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.
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.
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.
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 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???
The web is full of details for planning this kind of trip so I won’t belabour the point, but the major categories include;
passport, driver’s licence including IDP, visas, bike papers, insurance. (and many copies of them all)
travel insurance, medication to take, vaccinations including the usual but also Japanese Encephalitis, rabies, Hep A and B, Yellow Fever, anti- Malaria prophylaxis etc.
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.
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.
2014 KTM 1190 Adventure
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.
KTM engine crash bars, KTM skid plate, R & G radiator guard, Touratech headlight protection mesh.
Front disc lock, rear wheel cable lock.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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..
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Left Granada and on our way to San Juan Del Sur Nicaragua.
Enroute the GPS took us into a remote village via a dusty dirt road.
After breakfast we got the bikes loaded …destination San Miguel Allende.
The rest of the ride to San Miguel was uneventful. We arrived in the city without any idea of what to expect or where to stay. Turns out the roadways to the center were cobblestone, narrow and busy with pedestrians. Once again the guys did an amazing job of navigating us through the maze, especially since it was the end of a long day and they were tired.
Today is Saturday, Oct 4th. We have had the good fortune of being able to stay in a beautiful condo just North of Puerto Vallarta for a few days before we start our journey towards San Miguel de Allende. The surroundings are lush and calm and we are enjoying days of sunshine with evenings of wine and good food. All very beautiful.
Tomorrow we pack up the bikes and start our journey East on Mex 70. We are looking to reach Chapala the midpoint between PV and SMA. Total distance to travel from here to San Miguel will be approximately 700km, and the plan is to make it in two days.
As you can see we are still experiencing some major tropical storms that pass through late afternoon. These are photos of our first night here and the storm was impressive. Since, things have calmed down noticably to the point of just seeing some dark clouds and lightning in the distance. High temperatures and high levels of humidity persist….good for the complextion 🙂
Packed and Ready to Go!
Have we forgotten anything?
On our way 11 Sept 2014
After a frantic last few days we were able to depart home on Sept 11; two ferry rides later we were in Port Angeles, Washington. The ride down the west coast was great as the weather and scenery cooperated fully. We spent time at Marian’s cousin’s in Los Osos, Calif, where Gerard and Peggy gave us the low down on the Baja, our intended route. We met our traveling companions, Tom and Tracy in La Jolla and a few days were spent trip planning as well as having new tires installed on the bike. As a result of the impact of Hurricane Odile, we were ultimately advised to avoid the Baja.
Camping in the Redwoods, Humboldt State Park
La Jolla, connecting with Tom and Tracy
A few days later we were crossing into Mexico at Nogales, south of Tucson Arizona. A fairly direct route was taken south to hit the Sea of Cortes at Guaymas. One of the highlights of any ride through Mexico is the Copper Canyon, which we completed in a few days. By this time we were becoming accustomed to the ever present unannounced debris on the road (from the hurricane), as well as vehicles ignoring all road rules. The route was very hilly and it took a leap of faith to pass several tractor trailers in a row as they waved you by on hills and corners, but we always discovered that the first driver had a good view of the road ahead.
Nogales border crossing
San Carlos (Guaymas)
Durango became our next target. We found the road there to be in terrible condition and we put both bikes down in the mud on one 30+ km detour. This resulted in an extra 200 km of riding but it all culminated on the road known as the Devil’s Backbone which was spectacular. As we descended from 2700 metres to sea level our comfortable riding temperature changed from 20 to 30+ with high humidity as we neared Mazatland.
After the wipe out. The clean up.
Using the old rock method for straightening…
Casablanca Cafe Durango
Coffee in Durango
Following the GPS, we took a wrong turn approaching Mazatlan and were riding north instead of south. Our “keen” sense of direction prevailed and we turned south and eventually found a great hotel in Rosario. The following day we enjoyed riding along the back roads of the coast and ended up here, in Sayulita, where we have been staying in bungalows a few steps from the beach. Strong wifi has enabled us to get caught up on our communication.
Motel Yauco, Rosario; one of the views.
Motel Yueco Rosario
The ride has not been without mechanical problems. The new rear tire was going flat over night for the first five days until we were able to identify a leaking spoke which an injection of flat repair compound corrected. Both driving light brackets broke last week but luckily Tom and I were directed down a back alley here in Sayulita where an expert welding repair job was done by Oscar who also straightened Tom’s side stand.