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Old 04-24-2013, 07:42 PM   #331
Hewby OP
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Huzar watch what you say. As far as I am aware Mongolia host some of the worst food I have found traveling. Especially in the spring time, and I tried hard to find local delicacies. So if I was heading that way on a bike, my guess is it would be solo ;) Though western Mongolia was a region I never explored and I kept thinking I might go back...
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Old 04-25-2013, 05:16 AM   #332
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Originally Posted by huzar View Post
Sounds like you need to revisit Mongolia, maybe on a motorcycle this time
Before going to Mongolia you guys have a revisit to Guatemala pending
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Old 04-25-2013, 02:05 PM   #333
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Originally Posted by GuateRider View Post
Before going to Mongolia you guys have a revisit to Guatemala pending
Don't worry Julio. Your on my list ;)
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Old 04-30-2013, 03:43 AM   #334
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Mongolia is beautiful and a bit wacky. I was there a few years ago for this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HO8oiqHjvwg
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Old 06-01-2013, 04:46 AM   #335
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ok, back too it! The land of working and living on mobile internet has taken its toll on my posting, but I promise to finish this sometime soonish!
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Old 06-01-2013, 05:11 AM   #336
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We take the morning to work on our bikes, prodding and poking trying to work out our starter issues- Alison simply finding a screw had worked loose of the battery with the riding over the crazy ruts, and for me, with the help of some of the other bikers at the hostel, we diagnose a dead starter button. With my button pulled apart I can start the bike with a piece of wire, though I decide to take the bike to the local electrics man who replaces the button with one I tape in with Gaffa for $5US. Not a bad job I think, much cheaper than my previous BMW services!

We go for a proper car wash, and decide to include our mud and salt stained riding gear.
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After sorting out our bikes, groceries, and internet we decide to have some quick lunch before heading on. Everything seemed to have taken us an age to get through, and still we had not yet filled up with fuel as the three stations we had gone too, either did not have gas to sell, had a queue of cars that went down and around the street, or refused to sell us gas at a reasonable price (or as we tried to bargain that they actually filled out a receipt for us so at least we know our extra 300% was going to the government which we hoped just might put it into the road system, and not simply into the fuel attendants pocket). By this time Alison was starting to get a little hungry and tetchy and she identified that her “Inner Bolivian” was starting to show. “A gift for Pacha Mumma”, was given to bring luck to our ride as she shared the shells of her lunch with the pavement…

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Finally we headed off, with full tanks, but not before stopping at the train graveyard on the way out of town.
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The weather was looking fine and the baked earth looked amazing.

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my poor riding boots totally salt stained

Yet as we headed on the rain clouds built up in the distance and the road seemed to go right into the darkness.

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As Alison recounted to me later, the owner of the hotel had commented on our route just before we left that “the road was good… if it didn’t rain!

We started sliding about as the rain hit. The road turning to slick. The cars, trucks and vans coming at us at speed sliding all over the place, and laying us in swaths of thick brown guck, at times totally blinding me as my visor was covered. I started to get scared. I had little, to no traction. I needed to ride near the middle of the road to keep out of the worst of the slick, but that was also where the oncoming cars were headed. Our bikes were loaded with supplies for our possible 5 day camp into the south west of the country, and we were struggling with our loads.

As a car would come towards me, I would stop over to my side of the road, to save myself the joys of riding blind, or sliding into them. One particular driver on the other hand, seemed to revel in the fact that I was there (maybe a sitting duck?) and seemingly speed up and flicked out his back wheel as he was passing, his whole van sliding almost sideways into me, drowning me in mud, and missing me by inches. I felt like I was going to end up staying forever in Bolivia in a tiny memorial house on the side of the road, a sad reminder of those no so lucky.

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One of the multitudes of memorial houses that littered the sides of the road throughout the region

Persecutory feelings or just plain poor driving skills, started to take their toll on me. It was taking all that I had to keep going in the icy cold rain, and thick mud. Alison was fighting similar battles behind me, but with no mirrors left on my bike I couldn’t see how she was fairing and it was all I could do to go forward myself.

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Coming into a town, much short of our intended destination for the day, we felt broken, and bruised. Alison sporting a cracking headache from a spectacular slide in the mud, when a truck forced her into the slick, and a resulting 180 degree slide, and we thought it wise to call it a day.

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I found the only hotel in the town, and while balking at the price; we needed a warm, safe place to stay for the night.
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Joyfully the power was out, so they refused to serve us dinner – after serving everyone else mind you, and they told us to find something in town. When we got back at 9, in the pitch dark, they had locked us out of the hotel, and it took 30 minutes of banging on the door before we convinced someone to open the door for us and let us back in. Thankfully for my sanity, there were two other Bolivian men locked outside too or I would have started to feel very much like the country was insisting I wasn’t welcome. We went into our bedroom, lit only by the light of our torches and phones, and crawled into bed. Our wet gear muddy gear handing over chairs and door frames like the shells of ourselves that were left.
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Old 06-01-2013, 06:53 AM   #337
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The morning brought more clarity. February the 14th and Valentines day. We were both far from our loved ones, without internet, and we just wanted to get out of Bolivia alive. We felt that we had put ourselves and our bikes through enough, and we decided to keep heading west to the call of Chile, leaving the southern Lagunas route to those with better weather, lighter bikes, and lighter hearts.
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Thankfully the sun started to shine, and the roads had dried up a little.

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The corrugations brought further bike troubles, though me still not learning, decided I had a fuel block. I started to stress, and pull the bike apart. But thankfully, a well needed rest for lunch, helped me see the error of my ways, and the loose battery terminal, before I started to try to rectify the phantom fuel blockage!


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We headed joyfully towards Chile, thankful for the better weather and the subsequently better road conditions. Marveling at the scenery, though we decided to push on for the day and exit the country before something else decided to go wrong.


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At the border we rejoiced. Our gushing of happiness was loaded on the Chilean bike customs man as he told us proudly, and as a warning, that we could no longer bribe policemen, and to be careful to obey the road laws. We were delighted. I felt like the huge weight of the last month was lifting. We had made it over the border alive, and we would no longer have to struggle to buy gas, deal with corrupt police and systems, and generally feel unwelcome. It may have been over the top, but by this point we were simply exhausted by the effort of it all, and just wanted a little normality.
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Our bikes broken and dirty make it to the border, this is the last they see of Bolivia

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Joy

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My heart responded to this sign strangely as the excitement of finally arriving in Chile started to sink in

Heading over the rain swept salt fields, exhausted but happy, we found our first free camp in the wild. We put up our tent with joy, and cooked up our meal as the sun set behind the clouds.

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Old 06-03-2013, 01:44 PM   #338
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Oh man, what a ride!
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Old 06-04-2013, 06:11 PM   #339
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wowza!
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Old 08-13-2013, 03:08 PM   #340
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We woke to the mountains revealing their glory
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packed up our little rocky campsite
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and we headed on our way.

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Stopping for some supplies, and some money in a little town, we were astounded by the huge malls. Not yet ready to venture too long in this aspect of the world, we headed back out to the streets, leaving our bikes parked in a strip mall in the city, taking turns to watch the bikes while the other walked off to find supplies.
It was then that I was struck by an amazing realization. After feeling invisible for almost a month, I sat with the bikes as people came by. They talked to me. The kids asked to sit on my bike. A man walked by, and after a very brief conversation (I was struggling to fully understand the new accent) he directed me to take off a necklace from his neck, which he placed on mine, told me it was a gift from the Atacama desert, wished me luck, kissed me on the cheek and walked off. All while I stood almost gob smacked. There was no sexual overtones. No wanting anything from me. Just pure, genuine kindness. I felt like I had just taken off my invisibility cloak. I was almost in tears. I smiled and said hello to a young man with Down syndrome as he walked passed looking at me. Thirty min later, he surprised me by coming back to hold my hands and kiss my cheek. The cheek kissing was a habit I saw again and again over my time in Chile. It came to be a part of Chilean culture I loved and respected. When one entered or exited a social scene they would kiss each other’s cheeks. It felt a different vibe than I had experienced in Mexico. I saw teenage boys, come and kiss their fathers as they entered a room. My mouth dropped. How do they make these children? I made a mental note to raise any children I might one day have, for at least some time in Chile.

Finally we had gathered supplies, and judging the carwash (where we hopped to remove all traces of Bolivia) just too expensive, we headed off through the desert to the coast.
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Old 08-13-2013, 04:01 PM   #341
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HEWBY! You're back!
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Old 08-13-2013, 04:13 PM   #342
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Free camping makes me happy. Free camping on the ocean, where I can wake up and swim (even briefly) sends joy down my spine. Admittedly our campsite was not all that salubrious, it was littered with the remnants of others, though thankfully those others were not in sight at the time. The freedom of felling safe to camp was immense. We had seen swaths of others camping further up the coast, so we knew that it was acceptable. And so we vowed to try and free camp our way as much as we could, to mitigate the rising costs of traveling in Chile.

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On the road we started to see big bikes again. Bumping into some Chilean riders at a service station they commented on a beautiful organised campsite down the coast where they were planning to stay. We coyly avoided riding with them, enjoying our own pace, and our love of free camping. But noted the location on the map, and bid them farewell, stating we might head in that direction later.

Heading off on the highway to get some miles under our belt, we stopped at the Mano de Desierto, or the hand of the desert. Very cool sculpture.
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Then, onwards south, burning over the smooth roads and ongoing deserts.

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Once again I was happy to have the power of the comfy 650GS that could handle hours of sitting on (or above…) the speed limit. I think if I was doing this trip again, apart from feeling overloaded and too low, in Central America, and handing over the credit card at the BMW dealer, I have liked this bike. Yes I am short, so few bikes work for me. But I have appreciated the ability of the GS to go off road. I have appreciated its ability to handle altitude and not die on the altiplanio gasping for air. I have loved it on the highway. I have appreciated that BMW, while not being cheap – nor at times always great at fixing the bike first time, will actually accommodate you as you struggle into the shop unannounced, as worldwide they make special allowances for travelers. I have liked the range the bike travels on so little fuel. So yes, while I dreamed of a lighter bike in Central America, I would do it again with a 650GS in a heartbeat.



As the day wore to an end, my sagging chain got the better of me. We had pulled off the highway on a gravel road towards the coast when suddenly I felt a jerk, heard a horrible noise, and then no traction. The engine was going, but I was not. My chain had jumped the sprockets and was lying by the wheel. Taking out the tool kit we managed to get the chain back on and diagnosed the kink in a tooth of a sprocket, that would flick the chain on each rotation. A blob of metal had attached to the side of the sprocket and I needed to file it off. Just then we heard the rumble of big bikes and looked up to see the approaching riders from earlier. We must have looked a treat, dirty as we were from multiple days of muddy Bolivian roads and free camping, now covered in grease, as these polished bikes rolled up. The men stopped, and looked at our troubles, backing away from touching the dirty bike, and while stating they did not have the knowledge, they had the tools. Thankfully they had a file and I was able to sort out my sprocket and we headed into the setting sun to camp with them.


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As we set up tents, to the sound of huge crashing waves, they came back with hot cheese and shrimp empanadas that truly melted in our mouths. Maybe it was my hunger, maybe it was the generosity, maybe it was the surroundings, but I really don’t think I had eaten anything that good in a long, long time.

The evening was filled with laughter, jokes about the “real way to make a coffee” as they frantically stirred their instant coffee into a small bit of cold water/alcohol for what seemed hours, and star gazing under expansive southern skies. The Southern Cross once again burning into my heart, and telling me I was almost home.



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Old 08-13-2013, 04:15 PM   #343
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Originally Posted by DustyRags View Post
HEWBY! You're back!
Yep- finally- gotta get this finished before it all slips from my head. Presenting at a HU meeting in Nakusp in a week or so too, so a little motivation to get a move on
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Old 08-14-2013, 09:24 AM   #344
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Originally Posted by Hewby View Post
Yep- finally- gotta get this finished before it all slips from my head. Presenting at a HU meeting in Nakusp in a week or so too, so a little motivation to get a move on
Excellent! I love your adventure- I've dreamed of running the Pan-American pretty much for as long as I've known about it (I was 6 or so), and over the years that dream's changed from doing it with my parents in their old VW, to doing it in my own VW, to doing it in my truck, and now to doing it on my bike. It'll happen someday. In the meantime, I'll be waiting for more of your trip
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Old 08-14-2013, 05:20 PM   #345
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Hewby, I was thinking about you all day today, wondering what you were up to and here you are.

I was thinking about your visit here almost a year ago. The time has flown. Bisbonian and Mrs Bisbonian are on there way down this weekend.

Your write up continues to inspire.
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