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Welcome to the 86th Edition of the motorcycle travellers e-zine! We have loads of stories for you from travellers all over the world.
So far in 2011 we've had earthquakes in New Zealand and Pakistan, floods in Brazil, cyclones and major floods in Australia and massive winter storms in the USA - very sorry for those who are living through them! The recent news on the political front is both positive and negative - popular uprisings in much of the Middle East and North Africa have resulted in some departures by long-ruling leaders, but in Libya many people have died trying to unseat Qaddafi, who will not go quietly. If you're travelling in these areas, we advise that you register with your embassy, avoid public demonstrations and, as always, never express a political opinion in someone else's country.
It has been a long time since the last issue :-( Way back in November when we did the last one, I said we were selling our house to raise cash for projects. Since the people who bought the house actually wanted to live in it (how selfish is that!), that did mean that we had to move. We could have moved somewhere else in London or the UK, but after a lot of debate and soul-searching, we decided to move back to Vancouver to be closer to family. So we're now in Surrey (Canada, not UK)!
We're suffering a bit from culture shock at the moment. We've actually lived far longer in the UK than Canada over the past 20 years, and we find ourselves missing online grocery shopping, heated towel rails, Sunday roasts and other amenities we'd gotten used to! But on the bright side, we are re-connecting with family, and they're really happy to have us back. My mum just celebrated her 90th birthday, and we were there to celebrate it with her :-)
Those of you who have done transcontinental moves know it's a bit more involved than moving a few blocks away :-( We packed up the office before Christmas, the movers came at the end of December and spent a couple of days, then put everything in a container to ship to Canada, a trip that takes 6-8 weeks. It arrived in Vancouver in early February, which was actually not too soon, because we had to find a place to rent before we could unload it all! I remember fondly the days when all our stuff fitted nicely on the bike with some small remainder in a storage locker. Alas, those days seem to be behind us! Even though we sold all electrical appliances and moved minimal furniture, we spent February unpacking hundreds of boxes, with the office being the priority. While we still don't have all the boxes unpacked, the computers are operational again and HU is 'back in business'.
So apologies that it has taken us so long to get the newsletter out, but now you know why. Also why a lot of other things are taking much longer than usual. Winter is usually our quiet time, when we recharge our batteries and get caught up, but this winter has been hectic! Though homeless, we have been working, not goofing off in the Caribbean as we had hoped to be!
We did manage to get Part 1 of 'Road Heroes - Motorcycle Adventure Travel Tales' through editing (thanks Bonnie!) and it's now ready to online. So what is 'Road Heroes'? Glad you asked! The first in an exciting new series, Road Heroes features tales of adventure, joy and sheer terror by veteran travellers Peter and Kay Forwood (Challenges of travelling to 193 countries 2-up on a Harley Electra-Glide), Dr. Gregory Frazier (5 times RTW on a variety of bikes), Tiffany Coates (RTW traveller recounts her Mongolia Mayhem) and Rene Cormier (5 years in the University of Gravel Roads).
We're confident we'll have the production copies by May. Confident enough that we're now taking pre-orders for them :-) Check out the trailer and go here to order.
On the website redesign front, the first piece of work will be starting next week to upgrade the main software programs that underpin the site and improve the integration between them. This will take a few weeks, and once it's done we'll have a stable platform to do the redesign, navigation and additional functionality. The only change people will notice initially will be the sign-on and user profile for the HUBB and other content areas of the site, but we'll give you lots of notice that it's coming.
Where are our intrepid travellers this month?
We've got great stories from Mexico, Laos, Colombia, Morocco, Indonesia, Japan, Syria, India, Thailand, Guatemala, Mali, Iran, Argentina, Chile, Jordan, Egypt, Finland, USA and Australia.... And those are just the ones we tracked down! What about you? Get out there on the road and make your own adventure, and don't forget to write!
Susan Johnson, Editor
Why Come to a Horizons Unlimited Motorcycle Travellers Meeting?
You can meet people who don't think you're crazy for wanting to ride your bike to South America or Africa or across Asia, or even around the world! Admit it, all your 'normal' friends and most of your family fear for your sanity! So, this is your opportunity to meet the people who will encourage you in that craziness, share their experiences and advice on how to do it, and maybe you'll meet them again in Mongolia or Timbuktu!
Also importantly, the meetings help to make HU more than just a website - a community of motorcycle travellers - real people, not just e-mail addresses ;-) And last but not least, they make a significant contribution to HU revenue, thus helping us to keep the HUBB and website going! So thanks to everyone who comes!
Meetings and Events, 2011. Mark your calendars and sign up now!
Ireland - 27-29 May 2011. Enniskillen, Northern Ireland. Following the smashing success of the first Ireland meet in 2010, Liam and Drew have volunteered to do it again! Registration open now!
Bulgaria Idilevo, 27-29 May 2011. Details soon!
Germany, (30 min north of Heidelberg), 10-13 June 2011. Registration coming soon!
Australia, (within 3 hours of Brisbane), 17-19 June. Details soon! NOTE: Date changed! Registration coming soon!
UK - 23-26 June 2011. Ripley, Derbyshire. The biggest and best adventure traveller event in the world! 4 days of non-stop presentations in 3 rooms! Don't miss it! Registration open and filling up fast!
HUMM Spain, Llavorsi, 5-7 July 2011. The 5th Annual Horizons Unlimited Mountain Madness (HUMM) event. A three day, no GPS, orienteering event in the eastern Pyrenees of Catalunya, Spain and Andorra. Test your map reading and navigation skills, find hidden secrets and enjoy the fabulous riding. The roads are amazing, the scenery is breath-taking, and the people are wonderful - so why not come on down with us in 2011?! Numbers strictly limited! Registration open and filling up fast!
USA East, North Carolina - 5-7 August 2011. Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge in Stecoah is located near the Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap and the scenic Cherohala Skyway, two of the best motorcycle destinations in the United States. Registration open now!
Canada West - 25-28 August 2011, Nakusp, B.C. It's the 10th anniversary of the Canada West meeting, the location is fabulous for riding and this meeting is now the second largest HU event in the world! Never mind cooking road kill, learn survival skills like how to avoid getting eaten by a bear! RTW travellers Ekke and Audrey Kok are our local hosts. Registration open now!
Colorado - 16-18 September 2011, Silverton - Date to be confirmed.
California - 14-16 October, 2011. New Location - Cambria, Central Coast near Big Sur. Mike and Sandra Dimond are the local hosts for this event. Registration open now!
Germany Autumn, end October approximately. Registration coming soon!
What's a Mini-Meeting?
Dates subject to change, more dates and locations to come as we get them.
How about you? We're all here to learn, and there's LOTS to learn! We want to do more presentations and seminars - but we need volunteers to give them! Any topic you can contribute having to do with motorcycle travel, maintenance, planning, first aid, etc, lasting 20 minutes or more, would be great. Please contact us here to volunteer.Volunteers and Hosts
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. And volunteering is always a great way to meet a lot of people!
If you'd like to host an HU Meeting in your area, please see the How To Host a Meeting page for details.
Vendors/Traders sign up here to join us at a Meeting.
See you there!
Grant and Susan
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 how you can help, and the benefits to you of becoming a Horizons Unlimited Contributing Member or Gold Member!
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Our advertisers and sponsors help 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 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 even better send them to our Advertisers page with your recommendation.
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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.
Too many to list! If you haven't checked out the Links page it's time you did - it's huge, and a fascinating browse.
Get your website listed in the LINKS Section
by listing Horizons Unlimited on YOUR web site, let me know you've done it by mailing me a link to the page, and you may get listed here in the next newsletter and on the Horizons Unlimited web site Links page. To make it easy for you, we even have our logo and link code here! From there you can request your link.
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 of shops listed in out - of - the - way places, from Abidjan to Ghana to Peru! Be sure to check out the HUBB 'Repair shops around the world' forum if you need work done!
When you meet people on the road, and they haven't heard of this e-zine or the website, we'd appreciate it (and hope they would too!) if you'd get their names and e-mail 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!
The US State Department regularly issues updated travel advisories, information and/or warnings.
Tea with Bin Laden's Brother, by Simon Roberts
An Adventure motorbiking graphic novel telling the gripping story of a solo ride through Iran, Pakistan and India to Nepal. Take a look inside...
Part 1 - Get Ready!
Part 2 - Gear Up!
Part 3 - On the Road!
Part 4 - Ladies on the Loose !
Part 5 - Tire Changing!
Miguel Silvestre, Spain, in Jordan and Egypt, BMW 1200GS,
"There are always amazing things when travelling on a bike. All we know that the Egyptian border is a nightmare because the incredible paperwork, the need of CDP and getting local plates and a Egyptian driver license. I had to cross it few days ago and was ready for a long, long time of waiting. Reaching Aqaba, I met a Harley Davidson on the road. It was the first bike in Jordan. They are (or they were) forbidden in the country. He told me he was going to the first Jordan Harley Davidson meeting. Bikes are allowed again in Jordan and they were celebrating the first anniversary of the Amman dealership. I went to the meeting and met HD bikers from all the Middle East.
I met there Omar, Vice president of the Amman HOG. Great guy, he introduced me to Ahmed, President of the Cairo Chapter. He took care of me. They will help to cross the border.
At the following morning I joined the Chapter and took the fast ferry among them. When arrived Egypt, they told the custom officials that they wanted me into the country as fast as it was possible because I was a friend. No bullshit and no jokes with the Cairo Chapter guests. Oh, man, you'd better see by yourself. The Egyptians officials run, smiled and worked out all the paperwork as if the Devil was behind them. I got everything easily and fast. Believe or not, but I crossed the border in one hour and a half by my watch. Much faster than other borders supposed to be much easier to cross. 1:30 minutes, go and out! I'm sure it's been the fastest Egyptian border crossing ever.
Thanks to the Cairo Chapter Harley Owners Group, the most fantastic people riding Middle East."
Kevin and Karen Browne, England, RTW, leaving Japan for New Zealand, Moto Guzzi Spada,
"..We wake at 7 we had no bear visits in the night thankfully and the bear trap is empty. We have a treat as I managed to find some reduced to clear eggs and some cheap bacon in the supermarket yesterday so we have our first fried breakfast for a long while. Its a tardy start and we aren't on the road until 10am a few kms later we spot a cheap cash and carry type supermarket we have used before, we cannot pass it up so go in to stock up on everything. Not too many more kms down the road I just happen to see a sign out of the corner of my eye for a bike shop called 'Twin'. The sign says they deal in Moto Guzzis, Ducatis, Triumphs and Nortons. I need a washer for my wheel spindle and it looks interesting anyway so I do a U turn and go back and boy am I glad I did. The owner and the mechanic appear as we pull up, they don't speak much English but are enthusiastic about the bike and with the help of our card we explain what we are up to which makes them even more excited. They lead us inside and it's our turn to say Segoi (phonetic - wow in Japanese)
The front of the shop has a line of bikes to die for: Ducati 900ss, Norton Commando Fastback, another Commando in racing trim followed by Triumphs, Harleys and a Guzzi T3 California, our tail wagging enthusiasm means before we really have chance to take this lot in he is motioning us out the back and opening and pulling dust covers off things right left and centre. A second world war BMW R75 combo appears next still in sand camouflage complete with 2 wheel drive (driving sidecar wheel) and then another one. He is motioning three to us and leads out to another shed where sure enough there is another one but built by Zundapp this time. Just when we think that there can't be any more he leads us to yet another shed and unveils a 1940?s Nimbus with a chair, an early 1970?s - 750 Sport Ducati and a rare 1930?s (I think ?) Mercedes Benz car.
...We are exploring small side roads and tracks looking for a freecamp we spot a small side road signposted to a natural park which looks promising. Following the steep and winding road we find ourselves at a church. Beyond this is a building that is used for the services and as a music venue. It's all shut up for the winter and there is not a soul around, we start to camp up in the gravel car park beyond the toilet block. This has a roller shutter door on the front but it's not locked which swung it for us.
We are just laying out the tent to peg it out when it starts to rain heavily, we are both a bit ticked off with its timing as we have only just got the tent dried out after its last soaking. I say to Karen can't we just sleep in the toilet block and to my surprise she says she was thinking the same thing. We go to investigate the possibilities bundling the tent roughly back in the pannier and sprint round to the entrance with our belongings hiding them from the rain in the convenient covered entrance. Next I dash back out in the rain and ride the bike round between the entrance and the wall opposite. The gap is just right and I can lean the bike against the wall with it almost upright and still squeeze past the bike to get in and out. We arrange the panniers so we have a seat each and a table to cook on in the entrance while I make dinner. This gives us some shelter from the rain and biting wind but its still cold.
Karen has a look around and reckons the air bed will fit in the gap between the ladies cubicles and the sinks so she lays a tarp on the floor and makes the ladies home while I cook dinner. It sounds kind of gross and we weren't sure whether to admit to it or not but you need to be aware public toilets in Japan are normally spotlessly clean and these are no exception. They have also been cleaned before they were shut for the winter so we have no qualms about sleeping here indeed we are grateful for getting out of the weather, I wouldn't dream of doing this is in a public toilet in England however, they would all be locked at night or vandalised anyway.
We have stir fried Chicken and Pak Choi in a creamy sauce for dinner which is really nice before arranging our stuff. The disabled toilet is our toilet, the Mens is our drying room with the tent and bike gear hanging up to dry and the Ladies is our bedroom. We leave the panniers in the entrance lobby and pull the roller shutter down to keep out the cold. I can't help but mention the similarity to a Japanese hotel room, it is uncannily similar except with more tiles. At least we are dry and warm, which is a blessing as it's a really filthy night cold, wet and windy."
Ian Moor, UK, Wrong Way Round The World, in Mexico, BMW F650GS,
"Arriving in Zacatecas during the afternoon rush hour was complicated enough but the road Garmin wanted me to take was closed off by the police because of an accident causing us to continue in the wrong direction for a couple of miles. As I closed in on the city centre again the narrow, hilly cobbled streets were mainly one way. Garmin was either unaware of this or trying to kill me as on several occasions I was prompted to ride into the oncoming traffic. Eventually we were only a short distance away from the Hostel Don David that we were heading for when Garmin suggested I continued straight ahead up a flight of steep steps to arrive at my destination. I opted to overrule Garmin yet again and rode around the block to park outside the hostel.
In October the week long Festival Internacional De Teatro De Calle (International Festival Of Street Theatre) was held with usually three different performances each evening at the numerous Zacatecas Plazas. The Festival opened with the local opera and dance companies which included my landlady Violeta combining to perform a history of Mexico which I thoroughly enjoyed. The six year invasion by France (1861 To 1867) was covered by a lone actor nervously walking on stage humming the French national anthem and being chased straight back off by the Mexicans! The most moving part was a fairly recent film screened onto the stage backdrop of a 103 year old man being interviewed then singing a patriotic Mexican Revolution song. He had obviously lived through the revolution although whether as a child or soldier my limited Spanish was unable to detect.
The number of free events in Mexico is amazing. There are regular free concerts and performances in the open air plazas and here in Zacatecas in the indoor Casa Municipal de Cultura. Last Saturday evening I wandered between an outdoor rock concert and a traditional Mexican dance performance followed by two guys singing and playing acoustic guitars which can be best described as the Mexican Simon and Garfunkel performing in the Casa Municipal de Cultura."
Ed. Follow Ian's adventures in his blog here on Horizons Unlimited!
Sheonagh Ravensdale & Pat Thomson, 'Dusty Old Bags', UK, in Laos, Honda Falcon NX400s,
"Baguettes and Bombs. You could sum up Laos with these two words, perhaps inadequately, but it's a start. We can thank the French for the baguettes and the first utterly delicious bread we have had for months.
The French were here from 1893 until Lao gained independence in 1954. They weren't very interested in Lao, but they were entrenched in Vietnam, and Lao was a useful buffer against the ever encroaching Thais. They were also keen to keep the British at bay; the Brits were in Burma and eyeing territories eastwards. There are a fair amount of decaying French buildings and a surprising amount of modern French-inspired architecture in the towns where they had a presence. Games of boules are played with fervour in many villages and small towns.
The bombs were courtesy of the Americans who dropped more than two million tons of ordnance on Lao between 1963 and 1974 during the Vietnam War. Lao is the most bombed country in the world per head of population, despite war never actually being declared – this was the so-called 'Secret War'.
Its eastern border area with Vietnam was part of the infamous Ho Chi Minh trail – the supply route for Communist munitions between North and South Vietnam. The Thai and Lao Royal Air Forces also enthusiastically joined in the bombing, while the Lao government also tacitly allowed the North Vietnamese to use the trail...Politics are very complicated in this region.
Whole towns in eastern Lao were obliterated and as up to 30% of the bombs did not explode, they remain nearly 40 years on, a menace to the impoverished subsistence farmers who make up 80% of the population. A quarter of all villages in Lao are affected. Much fertile land remains contaminated so cannot be used for farming, and people continue to be killed or injured trying to collect scrap metal to earn a little money. Children pick up small bomblets thinking they are balls to play with...Have a look at Mines Advisory Group for the work being done by one British charity.
The approach to the Lao border from Thailand looked like a road to a long disused aerodrome. I kept wondering if we had taken a wrong turning (the map was not much help here), then suddenly we came across the border post. We asked about Matthew and Anita crossing earlier that day and got what seemed a very guarded 'no problems' response. (We later heard the Thai customs had tried to scam them.)
On the Lao side the road improved marginally, but there was so little traffic we had to ask which side of the road we were supposed to be on (the right!). It was about an hour to the Mekong river where the road disappeared into a very sandy riverbank for the last 300 or so metres to the ferry. In the wet season that bit probably doesn't exist. I think we bought the whole ferry for the crossing (i.e. we were overcharged and also done on the exchange rate as we only had Thai baht) but it was near to dusk and you don't have a lot of choice or bargaining advantage at that point. Anyway the cost was about £6 in real money.
By dark we made it to Pak Beng, a very small scruffy village and a remarkably lovely guesthouse overlooking the river. As we unpacked the bikes we were accosted with great excitement by Spanish Esteban and his Italian friends. He had recognised us from the HU DVD 'Ladies on the Loose'!
Next morning we miraculously found an honest exchange rate at the petrol station, and she didn't even try to charge us a foreigner price for the petrol as we still didn't have Laos kip. The road north to Oudomxai (signposted with at least 3 different spellings compared to the map) was a string of small villages with puppies, piglets, chickens and toddlers all spilling onto the road so progress was necessarily slow even if the road was good.
Here we bumped into Matthew and Anita and met Ernie, a delightful German, who speaks excellent 'Bertie Wooster' English. He rides a KTM and is a great source of valuable info. We also found out that all Lao ATM's that work with foreign cards extract a rake-off, even if they don't tell you!
We turned onto the main road south and the condition deteriorated instantly... until we turned onto a very minor road to Nong Khiew which was near perfect! NK is at present a lovely spot on a tributary of the Mekong, but I fear will soon be lost to rapid, random tourist development. (What planning?)
There are thousands of jars on dozens of sites but only a few have been cleared of bombs, hindering Lao's application for World Heritage status. They are large (1-3 metres tall) granite things littered around the plain and thought to be either the remains of a giants' wild drinking party or more boringly funeral urns, which doesn't explain their random placing.
Vang Vieng is a so-called backpacker 'paradise' with bars and pounding loud music. We had been advised to stay on the other side of the river, where it was pleasanter, but this involved crossing 'the rickety bridge' (or an equally suspect-looking toll bridge). It’s a seasonal bamboo bridge about 1m wide which flexes and creaks even when you walk across, let alone ride a fully-laden bike across. We were assured it was OK and we did know that Matthew had taken their loaded Transalp across the week before, though Anita refused to stay on the pillion for the crossing.
The Buddha Park near Vientiane is a very strange place. It contains over 200 Buddhist and Hindu cement statues that look old but are not. They were put there by an eccentric Lao priest-shaman in 1958. He then fled to Thailand after a coup and built another sculpture park there.
We came here with Ernie our German friend on the KTM and we also tried his bike out... It is a KTM 640, re-sleeved to 400cc and kitted out for the German army who auction the bikes off after about 6000 km. He shipped it to Lao and somehow got it registered locally... contacts, contacts...
Savannakhet was the next stopover. The scenery east of here changed dramatically to limestone karst pillars with several caves, including one full of Buddha statues, before opening up into a valley with a vast hydro-power scheme construction.
We did have one small problem in town whilst following a water wagon down a very newly made-up bit of road. The bike (we were on one bike at the time) picked up so much clay aggregate that it jammed the front wheel solid. I couldn't move, couldn't get the side-stand down, so couldn't get off and the earth mover contraption was heading down the hill towards me. I was trying to get Sho to appreciate the urgency of the situation, she was trying to get a good photograph, and I had a handful of schoolboys trying to 'help' by ramming the mud further into my rear suspension with bits of stick... Slight and perfectly reasonable sense of humour failure..."
Ralph Kirchmaier and Carol McKenzie, Terra Incognita 10/11, in Colombia,
"...Water, water everywhere. Downpours at 1:00 p.m. are the norm now and with no way to properly dry our clothes because of the humidity we can barely stand each other. Riding from David to Panama saw us go thru three major rainstorms, with us pouring out half a litre of water out of our boots. We finally got a respite in the morning and did a tour of the Canal and area around it, formally owned by the U.S military. They are now working on two more lock areas to keep up with the world demand for more products. We found a hotel (Euro Hotel) downtown with locked parking and the next day took a tour of the old part of Panama City. Seems progress does not work for everyone. The people that are the most poor are being forced out of the older areas to make way for boutiques and 50 story high-rise condos. Some are now literally living on the streets. Carol was drooling in the emerald stores that line many of the streets in this historic part of town.
We waited for a couple more days before heading down to Carti-San Blas and met up with the ship 'Stahlratte' and 18 other motorcycle enthusiasts from 14 different countries. Ludwig and his crew treated us to the best time imaginable. We had a super BBQ on a small island after an afternoon of swimming and snorkeling. The next day was spent just relaxing on the boat anchored in between several tiny islands while others went to explore a reef further out that had a scuttled ship on it.
The next day we took off for Colombia (30hrs. sail time) and were met with some wet weather, seeing as how it's the rainy season.
Clearing customs for both the bikes and us was a very long process even with handlers in place taking care of the paper work. Seeing as how we had no berth to disembark we had to shuttle from the ship to shore and find accommodations. The next day we retrieved our bikes and had to spend most of the day importing and getting insurance. Once again it poured so hard that large sections of Cartagena were under several inches of rain. We had to wait at the importation terminal for 4.5 hrs before being allowed to leave to get insurance. After getting insurance we shuttled back to the ship to get all our gear (saddlebags, duffel bags) all while it's raining. Our bikes had to be lowered onto a motorized dinghy and then hauled off by hand at the pier, very unnerving but it all ran smoothly. We stayed at the CasaMara hotel for three days, seeing the sites of Cartagena and trying to dry out clothes. Hopefully the road to Medellin finds us on dry roads because it's getting embarrassing explaining the new folds of skin between my toes.
...Outside of Cartagena we were able to open up the bikes and make some good mileage. The landscape opened up and cattle were being raised everywhere. I am not familiar with the different breeds, but Brahmas were very prevalent. These cattle were well fed, a far cry from the way they looked in Mexico.
As we rode further and further into Colombia we became more impressed with the country. Regardless of economic status, people's homes were nicely landscaped with colorful plantings adorning their yards. Wherever we stopped along the road to eat or get gas we were treated very well by complete strangers. As always they are curious to know where we are from, where we're headed and how much do the bikes cost. If we were lost people were willing to escort us to our destination, make phone calls if necessary and offered their e-mails or phone numbers if we encountered any troubles along the way."
Ed. Follow Ralph and Carol's trip on their blog here on Horizons Unlimited!
Dom Giles, UK, Alaska to Panama and then some, in Mexico, BMW 1200GS,
"We set off at 9 a.m. and by midday we were soaked. Well when I say we, I really mean Tracy. I had a Gore-Tex jacket and some decent waterproof trousers. Tracy had left her waterproof gear back in the UK in order to keep her luggage light. This was, apparently my idea and seemingly not a popular one at the moment.
It had obviously been raining for days; we were dodging fallen trees, riding through small streams as they crossed the road and slaloming around muddy landslides. It was all very exciting until we came across a very flooded river that had almost covered the road.
20 miles short of Palenque we came up behind a line of stationary traffic. Walking to the front of the cars, trucks and buses, we found another line of traffic facing us and two groups of very damp people looking into a big hole. A 10 metre stretch of the road had been completely washed away, leaving a 20 metre drop to a lot of mud. This had only happened an hour or two before we got there and there was absolutely no way around it.
Dejected and disappointed we turned around. My map had no alternative route around to Palenque and it looked like we were going to have to return to San Cristobel. We wouldn't be able to get to Palenque and therefore wouldn't be able to go on to Tikal in Guatemala.
But then, 20 miles back the way we had come there was a fork in the road that I hadn't really noticed earlier. The route leading off to the right looked like it might be heading in the right direction for a Palenque detour. I looked at my now totally soaked and disintegrating map. There was no road marked on it but then again it wasn't a very accurate map anyway. I stopped the bike and asked a taxi driver. He told me, through Spanish and some excellent sign language, that this road was fully open and, although full of pot holes, we could take it to the main road which would eventually take us to Palenque. I asked him how long it would take and made the mistake of suggesting it might take three hours. He agreed. I knew I shouldn't have done this.
We thought about it for a minute or two and then agreed that we would only regret it if we didn't try, so with boots full of water, soaked to the skin and having not eaten all day we did what we were told and turned off the main highway onto this small road with no sign of where the next signs of life might be.
A huge flooded hole right across the road blocked my way. To enter it I would have to ride down a steep muddy bank and into muddy water. The alternative would be to ride along the edge. A two foot wide stretch of tarmac ran along the edge of the hole. I chose to go along the edge unsure if this was the right thing to do. Tracy got off the bike and walked ahead of me clearing away some of the bamboo and foliage from the edge of the path.
As soon as I started contemplating what I was doing (BIG mistake) I began to panic. Should I almost walk it across very slowly with both feet on the ground guiding the bike (what if my foot slipped?) or should I trust that I could keep the bike in a straight line and ride a little faster. This indecision wasn't helping matters. I needed to make up my mind. I chose to go as slowly as possible and put both feet down. The path was just wide enough for me to place both feet on the edges of it.
Suddenly the seriousness of the situation dawned on me. I was navigating a big heavy machine along a wet narrow path. The drop to both my left and right would cause major damage to the bike and, more importantly I realised, to me. I would fall more than 90 degrees into muddy water with the bike on top of me. This was not helping me keep the bike steady. I tried my best to forget what could go wrong and concentrate on what I was doing. I told myself that this was easy - all I was doing was riding the bike slowly in a straight line. I focused on the front wheel and slowly and steadily I made it across...
Soon after that we came to the main road. It was as if the detour had given us one last challenge to get through and then rewarded us with a well tarmacked main road. Within half an hour and just as the sun was setting, we made it to Palenque. Our ordeal was over. Or was it?
My aim was to make it to a place called El Panchan; a series of cheap cabanas only a few kilometres from the ruins. In pouring rain and fading light I found the gravel (well mud really) turn off. Around the corner I had to stop and laugh. We were merely metres from our destination and a fast flowing stream had broken its banks and was washing across our path. Hard to take but we just couldn't make it. There was no way across the stream and although we could see the lights of the cabins we just couldn't get there. We turned around and stopped at the first hotel we could find on the main road. It was only 6 p.m. but felt like midnight.
...I've just completed my 6 month trip from Alaska to Panama. My bike is now on a ship heading for South Africa and the second leg of my trip."
Pascal (Nish) and Abby Leclerc, Hong Kong, RTW, chilling in Morocco, Kawasaki W650,
"Since our return from Noadhibou, our contact with Moroccan people has become more and more relaxed, laid-back and easy going. We've got used to be talked to by complete strangers and learnt to reply their greetings and questions on a fun mode, shaking lots of hands, kicking the ball back to the kid who passed it to me in such a simple, natural way, asking how things are going to locals we'd hardly seen once, stopping our walk for a short chat with some teenagers standing at corners. If someone wants to sell us something, we now look first and then refuse. By doing this, it seems, we give them 'face' or rather just a chance to do their job, at least they tried, a potential client looked at their merchandise. That's good enough. Buying isn't a must but giving a little of our time by accepting to just take a look proved a much better way to get to know local people and remain in a good mood. In general, that allows us to see very nice artifacts and to learn a thing or two about how stuff get done around here as well.
I feel a bit as if I am in a tender reeducation camp among Berber people. A huge, beautiful one, full of natural, most often kind and welcoming, spontaneity. I've been soaked too long in Hong Kong mostly indifferent and distant atmosphere. It ground my humanity little by little. This habit of reasonably hiding one's emotions led to not having much anymore or perhaps the most extreme like anger, selfishness, contempt or longing for immediate pleasure. This overpopulated city gave me a deep feeling of pointlessness and its mega-materialistic and secured system eroded my desires and my passion for life a little.
I'm re-learning all of that here in Morocco. I surprised myself today by having the first heartfelt good laughter since ages. Abby and me are kidding all the time. I can feel it, I'm slowly getting back to myself, my anger no longer frightens me, I'm feeling more and more at peace with myself and most importantly with the world around me. I'm starting to feel again how good life can be if one doesn't take it too seriously and keep an open mind."
Mark and Bronwyn Hosking, Australia, Indonesia to Australia,
"As the trip from where we were staying on Java to the ferry wasn't far, we thought it would not take long to get to the Hotel on Bali tonight. We set off pretty early and caught a local bus for the 3 hour, 120km journey. The bus driver seemed crazier than normal, I think he may have been trying to do the drive quickly as this would allow him to do the trip back to Surabayer by early evening. We seemed to be going hard and fast all the way to the ferry terminal, except the last few kilometers, when we were held up by a traffic jam caused by a bus having a head on with a truck.
The ferry ride to Bali was ok but due to a ferry jam (no available berths at ferry terminal) it took us over an hour to berth. Then came the real headache of the day.
We decided we would not head into Denpasar until the last day before we fly home, this meant staying on the north side of the island. But to get to the north side of the island by public transport, as it isn't so popular, we had to wait until the mini bus (a Hiace van) had the minimum of 14 people in it. So after waiting for over an hour for anyone else besides the 3 that arrived the same time as us, us westerners chose to pay twice as much (18 dollars each) for a quick exit from the bus stop and head to our hotel. I am not sure if this is a scam they have there as when I did the sums in my head it didn't compute that they would take us at less than double the normal price, and then lose the ability to pick up any more passengers.
Arriving home led me to lots of mixed emotions. I have found it hard to be focused on anything and have felt a bit overwhelmed at times. There is so much to do. My list is so long. Wrapping up stuff from the trip as well as sorting out things at home and work.
Overall the bike performed really well. The major issue we had with the bike was the ground clearance. Most days on the trip we hit something with the bash plate and I found this difficult. This became especially difficult in Pakistan, India and Nepal when the roads got worse. Otherwise the bike was fantastic. I am so glad that B+B made such a great bash plate for the bike that withstood the punishment.
Looking back what would I change?
Equipment- must take
Leave at home-useless
Ed. See Mark and Bronwyn's blog here on Horizons Unlimited for more great stories and pics!
Ronnie Borrageiro, South Africa, RTW, in Syria, BMW 1200 GSA,
"At the museum where we bought our tickets to the tombs, this huge fresco takes pride of place on entry... It was found amongst the ruins and has been restored:
We arrived at the first tomb, The Tower of Elahbel, built in 103.A.D., and the largest example of its kind in Palmyra... We were a few minutes ahead of Stefan, and I waited for him while the Spaniards went in ahead of us...
In the centre of all the ruins, is the only site which you have to pay to get into, but the R12.00 entrance fee is worth every cent!
The Theatre of Palmyra was only discovered in 1952, buried under a mountain of sand, and since then has been completely restored, and is today often used for musical and dance festivals... It was built in 200 A.D., and differs from most other Roman theatres in that it was built on ground level.
The semi circle structure is also small by Roman standards, being only 20 metres in diameter. It was also used for wrestling matches between men and animals... I spent almost an hour in the small amphitheatre, staring down at the huge façade that stands behind the wide stage, imagining the pomp and ceremony that must have gone down here thousands of years ago...
Despite its small size, it is nonetheless an impressive example of a mixture of Roman and distinctly Palmyrean Architecture...
From the low wall behind the top row of stone benches, I could look over the entire site and watched the sun come up and change the colours of the columns form dark to orange and finally into the light sandstone colour that seems to reflect the sun back of their surfaces...
One thing that I had noticed about the Palmyra Ruins, was that in comparison to the Aleppo Citadel, the entire area here was scrupulously clean...! There was hardly any litter about, and this despite the fact there were no dustbins in evidence anywhere... High time a delegation from the Antiquities Department in Aleppo paid a visit here, and took note of this...!
I watched a guy strolling through the ruins with a spade and large plastic bag, collecting all the camel dung, which I believe served two purposes... It kept the area clean, and the dung served as 'firewood'... A win-win situation for both the ruins and the Bedouin..."
Trevor & Chenty Wilson, Canada, RTW, in India, BMW 1200GS,
"It's a Long Way Somewhere! Two Canadians Around the world. The Route - Across the US West to East Fly from Montreal to Dublin Ireland then Scotland and England take the tunnel to France through the Pyrenees to Spain , Portugal and Morocco back to Spain along the Med coast through France again to Italy Greece, Turkey Syria Jordan Egypt and Israel back to Jordan to fly to India up to Kathmandu fly to Thailand down to Singapore over to Australia and New Zealand back to USA in Alaska and ride home to Saltspring Island Canada.
Elroy is a friend of 'Roy' who is our online travel agent from Canada and he suggested we contact Elroy while in Mumbai, so glad we did, he has been so helpful. He also is a biker, he rides a 1974 Royal Enfield 350 Bullet, and yes you do see a BMW sticker on his tank however this is a tank he found and it just happened to fit perfectly! I'm sure he gets a lot of questions on that.
Mumbai's most famous landmark, the Gateway of India was the first sight to greet travellers to Indian shores during the heyday of the British Rej. Ironically it also became the exit point for British troops after India gained Independence in 1947."
Bob and Sheila Oldfield, UK, ATW 2010-2011, finishing in New York,
"...Decided to go down the Florida Keys - there's a 120-mile highway connecting all the islands from Key Largo down to Key West. We originally planned only to go to Key Largo (the first main island), but we got a good deal on a hotel, so went all the way to the end. Lots more soaring bridges - and hundreds of pelicans and storks. The weather has worsened further north with snow falling, and there have been reports of tornadoes and hurricanes at the end of their season in Louisiana. The more worrying thing at the moment though are the signs warning 'Panthers Crossing' and then 'Crocodiles Crossing' - we've come across a few alligators in the rivers at the side of the road, but have watched from a safe distance.
Key West - Passed Miami and Fort Lauderdale - the airport runway starts just at the side of the highway. Frightened the life out of me when I was passing a huge truck, and a 747 passed overhead at about 30 feet! The temperature is certainly getting colder the further north we go - only about 20 degrees today.
Colder again - fortunately we're staying in motels that usually have the Weather Channel, so we're keeping an eagle eye on the snow.
Had to scrape ice off the bike this morning. Into Virginia eventually, and we went from 1.5 degrees up to a balmy 4 degrees. Haven't been this cold since Mongolia!
Another sight-seeing day, this time around Washington D.C. Walked down The Mall, seeing the Smithsonian Institute, the U.S. Capitol building, the White House, and loads of memorials including the Washington and Lincoln Memorials, Arlington Cemetery, the Kennedy Gravesites and the Iwo Jima Marine Forces Memorial. Tremendously impressive buildings and very powerful.
Couldn't even raise 1 degree today. Never been so cold on the bike - we have to stop every hour just to thaw out and try and get some blood back into our digits. The wind-chill factor is increasing the pain factor. But we got through Baltimore, Philadelphia and into New York finally.
=== So we've done it - we've circumnavigated the world. ===
Planned flight home into Manchester. Bikes due next week. The plan then is to arrange another adventure to various countries in Africa (the ones without civil wars, unrest, drought, deserts etc, if at all possible). Back in March this all just seemed like a distant dream. But we've done it."
Ed. Congratulations to you both, and we'll look forward to your next adventures! Read about Bob and Sheila's trip here on Horizons Unlimited!
John and Jane McComb, RTW, in Thailand,
"We arrived in Chiang Mai, which is probably the best known city in northern Thailand on 7th January. We have been here before, around 10 years ago and like many places it has grown and now attracts more tourists. The good thing is that the city centre is surrounded by a moat so this part which is a couple of biggish roads and a maze of small streets hasn't changed that much.
Our visit was timed to coincide with the Horizons Unlimited annual meeting. Some of you will know we have attended Horizons events in Spain and the US before and it's a good opportunity to meet up with others who are/have or want to do some travelling by motorcycle.
Below is a group shot of those who attended.
We stayed a couple of nights in the town of Mae Hong Son, quite a nice little place that has all the things we now associate with Thailand namely a night market, many temples, 24 hour laundry service and good cheap food. Due to the close proximity of Burma some restaurants served Burmese dishes as well. We had a fantastic Burmese green tea salad, very spicy. It probably won't be the same when I try to recreate at home.
We spent some time at the local moped mechanics while John tried to get some bits to help with the hot tyre/exhaust problem we were having. I have come to the conclusion he would be just as happy to visit garages (and maybe a few bars) on this trip and miss out temples and tourist attractions all together. Hence the photo below!
Wat Rong Khun is a bit different from most Buddhist temples in Thailand, traditionally the buildings are white with lots of gold decoration and touches of red and green. This temple is pure white and silver and has been designed and built by a Thai artist called Chalermchai Kositpipat. It's kind of a cross between a Disney castle and a Christmas cake with some modern art thrown in. Because it's unusual it draws big crowds which kind of detracts from the serene environment found in quieter temples."
Bruce and Jean Porter, UK, to Patagonia, in Mexico and Guatemala,
"Meeting people on the road is one of the cool things that happens, it can change the day, dissolve any possible plans and lead you off on paths that you would never normally take. First we met Evan, a Canadian doing the trip on his own. He spotted the bikes, we started talking and decided to ride to Tikal the next morning together.
As we changed out of our bike gear in the car park, two more bikers pulled in, Mike and Alex from Alaska, they had the same model bikes as Evan, so we started talking and now we were five. After touring the site we met up for beer in the evening back in Flores and Mike suggested we all head off to a remote hostel he had heard about, but is never advertised. It sounded like a plan.
It has probably led to the most exciting, exhilarating, white knuckle inducing days riding I have had so far. The off the beaten track roads in Mexico we used with Jim, Tony and Gavin were just a warm up.
Back to riding in a group again, with no one really sure of which way the road we wanted was, as Guatemala probably has the worst road signing we have come across yet (and helpful locals who seem to give you any directions they can think of rather than admitting they do not know the way). It took us over half an hour to find the road. And what a good road, great surface, fast bends and well signposted 'Tumulus' (the Guatemalan Topes). Then the road ran out and we had to take a ferry. Or what looked more like a flat platform, with a thatched cabin and a motor.
The road conditions kept changing, some times we had brand new fresh tarmac, others times it was loose gravel for miles in the middle of road works, and then it just stopped being a road. It was marked on all the maps as Highway 5. But it was little more than a dirt track.
This went on for over 30 miles, it was slow progress and we knew the sun would set just after 17:00, we had no choice but to carry on hoping the rain that was threatening stayed off. If it had started to rain we had agreed we would just stop and pitch the tents as no one wanted to ride the rocks in the wet.
We were all elated when we found the turn off for the hostel, at the same place the real road started again. However we had another 5 miles of dirt track to negotiate, which didn't pass without incident.
The trip was worth it.
A 'thatched' Rancho that has a bar, restaurant and dorms, nestled on a hill top near the village of Lanquin with lush green mountains surrounding it. We arrived (finally) just minutes before the bus came in (it left Flores at 0900 to our 11:00 so I think we had a better time). Jean and I nabbed the last private room.
The place is idyllic; the people (owners, bar staff and guests) laid back and friendly. I partied into the night, and now it's chill out time."
Ed. See more great stories and pics in Bruce and Jean's blog here on Horizons Unlimited!
More stories below...
Tea with Bin Laden's Brother, by Simon Roberts
An Adventure motorbiking graphic novel telling the gripping story of a solo ride through Iran, Pakistan and India to Nepal. Take a look inside...
Motorcycle Therapy, by Jeremy Kroeker
From the Canadian Rockies to the Panamanian Jungle, Motorcycle Therapy rumbles with comic adventure as two men, fleeing failed relationships, test the limits of their motorcycles and their friendship. Get it here!
Lois' adventures in Africa!
"Alone. No support vehicles, no fancy GPS and no satellite phone. Leaving from London, finishing in Cape Town - and the small matter of tackling the Sahara, war-torn Angola and the Congo Basin along the way - this feisty independent woman's grand trek through the Dark Continent of Africa is the definitive motorcycling adventure." Get it here!
Distant Suns, by Sam Manicom
"Sam Manicom's dynamic third book transports you to Southern Africa, South and Central America in an action-packed three year voyage of discovery. a thought-provoking mix of scrapes and encounters with people which illuminate some moments of true darkness. acute observations on everything from human behaviour, to remote and stunning locations. Distant Suns grabs you, enthrals you and spits you out as a convert to the dream of overlanding these amazing continents." Buy direct from Sam 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.
Looking for a travel book for someone special?
There's links to Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, and Amazon Deutschland, so no matter where you are - you can order books at great prices, and we'll make a dollar or a pound or a Euro, which goes a very little way to supporting this e-zine.
There's also links to search Amazon sites for all their products, books, CDs etc., and yes, we get a tiny piece of that too. We really appreciate it when you start your book search from our website. Thanks for the support!
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!
If you have a book or want a book that you think other travellers would be interested in please let me know and I'll put it on the site. Thanks, Grant
Help support your favourite website! Here's how!
Motorcycle Therapy, by Jeremy Kroeker
From the Canadian Rockies to the Panamanian Jungle, Motorcycle Therapy rumbles with comic adventure as two men, fleeing failed relationships, test the limits of their motorcycles and their friendship. Get it here!
Part 1 - Get Ready!
Part 2 - Gear Up!
Part 3 - On the Road!
Part 4 - Ladies on the Loose !
Part 5 - Tire Changing!
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Legal gibberish: (particularly for those in
countries that have more lawyers in one town, just for instance, New York,
not to name any names, than some whole countries, as another example, Japan.
Again, not naming anybody specifically you understand).
Have you been inspired by the stories you've read in this e-zine? Or perhaps you watched the 'Long Way' series and it's got you thinking of a motorcycle trip to distant climes – the markets of Marrakech, the Karakoram Highway in Pakistan, the salt flats of Bolivia, the Bungle Bungles of Australia, the Pan American to Tierra del Fuego?
But you've got questions: Will I be safe? What do I need to know? Which bike should I take, and what gear do I need? And what the heck’s a carnet anyway?
We are proud to present a remarkable series of DVDs - the inspiration, encyclopedia and definitive how-to for everyone who dreams of travel to faraway places, whether it's the next country, or another continent. This insanely ambitious 2-year project has produced an incredible 18 hours of informative and entertaining content - everything you need to know about motorcycle adventure travel!
The series features interviews with veteran travellers, such as Ted Simon (Jupiter's Travels), Austin Vince (Mondo Enduro), Greg Frazier (5 times RTW), , Chris and Erin Ratay (Guinness World Record), Peter and Kay Forwood (193 countries two-up on a Harley), Tiffany Coates, Sam Manicom (Into Africa, Totems to Tortillas), Sheonagh Ravensdale and Pat Thomson and many others. Over 150 contributors from all over the world tell their fantastic and entertaining stories, sharing their hard-earned knowledge from amazing motorcycle trips to every country on earth. Includes thousands of great photos, video clips, presentations and demos by experts.
The series was filmed in broadcast quality wide screen, with multiple cameras and custom written music. Filming took place at Horizons Unlimited Motorcycle Travellers meetings and on location in the USA, Canada, UK, Switzerland, Spain, Germany and the South Pacific.
There is also a 'Collectors Box Set'- all 5 DVDs in a custom box.
If you already have all the DVDs, and would like just the box to put them in, the Collectors DVD boxes are only $10 including shipping to anywhere in the world.
What the press say:
MCN (Motorcycle News, UK)
Motorcycle Mojo, Canada
Backroads Magazine, USA
Motor Cycle Monthly, UK
Road Show Magazine, USA
What our viewers say:
The DVD's are not 'region-locked' and we have both PAL and NTSC (North America) formats stocked.
Special thanks to our generous sponsors of the Horizons Unlimited Achievable Dream Series, Touratech and Michelin!
Darius and Jane Skrzpiec, RTW, in Mali,
"We arrive early at the very quiet border in Gogui, get the passports stamped and proceed for the Customs to Nioro. It only takes few minutes to stamp our carnet and we're free to go. No one is asking for 'presents' or any fees.
As we're crossing the border everything seems to be more easy than in Mauretania. There is petrol in every small town, one can buy vegetables in the market and even beer is freely available."
Zoran & Tamara Gricar , Slovenia, in Iran, Yamaha 750 XTZ Super Tenere,
"Ghazvin and Alamut valley - We continue east along a very boring straight road towards Ghazvin. Stay overnight in a nice guest-house Abrisham with kind and helpful staff, walk through city bustling streets and visit bazaar... it's kind of strange feeling walking around, everybody stare at us like we are from another planet. We don't feel very relaxed. Beside they cheat us in one of street kebab restaurant, where we pay 10 USD for, I'd say, nothing.
Next day we gather information about the Alamut valley in the hills north of Ghazvin and in the late morning we're already on the way. Soon we leave the plain behind and rise along winding road up the hill; on the other side a magnificent view opens in front of us... the landscape is like being drawn, it flashes with interchanging colours of yellow reaped fields, colourful rocks and green oases in the valleys and villages. We descent, ride through a village and start ascending again; find a nice spot for camping before we get too high, with a marvellous view on the endless landscape of smooth hills and valleys. We wake up in the most beautiful day, the morning sun is making magical iridescence of shadows and light."
Ed. See Zoran & Tamara's blog here on Horizons Unlimited for more stories and great pics!
Gosia Woynarowska and Andy Woynarowski, Poland, RTW in Argentina,
"Today the weather cleared up and we finally got to the Iguazu Falls! Amazing place and and amazing experience"
Björn Holland, Germany, RTW, in Colombia, BMW F650 Dakar,
"...in Colombia headed for Panama and hoping to find an ignition coil waiting..."
Brian and Deya Mendoza Dominguez, Canada/Mexico, Americas north to south, in Mexico,
"As we entered Guanajuato we had to go through a series of tunnels, it was like a dragon's den of passages, some going deeper into the mountain, some going up and some just going on into the darkness. There were interceptions in the mountains and every time you emerge from a tunnel you find some other cool part of the city. People were everywhere walking around and the place had a very artistic feel. Having arrived in such a cool place after a good ride made me a little awestruck and super impressed. A World Heritage Sight, we decided to spend two nights even though it is a little expensive for our budget. You can find places to stay from about $200 pesos per person to as high as $2500 pesos. You can stay right in the heart of the city for $700-$800 pesos, which is pretty good. We found a place near the Mercado (Market) for $350 pesos and it had the secure parking we desired.
We met several good folks and toured around the town on foot. I think that this would be a great place to spend a couple of weeks just walking around and exploring. They have a large university and hospital and plenty of things to see and do, even just hanging out at one of the parks drinking coffee would be a great way to spend time. There are theatres, museums and many other attractions worth seeing as Guanajuato is famous for the Route of Independence. We checked out one piece of property and it was in a wicked area for about $350,000 CND. It would probably need renovations of (I'm guessing) no more than $100,000 CND and you would have a blow me down cool place or business right in a major part of the city. Anyways, Guanajuato is an awesome place to visit and I would recommend it as one of the coolest cities I have ever visited."
Kev Hatchett, UK, writes urgently to the HU Lima Community:
"Hi, yet another problem has cropped up! We were on the road today heading to Huaraz when we got a tug from the Careterra Policia. After checking my paperwork he informed us that we were illegal because we didn't have a Peruvian license. Apparently my UK license is only valid for 30 days in country, we have been here now for 6 weeks. The cop said we would have to go back to Lima to get the license and will have to pay a fine of 1800 Soles! Does anyone know if this is a requirement or can I just keep on going? Will I have problems crossing out of Peru into Ecuador? Hope someone can help with this fairly urgently, don't want to be stuck in Huaraz too long waiting for an answer! Thanks"
Bill Dwyer, USA, writes to the HU Santiago Community:
"Hey everyone in the Santiago area! I am currently traveling to Tierra del Fuego. I am in Calama right now. Just crossed into Chile from Bolivia. I need a new right side crank case cover for my 2001 Kawasaki KLR650. Anyone know of dealers that may have one? I know Kawasaki parts are usually harder to come by. Thanks for the help in advance! Bill"
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Grant says: "The Omega system is simply a must-do for all airheads" (And I have the starter too!)
Tim Nadin and Daisy Denniss, UK, in South America,
"Never thought I'd wish for good old fashioned mud dirt roads! All gravel, like riding on marbles with corrugations at the moment with really strong side winds, hard work! Met a really nice family at the campsite though that have invited us to stay at their house in Buenos Aires. The ride to the Chile border was really nice, lots of monkey puzzle trees on the mountains, like a scene from Jurassic park. Border crossing took ages, but this area is stunning, lakes, snow capped mountains, waterfalls, rivers and wild flowers all over. Campsites bit more expensive over the border and its raining which we keep getting told is not normal!
There's lots of National Parks through this area and we had a fantastic ride through one called Conguillio. There's a snow capped volcano that erupted 2 years ago and you can see all the lava flow devastation (that's what the photos of black stuff on Flickr will be in case you cant tell!) Then we rode through the forest on a cool dirt road to see the lakes.
All the houses have changed to wood cabins, some huge posh ones and some just little huts. The poverty doesn't seem as bad here as a lot of areas we've been through, maybe as it's more touristy that helps, again it has a more European feel about it. The campsites are a bit more expensive but usually nice. We stayed in a really nice one and had it all to ourselves. The field behind us had fire flies in it at night, which I did think to start with was rather a lot of one eyed cats as there was quite a few cats on the site! We actually fed a pair of wild hawks in the site too with a bit of Tim's steak which he wasn't very impressed with. Must just mention the Chile and Argentinean hairstyles, mullets and rats tails are definitely in!"
Ed. Read Tim and Daisy's adventures in their blog here on Horizons Unlimited!
Mick Høy from Denmark, South America, in Chile,
"Not that I wanted it to happen, but it simply had to - just too long time since my last stunt. I must say, it was a thrill and still is riding down those gravel roads! Feel the bike sliding from side to side when the rear tyre is about to pass its limit and grip on the gravel, while a sky of dust is raising behind me as long as the eye can see.
I would kill myself if I had a 990 Adventure! Bump and there I lay in the curve with the bike next to me, it all went so fast... It means work in Santiago. In fact I was thinking about having an accident that morning when I got out of the bag.
...Right now I am heading for Santiago to hook up with Tomás Harrison Maturana. Met him on The HUBB. Tomás invited me to stay at his place while Bea comes over to Chile and we pay Faasa and her colleges (Spanish company operating with helicopters in Chile) a visit.
Belinda and Patrick Peck, Australia, in South Africa,
"...Next leg of the journey, we flew to Johannesburg to travel with our son, Johnathan for 7 weeks and then daughter, Kate for 7 weeks on a KLR650 that we bought for them when we were in South Africa last! The KLR and our Super Tenere (Miss Adventure II) were both stored in Potchefstroom, near Joburg with our wonderful friend Dries Van Schalkwyk while we were in Europe for South Africa's winter. Thanks heaps Dries and Jimmy for all your help and support.
We had a wonderful time travelling with Johnathan in amazing Lesotho, Swaziland and along the Garden route up to the Hell, Baviaans and most of the South African passes, putting on 8,500km on the bike! He is such a great guy and a pleasure to travel with...so positive and happy and easygoing. The kids had a great week together, so we had 2 bikes 2 up which was a hoot and they went cage shark diving, did winery tours, rode the bike around the Cape of Good Hope and checked out our beloved Capetown. Johnathan then handed the keys over to Kate to ride the KLR on her own! She is so confident and willing to learn and will try anything... also a pleasure to have around! How are we so lucky to be blessed with such wonderful travel companions and friends in our kids!"
Ed. See Belinda and Patrick's travel stories here on Horizons Unlimited!
Jay Kannaiyan, USA, Latin America and Africa, in Argentina, Suzuki DR650, writes to the HU Madrid Community:
"Hello, My name is Jay and I'm 1 year into a 3 year RTW ride. I'm from India but started this trip in Chicago in March 2010 and rode thru Latin America this past year. I am heading to Africa next and want to enter at Morocco. From Buenos Aires, I am taking a Grimaldi boat to Hamburg arriving around March 15 and then riding across Europe to Madrid before crossing into Morocco.
I have a friend who is coming from the US to Madrid and he is bringing me a package with spare parts for the bike from sponsors and some new clothes and a camera lens. I think I am going to miss meeting him as the boat is getting delayed here in Buenos Aires and it is affecting my arrival date in Madrid via Hamburg (it's complicated). Would someone be willing to hold the package for me from my friend? He can only stay a few days in Madrid.
If you would be willing to help me out, please let me know your address and a phone number and my friend will contact you when he arrives in Madrid to hand over the package. Don't worry, it's just motorcycle parts and gear for the trip. I should be in Madrid around March 20-22. cheers, Jay"
Jesse Williams, Australia, writes to the HU Santiago Community:
"My name is Jesse, I am a 24 year old Aussie heading to your city/country this august. I am planning my trip to include a lot of Chile and south America and have it pretty much under control, Except the bike. I am worried i will not be able to find a bike, register it and leave the country. Any help on the topic would be greatly appreciated, as would anything you think I might like to know. I would love to help anyone out in anyway I can, or pass on some information about Australia if you like. Hope to hear from you guys/girls soon. Gracias"
Laura Seaver, USA, writes to the HU Viedma Community:
"Hello, We are passing through Viedma, heading north. My husband needs an oil filter for his Kawasaki KLR 650. Is there a motorcycle shop in Viedma that might have one? If not, where's the best place to look for one? Thank you."
Sherri Jo Wilkins, Australia/USA, in Finland,
"...Onward and upward from Estonia to Finland! From here I must take a ferry. I started to think that this motorcycle trip around the world includes so many ferry rides... seems like I am cheating!
But then I remembered that the earth's surface is 75% water.. and I'm on a motorcycle, what do you expect Sherri Jo? Just be glad I don't have to put on scuba gear and ride through it!
...Next morning I am to meet Mari at Rukka. I am so happy to be here, because my riding gear from Rukka is incredibly important. As I had mentioned before, I learned that Rukka was the best gear you can have early on in my research for this journey. And now that I have been wearing it every day for the last 5 months, I can honestly say that their advice was right! I ride in pouring rain all the time, and the suit keeps me dry, and I have fallen down enough to know that the protective pads do their job! And I think the gear looks great and holding up perfectly after going through so much every day, that is quality! I'm sorry to sound like such a sales lady here, they didn't ask me to, but it's just the truth and if I could recommend one thing from this journey it would be to get Rukka - no question!
...My route from Finland was going to be over to Sweden, down through Denmark and into Germany. However as Mari and I researched the 10 day forecast in her office, this was not going to be a smart option. Too much cold and snow on the way for the next several days.
So, back down to Helsinki which offers a direct ferry all the way to Germany. Once in Germany, it's pretty fair to say that the temperatures are marginally better, staying above 0 C.. which is good enough for me.
We sailed through the night, so not much for photos. I arrived Rostock Germany, and set to making a new route plan. Just head straight south! The farther south I go, the warmer it will be!"
Hubert Kriegel, France, Sidecar-ing the world, in California,
"Lorraine flew from New York to California with a connection in Atlanta to celebrate thanksgiving with Jessica. As I wanted to be in California for Christmas and being too late to reach Marrakech before, with Jessica's complicity, I managed to take a plane from Geneva and surprise Lorraine with a rose in my hand at the Atlanta hub. It was a success, a total surprise for her; she was in shock when she saw me. Milou also was very happy.
I'm so glad it's not my turn to ride under the snowy highway, I enjoy California a lot!"
Ed. Hubert is a Horizons Unlimited 2010 Photo Contest Winner, and his winter photo on Lake Baikal is on the cover of the 2011 Horizons Unlimited Calendar! Check out Hubert's website for lots of great pics!
Kay and Dachary, USA, Boston to Ushuaia, in Ecuador, BMW F650GSes,
"On the outskirts of Machala we are presented with four kiss-no-tell-motels, which Dachary is surprisingly into checking out this time. 'I don't want to go into the city' she says. I'm not thrilled with dealing with city either, and later I find out that she'd read in the book that Machala is 'dirty' and 'not safe'.
We pull into the swankest looking one, ask one of the dudes how much ($11 for 5hrs) which is pretty steep, but the place looks high quality...Well, as much as you can tell from the garages and enclosing walls. But, we figure that since we don't even have to get off the bikes to check these out we should see what the others are like and what they cost. We skip the Club 69 simply because of the name. Motel Miami looks kinda skanky, and Hotel California you can practically see the bedbugs scampering beneath the giant curtains to hide the cars.
We go back to the swank looking one, pull into one of the garages (with real garage doors), walk up into the place and see that it is, in fact, swank. Round bed, fancy multi-person shower, circular mirror over the bed, big mirror beside it, air conditioning... Only downside? No top sheet or blanket. I guess they figure you're just coming here to boff each others brains out for a few hours and don't really need them.
There's a menu on the wall, with some interesting extras: Viagra, Preservativos, Protectores diarios, cepillo dental, Pasta dental (that kinda scares me, is it dental floss?) KY, Aspirina, Alka Seltzer, Sal Andrews, and a few more. We ordered some food and a couple sodas, but decided to skip the $280 bottle of wine. The food was tasty, and included our first encounter with a Bell Pepper since the US, but neither of us seem to have much of an appetite. Also, I threw my back out of whack this afternoon. I have no idea how. We'll have to work around that. We can't let these mirrors go to waste..."
Jill Maden, house sitting her way around Australia
"...Game Over - The last 395km from Lakes Entrance back to Melbourne should have been a beautiful ride along the South Gipsland Highway but unfortunately the weather broke for my final ride and I got completely soaked! The final approach to Melbourne meant joining the freeway system and navigating my way through roadworks, heavy traffic and a number of tricky junctions. As with the approach to any major city, this was a nerve wracking experience, but I managed to find all the right roads at the right time and made it back to my friends' house without incident.
So that's it - the ride is over. In the last 7 months I've ridden from one side of Australia to the other and back again, covered 15,630 km, avoided floods, cyclones and heat exposure, met some of the kindest, most helpful and genuinely nice people I could have hoped for, and had the time of my life.
I fly out of Melbourne to Hong Kong on 10 March, spend a week with my brother, then from Hong Kong to London on 17 March. Between now and then I'll have to try and sell the bike and squeeze my expanded load of luggage back into the 2 bags I came here with."
Ed. Read Jill's stories on her blog here on Horizons Unlimited!
Graham Holden, UK, writes to the HU Santiago Community:
"Hi, I'm currently on a RTW trip and will arrive in Santiago in two months time, I'm flying the bike in and if anyone can help me get the bike through customs etc and give me any more assistance I would be really grateful as I have little Spanish language. Thank you. Graham"
Nozomi Watanabe, Japan, writes to the HU Cape Town Community:
"I am Japanese now traveling in Kenya. Now head for Cape Town. I want to transport a motorcycle to South America from Cape Town. Please tell us the motorcycle company that can transport."
Ed. First stop is to check the Shipping Database!
Ilario Lavarra, Italy, around the Americas, in Venezuela and Brazil, on an old old Vespa (40 years old),
"...I started in NYC and I went to Dead Horse - Prudhoe Bay Alaska. Now I'm in Venezuela and I want to arrive in Patagonia, and come back to NYC. At the moment I have ridden for 40,000 km...total trip is about 100,000 km.
After 6 months on the road on my little, small, old Vespa I've arrived in Venezuela. It's a very strange country: everything is very cheap, especially gasoline (0,70 bolivares (0,01€) for one litre of gas!.. .with 0,07€ my tank was full!). Many people told me it is also a dangerous country. I don't know, I did not have bad experiences, but the truth is the poverty is very diffuse. Anyway, in Venezuela I discovered one of the most gorgeous places of my trip: Salto Angel, the highest waterfall of the world (983m!)... To arrive there was a great experience: by a little airplane and then by a canoe... and the waterfall is so beautiful!
Now I've arrived in Brasil, the continent in the continent! Precisely in Manaus, a city in the middle of Amazonian Rainforest. The 2000km from Ciudad Bolivar (Venezuela) to here were great: I had to cross the Gran Sabana and after that the Amazon. The road was not so terrible, but there were a lot of small holes... and for my small wheels that is a big problem!"
Trevor Skipsey, Australia, writes to the HU Lima Community:
"Hi Lima community...thanks for getting back to us re mechanics in Lima for our sick Honda in Nazca. It looks unlikely that we will get it fixed and now need advice from anyone... If we dump it here or scrap it does any one know how we go about leaving the country without the Aussie registered bike. Is there any one we should (or shouldn't!) contact... Has anyone heard of any problems etc. We are sad to have to leave it here but options are limited. Also any info about buying a bike in the states as a non us citizen would come in useful. Thanks again for all the helpful contacts. Cheers Skip and Rachel"
Matthew Elke, USA, writes to the HU Santiago Community:
"A couple of weeks ago I bought a Suzuki DR650 in Santiago that now has a broken engine case. It seems the best option is to buy a complete engine from the USA and have it shipped down to me in chile. My questions are, would there be high taxes or import duties on the engine? Would it be cheaper to pick up the engine in say Santiago or Valparaíso rather than in Talca where I am living? Would it be difficult to change the paperwork for the motorcycle (i.e. Pardon) now that the engine numbers will be different? Thank you in Advance"
Quick response from Juan La Rivera:
Bas, Roel and Steve, (Dutch Dangleberries), Netherlands, Americas, in Argentina, XT Yamahas,
"...On Wednesday we entered the national park around Volcano Llaima (one of the most active volcanoes in Chile, last active in 2008), the Ruta Interlagos. Because summer is still a month away here, we were the only ones riding this great gravel route, with fantastic views on the white topped Volcano and lava rivers.
Then... on a rocky downhill part... Bas had difficulty controlling his bike and hit a rock. His ankle got swollen quickly and we couldn't drive any further. We gave first aid near a river to keep the swelling down and find a ride to the nearest village. Roel and Steve took care of all the gear.
Bas is back home with his broken ankle. A surgery, 4 screws and a metal plate. His bike is still in Chile and we are in San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentine. Although Bas broke his ankle, the Black Elephant was already supposed to finish the trip on Bas' bike. But, who is the black elephant?
The Black Elephant, a.k.a Roger, a.k.a. 'de man die alles kan'. He handles aircraft, helicopters, cars and bikes. Is the fastest man on earth on a dirt bike and smokes the pipe like no one else.
Ok, serious. If it wasn't for Roger, we might not even be in South America. We used his garage, tools and knowledge for over a year to get our old bikes ready. By then, the idea was born that he would come over at some point to join us. So... that is what's happening now.
The only thing is, that we got quite used to Bas and all his habits. We decided Roger has to do everything Bas used to do. Bas always navigated, maintained all our bikes, set up camp, inflated the air beds, cooked, got all the beers, did the laundry and entertained us every time we were bored.
Ok... serious again. We are ready for the Black Elephant (BE). Welcome aboard Roger."
Martin and Jo, UK, in Morocco, by Pascal and Abby Leclerc,
"We were having lunch at the terrace in front of a restaurant near the seafront when a couple of British riders popped up and introduced themselves, Martin and Jo. They stayed at an hotel nearby and had spotted our British plate. Martin, a big strong fellow, rode a superb white BMW GS1200 and Jo, who looked a bit like Lois Pryce with her flamboyant red hair, was his passenger. We invited them to sit at our table with us and conversations leading to stories leading to shared memories, the night soon fell without any of us having noticed how much time had passed."
"...I bought a used Netbook off a guy in Phoenix on ADV Rider. When I called to pick it up on my way south, he said, 'I have some Australian motorcycle travellers staying with me'. I said, 'It wouldn't be Ken and Carol Duval would it?' He was as amazed, as they were, when I arrived. I had met them on their first RTW trip back in 1997 but we have kept in contact via email. Ended up staying the night and going for a barbecue at Al and Julie Jesse's as well, so they were surprised to see an unexpected extra too.
Ken is rebuilding his R80G/S before continuing in North America next year. They have gone back to Oz for Christmas."
Ed. See all Ken and Carol's stories from their RTW trips here on Horizons Unlimited!
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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 800 world travellers listed, but there are many more. Have YOU done it? Let me know!
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