The Achievable Dream 5-part series - the definitive guide on DVD for planning your motorcycle adventure. Get Ready! covers planning, paperwork, medical and many other topics! "Inspirational and Awesome!" See the trailer here!
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So you've done it - got inspired, planned your trip, packed your stuff and you're on the road! This section is about staying healthy, happy and secure on your motorcycle adventure. And crossing borders, war zones or oceans!
On the Road! is 5.5 hours of the tips and advice you need to cross borders, break down language barriers, overcome culture shock, ship the bike and deal with breakdowns and emergencies."Just makes me want to pack up and go!" See the trailer here!
Tire Changing!Grant demystifies the black art of Tire Changing and Repair to help you STAY on the road! "Very informative and practical." See the trailer here!
Ladies on the Loose! For the first time ever, a motorcycle travel DVD made for women, by women! These intrepid women share their tips to help you plan your own motorcycle adventure. They also answer the women-only questions, and entertain you with amazing tales from the road! Presented by Lois Pryce, veteran solo traveller through South America and Africa and author of 'Lois on the Loose', and 'Red Tape and White Knuckles.'
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Home Motorcycle Travellers' News Report - November 2012, 94th Edition
Motorcycle Travellers' News Report - November 2012, 94th Edition
Are you a TRAVELLER? Are you interested in the bike that survived Hurricane Sandy, the highest woman motorcyclist, crocodiles in Nepal, dinosaurs in China, icicles in Chile, dolphin spotting in Cambodia, leech-attraction, suicide bombers, the Belgrano Beer Festival, motorcycling legends, a thousand-spiked tree... and much more? Then you're reading the right newsletter!
Welcome to the 94th Edition of the motorcycle travellers' e-zine! Hope you like the new look!
November has been a month of recuperating from the 2012 meeting season and planning 2013 meetings, including a couple that we're starting from scratch with a new venue, which is mega time-consuming! I am working slowly through the meeting paperwork and starting to follow up with memberships, so apologies to anyone who is waiting for their HUBB upgrade, and I promise to have it done this month. And Grant promises faithfully to have all the 2013 meeting registration pages up this month too, so people can start to register!
We've also been working on the website, dealing with a number of annoying things that have been broken (and reported!) since the new site design went live in May, but we've only recently had time and energy to focus on them. For example, we have finally implemented Google paid search as a replacement for our old search engine, which was totally broken! It's live on the site now (top right of every page), so give it a whirl. You can also reach it directly here. It may need some tweaking, so let us know if you have any issues with it.
There's a much improved Books section with hundreds of books in it, but we had asked for search and filters in it to make it easier to find a particular book or author, or all books about Africa, for example. That has now been done (yay!) and the search and filters should be live within the next couple of days. See the Books section of this e-zine for examples, and do check it out on the site. If you start your search for any book from Horizons, we get a small amount from Amazon, and every little bit helps. :)
We have several bigger projects pending - the Shipping database, country wikis, communities and blogs, but we're dependent on our Drupal development shop to do the technical stuff, and we're not their highest priority! So it's been a bit frustrating, but we hope to have some more things to announce by the next issue. Stay tuned...
Andi and Ellen Delis with us at HU California - Grant even needed a haircut before the meeting! :)
Grant continues to recover slowly from the prostate surgery. He compares himself with other guys who have had the surgery and bounced back quickly, but he also had 6 months of chemotherapy and hormone shots prior to the surgery, and that's all had an effect on his general health and recuperative powers. His doctors keep telling him to be more patient with himself, but that's like telling a fish to fly ;-) He's finally able to sit down at a desk again, but we're struggling to get back to working even a 35-40 hour week, much less our previous level of 60-70 hours a week.
But all things considered, and compared to last year at this time, life is very good! Except for the rain, but it is Vancouver after all... As a thank you to our loyal e-zine subscribers (and to see if anyone reads the e-zine intro ;-), we are giving a 15% discount on any Store order over $20 for the month of December only. The discount code (enter when you checkout) is 'ezspec' (case is unimportant). Happy holidays!
Where are our intrepid travellers this month?
We've got great stories from Argentina, Cambodia, China, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Laos, Mexico, Nepal, Panama, Paraguay, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Turkey, Uganda, Venezuela, and even Canada and the USA!
...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! Seriously, there are so many travellers out there now that it's hard for me to keep up with them all. If you send me a couple of paragraphs and pics every month you'll have a much better chance of making it into the e-zine! We try to link to your blog/website if you have one. If you don't have a
blog, we can help,
and it won't cost you anything.
This newsletter is provided as a complimentary service for travellers everywhere,
both on the road and (temporarily ;-) off. Your support is greatly appreciated.
"We rode straight to the front of the line of jeeps and waited for the military guard to wave us in. In a matter of moments we were back in the building with Frank, our English-speaking guide, going over the importation papers. This time they looked good so now we were able to start the process. For us it was incredibly easy. A simple form, in English, needed to be filled in and then presented to the passport control officers. They were really easy-going and we were stamped into China in a matter of moments. Back to the motorcycles and this time it would be a bit more time consuming to get them imported. A specialist, brought in by China Overland, took care of the entire process.
Chinese Customs official
While we waited by the bikes it started to rain and a customs official came out and suggested we wait in the passport control building until the procedure was completed. Very nice! After about 20 minutes we were called back to the bikes to show the customs officials where the engine serial numbers are located on the two bikes. We had no problem finding the VIN but the engine numbers were tricky. We had been asked for these numbers when starting the process back in June and we had asked the mechanics at Motorrad Zierer to look them up and then we simply forwarded the numbers to China Overland to prepare the permits. We had never actually seen where the numbers were inscribed. So we searched high and low on our filthy motorcycles to no avail. Eventually it was decided that we could go, with the admonition to not sell the engine and install a Chinese motorcycle engine when we left China. OK.
...On the way out of town we stopped at a gas station and we were a bit confused. We were directed to the side of the station, away from the pumps and told to use cans to fill the bikes. The cans held 10.5 litres and since we thought we needed about 30 litres we had to go back and forth three times but we didn't want to buy too much fuel and have left over either. It turned out that we needed more than the 31.5 that we bought and as a result only one bike was topped up and the second bike could have taken another litre or two.
The Adventure is a very tall motorcycle when on the centre stand so it was difficult to hold the can high enough to pour and not spill any gasoline on the hot engine. Through Frank we learned that this is the way the small Chinese motorcycles are filled because it is too dangerous to fill them at the pump. We of course saw the system as not only time consuming and awkward but also as much more dangerous than simply using the pump. What was also interesting was a comment made by Frank when we suggested that we could simply override the staff and fill the bikes at the pump. He said that the video monitoring would record our bikes and then China Overland would be fined for breaking the rules.
Welcome to Erlynhot, China
As the dusty day descended into dusk we came upon a perfect road, lined by lovely vegetation and with very few trucks. As we found out later, we had entered the county of Beijing where everything is beautifully well kept as the nation's capital. Then a few kilometres later, riding a lovely curvy road in the mountains we could make out a wall perched on a hilltop. Spotlights were lighting the wall and it made for a fantastic sight. The Great Wall of China.
Unbelievable. We had actually ridden our motorcycles all the way from Germany to the Great Wall of China. Our hotel for the evening was at the base of the wall at Juyongguan Pass. While it was relatively new it had been built in the traditional style and was simply beautiful as it was bookended by the two gates of the Great Wall. We had to pinch ourselves to confirm that we weren't dreaming. How could it be that we had ridden our bikes here?"
"..This will be sort of an unusual blog post. Today is the day they have decided for Sherri Jo to attempt a world record. I still don't understand why they want to put one of their bikes at risk. This is rough stuff and I can seriously damage something badly, at least I think so. But also, I want them to focus on their world record, not me. If there is time and energy after they have done the job they came here for, then yes, for fun I'd give it a go. But they were all clear they wanted me to do this today, on Walter (Colebatch)'s bike, and get it out of the way.
We had a good snow last night. I'm nervous as all heck as you can imagine. I don't consider myself qualified for this sort of thing. I did feel a ton better about it though, after riding Walter's bike to the base camp yesterday. Gee whiz, that was the craziest ride I have ever had on a motorcycle. And what was weird about it, I truly liked it! What a difference it is to ride a motorcycle not loaded with any gear in the sand, too fun!
Now to add to my worrisome self, the snow is a drawback and I told them I'd rather wait until the snow melted (as it's doing already in the sunlight) and so I can see where I'm going or what I'm about to hit. As usual, what I think is the opposite of what I should think. They convince me that having snow is better and in fact, we better hurry before it melts... For real? They tell me the snow is colder making the soft rubble underneath it a bit more frozen. Hence, harder giving me more grip until the sun warms it up. I'm not sure I buy that theory. They may be right, but I think it's more just to get me on the bike and go rather than listening to all the excuses I come up with.
Walter adjusted a couple things on this bike yesterday for me and he'd just as soon have me finish using it so he can re-adjust the bike permanently back to where he wants it.
Right. I suit up. The guys have been up this hill already. Walter's eye is much better (thank goodness). He and Lukas ride with me. With only three motorcycles, Barton opts to hike up being the mountain climber type of guy he is. Walter does the best he can to explain to me what to do in certain scenarios, and says 'try not to stop'.
I struggled and struggled in the beginning. I really thought this is going to be impossible for me. The air is so thin. We are at 40% oxygen. It's so hard to breathe. My heart is pounding out of my chest just sitting here! I got the impression this is the goal destination, but it's not. There's more!
I got past the bad patch and right into another bad patch. It was an alternative route they suggested thinking it would be easier with less deep sand. Less or not, it was freakin' deep, and with the big hidden rocks grabbed the wheel and took me down. Dag gone it! The good news, falling over doesn't hurt a bit. I went down a total of 3 times. But they were right, once I got past that ridge, it was a fairly easy track.. thank goodness!
Walter had me stop for a photo at where he feels he knows to be the highest elevation achieved by a woman before - at 5400 meters. He is always full of fun facts. When we traveled in Russia together, at each lunch stop I'd get a run down of everything we were seeing including statistics. I used to call him the Encyclopedia if I wasn't calling him my other favorite name, Captain Magadan.
Walter's idea to line the bikes up and take group self photo. They are amazing guys, and this is just so cool! Very proud to be here with them.
We went back down to the Tejos shelter to see if Barton is here yet. He is not, but I got to see Penitentes for the first time. I never even heard of these things before! Wikipedia says: 'They take the form of tall thin blades of hardened snow, or ice, closely spaced with the blades oriented towards the general direction of the sun. Penitentes can be as tall as a person.' They are very close to the trailer and what an amazing work of natural art!"
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Next Tour Dates: June 2 - 9, 2013 | July 15 - 22, 2013
We know there are riders who want to experience the challenges of a demanding motorcycle tour through the heart of the Alps. So, we designed a Ride4Fun tour that fulfills all longings: tough riding, long days, challenging roads, riding up to and spending the nights in mountain chalets above the tree line, where the view is unobstructed all the way to the glaciers, the pastures and the moon and the stars. As all Ride4Fun tours run without a luggage van, we carry our valued belongings on the bikes, the usual way for touring people.
We start in Innsbruck, Tyrol and ride all the way south on beautiful and challenging roads to South Tyrol in Italy, and then back through East Tyrol to Innsbruck. We cross famous Alpine passes like Passo di Stelvio and then take hidden, very narrow, very challenging passes like Plätzwiesensattel, which you'll remember the same way you'll recall staying at mountain huts close to the glaciers. Here we breathe Alpine air and history like we've never done before!
"...The main cities of Mexico are well connected via toll-roads, but these can get very expensive even on a motorbike. For our ride to Guanajuato we decided to pick our way through the free-roads, or 'Libre' as they are labelled out here. This adds a huge amount of time onto the journey, as the speed limits are much lower, and the route passes through countless small villages. Despite the use of Sat Nav and intercom, having to navigate our way through Guadalajara was tough, and we soon found ourselves stuck in heavy traffic heading in the wrong direction. It was a long day, but we managed to reach Guanajuato by sunset.
Guanajuato is a fairly large colonial city located in a deep valley. The streets are extremely narrow and winding, and it has an amazing network of underground tunnels connecting the different areas. These can be a nightmare for a motorcyclist, as they are poorly lit with very slippery wet cobbles. Both Dave and I nearly dropped the bikes whilst navigating our way through the maze! Colourful buildings cover the mountainsides for miles around, and using the motorbikes we were able to reach a stunning viewpoint."
Chad and Kyla, NZ, 2-up on a Chinese 250 in South America, in Venezuela,
"...Up early, it's nice to be on the road again. After 15 minutes ride I see a strange shape on a power line. Stopping to investigate we realise it's a sloth who had a shocking experience and its' hooked claws were holding it up on the line. Not much fun for the sloth.
The muddy parts were a bit easier as the road had dried out a little and I knew the best lines after having been this way and walked back already. We got through with a bit less drama than a maintenance crew heading out to service the communication towers, giving them some water and keeping on going. There wasn't much we could do and they were working their way through with a Turner winch.
It's south again the next morning and off down the road, which is a mixture of dirt mud and seal until we get to a river. There is a small village here and a big old riverboat tied to a barge as a ferry they take us across for a small fee seeming surprised. I think the ferrying business has all but dried up for them now their only access to the world is down the river. I think the locals are saying we can't go further but I can't really understand so we go for a look anyway.
The bridges get bad until we get to a river where the bridge is burnt out completely. There's a body of a car which tried to cross at some point and it's a long way to the other side. Frustrated, we decide to eat lunch.
I noticed a side track back a bit so we investigate. Nope, no way that way either. Back to the road. This must be why the army and locals and everyone was saying don't go. Silly gringos.
...After another exhausting day we make it to the village 100 km before Huamita, and find it has a place to stay. A beer and an early night for a long sleep in something that resembles a bed. A guy in this town sells fuel from his shed which is a relief, as it would be a bit touch and go to get to Huamita. This next section of road is very bad because it gets used. It takes a few hours to get out to Huamita and the rest of the day before getting into Porto Velho. Looking for a hotel a very kind bus driver sees us confused, finishes his route, and returns to show us the way."
Accommodation in the village. Clothes could stand by themselves now.
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"The drive over the mountains from San Cristobal to Santo Domingo de Palenque is under 250 km, but takes almost 5 hours because of the curvy road and the hundreds of topes. The town of Palenque was fairly quiet, but there was a traditional dance competition one night in the main square.
The Archaeologic zone is a 7 km ride up the mountain from the town. Palenque was a Mayan city whose ruins date back to 226 BC. It was abandoned around 1123 AD and it was overtaken rapidly by the jungle. Most of the site has been excavated and much of it has been restored.
Palenque is medium-sized compared to its rival city Tikal, but it contains some really nice architecture, sculpture, and carvings. Much of the history of Palenque has been reconstructed from reading the hieroglyphic inscriptions on many of the monuments.
Wall carvings, Palenque
We were a bit disappointed by the number of vendors inside and the extent of the Disney-like manicuring of the park which both detracted from the magic of the site. The lower less visited part of the park contains several clusters of unrestored ruins. This also leads to the museum which is very well done."
Heike Fania, Switzerland and Filippo Fania, Germany, Europe to Australia and beyond, in Nepal, BMW F650GS and BMW R1150GS,
"Nepal consists of high mountains and white peaks - that's what we thought. So we were really surprised to find out that it has also areas with tropical jungle forests, with tigers, elephants and crocodiles.
There are several national parks in Nepal, where you can experience the jungle and its wildlife. We stayed at the Bardia National Park for a few days, and went for an excursion deep into the jungle, where we sometimes got closer to the wildlife than we actually wanted - well, this refers only to the leeches that found us somehow very attractive.
Heike on bridge
We watched a big herd of wild elephants; we saw lots of footprints of tigers and rhinos, huge spiders, colourful insects, and crocodiles with more than 2 metres - an amazing experience.
We have seen Mount Everest today - it is apparently one of these peaks... but were not sure which exactly."
"It was another scorching hot day. I arrived at the Iranian border post at Sarakhs (not to be confused with Sarahs on the other side of the border) about 1pm and it was a great relief to finally leave the twilight zone of Turkmenistan and to be entering Iran. But with all the bad press Iran receives in the Western media I wasn't sure what sort of reception I would receive at the border post.
I needn't have worried. The Immigration officers were very professional and one was particularly interested in my travels through Central Asia. Also I had to dig out my carnet again which I hadn't needed since I left Pakistan. Again I needn't have worried. The Customs officer was a woman and she was the first person I had met that actually knew how to process the carnet without help. The entire border crossing was conducted in a very logical and efficient manner - completely different to the nightmare in Farap when I entered Turkmenistan. All up, it only took about an hour in total and, suddenly, I was in Iran.
The rocky ridges of the Koppe Dag range made a pleasant change.
Something else that was completely different was the terrain. Shortly after leaving Sarakhs the countryside changed from low dunes to barren rocky ridges. I had not seen anything other than flat semi-desert plains since entering Uzbekistan from Tajikistan several weeks ago. It certainly made for a pleasant change of scenery.
...As soon as I crossed the mountain pass and dropped down to the narrow coastal plain the weather changed almost immediately. No longer was I riding in dry desert air. The air became very, very humid. I had not encountered weather like it since the heat wave days in northern India three months ago. It was still only 35-40° but it felt much hotter. I stripped down to just a T-shirt under my jacket but the sweat just poured out of me.
The surprisingly green terrain on the road to Gorgan.
It was as I trundled along the highway to Gorgan, trying to stay out of the path of the usual collection of maniac drivers wandering all over the road at 140km/h, that I began to notice an odd but repetitive sight. At many places along both sides of the highway (and sometimes on the median strip if it was wide enough) hundreds of families had pitched small tents and sun shelters and were enjoying quite elaborate picnic lunches. What is so odd about that? Well may you ask.
You see, I was in Iran and Iran is one of the most conservative Muslim countries in the world and we were still in the holy month of Ramadan. Not only that, we were in the last ten days of Ramadan which are particularly holy to Muslims. This means all good Muslims should be fasting between dawn and dusk, not wolfing down picnic lunches in public places!
We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto.
It wasn't until several days later in Tehran that an old Iranian gentleman explained what was going on.
Apparently there are certain categories of people that are exempt from the fasting requirement of Ramadan. One of these categories is 'travellers'. All travellers are exempt from observing the fast. The question is: how to define a 'traveller'. Depending on which school of Islam you belong to, it is a person who has to travel either 15 or 16 farasikh which can be equivalent to anywhere between 77 and 138km.
So, during Ramadan, many Iranians apparently feel the urgent need to visit relatives who just happen to live more than 77km away! That way they can have their picnic lunch with a clear conscience. Very pragmatic, but not quite in the spirit of things."
"Ethiopia simply has the most beautiful people. The children are adorable, gracious and always curious. While traveling they run to the edge of the road, sometimes onto the road (not so good), to make sure you do not miss their wave and smile - both of which are hard to miss. Though they have a reputation of throwing rocks at passing vehicles, that was not my experience. Walking in the streets or through the markets you will soon have a few little friends wanting to follow and hold your hand - wanting nothing more than some companionship and to practice their English.
Whether in the capital of Addis Ababa or out in the rural villages, the women were the most attractive of the trip. They exhibit an exquisite balance of classic beauty and mild exotic features. Approachable and always in good spirits despite being some of the poorest on the continent, I enjoyed the people of Ethiopia very much."
"After we felt we had exhausted our 'allotted beach-time' for the whole year, we left the quiet tranquillity of Taganga Bay and turned our back on the coast for a couple of days in search of some respite in the damp foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Now this is where we belong - cool, damp and green! There we found a little village anchored on the banks of a gushing river, boasting idyllic pools of crystalline water and enough hummingbirds to last a lifetime.
Giant bamboo-type greenery
We have both now come to the conclusion that the hummingbird is the by far and away the most amazing bird we have come across on this planet. It somehow manages to combine 'erratic' and 'elegant' all at once. And they are tiny petite little things, so delicate but completely frantic - we became completely entranced watching them as they fluttered and darted about, their bright colours a blur in their incessant, exhausting activity.
...After a couple of days cooling down in the foothills, we reluctantly got back on the bikes and made the last dash of our South American trip, over to Cartagena. Not a long ride, but one that took us from lush green foothills to bustling historic city, passing through some incredibly impoverished areas where stagnant water lay pooled in front of corrugated iron shacks, the slum housing huddled down, barely kept water-tight by flapping tarpaulin sheets, tied together with strings of washing.
But this is not a slum on the edge of a big city that is common in South America. This is a town that once thrived from fishing until a massive causeway was built to connect Santa Marta to Barranquilla, effectively cutting off a body of water and creating a man made lagoon. This has had a hugely detrimental effect on the fish, wildlife and the lives of the people in this town, which now appears to be degenerating at a fairly rapid rate. But beyond the poverty ridden causeway, and beyond the large industrial town of Barranquilla, lay the historic walled city of Cartagena.
After several days of absorbing the historic delights within the walled city, we began preparing for our journey across the Darien Gap which would end our epic journey across South America, and introduce us to the new lands of Central America! Woohoo, we made it! To cross the Darien, we were booked onto a 40m sailing ship, the Stahlratte, captained by the jolly Ludwig. Our preparation for this trip was simply taking the bikes down to the docks the day before, for loading. Our queries of how on earth are we were going to get our bikes aboard was casually brushed aside as Ludwig pushed Chris's bike off the edge of the wooden jetty- Nooo! My bike! Luckily there was a rubber dingy waiting to catch the bike before it launched into the sea, and so it began - Our introduction to Ludwig, the crew, (consisting of Floyd, Max and Maggie), and the boat which was to become our home for the next four days.
...after three nights and four days on the boat, we unloaded the three bikes, (ours, plus Winston's from the US), and unloaded ourselves, ready to make our weary way to Panama City. Stood on dock waving as the ship sailed off into the perfectly blue sky, we slowly turned around to face the ominous black sky of a storm coming our way, dragging itself over the forested mountains which we had to cross, and which was surely going to get us very, very wet!
...Back at our little hostel, just outside of the big skyscraper district, our small front patio area was slowly filling up with more and more motorbikes! Just by luck, we had managed to land ourselves in a hostel where bikers travelling south were meeting up before they embarked on the Stahlratte, sailing to Cartagena. And of course when like-minded people get together there is lots of talk about! Over the next few days, (between spending six hours over two days at the Aduana to import the bikes - nightmare!), we chewed the fat, discussed routes and helped solved bike-problems over beers and a bottle or two of wine."
"...Was it the weariness felt from months on the road, or was that bed really that comfortable? I thought as Idris and I sped up the 93 towards Radium Hot Springs with a bustle more associated with being late for work, than the final stages of a mammoth bike ride. I slept late. Something I don't often do, even when work is on the cards back home. So I quickly settled on the fact that that bed really was that comfortable, and the Village Inn in Windermere really was that peaceful and quiet.
Road to Radium
And we were back enjoying the road, and what a road! But I'll let the pictures and your respective imaginations capture that. I couldn't help thinking that perhaps I should have stayed at Radium Hot Springs when we rolled through town, as it was littered with accommodation, most of which with parked two wheelers outside - and most of which of the American iron variety. But perhaps not. Perhaps I had needed that moment of peace last night to set me up for the day's wonders. Perhaps I was secretly worried about the name of this town? I was OK with the hot springs bit, but Radium? Just how exactly was this spring water heated anyway!"
"Both of us found Kazakhstan was quite a difficult place, not because of administration, or people but because of how empty the place is and how little people travel about. And because few people go anywhere, there didn't seem to be much of an infrastructure.
But we didn't know this until we got there, having waited at the Russian/ Kazakh border for several hours in searing heat and at the mercy of swarms of midgey fly things. The boys in Astrakhan had given us some potion to sort them out though - baby lotion mixed with baking soda. it did work but the swarms were still too much.
They were horrible and they got everywhere - up your nose, in your ears, on your face. Everywhere and the air was thick with them. We had one net hat that somebody had given Nadine in Astrakhan, but it wasn't that good as the netting was too short and ended at chin level so they still got in, although one hat was better than no hat.
There was a vast and very noticeable change between the landscapes of Russia and Kazakhstan. Whereas Russia had been very lush and cultivated, Kazakhstan was dry and arid, with buildings made of mud instead of timber.
...By now, we knew we needed to get a train across the remaining bit of Russia as we would be unlikely to reach the Mongolian border within our remaining visa time, and overstaying would mean huge trouble and arrest. So we decided to get the Trans Siberian to Ulan Ude. This stops at Petropavlosk but then the train line crosses and recrosses the border several times, yet nobody could tell us whether by being on the train, we would be classed as in transit and so not actually entering the country. So in the end, we had to ride to Omsk in Russia, 300kms beyond the border and catch it there. But at the border post we were arrested - for accidentally violating our Kazakh visa.
According to the guards, we were supposed to reiterate it each time we stopped for the night. They meant revalidate it, but this was something we had been told we no longer needed to do; it was a left over from old soviet admin. But nobody had told the border guards that, and we'd been camping most nights anyway, so would not have been able to do it. But they wouldn't listen, and kept asking us to explain ourselves. But we hadn't got anything to explain - we had done what we had done, so we settled in for a long wait. Eventually, and after two hours of us watching their chief play backgammon, they cracked first and allowed us to go. We didn't get fined either - which was probably what they were after all along - because as they said to us 'If you had money, you would be on bigger bikes' Really."
"We left at 1.30pm from Albertos, we had 281 km to do before dark which is 5.30 pm. No prob ... errr wrong, the first 100 km was straight... ho hum.
The next 181 was like a cut up and broken supermoto track with more corners than you can poke a stick at, for 90% of it there are NO straights between the corners, totally sweet when having a dudes ride but not so great when trying to make time.
A military checkpoint was the main feature, we were stopped at 5.20 pm with 48 km to go, they took our VIN numbers, rego, names etc, opened cases etc so we blew about 10 minutes of precious time, so 5.30 when we waved goodbye and basically dark.
Upon leaving a vicious dog raced out and went for my leg, for those of you who have seen the movie 'I Am Legend' with Will Smith you will know what it looked like... Spooky does not come close, anyway long and short of it I managed to get the first kick and got it clean under the jaw sending it of line and slightly dazed but he also had a crack at Ellen albeit a slightly distant one so she was good... I think it was put off by me! Yay!
Arriving in Yecora in the dark at 6.30 pm we broke all the rules on not riding in the dark, anyway we got away with it and started looking for accommodation, at the first hotel the guy wouldn't budge on his inflated gringo price so we left.
Zipping around town in the dark was less than ideal, we spotted another place and went in, the right price, Wifi, off street parking so that ticked all the boxes.
Ray of light from above... someone was looking down on us
Having left Yecora at a reasonable time we arrived in Creel mid afternoon, finding home again was the challenge.
Ellen wanted to camp as the weather was fine so we went to the only camping ground, the lady wanted $200 pesos just to camp, we had to walk to the showers and toilets and make sure the stray dogs didn't piss on our tent, given we wanted to do Copper Canyon the next day sans gear this was also a concern for security.
I wasn't keen to get ripped so we rode out, straight across the road to a nice looking hotel, they said $400 pesos, we wanted to stay two nights so I negotiated a rate of $250 pesos per night for the two nights... that will do.
Creel was a cool wee town, we stayed the two nights so had the chance to have a good look around."
Ian Moor, UK, Wrong Way Round The World, in Argentina, BMW F650GS,
"A young Argentinean Customs Officer at the Fray Bentos, Uruguay/Argentina border processed my motorbike into Argentina. He was very keen and doing everything by the book but was still unsure how to process a non South American registered vehicle on the computer system. I was almost pleased when he wanted to see my vehicle insurance which I had finally succeeded in buying the day before in Colonia, Uruguay. I had tried without success to buy the compulsory insurance in Chile, Argentina and Paraguay but fortunately had never been asked to produce the certificate at police check points or any of the previous border crossings apart from when entering Paraguay where a bent policeman had an organised scam operating with an unofficial border 'helper'. I had almost given up trying to get insurance and didn't try at all in Brazil because of the language problem. It's difficult enough trying to buy insurance in Spanish but impossible (for me at any rate) in Portuguese. Being able to produce the certificate at the Argentinean border made the time, effort and expense worth while.
Fray Bentos, Home Of Corned Beef & Meat Pies To The Left. Argentina Straight Ahead
A short distance to the north lay Villa General Belgrano which, despite its very Argentinean name, has an old fashioned southern German feel about the place. General Manuel Belgrano was one of the leading liberators in the war of independence against Spain and the creator of the Argentinean flag. The village was established in 1930 by two Germans. Following the WWII battle of the river Plate in December 1939, 130 sailors from the sunken German pocket battleship, Admiral Graf Spee decided to settle here. With its alpine architecture, microbreweries, 'Café und Kuchen' (Coffee & Cake) restaurants and an annual Oktoberfest Villa General Belgrano keeps its German heritage alive.
The Belgrano Beer Festival is the third largest Oktoberfest in the world after Munich, Germany and Blumenau, Brazil. The festival gets under way with the ceremonial tapping of a barrel of beer at the front of the main stage. The barrel is well shaken to ensure plenty of spray and foam drenches those nearest to it. Once the barrel is tapped the remaining beer is poured into the waiting beer pots of everyone within reach but only those close enough to get showered by the beer will be close enough to fill their tankard!
Tapping The Barrel Ceremony, Belgrano Oktoberfest
...On the short, 162km (101 miles) trip from Santa Rosa to La Cumbre the bike started giving trouble. The engine has never been 100% since the rebuild in Cuzco, Peru. It leaks oil and each time I examine it I discover a missing bolt, broken stud etc. The bike cut out as I slowed to cross a dam and wouldn't restart. Having pushed it to the end of the dam I found the oil level low and most of the radiator was cold indicating a low coolant level. I didn't want to risk taking the radiator cap off as I suspected the engine had overheated although no warning lights had come on.
The engine did restart after it had cooled down and I was able to cautiously ride to a garage and top the oil up. I continued gently riding towards La Cumbre but couldn't engage first gear when I had to stop at some traffic lights. After stopping several more times to allow the engine to cool down I eventually limped into the hostel with a sick engine and no first gear.
The bike has done 62,104 miles (99,366 kilometres - it almost made it to the magic 100,000!). Considering the age of the bike, the mileage and the problems following the first engine rebuild, it wasn't going to be worth having another total engine rebuild done to repair the gearbox. I checked the engine the following day when it had cooled and discovered coolant in the cylinder which meant a second top end overhaul. Córdoba wasn't far away and I arranged for a truck to take the bike into the BMW dealer there. I was supposed to ride in the truck but when it arrived I was told they wouldn't be able to take me and I had to catch a bus.
The bike had already been unloaded in the workshop by the time I arrived several hours later. When I explained the problem with the mechanic and the workshop manager they said that they would need to check what parts they had in stock then they would be able to say if the bike was repairable. Due to severe import restrictions it takes at least two months to get parts into Argentina and depending on the cost of the repair it might not be worth doing. Naturally we were having this conversation on a Friday afternoon prior to a three day weekend to celebrate Columbus Day so it was going to take almost a week before I discovered the fate of the bike.
The River In Cordoba - The Last Photo I Took Before The Camera Died"
...Whatever the decision is regarding the bike the rest of the trip needs re-planning. I had intended to fly the bike to New Zealand after touring Patagonia. I need to investigate the customs implications of leaving the bike in Argentina or Chile. It is currently in Argentina on a temporary import permit which stipulates that it must be taken out of the country when I leave. The best I can hope for is that the engine can be repaired without costing more than the bike is worth.
If it can I will attempt to ride it to Ushuaia without first gear and hope the bike doesn't suffer any further problems. I will need to avoid dirt roads with steep hills as the bike won't be able to get up the hills in second gear and I would be too terrified to try and go down the hills in anything but the non existent first gear! If the bike breaks down again I will have to abandon it. Ideally it would be nice to get to Ushuaia and then back to either Santiago or Buenos Aires and then be able to give the bike away to someone for spares."
Ed. We'll keep fingers crossed you can finish your trip. Follow Ian's adventures in his blog here on Horizons Unlimited!
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Tiffany Coates, UK, RTW traveller, at the BMWMOA rally in Missouri, R80 GS,
"Yep, I was off to the BMW MOA Rally in Sedalia, Missouri. We rode up in groups from the Ozarks and gathered in the GS Giants Camping area.
Lots of fun and laughs, and I got to meet a female motorcycling legend... Voni Glaves, who has ridden over a million miles on BMW bikes.
There is a lot to see and do at the MOA Rally, including the rather bizarre firing of a heavy item into the air every day at 4pm. I'm not sure what that was about. Plenty of talks and seminars and also all the exhibitors, including several old friends, so I had quite a social time.
Meanwhile, there was some 'work' being done at the off-road course. The sneaky sods are making everything wetter including the already deep, slippery and tricky mud section. Step forward the driver... Yep, it's that Sonny Johns from Texas - he had a bit of a telling off from me about making the course more difficult.
The next day I tracked down a bike similar to Thelma. Her owner agreed he had the same wheels as me, and then while he was looking the other way, I proceeded to remove the rear one. I popped the wheel onto Thelma and went for a practice run in daylight. Although the tyre was well-worn, it was a good deal better than the tyre I already had and so I negotiated to borrow the wheel for the competition. Step forward Scott 'Voice of a Choirboy' Nogrady, owner of the GS in question and who happily agreed to share his wheel with me, the only slight obstacle being that he was also competing, so we would need a bit of slick work in the pits to swap over the wheels between bouts. Competing??
Yes, the woman who does not like competitions and hates it when people are watching her ride had agreed (over a beer or two) to take part in the GS Giants competition. As the smallest person and sole female competing I wasn't in with a chance but I hoped I might inspire other women to take part. Everyone was very supportive and now that I had the offer of Scott's wheel, I would at least be able to get Thelma around the track through the mud and sand.
The competition was due to take place the next day so we all went out to discuss tactics... in the bar However, the guys were distracted by the karaoke and proceeded to bring the bar down with their singing. Even after the DJ had tried to finish, the guys were still passing the microphone around the table... Green Day's Closing Time will never sound the same again to me after its raucous rendition by the GS Giants."
Gene and Neda, 'Lightcycle' from Toronto, RTW, in USA, R1200GS and F800GS,
"We are moving very slowly, spending at least a couple of days at each stop to recharge. The nomadic task of setting up and tearing down camp is less tedious when we can stay awhile and enjoy a day's rest, especially since we've seemed to stay ahead of the impending North American snowfall. By contrast to our sedate pace, the land speed record set by a vehicle with wheels is 1,228 km/h (faster than the speed of sound). This record was set just around the corner at the Bonneville Salt Flats (how's that for a segue?), just across the Nevada/Utah border.
As we approached the salt flats, we were amazed at how expansive the surrounding area is, all covered in greyish/white layer, most of it is a thin crust above thick mud. We saw the tracks of off-road vehicles that have done donuts, ripping up the surface and leaving mud trail scars. The actual Bonneville Salt Flats has a much thicker crust of salt and is more suitable for attempting land speed records.
Moonrise over Bonneville
The Bonneville Salt Flats look like a sheet of ice at certain angles. We tentatively walked out onto the surface before taking the motorcycles out, as there were still some wet patches from a prior rainfall. We were surprised at how much grip there was, the salt wasn't loose at all. The surface of the flats felt like sandpaper.
The Bonneville Salt Flats are a remnant of a huge prehistoric salt lake that dried up 150,000 years ago. It's one of several dried salt lakes in the area, but it's the largest, measuring over 100 square kilometers, giving land speed racers enough running room to get up to maximum velocity.
Although it would have been fun to visit during a race to see all the exotic vehicles, we did have the Bonneville Salt Flats all to ourselves, and we felt like kids walking and riding around, and taking photos all around the area."
As a thank you to our loyal e-zine subscribers, we are giving a 15% discount on any Store order over $20 for the month of December only. The discount code (enter when you checkout) is 'ezspec' (case is unimportant). Happy holidays!
Road Heroes - Motorcycle Adventure Travel Tales, 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). Not to be missed!
If you've been inspired by the stories you've read in this e-zine and are keen to get on the road yourself, the Achievable Dream is the definitive 'How To' series on long-distance motorcycle travel.
This insanely ambitious 2-year project has produced an informative and entertaining 5-part, 18 hour DVD series: "The ultimate round the world rider's how-to DVD!" MCN UK.
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.
The 'Collectors Box Set' is also available - all 5 DVDs (18 hours of informative and entertaining content!) in a custom box at a gift price of $139.00. "The series is 'free' because the tips and advice will save much more than you spend on buying the DVD's."
After selling over 6,000 DVDs, we're pretty confident you'll like them. If you're not completely happy with them, just let us know within 30 days of purchase for a full refund or exchange. And you don't even have to send them back!
"...My brother-in-law Ken collected me from Newark Airport, and drove us out to his home in Freehold... Although it was dark by the time we arrived there, I could see that the recent snowfall in the area had done much damage to the trees in the neighborhood... The snow that had fallen a few days before was still piled up on the sidewalks and in the gardens... The roads were dry however, so I had no qualms about riding the bike to Pennsylvania over the weekend... Ken and Karen drove me over to Jack's house in Monmouth Beach to collect the Big Fella... I was excited at the prospect of being on the bike again, and looking forward to the ride to my good friend Doug McIllwain's home near Pottsville in Pennsylvania... At times on Parrot Cay I had felt lost without the bike close by... I often thought about the times I would go and stand near the bike and run my eyes over every inch of it to see if there was anything amiss before my next ride... Lately, since my fall in Alaska, there had been many things 'amiss'!
A block away from Jack's home, excavators were hard at work piling the debris from the recent 'Megastorm' that had devastated the area... We wheeled the Big Fella out of the garage and hooked the battery up to Ken's car to jump-start the bike... We tried a number of times but the engine would not turn over... It sounded like there was no compression... I removed the exhaust to see if that would help somehow and was amazed to see a torrent of water pour from it! Clearly the water level in the garage had been higher than Jack had originally estimated!
The red ring shows the height of the exhaust, which must have been below the water level in the garage when the lower levels of Jack's house were flooded...
I could only imagine what must have gone through their minds as they watched the waters rise around their home!
We removed the spark plugs, and all four coils and found that they were soaking wet... While Jack cleaned them off, I began saying a prayer that there was no serious damage to the engine, and that it would eventually start up... We tried several times to get the bike started after this and were just about to give up, when with a loud burp, the engine turned over and my trusty companion roared to life!
'Ah... There you are! And about time too!' he seemed to shout over the noise.... 'A funny thing happened while you were away!' I did not hear the rest, because Jack came up to high-five me, saying that he never would have believed we would get the bike started...
'It's a BMW!' I shouted... 'Of course it was always going to start!' Jack leans in close to give the Big Fella a congratulatory kiss! I think he was as relieved as I was to hear the bike running again after its recent ordeal!
Just as I was preparing to put all the bits and pieces back onto the bike, I noticed that there was a red light flashing on the dash and the oil indicator was also flashing! I checked the manual and saw that it indicated low oil pressure... I then checked the sight-glass and noticed a milky shadow where there is usually just oil to be seen!
I quickly switched the motor off and after consulting with Jack and he in turn chatting to a BMW service technician, we decided that it would not be a good idea to ride the bike anywhere just yet, let alone to Pennsylvania!
Despite starting up with a throaty roar, all is not well with the Big Fella! Seems he has water in the engine! I put in a call to Doug, who very kindly suggested that he bring a trailer over to New Jersey to collect both the bike and I, and take us back to his place in Pennsylvania... Once again the Biker Brotherhood had come through for me! As I write this, Doug and his friend who owns the trailer are on their way to the house, from where we will drive another half hour over to Jack's place to collect the Big Fella... We will spend the next few days draining and replacing the engine oil and filters a few times until we are satisfied that the water has been purged from the system... I hope to fire it up tomorrow and take the Big Fella for a short ride before leaving him with Doug for the next few months until I return in April next year... Will keep y'all posted on how things go!"
"Vilcabamba to Peru. (not the easy way). Because of a little confusion we headed South without a full tank of gas and hit some of the most horrible roads I had encountered yet. Take a close look at the surface. I can tell you with a heavy bike like this, it is still kinda fun, but mostly not. Thank God I had put the TKC80 tires on.
I don't think we ate dirt that day, but little did we know, we were in for a few days of this and worse. Much worse.
We finally got to a small town and the chain was very loose with no adjustment left in it. We found a place to wash the bike first and the kind man who washed the bike, would accept no money from us. People here are sooo damn nice some times.
We went to a little bike shop and started to look at the chain situation together. Once we removed the pannier, it was evident, the bracket would need some repairs too.
After the bracket was welded, the chain broken and shortened we found a nice little hotel to stay in and settled in for the night. This was the 'Real' Ecuador. There was not another gringo in site.
It was pretty obvious this little town had a lot of pride.
(We had a) huge meal for a couple dollars. The Ecuador food may lack a little flavour at times, but the portions and value somewhat compensate.
Me looking maybe just a tad bit tired, but happy as hell.
We finally got to the border of Peru. Holy shit, what a ride. Clearing out of Ecuador was a breeze, but holy crap was the Peruvian side ever messed up. Be prepared for a lengthy clear-in at this border! I've heard the same story from other people after-the-fact as well."
Danielle Murdoch, Australia, Australia to Africa, in Uganda and Rwanda, Suzuki DR350,
"We had spent the night in a small town not far from the Uganda / Rwanda border, but then because Rwanda is such a small country, distances between towns are so short, today's goal of Gisenyi, was a mere a 60 km ride away. 60 km is nothing to us as we usually travel between 200 to 400 kilometers (depending on destination and road conditions). We tried very hard to take our time with everything. We slowly packed our bags and loaded our bikes, but we still hit the road at nine in the morning. We then tried to take it casually and ride slowly on Rwanda's beautifully paved roads through sweeping hills and past pristine rice fields, but less than an hour later we reached Gisenyi.
...Our time in Kigali ended and we packed up and left for Burundi. The best thing about Rwanda is that it is so small. You are only doing short days, therefore feel freer to stop, and so we took a small detour to visit the Kings Palace in a small town called Nyaza along the way. The traditional huts are replicas of the original ones that originally sat on the adjacent hill. We were shown around the several different huts and the newer Belgium built palace. It gave us a better understanding to what life was like as a king during those times."
"...I saw Kieran's bike swerve, the back moved from left to right as the angle became sharper and the movement of the back wheel became more pronounced. Within 2 seconds it was beyond controllable, the back wheel slid sharply to the right then back left bringing the back wheel almost in line with the front before finding traction and vaulting Kieran off and in-front at almost 90kmph. The bike, now unmanned, was quick finding a more stable angle, it slid on its left side as soft, broken, exterior pieces began to present themselves on the road. I braked hard and moved to the verge, completely unable to comprehend what was happening and entirely unsure as to whether or not Kieran was going to be conscious.
I was in line with the wreckage as I stepped off the bike. I turned around and saw Kieran standing, crouched and ready like an open-side flanker defending on his own line. He looked like a man of action and for a moment I feared that in a haze of confusion he was going to tackle me. I extended a halting hand and told him to sit down, afraid that he may worsen whatever injury he had suffered. But those Elliott bones held firm, his body was still neatly together and his limbs were all doing their job at the correct angle. I told him again to sit down but he wasn't having any of it, he was lifting his bike up and that was that.
We righted the wreck and pushed it off the road and into the verge to asses the damage. The bike had taken a fair hit, a broken screen, indicator, barkbuster, mirror and pannier were the most notable. We picked up the debris and spent an hour or so double checking everything and repairing anything we could. A few days previously Kieran fitted a Shinco tire in Novosibirsk to replace the ruptured Heideneau we had on since Alaska. He had reported a loose feeling in the back wheel the day before but put it down to the tire not being scrubbed in. The same had happened as the bike went out of control. With this in mind getting the back tire off his bike was now a priority. We got back on the bikes and drove on for another hour or so bringing us to Komsomol'isky Rayon.
We had just entered the town when we saw a BMW dealership on the left. They didn't have a motorrad department but explained they were closing in 20 minutes and said that if we wanted to sit in the office, drink coffee and eat cake they would take us to a tire shop when they closed. We did just that however the tire shop had no tires suitable for our bikes. A phone call was made on our behalf and soon enough the owner of the BMW garage arrived down with a few friends on bikes, hands were shaken and the usual game of charades and Pictionary began. Before realising what was going on 4 tires were produced and offered to us, we asked where they came from, having just been told there were no suitable tires in the town. One of the guys turned and pointed into the workshop where his bike was sitting, now tireless. We stood like fools for a good 7 seconds before asking 'you took these off your bike?' 'Da', he replied. 'For us?' 'Da'. Many handshakes later we had two new tires on the bikes, we made our way to a hotel and settled in early, both very glad to be alive and both very aware that we're not home and dry just yet."
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"After a night of roadside camping and the sun rising over my shoulder, I rode back down the dirt road retracing my tracks. I made it back to the main road. I found the intersection where I had turned... and the sign for Parque Agripino Enciso. And, I even found the park.
It appears that the sign was placed to mark the turn into the park. However, the entrance was 80 meters straight and then to the right. I thought to myself... why would they place the sign right before the dirt road... it was a mystery to me. When I arrived at the park I asked the park ranger this very question. He said that a number of people make the same mistake and turn right at the road. I asked why they do not move the sign to the other side of the intersection... it would solve the problem. He just shrugged his shoulders.
Happy that I had finally reached the park and officially in El Chaco, I went for a walk around the area.
What I discovered was that El Chaco does not have a lot of striking scenery like the Andes or extreme scenery like the Patagonia or wildlife like the Amazon. But, there was a lot of very subtle elements to the area that made me pause. I had to look closely.
Cacti were common. And uncommonly unique in their own way.
Some little things that I have never seen before.
Like this crazy tree with a thousand spikes up its trunk.
Like this tree with bark like curly locks.
And a birds nest made of thistles and thorns amongst the arms of a cactus.
"Cruising through Cambodia along my favorite river ever, the Mekong, I stopped for a couple of nights in Kratie. It was going to be only one night but life by the Mekong is so peaceful that you always want to stay one more night. It turns out that in this part of the Mekong river live 75 Irrawady dolphins. Only 75 live between Kratie and the Lao border, it is an endangered species. There are more in other countries but only these in Cambodia.
Fifteen km North of Kratie is where you have to go and everybody tells you so, from to the Lonely Planet to the guesthouse manager. I am always a bit wary of this animal spotting tours/expeditions because either you don't get to see the beast or it's crowded with other tourists snapping photos just like you. None of that happened. Since I'm of the late-sleeper chronotype, I didn't go at sunrise but at around 2PM, when it's hottest. Best ever, I was almost the only tourist dolphin spotting at the time and I saw loads of them.
At first it's a bit strange, you don't know what to look for and the boat driver shoos you to show you where the dolphins are but of course, when you have turned in his direction and then to the direction he's pointing at, they are gone. But then you start hearing it, when they come out to breath. The sound of them exhaling is what you should be listening for. Looking is almost useless because you don't know where they are going to surface.
And the water comes alive with dolphins around you everywhere, they are pretty shy and don't come close to the boat when the engine is on but the boat driver turns it of and goes on with the oar. At some point there were dolphins on either side of the boat and I didn't know which way to look. I was in awe, it was absolutely beautiful."
"Neil and I were on our way out of the loop, enjoying the dirt to good tar and amazing limestone mountains surrounding us. Laos is truly the most beautiful country in that respect, maybe I am just a bit biased, but it is truly one of my favourite countries for its natural beauty.
The Konglor cave runs 7 kilometres in length. It connects through to the Natane village at the other end and is the only way to access it. The river has formed a natural tunnel 30 metres wide and between 20-100 metres high. Within the main chamber is a large collection of stalagmites and stalactites. Just a little more information on the geology. The Karst of Khammouane area, is a belt of Karst limestone 270 km long and 40 km wide. It was laid down in seas over 300 million years ago and then forced to the surface by tectonic plate movements. It lies between the Mekong River in Laos and the Vietnamese border.
Over all it was a truly breath taking sight. I only wish now we had more time to explore the rest of the cave, but there was the rest of Laos to explore."
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! People who will encourage you, share their experiences and advice on how to do it!
Also, 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!
HUBB UK - May 30 - Jun 2, 2013. Our intrepid organisers Sam Manicom and Iain Harper have re-invented the UK Summer Travellers' Meeting to create a brand new event for overland adventure travellers called HUBB UK. The premier overland adventure travel event for motorcyclists, cyclists, and drivers of 4x4 and other expedition vehicles is also supported by our good friend Dave Lomax at Adventure-Spec.com. This greatly expanded event is in an exciting new venue next to the famous Donington Park Racing Circuit. Pre-registration is open now!
Colorado Campfire meeting, Grant, Colorado, July 12-14. Our old friend (not that he's old, just that we've known him for years!) Greg Frazier has volunteered to host this event, in addition to the Thailand mini-meeting - thanks Greg!
UK Autumn - Mendip, Sep 7-8 - Gabe and Char are hosting this again! Assistant volunteers needed!
USA East - Stecoah, North Carolina. Dates to be confirmed.
Ontario - Manitouwabing, Sep 12-15. Fantastic new location! Registration open soon!
Australia (North), Dayboro, Queensland. Sep 26-28. Registration open soon!
Australia (South), Cavendish, Oct 11-13. To be confirmed.
California, Cambria - October 24-27. Same great location on the Central Coast near Big Sur. Camp Ocean Pines in Cambria, CA is set in 13 acres of Monterey Pine forest overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Numbers are strictly limited! Registration open soon!
Ted Simon with Andy and Ellen Delis at the HU California 2012 meeting
Dates subject to change, more dates and locations to come as we get them. Check back here before you plan a trip!
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. We love people who have done trips and taken pictures to come present, but we also are interested in practical how-to sessions such as roadside cooking, navigation/GPS, trip prep and planning, adventure motorcycling medicine, packing light, setting your bike up, bodging/bike maintenance, tire repair, communications/blogging from the road, photography, videography, self-publishing your story, self-defense, safe riding techniques, picking up your bike and off-road riding. 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!
Daniel Rintz, Germany, RTW 2-wheels 1-world 0-money, in Turkey and Iran, R80GS,
"It's one thing to enlist in a RTW endeavour, but it's another thing to do this on your own. Lucky we were two at the beginning, but after some months my buddy decided to go home early. We rode around the med together and parted in Turkey. Which is a cool country to ride by the way. If only the fuel wasn't so expensive (most expensive in Europe I think.)
So I had to decide whether to ride on by myself or turn around with him... I was in Turkey, about to enter Iran. The next country would be Pakistan. My sister emailed me an news article which was about suicide bombers and kidnappings taking place in Pakistan. I wasn't thrilled about hearing all the details about this. And I thought hard about whether it was a good idea for me to go. Not having a travel buddy didn't help. It would have been good to exchange some ideas or work on alternative routes. I came to a point where I wasn't so sure that plodding on by myself was such a good idea. And then I tried to remember what made me wanna travel in the first place. If I had any left, where did my desire for exploring the world come from?
Is it possible, that the ones that voluntarily put themselves through those circumstances, do so because of a certain presupposition? This is how the famous mountaineer Reinhold Messner answered the question when he was asked for his motives: 'I grew up in a valley, surrounded by more less tall mountains. I could not see far and as long as I can remember, I wanted to know what's behind the mountains. So I climbed up only to find there're more mountains which I had to climb' That's how he explained his longing for adventure. I grew up in a valley too. There weren't exactly tall mountains but another obstacle, a political one. The political system before 1989 in East Germany did not allow us to travel freely. The question is, did that fact fuel my curiousness? Would I be a potential refugee if Germany was still divided?
I decided to plod on alone, despite the obvious challenges that lay ahead. I'm not entirely sure what made me do it. I think it was a combination of things - a great deal of curiosity for new things, some part of me not wanting to give up and the urge to find out how far I would get. Without an alternative route at hand, and my visas about to expire, I went on riding East. The border crossing into Iran was surprisingly easy. Nobody even looked at my equipment or my bike. A friendly guy at the border helped me go through the process and I was even offered some tea.
I spent a good deal of time in Iran and I traveled extensively. What I expected the country to be like and what I experienced was very far apart. Yes, the people of Iran (the ones that I have met) seemed to be unhappy about their government and its policies. But this didn't keep them from being very hospitable, friendly and open-minded. The clashes between demonstrators and military weren't an issue for me as long as I stayed out of hot-spot zones such as Tehran city centre."
"I arrived in Cartagena Colombia, a bustling beautiful town by the sea famous for its fortified walls built to protect the wealthy port from pirates and later to defend its position against the British and Americans. The first few nights were spent catching up with Gavin. Gavin had had enough of seeing me on my adventure on Facebook and on my blog site, after all, we had discussed it many times back at home in my very early days of planning and dreaming. So enough was enough and once Gavin's residency in Australia had come through he quit his job, booked his flight and left Australia for Colombia.
In keeping with my trip Gavin went first in search of a Honda Cub but due to the requirement of obtaining a Colombian National I.D. before he could make a purchase of a motorcycle that basically put a stop to that. So he got in touch with Mike from Motolombia a bike touring outfit in Medellin to see if he was aware of any foreign bikes that might be coming through that might suit the journey. Sure enough a Chilean registered Honda CGL 125 became available. There were some difficulties with the bike in it not being as described, but in the end he made the purchase anyway buying it from a snotty little toff who teased him for his desire for purchasing a Honda Cub referring to the mighty Cub as merely a little scooter while implying the ownership of a 125 was something to aspire to. Some people eh!, They just don't know their motorcycles!
So I inspected Gavin's gear for the trip. Basically he arrived without any gear whatsoever. He acquired some with the motorcycle but the rest such as camping gear; he didn't have and I was keen to get some more camping underway. Gavin's gear mainly consisted of fashion items. Clothes and shoes. I assured him that he would have to get rid of some of that stuff and get practical as that stuff would have to be replaced with camping gear. Over the next few weeks Gavin did acquire camping gear but he didn't ditch any of his other items meaning Gavin had the most beautifully overloaded 125 bike I've seen, rival only to the locals who had absolutely no problem stacking everything they owned on their bikes.
Our next stop was Rio Claro a national park deep in the jungle. We rented a small cabin there that was stacked up against the hill overlooking the river with a complete open face with no walls or windows looking out into the jungle. It was amazing and it was at this point that I got my nickname – Shakey Leg. Shakey Leg came about through my reluctance to launch myself from the 8 meter high rock into the river. The tipping point came when a 8 year old Colombian kid called me, (and in English I might add) 'Chicken'. Why that little so and so. And so I eventually done it and several times afterwards to boot. And that was how Shakey Leg was born.
However, what both impressed and shocked me the most was Ben's first suicide jump. He was the first to take the jump. Ben couldn't even swim, let alone jump 8 meters into unknown water depth but yet faced with being the one who didn't do the jump he decided before anybody was even ready; he just walked to the edge paused and stepped off like a suicide victim with no determination whatsoever and fell like a rag doll into the water. Winded he composed himself in the water and managed to stay floating. We looked at each other with a mixture of horror and amusement, but mostly horror."
Ed. Good story on Sean's blog about forming a biker gang in Colombia, and the initiation rites!
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Ionut and Ana, Romania, Trans-Africa, back home in Romania on the Transfagarasan, Yamaha Tenere,
"We had a simple plan to make the best of our day: ride the Transfagarasan, arguably one of the best drives in Europe. Hairpins, pine forests, naked rock, maybe a waterfall, a spring or a glacier lake. The staple on this infamous road built in the 70s. But there's more to Transfagarasan than the call of the bends.
When I was a kid that's where I was spending most holidays. I remember climbing it on new year's eves, loaded with pots of Romanian dishes, snow up to my waist. It was crazy, it was fun. Me and Ana also have a thing with Transfagarasan, where we would escape during our busy years. There's this small waterfall we love, the weekends we would come braai, the full-throttle drives we pulled just for the sake of it, the sparrow-infested lake at the 166 m high dam. That's where we started our climb, taking a right turn off the tar, into the forest.
The mountain doesn't only feed the soul, it also quenches the thirst. We stopped by a spring where a trailer had been parked. The owner must have been out with work. Our city-folk tendencies for inequity, waste and abuse of finite resources always seem vulgar in the face of such humble set-ups. We drank our water in the sun, thankful to the anonymous host and enjoyed being alive.
The climb never fails to deliver. It's not a road you can easily summarize, except to say you'll invariably want seconds.
At 2040 m altitude there's a glacier lake and a chalet. In winter it is only accessible from Brasov, but as the sun was up we enjoyed our meal on the terrace. Fresh trout, tripe soup, apple pie... Romanian stuff. Nothing too fancy, but if cooked with fresh ingredients and love, can be a welcome discovery. So if you've seen the Top Gear episode and you've perused the magazines, here's another reason why you should not exclude Romania from your to-ride-list. Of course give us a shout out, 'cause even if we're not around, we can assist with a friendly couch and more.
It was a long ride to Bucharest, but we were glad to have such a tangible target to aim at. Home is a place of great meaning, where we can rest and where we can be near to people we care about. We have been away in the wilds of Africa for many months, we've seen a lot of amazing places and met many incredibly kind people, and now, after recharging with nature, we are hungry for more."
"Dear friends, after an amazing trip of twenty months through the America's, Africa and Europe/Asia we came back home three weeks ago. It was (and is) fantastic to see our friends and family again! But it is also a bit weird to come back to the place you know so well after having seen and experienced so many great places. The people we've met during our trip is mainly what made a country fantastic or not for us. The way a lot of you have helped us and gave us a home for a night, a few days, and sometimes even weeks up to a month (!), was absolutely fantastic. We've definitely made some friends for life!
Also we've travelled together with other travellers quite often, which was always fun: sharing knowledge about where to go, the travel stories, discussions about which bike is better ;-), but also we've shared more challenging times; struggling through the mud in Bolivia for example, or trying to get through the Egyptian borders (is it a coincidence that both times we've travelled together with people in a 4x4?). We want to thank all of you for making our trip so amazing! If you will ever be near us, our house is your house (which could also mean that you can sleep in our tent ;-).
Does a long trip change you as a person? Well, I think in our case it didn't change our character so much (although with some characteristics we would like to believe otherwise ;-), but it definitely changes your perspective of the world, which gives an enormous feeling of freedom. A week after being back in The Netherlands we were already dreaming about continuing our trip and head to Russia, but eventually we realized we need to settle down for a while and process all our amazing experiences. But not without a bit of adventure, so we decided to go to Canada to work and live there for a few years. Our Canadian friends, whom we met on the trip as well, tipped us half a year ago that there are a lot of job opportunities in Canada, especially for Daan. So hopefully we get our work visas in February 2013, after which we will set off to our next adventure!
Our website will stay online. We won't put regular updates on the website when we're in Canada, but after we've saved enough money I guess you can travel along with us again on another bike trip! In case you were also amazed with the hospitality we've found around the world, please think about that when you see a traveller on the road. Love, Daan and Mirjam"
Ed. Daan and Mirjam, great to hear you're heading to Canada, hope to see you at the HU meetings here!
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. (NOTE: It's still in progress for the final HU version, but you can get MedjetAssist now!)
Michael Paull adds his endorsement of MedJet (and he DID use their services - twice!):
"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)."
"We made it… what more can I say! The feeling of riding through Herstal towards the FN factory was unbelievable. The years spent restoring Effie and those of dreaming about this becoming a reality, and now for it to be happening was almost more than I could believe. Accompanied by a large group of fellow enthusiasts and under sunny skies we chugged down the narrow street to the gates of the FN factory to where a welcoming committee was waiting to greet us.
14,606 kms – Nepal to Belgium and Effie did it admirably. No accidents, (apart from a slight brush with a rickshaw), no major mechanical failures on the road (just a few misdiagnosed problems), many broken spokes but no punctures and only two blowouts! What more could I ask for from such a wonderful old machine?"
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
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.'
"Whether he's thrust into a brutal jail cell in Tanzania, being shot at, or knocked unconscious in the Namibian desert, this eye-opening tale catapults you into Africa. He lives in a remote village, escapes a bush fire and climbs a mountain. This is a captivating book."
The book is about the author's solo motorcycle journey through Latin America and her search for an effortless approach to living. It describes the lessons she learned living her dream and her realization that in every experience there was something familiar: herself.
Rene runs out of money half way through the tour and ultimately takes five years to cover his 41-country, 154,000-kilometre route. The ride of a lifetime, the old-fashioned way; no sponsors, no support vehicles, and no idea about what he is going to learn along the way.
Dec 2013 to Jan 2014 - This wonderful 9 day tour by Compass Expeditions explores the scenic wonderland of the famous Chilean Lakes District, the frontier lands of Chiloe Island and the epic riding experienced as you cross the Andes and ride into Argentina. As with all Compass Expeditions rides the lucky winner will be aboard a BMW F650GS Twin. Approximate Value at time of writing: $3990. You are responsible for your transport to the start point of the Tour. Airfares and transport are NOT included.
First Prize is a Progressive Suspension Makeover, approx value US$650. (This prize is ONLY for winners in the USA and Canada.) (The shock is available for popular models only, not all. Winner is responsible for any customs and duties payable. Progressive Suspension is awarded rights to use the Photo in promotion and advertising).
ALSO: The best 13 photos will be used in the calendar, and those photographers will share equally in half the proceeds. All Winners will also get a free 2013 calendar, and 1 year Gold Member status on the HUBB! Your photos could also be in an HU DVD!
To enter the 2013 contest, start here! Ends August 1 2013!
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Please be sure to tell them how you heard about Compass Expeditions. Thanks!
We've now reached an amazing 739 Communities in 111 Countries as of November 28, 2012! A big thanks to all those who took the first step and established the Community in their area.
If you are on the road, do check out the Communities - don't feel
like you're imposing on people! They signed up for a Community because they
want to meet travellers - that's you! You'll have a great time, so
go to the Communities
page and let them know you're coming. Please remember that they are volunteers
and offering to help because they're great people - common courtesy helps!
When you write, tell them who you are, that you're passing through, and would
like to meet them. Let them know if you need anything, and I'm sure they'll
help as best they can.
Remember that although some HU communities are very small, many others are large and could be more active in getting together for rides (even just to the pub!) or other activities. It's a great way to meet other travellers in your area - who knows, you could meet your next travel partner! All you need is for someone to suggest a place and time, kick it around a bit and make it happen. If there aren't any HU Travellers Meetings in your area, perhaps it's time there was one? A Community could do a Mini-Meeting, (just a get-together in someone's backyard or at a restaurant), or a full meeting! Let us know about it and we'll help promote it :)
For details on how you can join a Community in your area, or use the Communities
to get information and help, or just meet people on the road or at home, go
to the Community
page. Send me some photos - with captions please - and a little text and you
can have a web page about your Community! A few links to web pages
about your area would be useful too.
Just a reminder to all, when you Join a Community in your area, send a note to the Community introducing yourself and suggesting a meeting, or
go for a ride or something. It's a good way of meeting like-minded individuals in your own town.
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Please be sure you tell them how you heard about Rukka. Thanks!
Adventure motorcycling clothing for the demanding traveller
Grant: We've been wearing Rukka since 2002 and highly recommend it!
We hope you've enjoyed this issue, and do please let us know
It's your newsletter, so tell us what you want to know about!
It is not the unknown, but the fear of it, that prevents us from doing what we want.
We'd like to think that Horizons Unlimited; the website, the HUBB, the Communities and this newsletter help to push back the fear
through knowledge and connecting with others, and teach all of us about the world and its wonderful people.
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ISSN 1703-1397 Horizons Unlimited
Motorcycle Travellers' E-zine - All text and photographs are copyright Grant and Susan Johnson, 1999-2012,
or their respective authors. All Rights Reserved.
Redistribution - sending it on to friends is allowed, indeed encouraged, but other than the following requirements,
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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).
Recommendations are based on positive or negative experiences of somebody, somewhere. Your mileage
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You are responsible for yourself! Act accordingly. We check all links and
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Important: For more information on what World Nomad's policies cover, read this Prices & Benefits page for residents of various countries. Grant says: ALWAYS read the policy CAREFULLY to be SURE you are covered on your motorcycle, there are exceptions and variations depending on home country and where you're going and a whole lot of other things. READ THE POLICY!
Global Rescue is the premier provider of medical, security and evacuation services worldwide and is the only company that will come to you, wherever you are, and evacuate you to your home hospital of choice. Additionally, Global Rescue places no restrictions on country of citizenship - all nationalities are eligible to sign-up!
Does the smell of spices wafting through the air make you think of Zanzibar, a cacophony of honking horns isCairo, or a swirl of brilliantly patterned clothing Guatemala? Then this is the site for you! Hosted by Grant and Susan Johnson, RTW 1987-1998
Cooped up indoors in crap weather? Binge watch over 20 hours of inspiring, informative and entertaining stories and tips from 150 travellers! Check it out at the HU Store! Remember to order them both and use Coupon Code 'BoxSet+' on your order when you checkout.
10th Annual HU Travellers Photo Contest is on now! This is an opportunity for YOU to show us your best photos and win prizes!
Voting will commence soon for the 2015 HU Calendar winners!