Sunday, 19 March 2017
Monday, 13 March 2017
Tuesday, 7 March 2017
Monday, 27 February 2017
Sunday, 26 February 2017
Saturday, 25 February 2017
Wednesday, 22 February 2017
Monday, 20 February 2017
Thursday, 16 February 2017
Wednesday, 8 February 2017
Today we will say our goodbyes to our new friends and staff at "Casa en el Agua". But not before we enjoy the crystal clear waters once again. Everyone ate breakfast together at the big table, lots of laughter and smiling faces, what a great start to the day. Our boat is scheduled to arrive at 11:30 am and will bring more guests to enjoy the surroundings here. We will depart by 12:15 pm which gives most of us time for one more swim, paddle or whatever one chooses to do. The experience here was one I will never forget, and would definitely recommend it. The surroundings beautiful, a totally different world. The staff were great and made sure everyone was well looked after, and having a good time. The "Panamerican Riders" would like to express our sincere thanks to: Jose, Diego, Marcela, Callem,Samuel and Camilo for all your efforts, you guys rock.
It is "Adios" for us, we board our boat and off to "Cartagena" we go.
Beautiful sunrise this morning, the ocean calm, ever inviting. First thing I do is walk to the edge and slip beneath the refreshing water, what a way to wake up. All invigorated and ready to take on the busy task of relaxation. That is what the day has in store for us, at least until the others show up. Probably go to the "Islote Santa Cruz" an island 10 minutes from here. It is the most densely populated island in the world, based on its size. It has a population of 1,300 and is the size of a soccer field. The rest of group showed up in a much smaller boat at 1:00pm, slightly soaked from the ocean spray. After lunch it was time to swim, cool down, and relax. Really getting to like that word, easy to do at "Casa en el Agua". Deciding to take the tour of the Island we left at 5:30pm, a short ride later we were welcomed by the friendly inhabitants, and began a walking tour. It was interesting walking through the narrow corridors, watching the children playing and being greeted by the locals. There's a small Hospital and School, and they have a very large bank of Solar Panels which they get the power from. At one end of the island we were shown netted fish tanks, which contained Sharks, Turtles and local fish. Later that evening, back at the hostel, Ed, Tim and myself were looking towards the tiny island in the distance, then suddenly it went dark, just as if someone flicked a light switch. All we could see was the silhouette in the moonlight."Wow"
Checked out by 8:am we are off to the "Marina, our boat is scheduled to leave at 9:00am. It is approximately a 2 hour ride via speedboat down the coast and out to "Casa en el Aqua". A Hostel about 10 kilometers off the coast. Built on a small reef, there are only a few separate rooms, a dorm room , and hammocks on the upper floor. The main floor has the dining area, bar, and kitchen. Also chairs, and padded benches to relax.The menu consists of the catch of the day, sign up for lunch and dinner, easy. You can request a special dish if you have specific dietary needs. Snorkels, Kayaks, and Paddleboards can also be rented at a reasonable cost. Swimming, just jump in an enjoy. The water is warm and teaming with fish, pretty easy to relax here. There are no Televisions or Internet, what a refreshing idea, just relax. Our first day here was very enjoyable, meeting people from all over the world and listening to their stories, was most interesting. Everyone eats at one big table, at a designated time, keeping it as simple as possible. The Sun goes down fast and the winds pick up at night, but it is refreshing after a hot day in the sun. Very quiet and easy to sleep, the sky is full of stars, no light interference here. We are looking forward to our "Amigos" arriving tomorrow, and see what adventure awaits.
Arrangements have been made through Andy to meet at the Sailboat company office for 10:30 am. Shouldn't be too complicated, ask a few, and pay. Just as planned, quick and painless. An orientation meeting is arranged for the Tuesday evening, prior to our Wednesday departure. Talk about perfect timing, load Tuesday, Sail Wednesday. The bikes will be in "Panama" before us, no waiting, perfecto. Deciding to take in a city tour of "Cartagena", everyone meets at the hotel lobby, by 1:30 pm, except Trevor. He is out doing the daunting task of acquiring the appropriate papers. Our bus takes us out to the "Beach Area", a "Monastery", located at the highest point of the city and of course the "Castillo San Felipe". A marvel to wander around, as well as the wall that surrounds the old part of the city. What an amazing structure, built to defend the city against pirates, almost 500 years ago. Tomorrow Andy and I head out to "Casa de Aqua" the rest will join us on Sunday, then we will return Monday to "Cartagena" and prep for Tuesdays loading if the bikes.
The shipping office made contact, a 2:00 pm appt.has been scheduled. Things seem to be falling into place well, timing is everything here, shipping the "Motos" around the "Darien Gap" hoping to time it up with the sailboat we need to take a few days later. Off we go, papers in hand to the shipping agent. There are numerous documents to be prepared. Then it is off to the "Notary", where we are photographed and put our right forefinger on an electronic scanner, "Quatro" times. Now we are in the "Colombian" electronic data base. This will be linked to our passports, and put us permanently in the system. Now back to the agents office, more signing, and of course "Tres" copies of our
inked fingerprint. Unfortunately for Trevor he is missing a document and cannot be processed, at this time. He has until tomorrow at noon, then the agent must forward the papers to the container company "Evergreen" we will put our "Motos" in a 20 ft container to "Panama". Tuesday we will load the bikes, the police will check them and our gear, then seal the container. We are all hoping Trevor can get his paper work in time to join us. Again this took about 3 hours to complete the process. Now we must make arrangements for the sailboat that will carry us from "Cartagena" to "Panama" That will have to wait until tomorrow, we have done enough arrangements for one "rest day."
Friday, 3 February 2017
Sleep in, had a nice ring to it. Doing it was easy. So many early starts to the day over te past few months. Packing, unpacking the bikes, we have that down to a science. This has been a true test of endurance for us, sometimes almost breaking you, it has been exhausting. Now we will have more down time to make arrangements, for the bikes to be shipped to "Panama".
Andy, Ed and myself catch a cab to the shipping office, give them dimensions, weight etc. of the bikes. They will contact us via email later. John and Tim are at the "Notary" getting the required documentation for John to continue. Pretty successful day so far. Agreeing to meet later for dinner we all go our separate ways to catch up on personal things.
It worked out as planned, arriving into "Cartagena" early afternoon, traffic was chaotic, thought we would miss that part. Not likely. Ed and Tim went the wrong way down a one way street, a simple shortcut, hell we are from out of town. Andy and I tried the same, but when the police cruiser turned on his sirens, we were detoured back to following the rules. Getting to our destination was a challenge as some streets were not open to traffic. Eventually we met with the others, relieved to get off the bikes too. Putting on over 18,000 kilometers in approximately two months, our bikes are probably sick of us as well. John who is taking over for Tim, has just shown up, good to see him, safe and in good spirits, pretty exciting for him. Also heard from Trevor, he will be joining us tomorrow, wow, he must have been riding long days to catch up so soon. Everyone is happy to be off the bikes for awhile, and we will look into shipping arrangements "Minyana".
On the way to " Cartagena", we won't be able to get there today, just too far for our bodies and bikes to go in one shot. Especially with the roads which meander you up and over the mountains. After good days ride, we pull up to a small town just around dark. There is a hotel located behind a fuel stop, perfect. No more riding, too many things to squish on the highway. We are over the halfway mark to "Cartagena". Tomorrow we should arrive reasonably early into the city.
Maintenance and sightseeing complete, "Medellin" behind us now, today's our ride is a short one, nice change from other days. We will be visiting "Escobars Ranch" out in the hills. There is also a safari you can take to see all of the animals he collected, and a waterpark has also been added. Around 50 kilometers out of "Medellin", Cash has pulled over on the side of the road, waving us on. Another 20 kilometers or so we pull over and decide to wait. A half hour passes, the rest of the group continues to the next fuel stop. I return down the highway to see if I can find him. No luck, nowhere to be found. I return to the group, an hour and a half has passed, we get a text from Cash. He has decided to return to "Medellin" and enroll himself in a language course. See you back in "Canada" were his words. We wish him well, now down to four riders we continue. The rest of the ride to the ranch was amazing, nice jungle, even the road signs of snakes, turtles, and armadillos were a sight. Getting to the ranch a bit later than anticipated, we were limited to a quick ride through some of the property, it was pretty cool, bragging rights anyway. Finding accommodations was a breeze, just a few blocks away a nice hotel with a pool. They gave us a great deal, after Andy told them of our journey. They stare, with a puzzled look, probably thinking, "you are crazy gringos". It is very hot and humid, the pool, was a blessing. It will be an early start tomorrow.
Thought the roads in Ecuador were great. Nothing compares to the roads we are traveling on today. Super twisty high mountain roads, lush dense vegetation, waterfalls, awesome. Columbia is a very beautiful country, my favorite so far. Clean and such a tropical feel, it does however take a long time to accomplish any distance. If you get behind a line of trucks in the mountains it will really slow progress, although passing on the shoulder is permitted, plan it well or off the edge you go. I think we have all learned a new way to drive our "Motos". Easy rule, there aren't any. Pretty simple to comprehend. It did take us over seven hours to put just over 250 Kilometers behind us. A good indication of the roads we travelled today. Exhausting ride,but all arrived safe to Medellin. Here we will also stay another day, as maintenance has to be done, and a rest day is much needed. The plan is to visit the "Assassin's Cradle" the birthplace of "Pablo Escobar", it is also the area he recruited all of his hit men.
Leaving "Pasto" and hitting the highway was a breeze. Very little traffic to battle, the weather today is damp, light showers and very humid. It will be good to knock off four to five hundred kilometers today, this will get us pretty close to Medellin which we plan to get to the following day. We do manage to pull off the required amount of k's, and settle in to the town of "Buga". All checked in to the "Hotel Guadalajara" a beautiful classic property. It must have been a bustling hub in years gone by. Beautiful architecture throughout the property and a nice swimming pool. Most refreshing after a long day in the saddle. We wake early to a lovely buffet breakfast, which is included. Say our goodbyes to the ever helpful staff, and here we come Medellin.
On time we are on the road once again. Stopping for gas along our route, they are limiting our purchase to $3.00 each. When paying the attendant with a $5.00 bill he refuses to give change. He did this to Ed, Andy and Tim. Cash and I refused to purchase gas, and we were not intimidated by the guard with the gun. Are they actually extorting money from us? Andy told the attendant to look closely at the helmet. Smile your on camera, we are filming you now. Soon the attendant went into the station and presented the appropriate change. Down the road at another fuel stop, we tried again, absolutely no problems, "fill her up". Here we go, next stop the border. Arriving at about 9:00 am. We were all through and on our way by 1:30 pm, not bad considering it would be worse if you arrived later. You must buy insurance for the bike there, before entering "Columbia". We are importing our bikes into the country as foreigners and it is a lengthy process. On our way again, we stop to visit the historic "Santuario" "Nuestra Senora de las Lajas", absolutely amazing, quite the hike down, but worth the effort. Next stop will be at our resting place in the city of "Pasto".
Today we will ride as far as the city of "Ibarra". It will get us reasonably close to the "Colombian" border. Getting to the border early will be a priority, as to avoid long delays. Checking in to the "Hotel Madrid", a very reasonably priced establishment, basic, no frills, but has secure parking for our "motos". This has always played a key factor when choosing accommodations, as it is easy to have your bike stolen.The group seems a little weary, tough riding today, and we experienced some cooler temps and rain. Meeting for an early dinner, then shopping for stickers for the bikes. Throughout all of Ecuador we did not find any stickers.
Someone should get on that bandwagon, it was a painful experience. Retiring early, as we will head for the border at 7:00 am.
Our agenda today is pretty light. With an early start we should be at our destination by early afternoon. The ride is glorious, so many twisty's, gets the adrenaline going. The panoramic views are spectacular, terraced mountains, green pastures, beautiful. There are a lot of rocks on the road, don't be surprised to come around a corner and find a variety of rocks in your path. Also some good sized potholes that they attempt to fill with bricks. Makes for some interesting riding though, just be cautious. Arriving at our destination, the tiny hamlet of "Banos" awaits. It is situated at the base of the volcano "Tungurahua" and surrounded by steep mountains. Lots to do here, hiking, rafting, you can rent dune buggies also, no dunes though. There is also a natural hot springs from the volcano to soak you aches away, a freshwater waterfall enhances the moment next to the pools. It is illuminated at night, and is worth the visit. Parking our weary butts at the "Gala Hotel" very central, secure parking, reasonable as well. There's lots of accommodations to choose from here, worth looking around. Many restaurants line the streets, and a good variety can be found to accommodate ones palate. The town is quiet, and shops close early, but I would return here again, as it was an enjoyable experience.
Today is a day to do whatever we want. Visiting the main square of town is fantastic. The "Cathedral" is absolutely beautiful, words can't describe what it is like to stand in such a majestic building. Outside the hustle and bustle of the masses, vendors, musicians, families, what a wonderful way to spend a rest day. It is Sunday and most of the shops are closed, kind of nice to see people taking time for themselves. We could learn a thing or two about that. The area of the city we are in, is very clean, and a welcome change to other cities we have visited so far. Deciding to do a little maintenance on the motos, we will adjust our chains, change out the air filters, and re tourque various components. Tonight is a special night as we are out to a very traditional restaurant where I will indulge in the delicacies and flavors of "Guinea Pig" and the not so brave souls, traditional pork. "Bon Appetite".
Wednesday, 25 January 2017
The "Peruvian Desert " runs along most of the coast. From "Chile" to "Ecuador" that's a lot of sand and it is very hot and dry. Nice to be riding closer to the Ocean as the temperature has cooled somewhat. Our destination is the city of "Piura", arriving early evening we get a hotel close to the "Plaza de Armas" nice and central. Secure parking minutes away, important as most downtown Hotels don't have on site parking. It will be an early night, as we plan on hitting the road by 8:00am. Destination tomorrow, the seaside town of "Mancora". It will be a day of rest and relaxation, as we now have put on 15,000 kilometers on our "Piquina Motos" in the past 54 days. Good news, we will meet up with Trevor as well.
Our start time has been delayed today. Andy had a tip from a local , suggested we leave between 10:00 am and noon. The traffic is best at that time, so we will not be caught in the rush. I can't Imagine how it must be early morning, because it was total chaos when we left at the suggested time. We also were pulled over by the "Moto Police" again, as we were traveling down part of the freeway that does not allow "Motos". Go to the station he told us, not likely, "Adios Copper". I guess we did not see the sign, amongst the fear of traffic survival. Finally we were out of the city and going up the coast, only to be pulled over again, guess who was watching, our newest buddies, the police. When the rest of us pulled up, he just let them go, probably to much hassle, to check all of our credentials. Great highway and scenery on the coast, and after many kilometers we pulled our weary asses into the city of "Chimbote". This city was devastated in the 70's with a magnitude 7.9 earthquake. The tragedy left approximately 70,000 dead, with snow pummeling down from the mountains You can see evidence of the rebuild, as one drives through. It will be an early night, lots of riding today in heavy traffic, eating and bed, what a combo. Tomorrow we will pull off another big day, 600 kilometers to the city of "Piura". Good news, Trevor will meet us on the 20th in "Mancora"
Riding to "Lima" will be an easy day for us, the weather is warm and dry, very little wind and good highway. The motos are performing well , amazing little machines, they have exceeded, our expectations so far. Biggest hurdle to conquer today, make in to the city in one piece. The amount of vehicles is staggering, and everyone seems to honk their horns constantly, almost as if it is a code. Choosing to stay in "Miraflores" which is an area away from the downtown core. It is quieter, and the central pedestrian walkway is a pleasure to stroll. "El Doral Apart Hotel" is where we stayed, great staff, and secure parking out front. Apart Hotels can save you money, as they do have a mini kitchen, which helps out the budget. Taxi's are very inexpensive, so traveling to the downtown area is a must. There is a changing of the "Guard"every day at noon, well worth the watch. Our time spent here was enjoyable, and we were lucky enough to witness a parade downtown, with so many amazing costumes, and musicians. "Lima" is very rich in culture, well worth the visit.
Waking up in a "Desert Oasis" is quite spectacular. With dunes totally surrounding us, it is dry and hot. Water being the giver of life here, it's amazing the amount of birds, flowers, palms etc.that thrive here. Tim and myself took a walkabout early this morning, and made arrangements for a "Dune Tour" later in the day. Pretty exciting, as we have managed to hire one that seats five plus driver. Agreed time 4:00pm, in the meantime, some hike the dunes, others swim, and of course laundry. Not really sure what to expect, the ride was crazy fun. Up and over the dunes at speeds that made one appreciate the Five Point Harness that kept us secure. The ride was filmed with our video equipment, so it should be worth a watch. We also had the opportunity to snow board down, which we did by sitting on the boards. Later the driver let us out just above the "Oasis" some walked into the village from there. Cash and I hiked up the other side of the large dune by our hotel, great photo opps for us, amazing views. Quite the hike as well, hiking in sand is exhausting. An early dinner is the plan, then meet by the pool lounge area to discuss the next days adventure. It will be off to "Lima" for the "Cinco Amigos" menyana.
Everyone seems well rested, a very high mountain village, quiet, no activity to wake us during the night. It is cool and misty as we depart, a few are experiencing headaches, this was an unscheduled stop, and we are out of "Altitude Sickness" medication. In a few hours we will be dropping in altitude as we approach "Ica" symptoms should dissappear. This road is a motorcyclists dream come true, so many curves and switchbacks, awesome ride, a bit unnerving at times, no guardrails and very steep terrain. The trucks and buses that travel this route tend to make use of both lanes, so biker beware. Anticipate their moves and you will survive, if not, off the road you go, and you will be airborne. "Motos" can't fly. Stopping in "Ica" we fuel up and continue north to the "Lineas Y Geoglificos De Nasca". There is an observation tower to give you a birds eye view, best to view from an airplane if you can. Andy sent up the drone, but was promptly warned that it was not allowed. Continuing on to "Huacachina" we will stay the night and the next day there. It is a "Desert Oasis" surrounded by massive sand dunes that reach a height of 300 ft. Here you can "Sand Board" your way down if you are brave enough. A very beautiful spot, off the beaten track. We checked into the "El Huacachinero Hotel" nice place, very clean, has a pool, breakfast included as well. It is located at the base of a large dune in a quiet area of town. Good place to relax and do some exploring.
Down to five riders now, its an early start. We bid farewell to Trevor, we may see him in "Lima", but are having our doubts. It is a long way to catch up to us and he needs to rest his wrist, not to mention the road between "Cusco and "Ica, has about 300 switchbacks. You really have to be on your game. Half way during our ride today we encounter rain, fog, and cold weather. Climbing high over the mountains riding till almost dark, we stop in a small village and check into a hostel. Frozen and weary, our altitude is 13,700 ft. "Hot Soupa" for everyone, topped off with "Pollo and "Arroz". The hostel is also a general store, so we grab extra water and chocolate. Cash buys Choclate for the owners children, I give them Canadian Wristbands, they are most thankful. We pose for group pictures, with Mom, Dad, the three kids and the five of us. It is now 8:00 pm, we retire to our tiny rooms, tomorrow we depart at 7:00 am. and continue the journey to "Ica"
Emotions are running high this morning, we are eager to make tracks, but saying "Adios" to John is tough on all of us. Meandering our way out of "Cusco" we clear the city and head to open road. Approximately 14 kilometers out we lose sight of Andy and Trevor. Pulling over to wait, there is still no sight of them. I turn around and wait at the fork in the road. The others head back in the direction we just came from. Cash returns to my location and gives me the news. Trevor went down pretty hard, and ran into a bank on the side of the road. Andy and a stranger helped drag his bike back on the road. He limped it to a gas stop a few kilometers away. Looks like he bent his front fork, rim, and handlebars. He may also have cracked his left wrist, pretty swollen. A young fellow offered to drive him back to "Cusco" to a clinic. Cash road Trevor’s bike very slowly back to a bike shop with Tim. Andy, Ed and I will wait with Cash's bike and will head back to "Cusco" on his return. Several hours later Cash returns, off we go. Trevor is now at the hospital getting x rays, good news, no break just a fracture. He can't ride his bike. The day is getting late, we will stay in "Cusco" another night, unfortunately for Trevor, he must remain behind tomorrow, wait for bike repairs and see the Dr. once more.
"Cusco" is our next stop and is a short ride from "Ollantaytambo". We bid farewell to our hosts and hit the road early. The plan is to stay for two days, John will be leaving and heading home to "Kelowna". Trevor has arrived from "Ecuador, and will be taking over John's moto. There is paperwork to be dealt with and it has to be done through a "Notary". This also is a good time to rest, I can catch up on the "Blog" and Andy editing "Video Footage". There are times when we have no service, or it can just be hit and miss, so we take full advantage while we stay at the "Royal Inca Hotel". Nice place to stay, reasonably priced, and they serve a wonderful breakfast, with fresh cooked omelets of your choice, all included. The decor is beautiful as well. Today there was a demonstration in the plaza, complete with "Riot Police". We watched it for a time from our balcony, it remained peaceful and lasted a couple of hours. Tim went out and picked up air filters as well as more synthetic oil. With the dirt roads we have been on so far, it is time to change them out. Should improve performance. Dropping in altitude will also play a big role,"Cusco" is 12,000 ft, and we will be continuously descending from this point. Being John's final night with the group, it is out for a farewell dinner, we are entertained by a local group of musicians during dinner, fantastic. Tomorrow will be an emotional day for us, as we bid farewell to our new brother, we will all miss him.
Thursday, 12 January 2017
Jan 9 /17
Going to be a long day today, our train leaves at 5:40 am and returns at 21:10 pm it is an hour and a half ride each way. Taking a bus up the mountain to the entrance, you wind your way up, switchback after switchback. Very steep terrain, beautiful scenery, and the buses are very comfortable. You need to purchase a pass to enter, we did this earlier and had them printed out at the hotel in "La Paz". Show your pass and passport and your in. A short walk from the entrance and suddenly, wow "Machu Picchu" appears. I was absolutely speechless, an absolute marvel. The size of the ruins is absolutely amazing. Spending most of the day here was easy. I would refer to it as, a mind blowing experience. Humbling as well, words can't do it justice, you have to see it to believe it. Be prepared to do a lot of climbing if you visit, good footwear and water is a must, as well as a fully charged camera.
There is a "Cafe" and"Banos" at the entrance to the park, and you can come and go with your pass. The town below offers a great variety of restaurants, as well as many souvenir and gift kiosks. I would definitely recommend this adventure to anyone. We met for dinner, did some shopping and boarded our train. Soon everyone was sleeping, it was an exhausting day, and a most memorable one.
The weather looks good today, it's cool, but no rain. Everyone is ready prior to our agreed departure time. Good thing, as we will be putting on about 400 kilometers today. The plan is to get to "Ollantaytambo" relatively early, as we have to get to the train station and get our pre purchased boarding passes printed. About an hours ride from our destination the "GPS" puts us on a similar version of "Death Road", pretty treacherous, and of course it has to start raining. The dips in the road are starting to fill with water, and the "Red Clay" is as slippery as ice. Soon we are relieved as the road once again turns to pavement. It is almost dark, but we arrive at our destination, manipulate the slippery cobblestone streets to the "Hospedaje" park the motos and take a cab to the train station. It is absolutely pouring rain outside. Hungry, we meet for dinner, then off to bed, as we have to be up at 4:30 am to catch the early train.
Today we will say farewell to "Bolivia" and head into "Peru". Getting out of the city is a daunting task. Some roads are closed off due to the "Dakar" celebrations. We are fortunate enough to get a "Police" escort to the outskirts of town, nice "Moto Cops", think they felt sorry for us. On the way Andy and I visit the ruins of "Tiahuanaco" to be here was an awesome experience, ever since I learned about it from the show "Ancient Aliens" it has been on my list of things to do. The rest of the group continued, and we will meet them in "Peru". When we cross into "Peru" we run into Tim. Surprised as we thought they were way ahead of us. Bad news, while having lunch on the "Peruvian" side of the border, someone stole Tim's helmet off his bike, complete with his "Sena" helmet cam attached. He had to buy a new helmet to continue. Meeting up with the others we continue our ride to the city of"Juliaca". Cold and tired we clean up, and go for pizza, except for John he loves his "Pollo". Tomorrow we will ride to the village of "Ollantaytambo", and stay two nights in the "Hospedaje Acclla Wasi" This will be our jumping point for "Machu Picchu"
Riding to "La Paz" our motos are not performing well. Altitude playing a big factor, also low octane gas, that is all we can buy. Again we hit a huge rainstorm, lightning fills the sky, visibility poor, riding conditions becoming terrible. Closing in on "La Paz" roads are flooding, most intersections under water. At one intersection water covers a set of train tracks, unfortunately for John he goes down. Immediately drivers stop and help him get his bike upright, his rear wheel is still lodged in the track they struggle to get it free. Lucky for John he only has minor damage to the bike and body. Ending up at the "Hotel Gloria" the bikes are put in a secure area, this will give us enough space to do maintenance. Deciding to stay an extra day, we all do some sight seeing, even take a tram up and over this city of approximately 3 million. Andy, Tim and myself take the mountain pass up and over to "Death Road" Climbing to an altitude of 15,300 ft. then decend to10,600 ft., 10 kilometers in, we are turned around, we watch a landslide cover the entire road. It will take hours to clear. Back to "LaPaz we go, we need fuel, one station won't sell it to us. Another does, but you need your passport to make your purchase. An early start tomorrow is the plan, so to bed early it is. Loud music fills the square below us, it's 4:00 am. They are doing sound checks to welcome the "Dakar" riders who will be arriving later today. So much for sleeping any longer.
The storm is over, another beautiful day beckons us to the "Salt Flats". Our set rendezvous time 9:00 am. Andy has a head start on the flats, he is hoping to pull off some drone footage, before the masses arrive. Riding the motos on the flats is an experience. You can ride for ever it seems, one rule to remember, come out the way you go in. If not, you could get lost in the vast expanse of salt. After exploring for a time, we meet at the entrance to the flats and continue our journey. We will be heading into the city of "Oruro" today, not a long ride.
This is fine with the group, as yesterday's ride was a true test of motorcycle skills, as well as physical endurance. Ed went down several times in the mud and sand. Cash went down in a huge water hole, maybe he was hot and needed to cool down. Minor damage to the bikes and riders, lucky for them. We arrive in "Oruro" late in the afternoon, we have just battled through a severe rainstorm. Cold and weary, we check into a hotel, not fancy but shelter from the elements. There is no elevator, and bringing the gear up three floors is very demanding. It is the altitude, I find myself completely out of breath by the second floor, as if someone was sitting on my chest, even my fingertips are tingling, a true sign of lack of oxygen. Showered and warm, we meet for a quick bite, by 8:30 pm it's lights out. Destination tomorrow "La Paz"
Friday, 6 January 2017
Today we decided to explore the town before our checkout. Very interesting place, the markets were full of people, street vendors in full swing, tiny three wheeled taxis ripping through the streets. Soon we are all packed up and ready to roll once more. "Uyuni" is where we are heading to, then onwards to the "Bolivian
Salt Flats". As we leave "Tapiza" the road to "Uyuni" now becomes gravel and much more. The road is totally under construction, not so bad I guess, except it is 208 kilometers of construction. The scenery on the other hand is absolutely amazing, just don't take your eyes off the road too much, or you just might be over a cliff. Between huge water holes that cover the entire road, boulders, switchbacks and sand, it looks like were in for a very interesting day of riding. We climb high today as well, and we peaked at around 12,700 ft. Arriving in "Uyuni later than planned due to road conditions, we fuel up, and make the decision of whether to carry on. A storm is brewing and lightning fills the sky. Tim, Ed, and Cash decide to stay, Andy, John and myself decide to continue. Upon our arrival at the "Salt Flats" it is now dark, and rain starts to pound down on us. We concede that the "Salt Flats" will have to wait till tomorrow. Andy stays in a hotel near the flats. John and I head back to "Uyuni" and bunk down at the "Hostel La Magia de Uyuni". Tomorrow morning we will all meet at the"Salt Flats" and do some exploring
Today we break camp early, it rained hard in the night, we want to dry our tents before packing them away.
We will be entering Bolivia today, it's crucial to get there early to avoid delays. Climbing high through the mountains, the scenery pristine, the air crisp, what a ride. At the border crossing we are lucky, not to many people ahead of us. Still the process is slow, so patience is the key. It still took over two hours for the six of us to be processed. Cash used his American Passport which resulted in him paying $160.00 US. dollars to enter. He had to, as all his border crossing stamps were in it. Once in Bolivia a "Cambio de Casio" is first on the agenda. We exchange any left over Argentinian money, and purchase Bolivian. Now on to our next goal, the town of "Tapiza". The ride from the border to Tapiza is awesome, twisty road, great
scenery, mountains of red, wonderful. We arrive at the "Hotel Mitru", reasonably priced, clean, pool, and a breakfast that's included in the price. Staying here again, would be an easy choice. Meeting another group of crazy riders from Brazil, we all decided to join one another for dinner. Interesting to say the least, lots of great stories and pictures to share. They had six riders to start, but two left due to injuries. Great times were had by all. Best of luck to team "Magnifica Magma" on the rest of their journey. After dinner and back at the hotel, our group gathered in the lobby to book our "Machu Pichu" excursion.
The sun is shining, birds are singing, blue skies. What a great way to start the first day of the year. We do not have to travel too far today, around 200 kilometers. Camping in the little town of "Tilcara" which is around 8,300 ft. Breaking camp in "Salta" is a leisurely process, another good start to 2017, nice and easy. The city is calm, quite different from last nights Fireworks that went on for hours throughout the city. The bangs, booms and bursts, however did stop around 3:00am.
They sure know how to bring in a "New Year. On the road at 10:30 am, we fill up with fuel, get more bottled water and make tracks. Staying hydrated is very important at higher altitudes, especially on two wheels. The team has also started taking our "Altitude Sickness" pills and will for the next 8 to 10 days. Looking for a "Pharmacia" is also a priority, Tim was stung by an insect yesterday, his right foot and ankle are swollen and blistering from the reaction from the poison. We find an open "Pharmacia" and get the prescribed treatment. Within a few hours we our in camp at "Tilcara". Tim's foot elevated and iced, the treatment seems to be working. Great news, as we were all quite worried. This small town is built on the side of a mountain. "Adobe Brick" buildings line the cobblestone and gravel streets. Smiling shopkeepers welcome us, the scenery magnificent, as if it were painted. After a viewing of the town, and surrounding area for photos, it's dinner and off to bed.
"Salta" here we come, beat the heat , let's go. New Years in the municipal campground. Oh yeah, we all imagine how nice it will be sitting next to the pool, which just happens to be on the top ten list of the largest pools in the world. The pool takes approximately 10 days to fill, mind boggling, and has the same square footage as two "Football Fields. We get to "Salta" early, pulled off 300 kilometers pretty fast, nice ride. Andy , Tim, and John are already at the campground. Cash, Ed and myself are on the way. Following the GPS through town we are almost there, then we make a big mistake. We turn left onto a one way but the light is "Rojo" that is what the two traffic cops were yelling at us as they demanded we pull over. We pleaded our case, the policeman said in spanish at warp speed, Rojo is Rojo, International law. Ok we went through the red light but 120.00 US dollars is a little steep for a fine. We pleaded ignorance, said we do it in Canada which is actually legal, but not in Argentina apperantly. He is not budging, his younger partner checks our credentials as he walks Cash back to the scene of the crime. Upon their return , we sincerely apologize, we do not have "Mucho Denero" we explain, that is why we camp. After about 45 minutes they agree to let us go. We really appreciated our big break, we shake hands and give them a "Panamerican Rider" card. Let's get out of here asap. Soon we meet up at the campground with the others.
Upon our arrival at the campground, the pool is still, being filled, so we will not be swimming today, maybe if we stayed another week, it might be full enough. Not happening. That is ok, we are all together off the road, camping, and it is "New Years Eve". We all miss our families, but we have become our own little family. The "PanamericanRider" family. A gourmet camp meal is on the agenda for the evening, down some wobbly pops, sit back and reminisce about the adventure so far. Take
in the fireworks at midnight, call our families and off to bed. "FELIZE ANO NUEVO"
It is going to be a very hot day of riding. Just packing up our gear puts us all into sweat mode. Hopefully we will put the majority of kilometers on early in the day, this will allow for more frequent stops later, too cool down and replenish our bodies with liquids. A couple of the riders wear camel packs, they hold 2 litres of water and continually hydrate while riding, great piece of gear.
Our plan is coming together well, by mid day we are well over half way to our destination of "San Miguel de Tucuman". The temperature is hot, 37 degrees Celsius. With our riding gear on, it feels like 45 degrees Celsius. We will all lose weight today, maybe not a bad thing, might get a little more speed from our "Poquito Motos".
We are closing in on the city, small scooters are riding on the shoulders of the highway, lots of them, most have two riders, no helmets, all wearing shorts, tank tops, absolutely no safety gear. That is what they do, some even ride three up, which includes the baby tightly tucked in between Mom and Dad. It is Friday night and they are going out on the town. Upon our arrival three "Amigos" get a hotel the other three "Hombres" opt for camping. The next day we will meet in the city of "Salta" and start getting used to the higher altitudes we will be encountering over the next several days.
With the sun shining, off we go, we manipulate our way through the streets, dodging the huge pools of water, left behind from last nights storm. As we leave town, ditches are filled to the brim with brown silty water. The fields teaming with the growth of what they have to offer. Sunflowers, Corn, absolutely beautiful. There are thousands of acres planted here. Agriculture is huge, I have never witnessed so many pieces of farm equipment, massive in size, so diverse in the jobs they perform. Cattle also dot the fields for 100's of kilometers as well. Nothing like a good Argentinian steak. Just ask my "Carnivore Amigos". Today our sights are set on the city of "Cordoba. It is very hot, and we need to make extra stops to hydrate ourselves. At one stop, Andy's bike blows over in wind into Cash's bike which falls into a parked car. Running through the parking lot, Andy, Tim and myself recover the bikes to their previous positions. Only a little bit of damage, lucky for them, could have been alot worse, especially to the car.
Back on the road we are nearing our destination, upon arrival we stop again to hydrate our parched souls, and look for a campsite. We decide to go a little further to the town of "Jesus Mary". En Epoca de Festival Camping Puerto Caroya, is where we lay our heads for the night. Off the road early, we can set up and continue the drying process of gear and belongings. Quiet campground, nice host as well.
What a punctual group we are, that is what our Concierge told us. How do you do it he asked. Practice I responded. He just laughed and said he really admired it. Not so much here in my country was his response.The hotel has a great front desk staff , they went above and beyond for us. Thanks to them, our stay was so much more enjoyable. We all met outside for some photos, said our goodbyes, and prepared ourselves for the onslaught of traffic. Here we go again, my white knuckle friends. Getting out of Buenos Aires is not as easy as one may think, but what the hell, oh yeah welcome to traffic hell.
After about an hour we were through the traffic and highway bound. Our goal is to make it to Santa Fe, approximately 500 kilometers from Buenos Aires. On our way Andy ran out of fuel about 10 kilometers from our next fuel stop. Fortunatley I carry a siphon tube with me. The group each offered up some gas from their tanks, which was transfered to an empty water bottle. Andy was up and running again, off we go. There was no camping in "Santa Fe", so we opted for the municipal campground in the town of "Santo Torme". Nice spot next to a river. Tonight was a true test of our gear, we experienced severe winds, rain, lightning and thunder. Pretty noisy, so most of us had very little sleep. We left later than usual the next morning, this gave our tiny homes a chance to dry out before packing them away.
The boys are ready to roll, we have had enough downtime. We can only sit idle for so long, even though we have enjoyed our rest period and Christmas, time to prepare to hit the road. No plans for today, do your own thing, get supplies, be ready in manyana we vamos at 9 am. We do end up meeting for dinner around 8:00 pm. Eat well "Amigos"soon nothing but camp food.