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South America 24: Day 22

Starting new post after 3 weeks.

Go back to posts covering days 1 to 21

I rode Ruta 5 south from Talca through Los Angeles to Victoria where I took a small road to Caracautin.  Ruta 5 is a great road to cover distances in short time with a speed limit of 120 km/h.  At some stretches the limit is reduced to 100 km/h but no one seems to lower their speed.  It’s a toll road and at regular, but large, intervals you need to get off the highway and go through the “Manual” payment gates and for a motorcycle the charges are not very expensive, for the 350 km I paid roughly the equivalent of 5 usd.  Ruta 181 from Victoria is a scenic road going through a very hilly landscape and as I get closer to Curacautin I see several volcanoes towering over the landscape in the distance. Amazing! And the first scenic moments I’ve had on the trip!

My progress so far:

As I walk around this and other towns I can’t help but notice streets and areas with the name “O’Higgins”.  This doesn’t sound very Chilean or even Spanish so who was this man?  It turns out that he  is considered the father of independent Chile.  He had Irish and Spanish ancestry  and he was instrumental in freeing Chile from Spain in the early 1800s.

O’Higgins

I walked to the central plaza of the town and found the tourist bureau and had a chat with one of the guys. He told me there are 4 volcanoes in the vicinity of the town and that there are ski lifts at two of them.  They have little snow in the town but 12 meters (!) at the volcanoes in the winter.  The Llaima is the 2nd biggest volcano in Chile and it last had an eruption in 2009.

I first had thoughts of riding to the Laima volcano which is about 30 kms away from the town but after thinking of the hassle of gearing up I decided to take a taxi to a nearer waterfall, “Salto del indio”.  I got an “uncle”, as they say in Singapore, to drive me there and wait for me to walk to the waterfall and back and return me to the town.  It’s a really nice waterfall and well worth the trip.

 

 

 

Day 24: Pucon

Rode on a beautiful local road that led to Ruta 5, along here for a while and then off towards Villarica and Pucon.  The two towns are located on the south side of lago Villarica and to the north of Chile’s most active volcano, Villarica. It’s holiday season in Chile and this is a big tourist area with queues of cars and very slow going.  I was behind a police car with flashing green lights between Villarica and Pucon, very irritating,  Not sure why they had the flashing lights on the whole time – but I guess to calm the traffic with noone doing any overtakes for the whole stretch.  I found my hostal, a big house with many bedrooms sharing two bathrooms.  Not ideal.  But with a comfortable bed and that’s the most important.  An American guy from San Fransisco was staying there and we had a long chat about the state of US politics…. He worked as a bartender for a year to save up money for a year’s trip in South America after finishing his degree.

For dinner I walked up the road to a modern restaurant playing loud music and showing various sports on large videoscreens.  What is the Chilean typical type of food?  Empanadas, of Churasco style beef?  No, it’s italian! Every other restaurant is Italian and they’re all serving pizza.  And the pizza I had was really nice and huge.

After a good night’s sleep it’s time to evaluate the day’s options.  Should I stay in Pucon another day and wait for the volcano to be vivisible?  Unfortunately, it’s cloudy and I can’t see anything of it and the weather prognosis is not good for a clear sky, so I decide to ride eastwards and cross into Argentina.  After the usual ineffective and annoying packing of my stuff I set off.  As I get closer to the border the road goes steeply uphill and suddenly the volcano on the border becomes visible.  The sight is absolutely amazing.

Lanin volcano

 

The border crossing is fairly staight forward with return of Chilean temporary import permit and issuance of new for Argentina.  Still takes about an hour.  The road on the Chilean side was fantastic but as soon as I get into Argentina the road condition is awful, very bumpy gravel road where it definitively feels like the fillings are going to fall out of the teeth.  This lasts for 10km or so and then glorious asphalt all the way to Ruta 40 and then onto to San Martin de los Andes where I’m staying for the night.

I passed a petrol station on Ruta 40 with queues not too long.  I have seen youtube videos with km long petrol queues in this area so I thought I’d better fill up while I can.  So I joined the que and had some left over pizza while I was waiting, it took 20 mins to get to the front of the queu and get my fuel.  Didn’t mind much having a break with some food while waiting.  I met a couple on a bike where the guy had spent 5 years going around the world on a Yamaha Tenere 660, he would park his bike for 6 months somewhere and do someting else and return and continue his travels.  That’s one way of traveling but I don’t think I could do it that way, especially if the travel to and fro is 35 hours and time difference of 11 hours. That’s a killer and a recipe for contracting Covid 🙁

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scandinavia

I spend some time in Sweden in the summers and I’ve done a several rides in the area.

Skalstugan and old Fröå mine

Skalstugan

 

I made a day ride to Skalstugan close to the Norwegian border and then returned via Fröå gruva, an old copper mine mined 2-300 years ago, where I had a very nice lunch and then back to Duved.

Read more!

 

 

 

Lofoten

I have read and heard about the natural beauty of Lofoten in the north of Norway. Beautiful scenery and quaint fishing villages as well as a beautiful road snaking itself between the islands of Lofoten over bridges and trough tunnels.

 

Read More

Western USA 4600 mile roundtrip

I found a blog on the internet by a group who did a round trip in the western USA   with a route that  includes many interesting and scenic places. This inspired me to plan for and make my first long trip on the motorcycle in the USA. 

July 1 2016. Missouri City to Lubbock 520 miles

The route today will take me to Texas 36 which takes me up to Abilene, then along I-20 and finally on US-84 to Lubbock.  Texas is a big state and the first day will be a long ride. 

The wife and baby got up early to see me off and then I was on my way.

I stopped for a water break at Comanche. When I was a kid you knew about some of the different Indian tribes from TV wild-west shows and the  Comanche tribe was one of them. So quite special to stop here for a short while to refuel the body.  It’s July in Texas so the temperature is bound to get high and today is no exception.

After lunch in Abilene I made it to Lubbock around 5pm, so the first day is completed!  It was pretty hard work with temperatures reaching 36C (97F).  Also, the scenery in the parts of Texas I traveled through is not the most interesting…  On the road from Abilene there are many wind-turbines as well as donkey-head oil pumps so wind above ground and oil below ground. 

I had dinner at an Appleby’s close to the hotel. After a nice chicken meal with a Margarita I felt much better but still wondering what I had got myself into. Maybe, I was dehydrated after the long ride, but I didn’t really feel too optimistic about spending another 16 days away from home on my own.

Lubbock to Fort Sumner 273 miles

Early morning setting off after some freshly made waffles with coffee. I slept from 2030 to close to 0600, soo tired after the first day of riding. Well, today was not nearly as far as the first day and with some nice scenery along the way so should be pretty good.

The map shows I will first be traveling north to Palo Duro Canyon state park on I27 and then on to US60 which I will be on for the next few days.

 

Hotel manager.

The Palo Duro canyon Texas state park is the 2nd biggest canyon in the US, of course, after the Grand Canyon! It’s located in the Texas pan-handle and close to Amarillo.  After an early morning easy ride north from Lubbock on I-27 I entered the park.  It clearly is a huge canyon 120 miles long and 5-6 miles wide with an average depth of 250m.  There is a road from the top leading down to the base and I rode along this.  I was getting low on fuel and didn’t want to risk running out so I turned back before getting to the end.

 

 

Fort Sumner

After refueling I set off along US 60 towards the west and Fort Sumner.  It’s a straight dual carriage highway and with few cars which made for easy but not very exciting riding and I reached the town early afternoon.  Fort Sumner is pretty bleak place in the middle of nowhere. However, it’s the town where Billy the Kid is buried. So, of course, there is a museum to celebrate the outlaw.   So I went to the museum – right next door to the motel, and learnt a bit more about the kid. He was only 21 when he died and, maybe, he wasn’t all bad.  His father died when he was young and his mother when he was 15 and he started his criminal career soon after.  After 6 years of criminal activities he was captured by sheriff Pat Garret and was sentenced to be hanged.  He escaped and came to Fort Sumner where he was found and shot by Sheriff Garret.

There was also a collection of old cars, tractors and wagons  in the museum so and I snapped some pics of them.

Later on I went to the burial site of the kid a few miles from the town.

I thought I’d find a local restaurant for dinner but couldn’t find anything open so luckily I found a supermarket and bought a microwave dinner. It wasn’t fantastic but eatable…

Well kept or restored 1950’s car. No idea which make or model.

  

 

 

Billy the kid with his gun.

July 3,  Fort Sumner to Springerville – 342 miles

 

I got away early at 0630 , a nice and cool start of the day!  Beautiful weather, hardly a cloud in the sky so should be another fantastic day in the saddle!

Stopped here for first break of the day. You could clearly see people had used the plaque for target shooting so it was now unreadable…

 

Later on I stopped to admire the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) which is a radio astronomy observatory located on the Plains of San Agustin, between the towns of Magdalena and Datil, some 50 miles (80 km) west of Socorro, New Mexico. It comprises 27 25-meter radio telescopes in a Y-shaped array and all the equipment, instrumentation, and computing power to function as an interferometer.  Each of the massive telescopes is mounted on double parallel railroad tracks, so the radius and density of the array can be transformed to focus on particular bands of wavelength.  Astronomers using the VLA have made key observations of black holes and discovered magnetic filaments and traced complex gas motions at the Milky Way’s center, probed the Universe’s cosmological parameters, and provided new knowledge about the physical mechanisms that produce radio emission. 

It is also the setting for scenes in Contact, a 1997 science fiction movie starring Jodi Foster and Matthew McConaughey.

 

 

Vaughn, New Mexico.

Before hitting Pie Town I passed by the continental divide so waterways further west will drain into the Pacific.

Pie Town

The name comes from an early bakery that specialized in dried-apple pies and was established in the early 1920s. It is to this day the location of several establishments serving mouth wateringly new baked pies.  Of course, I had to have one with a dollop of ice-cream.   Very delicious!

  

Springerville

I stopped here for the day after  330 miles today in pleasant temperatures. The town is called Springerville which is located at an altitude of 2100m and I found a room at Reeds lodge, a rustic kinda place.  Because of the 4th of July holidays and the proximity to Phoenix  and Tucson, it was not easy to find a room so I had to settle for a smoking room 🙁  however,  they ran an ionizer to reduce the smell of smoke and it worked pretty well.

I had dinner at a restaurant which John Wayne with his ranch hands used to frequent in the 60’s. Apparently he owned several ranches in the area.

After the in room chicken microwave yesterday today’s rib-eye tasted exceptionally well. The waitress poured me a very generous glass of red wine so dinner was very good.

Since Arizona decided not to have daylight savings I’m now two hours behind Texas time.

Springerville is at such a high altitude that the temperature is much lower than in the big cities of Tucson and Phoenix and consequently people of those cities low to come here to cool down, that’s why it’s difficult to find a room, especially at extended weekends such as the 4th of July.

Reeds lodge interior.

Very traditional looking diner in Springerville.

Missouri CIty - Lubbock - Fort Sumner to Springerville.

Missouri CIty – Lubbock – Fort Sumner to Springerville

Springerville to Payson 231 miles

Had a very early start at 0600 and rode to Ft Apache. The road crossed some high hills and at one stage the elevation was more than 2700m and with a temperature of 10C it felt rather cold.

After an hour or so the road was descending and had some very nice sweeping turns and in the middle of a turn I met a police car, in the mirror I saw him quickly turning around and putting his lights and sirens on and I knew he was coming after me!  I stopped before he caught me up in a parking space along the road and sure enough he stopped right behind me.  After coming out of his Ford explorer the cop said I was doing 75 in a 55 zone.   He turned out to be a nice chap and after checking license and insurance he lowered my speed to less than 65mph and gave me a ticket for wasting energy by going to fast! But no points on my license… He was a great guy and we then had a chat about the area which turned out to be Indian land.  So, not fun with a ticket but it could have been a lot worse 🙂

After this I rode a bit slower and soon reached Fort Apache.  This used to be a military fort and played an important part in the indian wars in the late 19th century but was converted into a Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school after its military use ended.  I spent a bit of time here trying to picture in my mind indian wars from the many Wild West movies I’ve seen.

Not far from Fort Apache I stopped at the Kinishba ruins.  Estimates suggest the buildings were built and occupied from the 12th to 14th centuries as part of the ancient population boom within the Mogollon Rim region and beyond. Centralized in the lush mountains of the Mt. Baldy watershed, the area has been linked to both Mogollon and Anazazi cultures. They were considered part of the western Pueblo complex.

There you go, the benefit of having Wikipedia handy!

Tonto national monument

The Tonto National Monument provides a place to explore and learn about a unique part of America’s heritage.  Wikipedia states; “The Salado Phenomena, 700 years ago, blended ideas of neighboring Native American cultures to emerge a unique and vibrant society. Tonto National Monument showcases two Salado-style cliff dwellings. Colorful pottery, woven cotton cloth, and other artifacts tell a story of people living and using resources from the northern Sonoran Desert from 1250 to 1450 CE. ”

To see the cave dwellings required a steep walk and in the 38C temperature I decided I would be happy with a photograph!

   

 

It’s a beautiful area with desert like terrain meeting a lake, very picturesque!

 

I saw the cactus in the picture along the road, it’s absolutely enormous! It’s a tree looking cactus called the Saguaro and it can grow to 12m height and 150-200 years age!  Amazing!

Payson Arizona

I reached Payson late afternoon and checked in to Quality Inn.

The day started with cool temperature of 15C going down to 10C at the summit of 2700m. The trip then gradually came down to lower elevations with increasing temperatures and the reading on the bike showed 40C for some time.

The roads where the best so far on the trip for a bike, quite a few twisties, mainly sweepers but also some sharp corners when riding across the Salt River Canyon which also had some spectacular views, see photos.

Being caught for speeding put a damper on the day but the cop was nice and the fine only $67.50 with no points on the licence, so could have been a lot worse. However, going at 55mph on a good road is not much fun on a motorcycle, particularly if there are some nice long sweepers:-( I was going to ask the cop if I could take a photo of him but thought it might not be apropriate. It seems speed limits in New Mexico and Arizona are lower in general than Texas. I was riding on a minor road leading to the Duro Canyon and the speed-limit was 75mph! OK, that actually seemed too fast for the fairly narrow road…

The Quality inn hotel was very nice with a huge room and s small pool. Had Mexican Fajitas for dinner – also pretty tasty.

Payson to Cameron 236 miles

Today’s route should be exciting going along US 89A to Jerome which is a twisty road going up and down a mountainous area then to the beautiful area at Sedona before going on towards Flagstaff and then west of Grand Canyon to the Cameron trading post.

Stopped for breakfast at Starbucks, latté and an almond croissant. Enjoyed some wonderful riding this morning along US 87 and Arizona 260. A lot of flowing sweepers and no cars!
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stopped in Jerome, an old mining town after first riding along 89a, amazing road with supposedly 127 turns! Almost as good as Stelvio – or maybe not, but very nice.  Jerome used to mine copper until the 1950s. In the 20s it had a population of 15000 but after the copper boom was over the population dwindled to some 50 people in the late 50s! Stopped in the bar for a drink.

Stopped for a long time for road works.

 

 

 
 
 
 

Interesting bar in Jerome.

Red rock formations around Sedona.

Red rock formations around Sedona.

Stopped to admire the vie at Oak Creek Canyon scenic overlook. I just came up that road - very nice!

Stopped to admire the view at Oak Creek Canyon scenic overlook. I just came up that road – very nice!

 

Cameron Trading post.  West of Grand Canyon

Checked in at Cameron trading post. Seems like a really nice place in the middle of nowhere. The good thing is that it’s only 30 miles east of Grand Canyon. Today saw some great scenery and some great riding. I started early at 0630 on Arizona 260 with many great sweepers and very few cars. The road came up as high as 2100m and then down to 1200m where it joined I-27. After a few miles south on I-27 Arizona 169 led to US89A that went up the pass and then down again to Jerome. It supposedly has 127 turns during a 12 mile stretch. I stopped in Jerome for some refreshments and enjoing the old copper mining town. I then came back on US89A towards Flagstaff and passed through Sedona in the red rock country, very beautiful and dramatic red rock formations. The road followed Oak creek and again climbed through many turns up the side of the creek before eventually leading to Flagstaff. I did not stop there but went straight on to Cameron. The last bit of the road was straight but heavy cross-winds made the riding somewhat hard work. Cameron is in Navajo reservation land and most of the staff at the trading post appear to be Indians. Interesting. I’m staying here for two nights with a round trip to Grand Canyon tomorrow. I’m really looking forward to seeing the magnificent natural wonder again, it’s the third time I see it but it’s something you can come back to again and again.
 
 

Grand Canyon

I reached Grand Canyon by 0700 and got the beautiful morning light and a nice cool breeze welcoming me. Coming in from the east there are many vistas where to admire the view with the first one being desert view where there’s also a tower built in an old style. The views are breathtaking but as you go along to see more and more different views you do, perhaps, get saturated?  It’s difficult to find a place to have breakfast but finally I found a place. It’s funny – I can see 3 blocks with restrooms but nowhere to eat – what’s the logic in that?

Walked 4 km along the rim to the El Tovar hotel digesting the overwhelming views as I walked along. Will such experiences change your outlook on life? Haha, that’s too deep for me to answer.   After another coffee in the hotel I’ll walk to the Bright Angel trail head, the name comes from a cambrian shale which is part of the Grand Canyon section.  I did walk to the trail and walked down it for 10 minutes or so and then back up. I was afraid to use too much energy since I had to ride back to the hotel in Cameron which turned out to be 50 miles. Or, maybe I was just lazy?  I now felt I’d had enough of GC after spending 6 hours there and decided to go back to the hotel in Cameron.

July 7, 2016.  Cameron trading post to Panguitch 230 miles

Standing on the old bridge crossing the Colorado river 100m below. Beautiful bridge and amazing scenery. I got up at 0530 , as usual, and had a proper breakfast before setting off going north on us 89 and then turning on to 89A – this is the road that you take to get to the Grand Canyon north rim. This is the first stop of the day. Being early and high altitude the temperature was in the mid 20C. A very pleasant morning.
 

The Colorado river looks really serene and still. Nevertheless, the power of the river as it flows on the soft rocks formed Grand Canyon over the millenia.

The Colorado river looks really serene and still. Nevertheless, the power of the river as it flows on the soft rocks formed Grand Canyon over the millenia.

 
 

Bryce Canyon

Yet another canyon but very different from Grand Canyon. Beautiful orange sandstone that’s eroded to create figure like formations. This place is just incredible! I walked along the rim and went down some way on the Navajo trail, quite a descent (in my mc gear!).
 
 
 

Panguitch

Checked in to Day’s Inn – room seems ok. I went to the post office to get some stamps and hoped to find a bar where I could write some postcards. Turns out there are no bars, not sure if that’s because of Mormon rules? Anyway, a local told me I could get a beer at the chevron station and it turned out the smallest single bottle they had was a pint size can! So much for keeping people sober!
 
It seems several towns are proud of the outlaws that used to live there or even visited at one time or another.  Panguitch claims that Butch Cassidy at least visited the town and celebrates this with big photos and plaques.  I had dinner at what purported to be a Tandoori place, however, it was more of a mixture of Indian and Mexican food, not nearly as good as our Indian place in Sugarland… Nevertheless, I talked to the proprietor for a while and found out that her father in law works for Statoil in Houston as a geologist! After dinner I walked back to the hotel through the back street in an almost cool temperature. The town’s at 2000m altitude so in the evening the temperature drops.  In fact, I’ve been pretty lucky with the weather so far on this trip. The last few days the temperature has not hit 30C.
 
 

Salt Lake City is famous the world over for being the center of the Mormon church and it was a must visit place on this trip.  I’m now in Utah and will be traveling through the state for the next 2-3 days.  Along the road I see many beautiful church-like buildings were no expense was spared in their construction.  I reached Salt Lake around noon time and found motorcycle parking spaces close to the center of town.  After surveying the area I set about looking at the Temple Square which was the original area set aside for the Mormons in the 1840s.  The Tabernacle is a rather unusual building that has been praised as an architectural wonder but has also received negative reviews as being ugly and dreadful.  For it’s time the roof span of 150×450 ft with no supporting pillars was ahead of it’s time when it was finished in 1867.

 

Mormon Tabernacle.

Mormon Tabernacle.

Salt Lake Mormon Temple

Salt Lake Mormon Temple

After lunch in the Nauvoo Cafe housed in the Joseph Smith Memorial building I rode north towards Ogden and the hotel I had booked for the night.  However, I got somewhat lost and decided to carry on until the first decent motel along the way. So I ended up in a Comfort Inn outside of the town Logan, if only I had known that in the town itself there were lots of accommodation and then I wouldn’t have had to ride the bike to get to a restaurant. Oh well, no big deal.

Today was not so exciting, I suppose the previous 3-4 days have set my expectations too high. Salt Lake was nice but not hugely so:=( I also felt a bit tired. I hope a good night’s sleep will get me off to a good start tomorrow for the ride to Jackson Wyoming. So far I’ve been in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. Tomorrow I’ll briefly touch Idaho before going into Wyoming.

A note about time zones which is kind of confusing. New Mexico and Arizona are in the mountain time zone. However, Arizona decided not to go with daylight saving so they’re 2 hours behind Texas. To complicate matters the Native American reservations decided to go with daylight savings. Utah is on mountain time with daylight savings…

Logan to Jackson Hole Wyoming – 193 miles

Jackson Hole is known for it’s wintertime skiing but it’s also busy during the summer so I needed to get there early to secure lodging for the night.  After the usual motel breakfast of hot waffles and weak coffee I got going but I missed the turnoff to the west along US 89 and ended up going along US 91 instead which was due north.  It took me some time to figure out I was going the wrong way but when I did I found that road 36 would take me back on the 89 and what a delight the road turned out to be!  It went up a mountain pass to 2200m and then down again along twists and contortions making for a beautiful ride on a my Trophy.

Back on 89 I stopped in the town called Afton for a coffee.  It boasts  it has the largest elk antler arch in the world spanning 4 lanes across the US 89 with 3000 antlers used in its construction and weighing in at 15 tonnes.  BTW… “Afton” is a funny name for a swede, in swedish it means evening!

Jackson Hole

Once I arrived in Jackson I managed to get a room at motel 6 at an outrageous price. I changed into “civilian” gear and taking the bus to the center of town for some relaxation.   It’s Saturday and a busy day with lots of tourists walking around not doing much apart from being touristy.   There are four entrances to the Town Square and there are basking musicians in front of three of them.  They must have shot a lot of elk in Wisconsin since there are so many arches built by elk antlers!  Very nice though, it must be a lot of work getting them all in place, I wonder if they glue the pieces together? 

The famed elk antler arches that lead into the town's lovely, tree-shaded Town Square where locals and visitors come to relax or enjoy special events.

The famed elk antler arches that lead into the town’s lovely, tree-shaded Town Square where locals and visitors come to relax or enjoy special events.

 
 

Riding police keeps the order in town and attracts attention from visitors.

Riding police keeps the order in town and attracts attention from visitors.

Great ski slope close to center of Jackson Hole.

Great ski slope close to center of Jackson Hole.

The Jackson ski slope is very close to the center of town and it seems like a good slope.   I saw that the lift was going so I strolled down to it and asked the lift guy, he said its 479m elevation change which is really good.  I’m sure the skiing there is fantastic!  It’s also lit in the winter meaning you can ski to late evening.

Cameron, AZ to Jackson Hole, WY

Cameron, AZ to Jackson Hole, WY

Jackson Hole through Yellowstone National Park to Gardiner, Montana – 190 miles

It’s cold when I start and I wish I had heated grips on the bike.  The weather is clear when and I get really good views of the Tetons just to the west of me.  I stop at the, apparently, most photographed barn in the US to get some photos of the mountains with the barn in the foreground.  The sky is darkening to the north and not boding well for my passing through the Yellowstone National Park. 

 

 

As I pass by Jackson lake the sky is looking really dark and it starts to rain and as I get to the Yellowstone entrance the rain turns into hail and it gets really cold.  I stop to put on the cold weather gear I brought, which is not enough, when I set off from home I had no idea that it would get this cold.  With the rain gear on I start the trip through Yellowstone, brr.  After a couple of hours in these conditions I finally reached Ye old faithful Inn and stop for breakfast and to warm and dry up.  Food is really nice and I start to thaw up pretty well.

Ye old faithful hotel.

Ye old faithful hotel.

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Gardiner

It was a relief to arrive at the “Yellowstone River Motel” in Gardiner. The day started out beautifully with grand views of the Grand Teton mountains but just as I was entering Yellowstone national park it started hailing and with the low temperature of 7C I felt pretty miserable on the motorcycle ????.

With the road being white in places from the hail I tiptoed my way, very afraid of slipping. My hands were getting numb from the wetness and the cold plus me being tense… This does not make for very pleasurable riding and you also loose the feeling for the road when you need it most on wet and pretty rough asphalt roads. But I managed to get to Old Faithful Inn to warm up and as I was having breakfast the rain stopped.

Gardiner is located right at the northern entrance to Yellowstone and is a small town living off people stopping by before entering the park I presume. Not sure what they do in the winter with so many fewer tourists?

I found a laundromat and washed my clothes, good, that means I don’t need to wash em by hand????

There’s a grill place so I had a nice rib-eye washed down with a glass of Malbec which got me in a really good mood.

The river in the picture is the Yellowstone river and is just to the back of the door to my room.

July 11, 2016 Gardiner to Gillette (400 miles)

Today is a pure transport day and there are not a lot of sights along the way.  I stopped for lunch at a McDonald’s close to the town of Sheridan. I was sharing the table with a local guy and had to listen to him talking incessantly about his family history and how he spent 35k on his research including dna tests. Yawn yawn????. Of course, he also told me the country would be safer if people had more guns and/or fierce dogs to keep the bad guys away. He was voting for Trump, he also told me ???????? If nothing else it gave me company and some entertainment for lunch.

Gillette

Checked in to Day’s Inn Gillette Wyoming after a 400 mile ride today. Most of the ride was in light rain with strong cross-winds and a temperature around 11C making for a somewhat hard ride. The last couple of hours, after lunch, the weather got better with no rain and 20C allowing me to take the rain gear off.

The speed limits in Montana and and Wyoming are at 80 and 75mph so I could make fairly rapid progress. With the strong cross-winds it was dodgy going even that fast. With water on the road the big trucks create an enormous amount of wet mist and when passing them it’s like going into a fountain of mist with very limited visibility.

I met a guy on an old Ducati Monster at a rest stop who was on his way from Seattle to Mount Rushmore. With little protection from the elements and cramped riding position  on that bike he must have suffered. He was also camping… Well, he was young.

Tomorrow I’m first going to Devils tower which is an laccolithic butte composed of igneous rock in the Bear Lodge Mountains near Hulett and Sundance in Crook County, northeastern Wyoming. It looks quite spectacular on the pictures I’ve seen.

If I get up early and the weather is cooperating I should be able to see Mount Rushmore tomorrow as well.

Gillette, WY, to Keystone,SD,  taking in Devil’s tower and Mount Rushmore

Devil’s tower

This is an amazing natural “monument”. I’m walking the trail around the tower among Ponderosa pines and I’m here early so hardly any people. An incredibly peaceful experience in awe of what nature can accomplish.

Steven Spielberg fans are likely familiar with Devils Tower, even if they don’t know it by name. The dramatic butte—which towers 1267 feet above the plains of northeastern Wyoming and the Belle Fourche River—was famously featured in 1977’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, culminating in a scene in which an alien mothership descended upon the rock formation.  Interestingly, it was also the first national monument in the US.

After a couple of hours at Devil’s tower I continued towards Mont Rushmore and stopped by the Pactola Dam on 385. As I was admiring the views a motorcycle trike (3 wheels) stopped at the same place.  It was towing a dog trailer with 2 dogs in it! I had a chat with the owners and one of the dogs was not so happy being in the trailer. I can imagine the trailer sways quite a lot so I’m not surprised the dog wasn’t happy.

The guy told me he broke his foot last autumn and his doctor advised him not to go two up on the bike anymore so he converted his bike to a trike and so far he was very happy with the result.

Ok, finally made it to Mount Rushmore. Ever since I saw Hitchkock’s North by Northwest (one of my favorite movies) I wanted to see the monument. And finally here I am! I’m not sure I’m as impressed as I thought I would be, but the scale of the Monument is amazing. I walked the presidents trail that takes you much closer to the carvings and you can get some good close ups of the faces with a zoom camera. So who are the presidents? Well, from the left its George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. I guess all Americans know this from an early age? Constructed between 1927 and 1941 it was not completed to its original design but the work stopped due to lack of funding. It seems they did not need to complete it – there are two million visitors every year!

Mount Rushmore

  

Keystone

 

Keystone to Salina (610 miles)

Salina, KS

Checked in at Days Inn. Supposedly I’ll get a free night now that I stayed more than two nights but they probably make it so complicated that it’s not worth the effort?

Did 620 miles today and still feel pretty good. Guess mind and body is more used to sitting on a bike for about 9 hours..

The day started out pretty cold at 10C but gradually warmed up as I got further south and lower elevation to end up at 34C. Mainly going on non-interstates and single carriageway, but they are in good condition with little traffic so my average speed today was 68 mph (if you believe the statistics produced by the bike).

Today I’ve ridden through South Dakota, Nebraska and now Kansas. Seems like they are all big farming states – riding past huge fields of cereal and corn. They’re harvesting the cereal fields with huge combine harvesters as I ride past.

I had a salad dinner at the nearby Mexican restaurant, it was nice with a cold beer after today’s time in the saddle! When on your own it’s nice to sit at the bar where you can chat to the bar staff and other people seated there. I talked to the bar girl and she said you pronounce Salina as it rimes with “saliva”. Strange pronunciation…

Tomorrow towards Oklahoma City, Dallas and possibly Houston… Home trip going quicker than I originally thought.

July 15, 2016 – Salina to Houston (719 miles)

Stopped at a scenic outlook and came across a wing for a wind turbine. It looked massive but the guys transporting it said it was a baby, maybe around 40m. The biggest ones in Europe are 85 m long they told me.

Paoli, OK

 

At the same spot there was a stone commemorating the birth of reflection seismic! J Karcher did the first experiments in the area in 1921. What a coincidence! I’ve spent my entire career on reflection seismic and haphazardly coming across this memorial stone is quite amazing!

Riesel, TX

More fuel and some junk food. Only 180 or so miles to home…its been very hot with temperatures as high as 40c. Coming through Fort Worth was a big pain with a lot of road construction and it felt very uncomfortable going very slowly as the traffic was crawling. You also ride between huge trucks and it doesn’t feel so safe. Nevertheless, I got through it, but it delayed me by an hour! Once I cleared the road works and later an accident that stopped the flow for 10 mins or so I made rapid progress to Waco where I left I-35 and joined Tx 6. I should reach home before it gets dark.????
 

Missouri City

Home sweet home!
 
In total I did 4627 miles using 97 gallons of fuel. I rode the bike for 82 hours. The longest day in the saddle was the last day when I did 716 miles. I saw a lot of beautiful scenery on the trip starting with the Duro Canyon in the northern part of Texas and ending with the mammoth carvings of the four presidents at Mount Rushmore. An absolutely amazing trip! The map shows today’s ride – a bit over 700 miles. The bike was absolutely problem free, it’s a great bike when you’re on the open road but heavy when manouvering at slow speeds and when parking. The panniers are 7 kg when empty so when full they’re probably around 15 kg adding 30kg. The Michelin pilot road 4 are really good with the photo showing the rear tyre after 4700 miles. The tread depth is still between 4 and 5 mm – when new it’s around 6mm!
 

Preparations

I started looking into this last year and found you are not allowed to ride through China on your own but must join a government approved travel agency organized ride. I found an agency called ridechina (https://www.ridechina.com) who seemed to have organized many tours in China over the years. I contacted them with my plans and they came back with a tour that would fit them. They will meet me at the border between Laos and China and get the formalities on entering China sorted out – which includes getting me a Chinese driving licence and Chinese plates on the bike!

After discussions on the home front I was given the go ahead :-), so now I need to get the bike ready and figure out what I need to bring. I found a place in Osh, Kirghistan that has the tires I need so I won’t need to bring tires with me. I’ll bring some spare parts though, such as bearings, levers and possibly fork seals.

I serviced the forks – new seals and fork oil. Although I asked a mechanic if my chain would do another 20k km, and he said no problem, I was not so sure since the chain was adjusted so far back that there was not much room for further adjustment.  I went to the same workshop and another mechanic immediately said the chain was bad and needed changing!

The route up until the exit of China into Kirghistan is set, but from there to Europe there are several options – well actually 3. 1) Go through Russia either all the way to Europe or west of the Caspian through Georgia into Turkey and further towards Europe, or 2) Go through Turkmenistan to Iran and south of the Caspian into Turkey, or 3) Cross the Caspian on a boat from Kazakhstan to Azerbaijan. The big problem with option 1) is getting a visa to go through Russia, I might get it in time for the trip but possibly not. Option 2 is problematic. Getting visas to enter both Turkmenistan and Iran is not straight forward and seems to require “fixers” inside the countries. Iran also requires a Carnet de passage (CDP) and I’m in the process of applying for one through the Automobile Association of Singapore and I will get that before leaving.  However, I’ve seen reports that you are not allowed to bring in motorcycles larger than 250cc to Iran, which if true,  makes this option not useful. Option 3) is a possibility but the boats are not  ferries, but rather cargo ships, and do not go on a regular schedule which makes this option somewhat uncertain.  However, it might be the only option if the Russian visa does not materialize.

Visa situation

The following are the potential coutries I will be passing through:

  • Laos: Need visa and temporary import permit for the motorcycle.  Got that at Singapore Laos embassy last week.
  • Kirghistan: Visa Waiver
  • Uzbekistan: Visa exemption
  • Tajikistan: Electronic visa acquired – no problem.
  • Turkmenistan: Need visa and not straight forward to obtain. However, people in the group have been in contact with an agency inside the country and it appears we can get a visa at the border with an invitation from the agency.
  • Azerbaijan: Electronic visa acquired.  Will need this if we have to take the ferry across the Caspian.
  • Iran: When you fly into the country you can get a visa when you land but not sure what the situation is when crossing a land border. I also need the CDP.
  • Kazakhstan: No visa required.
  • Russia: Require an “Auto-visa” to be able to drive your own vehicle through russia. The russian embassy/consulate has said it will take 2-4 weeks to obtain the visa so I might need to give this up – not enough time.
  • Georgia: Visa free
  • Turkey: Visa free 

The above are for me with a Swedish passport but European union countries in general have the same visa requirements.

So three weeks before departure the route after China is not clear…

 

Getting close!

Today is 25th April and it’s only 5 days until I set off!  I picked up my passport with the approved Russia Visa today – Yay!  This gives me  more options regarding the route after leaving China, I can go through Russia on the western side of the Caspian sea to Georgia and then Turkey, or, if I feel really fed up after China, I can go straight to Latvia and get a ferry to Sweden…  I also received the Carnet today but I think it will be of little use since Iran has banned any motorcycles larger than 250cc to enter the country and this was the only country along the route that requires the Carnet.

After picking up the pp I walked around the Marina bay area and snapped some photos, it’s really amazing what Singapore has accomplished in the last 20 years.  Most of the buildings in the pictures were built after I arrived to Singapore 20 years ago.

The Thinker by Rodin

The Thinker by Rodin

Marina Bay Sands – the 3 blocks in the back.

The Singapore flyer in the background

The Singapore flyer in the background

MBS

The Fullerton Hotel.

Singapore War Memorial

Singapore War Memorial

Pisco2BA

This is the 2nd part of my blog Bogota To Buenos Aires, if you want to go back to the first part

Go back to the first part Bogota to Pisco

Day 38 – July 13 – Pisco to Ayacucho – 340km

I woke up early after having not slept so well and was on my way at 0730 with today’s goal being Ayacucho up in the mountains.  I didn’t know what to expect and the first 100km or so was in a deep valley going gently higher but as I reached the end of the valley it started to go up higher – much higher.  When the temperature reached 5C with strong winds I stopped to put my hotwired jacket and thicker gloves on.  As I kept climbing higher the temperature got colder and colder and finally reached 2C – boy, was I glad I had that jacket as well as the heated grips and when finally reaching the top of the pass it was at 4764m! That’s almost as high as Mont Blanc… It was snowing a bit and the surroundings were white.  Brrr…

Top of the pass at 4746m

Looks cold and inhospitable, no?

Llamas – first of these I’ve seen

Oh yes – snow! Luckily not on the road.

Ayacucho. Local ladies enjoying an afternoon break looking at the kids practicing local moves.

Kids practicing local traditional dancing?

I made it down to lower levels and higher temperatures and found the hostel in Ayacucho without too much problem.  I should be able to make Cusco in a couple of days from here and take a few days there to go to Machu Picho… 

After dinner I walked around town for a while and I found the town to be quite prosperous with a large pedestrian precinct and a really big square.

Beautifully lit main square.

Pedestrian area at 2130. Still lots of people about.

Day 39 – July 14 – Ayacucho to Andahuyalas – 220km

I slept really badly – it felt like I never got to sleep.  I thought I was used to the high altitude but maybe spending four nights at sea level undid all those nights I did spend close to 2500m? 

Stopped for a delicious lunch by the road side.

The goal for today was Abancay but at 1400  that was a further  three hours away so I decided to stop in this town, Andahuyalas . It’s not a very nice looking town built on the side of a valley with steeply sloping streets and everything is pretty dusty.  When you’ve seen a few towns in Peru you realize they don’t care much what the houses look like from the outside, it’s usually a structure of concrete beams filled in with bricks, and it’s left like that.  No attempt to beautify…

The roads today came up to more than 4000m on two stretches and then down to the valleys at around 2000m so a lot of switchbacks and lovely roads for riding a motorcycle.  For the first 80kms Maps.me led me on a very small road with a fair amount of traffic so very slow going.  I checked Maps.me on my mobile phone and that must be a different version because that showed I should have gone on the proper bigger road, PE-3S.  maps.me has led me astray few times on this trip so I think I will switch to the ‘HERE’ navigation app.

Day 40 – July 15 – Andahuyalas to Ollantaytambo – 360km

I haven’t dropped a bike for some time but today it happened! Yesterday when I put the bike in secured parking I had to go down some steps with some gravel at the last step and I knew it was going to be difficult to get up the steps today. So when riding  up the steps the rear wheel started spinning and the bike stopped and I couldn’t hold it up so down it went. Luckily the protective bars hit the ground and the only damage was the front wheel  brake lever which broke where it’s designed to break, right at the tip. So no real problem, only to my pride:-(

After that I got going but, again, took some time to get out of the town. The towns in Peru have no signs telling you how to find the route so I rely completely on the GPS which again screwed me up… There was Sunday market so I could not go where the GPS told me to go and after that it led me on some small steep gravel roads so after a while I switched back to Google maps which safely led me out of town.

Today was a long stretch with 3 or 4 mountain passes with amazing views and so many switchbacks I almost got dizzy. The last stretch Maps.me led me down a small dirt road that was being constructed which was a real challenge to navigate.

The road climbed 2000m above Abencay and you could see all the way down. Beautiful!

Amazing snow covered mountains mixing with the clouds.

In Ollantaytambo the street leading into the town is surfaced with really large cobblestones which are very difficult to navigate at slow speed with a heavy bike. So when I had to stop for oncoming traffic and started to get going the front wheel caught behind a big cobblestone and the bike stalled and I dropped it again! To the other side this time – Oh no! There were lots of buses and I guess the passengers got a good look at this bike lying on the side in the road. However, several people came to my help and I managed to get going again. As long as you keep the speed up the cobblestone road is not much of a problem and I made it safely to the hotel. Luckily there was no damage to either the bike or me – apart from my pride… So I dropped the bike twice in the same day, oh well – get over it, these things happen on a trip like this, no?

Ollantaytambo is on the train line from Cusco to Agua Scalientes where you take a bus to Machu Picho, there are ways of riding your bike for four and hiking for a couple of hours to avoid paying the steep price for the train ride but I decided to pay for the train and get off the bike for a few days.

Day 41 – Ollantaytambo

Walked around town, had a coffee on the square and bought the train tickets for tomorrow’s trip to Machu Picho. While having coffee I started talking to a Swiss couple who had rented a bike in Cusco and was on their way to “hydro electrica” where they leave the bike and hike the 11km to Agua Scaliente. There are also some Inca artifacts here in Ollantaytambo but to see them involves a lot of climbing and today I don’t feeel like doing much of that. Tomorrow will also involve climbing at Macho Pichu so I’m saving my energy until then.

Swiss couple on rented bike on their way to Agua Scalientes.

Harp playing lady outside the entrance to the archaeological site.

Incas made this – amazing.

High up on the mountainside.

.

Day 42 – Macho Picho

I wanted to see Machu Pico for some time and today it was going to happen.  You can’t drive to Machu Picho but must take the train that goes between Cusco and Machu Picho which passes through Ollantaytambo.  Since I had no idea when I would be in  Ollantaytambo I could not plan and buy the tickets beforehand so there were not many trains to choose from which meant I did not have as much time as I wanted in MP.  Once I got to MP I had to buy the entrance tickets as well as the bus ticket to go from the train station to the entrance and lastly queue for the bus.  There are two sessions to see MP, one in the morning and one in the afternoon starting at 1200 and I was in the afternoon session. So after more queuing I finally got in and I figured I’d walk to the Sun Gate at the top before seeing the village to avoid the masses of people. This was a nice hike ascending 3-400 m.

.On the way back down I started chatting with this German girl who was running downhill and caught up with me.  She had had really bad luck with getting her cash and credit cards stolen and when using her cash card the machine had swallowed it! How unlucky is that?

Day 43 – Ollantaytambo to Puno – 450 km

I decided to cut the stay at Ollantaytambo to three days.  Hotels in Peru typically do not have heating and the hotel I was staying at got so cold at night that I couldn’t sleep well and that’s the reason I left a day early.  I got going around 0830 and chose a route that avoided Cusco.  Around noon the road was on a high altitude plateau and 200kms or so were straight roads were I could easily eat the kms up and arrived at Puno around 1600.  It’s very high up, 3800m, but at least there is a heater in my room…

Before Puno you hit a town called Juliaca and here the road was completely blocked with no signs warning of the closure or  saying where the alternative route was – bizarre!  I had to go back and hit the town and hope the GPS would lead me out of the labyrinth of streets.  It took some time to find the road leading out of the town but in the end I did.

Day 44 – July 19 – Puno

On the way to the Uru islands.

Stayed the day in Puno and took a trip to see the Uru people living on floating islands in Lake Titicaca half an hour with boat from Puno.  The Uru use bundles of dried totora reeds to make reed boats (balsas), and to make the islands themselves.  It’s beyond me why people would choose to live on a small island maybe 30m square…  What would you do all day?  Fixing the island making sure it’s in good shape?  There is a primary school on a central island and kids would get brought there by boat, where the kids would be taught in the local language. Higher levels of school is only taught on land and the language would then be Spanish.   I really enjoyed visiting the Uru people on their islands and with small kids there it is seems their future is secured.

Colourfully dressed ladies welcome us to their island.

Cute family.

18 month old cute girl. How do they make sure the kids do not walk off the edge of the small island? There’s no fence…

There are a few alpacas living behind the hotel. Their fleece is a lustrous and silky natural fiber and similar to sheep’s wool, but, it is warmer, not prickly, and bears no lanolin, which makes it hypoallergenic.  So it should be good for me because I can’t wear wool because it itches.  In the morning and afternoon there are ladies by the hotel entrance selling garments made of alpaca at very low prices.  I should buy a sweater but there is such limited space on a motorcycle that I don’t know if I can fir it anywhere.

Alpacas are funny looking animals and are related to but smaller than Llamas.

Alpaca garments for sale.

It’s difficult for me to sleep at an elevation of 3800m, but the next week, or so, will be at this elevation so maybe I’ll get used to it, at least I hope so.  And today I’ve been feeling so tired, almost like I was sick.  Chewing coco leaves is supposed to help and there’s a basket full of them in the reception area, so I go there on occasion to grab a few.

Day 45 – July 20 – Puno to La Paz – 300km

I started early , right after 0700, going towards Yunguyo, the smaller of the two crossings into Bolivia.  I was recommended this even if the distance to La Paz would be a bit longer.  The 150 kms to reach the crossing was uneventful but cold – around 7C with pretty good roads.  The main crossing into Bolivia is at the southern end of Lake Titicaca and I was told to avoid this because of the number of people using it.  Not sure about that, but the crossing at Yunguyo was very painless and took less than one hour with very friendly and helpful people on both the immigration and customs side of both countries. The further trip to La Paz involved a ferry  crossing with a very basic ferry with an outboard motor.

Basic ferry with the captain driving it with an outboard engine.

As I got closer to La Paz, it got colder with snow in the air and then it started to rain pretty heavily.  Stupidly, I didn’t put my rain pants on in the belief I would soon be at the hotel.  Of course, I got lost and lost my bearings and, honestly, I started to get worried if I would ever find the hotel.  The GPS told me to go down a steep dirt road and, eventually, I worked up the courage to do so, the road was wet but I managed to get down into the valley and onto a paved road. After another 45 mins in the pouring rain I did find the hotel! Phew, that was a relief!

Day 46 – July 21 – Mallasa

The hotel called Oberland is a popular place for adventure drivers and riders but now in the middle of winter there are not many here.  Today is a miserable day with clouds covering the surrounding mountains and I’m staying at the hotel to keep dry and relax…  I was thinking of going into central La Paz to take a tour on the cable car system, which seems like a unique way of transporting people in the city and across to the neighboring city of El Alto.  However, with the inclement weather I chose to stay in the hotel.  

I talked to the guy who rents Motorcycles and quads.  He said the road further south-east might be snow covered and recommended me to stay until there is a sunny day which should clear the roads.  I guess I might be here for a few days…

 

 

Route from Pisco to La Paz

Day 47 – July 22 – La Paz

I took a bus from the hotel to La Paz for a guided tour of the system of connected cable cars.  La Paz is built in very mountainous terrain so the city decided to build the cable car system to ferry people around.  At the moment there are seven lines with an additional 4 planned.

The high altitude is really affecting me badly.  I have not had a good night sleep for days and I’m feeling kind of shitty most of the time so after gong into town tomorrow to get insurance I will start going towards Argentina.

 

Illimani mountain looks down on La Paz

Llama fetuses.  Bizarre custom of putting them in the foundations of new buildings for good luck..

La Paz is the hilliest capitol of any country in the world, as well as the one with the tallest elevation. I’m 10km outside of town at 3200m while El Alto is at 4000m.

Bogota to La Paz

Day 48 – July 23 – La Paz to Oruro – 210kms

Went to central La Paz to get insurance for the Mercosur countries which include Bolivia and Argentina and came back to the hotel 1130, packed and got on the bike for Orura.  The straight road meant I got to Orura around 1500.  The first part involved tackling a steep switch back dirt road that I was worried about but I managed without problems, I did have to stop to let a meeting heavily loaded truck go past but managed to start without stalling. The trick is to keep the revs up, slip the clutch and use the rear brake to control the speed. I can see why a big displacement twin with lots of lowdown torque would be good in such situations – you’re much less likely to stall the engine.  Once I cleared the dirt road I got on to Bolivia 1 and after what seemed like a long stretch I finally cleared the areas with markets on both sides of the road, vehicles parked along the entire near side lane and people crossing the road.  My fuel was getting low so I stopped at a petrol station to fill up but they were out of gas.  This happened for an additional 4 gas-stations and finally when I only had a single bar on the meter I found one that could fill the bike up.  I discovered that tourists pay at least twice as much as locals for gas.

The guy filling the gas needed to see an id before filling up the tank. If the id is foreign you pay the foreign price which is around 8 bol while locals pay 3.7 bols.

Day 49 – Oruro to Uyuni – 310kms 

I didn’t enjoy Oruro much.  It was cold, not much above freezing, and I couldn’t find a restaurant for a long time, in the end I found one on the ninth floor of a hotel and I was the only customer:-(  I ordered some pasta dish and it wasn’t too bad, but the wine must have been in an open bottle for months so I drank bottled water – not a very pleasant meal…  My hotel, “Houston” (!) was pretty miserable,my room had no windows and it was cold.    So I was glad to get out of the town!  The road carried on on the alto-plano and was mostly in very good condition.

I had to share the road with llamas.

Snow covered mountains in the background. Beautiful!

Wonderful and strange looking stone shapes along Bolivia road F30.

Arrived in Uyuni about lunch time, this town has a lot of hotels, I guess, for people going to see the salt planes.

What happens to the air pressure in your tires as you go to higher elevations?  I checked my tire pressures at sea level and made sure it was the usual 42/36 psi.  After riding  1500kms, I checked the pressure again when I arrived Puno and it had now gone up to 45/40 psi – what’s going on?  Remember that Puno is at 3800m elevation and 10C colder than when I filled the tires at sea level.  First I thought there must be something wrong with the tire gauge and that it only works correctly at sea level.  We all know that colder ambient temperature will lower the tire pressure but what does higher elevation do?  I couldn’t figure it out so I had to google…  It turns out that tire gauges give you the differential pressure between the tire and the ambient pressure and since the ambient pressure is lower as you go higher the difference becomes larger since the internal tire pressure does not change.  This means you should not adjust the tire pressure and you should really bring something tabulating what the tire pressure should be as a function of elevation.  Interesting.

Day 50 – Uyuni to Tilcara- 480kms 

This was going to be a long day including the border crossing to Argentina.  After breakfast I loaded my steed up and managed to get out of the severely bumpy parking without incidence and got going on Bolivia 21 which, as I would see was of wildly varying quality.  It’s a newly constructed road and most of the way it’s beautiful asphalt but in some places where the construction is still going on it is very rutted gravel.  However, in the last 20km before Tupiza it’s the original gravel road and it’s just awful with in some places deep dust and in other places steep ascents and descents.  Apparently this was the condition of the entire road up until a few months ago.  After Tupiza the road to the boarder was nice and twisty.  The boarder crossing was fairly straight forward even though there’s always a bit of confusion.  I was lucky in that a young woman with her head screwed on got me the temporary import permit without a single error – unheard of!  She told me it was always cold in  the border town, hoped that Argentina would be the best country on my trip and wished me luck after inspecting my luggage.  Then I set off for Tilcara, a further 220km from the boarder.

Very interesting geology not far from crossing the Argentinian border.

After arriving at the Hostal I booked, I waited around for 10 mins knocking on the door and banging on the gate but no answer.  And since data roaming didn’t work I couldn’t reply to the owner’s email… It was getting dark and cold so I decided to look for another place to stay and found a hostel that had a space.  I then went walking to find an ATM, the Pesos only comes in 100 nomination bills (which is about 3 usd) so the wallet quickly becomes very fat.  Tilcara is kind of an arty, bohemian type place with art galleries and cozy small restaurants.  I found one and had a wiener schnitzel with a half bottle of Malbec in freezing cold temperatures, but it was one of the best meals I’ve had on this trip.

 

Day 51 – Tilcara to San Miguel de Tucuman – 410kms

The hostel I was staying at was a typical back-packer place with people staying up late partying.  However, with ear-plugs I was able to get some good sleep… The coffee for breakfast tasted great and then I went to fetch the bike which was parked a block away.  When driving in to park I was reluctant because it was a steep incline to the parking space and nowhere to turn the bike around which meant I would need to reverse it down the steep incline. On top of that the driveway was of slate type material so very slippy.  Reversing turned out to be challenging in that when I applied the front break the front wheel would slip and since I used both legs to keep the bike up I could not use the rear break but somehow I managed to get it on the streept without incidence.  Parking the bike and retrieving the bike has turned out to be, perhaps, the most challenging aspect of handling the bike on the trip.  I got shortish legs so that doesn’t help 😉

When starting out it was below freezing so I was afraid that any moisture on the road would have turned to ice so I was very careful before it got a bit warmer.  However, the road was good and I made good progress to S.M. Tucuman and arrived not long after lunch.

I have now booked my flight back to Houston and agreed on a drop off date for the bike next week so the trip is nearing it’s end.

Day 52 – July 27 – San Miguel de Tucuman to Cordoba – 560 kms

It was a cold morning and as I came further south the days were getting shorter and today daylight came after 0800. I was on my way by 0830 and took some time getting out of the city and once out in the country side there was a freezing fog.  My helmet visor tends to fog up easily when it’s cold which means I have to keep the visor up making it feel even colder.  Again, maps.me seemed to be leading me to a minor road and not the major RN9 connecting the two cities.  However, after a while, the road quality got better and I could keep a good speed at around 120 km/h.  It is, perhaps, the straightest road I’ve been on going for hundreds of kms without a turn.  There are always check points along any road where the luggage of the vehicle seems to be checked and I even saw buses where all passengers got off and had their suitcases checked – not sure for what but I suspect drugs.  I have been waved through all the check points though, must be my innocent looks or foreign registration that does it.  This would be the most kms I’ve done on the trip in one day but I still arrived before 1600.  The GPS led me straight to the hotel and the parking was on the ground floor so I rode straight in and parked the bike without problems.  I’m now only 750 kms from Buenos Aires.

Day 53 – Cordoba

I needed a break after 5 days and close to 2000 km on the bike and Cordoba was a nice place to spend a day.  It’s Argentina’s 2nd largest city and has a nice church so that’s where I went to have a look.  They call it the church of the Capuchins and it looks as if they only completed one of the two towers.  There’s a big pedestrian area with parks and squares which is always nice in a city.

Capuchin church

 

 

Day 54 – Cordoba to Rosario – 400 km

Today I ran out of fuel! The road from Cordoba to Rosario is 400 km and dead straight.  However, once out of Cordoba there is no service station until after 200 km – how crazy is that! Luckily I had my reserve fuel tank so no real disaster.  Otherwise the ride was kind of boring with huge fields on both sides of the road.

Day 55 – Rosario to Zarate – 210 km

The Rosario hotel was out in a village and no restaurant was open so I had to do without dinner last night.  No big deal, though, I did not feel so hungry.  The ride today continued on RN9 towards BA on another dead straight dual carriageway road and with the short distance I arrived at noon time and found the hotel quite easily.  I walked around town to find an ATM and eventually I found one that worked.  The charges for use of ATM are outrageous! The most I could get was 2500 pesos – around USD90 but the charge is 278 pesos, ie. 10%!  I’d classify that as robbery!  Anyway, after that I had a nice dinner with the best beef of the trip.

 

Day 56 – Zarate to Ezeiza – 110 km

One of the shortest days of the trip to the town where the B.A. airport is located.  When shipping with aircraft you’re only supposed to have minimal fuel in the tank so I had to figure out how much to fill up and I figured 2 liter would be about right.  Depending on how fast I go the fuel consumption varies a lot too so it took some figuring out.  RN9 goes into BA and then connects to the road that goes to the airport and with RN9 becoming a 6-lane road I managed not to take the right turn to go south and had to do some backtracking to get on the right track again and I eventually got to the hostal.

I was given strict instructions not have any personal effects on the bike for the shipment and I could not ship any camping equipment which meant I had to do a lot of re-packing and I had to wash the reserve tank out well to remove any gasoline smell.

Bogota to BA on Google maps

Day 57 – Shipping of the bike

I rode the 9 km to the cargo handling area of the airport where Dakar moto with Javier and Sandra met me and another biker, Manuel.  They ship on average two bikes per week so they know what they’re doing and within two hours the export-clearance, “crating” and customs-clearance were completed (compare that to my shipment from Houston!)  The crating with clingfilm and flimsy straps to hold the bike in place on the pallet looks a bit dodgy but it seems to work…  The bike will go on the direct United Houston flight tomorrow so will arrive Houston before me.  The cost is quite a bit cheaper than shipping Houston to Bogota even thought the distance is twice as far.  I guess the US is not really set up for exports:-)

BTW.  the first thing they did was to weigh the bike and mine came in at 280 kg!  And that’s with a near empty tank.  I assume that’s pretty accurate but it’s more than I thought.

Day 58 – Buenos Aires

I had a really nice dinner last night in a Spanish restaurant close to the hotel.  Wild salmon and some nice Malbec.  I slept really well and rested a lot in my room today, I think I deserve to be lazy for a while…  Went for a few walks in the city and wow! It’s beautiful!  Wide avenues but also large pedestrian areas and big parks with lots of cafes and restaurants.

Beautiful wide avenues with lots of greenery.

Lots of motorcycles! Sign of a great city:-)

Nice looking buildings.

Malvinas war memorial.

 

Aug 6 – Houston 

I arrived back to Houston yesterday but since it was Sunday I could not pick up the bike which actually arrived on Aug 3.  So with the help of Uber and a very talkative driver I got to the United Cargo building where the queue was short and I was soon being served and told I needed to pay $60 terminal charge.  I asked the lady if I shouldn’t go to customs first to get the bike released and she agreed that I, indeed, needed to do that.  After getting the required paperwork I got another Uber to drive me to the customs building which is 6 miles away and we did arrive after first getting lost – the Uber map was incorrect.  The customs officer looked at the documents and was back with the approval within a minute, I was very impressed!  Now back to United cargo but the Uber app did not let me set the pickup point anywhere apart from the airport terminals so I had to install Lyft and finally a car came to pick me up.

Back at United Cargo I soon had the bike delivered to a place where I could unpack it, mount the screen and make it ready to ride on which took me more than an hour and a bucket of sweat.  Riding off the pallet, which is about 7 inches above the floor involved also getting across the metal frame  on which the pallet was laid, and I got four people to help in case I screwed it up but I had no problems.  Just as I finished it started raining so I waited for a while for it to abate and set off for home. 

I read another blog where the blogger described the picking up of the bike from United cargo and he had a really bad experience whereas mine could not have been any better!  The whole process only took me 3 hours – great!

Reflections

It dawned on me that I’ve completed my trip!  I’m feeling really good about it, but perhaps, hmm –  a couple of  nice glasses of Malbec helped?  So more than 8000 km and some of those pretty slow and arduous kms, especially, in the Andes.  It’s been an amazing time and it’s given me a lot of memories.   I didn’t really choose to go in the southern hemisphere winter – it was the only time I could go.  So is it a good time of the year for such a trip ?  Well, if you can stand cold temperatures for most of the trip it’s no problem.  I’m not sure if I was particularly lucky – but I’ve had very little rain and I hate rain when I’m riding a motorcycle – it’s way worse than cold, or at least cold when it’s above freezing.  So yes, maybe it’s a good time to go, but do bring cold weather gear, I loved my heated pants and jacket and used them more than I thought I would – and heated grips is definitively a must.

What about other drivers on the road?  Peru and Bolivia, be prepared for pretty aggressive driving, particularly the mini buses, after they stop to let passengers on or off,  it seems they will pull out on the road without even looking if there’s anyone coming, they expect other drivers to slow down… The same when overtaking, they will flash their lights expecting oncoming traffic to give them space.  Ecuador and Colombia – they are not as aggressive as drivers in Peru or Bolivia.  The best drivers are without a doubt the ones in Argentina, on several occasions I noted their courteousness; In Cordoba I came out of the hotel carpark and the GPS hadn’t figured out where I was going to turn and I was in the rightmost lane at a traffic light when the GPS told me to turn left so I turned the indicators on and as the light turned green the cars in the two left two lanes waited patiently for me to turn left – no horns or anything else indicating they were impatient for me to go.  And in San Miguel de Tucumen a driver moved his car over so I could go past him while waiting at a red light.  I’m really impressed with the Argentinian drivers,they must have very good driver’s education or it’s part of their general behavior?

I would definitively recommend a bike with tires suitable for dirt roads.  Wide low profile tires, such as fitted to touring or sport bikes would not be good.  There are so many stretches of bad road and so many speed bumps with incredibly aggressive profiles as well as the roads in towns in Peru and Bolivia being incredibly bad with deep rain gutters running across the road as well as deep ruts  making low profile tires a bad choice.

My Triumph Tiger 800 worked flawlessly throughout the trip.  I had absolutely no problems and the only work I did was to adjust the chain once.  I had mounted a Scott-oiler so the chain was well lubricated throughout the trip.  I mounted Shinko 705 tires and they lasted throughout the trip and gave good grip on asphalt as well as dirt roads.  If I had gone much further the rear tire would have needed to be changed but the front tire have lots of life left.

Perhaps a lot of riders are keen to go on a similar trip but always find reasons not to?  And I’m certainly one of those, but I felt that if I didn’t do it now – I would never do it…  I’m definitively not saying that my trip was something incredibly special, there are so many others that are doing much more arduous and longer trips, and, in fact, I’ve met several  on this trip, however, it’s still quite an undertaking and requires some support from your family and loved ones.  I was very lucky in that my missus supported me from the beginning and along the way, thank you my darling!

 

Some beautiful music by one of my favorite artists…

 

 

 

FromBogotaToBuenosAires

I’m doing a motorcycle trip from Bogota to Buenos Aires spending a couple of months travelling through Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Argentina.  Exciting!

 

The post was getting really big so I started a new post covering the trip from Pisco onwards.

Pisco to Buenos Aires

Day 1 June 5, 2018

I arrived in Bogota last night with a direct flight from Houston.  I had organized someone to pick me up and drive me to the hotel and this worked well so I was in bed a couple of hours after I landed.  Bogota is at an altitude of 2640m so the air is “thinner” and one of the consequences is that it is difficult to sleep, and I didn’t sleep well.  I had plans to tour Bogota today but I have no energy so I’ve been relaxing all day.  I read it takes 4 days for the body to adjust to the altitude so I don’t feel too bad about relaxing all day.

Day 2

Today the bike was supposed to arrive but no bike:-(  I’m not that surprised since the shipping company I’m using don’t seem to have their act together.  I had a bit more energy than yesterday so decided to do some sightseeing.  The center of town is 10kms from the hotel so I got an Uber to get there.  Traffic is really quite bad but I was warned about that so no surprise.  I can’t say that Bogota is a beautiful city even though the government buildings and the area they’re in isn’t so bad.  It’s nice they’ve decided to make that area a pedestrian zone with lots of coffee houses and restaurents.  I went to the museo de oro and when I was about to buy the ticket I was asked for my age and after replying I was told it was free!  So there are some benefits to being a pensioner!

The Bolivar square in Bogota. Lot’s of people and doves.

More doves and people.

Bolivar plaza demonstration

Some demonstration. On the way from the hotel there were people marching along the main road. Not sure what they’re demonstrating about or against?

Simon Bolivar statue, Bogota

Statue of Simon Bolivar.

Day 3

I was hoping the bike would arrive today – but no.  I hope for tomorrow, otherwise I will need to spend the weekend here in Bogota and Monday is a holiday so it would delay my departure from here by close to a week from my original plan.  But there is no reason to get upset about it, I think I will need to be ready for things like this.  These things are sent to try us, as my mother used to say.

Today I went to Monserrate, a hill on the eastern edge of Bogota that rises close to 600m above the city.  I took the funicular up and although I could have walked I didn’t fancy doing that before I’m more used to the high altitude.  There is a church on the top as well as restaurants, souvenir shops and other touristy stuff. Walking up to the peak from the funicular station at 3200m was really hard work and I was puffed by the time I got up.  The views of the city were nice once the clouds cleared.

Funicular to Monserrate, Bogota

Funicular to Monserrate. Reminds me of the one in Are, Sweden, where I used to take one of these several times a day when I was actively skiing.

Monserrate, Christ

In the clouds! Looks like a small version of “Christ the redeemer” in Rio.

Bogota from Monserrate

Bogota is a large sprawling city – population 8 million, slightly less than all of Sweden.

Monserrate restaurant.

Cool restaurant at the top of Monserrate.

Go to the top

<a href="#top">Go to the Top</a>

Day 4

As I suspected the bike did not arrive today.  The company I’m using for the shipping must be categorized as incompetent:-(

I did something really stupid this morning when I was inserting my lens, instead of saline solution I put the cleansing solution Peroxide on the lens instead.  Ouch! The burning sensation was incredible and I’ve been suffering all day with severe pain in the eye.  I went out to find an eye bath and saline solution and in the four pharmacies I tried they had none.  I guess people are not wearing contact-lenses much in Colombia?  I finally talked to the hotel owner and with the help of online translation I could describe what was wrong and she immediately offered to take me to an ophthalmic doctor.  Once there and after calling another lady to do the translation over the phone I bought the required drops and eye bath.  Then she mothered me and told me exactly what to do and even administered the first application of the eye drops.  Wow!  I’m amazed at the friendliness and helpfulness of this lady! Perhaps this is a general trait of people here?

Day 5

After enduring the pain in my eye all day yesterday I was totally exhausted and went to bed at 2000 and slept for 10 hours!  The eye is a lot better today, at least there is no pain but it’s not good enough to put my lens in which means I only see with one eye.  I took a long walk to the shopping mall to withdraw some money and taste empanadas for the first time – really yummy.  The mall is nice and clean and would not have been out of place in the states or Europe… 

Food court at Hayuelos mall, Modelia, Bogota

Mall eating area. Very nice and clean and choice of foods.

 

On the way i walked past some kids being coached to learn to skate on inlines and there are plenty of open spaces and play-grounds for kids to roam.  Skating is close to my heart having learnt at a very early age on the ice of lake Storsjon in my hometown Ostersund.  I’m going to make sure that our toddler will learn early too.

Kids learning to skate on inlines, Modelia, Bogota

Nice to see kids learning to skate on inlines wearing protective gear.

Day 6 -7

Looking back at the past couple of days I can’t say I’ve done much. I’ve walked around the area where I’m staying where there are lots of restaurants and cafes in walking distance.  There are also a lot of barbers and I was brave enough to have a hair cut yesterday, I wasn’t sure whether the barber would leave 1 cm or cut 1 cm but it worked out fine and she was very quick finishing the cut.  I had some stitches in my neck that I needed to have removed and it was very difficult for me to see them even in a mirror so I asked the lady at the hotel if she could help and she agreed and removed the stitches without any problems.  Amazing!  The climate in Bogota is almost perfect, around 20 C in the daytime and 10-15 C at night.  So no need for A/C or heating.

So I am ready to start my trip and keeping my fingers crossed the bike arrives tomorrow.

Beautiful sky at dusk, Modelia, Bogota.

Beautiful sky at dusk.

Flower arrangement Modelia, Bogota

Nice flower arrangement

Fruit at grocery store in Modelia

Fruit at the grocery store looks colorful and delicious

Day 9 – June 14

On Monday, the sacred heart holiday, I was bored so I decided to go to Monserrate again.  There were a lot more people than last time and I had to queue for some time before getting up.  After lunch I walked around a bit and it started to rain quite heavily and since all my gear is on the bike I had no rain coat so I got a bit wet and cold.  Yesterday, I could feel the beginning of a cold and today I feel pretty lousy.  Not good, I’m just hoping for a speedy recovery but I know it will take some time before I’m well.  So it’s just as well the motorcycle hasn’t arrived, I don’t think I’m well enough to ride today anyway.  Oh yes, the motorcycle, it’s looking like Friday now. 

Today a gentleman my age checked into the hotel.  Turns out he is from Switzerland and he is on his way home after having completed the route I’m planning to do but going the other way starting in BA and ending up in Bogota.  He used three months on the trip so maybe I’ll be a bit rushed planning to do it in 8 weeks.  I was planning to go to coffee growing region in Colombia for a few days but because of the late arrival of the motorcycle I’m thinking of skipping that.

Day 11

The cold I got turned nasty and I spent the last few days in bed.  The hotel owner was really concerned and she asked me questions about my symptoms, called a pharmacy and discussed what I needed to get better.  After half an hour the pharmacy delivered a cough mixture to the hotel.  It pretty much immediately stopped my cough and runny nose, however, it made me groggy and I couldn’t sleep so the next day I slept all day.  But now I feel much better.

The arrival of the motorcycle became of secondary importance during the last  few days but, of course, it has not arrived.  The latest prediction is now Monday.  It’s frustrating because the shipping company is not keeping me informed of why it’s not arriving.  US customs has approved the documents so there should be nothing holding the shipment up now.

The hotel is located in a residential area and it’s basically a converted home with 6 bedrooms.  Security is tight in that the gate to the street is always locked and I must ask for it to be opened when I venture outside.  There are no parked cars in the streets, they are parked behind the security gates of every house so security is definitively a priority even in this, seemingly, affluent area.  

Yesterday, school kids were marching past the hotel so I took some pics from my window.

Schoolkids marching in the hotel street.

Schoolkids marching in the hotel street.

At lunch time an Austrian gentleman on a BMW GSA arrived at the hotel.  He is a true adventure biker and is spending 7 years going around the world.  He does 3 months travel and then returns to Vienna for three months.  He’s put 100,000 kms on the bike in the last 3 years spending most of that time in South America.  He reckons Bolivia and the northern part of Argentina are the most worthy places to visit.

Day 15 – June 19

Not much has happened in the last 4 days so I did not update the blog.  Needless to say, the motorcycle did not arrive:-(  It’s still stuck in Miami.  This is getting more and more difficult to accept and sometimes I have ideas of aborting the trip because I’m now down to seven weeks for the trip.  And still Aries, the company dealing with shipment can’t get their act together.  Yesterday afternoon they told me everything was cleared and the bike would be arriving last night.  Of course, this morning when Veronica, the lady helping me in Bogota, tried to figure out if the bike had arrived the result was negative.

In the meantime I’m chatting with my new friend Toni, the Austrian biker, reading books and watching the world cup on TV.  Unfortunately, they only show matches where Central and South American teams are involved so the match between Sweden and South Korea was not shown.  Sweden won 1-0 without the support of me watching so I’m happy anyway!

Day 18 – June 22

I finally have some good news!  The motorcycle arrived last night and today I was picked up at 0900 and taken to the airport where two guys from Cargorider helped me clear the bike.  There was a lot of paperwork and back and forth but by 1400 I had the bike in my hands!  4.5 hours – pretty good compared to 13 days in Miami.  So today I rode the bike for the first time on Colombian roads.

Motorcycle crate

The crate-box of the motorcycle looked huge.

Sides are coming off to reveal the Tiger.

Day 19

Today’s the first day on the road, it feels nice to finally get going.   It took me close to two hours to get out of Bogota, the traffic there is murderous, I also took a couple of wrong turns so it turned out to be a long day.  Colombia 40 is very twisty, first coming down from Bogota at 2600 m and a temperature of 10 C down to 300m and 35 C, then up to 3300m before coming down to 1000 m where I am now.  And this road is the main road from Bogota to Cali and further south so the traffic and number of trucks in both directions was incredible.

Getting out of Bogota took it’s sweet time.

Beautiful scenery.

At the first town after crossing this part of the Andes I stopped for a rest and liquid intake being pretty exhausted.  There were a whole bunch of guys hanging around and one of them spoke really good English and we started talking and he suggested a hotel I could stay at. So this guy, Diego, got his friend on a moped to drive ahead of me and lead me to the hotel.  I was a bit worried they were leading me to a remote area where they would rob me, but I needn’t have worried, the hotel is OK and I was too tired to find another hotel anyway.  

My local fixer, Diego, is checking for available rooms.

Dinner was served cafeteria style but it was actually very good – or I was ravenous and didn’t care about the taste.  It seems there was a meeting of the Panama hats distributor because half the people were wearing hats and the next morning they were selling hats from the back of a car.

Colourfull Panama hat.

Another Panama hat?

Outside of the Cafeteria building. Kids were playing soccer and basketball.!

Day 19 – June 24 – Popayan

I got up around 0600 and since there were lots of noise around it seems like most people got up early.  I had a few tiny cups of very sweet coffee and looked up how far I would go.  I decided to go to a town called Popayan around 300 kms further south.  I also booked a hotel room there and got the GPS set up – wow, I felt really organized.  It was raining in the morning and I found the “painted” parts of the road dangerously slippery.  After passing one of the frequent painted speed bumps, opening up the throttle a tiny bit the rear wheel stepped out, I should have set the traction control to “rain” to prevent that happening.

I arrived Popayan around 1300 and found the hotel easily.  It’s right by the main square of town and it’s very beautiful.  I got my room and could hear the people across the street screaming excitedly, at first I couldn’t figure it out but then I saw Colombia was playing Poland in the worldcup and they went hysteric when Colombia scored.  C!olombia won 3-0 so there was a lot of screaming!

Crusifixion display in the stairway of the hotel

Slumming it!

The buildings of the square and the surrounding streets where painted white, very beautiful.

A lot of doves flying by the cupola..

Doves and dogs.

Balloons for sale.

Daddy and daughter having a good time.

Young ladies enjoying themselves.

Day 20

I started around 0730 and was planning to reach the Ecuadorian border by afternoon.  At first it was wet and I’m still not that comfortable riding in the wet so I  was riding pretty slowly – better safe than sorry.  I stopped around 0900 for a coffee and when setting off again the sun had come out and the road was drying up quickly.  For several hours the weather was beautiful and so was the road with many fast sweepers and nice road conditions. I got to Pasto around 1300 and had lunch,  After that it it was raining on and off all the way.

 

It was a long day and I was wet and exhausted by the time I got to the hotel.  Somehow, I managed to get into Ecuador without going through passport control.  It was a weird system and I was waved through, not sure how it happened.  Somehow I need to get back to Colombia and go through the proper procedure, hopefully, they will not put me in jail for not entering the country the proper way…

Day 21 – June 26 – In to Ecuador

I was worried about getting through the border, first back to Colombia and then through the proper border procedures… It turns out you can enter Ecuador and back to Colombia without showing your passport as much as you want – there is no check.  There are a lot of Venezuelans escaping their country going through Colombia to countries further south and the border controls are not dimensioned to handle this flood of people so it takes time. First through passport control to dimensionedexit Colombia, then customs to export the bike, then passport control into Ecuador and lastly import the bike to Ecuador… What a palaver!  Some Argentinian bikers I met at the hotel managed to do it an hour quicker than me although we left the hotel at the same time.

Passport control.

Waiting for the bike to be cleared out of Colombia. Lots of bikers put stickers on the window so you can’t see the person dealing with you. It’s at 3000m elevation so pretty cold.

 

So after three hours clearing the border I set off for Quito, the capital of Ecuador.  The roads in Ecuador are better than Colombia and the road from the border to Quito is really good with long stretches of dual carriageway in the mountainous parts  so that slow trucks do not hinder the traffic flow.  My phone LTE worked fine along the route as well so it seems Ecuador is keen to improve their infrastructure.  So I was surprised to see that the average income in Ecuador is close to half of that in Colombia.

I’m staying in a quirky but nice place run by two Germans recommended by Anton called Zentrum hostel.

Breakfast is served in the garden. North Carolina anthropology students having been to the Amazonas part of Ecuador to observe staying at the hostel.

Progress so far.

Day 24 – June 27 –  Quito

I just learned that Sweden beat Mexico by 3-0 and Germany finished last in the group after loosing 0-2 to South Korea.  I can’t be too gloating since I’m staying at a German hostel…

I now booked flights and hotels to and at  Galapagos so I’m leaving early tomorrow for the airport.  I’m leaving the bike here at the hostel, it will be nice to be off the bike for a few days.  My body  is pretty sore so a few days rest should  do me well. 

I got some washing of clothes done and some other stuff and walked around Quito.  It’s a pretty grimy kind of city but nice tall hills surrounding it.  It’s the 2nd hdimensionedighest capital city in the world after La Paz so at night it got pretty cold and lots of exhaust fumes along the streets.  Definitively not good for my asthma that’s not been good since the cold I caught in Bogota.

June 28 – Galapagos

After an early wakeup at 0430 the taxi picked me up at 0500 – oh so early! On the way to the airport the car got a puncture, however, the driver was quick to change to the spare tire and we were on our way again. It’s strange but on the way from home to the airport in Houston the Uber got a puncture as well, what’s the chance of that happening twice on the same trip?
I landed at San Cristobal, one of the islands of Galapagos, around noon, found the hostel and walked around the island. Lot’s of tame seals around as well as a few pelicans and an iguana. Of course a display with Darwin and the HMS Beagle.

 

Where’s my beer?

  

Angenamt.

 

My asthma is clearly better at sea level and temperatures around 25C and I allowed myself the first beer on the trip, a local beer brewed at Galapagos. Otherwise alcohol in any form seems to make my cough worse 🙁

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 29 – Galapagos

This morning at breakfast I had a chat with the girl serving. Turns out she’s Australian and she used to work in Stavanger running a nightclub while after traveling around South America she met her to be husband who’s from Galapagos. So we had a chat about Stavanger where I worked long time ago and the horizontal rain and dark winters… It’s a small world.

After breakfast I went on the “highland tour” which takes in an extinguished volcano with a lake in the crater, unfortunately, it was in the clouds so couldn’t see much at all. We then went to a giant turtle sanctuary where they breed them from egg to huge turtle. There once was 100,000 turtles on the island but now there are very few left in the wild. The turtles on each of the Galapagos islands are unique and to prevent them from dying out they need to breed them. These guys are really huge! Must weigh several hundred kgs.

These guys are huge.

   

Lastly I was taken to a beach and nothing really special about it apart from the ever present sea lions.

Lovely flower on the way to the beach

Ever present seals. They are very tame and are not scared by humans. Their bleating noise is heard all over the place.

Very tame pelican.

Day 27 June 30 – Galapagos

I had to get up early to go on the boat from San Cristobal to Santa Cruz island which left at 0700. I had in my mind a big ferry boat but it turned out to be a smallish boat with room for 30 passengers. Although there was not much wind the sea was choppy and it turned out to be a very bumpy and uncomfortable two hour ride.

Speedboat to Santa Cruz – a very bumpy and uncomfortable ride

The White house.

  

Santa Cruz island is where most of the Galapagos population lives and it seems more like a “normal” town and not as touristy as San Christobal.

Arriving I had breakfast in a sports bar where they were showing the Argentina vs France game and with France winning I think there were a lot of unhappy people there. It was a good game with 7 goals and some spectacular goals…

I’m staying in the White House Galapagos hostel, it’s nice and clean with comfortable beds – what more could you want?

 

Nice meal.

Day 28 – July 1 – Santa Cruz

I woke up very early like 0500 and did some reading before getting up. After breakfast I went to see Russia beating Spain on penalties in the world cup. It’s a shame Russia won – Spain clearly plays the more attacking and watchable game but the Russian defense was impressive.

It’s a long walk to Tortuga bay where you can see Iguanas. I made it there and got several pictures of these, you have to say, ugly creatures before walking back. I felt pretty proud, all in all I walked more than 10kms…

On the beach

Day 29 – July 2 – Santa Cruz

Today I’m going back to Quito but before that I went looking for postcards and stamps. Clearly, no one is sending these anymore, I had to walk for a couple of kms before finding postcards and then I ask the sales lady for stamps and she looks like me as if I come from a different planet and – no she doesn’t have any. I ask where I can find them and she clearly doesn’t have a clue and says “try a supermarket”. On the way back I ask in at least 5 stores but no one has any… I guess I’ll have to write the cards when I’m back in Houston….

The taxi is waiting so I’d better stop here for the time being….

The airport is on a small island just north of Santa Cruz and not having looked into this I’m surprised when the Taxi lets me off and explains I need to take a boat and then a bus to get to the airport. I’m getting worried I won’t reach my flight and the minutes tick past as I first wait for the boat and then the bus with less than one hour to go before the flight departs… Of course, when I finally get to the airport they tell me the flight is delayed by 2.5 hours! Oh well, worrying for nothing… Watched intermittent the Belgium vs Japan game while waiting, exciting game with 5 goals and the deciding goal came in the last minute.

Now I’m back in the same Quito hostel where I parked my bike and everything is fine. Tomorrow I’m going towards Cuenca which is 450kms further south and I hope to make it in one day.

Day 30 – Quito to Cuenca

Today I spent 9 hours in the saddle and I’m really sore and tired now!  The scenery along the road from Quito to Cuenca is beautiful and in places breathtaking and riding up to the passes and down to the valleys is a lot of fun on a motorcycle but doing it for nine hours is really hard work…  I made it to the hotel just as it was getting dark and I felt like I was going to fall off the bike…  So it’s an early night for me – hope to post some pictures later on. 

When checking in last night to the suites/hotel I chatted to the lady proprietor, who when she saw my Swedish passport revealed she was married to a Danish man and had lived in Copenhagen for 10 or so years.  They decided to move to Cuenca, where she was from originally, when they realized they hardly got to spend time with each other or their children in Copenhagen with long working hours so now they own and run the hotel I was staying at.  You meet so many people with interesting stories on a trip like this!

Stopped for some nice pieces of bread and this lady in local attire showed up. I saw lots of women dressed up similarly while working in the fields.

Breathtaking views. It’s a shame a photo can not give it justice.

Day 31 – Cuenca and Loja

When I woke up and had the left over dinner from last night for breakfast I didn’t really feel like riding today – body still aching and no energy…  I walked around Cuenca for a while and while having coffee figured out I’d better make an effort. So I decided to go to Loja some 220 kms south of Cuenca.  Before leaving  I got some photos of Cuenca which is a nice town with an old central area with narrow streets and nice buildings.

 

The ride to Loja was relatively easy with long stretches riding above 3000 m elevation on fairly fast roads.  

Donkey on the road.

Dramatic landscape and sky

July 4 – Day 31 – Loja to San Ignacious in Peru

I knew today was going to be a long day even though it was only 250 km from Loja to San Ignacious so I started around 0730.  The first 150kms were easy with nice roads although there were some patches of dirt road and even crossing of streams.  However the last 60kms before the border with Peru was on a badly rutted dirt road with very slow going, probably on average no more than 20km/h.  I’ve never done much dirt riding so it was good to see I can manage pretty well and the bike held up very well with no problems and, as far as I know, no bits came off:-)

Getting through the border to Peru was easy and quick, the Ecuadorean side took 10 mins while on the Peru side it took somewhat longer since the customs guy did not seem to have done a temporary import of a vehicle before and was very slow entering stuff on the computer.  In the end the whole process took one hour which is not bad.  There were no other people entering Peru at the entry point while I was there, I don’t think many people could stand the dirt road for so many kms.

Many of these steel plate bridges. I’d hate to cross them in the wet.

Some small rutts.

 

 

Reflecting on the day once I sorted the hotel out I must say it was a great day.  Beautiful sights and challenging roads – what more do you need to make an adventurous day?

Day 31 – July 5 San Ignacios to Bague Grande

When I got the temporary import papers for the bike I signed a declaration that I would get third party insurance which is obligatory in Peru. I found the place in San Ignacios and waited until they opened at 0900 and after waiting for a while the lady handling my case told me they don’t do motorcycle insurance… So I wasted an hour and a half being told this so set off for the next town, Jaen, where I hoped I could get the insurance. So around noon I found an insurance company that would do it, mapfre, and paid my Sol 240 – around USD 75 for a single month. It’s crazy, motorcycle insurance costs close to 3 times the amount of car insurance!

Road obstructions – you never know what’s around the corner!

The 4 legged type of obstruction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So mid afternoon I arrived this place called Bagua Grande which seems like a pretty nice small town. I found a hotel using the iOverlander app but had to park the bike in a garage round the corner. The name of the hotel? Singapoura! As I arrived Brazil was playing Belgium and I felt the mood was pretty somber but when Brazil scored there were the usual loud cheers.  In the end it was not enough and there are no South American teams left in the competition.

Nice geology.

 

Lubricating the chain.

In the main square there was a dance competition for various age-groups and there was some adult dance coaching going on in a different part of the square as well. Lot’s of people milling about by the square at night – nice to see.

Younger competitors.

A bit older age group..

 

 

    

Day 32 – July 7 – Bague Grande to nueve Tingo

Today was a glorious day with blue skies and nice temperatures. I was planning to get an early start but, of course, there’s always a but… I could not get to the bike until 0800 so didn’t get on the road until half an hour later. But the road was great and scenic going through narrow valleys steadily gaining elevation. After a few hours I stopped for a break and soon a BMW GSA stopped and we started chatting – turns out it was a German couple who were on their 2nd year in South America, they asked if I’d been to the Inka ruins just up the road, I hadn’t and they told me this was a site worth visiting and Peru had recently installed a lift to take people to the ruins which start at an elevation of 3000 m. So I went back and then up to the base station and bought a ticket to be taken to Kuelap, as it’s called. Some facts about these ruins:

The fortress of Kuelap, associated with the Chachapoyas culture, consists of massive exterior stone walls containing more than four hundred buildings near Chachapoyas city in Amazonas.

The structure, situated on a ridge overlooking the Utcubamba Valley in northern Peru, is roughly 600 meters in length and 110 meters in width. It was likely built to defend against the Huari or other hostile peoples. Radiocarbon dating samples show that the structures construction started in the 6th century AD and occupied until the Early Colonial period (1532-1570).

So I spent the entire afternoon hiking in my motorcycle gear, looking and photographing the views. I’m pretty chuffed that I managed to hike for 5kms at 3000 meters elevation and climbing an additional 200m to the ruins from the top of the lift and not feeling exhausted! In fact, I felt really good!

I didn’t get back until after 1630 and rather than go an hour to the nearest town I found a hotel close to the lift which is very nice.

Day 33 – Nueve Tingi to Celedin

The route for the day is the continuation of Peru N8B, a narrow, windy and pretty rutted mountainous road.  No guardrails and drops of 100s of meters but, oh, the views are out of this world.  Nothing I’ve experienced comes near!  Anton recommended this section, Leimebamba to Cajamarka and I’m glad I took him up on it.  

View from my balcony before setting off

At the top of the pass at 3600 m elevation

        

 

Amazing views.

Dodgy fuel?

There were some scary moments meeting cars coming at some speed against you and me having to back up and get closer to the edge to let the car by, but in the end everything was fine.  I didn’t look much at the fuel level so I was surprised when the low fuel light came on but by pure luck I stopped at a place where they did sell fuel which was delivered in a bucket and filtered with a piece of cloth on top of a funnel – it worked fine with no problems…  It was afternoon and I was hungry so I asked if they had lunch and, yes, they did.  They took me to the kitchen to show what they had and I chose a piece of pork with potatoes and rice and it was delicious!

It was getting to 1600 hours so at the next town, Celedin, I stopped for the day.  Cajamarka, which was my goal for the day, was 2 hours further away and there was no way I could comfortably make it so I called it a day.

Walking around the market on a Sunday afternoon in Celendin

Town square with the obligatory twin towered church

Day 34 – Celedin to Huanchako

Riding in the mountains is absolutely fantastic, great fun to ride and a feast for the eyes, however, it’s difficult to make any distance.  A full day’s riding only gets you 150 – 200kms in a long day and I feel the need to cover a greater distance to be back in Houston by mid August.  So I decided to go to the coast where roads make it possible to easily cover 400 kms in a day.  The goal for the day was Huanchaco with the first 150kms in the mountains but then on to the coastal plains.  Once there I soon realize that the landscape is really ugly, looking like a moon landscape and with very bad haze.  It was also getting much cooler, the pacific at this time of year must be cold (someone told me the water is only 16C).

I got to Huanchaco by 1700 and was lucky to find a very nice hostel close to the beach… I was looking for a different hotel but when coming up the street from the coast I happened to see two bikes and their riders standing by this hostel and I asked if they had a room, and, yes, they did.  The hostel is owned and run by a lady from Lima who speaks very good English, there is coffee and tea available all through the day and the room and bed are very nice.  It’s a surfers place with lots of surfboards in the front yard and several surfers staying here as well.

After having ridden 6 long days without a break I decided to stop here for two nights giving me a chance to catch up on the blog as well as get some clothes washed and relax.

Walking around Huanchaco I snapped a few photos..

Discussing the day’s surfing action?

Colourful murals

Surfers waiting for the right wave.

Progress Quito to Huanchaco. It took me six days to cover the 2000km.

Day 36 – Huanchaco to Huacho

After a day of rest in Huanchaco and the Punta hostel it was time to leave to go further south with the goal being 400 kms south to a town called Huacho.  It was sad to leave the friendly and comfortable hostel but I had to get on.  The road south was a mixture of Autopista outside of the towns and not so good roads and lots of traffic in the towns.  The Autopista is very nice going through a desert like landscape with rocks and sand and little green but actually quite beautiful when you get used to it.  When getting close to the hotel I found a place where they washed the bike and it now looks like new again! 

Clean bike again. It was terribly dirty after the dirt-roads.

The hostel is close to the beach and the sound of the waves can be well heard – should make for good sleep.  The hostel itself looks nice and clean but venture outside and it’s a different story.  Behind it, the slope to the beach is used as a dump and looks awful and the street leading to it doesn’t look so nice either.

Kids play on their smartphones – it’s the same all over the world… The phone network mostly works well with 4G available almost everywhere.

Dogs everywhere in Peru. When I left next morning several dogs were sleeping in the street and couldn’t be bothered to move when I drove past them. And painted walls are also everywhere in Peru, seems to be a lot of election related murals but also ads.

The view towards the Huacho town from the hostel. Doesn’t look all that nice or?

Day 37 – July 12 –  Huacho to Pisco – 370km

I got up early and was on my way 0715.  Mind you, it took some time to get out of the town, the GPS led me down the wrong roads several times and it felt like I was going round in circles for a while.  After half an hour I finally found the N1 road leading to Lima. After a couple of hours I approached Lima and I knew I had quite an arduous time ahead of me getting past the mega city of more than 10 million people.  There were a couple of accidents meaning very slow progress for a while and stuck between big lorries who insists on leaving very little space between me and them didn’t feel so great.  At one time the GPS led me to a toll road veering off the road I was going on, however, I was stopped by an official who said motorcycles were not allowed on this road and he told me to turn around and go against the traffic to the road I came from.  This was not easy to maneuver the bike around the 300 degrees sharp edge of the “V” with a steady stream of cars  who had no intention of stopping to help me.  Luckily some bikers came and stopped their bikes allowing me to go back and forth a few time before I could continue on the road again. Not a fun moment!  After that the traffic eased off and I made rapid progress.

Views from the road south.

Desert surroundings.

Hazy and dusty air,

I arrived in Pisco around 1400 and this place, the Tambo Colorado, is well used to bikers.  The receptionist came out in the street as I was getting ready to get off the bike and asked if she should open the gate so I could park it in the secure yard.

For the 2nd part of the blog click here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GPS Navigation

I’m attempting to summarize my understanding of GPS software and maps….

When you think about GPS navigation, devices like Garmin and TomTom comes to mind and those two are, perhaps, dominating the market. However, in the last few years the situation has become much more “complicated” with smartphones having a plethora of GPS navigation apps available. And many new cars come with GPS navigation installed and, of course, Google and Apple have their own maps with navigation. All these devices and apps need maps to function so where do these maps come from?

Maps

NAVTEQ was a Chicago based company that was later acquired by Nokia and subsequently renamed Here and sold to a consortium of three German automotive companies, Audi, BMW and Mercedes. Garmin used NAVTEQ maps so supposedly currently uses the Here maps. TeleAtlas was a Dutch company providing maps to TomTom, who later acquired the company.  Open Streetmap (OSM), which is similar to Wikipedia in concept in that everyone can contribute and update the maps provides the maps for most of the free smart phone apps.  Both Google (and I assume Waze) and Apple get their main maps from TomTom but have other suppliers as well.

I’m no expert on what information and how the this information is stored but without additional information base-maps would be pretty useless. To make use of the maps for navigation, additional information such as road and street names as well as addresses must be available and it is in this respect that “apps” using the same base-maps differ.

Navigation devices

Garmin is probably the biggest seller of navigation devices, at least in the USA.  As stated above, I believe Garmin uses maps from Here with their own information on top of that.  However, the Garmin map format has been reverse engineered and OSM maps can be formatted to work with Garmin devices.   For example, it’s been reported that the original Garmin maps are not very good when traveling in South America and that the OSM maps are actually better and more recent. On a recent trip to Mexico,  Garmin with the OSM maps worked pretty well, but information such as speed-limits was not so good.

I have been using Garmin Nuvi devices on my motorcycle and they hold up well, even in hot weather with direct sunlight. I have not used them much in heavy rain but with the use of silicon at the edges of the screen you can make them pretty watertight and if that’s not enough the simple trick of an upside down zip-loc plastic bag works well. Unfortunately, the Garmin (and TomTom) special motorcycle devices are ridiculously expensive and I’ve never tried them so I can’t give any comments on how they work.

Apps

There are a lot of navigation apps for both iPhone and Android devices but I have only tested apps that run on Android.  Most of the apps use the OSM maps but apps like here use the Here maps.

  1. Osmand: This app has a lot of options and somewhat obscure way of setting them.  I don’t recommend this app if all you want to do is to navigate to a destination because it’s pretty difficult to specify it.  You must select a point on the map and set this as the destination rather than specify a destination address.  Neither is it straight forward to specify and save favorites.  However, if you have a route built on for example a google maps you can upload the route and use the app to navigate.  Likewise, it’s easy to record a route as you go along it.  It’s using the OSM maps and secondary information such as speed limits is not so good.
  2. maps.me: For road navigation this is a very good and straight forward app to use.  You set a destination and it figures out the route.  However, sometimes the destination you want is not in the database and you might need to find it on the map. Also uses the OSM maps but seems to have more address and point of interest information (poi) than osmand.   On my recent trip traversing central Asia maps.me worked really well.  It also seems that is is coordinated with booking.com.  I use booking.com extensively on my trips and almost all hotels I’ve found are also available on maps.me making navigation to the hotel easy.  Speed limit information is mostly lacking, but, in some places like Estonia, speed limits did show on the display when passing speed cameras.
  3. Here: This is the navigation app from the company behind the Here maps.  It’s very straight forward to use, set the destination and it figures out how to get there.  This app has pretty good secondary information such as speed limits, not so sure about it’s poi information.  However, I found it to be unreliable in some cases so I gave up using it.
  4. Google maps: It seems this app has the most up to date maps but you do need to download the maps to your phone if there isn’t reliable data-connection everywhere along your route.  Of course, if you don’t have a paid data-plan for where you are going you also need to download the maps before setting off.

 

 

Mexico

Day 1

I set off on February 1 with the first day’s goal being Laredo in south west Texas. US 59 goes from Houston so I followed this for the 300 miles required to reach Laredo. Nothing much to say about the ride apart from it being a very windy day with winds from the side and front making for pretty hard work keeping the bike in the right direction. I checked in to a Day’s Inn and unfortunately I did not check the room and location so my room faced the I35 which meant a lot of traffic noise all night.

I had really wanted to do a bike trip to Mexico but when I’m finally on my way I really start thinking, do I really want to do this? Going away from a comfortable life at home for an uncertain time away. Especially when I’m all alone in my motel room, it seems so pointless. Well, let’s see how things turns out tomorrow?

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Day 2

Today was when I would enter Mexico and I was pretty nervous about this. I hear so much bad about Mexico, the crime and the gun fights between rival drug cartels. And looking at the state department’s recommendation regarding Mexico – it’s basically don’t go there.

And then the procedure on entering Mexico…. Leaving the US was not a problem and neither was entering Mexico on the other side of bridge number 2 in Laredo. However, after crossing the bridge you are supposed to find a building to get immigration and do a temporary importation of your vehicle, I took the wrong turn and got a bit lost but found it in the end. After about an hour me and the bike were legally in Mexico! There were several military and police personnel carrying guns but this is true for a lot of entry points in to any country so I was not worried about that. Apart from that everything seemed peaceful.

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I then set off on Mexico 85 towards Monterey which is around 250kms away. The roads are really good and especially the toll “auto-pista”. I never went into Monterey but took the Mexico 40 towards Saltillo. I found that there is a long distance between petrol stations so for a while I was worried I didn’t have enough fuel to reach the next one, so I was riding fairly slowly at around 100kmh at which speed the fuel consumption is very much lower. In the end it was not a problem and I had plenty of gas when I filled up. I was pretty tired so a short 350kms would have to do for the day so I stopped in Saltillo.

After finding the hotel as recommended in a “book” by someone on the Adventure rider site I unpacked and walked around town for some time. Very interesting and so different from US towns, there were a couple of squares in the town and they were full of people and buskers, so full of life. Really nice to see!

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A man trimming a tree.

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Not sure what this depicts but it looks impressive.

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Beautiful cathedral

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I saw many old VWs, I think they were produced in Mexico at the time.

For dinner I found a restaurant recommended by google (who else!) that turned out to be great, very nice food and personal service! My waiter who spoke some english was very helpful and gave me good recommendations on what to eat. He convinced me to try Mescal and it was very strong but good. I had an interesting guacamole dish as a starter and fish for mains. A beautiful meal!

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Interior from the Saltillo restaurant.

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Interesting restaurant exterior

Day 3

I woke up around 7.30 or so and it took me an hour to get ready to go. Packing takes a long time but hopefully when I’m more familiar with it all it will be quicker. Anyway, I rode out of Saltillo and got on the road to Durango which was 500kms along Mexico 40D. A fairly easy and straight forward ride taking it easy. Riding at 100kmh rather than 115kmh reduces fuel consumption by 20% and I was in no rush so 100kmh it was. In younger days I would have ridden at 150kmh so I must be getting older and wiser, yes?

Along the way at a rest stop at a toll station I met a couple of riders from Monterey and we had a chat about bikes and riding in general. They were both on BMW’s and were going along at a much higher speed than me. Since it’s a three day weekend in Mexico they were making a trip to Mazathlan, then north and back to Monterey for work on Tuesday. I allways enjoy chatting to other bikers, it’s something that would never happen if you were driving a car…

I arrived at Durango fairly early in the afternoon but the recommended hotel was full:-( Fortunately there was another one just across the street and luckily it had a room. Once settled into the room I went for a walk and found a supermarket where I had a bit to eat, I also found an ATM where I got some cash and luckily my US ATM card was accepted without problems.

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Nice graffiti in the park next to the hotel.

After a nap I went to dinner at a place that was given good ratings by …. Google. It was not as nice as the one in Saltillo but it wasn’t too bad. As I was trying to talk to the waitress about what to order a very friendly woman who spoke good english and sitting at another table came across to help with the translation, people here are so friendly and helpful, it’s just amazing!

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After the meal I went for a walk in the center of town. It was Saturday night and the whole area was in party mode! The streets were blocked off from traffic and there was life and action everywhere you looked. One guy was playing an electric guitar and singing and was sounding very much like Santana in black magic woman – great! After Mazathlan I have found that Mexican cities are amazingly lit at night giving a very nice atmosphere and so was certainly Durango.  Durango is at an altitude of 1800m so it was quite chilly, perhaps around 10C.

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Buskers and entertainers along the street and lots of people about.  Real party atmosphere!

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Durango center has a very long pedestrian area beautifully lit!

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If you haven’t figured it yet – I’m quite taken in by Mexico!

Day 4

Today I’m riding to Mazatlan a distance of 230kms along the newly constructed Mexico 40D. It took 10 years of construction and 2bln usd to construct it and it’s supposed to be spectacular.  The road goes across the Sierra Madre from Durango to Mazatlan on the Pacific coast. The first 100kms are on relatively flat ground but at an altitude of between 2200 and 2700m above sea level. The road was pretty straight and so very uneventful riding. However, about halfway the new road was closed, and I later found out it’s been closed for several months because the foundations of a huge bridge were moving. This meant I had to ride on the old Mexico 40 which has a really bad reputation for accidents and part of it called the devil’s backbone. On a motorcycle, though, it was fantastic! It’s probably the most curvy and interesting road I’ve ridden, better than Stelvio in Italy, Mae Hong song loop in northern Thailand or roads up to the Malaysian Highlands! It was interesting on several other aspects as well, I saw military vehicles, kind of like big pickups, with a soldier on top with a machine gun pointed forward, a few smashed up trucks with one having smashed into the rock wall after a 90 degree turn, and totally flattened the super structure. However, the traffic was very light so there weren’t many trucks I had to overtake. There was nowhere to stop apart from a straight area with beautiful views, so I don’t have any pictures of the road. I do have some videos, though, not sure how to post those.

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Beautiful views along Mexico 40

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Nice family I was chatting to and who took my picture.

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The road was only finished in 1960(?)

The old road is 70kms longer because of all the twists and ups and downs so takes a lot longer. After more than 100kms of this I got back on the new road and made good time to Mazatlan.

I took a video on some of the way along Mexico 40.  For non-bikers it might be a bit tedious to watch 🙂

 

 

 

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Shop in a small village after coming down to less than 500m altitude.

I found a hotel right by the beach, it’s very old and dilapidated but good enough to stay in, the bed is ok and the noise from the waves is just magical so sleeping was not a problem apart from the first night when people were partying along the strand-promenade until past midnight.

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View from my room after dark.

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Streets behind hotel beautifully lit at night.

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Nice restaurant catering for expats.  The screens were showing the Superbowl and there were huge cheers when Philadelphia won.

Days 5 – 6

I decided to stay in Mazatlan for 3 nights and spent the time relaxing and walking around town. I talked to several “expats” who frequented the same place for breakfast and coffee. There are a lot of Americans retiring here for at least part of the year and I saw a lot of them going for Spanish classes down the road from where I was having my coffees. I noted a lot of buildings are being repainted and the town in general is being spruced up and is attempting to become the new Acapulco because of the gang violence there have meant not many foreigners go there anymore.

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Brave guy doing an Acapulco style dive into an incoming wave.

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An old Harley with a dispatch rider and someone else on it.

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Should I be worried or reassured?

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Interesting building

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Shirt purveyor – bought a nice shirt from this lady.

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On the beach

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Lots of statues along the beach promenade

Tomorrow I’m leaving and going a bit further south to a place called San Blas. So follow me for further adventures! It’s a much smaller town and also located on the coast.

Day 7

Oh noo! I woke up with a sore throat and was immediately afraid I had another bad cold coming. Nevertheless, I got up and went out for a long walk along the seafront to do my 8000 steps a day to get into slightly better shape. Then I went to the favorite coffee place for breakfast. I had a chat with the owner who said they opened last year in February but after a couple of months the town closed all roads around the place to do the town refurbishment so for 7 months they had very bad business because it was so difficult to get there. However, they were doing OK now.

 

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Owner of the place

Back at the hotel I was told I could not have my valuables that I stashed in the hotel safe until 11am, not too pleased with this but

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Hotel interior.  Really old place but it had it’s quirky charm.

I thought I’m on a holiday and an adventure in Mexico so I’d just have to put up with it. When 11 arrived and I was told, no I couldn’t have my stuff until noon I was starting to get annoyed. It’s better to ride in the morning before traffic gets bad and before the worst of the heat hits so I gave the hotel staff an earful of my thoughts about this. In Sweden punctuality is a way of life and I guess this is deeply rooted from when we’re born… So there was nothing else to do but go for another walk.

 

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Girls rehearsing a play or speech they were going to be part of

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Waterslide by the beach. Slide was made of concrete and no water in the slide so no one was using it.

 

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Volvo trucks lined up blocking the street.  Workers were building a stage for Carnival that would start tomorrow.

Well, I finally got on my way and did the 250kms to San Blas. First along the toll auto-pista and then on a narrow twisty road for 35kms – a great road that I would normally love but today I was tired and not in the mood.

I arrived at the hotel in San Blas around 4pm and immediately went for a rest – pretty exhausted. After a while I inspected the bar and later went for a walk into the small town and found a lovely restaurant. After dinner I’m back in my room which this time is A/Ced, a step up from my previous rooms. Mind you the hotel room price has kept increasing for every new hotel I’m staying at in Mexico and it’s now more than 4 times the first night in Saltillo. It’s kind of strange though that it was only the first two hotels that had warm water in the shower, maybe Mexicans are hardy and think a hot shower is for weaklings?

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She and her brother owned and ran the restaurant where I was having a great dinner.

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Purveyor of “junk”?

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Guys hanging out on the main plaza in San Blas

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Church under renovation

Days 8-9

I’m really able to relax here in San Blas! A small charming town where most of the roads are unpaved, a small square with many coffee places around it and a long stretch of beach not far from my hotel. There are a lot of gringos here who come to escape the cold climate further north. At the beach restaurant I ran into two different groups on two different days who were enjoying themselves with a lot of empty beer bottles on the table mid afternoon…

After staying here for 3 nights, tomorrow I’m off the Puerto Vallarta, a much bigger town, maybe the same size as Mazatlan.

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Beach life in San Blas

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Family bringing home the shopping.

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Lovely beach in San Blas

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Kids playing on the beach after school is out

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San Blas is known as a surfing destination.  Maybe this is not the season – the waves were not very big, but at least this guy is trying.

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It really is a nice beach

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Football is everywhere!

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American contingent is getting their daily dose of muffins

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Pacifico is the local beer and it’s quite drinkable

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Mum picking up her daughter for lunch

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These kids were learning to march!  Their Maestro was really strict in making them march the correct way.  Very cute!

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Street vendor bbqing chicken.

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This boy was very upset his mum had left him to wait while she was gossiping with her friend.

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There is a convention of Franciscan monks in town (and they’re actually staying at the same hotel as me).

Ahhh, after dinner and talking to the missus on WeChat I decided to stay another day, it really is a nice place.

So you might be thinking what’s this guy doing on his own leaving the family back in Houston? Well, ever since we put our little one, now two years old, into daycare I’ve been struggling with my health.  I’ve had two episodes of pneumonia and numerous lighter chest infections and I don’t know how many courses of antibiotics to fight these infections.  So the missus and I decided I needed to get out for a change of environment and I took a 4 week vacation from work.  Of course, I immediately came down with another infection so I had to wait for another week and half before setting off on my trip.  It seems to have worked, in the last few days I’ve been feeling great and today I’ve walked at least 10km and even jogged along the beach for half a km!  Touch wood!

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My route so far

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There are beautiful church interiors in every town.

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Have you seen this man?  He was last seen unshaven on the beach at San Blas.

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Beautiful sunset

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Surf class on the beach

 

Day 11

After 4 nights in lovely San Blas it was time to leave. Of course, I could’ve stayed much longer, it was such a nice low-key, quirky and relaxing place. The small town with surprisingly many nice restaurants and coffee places where I could while the hours away. The long non obstructed beach for long walks in the waves… But it was time to move on and today I’m going to Puerto Vallarta, it’s only 160kms but Google says it’s going to take 3.5 hours so the road must be pretty twisty.

San Blas to Puerto Vallarta

It ended up taking 3 hours and I was pretty knackered by the time I got to the  hotel in Puerto Vallarta.  First impressions of PV?  It’s a very touristic place somewhat like Cancun with huge hotels lining the beach. Maybe I should have spent a couple of nights more in San Blas? I found a great restaurant, though… A lot more fancy than restaurants I’ve been to so far on this trip, it had a huge 10m screen where they were showing music acts as different as Motown to Justin Timberlake.  I asked if they had any classic rock such as Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin but it appears acts like those are not much in demand.  I guess I’m showing my age?

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Big hotels catering for people on beach bolidays

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In between the big hotels the local boys are fishing

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Locals playing and singing on the beach

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I had a chat with two Canadian couples who are staying for 5 weeks.  They brought their dogs in strollers.  Maybe the pavement is too hot for Canadian dogs?  Local dogs seemed not to worry.

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In order not to leave the bike in the street I rode it through the reception area and parked it by the loos.

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Cool restaurant with huge screen.

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Good selection of wines and spirits.

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I had fillet with a spinach dish for dinner.  Very nice!

 

Day 12

I took a taxi to the center of town which turns out to be much nicer than the big hotel area where my hotel is located. A nice car-free beach promenade with some arts and performances.

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Promenade along the beach in center of Puerto Vallarta

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Pelican convention in town.  10 of them came flying down the promenade in perfect V-formation and it looked like planes flying along.  Their wingspan is very impressive.

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This one is contemplating his next argument in the discussions.

 

 

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Statue made of sand. Later on I saw a guy spraying it with something – water or glue?

Today’s the last day before starting the  trip home and it’s a bit sad to leave the nice climate of Mexico pacific.  It’s a long trek home and I don’t think I can do it in less than 4 days, so let’s see what tomorrow brings.

Day 13

Got up early, actually I didn’t sleep that well, and was ready to leave at first light.  I wasn’t sure how far I’d make it today so I had no real goal.  The first bit towards Tepic is very twisty as the road winds itself up and down the hills.  With big trucks doing 15-20 kmh and not many chances for overtaking I was not making good progress.  There were stretches where I could keep a good speed and the road is actually a lot of fun…

So I did get on the Auto-pista and could keep a good speed.  It looked like a brand new road and I noticed many trucks full of soldiers and as I went along I saw soldiers standing guard beside the road and on the bridges.  Not sure what was going on but I suspect there was some dignitary coming along the road and they’re not taking any chances.

By mid day I reached Guadalajara, it was quite warm and I was starting to feel pretty knackered.  After passing through the city I had some lunch and felt a bit better and kept going until I reached Aguascalientes.  Coming into the city I saw two huge Nissan plants and after looking this up these are the biggest Nissan factories outside of Japan and produce 850,000 cars a year.  That’s more than 2000 a day!  Furthermore, the city is the most business friendly in Mexico and is very prosperous.

After a shower I walked around the center of town and it’s nice with a huge town-square and adjacent cathedral.  But, I don’t think it was as nice as the one in Durango.

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This guy was sitting just outside my hotel.

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Obligatory picture of the main cathedral.  As always in Mexico – there are lots of people about in the town centers.

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The local government building just off the square was beautiful inside.

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2 wheeled cops seemed very friendly

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Progress so far.  Houston looks a long way away.

 

Day 14

Again, I got up early to ride in the morning while it is cooler.  Getting out of Aguascalientes proved fairly straight forward by following the GPS.  Once out on the highway it was full speed ahead on good 4 lane highways going north on the Mexican highlands.  Very little traffic and very far between petrol stations – I guess there is not enough business to have more of them. So a bit after midday I was close to Saltillo and could easily have reached Laredo by evening.

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The highland has what looks like palm-trees along the road.  Beautiful landscape with far away views.

However, I decided to do, what I thought would be a little detour on a nice road that I’d been recommended, going due east to Santiago.  Road 20 turned out to be a mountain crossing, perhaps, being the most technical and difficult road I’ve ever ridden.  Incredibly steep switch-backs with turns that felt like I was close to vertical and really nasty speed bumps put on the road in the villages.

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So instead of being nice sweeping turns that would add a short time to the journey it ended up taking 3 hours and at the end I was totally exhausted and decided to find the nearest hotel which was an Ibis at the southern outskirts of Monterrey.

Day 15

I wasn’t sure how far I’d reach today, perhaps, I could go all the way home? Setting off at break of day I got through Monterrey without too many problems although I did take a wrong turn at one time.  Then on the highway it was very dense fog for some time and when getting close to Nuevo Laredo there was a massive queue of trucks blocking both lanes.  Of course, with a motorcycle in a motorcycle friendly place it was expected that I’d wind my way through and one truck-driver actually indicated with arm-waving that I should go on the shoulder of the road – which I then did for kms until some car blocked and I had to switch to going between trucks and then to the shoulde again.  I finally reached the front of the queue and it must have been a crash involving several big trucks with debris everywhere and diesel on the road.  If I hadn’t been on a bike I would have been stuck there for hours.

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Crash-site. It looked pretty nasty and it would take hours to clear.  They must have put the dirt on the road to absorb diesel spills.

 

It wasn’t long after that I reached Nuevo Lardeo (the Mexican side of Laredo), I now had to find the place where I could get the deposit for the temporary importation of the bike back so I went to the same place as when I entered Mexico.  I did find a small kiosk and without problems my deposit was refunded.  After getting out of Mexico the queue to enter the US took about half an hour so by the time I was in the US again it was noon.

And then the ride back to Houston took about 5 hours.

Notes

I very much enjoyed Mexico and never felt unsafe, even when walking alone in dark streets.  Of course, the big presence of police and military is a worry.

From one thing to another – I recently switched to T-mobile and their plan allows full data and calls from Canada and Mexico at no extra cost and it worked brilliantly throughout my time in Mexico.  Often I would use the data over the phone rather than the hotel wifi! Great!

Riding a motorcycle is a great way to discover Mexico and new places in general.  You meet a lot more people than when going by car…

Total route of my trip:

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I only figured out how to set up a blog on this trip and I still have a lot to learn on how to make it more presentable.  But, anyway, it’s the content that’s important, no?

Thanks to everyone who has been following along and has taken the time to read my ramblings.  I very much appreciate the comments and feedback I’ve had!

That’s it!