The Achievable Dream 5-part series - the definitive guide on DVD for planning your motorcycle adventure. Get Ready! covers planning, paperwork, medical and many other topics! "Inspirational and Awesome!" See the trailer here!
Gear Up! is a 2-DVD set, 6 hours! Which bike is right for me? How do I prepare the bike? What stuff do I need - riding gear, clothing, camping gear, first aid kit, tires, maps and GPS? What don't I need? How do I pack it all in? Lots of opinions from over 150 travellers! "This DVD will save you a fortune!"See the trailer here!
So you've done it - got inspired, planned your trip, packed your stuff and you're on the road! This section is about staying healthy, happy and secure on your motorcycle adventure. And crossing borders, war zones or oceans!
On the Road! is 5.5 hours of the tips and advice you need to cross borders, break down language barriers, overcome culture shock, ship the bike and deal with breakdowns and emergencies."Just makes me want to pack up and go!" See the trailer here!
Tire Changing!Grant demystifies the black art of Tire Changing and Repair to help you STAY on the road! "Very informative and practical." See the trailer here!
Ladies on the Loose! For the first time ever, a motorcycle travel DVD made for women, by women! These intrepid women share their tips to help you plan your own motorcycle adventure. They also answer the women-only questions, and entertain you with amazing tales from the road! Presented by Lois Pryce, veteran solo traveller through South America and Africa and author of 'Lois on the Loose', and 'Red Tape and White Knuckles.'
"It has me all fired up to go out on my own adventure!" See the trailer here!
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Ride TalesAn easy way to post your ride reports, whether it's a weekend ride or around the world.
Please make the first words of the title WHERE the ride is.
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I woke up this morning and had absolutely nothing planned. I had a simple breakfast of an apple, pear and banana. It was nice having something light. I sat in the hammock for a while. Then I decided that I felt like taking a little day trip. I went on a hike the day before so something different was in order. There is a stretch of towns linked together by a road called 8W or La Ruta de Las Flores. I thought that I'd take Emi out for a ride along this route.
I removed my bags from Emi and headed out.
The first town was Apaneca. The town is noted for having painted murals on many of the houses. I rode street by street and snapped a few photos.
I suppose one could look at these simple murals as amateur drawings. But as a collection I think they make interesting folk art. They definitely capture the sentiments of the towns' people about their surroundings.
I'll post the entire collection of photos in another post.
Just outside of Apaneca I saw a sign for La Luguna Verde (The Green Lagun). I decide to check it out. 4 km is not too far. It started as a asphalt road, then turned to cobblestone, then to gravel, then to dirt and finally to rocks. It was a little unexpected, but it was a fun ride with Emi.
When I arrived at the laguna I found out why it might be called the Green Lagun. Although it is more of a lake covered with green, than a green lake. Sometimes it is not the destination, but the journey... that is the fun part.
I continued on...
It was about 1pm and I was getting a little hungry. I saw a sign for a restaurant for El Jardin de Celestre (The Celestial Garden). Pretty lofty name... so I decided to check it out. There was an intricate manicured garden on the inside. The dining area was very tastefully decorated. Bread with butter, herbs and olive oil and Salvadoran Enchiladas. Tiramisu and Chamomile Tea. And all the food was delicious. I could have taken a nap right there in the restaurant. But, I decided I should ride on.
The next town that I came across was called Ataco. It is noted for it's artesania and wall murals.
The first thing I noticed when I entered the town was this unique looking church. I'm not sure what style of architecture this might be, any guesses? They also had a nice park.
It was getting late so I needed to start heading back. It was a nice day of exploring without really having an agenda.
When I returned to the hotel I noticed this... a nail in my rear tire. You'll notice that the tire is still fully inflated. I didn't know if the nail had not penetrated all the way to the tube or if the Slime that I put inside my tube had protected and sealed the leak. It was late in the day, so I decided to wait until the next day to attempt the repair.
The next day the tire was still holding pressure. I've repaired a flat tire on my motorcycle before, so I felt comfortable repairing it. But I wanted to see if there was a llanta taller (tire shop) nearby that might be able to help. I asked the owner of the hotel and he indicated that there was not a taller in Alegria, but there were a few tallers in the town of Berlin about 5 km away. I headed down the road.
When I arrived in Berlin the first shop that I found was closed. I rode around a little bit looking for another. I saw a young guy on a little Suzuki 50cc motorbike. It was what one might call a pit bike in the states. I asked him where I might find a taller. He gave me directions... una cuadra alla y dos cuadra alla, alli por el banco. I told him that I was not familiar with the town. He said that he'd show me they way.
He push started his bike and we were off. We got a few looks as we roads through town because my bike dwarfed his... a rider in full moto gear on a Suzuki DR650 following a kid on a Suzuki 50cc wearing shorts. We arrived at the shop in just a few minutes.
Issrak was the jefe (boss) of the shop but he had a bunch of kids hanging around, learning the trade and working. Issrak was a big strong guy... the type of guy I like working on my bike.
First he removed the rim and tire from the bike. He propped up the bike on an old tree stump.
Then he removed the tire from the rim. Notice his little apprentice attentively watching.
Then he removed the tube from the rim and checked it for leaks in a tub of soapy water. Good news... no leak.
This was the culprit. Issrak removed the nail from the tire. Apparently the nail just went in sideways and penetrated a knobby.
He then reset the tube, tire, rim and sprocket. Then he put the tire back on the bike. The whole process from the time that I rode up to the shop to the time that I rode away probably only took 15 minutes. Great service. When I asked him how much he would charge me he said US$2. I was shocked. I just shook my head and gave him US$5.
In the states to repair a tire would probably have cost $50 and I would have had to leave it in the shop for half a day. This little trip to Issrak's shop saved me quite a bit of time and worry. It probably would have taken me a hour and few few bruised knuckles to change the tire myself. T
I'm simply amazed at the quality, speed of work and honesty of the mechanics and fabricators that I've come across in Latin America. Buena Gente (Good Folks).
For the full story with more photos check out this link Tire Repair
The Adventure Begins... Three Countries In One Day
After my wonderful beach experience in Playa El Espino I decided that it was time for a change of scenery.
Sometimes it's just necessary to cover some distance. From Southern El Salvador I took the coastal road East and then North to the border to the town of El Amatillo.
I bypassed the long line of trailer trucks that were waiting at the border checkpoint.
The exit procedure from El Salvador was smooth and I was through in about 15 minutes.
The entry procedure into Honduras was a bit more problematic and it probably took about an hour. The Honduras immigration and customs department required multiple copies of all my documents. They also charged me for a visa, vehicle permit and municipal road toll. I had most of my documents in order, but it still took some time.
Once I finished with the entry procedures I rode through the Southern part of Honduras for about 2 hours.
There wasn't much remarkable about the ride. The road was covered with potholes. I took them on as a bit of a challenge, weaving around them as if they were barriers on a obstacle coarse. The Honduran roads were for the most part long and straight. There were mountain ranges in the distance. Lots of cattle fincas (ranches). A few volcanos.
I arrived in the border town of El Espino.
The exit procedure for leaving Honduras took longer than expected... about three hours.
The agents hinted at "lubricating money", but I decided to wait in line with everyone else. It was close to 6pm by the time I got through.
For the Nicaraguan side since it was already dark I decided to hire an ayudante (fixer) for $10. He got me though immigration, customs and the local police inspection in about 15 minutes.
I generally don't like to ride in the dark. It's harder to see the pot holes, farm animals, other automobiles and bandidos (bandits). About the same time that I was leaving the check point another car was passing through the border, so I decided that it would be smart to follow it. I was able to leverage their lights and their path. Also, strength in numbers. It worked.
I followed the car for about 20 km to the town of Somoto, Nicaragua. There we parted ways and I found the Hotel Pan Americano to spend the night.
Here are some short videos that I made about the roads in El Salvador.
This is a short 2 minute video which documents the journey along the Coastal Road of El Salvador from the border town of La Hachadura to the town of (San Blas) La Libertad. Check out this link to watch the video.
This is a short 45 second video about moving against traffic in El Salvador. Check out this link to watch the video.
Sometimes I can't control what goes on around me... like taking 3 hours to be processed through the Honduran border checkpoint. By the time that I left the border it was already dark. I pulled into the first town I could find along the highway to spend the night and stayed at the first hotel I could find with an open room. The town was Somoto.
Sometimes... I'm Lucky.
It turns out that Somoto had quite a bit going on. It was the weekend and the town was celebrating their feria. In Latin American just about every town has a feria, a patron saint and once a year the town holds a huge street party to celebrate. I just happened to land in Somoto during their biggest celebration of the year. It was like walking into a surreal world.
In the evening there was a carnival...with a band and dancing.
During the next day there were marching bands, street vendors, food stalls and horses.
Somoto is in the middle of an area of Nicaragua with lots of ranching. It's cowboy country... a bit like my home state of Texas. I felt right at home.
Sometimes... I'm just lucky... and sometimes... I'm lucky twice.
While walking around Somoto I dropped in at a little ice cream store on the town plaza. The girl behind the counter was quite friendly and started asking me about where I was from, what I was doing there, etc.. After a while she suggested that I might like to check out El Cañón de Somoto (The Canyon of Somoto). Supposedly it was a canyon that locals knew about for many years, but it was only opened up as a national park and an adventure destination about 5 years ago.
When I returned to my hotel I inquired if they knew about arranging a tour to the canyon. I was told that a guide to the canyon would pass by the hotel in the morning and I could inquire if there was still space with his tour for the day.
I awoke at about 7am and met the guide Raynel. He said that I was welcome to join his group.
The trip began with a short ride in a 4x4 to the national park. We took a short break for breakfast. We were provided life preservers. Then we began hiking.
We hiked through some small communities then came across this nice overlook of the canyon and the river that runs through it. Then we started to descend into the canyon.
There were 7 Spaniards that were on the tour and I made the group an even 8. Funny how things like that work out sometimes.
We hiked along the banks of the canyon and when we couldn't hike... we floated the river.
There were a few opportunities to jump from the cliffs. But for the most part it was hiking and floating the river.
After about 4 hours of hiking and floating we met up with these lanchas (boats) and the guys paddled us down the river for a while.
Then we hiked out of the canyon back to our 4x4 truck.
It was an amazing day of hiking and floating and just taking in the natural beauty of the canyon.
The Adventure Begings... Leon and Volcano Boarding
Leon is a town known for it's colonial architecture. There are some interesting examples around the central plaza.
Honestly, I didn't do much in Leon other than walk around the town, eat some local food and people watch.
I did meet another adventure motorcycle rider named Joel. He's a Kiwi (New Zealander) on his way down to Bolivia. He's riding a Suzuki DR650, a similar bike as me. It was fun comparing notes. Nice Guy.
Here are some local kids playing football (soccer) in the park.
Here are some other kids playing games in an arcade.
And here are some big big kids playing on the Cerro Negro Volcano. What? Check out the video.
The Adventure Begings... Baseball The Great Nicaraguan Past Time
Baseball is huge in Nicaragua. It is more popular than football...and for many people it is considered the national pastime. I had to check it out.
Probably the best known Nicaraguan baseball player is Dennis Martinez who spent many years playing MLB with the Baltimore Orioles and Montreal Expos. In the capital city of Managua they actually named the stadium Dennis Martinez National Stadium.
I was visiting Granada where the local professional team is called Los Orientales. Granada is in the Oriente (Eastern) part of the country... thus the name.
I asked a few fellow travelers from the hostal if they'd be interested in joining me. We had a pretty good group.
The stadium was about the size of a minor league stadium. There were general admission tickets for C$15 (US$0.65) or prime seats for C$40 (US$1.75). Being the big spending big baller that I am we opted for the prime seats behind home plate.
There were fans that brought their own instruments to make a band, a dancing bat boy, concessions with local food like gallo pinto, yucca and chicarrones, the local called Toña, kids collecting and recycling cans and dogs wandering around the stadium.
It was the Orientales (Easterners) de Granada contra (vs) Los Tigres (Tigers) de Chinandega.
The Tigers jumped out to an early 2 run lead. The Orientals later scored 1 run to draw the game closer. The Tigers had a huge 5th inning and added 5 runs. In the last inning the Orientals made a small rally and scored 2 more runs. With the final score being 7 to 3, and the Tigers, the visiting team, winning.
From Granada I headed southwest to the coastal town of San Juan del Sur. I found lodging at a hostel called Casa del Oro. No real gold in this place, but the hostel was convenient and the staff friendly.
This was only the second place that I have stayed which did not have parking for Emi. Although she took it alright. She spent the night outside locked up to a bike rack. There was also a security guard looking out for her.
San Juan del Sur is a former fishing village that now caters primarily to the tourist crowd. There are a number of cheap hotels, restaurants and tour agencies. I mostly hung around the central area and took in the scene. Lots of surfers walking around. Lots of Nicos hosting them, feeding them and taking them on tours. I checked out the strip, the market and the beach. It seems that people visit San Juan del Sur to either surf or fish.
I wanted to do a little fishing so I signed up for an excursion that promised fishing, a complimentary and a sunset. It only cost $16. I thought it was a pretty good deal for a fishing excursion. When I joined the tour there were in addition to me, 2 Canadian girls, 2 Aussie girls and 1 Brittish guy. They were an fun group.
We caught a glance of this rainbow.
We caught this sunset.
And that was all we caught... absolutely no fish.
Oh well... that's why they call it fishing and not catching.
The Adventure Begins... San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua to Samara, Costa Rica
From San Juan del Sur it was only a short trip to the border of Costa Rica.
On the road leading out of Nicaragua I came across this windmill farm.
Crossing the border from Nicaragua to Costa Rica was pretty easy. On the Nicaragua side they did require some paperwork and photocopies. It took probably 30 minutes to get through.
On the Costa Rican side there was a long line of probably 200 people in line. Thankfully Costa Rica is organized. For the amount of people waiting to cross the border the immigration department processed them rather quickly. I think that I got through the line in maybe 30 or 40 minutes. There was no cutting in line and no bribery going on. Once it was my turn, my paperwork was processed within 10 minutes. There was no need for an ayudante. The process was clear. And, they only required one set of photocopies. Amazing how a little law and order makes things easier.
Once I got through the border I had a bit of riding to do. I was targeting a coastal town called Samara that was about 190 km away.
Costa Rica has clearly marked highway signage with towns and distances clearly presented. They also have clearly posted speed limits that are enforced by radar wielding police officers. I regulated my riding according. I didn't mind because the roads were in good condition, the traffic seemed to obey the rules of the road and I was riding through beautiful Costa Rican countryside.
I arrived in Sumara after sunset. I rode around in the dark looking for a hotel. I eventually came across a place called Las Mariposas Hostel.
This is what La Mariposa Hostel looked like during the day.
It was a small and friendly place that suited me fine.
The managers offered to let me park my bike in their bodega (shed).
And this little guy kept guard over the grounds. My kind of place.
I spent my first two days in Costa Rica and at Las Mariposas just catching up on blog posts, lounging around the beach and socializing with the other travelers.
From Costa Rica I traveled to Panama. I left Uvita early and made my way south and east. I wanted to avoid the main border crossing of Canoas and cross at the smaller, and hopefully more tranquilo, border area called Rio Sereno.
Along the route I came across this bridge.
There were a number of people standing in the middle of the bridge and looking over the edge. I stood up on my bike and caught a glimpse of what they were looking at. I turned around to take a closer look.
First I saw these guys hanging out on a little island.
Then these guys were lounging about near the shoreline.
I guess I better be a little more careful when swimming in the rivers of Costa Rica.
I rode on... and passed through some really lush green hills...
Along some rivers...
And up some mountains...
About 10km from the border, the road turned to a mixture of dirt and wet clay. It was a little treacherous to ride over on my bike, but I slowed down and managed to slip and slide my way through.
I reached the border by noon and checked out of Costa Rica within 5 minutes. Very simple.
I waited in line for about 3 hours to check in to Panama. There were probably only 20 people in line when I arrived. However, the border agent seemed to be taking his time processing he paperwork. If I had to guess, I'd say he processed about one person every ten minutes. To complicate matters, Panama is one hour ahead of Costa Rica. So while it was nearing 4pm in Costa Rica, it was nearing 5pm in Panama. The immigration office had a sign outside that said to the effect that the office would close at promptly 5pm and those waiting in line would be processed the following day.
By the time that I finished all the border crossing tramites (paperwork) it was getting late, right about 5pm. I rode on for about an hour. It started to rain pretty hard, but I rode on because I was passing through a national park with thick forest. I thought about pulling over and camping, but there really wasn't even any open space, just very dense forest.
It was about to turn dark when I came across a hotel near the town of Volcan.
After a long day I was ready for a little luxury. I was drenched from the rain.
The hotel had a nice garden with a stream running trough it.
And more important... enough space to dry out my clothing and a comfortable bed to rest my head.
The Adventure Begins... Panama City - A Crossroads for Ships and Travelers
It was raining again. I drove through it and rolled into Panama City. Riding into a big city is never fun. The streets are confusing and the traffic is crazy. I made my way through the city and eventually found the Villa Vento Hostel. It turns out to be a pretty nice place to chill.
I showered up, met a few people and we headed out to dinner at a restaurant called Arabe. Grant(LA) Damiano(Rome), Allison(Cannes), Angelica(Panama City), Jenny(DC) and Sam(Melbourne).
Over the next few days it rained quite a bit. I stayed in the hostel resting up and only ventured out to eat, drink or run errands.
Every few days, a group of travelers would arrive and a group of travelers would depart. So it is, this life on the road. Guy(New Zealand), Sue(Germany), SuJe(Korean), George(Canada), David(Australia)
I did manage to see a bit of Panama City... the new and modern part.
The Casco Viejo (Old Shell/Old Town).
The Presidential Palace.
The Mercado de Mariscos (Fish Market).
And, I dropped by this little thing called the Panama Canal.
Ships pass through...
...kind of like travelers.
But for most of my time in Panama, I was planning on how to get me and my bike from Central America to South America crossing over the Darien Gap.
The Adventure Begins... Crossing the Darien Gap from Panama to Colombia
The Darien Gap is a 30 mile stretch of land that lies between Panama and Colombia. It is thick jungle that is pretty inhospitable to most human beings. There are some indigenous people, guerrillas and drug runners that do inhabit the area.
There was one group of adventure motorcyclists that crossed through the Darien Gap in 1995 on specially modified motorcycles. Their journey is documented at Outback of Beyond.
For most adventure motorcyclists there are a few options for crossing the Darien Gap.
1. Ship your bike from Colon to Cartagena on a cargo ship and buy a ticket on a separate ship or airplane for yourself.
2. Ship your bike from Colon to Cartagena on a passenger sailboat that will carry both you and your bike.
3. Ship your bike from Panama City to Bogota on a cargo airplane and buy a separate airplane ticket for yourself.
I looked into all of these options.
1. This option cost about $700 for the cargo ship and then $100 to $300 for the passenger ticket. This would take about 2 days of travel and 1 to 2 days of arduous import/export paperwork. I would need to complete paperwork myself.
2. This option sounds like fun and cost about $500 for the bike and $500 for the passage. It takes about 5 days of sailing and stopping at islands and ports along the way. And, I would have to complete the paperwork myself.
3. This option cost about $900 for the cargo plane and $450 for the passenger plane ticket. It takes 1 day and the cargo plane shipping company handles the paperwork.
I looked into option 1 and it didn't really appeal to me. It was not really cost effective and some of the logistics and paperwork seemed problematic.
Option 2 was a real option. I actually rode from Panama City on the west coast to Portabelo on the east coast to investigate this option. By phone a guy named Captain Jack said that there were three sailboats leaving over the next few day. When arrived to check it out, it wasn't true. It is somewhat late in the sailing season and there were not any sailboats leaving until after Christmas. Also, if I waited and elected for this option I would have to complete the paperwork myself.
This left me with Option 3. I contacted a company called Girag and inquired about cargo flights. Each day Girag would tell me that there might be a flight and they would let me know. However, they would only give me about an one hour advance notice. Not a lot of time to pack, ride and prep the bike for shipment. After a few days of missed connections and flights I made it work.
I was in the town of Portabelo on the eastern side of Panama checking into the sailing ships. After finding out that there were not any sailboats leaving this week, I sent an email to Girag inquiring if they had any flights available. I received an email at 3pm stating that I would need to turn over my bike before 4pm to prep it for a flight leaving the next day at 7am.
I sent an email back that I was on my way, even though I was on the other side of the country.
I hopped on Emi and rode. The ride across the country is only about 1 hour in good weather. Luckily the weather was holding up.
Until about 45 minutes into the trip... then it started to rain... and then the traffic slowed down. I rolled into Panama City at about 4:30pm, but still had to cross the town to the airport on the other side of town. I rode through the rain and reached the dock of Girag at 5pm. When I arrived the door was locked.
I looked around the dock and eventually found someone. I mentioned that I was told that I could turn over my bike for preparation for shipment for the 7am flight. To my surprise... they said okay!
I unloaded all my bags, disconnected the battery and siphoned out most of the gas. I completed one page of paperwork and turned my baby over to Girag.
I then caught a ride over to the passenger terminal to book a ticket with Copa Airlines to transport me.
The ticketing agents were not very helpful. I believe that it was the end of the day, they were ending their shift and they did not want to book a last minute flight. I did understand that it was probably one of the busiest times of year for them, right before Christmas. They shuffled me between the ticketing counter and the departure counter. Each desk telling me that the other would help out. Each desk telling me that there were no flights available over the next few days. They also told me that I could not buy a one way ticket to Colombia, that I was require to buy a round trip ticket or show proof that I would be leaving the country.
Eventually, one of the ticketing agents said that I should show up early in the morning and try to fly standby. I resided to spending the night in the airport and trying my luck the next day.
I found a cafe to eat dinner. I was fortunate in that the cafe had internet access. I used my iPhone and Kayak.com to check for fights between Panama City and Bogota. Turns out that there was one seat available on the second flight of the day at 7:45am. I booked it.
I spent the night in the airport... woke up early the next morning.. boarded my flight...
and 2 hours later landed in Bogota, Colombia.
I caught a free shuttle to the cargo terminal and found the Girag office. They told me that the cargo flight had not yet arrived and that I should return at about 4pm. I took this as good news. They had a nice little lounge with a cafe and some vending machines. I bought some food, found an ATM in the FedEx office and withdrew some Colombian Bolivars and kicked back and rested in their lobby.
While waiting I came across another adventure motorcyclist name Ken who was riding a BMW Dakar. He had arrived the day before, but had just received his bike and completed the paperwork. He was on the receiving dock inspecting and prepping his bike to ride. We talked a little and exchanged info.
At around 3:30pm Girag notified me that my bike had arrived. They handed over the keys and bill of lading. I went to the customs office to complete the paperwork. I was done within 30 minutes. I went back to Girag to take delivery of my bike. When they pulled my bike up to the unloading ramp I inspected it. There was some cosmetic damage to the sides and the handlebars seemed to be misaligned. They probably dropped Emi on her side. I reconnected the battery and started her up... she seemed to be okay. I torqued the handlebars a little and got them back into shape. Emi is a tough girl. I signed the paperwork and rode my bike down the loading ramp onto the dock.
I grabbed my bags from the Girag office and I was ready. I asked a local motorcyclist who was hanging around the dock if he could show me the way into Bogota. He obliged and I rode into town. I found a hostel called the Platypus which I planned to make my home for the next few days.
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