Tiffani’s Yamaha FZ-07 Tour: Homeward Bound Doesn’t Mean the End of the Adventure

Chapter 3, Part 19

Mexico Map
Mexico map, part 19 of our tripMotorcyclist

Now that it’s officially time to turn around, it feels really strange and hollow. Sometimes I feel like I should be going on to Colombia when it’s so incredibly close, and other times I think about the $1,200 per person it’ll cost to get there. I feel that there are other places I’d want to visit more with that amount of money, places where I won’t have to eat rice and beans anymore. It’s a little frustrating to stare at the tiny, 100km of the Darién Gap and know that it’s impassable, but until I figure out how to turn the FZ into a hovercraft or become independently wealthy, I guess this’ll have to do.

yaviza bridge crossing
People ran back and forth with wheelbarrows full of yucca roots on the rickety hanging bridge in Yaviza, making an already janky-looking structure feel borderline death-defying as the chain-link fences and diamond-plate patchwork floor swayed and wobbled. Safety standards are maybe a little different here.Tiffani Burkett

After spending the night in Yaviza, a town with little to do or see (unless you’re into janky hanging bridges made of diamond plating and boats full of plantains), we finally turned our bikes around to set our sights toward home. Well, wherever home really is, being I don’t technically have anywhere to go back to. We made our way through the dirt and mud and construction and no-man’s-land that is everything south of Panama City and arrived in the city itself in short enough order. We took a few days there to recoup, mentally wrap my head around what we were doing and where we were going, and do some maintenance, then continued our trek. We stopped at Noni’s House, the bed-and-breakfast in Las Lajas we had stayed in the first time down, and we stayed a few more days to continue the recovery process. Peter and Astrid treated us like old friends, and we took a day to visit the nearby beach. It’s the flattest beach I’ve ever experienced—you could probably walk out 100 meters into the surf before it was deep enough to swim. And another day we had a beach barbecue. It felt like a proper celebration.

waters of panama
The waters of Panama were as warm as bathwater, and the waves were shallow and gentle even without a reef to slow down the swells. Las Lajas might be my favorite beach of the whole trip, and I’ve swum at a lot of beaches!David Hayward

On the way to pick up some food for the barbecue, we were met with a large protest that was apparently sweeping through Panama. We bought our supplies and a massive machete for good measure. It wouldn’t be much of an adventure if the hero didn’t have a sword, right? Meanwhile, groups of people shouted slogans in Spanish through megaphones and hordes of police in full riot gear stood by to keep things in control. Just another day in Latin America, I suppose (or, well, maybe another day in regular America, too, with the reports of politics I’ve heard from home). We eventually bid our friends goodbye, and we finally officially committed to the return trip to the United States. It took a lot of mental gymnastics to feel it was the right decision, but I know it was for a multitude of reasons—not the least of which was having not canceled our Mexican vehicle permits and needing to be back in time to get our deposit back.

police at protest
The police had an impressive amount of patience as they stood across from protesters and simply listened to their cries. I’m just glad it all stayed safe and sane while we passed by.David Hayward

We hit the Costa Rican border in no time, and now, with possessing quite a bit of experience with border crossings, we made quick work of the copies and paperwork. Having spent more than our share of time in Costa Rica, we plowed through the country fairly quickly and then crossed into Nicaragua. We stopped by San Juan del Sur, a popular beach town among tourists. But droves of young college-age tourists looking to party actually made me miss the usual undeveloped and barely put-together roadside hotels. I’m not even 30 yet, but I feel like I’m already too old for that scene, haha. Well, or maybe I’m just a nerd and never understood that scene even back then. It could really go either way.

Alligators of Costa Rica
Couldn’t resist one last stop in Costa Rica. The river was overflowing with American alligators, some of which looked big enough to eat me whole!Tiffani Burkett
Police on FZ1
Turns out, some of the reasons the police and military kept stopping us so much was just because they thought our bikes were cool and they wanted to check them out. The FZ1 gets so much attention down here, I’m almost a little jealous!David Hayward

We got back on the road and finished off Nicaragua and made our way into southern Honduras. Shortly into the country, some children tried to block the road using potholes to help build their roadblock. Hollywood squeezed through no problem, but when he passed by, they made an extra effort to try to block my path. As I weaved around them, one of the children, a boy maybe 8 years old if I were to guess, began chasing me with a shovel. Fortunately the FZ has a bit more horsepower than your average 8-year-old, but it was still a pretty horrible feeling to watch children that young trying to extort and intimidate people. We hadn't seen the Caribbean side of Honduras, but the miserable road conditions and instances like this weren't helping my second impression of the country either.

El Salvador bridge
Goodbye El Salvador and hello Guatemala! The pain of border crossings is a little easier to swallow when they look like this.David Hayward

We got through both border crossings within the day again, and started making our way through El Salvador. Other than the loads of traffic we ran into trying to take a different route through the country for variety’s sake, there wasn’t much to note here. Another quick in and out.

Dirt riding
My dirt bike skills still need a lot of work, which is one of the bigger reasons I didn’t continue to Colombia. But once you get off the road the scenery is unmatched. I really want to take more time to learn proper technique and get more confidence off road, so I can do South America right.David Hayward

Guatemala ended up being a really quick trip, not because I didn’t have anything else I wanted to do there this time around, but because apparently, if you aren’t out of the country for more than 90 days, you’re only allowed a 24-hour transit permit to cross it. We took the CA-2 from one end to the other, planning to this time cross into Mexico via Chiapas. The distance wasn’t far, but the road conditions gave Honduras a run for its money in terms of the sheer number, depth, and brutality of pitfalls in the middle of the road. And it was made even more treacherous by the frequent rainstorms that made it impossible to gauge where and how deep some of these chasms were (I’m never going to have straight wheels again). We made it to the Guatemala-Mexico border about six hours late due to the crock of garbage they call pavement, but the immigration officer seemed sympathetic and waved us through anyway.

checkpoint stop
Did I mention we literally got stopped at every. Single. Checkpoint? Every now and again, they would be so confused by my passport photo that they made me remove my helmet to make sure I was really a girl. Le sigh, Latin America.David Hayward

And with that, we were officially back in Mexico with 180 fresh days on our permits! I never thought I would be excited to say that, but the smooth roads, comparatively well-maintained infrastructure, and the 10 billion super-lame but super-convenient and magical Oxxo markets (basically the Mexican 7-Eleven with equally terrible hot dogs that feel like an oasis in a sea of rice and beans) were actually a welcome sight. I loved Chiapas the first time around, and this time is starting out no different! I guess in order to enjoy this country again I just needed some really bad potholes to make me appreciate it more, haha.

El Salvador enchiladas
It turns out “enchiladas” in El Salvador are completely different from enchiladas where I come from! There’s some food that I definitely will miss.David Hayward

That said, while the end goal might be to get back to the United States, I have a whole eastern half of this country and about 15 Mexican states that I’ve never seen, so I guess this leg of the adventure isn’t over quite yet. Onward and, literally, upward!

back in mexico
Back in Mexico with 15 states still left to explore! Lock and load!David Hayward