September 10, 2003 GMT
So why haven't I left yet?

Today did not get off to a great start. I planned my day and went to Granny's to adjust the sag. I had loads of things going through my head and, having put some stuff in the top box, started the engine. I waited for a gap in the traffic and rolled the throttle on to ride straight off the pavement onto the road.

I didn't get very far.

This is the second time I've done it - I'd forgotten to remove the padlock securing the bike to a lamp post. I got about five feet before coming to a rather abrupt halt and falling off. As is usual in this situation I leapt up to see if anyone was watching.

Advanced Driving Skills

Unfortunately, there was one chap walking down the other side of the road who had seen it all. I asked him if he could kindly help me pick it up. He was soon joined by my neighbours Nev and Leslie who'd heard me start the engine and were also watching from their house.

I explained that this sort of thing was normal behaviour for me and shouldn't be cause for alarm.

So when will I be leaving?

I hope (plan version nine hundred and fifty four) to leave before the end of the month. That will still allow me two weeks in New York and two weeks to get to Creel in Mexico by 31st October.

Until then I just need to solve all my existing opportunities and hope there are no more big surprises.

Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 11:18 PM GMT
September 21, 2003 GMT
Strangest Thing Ever Shipped?

When I was at Heathrow having my bike crated I asked Dave, who was making my crate, what's the strangest thing he’s ever sent?

‘I’ve been in this job for twelve years’, he replied, ‘the strangest thing I’ve ever packed was a penis’.

‘What markings were on the box?’, I asked, ‘one careful owner?’.

‘You’re having me on!’. Exclaimed Pete, he had a shaved head, two nose rings and ‘venom’ tattooed across his neck. They'd been working together for four years.

‘No, it was a real, frozen, penis. It was going to be used in medical research’.

‘It’s a bit late to test with Viagra’, I quipped.

‘Unless it’s the new super strong version’, said Venom.

It didn’t seem an appropriate moment to argue with him.

He was clearly amazed and impressed.

‘What happened to the donor?’

‘I don’t know, I just boxed it up and sent it’.

‘He must have ticked the ‘Please use my willy’ box on his organ donor’s card’, added Venom.

Hmm, where's my card?

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Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 11:31 PM GMT
October 10, 2003 GMT
Room Service!

I met Dom and Leah at the bike rally in Creel. Dom is a plant manager and Leah a civil engineer. They met whilst working on the same construction project on the M25. They are riding to Buenos Aires on Kawasaki KLR650’s they bought in Vancouver. From BA they’ll fly to Oz and start up a business together.

After missing each other several times we finally got together in Puerto Vallarta. They had met another English couple, Howie and Elaine, who are on their way to Mexico City where they pick up the next leg of thier rtw tickets. They'd bought a car in Vancouver which they plan to sell in Belize.

We all retired to a local bar for a few drinks. I left them at 2am when they went off to get something to eat.

I was trying to decide whether I would travel with Dom and Leah on their bikes for a few days as we are basically going in the same direction. The only problem is that they get up and go to bed late whilst I get up and go to bed early. This suggests a fairly basic incompatibility. However, they are fun and since I’ve never travelled with any other bikers before I decided to give it a go.

The result of the nights drinking was a plan to drive south down the coast, spend the afternoon on the beach, stay locally and get to Guadalajara the next day. I got up at 7.30 am and went to get my usual latte and bagel for breakfast. On the way I thought it might be a good idea to get them for everyone as, knowing that Dom and Leah are incapable of getting going before about midday. it might kick start them into some kind of hyper activity. When we met the previous day I was having lunch and they breakfast. Would fresh coffee from room service help?

Their hotel was pretty, larger and consequently pricier than mine. It was like a traditional cell block around a central atrium. There were loads of large potted plants on the ground floor which made it feel less like a prison.

I knocked on their ground floor door, room 4. The windows were shut. It must be pretty hot in there I thought.

‘Good morning, Dom and Leah, Room Service here, coffee and bagels for breakfast, please open the door.’

‘Hi’ Dom said, really a lot more awake than I would have thought. There was no sound from Leah.

I waited outside. Did Dom hear me and then just roll over and fall asleep again? I waited a bit more wondering if I should go through it again. Trying not to get too impatient I chilled out and waited some more.

A short while later I could see movement behind the door. The latch went and the door slowly opened. Dom stood there in his boxers looking slightly sleepy.

‘Hi, I’ve brought you some coffee and croissants so we're ready to leave at nine o’clock.’

‘Wow, thanks’. Dom looked rather pleased.

‘Which room are Howie and Elaine in?’

‘Thirty four’ said Leah from somewhere inside.

I went upstairs looking for thirty-four. It was on the third floor as I remembered Howie complaining about how hot it was in the evening having had the sun on the roof all day.

I knocked on the door and went through my routine. I heard a sound and the curtains started to twitch. I saw a hand draw them aside. I offered the small plastic bag with two lattes held tightly in it to keep them upright through the window. The hand took them and they disappeared inside. At that moment Howie drew the curtain back. He looked a bit surprised but also really pleased that I’d brought him breakfast. It was quite touching.

It was at this point I realised there was a teeny weeny problem. It wasn’t Howie. It was some one I’d never seen before and now he had my coffees. The windows were barred. How was I going to get them back? I started laughing.

The curtain moved again and my coffees slowly re-emerged.

‘Thank you, sorry about that’ I said.

I laughed again and chuckled as I went downstairs to have another go at getting the right room for Howie and Elaine.

I told the story to Dom and Leah. It was just another one of those things that seem to happen to me on a fairly regular basis.

‘This is what life’s all about’, I said. Leah started to snort and giggle. She had an extraordinary laugh. Even weirder than my sneezes.

‘So what room are they really in?’

‘It’s thirty-five ‘ said Dom.

‘Thirty-four was the one we were going to have but didn’t’, said Leah helpfully.

I went back upstairs and tried my now finely tuned routine for the third time.

Elaine opened the door and I gave them to her explaining what had just happened.

‘He’s another biker, Rob, an American'. Rob started in Virginia and is also headed to Ushaia. We’re all on the same southerly wave.

I met him a couple of hours later outside my hotel as I was going to meet Dom and Leah.

‘I was asleep and this bloke woke me up. All I heard was 'I’ve got your lattes and bagels' so I took them as they came through the window. When I heard you laughing I thought you must be ok so I gave them back. I could hear you laughing as you went downstairs.’

I'm sure we’ll meet again in a few weeks. We actually met in Punta Perula two days later. When I asked him what he like to do the next day he replied 'Be allowed to keep my own fresh coffee and bagel for breakfast'.

I'm typing this in a restaurant still waiting for Dom and Leah to arrive for lunch (thier breakfast). I’ve decided to go with the flow today.

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Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 11:41 PM GMT
October 31, 2003 GMT
I Lost My Wallet in Texas

I had been in a mad rush ever since I’d decided to go on another trip and buy a new bike on which to do it. I’d completely underestimated how long it would take to transfer the parts from my old to new bikes and to make all the changes and refinements I wanted. I ended up leaving the UK a month later than planned so I only had two weeks to get to Creel in Mexico. My dreams of coolly cruising across the States to San Francisco and then drifting down Baja bit the dust.

I was finally feeling confident of making the rally. The bike was running perfectly, there were no signs of any trouble when I changed the oil the day before, I had just fitted two new tyres that would last at least ten thousand miles and I had all the cooking equipment I needed. I breathed a sigh of relief and relaxation as I set off for the border.

The day started off so well.

By lunchtime I’d done over two hundred miles towards the Mexican border and pulled in for lunch. It was very windy and had been getting steadily hotter. It was twenty-nine degrees Celsius. As I rode away after lunch I had a scare when I thought I had an engine meltdown. It suddenly seemed to loose all power. I had the throttle as far open as possible and I was still slowing down. I felt my hopes of making Mexico evapourate away in the heat. It took me a few moments to realise I’d been going up a long gentle slope in top gear into a very strong head wind. This had happened to me before. I changed down one gear and opened the throttle. The bike leapt forward and, confidence restored, I settled back at a slower pace until I’d cleared the crest of the hill.

After a while I started fiddling with my GPS to see how much further it was to the Mexican border. I looked up to see a car going slowly a few hundred metres in front of me in the overtaking lane. It looked like it had a roof rack.

Hmm, I slowed down a bit and then realised it was not a roof rack but a row of coloured lights.

‘Shit, a patrol car’.

I slowed to the sixty five limit and overtook him on the other lane. (This is allowed in the USA). I watched in my mirrors waiting for the lights to start up. I could see him talking on his radio and I kept going on hoping he might loose interest. Just as I thought I’d got away with it the lights went on.

‘Bugger’.

It then occurred to me he was just waiting for the rest area before pulling me over. I pulled in, stopped, took off my helmet, removed my earplugs and prepared my best British accent.

‘Good afternoon’.
'Hi, how are you?’ – Texans are so polite.
‘Good thanks, how can I help you?’.
‘Where’s your licence plate from and can I see your registration papers?’
‘I’m English and I have the document in my top box’.

I opened it and showed the V5 to him. The patrolman was about thirty and had a very friendly, smiley, face.

‘Can I see your driver’s licence?’.
‘Of course’.

I took put my left hand across my chest to undo the zip to my right hand chest pocket. It was already open. I put my hand straight inside. It was empty. My heart crashed to the floor.

‘Oh fuck, fuck, fuck’ I said in a reserved and controlled way.

I looked inside the pocket. All that was left was my small notebook. My wallet and two pens were missing.

‘Oh no, it must have fallen out on the highway’.

I explained that I was on my way to a biking rally in Mexico, that I’d finally got everything prepared and had been planning for this for six months.

‘When was the last time you stopped?’.

I flicked through a few screens on my trip computer, carefully bypassing the one that shows in very large numbers what my maximum speed was and exactly what date, hour, minute and second I did it.

‘One hundred and thirty three miles ago when I filled up with gas’.

My wallet contained my passport, credit and ATM cards, UK and International Drivers Licence and about one hundred and fifty dollars in cash as well as the email addresses of those I’d recently met.

I jumped up and down with frustration and anger. I was also thinking that a bit of hamming it up might get me off a speeding ticket so I jumped up and down a bit more.
I could see the judges holding up the ‘artistic interpretation’ and ‘star quality’ marks over his shoulder. All nines.

I’d probably left the zip undone at the petrol station, which I’ve done before but it had never actually fallen out. (Low scores for the intelligence test then). The strong wind must have sucked it out of my pocket. I’m sure I didn’t leave it at the petrol station so it must be lying somewhere on the last one hundred and thirty three miles of the I20.

I knew it wasn’t a total disaster as I have a second passport and credit card, travellers cheques and other cash I can use. What was worrying me was whether I needed a drivers licence to get into Mexico and so would miss the biking rally. Neither was I looking forward to getting a new ATM card.

‘You could go back and look for it but it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack’.

Not to put too finer point on it I thought it would be a complete waste of time. It was already nearly four o’clock and I was still about two hundred miles from Presidio on the US border. The patrolman wished me luck and drove off. Well, at least I didn’t get a ticket.

I decided to give it up as a lost cause and set off for the border. Whilst riding I worked out that I could actually ride the one hundred plus miles back, spend the night near my last stop, ride back down the hard shoulder slowly looking for my wallet and still get to Presidio in one day. It would be a really long, knackering day but at least I would have tried to find it. After all, it was definitely on the side of the road somewhere, it was just a case of seeing it.

I pulled off the road and filled up with petrol again using some cash from my money belt. I told the cashier my tale of woe.

‘That would just ruin my day’, she said helpfully in a strong Texan drawl.

I set my trip meter to countdown the miles to go as it would be dark when I got there and therefore hard to recognise I was in the right place. I sped through the first section back to where I was stopped. I rode along at about fifty miles an hour checking the opposite side of the carriage way to see if I could spot it.

Although it had been a pain to ride through I was now so glad that there had been such a strong wind as my wallet had to be on the right hand verge or on the hard shoulder. I quickly realised it was very difficult to spot anything at that speed but kept going as I didn’t think it was safe to go any slower. Spotting something on the other side my hopes soared and I went back over a bridge to find nothing but a piece of paper.

Wheres My Wallet?

Earlier during the day I had been thinking what a typical waste of resources and space it was to have two service roads, one on either side of the motorway. There was a gap of about ten to fifteen metres between the service road and the motorway. It was only now that I was so glad they were there. The interstate is a two lane dual carriage way with no central reservation, just a five metre wide grassy dip separating the two carriageways.

Police cars can easily turn around through the central area to stop some one who’d been going the other way. It really wasn’t very fair. Their radar worked not only when stationary or moving, but also forwards and backwards and against vehicles going in either direction.

As it got dark I sped up and finally arrived back at the petrol station two and a half hours later.

Feeling really tired I looked for a parking spot but all the spaces were taken. I went around the side and rolled into an empty space. As I stopped I put my left foot down. I trod in a poll of oil and my foot slipped from under me. That was it. Another superb display of advanced riding skills was rapidly approaching. With consummate grace and skill I put my right leg down quickly and hopped off to the left, pulling my right leg over the seat at the same time. Feeling rather pleased with myself because I didn’t fall over, I turned and watched my bike crash to the ground. As it lay there the engine was still ticking over gently.

I turned the engine off and looked round to the slightly stunned observers.

‘Please can some one help me pick it up?’

No one moved for a few seconds. Perhaps they were waiting for an encore. Then a big guy in a red check shirt came over and we heaved it upright.

I thanked him profusely and explained why I was here. Lonnie was a lovely man we chatted for about ten minutes. He was a cotton farmer and described himself as a small guy as he only has one thousand acres whilst the big boys had ten thousand. He gave me his address asking me to send him a postcard and my home address and he’d send me some cotton.

His parting words were that I’d find my wallet. How could he know? At the time I thought I would, after all, it was somewhere out there, all I had to do was see it and pick it up. Quite straightforward really.

That night I treated myself to a lovely hot bath but didn’t sleep very well. In the morning I was feeling really optimistic as I set off to look for my wallet. It must be on the right hand side of the motorway.

I started down the hard shoulder at thirty miles an hour and quickly realised it was too fast to work out if what I saw was my wallet or not. I slowed to twenty and started scanning the verge and the whole grass area between the edge of the Interstate and the service road.

There was a lot of stuff that had been thrown out. T-shirts, shoes, skirts, loads of cans and bottles, huge pieces of wood, and lots of bits of paper a similar colour to my wallet. Because of the service road it was easy to stop, double back and investigate a possible sighting and then rejoin the hard shoulder again.

My ‘wallet’ was actually a money belt and was supposed to fit around my waist. I was hoping the waist strap would act as a kite tail and make it easier to spot. I only wore it when I didn’t have my biking jacket on because it was uncomfortable over long periods.
I realised the chances of actually finding it were diminishing by the minute. If it had fallen out going over a bridge it was gone. If was over a concrete embankment, they were so steep I couldn’t see the bottom. On some stretches the grass was so long I could only see anything at exactly right angles to the road when the glimpse was too short to decide what I’d seen. I’d have to walk through it to be sure I hadn’t missed it.

Why didn’t they cut all the verges rather than just those in the towns?
After an hour and a half it was beginning to look futile, more like looking for a grain of salt in the desert than a needle in a haystack. At the rate I was going it would take at least six hours to ride back to the layby and another three hours to Presidio, probably even longer in the dark. Why was I bothering?

I decided to speed up a bit and stuck to my original plan to simply have a go. If I failed, ok, at least I’d tried to find it. Logically, I knew it was just a case of looking in the right direction at the right time.

After two and a half hours I’d swung back to giving up. I was going much faster past the tall grass and zooming over bridges and embankments. After three hours and nearly seventy miles I was feeling hungry and thinking of stopping for a snack.

The road started to rise gently at the start of a bridge.

‘Oh my god, that’s it!'

I stopped, put the bike on the side stand and ran back down the road.

‘I’m sure it is – I just hope it’s not some one else’s identical, but empty wallet’.

I saw it and picked it up. It was mine all right. I leapt into the air with pure joy and waved it at the passing cars and trucks. I jumped up and down again with pure relief.

Unbelievable. I’d found it after seventy-five miles of looking. Everything was still inside although the zip was now buggered because it had been run over. You’d think drivers might take a bit more care with other people’s property.

I rode into the nearest petrol station and was still bouncing up and down with joy. I told the two girls my story and they couldn’t believe how lucky I was. Neither did I. They complained that nothing exciting ever happened round there but now they had a story they could talk about for years. It would put their gas station on the map. It could become part of an ‘Interesting gas station tour of Texas’.

I duly made it to the rally on time. Four days later I still find it hard to believe how lucky I was.

Damn, I should have bought a lottery ticket.


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Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 12:03 AM GMT
November 05, 2003 GMT
Driving the Train

I first read about Copper Canyon a few years ago. It's bigger, deeper than the Grand Canyon and covered in trees. I really wanted to compare and contrast it to it's American counterpart.

What made it even more interesting is the Ferrorcarril Chihuahua al Pacifico, the Copper Canyon Railway. The track connects the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico. It was apparently designed to compete with the Panama Canal, but, because of the almost impossible terrain was not completed until 1961, almost fifty years later.

From Los Mochis on the western coast it rises to 8,000 feet through Copper Canyon in the Sierra Madre before descending again. It takes two days to travel the entire length of 1,000km. There is only one track.

The most spectacular part is the western side as it twists and turns through the canyons. There are 86 tunnels and 39 viaducts and some spectacular views. It is generally regarded as one of the world’s most scenic railways.

I went over to the station to find out when the trains arrived. There are only two trains in each direction each day, an express luxury one for tourists and an economical local one which stops at every station (and a few more besides).

Four years ago at a brief unscheduled stop the local village decided to rob everyone on the express train. As the tourists were helpfully handing over their cash and cameras one of the banditos spotted a camera being pointed at him. A well travelled Swiss man, deciding that this was a new experience and might be useful to the police, was taking photos of all the robbers. The bandito gestured that he hand over his camera. The man refused. A more agitated demand followed which was met with a similar but unwise refusal. The bandito shot him dead. Since then every train has an armed SDP guard on it.

As the train drew in (only half an hour late) I had positioned myself right at the front where I hoped the engine would stop. I ran forwards to the cab and waved at the driver. Using my most fluent gesticulations I asked if I could up into the cab. He looked down and shook his head. Bugger.

Rejected but undeterred, I found a seat with every one else. I rode the train to Buhuichiva and stayed at Ceocahui a few miles away near the edge of the canyon.

On the return journey the next day I had already formulated a new strategy. I positioned myself at the same place and waited for the engine to arrive. Only forty five minutes late this time but who cares? I took a few photos of it as it slowed to a halt.

Again, I ‘asked’ to enter the cab. The driver looked at me and smiled. He was pointing to the rear of the train. I was a bit confused thinking he was asking me to go and join all the other toursists again. I looked at him enquiringly and he then pointed down a bit. I clicked. He was pointing at the ladder!

Yes! I climbed up and into the cab. I offered him the ten dollars I’d been waiving in my hand but he declined it.

Whoa what fun! I was so excited.

I really felt that perhaps size does matter after all.

It’s one thing sitting on the floor with your Hornby engine making all the appropriate noises. The real thing makes a real amount of noise. The big diesel engine shudders and vibrates and feels alive as it and wobbles and grinds up the old tracks. It wasn’t possible to stand up in the cab without holding on to something as well as keeping my legs fairly widely apart.

This was a proper man's job like using a JCB or driving an articulated lorry. No namby-pamby computers but a big throbbing engine.

I was so excited. It was like being seven again but with my own live train to play with.

My ‘driver’ wasn’t the current driver at all, but he would be tomorrow. he was hitching a lift to Creel from where he’d take tomorrow’s express back to Los Mochis on the Pacific Coast. His name was Jesus (Hay sus).

We communicated with diagrams and pictures. The engine was of 200 litre capacity, rated at 3,000 horsepower and weighed 300 tons. The engine was made by GEC in the States.

It was a weird feeling looking out the front of the train, seeing the track ahead, whilst hoping that Miguel hadn’t forgotten to put the 6.15 goods train into a siding as we came through. There's no way to swerve if a train suddenly appears around the corner.

It was very noisy but seemingly simple to operate. There was one lever for the engine speed and another for the brake pressure. I ‘asked’ Jesus if I could have a go driving but unfortunately, he wouldn’t let me. He wouldn’t even let me blow the horn.

It’s not like that in Italy where I piloted one of the passenger hydrofoils at forty five knots carrying passengers between Milazzo in Sicily and the volcanic Lipari islands. But that’s another story.

After about an hour Jesus signed that he was getting off soon and got up. There were two doors on either side of the cab facing forwards. He went through the left hand door and held the door open motioning for me to follow him. I thought about it for an instant and followed him. The co-driver handed me my camera as I stepped outside. The train rocks quite a bit as in rattles and claws it’s way up the rails so I held on to the guardrail tightly.

The deck went right round the front of the train around a sort of bonnet about fifteen feet long.

I followed him to the very front of the train where he leant over the rail with his arms up and forwards a la Titanic. I copied him. We rounded a bend and went straight into a tunnel. Suddenly it became much colder and an awful lot noisier with the echo in the tunnel and as the driver raised the engine speed for the next incline. We emerged into a narrow cutting and tuned back into the sun. Jesus smiled and pointed off to one side through the trees.

A few moments later we went into another tunnel. This time as we emerged there wsas no cutting. There was nothing but a very slim, very slender bridge.
Wow!

Leaning forward against the guardrail at the very front of the train with my arms stretched out above my head gave me a wild buzz of excitement.

I could see straight through the bridge down to the bottom of the canyon hundreds of feet below. The bridges are only two rails with a few sleepers connecting them and only every ten feet or so. There’s therefore a lot more empty space than bridge. It would be really difficult just to walk across they are so narrow. You’d have to walk one of the rails light a tightrope.

It was like a huge fairground ride in my own personal train - much more fun than sitting inside with all the tourists.

All you have to do is ask.

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Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 11:35 PM GMT
December 01, 2003 GMT
Learning Spanish in Valle de Bravo

I am now in Valle de Bravo, a beautiful town on the edge of a large lake, only two hours away from Mexico City. It is the 'French Riviera' for the wealthy and a lovely place in which to learn Spanish.

I was going to do a Spanish course in Guatemala but it seems silly not to do it as soon as possible since I'll be spending more time in Mexico than in any other country. I expect to be here for at least a month.

Therefore, I doubt I'll update this site until the New Year.

I wish you a very Happy Christmas and New Year.

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Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 09:15 PM GMT
January 15, 2004 GMT
How to carry a Bike on a Bike?

So much for travelling light.

I've now bought a bicycle whilst staying in Valle to keep fit while learning Spanish.

The tricky bit is how to take the bike with me as I head south.

Taking it is made more difficult because of the panniers and top box so Andy Tiegs' method won't work for me:

Andy Tiegs

I could tie the wheels to my spare tyre carrier at the back of the bike. In fact i now think the whole bike will have to fit there otherwise I won't be able to open any of my boxes without taking the bike off.

The most helpful suggestion so far is to cut it up into smaller bits.

My Bike
My Bike

Thanks to Gibbo and rider_x for their help.

Here's a photo of one solution (from Gibbo) and another of the same guy's 'Dog Powered Scooter'.

?

Dog Powered Scooter

There is a two dog model

And another at Motomecando (from rider_x)

If you happen to have already carried a bike on a bike and have an elegant solution or have some ideas please email me with the details.


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Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 03:19 AM GMT
February 10, 2004 GMT
How Not to Carry a Bike on a Bike

This is what Plan A looked like, but more importantly, what did it ride like?

My Bike

The next morning I packed up all my stuff into four bags, two side panniers, top box and bag across the seat behind me. I put them on the bike, added my camera tank bag as well, checked the bicycle mounts were tight and set off for my shake down ride.

It was awful. I didn’t feel very safe. The front was very light and the bike felt unstable. The steering seemed vague and I thought I might do tank slappers were it not for my steering damper.

I rode the road to Toluca for four of five kilometres which included lots of slow bends and one fast straight. I didn’t go very quickly at all.

I returned home and took the bicycle and it’s frame off the bike. I went for another ride.

My Bike

It was pure joy in comparison. I had confidence in flicking the bike from side to side in the lovely curves and enjoyed myself immensely. I was not going anywhere with the bicycle in that position.

No wonder I hadn’t seen any pictures of bikes in that position on the net.

Back to the drawing board.

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Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 07:41 PM GMT
February 20, 2004 GMT
Plan C was the final solution.

I'd have to remove the smaller pannier and put the bicycle down the side of the bike.

That gave me two options:

- decide what stuff to leave behind in Valle and continue with only one pannier or
- move the top box back three inches and fit the pannier on the seat behind me.

I spread out all my stuff on Juan’s floor. I reorganised it into piles and soon realised the only way to ‘loose’ thirty-one litres was to leave my camping stuff behind. This was my tent, tent poles, pegs, ground sheet and Thermarest mattress.

The space problem was exacerbated by adding stuff for the bike – cycling shoes, shorts, helmet and gloves. I needed the shoes as I had SPD pedals. My feet are ‘locked’ to the pedals, which enables me to not only push down but also up, forwards and backwards on the pedals. It makes cycling a lot easier and much more efficient. I also had my cycling shorts which, although they look strange, with a shaped bit of leather around one’s equipment and bum, are so much more comfortable I simply had to take them.

In going through all my stuff to save weight I went through the contents of my first aid kit. It contained six syringes. I didn’t even know they were there. Who I was going to inject and with what was a bit of a puzzle. I don’t know how to use them anyway so left them behind.

I decided I would leave my camping stuff behind to avoid more welding and weight on the bikes rear sub frame. It’s not exactly really strong anyway. The only problem was that if I went to Cape Town from Santiago or Buenos Aires I’d need my tent in Africa. Staying in hotels would be far too expensive.

I really liked the eccentricity of taking a bike on a bike but I then started to get worryingly practical. Exactly how often would I use the bike anyway? I’d also be worried about it getting nicked as it would be uninsured. Border crossings might also be more of a challenge.

The final issue, and why I’d left this position as the last option, was that I drop my bike about once a month because the seat is so high. This happens when I’m getting on or of it. I’ll put my foot down and discover it’s wafting in thin air or slips on an oily patch. If the bike’s leaning over at all that’s it. I jump off and the bike crashes to the ground.

I’m now quite experienced at this and rarely fall over. I try to look as professional as possible and look around to see who was watching. Hopefully, this means they can help me pick it up again.

Unsurprisingly, It wouldn’t do my super dooper bicycle frame any good to be squashed by my KTM. I’d be left with a very expensive piece of modern art.

Reluctantly, I decided to leave my Santa Cruz in Valle, sell it and spend the money travelling. I can always buy another when I get home to the UK.

Perhaps Santa Cruz will make me a nice folding titanium one that will fit across the back of my bike?

Visit www.fowb.co.uk for more details on this and previous trips.

Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 12:26 AM GMT
March 05, 2004 GMT
Stop That Noise

The sweet sounds of ‘Blowing in the wind’ drifted down the street from the open upstairs window. The guitarist also had a good voice.

I went into the hotel and found the staircase. I went up to the door and listened for a while to make sure I had the right room.

I hammered on the door.

‘Senor Conte. Per favor, stop that dreadful noise!’

The playing and singing stopped abruptly.

I heard the door being unlocked and Senor Conte opened it slowly to see who was complaining about his superb playing and singing. He did not look very happy.

I grinned at him.

‘Sergio! Como estas?’

His face changed from anger to a big smile very quickly.

‘Jerome! Muy bien, y tu?

We had a big manly hug, Italian style.

I first met Sergio on the four night trip up lake Malawi on the Ilala ferry in October 2000. He hadn’t changed at all. His long brown hair still flopped around his face and he was still very brown.

Sergio is not your normal Italian playboy. He is cast from a different mold. He works in the family business on the Island of Ischia just off Naples. The company designs and makes shop signs and banners. Every year for three or four months he sets off to backpack around a different part of the world. When we met he was doing the Cape Town to Dar Es Salam route.

When the Ilala pulled in at one of the many stops between Monkey Bay and Nkhata Bay we got on board one of the lifeboats used to ferry people and goods from the shore.

As we got into the boat Sergio went aft and told the helmsman he was now taking control.Have you done this before?’

‘I am a Sea Captain’, replied Sergio authoritatively and gave the poor man no chance but to acquiesce.

My Bike

Sergio grabbed the tiller and pushed the throttle as far ahead as it would go. Black smoke belched from the side of the boat as the ancient engine whirled itself into life. We accelerated away from the ship and headed for the shore. All the rest of the passengers were smiling and laughing as Capitan Sergio led us in.

He always travels with his guitar, playing and singing his way from place to place.

When he sent me an email saying he was starting his next holiday in Guatemala and then heading south through Central America to Columbia and Venezuela we simply had to meet up.

Visit www.fowb.co.uk for more details on this and previous trips.


Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 06:40 PM GMT
March 15, 2004 GMT
What I'm Doing Is Easy

I had just entered Costa Rica from Nicaragua and I was in my usual euphoric state from being in a new country with the added relief of having cleared Immigration and Customs.

About ten minutes later I could see a cyclist up ahead, going the same way as me. That made it easy to chat as neither of us would have to stop.

As I slowed down I noticed her pony tail.

‘Wow’ I thought.

Not For Mum

I started to dribble along side her bike.

‘Hi’ I said ‘Where are you going?’

Jodie was headed for Ushuaia, at the bottom of South America, in time for their summer in Christmas 2004. . She is twenty seven and lives in Anchorage, Alaska. She left Colorado six months ago and will have cycled the whole length of the Americas on her own.

We were both headed for the same place so we agreed to meet later for dinner.

She had obtained a place at The Royal College of Music in London to study the clarinet but had decided to go cycling instead.

What I’m doing is a complete breeze compared to cycling one hundred kilometres every day.

All I do is just sit there. Whenever there’s a hill or headwind I just twist my right wrist a little more, or, if it gets really steep or strong, I may even have to move my left foot and left hand and change down one gear. It just takes me seconds.

Jodie, on the other hand, has to use to use her own power every inch of the way.

It takes a huge amount of willpower, energy and time.

I’m very jealous and envious.

A Big Truck

I love cycling so I can understand her pain and pleasure and am simply in awe of her determination and drive.

She gets many things that I miss on my bike, especially the silence but she also gets the worst of the traffic: trucks coming too close and their following vacuum that accelerates her into the middle of the road or blows her off it, buses running her off the road.

During one conversation it transpired she’d never eaten chocolate before breakfast.

I said it was all very well cycling from Colorado to the bottom of South America in eighteen months but anyone could do that. I suggested she needed to get out a bit more, really stretch herself, think outside the box, rather than go through life taking the easy option.

I dared her to eat some chocolate really early in the morning as a way of pushing the barriers back a bit and maybe learn something about herself.

Luckily, she laughed.

For Mum

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Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 11:16 PM GMT
April 24, 2004 GMT
The Galapagos Islands

I have wanted to visit the islands for many years. By being in Quito and being able to go at short notice I got a rather nice 45% discount off the normal rack rate.

Here are a few examples of what I saw:

Clicking on an image will take you to a bigger picture on my site www.fowb.co.uk. Use the 'back arrow' to return to this page or 'Home' to see more photos on my site.












A BlueFootedBooby. We were lucky to see them courting and bonking. The male's walk is really hysterical to watch.


Marine Iguanas


Sea Lions


Male Frigate Birds displaying


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Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 06:25 PM GMT
May 25, 2004 GMT
Miss Universe

There was no traffic and lots of police about. They had close the road. 'No wonder he’s late' I thought 'the traffic must be a nightmare'.


Eventually he turned up full of apologies.

Nico is the owner of the town’s newspaper so knows and is known by many people. He introduced me to a very attractive lady who ran another hotel. We chatted for a bit and I found her captivating. Why was I leaving Cuenca today? Nico went off to find out why the road was closed. He returned saying that several Miss Universes, including Miss Ecuador had arrived in town and were on their way to the hotel.

My hotel.

They were expected in a few minutes.

I rushed to get my cameras but was desperate for a pee. I went upstairs and returned as soon as I could. When I got back downside they were already walking into the hotel’s central atrium. I didn’t know who was who as they didn’t have their sashes on.

I felt uncomfortable about just flashing away as I thought it was intrusive. So I took none. A few minutes later I remembered advice from a photographer friend at home, the truly mad Leslie Player, who told me to take the time to talk to people beforehand and then ask if it is ok to take their photograph.


Whilst I was still debating with myself one of their bodyguards came over to me and asked me not to take any photos when they were eating. I decided to be bold and I went over to them a few minutes later when they were sitting down at a table nearby.


I chatted a bit and asked if I could take their photos. This is their job, to smile have their photos taken a lot and win the title. I quickly took one of each of them and thanked them. I then talked to the bodyguard again for a while. He was an American, a former secret squirrel or similar seriously well trained type. His job would last a year, starting with protecting all the girls before the competition to protecting the winner for the duration of her reign.


Having got my shots it was time for yet another stressful decision.


What should I do?

Stay another night in a fabulous hotel, eat wonderful food, hang around and photograph beautiful women or just get on my bike and go?

I got on it and went.

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Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 10:00 PM GMT
June 06, 2004 GMT
Being Indiana Jones

It all started with another dreadful breakfast.

I had asked Aracelli for eggs, toast and coffee. After about half an hour I was presented with a hard boiled egg.


I cracked the top with my knife and was just about to cut the top off when the white poured out onto the table cloth.

‘How long did you boil it for?’ I asked.

‘Seven minutes’ came the confident reply.

She was either lying or simply unable to tell the time.

Even I knew it only took three minutes to boil an egg if it was placed in boiling water.

Nelson and I looked at each and we started to laugh. There were sympathetic looks and some gentle shaking of heads from his relations dotted about the kitchen.

I told Aracelli that I’d boil my own eggs if she couldn’t do it. She insisted on trying again so I resigned myself to going with the flow again.

My second egg was boiled for nearly ten minutes. I must say it was definitely hard boiled. After three of those and an Imodium I thought it safe to hike up to the ruins without a spare loo roll.

It was a two hour trek to Carcahuasi, the mountain top ruins hidden by the cloud forest and covered with orchids and bromeliads. This is just one settlement in what Gene Savoy (reputed to be the original model for Indiana Jones) included in his ‘city’ which he called Gran Vilaya. This is a network of over 24,000 round, oval and walled cut-stone structures which cover about 100 square miles.

As we climbed through the dense jungle up steeper and steeper slopes we suddenly came to a low wall about four feet high. A few minutes later we came across another, this time about twenty feet high. As we continued upwards yet another appeared with a cave like opening in it.

As we kept going up Nelson got out his machete and started hacking away the jungle to cut a path around the summit. We came across several circular platforms which would have contained four dwellings. There are forty of these platforms, so with and average of four people per family and four families on each the village’s population was about 640 souls.

It was hard to be sure but we eventually arrived at the highest point. There was no view as the vegetation was too dense. The highest building had a large circular concave grinding stone in the centre. Aracelli produced some of last night’s wine and some coca leaves. She passed the wine around and we each made a silent wish. We each then buried some leaves in the ground.

Feeling thoroughly at one with Indy I asked if I could borrow Nelson’s machete while he had lunch and start clearing the jungle so we could get a view down the valley.

I set to it, being careful I didn’t chop my arm or leg off by mistake. That would have been a real downer.

Nelson told me to start from the bottom so I dropped off over the ledge and started hacking away. Nelson got out his coca supply and crammed a wodge of leaves and some bicarb into his mouth and started chewing.

After about ten minutes I could feel myself starting to get carried away so I had to be even more careful. This was not the place to chop off a finger as it was a one day walk to the nearest road and a five hour drive to the nearest hospital.

That is, if there just happened to be a vehicle at the end road just waiting. If not, it was another day’s walk to the nearest bigger road with sufficient traffic to get a lift into Chacha.

I handed the machete to Nelson. He set to it like a Whirling Dervish. In half an hour he had cleared an incredible amount and the view was amazing.

This was exactly what the Chachapoyans had seen from the same spot over fourteen hundred years ago.

We trekked back to Nelson’s house.

I was nervous. Aracelli was cooking chicken again.

It still took another hour (with the fire already lit) to present me with her offering. Chicken and rice.

I cut into the chicken, confident she would have learnt from last nights fiasco.

But no! Blood oozed out again.

‘Aracelli, it’s not cooked again, there must be something wrong with the wood.’ It was never her fault always some one else’s.

I started smiling and everyone else in the darkened kitchen was smiling as well.

The previous week Aracelli had guided an English couple but had also brought a cook. Everyone had been really impressed with his speed, and the quality and variety of his meals.

Later that night, whilst I was alone in my room, there was a knock on my door.

It was Nelson. I asked him in and he was clearly embarrassed by Aracelli’s cooking.

‘What would you like for breakfast?’ he asked.

It felt like planning a midnight feast while our parents were away.

‘Huevos y pan tostada, por favour’. I replied.

What would Aracelli do if she found out?


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Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 04:40 PM GMT
June 25, 2004 GMT

Here are a few specially selected new products and shopping experiences available in Peru:




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Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 01:34 AM GMT
July 01, 2004 GMT
Canon del Pato, Peru

Ricardo had advised me not to miss this road.

There are about forty tunnels as the road winds it's way up the valley.


This was a rare exception - a naturally lit tunnel. There were no electric lights in any of them so, if the tunnel curved it was impossible to see anything when going from very bright sunshine to total darkness.

You just have to stop and wait for your eyes to adjust.

Having finished all the tunnels I stopped in a small village to get some more water. As I was paying the owner said there were three German cyclists who had just left.

‘How long ago?’ I asked.

‘Ten minutes’ she replied.

I set off and sure enough, a short way away I saw three cyclists.

It was thirty degrees and they were going uphill. At 7 km/h.

They seemed relieved to stop for a chat. Lisa, Martin and Kate were all headed for Ushuaia for Christmas.


It was going to be crowded there. I already know of two other cyclists, and now two more Germans, Andreas and Michaela, who are staying in this hostal.


If you are headed that way as well I suggest you book early to avoid disappointment. It would be a bit of a downer to have spent an entire year getting there only to be told:

‘Sorry, but we’re full. Do you mind coming back next year?’

Visit www.fowb.co.uk for more details on this and previous trips.

Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 12:26 AM GMT
July 15, 2004 GMT
Yangay, Cordillera Blanca

This has been the saddest day of my trip.

It’s one thing to read or see film about an earthquake, the loss of life and destruction. It’s quite another to visit a town totally destroyed by one and the subsequent landslide.


The earthquake triggered a massive landslide from the 6664m Huscuaran Norte mountain which towers above the town. It happened in 1970 at 3.30pm in the afternoon. There was an international football match on television so many people were inside watching it.

The whole town was buried under five to ten metres of rock and rubble. It was all over in three terrifying minutes.

Twenty thousand men, women and children were killed.

The only survivors were the children who happened to be at the football stadium watching a circus and those people who were or who managed to get up to the town’s graveyard in time.

The site has been consecrated as a cemetery and the church tower was rebuilt.

The principal streets have been marked out on the ground and the central square, Plaza de Armas, was easy to find. There are four palm trees that protrude through the rubble. Only one is still alive.

Many memorials have been erected where whole families were killed. The sites of former houses and quadrangles are now simple gardens filled with thousands of roses which were swaying gently in the wind.


There is a tragic and haunting contrast between the complete silence, the beautiful flowers, the sight of Huscuaran towering over the town and the thought of the bustle, laughter and noise of a busy town, of children playing in the streets and the sudden death and destruction minutes later.

I walked over a small stream as it gurgled and rippled it’s way down the hill and I bent down to smell a red rose.


It was exquisite. It’s sweet scent made the tragedy even more unbearable.

Suddenly, I felt an overwhelming sense of grief and sadness. I felt a lump in my throat and tears welled up in my eyes. Tears rolled down my face.

I was planning to ride over the highest pass in Peru, Punta Olimpica, at 4,890m, on my way to Chavin but I was too upset to cope with the high concentration levels that such a narrow dirt road would require so I took the easy, tarred route instead.

As I gently wound my way to Chavin on a gloriously sunny day I kept thinking ‘If there is a God how could He let such a terrible thing happen?’


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Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 12:05 AM GMT
August 14, 2004 GMT
I Lost My Helmet

In stunned silence and almost in slow motion I watched my helmet bounce off the top of the barrier and spin off into the valley below.


I was on my best Lima to Caraz run yet. My earliest start and fastest time. I'd already covered 200 of the 500km to Lima and it was only 12am. I needed to stop for wee number two and was looking for a suitable spot. As I rounded a corner I saw a crash barrier – perfect.

I leant the bike against it and took my helmet off. I usually put it on the ground but it was really dusty so I put it on top of one of my panniers. I finished my wee and turned around to get back on the bike.

As I turned something on my arm or jacket must have caught my helmet.

In stunned silence and almost in slow motion I watched my helmet bounce off the top of the barrier and spin off into the valley below.

The crash barrier was here for a reason. There was a sheer drop of some one hundred feet over the cliff. Consequently it didn't actually hit anything for quite a while until it smashed into the rocks below. It then continued to smash it's way down the rock scree.

I wished it would stop, but it didn't. There was nothing to hinder it's progress, nothing but bare rocks on a forty five degree slope. It seemed it had been falling for ages when it approached some scrub and bushes.

My hopes soared as I imagined it getting caught in the tangle of branches.

With yet another thud it hit a rock and bounced clean over the bushes onto more rocks below.

‘Ok, the next bushes then'.

It was really surreal watching my helmet plummet down the hill.

To my huge relief it was eventually stopped by some bushes. What was even better news was that I could see it.

I was still 300km from Lima . I thought briefly about riding back without it but I needed it to protect my eyes from the wind and to keep my head warm.

I could see it so I had to get it back.

In hindsight I should have used my GPS. I should have taken a sighting of the helmet and then all I'd need to do was walk up or down that course until I found it.

Quite straightforward really.

All I had to do now was go down and pick it up. It was just sitting there waiting for me.

I couldn't descend from where I was because it was too steep. In one of my brighter moves I swapped my motocross boots for my hiking ones and left my over trousers, and water on the bike.

It looked like there was a gully a few hundred metres back up the hill. It was steeper and more difficult than I thought. The ground was covered in loose rocks and dirt which were left when the road had first been made. They kept sliding away from under me. I tried to use the larger rocks but even the biggest ones moved unexpectedly.

This was not a good place to twist my ankle or break a leg.

I was still wearing my sweater and motorcycle jacket because I didn't want to leave my money and passport on my unattended bike.

It was hot and getting hotter under the midday sun. I took off my sweater and tied it round my waist.

I had no water having carefully left if behind.

I slipped several times as the scree just slid away from under my feet. I started crouching lower and using the branches to steady myself but they kept on snapping off.

After ten minutes or so I thought I had reached the right position but couldn't see my bike above me. There were two rock screes which fanned out down the slope.

I scrambled up, down and across both of the screes expecting to see my helmet at anytime. On several occasions my heart leapt as I saw it but every time it turned out to be yet another rock. I wished I'd had a fluorescent yellow helmet but it was a bit late for that.

After half an hour's searching my legs were getting really tired from the constant workout.

‘If I could see my helmet from my bike why couldn't I see my bike from down here?'

I realised I must be in the wrong place and went further down the hill. I swept both screes again. I was starting to get very thirsty and wanted to rest. I had been looking for nearly an hour and was beginning to think I should give up before I fell.

No one knew I was down here. The only clue to my whereabouts was my bike parked up above on the road. I started to think I had not made a wise decision trying to find it.

I looked up again and then saw my bike. I had definitely been too high before. It gave me renewed hope and so I started sweeping again.

I tried to picture where it had stopped but of course it looked completely different from down here.

It was no good. I kept on thinking I'd found it but every time it was just another rock. I couldn't stay here all afternoon, my legs were really aching and I was getting extremely thirsty.

I pushed through some more scrub and, as I did so, a branch catapulted back, caught my glasses frame and flicked them off. I felt a surge of panic and whizzed around to try and see where they landed. Without my glasses I was in deep trouble.

Luckily they only fell a few feet away where I could see the gold reflecting in the sunlight. Breathing a sigh of relief I bent down and put them back on.

I climbed a big rock to have a wider view.

Nothing.

That was it. I'd just have to give up and ride slowly back to Lima and buy another helmet.

Then a something told me to have one last look.

I was on the left of the first scree. Exactly where I didn't really think it was. I'd spent most of my time looking on the left of the other, larger scree.

I went further up the hill. Almost crawling to stop my self slipping or tripping over.

My heart leapt. There it was! – or was it a rock?

It was my helmet. I was elated.

I picked it up, threaded my arm through the visor hole and immediately started up the hill.

Looking up I could see I needed to track left to pick up the gully, but it was hard going.

My feet slipped even more going up than down and a few times I had to drop to my knees to stop sliding downhill. It was also getting steeper. This was not going well. I carried on for a few more minutes getting more and more tired.

I reached the gully and tried to go straight up it.

It was even worse. It was so steep I needed continual hand holds, but, with my left arm threaded through my helmet, it was really difficult to grab one and keep my balance. The rocks seemed to move even more under my feet going up than going down.

I climbed a few more metres and looked up. If anything it was getting even steeper. This was not a good idea.

I decided to stop trying to go up but go down instead. It would take longer but be far safer.

I looked into the bottom of the valley. There were fields. Fields meant people, people meant paths and paths meant a way back up to the road.

I carefully picked my way down the rocks and then slid down on my bum, saving my aching legs.

A small distance above the stream at the bottom I came across a small channel carrying water to the fields.

My spirits rose enormously when I saw it.

It was only about one foot wide and one foot deep but was full of refreshing water. I longed to sate my thirst but didn't even though my mouth felt like gravel and my lips were sticking together.

I followed it down the valley. After about ten minutes a path cut across it and started up the hill.

An hour later, exhausted, I reached the road and got a lift back to my bike.

All my stuff was exactly where I had left it. Nothing was missing.

I'll be puttting my helmet on the ground from now on.

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Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 11:56 PM GMT
September 09, 2004 GMT
Condor Moment

Colca Canyon is almost the deepest canyon in the world. The neighbouring Cotahuasi is 163m deeper but is a lot harder to get to and doesn't have the condor fly by.


Both are twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. From the view point to the river below is just over 1,000 m. I was feeling slightly dizzy sitting on the wall so made sure I kept one leg behind me.

The condors are huge and are capable of carrying off small sheep and motorcyclists.


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Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 09:04 PM GMT
September 15, 2004 GMT
Bike Blessing

This was one of the weirdest things I have ever done. My bike has been blessed by a Catholic priest.


I parked in front of the church and found the priest. He had two cars and a lorry to bless before my bike. Truly funded by the profit motive he will bless anything for ten Bolivianos. About $1.20.

I watched as he swished holy water both inside and outside the vehicles. He was using a plastic bucket and plastic flowers for the swishing. He mumbled appropriate incantations as he went about his cleansing.

In preparation for the event it is customary to drape ones possession in flowers and garlands which luckily are available from the stalls in front of the church.

The priest gave me about two minutes or prayers for my ten Bolivianos which seemed very good value. He then sprayed holy water over my head and set about my bike. He was very thorough all the important bits received attention.

I slipped him the funds and thanked him.

The next part of the procedure is to let off fireworks and spray champagne everywhere Formula 1 style.

I bought a small packet of thunderflashes but they seemed rather small. So I lit them all at once. That was much better. Duly fortified, I shook the champagne vigorously to build up some pressure.

I handed my camera to a German tourist to record the momentous event.

In fact there was a whole coachload watching my ceremony.

I flipped out the plastic cork and sprayed the whole bottle over my bike.

Unfortunately, the tourist failed to take a single shot.

I was wondering If I get my bike blessed again will I get double protection?

What was so weird was that following the blessing I now feel truly bonded to my bike, even though I've been using it almost every day for the last eleven months.

As an aetheist it is even stranger.

What was even weirder is that I felt I had to give him a name. I have always thought that people who gave their bikes, cars etc names were a little odd but now….

I need to give him a name.

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Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 08:55 PM GMT
September 29, 2004 GMT
River Deep, Mountain High

Riding down a river is a strange feeling.


Funnily enough it's only open during the dry season.

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Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 10:07 PM GMT
September 30, 2004 GMT
Border Blockade

As I approached the Bolivian border post at Villazon I could see loads of people all over the place. My guide book had said that this was a major smuggling route tolerated by both governments and that I should just jump to the front of any queues.

It was only on a second glance that I realised there were two rows of bicycles completely blocking the bridge. Between them lay a pile of ashes, presumably from a fire the night before. It looked like a meeting of French farmers.

What was going on?

‘They' had closed the border for the last five days. No one had been allowed across. Worst of all they had closed the other two borders into Argentina as well.

I sure as hell wasn't going to wait here hoping they'd open the border.

I looked at my map.

I wanted to get to Iguazu Falls which are where Paraguay , Brazil and Argentina meet. The only alternative route was to go back north to Boyuibe in Bolivia , head east into Paraguay , cross the whole of Paraguay to Iguazu. It would probably take me at least ten days.

It was so frustrating being so close to Argentina but not being allowed across.

I decided to try and get some more information to see if they would let tourists across.

I went to find the Chief of Customs.

His office padlocked shut.

‘Shit'.

After a little investigating I finally found him in the police office.

I asked him if they were letting tourists across?

‘Si, but you have a moto. All the tourists have been walking across'.

I asked him where the boss of the dispute was so I could ask him to let me through.

First of all he suggested I walk across just to make sure.

Still wearing all my biking gear I approached the tractor tyre which was preventing anyone crossing.

I smiled at the man holding it and, as I approached, he wheeled it away opening a gap.

I squeezed through and onto the bridge.

‘Yes'.

I returned a few minutes later and the Chief pointed out the boss of the dispute.

With my friendliest face on I asked him if I could take my moto into Argentina .

He looked me up and down.

The ten day alternative and two thousand kilometres flashed through my mind. I was yearning to get into Argentina : the steaks, the water was safe to drink, salads were safe to eat. It was paradise.

He nodded.

‘Yes!'

I smiled and thanked him.

All I had to do now was run the gauntlet of people with my bike.

I asked him if I could ride down his side as the pavement was wider and there were less people?

He waved his hand pointing to the other side of the bridge.

I didn't argue. I just wanted to get it over with and be in Argentina .

I asked the Customs chief to cancel my temporary bike import permit.

‘I will wait until you are across the bridge' he said.

‘Oh'.

I walked over to the other side and traced out my route in my minds eye. It was only about twenty metres of pavement but there were hundreds people milling about, their piles of belongings and goods piled up all over the place.

I had to move two hand carts just to create a space for me to ride up onto the pavement.

As I started my bike a crowd immediately developed behind me and started to cheer me on.

I was going to be the first vehicle allowed across in five days.

I had hoped to be a little less conspicuous and glide through unnoticed, desperately hoping the boss wouldn't change his mind at the last minute.

There were loads of cheers and a bit of a party atmosphere as I edged my way through the crowds.

I was pleased to have a noisy bike. It meant that people started to get out of my way before I got there and the noise and pressure from the exhaust kept them further behind once I'd passed.

I realised the atmosphere could change very quickly so kept inching my way forwards through the crowd, smiling at everyone.

I was about ten feet from the tyre barrier when a small bloke with a crazed look in his eyes jumped in front of my bike.

‘No, no no' he shouted waving his arms in front of me.

My wheel filled the gap between his legs. He wasn't very tall. He was very drunk.

People were trying to pull him away but he furiously threw their hands of him and started to push my bike backwards.

Bits of spittle were flying out of his mouth as he ranted and raved.

I put my brakes on so he couldn't move me back anymore. I could feel the crowd jostling my bike from behind. I used a few more revs to move them away from behind me. There was only six inches free on either side of the bike. The concrete wall of the bridge on the left and iron railings on the other, road side so there wasn't enough room to go around him.

The tyre man had already pulled the tractor tyre to one side ready to let me through but the nutter was stopping me going any further forward.

Just as I was thinking about using the bikes power to force my way through the Customs Chief forced his way past me and wrapped his arms around the guy.

He picked him off the ground and forcibly held him against the railings.

I immediately started to move forwards getting closer and closer to the tyre.

I couldn't get through. The gap wasn't wide enough.

Just then I felt my bike moving backwards.

The nutter had broken free and was pulling my bike back by the handles on top of one of my boxes.

I was so close to the end I used a lot more revs and let the clutch slip a little more.

The exhaust blast was getting him square in the face and chest.

The greater noise was making people get out of the way. I mustn't hurt anyone by hitting them with my panniers or dropping the bike. It could get ugly very quickly.

Someone grabbed the tyre and shoved it back out of the way.

I edged forward some more and then felt the bike lighten. I looked round to see that the Customs Chief had the nutter in a bear hug.

As I slipped through the gap a huge cheer went up.

I was free!

I was in Argentina !

Visit www.fowb.co.uk for more details on this and previous trips.

Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 06:11 PM GMT
October 11, 2004 GMT
Love Hotel

They are easy to recognise.

They are always on the outskirts of town and always one storey buildings.



As you drive in every room has it's own parking slot directly in front of the room, like a motel. As soon as you drive in an attendant swiftly draws the curtain behind your car so no one else can see it. You can pay by the hour. The sheets are clean and the water is hot. They also had the smallest towels I have ever seen.

There was a tv showing continuous porn. It only had one channel.

There was a strange piece of equipment in the corner of my room that luckily came with instructions and handy photographs of suggested uses.

When I arrived at half past midnight on a Saturday night about half the bays had their curtains drawn. There were even two arrivals at ten am the next morning.

‘I'm just off to get some milk dear'.

Oh yes.

Visit www.fowb.co.uk for more details on this and previous trips.


Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 06:12 PM GMT
October 19, 2004 GMT
Broken Bike Bits

This caused the problem - a seized inlet cam follower bearing:


which then .......

buggered the camshaft:

(So now I know where the metal on the magnetic oil plugs was coming from).


Spot the difference compared to a new one:


Whilst waiting for the parts to arrive a major overhaul revealed more opportunities:

A cracked bottom shock absorber bushing:


and cracked panniers which were welded:




Visit www.fowb.co.uk for more details on this and previous trips.


Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 04:38 PM GMT
November 02, 2004 GMT
Broken Bike Bits 2

I watched as Willy tightened all my spokes.

'Do you know what you are doing?'

'Oh yes', he said.

The next day I went for a ride into the mountains with Nico.

Even before we got out of the town I realised I had a big problem.

As I rode slowly down the road I stood up and looked at my front wheel over the fairing. It was wobbling like mad from side to side.

Willy had completely fucked it up. Brilliant.

I explained the situation to Nico and we abandoned our ride. He took me straight to his own mechanic who removed the wheels and took them to a professional wheel builder.

That was six months ago in Cuenca, Ecuador.

Fabricio had just had my lovely new tyres fitted and I was admiring them from a distance. They were my favourite tyres that gave really good grip and lasted the longest time. The rear wheel rim was covered in the usual mixture of dirt and oil from the automatic chain oiler. I knelt down besides my bike and took a closer look.

Whilst admiring my lovely new rear tyre I noticed a large dent in the rim.

The wheel was still very dirty but something else caught my eye. There was a thin line besides one of the adjacent spokes. A closer inspection revealed an 8cm crack that went through two spokes.


After cleaning the rim I found another eight cracks. Every forward pointing spoke on the right side had the same problem.



The relacing in Cuenca had been done far too tightly. The KTM spokes are much thicker and stronger than most bikes. This means that the wheel builder tends to make them much tighter than they should be.

Luckily Fabricio found a smuggled black Excel rim the right size. When we went to pick the wheel up he hit a few spokes with a spanner.

They all rang. They were all too tight.

It had happened again.

Visit www.fowb.co.uk for more details on this and previous trips.

Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 08:20 PM GMT
November 12, 2004 GMT
A 1,000km Day

So what's the big deal?

All I did was sit on my bike for nine hours.


I left Sao Paulo just before nine am and rolled into Campo Grande at seven thirty pm. One thousand and one kilometres later at an average speed of one hundred and eleven km/h.

This beat my previous record by 180km.

I suppose it must be a boy thing.

Brazil is huge. I wanted to get to the Pantanal and there is no other route. The road heads east and just keeps on going. If I forgot to stop I'd end up in Bolivia again.

I didn't set out to ride all the way, only as far as I felt comfortable and I'd stop if I got tired. I just never got tired.

I love Brazil .

The scenery is so green, gentle rolling hills, really good roads and millions of trees.

The sunset was ablaze of orange and pinks on both sides of the road as I headed into the night. I thought of but abandoned any attempt at a photo. It just wouldn't convey the breadth of the views and intensity of the colours.

Now I have cracked the 1,000km barrier I'm glad I don't have to do it again. I can't see the point of doing a Nick Sanders (who has the world record for circumnavigating the world on a bike in thirty one days.

What a complete waste of time and petrol.

What has he seen?

It's like lots of the entries in The Guinness Book of Records: Apparently the current record for eating live goldfish is over three hundred.

Congratulations.

What a truly useful social skill. It must be useful at drinks parties.

‘What do you do?'

‘I eat live goldfish'

‘Oh, how, er, interesting'.

At least there's a nice view at the top of Everest.

Well, now I've got my own bit of uselessness.

But hey, it's a long way to Ushuaia.

Maybe I'll do 1,002 km next.


Visit www.fowb.co.uk for more details on this and previous trips.

Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 07:32 PM GMT
December 12, 2004 GMT
Ushuaia

I love Ushuaia, it has a real buzz.


There are tourists everywhere. They are either just about to go or have just returned from their Antarctic cruise. Many of those that have returned said they have never seen so many animals together, hige colonies of penguins and birds.

One lady did say that the sea had been 'a bit rough'.

'What do you mean by a bit?' I asked.

'Well I thought it was very rough but the captain said it really didn't rate that highly.

'What happened?'

'Well, firstly the chair in my cabin fell over because the boat was rolling so much and secondly when I was in bed the whole of my head and upper body came off the matteress every time we fell off the top of a wave. It went on for seven hours.'


Visit www.fowb.co.uk for more details on this and previous trips.


Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 07:14 PM GMT
February 27, 2005 GMT
Dramatic Reconstruction

This happened a few days ago to a ‘friend’ whilst riding through no mans land between Argentina and Chile near Chile Chico.

I have reconstructed the actual event as a warning to fellow bikers.


He was in that semi euphoric state having exited one country and almost passed into the next. He was really happy to have left the wild winds and wastelands of Ruta 40 behind and was looking forward to riding the Carretera Austral.

A few yards ahead there was a big sign facing the other way. Intrigued as to whether it was a ‘Welcome to Argentina’ or ‘Goodbye from Chile’ he slowed down and turned his head to read it as he passed by.

Split seconds later there was a huge crash as the front of the plunged dramatically downwards.

In an instant reaction he wound on more throttle to power out of a huge and totally unexpected pothole in the middle of the road.

The bike lurched upwards and then stopped dead.

The rider nearly went over the handlebars and managed to stay on because the panniers kept the bike upright.

He’d just ridden into the large hole in the middle of a cattle grid.

It appeared that Chilean ones are cheaper to make than those in other countries.
Luckily, the burst of power had lifted the front wheel out but the rear was dangling in the middle of the hole supported by the panniers.

That would make it difficult to ride out.

Swiftly he laid the bike on it’s side and slid it across until the rear wheel was over the cattle grid. A quick heave and it was upright again.


Luckily no one saw this happen.

I have simply reconstructed this tale by reversing my bike into a grid just to show you what my ‘friend’ did.

Look forwards and ride safely.

Visit www.fowb.co.uk for more details on this and previous trips.

Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 07:45 PM GMT
March 26, 2005 GMT
Easter Island

I have wanted to come here for many years.


I really liked the idea of a shot with my bike beside a moai.

Unfortunately, and not entirely unsurprisingly, the frieght charges from Santiago and back were a bit too steep so I had to settle for a rental bike instead.



Visit www.fowb.co.uk for more details on this and previous trips.

Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 12:29 AM GMT
April 15, 2005 GMT
Waving Goodbye

Oh shit, where did that wave come from?

Two locals had both said the tide was going out.


I was busily photographing my bike Fred with the sun setting behind him over the sea. As the sun got lower the light was bouncing through the spray off the top of the waves producing a beautiful orange mist.

The shutter clunked several times as I held down the button to take multiple exposures.

At the end of the burst I noticed my bike was surrounded by water.

‘Oh shit'.

‘Where did that come from?'

I thought that if the tide was going out the waves would be getting further and further from my bike not going past it.

With just one wave both tyres had sunk into the sand to the rims.

I felt a huge sigh of relief that I'd put a piece of wood under the sidestand rather just rely on the wide foot to support his weight. Without it, Fred would have fallen over and it would have been a it of a challenge to pick up him from the wet sand on my own.

I scuttled back and rode him further up the beach.

Two minutes later there was another big wave, even bigger than the last one. I decided it was time to get off the beach altogether.

Tourists often get their cars trapped by the very fast tide incoming tide. As the wave recedes down the slope it pulls the sand from under the wheels and it doesn't take long before it's resting on its axles. It's impossible to drive out so only rapid rescue by a tractor can save it.

Another peculiarity is the huge quantity of sand that is shifted with each tide. There are several ship wrecks, many of which are only seen intermittently depending on how the sand is being moved about.

An additional attraction is that this is the longest driveable beach in New Zealand. A local said it was just over one hundred miles long.

Only marginally longer than Brighton Beach then.

Visit www.fowb.co.uk for more details on this and previous trips.

Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 05:45 AM GMT
April 30, 2005 GMT
The South Island

The natives are friendly.


Visit www.fowb.co.uk for more details on this and previous trips.

Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 05:53 AM GMT
May 20, 2005 GMT
'Roo Trouble

I was lucky. Really, really lucky.

My steering damper saved me from crashing after I hit a 'roo at about 120 kmh.

It was the first live one I'd seen. All the others were laying dead at the side of the road.

I'd been warned not to go fast but had been having a race with a Landcruiser as we headed towards Miles.

I saw the 'roo hop out of the bush about ten metres from the edge of the road.

I closed the throttle but realised I was going far to fast to be able to stop in time. It would also mean I could only go straight on as I braked. I didn't even think of using my air horns to make him move faster.

Everyrthing seemed to happen in slow motion.

He paused, then hopped again, pause and hop.

He was on the left edge of the tarmac.

I was in the middle of the road and drifting right.

Hop.

He was in the centre of the road.

I was going to miss him by a whisker on the right side.

I thought I'd made it until there was sickening thud and my bike started a big weave as the bars wobbled and the bike kept on drifting right.

I kept the throttle open and leant heavily to the left knowing my Scotts damper would settle everything down.

'Phew'

I sighed with relief and decided to keep going. i then looked in my mirror and saw loads of stuff all over the road.

My bike felt a bit odd too and I looked down at my left pannier. It was missing.

I slowed down and returned to where the Landcruiser driver was picking my stuff up from the road.

The 'roo was in his death throes and I suddenly felt very guilty.

'Can you put him out of his misery?' I said assuming there was a known way to finish them off.

He went off to find a piece of wood but by the time he returned the 'roo was still.

I picked up my pannier and the force of the impact started to dawn on me.

The aluminium pannier had been ripped clean off it's mountings. There was a four or five inch dent in the front panel presumably where it had hit the 'roos head. It was no where near rectangular in shape and it took me a quarter of an hour bashing it straght with a hammer before I could get the lid to fit again.

Later that night I realised what would have happened to me if I had hit the roo with my knee at that speed.

Now I know why the speed limits are so slow. If the bush encroaches right besides the road even 60kmh feels too fast.

Ride Safe.


Visit www.fowb.co.uk for more details on this and previous trips.

Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 06:32 AM GMT
May 30, 2005 GMT
The Money Ran Out a Long Time Ago

For the last year or so I've been funding myself by increasing my mortgage.

I'm having far too much fun to stop but, even as an accountant, I can appreciate the short term nature of my solution.

I tried to get a job in NZ and have just started the same in Oz.

Unfortunately, due to the nature of my work (contract IT consulting), clients normally want some one for longer than three months which is all I want to work for so I don't miss the dry season heading north through Africa.

Also, I can't afford to hang around waiting for a job as the only difference to being on the road is the petrol.

But, you never know, maybe I'll be lucky......


Visit www.fowb.co.uk for more details on this and previous trips.

Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 06:04 AM GMT
September 20, 2005 GMT
Madagascar

The guide book author Hilary Bradt has been to Madagascar 27 times. Either it is an extraordinary place or she has a bad memory.

The Malgasy are the friendliest people I have ever met and the flora and fauna are also unlike anything I have ever seen before.

Instead of returning to Joburg after my ride south I'm now going to ride north and fly 'Le Heap' back to Tana again. There is no need for a crate, the bike is simply slid into the cargo hold on it's side.


I received an email yesterday saying a friend never wanted to leave Mad. I can feel it happening after only ten days.

I'm already planning my third loop west of Tana after the north.

Visit www.fowb.co.uk for more details on this and previous trips.

Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 03:03 PM GMT
September 22, 2005 GMT
Giant Grey Carrots

It's true. Look:


There are also other very wierd plants and very strange animals:

Elephant's Foot:


A Sifiaka (a precursor to the apes)


Visit www.fowb.co.uk for more details on this and previous trips.

Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 03:13 PM GMT
September 24, 2005 GMT
Arrested in Toliara

I’ve just spent five hours under arrest at the Toliara Police Station, Madagascar.

What was my crime?

Not stopping when the Minister of Tourism’s cortege overtook me, a tourist, on his way to a very important lunch.

I was on my way to the spiny forest at Ifaty, which is full of strange succulent plants. I had just turned onto RN 9 and noticed a policeman at every junction. This was unusual. I passed the first few but then noticed a car coming up behind me with it’s headlights on so I moved to the right and slowed down.

A bloke leaned out of the first vehicle, shouted something and gave me the finger. I was shocked when every one I’d met in Mad had been so polite. I moved further to the left and but still kept going (mistake number one). About eight or nine vehicles passed by and they all turned off a few hundred metres ahead of me.

When I got to the same turning I asked the policeman which was the road to Ifaty as it looked different ahead (mistake number two).

‘Show me your passport’.

‘It’s in my hotel’.

‘Show me the bike papers’.

‘They are in the hotel too’.

I didn’t see what the problem was. Every police check point I’d ever been through had always waved me through.

‘You must follow me to the police station’.

He commandeered a taxi so off we went.

There I learnt I had committed a grave offence by not stopping for the minister’s cortege. I still found it hard to believe. How am I supposed to know all the laws in every country I visit?

After a suitable interval I asked if I could pay a fine rather than wait all day.

’50,000 Ariary (about $30)’.

I opened my wallet and withdrew the 10,000 notes. While my wallet was still open the sergeant helped himself to another 10,000 note. I could hardly refuse (first correct choice).

The average annual wage in Mad is about a dollar a day. Luckily, none of my stuff was searched as I’d just been to the bank and had a huge wodge of them.
I decided not to ask for a receipt but now that I had paid my ‘fine’ we went off to my hotel to get the bike’s papers to fill in my statement.

As we drove in Alain, the proprietor, arrived as well. I explained what had happened and Le Sergeant gave him Le Chef de Police’s number.

During the ensuing conversation there were many Gallic shrugs and ‘Oui’, Comme tu vieux’. The net result was that I had to stay at the police station until five in the afternoon.

Back at HQ, Le Sergeant typed away on an ancient manual typewriter. He works seven hours a day, seven days a week and gets four weeks holiday a year. The only problem is that he doesn’t get paid enough to be able to go anywhere so he stays at home.

He presented me with ‘my’ statement, in French, for me to sign. Although I could understand the gist of it there were certain words I couldn’t understand. He lent me his cell phone so I could call Alain again.

After reading it ten minutes later Alain had said it was fine so I signed. Le Sergeant suggested calling Le Chef again. Again no joy, but he walked into the office seconds later.

He was rather small.

A Napleonic figure, nearly five feet tall. He reminded me of the Inspector in the Clouseau films but I kept this to myself (second bonne idée). If he’d had a funny, pointy hat I wouldn’t have batted an eye.

‘In every country, France, America, England every vehicle always must stop when the Minister goes past’.

‘Complete bollocks, titch’ I thought (bonne idée numero trois)

‘Tu as raison’ soothed Alain, ‘C’est vrai’.

I looked contrite desperately hoping Nappy wouldn’t keep me in overnight so I’d miss my flight tomorrow morning.

He let off a little more vapeur then, all of a sudden, we were all shaking hands.

Next time I’ll stop.


Visit www.fowb.co.uk for more details on this and previous trips.

Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 02:54 PM GMT
October 06, 2005 GMT
120 km on the wrong road

Both my maps said my route north to Diego was the ‘main’ road with Beleanana a right turn off it. Bollocks. You have to turn left for Diego. The one and only sign was hidden by a lorry when I went past.

The road was so much fun I never noticed I was going in the wrong direction.


I only realised I’d cocked it up when I got to Beleanana an hour and a half later.

The road was really good, a great mix of flowing curves and easy dirt up and over two passes. As I rode into Beleanana the road just stopped in the middle of town. A quick glance at my GPS showed I was way off where I expected to be.

Lesson learnt - I must look at my GPS more often and not have so much fun riding.

This is where I should have been:


Visit www.fowb.co.uk for more details on this and previous trips.

Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 03:53 PM GMT
October 08, 2005 GMT
'We have done this before'

I watched with some trepidation as five blokes lowered Le Heap off the side of the quay into the boat.

The water was deep.


‘You are not the first moto’ I was assured.

‘What? Drop one into the harbour?’

Five minutes later we were surfing the seas at 45 km/h with Le Heap roped down in the middle of the boat. We pissed past another speedboat full of passengers.

Unfortunately, every time we came down hard my nuts got mashed into the deck. I didn’t fancy forty-five minutes of this and started to move back. I was told to return to my post, as ballast, so I moved my equipment to a safer location by bracing my legs inside the forward locker.


‘We have 115 horsepower. Very fast, very fun’.

He was right.

Visit www.fowb.co.uk for more details on this and previous trips.

Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 04:00 PM GMT
October 11, 2005 GMT
I Love Madagascar and the Malagasy

It is completely different to anywhere else I have ever been. The warmth of the people, the amazing variety of landscapes, the fun roads, the extraordinary flora and fauna and fantastic food make it totally unique.

It is Africa:


I'll be back.


It is France:


with French cooking:


It has lots of wierd animals: (a sifaka)


a lemur:


And fantastic roads:



What more do you need?

Visit www.fowb.co.uk for more details on this and previous trips.

Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 04:14 PM GMT
November 18, 2005 GMT
Faffing About

Even I thought it was time to head home having faffed around for the last five months.

So where has the time gone?

Er, I spent three weeks in Madagascar and er, a day helping Steve entertain his clients:


er, and a bit of cycling to test the camera remote:



Apart from that I've no idea. It was a lot of fun though, staying with my sister in Cape Town, the most beautiful city in the world.

The only downer is that I have to return home and start paying off my rather large mortgage.

Bugger.


Visit www.fowb.co.uk for more details on this and previous trips.

Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 11:51 AM GMT
December 01, 2005 GMT
Swaziland Shake Down

My Swazi shakedown worked very well.


Rather than head off into Mozambique I have returned to SA to fix yet more things:

- The right fork leg leaks oil from the damping adjuster knob.
- The DAM exhaust melted the left indicator.
- One of my litres of fully synthetic fell off the back of my bike and disappeared within minutes.

At KTM Nelspruit Mark spotted one of my 'new' wheel bearings was completely knackered and that one of the seals was the wrong size.

The bearings were supposed to have been replaced by Clayton in Joburg.

A lucky escape.

The good news was that I could go on a walking safari whilst waiting for bits to arrive.

Visit www.fowb.co.uk for more details on this and previous trips.

Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 10:56 AM GMT
December 18, 2005 GMT
Dances With Rhino

Whilst waiting for more bits to arrive I went on a four day walking safari in the Kruger NP with www.transfrontiers.com. This was my best vfm safari yet.

If you have never done one you must do so when you get into southern Africa. There is nothing quite like getting close to a huge animal. It's just not the same in a vehicle. Would you rather have sex or just watch?


'Don't take any photos once he's spotted us' whispered Andy my guide.

The rhino was munching away and getting closer and closer. Suddenly, when only 10 metres away, he looked up.

He was looking directly at us.

He took a step nearer.

Andy loaded a round into his 458 rifle. Adrenaline surged through me.

Another step.

Would he charge? Would Andy shoot?

Andy repeatedly smacked his hand on his gun and called out.

The rhino hesitated. He snorted, waggled his huge head and, with surprising agility turned around and jogged off into the bush.



Wow.


Visit www.fowb.co.uk for more details on this and previous trips.

Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 11:44 AM GMT
December 31, 2005 GMT
A Lucky Escape

'That doesn't look right'.

Mark glanced at my rear wheel and spotted one of the bearing seals was fitted badly.

I took the wheel off and he removed the seal. It was completely the wrong size and I had never realised. It had been fitted quite a while ago.

More worringly he then discovered one of the bearings was completely knackered. I had asked Clayton Enslin to replace all the wheel bearings 1,000km ago as part of my big preventative maintenance plan before heading north through Africa.

It had clearly never been changed and would have failed, probably in the middle of nowhere and more likely have caused me to crash.

I was really angry but also relieved it could be fixed.

Another lucky escape.


Visit www.fowb.co.uk for more details on this and previous trips.

Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 10:21 AM GMT
January 06, 2006 GMT
Another Lucky Escape

30% of my mechanical problems have been caused by dealers making mistakes.

On the way through Mozambique towards Tete the clutch was dragging and it was getting harder and harder to find neutral.

It got a lot worse once the engine was hot. I hoped it was the seals on the hydraulic clutch failing again as that would be easy to fix.

When I measured the clutch movement it was a lot less than it should have been so could have caused the problem. However, since I had the clutch cover off I was advised to check the clutch plates anyway.

What a bit of luck I did.

One of the rivet heads had sheared off and was fowling the clutch plates causing the drag.

It had been made by the Auckland dealer when they cocked up my order.

I had asked for a complete new factory clutch outer hub even though they could build me one from the component parts in stock. I wanted to get the best quality - the factory.

A few days later I discovered the parts guy forgot to order it so I missed the monthly parts shipment.

It was either wait or make one from the parts - exactly what I didnt want to do.

This is what failed in Mozambique.

Another lucky escape - it could have happened anywhere.



Visit www.fowb.co.uk for more details on this and previous trips.

Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 10:35 AM GMT
January 10, 2006 GMT
The First Lucky Escape

The Blue Ridge Parkway really does get better as you go south.

It was a glorious autumnal afternoon in October and I was going faster and faster as the adrenaline started to flow. The leaves were spectacular shades of orange, yellow and gold in the softening light.

I could see a left hand corner coming and moved slightly to the right.
Even though I had left Connecticut a week ago and I was still feeling a bit weird.

I had felt very unsettled when I got home from my last trip and had only worked for six months before starting this trip.

‘Why did I start this one when I knew I didn’t have enough money to last very long?’

I knew I couldn’t stay at home and pushed these thoughts out of my mind.

Today was why I had got on my bike again:

The pure joy of being outside surrounded by beautiful scenery. The amazing kindness of complete strangers. The buzz from constantly seeing new things, from the speed and the total freedom to go wherever I wanted.


I love it.

The corner was approaching quickly but I still couldn’t see around it.

As I glanced up at the wall of leaves straight ahead I saw the reflection of a white truck.

I instantly closed the throttle and moved to the right of the road.

A huge white truck appeared out of nowhere and roared past me.

This is a National Park. There aren’t supposed to be any trucks in it at all.

If I hadn’t ‘seen’ it in the leaves I doubt I’d be here now.

It makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up just to write this story.


Visit www.fowb.co.uk for more details on this and previous trips.

Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 04:13 PM GMT
February 01, 2006 GMT
Chimps in Gombe NP, Tanzania

There's only 1.4% difference in our DNA.

(Reassuringly we also apparently share 40% of our DNA with mushrooms).

One young male came and lay down about five feet away and stayed there for ten minutes.

In spite of thier small size in comparison to gorillas they are a lot more violent. They kill other animals - monkeys and also thier own kind like we do.






Visit www.fowb.co.uk for more details on this and previous trips.

Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 04:09 PM GMT
February 19, 2006 GMT
Gorillas in Virungas NP, Rwanda

Wow.

At 220 Kilos, the silverback is not some one to argue with. He is huge.

Especially when he starts running towards you thumping his chest and roaring.






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Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 04:15 PM GMT
February 26, 2006 GMT
Bent & Broken Bits

I've just learnt something new and relearnt something I already knew:

- Don't ride on collapsed suspension
- Don't let anyone work on my bike - Parts 1 and 2

Collapsed Suspension - A very slow 20km on a dirt road bent the shock shaft -> $700 for a 'reconditioned' rear shock. I nearly cried.

Others working on my bike:

Part 1 - The 'mechanic' broke a rear wheel bearing hammering it out with a punch. Removing the broken bit damaged the hub -> $200 for a new hub (to avoid further butchery to remove the new bearing and spacer I needed.

Part 2 - A dealer 'forgot' to replace one of the spacers - which is why the bearing kept failing in the first place.

I have just added a 'dealer error' page to my site listing all their cock ups. These are just the tip of the iceberg....

The prices in Kenya are scary. Ian Duncan is the only dealer between South Africa and Cairo and knows it.

Brake pads $60 (a pair), steering head bearings $60, rear Enduro 3 $200.






Visit www.fowb.co.uk for more details on this and previous trips.

Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 11:15 AM GMT
March 25, 2006 GMT
Ethiopia - Lalibela and Gonder

Here's one I took a few days ago of St Georges church:


They really are extraordinary and are carved out of the solid rock.

First dig a big trench straight down like a huge, deep moat. The big chunk left in the middle is the 'church'.

Next start tunelling in at the base to carve out the rooms. They are all therefore one solid piece of roack which is still attached to the ground.

There are 11 of them, none of which are visible from any distance at all as the roofs are level with the ground.


They are all pretty big:


Next was Gonder a real Camelot. These palaces were built in the 1600's. Each new king had to build his own palace:



Amazing.

I've now bailed out of Ethiopia and am in Khartoum, Sudan. It's er, 40 degrees by midday and I'm trying to get a Saudi 3 day transit visa to get to Jordan asap.

Posted by Jeremy Bullard at 05:13 PM GMT
 


HU DVD Summer Special!

Now that summer is here, get On the Road! Take 30% off the Achievable Dream - On the Road! 2-DVD set until August 31 only. Get On the Road! Learn the tips to staying healthy, happy and secure on your motorcycle adventure!

Our veteran travellers share their tips (and great stories) for staying healthy, happy and secure on your motorcycle adventure.

"A fantastic, informative and inspirational DVD."

"It's brilliant - thank you very much!"

Check it out at the HU Store! Remember to use Coupon Code 'ONTHEROAD' on your order when you checkout.


Renedian Adventures


Renedian Adventures

What others say about HU...

"I just wanted to say thanks for doing this and sharing so much with the rest of us." Dave, USA

"Your website is a mecca of valuable information and the DVD series is informative, entertaining, and inspiring! The new look of the website is very impressive, updated and catchy. Thank you so very much!" Jennifer, Canada

"...Great site. Keep up the good work." Murray and Carmen, Australia

"We just finished a 7 month 22,000+ mile scouting trip from Alaska to the bottom of Chile and I can't tell you how many times we referred to your site for help. From how to adjust your valves, to where to stay in the back country of Peru. Horizons Unlimited was a key player in our success. Motorcycle enthusiasts from around the world are in debt to your services." Alaska Riders

contest pic

10th Annual HU Travellers Photo Contest is on now! This is an opportunity for YOU to show us your best photos and win prizes!

NEW! HU 2014 Adventure Travel T-shirts! are now available in several colors! Be the first kid on your block to have them! New lower prices on synths!

HU 2014 T-shirts now in!

Check out the new Gildan Performance cotton-feel t-shirt - 100% poly, feels like soft cotton!


What turns you on to motorcycle travel?


Global Rescue, WORLDwide evacuation services for EVERYONE

Global Rescue is the premier provider of medical, security and evacuation services worldwide and is the only company that will come to you, wherever you are, and evacuate you to your home hospital of choice. Additionally, Global Rescue places no restrictions on country of citizenship - all nationalities are eligible to sign-up!


New to Horizons Unlimited?

New to motorcycle travelling? New to the HU site? Confused? Too many options? It's really very simple - just 4 easy steps!

Horizons Unlimited was founded in 1997 by Grant and Susan Johnson following their journey around the world on a BMW R80 G/S motorcycle.

Susan and Grant Johnson Read more about Grant & Susan's story

Membership - help keep us going!

Horizons Unlimited is not a big multi-national company, just two people who love motorcycle travel and have grown what started as a hobby in 1997 into a full time job (usually 8-10 hours per day and 7 days a week) and a labour of love. To keep it going and a roof over our heads, we run events (22 this year!); we sell inspirational and informative DVDs; we have a few selected advertisers; and we make a small amount from memberships.

You don't have to be a Member to come to an HU meeting, access the website, the HUBB or to receive the e-zine. What you get for your membership contribution is our sincere gratitude, good karma and knowing that you're helping to keep the motorcycle travel dream alive. Contributing Members and Gold Members do get additional features on the HUBB. Here's a list of all the Member benefits on the HUBB.


Books & DVDs

amazon

All the best travel books and videos listed and often reviewed on HU's famous Books page. Check it out and get great travel books from all over the world.


Motorcycle Express for shipping and insurance!

Motorcycle Express

MC Air Shipping, (uncrated) USA / Canada / Europe and other areas. Be sure to say "Horizons Unlimited" to get your $25 discount on Shipping!
Insurance - see: For foreigners traveling in US and Canada and for Americans and Canadians traveling in other countries, then mail it to MC Express and get your HU $15 discount!

Story and photos copyright ©

Sorry, you need a Javascript enabled browser to get the email address and dates. You can contact Horizons Unlimited at the link below. Please be sure to tell us WHICH blog writer you wish to contact.

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Editors note: We accept no responsibility for any of the above information in any way whatsoever. You are reminded to do your own research. Any commentary is strictly a personal opinion of the person supplying the information and is not to be construed as an endorsement of any kind.

Hosted by: Horizons Unlimited, the motorcycle travellers' website!
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