South America on Three Wheels
This winter, I spent 104 days riding a 125cc Peruvian Mototaxi from Lima, Peru to Ushuaia, Argentina then back up north. This thread documents that experience - in story, in photos, and in videos.
Hi, I'm Pete! I am a long time lurker on ADV, though a quite experienced adventure rider. I was inspired to finally join a bit and post after meeting some cool ADV people in person on my scooter trip to the Arctic Circle and thought I'd do a real ADV-style ride report for my current expedition:
South America on Three Wheels
A year and a half ago I fell in love with the idea of the Peruvian style mototaxi, a three wheeled tuk-tuk that combines the real live front end of a motorcycle with a padded bench and some wheels. I joined up with The Adventurists to drive one around on their pioneer Mototaxi Junket, during which I became in all likelihood the first person in the history of the world to cross the Salar de Uyuni on such a vehicle:
I knew I wanted to spend more time in South America - and more time on three wheels - so when I got back from the top of the world, I decided it was time to head towards the bottom. Even better, I decided to do it at the wrong time of year, heading south into the teeth of oncoming winter... because what's the point if it's all fun and games?
On April 14 I arrived in Peru, and by April 16 I had purchased a brand new Honda CG125NL Motokar Ultra Abierta. With a ten day wait for delivery followed by another fifteen or so days for all the paperwork, I spent some time learning to surf and jetting over to Easter Island. I returned from Lima today to get the great news:
My mototaxi is here, and the paperwork will be ready tomorrow. My journey south - first to Ushaia, then back up north to who knows where - will begin this weekend.
I hope you'll enjoy coming with me on this adventure!
For more stories about me, including some photos and videos of past adventures, please pop over to my personal web site at whoispete.com. Otherwise, see you around ADV as things get rolling...
This is the Mototaxi:
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Customized SPOT path, zoom out to see the entire route history:
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Here are a few photos to get you interested, there are tons more throughout the thread that will blow your mind!
This is what I looked like when it started:
This is what I looked like when it ended:
You know you wanna read it. :)
Preparation: Buying the Mototaxi
Preparation: Buying the Mototaxi
I knew from a little research that buying a motorcycle in Peru can result in a long wait, and that the best idea is to take care of everything ahead of time. I had enough going on in my personal life (and, truth be told, enough of a devil-may-care attitude) to decide that I'd worry about everything once I arrived in Peru... what happens, happens.
I am by no means fluent in Spanish, however I spent three years in Colombia during the early 90's and can get by - even though I haven't really used my Spanish much in fifteen years. If anything, this trip would really put it to the test.
My first day in Lima I headed over to Honda Desert Racing SAC, based on recommendations from here on ADV and other research. I walked in and introduced myself to Enrique Delgado and told him my desire to purchase a Honda CG125NL Ultra Abierta and drive it around South America.
Instead of disbelief, he responded with excited glee, my first of what would be many times people would love the craziness of the idea. Within minutes I had a price (it was even on sale - 5,740 soles, or approximately $2000USD) and bank account info for a wire transfer. I immediately used xoom.com to wire the money, though I could not get their account to work and instead wired myself cash at Banco de Credito del Peru (BCP).
When my transfer cleared, I went to pick it up and was surprised at the modern setup at the BCP branch nearby, complete with a touchscreen kiosk to select my service and take a number. Eventually I made it up to the counter and with minimum fuss was able to accept the cash transfer as well as perform a deposit into the Desert Honda account. BCP provided me with a receipt which I then took back to Desert Honda so they could order the mototaxi!
After much back and forth, I was given to understand that it would take ten days to deliver the mototaxi and fifteen days for the government plates. I thought they could do both at the same time (for fifteen days total), but that turned out to be a misunderstanding... which I found out when I returned ten days later and was told it would still be another fifteen days!
Without much of a fuss, I found things to entertain me (what happens, happens right?) in the interim, arriving back in Lima today to find out that my mototaxi is here and my paperwork and license plates should be ready tomorrow. I'll find out for sure how that goes then, but for now, here is a picture of my mototaxi (phone shot, real pictures will be forthcoming) and some information on it:
Engine: 125cc, gasoline, 1 cylinder
Power: 7.2@8500 KW/rpm (~9.6hp @ 8500RPM)
Width: 1,315mm (~52 inches)
Length: 2,840mm (~112 inches)
Height: 1,710m (~67 inches)
Net Weight: 235kg (518lbs)
Gross Weight: 415kg (915lbs)
Max Cargo Load: 180kg (397lbs)
Drive: 3 wheels, 1 drive (rear left)
The General Plan:
I will be heading south mostly trying to avoid large roads - the Panamerican especially. Unfortunately I need to take it (jumping off onto the accompanying side roads as much as possible) down to Ica, then the plan is to swing towards Arequipa for the first service.
After that, I hope to head towards the Salar de Uyuni while it's still covered in water, then slide southwards towards Tierra del Fuego on the crappiest, most remote roads I can find (as long as they aren't pure sand). With a top speed around 60kmh, it's just frustrating and boring to drive on perfect tarmac - plus I hate cities, instead preferring small villages and raw nature.
Food will be foraged as available from local villages, though I expect to find myself hungry and alone as often as not. During the night I expect to mostly be sleeping in the mototaxi, though I have a tent for crazy weather (and I am carrying some solid gear which should stand me for all weather)... A mototaxi can be surprisingly comfortable from previous experience:
The rest will be about great random experiences, awesome photos, and as much fun with video as I can manage... plus I'll be writing on my blog as well as more motorcycle-related posts here.
How long will I travel for? I don't know... right now, the plan is to stay down here in South America until I run out of money. Originally I planned for 6+ months, but the way I'm being irresponsible it may be limited to three or four. We'll see how it goes - what happens, happens.
As part of this trip, I hope to inspire people to donate to an awesome charity that has done amazing work all over the world, especially down here in South America: Operation Smile. They put on large clinics to perform surgery on children with facial deformities in order to massively improve their quality of life.
If, over the course of this ride report during the next few months, you find yourself enjoying my writing, photos, or videos, I hope you'll take a moment to share the word with others by linking them to my site at threewheels.net. I hope you may even be inspired to donate a small amount - even just $5 makes a difference - on my behalf by clicking the donate link on that page or by visiting http://trk.pe/te?donate. I won't harp much, but this trip isn't just about me.
And we're off...
Paperwork appears to be complete and I have a Peruvian plate on the motorcycle, which should mean I am all set to go!
I picked up some last minute spares including two tubes, two spark plugs, one each of throttle, clutch, and brake cables, a liter of oil and some chain lube. Additionally, I had them swap out the stock tires for dual sport tires to hopefully help me avoid getting stuck in the occasional patch of deep sand on bad roads (I got stuck for hours once at 4000 meters trying to push myself out of a sand well, the effort was exhausting to move six inches at a time).
The downside is that their shop was busy enough that they can't swap the tires until tomorrow morning, so in theory the mototaxi will be ready for pickup at 11AM and I should be on the road out of Lima by noon. I doubt I will make the 300km to Ica, but at least I'll be on the move!
I spent all of last week zooming around Easter Island on a Yamaha 250 enduro bike... I think I may be in for an adjustment!
One random comment: According to the manual, the transmission is a "rotary system" which goes N-1-2-3-4-5 then starts over (or vice versa, depending). This means you can shift "up" from 5th into Neutral (then first!) or shift "down" from Neutral into 5th and not go anywhere. The shifting is also set up like a race bike, meaning you click down to go up a gear and up to go down a gear. I've ridden a bike with such before, but never this "rotary system." Hopefully it doesn't confuse me too much!
Go Pete, Go......This will be great. Any mods planned for the tuk? :ricky
wow. flipping cool man.
Threw a few bucks in for the cause :thumb
Subscribed! 9.6HP! Wow. This'll be good. In a slow way. Lets go!
Wow, that thing looks neat, would love to see someone ride something like that north to Prudhoe, not that it would be a quick 2 week trip or anything.
I will be watching this report.
Oh hell ya. 9.6 ponies, I'm in for this one. :D Get er done!
Trackpete, you are not alone down there with bike taxi.
We met chinese 3 wheelers in the worst spots during a express round trip from Santiago Chile Argentina and La Paz Bolivia www.speedtravel.blogspot.com in January
They all did some kind of charity and had crappy Chinese Taxi bikes, fixing problems by them selves, and all happy smiling
This is going to be interesting:clap
Maybe I'll see you around down there this year sometime. Cheers:freaky
:clapI salut you and all the other on these incredible terrain bikes. strugling around dirt roads. that riders on good bikes where complaining worst ride they ever had.
It took longer than I hoped to get everything ready this morning (11AM became 1PM), so I don't have much time to write because I want to get OUT OF LIMA before dark... Nonetheless, I am off!
No idea where I'll get to tonight, but hopefully halfway to Ica at least.
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