North to South America on a Honda 250 (back home)

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Joris van O, Apr 26, 2019.

  1. Joris van O

    Joris van O Been here awhile

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    The morning air was cool when I strapped my bags back on the bike. The clouds from yesterday had all disappeared overnight and I could feel that today was going to be a fantastic day.
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    Sometimes it seemed endless..
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    It was never boring, the landscape is just phenomenal. Almost every few minutes I pulled over to just stare for a while or snap a photo. The blue sky made it even better!
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    A herd of Vicuñas (or Guanacos), I saw a lot of them on the southern part of the route. There’s always one male on lookout away from the herd.
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    The highest point on the route is near the Sol de Mañana Geothermal area, just under five thousand meter (16.000ft). Even walking slowly I was out of breath quickly, oh and then there is the smell..
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    There are multiple fields in the area, when I went to the next one I didn’t pay attention where I parked and the bike fell over. I only noticed it after a few minutes and ran back to pick it up. Mistake: don’t run. I was so out of breath it felt like I was going to pass out. When I felt better I tried to start the little bastard but it wouldn’t budge, figured it was probably flooded and being at this altitude it’s running pig rich anyway. Tried starting it again but then heard the battery losing power. Pushstarting on the sand at this altitude would mean certain death for me so out came the toolkit to remove the plugs. I cranked it a few more times before putting the plugs back in and although coughing and sputtering it hesitantly came back to life. And then I dropped it again 1 minute later on some mud, kept it running this time.
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    Heading towards the thermal baths close to the Chilean border I met two English cyclists. Had a quick chat and asked if they needed anything, but they were alright. They were both carrying a 5L water container plus all their gear. I guess they were well prepared otherwise you wouldn’t tackle such a route on a bicycle.
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    More stunning views and Vicuñas.
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    Arriving at the thermal baths I was surprised to see so many people there, all of them brought there with the many Toyota Landcruisers. It was great to relax for a while, soaking in the hot water.
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    I asked for something to eat at the small restaurant there, it was expensive and pretty horrible. All the tour groups bring their own food so there’s not really anything available. While soaking I met a small group and they later invited me to join them for lunch.
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    It wasn’t far now, only the Salvador Dali Desert to cross and beyond I would find the Bolivian Customs.
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    The bugger fell over one more time, breaking the left mirror. Sorry @roadcapDen
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    Almost.. one more lake to go.
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    It was actually two lakes and the tracks ran right through the middle. But on the other side I spotted the Bolivian customs building.
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    One last look back to this incredible landscape I had just traversed. From what I’ve seen I would say it’s one of the best routes in South America!
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    Customs and immigration were a breeze, no one around. And soon I hit pavement for the first time in 500 kilometers. Whoohoo, a new country!
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    Coming down from the Altiplano to San Pedro de Atacama, it’s one straight road down the hill.
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    I didn’t even need reserve to reach the town. The extra 5 liters I got in Uyuni were enough to take me all the way to San Pedro de Atacama. The town is really touristy and that is reflected in the prices, coming from Bolivia they’re higher anyway. I changed my last Bolivianos, got dinner and a beer to celebrate!
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    Poor little Honda, in dire need of some TLC. But what a trooper it is!
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    DC950, swimmer, GISdood and 18 others like this.
  2. jeckyll

    jeckyll Kneedragger

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    Man, I'm finally caught up!

    What an amazing trip, really glad you made it home safely!

    Looking forward to the next installment :D
    Joris van O likes this.
  3. Viper7

    Viper7 Adventurer Supporter

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    Joris - What an adventure you've had! I was so sorry to hear about your Grandma. I do hope you find comfort in your memories with her. I finally caught up last night, or should I say morning. I couldn't stop reading until I got to your last post. I continue to be inspired by your sense of adventure and joy of exploring new regions and cultures. I am so glad that you took the quick route south. You just made it before the borders closed. Lisa and I were discussing the border closing and we wondered how you were doing with all of the restrictions. Your new CB450 looks like it has a lot of adventure potential. I hope to have an opportunity to meet again. Thanks you for sharing your story and your company - even if for just a couple days. Best Wishes Adventurer!
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  4. twowings

    twowings Comfortably Numb... Supporter

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    Remarkable and very enjoyable! Go somewhere else and take pictures, soon!!
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  5. Joris van O

    Joris van O Been here awhile

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    Haha I could see you were catching up, glad you like it! :)

    Thanks for the kind words Ron! I'm currently prepping the 450 for another trip, not much going on right now at home so might as well hit the road again for a few weeks.

    Hope all is well in Portland too, say hi to Lisa. And if you ever make plans for Isle of Mann let me know! (or any other European plans)

    Thanks! A new plan is in the works.. But will largely depend on if I get a job or not. Studying C-19 border closures is a new aspect in tripplanning though :D
    Stubanger likes this.
  6. landyguy

    landyguy Adventurer

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    May 3, 2010
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    Calgary,Alberta,Canada
    That little bike, what an amazing adventure both of you have been through! The ride through the desert must have been incredible. I showed the pictures to Dawn and as much as she dislikes barren land she liked them!!! Cheers.
    Joris van O likes this.
  7. roadcapDen

    roadcapDen Ass, Grass or Gas, no free rides.

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    Wow, breath taking and other worldly!
    Who'd a thunk that little mirror saw what it saw after it left here...
    Ride red!
    Joris van O likes this.
  8. roadcapDen

    roadcapDen Ass, Grass or Gas, no free rides.

    Joined:
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    Joris, FB and IG are great, but, we want you back here too!!!
    Joris van O likes this.
  9. nails1

    nails1 Been here awhile

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    Feb 21, 2008
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    New Mexico
    What's "Facebook"?
    Joris van O likes this.
  10. Joris van O

    Joris van O Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2015
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    I did upload a bunch of pictures to Flickr today, will post something soon!

    Last week I took the cb450 for a six day trip through Germany, France, Luxemburg and Belgium. Hitting all the highlights, Eiffel area, Black Forest, then through the Vosges north to the Ardennes. Had a great time and it felt good to be on the road, well and that we're allowed to cross borders again.

    And.. I made it through two job interviews this week and from the first of September I'm starting a new job. To add to that I'm also moving into a shared apartment by the end of this month. So things are coming along nicely. I was doubting how this 'return' to normal would go but so far its all smooth sailing.

    (Going to have a look at a 250 tomorrow morning :D)
    jeckyll, DC950, Chip Seal and 4 others like this.
  11. DC950

    DC950 Microadventurer

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    you've outdone yourself on the last part through the Bolivian desert :bow
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  12. Joris van O

    Joris van O Been here awhile

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    Leaving San Pedro de Atacama westbound you skirt along the Valle de la Luna, before beginning the slow descent to Antofagasta on the coast. Not a whole lot going on in this barren stretch of desert, except for windfarms and mining. Perfect when you want to put some miles down..
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    A few days before I was looking for something on this long route to break the monotony. I found there is an abandoned train ‘museum’ named Museo Ferroviario de Baquedano a few hours north east of Antofagasta. More a train graveyard but definitely worth the stop if you ask me! It was fenced off (sort of), and since someone else had already taken the liberty of creating an entrance it would have been rude not to use it.
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    More highways..
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    And then finally a blue horizon again! Ever since entering Chile from Bolivia it felt so much more like Europe or North America, easier, it’s more modern, more organized. You might say ‘that’s boring, there’s no adventure’, but sometimes it’s really nice to be able to get whatever you want at a big supermarket, use escalators, walk along a boulevard, go to McDonalds, watch Firemen practice driving skills, watch people having fun on the beach. Being able to unwind. Maybe I’m getting soft, but every now and then I need to take the easy way.
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    Although there are many beautiful mountain passes connecting Chile with Argentina, I opted to head south along the coast to make up some time. Besides, then I have some things left for when I return in ten years time :D So after one night in a little hostel in Antofagasta I got on the road again, not before long the next ‘Chile highlight’ came into view. Mano del Desierto, the hand in the desert. Constructed in 1992, the hand symbolizes how small and helpless humans are. There was a Colombian plated Honda 125, but the rider was sleeping in the shade a bit further so I didn’t talk with him. But seeing those little 250 and 125 Hondas there next to the statue that symbolizes vulnerability made me smile.
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    Dry dry dry..
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    Modern also means gas stations where you can get coffee and something to eat, apparently I thought it was so special that I took a photo of a stop in Chañaral.
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    I also skipped Pan de Azucar national park, just north of place I stopped for gas.
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    Hugging the coast again, the further south I got the more vegetation made its appearance again. From absolutely nothing to some dry shrubs to little bushes. The hunt for the first tree was on!
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    It wasn’t long before I was screaming ‘LOOOK A TREE’, in my helmet! Close to Copiapó they came back, you could almost call it a forest..
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    Found another little hotel with secure parking in Copiapó. The owner let me park it in the hallway.
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    Walking to the supermarket/shopping mall it reminded me a lot of the US. Could’ve been anywhere in Nevada.
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    Tried finding a decent new front tire in the morning but still no luck.
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    Next day, still dry. But slowly the scenery is changing the further south I get.
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    After an easy but not to interesting ride I made it to La Serena in the afternoon and checked in at a small hostel. Rolled the bike inside the gate and went for a walk. There was a botanical garden in the park right next to the hostel, so that was my first goal. I always enjoy a stroll through a botanical garden.
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    Continuing downtown, there were stalls selling all kinds of things. Got myself a smoothie and a sandwich from an old lady.
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    This is also Chile, most shops (especially banks and government buildings) have been heavily fortified to protect against riots. The closer to Santiago the more destructive these riots got I think.
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    Could’ve been a quaint little village in France or Spain..
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    From La Serena it was another long haul to the capital Santiago. I was making good progress, with the bike running like a champ and Chile being awesome I was enjoying every moment. On the way I came across to US plated KLR’s, we leapfrogged each other a few times but never got to talk.
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    That wasn’t until I got to Hostal Casa Matte, which was recommended on iOverlander as the place to go in Santiago. I was so so glad that I went there, such a cool hostel, the owner Cristian is a big Yamaha XT fan and avid motorcycle traveler! Not only did I found the two guys with the KLR’s there, I also found Gregg, Suhas and Rafal there with which I did the Stahlratte crossing. And Justin, from New Zealand, and Tim from Germany. It felt like coming home to a group of friends!
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    Beer time!
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  13. nails1

    nails1 Been here awhile

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    Alright, you're famous! You made the Newsletter!!!
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  14. BadgerND

    BadgerND n00b

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    I've spent the last 2 days reading about your trip. I did some great moto trips in my 20's, but nothing like this. Do it while you're young; I got married in my late 20's and raised a family. I just recently bought an enduro after not being on a bike for almost 40 years. You and others have inspired me. By the way in 2007, I drove to Alaska in a car by the Cassiar Highway with my wife. From 24 KM South of Iskut to Iskut, we saw 26 bears(6 grizzlies). That's a hell of a place to break down.
    HiJincs likes this.
  15. jeckyll

    jeckyll Kneedragger

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    Vancouver
    Reading through your ride report and stopped and went "HEY! I know that guy, it's Greg from New Zealand!"
    https://advrider.com/f/threads/glaciers-deserts-and-meeting-great-people.1402615/#post-38299411

    I met Greg in Chicken, AK and we hung out and chatted (I'd just dropped my bike after getting my leg caught on the heat shield on the Tenere). Super nice guy! Hope he got his fork seals fixed properly, he was upset after doing the Dalton and having them leak and the Honda dealer didn't treat him particularly well.
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    What a small world :)
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  16. treebumper

    treebumper Macro Trav

    Joined:
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    NC Piedmont/Blue Ridge
    Wow, finally finished thr pg 29, to the neglect of almost everything else for the past few days. Great writing & pics! You really do a great job of pulling the reader into your story. I've been following the journey with Google Maps on an adjacent tab, and it helps me to understand your experience better.

    While in college I worked one summer in Quito Ecuador, and your pictures really brought some memories back, particularly Quilotoa. One Sunday, before it was a the park it is today, a couple co-workers, Ecuadorans, talked me into borrowing a company pickup to drive from Quito to Quilotoa for a hike into the crater. On the way down, a bus in front of us decided to play chicken with an oncoming dump truck, both loaded with passengers inside and outside the vehicles. The north bound lane had been closed due to construction and the northbound truck wasn't going to yield to south bound traffic. Luggage and people were flying everywhere after the inevitable collision. I'd pulled over to the left lane between piles of dirt to avoid the expected crash. we somehow managed to carry 12 or more people in the truck bed & in the cab to the Latacunga hospital about 12 kms down the hwy haulin' ass as quickly as I dared to push it. We dropped them off at the front door, and I'm sure there were serious injuries, but never heard another thing about it in the newspaper or anywhere.

    We all were pretty shook up but proceeded on our way on to Quilotoa, drove right up to the rim, had an easy hike down into the caldera to the lake, and one hell of a wheezy arduous hike back up for me. The other 2 guys were fine having grown up in that environment. I'd forgotten we were almost 13,000 ft elevation!