Archive Footage – Salmon Glacier near Hyder.

Archive Footage

Hyder, Salmon Glacier in British Colombia.
Nick and Ivanka take a break on route up the long trek to Salmon Glacier. A long gravel road, bears on route – with some of the most spectacular scenery we have seen so far on the trip. Quite a challenging narrow road with steep drops to one side, then of course the odd bear to watch out for.

A memorable journey indeed.

That evening we booked ourselves into our first hotel stay of the trip. This was because every camp ground had massive bear signs up stating that all food should be kept in the bear lockers and all pets should be kept indoors. All a bit too excessive so we thought we deserved the comfort of a nice hotel without the worries of bears prowling around the tent while we tried to sleep.

Very soon we will be heading back to the mountains as we head towards the Andes via southern Colombia and Ecuador.

Almost missing in Colombia

Almost missing in Colombia

Last week we started the bike after it had been sat in heavy rain for a couple of days and the motorbike did not sound good. It would not tick over, it sounded very rough and it struggled to make it from one side of Cartagena to the other.

I found water in the spark plug chamber and inside the lip of the petrol cap but after having a look at the plugs, speaking to a few motorcycle dudes, changing the oil, revving, riding, we were still in the same situation. The bike was spluttering and it was not going to take us anywhere reliably.

We were tinkering with the bike in the car park of the apartments we were staying in with some friends (very nice friends!) when a Colombian chap took an interest in what we were doing and he just seemed super keen to help. He said he had a mechanic friend, he could take us there. So, Ivanka and I looked at each other, thought it was the best shot we had and agreed to meet Alfredo at midday. It was a great idea – but, Ivanka and I have been side-by-side for 7 months and we never do missions separately and Alfredo doesn’t have a car of his own.

At midday my new amigo Alfredo (on the back of the bike and wearing Ivanka’s helmet) was kindly directing him and me on a mission across Cartagena in order to get the bike back to its best.

The journey itself was the usual kind of stuff on latin american roads; buses, motorbikes, traffic from bumper to bumper and I suppose I was expecting to get there within 10 minutes or so. 20 minutes later we were heading more inner city and I started to think: “Shit! Where is he taking me?” I got all sorts of ideas in my head – let me tell you! Is he taking me somewhere so he can do over the ‘gringo’? How will I get in touch with Ivanka to let her know about my progress? But then you remind yourself that Alfredo seemed like a nice bloke. Didn’t he?

The journey took us about 30 minutes in total and Alfredo said: “if you don’t like the mechanic just let me know”. We pulled down several back streets and eventually arrived in a neighborhood where there was a line of several bikes at the side of the kerb with a bunch of guys hanging out.

We got off the bike, Alfredo said hello to his friends and I thought: “shit, this clearly isn’t a proper mechanic – what am I supposed to do?”. The mechanic and I conversed in my basic Spanish and we agreed that he would look at the bike in about 45 minutes, once it had cooled down. In the meantime word must have got out that there was an English ‘gringo’ with a big bike and I must have met 10-15 kids who couldn’t help but come and have a look! Alfredo reminded me to watch my wallet and my belongings over and over again while I tried to keep the crowds entertained with my tales of places I have been and English football – all delivered in my excellent gringo Spanish!

Much later, the mechanic returned, he checked the spark plugs, took my engine case apart and then adjusted one of my throttle bodies and the bike seemed to be back just as it should be. It cost me $30 for his time and I had to let him have a go on the bike. Alfredo had come up with the goods, the mechanic had done the business and I was ready to go.

While we had been waiting there was a discussion about fitting my bike with fog lights and Alfredo said that there was a shop around the corner that could help. I thought to myself that I had only been gone a couple of hours so what was the harm? And anyway, I needed a new bulb for my headlight…

Alfredo called the doorman of the apartment block, left a message for Ivanka, and off we went.

To cut a long story short, I ended up going to 2 or 3 shops with Alfredo. We then went to 2 welders who needed to help with fitting a bracket and we had to go to an electrician so he could fit the lights. The whole process took us to 6.30 and we met so many nice people! One guy made us a Colombia sticker and everyone wanted a photo with me and the bike.

That was it. What a day! My bike was fixed, I had a new set of spotlights and I had a really really great day with Alfredo. Turns out he had had a BMW motorbike himself for a number of years which was part of the reason he was so keen to help. All in all we had spent 8 hours together by the time we got home and we had set up a friendship; I had invited him to visit in the UK and we had agreed to go out for some beers in Cartagena.

The journey home was more eventful than the whole day! It was dark, it was rush hour; there were cars, motorbikes and buses all over the place but that is just how it is and we made it back together safely.

When we met Ivanka on our return it was clear that she had been worried. Properly worried. She got the update call at 4pm and by 8pm she had been fighting all the paranoid possibilities for the best part of 5 hours. As she said, she had been trying very hard to except everything for what it was, a nice person being helpful, but it can be hard not to think of the alternatives because, even by latin american standards it had taken “an awfully long time”.

This story really highlights the kindness that you experience on a trip like this – all the crap you hear about Mexicans and Colombians is definitely there for a reason but the majority of people you meet out there are great people with really big hearts.

When was the last time you helped a stranger?

Thanks Alfredo for a special day around Cartagena and I look forward to our beer!

Crossing from Panama to Colombia – the Darien Gap

Crossing from Panama to Colombia

A major part of the trip so far as we cross from Central America to South America
Leaving from a small fishing village called Carti in the Panama jungle and then heading on a four day crossing to the big city lights of Cartagena in Colombia via the San Blas Islands.

In short one of the most exciting things we have done for a very long time. From the buzz of hoisting the motorbike in the air and placing it on a 100 year old fishing boat, to snorkelling along the reefs of the San Blas Islands.

It feels superb to be now settled in Colombia, with the second half of the Americas to look forward to.

Enjoy the video.

Lovin’ El Salvador

Lovin

Adventure motorcycling our way through Central America

So we made it out of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala after being stranded there for almost a week.

As we sit here in Nicaragua I find it quite strange that I am here, in a place that I never thought I would ever be in –  Nicaragua! “What is the capital of Nicaragua?” – used to be one of my quiz night questions when I was a ski-rep in Bulgaria. I never thought I would ever be visiting Managua. Surreal!

A lot has happened since we last posted. Here are a few of our motorcycle adventures in short:

      • We eventually left Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. (Lake Atitlan is a volcanic crater lake that we got stranded by due to heavy tropical rains.) It wasn’t possible to leave by the same road that we came in on so we decided to put Ivanka and the bike luggage onto a 4WD that we hired (plus driver) and we headed down an off road path. In addition to the 4WD we had to get a police escort because there is a 4km stretch of road where robberies are frequent. (For those of you with an interest in the specific road, we left from San Pedro to Santiago rather than directly onto the Interamericana.) We were told by locals that because you travel so slowly on the precarious path, robbers would run out of the woods, tip your bike over and then clean you out of all your cash! 20 or so mudslides and some low cloud and poor visibility later we reached Antigua where we met up with Maggie, Mark, Kevin, Andre and Glen who we hope to be travelling through Central and South America with. They waited for us to join them so a big thank you for waiting!
      • El Salvador and the Mama’s and Papa’s hostal.  We crossed from Guatemala to El Salvador amidst another wet and rainy day and eventually arrived in the mountain town of Tacuba. This was a a day where two main roads out of the country were blocked due to heavy rain (some of the worst floods the country had ever seen) so on our third attempt at a road out of the country we travelled along a Guatemalan ‘B road’ with water up to our ankles, pot holes all over the place and rivers in danger of sweeping through the landscape.  A sad day because our Swiss friend Andre unfortunately had a crash and bent the forks on his Africa Twin. As a motorcycle group we went separate ways so he was able to head back to Guatemala City and get his bike fixed. The accident was caused because of a stray dog running across the road in wet and foggy conditions. Our motorbike group size went from 5 bikes to 2 on its first day and we were fortunate to ride into a new town that night and find the Mamas and Papas hostal just as the sun went down – phew! Not a great idea to arrive in a country like El Salvador in the dark.
      • Tacuba was a lot of fun. We walked round a coffee plantation on the first day, followed by a dip in a nearby river – then our wonderful host gave us a go on his very accurate 9mm! Ivanka went first after a 30 second intro to the deadly weapon, next was myself and then our new American friend Glen. All of us hit a tree as a target and were within inches of each other at 30 feet; I must admit, it did feel a bit bloody brilliant!! Here is Ivanka firing a weapon below.

    • Waterfalls came next. The next day our friends caught up with us from Guatemala, then we went waterfall and canyon jumping. We jumped from waterfalls up to 1o metres high and scaled some very impressive canyons. An exceptional day was had by all considering that it had been heavy rain and the rivers were as high as they had ever been.
Here we are, in Nicaragua, very much looking forward to what lies ahead! (We are nowhere near ready to come home by the way.)
The bike is booked in for quite a big service and a few repairs at BMW Costa Rica. We have fork seals that are leaking that need some attention along with a few serviceable bits and bobs. Nothing major.
Adios amigos.

 

Exposed to the elements in Guatemala

Exposed to the elements in Guatemala

We’ve been in Guatemala for a couple of weeks now and its been a complete experience. Plently of lush green landscapes, a diversity of villages, towns and settlements and we have been really exposed to the vulnerability of the landscape to the tropical climate.

We are currently beside the beautiful Lago de Atitlan in a town called San Pedro La Laguna.

The rains have trapped us a little but we are having a great time and have met lots of interesting people. It is the tail end of the rainy season but in addition to this there are three tropical storms that we are on the cusp of and it is causing chaos throughout Guatemala. Dozens of roads are closed due to landslides, over a dozen people have lost their lives and the rain doesn’t want to stop.

Where we are the streets have been like small rivers, the lake is well above its usual water lines and families have lost their homes to the wet weather beacuse they are now semi-submerged. Yesterday, an Australian couple arrived in town somehow, they arrived by using a local ‘chicken bus’, then they walked across a landslide and through a coffee plantation and then eventually arrived after using a boat across the lake.

 

On Monday we have arranged to try and get out of San Pedro. This town is basically a lake formed in a crater, situated within a high mountain range which goes up to 3000m. On the way into the lake, it was quite challenging, we encountered some of the steepest roads we have been down so far. The roads and switch-back were narrow and windy, plus there are massive sections of the road with holes and loose gravel. Thinking about getting back up it has been on our minds constantly because we know that the road was closed for a couple of days due to earth slips. On the way in the rear brakes failed on our BMW GS Adventure because they became too hot. We basically had to sit it out and wait for them to cool down, then they returned back to normal.

However, on the way out however we won’t be using the same road because we have been recommended to use another one. The road we will be using is the road to Santiago and it sounds as though it has less tarmac and more off road therefore we have arranged for a truck to transport out luggage with panniers and Ivanka along the road and to follow me as I ride the route on a lighter bike without all the extra weight.

On this route it will be necessary to take a police escort. The reason being because this route is less travelled and it has been the scene of robberies (of foreigners) in the past and so the police will be accompanying us for our own safety. We will let you know how it goes!

San Pedro has been a place to relax. We have been introduced to villages, customs and markets through an American called Robert. Robert has made our stay more interesting because he has introduced us to places and people that we never would have seen as a regular tourist. Robert has decided to bring a better way of life to the local people. In time he hopes to set up a fully functional and affordable clinic so villages have access to medicine and dental care. Robert took us to a local market, we visited a village where Robert had provided a wheelchair, we then took a mountain walk between local villages and the experience was a lot more than we expected. In return for Roberts kindness we helped create promotional and informative videos for his charitable cause. We wish him, and his colleagues, all the success in the future.

Next week we hope to be in El Salvador, however we will see how the weather treats us.

Here is a video from a trip into the mountains early in the week.

 

Hasta luego Mexico

Hasta luego Mexico

Yesterday was our first day in Guatemala so, before the journey progresses too far I thought I should write a trip report (ahem, short essay!) for Mexico.

First, and most important, is that I let you know that we had an excellent time in Mexico. Mexico is a big country; rich in geographic and cultural diversity which can’t help but provide something for everyone, I think.

Our trip started in Ensenada, living with Roberto and Diana – our Mexican family – and attending Spanish language school. Ensenada itself has very little to offer in terms of sight-seeing but, the school was excellent,our hosts were warm and helpful, the people we friendly and happy to help and we even found some yoga classes! The yoga certainly helped with our body-parts vocabulary as well as up, down, left, right and deep. Profundo is equally useful when being reminded to breathe deeply as it is when being warned of a deep hole in the road!

The Baja Peninsula was hot, beautiful but obviously missing visits from its neighbours in the US. In some part this was due to our visiting in the off season but in many places there were clear signs that buildings have been abandoned.

 

Coffee break, Baja California

 

Jalisco provided beautiful scenery to drive through and a much gentler climate! Much greener than Baja with large fields of Agave. Jalisco is the birth place of Tequilla so Agave plants – used to make it –  are everywhere. Guadalajara appears to be a buzzing, thriving, city which would definitely be a ‘weekend city break’ destination were it in Europe. Chopala – where we stayed – was a romantic little lakeside town with boutique hotels and tasty food; a lovely little break!

One blot on the landscape of our stay in Chopala was the American ex-pat who wandered past as we were loading the bike in the morning. As soon as we told him what we were doing he proceeded to tell us how awful driving through Mexico is, how there are fake road-blocks, murders, kidnappings and all those non-holiday activity type things. I walked away and left Nick to talk to him. Nick is much better than I am at asking innocent questions like: “Oh, have you seen a fake road-block? How do you know one if you see it? Have you been kidnapped?” To which the answers are predictably: “they tell us these things”. I don’t have the energy. I am old enough to have cultivated a solid set of fears of my own and I really don’t appreciate people bringing me theirs. Not in life and not on this trip. We do everything we can to be informed – we spent time with a Mexican truck driver, our map and a pen to cross out everywhere he thought we shouldn’t go, we read horizons unlimited, talk to other bikers and read the British foreign office information. I will happily listen to facts, however scary, facts are very useful but negativity grounded in fear and not much else just makes me cross. Be informative or be fun – be both! – or **** off!

Our next stop was Guanajuato, Guanajuato which is not the capital of Guanajuato, Leon is.

This is a very beautiful and vibrant town. A UNESCO world-heritage site and well-deserving of that position. Lots of young people, lots of muisc and art and I loved it. Next time I go to Mexico I will stay there at least a month!

Then to Teotihuacan for some pyramids. We stayed in San Juan Teotihuacan which has nothing to recommend it but, the pyramids are impressive and Nick practiced his Jedi mind tricks to stop hawkers approaching us. The most successful was pointing at the ground a little way off and then, as they looked, walking past them. I had to laugh but I made him stop for fear of a beating. It’s an upgrade to the “what’s that on your t-shirt” trick but it worked! I won’t wax-lyrical on the pyramids. I am still visiting Maya archaeological sites so I will save commentary for another post, when I have decided what I think.

If you are travelling in the area by car or motorcycle please remember that Mexico City and state have a traffic reducing policy that prohibits certain number plates travelling on particular days. We learnt this because we were stopped by the traffic police as we were in violation of the rules (though I am still not sure if we were actually in the affected area.) If you have 04 or 03 in your number plate you cannot drive on a Wednesday! More information here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoy_No_Circula

Oaxaca, Oaxaca was another beautiful and vibrant place which we enjoyed but the best part of our stay in Oaxaca was being invited to the beach with Uli, Ivan and Ajonjoli the cat. In summary, sea, sun, fresh food and very very few other people make for a great few days at the beach. While we were in Chipehua we sent a note to Mark and Maggie (via a 3G kindle we told them to check out our spot location!) who with Swiss Andre joined us on the same day as four other people on three motorbikes. A little impromptu adventure motorcycle gathering ensued much to the delight of Dona Natalia and Don Tereso who had been our hosts and who proceeded to feed everyone else too for a couple of days.

Angry cat

Last stops in Mexico were Tuxtla where the Grupa Escala provided us with excellent lodgings, camping on the climbing room floor, San Cristobal de Las Casas which was cold, colourful and perfect for pottering about and last, but not least, Palenque with easy access to the Mayan ruins with the same name and a couple of days with Andre, the Swiss biker, his friend David, the Swiss doctor, cheap lodgings, cheap food, cheap beer, lots of tropical jungle rain and some Internet. Not the most beautiful spot in the world but a great place for a rest, read, chat and to put more flickr photos in order!

Those of you on motorcycles may be interested to know that we left via El Ceibo to Flores, Guatemala. The border crossing was straightforward, there is a banjercito to stamp out your bike and the Guatemala side is perfectly prepared for your visit. Don’t forget to keep the receipt for your tourist visa or you will have to go back to Tenocique (great coffee at Palms Cafe on the way out of town, on the righ, next to the second Pemex!) to pay your 262 pesos (each) and, for Guatemala you will need: passport, drivers license, bike owners papers and a single copy of each. The Guatemala permit costs 160 Quitzal but you can pay in Pesos and there is a bank at the border. For some reason, not many maps show the road but it is there and it does work.

Visit Mexico, it’s not all bad and a lot of it is amazing.

SANY0978

Motorcycle Diary 1 – Video

Motorcycle Diary 1

We received an email from our dear friend Rob Shenton today and he was asking how the bike was – So we made a quick video so you can see how the bike is holding up.

We are now in a town called Palenque which is in the state of Chiapas very close to the Guatemala border.
We are staying in a cheap hotel, hanging out with a Swiss guy called Andrew and we are making plans for the next episode in our journey which is Guatemala. We will make the Mexico/ Guatemala border crossing in a few days.

Mexico Beach Life – Video

Mexico Beach Life

Chipehua beach, southern Oaxaca, Mexico.

Home for 5 days as we take a break from all the motorcycle adventures and sleep in a hammock on the beach.
A time to recharge the batteries as we sleep, eat, swim, take a walk and drink beer.

Here we hung out with Uli & Ivan, we bumped into some other bikers traveling the globe and we enjoyed a few games of cards.

El Rosario on the Baja Peninsula, Mexico – Video Diaries Part 4

El Rosario on the Baja Peninsula, Mexico

Here is a quick video taken on the 12th September as we travel south to a place called La Paz to get a ferry across to mainland Mexico.

Sorry for the references to dogs and how to deal with them. I am a dog lover too but when they chase you you have to be firm with them.

Welcome to Mexico

Welcome to Mexico

This week has been a total change to the trip and I am really enjoying it.

Earlier in the week we left the States and headed for a very early border crossing at Tijuana, a busy border crossing entering the Pacific side of Mexico, taking us onto the Baja Peninsula. We started at 4am and got there just after 6.30am. A border town we had read extensively about and had received lots of different views on;  from American citizens, the media, the British Consulate,  BBC websites or fellow bikers. We were nervous, we were prepared and all in all it was really easy – best to be prepared right!

There were border Police everywhere, cars were being checked left right and centre and the authorities just waved us through. So we just followed their directions then, before we knew it, we were in Mexico.

There was a dramatic change in everything! Buildings, people, signage, quality of road and we were there for rush hour Mexico-style…shit! Hitting rush hour anywhere on a fully loaded bike has its challenges but, before we knew it, we had passed straight through the town and we were on our way to Ensenada which is the largest city south of Tijuana just a couple of hours drive away.

Ensenada is twice the size of Brighton in population so it has 500,000 people. It is a busy Mexican tourist town though recently it has suffered with lack of tourist visitors because of the perception of Mexico to the neighbouring Americans. So here you have it, a large tourist area ready to deal with all the visiting tourists but the town is a little quiet in our opinion. The tourist strip is a bit like Benidorm and most days there is a massive cruise ship which arrives in port and keeps all the bars and restaurants busier.

We are here to start a Spanish course and we are staying with a very nice Mexican family/couple called Diana and Roberto. They are our host family as we attend school, enjoy the city and they are looking after us with 3 dishes per day. I think we are eating more than we need to so we are burning excess calories off through Yoga, lots of walking around town – plus we are combining this with lots of siestas… a nice pace I think! I also met Josh in Orange County recently and he introduced me to his ‘Bucket list;’ these are basically the things that he wishes to do in life whether ambitions, targets, personal challenges and he has been doing 100 press ups a day for about 11 months. This is something I am now doing to keep me strong on the trip. The rules are basically you do 100 press ups a day before midnight each day and you can do them anywhere and anytime. Most days I do them when i get up but I have also done them in a lift and in a car park! Thanks Josh and good to meet you!

Yesterday we met a couple of Australian bikers called Maggie and Mark. We met them through a motorcycle forum called Horizons Unlimited as I basically posted that we are traveling through the whole of Mexico on this website and wondered if there were any other fellow bikers out there?
After an initial rendez vous in a coffee shop, then five beers in the afternoon we agreed that we would catch up with each other further south in La Paz, then hopefully we will be able to travel through the mainland part of Mexico together. This will be great because there is always safety in numbers, it sounds like Mark is a very handy chef and it is good to hang out with others. Mark and Maggie have been on the road since December 2008 and they have travelled from Sydney to Singapore, Laos to Nepal, plus they have also managed a ski season in Switzerland. We look forward to getting to know them better.

Today is Sunday and we meet our language school for a ‘test’ so they can see how well we understand Spanish. For the following 5 days we will be intensively learning from 8am to 2pm each day.

All is going well. The bike is off the road until next Saturday and then we head south in search for some idyllic beaches and sunshine.   Southern Mexico is very rainy at the moment so we need to take our time.

The beard is getting to a nice stroking length.

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