February 15, 2009 GMT
Ciao, Ciao For now
Featuring Grant Guerin and Julie Rose with special appearance by some other guy
Our flight from Addis took us to Sydney via Bangkok. For the first time in three and a half years we were eating seriously good Thai food. How we had missed it. The eight hour lay –over saw us having Thai massage and eating noodles non-stop!
Piggy Arrives in Sydney
Crumpets and vegemite in Sydney, wandering streets and feeling oddly out of place, so many white people, so many people with Australian accents, most of the Taxi drivers though were of African descent which seemed comforting.
Having to fill the tank yourself.... what a novelty!
Customs was an easy enough affair, a quick inspection, a stamp on the carnet. AQIS (quarantine) was another matter all together, but we knew this coming in.
The arrival warehouse did not have wash down facilities and as Piggy had been on foreign soil the inspector was not satisfied with the cleanliness of the bike. This required her to be moved to an alternative facility.
Couriers were arranged and Piggy was given several very high pressure wash downs and re-inspected twice before being released. Clean as a whistle.
To arrive at our home town of Cairns in Far North Queensland we took a slight detour via Adelaide to catch up with our families.
An inland route was chosen for the 4 day ride north, a last little adventure before arriving back to the ‘real world’.
The Back of Bourke
Long Road North
Dusty Road North
Sandy Road North
Still Going North
Damn it is a long road North
MMMM YUUUMMMM Frosty Mango, definitely in the Tropical North now
Now that's a tired frog!
Well the writing had been on the wall for some time now. In fact financial issues had been plaguing our journey since leaving South Africa in March. All this come to pass as is said. And for us the best three and a half years of our lives was nearing an end.
I, Grant, write this from the small North Queensland town of Mareeba where Julie and I have settled and work. We live in a small yet comfortable cabin by the side of a tranquil creek on the outskirts of town and have made tentative steps towards a more permanent life. As yet they remain tentative, for neither Julie nor I have settled well and Australia each day has appeared less inviting.
I had read a number of stories from previous long term travellers and each hinted of life thereafter. Struggling to adapt and exist in societies that no longer seemed relevant or even sensible. However, unless one is extraordinarily rich or famous it would seem there are few other options available.
People have asked “What have you gained from your trip?” At first upon arriving back in Australia I considered those typically far apart thoughts of being foot loose and fancy free, having few commitments and even fewer concerns. Yet though that is an important factor to being on the road it is but a small part of what one can gain by just stepping off the treadmill for a brief while.
As I stated w was not sure how I had gained from our wonderful trip, but as time has passed I have started to notice small changes in my behaviour. Now a news report or article on say Zimbabwe, that several years ago would have fallen on deaf ears and an apathetic shrug of the shoulders fills me with strong and definite emotions. When news of riots and civil unrest appear in Santa Cruz de Bolivia I watch recognising a familiar street or plaza.
Now with considerable confidence I am more knowledgeable of the history, geography and cultures of the American and African continents. Some would say and expensive and sometimes arduous way to learn, however school was never so much fun!
Julie and I have been fortunate to live and breathe many of the countries we have travelled through. Our international friends are far and away but always close to our hearts though we may never see them again we will never forget them. The hospitality the world has to offer the adventurous soul is somewhat awe inspiring and with this I will finish my ramblings.
Home, what a strange notion that is. What is it? Where is it? Is it, perhaps, a someone? These thoughts and questions have been harassing me since my arrival in Australia towards the end of August 2008.
It was a lot of work organising customs and quarantine and a little stressful not knowing how we were to survive financially as well, especially as all departments had their hands out. It was a little like travelling in a third world country where everyone keeps asking you for money. Just that here it is called fees and you get a receipt!
I had forgotten how wonderful the Australian outback truly is. I wondered if I was looking at it with rose coloured glasses. The colours so vibrant, the landscape so harsh and yet stunningly beautiful, skies so blue it makes you gasp. That sounds exaggerated and overly dramatic, I know, but I was overwhelmed by my country of origin.
How I wanted to travel this wide brown land inch by inch. I felt we were rushing back to Cairns at great speed, for what, to settle down, get jobs and go to work? Why could we not just take our time, enjoy this moment? Appreciate what we have been through. No point in putting off the inevitable.
So now for the last few months in between working in a native plant nursery, keeping house and enjoying life in the tropics I have been sorting through thousands of photographs, laughing, crying, reminiscing and wishing. We would not change it for the world.
What a wonderful journey we have had.
We are planning the next phase of our travelling life, hopefully it will come to fruition sooner rather than later.
So where is home for me now. It is not a physical place but rather a place in my heart, no matter where I go.
Posted by Grant Guerin at 04:00 AM
June 01, 2008 GMT
Three Years on the Road
Miss Piggy & Grant
The first of June seems to come around quickly as does Easter, Christmas and Birthdays.
June 1, 2008, marks the end of our third year since leaving Australia, 120,000Kilometres of travel, 2 continents, 26 countries, countless hotels, campgrounds, meals, bottles of wine. And best of all the great company we have been privileged to share.
Grant on the Chobe River
A Note from Grant...
As I sit at our camp site staring at the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean a gentle warm breeze caresses. I realise that though I feel tired it still feels good to travel.
No, I am not jaded though Africa has been more difficult than I imagined and vastly more expensive to travel in than Latin America.
I guess one could say that there is no easy route but it is always easy getting back on the bike especially when there is a dirt road concerned and there is plenty in Africa!
So how does it feel to be on the road for three years? I wouldn't know. It feels like we just started yesterday.
Jules at the Great Zimbabwe ruins
Letter from Jules...
So how am I after three years of living on the back of a motorcycle?
Somedays I feel fat, frumpy, unfit, decidedly non-feminine, weary, unsure, not interested.
These days are far and few between, thank heavens. I am still very much enjoying this long and strange journey we are undertaking.
A re-occuring theme for the last three years has been not what we have seen and done as much as the people we have met along the way.
We have made many new friends and, strangely enough, crossed paths with old friends. We have been truly blessed when it comes to people and hope this continues for the rest of our travel where ever we go.
Whilst sometimes I dream of going home, settling down, having our own place again, when I seriously think about it, I am not ready. There is still so much to see and do, however I do not want our trip to become an endurance test. Once it does then I think it should be over, we shall just take each day as it comes.
A rough calculation of what we have spent daily including bike maintenance, flights/shipping (Australia to Canada, Panama to Bogotá, Buenos Aires to Cape Town), accommodation, food, etc etc etc boils down to approximately AUS$83.00/day. Not bad!
Looking over old blogs has bought back so many seemingly forgotten memories of places, people and events that have made the opportunity to live this way such an amazing and wonderful experience.
The past year has seen us leave south America and cross the ocean to Africa. Where will we be this time next year? When we are there we will let you know.
Grant and Piggy in Zomba, Malawi
About the Bike...
To say that we are happy with the Suzuki DL1000 is some what of an understatement.
With any vehicle there is always a chance of failure, however, so far so good.
The Suzuki has covered 140,000 kilometres, 120,000 on this overland journey. All of those kilometres have been fully loaded, two up, and many have been on difficult terrain which is hard to imagine any of these large dual purpose machines were ever designed to travel on two up with load.
We have met other travelers on large duals, some two up, some solo, and I am very happy that I chose the bike we have. We have had some minor problems, all have been easily remedied and at a low cost.
Here is a list of the maintenance issues for the last year of travel.
* In Brazil the bike would start and run happily enough until with throttle shut off at speed the motor would shut down. Stopping and re-priming the system with the ignition alleviated the problem, however the problem persisted until back in Argentina where Grant completed a modification allowing to by-pass the original high pressure filter with an inline fuel injected car filter. Problem - original high pressure fuel filter stuffed. (SeeThe Last South American Run
* Complete replacement of bearings in the pro-link suspension after 115,000 kilometres, one had collapsed and the others were dry of grease. The system was still working and only with inspection was I made aware of the bearing failure. In future I will regularly inspect, clean and re-pack with grease these bearings, this should alleviate further failures.
* With the bike running roughly a full tune (this is the first at 117,000 kilometres) in Cape Town was in order.
* Replaced the damaged water pump outer case in South Africa. (See Over the Andes by Pig!). The original repair lasted 30,000 kilometres.
* In Mozambique one afternoon the Fuel Injection warning diagonistic appeared on the read out and the bike would not start. After several attempts of turining the ignition on and off the system re-set itself. (See Sun, Sand, Stealing, OH and Pot Holes!)
The next day after purchasing computer connection spray and thoroughly cleaning and inspecting all terminals including the ECM, no problems again and suspect very dirty connectors, which was quite evident, probably from all the sand we had been riding through.
* Poor running occured in Malawi until one morning the engine would not start. Fortunately occuring at Cool Runnings campground. Cleaning primary fuel filter screens and replacing the inline high pressure filter plus emptying the fuel tank and replacing with fresh fuel cleared the problem.
* In Mozambique, after almost 3 years and lots and lots of kilometres, the front wheel rim was damaged (OH we were warned about these alloy rims!!). Fortunately it is still serviceable, although an innertube was installed as the tubeless tyre beads no longer sealed.
Oh how we love that Piggy!
Posted by Julie Rose at 07:49 AM
June 01, 2007 GMT
Two Years on the Road
Miss Piggy - 2002 Suzuki DL 1000 V-Strom
Around this time last year we were in Nicaragua, now another year has passed and we are still in the Americas.
The year has gone by quickly, we have crossed the infamous Darrien Gap (comfortably by aeroplane of course!) and travelled to Ushaia and the end of the world, participating in the great diversity of this our first continent.
Thoughts from Grant..
40,000 kilometres and another year has passed on with most of that time spent in South America.
I have not at all grown weary of this life style, well not so far at least.
Certainly problems and hardship have occured along the way, nothing though that has deminished my enthusiasm, infact the prospects of visiting more countries and continents is an ever present lure to continue.
I have made many, hopefully, lasting friendships along the way and this, I believe has given me the greatest catalyst to change.
I remember a statement once voiced by a rather cynical friend in the past "Friends come and friends go, but enemies accumulate". Once I actually agreed.
The previous two years have given me time for reflection, of course not everyone can stay in your life otherwise there would be little room for anything else, however, one can only hope to be remembered fondly and I, for one, fondly remember these sometimes brief aquaintenances.
Moreover, on more than one occasion, it has been essential to gain help from perfect strangers and it seems that by and large people are essentially good and like ourselves doing what is necessary for them to enjoy life.
About Miss Piggy...
So after leaving Canada in June 2005 and almost 80,000 kilometres covered on the trip how is our trusty steed holding up?
Exactly that... TRUSTY!
I have nothing but praise for the strength and adaptability of our Suzuki, given the fact that we have taken her on roads (and I use the term 'roads' loosely) that it probably was never intended for, at least not two up and fully loaded.
The bike has never lacked stability, sure footedness and plenty of power to get above the real loose stuff.
True, on some of these roads the bike has been some what of a handful and its real test and ours came just a week (July 2007) ago when trying to cross the Andes on the Paso de Jama in winter.
With a nasty snow storm gathered on the slopes of the Chilean side and 28 kms of the high pass totally covered with ice and snow we eventually turned back with the thoughts of being trapped in a snow storm at over 4,000 metres. If that storm had not been present I am sure we would have made it.
Problems to date, with 108,000 kilometres total on the clock, have been minimal and relatively easy to overcome.
1. Poor low speed running between 2,000 and 3,000 revs caused by the throttle valves being out of adjustment.
2. A mysterious pin hole of corrosion occuring in the water pump outercase, possibly caused by grit or something being trapped by the impellar. Repaired on the road with silastic, rubber, Peruvian coin and a piece of fencing wire... love that fencing wire!! The repair is still sound after 30,000 kilometers, however, I will replace the cover in South Africa.
3. Clip becoming loose on the fuel pressure relief valve inside the petrol tank, probably caused by lots of vibration on dirt roads and repaired with an electrical cable tie.
4. Chain breaking on Ruta 3, Argentina. My fault completely for using a non-standard joiner link with a standard chain which wore more rapidly than the chain and was repaired on the road using another non-standard joiner link! Chain replaced 2,000 kilometres further on.
And thats it!
A letter from Jules...
"What you are doing is amazing, how adventurous and brave you are". We recieve these comments quite often, however they have little meaning to me, I don't comprehend them. Travelling this way feels like a lifestyle. I feel like I do not deserve this type of praise.
Yes it is exciting, and wonderful, but I don't feel that it is extraordinary. With hard work and determination we are very privelidged to be able to experience a nomadic lifestyle at the moment.
A real highlight for me has been the people we have met along the away. Locals and foreigners alike and during this last year we have met so many travelling motorcyclists, something we really missed in North and Central America and it has been a wonderful opportunity to meet, make friends and even travel together from time to time.
Locals often ask the funniest questions about Australia and what we are doing.
One man in Peru asked me if we have farms in Australia and a woman once asked me what a 'Bigamist Sandwich' was. I was floundering around for an answer when she explained that it was from the Men at Work song 'Down Under'. Finally I clicked and then had to try and explain Vegemite.
Others are just curious about where our children are and how we can afford to live this way. We tell them we sold everything... including the children!!!
With so much to see and do in this huge land called South America it is hard to think about leaving soon, however, this next year will bring about exciting new challenges and interesting places to visit as we cross the ocean to the African Continent and continue our lifes dream.
A word for the wise - Never teach a pig to sing, it wastes your time and annoys the pig!
Posted by Julie Rose at 03:21 PM
June 01, 2006 GMT
One Year on the Road
One year on the road finds us in Nicaragua, Central America.
Thank you to our families and friends for thier support and encouragement throught out the past year and to our new firends that we have met along the way.
After 12 months of travel, how do I feel? Well, being somewhat jaded and tired after all the preperations in Australia I have settled into life on our motocycle with a great deal of enthusiasm, probably more than is healthy and I wonder how I will ever settle down again!
Our first 3 months travel in Canada and the USA was marvelously invigorating with long days on the road and great distance. The scenery was breathtaking and the travelling relatively easy. As we have moved into Latin America we have slowed down somewhat. This seems not to bother me, everyday brings something new whether a magnificent Pre-hispanic or equally splendoured Spanish complex, superb scenery, a great motorcycle ride or a personally intimate meeting with a local. It is all a wonderful experience!
Am I homesick? No, not at all, and it is hard to imagine becoming bored, although sometimes it feels very foreign and I struggle to find somthing that comforts me or at least is familiar.
Though I have not lost sight of our perceived destinations, these destinations have become somewhat secondary in what is becoming for us much more simply journeying from place to place and taking each day with its trials, tribulations and meeting so many wonderful people as we go.
When we first started preparations for the trip so many of our friends and work collegues argued of the dangers that we may possibly face and I would counter that by stating that I truely believe that 99% of people in the world are fundamentally good people. I still believe this and hopefully will continue to do so.
What dangers have we encountered? By far the most dangerous aspect of our journey so far has been the road. Certainly being hit by a car in Xalapa, Mexico, has not been a highlight to date, yet I have a profound respect for drivers in Latin America simply because to consider the sheer volumes of traffic and poor road conditions (when compared to Australia), un-regulated driving instruction and often poor conditions of vehicles, people are generally very competent drivers! Even so the whole of Mexico City is just plain dangerous on a motorcycle. The scariest road we have been on is the Las Vegas freeway in and out of town. It is lunacy in fast motion! Some petty theft and tampering with Miss Piggy rather ironicallly happened in the USA.
Locals have warned us of certain isolated routes and places being dangerous for robberies and this we have taken heed to, simply because on holiday who needs this type of violation! The corruption at the Honduran Border whilst not dangerous was none the less disturbing as are many aspects of that country, however never were we in any danger.
My greatest pleasure has been meeting the most generous people along the way, many of these people have the least to offer, and this continues to re-new my faith in human nature.
A letter from Jules...
It is hard to believe that one year ago we were selling our worldly possesions, storing what was left, getting on a plane for Vancouver, Canada and beginning a trip that was five years in the planning and a life time of dreaming. We renovated two houses and three apartments whilst holding down full time jobs, we worked our butts off, and it has all been worth it.
All the doubts, hesitations and questions I had prior to leaving have vanished and seem petty and insignificant. Each day is full of its own challenges and joys. Weeks pass by and turn into months and before you know it a year has passed by.
Am I home sick? No. Occasionally I find myself day dreaming of the Australian outback and a few of our favorite places like the Flinders Ranges or the southern beaches of South Australia, but then I open my eyes and look around at some fantastic view or see some way of living unfamiliar to me I think 'Wow... Look at me, who would have believed that I would find myself travelling around the world on the back of a motorcycle with my husband?' I still pinch myself!
I do however miss certain foods like roast lamb and even sausage rolls (which I hardly ate but when you can´t get them anywhere.... you want them!). So we eat the local chicken/meat with rice and beans and imagine it is something from home!
How do we cope with eachothers company 24/7? This has been a frequently asked question by other travellers. Some have told us of others they have met and after 3 months one or both have gone home. I guess I am lucky, I have my best friend to travel with and we are very compatible and comfortable with each other. That is not to say we don't have some rip-snorter fights, however we understand them as letting off steam, releasing tension and as a natural part of living in such close proximity of each other. If worse comes to worst - put your helmets on and go for a long ride!
A huge highlight for me has been making new friends and re-aquainting ourselves with old friends. Another highlight has been visiting places I have only read about, seen on TV or in the movies... too many to mention, all have been fabulous and an incredible experience.
About Miss Piggy
We have grown to love Miss Piggy (2002 Suzuki V-Strom, DL 1000, 71,000 kms). It is certainly one of the most competent all rounders Grant has ever ridden. Without luggage and solo it just feels like a big trail bike (chook chaser).
Despite all its modern exterior and the mechanical attributes (ie electronics) it is still a gutsy V-twin with loads of grunt and character, easy and cheap to service and maintain (touch wood).
We have taken the Suzuki to some serious out of the way places, taking us and our wordly possesions. It continues to do all that is required of it.
The electronics do scare Grant however every thing seems the same these days.
Changes we would make if organising this trip again
* We would purchase the very best light weight tent we could find. Although we love our Macpac 3 person 4 season tent weighing only 3.5 kilos, we would probably pay the almost double and go for a 3 person 4 season Hildeberg at 2.5 kilos.
* We would also choose higher tech, lighter sleeping bags, again ours are great, however they are just a bit too bulky and heavy.
* Apart from that there is not much else we would change, except maybe a few more songs on the I-pod!
* Weight is everything, when you are riding two up on an extended trip, weight can be your enemy. You always gain more - never less! Extra weight means extra tyre wear, fuel consumption, suspension wear (an possible replacement), fatigue for the rider. There is nothing more agravating than seeing a bunch of back packers wandering up a steep cobble stoned one way alley to a higher part of a beautiful exotic hill top town when you have to fight a heavy bike to get anywhere.... sometimes it is so impossible you just leave!
Consider this: Deffinitely not all Latin American towns are user friendly for people on motorcycles. The lighter the bike the better off you are and the more places you can go!
* Laptops are great, however everyone we have met that has been carrying one has had problems with CD drivers from vibrations in the pannier, most have sent them home... The availability of cheap internet access all through Latin America makes it unecessary in our opinion.
* If travelling soley in Mexico and Central America we would not even bother with camping gear (unless you are a die hard camper) because every where you go there is very ecconomical and comfortable hotel accommodation.
On that note we would, however, keep our camping stove (trangia - alcohol burner type) as many hotels and hospejedas have allowed us to cook on our doorstep or in the courtyard/patio. It is a big plus when you are in a very small town and the food hygiene seems a bit dodgey or you are just sick and tired of rice, beans and tortillas!
When traveling in the US and Canada we could not have afforded our time there without our camping gear, and we know this will be the same when we get to Europe.
Posted by Grant Guerin at 04:37 PM