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Old 04-02-2013, 09:51 AM   #76
El Explorador OP
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Location: Guatemala City, Guatemala, and going down!
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Hey Thanks Rhino. I may be seven months behind, but I stand by quality over quantity, except when it comes to booze. Ain't gon be missin out on new adventures just to write about old ones.

I may not stay safe, but at least I'll have fun!
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Old 04-22-2013, 07:50 AM   #77
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The Bountiful Wastelands


The landscape before me is apocalyptically empty en route to Moab. A flash of colour from a hill lures me to trek and discover a crafted flower and a jellyfish fossil. The wasteland undulates lazily into the distance. I foresee a long, unremarkable ride ahead.

I love it when I’m wrong.

Adjectives begin to fail me as unimagined geographical features unfold before my eyes. The route to Moab turns into something as gorgeous as anything I’ve seen yet – massive sandstone canyons rise to flank me on either side, iron-red streaks streaming past, skyscraper sized patterns leading me to the land of adventure.

I park at the Lazy Lizard, the cheapest game in town despite the ubiquity of free camping available – I’m feeling sociable, ten bucks is a cheap tax on good company. Not to mention the offroading Lost and I can test our skills against if we stash the panniers.

I don’t waste daylight seeking company today, however – I get out riding sharplike down what I’ve been told is an alternative (free) path into Arches National Park. Definitely underestimated the difficulty. As I ride through increasingly deeper sand discernible tracks disappear and eventually I am alone, the alien landscape of this ancient seabed the only witness to my folly. I finally get to use my GPS for its intended purpose – I mark my position, and set off.

Several paths branch out before me, and no indication of where they lead. Just my kind of adventure. I battle sand and steep rocky drops deeper and deeper into the desert, keeping a close eye on my water supply and stopping several times to debate whether I’d be able to make it back from some of the intense drops.
Good enough, I go for it, acutely aware of balancing on the razor edge of recklessness.

The path transforms into a rocky ledge and I notice an info sign revealing secrets in the landscape. Dinosaur tracks – millions of years ago Lost wasn’t the baddest and loudest thing in these wastes. Fossils in museums lose their impact, anything could be a mock-up, and even the genuine product is hard to conceptualize in context from its hermetically sealed glass case, dry info card giving the most digestible tidbits that have nothing to do with the story of the creature itself. I’m standing right here, looking at tracks left millions of years ago by a terrible lizard.

The distance I travel feels epic, magnified by the difficulty and grandeur of the terrain. I pass a sign advising 4x4 only. I made it this far, I’m not being scared off by a sign.

Okay, so the sign was right.
After picking up the bike a few times and impressing myself by overcoming several stretches of what is certainly the gnarliest path I’ve ever ridden until now, I am finally defeated by a steep dune.

Lost may be stuck, but I’m not done yet. She guards my helmet for me whilst I trek off into the trackless wastes, another point on my GPS set to ensure that I might eventually return to her. I haven’t seen anyone in hours, no sign of life whatsoever. The junipers that somehow grow here look like driftwood, appropriate for this desiccated ocean. I marvel at how these splintered and dry pieces of apparent deadwood sprout green, the tenacity of desert life. Following the tracks of some unknown denizen of the desert, I wander over dunes and between low scrub, ancient shells shifting in sand underfoot.

Eventually I feel that this is it – nowhere, the middle of.

Down on the sand, I sit and observe life from the ground up. Tracks lead in all directions, no sign of their makers. The solitude is palpable. Desert wind blows by, soft and dry, shifting loose grains of sand and little else I can discern. In silent communion with the land I find a nourishing peace, nothing on my mind but the gentle breeze and the subtly living desertscape surrounding.

Off in the distance, monolithic forms beckon my eye; I regret not bringing my zoom lens. Fortunately, I have a motorized zoom at my disposal. I trek back, completely disoriented but somehow returning to Lost.
The way back reveals a fork that leads to the main park, where I can come up close to the playfully arranged sandstone, marvel at the colours and contrasts so surreal I feel as if I’ve stepped into a Salvador Dali painting.

Delirious with delight at the sensory overload, I soak in this visual splendour til sunset and ride back still mesmerised, barely able to rein my focus on the treacherously winding road. I just can’t drink my fill of these vistas.

Persistent rain thwarts plans to explore goblin canyon the next day, I wander aimlessly instead and take shelter from the rain in small caves between attempts to capture the grim clouds against the breathtaking scenery. It ends up being a slow day; I spend most of it around the hostel poking around rocks and shrubbery looking for black widow spiders.

According to the all-knowing Internet, black widow spiders produce a painful but non-fatal venom. A large number of people seem to suggest it is a deadly creature. I toy with the idea of performing a hands on experiment – I’m healthy, why not see what it’s like?

I decide some things are best learned from textbooks and leave the hourglass bottomed beauties in peace to get some rest – it’s been brief, but it’s time to leave again.

The morning sees me visit Arches one last time. This time I’m ready to pay, so of course there’s no-one at the toll booth.
I take the “primitive” trail, pumping past elderly tourists in uncustomarily brisk fashion – it almost feels like just checking tourist sites off.

The opportunities to climb around are too tempting and I end up losing the trail, sliding down into some canyon, looking down at all the adventure and realizing I either park myself here for a month and truly absorb it, or get going and make it to California on time.

California wins, I get out of Moab through Monument Valley and more breathtaking panoramas than I can digest. I need to make distance, the ride is fast and the tiny figures in the distance grow into towering monoliths that never quite feel real.

The dreamscape of Utah’s magnificent sandstone monuments and valleys gives way to flatlands, and as much as I try to race the light I still find myself in empty scrublands at the end of the day. Riding on as the temperature drops, I finally spot what I’m looking for at dusk – an abandoned diner by the side of the road, no more than a shack really. I make sure the bike is well hidden from the highway as I set up for some shots of the stars.

My rice boils with jerky and spices; cars pass by unaware of me and the stars shine impossibly bright. This simple lifestyle is not how I was raised, but it feels comfortable and right. The sky is full of stars instead of haze and I feel unalloyed serenity, an impossible feeling to describe of satisfaction simplified. There is too much artifice in Western lifestyle for my taste, and while I love the indulgent opportunities it provides, the purity of these moments makes me realize that all we’ve managed to do with our luxury and excess is create endless layers of abstraction from the satisfaction we are engineered to extract from surroundings.

My nocturnal ruminations are underscored by a morning sign. A silver dragon hangs in the cobalt sky above the fiery hint of dawn.

The most important facet of radical doubt is to doubt your doubts – who are we to presume such wisdom that we can absolutely claim a thing to be impossible? Everything is based on a foundation of one assumption or another. Clinging to certainty just seems like intellectual vanity, or desperate need to delineate logic by what our limited minds can conceive.

I stand on the pegs and race down the highway, from this perspective I can’t even see the motorcycle – it just feels like I’m flying. The engine pumps like a fiery heart, its loud fury matched only by the wind roaring past. I ride my dragon, and laugh inside my helmet with inexplicable joy at the madness of the world bleeding into itself as I blur by.
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Old 04-22-2013, 09:38 PM   #78
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Fantastic mate!
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Old 04-23-2013, 12:28 AM   #79
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Phenomenal write up! Love the pics.
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Old 04-23-2013, 02:11 AM   #80
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Awesome picures and write up. Thank you.
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Old 04-23-2013, 07:01 AM   #81
El Explorador OP
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Cheers mates, thanks for the support!
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Old 04-23-2013, 08:02 AM   #82
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Your ideas and style remind me a lot of Chris from Into the Wild.

Keep riding, dude! Loving the report and the awesome photos!
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Old 04-24-2013, 05:32 AM   #83
El Explorador OP
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Thanks my man. I must admit I do love that story. I'll take that as a compliment instead of a comment on how likely I am to die, eh?

The movie's highlight was Eddie Vedder doing the soundtrack.
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Old 04-24-2013, 06:13 AM   #84
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Hmmm Into the Wild is a bit different adventure all together. That kid was a fool who didn't know what the Fcuk he was getting into. Sad waste of talent. Since by all accounts he was educated, but as we all know that doesn't make one smart ;)

I'll take my street education most days of the week over a smart guy who doesn't know how to get out of a situation or too stupid to make the mistakes Chris made in Alaska.

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Old 04-24-2013, 07:03 AM   #85
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keep on posting!
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Old 04-24-2013, 11:09 AM   #86
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If someone offers you some pancakes with berries, politely decline.

still lurking my friend. Excellent stuff.
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Old 06-11-2013, 10:40 AM   #87
El Explorador OP
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Today I reach the Grand Canyon. My usual indirect trajectory takes me through Horseshoe Bend, Vermillion Cliffs, Marble Canyon, damn impressive places to behold. With each new sight I am inspired and concerned this journey is strengthening my wanderlust even as it appeases it.

Like so many places Ive passed before, the Grand Canyon the sort of place that can only be properly absorbed with long and intimate acquaintance. I decide to see what I can take from it in a day.

Hours and miles pass; I find myself entering lands quite unlike where I began the day.

For one thing, its cold. I finally get to use the military surplus gloves I picked up in Ottawa. They do a fantastic job of insulating my fingers from one another so they can dissipate heat more efficiently. I knew I was going to regret not springing for heated gear; I reflect to myself as I sip warmth from a watery $2.00 coffee.

The view from the North Rim tourist complex is impressive. I read about the original explorers, how they could barely wrap their minds around the scale of the thing, and walking out to Angel Point, I understand exactly how they felt. After the dropoff the panorama seems more a painting, my mind failing to grasp perspective against the enormity of the great chasm, lost in layers of depth. I try and imagine a person somewhere in that vast canvas and have to keep zooming in to even envision a body as anything more than a speck.
Nobody would even see you fall.

I decide to take some time for just the two of us. Theres a sketchy looking trail to the impressively named Point Sublime that reads 4x4 Only marked on the tourist map. Im advised that its dangerous and a bad idea to go alone.
No further encouragement needed.

Internal debate: Im feeling pretty confident in my technique after all this riding. Making it all the way to Argentina means avoiding unnecessary (and potentially costly) rough riding... but if I was just going to cruise on highways I would have gotten a bike that was twice as comfortable and half as fun.

Lost fires up and we venture down the trail, nearly eating it almost right away after deking around a backhoe only to discover treacherously deep soil freshly spread over the road. My experience in Moab pays off with interest as I manage to keep the bike upright and catch up to some 4x4s stopped in a clearing ahead. After a brief chat with the Portuguese tourists I continue ahead of them. The road steadily declines in quality or improves, depending on your perspective. Im white knuckled but not wide eyed as baby head sized boulders compete with landslides and washouts to send me careening either off the edge or into the cliff face. As I realize this is, once again, the gnarliest road Ive ever ridden, I am somewhat relieved to think that at least theres someone coming up behind me.

About an hour of this later I acknowledge that there is going to be no-one coming up behind me. Those tourists were with their families and would have turned around long ago. Im not feeling so smug at this point, stretching my skills to their limits just to keep going. After a tight curve the path disintegrates into two ruts, one that leads off the cliff and another that takes me into a small boulder. I pin the throttle and gun it for the rock, unable to pull out of the rut. The speed necessary to make it over is such that my forks bottom out on impact and then the bike slams back against me, windshield bashing me right on the chin. The well secured full face helmet is the only thing that keeps me from acquiring a permanent lisp right there. Cresting the hill, a new canyon vista awaits.

I shake it off, and park the bike to enjoy the view. A little lizard leads me on a merry chase around the cliff edge and I notice a tempting series of spires jutting out into the canyon.

Survival reflexes have their use, but the psychological and physiological framework were built on needs to be serve, not dominate, our consciousness. Most humans can hold their breath for over four minutes, if they can overcome their bodys reflexive protests.

We default to the safe route; humans are risk averse creatures and theres value in that. But too often, opportunities are sacrificed for the fear of loss, irrationally magnified against the true magnitude of the risk.

This is what is going through my mind as I walk again from my tripod to the ledge of the cliff, eyeballing the distance to the next spire over. Ten second timer. I can make it in that time. I know the photo wont even be that epic, but the important part to me right now is I look at this and immediately know I can do it. There is no doubt this is well within my power. It is only my treacherous fear that holds me back. I recall my earlier reflections on the canyon. Even if there are people on the South Rim looking directly at this point no one would even see me fall.

What good is it to know what you are capable of, if you lack the willpower to make it happen? All over the world I have seen people overcome circumstance and obstacles to manifest their will. Am I to be one of those who will look back, smugly reassuring themselves of all the things they could have done to excuse shying away from new challenges?

Ive assessed the risk and my abilities, and made it this far. This is a chance to hone willpower above all.

I push the ten-second timer on the camera, already moving. The edge approaches, the only thing that can harm me now is hesitation I commit, fly, and suddenly rock is scraping under my soles and hands as I skid to a stop on the spire. No sweat.

Now how do I get down?

A short scramble later Im back and unimpressed with the photo. Looks like a condor is carrying me off to feed its young. But the moment it captures is glorious chains of fear and doubt cast off, fleeting freedom. One day I will live every moment like this, unflinching mastery of the self. For now I drink in the giddy adrenaline high and get back to the main mission.

Lost and I wrestle our way out of the soft pine-needle carpeted landing and catch the trail that supposedly will take us to Point Sublime. Im already thinking of it as Point Solitude. Each curve, each tantalizing peek at the precipice, I am sure were almost there. But the trail just goes on and on, mud and water crossings and more rocky tracks. Now its really getting late... Just one more curve. Okay, that one wasnt really all that curvy, Ill turn back just past that corner... alright well wait til after checking out whats after that bend... I must have gone on for an hour telling myself to give up and head back while there was still light like any sensible person would do.

Finally, as I am berating myself for not having turned back while I had the chance to make it in daylight, the trees thin out and I find myself on a sandy trail winding upwards and towards the edge of the canyon. Surprisingly, I find an older couple in a 4x4 Joy and her husband show me a map with a not-so-secret track that leads right out of the park, apparently significantly less rigorous than the one I just survived. They leave me with some peanuts and fill my pots with water, I bid them goodbye with thanks.

The spectacle is mine alone as the sunset turns the canyon a spectacular blood-red. Things keep blurring past just overhead, birds so fast they cut an eerie a hollow sound into the wind.

After the sun sets I hurry back to camp to set up my hammock and boil my rice before darkness overtakes me. To my delight I find two solid trees about five feet from the precipice, and set up my hammock stepping carefully on the scree. The crows have gotten into my spice packet by the time I get back to my rice, but I finish off what theyve left with my mostly-cooked meal. This stove seems to be less efficient every time...

I think of New Orleans with a smile as I clamber into the hammock, dislodged pebbles skittering over the edge and into space. Dont get out of the hammock and die... The canyons focus and echo an airstream that howls ever louder as nighttime settles, rocking me slightly in my hammock while I visualize the simple slipknot suspending me. If I were to fall on this slope, cocooned in my mummy sleeping bag and hammock, I wouldnt even have time to free my arms before sliding helplessly over the edge, screams reverberating through the dark canyon walls.

Sweet dreams!
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Old 06-11-2013, 11:14 AM   #88
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great pics, thanks for the RR
My favorite philosopher is Cha Ching !
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Old 06-11-2013, 12:02 PM   #89
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Your one post alone, entitled sublime, gave me an incredible adventure rush.
Way to go dude!
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Old 06-11-2013, 05:35 PM   #90
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Great stuff! You've been missed mr Explorador!
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