March 2009 Archives

Hey Everyone – sorry we’ve fallen a little behind in the blog entries -We have stayed at a few places that had no internet or the internet was not working well enough – but here is our entry for 3 days ago and we should catch up in the next couple of days. Including the story of spending a few hours in a Columbian Policia station… as well as Dan’s turn signal breaking when it met concrete…

We rose somewhat early in our slightly overpriced hotel in Bogota – around 6:45am – considering we went to bed around 1:30 and we were both dragging anchor. Quick breakfast and we jumped in a taxi to head back out to the airport and try to find the bikes, decipher the customs puzzle and get meat on the seat out of Bogota.

We found the Girag facility quickly – which was amazing in itself. We walked in the door and there was a lady security guard who was frisking everyone – unfortunately she didn’t frisk us for some reason . We quickly found the “man” we needed to chat with – “El Jefe” Marlio Collazos. He spoke pretty decent English and he told us our bikes arrived last night but we had some paperwork to take care of at customs (DIAN in Columbia).

Marlio pumped out some copies and filled out some paperwork for us and packed us off to walk across to the DIAN offices about 1/4 mile away. We walked over there and stood in line for a while, got some forms to fill out, stood in line a while longer, and learned a little bit about the way Columbians stand in line. Basically, they don’t stand in line – if you leave more space than the thickness of a credit card between you and the next person, you are more or less leaving a spot for someone to jump into. And if you don’t somehow completely block the window area for the person you’re trying to deal with at customs, you are inviting someone to push in and ask questions or request a pen, a form, or just tell a joke. We quickly set up elbow to elbow, watched our flanks and wedged our way in.

P1000691Anyway – the customs lady was super nice, very helpful and got us all setup with paperwork and then she said she needed to inspect the bikes. No problem – we should walk to Girag and she will meet us there. We walked back over and talked to Marlio… he said we should go have a look at the bikes because “maybe they need some repairs and we could get to work on them” – oh, boy… He took us back there and the bikes were sitting in a little private area off the pallet and ready to ride – and no damage at all!

We waited maybe 10 minutes and the customs lady shows up with another customs guy – look at the VIN and the plate numbers – sign the papers and sign the bikes and we are ready to roll…. maybe 1.5 hours of customs stuff… not bad.

 

P1000692After customs complete we were allowed into the bikes – and we had to re-jenga everything and dig out our riding gear. Marlio checked on us a couple times and we gave him a bottle of Johnny Walker Whiskey we bought at the duty free – he joked about how our boots stunk and we exchanged the proper word for that in English/Spanish – but then maybe he wasn’t joking about the smell because they aren’t all that pleasant at this point… after half hour of repacking and getting suited up – we were ready to head out. We got some directions for how to avoid getting lost in Bogota and then we had to navigate some doors and stairs to get out of the Girage facility.

The ramp wasn’t too bad but there was another drop after this ramp that we didn’t take a shot of – it was a bit tricky – but we cleaned it and were ready to roll into Columbia – total time from arriving to riding out was about 2.5 hours. Thanks a ton Marlio!!!!!!

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We left the airport following our GPS (with NO maps of Bogota in it) and no paper maps of Bogota – and we were ok for maybe the first 5 miles. After missing a turn (we thought anyway) we decided to take a surface street and try to double back and pick up the highway to Cali. Big mistake… we were quickly sucked into a maze of one way streets, single lane streets, walking pathways and just general mayham.. Between the Altitude and the busses belching so much black smoke we were both getting headaches and nauseous. And to top it all off – It was lunch hour and the streets were absolutely crammed with people walking, eating, smoking, talking, and getting on/off busses. So – the traffic was virtually at a standstill and we were in our riding gear and it was hot – 85 probably and we were basting and wondering where we went wrong and blaming each other…

We could see where we “thought” we wanted to go on the GPS – maybe only a few blocks away – but we simply couldn’t get there – it was incredibly frustrating. Just when we would get to move the bikes a block or two and be able to see a “busy” street where we could maybe move a little faster - we would arrive to find that it was a one way – and ALWAYS it was the wrong way! Finally we got onto a street we knew would cross the road we wanted to take and as we rode along we quickly figured out there was absolutely no way to turn left… all the time we were being attacked by taxi cabs that clearly feel they should be able to push motos around like the busses push the taxi’s around. So who do we get to push around? Mopeds, zillions of them!!

This went on for 2 and half hours! – and we hadn’t really moved much at all – we finally worked our way to the outskirts of Bogota and spotted the actual road we were looking for – and the traffic was really moving quickly on it!!! – but, we couldn’t figure out how to get on the damn thing … we rode around in some circle patterns and finally figured out how to get on there… stopped for gas and after filling up we were on the road to Cali.

Working our way out of the suburbs of Bogota took quite some time – the little burbs just blurred from one to the other and the traffic was challenging. We eventually got on the real highway and started cruising pretty well – riding thru some nice scenery of lush hills and resort type towns. We ran out of time just short of Girardot and grabbed a nice hotel that was right on a nice little river and had a pool. Had a couple of beers and took a dip in the pool.

Long and challenging day but we are in Columbia and rolling – So far we feel safe enough, but there is an edge to the place and we both have or shields up.

Cheers!

 

P1000693We got up early so we could get moving. Then Dan said his phone charger was not working so we started working on it. After taking it apart we found that the wires had broken inside the connector that attaches to the phone. We busted out the tools and set about fixing it. We have a pretty good set of tools and an electrical kit that includes a 12volt soldering iron that hooks up to the bike. After about an hour Dan stated, “this thing will work for the rest of the trip”. We packed up the tools and got ready to roll.

 

IMG_0827After fixing the cell fone charger – we had a bit of an audience watching us – we put all our gear on and started to roll out. Well… we were parked up by the front desk and had to maneuver a little bit to get out and as Dan goes to pull out of the reception area he is turning and his bike stalls – dead – he puts his foot down and his foot lands on sand/gravel that is on top of the tile/cement (damn it, where are the sweeping/cleaning crew when you need them?) – anyway – he quickly realizes the bike is going down and probably best to not fight it so he lets it go down. It lands on it’s right side and rolls up onto the right side bag and crushes the front turn signal… Dan is actually off the bike when it is rolling and is talking on the intercom to John telling him that it’s going down etc… he stands there for a bit and then as other people are moving to the bike he goes over and stands it up – straddles it, starts it up, and rides off… The altitude was probably 8,500 feet or something like that and the bikes run very poorly when they are first started or cold – of course a “discussion” ensued between Dan and John because Dan didn’t wait long enough to allow John to take a picture etc… but the basic fact of the matter is that the bike was down and the turn signal is broken… bummer, but finally the pressure is off – the score is even and we’ve both dropped the bikes.

P1000721As we headed up and over a 10,000 foot pass the scenery was just amazing. It’s really too bad Columbia is so screwed up politically as it’s easily the most beautiful area we have rode through so far. I mean this place is unbelievable, with vista after vista for seemingly forever. We were talking on the mic and said. “Once we get out of Columbia, I’ll be really glad we rode through it”. Traffic was pretty heavy up and over the pass, With many switch backs, buses and trucks to keep us on our game. You either have to “work” the traffic or crawl up the hill with the trucks/buses. We choose to work the traffic. The bikes were weezing once we passed 8,000 feet, but we kept spanking them to get them to get around the traffic. After we got to the top we had our first stop with the “Law” in Columbia. These guys were regular military. Big guns and all. They were wondering where our orange vests were. In Columbia motorcyclists are required to wear orange vests with their license plate number on the back. Well, we read as tourists you didn’t need them (and our buddy at Girag – Marlio told us we didn’t need them!). We debated whether to get them to blend in or just skip ‘em. After a short delay and them checking our papers, John saying “touristo” over and over when the cop pointed at his vest and then asking where were ours…. we were released.

IMG_0841We  ripped down the other side of the pass and started towards Sevilla. This started out as a good two lane road through a bunch of coffee plantations. It went right along a ridge top with vistas on both sides. The road quickly turn bad however with pot holes everywhere and we began wondering if we made the right choice of roads… After about 30 miles we were stopped again, this time by some regular cops in white uniforms. They checked our documents, they were super nice. Shook our hands and sent us on our way. We made the last 15 or so miles into Seville. Right as we rolled into town these two cops come running across the street flailing their arms for us to stop. We produced all of our documents and he spent what seemed 20 minutes conferring on the radio with his “commander”.

He then informed us that we needed to follow him to the police station to “meet” his commander. John didn’t understand what he was saying and Dan played dumb – making him work harder to explain it over and over. Dan was hoping he would just get bored and tired of repeating himself … but it didn’t work and we had to follow them to the police station. On the way we chatted about just bolting – after all it was him and his buddy on a 250 dirt bike. We could easily out run them. Where would we go?  I guess we’ll go see what they want.

We weave thru a fairly nice town and come into the town square where the police station is located – we pull in and S-L-O-W-L-Y we stop the bikes, pull them in, back them into place, take off our helmets, take off our gloves, lock things up, take off the tank bags and we stand there waiting while our two “buddies” are inside conferring with “El Jefe” (The boss!)… we don’t have a lot of daylight left to reach Cali and we’re both wondering what the f*ck is going on here…

So they wave us over to the office and direct us in and basically tell us to sit. At this point I “John” am getting pretty nervous. We are sitting in a scumy one room office. We walked past about 10 heavily armed cops outside and in the entry way. We meet a few guys who are all “friendly” in a cop-ish sort of way – Then El Jefe starts asking us questions and I do not understand anything. Dan is trying to figure out what he is saying – answering some of the questions and El Jefe seems to be satisfied - somewhat. About this time I look down and my leg is shaking. I had know Idea it was shaking till I looked at it.  

El Jefe brings in a couple more guys – and I (Dan) am now thinking – “oh, the good cop/bad cop routine” – and I think well, I will just act stupid and speak no spanish… oh, shit, one of the guys speaks some English… he starts asking us questions while another guy is banging stuff into a computer. The usual questions like: name, address, where are you going, where are you staying etc… then they get a little personal – like: are you married? – what are your parents name? how come you both have the same last name? what is your wife’s name? why don’t you have kids? how much money are you carrying? where can we put some cocaine on your bikes? and how much cocaine can you carry for us??? –

After they have typed in every scrap of info you can think of, the dude says he wants to take our picture. He shoves a piece of  paper in front of me (John) and says “please sign, it’s permission for us to take your picture.” I look at it and of course its all in Spanish. I said “No I will not sign it, I do not know what it says..” He repeats that it’s permission to take my photo. I repeat “no I will not sign it..You have permission to take my photo, but I will not sign anything”. At this same time I notice they are setting up a fingerprinting kit… I look at Dan and he is shaking his head “no”. About this time I am wondering where this is REALLY going. The dude says we are strangers in his town and that is why we are being checked out. “its for our own safety”. Dan reads the document – or at least tries to – and he tells the guy “No Firma – we are not signing anything” – He is surprised and goes to get “El Jefe” – who tells him (basically) – “we don’t need their picture – let them go” – but then Starsky (or  was it Hutch??? or maybe Beretta??) keeps the pressure on us and keeps asking more questions – and Dan says “what is the problem here?” – Starsky says there is no problem, you are just strangers in our town… well… shit, if this is how you treat strangers, no wonder nobody comes here !!!!

Starsky then asked us if we needed an “escort” to Cali – Dan asked him if we needed one??? – he said “No, it’s safe” – and Dan said – “why would we need an escort then?” – well, Starsky didn’t seem to appreciate the humor here – and after a few dozen more questions they decided it was time to cut us loose…But first they needed to inspect our motorcycles.  “what?! – is that all you got for us???” – On the way outside we noticed that one of the dweeby lackey dudes was using a digital camera to take pictures of our passports – … I guess they “really” needed our pictures… When we got out to our bikes they were surrounded by half the damn town. After checking most of our bags we were given an “escort” out of town.  The escort stopped at the edge of town and pointed down the road and said, “how do you feel?” Dan said fine! But we were saying on the intercom how we felt like kicking him in the balls….

We headed out out of town checking the clock to see if we could still make it to Cali before dark. The chatter on the intercom was about how the dude called his buddies to ambush us in the mountains outside of town….. but the road they put us on was a very nice 2 lane road with NO trucks that went along the ridge of an incredible valley and the scenery was spectacular with a number of very nice homes and ranchos along the way.

We made it to Cali without further incident and checked into the Casblanca Hostel. We both agreed it was time for a drink… we hit the showers and headed out to find dinner and some booze…

Cheers!

We spent the night in Cali at the Casa Blanca Hostel – we were hoping to meet up with Mike who owns the hostel and www.motolumbia.com but he was on a trip up to Cartagena to retrieve one of his rental bikes. Mike helped us with our logistics problems trying to get to South America from Panama.

John-mmWe got a relatively early start after a great breakfast and managed to get lost in Cali trying to find the main road out of town. We got a firsthand view of the city market as we slowly made our way thru the chaos and mayhem of the market. After maybe 45 minutes of weaving and circling back/forth we found the main road and started moving at a good pace.

The first 100 miles of the road were through mostly flatlands and meadows – with small farming type community towns – not really that remarkable. Then the road began to climb up into the mountains – and climb and climb – we were quickly at 9,000 foot elevations and routinely going up into 10,000 foot. The scenery was truly breathtaking and by far the most spectacular of the trip so far.

This goofy looking M&M truck was fun to follow behind – strange to see when you’re coming up the road but pretty well done!

Here are some shots off the incredibly rugged terrain …IMG_0914

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We rolled into Popayan at pretty close to dark time frame – we had maybe half an hour to find a hotel and it wasn’t easy. The town was pretty good sized and we  both wanted a hotel that was close to the main road so we could bolt for the border early in the morning. We rode up and down the main road and considered staying at a “Motel” – even stopped to ask for a room at one but they had no rooms with 2 beds… In case you’re wondering – a “Motel” in Latin America is a sex hotel – you rent it by the hour usually and they have garages usually to hide the cars of the people staying there. Every decent sized town has 2 or 3 of these on the main roads just outside of town…

We ended up heading down into town a bit and found a great hotel with indoor garage storage. Grabbed a cab downtown to get something to eat and while we were walking  around the main square John felt the urge to gamble a bit – we stepped into a casino and he tried his hand at the computerized roulette – well, when he as finished he had won 42,000… pesos… which was a little under $20 US – still, enough to almost pay for the hotel.

Heading out of Columbia tomorrow morning – the border is about 125KM away and we should be there relatively early.

Cheers!

 

IMG_0923We rose kind of early – hit the fuel station to gas up and got on the road to the border. Popayun was at about 9,000 foot elevation and we were both huffing and puffing while walking up and down the stairs in the hotel. Leaving Popayun the road began a climb even higher into the mountains. On our way out of Popayun we spotted these guys hitching a ride up a hill by grabbing a truck… the truck driver didn’t appear to have any idea these guys were back there. 

 

 

 

 

The bikes have done surprisingly well with the altitude – other than when they are first started in the morning. When we first start them they sputter and die easily – sometimes at inconvenient times but after they are warmed up they run fine but at the higher altitudes they have a distinct lack of power.

P1000735We weaved  our way to the border of Ecuador and arrived there fairly early – like 10:30ish. Exiting Columbia was a piece of cake and somewhat obvious. Hit the customs shack (DIAN), he looked at the bikes for about 2 seconds and took the paperwork – then off to the immigration building – stamp the passport and we’re off to nomans land between Columbia and Ecuador.

 

 

 

 

Welcome-2-ecuadorEntering Ecuador was more of a puzzle – stand in line in the immigration office only to find out that I was in the wrong line – so go stand in another line for a bit and that guy told me I needed a form from another guy…get that form, fill it out and back in line – stamp the passport and done. Then need to figure out the bikes – found a building that had a sign on it for temporary vehicle permits – talk to that guy and he sends me to some other guy – once we got to the right guy he pumped the paperwork out quickly and with just a couple questions – total cost: $0 – amazing.

 While watching the bikes and waiting for Dan to get stamped, This guy comes up and we start kinda start chatting about our trip, me in my worst spanish and him in his worst english. As he gets ready to leave he sticks out his hand and says “I’m so glad you come to seen my country” we liked Ecuador already!

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We rode another couple hundred kilometers into Ecuador – through some fantastic scenery – steep and deep canyons with lush green foliage and rivers running in the bottoms of the canyons. Three things were readily apparent in Ecuador: the roads were AWESOME, there was actual road signs, and the drivers were somewhat well behaved. Compared to Columbia anyway – the drivers actually seemed like they believed there were rules/laws that needed to be followed as opposed to abused for their benefit. The road surfaces were smooth, painted lines, and very wide. The signs were amazing – almost as good as in the states and we managed to navigate our way without getting lost in every little town that we went through. Also we both agreed that the “edge” we felt in Columbia was gone and we cruised carefree in the wind again….

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Got to the hotel around 3ish – we were again at 9,000 feet elevation and both of us were pretty shagged out from the altitude. Headaches and a bit of queasy stomach feeling so we took a nap, then caught up on some email stuffs and then tried to get some food… which turned out to be a challenge… the hotel we were staying at had a restaurant that closed at 7 – and we missed that… so we took a cab downtown and found a forgettable chicken type of place … but most things were closed for some reason – maybe Sunday night or something?

Heading to the coast in the morning –

Cheers.

 

IMG_0953We got up early from room 123 (which strangely enough was on the second floor?) and hit the road. We were eager to hit the equator… as we left town we kept checking our GPS’s and watching the numbers count down. We saw at the hotel that there was this big tourist deal with a HUGE sundial right on the equator. As we rounded turns the GPS went up then down teasing us as we were getting closer and then further away from the equator. We had constant chatter on the intercom. We must be close. Then the curve would take us away… Where the hell is this tourist spot. Well, we finally passed 00.00000 and no tourist spot… So we decided to turn around and go back to make sure we got a photo of the GPS reading 0.  We must of looked kinda funny inching along the road looking at the GPS 00.00040 then 00.0003 and bingo! We are sitting on the Equator!!! No sign, No tourist deal, nothing… After we took the pictures we headed out thinking for sure the tourist deal is going to be right around the corner… Well we never found it and just kept cruising towards Quito. IMG_0955

We stopped at a gas station as we were talking about the fact that our map was kinda vague and we knew there had to be a bypass around quito. Quito is a city of about 2 million plus… Well the station attendant did not have a map and said we could get one in Quito! We laughed at the irony – in order to avoid the clogged up streets of Quito by using a bypass we needed to go into Quito to buy a map – so we decided to wing it. As we approach Quito the bypass was well marked and we cruised around the outside. Quito sits in a bowl surrounded by a ring of mountains – we rode along a ridge to the east and south of Quito and looked down on the city. It is clouded by pollution and seems to go on forever – big buildings in the center and lots and lots of small houses and buildings. The altitude was changing between 9500 and 10,000 feet as we rode along the ridge.

P1000764We then desended down this amazing moutain road on the way to the ocean. We stopped to  check out this super cool waterfall. You can get an idea of the scale of it by looking at the truck in the picture to the left. The foliage was getting really rainforest like as we headed towards the coast. There was two ways to get to Manta, one was the main highway we were on, the other looked like a main road that went pasts some big lakes on the map. We decided the lakes would be cool to see so we took a left and headed down the other road. We could see the lakes on the GPS but we could not see the lakes when we looked for them. Nothing. Nada. Shortly there after the road deterated to asphalt with broken chunks missing. No worries, we pressed on. Shortly there after the road deterated to gaint pot holes and gravel sections. We began chatting about the time and how long it would take us to get to Manta. Would we make it by dark. Then the road deteriated to all gravel with section of mud. We thought, “we got this, at least its not raining” Shortly there after the rain came. And it rained… big time… tropical downpour. This made the road about the consistacy on baby shit after banana pudding. We were plowing our front end through the mud, however we could not slow too much as we were worried about being on the road after dark…

IMG_0971Well the road did improve after about 45 miles of baby crap and again we were carellessy cruising down the pavement at 70. We arrived in Manta shot to hell and muddy from the knees down. We gave up trying to find the hostel and checked into the first place that had a room. We found some beers and called it a night.

Tomorrow we head down the coast and find a place to chill for at least a day to catch up on some laundry and bike service.

Cheers

P1000775We stayed at an expensive hotel (relatively anyway –  it was $73 a night) and decided we should sleep in and work on a place to stay for a couple nights. We finally dragged our butts out of bed about 10 – searched out some breakfast and some internet.

By 12 we had eaten and found a place to head to – Puerto Lopez and a little hostel that promised “guaranteed hot water” and “wifi service” – only about 120 kilometers away. Excellent!

 

 

 

IMG_0980So we suited up, packed all the stuff and got on the road about 1pm. We rode on a brand new road with no lane markings and spanking smooth asphalt surface for about the first 30 miles and then the road sort of dropped off to a nice road but with rough patches. And of course it wouldn’t be Latin America if there wasn’t some construction underway.

The scenery along the “Ruta del Sol” was nice – we saw beaches that stretched on for miles and not too much for towns along the way. As we pulled into Puerto Lopez we went from the nice asphalt road to the dirt streets of town –

 

 

IMG_0990We rode around the dirt streets looking for the hostel and after a couple loops around town we found the place. The lady who ran it – Gladis was super nice – not a word of Enlgish but she worked the 3rd grade Spanish for us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0991Dan pulled out the silver Sharpie pen so that Gladis could sign the bike – and it didn’t work too well so he began shaking it to get the ink down to the tip – well, this turned out to be a bad idea and the ink was flying out all over the bike, the seat, Dan’s helmet and riding jacket. Of course, John found this to be funny but Dan just looked at the ink sprayed all over and was thinking about how much work it was going to be to clean it off …

We got checked in and quickly found out the internet didn’t work because the computers, telephone, stereo etc… had been blasted in a power surge… great.

 

 

It was a humid evening and we searched out some food and a little booze. When we got back to the room we setup the mosquito netting and got into bed – well, we quickly diiscovered the fan didn’t have an “oscilating” mode – so it only pointed in one direction. That setup a little negotiation about who was going to get up and point the fan in what direction… we did a “virtual” rock/paper/sissors and Dan won – he elected to have the fan pointed at him this evening and let John have it the next night – but that meant he had to get up and move the fan.

Tomorrow, we have some bike maintenance to do, laundry, and catching up on the blogs, and other computer stuffs…

Cheers!

 

Not a lot to report today – we spent the day on bike maintenance, laundry, internet stuffs, and telephone calls.

We needed to clean and lube the chains which John did without incident. He also fixed Dan’s turns signal from the little mishap in the parking lot a few days ago and there were a handful of other little things to tweak and make sure were tight.

We’ve also been carrying our broken shift levers since they failed about 3 weeks ago – seems like ages. Well, we figured they could be welded if we could find a good welder and we would have some spares again. The owner of the hostel said there was a welder dude about 5 blocks away – (“soldura” in spanish) – we wandered around the town talking to auto parts stores and bike repair places looking for some parts we could bolt to the shift levers to make things work but no luck. Eventually we ended up at the welding place… Unfortunately we forgot the camera – but hopefully you can use your imagination here – the shop was just a roof over a fairly large space with maybe 7 or 8 tools – a couple of welding machines that were wired to the wall using what looked like left over wire. The welder guy was excited to fix our levers – and “no problem” he could fix them… Dan was a bit skeptical after looking at the equipment but we went ahead. The first one worked out pretty well as we guided him to just “tack” them in 4 places and he didn’t really pay attention but the weld looked like it would work. The second one didn’t go so well – he tried to get it done too quickly and the result was that he completely melted the aluminum part of the linkage… he felt bad but we laughed because its happened to us before – paid him his fee, a dollar! and we went home with one “working” spare shift lever.

The laundry went smoothly – we turned our clothes in to a laundry service and we washed our riding gear ourselves. Putting it out in the equatorial sun to dry which took about 20 minutes.

Spent several hours fighting with the Internet trying to get the blogs updated, emails and all that – had a nice dinner and a couple beers…. off to bed, we ride in the morning – I think we’ll go south this time.

Cheers.

 

Last night the room was like an oven set on preheat with a panful of swampy water in it. Dan had the fan the night before and it really wasn’t that hot.. I got the best of that deal’  So after a long hot, sweaty night we got up early intending to get on the bikes early. It took some time to really get moving though… we had another nice breakfast with our host Gladis at the www.hostalvillacolombia.com  Gladis and her son Oscar were great hosts and if your ever in the area its a great place to stay! They were super friendly and we had a nice stay.

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We also had made friends with a couple of kids that hung around the hostel. We took one of them for a ride last night and of course he told his buddy. He came over this morning asking for his ride, how do you say no? So while Dan took him for a spin I went into town and uploaded the blogs we wrote last night. The kids were really exceited about the motorbikes and we had alot of fun tickling and rough housing with them. The shot of Jorge with the helmet on is funny – cause John was trying to tell him to smile so he took his fingers and pushed his smile up – so Jorge just grabbed his cheeks and pulled them apart!!

After posing for photo’s and saying goodbye we got moving around 11:30 we really had no destination in mind so we headed down the coast. It was a wonderful day with the sun baking down. As long as we kept moving the temp was good. The road followed the coastline about 50 miles before turning inland. The views along the beach were fantastic.

This is the town we stayed in : Peurto Lopez.

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Check out this church that was perched on a clif about 300 feet above the ocean…

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After turning inland the road was a 4 lane highway and we wicked it up to about 80. 3 hours later we found a raggity hotel for 20 bucks a night and we are chilling in the room with the AC cranked but the compressor is howling like a cat in heat which is actually half good news because it drowns out the highway noise from the trucks and busses. Tonight we sleep like eskimos…

Tomorrow we connect up with the PanAm again and we head south…should be in reaching down near the border of Peru and up in the mountains.

Cheers. 

After a NOISY night in this crappy hotel….. The AC was so noisy Dan was considering rebuilding the damn thing before we went to sleep. About 3AM the tv came on by itself. Wide open volume, I mean it was cranked!!! And blazing from the crackling speaker was “American Women, Stay away from me…..” We both sat up in bed and looked at each other like, WTF are you doing?? Then we relized the remote was on a table out of reach of each of both us… So we laughed, shut it off, unplugged it and went back to sleep.

We got up early and got some MOTS (Meat on the Seat). We had two ways to get to the next nights stop. One was the main PanAM highway. The other was a main road about halfway and a side road the other half. The dude at the hotel said the side road was good and should be faster. OK lets do that!

P1000796We ripped down the main road and got to the side road in no time. It started out nice. Winding up into the hills alongside a beautiful stream. The road quickly turned sour though. With massive potholes and some rocks the size of softballs. Throw in some mud, broken pavement, buses and trucks. Lucky for us the road was only 95 miles long!! So 3 hours of singing “American Women” and slipping and sliding in the gravel we arrived back on the main road. “We both commented that was fun. We are truly sick. Most motorcyclists would kringe at the thought of a 600 pound bike on slick mud and loose deep rocky roads. But we really did kinda enjoyed it. The views at the top were fantastic. We also saw a tourist bus half off the road kinda hanging on a cliff with the passengers sitting around on the ground and road – waiting for something different to happen….IMG_1030

After that road we still had about 80 miles to go to get to the hostel. This seemed like riding on a billard table. We were floating on air. Talking about what a “Sweet peice of asphalt”.  After a bunch of trouble trying to find the Hostel we had found a brochure for, we gave up and just decided to stay at one we passed three times looking for the other one. After checking in we found out it was the damned one we were looking for. They had not hung up a sign with the NEW name yet…. We walked into town for a meal and a drink. Talked about a route south into Peru and went to bed.

Tomorrow Peru!

Cheers’ 

IMG_1045We were going to go south into Peru from here however, we found out the road south was in bad shape. They had a big storm a couple weeks ago and now the road is very rough with 3 or 4 water crossings. They estimated 10 hours in a bus to get back to good road. We had no idea how deep the water crossing were and the communication problems weren’t making the road sound any better.

So we backtracked 50 miles to Loja and headed south on a main road to Peru. This road turned out to be a good ride along a high ridge with huge vistas on both sides. Nice pavement for the most part and we cruised along at a nice pace. After yesterdays tough road we were enjoying the smooth pavement with some small gravel sections that kept us on our toes.  

 

P1000812We also banked a little flat tire karma. We ran across this guy and his family pushing his bike. We stopped to find out he had a flat rear tire. We got out our little electric pump and pumped it up. Only to find out he had a leak in the tube. We couldn’t really fix it without pulling the tire and all that. So we got him rolling and then stopped again a few miles down the road to pump it up again. That was enough for him and his family to get into to town to have it fixed. We hardly exchanged a word, But the brotherhood of motor-cyclists was all that needed to be said. A biker in need, you stop.

 

IMG_1061We arrived at the border with Peru in a few hours. That is after we circled the town looking for it. It was kinda funny that the locals in town would just point… Like they see dumb gringos on bikes all the time looking for the border. We found a road that lead out of town. Dirt and gravel, “this can’t be it” “We came in on a nice two lane paved road.” Well it was and shortly after leaving town it turned back into a nice road and we rolled up to customs. We processed out of Ecuador in about 30 minutes total. No worries.

Crossed no mans land and processed into Peru in about 45 minutes. The dude was a bit confused with the fact that we are brothers and Dans middle name is John…. But with the forms filled and the stickers placed on our bikes. The Motobrothers were in Peru! 

Total cost to exit Ecuador and enter Peru – $0.

After about 20 miles we were stopped by the Policia, thats pretty standard as they want to check to see that you somehow did not sneak in without all the right paperwork. Our papers were in order however and the dude let us pass. Not before telling us not to stop for anyone but the Policia…. What? I thought this was Peru? We rolled on but our shields were up and we talked about evasive maneuvers and such.. The biggest observation for the first 100 kilometers where that we probably saw more animals on the road in that 100 kilometers than all of 8,500 miles so far – goats, cattle, turkeys, chickens, dogs, birds, vultures, etc… amazing.

When we stopped for gas we realized we made a rookie mistake. We didn't know the exchange rate for Dollars to Soles and we forgot to exchange any dough at the border….DOH! The gas guy was happy to take US though and in the end he didn't clip us too bad.

We rolled down to the flat land and the city of Piura. We found a Hotel right on main street without any trouble and headed out for a beer and burger.

Tomorrow we ride south into the desert.

Cheers’

We got an early start thinking that we wanted to ride the desert early to avoid the big heat. The gas station guy said we were on the wrong road – the other road is “mas rapido” – we backtracked for a bit and decided the GPS was “mas smarter” than the gas station guy (GPS vs. GSG) – so we headed out in the original direction.

IMG_1069After a bit it was apparent we were on the wrong road – 35kph max speed (22 MPH) for first 45 or so miles “urban Zona”– then only up to 60kph – but surface was excellent and everyone was speeding so we hung in there – It kinda paralleled the big highway in the desert. But this one was along the hills in the trees.  It would get us there. As time went by the road won us over. We were able to go about 70mph and there were no trucks, busses or cars. It really does get old breathing diesel smoke from the clapped out busses. So the fresh air was a treat. Lots of awesome scenery and in the end it only cost us maybe 45 minutes more.

 

 

IMG_1101After about 150 miles the road met back up with the main PanAm and we blasted across barren wasteland. We were ripping along at about 90mph. The wind was blowing strong, seemingly from every direction at times. Sand was blowing across road and sometimes dunes encroached right up into the edge of the lane… Big areas of absolutely nothing and then areas where tons and tons of garbage dumped…

 

 

 

 

IMG_1100Then you would descend a couple of hundred feet into a river wash and it would be swarming with farms, rice, sugar cane, and processing plants. It was truly strange seeing some of the most thirsty plants growing in the middle of a desert. As well as the contrasting colors from all shades of brown, to amazingly lush green fields. 5 miles later it was back to sand and rock with nothing in sight for miles in every direction.

 

 

 

 

We rolled into Trujillo with a hotel in mind. Dan had done his homework and had the GPS coordinates loaded. After little trouble we arrived at the hotel. Only to find out they had no secure parking… We started roaming around looking for a hotel again. These seem to be the hardest times for us. Were both shelled after baking in the sun and the towns are not easy to find a logical pattern to the streets. Both of us have ideas on how to drive around and look for a place and they’re not always the same ideas….After a long day of riding we both just want to call it a day and finding a suitable place is not as easy as it may seem.  

We did find a place though and after checking in we went for a walk around town and had dinner.

Tomorrow we head up into the white mountains – the Cordillera Blanca – with some 35 peaks over 20,000 foot elevation and the road in the valley at 13,200 foot it should be beautiful and a challenge for us and the bikes. 

 Cheers!

 

Bonus blog - Ecuador

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P1000797We had been cruising through Ecuador and continuously seeing restaurants with entire pig carcasses hanging in the eating area. I kept thinking I should take some pictures of these things because it is so wierd.

 

 

 

 

P1000798The patrons literally are sitting in the restaurant with the pig hanging from the rafters on a hook. They point to the part of the pig they want to eat and the cook cuts it off and tosses it on the grill for them.

 

We got a late start today, we were actually up early but we seemed to get bogged down a bit. Had an early breakfast and then started trying to get things ready to head out – we ran into a snag with one of the “Hero” cameras. These are cameras that we can mount anywhere on the bike or helmet – they take shots or videos etc. We  have not used them since northern CA because most of the pictures come out blurry and you end up with a 1000 plus photos to sort through. We knew this was going to be an epic day of vistas so we thought we’d try them again, this time mounting it on the top of John’s helmet…. Well, one of them wouldn’t work no matter what we did for about 30 or 45 minutes and after getting to the point of saying “F*ck it, we need to get moving” it started working for some unexplained reason.

IMG_1116After getting on the road about 10am – we managed to head straight out of town without a wrong turn. This may be a first occurance for us – typically there are ZERO road signs, ZERO street signs, and about 9 million taxis trying to kill you while you’re negotiating the various turns to make it out of town. To top it off, we each have a different opinion of which way you should go. But, today, it worked and we started heading east.

The road up into the mountains was spectacular – decent road surface and it climbed and climbed and climbed. We were quickly up around 10,000 foot elevation when we ran into our first snag. We ended up in the town of Otuzco which was a weird labrynth of dirt streets, mud buildings, and lots of people looking at us like we had 3 heads. Then after making a couple laps thru the little town, the people all started pointing in various directions, not much consensus as to where we should go. Finally, we got back to the town square and asked a guy where the road to the next town was. Well, we passed it about 5 miles back because we didn’t think it would be gravel. Head on back there.

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We got back to the road and began a discussion about how much of the gravel road we wanted to do. When we first planned this section of the route the map indicated the road was all the same – from Trujillo all the way up into the mountains and back down to Lima. AND, the GPS (which is never wrong?!) indicated about the same thing. Well, reality bites sometimes and it looked like we were in for at least 80 miles of gravel road.

PICT0400The agreement was we would ride to the first “big” town and make a decision after that. That was about 60 kilometers. Off we went. The road quickly turned to absolutely “sh*t” – softball sized loose rocks, baseball sized rocks with mud and BIG “gravel” – like the size of golf balls. Add to that the trucks and lunatic bus drivers and you’ve got a challenge. The road was climbing and climbing - switching back and forth working its way up and up. As we talked on the intercom we were both complaining about the dust – and then it started to rain – lightly. Well, at least it will keep the dust down. Then the rain started to get heavy and we suited up to deal with it. And all the dust turned to mud. And the trucks and busses left deep ruts of mud here and there…

 

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Dan’s bike started developing a squrtching sort of noise when it was under power – light acceleration led to a “scurtch, scurtch, scurtch” sound coming from the rear wheel. Not good. We talked it thru a bit and it was either a wheel bearing (bad) or it was the rubber cushions in the sprocket assembly which are just squeaking (not bad). We decided to let it go for a bit and see what happened.

PICT0567Then it started to really rain – huge rain drops and it was coming down hard and heavy with huge standing puddles and running water on the road. We pressed onward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_1133Finally making it to the town of Quiruvilca after about 2 1/2 hours (to go 60 kilometers or 40 miles) the rain had stopped and we decided to take a look at Dan’s rear end (the bike’s rear end). This involved taking the rear wheel off which isn’t too big of a job. We had it off in about 10 minutes and the bearings looked fine – we smeared some oil/grease on the rubber parts to see if that would quiet them down, reassembled the bike and gave it a test ride. The squrtching seemed to be gone so we were confident it wasn’t the bearings at least.

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Are we having fun yet?

 

 

 

 

Now we had to decide if we should go on to Santiago de Chuco – about another 30 miles or so. Yea, let’s try it. Maybe the pavement starts there? Sure thats it! Off we went and the road started to climb again … we were already at 10,000 feet and huffing/puffing while pulling the wheel off. We worked our way up to nearly 14,000 foot elevation with the bikes wheezing a bit and it was cold, muddy, nasty, and absolutely beautiful. We finally cruised into Santiago de Chuco around 5 pm – so 7 hours to go about 115 miles.

PICT1135We rode around town looking for a place to stay – looked at a couple and they were “rough”. Settled on another one that was still “rough” but we could get the bikes inside. The rooms are barren paint peeling walls, no bathrooms, the beds are like rock, there is one light bulb in the ceiling, and so forth but it is home for the night. Total cost for both rooms? 20 Soles or about $6.30. We walked around town to try to find something to eat. We were walking slow and both of us were sucking wind. The town was at about 10500 feet and we were feeling it…

 

 

 

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A shot of Dan’s room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tomorrow we decide whether to head back or push onward. To push onward the road is about 250 miles of the same crap we have been riding on….

Cheers!

In a previous blog, we told you about a guy and his family that we stopped to help in Ecuador. They were pushing a motorcycle with a flat rear tire and we stopped to help – only to find that it was not easilly repaired without a new inner tube. We inflated his tire and sent them packing. Then tracked them down and inflated it again so they could make it to the tire repair place.

Well, he sent us an email! and how cool is that cause the guy doesn’t speak english – somehow he figured out how to get some translation going on and here is what he sent us:

Hello, my friends ..... I remember the guy I was under the rim of the air a few meters to reach Catamayo (Loja - Ecuador), I did not know at this time to thank you because I do not speak English but through this half wholeheartedly thank them because without their help I would have to walk quite touched.
With me a gift card that you can visit your page and saw the photo taken that day, which makes me feel proud to have known ...
Dismissal without more words I wish him every success in his long journey and luck where you go ....

Goodbye friends

His name is: santiago gualpa cumbicus – and we are very impressed that he took the effort to send us an email in english – very cool.

Cheers!

IMG_1142After a lengthy discussion we decided to head back the way we came…

It is over 250 miles more to continue on the same road. This is the gravel/dirt/mud/track we rode yesterday. It took us about an hour and half to go 22 miles!!! It also beat the crap out of our bikes. Dans started making the scrunching noise again about 10 miles after oiling the rubber cush drive for the rear wheel. Johns bike started making the same noise about 5 miles from Santiago De Chuco. We think its just the fact that muddy water, grit and crap found its way into the cush drive… Without getting to technical, the cush drive is just some rubber dealy’s that absorb the shock between the rear sproket and the wheel. Grit and stuff gets in there and then the rubber grinds against the metal causing it to squeak. Sounds like a good theory doesn’t it???

 

 

P1000835Anyway we decided to head back to the pavement as there is 6000 plus miles left in the journey and we don’t want to have too much trouble with the bikes. Call us pansie’s if you wish. About half way back to the pavement John noticed his fairing bouncing. After a close inspection all the bolts had come loose. We got out the tools and tightened it up. Then we started looking around and found most of the subframe bolts loose as well and looked on Dan’s bike and there were numerous bolts loose there as well. The road was reallly taking its toll.

 

 

 

The rain held off on our trip out and the scenery was beatuiful – huge vistas that were very hard to capture on camera.

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IMG_1154After 3+ hours of crappy roads we arrived back at the pavement and had a nice smooth cruise into Trujillio. With the exeption of a quick stop to shed our wet weather gear, at which time Dan’s bike decided it needed a little nap. So it laid down for a quick rest…. Dan let it sleep long enough for John to take a couple pictures. It started to tip over and Dan realized his footing wasn’t too good on the loose gravel so he let it go rather than risk some injury trying to keep it upright.

 

 

 

 

 

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We stayed at the same hotel and played a few games of cribbiage. Over a few beers we looked at the maps and made up a new route south down the PanAm.

Tomorrow we head south again –

Cheers.

 

 

Trujillio to Lima Peru

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We got up refreshed after an early night. Not much to tell you about today. We ripped across desert, desert and more desert type landscape.  Nothing but rocks and sand in every direction. Some of it was along the ocean. It was nice to roll at 80 MPH plus and we did just that. Not having to worry about mud holes, rocks and slippery surfaces. The only worry we had was cross winds and cops. So we cranked out 400 plus miles with only one problem….

We both learned along time ago to slow down when you enter local towns in the US. So we slow down when we come into to towns. Most of the time only to be passed by trucks/busses/cars/donkeys/goats/mototaxi’s while were doing the speed limit of 35 KPH (22 MPH!) Thats crazy slow when you have just been going 90MPH!

So we roll over this hill coming into town, both of us are slowing down and this cop comes running into the street waving his little red flashlight. (Like the ones they use to guide airplanes at the gate) So he waves Dan IMG_1181over to the shoulder and I follow him in. The cop is explaining Timmy is in the well again, We’re both wearing our helmets/earplugs etc. So Dan takes like 10 minutes to take off his gear while the cop is waving his arms and gesturing…Dan then starts explaining I don’t speak any Spanish. The cop continues his tirade. Takes Dans documents back to the truck. Where him and his partner discuss how much they can fleece these gringo's for….. Meanwhile another truck with a couple of cops in it are sitting close to us. One starts chatting up Dan in Spanish. “Its a serious violation to exceed the speed limited here in the desert.” He has to repeat his statement 3 or 4 times because buses and trucks are blasting past at twice the speed we were going… Dan says “no entiendo” “timmy fell in the well?” They get tired and drive off.  So the first copper comes back with his little clipboard and I’m thinking Dan is toast. He has yet to talk to me. I guess he didn’t catch me speeding. Dan was leading when we crested the hill.  So he starts out with a bunch more machine gun Spanish, pointing, gesturing and the like. Dan continues “no entiendo, no entiendo, no entiiendo” He then writes a number down on his clip board… 100.00 US! Says your not getting your passport back till you pay up! Dan says no no no, I don’t have have it and turns his pockets inside out…  In broken Spanish he asked him to see the radar…. The cops stalls and points to the number again. This goes on for about 15 minutes back and forth with the cop trying to explain what he did wrong. All the while Dan saying no entiendo….Then the cop all the sudden just does a 180. Asks in Spanish how we like Peru? In perfect Spanish Dan answer. Peru is muy bonita! gracias amigo! He then hands Dan his doc’s and says have a good trip….

IMG_1167Two miles later were doing 90 again…Talking about the fact we have visited 10 countries and not donated a dime to any law enforcement…. We are wearing out Teflon suits! We’re not the motobrothers they're looking for. With only 3 countries left hopefully our luck will hold….

Tomorrow we ride south.

Cheers!

Bonus blog

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We’ve been rolling hard the last couple days – so behind on the regular blogs. However, I have finally gotten the programs working that update our positions and create maps and webpages etc…

You can check it out by clicking the “Where are we?” tab above – or click this link

I put a permenant link to the SPOT page there for quick access – and you can see each individual day of travel that we’ve been on. Check out the buttons for satellite images and you can zoom in/out etc.

Ok – before you send me a bunch of email about bugs in this stuff – I know there are problems and am working on them. So give me a week or so to clear them up.

We’re off to La Paz today – and 3 days in one place to catch up, wash clothes, do bike maintenance and all that stuff.

Thanks for reading
Cheers

 

Lima, Peru to Camana, Peru

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We got up early to get a moving. We planned a long day today and it was just that. 550 miles! Thats a heck of allot of miles down here. To start with, the road was good for the most part and we stretched the throttle cables in the open desert. On the map the road followed the coast and we were hoping for some good scenery. The first 150 miles was pretty flat with about a 40 MPH cross wind coming in off the ocean. It was picking up sand and we got major league sand blasted. It was tough keeping it out of your eyes and mouth…. P1000954As you can see in the pictures there was a wake of sand blowing off of the bike/car/truck in front of you. As you went to pass, you would get showered in sand till you got of in front of it. You can also see the dunes drifting and filling the lane. It made for some tricky conditions….

As we approached Atico the drifting sand became a real problem. At one point it was covering our lane completely!! Then when we reached the entrance to the town we had to wait for a front loader to clear the road as a dune had reached all the way across the road.

 

 

 

IMG_1244We were starting to rethink our destination for the evening…Then, Shortly after rolling out of  Atico we came to the most amazing coastline we have seen! This road easily could challenge Hwy 1 in CA. It was about 150 miles of motorcycle heaven. Very little traffic and we were loving it! At least 15 times the road wound its way up to about a 1000 feet about the ocean then descended down to the water level. All the time right on a cliff looking right down at the waves. It was truly amazing. We were both instantly refreshed and feeling great in the late afternoon sun with the ocean at our wheels. It was hard to believe how many miles this lasted and how many times it would descend down to a river that met the ocean.

 

 

 

 

PICT0141It would be an all green valley with a little town.  Then the road would rise up to about 1000 feet again looking out over the water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We stopped at an overlook and watched the sunset.

 

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 We rolled into Camana just about dark, had a few beers and called it a night..

 

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Cheers!

 

Camana, Peru to Juliaca Peru

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We headed out of Camana with not much hope of scenery as the road turns inland. We were rewarded with lots of nothing to look at. Flat desert with a few rock formations here and there. Maybe 80 miles of nothing combined with more nothing – thankfully we didn’t have much for cross winds.

IMG_1263We were quickly into the LARGE city of Arequipa. We had already decided our map didn’t jive with what the GPS said.

We were pretty sure we were in for a run around in the city trying to find the right road out of town to Juliaca. After fueling up we got some directions from the gas dudes…. “Couple blocks down this way then boom!, straight out of town!” They did the classic Latin American arm waving gesture – sort of like throwing you in the direction you should go.

 

Well thats how it always starts.  First off you have to remember there are no signs pointing to the next cities. What you think is a main road may go about a mile then turn to dirt and dead end. The GPS would show us on the right road, only to have it turn into a dirt road and end in someone's yard that you think is a junk yard, but really is IMG_1265just all the other cars that could not find their way out of town… So we rode around some more and some more and some more. Dan must of asked at least 10 people “donde estar Juliaca or Puno??” I would say all 10 pointed to different parts of the city…they would use they're arms like left, right , left then kinda like they're bowling swing it up and go “boom” straight out of town…. Each time we would head the way they would say and each time we would end up at dead ends and one ways. sometimes one ways that dead end!!! So after almost 2 freakin hours of going round and round looking for a way out of this town. We were pretty stressed out and tired of it all.

We were to the point we would have even settled for the wrong way as long as it got us the hell out of that place.

 

We did finally find a road that lead to Yura. Which was not were we wanted to go, but we saw on the map a road that led from Yura to Juliaca. It was longer but we had had enough of riding around a noisy, diesel smoke laden, and dusty city. Just before arriving in Yura a split in the road appeared and bingo a sign to Juliaca! Both the map and GPS were totally off. We took the turn and started up the pass. We set a new record on the trip for elevation as the road climbed to 14,700 feet. We had to stop at the top and put on more gear. It was COLD! We took some crap in the first part of the trip about how much cold gear we were taking. Let me tell you, we were glad we had it.

 

IMG_1266We stopped at some tiny little berg of a town to grab some chips and try to warm up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P1000971This kid was just sitting there with a couple motorcycle tires – trying to sell them. There wasn’t a single motorcycle visible in town except ours – not sure what he had in mind but maybe he found the tires and had big plans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We arrived in Juliaca without any more trouble and checked into a nice hotel right downtown.

We went out for a pizza. Dan ordered a large pizza with pepperoni, mushrooms and cheese. Or so he thought… The lady kept asking more and more questions and Dan kept trying to clarify it but… she arrived with a large cheese pizza and we started eating it wondering where the rest of the toppings were… Then she arrived with a large pepperoni pizza, followed by a large mushroom pizza….

We only got through 2 of them.

Cheers!

 

Juliaca, Peru to La Paz, Bolivia

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Today the mileage was not to bad so we took our time getting moving.

IMG_1270We were on the road by about 930 and about 20 miles out of Juliaca we ran into another motorbike traveler at a toll booth. Pete Chester from Las Cruses, NM. We stopped and chatted with him for a bit. Dude is 66 years young and riding a Yamaha XT225 down to Terra Del Fuego on his own. How cool is that??

It was nice for us to talk bikes and English with someone!

  

 

 

 

 

After saying goodbye to Pete we headed south along Lake Titicaca which is a massive lake at 12,000 feet that is split by a border of Peru and Bolivia. Very pretty with some snow capped mountains in the background.

 

IMG_1275We got to the border and Dan kick started the customs machine into gear. Within minutes we were officially out of Peru and into no mans land.

He then headed into the offices in Bolivia only to come back out a few minutes later saying they wanted $135 US each for a visa to visit Bolivia…

When Dan went in everything seemed normal until they saw the US passports. Then he was escorted back to the boss’ office. The boss tells Dan to sit down and starts pulling out forms and sticky stamps. Dan said he heard the fee and thought he had misheard it – $135 each – can’t be – so he just went along filling out forms. Then it came time to pay and the fee really was $135 each!!

 

 

It all sounded like a total scam – in fact the “official” stickers had $100 on them – which he just crossed out with a pen and said “it’s now $135!” – of course no English is spoken. Dan told him that we weren’t going to go thru Bolivia – just back into Peru and down to Chile. El Jeffe said “well, you need a tourist visa to come into Bolivia – no other options”

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After we talked for a few minutes Dan decided to check it out on the Internet. He walked straight past the immigration offices and into the border town in Bolivia. He found a couple Internet cafe’s but none were working and they said “only Peru”. So – Dan walked back across nomans land and into Peru to find an internet cafe to see if these dudes were trying to fleece us. He did find out the fee was correct.  It is only charged to US Citizens because the US charges the same fee to Bolivians when they come to the US. 

When Dan comes back from the Internet cafe – “What could possibly be worth seeing in Bolivia for $270 god damn dollars!!” I believe was the quote. We chatted about not going into the country and finding another way down to Chile. All the while I was chatting to a pretty cool dude named Jose that worked for the Bolivian customs office and he informed us its because of good ole George Bush upping the visa fees for Bolivians to visit the US. So in response they upped the fees for us. Thanks Bush, even out of office you’re the gift that keeps on giving.

There were other visa types available – one for $85 which Dan tried to get them to issue – but they were not interested. El Jeffe brought in his henchman to yell at Dan – this guy used the “volume” translation method – if your listener doesn’t understand you then you just yell louder… Dan tells them fine – let’s do the tourist visa’s at $135 each – so the paperwork is processed and money is paid. Then El Jeffe tells Dan that he needs to get copies of the passport, stamps, etc… go across the street to get the stamps etc. That’s when Dan’s patience snapped – “so, you just charged me $270 for the f*cking tourist visas and you can’t make copies of the passports on your god damn copy machine right there!” – sorry, no. So – copies were made across the street.

In the end after we paid it and the rope blocking the road was lowered, we were let into the country. Jose processed our bikes in for us and we were off to La Paz. After a few kilometers we were stopped at another check point to see if we had the right paperwork no doubt. We were then charged another 10 blolivano’s to have that rope lowered so we could head to La Paz. About $1.20. At that point, it wasn’t the money it was that we had to take our gear off and fill out some forms and pay the money – a pain in the ass.

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IMG_1279We had reservations at a Hostel and we had GPS coordinates for it. La Paz is a city of at least a million and is in a large bowl. We wound our way down and down into the bowl. All the while keeping an eye on the gps. Mind you the GPS has no roads for this city just a dot where the coordinates are. So we end up in a maze of one ways, dead ends and nightmare of being on the wrong side of a hwy that had no overpasses in sight. After at least an hour we found arrived at the “dot”. Only there was no hostel. There was an old man there and Dan is asking him where the hostel is – the guy keeps saying “Maybe” – but nothing is making sense. About that time, a woman of maybe 50 comes walking up with a cell phone in one hand, way too much lipstick on and she is obviously under the influence of something – she starts sluring out some “timmy fell in the well” and Dan says “nada, gracias” then he starts his bike and rolls off about 100 yards. The woman starts grabbing at John – touching his coat and pulling at the bike…. John just has that affect on women…

It seems the coordinates were wrong. Again the fun of finding things in these cities without maps or street names is really not fun anymore. It was now dark and we were both tired. So we found an internet cafe and looked up they’re web site again. Got some new GPS coordinates and lucky for us it was only a few miles away. Pretty cool place. www.theadventurebrewhostel.com We enjoyed a few games of cribbage and drank a couple beers on they’re rooftop bar.

We are looking forward to a few days of chilling out, bike maintenance, laundry and catching up on blogs/email.

Cheers!

 

La Paz to La Paz

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As we last left you, we arrived at the Hostel. www.theadventurebrewhostel.com We we looking forward to a little down time…. We planned on doing some bike stuff, riding the Death road and just chilling out for a couple of days….

Both bikes are now making the scruntching noises coming from the rear end. So Sunday we got up and pulled the rear wheel to have a look. All the bearings looked good. The rubber cush drive we suspected up in the mountains is worn a bit, but not very bad and the noise is much too metallic sounding to be rubber on metal. We suspect the chains are failing. Which is surprising because they’re high end RK chains. $200 bucks a piece. Anyway we cleaned them very well with kerosene and then lubed em up. We plan on riding the death road tomorrow so we’ll see how they sound then…

P1000988Sunday night we signed up for the Cholitas Wrestling. Its like WWF in the states with all the masks and spandex. Only we had no idea how far out there it would go. It started out like any other wrestling. 2 dudes throwing each other around and out of the ring. Much the same as WWF. The next bout had a dude an a woman going at it. This got a little uncomfortable as it appeared he really was beating on her at times…

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IMG_1338Next bout came two women and a midget woman. Ok we thought this is getting a bit strange. They threw each other around and at one time the midget appeared to bite the ref in the groin… The crowd of say half gringos and have bolivians was going nuts’ (pun intended) 

When we arrived at the ring – the guide who came with us told us we could throw things at the ring/performers. They did worn us before the start, that throwing anything hard was likely to result in the object being returned to you in the same manner. We were throwing anything and everything we could get our hands on. Peanuts mostly,  however plastic bottles flew the best and were entering the ring at a surprising rate. 

One of the strangest things was that every so often the “ref” would haul off and punch one of the wrestlers – or kick them or hold them down floor the other wrestler to pound on.

The bouts continued getting stranger and stranger until the last bout we thought we had see it all.

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P1010007Then…They introduce a double team deal. Two normal looking wrestlers enter the ring. They introduce them, they’re wearing normal outfits with masks and tights. Then they start to introduce their opponents. These two guys come out dressed in outfits that look like butchers. Monster type masks, hunch backs and long over coats. Oh wait what are they carrying?? They each have an esophagus with the stomach and entrails still attached…. For what animal we didn't know nor did we want to know. At first we thought those can’t possibly be real. Can they? Then they paraded around the ring before entering the ring. When they went past us the smell from the “weapons” they were carrying IMG_1342confirmed our worst fears. Yes they were in fact real!! They were also taking bites from them and spitting them into the crowd…..We both ask if each other if we were indeed really seeing this?? Then the match started and they began beating the opponents with them. It was easily the most bizzare thing I have seen in my life…. At some  point they had put down they’re “weapons” and were fighting with the other dudes. At this point late in the “match” a dog comes from nowhere and jumps into the ring because he wants a piece of the guts….He drags it off the ring and the crowd is going crazy. We decided at that point we had see enough and headed for the door. But not before the “fight in the ring” spilled down into the crowd. I’ve got to tell you, it looked pretty damn real at this point.

Like the dudes were really fighting. Throwing chairs at each other and just plain getting it on…. we went back to the hostel feeling a bit off!!

We have a video of this stuff that we’ve been trying to upload but the Internet connection here is very much like the old days of 1200 baud modems – we’ll get it up there sometime.

We did have some serious laughs and enjoyed ourselves – highly recommended - but they could have left out the monsters with the meat!

Cheers!

 

It seems like we’ve been here for months already. We spent a couple days now seeking parts for our bikes.

We changed the oil, cleaned the air filters, replaced the front tires with ones we’ve been carrying from Costa Rica, and did the usual bolt/nut tightening.

We’ve also decided to replace the chains and rear sprockets as they are showing more wear than we think is reasonable. The roads south of here are reported to be rough and the towns are smaller. Of course, there are no Suzuki dealers in La Paz – there are 3 Honda dealers and we’ve been to all of them – there is one Yamaha dealer and we’ve been there several times. And we’ve found a couple independent parts places.

Our bikes use a somewhat non-standard chain size – 525 pitch – most bikes down here use 520 or 530 pitch. So they have to order the 525 pitch from outside the country. Our man – Johnny Lion from Todo Moto had told us “tomorrow” for both chain and sprockets – so when we showed up “tomorrow” – he told us that it would be Saturday. What?! – of course no English is spoken so we are working thru the dictionary and trying to get it figured out.

We spent some time online, calling back home, etc. Matt @ CycleGear in Portland did some cross referencing for us to see if another bike used the same sprocket – no dice. So we elected to wait and hope ol’ Johnny comes through for us.

In the meantime, we have been helping Pete (the guy from New Mexico we mentioned in the blog earlier) with some of his challenges.

Cheers!

 

We headed out around 9, We planned on riding the new bypass road down to the bottom and then ride the Death road back. We had good instructions on getting out of La Paz and for a change we cruise right out of town on the right road. It quickly wound its way up into the highlands outside of Lapaz and we reached an altitude of over 15,000 feet. Then the descent started. It was a beautiful road, nice pavement, lots of curves and switch backs. After about 90 clicks we reached the town of Coroico. This was at the bottom of the road of death. After a few minutes searching we located the turn off and started up. Within a 1/4 mile we had our first of many river crossings of the day.

IMG_1352We also had met a guy named Shelton at the hostel and he told us about a neat resort right on the way so we swung in there for a cool drink and a look around. The place was pretty nice with a few cabins and huts with lots of animals running around.  Monkeys all over the place and a half dozen tucans.  We had a couple of cokes, walked around and watched the monkeys and birds.

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After a hour or so we saddled up and headed up THE road. We both were curious about this road. Are thoughts were how bad can it be. They let hundreds of mountain bikers go down it every week and we passed many of them on the way up too. And just like bicyclist back in the states they feel like they own the road. We were all the way on our side and still got the MOVE OVER sign from them… Sorry but most bicyclist’s are pre-maddonna’s!! Notice I said most.

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 This is a typical water crossing…..

 You do not go too slow or the current starts to change your line…

Anyway we head up the road and things were going good. However both our bikes were making the noise again. We suspect our chains are worn out…After many river crossings the road began to gain serious altitude. We started seeing the edge of the road  getting steeper and steeper of a drop off. Then the rain came, and came and came. At one point it was raining soo damn hard you could not see much past about 6 feet in front of you. About 2 miles later it stopped, just like that! The ascent continued. We began getting up into the clouds and off the side of the road you could look down and see nothing. The drop off went down into fog/cloud like aybiss. The road surface really was not that bad. In the rainy area it was a little muddy/slippery but less so than that mountain road we were on back in Peru. One of the coolest parts was the spot where the waterfalls were on the cliff side of the road and you had to ride behind them.

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We continued on without to much trouble to the top and both us thought, “thats it?” IMG_1373

 

It hard to tell here but that is the drop from the edge of the road next to my boot….

 

 

 

IMG_1376After we got back on the main road back towards town. We saw another gravel road that lead down the other side of the canyon…. We thought what the hell.. So we headed down it to have a look around. We saw a map on a sign that “kinda” showed after 25 miles or so the road hooking back up with the road we just came off of. Well we went about 30 miles down this DUSTY gravel road and still found no hook up to the other road. Our GPS showed us not very far from our track on the death road. (the GPS keeps a line of where you ride) However our GPS has only the big roads, even them are pretty vague. However none of the roads we have been riding on today are on it. We had a chat and decided it must be shorter to continue then go back so we pushed on hoping to find the connector road back to the main road. Oh ya, It was also starting to get dark….We rode another 30 miles/1.5 hours or so on dusty mountain roads in the dark. Throw in a bunch of river crossings, muddy sections and lots of sheer cliff type drop offs. The drops weren’t really a problem as you couldn’t see much in the dark that wasn’t in your headlights. Oh and dust, dust and more dust. When a car/bus/truck would go by you have to stop because in the dark with your headlights on the dust cloud you could see nothing, and I mean nothing… We never did find the connector road, but we did find a city finally. However it was at the farthest point away from La Paz we had been today. Right near the resort we had stopped at for soda's this morning. It was now 8 pm and we had a about 90 minutes of riding to get back to the hostel. This also included a pass of over 15,000 feet. We were both shot to hell and tired of riding in the dark. Also our bikes were making the noise worse than ever….

So we cranked out the trip back to the hostel. Got there about 10 pm… Both of us were wasted and covered in dust. We went straight to the bar in our riding gear. Boy did we get the looks. We were sooo dry and thirsty I don’t think the first beer even touched the sides on the way down. We had a couple of beers and bad burgers and went to bed…..

When looking at these remember our jackets are black…

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Finally – we are back on the road. After we got our chain and sprockets on Saturday, we toiled away putting all the parts on the bikes. We had to break off part of the chain and it took some doing without the proper tools but we got it done. Did some map consultation with some other travelers Saturday night and made plans to head out on Sunday morning.

IMG_1383We picked up another rider for the ride down to Potosi. Wes Mcgurie with his KLR 650 (Neopodo)– check out his site here – he’s from Wisconsin (or so he says?) – and has been traveling with his bike for 9 months or so.

 

 

 

 

We must have talked to 10 or so people about the road conditions going south. 95% of the roads in Bolivia are not paved so it’s kind of important to know what you’re getting into. We spoke with several Bolivian natives that told us we would have some dirt roads on the way to Potosi – so we set out a bit early and expected the worst.

Well – we had almost new asphalt roads all the way to Potosi! and they were carving through some spectacular scenery – across some fairly high passes – 14,000 foot.

Here are some shots along the way –

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Potosi is supposedly the highest elevation city in the world – who knows? – but the altitude here is around 13,500 and it is really hammering John and I – we’re both waking up every 20 minutes or so at night and sucking for air. Just the slightest exertion creates a “guppy” effect where you have to suck for air.

Tomorow morning we head down to Uyuni – where the salt flats are – supposedly the largest salt flats in the world – who knows?

Cheers!

 

After a rather forgettable night in a cheap hotel and a fairly mediocre breakfast we headed out of Potosi.

We had several people tell us that the road to Uyuni was difficult – all dirt/gravel, muddy and numerous water crossings. And the time frames ranged from 6 hours to 10 hours. So we set off somewhat early.

P1010044The road weaved its way through some of the silver mines in the area. Potosi was one of the major silver producers going back to the Spanish occupation of Bolivia. The road was under continuous construction for almost the entire trip to Uyuni with big road working equipment and trucks taking up lots of space and not always being willing to give up some space to a few motorcycles.There were a few water crossings but most of them were not too bad – maybe 2 feet deep without much current. It was very apparent that if it were raining the crossings would be wide, deep and fast. We were lucky that it had been dry the last couple days.

 

P1010050There were zillions of Llama along the way – we’ve not mentioned much about these animals but there are plenty of both domestic and wild Lamas everywhere. Sometimes you’ll see a huge herd of them – hundreds of them grazing in a field – and other times just a few here and there. But one thing you can rely on is that they think they own the roads and will rarely move for a motorcycle. It seems like you come up to them, wait a bit, then beep the horn and the Llama looks at you like “is that all you got?, cause I’ve been blasted by busses and trucks!! That whimpy horn is not getting me off the road”. The red tags/tassles on their ears appear to be some sort of ID – although it is hard to imagine why everyone would tag them with the same color?

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We had two stops to fix things. Dan’s chain guard came loose and got caught up in the chain. We also have been bottoming out in the rocks and ruts. Well after a smashing the bottom of the bike so many times…. The center stand got bent up so far it was rubbing on the chain. So we had to bend it back into the correct position.  

 

IMG_1424In the end the road was not anywhere near the trouble we had heard. We enjoyed the scenery and rolled into Uyuni after about 6 hours, including the mechanical repairs. Tomorrow we ride out onto the salt.

Cheers!

 

Hey Everyone...

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We finally got some Internet that worked long enough to post some blogs and update our maps.

So – we’ve put 3 or 4 new blog entries up here with pictures – hope you enjoy them. And the maps (where are we?) should be up to date.

We’re only 2 days behind on blogs and we should get those caught up soon.

Thanks for reading –
Cheers!

 

IMG_1510We decided to spend an extra night in Uyuni to get a good look at the salt flats. This one is the largest in the world.  So we had a nice sleep in… In our hammock style beds. These bed were played out!!!  We headed out around 10 with our new moto-friends Wes from CA www.neopodo.com and Dannie from Italy. We met Dannie here in Uyuni and Wes we told you about in the last few blogs.

 

The salt flats is massive…We really just  rode out onto it about 20 miles or so and took a bunch of goofy pictures and then rode back. Not much else to say so Just have al ook at the pictures.

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We also stopped at this Salt hotel that was out in the middle of the flats…. Pretty strange. It was made from mostly salt. Had some salt carvings and things inside. (no thats not a UFO, Dan’s camera seems to have gotten some grit inside it)

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P1010105Our bikes and our gear were so covered in salt, its hard to describe. The brake disks were already pitting and everything was squeaking or grinding in just a couple of hours of splashing through the salt and salt water.  So we stopped on the way back to town and had them washed. The first wash in 12,000 miles!

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Tomorrow we ride south.

We’re getting close, Anyone care to guess on an arrival date in Ushuaia??

Cheers!