Top 10 things you learned or wish you would have known about riding in South America.

Discussion in 'Latin America' started by gordojordo, Oct 6, 2011.

  1. snohobo

    snohobo Supermoto hippy

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    When you see something you have been looking for or needing for awhile, buy it right away. Do not assume that you will find a better, different, nicer one down the road...
    #41
  2. AdventureDave

    AdventureDave MMMMM Bundy!

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    Ahhhh, Thanks for that. As always these things are so obvious in hindsight.

    Cheers

    David
    #42
  3. Dan Diego

    Dan Diego Long timer

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    Learn some Spanish (and Quechua and Aymara, if you'll be in areas where those are spoken).

    Haggle!

    Ask for help when you need it; you'll get more help than you'll need.

    Te mate will cure an awful lot of what ails you (especially elevation fatigue).

    Stay away from the chicha.

    Eat home-cooked (vs. restaurant) meals when possible.

    Swap your stuff for their stuff often.

    Don't carry drugs (even small amounts) or firearms (BIG knives are OK).

    Watch for incredibly deep and dangerous potholes -- they'll destroy a rim in nuthin flat.

    You'd be surprised what local mechanics can fix.
    #43
  4. Dr. Benny

    Dr. Benny Enjoying the Journey

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    Wow, these are awesome. To add a few more:

    1. Don't skip something and tell yourself you'll do it the next time around.

    2. If you wait until you're ready, you'll never go.

    3. Most of that money you're spending on gear and moto upgrades is far better spent on cervezas and empanadas.

    4. A smile gets you a smile in return.

    5. You don't need to be a great spanish speaker or a great rider. You don't need a fancy bike or knobby tires.

    6. Don't pee out of your tent's zipper when you're camped on top of a fire ant colony...

    7. Take more photos.

    8. The adventure doesn't begin until your bike won't start in the middle of la Pampa.

    9. Bring a picture of your family - it's a great conversation starter. Or give small gifts to people you meet such as a photo of you on your bike.

    10. The interactions you have with the people you meet will stay in your memories far more than the beautiful scenery, the twisty roads and the tasty food.
    #44
  5. whizzerwheel

    whizzerwheel Easily distracted Supporter

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    If you lived your life by the information in this one thread, life would be so much better. What a great thread. :clap

    Very thoughtful, helpful information.
    #45
  6. whizzerwheel

    whizzerwheel Easily distracted Supporter

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    There must be a story here.....
    #46
  7. Beerslayer

    Beerslayer Journeyman Bike Knocker

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    I have to agree with you. Food in Colombia is good but not generally great. In the six weeks I spent in Chile, the only decent meal I had was at the Yacht Club in Antofagasta. Other than that it was below average to bad. Nicaraguan food tends to be pretty bland, but is OK to good. And Mexican food, well it is my favorite.

    Oh, and for the Top 10


    1. Slow down. Stop. Absorb what's going on around you. Talk to the guy in the rubber boots leading his horse along the road. Even the most ordinary place can provide a memory that will last a lifetime.

    2. Eat the food sold in the streets. Look for a line because that's where the best food will be and it will be turned over and not spoiled. I learned that later than sooner.

    3. Don't get caught up in the moment and get drunk with people you don't know. Tourists or locals.

    4. Leave all that crap on your list behind :lol3 you will need the same stuff you use frequently here, plus your passport. Not the door knob alarm or the sixteen ways from Sunday power adapters.

    5. Leave your expectations about how things ought to be at home, and discover how things are.

    6. Allow lots of time to acclimatize yourself to the altitude changes if you are going to El Tatio Geyser. I didn't and really paid for it. :eek1

    7. Don't try to bribe the cops in Chile. They are pretty honest and just want you to not do stupid shit.

    8. A smile and a friendly greeting go a long ways.

    9. When you ask for directions, realize that the person giving them may never have left their neighborhood, and doesn't know how to get to the next town, but they would hate to disappoint you, so they are going to come up with something, even if they just made it up. Stop and ask someone else shortly after.

    10. Magic Realism. I wish I had known about that. Read the works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, particularly 100 Years of Solitude. It's not just the poor. You are going to encounter well educated, sophisticated people, who also live part time in a fantasy world that is as much a part of their reality as the real world is. For many, there is a blend of fantasy and reality that they slip in and out of without even realizing it. Your completely rational seeming host will at some point start telling you about the sea monster that lives in the lake out front and steals children and small farm animals and eats them. AND IS HAVING BABY MONSTERS!!!
    #47
  8. crashmaster

    crashmaster ow, my balls!

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    Never accept what people tell you about road conditions, locals on horseback, 4X4 drivers, other moto travelers, etc. You pretty much just have to go check things out for yourself.

    Sometimes someone will tell you that you will never get through a certain road on your bike and you try it out and wonder what the hell they were talking about. Others will tell you stuff like there's just a little mud, and you find yourself in miles of axel deep mud pits digging your bike out every 10 minutes. :lol3

    When someone tells you how bad a road is, just smile, say thanks, and continue on. Its supposed to be an adventure after all.
    #48
  9. Beerslayer

    Beerslayer Journeyman Bike Knocker

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    So true. Their recommendations are colored by their timidity or idiocy, and you never know which one until you go see for yourself.
    #49
  10. Lone Rider

    Lone Rider Registered User

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    "Road Closed" means you need to check it out yourself. :D
    A low percentage of times, you can get thu on a bike. And you get to see what the real problem is.
    Impassable for cars and trucks does not also mean impassable for bikes.
    #50
  11. Dr. Benny

    Dr. Benny Enjoying the Journey

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    It's always funny to pass a sign that says "X City - 75 kilometers" then you ride 10 kilometers and there's another sign that says "X City - 100 kilometers" Always give me a good smile :D
    #51
  12. SS in Vzla.

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

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    I'm thinking the problem with moto travelers not liking the food is that we do not like to go into the big cities.

    I'm not saying that anybody should in fact go in the big city, I don't like the big cities either, but...
    Lunch is normally had in a road-side stand or gas station... Not the best culinary experts doing the cooking.
    When I ride all day and then look 30-60 minutes for a hotel in a smaller town or in the outskirts of a bigger town, at the end of the day I am pretty beat up and all I want is to relax, have a beer and thus supper is normally consumed at a restaurant close by, within walking distance, beacuse I simply don't want to take the bike out for the day. That is normally not the best choice either.

    Just think about what kind of meals you'd have back home if you ate only at gas stations and the restaurant right next door to that Motel 8...

    The other two things that IMO play a big part on the food scene is that most people doing a bike trip just do not have the time to hang around in a town so that we get to know the good places to eat or just to hunt them down. I might get a bashing here, but I've found out that the Lonely Planet Guides have pretty good info on where to eat good... not perfect by far, but at least they have some info and in the end it is up to the reader to decide if he wants to eat there once he sees the place... The problem is lack of time... and obviously, the second problem (and probably the real culprit) is the lack of fluent Spanish.... Again, think about going through the US with basic (or some time very basic "me Tarzan you Jane") English... what kind of food would you be able to score?

    I agree Typical Mexican food is pretty fresh and you can find cheap/good meals on the roadside almost everywhere, but IMO, it gets old... the same tortillas/burrito/taco etc every day.... at least for me, it got old... But, I've had GREAT food in Mexico in restaurants in the cities (not only Mexican, but other things also). I don't really know about the rest of Central America, but I've had pretty good food in several restaurants in Panama City. South America has great food if you know where to look and are not afraid to try new things (like the ceviche in Peru and the Sea Food in Chile.... as an example, who has tried Puyes al Pil Pil? or Picorocos? :evil)

    I hope I'm not misunderstood with my post here, I'm not bashing anybody since I've made the same mistake plenty of times and will probably keep making it. They are just my comments after reading several RRs where people complained about the food being bland, but they have been eating basically gas station food for several months. My point is, if one wants to find good food, the same as when one wants to find a good motorcycle road, one must be willing to look for it away from the main routes :wink:
    #52
  13. JediMaster

    JediMaster Adam Lewis

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    Oh how I'm paying the price for not doing exactly that right now.

    How does a quote of U$293 for a pair of steering head bearings grab ya!!!! :eek1:eek2:eek1...parts only that is. (In Porto Velho, Brazil)

    That'll teach me to turn my nose up at the U$127 I was quoted in Bolivia.:doh
    #53
  14. bush pilot

    bush pilot Long timer

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    there's probably a good story here too!:freaky
    #54
  15. Chupas

    Chupas www.n69s54a.com

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    Love this thread! All so true!

    Here's my contribution

    1. Latin America and especially Mexico is a whole lot better than it's reputation.

    2. Expect border crossings to take a full day and be happy when it takes only 5 hours and super over excited when it takes just 2 hours.

    3. Do the border crossings yourself. It's a lot of fun and you'll make a lot of friends. Check the papers before you leave the border.

    4. When the police stops you. Get of the bike and take of your helmet, shake their hand and smile. Mostly they are real nice guys who like bikes too. Remember to get a photo.

    5. Buy your maps before you leave home.

    6. It's alright that you don't go to all the traditional tourist attractions.

    7. Carry snacks for the dogs and you'll have a million friends.

    8. Eat at the street corner restaurants, they are often amazing and you'll love the price tag. Eat chevice in Peru.

    9. Enjoy breakdowns. This is when you meet the coolest people.

    10. Bring a small bike with a big horn

    Henriette
    #55
  16. Llamaha

    Llamaha Been here awhile

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    I can't live up to all of these but I wish now that I did:

    1. Tell jokes to break the ice with strangers (easier said than done)
    2. Don't be afraid to take photos of people & things, if they don't like it they'll tell you about it
    3. Keep an eye on the dates of festivals - South Americans love them and they're a lot of fun
    4. Be respectful to people who take interest, once another rider in my company told a local that his China bike was no good, it may be true but it's very rude and offensive and I was very embarrassed.
    5. If you're interested in a girl then don't tell her you're leaving tomorrow
    6. Empanadas work well for breakfast
    7. If you get in an accident of any sort without insurance then don't hang around, even if they were the ones that crashed into you
    8. Bolivia is the most amazing and diverse country for off-road riding
    9. Always check the HUBB for bike friendly hostels at your destination, do this prior to departing
    10. Don't buy drinks for strippers - they cost a fortune for some reason.
    #56
  17. Chupas

    Chupas www.n69s54a.com

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    Wish I had read this 6 months ago. Get cought up in this many times every day.

    Henriette
    #57
  18. cliffy109

    cliffy109 Long timer

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    My experience in South America isn't exactly the gnarly adventurer kind but I will share a quick list of things I found.

    1. Compass Expeditions rocks! A tour that allows you to explore on your own, pays for all the gas and hotels and most of the food and lets you ride your own ride.

    2. Speaking louder will not get you understood nor helped. A smile and hand gestures work much better.

    3. Never pass up the chance to order anything referred to as "churrasco".

    4. Enjoy the experience of "completo" food... that includes hot dogs, churrascos and anything else on a bun.

    5. Don't buy any trinkets until you find an artisan market.

    6. Don't be surprised if the artisans don't understand the idea of haggling. Give it a try but if they don't go for it, smile and pay the asking price. They are usually much cheaper than regular stores anyway.

    7. The extra fixture in the bathroom is not a helmet cleaner.

    8. Everything re-opens at 5:00 PM (or thereabouts).

    9. Dinner isn't something that is thought about until well after 9:00 PM and trying to eat before then will result in disappointment or strange looks from restaurant owners.

    10. Bring cash and use Cambrios. ATM machines seem to be very hit or miss.
    #58
  19. Acampao

    Acampao WInd Jammer

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    No wonder you didn't like the food. You may want to re-think your eating in the streets thing...

    A
    #59
  20. snohobo

    snohobo Supermoto hippy

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    Unless you want to spend hours looking for something that looks decent, eating in the street for me has been the tastiest, quickest and cheapest source of food.
    #60