Archive for December, 2012

30 Dec

The poops

In blog by Michael Phillip Wojewoda / December 30, 2012 / 0 Comments

All is well but I’m dealing with some intestinal issues.
On the pacific coast for the new year.

27 Dec

Panama city.

In blog by Michael Phillip Wojewoda / December 27, 2012 / 0 Comments

Just arrived in Panama City.

I said goodbye to Ken at a gas station in Sona. We spoke of possibly hooking up for New Years but I sensed that perhaps that won’t happen and our next meeting will be in the spring. With that uncertainty we gave each other a heart felt hug and parted ways.
Traveling with a fellow motorcyclist Jonathan through out the day, the riding was pleasant. We were pulled over for speeding but got off with a warning. His command of spanish certainly helped. More big rain showers. Second time my passport got wet. Blurring some ink, I worry that it will be rejected at some point. It was in a plastic bag in my money belt but got wet anyway.

I like Jonathan. He is a very straight up, forward speaking person. Big head of career dreadlocks and an easy going demeanour, he does very well as an I.T. guru. A dual Israeli/American citizen, his temperament reminds of many of my mothers friends. He pre booked us into an Israeli hostel in Panama City. I understand that I might not have been able to book the space without his vouching for me. He became upset when the hostel was going to charge me double for… frankly not being Jewish and put his foot down. Interesting to watch the scene. In the end I paid the same price, $20 (normally $60), but was later informed that I had to change to a smaller room. Jonathan said it was typical politics. I don’t mind at all. It’s all part of the theatre.

The neighbourhood leading to the building was really quite rough. Actually down right scary.
Riding in I had serious reservations but the parking has an electric fence (that would be so illegal in Canada) and a great restaurant. Go figure.
Don’t turn left out the door… Only turn right.

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27 Dec

Sunday’s and the road to Panama.

In blog by Michael Phillip Wojewoda / December 27, 2012 / 0 Comments

I’ve not blogged in some time so I’ll rattle off some details just so I don’t forget them. Bare with me. My writing style will be basic.

Leaving San Jose on the Sunday before Christmas Eve was magical. Where there might be hundreds of slow moving tractor trailers clogging the highways and many more cars grinding along behind them trying to pass, on this day on the roads there was virtually… no one. It was weird and wonderfully empty. Like driving in northern Canada. I was able to do in one day what most people said would take two. The high altitude mountain pass between San Juan and the southeastern part of the country was cloud enshrouded fog for most of it. Windswept and quite cold, I had to put most of my warm weather gear on for at least 3 hours of the ride. Then once again descending the southern flank into sweltering humid heat peel it all off.

I made the Panama border by 3:30 pm. I thought about trying to cross right away because the town of David was only 50 km further on but the experience of entering Costa Rica reminded me that crossing can take 4 hours or more and I did not want to ride in darkness a third time. So I took one last cheap hotel in Costa Rica, the country that felt like I would never leave.
Again another border. I decided to use touts. They are not that expensive and being led to each kiosk in the correct sequence is worth the couple of dollars of expense. Immigration then insurance for the motorbike, then paying for the spraying of the underside of the bike for fumigation purposes, then transportation paperwork, which is where the waiting for the woman to return to her desk happened, then customs one, then off find the inspector dude to sign and stamp , then customs booth two. Finally one set of policemen then another both asking to see all the document.
Three hours, not bad.

Finally… Panama

Off to the town of David where my friend Ken had been waiting for me for a couple of days. Finding him and another motorcyclist named Jonathan we headed off 270 km to the beach community of Santa Catalina.
This was the first group riding I have done on the trip and I enjoyed it very much. I tended to take the middle position with a rider in front and behind.
It’s interesting that to watch a rider in front of me I actually get a sense of how fast we are all moving. Alone on a bike with ones eyes looking down the road the sense of speed seems minimal.

Ken and I chose to camp on the hostel grounds for $5 a night. Nice. I wanted to camp anyway plus the general costs of Costa Rica needed to be offset with 3 inexpensive evenings before Panama City which will be pricey again.

The hostel surroundings at Santa Catalina are beautiful. I must admit that between the humidity and my first crampy undercarriage issues I felt quite out of sorts at the camp. The tent was hot the first night. Naked and spread eagle did little to offset the night time heat.
Eventually My insides settled and am feeling better.
I’ve not blogged that much really because the social interactions at thebhostal have been rich and constant. A very nice break from the “solo” of solo travel.

Two travelers are both IT or Telcom programmers who have bailed from their high pressure lives and are traveling the world. One fellow, David from The Isle of Jersey is driving a 4×4 Range Rover and has already done Africa, Asia, Mongolia, Russia and China. He is now halfway through the Americas. Jonathan, also a tech wizard from Israel/US has been living in Columbia. It had to leave for a short spell to reset his 6 month Columian visa.

Now the home beside the campsite is having a huge family party and they have starting cranking loud Latin music with the bass popping. It’s gonna be a loud night I think.

I’ve had a chance to catch up with Ken a bit and get a sense of his life. Talking and hanging out. We also spent an hour body surfing in the big Pacific breakers at high tide. Chatting about life all the while. I will leave him here in Central America as I push on.

My gal is arriving in Panama city on the 28th to spend New Years with me and needless to say I look forward to her company.

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25 Dec

Blogging very little.

In blog by Michael Phillip Wojewoda / December 25, 2012 / 0 Comments

Merry Christmas life…

Well. I’m sluggish on the blog front. I promise to write something substantial tonight.

Here is an image from the balcony of the Panama border. One woman not at her desk added 1:10 min of waiting to an otherwise smooth crossing.

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24 Dec

Found him

In blog by Michael Phillip Wojewoda / December 24, 2012 / 0 Comments

With ken.
Going to camp tonight. So no Internet.
All is well.

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22 Dec

All is well

In blog by Michael Phillip Wojewoda / December 22, 2012 / 0 Comments

Bike is fixed. Birthday is winding down. World didn’t end.
Plus I got a cupcake with candle from the girls at the front desk.
So tired. Gentle stress has me narcoleptic. Off to sleep… Old man.

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22 Dec

Here is hoping.

In blog by Michael Phillip Wojewoda / December 22, 2012 / 0 Comments

I’m at BMW and there is a 50% chance the bike can be fixed today. If not then Jan. 2nd it will have to be.

Here is hoping.

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21 Dec

Turning 50 by my lonesome. Broken down motorbike.

In blog by Michael Phillip Wojewoda / December 21, 2012 / 0 Comments

Well, my motorcycle has broken down in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Hints that something was already wrong appeared yesterday afternoon as my temperature light came on just as I reached a hotel. I hoped perhaps it was an anomaly.

The next morning I pulled away from the hotel hoping to reach the Panama frontier that night and finally see my dear friend Ken, but within 20 minutes the temperature warning light came on again.
Now, the traffic in Costa Rica is dreadful. Really the worst of any Central American country I’ve experienced yet. San Jose is even worse. Creep along and wait for minutes only to creep a few feet then wait… black diesel fumes, dust and heat… the crush of vehicles all vying for position… ad nauseum.
With the light coming on I pulled into a gas station and removed the side fairing and topped up the coolant reservoir. The whole process took 20 minutes. Still it did not help as the light came on within 5 minutes of rolling again.
I happened upon a Mercedes dealership and asked them where the BMW dealership would be located in the city. They were very helpful in phoning and giving directions but I don’t have a GPS database for San Jose and soon I was once again very disorientated. The extremely slow traffic forced me to stop a total of 7 times to let the bike cool enough to maybe make another kilometre or so. Three times on the highway.
I did not know that I missed the exit to the dealership and even rolled into a section of town where a man said I should turn around and not stop because there were people there who would knock me out and take my bike. Funny because I could not leave for at least 10 minutes while the machine cooled off. The only thing I could think of was somehow get back to the hotel I stayed at last night and use their WIFI and ask the front desk to call BMW.
Once I got the girl to call I was informed that BMW would be closing at 5 pm and not open again until January 5th…… Holy f*cking shit balls.
Shock and disappointment must have shown on my face because all of the staff gathered around to console me.
My birthday alone, Christmas and New Years in this expensive traffic snarled city. Ugh.

Anyway I booked the room again and went about reading the bike manual and trying to see if it was something that I could solve. A few quick diagnostics back at the bike in the parking lot and I was certain that the water pump had failed. Losing coolant fast, frothy chocolate oil… all things that were happening to my bike. The coolant and oil were mixing because of a failed seal.

I went back to the front desk and asked the girl to phone BMW again to see if, at the very least, they had the part I needed. Nothing would be worse than waiting two weeks to find that the part needs another week to arrive. This time I asked her to let BMW know that I was from Canada on my way to Argentina etc. I also decided that I needed them to bring a truck and pick up my bike.
At first she said that they would pick it up at 2pm tomorrow. Then she said they changed their minds and would pick it up at 7 am. This makes me feel more hopeful.
I am hoping that they will make special consideration for a long distance traveler.
I will not spare the fact that tomorrow will be my 50th birthday and perhaps they could put my machine at the top of the cue.
Here is hoping!!!!

If not I’m f*cked.
Well sort of. No broken bones and this did happen in a major city with means to fix it. It could have just as easily happened on the dirt tracks of Honduras.

20 Dec

Little Mikey is finally a man

In blog by Michael Phillip Wojewoda / December 20, 2012 / 0 Comments

Yee Haa! My first proper corrupt cop and coughing up some cash to smooth things over.
I guess I would have been disappointed if it hadn’t happened at least once. (let’s hope it’s not a trend).
Also, I would have felt more violated if in fact I had not totally broken the law. In a typical Costa Rican traffic snarl on mountain roads with 20 cars trying to pass one very slow truck, I passed on a double yellow line through an intersection. Now… Everyone does it but this time the cop pulled all four of us over for the same infraction. He pulled out a law book to prove that the fine was $500 U.S. and how was I going to pay?
I calmly said i did not carry that kind of money. He calmly explained that I could pay the fine or not pay the fine… Asking for me to tell him what it was worth.
I offered 10,000 Calones and he seemed happy with that. Slapping me on the back while explaining that if I tell another cop about this I would be in trouble.

That amount buys about 3 hamburgers.
I did properly break the law, so I feel like I got off pretty easy.

I did let him know that of all the countries I’ve traveled through, he was the first cop I had to buy off. He just smiled.

Turned my camera on at the last minute.

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20 Dec

A day of wrong turns

In blog by Michael Phillip Wojewoda / December 20, 2012 / 0 Comments

Leaving Granada and my exit from Nicaragua was fraut with many a wrong turn and bad choice of road. The signage in Nica is terrible. There are simply no signs telling one which way to go… Well, there are, but so small and easily missed. Twice I ended up heading north instead of south, as if Managua was a pulling me back. I ended up stuck in more traffic madness through small satilite cities. Often back tracking as much as 60 kms to find my way to the correct highway.
I’m not complaining. I saw places I would not have otherwise but it did tax my zen patience with a few inner helmet curses.
Also I thought I would leg it south to San Juan del Sur for lunch before heading for the border. Nice beach town.

All this had me reaching Costa Rica late. I arrived at the frontier by 2pm
Well…
The only border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica is infact a madhouse of inefficency. It was by far the longest border crossing of the trip. Four hours of being sent to different buildings for different documents all separated by 500 metres each. Literally hundreds of tractor trailer semi’s all crushing and blocking the small laneways trying to exit as well. Unclear instructions on the correct sequence to process paperwork. Being sent back from the gate twice needing more stamps etc.

The upside was I met an Australian couple traveling the America’s on their own motorbike. I rolled up to them mid process and heard their accent, making sure to ask if they were Kiwi or Ozzie.
Ross and Julie have been at it for 9 months now. Alaska, Canada, U.S. and Central America included. They intend to make Argentina as well.
We bonded over the cluster f*ck of the crossing. Lots of giggles. Darkness fell and we all wished not to ride at night but now had no choice.
The safety in numbers of riding to the first town together helped with the stress of darkness. They are riding a beautiful Yamaha 1200 Tenere with extra bright lights, so I stayed just behind them and we did fine. Found a hotel together and grabbed a bite of dinner. They were lovely company. A brief chat in the morning and we parted company. They are going to try to ship their bike to Bogata from Costa Rica. I gave them my shipping info for Panama if costa rica was a bust.

Hey, saw my first real volcanos today. Three poking out of Lago Managua.
One of them lit up in 1972 so they are still active. Very beautiful. The photos do no justice.
Those are clouds atop the massif, not ash…

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