Are you a TRAVELLER? Are you interested in whales before breakfast, setting your travel docs on fire, grizzly bear ablutions, motorcycling Myanmar, crashed in Costa Rica, bicycling to Cape Town, field testing the Shewee... and much more? Then you're reading the right newsletter!
Welcome to the 95th Edition of the motorcycle travellers' e-zine! Spring is well and truly here, in fact we've been enjoying record high temperatures in southwestern BC while our friends in the UK have been freezing! So what have we been doing since the last issue? I'll admit we did goof off a bit in December and January, but we've been hard at work since then...
We've already had our first two HU meetings this year, January in Thailand, where host Greg Frazier expanded the event to a whole weekend, and presenters included Ekke and Audrey Kok, Heike and Filippo, and many more! Thanks Greg and all the presenters and 100 attendees! See the HUBB post for comments and pics.
And just a few weeks ago we had our first ever meeting in Brazil, hosted by Rodolfo Datsch, and a very successful event it was, highlighted by ride-outs and a big BBQ. Big thanks to Rodolfo and all who came - we're already planning the 2014 event! See the HUBB post for comments and pics: "The meeting was great, the food what can I say delicious, met some very interesting people. Typically Brazilian hospitality. Roll on next year! Well done Rodolfo!" Mario
Grant continues his recovery from prostate surgery, with some setbacks. He woke up in early February thinking he was having a heart attack! After a full day in the ER getting various tests, it turned out that the unbelievable pain (he was on a morphine drip for much of the day!) was pericarditis - an inflammation of the muscle surrounding the heart! Details here. This condition, which we can't determine a cause for, seems to take a long time to completely resolve. He's still on prescription anti-inflammatory medications, and unfortunately the doctor has said he needs to avoid any exertion that causes his heart rate to get too high, as the inflammation could damage the heart. We were starting to get into serious walking but have eased back on that now. On the bright side, his PSA continues to be undetectable, and his testosterone levels are back to normal - yay!
Our main focus recently has been to get the 2013 meeting pages up and into the new design, a task which has taken much longer than we would have liked! We also have a record 16 meetings this year! But all meetings are now ready for registration!
We did get the new Shipping database launched, and it looks great! If you need to ship your bike from A to B, there are over 700 shipments in the database. You can search on city, country or a whole continent. Check it out!
We have also implemented Tapatalk for the HUBB to make it easy for folks to post comments and pics from mobile devices! And we still have some big projects pending for country wikis and communities and blogs. But the 2013 meeting season is coming up fast - see below! We'll get as much as we can done before we head over to HUBB UK, and we're actually at home from mid-June through mid-August, so should be able to make some progress...
Now that Grant is back in action, we would like to expand HU in a number of ways:
- by running additional travellers meetings in various geographies;
- by running other types of events with more of a rider training or competitive flavour (HUMM?);
- by producing new DVDs, translating current DVDs into other languages and excerpting for other media, such as iTunes;
- by adding products (various distribution possibilities) to the HU Store and to our stores on Amazon; and many more!
These all take time and the two of us only have a limited supply of it! So we would welcome suggestions from folks who would like to partner with us on projects. We can't commit to paying a salary, but we're happy to share profits on an equitable basis, or pay commission on revenues, whatever makes sense. Get in touch and help us grow!
Where are our intrepid travellers this month?
We've got great stories from Antarctica, Bolivia, Argentina, Malaysia, Thailand, Costa Rica, Mexico, Myanmar, Iran, Turkey, Kenya, Tanzania, Ireland, Morocco, South Africa, Paraguay, Peru, and even Alaska and Quebec!
...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.
your editors, Grant
and Susan Johnson, (about us, contact us)
"That night the rough ride continued, sleep is nigh impossible. If you don't brace yourself in the bunk you slide up, down and around on the bed. I am watching the clock from my bunk, it is 4.07 am as our little ship is being buffeted around on the sea, we seem to be pitching, lurching, rolling... forwards, backwards, side to side, forwards, backwards, side to side. As I am thinking 'Oh My Goodness, what have we done, is this what it's going to be like for the whole journey?', the Polar Pioneer gives another lurch forwards, backwards, then if by some miracle there is no side to side motion and we seem to be suddenly travelling through much calmer waters.
Later in the morning just as I am leaving the cabin, we get Don's wake up call for the morning 'Whales!' As I am only a flight of steps from the bridge I gingerly make my way up on my newly acquired sea legs and get to watch the antics of these majestic creatures. I cannot wipe the smile off my face, I got off pretty lightly on the seasickness front, I am on my way to Antarctica and I have seen whales before breakfast. How did I get to be so lucky?
Skill is not quite so enthused he is still in bed and feeling pretty ordinary, he doesn't make breakfast so that makes 2 days with only a few dried biscuits and small piece of chicken.
Yet another transit overnight, we find ourselves in much choppier conditions near Elephant Point on Livingstone Island, part of the South Shetland Islands. The crew first check to make sure there is a suitable landing point and tell us that it will be rough and we will all get wet in the zodiacs, but the beach landing is OK. Amazingly no one flinches, especially not our 70+ lot and everyone makes the 15 minute ride to Elephant Point, so named because of the Elephant seal population.
Upon exploring the shore we find 18 trapped elephant seal pups. Because of the very late snow falls this year they had become trapped by walls of frozen snow around them. After a little debate about the rights and wrongs of us interfering with mother nature Santiago initiates the inevitable rescue and we pitch in with ice axes, shovels and hands digging ramps out of the holes.
Santiago, James, Tarn, Maggie and Don worked like trojans to get the baby seals out of water-filled ice holes, some of these seals must weigh 80 – 100kg and trying to lift them when wet and struggling must be like wrestling a greased pig."
SILK RIDERS, Jo and Gareth Morgan's Incredible Journey in the footsteps of Marco Polo
Marco Polo's legendary journey overland from Xanadu in China to his home in Italy has fired the imaginations of travellers for 700 years. Even today, traversing the 20,000km Silk Road between Europe and the Far East is a perilous undertaking. But it sounded like just the challenge for Wellington economist Gareth Morgan and his intrepid wife Jo.
With five friends, they set off to travel the ancient route by a very modern mode of transport - motorcycle.
Starting from the historic port of Venice, the Silk Riders crossed some of the most remote, inhospitable and politically unstable terrain in Eurasia, from the Balkan states, Turkey and Iran through various 'stans to the isolated western reaches of China, and along the Great Wall to Beijing.
Get the book now at Gareth's World by Bike website, Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon.ca or Apple Store
Sherri Jo Wilkins, Australia/USA, RTW, in Bolivia and Argentina, KTM 690 Enduro,
"Ahh border crossings. The Chile to Argentina was super easy. For some reason I expected the Argentina to Bolivia to be easy... Nope!
Prado (who took the photo above), Lorena and her brother got through no problem. I had a problem. No insurance. The immigration officer sent us to find our way around the border town streets to a little wooden door on an unmarked building with no sign whatsoever, and pay a guy $35 USD for me to have 'their' insurance. Dodgey!
It also gave us some time to have a somewhat good lunch out of a very dodgey rusty bus.
Then I went back to the aduana, where the computer systems were down. They told me I have to wait. Wait! I'm not good at waiting. The guy said it could be 10 minutes or 10 days, he didn't know. I continuously try to talk the guy into Hand Writing whatever information he wants. This is Bolivia! The poorest country in all of South America. They barely have a paved road, and I can not get in due to a modern computer? He eventually got a piece of paper and wrote down the info and let me go (I think just to shut me up.. ;-). He said he would enter it later. Good. Seriously. If he had a long line of people needing the same, I would wait and understand. But it was just me, and the guilt of having the other 3 wait for only me for however long gave me the need to fight for the old pen and paper.. the stuff they used in the old days... (?)
There was a long line of people wanting out of Bolivia on the other side, not coming in.
Mountains around Humahuaca
The end of the road at the end of the world
Penguins at Estancia Harberton in Tierra del Fuego
Fitting new fuel pump Gobernador Cost, Chubut, Argentina
Dirt road through the Amazon to Manaus BR 319 After I got my visa, we first traveled from the border of Bolivia to the city of Rio Branco in west Brazil through to Porto Vehlo. Our intentions here are to prepare ourselves for riding north on the BR 319. An unmaintained road technically no longer in use through the Amazon to Manaus. When I think Amazon, I immediately visualize lots of green jungle, water, big bugs, jaguars, and colorful birds.
I can't think of a better way to experience the Amazon properly than by riding a motorcycle through it!
The BR 319 is a road built by the military in the 1970's. It needed to be built quickly, therefore, they did not do the standard lower base road preparations needed for longevity. And since the military use has ceased, nobody is or has maintained it since.
We read some horror stories from other riders who have done this road of broken bridges and super deep mud. I'm quite worried on one hand, but looking forward to it on the other. We are on the tail end of the dry season, so I am hoping that mud is currently dry.
...Always on our toes, decisions to be made. This was the best choice between the two wood planks. I should probably just ride through the middle. They look sturdy, but since nothing is ever maintained or checked, I think I have a better chance on the long ones? A big problem with all the wooden planks, center or not, and more often than not, are the nails sticking right out. Always mindful of tire punctures out here. It's worth stopping and checking for that alone."
Ekke and Audrey Kok, Canada, Circumnavigation of Asia, chilling in Malaysia and Thailand, R1200GS, F650GS,
"Since we had reserved the week of Christmas at a resort near Krabi, Thailand starting on Christmas Eve we were on a bit of a schedule so it was a real pleasure to have easy riding on the toll-free (for motorcycles!) expressways.
...We got a reasonable start and were at the border checking out of Malaysia in short order. Again, leaving Malaysia was super simple with a special lane for motorcycles where our passports were stamped and we were in 'no man's land' in less than a minute. The Thai side was a bit more problematic with filling in 'Arrival' forms for passport control and then taking the Carnet de Passages over to customs to have a special import paper drawn up.
Soon we were riding in Thailand and the differences with Malaysia were immediately apparent. It seemed a bit rougher around the edges; with dirtier streets and a four lane divided road had replaced the grade separated expressway. I had my doubts that a divided road with a barrier in the middle and U-turn spots every few kilometres could work very well and, sure enough, we soon noticed scooters and the occasional car going the wrong way on our side of the road.
On the other hand, this made it easy to get to things on the side of the road such as convenience stores (our friend from Japan: 7-11) and other things. We stopped at a pineapple stand and chatted with a lovely woman and her daughter for a little while as we enjoyed their fresh, sweet pineapple.
With the help of the GPS we took some back roads around Krabi to Ao Nang and the Andamanee Resort. It was situated away from the busy beach area, back in the jungle and had an, oh so lovely, swimming pool. 'Last one in is a rotten egg!'
Audrey relaxes in the Andamanee Resort's pool
What a perfect Christmas Eve, topped off by dinner in the hotel restaurant of pineapple and chicken rice for me and a mild curry for Audrey."
'You'll be taking on some of the finest enduro terrain in the world. With an expert team at your side you'll pass through jungles, cross the Mekong, climb mountains and stand in the shadows of the ancient temples of Angkor.'
Issa writes: "I just wanted to send a heartfelt 'thanks' your way. We've dreamt of a two-wheeled adventure for years and just simply felt that it was so far out of reach that it was impossible. Thanks to the work you and Susan (and others) have put into HU, and for the Achievable Dream series (we bought the set) we began to realize the greatest roadblock to realizing this dream was ourselves and our ideas of how our lives were supposed to be.
The folks in your movies are everyday people doing extraordinary things and, somehow, that made it all seem incredibly possible. With that realization, Nita and I sold the lot and we're in our eighth month on the road. I can't emphasize enough how important you and your work have been to us finding a way to do what we feel we were always meant to do. So for everything you may not have known you've done, thanks! You guys are the best."
"In the morning our first sight is a group of cats sleeping on top of the bikes. Some have found comfortable spots on top of our covers, while others have moved underneath for protection from the weather. Ever since Nita made friends with the cat in Orbetello, they love leaving hair on her belongings!
One of the things that's impossible to miss in Gaeta is the sheer number of stray cats roaming the streets. They're on every wall, every scooter and if you're on a restaurant patio you're almost certainly going to have some furry company during your meal. They all seem to also have at least one gnarled eye, but that doesn't stop them from smiling and purring up a storm if you give them the time of day. As a gift for providing them shelter, the gang of cats by our bikes spray everything – the cover, the wheels, even our seats – just so we don't forget them too quickly!
Along the waterfront we're presented with a very cool moment. Here, in Gaeta, is a tribute to Giovanni Caboto or as we Canadians like to call him – John Cabot. Unbeknownst to us, Gaeta is his birthplace and his discovery of what is likely Newfoundland is the inspiration behind Cape Breton's Cabot Trail, one of our favourite places on the east coast. It brings our Canadian experience full-circle and reminds us that, in some way, we're all connected."
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!
"After a couple of nights relaxing in Hostel Costa Rica, we decided to crack on towards Panama city. I think it's fair to say that recently we have been pushing our luck slightly, and after countless days of riding in all weather conditions our growing confidence led to an inevitable accident. Despite numerous slow speed off-road falls, and various clumsy drops, neither Pete nor I had ever had a road-crash.
It was a crazy morning as we rode towards the border of Panama. Not long after getting out of San Jose I had a big moment coming into a tight right-hander. The road surface was rougher than I expected, and I felt like I was carrying to much speed. After spotting a large run-off area on the outside of the bend, I made a late decision to bail out of the turn, pick the bike up, and cut across oncoming traffic. It was a near miss, and Pete was shocked as he watched from behind. I wasn't really shaken, but grateful to have found enough space to recover.
Shortly after my first incident, I found my heart in my mouth again as I almost lost the front end on another tight right-hander. This time the road surface was smooth and damp, and a patch of oil almost caught me out. Pete was following, and during this ride we were not connected via the intercom. There was nothing I could do but watch in my mirrors to see if Pete would make it around the corner safely. Despite knowing he would inevitably encounter the same slippery patch, I was shocked as he came into view, sliding across the road with his bike on its side. Thankfully there was no oncoming traffic, and a large bush on the verge of the bend brought him gently to a halt.
Pete was bruised and shaken, but luckily he was straight back on his feet with no serious injuries. After dragging the bike out of the foliage we took a few minutes to check it over. Besides a slight tear in the RHS Wolfman, and a few more scratches on the Safari tank, the bike looked fine. The Barkbusters once again saving the levers from any damage whatsoever. It doesn't bare thinking about the 'what-ifs'. This incident could have easily had catastrophic consequences had there been any oncoming traffic, or if the side of the road was lined with a metal armco barrier, or even worse a cliff drop. We both thanked our lucky stars and agreed to take it easy from there on."
Ferris Wheels Motorcycle Safaris are one of the pioneers of the motorcycle tour industry. We have been taking clients professionally to the highest road in the world several times a year since 1994; over 50 times now! Other exotic destinations include Morocco, Turkey, Bhutan, South America, and the Dalmatian Coastline.
All fully-detailed itineraries can be found at www.ferriswheels.com.au where you may also find countless client accolades and many press articles endorsing our tours over the past 15 years or so, and request our free DVD!
Sara and Dan Pedersen, Canada, the Americas, in Mexico, BMW F650GS,
"After leaving Merida we rode west to the coast of the Gulf of Mexico at Celustun. It is famous for Octopus hunting and the almost 30,000 pink flamingos that flock here. We saw a few birds from the bridge, but hired a boat for an hour tour of the estuary.
This got us up close to the flamingos as well as herons, and huge Canadian pelicans. We also toured thru the mangrove forest. The town itself has a chain of restaurants along the white sand beach where we had amazing prawns and ceviche."
Heike Fania, Switzerland and Filippo Fania, Germany, Europe to Australia and beyond, in Myanmar and Thailand, BMW F650GS and BMW R1150GS,
"For us a dream has come true: we have travelled on our motorcycles through Myanmar (or maybe to some it is more familiar as Burma). Until now, it was not possible to enter the country officially with a foreign motorcycle. Together with three other motorcyclists we were now the first group that was officially allowed to travel this beautiful country.
Unfortunately, it is still not possible to travel individually and on your own. We were accompanied by a car with driver and two guides; one of them was from the government. Without them we would not have got the permission to travel through Myanmar. But both guides were actually quite relaxed, and during the tour the control eased, so they even let us go on our own. However, we had to stay on the planned route, and we had to stay at hotels that were arranged in advance.
Preparations, negotiation with the officials in Myanmar and the paperwork took four months in total. Our friend Joerg from Bangkok did a tremendous job and has invested a lot of time to make this trip possible – all in his free time! And from what we heard afterwards, the trip was discussed and approved even by the ministry of Myanmar.
But still, only one week before we left it still looked like it was not going to happen. Then we suddenly got the OK from the officials, and only a few days later we were standing at the border to Myanmar. In the meantime, we had to hurry to get everything ready, to sort our equipment and to get the visas from the Myanmar embassy.
Myanmar border post
In total we were seven days / six nights in the country. We crossed the border at Mae Sot in Thailand, both on the way in and on the way out. In between lay more than 2300 kilometres through Myanmar.
And the whole trip was not cheap. We had to pay for permissions, bribes, visas, guides, sometimes police escort, the car, and hotels, which were not the cheapest. But it was definitely worth everything! We had the chance to visit Myanmar at a stage where in most areas it is still not influenced by tourism.
Five motorcycles parked in front of the parliament in Naypyidaw, the capital of Myanmar.
Maybe, it will soon also be possible to cross the country from India to Thailand, or vice versa; but probably only with guides and a pre-planned route as well. However, a dream for many overlanders would come true – and it would not be necessary anymore to ship the bikes from Kathmandu to Bangkok, which also costs a lot of money.
If you are interested in further details, and you want to travel Myanmar by motorcycle as well, then you can contact our friend Joerg Waldmann in Bangkok by e-mail: djos...@gmail.com
Our next stop after Bangkok was Chiang Mai, in the North of Thailand, where we went to the Horizons Unlimited Meeting, a motorcycle meeting for travellers from all over the world. We gave a presentation about our travels through Iran, Pakistan and India, and another one about Burma together with our friend Joerg. It was fantastic to meet so many like-minded people and fellow overland-travellers from all over the world, and to hear their stories and to share experiences.
Glynn Roberts (UK) at Riders Corner, Chiang Mai!
We then went through the North of Thailand and the Golden Triangle, and we crossed the border to Laos 15 days ago. So far, we really like this beautiful country."
A few photos from the 1st night of the 2013 Horizons Unlimited meeting in Chiang Mai -- 100 people - New record!
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!
We have a record number of events this year, and registration is open for all of them! We're getting to as many of them as we can - looking forward to seeing old friends again and making new ones!
Germany - May 17-20, 2013. 10th Meeting! Jens Ruprecht hosts this event in Ober-Liebersbach. Pre-registration is open now!
HUBB UK - May 30-June 2, 2013 - Near Donington Park. Sam Manicom and Iain Harper host the new event for overland adventure travellers including motorcyclists, cyclists and expedition vehicle drivers. We'll be there! Pre-registration is open now!
Bulgaria Mini-Meeting! June 7-9, 2013. Doug Wothke (RTW) & Poly's moto-camp. See the HUBB post for details and links to signup!
Montenegro - June 27-30, 2013. Near Kolasin at a park high in the mountains! Local hosts Blazo Milic and Tonko Nisavic already have heaps of presentations, a First Aid course, technical sessions and some great rides planned in a fantastic location! Pre-registration is open now!
Ireland - July 12-14, 2013. Enniskillen. Note the later date - hoping for summer ;-) Liam, Naomi, Jochen and the team already have a bunch of great presenters lined up, including Sam Manicom. Pre-registration is open now!
Colorado - July 12-14, 2013. Campfire and Ride Mini Meeting. Greg Frazier is hosting this event. Plan to RIDE! Pre-registration is open now!
North Carolina - August 8-11, 2013, Stecoah, NC. The 10th Anniversary of this meeting will be hosted by Mike Kilpatrick, assisted by Steve Anderson. Pre-registration is open now!
Canada West - August 22-25, 2013. Nakusp, BC. We'll be there! Pre-registration is open now!
Kyrgyzstan Mini-Meeting! - August 31, 2013. No charge, but please signup here!
Ontario Canada, September 12-15, 2013. New location on Lake Manitou near Parry Sound! We'll be there! Pre-registration is open now!
Australia QLD - September 26-29, 2013. Dayboro, Queensland. Shane Kuhl and Helen Black are the local hosts for the 10th Anniversary of HU meetings in Australia! We'll be there! Pre-registration is open now!
Australia VIC - October 11-13, 2013. Cavendish, Victoria, in the beautiful Grampian Mountains. We'll be there! Pre-registration is open now!
California - October 24-27, 2013, Cambria. We'll be there! Pre-registration is open now!
Argentina, Viedma - first weekend in December usually - details to come.
Thailand, January 10-11, 2014. Chiang Mai - Greg Frazier hosts this event, which is expanding to 2 days - details to come! See the HUBB post for pics from the 2013 event!
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!
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 the Events page for more details on all events.
Hope to see you there!
Grant and Susan
Brian Foster, Australia, RTW, in Iran and Turkey,
"Despite my enforced early start yesterday it was still mid/late afternoon by the time I hit the outskirts of Tehran due to all my stuffing around looking for a money-changer and the too-numerous photo stops.
And this landed me smack bang in the middle of Friday afternoon peak hour traffic. Tehran is a BIG city – on a par with London and New York, except the driving is much worse. Much, much worse! Not as bad as Delhi, mind you. Nothing is as bad as the driving in Delhi. Driving/riding in Delhi is beyond description. It has to be seen/heard/smelt/felt to be believed. But at least you don't have feral goats and cattle in Tehran, just feral M-series BMWs and CLK Mercs.
The Ferdowsi International Grand Hotel
The so-called mid-range Ferdowsi Hotel was actually called the 'Ferdowsi International Grand Hotel'. And it certainly lived up to its grandiose title. One look at the ornate, almost life-size prancing horse statues guarding the entrance and the doorman wearing a cap and jacket said it all.
At first, I was reluctant to even approach the main entrance but the 'help' were very helpful and took me to a desk clerk who spoke quite good English. She told me single rooms were 1700 toman/night (which is 17000 rial). This was equivalent to about US$80/night. For what it was the price was a steal. A similar room in Sydney would have been $150-200/night at least. I hadn't stayed in such a fancy hotel since the Awari Hotel in Lahore nearly 3 months ago. And after the flea-pit in Gorgan I was looking for an upgrade! They also changed money at an unbelievably generous rate. I took it.
And so the 'Ferdowsi International Grand Hotel' became my home for the next few days while I tried get a feel for Tehran.
...By early afternoon I was in Kirikkale. I had given up on any plan to ride on to Ankara. Ankara has a population of 5 million but the urban sprawl goes on forever in all directions. After Delhi, Lahore and Tehran I had enough of big cities. I just couldn't find a compelling reason to get drawn into that morass of motorways.
My eyes were now firmly fixed on a much greater prize – Istanbul.
A mini Sultanahmet mosque outside Kirikkale
After my unexpectedly pleasant little sojourn in Sivas, I thought I would try to repeat the dose in Kirikkale. The plan was simple and had worked many, many times before.
It usually went something like this:
Step 1: Park bike in conspicuous place in busy street
Step 2: Walk to nearest shop to buy water/Coke/Fanta/7-Up/ice-cream
Step 3: Ask friendly shopkeeper for name and (hopefully) directions to cheap hotel.
Step 4: Attempt to follow directions given in 'Turklish'.
Step 5: Get lost several times trying to follow directions.
Step 6: GOTO Step 1
Usually, with a bit of luck, after the second or third iteration I had found a suitable hotel. It was all part of the fun of travelling in foreign countries and a chance to meet the locals.
But not today.
Not only couldn't I find a suitably cheap hotel, I was having trouble even finding a friendly shopkeeper. After about the fourth or fifth attempt I eventually bumped into a man in the street who just happened to run the petrol station (I wanted to get petrol as well). He recommended the Otel 71 which was only about 1km away. It seemed a little odd that none of the local shopkeepers knew that there was a hotel so close.
I found the Otel 71 fairly easily and it looked like a reasonable place to stay. But I was curious why it was called Otel 71 because its street number was 24. In retrospect, I think it was because it was 71st on a list of the top 71 hotels in Kirikkale. Not that there was anything wrong with the hotel itself. Apart from the microscopic lift which was barely big enough to carry one person and their luggage.
No, the Otel 71 was let down by some of the rudest and most disinterested staff I had met in my entire travels. The smallest request (like, say, a light bulb that worked) was a major interruption to more pressing tasks such as their 'Call of Duty: Black Ops' computer game. After about 40min, the manager turned up with the keys to the cupboard where the spare bulbs were kept locked away. Didn't he trust his own staff?
After replacing the bulb, the manager asked me the usual questions: where was I from, where was I going, where had I been. Then he asked me a question that completely stumped me.
'Why are you staying in Kirikkale? Nobody stops in Kirikkale', he asserted.
'Why indeed?', I mused to myself. I couldn't think of any reason. And the manager certainly wasn't doing a great job as an ambassador for Kirikkale.
With that sort of welcome there was no incentive to stay longer than necessary. Tomorrow I would head for Istanbul."
BEARBACK, The world overland
by Pat Garrod
Two doctors, one motorcycle and a remarkable four year journey around the world.
'We've all dreamed about it - quitting the job, packing up the house, and hitting the road for the adventure of a lifetime. Few do it, and even fewer do it as well as Pat Garrod.' Travel Africa
'An inspired travelogue.' National Geographic Traveller
'Belts along at a cracking pace.' RIDE
'I didn't want this enthralling book to end. If you only read one travelogue this year, make it this one.' Real Travel
2nd edition now available in paperback and hardback. Get it here.
Alex Beraskow, Canada, Cairo to Cape Town, bicycle with Tour D'Afrique,
"So I am now officially 65 and it's a fine time to celebrate and start a new adventure. It is all about getting respect from my children and earning some 'cred'. So the Journey - Tour D'Afrique is about to start. A 'Bike Trip' from Cairo to Capetown or for you Canucks the equivalent of Halifax to Vancouver and back - about 12,000 km. Yikes. It's going to be filled with lots of trials (sleeping in a tent, a shovel for the bodily functions, biking a lot) but also with many rewarding and unique (read once in this lifetime) experiences.
Later Alex writes...
Life skills I am learning:
1. Drinking from a bottle
2. Difference between left and right hand
3. Using baby wipes (again)
4. Waiting in line for food
5. Not getting bored
6. Play well with others
I try and repair my flat tire and note that as soon as I put a new tube in it is flat. After 2 tubes I decide to smarten up and check the tire. Low and behold there is a tiny thorn but sharp as a pin that kept pricking the tube once I inflated the tube. Another hour spent in a lesson learning stuff that I may never use again! Tire change to fatties as tomorrow we start 5 days of off road cycling. Yuck!
Rain starts as we go off road for the next 60 km. Ugly as we try and go through a mud bath and rocky road. Trucks and buses get stuck in the deep ruts and mud.
Rain stopped sometime in the night. Tent is wet but it is dry outside so fold up the wet tent and hope that by the time we get to the next bush camp, it will be sunny.
The ride is to be about 114 km – all off road. Starts out ok, but pretty soon it gets really ugly. Deep mud ruts to navigate with a little shower in progress. Come to a bus that skidded off the road and got stuck. That bus could be there for days.
Get off bike and walk through the mud. Some cyclists – the kids – try and go through the mud but that is difficult cycling. If you get stuck you need to de clip the shoes quickly and brace yourself."
'The river Nile and the Great Lakes, mountain ranges and volcanoes, a pleasant climate all year round, and a wide variety of wildlife including the endangered mountain gorillas.'
Marcio Alves Roberto, Campo Grande/MS, Brazil, in Chile and Argentina, BMW R1200GS Adventure,
Marcio explains why he missed the HU Brazil meeting: "I was crossing the Agua Negra Pass, on the Chile and Argentina Border, at 4,500 meters above sea level, 1.5 degrees celsius (snowed one day before!), and thrilled to be there!
It was a shame, but I missed the Iguaçu meeting, but I'll try not to miss the next one!
One day before, Mar 27, I was at San Francisco Pass. Both passes have gravel (ripio) roads, and are a little difficult to ride with these heavy machines... But everything was okay! Great trip!"
Chris and Chloe Granger, UK, Buenos Aires to Vancouver, in Honduras, Mexico and Quebec, F650GS DAKAR and F650GS,
"All good things come to an end and our first night in Honduras left us feeling like we had just jumped the fence between homely, flowering garden, into a concrete back yard. Not that the scenery was hugely different, but the feel of the place and the people were drastically different. We had found Nicaragua surprisingly calm, friendly, colourful and peaceful. Now we were faced with a loud, gritty and rough country with semi-automatic machine guns slung over the shoulders of every male civilian in view. Is he pointing that thing at me or is he just changing shoulders? – Not something you want to ask yourself more than once!
...After arriving in Juticalpa for a late lunch at 2.30pm, we decided to call it a day. The unusually nice and friendly chaps at the petrol station just outside town tried to persuade us that we could make it to the coast, which was only another four hours over the next mountain range. But we knew only too well the dangers of setting out mid-afternoon for 'just-another-few-hours' ride – they invariably turned out to be longer, leaving us riding in the dark, with no room for error or getting lost. Chloe gracefully stepped down and decided we had better leave the rest of the journey for the morning, while Chris battled on, trying to convince her we'd be alright! Our friendly chaps sent us on our way, with a mixture of directions meaning we managed to get lost in the middle of some fields and mud, before we'd even reached the town of Juticalpa only five miles away! At that point, Chris finally conceded it'd be a better idea to not try and make it to the coast that afternoon after all!
Chloe, trying to remember four sets of directions
...After a couple of hours the roads got worse and the riding got harder. Roadworks after roadworks didn't aid our speed, but the 'making good' of the road suddenly ceased at what appeared to be the worst bit. Rough crevices across the road, rocky outcrops to navigate, and then mud, mud, mud everywhere were to be the order of the day. Thank God we had not tried to make this treacherous and exhausting journey in the short afternoon of the day before! Not to mention the other 'dangers of the road' that we had been told about, coming in the forms of armed drug gangs hanging about in the dense jungle-shrouded mountains. I don't care if I need a pee! I'm not going in there! Thankfully we didn't see any of those undesirables, but we did get stuck in a lot of mud!
Well since our last blog, things have changed dramatically and we have moved forward at the speed of light to what should be two months from now. We are now sat in a nice little B&B, looking out over the snow covered streets of Quebec Canada, watching the sparkling shapes of ice stars join together to take over the entire window pane. So let us tell why we are so far north when it seems we have only just left the warmth of the pacific coast of southern Mexico – And no, we did not fly!
Leaving San Miguel de Allende, we had decided that it was time to start making our way home. We would pass through the rest of Mexico within days to reach to USA, then make our way eastwards towards the north east of Canada where we could put the bikes on a cargo ship in Halifax, sending them back to Europe.
...That night, the temperature dropped about 50 degrees. Somewhat surprised, we packed up the bikes, storing our newly bought tent on the back on Chris's bike. That's tonight's accommodation sorted!
Two days later, we had still not used the tent. The temperature had plummeted even further. We were making about 50 miles in a whole morning's ride because we kept having to stop to warm up our extremities which had frozen stiff in the space of 10 minutes flat. Then we found out that the temperature had actually dipped below zero, and with the wind chill factor, it must have felt about minus 15... no wonder we were freezing our bits off!
Okay, that was enough. We weren't getting anywhere fast and we were in danger of losing digits, so we stopped in a McDonalds for free WiFi, booked ourselves a van, and picked it up from around the corner! Easy as that!
Within an hour, we went from almost crying from the pain of the cold, to sitting in a nice cosy van with the heat blasting out! Amazing! Chris took the controls, Chloe took the map, and for the first time on the whole of the trip, we could actually sit next to each other and chat away, while on the road. The novelty of the situation lasted about 10 minutes before the reality of the fact that we were in a van sunk in.
Sad day, but at least we're warm!
...We made quick progress in the van. We didn't have to stop every five minutes to warm up, we could eat and drink while driving, (exciting new novelty!), and we could also steam on ahead in the wet, wind, rain and snow, in the dusk and in the dark. Indeed we had to make quick progress because the van rental was only contracted to us for eight days. We had paid a fortune for that, so any extra days would cost even more... Suddenly our five-to-six weeks road trip up through the States was going to be compacted into eight days.
...End of day three in the van we get an email to 'urgently phone the shipping agents'. Oh no… problems! It turned out that the dates we had been given had changed... No! The ship we were booked onto was now no longer scheduled to call at Halifax on that sailing. We would have to wait another two weeks for the next ship. Not good. Or, the alternative – pick up the ship in the port of Baltimore, just outside of Washington DC, leaving on the 27th January. But because of bank holidays and weekends, it would mean us dropping our bikes off no later than 'tomorrow'! Tomorrow?! Looking at the map, we realised that we were only a few hours drive from Washington DC, and hence, also the port at Baltimore... my goodness, we could make it! So we phoned the agent back, explained the situation, and changed the booking for Baltimore, dropping off the bikes in the morning.
...So. We are here. In a van with nothing in the back but some dry bags with our kit in them… We've now made it to Quebec where the temperature is minus 40 degrees C.
Chris has now bought himself a big down jacket and Chloe has dusted off the one she bought in Chile 12 months ago. Our Spanish is completely useless and our middle-school French isn't good enough. What an ending! Anyone want to buy a tent?!
But it's not quite the end yet. We still have a couple more weeks before we fly home. In the meantime, we will be out enjoying the below freezing temperatures in Quebec, slipping up in Spanish, saying 'sí' instead of 'oui', and 'gracias' instead of 'merci', (both of which have already happened numerous times), and the best bit – finally being able to eat some decent cheese! Viva Quebec!"
Extreme Bike Tours - India, Raasthan, Bhutan
Patrick McCarthy, Pat around the Americas, in Canada and Alaska,
"Some two weeks earlier, during the wet weather that had been plaguing the area throughout June, a solo rider on a GS1200 had passed through the road works riding relatively slowly due to the poor (dirt) road conditions, when a large grizzly leaped from the roadside and paw-swiped him from his machine. Rider and bike went down pretty hard. The bear went down even harder, as the construction crew on seeing the incident drew their weapons and killed the freaked animal lest it go for the injured ABR. It was reported that the bike was a wreck, but the rider survived with a few bumps and bruises only.
I was waved on with a warning to watch the roadsides, just in case. And this thought gave rise to another as the question came to mind: Do bears, you know, do their business in the woods? It seems, from my Alaskan Highway experience, that they don't – but in fact undertake the majority of their ablutions at the side of the road! This did nothing more than reinforce my view that I should not stay long in the land of the bear... well, at least not without a rapid means of escape. I must confess, they still scare me."
Great scenery in Alaska
"I could not believe it when I looked out my window yesterday morning and snow flakes the size of a table cloth were falling from the sky, the roads were covered in snow and it was -3º C, we didn't have snow all winter but now it was like Siberia. I was not a happy camper but was sure it will get better later, so I loaded my stuff onto the bike and when Harry arrived at my place waved goodbye to the cats. It had finally stopped snowing but the wind was freezing cold and we were wrapped up like Eskimos and I never was happier to have heated grips on that bike. But the boat left on time, we had a fabulous meal and thawed out after a few glasses of wine.
...Beating the most atrocious weather conditions on the way through France and Spain we finally arrived in Morocco. We took the ferry from Algeciras to Tangier - Med. To get on the ferry was some adventure as nobody seemed to know the number of the berth where the boat would leave, 'just check if you can see it somewhere' was the best info we got. There are so many ferries, trucks and only a few cars and vans, and no plan, but it all seems to work.
Across the Strait of Gibraltar it takes an hour to get to Morocco and we arrived around six in the evening. With a bit of help of some friendly Moroccan who speaks perfect German, skipping the queue by walking through the security barriers with a no entry sign to get my passport registered with the police, we passed through Customs quickly.
We decided to head for the outskirts of Tangier to get a place for the night as it got dark. And even only one hour across the sea and it is a different world. So I'm excited and nervous when we set off to Marrakech in the morning. Both bikes are running fine, the new Conti TCK 80 and smaller front sprocket fitted to Barbara's GS made the bike ready for the road and Harry's has fixed the hole in the exhaust."
Andi & Ellen Delis, New Zealand, Alaska to Ushuaia, in Mexico,
"About two thirds the way to Mazatlan the road tightens into a myriad of twisties better suited to a light weight motard than a big bike.
This is called the devils spine and I can see why, neat bit of road.
We came across a crash between a car and a truck, appears the car missed the corner and hit the left front wheel of the truck, the trucks axle was torn off the spring back onto the drivers step through the back of the front mudguard.
The car (a Nissan pathfinder) was punted back across the road and was trying to find a path back up the bank which didn't work, neither vehicles were going anywhere without heavy towing equipment so we threaded our way through the wreckage and the 100 Mexican onlookers and were on our way.
Taking in the great road and extreme views from 2850 metres (9350 feet for you imperialists) was a treat, only a few points to stop and take photos as there are no shoulders at all for 99% of the road, the Mexicans cut only the width that is almost required and no more... actually sometimes quite a bit less!
Further down the road a truck (that was) loaded with reinforcing mesh threw its load on a tight corner with an off camber, I made it through but Ellen with her right foot injury lost it and threw the bike down the road, I was unaware of this until I got through and waited but she did not turn up.
I turned around (I was only 50 metres down the road waiting for a moment) then I saw the guys waving their arms and yelling, I looked further round to see two of them helping Ellen to the side of the road and two of them pushing her bike.
Ellen had buggered her already buggered foot again, the bike had sustained some damage with some twisted components and had gravel rash, I straightened out what I could so we could make it to Mazatlan then take the time to sort it out on flat ground without trucks roaring past.
Advice to any RTWers, if you are new at riding and want to enjoy your trip more, school up on the basics and practice without house and contents on board the figure 8, stops, starts, U turns and quick S maneuvers as these will save your arse and your sanity on your trip. Today we have stopped, Ellen's foot is not good so we will probably bunk down for a few days to give it a sporting chance to start healing."
Ian Moor, UK, Wrong Way Round The World, in Argentina, BMW F650GS,
"The Bike Is Dead! The bike had never run properly since the engine was rebuilt to replace broken piston rings in Cusco, Peru. This rebuild included unnecessarily stripping and reassembling the bottom of the engine and the gearbox. The engine finally refused to go any further while travelling in the Cordilleras de Cordoba. First gear refused to engage then a short while later the engine stopped with what turned out to be coolant leaking into the cylinder. I took it by truck to the BMW dealer in Cordoba to discuss the options.
One Dead F650GS In The BMW Operating Room
We assumed the engine problem was the cylinder head gasket which wasn't too big of a job and luckily they had a new one in stock. To investigate the gearbox problem required removing and stripping the complete engine which would cost a lot more than the bike was worth. I opted to replace the head gasket to get the engine working and then I would attempt to ride the bike to Ushuaia at the southern tip of South America without first gear. This was a risky option as owing to the dodgy rebuild in Peru something else could go wrong at any time, but having ridden the bike so far south; I wanted to at least try and complete the last leg of the Americas. As I didn't know why first gear wouldn't engage my main concern was that other gears would follow suite leaving the bike with insufficient gears to continue...
Once the top end of the engine was stripped it was discovered that it needed a new barrel and piston assembly and the cylinder head needed skimming. The dealer said they were unable to get the parts and asked me to order them. For some reason it is very difficult for companies to import goods and materials into Argentina. I was told the problem stems from Argentina defaulting on their one billion dollar international loan from the World Bank in 2002. It would take about a month to get the parts which wasn't a major problem but by the time Argentinean import duty was added to the cost of the parts and shipping it took the repair cost to more than the bike was worth. If I had gone ahead with the work the bike still wouldn't have first gear and the bottom end of the engine would still be suspect following the rebuild in Peru. It looked like the bike had run its last kilometre."
The one thing that could swing the balance towards repairing the bike would be if I had to pay a high import duty to Argentinean customs for 'importing' the bike permanently into the country. Much to my cost I generally prefer to do things 'by the book' so I went to the Customs office in Cordoba to make a 'hypothetical' enquiry into the procedure to follow if the bike could not be repaired. I was told I could simply give the bike to Customs which seemed like a good deal at the time, far better than paying import duty or having to pay to get the motorbike out of Argentina.
However nothing works out as smoothly or easily as that when dealing with Latin American officialdom (Possibly European officialdom is just as bad, I have never had to find out). When I returned to Customs to ask for the address to take the bike to I was told I would have to write a letter requesting permission to give my bike to Customs. I would also need to persuade the BMW dealer to write a letter concerning the condition of the bike. If the bike was worthless they wouldn't accept it and I would have to return it to my home country of England. If Customs could sell the bike for spares they would graciously take it from me.
Running the risk of having to pay a lot of money to return a scrap motorcycle to the UK persuaded me to look into alternative, less 'by the book' solutions. I thought of just going to a border crossing and leaving the country but I had read of two cases where Argentinean Immigration had refused to allow riders to leave the country without their bikes. It is possible to leave Argentina without your bike but you have to show that you intend to return for it before the temporary import license issued on entering the country expires. I needed a cover story in case I was quizzed by immigration when leaving..."
Gene and Neda, 'Lightcycle' from Toronto, RTW, in Mexico, R1200GS and F800GS,
"Santa Rosalia is just south of the Baja Sur (Baja South) border. We lose an hour because of a peculiar time change because this time zone crossing is latitudinal, not longitudinal, placing Baja Sur into MST. This means the sun is still up at 5PM when we arrive at this port city on the shores of the Gulf of California. The outskirts of town are a mixture of industrial buildings and shacks along the roadside.
We are tired and hungry and the sun is setting fast, so we book into the first nice (but relatively pricey) hotel and walk into town to find some food. We really do have to make an effort in finding some cheaper accommodations. Baja is a lot more expensive than I thought Mexico would be...
The rest of the evening we spent walking around the very small centros area, and we found ourselves hanging out with all the local families and teenagers in the town square watching some people set up a stage presumably for a concert this weekend.
Too bad we wouldn't be sticking around, as Neda has just arranged for us to start Spanish classes in La Paz for next Monday morning. The curse of 'a schedule' strikes again! Every time we have to be somewhere at a certain date or time, my chest starts to constrict a little and my heart rate goes up. Or maybe it's just that spicy enchilada we had for dinner...
Our next destination on the way to La Paz is Mulege (pronounced Moolah-Hey), also recommended by Dan and Nancy. This is a quaint town full of neat places to window shop for local arts and crafts and boutique-y restaurants and hotels. As we approached Mulege, the desert flora transformed from cacti to lush, tropical palm trees, courtesy of the Rio de Santa Rosalia. The whole town is in the river valley and was subject to bad flooding in recent years due to the hurricanes in the area.
We stopped for lunch in a great hotel/restaurant where we met a whole bunch of gringos from Canada! Penticton, BC specifically. One couple was here on a scouting vacation, looking to move to the area. Apparently, there is a lot of ex-pat interest in Baja Sur.
After lunch, we hit the road and ride past some great looking beaches
WTF?! I wish somebody had told us there was sand in the Baja!"
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 April only. The discount code (enter when you checkout) is 'ezspec' (case is unimportant).
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 features interviews with veteran travellers, such as Ted Simon, Austin Vince, Greg Frazier, , Chris and Erin Ratay, Peter and Kay Forwood, Tiffany Coates, Sam Manicom, 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.
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!
If by some chance you've never heard of the Achievable Dream and Road Heroes DVDs, you can see the trailers and read the comments for all the DVDs here.
Danielle Murdoch, Australia, Australia to Africa, in South Africa, Suzuki DR350,
"After much extensive testing in the bathroom, I thought it was time to hit the road and test female peeing devices where it counts!
...Well, my conclusion is - they all test well at home - in fact P- Mate was the easiest to use without too much practice. The other two took some practice. However in the field... My favorite failed as its hard to use with motorcycle clothing and it ended up bending, and then well I had pee down my leg! Shewee - the one, I least liked the look of, actually was the easiest to use with motorcycling gear on!
Stopped for a break, the view here was fantastic! We could see all the way to Kruger Park, and was told that on a clear night, you can see the lights of Maputo!"
by Sam Manicom
| The latest Adventure Motorcycle travel book by the legendary Sam Manicom
Motorcycling the magnificent landscapes of Mexico, the USA and Canada. 'Sidetracked by the Unexpected'
'One of the World's leading Motorcycle Authors' - Motorcycle Sport and Leisure
'Sam's descriptions are in Technicolor.' - The Riders Digest
'Inspirational reading.' - World of BMW
'Superbly entertaining travel writing.' - BM Riders Club
'Few travel writers can conjure up sights and smells so provocatively as Sam.' - Daily Record - Scotland
Signed copies available directly from the Author here.
Order your copy now! Be sure to tell Sam where you heard about him!
"From El Chaco I rode south. The dirt road eventually turned into an asphalt road.
In the town of Mariscal stopped and checked in with the Paraguayan Migration (Immigration) to get my passport stamped. No worries, it was a quick and easy process. I was actually traveling to the town of Filadelphia and the Mennonite colonies.
Filadelfia is the capital of Boquerón Department in the El Chaco. It is the centre of the Fernheim Colony. It is about a 5 hour drive from the capital of Asunción. The town of Filadelphia and this part of El Chaco had an interesting history. Filadelfia was founded in 1930 by Mennonites who fled from the Soviet Union because of religious persecution. The journey to Paraguay was extremely difficult. Their destination, set aside by Paraguayan government decree, was completely undeveloped. Travel was exhausting: a steamboat was taken up the Paraguay River to Puerto Casado, from where a narrow gauge railway went 150 km (93 mi) west into the Chaco bush. From there it was a few more long days of travel by oxcart to their settlement area. Over decades, the Mennonites turned a dry and thistle covered area into fertile farmland."
"I recently purchased an Android application for my phone, an annoying little piece of GPS software that keeps telling me to turn around, go back to a random point on the road behind me and then to come back where I am to be on my way. Sometimes it also tells me to take a longer road but I usually disregard that sort of nonsense and follow my map and road sign.
...Arrived at a random intersection, I must have been in a pretty stupid mood because instead of looking at the little arrow on the GPS that tells me which way to turn, I tried to figure it out by turning the map in my head (it never works) and of course turned the wrong way, turned around and then took a wrong road again. The only difference with my usual random riding style (a fancy name for getting lost a lot) is that this time the GPS recalculated instantly and I didn't notice. I didn't notice the recalculation happening and I didn't notice it had chosen a 'trail' type of road, the kind that appear in dashed lines on the map.
In the beginning it seemed like an OK small Thai road but pretty soon it turned to a dirt road and I still felt it was alright because I was planning to do some dirt that day anyway. The dirt road turned to a two-rut track up until a small sort of village. Not really a village, just two houses where the people gave me strange looks. I understand them, how would you look at a stranger that comes by your house where the road ends in a monstrously huge bike (compared to their scooters it is humongous)? Would you tell him not to go there? In what language? Yes, I thought so.
After that, it all went downhill. Hum, not really downhill but it got worse and worse and worse. The two-rut track turned to a one-rut track. I guess I missed that first clue..."
Sean Patrick Dillon, Ireland, Alaska to Argentina, in Peru, Honda Cub,
"Can I see your documents please Sir" The Ecuadorian Customs Officer asked in Spanish. "Si claro" I responded. I opened my document wallet. Hmm now where are they. "No seriously where are they? I had them yesterday! Uh oh!", The official went off to look at Gavin and Gordon's documents and in that moment while I was looking I instantly knew what fate had befallen my Temporary Vehicle Importation document. Last night I ripped it in pieces, doused it in gasoline and set it on fire.
How the hell could this have happened? I knew I was in for a whole world of crap because of this. As far as documents go, after your passport this is the most important piece of paper you hold when crossing a country on your motorcycle. As the title suggests this is the document that allows you to temporarily import your vehicle into a country. The document must be surrendered at the exiting border to confirm this is your bike and/or that you haven't sold your bike in the country, hence the government missing out on tax. It's always about the bottom line you see!
So how could things have gone so wrong and how the hell did I end up burning it?"
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Chad and Kyla, NZ, 2-up on a Chinese 250 in South America, in Brisbane Australia,
"In La Paz Kyla and I decide to go our separate ways as friends. She heads back to Canada and I start working for 'Gravity Assisted Mountain Biking' in La Paz. For 10 months I work as a guide taking backpackers down 'the worlds most dangerous road' and a few other more adventurous rides. I bought a couple of mountain bikes and the motorbike is relegated use running around town.
The plan was to get back on the road after working for a year but that didn't eventuate. After a crazy 9 months or so I heard my older brother at home discovered he had a heart condition and I was told to get checked up. I got some tests done in La Paz and it showed an issue. This was most likely why I had 'fallen asleep' while guiding a month earlier and ended up with a dislocated shoulder and a lot of missing skin. I sorted my life out in La Paz, sold my motorbike for about $400 (4 times less than one of my mountain bikes), and flew home. I went straight to hospital on arrival and ended up with a defibrillator/pacemaker put in.
Now I am doing fine, living in Brisbane, Australia. No bike or motorcycle licence(yet) but Dreaming of and Saving up for the next adventure..."
Ronnie Borrageiro, South Africa, RTW, back in South Africa, BMW 1200 GSA,
"This email just in from my good friend Doug McIllwain in Port Carbon, Pennsylvania... A few weeks ago, a snowstorm of sorts enveloped the east coast of the USA, and Pennsylvania, which is further inland, wasn't exactly spared. I had hoped that Doug had thrown an extra blanket over the Big Fella, as he, like myself, does not enjoy the cold very much! But I needn't have been concerned, seems all is well with my trusty steed! Doug writes:
'Hiya, Ronnie! Hope everything is going good for you and Patricia. I was able to get Big Fella out of the basement yesterday. I must say, I was impressed with how quick it fired right up. He's definitely ready to go. I let him warm up a bit, and then rode up the street, around the ball field, and back to the house. He was wanting to get out on the road, but I had to explain to him that he'd have to wait for you for that, and it won't be too long. He understands.'
Doug, if you could see the wide smile on my face right now, you would be rolling on the floor with laughter! I can't tell you how much I miss that darn bike. Every time I see one in the traffic over here, I get goose-flesh, thinking about my own Big Fella, waiting patiently for my return.
See you in about 80 days, Buddy, and hope we can ride together for a few days. I'll be heading to Key West in Florida via Georgia and the Carolina's, and then up the East Coast to Prince Edward Island in Canada. Gotta complete my 'Four Corners of the USA' ride, don't you know!
Then the Big Fella will be flown from Halifax to South Africa... or Mexico... or Bogota! Who knows? Either way, the 'ride' must go on... and on!"
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!
Neil and Clarissa,
Australia, RTW, back home in Australia,
"After some wondering and then careful deliberation, we decided to return to Australia in January 2013. Instead of flying the bikes to Amsterdam we shall now fly them and us back home, to Sydney.
Love you long time!
Both Clarissa and I have had our full of travelling for the moment. Its certainly painful to say as we have promised many people that we would visit them in many different countries around the globe. For the last couple of months now, we both knew that there was too many important things that had to still be attacked back home as soon as possible. When I say important, there's little doubt in our minds that it overrides our will to continue our travels at this time. There's absolutely no reason why we won't continue our journey later on. Yet for the moment, we need a firm base to continue both our professional lives and our personal lives.
Its with great regret that I post this, yet don't fret. Both of us are VERY excited at the thought of returning home to continue our other journey, life. Its unfortunate that our travels couldn't override our desires but to continue on now would be lying to ourselves, and to others.
When we finally do take up the travels again it will be motorcycle (the only way)."
Looking for a travel book for someone special?
Here's a few of our favorite picks! Check out our Books
pages, where we have listed hundreds of the best motorcycle
travel books, as well as overland travel stories, BMW
books and travel guides.
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
Channel Islands to Cape Town by Motorcycle
by Sam Manicom
"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."
Old Man on a Bike: A Septuagenarian Odyssey
by Simon Gandolfi
"Outrageously irresponsible and undeniably liberating, Gandolfi's travels will fire the imaginations of every traveller, young or old."
Tea with Bin Laden's Brother
by Simon Roberts
"Evocative, honest and inspiring, it's all brightened up by a great design and amusing comic book graphics which all help set Simon's book above the average motorcycling travelogue". Chris Scott
Mi Moto Fidel:
Motorcycling Through Castro's Cuba
by Chris Baker
"A unique, exhilarating solo adventure into Cuba astride a cherry-red, 1000cc BMW Paris-Dakar motorcycle."
Motorcycle Adventurer - Carl Stearns Clancy
by Greg Frazier
"The longest, most difficult, and most perilous motorcycle journey ever attempted." In 1912, there were no GPSs, ATMs, Internet, and often no gas, roads or motorcycle repair shops...
One Man Caravan
by Robert Fulton Jr.
RTW in 1932! Grant: "A terrific book, right at the top of the list. Recommended."
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.
The Road to Getting Yourself Out of the Way
by Annette Birkmann
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.
The University of Gravel Roads
by Rene Cormier
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.
If you have a book or want a book that you think other
travellers would be interested in please let me know and we'll put it on the
The contest is now an annual event, where you can showcase your best photos, and they can help inspire others to get on the road too.
Grand Prize is a South America Tour with Compass Expeditions!
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 new Progressive Suspension PSi - 465 Series Shock
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 2014 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!
We've now reached an amazing 746 Communities in 112 Countries as of February 3, 2013! 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.
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.
See you on the road!
Grant and Susan Johnson
Inspiring, informing and connecting travellers since 1997
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ISSN 1703-1397 Horizons Unlimited
Motorcycle Travellers' E-zine - All text and photographs are copyright Grant and Susan Johnson, 1987-2013,
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