Page 30: - No Return Ticket - Just a Ride Report /w Pics - From the beginning
Random thoughts about life on the road for us:
Police in Nicaragua:
On our way out of Esteli we were pulled over for speeding. 76 in a 25 zone, they had us on a radar gun. I asked if I can pay now instead of getting my license confiscated and paying tomorrow at some police station. 5 dollars later with some big smiles we are on our way. No biggie, I was going too fast. About a half an hour later we get waved over just after a highway intersection. I do my normal thing. Stop the bike, take off my sunglasses, look the officer straight in the eyes and say “Buenos dias senor” (Good morning sir) We get all our papers checked. I answered all his questions the best I could. We are let go without incident. Less then 10 minutes later we are waved over at another intersection by a police roadblock. Same thing but this guy was trying hard to find something wrong. At one point I’m pretty sure I was asked if I had a fire extinguisher. I knew this was an extortion ploy. I said as politely as possible “Entiendo muy poco” (I understand very little) he let it go and continued to question me and look over our papers. After a while, with all our papers in his hands he looked over at the other police officers, shrugged his shoulders and made an empty motion with the palm of his hand. He then hands all our papers, one by one back to us. Wishes us a nice journey and waves us on.
Next we checked into an apartment hotel for a one month stay. We weren’t there long before we started hearing stories from other Gringo’s about police extortion on the highway. One of the guests shows us a Gringo newspaper, Nico Times with an article written by an adventure motorcycle rider who we met in Guatemala. He writes about all the police corruption and about his story of being pulled over at the same places we were pulled over. He ended up having to pay out over $30 at each stop, and then he says he had to pay out a bribe to get out of the country.
Article in Nica Times:
Dear Nica Times:
I noticed Alfred Thorsberg’s letter to the editor (NT, Jan.4) regarding the corrupt police officers just outside of Granada.
I’m currently on a long motorcycle trip from Colorado to Argentina. On Dec. 21, 2007, in the mid-afternoon, I was flagged-down by the police in the same location mentioned in Thorsberg’s letter, i.e. the Masaya-Granada turnoff.The police claimed I did not use my blinker signal when I pulled over and they demanded my papers.Once they had my papers, one officer proudly showed me an Alaskan driver’s license that he had taken from another motorist. He explained that if I wanted my passport back, it would cost me 600 cordobas ($32).I asked for the officer’s names, but they refused to provide them. I asked for a receipt and they refused. I asked to be taken to the station and they refused.Finally, the officer said he was keeping my papers and walked off. Finally, I paid the 600 cordobas for the return of my papers as I did not want to be on the road at night without papers.I rolled a couple hundred meters towards Granada and was immediately pulled over again.The new officers again said I did not use a blinker to enter the traffic circle and demanded money. I was extremely angry and demanded to see their boss.They directed me to a pickup truck where an officer was passed out face down and claimed he was the boss. Right.
I decided at that point to leave Nicaragua as quickly as possible.Incidentally, more bribes were required to exit the country.I’ve been on the road for 80 days and I have crossed five borders. I experienced more corruption in Nicaragua in two days than I did in 78 days in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize and Costa Rica combined. And while I’ve put thousands of dollars into the economies of these other nations, I spent very little time and money in Nicaragua thanks to the thieves dressed as police officers. Disgraceful.
Ok, we have 2 days before my Nicaragua motorcycle customs papers expire. I’m told I can return to the customs office now in Managua and apply for an extension to my permit. I hope this works because if it doesn’t, we have 2 days to get out of the country, not the way I want to leave. Plus we paid in advance for our apartment and have over a week to go. Managua is a huge city with no street markings and no city center to get a bearing from. I have been to Managua twice before trying to get this extension for the bike but found out my customs papers got screwed up at the border crossing. Long story short, I paid for the extension and was told I need to return the next day and pick up my extension papers. Sounds too good to be true. I show up the next day and was handed my motorcycle customs extension papers, Yahoo.
We are using the lonely planet guidebook “Central America on a Shoe String” as our main guide. We have seen countless other backpackers carrying this exact same guidebook since we have been in Central America. I bought and read several other guidebooks that are specific to each country before we stared this trip but we only had room for one book, so this is it. Several times we have noticed that some towns listed in this book are given a bad rap and in our opinion shouldn’t be. Example, San Carlos, Nicaragua, the guidebook describes this town as a seedy port city and a place that you would only spend the night if you happen to get stuck there. The guidebooks talks about other towns in the area saying they are nice places to stay and have cocktails with other foreign travelers. This as happened too many times, the places that are recommended end up to be nothing more then big Gringo hangouts with nice and slightly expensive bars and restaurants. The places that are talked down end up to be rich in native culture and in our opinion we are glad we didn’t miss. Anyway, I ended up getting stuck in San Carlos for a few hours and proceeded to walk around town to get a feel of the place. Yes, San Carlos is a port city with a lot of activity and no gringo tourists. After walking through a nice market area I find a beautiful water front park that had some kind of Cacao nut competition going on that day.
Everyone seemed to be having a good time and the people I talked with were friendly and helpful. Yes there were a few bars and yes there were a few prostitutes hanging out there but this is part of the culture of Nicaragua, not something to be avoided. That is unless all you want is to do is meet and spend time with foreign tourists.
I still had an hour to kill. I walk into a big open bar. I have a couple beers. A table of three local guys invited me over to their table and bought me a beer. They tried really hard to communicate with me asking me tons of questions. With my limited Spanish I really have to hand it to them for their patience. One guy finally did give up and went and sat with one of the girls at her table, couldn’t blame him. I finished my beer, order three more for my new friends and went off to the bus terminal to wait for my bus. This was a good experience. I felt I had a real glimpse into life in Nicaragua. I’m sure I would have enjoyed spending the night here.
Heidi and I rode into Granada one day and while walking around we see an adventure motorcycle riding down the street. A while later in central park we see another adventure bike parked with a rider next to it. Well we had to go over and see what this was all about. We meet two bikers from Australia, two brothers who bought their motorcycles in US and are heading to South America. How cool is that. We had a nice long talk about our adventures and plans. Get this, one of the brothers is planning on riding through the Darien gap. I didn’t think that was possible. They say about ten people have done it but no one has written about any details. We wish them all the luck in the world and hope to read about their success. Somewhere in South America they plan on selling their motorcycles then flying back to Australia. Proof there are a lot of ways to adventure travel……
I remember riding through the middle of Baja Mexico, a hundred miles from our last gas stop and almost a hundred miles to our next when our bike suddenly died. I was thinking to myself that I wouldn’t care if this was it for the bike and we had to just pack it up and head for home. This is something I didn’t share with Heidi. I don’t know how to explain it other then it being an extreme feeling of home sickness stemming from a fear for our safety from riding a bike that dies at random. Now that our bike is running reliably and we have been on the road for nearly 6 months I seem to have of a feeling of calmness and security. It’s like I’m at home where ever we are and I’m looking forward to entering the next country even more. I am not without fear. My fear has turned into a type of confidence, heightening my awareness of my surroundings that is all part of my survival and wellbeing. I feel more human and more part of this planet then I have ever felt before…….
Basic Plan on Heading South:
As for our ETA to ? We know our customs clearance for Nicaragua expires in a couple weeks so at that time we will cross into Costa Rica. I think we can get 90 days clearance for Costa Rica. If we find a cool and affordable place there we may stay for the duration while exploring the country. Either way we will eventually cross over to Panama and hopefully get 90 days there. After that we will try to get 90 days in Ecuador. There are many things I want to do in Ecuador (Amazon River, Andes), I can’t wait.
The only real time frame we have is to not ride south of Peru until late spring. I assume that’s November. We have to take our time through Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador & Peru, can-do
cavegirl works hard to keep her pool clean at the Granada hangout
cavebiker - Still like'n Nicaragua
We are back on the road tomorrow and will be checking out more of Nicaragua, Oh Yeah!
Stay tuned, The Ride Continues……………………….
Continued: ---> Page 31 <----