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  • ggiannoccaro

False Start

On January 6, 2016 we surrendered to the Drake in our crossing between Cape Horn and the Antarctic Peninsula when after 48 hours of sailing we were forced to return to Puerto Toro to wait for another weather window to make the crossing.

On November 4, 2023 we had to give up, again due to the effect of weather, in our attempt to reach Panama.

We left Belize City on November 2nd, aware that we would find rain for the first 4 days, but having to necessarily be in Panama by November 11th to deliver the motorbikes to the transporter and in consideration of the social turmoils that Panama has been experiencing in recent weeks, we could not postpone the departure.

The first kilometers in Belize were relatively dry, but from entering Guatemala onwards the rain was torrential.

The first evening we stopped in Rio Dulce in Guatemala at RAM Marina.

On the second day we left at 6:30 in the morning, with the aim of crossing Honduras and reaching Choluteca, almost on the border with Nicaragua.

But at 1pm we had traveled just under 200 km, also due to 3 hours spent crossing the border between Guatemala and Honduras.

Still pouring rain.

Around 3 pm we reach San Pedro Sula.

The large Honduran town welcomes us with paralysed traffic on the ring road.

Despite the size of our 990 we manage to make our way through traffic and, in about 1 hour, we manage to reach the end of the blockage caused by an accident.

In the meantime we lost contact with the other two motorbikes of our friends Franco and Juan Carlos, so we stop to wait for them.

After 1 hour of waiting there was no sign of their motorcycles.

We are stopped under a pedestrian bridge that crosses the ring road, a modest shelter from the pouring rain.

We don't have a telephone connection, so we decide to find a public place with wifi.

I turn the ignition key and voila the dashboard of my 990 turns on in the sense that its lights are on, but no parameters are shown.

I notice that the inside of my dashboard is completely flooded.

The motorbike doesn't start.

I turn the key several times but nothing, no indication and no ignition.

A short distance from us we see the sign of a Burger King.

We push the motorbike to the parking lot.

We enter, flooding the hall with our wet rainclothes.

They kindly allow us to connect to their wifi.

I try to call Franco but no answer.

We search on Google for the closest hotel to us.

Fortunately, the Jardin de la Nonna, a bed & breakfast owned by a nice lady of Italian origin is less than a kilometer from us.

After having booked a room, we are back pushing our 990.

After few hundred meters I try to start the bike again.

The Dashboard is still dead, but the bike starts.

In a few minutes we are finally under a real roof.

We are soaked to the bones.

Despite our 4-season motorcycle suits combined with rain suits, this second day of torrential water broke through our "barricades".

Around 6 pm we receive a message from Franco and Juan Carlos.

They had decided to leave the ring road and stopped at a hotel just outside San Pedro Sula.

Wile drying our suits and resting we found out that San Pedro Sula has a KTM dealer.

At 8 in the morning I called the Dealer and arranged an appointment for 8:30.

I arrived at the workshop and while waiting for a technician (he came from another branch of the same dealer) I disassembled the headlight and navigation tower so that the technician could have access to the dashboard.

As soon as he arrived he connected his scanner to the ECU, but without success.

He then dismantled the dashboard, he took out the water, dried it with compressed air, sprayed with electrical contact cleaner and finally reassembles it on my bike.

The bike turns on, but the speed, engine rpm, engine temperature and all the various lights are all off.

Since yesterday evening I have been in contact with my, now , friend Tony Pappa from Guatemala City.

Tony is a young Guatemalan mechanical engineer, who was 12 times National Champion in three different motorcycle disciplines: Motocross, Enduro and Track.

He is also the owner of two mechanical workshops, authorised by KTM and other brands, one in Guatemala City and the other in Antigua.

I met him last year when, after asking in a FB group for a good mechanic in Central America with experience on Ktm 990, I brought him my bike to have the valves checked.

From there, despite the age difference, a pleasant friendship was born.

Last summer He came to visit me for a few days vacation in Caye Caulker and, a few weeks ago, he returned to Belize City to check on my bike before leaving.

Tony suggested that I absolutely change the Dashboard.

He told me that it is easily repairable by any electrical technician, but on one hand the watertightness of the dash is already compromised and on the other the Dashboard has a circuit that records the ok of some parameters before giving permission to switch on.

This circuit, which apparently still works, may stop working anytime.

The dealer in San Pedro Sula tells me that they could have a newdashboard in 4/5 weeks!!

After this encouraging news, it was clear that our only reasonable option was to make our way back home.

We were about 600 kilometers (and two borders) away from Belize City and I was pretty sure that I could get the part in half the time if I order it directly.

So at 1.30pm we are back on the road, back under pouring rain.

Franco and Juan Carlos rightly, decided to continue towards Panama.

We arrived at the border with Guatemala at 4 in the afternoon.

We completed the immigration exit formalities from Honduras and entry's into Guatemala.

Than we had close the temporary import permit for our motorcycle in Honduras and open a new import permit for Guatemala.

But alas, a very kind lady from Guatemalan Customs tells us that having closed the temporary import permit (only 24 hours before) we have to wait 90 days before being able to request a new temporary import permit!

It's now 5.30 pm, it's dark, it's raining cats and dogs, we're exhausted.

I ask to speak to the manager of the Custom.

Again a very kind person explains to us that unfortunately they are unable to force the computer system to open a new permit, since the rule of the 90 days is a parameter of the system.

He tells us, we have to leave the motorcycle in Honduras.

I suddenly find myself capable of a diplomatic skill that I didn't think I possessed.

The customs officers return to their office looking for a solution.

Half an hour later the kind manager tells me that they will give me a special permit valid for 72 hours to cross the Country.

It's now 6.30pm.

I have to pay the temporary permit fee, 160 Quetzales, just over 20 USD.

But Customs doesn't accept direct payments.

A deposit must be made to the Customs account through a bank.

Normally around the border there are custom agencies that take care of making the payment from their accounts for a fee, but given the time and, I might add, the weather, conditions, they are all closed.

I again bother my friend Tony, asking him to kindly make the payment online.

But the payment must be made from a bank he doesn't work with.

So Tony calls a friend of his who, given the time of Saturday evening, had already gone out to dinner.

However he returns home and makes the transfer.

Finally at 7.30pm we were able to leave the Guatemala border.

100 kilometers ride to Puerto Barrios where we stop for the night in a hotel in the centre.

The next day it was still pouring rain.

We waited until 9 am to see if the rain lets up a little, but nothing.

Fortunately, on Sundays the the road which crosse the Peten Region is less busy.

It is all one-lane road, where goods traffic from the entire region is concentrated.

At 4.30pm we are home.

480 km in 7.30h of pouring rain.

Yesterday we finally ordered a new Dashboard from Ktm World in USA.

It should arrive at our freight forwarder in Florida in 2 weeks.

At most 3 it should be here

Fingers crossed.

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