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

                          November Summary


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


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.


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


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
 non-confrontational basis.

 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.


- 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
  Grenada, Nicaragua.

- 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


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


Read next months summary and you'll know where I went.

Doug Ruth