrect!

I was informed  that I COULDN’T RE-ENTER HONDURAS WITHIN 72 HOURS!….However, there was a way….and it would cost me $50.00. This time I couldn’t hide my irritation and kicked the wall hurting my foot!

I thought of going back to El Salvador but eventually I paid the $50.00

This was not the end either. Then there was the passport stamping fee….. the fumigation fee (this time they didn’t actually even spray the bike)….the photocopy fees…..the bike paper fee ($30.00) plus I think there were another couple of charges and of course the “helpers” tip!…It was a feeding frenzy!

Talk about “COME IN SPINNER”….Yet what was I to do ?

That really IS the end of this story…

The only good thing to say about the Honduras crossings is that the crossing from Honduras to Guatamala at Copan Ruinas is totally different and efficient.

There are no “helpers” needed and you are NOT charged to have your passport stamped!…..so why is it different there?….

With my second and very expensive papers I have travelled through Honduras. My target is “RUINAS COPAN” which are very large Mayan ruins.

My ride through the country was through pleasant mainly mountainous countryside. The roads are at times severly potholed and it becomes an art form to dodge them. Sometimes a car will also try and dodge them by going onto the wrong side of the road on a blind corner…this happened twice and gave me quite a shock but no real problems

Glad I missed this "pothole"!

My big frustration though was that I took a road that looked OK on the map but turned into a mountain track that was virtually impassible.

I tried to ride it out but it was very isolated and the road was very bad “ripio” .  I very nearly came off.

I decided that “discretion was the better part of valour” and turned back. That detour was 150 kms!

I stayed at a really nice Hotel in San Pedro de Sula. i am still amazed about ssecurity in these countries. this hotel was in a really nice street in a good suburb. i came across it by chance..

There was a guard with an M 16 or similar guarding the place.
imagine this in South Yarra!

Merry sent me an email after I left there telling me that San Pedro de Sula is the most dangerous town in the WORLD with the highest murder rate per 100,000 citizens! …..Glad i didn’t know that when i was there though!.

I eventually made it to Ruinas Copan and visited the Mayan Ruins which are very interesting. The Mayans lived here for 400 years between 400 and 800 AD and abandoned the city because of yellow fever. It’s hard to imagine abandoning a city of 30,000 people and moving to a place 500 kms away! If that happened it would have been an amazing story….

Mayan ruins at Copan

They did human sacrifices…..the guide said that they had these football matches (Mayan football) …. the best player was sacrificed!

The best football player got sacrificed here...face up to the gods!

Perhaps some of the overpaid soccer players should take note how lucky they are!

Dancing Jaguar

Tunnels..They built new Temples on top of older ones...several layers...Only discovered in 1989

There are also the most gorgeous Parrots (forgotten the correct name) They are HUGE and live to 80 years

The town of Ruinas Copan is quite nice but there are all these guys walking around with machetes!!!!!

How about the machete (probably a work tool) but intimidating,none the less!

The 'boys" on a lazy Sunday afternoon in Copan Ruinas

I think I might stay in the Hostel for dinner tonight!

One last and positive thing happened today…nothing big but the sort of thing that makes travel wonderful and in particular the people you meet…

I stopped at a service station and this guy on a big KTM bike stopped to say hi. He is a local…named Joe. We chatted for awhile and he then produced a mango and gave it to me…He then said it was his wife’s birthday and he had just bought the mango for her!  I tried to give it back but he insisted that I keep it and assured me he would buy another for his wife!

Joe, at San Pedro de Sula...Really nice guy...He gave me a mango that he had just bought for his wife's birthday!


 

7 – 9 April Panama City to La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Good Friday was spent in Panama City.

I had just about as much luck finding somewhere to eat as I did in Ushuaia at Christmas. You may remember I ended up with a cold Irish Srtew for  my Christmas Lunch

I had received and email from the Canadian Ladies, Charlene and Jan telling me they are in Panama City (I met them in Arica and again in Ariquiba)

We met for dinner that evening. Doerty the young German girl came with us.

Well…everywhere was closed for Good Friday. It looked like a choice between “Dunkin Donuts” or “McDonalds”…Luckily (actually not really “luckily” )…. we found a dump that was open. Bright florescent  lights in a grubby barn of a place.(got the picture?)

Charlene,Jan and Doerty

To make matters worse they don’t serve drink on Good Friday. So, we had a totally forgettable dinner with Orange Juice! Still , we had a good chat and it was great to catch up. I hope Merry and I can visit them in Canada one day.

The next day I headed North.

Nothing dries here!

I had done my washing in Panama City to get rid of the salt from the boat. After two days on the line it was still soaking so I strapped it all on the bike….. socks, knickers, shirts, jeans…. I must have looked like the “Beverly Hillbillies” (sorry, I’m showing my age)

It was a sunny day and by by the time I was  three Kms from las Lajas (my destination, about 350 kms North of Panama City) everything was beautifully dry….. then heavens opened and everything got soaked again! ….UGH!

I had decided I would treat myself to a nice Hotel. I felt I needed some comforts….after the boat, Archie and Hostels etc…. so I had booked this place in the internet

The Hotel was really an up-market B & B and was very nice. it is run by Germans.

Fancy B & B in Las Lajas

it was so nice to have a big room with all the trappings….all for $50.00!

Lovely Breakfast on my terrace...I'm enjoying this!

Easter Sunday didn’t bring me any eggs!… Very sad! …So, Off I went again. The nice Germans had dried my clothes in their drier and it was a sunny day.

Police are everywhere in Panama and they park their cars by the roadside and use radar guns every few kilometers.

I was stopped  (I couldn’t just ignore him this time, as he stood in the road!)

Apparently I had gone through a school zone at 90K (mind you it was Easter Sunday and there was no-one at school!…..He demanded $75.00

I stood my ground and looked sad ! He reduced it to $50. I gestured that was way too much.

Eventually I  thought I would have to pay something so I offered him $5.00…… Amazingly he said OK and quickly pocketed the $5.00. He then shook my hands in that Spanish way that shows we are friends for life….and off I went! …

…..I must admit I’m rather proud of this!

Next I had to negotiate the Costa Rica/Panama Border. I HATE border crossings with a passion. It took three hours this time. There was ONE window servicing about 150 frustrated tourists!

Anyway…eventually I was off again but now the weather had changed.

It rained CATS  and Dogs…VERY LARGE CATS AND DOGS! It simply didn’t stop…I thought tropical rains didn’t last long? Well they do in  Costa Rica!

I got drenched. My boots were full of water and the rain had completely bypassed my so called wet weather gear!

I reached a place called San Isidro (about 150 Kms from San Jose) and found a Hotel and crashed for the night. Not one of my best days!

Easter Monday and I’m off again. I was pleased to wake up and see blue sky!

Pretty scenery in Costa Rica (when it's not raining cats and dogs)

It was a lovely drive to La Fortuna where I stayed in a lovely Motel with cabins that have the most wonderful view of a huge Volcano called ARENAL. The countryside is very hilly and pretty. It is also high! The road to San Jose climbs to 3500 metres.

Arenal Volcano from La Fortuna

Arty Photo! Arenal Volcano from my "Cabana"

I’m also pleased to say all my clothes are dry again…at least for now!

 

 

 

31-7 April – Cartagena to Panama on “Santana”

I’m now in Panama City having completed the boat trip. It was excellent. The map seems to have gone funny as it still shows me in Cartagena)

Panama City is a surprise. It is a vibrant modern city with a skyline like Surfers Paradise. More about that later.

On 31 March, sixteen passengers plus Azulo set sail around 8.00 am from Cartagena heading for Panama aboard Santana, under the command of Captain Giesbert.

Santana in Cartagena

The sky was blue and there was a light wind. Good sailing weather and not too rough

Captain Giesbert at the helm

Captain Giesbert and his Crew (Luis) briefed us and showed us our allocated beds.

I was allocated to a double bed in the middle of the cabin with “ARCHIE”, a 68 year old EX RAF Pom.

Me and Archie...Not my FIRST choice!

This was perhaps, NOT my first choice!….. From Archie’s viewpoint it wasn’t perfect either as (apparently) I kept snoring!

He was such a “gentleman” so instead of just kicking me, he kept waking me up asking me in his best English, if I would kindly find a “new position”

Needless to say, everybody on the boat found this hillarious!

The first two days and one night were sailing days. We lazed on the deck or chatted.

It was a really good group…..A good mix of girls and blokes….some singles and some couples. Archie was the oldest at 68….followed by yours truly! ….The rest were mostly in their 20’s!

Most of the group...and Azulo (of course)

There was one Austrian (Tanja) two Americans (Ami and Lisa) One Israeli (Manu) one French (Anat)  Two Aussies  (Ben and me) one German (Maika) One Dutch (Juul) One Panamanian (Amalia) and six Swiss ( Dani and Carina,( My friends from Las Lagas)… Ines and Domenico, Niclas, and Mike.

Some of the group

Captain Giesbert checking up on Azulo

 

At around 3.00pm on the second day, we dropped anchor beside two beautiful palm studded islands.

San Blas Islands (there are 378 of them!)

We had arrived at the San Blas Islands

We all jumped in as it was very hot. We walked around the islands and snorkeled etc. We were told NOT to pick coconuts…Apparently every tree is actually the property of a family!

In he goes!

The next day we headed off to another Island and repeated the process. All very relaxing

The third day was raining all day so we played cards most of the day! ( Wendy, you would be proud of me as I won…twice!)

Playing a card game that became known as "Miserable Coote"

“Geoff Heffner” also re-appeared and rounded up the girls!

"Geoff Heffner" was having a good time!

At around 3.00 we landed at Puerto Lindo on the Panamanian Coast.

We then had the orderal of getting Azulo off the boat!

The photo’s don’t really show the drama of the whole event. There were five blokes “pressed” by Giesbert to help.

We literally had to carry Azulo off the boat and into a little launch. I was sure Azulo was about to have a swim….! However, all was OK and we chugged to the shore and had to repeat the process.

Getting Azulo off the Santana wasn't easy!

My heart was in my mouth!

In the launch now but we've still got to get him to shore!

Needless to say I was pleased to have Azulo safely on shore…. and he must have thought so too and started on the first turn of the key!

Puerto Lindo is a tiny little Port in a pretty estuary. Actually it reminded me of the Hawkesbury River in Sydney (except the prices are a little lower!)

Ben and Adnat (Australia) and Ami (USA) in Puerto Lindo

That night we stayed in a little Hostel in Puerto Lindo

Hostel at Puerto Lindo

We had dinner in a house up the street. The lady cooked a very satisfactory fish dinner with rice and vegetables all for $3.00.

Dinner at Puerto Lindo...Cost $40.00 for all of us!

She apologised that it was so expensive and told us how expensive fish had become!

It seemed that everybody in the town was out and about and having fun. There were kids everywhere playing and having fun.  The adults  too were out and about  chatting and cooking and laughing.

It is a happy place to be and the weather is hot and balmy…a bit too humid for me though!

“Geoff Heffner” said goodbye to the group the next day and “he” and Azulo headed for Panama City.

Saying goodbye to Geoff Heffner in Puerto Lindo

The last word on the boat…The Captain and Luis were absolutely first class and the boat was professionally operated. Nothing shonky about Giesbert’s  boat!  The food was very good and there was plenty. I think my waist line has expanded again!

As said earlier I was very surprised at Panama City. It is obviously doing very well and it feels like the wealthiest City I have seen on this Continent….presumably because of the Canal revenue.

I visited the Canal today accompanied by a really nice 19 year old German Girl, Doerty, who is the only other resident of the Hostel. It’s Good Friday and EVERYTHING is closed.

Miraflores Locke, Panama Canal

Miraflores Locke Panama canal

Panama City Skyline

After visiting the Canal (which is very interesting by the way) we went to the “trendy” part of town… Casca Viejo…. It’s nice but it seems to be a suburb under reconstruction. Maybe in 10 years time it will be better.

Casca Vejo, Panama City

Tomorrow, weather permitting I will start the ride north. I am uncertain what to do as I’m running out of time. I currently have a flight from LA on 5 May. To meet that flight I will have to get there before the end of April as I have to ship the bike.

It is a bit far to go in three weeks (nearly 6,000 kms)

My options seem to be either to extend the trip by a couple of weeks or to ship the bike from Central America somewhere and miss Mexico. I’m not sure whether there IS anywhere to ship from so If you have any suggestions please let me know!