Sunday, June 7, 2015

Central America

Getting our bikes into Panama was easy, if a tad expensive, getting them out of Panama was another matter altogether. Getting ourselves into panama was something of an ordeal but getting out was easy. Let me explain. We had to be at Bogota airport three hours before boarding the aircraft and the preliminaries took all of the three hours. First we were sent off to pay an airport tax only to find we had already paid the tax when purchasing the ticket. So we tramped back through the airport and back into the original queue. This time they wanted proof that we were to leave Panama and only an airline ticket would do. No matter that we were leaving by vehicle. What about our tickets from Los Angeles to NZ we ask? No that won't do either, so we had to go through a charade of "buying" a ticket from Panama to Costa Rica. Anyway, we eventually land at Panama City and a $50 taxi ride takes us to the freight terminal and our bikes. We get them out of storage and through customs with no problem and aside from my battery being flat we were on our way in no time. That is except for Colin who left his ignition key back in Colombia. With the help of Rocio Arribas at our hotel Colin was soon heading back to Bogota. The next couple of days were spent doing tourist things such as visiting the Panama Canal locks at Mira Flores and a trip into the jungle looking for exotic birds, oh and a beer or two at the Balboa Yacht Club.
Getting out of Panama was a nightmare. We were stopped at the border by customs for having incorrect paperwork and escorted back to David (in a tropical downpour just to add insult to injury) and our bikes were impounded. We were subjected to a three day "investigation", following which we were each slapped with a $500 USD "fine". The pricks - it was the fault of the Customs people in the first place. The airport Customs office failed to issue us with a temporary vehicle import document and after this "investigation" it was apparently our fault. I refused to sign the "confession" which sent them into a tail spin. The rest of the story will cost you a beer. Then there was the Yellow Fever incident - that's another beer. In defense of Panama however I have to confess that the people we met from Rocio that first night, the Suzuki dealer from whom I bought a part and everyone else including the taxi drivers were the most hospitable of people.
The border officials at Costa Rica were like a breath of fresh air compared to our draconian treatment by the Panamanian ones. They were polite, helpful and efficient and everything Panamanian officials were not. Our first night in Costa Rica was in a delightful hotel suggested by a nice Panamanian chap. Pizza for supper. Next night was a place on the beach at Esterillos. We are still in jungle country and it still rained late afternoon. Next day was a big change in scenery - gone was the jungle and by nightfall at La Cruz the hostel manager said they were praying for rain. I spent the last night in Costa Rica standing on the beach watching the sun set and Pelicans diving for fish.
31 May and my birthday plus the day we crossed into Nicaragua. The border crossing was confusing as hell but we managed it by paying a helper to guide us through. Our overnight stop was Selva Negra (another place suggested by a fellow traveler) which turned out to be an eco park based around a coffee plantation. What a thorough delight the place was - we did the bush walk and coffee plantation tours and stayed two nights. Look for Matagalpa on a map and you will find Selva Negra close by.
Honduras was no problem with the assistance of a helper and by days end we had made it to Copan Ruinas (the town) and had toured the Mayan ruins near by. Diane found a German restaurant just up the road from our hotel so our last night in Honduras was beer and sausages. Excellent.
By 10 am next day we had crossed into Guatemala and pushed on to cut out the 400 km to a lake near the Tekal ruins, another Mayan city. Don Davids hostel is excellent and right on the waters edge. Next day, 5th June, we took a private trip to the ruins with a guide. The site is huge and contains the tallest of all the Mayan buildings. The structures, even the lesser ones, are huge and its stunning to think the site was completely abandoned and left to the jungle. Theories as to why are many and varied. Sadly all the hieroglyphs that tell the story of the place are missing, courtesy of treasure hunters. The history of Tikal is extracted from supporting evidence in other Mayan cities that cover an area from northern Honduras, through Guatemala to the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico.
One more Central American country to go - Belize since we are not going to El Salvador. Well we cut out that sucker in a day. Maybe the coast road has something to offer but the inland route has nothing going for it at all and we rode the whole country without even filling up. Lunch was all the locals got of our money, the rest went to the government by way of border fees - the robbing bastards. Then we hit the thieves at the Mexican border - 335 Pesos tax for me, $59 USD tax for my bike papers and $400 USD refundable bond for my bike. "But senor you can stay in our contry for 180 days". Yea thanks.
And so ends Central America. We all liked Costa Rica the best.
50 seater bus - 39 inside, 10 on the roof and 1 in the boot.

Panama City Suzi dealer had 16 Vstroms on the floor. All for the Police.

Mira Flores Lock in Panama

Watched this huge ship transit the lock.

The yachts have gone but the Club soldiers on.

Jungle. Hate the jungle.

Esterillos, Costa Rica

Palm oil plantation. Costa Rica

Palm oil processing plant

Life on the road is tough at times.

Coffee nursery at Selva Negra, Nicaragua.

Taxi at Copan Ruinas, Honduras

Under here is a Mayan building. Copan, Honduras

Hieroglyphs at Copan. 


Layout of Copan Mayan city, Honduras

This is the classic shot from Tikal, Guatemala. The two old chaps got in the way.

Tikal, Guatemala

Here comes our beer. Don Davids, Guatemala


Roger Arnold said...

You make my trip sound like a walk in da park .
Did Colin fly back to Bogota really

Roger Arnold said...

You make my trip sound like a walk in da park .
Did Colin fly back to Bogota really

Don Mardle said...

He did.