It’s really hard to explain how I was feeling as I headed due south, past Playa Del Carmen, past Tulum, and onwards into the unknown. It was strange riding the bike solo, I had no luggage outside of the bike’s boxes, and the bike rode like a different machine. I took off my jacket and stowed it in the back box, turned the music on the stereo up, and rode along in the beautiful sunshine. I could accelerate faster, brake harder, and turn tighter. I could actually ride the bike like I had never ridden it before. With no one following me, and no one to follow, I could do exactly as I pleased, but with no Jacquie, it didn’t feel right. One minute I would be elated, the next overcome by waves of sadness. Jacquie and I hadn’t been apart for more than a couple of hours for the past 30 weeks, and most of that time we were no more than a few inches apart, and now there was an empty seat behind me.
As I passed Tulum, I entered butterfly territory. At first there were just a few of them, then they were all around me, I slowed down as my windscreen became a battering ram, and squashed butterflies began to obscure my vision. There was nothing I could do as more and more of these beautiful creatures came to the end of their short lives on my screen. The road ahead seemed to be full of static and the butterflies darted all around the road and me and my bike.
That day I rode until I reached Chetumal, the last Mexican town before the border, some 6 hours later, arriving just after dark into this dreary, characterless town. I found a cheapish hotel without too much anguish, but was put off by the staff and the manner of the short, fat receptionist. I rode round the town for another hour in a fruitless search for a better option before returning to my first stop, the unfortunately named Hotel Ucum.
I paid up, unpacked, and went out to find an Internet café and a taco stand. I hated Chetumal. The streets were dirty, people unfriendly, and the town downright ugly. I did what I had to do, sent Jacquie an e-mail, and returned to the Ucum. I sat in my puke-green room and sobbed. This was not a great place to be on my first night alone.
The next morning, I rose after a poor night’s sleep, went back into town for a quick breakfast in the market, followed by a fleeting visit to the Internet café-no messages, before setting off for my fist solo border crossing and Belize.
I used up my remaining pesos on fuel, fags and fast food and hit the border at around 10 am. I queued for emigration and then was turned back as I didn’t have any pesos left to pay the exit fee. Back I went to the gas station where I had just spent my last pesos, to retrieve more for the exit fee.
I got back to the border about 20 minutes later, and sailed through emigration, then customs and then immigration, then customs again, paid my fees, got the bike sprayed with disinfectant, purchased by obligatory but no doubt useless insurance, and entered Belize an hour and a half later, and a few dollars poorer.
Just riding the roads in rural Belize, I knew I was in a different country. The small poorly paved roads cut through flat, tropical grasslands and the air had the distinct smell of the Caribbean. I was so reminded of St Martin, in the French West Indies where I had lived some 15 years prior, I almost felt like I was coming home.
Again, I was alternating from being high on the buzz of entering my first new country for 4 months, as well as being in my first Central American country, to being gutted that I couldn’t share it with Jacquie. Still, the beautiful day, the lush countryside, the quaint roads, and Belize itself raised my spirits. I stopped a few times along the way to have a soda and chat to some locals. I had almost forgotten that Belizeans spoke English, and the strong Caribbean accent was music to my ears. Everyone welcomed me to their country and were eager to chat to me about the trip and how I liked their homeland.
I stopped and ate fried chicken by the green- blue Caribbean sea, and took out my Lonely Planet for inspiration, I had no idea where I should aim for, but I had decided I definitely needed to spend some time here, and not take one of my options, which was to ride straight through Belize to Guatemala in my first day.
The owner/waitress/chef brought my lunch over and we started to natter. She asked me where I was headed for and I told her I wasn’t quite sure, I hadn’t really made any plans.
Without any further ado, I was treated to a full scale explanation of all my options, and I decided I would take her advice, and head to Belize city, get on a boat, and “reeeeelax ‘pon one o’ dem ‘dere hammocks for a coupla days, take it easyyyyyy.”
How could I not!
I rode on through the north of Belize, sideways down the country towards Belmopan, the capital, before turning left onto the Western Highway.
Time was getting on, so I pushed ahead to Belize city and after being welcomed once again to everyone I stopped to ask directions from, I arrived at the Water Taxi terminal at 4.30pm. I went in and was told the last boat would leave in 45 minutes. The question was, what would I do with the bike. There were no car ferries, as there were no cars on the Cay Caulker, my destination, so why would there be anything but passenger ferries. I was pondering my predicament when a tall Belizean walked over to me and introduced himself as Cobra. Cobra told me he was a licensed cabbie who worked in conjunction with the Water Taxi Association, and that I could keep my bike in his backyard for a few days. We negotiated a price and I followed him on my bike as he drove back to his house.
Somehow I managed to ride the bike through the narrow gate into Cobra’s yard, took out my beach bag, locked up the bike and covered it up with my dirt encrusted bike cover before getting into Cobra’s taxi and racing back to the terminal to get on the boat for Caye Caulker.
A short 40-minute high-speed boat ride later and I was on Caye Caulker, the “Go Slow” island. I disembarked, walked down the jetty to the shore, and checked straight into Tina’s hostel. I walked into my dorm room and was welcomed by my new roommates. I couldn’t have wished for better company. I was sharing with two gorgeous Swedish blonds and a beautiful French brunette. I got the feeling that I was going to like the Cayes.
The four of us sat on the balcony as the sun set, drinking beer and eating chips, and were soon joined by our neighbours, and then by the residents of the floor above. By 7 o’clock the party was in full swing. People came and went, but the core posse of the four of us from room 1, stayed the course. I was DJing with my computer and one of the Swede’s portable, and very loud speakers, and being fed beer and chips, whilst the crowd on our balcony swelled.
The party didn’t stop for three days, alternating between our balcony in the evenings to the split during daylight. Good friends were made, and on the last day we all went on a snorkel trip with the Ragamuffin Crew.
We had a great day of Snorkelling over the very shallow barrier reef, swimming a few feet above scuba divers, and watching the Nurse sharks, Southern stingrays, Sea turtles, and a plethora of tropical fish going about their business. On the return trip to Caye Caulker, the rum punch came out, the music got turned up, and the party began.
We got back to shore having drunk far too much of the sweet Rum punch, and I staggered back to my dorm to collapse.
Early the next morning I packed up, and with sadness in my heart, got back on the boat for Belize City and said goodbye to Caye Caulker.
Cobra was at the Water Taxi terminal when I arrived, and he took me back to his place to retrieve my bike. All was well under the bike cover, and a few minutes later, I was back on the road, headed for Plasencia.
I rode southwest for an hour or so until I came to my turnoff. As I turned the corner, I spotted a couple of lads, one of them wearing a Harley Davidson leather jacket, pushing an ageing Yamaha along the other side of the road. I pulled up opposite them, and got off the bike, ready to lend a hand, but before I had turned off the ignition, they had already jump-started the Yam.
They rode over to me, and introduced themselves as Leo and Jimmy. We spoke for a while about the usual, bikes, roads, trips and countries, before I was invited to ride with them until their turnoff, about an hour or so down the road in the right direction.
We rode together, along winding roads, which were just like English country lanes. There was hardly any other traffic on the road, and the ride was joyous. We pulled over on the side of the road some 70 or 80 miles later, shared a Caribbean cigarette, and went our separate ways.
I continued down the road a little further until I reached my turnoff, and started the 25 mile dirt and gravel track, bumping and bouncing my way down to Plasencia.
I arrived hot, tired and hungry at Plasencia and set about the arduous task of finding a reasonably priced room that wasn’t too shabby, or at least clean. In some places this is an easy job, in Plasencia it was a chore. With the help of some friendly locals I found Oscar’s Guesthouse, unloaded my gear, and set out in search of some good old Caribbean fried chicken. I wasn’t too taken with Plasencia, and set off after a hearty breakfast burrito back up the dirt road, along the wooden plank bridge, and towards Guatemala.
I stopped for a quick drive by of Dangriga, a sleepy beach town but with a bit more soul than Plasencia, and secretly wished that I had spent the night there instead. A few hours later and I was at the border to Guatemala
. My heart sank as I hit the road to Flores. Once again, I had to crawl along another twenty odd miles of gravel before I reached hard blacktop and the chance to pull back the throttle and put some miles down.
I arrived at Flores, and couldn’t resist the pull of the first restaurant I came across, MacDonald’s. After a quick quarter pounder, I saddled up and rode along the bridge to reach the island in the lake and without no trouble I found Los Amigos, parked the Harley in their reception, and settled into my new home for the next few days.
Jacquie had e-mailed me while I was in Belize and was going to fly back to Cancun in a few days, and then bus it down to Antigua to meet me.
I spent a couple of days on the lake, took a boat out to one of the islands on the lake and rode out to the amazing ruins at Tikal. I spent a great day walking around the site and the jungle paths, spotting my first Toucans. The howler monkeys were living up to their name, but kept out of sight, the spider monkeys were the troublesome ones, throwing fruits and seeds at me, and peeing in my general direction from the canopy of trees overhead.
I bumped into Andy again, my Canadian buddy who I had met in Baja, and he in turn had met some cool Texans who were self confessed Chupacabra hunters, in search of the mythical Latin American equivalent of the Yeti. We all headed out on my last night for a party in the Chupacabra Hunters camper van, and Andy introduced my to Alex and Thomas, a pair of Norwegians who were also travelling south, in a 1971 VW Camper they had bought from Frank Zappa’s first drummer. We all drank a little too much, and I left with the party getting a touch messy in the wee hours of the morning.
Next day, once again, I packed the bike and headed south for Rio Dolce.
A few hours of riding in more glorious Guatemalan sunshine, and I was on the shores of the river that led out to the Caribbean sea. I stopped on the bridge to take a photo, and just when I was getting back on the bike, I saw the Norwegians VW Camper approaching. It was hard to miss with the sharks’ teeth painted across the front, and behind the van was Andy. Reunited again!
We stopped and chatted on the bridge before heading of together to the hostel at the other end of the bridge. An evening of shenanigans followed, and the next morning we all jumped in a boat with two girls who were volunteering at the hospital, teaching the local kids English in return for free room and board.
We took a trip up the river stopping off at a hot spring that was way to hot to even dip a toe in, before heading on to the very Caribbean town of Livingston. We strolled along the beach, stopped for a long lunch, and then went back to the dock and got back on the boat to return to Rio Dulce.
The girls were pretty fed up of their volunteer work, and decided to jump ship and head off in the Norwegian’s camper van the next day to come with our newly formed posse to Lanquin.
I left with the Norwegians, following their van for the first hour or so, while Andy took his KLR on the Northern dirt road. I was soon quite bored of 50mph, and waved goodbye to the van and its cargo and headed off alone at a more comfortable pace.
The trip to Lanquin was another great ride, except for the last 15 miles of bumpy dirt road to the hostel at Lanquin, El Retiro.
I met up with Andy, and the next day, the Norwegians arrived too.
The following days were spent clambering up more waterfalls, crawling along underground tunnels, and enjoying the scenery and natural beauty of Samuc Champey.
The hostel was a great base for our excursions and more friends were made during our stay. On the last night of my stay I DJ’d at the bar/restaurant, and we all had one hell of a party!
The next morning Andy and I packed up our bikes and headed out for San Pedro, on Lake Attitlan. I had my Harley packed up pretty quickly, and set off ahead of Andy, who would make much quicker work of the 12 miles of dirt before we reached any sort of tarmac.
We met up with each other at the end of the dirt road, and rode off together towards San Pedro. We rode through a local market, receiving more than our fair share of stares form the traders. Both our bikes were unusual, Andy had a surfboard strapped to the side of his KLR, and I was on a Harley…not a common bike for the dirt roads of Central America.
We rode on and on, and on some more. It always surprised me how long it could take to do such little distance, and today was no exception. We got held up behind a stream of trucks and busses, exuding their customary clouds of black smoke. By the time we reached Antigua, it was getting dark, but, as we only had an inch or so more distance to travel on the map, we decided to push on.
Neither of us had ridden much at night, or in the dark. The roads were bad enough in the daylight, and riding in the dark meant you missed out on any scenery. With no street lights, cats eyes or signage, night riding had many challenges, as well as being less secure than daylight hours.
But, we figured we were so close, that we may as well carry on.
We rode up and up, into the night, and with the help of our fairly poorly detailed road maps, were lost within an hour. There was no sign of life on the road apart from the odd speeding truck or bus, no petrol stations, shops, nor anyone to stop and ask for directions.The pair of us had been bouncing around on dirt roads for a few hundred miles in recent weeks, resulting in our lights getting a tad out of alignment. Andy's lit up his front mudguard, while mine shone on the overhanging branches of trees. I could only see the road when I was taking a right handed bend, Andy had a better view of left handers, but somehow, we made it.
Relying on my compass only, and following the road as best we could, we carried on some more. Then all of a sudden, the tarmac was gone, and in its place, more dirt and rubble. We crawled along at my Harleys best pace, before coming to a new section of road. My relief was short lived, as after another 500 metres or so , we were back to the dirt track for 3 more miles, this pattern continued for what felt like an eternity, until we finally came upon a gas station.
We stocked up on chocolate and warmed ourselves with hot coffee, and were directed by a gaggle of 6or7 truck drivers to our destination.
We finally reached the turnoff we had been waiting for, and headed towards the lake on roads which were gradually becoming smaller and in worse repair. We rode on, now feeling the cold more than ever, as well as being hungry and tired, but when we crested a small hill and saw lights off in the distance, our spirits raised, only to be dashed once more when we discovered that we were still 3 villages away from our destination.
We finally made it to San Pedro, and after grabbing some Tacos in the square, we were led by a couple of local boys on a 125 to a hostel where we parked up our bikes and went straight to bed without even unpacking!
We awoke to a beautiful morning and headed down to the lake. Having arrived in the dark, we had no idea what awaited us, and the surprise was wonderful. San Pedro was a quaint, undeveloped village, and the lake was beautiful. We sat on the shore watching the locals washing their clothes on the rocks, and surveying the surrounding mountains.
We had a chilled day, recovering from our ride, checked our e.mails and pottered around town, and generally relaxed, and waited. The van loaded with Norwegians and stow away volunteers was only one day behind us, which only meant more madness and mayhem were merely moments away!
Sure enough, with the arrival of the Camper van, a party was brewing. We spent the day together in a super chilled out café bar, sampling some of the local delights, before heading off to the Buddha bar, where I had arranged to play another set. I began DJing at 9pm, and my 11, the place was jumping. We danced till dawn, or at least 2am, before moving on to the after party at some Danish guys’ house up the road.
After one more recovery day, we were off again, to Antigua. Andy and I left the posse and rode on together.
We finally arrived in Antigua after driving straight past the turn off, twice!
We rolled into town checked out a few hostels, then took a room in one of the few places that had all we needed, a secure spot to park the bikes, internet, and clean sheets. As ever, my budget was $10 for the room, and this was $7, nice.
Now I just had to wait for Jacquie to arrive.
I waited in the bar of our hostel for Jacquie, who had told me she should be in Antigua by 6pm.
Finally, at around 9pm, Jacquie walked into the hostel and I rushed up to hug her. We went and sat in our room and Jacquie told me all about her trip. She had had an eventful one, her bus was held up in Mexico, and armed robbers boarded the bus and took money from all the passengers , and left just before the police arrived. Jacquie was shaken up by her ordeal, but happy that we were reunited.
We went out and I showed Jacquie around the city.
As per usual, we found our favorite part of the city was the colourful market, and we spent hours wondering around, sniffing and tasting everything that didn't move! The market was full of bright colours, friendly people, and the best food around.
You raelly can buy anything at the market...kid in a box anyone?
We had spoken about doing a language course, and we both decided to enrol. Andy had met up with one of his friends from home, and they were also going to take language lessons.
Jacquie and I walked around some more, checked out some schools, and that afternoon, we enrolled in a school for a week’s classes and had arranged to stay with a local family for the duration of the course.
Our time in Antigua was fun, we learnt a bit more Spanish, climbed an active volcano in the pouring rain-not the best time to be scrambling over red hot lava-and enjoyed a break from the hot weather.
Volcan Picaya, seemed like a good idea..
The easier way up would have been by horse taxi, but who wants to do it the easy way..
The Lava halfway up, with rain sizzling on the rocks..awesome
Our friends in the van were just a couple of days behind us, and we all re-united once more in Antigua and had a few nights of partying before heading to El Salvador.
A wave goodbye from Guatemala
Our ride into El Salvador has to have been one of the most memorable rides to date. We took the coastal road, and followed the contours of the mountains, riding the winding route overlooking the Pacific to our right, with the lush mountains in turn looking over us from our left. We rode through tunnels, and on each corner were rewarded with some spectacular views.
We stopped at a restaurant overlooking the sea, and were joined by a group of a dozen or so bikers from San Salvador who were out on a weekend jaunt.
We were asked where we had come from and where we were going to, and all the usual questions; how much was the bike? how fast did it go? And how big was the engine?
We drank fresh lemonade and ate some beautiful Ceviche before getting back on the bikes and riding to El Tunco, a small surf town 40miles further down the road.
The vibe at El Tunco was so chilled and relaxing, a nice change form the city, and it being the weekend, many of the city folk from El Salvador were down to lie on the beach, surf and relax.
arriving in El Tunco
just in time for the sunset
We met a group of guys in the beach bar who were down for exactly this reason, to chill for the weekend, and they asked us to join them.
We sat around the table, drinking, talking, and getting to know the locals. The people in El Salvador were much less used to visitors than in Guatemala, or any of the places we had visited so far, but were without doubt the most welcoming and friendly.
Who needs a TV!
We were shown around the city by another biker we had met on Horizons Unlimited, went to the Harley store-an obligatory stop in every country-and had dinner in one of the new American style malls.
We left El Tunco after a few days, and went up into the mountains, to see the coffee growing regions ,more waterfalls and some more El Salvadorian towns and villages.
The Lake in the Crater
Jacquie really wanted us to ride the Ruta de Flores, a road that in the right season, has amazing flowers bordering its side, but, we weren’t in season, and, although the road and the scenery were both beautiful, there were hardly any flowers to be seen. A couple of local cops stopped as we were looking on our map by the side of the road, we told them we were looking for the Ruta de Flores, and they said they would lead us to the start of the road.
We followed the cops in their pickup for 25 minutes til they pulled over and pointed us in the right direction.
We had been warned about corrupt police in Mexico and in Central America, but apart from the one time in Mexico, al our run ins with the Police had been really harmless, with the Police being friendly, helpful, and quite charming!
This time was no exception, the police had their photos taken with us, told us to be careful if riding at night, and wished us the best for our trip.
Some of the spectacular scenery on the Routa de Flores
We arrived in Juaya, up in the mountains, and spent a quiet night in, before getting another one of those early nights in this sleepy mountain town.
We woke early walked through a coffee plantation to the waterfall, and in the afternoon we chilled back at the hostel with some other guests as the rain came down.
The next day we rode back down the mountain, stopping off at the spectacular crater , before resting up for the night before our marathon ride planned for the next day.
While we were in El Salvador, there had been a military coup in Honduras...quite something, they kidnapped the president and took him to Costa Rica. America and Colombia were up in arms saying it was an illegal coup, and thousands of people were in the streets in Honduras. At this point no one knew if they were protesting his arrest, or celebrating it...only in (Central) America.
A quick blast through Honduras
The local way to travel
That's GOTTA be a strong bike!
The day the borders re-opened, we got on the bike and did an epic ride through El Salvador’s volcanic landscape, out of El Salvador, meaning we had to export the bike, then go through immigration, then import the bike into Honduras, and then do the Honduran emigration, $48 and 4 hours later, we were in Honduras, we sped through Honduras, stopping very briefly for a taco and some abuse from a very very drunk national, and 2 hours and 6 military and police checkpoints later, we were at the Honduran border with Nicaragua.
I rode into the customs complex, and whilst looking for the right building to import the bike, I missed the huge pot hole in front of us. The bike dropped 8 or so inches into the hole, and emerged minus a stand spring, with my stand dragging along the gritty floor. Uh oh, that was the sixth time, and I was down to my last spare spring. We repaired the stand with a bungee cord and rode up to the customs building. Another 2 hours of exporting and importing, and we were through, almost. I took a photo of the bridge and the ¨Welcome to Nicaragua sign¨ as per usual.
The snap that caused all the trouble!
A Policeman from the Honduran side ran over to me and seized the camera, telling me it was illegal to take photos of the police. He pocketed the camera, then asked for my driving license, which he put in his shirt pocket with my camera…this was going to be fun!
I insisted that the photo was of the sign, and showed him the picture I had taken, he asked for my driving license, which I gave him, then he pocketed it, and the camera, and demanded $80.
This is fairly normal practice; police are corrupt, and eager for an extra buck. I told him I had enough money to import the bike to Nicaragua, and no more, so if I paid him, I would be stuck, not being able to re enter Honduras, nor enter Nicaragua, I gave him my favorite line of having no money , but a lot of time! I explained that I could wait all day if I had to, but that I couldn’t pay him any money. I went and sat on the bike, taking off my helmet and jacket and getting comfortable. A few minutes later, he approached me and said $20 would be enough, I again said I couldn’t pay him, and said all I could do was give him cigarettes. A few minutes later, we were on our way over the bridge, into Nicaragua, waving goodbye to the smug copper, smoking my Marlboro, and pocketing a $5 bill in his fat, sweaty hands.
Entering Nicaragua was a fairly simple, and free, experience, and half an hour of paperwork later, we were free to go.
The road on the other side of the border consisted of stones and rocks thrown together in a fairly straight line for 3 miles, at the end of which, a man with an assault rifle stopped us and asked for the $1 toll. I resisted at first, not wanting to pay a toll for a road that hadn’t even been built, but, with the rifle looking a tad menacing, and the fee only $1, we paid and were on our way to Leon.
Arriving in Leon, we decided to stop and have a rest, we found a lovely French Deli, and were greeted by the French owner and his Dutch woman, they chatted with us, and we were persuaded to stay . Christian, the owner of the bakery, took us round to see a couple of nearby hostels and we decided to treat ourselves to a private room, with its own bathroom, and ...a TV! Ultimate luxury for a mere $15, sweet!
Arriving IN the Hostel Via Via
LEON Cathedral and the central square
The problem was, we hadn’t seen the fleas jumping around on the bed until it was sleepy time, so, at 10pm, exhausted and not in the best of spirits, we had to check out of the hostel and move over the road to a much less attractive, noisy hostel, into another dorm room. After flicking the pubes from the previous guest off the bed, I dropped a diazepam, and finally drifted off to sleep, only to be woken at 4am by my new hand and foot rash. Apparently I had a lovely fungal infection, caused by God-knows-what, spreading across my hands and feet.
I had a joyous morning in Leon, spending half a day at the hospital, after being refused admittance into 2 private clinics. I was not at all happy about having to go to the hospital, everyone had told me I was likely to come out worse off than how I went in, but I could see no other option, and my rash was growing angrier by the hour. Eventually, after being directed here, there and everywhere, I was sat in a waiting room with two HEAVILY pregnant women, taking it in turns to moan and groan, and making my little rash seem truly insignificant.
Thankfully neither of them gave birth in the waiting room, which I really thought was going to happen, and an hour or so after signing in, I was shown to the Dermatology room, where a young Nicaraguan Doctor, checked me over , had a very brief look at my hands, and prescribed me some more pills to go with my cream, which I had been prescribed in El Salvador when the rash made its first appearance.
Unfortunately, my rash didn’t improve, it got worse and worse to the point that my hands and feet were unbearably itchy, and were keeping me up at night and making miserable. My 40th birthday was looming, and I wasn’t feeling great about that either. All in all, I was in a bit of a state to say the least, when a Dutch guy recommended I go see a specialist Dermatologist who had a clinic round the corner from the hostel. That afternoon I went to the clinic, and after a reasonable wait by central American standards, I was in front of the specialist. For the first time, my hands were cleaned and properly inspected under a magnifying glass, and my fears were confirmed, there was no fungal infection, but instead the rash was a manifestation of some kind of allergic reaction. I was sent next door to the pharmacy for an injection in my hip, and sure enough, by the end of the day the itching had disappeared, by the next day, the rash had all but gone too. I was so relieved, as was Jacquie and everyone who had been around me for the last couple of days whilst I had been sleep deprived and moody.
Steptoe Y Hijo
The next few days were spent wondering around Leon, we took a quick bus ride down to the nearby beach with our new friends from the Bakery, and spent the afternoon under a Palapa, drinking beer and eating fish.
We watched the sunset and headed off to catch the last bus back into Leon, only problem was, the last bus leaves from a different place to all the others, so , while we were waiting at the bus at the North end of town, the bus was definitely NOT waiting for us at the south end! We missed the bus, but fortunately managed to talk a local into taking the four of us and three other girls who had also missed the bus , back to Leon in his van.
Ready to cook Armadillos for sale at the roadside
I took a day out to go to the Harley shop in Managua, and after being stopped by the police and talking my way out of another fine for doing nothing wrong,I arrived at the store, got another spring for my stand, and was welcomed by the dealer, Guillermo. He was really happy to have a Harley rider from outside Nicaragua visit his store, and invited me for a ride out, “in my honour” sometime next weekend. His mechanic fitted the new spring for me, and I left the shop excited about the up coming ride.
I stopped and took pictures of one of Nicaragua’s many volcanoes from a spot by the lake, and went on a ride down a small road to the shores of the lake fpr a better look at the volcano, a bunch of locals came out to greet me and forced me to join them for a beer, again questioning me about the why’s where’s and how’s of the trip. I made my excuses as the sun was going down and started making my way back to Leon.
One more stop by the police, another long conversation in which I talked them out of fining me for not actually doing anything wrong, and I was back on the road.
The thing with the Police is a tough one. The Police have never been threatening, I think with me, they just see a huge shiny motorcycle coming towards them, they see the Florida registration Plate, and think it’s a good way to increase their meager earnings.
Every time since the first stop in Mexico City, I always have a routine for dealing with this;I first take off my helmet and sunglasses, I smile broadly, and say “buenas dias, senor!” in the most cheerful voice I can muster.
I always carry all the necessary papers, and I get them out immediately.
I then take out my cigarettes and offer them to the Police.
I am then usually told that I have done something wrong, which I ask them to explain, and then I am usually told how much the fine will be.
This is when I say that I am sorry if I had done anything illegal and that I was unaware that I had committed any offence, and try to start up some sort of conversation in my pretty poor Spanish.
I always include something about how wonderful their country is, how beautiful their women are, and how friendly all the people have been, in the hope that they won’t want to spoil their countries image!
I tell the cops that I don’t have much money, and then I produce my mugger’s wallet. This is the wallet that I carry at all times in case of a mugging or an encounter such as this, with the Police. I usually have in it no more than $5 in local currency, and it serves as a “booby prize” far anyone who may want to relieve me of my cash. It’s enough for them to have a little something without me loosing all my cards and cash, which are normally spread around my luggage, my person, and the bike.
My encounters with the Police rarely involve a handover of cash, and all the cops I have met, whether trying to help me out or get money off me , have all been friendly and jovial.I think they just try it on …cos they can.
So, back in Leon, we were making more new friends, and some old ones were turning up too. We arranged to all go en masse back to the beach to celebrate my 40th, and on July 9th, we left the hostel for a day on the beach. Unfortunately we missed the bus by a matter of minutes, but I managed to stop a beat up old van, and the driver agreed to drive us to the bleach.
We all clambered into the back of the van, and sat on an assortment of used wheels and tyres that covered the floor in the back of the van. Nevertheless, we were in high spirits, and half an hour later, we were on the beach.
I was just thinking what a shame it was that the Norwegians in the camper hadn’t shown up in Leon, when I was jumped on and thrown to the ground. Thomas and Alexander, the Norwegians, were also here, and they had been preparing a Birthday dinner, looks like we would be staying at the beach all night. The Leon posse were happy to say on the beach, so we booked a dorm for the night, and the party got started. The Norwegians had gone all out, and were cooking fresh fish on the beach by their van. I made cocktails for everybody with the huge bottle of Flor De Cana rum the Norwegians had in the van, and we danced around the campfire, ate and drank til it was time to retire to the dorm for a hot night with the mosquitoes!
We had breakfast on the beach before jumping on the bus back to Leon and the hostel. We had a day of lying around recovering before it was time to go back to Managua and meet up with the “Pistones” Harley Club for our ride out.
Guillermo Teran, the owner of the Harley shop, had kindly offered to put us up in the hotel next to the shop for the night, and we had gleefully accepted, so, after arriving at the dealership, we dumped our stuff in the room and went down to meet the other Harley guys in the shop.
The Pistones really were the Upper Class of Nicaraguan Society. One of them was from the Flor De Cana Family, another owned a huge chain of Sex Hotels, one was very high up in the organization of the national bank, and so on, all really nice, friendly guys.
Nicaragua is like most Central American countries; in as much as a few large families from the old colonial days still possess the majority of the wealth in that country, and in Nicaragua, they all rode Harleys!
If you ever need to network in Nicaragua, get a Harley!
We saddled up and rode the back roads, past the Volcano at Massaya and into Granada.
Granada is another colonial town, similar to Leon, but in much better condition, and more visited by tourists. We arrived into town en masse, around 12 bikes, revving their engines and turning heads in true poseur style, with me rolling at the back trying to be discreet!
Guillermo, the man with the plan, thanks a lot for everything mate!!
We all parked up and went and sat outside a sports bar, and Guillermo treated us to lunch, we all talked bikes, roads and cultural differences, walked around town a bit, then headed down to the lakeside for some pictures, before roaring back out of town and back to the shop before the rain came.
Back at the shop, we played a few games of beer pong before Guillermo dragged us out for dinner, again, on him.
We went back to the shop, which had a bar attached, had a few drinks with our host, before dragging ourselves up to bed exhausted.
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