Sunday, December 29, 2013

December 28, 2013, Panama

We crossed into Panama this morning, it took about a half hour to stamp out of Costa Rica and another hour to enter Panama. Once again the border crossings are an excellent opportunity to meet people and Diana is kept busy with people curious about our travels from Canada. She has all the fun at the borders while I run around trying to get all the documentation done correctly. We stamped out of Costa Rica on our own but use a helper to enter Panama as there are so many steps involved which takes you to about 8 different offices before you can finally cross the border.
Panamanian back road.
When I return to the bike Diana is talking with Edgar who is a director with McDonalds and also rides a BMW. We swap business cards and Edgar gives us advice on where to ride, where to watch for police and some information about cities we will be passing through.

We arrive at Santiago, fuel up and decide that we need an air conditioned break at McDonalds. I have to do a u turn which happens to be directly in front of the police station but the only cop is on the other side of a fence, no problema (as they say here). After our break I need to do another u turn and as soon as I start turning I see the sign for the Policia station, I've never seen two police stations within a block of each other in my life. This time I'm not so fortunate as a cop is motioning me to pull over, we come to a mutual understanding, neither of us understands the other. After providing license, registration and passport he points at the no u turn sign and gets the message across that I was not to turn where I did. Diana shook her finger at me and yelled no returno, no returno which he was satisfied with and let us go on our way. Yup, Edgar did tell me to watch for police in Santiago.

Another gentleman Diana met was Oscar who has a motorcycle repair shop just north of San Jose that works on all the big brands of motorcycles.
 Panama countryside.

We see a sign for Hotel Canadian in Chame, Panama and learn that Ralph who owns it is from Watson Lake, Yukon and knew my sister Roxanne from her days at NAPA in Yellowknife. While trading stories over a few cervezas we meet Cal who is here for 4 months (from Edmonton) and Doug who is from Tagish, Yukon. They tell us the bar is open 28-1/2 hours a day and to keep track of your bar tab you stack your empties in a certain area on the bar and pay at the end of your stay. At a $1.25 a beer it's the same price as bottled water or Coke.

This evening we found out the ferry to Columbia is not allowed to dock until permits are issued and the first sailing would be January 17th not January 7th as was posted last week. We have decided to spend the extra money and book the Stahlratte for January 3rd and get to Columbia where the real adventure begins. Here's the link if you want to know more about the 100 year old sailboat:

December 27, 2013, Rio Claro, Costa Rica, 34 degrees C.

Christmas day was kind of lonely this year without the kids, family and friends. We did get to Skype my folks and the kids on the 24th and get caught up on what's happening with all of them. I took the bike to the auto spa to get a wash on the 24th and when I returned to pick it up some guy is spraying a shiny liquid on it, none of the guys spoke English but another customer was able to tell me it was to make it look beautiful. It turns out to be like Armorall and when I get to the first red light I have no brakes (oh shit), quickly down shift to slow down and stand on the brake pedal to finally stop. By this time all the auto parts stores are closed so I wait until the 26th and buy a can of brake cleaner and make three applications over the day which helps but the pads are too full of the Armorall and will need to be replaced ASAP.
We spent a fair amount of time at the pool on Christmas day and had Christmas dinner at Pizza Hut with lots of the locals as not many restaurants were open.
Well, we had a change of plans and decided to go to the highlands of Costa Rica on boxing day rather than the Pacific coast. This is the scenic route to San Jose where I'll purchase brake pads at the BMW dealer and install them at the hotel.

Laguna de Arenal

 This is the real pineapple express.


Coatimundi looking for food (not quite sure what they are eating) Check out the following video of them.



The highlands are spectacular and the temperature is very pleasant (20 degrees C.) We drove around Laguna de Arenal but the clouds were hovering at the top of the volcano so we were unable to see it clearly.

Friday morning we are off to San Jose from San Ramon only to find out BMW is closed until the new year. Oh well, who needs brakes while driving in the mountains. We decide to head south towards Panama and the first 3 hours are spectacular with a twisty climb up the mountains where we summit at 3340 meters above sea level and at time are driving through clouds so thick that we are traveling at less than 40 KMH.
 Waterfall that flowed into Rio Catarata.

 Lush jungle vegetation at about 3000 meters above sea level.

 Check out the elevation, temperature was 53 degrees F.
 This road became too steep for us to venture further into the valley.

 Lots of time spent driving through the clouds today.

Small villages could be seen in the valleys and farmers were growing crops up the sides of the valley.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

December 25, 2013, Liberia, Costa Rica, 32 degrees C. 70% humidity

Diana and I had Christmas eve dinner at the hotel, different than the traditional Canadian dinner but still okay. We had beef wrapped around pork, carrots, green beans and cheese along with a baked potato, kiwi, and a salad that contained red grapes, broccoli, mayo, nuts, bacon bits and celery. For dessert they served a brick of bread pudding and a slab of something that really was flavourless.

The following pictures are of the vegetation in the hotel courtyard and are dedicated to the memory of my sister, Roxanne who passed away earlier this year. She was a devoted gardener who would have enjoyed the photo's of the wide variety of flowers, plants and vegetation we have seen on this trip.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

December 24, 2013 Merry Christmas / Feliz Navidad

Merry Christmas / Feliz Navidad to our families, old friends, the Tim Horton's coffee gang in Nanaimo and new friends we've made on this adventure.

We exited Nicaragua yesterday morning without too much trouble and entered Costa Rica with even less hassle (we did a bunch of research before hand which made it easier even without a helper). At the Nicaragua border we met James from Whistler, BC and Jordan from Portland, OR who were traveling on Honda XR600's and are going to Patagonia.

Our first impressions are that Costa Rica roads are not as good as Nicaragua but life for the locals seems safer with no barb wire or razor wire on their homes which look similar to a Canadian house with a yard and fences that are 3 or 4 feet tall compared to 8 foot tall fences that we've seen from Mexico to El Salvador.

 Costa Rica country side, smaller trees, more agriculture, and a few volcanoes.
Checking in to our hotel, how do we get all this crap on the bike?
We are staying in Liberia, Costa Rica for three nights as it's impossible to get a hotel room  on the Pacific coast for under $170 US during the Christmas season. Liberia seems to have most things you can get in Canada but the prices are expensive compared to all the other countries we've visited. We also met William from Toronto when he saw the BMW parked outside McDonalds and decided to find out who was crazy enough to drive from BC to Costa Rica.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

December 21 & 22, 2013, Leon, Managua and San Juan del Sur.

Stayed the night in Chinandega where once again we had hot water for showers and a decent shave along with a king size bed which is the first we've had since Mexico. A short drive into Leon and we have breakfast close to the Saturday market and make our way to the cathedral, the largest in Central America. The pictures don't do it justice, it's huge and very ornate.
Real e Insigne Basilica Catedral de León Nicaragua, built between 1747 and 1814 is the largest cathedral in Central  America.
Center area of church. 
The architecture was amazing.  
The church faces a large plaza in the center of Leon, Nicaragua. 
The church occupies a complete city block.
Downtown Managua, Nicaragua was very modern looking other than the very old and rundown area in the downtown core.
After a drive through Managua we stop for lunch at Mi Viejo Ranchito. We meet the owners son Orlando by chance as he speaks excellent English and is able to help Diana order her food. We talk with Orlando for quite a while and learn his stag was on Friday night and he is getting married on December 29th. As usual with the locals we get some great advice of what to see and where to go. Before departing Orlando gives us his cell phone number and tells us to call if we have any questions or run into problems while in Nicaragua.
Lunch stop just outside of the capital city of Managua, Nicaragua.
Volcanoes in the distance. 
 My shortcut on the map turned into an hour and a half of dirt road with a maximum speed of 40 kph and a not so happy passenger who was getting bounced around on the back.
Beach in the town of San Juan del Sur (one block from our hotel).
Less than 10 people on this beach about a half hour from San Juan del Sur.