Helen meditating while I drink beer. This is our marriage.
The return journey has started. Panama City was our furthest point south and we have now turned around to retrace our steps back to the USA.
Misfire and accompanying delay when pressing the starter have been eradicated by the application of my engineering degree and motorcycling experience. I tightened the battery terminals.
New Maxxis rear (trailer) tyre has so far stayed in one piece but has made the bike feel slow steering. Right-angled valve faces the wrong way, dot is not aligned with the valve and spindle was replaced left to right instead of right to left. Otherwise well mounted.
We have been in Panama City for the last 10 days, having crossed Panama very quickly to arrive here. Panama is very hot. The locals say it is always like this. The PanAmerican Highway is also very featureless so you have to try to make the effort to get off it if you want anything other than a mind and bum numbing ride. We did not really manage this much as we were keen to make it to Panama City. As it turns out, this was a good move as about 40km outside of Panama City we had a flat tyre.
On further inspection we discovered a complete tyre failure, with the tyre having split badly. This has probably been caused by hitting too many potholes too hard. It is a good job it did not happen in the middle of nowhere. We stood at the side of the busy main road for about 30 minutes trying to flag down taxis and police cars, unsuccessfully. Eventually, and very luckily, a wonderful group of young road workers stopped in their tiny truck. After some deliberation it was decided they would load the bike onto the truck and take us to a nearby tyre vendor.
I just stood back and let the guys take the strain. They then let me sit up front, while they all squeezed onto the back seat and Dave sat with the bike.
Not surprisingly, we could not find anyone who stocked a tyre that would fit our bike, despite our lovely guys driving Dave around to find one, while I waited with the bike and the first tyre man, a lovely young guy from Colombia.
The tyre man replaced the tube and patched the tear and we trundled along the hard shoulder into Panama City at about 20mph hoping it would hold which it did.
On the way, we crossed the Panama Canal which was pretty momentous.
We were very grateful to everyone who helped us out. When we ran out of fuel in California, no one stopped, not even other bikers so this reflects the people of Panama in a very good light (or those in the USA in a bad light).
We had booked the lovely, new Holiday Inn Express for three nights and luxuriated in the facilities, including a brand new, empty gym two doors from our room, a massive bathroom and silent air con. We ate Thai food and stocked up on cartons of hummus.We were unable to source a tyre anywhere so ordered one from the USA and booked into a nearby, cheaper hotel for another week, while we waited for the tyre to arrive. Then out of the blue one of the local motorcycle dealers emailed to say they had a tyre! Dave got it fitted but as we had already paid for a week in the hotel we decided to stay. We have spent the week working on the thesis and other work related things, working out in the gym and not much else except a visit to the cinema to see The Revenant, which we very much enjoyed-oh and doing laundry in an actual washing machine. We have slept a lot, eaten a lot of tofu and hummus (which we have missed in the last few weeks), got a bit fitter and got up to 35,000 words on the thesis (only 15,000 left). We have also booked flights to Hong Kong at the end of May for a transition visit, paid for by my school.
So the return journey begins. We plan to cross Panama and Costa Rica in 4 days and then spend a couple of days mopping up on things we missed in Nicaragua, before hightailing it across Honduras and El Salvador and in Guatemala. It will take a month to get back to California. We are very excited.
And that is what the inside of a Metzeler Tourance looks like. For the second time in 31 years of motorcycling, I have had a tyre completely deflate while riding. I strongly suspect this tyre was old stock.
Four of these men are straining to lift a heavy motorbike onto a pickup. The fifth man is pretending.
Thinking about it, the tyre was not old stock at all; we ordered it in California. The max load is 325kg; we must be close to this. What has destroyed the tyre is the regular crashing through pot holes that has gone on since we left the USA.
Obviously, we slow down and avoid pot holes whenever possible but, sometimes, we see them too late and have no choice but to take them head-on. I stand on the pegs and shout yee haw. Helen just has to sit there.
We’ve hit pot holes hard enough for me to worry about bending the bike and I’ve regularly been thankful for our steel frame welded to our steel subframe. Also, we keep the tyres inflated hard because a shredded tyre is a breeze compared to a shattered wheel.
The last time we hit a pot hole really hard was the morning this happened.
Oh the indignity
This is the longest gap without posting as the internet has been very poor here and too weak to upload photos…until today.
Everything you hear about Costa Rica is true. It has stunningly beautiful coastlines, there is tonnes of wildlife and it is more expensive than the rest of Central America (although still affordable).
We have been here for two weeks so far and it is hard to leave.
This is also a place that we feel we could live, as it is modern and developed, fairly safe but life is simple and the opportunities for adventure are endless, as most roads are not paved and there are many areas of isolated wonder.
We also like the food. We started on the Pacific coast at Playa Junquillal. A totally unspoiled beach at the end of a gravel road.
We awoke to the sound of the sea crashing and walked on the beach at dawn…just us and the pelicans.
There is a small turtle hatchery on the beach.
We then moved to Tamarindo, a much more developed resort which we did not like as much but we did see howler monkeys in the tree outside our bungalow.
We rode inland through the cloud forest to the volcano at La Fortuna. We nearly ran over a large ctenosaur (kind of iguana) that dashed out in front of the bike at high speed. We also saw a bunch of coatis at the side of the road in the cloud forest. As you can see, they are pretty tame but it is a shame that these people fed them as they are wild animals. We were lucky to see a whole flock of toucans fly over as we walked to dinner.
We then spent another three days riding to the Caribbean coast. On the first day it was pretty but the road was far too busy in parts.
I was rewarded with a great view from my yoga mat in the morning though.
On the second day the ride was also disappointing with a lot of traffic near the capital, San Jose. The best part was stopping at this roadside fruit stall for a coconut juice.
At the end of the second day we stayed in this cool cabin in the Orosi Valley. I saw a few hummingbirds from the porch.
I also had some help with downward facing dog from experts.
On our final day riding to the coast, the cloud forest lived up to its name. We also got wet.
We spent 6 days on the Caribbean coast at Cahuita and Puerto Viejo in two cabins. The first was so luxurious and was located in a jungle garden 3 minutes walk to the beach. We could hear the sea at night. From our porch we saw howler monkeys with tiny babies attached to their tummies; white paced capuchin monkeys; many hummingbirds, including two mating and one that flew right into the cabin; different kinds of woodpecker and many other birds, yellow, orange and blue.
We were three minutes walk to the national park white beach where we had an early morning stroll.I have never smelled air as perfumed with the scents of tropical flowers.
It took me a week to realise that the plants are just as awesome as the animals and birds and they are everywhere, all of the time.
While we were here, Dave heard that he has been appointed Head of ICT at King George V School, Hong Kong. Well done Dave.
At Puerto Viejo, our cabin was right in the jungle. We had a resident agouti, which is like a huge jungle rat but cuter.The ride back was drier and the coast was very beautiful and unspoiled.We saw a lot of banana plantations growing millions of bananas which are shipped from the port of Limon, all over the world.
So finally we arrived at the central Pacific Coast at Estrilla Oeste . This morning I walked for nearly two hours on the beach before breakfast.
I saw scarlet macaws, vultures and pelicans. As I sit here, typing, four scarlet macaws are flying over, screeching. It is truly magical. This beach is three minutes walk from the apartment and I have amazing sea views from the terrace.