Friday, April 1, 2011

Chilly Canada

Stan welcomed me in with a lovely cold beer - a real sight for sore eyes after that day! We had to leave the next morning, so I had a bite to eat and hit the hay, we were up bright and early and sorted out the bike, ready to put in the back of Stans F350 truck. We didnt have a ramp, so we borrowed a 2x4 from some workmen down the street, rested that on a ladder and used a small berm to get Sammy up higher and into the truck bed.

The place where Stan was staying was rather nice with a lovely pool and hot tub! Stan and his partner Karen had been there for a couple of weeks, doing day trips out on Stans Honda Goldwing motorcycle which he towed down from icy Canada, enjoying the warm weather in the USA, Karen had flown home to go back to work. Shame I only got to spend one night there!

Nice Pad!
 With the bike loaded and everything packed we hit the road at 1030am, it was fairly steady heading out of Phoenix, lots of traffic and the highway North was busy too, but we made good time only stopping for diesel and a bite to eat, we went past the spectacular Glen Canyon Dam in Page, Arizona, just before we crossed into Utah  and spent the night at Nephi, South of Salt Lake City.

Loaded and ready to go!
  The next morning the weather had turned and we headed into snow just North of Salt Lake City, with the thermomenter around freezing and the roads slushy I was glad I didnt have to ride all the way home!!! The mountains were all covered with snow and as we got closer to Canada the temperature was below freezing with some icy stretches on the roads. That night we spent at Great Falls, Montana, not far from the Canadian border, we left early and the roads were even icier, so we took it steady, lots of ploughs out cleaning and sanding the roads, we fell in behind some Canadian RV's heading home and made it through the border without getting searched which saved some time.

The run up to Lethbridge was quick, the weather and the roads improved, we stopped for some lunch and realised that neither of us had any Canadian money on us!!! so the quick use of a credit card helped out......Calgary was as busy as I remembered it, especially on a Saturday, it took a while to fight through the traffic, we headed West on the Trans Canada for the quick run home to Banff, where Lisa was waiting for us. After unloading Sammy and putting him back in the garage, we had a nice home cooked supper washed down with beer, wine and Champagne!!!

Snowy Home
Stan left the next morning for Edmonton, (thanks a million for the ride home Stan - Id be stuck in the USA without you!!!) and we set about making a start on sorting out gear and all the fairly mundane things you have to do after a trip......Still you have to get things ready for the next trip......whenever  and wherever that will be....

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Arizona Bound

I only rode for a few hours after I left Gastons, but cutting through the everglades was cool, saw a few Alligators poking their heads up out of the waterways and some people doing tours on airboats, but no time to dilly dally. I had a long way to go and a short time to get there (as the song goes) nigh on 4000 kms in 3 and a bit days. Sammys chain was a concern, I had 4 notches of adjustment left and the last few notches always go quick as the chain gets even more stretched out. If I had to, I might be able to buy a new chain set (chain and sprockets) in El Paso.

I found a cheapish hotel and got breakfast included so I could hit the road early the next morning. Sammy had been running a little rough since the last day in Barranquilla, Id been putting a couple of litres of gas in him at a time, just enough to run around town and get to the airport on the last day and he had been running badly after that - it  felt and sounded like Id got some bad fuel and some crap in the carburettor, but the last thing I did was the valves and the simplest explanation is normally correct, so I was concerned that I might have not cinched up a lock nut on a valve or something. I was up at stupid o'clock in the dark and outdside with a head torch, whipped the tank off and double checked the valves and plugs and put fresh dielectric grease over the plug leads, everything looked good, the plugs had done 6,000 kms and looked ok, everything was back together for sun rise, a quick brekkie and I hit the road. He was still not running perfectly, so I found a local motorcycle shop and bought some new plugs, chain lube and proper air filter oil - but I still needed to make some miles, so I rode all day, just over 1000 kms and left Florida, crossed Alabama before I found a place in Gulfport Mississipi. Another early morning start and I swopped the plugs out for new ones and more tinkering, still he was a little rough - but slightly better than he was though. A long day in the saddle from Mississipi, through Louisiana and into Texas.

Texas is always an eye opener - I ended up working my way through Houston traffic at rush hour, I lost count of all the huge Texan and USA flags flying - literally hundreds of them, combined with the ten lane Freeways and an Apache helicopter gunship flying along the freeway low above me it was fairly surreal after the modesty and poverty of South America. I fought my way out of Houston eventually and scooted North West out of San Antonio and by about 11 pm Id had enough. There were lots of deer around by the roadside and I ended up getting a deal on a room in Segovia Tx as it was so late - the lady in the hotel said it was a good idea not to ride on as there are lots of road accidents with deer locally.

The next morning was chilly, Sammys heated grips got some use and sure enough there were dead deer on the roads everywhere, well over a dozen within 60 miles, good job I parked up when I did.

I managed to pick up some fuel additive/carb cleaner from a NAPA store, everything else on the bike was good, valves and plugs ok, air filter clean and oiled, good  91 octane V-power gas, electrics all ok, which left one thing - dirt or buildup in the carb. I pulled the fuel/air mix screw and sure enough there was some grey powdery deposits on the needle, so in went the fuel additive/carb cleaner and straight away he was running better. I dont mind stripping down the carb and cleaning it at home, but I still had some miles to make first.

Stan was going to wait an extra day for me in Phoenix, that mean't I had to push out nearly 1400 kms on the last day of riding. The engine was running much sweeter, the next issue was the chain. Id made the last adjustment possible on the chain, I lubed it up to squeeze the last miles out of it and hit the road early. I was making good time and made it to El Paso in the early afternoon, the last 20-30miles into El Paso weren't so good, the chain was starting to slip on the sprockets. I was 430 miles from finishing - painfully close, I made the decision to look for a new chain set, I tried two Suzuki dealers and an independant motorcycle shop and no one had sprockets for a DR650 !!! one dealer said it would take two weeks to order sprockets in....Streuth.

It was now 3 pm and I had to hit the road and try and make it, I filled the tank and set off slowly and gently on the throttle - top speed of about 50 mph - it was looking like a late night, sure enough the chain got worse and it was slipping more and more, it got dark and chilly, I turned off the Interstate I-10 and took the back road on the 70, which was nice and quiet and a bit safer at my reduced speed and also slightly shorter distance than going through Tucson. I also had to climb up over 1300 metres for the final push into Phoenix, the chain was really screwed by now and going up hill it jumped off the sprockets and got caught up between the wheel and swingarm - pretty dodgy as it could potentially lock the rear wheel up as it jumps off the sprockets and cause the bike to skid. I was lucky this time, just lost drive but I wasn't  in a good place, lots of fast traffic and  pitch black. I levered the chain out with a screwdriver, got it back on again and reduced my speed even more, I limped into Phoenix at 45 mph - its a big city, over 40 miles from the outskirts to Paradise Valley where Stan was and the traffic was going 75 mph, so I didn't enjoy the ride much, the chain jumped off one more time, but I was able to make it to the shoulder OK and pop the chain straight on again. Id originally told Stan Id be arriving at about 1030pm, but hadn't updated my time after the chain issues, I eventually met up with him at 1130pm, after 1388 kms today and 3901 kms in just over 3 days.......

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Back in North America


I got through US Customs after a few questions and in Miami it was a refreshing 28C - welcome after the sweltering humidity of the Caribbean coast of Colombia,  I met up with Gaston who has been helping me out with sorting out the shipping, he was good enough to meet me at the airport and  he graciously offered to let me stay at his place - we were hoping that the bike would arrive on Thursday and that I could hit the road Friday. We sank a few beers and had a good chat, then headed back to his place to meet his wife Patty and his daughter Camille.

Gaston comes from Santiago in Chile and Patty is from Lima in Peru, which is an interesting combination as the two countries have spent a considerable amount of time either at war or disputing territory over the years. In the middle is Camille, who was always giggling at my British accent every time I mentioned to Patty that her cooking was 'lovely', throw in their 2 dogs and the cat and it was a busy house!

On Thursday morning Gaston called up Tampa Cargo, no good news though, there was no flight today, so Sammy was going to arrive early Sunday morning - not leaving me much time to scoot the 4000+  kms from Miami to Phoenix to meet up with Stan who was due to head home to Canada on Wednesday.

Patty fed me up really well, lots of yummy meals including arroz con leche - rice pudding, my favorite! and I hung out with Gaston as he was doing some other work, we managed to go to the local bikers meet held in a shopping centre car park, with several hundred bikes there - everything from Harley Davisons with flourescent lights illuminating the engine and wheels to tricked out sports bikes and BMW 1200GS adventure bikes. There was also a Triumph motorcycles semi trailer from Georgia, touring around with the latest offerings including the new Triumph Tiger 800 XC - which looked rather nice and sounded even better,  I nearly had to prize Gaston off it !!!

On Saturday Gaston checks with Tampa again and finally we get the good news that the bike is on its way, arriving at 0130 Sunday morning. Gaston wants to save the crate, so he rents a small trailer and we head down to Tampa to pick the bike up. We have to head over to US Customs and get them to sign the paperwork to release the bike, however the Customs lady says that they only process perishable goods paperwork on Sunday's...... I tell her that I am hoping to leave for Arizona today and would they be able to help me out, she hesitates for a moment and finally agrees to do the paperwork - which takes her about a minute. We head back to Tampa and the guys fork the crate onto the trailer, we head back to Gaston's place.

It takes a while to uncrate the bike, the carpenters used a nail gun and lots of nails so it is slow going pulling it apart and trying to salvage the wood for re use in the future.

Gaston, Camille and Patty with Sammy
By the time the bike is back together, the crate stored and my gear packed up its gone 5 pm, a bit later than I was hoping for, Patty makes us a lovely meal and we snap a few photos and say our goodbyes before I head West over the Everglades and then North towards Tampa.

Gaston on his immaculate BMW
I must say a Huge Thanks to Gaston, Patty and Camille for their hospitality, you guys are always welcome to stay with us in Canada!!!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Miami Bound.....but not for Sammy

Monday morning arrived and I go back to talk to the shipping agent, she speaks some English too which makes things much quicker, but we are still a little tight for time as the cargo plane leaves tuesday evening.
I want to get the bike crated on Monday afternoon, but one word you get used to in Colombia is 'Tramites' - paperwork or buerocracy.

As I am not known to Tampa Cargo, they need more copies of all of my identification -drivers license etc etc etc, before they give me a yes or no on whether they will accept me as a new customer - of course mix in a long lunch break and before you know it, its 2pm. I keep pushing to get the crate sorted, but you hit that threshold where you get the word 'manana' and nothing is going to get done today.

At 8am the next day I am at Tampa Cargo at the airport to meet Jose, the Masterfreight agent.  The crate is supposed to arrive soon, we wait for a while and a couple of phone calls get made to hurry up the carpenters with the crate - it arrives at 1030, then another 45 minutes waiting while the crate paperwork gets approved by the airline - they have to be made from certified/ stamped kiln dried wood so there is no transfer of wood borne bugs between countries and as the carrier Tampa are responsible to make sure the crate is up to scratch.
The Police inspection is at 2pm - supposedly, they check everything for narcotics, so we have a few hours to get things sorted out and I am not too concerned, after this I can crate the bike and everything will be sorted for Sammy to leave at 830 pm.

In the mean time, I have been getting the bike ready to crate again, front wheel ready to come off, front mudguard and screen off, top box removed, battery disconnected and the gas tank drained completely -Tampa havent flown many bikes, the rules are normally less than a quarter  of a tank for flying - depending on the airline, but they insist its competely drained, I only have about 3 or 4 litres in the tank, so the 3 young shipping agent guys that all have small motorcycles in the parking lot are very happy - their 125cc or smaller bikes all leave that day with nearly full tanks!!!

So at midday I go to see what is happening, I ask the girls in the office and one of tham says that they do not have the original copy of the shippers declaration - a fairly important piece of paper, until we have it we cannot crate the bike - so after a while Jose shoots off to the office to get the original. I tell the girls that I need to get the bike crated up right after the Police inspection as I wanted to go back downtown and thank Neudith, Eilyn and Nelson for helping me out.

At this point they drop the bombshell that the plane is going to be early - its going to arrive in an hour - just after 1pm and leave at 2pm.  Another 'I can't believe it' moment, I ask them why I havent ben told - I have been working 10 metres from their office all morning and nobody bothered to let me know - not impressed. They only found out that morning after 9am, apparantly one of their aircraft is getting repaired, so they had to change the schedule. The next flight is due on Saturday, but there may be one on Thursday.

Now, there is no way to get the narcotics inspection done and the bike crated in under 2 hours, the Police are heading for lunch, as are the Tampa staff  - watching the latest plan swiftly heading down the pan was not much fun....

Tampa Cargo's 30 minute lunch break turned into well over an hour, In the mean time the aircraft Sammy was supposed to catch that evening arrived and the pilots scooted for a quick lunch, they come back after 30 minutes and they ask me where the bike is going - I tell them that it should be on their aircraft, going to Miami that evening - but they are early, so we chat for a few minutes and I ask them when the next flight will be, they are in the dark too and say that Thursday is possible. They wish me good luck and I get to watch the Airbus taxi and take off without the bike on board.....Streuth.

The cops didnt want to come and do the Narcotics inspection -they were busy having a little siesta I guess, Jose was back so I got him to chivvy the cops up and get going - it was around 230 pm before they wandered over to look at the bike. I had everything laid out ready, they checked in the gas tank, air box, and in the engine and had a good poke around through all my gear, wiping everything down with small papers which change colour if they touch any trace of narcotics, eventually they signed off on the paperwork an hour later.

Its 330 pm and the bike isnt even crated, the flight is missed and my morale is at rock bottom, a couple of airport guys give me a hand to crate the bike up which takes a while, the 'carpenters' got the width of the handlebars wrong and the crate is a half inch too tight, a quick bodge later and its sorted out. Sammy gets fork lifted into a secure storage shed and I talk to the airline girls who assure me that the bike will get put on the next available flight. My flight to Miami leaves the next morning and I am a bit hesitant about going ahead of the bike, potentially having to return to Colombia to sort any further problems out, but I know Gaston in Miami is on the case and he can sort out most eventualities.

Nearly finished
I head back to town, sort out my gear and head to the airport the next morning bright and early. The flight is only a few minutes late and as the Airbus takes off, Im hoping Sammy makes it out too.

I have really enjoyed Colombia, the people have been super friendly, the countryside spectacular and apart from the accident the other week has been a great end to South America.

Sammy sealed in clingfilm


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Barranquilla or Bust....

So after a pleasant but not overly productive week in Cartagena, a few jobs done on the bike and some sight seeing,  I packed up the bike and headed to Barranquilla early Wednesday  morning and straight to an appointment with Coltrans Shipping Company in the commercial sector. The air conditioning in the office was cold and the coffee was hot, which was nice and the  temperature along the coast has been a rather toasty 32 ish degrees today, factor in the high humidity and it feels like 38 C - the riding gear does get a bit warm.

Luckily for me - and them,  one of the girls in the office speaks excellent English. My Spainish, though improved on this trip is still rough and I still tend to miss some of the details in a conversation while generally getting most of the information.

Flying the bike looks feasable, though more expensive than sea freight, it will however put me back on track to meet up with Stan in the Southern USA in a reasonable time frame. We are aiming for a flight this weekend or early next week, Ive still yet to find out if the bike needs to be fully crated or if it can just be put on a pallet and strapped down, Im hoping for the latter which is both cheaper and quicker, both here and in Miami - ride on and ride off the pallet 5 minutes, job done.

Straight after the meeting, I head to the Suzuki dealer in town (the one that actually opens in the morning!)
and buy a new Pirelli rear tire/tyre for a very good price,  I head down to the closest tire fitting shop and get it fitted  in about 15 minutes for another bargain at  $2.66 US.

I didnt hear much back on Thursday, so Friday I got hold of the girls that were helping me and got some bad news - their head office in Bogota had told them that they were not to handle 'personal' dangerous goods - only larger consignments linked to companies....great, another dead end.

The girls in the office were a bit put out with their orders from Bogota, especially after promising me they would be able to help. Also I have been getting some help with getting  from the bike out of Colombia from  a guy in Miami - Gaston, who runs a company called SAmericaXlplorer, he is Chilean, but has been living in the USA for quite a while now. Gaston was on the case straight away looking for another agent and I went to see another agent with Neudith, one of the girls from Coltrans - no go with this agent, but we ended finding one in the same building as Coltrans - just four floors below!

Johanna with MasterFreight said that she should be able to help out, so more photocopies of the bikes papers were taken, its back on currently for a flight on Tuesday - lets see if this time it will work.

There was still some other jobs to get sorted out, Neudith took me along to the DIAN (customs) offices, and we spent quite a while there trying to push through getting the bikes temporary importacion cancelled before the flight on Tuesday. If I had been on my own I would not have got very far, luckily Neudith used to work for DIAN and knows pretty much everyone in the office!!

It turned out that I needed a letter explaining that I was going to export the bike, with the frame number and my details on it,  thinking that I'd have to split back into town to an Internet cafe and bash something together in my dodgy Spanish, Neudith just sat down and used a DIAN computer and typed up a letter in 2 minutes and printed off three copies!!! Nice!

We then headed off to a carpenters shop to sort out a crate, after some discussion we arranged that I would come back on Saturday and the guys would make up a crate - they would also deliver it to Tampa Cargo on Monday, so we can put Sammy in for his trip to Miami.
Sammy Gets Fitted up for a Crate

Saturday comes and we get going with the crate, I take the bike apart - just as we had done for the flight from Edmonton to Santiago, front wheel and mudguard, windshield, mirrors, top box and Lisas pannier off while the base is made, we lift the bike on and the guys take some measurements, then take the bike off again and then they make up the frame for the top while I put the bike back together again.

It was cheaper getting the crate sorted out in Canada, but the guys here made it up from scratch and its going to get delivered to the airport, so I cant complain.

Sunday morning I was up early and did some more jobs on the bike, I adjusted the valves, cleaned the spark plugs,  put on the 15 tooth front sprocket so the bike cruises better on the US Freeways and did some more cleaning and general tinkering.

Lets see what Monday brings.......

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Cartagena

Cartagena Historic City

After arriving in Cartagena a day late due to the accident in Barranquilla, I ended up missing the cut off for the ship departing Cartagena for Miami ,which was our next option to get the bike out of Colombia. The third option is to fly the bike to Miami. The  problem is, the flights do not leave from Cartagena - only Barranquilla on Tuesdays and Saturdays and the end of this week tying to get anything sorted out has proved difficult due to the Barranquilla  Carnival starting on Saturday and finishing next Tuesday night! Both agents that were contacted hadn't come back with prices before the weekend....so getting anything constructive done there before Wednesday probably won't happen.

I managed to get a couple of jobs done on the bike, I went to Dario Marcas Motos - a small moto shop I had read about on the HUBB and talked to Dario and his wife Claudia about getting the front wheel trued up, In their shop is a brand new KTM 950 getting some work done on it and the workshop is small but well organised. Dario takes a look and walks down the street shouts at a guy who was asleep on the sidewalk and calls him over. It turns out the guy is the local 'guru' in the city at straightening wheels and 10 minutes later the wheel is as good as its going to get - I ask him how much he wants for his work - $3 usd! he heads back off for another nap and we take a look at the front fork alignment, one of the 2 main bolts that secure the handlebar mounts is bent -its a fairly beefy bolt, so I just spin it 90 degress and put it back in - not perfect by any means but better, at least the bars are not turned way to  the right when the front wheel is straight.
Dario and another guy loosen and check the front forks - they look OK by eye, a couple of tweeks and everything gets cinched up, should be good.
Historic City and Commercial City

I am in the shop with Dario and the guys for about an hour and so I ask him how much for his time, he waves his had and says 'nothing' - a word that you dont tend to hear when you are in Blackfoot Motorcycles in Calgary!!!
If you need some work done on your bike in Cartagena  go and see Dario  - knows what he is doing and himself and his wife Claudia are genuinely lovely friendly people

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Pick up Truck 1 : Sammy 0

Oh me and my big mouth - 'my riding has improved' well maybe it has, but it still wasnt good enough for me to avoid some muppet nearly badly injuring me and nearly destroying the bike on Sunday.

What should have been a routine 'last riding day in South America' turned into a fairly crap day. Id left Santa Marta and was riding very cautiously on my own, I had to go through the city of Barranquilla, and there is lots of road construction currently. So riding down the road I see a blue old pick up waiting in a side road on the left wanting to go straight across in front of me, Im in second gear and theres sand all over the asphalt, the truck pulls out a few feet as I approach and stops.

I am a gringo on a (now very clean) white motorcycle with its headlight on, wearing a shiny silver helmet and a jacket with bright yellow flashes on the sleeves - hard to miss you'd think? Apparently not.

As I get within 10-15 metres away or so he just pulls straight out in front, doesnt even look - I cant believe it!! -  I'm just about to T bone this truck and go flying over the bonnet I jam on the front and rear brakes - on any normal road surface I might have been able to stop - not with the sand though, the front wheel locks and the bike goes down hard on its right side and slides until it hits the (still moving) trucks front right wheel and bumper. The old boy driver doesnt even realise that he just pulled out in front of someone and keeps going - starting to drive right over Sammy's front wheel - I pretty much got off the bike while it was sliding ran a couple of steps and ended up at his passenger window - yelling at him to stop. Sammy's front wheel is partially under his tyre and the forks are twisted in the triple trees, handlebars are twisted and the bash plate took a pounding from the trucks bumper. The front braided stainless brake hose is sliced clean in two, as is the cable for the digital speedo, brake fluid leaking out onto the road.

Another beating for Sammy...
I tell him to back up and a couple of guys help me pull the bike out from under the front of the pick up. Though the handlebars get caught up on the bumper and Sammy gets dragged back with the truck some more as we wrestle him out eventually.

The truck driver then starts to drive off.... I yell at him to stop, but he keeps going, so I write his licence number down, a few guys on bikes have stopped to help and one chases after him and tells him that I have his plate and to come back which he does.

I give him some choice words in Spanish and English with the liberal use of some internationally recognised sign language and I think he eventually gets the message that hes not going to be on my Christmas card list......

Well its a fairly quiet Sunday in the Suburbs of Barranquilla, so fairly quicky theres a crowd of 20-30 people around the bike, Transit Police arrive 10 minutes later and an Ambulance - who I wave away with a thumbs up,

Helpful Local Guys
Its clear that the bike cannot be ridden to Cartagena today, so after the cops take our details, draw a diagram of the accident and measure my skid marks - 3 metres skidding before the bike went down and another 3 metres of sliding on its side before the truck hit it, take some statements from witnesses, who were very helpful and were actually giving the truck driver a hard time about pulling out in front of me. I set about fixing the bike up as best I can - basically loosening the forks and pulling the wheel till its straight(ish) - with the bike on its centre stand I spin the front wheel - it doesnt look straight/true but I have to ride it on the highway to test it properly. All this took a good 2 and a bit hour in 35C heat with me in my riding gear.... I ask the cops if there is a hotel close to the Suzuki bike shop and they helpfully escorted me on there bike, blue lights flashing a few kilometres away, bearing in mind I have no front brake we took it quite slow and I very nearly ran into the back of them once!

So the next morning I walk to the Suzuki shop to find it only opens from 2-6 pm!! - I quickly find another small shop with 2 young guys, David and Carlos who specialize on Suzukis and have the contract to service all the police DR650's locally.

They said that it will take at least 3 days to get a front brake hose - not what I want to hear, so I ask them if anyone can make one up, after some head scratching and phone calls,we jump in a taxi and head to another Suzuki dealer who is open - yep, 3 days minimum wait, so we head to see the guy in a small shop who says he can cut off the pipe fitting on each end of the broken hose and solder them onto a new pipe - the hose he has though is not very good quality, but better than 3 days + waiting, so an hour later I have a temporary brake line. I head back to the hotel and fit it, fill and bleed the brakes - It feels like someone holding 2 wet sponges onto the brake disc when I pull the brake lever - not good, too much flex in the hose.

I had been down to the Police station twice during all this to get a copy of the police report, but the cop at the accident was not around both times and I kept getting the old 'come back in 2 hours' routine. I heard from another cop that the guy who was driving the truck said he had no money to pay for the damage to the bike and that it would go before a judge in 3 to 6 months - or even maybe a year....... not good news, so rather unhappily I just split and headed out of town, I have the cops phone number so I may chase it up when Im back home, but Im not expecting anything.

I was going over the accident in my mind and I would not have taken a different line, what I did not do though it beep the horn - which I have been doing a lot in South America in situations like that - when someone nearly pulls out of a side road, also the thin layer of sand on the asphalt was super slippery to brake on, also I assumed the guy would actually bother to look both ways - wrong!

The front brake was pretty bad, with the lever pulled all the way it was not doing too much, so I rode to Cartagena very cautiously and as I suspected the front wheel is buckled from the truck driving onto it....anything over 80-85 kms and I can feel the vibration starting.

I got into Cartagena late afternoon and found a hotel, pizza and a beer later and a quick chat with Lisa on Skype. Her flights had all been delayed in Colombia, so she had missed her flight from Toronto to Edmonton and eventually got routed through Winnipeg!!!! So, 27 hours later she got back to Stan's place near Edmonton, the next day she drove home to Banff, with lots of snow and ice on the highway and its currently -30 C! There were accidents and delays..... but she is home.

Semi truck and trailer blocking the main highway - icy roads covered in snow
 I have to meet with a shipping agent on Tuesday and see if we can get Sammy to the USA......

Saturday, February 26, 2011

'Never leave your Wingman'

 We have had a great time here in Santa Marta this week, but  the motorcycle trip has come to its end for Lisa today. She has just left the hotel in a taxi bound for the airport and a long night travelling, with a connecting flight to Bogota, a lengthy wait followed by a flight home to Canada.

After 17347 km of riding 2up through 6 South American countries for 3 months its strange for me to be on my own, you get into the routine with 2 people, loading everything onto the bike without having to discuss about where things go, me sorting out the mechanical side of things while Lisa being very organised would get the admin side of things done much much quicker than me biffing around on the netbook trying to find stuff and emailing ahead for reservaions. She has been great, she suffered through torrential rain, hail, snow,  freezng cold temperatures at nearly 5000 metres and the worst wind we have ever seen or ridden in, 45 C heat and clinging on as I ride over the endless speed bumps, pot holed  roads, the bike fishtailing wildly on sandy tracks and swerving to miss barking dogs and other animals, taxis, crazy bus drivers and the sometimes very bad drivers down here.....she must be as mad as me!!!

Riding the bike 2up has been a challenge for me, Ive ridden quite a lot before this trip, but very little has been with a passenger on the back, let alone with a fully loaded bike and over some fairly difficult gravel/rock/sand/ muddy  pistes/tracks on which  some solo riders have taken a fall on. Now going back to riding a bike solo is going to be easier and Im sure my riding has improved. Riding with any passenger is a big responsibility - let alone your wife, and I am glad that I got Lisa to the end of the her motorcycle trip in one piece with only one low speed tumble when it was windy in Patagonia, which looking back on it was more funny than painful.

Our plan was to fly Sammy back from Bogota to Canada and we have been sending emails trying to sort this out for the last month - including spending several nights in Bogota organizing a crate for the bike and transport for it to the airport which was all in place....however we heard from the shipping agent yesterday, saying  that his contact in Colombia was being unreliable and he could not offer us any shipping services (sea or air) currently....Streuth!

So Grif is currently gong to try and sea freight Sammy from Colombia to the USA and meet up with Lisa's Dad and his partner. Stan is heading South to do a bike trip in the Southern USA with Karen, so if things work out they will meet up somehere and Grif & Sammy will get a ride in a truck and trailer back into Canada, where it is currently -20 C and snowing......Bleh!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Colombian Caribbean

We left Tunja and rode to Bucaramanga. It was a 7 hour ride of twists and turns, ups and downs. We rode through San Gil, popular for rock climbing, rafting and advenure sports and  past Canyon del Chicamocha, which has a cable car going up to the top of the mountain with a theme park perched on the top, straight after this were tight switchbacks that dropped from the top of the mountain sharply down to the valley bottom which gave Sammy's brakes a good workout.


Canyon

Got into Bucaramanga in the late afternoon, and a kind local biker, Jonathan  helped us find our hotel. There was a lot of one ways and no left turns allowed, so it was quite a challenge in the rush hour traffic. We could feel the heat as the elevation dropped to 1000 m. It was 25C.

The next day, was a very long day. We estimated that it was a 10 hour ride to Santa Marta. We were on the road by 7:30 am, and could already feel the heat. As we dropped further in elevation down to 100m within the first hour the thermometer climbed steadily to 45C! and stayed there nearly all day - rather toasty!

It proved to be one of the longest riding days of the trip, it took 2 and a half  hours to do the first 95 kms - slow going with traffic and tight back to back bends, road works from some large landslides - some over 2 km's down valleys and a bridge had been replaced with a single lane temporary 'Bailey bridge' causing traffic line ups of several km's on each side - thank heavens for being on Sammy as we were able to ride up the outside or inside of the line ups and jump to the front - there has to be some perks to make up for not having air conditioning, comfy seats, a stereo or cup holders....

After 545 kms and 9 hours of being cooked we probably didn't look or smell too good as we walked into the rather posh Tamaca Beach Resort Hotel just South of Santa Marta, to see if we could blag a deal on a room for a few days. After some work we were in, as suspected the pretty Colombian reception clerk avoided touching Grifs sweaty BMW jacket and wrist as she put the hotel wrist band on him like he had the plague!!!

Our resort
After a  free Rum cocktail and a dip in the swimmng pool with a beautiful sunset, things were looking (and smelling) rosier, a rather nice supper followed and after unpacking the bike and covering the entire hotel  room with our gear and the nice prospect of not having to go anywhere the next day, apart from to the pool/bar  it was time for some sleep.


Sunset dip

Monday, February 21, 2011

Crate Date

We left Manizales the next morning and headed to Bogota. The road was full of twists and turns, the ride was very slow going. As we headed up and down valleys the traffic came to a stand still. There were long line ups of trucks, several kilometres long, due to road repairs. Since we were on a motorcycle, we did our best to go around all the traffic. Seven hours later and 300 km we were in Bogota. We headed for the BMW dealership to look for a crate for the motorcycle. Our contact, had gone home; we missed him by thiry minutes. It being Saturday, we were faced with the decision whether to stay in Bogota until Monday as the dealership would be closed Sunday.

Enroute to Bogota
We went out for a quick bite after checking into a hotel in the Candelaria area. The next day was spent lounging around and switching hotels due to noise. We found a cheap pizza place for dinner, then washed it down with a complimentary beer from our new hotel, Casa Platypus.

Monday morning we rode around Bogota, it was 27C at 11 am. We stopped at a couple of Suzuki stores to see if they had any crates, but they did not. We went back to BMW and were in luck. We parked the bike in clients only, underground parking; quite special! They had several crates and were getting in more shipments of bikes while we were there. They also said they would crate the bike for us as well.

In the afternoon we headed north to Tunja. The temperature became cooler as we headed into the rural countryside. We stopped at Puente de Boyaca; where  in 1819 Simon Bolivars army defeated the Spanish which led to Colombia's independence. It was late afternoon when we got to Tunja, so we decided to stay and did some sightseeing. Bolivars first military command was based from Tunja and you can definitely see the historic links in the main Plaza, with another statue of him on horseback. It is a lively bustling town with very friendly people.

Bolivar monument with angels
We went out for chicken and chips, our new favorite meal! Suprisingly, we didn't get utensils, but received plastic gloves to rip the chicken apart!
No utensils!
It was quite chilly in the evening when the sun went down. We were at an elevation of 2820 metres.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Beautiful Colombia

We left Quito and rode to Otavalo. Enroute we crossed the equator, but had chosen a route that did not take us past the monument. This is the 3rd time we have crossed the equator this trip; twice in the Galapagos. In Otavalo it was market day! We spent an hour or two walking around the market and had an early dinner. It was an early night as we were heading to the Colombian border the next day.
The next day we made it to the Ecuador Colombian border by noon; it was raining. When turned the corner we saw the Welsh couple, Nia and Gareth, whom we had met in San Pedro de Atacama. It took about an hour to get the paperwork done for the bikes in Colombia. Since it was Sunday we were unable to get seguros or insurance for the motorbike in Colombia, as all the SOAT offices were closed in Ipiales.
Nia and Gareth told us about Las Lajas, a church near to Ipiales that was built on a bridge in the 1500’s, so we went to see it. It was quite beautiful and in such a unique spot.
Las Lajas
We decided to stay the night and scope out SOAT offices to head to in the morning. We stayed at Nubes Verdes, which was two blocks away from the SOAT office which was quite handy the next morning. The office didn’t open until after 9 am, but the lady spoke English and knew exactly what to do.
Near Pasto
We left Ipiales at 11 am and the scenery was beautiful, stunning mountains covered with lush green trees with eye dropping valleys and huge waterfalls. We saw lots of flowers and butterflies. It was about 24C and we didn't have any rain. We rode into Popayan, the white city, at 5:30 and found Hotel Colonial with bike parking in the courtyard. The owner even had a ramp to get the bikes in. We went out for Italian for Valentine’s Day. We completely forgot it was Valentine’s Day until just before dinner; Friends was on TV and it was a Valentine’s Day rerun.

In the morning, we walked around Popayan and saw unique bridges and churches. After sightseeing, we rode to Cali. Enroute we saw a cyclist with dog sleeping on his shoulders. The temperature in Cali was very hot. It was 30C. In Cali we checked into the Iguana hostel and met up with Nia and Gareth for dinner, which were staying at Casablanca. After dinner we said goodbye to our Welsh friends.

Popayan

The next morning we were up early and left Cali. There were a few traffic jams, so with the help of the gps, we managed to skirt around them. The Panamerican Highway heading north was completely blocked by Semi Trailers, as the truckers were on strike for higher wages, the price of diesel and government corruption, so we followed the local motorcycles and went around the blockade and had to head into oncoming traffic.  We managed to get around them and the roads were pretty good with hardly any traffic.

Truck road block in the north of Cali
It took us about 8 hours to get to Medellin. There was evidence of landslides from all the rain they have had recently; in some areas, half of the road had slid down 10-15 feet! One of the rivers we passed was flowing extremely fast and high. We also heard grasshoppers buzzing as we rode and trees full of egrets and nests.
The traffic in Medellin was pretty busy; unfortunately we arrived around 5 pm. The road signs weren’t very helpful and we ended having to turn around several times, using the off ramps, which was very confusing. We stayed at Casa Kiwi, a very popular backpacker’s place. There was parking in the garage for the bike. There was a bar with music which made it loud at night but the rooms are very modern and clean. We also got a discount as we were motorcyclists and the owner, Paul from the USA came to Colombia on his KLR 650 motorcycle and never left! We checked our email the next morning as we were hoping to hear from Grif’s mate, Russ whom lives in Medellin.
Unfortunately, Grif made a mistake, and takes full blame (its an age thing!) for getting the names of the cities mixed up. Russ actually lives in Manizales, about a 4 hour ride back south! So, after getting some breakfast, we headed south, retracing about 100 km of the route we had done the day before. Much to our surprise the road conditions had changed and we saw quite a few landslides and were stopped for 15 minutes while a dump truck was being filled with mud by a Bobcat, which had blocked the road.
Dump truck blocking the road
Once we passed La Merced, we were in new territory. The lush green trees covered the road like a tunnel and there were a lot of very tall bamboo trees. We also saw coffee bushes covered with white blossoms. The landscape in Colombia is absolutely beautiful, the nicest we have seen thus far.
We were stopped by the police about 30 km outside of Manizales; a routine check for insurance and documents. Thank goodness we bought SOAT (insurance). The policeman was very friendly, as they are known to be here in Colombia.
We found our way to Charly’s bar and Russ met up with us there. Russ lives very close, so we parked up the bike outside the bar and ate popcorn and drank lots of beer and rum and shots! Charly the bar owner was in the Colombian Army and had been badly wounded in a confrontation with FARC, It was a late evening as we reminisced about Drago days and learnt about Russ’s travel company – Colombia 57, which he is a co-owner of with two other mates.
The next morning we headed on a tour of Hacienda Venecia, a coffee plantation. We arrived in our jeep, and the first person we saw was Nia; the Welsh couple that we had travelled with! Nia and Gareth were staying in the hostel there. On the tour, we learnt about the process of making coffee, from the plant to our cups; growing, washing, drying and had as much coffee as we could drink! It was a lovely place, in a tranquil setting and had a swimming pool.
Coffee plants
Washed and now drying coffee beans

We stayed with Russ the next night and made him a nice home cooked supper, washed down with some wine and had an earlier night as we were heading to Bogota the next morning.




Thursday, February 10, 2011

On the Road Again

We left Guayaquil in the morning. It was pouring rain so we both were hoping we were headed towards better weather. We met up with a tour agent at the airport and she helped with checking us in and getting our boarding passes. To our surprise we were booked into first class!! The biggest seats we've ever had.

The eight days went by fast. We had a great group of 16 people, including Brits, Americans, one German and one Canadian -me, a great guide and crew and great chef. The weather was mixed, with rain, overcast and sun. We appreciated the overcast days as the sun was very hot. On average it was 26C, rain or cloud. Thank goodness we had 80 factor waterproof sunscreen! We were fed three times a day, 3 course meals, and snacks in between. Way too much food but it was fabulous! The motorbike's suspension will have to put up with a few extra pounds!

We visited 5 different islands, did some hikes, dingy rides, shopping and lots of snorkelling. Swam with sea turtles, sea lions, penguins, sharks, rays and may different tropical fish. On land we saw so much wild life, and both of us have a greater appreciation for birds. We know so much now thanks to our twitchers! Lisa was sea sick one evening, could it of been the beer? Grif had no problem! Our days were on a tight schedule, daily activities started at 6 or 6:30 am and ended at 8 pm, but there was still time to relax in between activities. We got so close to the wildlife, absolutely amazing. We were both very sad to leave the Galapagos, it is such a magical and unique place. Lisa can't wait to go back again! We will miss our new friends and wish all of them safe travels.
Carpenter bee
Us with the giant tortoises

We got back to Guayaquil and sorted out laundry. The next morning it was raining, but we packed up and rode to Banos. Along the route to Riobamba we were stopped by a loud speaker... the police pulled us over! Once again, we denied knowing and did not speak any Spanish. They tried to tell us that our papers for the motorbike were invalid, but we pointed out to them the date of entry and valid for one month. Then they tried to tell us we were going to fast, and got the ticket book out. We kept asking them to speak English, but they couldn't. Eventually, they knew that they were getting nothing and left... "they had another call".

We reached an altitude of 3800 m through the pass to Banos. The route was rainy with muddy sections in the highway. Visibility at times was quite low due to the thick, low lying rain clouds. Banos is a lovely little town, with huge waterfalls and thermal pools. We went out for our favourite meal... you guessed it, pizza and beer! I found a lovely 'capucha' in one of the shops. This was our first day without taking any photos. Unfortunately, our point and shoot Pentax camera, which we would normally use in the rain, isn't working anymore...

The next morning, we decided to head to Quito. The clouds were not lifting, so we were unable to get a clear view of Tungurahua volcano. The Panamerican highway to Quito is nicknamed "Avenue of Volcanos". One well known volcano along the route is Cotopaxi. Unfortunately, there were rain clouds the whole way, and an absolute down pour when we reached Quito. It was around 16C; Lisa had her heated jacket on the past two days.

We booked into Hotel Real Audencia, spending more than we normally would, but we have underground parking and we were soaking wet! We were very happy to get out of the rain. The rain stopped by the time we headed out for dinner; we decided to eat cheap and picked up some "pan au chocolate" for snacks the next day.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Heading to the Galapagos

We spent our first night in the Centre of Guayaquil. We found a hotel with covered parking and within an hour, the heavens opened and it poured, well into the night. There was a lot of covered walkways, so we didn't get too wet when we wet out for dinner.

At 3:30 am, I was awakened. Grif was wide awake and very itchy! With all the rain Guayaquil has had, the mosquitos are very active. He had at least 10 bites within a few hours. The mosquitos were finding there way in via the space between the air conditioner and the concrete wall. After a sleepless night and lots of benadryl, we decided to find other accomodation, but before we left, Grif had a mission. To hunt down and kill the mossie that had bitten him. He succeeded! We packed up the bike, quickly, as the mosquitos were swarming in the shade of the covered parking, and we all know how much the mosquitos love English blood!

We booked in at Dreamkapture Hostel in the northern part of the city. Its well run, clean with comfy queen size beds, hot showers and has a lovely breakfast! They also have pets, including pygmy monkeys, parrots, parakeets, fish and turtles.

We went to a huge mall very close by and enjoyed a few hours in the air conditioning, shopping and loading up on sunscreen. We also managed to find Raid plug-in insect repellent for our room, just in case! We have sorted out parking for the next 10 days as we are heading to the Galapagos, yay! For the next couple of days, we will be getting ready for our boat trip as well as getting our laundry done.

Feb 2-9 in the Galapagos
Total distance travelled to date - 13, 999 kms
Total countries visited - 5
Days on the road - 64

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Going Bananas

We left Chiclayo in the morning and headed for Mancora, another popular surf town.

Along the way, Grif dodged lizards laying in the middle of the road. They were soaking up some of the Peruvian sun. Most were quite small, but there was one that was over two feet long! We couldn't believe how many there were and all in a stretch of road that lasted a few kilometres.

We had some problems with the toll road pay police. Motorcycles don't have to pay, but the Peruvians, especially in the North, don't want the motorcycles to ride through on the pavement. We would pull up, as normal, on the extreme right side of where the toll booths are, where there is a lane with no barrier, but then the employee or police would stand in front of us so we couldn't get by. They would then tell us to turn around, in a very narrow area, and go around.... Going around meant, a deep sandy road, completely off the highway, and riding back half a kilometre.. when there is perfectly fine pavement ahead?! It's absolutely ridiculous and didn't make any sense. At one point we told them that we would pay the toll to ride through on the pavement but they wouldn't let us. So, after arguing in broken Spanish and choice English words we ended up riding in the oncoming traffic lane to get through. Thankfully, there wasn't any traffic at the time. They want to make it difficult for motorcyclists, I'm guessing. The next couple of toll booths had a lane on the right side, as usual, with a sign that actually said 'motocicletas'. Good grief!

In Mancora, we found a quaint cabin on the beach. We went out to eat and got some great photos of the sunset. We fell asleep to the sound of crashing waves.

In the morning we left Mancora after having breakfast. We passed many beachside resorts on the way to the Ecuador border. Exiting Peru took about 5 minutes, but the Ecuadorian border crossing was not very conveniently located. We drove around, and then found out we had to go into a small town to get our entrance stamps. Then had to drive another four km to get to the Aduana for the bike papers. It took about an hour.

We rode to Guayaquil and enjoyed our first rain shower! It was nice and refreshing after the heat of the coast. Banana plantations lined the highway for over 100 km. Now I know where Canadians get their bananas!


Banana trees

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Heading North Along the Coast

After spending the night in Casma, we rode a short distance to Huanchaco. Even though the distances are not much, 200 km or so, it takes three to four hours. There are a lot of small towns with lots of speed bumps, as well as lots of trucks and buses to get past.

We found a nice place with a couple of pools and a kitchette. We had our lunch and later that afternoon we headed to Chan Chan, the largest adobe city in the world, or what's left of it. It was the Chimu capital, but El Nino floods and heavy rains have severely eroded the largest pre Columbian city in the Americas. It was a nice time to visit as the sun was setting and it wasn't too hot, about 25C.
Chan Chan

We made ourselves some dinner and headed to bed. The sun sets early, about 6:30 pm, but it feels like 10 pm, mostly since the sunrise starts at 5:30 am.

Huanchaco Beach
The next morning we left Huanchaco. We went past the beach where they were setting up for a surfing contest. Huanchaco is known for its long and well formed waves with a pipeline. The sea cloud kept the morning cool for at least an hour.

After an uneventful 200 km, we arrived in Chiclayo. The rest of the afternoon was spent doing much needed handwashing and a few things on the bike, then out for pizza.. and beer!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Finally Out of Lima

Our stay in Lima was longer than intended. Grif was working on the bike the next morning; we were to leave in the afternoon. He came up to the room and was really tired and thirsty, so he had a 3 hour nap! Then it hit him. He was ill from the food the night before. He laid in bed for the next 24 hours. I spent most of the day sending emails and searching for Galapagos tours.

That evening, I ordered MacDonald's take out! It came by motorized bicycle with a hot pouch on the back! Pretty cool!

By the next afternoon, Grif was craving food, but still was too weak to travel. Late in the afternoon, we found a Honda dealership, within walking distance and found a new front tire for the bike. We organized the tire change for the following morning. We both had a light dinner and went to bed. It was good to see Grif eating again.

The next morning, the tire was changed, and we were finally out of the hotel!! It was noon when we left and it took us a good two hours to get through Lima. There were detours and construction on the Panamerican highway... utter chaos! Buses, taxis, moto taxis, honking... grid lock! Somehow we managed to find our way through the city of 9 million people! The sun was hot, about 30C. Grif kept turning Sammy off to try to keep him cool while stopped in traffic..

The Panamerican highway... literally
We headed up the coast of Peru, following the Pacific. There were lots of crops and sand dunes, with the Cordillera Negra mountain range in the distance.

We were stopped by police just before Barranca. This area in known to be a problem, as police pull foreign bikers over supposedly catching them for speeding and then get bribes. I got off the bike and Grif did as well. We made it look thankful that we got pulled over as our butts were sore. The cop asked for documents and Grif gave him his license and proceeded to talk to him, only in English, no Spanish. I must say, Grif spoke in his best English accent ever!! Grif got his license back and we were soon on our way, all within a few minutes! As we got closer to Casma, our destination, the sun began to set and the temperature dropped; a welcomed change. At times there was sea mist drifting over the sand dunes and the road.
Riding at Sunset

We checked in at the El Farol Inn and quickly went to the restaurant. After a few beers and delicious chicken dinner we were off to bed.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

In Lima

In the morning, still in Nazca, we had breakfast and packed up our things. It was getting hot, so we decided to go for a quick dip in the pool before leaving. Well... the quick dip lasted longer than expected... and we decided to stay another night. Lisa had come down with a cold so we thought the hot weather would do her good. We had a good chat with Andre at the pool. He was one of the Polish guys we had met the other day. Andre also was joined by his wife in Nazca.
Grif in the pool
We used the afternoon to catch up on some paperwork and do a few things on the bike. We headed to our favorite spot for dinner, really cheap chicken and chips at the main square. There was also a display in the square of photographs and explanations of the different shapes of the Nazca lines.

We were up bright and early the next morning, had breakfast and said good bye to our Polish friends. We left Nazca and went to the viewing platform for the Nazca lines just outside of town.
The Tree

We had a quick stop for lunch at a fuel station, a couple of chicken sandwiches and Inka Cola. It total was less than $2! Grif noticed that Sammy wasn't running 100%. Something to keep our eyes on.

Inca Cola - tastes like cream soda, my new favorite!
After another couple of breaks, including one for ice cream, we were in Lima, in Saturday afternoon traffic. There was lots of honking... from impatient drivers! They honk at everything! We made it to the hotel unscathed.

After getting our room, Grif spent a couple of hours, riding around trying to locate a tire shop. He came back with no luck. The hotel is located close to Kennedy Park in Miraflores. There are lots of places to eat in the area, MacDonald's, Pizza Hut, Burger King... but we chose a local restaurant and had ceviche, salads, rice, chicken and more seafood!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Freebies and Freezing

We left Puno and headed for Cuzco. We saw many hillside terraces for growing crops.

 
Peruvian agriculture


During our lunch stop enroute, a couple of bikers pulled up to join us. A father and son, Mark and Michael, from Chilliwack, B.C.! We had a quick chat and decided to meet up for supper that evening in Cuzco.


Michael and Mark from Chilliwack
 
We arrived mid afternoon and checked into a hotel. We organized transport to Machu Picchu through the hotel. Our scheduled time of departure 4 am! We headed to Norton Rat's to meet up with Michael and Mark. Norton Rat's is run by a British guy who rides a Norton motorcycle and has a book for motorcyclists to sign and share stories. Grif signed us in. The book was dated back to 2005. A few burgers and beers later, it was time to head to bed.

 In the morning we rode in a van for an hour and a half to the Ollantaytambo train station. Then, we boarded the train to Aguas Calientes which took another hour and a half. Next was the half hour bus ride up to Machu Picchu. We got through the entrance gates and the views were spectacular. Absolutely breath taking. The environment had completely changed and we were in a rain forest. The clouds were moving up and down the mountain tops, spreading a fine mist of moisture on Machu Picchu. The temperature was 20C and very humid. A wonderful place to have a palace!


Machu Picchu
 After a full day, we returned to Cuzco. For dinner, we met up with Michael, Mark again and Martin, a German guy travelling south. The last morning in Cuzco, we got some money back from the hotel as the bus to Machu Picchu departure time was messed up. In the end, we received two nights of accomodation free and got back a small portion of the transport costs.

We left Cuzco late in the morning and had a full day of riding. There were lots of switch backs, climbing and descending mountain valleys and canyons.


Peruvian switch backs
The sun was setting and we were not close to any accomodation. We were also at 4500 m, it was cold and rain clouds were setting in. Grif made the decision to bush camp before it got too dark and started to rain. It was nearly 7 pm when we got our camp set up. Lisa jumped into her sleeping bag, with all her clothes on, plus toque and scarf to keep warm. Grif cooked up some pasta and we had dinner at 9 pm. The night was a chilly one! There was lots of condensation on the inside of the tent, and ice on the outside. In the morning, there was ice all over the ground and Sammy! It was -5C! Fortunately, there were no clouds in the morning, and the heat from the sun evaporated all the moisture, but it took a couple of hours!


Ice all over Sammy and the tent
After breakfast two motocyclists went past and decided to stop. Two Polish guys, Andrzej and Jacek were heading the same direction we were, Nazca on an Africa Twin and a  new Yamaha XTZ660 Tenere. They told us that the road was closed due to a Peruvian car rally! They left, planning on dodging the rally cars, and shortly there after, rally cars went racing by. They cars were going very fast, passing each other and driving on the wrong side of the road! Grif did not want to take the bike on to the road for safety reasons, so we waited an hour or so. By then all the cars had gone past and it was safe to travel!


Jacek, Lisa and Andrzej
  

Rally car in Peru


Shortly after we left, we met Charles, a French guy heading south from Colombia to Ushuaia. Grif offered to  help him with his Honda TransAlp, Charles mentioned that it was not running properly at altitude, so Grif opened up the air box and showed him a few things he could do to make it run better.

Grif helping Charles

We rode at  altitude, 4000 m, most of the way to Nazca. Rain clouds were closing in as we passed through Pampa Galeras National Park. There were lots of vicunas and it was freezing. We made a quick stop and put extra layers and rain gear on, even Grif had five layers on... that's unheard of! Both of us were still cold!

As we decended into Nazca the clouds dissipated and the temperature warmed up dramatically! It went from 5C to 25C within half an hour and the hillsides were all sand and scrub. It was nice to be warm!



Heading into Nazca
 

Nazca sunset
We took advantage of the warm weather in Nazca and aired out the sleeping bags and did some laundry. After chicken dinner and a few beers it was bed time!