Don't let my trumpet sound around here like
a siren, maaaaaan!!!
Long time no hear. Have been keeping myself amused. Things could
be worse. Mustn’t grumble. Could be in Blighty.
blockade UK oil refineries and petrol stations.
weather in the UK is turning nasty.
Euro continues its freefall against the US$ and is soon to be
on par with the El Salvador Colon.
William is displeased that a new book describes his mum as an
old slapper who was on everything except the Titanic.
Hague gets his maiden leg-over under dubious circumstances in
the Palace of Westminster. The procedure involved a garden gnome
and/or a corgi.
is no more.
Keith (or is it Kenneth, John, George, Ringo or Paul?) is causing
me to get wet more often than I'd like.
the above, the latter 2 are of interest and the rest unlikely to
cause me to rush to a travel agent to purchase an air ticket to
whoosh me back to Heathrow.
is be found, maaaaaan
the last of my ramblings, the wife and I (sans Norm, who was stolen
the day after I sent that report in which I commented that he was
attracting a lot of attention) have travelled down Mexico's Sierra
Madre, checking the usual things, spent a week or so in Antigua
Guatemala getting the bike sorted and learning some Español
before setting off for El Salvador and Honduras, where at this very
moment “me is be found, maaaaaan” on the north coast
island of Utila chilling and soaking up some Caribbean laidbackness.
The hotel owner has just told her teenage daughter : 'Don't let
my trumpet sound around here like a siren, maaaaaan!!!' (translation:
don't let me have to raise my voice, young lady!) The local patwa
really cracks me up.
happenings of the last month or so will be described in reverse
geographical order i.e.: Honduras so far, then El Salvador, followed
by Guatemala and lastly Mexico. Why? Because I can!
is a very green country, which comes as no surprise. It rains here
more than in the UK. The people are pretty cool and on the Bay Islands
they speak English (ish), which is a pleasant break from all this
Español malarkey. Quite a bit of damage from 1998 Hurricane
Mitch can still be seen. Most bridges are temporary structures next
to their previously permanent neighbours.
border crossing from El Salvador was a laugh. We (yours truly and
a German named Volkmar on a 1986 Yamaha XT 600 Tenere - No I haven't
mentioned the 'W' word yet, but might have to try to get away with
it in the near future!) crossed a little used border (never used
by gringos) in the east of the country. We received no exit stamp
from El Salvador (there was nobody there to give us one) and paid
a grand total of 60 US Cents for a 5 minute immigration procedure
to enter Honduras (normally +/- 30 US$ and 3 hours). Honduran importation
papers for our bikes were not available either. It should be fun
trying to get out of the country again!
reason for this border point being so infrequently passed should
have come as no surprise: On the map it was a dotted line. It took
us 5 hours to travel 18 km. After learning the hard way (in my case
2 broken mirrors from pretending to be a Paris-Dakar rider...),
it was quite easy... 1) Drive along very slowly in first/ second
gear over some very slick paths and stop upon spotting mud. 2) Take
a walk through the mud and look for the best/ least deep route.
3). Drive through very slowly with the other chap pushing/ giving
advice. Through one bit we had the pleasure of carrying our luggage
500m and driving the bikes without the extra weight. A helping hand
was still required! We made it unscathed, but both looked as if
we'd been on the losing side in a mud wrestling contest. My next
RTW is likely be on a minimally loaded Honda XR250 or similar. 300
odd KG of German 'Engineering' including luggage and Mother Earth
mixed with copious amounts of water are not 100% compatible.
Salvador was good. The people we met had an amazing grasp of geography.
They knew where places like Tierra del Fuego and England were on
the map painted on my panniers and Union Jacks and GB stickers failed
to faze them either. Very different from the inhabitants of some
other regions of the Americas. The country doesn't get many visitors
and we were made to feel very welcome. The population is doing its
best to forget its recent history and build for the future. I wish
them 'Buenos suerte'. It is the usual story: the more tourists who
arrive, the more lazy the locals become in the 'Welcoming Johnny
- Foreigner - Stakes'. Antigua Guatemala is a case in point.
el mundo va muy rapido
describe Antigua Guatemala as a 'Touristen Puff' and was more than
pleased to leave after a week. Institutionalised in some naff Spanish
school and staying with the nastiest of money grabbing Guatemalan
families tested my alleged new found coolness to the full. However,
I did learn phrases like 'Porque yo tengo que pagar?' (why should
I pay?), 'Todo el mundo va muy rapido' (everybody is driving at
my speed) and ' Nunca he tenido problemas con otros policias en
mi viaje. (I've never had any problems with other police on my trip).
far, touch wood, I have had no need to regurgitate these sayings
to the Boys in Blue - or green, black, brown, pink etc.. Every roadblock
the same format: switch off engine, remove helmet and sunglasses,
smile, shake the man's hand and even if you haven't got a clue what
the gibbins he is saying to you, you say: 'yo soy Ingles, yo NO
soy American' (this always gets a smile!!), yo manejo Palenque -
Fronterra con Guatemala (or wherever you're driving from/to....)
all uniformed types (the world over) are stupid. They do however
have guns, sunglasses, moustaches and power (gun = power). So the
answer is: smile and lie/bullsh*t, while looking them straight in
the eye. It is easy if you put your mind to it. I only wish I had
learnt this technique earlier in my life...
Palenque in southern Mexico, the wife's rear shock absorber decided
to begin giving up the ghost, which caused a most displeasing 700km
ride south to Guatemala City with a spring, but no dampener. The
oil ejecting itself onto the back wheel luckily didn't cause a fall
off. I can live with this component failure. A chappie at Bracken
BMW in London reckoned the thing wouldn't make it 30 miles south
of Calais. Well, it made it 30 thousand miles south (and north,
west and south again) of that northern French port.
boys and girls: don't believe everything strange men tell you about
looking at puppies, respecting you in the morning and BMW shock
absorbers. As if to add insult to injury, while sizing up the doorway
to the hotel in Palenque (I always park the bike off the street)
the wife felt it necessary to deposit about a litre of 110 degree
Celsius motor oil over my right leg, a 300-odd degree exhaust pipe
and the road. It was quite spectacular, I suppose, but not carrying
a fire extinguisher caused me a little concern. One of the hoses
on the oil cooler had ruptured! Being, by now, a bit of a dab hand
at fixing broken BMWs, I fished out my oil cooler bypass, modified
it so that it didn't leak, attached it, replaced the lost engine
oil, visited the local Mayan ruins and drove the afore-mentioned
700 clicks to Ciudad Guatemala with a purely aircooled engine. As
it rained most of the way, it was actually a water-cooled.
nice people at the BMW car dealership in Guatemala's capital city
made me some new oil cooler hoses and the owner flogged me the shock
off his own (private) R100GS. Unfortunately this also leaked dampener
oil, so now I have his old original, rusty shock. Let's hope it
holds at least a few miles.
far in this epic episode you have heard of Honduras, El Salvador
and Guatemala. There follows a quick synopsis of Mexico.
was generally good: Cool people, cool climate in the mountains,
great biking roads -except for the 'Topes' (speed bumps - these
are what finally killed the shock), litter, totally insane bus drivers,
'Bimbo' bread and 'Fart' taxis.
not sure whether the white crosses that are found on every corner/curve
in the road came first and then the road was built to follow these
crosses or vice versa. The road probably came first. Here follows
a case study of how these Christian symbols come to be placed along
the roadside, in order to commemorate the people met their maker
the name of the bus company, but the bus was red and white and its
number was 507. No. 507 and myself drove the 600 km south from Abaca
to San Christobel de las Casas together. He overtook me downhill,
round corners and on the straights and I took him out on up hill
bits, of which there were many. After overtaking me and approaching
an up-hill, right-hand curve (people drive on the right in Mexico)
he decides it is time to overtake 3 huge trucks in front of him.
It doesn't take a total genius to realise that trying to pass one
very large motor vehicle (let alone 3) uphill, on a blind corner,
in a diesel powered bus, carrying 50 people who have entrusted their
lives in you, might not be the most appropriate course of action!!
Luckily the oncoming car managed to do an emergency stop, as did
the bus, and Jose El Loco, the driver of the bus 507, and his passengers
continued on the correct side of the road, for a little while at
myself a 'high five'
first major stop after the border crossing with the USA at Agua
Prieta was in Creel, near the Copper Canyon, where I even managed
to spend a whole day not riding the wife and went for a walk instead.
The following day I drove the wife fully loaded down the switchback
hillside hugging track to the base the Copper Canyon at Batopilas.
That was scary! It was hot and steamy and being a mild, fair-skinned
English sort, I cut a trail again the next day. On the way I had
occasion to let out a great whoop of joy and to give myself a 'high
reason: I had struck one back for all motorcyclists, bicyclists
and postmen. Some nasty, rabid dog took it upon himself to run next
to me, bark like a berserker and try to bit my leg. However, just
as he was about to take a nice, tasty chunk, my left steel toe-capped
paratrooper boot was propelled with the force and accuracy of a
Rob Andrew Five Nations winning penalty, into his scull. I definitely
heard a crack over the sound of the wife's engine, as he was propelled
backwards off the cliff. I didn't stop to check whether he could
swim or even had the inclination to want to continue life in this
world or in dog-hell.
silver towns of Patzcuaro and Tasco to the south west of Mexico
City were good, but Abaca was disappointing considering the rave
reviews I had heard. In Guadalajara, Mexico’s second city,
I contacted Estefan through the BMWMOA and he allowed me to do a
full service on the wife in his garage. I got more than I bargained
the clouds as instructed
asked me what I was doing the following day and offered to take
me to Pacific Ocean port of Puerto Vallarta for lunch. I was a little
confused as I knew that it was 5 or 6 hours drive to the west. It
was however only 45 minutes flight in his private 4 seater aircraft.
The fish tacos were great. On the way back I flew a short bit, dodging
the clouds as instructed. It was exhilarating, but the status of
my underwear shall remain undisclosed!
you have already learnt, Norman, my little 3 inch tall Toglosh/
African good luck charm from Malawi who was riding shotgun on the
wife's front mudguard is MIA, presumed half-hitched by some nasty
shit at a road block where my attention was distracted. I'm not
exactly sure where, but there was only one real opportunity for
him to disappear. It is unlikely he fell off as he was very firmly
attached, but brute force would easily have ejected him from his
perch. From now on, the wife and I are on the 'Norman Memorial Tour'
and are in a permanent state of mourning.
anyone is going anywhere near Nhkata Bay on Lake Malawi, I can tell
you exactly where to go to get me a replacement Norman. He only
costs 2 bucks, but you'd be doing me a monumental favour.
team, over and out. Hope all is good at yours. Nicaragua, Costa
Rica and Panama follow, before I have to decide whether I head straight
for Ecuador or try my hand avoiding the ELN in Colombia first.