Arrived in San Jose Costa Rica to pick up my bike at 4.30 AM. I knew i had a busy day full of bureaucracy ahead of me to release my motorcycle from the almacen fiscal where I left it in March. With a good Costa Rican cup of coffee in my hand I seat on the street and i regroup my energy for the day. At 6.00AM i arrive in front of the custom office but the office does not open until 8.00AM. When finally at 9.00 I am able to speak with someone the customs official start saying that I will not able to pick up my bike without paying a huge fine of $1,000 because I should have terminated my temporary permit of transit back in March. This is a wake up call for me. It reminds me that for the next month or so I am not in Canada nor in Italy and my mind-set has to change right away. Having some experience in this kind of matters I keep calm and starting to explain that at the custom depot, where I left my bike back in the month of March, I was told that by storing the bike with them I did not need to terminate my permit because it was done automatically by their software system. No chance. The custom official did not want to hear any of that and started calling her superior. I knew I just had to stay calm and I apology for the inconvenience. Of course inside of me I was mad and I really wanted to jump across the desk and bite her hear off. In any case to make a long story short, I was able to release my baby only at 3.00 PM. Of course i did not have to pay any fine whatsoever. My good friend Andres from the Almacen Fiscales ” El Coco” gave me a great hand.
Andres and me
The following day I bring my motorcycle for a full tune up and plan my route to reach Panama. I decide not to cross into Panama from the main border crossing of Paso Canoas but to take the northern, smaller entry of Rio Sereno.
The road is stunning. I reach 10,000 feet of altitude and the temperature is freezing. What will it be when i will be riding at 15,000 feet in Bolivia and Peru’ I ask myself ? I definitely misjudge my clothing equipment once again.
The mood is high and in just one day I had the chance to remind myself that I am not doing just a sunday ride but something a bit more complicated. I am very exited and ready. Let the adventure continue. The kids of ” Virgen de Fatima” are waiting.
The very first day of my departure a great article on the ” Corriere di Arezzo” written by Francesca Muzzi, was telling our story. I will not translate the all thing as we know the intent of our trip around the world. The funny part of the article described Matteo as being a slim man with a long beard while myself as a bit “chubby”. The article says that if we were to be put together we could be identified as Santa Claus bringing gifts to the children around the world.
We certainly hope that the next article will not describe us as being like Laurel and Hardy………..
Laurel and Hardy
Woke up early this morning as our goal is to make it to Costa Rica. Looking at our GPS and maps we decide to try a different border crossing. We decide to head to San Carlos and take a small boat that will take us to Los Chiles in Costa Rica. This border crossing is not used for vehicles but our determination after the road of terror in Nicaragua is pretty high. Off at around 9 AM we travels on a beautiful paved road all the way to San Carlos. Close to the town a big bridge is under construction and we are told that it will serve as a main border to Costa Rica. It will take another year to be built and I am sure that the experience we are about to live will not be possible anymore with the main border in operation. As soon as we arrive in San Carlos we head to the river where a small immigration office is located to do the bureaucratic paper to leave Nicaragua. We ask about our options for Costa Rica and we are told that there is a boat at 4 PM that might be able to take us. It is only noon therefore I try to arrange with some locals the possibility to hire a boat to take us to Los Chiles. Of course it is possible but the price is too high and on top of it, the military will not allow it because the guy that would have taken us does not hold a license to carry goods but only people. The only possibility for us is to wait for the bigger boat at 4 PM. The boat that is supposed to take us across the border along the “Rio Frio” is everything but a big boat and the place we are supposed to load our bikes is designed for loading passengers only and not bikes. We have soon a big crowd of people watching us trying to put our heavy bikes onto this small little catamaran. The river is magical. Very mystical. Along the river there are still some people who live with very little exchange with the outside world. I start talking to the captain and he tells me that on that river there are lots of crocodile, snakes and all the other beautiful creature that I absolutely detest . My head starts to play funny games so I quickly drink a couple of beers to relax and admire the scenery in front of my eyes. Due to the difficulty on loading our bikes, we leave Nicaragua late in the afternoon and we know that the little border crossing will be close upon our arrival. After 1 1/2 hours of cruising we arrive to the place where we are supposed to disembark but unloading the bikes is a hard task. It takes us another 45 minutes to do it. The vegetation in Costa Rica is magnificent. On the trees we start seeing many monkeys of different species. Matthew Lee and myself included.
After a brief visit in Bluefield we attempted to get a boat back to El Rama only to find out that there would not be a boat until monday. Today is saturday so we decided to ride our motorcycles through the jungle on a sketchy road at best called La Trocia. After asking many locals about the road condition which none of them had actually been on, we decided to give it a try as time was running out. We were pleasantly surprised for the first 10 kM. The road was a typical rocky bumpy gravel road that was easy to navigate on our bikes. Then we hit the mountains with slimy red clay more slippery sections than black ice with inclines and decents that certainly are not legal for road construction. Having said that there were a few 4×4’s with horseback being the main mode of transportation on this lets call it a path. We figure we happened upon between 50 to 75 locals on horseback and donkey ( cowboys armed with guns and machetes ) certainly the prefered way of transportation .Every time we asked how much further we had to go the answer was about an hour. It took several hours to cover 100k the intense jungle heat had us feeling like we may not make it. Luckly we had ice in the cooler to cool us down after we helped each other pick up our motorcycles after they would slide out from underneath us. Lee dumped his bike in the middle of a river and we thought oh no the bike would never start after that. But the KTM did not let us down. Matthew’s heavy BMW struggle up the steep ascents with tires spinning and smoking clutch. Unfortunately after hitting the crest of the mountain we realized we were in the middle of the mountain range. At one point the BMW refused to go up any more steep inclines and some locals came upon us and 5 men helped push the bike the last 50 feet of a long steep incline. later and many crashes and many river/stream crossings we high-fived each other and were happy to arrive in New Guinea for a well deserved rest. The plan for the next day is to head down to Costa Rica where we will store the bikes at a Government bonded storage. Costa Rica will be the last leg of this segment of the trip around the world on Motorcycle. Next will be from Costa Rica to somewhere in South America. More information on future plans to come soon.
Again the border crossing with Nicaragua is complicated but pretty normal and straightforward. As it is late afternoon we decide to stop for the night in a little town just after the border called Ocotan.Some people at the hotel Frontera where we reside advise us to go for dinner at the Vieja Casa Restaurant. The food is OK but nothing special. The morning after Matthew needs to go to the police station to file a report because he lost his top case and needs it in order to claim it for insurance purposes. The plan for today is to reach Bluefield. Bluefield is a very small town on Mosquito Coast. Mosquito Coast was famous at the time for being full of pirates. Because of its location It is today an arrival point for illegal drugs that make their way to the north. The only way to get there is by boat or barge along the river Escondido. At around noon I stop for a break and when I try to restart my bike I experience a total loss of power. It is an electrical problem. I manage to fixed with the help of Henry, the owner of a hardware store. unfortunately time is still not on our side therefore the is no chance for us to make to Bluefield. Plan B will take us to the beautiful city of Granada. Granada is a typical colonial town developed by the Spanish in the 16th century. It is reputed to be one of the best example of spanish colonial architectural in central america. We stay at the Hotel Colonial and enjoyed a great dinner close to the main square. The idea is to wake up early in the morning and attempt to reach Bluefield by the end of the day. The ride to Bluefield in the morning is beautiful. We drive trough lush green tropical vegetation. The humidity is getting seriously high, which seems to affect me more than Lee and Matthew. We reach El Rama at 4PM and apparently we are late to catch the boat that will take us to the atlantic coast of Nicaragua. With my broken spanish I try to rent a private boat to take us there but because we need a special permit from the military to cruise on the river we are not able to do so. After some negotiation the only possibility to get to Bluefield that night is by traveling by barge. The ride on the river will take 9 hours. Lee and Matthew decide to sleep with their sleeping bag on the barge while i decide to jump on the boat that will pull the barge because the boat is carrying some passenger as well. Every occasion i have to stay with locals I take. We are all resting on hamakas on the rear bridge of this old boat. It really feels like we are cruising on the Amazon River. The true adventure for all of us. People carrying vegetables, chickens and all sort of different goods. All squeezed in a maze of Hamakas. We all loved it.
The captain of the boat suggest us to stay at the Oasis Hotel and casino. Driving trough the town of Bluefield we feel that everyone is starring at us with couriosity expression in their faces. I have experienced this feeling of being a movie star in some countries I visited but this one was somehow special. As soon as we arrive the hotel we soon understand why people were so intrigued about our presence in town. It turnes out that we are the first people on motorcycle that ever shwed up to Bluefield. I dont know if this is true but doing something for the first time that no one has done before in 2013 is very special. We feel a bit like the first settlers. An amazing feeling. Bluefield is certantly not a Central American town. This is because it is inaccessible by land.The people of Bluefield are mainly black and speek a sort of dialect. A mixture of Spanish and English. Many rastas on the street and reaggie is the music of choice.
In this trip around the world I have crossed many countries so I don’t worry too much about the bureaucracy involved. Let’s not forget that Italians invented such a thing and in a way I feel very much at home. Before crossing into Honduras, all the people I have asked information about the country told me to keep our eyes open as the crime rate is higher than any other countries in Central America. After crossing the border from El Salvador, none of us felt uncomfortable in either crossing the border itself nor riding into the county. The initial plan, due to some running out of time for Mike, was to reach Nicaragua as soon as possible, but with the guys we soon decided that it would be a pity to be here and not explore Honduras countryside. Well let me tell you that it has been a great country to visit. I really wanted to explore the northern shore of Honduras but at the same time we committed that we would escort Mike at least all the way to Nicaragua so time was not on our side. I promise myself and Matteo that we will do Central America again because there is so many thing that I have missed about this part of the world. The roads are in decent shape and we opted to cross the northern border into Nicaragua called Las Mano. In order to get there we are riding though a region called El Paraiso. (The Paradise). We climbed to about 1500 meters and encounters many pine trees along the way. The temperature was also finally very pleasant. To make some extra cash it is customs for families to put a barbecue in front of their residence and cook some chorizo, chicken, or meat for whoever wants a bite to eat on the street. It is a great way to have a conversation with the locals. Usually we start talking about soccer to begin, but soon there after politics seems to be their favorite subject. Lee,Mike,Matthew and myself absolute love this way to interact with local people so choosing a destination for dinner is never a problem.
Border crossings – the travelers nightmare! Really when it comes down to it, it is a really a very simple process made very complicated by a wonderful latin bureaucratic process. There are two things you need to do, the first is enter the country as a person and then process your moto and get a Temporary Import Permit (PIT). Unfortunately you can never do this in one single step and it seems that every country does their best to add their own special twist to the series of events that lead to these two simple requirements . First of all, the offices are not clearly marked, nor are the officials clearly identified – offices may appear closed, when in fact they are open, they may not be plainly labeled or visible. Requirements always include photo copies of all document in duplicate, and that also includes documents produced by customs or immigration at the time of entry. All this leads to confusion and opportunity. “Opportunity” comes in the form of “handlers” – a group of self-appointed individuals (sometimes in the dozens) vying for the opportunity to process your paperwork and guide you throughout the process for a fee. As an experienced traveler and speaking the language they usually leave me alone after the first 10 minutes. But they are very frustrating and annoying as they generally will never take “no” as an answer.
Crossed the border in good time, with a short side trip back Guatemala (event the most experienced can be humbled by the process) for some forgotten paperwork. Once done, it was smooth sailing into the country and a lovely nighttime ride of twisties to EL Zonte – Surfers Paradise where we pulled our bikes up onto the sandy beach side Palapa for a well deserved beverage, with the waves crashing behind us. We were fortunate to have stumbled into a lovely bungalow styled hotel surrounded by thatched buildings culled together with timbers to make a thoroughly unique surf village.
in preparation of an inland stretch where temperatures where we expect temperatures to rise to close to 40 degrees celsius we drench ourselves in water – Lee actually just walked into the outdoor shower and claims he will have his own air conditioning for 45 minutes – the time it will take to dry in these conditions. After several frustrating attempts at finding accommodation on the beach, we stumble upon Tortuga Verde and Tom the owner, who took very good care of us, on one of the most pristine beaches we have seen so far.
The following morning we all decide to go to the boarder with Nicaragua. Unfortunately I experience the first flat tire in my all trip since Italy. I manage to fix the tire on the side of the road with the help of some locals.