Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Final Shots of 2009

City lights from Monserrate
The 40 person tram that runs until 1:00am.

The convent church all decorated and lit up for the Navidad.

The sky scape looking northwest from Monserrate.

Junk for sale. Good price for you.

Feliz Anos!

The amazing sunset over the mountain top to the west.
Some sites from the summit of Monserrate, Bogota

Colorful cafe at the base of the mountain, around the corner from our hostal.

Greg's spanish has not seemed to have improved at all during this trip. He thought he had ordered a pita pocket when infact he received something along the lines of a cheese and ham soup served in a cast iron skillet. It was very tasty.

Herby the love bug. Found here in Colombia.

Bogota is a city that stretches as far as the eye can see from a mountain top. We wanted to venture up Monserrate to experience the sunset from the mountain top overlooking the city. All the guidebooks warned us against walking to the base of the mountain and advised us to take a taxi. We decided to ignore this advice and decided to walk from our hostal to the base of the mountain along a very pleasant street with many other men, women and children. We've discovered that our guide books warned against traveling where some local people might be present. On our journey we were greeted numerous times with, "hola, buenos dias!" We were not fearful at all despite the propaganda.
We boarded the tram and accended a further 2000 feet to an elevation of roughly 9000 feet. The temperature difference and wind was considerably chillier. At the summit there was a convent church where the statue of the "fallen christ" was on display. This spot is a very common and popular pilgramidge site for all people. We walked around the summit waiting for sunset. As the sun began to set behind the mountains, more and more people began to flood the mountain top. There were several attractions to see at the top. You could even buy coca tea or just a big bag of coca leaves. Greg read in his motorcycle diaries novel that Che Guevara had once chewed a bag of coca leaves while in the back of a pick up truck and that night in his once a blue moon comfortable bed, he suffered from insomnia and had a severe headache as a result. Thus we did not indulge and instead opted for an aromatic tea.
As the sun disappeared behind the mountain, the display of sun light was spectacular. Immediately the lights began to twinkle over the city. Main highways became apparent and we tried to scope our route out of town, only to discover we were on the wrong side of town and would have to navigate through the entire city southwest to Ecuador. But that will be tomorrow's adventure.
The temperature plummeted more with the absense of the sun and that was the deciding factor of when to leave. We rode the tram to the base and walked through the dark city back to our hostal without the slightest hint of malacious intent from the local people enjoying the evening in the many parks that dot this city. We stopped by our favorite pizza joint and picked up a couple of calzones to enjoy over beers in the hostal's bar. Here we met up with some fellow Canadians, Neil and Laura from Scotland Ontario. We enjoyed drinks and good converstation with these fine folks who are traveling for 3 weeks around Colombia. Neil and Greg talked motorcycle talk and we tried to convince them to bring their own bike down here to South America. I think Greg may have Neil convinced!
Tonight we ring in 2010 right here in Bogota Colombia. We're very excited to be here and we don't know quite what to expect, we hope it's fun.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

On the Fly- Bogota, Columbia

narrow cobbled street outside our hostal, Bogota.
On board flight AV0061 to Bogota via Boeing 757.

All packed up and ready to go on cargo.

Hotel Canadian, Chame Panama.

Off loading the bike in Bogota.

Trip: 2000km
Cost: ($900 for bike)
($772 for Us)
Exchange rate: 1 USD = 1850 Pesos
Hostel: 20,000 pesos per person
Bike storage per night 20,000

Our last hosts were a treat from home. We were riding toward Panama City and it was getting late. Motoring along at 95 km/hr we saw our destination. We pulled off the highway (which was smooth and void of potholes) and into a check point at a gated community. Apparenty its Panama law to allow public access to beaches but here it would be difficult. We u-turned and motored not far. It was then that I saw Hotel Canadian. I couldn`t resist, so we pulled in and met Ralph and Katy from the Yukon. Also staying with them were some folks from Fort Nelson B.C. who knew all kinds of people that I knew and who I worked for.

We left Hotel Canadian the next morning after coffee and goodbyes and headed for Panama City. Before I knew it I had already passed the only turn off to the ``Puente Americas``I pulled over on the side of the highway. There was no way around it I had to drive the wrong way down the highway and take the exit that I missed. I shoulder checked several times and then by stroke of luck there was a break in traffic. I whipped around and kicked it into 4th gear and cruised down the roadway into oncoming traffic. (I wonder what they thought). I pulled a hard hairpin 180 degree turn up the exit ramp and alas a few Km down the road we were cruising atop the Americas bridge over the Panama Canal. I took the first exit off the bride to tour the canal and I was immediately routed directly into the city via a 10 lane highway. We stopped, starving and bewildered, at McDonalds and had good o`le burgers for brunch.

We eventually found the hostal in downtown Panama City that we were looking for after getting stuck in grid lock traffic. I pulled along side a cab driver and handed him the hostal business card and motioned him to go there so we could follow. It worked out perfectly and we arrived there very quickly.

At the hostal we learned that the boats that we were planning on taking were not leaving until Jan 02. (Unfortunately due to my illness we missed the last sail of the year on Dec 26) We thought about it for a minute and decided to ride out to the airport just to inquire about flights and cargo.

We by-passed the main passenger terminal and headed towards the cargo flights (old airport). We passed through a security point where I didn`t feel like stopping so I waved instead. Luckily we turned the right way at the intersection and drove straight to the exit Panama Customs Hut. Here we saw a Honda Africa Twin parked outside. The guy was Mexican and had just ridden South America. We talked for a minute and then we proceeded to drive in circles for what seemed to be an hour looking for Griag Cargo. We finally found the tiny Griag sign and I went into the building while Julie waited outside with the bike. I was told that the cost was $901.38 and that the bike would be on a flight to Bogota, Columbia first thing in the morning. I referenced the pricing with Copa Airlines but I was told that they weren`t flying again until March. The price of $901.38 was paid only in cash and it was all over but for the dismantleling of the windshield and mirrors.

Julie and I walked away from the bike, just leaving it parked in the construction zone of a parking lot with trucks, forklifts, cars, motorbikes and people running and yelling everywhere. Before I finally walked away I stopped a guy and said ``Moto OK`` he said ``Si`` so we walked over to customs and got the bike cleared from Panama.

We were standing at a place outside of customs where there were no cabs, buses, or cars for that matter. We were waiting in the heat at 3:30Pm and I got fed up and waived a truck down. The guy stopped immediately to our suprise and I walked up to the window and said ``Aeropuerto`` and he motioned to get in. When we told him where we were going and where were had come from he was astonished. The guy drove us right to the airport departure gate and wished us well.

Julie and I walked into the airport when Julied asked what we were going to do since we had no plane tickets. I exclaimed that we were simply going to buy them right now and catch the next flight leaving in 1.5 hours. We were told that we couldn`t buy a one way ticket, I argued and finally were went to another airline who agreed to sell us oneway tickets for less money so were were pretty happy about that outcome.

The next thing we knew we were boarding a Boeing 757 to Bogota, Columbia. Immediately after take off my nose detected food. During the flight we were served a meal and complementary drinks. I had an orange juice and a Rum and Coke. It was all free and I had two drinks during the hour and ten minute flight. We began to wonder how these poor countries can still afford to serve food and free alcoholic drinks on their flights.

We landed in Bogota and we were informed that we couldn`t enter the country because we didn`t have hotel reservations or a hotel phone number. (The fact that 2 hours ago we didn`t even know we were going to Columbia completely eluded them). I decided a chance at ...Hotel Bogota... to no success and finally conjured up some broken spanish story about a moto traveler...mucho`s moto.......dos personas....Canada...a...Columbia...a Ecuador...a...ChiliƩ. He got the picture and then reluctantly stamped entry on our passports.

It was all over but then again it was just the beginning. It was now 8 pm, the taxi drivers didn`t want to drive us to any hotels because we didn`t have reservations. We managed to get a drive to a $200.00 a night hotel. I said nooooo Way! But Julie insisted. We pulled out the lap top and Googled Hostels. Meanwhile the woman behind the desk told us that it would be dangerous to leave the hotel because we looked like tourists. This made me even more mad! I walked out of the hotel hoping for someone to mug us just to kung fu his ass.

We stood on the side of a busy fast moving street in the dark with the hostal addresses in hand. None of the cabbies could see us in the dark. I decided to pull out my flash light and did S.O.S flashes and loathe and behold....a cabbie pulled over almost immediately. We were whisked through the city and into an older looking part of town. Mostly the streets were one way and many were cobble. We pulled up right in front of our hostal for the equivalent of $20 dollars and walked right into our private room and courtyard. It was an excellent find and infinate times better than the 4 diamond American approved hotel with the bell boy fruit cake who kept taking my motorcycling gear from me without my approval.

We talked to the staff and they gave us a travelers book to read for our stay. In the morning our first plan was to go back to the airport and get the bike. Our cabbie that we hailed... again from the street... was amused that I was back track logging the route via GPS while in the cab. I showed him what I was doing but he couldn`t comprehend. Of course the cargo area that we arrived at was the wrong one so we got back into the cab and he all of a sudden became our interpreter and was fully captivated by our quest. He was completely floored that we were importing a motorcycle and that we weren`t going to wear the government issued number plate neon vests. I told him repeatedly that it just wouldn`t be necessary. (He laughed at how ridiculious he thought we were.)

To get the bike cleared through customs was a breeze compared to what others have written. The most difficult part was crossing the 4 lane death highway as there is not a pedestrian crosswalk. Busses, trucks, cars, motorcycles etc. were cruising by all trying to close the gap. In one heroic decision we bolted across the highway and ended up at the air traffic control center where we were told to walk around the chainlink barbwire fence to the other side and cross yet another highway to the customs office. We of course ended up at the wrong building again (There is poor signage here) I was told finally to go to: .... DIAN...there is a green sign!.... I was feeling confidant now and I managed to walk right by the place until Julie noticed a small green D on a sign that said DIAN on it. Once inside, the paperwork, which I read you needed a paperhandler for, was easily filled out by me. I guess in my line of work where by I must document everything has accustomized me for such feats which others find overwhelming...I actually enjoyed it!!

We were finally done all the paperwork. The most difficult part was to cross the highways again which with our prior experience was made easily. We almost jogged over we were so excited. Not having the bike has robbed us of our independance and we yearned for it back. We had to wait a while until the bike was finally unloaded from the plane. As soon as I saw it being wheeled around the corner fully intact, all the items strapped to it still present, I was relieved.

Everyone was scrambling trying to figure out how to get the bike down off the loading dock. Everytime I configured the ramps some guy would rearrange it once I got back on top and inside the loading bay. Finally I slammed the boards down and yapped..... FINITO! Everyone understood and four guys surrounded the bike and helped me wheel the bike down the ramp. All the chaos stirred quite a crowd. Once on the ground there was an uproar of applause and whistling. I turned to see the entire hanger staff looking over at us clapping. It was cute I must say!

I refitted the windshield and mirrors and loaded the GPS. We made it back through detours and construction to our hostal. I would have never made it back here without the GPS and I was happy to have had it. We stored the bike at a paid secure parking lot with two huge scary pitbulls that had their ears cut off to look even meaner. I asked the owner to please no let his dogs pee on my wheels and he sternly assured me that they wouldn`t.....he had no sense of humor!

From then onward Julie and I walked all around Bogota. The city is at 6700 feet elevation and its quite chilly. There are old parts with very narrow cobble streets and modern sky scrapers intermixed. The entire scene is encapsulated in a ring of surrounding mountains with buildings high up on the peaks. Jesus looks down upon us from one of the mountain tops and there is a huge castle looking building up there as well. Today we saw a tram cable car ascending and also a train like rail heading directly up the mountain and into a cave.

The next couple of days will be dedicated to exploring this city. Generally I shy away from city`s but this is a unique place which feels like a giant village with lots to offer to the keen traveler.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Friday, December 25, 2009

Fever Navidad

leaving Dominical, Costa Rica

on the mountain pass from San Jose to Dominical, Costa Rica

leaving San Jose, Costa Rica

Dec.26, 2009

We are now in Panama.
We spent Christmas in a little surfer town in Costa Rica with little or no sign that Christmas was even a celebrated holiday. We arrived in Dominical on Dec. 22. Greg had noticed in San Jose that he was feeling achy, his senses were correct and he came down with a high grade fever. Greg degraded through his heirarchy of personalities which stalemated at meager requests in a whiny voice. Greg spent all of Christmas cooped up in the shaded fan cooled sancuary provided by the hotel room. He emerged only early in the morning and late in the evening when there was no sun. Due to this behavior he earned the knickname "Zee Cockroach" from our Dutch and German friends. Greg found this to be quite amusing, knowing this was true, that his life was reduced to being a "cockroach" in a tropical paradise. It took two days for the fever to break with the help of tylenol. The minute he was feeling well I drug him out to a childrens Christmas play that I had seen advertised around town. The play was short and morphed into a religious sermon about the true meaning of Christmas. We even got a free spaghetti dinner and a piece of cake to celebrate Jesus's birthday.
On Christmas day Greg spent the entire day in bed again. In spight of this I spent Christmas day relaxing on the beach under a palm tree and swimming in the surf of the Pacific ocean. I found a perfect sand dollar and presented it to my sick little Greg as his Christmas gift.
Greg finally felt well enough to get out of bed today so we packed up and headed towards the Panama border.
Apparently EVERYBODY wanted to go to Panama on Boxing Day and we were the last ones to arrive. Greg stood in a line for 3 1/2 hours while a paper handler ran to various windows getting the documents stamped. Periodically Greg had to get out line to run over to a window in order to proove his identity to the agent filling out his required documents. The line he was standing in was to Exit Panama, not Enter. This line was substantially shorter than the Enter line which had approximately 300 people standing in it. A bribe was paid to the Customs Offical to stamp our passports and the man behind the window happily obliged. In all he had to go to seven different windows and wait in seven different lines. We made it through the border in 3 1/2 hours.

While Greg was getting our business done I was patiently waiting by the bike.

We finally pulled out of the border at 3:30 and headed towards Boquete, a small town in the mountains that Hoite and Sandra had told us about. As we accended into the mountains the temperature dropped at least 10 degrees, I actually had to wear my fleecy once the sun went down! We easily found a hostel, the nicest hostel we've ever seen. Greg spent the last minutes of daylight tinkering with the bike, tightening the rear shock and adjusting the chain tension since we've added about 50 pounds to our weight with our two new tires tied on the back. We were starving by the time 6:30 rolled around so we walked across the street to the closest restaurant. What a wonderful surprise! It had 3 things on the menu, steak, chicken, and a burger. We both ordered the steak, and it was so good that Greg rated it "almost as good as a Fitz steak". That's pretty darn good.

We left the restaurant around 9:30 and wandered into the street. Since we had forgotten to pick up a bottle of water before dinner, we headed up the street in search of a corner store. Instead we found a Christmas Parade! Children were running around, dogs were dressed in Santa outfits, bands were marching and playing Christmas songs, floats with loud Latino music were going by with dancers dancing and candy flying out into the crowd. I thought to myself, what a great time for the Santa Parade, the day after Christmas when he'd actually have the time to make an appearance himself instead of sending one of his imposters out in his place. Christmas was in the air.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Canopy Flight

Dec. 20, 2009
Miramar, Costa Rica

We woke in the morning with the anticipation of soaring through the jungle over 11 waterfalls. At 9:ooam we met with our group in the jungle canopy. There were 17 of us and 5 guides. As we were lead to the horse corral the question was asked, "is there anyone who has never been on a horse before?" My hand shot up. They lead me over to a small white horse named Brad. They told me Brad was a nice, calm horse and that he knew the way. With fear in my eyes, I mounted Brad and held on tight. It was approximately an hour up into the mountains to where we began the canopy tour. We traveled through rivers and up steep inclines. It was ok until Brad felt left out and began to RUN up the gravel mountain road! I bounced around in the saddle whilst yelling at the top of my lungs. Eventually I remembered to pull back on the reigns and Brad slowed down and was nice again. I have never been more scared in my whole life!

We finally made it to our destination and I thanked Brad for the ride up the mountain. Once we were all set up in our harnesses and the safetly lesson given, we began the decent through the jungle canopy. It was exhilerating. We rappelled over waterfalls. We saw beautiful butterflies and the biggest ants I've ever seen. At the bottom of the biggest waterfall we stopped for a water break. The pool beneath the waterfall was deep and cold, and we jumped right in!

What an amazing experience in the jungle.

After lunch we took off in the direction of San Jose. Greg wanted to get a new rear tire, he was worried he wouldn't be able to find a tire in South America when he needed one. We were traveling with our friend Trevor who had a contact in San Jose and a free place for us to stay. Navigating the twisty mountain highway was a challenge, weaving around transport trucks as the traffic became heavier as we got closer to the city. We made it to our destination just before dark and settled in for the night.

In the morning Greg and Trevor took off in search of a motorcycle shop that sold the much needed 17inch rear tires. They pulled into a gas station and saw a guy riding a BMW GS650. He was excited to show them where the dealership was and whipped through traffic with Greg doing his best to keep up. At one point laying on the horn to let the motorcycle cop know to get out of the way.

Some how Greg came home with not one rear tire, but two. Which has made our already loaded and cramped bike even more cramped. None the less we said see ya later to Trevor as we rolled out of San Jose towards the coast over volcanic mountains that were over 3333 meters in elevation. We drove through jungle and rain forest to above tree line at which point we began shivering on the bike. Greg's hands froze to the handle bars and the bike began to run poorly, bogging out and losing power. We drove though such dense cloud cover on our decent that visiblity was reduced to 3 meters. It took about 3 hours to drive a 100km distance. It was some the most beautiful scenery of our trip thus far.

We decended the mountains and found the coastal surfer town of Dominical. We will stay here and find a nice palm tree to sit under.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Opening a Can of Worms - Costa Rica

Seconds after worm discovery
bikes parked at mountain lodge

ferry crossing with Trevor in the background.

We were plesantly suprised by the entertainment that walked in the door just as we were setting in to watch the feature presentation with Johnny Depp. A 7 piece band consisting of a violin, guitar, recorder, flute, bongo, moracas, and a tamborine walked in whose members were from all over Southern and Central America. They played several songs and were vibrant with their singing and belly dancing.

We headed back to our room after a movie featuring constant machine gunfire to the sound of rainfall and a leaky roof that saturated our mattress. We tried our best to dry the bed but at the late hour of 10 Pm we opted for just laying on the wet warm bed. The Town drunk came wandering past our beach front yelling his head off at 4:30am this morning. Unfortunately he woke up the Roosters who had hoarse throats for the first few calls. I could tell that they were a little put out by getting caught off guard by a yelling turkey 2 hours before dawn.

We took off out of town at 730am. We were blocked in by a bunch of cars. I tried knocking on the sliding window doors to raise the owners. Everytime I knocked on the window the guy would open his eyes and I'd motion him to get up and move his car. I could tell that things weren't registering because his eyes would slowly begin rolling into the back of his head. I eventually gave up and spun the bike around and stormed across the beach and through a raging river and into the middle of the town from the beach access. Julie walked the civilized way and we met for breakfast.

Finishing up my french toast and included coffee (the only reason I ordered it) I was informed that I wouldn't get the free coffee because I asked for milk. This was funny to me so I paid the $1.50 extra with no questions asked.

We were heading for a ferry off of the Peninsula toward Miramar (a town up in the mountains). While waiting for the ferry our motorcycling friend (Trevor) from the same hostel we were staying at arrived at the terminal. We chatted on the ferry and decided that we'd ride together. As we were planning a route on the side of the road after the ferry departure a German fellow described a mountain resort in the hills. We ascended 750 meters to where the ambient temperature dropped 10 degrees.

At the resort run by a bunch of Germans we were happy to find clean rooms, a swimming pool, hiking trails through banana, orange and grapefruit tree plantations. The Grapefruit hung heavily on the trees and were so ripe that they offered no resistance to being picked. I peeled the grapfruit and split it in half. Julie chose the smaller half and me being the glutton that I am chewed and swallowed the juicy pulp in two mouthfuls enjoying the succulent sweet and tart fruit. Just as I was about to tell Julie how lucky we were to be picking fresh tree ripened fruit in this paradise I looked at the terror in Julie's eyes. Julie had only eaten one or two of the wedges and had decided to split and look at the pulp inside the membrane only to discover that it was full of transparent worms with shiny black heads. I took the piece of fruit from her while she stood bent over forcing herself to barf. Alas she could not barf and I stood there in that terrible jungle screaming for the both of us. I quickly did the math and determined that if there were 6 worms in every wedge of grapefruit, then I ate about 60 of them.

We rushed back to the hotel resort and ordered two of the finest shots of tequilla the place had to offer in order to pickle the little beasties swimming in our gullets. We settled down and accepted the fact that we were full of nematodas and got down to some quality book reading.

Tomorrow should serve to be quite an experience as we glide through the forest canopy by zip lines.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Monkey Business

We arrived in Montezuma Costa Rica only a short 20km ride south from Playa Tambor. Just before arriving to town I stopped at a gas station to top up and saw that they sold motorcycle oil. I asked the attendants if they had a drain bucket and they handed one over. I went to work immediately and had the oilchange done lickity split.
The ride to Montezuma followed dirt road followed by pothole pavement and down a very steep decent into town. The second we arrived a fellow named Trevor who we heard about came walking up to us and introduced himself and showed us the way to a good hostel. We have been following his path for a few days and finally caught up to him here. Trevor is also riding a KLR 650 on his ride to Panama.
Julie and I walked down a beautiful beach with silk soft sand, it was truely amazing. We had our hostel key stored in the camera bag and along the way it fell out into the sand and was lost. Of course we didn't realize this until we got back to the hostel where we were informed that there was a $10 dollar fee for lost keys. I whined a bit and the kid handed over a key since I tried to explain that I knew where the key was and that I'd get it in the morning.

With this grace period we headed down the super dark beach toward a fancy hotel resturant where we has stopped for cocktails earlier in the day. I was certain that we left the key right on the bar. Alas we arrived and there was no key to be found. We did however meet a couple of guys having a bonfire on the beach named T.J. and "Nada Anonymous". Nada refused to believe that we rode here by motorcycle and got increasingly paranoid to the point that Julie and I had become secret service police officers ready to abduct him at any moment. The poor guy had some problems and told us that he had problem's that no one could understand. The fellows were in their 50's and living right on the beach. Nada had been there living in his tent for the past 6 years. He was from Niagra falls and had only been to NB once in his life and had gotten lost there for 2 weeks following a muchroom picking excursion.

We headed back to the hostel and called it a night. I planned to head to the nearest town to here to get a key cut. In the morning I took off and managed to navigate my way through town and right into the back door of a hardware shop. The kid working there cut a new key from the spare while I moseyed along through the aisles. I realized after a few minutes that I was behind the desk for staff only but no one cared so I rooted through all the tools and walked out with a new key and some spare sockets for a grand total of $7 dollars of which the key cost $1.50.
I rounded up Julie upon my return and we headed over to a wild life sanctuary where they found or recieved injured or sick animals and helped them recover with plans to release them once they were healed. It was an adventure just to ride there along the goat path of a road. Finally we found the place. We let ourselves in the gate and immediately found ourself mesmorized by a one armed monkey named Tarzan. He was a Capruchaun monkey and he reached his hand out and we shook it. His hands were soft and he was very excited to see us, jumping around and swinging like Tarzan.
As we made our way around we were greeted by this guy with dreds who introduced us to all the animals and let us in with them or took them out. There were Porcupines, Toucans, Parrots, Monkey's, Turtles, Kinkachu's and more.

I walked over to a cage with three tiny crying baby monkeys. The next thing I knew Julie was right there with the guy letting the babies crawl right onto her and curl up onto the nape of her neck with their little tails wrapped around her throat. It was pretty cute and the babies stopped crying. We continued onward to the anteaters with the babies on our shoulders until it was time to say goodbye.

We finally took a little break on the beach in front of our hostel and watched the pelican's dive into the ocean just 20 feet from shore. The local fisherman lined up in the surf and tossed baited hooks into the surf and pulled in red & Yellow finned Snapper. The sight of the fish worked up an appetite so we headed out to a great restaurant called "El Sano Banano" We ordered Tuna steak and Mahi Mahi. It was a dish worth raving about and a great way to settle out the day. Just before heading out however we were informed that the restaurant doubled as a cinema. We spun our chairs around with the best seats in the house to watch the debut "Public Enemies" with Johnny Depp. We'll give our ratings tomorrow.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sun Of A Beach (Tambor - Costa Rica)

Mermaid foot print Playa Tambor
Kayaking in a small estuary with Bruce and Francis with Seascape Kayak Tours (Deer Island NB & Tambor Costa Rica)

Lizard called :Basilisk": They're the ones that can run across water...."Natures Crusadors"

Yellow Globe Spider: It was about 3" long from out stretched legs, 1 1/4" thorax
Dec 17 2009
Day 36
Tambor Costa Rica
We were up with the roosters and the 2-stroke motorbikes at the crack of dawn this morning. Following a feed of pancakes and fresh fruit Julie grabbed her book and I headed to the dirt driveway to work on the bike wearing my carhartt's and boots to brave the humidity and heat of the early morning.
After sweating out a litre it was finally beer O'clock. I bought 3 beer from the corner store and by the time I walked the 2 minutes back to the bike the beer was warm as urine, so.... I was forced to chug two of them so they wouldn't be wasted.
After I got the bike put back together and came to the consensus that I had no idea what the problem was and where the oil was coming from it was time to go Sea Kayaking. We met up with Bruce Smith and Francis who took us out into an Esturary where we saw many birds and reptiles. We saw a large iguana, a lizard that can run across water called a Basilisk and lots of little lizards. We also saw an Osprey eating a freshly caught fish, a Kingfisher, Egrets, Terns, laughing gulls and several other species. The evening Kayak was an excellent adventure to view different species in thieir natural habitat.
The paddle worked up an appetite and the four of us headed to a local woman's beachfront restaurant. The food there was excellent and we enjoyed smoothie like drinks made with fresh fruit. Julie had the papaya and I tried the guanabina as per Bruce's suggestion.
We called it an early evening after getting rid of all the bugs in our room which flew in through the open window. You see, we have two choices.... sweat to death...or open the window. The bugs never bite me and always enjoy dining on julie so I'm ok with the bugs.
We're heading to Montazuma and perhaps a wildlife sanctuary in that direction. Apparently its a challenging ride from here to there. My rib is killing me and I've come to the consensus that I may have actually fractured it so the ride should be interesting. It doesn't bug me that much, only that I can't take a deep breath....I miss that luxury.
Christmas is closing in fast here. Within the next few days, lasting well into the second week of January, everything will come to a standstill. This means that we may be delayed for 3 weeks between here and Panama rather than getting into South America. We still plan on trying to head to Panama after boxing day but I was told by a few people that Dec 23-Jan 8 is a complete write off.
We need to get a rear tire in San Jose Costa Rica and we will strap it to the bike before installing it just before the ride through Ecuador. We're almost packed up and ready to roll over to a new beach...see you there.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bitter Sweet - Costa Rica

Dec. 16, 2009

Day 35
Travel: 350km
Accomodations: $26
Border crossings: $22
Exchange rate: 568 colons/$1 US
Happy Birthday Ian (dad)

Playa Tambor, Costa Rica

Our favorite coffee shop/bookstore in San Juan del Sur opened at 7am and we were the first people in the door this morning. With the bike packed up and ready to head out of town, we stopped in at Gato Negro for our much needed cafe con leche and pancakes. We were on the road by 8:15 and made it to the Nicaragua/Costa Rica border just after 9am.

We made it through the border in two hours flat with the help of a paper handler to get us out of Nicaragua. Nicaragua had five different desks in five different buildings with one building a considerable distance away from the others and none with posted signs.

Costa Rica was a smooth ride for the first 300km. As we made our way down the Peninsula De Nicoya, with only about 50km to our destination of Bahia Tambor the road turned to dirt. The road wound and twisted it's way through the hills around the coast line. There were crazy loose dirt hairpin turns, with cliffs to fall off of and eroded ditches to fall into. There were also numerous one lane bridges around blind bends that we had to navigate. We were excited to finally reach our destination, that is, until Greg noticed oil dripping from his beloved Progressive rear suspension. Only 10,000km into our trip, the shock has blown and we must now determine a way to either fix or replace the shock.

Greg has befriended several (two to be exact) local dogs. Greg, being a victim of a tick bite only one week before our departure on this adventure, has taken it upon himself to remove the ticks from our furry little friends with my Red Cross blood donor card. The poor little dogs are defensless and are completely covered with blueberry sized ticks on their legs and bellies. Greg says they are painless and the poor fellows aren't in pain.

In the morning we will figure out a plan of where we're going and how we're going to fix our motorcycle problem.


I found a hose that was disconnected running from the airbox past the monoshock. Tracing the line back, it lead to the airbox and back to the crankcase and acted as a vent. Oil was venting to the airbox where it was supposed to accumulate in a reservoir. Unburnt gasoline tends to accumulate here as well and is then vaporized and reburnt to control emmissions. We bought a short length of garden hose to route the spray away from the bike should this problem continue. I don't know why it all of a sudden started doing this but the bike still runs fine so on we go!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Dec. 15, 2009
Hostel: $20 Us/night
Food $ 20 US/day
Exchange rate: 20 colons/ US dollar

We left Granada last Sunday and drove the 100km or so to the Pacific coast surf town of San Juan del Sur. It was to be our last quick stop before hitting the Costa Rica border, we just had to hit the beach after the swealtering heat of the city.

Since we arrived in town around noon and not a half an hour before sunset, we had time to wander around town looking for the perfect place to stay. After asking at a few hotels along the main street down by the beach we decided to check out some of the hostels. We've tried to find a hostel in the past but have had poor luck due to having to have secure parking for the bike. This time we happened upon Hostel Esperanza, they had internet, a private room and secure parking! Score! We settled in and proptly went to the beach for a swim in the waves.

After spending the afternoon wandering the beach we decided that we had to spend a couple of days in this town. Greg got down to business doing some bike maintenance and I got down to business reading my book while lounging in a hammock.

Because Greg still had a sore rib from surfing in El Salvador and he had the bike apart in pieces in the hostel lobby checking valve clearance, we decided last night that we would stay a third day. This morning when we got up we had a very pleasant surprise. As it turns out today is the one year anniversary of the opening of the hostel and a sign was out front that read all guests were invited to stay tonight for FREE!

Tomorrow morning we will leave for the Costa Rica border. After relaxing on the beach for a few days it will be nice to get back on the bike.

Greg wants me to mention that he eats icecream every single day.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sightings along the road

Tough guy on a bicycle delivering a new shelfing unit
Reminants of Last months Hurricane Ida (Atlantic Assault) the bridge was missing.

Surfers coming in at sunset in El Tunco

Several times a day we pass a truck load of people

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The One Month Milestone - Nicaragua

Dec. 12/09
Accomidations: $18 US / night
Food: $40 US/day
Exchange rate : 20 colon / US dollar
We've traveled 9,500km thus far on our ride. Today was a "no travel day" spent merely strolling around the streets in Granada, Nicaragua. Granada is a pretty little city situated on a fresh water lake which is home to a unique species of fresh water albino shark with pink eyes.
We hopscotched from one garden cafe to another to escape the extremely humid and hot afternoon. We decided to take it easy. Greg's rib has been bugging him since surfing in El Salvador thus we did not hike Volcan Mombacho as planned.
When we returned back to el casa de Amadice after dinner, Greg sat down with his english/spanish dictionary to have a converstation which lasted an hour to discuss a five minute topic. Amadice's english was on par with Greg's spanish. It was entertaining to watch them try to talk to one another. Amadice told us about the Hipicas. We had no idea what we were going to experience although we had an hunch it had something to do with horses. We all walked back down to the main square into a massive gathering of local townspeople. Everyone was awaiting the parade of horses. There were several breeds. Black ones, brown ones, grey ones, big ones, small ones, bouroughs, donkeys, ponies, fat guys on big ones, little children on small ones.

We found a table along the street outside a bar/restaurant and stayed there to observe this event which supposedly is huge in the month of August. The horsemen train the animals to trot proudly, hoofs high and thundering, sometimes dancelike as they paraded themselfs passed the onlookers.

The parade was a chaotic collage of bicycles, kids running around with baskets of crap to sell to tourists (Greg) and drunk people slapping the asses of the horses. In amungst the parade of horses there was occasionally a 5 piece band consisting of a tuba, drum, trombone, trumpet, and cymbals. They were so loud that the horses at one point began getting spooked and what looked like out of control. A party of 4 sitting at the table in front of us got pretty spooked themselfs and had to move out of the vicinity. Last but not least among the parade was the pick up trucks that blasted advertisements from a stack of speakers that would put Aerosmith to shame. I think they were actually trying to advertize in the neighboring town .... but didn't want to miss the Hippicas.

The Hippicas kept us out later than usual and we didn't get to bed until well after 11:30pm. It was very nice that Amadice took us out to see such an event that we'd otherwise might have missed. Tomorrow we'll head back to the coast to enjoy some Oceanwater and beaches once again.