The Accident

January 7, 2012 – January 14, 2012

When we left the beach, our first mission was to ride through San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador. It is known as one of the most dangerous cities in the world but it didn’t feel scarier than any other city I have been to. We continued riding and planned on crossing the border into Honduras. It was really hot out and the stop and go traffic wasn’t helping. It seemed that El Salvador had two types of drivers, very fast and aggressive, also, very slow and timid. I was told that obtaining a drivers license simply consisted of paying for it.

Torn FrameIt was barely 4pm and we had already ridden through more than half the country. El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America but it is the most densely populated. We were riding through a city named Santa Rosa de Lima, and we were approximately 15 minutes from reaching the Honduras border. Rocky was annoyed. He had fought with the traffic all day long and I could tell he was frustrated. We were riding on a two lane highway and everyone was weaving in and out of oncoming traffic to avoid slower vehicles. Reluctant to pass into oncoming traffic, Rocky attempted to pass using the shoulder. It was a mistake he would quickly regret. A truck in front of us failed to look onto the shoulder as it pulled over, and he rammed into the side of us as we were passing.

The bike wobbled when we were hit and Rocky struggled to keep control from falling into a long, 3-foot deep, manmade ditch that ran along the side of the highway. His efforts were in vain. We landed in the ditch, but it was a good thing we did because we avoided hitting a steel pole. Unable to stop in time, we smashed into the 3-foot rock and concrete wall at the end of the ditch. The bike hit head-on and we were thrown off onto the driveway in front of us. It all happened so quickly. We jumped to our feet to assess the damage. Luckily, we were ok. Thanks to Rev-it for creating fantastic riding protection. There wasn’t even a scratch or mark on our gear. The truck that hit us was quick to leave the scene and the police that rode past felt they had no business stopping. A small crowd of people circled around us as we began removing our belongings from the motorcycle and from the stream of raw sewage.

The ditch was created to collect rain and sewage. It was filled with leaves and litter, and possibly urine and feces, causing a foul odour and making it really difficult for us to gather our things. I will never forget that smell. We had fire ants all over us and they were eating small chunks of our skin. I have never seen so many ants in my life. We were still in shock as we sadly stared at our broken motorcycle. A man, who I assume was my age but smaller than I, spoke out and asked the crowd to lift the bike from the ditch. It was beautiful to watch as everyone helping us. The man asked us to wait as he went up the road to get his pickup truck. With everyone’s effort, we were able to get the motorcycle onto the truck and we rode down the street to a home. We were introduced to Evers, his wife Dilma and son David. Their other son, Enrique, lived next door with beautiful wife Yolii and their son Samuel. We were told that we could keep the bike parked at Evers’ house and keep all of our gear at Yolii’s house, and we were invited to stay at Yolii’s mother’s house.

Ximena, Didier & PaulaIsabel is Yolii’s mom and she lives a few blocks away with her son Didier and his wife Ximena who had just moved back home from living and working in the USA. We were glad they spoke English. It made things much easier. We arrived at their home and they did their best to accommodate us. We were offered everything from food, a hot shower and their own bed for us to sleep on. It was really kind how well we were treated and taken care of. We were completely exhausted but sleeping was almost impossible. My neck and back were sore and Rocky experienced an allergic reaction to all of the fire ant bites. He was ready to scratch his skin off. But complaints were far from our thoughts. We were happy to be alive and cared for.

Once morning came, our minds were racing. We were afraid to impose on our hosts, we were unsure of how to continue our trip and we wondered if we should ship the bike home or try to find a way to fix it, locally. Luckily, we weren’t allowed to think too much about it because we were told that it was Sunday morning, and, when you live in El Salvador, Sunday is spent at the beach with family and friends. The invite placed a huge smile on my face. The beach was a perfect idea for the frame of mind I was in.

David & GirlfriendWe packed up some things and had a family day at Playa Negra. Didier, his wife, Ximena, his mom Isabel and his sister, Yolii, with her son Samuel and Yolii’s brother in-law, David, and his girlfriend, Milena, treated us to a day out. The sun was shining we were with good people. The ocean was warm and soothing on my muscles. We ate fresh ceviche, drank a few beers, swam in the ocean, relaxed on hammocks and played in the pool. On our drive home, we stopped in a city called La Union. The city center was packed with people. We all sat at a table and ate a variety of Pupusas. Pupusas are a thick, handmade corn or rice flour tortillas stuffed with cheese, refried bean and chicharron (cooked pork). There were also vegetarian options and some stuffed with shrimp or just cheese and salsa. They were very tasty. The only thing that could have made the day better would have been if Rocky wasn’t so sad. He was devastated and there was nothing that could have helped his broken heart.

The following day, Evers invited us out for lunch. We joined him and his son at a restaurant named La Mariscada de Pema, where we were able to taste an award-winning soup called Sopa de Pema. It was a seafood chowder that tasted absolutely amazing. Evers told us stories of life in El Salvador. He said that we were very fortunate to have had been helped by the right people. Most neighborhoods in the area are run by gangs and had we crashed in sight of them, we may have been robbed or taken advantage of. He said that gang activity ran rampant and he expressed a lot of concern about extortion. If gang members believe that you have money, they would do anything to take it. Evers said that he would love if his sons could live in a place as safe as Canada and he respectfully mentioned that he would not be opposed to his son marrying a Canadian just for the purpose of citizenship. Sensing that it was a hint, Rocky was quick to say that gay marriage was legal in Canada and he wouldn’t be opposed to helping out. That put an quick end to that conversation.

Didier & XimenaAfter a lot of thought, we decided it was best if we shipped the bike home by sea and take a flight home. It took days to make all of the arrangements. We had called many shipping companies and encountered many problems. Something as simple as receiving a call back was extremely difficult. But, what really made me frustrated was trying to obtain a police report. We went to the police station but we were told to return at different hours or different days, numerous times. Finally, I just about snapped and began taking names and recording all of the officers badge numbers. I told them I had all of their information and that since they were unwilling to help, I was given no choice but to visit the embassy. That worked quite well. We left that day with a police report and we were told that we would have to bring it to a police station in the city La Union to have the papers certified.

The following day, Rocky and I took a bus to La Union. This bus ride was the most unique experience of our entire trip. I wish we had brought the camera. La union was at least an hour away and the drama on this bus was fascinating. Hah! I don’t even know where to start. Vendors kept walking in and out of the bus at each stop. There was a man dressed as a clown trying to collect tips for being dressed as a clown. There were adorable children with straps and belts that held goodie-bags and they were selling the candy. There were women wearing cute lace aprons with hot trays of food and they sang songs of what they were selling. A man, wearing a suit and tie, stood at the front of the bus talking about medical conditions for a very long time. He eventually walked up and down the aisle selling individual pills, that could have been anything, and people were actually buying them. We were so confused watching the craziness everyone else found normal.

Once we finally reached La Union, the police station was easy to find and the officers were helpful. One problem was solved and there were more to be addressed.

Shipping The BikeWe finally came in contact with a company willing to ship the motorcycle. Still, it took a few days to get quotes and answers. It was a very stressful time but, during those days, Isabel, Ximena and a neighbour helped by hand washing all of our belongings so that we could travel home clean. Everything we owned looked better than new. They also helped us with phone calls and translations to make all the arrangements possible. The company that would be shipping our motorcycle was located in the city of San Salvador, and Didier found somebody who would rent us a pickup truck and take the motorcycle, Rocky and I into the city. I’m not sure what we would’ve done without this amazing family.

It was 4am and we were ready to head out into San Salvador. It took a few hours to finally reach Comca Shipping Company, but that was just the beginning of our day. We said goodbye to Didier, Isabel and Ximena and thanked them for everything. We will forever remember and be grateful of their friendship.

At Comca Shipping Company, Rocky and I spent most of the day taking the bike apart and making it as compact as possible for the crate that was going to be made for the shipment home. The employee we had dealt with told us not to bother removing the fluids from the bike. They offered to drain the bike at no cost if it was necessary. We provided photocopies of all the documents, the police report, permits, and the motorcycle ownership and we were given a receipt with a summary of expenses and told everything was ready and the motorcycle would be shipped within two weeks. Rocky Maddy's Bandageand I had booked a room at the Sheraton and we were given a ride the employee of the shipping company whom we had dealt with. It was a bit past 5pm when we got to our room and as we sat to relax for a moment. I noticed the concern on Rocky’s face as he stared at the receipt we had been given. The paper had no real information on it. The price had the word estimation printed beside it and a few things had been scratched off and penciled in. It wasn’t very professional and Rocky thought it seemed questionable. We also had no proof of having left the motorcycle in the possession of the shipping company. We called a taxi and rushed back to Comca to get proper documentation. As we ran to the door, the building was closing for the night and we approached an employee on their way out. Luckily, he was the owner. He invited us in and was also surprised of the paper we were given. He expressed that it was odd and he would make sure to give us proper documents and a guaranteed price. This gave us comfort and we were able to leave with some peace of mind.

Our hotel room was beautiful and our bed was especially comfortable. It was a great place to stay but very boring in comparison to the places we had slept, in the past months.

Our flight was booked and we took a taxi to the airport early the next morning. Times were a bit tough at the airport. Our luggage wasn’t practical for flying and we were asked to throw out all of our spare bottles of oil, lube, cleaners, and coolant. We gave it away to somebody dropping off their family. They were happy. We were also told to throw out our fuel tanks and camp-stove fuel container because they smelled of gas. I refused. They cost too much money to discard and they were empty anyway. I suggested cleaning them out in the washroom with soapy water instead. The lady told me I could try that, but I would have to run to avoid missing my flight. Rocky waited at the counter as I grabbed the fuel tanks and fuel canister. I ran through the airport ignoring everything but my current mission. As I opened the doors into the secured section before reaching the bathroom, six officers stood in front of me and stopped me from entering. It wasn’t until I saw their expressions that I realized how crazy I must have appeared to everyone as I ran through the San Salvador airport hugging a bunch of gas tanks. I just stood there for a moment and I laughed. It was funny and a little awkward because I wasn’t even sure of how to explain myself in Spanish. I began to speak but it was my smile, along with a good old fashioned wink that did the trick.

At last, we had everything ready, cleaned, packed, stowed and we were boarded. I was horribly sad how our trip came to an end but I was looking forward to everyone and everything I had missed while we were gone.

The Aftermath

   Anxious to get to the border before the dark of night, we were run off the road into a sewage ditch after attempting to go around a slow-moving vehicle. Attempting to pass on the shoulder of the road was my first mistake, and my second was assuming that the driver would check his mirrors before pulling off the road. The driver, once he realized that Paula and I were both OK, was quick to drive away and have nothing more to do with the situation.

The Scene

   Seeing the bike in the ditch, the police drove right by with little concern. Several of the townspeople helped us pull the motorcycle out of the ditch. One came with his pickup truck and took us to his friend’s place, where we were given a place to stay. Never underestimate the goodwill of strangers.

Back to the scene of the accident...

   The next day, we went back to the scene of the accident.

Bathing In The Ocean

   The family who gave us a place to stay took us to the beach the following day. It was Sunday, and Sundays in El Salvador were for lounging at the beach and swimming in the ocean.

Swimming in the ocean...

   Ximena, Didier and Paula enjoyed the coolness of the ocean water. Depressed over the previous day’s events and the state of the motorcycle, I remained pensive, relaxed in the hammock and took photos.

Yolli & Son

   Yolli & her son, Samuel, bathed in ocean.

Ximena & Paula

   Ximena was originally from Colombia. She had met and married Didier while they were both working in New Jersey.

Isabel & Paula

   Isabel was Didier’s mother. She offered us her home in our time of need.

Talking On Messenger

   Isabel’s husband had gone to New Jersey to work. She had not seen him in person for years. Unable to travel to The United States, she would talk to him on the internet every night.

In Santa Rosa de Lima

   Our extended family in Santa Rosa de Lima

In The Family Room

   In The Family Room

Cat On The Ropes

   After peeking between its legs, Paula informed the family that their cat was actually a male, and not a female as they had thought.

Getting The Bike Ready

   After about a week of making arrangements, we found a shipping company that were willing to ship the motorcycle back to Canada. We rented a pick-up truck to take us to the shipping company in San Salvador, where were began disassembling the bike.

Paula Working On The Bike

   Paula, seen here, is pretending to work on the motorcycle.

Bike Packed (Side)

   Since the total shipping cost was based on both weight and volume, we disassembled the motorcycle in order to minimize the cost of shipping it home.

Bike Packed (Corner)

   The bike was going to be shipped to New York by sea, and then trucked to Toronto.

Bike Packed (Front)

   The cost for the shipment, from San Salvador to Toronto, was roughly US$1,200.

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