Doug Ruth's 1996/97 Trip Report Summary #3
Date: Fri, 8 Nov 1996 10:15:32 -0800
To: BMW -GS motorcycles mailing list
Subject: Trip Report - October Summary
WHERE AM I NOW?
November 30 found me in San Jose, Costa Rica.
Nov 9 - Guatemalan/Honduran border at Copan Ruinas, Honduras
Nov 15 - Honduran/Nicaraguan border near Danli, Honduras
Nov 21 - Nicaraguan/Costa Rican border near Rivas, Nicaragua
BIKE PROBLEMS, REPAIR, AND MAINTENANCE
Nov 5 - Bought a new set of Bridgestone tires in Guatemala City
Nov 21 - Plugged gas tank vent line causes bike to stall several times until
I get it figured out.
BIKE DROPS, SPILLS, AND CRASHES
Nov 24 - Dropped the bike on a rocky uphill section on the dirt road to the
Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve, a private preserve located near the
neighboring towns of Santa Elena and Monteverde, at an elevation of
between 1500 and 1800 meters. The road had a few rocky uphill
stretches, but was not particularly difficult, certainly much less so than
the road around Lake Atitlan. Which probably explains me getting a bit
lax and experiencing my first drop of the trip while riding. I picked the
wrong line on an uphill rocky stretch and the bike ended up in the small
ditch at the side of the road. I actually got the bike stopped, upright,
with me still on it, but was just off-balance enough that I couldn't quite
keep it upright and it slowly leaned over onto it's right side. Between
the cylinder head and the Jessie bag, and the side of the ditch, it really
wasn't leaning over too far, and I quickly had it back upright and easily
rode it out of the ditch and was on my way again. Those kind of drops
really annoy me because they should never have happened in the first
PROBLEMS WITH THEFT, VANDALISM, POLICE, CHECKPOINTS?
Nov 1 - Todos Santos, in the Guatelaman highlands north of Huehuetenango, I
d my "fake" wallet pickpocketed. I say "fake" because it contained only
pired credit cards and an expired drivers license. Normally I only carry
e day's supply of cash, but I had gotten a bit lax and had about 3-4 days
sh, 450Q or about US$90. It was in my right, rear pants pocket, which has
velcro flap. It happened somewhere among the large crowds watching a
rse "race" (see below). From now on I'll carry my replacement "fake"
llet in a front pants pocket.
My "real" wallet, which has my credit cards, ATM card, and drivers license,
is kept in an inside, zipped pocket of my Mountainsmith Tourpack which
I always carry with me when I'm off the bike.
Nov 13 - Tegucigalpa, Honduras
On the street which encircles the National Stadium, I ran a stop
sign which I didn't see since I was concentrating on the crazy traffic
around me. Next thing I know 2 traffic cops on a motorcycle are motioning
me to the side of the road. At that point I still didn't know what was
up. He took my license and bike papers, returning the bike papers after
checking them, but kept my license. Then he explained I had run a stop
sign. I explained I had not seen it, that I was looking at the traffic and
street signs trying to figure out where to turn. He said the ticket was
going to be L300 (US$25) but made no motions to actually write any
kind of ticket, simply repeating that it was coing to cost me L300.
Now in the US US$25 would be cheap for running a stop sign, but in
Honduras that was about a weeks worth of hotel stays, and besides I
only had about L450 left as I was planning to leave Honduras in a couple
of days. If I paid him L300 I'd have to hassle with finding a bank and
exchanging more money. Besides,I had a feeling the L300 was an inflated
bribe going in his pocket, and for the average Honduran it would be a lot
less. So I said I didn't have L300. He reiterated the ticket was
L300. He said a lot of other things which I honestly didn't understand
to which I always said "No comprendo", and reiterated that I hadn't seen
the sign and that I didn't have L300.
I think he thought I was saying I didn't think there was a stop sign since
he finally said to get back on my bike and he led me back around the
stadium and pointed to the offending sign. I clearly had run it and was
guilty, but I still was not going to pay him L300. We rode back to where
he first pulled me over, and once again got off the bikes. Again he said
the ticket would be L300, but still made no motions to write anything up.
Again I replied I didn't have L300. He said more stuff which I didn't
understand to which I again replied "No comprendo". It was at this point
I began to get images in my mind of being thrown in jail over $25, so the
next time he said it was L300, I said I didn't have L300, but that I did
have L100. I still wasn't ready to pay L300, but L100 i could live with.
Somewhat surprisingly, he basically ignored what I said and repeated that
the ticket was L300.
During all this there were several periods when nothing was being said,
both of us I guess assessing the situation and what our next move should
be. During several of these we actually digressed from the immediate
situation at hand and talked about my bike and my trip. I thought that
was good, since we were relating on more common ground, and on a
When he still insisted the ticket would be L300, I decided to change my
tactics, and said "Vamos a estacion de policia" (Let's go to the police
station). Not surprisingly he basically ignored this as well. We went
through several more iterations of his saying the ticket was L300, and me
saying I didn't have L300, and let's go to the police station. Finally he
hands my license to his partner, who was standing next to me and my bike,
and gets back on his bike. I'm not sure what he wanted; he made some
motions like he wanted me to follow him and said some things I didn't
understand to which I again replied "no comprendo", and initiated a
conversation with his partner who now had my license. In any case I
wasn't going anywhere my license wasn't going. The other guy then rides
away on his bike, leaving the other officer and I standing there by my
Did I mention that this officer carried a submachine gun? Now I had
images of the other officer getting the paddy wagon to haul me away,
leaving the bike by the side of the road for the thieves. A couple of
minutes he was back. He takes the license from his partner, and motions
for his partner to get on the bike behind him. He then hands my license
back to me. I say "Todos?" and he says "Si", to which I reply "Muchas
gracias, senor" and they rode away. Cost: L0.00. I quickly got on my bike
and rode away before he could change his mind.
Basically I think what was going on was that the L300 would have gone into
his pocket, that the official fine for running a stop sign was much less,
and when he saw I was not going to pay the L300 and insisted on going to
the police station, decided it wasn't worth the hassle. Plus our having
related as motorcyclists, if even for a bit, probably helped when he
saw I wasn't going to pay the bribe.
Nov 23 - Stopped by Costa Rican Transit Police in a radar trap. One cop
was riding a BMW R80 and just wanted to talk bikes. No ticket. Got a photo
of him and his bike before I left.
Nov 24 - Transit Police checkpoint. They simply checked my papers and
waved me on.
Nov 28 - Thanksgiving Day - While eating breakfast in a small restaurant in
San Jose, Costa Rica, my Mountainsmith Fannypack was stolen. It contained
all my documents, including my passport, motorcycle title, and Costa Rican
entry papers for the bike, my "real" wallet with my credit cards (Amex and
Visa), ATM card, California drivers license, my small Yashica camera,
a guidebook, the bag with my computer accessories including a critical
modem cable, US$530 of Amex travellers checks, about US$80 in Colones, and
several rolls of exposed film..
I had set the bag on the seat to my left and was reading email on my
computer (which is why it wasn't stolen; on the other hand if I hadn't been
engrossed in my email, my fannypack might not have been stolen.) A man
tapped me on my right shoulder and, pointing to the floor, asked if I had
dropped my money. Not thinking through the possible consequences, I bent
over to pick up the money which was slightly behind me, thanked him, and
went back to reading my email. It wasn't until 10-15 minutes later that
I glanced over to my left and saw my pack was missing. Of course by then
the thieves were long gone. I filed a police report and immediately
called Amex and Visa to report the cards missing. My travellers checks
were replaced that same day.
The next day a man found most of my documents in the gutter about 20
blocks away, called the US Embassy, and later brought them by my hotel.
All my documents except for my passport, credit cards, Calif. drivers
licence, half my motorcycle title (I have a copy of the entire title),
and one personal check were recovered. However, the same day as the
robbery, the thieves charged more than US$7000 on my two credit cards.
Fortunately, since I reported them stolen immediately, I won't have to
pay those charges.
Because of the Thanksgiving weekend I was not able to get my new passport
until the following Monday. I wasn't able to receive my new credit cards
until about a week later in Panama City, and the modem cable was not
replaced until January 23 in Quito, Ecuador when I received another
sent to me from the States by Paul Thompson.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE MONTH
- Todos Santos, Guatemala - Culmenation of their weeklong festival on All
Saints Day, November 1. Highlight of the day was the horse "race" in
which participants rode from one end of the town to the other, stopping
at each end to take a drink. The "winner" was the rider still on his
horse at the end of the day.
- Chichicastenango, Guatemala - big Sunday marketplace.
- Mayan Ruins at Copan, Honduras
- Views of Tegucigalpa, Honduras from the peak El Picacho and the
Parque y Monumento a la Paz (Peace Park and Monument) atop a nearby hill.
- The huge gothic Basilica de Suyapa, which dominates a hillside in the
village of Suyapa, Honduras.
- The colonial architecture and cathedrals in the cities of Leon and
- Volcan Masaya in Nicaragua which was spewing huge clouds of sulphurous
gas when I rode up to the top.
- Volcan Arenal, near La Fortuna, Costa Rica, and it's spectacular
nighttime eruptions, and the nearby Tabacon Hot Springs.
- Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve in Costa Rica
WHAT WAS MY ROUTE?
The following is a brief summary of my route, naming the city/town I stayed
in that night.
1 Todos Santos, Guatemala
2-3 Chichicastenango, Guatemala
4-7 San Bartolome Milpas Atlas, Guatemala (near Antigua)
8 Chiquimula, Guatemala
9 Copan Ruinas, Honduras
10 Comayagua, Honduras
11-12 Tegucigalpa, Honduras
13 Valle de Angeles, Honduras
14 San Juancito, Honduras
15-16 Matagalpa, Nicaragua
17-18 Leon, Nicaragua
19-20 Grenada, Nicaragua
21-22 Liberia, Costa Rica
23 La Fortuna, Costa Rica
24 Monteverde, Costa Rica
25-30 San Jose, Costa Rica
WHERE AM I HEADED FROM HERE?
Read next months summary and you'll know where I went.