- 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.
Peru Part Deux: Huarascan to Yungay
Dusty, tired, and hungry we arrived into Yungay, a small town just below Huarascan National Park. First order of business was to top off gas and oil. Our bikes aren’t spring chickens, we have a couple oil drinkers in the mix.
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.
We left Oaxaca all feeling that Mexico was becoming our home away from home. The people we’d met up to this point had already changed our perceptions formed over the years from straight-uphearsay.
From Oaxaca we decided to tackle the journey to the state of Chiapas which covers the majority of southern Mexico. Ultimately our goal was to make it to Palenque, a town in Chiapas known for containing a wealth of beauty that’d be difficult to match, but on this day our destination was Tuxtla Gutierrez (state capital).
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.