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Ryan and Dan

USA to South America,
a year of living dangerously...

Ryan Wagner and Dan Koengeter,
1999-2000

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Ryan and Dan, ready to leave

Chelsea, Michigan, USA, September 4, 1999

Welcome to the web page! Our names are Dan Koengeter and Ryan Wagner and we are from a small rural town in Michigan called Chelsea. We are both 22 years old and have recently graduated from Universities in Michigan. For years, we have dreamed of taking a motorcycle trip...as my father (Fritz Wagner) and his friend (D. Patrick Merkel) did in 1964 through Europe and Africa on 250 cc BMW's. However, we have decided instead to tour Mexico, Central America, South America, and Southern Africa. Our estimated date for departure from Chelsea is on September 8, 1999. We have decided to ride Honda Nighthawks. Dan's bike is a 1980 CB 650 cc, while mine is a 1983 CB 550 cc. We thought that getting older bikes would deter theft and make us seem less like rich Americans. However, we were also unable to afford BMW's, so we thought these would suffice...or at least we hope so.

We first plan to head down to New Orleans, Louisiana for 7 days. From there, we will cut west through Beaumont, Texas until we reach Austin, where we will visit with friends for several days. We will then head south and cross into Mexico in Laredo/Nuevo Laredo. Our first stop over in Mexico will be in Monterrey. From there, we will cut on a southwesterly angle across the interior towards Puerto . After traveling along the Pacific coast, we will cut back inland towards Puebla where we plan to enroll in a language school for three weeks.

From Puebla we will head east to bypass the state of Chiapas. We will then pass through Guatemala, possibly El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua (with a lay over in Managua), Costa Rica (with a lay over in San Jose), and then into Panama. From Panama we will bypass Columbia by ship or plane, depending on availability and price.

We will then continue south after reaching Ecuador, passing through Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. Our final destination in South America will be Buenos Aires, and will likely be during the month of May, 2000.

If we feel like continuing our adventure, and our money permits, we will sail to Cape Town, South Africa with our bikes to tour Southern Africa (Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho, etc.)

In total, we expect this trip to span one year in length.

So, if there are any other travelers out there that want to meet up with us along the way, please send an email. We would love to meet you!

Also, if anyone has any advice for our travels, please let us know. We are always looking for input from seasoned travelers, since this is the first time we have attempted a motorcycle trip of this magnitude. My email address is ryandan75@hotmail.com

Please do not hesitate to write. See you on the road.

 

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September 24, 1999 - First road report, Austin, Texas

All is well thus far. Our Hondas are still running and weather has been perfect. We left from Chelsea, Michigan on September the 8th, as expected, and headed for New Orleans, La. We took all secondary roads (including the Natchez Trace) so it was pretty slow going. However, it was much more interesting than Highways, and of course you meet more people traveling through small towns. Anyway, it took us three nights and four days to reach New Orleans.

The first night we stopped at a Baptists Church in the small town of Modoc, Indiana, where they appeared to be having a Wednesday night church service. Dan and I walked up and asked for the Pastor. We then asked if he could do us a favor and allow us to pitch a tent on the church grounds. He said that it would be no problem. We then went in for the service and participated, where several people asked that the congregation pray for the safety of "the travelers". Anyway, the Pastor ended up taking us back to his house where we just pitched our tent in his yard. It was kind of a neat experience for the first night on the road.

The second night we stayed at a fire station. The third night we stayed next to the road on The Natchez Trace. So, we arrived in New Orleans without having to pay a cent for accommodation (which is our intent).

We then stayed in New Orleans for 7 days with my family. From there we went to Austin, Texas...where we are now. Approx. Mileage so far that we have driven...1800 miles in 18 days (since Sept. 8th).

Just thought I'd send an update. Saturday we leave for Laredo. Sunday we should arrive in Monterrey, Mexico. I guess that is where the real adventure begins.

October 3, 1999 - Monterrey, Mexico

We left from Austin, Texas on September 29th, with Laredo as our next expected destination. We set off from Austin in the early afternoon with temperatures nearing 100 degrees (or what felt like a 100 degrees). From Austin, we drove to Laredo. There, we stayed with 'a friend of a friend'for the evening.

The next morning we headed for the border , where it took several hours to obtain visas and permits for our motorcycles. Though it took 3 hours to obtain these papers, customs officials were helpful and accomodating. From the customs office, we headed south on highway 85 (called the 'autopista') and arrived in Monterrey at about 5:30 p.m., where we have been staying with la familia Villarreal (the Villarreal family).

Mexico.

Mexico

 

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They have been extremely accommodating and a joy to stay with. They have not only shown us many of the attractions within Monterrey, but have also given us a wonderful introduction to Mexican culture. Mountains surround the city, which makes for a very picturesque view each time you step outside. In addition, the people here are extremely friendly and are usually willing to help in any way. We feel very safe here and feel as though it is no different than many other American cities, despite the warnings of many others who have told us that Mexico is a very dangerous place (though most of these people had never visited before).

Thanks to the lessons I took from Señora Hazel Hermosillo (my Spanish teacher from high school) this past summer, I have been able to communicate 'relatively' well with people as long as they speak slowly and clearly. However, I am by no means fluent (or even nearly fluent) in Spanish. But I guess this will come with time.

Currently we are preparing to leave Monterrey and head south to the city of Guanajuato. In Guanajuato, we are going to enroll in an intensive Spanish course for three weeks in hopes of improving our Spanish immensely. Take care everyone. More updates to come! Total mileage to date: 2300 miles (3700 km.) and counting.

After Guanajuato we will travel onwards to Oaxaca and eventually Guatemala.

Saludos,
Ryan and Dan

October 19, 1999 - Guanajuato, Mexico

We are still in the city of Guanajuato, Mexico after our seven day visit to Monterrey and four days in Saltillo. We are enjoying our guesthouse and the hospitality of very generous hosts. Every morning we attend Spanish classes for four hours. The cost is reasonable and the instruction is one on one.

We are enjoying the three week festival called Cerventino. The streets are full of people going to theaters. all kinds of shows, and partying -- like rock stars. It is truly amazing to experience one of the largest cultural festivals in all of Latin America. Cerventino wrapped up this past weekend, so the town has returned to a relative state of tranquillity. We plan to stay here until Oct. 30th when we will drive over to Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific coast for a week on the beach. From there it is south and into Guatemala.

Mexico continues to be superb and our voyage one of the most enlightening experiences anyone could ever have.

We will try to write from Puerta Vallarta. Take care everyone!

The Road Warriors,
Ryan and Dan.

at the side of the road.

at the side of the road

 

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November 19, 1999 - Guatemala

Dear family and friends:

We are now in Guatemala after 2 1/2 months and over 5000 miles. No kidding, OVER 5000 MILES!

We left Guanajuato, Mex. about two weeks ago after attending three weeks of Spanish classes. On our way to Guatemala we traveled the Pacific Coast for 6 days, stopping in small villages for the night.

The most memorable night was somewhere in the state of Oaxaca, Mex. It was beginning to get dark so we pulled off the road to discuss where we should stay for the night. Seemingly out of nowhere four people appeared carrying large bags of maize. We began talking to them about where we were from and what we were doing in Mexico. After several minutes of conversation they offered us accommodation for the night.

It was a small village of about 80 inhabitants, all of whom were very curious about who the new guests were.

Later in the evening, after we were fed dinner, one of the sons (who was also 23 years old) took us fishing. However, this was very different from fishing for blue gills in Cavanaugh Lake. We first walked down a narrow meandering trail to where he kept his small wooden rowboat(about 7 feet long) in a river. Using a casting net, we caught many types of small fish and crabs, one of which bit my finger. We then continued fishing towards the mouth of the river where it emptied into the ocean.

The following morning we continued on our way south after bidding our new friends farewell.

We are now in Guatemala staying with some Peace Corps volunteers. We will stay here for another two weeks and then head on to Honduras.

We are in a small village, which is fascinating and very different from anything we have ever experienced. It is very poor here, much more so than Mexico. The people mostly speak their native language and not Spanish or English.

This way of life is something we cannot even imagine living in the US. They live very close to the earth and their greatest value is in each other. We feel very welcome and work with our Peace Corps host to help as much as we can.

This is an eye opening experience for us and reminds us of why we took this trip.

 

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December 23, 1999 - Managua, Nicaragua

After 3 months, 14 days and over 6500 miles, we are finally in Managua, Nicaragua staying with the Peace Corps for Christmas and the new year.

While in Guatemala we stayed with a Peace Corps volunteer for two weeks in a small village west of Guatemala City called San Jose Poaquil. There we helped construct green houses for a local elementary school which will provide students with fresh vegetables in the future. The town of Poaquil, however, was quite unique since the people continue to speak their native Indian language (called Catchecal) and wear very colorful traditional dress.

From Guatemala, we visited the Copan Ruins in Copan, Honduras. We then continued onward to Tela, Honduras, which is next to the Caribbean Coast. There we stayed with a family for five days and enjoyed the beach and sun. Continuing south, we traveled 150 miles down a dirt road to Campamento, Honduras. This was no Trinkley Road. At one point the mud was so deep that a bull-dozer had to assist trucks and cars through the bog.

Fortunately, our bikes were able forge through the mud. After two weeks in Honduras we drove to Managua, Nicaragua where we are currently staying until January 4th. Have a Merry Christmas and a safe New Year.

Ryan and Dan

 

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12 March, 2000

Currently in Cuzco getting ready to hike to Machu Pichu.

Really looking forward to it.

Met a guy from Israel who was riding an XR 650. Sent our bikes from Panama with him to Guayaquil and then traveled with him for a brief time in Ecuador. However, heard some terrible news via email the other day. Five guys with guns forced him to pull over (near Riobamba...usually known for being a very calm place). Instead of just demanding some money, etc. they stole his entire bike and pistol whipped him...leaving him with several stitches. I feel quite bad, especially since he said that he was going to continue traveling another year or so. He now says he is giving up and heading back to Israel. Says it is not the same traveling via bus. Not to be an alarmist, but just thought I would pass that along. However, I loved Ecuador and can now see why it was one of your favorites too. Nevertheless, when I hear stuff like that happen (especially to a friend)...that scares the hell out of me.

On a better note, here is the information about how we sent our bikes from Panama to Guayaquil...

Pacific Agentship Panama, S.A.
(also called Ecuadorian Line).
Contact: Jose Aguilar (boarding officer)
Ave. 118, Calle Terminal, Edificio Colombus, P.O. Box 5026 Cristobal Colon, Panama tel:4450166 fax:441 4308 ONe can also contact Alberto Funal in Panama city: 269 2022 (Ecuadorian Line).

Cost 150 US dollars per bike (weight not important). However, only take CASH. Shipped as loose freight in a container with other stuff. Need to arrive in Colon with bike and complete paper work. Give yourself a full day to complete everything. Boat leaves usually on Sundays at about 5 p.m. Takes 2.5 days to arrive in Guayaquil.

See Mr. Campbell in Colon....VERY HELPFUL...Will take you to container and get you through customs immediately (we gave hime a tip of 6 US dollars).

Will let you push your bike into the container and let you see that it is secured properly.

Pick up contact in Guayaquil Monica Jordan de Cervantes email: mjordan@bonita.com tel:593 4 481 447 or 481 439 fax:593 4 481 449

Did all paper work for us. Very nice lady. Speaks English. Went out of her way to help us. Processing fees were about 15 US dollars per bike. Also, we had to get a letter of transit from the American Embassy (50 US dollars).

Well, that is about all I can remember. Please pass it on. Oh, getting the bikes out of the container and customs will probably take 3 days in Guayaquil (that is what it took us, anyway...maybe longer in other cases).

Just have patience. Something you learn very quickly on a trip like this.

 

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28 March, 2000, Bolivia,

We are finally in Bolivia and enjoying the change from Peru. Needless to say it was not our favorite country (although hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Pichu was a liftime memory). Hiking the trail took four days of grueling up and downs through the Andes. To make matters worse, we decieded to hike independently from a group and carry our own gear. Hiking up a steep incline at 4200 meters with 40 pounds on your back was not an easy task. Thought that I was going to have a heart attack on several occasions and that my legs were going to fall off. Well, may be a bit of an exageration, but it was still much harder then expected.

After hiking to the Ruins, we headed south to Bolivia. Unfortunately, however, Peru is pure desert along the entire coast. To make things worse, the wind picked up and we found ourselves in the middle of a giant Peruvian sandstorm that had no mercy for two Gringo motorbikers on 20 year old Hondas. Fortunately, we made it to the border of Bolivia after three days of riding. We are currently in Oruro, Bolivia with the Peace Corp. From here, we plan to travel around Bolivia for the next two months.

So far Bolivia has been very impressive...people are friendly, it's safe, and the landscapes is not desert (as in Peru).

Now that we are in Bolivia and have a little extra time we have decided to make a few minor repairs on the bikes: Here are the lists we have compiled for each bike.

Dan's 1980 Honda CB 650:

Front rotor is warped (bikes shakes while applying front brake), front forks seals are completely shot (forks bottom out frequently), front headlight works when it wants to, right footpeg fell off, windshield is cracked in half (however, held together by zip ties), also large section of right half of windshield is missing, exaust started to fall off (but now is fixed), valves chattered like wild monkeys (was fixed in Peru), seat has 6 inch rip, mysterious shake above 65 mph, had to take link out of chain due to an unstopable stretching problem, bent handle bars, handle bar grips that continue to slide off (even after wire and glue), badly engineered lugage rack that always breaks off bolts and shakes loose, broken speedometer cable (who need to know your speed down here anyways?), dead battery with three days of push-starting until we could buy another one, left side mirror cracked, right mirror shakes so violently that I can not see behind me, head gasket leakes oil, engine burns oil profusely (maybe 30 quarts since Mexico), carburators leak gas if I forget to shut off gas valve, real axle bolt is held on with wire instead of a cotter key, FINALLY...rear break adjustment bolt is cross threaded (making adjustment difficult). More to come I´m sure!!

Ryan's 1983 Honda CB 550:

handle bars are bent, seat is torn, hydrolic clutch barely works in high altitudes (sometimes doesn´t work), windshield is cracked and held together with plastic tie tabs, ignition switch held on with zip ties, anti-theft hadle bar lock refuses to work, speed cable is broken, slow leak in front tire, rear brake light works sometimes, only bright beam works in headlight, rear blinker is held on by duct tape, exhaust pipes have rust holes, front pegs for cruising have been ground down on one sike from a little accident, bolt on oil filter is stripped, valve cover gaskets leak oil, valves chatter occassionally (but not like wild monkeys), burns oil (but only a little at this point), brake lever looks like it has been ground down by a grinder (also from the accident), same goes for the front blinker, one of the front reflectors fell off, plastic handle grip is torn (but held on with electrical tape), bolts in luggage rack break sometimes, saddle bags were torn but restitched, left mirror shatter (but eventually replaced.

Hopefully this list does not grow much longer or else we will have little more than a frame to ride on.

Well, just one more country. They should make it...hopefully.

best wishes from the road, Ryan and Dan

 

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June 12, 2000,

Well we are still alive, but the climb could have gone a lot better.

We will start from the beginning.

Ryan and I got up at 6:00am and met our guide and support team and headed to the mountain. However, we should have known that our climb was doomed from the beginning when our guide drank 2 beers on the 45min drive to the base of the mt.

Never mind another water bottle full of beer on the way up to base camp. And yes, he did manage to talk Ryan and I in to taking the occasional sip. The hike up to base camp went very well and we felt like our bodies were handling the altitude very well. We made it to camp around 2:00pm at 5200 meters. Our guide forced us to eat and drink as much as possible because of the ill effects altitude has on the body.

By 5:00pm Ryan and I were in our tent trying to fall asleep, but the wind was blowing and it was snowing very hard. THe temp. had dropped by now to the low 20s and it was impossible to sleep in the high altitude. I kept almost falling asleep, but then would quickly awake taking a hudge gasp of air due to the lack of oxygen. The night went very slow, but finally 12:00am came along and it was time to summit. We climbed into our guides tent and he had a nice breakfast of oatmeal and hot coco waiting for us. He pressured us into eating as much as we possibly could.

By 1:00am we were on our way up the mt. with five other groups all within a half-hour in front of us. By 1:30am one of the groups had already turned around due to a lot of snow, limited visibility, and one of the persons in the group could not continue due to altitude sickness. By 2:00am 2 other groups had dropped out because of the harsh conditions and the abuse their bodies were suffering. By 2:10 at 5,400 meters disaster hit Ryan and I.

Our flashlights went dead leaving us with only our guides rope tied to us and his dim light shining 75 feet in front of us. During this time I (Dan)developed a really bad feeling in my stomach. The next thing I knew I was vomiting out of control due to the altitude, food, and strenuous climbing. After vomiting for 5 mins my guide asked me if I was alright.

I thought to myself, "This is it", it is time to turn around", but somehow after I threw up I felt better than ever. Ryan and I continued all the way up to 5,700 meters, 300 short of the summit.

 

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We were now the only team left and had been treking through snow up to our knees for the past 400 meters. We only had a hour and a half left and we would be at the top, but suddenly we found ourselves in a complete white-out. Our guide became disoriented and had no idea where we were suppose to go. We waited out the storm for 2 hours till 9:00am with no cover.

It was horrible, I have never been so cold and tired in my entire life. We were not able to see anything and had crevasses all around us that had unknown depths. Finally our guide told us it was time to call it and we slowly started finding out way back to base camp.

The snow finally let up half-way back to camp and I could now see half the stuff we climbed past in the dark...beautiful. To make a long story short, I was glad I tried the climb and would definately attempt another. By the time we got down and our transportation came it was 5:00pm, we had been up for approximately 36 hour staight and were feeling a bit tired to say the least.

Since we did not make it all the way to the summit we just may have to make another attempt before we leave for Argentina. No turning back this time.

Take care, Daniel and Ryan

November 14, 2000

Dear all,

We are happy to report that our second attempt at climbing the Bolivian mountain Huayna Potosi was 100% successful!!! Though we ran into bad weather again, we made the 20,000 feet summit by 11 A.M. With that mission completed, we moved onto our next.. selling our motorcycles due to expected and upcoming outrageous gasoline prices of Argentina ($4.00 a gallon-a lot for a spoiled North American). Plus, the sale of foreign vehicles in Argentina are illegal, laws are more strictly enforced, and it is getting quite cool in Argentina for riding. We ended up selling the Hondas for US$1050 each (a profit of US$200 each), even after 9 months of abuse.

After selling our beloved, but thrashed 1980 and 1983 Hondas, we decided to leave Bolivia for Santiago del Estero, Argentina by bus.a harsh transition from the open air and freedom. From there we traveled to Cordoba and then to Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires was a very beautiful modern city but very expensive, with many things being more expensive than in the states.

Therefore, we decided to turn north to visit the largest waterfalls in all of the Americas--Iguazu Falls. The Falls were very impressive and overwhelming but a day of visiting was sufficient for us.

We then hopped on the bus for a nice 40 hour ride to our beloved Bolivia.

 

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From Trinidad, Bolivia we were extremely fortunate to find a river cargo boat leaving the same day on the River Mamore for the Brazilian border. It took five days of steady travel but we were constantly entertained by fishing, wildlife, and watching fresh water dolphins (pink and gray-this is the only place that you will find these precarious creatures!!). After crossing into Brazil, we traveled north by bus to Porto Vehlo. We then spent several days in Porto Vehlo waiting for our next riverboat to leave, heading north on the River Madeira. Finally, the half-passenger/cargo boat left for the north. The trip took three full days of 24-hour/day cruising until we hit the Amazon River near sunset. Absolutely stunning. By 4:00 am we arrived at our destination, Manaus.

Once in Manaus, we hired (on good faith and questionable recommendation from another traveler) a private guide who took us on a four-day journey through the river ways, swamps, and jungle of the amazon. A tour that you would never, ever find in an agency!! This guy was nuts (call if you dare: Luis Motta Phone: 2344545, fax:6466357 Located in Manaus Brazil. An unbelievable tour of catching crocodiles by hand, wildlife, sloths, iguanas, freshwater dolphins, lily pads more than 2 meters in diameter, and being dumped off into the middle of the jungle for the night without a guide within 10 miles with nothing but a hammock, machete, bug net, water, a shotgun, and 3 rounds of ammunition!!!

However, the most insane thing we saw was our guide jump on top of a crocodile 5 feet in length from our little canoe in the middle of the night in an attempt to catch the damn thing for tomorrow's breakfast. Thankfully his attempt failed and he did not loose an arm. What the hell do you do with a Croc once you have it in your arms? Anyone know the crocodile hunter from Australia?

Dan and I high atop container unloading cranes at the Panama Ports Company in Panama, overlooking the Panama Canal.

Dan and I high atop container unloading cranes at the Panama Ports Company in Panama, overlooking the Panama Canal.

 

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Anyway, after returning from our four days of lunacy, we took the next but to the Venezuelan border and then up to Isla Margarita. By this time we had been traveling for more than 11 months and nearing the end of our trip so we thought we should to lighten our load by spending the rest of our cash stores while relaxing on the island-no more malaria, crocodiles, man eating insects and piranhas.only the Caribbean sea and beaches. However, unfortunately, it was time to return home after several weeks of relaxation.

Arrived home the 22 of August, thus completing 11 months 14 days on the road, 13 countries, and probably at least 25,000 miles of roads covered.

Without a doubt-without a shadow of a doubt the best enlightening, growing, fun, insane, unforgettable, weird, bizarre, educational, crazy, incredible experience of my life of 23 years. However, don't think that our traveling days are over. Oh no!! Dan and I are already planning (along with another friend named Adam) another trip that is scheduled to leave some time in April of the year 2002 from the Great Lakes area. Not a bike this time, but instead a sailboat. Around the world? We hope so!

For all of you who have been keeping track of our adventure, Thank You. My only advice is that if you are thinking of having a little adventure of your own-- leave now without further procrastination. Don't use money, jobs, and materialism to stop you from experiencing life. Drop everything and GO!!

Also a million thanks to Grant and Susan Johnson for their uncompromised help, advice, and the upkeep of this page while we were on the road.

Yours truly in traveling, Ryan Wagner and Dan Koengeter Chelsea, Michigan USA

Story copyright © Ryan Wagner, 1999-2000
All Rights Reserved.
Webmaster:
Grant Johnson

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