Riding on 3 continents in 1 month

Parked my bike in Chiang Mai, flew to Sloveina to purge the carburetor on the CB 500, change passports and then straight to Lima for some more riding.

Of course the bike wasn’t ready. Motos del Peru was storing my bike. They have a fully operational workshop, they had a full list of what I wanted to be done on my bike in my absence and they had 8 months to do it. They changed the oil, they did. I hope. As for the rest, I didn’t want to get into a discussion and just moved my bike to another workshop (Endurance Motors), where I got the tires I wanted and the job was done some by myself and the rest just good enough. The bike worked. I rode to Pato canyon with a guy I met in the shop, William. A man that rode around the world. Twice. That was before I got my bike in the second shop and I was still thinking that all I need is just a new set of tires.

Canon del Pato was impressive. Amazing, probably the most bestest thing I’ve seen in Peru. A scary road, if you don’t like heights. A mostly one lane road carved into the walls of a deep deep canyon. Indiana Jones stuff. Most of the fallen bridges were fixed after the flood, but not the one down there, so there was a detour. A detour that makes the Death road in Bolivia to shame. Maybe not as much in scenery as in deadliness. Buses and trucks on an improvised one lane dirt road, with spectacular vistas that can take you straight down to hell. It was a fun ride!

After that I went back to Lima and got stuck there for almost a month waiting to fix all it had to be fixed on BC1. Don’t like the city that much, but the natives made me forget that I was waiting for so long, so it wasn’t that bad after all. Museums, Which markets and parties stretching early in the morning. Good times.

After the moto was ready, I hit the road south. Full of memories of the nights in Lima and hopes about the future on the road. I was on my way to achieve a dream. And that’s always an awesome feeling.

 

Nazca, Arequipa and some places in between. Sand dunes, riding in sand (on purpose), camping in the sand, New Year in Arequipa, surrounded by volcanoes and then lake Titikaka. I skipped Machu Picchu, because it was raining. A lot. Which reminded me of last March and the Camel Trophy kind of adventures.

 

I was very ready to leave Peru. Nice country, incredible history and the food! However, I was being pulled by something. Call it depression, expectation, determination or fear of missing out. I had to leave and get a fresh stamp in my fresh passport.

 

Bolivia is next…

The revenge of Atawallpa

The situation in Peru was getting dire. There was no way I could get to Lima in time.

Or at least that’s what I though, when I was wrestling my bike through the forest, around the umpteenth landslide. Even just 200kms seemed impossible on some days. Of course the rain didn’t stopped, it only got worse from time to time and deep in the jungle it made me feel like I’m on a real adventure. Racing against time, fighting the elements, defying the bald tyre. What a ride! Between the moments of desperation I was feeling so alive. Not even a minute of my life ahead of me could be predicted. Well, it never can be accurately predicted but you know. Hope of paved roads, dread of yet another landslide, the reality could be both. That was scaring me most. What if I get taken off by a landslide? Luckily it never happened. Got close to it a couple of times and really close once, when a football sized rock rolled right in front of my wheel. To make things even better, because a landslide ahead of me, I was stuck in Moyobamba for a couple of hours. There I learned from a local shop keeper, that if you mix mango, pineapple and passion fruit juice, you pretty much get love into a beverage. Never tasted anything better.
Back on the road and all it’s misery. I mean mistery… Once done with the mud in the jungle, it was time to try it at altitude. I was on the eastern side of Peru, behind the cordillera, behind the very high Andes. In order to get to Lima, I had to cross that. That meant more rain, with a hint of freezing temperatures. To my very surprise, it wasn’t snowing, with the exception of perhaps 5 minutes in total, but that was more hail than snow. Sure the landslides didn’t stop and after 2 days riding through mountains at 4000 meters above sea level, it was time to cope with the great one.

Just before Lima, about 100 kilometers to my destination, literally half a mountain came down. I’ve never seen such destruction in my life. Imagine Mordor, but worse. And with icy grey water instead of lava. And rain of course. To make everything worse, traffic. Lots of it. And in pure Peruvian fashion, complete chaos. There were people trying to keep other people safe, there were people trying to follow the few directions they got and there was a good bunch of assholes who thought they can just pass the endless line of cars and magically swoop down on that fallen mountain. I was in the last group to be clear. However, my bike didn’t stop the oncoming traffic and created a potentially fatal stall. They cleared part of the way and there was a line of cars coming up. The landslide was extending for say 2 kilometers all of which was a precarious one way road, that was now blocked. I rode past it as fast as I could.
A few kilometers down we repeat the exercise. Now with more cars, more assholes, people getting seriously angry, more rain and what was a fine day so far turned into something that could be compared to a war zone. Pass the line of cars, police road block. After talking to them, explaining my situation and my rush, to much surprise they let me pass.

Ahead of me there was exactly what they told me there would be. Nothing. There was supposed to be a road, and there was nothing. Well, a river. Thinking back, that was probably by far the most stupid, reckless act I performed in my life, and my list is huge. What I did was I rode straight into that river, tv crews filming me, I’m pretty sure there was a helicopter flying around waiting for me to die. And as I always hope to believe, fortune favours the brave. Or the stupid, but what’s the difference. Somehow I made it! Nobody was clapping, but everyone was visibly amazed. Including me. I never doubted myself, till I made it to the other side. Then I was amazed I actually made it.

Following was still a healthy 70 kilometers and luckily the worse was through, but it didn’t get much better. Rain has stopped, only to be replaced by dust. Loads and loads of dust. Mud was replaced by sand. Half if not all of the sand that was used to fill the sandbags was now on the street, effectively covering the entire pavement. Throw in a couple of ambulances, and other vehicles with colorful lights, people rushing, cars rushing…

At last, like I was cast from a spell, everything changed in a matter of few kilometers. Nice, clean streets, AIR and even a hint of sun. Life was good. Or at least normal again.

Only later I learned that Lima has the worst, most reckless traffic I ever experienced.

I was done with riding in South America for the next 8 months. Took me 3 days to fix the paperwork to legally leave my motorcycle in the country for that period, met some new friends, and got food poisoning right before my 20 hour flight. But I made it. It felt good. It felt good to have done it so far, to return to Europe, to see family and friends, to get to ride rich people bikes again and more. Life is good.

The beginning of an adventure

Tourist, traveler, adventurer. It’s all a journey, just depends how you approach it.

As I started my well planned journey down south. The plan was to be in Lima in  a week. 2518 kms in seven days is not too much, yet I couldn’t afford many delays. 2 border crossings and half of the way was through the Equadorian Andes. Easy peasy I though…

Santuario Las Lajas, Colombia

BUT, when I started to plan the days a bit more carefully, checking the road conditions etc., I learned that there are serious floods going on in Ecuador and even worse in Peru. Big part of the Panamericana in Peru was completely submerged and more than 200 bridges throughout the country. Not great news at all.

So the first days were mostly just wet. Then started to get wet and cold. I crossed the Equatorial line. Who would think that it’s so cold on the equator. At this elevation it was to be expected, but I was still hoping for an equatorial miracle.

Posing time

Got into Quito freezing cold, wet and with no motivation to do anything but sleep. However, riding through the city center filled me with energy. What a beautiful city! I spent the evening and next morning exploring, stuffing my face with chocolate while burning all the calories immediately from all the walking I did.

Bladimir, the rider, great dude who introduced me to MAI

In the mean time, the situation in Peru was getting worse. Every time I checked the international riders forum (MAI) there was news of more landslides and collapsed bridges. I had to change my route drastically. Instead riding on pavement on the coast, I had to take the road through the selva (the jungle) with stretches of dirt (in my case mud) and what I yet had to discover, serious landslides.

My first leg of the new plan was to go south to the Peruvian border at La Balza. I thought I might get there in one day, but had to stop half way there, because I just had enough riding in rain and cold and I was getting angry. Checked into a nice hotel, with heating, ordered pizza and spent the evening watching tv. It was the best decision I took that week.

I could only imagine what is going to happen next, and I’d never imagine it will be that bad. Soon after I left Loja I got lost, of course it was raining which made things worse. The garmin maps are useless in Ecuador and it took me over a year after that to learn about openstreet maps. Donate money to this man. He’s our real saviour.

Back on the right track, sun started shining for the last time for the next few days. It actually got hot so I took off my rain gear. And as faith can be a great joker, right behind the corner the first landslide appeared. I was ready. My bald rear definitely not. I took the plunge. At one point I was engine deep into what seemed to be a very fresh landslide, going uphill and to this day I have no idea how I made it in one go. But I made it. The first of many. I had no idea back then. Following was an endless dirt road, as narrow as you can imagine, an army checkpoint in the middle of nowhere and then finally a village. Another checkpoint and more dirt, up and down. It was fun.

I reached the border crossing. Hot, hungry and ready to finish the day with a nice cocktail. Yeah right. The Ecuadorian border was reasonably fast, the officers were nice if not effective. Couple of jokes, a picture and off to Peru. The other side of the bridge was a total of a couple of houses less than just a few houses on the Ecuadorian side. 6 I’d say, but I never took the time to count them. Once I was through the immigration it was time to get BC1 into the country. I knew I had to be really careful, since if there was any mistake in the paperwork I might have problems fixing the cancellation of the temporary importation and/or leaving the country when I return. So I was extra careful when the old man entered all the letters and numbers he had to put in. One character at a time, as a man of his age is expected to do. Of course mistakes were made and I politely pointed them out, till at some point, the man just leaves, telling me that I should do it. I didn’t know if it is a joke, but he returned and rushed me to his desk. It was real. I was importing my own bike into Peru and I was terrified. If he doesn’t know how to do it, how would I? Just a Slovenian boy, looking for what’s the further he can get from home.

I did it, the bike was in, no insurance, because none of the few houses was selling it and well… it was something I should get, because it’s compulsory. In Jaen I could get it. That was the last thing that the old man told me, before he returned behind the TV.

It was a long ride to Jaen. More dirt, with stretches of very good road. So good it would put many roads in Europe to shame. Once I got there I all but forgot about insurance, but exchanging money and getting food and drinks were a priority. Mañana.

In the land of patacones

It was a feeling of huge relief when we set foot on Colombian land. Finally, the country I heard so much about was there welcoming me with open arms. Maybe Bogota is not the best example as it comes to people smiling and being relaxed, but you have to start somewhere.

We got into a hostel in the old town. It was cold and I was suffering from what appeared to be altitude sickness. Or the after effect of the yellow fever vaccine I got in Panama. But I was ready to celebrate, so we went out. Only to feel completely entrapped by dodgy looks in a matter of minutes. We had dinner and returned to the hostel…
Next day I got a call from Cesar, a friend I met on a tour in Romania. He asked me where we are staying and after I told him, he said with a serious voice: “pack your stuff, I’ll be there in 20mins”.
We were staying with Cesar and Margarita then. Later I learned our hostel is located in a neighbourhood that gets pretty dangerous at night and boy it made a difference when we went out the next night. From a place where I was genuinely afraid, to a place that feels quite like any European city. Affluence makes all the difference..

Staying with Cesar and Margarita was great, felt like family and they went well out of their way to show me around and make us feel comfortable. Great people to have as friends!

Done with Bogota, Will left me to meet a friend in Cartagena as I was slowly riding north to go to Barranquillas, to visit the second largest carnival on this planet. Lots and lots of people, too many if you ask me. However it was quite a memorable experience. One day, leaving with a group of friends, dressed as best I could to look like a gringo, I got pick pocketed. It was fun. Most of my money was in a hidden pocket in my bermudas (yeah, I made a hidden pocket in my bermudas), so I didn’t lose much, but the money that was in my pocket and the copy of my passport in a different pocket were gone in a matter of minutes after I stepped out of the cab. The amuzing part was, that the pickpocket went thorough the trouble to take the money from my money clip, search through the notes and return into my pocket the equivalent of 2 beers. Best criminal ever. Thank you pickpocket, you made my night that night.

After that we met Cezar and Margarita in Taganga in their beach house for some scuba diving and more quality time. It felt good after all the craziness in the big city.

Following was Tayrona national park, a flat tyre, ceviche, and finally Medellin. The riding there was spectacular. Lush green, curvy roads, some of the most spectacular scenery ever seen. And the city of Medellin. Let’s just say it had it’s charm. I stayed there longer than I thought. After a couple days of wild fun, it was time to say goodbye to Will. I had to start my ride down to Lima, where I had to catch my flight to go back home. We parted our ways in Cali. Another interesting city I feel I haven’t discovered well enough.

It was the beginning of the end, only to learn that the biggest part of my trip is yet to come…

Time to get to South America

From Montezuma to Panama city in less than a week.

Funny place this Costa Rica, feels just like the states, a bit warmer. I left William to rush down. I don’t remember exactly why, I think it was because I didn’t want to rush on the way to meet our boat ride.

Just a casual hostel in Costa Rica 🙂

On the way to Panama I met my good friend Primoz, with whom I shared many good adventures and I feel eternally in debt for fixing me the job at AMT. I knew he was there and we were planning to meet. I just didn’t know I’ll meet him at the border crossing. With his entire group (Primoz is a fellow tour guide and he was on tour at the time). It was a funny moment and we were traveling to the same place. Us, a group of Slovenians. I learned that I’m less of a Slovenian than I thought to be, maybe because solo traveling forces you to tone down a little bit, blend in so to speak. However, nooone can deny us Slovenians like to drink and party. Loud.

Next day I had perhaps an even more pleasant encounter. Late in the morning I was looking for a nice place to have breakfast and when I found it, Florencia the owner, welcomed me with a warm hug and kiss on my cheek. Immediately I felt like a son coming home after a long weekend. I wish there would be more people like that around here.

After the festival I rolled south to Panama city where I met two distinct characters. Dave and Ed. The first one traveling on a f800GS, the second on a… I think the original bike was a Honda Cub90, but with time and miles changed into a thing, that by his own words is priceless, and I agree. Once you put so many miles, time, money, work and love into a machine, it becomes much more. The Japanese would call it Wabi Sabi I guess.

Spending a few days in Panama city was fun. Met interesting people and visited historic sites, including the Panama channel. What an engineering feat that was. The first ad the second, bigger channel as well.
William arrived and shortly after we went to find us a ride to Colombia. The first boat, the La Poste, clearly screwed us and we’ll never get to hear from the Nigeran Princess ever again… The other boats that might take us felt equally dodgy and the only viable option was flying our bikes to Bogota. For the same price of the boat, with o salt, Nigerian princesses to deal with and all the trip would take less than a day. It took 2 days in the end, but hey, we are in COLOMBIA!