Latin America
January 14, 2004 GMT
Colombia 1

"Isn't that Osama bin Laden over there?" A perfectly executed diversion tactic. It works a treat. That, and switching the passports for immigration. They examine the ticket and the passport separately. And there is no record of my nationality on the ticket. Easy really. I am sneaking my way into Colombia. Some might say that was unwise Simey boy. But what a rebel.

Retrieve my bike from the warehouse. The sweat I exuded on the road to the Panama Airport has been brewing quietly for three weeks. The jacket and helmet are covered in thick mould when I open the box. This discovery is made too late in the day. Dusk is decending. It is time to go. Everyone is looking. The bike's running. I swallow and stick them on. Yuk. I really am disgusting.


Bogota could be any town in southern Europe, just don't go out at night. I stay at the backpackers and hook up with the gap year boys. They get drunk every evening and spend the rest of the time planning ways to get coke. It occupies them for hours. They revel in the rituals. There are hand shakes, earnest nods and fists-met all over. Hard boy is Sebastian. There might be something almost endearing in their earnest rites of pseudo-adulthood. Or maybe not.

Every Colombian I talk to either tells me to be very very careful or not to travel at all. Too late now.

Fifth pull of the day. The carretera police. Of course they are going to: politely, more out of inquisitiveness than anything. These ones are very keen for the "seguro obligatoria". I hand over as many sheets as I can find, blunderbus approach. There're some pizza fliers in there somewhere. The boss looks at the paperwork with all the horror I had hoped for. He returns it fussily and goes through my boxes. He repeats "seguro obligatoria, seguro obligatoria". He is absent-mindedly turning my Collins mini Espanol-Ingles dictionary over in his hand . I smile more broadly at each request. This dumb tourist routine really is pathetic. I should have got the insurance back in Bogota. But it was too cold. I was too lazy. Too arrogant. I dunno.

They look at each other. They don't know what to do. Knife edge time. The dictionary is functioning as worry beads. It turns over and over. Don't read the title officer. It will help you way too much. Is the centime going to drop? He is agitated. He feels that I have taken away his role in life, his power. Imagine authority without language. Difficult isn't it? What to do?

As long as it doesn't occur to him that this is deliberate I will be okay; no one would be that duplicitous, especially not this pleasant adventurer. I am callously exploiting his generous worldview. He takes on a pleading tone, which must hurt a lot, "Seguro obligatoria, senor". Nope, definitely don't get it my friend. This is my moment, when they are completely at a loss. Before they find an English speaker. I start to pack up, avoiding eye contact. They can't say different. He replaces the book gently. I will pack it deeper tonight. They are non-plussed. I am away, but I can't do this pantomime too many times. It's all a bit demeaning.

Posted by at 05:04 PM GMT
October 23, 2005 GMT
Final Chapter

Every tale needs an ending. Mine is biological.

I am having aluminium boxes made (again) in Viedma, southern Argentina, when an email arrives from Europe. Rachel has just got back after a tough trip down the pan-American highway - weeks of gravel roads, camping rough and being blown off her bike. There’s some big news.

Photo by Lois

Unknown to us, cells had been dividing all the way down the left side of the continent, and back up the right. Spliting, multiplying, making something new. Supposedly one-up on that jaunt, it looks like we had underestimated the KLR’s carrying capacity.

She’d just seen a doctor she says, and nothing now can stop her (or she would if she followed 1970s English pop music closely enough). You make your bed, you have to lie in it. We’d been tucking in northern Mexico a bed of mountain highs, and deep damp valleys.

So tra la la. Fatherhood.

It seemed right for me. Four years of road is quite enough. Too many “yes, all the way”; “six hundred cc” and “about the same as a small car”. Too many random menu meals. Too much black snot and fear around the corner. The life of a rootless rep, only without the expense account. I was pleased to have a reason to end. A good one. Africa will wait.

The night before my home flight saw me up on a Uruguay border selling the Kawasaki and riding wide-open back to Buenos Aires through the freezing autumn night. Bed at one a.m. shivering, making lists that will be forgotten by morning.

Start up again at six to wash the motorcycle ready for transit. Ride to the port. Get lost in the barrios. The street kids intrigued. Friendly. But I don’t stop for directions. Late at the exporter’s office. Smiles and paperwork. Part-dismantle the bike for the crate. Taxi back across the city. Pack. Pay the rent. Taxi to the airport. Get on the plane at midday sweaty and smelly, looking forwards to a gentle month in England of anticipation and tiny purchases. Exhausted.

After a breathless Argentine morning and twelve hours over the Atlantic, London has only reached mid-afternoon. Warm and welcoming, the city is relaxing into spring, its untended corners blooming and fecund. Sometimes lovely things come along without planning.


Rachel is well. We chat the day away. I feel the bump. It wriggles. I make pasta for the evening and am happily bellyful by bedtime. I am the only one. Pacing: ”This is it. He is coming”. A true traveller abides by no schedule - although they are invariably late, not a month early.

His hardest journey to date. Due south.

Newham maternity is a suitably international environment for the long 15cm trip. I lose track of time among the white-coated strangers and souless neon. A long grey body is pulled out early on May 21st. Relief: tears.

Foxes are playing tag outside, gleefully chasing tails and calling names. The morning light gives its permission, pale and full of promise. It is a new day. And a new journey.


His name is Patrick. He has a lust for life and a ready laugh. Favourite pastimes: reading the atlas and listening to the hoover. The small motor seems to give him comfort.


Posted by Simon Kennedy at 07:36 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


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.

All Rights Reserved.

Contact the author:

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!
You can have your story here too - click for details!