Monday, 2 December 2013

259 The long drag to Panama

Wednesday continued...
After the cinema we were obliged to find food and drink to console ourselves. We ended up in a place that April and Paul liked and the food was delicious.

The food was delicious. April, center stage.

Thursday 28th November 2013
Miles Today 0 Total miles 27,554
At breakfast the next day I decided it would be a good idea to feed the tortoises. There are 5 here and they crowd around you when you sit down to eat. They are like little dogs and fight over the food. You couldn't make it up.

Tortoises fighting over a banana

We wandered around the town for most part of the day and bought the tickets for the bus ride for Karen to Panama. We bought two adjacent seat tickets just in case she got sat next to a fat bloke and had no room for her broken arm ! They are booked in a similar fashion to airline seats and allocated on booking.

Later we met back up with April and Paul and went on the piss. Silly really considering we had an early start the next day but you know how these things are. They are great company and the drinks just flowed.
On top of this, people of a certain age will remember the revolution in Nicaragua which started around 1979. I am not sure why (Wikki is no help) but the locals, who fervently and proudly call themselves Sandanistas (the rebels at the time) celebrate the 28th of November as their liberation day. As such the whole town was alive with revelers and a carnival passed through the town and right past the elevated bar we were getting drunk in.

The parade in full swing. Very noisy as usual.

Bad pic of more floats.

Great company and good times. Thanks guys.

I ordered a short and it turned up in a glass with a odd shaped base. I think it is to stop you from putting it down so you drink more. Great idea.

Friday 29th November 2013
Miles Today 327 Total miles 27,881

Happy Birthday Tim (our brother in Law) 

An early start to day. Up at 6 and ready for Karen to be collected to be taken to the local bus terminal for transportation to the capital, Managua, to get the comfy bus over the Costa Rica border and onto San Jose.

A cab turned up and collected Karen. I was a couple of minutes behind and intended to join her at the Leon bus terminal to say goodbye. Stupid idea ! By the time I got to the terminus which was unmitigated chaos, I could not find Karen and a phone call revealed that she got straight on the bus and it pulled out early as it was full. Third world logic !

I then Nailed Wallace and got to Managua, about 50 miles. I arrived about 5 minutes before Karen and we decided it would be better for me to leave early and get to the Costa Rica border as Wallace took a long time to process through customs.  I left at around 10am and Karen was due to leave at 12 noon.

The border was 90 miles away and I got there at about noon. I stopped to get some documents photocopied and whilst at the counter I was tapped on the shoulder by a British guy named Andy who was on a 650 BMW. He lives in Costa Rica with his girlfriend and they run a small medical center for the locals. He was going in and out of the borders as he was not allowed to stay in the country for more that 3 months at a time. He helped me through the myriad of paperwork to get through. After a while we were joined by a Canadian guy on a seriously overloaded Kawasaki KLR 650. It was so overloaded that he could not put it in the sidestand without it falling over. At one time I used Wallace to stop his bike from falling and Andy said it was the most expensive sidestand in the world ! 

Anyway, we were so long getting through, at around 2pm we were joined by Karen on  the bus. We were almost done but the last phase took so long and as we could not see if Karen's bus had past us or not I had no idea if we set off in front of behind her. Add to this the fact that the phones did not work as the network was down (this is central America !) we had no idea what we were going to do when either of us arrived at San Jose. 

Fortunately, after refueling and then separating from the other other guys who had their own agendas, I came upon a police check point and lo and behold there was Karen's bus. We managed to sign language through the blacked out window that from this point on I would follow the bus. As it turned out, this was not a good idea.

For the next 180 miles all I could see was the back of Karen's bus doing dodgy overtakes on the Pan American Highway. At around 5 it got dark and the journey just went on and on. I was really struggling with my already sore bum and could not take any breaks. I could not overtake the bus just in case it took a different route and I lost it so I had to stay with it when slow and fast. When it went fast, it went very fast and as it was raining on and off and I could not see to well , it was at times very scary, especially on bends where opposing driver seldom dipped their headlights. There is a good reason adventure bikers do not travel at night.

We finally arrived at the bus terminal at around 11pm and I was knackered. Despite only being about 100 yards behind Karen, it was good to see her again. We managed to get cheap accommodation at the bus terminal and even managed to get Wallace into the secure bus compound overnight. We went to bed immediately as we were both knackered.

Karen's prison for 2 days and Wallace in the compound.

Saturday 30th November 2013
Miles Today 551 Total miles 28,432

I awoke at around 5am and decided to head off as soon as possible. Karen was due to catch the bus from downstairs at 12 noon again. I set off at 6:30am for a very long day. I set off and startred climbing. In San Jose, we were already at about 1000m altitude so it was a fair bit colder already. The road was a twisty mountain one ans was often covered in low lying cloud. I eventually topped out at 3350m. It was bloody cold. On setting off it was around 28C and at the top it was only 10C. I was bloody freezing and had to put  lot of thermal gear on. I was cold for the first time in about 6 months. It was a shock to the system.

The views on the mountain were spectacular.

As usual. Wallace was flawless.

After coming down the other side of the mountain pass I had what I can only describe as a mental block. I was following the sat nav believing incorrectly that I had programmed in the correct border crossing. Stupid boy !
 I drove straight past a junction that the sat nav wanted me to take but everthing else said I was on the correct road. Like the bridge signs that basically said "Here, take this bribe from the USA" (I'm joking, the US citizens paid for the Pan American highway to be built over 50 years ago.)

This told me I was on the correct road. Shame I ignored it and followed the sat nav. Instinct won out in the end.
I lost faith in my navigation skills and turned around. I drove back about 10 miles and the figured out my cock up, turned around again and drove back in the original direction. The highway maintenance guys that I passed 3 times were a bit confused too but hey, life is like that.

These were everywhere. The region is festooned with volcanoes.
I eventually arrived at the Panama border at about 1:30pm having ridden about 240 miles. An average of about 35 mph. It was hard work.

The border  into Panama is famous for being a pain in the butt. Firstly you need to prove that you have $500 in cash or in a bank and then you need to prove that you are going to leave. This usually means a flight or bus ticket out of the country. I had neither and what was worse, neither did Karen. It was my fault, I knew about it and forgot. It was Ok for me, I had a big bike parked beside us and all the documentation to show we were traveling through. I did have to go to the cashpoint and draw out $500. Fortunately my bank allows that much. Karen's doesn't.

After my relatively easy day yesterday, where the hardest thing I had to do was hold my kindle, today was a completely different animal.  I was up with Ray, and with a lump in my throat, watched him ride off into the sunrise.  It's funny how being together 24-7 for nearly 8 months, there are days when you wish for a bit of space, but after yesterday on my own, I wanted to be back in my usual spot of on the back of the bike, arm poised to slap Ray on the head when he gets out of order.  I had to fill in the time till 11am when I could book in for my marathon journey to Panama City.  The Tica bus guy took my ticket and passport and then asked me for a flight number for leaving the country, Panama that is.  Obviously I don't have one, and he prattled on and on in Spanish, far too complicated for me to understand, but was basically telling me I couldn't get on the bus and I wouldn't be allowed into Panama.  I wished I had heard that gem about 6 hours earlier.  Anyway, a German couple were behind me and did understand what was going on because it had happened to them the day before.   I had to prove that I had access to 500  dollars and if they let me on the bus, I had to agree that they were not responsible if I wasn't allowed to get into the country.  I was a little bit fraught, and managed to get through to Ray by phone, and thankfully he calmed me down and I dug out a letter from the boat company that we are leaving Panama with, to show that I was definitely leaving their country and hoped this would be enough.  I had 200 hundred dollars on me and having lost my bank card after it was cloned, all I had was my credit card, and Ray told me to withdraw 500 hundred dollars on it and get the receipt for the transaction, which I had to give to the customs, no money, just the receipt.  He called me as he left and told me he had given my plight to the guards so I should have an easier passage.  I spent the bus journey remembering films like Bangkok Hilton and Bridget Jones singing Madonna in the film Edge of reason whilst sitting in prison, I knew I wasn't worth a lot of camels, but it did make for a very nervous first part of the journey.  As it turned out, I was a great source of amusement as I tried to balance the computer, carry my bag and passport, all in one hand and then embarrass  myself totally, trying to explain in my limited Spanish what was going on.  Even the border guard went to the back of the office to consult with his bosses, and on his return he was laughing away and handed everything back to me and said,"Enjoy your trip Mrs Hall"
I was then ushered into a room with all the other passengers for a bag search.  Whilst in there, they told us all to open our bags up so they could inspect them, I didn't have much, just a small bag with the laptop in it and my fleece, but suddenly all the lights went out int he room.  It was so black, some people started screaming, and then a couple of torches went on.  I had hold of my bag in my arms, but being the suspicious person I am, I was a bit concerned about what might be found in other peoples cases. It took about 8 minutes for the lights to come on, and in fairness the customs guys carried on by torch light, but I don't believe in coincidences.
The rest of the journey was uneventful.  I missed Ray and was concerned about all the conditions he was riding in and how tired he would be, he'd sent a text to me to let me know the hotel, and I got a taxi there, and was so pleased to see him.  I don't care how hard it is, I am going by bike the next time we move.  The shoulder, although achy, coped fine.  Looking forward to Panama City now.  

I eventually managed to exit the border after 2 hours and phoned Karen to give her an update. She told me they were reluctant to let her on the bus without a flight ticket and had to sign a waiver allowing them to dump her at the border if need be. Nice. We sorted out as much as we could and between us decided that I would drive on and let Karen fend for herself at the border several hours later. I was not happy but we had little choice. It would not be possible (due to duration) to follow the bus for the next 300 mile leg.

I set off and the journey seemed to take forever. I managed to find a McDonalds and using the laptop, booked a hotel in Panama. I relayed the details to Karen as she would not be due to get in till about 4am.  I arrived at around 1am and I was completely wasted. Riding a bike at night is not a good idea on a good day. I had done most of the 300 miles in the dark and the roads were atrocious with pot holes and displaced concrete road slabs. It was horrible. 

My view of the world for the best part of 2 days.

I got to the Hotel, showered and having been on the bike or dealing with it for 34 out of the last 40 hours, went to bed. 
At around 4am Karen walked through the door. It was wonderful so see her safe again and not an experience I would wish to repeat.
It has been a difficult two days for us, both physically and mentally. This whole trip has been difficult and we have not always seen eye to eye.  There have been days where we could easily have just come home. These last 2 days have made us both realise how much we missed each other when apart and we are so glad it is over.

1 comment:

  1. Arr you too are so cute :-) its lovely. Love you both loads x x