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Yet another KLR succumbed to the Latin fever

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by igorshen, Nov 19, 2009.

  1. igorshen

    igorshen gypsy soul

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2008
    Oddometer:
    409
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    Asia
    I'm not much of a writer, to put it mildly, but I'll try my best to document my motorcycle trip to Latin America. After years of drooling over other people's trip reports, it's time to do the final preparations and hit the road.

    I haven't been working for a while and it's a blasphemy to waste perfectly ridable time doing other things. Hence this trip - riding a part of the Pan-American highway while making various detours to visit nearby interesting places. The plan is purposely vague - head south from Los Angeles as far as the mule will go. The mule is my Kawasaki KLR 650, purchased for this trip for $3000. I managed to put 18000 miles on it while preparing for the trip. The mule has served me well in the deserts of Utah and Arizona and hopefully it will do so south of the border as well.

    There is no destination, only the journey. There is no schedule either - if I like a place, I will stay there till I don't like it any more. The trip will end when the bike develops a major problem or when I visit all the places I wanted to see, whichever occurs first. I created a wish list of places to visit. If I hit 80% of them, I'll be very happy. The weather, avoiding rain, will play a big role in which places I actually get to see. Riding in rain and mud just doesn't seem like a lot of fun for me.

    I've done some basic maintenance on the bike, changed tires, changed oil and air filters, sealed battery, the doo, sub-frame bolt upgrade, chain... But I haven't done any special mods for this trip. I had a long list of things to do, but after talking to the local dealership, I figured it would be cheaper to fix problems as they materialize. I am bringing some spare parts (dust seals for forks, cables, sprockets), so hopefully that will be enough to enable local mechanics to keep the bike running for a while.

    The departure time is still up in the air, but some time before Thanksgiving is probably quite reasonable. This is the most popular season for riding the Pan-American highway - the dry season in Central America and the west coast of the South America. I plan on riding alone, but I'm sure I'll meet many other travelers/riders on the way. In my mind, endeavor like this is best enjoyed alone. It is definitely harder to travel on your own, but it is also more rewarding.

    I've been inspired by numerous riders' trip reports on the net and in various books. I plan on using the vast amount of information found in trip reports. There were just too many trip reports that I've read and took notes from to name them. But main sources of information were
    http://advrider.com/
    http://horizonsunlimited.com/
    http://www.klr650.net/
    I am deeply indebted to all the people who kindly shared their experiences with other riders. I hope that I will be able to give back a little to the riding community through my trip report.

    Toxic and Indy, avid advrider lurkers, did their best to teach me how to minimize the number of crashes in the dirt. I'm sure their advices will come in handy on this trip.
    [​IMG]
    Toxic and Indy in San Rafael Swell

    I'm also indebted to the Left Coast KLR Society for their help in doing bike maintenance and preparation for this trip.
    #1
  2. Thorne

    Thorne Sherpa-ing around

    Joined:
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    Lone Pine, ON, Canada
    Ride safe ...... ....Looking forward to a future RR of your travels:clap
    #2
  3. heetseeker

    heetseeker Hopelessly addicted

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    Oct 9, 2007
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    Wilton CA
    Just have the time of your life...i'll be watching for updates.

    :lurk
    #3
  4. Motojournalism

    Motojournalism motojournalism.com

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    Pssst...

    Just sent you a PM...

    :D
    #4
  5. OKCThunder

    OKCThunder Adventurer

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2009
    Oddometer:
    10
    Location:
    Oklahoma City, OK
    Alright, I have been lurking here, reading a lot of older ride reports, but FINALLY I might get to watch a ride report as it is going on! Good luck and be safe and post a lot!
    #5
  6. pdedse

    pdedse paraelamigosincero

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,923
    Sounds like a marvelous plan you got there. I like your mindset about staying to enjoy places. Suerte!
    #6
  7. igorshen

    igorshen gypsy soul

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2008
    Oddometer:
    409
    Location:
    Asia
    Day 1 – The departure

    It was yet another beautiful sunrise on November 15 2009, which I slept right through. So much for my plans for an early morning start. After doing final packing and loading up the mule, I left Anaheim around 9 am. It was a typical fall day in Southern California with a hint of Santa Ana winds. I was so glad to be leaving before winds kick up. Riding a KLR in cross-winds is one of my least favorite activities.

    I was feeling little uneasy this morning, the same way I feel before any major trip. But once I hit the road, all the worries disappear and only the pleasure of traveling remains. I knew it would be the same this time and I wasn't wrong. By the time I reached Oceanside, I was feeling pretty good about going south. I filled up gas and grabbed an early lunch.

    I just rode through the border with Mexico as I came to Tijuana a few days earlier to get the tourist card and temporary importation permit for the bike. I did this Tijuana is supposedly a big and busy entry point into Mexico. I'm not sure if the Friday afternoon I went to get papers was particularly quiet, but I was done in about 30 min (including return into the US). II did not encounter any lines at either immigration or at Banjercito.


    From Tijuana, I took the tool road to Ensenada and then hwy 3 across to the east side of the Baja. I guess it's some kind of a curse that we have to break rule #1 of travel in Mexico (do not ride at night) on the first day. Darkness caught me about 50 km outside San Felipe. Luckily, the road was new and there were hardly any vehicles on the road. After going around town looking for cheap motels, I found out that the cheapest decent room is 30 USD. My daily budged was blown right there. $5 burrito did not help the cause. At least the room was very clean and I had internet connection.

    This otherwise uneventful day became eventful right after the sun went behind the hills. I still had my sunglasses on. I was following a bus. There were two cars coming from the opposite direction. After the bus passed the second car, it pulled out in front of me to pass the first car. Luckily, the driver saw me and quickly returned to his lane. Everything happened so fast that I didn't have even time to get scared. After that I had to stop and check why he did not see me. As it turns out, my high beam lamp went dead promptly upon leaving the US. What a great timing! So I was driving around Mexico with no lights thinking that I had high beams on and that everybody can see me easily. Note to myself – find a place to sleep 2 hours before it gets dark.

    Day 2 – Baja dirt riding

    [​IMG]

    I was pretty tired from the day before and I also couldn't resist watching some movie on the TV. This made me wake up late again. I quickly loaded up gear and hit the road towards Puertocitos. I had a healthy breakfast of tacos just before leaving the town. I was glad that I did that as it would be my only decent meal for the day. The road to Puertocitos was in great shape and virtually no vehicles. It looked very much like California. The most interesting sight was presence of so many kinds of cacti right next to a sea. I thought it was neat to see saguaros with a sea behind them.

    [​IMG]

    I refueled at Puertocitos and got a drink. They are building a new road towards south. So the first 13 miles were paved and it was a pure pleasure riding alone on the fresh pavement. Once I hit the end of the new road, I kept on getting lost as there are many side roads that building crews built for their vehicles.

    Finally, some 5 miles later, there was left only one road – the old, heavily washboarded, dusty road, all 100 miles of it. It was nice to pass by deserted beaches and enjoy the sea of Cortez all by myself, but after a while, the dirt got to me. I really didn't need to put the mule to this stress test as it has shown its reliability in the first 18 thousand miles. I think I would enjoy dirt riding in Baja if it were the goal of the trip. But this time, I just started a much longer trip and I do not need any part of the bike or luggage system to break down.

    [​IMG]
    Near Gonzaga Bay.

    While riding, I met another ADV rider – Al. He was on his way to Colorado after two weeks of dirt riding in Baja. After a short chat and getting some advices from Al, I continued towards my promiseland – paved roads. Finally, after arduous 6 hours on the dirt, I was ecstatic to be back on the pavement.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    Vegetation on the Baja plateau.

    I enjoyed riding the high plateau of the Baja, densely populated with all kinds of cacti. It was a beautiful ride, but the afternoon sun is already casting long shadows and I do not want to end up riding in the dark, again. Since I clearly could not make it to Guerrero Negro, I decided to check out Santa Rosalia on the Pacific Ocean. The guidebook listed several motels and campgrounds, all with facilities. Well, reality was quite different. Not only were there no campgrounds, but I couldn't find any restaurant to eat either. The only place offering accommodation had a room with no hot water and no bed sheets (apparently everybody sleeps on the same blanket) for 30 USD. At this point, I decided to camp as it at least clean bedding. This certainly saved my budget for the day.

    [​IMG]
    My first camping in Baja - not much different from camping in CA or AZ.

    After taking a few sunset photos, I decided to turn in – at 5:30 pm. Tonight, there is no internet and no TV. At least I can catch up with writing and get more sleep. I'm glad that I decided to camp. There is no noise apart from the crickets and the sky is full of stars – what a great way to enjoy Baja.

    Day 3 – Saguaros, beaches and blown speedometer


    As the night progressed, it got colder and colder. My see-through sleeping bag would have been a disaster had it not been for all other warm clothing I brought along. With all that covering, I managed to sleep comfortably. I woke up to eh sunrise at 6 am. As there wasn't much to do at the campsite, I quickly packed and I was riding at 7 am. The detour to Santa Rosalia cost me extra 30 miles and I was running low on gas. At the nearest pueblo, I decided to wait till the auto parts store opened (they are the only ones selling gas – at $4 per gallon).

    With the replenished gasoline, I got to Guerrero Negro and just pressed on. The riding was pleasant and as I got further south, the scenery got greener and greener. The air was filled with the smell of vegetation. The feeling was that the spring was coming, not the winter. Saguaros once again dominated the scenery. One could see them everywhere. The surrounding mountains were completely green as well. The best news for me was that the weather was getting warmer. I could feel hot gusts of wind hitting me from different sides.

    [​IMG]
    Just outside Santa Rosalia.

    Eventually the road reached Santa Rosalita – the town where ferry for mainland Mexico leaves from. In the last 200 or so miles, Sea or Cortes got a lot bluer. The road now followed the ocean. It was quite windy, but the wind was blowing into my back, so I didn't have the usual problems of being blown all over the lane. Eventually I reached Mulege – a nice little town by the sea. The prices were typically high. So I decided to try Al's (see the previous day) recommended camping spot right on the beach.

    My several earlier attempts at getting money exchanged failed for various reasons – banks closed, banks didn't have cash, etc. So Mulege was my last chance. Once again, despite a huge sign “exchange office,” the lady inside the bank argued that there was no exchange office there (they even had today's exchange rate!). So I was forced to use the nearby ATM. I'm really curious to see how much my bank will stiff me for that convenience.

    On the way out of the town, I stopped by some restaurant and had Fish Veracruz. I've never had this dish and I have to admit I loved it. The first meal that was worth the price – all $7. I also got some drink and cookies in a nearby store.

    [​IMG]
    My piece of paradise for the night.

    After another 20 minutes of riding, I finally reached Al's campground. It was quite nice, secluded and very, very quiet. There were some winter escapees from the US, but otherwise, I had the place to myself. I decided to make this day rather short because I had to change rear tire. May be I should have done it back in LA, but I managed to get an extra 1000 miles out of it, so I'll have to worry about next tire, 1000 miles later. The new tire is MEFO explorer, supposedly very long lasting tire. At $160, it better last 14-15 thousand miles, otherwise, I'm not getting my money worth compared to the stock tires.

    As soon as I arrived at the campground, I started working on the tire. I managed to have everything done before the sun went down. As I was pleased with it, I decided to treat myself with a margarita. Unfortunately, the restaurant only had beers. So I gave a cervesa a try. I'm not really a beer drinker, but this time, it felt good. Must be the ambiance.

    Today, my speedometer died as well. First the needle started jumping all over the scale and soon after, it went dead. I don't really care to know the speed, but I would like to know the mileage I've traveled since last fuel stop. If the parts continue breaking down like this, I'll be walking pretty soon. In three days, two things broke down (headlight and speedometer). I should have put a bicycle computer, but I was too lazy for it. It never occurred to me that a speedometer would break down – duh! May be I try using GPS as odometer. I don't know how accurate it is, but probably a lot better than my guesstimation.

    Once again, I enjoy a dark sky filled with stars. I'm about to turn in. Sound of waves and crickets will put me to sleep. I think I'm beginning to like the Baja.

    Day 4 – Bouncing between the Pacific and sea of Cortes

    Woke up to the sound of waves and warm sunlight. I checked the rear tire for pressure once again and got ready. I decided to have a hearty breakfast at the campground restaurant. The Huevos Ranchers I had there would keep me going till La Paz.

    [​IMG]
    One of many bays south of Mulege.

    The ride was great from the very beginning. The new tire inspired confidence on the curves, which were plentiful. Road passed by numerous bays with beautiful semi-deserted beaches. The few people who enjoyed them were mostly winter migrants from the US and Canada. After about 100 km I reached Loreto. Just a quick re-fueling stop for me.

    [​IMG]
    Tranquil waters of Bahia Concepcion.

    The road continued by the rocky beaches for a while and then turned inland, heading towards the Pacific ocean. It crossed mountains full of cacti, but one could feel that desert vegetation was giving way to the more lush tropical plants. The road after Ciudad Insurgentes is not particularly interesting, mostly straight and with very light traffic.

    [​IMG]
    Southern end of Bahia Concepcion.

    About an hour before La Paz, the road got little more interesting again. It passes through some hilly areas in the part of Baja from where one can see both the Pacific ocean and the sea of Cortes. Eventually I made it to the city of La Paz. My useless guidebook listed ferries leaving for Mazatlan on Mon., Wed. and Fri. Since I was arriving on Wed. afternoon, I thought I'd have to wait till Friday. Not only were the days of operation wrong, but departure times as well. They claim that the books are updated yearly, but it must have been a while since they even bothered to check Baja Ferries web site. Well, I can't blame anyone but myself. Last time I used Footprints guidebook, I wowed never to do so again. If someone fools me once, shame on him, if he fools me twice, shame on me.

    Luckily, the website listed addresses and hours of operation of their La Paz office. I found it with the help of local police and managed to book tickets just as the sun was setting. I would be leaving the next day at 8 PM. Now that this part has been taken care of, I only had to find a decent hotel. I wouldn't bother with the Footprints book any more, instead, I just decided to cruise around the town. First posada was a miss, since they asked for 65 USD, which was way too much for that place miles out of the town. Later on I found a decent hotel, right next to the downtown for about $30. They even had internet connection.

    [​IMG]
    Mandatory shot of inside parking at my hotel in La Paz.

    I went out for a drink. I had to treat myself for taking care of everything in such an efficient manner. The touristy area was rather deserted. I don't know if this is their high season or not, but they must be hurting for business right now. I enjoyed the walk by the beach. The temperature was perfect for wearing a t-shirt and shorts. Unfortunately, I was rather tired from the long ride down, so I went back to the hotel to check emails and get some sleep.

    Day 5 – Tour of the southernmost tip – Cabo San Lucas

    The following morning, I woke up rather early. I tried to update the trip report and upload pics, but I had some problems doing it. I never realized just how much effort it is to write daily updates. Not to mention transferring pics, re-sizing them, etc. I wish I could be like those guys who keep immaculate records of their trips, but I'll have to cut corners.

    [​IMG]
    Time to relax at bit on the beach.

    I thought I would have a leisurely day of riding, may be 100-200 km. As it turns out, the tiny circle on my coarse map is a huge 500 km loop. I should have started the trip earlier in the morning. I enjoyed Baja 1 all the way down to San Jose del Cabo, which I mistakenly took for Cabo San Lucas. I checked out the beach and had the best tacos Al Pastor ever. It was an ugly scene watching me savagely devour those tacos. The bill was also a pleasant surprise. Finally, I'm enjoying a great Mexican food at cheap prices.

    [​IMG]
    Downtown San Jose Del Cabo

    As I decided that it was time to go home, I realized that I'm still some 30 km from Cabo San Lucas. I was running out of time and unfortunately, I couldn't explore the little town on foot. But from what I could see on my bike, it looked just like another tourist trap – complete with Starbucks coffee, Burger King, Rainforest cafe and other joints catering to tourists on package vacations.

    [​IMG]
    Kilometer 0 of route 1 in Cabo San Lucas.

    I was on the road back to La Paz. It passes by some pristine beaches on the Pacific ocean. The little town right by Tropic of Cancer - Todos Santos is probably worth a short stop to explore the little cafes and galleries. Unfortunately, I was out of time. I can't believe I blasted through the Tropic of Cancer twice and both times failed to notice any signs indicating it. I'll cross it one more time tonight, on the ferry to Mazatlan.

    [​IMG]
    One of many deserted beaches between Cabo and La Paz.

    Back in La Paz, I made a quick stop in the hotel where I stayed the night before to have a shower and pick up clothes that I left to dry. Refreshed, I only had enough time to get some snacks for the ferry ride before heading out to the port of Pichilingue, some 20 km north of La Paz.

    Before boarding the ferry, they checked my motorcycle papers for the very first time. Had it not been for this ferry, I could have saved 30 USD by not bothering with the temporary importation permit. I passed many military check points, but none of the soldiers were interested in any documents.

    The ferry looked very modern and classy. I decided not to waste money on a cabin as I brought my sleeping bag and pad. I'll see how it works out. So far, the ferry doesn't seem to be full, so hopefully people will have more than one seat to enjoy. It's a 12 hour ride to Mazatlan and if everything goes well, I'll be there tomorrow morning at 8 AM. For the ride, I loaded up with Dramamine. I don't want those tasty tacos to turn nasty on me. But the vomit-like smell that fills the salon does tickle my stomach. May be I'll have a few more pills.

    [​IMG]
    My bed on the ferry.
    #7
  8. Tricepilot

    Tricepilot Bailando Con Las Estrellas Super Moderator Super Supporter

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    :thumb
    #8
  9. GB

    GB . Administrator Super Moderator Super Supporter

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    Aug 16, 2002
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    67,860
    It's plainly evident through your pics the reason for this Latin fever! :thumb

    :lurk
    #9
  10. on2wheels52

    on2wheels52 Long timer

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    Jun 14, 2006
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    3,632
    Location:
    northern Arkansas
    That was the tallest gd cactus I've ever seen.
    Tuned in.
    Jim
    #10
  11. roadtripp

    roadtripp Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2009
    Oddometer:
    113
    Location:
    Seattle
    My KLR and I just took the ferry from Pichilingue to Mazatlan last tuesday! Whereabouts are you now? I am in Tepic and I'm heading down towards Manzanillo to meet my girlfriend (who is flying in) for a week-long stay. After that I'll be continuing south. If we're in the same area, maybe we could meet up and ride together for a bit!

    My RR is up at http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=521948
    #11
  12. bouldergeek

    bouldergeek Filthy, poor KLR dweeb

    Joined:
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    Nice job writing it up! Great to see another adv/klr650.net person coming down! You got some really good pics so far.

    Have you seen how the locals ride their tires to the cords? I bet someone will use that old tire for another year. I wonder if the vulcanizadoras do moto tire retreads like they do for trucks? The locals have loved picking up my spent rubber. Oh, sorry, that was a truly unfortunate choice of words.:puke1 :huh

    I may have to come up through Baja. Looks great, and I haven't used my camping gear since AZ, five months ago.

    Have you seen how road hazards and construction are frequently marked by big rocks blocking a lane? That is a great example of why riding at night down here is much more dangerous. When I have been caught at night, I usually follow trucks rather than blazing my own path. Buen suerte!

    Sent via iPod from Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.
    #12
  13. GallopinTICO

    GallopinTICO Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 12, 2009
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    Central NJ and Costa Rica
    :lurk
    #13
  14. pdedse

    pdedse paraelamigosincero

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2007
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    Lovely photos and although it's a pain sometimes to post as you go, it IS appreciated!
    #14
  15. nachtflug

    nachtflug I'm not going to talk about that.

    Joined:
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    I'm not going to talk about that.
    I REALLY like this shot. If you could post a link to the largest version available I'd appreciate it.

    [​IMG]
    #15
  16. Roguester

    Roguester Adventurer

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    Oct 16, 2009
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    Vancouver, WA
    This is what my rainy fall season needs, a vicarious latin adventure!
    #16
  17. Tricepilot

    Tricepilot Bailando Con Las Estrellas Super Moderator Super Supporter

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    [​IMG]

    Color is a big reason to love Mexico
    #17
  18. TemeculaRider

    TemeculaRider Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    569
    Location:
    La Paz, Baja California Sur
    Rainforest Cafe and Starbucks is only part of the reason Cabo San Lucas has been largely ruined. The only reason I go there is the Wal-Mart Supercenter. On the other hand San Jose del Cabo is one of my favorite towns in Baja.

    I applaud you for walking out of the overpriced motel rooms down there. It really pisses me of when they think they can charge an outrageous amount like $65 for a tiny little dark room. I like to let them know I don't appreciate the "gringo price" as I'm walking out the door to let them know their gamble did not pay off - at least this time. In San Felipe when everyone was asking $30 I kept saying no until someone took $20. There wasn't even a door handle! $20 for the priviledge of sleeping in a stiff little bed and a cold shower is generous I'd say!

    I'm surprised you missed the road south around the East Cape thru Cabo Pulmo (my favorite place in all of Baja). You'd really enjoy the scenery!

    Can't wait to see more! Travel safe and enjoy yourself, amigo! :freaky
    #18
  19. DirtyDog

    DirtyDog Omnia mea mecum porto Supporter

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    Thanks for sharing. Someday...
    #19
  20. rcook52459

    rcook52459 Been here awhile

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    Jun 11, 2009
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    portland ore.
    :lurk
    #20