The Pack Track - RTW with our dogs

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by ThePackTrack, Sep 23, 2015.

  1. ThePackTrack

    ThePackTrack The Pack Track | Pillion Pooch

    Joined:
    May 22, 2015
    Oddometer:
    155
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    This thread is for The Pack Track's trip around the world. We started on 28 Feb 2014 and now more than 18 months later we are still going and have extended our trip making it open ended rather than limiting it to the 2 years we initially set out with.

    We are going to upload each and every blog from our website (www.ThePackTrack.com) to this thread but thought we’d run through a very quick summary of our journey so far for those who didn’t want to be hit all at once with pages and pages of story.

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    We started in Dallas, Texas, where we purchased 2 BMW 650GS single's (2006 and 2012). We kitted them up with panniers, long range fuel tanks, heavy duty suspension and other accessories that we thought necessary for an extended journey. We also had with us our 7 year old Staffordshire Bull Terrier Cross (Skyla) in a pet carrier of our own design made up by a metal worker in Sydney, Australia (our home town).

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    We hit the road once all the paperwork was sorted and made our way into Mexico, then through Central America to Panama. We visited each country in Central America including Belize, even if for only 1 night, but certainly spent much longer where we were enjoying ourselves, i.e. Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica.

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    From Panama we took a sail boat to Colombia, a method that we would recommend to do once but we would avoid in the future. Best advice here would be to do some research, some sail boats have a much better reputation than others or more importantly some sail boats have a terrible reputation. It's also important to know the captain or owner. Our experience we pretty bad, we ran out of fuel and water and ended up sailing in to Cartagena under wind with 20 odd thirsty backpackers. We also had ropes breaking in the night with heavy seas and a single 20 man life raft for about 23 passengers and crew!!!

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    Once in Cartagena we stopped for a few days to rest and check out a beautiful colonial city but before long we got back on the road and headed for Venezuela. We had been told by many to avoid Venezuela due to the crime and political uncertainty. However, our experience was fantastic, beautiful landscape, lovely people, great roads (for the most part) and very very affordable. Venezuela has an illegal black market exchange rate, but everything in the country is set at this rate (unless a McDonald's Big Mac usually cost $40-$400). During our first visit we were changing money at 60:1 but the last time we entered about a year later the exchange rate had increased to 700:1 while the cost of things in the country had only slightly increased, except for the foreign run businesses such as McDonald's, The official exchange rate during this whole time, and what the ATM’s will give you, was 6.3:1, clearly no comparison. We were on a tight time schedule during our first visit as we were heading to Brazil for the Football World Cup but we decided afterwards we would return to Venezuela and spend some serious time there.

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    The World Cup and Brazil was amazing, in Manaus we were hosted by the Almas Livres Moto Clube, a motorcycle club with a clubhouse in the heart of Manaus. We stayed with them free of charge for 11 nights and were heavily involved in the festivities and watching in great excitement as Brazil started their World Cup journey with wins!!! From Manaus we flew to Porto Velho and hired a car to travel around the country for the remainder of the cup, this decision was made due to the time it would take to travel down the Amazon (the only way to travel to and from Manaus from anywhere else in Brazil) and the large distances we had to cover to watch each game. Of course Skyla flew with us and enjoyed the change of transport for the 4 weeks of the tournament but was happy to get back to her bike before long.

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    Once the finals were over, we returned to Manaus and picked up our bikes. Our next destination was Guyana. We planned to stay for about a week and also visit Suriname and French Guiana but issues with visas prevented us from entering Suriname and therefore French Guiana. The road to Georgetown in Guyana was one of the highlights of our trip, 4 days in the jungle riding through mud and sand, our daily average was around 100kms a day but this would take us most of the day. From Georgetown we took a 36 hour ferry to Mabaruma near the border with Venezuela hoping to find a way through, but after a week of asking around we gave up and took the ferry back. Eventually we found a boat willing to take all of us (people, dog and bikes) to San Felix in Venezuela. This journey hasn't been well blogged about on our site, but essentially we were stopped by some very dodgy water police and threatened to have our bikes impounded if we didn't pay a USD$5,000 bribe!!! We certainly didn't have that kind of money or could afford to pay and we kept telling them this, but they insisted. After about 3 hours of getting nowhere, they eventually just gave up (I guess it was getting late and it was becoming obvious that we weren't going to give them any money). So a little pissed off but happy to be away from corrupt police we continued. Once in San Felix we were met by a good friend who took great care of us and made sure of our safety.



    To Be Cont.
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  2. ThePackTrack

    ThePackTrack The Pack Track | Pillion Pooch

    Joined:
    May 22, 2015
    Oddometer:
    155
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    Skyla became ill in Venezuela, she had been diagnosed with Cancer prior to our trip but we had gone to great lengths to try and cure her, unfortunately the Cancer proved too strong. She passed away in the little town of El Callao and was buried among rolling hills well off the beaten track. Soon after we headed to the Gran Sabana with the intention of climbing Mt Roraima and visiting Angel Falls. The Mt Roraima climb was a great way to forget about the world while we got over Skyla, 5 nights in the wilderness surrounded by truly beautiful and unique landscapes that changed daily. As for the Angel Falls visit, there had been a fuel shortage and some protests which resulted in a lot of activities being closed so all that was offered was an extremely expensive fly over, being happy enough with what we’d seen climbing Mt Roraima we declined and opted to go exploring the rest of the country.

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    We ended up staying 3 months in Venezuela and it was there that we decided to extend our time. About a month after losing Skyla we were offered another dog by a friend. Negrita quickly fell in love with riding and although disabled due to a car accident was full of life and happiness, just what we needed at that time.

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    With our new companion, we reentered Brazil and headed for the big sites in Rio de Janeiro and Foz do Iguacu. Our trip through Brazil was suppose to be fast but with more engagement from the Moto Clubes we were finding our time constantly taken up and being hosted in nearly every place we stopped. We visited Paraguay and Uruguay before getting to Buenos Aires in Argentina. Asunción in Paraguay was amazing, definitely a place we could have stayed for longer, but we had plans for New Years Eve in Buenos Aires and so had to cut our stay short. Uruguay on the other hand was a short stop for us, the cost of accommodation was just too much to stay any longer then a night but it was necessary for us to enter as we did not have enough $USD to survive in Argentina. Like Venezuela, Argentina has a black market exchange rate but to a lesser degree, the blue dollar exchange rate, as it is known, is about 50% higher than the official rate, so taking money out of an ATM less desirable but not the end of the world if in a pinch. money changers can be found almost anywhere in Argentina, you just have to ask around, if you are having trouble a hotel or casino are good places to start.

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    To Be Cont.
    #2
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  3. ThePackTrack

    ThePackTrack The Pack Track | Pillion Pooch

    Joined:
    May 22, 2015
    Oddometer:
    155
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    We keep travelling south, fighting insane dusty winds along long boring roads. Luckily there there were pretty little coastal towns separated by up to 400kms which made for a good day's ride and a nice place to stop for the night. Ushuaia in the Argentinian district of Tierra del Fuego was well worth the effort, a meeting point of motorcyclist, backpackers and other travellers all excited about having reached 'del Fin del Mundo' - the End of the World. We stayed and unwind while enjoying the scenery for 2 weeks, we met some very good friends from all over the world, many of whom we are still in touch with and have plans to visit. Eventually however, we had to get back on the bikes and started our journey north.

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    We rode into Chile and across to the other side of Patagonia where we decided to cheat a little and instead of riding through southern Chile we booked onto the Navimag ferry, a 3 night ferry trip in comfort through the Chilean fjords. This was a beautiful trip and with kennels on board it made a great deal of sense as we were trying to make up lost time.

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    Once off the Navimag ferry we continued our ride north jumping back and forth between Argentina and Chile to hit landmarks and visit friends, for the most part we remained pretty low in elevation, even though we were passing among the highest mountains in the Americas we were mostly below 1,000m on the passes. This would change as we got further north and up near Bolivia we crossed into Chile at 4,200m, the highest elevation we'd experienced. When we arrived the crossing was closed, so we had to spend the night. That night was terrible, we weren't at all accustomed to the elevation, that morning we'd set off at around 1,200m and so the increase was in no way gradual. We took headache tablets which helped us sleep but it wasn’t something we wanted to make a habit of.

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    We entered into Bolivia at the southernmost point through the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve. This was another great highlight of our trip, off road for about a week, we started by settling in for a couple of nights camping near a great hot spring and trying to get over the altitude sickness. We kept our daily riding distance to under 100kms a day, with most days actually under 50kms. During this time we visited some magnificent sights and more often than not we stayed in established accommodation. We ventured up to 5,000m in elevation and were told of a snow covered road that could take us up to 5,700m if we dared, we decided against it as it would have taken us a bit out of our way and a few days longer, but maybe next time!!! The Uyuni salt flat was truly spectacular, a riding experience like no other and not to be missed, it was like riding on a giant slab of concrete while having more in common with boating on a lake than riding a motorcycle. Other vehicles would appear and disappear over the horizon which was roughly 6 kms away on a flat surface while destinations could be 100’s of kms away, you'd be riding to an 'island' which you couldn't see until you were within a few 10's of kms, just amazing.

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    To Be Cont.
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  4. ThePackTrack

    ThePackTrack The Pack Track | Pillion Pooch

    Joined:
    May 22, 2015
    Oddometer:
    155
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    Bolivia had plenty more to offer, as did Peru, its culturally similar neighbour. We spent about 6 weeks in total in both these countries visiting Inca and Nazca ruins and experiencing the current cultures. Again we were shown some great hospitality from local moto clubs which continued into Ecuador and Colombia. Cuenca in Ecuador was a place we both decided we could live, a large expat community made life a little easier with almost every comfort you'd come to expect in western living. Unfortunately we didn't have time to hang around too long but long enough to make friends. Returning to Colombia was brief as we wanted to return quickly to Venezuela to visit friends and attend a Moto Evento in Coro, Falcon State. It was amazing to see how the country had continued to deteriorate but great to catch up with some very good friends.

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    On our return to Bogota we found a dog on the road, she had been hit but the only damage seemed to be a bulging eye. We removed her from the road very quickly, much longer and she would have been flattened by the many trucks that used that main road. We asked around to try and find out who she belonged to but were constantly told that she was a street dog and although various people fed her she didn't belong to anyone. Needing veterinary help, we took her with us to Bogota, it was late so she would need to wait until morning. The hotel we stayed at was not pet friendly, so Negrita had to sleep in the garage, this was not a problem usually, but there was no way we were leaving this new little dog by herself, so we hid her in some clothing and walked straight up to our room, problem solved.

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    The next day we took the new dog to the vet where she had her eye removed, we also decided to adopt her as we knew rehoming would be hard and she would need attention for the next 2 weeks at least. This meant that we needed her vaccinations and a health care certificate for entry to the US as we were flying to Miami within the next couple of days. The vet took care of everything for us, doing a lot of work at no cost. Roughly on schedule we left South America by air and returned back in the USA where we were happy to be able to speak to everyone again in our native tongue.

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    Importing the bikes and dogs went alot smoother then we expected and within a few days we were able to leave Miami and start the USA/Canada leg of our trip. We had been a little concerned about the cost of travelling through the USA and Canada, in particular the cost of accommodation, even camping, but we were introduced to ADVrider and TentSpace by an Argentinian rider who had travelled to Alaska and told it would be very helpful for us, finally we were now in a position to test it out. Our stay in Miami and all the way up the east side of the country to Ottawa saw us staying with great people found here on ADVrider, a wonderful community service, we've had people offer their homes while they are away and always shown a good time and usually an accompanied ride out when we leave where work has permitted.

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    So it turned out that with Shadow, we got more than we bargained for. When we picked her up she must have been about a week pregnant, because within 7 weeks she gave birth to two adorable little pups. Unfortunately one did not survive more than a few hours in the real world. This was devastating for The Pack Track especially being only one day after the anniversary of Skyla’s passing. We named her Cinnamon and buried her in the garden of a family home in Ottawa. The surviving pup we called Maple and decided not to give up, after the trauma of losing one we thought it best that Shadow get to keep her only child.

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    To Be Cont.
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  5. ThePackTrack

    ThePackTrack The Pack Track | Pillion Pooch

    Joined:
    May 22, 2015
    Oddometer:
    155
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    We now find ourselves in Ottawa, Canada and planning to ride over to the west rather quickly before it gets too cold. Our next deadline is New York on 3 Jan 2016 for a ship to the United Kingdom. Until then we'll be working our way anti-clockwise around North America visiting sights, friends and family.

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    We will try to keep this thread up to date by posting new blogs directly as they are written. We welcome your feedback and hope you find them entertaining.

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    Thanks for reading,
    #5
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  6. ThePackTrack

    ThePackTrack The Pack Track | Pillion Pooch

    Joined:
    May 22, 2015
    Oddometer:
    155
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    DELAYED START
    January 30, 2014

    Had everything gone to plan my wife Janell, our 7 year old Bull Terrier mix Skyla and I (Stu) would be riding through Central America right about now. What went wrong? Skyla was diagnosed with cancer (Lymphoma) in October 2013 only weeks after booking our flights to Dallas. We were rapidly packing up our life in Sydney in preparation for a two year motorbike adventure across four and half continents.

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    Without treatment Skyla had only months to live. The news of lymphona was devastating and placed a major obstacle in our plans to travel around the world as a family. The tears and disheartened feelings were short lived as we turned to the internet for options to extend her quality and length of life. A Google search resulted in an article about a border collie called Muffin that had undergone a Bone Marrow Transplant as a potential cure in recent years. We approached the lovely team at Dee Why Veterinary Hospital AMS who were more than happy to help us pursue this option and put us in contact with the talented team of vets (Alex, Angela, Catherine and Sandra) at the Sydney Animal Referral Hospital (ARH). Skyla’s chemotherapy treatment commenced asap. Skyla is extremely lucky to be able to undergo this treatment, it’s very new and Skyla will be only the 5th dog in Australia to undergo the treatment and one of only tens around the world. While she is always excited to see the vets at ARH, happily wandering into the consultation room and accepting copious amounts of treats, she is always very keen to leave at the end of an appointment after the necessary prodding and poking. Everyone at ARH knows her as the “noisy staffy” as she expresses her excitement at leaving the facility. We like to think that in some way she knows that we are doing the right thing by her. So, we got this news about 3 months before our planned departure date, and with a treatment schedule of over 5 months, we rebooked our flights for late February and started concentrating on Skyla's recovery. The plan now is to finish the treatment at the end of January and see all three of us happy and healthy boarding a Qantas flight to Dallas at the end of February 2014. We won't know if the treatment is successful in removing the cancer forever, we'll only know that every day we have with her is a day we wouldn't otherwise have had. Now that we are again so close to our departure date the three of us are getting back on track and planning this amazing adventure across 72 countries (over 1/3 of the world’s countries), spanning almost 5 continents on motorbikes. Two highlights of the trip will be following the Football World Cup in Brazil in June/July 2014 and also the Centenary Anniversary of Gallipoli in Turkey in April 2015. If you'd like to be a part of this journey;

    Its going to be one hell of a ride. We'll be updating our site and social media on a weekly basis (pending Internet connectivity) and be submitting articles to the Rock-itt magazine on a monthly basis so you'll always have new content to read and follow. Next month we’ll have landed in Dallas and be kitting up for the journey.

    Attached Files:

    #6
  7. ThePackTrack

    ThePackTrack The Pack Track | Pillion Pooch

    Joined:
    May 22, 2015
    Oddometer:
    155
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    LEAVING AUSTRALIA
    March 06, 2014

    Once this article hits the street the Pack Track will be in Dallas and gearing up for the journey ahead. The last couple of weeks have been hectic to say the least; finishing up our jobs, packing up our home, getting the all clear for Skyla to fly, purchasing our bikes from the other side of the world (2006 F650GS and 2012 G650GS see photos) and figuring out vehicle registration overseas. But now as we look back at our extensive to do list with ticks, crosses, double ticks and strikethroughs everything seems to be coming together. On the flip side we are only just realising the mamoth task we are about to undertake, and knowing the amount of preparation and work that has been done to date and that we haven't even started yet, we wonder what have we go ourselves in for jumping in to the deep end has not failed us in the past so hopefully our good fortune continues. So this month we promised a little more about us, having covered Skyla quite well in the last issue. There isn't too much to us really, a regular couple from Sydney's Northern Beaches who love motorcycles and animals (especially Skyla) and have a reasonable sense of adventure. Our love for animals extends beyond the family pet. We believe in the ethical treatment of all animals and strongly support the work of the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA). We have taken the opportunity to promote and fund-raise for WSPA through The Pack Track. Last Monday, 24 Feb 2014, the three of us were invited to the WSPA office in St Leonards to have a chat about our trip and record and interview. This will be available on both the WSPA and The Pack Track facebook pages. It is an amazing feeling to work collaboratively with other people and organisations who share similar passions and have made it their life work to make a difference.

    SOME FACTS AND FIGURES ABOUT STU AND JANELL

    Stu is 33 year olds and has finished a 12 year stint in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). He looks exactly the same as when he joined and was recently nicknamed Peter Pan. Stu studied electrical engineering and has put together all the communication and IT aspects of the trip including the website and social media sites. We know who to blame when it all goes to shit!!! Janell is 28 years old (well done Stu) and resigned from a great job working at Pittwater Council to embark on this trip. She is a civil engineer but specialises in politely bossing people around. All of her tasks in preparation for this trip somehow managed to be completed by Stu: a credit to her powers of delegation and persuasion.
    #7
  8. ThePackTrack

    ThePackTrack The Pack Track | Pillion Pooch

    Joined:
    May 22, 2015
    Oddometer:
    155
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    OUR FIRST BLOG
    March 16, 2014

    The clocks ticking and we've been in Dallas for two weeks now, relaxing a little more than we intended. We are both really happy with our bikes; Janell's 2006 F650GS and Stu's 2012 G650GS. They are kitted out with Touratech seats, panniers and extended range fuel tanks. In addition we have fitted a 240V inverter on Janells bike with the primary purpose of inflating a queen size mattress when we're camping. This is definitely the most expensive part of our trip but its important to get the right product for the purpose as well as quality products that will be resilient and durable for two years of adventure riding. The Texas hospitality and generosity has been out of this world! A number of local riders have taken time out of their days/nights to share their riding experiences, pass on helpful hints and gear and show us some great places to eat and drink in Dallas. We've been fortunate to join part of a ride with around 15 local guys heading North of Dallas. We only went part of the way as we very quickly realised we weren't prepared for the cold windy weather of Texas. A coffee break was welcomed to warm us up then the three of us headed home with a list of recommended clothing essentials for the cold climates and high altitude riding we will encounter on our trip. Interest in our trip, in particular Skyla, has pleasantly overwhelmed the three of us. Last Tuesday we were invited to attend the monthly Dallas Fortworth BMW riders group and give a quick introduction to our trip. Once the formalities of the evening ceased we were able to have a good chat to some members about trips they had done and are planning for the near future. In addition to the ride and meeting, other highlights so far include attending our very first ice hockey match (Dallas Stars vs Calgary Flames), listening to Texas music, tasting locally brewed beer and eating at some top star restaurants. To cap it all off, we've been staying at the Residence Inn in Richardson which is a fantastic pet friendly hotel with very happy and helpful staff. There have been a few minor dramas so far but nothing compared to what probably lies ahead of us. On our way through the flight security in Sydney, Stu accidentally left his Leatherman in our hand luggage so it was confiscated, keep an eye out for it on ebay or gumtree! On two separate occasions, Stu also forgot to remove the keys from the ignition, consequently running the battery flat. Luckily the bike was where he left it both times but guarantee it won't be the last time that happens. This is sounding like a 'Stu bagging' so better throw in Janells root canal which was a very unpleasant surprise following some minor toothache upon arrival in Dallas. Skyla's only hiccup has been adjusting to a different brand of dog food...lets just say that the windows in the hotel room don't open wide enough. It just goes to show that you can't plan for everything! To all our new friends in Dallas we would like to say a special thanks for welcoming us and helping us get up and running. Also a special thanks to the team at European Cycle Sports in Plano for their assistance acquiring and kitting up the bikes, our riding gear and familiarising us with the intricacies of each bike. Here are some photos...

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    To Be Cont.
    #8
  9. ThePackTrack

    ThePackTrack The Pack Track | Pillion Pooch

    Joined:
    May 22, 2015
    Oddometer:
    155
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
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    To Be Cont.
    #9
  10. ThePackTrack

    ThePackTrack The Pack Track | Pillion Pooch

    Joined:
    May 22, 2015
    Oddometer:
    155
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    [​IMG]

    Sorry, photo quality of these early blogs is very low, I think they must be thumbnail quality. Will have to look into it.

    Attached Files:

    #10
  11. ThePackTrack

    ThePackTrack The Pack Track | Pillion Pooch

    Joined:
    May 22, 2015
    Oddometer:
    155
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    BYE BYE DALLAS
    March 25, 2014

    To all those following our journey, thank you for your patience. Today, Monday 24 March 2014 we finally hit the road. Three weeks in Dallas has been lovely and we probably could have used another week preparing but it was time to crack the whip! Don't get too excited though, we only made it around 100 miles from Dallas. Checkout at the Residence Inn - Richardson (our home for the last three weeks) was noon today. Technically we checked out on time, 12pm on the dot, however we spent the next three hours in the car park loading up the bikes, throwing out excess stuff that didn't fit, repacking, throwing out more stuff and then repacking again. A slightly frustrating and yet comical process; comical when it was Stu's stuff being consolidated and frustrating when it was Janells and the inevitable debate on the necessity of 'luxury' items. The anticipation is building by this time as the sun starts falling to the west. Our plan was to ride to Austin, the Capital of Texas and a good four hour ride from Dallas when avoiding motorways. On top of the packing delays, our home made communications and navigation system was not working and we forgot to charge our phones, tablet or laptop so we had no maps. It is times like these that a good sense of humour is in order. We decided to jump on the Interstate 35, not recommended for bikes cruising at slower speeds, but direct and quick. We are now resting in a quaint motel on the side of a busy motorway with the sounds of sirens at random intervals. Luckily everyone we run into seem to be terrified of Skyla and so keep well clear, they clearly don't know her!! It feels good to be on the road. There is a sense of excitement in the air. The bikes look good all kitted up and we can continue to refine our storage and systems on the road.
    #11
  12. ThePackTrack

    ThePackTrack The Pack Track | Pillion Pooch

    Joined:
    May 22, 2015
    Oddometer:
    155
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    STILL IN TEXAS
    April 01, 2014

    The Universe is taking no time testing our fortitude. We three are sitting lined up in our tent, our first real day of camping with the rain pouring out of the heavens above us. While we have spent many a holiday back home camping and enduring such conditions, it has always been with a trusty car to pile into and drive to the nearest shopping centre or pub. The only (sometimes) unfortunate aspect of motorbikes is that you cannot escape the elements so we have decided to sit and wait it out and take the opportunity to up date our followers. [​IMG]We said a fond farewell to Dallas on Monday, 24 March 2014, our home for the last three weeks. The departure was not quite as we planned and are thankful for no great send off. Checkout from the hotel was midday and true to form, we handed over our room keys at 12:01pm. The plan for the day was to take the scenic four hour ride to Austin, the capital of Texas, set up camp and explore the city the next day. While we had checked out on time, we spent the next three hours in the hotel car park loading up the bikes, throwing out excess stuff that didn't fit, repacking, throwing out more stuff and then repacking again. So we get on the road but its getting late and our communication and map systems are not working. Everything passed the pre-flight checks the day before but with the sun quickly setting we had no time to muck around so we jumped on the Interstate 35. This is not an ideal route for adventure riders travelling at 60 mph (100 km/hour). Trucks and Trailers were passing us at around 85 mph (140km/hour). A few cars slowed down beside Stu to grab a happy snap of the 'dog on a bike' then returned to their original speed. Two hours on the road, it was getting dark so we pulled in to a motel on the side of the motorway to rest our weary souls. The blaring sound of sirens outside our motel window unsettled us as we hoped into bed but could not keep us awake after the activities of the day and we quickly drifted off.. A good nights sleep and a good coffee first thing in the morning improved our perspective of the situation and there was once again excitement in the air. With the rushing around and drama of the previous day we hadn't taken the time to realise that the journey was really starting now, no turning back! With a better idea of the direction of travel we were on the road at 11am. Austin is a very pretty city. It still had the feel of winter but there were signs of Spring returning to the trees with little sprouts of bright green emerging amongst the brown mesh of tree branches. Its quite easy to imagine the place in full bloom and how bright it would be. We only stopped for a late lunch then were back on the road, our destination a KOA camping ground in San Antonio. And now we're back to the beginning of the article, sitting in the tent hoping the rain will clear in the afternoon. We were lucky it was not raining in San Antonio when we arrived last night so we were able to set up the tent, queen size blow up mattress and camping kitchen (petrol fuelled and nearly burning the tent down, but that's another story). Being stuck in the tent gave us a chance to reflect on some of the highlights of the last three weeks. We made some wonderful friends in Dallas and spent most of our time kitting up and preparing for the trip with the help of these friends. It wasn't all work though, some highlights included seeing our first ice hockey match – Dallas Stars vs Calgary Flames – at the American Airlines Centre, checking out Down-town Dallas including the famous JKF assassination site and experiencing some comic relief at Backdoor Comedy. Now looking back to the very start of our journey is the flight. The three of us were on the same flight, QF007 (Qantas). It was a 15 hour direct flight from Sydney to Dallas. Janell was close to tears when leaving Skyla with the Customs Officers and the concern only escalated until the two were reunited in Dallas. All in all, the process was fairly seamless. There was a lot of paperwork to get through in both Australia and the USA but so long as you had the paperwork completed and knew where to go with it, it was just another process. Having put some kms/miles on our bikes and tested our gear we are so far really happy with the choices we've made including our Touratech auxiliary fuel tanks which have added an extra 22L to each bike, the Touratech seats that provide some added cushioning for longer rides and the Touratech Zega Pro 45L panniers which just hold all our stuff. FYI this is not a Touratech sponsored plug guys! In addition to the Touratech accessories, we have ourselves installed a 240V inverted for the purpose of inflating our queen size blow up mattress and recharging IT equipment. For those of you that think the queen size mattress is an unnecessary extravagance on a trip such as this, let us assure you that a good nights sleep is paramount to safe riding. Let us finish by stating that it feels good to be on the road. There is a sense of excitement in the air. The bikes look good all kitted up and we can continue to refine our storage and systems. The Texas hospitality has been out of this world and it is a place we will hold dear to our hearts. [​IMG]
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  13. ThePackTrack

    ThePackTrack The Pack Track | Pillion Pooch

    Joined:
    May 22, 2015
    Oddometer:
    155
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    CROSSING THE BORDER
    April 15, 2014

    Last we wrote to you The Pack Track was headed for a quick stop in Dilley, Texas, before crossing the Mexican border. The 'quick stop' turned in to two weeks!! We pulled in to Dilley to have a chat with the owner (Hank) of Motohanks BMW motorcycle service and repair centre about our proposed route through the America's. Hank has over 20 years experience working on BMW motorcycles and has travelled the roads of Mexico, Central America and South America on his own as well as taking motorcycle tours. Hank had a good look over our bikes and recommended replacing the shocks with the heavy duty Tourtech shocks to handle the bumpy roads ahead of us. One of the main advantages of the Tourtech shock is that it can be repaired (again we are not being sponsored by Touratech). Its important that we are able to patch up our bikes on the go and avoid situations where we are stuck waiting for new parts to be posted to us.
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    Our time in Dilley was not wasted. We spent a few days visiting San Antonio, a great city with some gems including the historic missions and the River Walk. We did some day rides to the famous Hill Country (two of the three sisters) to the south and west of San Antonio. Friends of Hank, Jim and Pat, kindly let us take a safari around their ranch looking for coyotes and roadrunners. [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]Into our second week in Dilley, Jochen from Germany arrived, also en route to Brazil for the world cup. Jochen is an old friend of Hanks and arranged the purchase of a yellow 1150 BMW through consignment for his trip (the colour of a bike is very important!). It was great to see two friends reunited, reminiscing their shared experiences, discussing BMW's and the riding highlights of the America's. One day this will be us! [​IMG]

    To Be Cont.
    #13
  14. ThePackTrack

    ThePackTrack The Pack Track | Pillion Pooch

    Joined:
    May 22, 2015
    Oddometer:
    155
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    Skipping forward to the border crossing, Hank and Jochen offered to ride with us to Real de Catorce in Mexico to assist with the border crossing at Laredo and get us off to a good start and their help was a god send. We rotated seamlessly through the various counters of the Aduana (customs) to get paperwork completed and stamped and luckily there was no queue so the process was speedy. It was a spoon-fed experience for us but for those unfamiliar with the process, the dramas are usually related to long queues, language barriers (Hank interpreted for us) and correct documentation for each person and vehicle. Please don't underestimate the importance of having the neccessary and accurate paperwork! Interestingly, you are only allowed one vehicle permit per person which is why it was important that stu's bike be registered in his name and my bike in my name. Now to the question on everyones mind and to Janells amazement, we had no trouble at all taking Skyla in to Mexico. Luck was most definitely on our side this time. We don't expect border crossings to be this easy in the future but we do hope for it. [​IMG]Once we got across the border the plan was to ride to Real de Catorce from Dilley in one day but as the day went on, and even with a quick border crossing, the decision was made to pull in and look for accommodation just after Monterrey. The road we took between Monterrey and Santiago where we found accomodation was so pretty; the Sierra Madre Oriental mountain range. We ascended and descended a mountain which had some challenging sections of road which made Janell quite nervous. When we finally settled for the night the first thing on her mind was an icy cold beer and a hot shower to loosen up the muscles and relax before bed. A good nights sleep was necessary to face the next days challenge...riding to our hotel in Real de Catorce. [​IMG]Photo above is our campsite that was set up in Hank's backyard for the two weeks. Hank and his Mum (Olivia) were so kind to put up with the three of us and all our stuff and made us feel quite at home :eek:)
    #14
  15. ThePackTrack

    ThePackTrack The Pack Track | Pillion Pooch

    Joined:
    May 22, 2015
    Oddometer:
    155
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    REAL DE CATORCE
    April 17, 2014

    Janell was nervous from the moment she woke up. We had been told all about the road leading to Real de Catorce (Real) and riding within the town and with every personal recount we heard and every mile we got closer to the infamous town, the more anxious she became. Its hard to describe to people who haven't experienced the polished cobblestone roads but even on an adventure bike, stopping or stalling a bike can so easily result in a fall. This is exaggerating a bit but for a novice rider, its kind of like riding on rounded ice cubes the size of base balls and as Janell can only touch the ground on tippy toes, the advice provided was don't stop! [​IMG]The four of us had a good start to the day, leaving Santiago around 9am with a beautiful sunny blue sky. We headed through the mountain range and found a little town for us to stop at for breakfast. We were invited into the home of a local family where they cooked us a typical breakfast of beans and veggies with tortillas on the side and home brewed black coffee. Yum!! It felt like such an honour to be sitting at their dinner table watching them cook in the fire stove. [​IMG][​IMG]Back on the road with full bellies we soon departed the mountain range and re-entered the motorway. We all picked up our speed but as soon as we reached 70mph, Janell's bike began to wobble. Over comms, we discussed the obvious wobble and backed off the speed but after several miles, pulled over to check out the problem. The guys inspected the bike and deduced that the weight on the back of the bike, and lack of weight on the front of the bike, was causing the nose to lift at high speeds resulting in the wobble. We pulled in to a gas station and filled up the long range fuel tanks to help even the weight distribution and continued at a slightly slower speed and this seemed to work a treat. A few miles from the Real turn off Hank had us pull in to a gas station to fill up, regroup and make sure we had enough money. Did you know that the Mexican currency is the Peso and is currently about 13:1 Australian Dollars? Did you also know that the gas stations in Mexico, called PEMEX, are all owned by the government and on any given day the price will be the same everywhere across the country? Well now you do. [​IMG]We grabbed a couple of pictures of the mountain we were about to climb then faced the road, travelling at around 35 – 45 mph and standing on the pegs made the trip quite comfortable. We all made it to the entrance of the tunnel, paid our 20 Pesos and before we knew it we had arrived. The bikes mounted on the footpath outside the hotel, we took more photo's as proof more than anything then checked in to the hotel. [​IMG]

    To Be Cont.
    #15
  16. ThePackTrack

    ThePackTrack The Pack Track | Pillion Pooch

    Joined:
    May 22, 2015
    Oddometer:
    155
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    [​IMG]Real is like going back in time; buckets of washing water thrown over the street, men on horseback, women and children selling local handy crafts at every turn. Walking along the streets the buildings haven't changed but if you sneak a peak inside some of them, you'll be surprised to find cappuccino machines, modern décor and EFTPOS in some of the stores (if the reception is good you can pay by card). Real also introduced us to rooftop relaxation. At home, the roof is a place people rarely visit and often forget about but standing on the rooftop of our hotel with a glass of red wine and the sun setting behind the mountain you can see washing, children playing and pets sleeping. [​IMG][​IMG]We spent only two nights in Real but really could have easily spent another. Real was a silver mining town and there are ruins of the manufacturing process and tunnels from where the silver was mined and processed. Jochen arranged a horseback ride for the three of us to see some tunnels and ruins. The round trip took around two hours and was a lot of fun and very safe. The horses know exactly where to go and when to stop so all you have to do is sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery. We said goodbye to Hank in Real de Catorce and 'see you soon' to Jochen who is following a similar path to us to Brazil for the World Cup. [​IMG]
    #16
  17. ThePackTrack

    ThePackTrack The Pack Track | Pillion Pooch

    Joined:
    May 22, 2015
    Oddometer:
    155
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    CATCH UP
    April 26, 2014

    Three sore bottoms pulled in to a tropical Cancun at 4:30pm. The Pack Track left the bustling city of Oaxaca on Wednesday, 23 April, with the goal of checking in to our accommodation in Cancun by 5pm on Friday 25 April. Thats approximately 1400km in three days. Why the hurry? Glad you asked! Stu's little brother (Greg) who moved to Canada about 18 months ago is flying down to spend 4 nights us :eek:) Its been a very eventful, exhausting and at times stressful three days but definitely worth it to see two brothers reunited!!

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    As with every place we've been in Mexico, we were sad to leave Oaxaca. Within the city itself there are beautiful churches to visit, arts, culture, interesting foods to try and you can lose yourself just walking the streets watching the locals go about their daily lives. Outside the city and within a 20km radius are ancient ruins dating back to 500 BC. We visited Monte Alban, Dainzu and Lambityeco. The entry price to each site seems to be proportional to the size of the site but still really cheap. We spent a couple of hours just wandering around Monte Alban, up and down the very bigs steps, trying to imagine how hard it would have been to build such majestic structures and what the inhabitants would have done each day. To mix things up we also visited a small town called San Antonio Arrazola where we bought a locally made wood carving.

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    To Be Cont.
    #17
  18. ThePackTrack

    ThePackTrack The Pack Track | Pillion Pooch

    Joined:
    May 22, 2015
    Oddometer:
    155
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    Anyone following us on facebook will know that we arrived in Oaxaca on Easter Friday. Our plan was to travel from Patzcuaro (where we had spent three nights in a quaint hotel called Hotel Pedregal de San Luis right around the corner from the main square) to Oaxaca in one day but we didn't quite make. Easter is a very religious celebration over here, not at all commercialised like back home. We couldn't find a chocolate Easter egg or Easter bunny anywhere! Anyway, we stopped at 12 hotels and they were either fully booked, no mascota (pets) or well out of our price range. Eventually we looked up a campground which turned out to be a perfect for us; San Felipe Campground, 175 Pesos a night and 6km walk in to the centre of town (we needed the exercise with all the tortillas and Coronas being consumed!).

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    We've missed a couple of destinations since our last blog so will quickly mention San Migueal Allende. We spent 3 nights here and it was our first leg in Mexico without support (Hank and Jochen). We were perhaps overwhelmed for the first two days trying to find our feet. Our Spanish is non existent so we quickly discovered 'street' food. Its cheap, tasty and you can point at the pots of food you want, just make sure you smile and say 'por favor' (please) so it doesn't come across as rude. If you prefer somewhere to sit and relax for a while, the rooftop restaurants are something fun and different and you can enjoy looking at the church towers or down on the brightly coloured streets during the day or sparkling lights at night. Mexico really comes to life at night but with the warm evenings its no wonder families and friends are out mingling, socialising and shopping.

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    Oh, besides tortillas with various fillings, one of our new favourites is scrambled eggs with cactus and tomatoes for breakfast. Just made some this morning for Greg and he seemed to like it as well.

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    We have a tally of falls...Stu 1 to Janell 3. Some we've caught on GoPro so you'll have to keep a look out on our webisodes (they tend to be a bit behind the blogs and facebook information).

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    #18
  19. ThePackTrack

    ThePackTrack The Pack Track | Pillion Pooch

    Joined:
    May 22, 2015
    Oddometer:
    155
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    CHICKEN PIZZA
    April 29, 2014

    Riding down the main boulevarde of Cancun we could have been in any luxury holiday destination around the world. Towering over us stood grandiose hotels with bright lights, restaurants with every flavour or taste you desire (even an Outback grill) and plenty of 'labels' for the shoppers. This famous area of Cancun is an ideal holiday destination for those that want to shop, dine and relax. But The Pack Track wasn't in Cancun for anything like that although we did make the effort to see a sunrise with Greg over the Atlantic Ocean to tick an item off his bucket list.

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    We rented a house in the suburbs of Cancun, more in keeping with the journey we are on. We found the street without a problem but it took us half an hour to find the house, even with the assistance of a local from the street who also found the system confusing; Mexican addresses are very different to most countries we have experienced. Casa Cropper is a two bedroom house with lounge room, kitchen and laundry for USD $31 and you can contact the owner by emailing betycropper@outlook.com. The (confusing) address is Calle 74 SM 232 M51 L10, Cancún, 77510, Mexico. We still don't understand what SM 232 M51 L10 means!! All the children from the street were out playing and gave us welcoming smiles and waves although there were a few shy ones that hesitated looking at us. All the neighbouring dogs also came out to see us so we quickly got Skyla off the bike and into the house before she started making a racket!

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    We only had enough time to unpack the bikes and do a bit of food shopping before it was time to collect Greg from the airport at 11pm. Back at the house we all got to chatting away and catching up and before we knew it the clock said 3am. The next day Greg hired a scooter for his stay with us and we all trotted around Cancun, comfortably, trying local food and beaches. The 200km day trip to Chichen Itza (or Chicken Pizza as Stu liked to call it) was a must to complete Greg's whirlwind Mexican experience. His scooter could only travel 70 km/h so it took us a while to get to the famous ruin site but also gave us all a chance to really take in scenery along the way (we took the free road instead of the usual toll road).

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    To Be Cont.
    #19
  20. ThePackTrack

    ThePackTrack The Pack Track | Pillion Pooch

    Joined:
    May 22, 2015
    Oddometer:
    155
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    Chichen Itza is a very big site to walk around with lots of pyramids, temples and carvings. The sky was a vibrant blue with scattered clouds, a photographers heaven. Every angle of every ruin demanded our attention. It was also a very hot day which made it tough going for Greg who had come from winter in Canada. He drank plenty of water and had a few rest stops in the shade while wandering around the site. He pushed through to make it around to see all the ruins and even managed some acroyoga poses with Stu on the grass in front of the largest pyramid.

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    If you're thinking of a self toured adventure in Mexico one thing you don't have to worry about is getting around. Vehicles are affordable to rent and the roads are great. Like in most countries these days there are two types of roads: toll roads (Cuota) and free roads (Libre). We've been travelling mostly on toll roads because of our time constraints. These roads are really good and really fast but from our experience there is very little adjacent to the road apart from fuel/gas stations, occasionally a tuck shop. Libres are the fun roads. You get to travel through towns, pull over and eat local food or check out local arts and craft. These roads are mostly sealed but we have been on some compacted gravel. Again from our experience, its a lot slower travelling through towns with the local traffic and topes (speed humps). Ideally we would like to do all our travel on the Libra roads but at least when we stay in a town for a few days and go exploring, it gives us a chance to take these scenic routes for day trips. The bikes are both holding up well so far even with the falls; only minor damage to front blinkers and Janell is missing the right rear view mirror. We bought two new sets of chain and sprockets from the BMW dealership in Oaxaca. Stu's bike probably has another 10,000 km's before this needs to be changed but Janell's bike needs to be done before leaving Cancun. We have been quite diligent in lubricating the chains every other day, a habit we're not used to after riding Harley Davidsons with belt drive.

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    Almost forgot to mention that in Cancun is the largest Mexican flag we've seen so far. If you're not familiar with it, below is an image . The emblem in the centre of the flag (the national coat of arms) is of an eagle sitting upon a cactus holding a serpent in its claws. A Mexican was explaining the history of this emblem to us. An indigenous population of the time, the Aztecs, were wandering the land waiting for a sign from their God for a location to settle. The sign was an eagle and serpent on a Nopal (prickly pear cactus) which appeared to them in the location of Mexico City today. Stay tuned for more Mexican trivia!!

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    #20