Day 114 – San Juan del Sur, NI to Jaco, CR

Day 114 – San Juan del Sur, NI to Jaco, CR      12/13/10      Mileage: 197

This morning I knew right were I was going back to for breakfast, and upon walking into El Gato Negro I saw 4 guys in moto gear sitting a table. I went over and started talking to them and they are on a 2 week ripper from Texas to Panama! They shipped their bikes down to Texas, crossed in Brownsville and will be shipping the bikes home from Panama. Seeing as we were going the same way, a tagged along with them.

We hit the Nicaragua / Costa Rica border by 8:30am and aside from the usual 20 signatures, 7 different offices, 15 officials and numerous photo copies, the border was smooth and uneventful. But after the Honduras border crossings, anything would seem simple by comparison! All told it took around 2.5 hours or so, and we were on our way into Costa Rica.

Sneaking by a line of trucks on the Nicaragua side…

Let the games begin…

Checking the bike permits…

Outside the Nicaragua immigration office…

Last checkpoint in Nicaragua…

First stop in Costa Rica….bike fumigation. In Honduras, this cost $11, and they didn’t even spray the bike(which I now know was BS anyway). In Costa Rica, this didn’t cost anything and he did a nice job…as my bike hasn’t been cleaned since L.A.!

Costa Rica immigration…

Costa Rica aduana (customs)

Last window for customs inspection of the paperwork

Final Costa Rica checkpoint…yahoo!

Last checkpoint…

We’re in and on our way south!

I’m not sure who started it…and I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit it… but before long we were all riding like complete hooligans…and took many liberties with the traffic laws and common sense! It was like a game of you could make the most dicey or ill-advised was a little nuts and in hindsight a bit foolish. It was however good fun at the time!

We all survived though and pulled into the beach town of Jaco mid afternoon. After finding a room and a shower, we were off to dinner and man is Costa Rica expensive compared to Nicaragua, El Salvador etc. I knew it was going to be but it’s every bit as expensive as the U.S., which is partly why I’m not going to spend too much time here.

After dinner we found a bar that had the Giants game projected onto the side of a building nextdoor…now that’s a big “flat” screen.

 I’m not much for team sports, but I do like watching the Giants every Fall…and I only got to watch one other game back in Guatemala, so this was a treat.

Day 113 – San Juan del Sur, NI

113 – San Juan del Sur, NI 12/12/10 Mileage: 0

Brian told me about a great cafe for breakfast and wifi called El Gato Negro…not to be confused with the hostel I stayed at in Antigua, GU by the same name. They roast there own coffee beans and the coffee is good and strong!

El Gato Negro Cafe, San Juan del Sur, NI

The owners name is Rob and he’s originally from southern Vermont. He grew up skiing Round Top ski area, which is where my buddy Mick owns a ski house that is my home away from home in winter…well except for this winter that is. We chatted for a while and he explained the process..or…more accurately the “art” of roasting coffee beans which was interesting.

Here’s Rob at the helm of the coffee  roaster which is inside the cafe and fills the entire place with the most amazing aroma!

Roasting the beans and checking their progress…

The beans are done roasting and now go into the circular hopper where they are cooled.

 So after my fill of wifi and strong coffee, I was off for a walk on the beach and around town.

I had an early dinner and a few drinks at Henry’s Iguana on the waterfront which seems to be “the” place in town.

Henery’s Iguana Bar

You know you’ve had a rough night of drinking when you end up spooning the curb on the main street…

View of town from my hotel patio…

The sky was very dark despite the city lights and I spent some time goofing with the camera’s night mode (and headlamp)…and got a little carried away. After almost 4 months on the road, perhaps I’m starting to get “the shine”…pun intended!

Tomorrow I’ll be crossing into Costa Rica…country number 9!

Day 112 – Granada, NI to San Juan del Sur, NI

Day 112 – Granada, NI to San Juan del Sur, NI 12/11/10 Mileage: 65

Today was my last day at 1 on 1 Tutoring spanish school and the experience was great. Unlike my last spanish school where I was paired with one instructor the entire time, here you spend an hour with 4 different instructors each day, each focusing on a different language skill. I liked this method and think it’s much better as it gives you 4 different teaching styles as well as different accents and voices to listen to, not just one.

1 on 1 Tutoring in Granada, NI

Roger is the owner of 1 on 1 Tutoring and one of my teachers.

This is another instructor, Omar, who is a really nice guy and suave with the gringo ladies!  😉

Heleng is easy on the eye and sweet to the ear…me gusta.

This is Roger Jr., my 4th instructor and also patient as a saint listening to me bungle every sentence!!

It’s a very good and fairly inexpensive school and I wish I could stay another week. But the big clock is ticking and I have to keep moving south if I’m going to make it to the tip of South America and Tierra del Fuego before winter. So I said adios to my 4 instructors, packed up the KLR and headed south for the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua and the beach town of San Juan del Sur. It was an uneventful and short ride down and I arrived mid afternoon under bright sun and a clear blue sky…perfect. I settled into a hotel (for $10 per night) perched on a hill overlooking the town and beach.

At night I went to the waterfront and had a drink at Henry’s Iguana before having dinner at The Black Whale.

I also walked around town for a bit and it is a super laid back place with a nice mix of locals and ex-pats all living the beach life. I imagine this is what parts of Costa Rica looked like 20 years ago before it was “found”.

Parting shot…

Sunset over the water in San Juan del Sur, NI

Day 111 – Granada, NI

Day 111 – Granada, NI      12/10/10      Mileage: 0

So, nothing to write home about today except that tonight I came across a local band setup in the central park playing Rage Against the Machine covers in english with a heavy spanish accent. Let’s just say that Bulls on Parade sounds a bit better coming from Zack de la Rocha! And of course I didn’t have my camera on me…damn! Tomorrow is my last day of spanish class and afterwards I’m heading for the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua and the beach town of San Juan del Sur.

 I totally blew it with pictures today…so all I have is this lame parting shot…

This cat has the life and gets lovin from everyone at the hostel. (Jilly….tell me that doesn’t look exactly like Lily!)

Day 108 – 110 – Granada, NI

Day 108 – 110 – Granada, NI     12/14 – 16/10     Mileage: 0

I had spanish school for the last 3 days and I think I am proving that you really CAN’T teach an old dog new tricks. The more spanish I think I know, the more I realize I don’t know and my progress is painfully slow. I am however determined to learn it…or too stupid to stop…I’m not sure which. Anyway, in the afternoons I explore the town a bit, work on the blog and study until I’m cross-eyed.

Here are some shots from the local market.

I splurged on a really nice dinner at El Tercer Ojo (The Third Eye) the other night, but aside from that have been being laying low to save money and focus on studying. This afternoon I went looking for a new relay for the KLR’s horn as mine burned out a few weeks ago…and a horn is a handy item down here! I found an auto parts store and I had to use every once of spanish I have to describe to the clerk what I needed. Ordering cafe con leche is childs play, but trying to describe that I need a 12v 30 amp single pole single through electrical relay is another story all together. So, with my pigeon spanish and enough hand gestures to make any Italian man proud, I managed to get what I need. After that it was back to the Bearded Monkey where I turned their back courtyard into a Kawasaki service shop.

I also adjusted the drive chain, clutch cable and did a number of other minor tweaks and adjustments while I had a good place to do it.

Day 106 – 107 – Granada, NI

Day 106 – 107 – Granada, NI     12/05 – 06/10     Mileage: 0

The last two days Brian and I spent walking around Granada and getting some chores done like laundry and running errands. Granada is a nice town and is like a smaller version of Antigua back in Guatemala with spanish colonial architecture, nice bars and restaurants and a location in a nice natural setting. I’ll let the pictures do the talking…

Horses are still hard at work down here…and horse drawn carts are as common as pick-ups.

I came across this funny scene….a cow in the middle of town with it’s head buried in a trash can!

I don’t think “kayak” means motorcycle…not even in spanish!

Last night we saw some local kids put on a breakdance demonstration in the street in front of the restaurant we were eating at and they were really very good!

I also spent some time looking for a spanish school and found one that I liked for a good price, so I’ll spend another week or so here trying to learn more spanish. Tomorrow Brian is pushing on so our time riding together has come to an end. We had many good laughs over countless beers the last two weeks, and it was a nice to change to have some company for a while. Bien viaje mi amigo!

Day 105 – Leon, NI to Granada, NI

Day 105 – Leon, NI to Granada, NI      12/04/10      Mileage: 91

This morning Brian and I went to breakfast with Sparky and Dave, the two Canadian bikers heading for Panama on their R1200GS’s. We told all the usual lies and tall tales from the road, and compared notes about the Honduras border crossing.

L to R:  Brian, Dave and Sparky

After that we packed up, said adios and pointed our bikes south towards the colonial city of Granada.

Leaving the hostel…

Navigating the narrow streets of Leon, complete with horse-drawn cart.

One mans wrong turn is another mans (my) shortcut!

Found the highway and rolling south…

Map check…

Heads we follow the GPS, tails we follow the map…who’s got a coin?

Errrr…best 2 out of 3?

Lago de Managua from the road with volcanoes in the distance.


Taking a break on the way to Granada…

Rolling into Managua…

It only took about two hours to get to Granada even with some traffic passing though Managua.

If you’re going to stop for directions, it might as well be from a hot chick in front of a yoga studio….just sayin…

Another coin toss…now where did I put that damn cordoba…

That coin sucks…

Once in Granada we settled into the Bearded Monkey hostel which had private rooms with shared bathrooms for $12…not too bad.

Checking in at the Bearded Monkey

Checking the bikes into the Bearded Monkey!

Don’t scratch the bar Brian!

It was a sauna on the way down from Leon, so as soon as the bikes were parked we slammed 4 beers at the hostel before heading out for dinner and of course many more beers. I really have to reign in my beer consumption, as I’ve stumbled upon the following equation…

(Tropical heat + riding suit + cheap ice cold beer) – exercise = veal shaped gringo

Parting Shot

This was the drink special at the hostel. For the english speaking crowd, borracho in spanish means drunk!
(Sorry Deb, I couldn’t resist!)

Day 104 – Leon, NI

Day 104 – Leon, NI 12/03/10 Mileage: 0

No big news to write about today, which given the last 2 days I’m fine with that.

Finally tracked down a good coffee…

… Cafe Lo Rosita. They have great breakfast too…

…and a nice garden courtyard.

The wifi at the Lazy Bones hostel was quite good and I spent 6 hours getting the blog semi up to date and upload pictures.

Our bikes inside the Lazy Bones hostel.

Brian making use of the good wifi…

The pool at the Lazy Bones

Sparky and Dave, the two bikers I met back in El Salvador happened to pull into the Lazy Bones as well and got the room right next to mine…small world!

Sparky (L) and Dave (R)

We exchanged border horror stories and from the sound of it they had it even worse They also beat it out of Honduras ASAP as well, which only goes to show that Honduras is totally missing the boat. Yeah, the grifters at the border manage to steal a few bucks from you, but that leaves you aggravated and bitter and all you want to do is leave as soon as possible. Definitely not a good plan if you want tourists to spend money in your country.

Parting shot: We knocked back a few beers in the Los Balcones bar where these skis were on the wall.

Day 103 – Choluteca, HN to Leon, NI

Day 103 – Choluteca, HN to Leon, NI     12/02/10     Mileage: 112

Coffee, it had been days since Brian or I had a (good) cup, so this morning we set off to the Cafe Americano coffee shop around the corner from our hotel. Inexplicably, they don’t open until 10am. What kind of @#*% ing coffee shop doesn’t open until 10 in the morning? If Starbucks in the US didn’t open until 10…there would be bloodshed in the streets. Well, just one more thing I hate about Honduras. So, across the parking lot was a Wendy’s…yes, that Wendy’s! They were at least open, so I had an egg muffin and (decent) coffee, all under the watchful eye of a security guard toting a shotgun. It’s funny what you get used to, because security guards, which most stores and better restaurants (and Wendy’s!) in towns have, all tote shotguns or assault rifles. So does every delivery truck…which quite literally has a man riding shotgun! Don’t try to steal a 6-pack of Coke off of a delivery truck down here, or you will for sure get a 00 buckshot enema. Anyway, after our Wendy’s breakfast, we packed up the bikes and split for the border.

This cutie worked the front desk at the hotel…the only appealing thing in all of Honduras!

Leaving our hotel in Choluteca…

On the way out of Choluteca…

….and the roads have huge potholes.

I couldn’t wait to leave Honduras…it was giving me a bad vibe, and I didn’t want to be here one second longer than I had to.

And another police checkpoint. Smile dickhead.

At the border, the first order of business was to cancel our bike import permits at the aduana (customs) and then to immigration to stamp ourselves out of this hell hole. Of course, the “helpers” were there to try and sell us their services, but we told them very succinctly to go bugger off…we were onto their game.

Border cop and a helper trying to intercede.

To this border cops credit, he was the only one in 7 countries to notice the license I gave him was expired. Brian and I always give our “dump” licenses (in my case an old expired NJ license) whenever any official asks for a license, just incase they get confiscated. He accepted my AAA “International Driving Permit”, which I am also happy to give away. I never give my current valid NJ drivers license, and have not needed to yet.

On the way to the border after the police checkpoint.

At the Honduras border building…

Changing money…

After processing out, we hopped on the bikes, gave Honduras the 1 finger salute and crossed the bridge into Nicaragua(country number 8!).  AMF!

 One last police check before the bridge.

Here’s another helper…yep, that’s a camera dickhead, smile…  🙂

The Nicaragua border was refreshingly straightforward and relatively inexpensive at $24 in total. It was $12 to enter the country (which is really only $2 plus what amounts to a $10 mandatory tip or bribe if you will) and $12 for compulsory vehicle insurance. The bike import permit was free.

Arriving at the Nicaragua side….and glad to be out of Honduras!

This guy was driving down to Panama from Colorado in his FJ Cruiser. That rig on the roof is a rooftop tent…..very cool!

Standing around waiting I started chatting with this Nicaraguan girl….I was practicing my spanish and she was practicing her english.

One last checkpoint, and we were in Nicaragua!

With that we fired up the bikes and pointed them for Leon, a nice colonial town about 90 minutes from the border. On the way we passed an active volcano spewing smoke which is as common down here as shotguns and as easy to become accustomed to.

In Leon we settled into the Lazy Bones hostel which had private rooms, a pool and wifi for $20…not too bad.

This was an impressive cathedral on the main square in Leon.

Around town in Leon…

We took a walk around town, had a bite and a few beers and then I called it a night.