In Nicaragua we met up again with Andy, visited an island in a lake and saw some more volcanoes. It was nice, we also tried some more surfing which was tiring. Andy advised me on a mechanic in Costa Rica and I got in touch with Aileen who, with Ceri and Mark, were visiting Costa Rica in a few days time. Aileen kindly agreed to bring some parts out for me so I could get the bike fixed up and we got in touch with the mechanic who said it would be no problem getting the bike fixed up. We were quoted $400 for the full job which was cheap but still a blow to our finances.
|Mum always said I had a monkey on my back|
|Sunset in Limon|
We left Nicaragua happy and hopeful about the bike. At the border we met Al who is travelling on a Honda Varadero. We had the usual border fun, another fine for being in the C4 for too long and a few hours spent doing nothing. It took a couple of days getting down to Heredia where Dave and Jackie were living and working as english teachers. Dave had kindly offered to let us stay for a few days and it was great to catch up with everyone from back home. In total there were 6 of us from Sully and it was like a home away from home. I unwrapped my new toys from Aileen like a kid at christmas and we talked about old times. We planned to part ways while I got the bike fixed and we would meet them on the caribean coast a few days later. Insert something about the best laid plans of mice and men here....
After the Sullyians left I rode the 100 miles to Nicoya and the mechanic along the pan american highway. Costa Ricas main highway for cargo, people and everything in between. Its single lane and choked with traffic. On reaching Nicoya I met Raul, the mechanic who was supposed to work on the bike but he told me he was too busy but knew a great guy who was going to do it. There should have been alarm bells. He took me to meet Nemo. His garage was dirty, bike parts were everywhere. Should have been more alarm bells. He told me he could finish the work in two days when I was originally quoted 5. More alarm bells. I ignored them all.
There were problems getting the engine out of the bike as some mounting bolts had seized but after the first day the engine was out and taken apart by the second day. New parts in and back together by the third day. I was excited to try out the bike but it was making a strange knocking noise. I was assured it was normal for a bike of higher mileage and the noise stopped when the bike was upright so I promptly rode the bike back to Heredia. About halfway back the bike lost all power, it was vibrating more than usual and I was worried but the power came back and it was easier to continue home than to return. I can only blame myself for this. I should have gone back. By the time I got to Heredia my hands were numb from vibrations. I got back in touch with Raul and we arranged to have the bike shipped back to Nicoya. More money, more worry and plenty of anger. Turns out the new part was slightly smaller than the original and the knocking was not normal. We got that fixed soon enough with a slight modification to the part and I went to pick up the bike again. I was still not happy with the bike as it was vibrating still but I made another mistake and decided to ride back.
By now the Sullyians had returned from their trip and were getting ready to return home. We were sad to have missed out on travelling with them but glad the bike was working and a day or so later we left for the coast. About 60 miles out the clutch stops working so I contact Raul again. He basically told me it wasn't his problem. Super angry now and feeling completely down in the dumps over the whole thing I didnt know what to do next. In the end we found a mechanic in the city who would fix the clutch. Turns out Nemo had added parts to the engine. An extra washer was causing the clutch to slip.
|Carrying the bike back to Heredia after the clutch failed|
|Welsh themed going away party for Dave and Jackie|
I'll be honest, even now weeks after I'm fuming about the whole affair. So many ifs and maybes. I wish I had waited until Colombia as I have met some great people here who have been incredibly helpful but I digress. The bike was running again and we had a boat to catch.
For those of you who dont know, there is a big gap between Panama and Colombia with no roads. Its called the Darien Gap and the only way past is by boat. The boat we wanted to travel on was the stahlratte as it is big, comfortable and has experience carrying motorbikes. We had very little time to get from the center of Costa Rica to the bottom of Panama so we hit the road running. Flew through Costa Rica and visited the Sloth Sanctuary where Heather met some new friends. Got through the border with no problems and into Panama. Brilliant.
Once we were in Panama we headed for a town called David. Its the jumping off point for a lot of cool places in Panama. We visited the highlands near there and a town called Boquete. Really beautiful and most importantly, considerably cooler than the lowlands near the coast. We rode some beautiful roads and tried to forget about the drama from the previous three weeks. It was nice not to worry for a bit.
|Crossing a rickety bridge in Boquete|
Still on a time budget we headed south to visit the town where Panama hats were originally made and a womans artisan group. We found the town but no hats and the artisan group had expanded from the quaint little stalls the guide book had promised us.
We finished the bolt down to Panama City to meet with Al again and get ready for the boat trip. Al had been in town for three weeks and was a wealth of knowledge on the area.
With a day or two spare we visited the Panama Canal and learnt all about its history. An incredible feat of engineering started by the French and finished by the Americans it has only recently been given back to Panama to govern it and they are building an extension to be opened next year. A hugely expensive project expected to bring in billions for the government.
|Ships entering the docks at the Panama Canal|
We soon recieved an email from Lou Lou, the captain of the stahlratte and got in touch with a few other bikers who were on the boat too. It was here we met Andy and Ellen, a couple from New Zealand travelling two up on a KTM 950. On the 11th it was time to leave for the short ride to the coast and the stahlratte. Hopefully saying goodbye to the woes of Central America. Yet she had one more thing to throw at us. About 30km from the coast we got a flat. Seems the rear was running low and overheated causing the innertube to disintergrate. Luckily we were going fairly slow and only had a small wobble but with no spare tube for the rear we were screwed. We were at the back of the convoy so they didnt realise we had a problem for a few minutes we sat there alone and started to remove the rear wheel. Andy and Ellen turned up and they had a spare tube. Al carried on to inform the boat about our delay. New tube in, inflated and off we go, 1 km later.... bang. We were shifting along this time and it burst mid corner. the bike veared violently to the left as the rear wheel tried to overtake the front. Legs flying everywhere and the bike lurching all over the road I managed to bring it to a stop right side up. Heather was shaking on the back of the bike and we were out. For Heather this was the first real brush with what can happen on a motorbike. The adrenaline and fear left her truely shaken up and I think, even now weeks later, she isn't fully happy on the back of the bike. In all honesty I dont think either of us were enjoying ourselves. With a few spots of fun along the way the past month or two has been problem after problem. The bike just isn't right and its sapping my energy. I'm not sure how much more of this we can take.
|One dead inner tube on the way to the Stahlratte|
Andy and Ellen headed to the boat to try and find someone to carry us back on a truck. 4 hours alter, $100 and the pain of having to be carried instead of using our own power and we made it to the boat. For now at least someone else could take the load and we could sit back and relax on the trip to Colombia.
|The Stahlratte ready to take us to Colombia|