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Panama: Family Visits and Sailing the San Blas Islands

With two days’ time and 500+ miles to go we really didn’t leave ourselves much time to see anything in Panama except the rolling asphalt underneath our bikes and the impending rain storms above us. It was time for La Tortuga to put on her big girl pants and waddle herself at lightning speed towards Panama City! Mitch’s parents would be arriving and we had big plans to explore the city before heading to the San Blas Islands with Wildcard Sailing. The highlight of the drive was whizzing past our Chilean friend we met at customs. There he was in all his glory, ears flopping all around, tongue dragging in the wind emitting slobber. This was by far the coolest dog either of us will ever meet. Other dogs aspire to be as bad-ass as him. He might as well be the Brad Pitt of dogs swooning bitches from one dog park to another. He had traveled from Chile up to Costa Rica, and now back down all while lounging in the comforts of his companion’s sidecar. What a boss!

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Costa Rica: A broken bike, Rincon de la Vieja, and Isla del Cano

Costa Rica is a place of immense beauty, sure, but after months on the road our initial intentions were to breeze through it. We had spent too much time in Mexico and Central America and were running short on days to get to Panama for our boat to Colombia. Justin had been there five times previously for surf trips, and countless people kept telling us how expensive it was, how touristy it was, and how it wasn’t “true” Central America. We don’t disagree with any of those comments, but what we found in Costa Rica was more than good, it was great! If you were willing to get off the beaten track Costa Rica offered some of the best scenery and riding we had done in months. It rejuvenated our spirits, lifted us up, and made us excited to see what each day had in store for us. Something we had sort of lost over the last few weeks as things became mundane. It left us begging for more time and adventure, but first we had to overcome a potentially trip ending disaster…

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Nicaragua: DAMN IT’S HOT

We arrived into Nicaragua under the cover of darkness. The air was cool and refreshing, and the moon was full, illuminating the road and canyon as we snaked our way through it. It was magical. Justin couldn’t help but to stand straight up on his footpegs, flip up his visor, and howl at the moon, “Ooooooooooo”. We had officially made it to our seventh country of the journey!

Not knowing where to go or what was around we simply stopped at the first illuminated building which appeared to be some sort of lodging. The staff at Sumoto Canon Tours greeted us with open arms and a delicious Pollo Asado (waking up the next morning we quickly determined that the chicken was fresh from the yard, these birds were everywhere!). Their main objective was to convince us to go on one of their canyon tours which was evident by the sales pitch we heard from dad, brother, cousin, sister, aunt, uncle, nephew, niece, dog, chicken, cat, squirrel…It was aggressive! Having just done a canyon and rafting tour on the Rio Cangrejal we had no desire to pay for another, and decided to venture in on our own.  Thankfully, we were fortunate enough to make some new friends (Germans of course) who joined us for a day of swimming, hiking, and an incredible sunset over the canyon.

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Honduras: Jungle, Pirates, and Great Diving

Honduras, outside of 3 (maybe 4) spots regularly visited by backpackers, doesn’t have the best reputation. Ever since Baja, we’ve heard stories of corruption and extortion, with one crazy Ex-Pat even telling us how he’d been completely displaced from his retirement property by the cartel. HOW COULD WE POSSIBLY PASS ON ALL THIS FUN?! Copan Ruins would be our first stop, followed by a long drive up to the Caribbean coast to take advantage of one of the CHEAPEST places in the world for diving, Utila, and to visit a pirate legend in Sambo Creek.  As always, there would be quite certainly some other adventures along the way.

Getting out of El Salvador was almost as easy as crossing into Mexico (where we literally drove across what seemed like an imaginary line). We got stamped out, traded some dollars for lempiras (24 to 1) and were on our merry way. Then we got to the Honduran side…immigration was fine, we paid $35, and got stamped into the country…but then we had to import the bikes. We thought we were in the clear when we pulled up to Aduana and were the only ones there. NOPE, the guy took over 2 hours to process us in! GOD BLESS! Redressed and ready to leave the last check point to freedom we were stopped!! Apparently during the 2 hour process the dipshit wrote down Justin’s VIN # incorrectly. Back to Aduana it was. This time with a rather long line. At least Justin has continued to be one of the tallest members of society!

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