NO JOURNEY FOR OLD MEN…….this is no holiday, it is an endurance test

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.

Our Colombian Militia Friends

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.

Guy taking advantage of low-cost Ecuadorian Haircuts

Long-stemmed roses and bananas from Ecuador are shipped all over the world; sugarcane fields everywhere. Avocados abound.

Our bikes and us safe in a $6 per night hotel in Bordo, Ecuador.

The equator.

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.

Che is a god in Ecuador – Sociallist Icon

Peru – multiple personalities

stark natural beauty, harsh weather, human squalor, human endurance

Life is hard for both dogs and people in many parts of Peru

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

Typical Mud Brick home in the high plains of Peru

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.

stunning scenery at the top of the world

Farming at high altitude in Peru

altitude sickness……dizziness, light-headed, fatigue, unable to sleep, difficulty breathing. This is not good for riding motorcycles.

hard to breathe way up here.

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

“two way” traffic road to Machu Picchu. Partly washed out. Yes, we drove along this! Don’t look down

Don’t look down!

Chile – getting to know you

deserts, beaches, rocky coastline. Windy…..always windy.

Typical Desert road in Chile

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.

chilean coastline at Iquique

Camping on beach in Hornitos, Chile

First night in Santiago was amazing. Great place. Great hotel. Great neighbourhood…..Barrio Bellavista.

First Day in Santiago – our hotel

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”.

Love this little guy. Wanted to take him with me but couldn’t figure out how to transport him on a motorcycle for 2 months. Sigh

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”

VICUNA – Photo courtesy of Peru Tourism Board. Cheated on this photo as when we saw these magnificent animals in the wild we couldn’t stop to take their photos. Wanted you to see what we saw though. The Vicuna are different than Llamas or Alpacas.  They are extraordinarily beautiful in the wild. Huge eyes and elegant slim bodies

Llamas are “way cool”. This guy wanted me to feed him so we did a trade….i fed him if he let me take his photo up close

So many birds on the rocks as we drive down the coastline. Gigantic dark rocks are turned white by their guana. It is an amazing sight up close

Endurance Test?

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 colombian Family invited us into their home

David Parkenson is a 28 year old from Seattle, taking a year off from work to travel South America, learn Spanish and meet girls. He appears to be succeeding at all his goals. Otto is our hungarian friend travelling by motorcycle from Prudhoe Bay Alaska to Tierra del Feugo, Argentina

Julian and Nalda – owners of a delightful B&B we stayed at in Tortuga, Peru. Julian got drunk with us on the Peruvian national drink, Pisco.

Mac and Helen from the UK, with the motorcycles they are riding around S.A. on. Ladies, take note: Helen had never ridden a motorcycle before this trip but wanted to be with her man so she is giving it a whirl. She “doesn’t do corners” though…..so a bit of a problem…..ha, ha, ha…

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.

Valerie Hambley – R.I.P. 11/11/11

Random Graffiti and Street Art in South America – Enjoy

Argentina, here we come!

Ride safe,
Space Cowboy

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Rockin’ out in Bogota…..i fink u freeky and i like you a lot

The “What and Where” – Impressions of the next 15 Days on the road

(as TBE posts “daily updates” these are just impressions, not daily info)

One foot still in the ” comfort zone”……

The legendary Florida Keys beckon (Sept.13), Jimmy Buffet-land…..we are excited; We meet the first significant rain on the journey so far, but “we don’t care” ( see “honey badger” reference)……it is warm and a welcome refreshing change from the heavy humid air that we exist in daily now that we are on the Gulf Coast and fast approaching the meeting place of the Caribbean Sea and the West Atlantic Ocean; we rendevouz with our guide to the Keys, The Big Easy’s good friend “Wingman”(whose real name can never be revealed as he booked off sick from work to ride with us)…..who joins us on his brand new Harley Davidson motorcycle; Wingman literally flies on his magic black harley as he races us through the stunningly heavy rain that has enveloped all of south florida…..heavy but oh so warm…..no coats, just feeling the wind and rain pounding against us, laughing and hooting and trying to see through the rain to find out where we are being led; beers and fish just this side of the tollbooth that is the gateway to the keys…….Alabama Jack’s, a loose collection of ramshackle tin and palapa roofs strung over a plank dock on the side of the swamp, home-built bar on one end and greasy kitchen at the other end….in between a motley collection of unmatched chairs and tables stewn about in no apparent order……filled with bikers racing and rolling to the keys for the “harley weekend”; long undulating raised highways connect each island (Key)…….miles and miles and miles of them……bars and houses and shops line each little settlement, birds and fishers and boats dot the water in between; rain, sun, rain, sun……getting soaked, having the wind and sun dry us out, then rain again and that weather cycle repeats itself over and over…..never the same feeling from moment to moment; a fun introduction; Key West……bikes and beers and little old front-porched houses out of the old south plantation era……majical; The Eden House hotel, a beautiful oasis amongst the chaos of 20,000+ harley riders frantically partying in the heat and humidity and beer-soaked atmosphere; gun-toting biker philosophers abound, Pepe’s for breakfast, B.O.’s fish taco stand for lunch or a hurried dinner; Duval Street happy chaos……always the roaring of the harley engines, blaring of loud music and the smell of alcohol; then, back to miami, back to reality…..laundry, mail, last-minute preparations in a place where we mostly understand the language, servicing the bikes before shipping to south america; the funky surreal days at the La Quinta airport motel, nestled beside the BMW service center and a little shopping mall on a major highway that is surprisingly filled with most of the services we need, along with the best and only little peruvian restaurant I had ever been in; La Quinta motel, filled to the brim with migrant mexican workers and their families, the room next to us receiving male visitors at all hours of the night, people admiring our motorcycles and talking, talking, talking to us about them…….lots of fun and full of life; Javier’s shipping shop……initially we are a little reluctant to believe that we should leave our bikes there but that only lasts a second…..the suspension of disbelief and we move ahead, assured by Javier and his crew that our babies are in good hands;

Key West Bar Sign

Bob’s Bike being “towed”.  A good place for something bad to happen – good karma

Alabama Jack’s – Gateway to the Keys

Ted and friends in Key West

Chillin’ at Eden House

Watch out for Dolphin Crossings in the Keys!

One foot “outside the comfort zone”…..”oh why didn’t I spend more time learning spanish”….doh

It is time……Cartagena, our gateway to South America, is the next destination…….off to the airport; beers in the airport, beers on the plane…..fervently flipping through our spanish phrase books, imploring our Colombian hostesses to understand our feeble attempts to communicate; looking skeptical about the guidance our “official translator”, The Big Easy, is offering…….checking my dictionary to find out that the spanish phrase he told me to say to the hostess meant “I want your hair” and luckily avoiding another confused or amused look from our flying hosts; touching down in Medellin…..South America at last…….the airport a combination of the familiar and the exotic; rush, rush, rush to catch our connecting flight…..minor confusion but we make it, no problem; the giggling hostesses “smuggle” us our first Colombian beer (beer is only for “business class” on this flight, don’t you know); Cartagena airport, collecting bags, well-organized taxi service, a quick drive to the Hotel Santa Cruz in the historic old town……..the air is unbelievably heavy with humidity and heat, even after dark, we are drenched with sweat; our room is a four-bunk “hostel” room but it is all we need; smells and sounds of an ancient city, almost 500 years old; narrow streets, two and three story buildings only 15 feet apart on the second floor as it seems their balconies can almost reach across the road and touch; bouganvilla vines and flowers on the balconies; bright latin colours on the buildings; a first night-time exploration through the quiet dark streets, seeking food; a small square with a little park and a few restaurants with outdoor seating…small dinner, happy chatter, horse-drawn carriages taking lovers on a late-night romance, and more beer….but this time it’s Colombian beer…..Aguila and Colombian Rojo….a good start; the next day…..rooftop “simple” breakfast we struggle to order with our rudimentary spanish; on to the street……people, people everywhere…..coming and going, crowding the streets; noise……chattering, honking, clanging and banging…the ever-present blistering sun and drenching humidity; hawkers and charlatans trying to entice us; walking, walking, walking, exploring; school children asking to have their pictures taken with us; on the third day we move from the old city to the “modern beach area”…….now chafing to get our motorcycles and, while interested in the City, much more interested in starting the ride, exploring the continent, planning routes, readying travel documents, tracking the shipping progress of our motorcycles; we are not exactly “killing time” but we only have “one foot” still in Cartegena, the other is already out on the road; Bogota……a very large City, almost 9 million people; we fly there two days before our bikes are scheduled to arrive, to explore the city and to “prepare” for the big moment when our bikes land;

Bogota…….we were “told” that to go to Bogota “without guns” was suicide. I am here to tell you that is not true. We have had an absolute riot in Bogota. It is “zurich” in latin america. Like any big city you need to “pay attention” but the fact is that almost everyone is friendly and helpful. A big (8.6 million people) city, but full of life. Dental work in Bogota is actually a “happy experience” and almost free….seriously…… No humidity; friendly people; a few “gringo-haters” but “no problem”……just smile and try to embarass yourself with bad spanish and everyone smiles and tries to chat with you. Last night, after a fun meal in “le macarena” district we ended up in a bar (what a surprise) near our hotel that was a throw-back and “house of worship” for 60’s and 70’s rock bands…..as goofy as this sounds, it was a riot….$1 beer, great artwork and great music….how good can it get; dogs in Bogota….I am happy to report that people love dogs in Bogota…..how people treat animals is a good predictor of how kind their culture is……dogs rule here….it is a very kind culture. Love it.

Cartagena Balcony

Cool Murals everywhere in Bogota

Guy getting tooth fixed in Bogota …happy colombian dentist

Old School Rock in Bogota – The Doors, Hendrix, et al…..$1 beer

Wednesday, September 26th…..we thought we would repatriate our “babies” (our motorcycles) today at the airport but it is truly “manana” as, despite representations from our shipping agent in Florida, the cargo company in Bogota thought we were “cute but confused” and told us to come back “manana”. We now hope to pick up the bikes on September 27th and start heading toward Peru. Stay tuned for more on our hoped-for success in the next blog.
Karmic aspects of the trip:
Since my last blog I am happy to report that, while we have endured several interesting problems (Guy’s bike needed to have a coil replaced; Bob’s bike need to have an electrical problem repaired; I seemed to somehow contract a rather severe case of food poisoning in Miami; Guy had a crown on one of his molars decide to fall out in Bogota and the experience of trying to get this fixed convinced us that Bogota is truly a great place. Our “karma” so far can be summarized as “if something is going to go wrong, this is as good as it gets”. Bad things happened but in the best possible scenario. We are definitely lucky so far. “mucho suerte”.
All good.
Stay safe, enjoy life, choose happiness.

Space Cowboy
Ustedes no esta solo ; Ustedes tienen el Gang of 4