Road of Death – Potosi

After a restful two days in La Paz we headed out on the “road of death” before heading to a town called Potosi. The ride to the road of death was interesting itself, we had to ride about 5km through a mountain pass covered in snow. The road of death was interesting and exciting for sure although it’s not very dangerous anymore. At one stage of its life cars and trucks were regularly careering over the edge to the oblivion below. In some points the road is no more than 2.5 meters wide with drop-offs of hundreds of meters. Nowadays the road has been superseded by a new road and it’s been made one way. It’s mostly used by tourists on bicycles. I have been on many more dangerous roads including route 5 in Guatemala and the trampoline of death in Colombia which both have two-way traffic, nevertheless the “road of death” is worth the ride if you’re ever out this way.

From there we headed off towards Potosi but it was too far a ride after the road of death so we camped in the middle of a field by a river. It wasn’t our first choice of camp spot, we were hunted from that. Honestly there is something wrong with the people here, their miserable to the core. They’re not just miserable to us though, their miserable to one another as well. I find it very funny though, small angry pissed off people everywhere; most are only up to my elbow height wise.

The morning after a night spent camping next to a little stream in the freezing cold we departed again for Potosi a whole 400km away. I had a flat tire again so stopped to get it fixed in a little town on route. It took the guy over an hour to fix but he done a great job and only charged me $3 for his efforts. Shortly afterwards we rode into a hail storm. It was hard riding through this, the road was incredibly slippery. There was a car that kept overtaking us and doing the bollox generally that ended up sliding right off the road into a gully. The occupants weren’t hurt luckily enough; I guess that’s karma for you. After this we rode through the biggest dump of a town I have ever seen, the whole place was full of rubbish, it was disgusting to be honest. Bolivia would be a beautiful place if you just got rid of the rubbish and the people.

From here on the ride was fantastic, the roads wound they’re way through the mountains to the town of Potosi, which the lonely planet describes as the highest city in the world. Its elevation is 4060 meters above sea level; luckily enough we have been sleeping at heights that have let us adjust to the altitude. Potasi was once on a par with Paris and London. It was once rich in minerals before the Spanish raped the earth. It is now another dump (although the old part is nice) where small companies risk the lives of children to dig out the precious metals. The average life span of a miner is 31 years, children start working here at 14 and stay till they die. If they find no metals they don’t get paid. You can go and have a tour of the mines but I couldn’t be bothered, they’re extremely dangerous because there is no control here. They blast their way through without any concern for the other mining companies’ whereabouts. Tunnels are drilled on top of each other and drilled with dynamite which you can buy here in town. We were going to get some and blow something up in the desert but no one is willing to carry it.

Next for us it’s off to the salt flats before heading to Chile.

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I made it back to the BMW garage just in time to pick up my bike and gear. Then I went back my hotel repacked and loaded it up for an early departure to beat the Lima traffic    (if that’s possible). I left the city at 7am heading south on the Pan-American Highway in the direction of Arequipa just over 1000 kms away. After Nazca the road was pretty spectacular. First there were deserts and sand storms to contend with. I spent a few hours riding leaning into the wind and spitting out sand. Then the road reached the coast and floated along it for the next few hours. You wouldn’t want to be scared of heights here, there were no barriers to stop you going over the edge and when there were they were about 2 foot high, absolutely no good to me. The road then wound its way back into the mountains and up to Arequipa, the second biggest city in Peru. I found a hotel on the outskirts had some dinner and was asleep by 8 pm. Another incredible days riding through spectacular scenery behind me.

The next morning I set off through the mountains again for a town called Puno about 350 km away. The road reached a height of 4400 meters. It was bleak and dismal to be honest. I had to take out my winter gear and re-dress on the top of a mountain pass I was so cold. Some of the scenery in parts was nice; there were alpaca and lama everywhere (although I don’t know which is which). I reached the town of Puno about 12 o clock, had some lunch and explored it for a couple of hours. I found it a town best viewed in my rear view mirror so I took off towards Copacabana Bolivia. I reached the border around 5 pm; it was open till six so I had plenty of time.

Crossing out of Peru was no problem at all, there were four different offices that I had to go to but they were all next door to each other. I was out of Peru and into Bolivia in no time. First port of call here was Immigration which was a five min affaire; there was no one else about. Then it was off to see the customs guy. This is where the fun started. He appeared nice at first but was far from it. I gave him all my paperwork and he filled out the proper forms. Then he wanted to see my insurance for Bolivia. I told him I didn’t have any but was willing to buy some if there was some place selling it. He told me the only place was in La Paz 150km away and that I would have to go there purchase this and come back leaving the bike with him until I returned. I told him he was loco if he thought I was doing that. Then he starts to lean back in his chair rubbing his fingers together. I leaned back in mine and stared at him. He then stood up and looked out the window while rubbing his fingers together behind his back. I think he expected there to be a little something on the table when he turned around but surprise surprise there wasn’t. I was only going 8km further that day and could sit there all night. There was now a que beginning to form behind me because I had my chair blocking the door to his office and wouldn’t let anyone else in. If he wanted to get home that night he’d better let me go. He finally gave up and let me through after we stared at each other for another ten minutes. It was still easier and more enjoyable than most border crossings in Central America.

I then rode on to Copacabana and explored the little town on the shores of Lake Titicaca before meeting up with Mark, Nick and Ivanka again. The next day we took a boat to the isle of the Sun, the birth place of the Incas. Not too much out there to be honest, mostly just piles of rocks. I think by now I have seen more than my fair share of piles of rocks. I wish they would just finish one pile before starting another. Take Machu Picchu for example, it was defiantly the best pile of rocks I’ve seen for a long time, I can only imagine how amazing it will be when it’s finished whenever that will be.

The next day we headed off for La Paz a whopping 150km away. It was only a short distance but it took us 5 hours. First problem of the day was my rear wheel was flat, easily fixed though. I think some of the neighborhood kids might have let it down to get revenge for me shouting at them the previous night. They were playing football outside my window till 1am while their parents and the rest of the village drank themselves into oblivion. Then we had to que for fuel for half an hour before paying almost double what the locals pay for it. The government subsidizes fuel for the locals so they charge us more because we don’t pay tax here, fine with me but I bet the government never see’s their share. Then we had to cross the lake on a real dodgy “ferry”. Then there was a road block that the locals had set up for some unknown reason (the people here aren’t too bright to be honest). They blocked the road with rocks spread all through for hundreds of meters. We had to ride through fields to get around this. I had my second “off” of the trip in one such field when my back wheel decided my front wheel was going to slow and passed it out spinning me round in a circle. No damage done though. Then there was the crazy traffic as we entered the city of La Paz. I think you get your driving license in a packet of crisps here. No one obeys traffic signals or laws here, they all drive like we ride, which makes for total and utter chaos.

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Machu picchu

I flew down to Cusco and met up with a few friends that have been riding the ride as well. I hired myself a little 250cc Honda of some sorts and we set out the following morning for a little town called Santa Theresa about 200km away. The ride was fantastic; the roads wound their way up 4.316km into the sky. It was fairly cold at the top but heading down the other side was worse. The rains came a calling which made the roads nice and slippery for my little Honda. Eventually we came out of the clouds and reached a more tolerable altitude before stopping for lunch and fuel in some little village along route. I had to fill the Honda with gas from a barrel , it only has a 3 gallon tank compared to the 8 gallon on the BMW which requires regular fueling. After this little town the roads really got interesting, they clung to the sides of the cliffs and had shallow river crossings every few km’s. When we reached the little town of Santa Theresa we headed for some hot springs to warm up, strolled around town and watched the local butcher hack a calf to bits on a wooden block outside his shop before settling down for a nice dinner.

The next morning we left the bikes behind and took a mini bus to the local hydro electrical plant. Along the way you could see the engineering that went into powering this part of the country. The Peruvians drilled tunnels in the mountains, inserted turbines and diverted the rivers inside to turn the turbines and create the power. All fairly ingenious in my book. From here we walked 9km along the train tracks to the foot of the mountain containing Machu Picchu, to a town a little town called Aguas Calientes. We spent the night here relaxing and getting ready for the climb to the summit. We left at 4:30am for some unknown reason and walked up the million steps to the top. Why we walked I’ll never know, it was the stupidest thing I’ve done since swimming in the Atlantic on the first of January. The walk was a killer, we were told that if we walk up we will be there before the crowd but as soon as we reached the gate exhausted, the busses started to arrive with cheery people who had a nice night’s sleep and a spin to the top.

Machu Picchu is some site for sure; we entered into the ruins in thick cloud cover. Soon after entering the sun came up and over the “Sun Gate”, the clouds began to disperse and we were greeted with a spectacular view. It’s such an amazing place I couldn’t do it justice with words so there are heaps of photos at the bottom of this blog entry. We spent about 6 hours up there, 4 hours walking around and 2 hours napping on one of the terraces above the city before getting the bus back down to the village below.

I decided to get the train back to Santa Theresa as I had enough walking for one day. The train was at 1:30 so I had plenty of time for diner before setting off on the 9km train journey. When I went to get a ticket I discovered this one carriage train was full and they would not let me on. There was plenty of room to be honest but they don’t allow standing, I offered to hang off the side but they would not allow this so I had to walk the 9km of tracks alone. It was actually quite enjoyable to be honest; I couldn’t stop humming the tune from the movie “Stand by me for some reason”. I reached the power plant just a one of the workers was driving home and asked him for a lift. He agreed to give me a lift for 1 soles      ( 30 Cent ) and off we went along the hanging roads. We chatted about various subjects, him in some crazy language and me in English. When we reached my lodge I gave him 20 soles for his trouble. His face lit up, to me this is 6 dollars to him it was a fortune. I was glad to make him happy and he left with a huge grin. I hopped on my bike and headed for the hot springs to soak my tired body before dinner. We were all in bed asleep for 8pm that night.

The next morning at 7am we headed off back for Cusco. Along route Kerman took his first spill of his trip and ended up sliding through a river. He was fine but a bit wet. His handle bars were a little twisted but he was able to fix them easily. We rode through the Andes for a few hours on these dangerous roads. I came across a bus that has slipped over the edge one time. I wouldn’t have liked to have been a passenger on that ride. I reckon it would have been your last. Its hard to make out in the photo because of the clouds but the bus is about 100 meters below the road. I rode on more carefully after seeing that before stopping for lunch in a nice little town. We were kept amused by the local cops trying to get the Peruvian flag down from their flag pole. It was a comical affair. We gave them a round of applause when they finally succeeded a half hour later. We then took a dirt road over the mountains and back to Cusco. The night was spent in an Indian restaurant and the Norton rats Pub.

I fly back to Lima to pick up my bike today. I got an email last Friday telling me not to bring the computer as they had fixed the broken wires that had caused the problem. Why they could not have found the broken wires before telling me to order an 800euro computer I’ll never know. These wires have cost me a fortune but I’m hoping to get a refund from BMW at some stage. I’m not going to let this incident ruin my trip, I’m going to put it behind me and move on. I’m hoping to be back on the road with my bike tomorrow heading for lake Titicaca.

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Lima to Cusco

I’m sitting here in an Airport once again, this time awaiting a flight to Cusco so I can go and see Machu Picchu. The computer unit for my bike is in the post thanks to Steve in BMW cork. It should be here next Sunday and installed next Monday. I fly back to Lima on Wed next and hopefully everything will be fixed allowing me to be on the road that day or the next. Steve buddy, thanks very much you’re help, without you I fear I could be here for a month and in that case there would be little point in going on. I really owe you one.

To get this unit and have it installed is going to cost me around 1400$ all up. I raced through Ecuador and Northern Peru to see the Dakar rally only to be let down 200km from the finish by this useless part that has no place in a bike as far as I’m concerned. My bike is two months out of warranty as well but I’m hoping BMW will come up with a good will warranty and help with the costs. This incident has set me back two weeks now so I might have to miss out on a lot of what I wanted to see because making it to the bottom of the Continent before March is extremely important as it will be too cold there after February to enjoy. I bought a BMW for this trip because they are supposed to be hassle free but I’m really discovering the opposite.

Patagonia and beyond is what I’ve been looking forward to since leaving Alaska. I much prefer the people free wild open spaces than the cities, I’d prefer complete isolation to anywhere populate any day. I suppose it’s just as well the bike’s computer has let me down here rather than in the middle of nowhere like Patagonia but I’m still not happy about it. It should not have let me down at all. It’s supposed to be there to help not hinder.
Anyway I’ve decided to fly down and check out Machu Picchu while I wait for my bike to be repaired. I’m meeting up with some friends there, Mark, Andre, Kerman, Nick, Ivanka and the guy who calls me Fred. I’m going to hire a bike and ride a dirt track to Machu Picchu for 4 days. It will take a few days to explore so that will keep me busy and out of the city. I will have to return this way when I get back on the road because I want to see lake Titicaca if I have time, but at least I will have seen Cusco and when I return and won’t have to stop for more than one night.

When I was booking the flight on the net the offer of a return flight from Lima to Cusco was $137. When I went to pay I found out it’s only for Peruvians. I had to pay $400+ to get on the same plane. When I looked into getting train tickets for the journey from Cusco to Machu Picchu I discovered, for locals it’s about $10 and for foreigners its $100+. I’m not complaining rather just thinking aloud, what sad state the world is in when one person can afford to pay up to 10 times more than someone else for the same thing. They are right to charge foreigners more so that they can share in the world’s wealth. If one person can afford to pay up to ten times more than someone else just because they were born in a different geographical area the world is truly screwed up.
It makes me so sad to see the contrast between the rich and the poor here as well as anywhere else. This world is full of so many great people and holds so much beauty on one hand while on the other it’s full of greed and ugliness. While people continue to measure wealth on the basis of having more than the next person we will never be equal and without equality I fear the world will never be happy or at peace. There is an old Maori saying “Wealth should be measured by how much you give away not by how much you have” and how true it is.

I have a great fear of reincarnation because of the fact that there are more horrible places in this world than good which narrows your chances of coming back to a better life. Buddhists believe we keep coming back until we figure it all out. Hindu’s have a belief that the better you are in this life the better your next life will be. These theories both terrify me. I don’t ever want to come back to a world where people use and abuse other people more than they love and help each other.

There are people living in hell holes around the world working 18 hours a day for pittance because they know no better and everyone else just turns a blind eye and profits from it. Slavery was never abolished it was just replaced with a monetary system that keeps people in their place. Are we to blame just because we are born in a better place or are we to blame because we turn a blind eye to the affairs of the world. Each day the likes of CNN and Sky news feed us complete bullshit to keep us blindfolded to what’s really going on. (One time when I was in Lahore Pakistan watching BBC I was surprised to discover I was in the middle of a war zone,Pakistan was officially in a state of emergency. Luckily they told me because I didn’t know). Governments start wars on false pretences and only a handful of people object. Innocent people are slaughtered like live stock but because they are far away and no one cares. We need the oil and gas and we need it cheap. And we need this because electric cars are kept off the market to keep us feeding shareholders of the oil companies. Just like the unprofitable pharmaceuticals are never manufactured and plants that grow in the ground are made illegal. And worst of all governments start wars so their economies and their buddy’s companies can profit from all this.   I know there is a hell and it’s right here on earth for many people but maybe all the poor and hungry people were  oil-profiting-world-destroying-bastards in their last lives. Maybe there is equality….

Oh what a wonderful world.
Rant over.

Posted in Peru | 9 Comments


Well I’m still here in Lima . My bike problem has gotten worse. Who builds a bike with an immobiliser that locks the owner out. The reason I bought a BMW is because there suppose to be reliable.  They put these devises in bikes so they cant be stolen but they can still be picked up and put in the back of a van very easily and stripped for parts so what’s the point. They have been working on her all day and now reckon she needs a new computer. Easily fixed if you have one and a spare $800 but unfortunately there are none about. I may have to get one sent from my friend Steve in BMW Cork because it will be faster than the garage getting it but I’m not entirely confident that the computer is the problem. I could be sitting around here waiting for a part I don’t need. The garage reckon it could take them weeks to get it.

I’ve seen the sights of Lima already, It’s massive with massive contrasts between the have’s and have not’s. One area will be completely different from the next .The people are friendly here so that’s great but the road is calling out to me, it needs me and I need it.

I went to see the Dakar rally come to town which was interesting enough, couldn’t get near the podium though. It was reserved for people who didn’t know what they were looking at. The podium was in the old town square and the ordinary people couldn’t get near, you couldn’t even get near the roads leading to the square. Watching it on TV afterwards it looked better outside anyway’s, the atmosphere was electric with riders popping wheelie’s, cars and trucks doing do-nuts and burnouts before entering the square. It was nothing like it would have been going through the desert but at least I got to see the vehicles.

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Dakar or Bust

I stayed the night in a place Called Mancora, it’s a little beach town in northern Peru. I didn’t get to see much of it though as I had an early start and a long days ride ahead of me. I pulled out the gate of the Hostel Complex at 8am sharp and headed south on the Pan-American highway, heading as far as I could possibly go. Today is the 12th and I want to be 1700km south by the end of the 13th.

The day started out alright, the roads were good and the traffic light enough. I was enjoying the ride until I was forced off the road and onto the hard shoulder by an oncoming bus overtaking a truck whilst travelling in my lane. Nothing unusual about that over here, the bigger vehicle makes the rules an all that. It was the frequency that it was happening at though that got annoying. It’s like you’re not even there, it’s nothing personal, it’s just that you have a smaller vehicle so get you’d better get the hell out of the way. Much like people force bicyclists off the road in western countries. It’s a lot more dangerous when you’re travelling at 110km and have to suddenly brake hard and pull onto the hard shoulder because someone wants to use your allotted space.

I rode on all day undeterred to cover at least 1000km, I think I was forced off the road completely 5 times during the day and once in the dark of night which was just mean, I couldn’t even see if there was a hard shoulder to pull on to. Luckily there was. About 10pm I rounded a corner on the main road to find a line of traffic. I quickly made my way to the front to see what was going on.The second I got there a cop came over screaming at me telling me I could go no further, and then he walked off.

After a minute or two a few friendlier cops came over and we got chatting. I asked them what happened but they were vague. There was a bus parked to my left and all the passengers had alighted. I thought the bus had hit someone at first. Then the original cop came over to discover me distracting his minions. He told me to carry on but to go slow and be careful. I was intrigued and moved on as told.

What I saw was horrific, the bus that had been parked on the side of the road had ploughed into a herd of goats, and I mean ploughed. There were body parts everywhere and the whole road was covered in blood and guts. Some of the 20 or so goats were still alive and moaning in agony. I had to meander my way through this for about 100 meters. I’m just glad it was dark and I couldn’t see the full fiasco. After that I decided to call it a night and found the next hotel along the way. I had to pile the furniture by the door in my room as there was no lock. Another fine evening had by all participating. Except the goats of course.

The next morning I found myself about 100km north of Lima, Peru’s capital containing about 11 million people. I had a total of 600km to ride to make the Dakar rally and meet up with some friends. No problem whatsoever, I could arrive in time for lunch with the lads, set up camp and have a nice leisurely day, or so I thought. My first obstacle was Lima itself. Traffic was chaotic. It took me 2 hours to get through it. My GPS went berserk right in the middle of the city to make things more exciting because the bike overheating and almost getting run over every two minutes wasn’t enough. Finally I made it through and back onto the Pan-American Highway and out of the city.

Peru’s a beautiful country with beautiful landscapes, deserts and beaches and it was finally looking like I could slow down and enjoy it all, so that’s what I did. I pulled over to the side of the road in the desert to stretch my legs and take some photos. After about 5 minutes of this I hopped back on the bike and turned the key. Nothing happened besides a warning light coming on that said EWS!. What the hell is EWS! suppose to mean I thought. I knew it was bad straight away though. While I was racking my brains trying to figure out what the hell was going on a car pulled up alongside me and out hopped a man named Roberto. He asked me what the problem was and we set about exploring options.

At first I thought it was the kickstand sensor so we took that all apart and joined the wires to see if that would work. No good, we tried by passing the ignition but the starter just turned and wouldn’t engage the engine. I pulled out the manual which said EWS! means the immobilizer has kicked in. Roberto who is a mechanic and all round great guy called his friend who confirmed it was an Immobilizer problem, the only way to fix it is to take it to BMW back in Lima 2 hours back the road and get them to reprogram the whole thing.

Next problem was how the hell I was going to get it there. Roberto who has a beach house nearby went home and got his trailer without knowing if the bike would even fit. He arrived back about half an hour later and reversed the trailer into a whole so we could push the bike on board. It was no good, it was too heavy and Roberto had already broken his back some years before in a beach buggy accident. Luckily another guy stopped and helped us load it up and strap it down. We then headed off towards Lima in Roberto’s car with the bike in tow.

Along the way Roberto asked me what it is about traveling I love so much and that made me think. I hope he believed me when I said for me travellings all about the people you meet along the way and the experiences you share with other’s because it really is. You could be in the world’s greatest dump but if the people are nice it will all be worth it. It’s about meeting people like you Roberto. I’d also just like to thank a woman whom I’ve never met, Roberto’s lovely wife Monica, who let her husband spend about 6 hours of his day helping a complete stranger when he was suppose to spend the day with her. Thank you very much Monica and Thank you Roberto, I don’t know what I would have done had you not come to my rescue. The kindness of strangers will never be forgotten.

We stopped for a sandwich on route before making Lima and the BMW garage for 5pm. They were open till six and started working on my bike straight away. I even thought at one stage I might get back on the road today but it was not to be. They have never come across this problem before, there is a relay sensor between the key and immobilizer that is gone but they think the whole mother computed might be screwed up as well. I had to leave it there over night but luckily they will work on it through Saturday morning for me. I just hope they can get it going early so I can catch the Dakar. It seems like the universe is trying to keep me away from it. I promise I won’t sign up for next year, I just want to see it. I’m now shacked up in a hotel down the road from the garage waiting anxiously.

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Ecuador – Peru

After another 21 hour journey I made it back to Quito Ecuador at 12 midnight. I hopped in a cab and found a hotel that was located near where I stored my motorcycle. The next morning I retrieved my bike, pumped up the rear tire which had mysteriously gone flat and hit the road. I was headed for a place called Canoa along the coast about 400km away.
Getting out of Quito was my first challenge; it’s a huge city with a surprisingly small population of 1.4 million. It’s built into the mountains and really spread out. A wrong turn has you going into an undesired valley and gets you completely lost. The old part of the city which is really small is nice but the rest I could do without. There was not much there to hold my interest so I got the hell out of there as quick as I could. It’s also at about 3000 meters altitude so breathing was a little difficult for me. I felt like I had a belt around my chest the whole time I was there.
Finally after a few wrong turns I made it to the right road and back into the Andes. That’s when the rain started again and visibility came down to about 100 meters. I’m sure the view was spectacular but I couldn’t enjoy any of it, I had to concentrate on not dying on this slippery fog covered road. After two hours riding at break neck speeds of 60kph through this,the rain stopped and I was out of the Andes and on flat ground.

The roads for the next while were good so I was able to make up some time and reached Canoa around 5pm. I met up with a friend of mine Aine who lives there and we set about getting on the piss. We drank the bar dry literally in about 10 min. We had the last two beers in the place and we had to drink them out of mugs. There is a law in Ecuador that prohibits the sale of alcohol after 4pm on Sundays. They don’t tell you that in the brochures.

The next day was spent repacking my bike and tightening up loose bolts followed with some relaxing and surfing (badly) on the beautiful beach before partying well into the night. Canoa is a nice place to visit, I could easily spend a few months here but I have to move on and try catch the a little bit of Dakar at least.

I was ready to leave Canoa at 6am but my land lady had other ideas, Ideas, I should say dreams, she didn’t show up till 7am to unlock the gate. I have a hell of a ride in front of me for the next few days. It’s a challenge I generously except, I love big days in the saddle, watching the scenery change from mountains to desert like it did today was fantastic.
The border crossing was the usual hour or two of riding around, Although in fairness if I could speak or read Spanish it would have been a breeze. When will them Spanish speakers come to there senses and learn to speak the english.

I had a close encounter today like I had in Guatemala with the dog, except in place of the dog there was an eight or nine year old little girl. I rounded a corner doing about 70kph (which I was legally allowed to do) when suddenly this little girl ran out from the side of a house that was on the main road. She ran directly into my path. I didn’t know if she was going to keep running ,stop or turn around. I hit the brakes as hard as I could and skidded straight for her waiting to see which direction she was going to go. She looked up at me terrified, and along with my heart stopped mid beat. She just froze to the spot with one leg still in the air mid run. I thought to myself this is going to be bad, I thought I don’t want to see this, I thought about closing my eye’s so I wouldn’t have to see it. Then all of a sudden it was like being in the matrix, everything slowed down, started moving in super slow motion and I had a chance to think.
Continuing on in this course was going to end up with a dead or mutilated little girl and me heading to jail so this was not an option. I had to come up with plan B in milliseconds. I figured as long as she didn’t move I could accelerate full throttle and just about get around her. I had one go at this, do I go to her left or right. I choose left and opened it up to come out of the skid. She didn’t move and she’s still alive. My heart has aged considerably though. I pulled up to the road side and roared at her but she didn’t even move. I think she was frozen to the spot. A women came out as I was about to head back and took her from the road. There was someone looking out for the both of us on that stretch of road and thank god there was, another two lives might have been ended on that road side today.

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COLOMBIA – ECUADOR (San Agustin – Mocoa – Pasto – Otavolo – Quito)

On December the 10th we left San Agustin on what was to turn out as one of the best roads of the trip so far. The first 50km or so were paved but all that suddenly came to an abrupt end as the road soon turned to rock. Yes rock, that’s the best and only way to describe the surface we were riding on. The road twisted through the jungle winding up into the mountains for about 150km. There were many water crossings along the way, riding on rock these crossings were quite slippery. I almost ended up on my side in one such crossing but the determination to keep my laptop and cameras dry prevailed and I somehow managed to keep upright. The road was cut into the mountain side and in parts it was no more than 2 meters wide. Traffic was light luckily enough except for the odd convoy of trucks which had us pulling up on the verge of  300 meter drops at some stages.
Along route Andre got his 3rd puncture in 3 riding days. We’re pretty used to fixing Andre’s bike now and all set about doing our various tasks and had it fixed on the side of a cliff in no time.
We rode this 150km of rock for about 4 hours, it was a fantastic ride and well worth it. The road finally wound down to a little village where we stopped for lunch, the local girls wanted to know who was married and who had girlfriends, I think they wanted to hop on the back of the bikes and come with us.

About another hour later we arrived in the beautiful town of Pasto, only kidding, Pasto is a hole, that didn’t matter one bit though the people there are friendly and helpful. It just puzzles me that Colombia is such a beautiful place and that so many people choose to live in such crap holes. We found a hostel, had dinner and called it a night. Another great day in the saddle.
The next morning we loaded up our bikes while they were parked on the footpath outside the hostel. Soon a crowd had gathered to watch all the commotion. The’re were people taking photos of us from every angle. The locals all thought we were participants in the Dakar rally. Poor participants without support trucks no doubt.
We headed off towards the border a short hour or so’s ride through great mountain roads. We were reaching some crazy speeds racing everything in sight, the locals were doing there best to keep up which made the ride interesting and deadly to say the least.
The border crossing was the easiest to date. Exiting Colombia took about 20 minutes for the four of us, entering Ecuador was straight forward as well except for the guy in customs who filled out the forms typing slowly with one finger. He took over an hour to fill out 4 simple forms. All the same it was nice to have no one bothering or hassling you throughout the crossing. We were free in Ecuador, country number 31 on my motorcycle adventures.

We headed off through the Andes once again towards the town of Otavolo. The main roads in Ecuador are also well maintained, they twist up and down through some amazing scenery, it reminded me of northern Iran in parts, beautifully dry and mountainous.

Along route we were stopped by the cops again for no apparent reason. They weren’t too interested in myself, Mark or Andre though. It was Kerman they were after. They took all his paper work and started making phone calls. Kerman is riding a Honda 650 XLR bike that’s registered in his sisters name in the US, he’s French and rides on a fake Tanzanian licence, all great ingredients to get you in trouble in foreign lands. They let the rest of us go so we headed off slowly and waited at a restaurant in the next town. No point in hanging around with these guys , sooner or later they start looking for money for something or other. Kerman soon showed up and we found out what happened. Apparently there are 2 XLR’s registered in Ecuador, one belongs to the son of some big shot and was stolen recently. There is a country-wide search going on for Mr big shots sons bike. Not good news for Kerman who will most likely get stopped and questioned throughout Ecuador. We reached the town of Otavolo and called it a day.

Andre set about dismantling his whole bike again because it was running on one piston. After a bit of work and some prayer himself and Mark somehow managed to fix it. I pushed in one of his spark plugs properly while all this was going on, I reckon that was the problem all along but Andre wont admit it.

Later on that evening I checked my email to find another urgent message to contact home. I Skyped my girlfriend who had the unenviable task of informing me that one of my best friends had been found dead in Vietnam. This is the second time in six weeks she has had to give me terrible news. I informed the guys and went and found a bar, still in shock. We knocked back beer all night.
Now I had no choice but to ride to Quito and arrange to fly home to be with Michael’s family. It was a short sad ride to Quito for me.

Along the way we stopped off at the Equator to stand on the centre of the world. There is a giant monument to this imaginary line here built by the French. The 30-meter-tall monument was built between 1979 and 1982, the only problem is that it’s in the wrong place. The real Equator line is about 500 meters away on private property which the owners have turned into a park of sorts. There are some strange goings on there for sure. It’s possible to close your eye’s and walk a straight line anywhere except for right on the equator, you simply cannot do it. You can also balance an egg on a nail right on the line and nowhere else, your strength is easily halved while standing on it and my favourite of all is the water circulation observation.

A dish was placed right on the line with leaves in it, when the plug was pulled the water flowed straight down, move the dish 2 meters to the right and the water swirled clockwise and 2 meters to the left and the water swirled anticlockwise. Now I know all about the Coriolis force so don’t go writing to me telling me it was a trick. It may have been but I know what I saw an it was cool.
Afterwards we rode through Quito to the tourist area, it took ages to navigate around the city traffic. Quito is to put it mildly, huge. We found a hotel and I was able to go on-line and book a flight back to Ireland. The following morning I left my bike with a friend of a friend of a friend and headed back to Cork.

I am now typing this from Houston Airport while I make my way back to Quito. I will pick up my bike tomorrow and resume my trip.

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Posted in Colombia, Ecuador | 2 Comments

Michael Greaney

I have been struck by tragedy once again. My best friend in Australia has been found dead in Ho Chi Ming city, Vietnam. I’m flying back to Ireland once again. Cherish the loved ones around you, they could be gone at any minute.

You lived life to the fullest my friend and that can never be taken from you. You were always there for us whenever needed with a smile an a beer. A kind and gentle soul, mischievous to the end.
RIP bro till we meet again, cos then I’m kicken your ass
Love you man..

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Medellin – Solento – Cali – San Agustin

After three nights in Medellin I was ready to move in permanently. It’s a fantastic city full of fun and friendly people. We didn’t get to see too much of it by day because we were based in the city’s night spot. The bright part of the twenty-four hours was spent a mostly hung-over to say the least. There were about fifty restaurants, bars and clubs within walking distance of our guest house. I normally don’t care for such things but in Medellin’s case I made an exception. We had met up a few more bikers Mark knew while we were in Medellin. It turned out it was one of their birthdays so we had no choice but to celebrate with them.

Two days later and almost recovered the five of us undertook the journey to Solento. About ten km out-of-town there was an accident and a massive tail back, in fact it was five km long on the opposite side. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as we were able to slip through the traffic and emerge out the other side to empty roads. The surface was great and the bends nice and frequent, motorcyclist paradise, and best of all we had them all to ourselves.

We rode hard and fast all morning trying to knock some time off what was predicted by the GPS. (I’m sick of them things always being right). At a turn in the road I stopped and waited for the others. Mark and Manny (From Canada) soon joined me but there were no sign of the other two. A half hour later a Colombian biker stopped and informed us that the other guys had broken down just outside the town we had lunch in. We turned around and headed back the forty or so km. It turned out Andre had gotten a puncture. Just as we arrived Jorgen (from Canada) also arrived from the opposite direction with Andre’s front wheel strapped to his bike. He had taken the wheel back to the town and had a new tube put in, after the guys had pinched and burst the first tube while putting it in. Andre reassembles the bike quickly and we were back on the road once again. We now however had heaps of truck to overtake.

We were stopped a total of three times by the cops on route, twice only just to check our papers but the third time was because I got caught undertaking a bus. I guess they had to stop me as I did it right in front of them. They then proceeded to blabber on about something or other in some crazy language for a while. I couldn’t understand a word of it. I just kept smiling and pointing to my map bombarding them with stupid questions. I think this guy really wanted to fine me too but he couldn’t get his point across and I just kept playing dumb. When he finally asked for my passport I figured I was screwed. He took one look and called over another guy. They talked for a while but I couldn’t understand too much, I did however hear them say “Ireland”. After that they strolled over shook my hand, told me to have a nice day and said I could leave.

We arrived in rainy Solento after a full days ride just before dark. Solento is famous for? Being near a place called Cocora (maybe) which has giant palm trees in the Surroundings Mountains. Some of these trees are up to 60meters high. The following morning we squeezed into a tiny ww11 jeep and I mean squeezed, in fact some of us had to stand on the back for an hour and headed into the mountains. From there we rode through the trees in the rain on horseback for a while. A while too long if you ask me. I could barely walk after wards.

The next days ride from Solento to Cali was almost too easy, the roads were great, the weather perfect, the hangover was minimal and I was in good company. It was good to be able to completely open the throttle again even if only for a short while. We entered Cali getting lost straight away; we ended up in parts of the city most tourists would never see. Had it have been dark I think we may have ended up walking out of these parts in our underwear and that’s if we were lucky.

The next morning we headed off at 8am for San Agustin, a ride of about 270km, the last 130km of which were on dirt. We stopped for breakfast in the town of Popayan and bid farewell to Jorgen and Manny, they are on a tight schedule and heading towards Ecuador. (Great riding with you guys). After the locals were finished taking pictures of us and our bikes we headed out onto the dirt and into the Andes.

The rain came quick and hard as we reached the first obstacle. The road literally became a half meter deep fast flowing river that we had to ride along for a few hundred meters. This resulted in me being completely soaked through right at the start of this five hour ride into the unknown. Next came a landslide which we must have just missed but luckily were able to squeeze through. The road climbed above 3200 meters into the clouds and the temperature dropped to below 9 degrees. The rain continued to pour and turned the dirt road to complete mud in sections. I was loving it.

We were now in southern Colombia and on a road very few (if any) travelers take. While riding hard and enjoying every minute I had unbeknown to myself taken off way ahead of the others. As I slid round a bend in the thick dense jungle a guy in combats carrying a machine gun was standing by the road side, he looked real surprised and not too happy to see me. About 200meters down the road another guy appeared from the jungle also carrying a machine gun and wearing combats. The only difference was this guy was smiling and wearing a Metallica hat. He gave me a big wave and I gave him the devils horns salute as I passed. I didn’t think these guys belonged to the regular Colombian army and I certainly wasn’t hanging around to find out.

Just after a particularly muddy section about 4km further on I stopped the bike and set up my camera. I was hoping to get a nice shot of one of the other guys sliding through the mud preferably on his ass. I was waiting for about fifteen minutes before Mark appeared. Unfortunately the photo opportunity never arose because Mark is a very good and experienced rider having ridden here from Australia, firstly through Asia, the Middle East, Europe and North and Central America. We waited for the others for a half hour or so but there was no sign of them. I decided I should head back and see what was going on before it got any darker. We still had over an hour’s riding through this wet soaking jungle and it was only about two hours from complete darkness.

I headed back through the deep muddy section luckily once again staying upright. I rounded corner after corner expecting to see the guys at the exit of each turn but they were nowhere in sight. I was beginning to wonder if the armed guys may have kidnapped them as I went further and further. Finally, after about a half hours ride and 10km, I rounded a corner to see them fixing a puncture on Andre’s front wheel. They were on the second attempt with tube number two because they pinched the first tube when putting the tire on rendering it useless. This reminded of what happened three days earlier when the same exact thing happened to Andre’s rear wheel.  Live and learn (what?). I joined in with the repairs in the pouring rain and twenty minutes later we were back on the road. Andre later told us he reckoned there were people in the jungle watching them the whole time they were fixing the puncture, I just wished they had come out and helped.

It was now getting dark and I was even more soaked and frozen. Every time I stood up on the bike the water that had been heating up in my crotch would run down my leg and quickly be replaced by freezing cold water. It was real hard to stay still on these dirt roads; there was certainly no chance of warming up whatsoever. This continued until we came to the little town of San Agustin and I was finally able to remove everything and have a hot shower. We settled in for dinner and a few beers in a guest house on the side of a mountain. Another great day in the saddle…

The next day was spent relaxing and exploring the excavated statues of San Agustin. Some of these statues date back to 3000BC. They (whoever they are) have no idea who put them there, they reckon they were some sort of burial sites, good guess I’d say …We spent three nights in the mountains in this little town relaxing, a well deserved break too I might add…

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Posted in Colombia | 3 Comments