We spent a couple of days at D&D Brewery Co. enjoying the wildlife and the stunningly beautiful Lago de Yojoa. Hearing the crazy sounds of the birds in the sugarcane, pineapple and banana plantations in the cloud forests of Honduras was a wonderful experience - we would spend ages just standing, listening and being in the moment.
The roads here are glorious with twists and turns around the mountains and all on new tarmac with free tolls for bikes - huzzah, which makes a change from the huge fees on the cuota roads in Mexico.
Everyone in Honduras has been super friendly, even the cops wave and smile at us - nothing like the bribing horror stories you hear about.
It's Day of the Dead at this time of year and although we've missed the huge celebrations in Mexico, there's still a lot of amazingly decorated graves in the cemetaries - it's quite a sight, and there are stalls selling food, drinks and general paraphernalia outside the gates.
Spending our final few Hondurian Lempira in El Paraíso (don't bother unless you want to experience fun times at the bus station) we ate the most ridiculously huge Chinese meal, complete with armed guard, who seemed more interested in chatting up the waitress and drinking Salva Vida beer rather than guarding the premises.
We left Honduras under police escort after they spotted us going the wrong way up a one way street. No fine, no bribe, just a cheery wave to send us on the correct road. After our "easy" border crossings, here's where the shenanigans started. We arrived at one of the many unmarked booths to be greeted with the words "problema" as our passports were whisked away. Apparently we hadn't been correctly entered into the country at the Guatemala border, so despite having the paperwork, we were not legally in the country, and so therefore couldn't exit. Sigh. Luckily for us we met Denis, who was a Honduras/Nicaragua/US traveller experiencing even more problems than us. Thank goodness he was there to help with the madness - passports got returned with only the minimum payment and the bike documents cancelled. The next stage was the interview about why we wanted to go to Nicaragua, exactly how much we were planning to spend and where we were staying each night. Not easy for us casual tourists with no plans. After 4 hours we were suddenly told to go through the border to the insurance lad at the barrier. No sign of Denis who we think was being given the 3rd degree to say thank you, but he most definitely earned his karma points this day.
After an extra $1 "payment" to the local town we were in Nicaragua. It's a land of volcanos, coffee, sugar and tobacco plantations and gorgeous colonial cities. We spent a few days in León, enjoying the sudden tropical storms which arrive in the afternoon, hanging by the Cathedral and being photographed by Presto Coffee for their promo.
Fun things you see here and not in the UK include pigs being carried on the back of motorbikes, which also have a minimum of 3 people on them. Health & Safety? Pah.
One thing we wanted to see was an active volcano - luckily the most active one in Cental America was on our doorstep and an easy visit, so we headed to Masaya, part of a range of fairly active volcanos in the Central American Volcanic Belt. Yes, you can get close n personal to it, seeing lava languidly rolling in the caldera as toxic gases filled the air. Brilliant.
Our last night in Nicaragua was in an Auto Hotel. Yet again the PieRats do the leurve hotel thang, something that started in Japan in 2005 at the Aikido World Championships, via Tirana in 2007 and now Latin America. This one wasn't up to Mexicali standards, with the single sheet not quite covering the mattress and the bare bulb illuminating the toilet bowl, adding a certain je ne sais quoi to the ambience. There was a particularly ritzy restaurant near by although being Sunday there was no booze. The statutory armed guard insisted I hid my bag as this wasn't a good area - our stroll in the dark through the back streets suddenly didn't feel quite such fun after all.
The border into Costa Rica was fun - get papers from the person hiding by the bus stand, find the policeman whose "office" is by the Pepsi machine, he stamps it, you take it to another building, find the person who cancels the TIP, pay more money to the local town, make photocopies, find you don't have any change, buy a drink, go back, find the window for different papers, ride a few mins down the road to the CR customs which of course is hidden from view, buy insurance, go to a different window for the stamp, fill out the forms asking for your mother's maiden name (yes, really!) ... gotta love it!
We met a fabulous Czech couple who were also going to be on the Stahlratte out of Panama, so we pointed then them in the right direction for the papers polka and filled another travellers bike with oil. Just passing on the border karma.
A few days in Costa Rica saw us getting soaked by storms, finding random places to shelter, spotting macaws, toucans and caiman and drinking terrible coffee. Our final border in Cental America saw James nearly not being allowed entry into Panama due to his passport being too wet! Luckily we managed to dry it on a hot water urn, but it still earned us a scowl from the immigration guards. We had to rush through Central America to get our sailing, but we did manage a few days R&R in Panama with our fabulous hosts Annie & Bob. The gins flowed, our bike gear got washed, the food was spectacular and the scenery just amazing.
A mad dash through Panama, a quick stop at the canal and 3 times over the Centennial bridge to our final night in Chepo (think Mos Eisley without the cantina band) before heading into Guna Yala native territory and the next stage of our journey.
Photos as usual on Imogen Burman-Mitchell's Facebook page.