13th Dec Sat
We are going to be leaving Chile today after about 3 weeks travelling. We will not be sorry to say good bye to plastic processed cheese for breakfast and melted in sandwiches, and the very thin loo paper which has to be chucked after use into a bin beside the loo. We have found the people to be very friendly and helpful, have made great use of free wifi in almost every hotel of any kind, and better signs in towns than Argentina. We travelled about 3800kms(2375m) in Chile ,the equivalent of going from John O Groats to somwhere in the Sahara!….The final road to the border is very scenic, going up and up to 4660m to pass into Bolivia with 3 volcanoes covered in snow, lording it over us, one active! Pale green marshy altiplano valleys play host to flamingoes, llamas and alpacas. Indigenous indians, living in tiny mud brick built houses with grass roofs, are herding their flocks. The women in their huge wide colourful skirts and top hats often carrying a child on their backs wrapped in a colourful blanket.The border is busy with trucks but we finally get through, change money with a colourful lady and get on our way again. There is no where to stay between here and La Paz, 300kms away. We remain on the altiplano at about 3800m. Its fairly barren but fertile in the wetter valleys. The grass is pale and very tussocky. Not much traffic and its good going. Clive is not on top form…his bike’s new front tyre does have a slight leak and his hydraulic clutch seems to be playing up. Is that the altitude? We also got stopped in a police check and had to pay a bribe to get going again. He does not fancy La Paz either.The Bolivian driving is going to be more interesting..plenty of overtaking happening on double lines, more people on the road verges, dogs and some very slow old vehicles.We did quite well getting settled in La Paz in the end. We kept asking for a certain district which took us in the right direction. Lack of street names and signs makes things difficult. However found hotel that Steve and Deborah had stayed in and though that was full are staying in one next door.At first glance it would seem that there are many poor on the streets. It would also seem that most houses are only half built before being lived in…concrete frame in-filled with red bricks and you have your walls. Flat roof and there you are.
14th Dec Sun
We both slept badly…too hot under 3 thick heavy blankets, plenty of street noise and maybe the height was to blame. In the morning there was no hot water so we were happy to leave this hotel. Only highlight was an excellent ‘charque kan’ (kind of empanada)from a streetseller doing a roaring trade near the hotel. Weather warm as we negotiate our way very successfully(Clive with map) further down town to check out the BMW place. Having got that lined up for Monday and got his front tyre seen to we find a much better hotel in a better spot. I think we are just ‘absorbing’ La Paz as opposed to sightseeing! The height makes some exertions hard work . Clive and I are huffing and puffing a bit, Clive in particular! Warm weather gives way to a tropical shower in the late afternoon.One real change from Chile is the number of soldier like police around. They seem to be on every street corner, even in the petrol station. There are security people everywhere too, around the hotel, shops etc.15th Dec MonUp early so Clive can get his bike seen to. However as we get ready in the street this smart guybin a suit walks across ‘to help us’ speaks good english and is obviously an affluent Bolivian in his slightly old Mercedes sports car. Tell him we are off to Elite Motors. ‘Oh no, I know somewhere better’. Off we go, him leading. Not so far… He then says goodbye. Very kind, and not after anything. Clive’s clutch is behaving better anyway so all that is needed is a further bleed of the brakes. No great improvement is noted because to do a proper job means tank off again ( according to to this guy).Off we go to Coroico by about 10.30am. Its about 100kms on an interesting road. Until they made a tarmac road it was called the ‘road of death’. The original ‘road of death’ is still in use, mainly by mountain bike riders. IF it was not rainy we would do it ,but it is raining and very foggy. As it is our road has its moments with dirt bits due to rock falls. Weather clears as we drop in altitude. After La Paz we went up through a high pass and then down at least 3000m.We somehow miss the correct road after dropping to the valley bottom and end up climbing up to this small town on a single track old cobble road. It was deteriorating in parts and had lots of hair pin bends. Up and up we went, with vegetation spilling on to the track. Find Hotel Esmeralda clinging to the hillside. Fantastic views over green mountain sides..the Youngas.We have gone from high barren altiplano at 4000+m to tropical jungle at 1800m. Pretty birds, warmth, humidity and flowers etc. Town is not that great but full of locals sitting on the pavements trying to sell their wares. Several europeans in our hotel…it is a centre for treking. They trek down the country route we came up! Tomorrow we will leave by the correct route..we are not doing ‘road of death’ back up…too wet. Done our off road for the day.
16th Dec Tues
Good breakfast, much better than Chile. I don’t think we saw an egg in Chile. Off we go to Copacabana on Lake Titicaca. Its a 300km ride. We have an amazing motorbiking day. We go from tropical 22c, sunny/cloudy but dry 1800m Coroico, down a winding cobble ( twice the width of the ‘wrong’ road) road ,dropping 800m and getting hotter. We have waterproof trousers on plus quite warm tops in preparation for the next bit. Tarmac now, but broken in places due to rock falls. We get wonderful views until we enter cloud/fog and rain. Up and up, bend after bend , one hour plus uphill only, until we break through the rain /cloud and reach the top at 4670m (15,177ft)and 5c. By now in all waterproofs! Down to La Paz , 3800m,where we manage to pick up a road taking us round the rim and eventually on to the right road to Lake Titicaca. Road signage is bad. We manage a stop in a café where I sample the one and only dish of stew and Clive has a coke because he is not feeling too great. Whilst there we watch the local bus start up by being pushed by 3 large ladies in their big skirts and bowler hats, and one man. It slowly lurches off! Soon we reach a place where we have to catch a little ferry. Its entirely wooden and takes one small lorry and us…on planks with gaps. The whole boat flexes in the swell…why doesn’t it leak?? Or sink??We hang on to our bikes on this very open deck. We make it..it costs £1 each. 35kms still to do but it involves another climb and we go from 3800m to 4200m(13,650ft ) and down again before reaching destination. On the way it hails on us. Before entering town the police need ‘paying’! Copacabana is small and full of young tourists but we find the Hostal Leyenda. Final biking skill is to ride down 3 steps into a small courtyard. We shall worry about how to get out in the morning!Clive feeling weak and takes to bed while I look at the main street and the lake which our hotel is very close to.So we went from 1800m to 1000m, to 4670m to 3500m to 4200m and back to 3800m. From tropical and 22c to barren altiplano and 5c.We are acclimatising. Even so you feel you need to take deep breaths at 4600m ! That’s only sitting on the bike!
17th Dec Wed
Clive is feeling better and after breakfast takes on the job of riding both bikes up the three steps of the hotel successfully. I have problems on such occasions of my feet not reaching the ground at all! No excuse…I took the photo!Bolivia/Peru border was very quiet and it was pretty straight forward. Onwards into Peru…a country I have dreamed of visiting since studying it for A level geography a very long time ago. Goodbye to all those police on every bolivian corner. Friendly people whilst very poor. We are following Lake Titicaca round to Puna. Plenty of villages by the lake, either fishing or farming. Everyone is pursuing a subsistence living. No shops or industry in any of these villages,just houses dotted everywhere amid their little fields. Sometimes divided by stone walls depending on the nature of the countryside. Mudbrick houses with tin roofs. Plenty of animals by the verge but mostly tied with a rope. Pigs, sheep, llama, alpaca,donkeys and cows. And dogs! People at work everywhere,..ladies in their big skirts and hats working on the land sowing ,weeding (would have thought the skirt would have got in the way as they bend over). Men with wooden ploughs and cows pulling. Donkeys as beasts of burden too. We did see half a dozen tractors so times are changing…. All busy growing a vast array of vegetables and more.Stop in a town with shops and a café. Busy place and pretty…ladies very colourful and buildings now more interesting. Arrive in Puno by lunchtime. We have gained an hour again which is good as it gives us time to take a boat ride to the floating islands. We are surprised to see Tuk tuks ( as in asia) scootor powered and cycle powered. Ferry to the islands was in an old wooden boat that reminds me of the old ferry in Overy run by Tiddler. The good old engine needs coaxing along and cuts out at one point! The floating islands are worth a visit. A different life out there on your reeds in the lake. About 2000 Uros people live there. Puno is a good town; nice interesting streets with character, hustling and bustling. Storms threaten and it rains as we go to bed ( as it did last night).
18th Dec Thurs
Still raining as we pack the bikes. They were under a roof which was useful. My back brake better after I adjusted it again. Clive’s tyre still has mini leak where the tyre lever damaged it. We stay with Lake Titicaca till Juliaca, a very busy but also dirty town. Filthy industy on outskirts and then, because it was raining, all looked dirty. Dirty water on the streets, muddy side streets, muddy ‘pavements’. Masses of Tuktuks, bicycle taxis, minivans, trucks and us.The weather clears up and we make good progress following a river that feeds Lake Titicaca . Pale green tussocky grass verging on brown covers the big hills on either side, and flat valley that we are in. Snow capped mts are glimpsed now and then.Herding is the main occupation…sheep, cows and a few llama. Mud brick houses are still being built with their tin roofs. The ladies in their full skirts, their hats and their wool footless socks are quite a sight. Their long wool socks have no feet but just a loop that goes under the foot. They seem in a perpetual state of falling down.We reach 4400m and the watershed for lake Titicaca . Now down to Cusco. This valley is much more fertile. Intensive vegetable production is taking place on mini fields with hand/animal labour. We stop and have a bowl of soup in a café. It is really good vegetable soup with all sorts of unknown vegetables in it. Best dish I have had so far.We think of stopping short of Cusco but place no good so on to Cusco which is not as bad to enter as we thought. In fact it is very attractive, having a real spanish feel with lovely big buildings around a central plaza. We find a good spot in the Casa Grande and bikes are brought into a court yard. Have a drink in the Norton Rat pub which serves Greene King beer and Abbot Ale.! Run by an american.We start planning the Machu Picchu trip. Whatever way, it is going to cost a silly amount of money. It is the monopoly on the train that does it. However, they even charge $60 to those who decide to walk it (4 days)!.
19th Dec Fri
We decided yesterday to get to Ollantaytambo on our bikes and then take the train for Machu Picchu from there the next morning. So we book an eticket on the internet not realising that we have to go to a station in Cusco to exchange it for a real ticket. We did this by taxi this morning. Constantly plagued by sellers and ticket touts we take some photos of the Plaza des Armes and its magnificent buildings and slowly get ready to move off to Ollantaytambo .Its about a 2 hour ride up . Ollantaytambo has its own Inca ruins up on the steep hills behind the village; for that is all it is. Very pretty with original cobbled streets, water channels and very old houses round a plaza. Very touristy and infested with tourist buses which I feel should be banned from entering the village. They are too big for the narrow cobbled streets. Been lucky with weather and hope we are tomorrow. The idea is to catch an early train from here (halfway) and beat the trains/tourists from Cusco by a couple of hours. We have also begun the Inca tourist bit by seeing this place!!
20th Dec Sat
Machu Picchu day! Up early to have breakfast (very basic) before catching the Vistadome train to Aguas Caliente. It crept along beside the river Urubamba through great gorges constantly tooting. We travel downhill which seems strange as my idea of Machu Picchu is of being very high up. The river is muddy coloured and rushing down hill to the Amazon! We are on the east side of the Andes!The tropical vegetation comes right up to the train. It runs on time and takes 1 12 hrs from Ollantaytamba. The only hang up to the day is that it is not just low morning cloud…its raining!Aguas Caliente is nestled tight amongst high mountains. It has no connecting road with Ollantaytamba or anywhere else, just the train. This however is where you then catch a bus to travel 8kms up to Machu Picchu , a climb of about 500m.It is raining, but with our motorcycle raingear on and my umbrella to help keep cameras dry, we are fine.Machu Picchu is about 3400m high. It does seem a lovely spot to live though some of the terraces are literally hanging to the side of some very sheer drops. It is more compact than the classic photo of it leads you to believe. Not too many tourists since this is low season. It is impressive. After 3 hours of exploring the siteI decide to walk down the very steep mountainside on a special stepped path back to Aguas Caliente, whilst Clive returns on the bus.The bus route is a series of hairpin bends down the mountain side. I get very hot !At Machu Picchu there is one hotel. It is very expensive , $800 per person per day! The railway from Cusco to Machu Picchu is privately run and the same company owns the hotel. That company is Sea Containers who also own the Orient Express, whose finance director was a friend of Clives We catch the train back. The weather has cleared and we spot high mts covered in snow.
21st Dec Sun
It is funny to think of everyone back home getting ready for Christmas etc. This hotel has no decorations up though there are some about town.Hard to spot…more than in Africa,where there was virtually nothing.The sun is shining! Got the wrong day for Machu Picchu perhaps. It didn’t spoil it as far as seeing. We could have had some better photos I guess with more scenery in the background.It is cold if the sun does not shine. Last night, though dark, all the restaurants had their doors open. It was like eating in a barn. Perhaps they think its warm. Breakfast here is eaten in a room with 2 doors wide open. We have all our biking clothes on to stay warm. Its hardly cosy!We ride our bikes up the 2 steps from the dining room through which they had gone to reach a patio out the back where they have been parked the last 2 days. Off to Abancay and beyond in the direction of the coast. Do a wee bit of good dirt road to cut a corner but then take a wrong road (no signs and misdirected!) and do some more. It takes us on a bit of a loop but its interesting!The country people are very poor. The older people are subsisting on their little holdings. Their children are no longer traditionally dressed but probably are helping out. Few bicycles, some small motorcycles and some cars. Local taxis in the form of tuktuks in the towns and minibuses between villages ferry the poorer around. Donkeys , of which there are plenty by the road, seem to only carry loads, not pull carts. Every village has piles of homemade bricks made from the local clay. Houses are still being made and repaired with them.The area all around Cuzco is very fertile and all sorts of crops are grown in tiny fields. Later, after the first pass of the day (3900m) it becomes drier looking and more barren. Always there are wandering animals…later in the day we cope with wandering goats and pigs as well as cows, horses and dogs.The scenery is spectacular today. The road is very twisty but good. We go over two passes of 3900m and in between down to 1800m. After Abancay the road sweeps up a river valley with many gorges. We end up in Chalhuanca where, luckily, there is an hotel.A chance meeting with 3 bikers as we ate in the restaurant next door was very informative. Firstly there are road works ahead which means part of the road will be shut for several hours; and secondly we have 2 more passes of over 4000m to do tomorrow! We told them about Machu Picchu ! They also told us it had snowed on them on one of the passes. We look forward to tomorrow!On the bike front my radiator pipe clamp has moved again and Clive’s back mud guard has nearly fallen off (and eventually will).
22nd Dec Mon
Up for a timely start. Rained in night. Breakfast was papaya juice (great) and tea and coffee. We never got any bread…could have been language mixup. Coffee is interesting here. They bring a cup of hot longlife milk and then you add coffee essence from a bottle. We tip some of the milk into my tea before Clive adds the essence. If you ask for tea with milk then its all milk!The roadworks ahead mean we want to reach Puquio by 12 noon. Its 185kms including a pass of 4500m.We reach the top..its cold 8c, its barren, not a tree in sight, rocky with tussocky grass and yet here is a village of tiny mud brick houses with little thin wooden doors,straw roofs and single windows. Many with no electricity , none with heating or bathrooms! Why do they want to live here? No wood for a fire, no comfort, just alpaca fleeces! No soil to grow veg in, just tussocky grass for their llamas and alpacas. The children look weather beaten . Everyone is very short. Why live here?The snow from last night is still lying. This pass is no up and down job; we ride for ages at this height getting colder until we stop and put more clothes on. Finally its down to Puquio at 3200m. Very poor and a dump of a place, all dirt roads.Our road works never materialise! Possibly doing work on Sundays only? Road is in a bad way, masses of potholes and bumpy. Up we go again, all the way to 4500m but this time its soon on the way down. This time we are going all the way to 590m at Nasca. Down and down, twist and turn and bump, bump. Dry arid country gets drier and hotter as we descend. Take off some clothes! Amazing the difference height makes. Now we are in Nasca famous for the Nasca lines. We are dirty ( last 3 hotels had hopeless hot water supplies) tired of hairpin bends and hot, so choose a better hotel than usual, it has a pool so Clive goes for a swim to cool down.! The road from Cuzco to Nasca is 560kms (350 miles). It is an absolutely brilliant motorbiking road,like riding through north Wales but on a far grander scale. Bends,good surface mostly, gorges and passes (4 up to 13,000 feet and down to 4,000),verdant valleys, dry barren desert, high barren plain and very little traffic .
23rd Dec Tues
For a while the road was fine and interesting , crossing barren hills and then plunging into green valleys. We vaguely saw some of the Nasca lines . After Ica the traffic got heavier and the roadside busier. Not so nice. Eventually the busy road nears the coast and we can see the Pacific again. The desert comes right up to the sea. Small coastal strip and then barren rocky hills covered by sand; sand dunes as well. Strange but messy with human activities. Shacks and abandoned shacks, battery houses (poor hens) and other strange businesses trying to survive in the sand. Whilst I question why people want to live at 4400m, I also wonder why they want to live here in this dirty looking desert. Gone are ladies in their big skirts; now its more modern. We are nearing Lima! Its dirty, messy, struggling roadside life. Big trucks, large modern buses, fast large pickups, crazy fast drivers and little tuktuks .We are trying not to stay in Lima so stop about 140kms south of it in a good surfing place called Cerro Azul. Called a beach resort but you could say under developed. Some young surfing and doing well on good waves giving them a long ride; all watched by a pelican from his rock. We have an hotel on the beach. It will not be full for Christmas but will be for New Year says the owner. Its still being repaired so they are cutting it fine!
24th Dec Wed (Christmas Eve)
Make our way to Lima. Road improves and becomes duel carriageway which makes things easier. More old volkeswagon beetles on the road. We have seen really quite a few. Peru must have bought up all the worlds old beetles.All goes well getting around/through Lima except for one thing. In the traffic I notice that my bike is not freewheeling easily; a brake must be sticking. It gets worse and then in stop/start traffic in a concrete underpass with nowhere to stop,it gets really bad. The brake is on so hard that the bike engine really struggles to move the bike. Just manage to get out and to the side to stop. The back brake pedal needed adjusting! Now realise that height (metres above sea level) has a quite big effect on the brake fluid pressure. I had adjusted the back brake pedal play in Bolivia…up high. What we do not understand is why does it take 30 hrs or so to alter ( we hit sea level 2 days ago). Both of us have noticed that the front brake lever play is less and that the brakes are working better. Also height affected Clive’s hydraulics….again gradually. The engines have both run well, coping with the height and bad petrol (85 octane). Today we found 98 octane and we had better performance!On then ,to Barranca, the only spot on the coast north of Lima and within today’s reach . It looks awful, no beach, just rubbish, very busy main street. But we find a fine Hotel Chavin.
It is not that hot, mid 20’s, very misty. In these cloudy conditions the desert looks horrible and dirty. It has not been a pretty ride; dirty desert, dirty squalid housing, poultry farming in dirty looking low long sheds, belching trucks etc!
We go out in the evening to celebrate Christmas Eve. It is very low key. There are decorations but no special meal or food as far as we know. Whilst eating we see several cooked turkeys being taken through the restaurant and given to customers. The restaurant has cooked turkeys and other large joints for those people who do not have an oven big enough. Each turkey is in a pan and is then covered by a plastic bag and the happy family carry it out and home. We had some langoustines tortillas! Town busy shopping and shopping till they drop.
HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ONE AND ALL XX
25th Dec Thurs (Christmas Day)
Decided to move on. This is not quite the kind of spot to have a few days in. Made some Christmas phone calls and left about 11am to do a 4 hour ride to Huaras in the mountains . Huaras is at 3100m but guess what…up we go to 4100m from sea level in 75 miles. At the top in a little village we stop at a café. Its 8c, door is open , no heating, and there is the family having Christmas lunch of chicken with all their outside clothing on. They are tough! Pretty high altiplano;local cheese from cows or sheep which are herded on the plain. Very unspoilt. The road wends its way downhill. Its tarmac, just, with large potholes in parts.
Huaras is not quite the lively place we thought it might be. Our hotel has 83 rooms and only 3 taken tonight. Winter time is more high season than now. A mountain guide starts chatting to us…he takes people treking on the high cordillera. The highest mountain in the tropics in the world is here above us. The film ‘Touching the Void’ was based on a true happening that happened near here. Our christmas meal was a chinese one. Our drink was some Peruvian liqueur bought yesterday. Peruvians have their main Christmas meal on Christmas Eve and it is traditionally turkey followed by Panetoni cake with chocolate sauce. We are going to take a tricky road tomorrow and head back to the coast.
26th Dec Fri
Its a lovely sunny day and we can see Mt Busscaran (6760m), the highest mt in the tropics in the world, and all the rest of the snow capped Cordillera Blanca.
We set off gently down this pretty valley of the River Santa. (rather apt for Christmas!). No boxing day drinks for us; instead we have an arduous time ahead. But for now we admire the ladies in their hats and plaits and brightly coloured (red/pink) wide but short (to the knee) skirts and woollen leggings. The fertile valley growing sugarcane, veg, fruit and all sorts. People are busy.
We reach the dirt road bit. We have been told its rough, that its narrow, that it goes through a gorge, that it has swampy parts but importantly that it follows the river…that is downhill for us. Thus we do not expect a pass!
We have dropped down to about 2000m so we also hope things are not too steep. It begins with the Canon del Pato. Single track rocky road, about 10 foot wide, lots of tunnels (35 or so at this point) and sheer drops to the river way down below. This is where the Cordillera Negro and Cordillera Blanca nearly touch. Don’t look down and all is well, make a mistake and you have one yard before you are over the edge.After about 20 miles we got light relief in the form of some highly colourful characters with masks and musicians. We stop , take photos, Clive is coerced by the single large lady to join in and duly obliges still with helmet etc on.We take photos in return for a bit of money and on we go. Next excitement is meeting a big bus. Not sure it will go up the gorge…we don’t think the tunnels are big enough. However it stops for Clive and then waits for me. In front of it is an enormous puddle. In I go with plenty of throttle and soak myself. Must have looked good from the bus. Vision clears and there are some more red mud puddles still to get through. Slow down with thoughts of being not only wet, but covered in red mud. Make it past the bus.
Then there see a small dwelling with outside it a mass of donkeys all over the road/track. Wend our way through. What are they doing here amongst these barren rocky mts? Further along we notice opencast coal mines. There seem to be many black seams in the rock.
We are going downhill all the time. We go pretty slowly, second gear, dodging around rocks and stones. Next hassle for me is a lorry that did not stop. Clive has already passed him so we sit there facing each other. I am not going to budge out of my track into some very rough looking rocks near a drop of 200 feet to the raging river below. I get off the bike and walk to him, show I am a pathetic female and tell him in my best english that he will have to go back! He slowly reverses and I pass when I like the look of the ground!
By the time we have covered about 40 miles out of the 50 or so, we met several motorbikes. There were 5 of them,all rather spread out. We talk about the road. The last 2 look fed up already but hopefully they make it….especially after seeing a female! There were some more bits of water, more road that looked like a river bed, another gorge and then we got to tarmac again. It was only 50 miles or so but took us about 4 hours.
We then sped down the rest of the valley, still with the river. Fertile with plenty of rice growing, cotton, maize, sugar cane and various other crops.Reach Santa, a smallish place but it has an hotel, 2 star for £6 the night. We eat in one of the many little restaurants. They all serve the same food! Chicken,chips and salad. Difficult to get a beer but we got one. No wine, no pisco sour. Meal cost £5 for two. It is our cheapest night! Now hot again, windows open, constantly barking dogs and tooting horns,crows crowing, and turkeys gobbling.
28th Dec Sat
Dawn chorus of sparrows, turkeys,dogs, cockerels , cars and people ensured we woke early. We actually managed to stay in bed by watching the musical ‘Cats’ thanks to cable tv! Nevertheless off early to Trujillo and then on to Huanchaco just north of Trujillo. Saw centre of Trujillo where we got our boots polished watched by the police! u
Found good hotel in Huanchaco and will stay here 2 nights.
28th Dec Sun
Cleaned bikes, washed clothes, tried body boards in the surf (sea quite cold), generally relaxed. Not that warm really because very hazy plus breeze from sea. Late morning walk by me, saw locals in the sea, mostly in their clothes, arms down in the shallows, gathering a fine kind of seaweed. This was put in big bags.
29th Dec Mon
Off we go again….heading ever northwards. Reach Chicklayo near the coast. It has many museums nearby . We try to visit the ‘Museo of the Royal tombs of Sipan . But very unfortnately it is shut on Mondays. I would have liked to have seen the history of the tomb. The mummified body is decorated with gold. The Mocha people used to bury their royalty like the egyptians ,in pyramids. Trouble is that they built the pyramids of mud bricks (adobe) and they do not weather so well! But we see an old ‘pyramid’ at Tucoma, a little further on. This is a Sican site, not Moche. (but they both used adobe pyramids).Over a large site they have 26 pyramids . However, imagination does have to play its part, as these pyramids have been very weathered.We take a road that skirts the Sechura Desert rather than straight across. Clive would have prefered the straight across route. We could each have taken our separate routes and met at Piura . The road is flanked by very dry looking trees and vegetation . It is hot…rises to 34c. But the road sweeps along and as long as we keep moving we are fine. Many animals are wandering free on the verges, donkeys, horses, goats and sheep. Donkeys are being used here to pull water bowsers. To our right we have mountains where we see tropical storms in the sky, to our left is dry scrub where the odd scrub fire is burning. We speed on in between with minimal traffic but several villages.Piura has a nice central plaza . We should have settled for the hotel there but instead find one a few streets away. The lady receptionist is the only unfriendly person we have come across in Peru. We should have given up on her but it was hot and we had parked and half unloaded the bikes.We leave Peru tomorrow. I have enjoyed the colourful ladies with their hats etc,we have enjoyed eating fresh fish, vegetable soups and nibbling fried salted sweetcorn’ kernels’; the amazing high passes and the barren rocky desert. Clive enjoyed the sheer motorcycling…so did I.!We didn’t like the lack of hot water which was often promised but also often disappointed .
South America. Ecuador, Colombia,Venezuela
2008-12-30 to 2009-02-03
30th Dec Tues
Sunny day. Work our way slowly out of town. Usual lack of signs meant lots of asking. We hate to see all the rubbish on the way out just as there had been on the way in. As we have gone further north in Peru , the rubbish beside the road has got worse. Piura is pretty bad. Rubbish is dumped by any road and then blows in the wind all over the countryside. Plastic bags hang from scrub in the desert. Its a problem just as bad as seeing the rubbish from Barranca being pushed into the sea.
The rice and sugarcane growing give way to very dry small trees and bushes. It looks like a drought but maybe this is how it looks before the rains. Nice road, not too much traffic and vegetation becomes more tropical as we climb up into the hills on the border with Ecuador at ? Border not at all busy and we do the usual form filling for ourselves and bikes. In to Ecuador and the town of ? To change money. There on a central square were 4 or 5 scruffy men with briefcases! We had too much Peru money so had to change it. USA dollars for Ecuador .
Try and do 190kms but fall short. Couple or so of reasons . One, the road is twisty. We are back in the Andes again…not so high but still mountains! Green clad, pretty, some wandering animals .We climb a pass of about 2000m and end up in fog and 12c. We are nearly on the equator and in the tropics and have wet fog and cold! However back down and its soon warm again. Clive then loses a bottle of water off his bike. I notice and go back. As I u turn I blow it and go off the edge of the road down a soily/gravel embankment. Bike goes over downwards and I hop off unscathed. Poor bike looked okay. Problem was Clive was up the road waiting. Standing by the road I was soon surrounded by helpers…someone must have seen. Lots of men and soon the bike was back up the bank. I seriously tried to take a photo but my camera would not work..it has been tempermental since the dust storm in Argentina…the lens would not focus. Just as I was putting panniers back on Clive turned up. The only damage is a break in the pannier frame; hope to get that welded tomorrow am.
Consequently we stopped in Catamayo.; not a very distinquished town and first feel is not so different to Peru; but no Tuktuks. I like tuktuks and fancy one in Norfolk!
31st Dec Wed
Up before 8am to find ‘soldaro’ to weld the pannier frame. Not far, just round the corner, we find a place. Tiny ‘shop’ and young man ready to do it. Half an hour later all done and we are having breakfast.
Heading for Cuenco…the road is twisty, runs in the mountains and has some surface problems.! We go up, and we go down, and up and down and more. We avoid or not avoid potholes, we go up and down the concrete surface avoiding the reinforcing rods sticking out. We cope with speeding drivers and manage average 25 mph ourselves! Its quite hard work but better than dirt! Stunning views as we reach the heights…today about 3000m! Old ladies dressed in hats, some with plaits, some with ponytails, generally in black skirts and long. Other ladies in shorter more colourful skirts. Many have dirty skirts. Grass clad hillsides with some cattle grazing but nowhere as utilised as they would have been in Peru.
Horses are a means of transport, saddled up, and used by men and women; but many own cars and mopeds. American influence very evident for the first time….Chevrolet pick ups instead of Toyota and petrol pumps in gallons. National currency is usa dollars.
New years Eve and we notice more and more scarecrow like figures…in gardens, on truck grilles, on pick up roofs etc. We had started noticing a few figures in northern Peru. Well dressed up and with masks. As we progress through the day we are ‘held up’ by more and more masked young people. They are raising money (for what?). As we enter Cuenco there are more and more. Its all fun apparently, non religious. Later effigies are burnt, quite early in the evening.
We have a meal in a restaurant right next to the cathedral in the main square in an old building. It has a nice atmosphere. As midnight approaches there are more and more fireworks going off but no big gathering of people.
We are hoping to have a couple of days off on the coast. I like Cuenco but everything is going to be shut on New Years day so not much point in being here.
HAPPY NEW YEAR
1st Jan ThursI
f you wonder how we remain a tiny bit fit ,it is because we cart nearly all our belongings off our bikes every night and back every morning. I have a very heavy bag on the seat. It contains guides , maps, spare chain, spare sprocket and other heavy things. For security ,it has to come in. Inevitably we get given hotel rooms on the top floor…! Last night the hotel had a lift BUT the bikes had to go to a car park one street away. What with the one way system it was easier to carry everything to the bikes this morning. We are fit you see!!
Having done that, off we go again. Cuenca was waking up this holiday morning. We think there were going to be processions. We saw a band preparing. Pickups full of people are piling into town. Pickups are popular as people carriers, as are little old wooden trucks. More exciting road surface and more up and down. Lots of older ladies in their brightest and prettiest skirts, shirts , hats and shawls. Grannies in luminous pink,bright purple ,bright red etc. I couldn’t take photos from the bike as it was drizzling and if we asked them, they refused. Then my camera battery ran out!
We went and wandered round Ingapirca, Ecuador’s best inca ruin. Not that great…but lots of locals having a day out at the ruins. Everyone in their best clothes. Leaving there we went through several villages in the mts that were doing something communial for the holiday. Large barbecues, get togethers and even a kind of rodeo thing. All these amazing older ladies!
Finally we head down out of the mts towards Guayaquil. We are an amazing 3500m up still. Down we go. First it is dense fog (very difficult riding as could only see a short way and road surface not to be trusted) and cold, 8c, then at about 2000m , the fog clears and things warm up. Getting more tropical by the minute. But the road surface which has been predominantly tarmac with dirt bits becomes dirt with tarmac bits! All very interesting. Rock slides haven’t helped the poor road builders.
It was slow going but we get down. Then rainstorms threaten as we make better progress. We don’t want to go into enormous Guayaquil. But do not manage to go smoothly round it either! An absence of road signs means asking and asking and asking. If they don’t know they still wave an arm in some direction!
We end up late looking for an hotel. Find one in Daule. Seemed shut but a local helps get it alive. Clive sees in the register that it has had no guests for 3 weeks! Looking for a restaurant later we have to settle for a soup kitchen on the pavement. Its fine and friendly with rather tipsy clients after a day’s holiday. We, however, cannot find even a beer at this late 8.15pm hour. A large plate of food and 4 Coca Colas cost $3. We walk back through dirty streets. Its sort of asian in feel , sort of india without the wandering animals in the street.
2nd Jan Fri
Day begins with me noticing a nail sticking out of my back tyre! We leave it in (its on the side) and go straight to a tyre place. Pull it out there and some air comes out so off with the wheel. However the tube is okay..must have pierced the tyre but not the tube. Small amount of air between tube and tyre? Better safe than sorry I guess.
Its hot as we finally leave town. First of all its flat but then becomes hilly. Its very dry in the hills with plenty of evidence of fires. Obviously longing for the rains. Pretty Flame trees in full flower, a few Jacaranda and others. Some nice mature trees amongst the dry grass or scrub. Road surface gets worse again with potholes. Luckily traffic not too bad as we wend our way between the holes. Some are big enough to do damage!
Horses being ridden, horses eating the verges along with some donkeys. One bunch of cows wandered a towns streets and later some goats . Dogs, as ever, rush out to grab our feet (if they could).
Manta on the sea finally emerges from the hills. Its big and looks industrial to start with. Big fishing harbour with lots of fishing boats. We are searching for a certain hotel. Clive has swopped his timeshare for some days here. Trouble is we have arrived early and are not here on the right dates. But we are hoping they have some space. However we are to be disappointed, the place is full tonight (there is space tomorrow night ).
Having wanted to spoil ourselves by the beach we now find it very difficult to find somewhere else. Even the very best hotel in town is full. Finally opt for a bit of faded grandeur with musty room but on the beach as such. Watch Pelicans in the sea and what I think are long tailed Boobys flying by. The beach to the right looks like Blackpool on a busy day. Boats towing bananas are hard at work tipping their passengers off. We have a birds eye view of it all from our faded glory spot.
Later we console ourselves with a drink in the bar of the 5 star hotel down the road.
3rd Jan Sat
We do move on but only do 2 1/2 hours. I spent the morning researching things on a very slow internet, trying to dry my slightly cleaner motorcycle trousers in the humid cloudy conditions, and finally taking a walk on the beach to photograph the pelicans diving into the sea. The sea was lovely and warm…for the first time. In Huanchaco (last time by the sea) it was cold. I began to warm to this place..the beach was good and the hotel was in a good position.
However we have to get to Quito in time for Monday morning service at BMW. Our bikes are now in need. Mine has a rocker cover oil leak(been slowly getting worse),and a sump plug leak (washer?). It needs brake pads, new headlight bulb and its chain/sprockets replacing. Clive’s needs his throttle cable routing checked (we did not get it back properly when we took tank off) , back mudguard (rattled off) and his brakes checked.
We end up on a B road. Its tarmac ,bumpy and scenic. My camera is still playing up so do not get photos I want. Going to have to do something about it in Quito. Lovely bright red flame trees, wooden housing on stilts, interesting landscape etc.
We have had trouble getting tea in Ecuador. They do not go in for tea particularly . Coffee is brought black to the table. Milk is difficult to buy, even longlife. We buy water to drink in our little brew ups in our hotel rooms as we do not trust local tap water,even boiled.
Reach Chone on the road to Quito. Find a suitable hotel after a while. Step into air conditioned reception. If they only knew that I had sweat coursing down my back and that my trouserlining was stuck to my legs with perspiration. Once we stop we get very hot in the motorbike kit. But would never not wear it…..
Go out to eat and opt for a chinese meal instead of a chicken barbecued on the pavement. As usual we eat in sole splendour being the only clients. This has happened to us a fair amount, not only here but in Peru,if we opt for a ‘proper’ restaurant . Many of the pavement eating spots are very dirty! Too dirty!
4th Jan Sun
Here we are in Folklore Hostal in Quito. Its a typical hostal with broken tiles, dodgy electricity, unpredictable hot water etc. Computer works like a snail. Wifi great though. We walked to ‘New Town’ Quito and ate in a very trendy place called Q Club. Could have been London except that everyone has eaten early and the streets are deserted and the restaurant was emptying by 8.30pm. Very strange when we think back to Argentina where we were waiting for the restaurants to OPEN at 8.30pm!
Day began with a bit of a hiccup…the power was off. This meant we could not leave our garage…electric gate! We had got up especially early to be off by 8am so that we could climb up the mountain road to Quito before the afternoon fog. ‘One hour’ says the girl on reception. In fact we only waited about 15 mins.
Road was bit varied to start with but improved to good concrete. Quito man and family were heading back from the coast in their toyota landcruisers and the like. We all enjoyed the fast swooping road through low tropical hills. Wooden houses on stilts and more modern brick, but still on stilts/pillars. Many sellers of fruit/veg beside the road. These people cannot afford the cars we are following.We had a good breakfast finally. Asked for eggs and got them plus some strange looking blob…it was melted cheese and coconut…went well with the eggs. After that, it was a real motorcycling road….a busy pass up to just over 3000m. Slow trucks, nasty buses and fast and slow cars. But a road with plenty of bends that made it easier for motorcycles and not cars. ‘A road that we can do’ says Clive.
Quito lies in a valley like La Paz but seems much less frenetic and more spread out. It has a lovely spanish old town which we went through. We opted for an hotel further out ready for our trip to BMW service.
I have made no mention of ‘sleeping policeman’. They plague every town and village in South America. Some can be remarkably big. Every lorry and bus has to go very slowly over them so we use them for overtaking on ! Only slowly, but double the speed of the bus/truck. We are quicker than cars too! Today, when it was very busy,the ‘sleeping policeman’ caused quite a few hold ups. They are one of the reasons why large expensive pickups/landcruisers are popular…low cars have problems going over the ‘policemen’.
5th Jan Mon
We got bikes to the BMW place and left them till tomorrow! We had thought they could be done by this afternoon. So…off we went shopping etc. Clive tried to find a person to mend/explain why his phone has gone faulty. It ended up worse and now will not work at all. The spare phone I brought will not find a network, so Clive is not happy. I, in the meantime bought another camera as I was getting very frustrated at the unreliability of mine. Clive got a haircut whilst my hair gets longer! Saw more of Quito; its a pleasant place.
6th Dec Tues
Still hanging around for the bikes. Cannot work out how they can spend so long. Mine had a faulty bolt on the rocker cover causing the slight oil leak. How long does that take to replace!
We found ourselves in an ‘artisanal pasejego’ where they were selling the usual country stuff. Not pushy. The ladies here have straight longer skirts, same kind of hat, plaits and gold coloured multi stranded necklaces. The men have one long plait and hats. It suits them all with their long black straight hair so unlike mine! I saw one man, with hat and plait, knitting!
We then went back to hotel, collected our stuff and taxied to the BMW place. They now had had plenty of time to do the servicing. Hopeless ! My chain was done but otherwise the bike was in bits to expose the rocker cover where apparently one of the 4 bolts holding it was faulty. However it seems to have taken hours to replace this bolt.! The one mechanic was hopelessly toiling away. Clive’s bike was in the middle of an oil change but no more. We were wanting to leave Quito and this place had had our bikes for 2 days and got nowhere fast. With bikes still in bits , we started to help….all against the rules in europe! In this way we got the bikes back together and out about 1 hour after they normally stopped work. Otherwise we would still be there tomorrow afternoon! My bike did not get oil change nor new spark plugs etc. Clives bike did get oil change but not the renewing of brake fluid that was needed.There were a large amount of staff floating around the office area doing nothing whilst this one , albeit very concientious mechanic, working away with too much to do.
We had booked into a place 70kms away. A hacienda where Nick Sanders stayed on his last trip. Sounded interesting. We are on the equator. Some debate here as to exactly where it is. Modern GPS has moved it! This hacienda claims it is 240m away. We have arrived after dark so do not know quite what we have. Its old , 500 years, built of mud , one metre thick walls, and interesting. www.guachala.com . Our room is big with very high ceiling , 20ft?
7th Jan Wed
The owner of the hacienda was giving an historical talk in the diningroom when we went to eat last night. He reminded me of Robin Combe. The hacienda was built in 1580 and required 10,000 cubic metres of mud. It has survived several earthquakes very well. This morning we looked at some old photos as we walked around. One showed sheep shearing. Apparently the ladies caught the sheep ,with their babies strapped to their backs, and hauled them to the male shearers. No mean feat.So after a walk around we set off in pleasant weather for the Ecuadorian/Colombian border. We went through very scenic countryside. Some parts being farmed intensively with roses and other cut flowers for the North American market: just as Kenya was doing,at the same latitude in Africa, for the European market. There was also a lot of sugarcane being grown.
We reached the border in good time, at 2.30pm. We were still there at 7pm! Apparently it is the end of the Colombian hols. There were more people coming in to Ecuador than going out. But that said there were lots of people going both ways. To get out of Ecuador we had to:
1.show a piece of paper for the bike and after a stamp and entering details on the computer, that was that.
2.show our passports and a bit of paper for ourselves and get the passport stamped and details entered on the computer.
Both entry and exit peoples had to go through the same room.There seemed to be one queue (4 to 6 hours wait) only but after a while we discovered the ‘exit’ queue on the other side. This was shorter. People cheated of course in spite of a big black man controlling the door. It all went painfully slowly. We stood and queued for 2.5 hours there. Then off to the Colombian bit. There, there really was just one queue. More cheats here and the queue moved painfully slowly. We were still there when it got dark. People in the queue were very stoic and friendly.
There is only one road from Ecuador to Colombia so hence its nearly always busy. The whole system on both sides could have been run much more efficiently!Very tired and fed up we rode the short distance to Ipiales in the dark and torrential rain ( never ride in the dark in Colombia!)and stayed in an hotel recommended by someone in the queue .
8th Jan Thurs
They never told us on the border, but we had learnt from others ,that we had to wear a reflective vest with the registration number of the bike on the front and the back. Thus after breakfast we set off on foot to find some. Soon enlisted a taxi and after much driving around town with the nice taxi driver we eventually tracked down 2 suitable reflective ‘vests’. Then off to a little shop that very efficiently produced stick on lettering of our reg.numbers. I think the taxi driver rather enjoyed the chase around town…bit of a different start to his day. No doubt he made more than usual out of us too….though he did not try and rip us off horribly.
10.45am and we have 200 miles to Popayan to do before dark at 6.30pm. In the whole day we did not do more than 10 miles on a straight bit of road. I started to count the descents and ascents but lost count after 4 of each. It was another real motorbiking day. We coped with temp change from 13c to 34c, sun, cloud and downpours. Wearing our waterproofs in 30c plus is no joke but the threat of rain was there all day. Clive took his waterproof jacket off at one point ,to have to put it back on 5 mins later. Since the road twisted so much you could not work out whether ‘that’ black cloud was going to get you or not.
At one point there really were a lot of soldiers around. Sneakily hiding under trees etc and in checkpoints. In our smart reflective tops we were not stopped. We read that there is a lot of guerilla activity in that area…the soldiers were hopefully looking after us.!
The scenery is spectacular . Green mountains, deep valleys and gorges, lush tropical vegetation , grassy fields, trees etc. Not many wide flat valleys! The rain spoilt it a bit but we have been lucky. Even though this was the most rain since Chile it was not too intensly tropical. In the rain we came across the first accident we have gone past on the trip. Say no more….. The road traffic consisted of slow lorries (some modern, some very ancient) a few cars and lots of 125cc motorbikes. These local riders wear plastic ponchos in the rain which makes for lots of flapping!
It seems to me that there are lots of small motorbikes here whilst in Ecuador they had more old cars and fewer motorbikes. Clive thinks Ecuador is more prosperous…I think I disagree. So far (one day) this country seems to have better housing and more schools. Rubbish seems less, neater towns.
Saw butterflies for the first time on the trip . I had thought I was going to see many more. Tropical birds have been a disappointment too. Plenty of birds of prey and vultures though.We get to Popayan at 5.45pm after a long hard but good ride. This town has fine old centre and seemed very placid until we went to bed when music started throbbing from somewhere nearby! On the pavement I think. I am rather enjoying it but Clive is suffering…. But I soon stop enjoying it as it continues, very loudly till 3am, to be followed by people laughing, talking, and shouting ,in the street below our window!
9th Jan Fri
We discover that the music is a disco that happens 3 times a week! Definitely bad enough not to repeat book. Friendly hotel man gets told by Clive to put double glazing in! Quick walk round looking for an ATM machine ( 3rd attempt succeeds) and then off we go.
The first hour takes us down out of the mountains to Cali, city of beautiful women apparently and centre of sugarcane growing. The road becomes dual carriageway perhaps to cope with the very long …4/5 trailer road trains carrying sugarcane to the factories. They are a very long thing to overtake . The road is not always duel and the traffic becomes frustrated by the slow trucks. We make good time!
Every now and then there is a peage. There have been peages all the way up the panamerican even though it has usually been a normal main road,ie not motorway. In Chile we had to pay but apart from northern Ecuador we have not paid since. We go through a narrow way, primarily designed for mopeds. If we can ride through we are free! Sugarcane valley ran from Cali to the turn off for Pereira. It is a big wide valley but with a few hills in it. Very scenic. It gets even prettier after as we head for Anserma, a hill top town. We hope there is an hotel. There is, but we attract a bit of attention here and we are fearful for the bikes. They are in a garage, guarded, but we have removed all panniers and extras including straps. Garage man was keen we did so.
Clive’s birthday so we try and find special restaurant! Its very difficult! We buy a bottle of sparkling wine in the supermarket and bring it with us. The restaurants do not mind. Several times we have not been able to have wine in restaurants. Clive has best steak for some time so that’s good.Back at the hotel the stairs have a grill across them that is locked behind us. What happens in case of fire?
10th Jan Sat
We are in Yarumal, a most unlikely place to stop but ever since the delay on the border we have been out of step with the main towns. It is a very lively spot. Hotel is on the main square and just to our right is where its all happening. 6 bars within yards of each other are each pumping out a different song as loud as their speakers will go. If you stand in the middle its a nightmare. In the middle though is where the street vendors are selling hot food! Young and old are milling around, motorbikes are zooming backwards and forwards (two up,no crash helmets, no reflective vests) and dogs are picking up the scraps. We manage to sit on a bar balcony listening to one sound system (far to loud) and surveying the scene below. We had bought our food from one of the vendors. No wine to be had, though beer / spirits are. All this outdoor activity in 15c and 2800m high. Absolutely buzzing, the Colombians appear to party nightly.!!
We began the day a bit lower, 1700m and a bit warmer! We first checked the bikes were there and okay. They were. An early start as Clive couldn’t sleep! It begins with intense bends on a road very prone to landslides! Spy one lorry down a ravine…didn’t quite make it. Not too bad traffic until we get closer to Medellin; then its plenty of slow trucks and mopeds/bikes. Traffic coming towards us mostly…. Weekenders heading for the hills. Beautiful green scenery, especially in a valley beside a river, which was rushing its way down. Truckers were using the water to wash their huge smart trucks.
Get through Medellin and then take wrong road for a bit. Signs are a bit erratic…sometimes good and sometimes non existent. It rains a bit, we climb yet again to over 2000m (2800m this time and 2500m earlier on). Traffic is fairly heavy. Very slow trucks, some cars and loads of small motorbikes. Crash helmets seem to be the law, along with the vest. Many are two up and loaded as though on a journey. Colombia has the most motorbikes of any country so far. Unfortunately there seem to be many accidents..we saw 2 involving bikes today.The very large trucks going very slowly,cars and mopeds on a twisting pass is not a very good receipe. We take care especially in the rain. As we near Yarumal we see more and more soldiers on duty by the road. We wanted to get to the next town and out of the mountains but we ran out of time before dark. This was our penultimate day in the Andes, we think.
The bikes are in an underground garage tonight. We have left some panniers on. The hotel seems more relaxed about security. I hope we are right. We have experienced too loud music in nearly every country. Not competing like here, but just too loud for the room, as though everyone is totally deaf. When shown hotel rooms, the tele ( if there is one ) will be turned on for you…always too loud. As we go to sleep we can hear the music from the bars getting louder and louder. Will we sleep?
11th Jan Sun
The music stopped at 2am! Bikes and panniers okay. A small crowd of poor boys gather round us as we get ready. First time that we have had attention in this way. Clive and I keep discussing whether Colombia is poorer than Ecuador or vice a versa. Certainly there are poor here as we see when we set off into the mountains again. This is almost the end of the Andes. We have one more ‘pass’ and then it is down ,down, down. At the top there are several groups/families living by the road in makeshift (plastic sheeting) homes. All stand by the road begging. We don’t see any trucks/cars throw them any money. They are at least still in the countryside rather than in the slums of a large city. Why don’t they make and sell something? Or keep cows/grow veg? These hillsides are lush with grass and trees. Later we go through a village that has several soldiers standing around as well as a whole load of men with their horses that they had just ridden in on. Horses and mules are still being used as a main means of transport around here.
Cows/cattle of the ‘indian’ kind do dot the hill sides. I think if this were Peru there would be much more use of the land. Instead, here there is grass going to waste.
Out of the mountains and down into the hot and humid plain. We follow a full and muddy river. It is ‘truckwash’ valley. Hosepipes, gushing fountains of water, are ready for truckers to pull in and start using. Since it is Sunday many are cleaning and washing away….great big american ‘Kenilworth’ trucks and others. Plenty of houses along here too. Traffic is quite heavy but easier now we have a straighter road.
Leaving the river and heading for Cartagena we are in cattle ranching country. Large haciendas dot the rolling countryside with their herds of cattle and the horses needed to work them . By a bridge that crosses the river live some less privleged people in very squalid homes, making a bit from fishing and selling fruit.
Pushing on towards Cartagena the rolling green countryside with its biggish trees looks pretty. But not much being grown…just cattle grazing. Spare grass…. As the soldiers by the road clock off we have to stop and so reach El Carmen. Its anoher of Clive’s ‘dump’ towns but we are kindly lead to an hotel. In the evening food is again from street vendors but this time the bars are further apart!
12th Jan Mon
We have about 65 miles to Cartagena. Frequent villages, the poorer ones with rubbish around . Colombia has been really quite good on rubbish . In between villages there are ranching haciendas . The countryside has rolling hills, grass and scattered trees. Various bits of water where pure white herons and smaller egrets wait. Some egrets accompany the cattle. At one point there is a very swampy bit. Poor housing and people trying to live by the water and catch fish? Cartagena has old city walls and a very solid fort. Old city streets and various large old buildings. Its very hot as we head to a backpackers place which might help with info on the elusive ferry that the mexican told us about. We find it in a narrrow street . Also find another biker who has booked on to a yacht , 37ft. As we have a drink the yacht owner finds us (news travels fast). He is keen to take us too. But we do not want to spend days getting to Panama on a yacht via the San Blast islands!
The backpackers hotel is full and the next one is expensive and grotty. We decide to move on now to Barranquilla, the bigger more commercial town, also with an airport. Flying looks the likely option.
2 hours later and we are there, coming in past the docks. All looks shut. We find out its a religious holiday; something we had not noticed in touristy Cartagena . We ask more about the elusive ferry but think its a dead duck. Book into a good hotel to celebrate reaching the top of South America. It has a nice swimming pool and we have a good bottle of Argentine wine (rio de Plato 2005 torrentes chardonnay). As we turned up at this hotel ,the look of disbelief on the doorman’s face was all evident. ”how could those dirty bikers think of staying here”. Well we can, and deserve it !
Favourite Colombian road sign “Peligro Zona Inadmisable”It translates as ‘dangerous zone inadmissable’ it means a very bad patch on the road as in part of the road has collapsed and fallen down the hillside!
I also like “peligro zona derumbles’it means ‘ danger falling rocks’
13th Jan Tues
A day of decisions and a day of rest. We had begun making enquiries yesterday as to how to get to Panama . Today we continued. The ferry trail led to a blank. Given we did not fancy a trip on a yacht with our bikes, nor a cargo boat that might be carrying drugs as well, it left flying. Clive followed the flying trail which seemed to lead to the bikes going via Bogota (something we had not reckoned on). This sounds like several days. In the meantime Clive has suggested to me that maybe going to Venezuela and shipping straight home from there might be an idea. Going to Panama and then shipping only 2 or 3 weeks later from Mexico or US was going to be an expensive option. The Venezuela idea is growing on us and to that end I spent the day emailing shipping agents around Caracas. It is possible apparently!
Unfortunately this hotel is the only hotel in all the hotels we have been in, that does not have free Wifi. Maybe the cheaper the hotel the better the Wifi! A great many hotels have free internet too….not this one! Perhaps they have to charge for the internet to pay for the swimming pool….it is a nice one!
If no emails to the contrary we are off to Venezuela next.
14th Jan Wed
I write this sitting on another border! This time its even more interesting. We are having to sleep here! In a dusty filthy bit of a hut (it has two sides and a roof. The dust from the lorries passing by is blown over this way. On the other side is some smart area with bits of grass but we are not allowed. We have eaten some piece of meat and a plantian cooked over a tin drum by a nice venezuelan lady. Pepsi Cola to drink. Last night 5 star, tonight no stars except in the sky above.We got out of Colombia no problem and ourselves stamped in to Venezula no problem. But big ‘ no’ on the bikes…go back to Colombia they said. ‘No’ says we politely,’its not possible, no hotel, no money’ After half an hour, whilst I looked as doleful as possible, they said go to the customs 6 kms down the road. Great , but when we got there it was shut. It is run by civilians who go home at 5pm (we had reached the border at 4pm but that was 5pm Venezula time) whilst the border is run by the military and is open 24hrs. No hotels in this place and they will not let us go down the road and come back in the morning. Its hot, dark and dusty/dirty. Clive is making a cup of tea….the best thing to do in a crisis.
The road between Barranquilla and here was fine . Pretty and tropical by the sea until it looked much drier with smaller trees, dense shrubs and cactii. It all looked very spiky and prickly. Animals roamed the roadside here(donkeys, cows,horses and goats) and no houses were to be seen. They were further into the prickly bushes…you could see sandy tracks.Women now dressed in long shift like dresses…not exactly beautiful but practical for the climate. We did not get stopped by any police or soldiers. Our reflective bibs did the job. There were a lot of soldiers on the route today until the last 50 miles or so. Colombian border pretty chaotic and something was up because a truck was blocking the way. We got past of course until we got the ‘No’. However we are now 6kms into Venezuela and hopefully will be successful tomorrow.
15th Jan Thurs
We slept a bit on the concrete floor on our one mat and sleeping bags. At 3am Clive woke and made a cup of tea. We sat there watching many enormous and very old american cars head towards the border. This morning we are watching them come back full of passengers. A taxi service! Huge petrol guzzling engines but we think fuel is cheaper here…its an oil producing country.
The customs people in their smart office arrived sometime around 8am but we were not allowed in until 10am. The desk dealing with tourists vehicles operated from 9.30am till 4.00pm apparently. 5.5 hours(lunch 1 hr ) out of the 24 hours that the border is open. We had become slightly worried after chatting to a Colombian that we would need various photocopies of things we did not have like a pencil rubbing of the chassis number ( as in Egypt). In the event it all went fine and was very similar to other South American countries. Off we went ,finally ,into Venezuela at 11am having arrived at 5pm yesterday.
.Both of us were short of petrol, myself especially. Found petrol station with a large queue of the enormous American cars. I tried to join the queue but found it very hard to distinquish between those in the queue, and parked wrecks by the roadside! Found a gap …it was all on wasteground . Soldiers were by the pumps to keep the peace. Not at all sure why there was a queue. Just guess the price…2p a litre!! Bottled water costs 75p a litre. This country is reminding us both of Libya. Cheap petrol, rubbish outside villages,expensive poor hotels and hot etc. We saw other petrol stations with queues….do not know why.
Finally set off down a badly potholed tarmac road with sea lagoons on either side. Pelicans, herons etc on the water but we have lots of rubbish beside the road. Messy looking. It does improve and we make our way to Maracaibo, a large oil boom town. We want to stop..its very hot (35c) and humid and we are tired! But hotels prove elusive and directions even worse. We decide on small town nearby and ask for Santa Rica. We are sent backwards and forwards and round in circles. We drip with sweat. Lack of large scale map did not help…if we had one we would have realised we needed to go over a huge long bridge….very impressive. Once there we had more trouble and kept being recommended to ‘love motels’ where you check in for a number of hours!! Venezuela is not giving us the impression of being the most economically advanced of all south american countries. It also feels quite socialist (which it is). Friendly people though and curious about us. VERY cheap petrol, but food and hotel a bit like Colombia in price.
16th Jan Fri
Up quite early and off along a wide road. Its dualled but quite casually so ….bad surface in parts too. The verge is overgrown unless its been burnt (which looks horrible). Rubbish is strewn along near any housing. Dead dogs that have been killed on the road are more evident here than any other country we have been through. I cannot believe that Venezuelan dogs are more stupid and get killed more…I think that in the other countries they are tidied away from the road whereas here they seem to be left to completely decay. Strangely, we are seeing less wandering dogs here than in other countries . …more dead than alive!
The bane of our lives this morning are sleeping policeman. On this wide road we can be going along quite happily when you notice a heap of traffic . Everything has to slow right down for a sleeping policeman going right across all 4 lanes. And then another in 50 yds, and another in another 50 yds etc. The trucks virtually stop, buses too; cars are quicker and we are the quickest. Nevertheless we have to change down (gears) to 2nd gear, apply brakes probably ,over the bump, back up then down again for next bump, brake, etc. We think some small villages build bumps so that they can sell food/drinks more easily to passing traffic. They stand on the bumps in the middle of the road.
We head into some hills (another final finger of the Andes) so its a wee bit cooler. The countryside is rather dull…its all the same kind of green/brown .Scrubby trees, some grass, not cultivated very much. Not long ago only 4% of Venezuelan land was cropped! At one point loose/wild goats graze on the rubbish beside our busy road.We stop at a nice looking café restaurant . We are searching for someone willing to buy our dollars.
The “parallel mkt” in money changing. One gets a rather better deal here that way. We manage a shandy, a caramel pudding and the money deal before setting off again.Find hotel in Barquisimeto, but they will not do any bargaining on the price (which does not include internet nor breakfast). They were so steely that we gave up and tried another with better success. Hotels are more expensive here than Colombia, even at our special exchange rate.!
17th Jan Sat
Off we go to Valencia to see one of the shipping agents that we have been in touch with. The other agent is in Caracas (Maquieta) and is not open over the weekend. We have about 120 miles to do. The road is pretty good. A rather dodgy duel carriageway. It takes us through more hills. More traffic on the road, but it is more courteous than many of the countries we have been through. Hardly anyone has a moped or motorbike..so more cars per head of population I suppose. We hear later that cars are encouraged by being relatively cheap. I saw some households, still living in a very basic mud walled house, but with a very ancient vast american car in the front along with the chickens and a cow!
As we near Valencia, a large town, things become more affluent. There is no doubt a large gap here between the haves and the have nots. Chavez has been in power for 10 years . I wonder what it was like before.
We eventually find the agent. Nucellis and Miguel . Nucellis is the boss but Miguel is fluent in English. It looks like we will have to have a container to ourselves for the bikes. All is possible but the price has to be further thrashed out. We will see the other agent on Monday.We ask Nucellis and Miguel about a hotel. They kindly take us to two but too much money. Nucellis keeps inviting us to stay in her mother’s house which is empty for the night. Clive is reluctant but she is very keen to be hospitable. So we follow them there. Its in a private estate with a guard and security wall. Venezuelan neighbours all in their gardens and backyards and enjoying themselves. We have a quick swim in a communal pool set in grass while Nucellis and Miguel go off and buy drink and food for a barbecue . This is all at their expense…they insist. We have a very enjoyable evening talking to them both (and a friend) about Venezuela etc. They then go and leave us with the run of the house. It was very kind and very hospitable.
18th Jan Sun
We make use of the laptop which has been left for us to use and check emails. We then pack and go after leaving keys with a neighbour. Thank you Nucellis, very much.We head off for Caracas and Maiquetia. Dual carriageway,heavy with weekend traffic, including a whole load of taxis gathering to demonstrate about something. When the traffic slowed down or got particularly heavy, the locals would then take to the hardshoulder and overtake on the inside track! If an obstacle like a broken down car blocked their route they would just force a fast passage back. Soon we were joining in on this practice! As in all countries you have to follow local practice…for instance no one in the whole of South America (it seems) obeys double white lines. Nor have we!
We are lucky with the traffic and steam through Caracas with little problem. It is yet another capital lying in a valley with houses up on the hills on either side. Clive reckons that these are some of the worst slums he has seen. I think Lima was much worse and that these are at least built of brick. The coast is cut off from Caracas by a very high ridge (around 2000m) and the road goes through a number of tunnels. 10 years ago there were terrible landslides here ,brought about by torrential rain ,which killed over 50,000 people and wiped out several beach resorts.We eventually find an hotel in Maputo. The first hotel we tried wanted $338 per night.! We find something more reasonable.
19th Jan Mon
We have some difficulty (again!) in finding the agents office and arrive mid morning. Price is better possibly but they come up with some horrific bureaucracy problems that could take 3 weeks! We think it would be a good idea if we went to customs with them the following day to see if we can overcome the worst of the problems. We follow some other leads .Our hotel has a nice restaurant but rather expensive. We are beginning to realise that it must be used by people using black market rates…otherwise its prices are ridiculous. Icecream costing $8.50? With a little bit of cunning this can become $4. Waiters very obliging ! Venezuelans have exchange control which used to restrict them to taking/spending $5000 abroad. A few months ago it went down to $2500. Thus all who can try and get hold of dollars creating a thriving black market for dollars. The country also imports virtually everything : oil is the export. Corruption is rife.
20th Jan Tues
This morning we are at the agent at 9am . Main purpose to go to customs to try and sort out the biggest hurdle…a letter that is apparently needed from the border we went through to say that we did indeed go through there with the motorbikes . The letter could take 3 weeks to write and get delivered. Our incredulity is based on the fact that we have an official piece of paper from the very border with all the bike details on it and all signed and stamped. We ALSO have another stamp in the passport with bike details on it. So do we need a third piece of evidence.? Luckily for us the visit to customs was fruitful and it seems we can get by without this letter. We do however have to wait 3 days for an exit letter to be forth coming. We then explore the option of flying the bikes and do end up with an interesting quote with Air France. Honour dictates we stick with the shipper…hope behaving properly brings rewards.
Chatting with the agent..a lady…she tells me how dangerous the border we crossed is! Also that Bogota (Colombia) has had only 19 killings this month compared with Caracas(Venezuela) with over 250 killings this month! She also said that inspite of imports they have had a 5 month milk shortage and that there is currently a sugar shortage (though they do grow some sugarcane.)Our hotel is about 5kms from the agent. Its is a dual carriageway and is jammed with traffic nearly all day. The port here is so busy with imports. We have had to fight our way through the traffic in the heat.We have decided that breakfast was not worth the charge so yesterday we bought porrige oats and powdered milk( all there was) and made porrige for breakfast this morning on our little stove.Late in the day we got the booking from the shipping line and also instructions to ride to Caracas in the morning to the packers so that they can measure the bikes for making the crates. They are in some industrial estate!
21st Jan Wed
Off we go to the packers in Caracas armed with a vague internet map. We make it in one. They are amazed! Straight through Caracas on the autopista!. Shady/dodgy spot but proper packers. Measurements taken, phone calls made, and then head back to our hotel.Clean bikes, swim, internet. Its all rather frustrating. Friendly and helpful venezuelians, but there are no go areas…for instance at the packers we said we wanted a drink..where can we buy a drink? We had noticed some street sellers but ‘no’ they were too dangerous and ‘no’ we could not go somewhere else. On our way back there was a traffic jam because some electricity cables were dangling across the road. Each vehicle had to have them lifted to get under or by them!Tomorrow its another office visit first thing.
22nd Jan Thurs
The visit to the office gives us a shock. The packaging fee is $4000 not $400!! This is out of the question. We had seen the estimate the day before but had read it wrong Bolivars are sometimes referred to as 100 or as 10 . It can be confusing…..nor would one dream that it could be $4000. So a change of tack to air freight. This time the foreseen problems are ‘the skids'(pallets) and the airfreight letter from customs. Our other problem is the weekend is looming and ”venezuelans do not work at the weekend”. Thus it looks like we are here for a whole lot more days.’Here’ is not very interesting. We are by the sea but there is no beach. Its hot and sunny but we cannot sunbathe for long as sun much too strong. There is a small pool but 2 strokes and you are the other end! The road is full of dirty traffic. Round the corner are broken houses, dirty shops, broken pavements and rubbish. Because of the danger element we cannot go for a walk in the lovely looking rain forest above us on the steep hillside. We set off today after the office visit to go to a town inland but Clive felt a tummy bug coming on and wanted to go back to the hotel. I did not feel it was sensible for me to carry on alone…thus we are getting more and more bored and frustrated.
I managed to get Skype to download onto the hotel computer and got our cheap little headset working so could make phone calls if needed. Back to office in the late pm and back again tomorrow. Clive still not great by evening and can’t manage evening meal .
23rd Jan Fri
Midday office meet. So far so good but packer quote still outstanding. Certain optimism that it will be bearable but not cheap. We hear that there are large demos in Caracas today against the government..students are getting excited. Vote in mid Feb is for/against allowing Chavez to stay in office indefinately (in effect).
I investigate, on my bike, the eastern end of this place, Maputo, and discover that it does have a beach and a few more hotels. Clive is gradually coming back to life and in the afternoon we go back to this beach and I swim and Clive watches! The last news of the day is the packers quote…its bearable. Meet Monday morning at 9am to pay monies and then to Air France at 10am. Will it all happen??I had to phone Karin late this afternoon to get the news re the packers because the telephone line for the internet at the hotel failed. It was still not working 5 hours later. This did not seem that abnormal.
We ate here in the hotel tonight ( some nights we have tried elsewhere).Friday night sees the return of the weekenders and the restaurant is throbbing. The waiters are dashing around and we have plenty to watch. There is a singer singing her stuff and the appreciative male audience claps the good songs. The females are nearly all in tight jeans (whatever the size of the backside) and a tight low teeshirt top. South american females are not figure consciencious at all as far as I can see. On the beach this afternoon there were some ladies in thong bikinis that perhaps shouldn’t have been. In this restaurant there are many who should not be in tight jeans and teeshirts. We enjoy watching the action.
24th Jan Sat
Checking out ,but leaving luggage behind, we are off to spend the weekend in the mountains at Colonia Tovar. We reach it after 2 hours or more of a very twisty road and covering only 40 miles! It is a german settler town. Founded in 1843 it remained very isolated right up until 1963 when finally the road was paved. Now it is a tourist spot, full of german houses.We find a Cabana and explore. Its all rather strange seeing all these german houses in Venezuela . A lot of tat for sale. It sort of reminds me of Burnham Market as being a weekend escape for the Caracaos where they can stock up on all things german and good and tat !We eat in an hotel which is not very busy served by a pure bred german girl who can only speak spanish (and a wee bit of english). Other restaurants seem rather bar like and several drunks hanging about. Clive is still feeling a bit ”precious”.
25th Jan Sun
Return to our base at the Santiago Hotel in Macuto. Down from the cool and back into the coastal melee! Have a swim in the sea. Eat in the hotel,changing dollars with a waiter before paying for the meal! They all know we have dollars.
26th Jan Mon
Keenly off to agent to make some payments and then to Air France warehouse to meet packers and pack bikes. Packers have constructed a base for the bikes to sit on. We do our bit by removing battery, mirror and screen. Two panniers fully packed stay with bike. Then all is enveloped in bubble wrap and cardboard. Into warehouse by midday as they close for 2 hours till 2pm. The crazy thing now is that we have to come back on Wednesday, with customs and police, to help them check the bikes ie if they need/want to see inside a pannier or check chassis number then either holes have to be cut in the cardboard or the whole thing unwrapped so that we can unlock panniers etc!
We finally get a bus back to the hotel preparing ourselves to hang around, now with no transport, for another 2 nights and a day. We can’t even play at cleaning our bikes. When we did this in Cape Town we helped pack the bikes and then that was that…we were free to go and the agent took care of things. Our locked panniers were not needed to be opened, they were not interested in our personal goods going back home.
27th Jan Tues
No rush to get up! But we did and went to the airport by public bus to get our tickets for Wednesday. We are having to be optimistic re the bikes. It was a change to be travelling on a bus watching the locals. All very friendly with odd bits of english. I continue to be fascinated by the tight clothes the girls wear. It must be so hot! In hot countries such as this its cooler to be in loose clothing yet here they are, very often overweight, in tight to bursting jeans and tight tee shirts over unshapely bodies. I am feeling all wrong in my loose jeans and tee shirt! The men are more sensible in looser jeans and shirts. Very few girls wear skirts or shorts.
Get to airport, very slow queue for ticket, but success in the end. Back at the hotel there is an email from Karin to say that the cost of airfreighting the bikes has doubled! The airline is now working the cost out on volume weight not gross weight as we had been led to believe and for which the bikes were packed. We have requested to repack to reduce the volume. It is all very depressing, so last minute and gives us no choice. I feel fed up with all concerned but also ourselves because we could have been a bit quicker to realise what it all might mean. The term ‘skid’ confused us. All it was , was a wooden pallet that fitted the bikes. The pallets that were made, were too large…they should have been narrower and shorter and thus reduce volume. They were initially made for the ship where size did not matter. This is where we went wrong , not getting them altered.
28th Jan Wed
Taxi comes early but we leave with all our luggage for the agent. I express my feelings about the increase in price. We know we can do nothing now but the increase in cost is not taken lightly. Down to the warehouse to sit and wait for the ‘national guards’ to come and check the bikes for drugs etc. We understand this will entail some unpacking. We sit with Karin and the ”runner’ for almost 2 hours’. The latter keeps checking for the national guards progress. The warehouse shuts at 12 noon for lunch, we get anxious…eventually news comes that one guard has gone for lunch. As the bikes have to be inspected by two together and they do not come in the afternoon, we must return tomorrow! To inspect our panniers they need our keys which we are loathe to leave. I say I am not staying another day. We are discussing key cutting and leaving keys when the one guard who is passing is accosted by Clive.. Our predicament is explained..this is not an ordinary situation. He can see who we are and this helps. He seems sympathetic and gets on his mobile.The result is that they will inspect now! Another guard is found or the one at lunch is pulled out. The warehouse , though officially shut for lunch , allows us all in. The bikes have their cardboard and bubble wrap entirely stripped off(it is wrapped around in the first place to stop others from putting drugs etc in our luggage). We open our panniers, they take a quick look and that is that. Karin explains that the national guard has never done this before, totally unprecedented . She is flabbergasted. She says that one guard is amazed that I ride ‘that’ bike. The fact that we are ‘mature’ carries the day as well. Some other guys are disturbed from their lunch and they help put the fairly flimsy packaging back and then carefully wrap cling film round and round the bikes leaving not a hole.This was now important and proves that the national guard has inspected . Tomorrow they are looked at again and then get a red marker on them….we hope… for we are now going to be gone.
Karin has learnt more by all this! She kindly takes us to the airport , a short distance away. We have a few hours to kill before taking a Venezolana internal flight to Isla Margarita. Here we are going to have a few days at a resort run by Clive’s son Robert, before flying to London via a charter flight direct from Margarita on Sunday.
Our flight leaves Caracas at 4pm from gate 8 as stated on our ticket. Only problem is when we arrive at gate 8 another flight is leaving at 4.30 ! Its 3.30pm and we start wondering if the flight has already gone. A kind man who speaks english helps and after 10 mins we discover that it is now gate 5! We dash there and at 3.50pm we board . However we are not out of the woods yet . Suddenly an announcement is made and everyone gets up. The plane has an engine fault, everyone off. Back into the airport. Not long.. After 10 mins fault mended; but there is a lot of shouting and opposition to going back onto the same plane. Not from us…we just want to get there.Eventually we board, Clive has a word with the Captain, all fine he says, and sure enough all goes well and one hour late we have arrived in Margarita . Now dark but met at airport and taken to Robert’s excellent apartment. We find our way out and eat in restaurant on the beach under palm trees; a good outcome after an interesting day.
29th Jan Thurs
Thinking about yesterday and the last few days…… it is because there is a lack of trust. Here they do not trust the warehouseman to stop anyone fiddling with the bikes, they do not trust us either,the national guard has to come as a pair etc. In England we bring the bike to the warehouse and hand it over. One day and done. The paper work was handled by the agent, as in England, and seemed generally reasonable. They did not crawl around checking chassis numbers etc, nor did we pay any bribes.We hear from Karin that the bikes were checked successfully in the morning. We do not know yet if they made the planned flight in the evening!
The news about bikes is good….they are already in Paris. We can enjoy the last two days.Palm trees and fine sand, beach bars and warm water. But rain and cloud. Rain is not normal for this time of the year and the wind is not ‘as it used to be’. I had a short windsurf but not enough wind.On Saturday we took a small ferry to Coche, an island 7 miles to the south, because they were holding the first Festival of Kite Surfing. We watched and enjoyed the spectacle before returning.
1st Feb Sun
Manage a windsurf and a swim before packing and getting to the airport to be confronted by a long (1.5 hr) queue to have our bags opened by the national guard who were looking for drugs. Several passengers then had further problems with their baggage it seems. Finally took off half an hour late.
2nd Feb Mon
We arrived at Gatwick virtually on time. Captain of plane remarked he had never seen so much snow in all his career. Seemed to be a minor problm till we got to the train station whereupon we found all trains cancelled. Thought we would try coach..they all cancelled too. At that point wondered whether my mobile phone was infact not workIng due to overload in the area rather than a malfunction. Former true. But got hold of son Sam on landline and he set off to get us like the trooper he is. With snowchains he made it. Sam gets us to Fulham where phone call to C H Robinson divulges that the bikes, far from not getting here tonight, arrived on Saturday . This means clearance this pm or another days charge.It is snowing and has done nearly all day. We finally get the all clear about 4pm. Cold and dark , Sam takes us to the cargo depot and we get and put together bikes while Sam loads the ‘skids’ on his roof rack. Slowly make it back to Fulham where we see Emma and Mike for a meal together.Clive’s front wheel/tyre was very low and the road looked very wet/icy !
Lovely meal and good evening.
3rd Feb Tues
Very tired so we woke up late! Lovely sunny but cold day. Scraping the frost off the bikes and pushing them across the snowy road we set off gingerly to Norfolk. Roads are fine but it is very cold, just above freezing. Reach Burnham Market mid afternoon.
We did 11,755 miles.
End mileage 17180.
Summary from Nina
People comment.All were friendly. Argentines not that relaxed and venezuelans only people wishing to leave their country. Venezuela was different to the rest.
Go back to country and why. Peru and Equador. Would be able to hire car okay and would love to see more especially the rainforest to east of Andes.
Rubbish etc. As we went further north the more litter we saw. It has a heavy correlation with poverty and over population. Poverty has a heavy correlation with over population . Pollution by the roadside was very evident in city areas, even in the desert . Pollution was depressingly evident in all countries, even Chile which was probably the cleanest.
Motorbiking. South America proved tremendous fun as far as motorcycling went . Varied and beautiful scenery and exciting roads to bike on. The passes, the variations in height, the changes in temperature and the changes in road surface were all going to keep you on your toes. Sleeping policemen and the rules of the road kept us alert.
Summary from Clive.
Whlst nearly all the people we have met have been friendly, this has been due to a mixture of good-luck, travelling experience and being cautious. My second comment would be that there are too many!, resulting in a great deal of poverty, particularly around large towns / cities. Shanty towns stretch for miles outside Lima, Valparaiso, Le Paz, Quito, Caracas and no doubt Bogota. Pollution, crime and corruption are natural bedfellows. Unless and until this is addressed the situation will regrettably only get worse in the years ahead.
South America is a motorcylists ‘heaven’.The roads are on the whole very good, miles and miles of hills, bends, fast sweeping roads, tight mountainous u bends, the best of Austria, Switzerland and Italy one hundred fold. Plus of course a liberal dose of gravel, mud and as much ‘off road’ as you can handle. We did about 1,000 miles off road, our bikes are too heavy for serious off-road stuff and the last thing we wanted was to fall off and break them (or us ) in the middle of nowhere.The riding for me was one of the highlights of the trip, much more enjoyable than in Africa where the roads are either straight and monotonous or very slippery in the rains. There is also more to see in Africa, Egypt, Wildlife etc so the ride itself is of less significance.
This is of course one of the side effects of an ever increasing population and social services unable to keep up. Most towns had this problem but it was worse in Venezuela, where litter was dumped anywhere and everywhere.
Go back to country and why?
I have seen what I really wanted to see at the outset,( Ushuaia, Lake Titticaca and Macchu Pichu) so have no great desire to return. I feel we did well to traverse the whole continent without mishap, and having seen the political situation and spoken to many other travellers, feel we may not be so lucky the next time, but I am glad we did it nevertheless.