Summer '09 - Venezuela to Minnestoa

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by DiabloBlanco, Apr 3, 2009.

  1. DiabloBlanco

    DiabloBlanco Intl' Hops Inspector

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    Updates:
    Starting to get the ball rolling on writing, updated 26-29 June about dealing with Vzla customs

    Thank you section:
    Right up top, I'll be having a list here of all those that deserve a big thank you for their help throughout this trip.

    I'm jumping the ball a little bit, but it's got to start somewhere....

    So at 29 years of age I'm finally getting ready to gradumate from collemagege. Unfortunately at the end of this spring semester I'll be 4 credits short of graduating and 9 credits short of a minor in Spanish. I also have a brand new F650GS twin. Hmm... what to do?

    So late fall/early winter I came to the decision to do a study abroad in Venezuela for 6 weeks from mid May to the end of June which kicked off a winter farkling party of epic proportions. The original plan was to ride down after this semester ends buuuut after comparing schedules and realizing this semester ends May 10th-ish and the Venezuela summer session starts May 18th, it just doesn't leave a lot of time to ride 5,000 miles to make it there in a timely fashion.

    So I spent a little time on HUBB looking at advertised shippers and came across APX (https://www.freight-calculator.com/) and I've been in contact with them for quite some time. Gini is a dream to work with, even though the paperwork stack is huge. Total price to ship to Venez: a lot. More than this college kid wants to pay. But I always tell myself you can't put a price on life experiences, so I gotta do it. So how it's going to work is in late April I'll ride from Minneapolis to Chicago to drop the bike off with a crating company, who, for 570 bucks will crate it and transport it to APX who will then truck it from Chicago to Miami and will then fly it to Venezuela. About 2 grand for that once it leaves the crating company's hands. Lotta dough! But the other companies I received initial quotes from were no cheaper and up to 2 grand more expensive :eek1

    Other than that it's just been a farkle party of epic proportions. Here she is stock with only 500 miles on her:
    [​IMG]
    I'd like to take this opportunity to tell my friend Brian to suck it, when, the day after I bought the bike (with 0 miles), and the odometer was then 75 miles, he paints my house with a paint gun... with the garage door open... so little flecks of paint ALL OVER my new ride. Thanks. :becca

    And here it is now: (sorry for cell phone pics)
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Lots added, so I might miss a thing or two:
    Jesse Odyssey II panniers - BMW oem bash plate - Holan crash bars - Wunderlich mud hugger - Wunderlich radiator guard - Adventure Spec luggage plate - BMW eom hand guards - Metal Mule screen - TT tank bag - TT front brake reservoir cover - TT locking mount/RAM swivel mount for Garmin 60Csx - Holan headlight protector - beak extender from F800 - GS black reflective logos - adv designs tool kit (with allen wrenches added since BMW uses hex and almost all aftermarket uses allen) - accessory socket air pump

    Still to put on
    CANbus power cable for GPS - devise best way to strap down Northface 70L duffel bag for rear in a manner that is secure, but easily removeable - Anakee tires - Sargent or TT seat - SPoT sat messenger - Wanderlust V2 GPS software

    For personal gear:
    Still waiting on my Vendramini Desert Alp boots.. have the BMW city pants, summer2 pants, and Boulder jacket with Arai XD3 helmet, couple pair of Rev'it gloves. Dell mini 9" laptop to type papers, play with GPS software, and kill time on this wonderful site when I'm not busy learning (drinking) :1drink

    So in a month and a half the trip to Venezuela starts and I'll update this as things happen and as I toll around Venezuela and then go in depth about my ride back home, so I'll be paying special attention soon to the process of getting over the Darien and the best hotels to stay at.

    A side mention, if anyone will be traveling north through South/Central America in late June/anytime July and would like to meet for drinks and some riding time give me a shout! (and I'm always open to advice, so thanks in advance for that).

    Cheers

    Oh and I'd love to give a little shout out to all the naysayers in my life who just don't understand my need to do this. I appreciate how much everyone cares for me, but I'm starting to get sick of those trying to talk me out of it or trying to put fear in my head about all the evil-doers I will encounter.
    #1
  2. ajgerdes

    ajgerdes Buell

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    sounds like a fun trip:clap :clap
    #2
  3. GB

    GB . Administrator

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    Sounds like a great adventure :thumb Any chance to see pics of your trip?? :lurk
    #3
  4. DiabloBlanco

    DiabloBlanco Intl' Hops Inspector

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    So la-dee-da... things like to get screwed up. Now instead of the bike being in Venez when I arrive I just had to push the ship date back, so I'll be in country for a couple weeks before she arrives. Maybe give me an opportunity to get a feel for the place first...

    My national guard unit got called up to help North Dakota (ew) with some floods, so I missed the date I was supposed to ride to Chicago (which was a beautiful 82 and sunny that day). Instead I got home from NorDak and tried to ride to Chi the following morning.... 39 degrees. Got 15 miles from home and then a torrential downpour kicked off. Screw that. Cold I don't mind; rain I don't mind; cold and drenched to the bone and unable to see out of the helmet, suck that. APX is cool with the ship date switch though so things are still all good, plus it gives me a little more time to get the recalls on my bike addressed.

    Anakees mounted, duffel bag is in for sewing so I can attach/lock it to the bike. Got the Garmin fully powered on the bike. That CANbus system is pretty slick, me likey... And I downloaded the Wanderlust maps. I don't know if "impressive" is the word, but they're definitely better than the Garmin alternative, half the price, and run by a fellow rider...

    Also ordered SPOT and I'm a loser and just dropped 60 bucks on nationality stickers so that with each border I go through I can add that country's sticker onto my panniers. Like I said, I'm a dork. Whatever.

    I'm just damn excited to get this thing going! :1drink
    #4
  5. Tim-Rodriguez

    Tim-Rodriguez Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    Location:
    London, UK Honda CB500 S
    I got back from Venezuela a month ago to visit family in Margarita and Los
    Roques, also had plans to visit my grandma in Caracas but ask any one about Caracas and they will tell you its hell...so I avoided it.


    Heres some photos...

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    #5
  6. DiabloBlanco

    DiabloBlanco Intl' Hops Inspector

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    Great photos. Our study abroad program actually discourages us more from going to Caracas than Colombia, so I'll probably only deal with Caracas when I fly in and when I go back to pick up the bike a couple weeks later...

    So how was it? Great times?
    #6
  7. Tim-Rodriguez

    Tim-Rodriguez Been here awhile

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    Location:
    London, UK Honda CB500 S
    The place is really beautiful and people there are friendly and and happy.
    My sister got on my nerves loads of times but always I didnt let that get to me and ruin my time.

    I definatly recomend going there and if you speak spanish then it helps.
    #7
  8. SS in Vzla.

    SS in Vzla. Totally Normal? I'm not!

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    Excellent idea!
    PM sent :freaky
    #8
  9. Nata Harli

    Nata Harli Accidental Tourista

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    Well it's May 10th-ish and you might be on your way. Then, again ....

    Here's hoping your bike catches up with you before you have to come back home. :super

    And, if'n you're not doing anything the first part of August and find yourself bored and needing to hop on your bike and ride, feel free to join us for SALARR in south central Colorado. Link is with my signature.
    #9
  10. DiabloBlanco

    DiabloBlanco Intl' Hops Inspector

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    That's right around the time I should be coming back home and up through Texas, I'll keep my ear to the ground on that one....

    I LEAVE TOMORROW! Sometime in the a.m. I'll hit the highway for Chicago, spend a few days in Chi, catch a Cubbies game at Wrigley and then hop the plane to Vene :D
    #10
  11. dtysdalx2

    dtysdalx2 PITA but useful

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    Jeebus, what a trip! Have a great time! Keep this thread updated.

    I live up here also. Weather is just getting nice. I would have left a month ago if I was you.
    #11
  12. FotoTEX

    FotoTEX Long timer

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    If you are in Texas in August all I can say is dude it gets hot here that time of year. Guaranteed. Keep Hydrated. I am located SW of Ft. Worth and if you need a free place to stay along the Brazos River-PM me.
    Have a great ride. Do it now, later is always iffy...
    #12
  13. DiabloBlanco

    DiabloBlanco Intl' Hops Inspector

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    Yeah I hear you guys, I can't lie, I have my own doubts about it and excuses to push it off, but it's like one of those cheesy cliches to just do it now or life will just slip by and you'll be full of regrets for what you haven't done..

    And yeah I know all too well about the Texas summer heat, I've got a couple friends in the DFW area, but if I don't take you up on your couch offer I'm definitely game for a ride since I'll be there a day or two...
    #13
  14. JaiDee

    JaiDee Searching

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    Have a great time DB! You should have quite an adventure. Where will you be studying in Venezuela? I'll be traveling to the Maturin area next December, probably staying a couple of months and haven't been able to find any information on motorcycling there. I'll be watching closely, anxious to hear your impressions of the country and possibilities for riding.

    Safe travels!

    -JD
    #14
  15. DiabloBlanco

    DiabloBlanco Intl' Hops Inspector

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    Well, made it to Chicago, fun little ride:
    Barely missed the dead deer in the left lane that I didn't see until the last minute when the car in front of me swerved to miss it, then its blood and guts were all over the road so the car in front of me kicked it all up on my screen helmet and bike. Thanks.
    But at least I got lucky and it rained for the last 120 miles of the ride so it got nice and clean. Showed up to the crating company wet and freezing my ass off. Oh well, bring it.
    Tomorrow Cubbies game! Sunday a plane heading south!

    [​IMG]


    Jai,
    If you're wondering about riding in Venezuela I'll forward you some of SS in Vzla's emails to me, he's given me a very good invaluable picture of what to expect and how to ride...
    #15
  16. JaiDee

    JaiDee Searching

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    Thanks DB! Sent you a PM.
    -JD
    #16
  17. jesus

    jesus n00b

    Joined:
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    1
    Hello, wellcome to Venezuela, here you can download a free map for your 60CSx http://www.gpsyv.net/ click on MAPAS and then "Venezuela Ruteable 4.6"
    #17
  18. DiabloBlanco

    DiabloBlanco Intl' Hops Inspector

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    Sorry to anyone who had been following along for my LONG absence on here. I´m going to break it up into 3 parts, my time in Vzla here as a student, dealing with customs, and then into riding now that I FINALLY have the bike.

    (check back, I´ll be inserting pictures into these posts once I´m back at my computer)

    May 15th I believe I dropped the bike off in Chicago for it to be crated and trucked to Miami where it would be flown to Vzla. No surprise the quote jumped up 200 dollars once I was actually there. Grr. May 17th I flew from Chicago to Miami and spent an amazing day drinking on South Beach and eating at some restaurant (god I wish I could remember the name) with the most amazing seafood platter of my life.
    May 18th on the plane to Caracas Vzla. Somehow of course I lost the whole group of American students and a couple opportunistic airport workers took me under their wings escorting me around to get checked in for my connecting flights in hopes of screwing me on the exchange rate. The official rate is 2.15 Bolivares to USD, but the unofficial is around 6.5 Bs to one dollar. So the opportunists wait at the airport for unsuspecting gringos in hopes to get them to change Bs and Ds at some ugly rate like 3 so they can score a huge profit...

    After reuniting with the grupo de gringos we hopped another flight to El Vigia and then a bus to the final destination; Precioso Merida, what is claimed to be one of the safest, cleanest, and most adventuresome cities in Vzla, which is where my school for the next 6 weeks would be.
    Impressions... motorcycles everywhere. Almost all between 100-200cc´s but also, even though a proper enduro is considerably more expensive here, there are far more to be seen here than in the US. In Minnesota I RARELY see a KTM/1200gs/single cyl F650 and I have yet to see another 650/800 twin on the road back home... here in Merida I´ve seen a few of all of the above, to include one 800gs and two 650gs twins. But I guess it makes sense, its all beautiful mountains and awesome dirt trails are only minutes away. Also, driving is nuts. I want to say organized chaos, but that would be giving it too much credit. It is complete unorganized chaos with the only saving grace being that people seem to watch for one another. In the US people trust the system. We stop at red lights. We stay in our lanes. When there´s accidents its usually when someone trusts the system (I stop at 4 way stop sign, then I go) and don´t bother to look for someone that´s not respecting the system (other person goes through stop sign). Here that really doesn´t happen. People don´t play the big dick game too much either, when a car wants to cut in they don´t put on their blinker to ask permission, they just start to cut over ASSUMING the other cars will let them, and for the most part they just do. It works. The smog is awful, no exhaust controls here and the gas is so cheap there´s almost no incentive to control the waste of gas, I´ll have a story about the exhaust pollution when I get into my first ride. Last point on initial driving impressions; they LOVE their horns. You almost never hear the horns at home unless its something big. In my travels to Belize, Kosovo, Bulgaria, Germany, still almost no horns. They use the horns religiously here non stop. They use horns to say hi (instead of waving), to say move over, to announce they´re going to run through a blind intersection (without slowing down), or in the case of a big ass bus on a small winding mountain road, they honk around every blind curve (again without slowing down). But... it works. Annoying as hell but it works.

    So life in Merida is good, the first couple days we went to 12,000 feet and hiked around some trails and a lake, then hiked up a mountain to natural hot springs where we camped the night. The next weekend was off to Caribbean beaches (Vzla has more Caribbean coastline than any other country), the next weekend a drunkfest here in Merida along with some paragliding ("if the wind doesn´t catch us by its self we´ll just have to run and jump off the cliff, it´ll be ok, don´t worry" says the guide) and it was amazing, then a 4 day safari into the plains checking out monkeys, crocs, anacondas, giant anteaters, and a ton of other critters followed by a white water rafting trip on the way home. The next weekend was another beach trip and then most of my group took their leave back home to the US while I went in seach of the bike.

    Oh lets not forget the food. A little disappointed! There´s a complete difference between US latin food and actual latin food. Where´s the spice? No hay nada. Arepas for breakfast almost every morning. Never really care to see another bland arepa again. I almost can't wait to get my hands on Taco Bell... mmm But I do like a lot of the dishes here, there's just not a lot to write home about that I've seen.

    Some pics from the trip...
    <a href="http://s34.photobucket.com/albums/d126/SGTMahieu/?action=view&current=P5230371.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://i34.photobucket.com/albums/d126/SGTMahieu/P5230371.jpg" border="0" alt="Photobucket"></a>
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    <a href="http://s34.photobucket.com/albums/d126/SGTMahieu/?action=view&current=IMG_0855.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://i34.photobucket.com/albums/d126/SGTMahieu/IMG_0855.jpg" border="0" alt="Photobucket"></a>
    <a href="http://s34.photobucket.com/albums/d126/SGTMahieu/?action=view&current=P5290395.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://i34.photobucket.com/albums/d126/SGTMahieu/P5290395.jpg" border="0" alt="Photobucket"></a>
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    <a href="http://s34.photobucket.com/albums/d126/SGTMahieu/?action=view&current=Venezuela341.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://i34.photobucket.com/albums/d126/SGTMahieu/Venezuela341.jpg" border="0" alt="Photobucket"></a>
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    #18
  19. huckleberry

    huckleberry BACK ROAD BOMBER

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    looks like fun so far keep it commin!
    #19
  20. DiabloBlanco

    DiabloBlanco Intl' Hops Inspector

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    Finally! going to start catching up.
    So school finished July 26th and we took a weekend beach trip to have a little fun before heading separate ways for a couple months (I still had fun but can't really recommend Puerto Cabello though, go to Puerto Colombia or Chichiriviche). Monday July 29th I dropped the novia off at the airport for her to fly back home, checked into a nice hotel 20 meters from the beach (but far more expensive than I'd like) and planned to start getting the bike out of Aduanas the next day.

    There's a few regrets that became apparent throughout this ordeal, I'll touch on them in a minute.

    Tuesday morning Pedro Villega, an individual whose deals with customs and shipping and was going to help me get my bike out (for a fee of course), finally received all of the paperwork, I meet him at 1pm and we head to customs (Aduanas) with his assistant Daniel (who would pretty much become my best friend over the course of the next few days. The aduanas say my passport stamp that I entered the country with isn't really good enough and that I need to produce a Constancia from my school, essentially a document saying I'm here for a reason and proof of being enrolled in school. What the hell does that have to do with my bike? :ddog I swear these people don't even know their own laws. I'm in on a stamp that's good for 90 days. Whatever. I call the director of my school in Merida (500 miles away) and she says she'll write me one up and PDF email it to me.

    Wednesday at the last minute she sends it to me, print it out, head over to Pedro's office. We go to customs again. They take a look at my constancia and essentially shrug their shoulders saying I need a different passport stamp. :baldy Fuckers. I spend the next 3 hours with Daniel and another assistant taking buses all over trying to place to get a new stamp. We try the passport issuing agency (I don't know why) and then the immigration office at the pier. It's starting to look like the only option is for me to show up at the American Embassy and try to figure it out. A very expensive cab and another night in an expensive hotel. It's hot, my Spanish isn't THAT good and I'm really feeling helpless. Then Pedro's friend shows up, a guy who owns a shipping company warehouse type of thing and has access to the airport, he takes me to the airport, talks to the security guard who lets him past security so he can take my passport to get a new stamp from the immigration chief. After waiting forever he shows back up with my new stamp, woo hoo! By now customs are closed, but tomorrow is a new day!

    Thursday we show back up at customs and they're STILLLL being assholes. :kboomThey say I need the paperwork to go with the new stamp and the signature from the stamping authority. Me and Daniel are pissed and I'm thinking wtf now?? Really. I want my damn bike. Later in the day we get back with the guy who has a lot of pull, we go back to the airport, I wait around some more, buy an Economist. After about an hour he comes back out with a sheet of paper that's a printed out copy of the Venezuelan customs laws from the chief of immigration that essentially say I don't need to jump through anymore damn hoops and give me the damn bike.

    Friday morning. We show up. Awesome. They FINALLY say everything is all good and I'll get the bike out that day. Then a security guard walks up and kicks me out because I'm wearing shorts!! wtf? It's illegal to wear shorts in the aduanas building? Luckily at least Daniel can stay there and keep working on the paperwork while I sit in the front and read magazines. Looks like I'm going to need a couple thousand bolivares though which presents me with a shitty situation...
    The official rate of exchange is pegged at 2.15 bolivares fuertes to one American dollar but the REAL exchange rate is 6.5 to 7 BsF to dollar. Meaning if you have dollars you can get the good exchange rate but if you use an ATM or pay for something with credit card you get poked in the butt. I need a lot of BsF and need my bike so I have no choice but to ATM 3,000 Bsf (I'll have to pay customs, pay Pedro for a week of toting me around, and pay hige warehouse fees because the bike has been sitting taking up space and collecting dust for a month). So 3,000 BsF SHOULD have been 500 American dollars, no big deal, but because it came from an ATM it was about 1,400 dollars. Grrr . Gimme my bike.

    Back to waiting for my paperwork. It's getting late...
    505pm Daniel comes back with the paperwork, shit shit. We run to the warehouse. 5115pm. They're closed. This is Friday. They wont open until Monday. WHAT THE SHIT. FUCK MY LIFE. 5 days I've been sitting in Caracas trying to get my damn bike paying for an expensive hotel and expensive food and just spent 1,400 dollars pulling out the money to pay for it. :baldy:baldy:baldy Now I have two options, just sit in Caracas for the whole weekend paying for an expensive ass hotel and since I THOUGHT it was going to be a quick trip I didn't bring my mini laptop or my cell phone charger.. or I can take a 16 hour bus back to Merida Friday night, spend Saturday night, see some friends, drink beer, do laundry, then take a 16 hour bus Sunday night BACK to Caracas, hopefully finally get the bike, then ride all the way back to Merida again. At least the overnight buses are cheaper than the hotel. But this really sucks going back to Merida because there I have access to more money to exchange at a better rate, so by drawing all that money out of the ATM I really just threw out 900 American dollars. FML.

    Go to the bus station, just a dirty shady place, buy a bus ticket for 830pm, kill some time, eat some food, then at 8pm start looking for the bus. 815. 830 comes and goes, getting a little frantic, there is NO bus for this line at all, much less a bus heading to Merida by this line. Now I'm really stressing out, it's 9pm, I'm in a shady ass place and I REALLY should have accepted Silviu's offer to come crash on his couch. Also what's shitty is Silviu is flying to Panama on Sunday for a week, so no I can't take him up on his offer to ride through Caracas and show me around a bit. Anyhow, so I see there are two other bus lines that each have a bus to Merida, run back up to ticketing, all offices closed. Back down to the buses and beg the first bus driver if he has an extra seat for 100BsF, no he says, I'm getting to feel pretty miserable. Second and only other bus... I beg the bus driver. Then stand there watching the bus load just in case there's an extra seat. Ask the driver again, he looks at me and says I can jump in back with the luggage... then gives a laugh, takes my 100BsF and tells me to go find the empty seat up top. Thank god something just went my way!!

    Take the bus back, longest damn bus ever. 16 hours is painful. Sitting next to a pretty cool Spanish guy who flew over to visit Venezuela, Spain Spanish is so much easier to understand than Vzlan Spanish.

    Party up for the weekend, meet the new students at my school and catch up with the old ones that have stayed on for the extra semester, then hop on another 16 hour bus Sunday to Caracas where Silviu has arranged for another biker friend to pick me up from the terminal, take me to get the bike, then take me through Caracas to the road to Merida...

    (also of note, at around this time Silviu gave me a link to a set of amazing maps for Venezuela if you have a Garmin GPS, best maps I've ever seen really, so if you happen to be in traveling sometime in the Vzla send me a message and I'll send them or the link to you)

    Oh yeah regrets. I regret not shipping it by boat since it sat in customs for so damn long before I could get it, just wasted like an extra grand to fly it and a few extra hundred in warehouse storage fees.
    Or I regret not shipping it to Colombia or Panama, probably much cheaper and much less of a hassle. And honestly, who needs to ship a bike to Vzla just to ride a few days and then pay to ship it to Panama anyhow?
    #20