20 February 2003
Had a great day today, an all day trip with some great diving. Took some of my best underwater shots yet.. I think I'm getting the hang of it now. Also met a guy who is down here on vacation from Sacramento. Turns out he works as a biologist for the California Fish and Game Department, so we started talking Sierras and whatnot.. Made me realized I missed camping and riding up in the hills. Oh well, I'll be back this summer and we'll turn the mighty XR650 into a sport-tourer...
I'm off tomorrow to see more of Panama, heading back to the Pacific coast and up towards Panama City.
And, keeping on my new international hip hop theme, here is some new music I just picked up from a French girl who owns the coffee shop here.. Fonky Family with L'Armour Du Risque, or maybe it's L'Amour, I don't know.
19 February 2003 - Bocas del Toro
This morning I headed down to the local good coffee shop for a cappucino, then checked out the dive shops.. I'm penciled in for an all day trip tomorrow, two dives, a snorkel, and checking out Dolphin Bay, where surprisingly, there are supposedly a bunch of dolphins.
I then walked around town a bit, getting a feel for things and taking some pictures. I took a picture of some bottles on a front porch, then made it about 20 feet before some guys asked me what I was taking a picture of.. I told them the bottles, and one of them, whose name turned out to be Eduardo, said they were his. They were old guys, very friendly, and quickly offered me a shot of the rum they were drinking. I started to say no, but realized I really shouldn't be rude, so joined them in a shot of warm rum with no chaser. It was almost 12, so I figured what the hell. We introduced ourselves, the others were Vincent and Rolando, and ended up talking for an hour. Very nice guys, all from the island, but one lives 30 miles away at his farm. One guy had lived in New York and Germany, and wanted me to back up his stories about New York that his friends didn't believe. Great time, but after a few more shots, I had to leave to get some food. Three shots of warm cheap rum on a cup of coffee and an empty stomach are not pleasant.
I will stop by again though, and get some more stories out of the old guys.
18 February 2003 - Panama
Crossed the border into Panama this morning, then headed for the Caribbean. And I found the best road in a long time. From Chiriqui to Almirante.. Up to 4000 plus feet, across the continental divide, and perfect pavement the whole time. It reminded me some of 58 from Santa Margarita to Taft, some of Mt. Lemmon in Arizona, and some of the geography was almost Montana-esque. It was the best ride I've had in months.. Perfect weather, fantastic scenery, and no one but me on the road. Well, there was one tractor (without trailer) who was hauling ass and actually passed me at one point, but I lost him in the tight stuff. Truly spectacular ride.
I left my bike in a somewhat shady parking lot on the mainland, and took the water taxi over to Bocas del Toro. Turns out half the world is in town, including, apparently, some of the Survivor crew, apparently scoping locations or getting ready for a new season. Glad to make it here before they do the show, I'm sure it will ruin the whole area. Anyway, all the cheap hotels are booked, so I've rented a room in a converted garage. It's quite nice though, fan, my own bathroom, and tv. Right now I am watching the 2002 Gravity Games moto jumping competition. Travis just ripped off about 6 back-flips.. One almost no-handed.
In my international dinner theme, I went to the Chinese restaurant here, and tried to finish the biggest damn plate of fried rice I've ever seen. Seriously, this was huge, four people would have been filled... Wop couldn't even have finished it... It was huge. And pretty good too, but not quite San Francisco Chinese food.
Tomorrow I am off to check out diving, see the shops, find out how much, and see about conditions. I'm becoming broke so I have to make my diving money count. I really wanted to dive Isla del Cano in Costa Rica, apparently humpback whales are migrating and I could have seen them.. but it was $150 for a one day trip, and that was too much for my budget. So hopefully I can get some cheap dives in here.
17 February 2003 - Italians?
I was not terribly wild about Dominical. Too many annoying American tourists. So I left this morning and headed up into the hills to San Vito, an Italian community founded in the 50's. It doesn't seem very Italian. Outside of town it does have a fantastic botanical garden where I spent the afternoon.
The road up here was awesome, very tight and twisty. At one point I was waiting to pass an SUV and they finally pulled over, so I downshifted and cracked the throttle. Problem being, I was on an uphill, so up the front wheel came and I passed them in a big wheelie. Scared the crap out of them, and definitely woke me up.
For dinner, I went to one of the Italian places in town, Restaurante Lilliana. It was a trip. The bartender was very Italian looking, and spoke at least a few words of Italian. He had slicked back salt and pepper hair, a very tight t-shirt, gold chains, and matching gold watch. The place was decorated with lithograph prints of landmarks in Italy like St. Peter's Square, and several flags for the Milan soccer (football) team. And best of all, the Spaghetti Bolognese was the best pasta I've had in a long time. It was al dente, unlike most of the overcooked pasta you find down here.
I'm not overly impressed with Costa Rica. Granted, I skipped most of it to get to San Jose, and what I have seen is very beautiful, but it is more expensive and more touristy than elsewhere in Central America. So I think tomorrow I will head into Panama.
16 February 2003 - Back to the Beach
So after a few days in San Jose, I decided it was tome to move on, so I took off this morning for Dominical, southwestern Costa Rica. Nice little beach town.. a bit touristy, but one of the best sunsets yet. I'm sure you're all sick of the sunset shots, but don't blame me, blame the sun. I'd stop taking pictures if they were not so spectacular.
Anyway, camping out tonight, tomorrow further south along the coast.. and some dirt roads.
15 February 2003 - Care Package
So yesterday afternoon I went out to the 'burbs. Cariari is a golf resort type of place where Lewis' friend has a B&B. I didn't know when Lewis was showing up, so I arrived about 3ish, and she wasn't there yet. So I hung around and went to the airport with her friend to pick her up. She brought everything I had requested. I then went back to my new hotel, and then met them for dinner. Most expensive dinner I have had in months.
This morning I went back out there to look at the friend's Macintosh. I don't know anything about them, but I told her I'd take a look. It was a madhouse, between the 3 Nicaraguan helpers, the woman's American son who was spouting anti-American conspiracy theories, her four grandchildren, 4 or 5 dogs, and the woman running around frantically. I tried to fix the computer, but it seems to be fairly well confused, and she didn't have the software or cables I needed. So I ran away. I then went back to my hotel and worked on the bike; oil change, new turn signal, new driveshaft boot clips, etc. etc.
13 February 2003 - Costa Rica..
Yesterday afternoon, our unofficial tour guide of San Juan del Sur, Shaggy, took Crispin and me on a walking tour. The other boys and Britt were out surfing, Laura was entrenched in a hammock. Shaggy took us up the hill, down the hill, out the beach, across another hill, down the hill, along the water, and across the rocks. Amazing scenery, and we watched the sunset from some rocks 20 feet from the crashing sea. Thanks to Shaggy for his hospitality.
Last night we got together for dinner and drinks, and I resolved to leave today. Which I did, after tearing myself away from breakfast where Crispin was trying to talk me into 'just one' breakfast beer. I turned him down, and bailed out of town. The border crossing was easy, which was good, seeing as my passport had a 72 hour stamp for Nicaragua, and I'd been there almost three weeks. Luckily, they didn't seem to care, and stamped me out without a graft.
I had to bust ass after that, as I wanted to get to San Jose today. Couple hundred miles, many of which I will repeat in a few days when I head back to see northern Costa Rica.. But Lewis arrives tomorrow, and I am here now. I will have to move hotels tomorrow, because this place is a major old drunken man kind of place, and my bike is parked in a questionable parking lot for way too much money. But it was rush hour, traffic was a mess, and it was dark, so here I am. I'm just not going to think about the the empty condom package I found under my pillow. Oh well, at least it's cheap.
However, San Jose seems really cool. Tons of people all over, tons of storefronts, bars, etc. Almost has an upper east side Manhattan feel to it. It is nothing like the other major cities in Central America. Tons of traffic at rush hour too.. I had to show the local boys how we lane split San Francisco Style. Big bike, big bags, very little room.
And for you music lovers, Shaggy let me rip a CD of his, Cuban-Nicaraguan hip hop, called Orishas. Here is Represent. Enjoy.
12 February 2003 - San Juan del Sur
So, we got back to Managua.. Took a taxi to friend Liz' house in Managua, then I continued on to my bike.. Picked up the bike and returned to Liz' and joined in the party. She had some friends over from Scotland, and she was having a party to see them off. Liz was nice enough to provide Tom and I a free place to stay as well.
The next day Liz went off to work and I offered to take Tom to the American Airlines office to get his ticket to head home to London and start life as a lawyer.. Ha ha ha ha. Anyway, we made it about 2 blocks before I was pulled over for being white and having money. I saw the cops see me as they rode by on the road I was about to turn onto. They saw me, pulled over, and waited for me to enter. Then they pulled me over and told me I had entered the road illegally. Total shakedown. The only thing I had done wrong was to forget my paperwork, which worked out fine for them. They followed me back to Liz' which was a much quieter place for them to demand $20. I was willing to play it out a bit more, but Tom handed over $20, so they went away.
I met Liz for lunch, then headed south to San Juan del Sur, a beautiful little beach town on the Pacific. I planned to only be here a night, but as I was packing up my bike yesterday, a group of five tourists walked up.. Turns out it is a group from San Francisco in Nicaragua for a wedding.. And one of them (Crispin) is a British guy who rides bikes and is friends with Donny at Scuderia.. He is actually working on Donny's new dyno, as he is a contractor. So I was easily convinced over a few breakfast beers to spend another day here. We all (Crispin, wife Laura, and their friends Britt, Keiran and Shaun, plus two local surfers, including Shaggy, the guide) went to a beach about 10 miles north of here in their rented Toyota SUVs. They were looking for waves, as Sean and Keiran (and sort of Britt) are surfers. Then last night we went out to a nice Italian dinner... I was thinking about leaving again today, but just couldn't get motivated, so I'm here again.. I think I'll leave tomorrow though, I still have to meet Lewis in Costa Rica in two days.
08 February 2003 - Last Day here..
Tomorrow, it is time to head back home... ah, I mean to the mainland. I have to hustle down to CR to meet up with family friend Lewis. Yesterday I passed all my dive photos to Elle, and today burned a CD with a bunch of music. Of course, I left my CD burner on the mainland, so I had to install one that the owner of the dive shop had, and use that. Pain in the ass, but in return I got a free dive. Well worth it.
This island is awesome, great location, perfect weather, no cars, nice rustic facilities, and great people. Anyone looking for a remote rustic island vacation should come here before it is ruined by progress. The good thing is the residents voted to not allow any vehicles other than bicycles and boats, so that slows things down. Plus, this island has characters like Brother Bing Crosby, apparently something of a mechanical genius. He has built his own windmill out of plywood to power he and his wife's restaurant, Farm Peace and Love. And when the electricity generator for the town blew up it's radiator recently, he rigged a waterfall through multiple 55 gallon drums to cool the generator, so villagers could continue to have power the usual hours of 5pm to midnight. Oh yeah, and it appears his parents were big fans of Mr. Crosby.
Grant, the owner with his wife of Casa Iguana, a hotel on the other side of the island (5 minutes away), is from Tallahassee, and has been here for 7 or 8 years. He is also a huge motocross and super cross fan, and knows Ricky and Bubba from his days in Tallahassee.. He listens to every race over the internet. When he found out I was on a motorcycle, he and I chatted about motocross for a while, and I got the full report on how everyone is doing this season. Sounds like next year should be interesting in the 250s.
Well, off to dinner at Bridget's. She is our landlord and we eat at her comedor (small limited restaurant) almost every day, twice. I'm getting a bit bored of the two cheap dishes she has, spaghetti with chicken or fried chicken with rice. She also can scramble eggs, so sometimes I throw that in for a change. I think it's going to have to be fried chicken tonight, I have not had that since lunch yesterday..
07 February 2003 - Life in Paradise
Let's go back a few days.. The night dive was awesome.. Swimming around at 30 feet in the dark. We had flashlights, but at one point we all turned them off, so we could see the light show. Strings of lights, hanging in mid-water.. lighting one after another down the string. Looked sort of like the night sky with stars (which incidentally, are also amazing here, as we are 50 miles from the mainland, and 100s of miles from the nearest city).
The next day Tom started helping the dive shop build a new deck, as he had done all the dives he paid for, wanted to do more, and was running out of money. I was supposed to help today to get a free dive or two but the owner of the shop (not the manager Waz) shot down Waz' plan. Oh well.
Yesterday we headed out to do a cave dive. It was awesome, swimming through these small caves in the coral, 20 feet down. In one of the caves there is a huge grouper, who is very territorial. Tom was having trouble equalizing (the pressure in your head versus outside your head) so he went back to the boat, but Davey and I went in for more. We went into the smallest cave where the grouper lives, and he tried to block the path.. We went in and around him, then when I left through another door, he chased me out.. leaving Davey in there to try and get out without getting attacked. He managed. At the end of the dive we tried to go back in.. Shined our flashlights around, no sign of the grouper, so Davey started in.. He made it about five feet before the grouper appeared, blocking his path through the small tunnel.. So Davey negotiated a quick turnaround and retreat.. Unfortunately, there was a lot of sand in the water, and it was dark, so I couldn't get a picture where you can see the grouper, but he was huge.. Probably four feet long and fat.
Last night Tom and I went next door to Davey's house to make up some lobster curry. Davey invited us, on the condition that we had an idea of how to make lobster curry.. I ordered some coconut milk, and we got some real Thai curry paste from Waz, so with that some garlic and onions, I was able to make a pretty decent curry. It was funny though, because I got the milk in a trash bag, Davey picked up the lobster in another trash bag, and curry expired in March, 2001... but it all turned out ok. It was so good we are going to cook again tonight with shrimp and curry powder, as we don't have any more paste..
Today I had another great dive. Saw a huge turtle, three spotted eagle rays, two dolphins, a sting ray, and tons of fish, from tiny little ones to big hungry ones. In the span of five minutes, I went from taking a picture of the big turtle, to rising 10 feet to check out two of the rays, then hearing dolphin speak, and looked over to see two of them swim by. It was awesome.
(And, I don't think I ever really explained who these folks are. Davey is an Australian that I met in Guatemala. He is working here as a dive guide. Waz is another Australian, who along with his wife Elle, run the dive shop. Good people all.)
03 February 2003 - More Corn
Well, I'm better enough, so I started diving today. One dive this morning, then a night dive this evening. Awesome. Saw 5 or 6 nurse sharks and a spotted eagle ray, plus a ton of fish this morning. Tonight, saw many more fish, amazing colors of the coral at night, and amazing phosphorescence in all around in the water.
Had a great snorkel the other day, then a great party. Liz, a woman Tom had met on Utila, was here with the Nicaraguan Dive Club, and her birthday was somewhere near.. So we celebrated. Dinner and drinks on the north side of the island, on the beach. Then back to the Happy Hut, the only bar on the island, and basically a local place. A little dancing there, then we all sat on the beach for a while. Excellent night.
Also, today, between dives, I walked across the island to try and help an Italian woman who runs a little restaurant here.. She is having problems with her computer, so I checked it out. I need do some research on the net before I can try to fix it, so I plan to do that while I upload this site tomorrow.
All is well, a few more days here then I will head back to Managua and my bike.
01 February 2003 - Little Corn
So, I still have a bit of a head cold, so I have not been able to dive. But I am planning on doing some snorkeling this afternoon.
And, the expensive internet place here (the only internet place here) allows me to connect my laptop, and for half price, so it's not that expensive.
I plan to stay here another 3 or 4 days, hopefully be able to dive some, then head back to Managua and head towards Costa Rica.
30 February 2003 - Paradise Found: Little Corn Island, Nicaragua
I made it here to Little Corn yesterday. A flight from Managua to Bluefields, then another quick jump to Big Corn Island. Then a half hour launch ride across to Little Corn.
It is amazing here! There are no roads, no docks, no phones. Everything that comes onto this island comes in little boats that beach themselves in the sand, then everything is carried off. It is a simple, slow, nice way of life. Unfortunately, my head cold has come back a bit, so I can't dive right now, but I'm hoping a few days will clear it up, because the diving is supposed to be great. There is one dive shop in town with one boat, so very few divers (as opposed to Utila, where there were 15 shops each running 2 or 3 boats). Spotted eagle rays, nurse sharks, lobsters, and tons more to see!
This morning I went for a little walk.. which turned out to be a bit bigger. And as a result, I have my first sunburn of the trip. I went out for a little walk, and ended up walking around the entire island, mostly on the beach. There is very little development here, a few 'hotels' with cabins for rent, and a small village with no roads, just sidewalks. The walk was beautiful, if a little long. Three hours after I set off I returned, parched, a tad sunburned, and hot.
I did bump into a friend I met during my initial stay at Finca Ixobel, Tom, an English guy. We saw each other briefly on Utila, then we met again on Big Corn, waiting for the launch here. He has been hiking in the Mosquitia coast of Honduras, and is wrapping up his trip. We rented a small run down shack with 2 rooms and a bathroom for $10 a night, so we are staying pretty cheap here.
Anyway, I hope to dive in the next few days, and take some more pictures!
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