Chapter 15
Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia & Ecuador
Yes Minister…

Yes Minister…

It rains a lot in Honduras


My last message was from Utila on the Caribbean coast of Honduras. Between there and here (Baños, a very pleasant spa town about 200 clicks south of Ecuador's capital Quito), much has happened. Most of it not worth mentioning. The wife and I travelled through the rest of Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama, before making a flying visit (sans femme) to Colombia and meeting up again in the Ecuadorian coastal port of Guayaquil. A few more thousand clicks driven, many pleasant people met and one or two gun pointing policemen and a rabid crowd fled from. All in a day's work.

It rains a lot in Honduras. A bit like Blighty really, except here it is hot and sweaty. The sort of place you visit and have no desire to return to. If I have the choice between the humidity of the jungle or the chilled sharp air of the mountains, a committee is not required to make the decision: Mountains and motorbikes and Brightskin are made for each other.


A few laughs were had leaving Honduras. If you recall from the last report, we (Volkmar and I) entered the country across a little used border point and received no vehicle-importation papers. The customs lady upon our departure (into Nicaragua) became positively pale as she whooshed us out. We could easily have sold our bikes in Honduras and not paid the 200-odd % import tax. A normal border crossing involves dealing with immigration, customs and police (amongst others). The polices occifer had gone AWOL, so our little 10 year old 'tramitador' (helper) climbed over the counter of the police station, took the 2 stamps required and completed the formalities himself!

Dodgy Diego Maradona drug taker looking geezer

I really liked Nicaragua. As such, the place doesn't have any particularly eye-catching landmarks. The people are just so friendly and 'uncommercialisedly' (sic) laid back. I do fear that in 10 or 15 years it will be like Guatemala. Glad I visited it now. The Spanish colonial town of Grenada was great and I got my bike boots re-soled by the most dodgy Diego Maradona drug taker looking geezer. You wouldn't want to meet him in a dark alley... Not much chance, mind. He's most likely to be comatosed drunk come sunset.


Central America in general and Nicaragua in particular is full of pool halls and Volkmar was a great opponent. A worse player than me and if there was the chance of him winning, he'd oblige by fouling on the black! Keep it up chief! As the 7 year round the world biker, Sam Manicom said, the sunsets at San Juan del Sur on the Pacific coast are 'ahhhhhhh superbbbbbb'. Thanks for the tip. Nicaraguan postage stamps are great too. They cover virtually the whole side of a postcard and hence you don't have to write a more than a few words.

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I don't know, I flew


In the past I may have criticised certain peoples' lack of geographical knowledge. Former Communist countries (El Salvador, Nicaragua) seem to suffer less than most from this 'I don't know, I flew' phenomenon. One gas-station attendant pointed at the map on my pannier and informed me where Moscow (Russia, not Idaho) was situated. I asked him how he knew. He had been a 'student' there for 2 years. Fortunately or unfortunately -depending on your politics - I didn't know the Spanish for 'what did you study?' I have a PhD in BMW. He in AK47? He was a very pleasant fellow.

Costa Rica was like the US. In fact it is the US. They boast of not having an army. Why not? Well, if Nicaragua or Panama (unlikely as they are the US too) fancied invading, a group of gentlemen sporting 'US-Army' badges might appear and ask the uninvited guests to leave forthwith. The people from the BMW Club of Costa Rica showed us wonderful hospitality, despite the 'wife' looking like a beaten up old slapper compared to their shiney steeds (of the 8 bikes that came to meet us in Fortuna, 2 were less than a month old!) and Volki being on a Yamaha. The dealer in San Jose even tuned my carbs for free aided by a laptop-computer!!!


Panama was a non-event and David, the first town after the border is a contestant for 'Crappiest town in Central America'. The Hotel Central in the San Filipe suburb of Panama City was, 100 years ago, THE place to stop. Not a great deal has been done since and it showed. One floor had collapsed a while ago and instead of 4 storeys, it now has 3. Normally hotel lobbies are a bit of a squeeze to get bikes in (I always park off the street), but here you could have driven a car in the front door! Great view of the cathedral opposite from the balcony.

The Clash's 'Shall I go'


A great deal (probably too much) thought went into deciding whether or not to go to Colombia. The Clash's 'Shall I go Colombia or shall I go to straight to Ecuador; If I go to the former, there will be trouble and if I choose the later, there will be double', in hindsight, might have proved correct. The reasons why I chose to ship straight to Ecuador was:

a.) We met Bernie, a German/American (now there's a combo...) who was shipping his Landcruiser to Ecuador and had space in his container.
b.) Ricardo, my Ecuadorian biker friend WAS kidnapped - not while wandering around a coca plantation wearing a pink T-shirt saying 'I blew Bill'- but in fact, driving his motorcycle at 9.30 in the morning on the Panamerican Highway south of Cali.
c.) Since Bill appeared in Cartagena on Colombia's northern coast at the end of August detailing his 'Plan Colombia' (basically a 1.6 billion buck cash injection into the American arms industry) the local pooh has majorly hit the fan.
I really do wish Bill would briskly go back to where he came from and stop messing up my travel plans (remember Sudan last year?).


After checking the airfreight options to both Bogota, Colombia and Quito, Ecuador, we bump into Bernie at the passenger terminal. The 100 bucks Volki and I each ended up saving by sea freighting to Guayaquil was not really worth the hassle and bull****. I live and learn.

While the wife was in transit a quick visit was made to the Panama Canal and then it was off to Cartagena in DAAAAAAAANGEROUS Colombia. Considering the rave reviews the place gets, I was a tad disappointed. Santa Marta, a short hop eastwards along the coast was much more pleasant. We stayed with a Swiss friend of Bernie's called Christian. Never a dull moment. I even got in a couple of scuba dives. The last time I did a wallowing walrus impression was 13 years ago in Oz. The first couple of minutes were underpants-browning, but after that it was great. Some pretty coral and a fair few fish.

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Gone fishing? Of course, officer!


You all know that Colombia is a net-exporter of 'Beechams'. The local newspaper reported that a plan to use an old Russian submarine to ship 'el snowy powder' north was scuppered! In secluded Santa Marta the power occasionally fails at night and when it comes on again, there are a lot less ships in the harbour... Gone fishing? Of course, officer!

I feel I have a great friend in Ricardo Rocco. He has already ridden around South America promoting world peace (make love, not war...:-)) ) and preaching his anti-drug message. If you would like to be on his mailing list, write to him at RIC’S URL. He was a great help in many ways, not just getting the container unloaded in double quick time (i.e. one day rather than 3 or 4), sorting the aftermath of my police experience or getting the wife tarted up. Thank you, friend!

...REQUIRING Customs to stop messing around


I won't bore you with the details of the saga of Guayaquil Container harbour, except to put forward a few titbits: the agent in Panama had to be phoned 8 times in order for him to get the paperwork in order; a letter from the Ecuadorian Minister for Tourism - personally - was organised by Ricardo, REQUIRING Customs to stop messing around and do their job; Ecuadorian customs are as p*ss-poor as their counterparts in Egypt. I wonder if India can be worse? Probably! We even had to leave a deposit for the container and a pay a trucker to drive the full container half a mile out of the dockyard gates in order to unload it!


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A moist, but inquisitive nose

The Quilotoa Circuit, a 200km dirt road through some incredibly beautiful snow-capped-peak lined countryside was most enjoyable. The day started with a visit to Saquisili market. Not a tourist to be seen and many people in


their traditional atire going about their business. During the course of the day I took 2 1/2 rolls of film, although the best image I captured, was a cow's head in the meat market. The coldest blue eyes ever and a moist, but inquisitive nose. Shame there was no torso or scalp! Upon my return to Quito, Ricardo seemed most impressed that I had driven a fully loaded Beemer with a bald back tyre around a route he would normally take a light weight dirt bike. I obviously did learn one or two things in Africa...


Riding off road (this time without luggage and with a new back tyre) to the Saturday Indian market at Otavalo with Ric's friend Antonio on his Yamaha WR400 was excellent too. The only similarity between his and my bike is that both have 2 wheels! Some 'bikers' residing north of the Rio Grande claim that 'loud pipes save lives'. Well boys, you want to fit the silencer that Antonio has on his bike. It is louder that anything you have to offer.

Ahhhh Caymen Caymen


I spent a week wifeless in the Amazonian jungle in the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve. It wasn't bad - not much wildlife- but being a fair skinned soul, any plan I may have had of crossing the Amazon on a bike (or any other mode of transport, for that matter) has been permanently shelved. The highlight was doing Crocodile-eyes-at-night impressions with 2 Maglite torches and 2 Coke bottle caps. Ahhhh Caymen Caymen… An excessive amount of rum may have been involved in conjuring up this little cunning stunt.

So folks, I'll be in Peru in a couple of days to check out where Paddington Bear (or was it Basil Brush?) spent his formative years.

Norm RIP

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