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.'
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Achievable Dream The definitive guide to planning your motorcycle adventure! This insanely ambitious 2-year project has produced an informative and entertaining 5-part, 18 hour DVD series. "The ultimate round the world rider's how-to DVD!" MCN UK.
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Ride TalesAn easy way to post your ride reports, whether it's a weekend ride or around the world.
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Hi guys, thanks for checking in. I didn't get any notice to my email that there were new replies here, sorry about that. I went down with Dengue Fever pretty bad for a couple of weeks and i'm just coming out of it. I'll resume posting pretty soon.
The alarm clock went off at 6 am and I sprang up from the bed. It usually takes me a dozen snoozes to get rolling but leaving Bolivia was too exciting to sleep through. As I opened the door, I saw a thick cloud of smoke coming from the middle of the hotel (an open area between the rooms) from a bonfire only meters from my bike. With four 5-liter plastic jugs of gasoline strapped to my bike, the hotel staff decided to have an open fire right outside of our room at 6am to celebrate another bogus Bolivian ritual.
When I asked the woman in charge of the fire what was going on, she grunted that “it’s a Bolivian thing, foreigners wouldn’t understand.” And she proceeded to put more shit on the fire. Well she was right; foreigners don’t have a comprehension of why there should be a bonfire outside of their hotel room next to a vehicle! We packed the bike in record time and got the hell out of the hotel. I was determined to leave Bolivia that day - no matter what - and I chose the shortest direct route out of this godforsaken country. Not wanting to go back through the same border crossing that we came in from; the only route was going southwest towards Argentina.
The distance was 900km but I didn’t care. Town after town, we filled up the bike and proceeded towards humanity. The sky opened up and a torrential rain started to come down and if we stopped anywhere, we got showered with water balloons and paint from the passing cars and trucks. Each tollbooth was a shakedown scene as the corrupt Bolivian police tried tongue in cheek to collect bribes and each gas station was a highway robbery of charging $9 a gallon for gas. At one of the checkpoints, one of the “officers” bluntly asked for “contribution” in a bright daylight with no shame at all. My answer was always a hell no.
After 16 hours of riding finally we got to the border town of Yacuiba and we found the town flooded. Water was running like rivers in narrow streets with garbage floating on top. There was no sign as where in the hell the border was, and I tried for almost an hour following the misdirection of the locals - wading through waters as high as my exhaust pipes to no avail. Against my will, we had to stay one more bloody night in this country and hope for the waters to go down in the morning. We found a very questionable hotel, parked and triple chained the bike and settled down for the night.
At 9 am, we packed our soaked gear, and after another hour of looking for the invisible border crossing we arrived at the immigration. The stench of the town was truly unbearable and as the sun came out it got even worse. This last Bolivian outpost was a scene straight from a Mad Max movie. George Miller should have filmed Mad Max in Yacuiba and would have saved millions on studio sets and extras.
The paperwork for getting into Argentina was done in 5 minutes, but the Bolivian office took their sweet time. They took the passports and closed the door and told us to wait for another two hours to put an exit stamp in my passport. At last we were free. We rolled into Argentine side of the town and it might sound like an exaggeration but everything changed in a blink of an eye. In only 1km, the streets got cleaner, the stench went away and we saw smiles on people’s faces again.
We had a delicious lunch at a super clean restaurant for less than $8 for two people including desert. The owner even sent out one of his boys into Bolivia to exchange our useless Bolivian money, and sent us away with best wishes. Five miles down the road we stopped at a police check point and after a friendly chat we were welcomed into Argentina. The officer actually apologized for taking our time and stopping us.
Maybe it’s worth mentioning that North-Western Argentina is not a rich region; in fact it’s one of the poorest regions in whole Argentina. The difference is the hospitality of its people, their warmth, their helpfulness and their open arms. A few hundred kilometers down the road, we rolled into a very poor town in hope of finding a shop to weld the broken box that Bolivians refused to fix. We found a shop and the guys got to work, and in no time, the broken mount was welded and ready to go. The Argentine mechanic refused to take any money for the welding as he said it was “nothing”. The Bolivian shop in Santa Cruz wouldn’t fix the box even for money!
We needed a place to stay for the night and since the small town had no hotel, a young boy on his bicycle tried to find us a place and when he couldn’t, he invited us to stay at their home. Home is an exaggeration to call that place. There was a metal roof, a few brick walls, dirt covered floor, an open cooking pit and a few threes, not counting the pigs and chickens. In this muddy place, I found some of the most generous, down to earth, and giving people that I could ever hope to meet. They were poor, but they put every Bolivian we met to shame with their generosity and their smiles.
We bought a kilo of fresh chorizos (Pork Sausage) from the Grandma next-door, more knickknacks to share with the family from the store and settled in. The boy and with his younger brothers and sisters proceeded to grill us to no end about what’s in the outside world. They were so eager to learn, so curious and polite, and so much full of life that it was hard not to answer their questions. They had no television, and they loved watching videos and pictures, and I had plenty of both. They were glued to their wooden chairs and watched pretty much every video on my computer.
We combined our chorizos with their dinner and we sat with the family and a few of their relatives. Given their situation, there wasn’t much to go around so we insisted that we weren’t really hungry and nibbled on the bread. I sharpened all their knives, and gave them my favorite diamond knife sharpener as a thank you gift. (I’m running out of things to give away.) We slept under open skies in their backyard and were relived to be out of Bolivia.
The next morning, we bid farewell to our gracious host and started the 950km long leg to the Paraguayan border. It rained on an off but we just kept on riding. Fifteen hours of riding put us in Asunción, the capital city of beautiful Paraguay and we could rest at last. I never get tired of the Chaco; it’s a peaceful place, packed with extraordinary people, and little gem towns that still have the old ways of being decent, hospitable and welcoming. This was my 12th trip to Argentina, a record that I don’t mind breaking at any time.
Once out of Bolivia, there was much work to be done. First the expedition funds were dwindling to oblivion so I had to design a few websites and write a couple of programs to get the ball rolling again. Then there were my troubling teeth which took a few painful visits to the dentist to dig, cut, dress and fill. Then it was the bike that needed a few maintenance such as beefing up the camera box, fixing a few leaks here and there, and a good tune-up – not counting the painstaking job of getting the Bolivian dust and mud out of every hole of the bike. All said and done, I was in a position to start back on the road again.
The plan was to visit Brazil, but since Brazil is a gigantic country I had to break it into two trips. One trip would cover the southern and eastern parts, the next and big trip would cut through the western parts and through the Amazon jungle and finally crossing into Venezuela. From Caracas in Venezuela, I’ll ship what is left of the bike to western Africa and the journey will continue inland from there.
Taking on the first voyage to Brazil, Lourdes was my passenger, and we packed very light. We left out every piece of winter clothing as weather in Paraguay and all over Brazil was in high 70’s and 80’s. Also I wanted to lighten up the load since Bolivian roads almost destroyed the bike’s suspension and I was going to fix that after the first trip. The weather started perfect and on the hot side, and we covered the 400km to the Brazilian border the first day. Crossing the border to Brazil was a pleasant and very professional experience. The Brazilian custom officer spoke English, and she took care of all the paperwork by herself. This border crossing was a treat indeed.
We spent the first night in Foz do Iguaçu, at Lourdes’ cousin’s and I passed out at 8pm from being so tired. The next day came bright and sunny and we packed the bike and headed out going east. While we were packing, I had the bike parked on the sidewalk out of the way in front of the apartment. For the first time, a police officer gave me a warning for bringing the motorcycle on a sidewalk. Parking bikes or even cars on the sidewalk in Latin America is equivalent of the god given right to breath! No Police Officer will ever bother to say a word about it unless it’s blocking the whole sidewalk and even then, it’s unlikely. But Brazil is different.
Although counted as a Latin American country, Brazil is not Latin in any sense that would be associated to the rest of the continent and it shows it in its laws, art, culture, race, language and food. First the language is Portuguese not Spanish. People are taller and fair skinned, cities are very clean, and stop-lights and traffic signs actually mean something. I was amazed at the architecture and city planning of Brazilians and this is not based on big cities, even the tiny nowhere towns are well laid out and extremely modern. There is no shortage of street and highway signs in Brazil and public roads are very well maintained and in my opinion even better than the US highways.
We quickly got off the tolled interstate and hopped on a series of short and tangled highways that went through the less traveled parts of Eastern Paraná and Santa Catarina states. These roads were absolutely beautiful and packed with so many twist and turns that after a while I was wishing for a straight stretch. The only problem was that navigating through these roads became a chore as they all intersected here and there and they had no numbers or name. I had to memorize the name of the towns for the next 50 miles as all the signs pointed towards the towns and since pretty much every settlement in Brazil is named after a Saint somebody, to me they all sounded alike.
We spent the second night in Francisco Beltrão, the biggest city in Eastern Paraná. We got there after dark and most hotels were full and my GPS was taking us on a wild goose chase through the hilly city. A nice motorcyclist stopped and helped us find a cheap hotel and we settled in. For some reason, the town seemed deserted. Even though it was the weekend; all shops and restaurants were closed at 9pm. For the next two days everything stayed closed all day long in every little town we wandered into.
The weather started to get colder and colder until we were shivering. The high 80’s turned into low 40’s and drizzling rain and cloudy skies made for some beautiful but teeth shattering ride through the Santa Catarina mountains. We put on everything we had with us which were all short sleeves and I gave my rain gear to Lourdes to use as wind breaker. Our traveling hours changed dramatically as we waited for the warmest time of the day to start and we got off the road before 5pm when the temperatures dropped to almost freezing.
We looked high and low for some warm cloths but not a single store was open on Saturday and Sunday. On Monday, we found a few stores in a small town but the asking price of $60 for a not-so-warm sweater sent us back on the road. The cold aside, the route that we took was a beautiful section of Brazil which not many people travel to because there is nothing touristy there. The people were friendly and talkative without exception and since Spanish and Portuguese are very similar, they somehow understood what we said and we tried hard to understand what they said. This worked out well until I had to fix my banged-up suspension and I wished for a Portuguese translator.
Brazil is by far the bumpiest country I have ever seen. México can’t even hold a candle to the number and size of speed bumps that Brazil has to offer and México is a pretty bumpy country. The good news is that every single bump is clearly marked at least by 100 meters but my sagged springs didn’t like all the ups and downs. The bike kept bottoming out at every bump to the point that my back started to hurt. In Medellin, Colombia, I had a great machine shop make a set of custom shock-absorbers for the bike which worked extremely well until my Bolivian odyssey, but I used the springs from the old shocks.
Now I needed to adjust the tension on the old spring further than normal to limit the free travel and for that I needed a hefty hydraulic press. Relaying what I needed to the mechanic shops was fruitless so I kept looking around until I found a shop that had a honking 20 ton press. We found a hotel across the street and I took off the shocks in their garage and went back to the shop. They guys at the shop were really cool and left me alone with the machine to do what I need to do. They refused to take money for the use of their equipment but I insisted anyway. Thanks to their press, the bike is not bottoming out anymore but it needs a new set of springs sometimes very soon. Stay tuned while we inch our way towards the Atlantic coast and hopefully see some sunshine soon.
The weather stayed cold and we kept riding through small mountains towards the coast. It was crucial to stop every half hour to drink some Mate to warm up our bodies and we nibbled on local salami every time my right hand wasn’t twisting the throttle. Brazilian salami is a bit different from Argentine or Italian salami. They don’t use garlic or peppercorn in the mix hence it’s milder. For the brine, they use their local wines and that tends to make it a bit sweeter too but they are delicious nevertheless.
Santa Catarina is a big state and is most famous for its beautiful sandy beaches and cooler climate compared to the rest of Brazil. Some of the best oysters and seafood comes out of its waters and when sunny (or when you have a sweater), it truly is a wonderful place. The weather started to warm up as we descended from 1100 meters to sea level and the sun came out for a minute or two. As we rolled into Florianópolis, it started to drizzle a bit so we stopped at a Subway sandwich shop (the first I’ve seen since leaving US) to use the internet to find a hostel. It turned out that they had no internet but we had a great time with the kids who worked there. Ordering a sandwich at Subway in English is a long process but doing it Portuguese is just pure comedy.
Finding a hostel in Florianópolis center turned out to be impossible and the rain made it even worse. Florianópolis is tourist destination and everything is priced as such. A run-down hostel was asking $25 a bed in a shared room and I wasn’t going to pay this kind of extortion. As we searched we got soaked and finally settled in a beautiful ocean view hotel for $55 including breakfast.
The next day the sun came out in full blaze and temperatures went up to high 70’s. For the first time we could appreciate the beautiful Brazil without shivering and being wet, and we decided to make the best of it. We went out hostel hunting and the prices started to go down and the scenery turned spectacular. We stopped at a seaside restaurant for lunch and we lucked out.
After a few s, I met a local named Clayton and we got to talk. He gave me the rundown on how to survive in the expensive city and told me about the house next-door which was owned by the restaurant owner. After a short talk with the owner we moved into our beach house, no more than fifty feet from the water and best of all, we got it for $15 a day. The house was fully furnished, with complete kitchen, shower, and it was at the end of the road.
The food at the restaurant was exquisite and I had the best seafood I had in a very long time. Live music every night on the beach and a roof over our heads was a nice retreat from the cold days of the week before. Florianópolis is a wonderful city and packed with warm and beautiful people. This is a place that I wouldn’t mind calling home.
Beach and good food out of the way, we had to start heading north but my motorcycle didn’t quite agree. We were ready to get on the road but the ignition switch wouldn’t turn and the bike was not going an inch without fixing the issue. In any other place, I would have been bummed but break-down in paradise is just an excuse to stay longer.
I got to work and removed the ignition switch and the steering lock and with my meager tools, performed the required surgery and fixed the broken lock. I won’t bore you with technical details but if you find yourself in this situation, I wrote a complete tutorial on it which you can find here.
Now that everything is fixed, we have no excuses and have to leave the paradise behind and head north. I’m very impressed with Brazil and can’t wait to explore more of it. Stay tuned.
December 12th, 2012 - Touring Brazil on Motorcycle – Curitiba
I know I’ve been away for an eternity but I’ll try to catch-up with the back stories as best as I can. My laptop took its last breath and finally gave up and left me hanging. I ordered the best mobile workstation I could find which took over a month to build and 40 days to ship down to South America. Now that I have no excuses, here is the rest of the story.
After the ignition switch repair, it was time to pack up and leave the beautiful Florianópolis but I was told to visit the south of the island or I was going to regret it. With that in mind, we rode south to see what all the fuss was about.
South of Florianópolis is the oldest part of the island with colonial houses and cobbled roads, and in more ways than other, it reminded me of fishing towns of the northeast except that it was tropical. The whole town revolved around one commodity and we soon found out why. The shallow waters of the bay produced some of the biggest oysters I’ve ever seen and the sheer size aside; they were the best I’ve ever tasted to this day. Again with the suggestion of the locals, we found our way to the best oyster joint in town and walked in. The restaurant was way too fancy for my traveling budget but the smell of seafood won the battle. They had nothing but seafood on the menu and the cheapest item was $15 which luckily was the oyster plate. I could write pages on how delicious these oysters were but pictures should do the justice.
Belly full and beautiful blue skies in sight, we headed north to my friend’s house in Curitiba. The 400km ride was beautiful with the blue ocean on the side and lots of twisties and the weather was the warmest in days. I started enjoying the ride until we took the first rest stop. The oil seal on the back of the transmission was leaking and it wasn’t a small leak either. My entire rear wheel was covered with slippery gear oil and the rear brake was useless. I could go without rear brake, but the condition of the slippery tire was unnerving and we were still 200km away from Curitiba.
At every opportunity I got on the sandy shoulders to clean the tire and topped off the oil. We limped away with me clinching my teeth and waiting for the deadly slide which never came. As a result the 200 remaining kilometers took almost five hours to cover and we got to Renato’s apartment well after dark. Renato is a mechanical engineer and university professor who I met while I was hired to develop a website for him. Renato and Patricia welcomed us into their home and a new friendship was born. They are awesome.
I started my search for the oil seal and as it was already the weekend, we put the work aside and went out to the countryside for a perfect Saturday picnic at Renato’s friend’s farm. Lush, beautiful, and rustic, this little farm was a place I could stay at forever. The festivity was not short of the 4th of July and we ate seemingly nonstop until the sun went down. Brazilians sure know how to BBQ and good company always make it doubly better.
When I finally came out of the food coma, with Renato’s help, we located the oil seal and got to work. To get to the rear transmission oil seal, I literally had to disassemble half of the bloody motorcycle to get to it, but it had to be done. In the process, I also found two broken bearings from the swing-arm pivot points. One bearing was completely destroyed and the other was broken in multiple places. At this point, I was glad the transmission started to leak as I would have never known about these problems.
We had to put everything on hold again until we found the right size bearings locally or have them shipped from the US. Stay tuned.
P.S. It was brought to my attention that the website contact-form is not working. If any of you have tried to contact me through the website for the past few months, I never received your message so my apologies. I’ll look into it ASAP.
December 16th, 2012 - Touring Brazil on Motorcycle – Santos
With two useless shocks, leaking fork seals, broken swingarm bearings, and a leaky transmission; the possibilities of going further into Brazil was growing dim, but you just have to keep fixing and rolling. After a few visits to different shops with Renato, we finally located the bearings and the oil seal. The problem was that we couldn’t find the right bearings as the original bearings had built-in rubber dust caps and the ones we found*didn't.*Since Renato taught a machining course at the Curitiba University, we headed to the university machine shop and we built our own. Taking off the old bearing races turned out to be a time consuming job without a welder, but nothing that a turret head milling machine*couldn't*handle. Finally, we cut two aluminum caps for the bearings and it actually turned out better than the original ones.
Curitiba is a nice city, with a very cool climate. Compared to the rest of Brazil, Curitiba is rather a cold place and when the rest of South Americans were in short sleeves and shorts, we bundled up with everything we had. We had a great time with Patricia and Renato and as much as they tried to teach us some basic Portuguese, I’m afraid I’ll never be able to pronounce a word correctly. Portuguese is an easy language to read but as soon as they speak it, all hopes go out of the window. From their apartment in the middle of downtown Curitiba, you could see a large flock of Herons that had made the tall trees of the city their permanent home. It was fascinating watching the giant birds, maneuver in the air so gracefully. Three feet tall with wing span of 5 feet, Great Egrets were almost driven to extinction at the end of the 19th century so that their feathers could decorate ladies’ hats, but they’ve bounced back in numbers and now they rightfully shit on hat of others.
We visited a local fair and a cool classic car show while there and passed time drinking Chimarrão (Brazilian version of Mate) and coco water. In good company, the time flies by and by the weekend, the bike was back on the road and we had to head north again. We were all set to head out on Friday but a sudden invitation back to Renato’s friend’s Farm was too good to resist. If I thought that the first festivity was the best that Brazil could offer, I was in for a surprise. Back at the farm, we ate and drank to a level which will be hard to beat, even by South American standards. As it turned out, Anderson also made homemade liquors so a tasting session was in order. All in all, when I tried to put on my motorcycle pants on Sunday, I*couldn't*button it up, no matter how hard I tried. I must have gained at least 10lb since entering Brazil. We said our farewell to our gracious friends and they sent us away with beautiful local woodwork gifts and Chimarrão for the road.
We headed north along the Atlantic coast for the coastal city of Santos in São Paulo State. Traffic started to get heavier as we got closer to São Paulo and it came to a halt 50 miles outside of the city. With 12 million souls in the city limit alone, São Paulo spreads out seemingly to no end and sheds its population on weekends to the nearby beaches. Those who have money go north or south, and the rest go straight for the beaches of Santos. Covering the last 50 miles to Santos became a Nintendo game of lane splitting between rows of cars with less than 5 inch clearance on each side.
We arrived in Santos around 8pm and found the city unnerving. With a long stretch of beaches, giant buildings, rival gangs, drunks, and drug dealers; Santos mirrors Miami in every sense except the language. Santos is a city that you could very well be killed for a nice pair of shoes if in a wrong place at a wrong time. As unnerving the city was, the people we met were extremely helpful and hospitable. Our couchsurfing host was a guy named Valmique and he bent backward and forward to make us comfortable. He arranged for the bike to be parked inside the garage, we chained it down and unloaded every piece of gear and hauled them up to his apartment on the 12th floor, and then we went to his friend’s house for a little party. It was at Shirley’s house that I remembered that it was my birthday so we doubly celebrated it. We had a great time in Santos, thanks to our new friends and we stayed another day. Lat day on the way down to the garage, a naked drunk guy walked in the elevator and rode down with us 12 floors in complete silence while staring at us. It was definitely time to leave Santos for a less happening city. Stay tuned.
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