There and back again - My solo ride from NC to Ushuaia and back - Currently in Chile

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Windham, Sep 27, 2018.

  1. Windham

    Windham Adventurer

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    Good to hear from another NC native! I’m currently in Panama City waiting for the ferry to Colombia in two days. Don’t really have much of a plan yet for Colombia but I want to spend at least a month there exploring. Let me know if you have recommendations!


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    #41
  2. everready

    everready Stuck in Ohio....Ugh!!!

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  3. highcountrymoto

    highcountrymoto Been here awhile

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    My trip will be years away, so I'll be looking to you for recommendations! Safe travels and enjoy the ride!
    #43
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  4. advjason

    advjason Adventurer

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    So cool! Great trip!
    #44
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  5. Windham

    Windham Adventurer

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    Forgot to post a couple of pictures from Nicaragua on Oct 26th. This was after driving to the top of a volcano.
    [​IMG]DSC_0206 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr
    The crater had bubbling lava at the bottom but it was mostly obscured by sulfurous smoke.
    [​IMG]DSC_0201 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Entering Panama we were met with a fantastic sunset but we had a long ways to go and didn't spend enough time there to get great pictures.
    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Panama has some beautiful waterfalls along the road. Here you can see Ian looking for the perfect shot and Yun's motorcycle.
    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Drone shot on a beautiful road just a few miles from where we boarded the Stahlratte in Port Carti.
    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr


    Oct 3rd: Stahlratte departs from Panama after smoothly loading our bikes onto the deck. The ship was originally a fishing boat which was in service for over 70 years before its decommission. It's been running tours since 1984 and the three day experience in the San Blas Islands and Caribbean was amazing. The four crew members working on the ship were fantastic cooks and we ate and drank like kings until I was feeling a little spoiled. Don't worry, I'm back to camping tonight.

    Loading
    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Packed
    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Drone footage from a friend
    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    We spent the day snorkeling on the coral reefs and saw plenty of sea creatures. On top of the normal fish, we saw: Dolphins, Sea Turtles, Manta Rays, and Jelly Fish.
    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    After a couple tries we managed to dive to the bottom where our ship was anchored. Captain said it was 35 feet or so. Video is posted on my Instagram.
    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Enjoying the rope swing
    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    That's me trying to pick a coconut. It was more difficult than I expected.
    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Fellow travelers
    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    It was a pleasure riding with these two for the past few weeks. A little melancholy splitting up but we all felt we needed to travel alone for awhile. We may meet again in the future. I would prefer to ride Bolivia with someone else.
    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    After landing in Turbo I went straight to a Suzuki dealership to find another swing arm protector. It's only a small piece of rubber that wraps around the swing arm, but if its worn through your chain will damage it. They didn't have any in stock but he said he could order them and they would arrive in 5 days. That was way too long for me to stay in the city but he ended up just being able to send them to a different dealer on my route. Its awesome to be back in a country that you can easily find parts for the DR650s in.

    Employee noticed I didn't have Colombia on my windshield yet and quickly volunteered to help me out.
    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Arrived in Cartagena on Nov 7th and had an amazing few days exploring the old city and enjoying the festivities of Colombian Independence Day. The city was going absolutely nuts all weekend and they are all carrying around aerosol cans of foam which they love to use liberally on perfect strangers. Was a little surprising at first but all you can do is join in and have a good time. Unfortunately I didn't take a lot of pictures because I was having too much fun but here is the sunset. Looked exactly like this all three days I spent here.

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    The exact same weld that broke in Guatemala broke again right before boarding the Stahlratte. Found someone in Cartagena who fixed it and actually took his time and did a good job. Hopefully this time it holds. I ditched the tool tube as well because I think it was adding to the stress on the joint. Thanks Victor but I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to look right at the weld while you do it.
    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Didn't make it far from the city before I found this place in Santa Veronica and decided to call it a day. Great time to update the report and repack my bags properly. $4.75 US to camp in the grass lot beside the hostel but the pool is amazing and I can use the showers/bathroom.
    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    After I pick up the swing arm protector on Tuesday I plan on heading to the most northern region of South America called La Guajira. I've heard its very remote the desert landscapes are rough and water is scarce. Should be fun.

    Also I should note here that my plans have changed somewhat. I don't think I'm going to ride all the way back up to the US after reaching Ushuaia. The continuous border crossings in Central America were getting old and shipping the bike around the Darian Gap in Panama is very expensive. Instead I plan on being in Ushuaia by February and spending more time exploring Patagonia after that. Will probably ship my bike home from Buenas Ares in late May or early June.
    #45
  6. rider1150gsadv

    rider1150gsadv Long timer

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    IN! :lurk
    #46
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  7. tatt2mike

    tatt2mike Been here awhile

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    Definitely in!
    #47
  8. 95Monster

    95Monster Been here awhile

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    Hey! Great meeting you on the Stahlratte as well. I'm down in Cali now but will be in Colombia for another 4 weeks or so. Perhaps we'll cross paths again. Ride safe.

    George
    #48
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  9. caliform

    caliform Been here awhile Supporter

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    Great report. I'd imagine it'd be a lot more fun to explore Patagonia and other parts of South America than riding back up through Central America in its current state. But hey, you can fly by the seat of your pants, see what happens and go with whatever strikes your fancy. :)

    Lovely shots of Panama and the crossing over. In!
    #49
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  10. Windham

    Windham Adventurer

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    I’m way up in the north on the beach right now but starting to eye the mountains more every day haha. Hope you’re enjoying South America.



    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    #50
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  11. Windham

    Windham Adventurer

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    Yes I’m always open to new possibilities. Part of the trip is enjoying these things day by day instead of following a strict itinerary. I’m loving it all so far though.


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    #51
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  12. BillUA

    BillUA Las Vegas, NV

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    Enjoying the report.

    Happy Birthday!
    #52
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  13. wadethewanderer

    wadethewanderer 1998 BMW r1100GS

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    Enjoy every minute and don't rush thru it. You deserve it! Thanks for your service. Great job on the RR. I love Nosara, Costa Rica, great people and beautiful coastline, great surfing.
    #53
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  14. stoney4vida

    stoney4vida Semper Fidelis

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    Looks like having fun. I'm in. Happy Birthday Marine ! Semper Fi
    #54
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  15. Kenner

    Kenner n00b

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    Thank's for letting us follow along on your great adventure. You're making cherished memories. Happy Veteran's (Armistice/Remembrance) Day!

    I lived in Argentina for a couple of years in 2000-2002, you won't regret spending more time exploring that great country. Semper Fi (or HOOAH from us ARMY folks)!

    Ken
    #55
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  16. Windham

    Windham Adventurer

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    I've heard Argentina is a fantastic place to travel on a bike. Now with their economic problems the value of the US dollar has gone up a lot so it's a lot more affordable for us foreigners. At least so I've been told.

    I'm in Barranquilla until Tuesday waiting the swing arm protector. Everything is shut down for the holiday currently. I might change the oil tomorrow and do a basic check up on the bike to kill time. Not a lot happening in this city.
    #56
  17. Windham

    Windham Adventurer

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    I stayed in DropBear hostel in Santa Marta for two nights. Amazing place with a fantastic pool which cost about $9.50 a night. Motorcycle Rental shop next door gave me a ton of advice on the areas nearby and for traveling north into the La Guajira desert.
    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    More problems with the bike over the last few days. The good thing about the DR650 is you can almost always diagnose and fix it on the road. There is something to be said about a single cylinder thumber that's carbureted and oil cooled. It's not fancy but it gets the job done and the longer I travel the more I enjoy working on the bike and learning what I can about it. The motorcycle was running a little rough this time, so I disassembled most of the easy parts, cleaned the filters, changed the oil, cleaned and slightly adjusted the carb, replaced the stiff clutch cable, oiled the throttle cable, checked the valves and was back on the road after one day of maintenance. Bike is running like its brand new. Unfortunately, the next day when I linked up with Yun to ride the La Guajira Desert, the 20 miles of dirt washboard broke the rear top box weld again. I'm tired of having it patched so my couchsurfing host a few days later in Valledupar was nice enough to take me to a shop and translate my request for a new bracket to be fabricated from thicker piece of metal. The weld doesn't look great but I think its strong and certainly an improvement over the stock bracket.

    New bracket after returning from La Guajira
    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Final product. 15,000 pesos or $5 US.
    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Took him about an hour and a half.
    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    As we drove north the scenery changed and cacti began to appear along the highway. Everything seemed to dry out more as we rode deeper in the desert. We both fully stocked our water supplies incase something happened in the more remote northern area. 7 liters for me and 10 for Yun.

    In this part of Colombia, many Venezuelans have fled their country to look for work or just a better place to live. A lot of them are selling contraband gasoline on the side of the road. It's the cheapest fuel I've ever purchased at around $1.30 a gallon and I was told most of it is high quality. No officials seemed to care and someone even told me the local airport uses it for their planes.
    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Curious kitten
    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Yun and I made it to Cabo De La Vela just before dark. It's a small town consisting of a few shops, some fisherman, and a kitesurfing hostel. Evidently it's one of the best places in the world to kitesurf. The wind is constant, coming from shore to the coast and the water is almost completely smooth. Certainly a very unique phenomenon.
    [​IMG]DSC_0357 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Just a mile down the coast we decided to camp near the water. It was hot but the cool wind kept blowing as night fell.
    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Can't wait to add more countries to the windshield.
    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Yun's bike. We are riding nearly identical motorcycles. I purchased mine from Yun back in March shortly after returning from deployment.
    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Beautiful sunset
    [​IMG]DSC_0376 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Set up camp by moonlight and I took a few pictures after dinner.
    My set up:
    [​IMG]DSC_0458 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Yun's setup:
    [​IMG]DSC_0455 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    After one night in the desert, Yun and I rode out and split up again each getting different couch surfers in Valledupar. It's a nice quiet city and the perfect place to unwind for a day or two. I'll push on solo from here.

    Local attraction is definitely the river. Next time I'll join in the local bridge jumping team.
    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    I'll be headed to Medellin over the next week or so, stopping to ride some mountain passes and enjoy the cooler weather.
    #57
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  18. Windham

    Windham Adventurer

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    Spent a few fantastic days couchsurfing in Bucaramanga with a local mother and daughter. They owned a school uniform shop below the apartment and were in a perfect location. Somehow Yun and I ended up at the same place again without even knowing until he pulled up. It worked out very well though because we made a nice thanksgiving dinner for our host family and he helped me change my front bearings. They were not too bad but one was a little worn and I had a new set with me so I just threw them in.

    This is the road from Bucaramanga to Zapotoca. Absolutely stunning views and the road was miles and miles of switch backs. I was pushing so hard my brakes overheated and I had to pull over for a bit. What a cool location.

    View from the road
    [​IMG]DSC_0495-2 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr
    [​IMG]DSC_0489 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr
    View from an overlook a few miles above the city of Zapotca
    [​IMG]DSC_0585 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr
    Love my Siima jacket but I lost the zip on exterior which makes 4 season. I ordered a new one on November 4th but it still has not arrived in Bogata. Hopefully it comes within the next few days, if not, I'll have to buy something local and push on. Hard to find good motorcycle gear here and I freeze in this thing if it gets very cold out.
    [​IMG]DSC_0592 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr
    My host
    [​IMG]DSC_0588 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr
    Pulled over here to cool the brakes
    [​IMG]DSC_0605 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr
    My host took me to local tourist attraction just outside of Zapoteca. A natural cave that is so large no one has ever found the end. Evidently a few years ago several people snuck in and were lost for 17 days before rescue came! We had an awesome tour guide though. It was supposed to be $9 a person to go in but host talked them down to $3 each. It's nice to have someone who speaks Spanish with you!
    [​IMG]DSC_0532 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr
    Not sure what this is but it looks cool
    [​IMG]DSC_0535 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr
    [​IMG]DSC_0544 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr
    [​IMG]DSC_0550 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr
    Almost all towns built by the Spanish have the same layout. Church on one side, park in the middle, and a government building on the other.
    [​IMG]DSC_0509 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr
    Central Bucaramanga
    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr
    Bearing replaced in less that 30 minutes. Helps to have two people.
    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr
    I have an "ultralight" tent (BigAgnes SeedhouseSL2). Sometimes ultralight actually means "ultra-fragile" and the bag my tent was in had deteriorated badly. My host was gracious enough to sew me a new one from stronger fabric and wouldn't accept a cent! Colombian people are lovely and generous so far.
    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr
    Didn't want to leave Bucaramanga but it was time to keep moving. Three nights wasn't enough! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    I woke up sick with a cold but made the 7 hour ride to Medellin anyway.

    Beautiful mountains and mountain passes made the driver easier.
    [​IMG]DSC_0656 by Windham Taylor
    Why did they have to put a guardrail there?
    [​IMG]DSC_0653 by Windham Taylor
    If you need bike parts in Colombia then Medellin is the place to get them. They have a whole road dedicated to bikes with street mechanics begging you to pull over so they can fix your bike with tool kits laying out everywhere. It's packed with people and although its a safe area I would not walk away from the bike here!
    [​IMG] by Windham Taylor, on Flickr
    If you can't find what you need here just try the three Suzuki dealerships with two blocks.
    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Unfortunately I only stayed in Medellin a couple of nights. I wasn't feeling very well and didn't take very many pictures or explore much. Seems like a nice city though. After leaving Medellin I rode to Manizales near the coffee region of Colombia. Tried going out to tour a farm today but half way there it started pouring rain and I just drove back to my hostel. I'm not used to how chilly it is here in the mountains! Maybe tomorrow the weather will be better.

    After this, I head to Bogata for the weekend and then I need to be out of Colombia by December 6th. It's been an amazing month here and I plan on returning again. The people are friendly, the landscapes are beautiful and the food and accommodations are cheap. Not much more I could ask for!

    I'll be headed to Ecuador next and I have done exactly zero planning for my time there. Probably a couple of weeks. If anyone has tips or must-see locations please let me know! In peru I plan on meeting up with my Irish friend, Ian. We're going to do Machu Picchu and ride together some. Then on to Lima to watch the beginning of the Dakar Rally on Jan 6th. The docket is full!
    #58
  19. everready

    everready Stuck in Ohio....Ugh!!!

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  20. Windham

    Windham Adventurer

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    After leaving Medellin I headed up into the coffee region near Volcano Nevado del Ruiz. It was beautiful ride up through the clouds to around 13.6k feet (4.4k meters) although very cold. The road was rocky and deteriorated into a first/second gear path after just a few miles. The whole pass took maybe 4 hours and I took several detours to the miradors and roads that looked interesting.

    [​IMG]DSC_0676 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    No idea what these are but they seem to grow at high altitude. Tiny palm trees?

    [​IMG]DSC_0682 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Tons of waterfalls

    [​IMG]DSC_0692 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    [​IMG]DSC_0696 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    [​IMG]DSC_0704 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Yellow stream bubbling out of the mountain. Smelled very strongly of sulfur.

    [​IMG]DSC_0716 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    I had a connection in Bogota which was awesome to recoup for a few days. We hiked to an overlook above the city which was beautiful although very crowded.

    [​IMG]DSC_0794 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr



    [​IMG]DSC_0803 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    [​IMG]DSC_0824 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Two day dive bomb from Bogota to Ecuador. I chose the Eastern border crossing since it looked smaller on the map. There ended up being 100+ Venezuelans waiting in line and I thought I was in for the long haul. Turned out that none of them had passports so I just walked up the Aduna and was through in 30 minutes. Exiting Colombia and entering Ecuador was done at the same desk and right around the hall you get the TIP for Ecuador. Total cost =$0. Easiest border crossing I've done so far. Also its definitely possible to exit Colombia here if you have overstayed your Colombian TIP. They don't seem to check at the Ecuadorian side and all you would have to do is skip the Colombian Aduna.

    Quito was my first stop in Ecuador. Its a large city but fairly easy to navigate and seemed very safe. I found a shop called "Motohell" and stopped in to have my exhaust welded... It had been broken since Mexico and I just finally got around to fixing it. The shop owners were a very nice couple who were used to overlanders coming to their shop. If you ask nicely they let you work on the bike yourself.

    While I was at the shop they invited me to ride in a dual sport class rally a few hours away. I declined but my friend Ian took them up and prepped his bike at the shop. They even gave him free knobbies for the race! The next day we headed to the beach and I was supposed to stay in their Airbnb but it was full so I threw the tent up on the beach.

    The full Airbnb. Owner was not happy there were so many people there.
    [​IMG]DSC_0840 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Some of the riders.

    [​IMG]DSC_0852 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Ian looking very naive and unprepared

    [​IMG]DSC_0846 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    A family event!

    [​IMG]DSC_0849 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Lining up!

    [​IMG]DSC_0989 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    DR650 on the track!

    [​IMG]DSC_0957 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Ian was off to a good start...

    [​IMG]DSC_0931 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    This quad crashed on the third corner! Snapped a pic from about a mile away...

    [​IMG]DSC_0859 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    We rode to the first check point but the riders had already passed.

    [​IMG]DSC_0992 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Half way check point and mandatory break.

    [​IMG]DSC_1002 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Ian never made it this far. His bike suffered multiple punctures and he ended up buying a tube from a local who lived nearby the road. Took hours to arrive and I had finally gone in to see if I could help him out. He had no signal but texted me from his Spot Tracker asking for help. I had no idea what the route was and none of my mapping programs showed any roads but I found the track and started riding it backwards towards his GPS location. Unfortunately it took me quite awhile to reach him and he was already finished patching his rear tire for the 4th time. We rode the last 10 miles together without incident and Ian picked up the main highway back to the end of the race.

    I decided I didn't want to camp again and would make the 4 hour drive back to Quito even though it would be dark soon. I was maybe an hour into the drive and dusk was quickly falling. In my rear view mirror I suddenly see a non descript blacked-out car riding at probably 100 MPH towards me with no lights. I could tell he was going to try to pass me but a second later a passenger bus came around the corner and there was no way it was going to happen on that small two lane road. I slammed on my brakes and swerved over as far as I could and the car passed a few inches from me also narrowly missing the bus. I was a bit pissed off and flashed my lights at him thinking that would be the end of it. Not 5 minutes later a cop car comes flying by, going even faster, and a few miles later I see both cars pulled over on the side of the road. As I approach them on the bike I see three cops with guns drawn on the car sprinting up to it. The last thing I see is one of the cops break the drivers side window with the butt of his pistol. After that I gunned it past without a glance back. Not really looking to be caught in the middle of a shootout.

    I left Quito a few days later and rode to Lake Quilotoa. Google showed no road but Maps.me disagreed. I went with it and took a sandy "road" to the top of the North rim. Not a soul in sight and it was a great night to camp. About 11pm the wind picked up badly and ripped all 9 tent stakes out of the ground. I spent quite awhile running around in my underwear trying to set everything back up in the dark. It was a fantastic place to camp and I didn't see another soul the whole time I was there.

    [​IMG]DSC_1023 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    [​IMG]DSC_1027 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

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    I made it to the top without dropping the bike but the way down was more difficult. I quickly found out that slowing down in deep sand is impossible but that was after 3 separate (low-speed) drops. Onward!

    The ride out was very scenic.

    [​IMG]DSC_1048 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    [​IMG]DSC_1053 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    A poorly timed self-timer shot.

    [​IMG]DSC_1072 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    That's better!

    [​IMG]DSC_1076-2 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    I'm in Banos for a day or two staying a cheap hostel. From here I want to see how high I can ride my bike up a volcano before heading to Peru in a week or so. I have a new tire waiting for me in Lima but mine is looking pretty rough. I may ride to Lima first and then explore Northern Peru a little more before the Dakar rally starts on January 6th from Lima.
    #60