29 January 2003 - Managua
Yesterday I came from Leon to Managua, about 75 miles, and checked into my hotel early in the afternoon. I then went out, saw the ruins of the Managua cathedral, and I went to the mall. I'm not kidding, an American style four story mall with parking garage, escalators and everything.
I then went back to the hotel, parked the bike, and walked around. As I was walking I turned a corner, and saw it. A round Guinness sign hanging in front of a bar. I swear, there was a celestial glow descending on the sign, and as I saw it I heard angels singing. I started walking faster, then broke into a trot as I headed for the sign. I walked into the place, The Shannon Bar, and ordered a Guinness. They had cans, and the bartender poured me one into a real pint glass. I took it out to the porch, sat down, and I'm not ashamed to say, got a little teary eyed looking at it. It was most excellent, and gone in minutes. It was also extraordinarily expensive, but worth every centavo.
I then walked back to the mall, and had myself a good old fashioned American night out. Big Mac and fries in the mall at McDonalds, then went to see the new Bond movie, in a theatre that was about 45 degrees. I was freezing.
Anyway, this afternoon I plan to fly to the Corn Islands, in the Nicaraguan Caribbean. Supposed to be beautiful and unspoiled there, plus the diving is great. They hype the diving with sharks, so hopefully I'll get to do that, we'll see.
27 January 2003 - Cathedral of Leon
This morning I decided to stay another day here in Leon. So I went to the cafe on the main square right across from the cathedral, and had the best cappuccino I've had on this trip. I then headed across the street to see the Cathedral. It is amazing.
And here is your education for the day: It is the largest church in Central America, and took over 100 years to build. "Local Legend" has it that when submitting the plans to the Spanish authorities, they knew they grandiose plans would be shot down, so they submitted fake ones, got approval, and then started building the big one. The artwork was amazing, and the stations of the cross by Antonio Sarra are apparently considered masterpieces. I wouldn't know, but I wouldn't argue. I also loved the lion guarding favorite son Ruben Dario's tomb. He was some big poet or some such.
Tomorrow I am off to Managua or Granada. I may fly over to the Corn Islands for some diving, but I'm not sure. It depends if I can find a place I'm willing to leave my bike. I'm sort of on a schedule now, as I have to meet family friend Nancy in San Jose, Costa Rica on the 14th of February, as she is coming down and bringing me some parts and stuff.
26 January 2003 - Forgotten stories and more.
Oh yeah, and a few other things I forgot about the other day. When I was coming down from the mountains into Comayagua, the road was perfect, high speed twisties. At one point, someone actually passed me.. Which is unheard of, no one passes me down here. But this guy was in an Audi TT Roadster, doing somewhere over 100mph. He passed me and was gone in two turns. Great thing about down here.. There might be speed limits, buy nobody pays any attention to them, including the cops.
The other fun one was on the same sweepy downhill, when I pulled out to pass an 18 wheeler. And then he pulled out to pass another 18 wheeler. I was committed when he pulled out, so I laid on the throttle, doing somewhere around 80mph. And by the time he heard my little horn and saw me, he was already committed to passing the other truck. So we all tucked in tight and everyone passed everyone. First time I can say I've passed two 18 wheelers at the same time on a 2 lane road. And hopefully the last.
So then this morning I headed for Nicaragua. I nearly ran out of gas, then nearly ran out of money, but managed to get into Nicaragua easily and with no hassles. It took about 45 minutes to do all the paperwork, much easier than Honduras. The road was excellent in Nicaragua, well paved, well marked, guard rails, school zones. Then I learned how they pay for it. I was stopped for speeding about 30 minutes in the country. They said the speed limit was 25kph, I said I saw 45kph. Of course, I was still doing about 60 or 70kph. Anyway, then the cop said he was going to write a ticket and the fine would be US$20. At this point my Spanish became much worse, and I pretended to not understand anything. He tried to explain, getting more and more frustrated each minute, but I held firm with my lack of understanding. I knew what he was saying, but didn't want to pay the $20. So, after 15 minutes or so, he gave up and told me to go on. I'm still not sure how I got away with the no comprendo bit after I argued in Spanish about the speed I was going.. but what the hell, it worked. Morals of the story: Apparently there is a country in Central America that cares about speeders. Also, when in doubt, act really stupid.
Made it into Leon this afternoon, after a high speed blast on a back road with tons of potholes. Some of them you couldn't see the bottom.. families could have lived in them. But there was always a motorcycle line through them, so I was able to make time. Had some trouble finding a hotel that I could get my bike into, but finally found this beautiful old colonial hotel that was relatively cheap and has a courtyard.
And they have a TV lounge, so I stayed in tonight and watched the Raiders blow it in the Super Bowl. Went to the supermercado before the game and picked up some camembert cheese.. The first real cheese I've had in a while. It wasn't the best camembert, but at least it tasted like something, which is more than I can say for the other cheese here. But anyway, the Super Bowl with good cheese, some salami, apples, salted nuts, and crackers was most excellent. And if you have been wondering what happened to Fuad Reveiz and Bill Gramatica, wonder no longer. They are commentators of ESPN NFL en espanol.
And, for those hip hop fans out there. Listen to a little 'verbal Herman Munster'.. What's Golden? by Jurassic Five.
25 January 2003 - Much to tell...
Yesterday I got up and left Copan Ruinas, heading south east towards the border with Nicaragua. As I've come to expect, it rained a lot and was cold. Typical weather as of late down here. I had an uneventful ride, only getting briefly lost once, and pulled into Comayagua. And, for the first time, the Bible of travelers down here, also known as Lonely Planet Central America on a Shoestring, failed me. The cheap hotel with a courtyard for my bike was closed for renovations. So I asked around, and while trying to find someplace else when I stumbled upon a dumpy place with a courtyard. I pulled in, and found a Canadian couple there, Mike and Tanya. It was rather surprising, as this was not a tourist town, and very much off the Gringo Track. We were probably the only 3 white folks in town.
I checked in, and hung out on the porch with them. They flew into Costa Rica and are headed North.. Very cool people, from the outback of Alberta, the so-called Canadian Bible belt. Tanya was getting fed up with the attention she was receiving as a tall beautiful blonde woman. I told her to get used to it, they don't see too many like her down here.
Anyway, we ended up at dinner, where they mentioned there was a circus in town. I jumped at that opportunity, and said we had to go. So after dinner we walked down to the big tent, which was encircling the one ring show known as "The America Circus". We were a bit early, so we went to the liquor store, picked up a 6-pack of Imperial cans, and stood around the parking lot in the dirt drinking beer. When we went in and the show started, I could barely keep from laughing hysterically. They had everything, all campy and poorly done. The clowns were badly made up and didn't prat fall very well. The midget wasn't quite funny enough (but still pretty funny). The dancers who started it all were overweight, middle aged, and scantily clad. Their dance steps were all just a bit off, and their high kicks barely made it to knee level. The magician was dreadfully boring, and you could watch him pull things out of his pockets as he tried to trick us. The Cirque de Soleil-like gymnasts were weak, and not quite coordinated enough. And finally, the leopards were overweight, drowsy, and either lobotomized or ODed on valium. They could barely make the giant leap between two platforms set 2 or 3 feet apart. All in all, it was great. It reminded me the circuses and fairs we read about in books such as Katherine Dunn's Geek Love and John Irving's Son of a Circus.
This morning we breakfasted together at the FrutyTaco, then headed our separate ways. It was, for once, a beautiful day. The first half of the trip was up over 5000 foot/1500 meter mountains. It was a perfect crisp clear day, reminded me of fall in the Sierras. I passed through the capitol, and headed south towards the Pacific. It started getting warmer, and I began sweating for the first time in a while. I honestly could not remember the last time I rode my bike and the weather was nice, but I think it might have been in November. I took many breaks, stopping at the river, stopping for a snack, and finally pulled into Choluteca, where I realized I had run out of money. And it, as I learned, is Saturday, so the banks are closed after about 2pm. Luckily, after three tries, I found an ATM that worked.... I then drove around town for an hour, trying to find the damn hotel. Problem was, someone here decided that naming the Streets 1 and counting and the Avenues 1 and counting was too boring, so they renamed them all with no logical order.. I finally found a landmark on the map (an Esso gas station) and tracked to the hotel from there. It is the nicest hotel I've been in on this trip. Courtyard for parking, hot water in my private bath, TV with HBO and Food Network, a fan, and everything! It's a little expensive though, almost $7.25.
Off to Nicaragua tomorrow, maybe there I can upload this page..
23 January 2003 - Copan Mayan Ruins
Well, I finally felt better today, so I planned to head to the ruins first thing this morning. Of course, after two beautiful sunny days, it was raining when I woke up, so I went back to sleep. An hour later the rain had stopped, and I headed to the ruins.
It was amazing how different each of the Mayan sites I have been to are. None more noticeable than the difference between Tikal and Copan. While Tikal has towering majestic temples, Copan has amazing intricate stone carvings. Everywhere at Copan are carvings that tell the story of gods and kings. Check out the pictures.
Also, an amazing fact about Copan. Around 500 AD, they had a meeting of astrologers, and figured out that 365 days a year was not correct, and they decided that they needed to add another day every four years. Pretty damn impressive.
Anyway, off to eastern Honduras tomorrow, then hopefully Nicaragua the next day.
22 January 2003 - Copan Ruinas
So two days ago Pablo got up at 6am to head to Utila. I drowsily got up, wished him well, promised to see him at Carnival in Rio in 2004, and promptly went back to sleep.
Sidenote on Pablo: He is very amusing, I wish I could explain in writing. Some combination of his accented English and his way of thinking makes him very funny. He is the creative genius behind the caption on the tire picture from Omoa. We saw the tire in front of Roli's, and Pablo wondered what the hell it was for. So in his accented English, he spits out: "Hello, I am a tire. Thank you." We laughed about that for 20 minutes, and we were sober.
After I woke about 8am, I packed up and headed to Copan. I made it here about 1pm or so, checked into a hotel, and walked around town. I had planned to head to the ruins yesterday, but I cursed myself. Three nights ago I was telling Pablo that I had not been sick at all on this trip...now I'm sick. So I laid around all day yesterday and today, ingesting grapefruit seed extract pills, drinking fluids, and sleeping. Finally this afternoon I felt a little better and walked around town. Very nice, it's like a mini Antigua, but in Honduras.
Hopefully I will be better tomorrow, I'm getting very bored of this hotel room.
19 January 2003 - Omoa Discotec
Well, Pablo finally showed up last night, and we went out for dinner and then headed to the Discotec. It's down on the beach, and basically open air. They bring in a huge pile of speakers and a DJ, stock the place with beer and coke, and let the people dance. The music was varied.. Latin favorites, punta, salsa, merenque... mixed in with some Bloodhound Gang, Kylie Minogue, and others. The patrons loved it, and danced constantly.
**Sidenote: While it is commonly thought that all Latinos can dance, last night would tend to disprove that. Many of the gentlemen dancers were using the white boy two-step (shuffling your feet back and forth sideways) and some were using the more advanced (but still basic) white boy four-step (shuffling your feet in a carefully crafted right angle square). Granted, there were some very good dancers, but I was surprised by the number of not very good dancers.
Pablo was accosted by what he termed a "Honduran annoying girl". She wanted to dance, and he told her he didn't want to. Then she wanted to dance to a romantic song, and Pablo told her he did not ever dance to romantic songs. She spent the better part of the night talking to him, and occasionally he would lean over and tell me some inane thing she had just said. At the end of the night, she offered to give him her address in San Pedro Sula, the biggest city in these parts... He said he as going there, and she wanted to meet up with him. He said he didn't need the address, because he figured the city was not all that big and he would just find her... then we left.
Another great thing about the discotec was the parking.. bicycle parking that is.. You can just bring your bike in and lean it against the wall in the back. Don't see that in a lot of discos in San Francisco or Buenos Aires.
Anyway, we are hanging out here today, the rain has let up but my laundry is not dry, so I plan to leave tomorrow morning for Copan, and Pablo will leave for Utila.
18 January 2003 - Return to Omoa
So yesterday, Adi, Monika and I left Utila for Omoa. We hopped on the ferry in the rain, and made it La Ceiba, where we were trying to catch the direct bus to Puerto Cortes. We managed to catch the direct bus at 1pm, but then it didn't leave until 1:45. So we had plenty of time. Alas though, a few hours into the four hour trip, the bus died and pulled over. We were told that another bus would come to pick us up in an hour. So we waited, and waited, and waited. Also, we had not eaten, as the bus usually stops places where vendors sell everything, so we planned to get some lunch at one of these stops. But instead, we waited 3 hours for the replacement bus, and then they didn't stop. We finally arrived in Puerto Cortes and took a taxi to Omoa at 9pm. All I had eaten was a small sweet roll at 9:30 in the morning. Muey hambre! (very hungry!)
Anyway, we got dinner and went to sleep. This morning I pulled out my riding gear to head into Puerto Cortes for my paperwork, and my pants were VERY moldy. So moldy I took a picture. The rest of the gear was a bit moldy, but not as bad. Anyway, I suited up in my moldy gear, and headed into Puerto Cortes. The customs office was not open when I arrived, so I went to Wendy's for breakfast, then returned and waited around. I was told Hector, the man I needed to see, would be in at 10. Sure enough, at 10 he walked up, greeted me with a smile, remembering my name. He asked me how my trip to Utila was, then walked upstairs with me and had his secretary stamp my passport. I was in and out in five minutes, and me and my bike are now legal in Honduras! Thanks Senor Castenello.
It is still raining here, so Adi and Monika left this morning for Finca Ixobel.. However, I am here another day doing laundry, and waiting for Pablo to arrive. He is supposed to be here tonight, hopefully he will make it. My plan is to leave tomorrow for Copan ruins.. but if it's raining I may stay another day.
16 January 2003 - Diving!
So I've now been on 7 real dives, and I'm soon be a certified PADI Advanced Open Water Diver. Yesterday and today I've been doing the Advanced class, and went down to over 100 feet. It is amazing. My new camera case works awesome, and I took some cool photos. Check them out. I finished up the Open Water class two days ago, and celebrated at the Treetanic, a tree-house bar where my instructor Ignacio works. Yee hah.
Now, for some stories.. One, more details about the party at Coco Loco. The dj was good, but not the best. He comes close to being as good as the Donger.. but not quite that good. And the bar is on a dock, and has a big patio out at the end of the dock with tables and benches to sit at. And it has even more fun, live free entertainment. In the dock there are several large four foot square holes. Totally designed to be there. They are drunk traps. And I was lucky enough to watch one drunk fall through. To walk back to the bar you have to go around one.. If you don't see it (and there are no lights), down you go into the ocean... It's extremely funny. Too bad if you did something like this in the states you'd get yourself sued a million times over. Oh well, Viva Honduras.
Also, I've heard from several people I have met along the way that they have met other people I have met. One new friend believes I am becoming (in)famous. I'm not sure for what, or if it's a good thing, but it's kind of fun bumping into people who tell me someone they met told them about me.. It's a small world, especially down here.
And now for some advice. I suggest you all run out right now and buy a Black and Decker Quick Grill Sandwich Maker Series G100-G600. When Adi went to the mainland last week to pick up his girlfriend Monica, who had flown from Germany, he bought many important items, including one of these. It is the best thing ever. Simply slap in a few pieces of bread, some cheese, and anything else you want, and in a few minutes, you have perfectly toasted, melted, and delicious sandwich pockets. Excellent. He also brought back jalapenos, which amazingly you can't get here, wine, mushrooms, parmesan cheese, candles, and more. Ignacio, my instructor and bartender, was especially excited about the bag of jalapenos Adi brought him. Ignacio and his girlfriend Michelle are Mexican, and were dying for some hot spicy food.. So they mixed the peppers with some oil, and made tacos. With just the peppers.
On Friday Adi, Monica and I will head back to Omoa. Adi and Monica are heading to do some traveling in Guatemala, and I need to get my bike. And as a special party, Pablo from the Finca will be in Omoa on Saturday night.
Oh yeah, and you music lovers, listen to this Mexican band, Mana, singing Oye Mi Amor. After my time at the Finca, I now know the lyrics to this little diddy, having been diligently trained by Pablo and George every night...
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