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Are you a TRAVELLER? Are you interested in dodging land mines in Angola, Mad Max in Rio, the old pillion croc bait trick, glaciers and near death experiences in the French Alps, the Che Guevara bar in Moscow, slimed in Costa Rica, escaping from China with a Chiang Jiang, celebrating with Miss Mongolia, Linda's one-woman band, sheer terror in Ecuador, 100 degrees on the Trans-America Trail, and much more...?
Then you're reading the right newsletter!
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Welcome to the 58th Edition of the newsletter. In what seems like a very short interlude between the USA East and West and UK meetings in June/July, and the upcoming meetings in Canada, Belgium, Portugal and Mexico, we decided to try to get a newsletter out now while it's relatively quiet for us, and with help from our able assistant editors Gerri and Stuart.
Lots in the news, but nothing good, so will leave the reporting to the news media. Lots of folks on the road, though, who we will report on, from lots of more interesting places than where we are ;-) Bitter and twisted as usual, here we go...
Many of you who have attended our Travellers Meetings over the years, and at the meetings that Susan or I have been able to get to, have attended our 3 (sometimes 4) hour long "How-to" presentation. At the UK 2005 Meeting, we had a videographer tape it for us. It's available now. Thanks very much to those who sent in video clips and pics, you'll see your name in the credits...
Everything you need to know - your questions answered, and a boatload of inspiration too!
Price is US$29.99 (or £15.99 or €22.99 or C$32.99). Order now, and we'll pay the shipping / postage costs!
Photo Contest 2006 for the 07 calendar
With the great success of last year's calendar and contest, it's now an annual event. So get your photos together, and start making some great new ones. If used in the calendar, you will receive a (small) portion of the proceeds. Details and entry here. Contest closes September 1 so hurry!
The 2006 calendar is of course still available - check it out and get your copy now, for some terrific travel inspiration! For those photographers whose work was featured, we'll be doing the accounting soon and will let you know what your share is of the sales to date.
As always, thanks to all our generous supporters for helping us to keep going. For those who haven't yet contributed, or haven't recently contributed, here's all the ways you can help!
Start your planning with travel books at the Horizons Unlimited books page, and use the Amazon search function for your region to look for what you want. Don't forget to visit the Souk for sweatshirts, mugs, boxer shorts and much more.
If you know anyone who should be advertising with us (anyone who sells motorcycles or motorcycle accessories, riding gear, camping equipment and clothing, transports motorcycles, organizes motorcycle tours, or has motorcycles to rent should be advertising), please let us know or send them to our Advertising page with your recommendation.
It's our advertisers, sponsors and product sales that make it possible for us to make the website and e-zine available to you. We hope you'll check out their products and services and if you plan to buy these products, do it from our site or links. If you do use the services of one of our advertisers/supporters, we hope you'll let them know that you're buying from them because of their support for HU - and of course that they have a great product or service! :)
If you've had problems receiving the e-zine due to spam filters or insufficient bandwidth, remember you can subscribe to the 'Notice' edition instead of the full HTML version. The Notice edition is a short, straight text message that contains a URL to bring you to the full text on the website. Because the Notice email is so small, it downloads in a flash, and leaves your mailbox uncluttered. Change to the Notice version here.
We now have an RSS feed for the e-zine (you'll need an RSS Reader to use it) and all the travellers' blogs have their own feeds. The HUBB has a full RSS feed here. If you're not sure what that's all about, there's a detailed RSS Guide here.
Please submit news reports, web links etc. to us for inclusion in this newsletter.
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This newsletter is provided as a complimentary service for travellers everywhere, both on the road and (temporarily ;-) off. Your support is greatly appreciated.
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Horizons Unlimited Travellers Meetings - time to plan ahead!
The Leadville Colorado Meeting was a washout - literally - tons of "very abnormal" rain fell on us, making a mess of the shade tent we had planned on, and necessitating a rush to buy tarpaulins in town at the one store stocking them - which we bought right out! More arrived on Saturday and we finally managed a "dry" experience for the Saturday afternoon and evening slide shows. Despite the rain, most everyone had a good time, with lots of riders out on the trail rides crossing the high mountain passes. Next year we promise to have a DRY location for the seminars no matter what the weather! New location to be announced soon.
Correction - Denis Brown retracted his comments from last month about our accommodation at the UK Meeting:
New meetings added! We now have a meeting organised for Belgium, September 8-10, and for 2007, Kanchanaburi, Thailand, January 13-14 2007, and southern France August 2007.
Mark your new HU Calendar with the following dates:
Grant will definitely be at Mexico, and Susan and Grant both at Belgium and Portugal and of course the new 2007 France meetings, and as many others as we can manage. If you've been to one, you know why it's worth going! If you haven't been to one, why not? It's a great experience, different from any other motorcycle event, described as a "...uniquely typical travellers atmosphere that's an odd ball combination of mellow, and tail wagging enthusiasm." Make this the year to get to one, two or more events and meet your fellow travellers!
If you are planning on coming to one of the meetings, please register early. Also let us know if you'd like to show a few slides from one of your trips too - it doesn't have to be a fancy multimedia presentation, a few slides and a few words about the area is great. Length can be anywhere from 10 minutes to 45 minutes.
From Brian Coles, who presented at the HU UK 2005 meeting:
For the Saturday afternoon (for most meetings) we are also adding even more prepared seminars on all subjects, and looking for more volunteers to lead them. Tech subjects such as tire changing, travel prep on documentation, health, packing the bike and anything else anyone wants to talk about are all of interest. You don't need to be an expert, just have done it! Let us know if you can help!
Volunteers for all meetings are needed, just a couple of hours of your time makes it all a lot easier - and fun - for all. You can volunteer a few hours of your time for any meeting here.
If you'd like to host an HU Meeting in your area, please see the How To Host a Meeting page for details.
Motorcycle Rentals for Mexico Meeting available! See the Mexico Meeting page for details.
See you there!
Grant and Susan.
Too many to list! If you haven't checked out the Links page it's time you did - it's scary long, but it's a fascinating browse.
Get your website listed in the LINKS Section
by listing Horizons Unlimited on YOUR web site, let me know you've done it by mailing me a link to the page, and you may get listed here in the next newsletter and on the Horizons Unlimited web site Links page. To make it easy for you, we even have our logo and link code here!
All sites will be considered for listing, but must be a MOTORCYCLE or TRAVEL site, useful or of interest in some way to travellers. We reserve the right to refuse to link back.
Do you know of a good shop 'on the road,'
...in other words, somewhere there isn't a large number of shops? (Also of course any shop that specializes in travellers equipment and repairs is of interest.) But we're particularly looking for those rare items, good repair shops in South America, Africa and Asia etc. Please post your info in the Repair shops around the world Forum on the HUBB.
There are now 100's shops listed in out - of - the - way places, from Abidjan to Ghana to Peru! Be sure to check out the HUBB "Repair shops around the world" forum if you need work done!
When you meet people on the road, and they haven't heard of this e-zine or the website, we'd appreciate it (and hope they would too!) if you'd get their names and email addresses and send it in to me.
Request for info
Wouldn't YOU like to know all about the border you're approaching - what it should cost, paperwork required, 'tips' needed, and who to talk to, etc.?
When you cross ANY border, take some notes, and pass them on to us. Thanks!
If you have any information to contribute, please go here, and register (or just login IF you have used this system before) and you can then submit your information. Thanks!
The US State Department regularly issues updated travel advisories, information and/or warnings.
Peter and Kay Forwood, Australia, around the world since 1996, in Zambia, Namibia and Angola, Harley-Davidson,
"Zambia - 7/7/06 The springs hadn't changed. In a natural surrounding the large shallow pool was inviting after the ride yesterday. The accident in Afghanistan, when a car hit the left rear of the motorcycle seems to have done more damage than I realised. I noticed the rear end of the bike is a little twisted and the rear guard is pressing close to the wheel. The back rack has a crack that will need welding. A little bit of maintenance, an invitation to join a South African couple for lunch, just starting their retirement trip and another dip in the hot springs pretty much filled the rest of the day.
Namibia - 18/7/06 We discovered that our stash of US emergency money had become wet, most likely in the Comoros, and had stuck together and grown mould. Luckily the notes were still separable and although we tried washing them gently most mould remained as black spots. A couple are likely to be unusable, some will be difficult to exchange in US dollar fussy Africa where only pristine notes are usually accepted. This could leave us a bit short of hard currency...
Angola - 21/7/06 The forty years of war that Angola underwent only finished just over four years ago and the country's infrastructure is still reeling from that devastation. Land mines are a problem to development and agriculture, and we are warned not to wander off the road, even to go to the toilet. Today's 300 km to Lubango was a variety of slow, 20-30 km/hr bouncy dirt, some badly deteriorated asphalt to a reasonable road the last few km's into town. We rode carefully and it took eight hours of travelling time to cover the distance. Along the way we met two 4x4's with western travellers, having welding done to their vehicles, having come all the way from England. We exchanged valuable border and road condition information before proceeding to be stopped shortly afterwards by a Namibian man working in the area who offered us more information and a drink.
The route from East to West Africa or vice versa has been difficult for the last decade or so with conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Angola blocking most opportunities. Now Angola is the easiest crossing, by coming south, and there are many travellers. We had earlier passed four well equipped 4x4's on a tour heading south, videotaping as we passed and with a military escort they were travelling in comfort and taking no chances. We had been told of eight motorcyclists on another organized tour coming through the country. These specialised tours are becoming more popular, particularly to remote or perceived more dangerous regions. As we entered Lubango, buying petrol, a local man simply offered to pay, he spoke almost no English and we had only exchanged a few words before the offer. Later when the planned campsite was not available we stopped at a large farm and asked if we could use a piece of ground for the night for our tent and were offered a bed and hot shower at the farmhouse. An offer too good to refuse, it turns out the owner had a brother in Australia.
22/7/06 Angola seems to be just getting started. Like many countries coming out of a long war there are the rich and the poor with almost no middle classes. The rich have new 4x4's, nice houses and relax in expensive hotels. The poor have nothing, living from what they can grow. The problem is we fit in between, where there are now few hotels or facilities or middle class restaurants. We headed off the escarpment towards Namibe, the region's port town and beach destination. The magnificent views from the winding road back down to sea level stunning in early morning with fog lying in the valley. The countryside soon turned to desert with an oasis along the river growing vegetables. Namibe is a quiet town at the moment, it is winter, and the campground right on the ocean we had to ourselves, at least after the wedding reception ended in early evening. The bright sunshine we have been experiencing lately gone with the sea fog and cool wind that blows off the Atlantic and we are across Africa again.
30/7/06 Doing things for yourself in many cultures is seen as a sign of having no money. If you had money you would get someone else to do the job. We washed our clothes in a bucket this morning and in the afternoon I gave myself a haircut with the battery operated trimming clippers we carry and then had a beard trip, in front of the motorcycle mirrors as the bathrooms here don't have any. The local workers at the club, guards, cleaners and caretakers would not do their own washing, that is work for women, and the office workers would have staff at home to do those chores. They would also get someone else to cut their hair. But as I set up the computer and started touch typing the diary, worked on this seemingly expensive motorcycle, you could feel their questioning of another culture where one person has the knowledge and ability to achieve many things. This ability has been given to westerners by the high cost of labour and the broad education they receive. It has also been taken away from people living in cheap labour countries where there is always someone to do any menial or semi skilled task for little money. To have money yet sleep in a tent, doing your own washing, all seems incongruous to the rich or poor in these countries."
Peter and Kay Forwood have travelled to over 169 countries during 10+ years on the road. Horizons Unlimited is proud to host their complete RTW story and pictures here!
Jack and Janet Murray, PR of China, China to Europe and North America, BMW engined Chiang Jiang,
"It was late in the day but all of us wanted to be out of China, more I think as a symbol that the real adventure was about to start. We were all aware that Tamara was facing a deadline to be in Istanbul to secure the teaching position that she had accepted. We were also facing a deadline for our Russian visas and an appointment in Moscow with the BMW dealer there. We set off for the border; bikes running smoothly, brilliant sun, beautifully warm; we were finally on our way.
The Chinese Border Guard approached as we slowed documents at the ready, no cars ahead, this looked promising. In that universal sign language that all seem to understand he told Janet that she must stop filming and then seemed to say that we couldn't proceed. "No, no, no!" and then in rapid fire Chinese said something that was so far beyond my comprehension that I didn't have a clue.
It was time for Dave to come to the rescue. He asked what was the problem but could only come up with something about we cannot cross the border. It seems that the Chinese in Inner Mongolia speak a heavily accented Mandarin spiced with both Mongolian and Russian.
I protested, Dave protested, Tamara and Janet protested while the Chinese onlookers laughed and ogled the bikes and our equipment. Abruptly, he turned and walked back to the guard house. As we waited Dave talked to another guard who was now standing duty. He said the problem was that we didn't seem to have the paper we needed to take a Chinese bike out of China. "What paper", I asked. It seems we were missing some form that was required. This could be a real problem. Time to call Guo Yun Hai again. It was now after 5:00 pm and I hated to bother him but I had no choice. "I will be right there."
Within minutes, a small van pulled up and five people poured out. There was Guo, Candy, and three others who came to help. They confirmed it. We needed a customs form to drive the bike out of China. But I countered, "I have known several people who have ridden from Beijing to Ulaan Baator and they didn't need a form." It seems that this is a new regulation and there is nothing to do but try to get the form. Guo and party said they would work on it in the morning.
I knew we were in for at least one, maybe many more, days of wait until we learned about the customs form. Fortunately, Guo's business is in import and export so the company should know who to go to for an answer and perhaps the form. The bike failed to start the next morning; this was another serious problem. The four of us got together to discuss our options. Finally it was decided to truck the bike back to Beijing, solve this incredibly frustrating problem while Tamara, Dave and Janet waited for word on the customs form. While in Beijing I planned to visit the main China Customs office there if there was no resolution in Erenhot. Once again I called Guo, "Can you arrange for a truck?"
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Hamish Oag and Emma Myatt, UK, Asia, Australia and the Americas, in Australia, BMW R1100 GS,
"We'd been put in touch with Neville by Ken and Carol in Brisbane and were looking forward to meet the Daintree crocodile spotter and to visit his rainforest abode. We were not to be disappointed, Neville welcomed us with open arms, giving up his bed and even emptying the compost toilet to accommodate us!
As Neville worked as a nature tour guide on the Daintree river, we joined him the following morning for an educational trip on the boat, spotting a number of saltwater crocs, as well as variety of snakes, birds and plant life. It certainly was an interesting trip and as about as close as we'd like to get to the infamous 'salties'!
Nothing but Dirt! For some reason we miscalculated (read didn't calculate) the distance we had to travel and so we arrived at the fuel stop holding our breath - but it was useful to discover Bertha could do 521km on a tank and still have a couple of litres sloshing about somewhere! From Lawn Hill the dirt roads were full of corrugations. For those of you who've not had the pleasure see the picture below:
... On the way to our campsite for the night Hame decided to take Bertha for a little swim. Some famous last words were uttered "Shall I get off and walk through?" shortly before Hame decided we'd had enough creek practice and could get through anything two-up, shortly before we hit a rock and slid sideways into the water! Fortunately nothing was hurt except his pride and the food which got a bit wet.
From now on we'll go back to the old method of me getting off to walk through and check it (the old pillion croc bait trick) with Hame following soon after."
We finally caught up with Uli and Klaus, a German couple on an Africa Twin who'd met Ken and Carol and stayed with Neville in Daintree just before us. We'd e mailed them a few times and been chasing them across the country - it was good to catch up and compare notes. They are heading to Asia so we gave them lots of tips about off the beaten track destinations in Malaysia.
At the same campsite were a Swiss couple on a R100GS who'd ridden from Europe and in the next campsite along were Americans David and Erika on a Transalp, we'd corresponded with them when they were also hanging out for a ferry back in Penang. They'd had a carnet however and had caught a different boat and ridden through Indonesia, it was good to hear about their adventures.
Our next major town will be Broome, a place I've wanted to visit for years. On the way there we will go through the Kimberley which Hamish is especially looking forward to, after celebrating my 21st birthday along the way.
(Oh OK, I mean 34th...)
Ed. Happy Birthday Emma, 34 isn't old at all! See Hamish and Emma's blog here on Horizons Unlimited for more stories and great pics!
Colin and Dee Masters, Wrinklies Wround the World 2006-2007, in Australia, BMW 1150GS,
"Colin has completed the service on the bike which was a major one. Gaskets, plugs , oil change, brackets and brake pads. The parts cost 151 GBP. Then we took the bike to the BMW dealer for the day and they replaced the oil seal on the Drive shaft & needle roller bearings on the drive pinion. This cost 145GBP. They let us have a brand new ST 1200 for the day- and that proved to be very fast- could loose your licence very easily, if you weren't careful! It also made you realise how comfortable the GS is- we are spoilt with our air cushions!
In between this we have been out and about- here, there and everywhere- Australia zoo (where we saw wombats and these are as cute as the koalas. The only thing we have not seen is platypus), a Ginger farm (around here is a good area for the growth of ginger and it's amazing what you can add it to for flavouring), an Opal farm (I did refrain from buying here!) Apparently opals are only found in Oz and Mexico.
In the valley here was a large lake with the steepest hill going down that i have ever seen. You swung around the corner and there was this amazing view. Colin said 'take a picture'. Wheels of the bike pointing downwards at an alarming angle, me perched on the back, holding on tightly (for a change)- 'no way am I getting the camera out of my pocket at this angle' came the reply. So we went down to the bottom, turned around and Colin took it from the top. 'How are you going to turn around now' I asked-- and made him go down to the bottom and do a return trip! I am beginning to know what angles are safe or not---- been there done that- and fallen off! (in the past)."
Ed. For more stories and pics, see Colin and Dee's blog here on Horizons Unlimited!
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"More important than all the fancy jackets and pants put together..."
Grant says: "Where've these been all my life? A no-brainer - the only way to ride!"
John and Alanna Skillington, UK, Europe to Australia, in France, Suzuki V-Strom,
"Well we have adjusted to French life very well, even the bike has taken on a decidedly French flavour and quite likes being ridden on the right hand side of the road.
... We finally call it a night in little town called Hesdin, after following the signs to the camping area and ending up in a crematorium, but we eventually find a tiny caravan park, it's residents have never seen the likes of us. We are a bit of a novelty as they ALL seem to casually walk past and say a cheery Bon Soir. For us, it was washing, tea and bed.
We do finally make it out to Mont St Michel. You cannot help but be excited to be in this wonderful place, that we have seen in pictures, postcards and movies for most of our lives. We have all afternoon here before heading back to the campground.
... We have a fairly long day riding four passes. From Jausiers over the Col de Vars, Col d'Lzoard, Col du Lautaret and Col de Galibier. We rode past glaciers and snow covered mountains. There were quite a few tunnels and snow/avalanche protection tunnels on this section of road.
The ride and scenery were awesome but the French drivers left a lot to be desired. We came quite close to death as a Mercedes went to pull out on us from a side road as we came round a sweeping bend. Skill did so well to brake and keep the bike upright. The Mercedes driver did stop but not before he was half way out on to the road. Skill had to stop and take a break 5 minutes later as his legs had completely turned to jelly.
Then after lunch we were going up over a pass when a truck came boring down on us from the other direction, there was simply not room for two vehicles between the concrete barrier and the side of the mountain. But this did not deter him. We were stopped and had the bike leaned over so the right hand pannier was touching the barrier. The truck managed to get past with 2 inches between it and the left hand pannier (and my leg).
The camping has been great, the camp grounds are clean, well resourced and cheap. You order your baguettes and croissants from the reception the night before and collect them in the morning at most places.
The toilet paper saga continues, no consistency, some places have toilet paper, some don't and it doesn't seem to matter if it's a cheap or more expensive campground, you just never know. We now carry our spare rolls shoved down the tubes of the bike.
Because we have been camping in Caravan Parks so much and have been rolling with the older set (like the Grey Nomads at home) I have made some camping observations.
Observation two. There can be no Dutch people left in the Netherlands as they are all in the their vans and campers in France.
We have loved France and everything that I thought would be stereotypes are in fact truths about this beautiful country. There are little old ladies in pinafore aprons sitting outside their houses or tending their small geranium gardens. There are men wearing funny little caps. The boules games, the abundance of bread, the croissants and pastries, the long lunches, and their pure love of food. And while a frustration for visitors their strong stance on leisure time and the sacred lunch hours is in my opinion to be admired although there was many a time I cursed it.
We are now in Weyer, Germany (near Frankfurt), staying with the newly married Kai and Ulrich who travelled the world on their motorcycles for two years. Soon we fly back to Ireland and then Scotland for our friends Donald and Lou's wedding, if we can figure out how to get to the airport by public transport as we are leaving the bike at Kai & Ricky's. Another adventure I am sure. Cheers & Beers, Lan & Skill"
Ed. See John and Alanna's blog here on Horizons Unlimited for more stories and fabulous pics!
Murray Castle, Canada, in Guatemala, KTM 950,
"The next river crossing is even more unique. A barge docks in the most casual way on my shore. Trucks drive onboard with random carelessness. Katie and I jump the line and board just before the ramp is lifted. We squeeze into a neglected corner.
I am fascinated to watch the ferry's power source: two 75 HP outboards bolted to half barrel-on-a-swivel creations. This is all that gets the barge across the river in this current? Yet Captain Cook does it with an ease that amazes. I give him the thumbs up when we arrive on the other side. He grins.
At the most excellent Hotel D' Atuña I meet fellow adventure traveller Louis Elias. Louis started his RTW (or Round The World, to the uninitiated) trip from his Ontario home. Riding a BMW Dakar with more accessories than the Space Ship Columbia, Louis is off on a two year life-changing experience. We celebrate our happy meeting by swapping maps and guide books, then share stories, three bottles of wine and a couple of cigars.
Although I am heading north, he south, we decide to ride to Lake Atitlàn together and spend a couple of days exploring, as Aldous Huxley called it, 'the most beautiful lake in the world'."
See Murray's blog here on Horizons Unlimited for more stories and great pics!
Grant Guerin and Julie Rose, Australia, Trans America and Beyond, in Costa Rica and Honduras, Suzuki V-Strom,
"Slowly edging closer to South America we entered Costa Rica. The border crossing was reasonably easy though somewhat confusing and time consuming taking approximately 2 hours to complete. We arrived in Peñas Blancas at what appeared to be a large bus terminal.
Exit Nicaragua -
Enter Costa Rica -
With the intense heat and humidity of the coast slowly wearing us down we plotted a course into the cool fresh mountains towards the capital of San Jose, staying off the main highway we headed towards Vulcán Arenal skirting the man made lake Lago Arenal. This lake supplies the water to power the hydro-electric system of Costa Rica.
Grant was awoken at 2 am by a loud thunderous explosion. From our window, the crater lip glowed brilliant orange and crimson with a fiery ball of molten rock being expelled from the crater. As this lava collapsed on the steep flanks it would shatter into hundreds, perhaps thousands, of sparks that splayed out over a large area falling and bouncing on their speedy decent.
We both sat, transfixed, for several hours watching, from our comfortable cabin, this remarkable and spectacular natural event.
Continuing on to the Meseta Central region we stopped at Florencia for a picnic on the side of the road and noted the heavy dark clouds around the mountains... where we were heading. Some how this did not register to us as ominous, we did not even put on our wet weather gear as we began our ascent. Within 15 minutes on the winding road the heavens opened up and it was not long until we found shelter in a small humpy that doubled as a comedor. The rain bucketed down while we sat sipping hot tea and dodging the frequent drips from the leaky roof.
Over the next hour our little haven filled with other drivers finding refuge from the ever increasing rain and poor visibility. What seemed a reprieve in the heavy weather allowed us to don our rain gear and continue only to find, a short distance down the road, the storm intensifying with even more fury.
Slowly we progressed through the steep winding mountains through lightning and cracking thunder, muddy water raced across the road and small landslides stopped small cars, however we continued on and as several hours passed it became a desperate effort to find accommodation as hotels were conspicuous by their absence.
While we were in Honduras we had briefly met Alejandra and Vekoh on their BMW 650 GS's from Costa Rica and were keen to catch up with them. They invited us to the local Motorcycle Club meeting (ACCAMORE) which was more like a friendly get together, very informal and enjoyable. After the meeting we took a late dinner and a very late evening with Ale and Vekoh drinking wine, talking motorcycles and travel.
The following weekend we were joined by Ale, Vekoh, German (BMW 1100GS) and his daughter MariPaz (600 Katana) for a ride to Volcán Irazú. Ale lead the group expertly up the 3432 metre volcano. Climbing higher we passed through the cloud band, from time to time glimpsing the view of the fertile valley below, still higher we rode until we reached the crater lagoon and park."
Ed. See Grant and Julie's blog here on Horizons Unlimited for more stories and lots of great photos!
Craig Hutson, USA, RTW, in Harley-Davidson,
"Russia - I got to the border at 4 am. There was a truck line 3 miles long and about 20 cars ahead of me. The border didn't even open until 6. The one and only good thing that happened at the border was they waved me to the head of the line. They opened the border 15 minutes late, no biggie, the first check point two people come out and ask for your passport, they hand you a small piece of paper that I found out later you have to turn in at the last checkpoint. This piece of paper had the number of people in a vehicle. Then the fun begins; now mind you I only have 3 people in front of me 25 minutes later, they hand me two forms (in Russian) to fill out, I looked around but couldn't find any examples in English of what they were asking, about 10 minutes went by when this guy from England also trying to get into Russia hands me two forms in English, where he got them I have no clue but I was off and running.
Once that was done I got sent to an office to pay a new road tax or something, it wasn't bad under 5 bucks, back in line only to find out I needed a copy of the receipt for the road tax, I couldn't understand why, they gave me two copies already just best keep your mouth shut and do what they ask, back to the lady that I paid the tax to, showed her the receipt, she knew what I needed made a copy (of course there was small charge for the copy), back in line. Why she just didn't make the copy at the time I paid no one knows, that's just not the way they do it, if you don't ask or better yet if you don't know about it shame on you, back in line. For those keeping tab, two hours have gone by. This was not just with me everyone was going jumping in and out of the same hoops.
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Next they didn't like the insurance I had, of course I asked about it at the Embassy and was told it was fine but you guessed it, back to the SAME lady, paid about $65 for their insurance, back in line, 3 hours have gone by. It's finally my turn, I didn't say a word I just handed her my 2 original receipts and my one copy of the tax, my two forms I first had to fill out, my new Russian insurance paper, my passport and registration for the bike. She looks at it and gives me just the dirtiest look and yells at me, the guy behind me laughs and said she's yelling at you because everything is in English and how is she suppose to read it. She did the same thing to the person in front of me so I just kept my mouth shut, smiled and stood there. She filled out her paperwork, went checked out the bike, even looked at the VIN, Started hitting the paper work with stamps, I knew this was a good sign, then threw the paper work at me. I saw that she did this to the last person, his stuff ended on the ground, I was ready I blocked it with my body gathered it all in, smiled and said Thank You for your trouble, and walked away with a big smile on my face.
I was told that the truckers wait in line 3-4 days to cross into Russia. I thought 6 hours was bad enough. On to the last check point where I had to give them that piece of paper letting them know when I started there was only one person with the bike. She got out and looked on the other side to make sure I didn't have someone hidden somewhere. She gave me the nod and I was gone..."
Ed. For more stories, see Craig's blog here on Horizons Unlimited!
Robert Bielesch, Canada, in Brasil,
"I purposely planned my entry to Rio de Janeiro for Sunday. I assumed there would be less traffic than on a normal day. I was not totally prepared for what I experienced. I entered from the coastal south. The two lane coastal highway fanned into an eight lane divided carriageway. It was simply deserted. There could not have been more than a dozen vehicles occupying the space in both directions. It was like a scene from Mad Max or War of the Worlds. There was little evidence of life.
Occasionally a vehicle blurred by me at twice the normal speed. Other than that I enjoyed the weird sensation of travelling alone in a megatropolis. I moved into the city centre. Still no life, except for a few street peddlers. The city had an untidy look; an unkempt feel. I moved on with trepidation. How could a place this large be empty?
I longed for the small towns I had spent the last week with. I longed for the beaches and the green of the countryside. I longed for some sign of life...
The hotel was a delight. My spirits picked up immediately. The room was wonderful. The staff helpful, resourceful and reassuring. I hit the street. I did a two block loop. Incredible!
I saw more remarkable architecture in that small space than I had seen in the past month. Sights abounded ...parks, buildings, restaurants and people...yes, there were people here too. Wonderful. My spirits climbed exponentially. This was the right spot. I was staying..."
See Bob's blog here on Horizons Unlimited for more stories and great pics!
Mark and Paul Dolby, UK to Mongolia, Slovakia and Ukraine, in Russia and the Netherlands, 2 x BMW GS,
"Moscow - Andrey arrives at 8:20pm and immediately apologises. We're just glad he turns up. He takes us to an Irish pub - that's right - an Irish pub and we meet 2 more outlaws (little vitalie and big vitalie). Big vitalie was a helicopter pilot in the Russian army 10 years ago but spoke better English than Andrey. Little vitalie spoke very good English because his father worked for the UN as a specialist on diesel engines so has travelled the world with his parents. We leave the Irish pub and go on a quick drive to another bar. On the way, Andrey is stopped by the Police for speeding. To our amazement he pulls out his wallet, shows the Police something and they wave him on? We find out that Andrey is anti - terrorist Police, to our amazement.
We end up in a bar called "Che Guevare" - a fantastic little place. Andrey orders a jug of ice, a jug of coke, a plate of limes (quartered), a plate of mint and a bottle of 7 year old rum!, and proceeds to make a rum and coke for us all. The drink is flowing and we really are enjoying the company of our Russian friends. After a couple more bottles of rum and more ice have been ordered and consumed, big vitalie say's goodbye and wishes us well. Andrey then takes us to another club where he tells us that many western Europeans tend to meet. He also tells us that you can have any women in there,and of course - they're all inclusive as well. We decline again and Andrey takes us back to our hotel. We can't thank the big man enough and are sorry to see him go. Russia - The people are fantastic and so friendly. We leave the next morning with heavy hearts. Russia has been a fantastic experience, the people, the culture, the hospitality, has been mind-blowing. We will both miss these most generous and friendly people.
Netherlands - Once back at the hotel the receptionist mentions to us about Osterbeek - the famous hotel where the Parachute regiment had there HQ during the war and as featured in the film - A Bridge Too Far. We couldn't miss that and it would tie in nicely with Red Square and Auschwitz, so we get booted and spurred (motorcycle gear on) and set off to find Osterbeek. Its well signposted and took us only 30mins to get there. From the outside the hotel (which is a museum now) is immaculate. There's an American tank and artillery gun outside the entrance. Once inside, and the building is full of photos, medals, uniforms and memorabilia from people who actually fought the battle. The place is really interesting and worth seeing if you ever get the chance. We spent nearly 2 hours in the museum, but we would because of our military backgrounds. Tomorrow its on the ferry and home, and the end of a trip which has been amazing."
Ed. For more stories, see Mark and Paul's blog here on Horizons Unlimited!
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Tommy and Rosa, Germany, RTW, in Canada and Alaska, BMW F650GS's,
"We meet Alex and Carsten, it's great to see them again. We drink a lot of beer this night and it's late as we come home. We want to travel some days together, as soon as they get their motorbikes from the boat.
...We leave Vancouver together. The weather couldn't be better, we enjoy the winding road to Whistler, the beautiful countryside - mountains, lakes and rivers. We stop, because there's a black bear, feeding only some meters away from the road.
...We ride the beautiful Highway No. 26 to Quesnel, then the Highway 97 to Prince George – nice, but a boring. Suddenly an animal jumps onto the road and back into the woods again– a young grizzly, the first we see!
At Bear Lake we camp at a Provincial Campground. We go early to bed, because of the mosquitoes and because it´s not allowed having a campfire – there's a fire ban at the moment.
...We take the 97 to Chetwynd, turn onto the nice 29 to Fort St. John and ride from there again the 97 – called Alaska Highway! On Alaska Highway we think we´re in Siberia – long straight roads, forest everywhere... In Pink Mountain we stay overnight and we enjoy the next days ride on Alaska Highway very much. The road is winding at Summit Lake Pass, the view great at Muncho Lake, we watch a lot of wildlife like moose, caribou, stone mountain sheep, buffalo and even a young black bear. The night we spend at Liard Hot Springs, nice natural pools.
...In Watson Lake we stop to take a picture of the more then 53.000 signs from all over the world. We check our emails and there is a message from Alex and Carsten, our German friends. They are in Dease Lake with a broken engine. Now to Whitehorse, the next Yamaha dealer. We decide to go the 600kms with Carsten to Whitehorse the next day.
...Before we do the Dempster Highway, the 730 km long gravel road to Inuvik in Northwest Territories, we go to Dawson City for food and information... We stay overnight in Dawson and leave the next morning... The road is in very good condition, it's like an Autobahn, you can ride very fast, if you want. On some sections we have to be careful – it´s muddy and slippery... The next day we reach the Arctic Circle... There are two ferries to cross the rivers Peel and Mckenzie before we reach Inuvik... The way back on Dempster Highway we do in only one day... The Dempster Highway will be in our memories as one of the highlights of our travels in North America.
...The road is nice as we reach the Denali National Park, but unfortunately the weather isn't the best and we don't see the highest peak of North America - Mount McKinley. Barb owns a motorcycle accessory shop, where you also can buy self-made motorcycle wear and sheep skins for seats. She tells us that the Harley Shop has a free campground for motorcyclists and as she gives us the directions, Tom, a customer says, he brings us to the Harley shop. It starts to rain and as we reach the Harley shop, Tom invites us to stay in his camper.
We are very happy, also because he allowed us to use his garage for changing our tires, even he helps us to change them! His wife Sharon invites us to join them for dinner and their son brings delicious beer. They allowed us to stay some days, so we are able to update our website. Great!"
Tom and Lynne Gefre, USA, North, Central and South America, in Peru, F650GS's,
"You encounter the Nasca Lines - huge hieroglyphs drawn on the desert floor - directly along the PanAm. As with Machu Picchu, not much is known about the Nasca Lines, although most researchers agree they were created by three groups of peoples who inhabited the desert valley from 600 B.C. to 320 A.D. - and not by space aliens. How and why spiders and birds the size of three football fields could be drawn on the ground and only appreciated from 1,000 feet in the air is quite the question. The lines have been naturally preserved due to the heavy mineral content of the soil and the almost total lack of rainfall. We didn't feel like spending a day and $200 to fly over them in a plane but we did pay 30 cents each to climb a 50 foot tower to see "The Hands" (one hand only has four fingers) and a bird drawing.
While stopped at the tower we met three riders from Montevideo, Uruguay heading north on two 125cc scooters loaded down with everything from surfboards to sunscreen. They made the whales look downright Streamlined in comparison! Hats off to them.
Three days and 620 miles of riding from Lima brought us to Arequipa, a million-plus town located at 7,400 feet at the foot of two large mountain peaks, Chachani (19,000') and Pichu-Pichu (18,000'). It was here that we experienced our second earthquake in as many weeks. Is this some sort of sign? Arequipa was an OK place but it turned out we spent a lot of time at our hotel, El Balcon, because Lynne was bitten by a 24-hour bug that took a few days to recover from. The folks there were great and cooked up some chicken soup for her and let me wash the bikes in their driveway. The hotel was in an old colonial home that reminded us a lot of our home in Denver. We weren't getting a lot of sleep here, though. One night alone, we were awakened by noisy tourists, barking dogs, guards (stationed on the corner outside our room) whistling signals to each other, a 5:30am earthquake and early-morning construction traffic. The bags under our eyes are now 3-dimensional. Time to move on."
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Grant says: "simply a must-do for all airheads"
Marc and Bev Davies - South America and Beyond, in Argentina, BMW R100 GS
"Having spent many a day at Dakar Moto HQ, thought it might be time for a quick update. As you'll remember from way back when, last year in fact... though only 5 months ago really, Sandra & Javier run a motorcycle repair shop with facilities for traveling bikers to stay.
Though it's out in the suburbs there is an excellent train station nearby and a return ticket costs less than 25p p/p. There is an underground network and it costs little too.
So it's a great place to be based. The accommodation is adjacent to the workshop, bunk beds, a toilet & shower, and kitchen. There's a garden outside (or camping area!) and so long as there is space and time, you have an opportunity to work on your bike, or better still, let Javier do it for you for very reasonable costs.
He's worked wonders on a few of our fellow travelers bikes and there are some excellent services available for repairs. Non re-buildable shock trashed? Well that can be taken apart refurbished and reassembled as good as new. Smash a screen, a new one can be made to match. If there's a problem, there's someone who can resolve it. Excellent facility. Fortunately for us we are simply staying here!
...We had to carry out certain formalities, petrol has to be drained - they get bored, not necessary to empty, if say near empty, they will accept that, battery has to be disconnected, and tyre pressures reduced, again not sure you need to do tyres, but we did on this occasion. The customs formalities have to be done, one guy, he was friendly, he took our temporary import document. He checks number plate, chassis, motor, cursory check luggage.
The bike was strapped with nylon tapes to the wooden pallet and eventually wrapped in cling film, we locked lids to bike, and strapped a large stuff bag with sleeping bags etc on and our jackets were shrink wrapped and strapped to bike under screen on seat. Once completed the wrapper asked for I think 120 pesos (£24) with a receipt, or (definite price) 60 pesos (£12) no receipt, obvious choice as we can't reclaim. Once finished the bike weighed in at 330kgs (including pallet).
We went around corner to Lufthansa office with customs documents and receipt document from wrapping warehouse. They produce a form with details of bike flight etc, the Airway Bill. You complete a vehicle check sheet – what's on bike, and pallet, and condition of vehicle, signed declaration at end. A Dangerous Goods Certificate is done and signed. Now we had to pay! You can only pay cash, either in US Dollars, or local pesos, or combination of two.
After all paperwork was completed we were given a sticker to apply to bike - we had to do it to ensure it was the right bike. After that we had completed everything. We left and handed in our pass. We kept the petrol removed from bike in a can and took it away with us for Sandra and Javier. No one queried us walking around the cargo area with the petrol, even through the checks, or when we walked to the entrance of airport terminal. :-0 .....really.
We walked away and hoped our pride and joy arrives in UK OK !"
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Kevin Maher, Ireland, in Mongolia and Russia, BMW R1150 GS,
"The sand is tough, tough, tough when you and your machine weigh over 400kg... did I mention that? Most of the drops are harmless and don't hurt - I don't think we got the bikes over 45km/h today - 3rd gear? maybe once or twice. Off course just when I do get a flat run, the ground leaves me - literally a cleft about 50cm across and the same down, concentration lapse and I hit it - hard. I'm thrown over and clear, but I land on my fist against my chest and I know I've hurt myself (a few days later in Novosibirsk I have it x-rayed - fractured ribs). I'm sore but more concerned about the bike... Literally not a mark, I was worried about damaging the forks, but she's fine. This machine is phenomenal.
Also my boots have saved my legs twice today as they got caught under the panniers when I fall, panniers are suffering, bit lopsided but replaceable - legs aren't!
... I'm flying these roads until I hit heavy rain just as I enter Novosibirsk. I hide under a bridge and am quickly joined by Sergei and his new (2 hours ago) girlfriend on a scooter. "Hotel Sibir - sure follow !" He sets off in the lashing rain and I follow. In we go and it's beer and champagne and a Horizons T-Shirt as a thank-you ! We swap numbers and Sergei tells me to call if I need anything. he's a mechanic and used to work for yamaha, before setting up his own tuning shop.
I decide to stay a second night, the town is big and there's a BMW dealership and I figure I'll swap out the knobblies which are shot with just over 8000km on them after Siberia and Mongolia and give the bike a service. (and maybe get some Laundry done too!)
First I head to the hotel doctor who refers me to a clinic where I get examined and x-rayed - no surprises - 2 fractured ribs. He straps and advises me to rest for 2 weeks - no problem I'm sitting down all day anyway. I alter the strapping for the bike - this has been my morning duck-tape ritual.
I head for BMW. Oil change - no. No bikes, no service for bikes, no oil, no tyre change and no desire to help in any way. Screw them. I've spotted a Yamaha dealership on the way. I head there. Tyre change is a problem - don't have the kit, but I do get Synthetic oil!
Then I remember Sergei - I mention his name, someone calls him, he arrives with a colleague in tow and we're like old buddies - things happen quickly!
I'm off with Pawel to get the tyres done around the corner."
Ed. See Kevin's blog here on Horizons Unlimited for more stories and lots of pics!
Andy Tiegs, USA, to Central/South America, in Mexico,
"I'm reading a book called 'Behind the Mexican Mountains' I bought for 4 bucks at Half Price Books. I only started, but if you are planning to visit Copper Canyon in your future, as any good Horizonista should be, check it out. Written back in the 1930's by a guy from U of Chicago, it's an anthropological study of the Tarahumara (Indian tribe) from the Canyon region, but gives you a good feel for what it was like back then, as well as description of the landscape.
If I can, I like to get a hotel in the middle of town, so I can walk around for dinner and a beer or whatever without hassling with the bike. No parking? No problem, that's what lobbies are for. This is where a relatively small bike is really handy. I think the Concours would handle most of the roads I'll see this trip, but I would have smashed the exhaust if I would have tried to get it up the steps into here.
To get to Real, you have to go about 20 miles on a cobblestone road, where the cobbles have been polished smooth by traffic for who knows how long. We are not talking about formed bricks here either, these are just rounded river rocks set in the round. Kind of what I picture the Appian Way, from ancient Rome looking like. Not fun in the rain on a motorcycle. You climb most of that time, and I haven't seen a sign, but I bet Real is at 8-10,000 feet.
You then have to go through a 2.3 km (~1.5 mile) tunnel to finally get to the town itself. Once I popped out of the tunnel, I was immediately accosted by 3 kids who wanted to be my agent in finding a hotel room. I let them lead me around town, first to a place that was out of my budget, then to another place where i got a fine room for $18. I gave the kids 15 pesos to split between them, but not before I taught them how to say "do you need a hotel?" in English. A bargain, as I would never have found this place on my own. Once again, i parked my bike in the lobby, but I wouldn't be afraid to leave it on the street in this town, as long as it was locked up."
Ed. For more stories and pics, see Andy's blog here on Horizons Unlimited!
Ken and Toni Butler, Australia, UK to Russia and Japan, BMW R80 and R100 GS, in Russia and Mongolia,
"The trans-siberian highway is definitely busy, and the traffic doesn't stop for bikes stuck in the mud! Toni got close to the mud a few times on this section.
...The 300+km journey from the border to Ulaan Baatar was good road. There was a sudden drop in traffic volume, but the Mongolians are just as new to driving as the Russians, so they're also a bit reckless, although we thought they were generally a bit slower (at least on this stretch). The traffic in UB seems to be almost as manic as in Russian cities. We passed a runner carrying a torch which has apparently travelled though Russia and will cross Mongolia and China - world harmony games?? or something. At first we thought he was out in this remote stretch on his own, but a couple of kilometres further on we passed the support vehicle. We have missed the annual Nadaam festival, so these young boys must be practising for next year's event.
...After our last night in Mongolia, celebrating with Miss Mongolia and the locals, we woke to the sound of horses hooves. A border guard came by to check up on us. We were, after all, camped just a few metres from the Russia/Mongolia border. A half hour or so later, another guard came by - this one with a gun slung over his shoulder. We told him we were crossing in to Russia. He took off and returned a few minutes later to advise that the border opened at 9am. We think that was our hint to get a move on. While we packed, the family came to bid farewell. The eldest son is intensely curious and tries on helmets, gloves, sits in the tent and helps Ken pack. All is done with great care and respect.
Leaving Mongolia took about 10 minutes. We were given customs declaration forms to complete, but nobody collected them from us. The lone guard in the office was woken from a vodka-induced slumber (we suspect from the smell and his rather deliberate actions to complete the log and stamp our passports). As usual, the Russian immigration and customs process took a little longer, although this time less than 2 hours. They inspected our pannier and bag contents far more thoroughly than any previous group, but spent more time looking through our little photo album, especially curious about Toni's Chinese family.
The first section of road from the border to Borza is deep sand and slippery gravel Then a few more potholes and patched tar to shake you up a bit more. About 150km south of Chita, Toni's bike frame breaks again in the same place. We hailed down a small truck and the driver says he'll take the bike and Toni to Chita for 1,000 rubles. Fortunately, the truck has a rear elevating platform and we have the bike in the back in no time, thanks to some skilful maneuvering by Ken. While we are tying the bike down, he is on the phone and says that he has to return to the town - we are just on the outskirts - to check all is ok with his boss. He drives off, leaving us by the roadside wondering if he'll actually return."
by Sam ManicomSam's plans frequently don't work out as they should... new challenges and surprises... jailed in Tanzania ...lives in a remote village, canoes a dugout in Malawi, escapes a bush fire and much more. Get it here!
Into the Den of the Bear and the Lair of the Dragon on a Motorcycle. Werner, 66, was born in Germany and worked in Canada until his retirement. He has authored a number of books since getting bit by the motorcycle travel bug, including
-8 Around the Americas by Motorcycle,
The Producers of Mondo Enduro present Terra Circa, Around the World by Motorcycle (6 x 20 minute episodes).
Regular readers of this newsletter will remember Terra Circa's adventures around the world, and especially the Zilov Gap. Now's your chance to see it in video. Austin Vince is a very funny guy and the video is hilarious, as he leads his intrepid crew through misadventure after misadventure.
"This is adventure motorcycling" says Chris Scott, who wrote the book, so he ought to know!
Contact Aimimage for the PAL video or all format DVD. Don't forget to tell them you heard about it on HU, we'll make a bit, and it won't cost you any more.
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Linda Bootherstone-Bick, UK, Gibraltar to Australia, in Thailand, Suzuki DR650,
"Back in Chiang Mai I did a pretty daft thing and bought a fiddle at the Sunday market. A cheap, small one made by a local man. It has hardly any sound, which is great for practising and is the same length but much slimmer than the real thing, so easier to carry. Ha, bloody ha! How an earth can you keep a fiddle safe on a bike with the pouring rain and hot sun? Of course I had to find a suitable case for it.
So far the fiddle has survived the rigours of being on the bike and it is great to get it out and have a practise on it when I have the opportunity. I now have a lagerphone (Australian percussion), Chimta, (Pakistan percussion) an Indian B flat whistle, a Clarke C whistle(UK) and a D whistle from Adelaide, Oz). Some Rajastan leg bells complete the music section, so I can always find something to entertain myself or others with!
Now, having got the new waterproof I have avoided getting really wet. I have also learnt to pull off the road when the really heavy showers start and wait for 10 minutes or so till it stops. If I have to continue the only bit that gets wet now are my feet and hands and at least, unless at altitude, the rain is warm."
Ed. Linda just celebrated her 60th birthday, and is not slowing down! Check out her website for great stories and pics!
Patrick and Belinda Peck, Australia, around the world, again, in Poland, Yamaha Super Tenere XTZ 750,
"Dzien dobry from Poland! Since we 'talked' to you last we have travelled many miles and met many wonderful people, mainly Horizons Unlimited community members that have done some amazing motorcycle trips around the world- what a great family the HU members are! We met Pam and Andrew Rorke in Vienna and walked all over, saw it all in one day and then drove to a lovely pension on the Danube River Valley.
Back to see Angelique Hochlahner in Rottenmann who took us trekking up the biggest mountain in the area- 2.5 hours to an Austrian means 2.5 hours up and 2.5 hours down! Be careful of those crazy Austrians, especially the women motorcycle riders! Exhausted we travelled west towards Ralf and Caroline Kobler, who we met in Cairns as they had dinner at our house one night 5 years ago and told us about their trip, this was before we started this travelling thing! We had a great time catching up with them and Pat intensified his search for an immaculate Super Tenere to ship home."
Ed. Check out their HU Blog for stories and great pics!
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Mike and Ruby, Canada and Germany, in Bulgaria,
"We cross over from Turkey into Bulgaria at Malko Tarnovo, a small mountain border crossing. Our first stop is beside a small both clearly indicating, via a sticker, that no money should change hands. The border guard indicates a 5 minute wait. We could see that further ahead a bus with tourists was being processed. After 15 minutes we proceeded to another building. A no smiling border guard requests our passports and then grunts and groans and disappears into the building. The passport is full of stamps and only a three (3) pages are still empty. There are a couple of postings on the window warning not to exchange money on the street. A few minutes pass and we have our entry stamp. There was no question regarding insurance on the bike. We have had no insurance in Turkey as well. A new EU sign indicates that vehicles get charged a road tax and the pricing is listed clearly. Motorcycles are free. It is evident that Bulgaria is trying it's hardest to get away from the corruptness that it is known for. Bulgaria was supposed to join the EU in January of 2006, but due to the current government corruptness it was deferred to October 2006.
From the border crossing we decide to head north east to Tsarevo on the Black Sea. At our first road fork in the road we realize that the road signs are in Cyrillic alphabet, which definitely did not correspond to the towns indicated on our map. As we are contemplating which way to go, a local man comes walking down the road out of nowhere, smiling and we communicate by pointing to the GPS and the destination town. He points to the right and happily describes the directions in Bulgarian, we just node our heads not understanding a word. Then we indicate by saying Benzin that we are low on gasoline and he takes a stone and writes onto the road 67km. Somehow we always seem to be able to communicate."
Fabrice Blocteur, From Japan across Asia to Europe, in China,
"Beijing - After saying farewell to my bike at the Chinese border, I took a bus on June 16th in the morning to Mudanjiang, 150 km from Suifenhe, to board the night train to Beijing in the afternoon. The road was in perfect condition and was probably part of the new highway which was to be opened two days later between Haerbin in China and Vladivostok in Russia. Road signs in both Chinese and English could be seen as well as a few in Russian.
The next morning just before noon I got off the train in Beijing. The capital had changed a lot since the last time I was here ten years ago: new buildings, new roads, new shops, and new people from the old countryside, as well as fewer bicycles and more vehicles. Here again the roads are in excellent conditions and well marked with signs and can be compared with the ones in the most advanced industrialized countries.
During the nine days I stayed in the Chinese capital I saw many motorbikes. I had been told that in Beijing, as well as Shanghai, motorbikes were not allowed. It seems like in that case as for crossing the Chinese border with a motorbike, it's legally forbidden but practically possible. I even saw quite a few foreigners riding motorbike, some with sidecars and a few without a helmet. I talked to some expats who had been leaving in China for years and they were not aware of any restrictions regarding motorbikes in Beijing. Furthermore, because Chinese administration was becoming really complicated about registering a motorbike, more and more foreigners were riding their bikes without any documents. No one had ever heard of a foreigner having had his or her bike impounded."
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Michael Murray, USA, the Trans-America Trail,
"It was already 100 degrees at daybreak when the morning started in a panicked rush to deal with the bike issues. James was up at the crack of dawn and went out to sit in the Yukon (truck) and make phone calls while the crew slept. “I wanted to let the crew sleep so I went to the car, but it was so hot outside it was miserable” laughed James. The first call was to Vance Hunter, an interested fan who had been following our journey through our website and had been in touch with us days earlier. He lived in the area and had offered to help out in any way he could, not knowing what he was about to get entangled in. He was able to find a couple of bike shops that were willing to help us on such short notice. Vance also offered to let us use his workshop for maintenance. Relieved at the quick response and apparent solution to the bike challenge, James woke the troops and we all headed into Broken Arrow to meet up with our savior at the Honda / Suzuki dealership (Green Country Cycle City). Things went smoothly but unfortunately it ate up a chunk of our emergency fund, so that remains a challenge for us to work out."
Ed. Michael produced the HU 2005 Colorado Traveler's Meeting video. Good luck with this new venture!
Brian Coles and Anne-Sofie Hennings, UK, UK to India, in Italy, BMW 1150GS,
"We are in beautiful Rome, having travelled some 2000 miles to get here from London (we did a VERY odd route)."
Bill McKay & Karen Brown, USA, in Austria,
"Being a lifelong bike enthusiast, when Karen told me, a year ago, that we 'needed' to go to Europe. I told her 'No thanks! What did I want to go to a city for? They're just fulla' people and cars and buildings and ALL the stuff I don't like!' But she kept talking and I said the only way I was goin' was by motorcycle and danged' if she didn't say 'Why not!' (I'd like to tell ya'll that it really didn't go this smooth but, it really did!)
Now there really wasn't as much planning as you might think. We got on the horn (the net to you college guys) and checked out a few places for rentals, (we didn't, and still don't currently, own a bike) and came up with 'Bournemouth Motorcycle Limited' in the UK ...after a few dozen e-mails, (let me tell ya' these people have been GREAT) we were set up to ride! Tickets, money, backpack, hat, we're ready to shove off!
...So...we made it to Austria. After a great farewell, from our friend's in Belgium, it was off to Germany. So much to tell... winding roads, friendly people, all the way to the holy mecca of racing; Nürbürgring! We stayed in the greatest little guest house just down the road from the race track. Haus Veronika! Karl, (also the Stihl chainsaw dealer), and his wife Hanna, welcomed us and the 'Torquemada' like we were family. Fabulous place... had dinner at a Gasthaus in Nürburg, the Cafe' Paddock. If you go, you'll know the place as soon as you enter the town. The racing mural is a dead giveaway. Didn't work up the nerve to try out the track, but we did make a stop at Bikeworld. Drool! Huge dealer in Nürburg. They tried to make us welcome with my limited German and their limited English, but it worked out.
So we get into the Alps, head through the most fantastic country. You know what we mean? Really start getting into the ride. We stop at the first 'Real' Tourist Info building we see. Nice place for a rest and to visit, right? Wrong! Here comes a cop with a van full of computer equipment and a belly full of importance. 'Ver are your Papers? You have No toll sticker!" Now 'fellers, there must be 50 signs around in 20 different languages, and not one of those suckers says Anything in English about a toll sticker. Oh well. Sixty-five Euros later (5 for the sticker and 60 for the hell of it) and we are back on the road. Now I'm not generally too difficult about the law but this one was bullshit! I mean, guys! Setting up a ticket trap in the Tourist Info parking lot? That not only stinks, it ain't even fair. Our rental company didn't clue us in either, and I guess it really isn't their problem, but... Anyway, that's 60 Euros that somebody ain't gonna' git in someplace as spent money. The guy acted like he was on commission! (At least he didn't have to smile)..."
Ed. Follow Bill and Karen's story in their blog here on Horizons Unlimited!
Cameron and Patti Weckerley, USA, in California,
"Today, just for today, I hate small towns. Sure they're charming, full of history and on average have a much higher percentage of friendly people than the city. But to be stranded in one as we have been for a week now is an entirely different matter. A person can't get things they need in them. Particularly if what one needs is a 12 mm hex tool for a torque wrench. Above a certain elevation they don't even know they exist.
After a days ride of over 500 miles up the length of the great valley some real motorcycling at last. Redding is basically at the bottom of the ascent up to Mt. Shasta. Interstate 5 turns from a soulless slab at last into a real motorcycle road. At the beginning of the ascent is Shasta Lake. Shasta Lake has a fractal-like shape with many long fingers extending for miles. This makes for a lot of bridges and many great views. A visual feast of a ride with great twisties thrown in for good measure."
Paul Campbell, USA, in Central America, BMW R1150 GS Adventure,
"I rode on down to Central America and I'm not going back. You know, same old story. Left my job as a firefighter in Seattle of 14 years, jumped on my 1150 adventure, went for a ride, met a beautiful woman and I'm not coming back. OK, I did go back to get my dog, and my van. The van of course I am going to be using as a support vehicle for my volcano jungle tours based here in Guatemala. Wow, life is great if you give it a chance! I hope to meet you in Creel in October and have a chat. Adios Amigo, Paul"
USA, heading south, Yamaha XJ600, (writing to the Guadalajara HU Community)
"Hi, on the trip from tepic to mexico city i had motorcycle trouble 20miles outside of Tepic. In short I need a mechanic in Guadalajara for my Yamaha XJ600 1995. Read on if you want details. It seems like I was out of gas but I filled it up before I left. I pulled over checked the gas, battery, spark plugs... nothing. 5min later it started working. 10 miles later same issue. Anyway from my uneducated poking around I don't think air is getting into the gas tank to equalize the vacuum. I open my tank, I hear a hiss of air and the bike starts working. The opening the tank trick got me the next 100 or so miles to Guadalajara w/o further issue... thanks for any and all help."
Sounds like the cap is clogged - there's a small hole in the cap. I'm sure someone in Guadalajara will help sort Jerome out. Good troubleshooting for a confessed beginner!
Richard Fawcett, USA, NC to Alaska, Suzuki V-Strom 1000,
"... This was a 5k one way climb (10k total), the last 3k straight up about 1800 feet to 4200 foot ";King's Throne.' It was a serious challenge. ... It was well worth the effort. The view was indeed awesome. And getting down was only a little dicey in a couple of places. But it was still the most challenging ";hike' I have yet to encounter. Got back to the bike, hopped on quickly and I'm out of there, mosquitoes be damned.
Rooms at the Northern Rockies Lodge very reasonable under circumstances, but food is twice what you would normally pay, even in Alaska. ... Longest and coldest rain yet. ... and finally ran out of it ... if I can stay dry for an hour or so, the wind will completely dry me out.
... On the road by 6:35am Thursday morning, headed back to Banff, one of my favorite places of the whole trip. ... Hwy 40 south out of Grande Prairie, 120 miles, no services. Great road, obviously built for commercial logging, and everyone is flying. ... Get to Y hostel in Banff at about 6:30pm..
... Beautiful ride today. ... Going to stop in Golden, Canada ... (but) ... overhead sign flashes expect 2-4 hr delay Golden ... So I turn around and head back to Banff. ... Looking forward to exploring the park at a leisurely pace tomorrow, can't check in until 3pm, but lots of beautiful riding in this area.
... The day starts off full of promise. Get up early this morning to head up to Glacier National Park. ... As I start the 45 mile drive through the park ... a climb from 1500 ft up to 6600 feet at Logan Pass. ... The road narrows down, then really narrows down, and the higher I go, the windier it gets, in the range of 25-35 mph with 40 mph gusts. ... At 5200 feet it is cold; at 6000 feet, my hands are beginning to go numb. ... At 6600 feet, Logan's Pass, another crosswind blast hammers the bike. ... And then as I crest the peak to start downward, what I see literally knocks the breath out of me. Truth, indeed, really is stranger than fiction. Without warning. I know I've got a problem, right now, this very second, a very serious problem, and maybe no solution in sight..."
Wayne Barrett, (Fattty B on the HUBB), UK, London to Mongolia, the 'Mongol Rally', Honda 90cc Cub,
"This July 22nd I will be setting off from Hyde Park in London for the 3rd Annual Mongol Rally. I will be riding the Classic Honda c90 approximately 8000 miles from London to Ulaan Bataar in Mongolia. I will be the first ever and only motorcycle entrant to be attempting this grueling journey for the chance to raise money for several worthy charities:
Send a Cow. Provides a fascinating approach to helping poor families in Africa. CNCF. A truly inspirational Mongolian Children's Charity. Mercy Corps. This is an amazing charity taking a careful and effective approach to helping the poor in rural Mongolia Wildlife. CRU. Their approach not only benefits the endangered and little studied species but the local economy and community as well. CAMDA. Bringing veterinary aid to thousands of horses in 2 Northern provinces. 29,000 horses were given life-enhancing inoculations in 2004 and in 2005 and it is being extended to a third. In 2006 they aim to reach more than 45,000 horses in these 3 areas.
I hope to achieve £8000 for my gruelling journey a mere £1 for every mile to help the above charities and can't thank the HUBB enough for all the information helping me prepare. Thank you to everybody involved in making the HUBB such a great forum.
... I am currently at Karkov in Poland. Had a run in with a wagon this morning after he decided the road was his. Leaving me in a ditch with no left foot peg side stand and seat torn off but I'm ok all this with ruptured fuel pipe loss of coordination to electrics and leaking fuel tank but not one for giving up yet. I will go on until the engine doesn't want to anymore, slowly bodging bits back together and lightening the load wherever possible but currently having to balance on the gear shift lever and wedge the seat in place with my fat arse. I'm totally shagged at the moment only slept in 1 hotel whilst the bike broke down and a total of 8 hrs at the side of the bike at campsites since setting off pushing through Europe but doesn't seem to be getting any cheaper. Next stop kyev"
Mark Stowe, UK, RTW, in Alaska, BMW R1150 GS, USA,
"I am off travelling around the world. I started on April 01, 2006 leaving the UK for a 6 month tour across Europe, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russia (plus 3 hours in Korea), Canada and the US.
Alaska - A cold but bright morning. We said goodbye to the Mexicans - Gabriela and Alcides....they were off to Fairbanks then Anchorage, we were doing Anchorage then Fairbanks.
The news on the TV was about the oil pipe in Prudhoe Bay... the place did not look that nice and it was a long dead end road... first thoughts of not going there were mentioned.
We rode to Tok, lunch at Fast Eddys, and then left (south) to Anchorage - 400 miles to go. The first 25 miles were road works...very slow and boring. Stuck behind pilot cars for a lot of the time!
Riding along I thought I could smell gas (petrol)... then it got stronger... then John was waving me to pull over. The fuel pipe had come off... I had managed to pump over 10 liters of fuel over my right leg and foot ...luckily, I was not on fire, but i smelt bad!"
Jacqui Furneaux, UK, RTW, in Ecuador, Enfield Bullet,
"Dear Grant, I'm feeling a bit of a wimp at the moment. After travelling with my Enfield Bullet from India via Pakistan, Nepal, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, East Timor, Australia and New Zealand, I am now in Ecuador and sort of on my way home to the UK. I have been travelling for 6 years on and off with this bike, sometimes alone, sometimes with a partner. I'm alone now and frankly... terrified of leaving Quito!
I would love to find someone to travel with but don't know how to go about putting a notice on the HU website. I'm not normally such a scaredy-cat and have done some very adventurous riding in Pakistan and Cambodia with a mad Dutchman I travelled with for 4 years! Life's been a bit more tame most recently in NZ from whence I and my bike have recently arrived. Please tell me how I can contact any other riders who are currently in this area who wouldn't mind an apprehensive but very fit, adventurous and usually enthusiastic British woman tagging along for a bit while I get used to a new continent. I will be in Quito for awhile as my wallet was stolen this week and I have to wait for a replacement bank card to arrive!"
Ed. Jacqui is on the way to Colombia if anyone would like to get in touch with her.
"My German friend Uwe Krauss showed up in Durango (CO, USA) a few days ago. He's reviewing a KTM 950 Adventure motorcycle while riding across America and writing for Roadrunner Magazine.
I last saw Uwe in Cusco, Peru, where he and his friend Ramona were spending the winter while taking a break from their 5-year motorcycle journey. We had fun catching up and swapping stories and travel tips. In a cloud of dust he blazed down the lane this morning en route to the Flaming Gorge and Montana. I wish him safe travels."
John (Sprout on the HUBB), UK, across Russia or ... not?
"Trying to send an email to acme.inc (Joachim) (if anyone has a contact email for Joachim that works, contact Sprout on the HUBB or me) and hopefully meet up with him on his trip to Russia. I was on my way to Russia myself (Trans Siberia train, Moscow to Vladivostok) to meet a friend travelling back home to Ireland from Vladivostok and ride back together but I had all my documents stolen in Warsaw 3 weeks ago. I have replaced all the documents now but my friend is half way across Russia now and is a bit late to be heading across myself and most other people going east are also well into Russia.
I should really give it up this year and plan again but arranged time off, preparation and stuff just to turn back. Not been able to get in touch with Joachim so decided to head south yesterday from Warsaw and ride home through Italy, Alps, France. Tough second choice I know! Now in Vienna and plan to carry on down to Italy. I could still ride up to Berlin from here though and meet up with Joachim and his mate on their way to Russia / Urals if they don't mind that is. God loves a tryer!
I had planned to do this trip with 2 Irish lads leaving 1st June for 10 weeks. Plans changed slightly and the one lad wanted to travel across Canada as well and is doing the trip by himself (all agreed and on good terms) and is half way across Russia now. I struggled emotionally with whether to go or not because my mom is ill at home. Told the lads this to begin with but she knew how much I wanted to go and said I should go. Mom said it's only 6 weeks and be in contact so I headed for Moscow to catch train to Vladivostok and ride home with Kevin and the rest is history! Just seems rushed now and almost a race to dash across! What do you think Grant, do it properly another time?
So long as you DO it... it's up to you! If you really move, it's all doable before the worst of the snow flies - otherwise wait till next year. Or go south - to Africa... good luck whatever, Grant (we'll be interested to see what you DO decide! :)
Phill Anderson, Jeremy Gray, Julian Kardos and Nic Twaddle, New Zealand, Capetown to London,
"This week three friends and myself are starting an overland trip from Capetown to London. The route we take is still up in the air a bit but we are considering attempting a central african east-west crossing, wars permitting. We are starting by heading around the southern coast from Capetown to Durban. If anyone has any last minute pearls of wisdom about the trip it would be great to hear from you.
... Never arrive anywhere in the dark. This was to be one of our golden rules, however due to a delayed departure time from Cape Town we ended up landing in a town called Stanford in the pitch black. Every space we saw with a few trees had a no trespassing sign on it so we were a little unsure quite where we would lay our heads.
Enquiring at a local shop to see if they knew any likely spots to sleep the shop keeper a young afrikaans guy called Stefan basically took a look at the bikes and decided we couldn't be too bad and offered us to sleep on the grass behind his shop! What a legend! And so it was the goodness of people allowed us to have a safe nights sleep for the first night of our journey.
Up early we thanked Stefan and Bar and set out on a race along the Garden Route still on the N2. This was a big day as we had a south westerly front chasing our tails the whole way. Just when we thought we had the better of the front we would stop for petrol and food only for the front to edge a cloudy nose ahead. Finally about 60km from Knysna (nighsnah) we stopped to fix the bash plate on Nic's bike that lost a screw and was falling off and the front took a convincing lead and we spent the last 45mins riding in the rain. Oh well, all the boys were geared up and handled the weather and roads no worries. It's good to be on the road."
Salvador Carlucci, Italy, A Journey For Healthcare Access: Latin America, in Mexico,
"I have embarked on a research journey from California to Argentina to document first hand the healthcare situation and raise awareness of the limitations of the current system.
... Tomorrow morning I'm heading toward Creel, Mexico. I'm pretty sure I'll make it in one day but it will depend at what time I leave in the morning. From Hermosillo I´m taking highway 19 and 16. I'll stop at Abigail Falls that should be 200m high and beautiful during this time of the year due to the rains. I might spend Sunday at Creel checking out Copper Canyon and do some off roading to El Divisadero which should have some amazing views. I'll try to take the luggage out of the motorcycle so I can travel light. I'll try to take many pics unfortunately I already lost the spare battery of the camera so I hope I'm able to charge it once I get to Creel."
Andis Pikans, Janis Klavins, Artis Nille, Latvia, Riga to Melbourne, KTM Adventures,
"Destination of expedition is Melbourne (Australia), the place where usually Europe takes flights to. However, Andis and Jānis have chosen another type of transport - Enduro 950 cm3 KTM Adventure motorcycles. Their route, never made by anyone before, is as extraordinary and unique. Within six months adventurers will drive 40,000 kilometres through steppes, swamps, deserts and mountain passes, and will visit twelve different countries to meet their cultures."
Steven Gustafson and Patrick Case, USA, in Europe and maybe RTW,
"Great site Grant and Susan, a wealth of information. My friend and I are currently in the process of touring all of Europe and maybe around the world if we can figure out our finances. We're doing our best to keep a website updated. We are hoping you will add us to your travelers stories links."
Mike Carter, UK, Europe, BMW 1200GS,
Mike writes to the Polish communities:
"Hi guys, I am a journalist from The Observer newspaper in England. I am riding a BMW 1200GS around Europe for 6 months and writing a column about it for the paper. You can see what I'm up to by going to www.observer.co.uk and keying my name into the search engine. Anyway, I am travelling through Poland now and should be in the south at the beginning of next week (July 24/25). Just wondered if any of you guys would like to meet up for a beer?"
From the Observer: "'You don't need a visa for Ukraine. Not since they hosted the Eurovision Song Contest,' some guy I'd only just met in a London pub told me during the minutes of intensive research I carried out for this trip. I didn't question his sources - after six pints it seemed entirely feasible. But now, standing at the Ukrainian border, it occurs to me that perhaps I should have at least checked..."
Allan Karl, USA, to South America, BMW F650GS,
Allan broke his leg in crash in South America, flew home to recuperate and...
"I plan on going back on October 1st. Will work on the bike in Sucre (after I pick it up in Potosi) then hook up with Jeremiah and do the death road, Santa Cruz Che trail and to Chili via Salar de Uyuni... I can't wait.
Meanwhile, it's working on the leg and putting my stuff together for the long flight...I'll keep you posted and you do the same."
Mike Jacobs, USA, to Tierra del Fuego, in Argentina, KLR 650
"Journey has temporarily been suspended because of family matters and disabled KLR. The KLR was left in Brazil and will be repaired by myself upon my return to Brazil in Fall 2006. The journey will continue."
Bill and Becky, UK, RTW, temporarily back in the UK, R1200 GS and F650 GS,
"Well we have finally made it out of India and have arrived back in the UK where we can get our bikes sorted out and visas applied for. The bikes are in a bit of a state especially Becky's but more on that latter. With the help of Kavlson Racing Ltd we were cleared of Indian customs and the bikes were booked to set sail for the UK on the following Monday. The shipping costs were approx £300.00 per bike but would have been less had we let Kavlson pack them as we had packed the bikes in an oversized crate. For reference Kavlson can also get parts, clothing and tyres yes tyres for foreign bikes as they import sports bikes. These people are a god send if you are traveling on bikes in India and can be found on our links page.
We booked our flights home after spending some 29 days in Delhi where temperatures reached over 55deg and although easier to fly out of the region we were disappointed not being able to travel on our bikes back. This feeling was short lived when we found out that many bodies were being found on the infamous Quetta to Taffen road (which we had no trouble on when we rode that route a few months previous) and that bikes were being turned back with nowhere to go.
Arriving back in the UK we went to stay at Little Switzerland camp site in Folkestone Kent which will be our “home” for the next couple of months and to wait for our bikes to arrive back from India. What seemed like a life time we received a call from the shipping agents to say that our bikes had arrived in Flexistow. So having hired a van we set off to get the bikes released from UK customs and upon arrival we were given the run around by obnoxious officials. When we finally did locate our container we were accused by some UK customs guy of trying to import Iranian motorcycles that we had disguised as BMW bikes and with false paper work!
Finally we got to open the container with our bikes in and heartbreaking it was. The bikes had been got at whilst with Indian Customs and Becky's bike had had the datatool alarm cut out and taken which made her bike useless, the battery was missing and motorcycle boots as well and they had taken the BMW badges from the bikes as well as other items! Over 12,000 miles with no trouble and then the bikes are got at whilst in the care of government officials. What can you say...? The bikes were loaded onto the van and taken to South London Motorcycles for service and repairs. So for now we are planning our next stage of the trip which will take us through Africa and onto South America and looking forward to Horizons Unlimited bike meeting."
Chris Smith and Liz Peel, UK, North and South America, back in the UK, Africa Twin,
"The Final Chapter - I've just finished mowing the lawn and Liz is cooking tea. How quickly social conformity takes hold once again it seems. On the surface anyone looking at us would think life has always been like this for us, but they'd be wrong. For two hand a half years we've had the time of our lives, experiences we will never be able to share or explain to anyone, even those people closest to us. To say we lived life to the full would be a huge understatement; we lived a lifetime every day and came to know ourselves and each other like never before...
Well, no sooner had we returned to the UK than we rode off through France, Belgium, Austria and Germany to work at the Garmisch International BMW Bike Show for a few days before returning to Swansea, Wales to move in with Julia and Kevin. I've been asked to become an instructor for BMW Rider Training (having ridden a Honda for two and a half years) and Liz will be a consultant for Green Leopard (motorcycle hearing protection) if things go to plan. We'll also be leading a part of or all of the next tour for GlobeBusters from Alaska to Ushuaia next year. That's how we'll be putting food in our mouths and saving some money again but we have bigger plans still."
Ed. See Chris and Liz blog here on Horizons Unlimited for more stories and great photos!
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'now why would you want to do that?' to this
I am working on a listing of people who have ridden around the world, as well as what I call 'significant journeys' e.g. the first across Africa. Any information you may have on this topic, please let me know. Preferably e-mail me direct. I currently have information on over 500 world travellers listed, but there are many more. Have YOU done it? Let me know!
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It is not the unknown, but the fear of it, that prevents us from doing what we want...
All text and photographs are copyright © Grant and Susan Johnson
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