Thursday, July 9, 2015

Lake Apoyo, Volcano Mombacho and border crossing Nicaragua to Costa Rica (24. - 27.6.2015)

Thanks you dear patrons. I would call this a success and we already reached our first goal! We are impressed!
An almost 2km ride to the Hostal Paradiso
Dead tired Skippy (heat and mental and life and everything) and girls keep her nice and warm since it was soo cold with only +32C :D
Most of the time we hung out at the terrace.
Interesting looking vehicle ... some brakes but no drive - I guess its downhill-only ;)
I got already a "taste" of that steep hill when I rode to Volcano Masaya but since the bike was very empty it was pretty easy. Leaving the campsite Punta el Cacique with a fully loaded bike with sidecar became a major drama. Here is what happened there.

Now that my bike was fully loaded I was somewhat more skeptical how I will manage this steep hill. We were amused by the many cars which had severe trouble to get up that hill, now it was our turn to amuse the staff. I describe my attempt like that. I took a good acceleration from the flat part and started to steer the sharp left turn uphill (not a good combination for a hack with sidecar on the right side). My front wheel was desperately seeking grip and did not find much whereas the rear wheel was pushing forward. I was drifting to the right side at the same time trying to steer the hack to the left. I almost hit the wall and about half way the bike came to a stall. Darn!

Now I had to roll the bike backwards and to my big surprise the bike was just sliding downhill even when I had all breaks applied. In my opinion, this is a tiny flaw in the brake system design. The sidecar wheel cannot go on block on purpose which is fine for everyday life. Obviously the power from the footbrake towards the front wheel is much bigger compared to the power towards the rear wheel. Once more in breaking situation while driving forward this is excellent, now it almost led to disaster. All brake power is on the front wheel. The wheel blocked thus no steering was anymore possible. The bike was sliding wherever gravity pulled. I let go off the brake for a short moment to steer the bike more left in order to avoid the nearer-coming wall. Then back applying brakes and sliding downhill some more. I barely came to a stand just before the ditch and the house on the next lower level.

We moved the bike into a bit better and more straight starting position and my second attempt was more successful. This was until I reached the top. There I had to do a sharp left turn, first over a ditch and then uphill. Maybe I was not in my best and already out of concentration from the hill climb. I rode straight into a fence pole. Dong! I pulled the bike a bit back and then rode it where it was more even, ready for Skippy to continue.

Riding the Suzi up the hill was a piece of cake. No problem at all. A few minutes later we arrived at Hostal Paradiso and checked-in into our room with double bed, fan and private bath room.
Captain: Engineering - damage report! ...
Protective rails damaged but holding up, Sir. Some paint gone, no worries, Captain!
I felt sorry for girls. At least they did not get injured.
And then Wolfi had his hike to the Volcano Mombacho.
The camera was leveled! The street has such a steep grade that I had to walk tiptoeing while climbing uphill.
I made it to the top which was in total fog and thus I did not see a thing of the crater :D
A few monkeys jumped along on my way back down. Hard to catch with the camera against the bright sky.
Or then they were hiding in the trees.

The heat gave Skippy a hard time. Seriously! And then we had electric cut for almost the entire day.

Bordercrossing Nicaragua - Costa Rica

About 2.5km before the actual border crossing there was a police check point for commercial traffic. Ignore and have a good last ride through Nicaragua. I would say that I learned my lessons after the past chaotic border crossings and I thought already in advance what to do now differently to be more efficient. First of all I rode by all the trucks which were parking at the right side. The rules for commercial traffic and private are different.

Then there comes a gate on the left side and the right side of the road seems to continue into the village. The approach of several fixers told me that I am on the right track. I asked those guys whether they are police or customs and since they said no I made it clear to them that I will not speak to them by absolute any means (it is still important to check because the officials might just look like those fixers). That helped!

Then I presented the Nicaragua bike papers, a lady gave me the (A5-size) exit form to fill and she signed some of those papers (mistake: make sure she signs the A5 paper exit paper as well as the A4 customs paper which you had already before!). Then there is a blue container on legs and before that you need to turn left to take of immigration and customs. Since I did not remember, we went straight to the exit point of the area and the checking police man just send us back :D

Immigration was very easy. I had to call Skippy because she needed to show her face, too. I had to pay 100Nio for the both of us (exit fee). Some lady was yelling into my ear that I would need to buy some municipal thing - I just ignored her.

Thanks to some other local travelers I found the customs guy easily (typically hanging around the area). He inspects the bikes and signs the both forms for each vehicle (Here we noted that the police lady forgot to sign some papers, I took the Suzi, rode back and got the missing signatures). After that I needed to re-locate the customs guy again. He signed the papers and then I went to the customs counter opposite to immigration (most likely there is a small cue).

This lady put her stamp and signature on the papers (Skippy needed to show her face here as well) and after that the police lady which was sitting on her (big fat) ass and chewing some gum signed and stamped the papers. Now we had collected all the required stamps and the police at the exit check point let us through.

Some hundred meters later there was the Costa Rica side. I parked the bike in shade so that our chocolate would not melt and girls would have it a bit easier. I went first to immigration. There were only a few people before us. The police man at the door gave us a tiny entry slip which we filled out while waiting. A few minutes later we had our entry stamp in the passports. I checked the dates and we got the typical 90 days permit to stay.

Then to the customs office which is opposite of immigration. First we had to knock that somebody would show up at the window. There was even a guideline with pictures on the wall on what to do and where to get insurance from (a map would be much more helpful but never mind)! The lady was very friendly and asked whether the title I gave to her was original or copy ... it was a copy of the original title.

Ever since we left the US I only used a color-copy of our bike titles - never the original. The reason for this was that the title of the BMW is two pages and I have seen officiers ripping it apart in Africa to make copies. No way my friend and since then I use my high quality color copy! Anyway she was the first ever to ask this question. Imagine that! Getting a vehicle with falsified papers across is obviously easy.

As my sidecar was standing there, girls were overlooking the border hassle, Skippy noted a guy looking at girls and she could read the word "agro... " on his batch or shirt. Then the vet came to us and asked whether those were our dogs. Of course we said yes and he wanted to see some papers. After there was a good moment to turn away from the bike paperwork I gave him girls' passports, the health certificates from Mexico and showed him the stamp on the backside from the El Salvador border vet. He looked at all of that, shook his head somewhat and said "ok". That was easy :)
A big black street dog was sleeping under the table where he checked the papers!

The line at immigration had just become infinite due to the fact that one or several buses had unloaded their human cargo and all of this folks queued up now.

We were almost done with customs when the lady looked once more the title of the Suzi and asked me whether this is a copy or the original. By then it became clear to her it was a copy and I told her that the original is packed deep in the bike. She wrote the word "copy" on the permission, came out to check the VIN number and then told me how to get to the place to purchase the obligatory vehicle insurance. We had a good chat about English and Spanish language and I told her that I speak four languages, Spanish not being one of them (yet).

The insurance booth was a bit tricky to find since there were so many trucks parked all over and I had trouble to find signs. After asking some truckers I found the building and it even looked like the picture at the customs booth indicated. This is important (since I did not get it first, we tried to leave, were stopped at the exit check-point and sent back)!

First, you get the one-size-fits-all insurance (13.000C per bike for 3 months - or 25USD). There were no options. Then one needs to take a bunch of copies from passport, title, insurance paper etc. (check the list at the insurance booth - only in Spanish), go to the copy down the ramp of the building, make the copies and back up the ramp now to the customs office (entrance at the short side of the building). I had to call Skippy to the counter because the guy wanted to see her face. After I got the final papers for the bikes, I checked the documents and I noted that again my passport info was wrong. I told the guy and he had to do it all over again. Five minutes later we were out of the booth and this time we had all papers in place and were allowed to enter Costa Rica.

We paid a total of about 30USD (100Nio for both to leave Nicaragua, 13.000C for 90days insurance for each bike and 300C for a few copies).

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