November 30, 2012 by cleanwatt
Five countries and a month later, puts me in Costa Rica.
A common question many people asked me about this trip was simply if I thought I´d get sick of riding. A valid question since the most consecutive days I´d spent riding before this was maybe 6-7 days?
For me, it is still a remarkable feeling throwing my leg over the bike and bringing it to life. My ass eagerly awaits the saddle. With the push of a button, a metallic symphony commences: the engine settles into a comfortable idle; precious engine oil is appropriately distributed; components warm, expand, seat, dance and mesh. Then you´re off to a spectacle of speed, sights, smells, and sounds. On lonely highways, you can stand up on the pegs to expose yourself to the wind, distancing yourself from the roar of the engine, then your field of vision clears giving the sensation of flying. It´s sitting aboard a piece of perpetual progressing kinetic artwork. The engine is creating, harnessing, and transferring the energy from small violent explosions, at a rate of indecipherable speed and accuracy, right between my very legs. It effectively converts chemical energy to pure joy.
Every motorcyclist has a song, one that they routinely belt out for no reason. Especially inside the confines of a helmet. The chorus just keeping running over and over again. Here’s mine: Probably not what you’d expect
Anyways, instead of trying to elaborate on nearly a month of travel, I’ve chosen the easy way out of glossing over most items and using lots of pictures.
I left Guanajuato November 1st, heading Southeast towards the Yucatan Peninsula. Mexico has a fairly elaborate system of well maintained, fast, but very expensive toll roads. The alternative is navigating local traffic, small towns, and endless Topes (speed-bumps). You mostly crawl through a deceivingly large country unless you shell out for the toll roads. At one point, I paid a fee of $245 pesos (close to $19 US) for maybe a hundred mile stretch of tarmac! But when the Caribbean calls, you answer rapidly.
I spent a couple nights in Tulum, where I spent a day snorkeling the turtle inhabited waters near Akumel and the local Cenotes (water filled caves inland).
Next up was Belize. Easy border crossing.
Belize struck me as void of a cultural presence, especially having just come from Mexico. I’m sure there are areas of rare natural beauty and local soul, but the part I passed through was unimpressive and unwelcoming. I stayed one night in Belmopan, the capital, then was happy to cross into Guatemala the next morning.
Again, the border crossing from Belize to Guatemala was very easy. I had read often you should plan on spending 4+ hours at each border. Took me maybe ~45 minutes? Knowing that the border agents can make your crossing a living hell, a smile and expressing my genuine desire to see their pretty country goes a long way.
I had a stellar line-up for Guatemala, here’s a taste.
Flores ended up being a beautiful city/peninsula in its own right. Somewhat touristy, but a really cool sect of land to walk around and explore. I initially picked it as a jumping off point to tour the ancient Mayan city of Tikal. I purposefully rode by dozens of marked Mayan ruins throughout Mexico and Belize in order to appreciate the magnitude and wonder of Tikal.
Lanquin is the jumping off point for Semuc Champey. A notorious water feature attraction that had been recommended to me ever since Mexico.
Then, Lanquin to Antigua.
I had been in loose contact with another rider heading South, and had arranged to meet him in Antigua. We ended up riding together for a week or so, splitting costs and dodging potholes together through a couple countries. Paul is in the early stages of riding around the world, and I’ve been fortunate enough to learn a great deal from him along the way. He’s also booked on the same boat from Panama to Columbia, so I’ll be seeing more of him.
We headed down to the Pacific coast and relaxed in Montericco. We had the town and the black sand beaches to ourselves for a few days.
Honduras was an easy days ride from Montericco, with a nerve racking river jaunt to start it off.
Crossed into Honduras without much hassle. Got rained on the majority of my time there, so I don’t have many pictures. Besides, looking about and thinking about scenery usually got you axle deep in a pothole. There were stretches of flawless alpine bliss, immediately followed by a rude awakening of rock and dirt.
Downtrodden by the persistent rains in the Honduran highlands, we hightailed for Nicaragua and brighter days.
There is a interesting story behind the origin of the famous Cathedral in Leon. Rumor has it that a Spanish boat was carrying the plans for two cathedrals in Central & South America. One plan for a small, average structure appropriate for Leon, the other a grand, magnificent plan for Lima, Peru. Supposedly the plans were accidentally swapped, and little Leon ended up with a disproportionately stellar cathedral, while Lima got stuck with a wee shack.
Leon must be a refuge for discarded mannequins nowadays. Boutiques would only advertise their garments on headless models. Must have been thousands in the town center alone.
After Leon, we putted around Managua, Granada, and Masaya then headed towards San Juan Del Sur and the Pacific coast.
I left the beach of Nicaragua on the 21st of November, I had plans to drop in on the BMW dealership in San Jose, Costa Rica for a couple spare parts and then meet Samuel (as he preferred to be called in Latin America) and Doris on the 23rd. I found a nice little hostel in the center of San Jose and spent a day off walking the university and relaxing.
Here’s a sample of what Howler Monkeys sound like…
Sam and Doris had a rental vehicle for them and when my folks came in, and they happily hauled all my luggage while we traveled together. I had forgotten how it felt to chuck the big lass around without ~80lbs on the back. Fantastic.
We met the folks at the Finca Rosa Blanca organic coffee plantation North of San Jose on the 27th.
The common bean we thrive on is known as Arabica. It is naturally rich in sugars and oils, which gives the bean when roasted that brown luster we know and love. Imposters, either pushing aged beans (having lost their natural oils & sugars), or cutting it with lesser quality beans will throw raw sugar into the roasting process. The sugar becomes caramelized and will adhere to the bean, falsely giving the appearance of a premium bean. SO…we learned an easy trick to decipher if your brew of choice is “sugar coating” the truth. Take a glass of ice cold water, and put a hefty spoonful of your ground java on the surface. The added sugar will dissolve off the bean and quickly turn the water below brown. The glass on the left in the picture above had NO sugar added, you can see the water has barely been affected compared to the similarly labeled coffee to the right which adds sugar to the roasting process.
I think I’ll save the rest of Costa Rica with the family and my brief upcoming glimpse of Panama before the sailing for the next post. Big props to my brother for helping me out with the new computer, and my folks for smuggling in some needed items for the rest of my trip. It’s been surreal being with my family here, occasionally forgetting I rode my motorcycle all this way, and not seeing anyone I have a history with for nearly two months. It amazes me what they went through to tailor a holiday here while I was passing through. Surreal, but humbling and great.
Trip Mileage: 8,550
“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” – Martin Buber