My scattered impressions of our travels since I last wrote (September 27 – October 23rd):
Colombia – colour and vibrancy
full of life and loud voices. Crowds around us and the motorcycles at all times; colour everywhere; music everywhere; people, crowds, everywhere.
you can get your motorcycle washed on the side of the road on remote highways after it has been covered in mud from the roads;
Jacaranda trees; bougainvilla; high plains, hot humid coast and valleys, stunning mountains
Not scary, friendly. The rumours about Colombia are wrong.
Police and military everywhere…..to ensure security. Rebels still inhabit remote corners of the country. As we crossed into Ecuador in the south west of Colombia the military presence was intense…….but they are our buddies, not a problem. Every cop and every soldier we passed gave us the “thumbs up”…..”keep going”; “be free”: “i want to do that one day”; “respect”
On a side note, which applies to all the countries we have visited, I am surprised at the amount of respect we get from the Police and Military……moreso if they find out how old we are. I am not sure why. Maybe they love and respect the bikes, which are huge beasts compared to all the motorcycles they usually see; maybe because they wish they were doing this; maybe because they think we are “crazy enough to be tough or tough enough to be crazy” when they see us float by in our formation and find out how far we are going and how far we have come. It all boils down to “respect” and this has been a pleasant surprise.
Ecuador – Socialist state for all – we hardly knew ya
– $2 per gallon of gas / $6 hotel rooms / $4 dinners / $0.75 beer
– Stunning natural scenery
– The high plains seem friendlier and wealthier than the high mountains and coastal seaside areas.
Long-stemmed roses and bananas from Ecuador are shipped all over the world; sugarcane fields everywhere. Avocados abound.
As you drive along the highways you see billboards everywhere with pictures of people working, saying “Everyone is a Patriot” and good socialist slogans like: “Free education for all is true freedom” (educación gratuita para todos es la verdadera libertad)
Che Guevara is the national “icon” in Ecuador. His image is everywhere.
Peru – multiple personalities
stark natural beauty, harsh weather, human squalor, human endurance
agrarian society dominates the mountain regions; mud huts, small plots growing subsistence level food; life depends on how many cows, pigs, sheep you have.
tourism, fishing, massive corporate farms, squalid town after squalid town dominate the coast line
AMAZING highway over Andes: hwy 34 C from Desaguadero to Mazo Cruz; then turns in to Hwy 348 and hwy 32 to Moquecua. Stunning scenery and reached an altitude peak of 4,800 metres (15,748 ft). We started our journey at the 3,800 mt (12,467 ft) level at Lake Titicaca.
altitude sickness……dizziness, light-headed, fatigue, unable to sleep, difficulty breathing. This is not good for riding motorcycles.
They know how to make mountain roads in Peru! What a challenge they face but they do a good job…..all except the road to Machu Picchu……ha, ha, ha….. see photo
Chile – getting to know you
deserts, beaches, rocky coastline. Windy…..always windy.
Where are all the motorcycles? Have virtually seen none so far.
The desert ends just before Le Serena. Now the coastline looks just like Greece. Plants and fields start to materialize as we move toward Santiago.
First night in Santiago was amazing. Great place. Great hotel. Great neighbourhood…..Barrio Bellavista.
Dogs and other animals in South America
– they are not used to the deep sound and vibration of our motorcycle engines and they always look up as we pass; some stare, some cower, some attack this strange alien beast. They can hear the difference in the motor sound before humans do and before they see us…..and they know we are “not from around here”.
My observation about how animals, especially dogs, are treated could be described as “neglect”, not cruelty. Dogs are free and independent here. They are allowed to live, but for the most part, are not helped to live. It is truly “survival of the fittest” and my heart goes out to those who are not strong enough to make it. There are many dead dogs along the roads and we have noted that there are very few “old dogs”
When travelling by motorcycle you hear, feel, and smell everything around you as you pass by. Buffeted by weather (heat, humidity, cold, rain, extreme altitude causing light-headedness, dehydration, wind hammering you from all sides); sensory overload as traffic flies at you from all directions, you dodge potholes, gravel patches, speed bumps, and every domestic animal known to mankind, sound accosts your ears and muddies your brain; your brain hurts from dealing with unknown languages and dialects, strange food, frighteningly dirty places to sleep, different currencies, mechanical issues……nothing is as you know it from home; you fight exhaustion from long days and short sleeps. You fight altitude sickness. This all results in as much exhaustion as exilheration……so, this is no journey for old men or women…..not the physical age but the mental age, the “energy age” of us all.
It has been a big “wake-up call”. We are blessed, even if it doesn’t always seem like it.
Space Cowboy Awards
Best Pavement for motorcycles: Peru and Chile tied
Best Pavement in ridiculously difficult terrain: Peru
Best Oceanfront Hotels: Peru
Best Oceanfront Cities: Chile
Most Animals Wandering on Roads: Peru
Most Roadkill: Peru
Most uninhabitable Deserts: Chile
Worst Crosswinds to ride a motorcycle through: Chile and Peru tied
Friendliest People: Colombia
Cheapest good meals: Ecuador
Cheapest good hotels: Ecuador
Cheapest gas: Ecuador ($2 per gallon)
Most Expensive Gas: Chile
Cheapest good beer: Ecuador
Best Beer: Peru (Cuzquena)
Best Wine: Chile
Most Visible Military: Colombia
The windiest country: Chile
Some of the People We Meet
A Dedication to a Spiritual Friend
On November 11, 2011 at approximately 11:00pm, (11/11/11 @ 11:00pm……typical Val, going out in style on a classic date and time) a dear friend, Valerie Hambley, left this world. I thought of Val when I was at Machu Picchu, as Val believed strongly in “earth energy” and in “spiritual places”. She believed in a spirit life after death. I know Val would have loved Machu Picchu and Peru in general. I felt like she was watching over us while we were there and I would like to dedicate my travels in Peru to Valerie. If you remember, on November 11th raise a glass to Val. You can never have too many friendly spirits watching over you.
Random Graffiti and Street Art in South America – Enjoy
Argentina, here we come!