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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Flys Lo, Aug 8, 2011.
Classic Photo!! :) Subscribed
Great report so far guys. I can't believe all the rain that hit in Guatemala, those were some major washouts! Looking forward to the rest of it.
We are in Granada now if you are in the town. Catching up with Karmen tonight (crazy French dude on an XR650R), there will be a few more of us here tomorrow night if you make it down!
Great RR !!
Following you guys.
Make sure you put Brazil in your plans.
See you down here.
i love your vibe!
Thanks for sharing..
Be careful, you will have everyone believing this shit is organized!
Thanks - you will be happy to note that your thread in day trippin' has ensured that I operated at minimum productivity mode in the office for a number of days, so it means a lot coming from you :)
Also, here is a short vid. These Latin Americans have taught us a thing or 2 about how to overtake, we thought we would share our lessons.
<iframe src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/31819921?title=0&byline=0&portrait=0" width="400" height="300" frameborder="0" webkitAllowFullScreen allowFullScreen></iframe><p><a href="http://vimeo.com/31819921">Overtaking 101 - Latin American style</a> from <a href="http://vimeo.com/user9205082">Adrian Harris</a> on <a href="http://vimeo.com">Vimeo</a>.</p>
You wrote "our limited experience on this planet has told us that a lot of the things that cost money can frequently dilute the experience you can gain from it."
Engineer? Missed your calling in philosophy. That's friggin' genius IMHO. (sorry to take you back to page 1 - just joined in)
You'll never been the same after a trip down South and having to ride up here, things just flow the way they should down there and you have to learn it or stuff it up. Keep focused and watch you back.
Bet you are having a helluva fun time in Colombia, it is one of my favorites
Sorry for the lack of updates, lack of internetwebs have conspired against me. We are now in Cartagena, Columbia, after sailing for 4 days across the Caribbean from Panama with our motorbikes, was an enjoyable journey even if I spent most of it with a bad fever, the San Blas islands in particular were most idyllic.
From the last update, we stayed in Leon for a few more days as we wanted to climb a volcano and see lava, first we went down and to check out the local beaches:
Then off to climb a volcano, first boarding various forms of local transport, collectivo:
The infamous chicken bus:
And then off on our own, not long before we spotted our victim
Eventually making it:
In the evening, the bright red lava was great, the photos of it, not so much.
Sunrise was quite a delight as well
We left Leon in the direction of Estelli, taking the scenic route:
Estelli is the major tobacco growing area, producing cigars for the US market, we checked out a cigar factory in Cuba, but I hoped to see another. It was a world apart, the place in Cuba cost us $11US for a tour around an old building with a floor of around 400 people yelling at each other, as they roll cigars and steal them to sell to tourists, cigars were for sale at the front at a substantial premium. Estelli on the other hand had a dozen people rolling cigars in a relaxed environment, we got a free tour, and when asked about purchasing cigars, the rolled us 4 fresh ones and gave them to us!
On the way to Matagalpa, the main coffee growing district, we spot a couple of hundred guys digging optic fiber cable in by hand. An interesting dichotomy
And also wonder where the closest County School is.
Staying in Matagalpa for the evening, we then head to Granada, with hopes of catching some other bikers we know that are going to be there, but first a friendly visit from your local corrupt Central American police.
I would like to introduce you to Jose and Juan:
We were entering Managua, when while stopped at the lights amongst a group of other motos, one pulls up and taps me on the shoulder, I turn, its the police. He points straight ahead, I assume he is telling me which way to go, give him a thumbs up and we head off. Two lights further, red light again, again he pulls up, taps me (although much more furiously), and points over to the side of the road
We pull off, and so it begins, Jose speaks a little English, which doesnt help our cause, as pleading complete ignorance wont pass. First they want to book us for not following police orders, then it is for speeding, then for lane splitting (as motos do the latter 2 straight past us). They begin the good cop/bad cop routine, so I return the favor and have a mild tanty as Tim acts gentile to ensure we arent executed on the spot. We continue for almost an hour, which in hot sun in bike gear is not all that pleasant. They proceed to confiscate our licenses and want to book us at the police station 3 blocks down the road (apparently) and for us to follow them there. I decide to go on a movement strike. Eventually they decide it isnt worth the hassle to book us but they still want money for their troubles, so when Tim isnt being incredibly devious taking photos with his Go Pro, he waved US$4 in the air for everyone to see, and handed it to them.
We went to another volcano, which was cool as you could drive up to the top
In Granada, while unsupervised, Tim used all his talents to return both of our bikes to their preferred seating position
That evening, we managed to catch up with a bunch of bikers, including a French couple doing Alaska to Argentina on a bicycle (yes Mum, there are people crazier than me!).
Jerry was part of the group, and was good to meet him in person after quite a bit of back and forth, he has since high-tailed it further south, but looks like we will cross paths later, you can read his ride report here: http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=726711
We then went with Kerman on a short jaunt to a local lake inside a volcano crater
And then for a short boat ride, where we had monkeys invade our craft
Met an alcoholic Macau
And had a nice sunset
The next day, the usual fun of navigating the streets gave way,
We were headed to Ometepe island, set in Lake Nicaragua (the largest lake in Central America), it is the combination of 2 volcanoes that have emerged from the surface and is quite beautiful.
After my socialistic bike finished sharing my luggage with the locals
We dumped our gear, and decided to circumnavigate the island
The next day, we climbed another volcano on the island, which has a lake in the center, and seals my desire to not see another volcano again, ever.
We climbed up rocks for hours through rain, to get such a great view:
And that was it for Nicaragua
we enjoyed it here.
Costa Rica began, and instantly I found the place harder to love, gone were the colorful and charming chicken buses and overloaded mopeds used throughout the rest of Central America, and in their place the western world cocoons, cars and SUVs. American chain fast food establishments lined the roads, the supermarkets were up market, expensive, and selling goods from all around the world. While Costa Rica is far better off than its neighbors by almost all western standards, the people appeared to smile less and came across with less genuine friendliness than their neighbors. I felt guilty that these people live a higher quality of life that other countries aspire to (and eventually will obtain), and here I was thinking less of them, this internal debate raged for a while and I couldnt tell you what the scenery was like, and it wasnt until that evening that the answer to this quandry came to me, I am lucky to be able to do the trip now.
Over the next few days day, we went for some nice rides
Saw some nice beaches
And eventually we made our way to Cahuita, a part of Costa Rica that appealed to me much more than anywhere else I had seen, less tourists, more beauty
Nick and Ivanka, a lovely British couple riding two-up from Alaska to Argentina joined us on the second day, and we hung out, swapped war stories and card games. There blog is located here: http://www.bootsboatsandbikes.co.uk/
We didnt have a whole lot of time till our boat sailed from Panama, so south we go!
We encountered one of our preferred border crossings:
Note the yellow sticker on the customs window? Our sticker! I like the Panamanians already!
Some more scenic detours and we made our way to Boca del Toro
On the way to the boat, we met a local guy on the same bike as us,
We thought it would be a good idea to join forces and ride through all the road blocks together, the police would have less chance of stopping all of us
We neednt have worried, on the other side the police would routinely give us a thumb up, and tell us to do a wheelie for them!
We made it to our boat, and loaded our bikes on for South America, SOUTH AMERICA!!!
Columbia Pt 1.
From Portabello in Panama, where we even managed to do some off-roading
From Panama to Columbia is impassable (well almost), the US has placed political pressure on Panama to keep the “Darien Gap” closed to restrict drug trafficking from the south, and it is the one break in the Panamerica highway for its entire length. It is now one of the most untouched jungles in the world, filled with wonderful wildlife and Columbian paramilitaries, so even if you can make it through, chances are that you won’t be alive on the otherside. Boat it is then:
Expect the moto boots and shorts look to be in next summer’s catalogue
We shared the boat with a few backpackers, and a bunch of other motorcyclists, Jess and Jesse whome we had met previously, Stefan a Canadian living in Panama and Rogier and his girlfriend riding 2-up.
We had an enjoyable journey, the San Blas islands are gorgeous Caribbean paradises
With some of us enjoying the view
Arriving in Columbia, and discovering that Cartagena is one of the most beautiful colonial cities we have visited, albeit touristy, we formed a moto gang and headed to import our bikes.
Jesse taking his role as moto gang member to intimidating heights
We also met Carole and Laurent there whom we had met previously, and Henry, a Polish/Australian who was riding the same bike as ours, and testing the bike to the extreme with his luggage volume.
Due to popular demand, local talent will be included more frequently.
Venezuela was close, and I didn’t know anyone personally who had been there, which was reason enough for me to go check it out. We headed east.
We had to buy some new rear tyres for the bikes, and in Barranquilla (home of Shakira!!!) we found some for $65 each. Bargain. In Santa Marta, a bit further up the coast we ran into Henry and his bike that he has converted into a truck and agreed to head into Venezuela together.
It seems that since the drug trade has died down, Columbia has had to look to new opportunities to gouge gringo’s of their hard earned, we found it, their national parks. After forking over fifty something dollars for both of us to enter, we were able to enjoy the views
We chanced into Stefan again, who was riding with a wonderful Columbian lady, Natalia, and next day went to check out the local waterfalls
Purchasing some illegal Venezuelan gasoline from a 12yr old, we continued up to the desert area of Columbia
We continued north as a group
We were stopped by what can best be described as “goop” and sent a few of the bikes onto their sides.
Some had more fun in it than others however
We parted ways with Stefan in the morning, and left for the border as they headed south.
Venezuela to come…
Venezuela Pt. 1
I knew little about Venezuela, apart from winning lots of beauty contests and having a president that could be in some circles described as a crazy man I arrived with no expectations. It’s always better that way.
The usual border hoo-hah ensued
That is, until we got to the Venezuelan side. We can’t come in apparently… everyone is on strike. (“everyone” being the people that import our bikes). We push, and push, and after some walking around find a friendly security guard with keys who seems to know what stamps to use.
We enter the very elaborate building, which is shared just by us
And his majesty.
After almost 5hrs, we are in Venezuela
Not long before we hit snag #2, or should I say, strike #2, someone else is on strike, and they are blocking the only bridge from the border. We are stranded for our first night.
After some fine talking from Henry, a lady rides off on a motorcycle, and 30 mins later we are allowed to pass, the locals not.
So far Venezuela has looked very poor, the roads terrible, and they are filled with old 70’s and 80’s American cars. I feel like I should be in the Blues Brothers.
We hit Maracaibo, and things change instantly, there appears to be money here, and a lot of it. Oil.
We also discovered that Venezuela is substantially more expensive than its neighbors, at the official exchange rate cheese is almost $50 a kilo. Which brings me to one of Chavez’s little tricks, the exchange to the currency is pegged at about half what it is actually worth, you have to stock up on US dollars prior to entry, and exchange money with people on the street (almost everyone will)… thanks to Encho for giving us this advice before hand.
His other little trick is gasoline prices.
Less than 1c per litre, or about 3.5c for a gallon… and it has a smell of C16 race gas. I still can’t get over the fact that it would be a $1.50 to fill up my old F350, when often I paid 100 times that.
We find some more “scenic” routes
I am further impressed by Venezuelan’s choice of vehicles, F-Series and Landcruisers (not the soccermomobile ones, the weigh it down to its bump-stops, cross the Sahara 5 times before changing the oil models….
Do some road side tyre repairs
We found a road north to Puerto Colombia with Henry showing us how to scrape panniers in the corners
We make it to Playa Grande where we make camp on the beach, impressive scenery
And sand flies
Met a crazy guy, 57yrs old, climbs five 35ft+ high coconut palms each day, not sure if his safety gear is Occupational Health and Safety compliant.
We skipped Caracas on accounts of it being a large city, and one where the propensity to be shot and mugged was higher than normal (it is considered the most dangerous city in the world I believe)… and moved onto the beautiful Venezuelan coast line.
Now, this motorcycle caper… often it has been mentioned to me that its dangerous, my response of “well, it isn’t if you don’t crash” I always felt had some solid merit, and up till now my motorcycling crashes had been not much above walking pace.
Not so much now. Coming around this corner, in the patch of shade, was also a patch of oil.
I was doing about 50mph (80kph), but bike and me are fine. Henry also hit the deck in the same patch of oil, fortunately he and bike are also unscathed.
Typical Venezuelan hospitality ensued, a local walked off to get us some banana’s, cold water and some potatoes for us to cook. He accepted no money, or anything in return.
More beautiful beaches followed, I thoroughly recommend this coastline east of Puerto La Cruz, the scenery and roads are just incredible.
Found a good campsite and called it a day.
We headed inland, checked out some impressive caves and stopped at a small town for dinner. We inquired as to local camp spots, and the owner pointed at the floor beneath us, between the local lady selling DVD’s, the blaring Carnival music, and the guys who were drunk on homemade liquor. We inquired if something quieter was available, his garage was next door, we became an instant hit with the local kids.
And slept on the roadside stall owners roof…
We stopped in Cuidad Bolivar, with hopes of seeing Angel Falls, the highest waterfall in the world. It takes a plane ride in a Cessna, a boat ride, a hike, another boat ride, and another hike to get too… typically taking 3 days in total… Niagara Falls it is not.
Our boat (a canoe with an outboard), which we went up rapids in the dark…
A sleep, and we awake to this…
And a closer view…
Even some you can walk behind… quite a rush.
More to come…
You boys are getting good at this shit
Keep it coming and turn the damn zoom up on some of those thongs
I headed to Venezueula myself sometime in the near future
Glad you guys got to make the trip into see the Falls, that is on my hit list as well.
Keep up the great work!!!
Feed me beer and I can do anything!
sent you a PM re Venezuela!
Venezuela Pt. 2
On our return from Angel Falls, we were struck with the landscape here, we had to do more. Mount Roraima. A 2800m high mountain, or tepui, that inspired the book, “The Lost World”, and is the corner of Brazil, Guyana and Venezuela was not too far away. Lets climb it!
It commenced… with a day wait… I understood the Venezuelan national sport to be baseball, but my experience suggests that strikes is of higher importance… a 4 day mining strike that blocked the only road from Venezuela to Brazil, and our only way to the mountain.
The road opened, and a 9hr ride in a Landcruiser, our driver doing around 90mph (145kph) through villages at 2am…
We finally got within eyesight of the mountain, and began our 5 day trek.
Lunch was BBQ Chicken, local Indian bread and chilli… made from termites. Was delicious.
Off we went…
The Flora on the way was particularly nice.
And our trail up became more and more ¨adventurous¨
And once we made it to the top, the mystical scenery unfolded.
And the amazing Flora kept up…
With incredible landscape
Cool frogs too.
Pity the views were terrible…
On the hike we also met 3 crazy Brazillian guys, circumnavigating the globe… on bicycles. Cool dudes, hope to see them in Aus in the future!
Local police were hard at it.
We went to the import office as we had 3 days to get our motorbikes out of the country… and discovered that extensions for our permit were not feasible, and if we were caught over-staying them, our bikes would be repossessed! We left Bolivar immediately; with around 1500km´s ahead of us… it was good to be back on the bikes after 10 days off them however…
And we headed through my kind of places, farming areas… you don´t need to be too worried about being shot, kidnapped or having your camera stolen when everyone is bum-up in the fields digging potatoes. The reactions too from the people we spoke to changed, instead of the general look of äwe¨ you frequently get when you are explaining your travels, it is replaced by a general look of confusion, as they are perplexed as to how you spend your time on a motorcycle, and make it back home to shear the sheep for summer.
Roads also progressed to be more enjoyable.
We swung through Merida, a really nice town, as we also discovered that we were crossing the border on Sunday, which apparently is when the office that stamps out our bikes was closed. We didn´t like our chances of staying another day and overstaying our limit just to get our bikes stamped out when the possibility of repossession loomed over our heads… so we didn´t stop at the Venezuelan border post, and just left… not sure I will be allowed back soon. Pity, I really liked the place.
excelent ride!!! i am so inspired!
Keep it coming!!!
+1 I've read lots about those table tops, was so great to see the pictures, where's those hotels they talk about on top? Looks like it is worth the effort, might have to pull over and find a trip on the way to Brazil, you guys should have just kept going East or South and make a loop around.
Keep up the great work!
Here is one of the Hotels we hung out in. Not quite 5 star
I'll be in Colombia in January. From there, I had planned to go to Ecuador, but I based on your RR I think I'll include Venezuela as well. Thanks for the excellent report!