The Impossible Dream – Video Highlights from Central America

The Impossible Dream

Adventure Motorcycling Highlights from Central America.

Featuring video footage from the landslides in Guatemala, cattle crossing in Mexico, foggy roads on the roads to El Salvador and more.

This will be our last video for a while as tomorrow we are heading to the San Blas Islands in Panama for our 5 day boat ride to Colombia.

Our next update will be from South America :)

Lovin’ El Salvador

Lovin

Adventure motorcycling our way through Central America

So we made it out of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala after being stranded there for almost a week.

As we sit here in Nicaragua I find it quite strange that I am here, in a place that I never thought I would ever be in –  Nicaragua! “What is the capital of Nicaragua?” – used to be one of my quiz night questions when I was a ski-rep in Bulgaria. I never thought I would ever be visiting Managua. Surreal!

A lot has happened since we last posted. Here are a few of our motorcycle adventures in short:

      • We eventually left Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. (Lake Atitlan is a volcanic crater lake that we got stranded by due to heavy tropical rains.) It wasn’t possible to leave by the same road that we came in on so we decided to put Ivanka and the bike luggage onto a 4WD that we hired (plus driver) and we headed down an off road path. In addition to the 4WD we had to get a police escort because there is a 4km stretch of road where robberies are frequent. (For those of you with an interest in the specific road, we left from San Pedro to Santiago rather than directly onto the Interamericana.) We were told by locals that because you travel so slowly on the precarious path, robbers would run out of the woods, tip your bike over and then clean you out of all your cash! 20 or so mudslides and some low cloud and poor visibility later we reached Antigua where we met up with Maggie, Mark, Kevin, Andre and Glen who we hope to be travelling through Central and South America with. They waited for us to join them so a big thank you for waiting!
      • El Salvador and the Mama’s and Papa’s hostal.  We crossed from Guatemala to El Salvador amidst another wet and rainy day and eventually arrived in the mountain town of Tacuba. This was a a day where two main roads out of the country were blocked due to heavy rain (some of the worst floods the country had ever seen) so on our third attempt at a road out of the country we travelled along a Guatemalan ‘B road’ with water up to our ankles, pot holes all over the place and rivers in danger of sweeping through the landscape.  A sad day because our Swiss friend Andre unfortunately had a crash and bent the forks on his Africa Twin. As a motorcycle group we went separate ways so he was able to head back to Guatemala City and get his bike fixed. The accident was caused because of a stray dog running across the road in wet and foggy conditions. Our motorbike group size went from 5 bikes to 2 on its first day and we were fortunate to ride into a new town that night and find the Mamas and Papas hostal just as the sun went down – phew! Not a great idea to arrive in a country like El Salvador in the dark.
      • Tacuba was a lot of fun. We walked round a coffee plantation on the first day, followed by a dip in a nearby river – then our wonderful host gave us a go on his very accurate 9mm! Ivanka went first after a 30 second intro to the deadly weapon, next was myself and then our new American friend Glen. All of us hit a tree as a target and were within inches of each other at 30 feet; I must admit, it did feel a bit bloody brilliant!! Here is Ivanka firing a weapon below.

    • Waterfalls came next. The next day our friends caught up with us from Guatemala, then we went waterfall and canyon jumping. We jumped from waterfalls up to 1o metres high and scaled some very impressive canyons. An exceptional day was had by all considering that it had been heavy rain and the rivers were as high as they had ever been.
Here we are, in Nicaragua, very much looking forward to what lies ahead! (We are nowhere near ready to come home by the way.)
The bike is booked in for quite a big service and a few repairs at BMW Costa Rica. We have fork seals that are leaking that need some attention along with a few serviceable bits and bobs. Nothing major.
Adios amigos.

 

Exposed to the elements in Guatemala

Exposed to the elements in Guatemala

We’ve been in Guatemala for a couple of weeks now and its been a complete experience. Plently of lush green landscapes, a diversity of villages, towns and settlements and we have been really exposed to the vulnerability of the landscape to the tropical climate.

We are currently beside the beautiful Lago de Atitlan in a town called San Pedro La Laguna.

The rains have trapped us a little but we are having a great time and have met lots of interesting people. It is the tail end of the rainy season but in addition to this there are three tropical storms that we are on the cusp of and it is causing chaos throughout Guatemala. Dozens of roads are closed due to landslides, over a dozen people have lost their lives and the rain doesn’t want to stop.

Where we are the streets have been like small rivers, the lake is well above its usual water lines and families have lost their homes to the wet weather beacuse they are now semi-submerged. Yesterday, an Australian couple arrived in town somehow, they arrived by using a local ‘chicken bus’, then they walked across a landslide and through a coffee plantation and then eventually arrived after using a boat across the lake.

 

On Monday we have arranged to try and get out of San Pedro. This town is basically a lake formed in a crater, situated within a high mountain range which goes up to 3000m. On the way into the lake, it was quite challenging, we encountered some of the steepest roads we have been down so far. The roads and switch-back were narrow and windy, plus there are massive sections of the road with holes and loose gravel. Thinking about getting back up it has been on our minds constantly because we know that the road was closed for a couple of days due to earth slips. On the way in the rear brakes failed on our BMW GS Adventure because they became too hot. We basically had to sit it out and wait for them to cool down, then they returned back to normal.

However, on the way out however we won’t be using the same road because we have been recommended to use another one. The road we will be using is the road to Santiago and it sounds as though it has less tarmac and more off road therefore we have arranged for a truck to transport out luggage with panniers and Ivanka along the road and to follow me as I ride the route on a lighter bike without all the extra weight.

On this route it will be necessary to take a police escort. The reason being because this route is less travelled and it has been the scene of robberies (of foreigners) in the past and so the police will be accompanying us for our own safety. We will let you know how it goes!

San Pedro has been a place to relax. We have been introduced to villages, customs and markets through an American called Robert. Robert has made our stay more interesting because he has introduced us to places and people that we never would have seen as a regular tourist. Robert has decided to bring a better way of life to the local people. In time he hopes to set up a fully functional and affordable clinic so villages have access to medicine and dental care. Robert took us to a local market, we visited a village where Robert had provided a wheelchair, we then took a mountain walk between local villages and the experience was a lot more than we expected. In return for Roberts kindness we helped create promotional and informative videos for his charitable cause. We wish him, and his colleagues, all the success in the future.

Next week we hope to be in El Salvador, however we will see how the weather treats us.

Here is a video from a trip into the mountains early in the week.

 

Crossing Death Valley – Video

Crossing Death Valley

Here is footage from earlier on in the trip as we got up at 4am in the morning and travelled across the Moave desert in Eastern California so we could get in and out of Death Valley. It was the hottest time of the year and the US were experiencing a heat wave so we were apprehensive to say the least. The hottest temperature we encountered in this area was 47 degrees Celcius at a place called Needles. After this point we put white tape on the handle grips so I could touch the handlebars.

Motorcycle Diary 1 – Video

Motorcycle Diary 1

We received an email from our dear friend Rob Shenton today and he was asking how the bike was – So we made a quick video so you can see how the bike is holding up.

We are now in a town called Palenque which is in the state of Chiapas very close to the Guatemala border.
We are staying in a cheap hotel, hanging out with a Swiss guy called Andrew and we are making plans for the next episode in our journey which is Guatemala. We will make the Mexico/ Guatemala border crossing in a few days.

Mexico Beach Life – Video

Mexico Beach Life

Chipehua beach, southern Oaxaca, Mexico.

Home for 5 days as we take a break from all the motorcycle adventures and sleep in a hammock on the beach.
A time to recharge the batteries as we sleep, eat, swim, take a walk and drink beer.

Here we hung out with Uli & Ivan, we bumped into some other bikers traveling the globe and we enjoyed a few games of cards.

3000 miles across Mexico to Guatemala

3000 miles across Mexico to Guatemala

Over the last couple of weeks we have been moving pretty fast through Mexico and we have seen some incredible sights.

The journey from the US /Mexican border at Tijuana to Guatemala is about 3000 miles doing the route we are taking. A route which takes us through most of the places we want to go to, however it misses out some of the places we did want to go to but we have chosen to avoid them because the foreign office and the locals tell you not to go there for example: Acapulco, Chihuaha, Monterey, Veracruz.

This has been our route so far:

  • Down the Pacific Baja Peninsula, over to Mazatlan (to the mainland by ferry from La Paz), to San Blas on the west coast.
  • Over to Chapala (a lakeside riviera to Guadalajara)
  • To Guanajuato a historic centre and then onto to the sun and moon pyramids at Teotihuacan,
  • Oaxaca and it’s coast and then we are going to amble the rest of the journey as we read about what there is to see and do!

As I write this we are in a beautiful place called Oaxaca.

Mexico has offered a real diversity. We started with desert lands, cactus forests and colder Pacific seas. Then surrounding Mexico city there were in the central highlands which went up to 3000 m with much needed cooler mountain air.

People have been so friendly but our time with them has been short as we are on such a whirl wind tour.

A couple of days ago we met our first bent Mexican copper who wanted money from the intrepid tourists. He actually wanted to fine us for having 04 in our number plate as a vehicle with this number isn’t allowed on a toll road around Mexico city on a Wednesday. We played the game.

It could have been a more intimidating encounter as he threatened to take the bike off us if we didn’t pay the fine. We ended up giving him 15 US dollars rather than 300 he was asking for after we proclaimed and protested and we told him of our honey moon which maybe helped lower the price? He did congratulate us!
This afternoon we are heading to the coast to meet friends of friends who have offered to take us to the Oaxaca coast and show us around.

The next real challenge is preparing for what Guatemala has to offer and we are pleased to say we have booked a boat across the Darien Gap for 22nd Nov which will take us from Panama to Colombia so we will be in S. America from December.

Internet access becomes more flaky as we go along and I am not sure we will ever be able to upload our latest – very funny – video!

 

More soon.

El Rosario on the Baja Peninsula, Mexico – Video Diaries Part 4

El Rosario on the Baja Peninsula, Mexico

Here is a quick video taken on the 12th September as we travel south to a place called La Paz to get a ferry across to mainland Mexico.

Sorry for the references to dogs and how to deal with them. I am a dog lover too but when they chase you you have to be firm with them.

Welcome to Mexico

Welcome to Mexico

This week has been a total change to the trip and I am really enjoying it.

Earlier in the week we left the States and headed for a very early border crossing at Tijuana, a busy border crossing entering the Pacific side of Mexico, taking us onto the Baja Peninsula. We started at 4am and got there just after 6.30am. A border town we had read extensively about and had received lots of different views on;  from American citizens, the media, the British Consulate,  BBC websites or fellow bikers. We were nervous, we were prepared and all in all it was really easy – best to be prepared right!

There were border Police everywhere, cars were being checked left right and centre and the authorities just waved us through. So we just followed their directions then, before we knew it, we were in Mexico.

There was a dramatic change in everything! Buildings, people, signage, quality of road and we were there for rush hour Mexico-style…shit! Hitting rush hour anywhere on a fully loaded bike has its challenges but, before we knew it, we had passed straight through the town and we were on our way to Ensenada which is the largest city south of Tijuana just a couple of hours drive away.

Ensenada is twice the size of Brighton in population so it has 500,000 people. It is a busy Mexican tourist town though recently it has suffered with lack of tourist visitors because of the perception of Mexico to the neighbouring Americans. So here you have it, a large tourist area ready to deal with all the visiting tourists but the town is a little quiet in our opinion. The tourist strip is a bit like Benidorm and most days there is a massive cruise ship which arrives in port and keeps all the bars and restaurants busier.

We are here to start a Spanish course and we are staying with a very nice Mexican family/couple called Diana and Roberto. They are our host family as we attend school, enjoy the city and they are looking after us with 3 dishes per day. I think we are eating more than we need to so we are burning excess calories off through Yoga, lots of walking around town – plus we are combining this with lots of siestas… a nice pace I think! I also met Josh in Orange County recently and he introduced me to his ‘Bucket list;’ these are basically the things that he wishes to do in life whether ambitions, targets, personal challenges and he has been doing 100 press ups a day for about 11 months. This is something I am now doing to keep me strong on the trip. The rules are basically you do 100 press ups a day before midnight each day and you can do them anywhere and anytime. Most days I do them when i get up but I have also done them in a lift and in a car park! Thanks Josh and good to meet you!

Yesterday we met a couple of Australian bikers called Maggie and Mark. We met them through a motorcycle forum called Horizons Unlimited as I basically posted that we are traveling through the whole of Mexico on this website and wondered if there were any other fellow bikers out there?
After an initial rendez vous in a coffee shop, then five beers in the afternoon we agreed that we would catch up with each other further south in La Paz, then hopefully we will be able to travel through the mainland part of Mexico together. This will be great because there is always safety in numbers, it sounds like Mark is a very handy chef and it is good to hang out with others. Mark and Maggie have been on the road since December 2008 and they have travelled from Sydney to Singapore, Laos to Nepal, plus they have also managed a ski season in Switzerland. We look forward to getting to know them better.

Today is Sunday and we meet our language school for a ‘test’ so they can see how well we understand Spanish. For the following 5 days we will be intensively learning from 8am to 2pm each day.

All is going well. The bike is off the road until next Saturday and then we head south in search for some idyllic beaches and sunshine.   Southern Mexico is very rainy at the moment so we need to take our time.

The beard is getting to a nice stroking length.

Leaving North America. Now the Adventure really begins!

Leaving North America. Now the Adventure really begins!

Tomorrow we set off to the US/ Mexican border at 3.30 in the morning as we leave wonderful California.

The last few weeks have been very memorable indeed and it was a shame our US visa had to be cut short.

We set off down the Oregon/ California Coast and experienced part of the Pacific Highway all the way down to San Francisco.
We experienced San Fran and all its different areas as we were escorted by Mr Cronin as our cycling guide.

Next it was the amazing Yosemite, hanging out with Billy as we wild camped with the locals.
Over from Yosemite we prepared for days in the desert. Death Valley, Escalante, Las Vegas, Marble Canyon, and the awe of the Grand Canyon. Never before have we ever been so vulnerable to the heat and so reliant on our means of transport to get us through these often barren lands. Most days we started the day about 4.30 am just so we were able to enjoy the cooler parts of the day for riding, otherwise we would have baked under the 47 degrees celcius heat. Did I mention scorpions and rattle snakes in the campsites?

Yesterday we experienced the glitz and glamour of Beverley Hills and Hollywood. It was a flyby tour hosted by our good friends the Tomlinson’s. Laguna and San Clemente were my favourite places as well as people watching within the high society of Orange County.

All in all the last few weeks have been amazing and here we are anxiously preparing for MEXICO. Looking forward to attending Spanish school as we live with a Mexican family in a place called Ensenada on the Baja peninsula.

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