Wet, wet, wet!

October 23, 2011

Since last report, there were some slight changes of plan. We decided to join the rest of the motorcyclists we caught up with to watch the Kiwi’s beat Australia in the semi-finals of the world cup rugby on Sunday, and do a day excursion to Lake Atitlan on Monday. After sourcing solutions for some of our various problems

(the remnants of the license plate)

We then helped André, a Swiss guy we met fix his low beams (they hadn’t worked since Minnesota!) on his bike. Discovering hidden talents for reading wiring diagrams written in German, we were able to get something working.

(photo courtesy of André)

We caught up with the crew again (here is an earlier photo)

From front left clockwise, Jess, lady I don’t remember, Kerman, Phil, Kevin, me, Tim, Wade, André and Jesse. Missing from the photo (but present!) was Glenn, Mark and Maggie. All riding bikes to Tierra del Fuego. You can follow their progress here
Glenn: http://sabbaticalglenn.blogspot.com/
Kevin: http://exploreplanetearth.net/
Phil and Wade: http://bergaliaboys.com

(photo courtesy of Kerman)

We also took the time to take in some of the culinary delights on offer for us in Antigua

We had enough of sitting around doing nothing in the rain for the last few days, and thought we would take the back way to Lake Atitilan, which consisted of a little of this:

At which point Tim’s bike developed a bad case of hydrophobia and blew the main fuse. Replacements also burnt out – and the short was not easily identifiable. We also discovered that the rear rack bolts had snapped on his bike as well (same problem as was happening to my bike – do other KLR owners have the same problem, or are we just “lucky”?).

We pushed Tim’s bike back through the river, then we rigged up a tow rope to mine to tow the bike the 10 odd miles up the windy road and back to the nearest town. We managed to find the gentleman with the most amount of electrical knowledge in town and proceeded to do some disassembly.

They worked into the night

We had to stay the night in town and we came back the next morning to a working bike, they suggest it was the Instrument Cluster that got some water in it, I don’t know if that was the case or not – but it was running, that was all that mattered.
We returned to Antigua to collect Tim’s license plate and get his rear rack fixed – at which point I need to give Moto Café a shout out: http://www.degustantigua.com/en/moto-cafe.html?Itemid=90 they helped us a great deal.

The solution for Tim’s number plate wasn’t really complete – nor sufficient, but we thought we would finish it up, and got his rear rack fixed.

We headed toward the border, rain pelting at us:

My bike died

Fortunately the issue was simple, and so was the fix. Water was that heavy it got thrown up from my rear tire to my fuel tank vent on my de-smogged bike, blocking it from getting air, and just needed to be drained.

Roads and bridges were regularly washed out, necessitating (sometimes creative) detours.

The border to El Salvador

The destruction from the rain here has been immense, they have had over 4ft of rain in a short space of time.
Roads at best looked like this

Rivers like this

It was not fun to be riding it. You were continuously drenched to your skin, had really bad visibility through a helmet visor that would be covered in water (and often fog), and the roads were terrible. You would wake up in the morning to wet motorcycle gear to do it all again.

We finally made it to El Salvador. The paperwork was pretty straightforward (if time consuming at 3 odd hours), and the officials generally pleasant.

Some of the locals jokingly asked if we had brought our fishing rods – when inquiring as to why, they said to go fishing on the road.
We soon got the joke.

Officials here were still friendly, and sported cool poncho’s.

MS-13 sightings were slim, but good food locations weren’t.

I had heard the road down the coast of El Salvador compares to Hwy 1 on the West Coast of the US, or the Great Ocean Road in Australia, while weather perhaps diminished the experience (and the photo evidence) the comparisons seemed fair.
Not wanting to hang around in the rain, we pushed south to the border, and slept the night there.
I woke up a little enlivened. This border (Honduras to El Salvador) was supposed to be the most difficult border we would cross in the trip, I have heard stories of people being stuck here for exorbitant lengths of time and forced to part with large sums of money that they perhaps shouldn’t have. Dealing with this kind of stuff excites me.
So begins the formalities.

One of the downsides of travelling with motorbikes is that at each country you need to import them (and export them from the previous country), it makes the entry/exit process around three times more complicated, time consuming and costly than if you were just travelling by bus.
I am surprised to report that the usual tiresome process at this border was not what we encountered. After leaving El Salvador (10 mins) we had a gentleman approach us offering to assist us with the border formalities (aka a “mule”). We aren’t interested in the services of these individuals, as we consider this stuff “part of the experience”, not to mention a lot of them are shadier than the corrupt officials you have to deal with anyway. This one was different, despite our persistence with “no”, he continued offering assistance, was honest, friendly, spoke perfect English and said he was not going to charge us anything, we can tip him at the end if we appreciated his services. Oscar I believe was his name, and he comes well recommended. We were through in under an hour. We were that pleased with services he scored $20US.

Honduras was a country we had both elected to kind of “skip” mostly due to the fact that we felt other neighboring countries (Guatemala and Nicaragua) offered more of the natural beauty we were seeking. While our experience there was brief and we didn’t stray from the Pan-America highway, I cannot report that it was pleasant. Towns were poorly kept, roads weren’t even kept at all, we were stopped twice by police fishing for bribes, one of them we had to pay (he discovered Tim’s “replica” plate, and threatened a fine because it was in violation of the rule book – which we demanded to see). Reports from other travelers and teachers that work in Honduras that I spoke to do not paint a pretty picture either, and suggest that the country is turning into what Columbia used to be, a drug lord haven.
Into Nicaragua. More paperwork.

Not long into the country the traffic started to back up.

Of course we scooted by.

We soon discovered the cause.

The local police and army egged us on (like we needed it) saying we could make it across pushing them – I laughed, completely contradictory to what officials would say in any western country, I like Nicaragua.
We paid two locals $2 each to guide us and began the pushing.

It was about a mile across, and was hard work. We made it to where the water was shallower, and I followed all experience mechanics advice by testing to see if I had water in my engine by hitting the starter button. It ran!

We stayed in the next major town, and went to check out a rum factory, it was closed, but their rum is excellent.

We then road down to Leon, and today we decided to climb an active volcano

Sit on a bit of ply-board

And slide down it.

Speeds up to 87kph (about 55mph) have been recorded. Not by us unfortunately though.


2 Responses to “Wet, wet, wet!”

  1. steph Says:

    wow aide, i admire your resilience with all the weather and bike problems you’ve been having- hopefully sunnier times ahead!
    Stay safe darling!

  2. Blair Says:

    Perhaps you should have considered a canoe trip instead. That’s crazy amounts of water. You’re Guadalajara video is classic, it looked like you were driving around in an abandoned mine shaft. It was otherworldly, and then the pedestrians added a bit of comedy. Really, they walk around in those tunnels?


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