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Horseback Riding in Drake, Costa Rica

February 3, 2012

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.

We drank them and ate the inside.

Yay for snack time 馃檪

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 ma帽ana.

Volcano Boarding in Le贸n, Nicaragua

January 31, 2012

Matt and I stayed in Big Foot Hostel right in the heart of town of聽Le贸n, Nicaragua聽. 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 Le贸n 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.

The homeless.
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聽opportunity聽to take part in this amazing activity, known as VOLCANO BOARDING! 聽Climbing up Cerro Negro in Le贸n, 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.

Loved it!

Waterfall Jumping in Tacuba, El Salvador

January 27, 2012

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. 聽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聽license聽plate it makes crossing into different countries difficult. The only way we got into Honduras today was by paying a $20 bribe. 聽I doubt that will work when trying to get into Costa Rica. Guess we’ll just have to wait and find out.

Antique Guatemala

January 23, 2012
Matt and I were in Antigua for three days.
Here are the things that I will remember:
The hostel- The Black Cat- it was a ton of fun, enjoyed the company of the people in our dorm (two Ausie girls and an American guy from North Dakota), loud American music at night, a nice bar, free breakfast, and only $8 USD a night.
Caf茅 No S茅- A unique place. The walls are covered with bizarre art and photographs, serving all kinds of tequila and mezcal (Guiness Book of World Records vouches for this), plus Gallo and Moza beer on tap, in three bars inside a long, shotgun-style building. The mezcal was intense.

Parque Central- The heart of the city. There were a few old buildings, a music festival, watched several live performances, a mime, two boys spinning fire聽聽, and I purchased super cheap and delicious typical Guatemalan food on the street. 聽I had a Tostada which is fried corn tortilla聽with guacamole and tomato sauce along with Atol聽de elote, being a sweet corn soup like consistency drink.

The roads- they were absolutely horrible at first, then slightly better as we got closer to Antigua.
The border- not having a license plate was a problem. I sat with five Guatemalan little boys who were trying to clean my shoes for a couple hours while Matt made a license plate out of paper and laminated it. Nice, isn’t it?
I hope crossing the border isn’t an issue tomorrow!

Adi贸s Mexico

January 20, 2012

It has been quite the motorcycle trip so far and we鈥檝e only traveled through one country (and some of the US).聽 I wanted to mention a few little things about Mexico before we leave:

The Oxxo is Mexico鈥檚 Sev (aka 711), Pemex is the only gas station (government owned),

and there were a lot of men in uniforms with big guns (didn鈥檛 want to take a picture too close, hence the bad quality).

There were way than enough topazes (aka speed bumps), dogs running around everywhere (never with a collar), hot sauce and tortillas served with every meal, and quite a few major construction sites we passed 鈥 as in here where the road is completely missing.

There were countless sparkling rivers and beautiful green fields.

Matt and I saw tons of people piled in to the back of trucks and met cool and interesting people along the way on the road and in the hostels (usually having a certain aroma).

Highlight of Mexico: The beaches- Punta Zicatela in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca being my favorite, with Playa La Ropa in Zihautinejo, Guerrero as a close second.

Eventually, I’ll see more of Mexico.聽 I鈥檇 especially like to visit Mexico City and a few spots in the Yucat谩n.

Between Land, Sea, & Sky

January 19, 2012

After Zihuantanejo, Matt and I rode the bike to San Marcos. It was another little Mexican town- we’ve pasted dozens of them. For the most part, they all have a couple small convenience stores, a hotel or two, and a few restaurants with a handful of plastic tables and chairs out front by the road, barbecuing chicken and severing the “pollo” with rice, beans, and vegetables. That’s it. It’s that simple.

The hotel we stayed in looked a little scary from the front, pulling up to it as the sun was setting, but it was nice on the inside. Of course, there wasn’t any hot water, but there was a seat on the toilet along with toilet paper and soap (which usually isn’t the case).

Interesting side note: On the way to San Marcos. we took a wrong road in Acapulco and got pulled over by a cop. 聽He did not have a legitimate聽reason for pulling us over, he just wanted some money for himself and his聽partner. I was a little freaked out since I’ve heard about the聽police聽being聽corrupt聽in Mexico and that the jails are horrid, so I didn’t say much to him. 聽He was very friendly and Matt bribed him to let us be for 100 pesos (about $6 USD).. Later, Matt noticed that the聽license聽plate on the bike was missing so he went to speak with the police again. They said it was no problem and wouldn’t even write up a report for him. Lets hope they were telling the truth and it doesn’t cause any issues.

Also, there was this adorable puppy that made my day. I want to get one when I get back to the states and get a place in DC.

Puerto Escondido was the next stop (picture taken from the bike riding in). We stayed at the best hostel ever: Cabana Buena Onda. Matt and I stayed in a cute cabana with two hammocks out front, right on the beach! The beach being called Punto Zicatela.

Punto Zicatela is my place between land, sea, and sky.

I loved it. It was so relaxing. The whole time I was there I just聽laid聽out on the beach, went on leisurely walks next to the Pacific Ocean waves, played in the perfect temperature water, and read in the shaded hammocks. Besides just laying around like I did, Matt went on a few runs, got the bike cleaned, and rode around the town (yea, I didn’t want to leave the beach at all). We stayed there for three days after having decided enjoying the beach for a few days was better than speeding through Oaxaca and Tuxtla. Apartments were $250 a month – directly on the beach – ridiculous, right? Puerto Zicatela was my favorite place in Mexico. If I come back to this country, I want to rent one of those apartments.

We’re near San Francisco, Ixhuatan, Mexico right now (another tiny Mexican town), headed towards Guatemala tomorrow. I wonder how crossing the boarded will turn out.

Here Comes the Sun

January 14, 2012

It is finally hot! Until reaching Puerto Vallarta, its been at least chilly on the bike at some point during our rides. I was betting on Zacatecas being hot, but since the city is so high, as soon as the sun was no longer in sight, it was cold out. Now that we’re at the coast, it’s hot during the day and comfortable after the sun goes down. The weather is perfect.

What I liked most about Puerto Vallarta wasn’t the weather, or the beach, but the people we met at the hostel. 聽That’s usually a highlight of traveling to a new place for me- meeting the people who are also traveling (shout out to Tom Everywhere in Guadalajara- way to show that Mississippi River who’s boss. & to Mystie “lets be chums”).

We stayed there for two nights and headed to Manzanillo. 聽The ride there was a blast- the road was curvy, didn’t have that many speed bumps, and the view was breath-taking.

From there on the way to Zihuantanejo, we had a couple hold ups- we got lost in Tecoman for a little while (a gps with maps of Mexico would be handy) and it ended up getting dark before we could make it there, so we stopped in Ciudad Lazaro Cardenas. We didn’t see much of that city, but the place we stayed in was extra nice- one special aspect being that we had our own garage (odd, right?).

Today around lunch time, we made it to Zihautanejo. 聽This is one of the places I have been looking forward to (mainly due to the film Shawshank Redemption:聽 It is more touristy than I thought it would be, but I still like it none-the-less. 聽Matt and I swam in the water and layed out in the sun at Playa La Ropa for the day.

Isn’t the scenery great? The water was a little cold for about five minutes and the best part was taking a siesta while laying out on the sand.

We’re headed further down the coast tomorrow… “You know what the Mexican’s say about the Pacific?.. They say it has no memory”. Love that line.

Curvas Peligrosas

January 11, 2012

While we were in Monterrey, our hostel recommended that we change our route and go south through Zacatecas instead of west through Torreon.聽 Our host told us that Torreon and Durango were not so safe and more importantly, were kind of boring.聽 After some serious trip planning we decided to head south on Libre 54 to Zacatecas.

The problem we ran into from Nuevo Laredo to Monterrey was that there were far less gas stations than expected.聽 Though we never even made it to our reserve tank, I don鈥檛 think I鈥檝e ever driven that far without seeing a gas station.聽 For our ride to Zacatecas we researched where and when we would see gas stations.聽 Our tank has a range of about 120 miles so if we don鈥檛 see a gas station by 60 miles, we decided we would turn back.聽 Of course this turned out to not be a problem because at mile 55 we found a gas station.聽 After that, gas stations every 40 kilometers or so.

Zacatecas was far more amazing than Anna or I had expected.聽 The city had stone streets, colonial buildings and an amazing cathedral.聽 Zacatecas is situated high in the mountains so the nights were freezing and the air was thin.聽 The festivals during the day and the beautiful scenery were worth it though.聽 Anna even asked me if I thought that this would be the most amazing scenery we would have this trip.

Leaving Zacatecas, the hostel recommended that we take the cuota route (toll road).聽 We decided to take the libre (free) route and we were glad that we did.聽 The difference between the cuota and the libre is that the cuota routes are better maintained and considered to be safer.聽 My opinion is that the libre route has speed bumps everywhere.聽 At one point we were riding along at 70 mph only to encounter a speed bump with no warning.

The ride to Guadalajara from Zacatecas has to be the most beautiful that I had ever seen.聽 The day was warm, the roads were curvy, and we were riding along a mountain next to a valley with lakes below.聽 The trip had been hard and cold up to this point.聽 Now we were doing what we had imagined when planning a motorcycle trip through the Americas.

It took us a little longer than we had thought to get to Guadalajara and we got in around 7pm.聽 We would be leaving a little over 12 hours later so we got some dinner and some sleep.聽 The next day I hunted down some stamps for our postcards but we left at about 11am headed for Puerto Vallarta.

The ride to Puerto Vallarta was possibly more amazing than the day before.聽 We passed by the town of Tequila, volcanoes, and finished off by speeding through mountain curves.聽 We accidently made a wrong turn onto the cuota, but by that time I had decided that I was tired of the speed bumps.

Coming into Puerto Vallarta, we figured out that we weren鈥檛 exactly in the right spot for our kind of trip.聽 The signs turned from Spanish, to Spanish and English, then finally to just English.聽 Farmers and locals riding their horses turned into hoardes of American and European tourists. 聽The city had tried to preserve it鈥檚 older look by keeping the cobblestone roads.聽 The other tourists must have liked it but our motorcycle did not.

We鈥檒l have a break into Puerto Vallarta and then head on our way.聽 Next stops are Manzanillo, Zihuantenjo and Oaxaca.

Bienvenido a Mexico

January 6, 2012

First thing’s first- crossing the border.. Uh, what border? There was a three dollar toll, that was it.聽No one verified聽Matt’s bike registration or either of our passports; we just rode right on through. We figured that wasn’t right so we pulled a u-turn and sorted the paperwork out.

Riding to Monterrey was calming (besides almost being hit by someone). There was absolutely nothing for miles and miles- not even a gas station. The first one we saw was on the other side of the highway; having to backtrack a little was definitely worth it.

Talk about a language barrier: I 聽couldn’t understand the signs and 聽having a simple conversation was difficult- attempting to communicate has been amusing to say the least. Thank goodness Matt is immensely better at Spanish than I am. The few times I’ve been without him, talking to Mexicans has been embarrassing and barely effective. They tend to look at me confused and shake their head in speechlessness. I’ve been relieved when I ask “驴Habla Ingl茅s?” and the response is “S铆, un poco”. Everyone has been receptive and full of smiles. Not to mention, there’s always music playing in the streets, usually live. I can’t understand what they’re singing, but they sound great.

I’m not the biggest fan of Mexican food, but being here, just for these two days, has made me more fond of it. 聽The restaurants we’ve gone in have been highly decorated with friendly waiters. One observation I’ve made, and initially noticed in the first restaurant we ate in, is that the public displays of affection are everywhere. We were the only two people in the restaurant not sitting on the same side of the table. Even while I am writing this now, there is a same-side couple sitting next to us. It is absolutely adorable. All the lovey-doveyness in the streets, hand-holding, kisses, plus I’ve seen quite a few聽billboards聽with close-ups of kisses as well. I’d say people are more romantic here. I’m a fan.

As for the sights, all the bright colors and unique building designs has been a lot to take in. There are all kinds of sculptures and statues, churches, and tons of houses in the beautiful mountain sides. The neon cross above the this church reminds me of the Romeo and Juliet movie (1996 version), though that took place in Veracruz, about 520 miles from Monterrey (eh, close enough).

The hostel is gorgeous. It’s called La Casa Del Barrio.

One complaint- the bathroom situation: it’s down the steps and across the restaurant from the room (their specialty is waffles:). Not a big deal, just a little annoying (Really? Across tables where people are sitting down enjoying a meal?). But the set up is cute and I love how there’s no roof in the middle of the building.

Actually, a lot of the buildings don’t have roofs in the middle of them. It’s neat.

If you were wondering about Texas, well, nothing exciting happened there. Matt took the bike to a shop to get the sprocket and chain replaced, and we worked on our first CCNA podcast. I’m looking forward to the next one.

The Quest & NOLA

January 2, 2012

Matt and I will travel through Mexico and each country in Central and South America, no matter what happens.聽 Matt is disappointed in the new schedule. He wanted to spend a few nights in several locations in each country, but due to the time constraint we鈥檙e working under we had to cut out a lot of the initial plan.聽 We have to get to Panama before February 10th to catch the boat over to Colombia, plus we have to make it to Ushuaia by mid-March or else the winds will be too strong for our little bike.聽 Ushuaia is the capital city of Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.聽 I cannot wait to visit the southernmost city in the world! Warning: I might go overboard on the picture taking in that place. Of course I would like to spend a few days in many of the cities on the way to Ushuaia; to get a feel for the place and the people, and make friends in the hostels, but that鈥檒l happen on the way back up South America.

The other part of this quest includes Matt and I making a CCNA podcast, with me taking the test for it in Buenos Aires. We鈥檙e planning on starting this in Mexico.

As for the past two days in New Orleans, Matt and I went to Bourbon St. both nights and recouped at the hostel in the French Quarter.聽 The hostel we stayed in was gorgeous on the outside and in the common areas. It used to function as an orphanage from 1861 until the 1970鈥檚. Here鈥檚 a picture of St. Vincent鈥檚 Guest House, located on Magazine St, LA.Image聽 The furniture on the inside was Elizabethan period, there were huge doorways, and it had a spacious courtyard; yet our room was not so lavish.聽 The bathroom had the tiniest shower I have ever encountered and Matt found a bedbug in his sheets (AH!).聽 I slept just fine though.

I liked the French Quarter. 聽I had one bad experience for five minutes when I ordered a po-boy for dinner at a local convenient store: I had two drunk older men attempt to talk to me and as I backed away they stepped in front of me to order first (no way was I going to speak up) and at that same time four or five more (what seemed to be homeless) drunk men came in, all grabbed either a MD 20/20, a 40, or a tall boy (or all three) and swayed in line behind me while being loud and obnoxious. Besides that, I had a great time, especially on Bourbon St. – what a lively place!聽 Matt and I showed up around 9 on New Year鈥檚 Eve eve; it was already packed with tons of people, a lot of them already hammered.Image聽 We each got a hand grenade early on the street and a purple daiquiri at end for the walk back.聽 I sang along to one of the performers we stumbled across who was playing the piano and singing 鈥淟ove Song鈥 by The Cure.聽 Soon after, we heard a band in one of the many bars and decided to stop in- they were talented and entertaining.聽 I had a blast watching them and dancing around.聽 On the rest of the walk I got some beads and Matt got a slice of cheap and greasy pizza.

The next day, I slept in while Matt went on a run and did some work at a coffee shop nearby.聽 Later, we had po-boys for lunch/dinner and went to a motorcycle store so Matt could get a better helmet- the one he bought the day before didn鈥檛 fit properly.聽 That night, on New Year鈥檚 Eve, we took part in the festivities on Bourbon St.- we watched fireworks, had a drink, threw beads to people walking on the street from a balcony, and called it a night.聽 Matt and I saw a few shocking things from that balcony鈥

We left early this morning from the St. Vincent鈥檚 Guest House. The ride was decent today- my body didn鈥檛 hurt at the end of it (yay!). Though when we started, we got stuck in the rain and when we stopped to put covers over the saddlebags, I burnt my right index finger on the exhaust.聽 Still cannot believe I did that.聽 Luckily, it didn鈥檛 rain for that long. 聽During the ride we stopped at a casino for lunch: I had been craving gumbo since we arrived in LA- finally got it (score!). Now we鈥檙e in Beaumont, Texas- watching Star Wars, Ep. 5 (awesome sauce).Image

We鈥檙e headed down south tomorrow. Then further down south for a while after that.