A few hours before we were scheduled to leave, Silvia had somehow arranged to find 2 more people to come on the trip with us. Better yet, they were both girls. Up until now, it was 2 couples and then me and Fletch. Fletch and I thought it was going to be kind of strange traveling travelling on a boat full of couples so this was a nice relief.
The first couple we met earlier in the week and they had been waiting at our hostel. Anna and Mauricio were from Uruguay and they had traveled the entire world studying architecture. They both speak English pretty well and since they are from Uruguay I can understand their accent a bit easier. Anna is really funny because if I don’t understand a word that should be simple, she’ll yell at me like “Don’t you know Yoghurt!!?”.
The other couple is Shane and Rachel. Rachel is from Ohio and Shane is from England. From what I can tell Shane is on the run from Mexico for trying to extort money out of the last school he worked at and Rachel left with him. They work at schools for English speakers in other countries. So, if you were a US citizen living in Mexico, you would send your kids to these schools. From what I gather, he was fired from his last job but then he tried to extort extra severance from the school. I won’t go into the rest because it was pretty weird.
Around 10pm (we were supposed to leave at 6pm) we left for the dock to take a dinghy out to the sailboat. There we met with the other 2 girls. Pretty much instantly Fletcher and I realized that we were now on a boat with 3 couples. The couple was from Northern California and had spent the last few years doing borderline illegal stuff to save up for traveling. I actually didn’t learn anything about them until about 2 days into the trip because the girls only left their cabin for meals and to puke. When they did come out to talk they would go on about spirituality, unicorns, the joys of not shaving your legs, and so on.
An awkward sleeping arrangement.
When we arrived on the ship the captain showed us to our beds. He told me mine was in the back of the boat with the girls. I went to the back of the ship and found the door locked. I knocked and told the girls inside that my bed was in there but they told me that there wasn’t room and I would have to sleep somewhere else. The bed in the back of the boat is the master cabin so it’s really big. Larger than a king size bed. Juan Carlos, who is the first mate, goes back to talk to the girls but ends up having them come up top to speak with the captain.
If sleeping with a lesbian couple wasn’t awkward enough, I now had to listen to them discuss in Spanish why it was unsafe for me to sleep in the same bed as them. To be honest, by this time I hadn’t shaved in 4 days so I probably did look a little creepy. The captain explained to them that I was a “healthy boy” and that if I was bad they would throw me overboard. Anyone that could understand Spanish got to listen in on a pretty weird conversation. I wanted to explain to them that I was from DC so sleeping with lesbians was nothing new for me, but I decided to not bring that up.
The captain said I would take his bed for the first 2 nights and he would sleep up on the seats up top. Sleeping in Captain Israel’s bed is a pain because Captain Israel is really short. He makes the joke to me in Spanish “little captain, little bed”. The bed ends up being so uncomfortable that I can only sleep about 3 hours a night. After everyone wakes up I hot rack and sleep in one of their beds.
Heading to the Islands
Part of the trip is going to the San Blas islands. Three are about 3000 tiny little islands throughout the Carribean that have pristine beaches and coral reefs. The next day we’re awoken by a rooster at about 6am.
You may be wondering why we have a rooster on the boat. I honestly assumed he was there for dinner but it turns out that Captain Israel trains roosters to fight and this rooster is his newest trainee. It must have taken me over an hour to figure out that he wasn’t joking. He even showed us these spikes that they glue onto the roosters feet to help them kill the other rooster. He treats the rooster like a baby and often you will see him coddling it or talking to it sweetly. I think if the boat went down, the coast guard would be rescuing 10 people and one rooster.
Getting to the San Blas only takes about 8 hours or so and we’re passing through relatively calm seas. I assume since I was in the Navy for 6 years that I won’t be getting sick on this trip at all. Nope. There I am puking up my peanut butter and toast breakfast just like everyone else.
We pull into the first island and it’s like a little town. It’s nice but there’s not really a pristine beach. Then the captain tells us that we’re here for immigration. There’s a police station on this island and we’ll be getting our passports stamped here. Once we stop Juan Carlos buys a huge fish from a fisherman that drives up to the boat. This is dinner and man can Juan Carlos cook. That meal was just about the best ever.
Over the next 2 days we visit a couple of other Islands. Apparently, it’s pretty hard to navigate around here and the captain points out sunken ships as we’re passing through reefs and sandbars. The second island has one of those perfect beaches that you see in Corona commercials. There are a ton of starfish up next to the shore and you have to actively look around so that you don’t step on them.
The next island is for snorkeling around a reef. Captain Israel gives us some snorkeling gear, but unfortunately the snorkels look like they have mold in them. I spend the first 5 minutes in the water cleaning out my snorkel but then I head for the reef.
Open water to Cartagena
The next two days we would travel over open water making a straight line to Cartagena. The seas are supposed to be rough but actually aren’t bad. No one gets sick for the rest of the trip. It’s possible that this is because I broke out a bunch of Dramamine and gave it to everyone but we’ll just assume that everyone has a strong stomach at this point.
We do watches when we’re underway going across open water. I’m now sleeping in the bed with the girls at this point and Juan Carlos comes to wake me up so I can stand the watch with Fletch. He makes fun of me for being huddled into the corner of the bed when I’m sleeping. He hasn’t quite figured out what’s different about the couple and tells me that I’m living his dream, sleeping with 2 girls.
Fletch and I take the watch and it’s kind of like the ones in the Navy. You just sit there and chat for a couple hours and then go back to sleep. When the captain explained the watch to us, he said just look for lights. It’s really doubtful, but we might see a boat out here somewhere and we don’t want to hit it of course.
After a couple of days at sea we pull into Cartagena late at night. We pull in just late enough so that we can’t get off the boat (though we can hear a Carnaval party going on the shore). Israel and Juan Carlos jump onto the dinghy and leave for shore. Someone has the bright idea of breaking into Israel’s stash of Oreo cookies and eventually we all go to sleep. The next day we’ll be unloading the bikes and staying on land again in Cartagena.
Anna left on a plane from Costa Rica about a week ago. We were stopped in David, Panama due to the protesters and she decided that she didn’t want to do the 5 day boat ride to Colombia. The seas are supposed to be especially rough this time of year and the trip is considered to be transportation rather than a lovely trip through the islands. That’s probably a good choice. Additionally, she saved a bunch of money by not having to get a flight from Colombia to a place where she could use my US Airways voucher. I had a spare US Airways voucher for $425 and that covered all but $10 of a ticket back to Dulles.
After a 6 hour drive, I cleared the majority of the protests in Panama. The fires from the protest were still smoldering and the town of San Felix was filled with Police. San Felix had been the focal point of the protests the day before, because the protesters had burned down the Police headquarters and had engaged in fighting with the Police. The fighting there was supposed to be over, but driving through I could taste the tear gas in the air.
I had a great time in Costa Rica! This is mainly due to horseback riding through the rainforest and on the beach! Matt had been talking about horseback riding for basically the whole trip and we finally had an opportunity to do so. I was nervous before the tour because I had never rode a horse before. They had scared me.
To my surprise, it wasn’t scary at all. The tour started off with a slow walk on the road; I quickly got use to it and started to trot as we went through the rainforest! Matt was excited to go faster and wanted to go much faster than a trot (even through the water).
The rainforest was loud with sounds of insects and filled with dark and deep greens. We saw all sorts of interesting animals, like bright red and yellow birds, a toucan, an enormous black snake slithering extremely fast (you could say I had a little freak out), a huge scary looking spider, plus the usual animals (dogs, other horses, and cows- most walking on their own, with no owner in sight).
The beach was fantastic! Matt, the tour guide, and I walked the horses out onto the sand, right down to where the waves were crashing. I could tell the horses liked the sand under their feet better because it was easier to get them to go fast. Really fast. Luckily, I had the fastest horse (sorry about your bad luck, Matt) and I was galloping down the coast line – I loved it – the rainforest to my left, the Pacific Ocean to my right, the powerful horse beneath me, the air all around, the speed, the fun and excitement, the ease of it all, and the all-embracing feeling of freedom.
The tour guide had us stop at one point on the beach and he knocked down and cut open some coconuts with his machete.
Matt and I galloped down the rest of the beach in no time. The three to four hour tour took us two hours. I guess most people have the horses walk.
Getting to and leaving Drake was a fun little adventure in itself: we took an hour boat ride there and back.
And the place we stayed in was comfy (I really liked the hammock).
As for technical stuff, the border crossing was the easiest yet and the roads are decent, except for if there is a pothole it is horrible- if the motorcycle were to hit one, we’d go flying. We’ve been told the roads are smooth in Panama, so here’s hoping.
Also, we got pulled over in Costa Rica for passing a truck on a double yellow line. No one on bikes has been following any traffic laws in Latin America, so we’ve been doing this often- except this time we got caught. But the police man took a ten dollar bribe. Costa Rica has been the cleanest and most expensive international country we’ve been to, but the police are still corrupt.
Headed to Panama mañana.
Matt and I stayed in Big Foot Hostel right in the heart of town of León, Nicaragua . I have never seen so many backpacks for sale. And there were a lot of Abercrombie and Fitch close, plus more Hollister attire than I’ve seen since high school. The cathedrals in León were awesome- literally inspired aw. The architecture of the cathedrals has been one of my favorite things to see while on the trip. Here I especially took note of the sad lion guarding a saint, the big paintings of The Stations of The Cross, and how on the outside there were four men appearing to hold up parts of the building on there shoulders.
I have seen countless on this motorcycle trip. They have been disfigured and dirty, starving, and begging for everything and anything you can spare. The disfigurement has been the feature that will stick with me. The missing and strange body parts and burns are like out of a scary, Rob Zombie, horror movie. A little boy the other night walked up to me while I was having street food for dinner with a group of people from the hostel, he tapped me on the shoulder and when I turned, there he was, burns and scared all over, his face disfigured, smooshed and smashed out of place. I’m surprised I didn’t jump, instead I reacted with sadness and told him I had just used all my cordoba on dinner (I don’t leave the hostel or hotel with more than I plan on spending). He didn’t leave my side for a few minutes and taped me again, only this time when I turned all he did was point to my plate and shrug- I immediately handed him what was left and he scarfed it down in seconds. He seemed grateful and walked off.
There have been many other homeless and disfigured begging for money or food while one the bike or walking in the cities, but there is nothing to be done then, except for to be grateful for the life I have.
Speaking of being grateful, I am absolutely appreciative of being able to have the opportunity to take part in this amazing activity, known as VOLCANO BOARDING! Climbing up Cerro Negro in León, Nicaragua was not an easy task. With carrying a bag stuffed with a suit and goggles, along with carrying the board to slide down on, I was struggling a little. Being at the top, feeling the heat from the black earth, seeing the smoke come from the ground, trying to stay grounded as the strong gusts of wind blow, (thinking of Mordor, because I’m a nerd), and sliding down having that adreniline rush made the climb up completely worth it. I can’t really say for the others on the tour though because a lot of people fell or went really slow down, breaking too much with their heals. Matt got rewarded with the best crash! He went rolling down the volcano after sliding down just a few feet. He doesn’t know how, but he lost control of the board and ended up getting all scratched up and hurting his leg. No serious injuries, so no worries. Here’s a picture of us in our orange suits after boarding down.
We were in El Salvador for a short three days, but it was packed with excitement!
Despite the fact that I got food poisoning from the local food in Antigua, Gautemala, I still had the best time so far on the waterfall tour in Tacuba, El Salvador. I loved hiking through the tress and hoping from rock to rock.
And especially jumping from the waterfalls – It was a huge adrenaline rush!
I hope Matt and I go on more tours like this soon.
The hostel we stayed at was Mama y Papa; the two of them were caring as ever, as well as the other people in the hostel. With me being sick and all, I was taken care of like I was part of the family. I thanked one guy that was staying there for helping me and he responded “No problem. That’s what were here for; to help each other”. I would’ve liked to stay there longer.
The border crossing into El Salvador was a piece of cake. As for crossing into Honduras earlier today, well, that was a little harder and way more time consuming. Since we still don’t have a license plate it makes crossing into different countries difficult. The only way we got into Honduras today was by paying a $20 bribe. I doubt that will work when trying to get into Costa Rica. Guess we’ll just have to wait and find out.