Day 156: Tour de Paris

Day 156: Tour de Paris

Chantilly to Paris

Distance: 61.3 km

Time on board : 4 hours 28 mins

Average Speed: 13.7 kmh

Cumulative distance: 6897 km
Forgot today is Monday, a working day where everyone rushed to work. Woke up to see the hordes of cars rushing to Paris for work. On the hindsight, should have just skate to Paris yesterday which traffic is almost non existent on Sunday. Last night camped in the middle of roundabout. It was pretty comfortable to sleep if you can ignore the noise from traffic. Cooked my pasta for breakfast while waiting for the rush hour traffic to subside. But it doesn’t, so I continue skating, contenting the narrow road with them. Usually, they will overtake me by going on the other lane, but this time, with traffic,continuously flowing from both directions, it become a mammoth task to overtake me on a narrow lane. Soon, the traffic behind me began to pile up and it was going to be this way for 40km. No choice but to take train to Saint Dennis, outskirt of Paris.
Skating into colossal cities like Bangkok, Saigon and Hanoi is nothing compared to this. Though it may seem the traffic in Paris is significantly fewer than those in Bangkok and Saigon, due to narrow lane without any shoulder, it is unwise to skate into Paris on peak hour. In Asia, though traffic is significantly larger, but i felt safer skating into cities like Bangkok and Saigon because the roads are wider with shoulder lanes and vehicles move a lot slower  among the heavy traffic. Furthermore, they are used to sharing the road with slow moving mode of transport like bicycle and me.
Stopped at luzarches to grab a train to Saint Dennis, where I can find a safer road to skate on to Paris. Once I found river Seine, it become easy to navigate. Just follow the bike path on river Seine. First stop is stade de France, where France won their first and only World cup. Visited all other attractions including place de Bastille, Notre Dame, lovre, Effiel tower and arc de triumph. Paris was too expensive for me to stay in, since my fellow long distance skater Romain Bessiere the Globeskater with his girlfriend Maria Teresa Rabelo Rafael invited me to stay with them in Caen. Caen is located in Normandy, near D Day landing, isn’t my planned route at first. It is 250km west of Paris, so I had to take 2 hours train to Caen, where I was picked up by Romain at the train station. His girlfriend cooked me a great pasta and oysters feast. Normandy is next to the sea, thus it is famous for its seafood. 
Will stay with them for a couple of days to recuperate before moving on to Tours, where Panta Gruelon, another famous skater awaits me.


Day 429: Adios Costa Rica, Hola Panama, country 22 and Possible End of my Skate 

Day 429

Neily, Costa Rica to David, Panama

Distance: 72 km

Time: 6.56 am to 1.30 pm

Cumulative distance: 15, 552 km

Glad that I stayed in the hotel last night, it was raining all the night. However, My clothes was soaking wet from yesterday’s rain and unable to dry in the room. As result I have to wear my wet clothes to skate. It is not a bad thing after all, the wet clothes helped to cool me in the immolating heat for a while. My clothes dried fast then soaked from my sweat moments later. 

The border to Panama is only 17 km. By 8.15 am, I reached the border Paso Canoas. Queued up for exit stamp, midway into the queue, a traveller informed me that I have to cross the road and pay USD 8 for exit tax. This is another unnecessary red tape process and there wasn’t any signs to inform the travellers on where to pay exit tax. The guy kept the queue for me while I went over to pay. Continued on to Panama checkpoint. I read on the internet from those travelling to Panama’s first hand experience. They must produce proof of exit from Panama, and proof of sufficient funds for travelling. I have prepared and screenshot my flight itinerary to Bogota, Colombia on 28 April and my bank statement. However, the immigration officer never asked me for all these. I wasted all my time and effort in preparing all these to enter Panama and they never bother to ask me for these. I could have booked my flight when I arrive in Panama city. Now I have to rush to Panama city by 26 April to catch my flight. I double check with the officer. “Are you sure that you don’t want to check my flight out of here?” The lady simply shook her head and gave me the entry stamp. Furthermore, there isn’t any entry fee which I read that there was a USD 3 fee. Well, I save USD 3. 

Panama uses USD as their currency as El Salvador. Only the difference is that panama has their own coins which has the same value as USA ones. Back to using USD , easier to budget now. Panama is my 22nd country on my World tour. With Panama, I have transversed through all the Countries on mainland North America Continent. And today could be the end of my North America leg as well.

By noon, I stopped at a bus shelter to cook my lunch and napped as usual routine. I left my pushcart and longboard on the bus stop. While dreaming, a crushing noise abruptly woke me up. The next thing I saw, horrified me. This was becoming my worst nightmare. Is it just a nightmare? No I was truly awake. The driver failed to notice my Pushcart and drove past it , crushing my left side wheel. The pushcart collapsed under its weight. My rim was completely bent and seem unsalvageable. The driver immediately got out to take a look at the situation. Surprisingly I wasn’t angry and actually showed little emotion as if I was calm about it. In my head, was just “now what”.  I wasn’t mad at the driver, I could only put the blame on it. I shouldn’t left my pushcart and longboard on the side of road where drivers couldn’t see. Should have lifted it up the kerbs but I was too lazy and too tired to do so. Unable to ride to David anymore, he offered me a ride and he knew a workshop to fix it. In the car, was two German hitchhikers whom he picked up at the border. He drove us to David, and dropped me off at a car workshop before driving the Germans to bus station. He paid for the repair and whatever needed it to fix. The mechanic took a glance at it and assured us that it could be fixed in no time. And so, the driver left me and my poor pushcart at workshop. 

The mechanic then struggled to remove my rim from pushcart. My pushcart was pretty unique rig. The rim was welded to the cart. I have it for 7 months, I still couldn’t figure out how to remove the wheel, let alone the mechanics who probably never fix a broken baby stroller. They were supposed to fix cars , not a baby stroller. Trying for hours, they gave up and refunded me the money the driver paid to them. Had to grab a taxi to my hostel to figure my next move. Could it be the End of my Round the World on Board? Well, at least I have crossed through 22 countries and 3 Continents including entire North America Continent. Few options left for me. Find another workshop to fix it or replace a new stroller but replacing it would be difficult. My pushcart had been a perfect companion to my longboard. It is able to carry large loads, exceeding the supposed weight limit. Most importantly, it has brakes for me to control my speed safely. Getting another one here would be mission impossible. Another option is to return to my original way of skating. Skating carrying just my backpack. Meant that I have to discard much of my stuff and go real minimal with only my essentials. Climate is too humid for me to skate with my backpack. I consume at least 7 litres of water during my skate. My back could only carry maximum 4 litres of water with my tent , cooking stove, sleeping bag and food. Which remains an unlikely option. I will have to stay here for awhile to figure out how now. My flight to Colombia is 12 days away. I have to figure out by then. Only God knows. 

Day 425: Make love peace, not war

Day 425: Make love peace, not war

Costa Rica: Jaco to Quepos

Distance: 67 km

Time: 8.10 am to 3.38 pm

Cumulative distance: 15,296 km

One thing that is still cheap in Costa Rica is going to cinema.  A movie costed 1800 colons or 3.50 USD. Watched Steven Spielberg ‘s Ready Player One at a rather late timing 9 pm as that was the only session for English. I was hesitant to catch the movie at this timing, meaning I could go to bed at 11.30 pm. But if I don’t catch it now, the movie might end its run by the time I reached Panama city. I overcame my sleepiness to catch the movie and slept later than usual 10 pm. 

I had the whole dorm room to myself and all the fans were directed at me to keep me ventilated. Despite the late night sleep, my biological clock woke me up at 5.45 am. But there lies the issue. The hostel reception only open at 8 am and I couldn’t leave without retrieving my 10 USD key deposit. Tried to going back to bed but couldn’t. Had my breakfast and watched few more YouTube Documentaries. Once the hostel returned my deposit, I began my day skate. Today was a 67 km skate to Quepos. After overcoming a short hill, it was all flat road for me. Easy peasy day. The Sun returned from yesterday’s vacation and it was back to work as normal. The usual hot day again. 

An interesting fact about Costa Rica was that they didn’t have any military forces. They abolished the army during 70s if I am correct. They sure had the balls to abolish their army amidst all the conflicts going on in Central America. Guatemala fighting with Belize, El Salvador at war with Honduras and not to mention drug cartels war. They cannot afford to be a dick to everyone especially their neighbors. Instead they have to make friends with everyone especially the powerful ones like USA. This is how the world should goes. Don’t be a dick and make peace with everyone. With savings from military budget, they invested the money into infrastructure, education and healthcare. No wonder, Costa Rica is a world apart from other central America countries. If a certain country could do the same, hint hint the country with the largest military in the world, that country could really benefit and help the poor and homeless and those in need of universal healthcare, instead of spending on needless wars. That country don’t have to abolish it’s entire army but only a budget cut to military spending. Same goes to my country Singapore. Do we actually need to spend so many money on military? The world is rather different from the 1940s. A sufficient armed forces should be enough to deter aggressors. Despite we got usa base in Singapore, they have to back us up. Make love peace, not war

Despite the late start today, I still made pretty good progress before noon. At Parrita, dropped by Maxi Pali, budget mega supermarket for more groceries and enjoying the air conditioner inside. Skated further to a bus stop to cook my lunch. My lighter ran out of fuel. Oh damn. How am I going to lit my stove. Luckily, I had a spare lighter after searching through my backpack. Since only 23 km left to Quepos, took a siesta at bus shelter. 30 minutes, a bunch of police woke me up. They took down my particulars and explained my skate journey and convince them I am just taking a short nap, away from the heat with no intention of camping here. If I understood them correctly, They were trying to warn me that it is dangerous here. I could get robbed or shot down. I don’t know if they were trying to scare me into leaving. I rather not take the risk and don’t want the police to come on me the second time. I continued skating right away. 

With the Easy smooth flat road, I arrived at Quepos fresh. Approached the fire station as usual. They allowed me to stay with few conditions. If I understood their Spanish correctly, I have to be in station by 7 pm and not leave after due to alarm system. I have to leave by 7 am the next morning. That isn’t an issue. I start my day real early.  I camped in their garden for the night. For the first time, I pitched my tent since El Salvador.

Day 426: Pura Vida

Day 426: Pura Vida 

Costa Rica: Quepos to Dominical
Distance: 45 km

Time : 7.45 am to 12.10 pm

Cumulative distance: 15,341 km

Was bombarded with bird poos landing on my bivy tent. Only realised the carnage done on my tent. Never sleep under a tree full of birds. Washed up my tent and waited for the fireman to open the gates for me to leave. Sat at the central park for free Wi-Fi. Wifi has become a necessity in life. Millennials will die without it, so as I. Humans can go without water for days, food for weeks but we will not survive without WiFi for a day. 

Another super short day for me. 45 km to Dominical beach. I like to take it easy nowadays and what’s more, Dominical will be my last beach afterwards I will be heading inwards all the way to Panama city. Might do a short day to arrive early and enjoy the beach. 

Making good pace since the road was flat. Had my first break in Maritima. Sat in the bus shelter outside a school. It happened to be a recess time for students. The young sprouts came up to the fence to chat with me. Found it easy to chat with these kids in Spanish. Last few days with my companions, I kinda switched off my Spanish brain. Since Laura was a native Spanish speaker, all conversation were referred to her. I just gave a blank look and signalled them to speak to Laura. Furthermore, when locals were conversing with Laura and Marge, they were speaking rapidly like a machine gun firing millions of rounds. Now I am alone, have to switched on my Spanish brain to communicate. It is evident that I am obviously not a Spanish speaker, therefore they would mouth their words slowly for me to understand. A kid handed me their apples through the fences. Soon, everyone followed suit in handing me their apples. I ended up with a bag full of apples. I should visit every school in Coasta Rica now to coax them into handing me their lunch box haha. 

Encountered a road construction where one lane was left open. Both sides of traffic have to wait and take turns to use that one lane. The workers let me through first since my rig was tiny to pass through. As result, I got the entire fresh paved road to myself at a point and rows of impatient drivers zooming at me at another point. Before noon, I arrived at the turn in to Dominical beach. Two ladies were at the side trying to hitchhike to next town uvita. Chatted with one of them, they were camping on the beach and invited me to join them when they returned from uvita later. Two hot ladies at the beach, oh yea I am definitely camping. 

At the beach, made my lunch and had a swim but the Pacific waves were too strong for me to handle. The sediments carried by waves filled up my underpants. Now my underpants was filled with sand. There were few campers around. Looked safe to camp for the night. But the universe has another plan. For the first time in central America, the sky started to unload it’s long awaited juice, it has been holding on for too long. At last, it finally poured. Luckily, I ended my skate early before the rain. Alright, looked like it is hostel for me tonight. Right opposite, lies piramy hostel. A bed for $10. Anyway, I have been saving quite bit of money in Costa Rica, cos it is too expensive to eat out and indulge in soft drinks. Hence I have some budget for hostel tonight. 

Day 424: Crocs ahead!

Day 424 : Crocs Ahead!

Costa Rica: Punta Arenal to Jaco

Distance: 64 km

Time: 7.10 am to 2.54 pm

Cumulative distance: 15,229 km

Day 423

The ladies have to spilt away from me. Alana have to get to San Jose to fly back home in San Francisco while Laura and magic Hair wanted to see Caribbean Sea on other side of Costa Rica. For me, riding to San Jose, meant 1500 m elevation gain over 92 km. For sure, I am not going to make it in a day. After San Jose, will be a terrifying descent. Then in the end I would have to climb another mountain range in Panama to return to the pan American highway to Panama city. 2 mountain range will be too much for me to bear though eventually i have to do the Andes mountain soon. For now, I prefer to stick to the flatter coast which I am on right now. The ladies woke up early to prepare for daunting ride ahead. Alex allowed me to stay in his house for another night. Longer sleep for me. 

Day 424

Had to wake up Alex from his sleep so that he can open the door for me. Surprisingly, no one in the house woke up early for work today. I wonder why. Thanked alex for hosting us, the unexpected guests. We never planned to stay with him hence we never wrote a Warmshower request. Still, he welcomed us with open arms. I skated back to highway 27. All the road cyclists were out on the road and today wasn’t a weekend, it was a Wednesday. Everyone else were on beach as well. I did my investigation, today was a public holiday. Juan Santamaria day, commemorating the battle of Rivas, made famous by their national hero Juan Santamaria who sacrifice himself in the battle against Nicaragua led by William Walker, an American who usurped Nicaragua. 

Today’ s weather was cloudy, I guess the Sun was taking his holiday as well. Ideal for my skating but not ideal for heading out to beach which I planned to at my destination Jaco. Followed the Highway 27 enroute to San Jose, that meant more elevation until I split off from Highway 27 to get on highway 34 to Jaco. Had my first break after the split off. Spotted the sign Jugo de Cana. Sugar cane juice. I haven’t had this green thirst quenching drink since Vietnam a year ago. A must have for me even though it cost an arm and leg, USD 2. Been craving for this drink for so long, at last I am satisfied. I swore this drink is an addictive drug. A customer overheard my conversation with the stall owner that I am skating around the world. He asked me for photos and gave me a packet of local snacks.

Few kms after, I crossed into the crocodile bridge. Underneath the bridge, the river hosted a colony of crocodiles. The bridge was crowded with tourists trying to catch a glimpse of those 3 m reptiles. I cooked my lunch next to the bridge outside the rows of shops selling souvenirs and restaurant. A costa Rican of African ancestry, selling necklaces to tourists, came up to me while I was cooking pasta with instant noodles on my camp stove. He wanted to try some of my lunch, I obliged since he looked pitiful and I usually cooked a large portion. If only he had asked me earlier, I could have prepare a larger portion to share. 

After lunch, I had a big hill to overcome. I thought the coast was supposed to be flat! I walked up for several km before descending all the way to the Jaco, a beach and surfing Paradise. My foot braking shoe was put to use. Descending 5km , my foot braking shoe was Paramount to my safety. Arrived at my hostel Bed on Bohio by 2.50 pm. Without my ladies companions, I got lazy to search for camping, decided to pay for accommodation today. Since I arrived early, swam in the beach and swimming pool in my hostel. I last heard from my 3 amigas, that they have a hard time yesterday climbing that 1500 elevation to San Jose. They braved through the darkness and arrived late at night. Good thing I didn’t follow them.

Day 422: Rio of life

Day 422: Rio of life

Costa Rica: Canas to Punta Arenal

Distance: 75 km

Time : 8.38 am to 6 pm

Cumulative distance: 15,165 km

The most luxurious fire station I have ever slept in. The staff turned on the air conditioner for us in the meeting room. So comfortable that we overslept, forgetting that we have to leave the fire station by 6 am. They were ok with us leaving at 8 am. We went to supermarket to buy groceries for breakfast. Alana and I made pancake as breakfast for the gang last night. After breakfast, we made our way to Punta Arenal. The road is never once flat. Constant going up and down. Even my female cyclists also struggled as well. In contrast to Nicaragua, Costa Rica highway is narrow without any shoulders. What makes it worse was that there seemed to have more large trucks passing through here. I don’t give a damn, if they want, they have to overtake me on the other lane. 

Had our first break at Limonal, where Alana bought Vino de Coyol.We had seen stalls selling the mysterious bottles in the hot sun along the highways of Costa Rica’s Guanacaste Province. It was actually not a wine but fermented from sap of Coyol palms, native to Costa Rica. It does contain a small amount of alcohol, enough to give us a buzz for the ride. We then rode on till 40 km where Marge had her punctures once more. I can no longer count the patch holes on her tube. It was a galaxy of patch holes. We settle for the river below a bridge for lunch and swim. Costa Rica has one of the highest amount of rivers per sq km in the world. That means every few km we ride, we are bound to pass through a river. Cooked 2 packets of pasta with tomato sauce. Swam in the river. Since there was just us, ladies decided to go skinny dipping.

 The ladies were checking me out too. They admired my toned back and muscular legs. Next time when I want to impress ladies, I will have to show them my back. I have to talk to them facing backwards. “Hey ladies, look at my back, not my face”

After 2 and half hours on the river, we continued on. Laura let Marge charged on and followed Alana and me instead. Our next break was at a stall selling rambutan. I have not seen the red hairy fruit for a long time. I thought it was exclusively grown in South East Asian region. Costa Rica has the similar topical climate to my region, therefore, I am likely to see more of my local fruits here.

By 5.30 pm we have reached at cross road between Punta Arenal and San Jose. We rode to the fire station. This time, fire station rejected us due to government policies. We got lucky at the previous fire station. Without any backup plan, we attempted to head to the beach for camping. Marge asked a local on where is a good place to camp. The local knew of a Warmshower host nearby. Many foreign cyclists passed by here, therefore Alex, the Warmshower host was well known by locals here. We expected to be hosted by fire station, that is why we never bothered to search for any Warmshower hosts. Alex and his family welcomed us even though we arrived at his doorstop unexpected. 

The four of us have our last meal together as Alana will have to fly off from San Jose to San Francisco back home to return to her normal life after 2 months of nomadic lifestyle. Laura and Marge opted to head over to Caribbean coast which mean if I want to follow them, I have to climb over a mountain range and back another mountain range to Panama Pacific coast. For me, all coast are the same, large bodies of water. I decided to stick to my plan of continuing on the Pacific coast. I will see how. Just follow through the river of life. 

Day 419: Adios Nicaragua! Hola Costa Rica, Country 21

Day 419: Adios Nicaragua! Hola Costa Rica, Country 21

Rivas, Nicaragua to La Cruz, Costa Rica

Distance: 55 km

Time: 9.45 am to 5.18 pm

Cumulative distance: 15,035 km

Day 416-418

Took a taxi to Rivas since I couldn’t find a bus to Gigante at the rivas bus station. The driver first quoted me $15, but during the ride, he begged for another $5 USD, I then bargained down to $3. I hate people who agreed with initial price then increased the price afterwards. They should quote me that price, I still would have taken it. At Gigante, Marge’s host was already hosting 10 surfers at his place, couldn’t accommodate me anymore. I went over to Warmshower host John where Yves and Fed were there. John works for Camino Hostel beside it. His boss gave the house to accommodate John and other volunteers at the hostel. For us skate tourer and Cyclotravellers, we can stay there for 2 nights. Together, we celebrated Marge”Magic Hair” 27th birthday the next day. I bought her a led hair band with Minnie mouse on it as her present. I made Piña Cola with Alana as contribution to potluck birthday dinner.

Gigante lived to its namesake. Gigante refers to the Gigantic waves. No wonder so many surfers settled here to surf their hearts out. From a tiny village, it rose to surfer’s Paradise. Still unknown to outside world yet. On 5th April, after Marge’s birthday, I headed back to Rivas on a chicken bus that was way cheaper than taxi. Less than 2 USD. The road to Rivas was built on tiles making my skate difficult, hence I opted for a bus back. I stayed in Hospedeje Coco for 8 USD. Planned to stay a night, before waiting for Laura, Marge and Alana to set off from Gigante the next day. So that we can travel together once more as a group to Panama city. 3 ladies riding with me. I  could be a lucky guy or worse off tortured by the ladies. The burger King I ate for dinner was the worst ever. The entire menu was unavailable, only Whopper and Whopper jr meal. The whole restaurant was sparse and hardly any customer. I patronised for its Wifi but it was not working. That Rivas Burger King by the far, was the worst. 

The next morning, I heard from Marge that they too were taking the chicken bus back to Rivas. I figured that they would arrive 9-ish am. I set off from my Hospedeje at 8.30 am and skated to the outskirt on the main road to wait for them. By 9.40 am, Marge first arrived, followed by Alana and Laura. Yeah, the gang was formed. We will ride together all the way to Panama city for next 2 weeks, except for Alana. She has to fly off from San Jose, Coastal Rica back to California, home. 

Naturally, being on bicycle, they rode faster than me. Laura and Marge sped off. Except Alana, she rode behind me. For the first time, I got someone to accompany me during the ride. The wind and hills made it tough for me to really go fast. Especially, when I see rows of Wind turbines along Playa Virgen, generating renewable energy. That meant there was significant intensity of wind in this area, that is why Nicaraguans placed them here. Either I got strong tailwind working for me or headwind working against me. Unfortunately, it was the latter. Along the way, a polish couple in tandem bike sped past me. Shortly, they stopped on the road with Marge on the road for a chat. Joined by Argentinian cyclist traveling on the opposite direction. He is heading to Mexico before heading to Europe and cycle to Russia for the World Cup. Left 10 km to Costa Rica border, they went ahead of me, waiting for me at Penas Blanca, the border town. Before the town, I stopped to buy a drink, spending my last Nicaragua Corboda. 

At the border, polish couple and my trio ladies waited for me. I went straight to money changer to change my USD to Costa Rica Colon. 1 USD for 550 colon. I changed $100, in turn I got huge denomination of colones. Had our last meal in Nicaragua before entering the expensive Costa Rica. Spending all my Cordoban, Alana offered to treat me for lunch. After lunch, polish couple had to break away from us, as they have a large distance to cover today. We only have 20 km remaining. We entered the border control, there I saw the most beautiful Nicaraguan lady. She was the border guard. In my mind, please arrest me, I am an illegal immigrant. Please detain me for life. Haha of course I didn’t say that to her. I shared this with Alana. Even she agreed with me that she was so hot. At the immigration office, we couldn’t bring my pushcart and their bikes in. Therefore we leave them outside and split into pairs to guard our stuff. Alana and I entered the immigration first. I simply couldn’t comprehend the process involved in exiting Nicaragua. First I have to pay 1 USD to a counter and go over to the actual custom and pay another 4 USD for my exit stamp. Can’t they just set it for us to pay 5 USD all together at the custom. Then it was Marge and Laura’s turn. The immigration only wanted USD dollars, not their local currency. I lent them my USD to pay the immigration. Finally we are out of Nicaragua. 

We rode to Costa Rica customs, but not before taking group pictures of Welcome to Costa Rica sign. Marge carried the Petite Alana on her shoulders. To complement the pose, Laura carried me on her shoulders since obviously I was the lighter one. That is Gender Equality. At Costa Rica customs, it was straightforward affair, no entrance fee or whatever. Just ask us fee questions and we were off. Once crossed the border, immediately the terrain changed as we crossed the imaginary line. Costa Rica was filled with greenery and lush thick forest greeted us. A stark contrast to the barren Nicaragua farm lands. Costa Rica was one of the most biodiversed nature environment in the world and they sought to protect the nature. Almost 40% of the land was designated as nature reserve. Way to go, Costa Rica. Being that said, it was one of the more affluent nation in central America beside Panama. We could expect living cost to be much expensive here. Luckily I stock up on my food supply before leaving Nicaragua. 

Shortly, the road was under construction. One lane was closed and another lane was left to accommodate traffic from both directions. I have to walk on gravel side to avoid getting hit from traffic coming towards me. As usual, Marge and Laura sped off while I rode together with Alana, who is the same age as me. No wonder we can click so well. Caught up with Marge and Laura as they sat by the roadside to fix Marge’s punctured tyre. Good time to have a break. We rested for 40 minutes till Marge fixed her punctures. Last 8 km to go. We rode together as a group cos only I have the online map of Costa Rica and knew the location of fire station in La Cruz. Last big hill to climb, I resorted to running and walking briskly. Running and walking briskly seemed to be a faster option than skating up. I somehow managed to keep pace with Alana’s climbing speed. In the end, she too gave in and pushed her bike with me. 

At La Cruz, we saw the bomberos or fire station. You can tell Costa Rica is really a developed country. The fire station was the most modern that I have ever seen so far in Central America. However, it was closed for unknown reasons. We further rode to the Red Cross in  city centre to try our luck. However, they had to turn us down as well. Third time lucky, we found a church willing to accommodate us for the night. We camped behind their backyard. While shopping at nearby supermarket, I was shocked to see astronomical prices in the supermarket. My 6 litre of water cost me 5 USD and my loaf of bread cost 2 USD. In all, just 2 items cost me 7 USD. Laura from Spain gruntled that it was more expensive than in spain. It was close to Northern Europe cost of living. Indeed, Costa Rica and Panama will burn a hole in my budget. No more cheap central America way of living. No more eating out or sleeping in Hostels like I used to in Central America. Here it was back to Europe way of touring. 

Day 420: Liberty Liberia 

Day 420: Liberty Liberia

Costa Rica: La Cruz to Liberia

Distance: 60 km

Time: 7.30 am to 12.08 pm

Cumulative distance: 15, 095 km

We shared our poo story last night over dinner and this morning, the same thing happened in me. There wasn’t any toilet at the church, so I have to poo somewhere on the backyard. While cleaning my butt, my hand was dirtied by my poo, exactly happened last year in Thailand. Good thing there are 3 ladies with me. I got to clean my hand with soap. First time since Guatemala, I felt chilly during the night. Had to put my hoodie and sweat pants to sleep in my sleeping bag. 

The benefits of travelling with others is we get to share resources. They made tea and oatmeal for me, I share my bread. Best of both worlds. Noticed I wrote ‘we’ more often than the usual ‘I’. Now as a group, we collectively made decisions on what to eat, where to sleep and how far to travel for the day. We decided on a short 60 km ride to Liberia instead of opting for a longer 80 km to Bageces which we will end up riding longer distances over the next day. While having breakfast, we chatted. Alana, like me, had her own downhill song. Song to sing when riding a long downhill. Hers was Naked and Free by Sabana. My downhill song was ‘Country Road’ by John Denver. Thought I was the only weird one, found someone like me as quirky. The petite Alana does have her unique quirks. Making sounds while eating. She goes ohh, hmm, ya while smooching a mango.

Left la Cruz to get on highway 1. Costa Rica ‘s road was well paved and smooth for me. However, they left me without any shoulders. I had to jostle with cars and trucks over the tiny pathetic road space. There is a reason why Costa Rican drivers are known for their crazy insane driving . They overtake vehicles in front whenever they felt like it. Today, I was much faster than I was in Nicaragua. Costa Rica has more trees, blocking the wind whereas Wind in Nicaragua is almost unstoppable by the barren lands. Once the variable of wind is removed, my speed improved. Alana rode together with me again. At the uphill, I discovered that rapid, shorter strides helped in me skating the uphill. Is like bicycle on lower gear, more cadence for the hills. There was a section where I rolled down and the momentum was enough to continue finishing the next up slope and down. I didn’t have to kick once at all for few km. 

At 30 km, halfway to Liberia, 3 ladies and I had a break. My pushcart was just off the road, forgot to put on the parking brakes. When a huge truck came zooming across, the force from draft wind came pushing my pushcart down into the forest. Nothing was damaged or lost. It was only 9.30 am and 30 km to go. We decided to ride all the way to Liberia without any breaks. At this pace, it is projected that I can reach in Liberia before noon. Yeah, I can wash my clothes. 

Laura and Marge rode ahead while I and Alana rode on together. The wind intensified when we entered into farmlands. Without any trees slowing down the wind, it was back to Nicaragua slow speed. As just I was cursing the wind, a pickup truck pulled over in front of me. The driver, with his children, came out, saying ‘Liberia’ 

I replied ‘Si’

Instantly, he opened his back of pickup and signalled for me to get on. Alana arrived and asked her if she wants a ride too. She was thinking she could ride the last 20 km but nah, we can have a longer day of rest. Why not. The driver helped us load my pushcart and her bicycle and drove us 20 km or less to Liberia. Apparently, the driver used to tour the world on his bicycle too. He toured around usa once and his children are also avid cyclists. When he spotted the two of us, he was happy and stopped for us. He gave me a Costa Rica flag to put on my pushcart. Finally, my first flag. While waiting for Marge and Laura, Alana did her yoga under the bridge. We waited 45 minutes for Marge and Laura at the roadside. Alana bought a honey melon for us to enjoy, which cost her 4 USD. That was one expensive melon. The Rica in Costa Rica was really living to its name. It meant Rich. Indeed, it was rich and expensive. 

We rode to the fire station but they have to turn us down as the alarm system will sound off during the night if we walked in the fire station. Didn’t know the fire station in Costa Rica was so high tech. Then we tried the Red Cross, and it was successful this time round. They held on to our passports till the next morning. Showered and washed my clothes, after which we had lunch at Chinese restaurant. I shared a huge  plate of rice with curry chicken. Costa Rica was lovely except it’s real expensive. Luckily, we discovered the tap water is safe to drink, therefore I don’t have to spend 5 USD on water everyday.

Day 415: No Soy Chino! Soy Singaporean 

Day 415: No Soy Chino! Soy Singaporean 

Nicaragua: Granada to Rivas 

Distance: 68 km

Time: 7.05 am to 2.31 pm

Cumulative distance: 14,980 km
Day 411-414

If you are fooled by my April’s fool post on Facebook announcing to quit my tour and return home. Well, Happy April’s fool. And April’s fool day coincide with Easter Sunday, the Resurrection of Christ, and also my tech Support Iris’s birthday. Me being Catholic, have to stay in Granada, the crown Jewel of Nicaragua to celebrate the holy weekend and attend 3 days of mass. Good Friday procession was indeed an eye opener for me. Hundreds of devotees followed the statute of Christ being crucified and Mother Mary and a Roman Soldier carried by more than 20 devotees on a fiery day through the streets of Granada. We did the 14 stations of the cross as we walked around, chanting the Lord’s prayer and hail Mary. Of course I did mine in English. In Singapore, we never did such procession, everything was done within the confines of the church. Singapore is bureaucratic on such procession. Permits and red tapes must be applied. And here, streets are closed. No cars are allowed on streets on this hour. Therefore, it was an experience for me, my first holy week in Latin America where everyone is Catholic. 

On Saturday evening, Yves and Fed arrived in Granada, staying in the fire station which is right opposite my hostel. We gathered for an expensive pizza dinner, which I have to budget my meals for next few days. They left for rivas the next day while I celebrated Easter Sunday. Throughout the holy week mass, I made friend with a homeless guy, who also begged for money. Instead of giving the alms to the church, I gave it to him. Catholic Church has billions of dollars already. Why not give it to the poor. Nothing much, just sufficient for him to get a cheap meal.

Throughout Central America, everyone on the streets have been shouting Chino, whenever they saw me. Sometimes, it turns to racial slur like Ching Chong Chang. Though my ethnicity is Chinese, I don’t really identify as Chinese, I see myself as Singaporean. No Chinese or whatever. I always replied back “No Soy Chino, Soy Singaporean” but Singapore being a tiny island nation, nobody here ever heard of it. I have to explain to them that it is near Malaysia and Thailand, some countries they will know. Asia isnt limited just to Indians, Chinese, Japanese and Koreans. There are lots of ethnicities and nationalities in Asia. Finally, once a guy actually guessed I was from Thailand. I was so glad cos it was a close answer. My sunburnt dark complexion distinguished me as Thai , no longer as the typical Chinese now. Now, I will probably pass off as Filipino. Then I don’t have to explain why I have a Catholic name and why am I a Catholic as Philippines was a Spanish colony for centuries.

Day 415

After the Resurrection of Christ, it is also time for me to return to the road. Leaving Granada was a small hill which I have to climb. Not too steep that I have to walk. The temperature, by 8 am, began to soar. Without my Garmin GPS watch, I can’t gauge how fast and far I am going. But luckily, there are the milestone markers indicating the distance to Costa Rica border. From the marker, I can calculate how many km left to Rivas. 

As usual, the highway was smooth. The wind was keeping me cool and slowing me as well. On Nadame, left highway 4 and switched to Nic-2. Everything remained the same. At 11 am, stopped at a Comedor for lunch. Best lunch for a long time. Chicken stew with rice. It was only 60 C or 2 USD. Must enjoy these cheap meals while I am still in Nicaragua. Once to Costa Rica and Panama, things gets real expensive. Almost western Europe standard. Then again, when it comes to Expensive countries, I tend to spend less. Camp cooking and camping to reduce cost. And there isn’t much for me to spend on cos everything will be too expensive for me to even consider spending. Less temptation. Whereas, cheaper countries, everything is so cheap that I am more tempted to spend more. Still, I am getting more bangs for my buck. 

From lunch place to Rivas was only 26 km more. I took a short nap at bus shelter but it was crowded. Resumed at 12.30 pm, since it wasn’t that hot with the wind, to finish the last 26 km. At 2.30 pm, I arrived at Rivas Fire station. It was a 3 storey building. I got the whole 2nd floor to myself for tonight. There were two kids, Jeffery and Lucia. They tried to communicate with me in English they learnt in school but it wasn’t sufficient. Being a former teacher, my teaching instincts kicked in. Taught them few basic english phrases and corrected their homework. 

Tomorrow, I will try to leave my pushcart in the station, as I will be going to Playa Gigante to meet up with Marge Magic Hair to celebrate her upcoming birthday on the 4th. Playa Gigante is another detour off the pan American highway. Not wanting to skate the same way, I try to hitchhike or get Magic Hair to transport me there. Another couple days off in the beach. Gawd, I am never going to reach Argentina at this pace.

Day 411: Semana Santa in Granada 

Day 411: Semana Santa in Granada 

Nicaragua: Managua to Granada 

Distance: 54 km

Time: 7.39 am to 3.07 pm

Cumulative distance: 14,912 km

Another Shagged morning when I woke up to an aching body due to Headwind and burning temperature on the road. Since Granada is only 50 km away, I can afford to have late sleep in. Had my fried rice leftovers for breakfast. I portioned the Everest mountain load for further lunch and dinner. Saving money is my top priority. It doesn’t take long for me to pack up and prepare. In the end, I still managed to set off around my usual time 7 am albeit 40 minutes later. Found the streets to be deserted on a weekday. Oh it is the eve of the holy week, where Christ died and resurrected. Nicaragua being Catholic country, not surprising it was holiday for entire weekend, since Easter is the most important festival of the year. That is why I scheduled to arrive in Granada, the crown jewel of central America to celebrate the holy week. Of course, Antigua, Guatemala might dispute this. The deserted roads played to my benefits. No cars to worry about as I skated out of the capital. It was only when I was moving out of the city, traffic got busier. Probably, everyone was moving out of town to celebrate.

Noticed that lots of traffic police setting up checkpoints on the road, they surely weren’t leaving security to chances. Managua was founded on hills, thus naturally the road wasn’t flat for me today. Lots of climbing to do. Took breaks hourly to rest from the heat. At the one of bus shelters, a elderly lady chatted with me. This time, I was more enthusiastic in chatting in Spanish than yesterday where I was totally zonked.

Stopped by the entrance to masaya volcano. It was the place to visit if you like to see lava on the crater. It is best to do at night, when you can see red hot birthing lava and however, they only allows motorised vehicles to enter. You are only allowed 15 minutes at the crater and if when the volcano suddenly turn active, you need to evacuate fast. Walking or skating isn’t the best option. I might to have go on tour to do this. 

Pushing on, stopped at the kiosk for soft drink. Since I got my fried rice ration for lunch, sat down at the kiosk to finish my fried rice and enjoying the gassing sensation of coke down my throat. Continued on quickly to the next bus stop where I can take my nap till 1.30 pm.

The last 10 km on Nic-4 highway deteriorated. It wasn’t that rough, still skateable but I was pampered by high quality of roads in central America. I used to worry about the Road condition in central America prior to entering. I thought I was going to have a tough time, thinking since central America region is impoverished, they won’t have the funds to maintain roads. On the contrary, 80% of pan American highway here are of excellent or good condition. Only few stretches of rough roads like the one from Guatemala border to Santa ana in Salvador. Other than that, central America can be a skate touring haven. Guatemala road is good except crazy steep roads, el Salvador is not bad, Honduras is simply heaven till the Nicaragua border, Nicaragua is great. Worse on the average, I would say it was Belize. Luckily belize was a short stretch, doable in 4 days. So now 10 km of rough road to Granada, I can accept that. Jesus have suffered and died under the cross. What is suffering 10 km of roughness for him.

By 2pm, I approached Granada, reached the main cathedral first for photo taking. The baroque styled cathedral stuck me as golden rich extravaganza. Granada was named by Hernández de Córdoba after the ancient Spanish city of Granada. This was done in honour of the defeat of the last Moorish stronghold, which had been Spanish Granada, by the Catholic King and Queen of Spain. Granada, Nicaragua was historically the sister capital in Central America to Antigua, Guatemala. During the colonial period, Granada maintained a flourishing level of commerce with ports on the Atlantic Ocean, through Lake Nicaragua (also known as Cocibolca) and the San Juan River. Quoted from Wiki travel. 
I noticed Nicaraguan revered che as stated of him were all over towns. Another striking similarly between Cuba and Nicaragua is that locals love to have rocking chairs and sat outside their house to chat with neighbors. This explains why they have such strong ties.

Another long break for me over the weekends as I celebrate holy week. Last year, I celebrate Easter in Ho chi min city , Vietnam. This year, I will be celebrating across the Pacific ocean in Nicaragua. I wonder where will I celebrate my next year Easter. Of course, Singapore if not my mother will come chasing after me. Have a blessed Easter. 

Day 410: Adios Honduras, Hola Nicaragua country 20

Day 410: Adios Honduras, Hola Nicaragua country 20

Nicaragua: Leon to Managua 

Distance: 90 km

Time: 7.20 am to 6.47 pm

Cumulative distance: 17, 858 km

Day 405 – 409

Took a bus from Choluteca, Honduras to the Nicaragua border as my popped blister was causing me discomfort and I didn’t want to risk further infection. After verifying with the firemen, the road to the border is under construction. Taking bus would be a wise decision. Now the issue was which bus would take my pushcart. The transport to Guasaule, the border was a mini van since the distance was a short 40 km. But Honduran want your business, they will demonstrate all sorts of ingenious resourceful ways to fix the problem. They lift and tied my folded pushcart on the top of van and surprisingly, it stays secured throughout the journey. At the border, I skated to the Honduras exit. By now, I would expect central America immigration to be settled in matter of seconds. This time, I had to queue for an hour to get my exit stamp and had to put faith in honest Honduran as I had to leave my pushcart outside the office for an hour. The queue was mixed with people entering and exiting Honduras. No wonder the queue was so long. After an hour or so, got my exit stamp and my pushcart was left intact. Honduras might be most dangerous country but it still have honest people. Crossed the bridge over to Nicaragua, the border guard directed me to immigration office. I had to pay USD 12 for entry and weirdly, they don’t accept their own Nicaraguan currency Cordoban. I gave them 15 USD but they don’t have the change. They asked me to go out and find a money changer to change myCordoban back to 2 USD to get exact change. What a red tape! Hopefully it doesn’t illustrate the culture of Nicaragua. 
Skated to the bus station to catch a bus to Leon. The chicken / ex American school bus only leaves when it is full. After lifting and securing my pushcart on top of bus, I went for lunch since I was the first to arrive. Lunch was cheap. Rice with beef for 70 C / 2.30 USD. I am loving Nicaragua again. I entertained the kids at the comedor. They probably find me interesting as they never interacted with an Asian guy. I translated whatever Spanish words they wanted to English. At 12.40 pm, boarded the bus for Leon. There, I got reunited with Marge ‘magic hair’ . She got two female companions Anana from USA and Laura from Spain as well. Looks like I am only the odd male here. However, they made a move towards Granada the next day while I had to stay in Leon for few days to recuperate from my blisters. During my stay in Leon, I binge watched three movies latest Tomb Raider, Pacific Rim 2 and Mary Magdalene since movie only cost USD 4. On the last day in Leon, I signed up for volcano boarding at nearby cerro negro. This is the only the place where you can slide down a volcano on a wooden plank. The slope of the volcano is fine volcanic debris, suitable for sliding down at rollercoaster speed. But first, we have to hike for 45 minutes to the top in order to slide down the 500 metres slope. Speed can go up to 90 kmh however, I prefer to slide it at a consecutive speed 50 kmh, not risking further injury. Sliding down at 50 kmh is very different from skating down at similar speed. I must say skating down is much  more exhilarating as I scare my shit out. 

Day 410

At last, I have fully recovered from my blisters and my heel regrew new skins. Plus I have gotten used to my new shoes bought in Honduras. Much comfortable. I realized I always have to get shoes larger than my normal size cos my feet is wider than what it is supposed. Skated out of Leon without any hinge. According to my Intel from Anthony Chamssy and family who are ahead of me, the road are very smooth and I am going to love it. Followed their recommendation, Nic 12 followed by Nic 28. Somehow they forgot to mention the headwind. Headwind provided a catch 22. Headwind slow me down with much resistance but cooled me down. Without headwind, I could go much faster, but I have to take frequent longer breaks from the heat, which turned to be slow as well. The highway provided a wide shoulder beside but it was riddled with horse shit. Instead of looking out for cars, I have to dodge from shits on the road. I observed more horse wagons than Salvador and Honduras, accounting for the horse shits here. 

By 12 noon, I arrived at Nagote, 50 km into my skate. Good time for lunch. There, I bumped into my hostel mate in Leon. Now he had to believe that I really skate all the way, no any horse shit I uttered out to impress. Lunch at local comedor, rice and pork for 70 C. So cheap here, I don’t bother to cook my lunch anymore. 

Upon resuming, my legs felt jelly, caused from pushing hard through headwind. Took a nap at a bus stop for 30 minutes before stopping shortly after to admire the scenery. Volcano on a lake. Bought a soft drink to sit down and enjoy the view while catching a breather. A local approached me. I was too tired from the wind to entertain. I pretended not to understand Spanish buy he could speak English. Damn, I couldn’t escape this time. Answered his questions grumpy, and i left after 5 minutes to get back on the road.

Arrived at Managua at 4.30 pm, tried finding my hostel Cesar Roof. Google map pointed the place inside an oil refinery. I tried to enter the premise but of course the guards stopped me. Apparently, there wasn’t any hostel inside the oil refinery. I read that Managua address is based on geographical landmarks, street names doesn’t exist. An example is Calle 2, 2 blocks north from parque central. No wonder, the Google map will get it wrong. Failing to find my cheap hostel, I continued skating further into the city in search of a hostel. Hostal Las Palma’s was another wrongly pinned address luckily local directed me further down the road. The hostal is more like a cheap guesthouse. USD 15 for a private room. I don’t need a room, I want to save money. I further skated on, the next one was a hotel, 40 USD for a room. No way. By then, it was getting dark. Skating on unfamiliar places in the dark wouldn’t be a wise choice. The cheapest bed on a hostel here would cost $10 USD, not much of a saving from Las Palma’s 15 USD room. Returned back to Las Palma’s and settled for a room. In the end instead of skating 85 km today, I probably ended up skating 90 km in circles in search for hostel.

Immediately famished after shower, i went for dinner. Settled for a Chinese eatery, knowing they would satisfy my enormous appetite after a tough 90 km skate. I got more than i asked for. I ordered USD 5 fried rice, thinking it was rather expensive meal. It turned out to be a gigantic plate of fried rice meant for a family. It is the Mount Everest of fried rice. Even a famished me had a tough time finishing a quarter of it. Next time I will bring 3-4 famished cyclists. I had to pack it away for my next days meal. I can save money, not having to buy food for next 3 meals. Breakfast, lunch and dinner worth of fried rice. USD 5 for 4 meals, now makes a cheap meal. Tomorrow I will reach Granada and prepare for the holy week Easter Sunday, Christ resurrection. Another long break for me.