December 01, 2008 GMT
Andy and Maya arrived in America(Nov.2008)

Andy and Maya arrived in America (nov.2008).

Still can’t believe it, but we are in the States! Over a week ago we left Britain. Our mate Chris took us in the middle of the night to Heathrow and yes, it was difficult to hug him goodbye. Then we flew from one culture in the other. We didn’t get hit by a culture shock like when we arrived in Buenos Aires, but there is a difference. Everything is BIG here; cars, pizza’s, buildings, people, even the toilets are extra large. We stayed at a campsite near Charleston, South Carolina, and squirrels where dancing all over the place.
The weather is very strange to us, hot during the day and freezing in the night. The inner and outer tent got frozen and the sleeping bags got wet from moisture. One morning I woke up and Andy was throwing his underpants against the inner tent. ‘What are you doing?’…’If my pants stick to it, I have to change my pants’.
In the evening we walked around the camp site and a very enthusiastic couple invited us to sit around the fire. It ended up in drinking beer and laughing a lot. John and Lynn invited us for Thanks Giving and together with Granny Mary we had a traditional Thanks Giving meal with corn, green beans, turkey and corn bread. This tradition comes from the early days when the first settlers arrived and didn’t know how to survive, so the Indians showed them how to grow food. That’s were Thanks Giving comes from and this dinner expressed to us a very kind type of hospitality that we will remember! Lynn also gave us a big shark tooth, a beautiful gift, much appreciated.
After 4 days we could pick the bike up, a real piece of cake. It took us only 4 hours to visit Customs, the Wallanius office and the port and there she was without any damage and nothing missing. I had to follow Andy who was driving a car and it was rush hour, so I ignored red lights and looked cute to other drivers so they let me pass…aahh, but it’s great to have the sidecar back!
And for who is interested, it cost us 690 pounds to ship the sidecar RORO from Southampton to Charleston in South Carolina and 63 dollars handling fees at the USA side. And Wallanius is an easy company to ship with (Thanks Debbie!).
To get into the States you need an address and Dan and Kim from the HU community in South Carolina had helped us out and invited us to their place, a beautiful house surrounded by woods. Without their help the officials wouldn’t have let us in. So here we are and it’s very nice to be with them. Very cozy and warm. They are an adventurous couple and have been travelling a lot, so there is much to talk about. The HU community idea works perfectly here and we hope so that we can spoil them when they come to Scotland. Thanks for being so good to us Dan and Kim, thanks for being so patience with us while visiting various camping shops!
Soon we will go South to Lillian near Pensacola, to visit Andy’s old friends Pete and Norma.
Till now we have been very lucky to met such a nice people, heartwarming that is.
The bike runs well and we are in travel mood.
Will be continued.
And if you want to know more go to our web site address www.adventuresidecar.co.uk
Andy and Maya.

Posted by Maya Vermeer at 08:49 PM GMT
December 29, 2008 GMT
NICE PEOPLE, BAD WEATHER AND FUN RIDING IN MEXICO

NICE PEOPLE, BAD WEATHER AND FUN RIDING IN MEXICO (27 of Dec.2008).

We left Dan and Kim’s place in the North of South Carolina on a very cold morning, it was below zero. Thinking back at the time we spent with them kept us warm. They we very good to us, so helpful and full of humor!
Driving though the South reminded me of ‘Gone with the wind’, a movie that I saw a long, long time ago. I recognized the wooden houses, some on stilts, the cotton fields and the accent (they ‘sing’ when they say ‘Ma-am’). It’s also called here ‘the Bible belt’, never seen so many churches, some have signs with a text in front of them like;
‘PRAYING IS THE WIRELESS CONNECTION’ or
‘NOT ONLY WAL-MART SAVES’ (wal-mart is what Tesco is in Britain or Centra in Holland).

The road, the 221, was a nice rolling one. Lots of people had put up the Christmas decorations and some were sooooo over the top, but the one I liked was a blow up Father Christmas of 2 meters high. Didn’t get one in the sidecar, otherwise I would have been happy as a tornado in a trailer park.


Driving into Florida gave us all types of palm trees; it got warmer, so the butter melted. We were also overheating in our 4 layers of cloths. By this time Andy wasn’t happy with the fuel consumption of the Triumph, it did just 7, 24 miles a liter, so it was drinking like a fish. Luckily the price of fuel is cheaper than in Britain (35 pence a liter)
.
One night we were camping and next door was a bar. They had a big bonfire going and expected some local musicians. We were almost collapsing from tiredness, but finally
some guys turned up and started to play on guitars. It was so good, they were singing about the country life, loneliness, girls that run away without saying goodbye, the dog that died and everything else that can go wrong in life. There was also a song taking the piss about this 30 year old guy that couldn’t cope with live, because he got rotten spoilt by his red neck mamma. I am glad we didn’t get to bed early.

Following the coast road, the 98, it rained. We saw a lot of damage from the last hurricane that had past 4 years ago, but also a lot of beautiful houses on stilts were rebuild. Many boats and places for seafood. We drove into Alabama (couldn’t stop singing Neil Young’s song about Alabama) and arrived just before dark at Pete and Norma’s place in Lillian, near Pensacola. Andy had met them 8 years ago when he was travelling through North America. They welcomed us very warmly. We spent a week together, they took us everywhere; on tour for site seeing, to shops, bars and together we took part at a big toy run. We started from the local Triumph dealer, named D and D cycles (thanks for your help and support guys!) and had to follow a bike and trailer that was dressed up in Christmas style. Over 1500 bikers showed up, and many were dressed up as Father Christmas. One biker had a duck on a lead that got lots of attention.

The weather was very weird; it was humid and hot or freezing cold. We also had a tornado warning. There was another cold front coming. In normal weather conditions in this time of the year, we could have done the Transam trail, an off road trail, but this weather made it impossible, we only could try to get further south to escape the bitter cold.

We also got post, John and Lynn, the ones who had invited us for Thanksgiving, had sent us a Gremlin Bell. It’s a Guardian Bell, it protects bikes from evil spirits that are responsible for mechanical problems and bad luck along a journey. The constant ringing of the bell drives them insane, so they fall of the bike (and create so potholes!). A Gremlin Bell has twice as much power when it is purchased by a friend or loved one and has given as a gift. And I can tell you, it’s more than wonderful to get a Gremlin Bell from such a nice people.

I made a big apple pie for Norma’s birth day; it took us 3 days to eat it. Pete (still wearing his Sunday cloths) made a part for the bike screen to stop the wind blowing through. Andy painted a map of the America’s on the sidecar. Together we visited in very windy conditions the famous Pensacola beach and we had to run for the enormous waves.
It was very special to be with Pete and Norma, great that they wanted to share so much. So saying ‘Goodbye’ was not easy.

We camped a few times in hard conditions. Luckily Andy is very good at making campfires. Just after we past Houston, we saw a Triumph dealer in Katy, so we stopped. The next thing that happened was that Steve and Gayla, who manage the parts department in the shop, invited us to stay at their home. And that was super, it was not only very cold, they were such a nice people! Steve gave us his handle bar muffs, something you really appreciate in this cold and Gayla cooked for us.

Above San Antonio you find the Hill Country; it’s a nice part of Texas. We stayed for a few nights at the Koyote campsite. It’s very difficult to wild camp in this part of the States, everything is fenced off and all the land belongs to somebody. Too many signs saying ‘keep out’ or ‘posted’.
The scenery was nice, but another cold front drove us South through endless flat areas that were damaged by the last hurricane. The roads were overcrowded because everybody wanted to spend Christmas in Mexico. We ended up camping in the garden of the Texas information centre just before the border and the sound of trucks passing by kept us awake.

At the border crossing into Laredo were hundreds of people lined up, waiting in the boiling sun. To get into Mexico you have to pay a fee and there were only 2 people at the office to deal with it. At 4 o’clock in the afternoon they got some more staff in, but it didn’t really make a difference. Every time somebody had finished the paperwork and could leave the crowed yelled, but there were also some scary moments when people started to get very angry, but it never got totally out of control. It took us only 12! Hours to get our paperwork done, so we camped in the border car park, this was quiet safe.

We drove tired into Mexico and left the toll road after getting enough off being ripped off by paying to much toll. We followed for 3 days the 40, a much more interesting road through dust towns, changed the rear tire (what a pain in the bum) that only had lasted since Pensacola and got lost in the horrendous traffic in Durango. A guy in a BMW shouted ‘follow me’ and guided us to the right road. His name was Jose and he owns 3 Triumphs. We had a drink together and then we continued our journey. Just after Durango we drove into the Sierra Madre Occidental and we were very pleased with the stunning views and whiny roads (called ‘the Devils Spain’). We also met another bike travelling couple, Johan and Charmaine from South Africa. They are on the road for years now. It was so nice of them to stop so we could have a chat and a coke. Hopefully we meet again.

Just before Christmas we arrived in Mazatlan, a town at the west coast and found, after getting stuck in the hectic town traffic, hotel Belmar were we met Mike. He is here on his bike and he is also from Scotland. We had never met before, but we got in contact by the Horizons site. So here we are. We have a room with ocean view; we are sunburned already and can chill out for a while!
Will be continued.

Posted by Maya Vermeer at 11:24 PM GMT
January 17, 2009 GMT
Part 3. 17 January 2009.

Part 3. 17 January 2009.

Mazatlan Mexico; we stayed about a week in an old, cheap hotel called ‘Belmar’, a hotel where in the fifties famous movie stars were staying. It’s situated in the historic part of the town and it has colorful houses and some quiet streets. Mike new exactly where to find good food and cheap beer, so we went out together several times. Mike is good company, he is well traveled, has many stories to tell and he is also a man with an iron will power, a good example for us. He is a bit older than we are, but at 65 is still going strong on his bike!

New Years Eve; 3 Canadians on BMW’s turned up and also a couple from Hungaria/Britain. They had abandoned their bike, because it didn’t do the job. Of course we drunk too much tequila and we had to eat 12 grapes to get happy in each month of this New Year (a Mexican tradition). It took us two days to get ‘fit’ again.


On the second of January we drove on the 15 in the direction of Guadalajara. It took us two days to get there and the Tequila route was pleasant to ride. We had contacted Humberto from the HU community and had asked him where we could get a tyre, which isn’t easy in Mexico. It ended up in him meeting us and escorting us through crazy traffic to his house where we were welcomed by his wife Pili and daughter Freeda (who offered us her bed!).
Humberto is a very interesting person, not afraid to try out new business experiments. He is also very helpful; on a Monday morning he phoned all the tyre dealers in town and found the right one! Happy with the new tyre, but not happy about leaving we had to say goodbye to this lovely and warm family. And Humberto saved me a nightmare by escorting us out of town. The traffic in Guadalajara is horrendous and I didn’t understand the signs at all.

The plan was to meet the South Africans (who we had met on the way to Mazatlan) in Moralia, so we could visit together the Mariposa Monarca (the Monarch Butterflies).
We drove south of Laguna de Chapala on a road with not much traffic to Zamorra, stayed in a quiet hotel (until the fireworks and cockerels started), got lost in Moralia and found finally Johan and Charmaine in hostal ‘Allende’. Our sidecar just fitted in the hall. We bought food at the local market, were amazed by all those hidden ‘tienda’s’ (little shops where you wouldn’t expect to find where you are looking for), explored the town and went to the laundry (God, we were smelly!).

Together we drove in the direction of Zitacuaro, the route of the 1000 peeks, a road with beautiful scenery, which used to be the old road to Mexico City. Johan was very patient with us; we couldn’t drive as fast as he could. The road surface was so bad; it felt like the sidecar had a flat tire.
There are a few parks where you can visit the Monarch Butterflies, we chose the less visited Cerro Pellon, somewhere near Aputzo.We asked for directions in Zitacuaro, which we didn’t understood, so the owner of the garage, Hector, got on his Harley and guided us. He was followed by his employee on a moped, which was much faster than us on these Mexican roads full of surprises (loads of ‘tope’, the Mexican version of a ‘sleeping policeman’).
We celebrated all this with a coke and Hector gave each of us a piece of silk with the Virgin Mary embroided on it. It will protect us on the trip!

We arrived at the welcome centre/campsite where people were still building. We could camp for free and could start climbing the next morning, together with a guide, who you really need, because there are so many paths, you easily take the wrong one and they never see you again.
The climb up the mountain is so steep that you start sweating after 5 seconds. We all were too proud to hire a horse. But after 45 minutes it gets easier and it becomes more fun to walk in the tree jungle. After two and a half hours we reached the area where the Monarch Butterflies gather and suddenly there are millions of them flying around your head, sitting on the rocks, drinking water from the ground, hanging together like a bunch of grapes in the trees… These butterflies come all the way from North America to mate here and after that the males die. Mother Nature is full of miracles.

Johan and Charmaine were heading in another direction and we wanted to contact Balam, a bike traveler who we had met 3 years ago at the Horizons Meeting in Viedma in Argentina. He lives in Valle de Bravo, a nice place near a lake, up in the mountains. And that’s where we are now.

And last but not least; what do we think about Mexico till now?
It’s full of beautiful smiles, sunshine, dust, fireworks, cockerels, exotic fruits, noisy dogs, colors, enchilada’s, tortilla’s, tienda’s, crazy traffic, mountains with thousands of bends, happy villages, loudspeakers, dead dogs, jake brakes and loads of friendly people.
Sometimes travelling through Mexico is hard work, but it’s also amazing that so many people jumped in their car or on the bike to show us the right road. People let me use their mobile phone for free; so many people opened their houses for us and shared with us their thoughts, adventures, philosophies and more. And it’s great that members of the HU communities are so nice, helpful and warm.

Will be continued.

Posted by Maya Vermeer at 11:21 PM GMT
February 21, 2009 GMT
Winter in Mexico!

Winter in Mexico!
21 February 2009.

The ride from the Moralia area to Valle De Bravo is a pleasant one, it goes through the mountains and the views are beautiful. Valle De Bravo is not very touristic during the week and it's quiet nice to walk around town, visiting the local market and trying out different Mexican banana shakes. Balam offers us to stay in his house, we met his family, ate together and talked about travel adventures and Balam's experiences with the Indian culture of North America. We have met him over three years ago in South America, not for long, but he opened his house for us as if we know each other for a long time. Balam develops tracks and campsites and one day we followed a track in a nearby park. The walk was nice and cool, it took us through thick jungle and to a lake were we relaxed.
Together we celebrated Andy's birthday with dinner, wine and two bags of his favorite chocolate raisins. Andy worked on the bike and I prepared the next bit of the route.
Balam, and your family, Thank you very much for having us!!

We hit the 134, a road with nice scenery heading South to the coast. It was hard work for Andy to ride the sidecar through this mountain area and I felt like a scrambled egg. The road has a dangerous camber, so we were all over the place.
We found a 'ballinario', a swimming pool, where we asked if we could camp. No problem. It was sticky hot, but we didn't had the guts to jump in the water, it looked so unhealthy to go in there. The ants had attacked our food before we could start eating it, barking dogs kept us awake all night, but it was still nice to camp again. We could see the stars through the mesh of the tent.


We kept following the 134 along the coast and enjoyed the views, then we joined the 200. We saw for the first time the ocean, the blue coulors were so intensive, it almost blinded us.
At the end of the day we drove through Acapulco and it felt like we were back in America, it gave us a culture shock, we didn't expect all this luxury and modern buildings after having seen pure poverty in the form of wooden shacks, working kids and a lack of clean water and good food.
(By the way, while I am writing this I get covered by sawdust....I look up and a giant fluffy bumble bee is creating a hole, by using it's teeth, in a beam which is supporting the roof. If it continuous so fanatic as it does, the roof will collapse at the end of this week).
While we are on the road we also hunt for bearings and try to cope with the busy traffic. We hit more 'topes' (sleeping policeman) than there are stars in the universe. Along the road there are loads of palm trees, plantations, farms and Brahman cows. Sometimes we are higher up in the mountains.

We stayed 2 nights in Zipolite, near Puerto Angel. It has a beautiful beach, to many backpackers and European looking faces, but also restaurants on the beach with firers at night, so romantic. When we were looking out of the 'window' of our hut, we had a great view on the beach were naked men, wearing only a hat and sandals, were jogging. For Andy, a proper English man, this was a bit to much.

One day we entered the town of Nitepec and got caught in a blockade. All the roads into the center were blocked by horses and carriages, buses and trucks. We couldn't escape, so I took my helmet off and asked what was going on. People were angry because of the high fuel prizes, but it was no problem for them to let us through. Now we were caught in the middle of this blockade! Luckily a taxi driver waved at us, so we followed him through parts of the town where you normally don't want to be and by the time I was wandering if following him was a good idea, we reached the right road out of the town.

Following a very windy road towards San Cristobal De las Casas the scenery changed and also the people: higher mountains overgrown with thick jungle, colorful indigenous Maya people in traditional blue and purple cloth, carrying big stacks of wood on their backs, adobe houses, men on horses and pigs and donkeys crossing the street.
San Cristobal has cobbled streets and loads of hidden tienda's (little shops) behind open doors, but the river we crossed to get into the center is full of dead swollen up dogs and the sewage runs into the streets. People are begging or trying to sell you things every five minutes like hammocks, jewelery or other local products. We find finally a bolt that we were trying to find for weeks. And we have a little hold up in this place because I got the famous shits again (too many banana milk shakes? ).

When we are back on the road again we are on the Maya route, Children had put up ropes on the road and tried to stop us, so they could sell fruits. I had to slap some small quick hands who were trying to grab stuff out of the sidecar, so Andy kept driving over the ropes, without stopping.

After a few days we arrived in Palenque, which was full of backpacker campsites and expensive hotels, but we found a real nice campsite with only one person on it. Bruno from France, over 10 years on the road with his Toyota Landcruser. Nice company, full of humor and also full of disgust about France (for sure he will never settle down there again). In the jungle behind the campsite howler monkies were hopping around and acting like a circus artist.
Palengue is very famous, so it's a tourist hole, you get sick of the tourist buses and the hassle from people who want to sell you souvenirs or want to 'look after' the bike. We didn't take that 'offer', which means you have to pay, so when we came back from visiting the ruins, we discovered that the Gremlin bell was stolen. Something that was a very special and appreciated gift, so we were very pissed off.
Palengue is impressive, big, interesting, full of Maya buildings, but it's also full of people selling souvenirs, it spoils it completely. We should have known better.

The Maya route rolls into a flatter countryside and offers more than enough ruins to visit. You find Chalakmul 60 kilometers into the jungle and the Maya temples are very high and interesting. We climbed two of these temples in the burning heat and on top of them we had a super view over this ancient city and the jungle canopy. Worth the sweating, climbing and trying to overcome our fear for heights. And not many people there. We saw exotic birds and in a distance we noticed big monkeys playing high up in the trees.

We stayed on an Eco campsite, you could wash yourself with brown water by using a bucket. We hadn't had a decent wash for 6 days, I made it seven. We found a hotel in Xpujill, where we took a long, long shower and watched TV while eating crisps, chocolate and cookies. Spoiled buggers!

From here we drove in one long day over partly bad roads to X-puha, to camping Bonanza at the Mexican Caribbean coast to meet Simon and Lisa. The four of us were at the same time in South America, but we never had met. So we spent over a week together on a beach with shiny white sand, opal colored water, palm trees and interesting people. Simon and Lisa are very good photographers and I had the honor to read some parts of Simon's articles he was writing and I am over the moon about his style (don't stop writing Simon!!). He is also very good at imitating Michael Jackson's moonwalk, very funny, but also fantastic, because there has been times that he couldn't walk or had a broken neck.
Our computer broke down, died finally. Together we went to a big store and with their knowledge and Spanish we bought a little laptop, so we can be in touch with the outside world and friends and family again. Simon has big brains for computers and he fitted some programs on it, which are great to use for us.
We studied the kite surfers, got sunburned in the shadow and were sweating our bits of while we were reading books. Wintertime in Mexico, how horrible!

Five days ago we left the campsite and the police and army checked us a few times. Their excuse was that they check for explosives, but we know by now that they are also curious. Just for fun and to stop them searching any further I had put some pads (the ones we girls use once a month when we have to deal with our 'female curse') in my bag in the top box. The effect is great when they open it...like if they just burned their hands! With a red face full of horror they want you to cloose the box and they don't want you to open anything else.
We also got stopped by the police because we were driving in the middle of the road, the camber was very dangerous. They drove behind us for miles (we hadn't noticed the police car) then they overtook us and after 5 minutes they stopped. So it took them a while to decide that. We listened very 'patiently and respectful',so we didn't get a fine, but had to continue on the right side of the road, driving 35 miles an hour. All this to avoid giving them the opportunity to wait for us and give us a fine.

We are back on the nice campsite near Palenque, so we can sort ourselves out before we go into Guatemala. We have again good company, Katharina and Thomas from Germany and Bruno is back. Andy has noticed some broken spokes and is sweating away repairing them. I am washing, writing and thinking about my sister, who I had contacted by skype this morning, after she had a shoulder operation. That is one of those rare moments that I don't want to be here, but want to fly in my own personal space shuttle to visit her and than go back again to continue the trip.

Will be continued.

Posted by Maya Vermeer at 04:14 PM GMT
March 24, 2009 GMT
Costa Rica, March 23, 2009

Costa Rica, March 23, 2009. Spiders, making friends, coffee, border crossings and more....

On the campsite in Palengue (Mexico) a little howler monkey appeared every afternoon in the trees and one morning I got a big surprise....I was sitting on the toilet, still sleepy, when an enormous spider walked in. It was huge, had a strange light brown colour, no hair and it looked like it was wearing little shoes (no high heels). I thought, if I open the door it will feel attacked and jump on me, so I opened the door (underpants on my knees) and FLEW over this monster that was already running towards me. I was faster!

After days of sunshine it rained for two days continuously very heavy, so we abused our computer by sending loads of emails. I also could contact my sister by using skype and she was doing very well. Husband and kids were washing, cooking, ironing and looking after her as good as they could. That was great to hear.


On the way to Ocosingo, we visited the waterfalls at Agua Azul and the water is as blue as the name says. The plan was to camp at this beautiful spot, but it wasn't safe ( too many people around) so we drove further to San Cristobal and surprisingly we met other bike travelers on the road, coming from the opposite direction we were going. We all stopped and had a chat, nice!

Weeks ago I was walking towards a supermarket in San Cristobal and on the parking place I saw a van and in front of it were 2 white people cooking! It were a father and daughter from Alaska, touring through Mexico. While we were talking a guy with a hat turned up, Carlos was his name and all of us talked with each other for a while. Later on I met Carlos again in the supermarket and he gave me his email address. While we were in San Cristobal we emailed each other a few times, but we didn't meet again. But now he knew we were coming and he offered us a place to stay so we put our tent up in his garden. Couldn't be better. Carlos doesn't live on his own, there are also 2 cats and 3 dogs. One dog has a broken back and is wearing diapers. I have never seen a happier dog doing all the things dogs do dragging the back half of his body with him. What an amazing creature and strong surviver! Carlos never goes out without a bag of dog food, so when he walks around in town street dogs will follow him and put their nose in his hand. For most Mexicans this is very strange, they don't often treat their dogs like that.

Carlos is a very interesting person, there was a lot to talk about; religion, politics, future plans, bikes (Carlos has been building bikes for over 30 years), solar cooking and energy, water purification systems, Eco houses and much more. At one point Carlos and Andy were discussing how to use solar power for cooking while we are riding the bike. Carlos is using his knowledge about solar power and water purification by example to share with the local Indigenous people, so they get more possibilities to improve their circumstances. So if you, who is reading this, is interested in these things or has information to share, please pass it on to Carlos. His email address is crfelix659@yahoo.com
He might be able to use it or give you more ideas and information.
He gave us materials we can use for solar cooking on a campsite. I am going to find out it I can bake bread or a bread pudding that way!

We also spent a lot of time to get spokes for our Cagiva front wheel. Andy had rebuilt our Triumph a bit before we left and he had created a front fork by using parts from our old bikes, a BMW and a Cagiva, so the sidecar would be ridable. Unfortunately that Cagiva wheel is quite old, it should have been rebuilt, but that didn't happen, so some spokes gave up. We had some new spokes from Hagon, but they were not long enough! Trying to find the right spokes in Central America is a pain in the ass (I warn you). With help from Carlos we found them in Tuxla, a city 50 kilometers from San Cristobal.

One morning we had to get up very early, there was still ice on the tent (the nights can be very cold and the days steaming hot at this time of the year) . That day we were going to visit the coffee plantation of Esteban and Luci, good friends of Carlos. We took a taxi and the six of us just fitted in the cab. It was a two hour drive and then we had to walk for one and a half hour to the plantation. By that time it was very hot. The walk went down hill and showed beautiful scenery. We had never seen a plantation before, didn't even know how a coffee bean looks like. We know now that they look like berries and get brown and hard after they get roasted! The coffee plant needs shade, so above them are fruit trees growing and Esteban explained the different type of coffee beans, how they grow and how they get harvested. His coffee is growing ecologically and he sells it all over the world. It's taste and smell is fantastic, you never want to drink Nescafe again.
Lucy cooked a meal for us by using a wood fire. She showed me how to make tortillas, but mine ended up as UFOs and her hands were working on top speed, fascinating it was.
We felt very privileged to be with them, to share a bit of their life, space and food. We enjoyed the meal very much: beans, tortilla's, corn milk and coffee.
The walk back was uphill and sweaty. We all ended up on the back of an open truck, so you could see the mountains, the villages and people very well. In every village the Indigenous people were wearing a different style of traditional cloth. Man were wearing a white embroiled 'dress', woman purple and blue skirts and blouses and ribbons in their hair. Lots of people smiled at us, us, very white strange people, obvious not from this part of the world. It was a very special day and I felt extremely happy to have seen all this.

We met another friend of Carlos, his name is also Carlos. He is a psychiatric, a presenter of radio programs and a big music lover. When he was younger he had visited Amsterdam and he was still enthusiastic about that. He loved 'Livin'Blues'; a Dutch band who was famous in Holland in the seventies! He was very pleased with my translation of the text from a 'Livin'Blues' CD and I was happy to, I don't meet often people in other countries who know something about the Dutch culture from the seventies!

A few days later we were invited for a meal by Esteban and Lucy. The whole family showed up, including his parents, who are in their seventies. We were sitting around the table with maybe 20 people and had chicken soup, beans, tortilla's, bean cakes in corn leaves and pie to celebrate the babies first birthday. Everybody wanted a piece of the bread pudding I had made that day (luckily it was extra large). It was very cozy and special to be with these lovely people and it was difficult to say goodbye.

When we came home we found out that the dogs had eaten our tent (they must got bored with us). One side was eaten to pieces. By using our tarp we still can use it, but it won't survive long. We will hunt for a new one.
Esteban, Lucy and your family; thanks very much for the great time we had together!
And Carlos, thank you for having us and helping us out. Hope we meet again one day. And we also hope that you will have water, so the 'Bomberos', the fire workers, don't have to bring you water, because the city water pipes are broken!

We crossed the border into Guatemala on a Sunday. We were hoping that Sunday would be a less busy day. The border crossing near Puerto Barios felt like an ants nest, it's difficult to find out to which offices you have to go first. We had to drive 4 kilometers back to get our passports stamped out and our Mexican bike paper work done, but there was no queue. Back to the border; we got our passports stamped in for Guatemala for one dollar each and the bike paper work was done in 20 minutes. The costs for the bike paper work were 40 Quetzales (about 7 dollars), which we had to pay into the bank next door. I had to change several times dollars into Quetzales, which is easy because there are a lot of money changers around. And I knew all the values of the money, the Lonely Planet tells you.
At the border Andy created a typical 'Andy incident'; somebody had put an orange cone in front of the bike and Andy, a bit irritated by this, wanted to drive over it. A guy told him that he had to pay, but Andy had no clue for what. When I came back from the Aduana, he was running towards me, he needed money. By that time he had found out that the bike had to be sprayed, fumigated. That was why he had a cone in front of the bike and had to pay. I am sure the guy will never forget Andy's special 'looks' ....
Than the pole got up in the air and we drove along busy stalls with food, fruit and cloth into Guatemala. I wandered if the people in this country would be as colourful as the ones in Mexico, how much poverty would be here, would we see people with Grey hair, sunglasses, hovers, books, smokers, clean water and toilets, big supermarkets and careful drivers? From all of these we didn't see much in Mexico, we saw to many working kids that should be at school and poverty, but also we met unbelievable nice people, some coping with difficult lives in a great way. And lots of people helped us out, invited us to their homes and shared stories and time.

GUATEMALA.
Immediately Guatemala feels different, it has higher mountains, it's very green, cooler and cleaner. We see many banana and palm trees and there is a lot of corn and sugarcane in the fields. Woman are weaving in front of their houses, people sell bottles of honey or pine apples next to the road. There is less jungle, we didn't see any big supermarkets, there are less places to buy food or restaurants. Often people make up the prices of something themselves. No road signs, so we ended up on a very scary road, well more a track. It was so steep that going down hill was a nightmare for me ( I felt very out of control, as a sidecar passenger you have to trust the driver completely). Andy was singing and absolutely happy, finally he had fun on an off road track.

We past some nice villages, we had no hassle at all. People were very friendly and waving to us and we also were waving our hands of. By waving to people you let them know ' I see you, I want to be nice to you', very important when you are traveling.

Because of the dust I got an eye infection, so I had to get some medication. All over Central and South America you find easily a 'farmacia's' where you can buy medicines. The farmacist, a woman, spoke so fast that I didn't had a clue what she was saying. She knew very well what I needed and she promised that I would be cured in 2 days. I asked her tree times to explain how to use the stuff and to be honest, I was a bit skeptical, but after two days my vision was clear again.

The roads in Guatemala are much better than the ones made out of marsh mellows in Mexico, but because we had been on that exciting track we had to replace 2 more spokes.
But we hit another bad track on the way to Languin. Mud is no problem for us, but if the track is very hard, stony, then it can damage the wheel easily. Andy drove very carefully, super slow, so no broken spokes, but we have to rebuild the wheel somewhere in the future to solve this problem.

In Languin we found a nice campsite. We were the only ones there. During the hot night the air was full of jungle noises and the birds were giving a full concert early in the morning.
The temperature changed from hot to humid hot (bah) and the scenery changed, we saw more cactus's and lower, very dry mountains, like a dessert.
We crossed the border in the North of Guatemala into Honduras on a Saturday. There was nobody else and it was the quietest and easiest border crossing ever.

HONDURAS.
After crossing the border we drove to Omoa, to Roli's Place, a well known backpackers hostel. First we were the only ones there, but the next day we had company, a couple from Sweden. Roli is a very interesting person, but he doesn't spend much attention to his guests. He is fed up with the common backpacker mentality, so he repairs law mowers by example and runs tours to Copan.
The next day, a Sunday, was the noisiest Sunday ever. The beach was overcrowded with families, creating a big mess. Buses were running their engines behind the hostel, radios and TV's were producing a hell of a noise. In Central and South America you always will have noise when there are people around, but this was a bit much. It went quieter on the Monday, but the beach had changed into a rubbish dump. That is another thing you see often in Central and South America, people leave their shit everywhere. They are not used to put it in a bin, if there is a bin. Most villages even don't have a system for collecting rubbish, so it ends up everywhere, especially around houses.

We saw more huts, than adobe houses, no people in traditional cloth, no white people. The mountains are here higher than in Guatemala. The beer is called 'Salva Vida', which means 'save live' or 'live saver'. And I saw a sign painted on the rocks saying 'Jesus for presedent'.
The traffic on the highway was completely unpredictable. No respect for other drivers and everybody was overtaking were they shouldn't. We saw some bad incidents with what I call 'killer buses'. The roads we took were in a very bad condition and they were often working on it. The people are friendly, but a bit more reserved than in Mexico and Guatemala. We didn't find any camping possibilities and stayed in some places that came with overworked cockroches, a million of mosquito's or other unwanted beasties like giant ants (who would hide till the next morning in Andy's underpants).

We passed loads of coffee plantations and in some areas it smelled very nice because of the pine trees. Than we had great mountain scenery all the way to the border at Los Manos. This border crossing was a bit more difficult, but after we made it clear to all the 'guides' that we wanted to do the job ourselves, we found out how the system was working and it took us only 2 hours to do all the paperwork. I only didn't like the fact that they didn't stamp our passport to get into Nicaragua, they told us twice we get only a stamp when we are going out of the country. Well, at least I have 2 papers that shows that we have entered this country.

NICARAGUA.
The road before and after the border was pleasantly quiet and the people are not poor. There are big farms, good looking houses and there is less trash. We found, for the first time in ages, a hotel without the coc croll , barking dogs, crying babies, drunks or other noisy stuff. Then the only other guest booked in and got a room right next to us. Houses, hotels etc. don't have windows as we have, they don't fit and are more like glass planks....they don't stop bugs and sound coming in. Anyway, our neighbor broke the world record for snoring that night....grrrrrr.

Oh, we were on the TV! Before we entered that hotel,a car stopped, a film crew jumped out and wanted us to interview us. While I was using my two words of Spanish, Andy was looking pretty in the back ground. That evening we saw ourselves on channel 20 and we had to laugh, your own voice and face look and sound strange on TV and why couldn't I produce more words instead of using face expressions and hands...Anyway, the next day some people had been watching channel 20, so we are movie stars now.

Next to the road you can buy pottery and exotic fruit. No Indigenous people or traditional cloth. The roads are in a very good condition and the mountains are great. No crazy traffic, they drive here more careful and much slower than in Honduras. A few times we got stopped by the police and army, but they didn't hassle us too much. People are very friendly and like to talk, also there is a lot of humor and when I did some shopping people, asked me loads of questions. I like this country.

One day we had to change the back tyre. After 4700 miles it was pretty much worn out. We found a small garage with friendly and helpful guys. We explained that we only would need a jack, we wanted to do the job our selves. No problem. After a while a group of people was watching us. By this time we are sweating in the heat and fighting with this tyre to get it back on. Nothing really fits anymore. When we finally have put the wheel back on the bike, one of the guys tells us that we have put the tyre on the wheel in the wrong direction. We start to laugh, everybody has to laugh, so we take a break and start again, this time with help from a very experienced guy. After a lot of hassle and patience the job is done and we know by now how to do it (I hope). They don't want us to pay anything and we are very surprised, we didn't expect that. Gracia's!

At the moment we are in Esteli, again in a bloody noisy place. Because of the weekend it was very difficult to find a place to stay and it doesn't come with the peace fullness we really would like to have, but at least it has no mosquito's, bugs or ants. And today we enjoyed a very expensive good meal with meat for Andy and salad for me, hadn't had that for a while.

Tomorrow we are on our way to Granada, a beautiful colonial town. There is a hostel were we like to stay.

Will be continued.

Posted by Maya Vermeer at 11:56 PM GMT
March 25, 2009 GMT
Palengue, Mexico

Simon, It worked!!! Thank you so much for your help!
A big hug, Maya.

The little howler monkey on the campsite in Palengue, Mexico.
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Agua Azul, Mexico.
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Posted by Maya Vermeer at 10:15 PM GMT
With Esteban and Luci

With Esteban and Luci.
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Traditional wedding cloth.
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Luci, Maya and tortilla's.
Meal at Esteban's plantation.
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Camp in Languin, Guatemala.febmarch09 028.jpg
Somewhere in Honduras.
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Short after entering Costa Rica we saw this vulcano.
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Posted by Maya Vermeer at 10:37 PM GMT
With Esteban and Luci.

With Esteban and Luci.
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Traditional wedding cloth.
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Luci, Maya and tortilla's.
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Meal at Esteban's plantation.
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Camping near Lanquin, Guatemala.
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Somewhere in Honduras.
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Just after crossing the border into Costa Rica we saw this vulcano.
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Posted by Maya Vermeer at 10:53 PM GMT
April 24, 2009 GMT
22 April 2009, Written in Cartagena, Colombia.

22 April 2009, Written in Cartagena, Colombia.

CORRUPT POLICEMAN, AN ACTIVE VOLCANO AND A SAILING SIDECAR.

NICARAQUA.
In the middle of the night we got woken up by a bunch of drunken guests who stayed in the same hotel as us in Esteli (Nicaragua). Very early in the morning, they were still drunk and bloody noisy again and they left the car running with the radio on.....Andy was immediately in killer mood, so I went over to speak to the manager, but he didn't give a shit and the drunken guest's reply was to turn the volume of the radio up. Great. The amount of sleepless nights was growing.

On our way to Granada we got stopped by the police and they wanted to give us a 40 dollar fine for not using the indicator. Andy was again in killer mood and I had to calm him down a bit. We told the policeman that we didn't have to use indicators, because they wanted us to stop in front of them (which was straight ahead) and we asked why they didn't give everybody else who didn't use an indicator a fine. At least 7 cars that passed by didn't use them. And we told them also that we didn't have any money, so we had to go to the first bank in Granada...Then the bribe went down from 40 to 20 dollars, so we knew now for sure that it was all about corruption. I got so angry that I started to shout to them in English, Spanish and Dutch,that made them speech less, so at the end they said that we could go. Afterwards Andy called me a Rotweiler.


The plan was to stay in a hostel in Granada, but when we finally found everywhere was full. We spend hours to find something else with safe parking for the bike, but it was over the top expensive or fully booked. We also had a lot of hassle from drunk people, we decided to get out of Granada (so we missed all the cultural stuff and also the noise from partying backpackers) and found a very nice place to stay in Nandaime. On the way to this place we met two other travellers. One biker, Sjoerd Bakker, who is originally from Holland, but lives in Canada. This lively guy deserves the name 'Flying Dutch man', because he drove from his home all the way down in 2 weeks. He had done this only 30 times before. He is checking out a lot of accommodation in Central America, so he can put it in a book and sell it to other bike travellers by Internet for only 15 dollars, very cheap and it saves you a lot of hassle and money.
The other one we met was a funny French guy on a push bike. He used the Lonely Planet to wipe his bum and was on his way to Ushuaia, but first he had to get through the Darien Gap (the area where Panama and Colombia are connected to each other) by taking his bicycle on his back .....we tried to explain that you can;t cross the extremely dangerous Darien Gap by walking, but he was determined to do it, so I promised him pancakes when we would meet each other again in Ushuaia at Christmas time.

COSTA RICA.
We crossed the border from Nicaragua into Costa Rica at Penas Blancas It was unbelievable busy and we used a guide to get much quicker through the Nicaraguan side. I still don't know if she was an official border guide or not, she didn't ask any money, but we gave her 5 dollars, because she had explained the procedure so well and had done the job very good. Part 2, crossing into Costa Rica, we did that our selfs. It took two and a half hours to get into Costa Rica and this border crossing was so weird and chaotic, that I really can't recall how we did it.

This first thing we saw in Costa Rica was an enormous volcano, one of the many you find in this country. There were a lot of bird swarms on the road and one bird flew against Andy's fragile body. This one has a big headache now. The traffic was not bad, people were driving much slower than we had seen before and were obeying the traffic rules! We had a hamburger in a restaurant were a group of teenagers was giggling around the table. One of them was wearing a t shirt saying 'Save the beaches, that's where the girls are'.We found a quiet place to stay in La Cruz and stayed there a few days to chill out and get some sleep.

The wind was very strong in the West of Costa Rica and at the same time it was HOT. We went in the direction of the mountains and followed a 40 km stony track through flatter farm land that, in combination with the palm trees, reminded us of Brazil. It was very green and cleaner than any other Central American countries that we had visited before. Also the houses looked much nicer, there were even well kept gardens in front of them! The cattle looked healthy and we didn't see skinny dogs. People waved a lot to us, were so friendly. Somebody gave us a bag of real nice coffee from this country to welcome us, and many Costa Rican's showed a lot of humor. Like 'Were are you going?'.
Our answer, 'To Argentina!'.
Reply, 'Oh, that's just around the corner'.
And if you want a big mess on your plate....I saw a pizzeria called 'Pizzeria Tsunami'.

We drove around lake Arenal. The road to the lake is in some places very stony and steep and a few times I had to jump out of the sidecar on the back of the bike to spread the weight so we could easier get up the hill. Quit a painful job, because you bounce around hard, but what you get is nice views and and a boyfriend that appreciates me acting like a monkey.
We could camp for free next to the lake and there were many exotic birds ( one looked like the Central American version of a king fisher and there were different types of humming birds) and fire flies, who glowed romantic in the dark (the male fire fly glows to attract the females, that's why I always can see Andy, who has a very white skin, glowing in the dark he he! ).
The next morning Andy put some new spokes in the front wheel and together we changed the back tyre, so we could drive a bit easier on the next bit of dirt road, but we found out that this road was a bit much for our fragile spokes. We decided to go in the direction of volcano Arenal, near Fortuna.
First it was easy, all smooth asphalt, than we took the road to Pueblo Castillo, a little village at the foot of the volcano. This was quite a bouncy track. The prices for a room were so over the top, that we ended up camping for free on a football field. We could see from inside the tent the whole volcano, which was rumbling and boiling at night, so it had a red glow in the dark! We managed to drink to much wine in the restaurant of this tiny place and that was not a good idea. Next morning we had both a big headache (and the birds were whistling so loud!) and it was an exhausting job to take the tent down in the humid heat.
We didn't go far that day, we drove 12 kilometers over a rough road to the town of Fortuna (beautiful!) and stayed in 'Sissy's hostel' , a small, but a not to noisy place. We tried to find a shop were we could buy a tent (ours got eaten by dogs), but no chance, we have been all over the place, but found nothing, as usual.

Costa Rica has a higher living standard than the other Central American countries. Eighty percent of the population is middle class, in other Central American countries there is almost no middle class, people are very rich or very poor. Costa Rica is also missing a few things, like they have no army and you very rarely find a road sign which gives you a lot of surprises and strain on the relationship!

We drove over route 142 through the mountains, which was a pleasure. We enjoyed this road a lot, it had loads of tobacco and coffee plantations and 'vivero's' (flower nurseries). I saw the plants that we have at home in the living room here in size XXXL. This green part of the country has very good soil and we didn't see much poverty. Back on the Panamerican Highway, the traffic turned hectic and we couldn't find the sign for the right turn off, because the sign was laying upside down next to the road. Just before dark we found a dodgy hotel in La Virgen, also a dodgy place. Next morning we continued on the 126 South, an interesting road, but bits of the road were missing. After hours of driving in the direction of San Juan we couldn't continue, the road was closed. They were rebuilding the road that had dissapeared due to land slides. No signs, no warnings of course, so we had no other choice than to drive the same way back .Bugger..

In the afternoon we arrived San Juan, the capital city of Costa Rica and we were using a street map to find out were John, owner of a bike shop, who could hopefully tell us were we could find spokes and brake pads, was living. We had his address, so it couldn't go wrong.
Three times we had to ask around to find 'Gringo John', as the locals call him, before we knocked on his door. When he opened the door we saw a big tall man, who was in a happy and surprised mood. We explained how we had found him and discovered that he wasn't the right guy, yes his name was John (John Skiffington, a famous photographer!!), but the one we were looking for is living in the center of the town.(This shows how unique my navigating skills are). To celebrate this funny coincidence he offered us a glass of wine and showed us on the map how to get to the right John. We didn't understand the traffic system in the town very well. Calles, avenues, streets and roads have almost no street names and together with pit sized gutters and enormous potholes, combined with one way traffic and crazy drivers.....
It also started to rain very heavily, so the traffic lights stopped working and the teachers were on strike and had blocked the roads, but we found the right John. His shop, called AG, is in the red light district. He was very helpful and offered us to take us to another bike shop for parts. Just before dark we found a hotel with safe parking very close to John's bike shop. Hotel Venicia has everything that the Hilton doesn't have, but it was cheap and safe.

John took us to different places and we found some brake parts. We drove all day around town, hunting for more spokes and we met a guy, called Pedro. He has a nice BMW 650 with the twin boxer engine, very rare in Central America. This helpful biker took us into town, we only had to follow him and he gave directions for a camping shop! We didn't find a tent, but it was very nice to meet him and also his brother who has a bike shop as well.

We left San Juan and drove through the cloud forest and saw enormous ferns, trees covered with ivy, paradise flowers and plants with nice smelling purple and pink flowers. Then again banana and coffee plantations and beautiful gardens with millions of magnolias, all blooming. We loved to ride in this country, especially in the cooler mountains with many volcano's. The traffic is not to bad, people wave a lot and are happy to see us.

One day we had to wait for a long time on a small mountain road, an accident had happened and a truck blocked the road. It started to rain and this heavy shower flooded the road, it turned into a river and we got soaking wet (yes, we were wearing in rain clothes). The bike didn't work well, so I had to push it uphill, grrrrr. We were happy again when we found a great place to stay, we dried our stuff out and didn't do much for 2 days. Nothing special happened except that Andy dropped his toothpaste in the toilet, I cooked sausages and forgot to take their plastic skin off and Andy managed to kiss and fart at the same time.

Weeks ago we had met a very pleasant guy called Cristian, who told us about his uncle Marcial, who has a work shop in front of a palm tree in a place called San Isidro. He could be the one who could help us out with the spokes. His place was a bit difficult to find, but he found us while he was driving around on a mini bike. He had a look at the wheel and turned his work shop up site down to find spokes, but no luck. Then he took us in his car and drove to some other bike shops in this very busy town, again no luck. So it ended up in him buying an ice cream for us! That was really nice!

PANAMA.
A few days later we drove through endless fields of pine apple and crossed the border at Rio Sereno into Panama. The crossing is a bit hard to find (no signs), but it was a very easy place to cross. We saw indigenous people wearing colorful big dresses and the views from this mountain area all the way to David, a place in Panama, were nice. Off course we got lost in the city of David, trying to find the hostel. Luckily we are not married, otherwise we would have divorced in the bloody hot center of this town, where we, both exhausted, couldn't work out were to go (again, no signs, street names, nada). The owner of the hostel was very good in telling us was we were NOT allowed to do in this place, so we left the next day.

Panama is nice, quite upmarket with loads of supermarkets and banks, but not as great as Costa Rica, were we had so many nice experiences by meeting wonderful people.

By this time we were trying to work out how to get our sidecar and our selves shipped to Colombia. As I wrote before, it's playing with your life to cross the Darien Gap by road. Well, there is no road, you have to work out a route your self and this area is full of drug traffic, guerrilla's, army and bugs (like ants that want to eat you raw). So you have to fly or take a boat to get to South America. And by this time we were looking forwards to get there.

We drove over the Panama Canal (wow!) and stayed at hostel 'Wunderbar' in Puerto Lindo, in the North of Panama, for almost 10 days. We got on very well with Guido and Silvia, the owners of this hostel. They have been travelling a lot and sailed for 16 years on a boat. We had some very interesting and nice evenings together.
Guido offered to ship the sidecar for a very reasonable price, but we had to split bike and sidecar (a big job). We worked in the hostel as well, I cleaned and cooked and Andy was helping Guido fixing outboard engines . We also tried to work on the boat, but we both got seasick, we are useless as sailors. This made us decide to take the bus to Panama City and fly from there to Cartagena in Colombia. We stamped the bike out at the Aduana in Colon and bought tickets.
We also met the French push biker again, he had changed his mind, he didn't want to cross the Darien Gap by foot, he would take a boat from Colon for 50 dollars or so....a cheap and probably very dangerous way to get to Cartagena as well, but if you fancy adventure, go by a boat that probably smuggles cocaine.

Andy dismantled the sidecar from the bike (in two hours), we packed our luggage in bags and took everything to a small boat that was waiting in the harbor. Andy, my hero, had to sit on the bike in the boat while it was sailing to Guido's ship. Then it had to be lifted on to the back of his ship. My heart was in my mouth, this was absolutely horror. If it would go wrong the bike would end up in the sea and that would be the end of our trip. But the boys did a fantastic job and Guido is a very trust full person and has shipped many bikes this way before!
The sidecar ended up at the front of the boat. Six guys had to lift this heavy thing.... The bike was fixed onto the back. The next day it sailed away and we wouldn't see it again in five days time, which made us feel 'leg less'. Travelling without the sidecar is totally strange to us.
We are more than pleased with the help of Guido and Silvia. Have a look at their web site address (www.hostelwunderbar.com) if you are interested in shipping the bike and your self. They offer a five days trip via the San Blas Islands and that is a very pleasant and inexpensive way to get from Panama to Colombia.

Next time we will tell you if the boat did sink or not....
We are in Cartagena waiting for Guido and the sidecar to arrive.....
Will be continued.

Posted by Maya Vermeer at 02:12 AM GMT
March 09

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Camping under the volcano in Costa Rica.
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And it was still active...
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Couldn't go any further, due to a land slide.
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Marcial and Andy.


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The flying Dutch man Sjoerd Bakker.
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Sidecar fun with Sylvia and Manuela (hostel Wunderbar).
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Prepairing shipping the sidecar.
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Will it all sink, or not?......

Posted by Maya Vermeer at 02:34 AM GMT
June 06, 2009 GMT
A trapped nerve, bloody spokes and lovely Colombians..

A trapped nerve, bloody spokes and lovely Colombians..
Ecuador, Ibarra, the 6 of June 2009.

On an early Monday morning we went to the harbor in Cartagena to look for Guido's boat. We could see it, it was not far away, but Guido didn't respond to our nervous phone calls. Two hours later he did, he had been in a deep coma, due to a hectic boat crossing and probably to much beer. There had been a terrible storm, everybody on the boat had been sea sick and the waves horrendous. Our bike had attacked Guido's dingy, so it was damaged and our sidecar had a broken light, but there she was!
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It was again a stressful and nerve breaking procedure to get bike and sidecar off the boat onto dry land, but we had no mayor problems. Randy, a biker who also stayed at the same hostel as us, gave us a hand and after a few hours working in the burning sun the sidecar was roadworthy again.
When we arrived at hostel Casa Mara they asked us to dismantle the sidecar from the bike, so it was easier to park next to the swimming pool, ha ha...there was loads of space!


The next day we went to the Aduana, called DIAN, to get the bike paperwork done. This office is very interesting, if you have to wait you will be entertained by everybody who is working there. I have never seen so many people flirting and working with each other at the same time.
Officially they have to inspect the bike, but is was almost lunchtime, so it didn't happen. Still I got almost a heart attack when they asked me for a bill of lading, a paper you need when you use a cargo ship, but the sidecar came on a small sailing boat, so we didn't need that!
To celebrate having our bike back we went that evening to the old part of town, together with Randy, who got got grabbed by his tools by a 'lady of the night'. After this incident I walked between Andy and Randy to protect them from more assaults. Like a bull terrier.

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In one of the next days Andy's back got very stiff and painful, due to a trapped nerve. Not nice. A group of bikers stayed at hostel Casa Mara, so we met Grace and Adam again (we had met each other in Mexico). Randy took of with his mates and we were on our own again. Andy couldn't walk or sit down, but luckily we were in a great hostel with very nice people! After 4 weeks Andy managed to walk around for a short while. He did a lot of exercises and finally he was able to move around normally again. By then I knew every part of the old town and I could do the shopping in 'Exito', a big supermarket, with my eyes closed. There was lots of time to email and to explore the routes into Peru and Brazil and to read books. I repaired bags and clothes and we found bike insurance. We watched too much TV

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and put on weight, because we consumed too many pizza's. I also learned how to kiss and fart at the same time and we had our romantic moments...
Maya: 'You are my sun and I am your flower'.
Andy: 'I am a shoe and you are my sock'.
Maya: 'You are like honey and I am your bee'.
And off course it turned the wrong way...
Andy: 'I am your toilet and you are my s...'.

We met more nice bike travellers and had a beer together from the moment Andy was able to do so.
The hunt for spokes started again and we found a shop where they would be able to rebuild the front rim, but they never called us back, so we wanted to leave it. On the day of leaving Cartagena we visited this shop, they still had the one and only spoke that we needed as an example.....and then we found out that they had found the spokes we were looking for months for! So we went back to the hostel, they were happy to see us again and we took the rim the next day to the shop. They did a good job and we were very pleased with that!
Finally we left the hostel and the lovely people who are working there and hit the road again. After a few hours riding we had to wait for hours, a bridge was closed! At the end of the day we found a noisy place to stay. Roaring trucks kept us awake.

After 3 days on the road we arrived in Medellin. We didn't get stopped by police and army to often. And if they did they were more curious about the bike than serious about checking paperwork. Two years ago we got stopped every day many times, but now not very often.
It's only since 7 years that you can travel like we do in Colombia, due to a very good president, called Uribe. He attacked corruption and terrorism and the economy is going up. We didn't hear any complains about Uribe, but next year there will be elections again and Uribe can't get reelected, because he already has done almost two terms. We hope that there will be another good president, Colombia deserves that.

We got lost in Medellin, as we do everywhere, but found Ruta 40, the famous BMW bike shop. We said 'hello' to Mauricio and the other people who are working there. Every time we got lost in Medellin there was a guy on a little bike showing us the way, like a guardian angel. We went to Suzuki Super Servicio, the bike workshop were Carlos Mesa is working now. Two years ago he was working at Moto Angel and he helped us out with several bike parts. Moto Angel still exists, but it has changed ownership. Carlos and Mario (the manager of Suzuki Super Servicio) offered us space in their workshop where we could work on the bike. That made us very, very happy! Carlos took us to hostel Medellin, they have a big garage and we came back the next days to work on the bike.

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When I said to Mario that you can eat from the floor (a Dutch expression that means that the workshop floor is very clean), he asked: 'What do you want to eat?'
Our front wheel got new spokes in Cartagena, but we didn't had any reserve spokes. Mario and Carlos arranged that. They helped us out with many other things and didn't mind having us working in their palace. They like to have bike travellers around and we felt very welcome.
I bought a big cake that was covered with cream and fruit and everybody in the workshop got a huge piece and we made a big card, but you can't do enough to express the feelings of appreciating the friendliness and helpfulness.
I am a big fan of Carlos, he is not only a very good mechanic, he is also nice to talk to. The same counts for Mario and both are full of humor and lust for life.
The bike is ready now to cross into Peru and Brazil, we don't have to worry about those bloody spokes anymore. Thanks very much Carlos and Mario!!!!

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Trying to get out of Medellin is not easy, the traffic is horrendous, but still somebody managed to give us a TRIUMPH t shirt out of a window whilst driving a car!!! We only got lost once and kept following the 25, that took us out of town. We past many small villages, got black faces from the smoke from the trucks, but enjoyed the views very much. It got cooler as well, we didn't sweat anymore and we even had some rain. That night we stayed in a so called 'love hotel' with a big garage and I cooked inside. It was a bit noisy at night of course.
The next day we drove over windy roads through high green mountains, it was stunning. People were waving their hands off, like everywhere in Colombia. We drove through sugarcane fields, along banana, pineapple and coffee plantations. The hills are so steep that people are living very close to the road . Just before dark we found a small room and the bike parking was in the restaurant.

The area before Pasto reminds me of Scotland. And then we saw a guy on a push bike, he was going uphill for hours. We stopped, had a chat and shared our bread. Then a bike came from the opposite direction.... Bernard and Cathy from Britain, on the road since August last year. She is blind, but has been all over the planet!Have a look at their web site, she is a good writer (www.worldtour.org.uk)
Yes, you meet amazing people while you are travelling.
We exchanged maps and stories and then everybody had to follow the road again.
That night we stayed in a dodgy love motel in Pasto. The border is not far from this place, so we crossed this the next day. It was a Saturday and there was no queue at all. I had to help the border officer with the paperwork and I am glad that my Spanish is a bit better now.
We only got a visa for Ecuador for 10 days, the computer didn't work. Luckily Ecuador is not that big.
We got an email from Jeff who we want to visit in the North of Peru, but some roads are blocked, so we have to be aware of that.

At he moment we are in the north of Ecuador, in Ibarra. It was a very beautiful ride to here. Ecuador is different, the people are more serious than in Colombia, but still very nice. We have many good memories of Colombia, due to many friendly and helpful people. There is something special about the Colombian people, they seem to be happier, they show the biggest smiles, are unbelievable friendly and helpful. We wish the people this country well, they deserve it.

We are in a nice place, we will be on the road again tomorrow, but first I have to cook....in a cupboard.
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Posted by Maya Vermeer at 06:11 PM GMT
June 24, 2009 GMT
22.6.2009.SWINE FLU, JEFF'S BEAUTIFULL PLACE AND LONGING FOR STEAK AND SALAD.

22.6.2009.SWINE FLU, JEFF'S BEAUTIFULL PLACE AND LONGING FOR STEAK AND SALAD.

On the second of June we past the Equator and we got lost in Quito. It was a hard day riding on busy and smoky roads. Not much fun. But after this it got much better. We past volcano 'Cotopaxi', but couldn't see the top, it was cloudy, but still we enjoyed the scenery. One night we stayed again in a love hotel. This one had a round bed, 3 mirrors and a great garage for the bike.
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We drove through the steep mountains and had sunshine, rain and thick fog as well. There were many road works and we often had to wait for a long time, before we could drive further and the road was very damaged, difficult to drive on. That night we couldn't find a place to stop for the night. We asked in a small restaurant in the middle of nowhere for 'habitation' (a room) and the lady got immediately a mattress out and offered us a small room! That was fantastic!

The next day we got interviewed twice. Somewhere South of Quenca, on a steep mountain in a desolate area where we stopped to talk to a cyclist, called Leo (from Belgium). He is making a film about his trip, so he is carrying a video camera.
In Loja, a modern looking town, a guy on a motorcycle came by and we had a chat. He asked if we wanted to do an interview, so we ended up in front of a studio trying to understand the questions. By that time we were surrounded by a group of people. The interview was unique, everybody was asking the questions and everybody was answering them as well. By now I need a lipstick.


In a small village two people stopped us. To our surprise the were dressed in perfectly white doctors coats. It took us a while to find out that they were checking people out for symptoms of SWINE FLU. Off course we didn't have any (except for making sounds like a really fat pig to make sure that they were talking about swine flu). They let us pass through. Interesting procedure.

After days riding on bumpy roads we arrived in Vilcabamba, in the South of Ecuador. This is a healthy area and the people get very old, because of the climate. The first night we camped near the hostel, they didn't have a room for us. We met a nice couple, Marion and Bernd, travelling in a great Toyota land cruiser and we had a good time together.
This hostel would be the last piece of civilization and luxury that we would come across for a while,
so we stayed for two more nights to enjoy all this, especially the suburb food and great bathroom.

The road to Zumba, in the direction of the border to Peru, is a dirt road and it's in a bad condition. I was all over the place in the sidecar and Andy was working hard trying to ride without braking any spokes by avoiding big holes in the road.
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Zumba has some places to stay in the center, but neither of them have parking space for the bike. We found a room in a farm-hostel at the outskirts of the village. It was super basic. The beds were specially made for rough bikers like us, I had never slept in a bed as hard as this one before. The room had no glass in the windows, so we could hear the cockcrow misfiring all night. The toilet (it was green molded inside) had no toilet paper, except already used newspaper. The outdoor kitchen was invaded by ducks and chickens who dropped their droppings everywhere, but it could have been worse, at least there was no smelly pig rolling around in the mud.

We only had a ten days visa for Ecuador, so on the last day before the visa would expire we reached the border by driving over the worst dirt road in this country, but the views were great. People in the South of Ecuador don't look very happy and they don't wave a lot. They look very indigenous and are much shorter than me (I am 1.63 cm. tall), a giant compared to the people we saw here.

It took us two hours to get the border crossing procedure done. 10 minutes at the Ecuadorian side and the rest was spend to help to fill in the paperwork at the Peruvian side. I had already copies, but the border officer wanted them on ONE piece of paper. How bureaucratic it can be. But we got a 90 day visa for Peru, that's good, because it's a big country to travel through.

A German couple in an old Toyota had already informed us about the roadblocks. They told us that we could drive in the direction of Chachapoyas between 6 and 3 o clock during the day. After that they would close the road. Good news, it meant that we would be able to go to Jeff's place without a huge detour.
We struggled on a bad, bad road to get to Jaen, it took us all day and more to reach this town. Three years ago we were also in this place and we ended up in a hotel with an armed guard and they warned us about going out in the dark. It didn't feel very safe then, but this time it looked much better. No arms, no guards, but very friendly people. We found a great place to eat. Andy had a steak with chips and I consumed an enormous pile of salad. A double portion, because Andy doesn't do healthy food.
This town proves that the Peruvian economy is going upwards, people look more happier than 3 years ago and we had to wave our hands off. We got surrounded several times by big crowds of curious people, who wanted to touch the bike and asked loads of questions.

There were lots of well needed roadworks going on, but we didn't see any road workers. All the materials, trucks and diggers were there, but no manpower. Maybe it has something to do with the road blocks?
In Baqua Grande we saw the first signs of roadblocks, burned out trucks and tyres, loads of police and soldiers. We got stopped once by them, but they only wanted to have a look at the bike. No warnings, no talk about roadblocks. We had no trouble to drive in the direction of Chachapoyas. Afterwards we heard that not long ago 24 policeman and hundreds of Indigenous people had been killed and the reason for the roadblocks is a protest against the government who wants to sell big pieces of land to foreign companies, without consulting the people about the consequences like pollution.
To get to Jeff's place you go from Pedro Ruiz South on the road in the direction of Chachapoyas. You will ride through a beautiful valley over a smooth asphalt road (a great pleasure after all those bumpy tracks!) next to a river, along Scottish Highland look a like mountains (but with banana trees). Than 6 km up a windy dirt track that takes you to San Pablo De Valera.
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We met Jeff 3 years ago in Cuzco, he is the owner of a bar called 'Norton rats' and has the one and only riding Norton Commando in Peru. We spent 3 weeks in Cuzco and a big part of that was in his bar drinking beer and talking about bikes and travel adventures. Later we met again and together we visited Chan Chan, the remains of an immense ancient adobe city near Trujillo. Jeff had bought a Triumph Speed Triple than and he was riding it home at that time. At the moment he is building a house and a hotel at the outskirts of this little village and it's near the 3rd highest waterfall in the world and other beautiful spots worth a visit ( like Kuelap, an ancient oval-shaped pre-Inca city, South of Chachapoyas and other archaeological sites).
House and hotel are in an absolute great spot! Clouds like huge battleships are floating by, we are in a place where people live above the clouds. Butterflies, rainbows, this place is a treasure high up in the mountains, surrounded by waterfalls..

The climate it nice, mostly sunshine during the day and cool at night. Jeff is proud and happy to show us around and he is very exited about the building work. Andy (who has built his own house himself) and Jeff are on the same level and, as I soon find out, they can talk about it all day.
It's great to see each other again, there is a lot to talk about and to do.
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With Jeff's help and translation in Spanish and the guys of a local workshop a well wanted and needed stearing damper is mounted to the bike. It works suburb. Andy could check the bike and I cleaned and repaired all the camping gear.
Than we walked with the 3 of us to the waterfall. We spend all day walking, climbing, slipping and sliding. It was raining, but still we enjoyed the jungle trail, which is very pretty, tranquil and interesting ( so very different to the flat land in Holland were I grew up). The clouds disappeared and the waterfall showed us her pride, wow!
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The people in San Pablo De Valera are super friendly and get also very old. They get up by the first light and go to bed when it's getting dark. It has electricity since 2 years, so there are TV's as well. The people here love soap opera's and wrestling shows.
Everything here goes in slow motion.
The village is very small, but it has a little restaurant and 3 tienda's (mini shops), where we can buy toilet paper, bread, water, just the basic stuff.

Every evening we walk from Jeff's house and our tent on a ancient Inca path towards the village, which is a pleasure. Along this path you meet horses loaded with firewood or bags with corn, dogs who bark and wiggle their tale at the same time, woman carrying sugarcane on their back and a chicken (ready to be slaughtered) under the arm, three ducks and and a few chicken families, a huge pink pig, a small black piggyaprilmayjune2009 146.jpg
, more horses (parked up like cars outside the houses), giggling children ('Look at those strange Gringo's!) and cows who are going home.
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We are very busy by greeting everybody on the track. When we arrive at the small restaurant, owned by senora Phillipa, it will be for sure we get rice, maybe with a small piece of chicken, ears of a pig or cooked stomach and there is fried banana or cooked yuka. Here the Peruvian people eat this 3 times a day, but we can handle that only once a day. Andy has difficulties to empty his plate, I eat mine and his. He is longing for pizza or a steak with chips. I am more longing for a good shower, a bucket is not very handy to use ( and we only used it once in 12 days).

Here the houses are from adobe, a mix of straw and clay, mixed together by human feet or by horses. When it's dried out it's very strong and heavy. Jeff made the adobe bricks by himself and he put bamboo sticks in the walls to make the house earthquake proof. At the moment workers are plastering the outside of the house and it looks already really good.
Andy is in his element by giving Jeff a hand and I am happy with writing and reading. But soon we will be on the road again, towards Tarapoto, Tingo Maria and Cuzco. It will be a difficult ride through the hot and maybe muddy jungle, into the cool mountains, crossing some high passes. When we arrive in Cuzco we will celebrate all this and drink to much beer at Jeff's bar. And Andy will get his steak and chips!

Posted by Maya Vermeer at 03:12 AM GMT
July 22, 2009 GMT
Dust, Demons and Devils.

Dust, Demons and Devils.
Cuzco. July 21. 2009.

A green, windy and smooth road took us through the breathtaking mountains to Moyabamba. Colorful markets everywhere, they sell everything, but are also good meeting places for the local boys and girls. We drove into flatter countryside, so it also got hotter again. Moyabamba has a 5 star hotel, but nobody was staying there, so they offered us a big room for the price of a 2 star hotel...most important thing, it had a big, hot shower room! It's good you couldn't smell us. Palm trees, a swimming pool, a great view, good food...we stayed 2 more nights. The food was very nice and they had real mayonnaise, something you don't find often here, so I scoffed the bowl twice.
On the road again, we saw hundreds of tuk tuks (three wheel vehicles), everybody was on the way to the next town, there were fiesta's going on. A car stopped and we got a banana leaf filled with rice, chicken and olives, the traditional food to celebrate the fiesta.
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The asphalt stopped and the tracks were full of stones. In front of the houses (well they looked more like sheds) people were drying coffee and coca leafs. The farmers here are very poor. The toilets are not more than 4 poles and a piece of see through plastic and a hole in the ground. Still some people have mobile phones. Pigs are crawling in the mud in front of the houses and kids play in their shit.
We are in the middle of the drug growing area, but we don't have any problems. Everybody is just so surprised to see a sidecar, something they have never seen before. The Lonely Planet says this is a no go area, but we think that is wrong, we don't feel unsafe here at all, but the roads are in a unbelievable bad condition, not able to transport back packers easily.

The days of riding are long, the jungle is beautiful, but not to hot. The people are friendly. We move slowly, the mud is deep in places. While riding, Andy, my cool hero, bites a head of a snake and spits it out without getting poisoned. Joke...just to wake you up. But we saw a snake and loads of butterflies, colorful ones. I point one out to Andy, it's big and fast and I am over the moon. Then Andy replys...It's a swallow!


My bra is in fourth gear, I bounce around and all the stuff in the sidecar is bouncing with me. I get tired. At night we stay in a room without windows, it's raining all night and the mosquito's are attacking us continuously. The cockcrow never stops impressing the ladies, so the next morning, after a sleepless night, we promise each other that we never will sleep in the same bed, in the same room again and for sure not in the same hotel.
As I said, it rained all night, but there is no water to flush the toilet or to wash our selves. I saw the woman who owned this place taking the lice out of her daughters hair, I didn't had the guts to shake hands when we said goodbye..

The police stopped us 4 times a day, checking bike paperwork. They discovered immediately that Andy's driving license is fake, a copy. I apologized by telling them I gave them the wrong one, because I am tired and then they excepted the International Driving License which looks to me like toilet paper. One time we got asked for bike insurance and, after a bit of 'explaining', they accepted the American insurance card, which is already out of date.
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Andy impresses me by riding the bike over a very small and damaged wooden bridge. He does that again when we have to take a ferry, which is made of two big canoes and planks. The tracks are still stony and if I was a banana I would have ended up as a milk shake.
Suddenly there are pieces of asphalt which I would like to kiss, than we ride into Tingo Maria and there is a big protest going on. Carefully we try to avoid the crowd. We can't find easily a hotel with a garage, but after some exploring, avoiding the protesters, we find a nice hotel and can park the bike next door in a space for bottles.
The road is much better after Tingo Maria, not a very interesting place by the way. We stop at a fruit shop and they have a fruity thing that, if you peel it of, pops. Inside there is something like frog sporn, but it tastes delicious.
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On the way to Cerro del Pasco, a dusty dirt track, we have to cross some very high passes. So it gets cold. In one day we change from jungle temperatures into the freezing cold. The scenery is fantastic, the colors pastel, but in the hotel in Cerro del Pasco (a dirty mining town) we get 5 blankets, hot tea and a hot water bottle. We try to warm up in a chicken and rice restaurant by sitting next to the part where they fry the chips, but back in the hotel our bits are still freezing off. It's warmer in a fridge.
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The next day we ride on very small rough roads high up in the mountains and the cliffs are so deep that I have to hold myself to Andy's jacket. It won't save me, but at least I have that feeling.
The day after I am so grumpy, my body hurts from going up and down in the sidecar, I have a headache, my teeth are painful, hormones are running wild. Andy is really happy with me. Except for the hormones my problem is tiredness and the altitude as well.
I get a special speech from Andy and after that I behave normally again and look pretty, my job in the sidecar.
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We drive over a difficult track all the way to Oxapampa, we want to visit Augusto. He has a Norton and Jeff has met him before. Oxapampa is a very tranquil village with wooden houses, thanks to the German influence. It's peaceful and quite, something very unusual in Peru. In a cafe we ask for Augusto....'Ah, you mean Lobo (Spanish for wolf), he eats everyday in the restaurant at the Plaza'.
We went to the Plaza, sat down and half an hour later a good looking man with a hat turned up, he immediately walked over to our bike...Lobo. We had a meal together and he invited us to his house to see his bikes. He ended up in our sidecar, me on the mud guard, all three of us giggling away.
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His friend Pepe, also a real bike lover, came over. I ended up at the back of his little bike and together we went for a ride out and to his place to see his bikes. His English is very good, because he used to listen to Pink Floyd. Non of us could stop talking about bikes. In Peru you won't find many old big bikes. Andy and Augusto were talking in a mixture of English and Spanish and they understood each other very well. Bike language is international.
Augusto's daughter Nela cooked for us and we were invited to stay for the night. A real nice surprise! In the evening we had some beers together on the Plaza and Pepe came by to show his BSA Bantam running
What a lovely people!!!
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We had the road to our selfs the next day. There was no traffic at all, because the road blocks (stones, burned out tyres and wire) hadn't been totally removed. We could see that the people had been very angry by the way they had build the road blocks, but they were never aggressive to us, we got loads of smiles and waves.

We are traveling through very remote areas with many poor Indigenous people. Kids have dirty, black muddy faces and cloths and are looking after animals instead of being at school. This makes us feel sad. Education gives a greater chance for a better future.
The adobe (clay) houses look like old shacks and even the pigs are looking more dirty than we have seen before.
In a small village we find a room and sleep well. The next morning there is a market going on in front of the door, we didn't even hear them building up the stalls in the early hours of the morning.
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High up in the mountains we see our first Lama's, they are white, brown and grey and one has a pattern like a giraffe. They are amazed to see us, we stare in their big eyes, before they start to run away.
The landscape reminds us of Bolivia, it's baron, desolate and the colors are soft.
We couldn't find the right road (we had that several times in the past days). We have 2 maps, a GPS and still get lost, because they all show a different route. The little bike on the GPS is turning around like mad, maybe because we are driving around the mountains. It's dark by now. We find a perfect place to camp, in a quarry and the moon is so bright that we don't need our head torches. The silence is peaceful and deafening.

The next morning we can see the right road down in the valley and the GPS seems to be back to normal again. We turn off the engine of the bike to save some fuel, we don't know if there is much left in the tank.
We are on our way to Ayacucho and the surroundings are suburb, the tracks dusty, but we are in a very good mood, it's beautiful!
The police stops us twice, they are very friendly and also professional. Have they all been on a course or something? The police is so much better ( no trace of corruption) since the first time we had been in Peru.

Ayacucho is an old colonial place, so we get a mini pizza (we easily could eat 2 of those) for a over the top tourist price on the Plaza. The town is not big, but busy with loads of interesting shops, hidden plaza's and courtyards. The wooden balconies are impressing, you can still taste the Spanish influence.

Somewhere on a high pass I was dreaming in the sidecar about Tesco (a big supermarket, like Appie Hein in Holland). I was pushing the biggest trolley they do and was filling it up with blue cheese, crackers, healthy stuff and beans for Andy. Then a kid in a village throws a stone, Andy turned the sidecar immediately, ready to kill, but the boy was already gone. Later that day a guy spat at us from the roof of a truck, he was lucky to be on a truck that was driving away from us. Until now that were the only bad reactions we had, normally people are friendly and so are we.
In a small village we had to ask for the right direction, the policeman was drunk, a disgrace for his profession. We camped that night again in a quarry.

Another long day on very interesting tracks. The bike, the luggage and us were covered with a thick layer of dust, even my ears were dusty. The mountains were covered with a dessert like landscape and we drove slowly over the high passes. The air was thin and we were gasping for oxygen. On
one pass we saw a girl on a push bike. We stopped to ask if she needed some water and than she collapsed. Andy could catch the bike and I grabbed her around her waste. She was so thin and light, I easily could hold her. A vegetarian. When she woke up she explained that she had a problem with the altitude. We drove further to catch her boy friend and to wait for her to arrive. She made it, but she was totally exhausted.
Then road works stopped us. We had to wait for one and a half hour before they would open the road again. Lots of mini buses and trucks were waiting already for hours. People came out of the buses to have a look at us. Especially Andy's leather trousers were worth a look. A guy asked if it was made from elephant leather. Andy said 'No', but I do have a trunk like an elephant (he was waving his arm in front of his pants). All the man were laughing and the Indigenous woman turned their red faces and giggled softly.
Some woman were carrying their babies on the back. A baby would stare at me and wondering what that white women with hair like a red traffic light might be, before it would start to smile or cry.
It got dark. We let all the traffic pass, we didn't want to drive behind them in a blinding dust cloud.
For hours we drove in the night, found finally a quarry. While we we debating about the question if this was the right spot to camp a truck turned up and five minutes later a digger. On a Saturday night at 10 o'clock they were still working! So this was definitely not the right place to camp.
So we drove to Abancay, we saw the lights from the town from far away. It looked like a Christmas tree with all the lights burning, but this Christmas tree moved to the left, to the right, up, down, it came close by, it moved away......the tracks on these mountains are so windy, it took us another two hours to reach the town. I had visions about entering a busy town, getting lost, not able to find a garage for the bike, drunken people crossing the streets on this Saturday night, but in reality this place was very quite and we found easily a place to stay and a garage for the bike AND a pizza place opposite the hotel.
The next morning we couldn't get any fuel, the town had no electricity, so the pumps didn't work.
There was one gas station with a generator, so the bike got filled up with lots of low quality fuel. The pump attendant didn't had enough money to change, so we got no coins, but a pink toilet roll.
Always useful.

The road from Abancay to Cuzco is like riding pure pleasure. Smooth asphalt and breathtaking views. A dream road for a BMW 1150 GS......Almost no traffic, mountains with snow on top, perfect.
Because it was Sunday, there was not much traffic in Cuzco. We didn't get lost and found the campsite just above the town easily. It was great to see Gonna, Helmi and Nino again. The first two are the owners and Nino is the dog.
Bernd and Marion, we had met each other in Vilcabamba, were also on the campsite. And there were some more interesting and friendly over landers. We went to town, met Jeff again in the Norton pub, cleaned the bike (it's glowing in the dark now) and filled up the freezer in the kitchen with healthy food and meat (NO chicken and rice!!!!!!).
There were strikes and blockades in the area, but we were just chilling out, cleaning cloths and camping gear from the thick layer of sticky dust.
Andy went to town, trying to find material for building a snorkel. On our way to Brazil we might have to cross a deep river...He went in many shops and didn't find one single piece. That happens always in South America. Yesterday he had more luck, he managed to create a perfect snorkel and the bike could easily turn into a submarine with some more Andy made modifications.
I am very proud of him and very happy to travel and to discover all these beautiful and surprising places and people.
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We went together with Helmi and Uwe in the car to a fiesta, a fiesta for the Virgen Carmen. It was a great ride over dusty off road tracks, we saw high mountains and deep valleys. It always amazes me that people grow their corn and wheats on such a steep mountains. They must have one short and one long leg.
It's the most colorful fiesta I have ever seen. 16 different groups symbolize by example the notary, the ancestors, the man that own the land, devils and demons, princesses and slaves.
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There are also nuns, dressed up like pinquins and nurses carrying big syringes, made from paper.
The groups perform and dance all day and each group has their own musicians. Some man are dressed up with a dead baby lama, one of them came very close to me, holding the lama in front of my breasts. He wanted leche (milk). Everybody was laughing and I jumped very quick behind Andy's back.
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At night we camped near a river, made a campfire and went back the next morning. The groups were very impressing, danced for hours. That was fantastic to watch. We missed the bit when they take the virgin out of the church, it was to crowded, but I saw an initiation for new dancers. It must have been very painful, they were hanging from chains and got beaten by a whip.
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It still not boring, our travels are going well and it's still not time to stare at home at the geranium.
Soon we will be on our way to Brazil, back into the jungle, the mud and mosquito's. Together with Andy, the bike and leaf cutter ants we will celebrate there my birthday.

Andy's contribution, a technical update!

The bike did in 9 months 13.000 miles.
We had about 10 broken spokes in the front (bloody Gagiva wheel), 10 on the rear (that is a known failure on the Bonneville) and 1 on the sidecar.
Flat tyres; zero.
The bike is misfiring when it's very wet, but when the engine warms up, it disapeares.
No wear on the valves.
New tires; the front is still not worn out (amazing), the back one is changed 3 times.
Brake pats; Rear and sidecar pats have been changed once.
Oil and filter have been changed 3 times.
One gearbox sprocket was worn out.

Andy's opinion about the bike:
It's a very good bike, the engine is still running strong. It loses power at high altitude (but we didn't change anything). Overall the bike is performing very well, I am impressed, it's very reliable, so far.
Maya's opinion about the bike:
It's a strong, reliable, good looking bike. Sounds great as well. Being in the sidecar is a pleasure (unless we are on very stony tracks for days). But most of the time I feel like a queen.
Andy is acting in the sidecar like a scared rabbit.

Posted by Maya Vermeer at 12:44 AM GMT
August 20, 2009 GMT
A snorkel, Brazilian hospitality and riding the Tranzamazonica.

A snorkel, Brazilian hospitality and riding the Tranzamazonica.
Itaituba, Amazonas, Brazil, August 12, 2009.

A lovely tarmacked road took us from Cuzco in the direction of Urcus and Ccatca.
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Great typical Peruvian views, then the road changes into a track and the climb up over a high pass up to 4800 meters starts. Suddenly the temperature went down and we got hail and snow. The Andes shows here her snowy peaks, a glacier and then fog. Road works made us wait a long time, before we could continue. It got dark and we had to cross a river, which we didn't expect to be so deep. Didn't put the snorkel on. In the middle of the river some stones blocked the wheel and the engine got drowned, it stopped the engine, so I had to jump out of the sidecar. Immediately I was wet up to my bum. Together we tried to push, but nothing happened. It didn't feel very adventurous to be in the middle of a cold fast flowing river in the dark, trying to move about 500 kilos of bike. Luckily a man turned up and started to pull our rope. Totally out of breath we got the bike back on dry land. A snorkel is a great idea, but using it even better.
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Shivering from the cold we drove into a village, Quincemill, all the hostels were full. A nice couple asked the 'Padre' if we could stay at his place and yes, that night we slept, with hands above the sheets, in a church. Whatever happens, everything always turns out good at the end.
The next morning Andy drove the Padre, while speeding, in the sidecar around the Plaza. He enjoyed that! And we left some money and chocolate for the children.
Our shoes and cloths were still wet and it was cold. We are in the jungle now, but because of the Patagonian winds, it's COLD!

We could not leave the church before 12, there were roadworks going on, stopping everything till that time. After that the road opens and first you have to cross another river. Loads of cars and trucks were already waiting. I had a look at the river and also Andy, we both walked through it, so we could see what the best place was to cross it. We decided to go as the last ones, just in case we would get stuck, we wouldn't be in the way for other drivers. The trucks drove slowly through the water, they all made it, but the first normal car got stuck. Together with a Indigenous woman I went into the water and stated to push. The men were just watching. She pulled up her skirts and I saw a huge woolen underpants (it reached to her knees) and when she saw my surprised look she started to laugh. Together we were very strong, dug stones out in front of the wheels and pushed the car to the other side. By that time it was full of water.

My hero Andy drove the bike into the river, snorkel mounted to it. Exactly after 10 seconds the wheel hit a huge stone. Back in the water and push, no problem, but we were both afterwards a bit disappointed. The snorkel is a good idea, but it doesn't keep rocks away.
We both were soaked again and the ride over muddy jungle tracks made it a long day. The hostel in Puerto Maldonado was so noisy that we checked out some other places to stay. Nothing fancy. Then we found a place called 'The Anaconda Lodge'. It has wooden huts in an enormous jungle garden. All the howler and spider monkeys came to greet us and wanted to be stroked.
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Gunnar and Wadee, the owners, are lovely people. We stayed there for 3 nights to dry our gear. What a great excuse to play with these monkeys! One is stealing my pegs, so the wash is falling in the dirt again. I try to chase it, but I saw the peg never again. One doesn't want to come off Andy's head and we have to ask Wadee to take it off. When I am reading in a hammock they come over to sleep on my lab. If paradise exists, this comes very close to it.
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I don't know if I want a baby piggy or a monkey for my birthday.
At the last evening we have company, 6 Irish girls. They have a guitar with them and while Wadee is painting my nails they sing with golden voices U2 songs. Bono sounds badly comparing to them.

The road to the border is an unsurfaced track that cuts into dense jungle. It's hot, hot, hot. Butterflies everywhere. Then asphalt and the border.
Going out of Peru is a piece of cake. The border officer just stamps passports, but the one for the bike paperwork had to change cloths first and spray him self with aftershave and lotion before he can deal with me. Then over the bridge into Brazil. The change is visible, more white people and in 5 minutes I spotted 3 people with beautiful green eyes, the Brazilian Border officer, the police guy and the cute one from the Aduana, who let me sign 4 papers about swine flu. Stamping passports no problem, but we have to come back the next day for the bike paperwork, it's half past four and the office will be closed in half an hour. Strange. But the next day we will find out why.
The hotel in Assis Brazil is shell shocking expensive (like most things in Brazil), but comes with the best shower since ages.

The border officer that takes care of the bike paperwork is a woman. Blond, lip stick and high heals. The electricity goes of 3 times in her modern office, so nothing works. She only wants to deal with Andy and offers him a seat. I have to sit at the other side of the room. But when she finds out she can't deal with Andy in Portuguese, I am allowed to come over (still no seat offered). We have to go back in the town for copies....the lad can't work out how to cope with the copy machine, but after 7 tries he did. Back to Blondie. To make it bearable she turns on the CD player and Eric Clapton is singing 'Let it go'. Later she shows me her freshly made tattoo's on her back. Together we smoke outside a cigarette and we leave, after spending all morning at her office, with each 3 kisses on the cheek.
Next to the road we see loads of big farms with Brahman cows, lots of jungle is cut back. Almost no cars on the road, maybe because the fuel is so expensive.
We don't understand nothing from the language, they don't understand our Spanish. This is how the word Internet sounds in Portuguese...Internethutschjhu. I can say that, but Andy is braking his tongue.

In Rio Branco I am trying to find a bank that takes our card. When I come back to Andy he is surrounded by 7 heavy tattooed bikers. After I while we find out that they want to ask us to go with them for lunch. Yes, of course! Gentile they guide us through the traffic and together we eat all the nice stuff from the buffet on display. Then they ask us to come with them to the Bike Festival that is starting today. Well, us, hardcore bike party animals, haven't been to a bike rally for ages and these bikers are very nice to us, so we go. From the moment we arrive till the moment we leave, we get a lot of attention, something we didn't expect at all. Thousands of questions, loads of smiles and happy faces. We drink beer, dance for hours. The music is fantastic. I learn to dance Brazilian style, but I can't keep up with the full blood Brazilian hips. By the time Andy thinks that it's Michael Jackson instead of the Rolling Stones, it's time for bed.
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The next morning we stick our head out of our tent and there is a TV film crew waiting. No time to comb my hair or to put lipstick on. We do our best, but afterwards I find out, that while we got filmed, my zip wasn't up. Another film crew is waiting, we haven't brushed our teeth yet.
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We get an award, handed over by Kakioca, the President of the club. The people are screaming for a speech. In Spanish, Dutch and 2 words of Portuguese I try to say thanks for the great hospitality and the fact that we enjoy it so much. Nobody has a clue what I am saying (I am very red by now), but there is a big applause.
We get loads of invitations to stay with people, it's so overwhelming. There is something about the Brazilians, they are a happy bunch, make a party out of everything and the biker hospitality is legendary!
Kakioca escorts us out of town, tears in his eyes when we say goodbye. That's another good side of riding a bike, you meet nice people, great bikers...
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To everybody we have met at the bike festival; THANKS very much for inviting us and being so nice and friendly to us!! And thanks girls for taking good care of me!!!!

In Villa Extrema we find a very nice room to chill out (to many interviews) and the next morning the road is blocked, as a protest, in the opposite direction we want to go. Blockades are not only a Peruvian habit.

Drove to Porto Velho and were hunting for a tyre. Three years ago we were here as well, after we came from Manaus and believe it or not, but we met the same guy we had met then and had helped us out with a tyre then! He recognized us and helped us again with finding the right tyre. We could do some bike maintenance at his shop the next morning.
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Mad Max (he was given this name after a trip over the border into Bolivia to reclaim his stolen bike!) and Santa had offered us to stay at their house. Mad Max is the president of the bike club the 'Anacondas do Asphalt' and owns a bar that is also their bike club house. Lots of bikers that we had met in Rio Branco came by to say hello and it was so much fun to be there. Santa is a lovely warm woman, nothing was to much for her. Of course it was difficult to communicate, but the we got rescued by the guy from next door.
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They took us to the bike shop, took us to the hospital for malaria medication, let us stay another night, cooked for us, made us feel really happy! Together we enjoyed the music of a band called Edinho Santa Cruz Banda. In a perfect way they cover bands like the Stones, Dire Straights, Joe Cocker and more. They played 'Wish you were here' from Pink Floyd, together with a big classic orchestra. Everybody who was watching and listening was singing, shouting and screaming, all together at the same time, the Brazilian way of enjoying music!
Max gave us a CD from the band, I am very touched by that. One of the things I miss while traveling is music and this CD is also a great memory.
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Max and Santa went on the same ferry with us, all the way to the sign that shows the border of the state of Rondonia and Amazonas. To ride along together for a while is a beautiful way to say goodbye. A last picture, a last hug. Max put a last sticker from 'Anacondas do Asfalto' on our bike, time to go....
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Santa and Max, OBRIGADO and OBRIGADA for spoiling us so much!


The smell of more adventure is in the air.
We are on the Transamazonica proper now, or the BR 230, that will take us to Maraba, 2125 kilometers to go, most off road and through the hot jungle. We stayed in Humaita, did the last shopping and bike preparations and had an ice cream next door and guess what, the owner recognized us and even remembered our names!(After we had been on the road from Manaus to Humaita 3 years ago, first thing we did was eating ice cream at his shop). We also met 2 Brazilian bikers, Carlos and Darlan. They also had planned to go for the Tranzamazonica. We talked about the route and also about body language. If you ask a Brazilian for the right direction they give a kiss in the air in the right direction. If you as if it's far, they kiss in the air again, which means 'Yes, it's far!'
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We camp in the jungle under the stars, it's full moon. It's never quiet in the jungle. We hear big moths humming like helicopters and a beetle bumps into our tent and plays 'dead' afterwards. It's so big, it would be the biggest one on display in a museum.
We have sprayed the plastic ground shield with anti ant powder. 3 years ago our tent got eaten by ants on the first night camping in the jungle. Ants like to eat the inside of a helmet as well, so they are locked up in the bike.
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The track is like a roller coaster, big steep hills, jungle everywhere. We drive between 15 and 35 km an hour, depending on the quality of the surface. Some bits are bad, but not impossible to drive on.
In a small town we buy a drink and the woman of the shop is so happy to see us that she gives us a big round white cheese. We are pleased with that. That evening I fry pieces of it in a pan and it's nice to eat. It also creaks when you chew it.
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Loads of bridges to cross, some are in a bad condition, but we manage every time to reach the other side. There are ferries to cross, one charges us 20 reales and we don't know if we got ripped of or not. Normally it costs us 10, but they had to get the ferry from the other side first, before we could hop on.
Hundreds of butterflies are going east, like us. Mainly yellow and white ones, but also big blue ones and red colored small ones. Why do they all get east, I really like to know. Andy calls this 'the road of butterflies'.
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Andy is obsessed by a little bee, every morning when he got out of the tent he believes it has been waiting for him all night, ready to chase him. I get enough of that and tell him to get on with it. He and his bee...later that day I get stung nastily twice by a bee, now I won't say anything about bees anymore.
We drink enormous amounts of water and are sweating carrots (Dutch saying). We get up at first light, go to bed before dark, so the mosquito's don't start to bite and sleep for 12 hours easily.

By this time we are covered with a thick layer of suntan cream, mosquito spray, sweat and red dust. Haven't had a decent wash for 4 days, we use wetties, but that doesn't do much.
We see monkeys crossing the road, big blue and yellow parrots, a very scary snake and birds that look like turkeys, well the Amazone version of them.
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Somewhere after Jacareacanga (not an attractive place), you drive through a national park. The track gets smaller and there are steep hills and loads of ruts, which need a special skill to avoid them. Andy drove slowly and carefully, very concentrated. We only got bogged in once, but that was enough in the burning heat.
My bum is killing me, every muscle in Andy's body is aching.

We drove out of the park, the road got better. Still very dusty, but not bad. Found a nice place to stay, a former mission. It's quiet here.
Always fun to arrive with a sidecar that is covered in red clay, two people on it, also covered in red dust, who are asking...do you have a shower? As if they can't work out that we really need it, the smell must be like Chanel no 5 after 5 days jungle camping!

Andy's saying of the day 'What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger'. Nietzsche.
Soon the bee will be waiting for him again.

Posted by Maya Vermeer at 02:07 PM GMT
August 30, 2009 GMT
ARAGARCAS, BRAZIL, AUGUST 26, 2009.

ARAGARCAS, BRAZIL, AUGUST 26, 2009.

A VERY EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH ANDY AND BIKE AND BREAST BRAKING TRACKS.

This mission post near Itaituba used to be a orphanage and school, especially for the children that were left behind in the 1980's, when their parents got obsessed and poisoned by the gold rush. Most parents died in the mines or became drunks. This part of Brazil has more horror stories. The Transamazonica, the road we are 'riding' on, has been built in the seventies, in three years h. It is about 5500 km long and goes from east to west Brazil, about 3500 km had to be cut out through the Amazon jungle. After three years most of the workers were dead, due to diseases like yellow fever and malaria, or animals and exhaustion.
It took another 40 years to destroy big parts of the jungle, to turn it into farm land. The heart of mother earth is burning in many places, so grass can grow. Give it another few centuries and it will be dessert, maybe with some palm trees and everybody on earth will get overheated, because the Amazon is dying.

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We stay another day at the mission post, to recover from aching body parts, to have an extra shower and to do the wash. All our cloths are getting in a bad condition now, the humidity causes tears in our trousers. We both have each one pair of trousers left and they are totally red from the dust.


That evening I interview Andy.
Me; 'Why do you want to ride the Transamazonica?'
Andy; 'Because there are no Mac Donald's?'
Me; 'How is it to ride the Transamazonica?'
Andy; 'Hot and long'.
Me; 'What do you think of your sidecar passenger?'
Andy; 'Oh, you mean the cook'.
End of interview!

It's the start of an evening that makes the neighbors think; 'What the hell are they doing?'. We just could not stop laughing, well it was more howling. We both ended up almost crying from laughing.
Just a fart and the howling started again. Jungle madness.
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There is only one broken spoke to repair, but of course, we need to take the wheel off and 3 other spokes out to fix one. Andy is working in the shade of an enormous tree, but he is soaked from sweating. The heat is almost unbearable.
The road to Ruropolis is very bumpy, dust everywhere. Every time a truck is passing us, we don't see anything for a while.
The endless stream of butterflies has stopped. We miss them.
We put our tent up in a quarry and while sunset is happening an airplane starts the engines....the sound of chicades. It's almost impossible to hear each other. As unexpected as it starts, it stops. A big blue lizard walks by, monkeys are howling, but this night no mosquito's and it's a bit cooler. Half way the night it even gets cold and we use our sleeping bags. It's one of those magic jungle nights.
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Riding the Transamazonica is not only a hot, thirsty, dusty and bumpy thing to do, you also have to be fully self sufficient, just in case something breaks. We are lucky, just 4 km out of a town called Medicilandia Andy discovers a broken bracket, the bit that carries the exhaust is broken in two. The only thing we don't carry is a welding machine. We find a place to stay and the friendly owner takes us to a garage. The mechanic and Andy are surrounded by a crowed of nosy men. The mechanic makes a great job out of it and when Andy offers him some beer money, he refuses. I give him a happy hug in front of everybody, he is very brown, but turns red and I understand his Portuguese when he says that he likes the hug. All the man are laughing.
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The track gets a bit better, there is more traffic on it and we see more farm land. No more big trees and less jungle, it's less interesting for us.
Everything changes again....enormous potholes, deep red sand, bloody stones and then, totally unexpected, asphalt, just before Altamira. Like a clean diaper for a baby bum.
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We take a big ferry over the river. Boys are diving from the ferry and swim with us to the other side.
Every time we stop people come to see us. It's a bit much in the burning heat and we still can't communicate very well. People here have no feelings if it's about body space, they are often standing to close to us or they will poke you to get your attention, something I can't stand. To stop it I poke back. We try to find a place for a cool drink without people, but they always turn up out of the blue.
In Anapu a lady gives us bananas, sweet little ones.
We have seen some snakes on the track, but the one in front of us is extra long and very slow. To my BIG surprise, Andy parks the sidecar, with me in it, right next to this snake. It turns his head and I am frozen, I even can't speak. I never expected Andy, my prince of darkness, to park me next to a creature like this. The snake moves on, I can speak again....Andy's replay is; 'But it's only a boa constrictor!'.
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Another broken spoke. The track gets really rough now and the hills are getting steeper. Loads of bike killing corrugations. Hard work. It's my birthday, so we stop in Novo Repartimento. We find a restaurant, chickens running everywhere, but the food is fantastic. We drink to much beer and enjoy talking to each other. I am happy to be 50 now, I made it! Now I am a senior as well!

A 100 km of pretty flat track, then the bike and breast killing procedure starts again. There are so many potholes and corrugations, I get enough. Riding off road is great, but all this shaking, rattling and bumping up and down in the sidecar in this heat is not always fun......and then, there it is, about 20 km before Maraba, the black, flat, smooth, so well wanted asphalt starts. We fly now!
And the stupid thing is, we both know that soon we will miss this type of track. Asphalt is nice for a while, but it's also often boring. We will miss the jungle camping and the strong feeling of not knowing what to expect, what to deal with. The feeling of adventure.
I also realize that we have been extremely lucky by not having any proper rain. If you get rain on this track, you are fu...ed (sorry Grant). It's already hard work without rain, but with rain, we would have been still crawling around in a mud bath.
Anyway, we made it to Maraba!
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After Maraba there is that beautiful asphalt and then it's back to dirt and dust. By this time I was sitting in the sidecar with a tyre around my belly. Just to get some more miles out of the old tyre. It would stay with me for another 3 days.
Than onto the BR 153, a road coming from the north, going south, full of potholes and big trucks, difficult to deal with after having been riding for months on deserted tracks and little used roads.

We contacted Andy's mum and told her that we were out of the jungle. Her reply to Andy; 'So you can put your machete away then'.

We stayed 2 nights in a hotel. Andy was very tired. We felt a bit lost, we hadn't planned the next bit of our route. We had a look on the map and decided to go to the Pantanal, a big wet area where you can see many animals. It might be a bit difficult to get there, we are not sure about the conditions of the tracks and bridges. After that we go into Paraguay.

Back on the BR 153. No places to camp, but great restaurants next to the road, where you can eat all you want for not too much money. Brazil is paradise if it's about food, no ears of a pig to eat, like in Peru. And they do loads of green stuff for me and good meat for Andy.

After days on the BR 153 we went on the BR 070, going West. A much smaller road, almost no traffic and guess what, we had rain! Lots of it. First I enjoyed the smell of it, but then it became a pain in the bum. We got very wet. In the hotel I washed illegally all our cloths and now they don't want to dry.
Tomorrow we will go in the direction of the Pantanal. We are looking forwards to see the wild life.
Andy is snoring away at the moment, I am sure he wants pizza when he wakes up.

Posted by Maya Vermeer at 04:27 PM GMT
September 26, 2009 GMT
September, 25, 2009. Belen, Argentina.

September, 25, 2009. Belen, Argentina.
TUCAN'S, CAPIBARA'S AND THE ABRA DEL ACAY.


On the long way to the Panatanal we drove through farmland and we didn't see anything interesting for days, only the Brazilian version of Ayers Rock and some strange birds who must have been roll models for John Cleese's department of silly walks.
It was still very hot and Andy's helmet smelled like a hamster cage.

We saw enormous grain fields which make some people very rich, the workers, the poor people, where living next to the road in buildings made from cardboard and plastic. No water, no toilets.


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The exhaust mounting broke again and we asked at a garage for some wire. A car stopped, some Indigenous people asked for money. I refused, they were fat, driving a car, smoking cigarettes. No dignity.


In Aragarcas we found a place where they welded the frame bracket that holds the exhaust. It cost us a fortune, but they did it with a great smile.

Again endless fields with corn, soya and just cut cotton. Andy is complaining about a sore throat, his back hurts and he thinks he is going to die.
For nine days we drive through this boring landscape and the traffic is building up towards Cuiaba. For dinner we eat each half of a cake that collapses in a thousand pieces on our lap and for desert we have a vitamin pill.

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We are looking forwards to see the Pantanal's wildlife and hopefully it will be not to touristic.
In Pocone we stayed in a noisy hotel where I knocked out a fire fly, it glowed still for a long time.

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The ride over the Transpantaneira into the Pantanal, over more than a hundred wooden bridges, was fantastic, birds everywhere....storks, herons, tucan's, parrots and many more, a real bird paradise with pink trees.

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We were fascinated by the bubbles in the pools , they turned out to be fish. The pools were also full of frogs or Cayman crocodiles. They were size extra large and there were thousands of them hunting in the water or taking a sun bath next to the track, so they were only a few meters away from the bike and us. Salamanders, capibara's ( they look like ultra fat Ginny pigs with a big bum) with young ones and howler monkeys were around, snakes as well. One moved sidewards very fast.

We camped behind the Jaguar Lodge, we could not afford to stay inside, only breakfast costs a third of our daily budget. But we could use the toilet and they were happy to see us. Rich tourists stayed inside and were flew in from the nearest air strip. They drunk cocktails in the evening, but at the end of the day we all got bitten horrendously by the mosquito's, they even bit through our cloths.
In our tent we could see the stars, I saw a falling star, did a wish, but it turned out to be a fire fly. At night it was never quiet, birds and monkeys were having a party.
Very early in the morning a little bird sat on a pole, it had a whole orchestra in it. We saw some very rear big purple parrots and small green ones, aggapornisses they are called, they can't sing, they just scream all the time.

Just outside the Pantanal is a nice place to stay. Andy fitted new chain sprockets and a chain in the garage in town. The woman of the owner showed me her house, it was very big, full of religious stuff and pictures of the family. It also had a special room where people with alcohol and drug problems could gather once a week, she explained to me how it works. Interesting for me because I use to work with people with these problems in Holland.
Then she took me to the neighbor. In a rocking chair was sitting a very, very old lady. She was white, unusual for this area, her hair was Grey and long and bound together on top of her head. I could see that people were taking very good care of her. There was no fat on her body anymore, her hands were the most bony and fragile I have ever seen. And then I discovered that she couldn't see me, she was blind , so I started to talk to her in my two words of Portuguese and she took my hand and was holding it for a long time. She smiled all the time and all I felt was peace and later on I was so impressed by her age, 97 she was. I have never seen so much beauty in this age.

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Our last days in Brazil were not much fun, we were riding through flat fields that remind me of the polders in Holland, boring. Our sidecar is to attractive, people were trying to make pictures while they were driving far to close behind us, that happened to often.

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One morning, we were just on the road, we got a flat tyre. Luckily we were driving not fast at all, but we had to repair it in an awkward place. People stopped to take pictures....and then Marcelo stopped his bike and offered us his help. He even got us a cold drink, that made our day!
Muchas obrigado Marcelo!!!!!

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That night we stayed in a lovely love hotel, it even had a couch and a table and chairs, very comfortable. We didn't need the mirror above our bed, but it was not in the way. Outside a thunder and lightning storm went on all night.

All the way to the border we had rain. To check out of Brazil was weird, you have to find the Police station first, which is in town. It was Sunday and the officer was sleeping, so we had to come back twice. We had to stay in town, Punta Pura, because the Aduana at the Paraguayan side was closed. The next day we found out that we didn't had to go there anyway. In Paraguay you don't need to arrange a temporary import paper for the bike. Very strange, because you need it in every other country. In case we would have a problem, we got a card with the name of the border office boss.
In the room I colored my hair and I changed in 45 minutes from a Red head into a Burgundy Brown one, because I didn't understand the Portuguese on the package.

Paraguay is different, more hills and rocks, very clean farms, good roads with almost no traffic. We got stopped by the police and after they had checked the paperwork Andy started the bike with a BIG bang. The police officer jumped in the air and everybody around us had to laugh.

I feel suddenly very rich. 120.0000 Guarani's is worth 12 Pounds. The wallet can't take it all.

The heat is gone, it's much colder now and we have more wind. Once Andy was peeing against the wind and afterwards he wanted to rub his body against mine. Nice boy friend!

There are not many people in Paraguay, due to a war in 1860 that killed a big part of it's population.
There are about 6 million people living here, most of them live in a few big cities.
We visited some bike shops in Asunción, found some really wanted oil filters in a shop. And we got invited to a paella, organized by the members of the Tekoreis bike club. That was very nice !!!!
Patricio from the Horizons community in Asuncion asked us to put his email address on this site in case biker travelers want to contact him: patricioadorno@g.mail.com

We found tyres with help from the owner of the hotel, he took us in his car to some shops. That was great, especially because Andy's back was playing up.

The border offices of Paraguay and Argentina are both just over a bridge. You are already in Argentina then. An officer had to inspect the in and outside of our bike, but he was so homesick and soft that that didn't happen. My words 'You can check everything as long you let us into Argentina', were not necessary at all.

It's great to be back into Argentina, we immediately recognized the Argentinian way of driving, we love empanadas, the meat of course and the Argentine smiles...
We camped a few nights, once in a field and luckily it didn't rain. We drove over a long straight road with lots of dust towards Salta and found a hotel in town. We did some luxury shopping and the highlight for me was a haircut, which I hadn't had for over a year.

We saw demonstrations in town while we were washing the bike and moved to the camping municipal. That one was overcrowded already, there would be a rock concert in the arena behind us the next night. We were discussing what to do when Andy discovered a travel vehicle....with Anja and Bennie from Belgium. And while the toilets were overflowing already, fire works were going on and loud rock music was playing during the night, we had a very pleasant evening. Together we planned to meet again at a camp site in Cachi.

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The road to Cachi showed lots of colorful hills, great scenary, we loved it.
On the campsite Anja and Bennie cooked our first assado, it was super. Bennie explained to Andy how a new map system for our GPS is working and we found already out that it's 'spot on'.
We had loads of things to talk about and especially for me it was so nice to talk to a nice girl!
Then we drove North and they went South. We hope we will meet again, great company they were.

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The next morning we followed route 40, which is extremely colorful. Than we hit a pass called Abra del Acay. By that time the wind was very strong. The pass is almost 5000 meters high....oops. It's hard work to get the bike over this pass. I had to jump off the bike and push it up the mountains several times and then I have to walk all the way uphill to catch Andy again. The altitude is very high, The air very thin. My heart was beating twice as fast as normal. I got overheated in my bike cloths, my legs went everywhere from exhaustion. We both had headaches.

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The wind is very strong an at one point a dust devil is coming towards us, it's trying to lift the whole sidecar up. It takes only a few seconds, but it feels like if a big fat monster wants to throw us off the cliff. Finally we reach the top and I am screaming 'Well done Berwick!', but he can't hear me, the wind is howling.
All the way up and at the pass the looks are stunning. A lot of work to get there, but it was worth it.

sept 2009 2 088.jpg

sept 2009 2 186.jpg

In a very dusty mining town, called San Antonio de Los Cobres, we stay inside. The next morning we both feel like somebody has beaten us up. Everything hurts. Our faces are red from the sun, our skin feels like leather.
We want to go west and then south again, following a track though mountains and over another bloody pass. Then we follow route 40 for a while while we are traveling to San Rafael, to meet our friends John and Annette.

Posted by Maya Vermeer at 09:25 PM GMT
November 14, 2009 GMT
San Rafael, Argentina, October 23, 2009.

San Rafael, Argentina, October 23, 2009.

CROSSING A SALT LAKE, RED VOLCANOE'S AND WORKING ON THE FARM.

In San Antonio de los Cobres the wind is howling and there is dust flying all over the place. Not an attractive place to be. And it's cold. We find a place to stay in this mining town, it has heating as well!
We buy a lot of fuel, loads of water, crackers and tin food. We are above 4000 meters, we can't breath very well, our lips are already cracked and our skin is dry as leather. We follow for 70 km the track in the direction of the Paso de Sico, towards Chili. Then there is a turn off. On the map it looks like a little village, but all we find are some abandoned houses in the middle of nowhere. We start to follow the 17, an interesting track. No cars, no people, nada. Loads of space, pinky, purple and red colors.

The higher you are, the more pastel. Some deserted villages and lama herds.
It's cold during the day, we are wearing all our clothes. At the end of the day the temperature drops quickly and at night it's around minus 12-14 Celsius. Higher up in the mountains we find snow, but the track has been cleared.

At night we try to stay warm in our sleeping bags, but the wind keeps blowing, so the tent flaps around sometimes. Except for that, there is totally, pure silence. No barking dogs, no people, even no snoring Andy.
There is mining going on, so there are some big trucks on the road. All the drivers smile and wave, so do we. We can't find our way around an enormous salt lake. The track just stops and there is a big bit that you can't cross, it's to rough. We can see the track continuing, but we can't reach it. We decide to follow another track, only one car, possibly a 4 x 4, has been driving over this one. And it goes right through the middle of this BIG salt lake. Strange holes in the salt are growing bigger as we are going along with the speed of maybe 5 km an hour. I don't like these holes, what is underneath this, can we trust it? And I also know that we can't turn the bike here. The last bit of the track turns into something that looks like the top of a burst homemade bread so I have to walk for a while. Nice if the air is very thin. Andy is driving very carefully in font of me, the bike has just enough ground clearance. He and the bike get smaller and smaller while I am still walking in all my bike gear and 6 layers of clothes over this huge salt lake. Maybe someone from space can see me. I would not be surprised if a space ship would turn up. But I don't want to go home yet, like ET, it's to exciting.
We find each other again and when we look back, we discover that we have covered an enormous distance.

We want to find a place to camp and cook dinner. At the end of the afternoon we have beans and some rice while we are overlooking this lake that has turned into pink. Speechless we are.

In Antofagasta de la Sierra, a nice little tiny place, we find to our surprise a gas station. But they don't sell fuel. The owner, a woman, points to a house, that's where you can buy some fuel she says. After 10 minutes of talking to people we find out that an old woman sells fuel out of a barrel. It takes a hose, a plastic bottle, 2 more men and a lot of patience to get this golden syrup into our tanks. While this procedure is happening another woman asks us if we are looking for a room. But we want to go on, it's still early in the day, but we tell her we are hungry. Restaurants in Argentina are always closed when we want to eat, so she offers us to cook a meal. 'Can we have chips with it?'; Andy's most asked question if it's about food. No, it's not possible. But when we are waiting at her kitchen table, she comes in with a big smile, chips and milanesa (battered meat).Andy is happy now.

Just after this little cute town you will see some great volcano's, black they are and around them the sand has all kind of colors. It's the start of a great ride through an area that shows RED volcano's with pure white salt lakes, white shiny glaciers and red, brown and yellow mountain ranges. I have never seen this kind of beauty before, it's one of the most special places I have ever been through. Andy is enjoying it a lot as well, for him it's the combination of nice scenery, 'interesting' riding (he means shit roads) , space and loneliness that counts.
If you look at Google-earth and follow the 17 and 27 you will see some amazing weird things, in reality it's like being on the moon.
We camp again and sleep very well.

The pass we have to cross is not as difficult as we thought it would be. To early farms are showing up, and cactus. We get overheated. In Belen we find a nice hotel, but, again, everything comes to live at night. At 3 o'clock in the night kids are walking around and crying. The hotel has those horrible tiles everywhere,so the sound echo's. Andy gets out of bed, naked, and shouts to a guy that he has to control his kids. But he isn't the father. I go out of the bed, dressed, find the owner of the hotel and after 2 minutes it's quiet. Nobody has been killed.

We follow route 40, great fun, the ripio (wash board) isn't bad. We are riding through red mountains with cactus everywhere and because it has been snowing there is snow on top of them!

We contact John and Annette in San Rafael and they tell us that they have snow, a few inches of it. What's going on??? But while we are driving South there is no snow on the road, but loads of it on top of the Andes to our right.

In Mendoza we find a Wall Mart, a big supermarket where we try to find some nice things to eat.
There is a check point, but we didn't get checked. What we did get was getting sprayed. It might have been the purpose to avoid fruit flies and other little creatures to go with us into a new Province, but all what happened was that, totally unexpected, some biting wet stuff got out of two poles next to us. My helmet was open so it got right into my face, nowhere else. Luckily I was wearing sun glasses, I was cursing in all the languages I know, trying to wipe it of my skin, using baby wipes.

The road to San Rafael is so boring that I am using, for the first time on this trip, my I-pod. And while I am listening to Rory Gallacher I see more farms and vineyards, we are back in the wine and fruit area. We are excited, we are looking forwards to be back in San Rafael, to see John and Annette. They have been traveling around the world on their motorbikes, couldn't settle down again in Britain and bought Finca Rita, a farm in Argentina. We have been at their place before. Curious we are. Also we are looking forwards to sleep in a real bed and to eat good food. Annette's kitchen qualities are excellent and so is the Argentine meat!
Travelers can stay at their place and have free food and board in exchange for giving them a hand on the farm. So here we are. There is something in the coke here that makes us wobbly and we should lose weight, we move around a lot, but we are probably putting on weight. Wonder why that is.
The farm looks great, neat. There is a new vegetable garden, a camping area, a duck and chicken house, 2 more dogs and a snobby cat that fights with the dogs. The house is painted, new tiles on the floor (Phil you did a wonderful job!), INTERNET and a swimming pool!
Annette managed to organize a birthday party (I got 50 in August, but we where in the Amazon), without me having any clues about it.....and there are many people we have met before. That was such a nice surprise!
Every morning I go to the field to tie up the vines, followed by 5 dogs, a chicken and a cat and Andy is creating a galleria from real Argentine wood, banana shaped it is, so it's difficult to build something that is excepted by high British standards. But is looks very good to me. It's fantastic to be 'normal' for a while, to enjoy the spring here. All the trees have changed their fragile green into darker green and the buds on the plum trees are coming out. There is still snow on the mountain tops far away, but some days it's hot already. What a bad life.

Till now we traveled 32.000 happy kilometers.....

Posted by Maya Vermeer at 05:39 PM GMT
December 19, 2009 GMT
San Rafael, Argentina, October 23, 2009.

San Rafael, Argentina, October 23, 2009.

CROSSING A SALT LAKE, RED VOLCANO'S AND WORKING ON THE FARM.

In San Antonio de los Cobres the wind is howling and there is dust flying all over the place. Not an attractive place to be. And it's cold. We find a place to stay in this mining town, it has heating as well!
We buy a lot of fuel, loads of water, crackers and tin food. We are above 4000 meters, we can't breath very well, our lips are already cracked and our skin is dry as leather. We follow for 70 km the track in the direction of the Paso de Sico, towards Chili. Then there is a turn off. On the map it looks like a little village, but all we find are some abandoned houses in the middle of nowhere. We start to follow the 17, an interesting track. No cars, no people, nada. Loads of space, pinky, purple and red colors.
sept 2009 2 066.jpg

The higher you are, the more pastel. Some deserted villages and lama herds.
It's cold during the day, we are wearing all our clothes. At the end of the day the temperature drops quickly and at night it's around minus 12-14 Celsius. Higher up in the mountains we find snow, but the track has been cleared.


At night we try to stay warm in our sleeping bags, but the wind keeps blowing, so the tent flaps around sometimes. Except for that, there is totally, pure silence. No barking dogs, no people, even no snoring Andy.
sept 2009 3 092.jpg

There is mining going on, so there are some big trucks on the road. All the drivers smile and wave, so do we. We can't find our way around an enormous salt lake. The track just stops and there is a big bit that you can't cross, it's to rough. We can see the track continuing, but we can't reach it. We decide to follow another track, only one car, possibly a 4 x 4, has been driving over this one. And it goes right through the middle of this BIG salt lake. Strange holes in the salt are growing bigger as we are going along with the speed of maybe 5 km an hour. I don't like these holes, what is underneath this, can we trust it? And I also know that we can't turn the bike here. The last bit of the track turns into something that looks like the top of a burst homemade bread so I have to walk for a while. Nice if the air is very thin. Andy is driving very carefully in font of me, the bike has just enough ground clearance. He and the bike get smaller and smaller while I am still walking in all my bike gear and 6 layers of clothes over this huge salt lake. Maybe someone from space can see me. I would not be surprised if a space ship would turn up. But I don't want to go home yet, like ET, it's to exciting.
We find each other again and when we look back, we discover that we have covered an enormous distance.

We want to find a place to camp and cook dinner. At the end of the afternoon we have beans and some rice while we are overlooking this lake that has turned into pink. Speechless we are.

In Antofagasta de la Sierra, a nice little tiny place, we find to our surprise a gas station. But they don't sell fuel. The owner, a woman, points to a house, that's where you can buy some fuel she says. After 10 minutes of talking to people we find out that an old woman sells fuel out of a barrel. It takes a hose, a plastic bottle, 2 more men and a lot of patience to get this golden syrup into our tanks. While this procedure is happening another woman asks us if we are looking for a room. But we want to go on, it's still early in the day, but we tell her we are hungry. Restaurants in Argentina are always closed when we want to eat, so she offers us to cook a meal. 'Can we have chips with it?'; Andy's most asked question if it's about food. No, it's not possible. But when we are waiting at her kitchen table, she comes in with a big smile, chips and milanesa (battered meat).Andy is happy now.
sept 2009 3 205.jpg

Just after this little cute town you will see some great volcano's, black they are and around them the sand has all kind of colors. It's the start of a great ride through an area that shows RED volcano's with pure white salt lakes, white shiny glaciers and red, brown and yellow mountain ranges. I have never seen this kind of beauty before, it's one of the most special places I have ever been through. Andy is enjoying it a lot as well, for him it's the combination of nice scenery, 'interesting' riding (he means shit roads) , space and loneliness that counts.
sept 2009 3 249.jpg

If you look at Google-earth and follow the 17 and 27 you will see some amazing weird things, in reality it's like being on the moon.
We camp again and sleep very well.

The pass we have to cross is not as difficult as we thought it would be. To early farms are showing up, and cactus. We get overheated. In Belen we find a nice hotel, but, again, everything comes to live at night. At 3 o'clock in the night kids are walking around and crying. The hotel has those horrible tiles everywhere,so the sound echo's. Andy gets out of bed, naked, and shouts to a guy that he has to control his kids. But he isn't the father. I go out of the bed, dressed, find the owner of the hotel and after 2 minutes it's quiet. Nobody has been killed.

We follow route 40, great fun, the ripio (wash board) isn't bad. We are riding through red mountains with cactus everywhere and because it has been snowing there is snow on top of them!
sept2009 4 011.jpg

We contact John and Annette in San Rafael and they tell us that they have snow, a few inches of it. What's going on??? But while we are driving South there is no snow on the road, but loads of it on top of the Andes to our right.

In Mendoza we find a Wall Mart, a big supermarket where we try to find some nice things to eat.
There is a check point, but we didn't get checked. What we did get was getting sprayed. It might have been the purpose to avoid fruit flies and other little creatures to go with us into a new Province, but all what happened was that, totally unexpected, some biting wet stuff got out of two poles next to us. My helmet was open so it got right into my face, nowhere else. Luckily I was wearing sun glasses, I was cursing in all the languages I know, trying to wipe it of my skin, using baby wipes.

The road to San Rafael is so boring that I am using, for the first time on this trip, my I-pod. And while I am listening to Rory Gallacher I see more farms and vineyards, we are back in the wine and fruit area. We are excited, we are looking forwards to be back in San Rafael, to see John and Annette. They have been traveling around the world on their motorbikes, couldn't settle down again in Britain and bought Finca Rita, a farm in Argentina. We have been at their place before. Curious we are. Also we are looking forwards to sleep in a real bed and to eat good food. Annette's kitchen qualities are excellent and so is the Argentine meat!
Travelers can stay at their place and have free food and board in exchange for giving them a hand on the farm. So here we are. There is something in the coke here that makes us wobbly and we should lose weight, we move around a lot, but we are probably putting on weight. Wonder why that is.
The farm looks great, neat. There is a new vegetable garden, a camping area, a duck and chicken house, 2 more dogs and a snobby cat that fights with the dogs. The house is painted, new tiles on the floor (Phil you did a wonderful job!), INTERNET and a swimming pool!
Annette managed to organize a birthday party (I got 50 in August, but we where in the Amazon), without me having any clues about it.....and there are many people we have met before. That was such a nice surprise!
sept2009 6 013.jpg

sept2009 4 035.jpg

Every morning I go to the field to tie up the vines, followed by 5 dogs, a chicken and a cat and Andy is creating a galleria from real Argentine wood, banana shaped it is, so it's difficult to build something that is excepted by high British standards. But is looks very good to me. It's fantastic to be 'normal' for a while, to enjoy the spring here. All the trees have changed their fragile green into darker green and the buds on the plum trees are coming out. There is still snow on the mountain tops far away, but some days it's hot already. What a bad life.

Till now we traveled 32.000 happy kilometers.....
sept2009 5 009.jpg

Posted by Maya Vermeer at 06:13 PM GMT
January 18, 2010 GMT
DECEMBER 27, ESQUEL, ARGENTINA.

DECEMBER 27, ESQUEL, ARGENTINA.
nov 2009 008.jpg

In San Rafael, at John and Annette's place, we stayed for 6 weeks. You can stay at their finca (farm) if you give them a hand. Before we left we finished the galleria (the porch). We did the concreting underneath in the early hours of the morning to avoid getting heatstroke.
I love this place when it's spring, all the greens look so pretty.
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We celebrated Guy Forks night at the finca. One of those great ideas of Annette. She made toffee apples and I made a guy from old cloths and hay. Annette had invited friends, also expatriates from Britain and the States (the last one's had no clue what Guy Forks night was all about!).
nov 2009 009.jpg

It took all morning to buy some fireworks for Guy's night. In the shop they couldn't tell us how much it would cost and we had to come back 3 times before we got them. After Andy had fired off the first one, the hay underneath the trees started to burn. Some buckets with water prevented the finca from being burned down. After singing a song and a last dance with Guy we threw him in the fire...
nov 2009 013.jpg


The weather is very strange in this area. John and Annette's plums and grapes got hit by the frost, so there will be not much to harvest next summer. Sometimes the winds were horrendous. We just heard that they had a tornado....it proves that it is an El Nino Year!
It was not easy to say 'Goodbye' to John and Annette after having spent one and a half months at their place. We wish them both more than Good Luck, they deserve it . Bloody hard workers they are.
nov 2009 1 023.jpg

We left San Rafael on the 10 of November, following ruta 40 South and enjoyed being on the road again very much. The scenery was fantastic, blue sky and red and brown rocky mountains in front of higher black mountains with snow on top.
We found an OK-campsite in Malarque, quite close to a luxury supermarket. Good choice.
Ruta 40 has some good bits with asphalt and also some really shit bits of rippio (wash board), but you forget all your sorrow because of all the fascinating surroundings.
The campsite in Chos Malal didn't look very good, but it was surprisingly quiet after some drunks had left. From that moment on almost everybody we met was giving us presents...a guy gave Andy a fluffy hat, so he looks like a cosak now. In the middle of nowhere Argentina's Buff distributer gave us 2 Buffs (head scarves) with the Argentinian flag on it, together with a handy thermometer.
Andy is wearing that on his coat, so I can see how hot he is.
More lucky moments, we got stopped by the police twice and they even didn't notice, after a professional check on us, that the numberplate was gone.
nov 2009 1 070.jpg

We headed for Las Lajas and stayed 2 nights in a wooden cabana without electricity, but with a wood stove and a great view. Our cabana was surrounded by my favorite trees, the Monkey Puzzle Trees.

It took us 2 hours to cross the border into Chile. They checked the top box, but not the sidecar box, which was full of chocolate raisins, Andy's favorites. You are not allowed to take any fruit, vegetables and meat into Chile, but Andy didn't care. You can't find chocolate raisins very easy in South America.
After crossing the border we saw 3 volcano's, covered in snow, in one view! We also drove through South America's longest tunnel, that was quiet scary, I don't like tunnel darkness. It was cold, so we headed for a place called 'Swiss Andino', a hostel near Lonquimay.
nov 2009 1 007.jpg

Chile is much greener than Argentina (because of the rain!) and looks different as well. Higher mountains, more snow. The houses look like the ones on the prairie in a Wild West movie. The people are a bit more reserved than in Argentina.
You shouldn't write stupid things about your self in a blog like this, but sometimes it has to be done...We spent 3 nights in the nicest room in 'Swiss Andino', because we thought it was not to expensive. But when we got the bill we found out that one dollar is 516 pesos and not half of that amount, as we thought!
So we had spent our weekly budget in a oner, great. So for the next 5 days we had to camp in the wild. We drove around a huge volcano and got stuck in the snow, we turned around into another direction, following a river and found a beautiful place to camp near Troyo, a small village. Than it rained for almost 2 days and we were reading books and talked about our future plans while we were trying to stay warm in our sleeping bags.
nov 2009 1 066.jpg

We followed the Lake Route South from Curacautin to Cunco, a great ride, but it was still cold and wet. So we spent another day in the tent. I finished 2 books, one from Ian Rankin and one about Eric Clapton's life.
We got smelly, time for a cabana. Also a good place to change a broken spoke and to warm up. We decided to go back into Argentina. We wanted a bit more sunshine and Chile is not cheap.

We ended up in Villa Penuana, just over the border in Argentina, on a camp site. It came with a cow that was chasing the dogs (or the other way around). They promised to warm up the water for a shower for us, but all we got were some drops.

There are loads of birds in Park Lanin, a park near the Lakes. We have been before in this area, but it was summer than and very dry. Now it looks green, green, green. I love it!
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The road from Junin de Los Andes to Bariloche is so nice, yellow bushes and lupines everywhere. Lots of places to wild camp or to fish!

In Bariloche we contacted our friends Klaus and Andrea and their kids Manu and Nico. We had met each other 3 years ago and had shared a cabana together. Klaus had started a bike tours company and we were very curious about how they were doing. We were all very pleased to see each other again. One day we had a great ride out around the lake and all the family members ended up -one at the time- in the sidecar. Normally we don't do children (sorry kids), but Manu and Nico are super kids. They speak 4 languages, are funny and great company. And can make pancakes as well!
nov 2009 klaus 016.jpg

We stayed 3 nights in a wooden cabana at Klaus and Claudia's place near El Bolson. We worked on their land, trying to dig out huge thistles, like the ones in Scotland. They organized a big assado and that was very nice!
nov 2009 klaus 004.jpg

nov 2009 klaus 019.jpg

Time to start heading East to Viedma, to the HU meeting for travellers like us. It's a 3 days ride over the 'Pampa' , mostly rippio, to the other side of Argentina. We spend the nights in what we call ' Hotel Patagonia', which means, sleeping in a quarry next to the road somewhere on the Pampa.
nov 2009 klaus 025.jpg

So you get beautiful sunsets and silence. Except for the sound of a machine gun in the distance...it comes from a small animal that that warns his tribe for smelly bikers like us.

Lots of the Argentinian version of a South African ostrich around, wild horses also and other strange birds.
We also saw the Argentinian version of Ayers Rock, it has the shape of an enormous empanada.
Towards Viedma the Pampa is totally flat and it's very windy. The Patagonian winds are very, very strong and dusty.

We stopped in Viedma to rob a bank and to stock up with some healthy food and beer. Back at the bike we met 2 Canadians, Brian and Mary (later on we called her cave woman, but I can't tell you all the details about why). We drove together to the camp site in El Condor, were Kevin and Lorraine were already settled in. It ended up in having a big assado together.

From that day on other bike travellers arrived. There was another sidecar as well!!!!!!!!Tony from East Germany. He had had a bike accident and has to use a wheel chair. It doesn't stop this happy guy going where he wants to go, together with his lovely girlfriend Ina, who rides her own bike.
nov 2009 klaus 038.jpg

nov 2009 klaus 042.jpg

Old friends turned up, Sandra and Yavier from Dakar Motos and John (without Annette unfortunately). Finally we met Smelly Biker, Bob Morly, who wasn't smelly at all but nice company and also Ken and Carol Duval. They had had a bike accident and had visited 3 hospitals in Buenos Aires to find a doctor who would have no problems to let them go of to Viedma! And there they were! They came by bus and were very happy company.
Oscar and Nancy hosted the whole meeting in a great way. The assado they organized was perfect as also everything else.
This HU meeting was a very cozy one, we enjoyed it a lot!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Before we hit the road again, we parked our sidecar in Viedma in front of a radio station and before we had discovered what we had done I ended up in a real studio with micro phones and 3 interviewers, all asking questions at the same time....it was a good opportunity to thank Oscar and Nancy. I hope everybody has heard that.
nov 2009 klaus 055.jpg

We had to go back the same road we had been on before. Our friends Hazel and Tony would arrive by plane in Bariloche in 4 days time.
We drove back together with a Swiss couple, Chris and Sylvia, and spent together 2 nights in a cabana in Bariloche, which was nice.
In this cabana I turned the bath in a gigantic washing machine and managed to flood the whole place...

Now we are in Esquel, together with Tony and Hazel, who still can't believe that they are in Argentina! It's Christmas, we are in a nice place, with good friends, life ain't bad.
Back in Scotland they had floods and now loads of snow. It's minus 12. And in Holland nobody can travel because of the weather.....
Happy New Year to all our family members, our friends and all the travellers we have met on the road. We wish all of you all the best (and more) for 2010. It will be a good year for making your own wishes come true and to share all the good things together.

Posted by Maya Vermeer at 05:55 PM GMT
January 23, 2010 GMT
SHIT SHOVELLING IN 'HOTEL PATAGONIA' AND BONNIE MEETS TIGER!

SHIT SHOVELLING IN 'HOTEL PATAGONIA' AND BONNIE MEETS TIGER!
January 17, 2010, Esquel, Argentina.

Christmas was well celebrated with our friends Tony and Hazel in Esquel. We had a real Christmas dinner, even champagne for breakfast. This would be the last treat for a while. The plan is to go South, following the Caratera Austral in Chili and routa 40 in Argentina, all the way to Porito Moreno (an enormous glacier). It means we have to wild camp a lot and eat noodles..
decjan2010 047.jpg

The Caratera Austral showed me one day 12 waterfalls in one view! Yellow bushes and blue lupines in front of emerald lakes and rivers made it all look like a postcard picture. The road was often full of potholes and deep rippio, but my eyes were everywhere and popping out all the time. We saw a hanging glacier and a huge waterfall with a rainbow.
decjan2010 033.jpg

On the way to Coihaique Tony and Hazel took an exhausted push biker with them in the car. He had hurt his leg. When he had a look at the sidecar he called Andy 'a road worrier'.


We could not find a good place to stay in Coihaique, but some off road riders let us camp on their racing circuit. It came with a great view on the mountains and a little guard dog. The next morning the dog proved it's value, it chased an angry bull away, who had planned to run over our tents and to shit on our bike. So the little brave one got our last chorizo sausage.
decjan2010 161.jpg

One night we wild camped in the woods next to a green blue river. Tony, an expert in making fires, created a nice camp fire and cooked for each of us a super sized steak.
Hazel wanted to do her wash and asked me for a toothbrush. I should have given her Andy's.

New Years Eve showed us a magic full moon on the run down camp site in Cocrane. In front of another great camp fire we toasted each other, our families and friends and we all got a bit wobbly from the Chilean wine and other spirits. By the time we started to sing our national anthems it was time to go to bed.

On the first day of the new year we drove through a fantastic park to the border to get back into Argentina. That's where we all saw our first condors. Guanaco's and rea's ( birds that look like the South African ostrich) everywhere.
At lunchtime I sat down in the grass and then I found out that my bum was full of spikes, my behind looked like a hedgehog. Andy de-spiked me.
decjan2010 264.jpg

Also we were lucky to see an armadillo. We stopped the bike and it was still sitting in the middle of the road (trying to hide) so we could have a good look.

Travelling with us must be sometimes very hard for Tony and Hazel. We travel most of the time through very remote area's with bad, bumpy and dusty tracks. The Patagonian winds are very, very strong, so to build up the tent is a challenge.
Often it's difficult to find some civilization with a supermarket, a camp site or a bank. But we see beautiful scenery and visit extraordinary places. A highlight for Tony and Hazel was seeing the Porito Moreno Glacier, which showed them the blue beauty only for them, at the end of the day, when all the tourists were gone. They saw ice bergs floating by or popping out of the water!
They studied a lot of wild life and followed the mighty condor with their eyes.

One evening we couldn't find a decent place to camp. We were in the middle of nowhere, hundreds of miles away from everything, but we found a derelict building surrounded by some bushes. Andy and I call these places 'Hotel Patagonia'....It was full of dry cow shit, to Hazel's big surprise. After some comments she invented a shit shovel out of a rusty iron plate and cleared the area, so they could build up the tent!

Tony must have been a boy scout or a pyromaniac in his former life. The campfires he builds are pyramid shaped to start with and burn like hell. Always good to warm up Hazel's cold hands and feet. He is also specialized in houte cuisine camping cooking. Give him some noodles and a bag of cheese sauce and it will taste great!
january2010astrid 298.jpg

We met old friends along the way, like Richard from Germany. We stayed together on a camp site in Cuzco. He had written the mileages he had done on his bum, made a picture of it and had send it home as a Christmas card. We also met Tony (with his sidecar) and Ina again, just before they had to ride through a very difficult part of ruta 40 with deep rippio, in very strong winds.
While we were on a camp site in El Calafate. near the glacier, we heard about other travellers with a sidecar... A TRIUMPH TIGER!!!!When we met we found out that it were Thomas with his Astrid from Germany. We had met Thomas 3 years ago when he travelled on the caratera Austral with a solo bike. It was super to meet them and from that moment on the boys were upside down under the sidecars to study and discus every part.
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The 6 of us got on very well with each other, so we travelled together to Mount Fritzroy and beyond.
From Passo Roballos you can follow a small track along the border to Los Antiquos. It's only doable when it's not raining and it's one of the most beautiful tracks in Argentina. The mountains are gorgeous! Together we had to rebuild the track a few times, so Tony and Hazel's car could get through as well. All day long we were stunned by all the different types and colours of mountains.

It was very busy in Los Antiquos because of the cherry festival, so we drove another 50 something kilometers to a town, also called Porito Moreno, for a camping spot, fuel and food.

To cross the border back into Chili was not difficult. We all ended up on a camp site in Chile Chico and had a last meal together with Thomas and Astrid. They wanted to go South and we had to go North. Tony cooked steaks on the BBQ and I made chips on our stove.
No more the Tiger in front of us, or in my mirror, looking backwards......
We all enjoyed Thomas and Astrid's company very much, so it was hard to say 'Goodbye'.
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Back on the Caratera Austral we met several other bikers, also Chris and Sylvia, who are travelling South.

Tony and Hazel wanted to travel a bit faster, their time is running, the hire car has to be back in Bariloche soon. So on a spot somewhere in the bushes on the road to Coihaique we had our last camp together and we all got quite drunk around the fire and talked till late in the night about all kinds of aspects of life (well, that's what I think we did...).
The plan is to meet up again in Bariloche.
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On our own again.
One night we found a fogon (a shed) where we could stay for the night. A good spot for a shower, the wash and a big warm fire. The shed gave us some shelter against the howling wind outside.

The 14 of January, Andy's birthday. He had forgotten all about it ( a result of his age), till I started to sing the Happy Birthday Song in his ear!
We are still on the Caratera Austral, on our way to Futalafu, to cross the border into Argentina again.
Andy wants a big Argentinian steak.
I want a shower. Hopefully we will find this in Trevelin or Esquel.

This bit is written by Hazel, especially for friends and family...

Each day is a new adventure here in Patagonia. We came 4 weeks ago to meet our friends Andy and Maya and share their travels down through Argentina and Chile. We expected warm sunshine and fantastic scenery. Well the scenery has been breathtaking the weather not so good. The typical Patagonian wind is merciless and in the first part of the journey we had unseasonable rain. Never the less we are experiencing an amazing country, good and bad. South America is the most definitely a country of opposite extremes. The weather in the North sizzling hot and in the South freezing. The scenery on the Caratera Austral beautiful and in some stretches of campo (country side ) BORING! The people though are always the same lovely and helpful.

We camp wild most nights in 'Hotel Patagonia' (as Andy and Maya call it). This means anywhere we can find to pitch our tent free. Hopefully with a bit of shelter from the wind. When it gets too wet or cold for me I would give a 100 pounds for a cabana but most of the time that is not an option. One particular night I slept with five layers of cloth on and was still freezing! (But it's a challenge and something to tell my grandchildren).
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Hotel Patagonia's 'rooms' are not only draughty and cold, but they can be smelly. When we stopped at a ruin in the middle of the camp one night Tony and I were sharing the 'cow pat' 'room' with Andy and Maya. Before we could pitch up our tents we had to shovel all the dried s....! to one side. So much for my friends back home thinking I was going on a glamorous South American holiday. If they could only see me!!
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The best thing about these tiring days travelling sometimes 200 kilometers is that at the end of the day Maya sits down crossed legged in front of her 2 burner camp stove and cooks us a delicious meal from the most meager ingredients. The things we have seen here have been worth every mile. The vastness of this land, the size and variety of mountain ranges. The wildlife (in particular the condors) makes your soul soar.
Tony and I took a day tour to the Porito Moreno Glacier and it will live in our memories forever. The sight of the turquoise blue ice bergs in Lago Argentinia ...wauw...! Then as we neared the wall of this natural wonder, the variety of blues in the cracks and crevices was such a beautiful sight. We gasped in amazement as parts of the Glacier sheared off and plunged into the water sending small tidal waves to the boat. Cracking and booming sounds echoed from somewhere deep in the Glacier. It was just awesome. To toast this fantastic trip we had a whiskey with ice cubes, actually from the Glacier, standing on the deck thinking this is life in glorious technicolour with surround sound!
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And we still have 2 more months here. Now we are travelling North and eventually on to Peru. We have Andy and Maya to thank for allowing us to share their special life on the road. For opening our eyes to this beautiful country and a trip we will never forget.
Hazel.

Posted by Maya Vermeer at 06:03 PM GMT
April 25, 2010 GMT

March 2010, somewhere on the ocean.

HEAVY GOODBYE'S, DROWNING SHARKY AND SAILING HOME.

On January 15 we crossed for the last time the border from Chili into Argentina. After many nights of wild camping we stayed indoors, in a place with a shower, oven and TV and behaved as greedy piggies, after plundering the local supermarket.
We were just back in time in Bariloche to catch up with Tony and Hazel. We had a great meal together and the next day they took of by bus in the direction of Cordoba.

Bariloche was overflowing with tourists, the traffic was horrendous and we had -almost- an accident. A car jumped in front of us and Andy had to brake so hard that the whole sidecar went sideways. It stopped a few centimeters behind the car of this stupid driver. He had to escape our anger.

Andrea, Klaus, Manu and Nico adopted us again. We spent a great week together. One day we went to visit Andrea's brother for a BBQ and a swim near El Bolson. On the road to his place we saw to our big surprise a sidecar; Astrid and Thomas!.. An omen, we would meet again.
Andy and Klaus were working on his bikes to prepare them for the next group of clients that he would take all the way to Ushuaia, while Astrid and Thomas were working on their bike in the front garden. Everybody had a good time!
After days of fun we had to leave our favorite family in Argentina. Klaus and Andrea took us to a restaurant and beer brewery for a last meal...
For all of us it was difficult to say goodbye to our friends.
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We left together with Thomas and Astrid. Bonnie was happy to ride with Tiger over a pass called Paso Colorado. We found a good camping spot. Thomas started immediately to gather fire wood, like men do. Our last night together was a nice one, cozy, while we were all staring at the fire.
I am sure we will meet again.
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And maybe we made a bit of history together; it might have been the first time in South America that 2 TRIUMPH SIDECARS traveled together!
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Our Bonnie was sad after being left alone by Tiger, but she plowed all the way to Chos Malal through the blasting wind and she made it 42.000 kilometers on the clock.
What a great bike!

Then the bearings of the back wheel (the Cagiva wheel) went. Early in the morning we tried to fix this, the sun was already boiling hot, not a fun job. We always forget which spacer has to go where, so it takes much more time then necessary.

Back in San Rafael John and Annette had been working hard to get the swimming pool ready. It was great fun to be in there, especially in these super hot temperatures.
Andy bought a orange blow up shark. Berwick didn't go in the pool him self (legs to white honey, or do you think you look weird in swimming trunks?), but I had fun with sharky, couldn't get enough of jumping on him (he didn't burst) and drowning him.
We didn't do any adventurous things, we cleaned the bike and she was even shining in the moonlight. Everything, luggage and bike was checked: we were ready to go.
We left John and Annette with mixed feelings; their place is like our home in Argentina, but we also like to go home, to Scotland, now.
We hope that next year, and the years after that, their plums will be big like tennis balls and that a walnut will be worth a dollar each. Good luck to you both and thanks for having us!

The road from San Rafael to Gral Alviar shows many farms, vineyards and orchards. The smell of plums is combined with the scent of eucalyptus trees and diesel smoke from the old trucks they are driving here. Then everything disappears and the land turns into campo, flat, flat land with some scrubs.
Somewhere along this endless road I smelled just cut grass and I felt HOMESICK!
Maybe a strange thing to say as a rufty tufty bike traveller, but at home I love mowing the grass.

In a town, no idea how it's called, we had to repair 2 broken spokes. The last ones.
There were so many mosquito's around, I couldn't pee in the grass where they were waiting for me. We had to spray ourselves totally, because there is Dengue in this area.

The closer you get to Buenos Aires, the busier the roads are. A travellers nightmare. The sun was shining on the GPS, so Andy had trouble reading it. I tried to navigate him by using the map and because I recognized and remembered street names from 3 years ago we managed to find Dakar Motos, the bike hostel, run by our friends Sandra and Yavier.
The hostel was overcrowded, but the company was good. We all took turns cooking and some shared the bike maintenance. Great fun to meet Ken and Carol again and we enjoyed sharing time with Sandra and Yavier (thanks for the great BBQ!).
Sandra had already started to cry the day before we were leaving and I have to admit, I hardly couldn't stay dry ether.
Our very last goodbye's.....difficult.
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While we were waiting for our Grimaldi ship, a German woman turned up with a small motor home. Also a German guy in a huge truck. This guy drove away to post some cards at 3 o'clock, the time the shipping agent was suppose to arrive. Later on the German woman drove against a pole. She had to stop for the Aduana, but didn't.
Grimaldi said there would be a vigorous customs check, but nothing like that happened. So we wouldn't find out what the reaction would have been to our machete and huge BBQ knives (our only souvenirs from this trip).

Two other passengers were already on the ship. A woman from Switzerland and an English lady. So we ended up with 3 German speaking and 3 English speaking passengers.
At 6 o'clock we had our first dinner together in the officers mess. The German woman didn't want me to sit next to her, because she thinks that I don't speak German.
The conversation at the table is spoken in 2 languages. The Germans, who speak English as well, continue in German, the English ones in English, so nobody can really have a conversation.

The air conditioning doesn't work well, we sweat our bits of, especially at night. It's difficult to sleep well, this vessel is also very noisy. Everything rattles.
Sometimes we saw flying fish and dolphins chasing them.
We are nearly there...
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On March the 11 we arrived in Hamburg. It was minus 2 and there was still snow in the fields. We were frozen very quickly, our bodies had been in the sunshine for one and a half years...
We arrived at the end of the day at my mum's place in Holland, her hugs made us warm!
A 3 week tour along friends and family in Holland and Britain followed and finally we arrived HOME. Our friends Fritz and Bev came with us and helped us moving all our stuff from the container back into the house... that was fantastic!
It's great to sleep in our own beds again and to sit on our own toilet. It's very quiet here, that is so welcome after being in many noisy places in the America's.
Andy is day and night in the garage, I have been cutting the grass. We are happy to be back home after being on this long trip. We feel very privileged to be able to be away for so long, to see so much, to have met great people...but the travel bug will hit us again!

Posted by Maya Vermeer at 07:26 PM GMT
 


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