Tales from the Saddle
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31 Jan 2015
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With a heavy heart and a churning stomach I left home alone on my Yamaha YBR 125, fears and anxieties of the long journey ahead, to Cape Town first. Having never ridden a motorcycle before the thought of getting even a simple puncture was terrifying.(....I'm on puncture number 76 now...or is it 77?)
Despite my worries I managed to savour Europe slowly, where in Albania I got to experience my first ever dirt roads along the Mediterranean coast, I was hooked....
I was shot at in Turkey,
interrogated by the military on Christmas eve in Syria,
tailed and arrested in Egypt (who isn't though!),
crossed Ted Simons Atbara Desert in Sudan,
underwent surgery in Kenya,
accused of being a cow thief in Tanzania,
Crossed still-flooded flood plains in Zambia,
Enjoyed the delights of Namibia,
before finally reaching my first goal after eleven months; Table Mountain, Cape Town.
All of this, alone, on about $5-10 a day, on a Yamaha YBR 125. (I ride a Honda XR125L now).
And its not over yet!
Now I'm in the Americas, starting from San Francisco, USA heading south....to Ushuaia....and you can read about it here (soon, when I've written it!) but you can also view the website www.talesfromthesaddle.com where there are a myriad of photos, tasty tales and of course the ubiquitous map with a line on it.
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I hope that some people find enjoyment in reading about it, and if not tell me why as I'd like to improve my writing, and photography too, so please give me some pointers as I'd really appreciate them!
You gotta love the gas mileage of that 125...
Hiya Nick, just checked out the website and the pics from Africa look stunning. What an incredible place to ride. Weren't you scared of any lions or anything camping out like that?
Anyhow, I wish you all the best for the trip through the Americas, and what a perfect bike for the job. Safe travelling my friend.
$5 a day, dirt roads RTW on a 125cc
Ride on dude! :clap :clap Excellent adventure!
Wow, you almost slipped under the radar!! Now that you've given us a teaser, let's get some more details and updates on your Americas journey. Thanks for the link to your blog.
What an excellent teaser! I'm looking forward to reading more and following along.
Not until they come....
A very large majority of the big game animals are actually - to my quite vague knowledge - behind park fences, to protect them from poachers, and their habitat, though I was warned a few times about lions.
One animal I tried repeatedly to see was elephants and somehow I didnīt....telling someone my route in Namibia who had a lot of experience seeing game, he couldn't believe it! I didnīt have the money to pay the large entry fees and after seeing other animals outside camp or by chance on a small road I found this more spectacular than paying - and therefore expecting - to see animals. I guess I have a reason to go back!
But, you canīt take the bike into those parks with lions of course!
Mexico Part 2.....January 22nd 2011
I'll skip part one, on account of being lazy and having little internet time...so here's part deux....
It was time to leave the fabulous Colima. I loved this place, for it's complete lack of tourist garb, it's pleasant cafes, plazas and it's comfortable safety...and perhaps too for my fabulous hosts; Ernesto and Lea and other friendly people; those at Koki Moto and especially the great Sigi Pablo and his girlfriend Kaiko. But it was time to leave and, as always I find it hard to leave the comforts of 'regular' life.
"Don't stay too long in Michoacan." Lea said as I hopped back in to the saddle of a rejuvinated - after his work at Koki Moto - Rudolf. I didn't really know where Michoacan was, or if I was going there...I was off to some volcano as far as I knew and so didn't ask questions...perhaps I should have?
Soon enough I reach the volcano, it seemed nice enough here and wondered what Lea was talking about, the interesting mountain village of Angang the jumping off point to see what remains of the old village, now buried beneath a thick crust of lava. I deny the caberallo his offer of a horse wanting to stretch my legs out of the saddle, with a hike, peacefully through the forest and over the outer limits of lava glimpsing as I approach the church poking up half-buried in the black bubbled rubble, as if it's God against Nature.
Higher in to the mountains still I go, to view the Monarch Butterfly migration at over 3000m. Waking stiff and cold in the morning in a nearby forest, my heart is warmed by a young man, his son and their ever increasing number of rabid dogs, out together collecting tree sap, providing me with half their breakfast and despite my best efforts won't have a cup of my coffee! I don't say anything about them killing EVERY single tree for their sap.
The butterflies were a disappointment. Too few, in a dark patch of forest, nothing like I'd been told or imagined and I leave being hounded still by the horsemen and guides...perhaps the wrong time of the migration.
Then, having visited the towns of Patzcuaro and Morelia where I'm requested to return most hastily to England, though not quite so formally by the locals, I find myself at a car accident, a bus, smouldering still....then another and another, still ablaze, a truck shot out and on the horizon more and more fires, the air thick with black smoke, the army and police all around. Something is afoot.
I ask someone what's going on, how can I make progress on the roads in my best Spanish, which I realise quickly isn't up to much, when he replies,
"I don't know what the f$%! you just said, why don't you talk English...you do speak English....want some gear?"
"No thanks, just directions..."
I realise I'm actually in Michoacan and all starts to become clear - more so later when I read that one of the main druglords has been shot - and I try my best to leave the state, following other cars down little tracks and through fields doing the same...trying to get around the road blocks, trying to get out of Michoacan.
I have some time to spare before a meeting in Mexico City and so pop up to view the wonderful subterranean labyrinths of Guanajuato, a long detour but worth the trip and a visit with another kind farmer who lets me camp on his beautiful land near the city.
It's another cold night at altitude on my way to the big city, kept awake and then woken by a non-stop barrage of fireworks, commemorating or celebrating Saint Augustine or something....the road is quiet to Mexico City though as most everyone has driven off the road in a drunken stupor and I meet a chirpy Garry Dymond, whom I plan to stay with for four days before catching up with Adam for Christmas.
Two weeks later I leave, having realised that meeting Adam (http://www.shortwayround.co.uk) is a bit beyond the realms of even Rudolf's quick feet and Christmas on his mind. Alas, I got to spend it with the fabulous Garry and his equally fabulous wife, Ivonne as well as fellow motorcyclists Rob and Duncan, of http://www.motorcyclemenus.com. Top chaps and great cooks both of them and Christmas dinner - served at midnight on Christmas eve.... well a little bit earlier; we were getting hungry - a gastronomic delight, but despite it's true excellence, twas not quite as good as my mum's!!!...there's just no pleasing some folk.
Staying with Garry was a true delight, staying in his house that once stood amongst pine trees on the edge of the city, has since been gobbled up by the growing millions of inhabitants and so gone is the dirt track and donkeys and instead is replaced by the 43 bus route and graffitti world....and a pretty good "panadaria."
"You live in the SLUM!" someone said...actually I think it was Garry...and actually it was fantastic...behind the safety of Garry's 'tagged' gate that is...
no really it was top! Garry is previously of the UK and so the food was tremendous....cottage pie, lasagne, apple pie, steak, chips....and toad in the hole and chocolate brownies made by yours truly (with no assistance from Aunt Bessie). I left weighing the 300lbs I started the trip on.
Soon though it's time again to leave those lovely comforts and hit the road though not before one last meal, a lunch of homemade gorditas - my Mexican favourite, made just for me by Ivonne!
I head off feeling extremely lucky to have met Garry and Ivonne...a meeting I am in great debt to the world for....and I consider that I have to earn some worldly brownie points soon, before something catastrophic happens.
Alas, it's too late, high up in the Sierra Gorda all movement ceases and Rudolf literally grinds to a halt....on closer inspection I discover that the bearings in the rear wheel have been sneakily replaced by pieces of tin foil.
Then my key snaps....
Standing waiting for a truck to help me out, a man in a VW Jetta - itself held together with string and wire - stops and is quick to tell me that unless I can get to Ciudad Valles myself, I'll be in for a very long wait, for there won't be any trucks this way.
So I strap the wheel together, completely without bearings
....and tot off a bit gingerly up the road with the VW shadowing me behind - even gingerlier - in his motorised ball of string.
Geoff (or whatever his name was) stops and tightens down the wire holding down his bonnet, signifying that we've made the first 15km to the main road, now for the fast stuff, 25km more to the city so he tells me and I give him an optimistic thumbs up, the wheel having only fallen apart once so far. But I lose Geoff in the obstacle course of "topes" (speed bumps), though I wait for him I assume he got bored and stopped for a cerveza and I carry on to Valles alone, where the wheel gives out again, though this time rather timely; outside the Suzuki garage. New bearings are made and only a few hours later I'm back on the road...I was expecting a lengthy stop in the city of days or weeks, waiting for parts! I start wondering if these very helpful people have just tipped the balance of debt I owe to the world irredeemably even further.....
Back on the road, and looking out for black cats, ladders, tipping balances and gun-touting druglords, I head to Sir James' garden...a highly bizarre and interesting house he built while most likely off his rocker on drugs as it is most peculiar and then a visit to the SPECTACULAR waterfalls in the area, reached only by rowing boat, 4km, upstream in a boat made for 12 sturdy fellas. Though for me it's just myself and my ample guide Celestino. We slogged our way up to the falls, earning several blisters....but it was worth it...105m high of emerald waters, and truly special.
Sr James Edwards gaff.....
"Those boats are ginormous!" said David, "El Gringo" in his bike shop in Matlapa. Obviously looking worse for wear after the mighty effort, he buys me superb breakfast from a beautiful woman, wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in an earth oven...the breakfast...not the woman. David, thanks, you're a top chap!
On I go, out of the jungle, through the cloud forest - where I get to see the inner workings of a cloud close up! - and then into desert! what a landscape! Alas, there are no photos as the camera was soaked days previous exploring some caves....which, it turns out, were rubbish....and full of water.
I need more parts for Rudolf, and email my contact in Mexico City....then I spend all day lost in the city trying to find the place eventually doing so only to discover it is infact a completely different Yamaha store to that which I wrote to!....luckily they are top chaps too....at Cuajimalpa and start taking apart a showroom bike to fix up Rudolf before they nip home for the weekend....Thanks GREATLY to them for helping me out at short notice and goign to such great lengths for me!
The balance is really tipping now and I ride along on tenderhooks....death must come soon, or maybe a sharp blow to my head....another cold night is all I get, and a still deflating thermarest, 22 punctures and counting - damn you cactus! - but a great visit to Volcan de Toluca and it's lakes, where Rudolf splutters at the altitude
....and then on down to the Pacific coast to revive him and me, north of Acapulco to collect a sleeping bag from Uri and Jackie, friends of Rob's whom I met in Mexico City.
Alng the way through the Sierras again,
in a tiny village I meet an old lady hosing the dirt and ask her where I can find tortillas....soon she returns with freshly made tortillas, and then offers me a coke....and then her nephew comes to chat too, Oscar....great chap, who "wants to give me something for the road" and gives me a cake and two packets of chips!!
Because of all the kindness goign around I'm getting anxious and seeing a boy and old lady with a puncture tire I stop to repair it....I get no thanks and feel a bit disappointed...peraps that's how it's supposed to be, perhaps it's more selfless this way, I shouldn't expect so much....
Then Ireach the beach and my new sleeping bag.....As I pack the new bag away on the bike Uri comes over...
"Nick, we all think it's best if you stay the night, have dinner with us, have breakfast....unless....that is...you have somewhere to be?"
"Are you serious!? Oh, that would be fantastic! I could hug you!!"
Uri mumbles and "OK" and so I hug him.
In the morning, after breakfast, Uri comes over again
"Nick, we think it's best if you stay today too, I mean if you want to and have nowhere to go?"
My reply was much blunter "Sounds good to me."
This was repeated, and repeated, and finally I have to leave for Oaxaca....where getting very worried about the tipping balance, I stop and help people, give them lifts, fix their punctures and try and be really nice....who knows what lurks....?
Now I must decide whether to race on south and skip the Yucatan, or obviously visit the Yucatan as I think I may have had my fix of Mexico, three months has perhaps been enough and I'm already thinking about exploring dirt roads in the Andes.
A special thanks to Uri and Jackie for letting me stay and bringign over a sleeping bag, Garry and Ivonne a very special thanks for letting me spend a wonderful Christmas with you, it really felt like home.
Great to meet you at Garry's for Christmas and look forward to riding with you in Chiapas.
For Mexico part one you can read Adam's (of www.shortwayround.co.uk) , ride report here, as we rode together during that time.....
If you want to earn some brownie points, come and make the bloody tea...!!!
Well it's not like you're ever gona make it!
I'm trying to get there.....Mexico is big....
Great report Nick. The photos are fantastic. Makes me feel like I`m there along for the ride. Be Safe.
Glad to hear....
Thanks Mike, glad to hear someone is enjoying it...hopefully I can make more time (read; find cheaper internet cafes) to make it even better!
Take care and let me know if you have any pointers to improve things......
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