Central America 16
As the roads here are so brilliant, and we are still making sure not to ride to far each day, our proposed route for the day was only going to take 3 hours.
Lovely, we took a leisurely breakfast, and packed up. Paul went around to retrieve the bike from the back of the hostel, parked outside the front, and we packed. Jackets and helmets on, that’s it we’re ready to go. We jump in, and on, and Paul turns the key…… nothing! The battery was flat.
After all the problems of before, it’s difficult not to jump to the conclusion that the problem is generator based again, particularly after we had an email this morning from Troy and Tracy, who are very near to the border of Nicaragua/Costa Rica. Yesterday Tracy’s bike refused to start, and everything is pointing to the generator. They are making their way today to a BMW dealer in the hopes of having the bike mended, and Paul had emailed back some info on the problems we had before So, back to our problem right now…….. No panic, I told Paul that Bernie (wonderful Bernie on Vancouver Island - remember him?), had told us that we have a new part, and it will all be fine, so it’s probably a blip? (fingers crossed and all that). Anyway, Paul checked the battery terminals and there was a loose one. We ran our diagnostics tool to the computer and all fault codes pointed to just a momentary problem. After Paul tightened the connection, old bikey started like a dream- hurray!
We rode our 230 kilometres, and the bike gave no problems over the day, so looks like Bernie was right again.
The roads did continue to be brilliant, and we rode and took the East side of Lake Nicaragua, avoiding the capital city of Managua, where 80% of the people of the 6 million people who live in the entire country, reside.
Nicaragua continues to be stunning, we have passed endless cigar factories, sugar plantations, coffee factories, and the entire countryside is spotlessly clean. The peoples are very polite, tidy and clean, but more reserves than the Hondurans. They are interested in our bike, but won’t necessarily talk to us about it.
There has been warnings for the East coast of Nicaragua about Storm Otto, coming in off the Carribean Islands, and we seem to be feeling the tail end of it here with fairly strong winds, unusual for the time of year, apparently.
Tonight we are staying at a Hacienda in Juigalpa, the area is surrounded by cattle breeders, so hopefully we’re in for a good steak!
This morning it seemed a shame to say goodbye to Fernando and Nelson at the hotel. They really had been exceptional hosts, but the border to Nicaragua was calling.
We have been using an app on our phone called iOverlander, which is a map populated by user input. It shows petrol, campsites, camping spots, hotels, border information all shared by people who have been this way before. It is extremely useful, particularly to us for border crossings, because if someone else has been through lately and shared their experience, we are able to research what should happen at the two sides of the border we are approaching, plus what paperwork is to be expected, and what costs.
Today’s crossing was at Las Manos, Honduras and the buildings for migration and customs on both sides were all very close together.
As we approached we rode past 100 or so trucks waiting to cross the border. These poor guys just have to wait their turn, and it all takes time for them to be processed. Not quite sure of how long it would take them. The borders tend to close at lunchtime, and then again at 4.30 until the next day.
We, however, can ride past them and pull up outside the customs office. Here all the ‘fixers’ are calling out for your attention, and waving fake badges and paperwork around, whilst the money changer is calling out ‘cambio’ (change). It’s all very frantic, and it’s essential to try and remain calm. Paul went off to have his passport stamped for exiting Honduras, and despite telling the guys he didn’t need help, he obtained a ‘fixer’s’ help, by default, but the exportation of the bike seemed very swift, so maybe he was helpful. Then it was my turn to be fingerprinted out and have my passport stamped, before we were allowed through into Nicaragua. Here, after having the bike tyres fumigated,the process began again, in reverse,yet Paul was able to do my passport for me at this border. It all took its time though, 2 hours by the time we had been stopped again once through the border to have passports checked, pay a ‘city tax’, and buy some insurance.
Phew! We’re always extremely glad when a border crossing is over, because there is just so many people around, wanting something from you. It has been, however, a very non-threatening experience, and if you tell the people ‘no’, they tend to listen.
Once we rode off into Nicaragua, we were surrounded by clean roads, beautifully manicured grass, and smooth black topped road that I think we both wanted to jump off and kiss! What a lovely treat, and all the way to tonight’s stop in Esteli.
We’re still not riding too far each day, so we did not set off untl 10 am this morning, with only a 3 hour ride to go.
The rain had been bucketing down last night, whilst we hunkered down in our little chalet by the lake, it was a beautiful place, and when we awoke this morning, the view across the lake was much clearer and we could see many hills across the other side that we hadn’t seen yesterday.
Once we had packed up, and were ready to leave, the rains came down again, not too hard, just enough to wet our hair as we rapidly put our helmets on.
The rain continued for a fair way, until we rose even higher and were up in the cloud. This didn’t seem to matter today though, because the roads were conitinuing to be really good. The road surfaces were great, and being a Sunday it was just not busy, all great. It even continued as a four lane road for much of the journey, past the city of Comayagua, and right up until we entered the capital of Honduras, Tegucigalpa. We had decided to ride straight through as the dual carriageway continued. This had seemed like a good idea, until of course we were right in the centre of the city and there had been an accident! The main road was closed off, we couldn’t see why, but Paul commented that he had seen ‘a lot of the town’s folks having a Sunday outing to go and view death and destruction on the main road!’ It looked like they were drawing up chairs and pick-nicking on the main road.
So, we filed off behind all the streams of traffic, around the tiny back streets, just hoping that they were all trying to get back to the main road. They were, thankfully, and after half an hour we were back on our way, the short distance on the other side of the city to tonight’s hotel. Another stunning hotel, owned by Fernando, and run by him and his right hand man Nelson, who welcomed us like old friends and cannot do enough to make our stay comfortable.
After another filling breakfast we left Copan and its beautiful ruins to head on through Honduras. Tracy and Troy had left yesterday and had quite a lot of rain on their journey north to the coastline. Troy had also warned us that the road was full of potholes and Topes again (those road bumps are known here as durumbes).
Troy was certainly right, although to start with for us the roads were pretty quiet, probably because it’s Saturday, or perhaps because there’s only one third the population here that there is in Guatemala (5 million here). It was only as we rode toward the major city of San Pedro Sula that the road became busier, with many more trucks, crashing up and down over the lumps and bumps ahead of us.
This all improved as we turned south away from the city, and onto the most lovely dual carriageway. At the roadside there were a lot of signs about the improvements made to the roads, showing as they were before (like those we were riding earlier), and how it is now (perfect blacktop). Sadly, however the road was still populated by the same clapped out vehicles, belching fumes, TukTuks and slow going trucks!
The terrain today was undulating, and more cloudy and misty than we had been used to. It was much less humid, and the air felt cleaner (when not behind those trucks), which I’m sure will be jolly good for Paul’s lungs. We rode alongside pineapple and coconut groves, and in the populated areas the streets were lined with the most beautiful fruit and vegetable stalls.
Honduran people have beautiful beaming faces, and are very ready to share a smile or a wave with us.
We are staying tonight in a small chalet beside Lake Yojoa, and enjoying the view across this stunning lake.
Last night we ate with Tracy and Troy the guys we met at the border yesterday. We had told them we were going to be staying at Mary’s hotel in Copan, and they had spent time riding around looking for Mary’s before a TukTuk driver stopped to help them. He told them, oh yes, Mary’s hotel is right there- they went in and asked and were told, oh yes, this is Mary’s. It turned out to be ‘another’ Mary’s, not the one we were staying at (!), but luckily for us, they found us in our own Mary’s later, and we passed a very enjoyable evening swapping stories.
We had another great breakfast this morning, scrambled eggs, black beans, creamy cheese, platanos (fried savoury bananas) and maize tortillas. A diet we are now becoming very used to.
After breakfast we set off for the Copan ruins through the streets of the very pretty little town of Copan. There are quite a few English speaking shops and cafes here, because the ruins attract many visitors from around the world.
After 15 minutes or so, we arrived at the ruins, and were immediately charmed by the Macaw lined passageway on the approach to the ruins. It was full of raucous noise where the birds would all suddenly take off together, spread their beautiful orange wings and fly all together across the sky into another area. Very spectacular for us visitors. There were also some Agouti animals similar or the same as the ones we saw at Palenque.
The macaw was associated with the sun and its movement across the sky, and have been reintroduced to the ruins area recently.
Surrounding the ruins were many grand trees, Silk cotton trees, willow trees, rubber plant, pine, mahogany, san juan, cedar, cablote and pinabete.
The ruins of Copan include five plazas, a ceremonial court with a collection of stela, a ball court, and many altars, mounds and temples.
The hieroglyphic stairway of one of the main Copan structures is considered to be the longest inscribed text in the Americas. The stairway narrates the dynastic history of Copan. Another hieroglyphic stairway was found as part of an earlier temple, now buried beneath the current. When Mayan rulers were replaced they superimposed their power by building over the structures already there.
We ran into Troy and Tracy again, and shared drinks and a lunch, before heading back to town with Tracy whilst Troy went on to another ruin site. We shared a wonderful cup of tea with Tracy made from the coffee plant pulp, and followed this up with the treat of a couple of new haircuts! I think we probably paid a gringo price, but it was still only three pounds and fifty pence each.
An extremely enjoyable day, rounded off by another shared evening meal with Troy and Tracy sharing more stories and hopes for the future.