Saturday, February 27, 2010

Team Nicaragua : León to Las Peñitas, San Juan del Sur and beyond...

I joined Mark Oetzman and Jon Benfatti from El Salvador to Nicaragua. We had a great ride, with some interesting border crossings. Everything went as good as can be expected and we ended up in León in the afternoon. We quickly found a great hostel and within an hour of hanging out at the pool, we met Peter Stolting from Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. Peter has a house out in the little beach village of Las Peñitas. He was chilling at the hostel with his visitors after a shopping and socializing mission into León. He invited us out to his pad for the next day.

Later in the evening Sam Miller and Daniel Hawes showed up with their surfboard toting KLR 650's. It was great to see Sam again and meet Daniel finally. So they jumped in with us for the trip out to the beach the next day. We put together this little video and ended up showing it at the local bar and restaurant, The Riviera. Thanks to Peter and Company for a great sidetrip.

We enjoyed meeting the family that caretakes Peter's property.  They were really excited about the motorcycles, and I'm proud to say my KTM got lots of attention.

The sunset from Peter's house, Casa Sarita, was nothing short of spectacular...

We headed down to Peter's friend's restaurant and dined on wood-fired pizzas and quality cocktails.

After the night of drinks at The Riviera and the video showing...

everyone was ready to chill the next day...

But Mark, Jon and I needed to keep moving on.  We suited up around eleven and headed out, first down the old highway to Managua, which was really hammered.  It was full of potholes and big stretches of gravel. Did I mention potholes?  Potholes big enough to swallow a Volkswagon.  I'm not sure what we were thinking but Mark and I just grabbed tons of throttle and ripped down the nearly empty highway with reckless abandon.  Jumping the big potholes and dodging others, trying desperately to avoid the tire flattening random chunks of asphalt.  Once we got to the Pan-American highway and started pushing south, the pavement got better and we were able to really make some time.  It was unfortunate that there weren't shoulders on the highway for photo opportunities, because the scenery was stellar.

We were making a little too good of time at one point and got flagged over by the police.  They had a radar gun!  I didn't even know that technology existed in Latin America, but there they were waving the radar gun in the air and motioning wildly for us to pull over.  I guess we were in a school zone.  I pleaded that it was Saturday and school wasn't in session.  That didn't seem to go very far.  Once we got through the semantics, the officer simply told me that school zone or not we were going way too fast.  I couldn't disagree with him.  When I first saw them I was clipping along right around 75 mph with Mark and Jon right behind me.  Considering the speed limit was 60 kph, we had basically been riding at double the allowed speed.

I did some fancy talking and we ended up riding out of there to the tune of 300 Cordobas.  About $15 US for the three of us, I rode away with a smile on my face and we pushed on, albeit a bit slower, to San Juan del Sur.  The terribly rough road that I remembered from my last visit here had been replaced with a brand new asphalt one complete with concrete gutters lining the way.  What took 45 minutes in a 4x4 Landcruiser a few years ago, now was no more than a 15 minute zip into the little booming surf town.

We settled in to the hotel where Elizabeth ( and I stayed on her surf trip and where I met my great friends Tim and Erin Henkels.  (Side note:  Tim and Erin lead an incredibly adventurous life as international school teachers.  They just finished a two-year contract in Ecuador and are now living and teaching in Turkey.  At the moment they are skiing near the border of Iran.  check them out at  you can find their current blog here:

So when we were having trouble finding decent budget options, I guided us to the Hotel Villa Isabella, where we were given a complete lock-off garage for the bikes and a nice two-room suite complete with a private bathroom and shower.  It was a nice splurge and we celebrated by polishing off a couple bottles of Flor de Cana 7 year rum before heading out for the night.

The next day we took a ride up to the new Jesus statue.  A whopping 15 meter tall homage to the saviour looking over the old cross and the bay of San Juan del Sur.

The perch above the bay gives views all the way to Costa Rica to the south and some beautiful hidden bays to the north.

Then it was off for the border and the push to try and meet Ben and Kaitlin in Playa del Coco, Costa Rica.

The view of Lake Nicaragua and the new windfarms along the highway kept us entertained until we pulled up to the chaotic and busy border of Peñas Blancas.

These lines of several hundred people would be the sole reason we ended up missing my brother in Coco, but when we found the right guys to bribe, we ended up getting to short cut the process.

We raced into the beautiful rolling farmland of northern Costa Rica, narrowly missing some altercations with giant tour busses on the narrow highway.  We arrived in Playa del Coco after dark missing Ben and Kaitlin by a couple of hours.  But here we were in Costa Rica, my fourth country in less than a week.  A big push in a short time, and I had no idea what a profound effect this little country had in store for me.  Pura Vida.

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