Friday 9 August 2013

Cigars, waves and a reunion

Ahhh, such a fast followup on the last post.... Bike problems problems and more problems since we left Danli but we had a blessed three weeks in Nicaragua where (almost) everything went great.

We left you in Danli with a sick bike and a lot of questions about the immediate future. A big one hanging over our head was could we really afford to carry on with the bike. Was our trip about to change in a fundamental way and give up the bike and just backpack instead. We talked about it a lot with genuine sadness from both of us at the idea of leaving the bike behind. Eventually Heather said to me that we have to try and she meant it. In just a few short weeks she had got attached to travelling on the bike and was really enjoying herself, we weren't going to quit at the first hurdle.

So I headed to the mechanic the next day after researching several possible fixes online. Took the ideas to the mechanic and he basically no'd most of them but we settled on welding the front sprocket onto the output shaft. A temporary fix as the front sprocket needs to be replaced quite frequently and the welding causes it to wear down faster.

Heather and me agreed on a permenant fix being getting parts from the UK and a mechanic around here and getting it done. about $1000 in total but worth it to carry on.

So with that drama mostly out of the way we headed to the border at Las Manos (The Hands) where we faced a trial at the merciless hands of border guards. The bike being in Honduras for 2 years apparently meant it overstayed it's temporary import by about 21 months, oops, so we had a $300 fine which I am pretending is 2 years parking costs at a very reasonable rate. Had to drive back into town to get money and then back to the border to pay and get a stamp and a receipt before finally being allowed to drive across the border where the border guard looked at the wrong page, ignored all the stamps and waved us through.... bastards! What happened to a cigarette and a friendly smile being all you needed to grease the wheels of bureaucracy? It's amazing how countries who can't police their own citizens and have the highest murder rates in the world and extremely capable of getting money from people. I wonder where it all goes?

Finally into Nicaragua and through immigration with very little trouble. We headed for Esteli, a large town near the border on the pan american highway. Instantly you can see a difference between the countries. Nicaragua is significantly poorer than Honduras. Trucks on the road stopped being big 18 wheelers and were just farm trucks with cows or hay. There were more people walking along the road and even the geography seemed to change at the border. More lush green hills and acres of farmland.

Ring Road out of Esteli, the cobbles were surprisingly smooth

We had a bit of a mishap with fuel and ran out about 1k from the next fuel station. Luckily the bike has a reserve. Fuel gets stuck on the right side of the tank so you can lean the bike over to the left so it can reach the fuel tap and carry on for an extra mile or two. In Esteli we found a super cheap hostel for $8, parked the bike inside and made ourselves at home. This is where the nice 3 weeks begins. The next morning we visited a cigar factory and saw cigars being made from scratch. It is all done by hand, from selecting the leaves, removing the veins, rolling the cigar and packaging (They even make the packaging in the factory, by hand, including the decorating) Go out and look at a fancy pack of cigars, the guys are artists. even if you dont smoke you can appreciate the craftsmanship that went into it with each cigar being 100% natural and made purely with tobacco leaves. We also managed to go see a science museum with dinosaurs made from car parts. They used to breath fire or be powered by solar panels but they were old and not cared for. Basically they went the same way the dinosaurs did.

Training for my future employment as a cigar roller.

We soon headed down to Leon where we were reunited with Andy and his girlfriend, Jenia. Andy was one of the first bikers I traveled with at the beginning of the trip. We first met in Iran and met up in various places along the way. It was good to see a friendly face and catch up on old times. We discussed the bikes, obviously, and Andy suggested a mechanic he knows in Costa Rica to fix the bike. We didn't stay long but planned to meet up again at their home in Limon.

Leon was a pretty colonial city with Central Americas largest cathedral. We enjoyed the sites, saw some live music and I showed of my white guy dancing in a small nightclub. I think everyone was, thankfully, a bit too drunk to notice me. Leonians can really dance. It's strange seeing such great dancing in a nightclub when dancing in a club usually means grinding and even then it's not graceful. 

Largest Cathedral in CA, currently under renovation

We left the bright lights of Leon and headed to a small coastal town famous for its waves. We even went so far as to stay in a bamboo eco lodge. Let me tell you what eco means around here. It means you pay more, have to have a bucket of talc next to your toilet, there's not enough electricity to power the fan and the beds are lumpy. The environment loves it though..... But, we were on a beach in Nicaragua so I decided it was time to become an amazing surfer as this was obviously missing from my life. I rented a board, passed on the lessons and ran into the ocean where I was promptly made to feel inadequate. Surfing is hard, and tiring. I tried for about an hour and by the end I was tired upset and broken in many ways. Heb took out a body board and had a lot more fun! We ended the day watching the locals ride and they were amazing. When someone can make something that difficult look that easy then you know they are good!

Me surfing!!! HA, no this is a local guy

It was here that bumped into Jayne and Phil, they are brother and sister and travelling down from Alaska to Argentina. It seems they were supposed to be in Columbia by now but schedules rarely survive more than the first week of any trip. We said hi but didn't have much time to get to know them as they we're dropping a friend at the airport. We've bumped into them a few times since.

We left the beach after a couple of days and headed to meet someone from Horizons Unlimited. Salvador has a house in Managua where he runs his own, rapidly expanding, adventure travel company. When overlanders come through he offers them a place to stay for a few days to recoup and we're going to need it. We met Sal in Matagalpa but didn't know what hotel he was in so panic started to set in as we arrived. We passed one big hotel and it looked like there were some big bikes there so doubled back and there was Sal with Jayne and Phil. Celebrations were had! Sal had a few friends down on a trip and they were offroading their way back to Managua.  The next morning we headed south, Jayne and Phil headed East and Sal headed North West with his group.

The whole group

Sal had given us his address and told us to head on down and he would meet us there a few days later. We headed off and I decided it would be a good time to try some offroading with Heb. See if we could make it work. It was a pretty simple road but I think we'll need a bit more practice before we get good at this 2 up thing. Heb got sick just outside of Managua so we stopped to rest but it wouldn't pass. Turned out it was food poisoning and we both got it. We reached Sals place and spent the night vomiting and shitting. Pleasant for everyone I can assure you. It turned out everyone who met at the hotel in Matagalpa got sick at one point or another but fortunately it passed quickly.


I think I'll leave it there and catch you up again soon.