July 17 - 19, 2014...Brasilito, Playa Conchal, Guanacaste Provience, Costa Rica

"You won't believe it, but I see golden arches", I radioed with surprise to Kev as we were caught in roadworks and bumper to bumper of mid day truck traffic of Liberia. We decided that this would be a great time to stop for lunch before heading over to our destination on the coast.  No we did not stop at McDonald's, but food chose a food court located across from the icon!  

After several dirt road detours, back tracking, and help from kind locals we managed to locate our first choice of accommodations by 3pm.  We were in luck, the small boutique 9 room Conchal Hotel, had an available room.  Kev and I thoroughly enjoyed our time here.  We spent the remainder of our stay walking to the tiny seashell and crystalline waters of Playa Conchal each morning to swim and lounge, then walking back to the hotel by 3pm to recover and enjoy superb gourmet cooking by the hotel owners Hilda & Simon in the evening.  A most enjoyable schedule!

July 17, 2014…Border crossing into Costa Rica

This is our second day of riding next to Central America's largest lake…Lake Nicaragua.  Her vast liquid scape is an important source of fresh water for all Nicaraguans.   Lake Nicaragua, complete with a couple of stunning volcanoes, emerging from her waters has been majestically hugging our left hand since leaving Granada.  Her windy, wave lapped shores appear in sight from time to time as we ride towards the Nicaragua/Costa Rica border.  Interestingly enough, this area will dramatically change over the next five years and I am unsure of the future environmental impacts that it will have on this grand lake, and the Nicaraguans.  A canal project similar to the Panama Canal, has been in planning, in-fact it has been a topic of discussion over hundreds of years!  This massive proposed canal would link the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans via Lake Nicaragua.  It was said that the canal would enable Nicaragua to become one of the wealthiest countries in Central America! Recently, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega along with Chinese billionaire Wang Jing, the sole owner of the Hong Kong based company HKND Group, signed the finance and construction agreement for the canal. The 40 billion dollar project is reported to begin in December 2014 and be completed in 2019 some time.  The proposed route would stretch 278km, 173 miles from Punta Gorda, located on the Caribbean side of Nicaragua, through Lake Nicaragua to the mouth of the river Brito on the Pacific side of the country.  Engineers from HKND reported that the canal project would be between 230 meters and 520 meters wide and 27.6 meters deep, more than two thirds larger than the Panama Canal.  This project definitely makes for very interesting reading, and much speculation…I am just glad that I had the opportunity to hug her vast virgin shore line for a couple of days!

Nicaragua's wind machines were all impressively working.  Their towering, sleek, aerodynamic columns, dominated the scape and their mighty blades rotated with force and dominance through the air.  Huge shadows were cast across the road ahead of us, and at times the light and shadow fluctuations were almost strobe like.  It was a very commanding section of road, all the way to the border.

The wind machines face Lake Nicaragua, only 50 feet away.

The wind machines face Lake Nicaragua, only 50 feet away.

Their massive arms crated huge shadows that swept across the road and countryside...at times it was hypnotic.

Their massive arms crated huge shadows that swept across the road and countryside...at times it was hypnotic.

Two hours dealing with Customs, Aduana, photo coping and transport, was efficient and pretty darn uneventful.  The paperwork leaving Nicaragua was all confined within the buildings surrounding a parking lot.  Now that we were entering Costa Rica it was essential for us to be baptized.  Mother Nature blessed us with a torrential downpour and welcomed us over the border! 

Completely soaked through once again!  Excited and ready to experience Costa Rica.

Completely soaked through once again!  Excited and ready to experience Costa Rica.

 

 

July 16, 2014…San Juan del Sur, Rivas Department, Nicaragua

Just a short little jaunt today… an easy ride across to the Pacific coast and into the crescent shaped bay and sleepy fishing village of San Juan del Sur.  We were actually considering skipping this gem and just heading for the border…but what's the rush?

Riding out of Granada

Riding out of Granada

After arriving and circling the seaside village to get our bearings Kev and I proceeded to 'putt around' eyeing establishments for secure parking.  We found a small hotel just off the coastal drag that had gated parking and luckily an open room for the night.  I was not able to view the room before committing to the booking,as it was still occupied but a friendly Costa Rican offered to take pictures of his room and show us.  All looked fine so we committed and paid the $40 US that included breakfast.  We had arrived early…9:30am to be exact, and it felt really weird to be stopping for the day!  Our room would not be ready until 2pm, so we decided to park the bikes, get out of our riding gear and chill by the pool.  By 1pm, pleasantly earlier than expected, Kev and I had our room key.  Now I know that you are thinking that our room was not what we expected…sorry to disappoint… it was just like the pictures I was shown!  

San Juan del Sur

San Juan del Sur

The bay is beginning to fill up with boats, bursts of laughter and festivities.

The bay is beginning to fill up with boats, bursts of laughter and festivities.

We had arrived on a special day for this little fishing community, the Virgen del Carmen festival, a celebration and blessing of the Queen of the sea. 'La Reina de los Mares', the Queen of the Seas was once believed that with her water purifying presence cleared up the sea waters so that they would be fit for swimming in!  Very important for the many famous surf beaches located in the area!  This sleepy fishing and surfers paradise was rowdy and alive!  The large fishing pier was packed with locals joyfully celebrating.  Repeatedly, ignited fire crackers shot into the sky, exploded and loudly echoed across the bay, children jumping off the pier, narrowly missing the swarming boats screamed and laughed, and a jumble of drum and trumpet compilations echoed the village streets.  It was pretty darn fun to sit back and experience their excitement.   We enjoyed the sun setting over the 'Jesus de la Misericoridia' while enjoying a 'happy hour' dinner complete with beer and tastey tapas for $13.

Jesus de la Misericoridia

Jesus de la Misericoridia

See the emerald heart?

See the emerald heart?

July 13 -15, 2014…Granada, Granada Department, Nicaragua

I must admit I am getting a little weary…don't get me wrong…I love the riding, adventure, education, challenges and accomplishments…but the constant packing up, unpacking and moving is tiring!  Kev and I have both experienced food poisoning several times throughout our travels, dehydration, extreme fatigue and injuries, and today Kev is battling with a nasty stomach…Maybe we need a holiday from the adventure?  But for now it will have to wait, as we have a boat to catch and it is leaving on August 5th from Panama.

Pulling into Granada…weary on a very   warm salutary day.

Pulling into Granada…weary on a very warm salutary day.

Looking back on one of the descriptive directional markers in Granada…Volcano Momotombo, which is active!

Looking back on one of the descriptive directional markers in Granada…Volcano Momotombo, which is active!

Nicaragua has a very unique address system... There are no street names or numbers!   Just  imagine the challenges involved trying to locate a property without this 'taken for granted' system.  Nicaraguans actually take pride in their directional structure and have no problems using it!  Instead of street names, township reference points are used like churches, hospitals, and town squares.  Geographical points, like lakes and volcanoes are also used.  From your starting point and closest recognized marker point your destination will be described in blocks, along with north, south, east, west...towards the volcano, towards the lake, next to the school, in front of, behind, across from, or next to!  And if that isn't that complicated for you, it is all in Spanish!….Fun stuff!!!

When in doubt…take a horse and carriage!

When in doubt…take a horse and carriage!

After circling and circling Granada we located the perfect hacienda 'Casa del Consulado'...2 blocks from the town square.   And we had secure parking! 

After circling and circling Granada we located the perfect hacienda 'Casa del Consulado'...2 blocks from the town square.   And we had secure parking! 

All safely locked away

All safely locked away

Our room even had an entryway!

Our room even had an entryway!

In fact it was huge!

In fact it was huge!

Lake Nicaragua….it is huge, huge, huge!  Basically it looks like the sea!

Lake Nicaragua….it is huge, huge, huge!  Basically it looks like the sea!

Granada is charming spanish colonial town whose confusing narrow, criss-crossing, confusing streets actually remind me of Camaguey, Cuba.  In a 'Pirates of the Caribbean' way, they share a similar history.  Founded in 1524 by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba, Granada was the jewel of the empire.  Directly connected with the Caribbean and Atlantic Oceans via the Rio San Juan and Lake Nicaragua, Granada held strategic importance our trade routes for Central America and Mexico.  Did you know that the pirate Captain Morgan, yes I know it is a rum/ron…actually captured and held Granada for 16 hours from the Spanish?!  One hundred and forty years after Cordoba sailed up the Rio San Juan, across Lake Nicaragua and founded Granada, the Welshman Crusader Henry Morgan followed Cordoba's founding path, with a band of 40 buccaneers.  It was one of the most daring exploits of the 'golden age of Caribbean piracy".  During the middle of a June night, Morgan and his men beached silently on Granada's shores and took the Spanish by surprise.  They stole Spanish gold and ammunition, burned churches, sank Spanish boats and then disappeared as stealthily as they had arrived.  Morgan a pirate by Spanish interpretation was actually an admiral of the British Royal Navy, a privateer, commissioned by the British monarchy to capture ships, wealth and territory from rival powers.  Sir Henry Morgan was a major player in the 17th century "privileged pirate" world commanding over 35 fleets from his Jamaican headquarters.  The interesting pirate/privateer history continued with Granada well into the late 1700's…just thought I would share a little Captain Morgan with you all….Cheers!

July 10 - 12, 2014… Leon, Leon Department, Nicaragua

Not being able to load the address of our first choice hotel with parking, Kev and I headed towards the city square.  We choose accommodations close to the town center, as this is the heart of the community and the best place to experience, taste and interact with it's people.  The street we happen to be riding down dead ends into the town square, so we decide to park the bikes and hit a coffee shop we just passed for a cold drink and some wifi.  It has been a very long day, and we are totally wiped...more than eager to get off the road, out of our ridiculously sweaty gear and into a shower.  With the reviving help of a mind freezing banana/strawberry icy concoction, some wifi and friendly local help we learn that our hotel is actually on this street!  

The very busy square!

The very busy square!

Asking for directions

Asking for directions

By 6pm the bikes are securely parked behind closed doors, our luggage unloaded and carted upstairs, and Kev and I are mindlessly floating in the cool pool, now fighting off the leg and feet cramping we are experiencing…painfully and very thankful that this day has finally come to an end!  

Beautiful bell tower on one of the churches in the square.

Beautiful bell tower on one of the churches in the square.

What the heck is that?  A peaceful slept came to an abrupt end precisely at 7am.  The high pitch screams of a an air raid siren had us scampering around our room trying to figure out what was going on.  Later, sitting in a coffee shop, the siren sounded again.  Apparently this is a twice daily occurrence according to a local med student…No need for an alarm clock here!


Hiking up the side of a volcano, on a wondrous…setting sun with a full moon rising.  Still worn out from dehydration  we did not want to miss this opportunity.  There are cows   everywhere in Nicaragua!

Hiking up the side of a volcano, on a wondrous…setting sun with a full moon rising.  Still worn out from dehydration  we did not want to miss this opportunity.  There are cows everywhere in Nicaragua!

The next afternoon Kev and I were slowly hiking up the side of the Telica Volcano…it was an opportunity that we could not miss, even though we still were not 100%.  Our guide was sympathetic to our present ailing issues.  We paused every 10 minutes or so to hydrate, catch our breath and enjoy the beauty below us.  A fiery sun was beginning to set, a brilliant full moon was beginning to rise and the entire experience was magnificently surreal.  As we climbed, hiking over the rubbly and rocky terrain, each step bringing us closer to the edge of the active volcanic creator, the now strong misty sulfur fumes were beginning to irritate our nostrils.  It was crazy…you now could hear the jet engine like roar from the active molten lava, 150 meters below.  The sound was so commanding that it instinctively kept us from venturing too close to the volcanos unstable, crusty, crumbly craters edge.  When the misty, sulfur clouds periodically dissipated you could see the red hot poker glow from the river of lava below…..too crazy!  It really could not have been a more spectacular experience.

Nicaragua has one of the most impressive chains of volcanos in Central America. Often referred to as the 'country of lakes and volcanoes', Nicaragua features over fifty cones, with seven of them being active.  The Telica Volcano is active, still grumbling and smoking and last erupted in 1999.  Telica rises over one kilometer high has a huge 120 meter deep crater and is 700 meters in diameter.  

Telica's smoking creator…with the keepers of the trail collecting a toll!

Telica's smoking creator…with the keepers of the trail collecting a toll!

At the edge 

At the edge 

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The moon is starting to rise behind us as we watch the sun set in front of us!

The moon is starting to rise behind us as we watch the sun set in front of us!

Our guide

Our guide

Barely making out the red dots….this is the jet engine roaring lava below!

Barely making out the red dots….this is the jet engine roaring lava below!

July 10, 2014... Border crossings into Honduras & Nicaragua



Heading towards the Honduras border

Heading towards the Honduras border

Our route today taking us through 2 border crossings.

Our route today taking us through 2 border crossings.

"George told me you would be here."  Did I just hear that?   It's 8am, already 89 degrees fahrenheit, 32 degrees celsius, and we've just pulled up to the El Salvador/Honduras border which is known among motorcyclists as the most complicated and frustrating border crossing in Central America.  We're surrounded by 'helpers' and they are all talking at once.  I can understand a little bit of spanish when it's spoken slowly, but, right now I'm in a sea of confusion.  The helpers are loathed by many travelers.  We didn't use one entering Mexico, Belize or Guatemala, but, when we met George at the last crossing we immediately remembered reading about him online from another traveler, took a chance, and negotiated his services.  He spoke English, was honest, knowledgable and truly "helped" us through the maze of paperwork and bureaucracy.  I turn off the bike, flip up my face shield and look at the helper who just made the statement.  "What did you say, Amigo?", I asked.  "George told me he helped you and to watch out for you",  he said in very, very broken english.  Hmmm..  I need time to process whether it's actually feasible that George contacted this guy or whether it is some strange scam.  Maybe all the 'helper's' at the borders are named George,  and he uses this line on everyone?  I walk over to Cat and I share this information.  "Should I hire him, babe?", I ask.  She's also surrounded by helpers.  They are arguing over who has priority claim to the 'fresh meat' on beemers...  She's cool and composed as multitasking comes natural to her and she says "Well if he really is George's friend, he's our best bet".  

"Hey Amigo….George told me you would be here"!

"Hey Amigo….George told me you would be here"!

There is already a lot going on at this border!

There is already a lot going on at this border!

Trying to shake the confusion of all the activity I walk up to some other motorcyclists who are already processing through the border.  They tell me they've been there for about 30 minutes working on getting the bikes cleared out of El Salvador and that the official who was handling the process has disappeared.  Apparently the other official doesn't know where he's gone or where the paperwork has disappeared.  They speak fluent spanish and they are having problems with step number one.  On top of it all, one of them is spewing profanities in english at the other official.  The decision is easy and I turn to George's apparent comrade and say  "What's your name, Amigo?"  "Royer", he tells me.  "Ten dollars todo for both bikes when we are on the other side of the Honduras border, ok?", I ask.  "Si." is Royer's response.  He takes charge, tell's Cat to watch the bikes and leads me on the first of many trips between officials, banks and photocopiers.  

It's early, and already the sun has a mean bite!

It's early, and already the sun has a mean bite!

Looking back at El Salvador!

Looking back at El Salvador!

In concept, crossing the border is a relatively straight forward process with four main steps:  1)  Cancel the temporary import paperwork on the country you are leaving;  2) Get exit stamps for the country you are leaving;  3) After traveling across the 'no man's land' to government offices for the next country you get stamped in, and;  4) Complete the paperwork to temporarily import the bikes into the next country.  In reality, there can be another five to ten steps as your fumigated, inspected, detected, insured and neglected and you'll need photocopies of each of these steps before you proceed to the next official.  On top of that the government, photocopy, fumigator, banker and insurance offices are not well marked and can be mixed into a little border community filled with hundreds of related businesses, money changers, food stands, beggars, dogs, cats and people who seem to just be hanging out watching the circus.  Now this in itself is probably enough of a challenge, but, Cat and I like to make it more challenging by wearing heavy and hot gear with fancy names like Cordura and Gore-Tex, that might save our life when we crash, but, is hot as hell and heavy when running around borders.  We also have two fancy motorcycles with all of our possessions and lots of high tech gadgetry that we have to keep watch over.  Although we know that there are dishonest officials worldwide, we've run into nothing but polite, helpful officials at the borders including the military and police checkpoints inside Mexico and Central America.  We actually get waved through almost every checkpoint and can't help but wonder if the GoPro video camera mounted to the visor is acting as a checkpoint deterrent.  

Royer and Kev discussing the ride through Honduras. 

Royer and Kev discussing the ride through Honduras. 

Looking forward into Honduras

Looking forward into Honduras

Thanks for everything Royer!….We never really figured out if George had sent him….but whatthehey?

Thanks for everything Royer!….We never really figured out if George had sent him….but whatthehey?

We had been told to expect around four hours to cross this border!  Two sweat soaked hours later we started across Honduras in the 100 degrees fahrenheit/38 degrees celsius heat.  Not too bad really!  Unfortunately Cat had to deal with a extremely loud, drunk lady that spent a half hour trying to get Cat to give her some greenbacks to leave her alone.  Cat's compassionate and generous, but, belligerent drunks aren't going to get a penny, or under her skin, no matter how long they spend in her grill.   It's not just the heat, or the fatigue from the border crossing paperwork and drunk beggars that we're dealing with moving forward, we're nervous!  The US Department of State website warns that the level of crime and violence in El Salvador and Honduras is "critically high".  El Salvador had attitude, but, we know that since 2010, Honduras has had the highest murder rate in the world.  Our plan is to ride straight through to Nicaragua and we'll rest for a few nights in Leon.  What we didn't plan for was that we'd soon be seriously suffering from dehydration.  While riding we were focused on avoiding the potholes, the missing manhole covers and the traffic.  On top of that our bike to bike radio communications have stopped working and our GPS has sent us down dirt roads to nowhere.  This always seems to happen when at the worst of times so we try to stay focused on the task at hand and not let it become a distraction.  When our GPS has been confused in the past I've had good luck getting directions at gas stations so I pull into the Puma Petrol Station in Choluteca, Honduras and I say to the female gas station attendant in my best quizzical voice "Nicaragua".  She smiles, points back the way I've come and I think she says "Agua".  Maybe, I've heard her wrong so I say "Nicaragua?" again looking like the confused yank that I am.  Once again she says "Agua" and points down a very sketch dirt road that I'm praying isn't the route to Nicaragua.  Now, I'm not a fast processor of these situations and Cat is.  I hear her calling my name so I pull of my helmet and get off the bike in my best exaggerated 'What do you you want, Cat manner' and Cat says "I think she's pointing at the Agua hose over there".  Yep, that's exactly what she's doing but I can't let Cat know that I'm not in control of the situation so I give her my best 'I've got this handled look' and walk back to the attendant.  The third time I say "Nicaragua" there is laughter all around at the confusion and she explains to us how to get back on the road out of town.  

It was a very hot ride across Honduras….and the heat is not letting up!

It was a very hot ride across Honduras….and the heat is not letting up!

$5 bucks for some help and 50 cents to watch the bikes!

$5 bucks for some help and 50 cents to watch the bikes!

By 12:30 pm we were standing in line for immigration at the Honduras/Nicaragua border crossing.  It's packed with people, it's very, very hot and the officials are all at lunch.  The locals are politely looking at us like aliens.  Our red faces reveal the heat exhaustion and dehydration we're starting to suffer from.  The building is not air-conditioned, there is not air movement,  and the pockets of our fancy gear carry important items , so we clasp our jackets tightly while we bake in this oven of a building.  I start to feel the disassociation and lighted headed symptoms associated with the situation, but, I'm not thinking clearly.  Luckily Cat is and she recognizes whats happening and starts forcing me to consume more water, electrolytes, salt, peanuts and bananas.  Over the two and a half hours it took us to get through this border Cat and I both felt pretty sick and it was a challenge to force a liter of water into each of us.  The water and food helped, but frankly, it was too little, too late.  We suffered through the balance of ride to Leon in the sweltering heat before standing in a cool pool for an hour to drop our core body temperatures and then fighting off the pain from muscle cramps that lasted for days to come  Up at 5:45 am, on the road at 7:00am, through two borders and the most dangerous country in the world before getting off the road at around 6:00pm.  I think you could say it was a big day and, more importantly, a very important lesson to us about keeping cool and hydrated.

Young children herding cattle, sometimes have a lot to handle!

Young children herding cattle, sometimes have a lot to handle!

Heading towards Leon, Nicaragua 

Heading towards Leon, Nicaragua 

Nicaragua….the land of awesome volcanoes!

Nicaragua….the land of awesome volcanoes!

Totally overheated, dehydrated and exhausted we are caught in bummer to bummer traffic into Leon….so we follow a local down the shoulder!

Totally overheated, dehydrated and exhausted we are caught in bummer to bummer traffic into Leon….so we follow a local down the shoulder!

July 9, 2014…La Union, La Union, El Salvador

Today I saw….

A dog running alongside the road with the lower portion of a horse's leg in its mouth…hoof/shoe and all!

A man sitting by the side of the road holding out a stick with 3 dead armadillos on it…obviously for sale!

A man holding a stick by the side of the road with an iguana threaded onto it…obviously for sale!

A man holding 2 alive green iguanas upside down by their tails, by the side of the road…I'm not sure if they were intended to be pets!

A lady sitting backwards, her back to the road, hands over her head holding up a fishing line with 3 small fish on it…obviously for sale!

A petrol security guard caring an array of colorful shotgun shells around his belt.  Different colors represent different shot…why?

With an early afternoon check in at the La Union Comfort Inn we are set up nicely for our early morning border crossing into Honduras.

La Union Comfort Inn.  A cheap,clean ,place that is close to the border of Honduras. 

La Union Comfort Inn.  A cheap,clean ,place that is close to the border of Honduras. 

Clean and simple 

Clean and simple 


El Salvador, you confuse me!  

Your land is lush, interesting and fertile.  You have islands, volcanos, rugged cliffs and a magnificent Pacific coast line that is truly stunning.  Then with short warning it is like you have been sucked into a black void…The road now ribbed and moist.  Your eyes are not adjusting, there is absolutely no light and a slight spur of panic races over your body.  These mountainside tunnels dominate the cliff roads… and they get a hold on you every time.  Inhaling a deep calming breath, you slow down and try to be remain steady on the moist ribbed roads you can feel, but not see.  Really...you may have well been riding with your eyes closed!  Once again light appears accompanying  a deep sigh of relief, and "Oh yeah", the cocky smirk!  

Much of your well maintained roads are amazingly canopied by sturdy mature trees that are neatly shaped and trimmed.  Some lush passages are so arched and lengthy that it is truly a wondrous experience to ride through!  

A "Surftista's Paradise" where perfectly formed waves curl and crash, drenching your golden and black fine sand beaches.  Strolling your seashore you need to avoid syringes, medicine containers and miscellaneous debris while innocent children, caught up in the laughter and the moment, are frolicking in the shallows.

You accept US dollars, yet your measurements are in metric.  Your well attended petrol stations, grocery stores, hotels and businesses have armed security, iron bars and razor wire.  I see much uneasy idleness and grouping.  The overall vibe I get is somewhat gangsterish.  AND…I  feel as though you could break out into Marshall Law at any given moment!….

A country with so much potential and an amazing ride!

July 7 - 8, 2014…Playa San Blas, El Salvador

We rode the windy tropical coastal highway through extremely dark tunnels, that presented heavily ridged pavement and no lighting.  You could not tell if the bike was pulling from potholes or just uneven surfaces. It was so dark that your eyes were in shock trying to adjust, and actually did not fully adjust until you had almost exited the tunnel.  I basically slowed down to a crawl, and prayed that a faster local vehicle would not enter when we were in the tunnel.  The views from the coastal cliffs out over the Pacific were captivating and kept us engaged all the way to Playa San Blas.  

Playa San Blas

Playa San Blas

We checked into our razor wired shielded hotel, and were happily greeted and directed where to park by the armed security there.  We unloaded, ordered some food and crashed.  What a crazy wonderful day…it is now 4pm.

Pulling into our hotel

Pulling into our hotel

One of the security guards for the hotel.  I think that the bikes will be safe!

One of the security guards for the hotel.  I think that the bikes will be safe!

Peering through the barbed wire that surrounded the beach front hotel.

Peering through the barbed wire that surrounded the beach front hotel.

Beach village across the way

Beach village across the way

Looking back from the water

Looking back from the water

The beach was not the safest, nor cleanest…..

The beach was not the safest, nor cleanest…..

But the sunsets were pretty amazing!

But the sunsets were pretty amazing!

By the way the the news reported that the quake registering 6.9.  The epicenter was reported to be near Puerto Madero on the Pacific Coast in the southern Mexico sate of Chiapas.  Most of the damage from this quake has been reported effecting the state of San Marcos in Guatemala, only 150 kms north west away from us!  Unfortunately deaths were reported!

July 7, 2014…Border crossing into El Salvador

"The birds are chirping, it has to be close to 5am", I mumbled to Kev as I stretched out enjoying the rare comfort of a kingsized bed.  Then the alarm sounded!  We have a big day ahead of us today with the winding ride down from the Lake, through many towns then heading towards the Pacific Ocean, finally exiting Guatemala and entering El Salvador!  I pulled back the heavy striped curtains made from traditional weave to enjoy the early morning light.  We had organized most of our items the night before, so this morning it was just a matter of getting ourselves ready, packing up our toiletries and clothing bags to load on the bikes, then sitting down to a simple early breakfast scheduled to be delivered to our rustic volcanic rock cabin at 5:45am.

Our cozy cabin

Our cozy cabin

"Do you feel that Cat!…We are having an earthquake!", Kev sternly voices!  Not only was the entire volcanic rock cabin, eerily swaying above our heads, but the floor felt like it was moving on a bed of ball bearings.  The sky rumbled, cracked and popped, and that my friends was a noise that I had never experienced before.  My senses felt impending doom, and I immediately felt a rush of adrenaline as my body switched into the fight/flight mode.  Kev grabbed me by the arm and we promptly exited the heavy carved castle like front door and moved into a clearing away from possible destruction.  My pupils were dilated, my body began to tremble, and my heart pounding, induced a cold sweat.  Where do you go when you are on the side of a volcano, surrounded by other volcano's?  I definitely felt trapped!  Kev wrapped his strong arms around me, all we could do was just hold each other.  The ground continued to move under our feet and the doomsday bursts, booms and cracks from a nearby volcano,  dominated the sky surrounding us.  I could see one volcano directly in front of us, across Lake Atitlan.  Nothing was happening there that I could see,  but I do know that we are in a very tumultuous area.  How close is close when it comes to a volcanic eruption?  

We were staying in Cabin Aguacate…thank goodness we were not Guacamole!

We were staying in Cabin Aguacate…thank goodness we were not Guacamole!

The ground stopped shaking, the rumbling eased, and all seemed well.  Kev and I continued to tremble, and sat quiet for a few moments catching our thoughts….it was a very emotional moment.  Adrenaline still flowing in our blood stream we were antsy to hit the road.  I forced down a piece of bread with banana, and a coffee, eating was not the first thing on my mind. We have a haul ahead of us today and I knew that once the adrenaline high wore off I would crash, so a little food now was a good idea. 

Even a rumble and shake cannot stop the sun from shining over this wondrous world…What a morning!

Even a rumble and shake cannot stop the sun from shining over this wondrous world…What a morning!

Riding through the narrow streets and maneuvering our way out of Santiago, the locals were somewhat blank faced.  Many were standing out in their cobble stoned streets examining their homes and businesses for possible damage.  In the farming areas, just outside of town, Guatemalans were clearing the rubble from their stone fences that had crumbled out into the roadways.  I have no idea how extensive the damage was, where the quake originated and if there were any injuries.

School was still on….the local school bus in the rural areas

School was still on….the local school bus in the rural areas

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Adrenaline is truly a wonderful rush, and today it added a supercharged dose of instinct, strength and efficiency to our day.  It even helped when we somehow happened on,  and were funneled into a town parade close to the El Salvador border.  People, cars, bikes, displays, food carts, dogs, and obstructions were everywhere…it was utterly surreal.  After exiting the parade and continuing one our way it was not long till we could smell the fresh salty air of the Pacific Ocean.  How lovely is that!?  It has been quite a while since I last saw the Pacific, so I waved…she waved back!!….I know corny!! I thought that maybe I should lighten it up a bit!

 

El Salvador is not far away

El Salvador is not far away

We always fill up before a border.  Check out the handbag of the eski!

We always fill up before a border.  Check out the handbag of the eski!

Riding past all the trucks

Riding past all the trucks

First stop

First stop

Riding up to the Guatemalan/El Salvador border a young man rides up beside us and mouths "W E L C O M E".  Kev radios me "I think that he is a tout!"  Not to be confused with trout.  Although touts can be a little fishy at times!  Damn I'm good!  Anyway long story short, this tout ends up being George!  We actually read about George on riders forums and blogs as an extremely helpful border person.  "Wow…your George!…You are famous man!" I said,  George grinned from ear to ear!  "I don't know if we will need your help ", Kev states, and George politely grinned, gave us our space and followed behind.  Funny thing, George made things so much easier.  George totally walked us through the entire process between and through the two borders, translated for us, communicated with both the Guatemalan and El Salvador officials, and even looked after our bikes.  He made sure we had all the correct paperwork in order, photocopies and even went to the trouble of sorting through and placing everything in bundles.  The entire process could not have gone any smoother….Thanks George!!!!!  Total time from start to finish was 2 hours.  We paid George $20 US, a generous amount, more than we had originally settled on.  But frankly when your experience is pleasantly outstanding…A little extra can always go a long way for others in need….And the truth is, it is just darn good Karma! 

George

George

Waiting in line now with all our paperwork in order…almost done!

Waiting in line now with all our paperwork in order…almost done!

Last check!

Last check!

Picture time

Picture time

Thanks George…through and done!

Thanks George…through and done!

George advised us of future paperwork check points, we shook hands and then, off we rode into El Salvador.

Hey dude…where's the surf?

Hey dude…where's the surf?

July 5 - 6, 2014…Santiago, Lake Atitlan, Solola, Guatemala

Kev was able to get Navi to download some Central America maps, I don't know if it was help from above, or the fact that in La Antigua we were staying in a monastery…but what ever the power it was a true blessing.  Maneuvering through the confusing, colorful, bustling, foreign streets of La Antigua,  even with an unexpected road detour, with the ease of navigation, was a definite godsend!  I have to say that I do love the adventure of getting a little lost in town as it allows you to see so much more… but when tuk tuks are whizzing so close past you that you can smell the drivers cologne, and curious moto riders, caring passengers, parallel you, eye seducing your bike... riding so close that you could shake their hand…that is all, a little too friendly for me!  Today was our latest checkout yet 12:30 pm.  Exiting this puebla well into the day, obviously did not help our curious encounters…all that crossed my mind was "thank god for the downloaded maps!"  We turned left accelerating up the steep mountainside and out of the La Antigua immediately settling in to the adventure of the day.  The larger highway system in Guatemala is not like that of the western world.  In congested large city areas they sporadically exist then they return to narrow roadways, to cobble stones, to dirt and back to highway.

Beautiful Guatemalan countryside

Beautiful Guatemalan countryside

Our ride took us around Lake Atitlan, in and out of villages…it was a beautiful ride.

Our ride took us around Lake Atitlan, in and out of villages…it was a beautiful ride.

The ride from La Antigua up to Lake Atitlan was absolutely epic!  The road conditions although adventurous, really were not that great.  Much of the haphazard paved terrain had us maneuvering through literally swiss cheese conditions.  If that was not enough to keep you focused…It got better!  Landslides, off cambered elevated switchbacks as well as dramatically descending drop offs , sunken areas and then,  when you thought that you had encountered the worst, the road totally disappeared.   WTF….it all made sense now!  While riding through one of the many small towns, making our way to the Lake, Navi had got a little confused and we ended up in a street parade.  No worries…the police were soon by our side.  We pulled over and the two seriously armed officials graciously offered their assistance.  They were concerned when we explained that we were trying to get to Lake Atitlan.  They wanted to see our map!!  Kev explained that we did not have a map and that were following the route through GPS.  They chatted for a couple of minutes then asked us to follow them.  Kev and I followed attentively behind the black nissan police truck.  The police lead us back up to the cobbled street that we had originally come from and continued until driving until we had all exited the town.  They pulled over to the side of the road and so did we.  They exited their vehcile and discussed our route again.  You could see that something was bothering them.  They had a discussion between themselves and seemed to reach an agreement.  They smiled, shook our hands and off we went.  I"m sure that they were saying that we would be able to cross the river on the bikes…And that is what we did! 

The road was washed away on our way up to Lake Atitlan.

The road was washed away on our way up to Lake Atitlan.

Crossing

Crossing

Large rocks on the road means….do not enter!

Large rocks on the road means….do not enter!

Lake Atitlan is stunning.  Conical volcanoes towering high into the clouds surrounding the lake are lush, alive, wondrous and majestic.  Men fish the lake from their roughly chiseled wooden canoes. Women beat their traditional colorful clothing to be laundered against the large volcanic rocks while washing and rinsing them in the clear Atitlan Lake water.  And you can hear the playful happy squeals of children splashing and swimming in the lake below echo up the mountainsides, instantly creating a smile on your face…it truly is a very innocent and tranquil setting.  We chose to stay 2 nights in Santiago, the largest of the towns around the lake.  Although I definitely could have spent more time exploring the other communities!  Most of Santiago residents are dressed in traditional clothing, which is truly a beautiful sight.  We were lucky enough to experience market day in Santiago, and before I knew it I was all dressed up in traditional attire!  Kev had a bugger of a time picking me out from the crowd!  Well my tale is kind of true….I did end up purchasing an entire  Santiago traditional  women's clothing ensemble, but the fact is, I stuck out even more now being a light skinned and blue eyed tourista!  There was definitely no blending in, only snickers and smiles from coy onlookers.  The fact is, this ensemble brought more attention from other vendors and locals selling their handicrafts and wares!  Easy target….already baited, hooked and ready to be reeled in.  Little did they know that now we had no more local currency, and we were not about to load up before leaving the country!

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The lake is just stunning at sunset

The lake is just stunning at sunset

Streets of Santiago

Streets of Santiago

Cool colorful Bluebird busses…They are very very popular in the Central America's.

Cool colorful Bluebird busses…They are very very popular in the Central America's.

Main square in Santiago

Main square in Santiago

Washing day

Washing day

Traditional dress is popular here, but there is western dress also.

Traditional dress is popular here, but there is western dress also.

The striped material (top or bottom) is the regional traditional dress for the Santiago area. 

The striped material (top or bottom) is the regional traditional dress for the Santiago area. 

July 1 - 4, 2014…Antigua Guatemala, Chimaltenango, Guatemala

We slept soundly in the cool mountain air of Coban.  It definitely was a refreshing change from the warm sticky and sweaty nights we have been experiencing for quite some time now.  I'll have no problem gearing up in this brisk morning air, I may even need to turn on the heated grips!  We pull the bikes out of the hotels personal garage and begin our ride…it is 7:30am.  The alpine air smells fresh and wonderful.  The misty low hanging clouds are hugging and obstructing our views, so our pace is cautiously slow.  The road and ride is just as spectacular today, as it was yesterday… as we twist, turn, wind and grind our way through this amazing countryside.  Within the hour the clouds have cleared and…Ahhh, what a view, its a beautiful ride.  The truck traffic picks up as we move closer towards central Guatemala.  We do not have the Central America maps loaded in Navi yet, but are on a fairly large highway that feels like we are going in the right direction.  Three lanes, become two, then one and we are funneled and tunneled around a University campus…"That was nice!", I radioed Kev.  "Let's stop at the next petrol station, fill up and ask for directions", Kev suggests…  We fill up, I walk inside the station and go to the toilet guarded by an armed guard and Kev get directions.  It seems like we are not far off, but we do have to back track a couple of kilometers.  We really got lucky on this one!

 

One quick partial view into the valley of Antigua Guatemala.

One quick partial view into the valley of Antigua Guatemala.

We follow the road heading back towards the mountains.  Finally, I see a marker for Antigua and breathe a sign of relief.  Antigua Guatemala means 'Ancient Guatemala' and has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site.  This well preserved Spanish Baroque colonial village  is lovingly known as La Antigua or Antigua amongst Guatemalans. The road wound up and around into the lush mountainside.  When the diesel fumes had settled from the straining trucks and buses, the mountain air was pleasantly fresh and crisp.  "We are turning off to the right!", I radioed Kev and we started our steep descent into a fabulous valley.  The road was tunneled by fresh mountain pines streaming twinkly, filtered light.  The tropical type of vegetation we had been accustomed to has now been replaced by acid loving hydrangeas, tree ferns, mosses, pines and huge oaks.  We pulled off the paved highway onto the polished, rough blue cobbled stoned streets of La Antigua and pulled over to the side of the road to get our bearings.  "What do you think, should we follow this road in?", Kev states…"No... I think that this is the place we are looking for!", I replied.  We had some how stopped directly in front of the parking entrance to Casa Santo Domingo, how lucky was that!

A quick snap of a road into the valley.

A quick snap of a road into the valley.

We just happened to pull off the road right in front of the Casa Santo Domingo parking access.

We just happened to pull off the road right in front of the Casa Santo Domingo parking access.

My handsome man standing in front of our temporary home….quick move Kev you're burning!

My handsome man standing in front of our temporary home….quick move Kev you're burning!

Amazing colonial La Antigua nestled under Volcan Agua.  Still active the 3,760 meter/12,335 feet prehistoric marvel was named "water" by the Spanish colonists who witnessed the giant spew rivers of water and rock over their city in 1541. 

Amazing colonial La Antigua nestled under Volcan Agua.  Still active the 3,760 meter/12,335 feet prehistoric marvel was named "water" by the Spanish colonists who witnessed the giant spew rivers of water and rock over their city in 1541. 

We actually learnt about Casa Santo Domingo from a Veterinarian and his wife while in Tikal.  They were on their way to La Antigua, grandkids in tow, to help with a dog spayed project.  We did not have any reservations and decided to check it out first before making our decision.  Believe me it was not a hard decision to make!  The hotel is located on, and stunningly incorporated around the ruined grounds of the Santo Domingo Monastery.  Dating back to 1538 when the Dominicans arrived in Guatemala, this citadel was regarded as one of the most grandest convents in the Americas.  The two towered ten belled, treasure filled monastery was unfortunately destroyed by an earthquake in 1773.  The hotel has preserved the baroque period architecture and cleverly displays the Dominican treasures from this period.

Inside Casa Santa Domingo

Inside Casa Santa Domingo

Preserved crypts with remains

Preserved crypts with remains

Underground burial sites

Underground burial sites

A romantic open air chapel

A romantic open air chapel

Beautiful fountains

Beautiful fountains

A candle factory

A candle factory

….more fountains..so much texture!!!!.

….more fountains..so much texture!!!!.

and friendly macaw's.

and friendly macaw's.

A tranquil courtyard surrounded by a block of rooms at Casa Santo Domingo.

A tranquil courtyard surrounded by a block of rooms at Casa Santo Domingo.

View of Volcan Agua from the roof top above our room.

View of Volcan Agua from the roof top above our room.

Volcan Fuego in the distance, bursting a puff of gas!

Volcan Fuego in the distance, bursting a puff of gas!

Antigua's alluring spanish colonial architecture, baroque buildings, postcard picturesque countryside and mild climate makes it a popular tourist destination.  There are also many language schools to choose from in Antigua Guatemala.  Initially our plans were to stay here for 6 weeks, enroll and immerse ourselves in a language school.  Although, after arriving in Antigua Guatemala later than planned, we postponed this original idea.  The village is surrounded by four volcanos, three which you can see from the main square...Volcan Agua, Volcan Acatenango and Volcan Fuego.  Acatenango has lay dormant for thirty years, but the others are active and erupt from time to time.  Active Volcan Pacaya lies closer to Guatemala City and has logged more than 23 eruptions since the 1500's.   We enjoyed our time wandering up and down the polished cobbled stoned streets that are beautifully lined with brightly painted old buildings all weathered, flakey and chipping.  Exploring hidden expat European run cafes, local craft shops, eateries, churches and museums.  Oddly enough… while in Antigua Guatemala, we did happen to run into the Veterinarian and his family along with another family we had met lounging by the pool in Tikal!

Beautiful churches…La Merced Church

Beautiful churches…La Merced Church

Happy locals

Happy locals

Charming streets of La Antigua…Santa Catalina Arch

Charming streets of La Antigua…Santa Catalina Arch

The town square

The town square

Cathedral of San Jose

Cathedral of San Jose

Awesome old stuff!!

Awesome old stuff!!

Looking down the side street from the Cathedral of San Jose towards Palacio de los Capitanes, Plaza Central

Looking down the side street from the Cathedral of San Jose towards Palacio de los Capitanes, Plaza Central

Secure streets

Secure streets

Awesome baroque architecture…the facade of the former El Carmen Church

Awesome baroque architecture…the facade of the former El Carmen Church

A precious family we met in Tikal, later ...we ran into in a cafe in La Antigua

A precious family we met in Tikal, later ...we ran into in a cafe in La Antigua

Interesting artistry high in the pines!

Interesting artistry high in the pines!

June 30, 2014…Coban, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala

Exciting out of the more touristy areas...Guatemala presents a rawer vibe.  There are fewer newer vehicles, more tuk tuks and pickup truck people carriers.  All vehicles, including tuk tuks, have their windows darkly tinted.  Even motorcycle riders wearing helmets have their visors tinted black!  You cannot see into any vehicles, unless they happen to have a small cut-out area.  I presume that this is for higher visibility at night enabling safer night driving!  Residents here are able to carry weapons, and do!  It is not unusual to see workers caring machine or shot guns getting into dark window tinted vehicles.  I have no issue with each option used separately but the casual combination can be a little unnerving. 

On our way

On our way

We ate breakfast, loaded up and exited the small hippy, hostel happy touristy Isle of Flores.  The roads out were a little confusing, even the map directions were confusing.  After a gasoline fill up and some extensive cherade work we managed to travel a little further out of town until we hit another larger intersection, with no signage requiring another choice.  Luckily there was another gas station, so we asked again.  After that we were golden!  I had jotted down the sequence of towns that we needed to travel through to reach Coban efficiently on a small note book I carry in my jacket sleeve. The route did include a few surprises along the way from dirt roads, a rickety barge river crossing, semi trailer road blocking accidents and detours around missing bridges.  Each time an obstacle presented itself, there just happened to be locals around.  Lucky for us we were somehow able to get our quires and concerns across by communicating with exaggerated arm movements and really bad spanglish.  For example lining up in a ridiculously long line of traffic waiting to cross the river on a barge.  After further investigation and kind conversation from a truck driver I picked up on the words moto and primerio.  Motos go first!  So Kev and I jumped the line and rocked on, up to the front and joined the other group of two wheelers!  This cool allowance actually applies to any line…even at borders!

Lush lowlands

Lush lowlands

A slight delay entering the highlands…A semi has jack knifed and is blocking the road

A slight delay entering the highlands…A semi has jack knifed and is blocking the road

Time for a quick snack while we wait.

Time for a quick snack while we wait.

In all truth, the road to Coban is really a stunning ride.  From the flat lush low farmlands, to the tropical winding mist wrapped highlands.  My mouth started to water as we approached rustic and simple villages.  Their roadside trade of freshly picked pineapple, drenched the damp air, infusing it with an irresistible sweetness.  Funny enough…my mouth is actually watering right now!  As we climbed and wound higher in altitude, pine freshness replaced the tropical sweetness and we definitely enjoyed the drop in temperature that accompanied it. Truly a phenomenal ride!  We stopped for a late lunch/early dinner and tried to connect via wifi to figure out where our list of lodgings were located.  We had made the decision that we would only be staying here one night, so we fueled up and chose lodging 10 kilometers out of town. 

An amazing ride!

An amazing ride!

Stopping for lunch/dinner, and checking into wifi.

Stopping for lunch/dinner, and checking into wifi.

Off the road…accommodations for the night in Coban

Off the road…accommodations for the night in Coban

Bikes tucked away in the garage…all is good for the night!   The evening air is very cool and pine fresh!

Bikes tucked away in the garage…all is good for the night!   The evening air is very cool and pine fresh!

June 28 - 29, 2014…Isla de Flores, Peten, Guatemala

Flores is only 65 kilometers away after exiting Tikal National Park, so we had no need to start out early today.   The ride was uncomfortably warm, and by the time we reached Flores my riding gear was in full sauna mode.  Flores is an island on Largo Petén Itzá, connected by a short causeway to the mainland twin towns of Santa Elena and Santa Benito.  The densely packed, colonial, red iron roofed town is an attraction within itself.  The immaculately clean, narrow paved and cobbled streets wind you through a labyrinth of colorful eclectic homes, restaurants and shops.  It is hard to get lost, but easy to miss your turn and end up circling the island once again.  Personalized tinted front windowed tuk-tuks zip in, out and around the neighborhood, with "machismo" character and zest, their ultimate mission to get you to your place of desire in the shortest time possible.  Screams and squeals of playing children echo through the narrow lane ways at dusk, and the song and calls of the common long tailed black birds, Great Tailed Grackles, echo throughout the island in the pre dawn hours.  Flores kind of reminds me of Isla Mujeres, Mexico, and it is quite charming.

You just never know who you will be sharing the road with!  On our way to Isla de Flores.

You just never know who you will be sharing the road with!  On our way to Isla de Flores.

The streets of Flores…trying to figure out where our first choice in Hotels is located and how to get around to it!

The streets of Flores…trying to figure out where our first choice in Hotels is located and how to get around to it!

Hey….Kev, I found it, it's the next street over...look up!

Hey….Kev, I found it, it's the next street over...look up!

Here we go…unloaded and cloaked for our stay.

Here we go…unloaded and cloaked for our stay.

Colorful buildings of Flores

Colorful buildings of Flores

Clean cobbled streets...

Clean cobbled streets...

Interesting alleys

Interesting alleys

Some quite narrow!

Some quite narrow!

Tuk Tuk's with character!

Tuk Tuk's with character!

Activity waterside.

Activity waterside.

Sunset view leaning out of the bedroom window.

Sunset view leaning out of the bedroom window.

Capturing the colors of dawn…..Rise and Shine

Capturing the colors of dawn…..Rise and Shine

Wondrous!

Wondrous!

Good Morning!

Good Morning!

Spectacular light….The red roof pop of dawn!

Spectacular light….The red roof pop of dawn!

The history behind Flores is quite interesting!  In the 13th century the Itza, Guatemalan people of Maya relationship, left their migratory area of the Yucatan (Mexico) returning to their native region (Guatemala) and built a city on on this small island. They called it "City Island", or in Itza, Noh  Petén.  Surprisingly enough it was here, on this small "City Island", the last of the independent Maya cities, that the Itza held out against the Spanish conquerors.  Infact the island was not overthrown until 1697 when the Spanish finally attacked via boats, marched in and destroyed it.  The Itzá people who survived the attack fled to the jungle and hid for years. The modern city of Flores rose from the ruins of Noh Petén.

June 26 - 27, 2014…Parque Nacional Tikal, Flores Peten, Guatemala

Guatemala feels somewhat like being back in Mexico…well, sort of!  Oddly enough I actually feel better to be back in a spanish speaking country, after the mixture of dialects in Belize!  Our first stop will be the World Heritage UNESCO site Parque Nacional Tikal.  With a small amount of Quetzal in hand Kev pays the $150 Quetzal per person foreign visitor entrance fee into Tikal National Park.  The well maintained, slightly potholed road winds 33 km's into the jungle.  Bright reflective signage sporadically warns us of the wildlife present in the area.  We arrive at the Hotel Tikal Inn within the park by 10:00 am and check in.  The Hotel is set beautifully within a clearing, against the active jungle.  This eco friendly hotel runs electricity from 6 - 8am and then again from 6 - 10pm.  You really do not realize how much noise can be produced by everyday operations…and to have this eliminated during portions of the day or night is a welcomed blessing.  We stayed in a bungalow and it simulated a very comfortable camping situation.  Laying still on a bed in the heat, distracted by the night jungle banter was amazing.  I peacefully dozed off, but was woken at 1am by a very eery communicative song, sung by the Howler monkeys.  I could hear the movement of this small pod in the trees as they traveled through the grounds.  It was a song I had never heard before, but if I could compare it to another animal it would have to be the cries of a coyote.  Spine tingling and captivating.  

Tikal is to the right Cat!

Tikal is to the right Cat!

Stopping before the park entrance.  There is always a curious kid that wants to hop on!

Stopping before the park entrance.  There is always a curious kid that wants to hop on!

Kev walking back to his bike after paying the entrance fee.

Kev walking back to his bike after paying the entrance fee.

Fun with road signs as we enter the park….Jaguar

Fun with road signs as we enter the park….Jaguar

White tailed deer

White tailed deer

serpents

serpents

And cheeky coatimundi!

And cheeky coatimundi!

We were able to tuck our bikes right up front of the hotel.

We were able to tuck our bikes right up front of the hotel.

Purchasing a snack from the locals

Purchasing a snack from the locals

Our room

Our room

Gorgeous nights.

Gorgeous nights.

Locals offer tasty eats outside the park grounds

Locals offer tasty eats outside the park grounds

A passionate guide is a treasured experience…Elias was just that.  Kev and I joined the Sunset and Sunrise tours led by him, and were immediately captivated by his passion, knowledge and wonder.  I truly love it when gaps are filled, questions are answered and discussions are informative and interesting!  We saw a surprising number of mammals and insects that included…Mono Aullador, Howler Monkeys; Mono Arana, Spyder Monkeys; Cotuza, Paca; Zorra Gris, Gray Fox; and Tarantula.  The birdlife was amazing….we saw the three varieties of Tucan of the area, Tucan Pico de Quilla, Keel Billed Toucan; Tucan Acollarado, Collared Toucan; and the Tucan Esmeralda, Emerald Toucanet.  Other varieties included, The Laughing Falcon, Red Lored Parrot, Lineated Woodpecker, Occellated Turkey, Black Vulture, Great Kiskadee, and the ever so chatty Montezuna.

Keel Billed Toucan

Keel Billed Toucan

Mother Spyder monkey and baby.

Mother Spyder monkey and baby.

Occellated Turkey

Occellated Turkey

Montezuna

Montezuna

Lineated Woodpecker.

Lineated Woodpecker.

Howler Monkey

Howler Monkey

Elias doing his thing!

Elias doing his thing!

The Grand Plaza, the core of the city.  Surrounded by the north acropolis,  central acropolis, a ball game court and temples 1 & 2,  This heart of Tikal  was continuously  abuzz with religious events, celebrations,  sports, educational events, stela raising and community life.

The Grand Plaza, the core of the city.  Surrounded by the north acropolis,  central acropolis, a ball game court and temples 1 & 2,  This heart of Tikal  was continuously  abuzz with religious events, celebrations,  sports, educational events, stela raising and community life.

Just taking it all in!

Just taking it all in!

A clear shot of the crown of of Temple 5.  Here you can see the remains of the huge carving that adorned it.

A clear shot of the crown of of Temple 5.  Here you can see the remains of the huge carving that adorned it.

A shot from the Central Acropolis over looking the Grand Plaza.  The temple on the right is the Great Jaguar Temple.  This temple built around 700 A.D is Guatemala's landmark to the world.

A shot from the Central Acropolis over looking the Grand Plaza.  The temple on the right is the Great Jaguar Temple.  This temple built around 700 A.D is Guatemala's landmark to the world.

A shot from the North Acropolis looking at the Great Jaguar Temple then over to the Central Acropolis, the largest residential, and administrative area in Tikal.

A shot from the North Acropolis looking at the Great Jaguar Temple then over to the Central Acropolis, the largest residential, and administrative area in Tikal.

The Great Jaguar Temple rises 156 feet high

The Great Jaguar Temple rises 156 feet high

Temple of Masks/Faces, built around 700 A.D. in honor of the wife of the ruler Ah Cacao

Temple of Masks/Faces, built around 700 A.D. in honor of the wife of the ruler Ah Cacao

Here you can easily see the seven levels of the Temple (5), representing the 7 days of the week.  This temple was the first constructed at Tikal around 600 A.D

Here you can easily see the seven levels of the Temple (5), representing the 7 days of the week.  This temple was the first constructed at Tikal around 600 A.D

Tikal was discovered in 1847 by a gum cutter named Ambrosio Tut.  Ambrosio was working on top of a very tall tree when suddenly he could make out the crowns of the Temples rising out of the dense jungle canopy.  One hundred and eight years later 575.83 square kilometers of jungle was declared a National Park, and soon after the University of Pennsylvania began the excavation and restoration of Tikal.  This "Classic Period City" was unique from other Maya cities of the area.  Tikal is the only Maya City that built crowns on top of their Temples.  These decorative crowns were actually ingenious acoustic chambers that amplified and carried voice over a larger area.  Tikal's rulers, aristocrats, nobles and scholars, used these crowns to communicate and spread the word to their people!  The first microphone so to speak!  The University of Pennsylvania unfortunately actually destroyed several structures during excavation.  Their thinking was that the Maya structures were similar looking to the Egyptian structures, and must have chambers.  Their eagerness to find these non-existing chambers lead to the collapse of several structures.  Tikal amazingly ruled for 1800 years, housing approximately 5,000 - 10,000 people of importance within the inner area of the Temples, and 50,000 - 60,000 common people within the outer surrounding areas.  Although Tikal was a very powerful city, controlling the commerce routes of the area, the fall of Tikal came suddenly.  Archeological evidence suggests war, revolution, or natural disaster.  Temples were abandoned suddenly…possessions were left, food storage was abandoned, tables were left set, and dishes were found still containing food.

Waiting for the sunrise on the steep steps of the highest temple of Tikal (65 mts),    perched high in the cool mist marveling over the wonders of the Tikal canopy.  This temple was built in 745 A.D. and is known as the Temple of the Two Headed Snake.

Waiting for the sunrise on the steep steps of the highest temple of Tikal (65 mts),  perched high in the cool mist marveling over the wonders of the Tikal canopy.  This temple was built in 745 A.D. and is known as the Temple of the Two Headed Snake.

June 26, 2014…Border crossing into Guatemala

The alarm sounded at 5:15 am and dawn was just beginning to break.  Inside, the bungalow windows were dripping with condensation, the bedsheets were damp, and the air heavy.  Outside a moist, heavy, mist hovered at eye level.  Kev headed out to the bikes to remove their covers.  I emptied the last of our bottled water into the berko and plugged it in.  Breakfast is black coffee, accompanied by peanut butter spread over a banana.  The peanut butter covered banana looks a little weird but it is tasty, appetizing, satisfying and one of my favorite combinations. Today, the blend of excitement along with the unknown of entering a new country brought efficiency to the bungalow pack up and bike loading.  We wanted to ensure and early border arrival.  By six ten we were eagerly riding the road towards Guatemala, now in the cool lifting mist and hopefully before the line clogging tourist busses.   

Just over the Belize border in the free zone before Guatemala. 

Just over the Belize border in the free zone before Guatemala. 

We rode right up to the border, got off our bikes and entered the border control offices of Belize.  Surprisingly enough were were the only people here!  Before we entered Border Control, we were approached by money changers.  Kevin had 1,600 Mexican Peso's and knew that (1) the further we get from Mexico the more worthless they become to us and (2) that at a pure exchange rate he should get $960 Guatemalan Quetzals.  He chatted with the changer and was offered $650.  No way, he said as we entered the offices.  We finalized our departure from Belize, paid our departure tax of $37.50 Belize, about $18.75 US and had the vehicle stamp in our passport cancelled.  Exiting the offices we were once again approached by money changer.  He now offered Kev $725 Quetzal.  After some negotiation they agreed on $800 Quetzal or about $110 USD and Kev and he concluded their business.  We needed the Guatemalan currency to pay the park entrance fee into Tikal and were pretty confident that we wouldn't pass an ATM on the way… the park does not take any other currency!  Awesome…we have currency!  Kev and I hop on the bikes and head to the next check point.  He looks at our passports, checks our receipts for proof of payment and directs us to the agriculture sprayer.  "So we just ride in and get sprayed?", I ask…."Ohh No, no, no, there is a path off to the side for moto's…enter there and agriculture will personally spray you afterwards"…Great!  I was a little worried about being frosted!  All sprayed up and paid up for being sprayed up…  We hop back on the bikes and head directly across the street to customs and transport.  We are still in the neutral zone at this point.  Our passports are stamped with a 90 day visa costing $20 Quetzal each.  We are then directed to the next agent that is to handle the temporary importation of the bikes.  We hand him our drivers license, registration and spray receipt.  He then communicates to us in hand signal spanish that we need to obtain a photocopy of the front of our passport, the Guatemala entry stamp, and our drivers license.  Great…..It is 7:10 in the morning, where are we going to find a photocopy place!?  Lucky for us, there is one located directly over the border…  We knock on the door but there is no answer.  I addressed the señorita in the next shop to ask approximately when they should open.  She replies Ocho!  Eight, that is 45 minutes from now!  Another money changer see's what is going on and suggests that we walk over into Guatemala and try another location.  I stay with the bikes, Kev walks across and has success.  In fact he is walking back across the border barricades with a huge smile on his face.  "All good?", I ask…"great", he responds…."In fact the copying was complementary because we have a son in the military "…."WOW!"  Now with all the required paperwork and copies in order we proceed to pay the $160 Quetzal and are handed our transport sticker, final papers along with a road map and a "Welcome to Guatemala!"  Quite painless!

We rode down the pathway to the side of the vehicle spraying unit, then stopped directly after to pay for our bikes to be individually sprayed.

We rode down the pathway to the side of the vehicle spraying unit, then stopped directly after to pay for our bikes to be individually sprayed.

My bike done….Kev's is being sprayed.  Note the protective clothing of the sprayer!

My bike done….Kev's is being sprayed.  Note the protective clothing of the sprayer!

All sprayed up we move on to the building to the left.

All sprayed up we move on to the building to the left.

A few steps further, now all paperwork is completed and we are about to enter Guatemala.

A few steps further, now all paperwork is completed and we are about to enter Guatemala.

Off we go!

Off we go!

June 22 - 25…San Ignacio Town, Cayo District, Belize

We face the morning decision of suiting up before breakfast or after?  Suiting up before breakfast is convenient for finishing the bike packing, but uncomfortable due to the high temperature and humidity here.  As soon as you leave the comforts of an air conditioned room your bodies natural air-conditioning, sweat, kicks in!  We choose to suit up and embrace the dew!  Ariel, a young Belizean that works at the Coral House is very interested in our set-up, gear, and travels.  Ariel rides a Kawasaki Ninja and proceeds to inform his boss that he is quitting and joining us!  Hopefully he will have the opportunity to pursue his dream of motorcycle adventure…keep in touch, Ariel!

Clear skies this morning…Woo Hoo!  Keep your dream alive Ariel!

Clear skies this morning…Woo Hoo!  Keep your dream alive Ariel!

We really lucked out on the weather today.  No heavy down pours, just a few sprinkles here and there all the way to San Ignacio.  The sun was brilliantly bright that made the trip back over the Hummingbird Highway mind-blowing!  I have talked about how vivid the jungle greens are here…you just never tire of such scenery!  Entering San Ignacio we were redirected around and then directly through the "torn-up" areas due to road works.  I started looking for accommodations and did not see much of anything in town, so we traveled on.  We passed a sign for accommodation that looked promising, so I looked in my mirrors, signaled left and proceeded to turn into a driveway on the opposite side of the highway.  Kev started yelling "Cat, Cat..go" as I began the turn.  I was already committed and saw a car rush by milliseconds after completing my turn…my heart started to pound!  "Phew…Where did he come from?" I blurted out.  "He was the second car behind me and I think that when he saw your left indicator he thought it was a signal to him to pass…I saw him starting to pass the car behind me, and you starting your turn so I moved into the center of the lane to slow him down, then the car behind me decided to pass me on the right.  I had a car on the left, a car on the right, and you in direct sight for a collision…it scared the holy crap out of me!"  This is not the only time that clicking on your turning signal to make a turn has prompted this maneuver by others.  It was a close call and a reminder that the simplest actions of obeying what you think is logical traffic law…may not exist within the country you are traveling in!  Later, I asked about the "driving customs" regarding the correct side for passing and turning and the answer I got was…"The right side of the road is the best side of the road to pass!"…WTF!

Parked and unloaded for the night.

Parked and unloaded for the night.

Buenas dias….Our bungalow!

Buenas dias….Our bungalow!

Fun with the pool!

Fun with the pool!

Our accommodations are large, comfortable and affordable here and we decide to stay on.  A highlight for us here was Spelunking Actun Tunichil Muknal, or ATM as it is known.  This opportunity for us was a once in a lifetime experience and a must do!  The Belize Institute of Archeology has granted small excursion groups permission to conduct limited tours within this level 3 cave (5 in the wet season) in an attempt to walk the fine line of ecological balance and tourism.  This extraordinary cave is approximately 3 miles long.  A long very cool fresh water river travels for 2 miles through the cave system exiting in an underground upstream bog.  Upper prehistoric passages continue for another mile past the bog, and the cave can be excited through a tight crack that opens into a giant sink hole within the jungle.  We only explored one mile into the cave system.  Your first step into the cave is a very cool splash that finds you, quickly swimming, dog paddling or treading water and catching your breath against the temperature change.  Once you swim around the first corner you are in complete darkness.  This is where we turned on our headlights, and from here on you felt the necessary need to remain closer to the person in front of you.  Our small group of six followed our superior caving guide through deep water caverns, over large slippery boulders, dropping into dark rocky pools, hugged sloping underwater ledges, maneuvered up rock formations onto hanging ledges, used worn off stalactites as stepping stones to maneuver through crevasse drop offs, barely squeezing our bodies through water filled openings and our heads through sharp cracks, sliding on our butts over loose foot holds and crawling on our hands and knees through tight tunnels…it was full on intense.  We did periodically arrive in giant openings throughout the cave where we rested before moving on.  This is when I would experience a slight panic and have to consciously control my anxiety level.  The dank musk of the cave did not help the situation and I found myself eager to keep moving as this was when I felt confident and secure. We arrived in sacred areas used for ceremonial and sacrificial purposes.  Viewed the final resting position of possible sacrificial victims, some calcified and crystalized eerily twinkling under our headlamps.  Terra cotta pots, bowls and vessels ominously rest in their final placed positions, suspended in time and fill your mind with mystery, wonder and amazement.  Cave formations were cleverly modified, some to create altars, others to create silhouettes of faces or animals or to project a shadow image against the cave ceilings or walls.  Where in the world could you experience this I continuously asked myself?…The entire experience totally blew my mind.  Now that was an UNBELIZABLE finale to a very interesting country…Ya Mon!

ATM rough cave map.

ATM rough cave map.

We needed to cross a few rivers in the jungle on our way to the cave.

We needed to cross a few rivers in the jungle on our way to the cave.

Cave enterance.   

Cave enterance.  

The first steps in...You just needed to commit... jump in and swim

The first steps in...You just needed to commit... jump in and swim

inside

inside

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Amazing chambers

Amazing chambers

When we climbed into the higher chambers we were asked to remove our shoes.

When we climbed into the higher chambers we were asked to remove our shoes.

Terra cotta vessels purposely broken and precariously resting in their set positions!

Terra cotta vessels purposely broken and precariously resting in their set positions!

The 'Monkey pot'…how cool is this?

The 'Monkey pot'…how cool is this?

The Crystal Maiden, although testing has revealed that the skeleton is male!

The Crystal Maiden, although testing has revealed that the skeleton is male!

A fantastic experience not to be missed!

A fantastic experience not to be missed!

with an amazing passionate guide!  Thanks for an unforgettable adventure!

with an amazing passionate guide!  Thanks for an unforgettable adventure!

The cave photos were provided via the internet.  Photography is prohibited in ATM.

btw:  We rode all 357 miles of paved road and then some!

June 19 - 21…Punta Gorda Town, Toledo District, Belize

We are in luck this morning…it is not raining yet!  This will definitely make things easier for us. We pack up all of our gear and head over to Lisa and George's garage, where the bikes have been tucked away.  Everything loads easily…even the new wood carving I am now caring, sometimes I can kick myself!  We ride over to the only petrol station in Placencia, located by the pier where the water taxi's come in, and fill up,  oil my chain, check the tires and head on out of town.  We have traveled less than a mile and my body is already on overload, perspiring profusely inside my riding gear.  I ignore the tickling effect from the sweat that is trickling over my skin and concentrate on the road ahead.  Once we have exited the populated areas the 'speed hump or humps", as it is displayed in Belize, will disappear and I will be able to travel fast enough for the air to travel through my suit and cool me down.  Until then… I'll just drip!

Bump/Bumps/Hump signs can be single, double or even triple!! 

Bump/Bumps/Hump signs can be single, double or even triple!! 

 

The scenery is gloriously amazing was we head south.  The vivid colors of the countryside popped from behind my polarized lenses.  Lush tropical trees, ferns, palms and grass greens, moist from a recent shower, showcased bursts of opposing placed color.  Bright colored hanging laundry, flowering trees, stormy skies, roadside chickens and roosters, dogs, cats, horses, people, and thatched homes…practically everything captured your attention from the spectrum of lime greens, yellow greens, dark greens, and blue greens surrounding them.

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We turned right at the "Dump", the point where the Southern Highway ends and either directs you into the jungle, or over to the coast. A right turn directed us into the jungle towards the border with Guatemala and through simple, traditional Maya villages.  About 9 spectacular miles in we are pulling into the entrance of "The Farm".  Kevin, the owner, Digby, the rotty/mastiff, Pec, the german shepherd, Peep, the guinea hen, and Bambi ,the deer all appear to greet us as we ride onto the property.  "Welcome", greets Kevin in his South African accent.  "Wow, I am so happy you are here and this is amazing…This is the first time that Bambi has come out to greet travelers!"  "Believe me it is the most amazing welcome that we have received", I laugh!  

Riding through some traditional Maya villages.

Riding through some traditional Maya villages.

A  surprise once in a lifetime greeting by Pec & Bambi.

A  surprise once in a lifetime greeting by Pec & Bambi.

Pec, Digby & Peep

Pec, Digby & Peep

    Peep & Digby

 

Peep & Digby

Bambi

Bambi

Convenient parking right outside our bungalow.

Convenient parking right outside our bungalow.

Our comfy pad.

Our comfy pad.

This fella was above Kev's head!

This fella was above Kev's head!

An amazing property!

An amazing property!

Dinner time

Dinner time

"The Farm" is a working, self sustaining, off the grid chocolate farm.  Kevin and his wife have previously enjoyed the marvels of the world traveling for 16 years by yacht.  Kevin is humble traveler, adventure and entrepreneur, and we enjoy visiting with him.  This is our first stay at a genuine "Eco" establishment and the scene is tranquil and serene.  The generator runs at night for a couple of hours pumping the cool fresh water from the nearby creek to your shower and powering up the outlets so that you can charge electronics.  Kevin serves you up a hardy home cooked meal that has been prepared over an open fire and is presented to you table side surrounded by the romantic ambiance of kerosene lanterns and chirping geckos.  Pec, the german shepherd…funny enough Pec is Maya for dog…rests by our feet waiting to escort us back to our cabin along the tropical dark trails.  Pec was even outside our cabin in the morning!  After enjoying a farm style breakfast we follow Kevin as he walks us around his chocolate farm.  We acquire an understanding for the chocolate growing process, learn about the medicinal flora of the area and walk some beautiful trails.  This is the first time that we have hiked with guinea hen and deer in toe for over 3 kilometers!  It was truly a magical experience!

Pec hanging outside our bungalow.

Pec hanging outside our bungalow.

Kevin showing us how his Farm works…The last of the cocoa beans drying!

Kevin showing us how his Farm works…The last of the cocoa beans drying!

The delicate growing cocoa pod.

The delicate growing cocoa pod.

Yeah….Let's all go up and take a look!

Yeah….Let's all go up and take a look!

Everything looks in order!

Everything looks in order!

I'll go first Bambi!

I'll go first Bambi!

We load up the bikes, take a memory shot or two and are just about to saddle up when the skies burst, pouring drum loads of rain upon us.  We grab our helmets and head under cover to wait it out.  Another 15 minutes of visiting time is always a great thing!  As the rain clears the welcome party bids us farewell and we head towards the "Dump"…this time taking the left fork heading for the Gulf of Honduras.

Thanks for the great memories Kevin!

Thanks for the great memories Kevin!

You too Bambi!

You too Bambi!

We ride into Punta Gorda, meaning Fat Point and locate our accommodation on the grounds of a cemetery.  Today was a very short ride, but we seem to be smelling like we have been riding for days.  We unload the bikes, head up to our room, turn on the a/c and hit the shower.  Refreshed, we walk into Punta Gorda Town to take a look around.  Lee Wallace, a young Belizean lad befriends us as we wander.  Lee Wallace has ulterior motives, he wants us to purchase some coconut tarts that his mother has freshly baked.  He rides beside us on his bicycle inquisitively chatting and asking questions, we oblige loosely.   We purchase 5 tarts but pay for 10 and give him an extra $10 Belizean, $5 US so he can purchase a can of spray paint to paint his bike.  Lee Wallace is thrilled and hangs around now pointing out people that are "chancy" and that we should avoid!  Punta Gorda is not that spectacular, really.   I feel as though eyes are watching our every move.  Maybe it is curiosity, maybe it is calculated.  I do not feel threatened…however, we will not be walking around at night!  Food choices here are a little bit of a problem.  The problem is not the abundance, it is the cleanliness.  Rubbish is strewn everywhere and anywhere, piles of garbage rot, ridden with insects against housing, shops and restaurants.  I do not sense a community township pride happening here.  I do feel like going back into the jungle and the amazing serenity of  "The Farm"!

Punta Gorda…Fat Point

Punta Gorda…Fat Point

Arriving at Coral House.

Arriving at Coral House.

View from room over the cemetery.

View from room over the cemetery.

A storm is heading our way!

A storm is heading our way!

Lee Wallace following us on his bike.

Lee Wallace following us on his bike.

The jungle takes over quickly!

The jungle takes over quickly!

Cool old concrete stop signs!

Cool old concrete stop signs!

Housing

Housing

Main drag in Punta Gorda

Main drag in Punta Gorda

A little local restaurant.

A little local restaurant.

Lee Wallace selling his mothers coconut tarts.

Lee Wallace selling his mothers coconut tarts.

Cool busses!

Cool busses!

That match the bus stands!

That match the bus stands!

A picture before leaving Punta Gorda.

A picture before leaving Punta Gorda.

June 13, 2014…Orange Walk Town, Orange Walk District, Belize

Interesting fact...Belize's road network consists of over 3,000 kilometers/1,900 miles of road of which 575 kilometers/357 miles is paved!

The map of Belize that an official handed us at the border…seem's pretty straight forward!

The map of Belize that an official handed us at the border…seem's pretty straight forward!

Riding from the Insurance office and through a burn off, the country side opened up into a lush paradise!

Riding from the Insurance office and through a burn off, the country side opened up into a lush paradise!

I was excited to be in a new country!  My hesitation of leaving the accustomed comforts of Mexico were quickly drifting.  A warm blush of adventure was now taking over as "the feel" of Belize encapsulated my bike and body.   My first imprint of Belize was a mass of vivid overgrown greenery and a feeling that this country is tropically raw.  The vibe is very "Caribbean Island like" …totally different to that of neighboring Mexico.  You could almost swear that you actually entered the country by boat!  If you feel like you had stepped back in time in areas of Mexico, then Belize has it beat!  Groupings of wooden houses on stilts, all leaning to various degrees lined the poorly maintained paved road as we rode through villages.  Some houses were brightly painted like a handful of "skittles" and some were in a sad, very deteriorated and dilapidated state.  Almost all houses had washing hanging from them.  Belizeans were out and about, riding bicycles, working roadside on their cars, chatting with neighbors, chill'n on their front porches, or tending their roadside stalls. It seems like a very harmonious and relaxed culture!

Amazing colors

Amazing colors

We do not have any electronic navigation for Belize, only a paper map. I can already see that I am going to have a hard time keeping this tool dry as we begin to ride in and out of sporadic tropical showers.   Our destination today is Orange Walk the second largest city in Belize, only an hour away from the border. 

Checking out accommodations in steamy Orange Walk

Checking out accommodations in steamy Orange Walk

Parking is secure…so we decide to call it a day, and stop for the night in Orange Walk Town, Belize

Parking is secure…so we decide to call it a day, and stop for the night in Orange Walk Town, Belize

Walking into down town Orange Walk to find a place for dinner.

Walking into down town Orange Walk to find a place for dinner.

June 13, 2014…Border Crossing into Belize

Good o'l Friday the 13th….Today we are sad to be leaving Mexico, a little wary about the border crossing and excited for our new adventures in Belize!

We decide to ride back into Bacalar to see if El Pejelagarto is open…we are in luck!

We decide to ride back into Bacalar to see if El Pejelagarto is open…we are in luck!

A quick, simple ,fresh early lunch of ceviche, before leaving Mexico.

A quick, simple ,fresh early lunch of ceviche, before leaving Mexico.

Mexico…You have been amazing!

Mexico…You have been amazing!

We pulled up to the Mexican Immigration window on our bikes and handed over our passports.  The officials stamped our passports and were polite, fast and precise….no hassles here.  Uggh! The border is loaded with these traffic bumps…yes those damn $6 metal hamburger bun sized, slippery, yellow bumps on the road….they are a bugger on the bikes!…That is definitely one thing that I will not miss!

After awkwardly clearing the bumps Kev and I ride over to the Aduana Transport building located directly across from the Immigration lanes to hand in our paperwork on the bikes.  The official transport lady greeted us with a warm smile and explained that she would need to take a photo of our bikes VIN number and remove the sicker on our windscreen.  She marched out of her meat locker temperature enclosure wearing her official khaki uniform and impressive 6" red high heels.  After straddling the front tire of my bike to capture my VIN she tore the sticker from my broken windscreen and directly marched back into the comforts of her air-conditioned office.  "You will automatically receive a refund to your credit card on the paperwork by Monday", she explained.  And that was it!  Now for the Belizian border.

Getting bikes cleared and stamped out of Mexico, in order to receive our bond refund.

Getting bikes cleared and stamped out of Mexico, in order to receive our bond refund.

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Love the official heels!

Love the official heels!

A quick look back and….Adios Mexico!

A quick look back and….Adios Mexico!

Riding into neutral zone and towards Belize.

Riding into neutral zone and towards Belize.

Belize straight ahead!

Belize straight ahead!

The road conditions dramatically changed as we entered Belize.  The pavement met a white silty hard packed area, strewn with medium sized jagged rocks and pitted with potholes.  As Kev was pulling up to the immigration window a porter ran up to the bike and explained in a heavy Belizian Spanglish including arm signals….that we needed to park in the parking lot "Mon" and enter the customs building on foot "Mon", have the bikes spayed for "Mexican bugs Mon!", then we can enter Belize "Mon".  He ended his conversation with "Ya beta BELIZE it Mon!"…Ha ha ha this is going to be fun!

Getting the bikes sprayed for bugs Mon!

Getting the bikes sprayed for bugs Mon!

We park the bikes, lock up our helmets, gather our paperwork that we store in a plastic pouch on each bike and enter the building.  The porter assures us that he will keep an eye on the bikes "Mon" and accepts tips "Mon"!  One thing we have learnt traveling is that it is just easier to let these guys run through their routine while you go about your business and if they truly make your experience easier you kick them a few bucks!  The Belize customs official stamped our passport and gave us a 30 day visa entry.  We then proceeded over to the immigration counter to take care of the temporary permit for the bikes.  There was no cost involved for us to be able to ride in Belize…but insurance is required!  After completing this paperwork the immigration official directed us to agriculture to have the bikes sprayed.  We hopped back on the bikes and rode over to the office where the official excited the building and sprayed the bike tires with the toxic chemical.  We walked into his office, paid 80 Mexican peso's for the two bikes received our paperwork and headed back over to the customs hut and the entrance into Belize. The customs official checked the paperwork against the bikes and welcomed us into Belize with a huge pearly smile!  We then rode the dirt/paved road over to the Insurance building to purchase coverage on the bikes while in Belize.  The cool office temperature revived us instantly as we waited for our paperwork to be processed.  Insurance costs ran $1 US per day per bike.  We took out coverage for 30 days, just incase we decide to stay for the Lobster Festival…pretty darn affordable!  We are now sorted and free to go…Welcome to BELIZE!

Looking back on the border crossing buildings entering Belize.

Looking back on the border crossing buildings entering Belize.

Pulling up to the Belize Insurance Building

Pulling up to the Belize Insurance Building

Obtaining Belize insurance…then we are free to go!

Obtaining Belize insurance…then we are free to go!