- Costa Rica
- El Salvador
- S.E. Asia
- San Blas
- south america
Sitting on a well-worn patent leather couch I received an urgent message from Pat. He needed to speak right away.After riding through Bolivia together, we’d decided to split up for a little while as Pat wanted to make it to Ushuaia and I wanted to take my time in Chile and visit with my sister.Listening to the beep, beep, beep of Facebook messengers phone app, scenarios played out in my head…..
The border to Santiago:
Reaching Chile felt as thouh we had fought to escape the tight grip Bolivia had on us. We’re not the only ones. Almost all of the travelers we’ve met or know through the grapevine have had issues whether it be with the people or untimely mechanical failure. When we saw the three small mobile homes next to the gate at Ollangue, we knew we were finally on our way out. Getting stamped out was quick but the guy who would deal with getting our bikes out was nowhere to be found…and then awhile later he appeared.
As directed the night before, we arrived to the border at 8am. Were they ready for us? Of course not. But don’t worry, the gentleman politely asked for a bribe in order to speed things up. A fine and upstanding civil servant. Minutes later we rode across the imaginary line into another country, Bolivia. They welcomed us with a $160 entrance fee, lots of extra forms, and a requirement to submit a detailed itinerary printed out. That meant finding nearby internet and printing, conveniently located next door. After a hot photo session with immigration, we were on our way to Copacabana.
The border to Canyon del Pato
We approached two small buildings on the Ecuador side of the border and saw no movement inside. Cautiously the five of us yelled in “Hola” and began to hear rumblings. A soldier came out followed five or so minutes later by a man that had clearly just woken up. They called another guy on the phone to let him know that five motorcyclists were crossing the border, there was work to do.
Ecuador, all of it.
I made good time from La Concha to the border, just under 2 hours. As usual the border seemed to really creep up on me. All of a sudden a building is in the middle of the road and Im pondering if I should stop. I pulled off to the left and parked as a couple guys began to walk towards me. I assumed they were the typical pushers but this time, I assumed wrong. I made sure everything lockable was locked and begrudgingly walked away from my bike, hoping everything would be there upon my return.
Guatape to the border
With Medellin to our backs, Matt and I snaked our way through the early morning traffic to escape the grip of that awesome city. Guatape wasnt far, but with our final destination being Bogota, we needed an early start and a quick pace.
The twisty road from the highway led us to the town of Guatape by 9am, just in time for delicious and massive breakfast. We even shared a smoothie, how cute of us.
The Darrian Gap Crossing
Sasha carried us to shore where our first contact with Colombia was on the least sturdy dock I’d ever seen. Olaf, Hans, Anita, Matt and I parted ways with explicit instructions to return the following day for paperwork. Shortly into our walk to the hostel, Captain Ludwig passed by hilariously on a small scooter.
The Captain of the Stahlratte, Ludwig.
There we were, fourteen confused motorcyclists amassed at what we assumed was the dock for our departure to the beautiful San Blas Islands and eventually Cartagena, Colombia. After a fairly early departure out of Panama City and running on the last fumes of a solitary granola bar, I opted to try the local beachside cafeteria. I desperately needed a cold drink and to escape the confused banter of the crowd. Where else can you sit beachside on exclusive Kuna Yala land, eat mystery meat and cold plantains? Was it delicious? No. Did it make a turd? Yes.
I emerged from my hammock as the sun rose. In an effort to get an early start I packed up camp quickly and made my way over to Arena y Sol for breakfast before a long day. Enforcing stereotypes, I ordered “The American Breakfast” which was exactly what I needed. I spent most of the meal talking to a family from Canada who was traveling for months, I was impressed and surprised that they traveled with four small children. Truthfully taveling with childrenseemed like what I’d envision hell to look like but they seemed very happy. Different strokes I suppose.
As we rode out from San Juan del Sur towards the border, I hear Matt over the headset “this kind of reminds me of the roads near home” to which I responded “unless you look directly left” in reference to Ometepe, the island volcano. Matt was right though, the southern part of Nicaragua was a lush green, with vegetation and roadways that did have a feel of rural NJ, oddly enough. The border arrived quickly, creeping up on us despite our knowledge that it was only an hour out. As usual it was immediately apparent by the large number of trucks blocking the road. Once past we made our way to a large building with a very poorly organized parking area. Trucks, buses, cars, bikes, and masses of people spread throughout. We needed to find a police officer and a border agent to inspect our motorcycles prior to exit. In addition to this we also needed to complete all of our exit paperwork and stampings. The difficulty level of finding a police officer, of which there were very few, and timing it properly with the border agent was high. Once complete we ate some plantain chips, chatted with some curious bystanders, and made our way over the border to begin the longer part of the process.
We arrived at the Honduras/Nicaragua border mid afternoon, our second border of the day with a total of three hours spent in the motorists-hell that is Honduras. As with every border, the first order of business was to ward off the barrage of pushers who view adventure bikes as a sure thing. Not today kind sirs, we’re border experts with a willingness to suffer through bullshit.
Guatemala City to Honduras
With Guatemala City fading away in our shaky sideview mirrors, we continued south for the El Salvador border, a place we were almost entirely unfamiliar with. As the boarder crept up on us we were stopped by the money changers who wanted our Quetzales in exchange for US dollars. This took us for a surprise since we expected a foreign currency, the Colon. Over headset we discussed the exchange rate and then ensured we were all getting a fairish deal, it’s almost laughable how low they start out. It makes me wonder how big of suckers some people are or if they’re just too intimidated to negotiate the onslaught of changers. Once this transaction was done they wanted to receive money to scrape off our Guatemala permit stickers, we did not oblige.
Xela Guatemala to Guatemala City
Leaving Xela, the route to Antigua is a relatively straight shot. Now as we’ve established by this point, distance and time do not usually correlate as were accustomed to in the US. GPS & Google Maps estimates dont account for the generally horrific road conditions, closures, intense traffic, countless road dogs, or whatever other random things slow down the journey. However, our ride on this day was nearly effortless. The road was like a wet spaghetti noodle but the actual condition of it was nearly perfect. We were able to glide through each turn with increasing speed, it felt good. It was impressive to watch the chicken buses navigate the curves at velocities significantly higher than Blue Bird would recommend. As wed overtake them on the inside curve, it wasn’t uncommon to hear their tires screech, as thick black smoke billowed out. An hour out from Antigua, we stopped at a Mirador or lookout point above Lago Atitlan, claimed to be the most beautiful lake in the world. We snapped a few pictures of the lake surrounded by huge volcanoes. This is one of those places that pictures simply cannot capture.
DF to Oaxaca
Still slightly in awe at the alpine metropolis melting pot that is Mexico City and feeling mildly sleepy from being awoken by my drunken comrades at 3am, i chug coffee as we prepare our afternoon departure. With our bellies full we enter one last time into the automotive chaos that is DF. The fun wears off slightly as it takes more than an hour to escape the city limits in route to Oaxaca.
Mazatlan to Distrito Federal
The sun reflected off of the painted deck of the Baja Ferry, making the job of packing our belongings onto our bikes arduous. The cars just feet from us exited briskly, having foregone the task of strapping their vehicles down the day before. Once unstrapped and loaded we rode down the three levels to solid ground below. We had made it to Mexico, officially.
San Juanico to Mazatlan
After much needed relaxation in San Juanico, it was time to hit the road again. Heading out of town we were totally astonished to see a beautiful paved road…I guess you don’t have to pass through tarantulas dens, and goat farms to get there.Rather than taking the completely ridiculous trail utilized two days prior, we opted to take the pavement south. As we had become accustomed to, the pavement was riddled with desviacions or detours. These detours were usually places where the pavement had been washed away and they ranged from quick/easy to challenging. One day Baja will utilize culverts to divert water under their roadways, but that surely hasnt happened yet.
San Ignacio to San Juanico, Baja Sur
We left San Ignacio relatively refreshed after two nights at Rice and Beans Hotel. I use the word relatively because while Rice and Beans was decent, it’s an inexpensive Baja hotel and thus the amenities were not quite like home. My temporary clutch fix of 10 additional washers appeared to be working and with my parts ordered, I was feeling a bit more at ease.
San Diego, CA to San Ignacio, Baja
When you head out on an adventure sometimes things go as planned, sometimes they are easy and sometimes they are hard. And well, sometimes things just get delayed. This weeks post is about exactly that, delays.
Our second week on the road and the good times have continued. We started the trip at a pace that would have quickly worn us ragged. Our time was spent immersing ourselves in the rugged landscape of the South West, some of us even fighting it at times. As we’ve slowed down our focus has shifted from the looming monuments in the distance to people who inhabit these landscapes.
Moab treated us to our first collective hostel experience. While shedding some weight and gearing up to hit the White Rim Trail we had the good fortune to meet a most excellent couple from the UK. Ed and Rachel have been traveling on their Honda C90’s for over 14 months in North America and are currently finishing up the Trans American Trail. Meeting them was a truly humbling experience. They share the same Argentinian end goal but as Ed stated, “If you see us again, something has gone terribly wrong with your trip.”
Check out there site: http://wanderonahonda.co.uk/
On our way out of Moab, Neal’s keen love for food steered us well yet again. Although known for their pastries it was breakfast burritos all around at Love Muffin. Pat did indulge in a blueberry bacon muffin, which going off the expression on his face seemed nothing short of a mild sexual experience. We headed south to Arizona via Monument valley which was truly incredible. The unfamiliar landscape made it difficult to focus on the road but we eventually arrived safely in Flagstaff, Arizona to visit Matt’s friends, the amazing Seth & Kande.
Seth and Kande operate an overland expedition company called ADVENTURE DRIVEN.They focus on excursions to both the Grand Canyon and Baja. They graciously took us in and immediately the nerdy motorcycle banter began. We barely had our boots off before Seth’s kitchen exploded with maps of Baja, Mexico. The beta session quickly sidetracked from intel and route planning to stories and gear. Finally unable to formulate sentences, we needed to refuel with our proven dietary choice….more burritos.
The sobering morning cleared our brains of the cobwebs left by tortillas and cervezas. We finally hit the books and planned a route to include amazing beachside campsites, neat towns, and great eats. We spent a little while tooling around Seth’s favorite room in his house, his immaculately kept garage. Unable to resist another night of amazing motorcycle nerdom, we crashed yet again and set out early the next morning.
From Flagstaff it was onward to Las Vegas. This stop was strictly business, we had zero intention of having a “Vegas experience.” I (Patrick) will be starting a firearm manufacturing company when I return home and had set up a meeting with the legendary, Bob Irwin of The Gun Store.
I walked into the shop, decked out in sandals, the latest in vagrant hiker attire, and cordially asked for Bob. After a few head turns I was directed to Bob’s assistant who kindly paged him and allowed me into his office. From there on it was a stream of non-stop conversation for three hours. I was given a tour, saw the guns Bob designed, and ultimately learned a great deal. I hope our paths cross again after this trip.
The gang reconvened for dinner at an unassuming Korean-Mexican fusion place, on the outskirts of Vegas. It was a hidden oasis, buried in the vast wastelands of strip malls baking in the desert heat. Aptly named Ko-Mex, it was freaking incredible. With our bellies full and our eyes tired from the constant raping of pulsing lights we set out to the Mojave desert.
After one last seizure inducing stop for gas we left the mind numbing landscape of Nevada and entered a Dr. Suess like landscape ]of California’s Mojave desert. After a bit of searching and avoiding the suicidal kangaroo rats, we stumbled upon a war memorial which past travelers had camped near. While setting up the tent, we attempted to hide from an approaching vehicle. We cut our headlamps, but failed to realize our ultra reflective TRON suits could be seen from space in the desert darkness. After watching the vehicle fumble through the surrounding jeep trails, it eventually turned and stopped directly next to us. Blinded by their headlights, a figure exited and a soft feminine voice inquired “Hey can we camp near you guys?”After agreeing neither of us were serial killers, we decided they could camp.
Around 2am we were woken up by howls, screeches and chirps. Hyena, chupacabra, jersey devil? Nope, just a pack of coyotes celebrating a kill. We awoke to a beautiful morning and realized there was bouldering nearby. Tim and Pat donned their shoes and got a bit of climbing in.
After a late morning start we hit the road for our last stop in the US, Fallbrook, CA. An advrider.com member named Carl reached out to me a month ago offered us a place to stay and ship necessary parts. I accepted his offer but I’m sure Carl was second guessing it when the mountain of tires and parts arrived at his door.
The road to Carl’s house was curvy and fun but we took it slow, precious fresh California IPAs were aboard. Not a drop was harmed. We were greeted by the entire Hixon gang, Carl, his wife BJ, their two dogs Duke and Remmy, and their feline companions Ranger and Abby. They immediately got us settled into their beautiful home and treated us to excellent carne asada tacos. Two friends, Matt and Zoma, joined and we all had a great night of stories and jokes. I sort of felt like a real adult for a little bit. Ultimately BJ’s chocolate chip cookies stole the show, or was it the chocolate chip pancakes in the morning?
Sunday was not a day of rest for us. We left Philly on old chains, sprockets, and tires so these all had to be replaced. Now this would normally be a lot of work but it was made even more tedious when we realized Matt’s counter sprocket was torqued to infinity and held a healthy dose of red Loctite. Ultimately a combination of Tim’s “MacGuyver-ness” and Matt’s ogre strength broke it free while I changed the tires. 7:30 rolled around and we were treated to another fantastic home-cooked meal. Just a bit more preparation is needed before we cross the boarder.
After another week of of wind blistered faces, and everchanging surroundings, I am truely humbled by the vast generousity, kindness and selflessness we have encountered by the amazing people we have met on this trip. We are only two weeks in and my faith in humanity is slowly being restored. While I am excited to see what beautiful terrain lies ahead, I am realizing that it is in the hearts and smiles of those who we meet along the way which will leave the mostly lasting mark on our collective memory.