Oaxaca, Mexico to Granada, Nicaragua

Hi Family and Friends,

It’s been awhile since our last entry but both Lindsay and I have had the flu which has left us with very little energy at the end of a day to keep the blog up to date.  I am basically over my bout and Lindsay seems to be over the worst.  So we are covering a lot of miles with this entry, making details sparse but hopefully giving you a glimpse into our last few weeks.

We were in Oaxaca Mexico a few weeks ago en route to San Cristobal.  We stayed at the Hotel Helena, close to the central square.  The square was incredibly busy, a tent community, where all the merchants slept next to their stands.  It was impossible to see the square in it’s entirety because of this, but we took our meals under the arches and became part of the ‘busy’ environment…..street vendors approaching continuously while we ate.

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After Oaxaca we made our way to Juchitan.  We continued our drive on Ruto 2010, a beautiful road that winds high into the mountains cutting through many small picturesque villages.  Riding conditions were perfect, clear skies and cool.  As we dropped into the lowlands at the end of the day the temperature rose dramatically into the low 30’s with a jump in humidity.  We arrived in Juchitan around suppertime.  It was a busy little place with no apparent good place to lay our heads.  Tracy and I did a some searching but could find no accommodation. Again as luck would have it Lindsay and Tom connected with an English speaking man that directed us away from the center to a little hotel just outside of town.

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Then it was on to San Cristobal via a toll road which was incredibly busy…we were glad to get into town by 6:00.  We found a little hotel where we could park our bikes out front during the day and bring them into the lobby area at night We got caught up with the blog (last posting),bike insurance, banking, gps etc….which took up most of our time  as our wifi connection was poor as we ran into all sorts of bureaucratic issues.  On top of that there was a music festival going on in the square a couple of blocks away which didn’t shut down until about 4:30 am each morning…..needless to say sleep was fleeting.  By the time we left the city I was exhausted and feeling like I was coming down with something.  Sure enough in a couple of days I was flat out with the flu.

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After three days in San Cristobal we crossed the border from Mexico into Guatemala at La Mesilla.  It was raining when we crossed and it all went without a hitch….although border towns always seem hectic…money changers, crowds hanging out, officals moving you through and a lot of “lurkers”, bike disinfecting.

It was good bye to Mexico.  We had an amazing ride through.  It wasn’t without it’s difficulties both technically and culturally, but on the whole it was a very rewarding experience.  We didn’t realize how incredibly beautiful the countryside was and how helpful the people would be.

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Into Guatamala. Once we were through all the craziness of entering the bike into the country and driving through all the hectic vendor stands we entered a stunning mountain pass.  The road was incredibly busy and we became aquainted with Guatamalan buses….colorful, full of people and driving as if they are the only vehicles on the road……crazy….  But Lindsay settled into the rythym and soon we were cruising through the pass like everyone else.

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By the 18th we were in Antigua.  We stayed in a 500 year old hotel, the Candelaria.  The city is surrounded by three volcanoes…one of them active…..we got glimpses of them, but the clouds were around the tops most of the time.  Antigua is a very pretty place, and very cosmopolitan with many foreigners visiting, working or doing volunteer work.  It was Tom’s birthday while we were there and we celebrated by going out to Casa Escobar for a steak dinner.

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After another hectic border crossing from Guatamala into Honduras we were on our way to Copan de Ruinas.  It took us three hours to cross the border, again bringing the bike in was the issue….tons of paperwork….and again money changers, guys doing your paperwork for a ‘tip’, local bike insurance to purchase and standing around in the heat. Everything is done in duplicate or triplicate and carbon paper is the norm. Once you get through you are pretty much exhausted and dehydrated! Luckily Copan was only thirty minutes from the border.  Got there and with the help of Marvin the tuk tuk driver ended up at a great little  boutique hotel Yat B’alam.   It was now Lindsay’s turn to start feeling the flu coming on, so we took it easy for the rest of the day planning to take in the ruins the next morning.  Marvin arrived in the morning taking the four of us to the ruins in his tuk tuk. The ruins were spectacular and had a very natural contemplative feel being surrounded by beautiful foilage and wildlife, something that was lacking in Tithuacan..

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After spending a few hours at the ruins we packed up the bike and made our way to Gracias.  Again a busy little town with heavily cobbled stone roads, crowds of people and hot.  We found the hotel we had planned to stay at after getting directions from some school kids…..but no secure parking….so we ended up at a hotel down the road with a great courtyard for the bikes and a great restaurant for us so we didn’t need to go back out into the streetts again that night.

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We basically drove directly through Honduras…..stayed a night in Danli…..got a hotel recommendation from an American coffee shop owner in the square….Hotel Casa Encantada….a nice place, very friendly owners…..and we also went out for dinner to the Hungry Wolf Café….same American recommended that….the café was owned by a fellow American that was married to a Honduran woman.  Turns out the café, like all the places around, shut down at 7:00……but Billy, the owner offered to make us hamburgers to go….which his wife ended up making for us (under duress)……we took the food back to the hotel and sat outside and enjoyed the best hamburgers…..The hotel owner had put together a small but eclectic collection of motorcycles, including a BSA Bantam, old Hondas and Kawasakis and even a Montessa and an Ossa which Lindsay and Tom had fun admiring and discussing with the owner.

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We left Danli for our border crossing into Nicaragua.  It was another three hour crossing with Lindsay suffering badly from the flu.  We had to get our temperatures taken, because of Chikangunya fears, to get into the country….luckily he passed!  Once we were through we were determined to make it all the way to Managua.  We had entertained the idea of stopping earlier, but none of the towns we came across felt very inviting.  So it was a marathon ride….luckily the roads were in beautiful shape, a huge change after the potholed Honduran experience.  About an hour and a half before getting to Managua the skies socked in and at 4:00 we were losing light…..then lightning engulfed us and the downpour started.  It was torrential, but there was nothing to do but continue.  Then night set in and it was almost impossible to see as our shields were completely fogged up and the rain was sheeting down on us. Trees had been blown down across the road and officials were guiding traffic by with flashlights.

Lindsay guided us along until we found a fast food chicken place where we stopped to regroup and grab a bite to eat.  When we stepped into the café everyone stopped to look at the four foreigners with puddles forming around them.   We took a few minutes to settle in and order some food then Lindsay started looking on the gps for a hotel nearby….as luck would have it we were minutes from the International airport with a Best Western across the way.  Needless to say, it was off to the Best Western.  By the time we got there Lindsay was at the height of his illness and really needed rest.  We had an appointment for the bike maintenance in Managua on the Monday, and it was now Saturday night.  So we decided to lay low at the hotel until the Monday giving Lindsay a chance to rest while Tom and Tracy moved on to Granada where we would meet up with them.

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The bike maintenance experience started off badly as the address put into the gps did not work. After riding around the city in circles we were told that there are no street names in Managua, but rather districts or points of interest, the only thing we knew for sure was we needed to find Esquina Este Estatua Montoya….which apparently would be easy to find….not so much so for us……. Finally after two hours to go the 16km the dealer was located!!!! We had almost given up two blocks from the mark when we got a taxi to take us the rest of the way. From then on everything went according to plan with both the manager and mechanic speaking fluent English and being very friendly.  Mission accomplished.

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Maintenance completed and we were off to Granada.  The ride there was  beautiful and the hotel Tom and Tracy had booked us into was perfect.  Right on the square, a refurbished historic building with a beautiful courtyard and remodeled rooms. We had dinner out at a sidewalk cafe and were entertained by street kids break dancing for the patrons.  It was very entertaining and I think they probably made a pretty good accounting for their efforts.

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Left Granada and on our way to San Juan Del Sur Nicaragua.

Talk soon.

xxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nuevo Vallarta to Popocatepetl

We left Puerto Vallarta on the 5th, destination for the day Chapalla, the midpoint to San Miguel Allende. Once again the roadways were beautiful.
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Enroute the GPS took us into a remote village via a dusty dirt road.

rough but dry

The guys once again managed well.  When we got through the road we arrived at a junction in front of a small establishment where there were three very surprised men drinking beer. They called out to us asking where we were going. After a little sign language they pointed us to the branch we needed, and off we went…..turns out the GPS had it right, just not the best connector!!!  The detour took about an hour out of our day so we got to Chapalla a little later and a little more tired than planned.

 

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As we were navigating into the town center Tom managed to take us up a one way street, pulling over and stopping still facing in the wrong direction in front of the police station.  At that point Tracy and I got off the bikes and started our usual search for  a suitable hotel. We found a Bed and Breakfast owned and operated by an Aussie….the hotel had the historic relevance of having D.H. Lawrence stay there for a few months while writing one of his novels in the 1920’s.   The place had been so significantly changed that the room he wrote in doesn’t really exist anymore.  But the grounds were pretty eclectic, rooms good….but no breakfast!!!!

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That evening as we were getting ready to go out for dinner we had one of our traditional thunder, lightning and rain storms, which cleared the streets of all the locals and caused us to find the first decent looking place to eat….we tried to sit on the deck but the wind was blowing so hard we had to move inside.   Owners didn’t seem to happy to have us there as we were their only customers…..maybe they were hoping to get home early due to the storm….luckily more people came in off the street and then they seemed a bit more upbeat.
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 Although Lake Chapalla is huge, its water level has dropped more that 25 feet over the years and as a result most of the water front is now marsh land.

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After breakfast we got the bikes loaded …destination San Miguel Allende.

Arrived in San Miguel around 5:00….much later than anticipated due to another GPS excursion….this time the route it sent us on was a bit more of a disaster….about a mile of mud and ponds of water….Tracy and I decided to walk it this time as our memories of a mud bath were far too recent…..of course the guys did it no problem this time….leaving us to navigate the road via side pathways with slippery crossings in sweltering hot temperatures……again the locals nodding their heads in disbelief while exchanging greetings of Hola! 🙂    Luckily when we regrouped we were at the correct junction.

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The rest of the ride to San Miguel was uneventful.  We arrived in the city without any idea of what to expect or where to stay.  Turns out the roadways to the center were cobblestone, narrow and busy with pedestrians.  Once again the guys did an amazing job of navigating us through the maze, especially since it was the end of a long day and they were tired.

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 They parked the bikes just outside the square and Tracy and I did our reconnaisance mission for hotels…..once again needed to find the essentials….secure parking, wifi and a good bed….after a bit of looking we decided on a fairly standard hotel that we had noticed on the way into town…about a seven minute walk from the town square….it turned out to be a good choice as we were isolated at the hotel by the traditional night rainstorm…..and the hotel had a great restaurant.
Next morning we wandered up to the city square to Rincon DeDon Tomas to enjoy a great cappuccino. After that the day was spent wandering through the city streets.  Late afternoon we went to the Rosewood Hotel to enjoy the city views before we walked to the center square to catch the evening light in the streets and on the buildings.  Really beautiful.  Then a great dinner at Hank’s.

 

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Adios San Miguel de Allende and off to Teotihuacan to see the pyramids.  The ride started on an insanely busy toll road filled with bumper to bumper transporters headed to Mexico City to either pick up or drop off their wares….it was crazy.
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 Trucks three abreast and really moving.
About an hour in a free road branched off from the toll road and many of the truckers turned off leaving the toll road much less congested….but just as we were relaxing into the ride Lindsay got a puncture message on the bike computer…..Great!!!!  So he signalled Tom and we pulled off onto the shoulder to address the issue….this meant Lindsay had to plug the puncture which he managed with Tom’s help.  Tracy and I walked up the road to flag traffic to slow down and give berth…..and meanwhile a highway traffic worker joined the guys at the bike and was also signaling traffic around…so at least the  guys didn’t have to worry about their backs.

 

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 Once the puncture was plugged the traffic person directed us to an exit from the highway to a place that could put a proper patch on the tire. Tire repair shops seem to be on every corner in Mexico and do a thriving business as worn out tires vastly outnumber the good. Tom and Lindsay removed the culprit wheel and tire from the bike and within five minutes the tire was removed, patched and remounted.
We arrived in Teotihuacan later than anticipated but still had lots of time to cruise around and orient ourselves to the pyramids.
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We were a ten minute walk from the pyramids (Aztec ruins), so in the morning we packed up our bikes and parked them at the hotel while we visited the ruins.

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After spending a few hours at the site we left Teotihuancan for Cholula to see Mexico’s highest volcano at 17,802′ …Popocatepetl or Pop……We got in around suppertime, so settled into our hotel, Cholula Villas, and had a great meal at the hotel’s restaurant…..had the place to ourselves…very relaxing.
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The next morning we were up early as we wanted to have a look at the church that was built on a pyramid in the center of town before we headed out on the Pasa de Cortes.  Luckily we were up early because we got a great view of the volcanoes just before their peaks were clouded over.
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 Meanwhile there was much discussion as to the passability of Pasa de Cortes…..Tom really wanted to do it and Lindsay was keen….I think both Tracy and I were feeling a bit pensive, but once the guys decided it was a go we went along with it.  Turns out it was a great decision..the road was paved  and meandered through some great back country, but the actual 30 km ascent was rough…..lots of twists and turns on dirt, potholes and washouts…once again the guys made it look easy and it was so great to reach the high point (12,179 feet) and see pavement again…..unfortunately the volcano was completely socked in.

 

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We stopped at the top to take a few photos and then it was a cruise down the other side….a fabulous road both in quality and views – stunning. The air and smells reminded us of the forests back home.
One last look back at ‘Pop.’
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We arrived at Izucar de Matamoros town center with no idea of where to lay our heads….and the hotels we did see did not look promising, nor did they have parking…..secure or otherwise…..
As Tracy and I were doing the Hotel hunt, Lindsay and Tom were approached by an English speaking local girl asking if they needed some assistance.  She was lovely.  She was on a small bike and offered to lead us to the best hotel in town…..think remote Northern Motel with courtyard for parking…..not so bad once we were settled….it was clean and close to the town square….although the toilet seat was missing!!
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 Next stops Oaxaca and Juchitan; destination San Cristobal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nuevo Vallarta

Today is Saturday, Oct 4th.  We have had the good fortune of being able to stay in a beautiful condo just North of Puerto Vallarta for a few days before we start our journey towards San Miguel de Allende.  The surroundings are lush and calm and we are enjoying days of sunshine with evenings of wine and good food.  All very beautiful.

Tomorrow we pack up the bikes and start our journey East on Mex 70.  We are looking to reach Chapala the midpoint between PV and SMA. Total distance to travel from here to San Miguel will be approximately 700km, and the plan is to make it in two days.

Thank you Rob and Sue
Thank you Rob and Sue

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As you can see we are still experiencing some major tropical storms that pass through late afternoon.  These are photos of our first night here and the storm was impressive.  Since, things have calmed down noticably to the point of just seeing some dark clouds and lightning in the distance.  High temperatures and high levels of humidity persist….good for the complextion 🙂

 

 

 

British Columbia to Sayulita, Mexico

Packed and Ready to Go!

Packed and Ready to Go

Have we forgotten anything?

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On our way 11 Sept 2014

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After a frantic last few days we were able to depart home on Sept 11; two ferry rides later we were in Port Angeles, Washington. The ride down the west coast was great as the weather and scenery cooperated fully. We spent time at Marian’s cousin’s in Los Osos, Calif, where Gerard and Peggy gave us the low down on the Baja, our intended route. We met our traveling companions, Tom and Tracy in La Jolla and a few days were spent trip planning as well as having new tires installed on the bike.  As a result of the impact of Hurricane Odile, we were ultimately advised to avoid the Baja.

Camping in the Redwoods, Humboldt State Park

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Coastal Ride

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La Jolla, connecting with Tom and Tracy

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A few days later we were crossing into Mexico at Nogales, south of Tucson Arizona. A fairly direct route was taken south to hit the Sea of Cortes at Guaymas. One of the highlights of any ride through Mexico is the Copper Canyon, which we completed in a few days. By this time we were becoming accustomed to the ever present unannounced debris on the road (from the hurricane), as well as vehicles ignoring all road rules. The route was very hilly and it took a leap of faith to pass several tractor trailers in a row as they waved you by on hills and corners, but we always discovered that the first driver had a good view of the road ahead.

Nogales border crossing

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San Carlos (Guaymas)

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Copper Canyon

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Durango became our next target. We found the road there to be in terrible condition and we put both bikes down in the mud on one 30+ km detour. This resulted in an extra 200 km of riding but it all culminated on the road known as the Devil’s Backbone which was spectacular. As we descended from 2700 metres to sea level our comfortable riding temperature changed from 20 to 30+ with high humidity as we neared Mazatland.

After the wipe out.                                                 The clean up.

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Using the old rock method for straightening…

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Casablanca Cafe Durango

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Coffee in Durango

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Following the GPS, we took a wrong turn approaching Mazatlan and were riding north instead of south.  Our “keen” sense of direction prevailed and we turned south and eventually found a great hotel in Rosario. The following day we enjoyed riding along the back roads of the coast and ended up here, in Sayulita, where we have been staying in bungalows a few steps from the beach. Strong wifi has enabled us to get caught up on our communication.

Motel Yauco, Rosario; one of the views.

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Motel Yueco Rosario

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The ride has not been without mechanical problems. The new rear tire was going flat over night  for the first five days until we were able to identify a leaking spoke which an injection of flat repair compound corrected. Both driving light brackets broke last week but luckily Tom and I were directed down a back alley here in Sayulita where an expert welding repair job was done by Oscar who also straightened Tom’s side stand.

Sayulita beach

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