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Old 03-20-2014, 05:41 AM   #211
CharlestonADV
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Congratulations!
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Old 04-02-2014, 01:19 PM   #212
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Well, what about an update?
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Old 04-03-2014, 03:37 PM   #213
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This has been an awesome RR. Thanks for taking us all with you. I hope Cricket finds the home she deserves!
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Old 04-15-2014, 04:00 PM   #214
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Time to get caught up.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sandsman View Post
Well, what about an update?
Far, FAR overdue. How bout we start the catch up now then eh?
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Old 04-15-2014, 04:02 PM   #215
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Pins through skin, Phil in Cusco, Peru

Time to start the catch up on blogs...


From November 18th, when I crashed, to February 12th, 2014 I was based out of Cusco Peru. Waiting to heal. This was a frustrating time, but there was a lot of fun to be had as well. I got a "job" working bar at Loki hostel: always a good time. There were some more challenges and set-backs health wise. And some visits from old friends.


My clavicle had not been healing well, the xrays would tell me.



Minimal to no new bone growth. Spine looks nice though!




I likely hadn't been helping out my clavicle much, since I was still using my left arm, albeit not for anything heavy. This held true until the day we head out to the country with our family.

Many rocks to be moved. I did what I could to help out right handed, and made for a great supervisor.




During all the rock moving, my instincts resulted in problems. While moving a wheelbarrow, Luis-Angel fell backwards into a hole.

This hole.




I happened to be standing right beside the hole, so I quickly reached out to grab him by the collar. This stopped his head from hitting a log, but wrenched my left shoulder a bit in the process. Engaging in furthur actions like this would not speed my healing, so I decided to relegate myself to a sling to protect me from myself.

Sling #1: thermal underwear edition.



Sling #2: Donated sling from Joadan edition.




Even with the sling, I still developed a problem with a pin that seemed to be shifting within the bone. The pin made a tent out of my skin for days, and eventually poked through.

Tented pin skin.


I made "shoulder doughnuts" out of gauze to try to protect the skin, but it was to no avail.



Seeing what I'm currently made of: a pin pokes though.




I had serious concerns of infection, since that pin would make a stainless highway for bacteria to travel right into my bone. I went into see the surgeon Dr. Zaravia with my concerns, but he didn't share them.

"Just keep it clean" he said. "Sometimes we leave pins sticking out of the skin for months"... Great.



I kept it clean meticulously, but for the first time I felt that perhaps this injury would really be the end of my trip. My thinking was "if it gets any worse, I'll have to bail back to Canada and a doctor I have some faith in". I was quickly losing trust in Dr. Zaravia. The pin was uncomfortable, and the new hole in my shoulder often leaked fluid and blood.
Taking the local buses around town didn't prove any better for my health. While standing in the door well in a "combi-bus", I was unable to escape the rapidly opening folding door. It caught my foot and wouldn't let go, crushing it as I tried to fight back against the door.

I was caught right in that non-existant gap between the door and the side of the step-well.



Jayne was yelling for the driver to close the door, but was countered by some other patrons trying to help but mistakenly yelling for him to open the door! In response, he did nothing. With Jayne pulling with all her might, I slammed my whole body against the door. Combined, the forces were sufficient to just move the door enough for my foot to slide out of the trap. Fortunately I escaped with only mild flesh wounds and nothing broken. No safety releases down in these parts!

It didn't look much worse in real life, so I had to suck it up.


But life goes on.
After Jayne continued onwards with the boys after Christmas, I quickly found myself in need of something to do to fill my days. Having had a great time partying at the "Loki" hostel over a couple of nights with Josh and Jordan before they left, I inquired about working there. It didn't pay, only providing free stay and discounted food and booze, but it was something fun to do. Even with one arm in a sling, my days working in a bar when I was younger made it a pretty easy job.

Not all work was work.



The famed "Blood Bomb": Vodka, grenadine and redbull.



Fire and alcohol, what better combination?



Wilson tasked with painting the whole bar. The beginning of laser-firing dinosaurs and transformers attacking Machu Picchu. Makes sense.


Loki Cusco is one of the largest hostels in South America with almost 300 beds! It is a party hostel through and through, so while a good nights sleep was a little tough to come by at times, there was always a good excuse. Great people to work and party with while I recovered.
A second Christmas season this trip meant more mangers again, and Micro-Kelly couldn't resist. She sure loves those mangers!


Many more mangers!



Sweet baby Jesus's!!


New years would bring old faces into town. Great to have a catch up with moto amigos we met back up in Central America!

New Years reunion with Heather, Oli, Tanya and Ernesto!


Hung out with Oli and Ernesto over the next couple days doing maintenance and drinking a beer or two. I had hoped that I might be healed in time to ride on to Bolivia with them, but it wasn't to be.

Common with the early new Gen KLR's, Ernesto had a pretty severe oil consumption problem. This oil "change" only ended up swapping out 500cc's of oil.

Ernesto was heading to Uyuni, Bolivia, to catch the Dakar rally. I really, whole-heartedly wanted to catch some of the rally as well. I figured if i was going to make a trip of it, I might as well go big, so planned a trip south to Salta, Argentina. There I would be able to reunite with Jayne and the boys, and also catch three whole days of Dakar! I worked at Loki for two weeks, then set course south... by bus.

Motorcycle Minute:
Jugs. Oh Jugs what did I do to you?!

Curves in all the wrong places.

My crash had broken a lot on Jugs, much more than one minutes worth, so my next post will fully update you on the recovery of Jugs.
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Old 04-16-2014, 06:07 AM   #216
Tsotsie
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Thank you for continuing the report. We were left hanging for a while.
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Old 04-19-2014, 11:28 PM   #217
Wump
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The Jugs Rebuild

There is no video of the crash, but from the photos, road gouges, scratches and missing pieces, I've deduced that Jugs did at least one flip down the highway. Likely several. This would require some repairs. (Link to the video I took talking about it all, damage chat starts at 4:40 Video 1 day post crash)


Rough shape after some moto-gymnastics.
Once I escaped the hospital post-surgery, the first step was to get Jugs out to Pisac. There we would stay with Sandy and Sandra Hart.

Another truck ride for Jugs, this time in the Hart-mobile.


Off the easy grass ramp, I rode jugs through the yard. It didn't quite feel right, but then neither did I.

The first step was to strip everything down.




Once the bike was striped bare, I discovered there were broken and bent parts, but nothing unrepairable or unreplaceable.


Bent Handlebar


Cracked air-box and broken air-box door.


Bent up ammo can (post bend and re-weld)


Yet another broken windshield. I took the hint finally and didn't replace it this time.

While doing the minor repairs on Jugs, Sandra kindly helped with my personal repairs providing Bandages and taking out my sutures.


Nurse Sandra works on Nurse Phil

Great health care staying with the Hart's!

Back to working on Jugs: the whole front end was bent and needed a stern talking to.


Removal, straightening and re-painting needed.


Mid stern talk.

The smashed gauges took a full day to puzzle back together.


My gauges were thoroughly smashed. The tachometer chip board was unrecoverable, but everything else was repairable with JB weld and ductape...


Broken glass? No problem. Repairs sponsored by pepsi-cola.
And then I notice the frame...

That's just not right. Wait... actually that IS to the right. Oh dear.


Where the sub-frame connects also has a bend/dent.


More cracked paint.

More paint cracks still.


The gauges, the bent bar, the airbox, even the boxes and fairing I could fix or have someone else fix nearby and easily. But the frame... The frame needed more work than I was capable.Fortunately my friend Chester from the hostel in Pisac knew of a good mechanic in Cusco. A phone call and 2 days later the mechanic made a house call out to Lamay to check out Jugs!!


2.5 hours round trip by bus on his Sunday day off to come house call Jugs. Brian could fix the frame for 300 soles (120$)!

My challenge now was to get Jugs back to Cusco. The Harts were busy with their charity work and their truck wasn't available, so I set out to find some wheels for my wheels. After several hours of asking around in the rain, I waved down a 1 ton truck who happened to be heading to Cusco in the morning. Perfect. The next morning I called first thing to confirm, then head to Lamay before the sun was up to rendezvous with the truck. 45 minutes of waiting later, I tracked down a phone to find out that the truck driver had changed his mind and wasn't coming anymore. Fantastic. Oh Peru, where truly "Anything is possible, nothing is certain".


I searched all morning and afternoon turning down offers from station wagon taxis who were both dreaming if they thought it would fit, and too expensive. I found Richard and his pickup in a gravel yard. 2 hours later we had Jugs loaded and on our way to Cusco.

Another day, another truck ride for Jugs.

70 soles (25$) and an hour later, Jugs was dropped off at my mechanics shop.


Jugs towers over all the other bikes at the shop

In the shop

Recently freed from chains and bondage required to bend the frame back straight.


Jayne came in to inspect the work


Brian and his star employee

It took about two weeks for all the work to get done. Lots to dismantle and re-assemble. Lots of chains and hydraulics. I took the opportunity to use the shop space for the repairs I was able to complete myself, along with some maintenance. Brian was warm and welcoming to my presence. I really lucked out finding him to do the repairs.


Near impossible to get out after 30 000km of riding untouched. Do your bike a favour and do your scheduled swing-arm maintenance!

With Jugs nearing completion, I head to Lamay by bus to pick up my repaired riding gear. Only took two weeks longer than she originally quoted!

Two weeks late, but she did a solid job on my jacket and riding pants. Hours of work (once she started), cost just 40 soles (around 13$). Sure beats buying new stuff!


Happened upon Sandy along the road for a catch up. Really enjoyed meeting him and the family during my time of need.

After a couple weeks in the shop, once the frame was straight and I felt ready to go, I re-assembled the final pieces and did a test ride out to the sacred valley. I paid Brian the 420 soles (170$) I owed for the work (300 for the frame, 120 for a new handlebar). At that price: basically two hours worth of labour at any shop back in Canada... I shook his hand and set off on my ride. The ride was long enough to be a good test, and also allowed me to stop in and pick up my boxes from the welder that was out that way.


Last minute check over before the ride I found my adjuster plate for the top box was also bent. Quite the end over end flips Jugs must have made.


Sacred for a reason. Beautiful day for a ride out to the valley!

The ride took me a couple hours and included a good argument to get my boxes back. The welder had mostly finished the job on my pannier boxes, with a few bends left to be hammered out, but he wasn't around. His wife/guard dog was home, but she didn't want to let me pay her and take my boxes, saying I should come back in a few days when my welder returned. I had been through this once before with her when checking on the boxes a previous visit. That encounter ended with her closing the door and locking me out. Not going to go through that again, I handed her cash, took the boxes and left. The door slammed behind me. Glad I didn't forget anything. Back to the test ride.


The test ride was successful in that Jugs was behaving well and I was able to retrieve my boxes, but it was a failure in the most important test: My shoulder hurt. I tried to ignore it, I tried to position my arm differently but by the end of the ride I had to rest my left hand on my leg for long stretches. Only when I had to use the clutch would I really put my hand back on the bar. I would later find out that this was because the pins had shifted, no longer holding my clavicle tightly in place. Jugs was now ready, but I was not. Isolating my shoulder to a sling for a month was my future, while Jayne would continue on without me. I insisted that she go on since there was a real chance that my trip was over and I would have to head back to Canada to heal there. Time would tell, and having her wait with me was a waste of her time.


For now, Jugs was healed and would be waiting for me whenever, if ever, I was ready. Until then I just had to eat calcium supplements, chew calcium rich coca leaves and kill time. And kill time I did. Next up: Drinking my way to a healed clavicle, with a trip to the Dakar to boot.

Jugs at the ready. She'll wait a little while.
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Old 04-21-2014, 10:28 PM   #218
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Please keep the report coming. You two have one of the more interesting reports on here. It appears you are both in Calgary now - I wonder how the tedium of standard civilization goes down for seasoned adventurers?
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Old 04-21-2014, 11:04 PM   #219
Wump
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GSBruce View Post
Please keep the report coming. You two have one of the more interesting reports on here. It appears you are both in Calgary now - I wonder how the tedium of standard civilization goes down for seasoned adventurers?
Thanks GSBruce!

Well, it's less tedium than I had feared, but certainly more than I have experienced in the past 20 months. And I haven't started back at work yet
There's something to be said for feeling a little bored, and resolving that boredom by riding 400km away to another town to change the scenery.

Phil
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Old 04-21-2014, 11:09 PM   #220
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Bus problems, Dakar and getting robbed: Cusco to Salta and Back

I was stuck in Cusco waiting for my clavicle and rib to heal. The Dakar was soon to start and broken shoulder or not, I wasn't going to be this close and miss it. So I took a bus to Salta, Argentina for the Dakar and liked it there so much I stayed a couple weeks. But taking a bus is not the same as riding a moto.



The bus was very late, and very wet.


I don't like working to other peoples schedules anyways, and not the greatest way to start a journey, but the comfy seats brightened my night.


Comfortable seats with legroom for the win!


This seat would be comfortable only for a little while. The bus broke a few hours later just before sunrise, so we had to wait for a replacement.

By sunrise, my comfortable seat had come to an end, and we switched to a replacement bus on the side of the highway.


The replacement bus was late to Puno, so of course we missed our connecting comfy bus. Kudos to the company that only an hour later they had found us a new bus, a new OLD bus without comfy seats at all. This old bus took me to the border of Peru and Bolivia.


At the border I hoped to switch passports from travelling on my Canadian to my UK passport, figuring it would be easier at this border than when it mattered in Argentina. Entering Argentina on a Canadian passport costs 100$US. UK passport is free.



Trying to swap passports proved difficult, especially with the time limits imposed by a waiting bus.


Leaving Peru was easy: stamp stamp see-ya. Entering Bolivia with an empty UK passport was not. After flipping through the pages and seeing no stamps, immediately the border officer asked if I had another passport. I said "yes", but when I asked to be stamped "in" on my UK passport instead, the officer shoved my passports back into my hand, pushed me aside and helped the next person in line. I was relegated to last. "Fair enough" I thought. But when the line was gone and it was my turn once more, the officer wouldn't budge. As I tried to convince him and gauge the possibility of greasing the wheels a little, my bus driver ran over to see what the hold up was. "Oh you can sort your passport stamps out at the immigration office in La Paz" he told me. The officer agreed and took my Canadian passport. Stamp stamp see-ya.

Crossing Lake Titticaca, everyone has to get off the bus and take a separate passenger boat for safety. I thought this was a scam to get more money...


...I was the only one who felt this way. The bus rocked heavily with each wave the barge encountered, sufficiently convincing me that a full bus would likely capsize and kill us all. I saved a full 30 cents though.


It was a pretty, but slow bus ride to La Paz. And possibly it would have been possible to sort out my passport stamp issue had my original bus arrived on time to La Paz. However my fourth bus of this journey was very late, and the immigration office was long since closed by the time I arrived. Waiting until morning for the office to open would mean not making it to Salta for the Dakar, thus defeating the main carrot for the trip. Reluctantly, I set off on the next 17 hour long bus ride to the border at Villazon-La Quiaca: The worst border in the Americas.


Villazon had the longest border line I had encountered yet. 7 hours!

And that was 7 hours WITHOUT importing a motorbike! It was nearly sunset by the time I finally made it to the window. I had taken these hours to inquire with some Bolivian Border guards in the street about getting an exit stamp in my UK passport. Eventually I found a border officer who would acquire one for me... for 300 Bolivianos (about 50$). Half the price of the Argentinian Visa, but not guaranteed to work. I could see the Argentinians questioning why I only had an exit stamp and no entry stamp, then making me pay for the Visa anyways. In that case, I would be doubly screwed, since my Canadian passport also barely had 6 months left before expiry (didn't think the trip would take this long...). I could get into Argentina with it, but I wouldn't be able to re-enter Bolivia or Peru with less than 6 months remaining. I had to go back to Peru to fetch my bike.



After hours of internal debate while melting in line, I decided to just try my luck at the immigration windows. First I tried pleading for an extra exit stamp at the Bolivia exit window. No dice. I explained my case, made jokes, even begged. They smiled, but still said "no". In the end it wouldn't matter.


At the Argentina entry window the young man took my passport, read it, then stared at it for awhile. Then he asked where I was born. "Calgary" I said.
"What country is that?"
"Canada".
"Then you need to pay".
"That can't be right. I am a British Citizen as you can see by the passport, where I was born doesn't matter".

This stumped him a little, and he went for his supervisor. Him leaving the office with a still very long line behind me didn't help my popularity with the crowds. They were pleased when I was taken aside out of their way when the supervisor came over. But he gave me the same answer. "You must go back to Bolivia, find an internet cafe and pay online". I argued, politely, but I argued for a long time. Basically: "I have dual citizenship. Right now I am choosing to be from the UK. You would do the same if the difference was 100$US and possible problems with onwards travel on an expiring passport... By law I am a UK citizen... This has to be a misunderstanding of the rules... yada yada yada". That I was arguing in Spanish might have helped sway things. Eventually, the supervisor told me to wait and walked off into an office. 10 minutes later he returned, flashed me the page on my UK passport that had been stamped and ushered me away over the border without saying another word. (For the record, I was in the right and should not have had to pay... but entering on a passport without an exit stamp from Bolivia probably should have given me problems.)

Not at all the fight I had expected, but I won so stamp in hand I was free to leave the hell that is the Villazon border!


This poor Argentinian kid was having worse problems than I. He had left 3 years earlier on his moto to travel South America and was making his return home. Argentinian law says that if you take a vehicle out of the country for more than a year, you have to pay import taxes to bring it back. Argentina import taxes are incredibly high. The kid was broke and just trying to make it home...


Post border fun I had bus problems again, as my bus ticket that I had specifically asked and paid for to be non-stop: had a 6 hour stop-over in the middle... of a 7 hour bus ride. Argentina wasn't wooing me well.

Also included: An hour long roadside military search of the bus.


I finally made it to Salta at 5:30 am after 3 days of travel. I got to the hostel just outside of town, checked in, and promptly slept through the first day worth of racing of the Dakar around Salta. Nuts!


The problem with the Dakar rally (from a spectator standpoint) is that the Rally is made for the drivers. As such, they don't release the route or timing of the spectator areas until the evening before each stage. This keeps the route secret from the drivers... but also makes it exceptionally tough to plan for, especially when you don't have wheels of your own.


When I did wake up, I was warmly greeted by Jayne and all the bikers in her new gang. None of them had made it to catch the days stage either. This would prove to be the common theme, with none of us actually seeing any live racing at all. I will have to do the Dakar again sometime.

We made it to the Dakar festival grounds to watch some riders ride across the stage... but not what I came for.


The hostel there was fun and I decided to spend 2 weeks in Salta. The lower elevation, thus more oxygenation for my healing was a draw, and the nicer weather and pool didn't hurt. I started work at the hostel, another of the Loki chain, and it was a blast.


Pikachu and a leopard run the bar


Not the worst job around.


Nearing the end of my stay, I visited a hospital for a follow-up.

Fellow moto crasher and sling-buddy Joe, with his lady Jen, also in for a check-up at the hospital.


Improvement! The doc said he could pull the pins and I could get moving!


While certainly not healed, the bone was starting to heal. The Doc thought pulling the pins was the right move, but in the end I didn't get insurance approval in time to have that done. I had managed to get a coverage extention and didn't want to mess it up by having procedures without prior approval. Probably for the best that I didn't have the pin out then. But this did mean that after a long month of being stuck in a sling, my left arm could once again taste sweet freedom!


The best game mashup ever invented


What better way to celebrate freedom than an epic win of beer-pong-flip-cup?!


For whatever reason I took very few photo's while in Salta, but here is a small sampling of all the good people I had the pleasure of hanging out with there.

Dan dreams of all the things we could be doing if it wasn't raining.


Eva the receptionist experiences my culinary masterpiece: rare peanut butter on chocolate chip cookie.


Cultural exchanges can be enlightening: Hailey, Nicole and Renee taught me that just by saying "Kegal" you can control nearby ladies into contracting their nether regions. Fact.


Many a night at the hostel would last till the wee hours of the morning drinking with such new amigos.


One thing that never, ever gets old: sunrises...


...nor Sunsets.


The sun would set on my time in Salta sooner than I might have liked, with my rapidly expiring Peruvian temporary motorcycle import docs beckoning me back to Cusco. This involved more bus rides. And my first robbery.
After a non-eventful night bus ride back to the border town of La Quiaca, I found myself walking towards the Villazon border-from-hell at around 5:30am. While walking, I struck up conversation with a Bolivian guy also walking to the border. I bemoaned how long the border took on the way in. He agreed, and said he had heard of another nearby crossing colloquially called "the White House". He asked a guy walking the other way about the border wait.


"Terrible, 4 hours. You would do best to try the White House".
Asked another two guys the same question, both answered the same thing: "The White House is better".
To top it off, the last guy we asked offered to lead us there. Nice guy. Love meeting locals who know these little tips. Especially given how long the border crossing was the last time.


I followed the two guys along beside the road until we head down a well worn dirt path into a ravine. Another guy was following not far behind "also going to this White House crossing" I thought... "or perhaps they are all going to rob me down in this ravine". I palmed my leatherman just in case, but figured a) I wouldn't be able to fight back well anyways given my arm has only been out of a sling for 2 days, and b) I didn't really have much on me worth stealing, so if this adventure went down that way it wouldn't be a big loss. Plus, I still thought that they could just be friendly locals who really did know a faster crossing. I was interested to find out.


At the bottom of the ravine, a flashlight came bouncing towards us along the waters edge "Stop, Police!". One solitary officer came up to us. We all stopped. He showed us his "ID" that was poorly laminated paper with a grainy photo and large red lettering saying "POLICE". Ok then, I'm probably getting robbed.


He asked for our ID's, which the other three men already seemed to have at the ready. I offered for the "officer" to look at my passport, but when he went to hold it I pulled back. "You may read it, but I will hold it" I said, "I've heard of Police robbing tourists like this."


The "officer" didn't like it, but accepted that I wouldn't let him hold my passport. Then he asked to look in our bags for contraband. A quick search of the other mens bags, followed by an in depth look through mine. I squatted down so close our heads were nearly touching so that I could see exactly what he was doing. Nothing really worth stealing in my bag anyways. Then he said he needed to check our money for fakes. Ok then, I'm definitely getting robbed.


Fortunately I only had 110 Argentinian pesos (less than 10$) on me. I'd spent the rest. The "officer" was upset, repeatedly asking me "are you sure you don't have any more?". "Yes I'm sure" I replied, getting more hostile each time. Then he gave me a pat down. The Officer insisted I put my camera from my pocket into my bag. I resisted, saying that was ridiculous and unnecessary. He insisted more than I resisted, so I placed the camera in an internal zippered pocket in my bag and zipped the bag closed too. The "officer" patted me down again, then wanted to take another look in my bag. I resisted again, but by this point I figured the other men must be in on it, so kicking the officer over and running might not go down very well. I again watched closely as he dug through my bag once more. But that was it for me, I grabbed my bag and said "if you want to search me more, it'll have to be somewhere that isn't a ravine". He said "Fine, get going then!"
I walked 5 steps then stopped.


I really wanted a photo of these guys. I opened my bag, unzipped the pocket... to find that my camera was gone. One armed or not, I exploded in rage and ran at them "Where's my Camera?!!". One guy quickly handed it back to the "officer", and the "officer" said "here it is, you dropped it" as he handed it to me. Riiiight, I "dropped it" and you are a "police officer". The men then scurried off together, into the darkness. By the time I snapped a photo it wasn't too incriminating.

Ravine Robbers in the night. "Policeman" on the right.


The whole boondoggle took about 45 minutes. As I walked back up out of the ravine, I checked for my cash to find that it had indeed been taken. He was quick with skilled fingers. I had been watching the whole time like a hawk. A short walk to the real border would reveal that not only was there no 4 hour wait; the border didn't even open until 7 am! It was then I realized that all told there had to have been at least 6, and likely 8 men involved in a semi-organized heist. Each guy walking the other way who mentioned the non-existent "White house" border crossing had been in on the scam too. An organized heist which netted them 10$, 1.25$ each. I'm happy to have wasted their time I suppose.


A couple weeks later I would (sadly) end up crossing at the same border again. I figured the robbers were organized enough it likely wasn't their only time pulling that stunt, so I mentioned it to the Argentinian border police. The police response: "Yep, there are bad people around. Watch out for that."


Thanks for that.


Moral of this story: Don't take buses while on a motorcycle trip and you won't get robbed.

Kegal.
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Old 04-22-2014, 08:48 AM   #221
Erin Michele
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Great RR. Enjoyed reading your experiences. Best of luck...


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Old 04-29-2014, 09:20 PM   #222
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Cool2 The End of an Era: Santiago, Chile

Our first morning in Chile was a lovely and hot. We woke up after our day of rain, border crossings, flat tires and crashes. We paid the most I'd paid for accommodation (about $25 each for the four of us to share a family room).


Little did we know that that was a sign of prices to come. We spent a long time putting our bikes back together as best we could, and enjoyed a short, uneventful ride to Santiago.


I'd been told about a hostel in Santiago that caters to motorcyclists and that is where we headed when we pulled into Santiago. When we arrived at Casa Matte, it appeared to just be a large old house, and no one answered the bell. We hung out for a little while, then I went into a small hotel half a block away. They had rooms for us if we wanted, and let me use their wifi to check that we were in the right place. We were, it just turned out that the hostel was closed that weekend.



Lined up with nowhere to go

We rode to another nearby hostel with a pool, but they didn't have room for us. In the end we gave up and just stayed at the hotel that had let me use their wifi.


It was Sunday, January 19, 2014 when we arrived in Santiago. As in many other places in Latin America, everything was closed on Sundays. We walked around the deserted, but very clean, tree lined streets, eventually finding a Chinese restaurant that was open.


There were one or two other businesses that were open, I managed to find ice cream, and it was the perfect temperature to wander around exploring the area.


We found someone willing to sell us wine and rum and had a final goodbye session in the hotel courtyard that evening. There was a lot of laughing, and a guy on a buffalo.





I had grown very close to these three amazing motorcyclists and I was not looking forward to them leaving me the next day, when they would be continuing south, and I would be staying behind in Santiago for a few days before continuing on at a much sedater pace.


Josh and Jordon had often quipped that they were on a drinking trip with motorcycles, and having now travelled with them for almost a month, I could confirm that to be true! My liver would be relieved to see them move on without me, even if I wasn't.


The next morning the Alaskans and I said goodbye to Andre, who needed to find the BMW dealership to get some new parts to replace those that had broken when his bike decided to take up gymnastics.


The Alaskans and I went over to see the guys at ride-chile.com, who, as well as renting motorcycles, have a small mechanics shop. Tomas, one of the owners, welcomed us warmly, as did two guys from Chicago, who were about to depart on a ride around Chile on two BMWs.



Ride-Chile headquarters



To these two guys we were "the real thing".

Jordon had a new front tire installed, and Josh bought some (long overdue) riding pants.



Josh models his new riding pants

I gave them a new tube to replace the one they'd given me, and then, with a heavy heart and a few tears, said goodbye to my friends.


Suddenly I was all alone.


Except of course, I wasn't.


Humberto, a guy who'd responded to an email I'd sent out via Horizons Unlimited was there to meet me and Tomas was there installing two brand new tires for Cricket (Pirelli MT60s).



He noticed that my rear brake pads were in need of replacement, so I got to changing them while he was doing the tire. My rear brake assembly wasn't looking so great, the pins the pad slides on are badly notched, and the pads aren't wearing evenly, but the brakes still work, so it can't be that bad!



Tomas using his fancy tire changing machine


I also had noticed that Cricket's headlight had burnt out, so took the opportunity to learn how to change the bulb. Not as easy as it sounds, especially as it's a very small area to get your hand into, but I managed it in the end with some help from Tomas to get the clip that holds it in place out.


Once all the work was done, Tomas and his business partner Mick presented me with a spare oil filter and wished me well. Thanks guys for being so helpful! (Although not the cheapest - did I mention that Chile was expensive?)


Humberto then kindly took me to a little known, very eccentric man who welded my aluminium pannier back together where a seam had split and part had been worn away when Cricket slid on the highway. He even painted it for me!



Aluminum welding shop. Great work, but not a very talkative fellow!



Cricket with her pannier contents piled in the parking lot.


Then Humberto took me to buy an air compressor (I decided I needed one since I was now travelling on my own) and to buy a SIM card for my phone. We also stopped for delicious huge empanadas.



Me and Humberto with delicious empanadas (meat filled pastries).


I can't thank Humberto enough for helping me, I got so much more accomplished in a few hours with him as my guide than I would have in days on my own. He gave me directions to a shop my dad had found that sells Spot satellite trackers.



My dad had been asking me to buy one ever since I split from Phil, because our original one is attached to Jugs. My dad LOVES watching the map as we travel, keeping track of where we are, how fast we're going, etc. I hadn't needed one when travelling with Ryan and Josh, because they both had trackers, but now that I was on my own, I resigned myself to buying one.


Unfortunately when I arrived at the address it was just this door, and when I knocked, no one answered.



Not what I was expecting the shop to look like...


That evening I went to join practice with one of the local Ultimate Frisbee teams - Blue Wings. I'd been emailing one of the guys, Matias, and he invited me to stay the night with him and his wife.



The practice was great, and despite a few bruises from coming off my bike, I really enjoyed getting some exercise and meeting the team. It was one of the few teams I've met this trip that didn't have any expats on it, only locals!

The only picture I took at the Ultimate practice


Matias and his wife were extremely kind. In the morning Matias helped me find other places I could buy a Spot tracker. I went to the one that he had called and confirmed that they had one in stock, however unfortunately when I got there I discovered it was one of the first generation models. As Spot recently brought out their third generation model, I really didn't want to buy such old technology.


I called another dealership, Alma de Aventura, one that we had tried to call earlier but they hadn't answered. This time they did, and they had Spot Gen3 in stock! Also at this time I was emailing a guy called Chema who I'd sent a couchrequest to a few days earlier. He'd said he couldn't host me because his cousin was in town, but that he'd happily take me on a tour of the city.


I arranged to go buy the Spot, then pick Chema up at his mom's house. (He'd never been on a motorcycle before, I told him I'd give him a ride if he found himself a helmet.)


When I arrived he told me that his cousin had left, so if I wanted to I was welcome to stay at their house that night. That was great, because although I'd had another couchrequest accepted, the other guy wasn't going to be getting home until midnight!


As they so often do, things were working themselves out nicely for me.


It was time to get to know Santiago de Chile.
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Old 05-07-2014, 03:49 PM   #223
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Cool2 Hidden Secrets of Santiago de Chile

The guy in standing a few meters in front of me was the president of Chile.



Chema's tour turned out to be a comprehensive overview of Santiago, political figures included!

The outgoing President of Chile, Sebastián Piñera (In the black suit) happened to be doing a photoshoot outside the presidential offices when we walked by.

Chema loves his city and hosts a lot of couchsurfers, so he has the tour down to a fine art. I really loved this city. Clean, varied, and modern, but with lots of interesting European flair.


Here is "the Chema Santiago tour" in pictures:

Chema had never ridden on a motorbike before, so he borrowed a helmet and I gave him a ride.



Chileans do not eat hotdogs with just ketchup and mustard. This is typical snack food!


A wall outside one of the museums, asking for equal education for all.


On a road called "Paris" you could be excused for thinking you were in the French Capital


This is at the entrance to a park on a hill. Very beautiful.


Chema and I at the top of the hill...


... With a great view of the city!


Looking down into the park from the top of the "castle"


Pretty square in the financial district


Chema told me he had a book that listed many hidden palaces that are dotted throughout Santiago. This is one of them. (Picture taken from a hole in a gate.)


We also went to a beautiful square down some residential streets. It had a really nice vibe.


...and a fountain in the middle!

We walked the city for hours, and I was soon wishing I hadn't chosen to wear my motorcycling boots for the day!


When we got home I met Chema's wonderful mother Laura. Originally from Germany, she is a doctor and spends a lot of time working with medical charities. I didn't get to spend much time with her as she was hardly ever home, but when she was she was absolutely lovely, and very welcoming.

Chema and Laura's lovely home.

That evening Chema took me to another of his favourite places, up on a hill overlooking the city. To get there we had to climb some stairs, and then squeeze through a broken fence, but it was worth it as it was a spectacular night view of the city. Santiago is located in a big valley, and surrounded by mountains on all sides, although you can rarely see them due to clouds/pollution.

Santiago spread out below us at night.


Chema is a 21 year old student, who, luckily for me, was on summer break and had loads of time to show me around. He went to school in English, so I didn't even need to resort to Spanish very often.


I ended up spending four nights at Chema and Laura's house. As well as hanging out by the pool, Chema took me for huge sandwiches at a place called Tio Manolos, for really nice pizza, and to a local mall. (Santiago is filled with malls. There are a lot of them, and they are the only places open on Sundays.)

Huge sandwich. Top tip - ask for just a little mayo, otherwise you get a serving spoon full!


One of my best friends in Canada, Salvador, is Chilean. His mum and dad spend half of each year living in Chile, and Maria, his mum, called me while I was in Santiago to tell me that her best friend's son has a motorcycle, lives in Santiago, and that I should meet him.


So one evening I arranged to meet Aldo and he took me to meet his family. His mum, sister and dad were incredibly welcoming, inviting me to stay for dinner and showing me pictures of Maria as a young girl.

Cricket meets Aldo's BMW


Me and Aldo's wonderful mother


Delicious BBQ in the back yard with the whole family


A photo of Maria and Aldo's mother's boarding school class


Also while in Santiago I had lunch with KLR Chile group. They were a super group of guys, very friendly and fascinated with my trip. I think I had to explain that I was traveling alone about twenty times. They just couldn't believe it.

Me with my new KLR Chile friends



Most of the others had newer KLRs (or BMWs or V-stroms)


Alberto giving Cricket a bit of Chile


Cricket's new KLR Chile sticker

After lunch one of the guys, Claudio, took me to try and get my phone unblocked, because I hadn't managed to find a code through the internet. Unfortunately my quest met with failure, because apparently Peru has a special way of locking phones, and it's not easy to unlock them.


All phones are sold unlocked in Chile. If only I had known, I could have waited and bought one there instead!

On my last night in Santiago I went out for dinner with Chema, which turned out to be a bit of a strange experience. We'd been having a fun time together, but that evening the age difference between us started to really show. He was very excited about this buffet restaurant he wanted to go to. I was that hungry but was interested to see this fantastic restaurant he was raving about.


We went into one of the malls, and he led me to the food court where there was a tired looking buffet restaurant in the corner. The food looked like it had been sitting for a very long time, and was very unappetizing. Chema was upset with himself, because he'd been thinking of a different (apparently nicer) branch, and we decided not to eat there, much to my relief.


We went to an American style burger place, where they got my order wrong, and everything about the whole experience was strained and uncomfortable.


Along with the restaurant saga, Chema had started acting oddly, asking me uncomfortable to answer questions like “What one thing do you like the least about me?”. It reminded me of the 11 year age difference between us, and made me miss Josh and Jordon and their easy, fun laughter a lot.
I was glad to be leaving the next morning, and was rescued from stretching the evening out by a text message.


The message was from my friend Erik who we'd met in Belize. He was a few kilometers outside of Santiago and the chain on his KLR had broken. I didn't have a spare, but started contacting my new Santiago KLR friends to see if anyone could help.


In the end they did help, but not in the way I was expecting. One of the guys randomly found Erik on the side of the road. He told him he knew me, and managed to get Erik's bike to another biker's house, one who also happens to be a motorcycle mechanic. I found out about all this because that biker happened to have my phone number and so they could tell me what was going on.


Erik was pretty impressed that I seemed to be known by all of the bikers in Santiago! (As was I, guess it's a close knit community!)


As I didn't need to rescue Erik I went to the hostel where he had arranged to meet up with Tanya (who was still taking the bus everywhere and meeting him in each city). It was great to see her again! She and I went out to find her some dinner and me some cake to satisfy my sweet tooth.


Erik and Marcelo, the mechanic who gave him a new chain, showed up after midnight, and the four of us went out for a couple drinks (1am is completely normal Latin American going out time).

Great to see Erik and Tanya again - now newlyweds!!


Me and Erik's guardian angel, who gave him a new chain and installed it for him!


It was great to catch up with with Erik and Tania. I got back home in the wee hours of the morning, still determined to head south the next day. I was ready to get back on the road!


I left Santiago having thoroughly enjoyed meeting so many great people, and spending time in a modern, dynamic city.


My next stop was Maria and Alamiro's house, where, before Phil's crash and it's aftermath changed everything, we had planned to be spending Christmas.
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Old 05-14-2014, 11:13 AM   #224
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Photo Reflections on the end of Cusco, Peru

I spent a lot of time based in Cusco waiting for my bones to heal.


I met a lot of good people there. Sadly many bad ones too. Looking back it is unfortunate how the negative experiences still overshadow all the good times that were had in Cusco, and in Peru in general. Here is some of the good, some of the interesting, some of the randomness and a touch of the bad. Basically photos and mini-stories I like that haven't really fit in any other posts about Peru.


My amigo Chester after picking up his circus ring, looks over the valley of Cusco. Chester set me up with his mechanic, who would later fix Jugs.



This isn't London, don't park too close to the curb.



Sheep-in-a-bag (TM): Not that uncommon a sight, near Lamay, just outside of Cusco. The sheep then travels on top of the combi-van or bus.




Randomly ended up at Ollytantambo ruins one day with some other hostel-ites. We simply walked in the exit, saving 70 soles (25$), adding another "free" ruin to the list.



Very often I encountered ridiculously overloaded trucks driving around Peru (and elsewhere). This one had just blown out BOTH left rear tires. I'm sure his bottle jack was up for the task though.



Out on our adventure walk in the beautiful sacred valley, Oli and Jayne navigate over "difficult" waters.



As close as either of us cared to go to Machu Picchu in the end. Still got the same photo as everyone else anyways.



Tania, my Peruvian mother holds little Madi for a nap.



...she doesn't nap long though. From crying at the sight of me to yelling "Tio Jesus!" (uncle Jesus) when I walked through the door. Only took a couple months!



Family kids with sparklers on Christmas. "Uno mas! uno mas!" (one more, one more!)



Wilson. The best Tattoo artist, perhaps Artist period, I met in my travels. He was tasked with painting the Bar to look like Machu Picchu was getting attacked by Transformers and laser-shooting Dinosaurs. Amazing Guy. Terrible introduction.
I met Wilson my second day at Loki, New years. We were new roommates and I woke to him weeping in his bed across the room. Wilson had been on his way home from all the new years festivities when he was robbed by a group of men. When they found he had nothing of value to steal, they stole his clothes, stripping him naked. The men then tied him to a post and whipped him with their belts over and over and over while taunting him. Wilson was eventually found and brought back to the hostel by police, who initially had arrested him.
His entire back and legs were covered in whip marks and looked atrocious.
I gave him pain medication. We became friends.
My opinion of Cusco dropped further.



Work at the Loki Hostel bar can take it's toll on tiggers. Henry, uh I mean "Tigger" was well suited as events manager.



Ward (Bar manager) and Colin (fellow cripple). Ward was a great shoulder for me when I found out my Nan had passed away. Colin, a fellow cripple who had broken his foot in a terrible balloon popping incident, understood what it was like getting stuck.



Luis has a powerful compulsion to lick off fellow barman Colin's cast...



... oh I see. Always good banter with Loki Crew.



Met up with fellow rider Eric Bates who stopped by Loki. He may or may not remember the encounter as I was serving him that night.



Phillipe looks on beside Jugs before my desperate run for the Bolivian border.



A great scenic detour en route from Cusco to Puno: take the loop to Lampa!



Officer Jenny was very kind and insisted on taking photos with the giant "Cuy" (Guinea pig)...



...and with the other local fake fauna too.



Buying insurance before my border run paid off huge, as these Officers insisted on checking it (albeit in a friendly manner) on my way back in to Cusco after my 1100km two-day round trip.



...and a dash of 2 metallic clavicles.



Jessica and Lauren model the Loki "blood bomb". Red bull, Vodka, a dash of Grenadine and a full glass of hangover.



Alan (Loki Manager) starts the Olympics strong. (Don't worry mom, we put out safety mattresses.)



IOC, look into dodge ball. Guaranteed fan favorite.



Limbo would settle the score. I would fall on the floor.



Debauchery earns medals. (medals not included)



Meet Shane...



Shane was a special character. An amazingly friendly Irishman, daily drunk to the point I thought he may have withdrawal seizures each morning. Here he is trying to convince our taxi driver to let him take the cab for a "spin around the block". In return the cabbie would get 100 soles (40$). Given that our fare was only 3 soles, the cabbie was very tempted...



While Shane carried on with the Cabbie (who eventually decided he liked his cab in one piece and drove off) I was able to reunite once more with the Two Moto Kiwis! Great to meet old friends in new places!




Feel the love. When time came to finally get out of Cusco, the people I'd become close to made it that little bit hard. I woke to find a shirt from Henry making sure I woke him before I rode away.



Loaded and ready for the road. Rob was among the friends always around for me to vent my frustrations during my downwards spiral at the end of Cusco. Thanks bud.


I didn't take a lot of photos during my Cusco stay. There are so many others to thank for their part in making my lengthy frustrating stay in Cusco bearable. Thanks to all of you.


Fake money, two stolen phones, two crashes, two broken bones, one useless surgeon, one badly beaten friend, corrupt police and three months of waiting later... I was about done with Peru when I left. Looking back, perhaps not fully justified.



Onwards to Bolivia...
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Old 06-01-2014, 11:02 PM   #225
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Death road Bolivia

Death road: To ride down, or to ride up? That is the question.

Not to ride at all, is out of the question entirely.


Riding down Bolivia's famed "Ruta de la Muerta " aka the "Death road" has a tick box beside it on most lists of those visiting Bolivia. So much so that well over a hundred of tourist ride down the road on mountain bikes on the daily. The occasional moto and one or two trucks also make the trek. There is a much newer and safer paved road that has been built now, leaving the "Death road" as mainly a tourist attraction. The sharp drops and narrow road don't take much imagination as to how the road got it's name though.
The road rules are reversed here, riding down death road leaves you riding on the left in any passing situations, pushing you right to the edge. Riding up the road gives you right of way, including the advantage of pulling to the relatively safer "wall side" of the road while passing. Which way to go has been the subject of debate with several motorbikers I've met along the way.


Here's the thing: I liked the ride down a lot. In fact I liked the ride down so much that I rode back up. Down was better.

After arriving to La Paz, I decided the first clear morning I would get up early and head for Death road. There had been weeks of rain, and I didn't want to ride in the wet. Less is more for my still weak left shoulder.
Getting to the road wasn't without challenges, I still hadn't been able to buy gas, and then there was the standard road hazards.


Not at all a surprising sight.


Purchasing gas was was still a chore. I finally got lucky on my second try of the morning for 6 BOB/L (about $0.90). More than the 3.74 local rate, but much less than the 10 Boliviano/L official tourist rate.


On the Yungas road out of La Paz, this station will be on your left, and sold me gas with no problems.



The highway to the "death road" alone is worth the ride.



The scenery heartily reminded me of the Rockies in Canada...



...but with far more Llamas and Alpacas



The "death road" isn't the only road in these parts worthy of exploring.



Scores of excited tourists on downhill mountain bikes try out their borrowed wheels before beginning their decent, much of which is actually on beautifully paved highway. One of the guides kindly provided me a map.


I needed that map. I still kept thinking I had missed the turn, really though you can't miss it.

There's a pretty noticeable giant yellow sign with the word "Death" on it.


The weather was a bit foggy to start, but not raining as it reportedly had been for days, so I decided it best to take advantage of the weather break and ride down before the clouds changed their minds.


Known by all, observed by some.

I had the whole road to myself. The fears of having to "keep left" on the cliff edge while passing were moot. I passed only two pickup trucks and a couple motos the whole way down.


Though I can see how being forced to ride right at the edge might feel ominous.



Not too far into the ride, the clouds started to lift. Perhaps I just was starting to ride beneath them.



Many corners have guard rails. Not this one. However the road at that specific spot is so wide that you would never need to ride out near the edge anyways. Great for photos.


A long walk back to take that photo too.


Not as long of walk as this one...



...or this one.



Stunning waterfall collection.



Met Chris, from Germany, riding up on his Honda 150.



A truly beautiful ride, even more so when the sun comes out.



You must pay 25 Bolivianos to pass this road.



First sticker on window! Super sized little girl smile for the win!



A couple streams to cross for good measure



Trinket booths and restaurants await all the cyclists at the bottom. Vacant for now, but not for long.


The change in climate was dramatic. From riding at the snow line near freezing through the pass out of La Paz, to 25 Celcius heat at the bottom of Death road in the jungle. I enjoyed the riding so much I pulled a u-turn and started my way back up!


The first of many cyclists I would encounter on the ride up.


It was on the ride up when I finally encountered the true danger on Bolivia's "Death Road": The cyclists.
Take a couple hundred tourists who may or may not have ridden a bike recently, put them on vastly varied quality of used downhill mountain bikes, and hurtle them down a rocky gravel road with at-best 2 foot high safety barriers. Repeat daily.
The fastest cyclists I encountered were the safest, I felt. Perhaps because they might have had more riding experience, perhaps they just learned quickly but regardless they reacted quickly, and appropriately, when we crossed paths.
The more nervous riders, notably female this day, were not as quick, or appropriate in their reactions. I met two different girls in almost identical situations. I would come out of a corner, honking my horn the whole way through, and on exiting the corner encounter a girl 20 meters away with two hands full of brakes. Skidding all over the place, panicked faces, they would swerve and slide to their right, one of them riding right into the cliff wall beside them for a final stop. Both looked distraught as I passed. They weren't having fun.
I think these are the tourists who add to the death tally, the ones who maybe didn't want to ride the road in the first place.
Riding up the death road meant dealing with the hoards of these cyclists riding down, and their respective support vans. True, I had right of way and could take the "safer" left side of the road, but the potential interactions with cyclists around every corner kept me on edge. Most bikers would stay left, some would swerve right. Some would simply stop right in the middle of the road. I was likely the first other vehicle they had seen the whole ride, so I'm sure they were more focused on picking their line than anything else. I certainly was when I rode down. At least the support vans were all predictable.


Cyclists and their support van in the mist.



Break from dodging cyclists

Cyclists or not: I still enjoyed the ride up. The views are fantastic in each direction and it's simply a fun road to ride on. In the end the weather was constant all day so either way would have been fine. If you're debating which way to ride and have to chose one way only: Ride down. With cyclists coming around any given blind corner on the way up, I found the ride down more relaxing. Either way you ride, it's an experience not to be missed.


Hooray for survival!



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