Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama
Our focused date now is 28th October. That’s the day we have to be in Panama City as we need to show up 29th at 7am for the motorcycle inspection. When we left Lake Atitlan we counted exactly 3 weeks left to cross all countries in Central America: 5 border crossings, 6x temporary export and 5 x temporary import of the motorcycles. One border crossing can last anything between 1.5 and 4 hours… We felt a little bit screwed by the schedule but decided to make the best out of it.
We had one more stop in Guatemala, Antigua. The little town is located in the central highlands and famous for its well-preserved Spanish Baroque-influenced architecture as well as a number of ruins of colonial churches. It is enclosed by three large volcanoes the Volcán de Agua, the Acatenango and the Volcán de Fuego, the most active one– during our stay they mostly were covered in clouds and it was pretty rainy. Anyhow these were the days they had flooding everywhere in Central America and we decided to use 2 days for route and border crossing planning.
The decision was good; when we head towards El Salvador, Santa Ana we only had a little shower and most of the roads were dried. And this time we were lucky and the track to hike up the Santa Ana Volcano or Ilamatepec, a large stratovolcano at 2,381 meters, was just opened again after the rain. We spent a beautiful day hiking up to the crater lake and afterwards relaxing at the Lago de Coatepeque. We were following a beautiful winding road down south and along the pacific coast and stopped at El Cuco beach. They asked for crazy prices down there; and that not even for nice places. Mostly muggy and pretty abandoned as it is off-season. Finally we found a room for 18 Dollar with shared bath – but as we were the only ones we actually had a private one ;) The first beach since a pretty long time and we really enjoyed swimming, watching the pelicans and the turtle release.
Honduras we wanted to cross in the very south in one day if possible; so in total about 230km from El Cuco. That does not sound much but includes two border crossings: from El Salvador to Honduras and from Honduras to Nicaragua. Also Honduras and Nicaragua are the two countries with the most riots during the last month. We gave it a go and did it as planned within one day. The border crossing were OK, it took time but no issues at all. The road through Honduras was one of the best we drove during this trip. The people looked friendly and were smiling at us all the time and the landscape was stunning. It is a shame that we did not have more time to explore this country. We reached Somotillo in Nicaragua just with the last daylight and found a nice room before heavy rain started again. In the close neighborhood we found a little shop where we bought the famous Nicaraguan ron “Flor de Caña” a cold coke and the friendly woman supplied us with cups and fresh limes. Just on the opposite was a little “Cocina” (kitchen) and we had delicious fresh grilled meat with fried bananas and tortillas – yummy, what a great day!
At that point I should mention that we will not talk much about each single borderXing and their specifics as it would be too much here – this we will do probably in a separate blog. But we know that other overland travelers are maybe interested in these information and processes. If anybody needs information feel free to contact us any time. But be aware this things, some call it regularities changes constantly…
Nicaragua seems to be a beautiful country with lovely people welcoming us and waving. We were driving south along the coast and stopped in San Jorge, Rivas at Lago at Lago Cocibolca (Lake Nicagaragua) the largest lake in Central America. On arrival we had a beautiful view on Ometepe; an island formed by two volcanoes rising out of it. Unfortunately the next two days it was raining cats and dogs without a break so we skipped the plan to explore the island. But we met another couple riding 2up from Chile up north (since 2 years) – the only other tourists we saw in Nicaragua. It is sad to see which problems this country is facing at the moment and we are sure it is worth to see more of it one day. Talking to the people you could feel the fear and uncertainty of their future…
Leaving Nicaragua was much easier than we thought and the little road we chose was nice. For a stretch of about 20 km it turned into bad gravel and we were wondering if we missed a turn at a junction. But no, the road was pretty and the direction right. We stopped in La Fortuna at a hostel with a view on Volcano Arenal; having just enough time for doing some shopping before it turned dark. We are getting closer and closer to the equator and it turns dark sooner and sooner and particularly quicker!
We have both never been in the Caribbean! So we drove towards Limon and the last 100km were horrible – trucks trucks trucks and road construction everywhere… Not Nice! But as soon as we passed Limon it turned into a beautiful windy road along the Caribbean Coast. In Cahuita we settled for a few days and relished the tropical beach live… , Reggae music, swimming, eating fish, drinking some cocktails and tracking in the jungle. It was really fun watching all the animals in the Cahuita National Park. We saw pacas, cheeky raccoons, agoutis, howler monkeys, very nosy white-headed capuchins and even two sloths – only there butt while hanging in the tree and sleeping (which they do apparently 90% of the day/ their life), but we saw them. Very interesting to watch was as well the busy Atta cephalotes, a leafcutter ant. The snorkel-tour was just a boat trip in the end as the water was too murky after the rain; but it didn’t cost us anything as they refunded the money completely so we purely enjoyed it.
The last border crossing driving the bikes in Central America was from Costa Rica into Panama and we thought that will be easy-going… The best proof you can never be sure how it will be – it took us more than 3 hours due to several reasons. But the most annoying were the checkpoints after the crossing. They asked us to open everything while we were cooking and sweating in the sun. The road heading south on itself was really beautiful and up in the mountains we adored the fresh breeze. You cross De Fortuna Forest Reserve and wonder that there is no possibility to stay. We heard it is a very poor region and populated only by indigenous people. We saw some place which seemed to be a hostel, hotel in the past but everything was collapsed and abandoned. What a pity!
While driving down the mountains we first were caught in the fog and then it started to rain. At the moment we reached the PanAm monsoon started and the highway was nearly flooded. We heard of a place called Noni House run by a couple (Suisse and British) where we wanted to stay. But when we arrived completely soaked Astrid, the owner, told us they just closed to catch a flight to Columbia for diving. Ooh shit! She recommended a place to us directly at the beach in Las Lajas just 12km south. So we waved good bye (maybe we meet them again in Columbia?) and moved in Mat´s beautiful “Johnny Fiesta” (https://www.facebook.com/Johnnyfiestaslaslajas/). The place is great directly at beachfront and the 14 km long beach we do have nearly for our-self. The only other gust was Daniel, who traveled already more than two years on his bicycle. Nice waves, fresh breeze, pineapples, pipas and coconuts, here and there a beer or a Cuba-Libre. That´s how we can just stand doing our office job ;) and so we stay 3 days.
We all know `the world is small´! Yesterday two French people (Francois and Adeline) walked by and saw our bikes. They are actually one of the couples we do share our container from Panama to Columbia with! How funny!!! So they just moved in with their camper and we are sure we will have great time together… Tomorrow we will drive about 200km south and having one more night before we have to go to Panama City on Sunday…Wish us luck everything is working out well with the motorcycle shipping!