Friday, March 23, 2007

Day 23 - Three weeks and counting!

So, yesterday marked our third week on the road and we find ourselves in Esteli, Nicaragua.
On March 15th we left Tikal Guatemala headed for Placencia Belize. This was a harrowing day of off-road driving on some really bad roads both in Guatemala and in Belize. Basically, I was eating Kevin´s dust the whole time and trying desperately to stay upright on my bike ridding through craters on the Guatemalan roads and some kind of funky red quicksand in Belize. I felt very proud of myslef for having been able to maintain my motorcycle composure throughout the day and Kevin agreed that I had performed like a pro! The directions we had to our frined Ron´s house were ¨just drive until the end of the road and then ask for Lydia´s place and she will tell you where the house is and give you the keys.¨ Amazingly, as we were crossing the border into Belize (still about 150 miles from our final destination) the official asked us where we would be staying and when we told her that we would be staying somewhere near Miss Lydia´s place, she actually knew who we were talking about! Unfortunately, when we finally got to the end of the road and found Miss Lydia, she had no idea that we were coming and to her credit was nice enough to take the word of two very tired-looking dust monsters that we were friends of Ron and she gave us the keys to his place. The ride was well worth it as the three days spent in Placencia Belize were nice and relaxing. However, Kevin and I played the part of the Northern tourists quite well and true to form got terrible sunburns the first day out on the beach. Non the less, we went scuba diving the next day with some friendly Canadians who were staying in the house behind Ron´s.
We left Placencia well fed, rested, tanned (OK, burnt to a crisp) and eager to get back on the road, just not eager to get back on the same exact roads we had to endure on the way in. Unfortunately, that was the only way to go. But, the roads didn´t seem quite as bad the second time around (the fact that it had rained some also helped with the dust problem) and we made good time back to Isla Flores on Lake Peten Itza in Guatemala. The next morning, Kevin discovered that two important screws had allen off my bike and so we set off to find replacements on the island, and Kevin did a masterful job at working some McGyver magic to repair the damage. Once the repairs were completed and the glue had set on one of the screws we found our way to the Panamerican Highway and headed south in the direction of the border with El Salvador.
We rode hard and made it as far as the town of Chiquimula still in Guate.
On the 21st we made it to the border with El Salvador where it took us one hour to process out of Guatemala and another hour to process into El Salvador. This entailed a lot of waiting under the midday sun for Kevin and a lot of running around in the midday sun for më: making copies of documents and getting this official and that official to fill out forms and sign them and bringing them back to the first official to look at them and taking them back to the second official to re-inspenct them and so on and so on. Two things really seem to get all the border officials really twisted into a knot, one is that both motorcycles are in Kevin´s name yet I ride one of them: ¨Como asi, what do you mean, both motorcyles in his name...hmm, and you ride one of them...hmmm, como es posible esto?¨ The other thing that seems to confuse the officials is that I am the one doing all the paperwork, not Kevin - the man. It has been decided that I will take care of the paperwork at the borders as long as we are in Spanish speaking countries...yey for me! NOT!
So, after our turtle-speed border crossing we had lunch at the nicest looking fast food place either of us have ever been in, no kidding! It was called the ¨Biggest¨ and it was patrolled by an armed guard. With full bellies, we rode through El Salvador (quite a dirty and miserable-feeling country) to a miserable-looking town called San Vicente. The drive included a required drive through the capital, San Salvador, which can only be described as a place not to be visited unless absolutely necessary. It is hot, dirty, polluted, congested, dirty, congested, polluted and hot. One peculiar thing about drivers in El Salvador is that they do not observe the ¨leave the left lane for fast traffic¨ rule and so you will be picking up speed in the left lane when all of a sudden, you will have to come to a screeching halt because there is a hunk of junk jalope vehicle doing about 10m/ph!!! No kidding, 10m/ph in the fast lane. So, I think that this is what that person might be thinking about the definition of maving fast: ¨Fast, oh yes my car goes fast, I mean, it goes faster than my grandmother walks, even faster than she runs and she can really go sometimes, especially when she is trying to catch me to give me a paliza upside my head for being such a doofus!¨
The town of San Vicente is a place that has been hit very hard by wars of the pàst and by a devastating earthquaque in 2001. Their crown jewel was an Eifel tower looking structure at the center of their town square, but since earthquaque the tower is nothing more that a dangerously unstable, crumbling eye sore. We did meet a very nice lady who showed us around town and took us to see the oldest cathedral in El Salvador which also happens to be here. Kevin took some time off from ¨sightseeing¨ to play some basketball with the local youth before we retired to our hotel ¨room¨. About the hotel room, well let´s just say that I am using the word room very, very liberally here. Really, this place gave even Kevin the heebie jeebies. Needless to say, we decided to wake up really really early the next day and try to get the heck out of El Salvador as quickly as possible.
We made it to the Honduran border by 10am and once again it took us two hours to process all our paperwork. In addition, we had to hand over $80(US) in fees on the Honduran side, and this killed Kevin given that we were going to be in that country less than 3 hours.
We drove through Honduras on the Pan American highway and in about two and a half hours we made it to the Nicaraguan border. About 45 minutes later we left the border and headed to the first big city on the map for the night. So here we are, in Esteli Nicaragua. We were woken up this morning by two guards outside our hotel room discussing how much they liked our bikes at 5am, the re-woken up by the 6am alarm that sounds every morning in the city to wake up the sleepy heads that still have not gotten up! Already, Kevin and I both agree that Nicaragua is much nicer than Honduras and much, much nicer than El Salvador. There is a lot less garbage on the roads, which is not to say that they are clean, and the towns and cities seem to be more lively and the people look more ¨alive¨. In addition, we seem to be getting a better value for our money here, although all three countries are very inexpensive. For example, yesterday Kevin got his ridding boots shined in San Vicente for only four dollars and today I got my boots shined in Esteli for only 60 cents!! (Kevin felt he got robbed, or as we say in the Lora-Ospina family, he got the big salami!!)
Tonight we are going to stay in an eco-coop hut hotel in the mountains and supposedly Kevin will be able to get up at 5am and help our farmer host milk his cows. I will be sure to get lots of pictures!
PS: A peculiar thing is that I don´t like riding on mountain roads that don´t have the lines painted on them, it makes me feel that if the lines aren´t there then I am likely to fall off the edge which may not happen if the lines are there...weird, I know!

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