October 31, 2006 GMT
Panama City. South America Next!
OK, time to get you all caught up. When I last left you I was sitting in a bar (only because it was raining) on the beach in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua. It was only about 35 miles to the Costa Rican border. Got there fairly early and was looking forward to a little less stressful crossing.
As we were checking out of Nic., Shell discovered that somewhere along the line he had lost the "original" bike registration paper. The Nic. "officials" immediately jumped on that and tried to extract large amounts of money from Shell to "make the problem go away". :=)
They obviously did NOT know who they were dealing with. Before it was over, the official said he would give Shell 10 bucks if he would just leave right then. :=) Fortunately Shell had found the original "temporary" registration under the seat that had no date on it. With that he "beat up" the officials and we left. They got the last laugh though since they called their Costa Rican buddies and it started all over again trying to get into CR. AGAIN, Shell was a clear winner in the battle of wills and as Cory and I sat by (with our papers perfectly in order), we watched as another border official "gave up" and told us to move out. Into Costa Rica we went. Very pretty country and surprisingly (after what I had heard) pretty good roads. We rode about two hours and stopped at a very nice cafe in Corobichi and discovered they specialized in whitewater rafting expeditions. Hey. We needed a break from riding. Took a very nice hotel and the next morning did a half day raft trip down the Tenorio River. LOTS of fun. There were many class 3 and a couple of class 4 rapids. One of those rapids had a 12 foot fall.
Over we went and out of the boat I came. Came up under the raft and I was sure Julia had paid one of the guys to hold me under (she knows where the will is). Fooled her again and made my escape. FORTUNATELY the cameraman's equipment had quit working just before my spectacular exit so we were invited to portage back up and try it again.
Somebody had to carry the oars! :=)
Sure, why not. I didn't drown the first time, might as well try again!! This time, I cheated death once again (sorry Julia) and even stayed in the raft. This river was very wild and scenic. Lots of birds and even some of my relatives showed up for the party.
The very nice lady at the cafe also made arrangements for a 2 day trip out of San Jose on the Pacuare River. Our guide book said it was supposed to be one of the 5 best rafting rivers in the world. Also we would stay at a lodge on the river overnight that could ONLY be reached by river. Made it to San Jose and headed out on our 2 day rafting trip. Very cool. Many class 3 and 4 rapids (I stayed in the boat on ALL of them). The lodge was very nice.
The guides fixed dinner and breakfast for us. It was so isolated that the only thing to do after dinner was go to bed so we hit the sack at 8:30 (NOT unusual for me though).
In the morning we were treated to a "zip line" canopy tour.
VERY cool. After the canopy tour, it was back on the river for another day of wet. We made it back to San Jose tired, hungry, wet, and very happy for the diversion. Left San Jose the next morning for what has been described as the prettiest part of the Pan American Highway ride in Central America. It follows the continental divide and a large portion of it is in the 10,000 feet elevation range. It is impossible to describe how pretty and scenic it was. NO, Really, Impossible. We didn't see ANY of it. :=) Light rain, clouds, and fog all the way to Panama. Oh well, I'll take the other folks word for it "it is beautiful" (??). Checked out of Costa Rica and into Panama with little trouble (obviously the western border officials decided NOT to punish their eastern friends with Shell). :=) We made it to David then headed for Panama City. Got there Friday (27th) and checked into another GREAT hotel thanks to Cory's businessman friend Jules (who lives here).
On Sunday we decided to take a little side trip to Bocas Del Toro on the Caribbean Sea side of Panama.
Very cool place with lots of small hotels right on the water. Rented kayaks and explored the place. Came back to to the City and took the tour that included the locks. I took lots of pictures. It is VERY cool to stand beside a huge ship being lowered 54 feet in about 45 minutes.
I tried to capture it on the camera but ya just need to see it. Now that I have some down time, I've been making arrangements for bike servicing, doing laundry, kicking back, resting, and waiting for Salvador to get here from Nicaragua. Cory's wife will be here Wed (probably will be the last we see of him for awhile) and she, Cory and Shell will store their bikes and fly back home. Salvador and I plan to fly our bikes to Bogotá, Colombia on the 6th of Nov. for the third part of the big adventure.
Don't forget that there are many more pictures here.
Posted by Rick McDermed at 09:44 PM
October 21, 2006 GMT
Getting further South Still!
Ok time to catch up! It has been a several days and a few countries since my last update so I guess I better bring you up to date. Before I do that though, I want to tell you about some other adventurers I have run into down here. I was reading another motorcycle traveler's blog and he met a couple from Germany that had fixed up a Toyota RV of some kind, for around the world travel. He had met them in Alaska and I thought "how cool it would be to meet them". Well, you guessed it, sitting in front of a fruit stand south of Puerto Escondido Mexico, there it was.
I stopped and introduced myself. His name, I have forgotten (maybe Rolph), but hers was Trouta (because when she introduced herself, she said "like the fish"). Easy! They have traveled all over the world in this van. They invited me in for a cup of coffee and we talked for a long time about traveling. Hope to run into them again. I also met two other guys just north of San Cristobal de las Casas. They are on a fast track to Santiago, Chile. Dave plus the big fellow, Bob Tisch, who is on his way to Chile to marry a high school sweetheart.
She was a foreign exchange student from Chile in the mid seventies and they dated. Both married, he divorced, her husband died from some medical complication and Paul Harvey will have to "tell you the rest of the story" :=) Actually, I begged Bob to email me and let me know how it all worked out. Great story huh?
Travelin', meeting interesting people, hearing interesting stories, who wouldn't want to do this? :=)
Back to my little adventure. We left San Cristobal de las Casas on the 15th of Oct (had to, remember my Mexican insurance was out), and crossed into Guatemala at La Mesilla. The border crossing was not too tough (if you are the kind of person that has root canal WITHOUT anesthesia) :=)
We made it and continued on to one of the many old colonial towns down here. Quetzaltenango (yeah, try saying that after 4 beers), was a VERY cool little village. When we arrived there were streets blocked off, tents up with hundreds of people around, music going and dancing girls doing their thing.
WE figured they heard we were coming. Turns out it was the annual "Festival of the Virgin". We checked into a great hotel right on the main square where the party was going and joined the festivities.
Of course there was beer and tequila, and this time some Mescal involved. Met some local fellows that said I was good enough (at beer drinking) to join them.
Those are their beer bottles, not mine (sure) :=) Slowly left Quetzaltenango the next morning and headed south to what the Panajachel towns folk bill as the prettiest lake in the world, Lake Atitlan. I will let you decide but they put up a pretty good argument. A GREAT fish lunch right on the water.
Another great hotel with pleasant grounds and lots of hammocks (had to take a nap)!!
Ok, some pictures of the lake from different places as we rode around it to leave to the south. It definitely was some scenery that I won't forget.
We crossed into El Salvador (another test of patience) at Cuidad Pedro de Alvarado.
I had been told that Hwy CA2 thru El Sal was extremely pretty. Whoever told me that, I owe you a six pack (they are probably empties though). Great road with no topes, wide shoulders, banked turns and views of the ocean that were outstanding.
We got into Acajutlia and found a nice little beach place near Los Cabanos that was only 14 miles from where the guide book said it was (oh well, they DO say GUIDE).
A very accommodating young couple ran the place and they fixed dinner just for us as well as breakfast in the morning. Room, two meals and 13 beers between us cost me $41. I may have to come back here. The surfers that are reading this may very well know the place. The next day on down that great road to another beach place called El Cuco (seemed appropriate for the likes of us). A somewhat nice place but what the heck, save a little money when you can. We stopped for lunch at another surfer paradise called Punta Roca.
I am sure some of you have heard of it (Jason?) The next day was to be the ultimate test of patience. It also was Shell's anniversary so he figured the least he could do was CALL his wife so .....
That big smile went away when he got the "this phone has been disconnected message" :=) We were going to cross TWO borders in one day. As we pulled up to the line getting into Honduras, another motorcycle traveler came up behind with his "handle" painted on the side of one pannier.
I immediately recognized Salvador Carlucci, known on the blogs as SALCAR. I had spoken to him several times on the blogs and he also remembered me. Cool HUH? Sal who has an Italian and Nicaraguan passport spoke perfect Spanish (plus many other languages I am sure). I am sure when Julia hears that Sal and I are going to hook up to do the South American part of the trip, she will be more than happy to join me in Machu Picchu. :=) Sal's Spanish speaking skills made our boarder crossings a "little" bit better (but unfortunately even he couldn't reduce the stress level). Still had to go thru the process. Out of El Salvador, into Honduras,
100 or so miles and into Nicaragua. I had been told that the crossing INTO Honduras was the worst of the Central American crossings AND THEY WERE RIGHT!! Getting out of Honduras was not so bad but getting into Nicaragua
took some time and the sun went down. It was about 60 (seemed like a thousand) miles to Leon and I had been told that Hwy CA2 into Nicaragua was terrible AND THEY WERE RIGHT!! This road made the Dalton Highway/Haul Road to Prudhoe Bay (you have been reading the whole blog, right?) seem like a wide open freeway. Gravel, mud, potholes the size of lakes (it was raining), and trucks trying their best to kill us was only part of the fun. To add a little excitement (a LOT of excitement) we did it in the dark. Haven't had that much stress since that last IRS audit! :=) We were breaking the first rule of riding down here (NEVER drive at night) in a VERY big way. The 10 or so granola bars I brought along (thanks Julia) served as dinner along the way. We got into Leon around 9:00 PM and collapsed into the first hotel we ran across.
After a LATE (well deserved) breakfast we left Leon and headed south again. Sal has relatives in Managua so he headed there, I (we) will meet him again in Panama City. Cory and Shell went toward Granada and I came down here to San Juan Del Sur (another great beach and surfer community) just so I could download pictures and do this blog update (plus some laundry and of course (drum roll again) drink the local Nicaraguan beer.
A nice hotal across the street from the beach, harbor, and several bars (oh yeah).
Tomorrow, Cory and Shell will come down here and the next day we will head for another border crossing into Costa Rica. More adventure to come I am sure!!!!!
There are many more pictures here.
Posted by Rick McDermed at 03:11 PM
October 14, 2006 GMT
Movin on Down the Road Toward Guatemala
AGAIN, I had to drag myself away from a great beach, cold beer (with tequila chasers)
and magnificant sunsets
but it was time to make progress south. Left Puerto Escondido and made it to Tuxtla Gutirrez. Cory and Shell had gone to Oaxaca and I was going to meet them in San Cristobal de las Casas after visiting Palenque. The road from SCDLC to Palenque was only about 120 miles but it turned out to be more of an ordeal than the Haul Road in Alaska. It started to rain on me just as I turned onto the road north to the ruins. I wanted to get there and back since the guys were coming that night (I thought) to SCDLC. It was a BAD road made worse with the
obstacles and the topes. After 3.5 hours I was not even half way there so the thought of a nice warm, dry hotel room made me give it up and turn around. Very depressed but ....... Made it back to San Cristobal in a downpour and quite accidentally found a GREAT hotel, The Mansion del Valle. It is an old converted mansion (was that a surprise)
in one of the most charming Colonial Mexican towns in the heart of Chiapas.
Dryed out and went (you knew this was coming huh?) looking for some beer.
The guys called and said they were stuck in (wherever they were) and wouldn`t be there till tomorrow afternoon. What luck, stuck here for two days. What ever would I do (you already know don`t you). More taste testing. The guys got here Saturday afternoon and we have been taste testing the afternoon and evening away. Tomorrow I am almost sure we will leave for Guatemala. That would be the 15th, the very day my Mexican insurance for the motorcycle runs out (coincidence, I think NOT). There are more photos added to the album here!
More from Down the Road, I am sure.
Posted by Rick McDermed at 11:48 PM
October 10, 2006 GMT
It had to be done. I had to drag myself away from the great hotel and beaches in Mazatlan and move on down the road. I left and spent the next night in a quaint little fishing village on the coast called Puerto Vallarta. :0) A local American told me where the best taco stand in PV was so naturally went there. Had two asada tacos (they WERE great).
I was smoozing with the owner and he said try the "treepah" (that is the way he pronounced it) taco. I said "sure". Did I mention that I had been drinking a LOT of beer, and HE DIDN'T PRONOUNCE IT like I do.... It DIDN`T taste like chicken. If I had been stone cold sober, I probably wouldn`t have liked it. :=) Moved on down the road to Manzanillo (yup more beaches and beer). From there to Pie de la Cuesta (about 10 K`s north of Acapulco).
There is also a LOT of rugged, remote, and undeveloped coastline around here. Picture Big Sur with NO development and jungle right down to the water (well you get the idea). I stopped on the side of the road (those that know me will know why -- well OK for the rest of you, I was taking a "leak") :=) on a high cliff above what I thought was a very remote beach. When I looked down I thought "heck, it canīt be too remote with ATV tracks all over it" then I took a better look at the tracks. Must have been a sea turtle egg laying party last night (I hope I am right about those tracks, at least they werenīt ATV) :=)
While in de la Cuesta I received an email from my sweetheart that said her boss had a friend that was also traveling down Mexico to Panama. She gave her boss my cell phone number to pass along. That night Cory (the boss`s friend) called. He and a friend (you may need a program to keep up with the players here) were just a few miles south of Acapulco. We agreed to meet in Puerto Excondido (the next planned stop for both of us). In PE I found a very nice hotel right on the beach and checked in. About an hour later, Cory called and and he and the friend came to the hotel. They were both riding Suzuki Vstroms. When Cory`s friend took his helmet off, I said "I know you". Turns out Shell had come into the Harley shop thinking of selling his Harley to get a bike for adventure riding. I convinced him that he should keep the Harley to "cruise" when he was not adventure riding (got to have the right tool for the job at hand). We had talked about what bike to get for his ride and also MY upcoming trip (of course). Small world. They liked the hotel, checked in and we started (drum roll please) drinking beer and tequila. Another hotel guest oveheard and introduced himself. Nick is also riding his KLR to Panama and South America. IT`S A PARTY (better party for Nick since his girlfriend flew down from Oakland for the week (Julia take note)).
That is Cory, Shell, Nick, and Jenny (you will have to figure out which direction to read).
We are going to stay here for a couple of days. Cory and Shell are going up to Oaxaca, Nick is staying here till Saturday (his girlfriend is here remember) ;0} In a couple of days we plan to meet in San Cristobal de las Casas to cross into Guatemala together. More adventure to come I am sure.
btw, There are many more pictures from the adventure here if you want to look them over.
btw2 You can also send me email at my regular email address. I check it almost every day. Two days at the most. Every little town has an internet cafe!
Posted by Rick McDermed at 12:03 PM
October 04, 2006 GMT
Mazatlan, Beaches, Beer
I had a very nice ride from Oxnard to Yuma although it was VERY hot. I stopped in Palm Springs and tried to remember the Alaska cold (it didnīt work). Crossed the border into Mexico Sunday morning. Had a little trouble at the border. The brand new registration I had just received in the mail for the bike didnīt take effect till Oct 8th. The lady giving out the vehicle import permits wasn't having any of it. I smiled and winked. She said "go to customs and have them give me a letter". I went over there and they were closed on Sunday. I wonder if she knew that. I went back. I cried and begged. Nothing worked. I pleaded. After an hour she asked if I might have the official title. Yup (I brought it since I heard some countries didn't want the registration but instead the title. She said no problem. At the risk of looking a gift horse in the mouth I ask her why the title worked. She said "official document with no dates". Good enough! Away I went. Thru Hermasillo, Guyamas, Los Mochis (found a Colonel Sanders there so what the heck, Iīll get plenty more real Mexican food on the road). Got to Mazatlan Oct 3rd. About 75 miles north of Mazatlan there was a LOT of hurricane damage. Trees and buildings down and bridges out. Not much evidence in Mazatlan though.
I went looking for that great taco stand I mentioned. Eric, Susan, and Peter (some friends from the Harley group (we rode down 5 years ago)) can vouch for how great it is. You can imagine my sadness when I saw this.
Someone saw me taking the picture and told me they had moved down the street so headed there with great relief. Same great tacos, same pretty owner (right Peter)!
I talked my way into a very reduced price for a beach side room at the Playa Mazatlan. There are NO tourists here at this time of year. May have to do with the 90 degree temperature and the 95 percent humidity! Even so, I will stay here for a couple of days.
I also just looked at my online banking stuff and see that I just received my last paycheck (for a long time) from the Harley dealer where I work part time. I want Jan, Tracey, and Jason to know that I will spend it wisely. Most of it will go to liquor and lap dances and I will probably just WASTE the rest! (Julia, that was a joke, uh huh, yup a joke. That's my story and I'm stickin to it!!!)
More from down the road!
Posted by Rick McDermed at 02:12 AM