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Photo by Bettina Hoebenreich, At the foot of the Bear Glaciers, eternal ice, British Columbia, Canada

Adventure is what you make it

Photo by Bettina Hoebenreich, at the foot of the Bear Glaciers, British Columbia, Canada.

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Old 9 Sep 2013
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Awesome post. Sad we won't see you at the HUBB meeting but glad to be reading new updates from the road.
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Old 16 Sep 2013
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Ok, enough writing, let's do some riding.

We are leaving Antigua on a road trip! Leaving behind our tent, sleeping bags and half our clothing behind in the B&B, we are setting off for the Guatemalan highlands. Before the trip, I installed a new rear tire - I'm trying out a Heidenau K60 Scout, which is supposed to be better for dirt/gravel roads. They didn't have Neda's size in stock, so we ordered one from the US and we're going to install it next week when it arrives in the country. In the meantime, she's going to ride around the muddy rainy season on a half-bald tire because she's hardcore that way!

Leaving Antigua before sunrise... *yawn*

We are awake at 5AM to try to beat both the rush hour towards Guatemala City and also to try to get some riding done before the rains catch up to us in the afternoon. We fail on both counts. We depart in an unusual morning shower, and the 45km commute towards the capital city takes us over 2 hours! And this is even with splitting lanes and taking to the shoulder, while dodging trucks, chicken buses and other motorists.

Part of our journey takes us through Coban, where Neda's sleeping bag got stolen off her motorcycle a few months ago. Here she dives into a crowded market, hoping to find the thief that stole her sleeping bag...

Neda really liked riding through these tall cornfields

Fire burning at the side of the road in a small village

Past Coban, we are treated to beautiful twisty roads through the mountains of the Alta Verapaz department. The rain has let up a bit, but the light fog sometimes darken so we don our rainsuits just in case. And as all motorcyclists know, if you put your rainsuit on early, it will never rain. The warm humid temperature creates a mini-sauna inside our rainsuits and we are as wet inside with perspiration as if it rained anyway - the stench from weeks of built-up sweat on our riding suits is becoming unbearable...

Beautiful views of the valley below and layers of mountains in the distance

The gravelly road to Lanquin

We turn off from the blacktop of the main highway towards Lanquin. The road turns into a loose gravel path that leads down into the valley. The views are amazing, but the descent is unnervingly steep. Neda seems to be negotiating just fine with her old rear tire and my bike feels good as well - but I think it has more to do with the excess luggage I jettisoned in Antigua than the new rear tire.

Lush green valleys just a steep drop away

Lots of logging in the area, we had to squeeze past some logging trucks.

The road to Lanquin is too narrow at most points for two trucks to pass by each other, so either one has to wait or reverse to a wider spot to give each other space to pass. Squeezing past one with the steep drop on the right is very nerve-wracking! After about an hour of gravel, we reach the small town and book a dorm room at El Retiro, a nice camp/hostel by the river.

Neda is lounging around at El Retiro

The next morning we book a tour of Semuc Champey, which is the primary reason why tourists come to visit this area. It turned out to be quite a full days worth of sights and activities, visiting different sites around Lanquin.

Our guide took us to the head of the river where we inner-tubed down the rapids

Then we all lit candles and hiked into the pitch black darkness of an underwater cave

Guy behind me is checking to see if he has signal underground. Answer: "Nope"

This cave totally reminded me of the horror movie "The Descent". Our guide painted all our faces native-style with grease from the cave-walls. The hike becomes quite claustrophobic at times, the walls sometimes narrowing so you have to squeeze yourself through to the next cavern. The water in here comes from a subterranean spring and there are many elevation changes as we climb up to meet the source, battling through mini waterfalls and sometimes swimming through deep pools, trying to keep your candle above the water.

Candles were often extinguished by the hike/swim, so we took many stops to relight our candles from the ones that were still lit.

There is absolutely no other light besides our candles...

Hikers become swimmers, our candles are our most prized possession

A cave monster

At the end of the cave, we reach the mouth of the underwater spring. It's a powerful waterfall that flows back down and it's a dead-end so we hike/wade/swim with the current back to the entrance of the cave. We spent over an hour in the total darkness and it was such a wonderful caveman-like experience!

Grace... is not my middle name...

Outside, more water activities awaited us, inner-tubing and swinging out into the river. We were really impressed with how organized everything was. Our tour group was made up of many Israeli tourists and we made fast friends with them, joking around and getting to know them as we hiked to a scenic viewpoint high atop Semuc Champey. Apparently September is when all of Israel goes on vacation and Guatemala seems to be quite a popular destination. Most of the Israelis did not know each other prior to this trip. And every single one of them was on their honeymoon!

Semuc Champey is a series of stepped pools of turquoise waters

The Guatemalans boast that this is the "Eighth Wonder of the World”. You can see people swimming in the pools, to give you an idea of the scale.

Waterfalls of all sizes spill water from one step to another

Lizard watches us hike back down to the river

Happy tourists

Swimming in Semuc Champey

Semuc Champey means "The water hides beneath the earth" in Mayan. The steps that we are swimming in are actually part of a limestone bridge where the Cahabon river is running underneath us. A little bit of the river makes it above the limestone bridge and that's what forms the turquoise pools and mini waterfalls. The Semuc Champey "bridge" is about 300m long, and our guide takes us swimming the entire length of it, gliding down natural stone slides worn smooth by the running water. At the end of Semuc Champey, a huge waterfall falls off the limestone shelf to meet the Cahabon river underneath it.

So glad that we saw this, it's one of the highlights of our time in Guatemala!

Yael, one of our new friends gives us a gift to remember our experience

Apart from the wonderful scenery and amazing tour and activities around Semuc Champey, we are really glad to have met our Israeli friends. We spent a couple of days with them, sharing travel stories, and I learned a little bit of their culture and some Hebrew as well, so now I can butcher a brand new language! Such an enriching experience all around!

Tomorrow is September 15th, which is the Guatemalan Independence Day. So we say goodbye to our new friends, as we're heading back to Coban to see if we can catch some of the festivities!
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Old 17 Sep 2013
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We are headed back to the town of Coban to see if we can catch some Independence Day celebrations!

Flag features the national bird, a Quetzal, holding a scroll with the date of independence from Spain

It's a funny thing trying to time motorcycle travel in the Central American rainy season. Because the rain falls in the early afternoon and overnight, you can't leave too early in the morning or the roads will still be wet. But you can't leave too late or you risk run into developing rain clouds.

So we're timing our departure from Lanquin late enough that the dirt roads will be dry from the morning sun, but we'll still have time to arrive in Coban before rains start up again.

Gene: "What happened?"
Neda: "Dunno. I just found it like this..."

Impromptu Guatemalan group ride!

These guys were all going into town to celebrate. Lots of honking and waving from every truck we passed!

The old and the new in Coban: Cathedral and a... um, flying saucer...

Preparing for the 2248 Winter Olympics

Every year, on September 14th - the day before Independence Day - a torch is lit in Antigua, the old capital city of Guatemala. Runners from all over Guatemala light their own torches from this one and begin running back to their home town, passing the torch to other runners who continue until they reach their destination by the 15th. It's a pretty cool Independence Day tradition and I'm glad we caught a glimpse of it!

I have a big sign on my photographic equipment that reads, "HamCam"...

Drummers dressed in the national colours

Locals checking out the festivities

Women's parade celebrating Independence Day

El Calvario church, popular tourist spot in Coban

130 steps above the city sits El Cavario church, where we caught a great view of Coban from up high. Most of the religious ceremonies in the city are performed here. Legend has it that a Mayan hunter saw two jaguars sleeping in this spot. He didn't kill them, but left them alone and when he returned the next day, he saw a vision of Christ at the same spot.

Church staff prepare for the fiesta with an old-fashioned smoke machine

Virgin Mary and child inside El Calvario

These girls were all dressed the same, they were getting ready to carry a parade float down all 130 steps to the city.

Devotion candles lit outside the church

Takin' a break...

The Guatemalans know how to carry on having a party. We only lasted a couple of hours walking around town listening to marching bands and watching dancers and seeing religious ceremonies being performed. When we got back to our hotel, the afternoon rains kicked in, but that didn't stop the party - music, cars honking and fireworks carried on until the late hours of the night. Awesome!
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Old 19 Sep 2013
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From Coban, we are going to be journeying westwards through the mountainous department of Quiche - not named after the food, it's pronounced Kee-Chay after the Mayan dialect Ki'Che' so popular in this region. And there's no quiche in this entry either...

No drybag and topcase means less weight on the back of the bike. Mac and Cheese and Huevos con Salsa means more weight in the middle of the bike...

Single-lane construction zone, uphill in the dirt, facing an oncoming bus too large to squeeze past...

...So we pull off into the shoulder and my bike is so wide I have to lean it to the right to give the bus 2 inches to pass *gahhh*

Half of the roads we are doing are unpaved, good chance to try out my new Heidenau rear

Neda threads her way through a road carved out of the mountainside

The Quiche department is dominated by the Sierra de los Cuchamatanes - the largest non-volcanic moutain-range in Central America

Making trax...

We are climbing up twisty roads towards Nebaj

The paved roads towards Nebaj are heavenly, first-gear switchbacks climbing high into the mountains. However, we are puzzled by two different kinds of logos painted on rocks, mountainsides and everywhere along the side of the road - blue "Todos" and red "Lider". We find out later that it's two political parties and there's either an election coming up or one has just passed.

Asking for directions to Acul - Neda trys out her Ki'Che'

Speaking of languages, I have a new Spanish teacher - Neda. We do lessons over the communicator while riding. Along with verb conjugation I am also learning how to swear at Chicken Buses en Espanol. In these roads up here in the mountains, it's best not to ride too close to the centre line while apexing, as oncoming cars and buses regularly cross the line.

Moo-ving right along...

The scenery here becomes very European-alpine-countryside

Pulling into our destination for the next couple of nights

Bungalows in the background - ours is the one in the middle

As per Julio's recommendation, we're relaxing in a great little cheese farm outside of Acul called Mil Amores (Spanish for a Thousand Loves). It's such a bucolic setting, very quiet save for the soft ka-tunkle of the bells tied around the cows and goats. A nice place to just kick back, relax and enjoy the surroundings, and the food is fresh from the farm - cheese and beans served during every meal. Did I mention we are both a little bit lactose intolerant? After every meal, our little bungalow rocks with the sounds of two-stroke motorcycles... *BRAAAAP*

I never thought Guatemala could look like this - everything is so lush from the Guatemalan winter rains

The region around Nebaj and Acul is like the Guatemalan version of the Alps. In fact, the farm was settled in the 1930s by a family of Italian artisan cheese makers who honed their craft in the Swiss alps, and searched the Americas for a similar place - high altitudes, eternal green grass. Looks like they found it.

Wine, and a little fuel for our two-strokes

Afternoon rains give our bikes a bit of a wash

We are timing our travels well during the rainy season

Warm and dry inside the kitchen with a Kindle, a candle and a hot cup of tea

Outside, the farm's dog guards our motos - his snoring is louder than our two-strokes

Neda contemplating Blue Angels

It was such a great relaxing couple of days and we're now ready to hit the road again!
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Old 24 Sep 2013
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After a restful two days at Mil Amores, we are ready to hit the road once again, heading south through the Guatemalan Highlands, rolling through the smooth pavement switching back up and down the mountains. Along the way we pass small towns and even smaller villages.

Pausing in traffic to window shop at the roadside tiendas (stalls) selling food and refreshments

What's the holdup?

We tiptoe on the dirt shoulder, past a lineup of stopped chicken buses. Passengers are grabbing their belongings off the buses and abandoning them, walking further ahead. There is lots of confusion at the roadblock, drivers and pedestrians give us conflicting information: "You can't pass, turn back!", "Take this stony road that goes into the jungle to get to the otherside".

When we get past the front, we see the road has fallen away into the valley below. Oops.

In the end, we followed another biker as he pushed his way past people on the sidewalk. That turned out to be the correct call and we're back on the road again, leaving the stranded trucks and chicken buses fuming impatiently on the other side!

Ah, the pitfalls (literally) of riding through the Guatemalan winter.

Passing through colourful, mystical arches

My bike is not doing well with the regular gas I am feeding her. Lots of engine pinging in the low revs while climbing up the hills in the past few days, and I have to keep the revs high in order to keep her from complaining too loudly. As we near our destination of Panajachel, I treat her with some premium drink. I glance at the bill and shake my head - she's dining a lot better than I am.

Perhaps she goes back on a diet when we reach flatter terrain. Her and I, both!

Panajachel, down by Lake Atitlan

We checked into the same hostel that we stayed in the first time, the one with the parrot security guard. I had a little conversation with our feathered friend. I've provided some subtitles.

Bloody bird speaks more Spanish than I do. FML.

It's very interesting walking around Pana almost 6 months since the last time we visited. We are really getting to see this place and the country in two different seasons. The streets are bare of tourists and the late morning sky already darkens with imminent rain clouds every day, obscuring the tops of the volcanoes surrounding Lake Atitlan.

We take a day-trip by water-taxi to San Marcos, on the other side of the lake

Part of the reason why we are staying a couple of days in Panajachel is because this was the last place we were before we had to abandon our leisurely pace to rush through Central America. We missed out on all the little Mayan towns and villages dotting the shores of Lake Atitlan, some of which are only accessible by water because of the volcanoes surrounding the lake.

Some really swanky digs built along the shores and slopes of the mountains surrounding Lake Atitlan

Big business along the shores of the lake

There is a public ferry that shuttles travelers from town to town on the lake, it only costs Q25 (about $3). However, private boats offer faster, more direct service for a higher fee. We watched as they filled their seats with their sales pitches to impatient tourists. One well-dressed Frenchman dished out Q200 ($25). He sat in the boat and waited angrily as the captain kept lowering his price to fill all the seats on the boat. Other tourists bargained down to Q100 ($13). We waited till the very last minute before the public ferry was to arrive and scored seats for Q50 ($6) each!

The French guy was livid!

Walking around "downtown" San Marcos

San Marcos is a very small Mayan village where yoga retreats and alternative medicine centres have inexplicably sprung up. It felt weird walking the narrow dirt paths between closely packed buildings offering gourmet health food and boutique hotels, squeezing past western women in Lululemon yoga gear, sweaty from a morning session of Downward Dirty Dogs and Cameltoe Poses.

Sanity returned as we left the Dharma Initiative complex

Outside the Fruity Yoga centre, we spent more time strolling through the real San Marcos. Children had just broke from school and were running and playing in the streets. We got quite a workout walking up and down the very steep hills of the town, peeking into buildings to get a glimpse of what life is like here.

The higher we got, the better view we got of the lake

Public ferry back to Panajachel

We thought we did so well negotiating with the private boat. We found out that the actual public ferry didn't take much longer and it was exactly the same kind of boat, but this one had a roof. It docked at another site just outside of Panajachel and cost Q20, not Q25! This was what the locals took! Those private boats were making a killing!

Tight, but scenic exit from our hostel parking spot
No flowers were hurt leaving Panajachel

This was a great week-long road trip touring around the Guatemalan mountains, some entertaining dual-sport roads and lots of tight, twisty asphalt. There are a couple of ways to get back to Antigua, the main PanAmerican highway, and shorter way that looked pretty good on the GPS - lots of switchbacks and more mountainous scenery. We asked a local on the way out which was better. He said the "shortcut" was less time, but was less "secure" (seguridad).

Less secure, like in bandits? We didn't quite understand. But seeing how it was the middle of the day, we thought we'd chance it. So off we went...

This is what "less secure" means. We rode though broken roads, some washed completely away.
Neda is testing to see where the lowest point in the river was to cross.

Aiming the bike, ready to point and shoot

Married couples often develop an understanding of the things they say to each other, and the things they really mean. Here is an example:

Neda: You go first.
Translation: (You go first so if you fall, I know where not to go.)

Gene: Yes, dear.
Translation: (Yes, dear.)

Guatemalan Bike Wash

A local helps direct Neda through the water crossing
Gene - http://www.RideDOT.com
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Old 25 Sep 2013
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Its taken a few days, but I've finally managed to read all of your posts from the beginning.
Your thread is one of only two that I've read which has made me REALLY want to get out there and explore countries that I've never really considered before.
The only problem that I have with your posts is that you seem to favour Lorenzo, when he's clearly an eejit...

I look forward to catching up on your sporadic posts as you meander around at your snail pace

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Old 26 Sep 2013
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Originally Posted by dirtypot View Post
The only problem that I have with your posts is that you seem to favour Lorenzo, when he's clearly an eejit...
LOL! He's an amazingly smooth racer, but not a Lorenzo fan.

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Old 27 Sep 2013
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We're itching to be on the move again. After a few months of staycations, vacations and road trips around Guatemala, we are finally packing up everything and resuming our nomadic journey. However, circumstances dictated that we stay just a few days longer in Antigua while waiting for Neda's new rear tire to get shipped from the US. So we went out and wandered the streets for awhile.

Parade in the streets celebrating the Benediction of San Francisco

OMG! So cute!

Hiked up to the top of Cerro de la Cruz, a large hill overlooking Antigua

It's quite an experience being here in the off-season. Normally the view from Cerro de la Cruz in the summer is clear and you can see the cross against the backdrop of volcanoes unhampered by fogs or clouds, but I kind of like being in the town when there are less tourists. We've been here long enough that we're kind of semi-locals, and we've made enough friends here to consider making Antigua a home if we ever chose to settle down.

Such a cool place to play a volleyball game!

Selling flowers on the streets of Antigua

And then finally, we get the call. Neda's rear tire is ready for pickup in Guatemala City. It's just a quick trip to the BMW dealership to get it mounted. While we were waiting, I was fawning all over the new R1200GS. This new model is now liquid-cooled. Because I drooled all over it...

The receptionist behind me is calling Security

Back in Antigua, Neda is facing a packing problem. Brought too much stuff back from Toronto...

Finally, we are off! New rear tires, new batteries, new supplies, new clothes. We felt reinvigorated! And much heavier! As we rode south from the mountains of Guatemala, the temperature soared and it got much more humid. We had not seen 30C on the thermometer for quite some time.

Around scenic Lake Amatitlan, we pass the Guatemalan pole vault team

Apparently Gus Fring was working in another store today

I've seen this fast food chicken chain, Pollo Campero, all over Guatemala and every time I see the logo, I think of Breaking Bad, which is our favorite TV show. So in dedication to the series finale this Sunday, we stop and eat at one in Santa Rosa, just before we cross the border. The chicken is actually very delicious!

My diet starts next week...

Pollo Campero... Los Pollos Hermanos... Similarity?

After lunch, the skies darkened considerably to signal the inevitable early afternoon rains. I tapped on my communicator to let Neda know we should put on our rainsuits. She told me, "I'm too hot. You go ahead. I'll put mine on right before it rains...". I crawled into my rainsuit in silence, while she sat on her bike waiting for me.

Not five minutes later, the skies opened up a ferocious thunderstorm on top of our heads, complete with a frighteningly close lightning show. There was no room to stop on the narrow, curving road and I could see Neda's riding suit getting completely soaked. By the time she could find a straightaway to pull off to put her rainsuit on, she was drenched all the way to the bone.

Even with the communicator off, I could see lots of head-shaking and hear cussing. I already had my rainsuit on, so being being a bit bored I took some pictures...

There are some perfect "I-Told-You-So" moments that happen once in a while. But you know that saying those words out loud just reduces you to a petty and small person, even though every fibre and muscle in your body just wants to yell it out.

So I tapped on my communicator and smugly proclaimed, "Told ya so". Then I turned the communicator off... *kikiki*

At the border, the guard inspects my passport... "Senor Lambert? De New Hampshire...?"
"Si. I am the one who knocks." No wait, that's my engine again...

The Guatemala/El Salvador border crossing is dead easy. Just hand over a few photocopies of your documents and you're through. We've crossed several Central America borders now and we know the process intimately: stamp yourself and your bikes out of one country, stamp yourself and your bikes into the next country. Unfortunately, the Salvadorean Aduana (customs) computer was down and we had to wait to import our bikes in.

This *exact* same thing happened the last time we entered El Salvador 6 months ago! At a different crossing as well! Something tells me this happens all the time... So, we waited four hours for the computer to come back up. Being bored, I took more pictures.

Neda's bike waits patiently. The bridge to Guatemala in the background

Sun sets and we are still waiting like everyone else for the Aduana computers to come back online

Finally, the computers come back up and it's a very short wait to get the bikes imported into the country. I am a bit wary about riding in the dark, mainly because of road conditions and animals, but partly because of security. Our last run through El Salvador had us stopping just outside San Salvador and checking into a skanky "Love Motel". The owner back then told us not to leave the premises after sunset because it was too dangerous.

However, riding through this part of the country, past nice neighbourhoods and lots of people walking on the streets, I got a much better feeling this time through. You always feel safer when there are parents and children walking around past sunset.

Rolled our bikes into the courtyard of our casa

Just 15 kms away from the border, we rolled into the very pretty town of Ahuachapan. We knocked on the doors of a couple of casas and found one not too far from the main plaza.

Plenty of people hanging out in the main plaza in Ahuachapan, as we walk around trying to find dinner

Tuco's Grill

In the morning, we strolled around town. Tuk tuk cruise the streets, mountains of El Salvador in the distance

Not one whole day in town and we found ourselves a favorite restaurant. Had two meals here already!

All the buildings around the main plaza were decorated in these fun murals

Lots of kids and parents/grandparents everywhere in town. It felt like a great family environment, very welcoming

Neda brought up the point that the people here are very friendly. There's always a "Buenos Dias" being exchanged whenever anyone passes each other on the streets. Although the Guatemalans are nice people, they are not overly friendly, and the last time we saw such an open display of welcome towards strangers was in Mexico. It felt really nice.

What a difference from the last time we breezed through this country on the PanAmerican Highway. I am so glad we are taking the time now to experience it properly.

Lunch break in the Parque Centrale

Even the street signs are fun!

These guys look like they are part of the mural, sitting against the fence!
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Old 30 Sep 2013
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It started out as quite a nice day. Neda planned a great day trip out to Lago de Coatepeque, a lake that formed inside a volcanic caldera. It's similar to Crater Lake in Oregon, only not as large. It even has a small island inside the caldera, just like Wizard Island. Only about 45 minutes away, we made sure to leave early to beat the afternoon rains.

Riding the rim of the Caldera, great view of the lake

Stopped for breakfast and to take in the view

There's a small restaurant right at the lip of the volcano looking down into the lake, from there we have a beautiful view. The waiter gave us the menu and we asked what items were available, since we've found that most restaurants we've been to lately only have a limited selection. He answered that everything on the menu was available.

Us: "Do you have the rabbit?”
Him: "No."
Us: "What about the vegetable plate?"
Him: "Let me check.... No."

Had a good laugh over that...

Looking down into Lago de Coatepeque

Next stop this morning was a ride up Cerro Verde, an uphill climb that promised great views at the top

We pulled over a few times to take pictures. However at one stop, half-way up the climb, I turned the key and got the dreaded "EWS" message on my console. "EWS" stands for "Elektronische Wegfahr Sperre" and is a fancy German way of saying "Chu're not going anywhere, mein freund." EWS is an electronic immobilizer, it's an anti-theft control that communicates with the RF chip in your key so that nobody can hotwire your bike.

What do these three things have in common? They all mean "computerfuktyew"...

Unfortunately, there are a few things on the R1200GS that are prone to fail. Headlight bulbs (ongoing), final drive (got that fixed in San Jose), and now the EWS ring sensor that reads the chip in the key. I've read quite a lot about this problem on the online forums. It's gotten bad enough that owners carry a spare ring sensor and replace it right on the road if they ever get stranded. Not me though. Nothing bad will ever happen to me. I'm friggin' Superman...


Getting at the battery to see what can be done

Pollyanna that I am, I am still thinking it might not be a ring sensor failure. Sometimes if the voltage is too low, it can trigger a fault. I flag down a couple of cars to see if maybe I can get a jumpstart from a battery with good voltage.

A family in an old truck pull over and I ask if they have jumper cables. The gentleman's name is Francisco and he replies no, but immediately gets out, pops his hood and starts to remove the battery from his truck *AND* the connecting cables! The cables are to short to reach, so I have to hold the battery while Francisco makes the connections manually, and Neda turns the key and tries to start the bike.

Francisco to the rescue! His family cheers us on.

Nothing. The letters "EWS" stare at me mockingly. I'm stranded. The sky is darkening and it looks like it's going to rain. Great.

We assess the situation. We need to get the bike to a dealership. Can we load it into Francisco's truck? Not 550lbs without a ramp, we can't. Maybe we can call for a tow? We're in the middle of nowhere and San Salvadore is 100kms away, how much is that going to cost?

I get desperate. We put together my bike and because we've ridden uphill for the last 15 minutes, I try bump starting my bike while coasting downhill. There is so much compression from the huge cylinders that I'm locking up the rear wheel in 2nd and 3rd gear. Put it in 4th and then jump on the seat while popping the clutch. The engine wants to turn over, I can hear it, and I get my hopes up. But still nothing.

The EWS is preventing me from bump starting the bike. That's what it's supposed to do - prevent hotwiring, bumpstarting, etc. Academically, I know all of this. Yet I am desperate to try anything. I turn the key off and on, off and on, many times and then... that one time I try.... No EWS. I thumb the starter quickly as if those dreaded three letters will appear if I don't turn the engine over in time (rational thought escapes you in times like these).

The engine starts with a rumble. As if nothing ever happened.

I'm friggin' Superman, bitch.

I ride back uphill and thank Francisco and his family (wife Merced and son Francisco Javier) profusely

Even though all of our collective efforts really didn't do anything, it was the ring sensor that decided to work that one time, I couldn't thank Francisco enough. It's times like these when I get so buoyed by how kind and generous people are. He gave us his telephone number and told us to call him if we needed anything else. I wanted to hug him.

So I did. But in a manly, Latin American way...

Making sure this was the right place before I turned the engine off

With the sky threatening rain, we had to ride to San Salvadore to the dealership before it closed for the day. Fighting though big city traffic, I was conscious not to turn the engine off, stall the bike, and at stops - to put the kickstand up before I kick it out of neutral etc. We pulled into a BMW dealership and I sent Neda in to make sure it was the actual service centre before I turned the bike off. Thankfully we did that, because the actual service was about 7 kms away from the dealership.

The technician at the service centre confirmed my diagnosis. Faulty ring sensor. Unfortunately, they didn't have any in stock and it would take two weeks to order one in. *ARGH!*

"So what I was thinking is that I don't turn the engine off for the rest of the trip.
Just sell me a keyless gas cap and I'll be on my way..."

Rafael, the technician, was surprised that my ring sensor wasn't replaced earlier. Apparently, this was a known issue and there was a recall that replaced the sensor with a newer part that was less prone to failure. I shrugged my shoulders. Never got the call... He told me that he had an old ring sensor that he took off another bike that was still good, but because it was the older part, it might fail: "Maybe tomorrow, maybe three years from now, maybe never?".

He didn't want to install the old part because it was labour-intensive to replace an old part with another old part, since I had to buy and fit the new part somewhere further down the line anyway. So he told me he'd jury-rig something up, however I needed a spare key for this bodge-job. The spare key was back in Ahuachapan, 100 kms away...

So off we go on Neda's bike, 100kms back to Ahuachapan. 100kms back to San Salvadore the next morning.

El Salvadore is a small country. Maybe 300kms end to end. We rode a total of 400kms back and forth to get my bloody spare key....

I had plenty of time to ruminate over how complex these bikes have become. Back in India, I was on my hands and knees fixing that bloody Enfield every single day. But I was able to. I could use anything: sticks, stones, bailing wire to keep that thing going. But now, computers and sensors and chips meant that you could be stranded and not be able to do a damn thing about it until you got that same electronic part replaced.

I thought about all the places we wanted to visit, some nowhere near a BMW dealership. Is it feasible taking a computerized two-wheeler to the remotest places on Earth?

Rafael told me the new R1200GS has 9 computers in it. Suddenly, that POS kick-starter, carbureted Royal Enfield was looking better and better...

Two keys, one ring to rule them all...
One does not simply walk to San Salvadore.

So here's the temporary fix. He unplugged the original ring sensor and plugged it into another ring sensor that he zip-tied to the headstock. Because the new (but old) ring sensor needed to have a chipped key inside the ring, and the original ignition needed a key to turn the bike on, I needed two keys to start the bike. It was like the NORAD missile defense. Two keys to launch the missiles. I knew where I wanted to launch this stupid EWS ring sensor...

Back in business. We thanked Rafael and now we're back on the road, baby!

Timing the weather in a new country is tricky. Still haven't got the hang of it.
Gene - http://www.RideDOT.com
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Old 30 Sep 2013
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You both are amazing!

I came across your blog/travels by chance! "serendipity" at it's finest! The photos! WoW! and the way you write about your trip is PERFECT! It educates me and keeps me so entertained, i can not help but 'tune back in for the next episode' of your lives and what you are doing! especially in the hard times or the 'not so straight-forward' experiences! *grin*'! ....that sense of humor is amazing! It really keeps me coming back for more! Keep on doing what you are doing! thumbs up all the way! Good Luck to you both on your trip! i admire you both and wish you the best! And I can assure you - your Spanish is MUCH better than mine! If I was allowed to ask a question I guess it would be - how do you sustain finacing such an amazing trip ? you dont have to answer that but that is always the question in the back of my mind! I just cant help wondering, how much would you recommend 2 people to take with them on an embark on a journey, like you guys have? Cos I ....."have a dream! " *smile*
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Old 1 Oct 2013
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starmaker - get yourself to a HUBB meeting, all the questions you've thought of and many you haven't even thought of yet would most likely be answered at one of these. At the meeting we attended we met a someone who managed to be on the road for 10k total for an entire year. It really depends on so many factors - how do you like to travel? Nice restaurants/hotels every night or do you plan on camping/couch-surfing/hostels/friends? North America, Europe, Asia, South America all have very different costs. If you can't make a meeting, then you'll find lots of info on this forum. aboard by the way!

@lightcycle - my understanding is that people get rid of gear as they get on with their trip, I think that's the first time I've seen someone double up on stuff. Me thinks you're gonna need a bigger bike...or maybe a small trailer lol.

I actually wanted to ask a gear related question myself. After seeing the rain there and having a very similar ride into work today I am wondering if you guys had to get new riding gear, would you do it differently and get something more waterproof (read Goretex or the like) having experienced what you have, or do you like having better ventilation and throwing on rain gear every time you need to? Careful how you answer, at your pace we should catch up to you before you get out of Central America next winter. Kidding

In fact anything not working for you guys like you expected (bike gear/personal gear/equipment - anything like that) that you wish you could change or have changed (besides the minor hiccup with the bike I mean)?

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Old 1 Oct 2013
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Originally Posted by starmaker777 View Post
how do you sustain finacing such an amazing trip? I just cant help wondering, how much would you recommend 2 people to take with them on an embark on a journey, like you guys have?
That number totally depends on where and how you want to travel, as Mark mentioned in his reply above. However, I know that if you haven't taken a long trip, budgeting is very difficult as you may not know what your tolerance for comfort is over a long stretch. ie. Do you like sleeping in a tent for months on end? Are you okay with grocery-shopping and cooking over a camping stove 2-3 times a day for the long forseeable future?

So here are a couple of great resources right here on HU. The figures in this article seem to jive with what we are experiencing:


However, different members on the HUBB have varying viewpoints on budgeting. Interesting thread here:


As far as financing, we did it the old fashion way - save and sell everything. We've met a lot of other RTW travelers and almost every single one had a different approach. Some rented their house, so they had a bit of income while traveling. Some take out a loan and fund their travels on credit cards. Others found work while on the road, one guy took a job as a mechanic in Colombia, another guy had a web business he was still tending to, some people get (not a lot of) money from selling ads on their blog, others get paid to write travel articles for online or print magazines. I was surprised at how many young Canadians are on the road after working and saving for a year up in the oil fields in northern Alberta.

If there's a will, there's a way, and there doesn't seem to be a right or wrong answer.

Originally Posted by L84toff View Post
I am wondering if you guys had to get new riding gear, would you do it differently and get something more waterproof (read Goretex or the like) having experienced what you have, or do you like having better ventilation and throwing on rain gear every time you need to?

In fact anything not working for you guys like you expected (bike gear/personal gear/equipment - anything like that) that you wish you could change or have changed (besides the minor hiccup with the bike I mean)?
We are very happy with the gear we have. We've done many long trips prior to this big one, and by now we've fine-tuned what we like to wear. I know a lot of the Long Way Round types love the One-Riding-Suit-To-Rule-Them-All (most often it's that blue BMW Rallye suit), but we feel the key to finding comfort in a variety of climates is layering.

A bulky, waterproof suit would have me sweltering in humid 40C conditions, so I wear mesh as a base, protective layer. If the weather gets cold, I have the option of throwing on a sweater underneath and/or the rainsuit on top as a windproof layer. In extreme cold (like -15C in the Arctic), we wear the Gerbings liner under the mesh. We're in no rush, so stopping to put on layers is not a concern to us. Being very comfortable in the present condition trumps being mildly uncomfortable in all conditions.

As far as things working/not working - I'm not happy with the weight distribution on my bike. It makes the front end very floaty and I don't have a lot of confidence in front wheel grip on twisty roads. The biggest culprit is the topcase, which puts weight high up and behind the rear axle. When we do day-trips and I ditch the Givi, the bike feels a lot better. I do leave it empty most of the time, but the case itself is fairly heavy. It is so handy putting groceries in there and storing gear when we're hiking or walking around, that I'm debating whether to give up the security vs handling.

I've looked at solutions like the PacSafe mesh, but it's such a PITA to put on and take off daily that everyone I know that's bought one has sold them later on down the road.
Gene - http://www.RideDOT.com
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Old 1 Oct 2013
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Thank you!

Thank you for the warm welcome Mark and the speedy reply Lightcycle! - i really appreciate it! Thank you for your help! I will definitely look into everything you both suggested!

I know the question is like asking 'what's the weather going to be like today?" or "how long is a piece of string!" It's hard to pin-point a "one size fits all" pricetag on a trip like this! I am thinking camping and cooking type of trip for alot of it, to keep the budget as low as possible so we can go for as long as possible!

Myself and my husband would like to visit all 50 states, sell up and give up the jobs and get on the road! In about 4 years from now! So we are just at the planning stage at the moment!

I was too scared to visit Mexico in our plan (because of the negative news, about druglords and criminals!- mind you what news ISN'T negative these days?)

Once i started following YOUR journey, I felt amazed by all the wonderful experiences you both have had! You have put a smile on my face and wonderment in my heart! Now i too, want to visit some of the towns and cities that you have shown to me! I'm not scared anymore! *smile* I'm excited!

Now, I feel like I have 'interrupted this show for some commercials' by asking my questions! So I will now, read up on the advice you have both given me! And allow your wonderful journey to continue! Looking forward to the next installment! Thanks for everything! Good luck and if you ever head towards florida - let me know! Would be very happy to offer you a room for the night! *smile*

Have fun!
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Old 2 Oct 2013
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starmaker you've definitely come to the right place to get info on the subject that's for sure, there is plenty here to get you started. I find the HU community to be the most global of all forums I'm on. I know I've already suggested The HUBB meeting but it really was invaluable to us, it was just inspiring to have met so many cool people who have done what we are about to embark on and the amount of first hand information was just amazing.

I also appreciate the quick response Gene. We've been looking to replace our riding gear for a bit and I've gone full circle a couple of times now starting with mesh to something like a Sand2 to Klim. And since we're planning on a similar route to you I was curious what worked well for you in all those climates. I definitely see the benefit to a mesh set up and just layering, in fact that's what has worked for me most of this year during our trips. A huge concern for us is to do with space as we're going 2up. We've also been tossing around the Pacsafe idea, so that's good to read.

Not trying to steal the show but we're both super stoked now that our condo just sold. We do have to find somewhere to live for a few months over the winter and plan on heading out middle of May. I've been struggling with work recently and was considering quitting a bit early so it was quite funny when the boss called me in to the office and offered me a promotion - perfect way to end my career I think. Just had to share that, I have a feeling you know how exciting all that is.

Although I've enjoyed your blog long before your RTW, this is definitely one of my most favourite ones to read and has only helped to inspire us. Thanks.

Anyway, back to the regularly scheduled programming...
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Old 3 Oct 2013
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Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/113.html

Just a quick update: After a very eventful couple of days, we're travelling 35 kms south of Ahuchapan on the very scenic and windy Ruta de las Flores, which flows past a few picturesque towns in the heart of El Salvador's coffee crop region. Thankfully, very little drama - the weather was clear and the two-key hack job was working thus far!

Stopping for a scenic break beside a fruit vendor at the side of the road

Riding around Ataco, one of the towns on the Ruta de las Flores

Arrived in Juayua, our overnight destination

Neda forgot to copy the hostel's address from the laptop to her iPhone...
RideDOT.com is environmentally friendly - we're paperless!

Parque Centrale in Juayua

The reason why we're staying one night in Juayua is because Neda read that there was a Gastronomical Festival every weekend in town. Seeing how I am trying to lose weight, she thinks this would be a great event to attend. I trick myself into mishearing that we are attending an Astronomical Conference. I always wanted to be an astronaut!

Not the astronomical festival - just a market.

The Astronomical Festival is a couple of long rows of makeshift kitchens and grills representing different restaurants and storefronts in the city. We're told that there are over 100 different places where you can sample the local cuisine. Most of the grills just serve the Salvadorean mainstay - a side of grilled beef and a sausage with some veggies on the side.

Billions and billions of years ago, the Earth was created from a great ball of fire

Mouth-watering presentation! Vendors offer window-shoppers a taste of their dishes on toothpicks

This is what we settled on - battered shrimp, baked potatoes and a side of grilled beef. Delicious!

After lunch, we visited La Iglesia de Santa Lucia, right on the main plaza

Santa Lucia is known for its large statue of Cristo Negro (Black Christ)

I'm not sure why this Christ is black, but I suspect it has something to do with a Madonna video. Did I mention the Astronomical Festival is sponsored by Pepsi?

Deep in prayer at La Iglesia de Santa Lucia
Gene - http://www.RideDOT.com
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cuba, rtw, visit

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