Friday, April 22, 2011

I'm a tourist, you're a tourist, we're all tourists!

Traveling south on my motorcycle, I was a motorcyclist, an adventure rider and a traveler.  I guess I was a surfer too seeing that I have a surfboard mounted on my bike, and yes, I've caught some waves.  I normally don't put myself into the surfer category as I'm kind of a hack, but when it comes down to it, I'm a surfer too.  Over the past week, since my visit to the Panama Canal, I feel like a tourist.  I am a tourist.  I've been a tourist from the moment I left Canada, but I haven't really embraced it until now.  Lately, I've gone on a few tours, I've been taking more photos and I'm asking for directions.  I even got lost yesterday, went up a wrong set of roads and it was great.  Aren't tourists supposed to get lost and ask for directions?  The past week as a tourist has been fantastic.  I guess I need a hat, a tourist hat.  

Leaving my Hotel in Casco Viejo, Panama City, this little guy was certain he was about to join my adventures
"Where do I sign up?  I'm in!"  Problem was, we couldn't find him a helmet small enough...

A couple of friends from Canada did a cycle tour trip from Guatemala south to Panama a few years ago.  Before embarking on my adventure, we got together for dinner, drinks and a gab-session about places that stood out for them on their trip.  I took them up on one of their suggestions and headed into the northern mountains of Panama to a little town called Boquete.  I ended up spending 3 nights, going on a fun afternoon ride through the mountains, hitting up a coffee tour, and taking care of some well needed maintenance on my bike.  I can now recommend Boquete, a wonderful place to visit. 

Getting prepped for oil change numero dos on Rojo in addition to some work on my drive train.
An afternoon ride through Boquete on an unloaded bike = :)

Boquete, Panama - Coffee Country

 Trip Summary:

Total distance covered to date = 10,744 kms. 
Rojo's performance = Purring like a kitten
Whats been on my iPod = 'd' - all of the above (ranging from: Vampire Weekend, Phoenix, Bob Marley, Sean Hayes, Alexi Murdoch, the XX... to Fleetwood Mac, Madonna, Manu Chao, and much, much more!  (Muchas gracias mi amiga DJ Lana-G)
Fun Factor = High to very high, fully-funtastic!
Flowers = to the people I've met, to Baja overland, to the waves in El Salvador, to the Panama Canal, to the ride in and out of Lago Attitlan (Guatemala), to my Dad for chill time in Baja, to my money making bribe in Honduras, to the Rio Pacuare... this list could go on forever...
Fish-heads = to a hotel in southern Mexico, to the highwinds in southern Nicaragua, to the bus in my lane, to the bee that stung me at 100kph (oh yeah, you are dead!), to itchy ankle biter bug-bites, to sweating profusely at border crossings in my riding gear, to douche touts, and to the dog that almost bit me.

Trooper Award = this goes out to my bike Rojo, I've been putting him through the wringer and he rarely complains. 

Me and Rojo, posing large
Beautiful Boquete, Panama

Coffee. Java. Joe. Cafe.  To some people, 'the elixir of life', to me, a well enjoyed social drink that sometimes provides me with the jitters.  I enjoy coffee, but I normally don't prepare it on my own.  I enjoy going out for coffee with friends, going to the local coffee house and getting one to-go, and I used to enjoy drinking coffee with my Mom.  Coffee is something that is a part of my life and it will undoubtedly continue to do so on a very social basis. 

Special thanks, props, and kudos to my Boquete neighbour Paulina from Argentina.  Paulina provided me with encouragement and support to embrace my inner tourist while in Boquete.  We went together as touristas on a coffee tour in Boquete and it was fantastic, informative and very interesting.  Our guide 'Felix' took us up into the mountains of Boquete to the creative and eccentric 'one-man-show' plantation owned by Don Alfredo.  Tito - as people call him, named his company and coffee 'Royal Cafe' after his parents. Tito has world class Panamanian coffee that has been receiving awards and praise for years on end and he takes a great deal of pride in every cup o' Joe he prepares. 

Finca La Milagrosa, Boquete, Panama
A variety of berries at the Royal Cafe plantation
Starting out as a fruit

Seeds in the middle of the fruit...
Felix showing Paulina and I the wide variety of plants each producing their unique fruits

Separation and drying systems

Discussing the process of separation and drying

Seeds after drying before having husks removed

Drying houses and roll-out racks that Tito custom designed

Each bag is printed in house and then dried before filling and then shipping

Tito roasting light, medium and dark in a small scale roaster to show us the process
Paulina and I enjoying Tito's final product!  Cafecito!  Salud!
After my few days in Boquete, I headed back north into Costa Rica and high into the misty mountains.  The ride was incredible but quite demanding.  I logged 531kms and maxed out at an elevation of roughly 3300m in the cold, misty cloud-forests of Costa Rica.  It was the first time in weeks that I had to don my rain gear and I was sure happy to reach my destination of the day, Turrialba, Costa Rica - the hub of whitewater rafting and kayaking.

I had the funniest thing happen my first morning in Turrialba.  I headed to the morning market right behind the hotel I was staying at to pick up some fruit and vegetables.  I sat down on a bench to enjoy some pineapple and got to chatting with a local from the area.  It turns out that I was sitting beside a former whitewater National Champion kayaker of Costa Rica.  He mentioned it had been years since he had been on the water and he thought it would be fun to pick it up again.  I told him he should get back on the water, and then I agreed to join him for a day on the Rio Pacuare, one of Costa Rica's premier whitewater runs.  It was a brilliant, world-class run that my new friend truly enjoyed... his name was Briano Alejandro.  You should have seen this old-guy paddle!  

I took this photo from my Hotel room window in Turrialba, Costa Rica - had to navigate my camera through the bars on the window.  The morning market where I met Briano Alejandro.

Unloading boats and rafts at the put-in of the Rio Pacuare, Costa Rica
Former national champion, Briano Alejandro getting prepped for a day on the water
Rio Pacuare, Costa Rica
Rio Pacuare

A great group of guides getting lunch prepped on the Rio Pacuare, Costa Rica
Loads of rafting companies running the Rio Pacuare on a daily basis
Floating through the final canyon of the Rio Pacuare

Briano Alejandro giving a 'thumbs-up' to a great day back on the water

Rio Pacuare
From my exciting couple of days in Turrialba, I headed north and then west into a tourist hub of Costa Rica known as Santa Elena and Monteverde.  I guess back in 1983, National Geographic plugged this area as THE place to view one of Central America's most famous birds - the resplendent quetzal.  

En route to Monteverde, I passed Costa Rica's most famous Volcan Arenal.  From here, I zipped through the town of La Fortuna, around the north end of Laguna de Arenal and then down onto a dusty, bouncy 45km dirt track into the pueblo of Santa Elena. 

Volcan Arenal, Costa Rica
The constantly active Volcan Arenal, Costa Rica
Looping around the north end of Laguna de Arenal, (is that a quetzal off to the left??)
Just-in to my dusty, bouncy dirt road to Santa Elena and Monteverde

Once arriving to Pension Santa Elena I met up with fellow ADV rider Joe Jackson from the UK - check out his blog

Joe is riding from Argentina to Alaska and back down to Vancouver, BC to store his bike with his aunt

It was excellent meeting a fellow ADV'er once arriving last night.  Joe and I were able to 'talk-shop' over a few 'rons' well into the evening.  His sister Holly has been traveling with him for the past 3 weeks '2 up' and she heads back to London in a few days at which time Joe will continue his journey northbound.  I'm sure we'll hook up for some riding at one point.

As for me... I'm a tourist after all, so I best get into the jungles of Santa Elena and Monteverde and start my search of the famous 'resplendent quetzal', ... wish me luck!


  1. (Dan A),,,so jealous of your time in Boquete...was one of our favorites for sure. Wonderful setting no doubt. Safe travels home my friend...better hustle...its summer here already!

  2. Amazing adventure! Looking forward to seeing you soon. x

  3. (dan A) Yo man, looks like you're making good time. REally looking forward to seeing you soon and hearing about this great adventure....perhaps want to repeat it when we're 55?

    Keep us posted!


  4. WOW impressive! I also traveled within Argentina and Panama, visited Don Alfredo's finca and enjoyed immensely. Thanks for sharing, safe travels!