rfay's blog

(Our monthly email) Trip Update

Sloth and baby
Sloth and baby (View on flickr)
We're about halfway on our trip now! We've cycled almost 10,000 miles (16,000 kilometers) now since we started out June 9, 2006 at Inuvik, Northwest territories, Canada.

We arrived in Panama City about 10 days ago and are taking a break now before going on to South America. Nancy flew to California for three weeks to help out her dad, who has been ill. He's much better now, but her help at home is much appreciated. She'll be back in early April and we're planning to take a boat to Cartagena, Colombia to begin the South American chapter of our trip.  (What, you say? "I thought you weren't going to Colombia?" Well, what we hear from everybody we've met and even from the US State Department is that Colombia has improved markedly in the last few years and is an absolutely wonderful place to visit. So we'll keep our eyes and ears open and go that way.)

We have pictures for you: Costa Rica and Panama pictures and Nicaragua Pictures

And the map of our Central America route is complete so you can see exactly where we went.

Into Panama - We're already in Panama City

Tagged:  •  
Entering Panama
Entering Panama (View on flickr)

We got to Panama from Costa Rica about ten days ago and have been working our way the (fairly long) length of the country.

We crossed an old railroad bridge to get across the border from Costa Rica on the little-used border crossing on the Caribbean - once again, no problems and no hassles, although we had to wait an hour or so for the single Panamanian clerk to get back from lunch or something.

From the border we rode another couple of hours to get to the pier for the water taxi to the main island of Bocas del Toro, a fantastic touristy area with lots of snorkelling and completely overrun with tourists. We had a very pleasant day snorkeling, seeing the brightest and most beautiful coral we've ever seen. Then we got back on a water taxi, went to the mainland, and started the ride through Panama.

Sights from the boat to Bocas del Toro
Sights from the boat to Bocas del Toro (View on flickr)

In northern Panama we saw some amazing living situations - lots of shacks on the water, or in other areas on stilts. We rode through indigenous areas with people in more traditional clothes.

The second day out, we had the honor of doing our biggest one-day climb of the entire trip, over 6000 feet (almost 2000 meters). We crossed over the Continental Divide, hitting a maximum elevation of 4200 feet, and then descending the whole thing. The Caribbean side was mostly virgin rainforest, with waterfalls.  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

Costa Rica: Just a quick visit

White faced capuchin monkey at Cahuita
White faced capuchin monkey at Cahuita (View on flickr)

One of the delights of bike touring is that you spend most of your time in between big important tourism centers, instead of just going from one gringo hotspot to another. We get to meet ordinary people who are fascinated with us and have lots of questions and freely share their time and enthusiasm with us. And they are ordinary people who have not gotten jaded or tired of gringos or tourists. This is how the vast majority of our time in Mexico and Central America has been.

Then comes the famous tourist mecca of Costa Rica. Even though we've been here before, we didn't realize that the entire country has transformed itself into one huge vacation resort, almost an eco-Disneyland. We hardly passed a mile-long stretch in the whole country that didn't have tourist facilities and a sign in English. And we weren't in the main tourist part of the country! We probably didn't stay anyplace where there wasn't somebody that spoke English. Costa Rica is doing a fantastic job catering to tourists from all over the world, including all over Europe, the US and Canada, the Far East, and even places like Argentina. And there are no armed guards at the banks, which is a good sign. And it seems every town has a beautiful bakery where you can get fresh baked goods early in the morning.  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

Nicaragua Tidbits

Tagged:  •  
All the beautiful hills between Matiguas and Rio Blanco
All the beautiful hills between Matiguas and Rio Blanco (View on flickr)

We found Nicaragua to be a delightful country. Despite the fact that all any of us remember about it is the war in the 80s and the US involvement in it, Nicaragua is a tranquil, safe, and friendly place. We didn't have to pretend that we weren't Americans... We were received with great friendliness everywhere we went. We found no vestiges of the 1980's socialist agenda, and museums were the only obvious physical relics of the wars.

We had heard various things about safety in Nicaragua, but what we found was a country where nobody seems worried about crime at all (except in Managua, which we didn't visit). Nicaragua is reputedly the safest country in Central America, possi bly including Costa Rica in that tally. Sometimes in Guatemala and Honduras when we would ask about a particular back road we would be warned off: "not enough people there, not enough police, dangerous", in Nicaragua we'd ask and they'd say "oh, yeah, that's great, no problems with delinquency here".

All this and Nicaragua is the most resource-poor country in Latin America, with a per-capita average income for the whole country of just $700 or so. We saw some pretty simple shacks, and there are far more outhouses in rural Nicaragua than there are flush toilets. There may not be any flush toilets in rural Nicaragua.  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

APLV: Visits to actual communities getting water projects

Everything decorated for the Okawas ribbon-cutting ceremony
Everything decorated for the Okawas ribbon-cutting ceremony (View on flickr)

We visited three impressive communities getting drinkable water in the Rio Blanco area. One was just in the preparation and funding stages, one was partly done, and the third was complete and beautiful, with a very remote community having clean, healthy drinking water 24 hours per day. I'll start with the one that was finished and work back to the one that was just about to get started.


We had the delight of visiting the community of Okawás for the official ribbon cutting and handover ceremony for the new system. We got in a truck at 5;30 in the morning and drove for a couple of hours to a river crossing beyond which there was no road, crossed the river in a long motorized canoe, and then got on mules for the hour-long ride to the village. The trail started out pretty easy, but turned into some pretty impressive muddy and rocky ups and downs. With our little experience with horses we were a little nervous about how they were going to navigate the difficult terrain, but they did better than we would have.  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

The Island of Ometepe, our last hurrah in Nicaragua

View of one volcano on island of Ometepe from high on the other
View of one volcano on island of Ometepe from high on the other (View on flickr)

After riding back south from Rio Blanco in Nicaragua we spent one night at the tourist town of Granada, the port town at the north of Nicaragua. It's all full of tourists from all over the world, an easy gringo destination with a nice climate and beach and lake and great gringo services. Made us a little crazy though. In the morning we got on the 3-times-per-week ferry out to the island of Ometepe, in the middle of the lake. It took four hours and we got in after dark, but the next morning we found a beautiful island with a pair of dramatic volcanoes. We spent 3 days exploring and waiting for the ferry that would take us all the way to the bottom of the lake where we crossed into Costa Rica. If you ever want an easy place to get away from it all and spend a week or so with a really easy lifestyle, Ometepe is the place. So laid back and beautiful. Cheap. Good tourist services. Lots of hikes and things, and you're in the middle of a huge lake so there's lots of beaches and beachfront hotels. A very nice place.

We crossed into Costa Rica today

We crossed over into Costa Rica today after a long ferry ride on Lake Nicaragua and then a river boat ride up the Rio Frio into Los Chiles, Costa Rica. There are new photos on the photos page and the map of the route with all the details it up to date through Rio Blanco. And there are lots of articles on the incredible project and people at Agua Para La Vida at Rio Blanco.

APLV: The Potable Water Technical School

Gilles Burkhardt (French engineer professor at the potable water school) with the students
Gilles Burkhardt (French engineer professor at the potable water school) with the students (View on flickr)

Agua Para La Vida is committed to truly sustainable solutions, and they have demonstrated it in the most significant way by actually starting a school for Potable Water Technicians.

The initial little tiny project that APLV did back in the 1980's, of course, was mostly done by brigades of volunteers coming down for a few weeks at a time. But when you do that, your project has little hope of being maintainable, because there is inadequate in-country expertise. To counter this, APLV started up the "Escuela Tecnica para Agua Potable", or Technical School for Potable Water back in the 1990's. It's a fully accredited 2+ year class involving every aspect of potable water design and development, including the theory and practice of planning and engineering the delivery systems and including everything else that APLV does with a project. Three classes have now graduated, and the fourth class (of 8 students) is about halfway through. For this class, 70 students from all over Nicaragua applied for the full-ride scholarship (including room, board, and tuition), and just the 8 slots were available. But what an education they get. They come out with all the mathematics and engineering to do technical work on water systems, and have a fully-accredited "Bachelor" degree, similar to an honors technical high school degree. Their presence in various organizations throughout Nicaragua means that projects don't have to spend money on high-priced consultants to do the work that these specialized technicians can do. APLV's "ETAP" school is the only school graduating water technicians in Nicaragua.  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

Syndicate content