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Border crossing at El Salvador feb 2003

Central America

Two things characterised our journey through Central America, excellent roads and very hot weather which necessitated us having to stop frequently to get a drink. A very useful item John and I both have also is a small steel flask which keeps the water cold and is invaluable at those unscheduled stops. One such stop was when the police pulled us in in northern Panama on the pretext of having passed out on a continuous line which was but a scheme for getting money. To date we have been stopped in only three places on these false charges, once in Argentina, once in Northern Peru and the case in Panama and in each one we stone walled them and did not have to pay. That, however, was the only incident that blighted the run through this part of the world. Above Panama is Costa Rica which has the reputation of being one of the best of these Latin American countries. The countryside is very rich in vegetation here and invariably every river we crossed was a picture postcard of jungle-lined, boulder strewn, cascading water with local people swimming in them. Indeed practically every river we have crossed right up here as far as Mexico has been the same as they are a focal point for the locals to cool off from the heat, to do the washing or as a place from which lorries drive down and gather stones where the rivers are big. To get to San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica we had to climb up over the pass at Villa Mills which, at 3495 meters, is the second highest on the Pan America highway. It was a surreal experience to come up from a tropical landscape and climb through a cloud to emerge above it into clear visibility looking down on the clouds below. San Jose, because of its relevant height has a nice temperature and when there Guillermo, an Argentinean, befriended us and showed us around the city. It certainly is a lively spot at night as I found out when both he and I went out on the town. Salsa is all the rage here and the girls spend endless hours practicing it. One pub we were in had this blind musician singing and it brought to mind the time John and I were held spellbound in Florence outside the Ufazi. This persons talent was equally captivating and the words of an Antonia Machado song he sang seemed to have a particular relevance to our trip, "caminante no hay camino, se hace camino al andar". All this Central American coast is tropical and a particularly beautiful place we stayed was Tamarindo. Obviously a destination for those in the know it nonetheless is still unspoiled and was a very relaxing place to stop. It bore an uncanny resemblance to Cape McClear in Malawi and that and its warm waters probably endeared it to us.

Crossing the borders of Nicaragua and Honduras was an easy affair but getting into El Salvador took hours which in the heat was very tiring and ironic in light of the fact that it was the easiest country of our entire trip to exit. While waiting around at the customs there I noticed that the clip had come off the rear boot of the shaft drive and that there was a slight oil leak. On taking off the boot that night it poured out oil on me so it's obviously coming from a seal gone on the gear box. It doesn't seem critical at this stage and will probably hold up to the States but it will be a big enough job to have to get sorted there. While looking at the drive shaft I had the pannier off and another crack requiring welding had appeared in the pannier frame .As I said before they are too flimsy for the load we carry and the heavier duty Touratech ones John has and which have not broken are the only choice. At any rate though it's an ill wind that doesn't blow some good and Rene a local garage owner who welded it, advised us to take the coastal route north into Guatemala as it is both less crowded and in excellent condition. The road was certainly excellent and above La Libertad it was spectacular as it wound its way along the mountains with a palm fringed ocean below.


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