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Old 08-04-2012, 08:11 PM   #151
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The Adventure Begins... Adventure Motorcycle Review

Here are two videos reviewing adventure touring motorcycles including the BMW R1200GS, Yamaha XT1200Z Super Tenere, Triumph Tiger Explorer 1200 and KTM 990 Adventure. Enjoy!

See Part 1 Video

See Part 2 Video
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Old 09-10-2012, 08:02 PM   #152
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The Adventure Begins... Northern Argentina


From Salta, I continued north along the highway.

I passed by the Cerro de los Siete Colores (Hill of Seven Colors).

To me, the hill seemed to have more than seven colors.

I could count at least 10, maybe more. But who is really keeping track. It's just one of those wonders to ponder. How does that happen?

I rode on and passed an area known as the Quebrada de Humahuaca (Ravine of Humahuaca). There were mountains with crazy rock formations. I don't know if these mountains were formed from erosion or tectonic plates colliding... amazing either way.

I checked out the Posta de Hornillos.

The fort was built in 1772.

Supposedly the fort and others like it were instrumental in the war for independence for Argentina.

Ever see a llama up close and personal?

How about a giant llama?

I reached the small town of Humahuaca.

I left my bags in the hostel and decided to do a little exploring in the outskirts. I headed down a dirt road to an area called Coctaca.

I found the village which contained about 5 houses and this small iglesia (church).

Not much out there, except some thistles and some ruins.

Actually, Coctaca is supposedly some of the largest pre-Colombian ruins in South America covering some 40 hectares.

However, many of the ruins were not excavated and could not be distinguished from a pile of rocks. But there were quite a few of them. There was no information center, no landmarks, no signs... just rocks. I walked amongst the ruins freely.

There was absolutely nobody around.

Just me, Emi and a few cacti.

Actually, there were more that a few... the valley was covered in cacti.

Up close, the cacti were quite exquisite.

Oh... and there were a few burros amongst the rocks and cacti.

I headed back toward town along the dirt road.

Closer to civilization there were more burros.

And a few sheep going about their business.

I ran into this old lady and her dog. She looked like an interesting person.

I asked her if I could take her photo... and she said yes. An austere lady in a rugged landscape.

The next day I would push on towards the north. I passed hills, rivers, canyons...

chasms, bridges and mountains.

I stopped along the way... just to take a deep breath... and look. Northern Argentina had some of the most amazing scenery.

Further down the road, I reached the frontier town of La Quiaca. I crossed from Argentina into Boliva. Bolivia requires a visa for US citizens. I was able to get it at the border. It set me back US$135.

Ciao Argentina, you have been an amazing travel partner.

For the full story visit Northern Argentina
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Old 09-10-2012, 08:14 PM   #153
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The Adventure Begins... Salar de Uyuni

Upon entering Bolivia I traveled to the town of Tupiza.






In Tupiza, I met some fellow travelers and we would set off on an excursion to the Salar de Uyuni.





The Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat in the world at over 4,000 square miles (10,000 square kilometers). The Salar was formed as a result of transformations between several prehistoric lakes. It is covered by a few meters of a salt crust. The crust serves as a source of salt and covers a pool of brine, which is exceptionally rich in lithium. The Salar is both a natural resource and wonder.

For the full story visit Salar de Uyuni
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Old 09-10-2012, 08:22 PM   #154
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The Adventure Begins... Inside a Potosi Bolivian Mine

I went from the sublime to the subterranean. I traveled from the bliss of the Salar de Uyuni to the gritty mining town of Potosi. The town is known as being one of the highest cities in the world at 13,420 feet (4090 meters) and for the production of silver extracted from the mines in the area.

And the thing to do in Potosi... is to go visit a mine.

I saw the mines as I approached the city.

I signed up for a mine tour and was equipped with a vintage Beastie Boys outfit.

As part of the tour, I visited a mining store. It is like a convenience store for miners to pick up supplies for their work... like gear, tools, water...

and dynamite.

That's right... one can walk off the street and into one of these stores and pick up a stick of dynamite.

My guide showed me how to connect a fuse and add a bag of common fertilizer to add a bigger bag for my buck.

I then went to the miner market where I could pick up some grain alcohol to drink and some coco leaves to chew. These are actually things that miners take with them into the mines to lets say "take the edge off the work day". I was encouraged to buy a few items to bring into the mine to provide as gifts to the miners.

I was then taken to a part of the mine at which I was shown how minerals like silver are extracted from the material that is dung out of the mine.

This huge apparatus separates the mineral from the material with water and chemicals like arsenic and mercury.

And if one is lucky...

Silver is extracted.

Then it was time to go inside the mine.

For the full story visit Inside a Potasi Mine
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Old 09-10-2012, 08:26 PM   #155
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The Adventure Begins... Sucre

Sucre is a pleasant town with a nice climate, colonial architecture, cheerful parks, good restaurants and some art.










For the full story visit Sucre
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Old 09-10-2012, 08:30 PM   #156
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The Adventure Begins... Museo de Etnografía y Folklore Mascaras

I visited the Museo de Etnografía y Folklore (Museum of Etnographia and Folklore) in Sucre.

There was an amazing collection of ceremonial masks.





For the full story visit Museo de Etnografía y Folklore Mascaras
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Old 09-10-2012, 08:33 PM   #157
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The Adventure Begins... Sucre to Santa Cruz... Dirt, Sand and a Slight Delay

From Sucre I planned to travel to Santa Cruz.

I had a friend named Dave that was going to be visiting Santa Cruz and he was bringing me some parts for my bike.

I set off from Sucre along the asphalt highway.

Outside of a town called Acquile, I ran into a local motorcyclist pulled over on the side of the road. I stopped to see if he needed assistance. He said that he was just changing his oil. I said great. He inquired as to where I was headed. I said Santa Cruz. He said that he was going to Santa Cruz too and that we should ride together. He seemed pretty eager. I said okay and we headed off.

For the full story visit... Sucre to Santa Cruz
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Old 09-24-2012, 09:49 PM   #158
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The Adventure Begins... Santa Cruz, Bolivia Street Art

After two days of tough riding, I landed in Santa Cruz. I checked into a hotel and went for a walk. Near the center of town, I came across some interesting street art.








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Old 09-24-2012, 09:54 PM   #159
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The Adventure Begins... Think of the Possibilities

While walking around Santa Cruz, I spotted this tuk tuk for sale. Think of the possibilities!

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Old 09-24-2012, 09:58 PM   #160
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The Adventure Begins... Friends, Food and Fixin' Things in Santa Cruz, Bolivia

I met up with some friends that were visiting Bolivia.

Noel, Dave, Steve and Pat were in Bolivia on a mission trip. We had a chance to walk around the city center a bit and enjoy a nice dinner of asado (bbq). There were some other friends that I got to see as well that were not in this photo. Big ups... Gaylord, Caris, Leslie, Sophia, Cara, Ricky and Candace. It was great to see you all.

Dave brought me some motorcycle parts that I had ordered online... a new chain, a front and rear sprocket, chain roller, gas filter and a tank bag.

The next day, I took the chain and sprockets to this Suzuki dealer and asked them to install the parts and perform some other maintenance. Emi had reached her 20,000 mile (32,000 km) anniversary. It was time to give her some tender loving care. The shop installed the new chain, sprockets, chain roller, gas filter, and performed an oil and filter change, air filter cleaning, lube, carb adjustment, valve adjustment and a washing. As a result, Emi was looking good and feeling good.

While in Santa Cruz, I wanted to obtain a visa for Paraguay. I visited the Paraguay consulate office which was not far from the town center. The staff member was helpful and explained the process to me. I needed to fill out a form. Check! I needed to provide a passport photo. Check! I actually was carrying one with me, so it worked out fine. And, then I needed to go to the Mercantil Santa Cruz Bank and deposit US$100 into a specific account. No problem...

Except that the police were on strike across the nation. It was a pretty intense situation for a while. There was news coverage of the striking police officers taking over police stations and wielding their weapons. Businesses were not opening.

Which meant the Mercantil Santa Cruz Bank was closed because of security concerns. People were still lining up outside the bank with the hope that they would be able to access their accounts. But I waited around for two days and the bank did not open. Which meant that I was not going to be able to deposit money in the bank to pay for my visa for Paraguay.

Sometimes, you just have to make it up as you go.

So instead of waiting in Santa Cruz for the police strike to end, I decided that I would take a trip to a little visited area in eastern Bolivia.
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Old 09-24-2012, 10:06 PM   #161
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The Adventure Begins... The Jesuit Missions of Chiquitos, Bolivia

One of my favorite films of all time is called The Mission.

The Mission is a 1986 British drama about the experiences of a Jesuit missionary in 18th century South American. Back in the day, the film collected a number of prestigious awards from the Cannes Film Festival, the Academy Awards and the Golden Globe Awards.
See Video
Here is a scene from the film.

Based on historical facts, the film takes place in an area that stretches across Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil. There is a grouping of Jesuit missions in eastern Bolivia. It is a little off the beaten path for most travelers, but being on a motorcycle, I thought that I would check it out.

So I hopped on my bike and headed north and east down a dirt road.

The Jesuit Missions of Chiquitos are located in eastern Bolivia. These former missions collectively were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990. Distinguished by a unique fusion of European and Amerindian cultural influences, the missions were founded as reducciones de indios by Jesuits in the 17th and 18th centuries to convert local tribes to Christianity. In 1767 there was an expulsion of the Jesuits from the area and many of the settlements turned to ruins. A large restoration project of the missionary churches began with the arrival of the former Swiss Jesuit and architect Hans Roth in 1972.

On the way to the mission area, I passed by some lush green farming areas.

It was a very picturesque ride with small lakes and rivers and rolling green hills. It looked like scenery fitting to be in a film.

The first town that I visited was San Xavier (San Javier).

Initially established in 1691, the mission of San Xavier was the first of the missions listed as a World Heritage Site.

The church was built between 1749 and 1752 by the Swiss Jesuit and architect Fr. Martin Schmid. The school and church, as well as other characteristics of residential architecture, are still visible today in the village.

The original inhabitants of San Xavier were the Piñoca tribe.

San Xavier was restored by Hans Roth between 1987 and 1993.

The wooden structure was meticulously restored by local wood carvers both inside and outside.

Along with many of the religious artifacts.

As I was about to leave, I spotted this young boy hanging around the front of the mission.

Then he was joined by his sister and pet dog. As they road off, I snapped this image... capturing the two kids and their dog at play.

I rode on.

For the full story visit The Jesuit Missions of Chiquitos, Bolivia
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Old 09-24-2012, 10:11 PM   #162
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The Adventure Begins... 10 Things I Have Learned About Riding A Motorcycle In LA


These are 10 things that I have learned about riding a motorcycle for a year around Latin America. I do not know if they can be generalized or applied for life in general, but perhaps they can.

1. A big motorcycle gets you attention, a small motorcycle gets you inside.
2. One can source and repair just about everything, just about everywhere for the Suzuki DR650.
3. Ride like a local, which usually means on the far right side of the road.
4. Ride slow around, through and over obstacles.
5. A friendly proactive horn beep is better than angry reactive horn blast.
6. It is not necessary to "fully speak" the language, but it is necessary to "attempt to speak" the language. It will always lead to better accommodation, food, drinks and experiences.
7. Asking for help, directions or suggestions is not an indication of weakness, it is an opportunity for others to participate in the journey.
8. Eat the menu del dia (menu of the day).
9. Smile, you are on vacation.
10. Adjust your attitude to the latitude.
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Old 09-24-2012, 10:14 PM   #163
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The Adventure Begins... Perhaps the Best Meal of My Trip

I had perhaps the best meal of my trip. Strangely, it was not in a big city or a fancy restaurant. It was in the small town of Concepcion, Bolivia in a small restaurant just off the central plaza called El Buen Gusto.

The restaurant was set inside a colonial style patio house. There was soft music playing in the background. I sat toward the front of the restaurant which allowed me to to see both the tables inside and people passing by outside.



The meal started off with a vegetable soup.



The second course was a self service salad bar... vegetables are sometimes hard to come by in Bolivia.



I was thirsty from traveling so I ordered a jarra de limonada (jar of limonade). I had no problem finishing it off.



The main course was orange chicken with rice and potatoes.



And I elected to try the strawberry cake for dessert.
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Old 09-24-2012, 10:20 PM   #164
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The Adventure Begins... Samaipata... A Bit of Serenity in Bolivia

I spent two days in Santa Cruz. Principally to apply for a visa to enter Paraguay. The Bolivian police strike had ended, so the banks were open once again. I was able to complete all the tramites (paperwork) and submitted my application. Sure enough, within 24 hours I had my visa!

I decided to head back toward Sucre. Along the way, I stopped in a little town called Samaipata. Samaipata is a Quechua word that means: The Height to Rest. With its delightful subtropical climate and an altitude of 1600–1800 meters it tempts foreigners to settle.


The little village is kind of a Micromundo where about 25 nationalities now live together in harmony and peace. The town is small with numerous colonial buildings and narrow cobbled streets.







For the full story visit Samaipata
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Old 09-24-2012, 10:29 PM   #165
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The Adventure Begins... Doubling Down on the Dirt

From Samaipata I continued down the road to Sucre.

I usually do not like to ride the same route twice, but my options were somewhat limited. I wanted to make my way to Sucre. There was a southern route, which I estimated would take three or four days to arrive in Sucre. So, I elected to take the northern route, which I estimated would take two days or as little as one day. But it meant that I would be traveling a route which I had ridden previously... a route that I knew was mostly gravel, dirt and loose sand. So I doubled down on the dirt and hoped that I would have a little luck.

The ride started out along a nice twisty asphalt road.

But then it soon turned to gravel. I knew what to expect. After many days of riding on gravel and sand, I felt comfortable tackling the terrain. I just needed to stand up and move with my motorcycle.

So I relaxed and enjoyed the beautiful scenery.

Mountains beyond mountains.

Then I came upon this. Outside of the town of Saipina, there was a bloqueo (road block) due to construction. This was the same bloqueo that I came across before. I was told that the construction crew would let traffic through between 12-2pm and after 6pm. It was about 3pm... I had missed the window of opportunity... so I was in for a wait.

So, I pulled back away from all the dust created by the construction and waited. The dirt digger kept digging and I kept waiting. Eventually, two other motorcyclists on small bikes arrived on the scene. We assessed the situation. We debated if we could ride over the mound of dirt and gravel. To the right (uphill) of the dirt digger there was not any space. To the left (downhill) of the dirt digger there was about one foot of space... then a cliff with a drop-off of 100 feet. Risky. As we were discussing the issue, the head construction engineer approached us and interjected that he would not allow us to ride over the mound. Oh...well...time to relax.

So, I decided to do a little checkup on my motorcycle. This is what my motorcycle setup looks like now. I have a Giant Loop Great Basin bag, GL Fandango tank bag, Pelican case, tent, empty extra gas tank and the orange bag holds my rain gear. And depending on the road conditions... dirt. All good.

Then something strange was happening near the construction area. I was off at a distance and could not quite determine what was going on. So I approached the construction area to obtain a better view. It appeared that one of the motorcyclists had crossed over to the other side of the dirt digger. I did not see him crossover, so I did not understand how he accomplished it. But then the other motorcyclist was attempting to cross. This is what they did.

The motorcyclists had negotiated with the operator of the dirt digger. The operator placed the shovel of the machine on the ground. Then the motorcyclist backed his bike into the shovel. The operator lifted the moto and motorcyclist with the shovel, swung them around the edge of the cliff and deposited them on the other side. I would not have believed it if I had not seen it with my own eyes. Ingenious. The Bolivians are geniuses at creative solutions for everyday obstacles. Unfortunately, I was not quick enough to get out my camera and take a video or photo. Equally unfortunate, my motorcycle was too large and would not fit inside the shovel of the dirt digger, so I would have to continue to wait.

I waited until about 6pm... and then like Bolivian clock work...ha ha... the road was opened.

I rode on for about an hour and then it turned dark. It is always a little precarious riding in sand, but riding in sand and at night was a little crazy. There was no moonlight... there was just black (see the picture above). I road on for about 30 minutes and came across a faint light. The light led me to a small cafe. I could not really say that the cafe was part of a village, because there really were no other structures around. It was just one small cafe in the middle of darkness. An old man at the cafe told me that I should ride for 30 minutes more to the next village of Perez. There I should ask for Dona Juana. She sometimes offered travelers a room in her house. So, off into the darkness I rode. I arrived in the village of Perez and asked for Dona Juana. Either I had the wrong name, wrong village or Dona Juana was hiding from this gringo. I could not find her. Anyways, I asked if there was a place that I could stay.

The consensus among the good people of Perez was that I could pop up my tent in front of this business that was closed. The owner was not around and was not expected to return for a number of days. I asked if it was safe. Everyone said that I "should" be okay.

And as it turned out.., everything was okay. I woke early the next morning to complete the journey to Sucre. Before I left Perez, a gentleman told me that the road ahead would be closed starting at 8am for a motocross race. I thought that was cool... they close an entire road...the only road... for a motocross race. I decided that I should ride quickly with the hopes of surpassing the road closure. I wanted to see the motocross race, but I wanted to reach Sucre as well. So, off I rode. At one point there was a small bloqueo. A man at the bloqueo said that the road was closed for the motorcycle race. I said that I just wanted to go a little further to watch the race. It was not a lie. I wanted to see the race, but I really wanted to get ahead of the race. He let me ride pass. The family waiting at the bloqueo did not look happy. I rode quickly.

For the full story visit Doubling Down on the Dirt
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