Cycling Central America
Seeing the WORLD from a BICYCLE SEAT can be tough. Heat, hills, stiff sore legs and fatigue can make one wonder. Then, you see the other side of the mountain, you meet the next new friends, you experience Mother Nature in an up close, personal way. Seeing the WORLD from a BICYCLE SEAT definitely isn’t for everyone but it’s definitely for US.
So, sit back, relax and enjoy a ride up the neck of land that connects the Americas. Wander back and forth through 2 time zones, from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean. Take a ride down the Panama Canal. Meet other crazy cyclists and families in camper trucks traveling around the world. Get face to face with Sandinistas and Contras. Hear and see Pacha Mama breath steam and belch fire at one of her active volcanoes. Test the Real Estate Market and see why Gringos Galore are invading Central American Beaches. Just Go For It!
Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua & Honduras
August 9 to September 25, 2005
August 9, 2005
Lift Off From Colombia, Into Panama
The flight was almost bump free and included a sandwich and free glass of wine. The landing was smooth but in a curtain of pouring rain. The Immigration was merely a formality and finished in record time. The Taxi Van was expensive, the Airport is far from town. Our Hotel, The Country Inn that Lila booked, is also a ways from Panama City.
Memories of The Buddy Boy
The place looks and feels so familiar. I’ve mentioned a mentor, Bud Smith in these pages before. He was an entrepreneur’s entrepreneur. Bud built huge personal wealth and a part of his holdings were Hotels. As I recall, he had built and was operating 46 restaurants and 9 Hotels when I worked with him. Several were Country Inns. They all have the same furnishings and operate similarly. We talked about Bud, my days with his firm, MVS & Assoc., his family and other friends who worked with him in Ventura County.
Disappointed that we’re so far from other places, we went to the attached TGI Fridays for dinner. This too felt like home except for the freezing atmosphere. They’ve got the AC down to meat locker level. Cat really lived it up with Mexican food, I stuck with my Pasta diet.
A little CNN News and sleep.
August 10, 2005
Making Plans in Panama
Currency- US Dollar
Breakfast is included. It’s pretty simple but you can add eggs, bacon or ham for an additional $4.50. We settled for the fruit, scrambled eggs juice and coffee. The room is crowded. Sitting next to us is a family from the States. Jeff and Georgina live in Virginia. She’s from here in Panama, they met while he was in the Army, here. They’re with his Mom and Dad, Ben and Gerry from Arkansas. They went through the Canal yesterday and had a bad experience. The boat was late, the food cold and it ran out of fuel on the way back. They had to be transferred to another boat. The tour was to be finished at 3:00 PM, they finally got on shore at 6:30, after dark.
Booking the Boat for Nat
Geez, we’ve come a long way not to take the Panama Canal tour. And then too, there’s the need to take the ride for my adopted Father and first real teacher of Real Estate, Nat, who wanted to go and never got here during his living years. There must be more than one boat. Oh, we have Internet access here so we jumped onto the web and began the search. There have been a few Canal Tour operators but the number has dwindled. The tour that our breakfast friends took is booked right here at the Hotel. We found them then only one other, Panama Yacht Tours. They seem to have several boats going to lots of destinations. We called and talked to Jorge. He gave us his partner John’s cell phone number. He was anxious to book us and came right to the Hotel. We met in the Lobby and were booking when Gerry came in. She stopped and we told her we were going on a different ship. When John told her the name of our ship she laughed. It’s the same boat? Embarrassing, John had to admit, there’s only one boat operating now. He was shocked then sorry that Gerry and her family had had such a terrible time. Caught by surprise, he also suggested that he was concerned that the Skipper hadn’t told him about the problem. Even after another warning from Gerry, we booked. Hey, we’ve come far and, we owe it to Nat our Adopted Father to take the trip. It was a life dream of his that he missed when his life ended.
A walk down the Causeway for lunch. Wonderful Restaurant with a deck overlooking the bay and Panama City. Coincidence, we were seated next to Gerry, Ben, Georgina and Jeff. Nice folks. We promised to let them know how our Canal Cruise goes.
An Adventurous Portuguese Family
Walking back, the heat was scorching. Much of the shoreline is old abandoned housing. Later we learned that it had been US Army base housing. In the park area near the hotel we came upon a strange looking truck. A huge VW with a large camper attached. Mica, a photo journalist adventurer, and his family have been traveling on various trips for more than 10 years. This episode began more than a year ago. They’ve driven from Newfoundland, south to Florida then across the US to San Francisco. From there they pointed their monster south, through Mexico and most of Central America. They will continue down to Ushuaia then back up the east coast of South America to northern Brazil. Then, across the Atlantic to Dakar, Senegal and north to their home in Portugal.
His wife and kids are off shopping. We hope to meet them later. He reminds us of our Danish friend Helga who also travels in Toyota 4WD around the world.
Sore Throats, Coughing and Choking
Our afternoon is spent at the Doctor. The Hotel has suggested a Clinic that has some English speaking staff. A taxi ride into town and we met with Dr. Marcos. He studied at LSU, Louisiana State University. Of course we told him about our band, Acadiana. He said that he didn’t know much about Cajun Music but his Daughter-in-Law loves it. She’s a Cajun gal from near New Orleans. Dr. Marcos did a light checkup, blood pressure, pulse and cough while we waited for the results of throat cultures. Cat has had a pressure pain in her chest, probably just muscle strain from coughing but when we told Dr. Marcos about her heart attack he insisted on her having an EKG and meeting with a Cardiologist. He, Dr. Sergio, listened to Cat’s heart and read the EKG then offered this comment in his heavily accented English, “You’re stone cold perfect”. The culture shows infection so we’re gong on another round of Antibiotics and a cough medicine.
The Pharmacy just around the corner had all the drugs and a few other necessary items. As suggested by our taxi driver, there’s a fantastic wine store just around the corner. So, we’re loaded up on drugs and alcohol. They even had our old California house wine, Kendall Jackson. The price was prohibitive, we stuck with old Chilean favorites.
Dinner at TGIF, again but this time we requested outside seating, away from the freezing AC. A young guy that Cat had spoken with earlier sat with us. Brian is a Californian who works with a firm, Transit Sales International. They buy used school buses and sell them south of the border. He speaks Spanish, his wife is from Mexico. They live in Chula Vista. He’s here trying to drum up new business. She is in Nevada selling mobile homes. The company bought 100 used coaches, her market is ranches and farms. An innovative company. He’s really a nice young guy. Fun to talk about California. He invited us to stop and stay with them as we pass through Chula Vista next spring.
August 11, 2005
After another non-descript breakfast Cat headed for the Internet while I completed the pictures to mail to Wally. Cat got a box and we put together things to send home, too. Lunch at TGIF, this is getting to be a habit.
I spent the rest of the afternoon de-cocooning the bikes and getting them road ready. Part of the process is a greasy mess. They seem to be rideable, we’ll find out tomorrow. Cat did Internet duty, reading and answering.
Another TGIF evening. Had to sit in due to a pounding down rain storm. They did slow the flow of freezing air. Steak and Pasta, mmmm.
CNN and sleep
August 12, 2005
Testing The Bikes
After our less than memorable 2nd Breakfast we took the bikes out for a test ride. Off down the causeway to see marina where we’ll take the boat tomorrow. A nice flat 4 ks with the bay and skyline of Panama City on one side and the Pacific and entry to the Canal on the other. Scenic, boats and buildings, sun, clouds and hills. Oh let’s not forget the Bridge of the Americas, a truly impressive arch connecting both sides of the Canal. We sought the Portuguese family on the way back in. Their rig was there but they were not.
A quick, in room, picnic then off with Adrian
Adrian, and a Tour of Panama City
We hired a driver, Adrian, to take us into Panama City. Nice guy, he took us first up and over the Bridge of the Americas just to spot the way we’ll cycle in a couple of days. Then, to the Post Office where we got the packages sent. He knew places where they sell maps and books. We were pretty excited to find a Lonely Planet Mexico. Bought and paid for, we jumped back into Adrian’s van and headed for a Supermarket. I opened the book and found that it is written in Spanish. Geez, didn’t even look. The store was very nice and refunded our Pesos.
He patiently waited while we stood I line at the Correo (Post Office) and mailed a package home, coins to our pal Randy, photos to WebMaster Wally and the broken Video Cam to Todd the Producer of the LandRider Infomercial. Try as we might, there just isn’t any store that has a camp stove in Panama City and Adrian knew them, all.
Captain Morgan and The Golden Alter
Next, he took us out to Casco Antigua, the original Spanish City. Founded in the early 1500s it seemed to be a target for the likes of Sir Francis Drake and Captain Morgan, Pirates operating under the English flag. One story he told was of how the Priests would paint the Gold Alter white when marauders were coming ashore. There was a slight language problem but we think the story he told went something like this; “When Captain Morgan raided and they had painted the Altar the Priest said that they had taken all the gold. Capt. Morgan wined and said, “I’ll bet into Heaven before you, Priest”! We think he meant that Morgan knew the white alter was actually gold.
Next stop or at least drive through was Ciudad Antigua. This area has developed then decayed over the past 200 years or so. Adrian says that many of the shabby looking buildings are completely rebuilt inside. The City has decided to keep the original exteriors. Last but surely not least, a stop at former President Noriega’s house. It’s in a terrible state of disrepair and sitting vacant. Adrian says that there is a court battle between the current Government and Mrs. Noriega about ownership. Of course Noriega is in the Big House and well cared fro by the US Government. All in all a fine afternoon with a fine guide and guy.
Another Big Truck, This One From Germany
Our short walk back to the Portuguese family’s truck was fruitless. No one there, however there’s another big rig similar to there’s across the parking lot. Klaus and Sonia are also photojournalist as well as a film company. (www.Outdoor-Production.com) They’re from Germany and are on a similar trip as Mica’s family. They’ve been touring South America for more than a year and are now headed back to the US. They had not met each other before pulling into this park parking lot. Their truck is a Mercedes. They built the camper portion and invited us in to check it out. Exquisite wood work and design. Compact but livable. Really a nice couple, they traded a normal life, quit their jobs at age 30 and have been traveling for more than 11 years.
Another evening on the TGIF Patio. Chicken for me and Salmon for the Cat. A couple at the neighboring table, Laura and Roger, were discussing what to do with their lives. He’s a Psychiatrist. They were analyzing their lives, wondering about wandering this wonderful world in a boat. We could only encourage. They’re here to visit their daughter who’s working at a nearby resort. A very fun and interesting evening for us.
August 13, 2005
A Trip Through The Panama Canal
In the Midst of Norte Americanos
Breakfast then I hustled over to say goodbye to Mica, his wife Sofia and kids, Eloi and Kia. They’ve rented a car, Mica will drive the truck to a boat on the Caribbean side while the family lives it up, for a night, in a Hotel. They are putting the truck on a boat to Colombia and will fly over to meet it later this week. What an adventurous family!
The Perfect 90 Year Old Machine
Somehow we got a mini-bus to Flamenco where we boarded a bus ride to Gamboa. On board the Pacific Queen which carries up to 275 passengers, we found a middle sized crowd of only 175. The ride through the Canal is at least as good as we thought it would be. Great fun to see a 90 year old machine, the lock system, still working as it was designed to do. They told us that it was the second concrete construction in the world. The walls of the canal portion are 65 feet thick, designed to last. The gates are so well balanced that they’ve never failed. At the Culebra Cut you float over the Continental Divide. Next, under another construction marvel, a double A-Span bridge. Strange story, it was built 2 years ago for more than $100,000,000 but has never been used. The roads that should connect to it have yet to be constructed. Budget problems?
Interesting to watch the PanaMax ships slide through the locks aided by the electric mules. PanaMax? That’s the size or dimensions of most cargo or freighter ships in the world, today. They’re built to the maximum width and length allowed through the Panama Canal. The Queen was allowed into the Canal in a light passage, that is, not jammed in with a huge freighter. A good deal for us and our pictures. We followed a power boat, The Auzhela, from Seattle, Washington and a sail boat. We had a wide open view of the entire passage.
There were lots of Norte Americanos on board our Queen, too. Kevin and Rod are here with a group of surfing friends. Larry is an exercise freak, he runs, lifts weight and his body shows it. He’s a male nurse from Florida. Michel and her kids, Mason and Hakon from Solano Beach near San Diego. Cat went to University there and they talked about a favorite Mexican Restaurant, Fidel’s. All of these friends have been together on a Windjammer Cruise for the past 10 days. Lori and her son Jeffrey are from Burlingame, California. Oh, we can’t forget Marble Champion Krissy. She’s 18 and took second place in last years International competition. She’s headed to London next spring to win the entire thing this time. They’ve all been on a Great fun talking with them, all.
At the docking place we thought of Gerry and family and their trip from Hell. Ours was a wonderful experience. After a couple of attempts at hailing taxis we decided to walk from Flemenco Quay. We know the distance, 4 Ks. The sun is shining on high and it’s hot but then that’s going to be our daily routine on the bikes. However, as we trudged the clouds gathered and darkened. Lightening then great claps of thunder, we made it under the awning of Hotel Country Inn. Then it poured, so thick were the drops that we lost sight of both the Panama City skyline and the Pacific.
Another dinner at TGIF, inside the cold chamber. We asked and they did damper it down a bit. Steak and Pasta, we’re gonna miss this place.
A Mom and Daughter, Lisa and Alexandra, have been in and out of our lives since we got to The Country Inn. We even saw them this morning from the bus, holding up traffic as they asked directions. Tonight we ran into them in the hallway. They were wearing their jammys. They wanted to see the bikes. The most interesting thing to us, they’re here because Alexandra is studying Ballet. She is enrolled in a 2 week course here in Panama.
August 14, 2005
Back On The Bikes
Panama city to Sajalices
Our early breakfast was thwarted by the packing frenzy. It was after 9:00 AM by the time we got the bikes down, out on the driveway and ready to roll. Thanks to Adrian’s drive up onto the Bridge of the Americas, we knew the direction. As we rounded the ramp and pedaled hard up toward it a Policeman in a booth whistled and waved us over. He spoke only Spanish but seemed to be saying that we couldn’t cycle across. It is narrow and the traffic is running fast but on the ramp they did give us plenty of room. He called Command then reluctantly waved us on. Cat was almost disappointed. Of course I wanted to ride this landmark but once into the flow of trucks, buses and cars even I wondered? Most of our fellow vehicles swung wide and were understanding. A few honked encouragement, others honked, a few even gestured disapprovingly at a couple of crazy gringos who were slowing their progress for a second or two.
A short break for to calm the nerves then off again, on the continuing narrow road in thick traffic. The shoulder is littered with rocks and debris. The first 20 Ks or so were really tough and the soaring temperature didn’t help. It was a real relief when we reached a big box type store, Super Xtra. We pulled in, sat in the shade and enjoyed a Gatorade.
From this point the shoulder widened and eased our fears of being hit. However, we fell into a constant flow of beautiful black butterflies with brilliant green markings. They were having a terrible day with traffic and their remains, some still trying to flutter, were scattered along our path. This is probably their annual migration. They’ve undoubtedly been making the trip for hundreds of generations. Mother Nature has probably, selectively, helped them avoid hazards of the trip like predator birds but they haven’t patterned in the fast flow of cars and trucks, yet.
We Hate Flat Tires
Progress was slowed by undulating hills and heat. Then, a flat tire. When we received the new wheels from LandRider they came with tires and tubes. The tires are okay for local riding but not too good with the weight we carry. Knowing this, we have saved the old Continentals installed in Cape Town, South Africa. They’re well worn but the Kevlar is still intact and tough. Also, we have the thick, sticker proof tubes, too. It was Cat’s tire, I pumped and we rode, I pumped again and we rode. At last, a little shack with bicycle repairs. I changed the tire but had hoped for a high pressure pump. This tiny little shop didn’t even have a pump, much less high pressure. So, I pumped and sweat and pumped and sweat. Imagine, we’ve cycled almost 10,000 Kilometers (6,200 miles) on these tough tires without a puncture. (We did have one tube failure) Wish we could find replacements, we’ve tried but they don’t seem to have them here or in South America? We’ve even tried Continental’s web site. They take our message but never respond?
This area is obviously the beginnings of bedroom communities. There are signs advertising new homes starting as low as $16,500. Simple floor plans, similar to those of the 50s and 60s built during those California boom years. Little homes on little lots but a good escape from the inner city. Small yards for the kids and pets. The American Dream.
Found an off ramp and went up looking for food. Found a little place with chicken and chips. Then, back to the ramp and down, against oncoming traffic. We couldn’t find an on ramp? Probably a street through town but this was easier than exploring in the heat.
Our goal today is a City called Chame. It’s further than we thought and, with our slow progress it’s becoming obvious that we’re not going to make it. A guy at the little restaurant told us that there is a Pension in Pueblo Sajalices. Though only 15 Ks, the ups and downs and heat have taken a toll. We struggled in and after playing ask, ask, found the place. It’s pretty much a cement block cell. There is an AC and TV. The AC did cool the room and even gave us a chill after our cold showers. The TV only speaks Spanish on both channels. It did give us a glimpse of the news and we understood almost every other word.
There is a Rodeo, one of those Bull Throwing events we’ve wanted to see, just down the road. Fireworks brought it to our attention. The woman here told us that there would be food there then thought abut it and got the point across that it may not be safe. We think she feared that when the Cowboys get to drinking they may not accept a couple of strangers in their midst.
There is no restaurant here in Sajalices. The gal called a Taxi and as the rain began to pour as it often does in the early evening, we rode into Chame, a 20 K trip, for dinner. The driver dropped us at the only restaurant, a Chinese place, open tonight, and promised to return in 1 hour. The order of Chow Mien and Fried Rice were gigantic. Half of it ended up in a big “Doggie Bag”.
The driver appeared, spoke to us, then stood and drank a Cola at the end of the bar as we tried to figure out who he was. We sat wondering why this stranger had stopped and talked with us before it finally hit home.
He struggled back to Sajalices in blinding rain as we argued about whether the rate he’d quoted was round trip or one way. In the end, he turned to us and asked only for the originally asked $4.00. Imagine, he made the trip out and back for us then again to drop us, for only $4.00. We’d almost convinced ourselves that it had to be an each way fee.
So, into our little Concrete Box, safe from the elements and Bull Throwers.
August 15, 2005
Sajalices to DeCameron
Up early and out here was easy. On the road by 7:15 AM, we soon found a little Café serving eggs, toast and coffee. We were definitely the center of attraction, other costumers and passersby all stared and wondered. The little store next door opened as we ate. After tucking 2 Gatorades into our bags we were back aboard the bikes and underway at 8:00.
Oliver on a Motorbike
It’s a long uphill pull out of Sajalices then a series of ups and downs as the sun rose and heated up the day. We stopped at almost every opportunity for cold drinks. As we crested one of the hills a guy on a Motorcycle passed going the opposite direction. He honked and waved enthusiastically then made a U turn and came up from behind. Oliver is on the oft traveled Alaska to Ushuaia route. We filled him in on our experiences and he did the same for us. He’s been on the road for more than a year. Like us, he’s worried about getting back home, back to a normal life and he’s only halfway there.
More ups and downs, more heat and we have begun thinking of a day off. At mid afternoon we turned off the road searching for a Hotel. The locals pointed off to the left. After a kilometer we entered a dirt road and a steep downhill followed by and equally steep up that we had to push. The Hotel is actually a low budget resort. A sort of abrupt young gal showed us a room. Pretty dismal, a bunk bed and the only window is full of a small air conditioner. We put on our thinking caps and had a pretty good lunch in their restaurant. The waiter told us that there’s a nice place just 3 Ks further down the road.
The reverse struggle in hotter heat, back to the pavement. Then as described, a 3 K ride to the turnoff to DeCameron Resort. We know about these places, Cat had seen them in a brochure at Lila’s office. They offer only full board packages at pretty high prices. Colombian owned, they did have nice looking facilities in the brochures.
Another dirt road to the Resort. Bumping along we thought it couldn’t get much worse then we ran into road construction. Freshly graded and watered dirt with plenty of rocks. A real workout.
An Expensive Treat, DeCameron
At the gate a guard came from the shade of his little house and asked to see our reservations. Our response brought a furl to his brow. Apparently he’s never faced this situation before. He summoned a woman who looked us over and said, “We have no room available”. Not wanting to go back through the mud and crud, I became insistent. She took all the whining she could stand then called the lobby. Maybe overruled by a superior, she sort of winced then sent us down the roadway to the main lobby.
As we rode up a young guy rushed to us and wanted to know where we were coming from, where we were going. His name is Ventura and he says that he’ll get us anything that we need. He ushered us into a too cold room full of families checking in. The process is strange, they give you a brochure about the property then make you sit and in our case, freeze waiting for your number to be called. Ventura intervened and hustled us to a clerk. She helped us fill out the registration and confirmed the too high price. Well, for families it may be a good deal. In fact we feel that if you book early they probably have more favorable rates. The facilities in clued lots of water sports, snorkeling and scuba, even windsurfing and sailing. Poolside activities are scheduled throughout the day to keep the kids entertained. For us, the food will be the only good thing about our stay. We need rest, not exercise.
The vacancy they found for us is in a Townhouse on the golf course. Ventura assured us that it would be on the ground floor and easy to get the bikes in to. WRONG! I called and asked to change but they insisted it was the only available room. A young guy working the grounds offered to carry the bikes up for $2.00 then withdrew the offer when he tried to life one. So, we had to take all bags off, make a dozen trips then struggle up with each bike on the spiral stairway. The tires made a few black marks on the walls but at these rates, they can afford a little touch up paint.
The room is really well furnished and the bed comfortable. A real up-tick from last nights Concrete Cell. The AC works so well we had to damper it down in short order. There isn’t enough room for the bikes so I lashed them to the hallway railing.
Much needed showers then we began to explore. The maid was working in the downstairs room so we took a look. What an ingenious idea, the down unit is a 1 bedroom with living room, dining area and kitchen. The 2 bedrooms up are lock out rooms in a 3 bedroom, 3 bath townhome. You enter through a lockable door then each room has a lockable door, too. The owner can rent all or part. We felt lucky to have even one of the bedrooms.
We walked out onto the golf course and Cat took a couple of practice swings. No club, just arm swings. As we near home we both talk of life after. One of her dreams is to get back into the game, golf that is. While she made her air swings and dreamed large raindrops began spattering on the green. We had to make a dash for our room.
The afternoon rain today comes by the bucket. So thick that we couldn’t see across the fairway. Based upon info from Ventura we’d called and reserved a table for 6:30 PM at the Japanese Restaurant. It’s a long walk to the place. We called and the girl said they’d send a van right away. We waited then at 6:20, called again. She assured us that it was on the way. We waited then at 6:45 called again. Another assurance and finally at 7:00 it pulled up out front. The driver would only drop us at the main restaurant. A short walk he said, to the Japanese.
With rain still pouring we ducked into the secondary lobby hoping for a ride to the restaurant. The guy at the desk had some bad news for us, the restaurants have 6:30 and 8:30 seatings like a cruise ship. The doors are closed now for the first. Cat went down to an Italian place below and the waiter allowed us in. Then, somehow, a communication gap, I ordered a Veal Oso Bucco and we both asked for pasta. They delivered the pasta, a huge plate then left us to our own devices. Having a tough time getting all the spaghetti down, I asked the waiter about the meat dish. He seemed perplexed and got a point across, too late. I was almost full, just enough room for a plate of the great looking sweets. The 8:30 crowd is beginning to press against the doors. In fact they surged in as we bellied up to the dessert bar.
Good food, a ride back to our little lair then CNN, in English. Awe, life can be good, expensive but good.
August 16, 2005
Day Off in DeCameron
Plane Crash in Venezuela
The news this morning is full of a plane crash in Venezuela. A Colombian charter plane headed for Martinique went down in the hills near Maracaibo. It’s the 3rd crash in the past 2 weeks.
The breakfast buffet is huge and there are plenty of huge people taking advantage of it. We relaxed and enjoyed people watching as we ate. They have pools with games of all sorts going on already. Deck shuffleboard, golf, billiards, ping pong, etc, etc. Reminds us of a Club Med.
A Poolside Respite
The grounds are beautiful. Cat did a walk around photo shoot while I hit the keyboard and played journal catch up. We walked back down for lunch with our swimsuits under out cloths. Lunch was another gorging and we took full advantage. Then a relaxing lie by the pool, even a cool dip. Cat loved the chaise lounges sitting in shallow water. We watched arm wrestling for beers and a game of water polo. The walk back to the room was hot but helpful digestive wise.
More typing for me, TV for Cat. The rain started late afternoon, right on cue. We called for a ride at 6:00 PM, they were here in minutes. Dinner at the huge buffet, midst the huge crowd. We tried one of almost everything. They had us back in the room in time to see Aaron Brown and the news.
August 17, 2005
DeCameron to Agua Dulce
An early walk to our final big buffet. We were on the road by 9:00 AM. The road is compacted slightly and our legs have rested. We pulled up at a building with a Tourist Info sign. They were awfully nice but had little in the way of info.
A Troubled Cyclist
The road is flatter and faster today. Still hot, we stopped for a drink at 10:30 and found a gal from Canada, Ruth, in the little café. She too is cycling but claims she’s lost all her equipment to thieves? We chatted while she chain smoked. Then she began telling Cat about events connected in the world and into her life. Somehow she has deducted that the 3 plane crashes are related. She uses words, like Pan and Ma to denote Father and Mother. Other strange connections that include Elvis and she loops in things, questions unanswered. She seems paranoid, even connects the robbery she says that she incurred on someone from Canada that send word to the robbers. When she spoke of her sister she used a last name. I used it to ask if it was her name, too. She became withdrawn and asked, “Hoe did you know that”?
She pushed her bike around and asked what we thought of it. It is a touring bike with racks for bags, an odometer, even a light. She says that she has cycled from Ottawa, down the east coast of the US and Mexico. I took the camera out and she turned away and said, “No pictures, no pictures”. A cordial goodbye and she rode off toward Panama City. I did sneak a pic of her cycling away.
A light lunch at a roadside place then onward in the heat. The road is still flat and we are moving right along. We wheeled into Agua Dulce at 4:00 PM. The Hotel recommended to us by someone was pretty dark and dingy. Cat checked the room then walked next door to the Hotel Plaza Agua Dulce. Lighter and brighter but still pretty basic. We’ll have to leave the bikes in the Lobby but it still feels enough better to make that sacrifice. They do have AC and TV but no CNN. HBO and Cinecanal both have in English language movies.
Cat got Chinese food form downstairs and we feasted on the bed while watching a movie.
Oh, lest we forget, the rain made its usual late afternoon appearance. No wonder they call this place a “Rain Forest”.
August 18, 2005
Agua Dulce to Santiago
Up and ready to go. The restaurant here is closed. We have to go back to the Hotel we rejected yesterday. No problem, good food and service. We were on the road by 8:00 AM. The first 25 Ks were through construction. Difficult, often only one lane with flagmen controlling the flow but drivers seemed to be with us and gave plenty of room. Then, we finally the new road and very good news for us, they have one side blocked to traffic. We had it to ourselves. At one point I called out to the workers, “Gracias para el camino solomente biciclettas”. They laughed and one answered in English, “For bicycles only now”.
Flat and fast most of the way, we rode into Santiago by noon and up to the McDonalds. Chicken sandwiches and good conversation with a couple, Ron & Maggie from Connecticut. Their daughter Stephanie and Grandson were out in the play area. She and her husband are Scientists, here with the Smithsonian. The little guy enjoyed climbing and stretching his legs after the long ride from Panama City. We loved sitting and talking with Ron & Maggie. The guys at McDonalds told us that the best Hotel in town is the Hacienda. It’s a 2 Ks ride out of town.
Cycling on, we found the place and it looked great but isolated. Then bad news, no rooms. So, back to town, the Clerk at Hacienda suggested Hotel Galeria. Bad news becomes good, Galeria is located between McDonalds and KFC, nest to a shopping mall.
The room is more than adequate, they have almost every TV station imaginable and FREE Internet access. The very nice girl there, Yany, sent us to the Shopping Center with our laundry. The Super Market is huge. We got wine for our happy hour and a bottle for the travel bags.
Dinner in the plain looking restaurant was not plain at all. Great food and, they let us bring our own wine since their supply of white was minimal. It was like home cooking with pretty good wine. Very nice, indeed..
August 19, 2005
Day Off in Santiago
Real pancakes and maple syrup for breakfast. A real treat.
Market and laundry for Cat, I pounded away at the journal pages. Fresh laundry and replacement wine. We walked to KFC for chicken sandwiches and greasy fries.
Cat spent her afternoon with the map and guide book figuring out our route through Central America.
Dinner and again our own wine in the restaurant. Pasta and darned good pasta at that.
TV news then sleep.
August 20, 2005
Santiago Medical Day, EKG for Pat
A difficult night for me, heart pounding and little sleep. My diagnosis is that the greasy food yesterday didn’t settle well. However, I feel less than ready to jump on the bike and ride 100 Ks or so. Yany directed us to a clinic in the Center. The lady there didn’t speak English but got the point when we did sign language indicating burning pain in the chest. She had us wait then got a gal who spoke some English to run an EKG.
“Am I okay”? Just like at home, she’s the technician, the Cardiologist will read the results. Dr. Abrahim looked the strip of paper over carefully then did his best to tell us that the EKG is perfect. “Corazon is muy fuerte”, heart is very strong. His conclusion, Gastrointestinal irritation. His prescription, soft, bland food, antacid and rest.
Okay, we’re here for another day but then, we can use the rest. I did a little journal work. Cat flicked channels. Sandwiches in the room for lunch.
Dinner, fish and boiled potatoes for both. Quite bland and quite good.
TV news, another movie then sleep and dreams of the road.
Sunday, August 21, 2005
Santiago to David
113 Kilometers in Jose’s Toyota
The sky is partly cloudy, the sun bright. A good day to cycle and I feel good, too. Breakfast, we filled up on eggs, bacon and I had an order of pancakes, too.
Out the door by 8:30 AM. The construction continues but the nice concrete lane is gone. Cars and trucks are close but courteous. It was a tough 26 Ks then, voila, the new road and a wide clean shoulder.
Good road, but the clouds dissipated and left us in broiling hot sun. Cat began having a tough time, her energy was waning. As if to add insult to injury, the road began to pitch up and down. Slight rollers at first then steeper and tougher hills. It ground us down to a walk on most of them. Both of us were pouring sweat by the buckets. Cat’s strength was draining out her pores.
Our goal, a small town called Tole is at about 90 Ks. Yany had called yesterday and found that there is no place to stay. She did talk with the Police and they told her to have us call them when we get in. They can find a house that will let us stay.
Giving Up on an UP
At Kilometer 77 on a hard, hot up, Cat gave it up. Amazing, a pickup coming up slowed when she threw her hand up then pulled over. Jose is one of those wonderful Angels we meet when truly in need. He helped us lift the bikes into then set the AC low and drove. He’s an Agro Engineer specializing in rice. Today, a Sunday, he was out checking on a rice crop ready to be cut. He looks at quality of the grain and mildew or mold that may require special treatment once cut. Whatever the reason, we’re glad he was here for us. Cat has really gone down hill on the up hill pushes.
As we pulled into Tole she reached out, touched my shoulder and said, “Do you mind if we just go to David”? She actually only beat me to the punch by a nana second. I too hated to think about roughing it, staying in a little house that may or may not have air conditioning. Foraging for food and water, we have used almost all of the 6 bottles we started off with. We were in agreement, we're going to David. No problem for Jose, he lives there.
He told us of his University education here at David and how he met his wife there. When they married it was a given that they’d live in David where she was raised. The have 2 kids, the perfect family. So perfect in fact that the eldest, a boy is named Jose. His wife and daughter are both Yolanda’s. Perfectly perfect.
About 20 Ks out of David it began the afternoon rain storm. Jose drove us right to the Hotel National. He and I got soaked getting the bikes down. He jumped into this truck and was about to drive away when I yelled that we needed his telephone number. He quickly scribbled his home and cell numbers down then urged me to get under the roof. What a wonderful guy!
Our room isn’t as nice as Hotel Galeria and it fronts on the parking lot which fills the room with noise. Dinner, we sat near a couple, Merilio and Toko. They both work with the United Nations. He has just taken a position as Director of Agricultural programs in Panama City. She has relocated to Boston to study nutrition. They saw us on the road. Merilio is a cyclist and couldn’t believe that we’d come so far today. We had to confess.
Dinner in the Italian Restaurante. Pizza for Cat and Pasta for me.
A little TV but it was tough to keep our eyes open.
August 22, 2005
A Day in David
Merilio & Toko
A decision last night to have breakfast with Merilio and Toko led to getting up a little earlier than we wanted. Then, they were a little late and he ha to rush off to a meeting. Originally from the Dominican Republic, he had no problem sharing his opinion of the USA. After all he said, the US invaded his native land. He has been working with the UN in Italy. Toko is originally from Japan. WE brought the camera to get a picture of them then forgot in the rush as Merilio ran off to his meeting.
We called and invited Jose and his family to dinner. He seemed excited. He told us that he’s been trying to explain our trip to them. He also said, with pride, that his son, Jose, speaks English.
As we Taxied to the Post Office it began pouring rain. The lady at the window got the point across that we must go to the Liberia and have the package boxed and wrapped. Most of our package is CDs, the lady at the wrapping counter had a box. I cut it down but needed stuffing stuff. A local newspaper and a little cutting on the box and it was ready to wrap. A strange process, she has to wrap it in brown paper that we bought and used a tube of glue also provided by us. They don’t allow any tape on the outside.
Back at the Post, it was now flooded. Had to wade through a small lake to get in only to be told to go around back. Another larger lake, the sandals are really paying off. The guy in the back was eating a sandwich and didn’t seem interested. He waved his hand to tell us to set our package on the scale. Once finished munching he checked the weight and the form to tell us the cost to mail. He sort of winced when he told us the price. It’s about the same as most places but obviously he thinks it’s pretty high. Then, he got friendly. Applied the stamps and took the package to the clerk rather than making us carry it back out into the rain.
When the deal was done we prepared to leave by the back door but the water was now 6 inches deep. He came to our rescue by opening a side door and letting us out onto a dry area. People can be very nice.
Another in room picnic for lunch then journal for me and TV for Cat.
Dinner With Jose, Yolanda, Jose II & Yolanda II
Jose and family arrived right on time. We had pizza and good conversation most of which was interpreted by Jose II. He’s a bright young guy and does pretty well with English considering that he has little opportunity to practice. Jose is proud and rightfully so. Jose II is 12, Yolanda II 8. Yolanda, his wife, works at a bank. They are a true upwardly mobile family. (Yuppie) From his nice Toyota pickup truck to what they describe as a nice home. He’s also proud that he doesn’t drink alcohol and has never done drugs.
We shared two large chicken pizzas.
August 23, 2005
In To Costa Rica
David to Neilly
480 Colones = $1.00 US
A beautiful morning, bright and sunny. Up and at breakfast early then off down the road. A few little rollers at first then it leveled off. We got up to pace and held it for most of the morning. As we passed through one of the many Checkpoints we were surprised with a request to stop? The guy wearing a DEA vest yelled out so I pulled up abruptly, right in front of him. He backed off slightly then said, “Passports”. Okay, we pulled them out and he handed them inside the little shack to another. Then he demanded, “Open bags”. I objected, he pressed. I raised my voice and told hi that we’d been in Panama for several days, passed these Checkpoints and never had to open bags. He started to back off. The other guy came out and asked for the little white paper we were given when we entered the country. We dug them out, I handed him mine and he spent a few minutes studying it then realized that he had it upside down. Slightly upset, he handed mine back, waved to Cat to keep hers and told us to go. Mr. DEA was astounded. He’d tried to exert his little authority and failed. We rode on.
Heaven in cycling circles. The next several Ks were a long slow down. A real smooth coast for the next hour, just like Jose had said it would be. We were at the Costa Rica border in no time.
Almost the typical scene, maybe a little less hectic. We rolled past a long line of trucks then a couple of guys pointed to a little shack and said, “Inmigracion”. We pushed down the bumpy dirt alleyway. The crossing out of Panama was finished in minutes. Oh, he did want a couple of bucks, departure tax.
Cycling has a definite advantage when crossing borders. We just cycle right to the head of the line. It was even easier here in Costa Rica, getting past the border. First things first, we tried to get cash from a machine but failed. After changing a $20 US with a guy on the corner we went to lunch. Chicken Burgers, pretty good but slightly more expensive here.
The bad news, the road narrowed to 2 lanes without a shoulder. It was really tight when the big trucks and buses roared by. It’s a real jungle on the Highway and along it. Green is the color and it’s everywhere. Lush grass and trees, waterfalls cascading down from the hillsides. Birds and insects singing their songs of love. Maybe even a monkey or two howling for a mate. Beautiful.
We were in Neilly by 2:30 PM. Oh, another time change, it’s an hour earlier here then in Panama. The El Rancho Cabinas are less than basic. The bed’s lumpy and no AC, just a fan. As Cat always says, “It’s only for one night”.
A refreshing cold shower then a walk into town. Yes, they have Internet and we spent time getting back in touch. A nice little market with a good bottle of wine.
It starts to rain an hour earlier here. Darned time change. By dinner time it was torrential. The place we thought we’d walk to seems miles away in this rain. The Hotel restaurant is now open. We ran across the flooded field and slipped and slid inside. Strange place, there are a couple of guys setting up a Karaoke Machine. They had a full menu but when we talked steak the guy suggested chicken. Since we’d had chicken for lunch we decided on fish. Again, the waiter said, “Recommend chicken”. Actually that’s all they had, chicken and chips. The rain was still pounding down, it was another chicken and chips affair.
Amazing, by the time we hustled back to our dumpy room the muddy parking lot was full of trucks, cars, even a tour bus.
August 24, 2005
Neilly to Palmar Norte
Woke up a little rum dumb. No telling what time it is. Even though we’d just had a new battery installed my watch finally gave out during the night. A peek out the window seemed to confirm our feelings that it was late, all the cars and trucks were gone. Hurriedly packed, we walked into the Pueblo looking for food. A little shop and a guy seated there who called out, “Come in here, she has good breakfast”. How could we pass on an English language invitation like that? He didn’t continue the conversation? We tried to get one started and failed. Had he used all his English skills? Guess we’ll never know. Breakfast was greasy, crusty fried eggs, mushy corn tortillas and weak coffee. Oh, he did have on a watch and surprised us when we asked, “Siete”, its only 7:00 AM.
We pedaled back into town for a pic of main street and were on the highway by 8:00. Up, a pretty good pull up out of Agua Dulce. Then a never ending series of ups and downs. Soon it was hot, hot, hot. Cat began losing energy and feeling queasy again.
A sign pointing to Golfito, 12 Ks away on the coast drew us over for a picture. Brooke, a friend of Cat’s owns a property there.
Randall & Jesus
A shot in the arm, rice and beans at a roadside place did fill the need for food. She started feeling better. The clouds thickened and the sky darkened. Then came the rain, pouring down in torrents again accompanied by great peals of thunder and white hot bolts of lightening. We sought shelter under a bus stop cover. A couple of kids at the house behind were shouting and waving. We waved back and they dashed out and around to us. The house is the local school. The boys sat and stared, one, Randall, spoke a little English. He counted to 10 for us. He’s also a leader. The other boy sort of listens and does for him. He told us that he has gloves like ours then sent the other guy, Jesus, running to the place nearby to get them. He was proud to show them to us. Jesus also brought his bicycle along. They got a good laugh when the rain let up and the teacher started walking down the road. We were almost ready to make a break for it when the downpour began anew. She took off on the run but was getting soaked to the skin. Randall whistled, Cat did her fingers in the mouth shrill whistle which astounded them. Then I taught them how to clap my famous super loud clap. Nice kids.
Jesus pedaled, Randall rode the handlebars. They followed along until he tired. We’d spent about an hour waiting out the storm with them. We crossed the bridge over Rio Terrado and pedaled into Palmar Norte as the sky cleared and the bright sun shone through. We asked a young girl about a nice place, she said, “Go to Dickies”, and pointed down the street. The big sign says, DiQuis, the attached Pension, 0ur first choice of lodging, was fully booked. They recommended another place. Cat walked down the street and took a look while I sipped a second soft drink and stood the guard at DiQuis.
Cabinas Tico Alemana were okay. Clean and they do have cab le TV. She took a room, came back and we cycled back. Our soggy, muddy cloths needed a wash. The woman who checked us in told us to give them to her helper. She charged 8 Colones, less than $3.00. Weary, Cat went for Chinese food. Pretty good but unlike the Chinese we’re used to. We ate in the room, watched a movie and listened to the rain that has begun pounding down again. .
August 25, 2005
Day Off in Palmar Norte
DiQuis is the place for breakfast. Eggs, bacon and toast for Cat, real pancakes with syrup for me. Back at the camp, we set our cycling shoes out in the sun to dry. They are really soggy. We sat our rain and sweat soaked helmets out next to them.
Walking through town we were seeking a strange phenomenon. There are a lot of rock balls in this area, carved by pre-Columbian peoples. It’s not known why or what significance they may have played in their lives. Surprising, they’re big, almost as tall as Cat.
Getting across town is quick and easy as it should be in a small town. They do have a little Internet Shop. While there we met “Gringo Mike” and his wife, Karen. They own a Posada on the beach. Our hostess at Alemana has suggested that we should cycle on the coast rather than on Hwy #1 up and over and into San Jose. Their opinion was the opposite. There’s a 44 Kilometer stretch of rough unpaved road on the coastal route.
Cat provided a picnic in the room. We placed our helmets and shoes in the sun hoping they’ll dry. Then I did journal pages, she went back and cleaned up messages.
Dinner at DiQuis. A little like fast food but quite edible. Even allowed us our own bottle of wine to supplement.
Early to bed.
August 26, 2005
Palmar Norte to Dominical
Shoes and clothing are dry, there’s no excuse, we gotta go. Back to DiQuis for breakfast. I had the truck drivers version, eggs, bacon and hot cakes. A real power breakfast. Mark, a guy seated nearby exposed himself as a Gringo when he spoke Spanish. Oh, he knows the language pretty well but the accent. He’s from Colorado but living here for a couple of years. He has a property that he’s subdividing on the beach. While I chatted with him he asked if we were cycling the beach. When I told him we’d been advised to take Hwy 1 he was adamant that we shouldn’t. Too much traffic and lots of hills. That sort of got to Cat. Then she met Chrissy from Northern California and her friend Louis from Montreal. Chrissy and her husband are building a Hotel and Casino. We recommended that they contact Pedro and Susan, remember them, our hosts in the Galapagos? She too urged us to ride the coast road. Marc says that it is destined to become Hwy 1 when finished. Politics is keeping the last 44 Ks unpaved. Locals here in Palmar who will lose business, maybe even folks in San Jose who will lose the main flow of traffic to the Capital City.
Convinced, we set off toward the coast. A very healthy climb then little ups and downs. Gringo Mike and Karen passed us on one long uphill pull and waited at the top. They were surprised to see us. We told them that we had measured the mountain vs. dirt road and the lowlands won. They’re going to their property to measure off the prime lot where they will build a home. They have a Real Estate Office and are subdividing this property.
The plano (flat) that they all talked about was not to be. A stop for a soft drink and a young guy, Glenn, from Seattle walked up and started a conversation. He told us that his Dad, owned a property here and he was sort of visiting it. His Father’s an Architect but gave up the material life years ago. He took a job with Habitat for Humanity when Glenn was a kid. That upset and uprooted the family, moving them to the Philippines and into a very interesting life style. Looking back, Glenn says that the move was the best thing that ever to him. He’s really been around, very worldly for his young years.
Pressing onward at a strong pace, we were in Dominical, hungry and tired, by 2:00 PM. The town is tiny and the roads all dirt or mud as the case was today. Seeking sushi, we followed the signs to Fifi’s only to find it was closed. We stopped at a nearby, cool looking restaurant and had chicken quesadillas and seared tuna, great. The waitress, Asa (pronounced Onsa) is from Sweden. However she’s been living in California for several years. She’s just completed her Graduate work and is a Therapist. Now the strange thing, her Mother lives in Ventura and teaches golf. She came here about a month ago seeking tranquility. Her brother owns property here and insisted that she back away and take a little time for herself.
She recommended the Hostal that the guys who own this restaurant have. It’s down near the beach. Cat took a walk but came back disappointed. Simple and surrounded by a sea of mud. It is close to the famous beach where set after set of perfect waves roll daily. We pushed to another nearby place. Di Wui isn’t a whole lot better but quite a bit higher priced. Guillermo, the desk manager gave us a little discount, a free half hour of Internet time and breakfast. It began to rain, that made the decision easy.
A sort of warm suicide shower then rest. I walked to the little liquor shop around the corner and got wine. The rain began to really pound down. We hated to have to walk for dinner. The restaurant is only open for breakfast but tonight they’re testing a new pizza oven. That sounded good to us. We brought our wine and watched the production. It was like the Keystone Cops do Pizza. The final product wasn’t like most pizza but not bad. It worked for us.
No TV here, so early to bed.
August 27, 2005
Dominical to Quepos
Breakfast was not bad, a bit slow on delivery but the food was adequate. Two couples seated nearby were talking books and surf. Fran & Ellen are from Delaware, Bob & Jane from San Jose, California. They’re here to learn at the Green Iguana Surf School. Best of friends now, they’d never met before coming to Dominical. They were both drawn by the great website. Senior Surfers, they really are learning and the next lesson is at 9:30 this morning. We had to have pictures. This is what life after 50 should be like. Get a dream then live it! Bob and Jane both still work, she’s a Real Estate Attorney. Fran and Ellen are retired. He had a heart attack in 1999, just a year ahead of Cat. It changed his life, he stepped out of the Corporate world and began a life of relaxing leisure.
44 Ks On A Bumpy Dirt Road
Back up to the Hwy and to the left. The pavement ran out just across the bridge. From this point onward, was a struggle. Rough and rocky, often mud and slippery. Several bridges, some very dangerous. We stopped at a store, bought soft drinks and took them to some nearby tables. A woman came out and told Cat in no uncertain terms that this is her restaurant and we should have bought the drinks form her. Cat offered to move and explained that we thought it w all one big happy business. She re-emphasized that it wasn’t but then invited us to stay seated in her shade. We did!
We rode the rough and rocky road with reckless abandon.
As we bumped along I began rhyming words then came up with the above. It’s a variation of the sentence my high school Spanish Teacher used to teach us how to trill our Rs. So, if you too are interested in learning Spanish use it, let your tongue flutter but be careful not to sound more like a Scotsman than a Spaniard.
Struggling on in the heat, we stopped again for lunch at a Club. Kind of a strange place, locals hanging around at a little bar out front stared and talked about us Gringos. We sat inside and enjoyed barbequed chicken with beans and rice. It took a total of 7 hours to navigate the 44 kilometers. Finally pavement at the outskirts of town then a big hill to climb.
It was 3:30 when we stopped for cold drinks in Quepos and asked about Hotels. We’ve seen a sign for the Best Western, a woman pointed down the street and around the corner.
We rode and looked for a bank with cash machine. The only one we saw wouldn’t cough up the dough. As we neared the beach front a guy, John, walked up and introduced himself as the most illustrious guy in town. He invited us to the nearby favorite watering hole for a drink and suggested lemonade though it seemed like he’d already been into something stronger. He’s a photographer originally from Illinois but has been living here for 19 years. He pointed to the BW sign then disappeared into the bar across the street, The Gran Escape.
The Best Western is under construction and they offer a pretty good rate. The room is fine and since its Saturday the workers are drinkin’ with John. By the time we got into the room and showered we were to tired and lazy to join John.
We had dinner down, then watched TV until our eyelids wouldn’t stay open any longer.
6.0 Earthquake near David, Panama
We did catch the story, in Spanish, that there has been a 6.0 earthquake near David, Panama. We wondered if Jose and his perfect family had been affected. Hopefully it didn’t shake the ripe rice from the sheaves.
Sunday, August 28, 2005
Rainy Day in Quepos
1 Year Ago Today We Rode Out of Ushuaia in Snow and Ice
The included breakfast is pretty good. Served in the same dining room as dinner, with the open air and view of the dike. There is a Hostel that does laundry and we need laundry. However, it’s Sunday and we figured they’d be closed. Our friendly desk clerk told us to just take them into the Hostel and they will take them. We walked there and found the laundry next to the Hostel to be closed. Inside the Hostel a nice guy told us, no problem. He opened the back door of the little laundry, weighed our things and quoted the price based on 1 ½ kilos, 1300 Colones or less than $3.00. They will have it, washed and dried by 6:00 PM. .
A stroll through town, we did find a cash machine and replenish. This is a Sport Fishing town. The water is too polluted for swimming or surfing. We walked back to the waterfront and up onto the dike. The place sort of reminds us of Locke, California. Remember the place where we stayed back in May of 2002? It too faces a dike but that mound of earth holds back the Sacramento River. This mound controls the storm surges of the mighty, polluted Pacific Ocean. We found an Internet Shop and had just entered Yahoo, Mother Nature cut loose with lightening and thunder, then the power failed. We waited, everyone in the place sat and waited for about 10 minutes. We gave up, hugged the buildings then dashed through a curtain of solid water.
A Wedding Party BUT, No Wedding?
Lunch at El Gran Escape. The place where John had invited us join him. He was among the Sunday crowd missing. There were a couple of gals seated nearby. As we listened to them chat, drink Margaritas and eat Mexican food we decided that they must be wives of fishermen. Couldn’t have been more wrong. Leslie and Joyce are from Missouri, The Land of the Ozarks. They are here for Leslie’s son’s wedding, the wedding that won’t happen. The Bride took a hike after both families had booked houses and flights. Leslie and Joyce decided that they might as well come. No reason to waste the money they have already spent, they’re here to have a good time. Their not sure how many of the others are coming. The Brides family is here but as you may guess, the Love between the families has waned.
Cat went back to the Internet keyboard, I to ours. She is communicating with our family and friends. I am scurrying to get the journal pages completed.
There’s a place around the corner, we saw it yesterday and haven’t stopped thinking about it since. Tropical Sushi has a Happy Hour special but we came in too late. The Sushi was pretty good, the price pretty high.
August 29, 2005
Quepos to Jaco (Pronounced Hawko)
A Courageous Couple
At breakfast we met Mark and Shannon, a young couple from Charleston, South Carolina. We had seen them but didn’t get a chance to talk yesterday in Dominical. They have made an offer on a 4 ½ acre property near there. He was born in Lima, Peru. They have been surveying properties in several areas of South Central America. They spoke of finding a 9,000 acre Ranch in Bolivia offered for $60 US per acre. We told them there are lots of wide open spaces and compared the place and values to those of extreme rural areas of the Mojave Desert. Forgot to mention to them that, the Mojave is only at 2,000 feet, Bolivia’s Altiplano is 13,500! We applauded them for their courage at a time when most of our fellow US Citizens are too fearful even to travel much less invest in other places through out the world.
Our ride today turns out to be great. The road is wide with a clean shoulder. Fast and flat, well as fast as we ever ride. There are a couple of narrow, scary bridges but over all a very good ride. A Crab scurried across the road ahead of us. Our first Crab Crossing in 3 years 4 months. The scenery is rice fields, hills and palms. Even some beautiful coastline. Homes are showing the power of investment. We know from our talk with Gringo Mike, Mark and Chrissy that large homes like those in the pictures are selling in the $400,000 range here.
As we neared Jaco Cat’s front tire went flat. A slow leak, I pumped, we rode and made it. Pulled into a service station and got 65 pounds of pressure, enough to get into town.
The streets are full of surfers. This is the famous ocean front surfing paradise. We worked our way through the streets to a “Soda”. That is a small café for sandwiches. Cat walked across and checked out the Hotel Oz. Minimal rooms, $60, she felt it looked like a party place. I have spotted a Real Estate Office and decided to ask them about Hotels.
Canadians in Costa Rica
The Office is upstairs above the Soda. A young girl sat at the front desk. She spoke very good English, asked me to wait. I told her I just wanted info about Hotels but she insisted on getting an Agent. Daphne, the agent, turns out to be Brooke the receptionists Mom. They relocated to Costa Rica 15 years ago from Toronto, Canada. She and her husband run the office. She does the Real Estate Sales while he works on developments. They appear to be quite successful. Daphne suggested 2 Hotels near the beach.
Cat’s flat is back so we pushed. The Hotels look good, we checked, neither has TV. What will Cat do with herself? Pushing back we asked another guy, he suggested Hotel Gaviota just a half block off the main street, away from the beach. The guy there was very friendly, he had a room, actually a little apartment with kitchenette. And, cable TV with CNN. WE were in for the night.
I fixed the flat while Cat shopped for supplies and looked for a nice place to have dinner.
A relaxing afternoon under the AC then off to dinner. Our choice, Italiano. A couple of groups of Nortes, a family from New York and a couple of guys from California. The family, Mom, Dad and Daughter were deeply involved in their own conversation. We did speak for a few minutes as they prepared to leave. The daughter is an entertainer and looks the part. Very nice but a little standoffish.
Another family came in. They look Scandinavian and remind us of our Danish Family. A Dad who has Viking features like a young version of Helga, Mom and the kids all seemed to share the look.
A California Batchelor Party in Jaco
Fernando is getting married. His bride, an Engineer, is from China but has lived, schooled and worked in the US for more than 10 years. Scott, Fernando’s best buddy, decided that he needed a Bachelor get away so he bought tickets and, here they are. They’re both Attorneys working in Orange County, California. Scott’s made an offer on a Beachfront home, here. He has been coming to Jaco for several years. He’ll pay about $300,000 but tells us that a place like this one in Orange County would sell for at least $2,000,000.
Dinner was tasty and rich. The food was great it was the price that was rich. We’re wasting away in Gringoville.
August 30, 2005
Jaco to Fiesta Resort
Claremont, California Scandinavians
Up and at em, early. So early that the owner wasn’t there, yet. We tried to tell the night watchman that we’d go to breakfast then come back to pay. Gilligan’s is a nice looking sidewalk café. A guy there said, “Best food in town” as we stopped to see the chalkboard. We took a seat, the waitress brought a menu and we decided to move on. Prices are very high. As we prepared to leave the Scandinavian family walked up. Surprise, this Scandinavian family is from Claremont, California. Dwayne, the Dad, says that somewhere back inn his family line there lurk some Vikings. They’re just here on vacation. Two of the girls will travel to Europe for International Studies. We told them how proud we were to see a family from the US traveling the World. Dwayne smiled then confessed, this is the first time they’ve left the Continental US. They decided not to eat at Gilligan’s due to the prices. We told them that we were thinking of making a move but when we mentioned the name of a place they said, “Save the long walk, the food wasn’t very good there, yesterday”. We stayed.
A gal seated nearby spoke up. She says that the food is great here but the prices may be higher because the place was made famous in the classic surf movie, Endless Summer. We stayed and they were right, extremely good food, very high price. Well they did throw in a second cup of great coffee, no extra charge.
Another couple eating at the other end of the outdoor seating stopped to talk. Jeff and Ngieevig are from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. They just returned from visiting Volcano Arenal and insisted that it’s worth the time and money. They recommended staying or at least going to the Arenal Observatory Lodge. They raved about the view from the deck there.
Cat walked back and paid our Hotel bill while I finished my coffee. Back, we mounted up and headed out. The road deteriorated as we rode. And, it became hilly, lots of medium sized ups and downs. We rolled down and across Rio Parcoles. Lots of Gringos with cameras. The remains of what we thought was a large lizard turned out to be a small Crocodile. That as what they were all straining to see, the river has Crocs but there were known sunning at that moment. We stopped to take a picture of a large Croc with a human skull in its mouth when a Policeman summoned us?
He spoke only in Spanish and we weren’t getting it? Then he motioned for us to go back? I put my foot down and said “No”. He became insistent then got a point across that we were being accused of not paying the Hotel? Cat dug the receipt out, he looked and said, “No, Banco, no Motel”. We both surged forward as we tried to explain. He took out his radio and called then said, “Un Momento”. The radio squawked and he talked then turned to us and said, “Disculpe, sorry”. We think the Hotel owner called the Police before Cat went back and paid. Then he must have forgotten to call afterward. Well, good to know that the Policia are on the job. Hope they guard us as well as they tried to take care of a local merchant.
We pulled up for late lunch in 9 Ks short of the Pueblo Caldera and almost decided to get a room in here. There’s supposed to be a Cabina but our waiter says it’s pretty bad. He suggested that we should go on to a place called Fiesta Resort. He’d worked there and seems to love the place. We had little to lose, we pedaled on through Pueblo Caldera. The waiter was right, pretty bad. Another 25 Ks and we found Fiesta. It was right on the road and looked decent. Another “all inclusive” Resort, wrist bands and all. At the top of budget but we needed a little pampering.
Exhausted, we showered then lay and rested until the dinner hour. Cat was in heaven, Mexican food, tamales, corn tortillas carnitas and beans. The only thing we didn’t do was drink a Margarita. It would have been included but we couldn’t stand the thought of a hangover. A romantic roaming guitar playing guy strummed and filled the night air with a Samba beat.
TV, yes we have all stations, then sleep.
August 31, 2005
Jaco to Liberia
32 Kilometers Cycling
98 Ks on Bus
The huge breakfast buffet loaded us up with fuel foods. We thought about staying another night but couldn’t justify the cost and we really want to keep moving. These “All Inclusive” places have a lot for folks looking for sun or activities. If we want activities, we ride bikes.
Now the road turns tough, not tough to ride but rough surface and narrow without shoulders. Dangerous. Hills are becoming an issue, too. Cat was sweating hard and slowly failing again. It’s HOT OUT HERE.
Smacked in the BACK-A Bus to Liberia
A stop in the shade of a little roadside store and a cool Gatorade in an attempt to stay hydrated. Then just a short way down the road we stopped to take a picture of a sign pointing out a Finca San Buenaventura, a B&B. Remember, our County Capital is San Buenaventura. As I stood with eye to lens Cat yelped. She saw it coming and ducked. WHACK, I was smacked in the back by a board, like a 2X2 sized board hanging off a
side of the truck. It was as though someone had hit me with a fist. I feared broken ribs. Then, we began thinking of all the things that it might have been. Suppose I’d been leaning down and hit in the head. Would the helmet protect against a hit like that?
When I pulled up my jersey Cat yelped again. Red marks that look like I’d been hit with a whip. I felt the area, didn’t feel any great pain, thanked Pacha Mama and we rode on. Cat was fearful of the narrow road and the pot holes that prompt drivers to swerve back and forth across lanes as they approach. She finally put her foot down at a cross roads. Our ride for today is finished. We parked the bikes and she began waving to cars. Having no luck we moved to a nearby bus stop. Just as I was expressing doubt that a bus would be able to pick us up she waved and a big white bus with a “Liberia” sign in the window almost slid to a stop.
It took just a few minutes to get the bikes into the under bay. The driver’s helper was in a hurry. I had to slow and then stop him as he crammed and jammed. All that tugging and pushing did make the injury sting. It felt good to sit and lean against the soft, well worn seat. We are off to Liberia, skipping past pot holes watching the shoulderless road pass by. Wondering what tomorrow would bring.
With motorized assistance we made it into Liberia by 2:00 PM. There is a fair looking Hotel right at the bus stop. We pushed in, Cat checked the room and though dark and moderately furnished, we took it. Bike jammed in past the bed, we set off walking, looking for food. Just a block away, at the main cross roads, was a food court. We chose Burger King chicken sandwiches.
Once fulfilled we walked out looking for a Super Market. A turn to the right and we saw a Best Western Hotel. No Super Market down that way but since we’d walked the walk we decided to take a look at the BW and ask about a Market. The place is light, bright and colorful. The complete opposite of the place where the bikes now rest. We asked if Myra, the very friendly desk clerk, thought there was a way to get out of the other place, gracefully. She could only suggest that we tell them our plans have changed.
The lady that had checked us in without a language problem there suddenly didn’t understand us. She called the Manager, a tougher gal to deal with. She did speak English and understood that our plans had changed. She looked like she wanted to know what our ‘Change” was. We sort of played the quiet game until she finally said, “Okay, go with her to check the room”. The gal she sent was very nice. She looked at the room, I told her that I’d only washed my hands. She nodded and approved the condition. Back at the desk the Manager took a tough stance, “You used the shower”! “Ridiculous, look at us, we need a shower”!
The argument escalated until she called another woman who checked than called her from the room to confirm the shower was unused. They un-cheerfully refunded our money and we cheerfully rode away. Off to the grocery store for what will be a sorely needed glass of wine, to anesthetize.
A close check of my wound seems to say, “You’ll be okay”! Showers felt great, I stood and let the warm water run down my back while stretching my sore legs.
Myra knew a lot about Arenal Volcano. She even called the Arenal Observatory Lodge and reserved a room for us. A little over budget but, we’ve never seen an active volcano. Dinner at the restaurant, they had good food and allowed us to bring our wine without a corkage fee, whee!
Our table neighbor, Mike, is from Canada but also lives in New York. He’s a Realtor, down here trying to buy a property to develop as a Hotel and Casino. We hope he doesn’t think he’s the only one looking for a game in town.
The BW has most TV Channels but we were too tired.
September 1, 2005
Liberia to the Volcano
Niece Holly is 27 Years Young Today!
Our included breakfast is a strange affair. They have it set up at the door of their Conference Room. Obviously not the usual deal. The food is sort of scattered on tables and a toaster, sitting on a counter isn’t plugged in? When we asked about toast the gal had to carry the toaster across the room to an electrical outlet. We finally got enough to get by on a bus ride. It took a half hour wait before they got set up enough to serve at 9:00 AM.
We walked into town, dropped our stinky laundry with a promise to pick it up when we get back. A stop at the local Supermarket for wine and other essentials then back in the hot and getting hotter morning sun.
At 12:00 Cat made a run to the Burger King for chicken sandwiches to have during the bus trip. Sitting and waiting, finally Myra called, the driver told here that they’re just across the street. He pulled up in just moments, they’d stopped so that other passengers could grab a bite of lunch, too.
There are 2 couples on board, Art and Laura are from St. Charles, Illinois, Noelia and Alberto from Zaragoza, Spain. We spent the trip talking with Art & Laura, language limited our talk with Noelia and Alberto. Art has just been hired as Assistant Attorney General in Joplin, Missouri. They’re staying at Observatory, too. It became a 3 ½ hour bus ride. They dropped Noelia and Alberto off first then bumped along up a muddy road.
Luck of the Draw
The Arenal Observatory Lodge is extremely well built and operated especially when we
consider how isolated this place is. It began to rain as we arrived, we hustled into the office. We’re only booked for 1 night but knew immediately that we would stay for another. The Desk Clerk studied his booking roster then said, “We have only one room available for 2 nights with Matrimonial bed”. Whatever it is, we want it. Talk about the “Luck of the Draw”, the room has a huge picture window facing the Volcano and another with a view of the lake. Wow.
A walk around the beautifully groomed grounds in drizzle. There were people swimming and sitting in the Spa, in the rain. It didn’t look like much fun to us. We did enjoy the trees, flowers and sweeping lawns. Art and Laura are in a room across a swinging bridge, near the pool. They waved to us as we all stood in awe at the size and wonder of Arsenal.
Mother Natures Really Big Show
The Observatory Museum and Seismic Monitoring System are near their room, too. The museum is not much but it was The Smithsonian that installed the Seismic and Sound monitoring equipment. As we watched the screen the line began to surge up and down. Then, we heard the throaty rumble from above as Mother Nature cleared her throat. /we could see a slight plume at the top then rocks with smoke trailing as they rumbled down the side of Arenal. This is exciting, this is the reason we came here. This is worth blowing budget for. .
We relaxed for an hour then took our glass of wine up to the open Observatory Room. It’s just above our room but you get the sight and sound because it’s open. Jonathan and Cory, from San Francisco, joined us and as the sun dropped we began to see the glow at the rim of the caldera each time Mother Nature sighed. And, the smoking rocks rolling down the mountain side became rolling orange balls of fire. Pacha Mama was providing a fantastic sound and light show. Rumbles and roars, a wonderful fireworks display, just for us.
Dinner, with Art and Laura. A good piece of fish and great conversation.
There is no TV, just the panoramic view. Wonderful to fall asleep to the sight and sounds of Mother Nature.
September 2, 2005
Visiting Volcano Arenal
We left our curtains open all night. Sometime in the early morning hours we were jolted awake by a rumble that rolled across the valley. Arenal was blowing orange flame at the top and trails of fire rolled down her conical body.
Maybe it was the fresh mountain air or sleeping with the windows open but, we awoke to a cloudy, foggy morn filled with the sounds of birds and insects chirping like an alarm. Geez, we were surprised to find that it’s 8:00 AM. We never sleep this late.
Our original plan was to get to a Zip Line Tour of the rain forest canopy, there are several nearby. At breakfast Laura told us that she was taking the morning walk to the base of Arenal. She made it sound so good that we changed plans. We’ll try to get to the Zip Line later today. They leave at 8:30, we had to really slam breakfast down. Good thing it’s a buffet.
A Walk to Where the Rocks Were HOT
The group is so big that it filled all seats in the tractor pulled park bench seat trailer. They drive down, down then across a bridge into the ravine below Arenal. A guide provided by the Hotel leads the way, pointing out plants and animals of interest. A couple of snakes, spiders and lots of different trees. We had to ford a creek, there are rocks to walk on but they are precarious, we just slogged in with our sandals. (There is a list of do’s and don’t’s in our room. One says, “No Sandals on hiking trails”). I told the nice guy at the front desk that all we have is our sandals. He said, “Our motto here is, go with what you got”. He did say that they don’t like people to wear flip flops because they’re too easy to break or loose which leaves you hopping back.
While sloshing we met Catarina and her parents, Kathleen and John. They’re here because Catarina is working in Costa Rica at an Outward Bound Resort, John and Kathleen are visiting. They’re from Florida, John and Kathleen are Real Estate Lawyers. Catarina loves our story and wants to take time to do a journey, someday. We loved walking and talking with them, a wonderful family.
Jonathan and Cory were also along and fun to talk with. He is wearing a San Francisco Marathon t-shirt. We vowed to come run with them in San Francisco and have a glass of wine after we get back to CA.
The youngest hiker is Jessica, a 3 year old. She brought her Mom and Dad, Jim and Jessica along but refused to allow them to carry her. So, she Cat and I often found ourselves falling behind the rest of the group. It was fun watching her discover little things some of us would have overlooked. She was especially intrigued with the leaf cutter ants. Even tried to help them. They’re from Virginia.
Cutters and Jessica
As we sat on the lava rocks we could hear more of their kind rolling down to join them. Smokey trails follow the rumbling hot rocks that cascade out of Arenal’s mouth and down toward us.
The rain began as we rode back up the steep hill to the Hotel. Sitting with many of our new friends, we ate lunch and watched as the rain and clouds obscured Arenal. No, this isn’t great weather for a Zip Line ride, we canned that idea and took seats near the television set in the lounge and watched the scenes of devastation left along the Gulf Coast by another of Mother Nature’s forces, hurricane Katrina.
The rain was here to stay, we hibernated in our cozy room and watched the clouds come and go across the face of Arenal. We chose pictures then worked on the journal pages most of the afternoon.
Dinner with Art and Laura. He told us about his battles with weight problems. He’s had the stomach surgery last year and has lost more than 100 pounds. It is working where all the other things he’s tried failed. We told them about our angels, Richard and Corey in Salt Lake City. Remember them? They picked us up when Cat collapsed on the highway. Both of them had had this surgery, both had lost 100 or more pounds. They were taking the wheelchairs they were once bound to, to donate to their church when they spotted us and knew that we were in trouble.
The bus leaves early in the morning so it’s “Early to Bed, Early to Rise”!
September 3, 2005
Van Back to Liberia
Victor, our waiter, was going to give us a wake up call at 6:00 AM. We awoke with a start to bright sun streaming in and the sounds of birds welcoming the day. After a hurry up shower I went to see what time it was. AS I left the room Victor called out, “You’re already awake”? It was just then 6:00. So, we took a walk looking for Toucans that Art says he saw yesterday while we were out hiking. We didn’t find them but enjoyed another wonderful walk with Mother Nature.
They don’t usually start serving breakfast until 7:30 but that’s when our bus is supposed to leave. We sat in the lounge and watched more of the sad story of Katrina while Victor got his buffet set. He called us in, just a little after 7:00. Fresh fruit, juice and eggs, another all American breakfast. By 7:30 we were in our seats and headed back toward Liberia.
It was just us to start with but the bus made a down lake run and picked up 4 others at 2 different lodges. None were English speaking so it was a quiet trip. The drizzling rain continued, the dirt portions of the road were mud. The highway has pot holes so the bus jerks and swerves as it roars along at breakneck speed. He had us in the parking lot of Best Western by 11:30.
They didn’t have our room ready yet so we walked across for a Burger King lunch then an hour at the Internet Shop. I was able to finish the text for our Brazil to Colombia journal pages and send them to our pal, Wally.
Once in our room, we brought the bikes in and Cat re-worked the bags. I worked on journal catch up, since we haven’t done anything other than an outline on our current journey in Central America.
The movie Swordfish took much of our afternoon. It was filmed in Ventura, California. The story was just okay but we loved identifying streets and buildings we know.
Myra was at her post, we told her how much we enjoyed Arenal and thanked her. She in turn thanked us, the envelope we’d taken with us was to her boy friend. He’s a bus driver for the Observatory Lodge. Dinner near the pool, we carbed up with pasta, preparing for tomorrow.
Sunday, September 4, 2005
Liberia to La Cruz
Breakfast was a little better put together this morning. We met a couple, Charles and Cory from Florida there. They too are headed for Arenal, they’ve rented a condo for a week and look forward to the same sights of Arenal we described, do the Zip Line trip we missed and even some white water rafting.
Ingo & Melanie Cycling Around the World
Cat has worried about cycling since I was smacked 5 days ago. Our worries dissipated as we hit the road. It’s new pavement, wider and the Sunday traffic is much lighter. The flat and scenic made it a real pleasure. As we cranked along we came upon Ingo and Melanie cycling toward us. They’re from Germany and are cycling the world, too. They started in Europe, then South East Asia then flew to San Diego and began their trip south. They’re headed toward Patagonia, we wished them well and urged them to check our website and our difficult time there. They too have a website, www.RoundTheWorldTour.de. They’re the first cyclists we’ve met since back in Peru. We all wished that we’d met in a town, at night or somewhere that we could sit down and talk. It was a short meeting in hot sun.
The good road made for a fast ride. We rolled into La Cruz before lunch. Ingo and Melanie had stayed at a little Cabina and said it was okay. When we passed it we decided to pass on it. Another just a short way along the street has a small restaurant. Cat looked at the room while I got the bikes parked. Another pass on the room but we did have a fairly good hamburger there. Onward, we rolled through town looking then asked. A couple of gals let us know that there is a place back near the central plaza.
Ricardo From Rio, Headed To San Diego, CA
As we rounded the corner we came upon a motorcycle loaded to the gills with baggage. Ricardo has a son in Wisconsin and his son’s Grandfather lives in San Diego. Ricardo, who’s from Brazil, has lived in several areas of the US. Cat cycled up the street looking for the Hotel while I talked with him. He told of crashing his motorcycle a couple of weeks ago. Had a flat on his front tire and it threw him to the road. He’s pretty skinned up and has also been fighting the effects of Dengue, the fever that almost killed our friend, Jeremy in French Guyane. Nice guy, we shook hands as he prepared to move on and swore to keep in touch and meet in San Diego when we pass through there.
Cat found Hotel Bella Vista, owned and operated by a Dutchman with a guy they call the Chinaman managing and operating a little Cyber Café there. It’s a pretty funky place, loud music and colors, blue and yellow. The pool takes most of the courtyard and is full of partying people. The rooms are basic, they did make us a deal to allow the bikes to be parked in a big dorm room. When we discovered that the light in the bathroom didn’t work the Chinaman offered us another room. I looked but the others were even worse looking. So, we stayed with the no light room and dug out our headlamp. A cold shower for Cat, a dip I the pool with the local crowd for me. I did shower in the courtyard then again in our darkened bathroom.
We spent an hour on the Internet on the only working machine among the 7 there. Peter from Germany is working on the machine, building a web site for the Hotel. He had to stop and we had to wait while the machine downloaded a program for him. Nice guy, he’s been here in the area of 7 years and loves it. His friend is chef here. The tow of them decided that we should have their Mexican Beef dish. It was a lot of meat smothered in a barbeque sauce.
A little more Internet time then off to bed, early.
September 5, 2005
La Cruz to Rivas/San Jorge
Nicaragua, Country # 52
1480 Cordobas = $1:00 US
A fairly fitful sleep with rain pounding down on the tin roof most of the night. Breakfast on the covered Patio watching the rain pour and a couple of pet parrots climb around in the beams above. Waiting as long as possible, we finally set off in fine mist that soon was drizzling, again. We donned the rain jackets but they make us sweat so much that it’s almost as wet inside as out. It was 10:00 AM when we rolled up to the Inmigration windows for our stamp out of Costa Rica. They charged us $7.00 each, exit fee.
Through the “No Man’s Land” then more windows and another fee, $5.00 each to enter Nicaragua. So, our 52nd country now lies before us. The roads are great, wider and with separate shoulders for cycling.
Rain, again, jackets on and onward until the water became a curtain that trucks and cars can’s see through. Too dangerous to go on, we found a little country restaurant and pulled in. Parked under a little porch area and went in dripping all over the floor. The gal asked us to sit in the covered patio area. A couple of guys came in and sat nearby. The listened as we struggled to order then one, Carlos, spoke up in English and offered help. He told us that this place is famous, they serve game meat, even snake and a local rodent. We passed on those but did have the Menu, the special of the day. A small piece of meat in sauce with vegetables.
Carlos is from El Salvador, here selling his fiberglass boats and sails to local fishermen. The high cost of fuel seems to be fueling desire for a better boat to fish from. Carlos says that Lake Nicaragua has more wind daily, than any other area in the world. He suggested that the best place to stay is off to the left of Rivas, on the shore of the Lake in San Jorge.
Steve From Santa Cruz and Baby Lettuce
As we cycled through Rivas we began to feel that he was right. A stop at a store for wine, and we met Steve from Santa Cruz. He had stopped for a Heineken and sipped as we talked. He is a product of the 70s and a farmer. He speaks of his days when half his crop was Marijuana. He says that most of his farming friends back home are broke now and their land has been taken by huge Agra-Business Companies. He, on the other hand, has been here for 7 years. Bought land for a pittance of what it costs in California and began growing baby lettuce. He saw a need, began to grow and sell to nearby Resort Hotels. He now ships his lettuce weekly and is averaging $1,500 US lettuce. Nice guy, entrepreneur and happy to be in Nicaragua. He does go back to visit his Dad every year but would never consider a move back.
Steve confirmed Carlos’s suggestion, we set off down the bumpy road in heavy traffic toward Lake Nicaragua. Another powerful tropical downpour, we stood under a tree with locals then donned our rain jackets again and bumped onward. It must be at least 4 Ks off the main highway. The wind was beginning to howl as we approached the lake shore. White caps rolled and it was a surly scene with Volcano Conception on Isla Ometepe as a backdrop. Another harsh display by Pacha Mama.
The Hotel is pretty basic but does have air conditioning and cable TV. When we first got inside the TV was just snow. The gal there came in and re-worked the cable, we were soon watching CNN in English. More of the devastating stories of Katrina.
We walked across the street to a little place. Fearing they’d have no wine, we brought along our own. They tried to get us to accept a red then gave in and even opened the bottle for us. The food, fish from the lake, was pretty good, the wine was fine.
As we watched the news, Cat saw something move out of the corner of her eye. She jumped up into the middle of the bed and yelped. It was a frog and a pretty good sized one, too. It scooted under the bed, I shuffled and flipped the bedspread until it appeared on the other side. Using my foot I herded it along toward the door. Cat was nervous because we’ve heard of poisonous frogs. The poor little guy tried but couldn’t jump up the 8 inch step to escape. Cat got a guy that works here, he came in, cupped his hands and carefully gathered the little guy up.
Cat had a hard time getting to sleep as visions of frogs danced in her head.
September 6, 2005
Rivas/San Jorge to Granada
A so-so breakfast and great conversation with Carlos. He shared thoughts about why South and Central America has fallen behind the US in terms of development. Spain and England were about equal when the new world was discovered. Spain overran the south much faster than the other Europeans did in the north. One of his theories is that when the Conquistadors arrived the indigenous already here thought they were Gods. They offered them young women and boys to use as offerings. The Spaniards chose not to sacrifice them but rather exploit them. They took the girls as their concubines and the boys were trained to take care of their lesser needs. The offspring from the Conquistadors and the boys would later become soldiers and the Spanish held only the leadership roles as they took the gold and silver back to Spain. The problem with all of this? It left thousands of children, especially boys, without a Father figure in their lives.
Carlos warned us of dangers in Guatemala. We didn’t tell him but we’ve now decided that we’ll pass on El Salvador and Guatemala with the exception of a side trip from Belize to Tikal, to visit the famous ruins there.
So, by 8:30 we said our goodbyes and bumped back the 4 Ks to the IntraAmereicana. It remains wide with great shoulders for bicycles. We pulled up for lunch in a Pueblo called Nandaime. A strange chicken sandwich, sort of like mushy chicken salad. They were small so we decided to split a hamburger. It too was strange, like mushy meat.
At this point we left the Highway and headed toward Granada, the Colonial City that many say is a must see. The road there is very bad, bumpy and narrow. At one point we pulled up at a bridge and took a break. A rattling of the branches drew our eyes to a tree across the street. Then, as if to complain about our presence, a large black monkey began to grunt and howl. He seemed to sense the camera and made even more noise as I got it trained on him.
More rain, we pulled up under a tree again and waited. It slowed so we slowly pedaled onward. The long slow climb ended and we coasted as we bumped along the last 10 KS.
Our first impression wasn’t that great. A sort of run down industrial look. Then, as we cycled toward the center it began to change. Once inside the “Old Town” we began t feel what it was that they were talking about. Oh, it’s not even close to Cartagena, Colombia but it is one of those unique and interesting places that are a “must see”.
As we struggled Cat pulled up and talked with a guy on the sidewalk. We have seen the signs for Hotel La Gran Francia. Julio told her that it is too expensive and suggested that we ask for David, the Manager of Hotel Alhambra. His daughter was just married and they had the reception there and many of his guests stayed there. It too is on the Plaza.
We cycled to the Plaza then past La Gran. Around the corner we ran head long into a funeral. Not just a funeral but one using an ancient coach to take the deceased for his last ride. The driver mounted and clucked at the two little horses. The crowd fell in behind and began the slow walk to the Cemetery. An interesting site in an interesting old place.
The Alhambra has a nice look and David told Cat that we should take a look at La Gran but rooms there are in the $110 to $150 range. His price of $50 US sounded pretty good. They helped us lift the bikes up the stairs and roll into a conference room for storage. We off loaded necessary bags and carried them to our room. A nice feeling place with colorful décor and nice works of art. The only thing missing was warm water. We called down and David sent the Bellman to show is other rooms. Cat went along and the only functional room with warm water they found was on the ground floor next to the Front Desk. She came back disappointed. I called and told him so.
So, David sent the Bellman again and he took Cat to a wonderful mini-suite. David somehow wanted us to have a good rest and time in Granada. We love the room. Oh, and it not only has hot water, it has a fantastic shower, too. David sort of hinted that it rents for a lot more then asked for a little more. Cat stood her ground and told him that he had quoted $50. He relented and we moved.
Dinner down, on the big porch looking across at the Plaza. There’s a large group of German tourists here but they went elsewhere for dinner. Our food and the ambiance was great.
Awe, lest we forget, we have Cable TV CNN, BBC and more than 100 other channels.
September 7, 2005
A Day in Granada
Breakfast on the porch. Still great ambiance, watching the locals go by but, the food was only so-so and fairly expensive. There is a flyer on the power pole near the stairs advertising Kathy’s Waffle House for Breakfast. We decided that Kathy’s would be our power breakfast tomorrow.
A walking tour of all the buildings of historical importance in Granada. The photos should speak for themselves. Another funeral with a different old coach. Must be the thing to do here, for your dearly departed.
Rest included a couple of hours at Internet for Cat and on the Journal pages for me.
Dinner at a place we saw during our walk around. Nice looking place but no Air Conditioning. The fans helped a little but they also sent showers of little bugs down on us. A couple we’d seen around town today, Gean-Pierre and Margareet from Holland, took a seat near us. We enjoyed telling and listening to tales of travel.
TV news and sleep. A very quiet and restful day.
September 8, 2005
Granada to Managua
Breakfast at Kathy’s Waffle House, she wasn’t there but we did meet Harlen, her husband. He’s been here in Nicaragua for 9 years, selling Real Estate. Quite a character, he told stories about how some of the franchise offices will tell you that they have an Escrow or Trust Account but they don’t. In fact he said the same thing that Mark in Costa Rica did, “Real Estate is like the wild, wild west, here. Waffles for Cat, eggs, bacon, potatoes and toast for me. We washed it all down with giant cups of coffee.
Harlen’s friend, Jerry, was interested in our trip. He too is from the States, but just here visiting. Says he’s been here several times, maybe thinking about a move? We got back to the Hotel, brought bags down and worked up a real sweat loading in the stuffy conference room. As we pushed to the top of the steps Jerry came down, classic camera in hand. We posed for him then, he posed with me.
Uphill in Bumpy Road Construction.
The streets are rough in Granada. The road was even rougher. At the edge of town we found ourselves vying for spaced with too many buses, trucks and cars in dusty, bumpy construction. There was no luxury of a lane to ourselves, we had to muscle our way through the traffic and soft dirt. A long slow pull up then we did cut to the lanes being compacted. Still dirt and loose but, the only traffic is road working machinery.
Chicken Sand in Managua
Finally, Mayasa the town, and a cold drink. Then, the road into Capital City Managua became a road worthy of a Capital. Not only wide but it even has a good paved shoulder for us nuts on bikes. There are quite a few locals sharing the shoulder with us. Oh, not to forget, the climb was gentle but persistent to Mayasa. Rolling toward Managua was a beautiful downhill run. First stop, a sandwich and soft drink at a service station. When we pulled out it was into heavy rain. Within a block we ducked into Burger King for cover. It was becoming obvious that the rain was here for a while. The Princess Hotel is just across the street, we decided to make a break for it.
Hotel Princess, Big Bucks, Big Rain
Hoping for a deal, we were disappointed, they were fully booked and their price is way high. We’d parked the bikes on the windward side of the covered entry, the wind blew them down. I had to get really wet, moving them to the leeward. As I struggled the girl inside, Imara, felt pity for us and come to tell us that they’d let us have a room. They go to an affordable rate tomorrow but she couldn’t reduce it, today. She tried helping by calling every Hotel nearby, to no avail. All booked. Then she did get a room at a place we’d passed coming in. A run down looking place with false front and Casino. We sat outside, considered the options, then took Imara’s deal, we were home for the evening.
The room is on their premiere floor with extra services like a happy hour with food and drink and internet. They offer ironing of cloths, too but then, nothing we have is ironable. We had wine on board, as usual. So, we loaded a plate of buffet goodies and did Happy Hour in our room. That worked so well that we ordered room service, They have pasta and that was our first choice but they can’t or won’t deviate from the menu, only tomato sauce and you know that Cat hates that. So, Cheeseburgers, as Jimmy Buffet would say, “Cheesburgers in paradise”.
The included Internet in the room is dial up and takes hours to get into and more hours to pull up a message. After the first try at answering, we gave up.
Full service TV, lots of choices. Cat’s flicking finger was so tired we had to turn off and hit the hay.
September 9, 2005
Sightseeing in Managua
Sandino, Sandinistas, US intervention. Iran Contra Affair.
Sandanista takeover of Nicaraguan Congress in 1979
Newspaper, US still involved, backing conservative candidates? Funny, it’s against the law for those running for office to accept foreign assistance back home yet the US sends money, buys ads, even sent guns at one time, trying to keep the ruthless Somoza Families and their 40 year reign of terror propped up.
The English language newspaper is full of politics this morning. One of the guys in the group that took over the Congress may run for Vice President. The people of the FSLN, Sandinistas, seem to love him but in the US he’s branded as a terrorist. Don’t we ever get over it? Not here, not in Cuba yet the President of Vietnam just met with President Bush? And President Bush has made a date to travel to Vietnam? What’s the deal here?
Breakfast in the Happy Hour room. Not bad but not great. A limited selection but then, we don’t need a load of food today. No exercise should mean less food. Tough to do when you’re used to thousands of calories daily but we’ll make an attempt. We’re surrounded by Spanish speaking business people. I did journal pages while Cat got a package ready for mailing.
With package in hand, we hired the Hotel Car to take us for a tour that will include Postal Service. So, get the biz out of the way, first. After the obligatory wait in line, we found that the tow gals there spoke no English and didn’t seem to want to try to communicate. First we tried to mail the coins to Randy. (Randy was our neighbor at the beach. He asked us to send coins from around the world.) They took the envelope, cut it open, poured the coins out, looked at each of them then shook their heads, not allowed. We argued, they stiffened, we lost. Next, the big package of maps, brochures, CDs and other junk collected along the way. They poured over everything, acted as if we were trying to smuggle something out then finally consented and put the overflowing box on the scale. The price based upon kilos was to be 283 Cordobas. We taped the box, re-did the address and handed it back, always under their watchful eye. Then, back to the scale and, voila, another price. This time it came to 420 Cs? We argued, we yelled then we gave in. Well, the meter on the Taxi was still running so we took the lesser of 2 evils.
Our tour of Managua started at the Lago Managua lake front. A row of booths selling food and trinkets. That didn’t take long. The Managua became the Capital in 1857 and has been under the attack of Mother Nature since. An earthquake in 1931 the fire in 1936 required a complete re-build. Then in 1972, she really lowered her wrath upon Managua, another earthquake. Whose fault, lots of them, so the Government decided to leave the area. They’re scattered around town which we feel leaves the town scattered. It is interesting to see the leftovers. They had the area closed, cutting and trimming, preparing for Independence Day.
After a drive by of the Pope John Paul II Square where he addressed the throngs. PJPII appeared here twice, on 1983 and again in 1996. He stood in a little ranchito on the opposite hill, never had the chance to speak from the imposing concrete stage.
Footprints in the Muds of Time
Our next site is really fantastic when we think of the time and distance between these footprints and us. How a family of early Americans fleeing the rumbling volcano had to run through hot mud to make a getaway, a dash to the lake? Well that’s speculative but the footprints are evidence that nomadic peoples lived here 6,000 years or more ago. The Museum is really just tin roofs over the prints. The place was full of school kids. Imagine, many of these students may be related to those who fled.
The top of the hill is full of memories of Sandino and the downfall of Somoza. The big house the family occupied for more than 40 years is now a Military Command Post. At the summit is a huge silhouette of Sandino with topped with his signature 10 Gallon Hat. The other toys of war are displayed to help us remember. There is what remains of a statue of Anastasio Somoza. Pulled down by victorious Sandinistas much as the GIs pulled down Saddam in Baghdad. To the victor go the spoils, of course, these spoils continued to be spoiled by our friends with the CIA, Ollie North and President Reagan. There’s a sweeping view of Lago Managua and much of the city from this location of Samoa’s former castle.
Back at the Princess, our friend Imara, at the front desk, told us that we must change rooms. I questioned, Cat was embarrassed. Imara said it’s because we are on the special floor where they have extra services like ironing, the evening buffet and Internet Connection. I told her that we have no ironing, don’t want the buffet and the Internet connection is so slow that it’s not worth the wait. She argued, I requested the Manager. She was sure that the Manager would confirm. He failed to show but sent the Director of Promotions. She hemmed and hawed then finally agreed to let us stay on floor 4. One little win sort of made up for the Postal debacle.
Another evening in, we ordered pasta and Caesar Salad. Then, as we enjoyed we watched the “Shelter from the Storm” concert. A tribute to the people of New Orleans and a fund raiser.
September 10, 2005
Rest and Journal in Managua
Breakfast downstairs, we consider the buffet there to be much better than that on floor 4. We sat in what we called the “English Speaking Corner”. Rudy is from Irvine, CA but originally from India. He’s here buying produce. Linda from Oklahoma is here to check on their factory. She told us that they manufacture Shape Wear. That one went over hour heads We finally had to know what the heck that is. Oh, woman’s wear, undergarments, like soft corsets.
Pizza Hut at the Princess?
Linda also told us that she’s been to the top of Masaya Volcano and you can’t get to the rim any more. They have the trail blocked off. That was enough to give us an excuse to stay in. We spent the day getting some much needed rest, relaxing and watching TV. Life is starting to feel a little like home here. In fact when Cat said that she suspects I am ready to get home, I did confess that it gets tougher and tougher to leave comfort behind as we head back out into the real world.
Egads, living in one of the best Hotels in town, we had Pizza delivered, sat on the bed and ate while watching a movie.
Sunday, September 11, 2005
Managua to Leon
Early breakfast and it was great! I brought bikes down while Cat gulped a few times while paying he bill. We were out the door and into light traffic by 8:30 AM. It’s down then off to the left toward Leon. We did have to compete with buses in the City streets but had a nice paved shoulder to our selves. A few light rolling hills but most of the way was flat and we rode fast.
Hungry But Not That Hungry
A quick stop for cold drinks then onward. A roadside stand looked like it may have food. We pulled in and found a pool hall loaded with drunken guys celebrating Sunday. We felt so uneasy that we just quickly sucked down our drinks. As we prepared to leave the guy seated near us stirred. He had been sitting, drooling but awoke and wanted to shake my hand. He was muttering or slurring something about Nicaragua. Then the guy next to him began to stare at our bikes. As we donned helmets he came and began trying to ask questions. “Cuanto cuesta” how much did this cost. He wouldn’t take no for an answer. Finally a guy with a mouth full of golden teeth intervened. He held the surly one back and motioned for us to scoot. We did.
This area was the stronghold of the Sandinistas. The movement started here and it’s obvious. The colors of their flag are painted on rocks and there are crude memorials scattered along the road. As we neared Leon we were overtaken by a van with boat atop, honking and waving. It was Carlos on his way home. He stopped and we chatted, then the uneasy handshake and hugs with promises to see each other again, somehow. Then, we came upon a different looking memorial. Concrete and metal but with red lines like running blood coming down the face of it. It memorializes several but the main character was Rigoberto Lopez Perez. A Poet in life, he left his poems and life behind in a daring coup. Dressed as a waiter, he walked into a party at the Palace of Anastasio Somoza, offered him a drink and shot him. His action took Anastasio’s life but didn’t end the Somoza reign. Of course Rigoberto was vilified and his reputation spent the next 30 years languishing in an historically low place. However, he like Sandino, would rise up from their graves and ride again as impetus for a revolution. (To the Victor goes the Spoils AND the History!)
Free Valve Jobs
So hungry we were shaky, we rode through the streets looking for Hotel El Convento. A nice looking place with a way too nice price. Since we’ve just blown budget we decided to find another place. We’ve seen signs for Hotel Austria, the nice girl told us how to find it. We rode on. Fairly easily found, we also found a group from the US there. Doctors here to operate on Hearts. A total Medical Team of Cardiac Specialists that have been coming here for 20 years. The problem is that many children here get Strep Throat and it goes unattended. This often leads to damage in the valves of their hearts. Simple to avoid if you have money and understand. They do the valve replacements but are now beginning to work toward curing the problem. They’re called Project Health Leon and they’re all heart! They invited us to accompany them to dinner, we accepted.
Lunch, some well needed calories in the form of sandwiches then off to the showers. We relaxed, I typed and we watched TV. Our Doctor friends all went back to serving their patients. Doing there good deed for no pay? In fact, they pay their own way here and take valuable time away from their careers and paying patients. What good people.
Los Pescaditos is a place worth visiting when next your in Leon. It took 5 Taxis to transport the group. They had us set at a long table inside. It was so hot that after a short conference, we moved to the patio. There we had the opportunity to get to know some of the group. One couple, Payson and Jen, are destined to spend their Internship at Ventura County Medical Center. They’ve been there and are pretty sure they’ve been accepted. For now, they are traveling and joining Medical Teams doing Cardio Surgeries. They are both gong to be Cardiologists.
Serving 25 overwhelmed the place. We did get to go to the Ice Box and choose our own fish. Quite a spectacle, lifting and touching fish was not as easy for some as opening a chest and making things right for sick folks.
We sat with 2 young Anesthesiologists and their wives. They’re so excited to be here in Central America and doing good deeds. Also, Juliana, a 12 year old and her adopted Mom, Chris. Chris found her and adopted her right here in Leon. Juliana’s been back to visit 9 times in her short life. She even joined the 2 wives in a Spanish lesson today.
A wonderful but very late night for us.
September 12, 2005
Dia De La Independencia
A Day Off in Leon
Breakfast is minimal but enough for days off the bikes. There are several sites to visit, the usual type of things but we’re tired so decided to rest. We did take a walk around the Plaza and found a huge kickoff celebration for Independence Day. A line of drum corps, some with xylophones or brass wound their way around, each trying to drown out the other. Lots of marching majorettes and kids in costumes, too. A small Military presence, too. We hit a few of the Historical sites like the old church then headed back to the air conditioning.
Benjamin, a member of the Cardio Team suggested we join him for lunch at a favorite local place. Payson and Jen our young couple that will head for Ventura when their year here in Central America. Payson’s scrubs had the VCMC, Ventura County Medical Center, stenciled on the shirt. What nice people, and generous, too, giving of their time and talents. They have promised to get in touch when they get to Ventura next year.
Restocking Water and Wine
Cat spent time shopping for water, wine and other essentials while I typed journal pages most of the afternoon.
Dinner at the Hotel, Pasta that was fairly fair. TV then bed.
September 13, 2005
Leon to Chinandega
Today we supplemented breakfast with eggs and bacon. It took a bit of repacking before we were ready to set off. Finally we were out the door and on the road. A flat road with wide shoulder. We flew right along and completed the ride to Chinandega in just 3 hours.
Following the signs we found Hotel #1 but passed on it. Pretty rough looking. The second, Hotel Del Pacifico, was okay. A small but clean room with “suicide shower”.
Lunch at a nearby juice bar, sandwiches they call Cubanos, ham and cheese pressed on a toaster like those we used to get in Argentina. It’s a bit of a walk to the Supermarket. Water and wine then back to an Internet Shop we passed on the way. An hour reading and answering e-mails then back toward the Hotel. A we walked we passed a Restaurant so asked about dinner, when they serve and whether they have white wine. The nice lady told us we could come at 7:00 PM but they have no wine. We told her we had our own and she invited us to bring it along.
A little lounging in our little room. The heat got me, I didn’t even take the computer out of the bag.
The HEAT and a Restaurant Flare Up
Back to our friendly lady and dinner. Cat ordered Chinese, I opted for pork chops and mashed potatoes. We asked for a plate of vegetables and they complied. Pretty good food however, when we asked for La Cuenta, the check, we were shocked. They were charging us more for the little plate of Chinese veggies than for the pork chops? Also, they tagged a charge for our wine, about $5.00. We complained, the nice lady we’d talked with was less than nice. She took the stance that she hadn’t understood and that they always charge corkage. She did reduce the price of the vegetables to slightly less than the pork chops. We tried to express our anger but she just ignored us. We paid.
Then she had a problem with our credit card. She insisted it was our card and wanted cash. Though we had enough cash we stood our ground. Why should we have to make a trip back to the cash machine when they have signs everywhere for Amex and Visa Cards. They struggled and grumbled but finally got a connection. We felt badly for our waitress but couldn’t justify a tip.
A little local TV then sleep.
September 14, 2005
Chinandega to Somotillo
Our included breakfast was a fried egg, beans and white cheese with tortillas. Ole’ we must be getting close to Mexico.
A flat then slightly down ride had us rolling fast in the shadow of Volcanos Viejo and Santa Clara. A stop for soft drinks at a little stand led to good conversation with the 2 gals there, Herminia and Antonia. A guy, Claudio, rode up and told us he’d just cycled from the Frontera, the border. He tells us it’s all downhill? We’ve heard that one before and it’s often erroneous but rarely from a cyclist.
Julian Cycling South
Onward, then lo and behold, another road warrior loaded with bags came riding toward us. Julian began his journey in Los Angeles 4 months ago. He’s roughing it, sleeping in a mosquito net hammock and living on water and food along the road. Born in England, he was raised in New York State. His parents divorced when he was young. Brought up by his Father, he moved out after school and into an Amish community. His full beard gives some evidence of this conversion. Is he in search of something? The meaning of life? Hard to tell, he isn’t even sure where he’s headed. South America is his basic goal but he knows not where. He spent time outlining his route through Mexico and giving us advice about areas and cities.
The road remains flat and our ride fast. Then, in the wink of an eye we were on rough dirt and rock and ground down to a crawl. It was to be this type of ride all the way to Somotillo. Most border towns are dirty and dangerous. This one seems to be the epitome.
We stopped as we entered and had a Gatorade. The woman at the little store suggested Hotel Fronteras. We bumped on into town and right up to the door of the Hotel. It doesn’t look like much from the street but the room, though small, is clean and has a shower and toilet. The lobby and restaurant is open to the street. Nice to watch the comings and goings but the constant cloud of dust often obscured. It was 2:30 PM and we were hungry. Carmen, a young girl working spoke some English. She told us they could make us a sort of soup or stew. AS we supped it began to rain, quelling the cloud of dust and giving the place a clean wet dirt smell.
No Electricity Until 6:00 PM?
There is a daily energy saving measure here, they cut the power off at 10:00 AM. The bad news about this is that the water pressure is dependent upon electricity. Therefore, no shower water. There is no hot water, they call it normal, just cool to cold. So, we sat in rocking chairs in the lobby enjoying the cool breeze and watching the world pass by this safe little enclave. At 6:00 we went to the room only to find that there is water in the sink but none in the shower. Carmen helped me get buckets of water. It’s like we’re back in Africa. Cat shivered as she poured little bucket of natural down her back. It actually felt pretty good to me. You have total control with a bucket. A quick splash, soap down then a splash to rinse.
Dinner in our safe haven. Carmen had the cook put together a very good meal for us. Amazing, she has only been working here for 5 days. She seems so “in control”. She told us a little about her life. She’s an only child. Didn’t mention her Mother but told us that she lives with and takes care of her Father. It wasn’t clear to us whether he was injured in an accident or just getting older? She is so caring, maybe that comes from being her Dad’s caretaker.
Dinner, steak with steamed potatoes and veggies, was delicious.
Amazing, we found MSNBC on the little TV. So we sat on our little beds in our little room and watched the news in English. What a treat..
September 15, 2005
Into Honduras With a Bit of Trepidation
Somotillo, Nicaragua to Choluteca, Honduras
Up and packed early. Breakfast, eggs and beans again. This time accompanied by hot dogs buns. We were on the road before 8:00 AM. It’s only 6 Ks to the border.
There was a Drum Corp and Majorettes making a lot of noise as we cycled in. As usual at borders there is a cadre of money changers and other hanger oners. The kids kept up their Independence Day hubbub for the entire hour that we were struggling to get beyond the Immigration. (Yes, Honduras and Nicaragua both celebrate Independence on the same day.) Cat stood in line while I stood guard. After finally reaching the window they just handed her 2 cards to fill out. The info they ask for is pretty much the same as all borders. We did our duty then she returned to the even longer line. Once we had the little papers, they stamped both Passports and we were off. It took an hour to work through the fractured process.
We have run our Nicaraguan cash down to only 160 Cordobas or $10 US. Cat found an easy looking Money Changer and offered the paltry sum. He was a little disappointed but did the deal. Honduran Lempira is 1,880 to $1.00 so, we ended up with a handful of small bills.
Unlike the roads that Ingo and Melanie, the couple we met from Germany our first day in Nicaragua, we found the road to be great. They had described the shoulders as wide but full of rocks and glass. They had several flat tires. For us, this road surface is good and the shoulders are wide and clean.
Two young boys on a rickety bike flew past us on a down hill run. Then, on the next up we caught them. Again, another down and they really sped past as if in contest. The next up had us in Granny when we caught them. They were pushing but as we approached the one pedaling jumped back on and tried to stay ahead of us as his smaller brother ran alongside. They pulled up in the shade of a tree, it was just too hot for running or riding this hard. We stopped, they stared as we drank deeply from our extra water bottle. Then, I handed it to them. They were surprised, shocked maybe. So thirsty they didn’t even take time to thank us? The lesser held the bottle and climbed back on the cross bar. Off they went but we caught them again and went through the same little competition. They couldn’t know but we weren’t competing, just riding. The elder did manage a feeble wave when they turned off toward a small village. The lesser couldn’t he was still clinging tight to the bottle of water.
Another short ride, we rolled into Choluteca at 1:00 PM and followed the signs to Wendy’s. Yes, just as Julian had told us, they have Wendy’s fast food here. The building is impressive, all brick. We can’t remember if they’re all built like this back home? A crowd fresh in from celebrating Independence Day has every table taken. Cat stood in the long line while I stood watch for a table. A couple of gals were holding a little seat near the window with a good view of the bikes leaning outside. They have 6 in their party and only 3 chairs. When they snagged a larger spot I dashed in as they moved. The food is the same as we remember. We wolfed down chicken sandwiches with fries and colas.
Full of fast food, we cycled into the center of town. The streets are full of cars and people still in the throws of celebration. Town is pretty basic, Hotels seem non-existent, the only one we found we less than basic and on a terrible looking street. We’d seen another old 3 story place near Wendy’s so back we went. Locals call the place Hotel Central America but the sign says Hotel International.
With the bikes inside, I went to look at rooms with the girl at the desk. She opened 2 doors, I called the rooms “bad and worse”. Torn between the two I asked Cat to look. She agreed with me and chose “Bad” We’ve decided to rest tomorrow and room is important. It does have toilet and shower and a functioning air conditioner. So, we make do. The good news, there are some English language channels on TV. No news but drama and comedy. The shower again is “normal”, but it’s so hot here that cool felt good.
A taxi ride in warm rain to the Market, which is hardly Super. Water and wine then dinner down. The restaurant is adjacent to a busy swimming pool. It’s hot and muggy, we did get them to turn on a fan near our table. A gal Suzanne, came in and ordered food. She and husband Gerardo live in Nicaragua with their 6 children. Her oldest daughter had helped us talk with the taxi driver. Nice gal, they are on a little vacation, they come every 3 months in order to renew her Visa. An expensive trip but the kids love Wendy’s and the pool. They’re part of the joyous noise coming from there.
Dinner was just okay. They had no wine thus they allowed us to bring ours to the table.
A movie with Spanish subtitles then sleep. The entire east wall of our room is opaqued louvers. There is a drape but it’s so flimsy that the parking lot lights illuminate like daylight. No problem for me but Cat has a tough time sleeping when it’s light. Then, as the last Independence Day celebrators came in at 2:00 AM the noise and light had us both up, for a short time.
September 16, 2005
A Day Off in Choluteca
A Mennonite Family, A Contra Soldier
Breakfast isn’t included and we were sort of happy about that. A walk across to Wendy’s led to breakfast deals and a meeting with Suzanne, Gerardo and the kids. They sat next to us and we talked while the kids played in the big room full of games. Interesting, how they met. He is now a Pastor with the Mennonite Church. They live a simple live in a simple little village in the hills of Nicaragua. They are supported in part by donations from the Church. However, he hasn’t always been a Pastor. During the war years in Nicaragua he was a soldier with the Contras. The conservative existing government that was defeated by the Sandinistas. He and lots of others on the losing side were tried and convicted. His sentence, 23 years.
Reagan to the Rescue
After serving 10 years he was part of a deal made by President Reagan. In exchange for money and other concessions he and others were released and sent to the US. His trip took him to New Mexico where he met the good looking Mennonite, Suzanne. Adjusting to life in the US was tough and he longed for his home in Nicaragua. The political climate changed, armed groups lay down their guns and elections took place. He and his growing family made their way back. They farm and preach. The kids are extremely well behaved, good looking too, don’t you agree?
I pecked away at the keyboard catching up on journal pages. We rested and watched a little TV. Lunch at Wendy’s. No crowd, seating was no problem. More chicken sandwiches.
A relaxing afternoon then dinner down. Again the pool was full of noisy guys. Thinking athletes, we asked and were a little shocked to learn that they’re Male Strippers. A bus full of Male Strippers here to show themselves at a nearby nightclub. Who would have thought?
September 17, 2005
Choluteca to Tegucigalpa
79 Kilometers (60 Ks in Pickup)
Katrina Hits the Gulf Coast
The huge category 5 storm they call Katrina finally hit the Gulf Coast during the night. We got the news in Spanish but the pictures made it easy to understand, this is a huge national disaster! There are only a few pictures but they show whole cities that have been flattened. New Orleans is under water. Power is out and details are sketchy. Oh how we wished that we understood Spanish better.
Up and out early. We were at Wendy’s for breakfast at 7:30 AM. Then on the bikes, down around the corner and across the bridge built in 1937, geez even older than me. Then the road broke up into dirt and rock. We had to cycle down into the river bottom on a detour while a new bridge is being built. Rough and slow, we even had to push some of the way. Then, as the pavement reappeared a wonderful Hotel appeared, too. It looked almost like a resort with a large swimming pool in the center of an open courtyard filled with trees and grass. It would have been nice, another example of the need to know more Spanish.
The road soon began to pitch up and down. Rideable hills at first then as the sun heated the land we were ground down to pushing. Heat and hills were taking a toll. Our goal to reach the tiny Pueblo of La Venta was beginning to look distant. At 47 Kilometers we pushed into Jicaro Galan, an even smaller Pueblo. Asking for a restaurant, we heard of a place to get chicken. Somehow we passed it and didn’t want to go back downhill. A tiny store with open door drew us in. Though the door is open, wrought iron security kept us out. A nice lady seated behind the security door had bread but no meat. We eagerly sucked down soft drinks then had her hand us 4 buns. We dug out a can of hot dogs we’ve carried for several weeks, sat in the shade and ate them while watching the woman nurse her little one. He is less than a year old but walks and is into everything. He began using a stick to poke at us. I stood on the end of it until his attention turned elsewhere. His older brother and 3 friends sat and stared as we ate the somewhat slimy hot dogs.
Bad news for us, the Mom says the road ahead is very steep. More bad news, there is no Hotel in La Venta. This put a real damper on our moods as we pushed on, upward. There was no riding at all. Knowing that it’s more than 40 Ks to La Venta, we bean to doubt that we’d make it and wondered aloud what we’d do if we did? The woman had suggested that we might find a family that would take us in?
By 4:30 PM we had struggled to within 5 kilometers of La Venta. Stopping at a little stand we sat in the shade and heard the bad news, “It’s all up from here to there”. Cat has burned out. Sabanagrande, the next town does have a Hotel but it’s at least 10 Ks beyond La Venta. Spirits sagged as we began pushing again. Just as we began thinking of flagging a ride Kerlyn pulled up in a little red pickup truck.
Kerlyn speaks no English but we could communicate with our limited Spanish and sign language. Somehow we got both bikes and ourselves into the little truck bed. He drove up to La Venta, we now knew that we couldn’t even have made it here before dark.
Kerlyn stopped to buy bread and told us that it’s ups and downs between here and Sabanagrande, abut 10 more kilometers. I asked if we could ride on with him? Cat asked if he would take us to Tegucigalpa? Though slightly disappointed, I agreed. Cat is the boss when it comes to this type of call. Kerlyn rearranged the packages in his front seat, threw his suitcase into the back and invited her to ride up front. I sat between the bikes facing back and enjoyed the wind and cooling air of the altitude and as the sun set behind the mountains. It’s an up and over much like La Paz, Bolivia, getting into Teguc. It too is a Capital City but lies at only 3,300 feet, almost 1,000 feet below the summits that surround her.
I enjoyed communicating with several truck drivers who followed us down the hill. One young boy along with his Dad leaned out the window and called to me. I tried in vain to hand him one of our cards. Traffic is thick and streets rough and narrow entering town. Cat caught sight of a Clarion Hotel. Kerlyn swung down a back street and back to the front door. He and I waited while Cat checked out availability and price. They have a room, above our budget but it’s now dark, no time to start shopping around.
Rain bean to pour down as we off loaded the bikes and pushed them inside. The room is fabulous. A much needed hot shower after the cold rain then room service. What a treat. Asking for pasta without tomato sauce proved to be impossible, maybe a language gap? So, we settled for Cheeseburgers, fries and a decent albeit expensive bottle of wine.
We sat on the bed, ate and drank and watched our big screen TV. Life is good, rate has its privileges.
Sunday, September 18, 2005
Lavish Living in Tegucigalpa
Elections in Germany and Afghanistan
Lots of news about the elections in Germany and Afghanistan but the big news is still Katrina. Pictures now show a devastated New Orleans. It looks like a 3rd world country. So many poor people trying to get to shelter but forced to live on the freeway bridges in the hot sun. The Astrodome has more than 30,000 people jammed in and enduring terrible conditions.
The included breakfast is at least as great as the room. A full buffet with fresh fruit and eggs, pancakes or waffles cooked to order. What a difference from the past few days lodging. There’s a group of people here wearing shirts with different Radio Controlled Model Airplane Clubs. They're from all over the world, here for a fun meet. We sat and talked with a guy from the US, one form here and a couple from Costa Rica. They told of several Europeans that have traveled to Teguc to fly with international friends.
The front desk suggested that we go to the Mall for Internet access. When we asked if it is walking distance both girls urged us to take a taxi. Sundays or fuel conservation days, all service stations are closed thus more people walking. They don’t think anyone would accost or hurt us but they worry about robbery. That was all it took for Cat, we grabbed a cab.
The Mall is huge and modern, even a new car display in the center area. There is an Internet Shop that costs much less than the Hotels Business Center. We picked up essentials and picnic supplies then taxied back to our Clarion Castle.
Lunch, news then a movie. We were so tired that we even napped.
Emmy Awards and Funds For Katrina Survivors
This evening is all Emmy Awards. The entire event is wrapped around fund raising for the devastated Gulf States. The more we see the more we know that the poor, most of them black, had no choice, they had to ride it out and now they’re crammed into dark and dangerous places like the Astrodome. There is some looting and accusations that the press takes a different view of whites that they say are getting much needed food as compared to black looters. It looks like America is getting a good look at its self.
Another dinner on the bed. Room service isn’t cheap but it allows us to have our own bottle of wine which is much less expensive than the same wine at any restaurant. No hamburgers tonight, a great steak for me and tasty salmon for the Cat. Delicious.
September 19, 2005
Day 2 in Teguc, Bike Repair
Today they had pancakes, Looking forward was a mistake, they’re strange tasting, almost like crepes. Well they did wash down okay with the thick rich coffee.
Mario, Ricardo & Romelio
With a little help from our friends at the front desk, we found a HonduBike, a nearby bicycle repair shop. Expecting Espanol, we had our friend at the desk call. He spoke for a moment then handed the phone to Cat. Ricardo speaks perfect English. He told us that he’d have the owner, Mario, stop by the Hotel to check the bikes in half an hour.
Seated and waiting, one of the Model Airplane guys came up and introduced himself. Eloy is from Santa Ana, California. He not only flies with his club, he’s also a writer for the International Magazine for Model Pilots. This remote control flying is their life, they love it, talk and read about it. Great to have a hobby that takes you traveling and meeting new people with similar interests. There are several hundred participants here for the meet. Not a competition says Eloy, just a fun time together.
Mario came in and another surprise, he too speaks perfect English. We’ll never learn Spanish at this pace but it sure is helpful to be able to communicate. He has a neat truck set up for hauling bikes. They were in and we were underway in no time. Ricardo is Manager and really excited to meet us. He instantly told us of another couple that had broken down and they picked them up off the road. Swiss couple headed for Ushuaia.
Romelio, the mechanic got the bikes in but needs to finish the one he’s working on. Mario suggested that we come back for them later. Then, he volunteered to drive us back to the Mall.
We’re getting to be real Mall Shoppers. I did find a new watch, one with a light and day of week. A Burger King chicken sandwich then, Internet for an hour. Then a taxi back to HonduBike. Romelio was just starting on the bikes. So, we waited and talked with Mario and Ricardo. They are both crazy about downhill racing. In fact Mario has a splint on one of his fingers from his last crash. They sponsor races and have built a downhill track in a nearby National Park. They invited us to give it a try. We gracefully excused ourselves, we must get back on the road tomorrow. Besides, we’re more long, slow moving cyclists.
Honduras, Guns and the Wild Wild West
As Cat slipped into the middle of the seat she felt something hard under her rear. She raised up and Mario apologized. She leaned forward and he pulled a big pistol out from between the seats.
When Romelio had completed replacing all brake pads and giving our bikes a good checkup we loaded them in Mario’s truck and jumped in, he’s taking us back to the Hotel. Melanie and Ingo, the couple from Germany told us about all the guns we’d see and they were right. Cat asked Mario why and he used the same euphemism, “This place is the wild, wild west”, that we’ve been hearing since Panama. Most of the time it’s about Real Estate Law, protecting your space?
The guns, according to Mario, are necessary. Too many others are armed and there is a high crime rate. He lives with his parents on a ranch out on the Highway we’ll be cycling tomorrow. Talk of all the crime made Cat a little nervous. Mario assured her that the countryside is safe. He wouldn’t say the same for Teguc though. Then he told us that they have just initiated a new gun control law in Honduras. We mentioned our gun laws at home then he drew a comparison. “Your law only looks at people before they can buy a gun and that’s pretty easy to get around. Our new gun control law actually controls guns”. This is a good idea, in order to get a permit they have to take their guns in and test fire them. The Government then keeps the bullet and print. If it’s ever used in a crime, they can match the print and the owner will go to jail. We like this idea, why not use it back home?
We’re getting to be shut ins. A call to Pizza Hut and we enjoyed another “On the Bed Meal”. It’s like being at home, a nice quiet meal in front of the TV. A couple of advantages, we save the difference between a restaurant meal and the Pizza and we can have a nice bottle of wine at less than 1/3 what it would cost there!
September 20, 2005
Tegucigalpa to Comayagua
A hardy Breakfast, we both had a little extra toast to help us get up and over the hills ahead. Getting out of Tegucigalpa on a bicycle isn’t easy. We set off, following the marks Mario had made on our map. Down the hill in terrible traffic then a stop for directions. A group of guys gathered around, looked at the map then showed us our mistake. We missed the turn. No harm done, just head left, up the hill then another left up onto the main road out of town. Geez, up was to be the word of the day.
Crash, Wham, onto the Sidewalk
Pedaling hard, we tried to stay on the street. Cat worried about being hit so we took to the sidewalk for a short distance. I finally convinced her that we’d be in Teguc all day at the slow rate we were going. Back on the road and making good time when “Wham” a truck hit a car, hard. The car spun around and the truck gunned his engine and roared away. Fearing the worst we pushed onto the sidewalk and around another truck that had just pulled over. The driver of the car was out, unscratched and angry. His car, a very clean classic Mazda, was a total wreck. This was the end of riding in the traffic for us. The sidewalk was slow but then, spending time here in a hospital or, an eternity, would be even slower, right?
The sidewalk ended at the base of the pushing hill. The heat of the day was catching us, we stopped for a soft drink. Then, onward in rough construction and a 3 hour, 12 Kilometer push. We pushed on the wrong side of the road much of the time due to the construction. Near the top a guy whooped a wish of luck to us. We were so happy at summiting then he gave us the bad news. Down for 3 Ks then another big up.
The coasting was great we started the up and coasted into a service station for drinks and lunch.
Mr. Ecology Loves Bikes
One good thing about these hills, it is cooler up here. Cool enough for pine trees to grow. Not as steep, we did ride about half of this one. Cooler but we still sweat like mules with each turn of the cranks. Near the top a car pulled past and pulled up. Luis and Ricardo, an uncle and nephew who love cycling, wanted to know where we were going. Luis speaks only Spanish, he called Ricardo out and then, we had a conversation. Luis’ e-mail address is ElEcologico. When we asked if he worked in some sort of Ecological Profession he laughed. Cycling is part of his love of nature. He thinks of nature as our Ecology. He loves anything that’s good for the ecology and dislikes things that aren’t. They live in Comayagua. He suggested n Spanish that he’d try to come meet us as we come into town. Then he asked when and we told him it would be at least 4 hours. That may have set his plans back a little?
At last the downhill. Sometimes the upward pull seems worthless at least until you top out and begin to fly. Our fingers were numb from grasping the brake levers. A 20 kilometer down, quite exhilarating. Another accident, this time a truck on it’s side. Though the trailer was on its side the cab was upright. Pretty lucky driver, eh. It did remind us how fragile we are out here amongst the big guys. It slowed us for a bit but it’s really hard to ride slowly when you have such a delicious down ahead of you.
The skies around us began to darken then we felt the little drops. The road has flattened somewhat so we had to pedal to beat the downpour. Pushing hard, then a hot looking red Chevy pickup truck passed and pulled over. Cat yelled, “Ignore them”. As we passed a voice from within shouted, “Where you guys from”?
Of course we had to stop. The guy, Ben, is with our own, US of A DEA. Yes, the Drug Enforcement Agency. He works on and flies with the helicopters of the DEA. So down home sounding, he’s from Utah. He invited us to stay at his place. He lives in a rented house with another guy he works with. Kind of him but, we decided that we need some privacy and, a day off. He understood and gave us his phone number.
He suggested that there are a few small Hotels in town. Just after the turnoff we caught sight of Hotel Santa Maria. It looked good from the street, we turned in. The have nice clean rooms, hot water and cable TV. What a find. They also have a small restaurant. We are home for a day off.
Dinner was very good, steak for me and pasta for the Cat. Then straight to bed. So tired were we that we fell asleep with the TV blaring. It was after midnight before it woke us up.
September 21, 2005
First Day of Fall Back Home, First Day of Spring in the South
Summer Everyday of the Year, Here!
Weary Legs get a Rest in Comayagua
Awoke to complete body fatigue which led to a decision, a day of rest. There are more hills ahead and our legs are crying out, “No mas”! Breakfast was okay, we’re starting to get used to beans and cheese. Oh, they do have eggs, the beans and cheese are in lieu of bacon or ham.
Back in the room, we started watching a TV show about India. It was good but not good enough to keep us awake. We both dozed off and awoke to a different story more than an hour later. Decided to drag our tired and sore bodies out into the heat to find a laundry and Internet Shop.
German takes us Shopping
Getting directions from the front desk, we met German, (pronounced Herman) the Manager. He helped us call Ben to arrange a meeting later today when he gets off work then offered us a ride into town and insisted that they do the laundry at a very good price. When we reached the town Plaza and started to get out he suggested that we should do our shopping now and let him take the groceries back rather than have to carry them. What a thoughtful guy. He stuck with us and helped us find things as he greeted everyone he met. Though he’s only been here for a year, he makes it his business to know everyone. A family man, German, his wife and 2 kids live in a house behind the Hotel. He has worked with The Clarion, where we stayed in Tegus and The Princess Hotels. His move here was mainly to live in a good place to raise his family.
We walked back to the Plaza for photos then found an Internet place. Back toward the Hotel, we choose Wendy’s for lunch. A family, Lisa and her kids, Austin and Chris, sitting nearby were speaking English. Figuring they’re a military family, we were surprised to hear that they’re Missionaries. The Dad and Husband is a preacher but they ran short of money. So, he does work at the base, applying his Engineering skills. Lisa is a nurse and ministers to those in need, here. Nice family!
Leaving the air conditioning, we ran into Bill and Jim from Florida. The surprising thing, Bill was wearing a sports coat in this heat. He says that he got into the habit and it opens lots of doors. Both are retired Military, here on a hop in an Army plane. They just like to get around and see places. Funny, Bill came to us and introduced himself. Jim stood in the background. We were preparing to leave when he called Jim over and introduced him. Funny, they are so opposite yet enjoy traveling and hanging around together. Both are married and both are retired Army Officers.
A few drops of rain sent puffs of dust up form the ground. We decided to taxi back to the Hotel. It was a relaxing afternoon, lounging on the bed, watching TV and dozing occasionally.
Ben drove up in his hot Chevy Pickup at 6:30 PM and we were off to Hanneman’s Bar & Restaurant. This popular local spot is owned and operated by Sean, a retired military guy. Needless to say, most of the crowd is military. They were glued to a Baseball game on the big screen TV. The food was typical of an Irish Pub. We brought our own wine, the others enjoyed their beers.
Ben’s roommate, Joey, showed up after a workout. He’s from Camarillo, California. We talked about everyone we could think of to connect but failed. Though we know lots of people there, his parents both work in clinics in the San Fernando Valley. Awe shucks, when Cat took the picture you see here Joey had just taken a telephone call and ran outside to avoid the noise.
Oh the Places Ben Has Been
Ben told that he joined the Army the day he turned 17. He was in the first wave Special Forces that led the invasion of Afghanistan. He seems angry at times as he tells about loosing best friends in the battle. He spent a year there then went back as a civilian to work on Helicopters. He boils it all down to just doing a job. He did mention that fewer of his civilian friends were hurt or killed than military. He also told us that he was earning $14,000 per month as a civilian. Cat asked if he’d killed anyone and he said, “I don’t talk about that”. This great young guy may be suffering from war trauma? He drinks and smokes a lot. He also says that it’s hard to sleep sometimes. He is adamant about his love for his fellow soldiers and disdain for war.
They interrupted the ball game to show live pictures of an airplane landing in Los Angeles. Somehow the front wheel wouldn’t lock down. They circled for a long time then dumped fuel and brought her down. The nose wheels turned sideways when they hit causing smoke, sparks and fire but they got her down in one piece.
Ben dropped us back at Hotel Santa Maria by 10:00 PM. No TV, just sleep.
September 22, 2005
Comayagua to Lago del Yojoa
Up, loaded and at breakfast by 7:00 AM. Out on the road by 8:00. Toward town, then off to the left on a flat road with wide shoulder. The flat lasted for 10 Ks then it was up. The first big pull was a challenge that soon had us pushing. Too steep to ride, we pushed for more than 2 hours before cresting the first pass.
A Surprise Visit With Klaus and Sonia
Pushing along, a big truck pulled up from behind and honked. What a pleasant surprise, Klaus and Sonia, the German couple we met in Panama City have finally caught us. They pulled and we had a little roadside re-union party. They’ve been waiting for parts shipped from Germany. Finally on the road again after a 2-week delay. They plan on getting to Texas then parking their rig and returning to Germany where they’ll edit and publish their latest edition of travel films and stories. Another promise to come visit us next spring then handshakes and hugs and they were off. Their hill climb is much faster and easier on their bodies than ours.
Banana Bread and Fence Painting
German gave us some banana cakes yesterday to give us strength for the climb. We sat in the shade and enjoyed it and the view. There’s something invigorating about working so hard and succeeding. Little successes like this remind me of a time when I built a fence. Working 6 days a week, I had to paint it in the evenings, after working all day. The best of it was to stand back and see the progress as the sun disappeared. Here too, we see that our efforts are paying off. Easy to measure our success, one little step at a time.
German, the Motel Owner
After the little swoop down we were shortly back to climbing. Another 3 Ks of up but this time the severity of the slope was less, we rode much of it. As we soared down the other side a big maroon pickup pulled over. The driver, another guy named German, couldn’t believe our story. He’d seen us this morning as he drove to Tegucigalpa to visit his mother. Another co-incidence, he’s in Real Estate. After trading R E stories he told us that he started by buying a Motel. Then, he pulled a card out and wrote a note on it. He offered a complementary room at his Motel Tropical, in San Pedro Sula. It’s right on the highway so we will probably take hi up on it. San Pedro Sula has a reputation that has had Cat worried for several days.
Carlos, Richard & Lillian
Now we’re on a down hill run. Some small ups and downs but generally down, to the lake. Pulling past a Hotel that German in Comayagua had indicated was the only nice place, we decided to go more distance. We’d seen a sign for another place further along. A large restaurant also has a “Tourist Info” sign. We hoped they might have rooms. No rooms and little info. The young guy there did confirm the place we’d seen on the sign but its 6 Ks off the highway. We decided not to backtrack and moved on. Then, in just a 2 Ks we found a sign for Hondu Yate Marina with campsites. Hoping for a cabana we pulled up and went into the restaurant, Chalet Del Lago. Expecting a run down Cabin with cold shower, we were in for a surprise. Not only do they have rooms, they have great rooms with hot water shower here at Posadas Del Lago.
As we pulled the bikes down the stairs a guy, Carlos, walked up and started a conversation. He’s from San Diego and has chosen this spot for retirement. He’s building a cabin on the hill above. He’s quite a character, while talking he kept rubbing his chest. I asked if he was okay and he said that he has an infection in the cartilage in his chest. He says that its an old wound, a tractor rolled over him, almost killing him, almost 40 years ago. I asked if he was a farmer. He said it happened at Minnesota Penitentiary. I asked and he said, “Staff not inmate”.
Richard and Lillian are the owners. They’ve put most of their life into the place over the past 5 years. The Posada is almost new. Richard was worried about us taking the bikes inside. I told him that we were careful not to scuff the walls, he told us that he was more worried about his stairway tiles. So, we took great care in getting down the stairs and into the room.
Dinner, we had fish from the lake. Carlos, Richard and Lillian joined us. We had a wonderful time talking, hearing of their adventures and sharing ours.
They don’t have TV here but there’s a TV and DVD player in the room. Richard gave us a couple of movies. We put one, The Innocence, in and I was stuck watching while Cat snoozed.
September 23, 2005
Lago del Yojoa to San Pedro Sula
Up early and packed, we joined the crowd, Carlos, Richard and Lillian for breakfast. They tried hard to get us to stay, even talked about a dramatically reduced rate. They love talking and hearing about our trip. We did want to see Carlos’s cabin so he drove us up the steep and muddy ruts. It’s a one room with possibilities for expansion. He’s really proud of it.
Why Carlos, You Don’t Look Hispanic?
Carlos told us of how he worked in San Diego but lived in Tijuana, Mexico for the two years before he retired. He rode his bicycle back and forth daily. By not owing a car and paying low rent he saved as much a possible to built a dream. When we asked about his name, Carlos he laughed and told us that he’d had a girl friend in Mexico. His name is actually Donald Charles. Friends called him Don but she refused because “Don” in Spanish relates to Sir in English, hence the name Carlos for Charles.
As he drove back down he confessed, “I don’t like to tell people that I don’t know but, I was an inmate when the tractor rolled”. He related how he was pretty wild when he returned from Vietnam and got into a fight with 3 guys in a bar. His story is that he was defending himself and did great physical damage to them. The judge refused to hear his self defense, defense. He served a 3 year sentence.
Our 3 best new friends tried calling to see if there were other boats, they really wanted us to stay. When they confirmed there’s only one boat a week they knew that we need to be on it. They told us not to worry about a late start, it’s all down hill from here.
On the road by 10:00 AM, we hit our first hill in just 5 kilometers. Though it’s generally down there are a lot of ups and downs along the way. Even had us pushing a time or two, again. One of those infamous tropical squalls caught us and forced us to stand under a tree for half an hour. When it let up we rode onward.
A Night at Sexo Motel Tropical
Bread and lunchmeat at a little store as the rain continued to drizzle. Onward, the traffic thickened, even made us hit the sidewalk as we crossed the bridge into town. Asking, everyone does know Motel Tropical and pointed us right to the driveway. The sign is small, the motif bland. We began to think “Sex Motel”. At the office, it was clear that this would be a very interesting experience. The manager looked over German’s card then indicated we should follow. He led us into an enclosed parking area that shields each unit from view. The room has no windows but a big and comfortable bed. The key wouldn’t work, the Manager locked the front door then got it to lock the rear door. Yes, a rear door with a tiny opening to slip drinks and food through.
There are no restaurants nearby. Though they do offer sandwiches the Manager suggested the Texaco Station next door. I went for a look while Cat took a cold shower. Funny, you’d think a cold shower would detract from the normal use of the room? The Texaco food is a little buffet. They do have meat and vegetables. I selected a variety of meats and vegetables then got to the check out only to learn that they don’t accept credit cards. I was irritated, they have signs on the door and register for both Visa and Amex? I decided to go back for money but see if Cat would rather take a taxi to dinner.
With cash in hand we walked back and bought. There is a couch and TV. 2 of the only 3 channels are in Spanish. The 3rd is International language, pure porn. Cat spread our food out on the coffee table then worried and wondered about what other activities may have taken place on this couch?
It was an early to bed evening. Cat slept well, I woke up every time another car ran over the noisy metal grating at the nearby gate. Then there was the midnight moaning, the 2:00 AM squealing and the 4:00 AM huffing and puffing from the room next door. They really do turn the rooms often on a Friday night.
September 24, 2005
San Pedro Sula to Puerto Cortez
Packed up, we pushed out early in bright sunlight. It was another meal at the Texaco. Eggs, beans and tortillas. Not bad with orange juice.
The ride is a fast and easy down all the way to Puerto Cortez. We were cycling into town by 1:00 PM. We stopped to figure out where we were and how to find a place to sleep. A young guy on bicycle pulled up and introduced himself in excellent English. Junior works with the boat company and told us how to find them. He also suggested a Hotel down the beach but a ways out of town.
We cycled in the heat and found that we’d past the place. Backtracking, we leaned the bikes and went in. Not a very good looking place but we were tired of cycling. Bad news, they’re fully booked. After a soft drink and several calls made by the nice front desk guy, we found that most other places were booked, too. He did find a room available at the Prince Wilson Hotel.
Back through town, over the big bridge across the lagoon and past the place where we’ll catch our boat. The Prince W. is pretty basic. We took necessary bags off then locked the bikes in the area between the lobby and restaurant. Our room is very basic with cold water shower.
Hungry, we walked to Restaurante El Delfin, the dolphin, on the waterfront. The food was great. After a cool shower we took a taxi back into the center of town. The entire town is as basic as Hotel Prince Wilson. We found an Internet place where we wiled away a couple of hours at the computers.
Lunch was so good that we returned to Delfin. A delicious Seafood Chowder and good bottle of Chilean wine. The place was empty thus great service, too.
A little TV, though there’s no English language news we do have a couple of English programs with Spanish subtitles. We watched a little then off to sleep. One other good thing, the air conditioner works. It’s slow to cool but once down it holds the cool pretty well. WE even had to pull a cover up during the night.
September 25, 2005
R&R in Puerto Cortez
Our included breakfast is just okay. There were a couple of guys in the other room but they sort of avoided us. As we ate we heard birds screeching just outside the window. A wonderful thing for Cat, they have several parrots in a cage along with two Toucans! Cat has almost given upon seeing toucans and now, she even gets to hold one. They are really beautiful animals, the colors almost make them look as though they’re beaks are painted on.
Readying for the Boat
It was a hang around day, all day long. We did find an Internet Café nearby and spend some time there. A walk to the nearby dock, our boat is here, ready to take us to Belize, tomorrow. Rest and comedies on TV filled the rest of the day. Cat found food for lunch in the room. Dinner again at Delfin, as good as ever.
It’s early to bed while visions of Belize danced in our heads.
Reflections, looking back can be dangerous. Remember Satchel Paige who once said, “Never look back, something might be gaining on you”! As we near the end of this epic journey it seems easier to look back than to think about a return to reality.
With 3 ½ years under our wheels, we have a wealth of experiences, friends and memories of places. Mileage, if you’re interested, now adds up to 30,685 Kilometers or 20,701 miles. These are rough figures calculated from our maps, road signs or markers. Cat swears that we’ve pushed that far over some of the mountains.
Thanks to all of you who continue to maintain touch and send messages of encouragement and assistance. You are truly our FAMILY OF FRIENDS!
Pat & Cat