I put the camera down and went to help Phil get the bike out of the river. Fortunately Phil had the presence of mind to kill the engine before he dunked and the bike immediately started once we got the bike to dry land.
The rest of the group took the water crossing very cautiously...
Our Toronto Italian, Paolo tried to keep his tennis shoes dry...
It was then time for our female staff rider, Shelly to show the boys how to do it with style...
The next two crossings went by without issues but the fourth crossing was by far the deepest of those that we had attempted. I was out front and safely made it across. I was just getting the Nikon out of my backpack when Scott started across with a more agressive approach, clipped a submerged rock that completely submerged the 530 KTM. Scott immediately discovered that water is a poor substitute for air & gasoline as the piston return spring was not able to overcome the non-compressible properties of H2O. Again I put down the camera even before I had a chance to document this fiasco to assist fishing the thumper out of the water. Silly Scott hit the starter button and the starter made a noise that sounded like you got to the kidding. It was time to push the big pumpkin out of the water and start the de-watering process. While Scott was dealing with that I was pointing out the shallower line the the rest of the group and went back to my photojournalism. Here is our lead guide, Alphonso showing Don & Joe the correct line...
Shelly needed a little assist but got across with the bike still running...
With everyone over it was decided to find some shade and have lunch while Scott, Russ & Barack attempted to get the KTM running. It took almost 2 hours and they were able to get the motor running but even with the oil we had in the support truck, the oil still looked like a watered down white chocolate milk shake. In the end it was decided to load the bike into the support truck and shamefully finish the day on the hook.
We were supposed to be heading for Urique but it was already afternoon and we were not even halfway and it was becoming obvious we would be riding in the dark. A command decision was made to change the destination to San Isidro since dropping into Urique Canyon in the dark would have been just too dangerous.
After a few more river crossings we came to an intersection and then came to the gate of the Sauzal open pit gold mine. There had been a pre-arranged agreement to let us ride through the mine property but it still took a little time for the M16 toting guards to get hold of the correct person on the radio to unlock the gate and allow us to proceed. We were supplied a lead truck to follow through the mine property to ensure no one got crushed by one of the huge ore moving trucks that were running all over the mine.
Once safety through the mine the roads improved dramatically as the road was now the main supply road from town to the mine. We then came to a main intersection on the gravel and our lead guide, Alphonso took the turn toward Tubares which ended up being incorrect. We went quite a ways and got all the way to the bridge before Alphonso realized his error and turned the group around. Unfortunately, Ivan with Scott in the co-pilot seat took the correct turn and now the support truck was in front of the bikes.
Ivan would ask along the way if anyone had seen the bikes but no one had.
At the exit of the mine property, Ivan & Alponso had agreed to meet in Mesa de Arturo if the group got separated so Ivan continued on. We were now on the correct route climbing up and then dropping down the canyons and valleys. We came upon a major construction site and had a slight delay. The road crew had just dropped fresh sand and gravel up a fairly steep switchback and nothing had been compacted. It took some technique and a lot of momentum to make it through but I just stayed in the track of the backhoe and found I could get enough traction not to sink in.
Chris was not so lucky with the 990 KTM and the heaviest bike in the group buried itself in the gravel. It took a few folks to get the bike rolling again to make it out. In the meantime I had worked up way up a few more switchbacks and stopped to enjoy the surrounding vista and watch the sunset.
I was now following Russ and as we went around another switchback, Russ' KLR stopped and I saw him look at the petcock. Out of gas. Russ flipped onto reserve and the bike started up but without knowing how far we had left to go Russ had to idle the bike to get as much distance as possible and dropped to the back.
It got dark. It got cold.
I was following Alphonso and was completely focused on the rear taillight of Alphonso's bike. In the dark all I saw was a faint red haze in the dust and a little bit of the road being lit by the headlight of my WR. After what seemed a very long time we came to pavement and the streetlights on San Pedro. Alphonso stopped at a small store to ask directions and asked me where everyone else was. I had no idea. We went back to the intersection and waited. Still no bikes. I had not seen any turns off the road but afterwards had found out that there were some and the rest of the group were not sure which way we had gone and had to wait for traffic coming the other way to ask if they had seen motorcycles and finally manged to find their way.
In the meantime Alphonso sent me on to Mesa de Arturo since I had a GPS on my bike to find Ivan and send the truck back to help find the others. Alphonso then went a little ways along the road where he could see some of the approaching road that the bikes should be on. Finally the bikes arrived but made the wrong turn and also went into San Pedro. They went a little further into town and Barak stopped to ask a driver in a white truck for directions. Unfortunately this was all witnessed by a military patrol that had a report that there were strangers in town with weapons. The next thing that Barak, Phil and Chris knew they were surrounded by solders pointing automatic weapons at them and yelling at them to surrender. Phil is deaf in one ear and does not speak Spanish so Barak told Phil to get his hands up and get on the ground. Chris had his hands up but had not got off the bike and the soldiers were poking him with their rifle butts and almost knocked him off the bike. The three were then forced face down onto the ground while Barak was trying to explain to the commander who we were.
About this time Alphonso arrived on the scene and was finally able to make the soldiers understand that we were not the people the military were looking for. Everyone was released with the sincere apologies of the commander but it is not an experience anyone will soon forget.
In he meantime I was having my own little adventure trying to find Mesa de Arturo in the dark on a mountain dirt road in a land where I do not speak the language. I flagged down a bus and askd, "Mesa de Arturo?" pointing ahead. The driver then spoke to me in Spanish but I was clueless but through sign language and gestures I understood to say on the main road.
The GPS was almost useless since the brecha (gravel road) shown on the GPS was no where close to the track the GPS was showing. By nothing more than sheer luck I finally came upon the truck just before Mesa de Arturo. I was never so happy to see a pickup truck in my life.
I grabbed m jacket out of my bag in the back of the truck and jumped in the cab to warm up. I then had a decision to make. Do I follow the truck back and help find the others or do I stay put while the truck goes back. I was very low on fuel so I opted to stay put. As the truck left it suddenly got very dark and very quiet. All I had for light was the GPS display and the stars shining through the trees. I started hearing all the animals in the woods. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea. I focused on other things and after about 20 minutes I heard the bikes and then saw the headlights approaching.
In less than 30 minutes we were at the motel just outside San Isidro drinking Tequila & Mezcal shooters while the motel staff prepared some hot soup. After some comparision of stories and a few more shooters it was getting late and everyone sleep soundly in their cabins to see what the next day would bring.
Nest Post - Day 3