So where does the name "Latitude Fifty Four" come from?
The final destination for this motorcycle adventure was the city of Ushuaia located in Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina.
The latitude of this city is 54° 47' South.

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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Day 73 to Day 83

Day 74 - December 20th: Jaco, Costa Rica
Day 75 - December 21st: Jaco, Costa Rica
Day 76 - December 22nd: Jaco, Costa Rica
Day 77 - December 23rd: Jaco, Costa Rica
Day 78 - December 24th: Jaco, Costa Rica
Day 79 - December 25th: Jaco, Costa Rica
Day 80 - December 26th: Jaco, Costa Rica
Day 81 - December 27th: Jaco, Costa Rica
Day 82 - December 28th: Jaco, Costa Rica
Day 83 - December 29th: Jaco, Costa Rica
This is one of the longest times I have gone without a posting but since we've been hanging out here in Jaco killing time before our visit back home in January there hasn't been much going on. We wake up most mornings, have a coffee and fruit plate at the Banana Cafe for breakfast, and then spend the majority of the day running small errands or reading by the pool. We have had two major adventures since arriving here, though. Our first adventure this week came in the form of heading up the mountain to see a waterfall. We stopped for a drink at the waterfall entrance, but ditched the plan of the waterfalls for a bike ride through the mountains. What a bike ride that turned out to be! We climbed and descended, snaking our way through the mountain. It was muddy and slippery and we realized after one particularly bad slope that we were at the point of no return. Even if we had wanted to there would be no way to climb back up that mountain with our bikes slipping and sliding in the mud and the ruts. Thankfully after that area it got a little better, and shortley thereafter we began to see ATV tracks. A couple minutes passed and we came across an ATV tour coming in the opposite direction. After seeing that I had a little bit of a giggle when I realized that even the ATV tour turned around before the rough patch we hit. Our other adventure came in the way of a 5.1 magnitude earthquake which shook us out of bed on the morning of December 28th. A 5.1 magnitude isn't enough to do any damage to the buildings, but it sure is an eerie feeling and gives you quite a rattle. We have finally booked a flight home and will be returning on January 9th. On time for your birthday Mom! We will stay until February 6th before returning to Costa Rica to continue on our journey. I can't wait to see everyone!! Until then, my posts probably won't consist of much aside from reading, tanning, swimming and eating. Just like a relaxing vacation should be I suppose.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Well, it's hard to believe that Christmas time is here! In Nicaragua they were in the festive feeling back in November, but there is a decided lack of Christmas decorations here in Costa Rica short of a few spartan sprigs of tinsel lining a store or two. As such, it only scarcely feels as though it is the holiday season. Even pushing your way through a Wal-Mart at 6pm Christmas Eve would seem like a welcome festive experience right about now!!! So, as hectic as it can be there, I hope, as you are all nestled infront of your Christmas trees, eating Christmas dinners that don't involve rice and beans, and are safe from the snow outside that you're thankful for all that the holiday season has to offer. Yes, even the cold!! I miss everyone, and I hope that you all enjoy the holidays! I'm sorry that I can't be there to join you for them! All the best in the New Year, and I look forward to seeing everyone when I come back in January. We are still not sure of the exact dates, but we'll post the information as soon as we know! Best Wishes, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year to All!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Day 70 to Day 73

Day 70 - December 16th: Guapiles, Costa Rica
Day 71 - December 17th: Guapiles, Costa Rica to Vara Blanca, Costa Rica
Day 72 - December 18th: Vara Blanca, Costa Rica
Day 73 - December 19th: Vara Blanca, Costa Rica to Jaco, Costa Rica

Another day was spent doing not much of anything in Guapiles, aside from hanging out with our new found friend, Fito. Fito is the squirrel that lives in the lobby of the hotel. His diet consists mostly of ketchup, strawberry filled Twinkies and milk, but he also had the occasional french fry, pear juice, or swig of beer. Even when the lobby doors were open, Fito would still stick around, and while you would were typing away on the computer he would jump on your shoulders and investigate. Unfortunately, poor little Fito happened to have an "accident" on the printer, but thankfully they're pretty sturdy nowadays so it seemed to be fine thereafter. The next day we continued on our way towards Vara Blanca. We arrived early in the afternoon and had some time left in the day, so we rode up to Volcan Poas. It's another active volcano with a large lagoon crater inside of it. According to the sign, the average water temperature in the lagoon is 40 degrees Celcius, but it looks much hotter than that because of the steam emanating from the water. Also, to the left of the crater there is an open vent stained yellow from the sulphurous gas, which you could hear hissing and rumbling away. Behind the new crater, you can see the old crater at the base of the mountain. The mountain is covered in trees, but the new crater has not a trace of greenery around it, I don't know how long ago the last eruption was, but it seems to take a great deal of time before things start to come back to life. To the left of the crater is a whole area where you can see all the cracks and crevices where the lava oozed down the side of the mountain. On our way to Vara Blanca we also passed a large waterfall, which was absolutely gorgeous. You could stop on the side of the road there and walk right behind the waterfall. There were some street vendors that sold fruit, and we tried a delicious fruit which I have yet to find out the English name for. It's a large orange fruit filled with a blubbery gooey bunch of seeds inside. You crack open the shell, slurp up the blob, and crunch on all the seeds inside the goo. It tastes similar to a lychee, but looks a lot more disturbing if you accidently get a booger pod on your shirt. Also on our way, we got stuck in a killer Central American style traffic jam. Those dang cows...they always seem to get in the way of everything! The following day was also a fun filled eco-adventure. We went to La Paz Waterfall Gardens. They have an enormous butterfly emporium. It is the size of a standard American football field. There are all sorts of butterflies flying freely, and at times they will even land on you as you're walking through the dome. They have an observation lounge where you can see butterflies in various stages of their lives, and while we were there one finally left it's cocoon to fly freely in the emporium. After the butterfly emporium you walk to the hummingbird gardens where there are numerous feeding stations set up. The hummingbirds are so accustomed to people observing them that you can walk right up to the feeders and see them drinking the nectar. Many times you would hear them swooshing by your head as they darted by to one of the feeders, as well. We overheard a tour operator telling his group that the birds go through 50 pounds of sugar each day! They must keep the ratio of the sugar correct in the feeders too, because if they add too much the birds are prone to cavities in their beaks. Once we were finished in the hummingbird garden we toured the stables. Apparently even the cows eat the black bean sauce here...wink wink. We were given a super cup of coffee at the ranch house, and having perked up were ready to see the frogs. The frogs have their own building, but they do not actually keep them in cages. The bright orange/blue and neon green/black frogs are actually highly poisonous. If so inclined you could probably give it a try to see just how poisonous they are, but we refrained from doing so. It is actually pretty interesting that they are allowed have a poisonous frog exhibit in the open, because you can really see the frogs up close in a much more realistic atmosphere, and I suppose they figure that if you're stupid enough to touch a poisonous frog knowing full well that it's poisonous, then you deserve whatever happens to you next! After the frogs it was off to the grand finale.....the five waterfalls of the waterfall gardens. The last one that you view, is the one that we walked underneath the day before and worked on our dives. Our next step is to actually dive into the water, but that's just a technicality, really. From the platforms in the gardens you could now look down at the waterfall from the top, hear the crashing of the water, and see the force of it rushing down. The waterfalls were just gorgeous and although the mist was fogging up the lens, I managed to get a few clear shots. The next day we had another exciting eco tour. We left Vara Blanca, for Jaco and came across a bridge that my dad remembered from a previous visit to the area. Looking over the bridge you would get a perfect view of giant crocodiles baking in the hot sun. Peeking over the first side of the bridge we counted 17 crocodiles ranging in size from 3 feet to about 6 feet. When we looked over the other side of the bridge we counted another 20, and were shocked to see even larger crocodiles than there was on the other side. There was a giant crocodile, probably betwen 10-15 feet long soaking up the sunshine in a mud flat. It actually gave me the shivers a little bit. A crocodile that size looked like he could swallow a person my size whole!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Day 68 to Day 69

December 14th, 2005: Guapiles, Costa Rica
December 15th, 2005: Guapiles, Costa Rica

Well, after our crazy adventures with the rain and fog over the last few days we decided to take it easy. As such I spent yesterday bumming around the hotel waiting for the weather to clear up a little and my dad took a trip to see what the town had to offer. Today we went into town to get some stuff for our bikes, and spent the afternoon lounging around the pool. Since I have no exciting pictures to show, or stories to tell, I figured now was the time to pull out the special edition material.
These are a few pictures that I like to call: "Central American Death Traps"
Manholes, Grates and Ditches....covers are optional!
Road Work At It's Finest!

The infamous 'suicide shower'

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Day 59 to Day 67

Day 59 - December 5th: Granada, Nicaragua to Ometepe, Nicaragua
Day 60 - December 6th: Ometepe, Nicaragua to San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua
Day 61 - December 7th: San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua to Liberia, Costa Rica
Day 62 - December 8th: Liberia, Costa Rica to La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Day 63 - December 9th: La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Day 64 - December 10th: La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Day 65 - December 11th: La Fortuna, Costa Rica to San Jose, Costa Rica
Day 66 - December 12th: San Jose, Costa Rica to Cahuitla, Costa Rica
Day 67 - December 13th: Cahuitla, Costa Rica to Guapiles, Costa Rica
***Once again we've had a bit of a time finding Internet so there's quite a few days worth of postings here! We are safe and sound, and I'll get back to all your emails as soon as I can! Thanks!!!***

On Decemer 5th we took the ferry across to Ometepe Island. They certainly cram the vehicles on the boat. The mirrors were just about touching on two trucks, and we had to drive our bikes in straight, then have them lifted and flipped sideways to fit on the back. After Rex's and Dan & Bonnie's bikes were loaded on the ship there wasn't quite enough room to have the rear gate fully closed, so it was left part way open for the entire drive across the lake. It's quite clear that safety regulations are just a teensy little bit more lax in this part of the world. Once you arrive in Ometepe you take a cobblestone road that leads you around the base of Volcano Concepcion, the active, and larger and of the two volcanos. The scenery is just amazing on the island. There's a nice little laguna, a perfect view of Lake Nicaragua, and at most points along the drive both volcanos are visible, one on each side of you. Volcano Concepcion is a perfect conical shape which gives it the true feeling of being an active volcano. We stopped for a few drinks at a hotel close to Santo Domingo, which was a very nice little place, but it was 5 km's of dirt road and rocks to get there. Another fun day of offroading was had by all! The hotel had palm trees with some bright orange berries growing on them which seemed to be a favourite with some beautiful blue birds. They resemble blue jays, but they are much larger, have a longer tail and are an even more vibrant blue. A mother was feeding her baby bird, and both of them even made an appearance at our table in the restaurant. After we left the hotel, we backtracked a little to Charco Verde, which again, took us along another dirt road. This road led us to a small hotel, right on the edge of Lake Nicaragua. There was a gorgeous sunset, and I was eager to try out the kayaks the following day, but we cut our visit in Ometepe a little short after one night. The cabina we rented didn't have towels,soap or hot water, there was mouse poo on the back of the toilet, a giant spider in the room, and worst of all monkeys rummaging around the entire night which were so loud you could swear they were right in your cabin. There were giant frogs there as well which came out in the evening, but they were rather cute so they didn't bother us at all. (He looks small in the picture but he was about the size of a squirrel!) First thing in the morning we figured we would head back across the lake on the ferry. We had a tiny bit of rain before boarding, but it cleared up just in time for us to board. It was certainly a full load! Two cattle trucks, a giant load of bananas and the bikes squeezed inbetween. The boat was leaning to one side due to the banana truck, and the load was so heavy the boat was 2 feet below the normal water line! That was enough to already give you the jitters, but the frantic maneuvering to tie down all the trucks and bikes this time, in addition to the hail mary by the cattle truck driver was enough to really make you wonder what was going on! It turned out to be a fine trip, with only a few more waves than our previous trip. Our original plan was to get a place to stay in Rivas, but we didn't have very much success finding a reasonable hotel there, so we kept on driving until we saw signs for hotels around the San Juan Del Sur area. San Juan Del Sur is a quaint fishing village. It has a small beachfront lined with a few houses, a marina, and tons of little straw hut restaurants. On December 7th we woke up to a downpour, so we figured we would get some breakfast in town while we waited for the rain to clear up a little bit. We had a nice breakfast in a little straw hut restaurant, and a perfect rainbow formed over the ocean. It was stunning to see. Once the rain cleared up we took a walk along the beach to investigate a large steel boat that was ashore. Much to our surprise, there was a man living on the boat. He informed us that during the last hurricane, several months ago, the anchor chain broke and his boat was washed ashore. He told us he had plans in the making to dig it out with a backhoe and drag it back out to sea, but it appeared that maybe the funds were in short supply for the time being. Once we said our goodbye to the captain we went back to our hotel, packed up and took to the roads again. Our intent was to drive close to the Costa Rican border, but due to a slight miscalculation, we suddenly found ourselves at the border. We figured that we might as well just go right on through since we were there anyways. Thankfully the border crossing was one of the better ones, and with about two hours time we were whizzing through Costa Rica. We didn't have a map, so we just drove through until we hit a larger town where we could find a hotel, get a bite to eat, and buy a roadmap. The town we ended up in, Liberia, had a few very nice hotels and I have to admit that it was great to be in a North American equivalent hotel. For dinner we had fast food from the "Food Mall" and splurged on TCBY super sundaes. A killer for a diet, but it was like buying a little slice of back home! The following morning (December 8th) we continued our volcano chasing and headed towards Arenal. We took a rickity little road out towards the volcano but after almost 10 km of dirt, mud, rocks, and steep uphill climbs we decided to stop the journey and head closer to the town of La Fortuna instead. We originally wanted to find a place close to the volcano because in the night you can actually see the glowing lava oozing down the side of the mountain, but we figured the road wasn't worth the effort. We could just as easily find a place closer to town, and then rive the bikes out in the night to see the lava. We found a really cute little hotel on the side of the volcano that doesn't ooze (so cute, in fact, that the towels were folded into a swan shape with flowers decorating them). The hotels here are a little cheaper since you can't see the lava from here but it was so cloudy during our whole stay so we wouldn't have been able to see the top of the mountain anyways. Instead of viewing the volcano on the 9th Jan took a little snooze and I went to the "mariposaria" to see the butterflies. On my tour I was told that the butterflies feasted on a combination of pineapple, banana and beer mush. It seemed a bit of a strange mix to me, but I was told the beer aids in the fermentation of the fruit, which is apparently beneficial to the butterflies. They have some really beautiful butterflies here in Central America. The vibrant blue butterflies are actually the same butterflies as the brown ones that appear to have an eye on their lower wing. The blue is only visible when they are in flight and or when they are basking in the sun with their wings open. Many of the animals here are amazingly colourful. The birds can be anything from lemon yellow, to turquoise green, to royal blue to cherry red. The frogs are lime green with orange toes, and we saw lizards that were completely camoflauged except for a vibrant turquoise tail. After the mariposaria I took a quick trip through the orchid gardens. In Canada orchids are so expensive, but here they're like weeds! They grow all through the forest on the sides of trees and even have to be scraped off of the hydro lines. I added some of the pictures here. (Rachel, maybe your mom would like these orchids!! I think she'd be in her element here!). After our relatively relaxing day, we decided to be a bit more adventurous, and on the 10th we went to the Arenal hanging bridges. It was a really great trip. You walk along a 1.9 mile trail through the rainforest complete with suspended bridges that hang as high as 100 meters over the forest floor at some points. While you're walking along the suspended bridges you can see through the bottoms of them since they are just metal grating with chainlink fence sides, and they bounce and sway a teeny bit with each step you take. It gives you the impression that you're walking along a rickety bridge that's about to give way, just like in a jungle movie! We saw a few lizards and trees full of monkeys along the path, but unfortunately these monkeys were a little too high up to get a good picture. You can see the volanco Arenal very well from one of the bridges along the trail as well, and we even heard it rumbling and bubbling away that afternoon! Since the clouds didn't seem to be letting up we figured we'd never get a look at the oozing lava, and made for the hills again the next morning. The clouds turned out to be even more bothersome to us on our drive! On our way to San Jose we had to cross over a mountain range, and once we got high up in the mountains we were driving through cloud soup. You couldn't keep your helmet visor closed or wear glasses either because the mist would fog them up, so we had to rely on our not-so-great eyesight in addition to not being able to see two feet ahead of you! To make matters worse the majority of people have no daytime running lights and many people didn't even have their lights on. That could definitely be a factor in the seven car pile up that we had to bypass. What a mess!! I had to dodge a chunk of a Mazda Miata's bumper that dislodged from the smashed up car while it was being towed away. Once we got a little closer to San Jose it cleared up nicely, though, and after we found a hotel we took a walk through the Central Park. They had a nice lake with a waterfall, and a clever little sculpture of what one can only assume is a giant dog poop. The park used to be the airport, but now the control tower and terminal have been transformed into an art museum. There are very interesting trees in the park that shed their bark to reveal bright green, orange and yellow markings underneath at this time of year. I still have to research what kind of tree these mysterious things are! Our hotel in San Jose seemed to have a bit of a cockroach "issue" so in the morning we packed up our gear and headed for the Carribean coast after carefully checking our luggage for unwanted stowaways. It was our first very rainy day, and was more reminiscent of a monsoon than an ordinary rain shower. Since we've had so much good luck with the weather, we figured it would eventually let up and therefore failed to throw on our appropriate rain gear. We were very wrong in our assumptions and ended up soaking wet from head to toe. Our jeans soaked up the water and it dripped right down into our riding boots filling them up like makeshift buckets. The dye from our gloves stained our hands and our fingers were totally pruney within a short time. When we came across a little cafe with an overhang we drove our bikes almost right into the restaurant and stopped for a coffee to warm up a little. Once the rain let up a tad (from monsoon to downpour) we hit the road again. We arrived in Limon like drowned rats, but ad a horrible time finding a decent hotel, and were rather uncomfortable with the town, so we left the city in search of a more suitable town to stay in. Unfortunately there is not much of anything between Limon and the next town aside from a few small (and relatively questionable-looking) cabinas along the ocean. Once we found a relatively less questionable-looking area of cabinas we decided to call it a day. Our cabin was a little "rustic" and didn't have hot water, but it was comfortable enough for us. We were both so soggy and tired that sleeping on a concrete floor in some hay probably would have seemed like a suitable alternative to more driving. In the morning (December 13th) we were undecided as to whether or not we should keep on heading further south along the Carribean side towards Panama, or head back, since accomodated weren't quite what we expected. In the end we decided to investigate Puerto Viejo for amenities and then head back if it wasn't what we were looking for. Puerto Viejo had a bank, which we were in need of, but other than that, it didn't leave a very good impression on us. We cut our losses and headed back in the direction of San Jose, only to once again be pelted with rain.