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Welcome to the 61st Edition of the newsletter and the first edition for 2007. Well, it's January, what I think of as the doldrums of winter. All the excitement leading up to Christmas is finished, and here in the northern hemisphere, there's still many more months of winter to face :-( So, take your mind off the lousy weather and curl up with your favourite e-zine to be awed, inspired and amused by our intrepid travellers tales, from Afghanistan, Russia, Iran, Pakistan, India, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, New Zealand, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria, Cameroon, Mauritania and Senegal..
December was the month to be in Argentina for the HU Meeting in Viedma. Lots of folks made it a stop on their way south and thoroughly enjoyed the hospitality of Oscar Knecht, our local host, and his very able assistants Floppy and Nancy.Many thanks to Oscar and his family for putting on this annual event, now in its 4th year!
More stories and pics below from the travellers.
As we go to press, the first HU meeting in Thailand has just finished, with 50 travellers reported, which is a great turnout for the first year! Thanks to Barry Prom, Greg Frazier, David Unkovich and all the volunteers for hosting this in Chiang Mai. Special thanks to Maarten Munnik for originating the idea for a Thailand meeting, and for all his help in organising. Sorry it didn't work out for Kanchanaburi.
Remember, if you're not travelling, you should be planning for a trip. No excuses - make 2007 the year you get on the road, or at least get ready so you can go in 2008!
"The Achievable Dream" Video
And to get you started with your planning, we have the famous (well, it is in some circles ;-) HU Achievable Dream Video. 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 in front of the live audience. 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 if you are seriously interested in travelling - your questions answered. Feedback has been great. Recent comments:
"The DVD arrived this morning... and Steve has been glued to the screen all afternoon. We both watched most of it. With our adult sons coming and going and neighbors dropping by for Christmas visits, etc. it's been a bit difficult to just sit and enjoy the whole thing in one big gulp but WOW! it's so inspiring and fun to get into! ...Thanks again for the great service and all the information and advice!"
"DVD arrived, this has to be the best information I have come across, just need the bottle to go!"
"Thanks for the DVD. I've just watched it and found it a good motivator, especially the thread of 'achievability' spread through the content. Now off to browse your website in depth, knowing more about its structure."
"And the DVD has me inspired. Now my only problem is to convince my wife to leave the security of her Pajero 4x4 and change my BMW 1000RS to an RT..."
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! But be warned, viewing this may be a life-changing experience! Combine it with the inspiration from the 2007 Horizons Calendar (below) and you'll be hooked.
2007 Horizons Unlimited Motorcycle Travellers Calendar - Winners from the 2006 Photo Contest.
The 2007 calendar is still available, for some terrific travel inspiration! The calendars are available through CafePress, and the price is US$24.99 plus postage. Just so you know, the cost to us from CafePress is $14.99, and we split the $10.00 profit with the photographers. So far, we've sold 135 calendars. But there's lots of 2007 left, so if you didn't get one for Christmas, buy yourself one!
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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Mark your new HU Calendar with the following dates:
Grant will be at as many 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 clinics 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.
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.
Michael Murray of Motorrad Media (producer of the HU Colorado Travellers Meeting Video) writes:
"The Trans-America Trail dual-sport adventure of riding across America all on dirt roads now has a completely redesigned website, including a short video of Sam Correro, creator of the trans-America Trail."
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!
A cautionary tale from Edde Mendes (Motoedde) in Mauritania and Senegal:
"I left early enough(7am) to arrive at the border by noon. I completed the paperwork and handed it to a local police officer to process around 12:30-but guess what-their office closes between 12:30-3 for lunch-so I parked my bike right next to the ferry dock in conspicuous view with everything tied down tight. I walked away with my helmet and jacket to a local restaurant. One of the guides followed me and continued to offer his services including having his friend watch my bike while I walked away for lunch. I took his friend up on the offer as it costs basically 10 cents. While at the restaurant, I decided to take a pic and stick my camera back in my jacket pocket.
Anyway, it's now about 3pm so I walk back to my bike and the guide continues to follow me. When I get to the bike, the police officer arrives promptly with my processed paperwork, and now asks for a payment of about $25-and I remind him I refuse to pay anything above the $8 standard fees-we argue for about 10 minutes at which point I'm frustrated and request that we talk to the police chief. I accidentally leave my jacket and helmet on the bike and go off to sort this out. When we get to his office, the local police officer talks to the chief in Arabic instead of French so that way I can't understand their dealings-so when I talk to the chief, I talk in Wolof (local Senegalese language) which means the local police officer can't understand as he's from the North-turnabout is fair play!
After arguing in different languages I hand over the local equivalent of $8, thank the police officers for their time in helping 'educate' me about the process, and leave. I run back to my bike, put on my jacket and helmet, and get on the ferry. A couple lorries/tractor trailers fully loaded roll within 4 inches of me-they pack the ferry tight! I figure I'd ask one of the locals to take a picture of this tightness but when I reach for the camera-gone!
As I arrive on the Senegal side of the river, I explain to the Senegalese officials my predicament and tell them I believe someone took my camera. They are sympathetic and tell me to leave my bike next to their office and take the ferry back to Mauritania- It's now 4pm and I head back to Mauritania on the ferry to talk to the police chief again. I explain to him that because of the stressful situation created by one of his officers in trying to extract a bribe, I accidentally left my jacket unattended as I went searching for the police chief. I told him that I called the US embassy in Mauritania when I was on the Senegal side and they advised me to try to work it out with the local police, and to call them back with the results of my efforts.
Once I mentioned the embassy, we walked into a back room where there were 4 other officers all sitting around high end laptops surveying the dock areas with WiFi webcams-holy shit-these guys are seriously high tech! I had no idea-I ask for the footage around my bike during a 30 minute sequence and we watch it over a laptop-we're even able to zoom in-and watch the 'guide' who had been following me around, fumble with my jacket when I went to talk to the police chief-we later see the same guide get onto the ferry and go over to Senegal.
The Mauritanian police explain to me now that they can't do anything as the thief has now entered Senegal and neither can the Senegalese police as the alleged crime occurred in Mauritania-so if I could somehow convince the 'guide' to come back to the Mauritanian side of the river, they could apprehend him. The police explain to me the guides travel back and forth on the ferry into the no-mans land all the time-so it shouldn't be a problem.
Its now 6pm-fine-I get back on the ferry and head to Senegal. As the ferry arrives on the Senegal side of the river-I walk around the market area in no-mans land and spot the 'guide'! He approaches me and asks me why I still haven't left. I lie to him. I explain to him that the Mauritanian police didn't complete all the paperwork so the Senegalese are sending me back to Mauritania to finish it off. I told him I'd take him up on his offer to help process this last part as I'm frustrated. And he idiotically agrees.
So we both get on the ferry-and when we arrive on the Mauritanian side the police promptly apprehend him. We all take a ride to the local prison. As the police begin to interrogate him, he keeps denying he had anything to do with the stolen camera and his friend who was guarding the bike probably stole it. The police within 30 minutes apprehend his friend and continue to beat both he and his friend. While this interrogation is going on, I'm placed in a holding cell with other prisoners as accusing someone of theft in Mauritania is a serious accusation, and if wrongfully accused, the accuser faces serious consequences. They now tell me this! Oh shit! And then their parole evidence rule may disallow his potential confession because of my apprehension of the guide on foreign soil and my lodging a complaint against him (simultaneously being the same person).
What a moron - my motorcycle and all my shit is over on the Senegalese side of the river and I'm sitting in a Mauritanian prison on the other side of the river deciphering their legal procedure to get my ass out of prison because somebody stole my camera! I should have just let this one go and bought another camera when I arrive in Dakar ( Senegal) - moron.
Now, the police come back and tell me that his friend has no idea about the camera and I agree with the police that his friend who guarded my bike probably didn't do it and has no idea. But the 'guide' is hiding something-so the police go back and interrogate the guy more and strip search him - at which point they find the camera! Whew! It's now 8pm, and they call the local judge and district attorney of sorts, and an impromptu trial is held around 9:30 in the prison. The guide is going to jail for 2 years!
Anyway, it's now about 11:30pm and since the ferry doesn't operate at night, I'm placed in a canoe and paddled back to the Senegalese side of the river. I arrive after midnight and my bike is still there! Good sign! The Senegalese police, excited to see me process my paperwork in less than 10 minutes! So I'm off towards St. Louis - about 150km of pothole filled road ahead-but 3 hours later, I pull off the side of the road before St. Louis, take off my helmet and just fall asleep on the ground..."
Andy Tiegs, USA, to Central/South America, in Peru, Bolivia and Argentina, KLR, tells us what it has cost him for his trip so far:
"150 Days on the Road - If anybody is wondering what it really costs to do a trip like this, here are my expenses for the trip so far. Since I took today off in Punta Arenas to enjoy being dry and warm for the first day in about the last 12 (it has rained at some point every day but one since I entered Chile the first time near Puerto Montt), I thought I would take a stab at seeing what this trip really cost me. I have not been doing any accounting as I go, but thanks to internet banking, and free wi-fi at the hostel I am at, I looked up my checking account activity. These are expenses since I crossed from the USA into Mexico back in July.
Total withdrawn from checking accounts or paid on my credit cards: $7400
Still have $400 cash on hand, leaves $7000 expended for 150 days. Big ticket items:
shipping bike, Panama to Bogota: $501
That leaves $4569/150, or $28.59/day, that went into daily expenses, like lodging, food, beer, internet access, border crossings, oil and chain lube, mountain bike rental, laundry, whatever. I don't think there is too much fat in that $29/day figure, although I'm sure people have done similar trips on much less. Most days I had a private room, although there were probably 15 nights that I spent in shared room hostels, and probably another 25 where I had no cost, either camping out or staying at someone's home. I ate pretty good most of the time, usually 2 restaurant meals per day, and didn't skimp on the beer, which is surprisingly expensive in a lot of places. I can't think of anything I bought for the bike, other than oil and tires, so I was lucky in that respect. Without going to a lot of effort to pin it down exactly, I would guess I spent $20/day in Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Peru and Bolivia, and maybe $30 in Colombia and Ecuador, and $40 in Mexico, Argentina and Chile. Panama, I only spent a couple days in, and most of my time in Costa Rica I had a free place to stay, so it's harder to estimate for them.
Of course, I still have 2 or 3 weeks to go, and have to get home, which will be by far the most expensive part of the trip. I think I will get myself and the bike back home with a total trip cost of about $10k. I originally thought this would take $10-12k, so I was right on the money there. If I have any decent weather tomorrow, I should get to Ushuaia on the 22nd. Merry Christmas to all."
Ed. For more stories and pics, see Andy's blog here on Horizons Unlimited!
David Adolph warns about money changers at border crossings:
"Just returned from a trip to South America Thought I would warn everyone of the latest scam leaving Ecuador into Peru money changer gave me some counterfeit money. fresh from the copy machine. Best bet when changing money on the street don't take any new looking money. Dave"
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.
Jeremiah St. Ours, USA, to South America, in Bolivia, BMW F650GS,
"In the last 3 months I've endured a few travails. I resuscitated my tired but loyal companion, El Viento. I ran the Brazilian border and forged my way into Argentina only to be strip-searched. I fell ill, was struck by a truck, and broke down in the middle of nowhere. Then I got lost, was ripped off, and watched a riding partner crash--twice. No matter. Nothing was going to prevent me from reaching my pan-American odyssey's penultimate goal: exploring Bolivia's incomparable Salar de Uyuni.
In my entire route from Alaska to Argentina, the Salar stood out as the singular most important stop. A quick spin of the globe reveals why. On Bolivia's high Altiplano there's a permanent white spot. A 4,085 square mile white spot, to be exact, which differs from the Polar Regions in that it lies near the equator. That's because the Salar de Uyuni isn't frozen. It isn't even water. It's salt. 10 billion tons of it.
So committed was I to riding across this unique landform, I rerouted my entire trip to do it. For those who've been following my trek, you'll remember I first entered Bolivia in January 2006 on my way south from Peru. Then, torrential rains turned the unpaved route into a mudfest. My riding partner broke his leg and was medivac'ed to the U.S. I was pinned down for days. The mythical salt flats were under water. Unable to advance I was forced to escape through Chile's dry Atacama Desert. Bolivia's rainy season would eventually end, but not before I would have to continue south to avoid the Patagonian winter. Waterlogged and demoralized, I vowed to return.
In September, I did. I flew back to Rio de Janeiro and traversed the South American continent once again. When I arrived in Uyuni, the tiny Bolivian outpost perched on the edge of the ancient lake, my quixotic trek had finally reached the fabled salt flat. The locals were unequivocal: 'Don't go out there alone. There's no water, the sun is brutal, you can't hide from the ferocious winds, and there are no landmarks in the white expanse to help you find your way back.' They continued with dismay, 'Every year someone gets lost out there and dies. Every year some fool doesn't listen.'
Fortunately I ran into Ming Ang, a fellow motorcycle traveler of Indonesian descent who faced the same predicament. Together we prepared our machines and plied the local market for provisions. Then, for 6 days we ventured out into a strange new world. Of scenes more spectacular than any photo could impart.
Of ancient mummies, live volcanoes, disorienting horizons, boulder-strewn 'islands,' furry cacti, star-filled galaxies, kangaroo-like viscachas, roofless stone houses, and campsites the likes of which I've never experienced in my hundreds of nights spent outdoors.
It's impossible to describe this place; all superlatives are woefully inapt. Picture rolling across a giant frozen lake covered with an icing of thin, slushy snow. For miles and miles and miles--at speed. It's crunchy, vast, blinding, cold, dry, bleak, windy, hostile, desolate, fragile and lonely. In short: it's the closest place on earth to actually being on another planet."
Ed. Congratulations to Jeremiah for persevering in this quest to ride the Salar - photos look amazing!
Peter and Kay Forwood, Australia, around the world since 1996, in Iran, Pakistan and India - and a quick trip home to Australia for Christmas, Harley-Davidson,
"Rayen, Iran, a little off the main road, has a 1000 year old citadel, a mud walled city. Not inhabited for the last 150 years it is now being restored. The newer Rayen city, in the older parts has little difference in building construction techniques and materials to the citadel. Mud and sun dried bricks, domed roofs, still the preferred method. Restoration of the citadel is partially completed and shows a good mix of the decay and how the city would have looked with its massive exterior walls, opulent governor's quarters and basic common people's houses.
...We also visited the Zoroastrian Fire Temple where the sacred flame, that has burnt for over 1500 years, is now housed. Zoroastrianism first started in Persia more than 500 years before Christ and was the dominant religion before Islam. Until recently their dead were left for the vultures to pick the bones clean at the Towers of Silence on the outskirts of Yazd, which we visited today.
...Miki (Minori), a Japanese woman, was planning a motorcycle ride with her friend to the USA when the friend died in an accident. They had not decided where they would visit in America, so to honour the remembrance of her friend, Miki rode solo to all 50 states. She has since ridden across Russia to Europe and is now finishing her third solo trip, this time from South Africa to Nepal through some challenging countries for a woman on her own. We first met her in Esfahan, decided to ride together from Bam to Quetta in Pakistan and this morning left Bam early for the border. Miki is riding a 250 cc dirt bike and travels at 80 to 90 km/hr and hasn't been stopping except to refuel. Often refused entry to restaurants here as a lone woman and receiving more attention from men than she likes she has been moving from hotel to hotel with few stops.
It surprises people when we say that Pakistan is one of the most conservative countries we have visited. Often Iran, Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan come to mind first. Our assessment is based primarily on the role of women in the society. Few at all are seen in the streets of regions like Quetta. Even in Afghanistan many women can be seen, or not seen as they are covered in a burka robe, moving about the streets, individually or accompanied by family. Saudi Arabia has shopping malls where women, with only eyes visible, congregate to shop, but in Pakistan's more remote areas there is virtually no contact between women and anyone else outside the family. Western women are however well received, included in conversations, can shop alone, and are treated well if they are not demanding.
...The prize for the most unusual border crossing must surely go the one between Pakistan and India. There is only one border crossing open between the two countries and it closes regularly when tensions rise. Even when open there is little trade between the two giants as all goods have to be hand carried for 300 or more metres passing the hessian wrapped bundles from an Indian porter to a Pakistani one or vice versa to then be reloaded onto the other country's trucks. Today more than 50 trucks were lined up waiting to offload their cargo from the Indian side. Tomatoes and onions were ripening and rotting whilst they waited to be hand carried, over a week in many cases. We were at the border by noon and had no problem passing out of Pakistan and were allowed to take photos of the goods transfer.
We had the same slow cold welcoming on our arrival at the border as we had at the Indian embassy in Ankara. The immigration officer was quite put out by our arrival disturbing him from his lethargy it took 30 minutes to process our stamps despite being the only ones at the border. Customs were equally inefficient as the only officer to be able to check the motorcycle's engine number was at lunch despite the border not closing for lunch and it took one and a half hours to finish the border despite only seeing one other person crossing. We rode to Amritsar for the night.
… India must still be one of the most economical places in the world. The welding was just $US 2.00. Our hotel room with a hot water en suite, satellite TV with movie channels and comfortable clean room is $US 8.50. We are getting room service for most of our meals and with taxes and tips they are less than $ US 2.00 each. It is a great place to wind down after 12 months of travelling."
Peter and Kay Forwood have travelled to 175 countries, travelling over 450,000 km during 10+ years on the road. Horizons Unlimited is proud to host their complete RTW story and pictures here!
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Drop in on Alaska Leather on your Alaskan adventure for service, tires, accessories and a hot cup of fresh coffee!
Hamish Oag and Emma Myatt, UK, Asia, Australia and the Americas, in Argentina, BMW R1100 GS,
"From the Horizons Travellers’ Meeting in Viedma - Oscar had organised a ride into town to join up with a group of local bikers for a barbeque which was good fun. The following day we rode out to a cliff top from where we could view a huge colony of sea lions. Oscar then took us on a '20km or so' ride on gravel roads across farmland, after almost 50km we arrived at our destination, a sheep farm belonging to his friend...
...It was good to meet other people who are mad enough to ride around this huge continent, share stories and compare notes about places to go, plus of course sample lots of local beer.
On the way to Ushuaia we stayed in small 'cabañas' - self catering accommodation, or cheap hostels or hotels. As we were on the move every day we didn't want to be packing up the tent every morning. Accommodation is generally quite cheap, we've been paying about $10 US a night (about five pounds), usually with breakfast, but our preference is still for camping.
And on to Peninsula Valdez - The next morning the wind was more manageable so we hopped on the bikes and headed to Punta Tombo, site of the World's largest colony of Magellanic Penguins. 175,000 breeding pairs come here every year for the summer months, and they were everywhere!
We wandered around roped-off paths between burrows, sat and watched them launch themselves into the sea and watched as they waddled across in front of us. The penguins were utterly charming and not at all bothered by our presence. They even came to check out our bike!
Guanacos are related to camels; they are very common in this part of Argentina and we passed several groups (anyone know the collective term?) of them grazing near the roadside."
Ed. See Hamish and Emma's blog here on Horizons Unlimited for more stories and great pics!
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Africa Bike Tours provides you with a selection of unique guided Namibian tours by experienced off road hosts.
John and Alanna Skillington, UK, Europe to Australia, in Pakistan, Suzuki V-Strom,
"After doing all the paperwork and taking two hours to leave Iran, we ride out of Iran into Pakistan following a dusty trail only to realise we have missed the immigration point, which I actually mistook for a chook shed. (Chicken Coop) We turn around and join the 100 locals who are queuing, the money changers are trying to boss us around and tell us we must join the line outside and stay there, obviously so they have more time to badger you to change money. Tired, hot and slightly annoyed Skill goes into the main office where we are processed in 10 minutes, then it is off to the the next shed across the rubbish strewn dust bowl called Taftan.
The carnet details are entered into a huge old ledger that measured well over a metre long. Finally we are off, to get our black market fuel and make the break to Dalbandin across the incredibly harsh dessert landscape. We were informed that we would have a police escort to Dalbandin so we were pleased when none eventuated.
About thirty kms from Taftan we are stopped by a piece of rope stretched across the road. Out of a tent appears a red bearded (hanna) guy wearing grey flannel like pajamas carrying a huge gun. OK what now!
We are to learn that these are checkpoints manned by the Baluchistan Levi where we have to record our passport number, apparently so the authorities can track us if we go missing. In truth this probably would not happen as they are often loose dirty scrappy bits of paper jammed into an exercise book.
...At one point we go to overtake two trucks and get pushed off the road into the soft sand, the bike is out of control (tank slapping), all I can think is 'this is going to hurt'. Skill powers on and somehow we remain upright. His remarkably cool comment is, 'I don't think I'll do that again'. There was only one section near Nushki where we thought things were a bit dodgy with the kids throwing rocks and a couple of cars swerving towards us to frighten us, and people screaming at us. We also passed a motorcycle, where the pillion was carrying a shotgun. Around the next corner we come across three army trucks and about 100 soldiers who seemed to be scouring the area, guns at the ready. It was at this point I was really looking forward to getting to Quetta. We have since learned that most other travellers had an armed escort through this area.
...The road to Dalbandin is good, fast and straight. Occasionally to break the monotony of the vast dessert landscape there are a few camels, both dead and alive. The only other traffic on the road are the black market fuel guys in the blue utes and the occasional Pakistani trucks which are truly beautiful.
...The police inform us at one point that we will need an escort for all our travel through the whole of Pakistan. We are shocked. It is incredibly irritating to do 50-80km/h on the highway, stopping continuously to change escort cars, with a long chat between police at every change. They also chase away any local people that come near us, we feel quarantined from experiencing and seeing Pakistan, the reason we are travelling here. In the end we just ignore them, honestly no less than 20 cars and 60 personnel were involved in these escorts. Talk about a waste of resources.
We argued, complained and threatened them, as no other travellers we have met have had this harassment. At one point in sheer frustration I ask them do they think we are bad people. They are genuinely mortified 'No, no, no it is our duty and honour to provide an escort.'
Several times we just speed away from the clapped out old diesel Hilux's ignoring police directions to stop (a little disconcerting when they are holding machine guns), but they would just radio ahead and the next armed escort would be waiting for us. Ahhhh...
...Next day onward and upward to Besham, a nice 4 hour ride (120km) through some great scenery and winding roads. We loved the terraced rice fields.
...When we finally arrive at the village we meet our shotgun toting guides and then start our 2 and a half hour trek UP the mountain to the camp. If someone had told me that I would be trekking in the Western Himalayas during twilight into the pitch black evening I would have told them not to be crazy. As we walk along we can hear avalanches on the mountain We are like the seven dwarfs all with our headlights, it is hard work but at the same time exhilarating. Up and up we go reaching the snow line which we trek through for half an hour. We arrive at about 7pm, tired but excited, light a fire to warm the very basic cabin and our guides prepare our dinner. We are all pretty weary so bunk down as soon as dinner is finished. In the morning this is what we can see from our bed. Dawn over the eighth highest peak in the world. Not something we will ever forget.
Skill and I both have trouble with our boots and are sliding forward in them, at one point I do the old stumble trip thing and really hurt my big toe. (I later learn it is broken). And Skill has shin splints, and there is still only 10 kilometres to go! By the time we reach the bottom we have walked more than 20 strenuous kilometres and over 2000m vertical. We are absolutely wrecked, keeping in mind we have done little exercise for eight months. In the morning I can barely move and have a great deal of trouble getting on the bike. I say to Skill 'Next time I decide to walk 20 kms down a mountain remind me I am over 40, not a bloody 20 year old!'
We ride back to Besham often stopping to admire one of the many suspension bridges and the Indus. Later in the day we are stopped twice by landslides, the KKH workers are quickly on the job clearing a path through the rocks and dirt.
I also get out the camera to take photos (sorry they are blurred) of the overloaded vehicles, which are an essential part of KKH. No truck, car, van, bus or auto rickshaw is ever too full. There is always room for more cargo or passengers.
...I would be lying if I said Pakistan is an easy country to travel in. It is not. Every day is a challenge, the traffic mayhem, the rubbish, the dirty hotels, the lack of facilities and the sometimes non existent infrastructure. The way women are not seen in public and are completely dominated by a male run society. But in my opinion it is a SAFE country to travel in and truly worth the effort. Our KKH experience will be a highlight of our entire journey.
Pakistan is in a troubled part of the world, and is bordered by some of the most dangerous and turbulent regions in the world, Kashmir and Afghanistan. Life for Pakistan's citizens is difficult.
It is a poor country and most people do not have a lot, but what they do have, they will happily and willingly share with you. They are very honest, kind, gentle and giving people. We NEVER felt unsafe or threatened, quite the opposite, and the authorities were beyond reproach. The vast majority of these people want, what we in the West want, a peaceful existence, prosperity and a better way of life for their children. Lets hope they can achieve it. Cheers and Chai"
Ed. See John and Alanna's blog here on Horizons Unlimited for more stories and fabulous pics!
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The book you've been waiting for - a great read!
Grant Guerin and Julie Rose, Australia, Trans America and Beyond, in Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile, Suzuki V-Strom,
"In the charming city of Arequipa tourists from all over the world converge to visit the colonial and religious heart, wandering the narrow streets and alleyways, enjoying the picturesque views of Volcán Misti, Mountains Chachani and Picchu Picchu towering above.
After camping for one night in the grounds of a hotel (Soles 28.00) we found a little Hostal for Soles 20.00. (Address: Hostal Lider Inn - Consuelo 429, Arequipa) It had fantastic parking for Piggy, they allowed us to use the laundry and kick back for a few days.
It was clean, had solar hot water and cable TV, no towels or loo paper were included in the price, the furniture outdated and decoration was minimal, but who can complain for $US6.00 and only five minutes walk from Centro!
The high Alto Plano left us gasping, we knew we were at high altitude when we became short of breath cleaning our teeth. Further north and even higher over the La Raya Pass (4,321 meters above sea level) and with snow falling in the higher mountains we descended into the famous Sacred Valley and on to Cusco.
Our journey to Potosi was a long and hard days ride. The high Alto Plano from La Paz to Orouro was uninteresting, straight and very cold. The odd shower did not help our mood...
...Concerned about travelling on Bolivia's 60% unpaved roads (with the term 'road' being often an exaggerated description of what is on offer) we asked the locals about the condition of the carreterra. 'Todos pista' 'All paved' they said, our map said different, not convinced we headed off….
The fully paved road wound its way gently through some of the prettiest country. 'Canyons in the making', Jules described one scene. Stopping often to admire the view we eventually arrived in Potosi at 7:00pm.
Potosi is famous for being the highest city of its size in the world at almost 4,200 meters. It was also the largest city in the Americas for many years due to the enormous deposits of silver that were prominent in the area. The term ' Potosi' has been used for many years in Spain to describe anything of great wealth!
A side visit to the strange salt covered landscape of Valle de Luna ( Moon Valley), early on a Sunday morning was engaging, quiet, mysterious and very eerie. (No tourists are in the park during the morning and most organised tours are for sunset.)
A day trip to the beautiful relaxed city of Salta and the Automovil Club Argentina for a new updated map clearly showing 'Ruta 52'. Again people informed us of the 'Best road in the Country', we decided to see what all the fuss was about."
Ed. See Grant and Julie's blog here on Horizons Unlimited for more stories and lots of great photos!
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Deb and David Welton, RTW, in New Zealand, F650s,
"We made it to New Zealand, arriving on Nov. 30. We left Chile with our motorcycles sitting in the warehouse and assurances that there was a 99% chance they would be on the next flight. Our motorcycles arrived the day after we did much to our relief. First impressions of New Zealand - the air is sooo fresh and everything is so clean. The temperature is warm when the sun is out and cool when its cloudy, much like being at a high altitude. The sun is very intense, we've heard it's because of the hole in the ozone layer above. We met a couple, Richard and Lisa, via the Horizons Unlimited motorcycle community. They rode their motorcycle from England to New Zealand (including a couple of flights of course). They live in Auckland and invited us to camp in their backyard so we did and enjoyed swapping stories about our trips.
...The hospitality of Kiwi's is outstanding. An example, one morning Dave's kickstand broke and needed to be welded. We stopped in the next town and asked a motorcyclist if he knew of a welding shop in the area. He said if we could wait until the next day, he could take care of it for us at his shop. He then invited us to ride with him and the Ulysses Motorcycle club that day. We did and they took us on a stunning ride along the coast. Another member of the club offered to let us camp in his backyard which we did.
On Christmas Day, we were riding through the town of Whakatane and noticed that a church service was about to begin so we pulled in. We met a couple, Alan and Adeline, who invited to spend Christmas with them. We went to dinner at their friends house and had a tour of the city and watched the sun set from a hill overlooking the city and the Pacific Ocean. It turned out to be a very nice Christmas. We are currently making our way south to Wellington to catch the ferry over to the South Island. The weather has been unseasonably cold, but everyone keeps promising us that it will get warmer soon."
Ed. The Kiwis always tell you the weather is unseasonably cold, that's cause they don't want to admit that it's cold more often than it's warm in NZ! For more stories and pics, see Dave and Deb's blog here on Horizons Unlimited!
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The place to go to get good brakes for that overloaded world touring bike.
I'm running a 6 piston caliper from Harrison on my R80G/S, and it works REALLY well! Grant
Peter Baird and Jason Homewood, las Américas, in Argentina, KTM 950s,
"We were lucky enough while at Dakar Motos to meet another Gustavo, this guy built the Norton's for 'The Motorcycle Diaries' and had been allowed to keep the one in the pic below by the films' production company. It seems like everyone in Argentina has seen this film (though not everyone agrees with Ché's politics) and it was great to see the bike and meet the man that built it.
In Azul we stayed with Jorge at La Posta, once again met up with Luna and her Enfield, and enjoyed some great hospitality and yet another Asado (seriously I've never eaten so much meat in my life).
...We had some bloody strange weather too, stinking hot in the day with thunder, lightening and hale stones in the evening. The lack of women to chat up was driving Jason spare though so we set off to Viedma for the HU meet.
As usual with bikers everyone was really friendly but we crossed to the dark side and camped up next to The Beast (www.beastlyadventure.com), a 1976 former UN ambulance converted for overlanding and driven from the UK to Australia then shipped to Buenos Aires by Alexis and Greg. They had everything in the back of The Beast along some great stories and pics of their time in Russia and China so we did well to hang out next to them.
The five nights we spent there passed in a blur of cheap red wine, entertainment a la Greg, a visit to a seal colony, and some great riding on dirt roads. Big thanks to Oscar, Floppy and Nancy for organising it all, great job guys ;-)
I had a bloody puncture as well which wasn't much fun but there were loads of people to help out and many thanks to Tom who loaned a spare tube I could borrow as, of course, all of my stuff was back at the camp site. I had been meaning to change my front tube to a heavy duty one that I brought from the UK but had been too lazy to do it, wish now that I had. I also wish I had checked the 6 identical pairs of brake pads I bought with me (the shop said they'd do front and rear) as I discovered that they are, in fact, only for the rear!!! I've had to glue part of one of the front pads onto its backing... Apparently there are a few KTM places in Chile so I'll be light on the front brake till then - only 5000k's or so!)
It's not a problem, I'll just nick Jason's ones while he's not looking, or if worst comes to worst it won't be too difficult to convert it to single disc.
...It's been 6 weeks since we've left and I must admit it's been quite strange adapting to life on the road. There were a couple of days where I was wondering what the hell I was up to, 'come on Pete, get back to real life, get a haircut and real job and stop messing around...' It was great chatting to Lew at the HU meet, he'd had similar trepidations when he first started off but over 2 years later he's loving every minute. Just talking to him made me feel a load better, cheers mate."
Ed. See more pics and stories in Peter's blog here on Horizons Unlimited!
From Jason Homewood, in Ushuaia, R1150GS,
"Hi all, Happy Xmas! We are in a national park in Tierra del Fuego about as far south as you can get without a boat. All is good, nice people, nice weather (but cold!), beautiful place, cheap wine, etc. Hope all is good with you, have a good holiday, Love, J"
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Richard Lindley, RTW 2006 -7, in Russia, Triumph Tiger,
"The weather was closing in. My visa problems at the hotel in Krasnoyarsk, made me concerned about my date with the russian border guards. After 400 miles of freezing rain and terrifyingly slick roads, I reached Kemerov. With my steering compromised by a nasty pothole, my fingers numb with cold and my extended visa due to expire (again), I thought I'd catch the train through the Russian Steppes. Not so easy. With Nikolai translating on my cell phone, it was established that I needed a train that carried cargo AND passengers leaving from a town called Taiga - 120 clicks north. The very nice station master (strong babushka type) gave me a beautiful old map of the area and directions to Taiga. The train was leaving the next morning at 10.15.
I had the choice of staying in Kemerov for the night or risk the 120 km journey to Taiga. Chose the latter and paid a taxi driver to show me the route out of town. It was beginning to get dark, still raining and I had 120 kms to ride with suspect steering and poor lights. I stopped for gas, but when I tried to restart...the battery was too weak. I started pushing my bike down a side road behind the gas station but the further I went, the grimmer it became...then a flash of genius...my spare Russian battery connected to the main weak battery by jumper cables gave me just enough juice to start up. By now it was dark and still raining. I started back to Kemerov to find a hotel, but instead opted to set up camp just off the main road behind this (I hoped) abandoned building.
In the morning, still raining and I had to reach Taiga for the 10.15 to Moscow. The bike wouldn't start again but I used the old spare battery trick to get her fired up.
I wasn't home yet. I still needed to find the train station. Seconds after I took this shot, the rain turned to heavy snow. I flagged down some cops and they led me to the train station.
With only seconds left on my simcard, I had to get my bike and myself on the train.
Four burly Russian train men muscled her up the final push onto the train, and lightened my wallet by another 500 rubles for 'uncrated cargo' fees. All aboard for Moscow!"
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Grant says: "simply a must-do for all airheads"
Salvador Carlucci, Italy, A Journey For Healthcare Access: Latin America, in Argentina,
"...We left Ushuaia on the 25th after having a big dinner the night before with 10 other riders. When we reached San Sebastian we ran out of gas and the gas station was closed. So we had to spend the night there. My sister almost had a hard attack when she found out the town was composed of a gas station, a couple of houses and the hotel! Nothing to do and the television at the hotel had only one channel! The next day we rode to Rio Gallegos which included two border crossings and a ferry ride.
In Rio Gallegos my sister started showing the first signs of motorcycle tiredness. The heavy wind while riding and the cold weather were taking a toll on her. So we analyzed the map and route to Buenos Aires. When she saw the map she couldn't believe how far Buenos Aires was and Rick freaked her out saying it would be impossible for her to handle such long days riding. Since she has to fly back to China and start working the following day the trip was to be re-analyzed.
Patagonia has some beautiful places but for the most part it is very boring - all brown, long straight roads and flat. So we decided to spend the next few days and New Years in El Calafate which is a gorgeous little town with tons of things to see and do.
Meeting strangers with my sister has been fun. They can't believe that we are half Italians and half for Nicaragua, that I live in California and been traveling for 5 months on a motorcycle, that she lives in China and we are both traveling in Argentina! I think we both are a product of globalization - country borders and cultural differences are part of our lives."
Jeffrey Polnaja (Kang JJ), in Afghanistan, R1150GS,
"Nobody encouraged me when I decided to enter Afghanistan, the region where the conflict is still going on. Everybody tried to change my mind. However, as my adventurous spirit whipped up and with the enthusiasm and strong will, Ride For Peace had to visit Afghanistan.
The Afghan visa application process in Afghanistan's mission in New Delhi was not as complicated as I thought before. It only took 2 days to get the visa. Starting from New Delhi, I passed through Wagha Border to cities in Pakistan: Lahore and Islamabad. After several days relaxing in Islamabad, the journey continued to Peshawar, last town in Pakistan before reaching Khyber Pass, the way to Pakistan-Afghanistan border in Torkham. This legendary and famous pass has been used in centuries. According to the story, this pass was used by Alexander the Great to enter southern Asia from central Asia and Europe.
Khyber Pass is known as an unsafe area for foreigners. The area is controlled by Warlords who have their own troops and rules. To pass through this area, one should be careful since the condition of nature with bare hills and the sinuous and very quiet road. Nobody can guarantee your safety in this area. As a foreigner, I need to apply for the permit to enter the area in Home Secretary of NWFP (North West Frontier Province) Office. The officers were very helpful, however they could not hide their surprise at my intention to pass the area on motorcycle. Then, with the permit I had to pass the process in National Security of Khyber Rifles. Finally, escorted by a Khyber Rifle troop, I rode passing through Khyber Pass heading to the border of Pakistan-Afghan in Torkham.
I arrived safely in Torkham in the afternoon. The border troops were amazed with my motorcycle and made them more surprised when they knew my intention to go to Jalalabad and Kabul in Afghanistan. As from the beginning, they suggested me to be better not to enter Afghanistan. Knowing my strong intention to go to Afghanistan, they promised to have a celebration party when I could return safely in Torkham. They proved their promise when I came back 1 week later in Torkham. They applauded me and welcomed me back to Pakistan with 'chai' (tea) and 'chapatti' (bread). Later on I knew that they made my journey as a bet since they had experiences that many people who crossed the border, didn't return back safely.
Experiencing once is much better than hearing hundred times. The heat of the dessert, the freeze of snowy mountains become good friends and give big spirit to explore this planet more and more…. Happy adventure & have a good trail..."
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Robbo and Amy, Africa 2006-2007, to Africa, in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Mali,
"The borders were no problems, the usual paperwork and running around trying to find the right man for the job. Its a real treat that people speak English. We sit around laughing and joking with the police in a round straw hut with a SLR rifle dangling from the roof. They insist we try Poyo, the local palm wine even when we inform them we are riding... so drink and then drive in Africa.
As we ride into Freetown, 2 policemen on a moped spot us and direct us to follow then. I'm not sure what or where we are going but they proceed to escort us through town and through the thick city traffic! We ride around the Peninsula to white sandy beaches and smooth tarmac road but this doesn't last long and we soon hit rusty coloured dirt roads with many little river crossings.
...We flew through Guinea to head into Mali, refreshed by a new country and the fact that we will be heading in the south direction! We rest in Bamako, where it turns out to be a haven for other motorcyclists and hence we now have doubled our convoy. Leopoldo, a Spaniard on R100 BMW and Derreck, an Englishman on KTM640. Whilst in Bamako, the boys decide to buy new dirt tyres and Rob and I manage to both get punctures, so it's out with the tyre levers for a tyre changing day (I think it was a total of about 15 to 20 with pinched tyres and patches lifted). After some sweat and frustration, Rob realises that one of his prized tyre levers is missing! He is utterly disappointed and it's nowhere to be found, we fear that someone stole it."
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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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NOTE: If you buy a book starting with one of our links below, we get a little bit to help support the website!
Book suggestions please!
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ISSN 1703-1397 Horizons Unlimited Motorcycle Travellers' E-zine - Copyright 1999-2007, Horizons Unlimited and Grant and Susan Johnson. All rights reserved.
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Lois Pryce, UK, UK to Cape Town, in Nigeria and Cameroon, Yamaha TTR250,
"...It was round about now that we gave up on the idea of crossing Nigeria in a day. Finally, after a lot of heaving and puffing, and with the help of a few locals joining in to earn some extra Naira, the car was freed from the swamp, and we continued on to the town, which although only a few miles away, involved crossing a river, dodging herds of cattle (with cartoon horns straight out of one of Desperate Dan's cow pies) and taking in what must surely be the motorcyclists most dreaded combination - deep sandy ruts AND thick mud - all in one morning's ride!
As you can imagine, we were mightily relieved and pleasantly surprised to finally arrive at the customs office and be ushered in to sit down in front of a TV showing BBC World! I'm also pleased to report that the morning's events were the most dramatic thing that happened to us in Nigeria. There were plenty of police checkpoints along the way, but not once did they ask for a bribe or behave in the slightest bit improperly! We left Nigeria the following day and arrived safe and sound in Cameroon. For Martin, Alida and Saskia, this is the end of their journey. In the New Year, I will continue on towards Gabon, Congo, Angola, Namibia and eventually South Africa, although that still seems a very long way off!"
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Edde Mendes (Motoedde), USA, in Mauritania and Senegal, 93 BMW K75s,
"What a moron - my motorcycle and all my shit is over on the Senegalese side of the river and I'm sitting in a Mauritanian prison on the other side of the river deciphering their legal procedure to get my ass out of prison because somebody stole my camera! I should have just let this one go and bought another camera when I arrive in Dakar ( Senegal) - moron."
Ed. See the rest of this incredible story under Travellers Tips as a cautionary tale. Very lucky guy!
Ronald Weinert, USA, in South America, BMW R1150GS, writes to the HU Cali Community,
"We will be riding from Cartagena through Colombia starting about 20 December, and are inquiring about which routes should be avoided. We are not particularly interested in Bogota, but would like to see Cali and Medellin before continuing on to Ecuador and points south. We would appreciate any information that you can supply as to safety of routes, places to avoid, etcetera. Thank you. Ron"
Mark and Bonnie Parham, USA, in South America, KTM950ADV, writes to the HU Medellin Community,
"Hi: My wife and I are riding our KTM950ADV in Colombia now. We are in Bogotá tonight and want to travel to Medellin tomorrow, 15 Dec. Can you help us find a hotel or small quiet place for 2 or 3 nights? I know this is short notice but internet has not been available to us till now. Any help appreciated. Thank you, Mark (MaxVert) and Bonnie"
Christian Burrows, Central and South America, in Mexico,
"Leaving the hostel in San Cristobal, I realized something. Up to this point, I had thought of this trip as mine, I was the author of my journal and what I saw and heard were subjects in my story. As Nick and I packed our bikes outside the hostel a bunch of hostellers came out to take photos of us- some of which might end up in their own blogs or journals. I then realized that I was just as much a part of other's experiences as they were part of mine.
We rode away, into the sunset, like two cowboys riding out of town. It was 4 pm, a little late to be getting on the road for 250 KM ride, but we thought we could make it to Palenque before sundown.
Here's some photos of awesome Palenque. It's unbelievable to think they built this 2000 years ago without metal tools, pack animals to carry the stones or the invention of the wheel!
And supposedly there are hundreds more ruins hidden under the dense jungle canopy all over the Maya world in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras, yet to excavated. Amazing! It makes one want to be an archeologist, or would that be anthropologist?...."
Ed. For more stories and lots of great pics, see Christian's blog here on Horizons Unlimited!
Hubert Kriegel, France, in Argentina,
"The day I arrived at Buenos Aires, I called Fernando that I met on Horizons Unlimited. He told me to go his house that night to have an Argentinean barbecue with his friends. He also told me that I could sleep in his house and stay there as long as I wanted!
We are going to the annual Horizons Unlimited motorcycle meeting in Viedma, Patagonia for the Ushuaia (Tierra del Fuego) aficionados. On the way we stopped many times to visit Fernando's friends."
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Pueblo Viejo, Ushuaia, Argentina
Freddy invites you to stay at the "Pueblo Viejo" in the heart of Ushuaia, at the end of the world! Pueblo Viejo is just a few steps from the main avenue, Museums and places of interest.
Plenty of safe motorcycle parking, free internet access and WIFI and Breakfast included too!
Gilles Ratia, France, RTW, Iran and Pakistan, BMW 1150GS,
"After 22 years on the roads in 98 countries, Gilles Ratia, from France, decided 3 years ago to do a 'Beekeeping World Tour - moto solo' between 2004 and 2010 (maybe more, maybe less, who knows?).
What is his aim?
On his website (in English, in French and in Spanish), you can follow his two wheels adventure (BMW 1150GS Adventure) and see plenty of pictures (at the moment, more than 1,200). After 3 years and only 63,000 km (he is maybe the slowest motorized RTW man), he is somewhere between Iran and Pakistan. You can even follow him by satellite."
Mark and Erin Kirkendall, USA, RTW?, in the Galapagos, BMW F650GS,
"The Galapagos are way cool; all the animals are basically numb to humans. It wasn't near as hot as I expected, and the islands were a lot more barren than expected. I can't do it justice talking about the animals, flamingos, iguanas, sea lions, turtles, etc, because the amazing part was being able to get right up next to them. I mean right up next to.
The snorkeling was even better, right up next to sea turtles, sharks, sting rays, absolutely amazing... Of course Erin would have a different perspective being sea sick and afraid to get into the water."
Pat and Belinda Peck, Australia, RTW, in Canada, Yamaha Super Ténéré XTZ750,
"We are currently in Edmonton till 25 December and love catching up with other HU members. We are on our way home to Cairns, Australia after our 4th year long round the world trip (3rd with our Yamaha super Ténéré XTZ750). Pat's Mum lives in Edmonton and we are staying with her. Cheers, Patrick and Belinda Peck"
Richard Miller and Sascha Meyer, through Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Switzerland and Greece, 1955 Royal Enfield Bullet,
"Here we are in Crete, finally on the road! After a quick-ish ride down the back roads of France, Italy and Switzerland a ferry has taken us to Greece where the pace has slowed to the way it should be, the sun is shining like it should and all is well with the world
...The Swiss road system necessitates the occasional foray onto motorway, best avoided on a bike that cruises at 50mph and with half the truckers of Eastern Europe bearing down on you through tunnels that take 20 minutes to get through. With this experience fresh in memory we decided to exit Andermatt across the old passes. First the Oberalp and then the Splugel to Italy. The plan went well until halfway up the Splugel we encountered the first snows of the season. It settled at a remarkable rate and by the time we had managed to turn the lumbering bike around on the narrow road it was already an inch deep. Thankfully we lost altitude quickly and the snow retreated to be replaced by a miserable cold drizzle that accompanied us for the rest of Switzerland and right across Italy.
What glory to arrive in Greece. Sunshine and heat. Direct boats to Turkey being lacking we decided to Island hop to Rhodes where apparently a boat crosses the line between the ancient enemies. Within minutes of arriving at the port in Patras we had come to the conclusion that Greece is A Good Place. Two weeks later this conclusion stands. Fantastic roads and scenery. Everything is deserted off-season and gives us the impression of having discovered somewhere wonderful all by ourselves. We've traversed quite stunning mountain passes, ridden coast roads winding their way along the bottoms of mountains and overlooking sparkling blue waters and ridden dirt roads free of traffic. Costs have been kept down with liberal use of the camping stove and being introduced to some great free-camping spots by a German cyclist we met, Stefan on a winter tour of Greece and demonstrating scary levels of fitness."
Jack and Janet Murray, PR of China, China to Europe and North America, last heard from in Kiev, Ukraine, BMW-engined Chiang Jiang,
"Janet and I talked about the trip so far, what everybody was silently telling us, that we should go to Europe, probably Germany, where we could get a decent price for Max so we could afford a bike that was a better fit for the Dragin' Run and my skills. Neither of us really wanted to give up Max but the data was overwhelming. In three and a half months, we had only ridden twelve days and most included some sort of breakdown or serious fault.
It was time for a new bike. That meant I would have to drive west from Kiev through Poland and into Germany but I would do it without Janet. There were two reasons for this. First, I wanted to reduce the weight to lessen the stress on Max and to be able to go a little faster. Second, I can ride for much longer periods without Janet thereby reducing the time on the road.
Last night I caught the weather report and it is getting colder by the day and the first snows have already fallen in Europe and I don't look forward to freezing or driving in snow. Janet will take much of the equipment that we are carrying and go to Istanbul on Friday where she can bunk in with Tamara until I get the bike in Stuttgart and ride the 2,000+ km to Istanbul.
The last thing to do was to get our cash reserves replenished. We found a bank and asked for a $2,500 draw on the Wells Fargo Platinum Master Card Jay, our oldest son had arranged for us - Insufficient funds came the reply, Lets try $2,000 - Insufficient funds! How about $1,000 -Insufficient funds. Something was wrong; not a big problem except for the fact that we were out of cash. I would call Jay and find out. Sometimes reality comes as softly as a sunrise and in moments one experiences a kind of gestalt where everything becomes crystal clear and the mind is refreshed. Sometimes it comes with the stopping power of a boxer's body blow with devastating physical and mental consequences. Jay's news for me was closer to the latter. We had accumulated $9,000 in cash withdrawals which hit the Master Card bill all at one time..."
Ed. Janet and Jack - so sorry for your bad fortunes to date, and hope your next news is better!
Tommy and Rosa, Germany, RTW, in Costa Rica and Ecuador, BMW F650GS's,
"The little border town Sixaola isn't far away, the road is paved, but it's not in good condition. A flood some years ago washed parts of the pavement away and there are many gravel patches. The border crossing is right at a long railway bridge, we have to cross on rickety planks next to the unsecured edge - under us is a big river... But we do the bridge crossing without crashing... It's a small border, busses and trucks are always the first in the queue, because they block the street. Even our motorbikes always bar somebody's way. While Rosa fills in the forms for the border crossing, Tommy has to move the bikes more than once... A bus arrives, many people walk around, then it happens: Somebody touches Rosa's bike, which stands not very good and too straight on the side stand - it falls over... One of the lights doesn't work anymore, the aluminium box is bent and also the holders are bent... The tourists around us are watching, curious about what's going on. They ask us questions about our trip, we don't want to answer at the moment, don't help but only stand in the way, it's hot and humid and just irritating to get the holder. With the help of some locals Tommy bends the holder back, so it holds the aluminium box again. Without that, this border crossing would be the easiest and the cheapest - we only pay 2,- USD for disinfections, and some cents for copies.
Food is good and cheap in Quito, everywhere there are little restaurants, where you can have a soup, chicken with rice and juice for less then 3 USD! The old town is really nice, there are many plazas and churches and colonial buildings.
...On the way to the Christmas party, Francisco tells us that he bought the area where the party is tonight for his employees as a recreation area. It's 30 km outside the city, next to a river, on the grassy ground you can camp, they have an open cabin and a little house there with bathroom. The Christmas party isn't only one night, it lasts the whole weekend, and some of the employees bring their tents to sleep there. The others can use the Girag bus to come home again. We are also invited to stay overnight, but we already paid for the hotel, our tent and camping gear is on the bikes and we want to sleep a little bit tonight... The party is really funny, it's so different to our Christmas parties at home. Before we leave, Francisco tells us that he wants to offer this recreation area for motorbike travellers as well to camp there! The Girag bus driver brings us to our hotel in the middle of the night."
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Cynthia Milton, UK, RTW, in Mexico, R80G/S,
"Stuart and Ian have admitted lying to me. They thought I might throw a wobbly if I knew the seas were really 20 feet instead of only 12. Wobbly? Moi? Having far too good a time. Incidentally, the boat is 'dry' in that absolutely no booze is allowed on board; frankly we were all too knackered to want anything other than catering quantities of industrial-strength coffee anyway.
Anyway, having rather limped into port on Isla Mujeres, across the bay from Cancùn, we found that the bijou marina was part of the petrol station on the main drag, and separated from it by the bar/restaurant. So, we can more or less step straight from the boat into the bar.
The Port Captain was having a lunchtime cerveza so the paperwork was sorted pretty quickly and we decamped to a cheapo hotel, and thence to a rather better one after a couple of nights, which although still suffering the effects of Hurricane Wilma has fewer cockroaches, and balconies with a great sea view east over the Caribbean.
So tomorrow we motor round to the boatyard to take her out of the water (again) and effect repairs. Meanwhile I visited the very friendly Consulate in Cancùn and have sent my full (although only 18-month-old) passport to the Embassy in Mexico City, who have said they'll try to get my new one to me by Crimbo."
Rick McDermed, USA, Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, in Argentina,
"I was in Ushuaia (the End of the World) for 5 days. I had Christmas eve dinner with 13 other motorcycle travelers and we heard that there were that many or more at the campground just south of town. As you can tell, Ushuaia seems to be the place to be (at least for motorcycle travelers) for the Christmas and New Year holidays.
Sal and I left Ushuaia on Dec 25 and headed north. We worked our way to El Calafate, a very nice little town with a LOT of tourists. The area is surrounded by snowcapped mountains and glaciers. We did the touristy things and visited the glaciers (got lots of pictures that I will download later). I also got the chance to go fly fishing one day and it was great. I landed 3 large trout and let 2 nice ones slip away when I lowered the rod tip too soon. :=) To my surprise, the guide started a fire, cooked two of the trout, broke out two bottles of wine and I had the freshest trout lunch you could ever have. Course after the two bottles of wine, I was done fishing and needed a nap! :=)
Today is Jan 1st, 2007 and Sal and I are making the run to Buenos Aires where I have a plane ticket home on Jan 8th. Sal will continue riding and the folks at Dakar Motos in BsAs are going to take care of the sea shipment of my KLR. I will post a final update and some more pictures of glaciers, snowcapped mountains, and trout when I get back home. Thank You for following along on my wonderful adventure. More later from home! Happy New Year!"
Srinidhi Raghavendra, India, RTW,
"We reached Delhi on January 1st the new years day... riding from Agra, Mathura, Goverdhanagiri etc, through the fog when the visibility was hardly 10 ft. The bone chilling cold bit us no end and it was tough to decide whether to stay where we were or to move ahead to Delhi. But better reasoning and our work ahead took over and we rode like maniacs and reached Delhi in the evening. Cold and hungry, we settled down in the guest house of MP Sadananda Gowda who has kindly provided us accommodation."
Frank Butler, Papua New Guinea, RTW, BMW Dakar, writes to the HU Dakar Community,
"My name is Frank Butler. I am on a RTW trip since 2002, I started in PNG and am on route to Cape Town. At the moment I am in Malaga Southern Spain waiting for the Dakar Rally to pass through. Then I will work my way south. I would love to meet some local riders from Senegal as I am riding a BMW Dakar and making a documentary about the trip. Frank"
Chuck Quast, USA, in Costa Rica, writes to the HU San Jose Community,
"I am in San Jose presently. I have decided to stay in Costa Rica over Christmas and New Years before crossing from Panama to Columbia in early January. Can anyone recommend a good place or two to hang out for a week or two? Inexpensive, relaxing, things to do and see?"
Helge Helgesen, Norway, RTW, BMW R100GS w/sidecar, writes to the HU Panama City Community,
"Hi, I am travelling the world on a BMW r100gs w/sidecar. I have just arrived Panama City. I need to get in touch with a machine shop to machine the hub of my rear wheel. The bearings are a bit slack. At the moment I am in hotel Via Espana, Calle Martin Sosa. Is there a chance you could help me out with this. I am in company with two other travellers from the UK. Best regards Helge."
Jens Ruprecht, Germany, USA and Central America, writes to the HU Panama City Community,
"We are arriving the 28th December to Panama City by plane and we would like to insure 3 motorcycles for a trip to USA and all Central American countries. Do you know an insurance company in Panama City? Thank for your help! THe bikes are already there. Jens"
Wie-Ming Ang, USA, in Argentina, Suzuki DR 650, writes to the HU Mendoza Community,
"Hello, I am in Mendoza now. I am trying to find a moto service station to change oil, clean filters, check and adjust valves, etc. I am riding Suzuki DR 650. Any information would be very much appreciated. Thanks. Ming"
Adam Lewis and Danny Burroughs, UK, UK to Nepal, in India,
"I wanted to visit the Spiti Valley to recce days 2 & 3 of the Rally. My first attempt was aborted after encountering a broken down bulldozer in the middle of a landslide on the Rohtang Pass. When I finally made it to the valley I saw what all the fuss was about. Everyone we met had spoken of how beautiful it was and they weren't wrong.
From Gramphoo a broken tarmac road switchbacks down the valley side before deteriorating into a gravel track for the next 78km to Losar. The valley widens as it becomes strewn with boulders left by long since receded glaciers. Travelling east I could sometimes see the glaciers trapped in the mountains to the south.
Twenty kilometres into the valley I developed a severe knocking from the back of my bike and was dismayed to find that both of the sub frame/rack mount bolts had sheared off again. Fortunately I had two bolts I could cut down to fit as I was only passed by one jeep during the time I was making the repair."
News from Kumar Kaustubh Ray in the Kolkata HU Community that Tim Walker is recovering fast from his bike accident at Asansol (230 KMs from Kolkata). Tim is in a Kolkata nursing home with a fractured tibia but in good spirits. He was scheduled for an operation and is expected to be convalescent for several days at least. Tim’s bike is OK and being shipped to Kolkata where Mr. Biplab Dutta, Tim’s host, will keep it safe. Thanks to Kaustubh for the update and for being there for a fellow traveler. It’s comforting to know there are good people out there when trouble hits far from home.
Later, we heard from Tim - "Hi, KK in Calcutta said you were asking about me. I broke my leg a couple of hundred k's down the road and it all seemed a little tricky for a bit. Just thought I'd let you know I'm fine. I bounced around between hospitals for a few days, and eventually I had an operation in one to stick a tie rod down the inside of my left tibia, lower leg. Bit sore, but I'm on the mend. I'm abandoning my trip for the time being, I'm just going through the motions of sending my bike back to oz, then I can hop onto the first plane back to the UK. Thanks for your concern. Tim"
Ed. When you meet fellow motorcycle travellers along the road, try to get their name and e-mail address so we can contact them. Thanks!
Anne Girardin, France, Erin Doherty-Ratay, USA, Maria Pasini, Argentina, Spice Jones, USA, collectively known as MundoMotoDiva,
"Dear friends, First of all, I want to wish you a Happy New Year! I hope 2007 will bring you and your family happiness and good health. 6 months after the end of my solo motorcycle odyssey between Alaska and Ushuaia, my feet are itchy again and yes, a new adventure is in process already. With 3 girlfriends, we are going to ride the Silk Road from Italy to China during summer and fall 2007.
Our expedition has 3 objectives:
This is only the first adventure of many more coming. After this trip, your favorite Motorcycle Divas are planning on traveling many more places around this beautiful planet!"
Andrew Wells, UK, Chelmsford to Cape Town, leaving in January 2007
"On reading the Adventure Motorcycling Handbook I decided it best to get the bike down to Overland Solutions for a bit of fabrication work. And as you can see Ernie has done an exceptional job on getting the bike ready so that it has half a chance of withstanding the abuse that it'll be subjected to over the coming months. As you can see my chosen steed is the mighty KTM Adventure. There's been an awful lot said and written about these and I can assure you it is great fun to ride. I just hope that it's as bullet proof as people say they are. I wish that in time she'll become my untouchable!
Before you ask Charley it's a KTM because I paid for it; there is no danger of this trip being taken over by any corporate exec's with ponytails wearing baseball caps as it's all being financed by my good self. No production company here. On that note a special mention to the bank manager for signing off the bank guarantee for the Carnet de Passages. Nice people at HSBC and why is Egypt so expensive, 800% import duty! Just a few little things remain to arrange and sort out then get through Christmas, deal with the last minute panic. Then the big day in January, Elvis leaves the country."
Paul Nottle, Australia, South America, BMW1200, writes to the HU Santiago Community,
"Hola, Por Favor habla ingles? Gracias. I am due to get my motorcycle through customs at Valparaiso on the 14th of Jan. I have all of my ownership documents rego and things in order but was wondering if you had any tips on a smooth transition through customs. The bike is a 1200BMW packaged in a steel crate and arriving by sea freight. My Spanish is poor but my girlfriend is fluent and will be with me. Any info would be appreciated. Kind regards"
Dusty Calfee, writes to the HU Melbourne Community,
"Happy Holidays! My name's Dusty Calfee and I'm currently across the ditch in Queenstown New Zealand. I've been here over a year, having ridden my KLR over the western U.S. and then a good bit of NZ. I'm heading to Melbourne next for a four month working stint then I'm off for three months to ride as much of OZ as I can manage.
I'm due in on the 15th of Feb and am looking for people to ride with. Over to the HU meeting the following week maybe? And definitely in the months to follow. Any takers? Other photos here - password 'cropduster'. Take Care, Dusty"
We've now reached an amazing 446 Communities in 89 Countries as of January 8 2007!
A big thanks to all those who took the first step and established the Community in their area. New Communities are too many to list - it has been a while!
If you are on the road, do check out the Communities - don't feel like you're imposing on people! They signed up for a Community because they want to meet travellers - that's you! You'll have a great time, so go to the Communities page and let them know you're coming. Please remember that they are volunteers and offering to help because they're great people - common courtesy helps! When you write, tell them who you are, that you're passing through, and would like to meet them. Let them know if you need anything, and I'm sure they'll help as best they can.
For details on how you can join a Community in your area, or use the Communities to get information and help, or just meet people on the road or at home, go to the Community page. Send me some photos - with captions please - and a little text and you can have a web page about your Community! A few links to web pages about your area would be useful too.
Just a reminder to all, when you Join a Community in your area, send a note to the Community introducing yourself and suggesting a meeting, or go for a ride or something. It's a good way of meeting like-minded individuals in your own town.
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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!
We hope you've enjoyed this issue, and do please let us know your thoughts. It's your newsletter, so tell us what you want to know about!
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
and their respective authors or creators, 1987-2007.