Chicago to Panamá y Más Allá - A Staged Journey Through Latin America

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Parcero, Nov 21, 2011.

  1. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial Supporter

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    That's how it goes sometimes, kaspilo, but I have had so few issues over the course of this staged journey that I can't really complain. It still beats a day at the office, and it just means that I have to come back soon!

    I checked out your postings on reliability of German vs. Japanese. Some good food for thought. I have some old Japanese dirt bikes (Honda XR250 and XR400) that don't get ridden much but they also don't get any maintenance--just ride 'em and put 'em away until the next time--for many years. And they always start and run!
  2. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial Supporter

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    Thanks, and you too! As I said before, Bolivia is full of hidden gems!


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  3. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial Supporter

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    I got up early and went up to the second floor lounge of the hotel to watch the sunrise. It was a crisp morning and a little below freezing.
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    The lounge has a low ceiling. I could have used one of these signs in the restaurant in San Borja where I literally knocked myself out after hitting my head on a low beam.
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    The hotel was booking day tours of the Salar for $110 per person for a group tour of $250 per person for a “private” tour. I took Victor’s advice and went into Uyuni where scores of tour operators compete for business. I scored a tour for $75 per person, probably a little higher than I could have paid, but the driver agreed to drop me off at my hotel instead of Uyuni, which would save me the $40 cab ride.

    Laura Tours. All the tour companies operate the same sort of vehicles, regardless of price.
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    The first stop was the train cemetery. Really not much to see here, unless you like rusted steel.

    Like Casey Jones.
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    The next stop was the little town of Colchani, where we stopped for souvenirs. I bought a sweater and a hat, since I didn’t bring any cold weather gear.
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    After that is was off the the bubbling springs.
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    Then on to the Dakar Monument.
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    And to the island of flags.
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    Love the shoveled salt.
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    Next we started off on the long trip to the dormant volcano at Coqueza.
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    And checked out the pink flamingos.
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    Then it was time for a picnic lunch on the Salar.
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    After lunch, I conquered the community!
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    Exercising with salt blocks.
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    Doing my best @Radioman jump.
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    Off to the “island” of Inkahuasi.
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    Cactus Island.
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    I love these guys.
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    Tour company trucks parked at the island like boats.
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    Then off to see the sunset on the Salar.
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    And some final pictures and jumps on the Salar.
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  4. Nateman

    Nateman Adventurer

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    Casey Jones you better watch your speed.

    The photo of the picnic lunch Is amazing.
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  5. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial Supporter

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    Thanks, Nathan! It’s really hard to get a bad picture on the Salar. It’s a spectacular place.


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  6. Nateman

    Nateman Adventurer

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    So no BR-319 on this stage?
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  7. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial Supporter

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    Definitely not on this stage, Nathan. I will be returning for the bike fairly soon, but I'm not sure that I'll be able to give the BR-319 a try while it's still the dry season. A heavy rain could turn sections of that road into a quagmire and, if that happens in too many places, could add a lot of time to a trip. Unfortunately, I don't have the luxury of being able to do an open-ended stage.

    I expect to have a plan hatched for the next stage in the next couple of days.
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  8. Nateman

    Nateman Adventurer

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    I can't wait to hear it! :norton
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  9. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial Supporter

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    Nate, I will fly to Santa Cruz to pick up the bike and get it out of Bolivia at the end of the month, well in advance of the TVIP expiration.
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  10. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial Supporter

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    After almost 30,000 miles, 13 stages, and 17 countries, countless airline flights and connections, it’s time to close this chapter of my Latin American journey.

    When I started this trip back in 2011, my goal was simply to ride to Panamá and then air ship to Colombia for a ride there. After that two-week ride, the plan was to park the bike until it was spring here in the U.S.A., fly back to Colombia and ride home, albeit at a slower pace than my southbound trip.

    Based in large part on the sage advice of my friend and fellow inmate Dave @djones745 I decided, rather than to head home, to see if there was a way that I could make it to Ushuaia. As long as I had a bike in South America, I would just need the time.

    I poured over maps and ride reports and investigated what I wanted to see on the way down to get an idea of how much time I would need. My best estimate was that I would need three weeks minimum riding time just to get there, and of course at least a three to four more days in each country to detour and see what I wanted to see. Since I was in Colombia, I was five countries away from Ushuaia – Colombia, Ecuador, Perú, Chile, and Argentina. Those three or four extra days in each country would add 15-20 days, or make the trip a five- to six-week ride. There was no way I could get away for that amount of time at that stage in my life.

    Another friend in Colombia suggested the idea of staging my ride. He had a friend in Santiago, Chile with whom I could store my bike, and I had a friend who had recently moved to Ecuador who agreed to let me keep my bike I his garage in Cuenca. I still needed a place in Perú, so I tapped into another friend I had met on the Colombia ride who mentioned he had stored his bike in Cusco between stages. That got me in contact with Doris in Cusco, and it was set up. And that’s how it began, and I am glad to have been able to extend the trip and continue riding and exploring South America in stages ever since, for seven years.

    Having explored such a large part of the continent, I really wanted to finish South America by riding through the only four countries that I haven’t yet been to there – French Guiana, Suriname, Guyana, and Venezuela. Venezuela would likely be a no-go due to the current situation there and the difficulty for U.S. citizens to obtain visas. The others would be easy, and I already had the Suriname visa in my passport.

    Setting up for those three countries was to include a trip to Manaus, Brazil, using Brazil’s notorious BR-319 through the Amazon jungle after my third Bolivia stage. Including them would add at least three more stages to my trip, from Santa Cruz, Bolivia to Manaus, then Manaus to Macapá by boat on the Amazon Riverboat, then Macapá to Guyana, where I could ship the bike home from Georgetown.

    As I wrote about in this report, I didn’t make it to Manaus. I explored the possibility of riding to Belém on the next stage, and then on to Georgetown on some future date. Scheduling has become more of a problem as I have become very busy at home both with business and family matters. With my time limited, I find myself wanting to explore other areas of the world, and even more of the U.S.A., like some of the numerous Backcountry Discovery Routes, the Continental Divide Trail, and Alaska. I am also getting a bit burnt out on the planning and logistics of the last three stages.

    For all of these reasons I decided that the upcoming trip to Santa Cruz to retrieve the bike will be the last stage—just a short ride to Buenos Aires, where I will ship the bike home with the help of Javier at Dakar Motors and fly back to Chicago, ending this long-running adventure.

    I unequivocally have loved every mile of this trip, and saw and experienced some amazing places and cultures. Of all the great places I’ve seen and experiences I’ve had, my fondest memories by far are of all the wonderful people I have met and friends that I have made over the course of this trip. Mike from Motolombia in Cali, Colombia who has become a close friend and joined me on a trip to Australia and several in the U.S.A., along with the dozens of other people I have met in Colombia over the years and with whom I remain in contact regularly; Mick in Santiago who was gracious enough to allow me to store my bike for over four years; Hugo in Dalcahue, on the Isla Grande de Chiloé, Chile, who graciously retrieved and stored my bike after it was confiscated by aduanas for overstaying my TVIP; Thibauld in Buenos Aires who arranged long-term garage space for my bike, allowing me to return several times to and explore other countries with BsAs as my base; Walter in Mendoza who provided not only moto storage, but personally guided me on probably the best two-day local tour of the Mendoza area that one could ever wish for, and then cooked me dinner to boot; @CanuckCharlie, whose ride report I had followed from its beginning and which provided inspiration and routing suggestions, and whom I met serendipitously in person on the road in northern Argentina; Chris from Bolivia Motorcycle Tours who stored my bike, and whom I hired to take me on an absolutely amazing loop of Bolivia last March; and of course Radioman, who’s incredible RTW ride report served as initial inspiration and guidance, and whom I met in Medellin, Colombia and have also had the pleasure of hosting at my home in Chicago during one of his domestic moto trips.

    More than the usual amount of emotion is running through my mind as I get ready for this stage. I sometimes wonder if when I arrive in Bolivia and jump on the moto, I’ll change my mind, re-route to Belém, Brazil to set up for a final push through the countries that I missed. Or maybe rather than shipping the bike from BsAs, I might park it there again to be able to continue the trip at another time. But then I always arrive at the same thought--that it’s time to close this chapter, let the trip evolve from reality into so many wonderful memories, and let the ride report settle to the dark recesses of ADVRider for eternity, with so many other great, old adventures.

    Now on to the mechanics of packing up and travelling to Bolivia, retrieving the moto, and making the final push to Buenos Aires.
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  11. kaspilo

    kaspilo Been here awhile

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    Hi Parcero..! Sad to hear you are hanging the gloves for this stage of your adventures. I enjoyed reading your posting, looking at your pictures and enjoyed your narrative, but I guess everything has to come to an end.

    Although I'm eager to hit the Adv roads, I woke up to the realization that I need to be more conservative in my riding and the roads I take. Dirt roads with a hard substrate and loose gravel on top of it are no longer in my selection.. I'm just getting too old (I take too long to heal).

    Hopefully we may get the opportunity to ride someday. If u ever get to ride the TAT through NW-Arkansas & Eastern-Oklahoma, or you are just passing by, plz give me a call. It will be great to meet you and I will take you to the local watering hole + the best juicy/greassy burger joint west of the Mississippi.

    If I can be of any help plz do not hesitate to contact me...

    Good luck!
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  12. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial Supporter

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    Kaspilo, I sure hope that we can get together for a ride soon. There’s a chance that I’ll be in your part of the country later this year and if that happens, I’ll let you know. Perhaps we can even meet in Bolivia for a fly and ride adventure. I know you said that now you’re looking for more conservative rides these days, and at the rate the main highways are getting paved and improved in Bolivia, it will offer the option of easy riding between any major cities probably sooner than we think.


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  13. Nateman

    Nateman Adventurer

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    Oh, man. I'm a little sad to hear it's the end of the line for this adventure, but I have really enjoyed following along. I hope the next one is already being planned. :thumb
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  14. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial Supporter

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    One more short stage to go, so it's not over yet. I'll be departing in a few short days to Bolivia.

    As for planning the next adventure--not yet. I always have a long bucket list and head full of ideas, but no real plans as yet.
  15. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial Supporter

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    Bolivia 4.0 here I come!

    Traveling light, although I have no idea why I brought the tank bag back with me from the last stage.
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    Chillin’ and waitin’.
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    Thanks for all of the great service, Copa!
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    There’s my @MoskoMoto Backcountry 30L Duffle being loaded onto the plane at ORD. Tough as nails, and holds all my gear, including riding jacket and pants.
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    And I’m off!
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  16. powderzone

    powderzone Been here awhile Supporter

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    Safe travels! I’m just waiting at the gate to fly the final leg home after flying from Antofagasta to Santiago to Toronto. This fly and ride thing is tiring. Good luck on whatever direction you decide to point the beemer.
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  17. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial Supporter

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    Thanks!

    It is tiring but it sure beats a day at the office. Your ride looked like a blast. Get in, get it done, and head home. I see a few of those in my future!

    Safe travels!
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  18. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial Supporter

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    Picked up the bike this morning from Andar BMW in Santa Cruz. They were just opening when I arrived and were scrambling around a bit, but the wait wasn’t long and they served me up some coffee from their Isetta Bar while I waited.

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    All (lightly) packed and ready.
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    New brake pads all around, high- AND low-beams that work and a headlight housing that actually aims the lights at the road and not up at the sky and at oncoming traffic, finally a new clutch lever to replace the old one that broke off in a crash in Santiago six years ago, and a fresh oil change. The bike feels much better.

    Saturday traffic in the city was ridiculous and made getting out of Santa Cruz a multi-hour affair. When I was finally out of the tranque, I took Ruta Nacional 7 south to the border at Yacuiba. It’s all nicely paved, with many sections brand new. The first hundred miles where flat and straight, but then the road was full of nice twisties in some sections with some low mountain passes. The terrain was varied and had everything from agricultural to dry scrub but turned green and lush the farther south I went. It was hotter than Hades, with my ambient air temp gauge bouncing around between 98 and 103.

    It’s no wonder most of the rivers I crossed were dry, including the aptly-named Río Seco.

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    I really wished that I had some time to blast around a bit on that dry riverbed.


    I had “lunch” in this little dusty strip of a town. Actually it was three bottles of water and a four-pack of Oreos.
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    I wanted to make it to Argentina today, but I didn’t roll into Yacuiba until 6:30 PM, just about sunset here. The traffic was insane near the border, with street vendors cleaning up after what must have been a massive multi-block street market, while semi trucks and tour buses were creeping through the same crowded narrow streets.

    It was still 97 degrees, and my temperature warning light was coming on steady. I shut down the bike and decided to get a hotel for the night. I’ll tackle the border in the morning.

    A quick dinner at the restaurant in the Hotel Paris and lights out.
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  19. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial Supporter

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    I left the Hotel Paris at 5:16 AM local time to be able to maybe have a chance at beating whatever lines might be at the border and have a chance at making Cordoba today.

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    When I arrived just 15 minutes later there was already a line due to three tour busses that arrived before me.

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    Despite the line, I was stamped out of Bolivia about 30 minutes later, cancelled my TVIP and was told I didn’t need a passport stamp into Argentina, so I went to aduanas to register the moto. The agent asked me for insurance, which I had completely forgotten about. I purchased it online years ago before entering Argentina near Bariloche, and they didn’t even ask for it. It had long since expired, and I was never asked for insurance in Argentina by anyone, including at all the border crossings I did on my way to Ushuaia and back. I figured if I needed it at a border, there’s always someone selling it nearby.

    The agent said no such luck at this border. I spent the next hour or so trying to buy it online, but had no success either because most sites can’t handle foreign plate numbers and US passport numbers being used in lieu of a Argentinian RUT number, or the internet connection was so bad it was next to impossible to use.

    My only option was to turn back and try to buy insurance in Bolivia or alter my plans altogether.

    Reentering Bolivia required not only a new TVIP, but a letter from Argentina immigration that I was unable to enter so Bolivia was able to just cancel the new exit stamp, pretty much before the ink was even dry.

    Once I got past that step, I went back to get a new TVIP which was a quick process. There weren’t a lot of personal vehicles crossing the border.

    Three hours later and back where I started from.
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    So I figure I’d head back into Yacuiba to the hotel and glom off their WiFi or borrow a computer to try to buy insurance and then blaze back to the border. As soon as I got one block into town, the road was blocked. The police told me that today is a “pedestrian-only” day, so no motorized vehicles past the point of the roadblock, and until 6PM to boot.

    Here I sit.
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    At least I have a long time to try to buy insurance. Since nothing is open today due to it being a Sunday, my only hope is online. So I’ll spend my time alternating between my cool shady perch near the bike and the hot sunny spot with a strong LTE signal about two blocks away.






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  20. powderzone

    powderzone Been here awhile Supporter

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    Ugh...insurance can be such a pain in the butt. Hopefully you can get it sorted ASAP.
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