el Calafate to Ushuaia

Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015. We packed up our bike, enjoyed a homemade brownie at the lo de Haydee  Bakery then rode to el Calafate.

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The road was paved all the way and the wind was at our back.

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campsite el Calafate.
Campsite el Calafate.
After setting up camp we rode the 70km to Perito Moreno Glacier.P1100200
We were very fortunate to witness and record a 240 foot column of ice calving into the lake.

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After two weeks on our own, Tom and Tracy caught up with us in Calafate, nice to be riding together again.  The next morning the four of us departed to Torres del Peine Park in Chile. The ride to El Cerrito was relatively easy as we were on asphalt, but the strong winds that Ruta 40 is notorious for continued. After Cerrito it was rippia (gravel) all the way to the Chilean border with no rest from the wind.

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A popular place for a breather.
A popular place for a breather.

 

and we thought we were working hard!
and we thought we were working hard!
Chilean border.
Chilean border.
After an incredibly smooth and quick border crossing we were back on the bikes and on our way into Puerto Natales.  As was becoming our habit, we were once again blown into town.

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Warming up and looking for a place to stay.

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We found a great hotel.

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In the morning Tom’s bike was experiencing a starting problem which was caused by a faulty gearbox neutral sensor – not a simple fix. Luckily it happens infrequently.

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Finally the bike started and off we went, another 70km of gravel and wind to ride to get to the park.

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First view of the mountains in Torres del Peine
First view of the mountains in Torres del Peine

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Reaching the Park gates.

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We had been led to believe that the campsite within the park would be full, but to our amazement there were many tent sites available, so we set up camp with a front row view.

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After setting up camp and enjoying the view we rode further into the park.

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Lowering the tire air pressure as the road altered between rough gravel and washboard.

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While having dinner at the park restaurant we enjoyed viewing both the wildlife and the sunset.

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In the morning weather conditions were warm, sunny and calm as we set off for Punta Arenas via Puerto Natales.
Park road to Puerto Natales
Park road to Puerto Natales
Back in Puerto Natales
Back in Puerto Natales
Putting air back in the tires.
Putting air back in the tires.
We set off for Punta Arenas to catch the ferry for Tierra del Fuego.  That evening in Punta Arenas as we were entering Sorito’s, a restaurant recommended to us for dinner, we noticed Klaus sitting at the head of a long table with the tour group he was driving the support vehicle for. As we approached him to say hello, to our astonishment, sittting beside him was Dave Highton from our home town!   What a great surprise to see such a familiar face and once again proving what an incredibly small world it is.  It was wonderful to run into you Dave.  Hope the rest of your journey was amazing. We look forward to sharing stories.
Wednesday, Feb. 4 caught the 9am ferry to Porvenir, Tierra del Fuego.
On the ferry from Punta Arenas to Tierra del Fuego
On the ferry from Punta Arenas to Tierra del Fuego

 

After a two hour crossing arriving in Port.
After a two hour crossing arriving in Port.
Next, 200km of rippia before crossing back into Argentina from Chile.
Lonely stretch along the coast
Lonely stretch along the coast
Back to serious gravel, wind......
Back to serious gravel, wind……
barrenness.
and barrenness
After 200km of dust we crossed back into Argentina. Our destination for the day had been Rio Grande, but when we arrived all the hotels were full due to a convention!!!   By the time we had looked into all the accommodation options in Rio it was 6:30 pm, but we had light on our side being so far South.  We made the decision to ride the 225km to Ushuaia that evening.
We were greeted with a great road, beautiful vistas and a watercolor sunset.

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Nearing Ushuaia at sunset
Nearing Ushuaia at sunset
We made it…..February 4, 2015…..our first views of Ushuaia; latitude S54 deg. 48′, the end of the Pan American Highway and the southern most city in the world.

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We were pumped.
Next step, Ushuaia – Iguazu Falls…..or so we thought….
talk soon…..l+m  xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Argentina, part one.

It is the 31st of January and we are enjoying some off road time in el Calafate, Argentina.  We are quite far behind on the blog so have decided to start in the present and work on the missing bits in the background, posting them as they are completed.
As some of you know Lindsay and I have been travelling without our travel companions, Tom and Tracy since Antofagasta Chile, as the back drive on their BMW blew out on the ride from Iquique to Antofagasta.  The plan was for them to get the bike fixed in Antofagasta while Lindsay and I travelled to La Serena to have the blown fork seals repaired on our bike. We offered to wait there for them, but they thought we should keep going and they would catch up to us, that was Jan 11. So after their many trials and tribulations we all reconnected last night, Jan 30, here in Calafate.
Lindsay and I crossed from Chile to Argentina on Jan 17th leaving the beautiful wine region of Los Andes, Chile behind and climbing through the Passo de la Cumbra with it’s 29 switchbacks (numbered), into Aconcagua National Park and into the lineup at the border crossing.

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Once again we encountered the joy of border crossings.  This time is was a simple bureaucratic issue that caused us to endure a 2.5 hour crossing  It turned out there is a reciprocity tax charged to Canadians entering Argentina.  That was painful enough, $92 American per head, but the big issue was there was only one official to process the tax and he was busy processing bus loads of tourists, so we waited.
The site that greeted us as we exited the border crossing made us thankful that we were entering Argentina and not exiting it.  We estimated the line up of cars waiting to get into Chile to be 3 km to 5km long. Shortly after passing the endless lineup we were greeted by the beauty of Rio Mendoza Valley and made our first stop at the Puerte del Inca stone bridge.

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Next stop was in the beautiful city of Mendoza, center of Argentina’s wine district, sheltered from it’s arid surrounding by boulevards lined with lush avenues of trees.

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Outside of Mendoza we passed Volcano Tupungato which reminded me of a floating Buddha.

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We were now experiencing the winds of Patagonia while riding  the wide open plains from Mendoza to Malarque.  We settled into our hotel in Malarque and enjoyed our first bite of Argentinian beef.

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 The following day found us on gravel for about 100km of the ride to Chos Malal.  The first 40km was a construction zone, our least favorite type of surface as it is generally thick gravel that has just been laid to create a new detour, leaving a very loose driving surface.  This was accompanied by winds.  Fortunately the last 60km was a typical gravel road, much easier riding with the exception of the washboard being hard on the bike. It was nice to get back onto ashphalt.

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Our rides were being defined by the mountain framed windswept plains of Patagonia.

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After riding the plains for a few days we found ourselves dropping into the lush Lakes District of Argentina.

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First stop in the Lakes District, San Martin Los Andes. We located the municipal campground and set up camp.  It was fabulous to be part of such a vibrant tenting community.

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Our neighbours
Our neighbours
On the way to Villa Angastura. The road still presented a few challenges, but well worth the effort.

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Got into Villa Angastura and checked into a campground, only to find that our tent poles had been lifted from our bike.  I know, you are thinking we probably forgot to pack them, but we checked our morning departure photos and they were strapped onto the bike.  Unfortunately we did not have a clear line of vision to the bike when we had breakfast in San Martin that morning, and we think that whoever pulled them off the bike didn’t know what they were getting and just took them because they were accessible.
Lindsay went into town to see if he could get a new tent, but they only had the the sleeve design. So after some thought we decided it was early enough to get back on the bike and make our way to Bariloche to see if we could find a tent there.   We were literally blown into town , the winds were howling off the lake .  We found our way to the town center and started our search for a tent.  Well we lucked out.  Lindsay, through a few karmic contacts. was directed to a sport shop, Garmont, where there was a possibility of buying the replacement posts for the tent. It turned out that the shop didn’t have exactly what we needed, but the owner, Santiago, assembled a whole new frame for us.  He was incredible. So we were back on the camping trail while riding through the Lakes District.
Enjoying the view with Klaus.
Enjoying the view with Klaus.
Bariloche
Bariloche
After San Carlos Bariloche our next destination was el Chalten to see Mount Fitz Roy. First stops enroute were Esquel and Perito Moreno.
On our way to the campgrounds
On our way to the campground in Esquel
It didn’t look like much, but the common area had the best music from the 60’s playing and good wifi.
The common area.
The common area.
Our campsite in Esquel, an indication of how windy our driving conditions were that day.
Getting organized
Getting organized
Set up
Set up
Left the next morning thinking that we would be camping in Rio Mayo.  We had read that there was a decent campground there.
Lunch on the way to Rio
Lunch on the way to Rio
We had heard and read many different versions of the road condition to Rio Mayo, but what we found was mostly paved with the last 70 or so km under construction, soon to be fully paved.
Final 70km into Rio Mayo
Final 70km into Rio Mayo

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 As we rode into Rio Mayo our hopes of finding a decent campground diminished.

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No photos of the campground, but they too were run down and inhospitable looking.  So we decided to ride on to Perito Moreno.  This time we lucked out with road conditions as we were expecting about 100km of gravel, only to find the highway paved after the 3km gravel exit from Rio.

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Found a good municipal campground in Perito Moreno, winds were still our friend and there was a religious celebration going on in the outdoor common area with lots of singing and story sharing.  We got the tent set up and picked up a few snacks for the evening meal.  While we were settling in a group of Brazilian riders rode in.  Soon after Lindsay was sharing information with them.

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Heard from Tom and Tracy via email during breakfast at a little café in town.  They were back on the road and about 7 days behind us.  After breakfast we started our ride to Gobernador Gregores our overnight stop en route to el Chalten. Roads were good all the way but again very windy.  Pretty sure that there is no Patagonia without wind…..just varying states of it.
Ride to Gregores.

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Arrived in Gobornador Gregores low on cash as ATM’s in Argentina were not inclined to give chip cards money and we found that in the small towns many gas stations, hotels and restaurants wanted cash. We were sure that Gregores was a large enough center for us to find an international atm.  Not so…..once again the ATM did not like our card, but fortunately we could use credit for gas.  Next we looked for the campground, it was sketchy,  so we decided on a hotel.  Found the hotel, no credit taken, only cash.  So there went our last Argentinian pesos.  We managed to purchase some food as the supermarket took credit, but would not give cash with the purchase.  We decided we would be ok in the morning when the bank opened as we had some Chilean pesos that we could exchange.
We arrived at the bank right at opening along with about ten other people. After a 45 minute wait the sole clerk serving clients said sorry, there was nothing he could do for us, as he stood there counting thousands of pesos.
Next option, plead my case to the manager, a professional looking young woman.  She listened patiently then explained there is simply no way for the bank to either give me money on my card or exchange the Chilean pesos for Argentinian ones.  I explain we are on our way to el Chalten and the likelihood of being able to purchase either gas or food on credit seems to be highly unlikely. She agrees wholeheartedly.  Finally after a bit more pleading on my part she offered to purchase some of the Chilean pesos from her personal funds.  Great relief, thank you’s and we are able to leave Gobernador Gregores.
We left Gobernador Gregores with rain clouds looming in the distance, so we geared up hoping  the rain would bypass us.

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As we approached our route, a dirt road, we realized that we had just missed the rain and were feeling pretty lucky. Then we noticed a grader in the distance turning the road, taking advantage of the soft conditions to level things.

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And this is what we found.

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The road had turned to mud that was so sticky it had collected between the front tire and the fender resulting in the wheel seizing and chucking Lindsay…..luckily Marian was a spectator at this point as it was a ‘test’ run on the new surface. Well our spirits were deflated, especially since the grader had passed us and was now coming towards us working the other side of the road.  Marian was thinking the only way out was to walk, and even that would be difficult as the mud was caking on our boots making walking almost impossible.  Of course Lindsay said ‘no way’ to walking.
As we were removing the fender and cleaning up the tire two bikes came cruising over the horizon.  Our jaws dropped!  As they approached they rode over the mud on their street tires then came to a halt.  They told us the road was in good condition, we just needed to get past this part, and we noticed that where the grader had passed earlier on the other side of the road things were already drying out, no caking on their tires.  We were hopeful.  Lindsay got the bike back together and off we went, knowing that the road was passable.
Reaching the end of the worst of it.

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Gravel, a welcome site.
81 km later putting air back in the tires as we reach pavement.

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Next challenge, finding gas in Tres Lagos, a pinpoint on the map.  We luck out, there is gas.

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A popular stop….thinking we should get a 2up sticker made up.

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After all the mud, gravel and ever present wind we are rewarded with a glimpse of what was to come.

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Mount Fitz Roy

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We stayed in el Chalten for two days with winds whistling through the town and campground all day long, while evenings brought calm star and moon filled nights.
We left el Chalten for Calafate on Thursday Jan. 29. ……
Will pick up the thread next blog.
p.s. Congratulations to Kevin and Lia on their recent engagement.  We are thrilled.
xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Equador

Crossing the border into Equador.
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First stop Ibarra.
Overlooking Ibarra
Overlooking Ibarra
From Ibarra we made a day trip to the Saturday market in Otavalo and rode to Laguna de Cuicocha in hopes of seeing Volcano Cotacachi …unfortunately the ceiling was too low, but we had great views of the lake.
Otavalo market
Otavalo market
Ecuador, origin of the Panama Hat
Ecuador, origin of the Panama Hat
downtown Otavalo
downtown Otavalo
Laguna Cuicocha
Laguna Cuicocha
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Next stop crossing the Equator. We first crossed the equator while driving the Pan American Highway.  Not demarcation, but the gps showed it to be so.  We continued on to the official monument just outside of Quito to mark the event.
Parked on the Equator Nov. 23/14
Parked on the Equator Nov. 23/14
The equator
The equator
Making it official
Making it official
 Quito
Hotel Sebastian Quito
Hotel Sebastian Quito
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Cathedral Quito
Cathedral Quito
Waiting
Waiting
Equador is already more than a month ago and some of the details escape us.  But the overall impression is that of great contrasts, from the dry coast to the lush Avenue of Vocanoes and through the  mountain passes joining the two. There was also a very strong contrast in cultures arriving from Colombia.  As we mentioned before Colombia was vibrant where Equador felt much more reserved and impoverished.
We made our way from Quito via Cotopaxi and Quevedo to Puerto Lopez on the coast.
Leaving Quito
Leaving Quito
Price of gas in Ecuador.
Price of gas in Ecuador. Currency American dollars.

Not only was gas very cheap, but all tolls, and there were many, were free for motorcycles.

Through the pass in Rerserva Ecologic Los llinzes we reached altitudes of 13,180′, our highest pass so far.  We had views of beautiful cultivated terraced lands.  The rudimentary enclaves of inhabitants dotted the landscape and left us wondering how they keep warm and where they get their cooking fuel from living in such isolated circumstances.

A snack before entering Reserva Ecologic Los llines
A snack before entering Reserva Ecologic Los llines
Into the Pass through the Reserva
Into the Pass through the Reserva

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Over the top
Over the top
Arriving in Quevedo
Arriving in Quevedo
Our hotel in Quevedo
Our hotel in Quevedo
En route to Puerto Lopez on the coast we weren’t prepared for the dry and burnt landscapes that would greet us.  It was the end of the dry season and there was a lot of agricultural burning going on giving a grey hue to the already monotone landscapes.

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 A site for sore eyes when we reach the coast.

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Upon arriving at Puerto Lopez we had the good fortune of passing a small welding shop that Lindsay visited to have the bracket for the ktm driving light repaired.

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 Puerto Lopez.
The beach
The beach

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The fishers

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Our digs.
Our digs.
En route to Guayaquil via Salinas November 28.

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From Guayaquil we rode to Cuenca through another incredible Pass in Parque National El Cajas.

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Stopping for lunch to enjoy the view.

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 Arriving at our hotel in Cuenca. The owners of the Hostel Posada de Angel were kind enough to let us park just at the back of their breakfast areas as they had no other parking for the bikes!!
Hotel Posada del Angel
Hotel Posada del Angel
Our room
Our room
 A taste of Cuenca
The Square Cuenca
The Square Cuenca
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The market
The market
No waste
No waste
no odour and no mistaking your purchase
no odour and no mistaking your purchase
Rode from Cuenca to Loja, again riding into the highlands of the Andes.

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Loja
Loja
Tracy and I were greeted with a questioning look as we entered the Grand Victoria Boutique to check in for our stay…..we decided the receptionist had never seen anyone decked out in riding armour!
Grand Victoria Boutique Hotel
Grand Victoria Boutique Hotel

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We took a day ride abutting Parque National Podocarpus from Loja to the small mining town of Zamora.

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Riverside homes in Zamora
Riverside homes in Zamora

 

Boys inspecting the bike
Boys inspecting the bikes

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On our descent from Zamora into Loja the bike died and we found ourselves coasting into town. As we were running out of ‘coast’ we pulled to the side of the road to contemplate what was happening.  The bike had just had it’s scheduled maintenance done in Cuenca, which had to do with the fuel system.  Lindsay discovered that the mechanic had forgotten to open one of the fuel lines exiting the tank. So fortunately it was simply a turn of the screw 🙂    Great relief.
Left Loja for Huaquillas to position ourselves for the proverbial border crossing, this time into Peru. Originally we had planned to cross at La Balsa, but information told us that the road conditions were questionable, so we decided on the coastal route.  Landscapes on the coast are always a shock after being in the mountains.

 

From Loja
From Loja
Towards Huaquillas
Towards Huaquillas
En route.
School bus
School bus
Rural transport?
Rural transport?
Arriving at our hotel.
Arriving at our hotel.

 

Hotel del Sur
Hotel del Sur
A room with a view.
A room with a view.
Tomorrow Peru
Tomorrow Peru

 

Happy New Year from Bolivia

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Wishing you all a Happy, Prosperous and Healthy 2015.

xx

 

 

 

Merry Christmas from Peru

Dear Family and Friends,
Wishing you a Merry Christmas and All the Best in 2015.  May your Christmas be filled with family, good friends and warm hearths and your New Year be Healthy, Happy.
xx
first pisco sour Mancora Peru
first pisco sour Mancora Peru
straddling the equator in Ecuador
straddling the equator in Ecuador

 

Laguna Cuicocha Ecuador
Laguna Cuicocha Ecuador
Inca bridge Machu Picchu
Inca bridge Machu Picchu

 

 

 

Colombia

Arrived in Colombia Nov.12.  Good flight from Panama, no delays, in fact we arrived at the Bogota airport a few minutes ahead of schedule.  Only problem we encountered was going through security in Panama City.  Lindsay had forgotten to take his pocket knife out of his pack, so the agent confiscated it. We wanted to go back to luggage drop off and check it through with a small bag we were carrying, but there was no negotiating, the knife was gone.
Outside the terminal building we hailed a taxi van, loaded all our gear and started our drive into downtown Bogota.  It was amazing, four lanes of bumper to bumper traffic as far as the eye could see, hundreds of motorcyclists weaving throughout the lanes and great Spanish music playing in our van.  Talk about vibrant.  Forty five minutes later we pulled up in front of our hotel feeling very upbeat about being in Colombia.
Next day the main item still on the agenda was the bikes which were scheduled to arrive in the morning. At breakfast Tom says he has received an email from Veronica (the shipper) to say there is a slight delay, can we pick the bikes up in the evening or tomorrow morning.  We opt for the evening. The sooner the better.  Then yet another email, more delays, it would have to be Friday morning.
During our time in Panama City, Tom and Lindsay were able to locate BMW and KTM  bike dealers in Bogota. In fact there are 21 KTM dealers listed. The plan was to pick up the bikes on the Friday morning and ride directly to each dealer. Meanwhile, on Thursday they visited the distributor for Heidenau tires and each bought a new rear tire.  The dealer recommended which KTM dealer Lindsay should go to.
On Friday, armed with tires they took a taxi to the airport cargo area and after two hours of paper work and waiting around the bikes appeared. They were in perfect condition and as they strapped their tires across the back of the bike they had a large audience of shippers and general workers taking photos.
Saying goodbye to the bikes in the cargo dock. They survived the trip in perfect condition.
Saying goodbye to the bikes in the cargo dock. They survived the trip in perfect condition.
Bogota is a city of 8 million and the traffic is insane. A gps is a must but you keep running across one way streets or detours that are not noted by the gps so a fair bit of time is wasted getting to your destination. Lindsay reached the dealer at about 1:00 pm and Santiago, one of the co-owners, could not have been more helpful.  Santiago led Lindsay through the maze to the repair shop about twenty minutes away. Within minutes the bike was on a lift and being stripped down. Santiago said it would be ready by 11:00 am the next day with various items having to be attended to, including a new radiator and the rear tire mounted. Meanwhile Tom also had success getting a new rear seal fitted at the BMW dealer.

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Colombia is the motorcycle capital of South America and it is evident everywhere. On every street bikes outnumber cars, and bikes such as ours command a lot of attention – bikers know their bikes. Surprisingly KTM is a far more recognized brand than BMW.
Santiago and his technicians who fixed the bike,
Santiago and his technicians who fixed the bike,
Meanwhile Marian spent the better part of the day getting the map of Colombia loaded onto the gps.  First not enough memory on the Zumo to accommodate another map, then the upload stopped half way through and the transfer of information was literally taking hours.  Picked up a cable for the computer to connect directly to the cable port, after much wasted time realized the port was not working.  Had the hotel technician fix the problem.  Once again try the download, still not working. Contact Garmin.  They send a check list of possible issues.  Finally after eliminating most possibilities changed the browser from Google to Explorer…..map downloaded in an hour.  Colombia now navigable.
Riding in Colombia is similar to Central America and Mexico, passing on the right and left, lane splitting, shoulder riding and ambulance chasing!!!! In Mexico we realized that at any stop, be it a traffic light or detour, bikes would make their way to the front of the line. We got pretty good at lane splitting and shoulder riding, but always at very low speeds. We found a new definition of ‘ambulance chaser’ in Colombia.  At a single lane detour we found all the bikes  lined up at the front waiting for the signal to proceed when an ambulance going in our direction passed us. All the waiting bikes took off in the ambulance’s wake, even though traffic coming the other way still had the right of way, but of course the ambulance had priority and the bikes were in its draft! We learned quickly and followed suit as the attached video shows. We followed this way through a number of construction areas before arriving at the open highway where the faster bikes passed the ambulance and the slower ones fell behind. We waited until it slowed down and waved us by, his emergency lights and siren still going.
Bogota was still very much an organizational stop, but we loved the city, the food and the people.  Even enjoyed a Starbucks!!!  Tracy and Marian did a bit of a walk around the historic section while the guys were maintaining the bikes.
Parade day?
Parade day?

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Saturday, Novmber 15, time to leave Bogota for Honda.  Lindsay picked the KTM up from the shop around 11:00 and was back at the hotel by noon.  By the time we had the bikes packed and ready to go the skies opened and we were in a torrential downpour.  We dawned our raingear, hopped on the bikes and set off.  What a ride, we wish we had pictures to share, but the rain prevented it.  Roads were flooded, traffic was backed up for miles, chaos ruled the streets and we navigated our way through in the company of hundreds of local riders. It was crazy. The bottom line, it took us almost three hours to go 27 km before exiting the traffic.  I think the truckers and automobile drivers must still be there!!!
After clearing the traffic, our ride to Honda was beautiful.  Lots of curves, beautiful scenery and a good riding temperature.  Got into Honda around 7pm.  The bikes roared up to the Posada La Trampas, our hotel, to find a gathering of formally dressed people mingling outside of the hotel. They seemed as surprised at the sight of us as we were at the sight of them.  It turned out there was a wedding reception at the hotel, which was going to be a bit disconcerting in the early morning hours.  But at arrival the hotel was a beautiful old classic, all stone and wood.  The man at reception spoke no English and our Spanish was not going so well.  As we were exchanging words and hand signals Angela appeared.  A young Columbian woman from Bogota who was the manager and spoke English flawlessly.  Once we were settled into our rooms she organized dinner and drinks by the pool for us and shared a wealth of information regarding Honda.  When we went up to the pool area for dinner there was one other couple there, and as unlikely as it would seem, it was the Spanish BMW manager that Tom had dealt with in Bogota, small world.

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After a great dinner of mixed fried rice and cold beer we called it a night.  As I alluded to earlier, the wedding reception was still going full force, and our room was right above all the celebrating.  Finally at 2:30 am all went still and we were able to sleep.  Morning arrived early and off we went to walk the village, visiting the historic bridge across the Magdalena River where an enterprising citizen had constructed a wooden bridge and charged a toll to all the locals for crossing. There is no longer a toll.

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Left Honda for Salento around noon.  It was our first taste of the Andes and we were dazzled.  The ride was beyond beautiful, reaching elevations of 12,155 ft with the slopes manicured with coffee plantations and haciendas perched on ridges overlooking farms.

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Time to gas up and no premium but we topped up giving a blended rating.  The station we stopped at turned out to be a real cultural treat.  The guys at the pumps were so excited to see the bikes.  After filling up they all gathered around so we could take pictures.  As we were doing that the police pulled in and in a reserved way let us take pictures with them.

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While we were stopped a large truck went by us and hanging onto the back were two boys on a bicycle getting a free ride. It reminded Lindsay of “taxi-bottining” with his friends in his youth, hanging onto the rear bumpers of cars when the streets in Arvida were icy.
The road to Salento took longer than anticipated and left us doing some night riding, something we try not to do as we are unfamiliar with the roads and cities and it makes navigation a bit more challenging.  In this case the final stretch of road into Salento was very narrow, windy and lit up with a steady stream of headlights heading home from a long weekend, and the way drivers drive in Colombia you really need to take care on blind corners.  In this case we had the misfortune of being forced off the road as one impatient driver was passing another coming around a corner .  Luckily we were a bit before the corner and ended up on a very ragged shoulder, but a shoulder none the less, and Lindsay managed to keep us stable.
We finally arrived at the Central Square in Salento with the objective of finding a hotel, as we didn’t have one booked.  What welcomed us was a square jam packed with people enjoying the last of their long weekend. When we pulled up and stopped we were immediately surrounded by curios and interested people.  There were questions, photographs, offerings of help to find accommodation in a town that was completely booked up and exchanges of bike stickers, hats and emails.  It was amazing and a bit overwhelming. We managed to escape the crowds and start on our search for accommodation.  After about half an hour of going in circles checking out various hotels we ended up at the only room left in town at El Mirador Del Cocora….Tom, Tracy, Lindsay and Marian bunking together, a first for everything.  We did luck out though with it’s location, views and great breakfast.

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 Next morning a quick walked to see the vistas then off to Lago Calima.  We struggled with the choice of going to Cali or Lago Calima as Lindsay had received an invitation to visit a bike shop in Cali from the guys he connected with in the square last night. Final decision, Lago Calima.

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Another great ride, this time through the Lakes District.  En route a restaurant with about thirty bikes parked out front caught our attention. We pulled in and visited with the riders.  They were a touring group from Cali and highly recommended the Calima destination as well as recommending the Comfandi Resort area. Turned out to be a great little resort about three quarters of the way around the lake. Very inexpensive, meals all inclusive and very quiet as it was off season. We had a great night.

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Next morning we enjoyed breakfast outside on the patio under a warm sun, then walked down to the lake before repacking and starting our ride to Popayan, “the white city”. We arrived in Popayan in rain after a sunny day of riding over and through the ridges, valleys and mountains of the Andes. We did not have a hotel reservation in Popayan so had to do some searching when we got there. During the search the heavens turned on the taps. We found accommodation outside of the main historic area at the San Martin hotel, but they only had room for us for one night.  This allowed us to dry out and book somewhere closer to the historic area the next morning.  We found a beautiful restored monastery, the Hotel Dann.  We checked in and then spent the day enjoying the historical buildings and square.

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November 20th we were on our way to Pasto in preparation for the border crossing into Ecuador. On the ride to Pasto we encountered a great deal of road construction but this  is where our ‘ambulance chasing’  took place, which guided us through the delays in record time.

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The construction ended and we arrived onto roads that were unparalleled in beauty.

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We arrived in Pasco as rain was settling in. Lindsay and Tom went in search of gas because when we rode into town we noticed the stations had long lineups.  It turned out that the town regularly runs out of gas at the end of every third week of the month, leaving a gap in service, so getting gas was imperative as we were crossing into Ecuador in the morning.  Lindsay and Tom got caught in the evening rain, but came home with tanks full of regular gas. Good to go.
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Up early bracing for another border crossing.  Loaded up the bikes and off to the border crossing at Ipiales.  It was amazing….it was a civilized crossing, calm, organized, no fixers, no money passing hands, clean, organized a real change from our Central American experiences.  The process still took a couple of hours due to bike paperwork, but it was very laid back.

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During the process we met a German couple that had been travelling for five years in a refurbished firetruck that now resembled an armoured vehicle.

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So farewell Colombia and thank you for such a spectacular and warm welcome during our visit.  It was such a breath of fresh air to travel here.  People were friendly and seemed incredibly happy with easy smiles and infectious laughter.  The scenery was beyond beautiful and the food was delicious. Travelling here gave a feeling of having run the gauntlet when coming through Central America, the contrasts were so great. And now we move on to our next adventure, Ecuador.

 

 

Leaving Central America

Woke up in Costa Rica, going to sleep in Panama.  Today was another border crossing.  We had great expectations for this crossing as all we had read lead us to believe that it would be shorter and more efficient.  Unfortunately that did not prove to be the case.  In fact it was exactly as we have been experiencing throughout Central America.  Long and laborious…. part of the problem is that we do not speak the language. We get ‘helpers’ at every crossing, and yet it still takes hours and there is always a cost associated.
Almost on the road again
Almost on the road again
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We left Manuel Antonio and arrived at the border crossing in the pouring rain.  In our effort to get under cover we managed to drive right past the Costa Rica exit building, arriving in a flurry at the Panama side.  A ‘fixer’ found us immediately and turned us around.  So back out into the  pouring rain to get our Exit stamps. That process took about 1/2 an hour.  Then back to the Panama side to get our entry stamps.

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Typical route taken at border crossing
Typical route taken at border crossing
We made the decision to cross the border in the afternoon because we believed that it was a relatively fast crossing.  Now as we were standing in the diesel exhaust saturated air looking out at the pouring rain with dark setting in, we were becoming a bit concerned about what our ride to David, our destination for the day, would look like.  Finally around 4:30 we had all the paperwork we needed and just had to go through the spraying of the bikes and the last check stop.  The rain had lightened and then stopped and the road into David turned out to be a well lit four lane highway.  Things were feeling better.

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We found our way to the Alcara Hotel.  Very basic rooms, clean with hot water, secure parking and a nice little restaurant attached which provided us with our inclusive breakfast.  Whole package for $41.00 American.  We were happy.

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In the morning we packed up the bikes and rode to Playa Blanca just outside of Santa Clara.  The Pan American Highway was being upgraded throughout the ride, being widened from a two to a four lane highway.  For the most part the two lanes that were open were in good condition, but about midway to Santa Clara it deteriorated into an asphalt patched concrete road.  Lots of cracked and broken areas, took us about two hours to cover 60 km. About an hour into that section we were getting low on fuel with nothing promising appearing on the horizon. Just as we were getting a little concerned we reached a small outpost that had premium gas.  We fueled up and had a refreshment break in the little café that was in the complex.

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Next stop Playa Blanca, recommended by the waiter at the Alcara. It turned out that all the hotels on the beach were major resorts and all inclusive places.  After looking around a bit we ended up being able to get a night’s accommodation at the JW Marriott Resort.  It was a bit over the budget, but it had been a long day and there weren’t really any other options at this point. It was a beautiful resort with incredible food.

 

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Our main objective in Panama was to get a new back tire for the bike and to arrange transport for ourselves and the bikes to Colombia.  When we entered the country we were under the belief that we would be taking a ferry from Colon to Cartagena.  We had contacted the ferry corporation in Panama City while we were in Costa Rica and were told that we could not reserve on the ferry until we had exit permits out of Panama for the bikes.  And of course we couldn’t get those until we were in Panama City.  So that was the plan, get into Panama City, get the exit permits and book the ferry.
While we were enjoying our time at the Marriott resort we learned via email that the ferry was not taking cars or motorcycles for a couple of weeks.  Bad news.  That meant we had to revert back to the flying option.  Way more costly and way more organization required.  I was still really optimistic that things would change and we would get on the ferry, but alternate plans needed to be made.
We arrived in Panama city late afternoon on Saturday the 8th of November. We booked into the Bristol hotel in the banking district, arranged by our concierge at the Marriott.  He had worked there and recommended it highly.  He was right.  It was a great hotel, what made it special was the incredibly friendly and helpful staff. One slight negative, our first night we were shocked awake by a fire alarm going off not once but twice at 4:30 am.  After the second alarm we decided to call the desk to confirm that we did not have to evacuate.  No, it was just a test!

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Once we were settled in the guys headed off to  locate their respective bike dealers.  The news was not good.  The ktm dealer was not available as they were in the midst of moving. So now, no ferry, no back tire and it was a holiday weekend, so delays in organizing our flights and shipment of the bikes across the Darien Gap to Colombia.  Not too many happy faces at the dinner table.
Next morning  we woke up to a grey rainy day so we visited one of the malls for a few items we required and organized laundry…. Check the hotel laundry costs…one shirt $7.00 American, and we have 10 kilos of laundry to do!.  So off we go lugging our bag of clothing in seach of a laundry, found one, but closed on Sunday, but might be open tomorrow, though that will be a holiday Monday.  Back at our room we receive a phone call from the staff that they had noticed we were looking for off site laundry, they could arrange this for us, same day, door to door delivery for a cost of $12.00….laundry done.
Breakfast, holiday Monday.  Tom and Tracy have connected with their shipping contacts and have a number in Bogota we can call to get the process of having the bikes shipped started.  Begin that process then organize our visit to the Miraflores Locks and the old city.  Our timing at the canal turned out perfectly as we witnessed two large freighters navigate the locks.  Then we visited Panama’s old city enjoying the historic architecture and lunch in the square.  The old city seems to be emerging from the shambles and looks like it is going to become a beautiful area to live in and visit.  On the whole Panama seems to be emerging aesthetically, lots of construction and renewal.

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Not up to today's building code
Not up to today’s building code

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Dinner time and not many restaurants open in our area due to it being a holiday, it was very quiet generally with few people out on the streets and not much traffic. The concierge at the hotel recommended a café within walking distance, so we searched that out, which turned out to be in a lively Casino district.  Classic little place, the Manola Café,  filled with people, behind the bar the entire wall was shelved with assortments of alcohol, music was pounding and no one spoke English. The waitress came by our table and managed to get our order and then promptly disappeared for about half an hour…..not a sip of wine or cerveza to be had…..and there was no catching her eye!  Finally when she could not longer pretend we did not exist she brought us our drinks, followed by a meal of fried chicken….food was good!
Early Tuesday morning Tom and Lindsay headed off to the BMW dealer to find a rear axle seal for Tom’s bike. Also the radiator on our bike had developed a leak, and no KTM Dealer, Lindsay figured he could get some radiator sealer at the BMW dealer, which he dd. The radiator was sorted out but no seal for Tom. It looked like Bogota was to be where the bike issues were going to get sorted out.
Noon.  Tom informs us that he has received notification that the ferry can now take bikes.  A moment of hope, only to be dashed by the reality that we could not get the bike exit permits in time for the sailing….back to the flying option….by the end of the day all the flights and shipping were organized and we were getting ready to go to Colombia.  Very exciting.
Wednesday morning 8:00  Lindsay and Tom ride out to the Airport cargo area for a 9:00 appointment with the shipper. Finding the main airport was easy, finding the cargo section far more difficult as there were no sign posts and it was located on the opposite side of the airport. Once there, they faced the usual shuffling around from shipper to customs. At one point the process was going so slowly they were concerned they wouldn’t get everything organized before the flight to Bogota. Finally all the paperwork and loading were completed, but then finding a taxi back to the hotel became a challenge, taking another 30 minutes, and then the driver taking a circuitous route back to the hotel leaving them barely enough time to regroup and return to the airport to catch the afternoon flight.
We had been concerned about the transfer of all our possessions from the bike, imagining all the luggage we were going to be carrying onto the plane, but were surprised to learn we were able to leave possessions in our locked panniers and did not have to attach any keys to the bike. This allowed us to leave most of our belongs on the bike making the transfer relatively seamless. It was difficult leaving the bikes in the cargo area as we worried about the condition they would arrive in.
Saying goodbye to the bikes in the cargo dock.
Saying goodbye to the bikes in the cargo dock.
 Next stop Colombia.
 

 

 

 

 

 

Costa Rica

Sitting in our hotel room at the Arenal volcano in Costa Rica.  Rain thundering down on the roof.  We spent the day inside,   Marian reading ….Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and Lindsay working on the blog.  Rain aside the area is beautiful, lush and green.  We seem to have run out of our ‘weather’ luck in Costa Rica. We arrived here yesterday from Samara and saw the Arenal volcano briefly before everything clouded over. The camera battery died so we didn’t get any pictures.  We are hoping that the sky lifts long enough tomorrow so we can get a few photos and enjoy another look.  What we have seen so far has been really beautiful.

en route to Arenal
en route to Arenal

But we are a bit ahead of ourselves. After our visit to Granada,  we  travelled to the coastal town of San Juan del Sur.  It is a pretty town with a long compacted sandy beach lined with open air restaurants and cafe’s.  We stayed at the historic Victoriano Hotel with a great outdoor pool sitting area with an ocean view.  The days were spent walking the beach, a little swimming, sunning and enjoying the outdoor restaurants. The town has lots of little shops to browse through and many quaint looking hotels.  It is still the ‘green’ season here, so not too many tourists. It was really nice being on the coast again.

San Juan del Sur
San Juan del Sur
Victoriano Hotel
Victoriano Hotel
the beach
the beach

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From there we travelled to Penas Blancas and crossed the border into Costa Rica. Coming into Costa Rica was a little different than with previous border crossings.  Basically it was just calmer, and I think we are also getting the hang of choosing someone to assist us with our paperwork to make our transition a little faster, but the bike paperwork always takes a couple of hours, leaving us tired and thirsty.

Do you want help?
Do you want help?
"yes, ok"
“yes, ok”
waiting to be processed
waiting to be processed
a little retail therapy while you wait?
a little retail therapy while you wait?

In Costa Rica we made our way to Samara.  We got wet on this ride as we came through the mountain pass to the coast.  We got into town just as light was fast disappearing, leaving us to look for a place to stay in the dark.  We connected with a young American girl who recommended the Treehouse  which was right on the beach, a collection of six treehouses.  We booked in for a couple of nights looking forward to another couple of hot days on the beach.  It turned out the daytime weather was ok, but not really hot and by six each night the rains set in…..as I mentioned earlier…..it is the green season….think tropical rain on and off all through the night…..us making our way to dinner, puddle jumping under large umbrellas.

our breakfast nook
our breakfast nook
the beach
the beach
the view from our treehouse
the view from our treehouse
on our way to town
on our way to town

We left Samara to travel inland in hopes of finding drier weather and to see the Arenal Volcano. Our ride through the hills and lake country up to Arenal just outside of La Fortuna was very green and lush. The countryside has a very laid back resort feel to it with many beautiful properties and vistas.  The closer we came to the volcano the closer the weather came to us. We did see Arenal, but just for a few moments, and as luck would have it our camera battery was out of power, so no pictures.

Lake Arenal in the mist
Lake Arenal in the mist

We found a nice resort to stay at, The Volcano Lodge and Hotsprings,  we booked in for two nights with the hope that the sky would lift.  No such luck….it was monsoon rains our entire stay here. On the positive side the resort had a gourmet chef so meals were delicious.

outside our room
outside our room

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The morning of our departure we enjoyed breakfast by the pool protected from the rain, then got dressed in our rain gear, loaded the bike and headed out for the coast once again.  It rained for most of the ride but our gear did the job and kept us dry.

poolside
poolside
Better than pedaling!!
Better than pedaling!!

Our destination was Manuel Antonio, which we reached at about 4:00…..the rain had stopped about an hour before.   We drove through the main town out towards the State park and found a great little hotel…..Hotel Manuel Antonio….just across from a beautiful beach.  We have booked for one night at this point as we will decide tomorrow if we want to stay longer….completely weather dependent.

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view from our room
view from our room

We are still here….the weather has been fabulous, spent the day enjoying the beach, fresh fruit smoothies in the afternoon and dinner out at el Avion restaurant.  The plane is a survivor of the ‘Contra’ affair times. On the way home with the taxi driver we were talking about our plans to go zip lining when he suddenly started laughing, stopped in the middle of the road and backed up about a block, and with great joy pointed to a sloth hanging upside down from a telephone line and said, that will be you tomorrow.  Pretty funny.

the surf
the surf

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happy hour
happy hour
zip lining?
zip lining?

Well this morning we did go zip lining with El Antuario Canopy Tours. They boast the longest single zip line in Central America, over 4,300 feet, 14 tree platforms, 3 towers, 6 hanging bridges, 3 nature walks, and 1 double relay rappel.  It was everything they promised and at the end we were treated to a homemade lunch of chicken, rice, salsa, spiced kidney beans and limonada.  Fantastic.

cruising
cruising

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Last night here.
Last night here.

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Hope this finds everyone well.  We think of you all often.  xx

 

 

 

 

What dreams are made of

How on earth did this RideTheWorld come to be?

I guess you could say this trip has been in the making for almost fifty years. The seed was planted in 1967, when my good friend from Arvida, Tom, and I hitchiked through Northern Europe. While in Copenhagen we met an “old guy”, probably 21, traveling on a Triumph 500 which he had bought in London. The hook was set. Three years later another good friend from Arvida, Brad, and I were the proud owners of two 1970 Triumph Tiger 650’s bought in London. Over the next several months riding around Europe, N. Africa and Western Asia really did cement the desire to travel by motorcycle. This was again repeated in 1972 with other friends and in 1979 with Marian.

Stonehenge 1970

 

Fueling up; North Africa 1970

 

 

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Morocco 1972

Meanwhile, I was introduced to dirt biking by my good friend Brian in Kitimat in 1977 and for the next 30 years that became one of my summer passions. Many great rides took place in the valley and in Telkwa with Brian, Carl, Paul, Danny, Ernie, Kevin and others. We were looking for ways to get away from the “riff – raff”, somewhere no one else had ridden to. It was a great alternative to road riding and certainly improved my overall riding ability.

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Telkwa Pass 1988

 

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Seven Sisters 1980
Nothing stopped us.
Great riding, great scenery.

About fifteen years ago, while starting to think about retirement and travel, a chance discussion with Mats, a colleague from Vancouver, really re-ignited the motorcycle travel dream. He and a couple of friends were going to buy three Chinese made motorcycles (BMW knock-offs) with sidecars. They were going to buy a fourth bike and disassemble it and piece it up between the sidecars. They planned to ride the Silk Road from Beijing to Europe. This was the stuff of  dreams and from that point on “adventure biking” was never far from my thoughts. Plans materialized in February 2011, when I bought a new KTM 990 Adventure, a bike that has some decent off road capability.

My first ride of any distance was in May to Kitimat, about 1500 km away to visit family and friends. During that trip, I knew this type of riding was really the only way to go. Even on the way home, riding all day long in heavy rain and 4-6 degrees did not dampen the spirit. Annual riding holidays then became the norm for Marian and me. Across Canada and back through the US in fall of 2011 , Alaska and the Yukon in July-August 2012, the American SW to Santa Fe, New Mexico in fall 2013. This was supplemented with several guys only rides with Jim, Wally, John, Don and Brian, in BC, Alberta and the Pacific Northwest.

Ride to New Mexico.

The dream evolves and the planning starts

Talks of riding to South America were frequent, but coordinating everyones’ timetables, availability etc. was impossible. This all changed while we were in Chicken, Alaska in 2012. Tom and Tracy from England were on a BMW 1200 GS and asked if we wanted to join them for a coffee. We ended up spending a couple of days in Dawson City with them and inevitably the talk turned to adventure riding further afield. In December of 2012 Tom told us Tracy and he were retiring in June 2014 and flying the bike to N. America to start riding to Ushuaia in Argentina. From there they were going to “work their way home”. Were we interested?? We signed on immediately. Over the next 16 months we laid out a basic plan including possible routes beyond Argentina.

Reality sets in

Reality set in back in Janaury when we picked up our new bike. Detail planning really started in March of this year. At this time, the plan is to ride through the western US States, Mexico, Central America and South America to Ushuaia, which is where the road ends. We will ride up the east coast of Argentina to Buenos Aires and then fly the bikes and ourselves to Sydney Australia around mid January. We will spend time in Australia particularly Tasmania and the south and west coasts. We will travel from Darwin to Dili in Timor Este, before island hopping along the Indonesian archipelago, then to Malaysia and Thailand. This is where plans become less definite. Ideally we would like to ride through Laos, China, Mongolia and into the Lake Baikal region of Siberia. Riding a private vehicle through China is both very expensive and involves a lot of bureaucracy. Three months of planning, permitting, etc is required. A guide must accompany you at all times at considerable cost. At this point this is our favoured route but we will need to make a decision by the time we are in Australia. One option would be to fly the bikes from SEA to Mongolia and then ride into Siberia. We will then ride across Russia to Kazahkstan and politics permitting, through some of the other ‘stans. The most likely route at this time will be to ride through Moscow and St. Petersburg and then either west through the Baltic nations or north through Finland, Sweden and Norway into Europe. Return to Canada – Sept/Oct 2015???

 Preparations for the trip

The web is full of details for planning this kind of trip so I won’t belabour the point, but the major categories include;

Travel documents –

passport, driver’s licence including IDP, visas, bike papers, insurance. (and many copies of them all)

Medical –

travel insurance, medication to take, vaccinations including the usual but also Japanese Encephalitis, rabies, Hep A and B, Yellow Fever, anti- Malaria prophylaxis etc.

Carnet de Passage

although another document, this one deserves its own category. It is essentially a passport for a vehicle and is available through the Canadian Auto Association. It permits the vehicle to be taken into a country which requires the Carnet, and the document “guarantees” that the vehicle will not be sold in that country. This guarantee is in the form of the hefty deposit that the owner has to leave with the CAA. Once the vehcile is returned to  Canada and the Carnet stamped and filled in as required the deposit is returned to the vehicle owner. Australia is the first country we will visit that requires the Carnet.

Spare parts / tools –

again, the web abounds with this topic and of course what you take with you will reflect your competencies as a “bike fixer”, the age/mileage of the bike, where you will be going (mainly road riding vs mostly off road) and how remote, parts availabilty for your bike on your planned route and available space on the bike. I bought a new bike assuming that “new would last longer than used”. Tires are the most consumable part on the bike, so some planning has to be done to ensure replacements are available before you are riding on unsafe rubber. The web has a wealth of information on everything from parts availability and dealer locations to riding forums where one can get up to date information on virtually everything related to  adventure riding; I particularly like advrider.com.

The bike-

2014 KTM 1190 Adventure

modifications / equipment added

 

luggage / storage

KTM tank bag, Holan Nomada Pro aluminum pannier system (two side and one tail box), two tooltubes, one Ortlieb tail dry bag, two Ortlieb side dry bags, two Touratech 3 litre fuel gerry cans.

protection

KTM engine crash bars, KTM skid plate, R & G radiator guard, Touratech headlight protection mesh.

security

Front disc lock, rear wheel cable lock.

electrical

Fuzebloc (added 2 extra fused electrical outlets), 2 Powerlet sockets, Cyclops Long Range Extreme LED driving lights, Skene controller (adjusts LED brightness), Cyclops LED high and low beam headlamp bulbs, LED tail, turn and brake light for tail pannier, tank bag electrical connection.

other

1 1/4″ handlebar risers (comfort), Unifilter (oiled air filter), Wings exhaust (lighter and allows for wider pannier), front fender extender (minimizes mud thrown up into engine), Heidenau Scout K60 tires (these are a 50/50 on/off road rated tire), Garmin Zumo 665 gps, performed cannisterectomy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oaxaca, Mexico to Granada, Nicaragua

Hi Family and Friends,

It’s been awhile since our last entry but both Lindsay and I have had the flu which has left us with very little energy at the end of a day to keep the blog up to date.  I am basically over my bout and Lindsay seems to be over the worst.  So we are covering a lot of miles with this entry, making details sparse but hopefully giving you a glimpse into our last few weeks.

We were in Oaxaca Mexico a few weeks ago en route to San Cristobal.  We stayed at the Hotel Helena, close to the central square.  The square was incredibly busy, a tent community, where all the merchants slept next to their stands.  It was impossible to see the square in it’s entirety because of this, but we took our meals under the arches and became part of the ‘busy’ environment…..street vendors approaching continuously while we ate.

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After Oaxaca we made our way to Juchitan.  We continued our drive on Ruto 2010, a beautiful road that winds high into the mountains cutting through many small picturesque villages.  Riding conditions were perfect, clear skies and cool.  As we dropped into the lowlands at the end of the day the temperature rose dramatically into the low 30’s with a jump in humidity.  We arrived in Juchitan around suppertime.  It was a busy little place with no apparent good place to lay our heads.  Tracy and I did a some searching but could find no accommodation. Again as luck would have it Lindsay and Tom connected with an English speaking man that directed us away from the center to a little hotel just outside of town.

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Then it was on to San Cristobal via a toll road which was incredibly busy…we were glad to get into town by 6:00.  We found a little hotel where we could park our bikes out front during the day and bring them into the lobby area at night We got caught up with the blog (last posting),bike insurance, banking, gps etc….which took up most of our time  as our wifi connection was poor as we ran into all sorts of bureaucratic issues.  On top of that there was a music festival going on in the square a couple of blocks away which didn’t shut down until about 4:30 am each morning…..needless to say sleep was fleeting.  By the time we left the city I was exhausted and feeling like I was coming down with something.  Sure enough in a couple of days I was flat out with the flu.

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After three days in San Cristobal we crossed the border from Mexico into Guatemala at La Mesilla.  It was raining when we crossed and it all went without a hitch….although border towns always seem hectic…money changers, crowds hanging out, officals moving you through and a lot of “lurkers”, bike disinfecting.

It was good bye to Mexico.  We had an amazing ride through.  It wasn’t without it’s difficulties both technically and culturally, but on the whole it was a very rewarding experience.  We didn’t realize how incredibly beautiful the countryside was and how helpful the people would be.

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Into Guatamala. Once we were through all the craziness of entering the bike into the country and driving through all the hectic vendor stands we entered a stunning mountain pass.  The road was incredibly busy and we became aquainted with Guatamalan buses….colorful, full of people and driving as if they are the only vehicles on the road……crazy….  But Lindsay settled into the rythym and soon we were cruising through the pass like everyone else.

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By the 18th we were in Antigua.  We stayed in a 500 year old hotel, the Candelaria.  The city is surrounded by three volcanoes…one of them active…..we got glimpses of them, but the clouds were around the tops most of the time.  Antigua is a very pretty place, and very cosmopolitan with many foreigners visiting, working or doing volunteer work.  It was Tom’s birthday while we were there and we celebrated by going out to Casa Escobar for a steak dinner.

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After another hectic border crossing from Guatamala into Honduras we were on our way to Copan de Ruinas.  It took us three hours to cross the border, again bringing the bike in was the issue….tons of paperwork….and again money changers, guys doing your paperwork for a ‘tip’, local bike insurance to purchase and standing around in the heat. Everything is done in duplicate or triplicate and carbon paper is the norm. Once you get through you are pretty much exhausted and dehydrated! Luckily Copan was only thirty minutes from the border.  Got there and with the help of Marvin the tuk tuk driver ended up at a great little  boutique hotel Yat B’alam.   It was now Lindsay’s turn to start feeling the flu coming on, so we took it easy for the rest of the day planning to take in the ruins the next morning.  Marvin arrived in the morning taking the four of us to the ruins in his tuk tuk. The ruins were spectacular and had a very natural contemplative feel being surrounded by beautiful foilage and wildlife, something that was lacking in Tithuacan..

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After spending a few hours at the ruins we packed up the bike and made our way to Gracias.  Again a busy little town with heavily cobbled stone roads, crowds of people and hot.  We found the hotel we had planned to stay at after getting directions from some school kids…..but no secure parking….so we ended up at a hotel down the road with a great courtyard for the bikes and a great restaurant for us so we didn’t need to go back out into the streetts again that night.

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We basically drove directly through Honduras…..stayed a night in Danli…..got a hotel recommendation from an American coffee shop owner in the square….Hotel Casa Encantada….a nice place, very friendly owners…..and we also went out for dinner to the Hungry Wolf Café….same American recommended that….the café was owned by a fellow American that was married to a Honduran woman.  Turns out the café, like all the places around, shut down at 7:00……but Billy, the owner offered to make us hamburgers to go….which his wife ended up making for us (under duress)……we took the food back to the hotel and sat outside and enjoyed the best hamburgers…..The hotel owner had put together a small but eclectic collection of motorcycles, including a BSA Bantam, old Hondas and Kawasakis and even a Montessa and an Ossa which Lindsay and Tom had fun admiring and discussing with the owner.

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We left Danli for our border crossing into Nicaragua.  It was another three hour crossing with Lindsay suffering badly from the flu.  We had to get our temperatures taken, because of Chikangunya fears, to get into the country….luckily he passed!  Once we were through we were determined to make it all the way to Managua.  We had entertained the idea of stopping earlier, but none of the towns we came across felt very inviting.  So it was a marathon ride….luckily the roads were in beautiful shape, a huge change after the potholed Honduran experience.  About an hour and a half before getting to Managua the skies socked in and at 4:00 we were losing light…..then lightning engulfed us and the downpour started.  It was torrential, but there was nothing to do but continue.  Then night set in and it was almost impossible to see as our shields were completely fogged up and the rain was sheeting down on us. Trees had been blown down across the road and officials were guiding traffic by with flashlights.

Lindsay guided us along until we found a fast food chicken place where we stopped to regroup and grab a bite to eat.  When we stepped into the café everyone stopped to look at the four foreigners with puddles forming around them.   We took a few minutes to settle in and order some food then Lindsay started looking on the gps for a hotel nearby….as luck would have it we were minutes from the International airport with a Best Western across the way.  Needless to say, it was off to the Best Western.  By the time we got there Lindsay was at the height of his illness and really needed rest.  We had an appointment for the bike maintenance in Managua on the Monday, and it was now Saturday night.  So we decided to lay low at the hotel until the Monday giving Lindsay a chance to rest while Tom and Tracy moved on to Granada where we would meet up with them.

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The bike maintenance experience started off badly as the address put into the gps did not work. After riding around the city in circles we were told that there are no street names in Managua, but rather districts or points of interest, the only thing we knew for sure was we needed to find Esquina Este Estatua Montoya….which apparently would be easy to find….not so much so for us……. Finally after two hours to go the 16km the dealer was located!!!! We had almost given up two blocks from the mark when we got a taxi to take us the rest of the way. From then on everything went according to plan with both the manager and mechanic speaking fluent English and being very friendly.  Mission accomplished.

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Maintenance completed and we were off to Granada.  The ride there was  beautiful and the hotel Tom and Tracy had booked us into was perfect.  Right on the square, a refurbished historic building with a beautiful courtyard and remodeled rooms. We had dinner out at a sidewalk cafe and were entertained by street kids break dancing for the patrons.  It was very entertaining and I think they probably made a pretty good accounting for their efforts.

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Left Granada and on our way to San Juan Del Sur Nicaragua.

Talk soon.

xxx