First of all, my apologies for leaving the blog unattended for what, two-three weeks now? How shody of me; the internet connection through much of Bolivia and Argentina has been lacking, the wifi on the laptop went down until just a few days ago, and I have been busy finalizing this trip. So to speak, right now I'm sitting in the International Ezeza Aeropuerto, in Buenos Aires, somehow without wifi, waiting for my flight home. Home....funny word, even though its only been two months, its a term strange to my vocabulary. Can't even seem to explain it in spanish when I tell people I'm returning "home". Sadness that the trip is over? A little bit. Mind you, the stress of finding a buyer for the bike, getting through customs without the bike, and traveling solo for a week is all over. Well, kinda....but thats a story for later, there always seems to be another story.....thats pretty much the story of my life haha, troubles never end.
So where the hell did I leave off, way back in Machu Picchu?? I've got a lot of catching up to do, and mind you, this post is gonna be the longest yet, I've got a 19 hour itinerary, lots of time to kill, and nothing else to do but pound away at the keys in a fury of tales and adventures.
So lets see, if I remember corrrrrrectly (I have no idea why this damn airport doesn't have free wifi, stupid place, warning: buy everything beforehand; a can of coke is 3.50 american, a sandwich in a bag is 10.00 american, a time magazine 15 pages thick is 13.00 american, a chocolate bar is 10.00 american. Why the hell are they charging these prices....and not offering goddamn wifi) I posted at the hostel with the bloody dog, french fry spaghetti and french motorcyclists.
So it ends up, Nik found out some info from them, they were leaving the same morning. We let them go ahead of us, and ended up catching up to them rather quickly. Not that they were slow, they were crazy drivers bent on destroying their suspensions, bending their rims, and hurtling themselves hundreds of feet off rocky cliffs. They were crazy, we would try to keep up with one of the guys, who would disappear a few seconds later, an outstanding skill that must take years of enduro practice, or a damn good Africa Twin. Regardless, it was a fast and fun drive back from the dirt road we had to initially come up. It was neat riding as a five-some, you get a lot more looks as it looks like we're racing through village streets and rural jungle. The locals had a blast watching us. We hit the pavement, and it was raining just as it was when we came through, cold, wet, foggy, all of us but one made it to the top of the 5000 metre mountain (water in his spark plug), so we left them as they waited for their amigo francais.
|This is not weed, and this is not illegal, let me show you how to use it|
|You put it in your right cheek!|
|You put it in your left cheek!|
|And you let your tongue go numb and your heart beat race! Yay for coca leaves, that whole bag cost us 50 cents|
|These trucks couldn't make it up the road that washed out (and we had no problems on the way up two days prior), so bigger trucks had to tow them up the incline|
|A quick snap at my dream bike, the KTM 990 Adventure|
|Perhaps the most humble and cutest picture of the trip, she was really cold way up in the Abra Magada|
|The perfect picture to show off the roads we now so highly despise, but look so beautifully adventurous|
|One of my trip favourites, Lago Titicaca, cold and magnificent|
Down we went, knowing we were pretty close to getting back on track, we got to the bottom of the mountain....surprise...roads washed out. The main highway too....THANK GOD there was a foot path up over the hill that backpackers and locals were walking across. Again, another show for the people, me and Nik raced up this path, through some cacti, abounding a rock wall, and down the other side, else we would be stuck for days. Lucky. We took another way back to Cuzco, a much faster route cutting through Urabamba, less scenic, but we didn't need it as we were rushing as far as we could that day. Night fell an hour after Cuzco, as well as a pretty lightning show in the mountains, so we called it quits in a smaller city, Sicuani. Place cost us $3.00 each, dinner was a buck, so we really had no complaints.
In the morning we head out to get as far as possible, and that we did. We had few monies left, but decided to attempt the border and beyond. I think it was 500 kilometres, which we managed before 2 o clock. But....which comes with experience, here comes border trouble. As me and Nik sat for lunch, I searched each and every pocket looking for the Aduana paper for Peru. No such luck. Knowing how much trouble it is losing your paper, I prepared for the worse, but expected to be able to sneak through without exiting the bike, thus ruining my reputation in Peru, but making it damn easy to get to La Paz without any problems. Again, no such luck. Stamping out, the police officers told us to exit our bikes. The database is simple, a simple exit process in the computer and its finished. Think they'd let us do that? Nope. 4 hours.
If you lose your paper, follow these steps, at least with Peru.
Tell hefe about the loss, he'll tell you go back to Tumbes, an 11 day drive. HAH.
He'll print you your entry documents.
Take them to the commisionaires office and start filling out some paperwork about your lost documents.
He'll tell you to line up at the bank and get a bank notary, no idea why, my spanish wasn't good enough to understand.
Wait in line with the locals, skip a bit at a time (they let gringos get ahead for some reason) and bask in sadness as people tell you they've been waiting since 8 am in the morning (its 4:30 pm), terrible....
Bring the notary back to the commionsiaires, wait for a signature, and watch as he tells you it takes 48 hours to process the document before you can leave.
With the worrysome look on your face, give him your money so he gives you the paper and lets you go....you both know it doesn't take 48 hours; rather it takes 48 dollars.
Go back to hefe at the aduana, give him the paper and you're off.
Now for more trouble....we did it again, moneyless at the border, just enough to buy a drink and we hope to get an atm on the other side to bypass the money changing. We're extremely low on gas as well. The officers want 10 soles to exit the country...no reason....I have a 5.00 american bill, worth more than 10 soles. I tell him just take that and let us go, we goes to change it as Nik gets his bike across, he stops me and tells me its an old bill. What the hell, its American currency, and its a 2006 bill.....but no one will exchange it. Now i'm stuck. I run to every money changing location, no one will take the bill. 5 vendors, and no one will take the bill. I'm so stressed out by the point, screaming at the sky, when finally some little old local lady took the bill and changed it for me. Goddess I tell you. Instead of handing him the 10 soles nicely and offering him a nice day, a crumpled 10.00 bill hit him in the chest and fell to the ground, as I huffed and puffed and gave him a good "fuck off" and walked across the border. By this point I was beyond being worried about amny more trouble, and knew that if I made it across the mid-point, they couldn't come after me. Success......out of Peru....finally...
|I apologize if I offend anyone with this picture COUGH *Yicela*, but I had enough of Peru at this point|
Border of Bolivia was easy, but there were no atms and no gas until La Paz. Haha...funny, 100 km on a tank that we though would get us 50. Somehow, through the miracle of the KLR, a slow but steady ride got us to La Paz in the dark, with money in our hands, and "Especiale Gasolina" in our tanks (guaranteed additives of perfume and paint thinner) we got to a hotel and decided to stay a couple nights. We call La Paz the bowl, its shape is really interesting, but it also accumulates all the traffic right in the middle of the city where we stayed. Anywhere you wanted to go would take you at least an hour, but after searching for a few places we were told about, and no luck we popped into Hotel Sagaranaga, a bit pricey, but well worth it after endless days of being smelly and dirty. For two days we rested, toured around, found some maps, and ate some good food. On the first morning, Nik was out and about and ran into.......the couple who were going to take our boat but ditched us last second!!! How awesome is that. Huge continent, but small world I suppose. They flew into La Paz the night before, from Colombia. We went out to dinner with them, and shared stories and adventures.
Ends up they stayed in Portobelo another week or so, waiting for an ideal boat. Good idea. Then we were told of one of the top 3 best stories for us on the trip thus far.
And it begins....we sit down to a fancy little dinner with some cheap wine, and Martin begins his story by telling us of another boat that was nearly willing to take a venture out to Cartegena. This boat, the Lavante, avid readers may remember. The day before we left, shortly after visiting Captain underpants for the first time, we paddled out to another boat, knowing that it was leaving shortly afterwards. Me and Nik asked the man drawing closed a tarp around the open portion of the helm whether or not the boat was ready to go, where he responded the boat was engineless and not leaving anymore. Fine, no problem, we had our boat. Well....two days later the captain's body was found floating in the ocean, chain wrapped around his neck. The anchor he was tied to came loose and the same cop that boarded our boat found the body. The boat was adrift around the bay, and the mysterious grungy looking man was gone. Gets better, he shows up shortly afterward in the town bragging about not being caught, only questioned by the cops. He was the first mate of the ship soon to take over management. Here's the craziest thing, if it could get any worse. Amnotehr person goes missing, and he takes off with the boat, again. Ends up being caught somewhere in Darien, the province between Colombia and Portobelo, and is arrested on murder charges. All in all, the murder mystery concludes, and we get an awesome sotry of talking to a murderer the day of, or the day after he murders the cpatain of the boat we potentially could have taken. I'm leaning on saying "cool" but that's a stupid inference, and point rather towards ":O" <--that face. Craziness.
So we departed from the couple, wishing them the best on their way to celebrate the Carnivale festivities coming up on the weekend. We left the next morning to get to more colder climates and worse roads. Luckily the first half of the adventure through Bolivia consisted of ashphalt. A rather uneventful day, 500km of straight flat roads, we stopped for the night in Challapate, basically the last stop before the long dirty trek to Uyuni. Little bit of a party town, nothing too spectacular, only a few hostels, so we watched Big Bang Theory all night once more, with no internet connection.
|The beautiful bowl-shaped La Paz, shrouded in clouds|
The morning, we took off as early as we could to get to Uyuni, unknowing of the actual road surfaces. The first 35 kilometres were asphalt, and I thought we were getting somewhere when the road turned a tad nasty. Lots of corrogation, lots of very hard potholes, this would be a long day. An hour on the road and this happens:
|Get your strong arms on, this is gonna be a toughie|
And as we've said a few times on this trip: when theres a will, theres a way. No way across? Lies. Take the dangerous, "one mistake and your bike's gone" railroad tracks. Only half wya across did we realize there was a detour....duh, where I finished getting Nik across and decided to take the idiot-proof route. Love adventure. For a lot of the rest of the day, I screamed in agony at the pain in my hands from gripping the handlebars way too tight over the bumps. The only way to truly avoid the torture of them was to travel over 100-110kph. Any less and it would take too long, anymore and you'd start sliding all over the place, but it seemed right as the bike sorta skipped the potholes. After crossing two hundred riverbeds, dry and wet, and over 350,000 potholes, we arrived in Uyuni. I was both excited and melodramatic at the fact that we'd arrived at the salt flats, a huge part of the trip, but there wasn't much past this but more dirt roads and departure from our trip. We ate lunch at a very fancy restaurant, and watched a Carnivale parade, laughing at the boss-like water gun bandits spraying little kids in the eyes with high powered supersoakers. The road out to the salt flats was a hellish one, so hellish it caused this:
|SOOOOO LUCKYYY, like...SOOOOOOOOO LUCKY|
The first collision of the trip for me, not with a local, not with a donkey, not with another car, but with Nik. I was trying too hard to skip the bumps and couldn't slow down in time to match his speed, I tipped the back of his bike and he pushed me off the road. Somehow, again, miracley inclined as I am, the bike fell on its side for a split second, was tipped back up by the pannier, all while sliding 180 degrees. The bike landed back upright, facing the wrong way of course, and I suffered none of it. Success! By that time, we hit up the salt flats only to realize duh, of course its rainy season. We expected a thin layer of water, maybe, over the salt, but came face to face with a salt....lake. The big trucks could cross it, the tours were doing it, but I wasn't putting my bike through more salt torture. I've heard bad stories about the dry salt, let alone the liquid salt that would chew through any chain or electronics we'd offer it. So we basked at the Bolivian "ocean" and decided maybe we could pop around the side of it for awhile and connect back to the main road.
|This was just a really hard day for us|
How many times in one day, when we've gone so far without one problem. Haha, all fun and games. Forget that idea, the water underneath the mud made the surface honest to god slicker than ice. So bad, we'd be gunning it in first to get out with our feet planted, skating along, sliding completely sideways without an ounce of control. Managed to keep it upright this time, and told ourselves we'd get to the border! Anddd, voila, no problem. In one day, we managed to get from Challapate to the Argentinean border. From 7 am to 9 pm, three falls, a whole lotta dirt, and another flat tire, on my end. Managed to get it patched up, but it has an ever slow leak, most likely from the doofus fooling around with the valve when we didn't really need help in the first place. Thank god the last 100 km was...mostly paved.
So the further south we traveled, the moore the parties, and this town kept the party alive all night. I used the hotel as my washing machine, cleaning everything exposed to dirt over the past couple days. In this town Nik actually found a camera for a decent price, and we refuled on a few supplies to get us through the rest of the trip. By the time, the bike was officially sold, and all that was left was to gun through Argentina....one more border.
And a possible 4 more hours. With an exception this time! We, and when I say we, I loosely mean to say NIK, managed to piss off a border official with his "what's wrong with you" face. He took our passports, did the usual "I'm the boss here" procedures, but gave them back. OK, good, through Bolivia exit without major problems, but no aduana exit, we just took off, aduana seemed closed and there were too many people lined up everywhere to tell what was going on, so we took off for Argentina to realize a massive line not moving. We parked in a very "intruding" spot and after 45 minutes the official grabbed our documents and put us right at the front of the line to get our bikes out of the way. Beautiful....how nice it is not to be a backpacker and thus stuck in a four hour line. Salta here we come!
|Some more pictures of out fateful day|
|The detour which was so much easier than Nik's railway crossing|
|Dirt dirt and more dirt was the menu for the day|
|The salt flat provides some excellent photography, most of which we couldn't take advantage of due to the water|
|It's like being back at the ocean, but way more salty|
|Might as well enjoy it the most I can|
|There are tours heading way out into the water, but we didn't want to risk our bikes being affected by salt water another time|
|A look of disappointment, excitement, and "the sun's too damn bright" all in one|
|The salt flat ride began nicely|
|And ended so, so poorly|
|Batman's out looking for his batcave amongst the red rock cliffs|
|Off he goes into the dusk|
From here on out, I don't really have pictures of the remainder of the trip. I failed to bring out my camera for the nights we were out, and moreso I often dread the end of trips and don't take pictures to instead remember the times I wasn't sad about ending the possible adventure of a lifetime.
The Bolivian gas was taking a toll on our bikes, and I found Nik trailing by a few kilometres. Stopping for lunch, I find out his bike won't let him get past 90-100kph. He's scared its something else, but I figured it was a shitty fill-up, and once we filled up with some Argentian super, our bikes were like Ducatti's, and I'm almost serious. The drive at first was flat and boring, soon became a little mountainous and scenic, and then the cars started. Its too bad we were heading so far south on a tight schedule, but Carnivale takes place in north Argentina, and what a party it is. If we were heading in the opposite direction, we'd be screwed. The line of cars heading north lasted 250 kiloemtres, honestly a straight line of traffic, stop and go. We stopped in a few towns to find people COVERED in shaving cream, or whatever the hell they use to spray all over each other, and others walking around with wine bottles and wine glasses drinking insanely. Awesome. I wish we could have taken a shot at this type of fun, but alas, Salta awaited. 300 kilometres and the turn-off to the quaint, scenic city offered us one of the finest roads of the trip. Whatever its called, its the first exit "Corsita" or something, heading east. This road heads into the mountains on what looks like a bike path to most countries, with the exception of no bikes, only motor vehicles. So cars take up way more than one lane, but for motorcycles, its a dream. So tight, paved so well, and full of awesome twists. 50 kilometres of awesome fun, reminding me of being back in Canada with its evergreen trees, fresh air, and impressive lake systems. If I have a huge regret about this trip is not spending more time in Argentina, it is a truly spectacular country that reminds me so much of home.
Anyway, back on track, darkness fell and we finally found a nice expensive hotel in the heart of the city. A beautiful 19th century mohagany-built house turned hotel, a treat for us, lets celebrate. Found a nice restaurant, and 3 bottles of wine later (9.00 US), we're both in the washroom a lot of the night. Paid 10.00 to get my shoes shined HAH, and no idea where the rest of my money ended up. I've definitely spent more in Argentina than anywhere else, not to mention they charge $9.00 every time to take money out of ATM's with both bank fees.
I so wanted to stay another day, but both me and Nik knew this would be the last of our adventure together. I was able to print my plane ticket I purchased the night before, huge savings to Montreal. It was to be 1000.00 to Ottawa, 1000.00 to NYC (where I wanted to play around and then take a bus home) but only 500.00 to Montreal if I could leave on the 10th. HUGE savings. Calvin, the new owner of my bike, would arrive on the 8th, so it worked out perfectly for me. But at this point, it was the 6th, so I had to get moving for it was 1400 km to Salta. We exchanged parts and items, I kept his laptop because the internet didn't work (haha took five minutes to fix) and we departed ways shortly after lunch, 2pm.
8pm, still riding, who needs to quit yet, besides no towns.
12 pm, not really tired yet, keep going.
3 am, well, I'm this far...might as well make a night of it.
6 am, napping on my bike, feet perched over the handlebars and head resting on my bag on the back
10 am, snacking on expensive cookies and filling up for gas for the 6th time in 24 hours.
1 pm, hola Buenos Aires.
Yep, 1850 kilometres, one shot, one day. And why not? We traveled 2500 kilometres in one shot at the beginning of the trip, why not go out with a bang. Besides, my friends who know me well enough know I can pull this sorta driving off, being not the first time.
The first 150 kilometres was going perfectly, a smile on my face, ready for a good drive, perhaps stop along the way at a nice finca for the night. At mile marker 151, the bridge was out. No big deal, bridges are often out and we always get through....not this time. I managed to be able to keep up a conversation with about 10 locals smothering me, only to finally confirm from a bus driver that I had two choices: wait until the morning where the bridge may "possibly" be fixed, or take a 400 kilometre detour across the country. What choice did I have? I had to get to Buenos Aires and had to take matters into my own hand. The extremely humble bus driver offered me his map, which I so gratiously offered to pay for. He would have none of it, and with a real good map I set off back up and across the 16 to the 11, then down. I say this lightly...for the 16 is the same road Nik has to take to get to Iguazu Falls. Hah, and how I made fun of him for having to take this road. Basically, after 250 kilometres on this road, and it got dark by the point, the road straightens. For over 600 kilometres, the road maintains its rigidity, bending only every 100 kilometres to keep you slightly awake. So it was a rather strange ride, filled with, of course, the flashing lights from other motorists, lots of gas stops, lots of bumps and graded pavement (not too impressed with Argentinean roads by this point), and lots of adjusting my seating position. I say strange because I've never experienced seeing the dull yellow glow of a cars headlights from more than 75 kilometres away, watching for nearly half an hour as the lights get bigger and brighter before passing you. All night long. Thats how straight the roads were. I ate enough to keep me awake, but started dozing off at 4:30, and decided to take a break in a sugar cane field. Slept for a little bit and watched the beautiful sunrise, before finishing this damn long trip.
By the time I hit the city limits, I was as fresh as the Argentinean air (well, not by this point, Buenos Aires is polluted) and took the 45 kilometre ride to the city center. Thats how big that city is, 12 million people, and 45 kilometres of highway 14 lanes wide. The fast lane posted 130, slow lane 80, this was a quick city. At one point, entering a toll, the highway split to 42 lanes. Damned impressive. Just like Lima, it took me three hours to find a hotel, big cities are impossible because the closer you get to Centro, the more expensive it is; yet the farther you get from it, the harder it is to find a hotel. Because Buenos aires is mostly Autopista, it leaves little room to explore without getting lost. The first hotel I stopped at ended up being the one I stayed at, it was 170 pesos a night ONLY for me, More than 40.00 a night, ouch. But it offered great wifi, great garage parking, great views on the roof, close proximity to the centre of the city, and right off the autoroute to the airport. In my search, I crossed hotels 300 + a night american, went to the airport to see if there were any there, and surprisingly only one asking way too much. So this would have to do. In the room, I was able to wash all my gear in the tub, and dry it with the air conditioner. I went out for a ride to check out the city, and I must regard Buenos Aires as now my favourite big city of the trip. Medellin is now a close second, but Buenos Aires is AWESOME! I didn't get any pictures WOW, stupid, but thats because I spent all my time with my tongue hanging out at the beautiful infrastrcutre, huge skyscrapers, massive yachts, exotic cars, etc.etc.etc. Everything is so expensive, but with reason. It was so fun walking around/riding around even by myself. By this time, my bike was running the best it has ever run. Even though my baack tire barely made it with the tread it had left, the engine was roaring. Unless I tweaked it properly, a good gun in first from a stop would pull the front tire off the ground everytime. Probably the super gas I used the entire time through Argentina. So racing around the city, literally, I called it a night, and spent the next morning out again. Spent a little while as well getting documents ready for the American who was flying in that night. Told him he could bunk with me since we wouldn't have a place to stay. One bed, so he'd have to stay on the floor, n biggie I suppose. Was nice having a room to myself for once though, after two months of two people in a room, one night to have everything yours and organzied was kinda nice. Anyway, I spent too long touring around at night again, and thought I missed meeting Calvin at the hotel, but low and behold there he was at 9pm. I ended up finding some luggage thank god after searching around for four hours for something less than 400.00 american.
We spent the following day together, sharing stories, filling me in on what hes doing and where hes going, and me giving him advice on just about everything I learned from the trip. We went out to the water, and had a real expensive dinner...$25.00 at TGI Fridays. From my experience with that restaurant before in the Florida Keys, I told myself it would be one of the only restaurants I'd ever go to again in the States etc. (don't have them in Canada). Here was a bit of a disappointment though for the price, but whatever it was my last night. So really other than that, I woke up this morning and handed him the bike (from which I think I saw my tire rather flat as he took off, I'm gonna get in shit for that one, sorry Calvin I didn't notice it was that low until it was too late) but he got a good deal, so all should be well. I wished him the best of luck with his lack of any spanish (seriously, good luck man!) and sent him on his way. Took the $30.00 ride to the airport (ugh) and checked in.
|Off I go on the lonely, lonely road that was oh so straight|
|A quick morning snooze and I awake to this lovely sight of the sky burning with the rising sun|
|A rather nifty highway, that would average 14 lanes both sides, and suddenly when a toll booth would come, 42 LANES!!!! WHOAAA (In the distance, each lane has its own speed limit, from 60-130kph)|
|The downtown B.A. skyline from my hotel, a truly fantastic city|
|Uno mas amgiso|
So here I am o n the flight; at the airport, the check in counter couldn't print my goddamn Mexico ticket, so now I have to exit the terminal and re-check in once I get there with my luggage and everything. I got insurance, just in case..I'm not taking a chance with all my stuff lost somewhere in Mexico City. Thought I'd grab something to eat and noticed a coke was..wait, I've already been over this. Yeah, expensive. The flight, however, is a damn treat. Sorry but I've never been on an international (outside U.S. And unchartered) flight before, so was pleasantly surprised at the pillows, blankets, awesome lunch, and omg, free unlimited wine?!!? How....beautiful. The funniest thing is I downloaded a few movies for the flight, and was planning on watching the Social Network which has beeno n the laptop since the beginning. First movie played, yep, you got it. No need to waste battery. Next up, Big Bang Theory. Gotta be kidding, dream come true. All in English. No one sitting beside me, so I might just take a nap now, another 4 hours and I'll be sad to get off this flight, lol.
|The last time I would sit on my KLR, I'll miss ya buddy, the best piece of machinery I've ever owned. *Note: the flat tire in the back....sorry Calvin, failed to notice that one*|
|Omg, a dream come true, BIG BANG THEORY ON THE AIRPLANE!!! Hours and hours of it!!|
|All alone in the middle of the night, Mexico City, waiting for my connection, the only person in the entire terminal, scary, but peaceful, and my last picture of the trip|
Sope, I think I dragged it on long enough...I've been dreading this moment, I'm not good at goodbyes, but here it goes..it's been a ride, so to speak, and a damned good one. I'm thankful to EVERYONE who's provided so much support, advice, and entertainment along the way, thank you readers, family and friends. I might post one more time to sum up the best times, worst times etc., but as the end of this trip has come, this is Rob officially blogging off for the last time.... after 20,000 Kilometres Under the Sun.
Rob Landon, yours truly.