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.
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There are many 'Helpful People' listed on the Links
page, a huge thanks to all of them. How about you? Or you can join a Community,
or start your own!
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!
Srinidhi Raghavendra, India, RTW, currently in Imphal, Manipur, northern India, offers some tips on what's involved in getting into Bhutan
Entry formalities: It is fairly simple for Indians on motorcycles to enter Bhutan. One has to produce any the following documents for self identification to get an immigration pass for entry into Bhutan.
a. A central government issued identity card such as [i] Passport; [ii] Voter identity card; [iii] Valid driving licence; or any other photo identity card and two passport size photographs
b. For entry on motorcycles one has to carry the following documents: [i] RC Book; [ii] Insurance valid in Bhutan; [iii] Valid Indian driving licence or International driving permit (preferable).
Important: Carry at least three photocopies of each of the above documents. Apply for the RSTA (Road Safety and Traffic Authority), Royal Government of Bhutan, only after your immigration pass is obtained.
One has to enclose a copy of the immigration pass along with the documents mentioned and write an application on plain paper addressed to 'Base Officer', RSTA, Phuntsoling, Bhutan' and pay a fee of Rs. 40 to get the motorcycle permit and ride through Bhutan.
To visit the eastern part of Bhutan one has to obtain an Special Motorcycle Permit and Immigration Permit' at Thimpu.
We plan to exit Bhutan at the other border with India which would enable us to enter Assam directly instead of travelling back to Hashimara and Alipur Duar. We have to see if we can get the Special Permit to do so.
Because of excessive ULFA activities that road is currently managed by Indian BSF and SSB so tourist movement on that road is restricted. Let us try our luck. Our readers across the globe please pray for our success."
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Request for info
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Office in London's Travel Advice Unit advises against travel to all sorts
of places. Check out the listing
before you start!
State Department regularly issues updated travel advisories, information
Lois Pryce, UK, UK to Cape Town, in Angola, Namibia and South Africa, Yamaha TTR250,
"I had been told that the roads of Angola were in a terrible state, following the twenty-five year war, but I had long since stopped listening to unreliable stories of the 'road ahead'. I knew there was only one way to find out, and that was to ride it. So after making it across the border by 3pm, I set off into the Angolan mountains, determined to make the most of every shred of daylight, but by 5.30pm I had only managed to travel fifty miles and dusk was creeping in. The road from the border was nothing but a twisty, stony track that crawled tortuously up and down the mountains. Much of it had been washed away by the recent deluges of the rainy season, and giant puddles punctuated the track that were deep enough to warrant walking through them first to make sure they wouldn't drown the bike. Thanks to the land mines, bush camping was out, so as darkness fell, my only option was to call in at one of the tiny settlements along the way and ask to pitch my tent.
Camping in an Angolan village
I gauged my decision on which village to choose by waving at the locals as I rode past, and seeing what response I received. At one little collection of mud brick buildings I warranted a full-on waving and smiling session from every resident, so I made a quick U–turn and read out my prepared speech from my Portuguese phrase book – 'Please may I camp here tonight?' I was welcomed warmly and with much interest by the villagers and a kindly truck driver called Sabe, who was also stopping the night there. Luckily he spoke French, and once we'd established a little rapport, he wasted no time in pressing a religious pamphlet into my hand, explaining he was a disciple of an American Evangelist. I managed to catch a few hours sleep, despite the all-night snuffling of pigs and goats around my tent, and the next morning I was on the road at the ungodly hour of 6.30am.
As it turned out, everything I had heard about the roads wasn't true – they were much, much worse. I was racing against the clock – if I was going to make it to the Namibian border before my visa expired, I would have to ride between 200 and 300 miles a day through a mixture of mud, floods, rocky climbs and descents, festering bogs, sandy tracks, smashed-up tarmac, and mammoth, truck–swallowing potholes. To make matters worse, the rainy season was in full swing and each morning I would pull on my socks and boots, still soaking wet from the day before, and set off into the pouring rain under a black sky that was only illuminated by the lightning storms that flashed all around me. My progress was agonisingly slow, and most days I found myself breaking the golden rule, and riding in the dark, in the hope making it to a town to find somewhere to stay and a few morsels of food.
Abandoned tanks by the roadside
This was easily the most physically gruelling part of the entire trip so far. I rode every day from dawn 'til dusk, stopping only to fill up with petrol or to answer the call of nature, which was quite a tricky maneuver consider that the verges of roads were notorious for land mines, so ducking behind a tree was out. My only safe option was to wait until the coast was clear and just hide behind my bike, listening out for any approaching vehicles. I became so obsessed with getting the miles done, that on one occasion, I found myself squatting down behind the bike for a pee and eating a banana at the same time, in order to save precious minutes. Talk about multi-tasking! But the misery of rain, mud and nonstop riding continued and after a few days I was absolutely filthy, constantly wet and utterly exhausted.
See this river? That's the main road!
When I wasn't feeling sorry for myself, I was feeling sorry for the poor Angolans. The war had absolutely trashed their country. Every town was a bomb site; people were still living in half-demolished houses, and the walls of every building were spattered with bullet holes. The roads and railways had been virtually destroyed, abandoned tanks lay by the side of the road, and kids played with bullets in the mud. So, for the life of me, I couldn't understand how the Angolan people were the nicest bunch of folk I had encountered in Africa. Everywhere I stopped I was greeted with a friendly smile, sometimes an attempt at a greeting in English, but always genuine warmth and interest. There was no hustling, or scamming or demanding money that I had encountered in other African countries. It is true to say that the mud, sweat and tears of the riding was made bearable by the wonderful people of Angola.
Route finding was proving problematic; there were few road signs, and what had survived had mostly been shot to bits. Late one dark, rainy afternoon, I was riding along what had once been a tarmac road, and came upon an unexpected fork in the route. The left fork showed the broken remains of the tarmac leading off into a forest; the right fork was a very unappealing option. It appeared to be a bumpy, potholed dirt track, but was currently under a foot of fast-flowing water; the recent rains had turned it into a treacherous river. I paused and deliberated, unsure which option to choose. There was no-one around to ask, but I could see tyre tracks coming out from the river. On the other hand the remains of the tarmac suggested the route of the old road, and this fork was also marked with official-looking red and white painted concrete posts. This looked the most promising, so I set off hopefully, bumping over the smashed-up blacktop. But after a few hundred yards, I don't know why, but I just had a hunch I had chosen the wrong way. I decided to turn round and go back to the junction and think again. I swung a wide U-turn through the trees and around one of the concrete posts. Out of the corner of my eye I saw there was some faded writing on the post, and more ominously, a skull and cross bones. I stopped to take a closer look. I gulped as I read the words, DANGER! MINES. My hunch had been right – I had just ridden into a minefield..."
Peter and Kay Forwood, Australia, around the world since 1996, in Bhutan, Harley-Davidson,
"We had planned to meet up with Dietmar, a German, who we last met in Tanzania, and has been travelling Southern Africa, Bangladesh and India the last eight months, he arrived at the hotel late afternoon. Miki (Minori), the Japanese woman, riding alone from South Africa, we had met first in Iran, was also there. One of the highlights of travelling is the people you re-meet. So often encounters are singular, never finding out what became of other's plans, of the experiences they had. To be able to catch up and follow their travels first hand is great. Both are now heading home. Miki in a couple of weeks and Dietmar slowly over the next six months through Central Asia.
Farewell in Siliguri
The Lonely Planet Guide Book advises it is possible to cross into Bhutan for the day, into the duty free zone. That option has been removed, now everyone needs a visa to cross the border, even to the duty free region. Whilst walking around town we came across Bhutan World Travel, a home office business, that offers tours to Bhutan. The visas take three days to issue, $US 20. 00, paperwork for a vehicle to enter, $US 30.00 plus the normal $US 200. 00 per person per day paid to the government. Bhutan is perhaps the most expensive country to visit because of this minimum expenditure of which $US 70. 00 stays with the government for health and education for the locals, and the remainder can be claimed back by your local tour company for hotel, meals, and other expenses. The system is designed to limit the number of tourists impacting on this small country whilst gaining maximum financial benefit.
Sprite bottle, a mix of old and new
... It is a difficult balancing act that Bhutan has undertaken to trying to keep its culture yet allowing itself modern trimmings.
Basically a Buddhist country, monks can sometimes be seen removing a mobile phone from their cloak for a chat. About a third
of the men we have seen wear the traditional Gho, a cloak to the knees and long stockings. School uniform is also traditional.
Most of the buildings, new and old, are of a similar basic design, wooden windows, large timber beams, painted intricately. The
traditional wooden slab roofs held down with rocks has almost entirely been replaced with metal roofs. Internet cafe's are prevalent
in Thimpu, the capital, and many large SUV motor vehicles drive the streets. We visited the National Museum in Paro before a
short ride to Thimpu. The planned ride through the mountains to Ha had to be cancelled due to snow and ice, from last week's
falls, blocking the road. Major road works are currently being undertaken and temporary road closures slowed our progress. Whilst
waiting at one of these roadblocks two riders from India, on local motorcycles, overloaded with gear for their long journey through
to West India, hopefully Myanmar ( Burma) and Bangladesh rode up. Srinidhi and Kishore, from Bangalore, had already been on the
road for over two months and were moving more quickly through the scenery than us.
Photo line up of the motorcycles outside Punakha Dzong
... The tour has settled into a routine. Breakfast at about 8am, departure for the first event, riding or sightseeing at 9am, evening drinks at the bar 6.30, and a slow walk to dinner near 8pm. The last of the 'rest days' for the tour we visited a local dairy and followed the process through to butter and cheese making, all done by hand. Our group bought a selection of locally made apple and pear alcohol, cider, jams and apple juice for the planned yak (high altitude cow) barbecue cooked by group members. We visited two monasteries, Jampa, built in the 7th century and Kurjey from the 8th century, still functioning today. The rest of the day was actually a rest, with us doing some regular maintenance on the motorcycle and most of the others catching up on diary and postcard writings, the higher altitude keeping everyone a little tired. The planned evening yak BBQ couldn't eventuate as meat for the next month can not be slaughtered. Bhutan has three such periods in the year where no animals can be killed. They also have alcohol free days in some hotels.
Thumsing La, 3800 metre pass with the usual prayer flags
The only problem we can see with the tour so far is that we are liking it too much and won't be looking forward to returning to our more usual level of accommodation and meals. Whilst we miss a bit of 'traveller' conversation and eating in roadside or small city restaurants, we certainly are enjoying the daytime freedom of movement that Mike and Denise's tours offer, (Ferris Wheels Motorcycle Tours), with the certainty of a hotel at the end of the day and great conversation with the tour group reliving the day's events in the evenings over a drink.
Trashigang Dzong, being renovated
Today's ride was the most adventurous so far and best scenery. A flexible departure time had riders leaving between 8-9am.
The earlier ones hitting snow and some ice on the road about an hour into the ride. Not yet chopped up by the few passing trucks
or cars, it was slow riding. Leading up to the 3800m pass, the trip's highest, the road disintegrated into spongy mud with 30cm
of snow lining each side. Traction was good but the softness of the underlying ground made riding difficult. The downhill side
had been machine cleared and was good asphalt. Years ago the road had been hand cut into the almost vertical cliffs, 300 plus
people died in it's construction, winding down through spruce and conifer forests, to rhododendrons, some flowering but most
just budding, past waterfalls and into temperate rainforest vegetation before arriving at a dry land mountain valley. It was
another climb for the motorcycles to Mongar, a small town for the night, 20km up from the valley floor yet we could still see
the river crossing bridge directly below us."
Jeremiah St. Ours, USA, to South America, in Brazil, BMW F650GS,
"Itamaraju, Brazil - Zipping down the tropical highway north of Cumuruxatiba, I needed to make up for lost time. I had spent most of the morning battling a little-used dirt road a stone's throw from the pounding Atlantic surf. What started out dry and idyllic descended into a slippery bobsled run following a hard, coastal rain. Back on pavement, El Viento and I swung wide and cut into the upcoming curve with confidence and speed.
After it rains, which is almost everyday, Brazil's backroads turn into a sticky, red mud bowl
Then--without warning--the road disappeared. There were no signs, no barriers, no flagging, no police. Indeed there was no indication that anything at all was amiss, save the absence of asphalt. The highway was simply G-O-N-E.
I was immediately set upon by a gang of frenzied youths demanding that I pay up or go back. I ignored their taunts while wading through the morass until I could reach the lip of the abyss. I dismounted to survey the situation. It didn't look good. A canyon stretched out before me. It was a hundred feet across and maybe half of that deep. Large chunks of pavement spilled into the breach. The river running below, swollen three months prior by what appeared to be the mother of all gulley-washers, had obviously taken out the bridge and caused the road's collapse.
The chasm's walls were precipitously steep and rocky. There were no access points or shallow areas up or downstream. Going back would require a costly 125-mile detour and too much precious daylight. That left me only one obvious solution: I would have to get a running start--and jump it.
The road that vanished
The chorus of hecklers suddenly relented and a shirtless man of imposing stature strode up to me through the gathering crowd. He was muscle bound, dark as night, with a deeply furrowed brow. They all called him Chefe, 'boss' in Portuguese, and when he spoke--everybody listened.
'30 Reais, non-negotiable,' he flatly stated!
'30 Reais,' I inquired in Portuguese? 'For what?'
He hesitated, sized me up and down, then replied as though the answer was obvious, 'To get you and your moto to the other side!' I played along. 'And just how would you propose to do that when this beast and all my gear weigh maybe 275 kilos?'
The Chefe squinted slightly, his furrow deepening, then simply declared, 'In a canoe.'
I looked over the motley crew and examined their rickety wooden boat. Daylight shown through in places and loose nails protruded from the bow and stern. One guy's full-time job was to act as a human bilge pump, constantly bailing water out with an old detergent bottle. Not a good sign.
Daylight was waning-a decision was urgent. I gazed across the canyon at the perfectly good road on the other side. It was so tantalizingly close. I then stared back toward whence I came and agonized over logging the tedious 125-mile detour. Finally, I pictured Evil Knievel in the hospital after an unsuccessful jump. The mob's proposal was my best option.
I summoned the Chefe. 'Esta bom, 30 Reais sem problemas. Com problemas? Nada!' Translation: I'll pay you $15 if we make it across the river without a single problem, but otherwise you get diddlysquat! I had to incentivize them to be careful. Should El Viento take a dive into the drink, my overland journey was finished. It was not a small gamble.
The Chefe once again riveted his gaze upon me. He then waved his hands in slow-motion like an umpire calls a runner safe as his raspy voice agreed, 'Nada!'
Removing all of my gear to lighten the load
The crew of 13 mobilized and awaited my instructions. 'First, we remove all of my equipment from the bike to lighten the load,' I explained, 'and then send it across the river in advance.' I was very concerned about being separated from my gear, and cautioned the Chefe again that he would receive nothing if a single item came up missing.
'There are no thieves here,' the Chefe reassured me! Then, cracking a partial smile he corrected himself, 'Well, maybe one or two. But don't worry,' he quickly admonished, 'my wife is on the other side and she misses nothing!' He then used his fingers to pull down his lower eyelids to imitate her enormous, owl-like eyes, to the raucous laughter of his companeros. Off they charged with everything I owned.
Loading El Viento into Chefe's rickety wooden canoe
Now it was down to getting El Viento and I across. The Chefe took command of his ship. He immediately eliminated the canoe's human bilge pump; we couldn't afford his weight. Apparently he calculated that we could pole across the river faster than the water leaking in would sink us.
Next, he and his men used a combination of brute force and makeshift wooden planks to wrestle the bike onboard. The Chefe straddled the bike's seat with his flip-flop shod feet riding the gunnels, barking out orders like an old salt of the sea. One pole man manned the bow, another the stern. I was just along for the ride.
As we set sail the canoe immediately began listing to the starboard side. Although I attempted to counter-balance, we were taking on water and the wind was picking up. The pole men and a swimmer on either side tried in vain to steady the load. At this point another ancient Greek scientist came to mind, only this time it was Archimedes. Dare I call the captain's attention to the principle of buoyancy and risk being thrown overboard for mutiny? There wasn't time. 'Chefe,' I shouted, 'The weight's not centered, we're going to roll!'
'Não preocupas,' the Chefe cried out to extinguish all doubt! Like a true leader he was steadfast in the storm, instructing me and everyone else that he had it under control. But from the quiver in his voice and the sight of his toes curling ever more tightly over the gunnels, his degree of concern was as obvious as mine.
Incredibly, we made it. But getting to the other side was only half the battle. The far bank was a steep, muddy mess with newly exposed soil so unstable that there was no obvious way to extract El Viento from the boat and roll her up the bank. So, we didn't. We merely picked her up like a human forklift, carried her across the worst of the mud, and set her down on solid ground.
El Viento prepares to be extracted from the canoe with a human forklift
My gear was neatly stacked by the river's edge under the watchful eye of the Mrs., so I repacked and prepared to depart. As I shook hands with my new amigos and paid the Chefe their well-earned fee, I couldn't help but agree. There are no thieves here, just honest entrepreneurs seeking a fair wage for services rendered. Together they filled a void, and taught me that bridges are made of more than brick and mortar."
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,
"After a great few weeks, we finally managed to leave Ushuaia. We were experiencing an unusual phenomenon; we had a deadline to meet! Helen & Bob, Em's Mum and Step dad, were meeting up with us in El Calafate in a couple of weeks, therefore to have sufficient time to enjoy the ride North, we had to get on the road.
... Rather than continue up the bitumen to Rio Grande, our destination for the night, we opted to ride the ripio (dirt road) via Lago Yuhin, yet another magical setting of lakes and snowcapped mountains, fast becoming the norm in this part of the world. We had a great ride past freshly whitewashed estancias and through rolling countryside before rejoining windy Ruta 3.
Despite the wind, we lit a fire, dined on the pebble beach, whilst watching the sun set over the Chilean island, Isla Navarino. A magical location.
On the way back to Puerto Natales where we needed to buy supplies and fix our front door (the zip is a bit kaput) we passed the Milodon Cave. This is a 200m long cave where in 1895 remains of a sloth-like creature extinct for 12,000 years were found. There were theories that people and milodons coexisted in the cave for a while, with the milodons being domesticated. After standing next to a life-sized replica we think this is a tad unlikely.
We found our friends Val and Adam back at Hostel Argentino, once again receiving a warm welcome from owner Graciela. We'd loosely planned to ride together to Lago Blanco, a remote lake on the Chilean side of Tierra del Fuego, a region I'd later read to be 'the secret haunt of Hollywood stars such as Stallone'. If it's good enough for Rambo, it's good enough for me!
Em and a Tierra del Fuego tree cast for The Matrix IV
...So a couple of days later, after stocking up on food and wine, we set off in high spirits, looking forward to the prospect of idyllic camping and Adam catching the fish he'd been promising for nigh on a month. Unfortunately, about half an hour later it all went horribly wrong. Following Val along the ripio we helplessly watched in horror as her bike replicated an angry bucking bronco, before tossing her over the 'bars and into the verge. Poor Val had lost control in the soft centre, where all the loose gravel accumulates. Fortunately, after the initial shock, we established all to be ok, bar a few bruises and a black eye. The bike was in a similar condition, ok, bar a few bruises.
We were therefore reunited with Graciela a little earlier than anticipated, returning to Rio Grande to have Val checked out by the Doc and to knock the bike back into shape. Literally! Whilst Val rested the following day, Adam and I patched up Val's bike, ready for another adventure. I actually quite enjoy a wee project, so it was no hardship, nonetheless Val very kindly rewarded me with a bottle of Highland Park for my efforts. Mucho appreciated! Now Val's a tough nut, but even she surprised us all by announcing that evening that she was ready to ride the following day. Respect! So with a certain feeling of deja vu, we set off the next day, albeit minus the eggs from the first attempt!
We were beginning to think the only fish we'd be eating was the tin of tuna we'd brought along, when Adam returned to camp grinning like a Cheshire cat, having caught a fair sized brown trout.
A certain cause for celebration, the Highland Park was cracked open whilst the fish baked over the fire. As if on cue, the sunset that night was spectacular, an array of golds, pinks and deep reds. I doesn't get much better than this; good friends, good spot, good times.
...We also had time to reflect on how fortunate we are to be able to do this trip at all and I can hardly believe we've been on the road ten months. It's been interesting to get to know myself minus all the trappings of society; no titles, numbers, job descriptions or roles to hide behind, just myself.
Hame and I have got to know each other incredibly well too (those of you who know us well can imagine some of the challenges!) as we spend much of the day and night within one metre of each other, either on the bike or in the tent. On the whole it's been good but at times it's a bit like being on a DIY marriage guidance course - but one I wouldn't have missed for the world.
Another thing that has struck us is how little stuff you need to exist. It's refreshing and liberating to live with only what you really really need, just the bare essentials."
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"More important than all the fancy jackets and pants put together..."
"Next day we visit the Nek Chandra Rock Garden This garden was created by a Roads Inspector who used all the recycled items he found to create a fantasy world. Apparently the story goes that no one knew it was there for many years and when it was discovered people were amazed. The authorities then let him keep on creating. He is now a world famous artist.
We decide to stay in Udaipur until New Year so once again we just relax enjoying the company of many Western tourists that seem to frequent this part of the world.
We meet up with a Kiwi family, Guy, Michelle and Ella who are having their first Indian Adventure. We have met so many people travelling with young children in India, they do not seem to have any difficulties at all. In fact in some ways it smoothes the way as the Indian people love children.
... While we are in Patnem we meet up with five other motorcycle travellers, Bob and Pete, Annis and Laurens and Cecelia. They
had all travelled from Europe, via Turkey, the Central Asian Stans, Mongolia and Russia, China and Pakistan. The guys had travelled
in pairs but Cecelia made the journey alone. Quite a remarkable lady!
It was great to compare stories and share meals.
We do arrive in Panjim, once again ignoring some stick wielding, whistle blowing police (who knows what they wanted, but we were not in the mood), in time to pick up our parcels. One is from Pac Safe who have sent us a replacement base for our tank bag. They were so helpful and had no hesitation in sending us a free replacement as the zip had broken. The other is from our close friends Kath and Sean, our belated Christmas presents include Anzac Biscuits, Tim Tams, rum, champagne, and a SD card with new music, bless them. It has been such an awful day and the previous four days have been stressful, the terrible roads and woeful drivers, I cannot count how many times we have been run off the roads. So in true girly fashion I have my first meltdown and burst into tears with at least 20 people looking on.
Skill valiantly decides we should get out of there and make it to Palelom so we can awake to the sound of waves the next morning.
We do make it, and after checking out three places we decide on a beach hut. I don't think we have ever enjoyed a beer so much in our lives. We put on our new music, drink our beer, eat some Anzac Biscuits and watch the sunset, before venturing out for a fish and lobster dinner.
Temples at Khajuraho, India
...Next day Skill wanders the streets while I do not leave the garden confines of the hotel, reading my trashy women's magazines and catching up on the now way behind blog. Beers and dinner with Mel and Andrew before a late night. It is wedding season in Agra so every night just as you are starting to doze off the 100 decibel wedding processions start. It really is a sight to behold.
The terrified looking, sweaty groom is usually riding a decorated white horse followed by a line of dancing people, holding
lanterns connected by frayed electrical cables powered by a generator carried in a tuk tuk belching out two stroke fumes. Add
to this a huge sound system with everything on the graphic equalizer at full volume, blasting distorted Indian music into the
Next day we bite the bullet and take an auto rickshaw to the Taj. I am not quite sure what I was expecting, in fact I was expecting
to be disappointed. We were not, it truly is a beautiful, ethereal sight. While taking in our surroundings I get chatting to
this young man who tells me his tale of woe. He is in love with a young teacher but his
parents do not approve and will not sanction a 'Love Marriage' so he does not know what to do. Arranged marriages are still the norm
in India, with 'Love Marriages' accounting for only 2% of all marriages."
Brian Bayley, ' Life of Brian-oz style', in Namibia and Zambia, Suzuki DR650,
"Namibia - great roads. A little on the roads and the bike... I find the roads (dirt and bitumen) so far in
great condition. Most people I meet ask me how the bike handles it all. It's a little hard to explain to people who don't ride,
but I do my best. The bike is a standard DR650 Suzuki. I have a 33 liter fuel tank and have not done anything to the front forks
or handle bars. I did fit a heavier spring to the rear shocker, and that is a bit of a disappointment. As for tyres I use what
ever is available, people ask what brand I prefer and I always say what ever I can get and sometimes the cheapest. I found that
to play with tyre pressures can mean the difference between a hard scary ride to a comfy relaxed cruise. I'm using 15 psi in
the front and 23 psi in the rear. I'm traveling at anywhere between 80-100 km on either surface. I'm getting 19-22 km/litre and
that will give me about 700 km before walking becomes the next mode of transport.
Leaving Swakopmund I moved inland to find some warmth, as the west coast is rather cool. I found myself that nite at ABA-HUUAB camp at Twyfelfontein, great nite with the locals at the bar.
... Unknown to me till 100km later I had headed out on the wrong road. Now all is not bad, the road I took towards Puros
was fantastic, it had all the various things that makes my heart sing. I rode on long stretches of loose sand, red and white,
dry stony creek beds, the sun shining on the hills and passes and playing tricks with me as I rounded a corner. That 100ks
out was full of sunshine, as I returned it went cool and even rained. Great ride and great riding, all that and no traffic.
I came to the the main junction outside town to see a sign saying there was a camp with bed and breakfast 55ks further north, on the road I should have taken. North I went.
...Victoria Falls here I come
Border crossings, I don't know if it's just me but I get a bit nervous. I have no idea what I'm doing, things seem to happen but not in any order. I had to pay to get me in, plus the bike plus the road tax plus the insurance. All up it cost some R350, to come and visit Zambia. For that you get to ride over a lovely Bridge into the country. It's all an experience, I guess.
From the border at Katima Millio it's a gentle ride, passing lots of villages to Livingstone. I did get a little tired of all the waving so I've changed to nodding my head, but I feel that the locals don't understand so I may have to continue waving."
Africa Bike Tours provides you with a selection of unique guided Namibian tours by experienced off road hosts.
Come to Namibia for real adventure, Grant and Susan's favourite African country!
Grant Guerin and Julie Rose, Australia, Trans America and Beyond, in Argentina, Ushuaia and Chile, Suzuki V-Strom,
"Careening in a General Southerly Direction after Viedma... With the heady socialising of the HU
meeting over with we needed to make a mad northerly dash to Buenos Aires and Dakar Motos for inspection and any needed
work on the engine management software and tuning system before heading south to Tierra del Fuego for Christmas.
Javier & Grant working on Piggy - Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires road system is like a giant plate of spaghetti though not as enjoyable. After several hours of getting
lost, believing we knew where we were and then getting lost again we found Dakar Motos (www.dakarmotos.com)
the business premises and second home of Javier and Sandra.
... Looking forward to Christmas with other viajeros we descended into the pretty bay overlooking the Beagle Channel and headed out towards the National Park.
Is it cold at night here? Mary, Martina, Emma
And a big red BMW appeared around the corner of the ripio road and immediately we recognised Emma and Hamish on Bertha. The four of us went out to the National Park camping ground where Hydaki, Jason and Peter had already settled in and had a roaring fire going. Not long after that Holgar, Martina, Mary and Mathias appeared and Christmas lunch preparations were underway. The chicas took charge of organising the food preparation while the chicos took charge of it's cooking. It was decided that four chooks should be cooked on a spit over hot coals with the vegies spread about below roasting on a rack.
... And so we continued on with near perfect road conditions along Ruta 40. As the sun descended below the surrounding mountains we presently came upon a rise of low hills where the road ascended for perhaps several kilometres and then narrowed as we thrust further into the rolling hills.
It soon became apparent to both of us that perhaps we were on the wrong road as it narrowed further to become no more than what can best be described as a farm track... "
The book you've been waiting for - a great read!
Peter Baird, las Américas, in Argentina, KTM 950s,
"50k's into the ride I hit a pothole at speed, 'Ooohhh that can't be good' went through my mind, shortly followed by 'oh dear (or words to that effect), my front tyre is definitely flat, bollox bollox bollox, that'll learn ya'. I figured I must have pinched it. Worst thing was my electric pump had permanently died a week previous so I wasn't sure if I could get any air into it.
I stopped at what looked like a sawmill hoping they might have an air compressor or summat but no one was home. There were 2 large truck tyres outside the place and in a move James Bond would have approved of I tried to get the air out of them into mine... While to my mind this was ingenious, the laws of air pressure transfer (I'm sure there must be one) proved to be beyond my skills. Then I remembered I had a couple of CO2 canisters and hey presto I was back on the road.
Our plan was to get to Puerto Natales where we had a contact (through a friend of a friend of a friend - its great the way that works sometimes) who could, hopefully, get me a new rear tyre and where the fabled Samuel (ex KTM Paris - Dakar mechanic) resides. My bike was running a bit weird (nice tech speak) and I just wanted to know if it was something to worry about or not.
My tyre turned up, woo hoo, it was like my birthday and Christmas combined. Massive thanks to Claudio for sorting that (little plug for Claudio, he's starting up a bike rental place in Puerto Natales with 4 KLR650s- Claudio's E-mail).
Perito Moreno glacier is all it's cracked up to be. Massive and constantly moving we were lucky to see chunks fall off and crash into the lake below. Every 4 years it covers the gap between itself and the lake side. Eventually water pressure builds up on one side which creates a hole in the ice. The roof of this hole eventually crashes down under its own weight and the cycle starts again. Hard to describe but the pictures on display from the last time this happened were mighty impressive.
The route north of Coyhaique continues on the Carretera Austral. There are sections of tarmac but mostly its gravel and winds its way up over some impressive passes.
Along the way I met up with Katherine and Torsten (on an overloaded GS1150) and Steve (bloke from South Africa who bought a 150cc cruiser in Buenos Aires and has done pretty much the same route as us. Proof that there is always someone crazier than you out there). We stopped for a smoke together but due to the relative differential in our speeds on the ripio we arranged to meet them further up the road for the night in Puyuhuapi.
Chaiten was the next stop, the Carretera Austral again confirming itself as my favourite road on the trip so far. En route I met up with Nick and proffered some advice on riding the gravel roads as he had been pretty much sticking to second gear.
(beyond Bariloche)...caught up with Sev and Lorenzo who we'd spent several nights hanging out with in Buenos Aires.
They were on push bikes and enjoying a head wind when we saw them on the way out of town. Hope it's going well guys."
Richard Lindley, RTW 2006 -7, riding home from Russia, Triumph Tiger,
"At the police station, I was told the immigration people had left for the day and come back tomorrow. After a night in a motel, I returned at the appointed hour only to be told the immigration people don't work weekends and come back Monday! Welcome to Russian bureaucracy!
As it was a sunny Saturday, I decided to explore the countryside. I was interested if there was a more remote border crossing I could slip by.
Following my GPS, the road turned into a muddy track, but by now I was an expert with the Russian mud.
Luckily Ofren turned up as my efforts to lever the bike out of the swamp proved fruitless
With Ofren's help and advice to turn back (he made a handcuff charade that left no room for ambiguity) I was once again forced to bend out my fairing bracket.
...Cruised around Sebesh... pretty little town. Decided to get a Russian haircut. Back at the hotel met Julia and her
jealous boyfriend Yuri. Julia turned out to be an insurance agent and for about $10.00 wrote me European green card insurance
for a month to get me home. One of her dinner companions - Andrei - was a bigwig with the Granitsa - border crossing station.
He wrote something in my diary in Russian and told me to show it to the police at the border crossing on Monday. How lucky
I'm not going to bore you with all the details, but it took me six hours and cost me 3,300 roubles in fines (about $135.00) to cross the border. If I had known this beforehand, I wouldn't have stressed so much about the border crossing. It was only a matter of time and $135.00...Oh well, now I know....and for those faced with the same situation, don't stress....just be prepared to spend a couple of days and flash some cash and you'll get through just fine. Finally, on Latvian soil and back in the E.U.!
Next morning had a photo opportunity with my parents outside their house.
...A few hours on the British motorway, with the last twenty in darkness on country lanes with no lights! I finally arrived home. THE END."
The place to go to get good brakes for that overloaded world touring bike.
Robbo and Amy, Africa 2006-2007, to Africa, in Nigeria and Cameroon,
"... We actually enter Nigeria before the official immigration/customs post and an extremely lovely man directs us there with his gentle father on the back of his moped. The four of us nervously enter and sit anxiously on a wooden bench and begin to file through the usual procedures. The officers surprisingly starts asking friendly questions and even making jokes. I'm constantly told the obvious that I don't look Australian..... Japanese? chinwa? and wow, you must be strong women to ride that 'machine'.
One of them even offer their younger sister's hand in marriage to Dereck! I think Dereck seriously considered making extra room on the back of his bike for another passenger. With the friendliest border post so far in Africa, we walked away with no bribes, no hassles, no bullets but instead smiles on my face as we head for Ibadan.
We are reminded we are in Nigeria with the checkpoints, road blocks & noting of details blah blah blah. We eventuate to sneakingly trying to zoom past and before they have time to realise what has happened, they just decide to let us go. This proves to be quite difficult with a convoy of 4, the first 2 get through okay but the tail end charlies cop it. At one check point, the police panicked when we whizzed past, jumping into their old bunged up vehicles with rifles to try and chase us down. All hand shakes and laughs when we all turn around. Most of the officials were surprisingly very pleasant as long as all the paperwork is in order. A prime example of the generosity, when the BMW's starter engine konks it, 2 police sweated to push start the BMW!
... I'm glad we visited Lagos in a van rather than riding on our bikes because it was insane crash
derby style driving, extremely fast fast driving, no indicating, random swerves on the road, its
like playing a Grand Turismo! There appears to be no road rules except honk when you can.
Road side stop on a trip to manic Lagos
We hear about a spectacular ring road around Bamenda that we want to ride, but we have also heard that its impassable in parts. Do we or don't we? Rob & I discuss that we don't need to go looking for adventure anymore as it's more unnecessary stress on the bikes. The general wear & tear we don't want so we'll make it to South Africa but of course we still want to see & do all the things we want.
As I have now ridden a bike almost every day for over 5 months, I feel I can handle most terrains
so I give Rob the thumbs up. We head in from Atta/Ndu and circumnavigate anticlockwise through windy,
jaw dropping scenery! Rob & I are loving it, it's beautiful!
Another reason why I came on the trip as Rob cannot find anything to prop up the front tyre! I sat there for half an hour.
Further south we go, making it to the Limbe on the coast below Mount Cameroon! We are exhausted
but decide to take the 3 day challenge! Talk about butt crunching stuff, we ascend to 4095m above
the clouds to minus degrees Celsius weather. It's extremely tough on a different level but we persevere & make
it to the summit! The best part was yet to come, the descent around horizons filled mountains ranges,
walk right past erupted craters, steep hills of volcanic ashes, clamber over lava flows & camp
between the craters and rainforests. What a feeling when we finished, not to mention that I can no
longer feel my legs."
Jack and Janet Murray, USA, China to Europe
and North America, in Europe and Morocco, BMW R850R with sidecar,
"I just gotta tell you a bit about the new bike! Because Janet rides behind me and not in the sidecar, I had the big windshield removed in the hopes that the bike might be a bit more aerodynamically clean. But I did ask that the bike be fitted with a small windshield so I can avoid the big 'splats' from large bugs when we ride in the spring
The engine is simple (well not quite simple) in that it is an air-cooled, two cylinder or 'boxer' engine that has been around for a long time...
... So there you have it, a bike that starts every time. Has enough power to carry Janet, our gear and me up hills and along roads at a reasonable (and sometimes unreasonable) speed.
Jack and Janet in Greece
... Traveling through the European Union is like traveling through the United States, no stopping at borders—just a friendly sign saying 'Welcome'. But Morocco isn't in the EU so the friendly signs are replaced with iron gates and armed guards. However, I must give credit to the Moroccans, their system is relatively fast and officials really seem to know what they are doing.
First there are the 'Helpers'. These guys work for tips and understand the process well enough that they are able to cut through the confusion of who to see first, what documents are needed and who to provide some 'consideration' for speedy work.
'Where are you from?'
'We are Americans traveling from China.'
'Yes, we are riding our motorcycle from China to Mexico.'
'Where are your documents?'
As soon as I show our Chinese registration, there is always a flurry of activity because no one has ever seen a vehicle or documents from China. Further, it seems like I always draw the senior officer who wants to talk with these crazy foreigners.
'Why are you riding a motorcycle? A car is safer and can keep you dry in the rain.'
'We like riding the motorcycle and it's cheaper to operate.'
'But with such a fine motorcycle and special clothes, you must be rich!'
'Not at all; we are retired teachers who have saved what little money we could and now are spending it, hoping we can make it around the world.'
You could see his face change from one of expectation to disappointment (at least that how I read his expression).
...The afternoon was hot and I suggested that we ride to Sidi Ifni, a small village on the coast that we had past through a couple of days ago. I knew that it would be cool. We set off and reached the town and the cooling ocean breeze. But instead of returning by the same route, we headed north to see more of the coast. That is where we met Frank Butler, a British rider on a BMW Dakar, coming from Sweden and heading to South Africa. He, like us is making a photographic record of his travels. As we talked he made a statement that has proved true for us as well. 'It is almost impossible to photograph the local people.' He carried a small printer with him and had hoped to photograph the locals and then give them a picture. However, he found the local herders either too shy or uninterested that they refused or that they wanted money in return for their image.
Janet in Essaouira, Morocco
...As we rounded one bend in the road, I spotted a car parked on the shoulder and two westerners standing, looking into a tree. Then I spotted what had captured their interest. I pulled over and got the video camera. There in the tree were several goats. Yes, in the tree.
We also saw goats in other trees feeding on the high branches that still held fresh green leaves and small, new shoots. When what little grass is gone, the goats take to the trees for food. I had finished filming when several young boys came over and demanded money. When we refused, the older boy, maybe twelve, became angry. I guess since he was in charge of the goats, he was entitled to charge for filming them.
...Morocco is proving to be one of our favorite countries along with Turkey and of course Mongolia."
We are VERY pleased to annnounce that we have arranged with MedjetAssist
a program especially for Horizons Unlimited people.
MedjetAssist is an air medical evacuation and consultation membership program and is HIGHLY recommended
by us and many others for all travellers. The regular MedjetAssist program is for citizens or residents
of the US, Mexico and Canada, and gives hospital of choice protection virtually anywhere in the
world and air evacuation as needed. (See below for more on the Foreign National Plan) Click the
logo below for US, Mexico and Canada citizens to find out more. (NOTE: It's still in progress for
the final HU version, but
you can get MedjetAssist now!)
For OTHER nationalities it is currently a little more complicated.
There IS a Foreign National Plan, but you can't enroll online. It's a faxable enrollment and subject
to underwriting approval. The rates are the same, but transport is restricted to "back to home
country - hospital of choice" rather than "anywhere in the world - hospital of choice". We are working
on improving that, but at least it IS available!
to contact MedjetAssist and inquire about the Foreign National Plan. Be sure
to mention Horizons Unlimited.
Michael Paull adds his endorsement of MedJet (and he DID use their services -
"... After an additional three days in Beijing, I was deemed stable enough
for air evacuation back to the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, WA, in the company
of my wife Aillene (who had flown in from Japan), and an air transport trauma nurse provided by the
company that I had procured medical evacuation insurance from, MEDJET Assistance - without doubt,
the best insurance coverage I have ever purchased in my life.
A small plug here - these people were remarkable... If there was ever a better
case for '...don't leave home without it.', MEDJET Assistance is at the top of my checklist, no matter
where I travel (and I hope to do a LOT more)."
Note: Per the Medjet Assistance site: "... a medical transport between Europe
and America can run more than $35,000. Middle East and South American flights range from $60,000 to
$80,000. Transport from Asia often exceeds $100,000." Sounds like $205.00 for a single is
Andrew Wells, UK, Chelmsford to Cape Town, in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya,
"The New Year was seen in, in a slightly drunken state at a house party
in Billericay and now draws to a close with me in Benghazi, Libya surrounded by mad drivers and everyone
shouting Arabic to each other. Doesn't mean a thing to me, however with a bit of arm waving it's
surprisingly how well you can get your point across.W hich is good as everything here is in Arabic
and I have managed to agree transit across the country without a guide sitting on my shoulder. A little
bit illegal I understand, but if you don't tell anyone things should be alright. Does make for interesting
navigation as all road signs and everything is in Arabic. So good map reading, a log of mileage and
knowing what direction you're travelling in all makes life a little easier. It is only desert anyway!
Au revoir to France and Europe
After a hectic start to the year trying to cram as much as possible in to two weeks I was off to France. Well in fact
the first day was a massive; wait for it….12 miles to Billericay. Then on a cold Sunday morning the adventure
starts, 2nd day 338 miles a bit more like how overland travel should be. 4 days later and it's Au revoir to
France and Europe with only 22 hours to Africa!
By total chance meeting on the ferry (from France to Tunis) I found myself in the company of someone
whom I can only explain at the time as a successful business man from Tunisia who seemed to have a
bit of influence with the captain. As soon after boarding all the restaurants were closed yet we still
managed to get food and drinks when all around looked on confused as to quite how. Later this extended
to the captain allowing me access to the lower deck to retrieve my documents for vehicle registration.
On arrival to Tunis this hospitality extended to being invited around to his house the following day
to meet his family and have lunch, which all made the introduction to Africa all that much easier.
However this didn't stop someone's idle hands from having a go at the bike later on that evening,
trying to steal the jerry cans and walking off with the container that the engine oil was in. So the
highs of making new friends and vandalism to the bike all in the first day!
After the experiences of Tunis it was time to head south, on route I found this Obi-Wan look-a-like. Here we have two choices, excluding the old man and I know which one I would take.
Later on riding across the salt lake Chott el-Jerid, a strange expanse of formed salt surrounded
by mountains as if the surface was layered with snow in +20deg heat.
Finally, after what felt like a short lifetime I eventually got to travel south again to Cairo after ten days riding East. This was a much welcomed change as the last four days from leaving Libya had been spent in the most horrific storm that I have ever had the pleasure of riding in. When only one mile away from my hotel in Libya where I was to meet my travel agent who would escort me to the border the next day the rain really started and I had to take cover on the road side completely drenched and wait for the storm to pass. In only a few minutes a substantial river was developing in front of me and any car trying to drive through was not always making it. What a scene.
First I had to find my way out of Benghazi which I found to be
less than straight forward so returned back to the hotel and ask the parking attendant for some more
directions. He asked me to wait for five minutes for his friend to direct me out. After five minutes
an old XT600 rode past on the back wheel, guess who was to show me to the road I wanted? And in doing
so spent the whole time weaving in and out of the traffic on the back wheel and rarely sat on the
seat at that. Once at the right road we pulled over and he looked at me as if to say 'and why were
you not doing the same?' Crazy, fully loaded or not! However this did get me to where I wanted to.
On the way to the Egyptian border the crosswind in the desert was so fierce that
it felt as if I was riding at a constant angle of 45deg. That was until I was overtaken by a truck
doing 110kph and then all I had to do was sort out the resultant tank-slapper. By the time I reached
the border I was totally knackered and just wanted to rest. This I was to find out would be totally
impossibility as to get into Egypt you have to spend four hours being given the run around while
the officials, from what I can work out effectively recreate your Carnet de Passages which costs
250 pounds back in the UK. I defy anybody to come up with a more bureaucratic paper creating process;
they even put official stamps on photocopies of photocopies? Stamp the import slip of the Carnet
and the whole thing could be finished in 5 minutes. But then you would not have to part with 605EGP,
maybe I missed the point!"
Motorrad Elektrik has been offering the best in electrical parts for classic and modern BMW's for over 11 years. From 12 volt conversion for /2 to better than stock replacement parts for your late model "R" or "K", we've got you covered. Specialty parts for 'hardening' the charging and ignition systems for world-travelling Airhead GS's. Riders like Bob Higdon, Dr. Gregory Frazier, Grant Johnson and hundreds of others depend on Motorrad Elektrik components as they wander the globe.
Our Omega system has solved the charging problems for 1970-95 Boxers with 400 Watts Output, and our Nippon Denso starter is the perfect cure for Valeo syndrome.
Jorge Alejandro Conde, Argentina, and Maria Guadalupe Acuna Acuna, Mexico, Round The World, Honda Transalp 600V,
"My name is Jorge Alejandro Conde. I was born in La Plata, Argentina. I am 31 years old. On February 16th of 2002 I left my home to go to Alaska on my motorbike: Violeta. I wanted to get there in 4 months, but everything was very different on the road (now I am 5 years on the way).
Moto Club, Algarve, Portugal
First, I did not have enough money and in Brazil it finished. I thought that I would find a job easily, but I did not meet anyone and I did not speak Portuguese. It was a long afternoon when I was sitting on a park bench in Boa Vista, Brazil and I was thinking: What would I do to continue my motorbike trip?
And suddenly I met a man who spoke Spanish and he liked the motorbikers too... He asked me: 'what happened?' and I explained my case. He said to me: 'Don't worry'. He invited me to stay in his house and he got a job for me as a welder. It was the beginning of a happy and a full of fun time in Brazil. I stayed some months in this country and I was able to save money to continue the trip on my dear motorbike, Violeta.
Road to Timbuktu, Mali
In Venezuela, I got a tropical illness, and when I was staying in a public hospital, another Argentinean motor biker taught me how to make handicrafts. I learned how to make earrings, necklaces, bracelets, rings (with several materials) and henna tattoos. Now my style of trip would change because I would make my own jewelry and I would sell them everywhere.
But not everything is so good. Most of the time, I have to be on the alert with the police because selling handicrafts on the streets is banned, but nothing can stop my desire to keep on riding!
On the road, a lot of things happened to me. Some of them were not too good: Someone stole my camera in Brazil. I also was in jail in some countries because of 'selling my handicrafts on the street'. In Panama, the customs officers seized my motorbike (for a few days) because of a wrong procedure which was made by themselves, and I have to pay a fine. Another case in Costa Rica someone else stole all my ownerships (except for my motorbike and my passport), and I have to start again from the beginning. When I arrived to Mexico I have to borrow some money from some friends because I had to pay for staying there. I worked harder in Mexico and a month later, I repaid the loan.
After this, something unexpected happened to me: I fell in love. Right now I travel with my Mexican girlfriend Guadalupe. We have been together since 2004. Now we both work hard every day to continue travelling. We know that it is not very easy to do our trip, because we don't have money or any sponsor, but we really want our dream to come true!
We know that we are travelling slowly but we don't have another way to do it. This trip became our style of life!
I traveled alone in Latin America. Then with my girlfriend around Europe. Right now we want to go to India but getting money is not quick. We have more stories in our daily: Now, you can read it only in Spanish, but you will do it in English in a few months. A hug for you, and have a good route!"
Richard Miller and Sascha Meyer, through Europe, the Middle East and Africa, in Syria , 1955 Royal Enfield Bullet,
"Entering Syria the scenery underwent a dramatic change from Turkey. The mountains became hills and the bike was grateful to be pulling us along flat roads after day after day of mountain bashing. The joy of flat roads seemed to provoke machine culture shock and it responded by breaking down. More of this anon....
To celebrate entering a new country, we also suffered a health breakdown. Our first stop in Syria was the sea-side town of Tartous, a good laid back place, ideal for spending a few relaxing days. Unfortunately the few days turned into a week after consumption of an octopus stew of dubious heritage. Sascha spent several days bed bound before deciding that a course of antibiotics was the best course of action. Myself, I suffered mildly by comparison and inflicted suffering on others in equal amounts as Sascha assured me that the bug was manifesting itself in a vicious case of halitosis.
Health restored we headed on to the city of Hama. Noticing a strange and ominous 'death rattle' from the
engine we decided to strip it down for inspection. This revealed a broken piston and the replacement had
to be ordered from home. It was rather disappointing to suffer severe mechanical failure so soon into the
trip but as mitigating evidence in favour of the Bullet the piston was an e-bay purchase of uncertain origin
and by the time of leaving home had already ridden from Lands End to John o'Groats and back and seen action
on a track day. This before pulling us two folk and luggage around for three months.
Piston broke! - sorry couldn't resist it
The breakdown however happily proved my axiom that some of the best travel experiences happen through breakdowns. A supplier cock up resulted in the piston being sent to us via standard air mail rather than courier and took two weeks to arrive. Special mention has to be made to the guys at the Cairo Hotel in Hama who allowed us to keep the bike and work on it at their home. And who also followed the delay in the parcel arriving up through a contact in the Syrian post office, called our hotel in Damascus (they had to call several as they didn't know where we were staying!) to let us know they had found it and went to the post office with us to ensure we got it without paying too much import tax. And then the guys at the machine shop who did a fantastically careful job of the rebore and then refused payment and instead invited us to their home for drinks!
The time spent waiting for the piston was used fruitfully in taking bus trips out of Hama and seeing the sites of Syria and not so fruitfully by Sascha's stomach which acquired another bug needing a doctors visit and more antibiotics!
Bike now fixed and tested we are in Damascus on the cusp of crossing into Jordan. Syria has been a wonderful experience; so much sincere hospitality that gives you faith in human nature once more. At risk of sounding like an awards ceremony we've got to mention the guys who have been so kind to us - the guy at the wedding banquet hall roadside on the way to Tartous who gave us a slap up meal for free after we walked into his business H.Q. as feckless tourists thinking it was a restaurant. The guys at Expresso coffee shop in Tartous. Cairo Hotel management who helped us so much with sorting the bike. The guys at the machine shop who rebored the cylinder and fed and watered us! And Issam whom we met in Palmyra who took us out to a really great Bedouin style knees-up.
As we will be in Arabic speaking countries for the next couple of months we are making concerted attempts
to learn more Arabic than the usual p's and q's. The guidebook has been of some help, though the phrases
'can I breast feed here' and 'is this a gay-friendly bar' have not been so useful. People have been delighted
to help us with our rather feeble efforts but progress has been made...
That's all for now, next posting from Jordan enshallah!"
"Siem Reap, Cambodia, and our seventh suspension failure between us to date. Still, I can think of worse places to be holed up awaiting the arrival of a replacement rear shock from the UK for Danny's bike. He removed the shock on Sunday to replace the same bush that had collapsed on my bike during the Rally Raid, only to find the 'U' bracket had snapped. Even if a 'local' repair had been possible, it couldn't be trusted to last through the month ahead in Laos. Danny's family sprang into action and his dad rummaged through his garage to locate Danny's original (OE) BMW suspension unit (shock) which his sister had collected by DHL on Tuesday. At 1000 this morning (Friday) the red & yellow DHL man walked into our guesthouse brandishing Danny's shock. It left us asking the question 'Are we really that far from home...?'
Sangkheum Centre for Children – Cambodia
'...about 25-30km south of Tbaeng Meanchy there's a (nearly) new forest road that goes through Chhep and joins another good forest road to Thala Bariyat where you catch the boat to Stung Treng. You'll see some tea houses near the junction so you can ask the way...'
Basket case, Cambodia
We followed directions, asked the way and sure enough the road did lead to Chheb, however it wasn't the road Andrew
had told us about. Once in the jungle asking the way was impractical. Without perfect pronunciation nobody knew where
we were talking about and although our map was written in English and Khmer, the locals could not read. GPS showed
us approaching a road that led directly to Chheb and although we had to ride the wrong way to pick it up, it was
our best option.
The 'road' turned out to be a deep sandy track which is the hardest terrain for us to ride. Momentum is what you
need to ride sand but it's not always what you want on a 300kg bike. We both toppled over several times as we climbed
our steep learning curve. At one point Danny went missing. Returning along the track I found him sitting on the floor
next to his bike which was laid on its side with one pannier smashed in. It transpires that having gained sufficient
momentum to get through a particularly deep section, he'd got into a weave and hit a tree stump with his box, throwing
him over the handlebars.
Back on the track we passed through several settlements where the kids would come racing out, waving frantically. In one village the road widened as it passed the school and as usual the kids came running out waving and cheering 'AAAArrrrrhhhhhh', waving back I got into a big weave, thanks to the deep sand, and ran off the road, ploughing through the bushes opposite the school. Although I could no longer see the kids I could hear the 'AAArrrhhhh' turn into 'oooooohhhhhh'. I suddenly saw myself through the eyes of a 5 year old kid running out of school watching a 'spaceman' crashing through the undergrowth on a motorcycle he obviously had no control over! My laughter did nothing for my bike control and I nearly crashed properly."
John Murphy, UK, 40 Countries in Europe, in Montenegro and Bosnia, Honda ST1300 (Pan-European),
"... Between Podgorica and Bosnia I was stopped by police for speeding. There is a blanket speed limit outside towns in Montenegro of 80 kph and I was clocked at 136 kph on a long, straight, virtually traffic-free road. He said that if I was Montenegrin they would have taken my licence but, because I was a foreigner I would have to attend a 'Tribunal' in Podgorica where I would be fined €150. He then went on to say that he could fine me on the spot €50 but he 'didn't have any paperwork with him' – ahem! Needless to say €50 changed hands and I was on my way.
What with this delay and the earlier diversion in Kosova I was heading towards doing precisely what I didn't want to, riding through Bosnia in the dark. I reached the border at 1730 and crossed with no problems. Immediately, the road deteriorated and for the next 10-15 miles I was not out of 1st or second gear. I had about 100 miles to Sarajevo, at this rate it would be midnight before I got there. Suddenly, the road improved and I was able to make good progress but all the signs were in Cyrillic text and it was getting dark.
There were many unlit tunnels and as I approached one I could see a red light, similar to a temporary road works traffic light. I sat for a minute or two and then reasoned that as I had hardly seen any traffic recently I would go past the red light and if anything came the other way I would pull over. As soon as I entered the tunnel I could see I was in trouble. This was no minor road works, the tunnel was actually closed, the road surface was totally ripped up and there were scaffolding towers and temporary work lights strung along the walls. Oh dear. I carried on slowly and came up to two men working.
They signalled for me to stop and, despite them speaking no English, German or French and me speaking no Serbo-Croat, they were able to tell me that the tunnel was closed and that I had to retrace my steps and follow a diversion route to Sarajevo. I was alarmed at this, especially as I had lost so much time earlier that day on another diversion, also it was by now pitch dark and the chances of following a diversion route, in the dark, in Bosnia, were not too great. I started to get out my map for them to show me exactly where the diversion went and at that point they signalled for me to carry on in the direction I was travelling but to go slowly. I didn't need much persuading and crawled through the tunnel, around works machinery to the end.
Here I found the mouth blocked by a metre-high mound of building rubble! Oh no, what do I do now? I then noticed a path over the mound where barrows had been wheeled over so I went for it. Pans are not noted for off-road capability but I fairly flew over this obstacle only to find a chain across the roadway. Fortunately, the centre of the chain was sagging down to within a couple of centimetres of the surface so with a bit of help from my foot holding the chain down I was across. I then had a perfectly surfaced, traffic-free road all the way to Sarajevo where I gratefully checked into the Holiday inn at 2030!"
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Jason Homewood, UK, Round the world, in Argentina and Chile, KTM950,
"The trip rolls on, another week, another tyre, another air filter goes by the by. Actually, I'm getting a
bit peed off with tyres and stuff (not that peed off, but nice to have one thing to mumble about). My last eagerly
awaited, air freighted tyre lasted one week of riding. Boo. It's cost more than the fuel I put in the bike. So I
need to find some indestructible rubber, or a sponsor... At least Trent and Jackie are bringing me a cleanable, lasts-a-lifetime
air filter out next week (along with other goodies - thanks, you two). Hooray.
Jason and Pete hitting the town - Bariloche, Argentina
The last week's riding has been tops. With 2 weeks to get up to Santiago, we took some small roads and obscure border crossings in and out of Chile. Now there is civilisation around us, with the odd town, gas stations and sometimes traffic. It feels safe and I feel like I can mercilessly thrash my bike knowing that if it explodes help is just around the corner (yeah, I wish!). Actually, holding the throttle against the stop for any length of time takes up a lot of room (but it's fun trying).
The roads are pretty dusty if you're behind, so we do 5 mile-ish stints in front and swap. This makes for a nice chance to take each others picture (ahh) as the other passes, although Pete's normally 'aving a fag. Good spots, of course, are tricky bits hoping to catch Pete having a moment - blind crests with streams after, that sort of thing. Ho-hum. We seem to arrive by nice spots to camp without really thinking too much about it.
It's great to be in a country where everything nice isn't fenced off or even owned (well, maybe it is, I don't
know). Arrived in Mendoza today and had a bit of a spin about as everyone was in bed. Looks like France. Trees, cafes,
big wine glasses, nice. Will be here and around about a week before we cross into Chile to meet Pete's sister and
brother-in-law (i.e.: they're married, but not Pete?!) in Santiago. Cool. Letters from home, as always, appreciated
and eagerly awaited, etc.... Luegos, Jason"