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  #46  
Old 30 Dec 2011
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The Adventure Begins... New Shoes/Tires

My odometer on my bike rolled over to 7000 miles today. I thought that I'd celebrate by getting some nuevo zapatos (new shoes/tires) for Emi.

I asked a local motorcyclist where I might be able to find a motorcycle shop that sells tires and he directed me to a street called Avenida 1 de Mayo between Avenida NQS and Avenida 10.



The street is lined on both sides with about a half mile of moto shops.



All the motorcyclists ride up and down the street looking for what they need, then pull up on the sidewalk to park.



I found a shop that had some Perelli MT60 tires in the right size for my bike.



In the small garage the mechanics went to work on my bike. I also asked for an oil change and lube. I had them check my break pads and they seemed to still be in good shape.



Afterwards, I rode down the street and found a moto wash.



I had been riding through quite a bit of rain and dirt, so it was nice having my bike cleaned up a bit for $3. They didn't do a great job, but I think Emi appreciated it.

I also picked up temporary insurance for Colombia for my bike. After visiting a few insurance sales offices and being told that it is only possible to buy a full year of insurance, I found Seguros SurAmerica at Carrera 10, #28-49 Edificio Davivienda which sold me two months of insurance at a reasonable rate.day

Now I'm ready to ride the Andes Mountains of South America.

For the full story visit New Shoes
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  #47  
Old 10 Jan 2012
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The Adventure Begins... Colombia

I'm way behind on my posts. Here are some of the highlights of Colombia. Please click on the links to see the full stories.

El Museo de Botero

El Museo de Oro

El Museo de Oro Experience

Happy New Year!

I'll try to catch up.
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  #48  
Old 11 Jan 2012
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The Adventure Begins... El Desierto de Tatacoa

I was starting to feel that I had seen enough of the city of Bogota. It's a great place to take in a little Colombian culture, but I felt like I needed to leave the hustle of the big city and find a little tranquilidad (tranquility).

In Colombia, one certainly has a choice of ecoregions to visit. There are the Andes mountains, Atlantic and Pacific tropical coasts, and the Amazon basin.

However, I had heard about an anormality called the Desierto de Tatacoa (Tatacoa Desert). It lies between two mountain ranges. It is a parched spot where temperatures can reach over 120°F, and it features a variety of landscapes ranging from rippled dunes to carved cathedrals. Sounded pretty unique. I was up for some dry and warm weather after 6 days of rain in Panama and 6 days of cold in Bogota.

I got an early start and rode over the Andes Mountains. Luckily there was not a great deal of traffic, but the traffic that was on the road was moving slowly. There had been a quite a bit a rain over the past month in Colombia and the roads were in bad shape from landslides.

After riding about 4 hours I was welcomed by some warm air. I passed through the town of Neiva in which I was given directions to a small village another hour away called Villa Vieja. In Villa Vieja I picked up some survival water and food. From Villa Vieja, I was given directions to the national park another 20-30 minutes away in the desert.

I passed through a few small villages until I arrived at the national park and observatory. It was about 6:30pm and already dark. I stopped by the park office because I wanted to inquire if there was a place where I might be able rent a tent. The park office was not in the practice of renting tents, but Oswaldo, one of the staff, said that I could borrow his tent. Colombians are just the nicest people and always seem to go out of their way to help someone.

It was ready dark, so I set up the tent right behind the observatory. Oswaldo mentioned that there was going to be a presentation at the observatory about the constellations at 7:30pm. Perfect! A campsite with a little evening entertainment.

Turns out that the Desierto de Tatacoa is a good place for an observatory because it has 170 degrees of skyline, is far from any light pollution from a city and has few clouds and little rain which obstruct observations. With Colombia being so close to the equator, the northern and southern hemisphere skies are visible year round. The presentation was quite good. I learned about some new constellations.

The best part of the night was laying in my tent looking up at the unobstructed desert sky at the millions of stars.

The next day I was woken up by the sun rising and a few random roosters. I gathered my things quickly and headed out into the desert. I wanted to check out some of the features before it turned too hot.

The Adventure Begins...When The Road Ends.

The first thing that I encountered were sand dunes.

There were sand formations created from erosion.

It was almost as if I were on another planet.

There were cathedrals.

Rock formations.

Cactus

The dirt road was perfect for riding. It was compacted dirt with a little gravel and a little sand.

In this area called Los Hoyos (The Holes), in the middle of nowhere, I came across this water hole. It was fed by a natural spring that deposited water into a well. The owner said that there was enough water year round to keep the water hole filled. I dived in and it was a nice relief from the heat.

At the water hole I met this pretty Colombian girl that was visiting the desert for a vacation.

As the sun got high in the sky it started to heat up. I thought that it might be a good time to move on.

When I reached a location with internet service I checked google maps to see where I had been. I was surprised to find out that I was pretty far out into the desert.

For the full story visit El Desierto de Tatacoa
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  #49  
Old 13 Jan 2012
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The Adventure Begins... San Agustin and Stone Sculptures

I left the desert and headed south and west. There was a town about 250km away called San Agustin that I wanted to visit. The road was in good condition. The weather was cooperating as well.

I crossed the Rio Magdalena a few times. Its a long and wide river that cuts a path through the center of Colombia.

Distances in Colombia can be a little deceiving. 250km is not a far distance, but the roads are often curvy and it always takes a little longer than expected. I arrived in San Agustin after about 4 hours of riding. I found a little oasis at which to stay called La Casa de Francois.

After unloading my things I took a stroll around town. I came across a costurera (seamstress) and asked if they could repair a zipper on my pants that had broken. They could and charged me $2000 Bolivias (US$1).

Around the town of San Agustin there are over 400 archaeological scuptures with stone carved statues and tombs.

At the hotel, I met a girl named Sarka from the Chech Republic and we decided to take a horseback riding excursion to see the sites.

Our guide for the trip was a guy named Carlos.

And my trusty horse was called Aceveda.

As we headed out of town we came across these houses with these mannequins hanging outside.

They are called Año Viejos (Old Years). They are constructed of old clothing for the new year celebration. On new years eve they are burned in the streets to symbolize the passing of the bad times of the past year and welcoming in the new year.

Turns out that Carlos is a bit of a curandero (healer). He knows quite a bit about the local plants and can easily identify plants that can be used for medicine. He pointed out this coca plant which has traditionally been used for many medicinal purposes.

This group of statues was called the El Tablon.

A woman shaman

A man guardian

A woman shaman

We rode on and came across this huge canyon.

This statue is called La Chaquira.

We rode on through coffee plantations.

This group was called La Pelota

An eagle

A jaguar shaman.

We came across this house built in a traditional way with bamboo, mud and straw. It was near the collection of statues called El Puratal

There was this guardian male shaman.

A guardian shaman holding a baby ready for a ceremony.

An excavated tomb

There is not a lot of information on the civilization that build the stone structures, but if you'd like to find out more about this UNESCO World Heritage site you can visit San Agustin website.
I'm not accustomed to horse back riding. I could tell that I might be a little sore the next day. But I suppose that it was worth it. All in all it was fun day of exploring and horse back riding.

For the full story visit San Agustin
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  #50  
Old 14 Jan 2012
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Hi Troy,

Great report, tnx for sharing.

Keep up the good work and enjoying your trip!
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  #51  
Old 19 Jan 2012
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Looks like your getting along well Troy, keep up the report as it is very enjoyable
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  #52  
Old 24 Jan 2012
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The Adventure Begins... Popayan... Colonial Architecture, Churches and a Corpse

As I moved south, I visited the town of Popayan. It's know for having a pleasant climate, colonial architecture and intellectual people.

I stayed at a nice hostel right on the central plaza called the Park Life Hostel.

There's a number of things to do around the city, but I really just felt like walking the town and doing a little people watching. I encountered some interesting sights.



The window from the Park Life Hostel provided a great view of the Plaza de Caldas.



The Cathedral



And the view from the inside the Cathedral.



Empanadas de pipian and a yogurt drink from a restaurant called La Fresita.



The museum dedicated to the poet...



And former president...



Guillermo Leon Valencia.



The Iglesia San Francisco



had a few statues of saints...



and this elaborate nativity scene...



which included wise men, camels and a panda bear.



There was this pedestrian bridge called El Puente de Humillidero...



and this older pedestrian bridge called El Puente de Custodia, which they say priests use to walk across to the poor area of town to care for the needy.




The Iglesia de Santo Domingo.




And it's entryway with intricate masonry.



The Iglesia de La Ermita. See the two ladies talking in the lower left hand corner.



This one lady approached me and was quite disturbed.



She explained that under the black cover in the lower right hand corner there was a corpse. Hmmmm, I thought this is something I would not normally see on an organized walking tour. I didn't know what to do, but I knew that I didn't want to look under the cover. I tried to explain that I was not from Popayan and really didn't know how to help. Also, It was the day before new years and everything was closed. We both just awkwardly muddled around for a bit. I assumed that the priests of the church would know what to do. Eventually we both went our separate ways. I suppose somethings are better left a mystery.



I continued on and saw many buildings like this typical colonial house.



And these colonial government buildings.



This cute old lady was selling her catch of trout along the sidewalk. I believe that she was from the nearby town of Silvia where they wear traditional dress including these stylish bolo hats.



I stopped at a little cafe and had a tamal de pipian.



As the night approached, the Plaza de Caldas took on a different appearance.



Back at the hostel, the owners, other travelers and I shared a New Years dinner of international cuisine. My contribution was Texas Chile and a Baguette. People seems to like it.



Lighting fireworks at midnight.

The pleasant climate, architecture walk and the friendly people of Popayan made my stay a memorable one. I didn't visit some of the other typical tourists attractions, but sometimes a simple walk around a city is an adventure in it's own right.

For the full story see Popoyan
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  #53  
Old 24 Jan 2012
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The Adventure Begins... Colombia to Ecuador


From Popayan I traveled south. The Pan American Highway heading south wound through some gorgeous countryside.

The road was made up of what I call "gentle" curves. Perfect for riding in third and fourth gear on my bike. I would cruise in forth gear along the straights, then drop down to third gear to take a curve, then pop back into fourth gear to cruise.

It was a full day of riding to a town called Pasto. I stopped in Pasto to spend the night at a hostel called the Koala Inn. Nothing really remarkable about Pasto, for me it was just a stop on the way to the border.

I woke up early and headed south. It was about a hour and a half to the border.

Upon arrival, I checked in with the Colombian Customs and the process was quick and easy. I was done in about 2 minutes.


However, there was a long line for Colombian Immigration. It was the tail end of the new years holiday. It seemed like there were a number of people traveling between Colombia and Ecuador for vacations. There were probably 200 people in front of me. I will say that the processing was moving along at a decent pace. But, it took about an hour and a half to get through immigration line.


On the Ecuador side, I encountered the same group of people lining up at immigration. While waiting I did meet some friendly Colombians and Ecuadorians and engaged in some conversation. It made the time pass by a little faster. I also had some time to write some blog posts.

Another hour and a half later, I was through the Ecuadorian Immigration line.

The Ecuadorian Customs processing was probably the fastest I had encounter in all of my border crossings. I was the only one in line requesting a permit, the system was electronic, I had copies of all my documents, the agents were friendly and it only took about 5 minutes.

However in total, the border crossing took longer than I expected... about three hours.

After passing through the border I headed towards Quito. There was a definite change in the altitude and climate. The air was cooler and thinner.

Emi had a little trouble adjusting to the altitude, but she did fine cruising through the Andes Mountains.

The countryside varied between green mountains and stone cliffs and deep valleys.

In Ecuador, I noticed that the buses, trucks and cars were much more aggressive in passing traffic on the highway. They would pass on blind corners, up hills and two or three vehicles at a time. It's interesting how riding conditions vary between countries. I noticed that there were fewer motorcyclists in Ecuador than in Colombia. It was nice riding alongside other motorcyclists in Colombia as a gauge for riding speed and road conditions. In Ecuador, I was on my own.

As I ventured on, I began to run out of day light. I didn't feel like pushing it, so I pulled over in a town called Cayembe. It turns out that Cayembe is pretty close to being at the middle of the world... or in other words...the equator.

For the night, I stayed at a roadside hotel called Hotel La Mitad del Mundo.

The next day I would ride about one and a half hours into Quito. I was hoping that I wouldn't have to pass over the snow capped volcano called Cotopaxi that I could see in the distance. Luckily, I didn't.

I had arrived in Ecuador and crossed over into the southern hemisphere. Nice!

For the full story see Colombia to Ecuador
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  #54  
Old 24 Jan 2012
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The Adventure Begins... La Mitad Del Mundo

The Equator runs right through Ecuador.



At this location called La Mitad Del Mundo (The Middle of the World) they have built a huge monument to mark the spot. I had to check it out.



Here's proof...lattitude 0-0-0. The yellow line is the Equator. From this eastern view, my left foot is in the northern hemisphere and my right foot is in the southern hemisphere.



From this western view, my right foot is in the northern hemisphere and my left foot is in the southern hemisphere. Got that.



If all of this is true, I should be able to balance this egg on it's edge while I'm sitting on the Equator.



There we go. Cool!



But wait, my gps is indicating that the true 0-0-0 is about 00.000.080 north of this yellow line. That would be about 100 feet over that wall and outside of the monument grounds.



So I exited the monument grounds and hopped on Emi to find the Equator.



Ah, after riding a bit, I came across...00.000.000...the true Equator. And it only took 7,908.3 miles to find it.



Emi is marking the spot. Front wheel in the southern hemisphere and rear wheel in the northern hemisphere.



Emi and this large pile of gravel.

The Middle of the World. I've reached it! Somewhat of a landmark and milestone. OK, time to head south.

For the full story visit La Mitad Del Mundo
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  #55  
Old 24 Jan 2012
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The Adventure Begins... Riding Around In The Clouds (Mindo)

I traveled to the small town of Mindo that is situated in a tropical cloud forrest in the Western Andean Slope of Ecuador.

I stayed at a nice little hostel called La Casa de Cecillia. The rooms were in a treehouse like structure made of wood. There was a little alcove between the building and vegetation that made a perfect parking space for Emi.



I took a ride along a dirt road into the cloud forrest to check out the surroundings. I started at about 8000 feet in altitude, the road ascended the mountain and I gained another 1000 feet in elevation. It was cloudy and raining lightly which made the ride strangely pleasant.



The combination of the clouds, clean air, light rain, dirt road, vibrant green vegetation and forrest sounds was a sensory smorgasbord. I would ride for a while, park for a while, ride for a while and park for a while. Just taking in the sights, sounds and smell of the cloud forrest.



After riding through the cloud forrest for a while I decided to head south to a town called Banos. I was told by a local that there was a new road that would take me from Mindo to Los Bancos to Mercedes to Paquimaro to Aloag to Banos. The segment between Mindo and Paquimaro was not on google, my map nor on my gps. But I thought to myself that if the locals knew about it, it must be there.




The road took me along some of the best scenery that I've come across on my travels. The country road carved gentle curves through the hills. It ascended and descended gradually. It was rough asphalt but without potholes. Each corner opened up fantastic views.



It was a single lane that wound through cattle ranches, sugarcane fields and rolling hills. It was an hour of blissful riding.



Then it met up with the highway to Banos. This highway crossed over the Andean Mountains and was two lanes of cars and large trailer trucks. It was cloudy as I passed over the range. The visibility was decent at about 100 feet (30 meters). But it was rainy and cold. I was wearing all my gear - soft shell jacket, motorcycle jacket, rain parka, pants, motorcycle pants, rain pants and winter gloves. My body was warm, but my feet and hands were feeling the cold and dampness.



After about 3 hours of riding I took a little break at a nice roadside cafe outside of Cotapaxi. I had a wonderful meal that included potato soup, pork, rice, papas, fresh rasberry juice and a dessert of tres leches. It warmed me up and fortified me for the last hour of riding into Banos.

I rolled into Banos at about 6:30pm and found a room at the Plantas y Blancas Hostel.

It was a full day of riding. Some pleasant, some grueling. But, it's all part of the adventure.

For the full story visit Mindo
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  #56  
Old 26 Jan 2012
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The Adventure Begins... Into The Amazon

I decided to travel to the Amazon. I had always envisioned that I would visit the Amazon from Brazil, but after talking with a few people I heard that it is more accessible, affordable and pristine to access it from Ecuador. Also, I plan to visit Brazil later in the year and hopefully I'll be able to make another excursion at that time. So instead of waiting until mañana (tomorrow), I thought to myself, there is no day like today (hoy).

My trip started with a short bus ride from Banos to a town called Ambato where I would connect with an overnight bus to Lago Agrio.


Pretty lujo (luxurious) this bus.


Like a disco ball on wheels. I watched a movie, then feel asleep. I awoke at about 5:30am just as we were arriving into Lago Agrio.



I was to meet my guide at the Hotel de Mario... me and a few other travelers as well. It seemed as if many tour companies use the Hotel de Mario as a meeting place.

At about 8am my guide Jorge showed up and said that we would wait a while, then leave at 9am for the selva (rain forrest).

Here is were the adventure begins. Click on the links to see stories from each day.


The Amazon Day 1


The Amazon Day 2


The Amazon Day 3


The Amazon Day 4


The Amazon Day 5
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  #57  
Old 8 Feb 2012
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The Adventure Begins... Museo de Pumapungo


In Cuenca, I checked out the Museo de Pumapungo (aka The Museum of the Central Bank). There were a number of ethnographic displays about different people groups in Ecuador, but what I really found interesting was this display of wooden masks. If you look at them long enough, they appear to look back.







This last one isn't a mask, it's a tsantsa (shrunken head). Seems that the Shuar people group in the Amazon use to have a cultural practice of making tsantsa. When someone was murdered the way of restoring balance to the universe was for the offended family to kill and shrink the head of the offender.

For the full story visit Museo de Pumapungo
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  #58  
Old 8 Feb 2012
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The Adventure Begins... Inca Ruins of Ingapirca


From the town of Cuenca, I took a day trip to the cloud shrouded ruins of Ingapirca.

The ride was along a fantastic road...

That wound through the mountains and ascended to about 10,000 feet (3,000 meters)...

And passed by mostly farmland and a few houses.

The Canari civilization first built a city called Hatun Cañar on the site. Then toward the end of the 15th century, during the Inca expansion into present day Ecuador, the Inca built their city on top of the ruins of the Canari city and called it Ingapirca.

The site was built in the Incan imperial style of construction with a mortarless polished stone technique. This means that all the stones were carved to fit together perfectly without mortar.

The city is linked to the city of Machu Picchu via the Camino de Los Incas (The Inca Trail).

This area contained some excavated tombs.

This double semi-circle formation represented both the sun and the moon. Those are llamas grazing on the grass.

There was a sun temple...

That actually functioned as a sun dial.

And this was some form of solar or lunar calendar. It's a mystery as to how it actually functioned.

Outside of the grounds of the ruins was this stone pathway...

That lead to this rock formation...

Called the Cara del Inca (Inca Face). I passed it completely when I was walking down the trail, but then looked back and saw the profile of the face. This is a natural stone feature in the side of the mountain and was not carved.

A nice little walk around some ancient history.

For the full story visit Inca Ruins of Ingapirca
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  #59  
Old 8 Feb 2012
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The Adventure Begins... El Cajas...Sinking Into Paramo


Wishing to get back to nature, I traveled to a national park called El Cajas.

The park consists of mountains, waterfalls, rivers, lakes and páramo.

Páramo is an alpine tundra or moorland.

The ground is soft, porous and retains a high quantity of water like a sponge. If you step on the spongy part of the páramo your foot sinks. It is best to walk on the packed ground or scramble over the rocks.

The park is at altitude as well... 12,800 feet (3,900 meters).

I went for a hike. The vistas were pretty amazing. I didn't know what to expect, so I carried a pack with a med kit, sleeping bag, ground cloth, food and water. I had heard that clouds often roll in and can be disorienting. Since I was hiking alone, I wanted to take the right precautions.

There was low lying brush...

Ground coverage...

Cactus...

Flowers...

Plants and flowers woven together...

And this crazy forest...

With wrangling trees growing in all directions.

I crossed a few rivers

Passed by a number of lakes

Passed by more rivers

That were raging

And made a few missteps.

It's all part of the adventure. Check out this short video to see what it is like hiking in páramo.

I got a little bit lost, but eventually found my way.

The first day I spent hiking. The second day I spent fishing for natural trout. I hooked into a few, but released them.

El Cajas was a beautiful area and quite unlike anything that I've seen before. The park had some good trails. The terrain was rugged and the climate variable. While I was there it was sunny, rainy, cloudy, cold and warm... all within the span of a few hours.

For the full story visit El Cajas
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  #60  
Old 8 Feb 2012
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The Adventure Begins... Some Camping Supplies


In Cuenca I found this store called Accion Sports.

They had a decent selection of camping and fishing gear. I didn't want to add weight to my kit, so I decided to go ultralight.

I ended buying some Sno-Seal to weatherproof my boots ($10). It's something that I've been looking for for some time. I bought a compact fishing rod and reel combo with a few simple lures ($13). And I bought a tent footprint and tent spikes which I will use as a tent ($15). The tent footprint is basically a waterproof nylon sheet with grommets that I hope will make a decent lean-to cover. Perfect...light and inexpensive.
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"We just finished a 7 month 22,000+ mile scouting trip from Alaska to the bottom of Chile and I can't tell you how many times we referred to your site for help. From how to adjust your valves, to where to stay in the back country of Peru. Horizons Unlimited was a key player in our success. Motorcycle enthusiasts from around the world are in debt to your services." Alaska Riders

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10th Annual HU Travellers Photo Contest is on now! This is an opportunity for YOU to show us your best photos and win prizes!

NEW! HU 2014 Adventure Travel T-shirts! are now available in several colors! Be the first kid on your block to have them! New lower prices on synths!

HU 2014 T-shirts now in!

Check out the new Gildan Performance cotton-feel t-shirt - 100% poly, feels like soft cotton!


What turns you on to motorcycle travel?


Global Rescue, WORLDwide evacuation services for EVERYONE

Global Rescue is the premier provider of medical, security and evacuation services worldwide and is the only company that will come to you, wherever you are, and evacuate you to your home hospital of choice. Additionally, Global Rescue places no restrictions on country of citizenship - all nationalities are eligible to sign-up!


New to Horizons Unlimited?

New to motorcycle travelling? New to the HU site? Confused? Too many options? It's really very simple - just 4 easy steps!

Horizons Unlimited was founded in 1997 by Grant and Susan Johnson following their journey around the world on a BMW R80 G/S motorcycle.

Susan and Grant Johnson Read more about Grant & Susan's story

Membership - help keep us going!

Horizons Unlimited is not a big multi-national company, just two people who love motorcycle travel and have grown what started as a hobby in 1997 into a full time job (usually 8-10 hours per day and 7 days a week) and a labour of love. To keep it going and a roof over our heads, we run events (22 this year!); we sell inspirational and informative DVDs; we have a few selected advertisers; and we make a small amount from memberships.

You don't have to be a Member to come to an HU meeting, access the website, the HUBB or to receive the e-zine. What you get for your membership contribution is our sincere gratitude, good karma and knowing that you're helping to keep the motorcycle travel dream alive. Contributing Members and Gold Members do get additional features on the HUBB. Here's a list of all the Member benefits on the HUBB.


Books & DVDs

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All the best travel books and videos listed and often reviewed on HU's famous Books page. Check it out and get great travel books from all over the world.


Motorcycle Express for shipping and insurance!

Motorcycle Express

MC Air Shipping, (uncrated) USA / Canada / Europe and other areas. Be sure to say "Horizons Unlimited" to get your $25 discount on Shipping!
Insurance - see: For foreigners traveling in US and Canada and for Americans and Canadians traveling in other countries, then mail it to MC Express and get your HU $15 discount!




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