Central America

GUATEMALA

With a good tan we entered Guatemala on the 7th of February 2005. Again the border crossing was no problem at all, but we had to pay many fees which we found unusual high for entering a 3rd world country. The big and famous ruins in Tikal were our next stop. Since we did not want to miss the sunrise (at 5.30 a.m.!!!) we climbed the 60m high Pyramid right in time. It was very fascinating to see how the dawn over the rainforest disappeared, the sun rose, and hear the howler monkeys and birds awake. We saw many Toucans and Parrots which seemed to be a lot prettier in the nature than in the cage! The ruins itself were also amazing, especially because of their setting in the jungle.

From Tikal we went in 2 or 3 days to Antigua. Unfortunately I had some stomach problems so I went to see a Doctor in Coban. For 15 Quetzals (about $1,70 US) he examined my stomach with loud party music in the background and gave my 3 pills which were supposed to help – but didn’t.

Antigua is a very beautiful colonial city northwest of Guatemala City and even is UNESCO World heritage since 1972. But Antigua is just too clean and sterile to be typical Guatemalan and – because of the many tourists – we missed the Guatemalan atmosphere. Since we wanted to learn Spanish in this area we decided to go and check out Quetzaltenango, or Xela, how the Mayas call it, which is also famous for it’s Spanish schools. Xela is a bit cheaper than and not nearly as pretty as Antigua, but way more typical Guatemalan! Because Xela is about 2400m high it also got pretty cold (around freezing point) during the night, but during the day it was nice with about 25 degrees.

We took 2 weeks of Spanish lessons and lived with a very nice host family and got 3 meals a day! We were definitely not used to that any more, but it was good and we had time to concentrate on studying Spanish! We started at 8 a.m. in the morning and had 5 hours of one on one instruction which was pretty exhausting, but (hopefully) useful.

Since I was still not feeling very well I finally went to see a Doctor who found out that I had amoebas and some other little beggars in my intestines (which is pretty normal in this area). It seems like we weren’t careful enough with disinfecting our fruits and vegetables…?! After I was done with taking the medication I felt much better and I am totally fine by now! It was good that we had a place to stay and did not have to travel around with our bikes! That would not have been any fun.

Here in Guatemala you sometimes feel like your got sent back to the past about 20 years ago! In the newest offices they still write with old-fashioned typing machines and also our fun experienc in the gym reminded us a lot of the 80ies!

But we also saw a lot of poverty in this country!! In school we learned that people here die when they are 64 years old in average, 44% (!!) of the population is 15 years old and the most people who don’t live in the town do not know how to prevent getting more children because they just don’t know „why“ they get them. On the other hand there are modern and good internet cafes in the cities. That does not seem to be fair?!

Well, that was enough for now! From Xela we will go to San Pedro at the Lago Atitlan to relax and let all the Spanish we have learned settle down a bit and study some more Spanish for ourselves. So we will hopefully be well prepared when we go to Antigua to take two more weeks of Spanish school. We will keep you posted…!

We’ll send some sun to wherever you are!!!

Un abrazo fuerte, Alex and Henno

Xela – San Pedro – Antigua, 3-20-2005

It is not very long ago that you got to read a new journal from us, but we have so much to tell you already:

Before we left Xela (Quetzaltenango), we went on 2 little excursions: with our school we visited Zunil, a nearby little village, where the people still live in their traditional clothes and lifestyle. Among others we went to see the room where the people of the village go to celebrate their religion „Syncretism“. In the small room which was decorated with flowers and candles sat a pale skinned (normally all the people have dark skin) mannequin doll on a throne. This „San Simon“ was dressed really ugly with old trainers, cheep golden necklaces, white gloves, sunglasses, bandana and a hat.

He is really hard to describe! But the people in this village worship this „San Simon“. We were watching this weird dressed doll for a while, when a man entered the room and prayed to „San Simon“, talked to him and put his hand on the doll’s shoulder. When he was done he opened a bottle of Rum and poured it in the open mouth of „San Simon“ (as a sacrifice gift??). After that the guy lifted the sunglasses the doll was wearing so he could see how the person lit a candle. Everything was VERY strange!! Well, different countries, different traditions… but it sure was an interesting experience!

In Xela we decided to go separated ways than our travel partner Heiko. He spent 4 weeks in Xela to study Spanish from where he will go to the Caribbean cost in Honduras for which we won’t have time because we are going to meet my parents in San Jose, Costa Rica on April 15th. Yeah!!! 😉 Henno and I really enjoy our time just being the two of us after traveling with another person for more than 5 months!!!

Since Guatemala (and all Central America) is known for it’s still active Volcanoes we sure wanted to see one of them not only from the far distance. So we went on a two day hike to see the Volcano Santiaguito. We borrowed some of the hiking equipment that we needed and went through the very hot and dry climate through banana and coffee plantations to a look out point from where we could see some eruptions of the Santiaguito.

Especially during the night it was very impressing when the Volcano threw some lava in the air and we could hear the eruptions. It was amazing, but also a bit scary knowing that we just had experienced our first earthquake the night before!

After we had studied Spanish in Xela for 2 weeks we went to San Pedro at the Lago Atitlan. The road to get there was very steep with many curves with an awesome view of the lake. Riding the bikes was really fun there especially because there was hardly any traffic which is very rare in this region. Unfortunately we could not just stop and take pictures, because this stretch is known for tourists getting robbed while they take pictures… We did not really like San Pedro itself. It is not a very pretty town and the tourists who decided to stay and live there got an attitude that we did not agree with at all! So we tried to get out of their way and did a boat tour to Panajachel which is also full of inhabitants from Europe and North America. Unfortunately we had bud luck with the weather and it rained pretty hard (which is very unusual for the dry season) on our way back to San Pedro and we were not able to see the beauty of the lake.

In our hotel in San Pedro we got in touch with a missionary group with doctors, nurses and other volunteer workers from Canada, the States and Guatemala. They were in the area to visit the surrounding poor villages to help the people with medication and medical treatment. We were curious about their work and asked if we could join the team for a day or two. So the next day we went to one of the villages on the lake with a boat full of medication. Because of the hard rain the day before many of the indigenous people had to work on the coffee plantations so that only a few people were able to come and see a doctor. Since there was not a lot to do in the „treatment room“ which was in the church of the village, Henno and I used the opportunity to play with the children of the village. You have to imagine that they have not seen very often (kind) white skinned humans and were a bit suspicious at first. Also the communication wasn’t very easy because many of the kids didn’t speak Spanish, but only spoke their Mayan dialect „Tzutuhil“. Therefore it was even nicer to see that they lost some fear after a while and curiously played and sang with us! They even got pretty „brave“ and touched Henno’s hair on his arms to feel what light hair feels like. One girl touched my face to feel white skin probably for the first time in her life!

We really had an interesting day and decided to go with the team to another village the following day. This time it was a lot busier than the day before and the patients were already waiting for us in front of the church/“clinic“. Since two persons of the team were ill that day Henno’s and I could really help out. Henno worked as an optician and helped the native people to find the right glasses for them. Since the Mayan people are also quite conceited, Henno also had to give out glasses with „window glass“, just because of the look! In this village were also many people who didn’t speak any Spanish, but only Tzutuhil, so with many of the patients we needed 2 translators: Tzutuhil -> Spanish -> English. Tzutuhil is a very weird sounding language with lots of guttural sounds in different levels. Henno found out that „ok“ means „otz“. But the „o“ is spoken almost without a sound. Well, got it?! 😉 There are by the way about 22 different Mayan dialects, which are sometimes not even similar at all. I did not really have the chance to talk to the people, because I worked as a dentist assistant. We saw 12 patients and had to pull a tooth out of 9 of them! So I did have an interesting, but not have the must fun job.

Sometimes I even thought „please leave the tooth in, she doesn’t have many left anyways!“. After the treatment every patient got toothpaste and a toothbrush and sometimes they had no idea what they were for so the translator had to explain it to them. When it was not possible to help a person with the given equipment and medication it was prayed for him/her. This way of treatment was a bit strange for the both of us, but we could tell that it really helped the patients.

After we had treated all the patients – as far as we could – we took pictures of the great team and the kids. Taking pictures sometimes is a sensitive subject in this region, because some people are afraid that we would take their soul by taking a picture of them. But the kids really liked that and wanted to be in every picture!!

We sure had two very interesting days with many memories we will never forget!

To improve our Spanish a bit more we went from San Pedro to Antigua which we liked a lot better than Xela, because it is prettier, cleaner and warmer! On the other hand there are way more tourists, especially an the Sundays before Eastern when there are many processions that go through the city.

The route of the procession is always decorated with pretty and colorful carpets out of flowers and saw dust with which the Antiguan people sometimes need to start making at 4 o’clock in the morning. From Antigua we also climbed another active volcano. But this time we actually went up and were only about 20 meters away of the rock throwing crater!! But since this one has eruptions more often they are not as powerful as the ones we saw of the volcano Santiaguito. We have to admit that it was a bit scary, but also very interesting to be that close to the power of the nature!

Well, like you can tell, riding our bikes is not our priority these days, but we are sure they are also enjoying the break off. In Guatemala City we will do some work on the bikes, like oil change and break fluid change.

We are doing great as always and waiting to get back on the road again!! Well, I think you had enough to read for now. I hope you all get to enjoy the beginning of the spring although you might not have our temperatures of 25-30 degrees Celsius… 😉
You all take care and we’ll send sunny greetings from Antigua!

Hugs from Henno and Alex
Antigua, Guatemala – El Salvador – Honduras – Nicaragua – Costa Rica – Panama, 5-6-2005

Again it’s quite a while since you had something to read from us, but finally here are some news:

After we had studied „enough“ Spanish we left Antigua and drove to Guatemala City where we had a quiet corner in the garage of a huge BMW dealer to do some work on our bikes (oil change, new brake pads,…). Tito, one of the doctors of the missionary group we had met in San Pedro invited us to stay with him and his family for a night, which was very nice! Because Tito knew someone who worked at the Suzuki store he was also able to help us out with some spare parts. From the capital we went towards the Pacific coast where we could stay at Peter’s place during the „Semana Santa“ as the Holy Week is called here. Peter is a nice Austrian guy who has a hotel with swimming pool where we could camp in his yard. We were lucky to be able to stay there because everything is packed along the coast during Semana Santa when everybody is travelling there! Special for the Pacific coast in this region is the black beach, caused by the volcanoes. Unfortunately the seawater was pretty warm, like the swimming pool and no refreshing at all. Also the mosquitoes were biting really badly so we were looking forward to get back to higher regions again.

Via curvy roads we went to the boarder of El Salvador, but we were not able to enter the country. Well, actually we were not able to leave Guatemala because we did not pay attention that the motorcycles were only allowed to stay in Guatemala for 60 days. So their permission had expired a week ago. We were allowed to stay in the country for 90 days, so we were fine. We had no other option than going back 150km to the capital to get an extended permission for our bikes. The first 3 nights we had stayed in „Zona 1“ which is known to be dangerous, but cheap. It was even kind of fascinating: trash everywhere, the cars blew black smoke, the traffic was totally chaotic, the street stands were really worn down,…. It was the total opposite to the „artificial“ city of Antigua! Because it is not recommended to go out after dark we just enjoyed some nights with chips and beer and watching TV. Something you don’t get very often on a trip like this!

5 days in a row we went to the office to tell them how urgent we needed the papers for our bikes to leave the country. At the end the heavily armed security men even shook hands with us when we entered the office building. We have to admit that everything was very correct and we got our papers after 5 days – without having to pay one Quetzal (that’s the Guatemalan currency)! At no point we got the feeling that anybody seemed to be corrupt – which was pretty surprising for us!

The last 3 nights in Guatemala City we stayed with Leilani, who we have met in a hostel in Mexico and stayed in touch with since, and her friend Jack. Jack is a huge fan of insects and has one of the biggest collections of insects in Central America. He also had had a # 1 song in the Charts of Central America. It is the most fun part of travelling to meet many interesting people!!!

With the permission for our bikes to leave Guatemala we could finally leave the country and enter El Salvador on the 2nd of April. We really liked Guatemala with its great nature, the ruins, the colourful arts and the indigenous people.

In El Salvador we stayed one night at the Lago de Coatepeque, a crater lake with very clear water. That was surely a nice change compared to the hectic and dirty capital of Guatemala.

2 days later we already left the small country El Salvador and entered Honduras.

There the fee we had to pay shocked us! The border crossing took us 3 hours and with us there were quite a few cows and goats that were also crossing the border. We had to pay about 45 US$ each bike although we just wanted to cross the country at the smallest part which is about 150 km long and took us just 1 day. It is not fair to describe a country after just being there for 1 or 2 days, but we got the feeling that El Salvador was a lot cleaner than its neighbouring countries Guatemala and Honduras and the people we talked to were very friendly! Right after we entered Honduras there were huge piles of trash and it seemed to be very dirty. The following day we already left Honduras again and entered Nicaragua. It may sound like we should have some routine by now when we cross the border, but each country has its own confusing system that it takes us 2-3 hours every time. But every time it is an interesting experience!

We had planned to spend a bit more time in these countries, but because of our extended stay in Guatemala we did not have too much time left since we wanted to pick my parents up at the airport in San Jose, Costa Rica in the middle of April.

But in Nicaragua we had some time left to get to know the country a little bit. We spent some days in Granada, a pretty and colourful colonial city. We also enjoyed one day in a Laguna with refreshing cold water and went to see the active volcano Masaya. We wanted to see more places, but it was just too hot to go on more day trips with our motorbikes wearing all the equipment. During the day it was about 40°C and also in the night it was not much cooler than 30°C. Pretty tough without air-conditioning… It was very hot because it was the end of the dry season which means that we experienced the hottest days of the year. Everything is dry and dusty and the nature is rather brown than green.

This fact changed pretty fast after we crossed the border to Costa Rica. After only a few kilometres the nature started being greener and the air was much fresher than we had experienced the weeks before. We took the partly very rough Pan-American Highway to Liberia from where we went farther inland to see the beautiful volcano Arenal.

It usually rains in that area a lot and the volcano is often in clouds. But we were very lucky and had a great ride with an awesome view of the smoking volcano.

We stayed in the little town Fortuna, close to the volcano, hiked to a refreshing waterfall and found out that Costa Rica is a great country with a lot of accessible nature. But to be able to see some of the beauty you have to pay a lot of money especially for being in Latin America.

On the 15th of April we went to pick my parents up at the airport. It was great to see them after 9 months of travelling! Also because they brought some needful things like a new starter for Henno’s bike, new viziers, a new old notebook and many other things that we „needed“.

While we travelled through Costa Rica with a rented car with my parents we left our bikes in a hotel close to Alajuela. From there we went on a day trip and visited a coffee farm where we learned that Costa Rica only produces „Fair Trade“-Coffee, which means that the conditions for the workers are much better than in Guatemala e.g. Costa Rica exports a big amount of coffee to Starbucks – that might be a reason why Starbucks coffee is so expensive?! After we had a little bit of bad luck with the weather for the first 2 or 3 days we decided not to go to the Caribbean coast but to the Pacific coast instead. We hiked through the Biological Reserve Carara and stayed close to Uvita in an awesome hotel with a great view over the Pacific Ocean. My parents went on a Dolphin watching tour and a mangrove tour. Since we had done that before Henno and I just enjoyed hanging out at the huge pool. From Uvita we took the Pan-American Highway inland to the Orosi-Valley to do so some hikes and enjoy the beautiful nature of the country. Sometimes it really reminded us of the Alps in Austria or Switzerland!

Our next stop was Santa Elena close to the National Park Monteverde where we did we a „Sky Walk“. That was a hike through the rainforest over several hanging bridges, which were up to 600m long and about 140m high. We did not see a lot of wildlife, but we did see the beautiful and very seldom seen bird Quetzal!! Actually we saw a nesting Quetzal couple! But unfortunately not long enough to take nice pictures…

After the Sky Walk we did a Canopy Tour: on 30-770m long and about 130m high cables out of steel we flew with a speed of up to 60 kph through and over the rainforest. It was a blast!!

Later on that day we went on a night hike through the rainforest and saw lots of Tarantulas, an Armadillo, an Agouti (looks like a Guinea pig with high legs), a very poisonous green snake winded around a tree and with much fantasy we also saw a sloth. That was definitely a successful day!!

From Santa Elena we took a very rough road to and around Lake Arenal. It was a perfect day and my parents could enjoy the same great view that we had 2 weeks earlier. Unfortunately because of the clouds we never saw the Arenal erupt during the night when all the lava runs down the volcano.

After 2 1/2 weeks in Costa Rica my parents had to fly back home with a big overload of luggage!! It was a sad good-bye, but we were also looking forward to get back on the road what we did a day later. We took the Pan-American Highway south and went over the highest point of the famous road that is about 3300m high. On the way down we got into a very heavy downpour and we had to put our raingear on for the first time in months (USA?, Mexico?). The rain season has obviously started. But also when the sun is shining you can tell that the rainy season had started because all the little rivers with clear water turned into huge mud-brown streams.

After staying in all the nice hotels with my parents we really had a bad room the first night without them. The beds were rather like hammocks and there were very big cockroaches everywhere. Yuck! But we might need to get used to it?!

One day later we left Costa Rica on a rough and slippery gravelled road and entered Panama at the smallest border crossing between these 2 countries. The migration office of Costa Rica was not able to check our bikes out at this particular border crossing which means that the bikes are officially still in the country and we won’t be able to enter Costa Rica with another vehicle within the following 5 (or so) years. Since we are not planning on doing that we just did not care and went to the custom office in Panama.

We both thought that Costa Rica is a very nice country with beautiful nature, but we missed the typical Central American flair! Although many roads are in a very bad condition, everything is well accessible for the huge number of tourists who go there every year and are willing to spend lots of money…

In Panama we were welcomed with a handshake and everything went fast and with no problems at all. Right after the border began a perfectly paved road with great curves through coffee plantations and the cloud forest. It was really fun! Within the last 3 days we cruised a bit through the mountains in the north of Panama and enjoyed the great scenery!

We are planning on staying in Panama for about 2 weeks and will go to Colombia next. After we heard from so many travelling people that they went through Colombia and considered it to be safe we decided to go through Colombia as well. At the end of May we will put our bikes on a sailboat in Portobelo and sail in 5-7 days to Cartagena, Colombia. It is almost impossible to go from Panama to Colombia overland because of the Darién Gap which is basically a jungle where the Colombian drug mafia rules. We heard that the Colombian police ride the Suzuki Freewind (my Motorcycle) and that there is a huge Freewind club. So there is nothing to worry about!!

Besides that the amoebas seem to really like me – I have them again – we are doing perfectly fine and are really looking forward to get back on the road again! There were definitely many long riding brakes within the last couple of months!!

Well, I think that was enough to read for now! I hope you are all doing fine and are able to enjoy the just starting summer?! You all take care! We’ll send some sun from Panama!!!

Alex and Henno

Panama – „Valhalla“ im karibischen Meer – Cartagena, Kolumbien; 6-12-2005

We really liked Panama as soon as we got there: either the beautiful nature or the kind people. What we did not like too much was the very hot and humid climate. It was unbearably hot and it was even worse when it started to rain and we had to put the plastic rain gear on, which won’t let any air through at all. Because of the humidity it always took quite some time until all the equipment was dry again. Maybe you can imagine what it feels like to put the helmet on that is still a bit wet and stinky…. But while we were sweating without even moving, the native people wore long pants as if it were nice and cool.

We were a little bit surprised, that the US Dollar is the official currency in Panama, but the Panamanians just call it „Balboa“. Right after we had crossed the border we also saw some indigenous women with their traditional clothes on. Something we had missed in Costa Rica.

Riding through Panama is a bit confusing because it goes from West to East and not from North to South. The main road is the „Panamericana“ or „Interamericana“ how it is called there, which is a well-paved 2-laned road.

From the „Interamericana“ are smaller roads that lead to the North and to the South, which ones we took to get to know some smaller towns and villages in this country. To us Panama seemed to be richer than Guatemala or Mexico for example and we learned that Panama has the highest „per-capita“ income in Central America. That does not mean at all that there is no poverty in Panama!! Especially in Panama City we could see the extreme differences between rich and poor.

But that’s how our trip went on: After we were in the mountains in North-western Panama, we decided to check out the coast of the Azuero Peninsula, which is quite famous for its traditional fiestas (especially the Latin-American Carnival), but unfortunately we missed a fiesta by a couple of days. But we got to see some cute little towns, which were really laid back and they still use horses for transportation. But this region was definitely too hot for us so we decided to go back to some higher altitudes.

In Panama City we met with our friends Roos and Vince, a Dutch couple, which we have met in Guatemala. They were travelling from Cuba to Panama with bicycles and are back in Holland now.

Of course we also went to see the locks of the Panama Canal. It was quite impressing how they manoeuvred the huge boats through the „narrow“ locks!

In Panama City we also met „THE“ 4 other motorcyclists from Germany, which we had heard of before. The time we chose to travel from North to South America is probably the most famous time to travel if you want to stay out of the cold and the rainy season. Panama is such a narrow country that it kind of works like a funnel for all the North-South travellers. Also people tend to spend some time there to plan their further travelling to South America by boat or plane. It was fun to spend one night with them and share all our experiences, but the next day we went separate ways again. Henno and I went to the Atlantic coast from where we wanted to take a sailboat to Colombia.

In the little harbour town Portobelo we spent about one week to wait for Dennis and his sailboat „Valhalla“ which was supposed to take us to Cartagena, Colombia. In the meantime the motorcyclists Roland from Austria who we had met at the border from Nicaragua to Costa Rica and Heiko with whom we had travelled together for 5 months arrived in Portobelo as well. Although there was not much to do in Portobelo we had a great time there especially with the kids who lived there. We took them for a ride with the bikes and they led us to a sloth that lived nearby and had some fiestas for us. The guys were playing the drum on plastic buckets and the girls, which were crowned as queens, danced to the rhythm. They also tried to teach us how to dance the traditional „Congo“.

The kids also were quite impressed by our binoculars and when they looked through them for the first time they reached out and tried to touch what appeared to be right in front of them. Very cute!

Although we wanted to keep going it was really nice to stay at the same place for a while to get in touch with the native people. We really felt integrated when the mothers asked us where their kids could be. Usually somewhere near us.

When Dennis finally arrived in Portobelo we got all 4 motorbikes one after the next on the „Valhalla“. To get the bikes to the boat we had to take the Dingi (the little Side boat), what was quite an excitement!

We spent another 5 days in the harbour of Portobelo because there were still some little things that needed to get done on the „Valhalla“ (www.sailvalhalla.com). The first impression of the boat was great: it was very luxurious with everything you could imagine, but with a closer look everything seemed to be a bit worn down. Because of the permanent dampness everything was a bit mouldy and stank. Besides our Captain Dennis there was Morris, the Co-Captain, and the Norwegian couple Thea and Öyvind, who were working on the boat. The passengers where Alex, Louise and Mike from England and us, the 4 motorcyclists. On May, 29th 2005 (after 2 weeks of waiting) we finally left Portobelo. The plan of the one-week trip was that we would go to the San Blas Islands, a group of 365 beautiful islands in the Caribbean.

The islands belong to Panama and the inhabitants of the islands are the indigenous Kuna people who still have their own language.

On the main island „El Porvenir“ we could get our emigration stamp out of Panama and we were going to spend some time for snorkelling and relaxing before we went to Cartagena.

But everything turned out to be quite different: since the engine could not get repaired we had to rely on the sails and the wind – which is a bit difficult when some sails are missing and you have to improvise with the stick of a broom. In the worst case the big sailboat was to be towed by the Dingi. For light and power we were supposed to have a generator, but that was dropped into the water on the way to the boat. We still had the batteries for the most important things we needed (Music), but the lifting of the anchor was not one of them. For that we needed man power…

The first night we spent on the „Valhalla“ we had waves and thunder, but no wind. So the boat just got shaken without moving forward… Henno and I got pretty seasick and had to lie down for the first 5 day of the trip. In the 2nd night we got to the San Blas Islands where the boat hit the ground so we had to wait for the next high tide to get ourselves free again. But we used the time to do some snorkelling and saw some really nice corrals. The 3rd day we lost one of our crew members, which was too bad because the wind just had started to pick up and we were doing about 10kph, which we lost when we went to get the person. Luckily went well!

Many hours we just spent on the water without moving forward at all, because there was just no wind. We had to be careful with the gasoline of the Dingi, because there was not too much of it. And even when the Dingi was towing us we were not faster than about 5kph (3,5mph), which is not a lot when you have to go more than 500km (350miles). After 9-10 days we were slowly running out of power (since we did not have an engine to recharge the batteries) and we had no light, which is not too bad. But also our position light did not work any more what is pretty dangerous because other boats could not see us in the dark. Because nobody thought that it would take us that long to get to Cartagena we were slowly running out of food…

Finally we had to get the last drops of gasoline out of the 4 motorbikes so we had enough gas for the Dingi to tow us to the harbour of Cartagena.

You cannot imagine how glad we were when we finally got on the land after 11 days on the boat with mouldy-dampness and bad smell. Even all our stuff was mouldy and stinky.

Henno and I are sure that we will never be big fans of sailing, but we have to admit that it was an adventurous trip with also some great experiences: for example when 20 dolphins came jumping towards the boat and swam with us for a while. The pretty sunsets or the awesome sky full of stars! And to be able to go for a swim every day was nice.

Well, we got our motorcycles off the boat safely and now we will need some time to relax in Cartagena before we will go back an the road South to Ecuador,

After a little bit more than half a year travelling through Mexico and Central America, we want to write down a little review about what was most remarkable to us. There are a few things that we got used to within the last month, but which on the other hand are so typical for Central America. For example the fruit and vegetable stands along the streets every few kilometres that smell so good like ripe fruits!

And the „comedores“ or „sodas“ (in Costa Rica) how the traditional fast food restaurants are called here, which serve more or less tasty but cheap food. Or the inhabitants of the smaller cities who spend their spare time in a hammock or a rocking chair in front of their house so they won’t miss anything that’s going on in the streets. Pretty are the little villages, which have a church and a soccer field that is surrounded by houses in the middle. The grass of the soccer field is regularly cut with a machete. Very sweet are the kids who are stunning or waving their hands at us when we pass them with our motorcycles. But also when we walk along the street without our motorcycle equipment on we get stared at like we were from the Mars! With our pale skin we seem to look exotic especially to the kids. They sometimes run things over because they can’t stop staring at us! Some simple people in small villages have asked us where „Alemania“ (Germany) is and how many days it has taken us to get from there to here. The openness and friendliness of the people we have met so far – on the streets or wherever – are the greatest things of our trip! Many times when we asked for the way the person just took it’s bike, moped or car and lead us to the place we were looking for.

We loved the traditionally dressed people although it was a bit confusing when a Mayan woman took a cell phone out of her traditional dress! Kind of amazing are the colourful painted „chicken busses“ (former American school busses).

and the rusty pieces of garbage (cars!!) that blow black smoke out of the exhaustion system and are still used for transportation. Also typical are mopeds with 5 or bicycles with 3 people on it.

Also interesting are the „tiendas“, little supermarkets on every corner, where you can get everything. The prices are always made up and tourists sometimes have to pay twice as much as native people. But also the prices we have to pay for the same thing in the same tienda vary from day to day. By the way: did we ever mention that we had to pay an additional „Sunday fee“ of $1,50 US at the border from Nicaragua to Costa Rica?! Funny, eh!

On the other hand we also had to get adjusted to garbage that is burnt everywhere, begging and very ill looking kids and adults and dead animals laying next to the road and getting eaten by vultures. Really disgusting is the smell of the dead animals, which we will never get used to. Also sharing the room with little insects like ants (which sometimes bite), cockroaches, spiders,… is not our favourite thing. And in the meantime we even feel safer when there are armed (15 year old) guys in the streets than when they are not there!

Altogether we are a bit more than 11 months and about 40.000 km on the road now, which kind of seems unbelievable to us! Once in a while we had the feeling that time went by too slow, sometimes it went way too fast – like it is with all vacations. Of course we do get homesick sometimes – I do more than Henno. We really miss delicious cheese, good bread and yummy chocolate that we get in Germany. But we still enjoy travelling and are really anxious to travel South America!

So we send hugs to all of you for the first time from South America. You all take care!

Henno und Alex

Further in Colombia/Ecuador/Peru

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