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Old 05-06-2011, 07:42 PM   #1
Prarie_Dog OP
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Cool2 South America Solo on a 650GS - The Long Way Down up and Around

Hey folks,

My name is Art Wojtowicz, originally from Chicago but been living in Boston for a few years.

I´ve been riding around South America for a month now. Thought it was about time to stop lurking and start posting!

Trip started in Puerto Montt, Chile. I´ve been driving north and have made it through Chile, Argetina and Peru. I´m in La Paz right now, turning the corner with the goal of being back in Santiago by the end of May.

Ride is a F650GS I leased in Chile. I´m going solo - although I´ve met lots of wonderful people along the way.



Here´s the latest.

http://thelongwaydownupandaround.blo...urce=BP_recent

To keep things simple, I´ll be posting updates through my blog. Pumped to be posting on ADV for the first time.

And, to whet people´s appetite for adveture, some eye candy. Hi-res versions are on the blog (just click on the image).












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Old 05-06-2011, 09:03 PM   #2
Dachary
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Awesome!

Hey, nice to see a fellow Bostonian down there! Me and the BF just got home from riding from Boston to Ushuaia on our BMW F650GSes, and we're heading back to Buenos Aires in a few weeks to pick up our bikes and ship them home. Can't wait to check out your photos and RR! I'm already nostalgic for South America, and I've only been home a month!
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Old 05-07-2011, 08:56 AM   #3
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Blog is well done... great photos.
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Old 05-08-2011, 05:02 PM   #4
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Thanks guys - Dachary, definitely looking forward to grabbing a beer in Boston and sharing stories! Small world.
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Old 05-08-2011, 05:08 PM   #5
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April 25-30: Deep in the Amazon






So I had to abandon the Don for a few days to head into the jungle... I think it might actually be impossible to go to these reserves with anything other than a boat.

But it was worth it. Turns out my guide did 10,000km around Brazil, Peru and Argentina on a 250 a few years back! Wow! That takes some courage.

--

http://thelongwaydownupandaround.blo...urce=BP_recent

¨You had to be there!¨

It´s one thing to see the world´s deadliest insect on Animal Planet.  It´s a whole different world when it´a foot away from your face.

Tarantulas.  Tarantula-eating wasps.  Ants the size of small mammals.  The world´s most painful insect stings.  The world´s most poisonous spider (which happens to be the size of a tarantula and is ¨extremely aggresive¨)

It is all there, and it´s not even hard to find.  6 nights in the jungle was a crazy experience.




Welcome to the jungle.






Hello Wandering Spider - the size of your hand and extremely, extremely poisonous.   

The Brazilian wandering spiders appear in Guinness World Records 2010 as the world's most venomous spider.





Going to step away from the Don for a few days.  It´s not conspicuous here.  At all.





Getting ready to hop on a boat for the cruise upriver.





Cruising through the jungle.  It´s like the Venice of rainforests.





Supply boat heading upriver.





View off the bow.





This guy is writing a book on the Tambopata Natural Reserve, our destination.  His camera gear was cooler than mine, by a big margin.





Water and jungle.





The kitchen at a ranger checkpoint.





Ranger checkpoint... 







Accomodations - make sure the mosquito net is tight!  Insects and bats own the place.





Electricity is sporadic (solar panels and a generator provide power from 530 - 9), so kerosene lamps do the rest at night.





Sunrise over the Amazon.








So humid your clothes actually get wetter overnight... and forget about drying anything unless its out in the sunshine.










Ranger life.





Heading further upriver... sediment gives the river that dark orange hue.





The jungle is trying to own this shack.  It will win.








How the locals get around.





More sunrise... its brief this close to the equator.  No more 3 hour sunsets like I had down in Patagonia.









The jungle is just everywhere.  It is kind of spooky, and really easy to get lost.  Very happy to have a guide.






Can´t take a bike into the rainforest... (or at least, it´s really really hard to take it into the jungle...) so left the bike for a few days to get a feel for what it´s like to get far far away from civilization.


Cruising a small lake in the jungle.





Our leader.
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Old 05-08-2011, 06:58 PM   #6
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April 29 - May 2: 700km to Lake Titicaca

http://thelongwaydownupandaround.blo...-titicaca.html










The view over Lake Titicaca.  It is great-lake sized - you can just barely see the mountains on the horizon.












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Old 05-08-2011, 07:33 PM   #7
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Great stuff, excellent photography!
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Old 05-11-2011, 06:05 PM   #8
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May 5 - Welcome to Bolivia






Hello, Bolivia.









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thelongwaydownupandaround.blogspot.com

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Old 05-11-2011, 06:22 PM   #9
mac inger
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Beautiful. Subscribed.

PS: What gear are you carrying with you? (camera gear that is)
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Old 05-11-2011, 06:42 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mac inger View Post
Beautiful. Subscribed.

PS: What gear are you carrying with you? (camera gear that is)
Hey Mac - actually not too much. I usually shoot with a Canon Rebel SLR (it´s the entry-level model) and a 55mm - 250mm lens. I upgraded from the stock 18-55mm that comes with the camera and it made a world of difference.

I also carry around a pocket digital camera, for those shots where the big gun might be awkward to slug around.

And a little Photoshop to iron out wrinkles at the end ;)
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Old 05-11-2011, 07:07 PM   #11
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[QUOTE=
And a little Photoshop to iron out wrinkles at the end ;)[/QUOTE]

Oh i know how that goes :)

Thank you for the reply. Keep posting
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Old 05-16-2011, 05:03 PM   #12
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The Road of Death - El Camino Del Muerte - Bolivia













That´s me in the poncho.  OK just kidding, this is from Google.  But it´s the same road.


Ok, so maybe signing up to bike down the ¨World Most Dangerous Road¨ sounds a little... stupid.  I didn´t feel much better when I asked the sales woman when the last injury was.

¨Two weeks ago.  A couple of guys crashed into each other.  One broke his collarbone and the other broke his arm.¨

Oh.

¨And the last car crash happened then too.  A taxi ran off the road and 3 people died.¨

Wonderful.

But, hear me out.  Here was my logic.  You are on a mountain bike.  Most of the traffic takes the new road.  The road is about 10 feet wide.  That is plenty wide for a mountain bike.  It is risky.  But it is a risk that you can control.  Speed is what kills people.  I told myself I just would just go really, really slowly.

For decades the La Paz - Yolosa road was dubbed ¨The World´s Most Dangerous Road.¨ On average, 300 people a year died when their vehicles disappeared into the abyss below.  Even today, you can see crosses marking the major accidents (e.g., when buses carrying 80 people would vanish.)

What made it the most dangerous (or more correctly, most deadly), was the terrifying combination of traffic, idiotic driving and terrible weather.  It is the only road connecting La Paz (population approx. 1 million) to several cities in the Amazon basin (population approx. 1 million).  If you wanted to deliver Coke, you had to go over the road.  The road is scary on a bike or in a car.  It is suicide in an 18 wheeler.




Christ. (Also from Google).  There aren´t any trucks on the road anymore - they all take the new highway.


Then there is the issue of Bolivian driving.  Bolivia has 5% as many cars per capita as the U.S. but 50% more road deaths.


As first one - and then a second impatient motorist - overtook our car on the ravine side of the road, my own driver - who hardly ever spoke a word and only then in his native Aymara - intoned loudly, eerily and in perfect English..."You will die." - BBC





Then finally there is the rainy season.  A wet front rolls in, there is fog, and it rains.   It so steep, and so wet, that inevitably the ground gives way and -poof- there goes the road.

There are stories told of truckers too tired - or too afraid - to continue, who pull over for the night, hoping to see out an Andean storm. But they have parked too close to the edge. And as they sleep in their cabs, the road is washed away around them.

As incredible as it sounds, there are guides who make careers out of biking the road.  Our Bolivian guide had ridden the road seven hundred times.  Maybe my risk assessment was more sane than I thought.

As a side note, almost all insurance companies cover accidents on the road.  Why?  Because it is a public road and riding a bicycle on public roads is not considered an extreme sport.  Loophole?

Although there were parts that were intense, our group made it down without a scratch.  The road is wide enough, 10 feet at the most narrow parts, that if you go carefully there is plenty of space to work with.  The ride is also spit into nearly a dozen stages, so your guide can explain what the hazards are in the next stage and your fingers can rest from gripping the brakes.  A great time, even if it is surreal having your guide describe all the vehicles that went over the edge one section at a time...

And here are some original shots of the road:




Almost perpendicular cliff at the edge of the road.  It is a long way down.





The road hugs the side of the mountain for about 50km as it drops about 10,000 feet.





Another gut-wrenching perspective.





Our guide - mountain biking around the world and a little short on cash, so he is leading these trips until he can leave Bolivia.





All the safety gear makes us a look like clown on bicycles.





The new, less deadly, road to Coroico.  Full two lanes, asphalt, and guardrails.  20 years in the making and funded by international aid agencies.
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Old 05-16-2011, 05:08 PM   #13
maiden.jade
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Awesome photography!

Nice bike (yeah, I have the same one )
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Old 05-16-2011, 10:24 PM   #14
Signal
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excellent
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Old 05-17-2011, 05:46 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by maiden.jade View Post
Awesome photography!

Nice bike (yeah, I have the same one )
Thanks! The F650GS is perfect for this... not too heavy and not too small. I usually ride an 1100GS in the States and man I don´t know what I would do on some of these roads... and if you lose it... picking it up in sand is not easy.

Good choice ;)
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