Moto Adventures

Monday, January 29, 2007

Salar de Uyuni revised

Too many people we have talked to in the last while who have tried to drive into the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia have had horror stories to tell. Damage to their bikes, stuck in mud, which way do you go "lost" and just plain didn´t have a lot of fun trying to see the salt flats solo, without a guide. So what do we do? We hired a guide! Took a tour! And it was worth every penny. 1220 km in 4 days, a driver, a cook, Ken and I and 4 other people ( Valentine from France and his girlfriend Gisele from Brasil, and 2 girls from Austria, Ava and Liz) . What a luxury! Someone to look after all the little details like your bed, meals, and luggage. And to top it all off we actually got to drive in the Salar de Uyuni flats the largest salt flats in the world, 12,000 sq. km. and 11 meters deep. During the rainy season the flats are submerged in water, in the dry season you can get lost in immensity of it all. We sat back and let Don Felix do the driving. All meals awaited us with nothing for us to do but enjoy them. All we had to do was get up at 6:00 am everyday and sit and enjoy the scenery. Every night our bed was made and ready when we were. I have to mention here that the accomodations were fairly basic (Ken´s first experience in a dormroom and shared bathroom) but on one night we actually slept in beds made from salt from the salt flats and they were pretty comfy.
Mountains, lakes of many colours, volcanoes, geysers, hot springs and wildlife such as flamingos, guanacos, emus and vicuñas (rock bunnies). Breathtaking!! And talking about breathtaking, the second night on the trip we spent at 4400 meters, and the geysers were just short of 5000 meters. What a trip...see for yourself.

The first views of the snow capped mountains

Ken can´t believe the things you find in the middle of know where, sweet ride!

Ahh! A little soak in a desert oasis... is that dinner bell I hear?

Laguna Verde, what a colour.

Letting off a little hot steam, don´t get too close.

Flamingos, too many to count.

Arbol de Piedra, Tree of rock

Laguna Cañapa, calming.

Partly under water. It didn´t stop us!

Kiss me Ken!

Still a happy couple.

When we arrived at Uyuni the 4 other people left the tour to catch a bus north, what luck we had the jeep it ourselves. Well not quite. The driver and cook decided to stop for dinner before we started the last 220 km back to Tupiza ( leaving us in the vehicle wondering what was up!). This little stop put us a little behind schedule and we ended up driving the last 150 km of the 220 km in the dark. To Ken and I this wouldn´t have been a problem except it seemed the driver had night blindness. This was a road you had to be able to see to drive on, riverbeds for roads, part of the road was steep and sat on top of a ridge with cliffs on both sides. After loosing control once or twice, missing a head on with another vehicle by cm., ( we both saw the other cars lights coming) stopping only meters before plunging off a bank into a river because he didn´t see the detour and last but not least taking a wrong road and getting lost for a short time....We were more than happy to see the tour come to an end and have Ken at the helm again.
A great tour though, we´d do it again in a heartbeat. But maybe write another ending .

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Small towns welcome the odd motorcycle enthusiast

Traditional dress still rules amongst the woman... nice top hat!

It´s a long, long road with only the odd truck or passing vehicle

Ken keeps his eyes peeled for the unexpected

A storm brews as the road turns to gravel

Suzie handles every type of road, as does Ken, he loves this stuff

It is always the countries you don't hear about that surprise you the most. The crossing into Bolivia was the least painful yet. Down to our last soles on Peru, we gave our young guia the last of our money stash, saving just enough for the photo copies of the bike documents we would need upon our arrival in Bolivia. Ken runs to get the copies he needs only to find out this last 5 soles...are counterfeit!!! again!!! He frantically searches for that young guia and takes back the change we gave him for a tip, not the poor guys lucky day. Better luck next time.

The weather is great, not to hot. Clouds on the horizon but still a good temperature for riding. Bolivia is one of the highest countries in the world, most of the country lays between two ridges of the Andes, the AltoPlano. Mountains, plains, and salt flats all falling east into the jungle. The road is literally empty except for us and a few farmers on wagons. We both are very relaxed as we settle into the drive to La Paz, the capital city of Bolivia. As we reach the city limits we realize it was all too good to be true. Apparently, the country often is apart to demonstrations and today all the highways into the city are blocked by demonstrators, rocks, fires and people block the highway. Know one is coming or going into the city and neither are we! ( It should have been a clue when there was no other traffic on the road) We made our way through backstreets in neighbourhoods I´m not sure we should have been in, and through fields and ditches that made me happy we were travelling on a motorcycle with Ken at the helm. After about an hour and a half we made it around the city and were heading south again, we didn´t really want to see La Paz anyway. And the worlds most dangerous highway...well we think we have travelled some of those already!

The roads truly are tranquil because not many people here can afford cars, collectivos jam packed to the roof rule the road. Once again, I am happy to be travelling on the bike with Ken at the helm. The altitude has been getting higher and higher, heavy breathing is nothing unusual for us now. The first night, the owner of the hotel we stayed at gave us coco leaves to chew on and I think they worked because we both slept pretty good. Good thing, the altitude will not get lower for a while. We are off to the Salar de Uyuni next and that will take us to 5000 meters, we better take a good supply of coco leaves with us.

The road out of Bolivia, for the last 300km, is gravel and Ken was looking forward to it. A little fun in the dirt. The road was good, thank goodness it hadn´t rained in a while. Ken had a grin on his face and the only thing that could have been better was if he had had the KTM950 to ride the last of this road. 100 km before the Argentina border, Tupiza and salt flats. Yahoo!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Southern Peru

O.K. we've dealt with the fact the garbage is not going away, it's just the way it is down here (for now), and we've come to terms with the idea the lousy cops have families to feed and they don't make enough on their puny salary down here ( I refuse to think they are all into the drug trade). After spending a little more time here in Peru we have decided we like it alot. Here are a few reasons why!!

Ken can't wipe the grin off his face, anything this much fun just can't be legal! Dune buggy rides at Haucachina with the driver straight out of the Dakar. Hair straight back!!

Stand on that board? Not a chance, who was I kidding? But going down face first at 70 kph, no problem!

It's a bird, it's a plane no it's a tree!

Nasca lines, 800 lines, 300 figures and over 70 animals. What are they? Who made them? Calendars and stories of life made by people living 700 ad? Ancient walkways and paths made by extraterrestrials? Or a little fun being had by those guys on those hallucinogenic drugs? We don't know but they were cool man!

They are just too cute to look at but don't get too close. These little guys and their hurders were the only thing we saw at 14962 ft.

Suzie didn't miss a beat at this elevation, lacked just a tad of power but all the same she made it to Cusco for her oil change and was ready and rareing to go.

Ready and rareing to go until the hail storm, that is. It came and went within a few hours, thankfully. It left a mess in the streets, created kaos with the taxi drivers, and broke the waffled plastic roof on our bathroom in our hotel room but...nothing like home.

You can't go to Peru without getting the famous picture at Machu Picchu. A little rain, a little fog but the day was perfect for a walk around the ruins.

It's always nice to run into fellow bikers.

Three guys from Brazil, and a girl from Australia (hey where is here boyfriend? a mile up the road?)

A tour to villages built out in the middle of Lake Titicaca. The islands, houses and boat transportation are all made of reeds, they float.

Peru is definately more than garbage, rock and sand. I want to come back and do some hiking in the Andes, maybe the Inca trail, another time. Now it is time to make tracks south to Bolivia and one more country closer to Ushuaia.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Northern Peru, the jury is still out¿¿¿


Fishing boats or Peruvian slippers?

Bad hair day! No really, sugarcane being taken to be processed

Did I mention it was dry?

Friendly locals, going who knows where

The happy couple enjoy an awesome view of the Castillo Blanco

Just another beautiful vista!

I even feel odd writing this entry, you know that most times I try to keep a positive attitude about just about everything but something happened when we crossed the Peruvian border. I think we were beamed-up and transported to a place of only sand, rock, garbage and chickens. Peru is definately the poorest country we have travelled in yet, and usually I´m o.k. with that but it is just the.....smell. Garbage is everywhere. In their defence I have to admit, I think they are trying to contain it as some piles are definately bigger than others along the PanAm as if they are kind-of makeshift garbage dumps. The trouble is many people have come down to the coast from the mountians to try and scratchout a living selling goods; fruit, shoelaces, candies or ???? anything to make a sole ( three soles=just under a dollar). Shanty towns line the PanAm Highway and most don´t have sewer of even running water. The people are very nice and helpful but maybe a little sceptical of foreingers.

The landscape consists of miles apon miles of sand and rock interspersed with rice and sugar cane fields (along with the garbage), and where nothing will grow they have constructed huge chicken farms. After all there is A LOT of chicken consumed here, but again a little smelly. And if that isn´t enough and you think the smell can´t get any worse there is the stench of dirty cops! They can spot a tourist a mile away and when they find our your spanish isn´t fluent (damn! I should have taken those spanish lessons in Guatamala) it is game over. If they can´t think of a traffic infraction you have committed they want "money for a coke, mi amigo!!" Oh, and while I´m on the topic of money, we were given a conterfiet 100 sole bill at the boarder by the money exchange. Only about $33.00 dollars but to us poor travellors it´s alot of money, close to a days budget in Peru.

I really have to lighten up a little! After a few days heading south on the PanAm we found ourselves tired of sand and garbage and decided to head for Huarez in the Castillo Blancos. Huarez is a city of about 70,000 nestled in amongst 50 of the worlds highest mountians, of 5700m or more, the place to be if you are a hiker or as in our case a rider. The road over the summit took us to an elevation of 14,000 ft., it was definately the most spectacular ride we have had yet. The road wound up into the mountians thru terraced hillside covered with corn, cows, mangos or whatever could take root on the near vertical slopes. Now we love Peru for it´s fantastic mountian vistas and roads with no dirty cops.

After the ride in the Andes it was with regret that we headed to the PanAm and the continuation of our ride south through cop infested territory. I´ll mention that so far we have paid a total of just over $15.00 U.S. for 2 fines we are still questioning but we are sure they are bull crap. The road into Lima and in the city itself are suppost to be the worst, so we set our alarm for early hoping to be through the biggest part of the city before anyone wokeup. It was not early enough. Although we alluded the cops we ended up in the heat of early morning rush-hour. Let me also note here that bike have absolutely no rights on the road in Peru. We were pushed and cut off for about an hour as we made our way through the city. Reaching the south side of the city we gunned it on the four lane highway and headed for our next destination. Huacachina, here we come to take advantage of the sand and try our hand at sandboarding and dunebuggy riding.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


We made it to the middle

All of 4 ft tall and proud of it

Grandma in traditional dress, sells her goods and looks after the little one

lunch anyone?

lunch anyone?

lots of potatoes grow around small towns

Panamerican highway, a little foggy and a little muddy

Cathedrals in Cuenca, we love this city!

more beautiful countyside

Ecuador is a country we hadn't heard alot about so we didn't know what to expect or what to look for. I think this is a good way to go, no expectations, no regrets. We liked everything about Ecuador. The people are friendly and always laughing, the countryside is beautiful and refreshing, and the cost of traveling is very economical.

In the course of one day you can go from beautiful beaches to majestic mountians, to the tropical amazon. Ecuador has many dominating churches, a fury of markets, a handful of active volcanos and if you look hard enough you can even find a new tire for your V Strom, although not without a little help from the locals. ( maybe not the exact one you were looking for, we settled for a Dunlop 140/80 instead of a 150/80). O.k. alot of help but we did it and now we should be good until the end of the trip.

We said good-bye to our travelling buddies again, Kelly and Della, they will spend a little more time here and Ken and I feel the need to get moving on our trip south to the tip.

A quick reflection of what we liked most about Ecuador:

Tulcan; for allowing us to import our bikes into the country even after the Aduana office was officially closed.

Otavalo; for its´ fantastic market with fruit, vegies, meat, hand knit sweaters and hats, alpaca rugs, jewellry and much much more.

Baños; for our cheapest room yet, $4.00 p/p. A small town sitting at the bottom of an active vocano. The last eruption was in August 2006. A friendly little tourist town with hot pools and lots of hotels and restuarants.

Puyo; for the ride down to the small town on the edge of the Amazona on a road through tunnel after tunnel. What a great ride over the river and the waterfall on the other side.

Cuenca; we love this colonial city full of huge cathedrals and cool narrow cobbelstone streets that we explored on foot. And thanks to The Faster Pastor ( the name we gave to our pastor friend because of his crazy driving as he lead us around the city looking for a tire for Suzie) we couldn´t have done it without you.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Hello Ecuador

One of those long lines

I can't remember who told us that the border crossings in South America were a breeze but....after 5 1\2 hours at the Columbia-Ecuador border we were more than a little fatigued with the whole situation. The root of the problem was the Carnival de Blanco y Negro in Columbia, a weeklong celebration that dates back to the era of slaves and the Spaniards etc., it seems lots of people cross the border from country to country to partake in the festivities. When you are going to party your face off for a week, what is another 5-6 hours? Party on dude!!! I'm not quite sure if the guy that works at the Aduana at the border was at the party or what, but he wasn't where we needed him to be to import our bikes. The only place we could do that was a 10 minute ride away in Tulcan and that Aduana was closing for the weekend at 4p.m. an wouldn't reopen until Monday morning. Yiks! in only 20 minutes. We pushed through the line and tried to explain the situation, not an easy task in our broken Spanish, to the custom officers "This is an emergency, we need out!" It was now or never the thought of spending another night in Columbia in a border town didn't appeal to us. They obliged and off we went Kelly, Della, Ken and I, hair straight back and passports in hand into town. After a few attempts to find the building we finally got there, 4:02, crap! We noticed that the people in Ecuador are generally more friendly, happy and helpful than they had been in while and our Aduana guy was no exception. He signed and stamped, smile intact, even if he had to reboot his computer that he already turned off for the weekend. We were all more than grateful and gave him a little something (for his kids' education you understand) and rode off the find our hotel for $8 per person and dinner for $3 each. A rough day, but a smooth end that was easy on the pocket book. It's o.k. it was nothing that a good night sleep won't fix, it's exhausting standing in line all day.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Columbia, Sit down and get comfy for this one!

Too cute!

Just more beautiful countryside

Big city, bright lights

¿Where's Waldo?

Ken looks for a little help

And baby makes three

New Years...B.Y.O.B....(bed)

Small towns dot the farmland

Starting to see some more roughed mountians

A new year and a new continent for us. At last we have made it to Columbia safe and sound and without any problems at the border for ourselves or the bike. In fact we said to each other "is that it-nada mas?". The people at Girag, the company that shipped the bike, were a little confused about whether we needed the bike inspected or not but we rode the bike out the door and down the front steps with a smile on our faces and without paying an extra cent for importation, yeh!

We rode off into Bogota, population 7 million plus ( did I mention that we hate big cities?) to try and find a hotel and our moto vests. Every motorbike rider has to wear a reflective vest with the licence plate # on the back and also have the # on the back of his helmet, passenger includes. The only place in the world, as Ken keeps telling everyone. In a city this size we decided to hire ourselves a taxi to help us out and believe me he was worth his weight in gold. Oh by the way, he happened to know someone who had a good hotel. So money in hand, vests on our backs and a bed for the night we figured life was good in Columbia. Prices may be a little higher than we are used to but but "better safe than sorry".

First thing in the morning we are up and headed north out of the city, did we mention how we hate big cities...but after we are out...what a ride! Beautiful farmland in a valley that eventually disappears into hills, canyons and at last the spectacular scenery of the very northern end of the Andes Mountians. Is this any kind of perview of what is to come? I am going to like Columbia!The food at the place we found for lunch on the side of the road was delicious, a collection of typical Columbian fare, thick tortilla like patties stuffed with fresh cheese and then fried, chiriso sausage bbq´d over a flame and empanadas stuffed with some kind of meat and rice. Food doesn´t have calories when you are on the road. Wash all this down with a diet coke and a beer and you have a filling lunch for under 5 bucks.

On to Medellin and New Years! Crap...another big city and everyone who doesn´t live there is there for the holidays. After the local policia got us pointed in the general direction we wanted to go, but not quite, we ran into Freddy our private Guia. Freddy saved us money, time and probably our skin leading us through the traffic and some shady areas on his Yamaha 90 scooter, to a reasonably priced hotel with secure parking. All three bikes made it there together and in one piece. Thank you, thank you, thank you Freddy! As per Freddy´s suggestion we hired a taxi that night to drive us around the city to look at the Christmas lights ( oh how it reminded me of the old days). I swear Medellin looked like a Columbian Las Vegas, every square, park and cathedral was lit up. The river that runs through town had lights suspended across it. Thousands of people walked the streets enjoying food from all food and drink vendors and listening to the music, every once in a while the taxi driver would let us jump out and take pictures. What a city, I felt bad for cursing it earlier that day. The next day we still had more to see so we jumped on the metro and for the price of a ticket rode from one end of town to the other, including a ride up the mountian on a gondola where we was a great view of the city. Home to the hotel, a quiet dinner with Della and Kelly, and a toast to 2007 with a local apple wine at midnight. At little reflection of the year gone´s been fun, it´s been an adventure, it´s been exciting, it´s been life at it´s best and I don´t think we would change it for the world. Life is good on the road.

We found the best time to get out of town is early in the a.m. and New Years day was even quieter, so off we went Cali bound and I´ll say it again....a beautiful drive. Cali, another big city but we need tires and Cali is the place to get them so here we go. All I can say is "I don´t know what we would do without taxi drivers", $2.00 got us a guide to the hotel we picked out in The Lonely Planet. Again a little more money than we are used to but definately the nicest hotel this couple has ever stayed in. Owned by a Swiss couple, the hotel is right out of Europe, a castle-like mansion with suites Ken and I feel small in ( and the price includes breakfast, internet, and free coffee all day...I can just about drink 50 bucks worth of coffee!).

Ken´s got the front tire for Suzie (we felt obligated to name our bike as everyone else we have met on this trip has!), a new Michelin Anakee. Same price as in Canada and about half the price they quoted us in Medellin, it should be good now for the rest of the trip but we will need a new rear tire before Chile. The tire balanced out and brakes and wheel bearings are like new. We still haven´t had to adjust the chain thanks to the Elf chain paste with toothbrush application. Thanks Shaun!

Columbia definately is every bit as beautiful as everything we heard, and personal safety is not an issue. The main highways are patroled and watched continually by friendly military, and as we found out the local police are always willing to help you out. Of course there are rough areas as there are in every country but we have not felt personally threatened at any time. When the locals recomend you not go to different areas however, it does make you think twice about how easy life is at home. People here are not quite as friendly, at first, as they are in other countries we have been in but after they warm up to you they truely are genuine.

Time to head for Equador, Columbia has been great and a fantastic introduction to South America.