Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Crashing Jeanette's Bonnie

The plan for the day had been an easy ride to catch the ferry to Ometepe Island and stay there for a day or two. Charly gave us directions for a scenic route (thanks mate!) and all went well. Until we arrived at the ferry terminal. Anywhere else in the world the access to a ferry goes via a ferry terminal building where you buy your tickets and subsequently board the ferry. Not here. It seems the process at San Jorge was designed to be as complicated as possible!

Just after I went down with Jeanette's T100… covered in dust. This is the section after the blasted hippie hill. Seems good enough here, just around the corner is a 33% drop… and soft powdery sand!
Seriously, how hard can it be? It should be as simple as pay the fare and ride on board! To find out where you have to pay the fare, you'll look for signs that tell you where the terminal building is. Something like 'tickets' or 'billetes de ferry' would have been helpful too. There are a couple of buildings but non of them have any form of signeage on them, so we asked around. That's when the fun started. Three persons told us where to go… all we needed was a fourth person and we would have been pointed in all directions possible :-)
As it was, we were pointed in 3 different directions… and all were right. There is a building where you pay the tax to go onto the ferry terminal, there is a building where you pay the passenger fare and there is another building where you pay the vehicle fare…! The vehicle fare had to be paid outside the terminal, the other two inside.

Mind you, it's a lot easier to read this than it was to find out where to go and how much it would cost. They even wanted to charge us a parking fee while the only thing we wanted to know was what the fare would be… We spoke to a couple of people that just returned from the island and weren't all that impressed… as it was covered in low hanging clouds. The only way to see the volcano was a several hours hike and to top it all off there was a blustering wind making the ferry ride quite choppy. We had just ridden right up to the rim of a volcano, had seen plenty of islands, there wasn't much to see because of the clouds and the ferry ride would be choppy… Was there any point in this we wondered.

This was a mirror...
We decided there wasn't and we'd rather spend some more time in Costa Rica to see volcanos there. We rode on towards the coast to find a beautiful camp spot. The GPS coordinates for the same spot gave 3 different directions. Handy. The first set of coordinates took us to the wrong spot. Wrong for a multitude of reasons. It was a yuk surfies place with a horrible campground (if you could call it that) and lots of shady characters around. We looked around for a while to see if there was a spot to put the tents up but in the end we all said 'let's get out of here'. Getting out was a problem though… On the way in we had suddenly found ourselves on a steep sandy hill full of ruts and embedded rocks. The surface was powdery bulldust that doesn't give any grip at all and the incline must have been over 30%. We had been literally sliding down the hill with both brakes on. I wondered whether we had found the limit of our tyres or if the bikes were just too heavy, when I saw a 4WD sliding down the hill too… There was just no grip here no matter what tyres you have.

… and this a brake lever
That same hill we now had to go up to get out! I walked it first and found the middle of the 'road' the best option. A local on a little 125 off-road bike and full knobbies took the same track, so that was definitely the one to go for. I took my Bonneville first, the heaviest of the lot, kept the revs over 2000 and rode up. Up to about halfway it went fine, then I hit a series of potholes that took the speed out of my efforts and stalled the engine. Great, now what? With a roost of dust shooting out the back and my feet paddling through the dust the Distanzia managed to find some traction somehow and we were going upwards again. I parked the bike, asked a 4WD truck that was about to go down the same hill to wait and signalled Mike via the intercom to come up and take the middle track but keep the revs up to avoid stalling. He did keep the revs up… and flew up the hill like a motocrosser, nearly fell off half a dozen times and needed the whole road… but he didn't go down! Top marks, but next time maybe keep the revs up just a bit… not full bore :-)

Jeanette's Bonnie was next. She had seen our efforts and wisely decided to give it a miss. Her bike is a newer model and Triumph managed to make it even more flexible than mine is. Again the first half went fine, I hit the same holes but somehow it threw me off balance this time. Maybe because of the broken shock absorber which already gives it a Cadillac type ride on tarmac roads or maybe because of the uneven damping as only one shocky is broken. Who knows, it all went too quick. The engine stalled and I found myself sliding backwards downhill faster and faster with a 340kg bike…! This was going to end badly. With both feet on the ground, I managed to slide towards the side of the road, taking the speed out and 'parked' it softly in the bank. So far so good, no damage done.

All I had to do now is get away from that position and get up that bloody hill… A 4WD came crawling down the hill, as I was on the wrong side of the road, he tried to stop but with all 4 wheels locked he was still sliding towards me… time to get myself out of there! Of course there was no grip and no way I could get up that hill from that position, but staying put and get run over by a Landcruiser wasn't much of an alternative. Just 7 metres further I found different holes that had the same effect: no traction, no speed, sliding backwards and trying to get it into the bank again. This time that didn't work either and I found myself sliding sideways down this flaming hill! The bike gained momentum… until it hit a rock or something and threw me over. According to Jeanette I jumped away from the falling bike, I can't remember as it went too quickly, to avoid getting trapped under it. Of course I still landed face down in the dust but at least the bike wasn't on me. The damage had been done by then. Broken mirror, severely bend brake lever and a dented pannier plus an assortment of damaged stickers… I felt so bad about damaging her bike that I exploded! The f%$#ing idiot that made that road, the f%$#ing idiot that let it deteriorate to that state and the f%$#ing idiot that couldn't even be bothered to put a sign up…! Man I hate surfies like you wouldn't believe! After all it's their 'road' but just like everything else in their 'colony', they don't care.

Completely exhausted, muscles cramping up, no feel in hands or arms anymore. The dirt from the face plant is still on the visor, my nose and in the helmet.
The 4WD managed to stop, somehow and they helped me get the bike up which was well over 90 degrees down. With no front brake, and thus no hope in hell to stop if I failed again, I gave it a fist full of throttle and spewing dust out everywhere got it up the hill with a determination I didn't know I had :-) 
There was one other small hill to do but that wasn't going to be an issue… we thought, so Jeanette did that one herself. She could have done it too but her foot slipped when she rode away and the Bonnie went down again… what a day! Again I had to get the bike upright, with the benefit of hindsight I should have waited for Mike to give me a hand as the tumbles on the hill before had drained me. With Jeanette's help we got it up and rode away from that damned place. Shortly after, all my muscles started to cramp up. How or why I have no idea but riding towards the campground, over another gnarly road, was all but impossible. No feeling in my hands or feet, hardly any balance, no clutch, brake or throttle control… not a nice way to ride a bike.

Later-on, arriving at the campground we should have gone to in the first place I realised all this carnage was the result of inaccurate GPS coordinates posted by someone on the net… we were lucky that non of us was seriously hurt. I would love to meet the person who put them in there!