At the hotel in Chenindenga the next morning I met Zach and his Girlfriend over breakfast.  They were from Alaska and riding a small bike they had bought locally around Nicaragua two-up.  I have to give them props for doing 2-up on that tiny local bike.  Their only luggage was a backpack.   That kind of adventuring is a whole different level!  After breakfast they were on their way pretty quickly, the benefit of travelling light.  

Once I was packed up, I headed out.  The destination was Popoyo Beach, a stretch of good surfing breaks on the Southwestern Coast of Nicaragua, where I had an invite to stay with Monte and Joanna, who had a 2ndhome there.  I had met Monte through an online investing group of likeminded “wanderers” who liked living a mobile lifestyle.   He was kind enough to invite me to stay with them, even though he had never met me in real life.  Brave man for sure!  

I wanted to get out of the heat so I took the Nicaragua 12 up to the mountains above Mangua and rode NIC-2 along the ridgeline separating Managua and the coast.  When I stopped for a break and to take some pics a couple of the local Police that were up there were curious about the bike and talked to me a bit.  It turned out one of them was also a rider.   I wanted to ask them for a picture but Central American police are notoriously camera shy, so I decided against asking.  The views from the ridgeline were beautiful and I wish I had had more time to explore, but I was up against a deadline to be in Costa Rica to meet my wife, who was flying in a few days later.   From the ridgeline I could see Managua and Granada, the two main cities of Nicaragua.  Several of the ubiquitous Central American volcanoes were also visible, but, alas, not to be explored by me.  

I continued back down to the coast and took the turnoff that google told me to take towards Popoyo.  There was another road that would’ve been easier if I had continued further down, but I enjoy taking the lesser-travelled dirt roads, so I continued the 20 miles on the dirt road towards the coast.  It really was not a difficult road at all, but there were quite a few river and creek crossings that, had it rained recently, may have been difficult if not impassable.  As it was the water was fairly low in all of them and I enjoyed the ride to the coast.  I went through several small villages, and, as always, Bella attracted stares because she is clearly not a local bike. 

Monte and Joanna were waiting for me with a cold beer when I arrived.   Their home was beachfront and had beautiful views along with the soothing sound of the pounding surf.  We sat and enjoyed the beer on their patio as we chatted.  Afterwards we walked down the beach to a nice little waterfront restaurant and enjoyed the sunset over dinner.  I slept well that night to the sound of the ocean.  The next day I had to be on the road early for the Costa Rica border crossing, so we said our goodbyes and I headed down the road towards the border, about an hour away.   

On the way to the border I stopped to look at Lake Nicaragua and Ometepe Island in the middle. I had hoped to get over to the island, a popular stopover on the overland route, but once again I found myself short of time. At the Border I checked out of Nicaragua fairly easily bothand then started the process of getting Bella and myself into Costa Rica.  I ran into Ramos again, whom I had first met back at the El Salvador/Honduras border. Bad luck at this border, as I arrived just after two busloads of people and the line for immigration took over an hour.  While waiting in line I met Mark and Christian, two other solo riders who were also headed South to Ushuaia.  Mark was from Fort Collins CO and was riding a highly-modified DR-650, and Christian was on a BMW 1200 GS Adventure.  We were both lucky to have met Christian, because he spoke fluent Spanish and was able to help us with everything, as both Mark and I’s Spanish was more limited. 

After we got ourselves and our bikes imported we went to get the mandatory insurance, and, of course, just as we walked in the one person doing the insurance left on his lunch break for an hour.  Unfortunately for Mark, he was stuck outside the office standing in the heat, and the guard would not let him in until the insurance guy came back.   All in all this was probably the longest crossing I had done to date, as it took me almost five hours in total to go from Nicaragua into Costa Rica.

I headed to El Coco for the evening, a small beach town on the Northwest Pacific coast, but found it to be full of tourist gringos.  It was a little disappointing and not cheap either!  To complement the full tourist experience I even got propostioned by a working girl on my walk back to the hotel after dinner.  I was happy to be gone from there the next day.   As I needed to be in San Jose to meet my wife the next day, and I wanted to get an oil change done. 

 The next day was cloudy and, in the afternoon, rainy.  To avoid traffic I routed up and over a winding 2-lane road which took me over the mountains to the Northeast of the city.  Clouds, drizzle, and fog were the weather of the day in the mountains, and I leap-frogged a line of cars, one at a time, in an attempt to get ahead of the crowd.  As I dropped into San Jose google routed me back on to the highway, where I filtered through the traffic and along the shoulders, doing as the locals did, in order to get to my hotel.  I had decided to treat myself and stayed at the Intercontinental hotel, which gave me a good discount because they put up my airline’s crews there.  They also had a good secure parking garage that they were going to let me keep Bella in for free while I went home for a week of doctors appointments.  

Both Mark and Christian were in San Jose that night as well and we all met for dinner at a little Argentinian steak house downtown.   I found myself wishing I had ridden Bella there rather than taken an Uber, as the evening traffic was horrendous.  At one point it took 25 minutes to go just 100 yards!  

The next day I took Bella to a Piaggio dealer for an oil change and clean up.  Piaggio is the parent company of Aprilia and Motoflix is their main dealer in San Jose.  German, the owner, and his crew took good care of me and got the oil and filter changed as well as gave Bella a good wash and lubed up the chain and had me on my way in a few hours.  I returned to the hotel and then went to pick up my wife and a rental car at the airport. 

My wife and I enjoyed the next 5 days exploring Costa Rica in a car and seeing some of the local flora and fauna.  It was nice to see her again after almost a month!  We spent a few days on the Pacific coast at Manuel Antonio National Park, where we saw Sloths, monkeys, and numerous bird species, and then we went to the mountains for a few days.   We stayed in Los Angeles Cloud forest as well as Arenal volcano, where we enjoyed walking the sky bridges through the jungle canopy.  Again, I found myself wishing we were on Bella rather than the rental car, as the beautiful mountain roads and traffic were much better conquered on two wheels rather than four.

After our short vacation was over, I flew back to the US with my wife so that I could attend to some appointments as well as renew some of my medications.  After just a week at home I flew back down to San Jose alone a few days later to continue riding.  

The flight back was a bit of a nightmare, as mechanical problems meant that our plane arrived 5 hour late.  After not getting to bed until almost 2am that night, the early start I had planned to head to Panama didn’t happen, which put me behind for the next 3 days to Panama city.  

I spent the next three days taking Bella from San Jose to Panama City, and unfortunately I did not do much sightseeing.  I think I was just done with Central America and ready to move on to South America.   It’s a shame because Panama had some beautiful scenery, most of which I viewed from the Panamerican Highway.  I found more speed traps in Panama than anywhere else in Central America.  There were cops with radar all over the highway, and if you were not watching the Waze app, you were bound to get a ticket due to the ridiculously low speed limits and somewhat confusing rules on which speed zone you were actually in.  

Approaching Panama City on Day 3 I encountered the worst rain of the entire journey so far.  The skies opened up and I was soaked through and through in short order.  I didn’t care though because it gave me a break from the oppressive heat.  It wasn’t long before the highway was flooding in some areas and I had to be careful to not get in the splash zone of the many big rigs, lest I be covered in muddy brown water.  

Panama City was huge and modern.  The skyline reminded me a bit of Miami, with a ton of high rises and beaches.  Unfortunately the beaches were not like Miami, as they were covered in filth and trash.  I was kind of glad I wouldn’t be staying in this metropolis more than one night.  

The next morning I was up early and I headed to the Overland Embassy, a business that helps overland travelers with logistics, repairs, and shipping over the Darien Gap.  It is run by Alejandro, an experienced overlander and genuine great guy.  I met Tanguy, another rider, from France, there and we followed Troy, a South African who works for Overland Embassy to the airport where our bikes would be readied for air freight on to the next part of the journey in South America. 

Once Bella was taken care of, I hopped a plane back home for the holidays, which is where I sit as I write this, looking out the window at the snow and temps of 3 degrees F, longing to be back in the warm weather again soon.