My sleep-haunted cries came only as stifled whimpers, muffled by my clamped jaws and the bedding. What started as the previous evening’s premonition had been driven home with startling swiftness that morning. Jason rousted me from my slumber with, “Come on lazy bones, GET UP.” The coincidence of our hostel being called ‘Lazy Bones’ wasn’t wasted on me. Regardless. It was official; our trip in the tropics had turned into motorcycle boot camp. I didn’t dare to ascertain the time for which my morbid curiosity so desperately wanted to know. Too late, I was told. “Pass me my spork would you, darling and I can spoon your eyes out,” was my preferred response at 4.56am—fuelled by a desire for a sense of well-meted justice. You could even say I’m not a morning person.
“Huh?” was the almost imperceptible noise grunted from the most vocally awake part of me as I opened an eyelid midway. My voice had a curiously far-off timbre, like that of a child awakened from a dream and not wholly in this world. Having willingly agreed to riding in the wee hours—before the tormenting heat seared both us and the bikes—didn’t sugar the pill in dutifully carrying out the said promise. For a moment, our stares locked, a battle of wills escalating. Abruptly, Jason made a beeline for my neck and licked it like a slobbering dog. I was utterly defenceless and burst into a fit of giggles.
Alas, it was time to claw back lost time in Costa Rican bike delays and make some serious headway. Time to get my ‘hardcore biker’ on. I was too sleepy to be remotely concerned at the prospect of making a presence in three Central American countries and undertaking their befuddling border crossings in between each one, before the day was out. Previously, I’d spent an hour taking the salient points down from Shannon’s wealth of border reports by motorcycle, my biking buddy’s comprehensive set of golden procedures (available on S&M Boiler Works).
I felt prepared más o menos, even if my bullet points would have to work in reverse for us; our friends’ foray into the Americas was southbound. No matter, the plethora of processes one has to go, ride, pay, scribe, jump, yawn, photocopy, pay some more and wait through might actually make just as much sense using the pertinent pointers against the epic levels of border chaos we’d seen to date.
Foremost, Pearl seemed to be enjoying herself. At last! Politely answering (for the most part) Jason’s same question, “Has the light come on?” on and off for a day-long period was understandably natural from him and unbegrudgingly anticipated by me. “Nope.” Boy oh boy, “Still no but if the status changes, you’ll be the first to know.” Jase listened to my words but found nothing placating in them. I too didn’t want to breakdown in 40 degree heat that settled like a suffocating blanket on the soul; appreciating the bigger picture of how my bike had started to affect the progress of the trip on top.
“The Kawasaki fan must be working,” Jason verbalised the words a little disbelieving. I agree! Pearl will live to die another day. I felt euphoric knowing Jason had worked his mechanical magic, reaping his leisure time back tenfold. Sourcing certain parts for Pearl in Central America was often far from a cinch. Still, she’s an absolute pearler for accepting a fan from another brand of bike—riveted into her original fan housing—and I’m glad I didn’t lose the faith in my fair lady.
On the approach to the Honduras border, potholes started rearing their ugly black backsides; just about every combination of size and depth from ankle-deep ones that would conceal a skate board to others that would swallow the wheel arches of your motorcycle. But the border itself? Apart from being fumigated myself (it’s usually just your tyres)—it was a breeze! The ‘Ghostbusters’ backpack clad guy decided to smoke out the entire Aduana office to exterminate all pests including any pesky people. Well at least there’s no flies on me. I’d read that particular border near Somotillo (the NIC-24 road onto CA-3) was a busy one, so had utterly convinced myself we’d have to endure another snafu-induced border of travail and vexation.
But no, incredibly. It was ridiculously early and therefore quiet, our paperwork was in order and hence the officials’ reactions were made marginally quicker. And we were lucky in getting competent border personnel to process the piles of paper exchanged. I also had no qualms in indulging a teenage kid, Levington who very sweetly showed me where to go, while his mate Kenny watched the bikes for us when Jason was required to surrender his bike permit in person. Jason’s job ordinarily is to stay with the bikes and snaffle any snacks being sold, both of which he performs admirably.
Fixers at the Central American borders aren’t essential if you’ve mastered even survival Spanish—and it’s not as though we don’t know the basics of Latin American crossings by now (inside out and backwards)—but what a perfect way to get rid of your loose currency in coins.
The nasty pits of evil however became noticeably bigger and more frequent once we’d crossed into Honduras for a good few miles. Having failed to miss a couple of them down the shaded tree-lined roads—many manipulated to grow their branches bent over forming an arch with the opposite tree’s; peculiar as they were perpendicular—I hit Pearl’s front end hard. Sorry sweetheart, I do want you to stay peachy I promise—even if my riding coerces you to the contrary.
Next up: adios Honduras and hola El Salvador. Having not even put the side stands down for a bite to eat in Honduras, I’m not sure you can count jumping into the bushes to attend the by-products of hydration as experiencing the country, let alone stepping foot in it. Hey ho, we were itching to get into El Salvador, beyond contented to skip Honduras so kept going.
I was indebted to all that encountered me on leaving Nicaragua, entering and exiting Honduras and rolling into El Salvador. Namely because Jason’s passport is rapidly running short on space and every single person armed with a stamp—those inky bad boys get bigger when travelling on a bike through Central America—was accommodating in consuming the creases of the passport pages or overlapping other stamps where I pleaded. Definitely my day for border crossings; if not always efficient or clear-cut, it was still a painless effort overall. Long may that last for the remainder…
Our bitchin’ border day was made complete once we’d garnered the information that the customs office in El Salvador responsible for processing our temporary import vehicle permits, was four kilometres down the road. That also entailed swinging a left down a dusty track from the country’s border, forget the customs next door to immigration (there solely for declaring goods and paying taxes). Pointless trying to seek any logic behind or signs to the obscure location, this is Centro América bebé..!
El Salvador greeted us with the gentle lines of textbook conical volcanoes and the soft floppy ears of Brahman cows and their calves, grazing by the roadside. Others were poised and perfectly still—basking in the sun on the highway amid massive US style trucks, cars and motorcyclists zooming either side of them. So docile in demeanour was this Gertrude-esque group of road users, little and less could be done to entice them to budge. At least pick a lane my lovelies, any lane. I slammed the brakes on to stop just in time and watch one liberally lay some ‘pipe’; a welcoming gift if you like.
Eight hours of biking and a trio of countries in 100 degrees Fahrenheit, becoming the subject of intense observation from some unabashed staring at us astride our wheels, over the day that just ‘kept on giving’—took us to a utopia around 45 miles from the border. Playa Río Mar was situated between Playa de Shalpa and El Zonte; a small, secluded palm-backed beach next to its glamorous counterpart, the tourist jam-packed resort.
The stretch of sand before us was deserted—I’m not sure our day could’ve got much better. We picked a gorgeous spot to make camp amongst the tall shady palms on a soft grassy green, laid out only the sleeping mats and ditched the suits for our swimmers. I couldn’t lose the layers quick enough, get me in that sparkling blue water! In the campsite manager’s absence, access to a supply of fresh or even brackish water remained cut so we resided ourselves to a cat-lick in the Pacific. The water was tranquil and tepid, and although I came out less a layer of sweat and sun cream, I was covered in patches of sand. Who the heck cares, I ask you?
Jason dutifully fetched two takeaway dinners from a nearby restaurant while I cracked open a couple of beers having met the owners and handed over $5 fabulous dollars for our stay. We clinked our bottles as elation crept into the set of our mouths: Pearl, our border endeavours and progress inside a day had gone swimmingly. Blatantly better than the last four weeks combined. “Cheers little ears!” we celebrated as I grinned at Jase. Those Pearl-induced jitters began to wiggle out of Jason’s gut like roundworms and that unsettling notion he’d been feeling broke free to scarper from his soul. “I feel really mellow, Lise. And happy that your bike didn’t give us any problems.” His worry had finally gone to water, for now at least, which told me normal times had just hit town again.
Post a cursory shower, the blaze of sunset ignited the translucent vestiges of clouds that limned the sky. Faded wooden beach huts sandblasted smooth, stood on the sun-baked shores. The rhythmic chorus of the ocean intensified, the retreating surf flooded the shore and contracted into the whispering waves.
I watched the vast sea of amber sky transform into an endless deepening blue. The moon’s face crept over the horizon and sprinkled the sky with diamond fires—its bright countenance tarnishing the land with a silver sheen and light blazing so brightly, that it shadowed each blade of grass. “Look at that one over there,” Jason pointed upwards. Slow and pompous, a fiery strut, a star that knew it was a star.
I hit the wall. Peeling into bed below a sultry, moonlit sky, I let my eyes slip shut for just a second—and then the ground started to curve beneath me, and I felt myself spiraling slowly downward, back into a bottomless slumber.