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August 27th, 2013 - Mexico to Vegas

After blasting through Central America it felt great to be back in Mexico. Rich with history and culture, filled with warm, inviting people and undeniably having THE BEST food, Mexico is a fantastic country to travel. It had been roughly a year and a half since we were last in Mexico and like most places the cost of living had gone up. The most noticeable increase for us was the cost of gasoline which had gone up a significant 16 cents per liter (60 cents per gallon). To add to the increase in overall costs Erin and I were now traveling through the tourist hot spots along the east coast of Mexico during high season as opposed to our previous travels through the unknown along the west coast. Although the warm spirit of Mexico remained the same throughout the country the east coast was a completely different experience from our previous memories of Mexico. On the west coast we managed to find hotels anywhere from $12 and up but now on the east coast even the most questionable of run down hotels went for at least $20! Despite the higher costs Erin and I loved our time in Mexico and our frequent visits to the supermarket’s for all our favourite Mexican foods and fresh produce. Even amongst the crowds of tourists and expensive accommodations we always seem to locate a cheap little piece of paradise for ourselves.

After enjoying the beautiful Caribbean waters we headed northwest towards the Gulf of Mexico purposely avoiding the head ache called Cancun. One thing that was becoming increasingly more difficult was avoiding highway tolls. The roads in Mexico for the most part are in great condition but unfortunately that comes with a price. The free highways are often poorly marked so after one wrong turn we found ourselves on a tolled highway with no turn around or escape. After about 150 km’s (90miles) we came to the toll booth… it cost us $20! I asked the lady if that covered us for the rest of this section of highway and she said no, there was another toll booth that would cost us $10. That’s insane! A 300km (180miles) distance costs a car or two motorcycles $30… We were finally able to exit the highway before the next toll booth and found our way to the free highway. From then on we made an even bigger effort to avoid the tolls but every day we were forced to pay some stupid toll for a bridge or something. The smallest toll was 20 cents per bike… Why bother stopping us?

After many long days of riding we took a few days off in the city of Veracruz which is where our last video update came from. It was a ridiculously hot time of year to be in Mexico and combined with a 100% humidity level it was almost unbearable to be out of our air conditioned room. Trapped in our cold comfortable room we were able to call my dad in Texas. After talking with my dad and finding out he was returning to work sooner than we expected we decided we should head north quickly so we would have time to spend with all my family in Amarillo, Texas. We continued along the Gulf of Mexico to Matamoros, a city on the Mexico border with the Texas town of Brownsville. Over the years we have received numerous warnings concerning the dangers of the USA-Mexico border and in certain areas those warnings shouldn’t be taken lightly. However, Matamoros appeared quiet, safe and modern with a large police and military presence. We stayed the night in Matamoros and crossed into the United States the next morning with ease.

Back in the United States of America and what’s the first we do? Wal-Mart of course. Ever since crossing back into the US our luggage seems to be getting bigger and bigger as we pile more and more stuff on the back of the bikes. Seeing as how we will only be camping throughout the states and we will be stopping at home before going overseas we figure we can drop off any extra gear at home. So this means that we get a collapsible cooler and camping chair’s to “live it up” a little on our way back to Canada. I haven’t had a camping chair in the last 100,000 km’s of our travels so why start now? Well… because it only cost $4.97. Thanks Wal-Mart.

While in Amarillo my dad and I planned on re-roofing his house. Now roofing is one thing but roofing in the Texas summer heat, that’s something else. I don’t think either myself or my dad realised how the heat would affect our ability to work. We would start most mornings around 7am and if we were lucky we could work till 11am before the heat literally started melting our shoes on the roof. The rest of the day was spent hiding in the air conditioning until it cooled down enough to go back up on the roof in the evening, unfortunately we rarely got back up on the roof. Too many important things got in the way, like drinking beer. One of our favourite things to do together with my dad is go bowling and I must say we played very well. Dad even started one game off with 3 strikes in a row! Unfortunately inflation hadn’t only hit Mexico… our $1 Monday night bowling special was now a $1.50 Monday night bowling special. Damn you inflation!

With the roof taking much longer than expected my dad called a halt on construction so we could spend our last few days together doing something we enjoyed rather than working. I felt bad leaving him with an unfinished roof but really appreciated his effort to spend some quality time together. With us heading west for Las Vegas my dad and sister decided to join us for a weekend of camping in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was an awesome weekend and the state campground above Santa Fe was a refreshing break from the Texas heat.

On our own once again Erin and I continued west towards Las Vegas simply enjoying being back in the United States. It’s amazing how much ground you can cover with the American Interstate highway system, not necessarily being the most scenic route but you sure can move. It wasn’t long before we pulled into Las Vegas, Nevada and I must say it’s much smaller than I had pictured. Las Vegas has been an icon in movies and television for a long time and they make it look so big but as we rode in on our motorcycles the Vegas skyline is actually pretty small. This was our first time in Las Vegas and we had a blast! We stayed 3 nights at Circus Circus Hotel and Casino and despite the somewhat poor reviews we had read, we thought the hotel was great. Our room was massive and had a huge comfortable king size bed, a fridge and a super toilet that scared me every time I flushed it. (It was like an airplane toilet) After walking the strip and visiting other casinos we actually preferred our casino because it wasn’t super crowed like the rest of them. We played the slots everyday and in the end we walked away with $40 profit… not much but it’s better than losing money. People say Las Vegas is expensive but it’s all in how you live. Erin and I did what we wanted and ate what we wanted and in the end for all our food, alcohol and hotel we only spent $70 a day. Just so people know there are a couple of Wal-Mart’s in Las Vegas and yes they have cheap food and BEER! Oh and if you’re in Las Vegas check out the Pinball Hall of Fame it’s cool.

From here we are heading up the mid-west of the United States on our way back to Canada. We look forward to meeting up with our good friend Karl in the state of Montana and riding back into Canada together. This will be Karl’s 4th time joining us on our travels, let’s hope he keeps it up when we go overseas.

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July 28th, 2013 - Blasting through Central America

Here’s a video update talking about our second time traveling through Central America.

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July 1st, 2013 - Peru to Colombia

After spending 6 nights in Lima we were excited to be on the move again and rode north away from Peru’s desert coast and into the mountains. With our friend Karl now back in Canada we were once again travelling alone just the two of us. As we neared the mountains our surroundings began to change back into the terrain we love so much, lush green vegetation filled with colourful flowers, beautiful clear rivers and of course the epic Andes Mountains. We entered Huascaran National Park and began our ascent to Paso Olimpico in a series of switch backs, each one revealing more and more of the adjacent mountains and the stunning view below. Only half way up we could feel the drastic change in temperature and had to stop to add a few layers of clothes. The higher we rode the worse the road conditions became, turning into rough rocky sections separated by wash outs and creeks running throughout the road. By the time we reached the top of the pass we were riding in snow which my GPS justified by reading over 5000 meters in elevation. We descended slowly down the other side of the mountain which was equally as impressive and beautiful. It was an amazing experience with the perfect mix of smooth asphalt and adventurous off road riding which has made it one of my favourite rides to date. Unfortunately it may not be around much longer as the completion of a tunnel will soon cut off the last 300 meters and the top of the pass.

I now wanted to cross back over the mountains by means of a second pass roughly 30 km’s to the north but this proved to be difficult as I did not know the name of the pass and it was not on my map. Everyone I asked said there was only one pass, Paso Olimpico, and they had never heard of a second pass. I still find it mind boggling that a person can live somewhere their whole life and not know anything about the area… How can you NOT know the existence of a mountain pass less than 30 km’s from your house? Finally I asked a truck driver and was able to get semi reasonable directions to the second pass which he warned was in poor condition. The top of the second pass was equally as impressive as the first but without the snow the road was not as enjoyable for me. Unlike the rough sections of the first pass which I found just challenging enough to be enjoyable, this road was simply bumpy in an annoying kind of way. It was like riding on a road made out of half buried baseballs. I later discovered the name of the pass, Paso Llanganuco, as it looks down over the beautiful Llanganuco lakes.

Erin was starting to feel the pressure of our time restraints while I was cringing more and more at the cost of fuel in Peru. After discovering online that the price of fuel in Ecuador is a dollar cheaper per liter than Peru we knew it was time to leave Peru. We rode through Canon Del Pato, an amazing road with a crazy amount of tunnels, and then headed back to the coast and the Pan-Americana highway for the quickest way to the border. I really enjoyed Peru and aside from the ridiculous cost of fuel I think Peru is an awesome country to travel by motorcycle. If you plan on going to Peru I would definitely recommend sticking to the mountains. Peru’s coast is beautiful for a day or two but after that it’s just sand and isn’t good for anything… except maybe the Dakar Rally.

We entered Ecuador and right away we were thrilled at the cheap cost of fuel. That combined with Ecuador’s relatively small size gave us an enormous amount of freedom. In previous countries like Argentina or even Canada a single tank of gasoline didn’t seem to take us very far due to the vast expanse of the country. In Ecuador you could spend days riding and visiting beautiful and exciting places without it making a big dent in your wallet. Unfortunately we didn’t have a lot of time to spend in Ecuador as we were really excited about making it to Cucuta, Colombia in time for our friends wedding. We managed to take in a few of the major sights including the beautiful town of Banos as well as Lake Quilotoa which is located inside the crater of a volcano. I had planned on going down to the coast to take in a little surfing and relax but a road closure stopped that from happening. We ended up only staying 10 days in Ecuador but it is one country that I really wish I had more time in and I know I will return to one day and continue exploring. It seems a lot of people overlook Ecuador when planning on traveling to South America which is a real shame because it is absolutely beautiful and cheap.

It was amazing to be back in Colombia with its warm welcoming people and lively atmosphere. As soon as we crossed the border into Colombia I let out a comfortable sigh, what a beautiful and relaxing country to be in. We made our way to Cucuta rather quickly to ensure we would have enough time to prepare for the wedding. I’m a motorcycle traveler and a relatively dirty one at that so most of my clothes are sun faded with holes and I certainly didn’t have anything with a collar… Once again living with our friends Yuri and Patricia we spent our days doing motorcycle maintenance and shopping for clothes then in the evenings enjoying the company of our friends, taking in live music, cold beer, good food and our favourite Sofi Cocktails. The biggest thing on my to do list was the rear mono shock on my bike. Now with 108,000km’s on it, the original BMW (Showa) shock was toast and I had been riding on only the spring for nearly two weeks. With the help of our friends we managed to get the shock rebuilt for only $125 which is an amazing deal compared to roughly $1000 for a new one.

Being there to share in the experience of our friends wedding was amazing and we would like to say congratulation to Omar and Lurdes. We had an awesome time and are so glad we could make it. We enjoyed all our time in Cucuta and had many great experiences and continue to make new friends in Colombia. It is truly an incredible country that I would highly recommend to anyone and I know that I will continue to come back to Colombia as it is now a part of my life.

Now having completed our tour of South America we prepare to once again travel by sea on the Stahlratte heading for Panama. Stay tuned…

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May 27th, 2013 - Peru

Having spent our last days in Bolivia on the north side of Lake Titicaca, Erin and I decided to cross the border into Peru on the north side of the lake rather than the larger and more commonly used southern crossing. On the Bolivian side our exit stamps were quick and easy however on the Peruvian side, entering turned out to be extremely difficult. After nearly two hours on a ridiculous wild goose chase we finally managed to find the customs office. Inside, an elderly gentleman filled out the appropriate paperwork for entering our motorcycles and informed us that there was no immigration office at this border crossing. He pointed us in the direction of Juliaca, a town a few hours away, and told us to go to the airport and get stamped into Peru. It was already sunset so we set up camp for the night by cover of some trees off the side of the road. The next morning we road into Juliaca (one of the worst cities in Peru in my opinion) and found the airport which turned out to be another disappointing wild goose chase. How can a so called “International Airport” have no immigration? We were again directed down the road this time to the town of Puno. After asking a few people we finally found the immigration office but of course they were closed for their lengthy Latin American lunch… we eventually did get stamped into Peru.

Erin and I had a friend of ours coming to travel with us in Peru and he was flying into Cusco. We wanted to provide him with one of our motorcycles to ride but there would be an issue with the amount of luggage. One bike would have to be empty for Erin and myself to double up on while our friend Karl would ride the other bike hauling all the luggage of three people. Karl’s flight back to Canada would be departing from Lima so Erin and I decided to race up to Lima and find a hotel or hostal that could suit our needs and store half of our luggage until our return with Karl. Peru’s coast is basically just desert and although it’s beautiful in its own way it really doesn’t take long to get bored of. We put in some long days of riding including a new trip record of 635 km’s on the day we entered Lima. In Lima’s historic center we found Hotel Espana with wifi and private rooms at a reasonable price and they also offered to store our luggage for free until our return. Now all we had to do was make it up to Cusco in time to pick up Karl. Soon enough I was feeling the mental toll of having a schedule, it’s something Erin and I don’t travel with, and for the next few months we will have a lot of deadlines to meet.

We made it to Cusco the day before Karl’s arrival and were getting excited to pick him up from the airport. This would be the third time Karl has been a part of our travels. First accompanying us to Vancouver Island, the day we departed, then a month later meeting us in Calgary, later joined by our friend Matt to cross Canada together. The next day was April 22nd , my birthday and what an excellent present, a good friend from Canada. We rode our bikes empty to the airport and right on schedule Karl walked out of the terminal. The thing I love most about a good friend is that you can completely be yourself, forget the small talk and say whatever you want. It was like I had just seen him last weekend and it wasn’t long before we were throwing back some beers and just spurting out whatever garbage came to mind. We spent a few days looking around Cusco, sharing stories and pointing out all the ass backwards wonders of Latin America.

Our next mission was Machu Picchu and we spent some time on the internet researching the cheapest way to see the new so called “seventh wonder of the world”. With a rough plan laid out we needed to first buy admission tickets for Machu Picchu in Cusco which weren’t cheap. In our attempt to find the official office to purchase tickets we stumbled across a well priced tour to Machu Picchu. The ticket for entrance alone to Machu Picchu is nearly $50 and this tour offered an almost all inclusive two day package for $149. I felt a bit like it was cheating leaving our motorcycles in Cusco and taking some tour but when we worked out the expenses for us to do it on our own the tour just made sense. Perhaps if Peru had cheaper fuel we would have taken the bikes up and done it on our own but the next morning at 7:30 we piled into a tour van and headed for Machu Picchu. All three of us really enjoyed the two day tour although by the time we returned to Cusco we really just wanted out of that van. For the most part I don’t like touristy places with tons of people and over photographed sights but Machu Picchu is truly amazing. The entire area up in the mountains surrounding Machu Picchu is absolutely beautiful and I wish I could have spent more time up there. What an amazing moment in my life to watch the sunrise on Machu Picchu. If you’re like me and often want to avoid tourist attractions due to high volumes of people and high costs, just suck it up and go see Machu Picchu, it is pure beauty and well worth it. My only complaint that I feel I must mention is the bathrooms at Machu Picchu. They charge 1 sol (38 cent) to use the bathroom… COME ON! I just paid $50 admission and I can’t even use the toilet for free!!

We made good use of our time with Karl visiting as many places as we could during his visit. For one of the weeks Karl rented a Honda 250 which gave all 3 of us our own bike to ride as we made a big loop south past Lake Titicaca and through Colca Canyon. On our way back to Cusco we rode through some high mountain ranges upwards of 4700 meters and found ourselves riding through a small snow storm. It’s amazing how quickly the weather can change when you’re in the mountains. Karl was getting a good taste of adventure riding and quickly learning how things in Latin America take much longer than they should. We have been traveling throughout Latin America for a long time now and I still find it frustrating that people have no knowledge of where they live. Asking someone for directions or the condition of a road and how long it takes is generally a waste of time. Late one afternoon I asked a police officer how far it was to our destination and what the road was like. He told me it was 1 hour and the road was completely paved. It turned out to be 2.5 hours and almost all gravel… that’s Latin America for you.

Back in Cusco Karl returned his rental bike and for the first time we would find out if all of our luggage would fit on only two motorcycles. We managed to get everything on the bikes and the pile of luggage was so big and impressive you could barely see Karl while he rode. If we hadn’t left one of our bags in Lima there is no way we would have fit everything. Cusco is a great city in a beautiful area and in my opinion it’s one of the best cities in Peru but it was time to say good bye. Overloaded, we headed for the coast on our way to Lima. We took a day off in the desert oasis of Huacachina, just outside the city if Ica. During the day we lazed around the pool at our hotel drinking beers and in the afternoon just before sunset Karl and I headed out on a tour of the sand dunes. This is something that I would normally never do so I was super excited. Our tour was 2 hours and consisted of ripping around the desert in a dune buggy and sand boarding down the dunes. Pretty much everyone bailed at some point while sand boarding but Karl did it just a little bit bigger and better than everyone else. After super charging his board with an abundance of wax Karl managed to go so fast he flew off a small dune at the bottom of a run and flailed through the air, bailing like no one had ever seen before, not even our tour guide. We had a ton of fun and managed to get sand everywhere which even after a shower seemed to show up in places for days.

We arrived in Lima where we found our bag waiting for us at Hotel Espana. We spent a few days walking and riding around the city enjoying its beautiful historic center. Also, we finally had a chance to try the traditional Peruvian dish “Cuy” (guinea pig) which is pretty tasty. It’s crazy how fast 3 weeks flew by with Karl but I guess time fly’s when you’re having fun. It’s awesome that he chose to spend his vacation with us in Peru and now we just have to convince him to join us overseas somewhere next year. With Karl on his way back to Canada Erin and I were alone once again and our focus turned to our next deadline. We have been invited to our Colombian friend’s wedding in Cucuta, Colombia on June 15th. We’ve never been to a Colombia wedding and we are going to do our best to make it. Colombia here we come (again)!

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May 12th, 2013 - Bolivia II

After our second visit to Sucre we were headed for Northern Chile via Oruro. The road to Oruro turned out to be quite a little adventure as most roads in Bolivia seem to be. It was some beautiful high mountain riding with breath taking views as we climbed to the cold mountain town of Colquechaca. We found a super cheap place to stay which was under $3 a person and we went into the shop next door to find some cold beer to end the day’s long ride. I looked around disappointedly, only seeing beer on a shelf and none in a fridge. I asked the lady in the store if she had any cold beer and she laughed at me as she handed me a bottle off the shelf… it was ice cold. Colquechaca is the highest city in Bolivia at 4180m (13,710ft) in elevation and everything is cold including beer sitting on a shelf.

From Colquechaca to Oruro there were a lot of construction zones due to major landslides, some of which were closed at certain times but thanks to our nice motorcycle we got to pass through most of the closures. The construction foreman, guys in white hardhats that look very clean, dress nicely and drive around in a nice pick-up’s, liked our travels and our motorcycles and let us follow them through the closures. The “road” was extremely rough and it was hard to keep up with a 4×4 truck, often getting us stuck waiting for machines as they dropped huge rocks and debris onto the road from high above on a cliff. At one point we even had to ride up a muddy river for a kilometer or so which was the replacement for the road buried by a landslide… yes up the river not across.

In our opinion Oruro had nothing to offer and was a very dirty and industrial city. We spent one night there and quickly left the next morning. The border crossing heading into Colchane, Chile was very easy for stamping in and out of each country and completing the motorcycle paperwork. However, Chile held true to its strict scrutinising of luggage and had us un-strap our bags and send them through an x-ray machine. The Altiplano of Northern Chile is part of the widest section of the Andes and is some of the highest plateau on earth. It’s a very beautiful yet barren place with massive open expanses between mountains and snow capped volcanos which make for some amazing scenery while riding. Besides a few indigenous tribes who mainly raise sheep and llama’s there really isn’t any form of civilization which may sound nice but makes it extremely difficult to buy anything. Luckily we had filled our gas tanks with cheap gas from Bolivia before crossing which would give us enough fuel to head north across the wide expanse.

Our first night back in Chile we camped at 4300m above sea level and it was absolutely freezing. The next day due to our lack of food and water and to avoid another cold night camping we pushed hard to reach the town of Putre. The road had some bad sections of washboard and patches of deep sand which any biker hates but Erin seemed to hate the sand just a little more. The road took us up over 5000m and past salt flats and small ponds with pink flamingos. It was beautiful and exhausting at the same time. After an amazing hot shower and a great sleep in Putre we had used up our left over Chilean money from our previous travels in Chile and decided to head back to Bolivia where things are cheap. Back in Bolivia we rode past Volcano Sajama, the highest peak in Bolivia at an amazing 6542m (21,463ft). It is spectacular and I couldn’t keep my eyes off it.

We made our way into La Paz, the capital of Bolivia, and I was rather disappointed I must say. The city has engulfed an entire valley and it’s in a chaotic state of disrepair. The once beautiful historic center is falling apart and peoples disregard for proper management of waste and garbage has turned the city into a dump. When it rains the city’s waste drains downhill to the center of the city where the curbs and drains flood with the lovely smell of sewage. Also, due to the fact that the city is in a downhill valley, whether you walk or drive 75% of the time you’re going uphill and when you’re stuck in the cities terrible traffic uphill sucks (My poor clutch…). Despite my obvious “love” for La Paz we managed to find a nice hostel and get some things done that had been recently neglected including patching a massive hole on the bottom of my right boot. I don’t like carrying tires while traveling but even more so I don’t like buying expensive tires… which means I’m often carrying tires. We figured tires would be cheaper in Bolivia so we picked up a couple new rear tires to take with us into Peru as our current tires have about a month left on them.

Our next stop was Yungas Rd or as it more commonly know, the Death Highway. With a new paved highway built just to the west of Yungas Rd the old Death Highway is now nothing more than a tourist attraction. With all the traffic taking the new paved highway, Route 3, the Death Highway really doesn’t possess any danger unless you’re skilled enough to drive off the edge of the road and down a sheer cliff. Despite dodging a hundred people on mountain bike tours rolling down the road, Yungas Rd is actually a very beautiful ride and one I would definitely recommend. The road is in very good condition for the most part and has some great views and spectacular waterfalls. In fact, I was kind of jealous of the people effortlessly flying down the road on a mountain bikes.

Continuing north towards Caranavi the road was unfortunately closed during the day for construction and opened to traffic late in the afternoon which forced us to ride in the dark. The road was in poor condition with rough rocky sections and slick muddy sections. Ofcourse to make things worse the drivers who had been waiting all day for the road to open were now recklessly impatient and driving like mad. They would race up behind us in the dark to within inches of our bikes and flash there high beams and honk constantly trying to get us to move out of the way. We are on a tight single lane muddy road with nowhere to pull over except off the cliff and into the river below. Where is it they expect us to move to? When the slightest opening would appear Erin and I would pull over and the car would race past us only to confront the vehicle in front of us and repeat its ludicrous process of high beaming and honking. To make matters worse the traffic from the opposite direction was now racing through as well which meant things would constantly come to a standstill as both directions would meet in a narrow section of road and have a honking competition. The side with a big truck or bus always won, forcing the others to very awkwardly reverse. This was more of a death highway than the Death Highway itself, as were most roads in Bolivia.

We then undertook a long route through the mountainous jungle on the roughest road we have ever ridden. Luckily for us it was almost devoid of any traffic which meant it was only us against the road. I absolutely loved the ride despite dropping my bike in one of the many river crossings. Fortunately I was quick enough to hit the kill switch on the bike before hitting the water and therefore avoided sucking water into the engine. It was the challenge that drove me and I felt like we were truly exploring Bolivia. It took us 3 days to ride from Caranavi to Sorata via Mapiri and everyday was new and exciting with its own set of challenges and rewarding scenery and experiences. I would love to have spent more time in this area and I know it’s a place I will ride again one day but for now it was the perfect way to end Bolivia. We spent a few nights in a good bed in Sorata watching movies before packing up and heading to Peru to meet our good friend Karl who is flying in from Canada to ride with us for 3 weeks.

We loved travelling in Bolivia and for us its one of the best countries so far for adventure motorcycling. That doesn’t just mean it has bad roads but that it has exciting places to go and is cheap enough that you can go and do just about anything and not have to worry about sticking to a strict budget. Our daily budget for travelling is $25 per person which in some countries can be tight as that’s supposed to cover everything, food, fuel, lodging etc. We honestly did whatever we wanted in Bolivia without thinking of money and in the end our daily average was only $18.44 per person. That’s everything including all the fuel for the motorcycles! Bolivia is cheap! It is true that Bolivia tries to make all foreign plates pay a lot more for fuel however if you plan it right and have a little patience you can get your fuel cheap. Bolivians pay approximately $0.53 per liter for gasoline while they try and charge any foreign plate, including other South American countries, $1.32 per liter. This really pissed me off and I can proudly say that I never paid their ridiculous foreign price. Small towns with old gas stations didn’t know about the foreign plate rule as they rarely get tourists so that’s where we would buy most of our gasoline. When the price was high we would go around and try to buy it in a plastic jug or sometimes try buying it without a receipt and we could get it for a little less than the foreign price. It took a lot of work sometimes but in the end I’m happy to say that our average fuel price for Bolivia was $0.77 per liter. That’s much better than $1.32…

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April 21st, 2013 - Argentina Chile Video

Hey everyone after the long and painful task of uploading on South American wifi… Here is the video for Argentina and Chile. Up next Bolivia!

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March 24th, 2013 - Bolivia

Before we left on our journey I used to day dream of what it would be like to ride a motorcycle in South America. I envisioned a place untouched by capitalism and free from the influences of North America where life was simple and cheap. A place with colourful people holding on to their traditions and where large outdoor markets still existed containing exotic spices, dried goods, fresh hanging meats and a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. I imagined the riding to be difficult, spanning large distances over extreme terrains on terrible unmaintained roads, but at the end of the day feeling a sense purpose and pride knowing that I had traveled where few had gone before. Now here in Bolivia I feel as though I am living my dream and have entered the true spirit of South America.
There are many places in the world that I look forward to riding and one of those places is the largest salt flat in the world, Salar de Uyuni. Located in southwest Bolivia, Salar de Uyuni covers over 10,500 square kilometers and it is an amazing sight to see, let alone ride a motorcycle across. With the dry season on the salar coming to an end we decided it should be our first stop in Bolivia hoping it’s still dry enough to ride on. As we entered the town of Uyuni, located 25 km’s from the entrance of the salar, I was surprised at how dusty and run down everything appeared. Uyuni is one of the biggest tourist destinations in Bolivia and while the town contains tons of hotels and tour companies it’s not maintained to any standards of a “tourist town”. As we rode through town a group of motorcycles caught my eye and as we slowly passed I caught a glimpse of a familiar face. It was an Italian man riding a BMW Dakar that we had run into at a gas station in the middle of Argentina along route 40.
After pulling over and chatting for awhile we discovered that the Italian had also recently arrived and had stopped to talk to the group of motorcyclist’s parked out on the street. The bikes parked out on the street were Kawasaki KLR650’s, a world renowned traveling motorcycle, however they were all dead. They had gone out on the salar the day before and even though they cleaned the motorcycle’s afterwards the water and salt had penetrated everything and now their bikes would not start. I lent the riders my jumper cables to help get their bikes running while Erin, the Italian and I started working on our plan for the salar. It was clear to me that we were indeed too late in the season to attempt riding across the salar as much of it was now under a thin blanket of water. We couldn’t risk damaging our motorcycles just to go ride on some salt but at the same time we were here and in some way had to go ride on the salar. We decided to take one motorcycle out on the salar and only ride out a few kilometers on the relatively dry edge. Although it wasn’t the experience I had dreamed about it was still an amazing feeling to be out on the salt and watch the sunset.
We stayed one more day in Uyuni to clean up my bike and buy a few things for the road. We also saw all the KLR’s up and running and back on the road. The next day we too were back on the road heading north hoping to pass the city of Sucre and stay in a small town. We arrived in Sucre rather late and decided we should just grab a hostal and stay the night. I love when things surprise you by exceeding your expectation. I had figured Sucre would be just another big city and a place that would drive me crazy but it captivated me and I love it. The architecture in the historic center is beautiful and bright with very well maintained parks. It’s a pleasure to just walk around the city in its beautiful climate that is perfect for a T-shirt and shorts during the day and cool enough at night to sleep comfortably. We had a really good time in Sucre and after 3 nights we made a plan to ride out into the mountains making a big loop back to Sucre for a second visit.
We headed east towards the big city of Santa Cruz through an area known as “Ruta del Che” which is an area once traveled by the Latin revolutionary Che Guevara. The idea was to cut north through the mountains from a town called Villa Serrano up to Valle Grande with a stop along the way in La Higuera to see the giant statue of Che’s head. Unfortunately the mountains were engulfed in a constant misting rain which combined with the traffic of buses and trucks made for a chewed up, slick, muddy road. Disappointed I decided it was safer to turn back and take the main road around the long way to Santa Cruz and approach Valle Grande from the north. Little did we know at the time that “main road” doesn’t exist in Bolivia. On my map the road is a large solid line signifying a principal or “main” road however roughly 100 km’s in with the pavement long gone, the maintained gravel highway started to give way to a small muddy mountain road. It appears that bad roads are going to be unavoidable in Bolivia and that we had now traded a relatively short bad road for a much longer one.
Despite the poor condition of the road I was really enjoying our longer detour. Our surroundings had quickly changed and we were now in thick jungle, winding through the mountains on a small dirt road. The air changed, becoming thicker and humid with a strong earthy smell that reminded me of our travels through Brazil’s Amazon. Unlike our 6 days of hell through Brazil’s Amazon this experience was beautiful and enjoyable with just enough hardship through the mud and river crossings to add a sense of accomplishment. In fact this experience was what I was looking for but did not receive going through Brazil’s Amazon. Eventually after two days of dirt, mud, rivers, sand and dust, the road returned to pavement as we neared Santa Cruz. We by-passed Santa Cruz heading west to reach Valle Grande from the north and to continue our loop back towards Sucre.
Valle Grande was a fairly nice small town and we took a hotel with the idea of leaving our belonging in our room and riding empty roughly 60 km’s to La Higuera and Che’s statue. Back in the same mountain range the misting rains continued and only 12 km’s into the road to La Higuera we once again turned back. It really frustrates me to give up on something I know I can do but it’s also my responsibility to take care of Erin and gallivanting through the muddy mountains with near bald tires just to see a statue didn’t seem safe or responsible.
On our last night before returning to Sucre we stayed in a town called Totora which isn’t really worth any honorable mention but it turned out to have our cheapest hotel yet in Bolivia. The room came with 3 beds, 2 of which were no different than sleeping on the floor and a bathroom that came with a slight beautiful fragrance of urine, but hey, it only cost $3.50 per person. In fact the whole day was cheap; we purchased 10.71L of gasoline in the morning, ate at a restaurant for lunch, got the hotel in the evening, purchased half of a whole chicken and some vegetables to cook for dinner and purchased 2 large ice cold beers all for only $22.50. I definitely do not have any complaints about the cost of living in Bolivia but I am disappointed at the lack of camping. I truly love camping but with so much poverty everywhere and lots of grabby little hands it’s too easy for things to go “missing” in Bolivia.
Yesterday morning, now back in Sucre, I noticed a bald patch on my front tire with the wires exposed. I guess that’s what they call “running it down to the wire”. Thanks to the help of some locals in town who loved our motorcycles we managed to find a cheap tire and use their shop where they all helped change the tire. This will be are third night a second time in Sucre and tomorrow we head out to explore Northern Chile for a week or so before returning to finish riding Bolivia. Besides the fact that I want to ride Northern Chile, leaving and returning to Bolivia will also reset our paperwork as the people in Bolivian customs gave our motorcycles 90 days but the smart people in immigrations only gave us 30 days in our passports despite our protests…

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