Salvadore North to Copan Ruins (Hunduras)

After usual morning maintenance with a complementary cup of coffee in the hotel/hostel courtyard, we pushed out across the country. El Salvador is a small place 21 000 km sq, about a third of the size of Tasmania (Australian State), so when you ask were something is, the usual response is its a long way away, largo camino. The same applies when someone asks where you have just come from.

It truth the laundry lady two days prior was only two blocks walk and it only took an hour or so to cross across to some Maya ruins we wanted to check out (Tazumal). While ancient, they were nothing to write home about, just a pyramid with some average concrete restoration but it was an insight into what is to come in neighbouring countries, and a perspective of the area this ancient civilisation of the Maya covered.

From here it made sense to do the Route of Flowers, despite being out of season it was a windy road into the mountains. As we made the first substantial climb the weather closed in then from no where, half a dozen “billy carts” came shaking their way down the hill, brakes applied constantly this this was a mean hill.

Who would argue about collecting fire wood if a 3km cart ride on a steep decent was involved!

Over the mountain range we went, wet by this stage due to the scattered showers we encountered but as we rolled into another village, I wondered why the locals scattered for cover as another shower hit.

And then….. Crack! and the skies opened. We thought we knew rain but this was something different. I rode the bike at the nearest awning and stalled as I tried to climb the curb.

This was where it stayed, the handle bars propped against the wall, as within minuted the streets were a fast flowing river and we watched from our stranded situation as those that were to slow struggled.

I imagine an hour passes before we get the opportunity to find some better shelter and change cloths before getting out. The wet season ay! Who would have thought.

From a town called Izalco, I went for my dirt rode fix. Looking at the map it looked as if we could climb past two volcanoes and drop in on a picturesque lake Lago de Coatepeque. Its never exactly straight forward but the result was the same.

Its a giant creator filled with clear blue water and when we came up and over the creators edge we couldn’t help but stop at the restaurant and enjoy the accomplishments of the day over a typical meal of beans, bananas and a meat…. and two beer for me a rare luxury in these times.

The day began to end so Claudia asked a lakeside resturant as it closed if they had any objection to us sleeping here for the night.

The response was typically positive so we made camp and enjoyed the surroundings.

The police did come past and told us that we should probably get a hotel as it could be dangerous, from drunks they said. It didn’t concern me, its part of their duty to say such things, and when we told them this was normal for us to be camping they retracted a little. It was however enough for Claudia to have a restless night, waking me up at the smallest sound, reassurance usually does the trick.

To the border of Guatemala early the next day.

The plan was to cross into Guatemala with the bike, ride around to the boarder of Honduras nearest the Copan ruins. Leave the bike in Guatemala cross to Honduras and catch a van to the ruins from the border then back in the afternoon.

First border of the day, Claudia waits patiently..

Success!! No issues, straight forward paperwork, $6 payment and an hour of my life… The way it should be!!

A couple of hours later we stashed the bike at the back of a transport company near the Honduras border of Copan ruins. Crossed as normal people and took normal transport the 15km to the ruins. I adjusted well I thought, despite being two of the four squashed comfortably across the back seat of the van.

Entering the ruins was exciting for me, I studied some Mayan history in first year but naturally forgotten most of it. I do however get easily wound up in the fact that I’m exploring an ancient city and imagine being part of it during its prime.

We were greeted at the gate by this old fella who showed us that there is some real value in the often discarded avocado seed.

Soon the path opened up to the city centre, there were ruins everywhere you looked. Apparently 20 000 people used to inhabit this ancient city. I could imagine them all crowding to watch the regular sacrifice of their favourite sports stars to the gods. They would climb the biggest and most elaborate staircase of their time to meet their destiny at the top of the pyramid in the hands of the societies elite.

The bike was there upon return, ready to take us to the capital in search for a Mexican visa.

El Salvador (South)

After the long day crossing Honduras we sat in daze as we watched the El Salvadorian customs police give a tourist bus the once over. This bus in particular was going to Cost Rica…. Three countries away!!

We turned off the road soon after, waved to the family on their porch as they looked at us with puzzled expressions. The returned wave was the OK.. We rode up a cattle trail a little more and camped under a tree a few hundred meters from them, big day, exhausted!
No monkeys in the trees above this time.

The next day we were in to the dirt again, heading from Chapantique towards a lake that we didnt actually find till after we passed St Gerard to the north of it. Ive been asking locals, who all seemed armed with a machete and an elaborate leather holder, where i can get one??
Search is on…

When we found the very northern edge of the lake, which was more like a stagnate river, there was no bridge but a $2 in total ferry service that took you across. As i rolled to a stop, our problems began. Oil spitting from the left of my motor. Rolling onto the ferry, i feared a blown gasket as we crossed the calm surface.

When we got to the other side the motor was still really hot, i blamed the heat for the oil leak that had just started but caused the loss of half my oil. I decided to let her cool and push the bike into the lake to clean the oil off which should help me find the leak.

Five minutes later after the bike was in about a foot of water and i had cleverly put the side stand on a river rock, cleaned the oil off, cooled myself and the bike. I started her up again, ready to ride out and look for the oil leak.

A foot further into the lake in the turning process and front half the bike disapeared under the water and i lost ballance and over we went. Fully submerged before i was able to kill the engine… I was quite surprised at how long she ran for before the dreaded stop…

With the help of a local truck driver we dragged my beloved bike onto the bank where i sat, head in hands asking what i had done wrong!!

After a long wait for it to begin to dry i began to think what needs to be done. My first reaction was to get a truck to drag me to the city for a mechanic as i have never faced or read about fixing this issue before.

It was arranged $10 to the city…. It would leave in two hours.

Then i began work, i couldn’t just sit and stare.

1st, air filter, removed and let dry on the grass in the intense sun..
2nd, exhaust, full of water… I remove back half and drained the rest as best i could.
3rd, drained the carburettor, it has a little screw on the bottom.

I was trying to start it unsuccessfully after each of these steps. Just preying the electrics had had time to dry and were ok.

Still nothing, I removed the seat, tank and carburettor and felt the water droplets in the engine…. Shit!! I knew this was bad.

Took the spark plug out, it was wet, dried it then tested it to spark… It did!! and water vapour spirited out of the top of the engine where the spark plug was previously screwed.. A few more cranks till the vapour stopped and then i resembled her.

Next major crank she roared to life, i hadn’t put the exhaust back on so it was a loud bellow across the valley.. I grinned a great grin before the oil started spitting again..

Id forgotten why i had put the thing was in the water in the first place..

What i was pleased to see was that the hole in my engine was not a gasket but was on a small metal tube on the left side i had arched a hole in.

The reason being is that i start my bike by shorting the electrical starting system with a coin..(short the starter relay)
I’ve often accidentally arch welded the coin to the relay or engine but i had never considered a hole.

I thanked my lucky stars and cracked open the JB weld that Bobby in Costa Rica had given me. Its a putty and the instructions read six hours to set.

Well the camp site was set for the evening. I fixed it then we pushed the bike off the track a little and cooked our remaining rice and tuna.

The following morning it was naive to think it would be a hassle free start… My carburettor spat allot of fuel and the engine would just die out… ‘Floats’ i presumed, covering this issue on Nick’s the KiWi´s bike back in Argentina, Chile and Bolivia (F’in Thing!) I gave her a few taps with no result. So it was another removal and a clean with the cooking alcohol was the final answer…

Done!! We took off for a well deserved soda at the first vendor.

The usual road works to deal with…

Civilization, a shower, food and washed cloths we found in the nice colonial town of Suchitoto about an hour from San Salvador.

Tomorrow its back to the road.. and the only thing on the maintenance cards is a chain adjustment and some more oil.

Honduras…. Done

We went straight through Honduras in one day, it was a big day. $35 in import fees Grrrrr but i was going to pay this one!!

Another thing is that you cant exit without handing your bike paperwork back in and you can only re-enter if you pay another $35!! Otherwise if you don’t exit its valid for three months.

I was going to cut back in to see the Copan ruins in the north but i think we might be catching the bus for this one. Not without an attempt on the bike though.


($1.25)


($1.50)


(priceless..)

Nicaragua (The North)

Once leaving Ometepe, it was a short ride to the colonial town of Granada. A picturesque place and an opportunity to wash a few cloths. In the main square we found this local dish of yuka (potato) cabbage and crackling. Not bad for a buck fifty.

From Granada we rode north in an attempt to avoid Managua the captial we stuck to the dirt up the eastern side of the Lake of Managua. Its a dry and harsh terrain that seems like it gets no rain at all.

There Nicaraguans out here are friendly and inquisitive. As always, shocked at the motor capacity.

As those who don’t know Central America´, there are buses but this is the usual people moving practice. I vote for this simple, cheap and effective transport system for the commuters back at home.

The road continues north, its dirt, can be rough but is right up my alley. There is a section that definatly hits my top 10 roads in over the last year. Mark this down, El Sauce – Rio Grande – Limay – Pueblo Nvo. If your heading south, cross the Honduras/Nic boarder at El Espino, 33km or so, just after Yalaguina turn right/south and enjoy wind through the mountains, bridges and small river crossings.

These pics were from a late lunch on a Sunday in Achuapa, the local lads are on the nectar.

I love the price per beer, so there are no arguments no matter how many you have!

Current exchange rate is 21 to the dollar, nearly everyone will change at this rate (gas station, stores, border, banks etc.).

We grabbed some supplies and headed up the mountain road to look for a camp site.

On dark we approached a lone ranger bringing his horse up the hill. This guy gave us a spot in his yard with a view of a far reaching valley on sunset. He filled our water bottles then offered his house which we kindly refused. It was a great end, to a great day. Thank you nameless cowboy whose son is Mere of Limay.

The following day after a few brief stops in the villages on the way through..

(used to crush the maize)

… we made the border in good time. The customs guy eagerly grabbed my paperwork before we went to immigration. Only then to be awarded the wonderful news that Claudia, being Bolivian requires a visa for Honduras that can only be obtained in Chinandega or Managua 2.5 or 3 hours away. Frustrated we turned on our heels and left without collecting my bike clearance papers from customs.

The visa process ended up being a killer. Political instability a few months ago in Honduras meant the consulates based in Nicaragua were very difficult to find or not there at all. We searched Chinandega and the embassy in the capital Managua and couldn’t get hold of anyone for two days.

As a last resort we went to the El Salvadorian embassy and after a plea, a couple of glasses of water and a spot of route planning we were told we could pick up a visa for Central America in the morning!!!!

(El Salvadorian embassy, route planning)

We spent the night in Managua despite only having the clothes on our backs as everything else was in the hotel in Chinandega. Our choice in accommodation matched our wardrobe, it was a Love motel, 12 hours for 11 dollars with cable TV and internet… just DON’T touch the walls!!

Early the next day we were at the embassy to collect the visa.
Never a quick process….

An hour or two later, as promised the visa was issued for $30. Brilliant, no need to worry about borders to Mexico!!!!! I thought..

Claudia couldn’t resits as we headed for the Honduras border at Guasaule.

These guys wanted $4 for the big one, advising that the best way to have them is fried with rice and your favorite sauce.

The border again produced issues. As I didn’t have my bike clearance papers i decided to go straight through after immigration. I was again stopped by the last line of defence and when he told me to go back i attempted the ride to sanctuary across the bridge to Honduras. This method again FAILED, some officials soon appeared from Nicaragua on a lime green trike to take me back. I left Claudia and the panniers in Honduras, i stupidly brought my passport back with me.

Yes, it was soon confiscated and i had to wait for two hours while they pretended to wait for confirmation from the other border that i had given them my papers three days earlier.

Eventually i was back to a slightly concerned Claudia, patiently waiting on the Honduras side.

Ometepe (Nicaragua)

Ometepe is only about half an hour from the border, its an island in the middle of a giant fresh water lake (with fresh water sharks). Made by two volcanoes that rose from the lake, i presume a while ago now but one is still active.

It was our first point of call for Nicaragua and you could see it to the east miles before we approached the turnoff. Wind generators also lined the lakes edge.

To get out there you must take a ferry. This cost $2 per person and the bike was the same charge. As always i assume the role of safety inspector as the bike is being pushed along the gang plank and being tied down for the hour long boat journey.

Once there we set up camp in the back of a hostel in the company of a potentially fantastic roast dinner…

The road system here is easy, its a giant figure of eight around the two volcanoes. About 1/5 is paved but the real fun was exploring the side trails that lead typically to the waters edge. Not just any water but fresh water!
Meaning it was easy to wash the bike after a couple of failed 2up power-slides on the beach.

We spent the next two days exploring what felt like an ancient mystical place, and camping where we saw fit. These are just a few of the photos we took…

A very happy camper as the sun rose…

Each afternoon farmers herd their herds to the beach for a drink, a strange concept in my mind.

Washing clothes with bacon.

It kinda looks like she got it stuck here…

Nicaragua-Costa Rica (The Border)

IMPORTANT…
Just pay the fees… YOu might remember i decided to avoid paying the bike insurance for Costa Rica when entering and thought i was home free when i exited immigration on the other side… well, the last line of defence got me… Just as I was about to cross, i was asked after a confirmation phone call to return to Customs to pay the nominal amount.

Instead i rode straight through with an attempt to seek refuge in Nicaragua. Problem.. their friends, and i couldn’t check my bike in without the situation being resolved. I was crafty enough to leave everything including bike, papers and money in Nicaragua and walked back to Costa Rica. I blamed the fact that i hadnt cleared my bike with customs on a communication breakdown when entering Costa Rica, exclaiming that the woman at Customs told me i could go. Naturally the official looked for some compensation or something to confiscate but as I had nothing, he eventually let me go.. Yes, i saved $18, but it was allot of work in doing so… Claudia just loved the wait!!

Before people are critical at these attempts at saving a little coin by bypassing the bureaucratic bull. Keep in mind that positive reputation for adventure motorcyclists is paramount in my actions and everything is done with a smile and a joke and simply an attempt at a break in the mundaine routine of the officials i play games with.

Entering Nicaragua was a breath of fresh air, legal again, i met up with some Costa Ricans on route to Mexico.. KTM´s GS´s and a Transalp i think, all immaculate and all quicker than i was.

Its always refreshing to ride into a new country. Especially with half a dozen other beautiful machines.

San Jose to Nicaragua (Costa Rica)

IT was finally time to leave the big smoke…

Not to forget to pick up my tools on the way out,,, then the road again…

About two hours in i discovered that the wet leg i received then a splutter of the engine was the fuel hose from my tank to carb had worked itself loose. This one, despite the mess, was a fortunate easy fix..

It was in all honesty a fast blat up the Pan American but it was indeed a beautiful section.

It became obvious that we weren’t going to make the border until dark so about 4okm south of the border we turned west into Santa Rosa National Park in the hope we could make the beach to set up camp.

The guard wasn’t at the entrance hut so we rode straight on through, somehow avoiding the normal $10 per person fee.

The road started as a nicely finished sealed sensation that is obviously a result of a few honest fares paid at the front gate. Then as we began to drop off the mountain it became a rocky dirt goats track and i realised again why i was on a KLR. With the goal to get to the beach we pushed onwards before we hit the jungle floor…. and the mud.

2up, the Pirelli MT 90´s and the end of a long day…

We were forced to set up camp on the jungle floor as a few toads and a strange mammal fled the spot we claimed as ours. Once the tent was up aka. Mosquito fortress. We cooked a typical meal of rice and tuna. While doing so, a troop of howler monkeys took their positions in the trees around us and at sunset the trees cam alive with their howls.

It was intimidating at first and then it became noticeably louder when the waft of onions drifted into the branches above. I decided it wise to join the chorus making a noise (to my ears) far louder, deeper and grater than the fellow primates in the mist. Thinking i had clearly stated my position as the dominant male of the area, my female and i went to bed.

2am….3 and 4am. Plop plop and more plops. The frikin monkeys decided to drop turds from above at out tent!!! Mark my words, this was no mistake, it occurred on different occasions and no where else to be seen. The pricks were out to get us.

I was furious while cleaning the tent…. it really stank.. I was quick to buy a slingshot a day or so latter. While washing at the service station, i couldn’t resist another cocky pose with the police car, then border… Nicaragua

Costa Rica to San Jose..

It was approaching dark after checking out of Panama (for the 2nd time) and moved through to Costa Rica but we had the benefit of experience this time round. One thing i had learnt from last time is obviously where to cue and not to pay $1 for an official looking guy to put a sticker in your passport, unless you like the sticker.

More importantly, i had successfully visited Costa Rica without ever checking by bike in!! I had paid my couple of dollars for the wash of the bike on entrance but borked at the insurance counter for the $18 it was going to cost for the next three days and instead I decided to take the risk…. successfully!

What could be different this time?? Its getting dark, the procedure isn’t quick and $18 goes a long way when camping. I know some people would call this idiocy, but personally i like the challenge. Im crossing the country illegally if you like it or not….

15km over the border there was an orchard to the left, in torchlight we set up the tent. After a night of rain we woke to a new day and a new country… a beautiful one to say the least.

The morning produced a good ride, winding along a river before the climb.

Target Spotted..

Then…. POP!

3000m plus by mid morning as I flashed back to Peru and Bolivia as the carb gasped at the surrounding freshness.

After stopping for the view, Claudia was a little slow to dismount and i rolled backwards causing her to flop ever so elegantly on her arse. Naturally she blames the driver!

The thing about being on an illegal bike is the anxiety that rises when the law plays its regular role in a day on the road. A big chief traffic cop sat down beside us for lunch, naturally we asked him to take this picture.

An hour later a police checkpoint waves us in, again i nearly swallow my tong. I played my usual trick of pretending not to see them by looking elsewhere, braking late and missing the stop point before checking the mirrors for a reaction. On this occasion, like many others, rather than walk the extra distance, i can see that he finds it easier to just wave us on… Big deep breaths as i work my way up through the gears.

San Jose was a pleasant climatic change which made taking in a few sights on the Sunday a good outing but the priority for us both was to get the rear shock rebuilt ASAP Monday morning!!

Monday we were up and at a rental place in the Colon district who apparently had once rented KLR´s. Following the advice of the German lads we spoke to their mechanic and eventually found ourselves chasing the sniff of new suspension 45min out of town to another backyard mechanic. The type that have been my mentors throughout this trip and of which im very comfortable in the surrounds of…

Almost a day latter fiddling and floating around the shop, the outsourced shock reappears, looking like new!!

Then the rains hit, so its cake and soda with the mechanic gang until it eases for the ride home. Tomorrow on the way out to Nicaragua we mast pass again to pay him ($120) and pick up my much loved tools.