Ok... I rode from Los Angeles California to the southern tip of South America, and back. I started out with a friend from Alberta Canada - Larry is a rancher whom I met when I rode to Alaska a few years earlier and had stayed in touch with. He had recently bought a new bike and wanted to go for a ride. So we set our sights on Tierra Del Fuego. But, he had to turn back in Colombia. Then I rode with Brian from England, Patrick from Ireland, and Damon from New Zealand, from Columbia to Santiago Chile. After that, I was on my own.

This was an exciting trip for a number of reasons. It was over 30,000 miles thru Latin America and the Andes mountains, and I didn't speak much Spanish. There was also the small detail of the Darien Gap. And, then there was "Death Road" in Bolivia - supposedly the most dangerous road in the world.

Anyway, I blogged about the entire journey right here.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Around the Darien Gap by Sailboat

Met with the captain of the “Fritz the Cat”.  His name is Friz and his boat is a large catamaran.  Made arrangements to meet up with him at the dock in Carti along the northern coast of Panama.  Headed down the Darien late the next day but didn’t get as far as I would have liked.  Ended up staying in the tiny town of Chepo, in their only hotel.  Heard a couple gunshots in the street before retiring to my room which smelled of urine and included some friendly pets from the insect family.  Got up early and headed farther down the Darien but didn’t have time to go all the way to the end of the road.  I did come across what I thought was a vary unusual if not just plain weird sight.  Two identical large black birds standing in the road, one in each lane, with their wings spread wide.  They were so still that they looked like statues.  They didn’t move as I approached and I thought, OK… there is someone in the bushes waiting for me to stop and they are going to jump me.  So, I slowed down and when I got really close I hit my horn.  And they turned and walked off the road… really weird! Anyway, I rode on a bit further before turning back as I was out of time and needed to get back to the rendezvous with the sailboat.

So, I turned back and headed up over the mountain to Carti where I would meet up with Fritz, the captain of the boat I would be sailing on.  There was quite an interesting mix of folks from all over: 2 Americans, a Canadian, an Irish couple, a Norwegian, an Aussie, a Spaniard, a German, 2 swiss gals, a Slov woman, and a Columbian girl.  And, the captain and his girlfriend were Austrian.  We spent several days lounging about the beautiful San Blas Islands swimming and snorkeling before moving on.  And although I was unable to get a tattoo from the Kuna tribe in the Darien,  I did get to meet a few on board the sailboat.  And one took a bunch of us snorkeling for lobsters. We ended up getting 3 lobsters and 5 crabs which we had for dinner that night.  We stayed  around the islands for a couple days before heading for the open sea .  Most of us had never been on a sailboat and we had a blast for the first hour or so with ship bobbing up and down over the waves occasionally spraying us with water.  But after a while people started getting sea sick due to the ship bobbing up and down over the waves.  Kinda like being on a roller coaster for 2 days.  In the end, we all survived and ended our sailing adventure in Cartagena Columbia where I am now staying in a hostel.

Here are some pics:

Monday, November 22, 2010


Parted ways with Patrick and Brian a couple days ago as they wanted to stay in Costa Rica another day while Larry and I wanted to move on and get to Panama City earlier.  And, I wanted to explore down to the end of road at the Darien Gap.  We had planned on meeting up at the docks where we would load the bikes onto the Stahlratte sailboat which Brian and Patrick had reservations on and we hoped to get on as well.  But, we got an email from the boat captain and it was completely full already.  So, Larry and I needed to make other arrangements to get around the Darien Gap.  There are other ways to go, like flying yourself and/or the bike, or shipping the bike in a container.  But, From what I’ve read, sailboats are the way to go as they provide another complete adventure.  The trip includes several days snorkeling and playing on the San Blas islands before setting sail for Cartagena Columbia.  They also transport you and your bike.  So, Larry and I rode on but not very far before a monster rainstorm hit and we were forced to seek shelter in an open barn.  The owner came out to see what who we were and we asked if we could stay… at least that’s what I think I asked.  But, who knows, maybe I asked if they were missing some fruit! Idunno!

Got an early start and made it to the border before they opened.  Larry and I have not exactly excelled in our use of the Spanish language.  So, we have struggled a bit when crossing borders.  But, we know enough about the process now to make it through without getting so frustrated that you want to kill someone. So, a mere 3 hours after arriving at the border, we say goodbye Costa Rica, hello Panama.  We then
rode thru some more heavy showers and ended the day just short of the Panama Canal. Got a room with internet access and emailed some sailboat captains regarding transport from Panama to Columbia. 

We rode the final 50km into Panama City today.   Then  spent the next 3 hours trying to find the Hostel.  Took some time just to locate a map.  Finally found one in a bookstore at a mall.  Yup, Panama is very westernized in most respects.  Then we wandered around the city for another hour or so trying to read the map and make sense of their addressing  scheme - never did really figure it out.  Ended up talking to a couple police officers who didn’t speak any English but were kind enough to flag down a gentleman who did. 
He gave us directions to the area where the Hostel was located and we managed to find it! Whoohoooo! Yep! it’s the simple things :)  Then we bumped into the captain of one of the boats that I had emailed the day.  As, it turns out, he was scheduled to leave the next day.  Wow, that’s good timing - too good actually.   I wanted at least a couple days to explore the eastern end of Panama near the Darien Gap.  So, we got him to wait another day before sailing.  And, now I will have time to go get a tattoo from a native tribe near the Darien  - their famous for their tattoo’s, and not eating westerners.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Another installment from the adventure boys…

I did not know this until a few days ago, but the middle section of Mexico has a tropical climate and the area is very green and beautiful - it looks like Hawaii. And, along the coast, heading south from Puerto Vallarta, are some of the nicest and most scenic twisty roads I‘ve ever ridden.

Anyway, we left the small town of Melaque around noon which was our latest start yet.  We seem to be on Mexican time now which is to say that we don’t know and don’t care too much what time it is.  So, we hit the road with no mileage in mind for the day - we decided to stop riding 2 hours before sunset and look for a place to stay.  But we only rode a bit over a hundred miles when we saw a small campground sign and wanted to check it out.  What we found was absolutely the most incredible campground either of us had ever seen - a little utopia - a small slice of heaven…. and, its in Mexico.  Who’da thunk?  Not me!  But, we liked this place so much we stayed an extra day just to relax and enjoy it.

So, we spent the next day trying to make up for the day we took off from riding - we rode for 30 hours. It’s hard to break old habits. But, it was all good until it got dark.  Ok… we shouldn’t have been riding at night… I thought we weren’t going to do that any more… oops!  Anyway, at around 9:00pm we rode up on a traffic jam out in the middle of nowhere.  Actually it was more like they turned the road into a parking lot.  There were cars and trucks stopped on both sides of the road, and many of them were empty.  There were more cars and trucks parked along the shoulder and even further out from the road in what appeared to be dirt fields. So, we weaved our way through the sea of vehicles for a half mile until we came across a large group of people blocking the road.  It appeared to be a strike or demonstration of some sort.  And they started getting vocal as we rode up.  So, we stopped and turned off our bikes.  A few people started whistling and shouting.  At this point I was getting just a bit nervous.  So, we got off our bikes and started asking if anyone spoke English.  After a few tense moments, an older man stepped forward.  We told him that we were from Canada and the U.S. and asked if they would let us go thru.  He said a few things that we didn’t understand, there was some conversing between folks in the crowd, and then he motioned for them to let us thru. The people in our path stepped aside to let us go by.  But, the atmosphere seemed a little tense.  And, we got the impression that they wanted us to hurry.  I felt a bit relieved as we rode thru the crowed of people but we we’re not quite through just yet.  There was another group of people about 20 meters down the road, blocking traffic from the other direction.  Again, we stopped, shutdown and dismounted our bikes, and started asking if anyone spoke English. Again we told them where we were from and asked them if they would let us go thru. In an attempt to communicate with them in Spanish, I said “Possibla Permeso Moto’s?” - not even sure if it was correct.  It was pretty dark and there were a lot of people there.  But, I think the same older guy that we had talked to before told this group to let us pass as well.  Again, there were a few people talking about us and some were whistling.  But, again they stepped aside and let us pass. So, we quick got back on our bikes and rode thru parting crowd.  Feelings of relief and then gratitude came over me as we made our way through another half mile cars and trucks.  I don’t know if they let anyone else pass thru there that night - but, Im glad they let us through.

A little while later it started to rain and it was pouring down.  So we pull into a gas station, that was closed, and park the bikes next to the pumps to get out of the rain.  Larry says he’s going to get some sleep and he takes out his air mattress, blows it up, and lies down on the ground, next to his bike.  Sure enough, a short while later and he was sound asleep.  Now remember, it is pouring down rain, we are at a gas station (outside next to the pumps) and Larry is sleeping as soundly as if he was at home in bed - remarkable!  So, what the heck, I’ll give it a go.  I get situated comfortably, using my jacket as a pillow.  And I lie down next to my bike.  But, I cant seem to fall sleep.  Maybe it was the traffic, or the construction workers that pulled in next to us to protect the materials in the back of their pick-up, or the dog that came over to bark at me,  or the rain… who knows but I cant sleep so I just lie there and wait… several hours later, it stopped raining.  So I woke Larry and off we went.

Met up with a couple more riders at the border to El Salvador.  Brian and Patrick had met a day earlier and I had actually met Brian 2 months ago in Astoria Oregon when I stopped at a coffee shop on my way down the west coast.  He had his bike shipped from London to New York and ridden to Alaska - he was on his way to South America then.  But, I was headed home for a while before leaving for South America.  Patrick had his bike shipped from Ireland to Anchorage Alaska and ridden south from there.  So, now there are 4 of us riding together: Brian, Patrick, Larry and me - an Englishman, an Irishman, a Canadian and an American.

Guatemala was our first border crossing, besides U.S./Mexico.  And, it was an eye opener - go here, then go there, get copies of these, then come back, go the he Bank and pay for this, then come back, get this stamped, get more copies.    AAAHHHHGGGG!  They tell you this in Spanish which I don’t understand very well.  So, there are mobs of people right at the boarder just waiting to help you thru the process - for a fee.  Problem is that many of them just want to milk you for as much money as they can get.  On top of that, there are so many “official” hoops to jump thru that creative folks can easily rip you off getting you to jump thru hoops of their own creation.  No problemo… only 10 or so to go.

One thing we found  fairly consistent between the central American countries we have visited is a vast disparity in the standard of living among the people.  The very poor make up quite a large percentage of the population - at least from what we have seen.  And, the sight of  their plight gave me reason to ponder and reassess my own station in life.  Another thing that is very common is armed security guards.  And, they don’t carry pistols, they carry shotguns.

El Salvador was nice.  Because of the general census that it is a very dangerous country, we weren’t going to go into El Salvador. But, we couldn’t find an easy route that bypassed the infamous little nation.  So,  we proceeded with caution and found ourselves in a posh hotel on the coast.  The cost of the room included breakfast.  And, the security guard carried an Uzi.

Patrick and I both got sick in Nicaragua.  After two day’s with raging diarrhea, we believe the it was caused by the bottled water.  So, we are going to try using iodide in our bottled water. 

We’re in Costa Rica now and it is really beautiful country.  The vegetation seems quite unusual as it includes so many different types of plants all contributing their own shade of green make an incredibly beautiful landscape.  Although, it is substantially more expensive than the countries we passed thru earlier, it is also much cleaner - it also seems very westernized. 

I’ll wrap this up on a funny note.  We stayed in a campground last night.   And, as we were setting up our tents we heard a loud, deep howl, unlike anything any of us had ever heard.  What was that!  Some of the other folks staying there probably got a chuckle out of our reactions as we investigated the mysterious noise - it was a monkey.  They live in the trees surrounding the campground.

Here's some pics taken over the past few weeks...