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 South America

Boquete, Panama; 23rd April 2007.

 Today we crossed another border and are now in Panama. It was a really easy crossing with us going through in an hour with no problems.

On the way to the crossing we had to cross a really scary bridge made up with planks of wood to ride on and the river raging below, it did focus the concentration somewhat!

We are now in the cool Panama Mountains at Boquete where we have found to our pleasant surprise that things are cheaper than in Costa Rica, a bottle of beer for 30 pence! We are going to have a few days in the mountains here, then some time on the beach before we head into Panama City and start sorting the bike freighting to Columbia.


Panama City, 30th April 2007

 Here we are at the end of our Central American leg; we are waiting to ship the bike and ourselves to Bogotá, Columbia; but before we expand on that, I will report on the crossing from Costa Rica into Panama.

We both really enjoyed Costa Rica, but as they say, all good things come to an end and it was time to move on.

Leaving Cahuita, on the Caribbean coast, we followed the generally good road to the border town of Sixaola, only 50kms away. This is a small crossing point so we were not surprised to see a single track road and a small barrier with a couple of offices nearby and an old rusty railway bridge to cross.

As we were parking the bike just off the road on the approach to the barrier, we were approached by the usual helpers. This time, with the help from our friend Tom, who'd crossed here a few weeks ago, we new exactly what to do!

 “No help required, thanks”, spoken in Spanish of course. That didn’t work, and we were shadowed by a man determined to show us where to go.

We headed to the last office on the right and handed in my bike’s temporary import certificate, and in the office next door we got our passports stamped for our exit. That was it - all done.

I gave a couple of dollars to our helper and over the bridge we rode.

It was an old railway bridge with the rails still in situ, only a couple of planks either side of the rails to ride on. These have come loose in places and you ride from one plank to another pulling it down like some fairground ride while you grab the occasional glimpse of the raging torrent of a river 20ft below through the sleepers, some which are missing. To add to the excitement, the guardrail at the side is missing as well. This went on for only 100yds; it certainly focused my attention!

We made it; we are now on the other side and in Panama.

Next we stopped at the fumigation control who just waved us through, strange as they usually squeeze a few dollars out of us, but not this time.

We parked up by the offices on our left and have just enough room as Lorries coming the other way pass with only inches to spare. We're still on a single track road/track and this is still a border crossing from Costa Rica to Panama!

We then head to the immigration office where, after a couple of questions, our passports were stamped for 90 days - no charge again, this is great.

Next we head to the customs office where we hand over our passports and registration document for the bike, plus copies and wait while they type out a temporary importation form. We get the completed form after a couple of questions but on closer examination we find we're written down as being from Brazil??? Well its close - Britain/Brazil. So back we go and point out the error, no problem, Tipp-Ex and re-type! No charge once again, it must be a freebie day to bikers? All done, paperwork and a scary bridge ride completed in just over an hour!

This time there was no insurance thrown in and no one knows where we get some; throwing caution to the wind we ride on into Panama.

Riding through the town of Guabito, on the Panama side is a bit of a nightmare as there are no signs, so stopping and asking is the order of the day. At one point we're stopped at a junction when an old man on a push bike calls over and points to the road we need, he must have seen it loads of times before.

A few miles further on and another old railway bridge to cross which was much the same as the first one - riding the plank. We kept several yards behind the car in front until, just before we get to the end of the bridge, it stops. All of a sudden I have to find somewhere to put a foot down without going through the floor. I sounded my horn in disapproval, well everyone else does! We make it, and Les has aged another couple of years! That reminds me, it’s her birthday tomorrow, the 1st May and the shops are shut, what am I to do???

One thing we notice is the presence of soldiers again as we pass through some road checks. Costa Rica hasn’t got an army so it’s something we've missed for a while.

The roads across Panama are racetrack smooth with sweeping curves climbing through jungles and through small villages with houses on wooden stilts. Our route from one side of Panama to the other takes us through, Almirante, Chiriqui Grande, Gualaca, Caldera and eventually to Boquete, a small town in the highlands of Panama.

In Boquete we stayed at the Hostel Boquete and cooled off at altitude which was a welcome break from the warm coast. This place seems to have been taken over by Americans. In most of the bars and restaurants you'll find them coming down from their expensive houses in the mountains for supplies. While here I make a few enquiries and find out that insurance isn’t compulsory! And this is confirmed on the Foreign and Commonwealth website - just have to be doubly careful.

We have a couple of ride-outs and explore the lanes. It’s all beautiful and I can understand why a lot of people would want to retire here.

After a couple of days we move on to the other side of Panama's only volcano - Baru. Here we stay at the Los Quetzales Lodge and spa in the small mountain village of Cerro Punta, check it out at . We sign in for a dorm bed as they were the cheapest but as we were about to unload the bike, Carlos, the owner catches up with us and offers us an upgrade to a private room. Carlos went on to tell us that he'd toured England and Europe on a Triumph Bonneville in the 60's and seeing Hendrix play on the Isle of White.

Also staying here were Steve and his wife Karen. Steve is a retired American police sheriff and they both now live in Panama.

So a pleasant evening was spent chatting with our new-found friends. Later we were joined by Carlos's girlfriend Anna-Maria from Columbia, so it’s not long before the maps are out on the table and we get a route through Columbia, seeing the best sights and keeping out of danger. Our chat with Anna-Maria reinforces our decision to visit this country and reduced worries even further.

The following morning we are on the road again, back down off the mountains and back into the heat. At Concepcion we pick up the Pan American, south east. We rode through several pot holed sections of road and through several road works and torrential rain, we rode on as far as we could until we stopped, soaked, at Santiago where we found a roadside hotel.

Saturday 28th we left Santiago and followed the Pan American for a short way, then turned south to Chupampa and onto the Peninsula Azuero, the most southerly area of Panama. We were on small 'B' roads winding through lush green cattle country with lots of working horses and cowboys. Ocu, Macard, Tonosi and into hill country, then it rained again forcing us to take shelter under a tree for a few minutes. We got a few miles further on when it threw it down again, this time we were close to a supermarket so, much to the amusement of the locals, we bought some food and drink and stood under their shelter watching geese swimming in a puddle.

Following the lanes further east we eventually got out of the rain belt and into the dry lands where everything was brown and scorched. We stopped the night in the Hotel Residence Padasi where we had a comfortable room for the night.

From Pedasi we rode up the east coast of the peninsula on a scorching hot day. Even though it a couple of great beaches we decided to push on up to the Pan American and get a few miles closer to Panama City. We stopped at Panonome for the night and then completing the last few miles into Panama City the following day. We crossed over the Panama Canal, I couldn’t believe it, I had read about it at school, seen the documentaries about it and now we were riding over one of the greatest man-made constructions in the world; we plan to visit one of the giant locks during our stay in the city.

At one of the hostels we'd stayed at we picked up a flyer for the Hostel Balboa Bay. Miraculously we found our way straight there, well, we'd stopped to take our leggings off after some more rain, it is the start of the rainy season!

So here we are, Panama City, I've phoned the air freight company at the airport and the earliest we can fly the bike out is Thursday, but I think we'll chill here for this week, do a bit of shopping for the birthday girl, sip a few cocktails and read up some more on South America and in particular – Columbia, the next destination for the pooleglobaltrekers.

We've now covered 33,000 miles; the bike is running smoothly and we are still having a ball.


From Les

Panama City, Panama; 2nd May 2007.

Firstly, Congratulations to Zoe and Jamie who celebrated our departure and are now proud parents of a daughter, Maddy, (Madeleine) born 27/4!! Our love and best wishes to them all.

On our last day in Costa Rica we took a walk through the national park, looking up into the trees to see sloths, monkeys and birds. Unfortunately I wasn’t paying much attention to the path and ended up stubbing my toe on a root and think I may have done a bit of damage. I can still get my trusty boots on so not a problem really, it’s just the squelchy feeling and pain underfoot that’s a bit off - putting!

Travellers who only use the Pan American highway end up missing quite a lot of unusual sights and experiences, the bridge into Panama at Sixola is definitely one to remember. I had seen photos of it in the past and declared that I would walk over it, but when I came face to face with it I decided that if we are going to "go" then we may as well "do it together"! I even took a couple of photos; it’s amazing what adrenalin does to you. Once into Panama all was well till the next, equally dangerous bridge! The road signs were non-existent but the locals seemed to know where we needed to be. It was great to see the villages of the indigenous people and it was quite obvious that they don’t have too many travellers passing through. Their houses were totally unique with their domed thatch roofs and stilts and the women dress in long, full, brightly coloured, plain dresses. I’m glad we went that way.

We headed south and it soon became green and lush again. The roads had been quite smooth and twisty and we crossed a couple of dams on the route. We headed to Boquete, the cooler hills and a nearby volcano. The town wasn’t very inspiring but the women and children in their traditional clothing brightened the place up. We rode out into the countryside in the coffee plantations and enjoyed the fresh and floral air. This seems to have been taken over by retiring folks from the US and sadly the prices have risen so that the indigenous folk cannot afford to live in the area. There are lots of large houses and condominiums being built in the area and we were glad to move onto the other side of the Volcan Baru to Guadalupe. From Volcan to Guadalupe the whole area was covered with fertile soil. It is an area for horse breeding and dairy herds but there were endless fields of vegetables and gangs of workers. Small trucks and large Lorries trundle up into the hills and back again, weighed down with wonderful fresh produce to feed the inhabitants of Panama.

We stayed in the Los Quetzal spa and lodge owned by Carlos Alfaro. He took pity on us travellers and let us stay in one of his wonderful rooms in the lodge. The hotel is a wonderful relaxing place with vast comfortable sitting areas and a real wood fire. It was here we met Steve and Karen, who now live in Panama City and they fed us smoked salmon and crackers, a very enjoyable evening. Carlos’s partner Ana Maria is from Bogotá so we spent time pouring over maps and making notes of all the places in Colombia that we should visit. I don’t think we will have time to fit them all in....And now we just want to get there and soon!

We decided that we should also take a ride around the Peninsula de Azuero and I am so glad we did. There is a vast difference from the north to south of the country, the north being green and lush and the south much drier. The peninsula is horse and dairy land. Young and old males ride horses bareback along the roads and hillsides and large floppy eared cows graze on the parched grass. At regular intervals along the roadside were groups of shiny milk churns, (I haven’t seen any since I was a child). We also saw our very first "Panama hats" worn in this area by older men. They are surprisingly small with the rims all turned up rather like a sailor hat or "Buster Keaton" style. The locals once again have been very friendly, tooting horns, whistling, shouting or just smiling and waving at us. When we hit another storm we were welcomed under the shelter of the local supermarket till the rain stopped. There seems to be a very strong community here. There are large covered buildings with open sides in most villages and they are used as meeting places and dance halls or just a dry place for the children to play.

We stopped in Pedasi for a noisy night! A local party kept us entertained with music and fire crackers. The music got worse as the evening progressed, (assisted by Rom - the local brew) and by 7am the last of the firecrackers had been used...thank goodness. On the beach, we were joined by more bikers including Carlos, a local Doctor and his friend Bruce from New Zealand - we now have a contact in Auckland in 2008.

Yes, it is now the beginning of the rainy season, so for 5 consecutive days we have had a constant soaking. At least it’s warm rain and plenty of it! We arrived in Panama City in the rain and found a hostel quite easily, only a block from the sea-front and close to the commercial high rise blocks and expensive condominiums. Panama is beginning to "Boom" and it seems as though they are encouraging people to start businesses or retire here. There are so many incentives such as Tax concessions, easy Visa’s, retired person’s discounts on virtually everything and many more. Construction is everywhere, high risers and bungalow estates and of course - those luxury villas.

Yesterday I celebrated my 50th birthday, (Yes, I know It’s hard to believe). We walked along the sea front to the shopping plaza where I purchased 3 T-shirts for a fiver! Then the rain came so we decided to go to the cinema. We saw "Wild Hogs", an excellent film about four men on a bike trip. I won’t tell you any more ... just go see it! Then I was treated to a meal at Panama’s Hard Rock Cafe. All in all it was a very nice birthday!

This morning, (the 2nd May) we went to the airport and arranged to fly the bike to Bogotá on Monday, when we are sure it has gone we will follow later in the day. It should cost about £300 pounds. Talking money.... The further south we travel the cheaper things become. We are spending about 50% less a month than we did in the first few months in Canada and USA - A real bonus!!

Eddie, the webmaster, is now off on a 2 week bike tour in Europe so we will be in Colombia for the next update on the 24th of May. So till then.... Regards

Lesley, (older, but not necessarily wiser)

P.S. The toe is improving thank you!


From Les

Monday the 7th May. Having cleaned bike and boxes the day before, we had a dry ride to the airport, arriving at 8am as directed. We had decided to save ourselves some money by doing our own ‘paper trail’. Forms were collected and had to be signed at various offices and then suddenly we were on our way to the passenger terminal for the next available flight to Bogotá, Colombia. We had a 7-hr wait but it wasn't too bad, I think we have become far more patient during our travels as things cannot be rushed.

We arrived in Bogotá in the pouring rain with luggage intact around 10pm after a smooth 1½ hr flight. We took one of the many yellow cabs and directed it to Hostel Platypus. It wasn’t an entirely uneventful ride as we came across an accident and our driver wanted to "sticky beak" and locked us in his cab, presumably for our safety. The hostel had 2 beds left so we took them and later realised how fortunate we were as, during our four-night stay, they were turning people away day and night. Hermann, the host, was a mine of information and we met some of the nicest travellers on the trip so far. I think the travellers in the south are a different type to those in Central America, they seem more mature and worldly wise.

On Tuesday we took a cab back to the airport to collect the bike. Once again there is a bit of toing and froing but eventually everything was completed and Nick burst through the reception doors and bounced the bike down the flight of steps with a manic grin on his face. He had an audience of about 20 people, some were hoping that they would help and earn them selves a few pesos. Yes, we have new currency again, 4144 pesos to the £ pound! The calculator and my little lists have come out again just to make sure we aren't being stung. Our beds in a dorm cost 30,000p a night, about £7 pounds...I am not complaining!

Bogotá is like any other city in the world I guess. It has its historic old town area, commercial and banking area, museums, parks, shopping centres, universities, residential areas and suburbs. Like anywhere else I suppose, there are places that you would rather not visit at night or on your own. We have had no problems at all even when we spent 2-hrs on the bike in the pouring rain trying to find our way back to the hostel. We ended up in warehouse areas and back streets with water-filled craters in the roads but everyone we asked for directions were very helpful even if they didn’t know the answers.

We could have stayed longer in Bogotá but the need to go and check out the real Colombia was with us again. We have visited the Gold and Police Museums and Botero Art Gallery and taken the funicular to Monsaratte at 3152mts overlooking the City and walked miles, now its back on the bike.

Our first stop was at Zipaquira and its salt mines. Most miners where very religious and built a series of small churches in the tunnels and a huge cathedral with its alter and font carved out of salt. It was so simple and beautiful with no frills like most of the cathedrals we have visited. The surrounding area was a mixture of farming, salt or coal mining and brick making; everyone seemed very busy.

We had been warned that we must be prepared for many security checks by military and police and sure enough on our 1st day on the road we were stopped in a small village by two policemen. They really didn’t have a clue about passports or importation papers so it was a bit like a comedy farce with the crowd increasing as the minutes ticked by. Eventually we were allowed to pass by, no bribes were paid or asked for and everyone was smiling and can guess what the topic of conversation in the bar will be for the next week or so!

We are heading north towards Santa Marta and passing through some wonderful mountain ranges with their snaking roads. The houses tend to be bungalows made of red brick with terracotta tiled roofs and initially looking well kept. In the Tunja area it was pretty chilly with the altitude and the locals wore shawls or ponchos to keep out the wind. Herds of cows are milked daily by hand in the fields and large churns stand in groups awaiting collection from the side of the road, all very labour intensive and it appears the trilby hat is de rigueur in keeping your head warm!

We stayed in San Gil for a couple of nights and spent the day wandering around the steep streets and the local park by the river. The trees in the park are covered with the Spanish moss which we last saw in Savannah, USA. Just outside San Gil is the small white village of Barichara which is a step back in time. Huge slabs for roads and low white bungalows with green doors and the terracotta tiles again, a lovely place to wander around.

Sometimes we have stumbled across the ideal place such as Giron where we found an hotel overlooking a central park. They were happy for the bike to live in the dining room, it was both affordable and comfortable ...until the Church bells rung from 5am till 7am and the whole town is in full swing at 5.30am!

We are now in Catagena on the Northwest coast visiting the colonial walled city and it’s unbearably hot so we will only stay a day. We enjoyed the cool green mountainous route from Bogotá but the past few days we stayed in Tagaga. It was here we had our bag containing our jacket liners, fleeces, gloves, old maps stolen off the bike. We then stayed one night in Santa Marta.

Between Santa Marta and Cartagena the main road is on a causeway; sea on the right and lake and swampy marsh on the left. The houses in this area are shanty town wooden shacks, some standing in the water; the people here were definitely not as affluent as some town dwellers.

So, apart from the thieving little git, who will have no use for the contents of the bag, we have met really friendly people here. The 125cc bike rules over here, people often stand open-mouthed as we ride by on the big bike; they probably have never seen anything quite so big and ugly before...and I don’t mean Nick! Every stop we have made for a drink has been far longer than planned as the locals just want to chat and ask questions and not once have we felt threatened in any way.

I have recently had a few days of homesickness or lack of motivation, which is a bit of a surprise after all this time. Maybe it’s the coming of age thing and my baby boy just turned 21.....or it could just be a menopausal hiccup? I will be okay tomorrow, I am sure!

Hope alls well with you all, Regards Lesley


Medellin, Columbia; 23rd May 2007

 We had a great time in Panama City where we were shown around by Steve and Karen, whom we met up in the mountains north of the country. We had a great time and dined in some nice restaurants and saw the Panama Canal. We watched a massive ship slowly make its way up the lock system, being gently pulled by small trains alongside; it truly is an amazing construction.

We spent Les's birthday and our 28th Anniversary here, watching a movie followed by dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe.

On Mon the 7th May 07 it was time to move on. We left the Balboa Hostel and Michele, the beautiful receptionist, and rode the short distance to Tucument International Airport cargo section, having carried out a recce earlier in the week. Using helpful information passed on by Kevin and Julia Sanders of 'Globebusters' and our Canadian friend, Tom, who had passed this way a month earlier, I now knew where the 'Garig' air freight office was. We had the bike booked in and with a fist full of papers, I took it to the holding hanger, got the bike weighed in at 304kgs, that’s with the panniers and top box on and loaded. We had some more stamps on more forms, parted with $550 dollars then walked away hoping we would meet her again in Bogotá, Columbia!

I then had to book the bike out of Panama with customs at their office on the way out of the cargo terminal. Had some more stamps and that was it, relatively easy, even for me! And what’s more, we saved ourselves $300 by doing the paperwork ourselves and not hiring an agent. Next we got a lift to the passenger terminal on the other side of the airfield by a friendly 'Girag' member of staff. Here we bought a couple of tickets on the next available flight to Bogotá. This happened to be with Aeero Republica, a Colombian airline. We then had ourselves booked out of Panama with immigration and that was it, all done.

After a 7-hour wait in Panama's plush new airport we were airborne on the night flight. One and a half ours later we were in Bogotá airport and our first taste of Columbian officialdom at immigration, “How long would you like to stay?” and “Welcome to Colombia”, it was all so easy and friendly and we even got a 60 day visa stamped in the passport.

We then reclaimed our bags and took a taxi into the city center. It was dark, raining and cool as we passed the remains of a pedestrian in the road, having been knocked down by a car; our taxi driver got out to have a good look. We then drove through a particular neighbourhood of the city in which he locked all the doors, presumably for our own safety?

A short time later we arrived at the Platypus Hostel! There weren’t any double rooms available so we were lodged in a four-bed dorm. At under £4 pounds a night and endless quality Columbian coffee, we couldn’t really complain! The hostel is owned and run by Herman, a very helpful individual and a mine of local information, we now had a list of things to see and do in Bogotá.

The following morning we jumped into a taxi back to the airport to collect the bike, finding the 'Girag Airfreight office’ wasn’t really a problem. Using the notes sent to us by our friend Tom, the whole procedure went smoothly after some more paperwork. I was very glad of the help we received from Marlio, who spoke good English and who sorted out the forms I needed from 'Girag'. I then jumped through a few hoops for the Columbian Customs; once again, it was all relatively easy. I then had a few trips between the 'Girag' office and the customs office 500yds away, where only a stamp, signature or the odd copy was needed. Eventually we were done and could have the bike. We got 60 days on the temporary import document; for once, matching what we had on our passports.

I checked the old girl over, no, not Les, the bike! Other than the mirrors being turned in for transportation, the bike didn’t have a mark on it; the boys at 'Girag' had performed a perfect job … well done.

Now we had one small problem! There were a number of steps outside the cargo terminal where several men were ready to lift the bike down. “Oh no,” I said, “I can ride that,” and so I did; down the steps and onto the car park to the rapturous applause of the gathered workers.

Our high spirits were now being somewhat dampened as it started to rain as we made our way into Bogotá City centre where we promptly got lost. I was now regretting not having used my trusty Garmin Etrex hand-held GPS!

Soaked through, we eventually found the hostel again where we locked the bike away and quietly dripped our way to our room!

So here we are in Bogotá, Columbia and the start of the South America leg of our World Tour. We were both somewhat excited and quietly nervous about this country, especially after all the advice and warnings we’d been given, including some definite, “DON’T GO”, advice.

On our way south through Central America we'd met so many people coming north who told us if we didn’t go to Colombia then we would live to regret it.

So here we are, ready to explore the country and not just head south on the ‘chicken run’ to Ecuador and out of Colombia ASAP. We've been here just over two weeks now and what a great country it is.

We had a great four day stay in Bogotá; we wandered around the city center which was only a few blocks from our hostel, visit their site at -

It is a very grey city with concrete buildings which were grubby and tired looking in places but tree lined avenues made up for that. There are also several squares surrounded by grand buildings.

There were police on nearly every street corner, if not police it would be military or private security firms, all armed, who would dare do anything? Except of course - students! A crowd of which were chanting at some riot police dressed like Robo Cops who also had a water canon hidden around the corner, “Best of luck” I said, being a university city I guess they're used to it?

Around the city we often saw street cleaners; it was hard to find a piece of litter anywhere.

We visited a couple of museums and the National Police Museum where I found on display, a Great Yarmouth police helmet badge, Norfolk’s known over here!

We took a ride to the top of a nearby hill overlooking the city which afforded us some spectacular views. We both felt vary safe here, I couldn’t understand what the taxi driver’s problem was the other evening when he locked us in. Just taking the normal precautions when in a big city seemed to be the order of the day.

In Columbia, all motorcyclists have to wear fluorescent bibs with the index number of the bike you're riding printed on it - another security measure, so we had one made in a motorcycle shopping mall. Catering for the thousands of small bikes, it had everything. In the basement there were the mechanics with bits of bike everywhere and the smell of oil and petrol wafting up to the next floor. The next floor had accessories, helmets, clothing and the bibs we needed. Then there's the food area, bikers sitting around drinking coffee and talking about the last near miss no doubt? It was here we met Luis at his stall, and speaking perfect English, a great help, we got our bib and some new leggings as the old ones were no longer waterproof.

We found a great little restaurant close to the hostel where we got a two course dinner for 9000 pes, about £2 pounds for both of us!

The hostel was great, we met some nice people from all over the world, but it was time to explore Colombia so we settled our bill at the 'Platypus'.  Four nights and our beer tab came to 125,600pes - £30 pounds, I love this place. Les and I don't think we can afford to come home with prices like this!

We left Bogotá on Fri 11th May and rode north to Cajica and Zipaquira. Here we visited the 'Cathedral de Sal', an amazing cathedral dug out underground in a salt mine. We carried on through rolling green countryside to Tausa and Ubate, stopping for a sandwich on the way. From here the scenery was so familiar; we could so easily have been riding through Derbyshire as we made our way to Chiquinquira and into our first police stop of our visit. We found ourselves surrounded by five, curious, gun toting, cops looking through our documents. It was obvious they hadn’t seen these types of documents before but they were all very friendly as I went into my well-practiced explanation of our trip so far. After several friendly questions about the bike we were off on the road again.

We rode into Tunja where we found the ‘Hotel Conquistador De America’ beside the town square. There was no room for the bike here but a few yards down the street there was a secure car park where for 3,000pes - under £1, I parked the bike for the night.

The following day we left Tunja and climbed up into the mountains and some fantastic alpine scenery and our first cycle race in Colombia - a time trial. We stopped and cheered on some of the competitors giving the event a European flavour, much to the delight of the organisers.

We pushed on through the mountains via Arcabuco, Moniquira and Socorro to San Gill, a small town and a popular Colombian tourist site with a raging river running through it and popular with white-water rafters. We stayed a couple of nights here, walked around the pretty town and visited their town park with trees covered with Spanish moss.

When we left we rode further up into the mountains to a small village called Barichara, a pretty village of whitewashed walls and narrow cobbled streets. Next day we returned to San Gill and on to Aratoca, Los Curos, Floridablanca then west to Giron on the outskirts of Bucaramanga, where we found the Hotel Las Nieves. This hotel was more upmarket than the hotels/hostels we were used to, this pushed the budget somewhat. A room with en-suite and balcony overlooking the square cost 46,000pes - £12.50 pounds; they even allowed me to park the bike in the dinning room, see the picture!

We had no problems at all on Colombian roads; we had no hint of any trouble other than several police/military check points, all of whom wave back to us as we slowly rode through. The roads have been brilliant with good tarmac and well maintained with frequent teams of verge trimmers tidying things up.

We left Giron heading north towards the Caribbean Coast. Suddenly we were out of the mountains and in the flatlands, and with this, the temperature went up, we were now back in the 'very hot' zone at sea level once again. We rode Highway 45A through Rionegro, La Esperanza then stopping the night at the hotel Los Cactques in the small town of Curumani. Unfortunately with the heat came the mozzies again, and the regular bites!

After another flat, relatively uninteresting ride along the 45 north we arrived into the town of Santa Marta and from there to the small fishing village of Taganga, where we found Moranar hostel. It was so hot here, I didn’t enjoy it so much and my body’s thermostat was struggling. Everything slowed down; we couldn’t rush anywhere and kept on the shady side of the street. The best bit of this village for me was the internet cafe, it had air conditioning - what a sad puppy, I know!

On a sadder note, someone stole our bag containing our winter riding gear off the back of the bike overnight, the contents of which would be of no use to these people. The thing I valued the most were the maps of Costa Rica and Panama, on which I'd marked our route. I was quite surprised as the bike had been parked behind a tall fence with a barbed and broken glass top. I didn’t think anyone would get over and at the bike, the owner was also pretty sure it would be safe here. I had a good look around just in case the bag had been dumped, but no luck. It was a shame it had to happen here in Colombia, the country everyone feared but the one, up until now, was one of my favourites. By way of adding insult to injury, I was bitten again a few more times by the dreaded mozzies as we moved to the big town of Santa Marta, and the Hotel Bahia, where our room had air con, bliss.

Next day we rode around the coast to Cartagena, via Barranquilla. It was a relatively short ride hugging the coastline with the sea one side and lakes on the other.

Cartagena is one of those ‘must see’ places in Colombia, resplendent as it is with pretty 16/17th century Spanish architecture. It is a walled city, fortified because those wicked British pirates attacked it regularly for its wealth of Peruvian treasure stored here!

The old town where we stayed, at the Marlin hotel, was very beautiful and, as a result, was also very touristy and expensive. The street we stayed on was also very interesting with prostitutes and druggies. Yes, it was full of characters, who on the face of it, were all harmless, but “don’t go out after dark” was the general advice. We had a day wandering around its streets and that was enough, it was time to move on again as the cool mountains were beckoning. Did I mention it was HOT? So hot that my breakfast could have been cooked on the pavement!

We left Cartagena on HW25 south east, riding through rolling country side, through the inevitable military check points, and gently climbed into the hills and cool air.

We had only stopped for a coke and were soon surrounded by friendly locals asking the usual questions, “What size engine”, “how much” and “how fast”, we all got together for a photo.

At Sincelejo we asked some helpful bikers where the economy hotels were and after a discussion amongst themselves we were led to a nice place on the edge of town. In fact there were two hotels side by side, we were in one and the bike locked up next door, the customers in the hotel next door paid by the hour!!!!

We left the next day by heading south on the 25 through green rolling country side full of Friesian cattle. I even detected the smell of milk as we passed cows being milked by hand! We rode on through the towns of Sampues, Sahagon and Planet Rica where we saw many flooded areas with small shanty towns under water, mud covered roads and people sweeping mud and water out of their living rooms. Once we crossed over the river Cauca, we climbed up once again into the mountains and through the towns of Caucacia, Taraza, Valdivia and into Yarumal.

It was while asking a local taxi driver in Yarumal for directions to a hotel when a guy in wellington boots beckoned us to follow him as he ran off up a steep hill. A few hundred yards later we were in the town center and had a choice of hotels. The wellie man helped us to the hotel of our choice then showed me the way to the bike lock up then off he ran again, occasionally looking back to see if I could keep up with him, surly he was an Olympic contender? I paid him for his help and walked back to the ‘Hotel Plaza’ which overlooked the town square. It was a very pretty hotel and, as we were the only foreigners, we got more than our fair share of stares which by now was no problem as we are now used to it. For such a small town, Yarumal on this day had a high military presence. That night Les heard some sirens and gun shots but in the morning everything was back to normal.

Following the 25 south across the mountains towards Medellin, we saw more evidence of the recent heavy rains the country has just had with several landslides and teams of road workers clearing the roads.

On the outskirts of Medellin we stopped and switched the Garmin GPS on and followed the co-ordinates to the Hostel Casa Kiwi, which 'Smellybiker' Bob had given us. Medellin was a busy city, Colombia's second largest and once the center for the drug trade, but not any more, so we're told. There were road works everywhere and the usual one-way system tied us in knots. We eventually found the Hostel Casa Kiwi  in the Zona Rosa district and the very friendly American/New Zealand owner, Paul, who sorted us out with a double room and comfortable bed. The neighbourhood is safe and very trendy with bars and clubs around a pretty green square. So here we'll stay for a few days and check up on our injured friend Tom and replace some of our winter riding gear before we head off into the mountains once again.

At this stage in the trek there only a few things I regret.

1. Not having learnt more Latin Spanish before we left home.

2. Knowing the workings of the bike better and being able to work on it confidently. Because it was under warranty back home, the dealers had done everything and this was a big mistake. The more people we've spoken to the more I realise that the BMW GS is not bomb proof and I should be prepared for the next breakdown!

3. It would also have been great if we had our own Lap top for these reports.

Thanks for all the guestbook entries with your great comments, they are very inspirational and we both thank you. Just get some money together and just do it until it runs out. The world is a big place and there's a lot to see. You can make it as safe or dangerous as you want, a lot of it is just common sense. If we can do it, anyone can!

Oh yes, by the way - we've been away from home 11 months now and all's well.

Hasta Luago. Nick.

From Les

Medellin, Colombia; 25th May 07,  ( 11 months away from Home! )

Suddenly we have developed some kind of celebrity status here in Colombia; everywhere we have stopped we have drawn a crowd from nowhere!

After leaving Bogotá City we headed north and had our first Police check in a sleepy village. The two officers who stopped us in the main street asked for passports and the bike’s papers but it was obvious they had no idea what they were looking at! Three more officers joined them along with half the town, who all turned out to watch the operation. Young and old, they all examined the bike and our gear and asked endless questions which we didn't really understand. The main questions tended to be "What CC is the bike?" and "How much does it cost?” We have almost a set script now so we can explain where we are from, our route, how long we have been on the road and where we are heading to; it seems to satisfy them.

Having spoken to many travellers heading north we decided that we mustn't miss Colombia and I’m so glad we are here. The Colombians welcome visitors with such kindness and open friendliness; they appear to be actively encouraging people to visit. It’s been well worth the effort and the scenery in wonderful. In any country or city there are certain ‘no –go’ zones and it obviously applies here, but by staying in the safer areas, there appears to be no problems at all … touch wood!

In every town and all along the roads there are numerous road checks with an obvious police and military presence but generally we have ridden through with waves, thumbs up and whistles from the uniformed lads, many look as though they should be in school.

At the moment, rain has caused many problems to areas near rivers, many of which have burst their banks. We have ridden some of the mountain roads that have had recent rock falls and landslides but the road workers are doing a wonderful job in clearing the roads with huge diggers and trucks, everyone seems very busy.

Small motorcycles are used in the towns as taxi's which are much cheaper than the yellow taxi cars. It's not unusual to see smartly dressed women on their way to the office doing their hair or applying lipstick on the back of one of these bikes; helmet? What helmet?

We are now in Medillin, a large city surrounded by mountains so the temperature is much kinder. We have to shop to replace our "stolen" fleeces and visit Tom, the Canadian we met in Mexico who is recovering from surgery on his ankle after a bike accident. The washing has all been done, even our jackets! After 10months they were becoming a bit anti-social! So it’s chill time now as we relax for a few days....then South!!

Regards to all, Lesley X

Popayan, Colombia; 6th June 2007.

 The ‘Casa Kiwi’ hostel in Medellin,  is certainly the place to be in this town for nightlife. The hostel turns into a veritable nightclub and sometimes it’s just not worth going to another venue as the music pumps out until 2am at the weekends and the beer is also cheaper then the nearby bars and clubs. Still, it’s nice seeing the youngsters having a good time, and we've always got our earplugs!

Paul, the owner, turned out to be a great bloke and was ever so helpful in pointing us in the direction of bike shops, restaurants and other entertainment. As a fellow biker, and having toured South America, he was great to talk to as we gleaned more information on the countries that await us. He even made phone calls to bike contacts in Ecuador checking the availability of tyres and calls to doctors for medical supplies for Les.

Our first stop was the local BMW shop in downtown Medellin. Again they were a friendly lot and the shop had some expensive shiny bits on display, “Look but don't touch” were the instructions from Les!

We met a bloke called Tiberio at this shop; he was also a keen motorcyclist and owned a couple of BMWs. He also owns a motorcycle tour company here, who run guided tours around Colombia and South America. Our timing was perfect as Tibby and his friends were heading out on a Sunday morning ride and we were invited to join them.

True to his word, Tibby picked us up at the Casa Kiwi and we rode through town to meet the rest of the group. At the RV point we met Jacob who, by sheer coincidence, happens to be sharing a flat with our friend Tom whom we met in Mexico. Tom is here recovering from an operation on his foot after a collision; it really is a small world. After a massive breakfast I discovered we had another puncture, the sixth in 34,000 miles which I suppose is not bad really? I quickly repaired it with my plugging kit and into the mountains we rode. Tibby led the six of us off into the country to see roads and places that tourists don't normally see. It was a fantastic run of 139 miles with a combination of tarmac and dirt roads with awesome views. This is truly a most beautiful country and, for the most part, safe for the traveller. Tibby told us he was riding into towns in the Amazon basin which until now were out of bounds, being controlled by guerrillas. Of course there are still areas to avoid but more is opening up every year as the government troops do their job. Anyway, we had a great ride out with Tibby’s friends, one of whom was Carlos, a partner in another bike shop, Carlos invited me to their shop and even guided me through a service on my own bike.

On our way back to the hostel, we followed Jacob to his apartment to visit poor old Tom, his foot pinned together causing him to have an enforced break from the bike but remaining cheerful, as only Tom can - get well soon mate.

Now armed with my new-found mechanical knowledge, I spent Tuesday rolling about the floor as I took my bike to bits. Every now and again Carlos, Hector and the other lads would come and show me how to look after the bike, language deficiencies aren’t really a problem when you are wielding a spanner! When I did come to the more difficult bits I found that Carlos’s English was good enough for me to understand when I'd done something wrong! At midday the boys took me out to lunch, on the way back we bought the tools which were missing from my kit and which would enable me to service the bike.

The bike has now had its tappets adjusted, all the oils and filters changed, and as a nice little extra, the petrol filter moved from inside the tank to the outside for ease of maintenance. Two new tyres have also been fitted, a Michelin Anakee front and Avon Distanzia rear; we are now more than ready to take on South America – bring it on!

As fortune would have it, a Canadian biker by the name of Darren also visited the shop while we were there. Darren was also heading south and bought my part-worn tyres from me, so every one was now happy. We had a great day at Moto Angel - thanks guys.

Our excellent, 'HOOD' jeans had to have the Velcro replaced on one of the pockets, the first repair in nearly a year, not bad.

We departed Medellin on the 31st and climbed higher into the mountains following Routes 25 and 50 south. We passed several landslides caused by the heavy rains on our way to Manizales and Pereira on route 29 and climbed up into the coffee growing area of Colombia. On the way we were stopped by a couple of soldiers at a road check. It was clear they weren’t interested in what we had in our panniers but just wanted money. I kept telling them where we were from and where we'd been and generally pleaded ignorant to there request. These were just boys in uniform with big guns and fortunately they let us go without a peso! I have to say the incident shook me; it’s not every day you have a couple of lads asking for money while holding guns! I am assured from other travellers that this won't be the last time either!

We eventually rode into the village of Salento and found the Plantation House hostel and its extremely friendly and helpful owners. Tim is an Englishman and married to Christine, a Colombian lady. Together with their excellent staff they run this busy hostel, check it out at

Now finding ourselves resident in these beautiful mountains, we walked to some of the nearby coffee plantations and generally explored the area. I can now understand why Tim has settled in this area, there is only one word for it – stunning. It would be even more so if it would only stop raining, but then, it is still the wet season - just! The humid dampness has of course attracted the mosquitoes and they seem to have taken a particular fancy to me, I have several nasty bites which have swollen up into itchy lumps for days.


The bike now felt good once again, especially after her service and new tyres. We have now passed the 11 month milestone and clocked up 35,000 miles for the trip so far. We spent three days here in Salento, 4 degrees north of the equator and yet cool and damp, it felt strange!

At the hostel we made some good contacts for the Argentinean and Australian legs of our trip. We will meet Myanmar and others from other parts of the world as we catch up with them again later in our adventure.

On Tuesday the 4th of June we left Salento and followed the road to Armenia. Then it was route 40 southwest to the 25 and the Pan Americana south to Cali. Coming off the mountains it began to get hot once again, we were now moving from coffee plantations to sugar cane, but not for long as we climbed up once again into mountains and the town of Popayan. On the way here we chanced upon more racing cyclists who were out training in some very extreme terrain indeed!

Every time we stopped for fuel or food we had people come and chat. Some were genuinely curious about ‘the foreigners on a big bike’ and some just wanting to practice their English. They were all friendly enough and we normally parted with what can generally be construed as, “welcome to my country”.

Popayan is a pretty town with narrow streets and whitewashed walls. We will stay here one day then move closer to the Ecuador border - Get another flag ready Eddie!

We've been in Colombia for a month now and what a fantastic country it is. Anyone with investment opportunities should get here soon before the rush, which I'm sure will happen as the country becomes more peaceful.

The adventure continues, Nick.

From Les

Salento, Colombia; 4th June 2007

We have just spent a wonderful week at Casa Kiwi Hostel in Medellin, where our host, Paul has endless information and contacts. Not only did he point us in the right direction for a bike service but he also made lots of calls trying to source more slides for my blood test kit …thank you Paul.

We met up with Tiberio, Carlos and friends for their regular Sunday morning breakfast ride and headed for the hills, and mudslides. We had a great time in spite of yet another puncture, (quickly fixed) and rode to places we wouldn't have visited on our own. Surprisingly, we didn't even get wet! Everyday about 2pm the skies open and the roads run like rivers. It's supposed to be near the end of the rainy season but we have been assured that it may get better in a couple of weeks....fingers crossed!

We seem to have been busy all week and still didn’t get to do much sightseeing. We did take a couple of rides on Colombia’s only metro system which runs above ground, north, south, east and west across the city so you get an good idea of the city layout. The main downtown plaza is full of more sculptures of fat people and animals by Botero. Other than that it was just another city!

Nick had a very productive day with Carlos and his mechanic friends while I spent time with Canadian Tom after his pyhsio session, 12 hours of separation … a record of the trip. The locals tend to enjoy a huge breakfast then the same for lunch and a lighter dinner. The meal of the day usually consists of soup, vegetable with sweetcorn followed by rice, meat or chicken, salad, beans and fried plantain, like banana, it’s very tasty but does become a bit bland day after day. Everything is fresh and preservative free so we are actually beginning to feel a bit healthier.

Straw or trilby hats are the mode and many of the men wear ponchos, some of very thin material and others made of thick wool. Women in the cities wear very tight jeans and T-shirt tops while village ladies wear jeans, shirts and T-shirts. There is a very relaxed feel to the villages with the locals hanging out of windows or chatting on street corners. Once again, the evenings are time for promenading in the central plazas and we spend time sitting and watching while absorbing the atmosphere.

From Medellin we headed to Salento, the main coffee growing area close to Cocora National Park, famous for its tall wax palm trees. It’s a wonderfully tranquil village where all the locals are so friendly and the local dish is fresh trout. The Plantation House Hostel came highly recommended and we have enjoyed staying in the rustic hostel on the cool and very wet mountains, yes it is still raining daily!

We have now been on the road for 11 months and just clicked up our 35,000mls and we are still having the greatest adventure.

Regards to all, Lesley X


Ibarra, Ecuador; 9th June 2007

 We spent a very pleasant day wandering around the streets of Popayan and listening to music emanating from the collage close by. There was everything from classical piano to opera and even the busy vibes of salsa. We wallowed in this cultural scene while eating some of the great Colombian sweet pastry as we sat in the town square, not to mention drinking the fantastic Colombian coffee.

We departed the next day on the Pan Americana 25 southwest to Jimbio and Rosas. It was a warm sunny day as we zigzagged our way up into the mountains once more, everywhere around this area there are steep hills at some point. We found ourselves having to nip past the usual heavy Lorries as they struggled up the steep gradients. It was now a regular occurrence to narrowly miss the many oncoming busses as they overtook around the bends towards us. It’s not as dangerous as it sounds, we deal with it now without any fuss as there's always somewhere for a bike to go, but I wouldn’t want to be in a car. Having said that; we haven’t seen much evidence of collisions on the main roads, only dents on city cars as they play dodgems by hacking through the traffic. We came upon the odd road works as the dreaded grading machine was chewing up the asphalt ready for a new layer. It doesn’t help the ‘two wheel’ traffic mind you; we have to plough through the deep loose stuff. We headed on through to Matacea after passed beautiful green mountains with rounded summits which were very similar to the French Pyrenees. It was then on through canyons with steep cliffs either side of us.

We stopped for a while to stretch our legs as some of the Lorries we'd passed earlier drove by with a toot and wave - we'll catch them again later no doubt.

The saddle on the BMW GS is so uncomfortable that we have to take a break after about an hour; that’s even with the Airhawk saddle covers fitted. I feel it must be something to do with riding two-up? When I rode solo around Europe on the shake-down tour it wasn’t quite so bad, but still, it shouldn’t be this bad? I rode my Triumph Sprint Sport from Lands End to John o’Groats covering 854 miles in just over 12 hours and could have kept going. That saddle was the most comfortable I’ve ever had.

Anyway, we eventually found the Koala Inn, Pasto, our last stop in Colombia. We've spent just over a month in Colombia and covered over 2000 miles from one end to the other exploring this beautiful country. We've made many new friends and met friendly, curious people who just wanted to ask questions, I only wished I knew more Spanish. We've stayed in the countryside, towns and the big cities, ridden on country and main roads. All the while we felt no hint of the hidden dangers this country is supposed to present; the only visible signs were the plentiful military checks. No doubt there are some dodgy areas and the locals will tell you where they are, just don't go there and everyone will have a great time in this wonderful country, it is now one of our favourites of the trip so far.

On a damp morning we left Pasto on the final leg out of Colombia. We were still on the Pan American HW for the short ride to Ipiales and the Ecuador border.

There's no barrier at the border, we just rode down a steep hill where we found the immigration offices well sign-posted on the left-hand side of the road which splits into a one-way system through the border control. Opposite the offices there's a car park, it’s here you'll find your helpers, if you want them or not. I know they sound like a bit of a nuisance but I suppose they’ve got to make a living somehow!

After leaving the bike with a minder we walk across the road to the immigration office and get in the short queue. We hand our passports to the official who scans and stamps them then hands them back. Next it was down the stairs at the back to the customs office and hand in my temporary import certificate and that’s it - we've exited Colombia.

After giving a few of our leftover pesos to our helper, and bike minder, we ride over the bridge to the Ecuador customs and immigration office clearly sign-posted in front of us. We parked out front next to several police cars thinking she should be safe here! Surprisingly, there were no helpers here but the routine is fairly straightforward. We booked ourselves in at the immigration, pick up the form to fill in and get in the queue. I hand over the passports and form without a word being spoken. Our passports were scanned and stamped and we're given a tourist card which stays with the passport until you leave the country. We were then given a 90-day visa without a word said, not even a “Welcome to Ecuador!”

We headed back outside to where I had parked the bike and headed for the customs office where we find only one man in the queue. I handed over my registration document, (ownership), passport and driving licence with photocopies of all three. The official asks a couple of questions confirming details on the registration document and asks the value of the bike - this was a new one! He then came out and checked that the frame number tallied with the registration document. Two copies of a temporary import certificate are printed which I check and sign and then give back one and that’s it - no charge once again, all done in 1hr 40mins, happy days! We ride on into Ecuador with a whoop and a holler, another country to explore.

We now found ourselves riding on good smooth roads with fast sweeping bends and long straights which were a bit of a novelty. We passed big mountains with a patchwork quilt of fields carved into their sides. Still on the Pan Americana HW, we drop a few feet and the temperature rises once again. The farmers are using half of this main road to dry out their beans, the traffic just falls into single lane, no one makes a fuss; I could just see this happening on the A11 back home!

We then climb up to the town of Ibarra and find the Hostel El Ejecutivo in the town centre, a steal at only $12 night! We ate Chinese that night and a blow out with beer, all for only $8!

We decided to stay here a couple of nights as we acclimatise to the altitude at over 7000ft and less than one degree north of the equator, we also need to get used to a currency change - American Dollars!

Until the next time.  Nick.


Salinas, Ecuador; 21st June 2007.

 It was a cool dry day as we departed Ibarra and tackled the fast sweeping bends with gusto. The fun ended all too soon at a toll booth though - we were required to pay 20c; we could no longer divert around as in Colombia, but what the heck - 20c surly won’t break the bank?

Somewhat surreally we stopped at the equator with a snow-capped mountain scene surrounding us; my hand-held Garmin Sat Nav was showing 000000 as its latitude reading. We had stopped beside a recently built monolith; the owner of which gave us a rundown on the importance of the center of the world to the ancient Indians.  It was a very interesting talk and he gave us lots of geographical facts and figures, I only wish I had paid more attention at school. We were both digesting the cultural significance of the area as we took the essential pictures of our equatorial crossing before heading on towards Quito.

Following the smooth Pan Americano we were caught by three other BMW's on a Sunday ride and they beckoned us to follow ‘Mucho Rapido’. As we hit the built-up areas we found ourselves once again burdened with the chore of hacking through the traffic fully laden. Fortunately we soon stop for gas and have the opportunity to introduce ourselves to Juan and his two buddies. We follow them on through another toll, which they kindly pay, and it was then on to Juan's home which, according to my Garmin, is only ½ mile away from our planned lodgings for the night. After meeting Juan’s family we headed to our digs at the Moto Hotel which is owned by Ricardo Roccos.

Ricardo is a motorcycling legend in South America and his whole family is involved with bikes; his sons and a daughter all race Moto Cross. We didn’t need the Sat Nav to find this house, there wasn’t even a signboard and bikes were everywhere. Even the hanging baskets are old crash helmets like ours back home. Ricardo is a flamboyant character of Italian descent and standing about 6' 6'', his size reflects the height of his friendship. It was important things first though and, after a welcoming bear hug, we are shown the beer fridge. After blowing the froth off a few we are then shown to our comfortable room. Ricardo’s house nestles on top of a hill and from our window we were afforded a fantastic view overlooking Quito, Ecuador’s capital city. We can even watch aeroplanes take off and land at the international airport; the runway being surrounded by office blocks and high-rise dwellings leaves no margin for error here!

Ricardo is an event organiser,  and he is in the middle of organising a big show. So, after showing us around, he heads out leaving the place to us, saying, “make yourself at home, I want to you be comfortable” as he stepped out the door. He's only gone a few minutes when the doorbell rings and Josh from New Zealand arrives on a Kawasaki KLR 650. He is riding from San Francisco to Rio then Brazil and looking for a room. Somewhat later we meet Flavio, a Brazilian who is riding a 100cc Chinese scooter from end to end of the Americas – respect indeed; check out his site out at  We can just about get the feel of the place now, it’s a real biker’s heaven, or is that ‘haven’? They were all great folks to chat to and exchange stories with, not to mention the fully equipped work shop as well.

We spent three days in Quito, at 9411-feet high, we took our time on the uphill walking bit - it was like sucking on a straw again. We did manage to find one more map for South America and new shoes to replace my 90-pence trainers I bought in Honduras which were now a bio-hazard and really starting to pong!

I took full advantage of this somewhat relaxed opportunity, and the use of Ricardo’s excellent workshop to change the rear wheel axle oil. It definitely needed doing as the magnetic sump plug looked like it had an Afro hairstyle with swarf leftover from the wheel bearing failure stuck to the magnet. In fact I changed the oil twice after another short ride. We had a very pleasant stay at the 'Moto Hotel'.

Unfortunately, because of Ricardo’s business commitments, we only had one short conversation with him and we were lucky to get that as the house was a hive of activity with Ricardo and his staff rushing around as the deadline for his gig got closer. He did tell us of a few more roads and routes though and we will look at them as we wind our way down to Tierra del Fuego.

While we were here, our much respected webmaster Eddie, emailed us to say he'd got Motor Cycle News interested in our story, and sure enough, we had an email from Dave Rawlings with a few questions. The story should be out in the 27th June edition, don’t forget to get your copy - we'll sign them when we get home!

We left Quito on another cool and damp day and rode south along the Pan American HW to Ambato where we turned off to the small mountain town of Banos. It was still cool and raining as we arrived at the Hotel Villa Santa Clara and we were by now enjoying the warmth from the new fleeces we had bought in Colombia. As we sat on our balcony we peered through a curtain of rain at the cloud-covered mountains that surrounded us. It looked ever so familiar; it could so easily have been summer in the highlands of Scotland! We were told it had been raining here for the last three days and no let up was in sight so the next day we planned to move on.

We tried to leave the next day only to find the road blocked by a mudslide; Banos was cut off to the outside world. We were standing by the side of the raging muddy torrent of water which was pouring off the mountainside. I could hear its strength as boulders were forced down the mountain, bouncing and banging their way over solid rock and down into the valley below. A small team of workers with diggers tried their best to keep the flow of water going down into the valley and not towards the town. Helpful bystanders were pointing out when leaks started appearing in the dyke sides. Queues of traffic were forming in both directions and we were going nowhere so we turned around and went back to the hotel where we got our room back and sat watching the relentless rain - still I'm sure the garden needs it?

The next day the roads were clear and I can't believe my luck that, on the day we decide to move on, the skies are also clear and we can actually see the magnificent Andes Mountains all around us. When we arrived back at the previous day’s obstruction, there is only a small stream to cross in the mud and gravel which goes on for about half a mile, we slip and slide our way across and back onto tarmac. We retrace our route to Ambato and north on the Pan Americano to Latacurga on a busy road. We passed our first radar speed trap and I’m thinking that it must be Ecuador’s only radar gun as it looks like the whole department are out taking turns. I spot them in the distance and drop out of warp drive and cloaked and slip by unnoticed, (Star Trek fans will understand)!

At Latacura we head west after asking directions several times due to a general lack of road signs. We climb again into the mountains and ride into a different world of ‘small framed’ indigenous mountain people. The ladies are colourfully dressed and wearing trilby hats. Lamas, Alpacas, sheep, horses and mules are order of the day here with the odd dog giving chase. We're riding over the top of the world again through stunning scenery when we hit the fog. Somewhere around the village of Pilato the road finishes and the dirt, gravel and mud starts. With visibility down to ten or twenty feet and the prospect of a big drop off the side of the track, it certainly focuses the concentration somewhat. After several miles of this, “Adventure Motorcycling” we get back into clear visibility and the asphalt road surface. Dropping off the mountain the temperature rises and suddenly we're back into an area of banana plantations and the heat, which we have missed over the past few days.

We ride into the town of Quevedo having descended 5,615 ft, according to the 'Garmin', and clicked over 36,000 miles for the trip so far. We had a great day’s riding and were rewarded with a comfortable, and cheap, hotel beside a river. We enjoyed a good meal and a few beers before a warm night’s rest at last!

I haven’t been using the Airhawk saddle cover for a few days and, although still very uncomfortable, I prefer sitting on the saddle where I'm not so isolated to what’s going on under the bike’s wheels, particularly when in the dirt.

The next day we leave Quevedo and head towards the west coast and the Pacific. On a hot day we pass several small busy towns and for the first time in ages we hear the odd, “Gringo” shouted out, feeling a little uncomfortable, we ride on. At the neat and tidy town of Portoviejo we pick up the road to Montecristi and the coastal town of Manta, where we stop at the Hotel Barbasquillo which has a small private beach and a pool. After checking in we expose our, by now, pale skin to the tropical sun as we stretch out and relax. It’s amazing what a bit of sun and heat can do. My shoulder injuries have been playing up in the cold, and now, as if by magic, they're soothed away. But sadly there's always a catch to this luxury, the mozzies are back snacking on us again!

I topped up the engine oil today, first time since the service in Medellin, it used 250mls in the last 1313miles – not bad.

Following the coast south, and avoiding the occasional potholes, we pass through small villages of El Aromo, San Lorenzo and Puerto Cayo beside the sea. Occasionally we were close to the beaches and sometimes we had to head inland through the scrub. We stopped at a viewpoint overlooking a bay and we're joined by Javier, a Colombian on a 250 Suzuki cruiser who is touring Ecuador and dreaming of doing what we are one day.

After passing through the 'Machalilla' National Park, we stop in the town of Olon where we find the Hostel N & J close to the beach and find that we are the only ones here. We are back in the cold again with overcast skies and a cool breeze and it’s raining! Flipping heck, we are on the beach, close to the equator, what’s going on???

Les is not feeling well with pains in her stomach so we leave what was a damp room and head further south along the coast. A short ride brings us to Salinas, a coastal resort town and naval base where we find the Hostel Francisco 1. We now have a nice warm comfortable room where Les retires to bed feeling under the weather.

We've been here for two days now and we're ready to move on again. Strangely there's been little sun although it’s been mild enough for 'T' shirts most of the time.

Tomorrow, Thursday 22nd June 07 we head inland and climb back up into the Andes, then south to a small border crossing into Peru.

I've renewed our medical insurance with ' Navigator Travel '. The very helpful staff sorted me out with even cheaper cover now we're out of the States. I can't believe we've been on the road nearly a year, time flies when your having fun.

Until next time,   Nick.

From Les

Salinas, Ecuador; 21st June 2007

After leaving Salento we rode south to Popayan and bypassed Cali, which has been experiencing some civil unrest of late. We were by now becoming used to the altitude at 6552ft in preparation for Ecuador and Quito at 7298ft. During our acclimatisation I did experience a slight headache and dry mouth so we increased the intake of water and felt much better for it. Popayan was a nice little town; most of the buildings are white and built fairly low. We had a day wandering about in the grid system streets as we watched the locals go about their daily business. A small crowd gathered around a street vendor who was demonstrating a Spirograph; I remember drawing the endless circular patterns as a child, but it all seemed so new and exciting to the onlookers. We also noticed that a queue had formed to donate blood beside the main square. The makeshift trestle tables and temporary canopy to protect from the rain or sun was worlds away from our sterile conditions back home. In many ways things are familiar and don't seem out of place, but other times - it's all a bit of a surprise.

Towns in the border areas are all fairly similar, being drab, scruffy, and a bit dirty; the border between Colombia and Ecuador was no exception. We are getting pretty good at these crossings now, and even on the Pan-American we only took 1hr 40mins, and most of that was queuing. Central and South Americans do not understand the concept of queuing! They tend to barge in front of you without any thought about it. It’s very difficult to get used to but I am getting much better at blocking it out from my psyche now!

Our First stop in Ecuador was at Ibarra, a nice town which had a surprisingly high number of Afro-Caribbean and indigenous folk. We spent time in the local undercover market enjoying the hustle, bustle, sights and smells. The produce ranged from fresh, (dead or alive), meat, fish and poultry, to the arrays of fresh flowers, vegetables, herbs and spices, clothing, shoes and household utensils. One amusing sight was two elderly female stallholders sitting on top of their counter as they were too tiny to see over it. The indigenous people here are tiny; a giant amongst them would only be five-foot tall. The trilby hat, long pigtail, calf-length skirt and essential shawl are the height of fashion here, all finished off with the good old Welly boot.

The road to Quito was very smooth and the hills were softly rounded and covered with a patchwork of small fields. We had to stop for a photo-shoot at the Equator where our hand-held Garmin ETrex Sat Nav registered 000000. It was all a bit of an anti-climax really as nothing dramatic happened, but our spirits were lifted by knowing that we were now in the southern hemisphere. As we approached the outskirts of Quito we were joined by three local BMW riders out on their Sunday morning ride. They kindly escorted us in and even paid our 20c toll fee. Oh Yes, yet another currency; this time we are back to the US dollar. We are presently working on $2 to £1 - Great isn't it?

In Quito, we stayed at the "legendary overland motorcyclist", Ricardo Rocco's, Moto Hotel, which gave us a great view of the mountains and parts of the city; at 9411ft we literally found the hill breath taking! Ricardo was very busy with the final touches of a huge motor sports show he was promoting but he did find time to give us advice on routes to take and those to avoid. Also staying at the Moto Hotel was Flavio, of . He has ridden his 100cc Chinese bike from his home in Brazil and is heading for Alaska and then back home again in a few months. Flavio may be small in stature but he’s a huge character.

We now seem to meeting up with people, who know people that we have already met; the world really is getting smaller. Josh arrived and he remembers waving to us in San Jose, Costa Rica as we nursed the bike back with the bearing problem. He also travelled with two other guys we have also met on route. I am sure we will meet many more, including a couple of Brits who have been following us and emailed to arrange a meeting.

We were told that Banos is a lovely place to visit. It is overlooked by Volcano Tungurahua, which began erupting in 1999 and is currently on yellow alert. The excessive rain over the past week or so has caused many landslides and, as we rode into town, we could see where a 200ft stretch of road had been washed away recently. As it was cold and very wet, we decided to move on the next day but found that the road was completely blocked by yet another landslide, this one far larger, and threatening to flood the village with water, mud and rocks. We were told that the road would be open later in the day but after 2 hrs in the cold and rain we headed back to reclaim our hotel room. The next morning, after a dry night, the road was passable, though very muddy and slippery. We could see that the damage was far worse than we anticipated; at least half a mile. A few houses had been destroyed and parts of the road were missing; some homes had a lucky escape and were narrowly missed...this time!

We retraced our route to Latacurga and began to climb into the Andes along the twisty mountain roads. The local people were busy in the fields, tilling the black soil in the cold and wind. Sheep, cows, and our first sighting of alpaca’s, were being herded by women and children at the kerbsides. Small mud and reed huts were dotted on the hillside and endless neat fields of produce. Some of the people waved cautiously, some almost smiled and some just hid their faces as we passed. I would loved to have taken lots of photos but I feel we are intruding and don't want to become just another, "snap happy tourist". I am sorry though that we can't share some of these magical moments.

Our new fleeces were now christened as they fitted snugly under our jackets. They were very welcome as we ran out of tarmac and found ourselves on a gritty and very muddy decent. We were in dense cloud by now, which made visibility very poor to say the least; steamed up glasses and visors don't help. I think Nick actually enjoyed sliding along the mud tracks and fording the shallow streams until we found tarmac again; I was just glad to relax! Suddenly the temperature rose and we were shedding clothes in the steamy cloud forest. Banana plantations and sugar cane were growing alongside the incredibly tall bamboo. As the temperature rose we didn't see any more indigenous people but Spanish almost European people in T-shirts and shorts, what a contrast. This seems to be the difference from one side of the Andes to the other.

The Pacific Coast road south of Manta rises and falls, kissing the coast from time to time. We had imagined that being so very close to the equator that it would be very hot and sunny; in fact it is pleasantly cool and overcast, not dissimilar to the UK summer. We had considered a few days R&R, in fact I have been stricken by a bug of unknown origin and have spent a couple of days sleeping. I also have a few nasty bites on my face which make me look like a boxer so I think Nick is glad I have been confined to the room here in Salinas. I don't think we have done too badly on the health front during our travels, we have eaten at some seriously dodgy shacks, having some of our best meals there, but you are never quite sure what you’re going to get next.

We celebrate our, "1st year on the road anniversary" on the 1st July, how time flies when you are having such a great time!

Hope the past year has treated you all well.

Regards, Lesley

Cuenca, Ecuador; July 1st 2007 - One year on the road.

 Yes, on the 1st July 2006, Canada Day, we rode out of Halifax, Nova Scotia, heading west for Alaska. Now 12 months later we are in Ecuador and starting to work on the second half of the American continent. And there was I thinking we could cover this section of our ' Global Trek' in a year!

I left you last time in Salinas with Les feeling unwell; sadly it gets worse.

We just spent two days in the most uninspiring town consisting mostly of tower blocks of private apartments, a few very expensive hotels, and a couple of beaches. As the weather remained cool and overcast, we decide to move on.

On the morning of our departure we were both feeling somewhat under par, Les's with stomach cramps and I seemed to have picked up a bout of 'Man Flu' as I’m aching and a bit feverish. I also seem to have caught a touch of Les's stomach trouble as well. Against all well-meaning advice to stay put and shake off our ills, we decide to have a short day's ride instead and head inland.

We followed the smooth dual carriageway through desert scrub scenery to Santa Elana, Progreso and through to Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city. Here we find ourselves once again sucked into the city center due to a lack of proper road signs. Passing through the neat and tidy city center, and, with the help of my compass, we navigated our way to the eastern side of the city to Duran, Bolich. We passed banana plantations, sugarcane and rice paddy fields as we made our way to Puerto Inca, where it started to rain.

After a light lunch and donning our waterproof trousers, we headed to Naranjal where we were planing on staying the night. The place appeared run down and grubby so we pushed on and started climbing up into the Andes once again as we headed on towards Cuenca. In places the road was covered with avalanche debris, so once again we were slip-sliding along. It was difficult riding conditions, even if you were feeling 100%, but still, we pushed on!

As we climbed it got colder and after stopping to put our fleeces on, we climbing further and rode through the clouds and up to the top of the world. Here our personal discomforts temporarily disappeared as our eyes were treated to the fantastic views on top of the Andes.

We rode through the 'Cajas' National Park with its many small lakes and perched on top of the Andes. This area is famous for its quality trout, evidenced by the sight of men walking along the roadside armed with fishing rods, which made a real change to machetes I suppose!

As we drew near to Cuenca our hearts sank as we rode through its rundown and muddy suburbs, it had been described as a pretty mountain town. At this stage we were tired after riding for about nine hours and covering 228 miles of difficult conditions, and this was going to be a short day! But as we entered the town center, things improved somewhat and Cuenca was indeed a beautiful city with its old ‘French-looking’ colonial buildings with wrought iron balconies, cobbled streets punctuated with pretty squares and many churches.

We were still wet and cold as we stopped by the road side and it wasn’t long before a policeman came over to presumably move us on as our six-foot wide GS was blocking the road a bit. We needn’t have worried though, he ended up directing us to a nice hotel, The 'Santa Ana' in downtown Cuenca; this is where we've been for the last nine days!

This hotel is great at $34, about £17 pounds, for a double en suite room, breakfast, cable TV and free internet. I know it’s a bit more than we normally pay but with a really comfortable room, pool and restaurant, it’s a real treat; check it out

Our health has deteriorated somewhat and we were now spending most of the day sleeping in bed. We were both having pains in the stomach from eating something dodgy somewhere along the way; we now had to keep well within reach of the loo.

The hotel owner, Mr Hernan Plaza was Ecuador’s Minister for tourism, until he went into the hotel business. He has been brilliant and, fortunately for us, he spoke excellent English. He even made appointments with doctors and took us to them. As well as this, he even had time to give us a guided tour around his beautiful city. We really cannot thank him, and excellent staff, enough; our stay, under these circumstances, has been quite pleasant.

On the health front; we've had samples examined at laboratories only to find that we've picked up some tropical brain-eating worm, well it might be, and I'm sure mine’s worse than Les's. We’ve both had a couple of courses of antibiotics and something to kill the worm, so hopefully we'll be on the road again soon.

While we were here we had an email from another couple of bikers, Maria and Alistair, who are on BMW F650's which they shipped from the UK to Colombia with the intention of touring South America. They had been staying at the same hostels as us and just missing us by days. Eventually we all met here in Cuenca for dinner and exchanged stories of our adventures so far.

How chuffed I was to see our story in Motor Cycle News; being a keen motorcyclist all my life, I now think I've truly arrived - Thanks to our webmaster Eddie for fixing it for me.

Time for another pill and a lie down!


Lesley’s First year Review

 We have now been on the road a year, the time has passed so quickly and we have experienced so much.

To many people, the thought of selling all your goods and chattels, leaving family and friends and heading out into the unknown is foolhardy and irresponsible. Yes, we were taking a really big gamble but, it has worked out so far, and has been one of the best decisions of my life; I wouldn't have missed this for anything.

Being together 24/7 obviously has been interesting at times but as the months progress it has become so much easier; the only times we have a bitch or a moan now is when we are tired and cold and due for some down-time. I suppose we are very fortunate in that we enjoy similar things and both dislike the crowded touristy areas.

We have met some really nice people on route and seen some awesome sights.  It has been a great eye-opener and it has made me put things into perspective. Previously I have taken many things for granted and have probably been wasteful. My life from now on will be far more minimalist; if I can live out of a pannier for a year and still have a clean pair of knickers left, all is well with the world.

It has also been interesting for us to experience the cultural changes as we head south.

The border from Texas to Mexico was the biggest culture shock for us. In Texas everything is big and new and after crossing the bridge into Mexico, it was a different world with donkey carts, street vendors on every corner and tumbledown buildings which hold people and their businesses. There were few new cars but tatty old pickup trucks carrying many people, we even saw 5 people on a moped. It was all very different from what we were used to back home, but gladly we are becoming more accustomed to observing these stranger sights that this world has to offer.

As we have been communicating mainly via email, we were surprised to discover that the most difficult place to find an internet cafe was in USA. I suppose everyone has their own home setup and wireless-free areas so they assume that we all carry a laptop. So far in Central and South America we have found internet access in almost every town, but not all have fast links.

We have noticed that people are taking more and more interest in the bike and our trip. Whenever we stop there is always someone who wants to asks questions .Often as we ride through towns and cities we get the "thumbs up”, whistles and big smiles, but if we leave the bike in the garage, we are just another two tourists wandering around their town. It's very noticeable…the bike is definitely the crowd puller!

Medical assistance, including dentistry, is available everywhere. Pharmacies sell drugs over the counter that we usually have to get on prescription in UK.  The most common store is the mobile phone outlet and it appears that everyone has one but us!

Fellow travellers have told us that South America is wonderful; so far they haven't been wrong. We look forward to testing their theory by exploring as much as we can as we head south.

So far it has been a truly wonderful experience. Lesley


One year on the road; Bike Statistics from Nick.

 We started our adventure from Halifax, Nova Scotia on our BMW R1150 GS Adventure. With a starting mileage of 14,500 miles on the clock, the bike is now showing 51206 miles.

Fuel & Oil

We have used approximately, 917.65 UK gallons of fuel, and the engine has used 6.98Lts of oil, total loss; oil changes have also been carried out every 6,000 miles.

The bike weighs in at a massive 513ks, 1128 lbs approx. That’s fully loaded with kit and with Les and me on board.

Services come every 6,000 miles and have been done, up until the last one, at BMW dealers, two in Canada, two in the USA, one in Costa Rica and the last one I did myself with help from Carlos and Hector at Moto Angel, Colombia.


We started the trek with Bridgestone Trailwing tyres, which I've used back home since owning the bike and liked but I don’t know the mileage we got from the first set.

We changed to Avon Distanzia's, front and rear in Alaska and got 12,831 miles from the front and 7090 from the rear, I think I could have got more though.

In South Carolina we changed to Michelin Pilot Roads on the recommendation of the dealer as we were riding on tarmac. We got 5681 miles out of both, they appeared to wear out evenly together, unlike the others, and I found the front tyre lasted double the mileage of the rear. Once again, I feel I could have got more miles out of the tyre but the next stop would have been in Mexico and we weren’t sure where the next tyres would come from.

I changed to Michelin Anakee, front and rear in Texas, USA and got 7072 miles from the front and 10423miles out of the rear, again I could have gone further on them.

I changed the rear to a Metzler Tourance in Costa Rica.

We got into Medellin, Colombia, with the Metzler on the rear and a Michelin Anakee on the front. Both would have gone much further but once again I was not sure where the next tyres would come from so we changed them both. Fortunately we sold them, part worn and with a plugged puncture, to another traveller. We now have a Michelin Anakee front and Avon Distanzia rear, bought mainly because of availability and price. Hopefully these tyres will get us into Brazil or Argentina.

Other than the Michelin Pilot Roads, they have all been trail tyres and afforded us a slight off-road grip improvement but I wouldn’t want to go anywhere too extreme without some knobblies.

By and large, they have all been OK. The Avon Distanzia's developed an unusual wear pattern, (blocking), one side of the tread block wore out quicker than the other. But generally they've all been good at their job, we've always had a reasonable choice of tyres but it has been the price that helped make the final decision.

So we've had 12 tyres in total for the year with 6 punctures. We could have used less if we'd gone further on each tyre but I didn’t want to risk it.


It’s been slate, nail, spoke and a bolt have been the culprits but they were all easily repaired with the plugging kit at the roadside.

Mechanical problems;

The rear final drive little pinion seal failed and was replaced in Alaska with the bike’s clock showing 20,535 miles. The transmission output seal and output shaft radial sealing ring failed at 30,170 miles and were replaced in Denver, Colorado USA, under warranty - thanks BMW Denver.

The alternator belt was replaced at 36,000 miles at a usual service interval.

The rear wheel bearing and oils seal was replaced in Costa Rica, at San Jose BMW.

We have also had to replace a couple of head light bulbs.

Any damage.

The Tourace cylinder head protector broke after being knocked over in a car park in Mexico, we had it welded for £1 pound and have suffered a small dent in the metal pannier after falling off in Guatemala.


The Caberg Justissimo flip up helmets are a bit scratched and faded now but are still comfortable and we have just had new visors fitted in Medallin, Colombia. Being able to easily remove the linings for cleaning is great, and with the ability to flip up the front to talk to people makes these an invaluable touring helmet.

The Auto Com, rider to pillion communication is brilliant, although only one ear speaker is working on mine and I am suffering an intermittent fault when I move my head. The movement causes a break somewhere in the wiring and cuts out the coms, I have taped it up for the time being and it seems to be working fine.

My HeinGericke, Goretex, Cordura jacket is OK but gets very hot, and although it has vents front and rear, they're no good with a screen as it interrupts the air flow. The nylon lining gets hot, sweaty and smelly in the tropics. In the last couple of downpours I've detected a leak. Lesley's Revit Gortex jacket’s main problem is the weight, it weighs a ton with all the linings in and I think she's had a few leaks as well. We lost the linings when we had a bag stolen from the bike in Colombia so I think we'll have to change Les’s jacket soon.

The 'Hood' Kevlar trousers are great and very comfortable in all conditions. The only repair I've had done is to replace the Velcro on my wallet pocket, contrary to local belief, my wallet does get opened from time to time! Certain areas of the material have also been faded by the sun, which I think looks quite fashionable. But with a year of virtually continuous use, I feel they are brilliant.

We've replaced our waterproof leggings with another cheap disposable pair; the others just fell apart and leaked.

My Carhartt Gortex boots are no longer waterproof but the sturdy lumberjack type boots are strong and comfortable.

Lesley’s Daytona Gortex motorcycle boots are still waterproof and comfortable.

I'm on my second pair of lightweight gloves; they eventually split with constant use in the wet and dry conditions. Lesley uses cycling track mitts most of the time so she is always in a position to use the camera. We both lost our winter gloves when the bag was stolen so we may have to pick up some new ones before we get any higher into the Andes.

That completes my end of year report with regard to the bike and our equipment.


From Les

Cuenca, Ecuador; 4th July 2007.

We departed Salinas on 22nd June, even though neither of us was feeling very well. If either of us is even slightly under the weather in future, and there is no serious deadline to reach, we will stay put and shake it off!

The road from Salinas to Guayaquil was a smooth dual-carriageway most of the way so we encountered no problems on this section. We found ourselves in the centre of Guayaquil by late morning and should have ignored the report in the Lonely Planet guide by staying here, but we pushed on, hoping for something quieter. We began climbing into the Andes again and villages, and accommodation, became scarce. The roads began to deteriorate with rough gravel, mud and evidence of recent rock falls. We have found that with altitude it gets colder and with cloud it gets wetter; the combination is enough to make you cry when you are feeling ill....but I didn't, I was brave, or was I past caring at this stage?

We did pass through yet more stunning scenery in the high Andean Cajas National Park with its 232 small lakes and numerous waterfalls and white-water streams. We then began to drop down towards the city of Cuenca. The streets on route where wet, slippery and muddy, we later discovered that they were clearing up after the river broke its banks. The centre of Cuenca is lovely with cobbled streets, small parks and beautiful buildings that reminded us of Paris. We arrived at 6:15pm after covering 228miles, one of our longer days. We checked into the first place that had parking for the bike, the Hotel Santa Ana, how lucky we were!

We have managed to wander around the beautiful streets of this spotlessly clean city, taking in the sights. Once again our favourite pastime is sitting in the Central park and watching the world go by. Business suits and national costume, of the indigenous people go side by side which is now beginning to seem quite ordinary to us. The ladies are now wearing brightly coloured pleated skirts just below the knee, with sparkly embroidery along the hemline. Long plaited hair is topped by a high trilby/panama hat and there is usually a child slung across the back and secured by a shawl. It feels like a very peaceful place, even though there have been several small demonstrations regarding the mining of a recent gold find nearby.

There are no shortages of Doctors and Dentists throughout Central and South America and they all seem to specialise, practising from their own homes in many cases. Because of our stomach bug we were directed to a pharmacy which issued us with an anti-bacterium and stomach settlers. These didn’t seem to work, so Snr Hernan Plaza, our very kind host, took us to a clinic where I was prodded and pummelled and prescribed more of the same anti-bacterium tablets - still no real improvement! A few days later we purchased our own specimen jars, performed our duty, and then delivered the contents to a laboratory for analysis. Within a few hours we got our results ... no infection but amoebas were causing problems in the gut... see a Doctor! Snr Hernan then very kindly took us to his own Doctor who prescribed something different, which we hope will work. Apparently these amoebas transfer through food, water, insect bites etc and we are lucky to have travelled so far in the past year without having this problem before. In total it cost us about £34 pounds for consultations and medication. The Medical system that we used here, where you can have blood and samples analysed before seeing a Doctor, seems to be an excellent way to go. Often the results do not necessitate a Doctor’s visit as most drugs, including my Warfarin, can be bought over the counter. Anyway, we just hope this last batch will do its job and we can get back on the road again; we were due a break anyway!

A couple of days ago we met up with Marie and Alastair from UK, who were riding their bikes from Bogota to Teirra Del Fuego for Christmas. They have been following our route and have even stayed in many of the same places we have; they have also been stricken with some strange bug. We did however enjoy an evening out with them, exchanging stories, goals and ambitions. We will now be following them, maybe even catching up from time to time?

The staff at the hotel have been so kind and friendly. Snr Hernan and his wife have taking us out on a tour of the nearby places of interest and to the Mirador, where we were treated to amazing views over the city. Nancy, the evening receptionist, is especially lovely and gave me a pretty necklace as a parting gift; she is now away on holiday. When we are well enough, we hope to take advantage of the pool, gym and steam room!

We have been shopping locally and found a small printing firm which made 5 stickers of our website address for the bike for only £2.50p. Another firm will make us 100 business-type cards for a fiver. There are so many interesting small businesses tucked away in large courtyards off the main streets and the range of items for sale is amazing … there is something for everyone. We even found a small “hole in the wall” place that had headlight bulbs for the bike at only £2 pounds each! The only thing we haven't found is a supermarket, but who needs a supermarket when you have such a vast quantity of markets and individual shops that specialise, all within a block of each other? It's really good to see that the giant stores are not taking over or even getting their foot in the door, bartering still exists and works here.

Cuenca is a World Heritage Site and to continue to hold this status it has to regenerate areas in the city using local, unemployed and rehabilitated people. It seems to have worked; the city is being restored to its former glory as we speak.

On Friday we are going out for a test ride to see if we are fit, and if all goes well will be back on the road on Sunday 8th. Let's hope the sun stays shining and the roads stay dry!

Chow for now, Lesley X


Huanchaco, Peru; 15th July 2007

 While recovering from our recent illness we did manage to get out a few times in Cuenca where we found a couple of great Restaurants. Cafe Austria in the back streets served great four-course meals for $3.85, and with some smooth jazz playing in the background, it all made for a great atmosphere. The Raymipampa Restaurant in the main square was easily spotted by us as we saw a BMW R1200GS parked outside; we later discovered that it belonged to the restaurant owner. There’s no doubt the restaurant was a little touristy due to its location but they served some great food at reasonable prices, the potato soup was delicious.

Another useful shop in town was the ABC Liberia Bookshop which sold and exchanged English books. It was owned by a very friendly and helpful American gent who settled here several years ago with his wife.

Anyway, after a shakedown ride to some Inca ruins nearby, we decided that we were fit for the road once again and it was time to move on.

Having made good friends with Hernan, the owner of the 'Santa Anna', hotel and his great staff, it was a sad departure, but Peru beckoned.

We headed south by climbing up into the mountains once again; everywhere you travel seems to be up in this country! We zigzagged our way up and down spectacular mountains as we endeavoured to avoid the frequent potholes. Undeterred, we rode through native peoples villages and couldn’t help observing the distinct change of costume from bright colours to black. The men were now wearing their long hair in plaited pony tails - lucky lot, being follicly challenged - I wish I could sport one!

We had one of our rare stops at a police checkpoint, we needn’t have worried though, instead of having a conversation on the topics of, “how much and how fast”, we had a friendly exchange of glances and a fond farewell.

We eventually descended into the town of Loja, where we found the bypass and dropped further down into the town of Vilcabamba. Dropping down out of the mountains also gave us the added bonus of a welcome rise in temperature.

We made our way to the Hostel 'Ruinas De Quinara', as recommended by Maria and Alistair, whom we met in Cuenca; and we weren’t disappointed. At only $26.80 for the two of us for full board, free internet, a pool and bar, pus a few other perks the longer you stayed, we really couldn’t go wrong with this place.

The sun shone as we walked for miles around the town which is surrounded by big mountains, we even threatened to try to climb one of the modest peaks before we left.

We met a lot of interesting people who have settled here after falling in love with the place, and after a couple of days, I could see why.

We met a Dutch couple who were heading north on their Honda CX500 towing a trailer - respect indeed! After exchanging tall tales we also picked up a few useful addresses from them - thanks Kol.

We did indeed climb our mountain, well a big hill. Afterwards we decided that we were indeed fit enough to move on once more; we had to move on before we fell in love with the place and stayed for good!!!

Retracing our route out of the valley to Loja, we climbed into the cool mountains once again. We then headed west to Catamayo and, amazingly, found a sign to Macara, the border-crossing town we wanted. The road got narrower but was still in good condition but not what I expected. When we arrived into a town which I hadn’t plotted on the map, I realised we were going a slightly different route that I intended. I asked some local people we met by the roadside about the condition of the road ahead, I was relieved to hear that it was asphalt all the way. This route turned out to be fantastic as we climbed up onto a ridge on top of the world. We rode through small villages where people were literally living on a knife edge with their houses perched upon precarious slopes, I hope they don't sleep walk!

We eventually rode on down and into the border town of Macara. The temperature rose once again during our descent and we got very hot for the first time in ages. Unfortunately with the heat came the mozzies, which we hadn’t seen for ages, almost immediately they started to snack on us!

After a night stop here at Macara, we headed to the border. This is a much smaller crossing than the one on the main route – the Pan American, but in our experience, the small ones have been much easier, and this is what you do.

A well signed approach brings you to a river bridge, in front of some offices there is a line of cones across the road. On the right are the immigration and customs offices for exiting Ecuador. We parked the bike in the shade on the other side of the road where no money changers or helpers could hassle us. We walked across the road and thankfully found no queues as we handed over our passports which were then swiped electronically and stamped and our tourist cards taken. We then went next door to the customs office and handed the temporary import certificate in; the customs official nonchalantly glanced out towards the bike on the other side of the road and waved us through – easy or what?

On the Peruvian side we were beckoned over to the police office, the first offices on our left after crossing the bridge. The police officer directed us to immigration offices the other side of the road. Here we filled in our immigration forms, the bottom section being torn off and this becomes your tourist card. With our passports stamped we crossed back over to the police office where they copied details from our passports into a ledger, stamped the tourist card and sent us next door to the customs, (Aduana) office. Here I handed over our V5, (ownership document) passport and driving licence. Thankfully no copies were required as they did their own - nice people. I was then handed two forms to fill in, one of which ended up as our temporary import form which was then duly stamped. There are no electronic gismos here, just good old fashioned rubber stamps and hand written forms.

No money changed hands and we got a 90-day visa and 90-days for the bike - happy days. We then rode under the, “Welcome to Peru” sign built across the road and onto a smooth asphalt surfaces which took us into the deserts of northern Peru.

A very dry, barren and flat countryside greeted us with vultures once again being the most popular birds. The mountains suddenly disappeared as we headed west towards the coast and joined the Pan American Highway, the 1N, heading south to Piura where we stopped for the night.

In the towns and cities of Peru, the motorbike taxi, the Tuk Tuk rules the highway. VW Beetles are also back in vogue and the driving is a bit more cut and thrust with horns being sounded continuously, and they don’t seem to use their mirrors much either!

After our first night’s stop in Peru, we left Piura and headed across more desert; there was sand for miles and no mountains to be seen. A strong crosswind blew sand across the road which made for very exciting but tiring riding. We eventually pulled into the seaside town of Huanchaco - a ‘surfer dude hang out’. This place was cold and windy with grey seas, just like the North Sea back home. I couldn’t understand it; we were only 8 degrees south of the Equator, what’s going on with the weather?

We stopped at the Hostel 'Malecon' on the seafront, where we had an en-suite room for 70 soles, about £11 pounds.

You would nearly think that there was a car rally or a VW ‘Bug Jam’ going on here seeing that there are so many VW Beetles about; some were very rough looking but some had nice custom paint jobs.

We took a bus ride to the nearby Chan Chan ruin which is an Inca site being several thousands of years old – in reality, it was just giving us a taster before we get to Macho Pichu in a few days time.

We've been here a couple of days now so its time to head deeper south into Peru. We are both fit and healthy now and looking forward to some more mountains.

Until next time,  Nick.

From Les

Huanchaco, Peru; 15th July 2007.

Our 'physical-fitness' practice run was a total success as we rode into the mountains to some historic ruins at Incapirca. The route was quite pot-holed but very scenic all the same and we had covered 123miles by the end of the day. The ruins, perched on a hill, are made up of smooth polished stone, cut so well and so close that no mortar was used to keep them in place.
Along the route we passed countless roast-pig stalls by the roadside, the smells were wonderful and constantly reminded us of Donna's Dad, John, and his Hog roasts back home. Strangely, the pigs grazing at the side of the roads were all very hairy, maybe it was to keep them warm from the mountain winds or protect them from sunburn?

There appears to be a lot of development in Ecuador at the moment, many grand new houses are being built alongside the basic breezeblock-built bungalows. We have been told that many locals go abroad to work, sending money home to their families. The designs of the houses are often very modern and seemed to be copied from USA, Europe or in the style of the country where the 'breadwinner' is living and working.

The local mode of also dress changed again in this area. Men now wore black shin-length shorts, white shirts and black hat on top of their thick pigtails...Nick was quite envious! The women wore long straight black skirts and were very smart, ponchos are essential to keep out the mountain chill.
A couple of days later we headed south through Loja to Vilcabamba, clocking up our 37,000 miles as our running total. Vilcabamba is a lovely quiet, relaxing village surrounded by beautiful mountains, the kind of place where, if you stay too long, you will never get to leave. We wandered around the backstreets watching an old man training his birds for the next cockfight. Children were playing marbles with great passion on the dust roads, and of course we sat in the square just watching the world go by. This village is famous for its health-giving waters and is named, "the valley of Longevity". We stayed 3 days so may have increased our life expectancy by a few minutes, ha ha.
We stayed in a hostel which provided 3 meals a day and a free massage after 2 nights; we took advantage as it was under £13 pounds for us both - all inclusive. The meals compensated for the lack of water between 8pm and 8am every evening and the noisy bar area! It was here we met an older couple from Holland on a 27-year old Honda CX500 with trailer who were heading north to Alaska. We all swapped notes and details of places to stay along our respective routes.

We couldn't decide whether to stay for a week to really recover or test ourselves to see if we were feeling fit enough to move on. Our challenge was to climb one of the mountains above the village as far as the cross on top. It was hot and steep and the last few yards were very dangerous but we managed it. The decision was made to move on in the morning...Peru was beckoning us.
We had to return to Loja and then head to Macara, close to the border. Once again the scenery was awesome, we were following ridges across high mountains with spectacular views either side, it was a perfect day to be riding.
Macara itself is an uninteresting small border town but ideal as a stopover so you are fresh to do the border crossing in the morning. The highlight for me though was seeing my first proper rice fields just outside the village.
The border crossing was, "tranquillo", no problems at all and we were on our way within an hour and into Peru. The first thing that struck us was the rubbish on the side of the roads and the associated vultures circulating above our heads. Colombia and Ecuador are really trying to clean up their countries by becoming more eco friendly, unfortunately Peru and Mexico seem to be failing miserably... so far.
Many of the houses are made of mud and bamboo with long reeds woven together as walls and roofing. Donkeys and carts are common along the main roads and in towns and villages, TukTuks, (motorcycle taxis) are all over the place and crammed full of people and their goods. Herds of goats stray across the main roads causing us to swerve a few times to avoid them. We stopped overnight in the dusty city of Piura. As we wandered into a new modern shopping mall we watched, with amusement, a family trying to usher an elderly woman onto an escalator; it was obviously her first experience of this modern technology. It is also nice to note that at many children’s parties, invariably held in a burger joint, games like, ‘Musical chairs’ are still a firm favourite; some things just never change.
The road from Piura to Huanchaco, especially close to Trujillo, is all desert, it’s just the size of sand dunes that vary. The wind was quite strong and although it was sunny it was really chilly. At Huanchaco we wandered along the beach while watching the fishermen in reed boats called caballitos. We saw them surf their boats back onto the beach to their awaiting families who then sort the fish and crabs ready for sale. This unusual style of boat has been used over 2500 years; it makes you wonder if these people were the first to invent surfing?

A short bus ride took us to Chan Chan ruins, AD1300 and the largest mud-brick city in the world. It truly was an amazing piece of restoration in the sand dunes, (See the photos).
The mountains are calling once again so we must be on our way.
Chow, Lesley.

Huaraz, Peru; 23rd July 2007, alt 10,080 feet

 Just when we thought things were going well we were once again struck down by another bug! Poor Les chose the wrong dish off the menu and then paid the price of dodgy pasta by having another near-death experience in the toilets!

We spent another couple of days at the Hostel Malecon in Huanchaco, fortunately for us we found another nice hostel to be sick in.

After Les had spent a day in the room feeling like death, we ventured out to nearby cafes and sipped on Coca tea which was prescribed by the friendly hostel owner. We watched the local fishermen paddling their reed canoes as they returned from fishing trips, the same style of boats are still being used over hundreds of years. The weather here on the Peruvian coast was chilly, demonstrated by the surfers who were all fully dressed in neoprene.

Eventually Les was strong enough to travel again and we left Huanchaco by following the Pan American Highway south along the coast. We passed through more desert and sand dune filled countryside until we saw large rock-clad mountains once again.

We passed the town of Trujilla and turned east off the Pan Am at the small village of Santa, just north of Chimbote. From here we followed a river valley towards the Cordillera Blanca, Peru's premier mountain range in the Andes. The road started out as a good asphalt surface, and then at the village of Chuquicara, it turned into a dirt track. I would accurately describe it as riding along a dried up river bed with big boulders to negotiate which brought our speed down to 15-20 MPH – tops. Sometimes it was even down to a very slow crawl through the difficult bits. Well the map showed it to be a good road - how wrong was that!

After an hour or so of not seeing anyone, I started to think it was indeed just a dried up river bed, and then we saw the bus coming the other way, phew! A rusty old hulk of a bus slowly climbed over the boulders, its passengers looking out at the mad tourists on a motorbike. The bus driver seemed quite happy to see us, with a flash of lights and a toot of the horn, we passed each other riding on into his kicked-up dust.

We eventually came across a few houses and a petrol station which seemed to form an oasis in this barren moonscape. We stopped for fuel but found out that the pumps didn’t actually work. The attendant asked us how many gallons then headed off into his shed and brought out the fuel in gallon bottles, with a homemade funnel he filled the tank up. I must say I was a little concerned as to exactly what he was putting into the tank until I smelt it as he splashed some petrol over me. We headed onwards and passed a police checkpoint then carried on towards Huallanca. The dirt track snaked its way alongside the river and through massive canyons and several tunnels carved out of the hard rock. The road was carved into the side of a mountain with a drop of over a thousand feet. With no guardrail, and being a single-track road, there was no margin for error; but oh what fun, and what a fantastic view.

We eventually arrived into the village of Huallanca. This village’s claim to fame is that it contains one of Peru's hydro-electric power stations. We found the only hostel in town - The Kokis. The owners rushed around getting a room ready for us and even washed the floors. They obviously didn’t get too many customers here and even the village locals came over to checkout this odd couple on a bike! The bike was later parked outside for the night and covered in blankets; it was so thoughtful of them. We then had a great meal rustled up by the landlady.

The following morning we departed on more dirt roads heading along the Canyon Del Pato. We hung onto the side of the sheer mountainside and passed through 20-30 more tunnels towards Yungay. Thankfully, we found some asphalt road after 60-70 miles of dirt tracks and, so far, there were no oil leaks and the bearings felt tight as I checked out the bike’s somewhat delicate rear drive setup.

We were now riding beside the magnificent Cordillera Blanca. Massive snow-covered mountains surrounded us as we rode into Huaraz, where, at over 10,000 feet, the air is thin. We checked out several hostels and hotels but found them all full or only available for one night. We eventually found, 'Jo's Place', a hostel owned by Jo, an Englishman and Vicky - his Peruvian wife; we couldn’t have wished for better hosts. Once again we had landed on our feet and had a double room with en-suite on the top floor and our own balcony which afforded us fantastic views of the surrounding mountains. All this for just over £6 pounds a night, throw in a full English breakfast for just over £1 pound and I couldn’t help feeling we'd arrived. Just around the corner there was also a restaurant which serves three-course meals for 50 pence, and very nice they were too, at these prices we defiantly can't afford to come home!

While we've been staying here for a few days we've ridden the dirt tracks into the National Park of Huascara and ascended nearly 5000 ft in 23 miles to the centre of the Cordillera Blanca, which contains Peru's tallest mountain - Huascara. At 6768 meters it is the highest mountain in the tropics, anywhere in the world, and with fifty peaks of over 5700 meters it makes this the world’s second highest mountain range. On this day we rode over the highest tracks we'd ridden to date at just under 14,000 ft, we're talking big here; but what fantastic views.

The town of Huaraz is full of English-speaking mountaineers hoping to conquer one peak after another; restaurant conversations invariably cover the choice of which ice axe, crampons and rope. We have even found a restaurant which serves English beers from Green King, Abbott, IPA and 'Old Speckled Hen', it’s going to be a struggle to leave this Andean paradise but move on we must, well one day, soon-ish!

Till next time, Nick.

From Les

Huanuco, Peru; 25th July 2007

Just when we were ready to continue the adventure, I was literally brought to my knees by a dodgy pasta dish that totally wiped me out for a couple of days, leaving me as weak as a kitten. We planned to "take it gently" the next day on the road but ended up crossing the desert and riding the serious dirt roads through the Canyon del Pato towards the Cordillera Blanc. The fantastic scenery through the canyon took my mind off my delicate state as we bounced our way along the rubble roads. The rock formations were incredible, full of colour and angles. The sheer drop into the river below was frightening so I just sat still and tried not to look down too often. After an hour or so we were beginning to wonder if we were actually on a road at all, it was quite a relief when we saw an oncoming bus which managed to squeeze past us in a cloud of dust.

We arrived in civilisation late in the afternoon but were welcomed into a basic hotel for the night, £2:50p for the room can’t be bad? The maps we managed to acquire for Peru are not particularly accurate and distances are very deceiving. What appears to be a major link road on paper is in fact a rubble-strewn riverbed track that requires a slow pace and skilful riding. Nick is doing really well and sleeps like a baby as he is so tired by the end of a ride. I really do believe I would now be able to stay on the back of a bucking bronco as I have had so much training recently.

We really enjoy heading into the remote village areas and meeting the locals who are just as interested in us as we are in them. Once again we have met only the friendliest of people. Some are slightly more timid than others but, surprisingly, the woman wave and speak to us more freely than the men folk. In the mountains the women still wear their native costumes which are surprisingly feminine, considering the manual work they all partake in. The skirts are full which sit just below the knee and vividly bright with layers of frilly petticoats peeping out from under the hemline. The hat style has once again changed and is often a dark ‘top hat’ style decorated with brightly coloured flowers or ribbons and worn at quite a jaunty angle over one eye. The multicoloured shawls are also multipurpose and used for carrying huge bundles of vegetables, wood, grass, cornstalks and of course, the babies and young children. We have also observed that up here in the mountains there is a great shortage of front teeth...we don’t know whether it's fashion, custom or plain bad dentistry.

Huaraz is situated in the centre of the beautiful and incredibly high Cordillera Blanca range and the area is full of climbers and serious hikers. I heard more English accents in ‘Jo's Place’ hostel than I have done since leaving the UK. Nick thoroughly enjoyed his full English breakfast every morning during our stay; thank you Vicki and Anna. We also enjoyed our first proper curry in over a year, mmmm, all washed down with "Old Speckled Hen" beer, decent food at last!

I am now fully recovered and feeling fitter than I have in a month or more, we continue our meanderings south. As always, we "remain flexible at all times" and will probably decide overnight which way we will head in the morning. The general plan is Tierra del Fuego for Christmas 07....possibly, probably, more than likely!

Until next time, Lesley.


Arequipa, Peru, 4th August 2007

 We were sad to leave Jo and his wife Vicky, out hosts at their hostel, ‘Jo's Place’ in Huaraz. High up in the Cordillera Blanca, their retreat was surrounded by beautiful snow-capped mountains – check out their site at It was so good that the trip could so easily have ended here. But, with our loyal band of readers following our adventure and awaiting the next instalment, and with the rest of the planet to explore, it was time for us to move on!

As we headed south away from the Cordillera Blanca we climbed until it felt as if we were on top of the world again in more ways than one. We were now among soft grassy and rounded hills, clear blue skies but it was cold. We rode through Tipapampa and Pachacoto to the crossroads town of Conococha where we stopped for drinks and were once again surrounded by curious locals; I don’t think I mind too much, I feel we are giving as much excitement to them as we are receiving by observing their lifestyles.

After our short break we found ourselves on wide, fast, sweeping roads with a good surface so I opened the GS up a bit. In the mirror I could see the magnificent Cordillera Blanca disappear into the distance; “would I ever see them again?” I asked myself.

As the day wore on we climbed up and down a few mountains with many hairpin bends. There were even moments of pleasure in blasting past Lorries, many of whom giving us an envious toot on their horn! After passing some roadside snow we descended out of the colder altitude and eventually warmed up again the lower we got. The road now narrowed somewhat into a single track and, from the town of Hullanca, it deteriorated into a dirt road. As out altitude increased we passed through more mountain villages populated solely by colourful indigenous people. We eventually stopped at Chavinillo, a small one-street mountain village. While in the small village square looking for a hostel, some of the locals came over to help us. With us exploring different possibilities for bike parking, they sent us just down the road to the Grand Hotel. The lady owner opened her garage for me; the only problem was the stream between the road and the footpath. “No problemo”, she said, “build a bridge”, and so, with a few boulders to cross and with a bit of a run up, I bounced, none too gracefully, into her garage. It was a very basic hotel but at 15 Soles, under £3 pounds a night who’s going to complain? We dinned at a local cafe where we were joined by curious locals and the local policeman who went on to tell me that he earned $300 a month!

After having ridden for several hours on another dried up river bed we both slept well that night. The following morning it was back on the dirt road as we wound our way slowly up and down the mountains as the roads deteriorated further. We rode precariously on a narrow ledge of dirt clinging to the mountainside. Below us was a sheer drop of thousands of feet but the danger diminished somewhat as we were treated to some stunning views. It was here, in the middle of nowhere, that we observed another example of just how small the world is. Heading towards us was an old Landrover with, what looked like, British plates. We both stopped and introduced ourselves to Paul & Gillian Wood and their son Elliot. Paul was originally from Norwich in Norfolk, close to where we lived. He moved to Kenya and they were now exploring more of the planet like us. We spent an hour exchanging stories, getting covered in dust in the process as the odd bus passed by. We eventually parted company and started a slow descent onto deplorable dirt roads. After 4 hours and 50 miles of crawling our way through dirt and dust we rode into Huanuco and found the Hotel Grand Cusco, with parking for the bike around the back, all was well once again. A walk around this bustling city was quite a contrast after our time in the wilderness; we were both exhausted as we hit the pit and slept like babies.

Next day we departed Huanuco on good tarmac roads as we headed south towards Pesco, I was able to open her up again. The flat roads were now funnelled between rocky mountains as we rode through farmland where we saw oxen pulling wooden ploughs through the fertile soil. We climbed once again up onto the green, gently rolling hills on top of the mountain range where it turned decidedly cold. We had no choice; we had to stop to put our fleeces on and were soon surrounded by ‘Punk’ llamas with red ribbons in their ears - makes a change from safety pins! A short time later we passed through the National Park of Junin. The park had a big lake and long straight roads which took us through the town of Carhuamayo. Further on we stopped in the little town of Junin for some lunch and a warm up and it didn’t take long before we had some pleasant company. As we stood by the bike looking at the map someone came over to make sure we were ok - nice.

Later on we arrived into the town of Huancayo and, with the help of the Lonely Planet Guide; we found the old, and slightly tatty, Hostel Casa De La Abuela. We had arrived just in the nick of time as the heavens opened with thunder and lightening.

We spent three days here as it was going to be Peru’s Independence Day and a public holiday weekend. Still, we didn’t mind too much as we found ourselves walking around another busy town bustling with colourful markets and manic traffic. We found a mini Norfolk show; a country fair where we watched animals being shown in the ring. Amongst the usual market fare were many animals including even more llamas? Local kids in traditional costume were to be seen dancing as they dodged numerous cow pats! We ate spit-roast pork while the local farmers ate guinea pig, a local delicacy, “not much meat on one of those”, I thought.

We met some very interesting people at our hostel. We made friends with a couple of French cyclists, Virginie and Michel who were touring South America on bicycles and another couple of bikers from the USA, Kevin and Edward, both on hiking holidays having left their motos at home for this trip.

After a few days off the bike I really look forward to getting back on the road again, and after three days, the open road was calling once again. We followed rolling roads south through dry, brown and rounded hills where there were so many animals. Herds of sheep and goats were being shepherded along the roads. We even found a new road, it was smooth tarmac with a race track surface, Norfolk’s road builders could learn lots here! We caught up and stopped with our French cyclists who had left a day earlier. We shared food, water and stories before carrying on through even more stunning mountain scenery and onwards to the end of the road at Huancavelica. Here we found the Hotel Presidente which commanded a position overlooking the town’s main plaza.

We stopped for one night and headed off back into the mountain wilderness on the dirt tracks again, but not before a slight mishap. In town, and with an audience of onlookers, I tried to negotiate a right hand turn on a hill with a gully to one side and stalled the bike. I was now hanging onto 500ks of dead weight on one leg and slowly losing it. I shouted to Les to get off as I was going over. A lad ran across and helped to delay our fall; in fact with the lad’s help the bike didn’t kiss the dirt at all. That’s more than can be said for poor Les though, she threw herself unceremoniously onto the road, banging her head on the kerb in the process and catching her leg on something as she fell, thankfully no damage was done to Les and we were fit to continue.

The rest of that day turned into one of those days we will never forget, after the lows of the morning we were later treated to spectacular wilderness mountaintop scenery. Feeling inspired by our new surroundings we pulled over for a picnic at 16000 ft where the air was thin but so very clear. We later stopped in what appeared to be derelict villages only to have people appear from nowhere to come over and chat to us. From Pampano and Huancano we were eventually treated to some good tarmac and so proceeded with our lengthy decent to sea level and passing several vineyards as we entered the land of the ‘Pisco Soure’.  By the end of the day we arrived into Pisco having spent 5 hours and 75 miles in the dirt. In downtown Pisco we found the 'Posada Hispana' which was staffed by very helpful English speaking folks; visit their site at Back on the Peruvian Coast the sea and sky were a depressing shade of grey; just at it was when we left it last time! By way of compensation we slept well later that night after a few drinks distilled from the local grapes – I shall say no more!

Leaving Pisco the following day we followed the Pan American south towards Ica. On the way we passed massive sand dunes, so large they looked like mountains and they proved popular with the sand-boarding crowd. Later on that day we tried to get to Hualachina on a back road but it turned into a deep sand track, I was hoping to have a go at sand-boarding but the road was too bad so we returned to the Pan Am South. We rode on through coastal desert scenery with sand as far as the eye could see along many 10 - 15 mile straights. The only excitement on these mundane stretches was created by vicious crosswinds blowing sand across the road. We followed the wide beaches south and much further on the straights were punctuated with a series of hairpin bends as we negotiated some steep hills around river estuaries.

Our next stop was at the world famous, and much fabled, Nazca Lines, pictures drawn in the desert believed to have been created around 900BC - 600AD for reasons unknown, but there are several theories.

In the cold and grey we rode south down the coast as we fought the strong crosswind which was blowing fine sand across the road. It brought our average speed down quite a bit but we eventually arrived into the small seaside town of Chala where we found the Hotel de Turistas. It was a big hotel which was up for sale and sat on the beach. It was obviously a stop-over for overland bikers as I spotted an 'Alaska Riders' sticker on a window in reception.

Next day we followed the Pan Am coast road south through Atico, Ocona and Camana with the sea on our right and steep sand-covered rocky cliffs on our left. The beaches were empty, which was hardly surprising as it was very cold! We started moving back inland and once again up into the mountains. In the distance we could see volcanoes dominating the horizon as we entered Arequipa, a city that has rebuilt itself several times due to its close proximity to these volcanoes!

We are now staying at the El Alamo Hostel which is close to the city centre. Arequipa is bustling with tourists and its roads are busy with little Daewoo Tico taxis and numerous VW Beetles in various states of repair. The streets are cobbled and many buildings are made from white brick with some ornately carved in great detail.

We were thankful for the exercise as we walked for miles exploring the many back streets which we prefer; the local markets are a mass of colour and noise and well away from the madding crowd of tourists. We've also had some great meals here with most of them containing potatoes in one form or another. They grow over 50 different varieties in Peru; it makes a pleasant change from rice with everything!

We have just spent several weeks living at over 10,000 ft and peaking at 16,000. Other than getting a bit out of breath we have managed quite well as humans but it seems the bike may react in a different manner due to reduced air pressure. The clutch is hydraulically operated and the lever slowly got closer to the handlebars. I started to think we had a problem but when we arrived back at sea level it was OK; I hope this was the cause and the whole episode is not an omen for the future!

We had heard so many horror stories about the Peruvian Road Police hassling foreign bikers but we have only ever experienced smiles and waves from them, or have I spoken too soon?

Tomorrow - Sunday the 5th August, we're heading back into the mountains in search of the condor, I'll tell you all about it next time.


From Les

Arequipa, Peru; 4th August 2007

I have always known that the female of the species is capable of multitasking but the Peruvian women have it down to a fine art. Not only can they herd and watch over their animals, tend to offspring, they also carry large bundles on their backs. As if these tasks were not enough, they also knit and crochet, all without looking at what they are doing and without knitting patterns to follow! The final outcome are beautifully bright and colourful hats, gloves and socks that fill the market stalls in every town and village. It's so tempting to buy these brightly coloured woollies but limited space and the occasion to wear them prohibits their purchase. It does make me feel rather inadequate in my domesticity.

So far, the countryside in Peru has been dramatic at every turn of a corner. From Huaraz we crossed bleak moor-like open valleys and then back onto dirt roads through hills and valleys. We really love the roads which lie off the beaten tracks, although it is reassuring to see a "colectivo", a small local bus using the same tracks; at least we know the road does go somewhere. Staying in the small villages bring us very close to the locals who tend to gather and stare but are always friendly and inquisitive, it's a mutual thing.

As 28th July is Independence Day here we decided to stay in Huancayo for the weekend just in case everything closed for the holiday. It was surprisingly quiet; we were expecting Fiestas and non-stop parties. We did go to the local show which was a scaled down version of the "Norfolk show". Animals were on display but not washed and polished like those at home, these had come straight from the fields. Cuy, or guinea pig, is a delicacy in Peru but they still showed them in the pet section along with huge fluffy rabbits...or were they also destined for the pan? We enjoyed a BBQ meal once we had worked out the procedure for getting food and finding somewhere to sit. There were very few non-locals at the show but many families from Lima and other big towns attended.

While we were in Huancayo we met Virginie and Michel, two French cyclists aiming for Tierra del Fuego by March next year - big respect indeed! We also met up with Kevin and Ed who were travelling independently of each other. They were also keen bikers and teachers who were on holiday; we spent a great afternoon in a coffee shop and later shared a meal while swapping stories of our biking adventures. Our main exercise for the weekend, apart from walking miles, was a hike to Torro Torro and its strange rock formations and pillars and great views over the city. As we stopped for a breather during our cultural visit we observed a family across the opposite hillside cutting corn on their sloping field. “How labour intensive and dated”, I thought; the whole process was carried out using small hand sickles. Bundles were then taken to a woman who threshed the corn by hand, beating the sheaves against the rocks to separate the corn.

The contrasts here are truly amazing; one day you can be at 16,000ft and later the same day at sea level without suffering any adverse effects. As we descended the air does become noticeably easier to breathe so we are not puffing and panting to the same degree as we did at altitude. Back at sea level we found a cool but depressing sea mist on the coast so it was back into the mountains via our longest ride along the Pan American through the endless sand dunes and wind. We stopped off at the world famous Nazca Lines but neither of us particularly wanted to part with the price of a flight to see the whole area. We continued along roads barely visible in parts because of swirling sand, one minute we were hugging the coast line, the next on high steep cliffs. We rode on relentlessly, eventually arriving in Arequipa - the "White city". Arequipa wasn't on our list of places to visit but, holding true to our principal of remaining flexible and wanting to see the Condor's in the world’s deepest canyon, we made this detour and have spent the past couple of days wandering around the city. We had a great time admiring the fantastic architecture and trying to avoid the tourist traps, of which there are many!

We have travelled on some serious dirt roads and lovely smooth tarmac this past week, it's often a relief to be back on tar. I know Nick has been enjoying both surfaces, in particular some of the sweeping and very tight bends we have encountered - It's good to mix and match I think.

The hills are calling again.

Till next time, Lesley


Machu Picchu; 13th August 2007

This is just a short resume of our trip to Machu Picchu; our first taste of an organised tour, it was not organised by us!

We were up at 5am and on the doorstep awaiting a taxi by 5.20am. The taxi duly arrived 5.50am but the train leaves at 6am so it was a white knuckle ride to the station.  We managed to find the rep there who hurried us onto the train where we soon realised that Nick had no return ticket. As if that wasn’t enough, we then found out that were on totally different coaches of the train, (we had been promised seats together!)

We were told to sort it out at Agua Calientas, where the train stops, and buy another ticket!  I then found myself in a carriage with Japanese tourists and the ‘Nikon’ contingent! The trip was almost 4hrs long and I didn’t have a book or even music to plug into!  After an hour or so we stopped at the first station and somehow Nick had arranged a seat for me with him. I happily move carriages but not before the conductor calls for “Lady Lesley”.  The rest of the train journey was fine except for the concern about Nick’s lack of a return ticket.

We duly arrived at Aguas Calientas and were eventually ushered to a nearby cafe on the railway line, (see site pictures).  The guide takes Nicks passport, and those of 4 others who had no return tickets and promises that tickets will be ready upon our return.

We then took the bus up the windy steep dirt track to the entrance of Machu Picchu and we were not disappointed at all by our guide and the fantastic setting. Even though there were a thousand or more other tourists there, it didn’t loose its magical quality. The steep rainforest mountains and the odd snow-capped peak make it a wonderful place to visit. It was very hot and sunny and there was not much cover so we observed several ‘lobster coloured’ people wandering about the ruins.

Later on we caught the bus back to the cafe and it came as no surprise that there was neither passport nor ticket. We had hoped to wander around the colourful market area before the long trip back to Cusco but instead we had to hang about waiting for something to materialise. Eventually, a very hot and bothered guide took us back to the station assuring us that all would be well - it wasn’t. The train was preparing to leave and we had about 10mins and still no passport or ticket. Nick spied someone with his passport and wrestled it from him, (fortunately with the visitors pass still attached). With only 4mins to go I jumped on the train after arranging to meet Nick back at the hostel – at some stage.

It was such a relief when I spied Nick jumping onto the train about 3 carriages back, and just as it was about to pull out of the station. Just as I settled down for the return journey I found that I had a hypochondriac male next to me who huffs and puffs and constantly looks at his watch as he takes up half my seat – “oh what deep joy” I thought.

At the last stop, and less than an hour from Cusco, I jump carriages and find Nick who has just managed to get a spare seat for me; “what an eventful day”, I thought.  

By the time we arrived in Cusco we were hungry, tired and thirsty so we headed straight for the Norton Rat pub which apparently serves the best burgers in town and have real beer from Bury St Edmonds, and boy did we needed a comforter!

Machu Picchu was well worth the visit; however, it was our first organised trip with a ‘reputedly’ reliable company and it will probably be our last.

We will stay in Cusco until Wednesday and then head for Puno and Lake Titicaca then Bolivia.

Hope all is well with you and yours.

From Les

Cusco,Peru. 14th August 07

Nick has had his Condor moment, in fact he had 3!!!

We left Arequipa and headed out on the tourist route to the Canyon del Condor. Across the cold open spaces of the Altiplano, (High altitude plains) the air was crisp, clear and very cold so we were wrapped up in all our layers. The tour buses and vans pull over at various viewpoints and trails of people hop off the bus, take their pictures and hop back on. We took the opportunity to pass them and then find our own stops, which no one else uses. In strategic places, locals sit with their works of art, carvings and woolly garments and once again the buses stop to tempt those on tour. I was reminded of a ride through Canada where the road was lined with small stone piles that looked like men. The Indians had placed them there to keep travellers safe and show them the way; once again, on the hillside there were groups of these sculptures. We later found out that the stones represent worries and anxieties. Traditionally, the Indians would place a stone on the pile at the top of a hill and leave their worries behind, sounds like a good idea!

The Canyon del Condor has many interesting areas. The steep hillside with its tiered fields and irrigation systems, which were originally used by the Incas are clearly visible and still in use today. We headed for Cabanaconde, a small adobe village towards the end of the Canyon. En-route, we stopped at Cruz del Condor viewpoint. We had the place to ourselves and very soon could see a condor gliding in the canyon below which was quite magical. The next morning we returned with a few hundred others to watch eight condors soar and glide below us. Three were perched very close to the lookout so we could see quite clearly just how large and ugly they are. It was almost as if they were performing a show for the visitors.

The Hostel de Fuego in Cabanaconde was possibly the most rural place we have stayed at, it had a farmyard under our bedroom window and it is sooooo cold at night! Just as we were about to have dinner the power was cut off. Seeing the head-torches worn by the staff indicated that this is a regular problem here. The Alpacca steak was tasted like liver and bacon casserole but much richer. I've tried it once but I won't be tempted again!

Staying with tarmac for a while, we headed across country to Juliaca, (near Lake Titicaca) and then North to Cusco. We passed many villages which blend into the scenery, often the only clue to their existence is a bright green, corrugated, outdoor toilet! The local transport is often a pedal-cycle with a huge two-wheeled metal basket at the front which is useful for transporting people, animals and veggies. It's cold and must be so bleak here when the sun doesn't shine.

Cusco is another lovely, beautiful, city centre with many of the buildings a mixture of architecture from the Incas to Colonial times. Often the huge stones used by the Incas and later destroyed by the Spanish are used together to create wonderful buildings. Most of the streets are very steep and paved with shiny, slippery, cobblestones. The whole city is overlooked by the remains of Sacsayhuaman, (pronounced sexy woman) an Inca site. We struggled up the hill and were rewarded with fantastic views and yet another Condor moment, quite unexpected.

The Plaza de Armes is the hub for all bars and eateries including the ''Norton Rat'' bar which sells real ale! Nearly every evening we have made our way towards this Mecca but, for a change, we attended the theatre for a concert by a Peruvian favourite, ''Daniel F'', an alleged punk /rock star. We can quite honestly say we have never been to a gig like this before!! The audience was mostly male 17-25yr olds who sat still in their seats occasionally bursting into song with an old favourite number. If anyone coughed, sneezed or a mobile phone went off there were great shushing sounds from the rest of the audience. Quite bizarre and definitely not Punk/rock as we know it, more like folk and soft rock. We suddenly remembered we had something really urgent to what was it?

Cusco is the starting point for most trips to Machu Picchu and that's why we are here. After much discussion we decided to take the first organised tour of our adventure and booked with a reputable company. The tour included a transfer from hostel to the railway station, return train from Cusco to Aguas Calientas, return bus to Macchu Picchu, it all sounded great. The train has to shunt backwards and forwards several times, zigzagging its way out of Cusco as it has a very steep climb. Once over the mountain we followed the Rio Urbamba for most of the journey into the Sacred Valley. The mountains became larger and very rugged; some had snow-caps which made for stunning scenery! The vegetation became greener as we touched the edges of the rainforests. After almost 4hrs we arrived in Aguas Calientas which is tucked deep in the valley surrounded by incredible mountains. A 25min uphill bus ride gets you to Machu Picchu along a zigzagging road. We were met by a very knowledgeable guide (in English) who led us through this magical place. Almost immediately we could see the famous views over the Inca site across to Huayna Picchu or ''Young Rock''. We had a two-hour tour and then had time to wander by ourselves. There was evidence of the tiered fields and the different types of housing, depending on status. The Palaces were made of the smooth, polished stone with no cement. The general houses were made of rougher stone with mortar, all these buildings once had wood and straw pitched roofing. The Inca's were great astrologers and the windows in the Temple of the Sun lined up with the sun in the summer and winter solstice. There were ceremonial baths and pools with waterfalls. The granite stones used to build the site came from the mountain itself and the quarry is within the site. Llamas graze freely in the flat meeting areas; it didn't seem possible we were sharing this with a thousand other visitors.

Machu Picchu is magnificent in its wonderful surroundings and was well worth the trip. However, the tour itself was a shambles from the start and has confirmed that we ''are better off doing it ourselves''. To cut a long story short.... The taxi pickup was late and we almost missed the train. Nick didn't have a return train ticket. We were seated in different compartments there and back - a 4hr trip! Nick had to give his passport to the rep to buy a return ticket and almost didn't get it back. At the last minute, I am on the train heading home and Nick gets a seat just as we roll out of the station, it truly was a day to remember, for all the wrong reasons! A few pints of Green King, Abbott ale and a burger finished off our great day out.

We have almost had a week here in Cusco and there are so many more places to visit and streets to discover. It has to be one of my favourite cities so far. It is surprisingly quiet and not at all crowded, even though it is a tourist Mecca. The days have been bright sunny and quite hot but the evenings are cold and the three heavy-duty blankets on the bed ensure our overnight survival.

Tomorrow we will get back on the road again and head closer to Bolivia, yet another currency change and another nation’s flag to stick on the pannier.

Until next time,

Regards, Lesley.

Cusco, Peru; Monday 13th August 2007.

 After sampling the local breakfast of beef stir-fry, rice and chips we hit the trail once again. Leaving Arequipa, we headed north on the road to Yura and began climbing just as we passed a cycle race getting ready for the off - poor lot!  We continued on and zigzagged our way back up onto the Altiplano and the National Reserve of Salinas and Aguada Blanca.

Having our picnic at 15000ft necessitated learning a whole new skill to avoid shortness of breath. We had to learn how to chew, swallow and keep breathing at the same time; you just can't afford to get the sequence wrong or you will gasp for air. The bike however has had no problems breathing at altitude, its fuel injection and computer fuel management system has is all worked out for me, there was no worrying about jets in carburettors having to be changed as with some other bikes.

We sat next to a frozen stream and, even more impressive, a frozen waterfall, and I had left my ice-climbing gear at home!

After passing herds of llamas and alpacas quietly grazing on the dry looking scrub we zigzagged our way from the top of the world and down into the town of Chivay. It was here that we had to buy our ticket to get into the national park containing the Canyon de Colca, where we were hoping to observe some of the country’s famous condors.

A 35 mile ride on dried up riverbed took us through the villages of Yanque, Achoma, Maca and eventually into Cabanaconde. All these towns were very close to the Canyon de Colca. A short time later we stopped at a viewpoint, which we had to ourselves for a while, and gazed down the 4000 foot drop to the river below. It was a truly fantastic view and below us in the distance we saw what we'd come looking for, a Condor. It was a long way off but still looked massive, perhaps it will come closer tomorrow?

The Hostel Valle Del Fuego in Cabanaconde is very rustic and basic but comfortable, at only £6.45 for bed and breakfast I certainly wasn’t going to complain. The helpful owner even let me park the bike in the reception, check out their site at

After a good breakfast the following day we returned to our condor viewpoint only to find the rest of the world was already there. There were tourist busses everywhere and a lone policeman was struggling to get the parking organised. We eventually found a place to park the bike and muscled our way to the front. It was worth the effort, we weren’t disappointed as several massive condors glided past as they patrolled the canyon’s rim. By now there were far too many people so we left and retraced our way down the bumpy track to Chivay and a well-earned coffee break.

Afterwards we headed back towards Arequipa and turned east onto a new road which wasn’t even on my map. We made our way to Imata, Santa Lucia and more of the ‘Top of the World Highway’ with its long straight roads where I relaxed the reigns on the GS and let her have her head. The road then went from top-class asphalt to a pot-holed nightmare where our pace came right down and a slalom technique came into play.

We eventually rode into Juliaca and had to fight our way through hoards of pedal rickshaws and into the city centre. This city was definitely the domain of the rickshaw, each town seems to have its favourites, from small motorcycles to small yellow taxis, but here it was the rickshaw.

By now we were very tired and, after trying several hostels, we found the Hostel Luquini where I rode over the footpath, past reception and down the hall to a courtyard out the back, a routine that is by now quite accepted here.

The following day we found the road to Cusco, our next destination, and headed north along the HW35 to Calapuja and Caracara in the high flatlands which are bordered in the distance by mountains.

We were now on the route used by Che Guivara and his friend back in 1952 when they rode and hitched their way around South America and where he wrote his motorcycle diaries; wonder if I'll turn into a revolutionary?

We rode on through Santa Rosa and over the Abrala Raya Pass and down into Sicuani.

We were now on long straight roads with some pot-holed sections which took us into a river valley and brought us back into the twisties as we descended into the city of Cusco. The approach into Cusco was disappointing with dusty roads and slum looking buildings, but once you're in the city proper there are cobbled roads, smart red-tile-roofed buildings and pretty plazas. With the help of the ‘Lonely Planet Guide’ we found the Hostel Familiar. The bike had to be parked over the road but was safe and we were given a comfortable double room.

Central Cusco is beautiful and after a week here it has become one of our favourite cities, surrounded as it is by magnificent mountains to explore. There are also many Inca ruins to ponder over and admire the incredible brickwork, so perfect and so very old!  In town there are also lots of the usual touristy things to do.

On a more important note, we found a great pub; the Norton Rats pub is right on the central plaza. The pub is owned by Jeffrey, an American gent who is also a keen British motorcycle fan, Norton in particular. There are photographs and bike memorabilia everywhere, old rock and roll tunes on the sound system and he's even got English draught beers; needless to say we have spent several evenings here sipping pints of Green King, Abbott and IPA ales, yum, yum.

Whilst we were here in Cusco we paid for a package tour to the world-famous Machu Picchu Inca architectural site high up in the mountains. It necessitated taking a four-hour train which zigzags its way up and out of Cusco, then going forwards and backwards as it climbed the side of the mountain. Then it was down a canyon and in between magnificent and aggressive jagged mountains to the town of Agua Calientes where we were bussed to one of Peru's jewels. Perched as it is, on top of a mountain, Machu Picchu was a truly awesome sight, (see my previous report).

It was a long day, we were up for the train at 5am and then it was back to the Norton Rats by 21.30, it was a great day out, but not without complications. I didn’t have a return ticket but we got it sorted after I, somewhat uncharacteristically, raised my voice at the rep who was being a bit sluggish. With the train about to leave, and with only minutes to spare, I got the last seat on the train, Les was already onboard but sitting somewhere else. It was a memorable day; we had a brilliant two-hour guided tour around the site, some lunch then returned to Cusco.

While we were at Machu Picchu we met Bede, a Sri Lankan who, on hearing our intentions to visit his country on our way around the world, insisted we stay at his house, a true gentleman; still, it’s a long way to go yet!

On the bike front, we had another headlight bulb go so I replaced that. I've bled the clutch hydraulics, which wasn’t as simple as on older old bikes. With help and detailed advice from Kevin and Spencer of KRF Motorcycles, Norwich, BMW mechanics, we got it done okay, Les being my invaluable assistant; it now feels like new.

The rear Avon Distanzia tyre is wearing out on its shoulders, a classic indication of under-inflation so I've Emailed Avon tyres to see how hard I can pump it up to get some wear out of the centre of the tread. I've given the old girl a wash, then went and did the same to the bike!!

So we're ready to hit the trail again, Bolivia beckons.

Until the next time, Nick.


La Paz, Bolivia; 20th August 2007.

 After a great week in Cusco we found that we had settled in really well and had become almost as commonplace as the locals; the touts even recognised us and left us alone. We even had our pub, ´The Norton Rats´, and our favourite breakfast cafe, but all good things must come to an end and it was, once again, time to move on. We departed Cusco on Wednesday 15th August and retraced our route south and back to Julica on HW 3. The sun shone, the sky was blue but at 11000ft it was cold so it was back on with the thermals.

We rode through the middle of Julica where, once again, we battled our way through the pedal-rickshaws and out the other side onto the road to Puno. As we neared Puno we had our first incredible views of Lake Titicaca, one of the highest navigable lakes in the world at just under 13,000 ft. As we pulled into the Hotel Presidente in Puno, (a hotel recommended by Dutch friends we met in Ecuador), we had clocked up 40,000miles for the trip so far. We then settled into our room and later went exploring the town.

The bike’s clutch was now much better after bleeding the system and I’d also pumped up the rear tyre to 50 PSI in an effort to get some wear out of the center of the tread.

Whilst here we visited the M.N.Yavari, an old steel boat moored out on Lake Titicaca, a boat which has a fantastic history.

The boat was ordered by the Peruvian Navy and built in England in 1862. It was then dismantled and shipped to Arica, on the west coast of Peru. Taking 6 years, it was hauled over the Andes by mule to Lake Titicaca where it was rebuilt and floated on the lake in 1870. It was used on the lake as a gunboat but never saw action. It was then decommissioned after one hundred years service and underwent restoration lead by a British lady, visit the museum’s site at  The boat is in a truly beautiful condition with polished brass you can see your face in. The steam engines have been converted to run on diesel and she will soon be taking tourists around the lake.

Back at the hotel we watched the TV news only to see there had been a very bad earthquake near Lima, in Peru and several hundred people had been killed. The epicentre was several hundred miles away from us therefore we were in no danger at all. In the morning we checked our E-mails and were overwhelmed by the amount of people who’d emailed us hoping we were okay, a big thanks from the bottom of our hearts to you all; the only rumbles we felt were from bike’s 1150 cc's.

From Puno we headed around Lake Titicaca towards the Bolivian border at Yunguyo, one of several small crossing points.

This was our simple border-crossing procedure – As you approach the border on the Peruvian side there are two chains across the road. On the left, and in-between the chains, is the police office, which stamps our tourist cards and returns them. We then go next door to the Immigration office that stamp the passports and take the tourist card. On the other side of the road is the Adunas, (the customs office), who took the temporary importation form, took a look at the bike from a distance and waved us through - it was all done in minutes.  Whilst in no-mans-land, Les changed the last of our Peruvian money, and I had my boots polished by one of the small shoe-shine boys which saved Les a job later on that evening!

We rode the hundred yards up a hill and under an arch to a barrier on the Bolivian side. On the left-hand side was the Immigration office where we filled in a form, part of which formed our tourist card, we then had our passports stamped with a 30-day visa and given the bottom section of the form which was now our tourist card. Next door we went to the Adunas office. I just handed over my passport, V5, bike registration, and driving licence. The official typed details into a computer which spat out our temporary importation form with another 30 days on it. Apparently everyone gets 30 days but this can be extended with no charge quite easily.

The Adunas official, whilst typing out my form, kept hinting he liked Coca-Cola so Les went off and got him a bottle - we seem to have made another friend. No fees and no copies required and the whole thing done in an hour, that’s including having my boots shined!

From here we had a short ride into Copacabana, a Bolivian village on the banks of Lake Titicaca and where we found the Hostel 'Leyenda', close to the lakeside. The hostel was owned by some very helpful locals who, after building a ramp down their steep steps, let me park the bike in their garden. This only cost us 100 Bolivianos, about £6 pounds bed and breakfast for a room so large we could have had a party in it! We then went out and converted our currency; we changed our last remaining Peruvian Soles into Bolivian Bolivianos at one of the many money changers in town.

We spent two days here at Copacabana and found it to be just another touristy place, at 12596 ft above sea level the air was thin so we didn’t rush around to much!

One day was spent taking a boat ride out to the Island of the Sun on Lake Titicaca, just under two hours away. Once on the island we struggled the best we could up the Inca steps, it was a steep lung-busting climb!  This island and the lake are precious to the Inca culture as it is believed the sun was born here.

From Copacabana we rode around the lake to a small ferry crossing point which cut a corner off this massive inland sea. At the village of Tiquina we dropped down to a wooden barge which seemed to be patiently waiting for passengers by the water’s edge, we were ushered straight on. Once onboard I soon realised that somehow I had to turn the bike around on a wooden deck with several planks missing, it was going to be difficult but we'd worry about that when we got to the other side, for now we had another problem. A policeman appeared from nowhere and wanted our passports. I couldn’t get off the bike so I balanced on a plank on the barge as Les took them across to him returning a few minutes later telling me that the policeman wanted all the bike’s documents as well. Before she could do so the barge left - oops. Looking over our shoulder I was half expecting a police launch to intercept us before we got to the other side, but fortunately one didn’t appear. On the other side, and with a bit of help from one of the barge operators, we managed to turn around and ride off.

The well-signed roads pointed us in the direction of La Paz. We rode on through several small villages, one of which was having a party, dancing in the street brought the traffic to a halt but it was great to watch the colourful spectacle of brass bands, and dancing, everyone was happy and apparently drunk!

The locals we met on the road on our first day in Bolivia were much the same as everywhere else in South America, they were all friendly and inquisitive; oh how I whish I could speak more Spanish.

We eventually rode into La Paz along an amazing approach from the top of a canyon rim. We could see the city below stretching for miles, filling, what appeared to be, a massive hole in the earth surrounded by snow-capped mountains.

After going around in circles we found the Hostel 'Maya', close to the city centre and in the middle of the tourist area. We were given a comfortable double en-suite room costing only 140 Boles, about £8 pounds.

La Paz is busy bustling place with a modern town center which is well serviced with shops and offices and not unlike like any other city in the world. In fact it has even got a Burger King and a Hard Rock Cafe! The Collectivo mini busses rule the road and, once again, no quarter is given on the road!

It was so sad to see so many indigenous people begging in the streets. Old ladies were to be seen huddled up in the cold holding out a hat. It was all the more sad when we'd already observed similar indigenous ladies in the countryside minding their sheep in fresh country air.

We watched military bands play outside the Presidential Palace while young children danced between the musicians, and I had my shoes polished by one of the many shoe-shine boys. Beggars aside, everyone appears happy, although there is a large police and military presence, which is kind of reassuring to say the least.

So far, we have ridden around South America with no bike insurance, but at last I found a company who would insure a foreigner. Seguros Illimani on Calle Loayza gave us minimum, third-party liability for six months and covering the whole of South America for up to $5000, all for only $75. The person to see in this office is the beautiful Russian lady, Svetlana Galindo, who speaks excellent English and who guiding me around the forms. Now at last I've got an insurance certificate to show the police should we get stopped and I can now sleep well at night!

Tomorrow, Tuesday 21st we are on the road again and heading out to see the 'Death Road', apparently the world’s most dangerous road with over 100 deaths a year and not for the testiclly deficient, I can't wait!!

Until next time; Nick.

From Les

La Paz, Bolivia; 20th August 2007

Firstly, we would like to send our sincere condolences to Oz and family on the sudden and tragic death of Val after a Bee sting. It reminds us just how unpredictable life can be and how vulnerable we all are. Our thoughts are with you. XXX

It was with some reluctance that we left Cusco; it is a city with a real feel-good factor. We retraced the route to Puno crossing the chilling Altoplano once again. Fortunately it didn't seem quite so cold and it is nice to be able to see the same road from a different direction for a change.

We arrived in Puno on the edge of Lake Titicaca about 3pm, found a hotel then jumped into one of the many motorcycle rickshaws that filled the streets. It almost rattled the fillings in my teeth out along the bumpy dirt streets on our way to the Yavair Museum. We had our first real look at Lake Titicaca as we arrived at a jetty where an old British, iron-hulled, gunboat was moored while being restored. The Yavair was built in 1862 in the UK and transported in pieces across the Andes. The epic removal job took six years by mule and donkey. It was steam driven by burning Llama dung but thankfully has since been converted to diesel. It had some wonderful wood and brass shiny bits. While wandering around the boat we met a couple of teachers from Ireland and have bumped into them regularly since then; in Copacabana and La Paz.

The border crossing, once again took under an hour including Nick having his boots cleaned. We are now working on Bolivianos at 15.99 to £1, the notes are filthy dirty and coinage is scarce. We have often found in South America that no one has change so store keepers have to go running out to find some. Something similar has also happened to us on numerous occasions when we have been tempted into a small local restaurant to sample their special menu. We have ordered food then watched as the waiter runs off down the road to buy the means to make the meal. I wish they would just say "sorry we don't have it", but nothing seems too much trouble here.

Copacabana is only7km into Bolivia and was our first stop. From here we took a very leisurely and peaceful cruise to the Isla del Sol, (Island of the Sun). The water is an incredible deep inky blue with the reflection of the clouds. The Incas believed the Isla del sol is the mystical birthplace of the sun, nearby is the smaller Isla de la Luna, (Island of the moon). The town itself was very touristy and the dish of the day is always trout, fresh from the lake.

Leaving Copacabana we had spectacular views of the huge lake and the surrounding softer rounded mountains. I have to keep reminding myself that those nice rounded "hills" are in fact well over 12,000ft high, and just the tips.

We had to cross the lake at a narrow point at Tiquina on a ferry. We had been told that travellers on the busses have to leave the bus and travel across on a separate ferry watching their bus pass on smaller unstable looking barges. Yes, we had to cross on the smaller unstable barge! The deck of the barge was made of only a few long pieces of wood lying lengthways and several large gaping holes. Somehow Nick managed a "U" turn to get off but there was very little margin for error.

Glad to be back on terra firma again it wasn't long before the traffic ground to a halt. The main road was completely blocked by ladies in bright colourful dresses and shawls twirling in the road. A large band was playing, with drums, brass and flute accompanying the dancers. Others were dressed in costume and they all managed to keep in step, eventually moving in one large group. We happily sat at the side of the road with a growing audience, taking it all in and clicking away with the camera.

La Paz is a big, sprawling, busy city overlooked by snow-capped mountains. The city is in a basin with mountains all around. It is full of the minibus collectivo's with their driver’s mate hanging out of the doors shouting out their destination. The main plaza with the Presidents Palace and Cathedral is a nice place to sit. On Sunday morning we were treated to a few tunes by the Military band - when they eventually all turned up! Small children danced and ran around the bandsmen. Shoeshine boys hide their identity by wearing balaclava's and hoodies but one aged about 9-yrs came and sat with us and ate Nick’s popcorn. He is one of the many street children and as he left us he kissed me on the cheek and shook Nick’s was a very touching moment. There are many beggars in the streets day and night, more than we have seen before in our travels.

It is sunny during the day but as soon as it gets dark the chill sets in again. We had a long list of things to do and happily have achieved most of them. The dreaded Income Tax form has been completed at last with a lot of help from my sister Sally. It is now in the post – honest! We have also achieved the almost impossible! We have managed to purchase bike insurance for the whole of South America until Feb 2008. A very helpful Russian lady at the insurance company managed to organise the paperwork in an afternoon - unusual for Latin America!

Tomorrow we are heading for the famous, or infamous, "Road of Death" and a taste of the Jungle area.

Until next time; Lesley.


Sucre, Bolivia; 26th Aug 2007.

We left La Paz on Tuesday 21st August. It took us an hour just to find our way out of the city and the road towards Coroico and the infamous, “Road of Death”. It was great to leave the city’s fumes and climb up into the clear mountain air once again. Passing through Police and Narcotics Unit road checks, we followed a nice asphalt road surface through the spectacular mountains to the start of the infamous, ‘Road of Death’. This was once the main road comprising of a single track, gravel and mud trail which hung precariously onto the side of the mountain - see our pictures. The mist which shrouded over the tree-covered mountains only added to its mystery. Seeing that there is now a new and less dangerous road, many mountain-bike tours use this, now quiet, trail. The surface is quite good with compacted gravel which is a bit wet and slippery on the corners. Compared with what we have ridden to date this is pretty good and, once again, I’ve come to the conclusion that there's nothing wrong with the trail, it’s the users who are the problem!

We rode into the town of Coroico where we found ourselves back in the jungle with parakeets, monkeys and banana trees, and thankfully – the heat once again; it was here we found the Hotel Esmeralda. It was a bit more expensive than we would have liked at 200Bols, (£12) but it was set just above the town on the side of the mountain and overlooking the valley, and handy for the ‘New’ and ‘Old’ roads back to La Paz. As I sat beside the hotel pool with a tall cool drink, several mosquito bites reminded me that we were now back in the humid heat of the jungle. It was here we met an adventurous Swiss couple who were travelling ‘End to End’ in a Toyota Land-Cruiser, now there's an idea for the future!

The following day we traversed the ‘new road’ back to La Paz. It was a fantastic snaking road which led us through the mountains, and where we caught the occasional glimpse of the old, 'Death Road' on the other side of the valley, which was easily identified as a thin ribbon of a lighter colour attached to the side of the green mountain.

From La Paz we took the road south towards Oruro, which was a veritable treat of good flat and straight roads where we cruised along at 80mph. It was all so easy after the twists and turns of the mountains, I suppose you can have just too much of a good thing?

We passed through the towns of Calamarca, Patacamaya and Caracollo, where we turned east. After passing through some more bendy bits and hills we eventually rode into Cochabamba, which was just another grubby and frantic city. We stopped the night here at the Hostel Colonial which had very basic accommodation, but most importantly - safe parking for the bike.

The following morning we struggled to find our way out of the city. We stopped to ask directions from a guy on a scooter and he, very helpfully, led us onto the very road we needed. Just outside town we saw several groups of racing cyclists who were out training, the scene was so familiar that we could so easily have been somewhere in Europe!

Following the Santa Cruz Road southeast to Epizana, we found ourselves on a good asphalt road which was scarred only by the odd pothole. We then turned off at Epizana towards Sucre and were lulled into a false sense of security as we rode on a brand-new asphalt road of racetrack quality. After only 8 miles it came to an abrupt end and we were on cobbles for the next 48 miles; it was bad enough to loosen the fillings in your teeth. I found that the smoothest part was down the side of the road in the dirt! Having said that, it was a very neat piece of engineering and obviously wearing well as it wound its way through the mountains and ending in the town of Aiquile. Coming towards us, and in the middle of nowhere, we met an Austrian couple on a tandem cycle and towing a trailer; they had just ridden up from Tierra del Fuego - respect indeed. After a short exchange of stories we carried on to Aiquile, which was a small mountain village and where we found the Hostel San Pablo on the main road through the village. It was very clean and tidy and owned by a friendly lady whom we awakened from her siesta – oh dear!

It was obvious that the indigenous people in these parts don’t see too many foreigners as everyone stared at us. It was a bit unnerving for a while with some of them sitting in the shade chewing on coca leaves; but most would acknowledge our greetings.

The following day we got back on the trail once again and were treated to 40 miles of dirt and sand as we wound our way along a river valley towards Sucre. We passed through Quiroga and Puente Arce where we found a new road made of concrete, but such is the terrain here that it was collapsing already! But here it seems no problem; the bulldozer was just cutting a new section into the crumbling mountain, only now we had to mind our heads from falling rocks!

Later that day we rode through some grubby suburbs which led us into the city centre of Sucre. The central part of the city is resplendent with palm-lined plazas, narrow streets and white-walled buildings. There are many very good restaurants and bars to choose from and a great colourful market to wander around. We are staying at The Grand Hotel in the centre of town, and grand it is! It has two beautiful courtyards, a restaurant, and we have a big double en-suite room with cable TV. Once again it was quite expensive at 130 Bols for bed and breakfast; the only problem was that the bike was parked down the road for 20 Bols a day - totalling 150 Bols - about £9 pounds! Yes, I think we could settle here.

For the first time in ages we observed that small bikes are quite popular here and the VW Beetles are also very common. Beggars are all too frequent and after a while they can become quite annoying. There are also many shoe-shine boys touting for business, at least they are actually doing something worthwhile rather than shoving a hat in your face and whining for money. We both had our motorcycling boots cleaned before we got into the hotel and I've had my shoes worked to a dazzling shine in the plaza. I know Bolivia is the poorest South American country but just how much small change can you carry around for beggars and street-vendors? Which brings me to a quandary - to give or not to give? Answers, with your thoughts to -

We have had two very pleasant days here in Sucre but it is once again time to move on. Tomorrow, Monday the 27th, we are heading across to the salt flats in the west then eventually south into Argentina. More exciting dirt roads are in store and the tread on the back tyre is getting thin. Travelling on sand on a slick back tyre is an interesting proposition!

Until next time, Nick.

From Les

Sucre, Bolivia; 26th August 2007

The, "Road of Death" was not as scary as we had been led to believe – thankfully. It was also great to get out of the polluted city of La Paz and breathe in some decent fresh air for a change. We knew we were on the right road because of all the mountain-bike tours that regularly tackle the, "down hill" route to Coroico. We started off in cloud with cool air and by the time we reached the bottom we had to shed several layers. In some guide books it says, “If you have already ventured along some of the Peruvian dirt roads then you will find this road tame"... they were correct! The Canyon de Pato to Huaraz was far more challenging. It was nice to be back in the rainforest environment and heat once again, though I was even happier not to be scarred for life!

We stayed in a lovely resort hostel in Coroico. Our balcony overlooked the valley where we could see the ‘old’ and ‘new’ "Road of Death" snaking its way over the mountains. The birdlife was bright and colourful and the surrounding grounds at the hostel were tranquil; it was a bit expensive so we planned to stay only one night. The next morning, after a hearty breakfast, I had to drag Nick away; we headed back along the ‘new’ road to La Paz. The engineering and construction work along this stretch was very impressive as the road hugged the mountainside, climbing steeply, twisting and turning. Once again there was evidence of landslides and it made us wonder how long the road would last. To get onto the road south we had to go back into La Paz centre so we could meet the Autopista and get out of the congested streets. Buses and taxis pumped out fumes so thick that it could choke you but cities are a necessary evil!

The road to Cochabamba was a nice combination of mile-eating smooth tarmac and lovely hilly countryside with sweeping bends...Nick’s speciality! The rocks in the valleys were so colourful ranging from terracotta to grey and pastel pink. We weren't very impressed by Cochabamba but it did lead us to the cobblestone roads, dusty dirt tracks, and some of the driest and barren countryside we have see in ages. Herds of goats and sheep scratch around alongside pigs for the smallest morsel to eat. The shrubs and trees look as though they will burst into life given a drop of rain. I am sure it will be very beautiful when that happens but I would rather not be caught in that shower thank you.

Thankfully the sun has been shining on us since Bogotá and we are now getting some serious heat, depending on altitude. In a day we can often start off with thermals, T-shirts, long-sleeved top and fleece, all squashed under the motorcycle jacket, looking and feeling like "dough boy". By the end of the day we have peeled down to T-shirt and undone jackets. It really can't be doing the internal thermostat any good but it's so nice to be warm al last!

We are now having a weekend in Sucre and a treat in a nice 3-star hotel with all the mod cons like a loo seat, hot shower, loo rolls and soap. I got really excited at the luxury and have had 3 of the best nights sleep in ages. Tomorrow we head to the salt flats. Nick would like to camp there but I have been informed that it drops to -20deg at night! Let’s see who wins this debate!

Until next time...Lesley.

Resistencia, Argentina; 6th September 2007.

It was cold, overcast and damp as we left Sucre and followed the river valley out of the city and towards Potosi. As we followed the sweeping bends along the valley we had the luxury of one of the few asphalt roads out of town which was in good condition. We then climbed up into the low cloud where it turned much colder.

The approach into Potosi was not dissimilar to other cities we’d ridden through in Bolivia; it was a ramshackle, dusty and grubby town. With the help of our, ‘Lonely Planet Guide’, we found the Hostel Sumaj. It turned out to be a very basic hostel but comfortable all the same, and most importantly, the bike was safe in the backyard.

Today was another milestone as we clocked up 41,000 miles for the trip so far.

Potosi is the world’s highest city at 13,431 ft, the air is thin so there was no rushing around and it is cold!!

With a blue sky and sunshine, but still very cold, we left Potosi on a dirt road on route to Uyuni. The gravel road was reasonably good and firm to start with but it got worse the further we went; the corrugations were the worst we'd seen this trip, sometimes I thought the bike would self-destruct along with my fillings! We passed through the adobe villages of Poco and Tica Tica, where we stopped. I must admit I was seriously considering turning back as the going was so hard on the bike, a 4x4 would have been much better! We were considering our options when we saw Maria and Alistair, whom we met before, coming towards us on their BMW F650's. They assured us we were well over half-way although we did have some sand to go through, and the spectacular, Salar De Ununi, salt flats were well worth the effort. Hoping to meet up with them a few days later, we said our goodbyes and pushed on. The conditions did indeed get rougher and the short sand-crossing was testing for us, and the bike! We eventually crested a hill to reveal a magnificent view of the massive gleaming-white salt flats laid out before us, as far as the eye could see. At the bottom of the mountain at the salt’s edge we could just about make out the town of Uyuni. That was indeed the hardest 7-hour, 138 miles ride of my life; it was even harder than the 'Dalton Highway’ in Alaska, and that’s saying something!

We rode into town and found the Hotel Avenida. Once again it was very basic but comfortable; it gets very cold here at night so we had five blankets on the bed!!

Uyuni is just another scruffy town, looking like something out of an old western movie. It is a small place in the middle of nowhere, and from the wide grubby streets we could almost sense the eyes following these two strangers as we rode into town; I guess we looked the part, covered in dust and sweat!

After unloading the horse and settling in, we walked a few kilometres out of town and followed the railway line to a locomotive graveyard. It was an unusual sight with loads of old steam engines and carriages all rusting away in this barren desert landscape. Apparently this town was a major maintenance depot for the Bolivian Railways and, when steam was replaced by diesel, the engines were just left here to slowly die. Some had been stripped of their valuable metals but the scene was still quite sad to anyone with even a tinge of mechanical sympathy.

Later that evening we ate pizza and drank beer in a small restaurant in town; a restaurant we shared entirely with other Brits – we were all a very long way from home. Uyuni is a big tourist staging post for visits to the salt flats, you can go on organised trips of ‘one’ - ‘four days’ in 4x4's, but we always intended taking the bike.

After a cosy night under our five blankets, and a fantastic breakfast at the ‘Minuteman' restaurant nearby, we departed leaving our panniers in the room and rode the bumpy dirt road to the town of Colchan. We passed many workers loading salt onto Lorries by shovel as we made our way to the 'Salar De Uyuni'. I can honestly say that this was one of the most amazing experiences of the trip so far. We rode onto this vast expanse of whiteness and followed a dark track across the salt which looked like compressed snow on a road. Driving on such a snow-like scene I would normally have been really worried about skidding but here we were riding at 50mph on a surface offering incredible grip. After 20 miles we left the track and rode onto the virgin salt and had a picnic, it was only then that I realised I'd left the salt for my boiled egg behind!  I was so quite and peaceful here. In the distance we could see the odd 4x4 moving across the horizon, then disappear; we were alone, surrounded by miles and miles of gleaming salt. At over 12,000 ft and 12,000sq kilometres it’s one of the world’s highest and largest salt flats and we were in the middle of it somewhere - I think! We rode back to town after a few very interesting photos for our gallery.

The following morning we retraced our route back to Potosi where we stayed at the same hostel after another hard ride; it was another cold day - I'm really looking forward to some heat.

The ride from Potosi to Tupiza started well enough with some nice asphalt for 38 miles, but then it was back onto the dirt for another 132 miles as we rode through the villages of Vitichi and Cotagaitia. We were dealt more than our fair share of sand and corrugations as we then passed through classic cowboy country with rolling hills, canyons with scrub and cacti. Arriving into Tupiza ended the third hard day in the saddle in as many days; the hardest biking I have ever experienced - the bike needed a service and we needed a good rest.

The Hotel Mitru had a nice comfortable room with safe parking for the bike and what’s more, our friends, Maria and Alistair were already there.

Just down the trail from here was where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid met their end after being on the run for some time. Che Guevara also copped it in Bolivia when the military got him; this is not a place to be if you're a naughty boy!

I found 'Lubricantes Gonzales' in Tupiza and, with the help of Mario and Emilio undoing the nuts; I gave the bike an oil change, engine, gearbox and rear axle. With their air-line I blew the air filter clean, creating a small sand pit on the floor!

Sunday 2nd September was my second birthday on the road. I spent my 51st year in two countries, breakfast in Tupiza, Bolivia and a steak dinner in Humahauca, Argentina!

Another bumpy dirt road brought us to the dusty border town of Villazon. Riding through town we came to a concrete bridge over a river which marked the border and this is what you do. On the left-hand side, (Bolivian side) was the exit immigration where we had our passport stamped and tourist card taken. Over the bridge on the left was the Bolivian Adunas, (customs office) where I exited the bike by handing the temporary importation papers back. Then over the road I joined Les, who was already in the 15-person queue for the Argentinean Passport control. We were only there a few minutes when a nearby window opened and an official beckoned us over. Taking our passports and bike registration, he shut the window and disappeared, reappearing a few minutes later with a 90-day visa stamp. Feeling more a tinge of guilt after having jumped the queue I went back over the road to the Argentine Adunas office and handed over the bike’s registration document, (V5). We were then issued a Temporary Import form for the bike lasting until MAY 08 - seems they don’t really want us to leave! The whole procedure took only 38 minutes - the fastest yet.

From the border offices we rode into the town of La Quiaca and Argentina.

We were now on good asphalt roads which were nice and smooth. We passed many nice-looking cars and smart-looking people, this country already had that affluent feel to it, and this was a welcome breath of fresh air.

We rode a further 107 miles on smooth asphalt with long straights and gentle bends. Along the route we passed many beautifully coloured rock formations on either side of the road. Later that evening we arrived into the town of Humahauca where we found a nice new hotel, the Hosteria De La Quebrada. Out the back were a couple of guys working on a bike, and after seeing that my bike was so dirty, they pulled out their high pressure hose and I washed her down, it was a revelation to see her paintwork under all the ingrained salt and dust!

The finale to my birthday was a fat Argentine steak and some nice red wine to wash it down - the perfect end to a perfect day, though the best present I could have wished for were the asphalt roads!

The following day we followed Route 9 south towards Salta. Using good signposts we found our way around the town of Jujuy and through a beautiful park with rolling hills covered in trees. We then dropped down out of the hills to Salta and found the Hotel Candela.

We enjoyed a day here where it had warm days and evenings as we sat in the plaza. While hiking the 1,000 steps to the top of a viewpoint which overlooks the city, we experienced no breathing difficulties whatsoever as we were now so close to sea level.

Salta is a modern city, its people are smartly dressed and there are many more new cars to be seen on its roads. Cars range from the humble Peugeot 504 taxis, lots of Fiats to the odd flash BMW; clearly there is more money here, this was reflected in the price of things with the essentials being slightly more expensive.

After our well-earned rest we left Salta and picked up Route16 heading east. Although the road was asphalt and was flat and straight, it eventually got boring after having experienced the dirt and bendy mountain roads, but you can't have everything! With the drop in altitude the temperature rose – it was now very hot.

We had passed several police road checks whilst in Argentina but most of the time we were just waved through. At one small village though, we were stopped by what appeared to be a part-time cop smoking a fag and chewing a big lump of tobacco. This sad excuse for a human then tried to squeeze us for a few dollars but with no luck; I cleverly gave him the impression that I couldn’t understand a word he was saying - he got fed-up and let us go. This was only the second attempt by an official in 14 months but we had expected lots more, from what others had told us.

After a marathon trek of 431 miles and 10 hours, we rode into Roquesaenz Pena and found the Hotel Gualok. It was a big old hotel which, in its day, would have been very up-market but it was now a bit run down but comfortable all the same. After having just needed rooms with several blankets we now had air-conditioning, and boy did we need it! This turned out to be one of the longest days of our adventure so far; we have now covered a total 42,000 miles for the trip since leaving home. It was now a pleasant change to be sat at a table on the sidewalk, eating dinner in the warm evening air and watching the kids race by on their scooters.

Next day we woke to our first rain in ages. With wet roads and a slight drizzle we rode out of town heading south east to the town of Resistencia where we are staying the night at the Hotel Alfil, only a short walk from the town centre and it’s still raining!!!

I like this country; it’s like a breath of fresh air to be back in the comfort zone.

Until next time, Nick.

From Les

Salta, Argentina; 4th September 2007

I think I spoke too soon...we woke the next day to grey skies and drizzle! We headed out to Potosi, the highest city in the world at 13,431ft. The road was tarmac so we soon gobbled up the 103 miles, stopping off at a strange little village where no one spoke English or Spanish!

Potosi is a grubby city with a "gold" mountain overlooking its dusty streets. The main industry is mining, particularly lead; it is also the gateway to the "Salar de Uyuni", Bolivia’s salt flats. From Potosi we headed for Uyuni, which is near the Salar de Uyuni. This was just another desolate town in the middle of nowhere and the ride to it was awful, the road was dusty and potholed with really bad corrugations. As if this wasn’t bad enough, it was also so cold that ice hugged the banks of several small rivers we had to cross. At one stage we stopped and discussed turning back as it is a detour from our original route and neither of us was really enjoying the ride. But just over halfway there we met Maria and Alastair, a French/English couple on bikes whom we had met in Cuenca, they were on their way back. They said it was worth the rough ride so we continued and arrived in Uyuni with time to wander along the railway track to visit the Locomotive cemetery. Uyuni was once the main maintenance centre for trains; those they couldn't or wouldn't fix were just dumped at the end of the track. Casey Jones sprung to mind as some of the train shells were of that era.

The temperature dropped dramatically at night in Uyuni, but under my 5 heavy-duty blankets I was as warm as toast but couldn't move because of their weight; we sure didn't camp that night!

I am so glad we made the effort to get to the Salar de Uyuni salt flats; it was a really magical experience. From Uyuni we travelled along a sandy dirt road to the edge of the flats. We continued on through the area where men with shovels were skimming the top couple of inches of salt off the flats and piling it into pyramids ready for collection, and then the white expanse was ours. We rode out across the brilliant white flats and didn’t see another person! As far as the eye could see we had it to was fantastic!! Because of the distance, and wide open space, the flats lend themselves to unusual photo's ... so we played with the camera before stretching out on the salt and picnicking. The contrast of the bright blue sky and white salt was almost blinding. We could see the volcano and island in the distance but even after 20 miles we got no closer; it was a truly amazing place!

On the downside, we had to return to Potosi on that awful road again. It took 6hrs 45mins!! Nick was shattered and we both ached but we didn't know at that time that the road from Potosi to Tupiza was even worse! The first 38 miles is tarmac...deep joy! Then it got progressively worse; 170 miles in total on a dusty, sandy, corrugated, desolate track that meandered through flatlands, valleys and canyons. A new road is being constructed and for many miles we ran parallel to it; it was so frustrating! We eventually arrived in Tupiza, the last big town before the Argentina border and found Maria and Alistair staying in the same hotel. It was good to exchange experiences and I am sure we will see them on the road again soon.

While stopping off at one of the dusty adobe villages en route I had time to watch small grubby children at play in the street. From birth they are carried around in bundles on the mother’s back where they have constant company. The language comes naturally to them as they hear it constantly, awake or asleep; it's like a constant learning tape. I am not sure how the metamorphosis from bundle to running, jumping playing child occurs but it seems to happen overnight. The children are constantly with their mothers or grandmothers and learn quickly how to do the chores and herd their animals; they seem old before their time. Maybe we mollycoddle our children too much? Or is it convenient for us?

We spent a day in Tupiza so Nick could do an oil change and wash some salt off the bike. I did some laundry and birthday shopping as Nick will celebrate his 51st in Bolivia and Argentina as we crossed the border on 2/9. A big juicy steak and a bottle of red helped the celebration along. The crossing was one of the quickest yet at only 38mins. We were treated to asphalt all the way to Salta, Argentina. The mountain ranges are resplendent with pastel colours of pinks, greys, greens and creams. At times like this I wish I could paint. It is spring time here and yet many of the trees are showing the first hints of green or pink blossom, in a week or so it will be a mass of colour.

We have also found some heat at last! Salta, Argentina is really hot and sunny by day and in the evenings it is warm enough to sit in the parks without our fleeces.

The first thing we really noticed in Argentina, apart from good roads, is that it is so similar to Europe; we could almost have been in Spain. There is a real culture difference, with Argentina feeling much more affluent than the other South American countries so far. It's early days yet but it feels well within the comfort zone! For better or worse!

Until Next time, Lesley.


Purto Iguazu, Argentina; 11th September 2007.

 After dreaming for so long of smooth asphalt roads, heat, and some easy-riding days, my dream eventually came true. We have now been in Argentina for four days after leaving Salta but I'm bored already, you just can't win!! The boredom of the long, straight roads from Salta to Pena was relieved to a certain extent as we rode through some picturesque cotton and sunflower-growing countryside. We battled on through the rain on the straight and featureless road from Pena to Resistencia. With a bit of road-slime thrown in for good measure it became vaguely interesting to start with but became more tedious as the day wore on. We managed to find a hotel in time for a leisurely lunch which I managed to wash down with a full bottle of wine, by now things were getting interesting. I was now looking at the world through a cylindrical green bottle with a dimple in the bottom, are you getting the picture? Where are the bends, and dare I say it - the dirt!

Route 12 from Resistencia to Posadas followed the River Parana heading east. We rode even more long straight roads, this time through marshland which started to undulate slightly as we rode through countryside akin to Breakland, back home in Norfolk. Having said that, we were treated to the sight of pine forests, logging and many saw mills. It was also pleasing to the eye to observe some fine conservation work in the re-planting of young trees to replace those they had just cut down.

Have I mentioned recently that the saddle on the 1150GS sucks? As an aid to comfort I even bought some padded cycling shorts to wear under my excellent, 'Hood' jeans, the extra padding helps a little, (Ed says I need a bit more lard on my rump).

We rode on into Posadas where we checked all the hotels to be found in the ‘Lonely Planet Guide’ only to find them all full. Our saviour turned out to be a humble petrol station attendant who pointed us in the direction of the Hotel Horianski, which turned out to be both cheap and comfortable. That evening we wandered around town where we literally stumbled upon a demonstration in full swing in the main plaza. It must have been something agricultural as there were several old rusty farm tractors littering the town center, by the look of it their owners were camping nearby. A little further on we found some rock bands playing in one of the most unusual locations for a gig I have ever seen, they were playing in the central reservation of a down-town dual-carriageway and no one seemed bothered by their location at all.

To date, the Argentinean standard of driving is very poor. In the other Central and South American countries we've ridden through, the drivers appear to know where everyone is. They sound their horns to let others know their position on the road and use their mirrors to check before pulling out, here - they don’t. In Argentina it seems the mirrors are to hang things on to make the car look pretty, and the horn? - Well I guess it’s permanently disconnected! Lorries and cars tailgate each other and speed is of the essence, speed limits in town and country don’t seem to exist, although we have seen a couple of mobile speed radar checks in small towns, I bet they rake in the Deniro's?

From Posadas we rode the Routa 12 north east towards the Iguazu Falls. Feeling somewhat tired with the heat and the long straight undulating roads we pulled into the town of Eldorado, which doesn’t feature in the ‘Lonely Planet Guide’ but should, especially the fantastic, Hotel Cabanas, Don Juan close to Routa 12; its luxury wooden cabins are positioned just down the slip road. We now had the security of the bike parked outside our door, the luxury of a swimming pool nearby and the convenience of a fine restaurant. We rested here for two days, ate some good food and drank some more fine wines - sheer bliss.

After saying our goodbyes to the friendly staff, we rode more straight roads through heavily forested and rolling countryside to Purto Iguazu. This is the border town with Brazil and the location of Argentina’s greatest waterfalls so we booked into the down-town, Hotel Tierra Colorada, and set off to the falls. This was another fantastic sight indeed; the falls are about two kilometres long and with a drop of eighty meters. The main fall, (The Devil’s Throat) was massive; its mist rose 80 meters and created a rainbow which soaked the gaping tourists. There were also several narrower falls but it was the fall’s location in the hot sticky jungle that really made the moment – it was magical. The falls are set in a well organised park with a small train to get you to the important spots and there are plenty of good walkways nearby.

Tomorrow we head into Brazil and possibly check out the falls from their side, get another flag ready please Eddie!

Until the next time, Nick.

From Les

Prudentopolis, Brazil; 13th September 2007

Our stopover in Salta was great as I had my first haircut since Panama in April. Unfortunately the guy’s idea of, "just a little" was about 2inches and my split ends were not that long but it did keep some of the local ladies entertained all the same.
I won’t bore you with the route across country to Resistancia as it was long, flat and relatively boring. The air was grey and thick with smoke from the distant fires and we were being chased down by rain, which fortunately never caught us on the bike. The skies opened while we slept and cleaned the grubby streets, by morning it was bright again for our ride to Posadas. The shrubs and trees in the area looked as though they would burst into spring life after a shower but I didn’t intend going back to check it out.

We were due for a break and luckily stopped at the cabins in Elderado where we had three comfortable nights and two lazy days. The cabins not only had a nice swimming pool they also had a TV and a hairdryer in the room - such luxury!
Many people had told us of the Iguazu Falls on the border of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay so that’s where we were heading. The surrounding area had become subtropical rain forests and very lush green, the soil is a rusty red colour which makes for a colourful contrast.
The Falls were magnificent! Set in the rainforest there are over 200 small cascades and the Garganta del Diablo "giants throat". Walking along the sturdy catwalks we had great views of these fantastic falls. I have never seen so many butterflies of different shapes and sizes, being mostly shades of yellow. White herons were wading in the waters and the mist and sun cast wonderful rainbows – it was quite magical. Legend has it that the falls originated when a jealous forest god was enraged when a warrior escaped down river by canoe with a young girl. The god caused the riverbed to collapse in front of the lovers, producing the falls. The girl fell and at the base turned to rock and the warrior survived as a tree overlooking his fallen lover. In real life they were formed by volcanic action and rock formations at the confluence of the Rivers Iguazu and Parana, but I like the legend story best.
The next day we crossed the border into Brazil and had a second chance to visit the falls. On the Brazilian side of the falls we were able to see the full extent of the cascades and also get close to the Devil’s Throat. The noise was deafening as the water crashed down in front of us, which caused us to get soaked in its spray – it was awesome! The butterflies were much more colourful and varied this side and we also were harassed by Coatis, a racoon-looking animal that tried to steal food from us; isn’t nature wonderful?
Within 10 days we have had 3 changes of country and that means currency! I had almost got my head around the Argentinean Peso at 6.42 to the £ pound and now in Brazil its 3.98 to the pound. Already we have noticed that Brazil is much more expensive, but our biggest problem of all is the language ... we thought Spanish was bad enough but now we have Portuguese! It sounds like Russian being played backwards and is sooo fast; I wish I had listened to more Portuguese while I was in Attleborough! We have survived for 2 days now and have even managed to buy food, petrol, water and have a bed for the night so all is well.
Today’s ride in Brazil towards Rio has been a treat. The rolling countryside is beautiful and the fields stretch for miles with golden corn ready for harvest while the trees are full of fragrant blossom. I can’t quite get my head around harvest in the springtime but it seems to work here. The downside is that Nick is still suffering with the uncomfortable saddle so something must be done about it, and soon.


Paraty, Brazil; 22nd Sept 2007.

 We are now sizzling on the Atlantic coast just south of Rio De Janeiro, but in order to get here we had yet another border crossing to negotiate, Argentina to Brazil.

From Purto Iguazu we followed the ‘Frontera’ signs to Brazil and rode up to what looked like a toll booth; it was a ‘drive-through’ border crossing, and the fast-moving queue led us straight to the booth. Fortunately the official spoke English so I asked her if I could keep the temporary import for the bike as it doesn’t expire until May 08! She agreed it was a good idea as we’re coming back to Argentina soon. After a quick exit stamp in the passports, we were out. Then it was over a river bridge to the Brazilian side and another drive-through, but this time we had to stop and do some paper work, which was easy enough though. The office on the left was for immigration where we filled in the tourist card, keep our half and got the passport stamped for 90 days. Then it was over the lane to the customs office (Adunas) where we handed over our passports, bike registration and driving licence. The lady tapped the information into her computer, gave me a couple of forms to sign and another 90 days was granted in another country, it was ‘Welcome to Brazil’.

We rode into Foz Do Iguacu where we found the downtown Hotel San Remo, We unloaded the bike and headed for the Brazilian side of the Cataratas Do Iguacu, (The Iguacu Falls). Wow and double wow, I hope our photos do this natural wonder justice? Isn’t gravity wonderful? From the Brazilian side you get a great face-on view of these magnificent waterfalls as they cascade the 80 meters and create massive a misty spray which caught any passing rainbows. The whole tourist scene was handled well by the Brazilians. With the bike safely locked up in a bike park we took a bus to the beginning of the falls where we found a good walkway to follow. This is defiantly not to be missed if you are in the area.

From Foz Do Iguacu we rode to the world’s largest Hydro-Electric dam project, we could see it in the distance as we headed ever closer. Once again it was a well organised visit but we didn’t have time to be bussed to the dam itself on a guided tour, instead we rode onto to the BR 277 heading northeast towards Curitiba, then through to Guarapuava where we picked up the BR 373 towards Ponta Grossa.

It was a hot sunny day as we rode through the beautiful countryside, not unlike northern France. At this time of year the harvest is in full swing in the golden rolling fields. Everything looks so familiar here, the cars are the roads are the same make and model as back home with some very expensive cars to be seen, there’s obviously some money about here. The buildings in the towns look modern and everyone looks busy going about their business, the country seems visually up to speed with the rest of the world.

After passing several police checks and well-marked speed radar points we arrived into Prudentopolis where we stayed the night. After a tiring 307-mile day and, after clocking up 43,000 miles for the trip so far, - I slept well.

Petrol is more expensive here in Brazil at 63p a litre or £2.83 pounds a gallon, and we have to pay at tolls, of which there are several. The following day we covered another 300 miles through forest covered country, there was evidence of logging but it seemed well managed with new plantations. As we headed northeast it got warmer and, somewhat bizarrely, the pine trees turned to eucalyptus then palm trees as we rode into the town of Itapetininga.

In the middle of town I stopped at a police-check, well they weren’t stopping us so I stopped them and asked directions to a hotel. They were very helpful and directed us to a good one nearby.

From Itapetininga we rode to the coastal town of Caraguatatuba, but first we had to bypass the world’s third biggest city, Sao Paulo! We did this by heading north to Campinas on good dual carriageway. We crossed the Tropic of Capricorn again and from here we found the main Sao Paulo to Rio De Janeiro road, the plan being to follow this to Rio and then come back south along the coast.

At a garage we met a nice couple, Joao and his girlfriend, on a small bike heading to a bike rally. Even though we were having difficulty understanding Portuguese we seemed to understand each other as a great game of charades took place!  Check out his blog at -  , we now have a Gattus motorcycle sticker on the bike to take around the world!

Later that day we pulled in for fuel again, the consumption seems to have gone up a bit. It was here we met another biker friend on a BMW 1200GS. Andre´ from Sao Paulo spoke excellent English and gave us a few places to visit whilst in Brazil. By the end of our short meeting we took André’s advice and decided to take the coast road to Rio. We followed him for a few fun-filled kilometres chasing him down an amazingly twisty road to the coast where we then headed north, and how right he was; it was smiles for miles. Andre told me why the fuel consumption had gone up. In Brazil there’s a high percentage of alcohol added to the petrol, seems you can burn it or drink it here! During our conversation I also found out that BMW 1200GS´s cost £20,000 pounds here in Brazil, and we thought we had it hard.

We found an excellent hotel at Caraguatatuba, The Hotel Sol De Verao, With a very friendly couple owning the place, only 50 meters to the beach and a balcony looking out to sea we just had to stay a couple of nights.

On the Sunday we sat on our balcony and watched the bikes returning from the rally further up the coast. I have never seen so many trikes, some being real monsters, there were also loads of Harleys but they were still out-numbered by the smaller 150 - 250cc bikes, mostly two-up with custom exhausts barking out some very interesting sounds!

After having endured three days covering 300 miles each we enjoyed the day off sitting by the hotel pool reading our books, but soon we were back on the coast road twisting our way north towards Rio De Janeiro where we clocked up 44,000 for the trek so far. For the first time in months we got caught in heavy rain so we pulled into a small coastal town of Mangaratiba where we found the Hotel Junior. The lady manageress tried hard to teach us some Portuguese but in the end gave up and let her husband take us to the local bar where after a few beers. The locals were fascinated with our travelling stories which we explained with the help of some charades, some of the language appeared to be sinking in along with the beers! Later that night back at the hotel I was awakened by some moaning - yes it was a bit of a knocking shop as well!

The roads leading into Rio was dire, the suburbs went on for miles with heavy traffic and the ensuing pollution, we were glad to find the Hotel Angrense in Cocacabana -  A short walk from the hotel and we were on the famous beach but it was cold with a brisk onshore breeze. With no beautifully bronzed bodies to study I headed for a nearby restaurant, the Golden Arches, or commonly known as MacDonald’s, now we know we’ve arrived!!

We spent a day here in this beautiful city, nestling as it does in the shadow of the iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer. From the top of the Sugar Loaf Mountain we could see the city wedged into the rocky tree-covered mountains with the sea on one side and the estuary on the other. It all made for a very spectacular backdrop but you know us by now, we are not city people so a day was enough for us and we headed south back down the coast to the small seaside village of Paraty where we’re staying for a few days.

Paraty is a pretty 17th century town with narrow cobbled streets, most of which are pedestrianised. There are many expensive restaurants in the touristy area but some bargains still to be found in the back streets. We both feel comfortable here so a few days off the bike were called for.

The Pousada Internatconal,  is right on the beach. The staff are very friendly and helpful, the sea is warm and the beer is cold - peace at last!

On the bike front. The Avon Distanzia rear tyre has now done 9278 miles and is on the tie bar. With the help of our new friend, Andre, we have a tyre waiting for us at Curitiba, which is the other side of Sao Paulo a few hundred miles away, hopefully it will last till we get there!

Until next time, Nick.

From Les

Paraty, Brazil; 22nd September 2007

Brazil has all the mod cons like Mc Donald’s, Domino´s Pizza and, believe it or not, C&A for clothes but we are still not getting to grips with the language. We have spoken (in English) to some of the locals who say that they have difficulty understanding European Portuguese, what a relief!

Still on a high from our visit to the Iguazu Falls we headed across country towards the Atlantic coast and our most Northerly point at Rio de Janeiro. The countryside was gently rolling with a mixture of forest and arable land. The soil was a deep rusty red which contrasted well with the golden fields of corn, stubble and green trees, the smells were wonderful as many of the trees are now in blossom.

We passed through a few small shanty towns with houses made of cardboard boxes and polythene sheeting which reminded us of Honduras and of the great divide between those who have and those who do without.

The roads are wide and smooth and the road signs are excellent, at times excessive on bend if we take any notice that is! Along the coast between Itapentininga and Caraguatutuba we saw as sudden influx of large sports bikes, most of them overtaking us at great speed with bums in the air. During one of our leg-stretches we spoke to a couple on a 100cc bike, Japa and Nina from Gattus MC, told us that the bikers meet on the beach so it explained the number of Harleys and big boys toys. At another stop we met Andre, (who spoke perfect English) on his GS 1200. He has kindly given us advice and guidance and took us on a scenic route to the sea.

We stayed in Caraguatatuba for two nights in a friendly hotel with cooking facilities and 2 huge stone sinks. I spent the morning scrubbing our jackets in an effort to rid us of several pounds of dirt and dust. I am glad no one could see the colour of the water!

Somewhat lighter and brighter we headed north along the coast arriving in Mangaratiba before the heavy rain started. The lady at the hotel tried to teach us Portuguese in an afternoon over thick rich sugary coffee. Later the handyman took us out to a local cafe for a good, cheap slap-up meal and beers and we spent a very long evening with the locals. Somehow we managed to converse and the evening ended with smiles, hugs and kisses on the cheek. The rain continued throughout the night but was dry again by the morning; we are in the Tropics again after all!

We eventually arrived in Rio de Janeiro later that evening. It’s a very large city with sprawling suburbs and industrial areas that spread for miles. It is supposed to be the most beautiful city in the world but I am not totally convinced. We decided to stay near Copacabana Beach which is famous for the beautiful people who frequent the area. Our objective was to get photographs of Cristo Redemtor and the Sugar Loaf Mountain. Many people want to sell us tours but we decided to catch the local bus for 50p and take the cable cars up Pao de Acucar (Sugar Loaf Mt) where we were treated to the overall view of the city which is pretty awesome. Rio has everything from sea, golden beaches, high-rise buildings, rainforest and peaked mountains which strangely blend in and don’t lookout of place amongst the urban sprawl. The volume of traffic and people is off-putting so I was glad to be back on the road again ... I’m a country girl at heart. Lots of people on route had warned us that Rio is very dangerous and that we might get robbed at gunpoint but we felt safe all the time.

On our way to Rio we had stopped off, on André’s advice, at a small fishing town called Paraty. We liked what we saw and decided to have a long weekend in the quiet part of town; a stones throw from the beach overlooking the distant islands, so here we are. The town has its historic centre with the usual churches and houses of interest. The buildings are low whitewashed with brightly painted doors and window frames and the streets are all paved with huge cobble stones. Part of the town floods during high tides and a river divides the two areas. It’s a great place to stay and relax for a few days so that’s what we are doing!

Today we spent 5½ hours on a schooner called the Sir Francis Drake which took us on a gentle sail around some of the neighbouring islands. We stopped of several times for a swim or lounged about on deck. It was well worth the £5 pounds each! We are now totally relaxed and glowing from the sun. We will stay for another day and then get back on the road in search of a rear tyre for the bike. Somehow I don’t think we would be legal back in the UK as we are almost on slicks!

Till the next time, Lesley

Torres, Brazil, 5th October 2007

“Life is a beach”; and ours for this weekend is in Torres, a popular surfing spot in Southern Brazil, but before we delve too much, let me remind you that we left you further north up the coastline in Paraty.

We spent a pleasant four days relaxing on the white sands of our beach, which was a difficult fifty-metre walk away! We took a boat ride around the nearby islands and walked the historic cobbled streets of this pretty town until it was time to move on once again. Following the wide sweeping bends of this tropical coastline we rode south through the jungle and retraced our route to Caraguatatua. From here the road became narrower and the bends tighter; still, we did have twenty miles of fun.

Who in their right minds would sign-post a bend as being tight and then put rumble strips on the bend? Makes me think they want you to fall off if you hadn’t conformed to the “Tight Bend” sign and slowed down, it certainly put a whole new perspective to ‘bend work’.

After passing through the Tropic of Capricorn once again, we stopped the night in Boissucanga, at the ´Pousada Da Barra´, a comfortable hotel where we could park the bike under my window. Next day it was cold and damp as we carried on along the coast road west, passing through lots of banana plantations towards Santos and Sao Vincent, south of Sao Paulo. We passed many factories belching out smoke as we negotiated the heavy traffic along the road which eventually led us inland to Pedro Barros, where we joined the main Sao Paulo to Curitiba road. This busy dual-carriageway would have been fun as it wound its way through the mountains, but not today as it was raining. By the look of it, the locals don’t have much experience driving in heavy rain, judging by the occasional sight of an upside down car or truck on several of the bends. One driver was frantically, almost comically, waving at traffic in an attempt to slow them down while the ambulance man was trying to take his blood pressure, you really shouldn’t laugh I suppose! We made it safely to Curitiba where we found a hotel on the edge of the city and, for the first time, I had to put the air-conditioning on ‘Heat’; we’d just climbed 3,000feet from the coast and it was now cold.

The following day, and with the instructions from our friend Andre, we found, ´Star News´ BMW shop in the city,  Raphael spoke excellent English and translated to the mechanic what work we required on the bike. We needed a new rear tyre, the Avon Distanzia fitted in Colombia had served us well by covering 9860 miles; we now have a Metezler Tourance fitted to the back. The front Michelin is still good for a few more thousand miles. The other jobs were cleaning out the air filter, clean and balance the injectors and put some new brake pads in the back. I was very impressed with Star News and all their staff, dropping what they were doing they sorted us out straight away and getting us back on the road. The servicing wasn’t as expensive as I had been led to believe either with the rear tyre fitted and balanced for £137, brake pads for £37 and an oil filter at £17; all this and a free cup of coffee!!

We were back on the road before lunch and headed south on the BR 376 back into the rain, and crashes! We continued on down the bendy road back to the coast at Joinville and Itajai. Here we joined a busy dual-carriageway with heavy traffic putting up spray which was difficult at times to see through. Our spirits were momentarily lifted though as we passed another Trek landmark as we clocked up 45,000 miles for the trip so far.

What a difference a new tyre makes, the bike felt like new but it was a pity about the rain as I couldn’t scrub-in the tyre around a few twisty bends!! The newly-balanced engine was also running as smooth silk. At Sao Jose we crossed a bridge onto the Island of Santa Catarina and the town of Florianopolis. Through the driving rain we wound our way around to the eastern side of the island and the town of Ingleses where we found one of the few hotels which was open in the area - the ´Pousada Do Leao´.

We headed out for dinner and on the way back to the hotel picked up a cheap bottle of Brazilian rum for only £1.70!  Mind you, we had to stay an extra day here as I’d consumed something which disagreed with me, maybe that bad bottle? While still on the Island we carried on south to Barra Da Lagoa, a small surfing town with a massive beach which stretched for miles. We stayed at the ‘Beira Mar Hotel’; its restaurant was only 12 feet from the beach, the bike was parked next door with Lewis, who spoke excellent English. After he checked out our web site he told us off for not updating regularly - happy now Lewis? We spent a day here soaking up some more beach time and watching a hundred surfers’ battle for the best waves. It was excellent entertainment and we met some friendly people who were interested in our adventure and keen to give us more places to visit in their beautiful country. Purely by way of interest to my fellow readers, I did observe that the girls on the beach here appear to be buying swim suits a size too small as they disappear up their bottoms, nice tanned buttocks Mrs!

After only one day the beach excitement had became too much for my frail body and I had become weak at the knees so we moved on to preserve my health. We had a quick scoot around the rest of the island, across the bridge and back onto the mainland. We followed the BR 101 south to the beach town of Laguna where it was so windy and cold that the beach was deserted. We found a nice apartment in the ‘Atenas Apart Hotel’. We had two en-suite bedrooms and a kitchen/diner for only £10 pounds a night, and that included breakfast. At these prices I really don’t think we can afford to come home!

The following day we had one of the best rides we’ve had in a long time. Following the instructions given to us by our friend Andre, we rode a short way south down the 101 to Tubarao where we turned off onto the SC 438 through to Gravatal, Braco Do Norte Orleans and Muller. The buildings and countryside were strangely familiar; they seemed very European, not surprising really considering the large German immigrant population. In the distance we caught a glimpse of a massive mountain ridge. From the town of Muller we climbed the ´Serra Do Rio Do Rasto´ and in just 15 miles we had zigzagged our way up to the ridge at 2035 feet where we were treated to some fantastic views down into the valley below. At last we were able to scrub the new tyre in properly on this dry and sunny day as we negotiated one hairpin after another - most excellent!!

Later on we met some of the local Traffic Police at a speed check…I had visions of quoting, “Honestly officer, it won’t go that fast”, but I needn’t have worried; after a friendly chat and a group photo they let us go. All in all they were a friendly bunch of lads but I still don’t understand a word anyone is saying!! On top of the ridge we passed through the town of Bon Jardin Da Serra. Just short of the town of Sao Joaquim we stopped at the ´Pousada Agua Santa´, an apple farm with riding stables for tourists. This appears to be the main apple-growing area; I haven’t seen so many orchards in my life. Being off-season here we had the hotel to ourselves. Later that evening we rode into town for a pizza and I couldn’t believe the amount of VW Beetles we saw; everyone seems to drive one, either a Beetle car or a VW Van. Next day we rode another great road, the SC 438 to Lages. This was another brilliant three-dimensional road through hills and valleys with many exciting bends, Les kept asking, “Aren’t those tyres scrubbed in by now?” I replied, “nearly dear”!

At Lages we turned southwest onto the BR 116, a busy main road where we turned off at Vacaria and headed east to Bom Jesus. Once again we passed through many apple orchards and onto a dirt road to Sao Jose Dos Ausentes, we haven’t seen a dirt road since Bolivia and it made a pleasant change. Forty miles later we arrived into Ausentes, helpful members of staff in the new tourist office point us to accommodation in the ´Pousada Caminhos Da Neve´. That evening we wandered around town looking for somewhere to eat and saw a guy riding a Kawasaki ZX9R. I found it an intriguing observation in that he’s only got about four roads of 500 metres long to play on and they are cobbled; the rest is dirt road in and out of town in all directions!

After another excellent Brazilian breakfast we got back onto the dirt road - the wrong dirt road, which I only realise after 10 miles. It was no problem though, with beautiful moor land on this ‘top of the world’ scenery, we retraced our route and found the correct track!

Later on we reached the top of the ridge we had climbed the other day but this time we’re descending the ´Serra Da Rocinha´ which is another dirt road, and just to make things even more interesting, the road re-grader has been chewing up the surface. With the ABS switched off, we slither and slide down the mountain. It was all great fun really but it would have been easier if we didn’t weigh over 1000kgs and we were using a proper off-road tyre! Whilst trying to enjoy the fantastic views we gingerly made our way down and into the land of paddy fields. Have you ever seen a tractor with paddles on its wheels as it ploughs through a muddy lake? Well, this is the place!

We ride on through to the BR 101 and head south, stopping at Torres, another beach town and surf spot. We booked into the ´Pousada Ilah Dos Lobos´ . With a balcony overlooking the sea and friendly, helpful staff, we’ve once again landed on our feet. We are going to stay here for a few days before we head into Uruguay and earn another flag on our front page - like I said before, “Life’s a beach”!!!

Until next time, Nick.

From Les

Torres, Brazil; 5th October 2007

It’s amazing how our waistlines and weight has varied over the past months. One minute we are constantly pulling up our trousers and next we are feeling quite snug in them; I’m beginning to think the Brazilian breakfasts have something to do with it! Breakfast in Argentina consists of a cup of coffee and, if you are lucky, a small croissant. Here in Brazil the table before you is laden with fresh fruit, meat, cheese, fresh bread in several forms, jams, a selection of butters, and then the cakes! Cake is big in Brazil - very big! This morning I counted 5 different cakes; all sweet and calorific...I can’t wait to get back to Argentina!!

Our timing was just right again when we left Paraty as the skies were grey and threatening, we were on our way to Curitiba for a new rear tyre. We retraced our route along the coast road enjoying the tropical forests and the amazing bright displays of ¨Busy Lizzies¨ and blue-flowered creepers which cover the kerbs.

We arrived in Curitiba late in the evening. It was cold and wet but we were lucky enough to stop in a hotel next to a truckers’ cafe. The wonderful smells led us to the busy cafe, for only £5 we were treated to a buffet of veggies, rice and 5 different barbequed meats, no wonder it was so popular. The locals told us that in Curitiba you can experience all four seasons in just one day, we were lucky and missed out winter as we waited for our new rear tyre and brake pads. Members of staff, and fellow customers in the bike shop were all very friendly and, fortunately for us, some of them used us to practise their English on.

As we headed further south we rode into Florianopolis, it is a city partly on the mainland but mainly on an island, the Ilha de Santa Catarina. Avoiding the city we rode across the bridge and headed for the beaches on the east side of the island. We spent a couple of nights in Ingleses and 4-nights in Barra da Lagoa which overlooked the surfing beach. It was a welcome break which saw us well rested, relaxed and ready to head to the hills once again. Louis, who had been kindly looking after the bike for us, reminded us that it was time we did another web update.

Running alongside the coast road in the distance we could see the Sierra Catarinease mountain range which promised stunning views and some twisty roads - Thank you Andre for the advice. The ride was great especially with the new rear tyre which made the ride so much smoother. We had miles and miles of smiles as we zigzagged our way to the summit. It was such a surprise when we arrived at the top of the climb to find gently rolling hills covered with grazing cows and apple orchards in full bloom, it was truly wonderful. Roadside stalls sold honey, cheese and salami, probably because of a large German population? We spent a couple of days exploring the area and enjoying the gentle hills and scenery before making a bumpy decent to the coast road along a re-graded dirt road which we had to share with logging trucks. The next surprise was riding past miles and miles of paddy fields. The flooded fields often appeared to be higher than us and there was a constant flow of tractors busy in the fields, they were all fitted with additional paddles on their wheels, no doubt to aid traction. Everyday we see something new and unexpected.

We are now in Torres, checking out the surf and wishing we had a fishing rod so we could join the locals along the harbour wall; perhaps it will be best if we just sample their catch for dinner? Apparently Torres holds many surfing competitions during the year but we are definitely in the “Low Season” with most of the hotels and restaurants closed.

On Monday the 8th we will head further south towards Uruguay and another currency, and thankfully, a language that we do understand...well just a little!!

Until next time, Lesley


Montevideo, Uruguay; 16th Oct 2007.

We had a very pleasant but chilly three day stay in Torres, Brazil watching surfers and fishermen sharing the same area of sea, fortunately no surfers were hooked! The Hotel Pousada Ilha Dos Lobos and its friendly staff were first class, and more importantly, the breakfasts were great. Another first for us on this Trek was watching a few whales from our balcony, they were only a few hundred yards out to sea, splashing flippers and blowing huge spouts of water, it was truly an awesome sight.

We rode south through the incessant rain along the busy BR101 to Port Alegre, then on the BR116 to Pelotas. This turned out to be a busy, saturated road which wound its way through rolling green countryside leading us to Pelotas and the Hotel Aleppo.

We awoke to another treat the following day; we now had dry roads and warmth for the first time in ages. We were now also back onto straight roads, the longest straight being 20 miles!  Onward we rode through flat marshy green lands seemingly populated solely by cattle and many different species of birds. We even experienced the overwhelming stink of the odd dead skunk as massive ‘coypu looking’ rodents and much smaller ‘guinea pig’ looking creatures grazed on the grass in the roadside dykes. All in all it made the long straight roads and flat countryside far from boring.

Heading southwest on the BR471 through Taim and Curralalto, we eventually arrived into the border town of Chui. Just outside Chui we found the Brazilian Frontier post which just looked like another police-type road check until we read the immigration sign on the window and STOP. At the Auduna, (Customs Office) the temporary import form which, for the first time, was checked on the computer and a cancelled form was returned. Our passports were then graced with yet another exit stamp and we were through - fifteen minutes in all, happy days. We nipped into town and changed our remaining Brazilian Reals for Uruguay Pesos then grabbed a sticky bun and said goodbye to Brazil as we made for the Uruguay frontier post. Now this was an interesting office. The passport control booth window was covered with motor cycle club stickers, “I like this place already”, I thought and there wasn’t a uniform to be seen. We filled in the usual tourist card and were granted a 90-day stamp. At the counter next door I handed over the V5, (vehicle registration form) and passports, the whole procedure was all very informal as the majority of questions related solely to soccer! I was then given a handwritten temporary import form and told, in no uncertain terms, that Uruguay will win the world cup again - what a friendly bunch. We were through this border post in fifteen minutes, half an hour in total - must be a record?

We followed the coast south as our bike’s odometer clocked up 46,000 miles for the Trek so far and found ourselves riding down a runway, YES, the main road doubled up as a runway! Through the cold mist and rain we rode into the coastal town of Punta Del Diablo, which, as it was the off season, was more like a ghost town. Here we found a thatched cottage and, with the aid of the local shopkeeper, we managed to get some firewood, food and wine and spent a romantic evening in front of a roaring fire sipping cheap plonk!

From here we headed southwest on HW 9/10 to Castillos. We had dry roads for a change but it was still cold as we rode into the more glitzy coastal resort town with its high-rise blocks where we found the Hotel Bonne Etoile. After doing the cooking last night I treated myself to a nice big fat juicy Uruguayan steak, by now the cold wind outside was only a distant memory.

From here we decided to explore the interior of the country so headed north on Route 39 to San Carlos, then to Algua and on Route 8 to Mariscala. It was a cool but dry day and with all our warm clothes on we were fine. The countryside was beautiful; I've never seen so much green. There were rolling green fields as far as the eye could see and herds of cattle were being tended by gauchos (cowboy/farmhands) who all waved as we rode by on our iron horse! This countryside is similar to North Yorkshire or parts of Cornwall, only much bigger. Pushing on through Piraraja and Jose Varela we eventually hit the town of Treinta-Y-Tres where we filled up with gas. We then attempted to ride a dirt road west but ran out of track where the river had flooded the area forcing us back to Treinta Tres for the night. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as we found a great little hotel called, La Posada,  and its very friendly English-speaking owners, Raul and his wife Maria.  I was concerned about leaving the bike outside on the footpath until Raul said, “You're in Uruguay now, its safe”.

We had to stay here another day as it poured with rain making the roads into rivers, but what the heck - we've got the time! The roads here in Uruguay are a mixture of very good asphalt on the main roads and some very good dirt side roads. The vehicles vary from big expensive posh cars to beaten-up old bangers, working horses and gauchos on farm carts in the villages - once again it epitomises the “have's and have nots” in society here.

Petrol here costs about £2.95p a gallon and the bike is retuning 55mpg jogging along at 60mph dropping down to 47 at 70/80 mph. I've dropped the rear tyre pressure down to a recommended 42psi; the new Metezler must be a harder carcass than the old Avon which had to be pumped up higher to accommodate the weight. The Airhawk saddle cover is also making life a bit more bearable for my butt!

With a welcome break in the weather we said our farewells and made a run for it on Route 7 north to Melo. Then it was west to Ramon Trrigo, Las Toscas and Tacuarembo, crossing massive expanses of beautiful green countryside, the sky was blue and the roads were dry, it was a perfect riding day.

On the way we met Julio all loaded up on his little Chinese motorcycle, he was having a road trip around his own country. I hadn’t met such an enthusiastic motorcyclist for ages, he showed us photos of his other bikes and he was nearly dribbling over the GS! – He was a great guy.

At Tacuarembo we discovered that all the hotels were full due to a wedding so we headed south down Route 5 to Paso De Los Toros where, in the derelict end of town, we found the Hotel Sayonara next to the railway station - it had undoubtedly seen better days. On the 13th day of October we booked into room 13, it doesn’t get much better than this I thought! A dog barked most of the night but it wasn’t all bad, the room did had cable TV so we watched the Auz Moto GP live at 2am and nearly invited the dog in!

From here we headed south down the 5 through Durazno which was busy, having had a rock concert over the weekend. We continued on down to Montevideo, the country’s capital and found the Hotel Balfer in the city centre. At $38 it was a bit more expensive than we've been paying but it is in the middle of the old city centre which has some beautiful old buildings and there seemed plenty going on.

We've spent two days in this beautiful old city, walking around exploring the back streets and sitting in the plazas just people-watching.

We visited the naval museum and saw some exhibits raised from the German warship, the Graff Spee. In August 1939 during WW2 a state-of-the-art warship left Germany and created havoc in the South Atlantic sinking several ships. In December she was cornered and ran for cover in the neutral country of Uruguay. She was forced to leave the safety of Montevideo and, being out-numbered by British ships, her Captain, rather than be captured, got his crew off and scuttled his ship going down with it -Sad but true.

Anyway, we now have our laundry done, it’s stopped raining and now its time to move on.

Until next time, Nick.

From Les

Montevideo, Uruguay; 16th October 2007

We were sitting on a bench looking out to sea, as pensioners do, when we saw a flash of flipper and a spout of water - Our first sighting of a whale! We were able to watch for an hour or so as it slowly drifted along parallel to the beach, splashing its flippers. We think it was a mother with new calf as it is now the calving and mating season all along the coast. Hopefully it is just a taster for the Valdes Peninsula in Argentina, a famous whale-watching area.

Our timing is out again! Next weekend, (15/16th) Torres hosts a huge surfing competition, one of many during the year, but it was nice to have an empty beach to wander along.

The words of the song "Should we stay or should we go now" sprung to mind as we woke to grey skies and rain. We have been so lucky with the weather so far, at least it wasn't cold and Uruguay was calling! The countryside, though wet, looked very spring-like with a colourful array of wild flowers on the kerbside. At one of our pit-stops we were told that until 2 days ago they had experienced 4-weeks of hot sunshine, which was unusual. Many people we speak to say that the weather patterns have changed dramatically over the past few years, the term "Global Warming" is mentioned quite frequently.

The long straight road from Pelotas to Chuy, at the Uruguay border, had experienced heavy rain as most of the fields were flooded, rivers had burst their banks and cows seem to be developing webbed feet as they graze knee deep in water. The bird life was amazing, there were so many different types of birds including huge storks, herons, wading birds and birds of prey. We also spotted several of the world’s largest rodents, the Capybara, grazing semi-submerged in the fields. Animals similar to large guinea pigs were also grazing on the roadside and we saw a recently deceased Tapir, a type of wild boar.

The border crossing was the easiest and quickest to date at only 30 mins! We were the only foreigners on both sides and had to cross the largest expanse of ‘No-mans-land’, stopping off to buy empanadas and sticky buns for Nick. We also had another currency to get our heads around, 46.83 Peso's to the £-pound! Once clear of the border we are back in the land of Spanish speakers, it was a big sigh of relief which doesn't help as we somehow have forgotten what little we had learned - must try harder!!

The ‘Lonely Planet’ guide book says to venture to the wild coastal area of Punta de Diablo so as it was close we went to take a look - It was closed until the summer!! A noisy, very wet thunderstorm was brewing but fortunately the friendly guys drinking at the local supermarket pointed us in the direction of our only choice of accommodation, a cabaña. We bought bread, rice, a tin of veggies, a box of "So cheap it would be rude not to buy it" wine and a big bundle of not too damp fire wood. The place was damp and cold but we soon had a roaring fire and we spent the evening huddled around it enjoying our other purchases.

We woke to a cool wind and grey skies again. Spookily at 10:10am on the 10/10th we were stopped by the first police who actually seemed to have some idea regarding the paperwork we have for the bike. I think it was the first time in South America that anyone has wanted to see our documents.

Punta del Este is the place to be in the summer but once again it was closed!! Apparently all the "beautiful people" and film stars flock to this city with its large marina, several beaches and streets of designer stores, all presently closed!!

We decided that it would be nice to see more of Uruguay and headed north into the waterlogged but very green and pretty countryside. Once we took a dirt road but soon had to turn back as it was totally underwater. We returned to Treinta y Tres (on the 33rd parallel) staying at the friendly Hotel la Posada where we were treated to tasty coffee and a local delicacy papas tortas by Raul and Maria. The rain continued throughout the night and by morning the road outside was a river so we stayed put. It's no fun riding in the rain and cold especially as I wasn't feeling 100%, I have developed quite a bad cough and sore throat.

The next day the sun shone and the skies were blue but it was still pretty cold. The countryside is really lovely. The smooth rolling hills are the most vivid green with odd patches of bright pink, yellow, blue and purple flowers. Herds of cattle graze alongside horses and sheep. Occasionally we saw the ‘Gaucho’ horsemen with their dogs rounding up cattle. There are so many wonderful spring fragrances and signs of new life. Foals stand wide-legged near their mothers, lambs jump and frisk about and small calves lay in the sun while the mothers graze. It feels so familiar here; we could almost be in Derbyshire or Yorkshire. But we don't have skunk in the UK!! We regularly get wafts of skunk - Once smelt never forgotten!!

Montevideo is the capital city and the site of a large port. The buildings are tall in the Centro, modern glass buildings stand beside solid stone French-looking structures and the streets are lined by lovely trees. It's a nice place to wander around; sitting in the parks and watching the world go by. We now have clean clothes again, I am feeling better and Nick hasn't shown any hint of cough so we will be back on the road in the morning, rain permitting!

Until next time, Lesley


Azul, Argentina; 27th October 2007.

 “This is the way to travel”, a valid quote from my trusty navigator on the rear seat; even after 47,000 miles of highs and lows she is still on the case - she's a diamond.

We have enjoyed our time in Uruguay's capital city, Montevideo. Whilst there we stayed in the old part of town and wandered around its tree-lined streets enjoying the eclectic mixture of old and new architecture. Once again we observed the subtle differences between the, “haves and have nots” in society here; the flash new cars and pin-striped suits shared the same space as scruffy old boys with pony & cart collecting old cardboard boxes. Beggars could be seen on the fisherman’s wharf, but they, like the beggar, just appeared to be killing time as no fish were being caught in the chocolate-coloured sea.

We left Montevideo under a welcome blue sky and the sun shone warm on our backs as we passed some racing cyclists in training. We passed numerous vineyards, dairy and arable farms as we followed Route 1, a good dual-carriageway which wound its way through lush green countryside and led us North West along the Rio de la Plata.

After following several miles of palm-lining road we entered the town of Colonial Del Sacramento, a World Heritage Site and clocked up 47,000 miles for the trek so far. We checked out a few hotels in town but settled for the Hotel Colonial, part of the Hostel International organisation which, in our experience, always provides very good accommodation. I relaxed somewhat in the knowledge the bike would be safe as I rode it up the footpath, through the reception area and into the courtyard. We enjoyed a comfortable double room with shared bathroom for only £8 a night - not bad. As an added bonus we even had fellow travellers to exchange experiences with, it had been so long since we enjoyed such interaction.

Colonial Del Sacramento is a very pretty old town with narrow cobbled streets and distinct Portuguese architecture, a very typical ‘chocolate box’ photo opportunity. The town sits on the banks of the Rio Plata and was first settled by the Portuguese in 1680. There are many small motorcycles buzzing about its busy streets. One of the most popular being the Yumbo 150cc, a Chinese machine whose riders seem so blasé about safety by not wearing crash helmets and riding 2 or even 3 up, even passing the local cops who don't blink an eye!

Thank goodness we were now enjoying a welcome period of humid heat and sun but there is no pleasure without pain as we were made acutely aware of the associated mosquito problem! We swatted furiously as we sat in a restaurant having dinner, much to the amusement of the waiters who must have had some powerful repellent on – “It’s normal” they told us!

We spent a pleasant day here then carried on North West on Route 21 which followed the Rio Plata. As we stopped for refreshments in Carmelo, we were approached by an American guy from Wyoming who recognised the ‘Wyoming Horse’ number-plate sticker I have on the bike. After a short conversation it transpired that he became disillusioned with the North American winters so he moved to Uruguay where he now has a ranch - and a nice life.

One of the main advantages in riding a motorbike through the countryside is the heightened awareness of ones surroundings. Not only were we enjoying the scenery but we found ourselves wallowing in the varied smells Mother Nature had to offer, some pleasant like flower blossom, and some not too pleasant like skunk.

Onward we headed; on through Mircedes to Fray Bentos. No, it’s not a spelling error, this is the town where the Fray Bentos pies and puddings originally came from; in fact in the 1920's the British ran the organisation. There’s a small museum to stroll around and, if you're on time, a guided tour around the old factory but we were too late so we headed on and found the Hotel Plaza in the nick of time and beat the rain!

Unfortunately due to some political disagreements between Uruguay and Argentina over the building of a paper mill, the Argentineans have closed the border crossing here so we had to go further north.

We had a slightly different day’s riding through heavy rain, thunder and lightning but, with no complaints from Les, we eventually arrived into Paysandu and the border. We were lucky enough to find ourselves in a small queue and eventually found our way to the drive-through customs and immigration point, by now we were very wet. I handed the passports and temporary import document to the official who stamped us out of Uruguay. At the window next door we handed the passport to the Argentinean immigration official who stamped us in for 90-days and checked the temporary import form I’d kept from our last visit to Argentina and we were free to go, well not quite. Another official then came over to us while we were putting things away, she wanted a chat so we headed to her office where she copied out a fresh form by hand from the nicely typed out original I had. Even taking this into consideration we were still through in 45 minutes and back out into the rain. We then had a small toll to pay to cross the bridge over the River Uruguay and back in Argentina where we broke into song, “Don't cry for me Argentina”, I just can't help it; this place gets to you!

We later rode into the town of Colon where we found a bank ATM and stocked up with Pesos once again. We had something to eat and headed back into the rain heading south towards Buenos Aires. The incessant rain eventually stopped and we were treated to some spectacular cloud formations as the black storm clouds slowly disappeared.

We later arrived into the town of Gualeguaychu, just on the other side of the river from Fray Bentos after a 167-mile detour! In town we found the Hotel Viedma manned by its very helpful and friendly staff, check out their site at  and www.welcomeargentina

Les did well here as I needed a room with cable TV, we had the Rugby World Cup final, Moto GP and Formula One to watch; it was a perfect treat as we hadn’t seen much TV so we stayed a day and nearly ended up with square eyes! We should have won the rugby though, the boys did well. We did get out later though and enjoyed a couple of great steaks, red wine and some pleasant conversation in the company of new-found friends from Seattle, USA.

There's quite a contrast in vehicles here, some are beaten-up old American pickups and police cars with lights that don't work, mixed in with some very posh cars; everyone seems so chilled out and mellow here.

Route14 South is a very busy dual-carriageway with some construction work in progress but it eventually led us into Buenas Aires. Using the Garmin GPS, and the co-ordinates from Bob at, we found the famous Dakar Motos biker’s hostel -  With a couple of bunk beds already taken but access to the kitchen and bathroom we got our tent out and camped in the garden. We met Javier, often talked about in the motorcycle travellers’ world, (in a nice way); we also met Sandra, his charming wife. With a workshop at hand and endless coffee, it was a great stop off. We met several other travellers from all over the world and enjoyed good food and company for the three days we stayed here.

I gave the bike a 62,000 mile service and Javier put on a new front tyre for me. We now have a Bridgestone Trailwing on the front, (the Michelin Anakee did 14,000 miles and could have gone further), but once again we didn’t know just where we'd get our next tyre from, so it was better safe than sorry.

We had a short look around the busy city centre and the pretty harbour side but, as we're coming back in December, we returned to Dakar Motos and prepared to leave the next day. Javier gave us directions to another biker-friendly hostel in Azul, south of Buenos Aires and, as it was on our way south, we headed there.  Riding through a densely built up area and heavy traffic brought us to La Plata, then it was south through some beautifully green cattle country teeming with wild life to San Miguel Del Monte. We hit Route 3 to Flores and eventually arrived into Azul where, using the Garmin once again, we found La Posta Del Viajero en Moto, run by Jorge and his wife, Monica.  This place is amazing; every visitor has left their mark in some shape of form, either in the guestbook or on the walls of the kitchen/dining area with a bunk bed and bathroom attached, the walls were covered with Japanese symbols, flags and other visitors’ writings. Once again it was a warm sunny day as we pitched our tent in the big garden. That evening we met friends and family over a fantastic meat feast called an Asado and once again we struggled to follow the Spanish conversations, fortunately Jorge's daughter and boyfriend spoke good English and helped us out. After a fantastic day meeting a true hero of the ‘bike-traveller’ and a belly full of food and drink we hit our sleeping bags in the early hours. Life doesn’t get much better than this!

Until the next time, Nick.

From Les

Azul, Argentina; 27th October 2007

Nick contracted a sore throat and runny nose but we managed to keep mobile and headed out of Montevideo in bright sunshine. We only rode 120 miles today but were treated to rolling countryside and green fields, eventually arriving in Colonia del Sacramento on the Plate River by lunchtime. Colonia's port originally was used to smuggle goods across to Buenos Aires but it is now a respectable World Heritage Site. Its wide tree-lined and cobbled streets are peaceful to wander around at this time of year but in a month or so it will be full of tourists. A ferry service operates frequently between Colonia and Buenos Aires, so many people take a day trip to explore the picturesque town. Unfortunately the mosquitoes are now out in force and it stays light till after 8pm now that we have changed our watches to Uruguayan time.

There is an ongoing dispute between Uruguay and Argentina concerning the construction of a paper mill in Uruguay and the contamination it may cause. We have heard several versions and arguments and discovered that Argentina has closed some of its borders to Uruguay. The border crossing at the town of Fray Bentos, (home of OXO and Steak & Kidney puddings), has been closed. We planned to cross at this border but instead we had a short tour around the Fray Bentos museum and the next day headed north to Paysanda for a 45-min document stamping routine and border crossing over the bridge. Ironically, we spent the next night at Gualeguaychu, just across the river from Fray Bentos. By road it was 170 very wet miles through a dramatic thunderstorm, darkness enveloped the scene under an inky blanket of menacing cloud.

We are now back to Argentinean pesos at 6.42 to the £-Pound, we have also gained an hour so we are now 4-hrs behind you in the UK.

We found a room in the Viedma Hotel where we were treated to Cable TV and the finals of the World Cup Rugby, F1 racing from Soa Paulo, Brazil and the Moto GP; we just had to stay 2 days! We have heard that you will either love or hate Buenos Aires; the jury is still out on this one!!

We headed for Dakar Motors in B.A, where we had been told we could get a front tyre. Smelly biker Bob, (we met in Costa Rica) had given us GPS co-ordinates so we found it easy enough and where we were greeted by Sandra, wife of Javier, the owner, she made us feel very welcome. Dakar Motors is much more than a workshop; it has become a stop-off point for travellers, a place to pitch your tent in the backyard and space to fix what ails your Bike. We were quickly introduced to Daniel from Germany and Gerbain from Holland, fellow biker/travellers who were staying in the workshop. Not long after we arrived, Renne, Axle and Sebastian found their way here also. They had just enjoyed a 3-week cruise from Germany with their bikes and the first port of call was Dakar Motors. It was really nice to exchange stories, even though we represented 6 different nationalities; thankfully the common language was English!

We are camping once again; the first time since South Mexico. It’s really nice to be under canvas again even though we have had some torrential rain and a bit of a flood...on my side of course!! We caught the train to Central B.A. and walked around some of the major sites and shopping areas, even the dry docks. It is polluted mind you and we could feel our eyes smarting and lungs complaining. We only observed a few areas so we cannot form a real opinion, soon as we changed the tyre and Nick checked the tappets we were happy to leave the city suburbs for the fresh air. The city has so many new high rise buildings wedged in between older buildings that it feels so cramped.

Just as we left BA, Javier told us about Azul, “You must visit”, he tells us; so here we are. It took ages to get out of B.A. to fresh air and fields; it was so nice to be in clear sunshine once again. According to our plan we headed south but we took a slight detour into the comfortable small city of Azul, and a pretty back garden belonging to Jorge and Monica. Jorge, (aka, Pollo), (chicken in Spanish), runs a small motorcycle accessory shop and is a magnet for motorcyclist from all over the world. At La Posta Del Viajero en Motos, the kitchen, common room, workshop and bathroom walls are filled with comments from visitors from all continents of the world. There is a stack of guestbooks, all signed and illustrated and are full of compliments. Some people had stayed for 2 weeks by camping in the garden or sleeping on one of the 2 bunk beds. We recognised several names of people we have met on our travels; what is it about this place?

An Asado is similar to a BBQ but the meat is so tender and thick and cooked slowly using wood fires, it’s better than I have ever tasted before. Jorge and Monica invited us to join them with friends and family for an Asado and Jorge is an expert cook. It was a lovely evening and we soon realised that if we had spent time alone with a family then our Spanish would be fluent within a month or two. We didn't start to eat till almost 11pm and after midnight Jorge’s daughter went out to get ice cream; the hospitality is amazing. Today we had planned to continue south but the place and people are so friendly and kind.....maybe we will be on the road in the morning!

Until next time, Lesley

Ushuaia, Argentina; 8th Nov 2007.

We completed the “End to End” of the American continent in 1 year, 4 months and 6 days with a mileage of 50,039 miles, hurrah!!

We left you in Azul, where we had a couple of great days camping at the La Posta Del Viajero en Moto - check out their web site at  Jorge, the owner, was so friendly and nothing seemed too much trouble. It was a relief to escape the hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires and treat our lungs to some clean fresh country air.

We left Azul on Routa 3 South on a dry and warm day but the wind picked up so we had to break out our fleeces to stave off the wind-chill. With spirits heightened we rode onward through gently rolling green countryside to Coronel Dorrego. We turned onto Routa 78 and a short ride to the costal town of Monte Hermoso, which was all but closed! Fortunately, after a short ride around town, we found the Hosteria Altea and its lovely owner, Daniel. She made us at home and even gave us a pot of her own homemade fig jam as I had devoured all the jam we had been given for breakfast, which at only 60 pesos, was a real bargain; check out their site at

Next day we battled on through black skies, rain, thunder and lightening and eventually got back onto Routa 3 south towards Bahia Blanca. Even through the incessant rain we still received the usual ‘headlight flashes’ and ‘thumbs up’ from other vehicles on the road. On one occasion we had stopped under a tree for shelter from the heavy rain. A car skidded to a halt and a guy runs over offering to take us back to his house to shelter; he even furnished us with details of his ‘biker’ friend further south if we needed any assistance with the bike. This offer just summed up the friendliness and generosity of the many Argentinean people we have met so far.

Pushing onward we rode the long roads, some straights were 10 or 15 miles long through incredible rolling scenery. We were even treated to a brilliant lightening display, some lightening bolts were going horizontal under the low, black cloud base; I'd never seen this kind of lightening before; it possessed a sinister, and yet natural, beauty all of its own.

We stopped at the Tourist Information Office in the town of Veidma and received directions to the Hotel Spar, which also featured in the 'Lonely Planet' guide.

Here we managed to dry our clothes and by morning we were back on the road once again - mostly dry! More long straight roads followed as we carried on down the Routa 3 through San Antonio and followed the coast to Golfo San Matias and Sierra Grande.

The very strong cross winds on the way to the Peninsula Valdes caused me to adopt a new and unnerving 45 degree riding style, my neck muscles were given a good ‘Mike Tyson workout’. On the way across this sparse wilderness we observed many llamas, cattle and horses; even a fox ran across the road in front of us.

We later stopped with some other bikers from Chile; they were riding a good cross-section of bikes ranging from the Yamaha TDM, Suzuki V-Strom and a KTM. Thankfully they all spoke good English and in fact they were the first bikers we'd seen for a while so it was a pleasant interaction as were laughed and exchanged information.

Whilst on the Peninsula Valdes we visited the small town of Punto Piramides, a favourite tourist stop for whale-watching, resulting in expensive accommodation; one hostel quoted us 200 pesos for a bed when we could have stayed in Buenos Aires city centre for only 120 pesos! We eventually found a nice cabin for just over 100 pesos, but for one night only. On the plus side, petrol is just over £1 pound a gallon - happy days! The bike is returning 48 mpg at 70-75mph and 55mpg at steady 60mph.

The following day Les had her dream come true and took a whale-watching boat trip out into the bay, see the pictures. The sea was very rough and I don't travel so well on boats at the best of times so chose to watch from the cliffs where I had a good view of the massive animals; moms and babies were splashing fins and tails only a few hundred meters offshore, what an amazing sight.

With Lesley back on dry land and full of excitement, we tried to ride across the peninsula but found the gravel road too difficult two-up on our heavy bike, so after about 20 miles we turned around and returned to the mainland. Following Routa 3 we rode to Puerto Madryn, where we found the Hotel Petit; at only 96 pesos we enjoyed a good night’s sleep. To tell the truth, I felt a bit defeated today and a tad disappointed with myself. What with my concern about fading from the rough sea and sea sickness of the boat trip, then being defeated by that gravel road. Two failures in one day, it can only get better, (Eddie says at my age it could have been much worse, it could have been 3 failures!)

We departed Puerto Madryn south on Routa 3 on a windy but warm day. Our route took us through more scrub and ‘outback-looking’ countryside; we even had a moment of surprise as an armadillo-looking creature run across the road in front of us. After checking out a few hotels in Comodoro Rivadavia, which were either full or too expensive, we moved south to the next smaller town of Rada Tilly and camped at the municipal site, which happened to have a scout camp in full swing, dib dib dib and all that - in Spanish of course! That night it was so warm we slept on top of our sleeping bags, but things were to change!

The following morning the wind had picked up and it was Baltic, but with a blue sky and a vicious crosswind we carried on down Routa 3 heading south. The countryside changed, now we had no shrubs to speak of just the occasional tufts of wild grass. I got so cold that I started to shiver and, with no shelter from this freezing wind for miles, there was no escape until we turned off Route 3 to a small village where we found the Tourist Information Office, which was closed. Things were now becoming uncomfortable as ‘Burglar’ Les found an insecure door around the back. Taking shelter from the biting wind we put more clothes on, well most of what we had in the panniers in fact!!

Our next concern was fuel, we had already covered 190 miles from Tilly and the only fuel station we saw all day was still being built. We've got a 300-mile range in our tank so I wasn’t unduly concerned just yet. Fortunately we later found a petrol station in the middle of nowhere and filled her up.

We stayed the night in the town of Puarto San Julian where we found the Posada Kau Yenu, a small family-run B&B in the high street. For the next three days we rode through some bleak countryside indeed. Many people on our travels had told us that this area was boring, but I have to say it wasn’t; there was always something interesting to see. Flora and fauna are abundant here if you know where to look. Natural wonders abound here, from wild flowers at the edge of the road to the occasional birds of prey and llama, and of course, that massive sinister sky and cloudscape which is beautiful in its own, sometimes very powerful way.

While still on Routa 3 we rode into the town of Rio Gallegos where, just outside of town, we were stopped at a police road check in the biting wind. Fortunately we were ushered into an office where all our papers were checked; to tell the truth we didn’t mind too much as this was the first time this was done thoroughly in South America.

Later that day we found the Hotel El Ejo Mirima, and that night I had a well-deserved steak dinner and a bottle of red, all for only £5 pounds; suddenly the freezing wind outside was forgotten!

Next day we continued south on Route 3, we were now heading for the Chilean border. The lay of the land down here dictates that in order to head further south in Argentina we have to cross into Chile for about 90-miles. At the border-crossing we just fell naturally into our own well-rehearsed border-crossing routine, we are now seasoned travellers after all. We booked ourselves out then handed the temporary import form back. We then rode a short distance to the Chilean side where we filled in our tourist cards, got the passports stamped, booked the bike in and got another temporary import form. All this for only 90-miles! We did it all again to re-enter Argentina further down the road!

While in Chile we had a short estuary crossing from Punta Delgada and onto the Island of Tierra del Fuego and a long off-road section. Fortunately it was a well-compacted dirt road and although taken at 30-40 mph, it was quite easy going.

After re-entering Argentina we fuelled up and had another 180-mile stretch before we found another gas station. We stopped the night at Rio Grande at the Hosteria Argentina, a small but comfortable hotel at only 110 pesos.

The final push south in freezing, windy conditions took us from a scrub wilderness to the first sighting of trees in days and in the distance we could see snow-capped mountains. We rode deep into the alpine mountain scenery and followed the windy road along the many valleys.

We had a welcome stop at the famous Panaderia La Union at Tolhuin where we treated ourselves to coffee and cakes. Just as we were getting comfortable though we had to push on and over the mountain pass with its snow-covered verges, we eventually descended into Ushuaia, the world’s most southerly city. After checking out a few hotels we eventually found the 'Tango B&B' - and its brilliant owners, Raul and Christina. Only 180 pesos secured us a warm comfortable room in a family house with a superb view from the living room down onto the city and the Beagle estuary with Chile in the distance.

And why is it called the Tango B&B? Well both Raul and Christina are, like so many Argentineans, passionate about the tango; so much so they put a show on for us and the other guests and a real treat it was too.

We had completed 50,039 miles as we rode into town in 1 year, 4 months and 6 days it's taken us to ride down from Canada and Alaska.

Ushuaia is a bustling little town with many tourists all year round. Its harbour is busy with cruise ships and supply vessels stocking up for the scientific bases on Antarctica, there's always hustle and bustle in the small town centre.

Today we rode to the ‘End of the World’ by following Routa 3, which we've been on since Buenos Aires. We rode our good old faithful GS into the Tierra del Fuego national park and up to the famous sign which we had seen on so many other travellers’ photos; of course got our very own treasured shot. On the sign it says we're 17,848 kms from Alaska, and we did it in 50,039, but our route wasn’t direct of course!!!

Until next time, close to Antarctica and bloody freezing, Nick.

From Les

Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina; 9th November 2007

We have arrived!!!

We have just completed our "End to End" of the Americas and notched up 16 months and 50,000 miles, but we were too cold and tired to celebrate. I have heard somewhere that the best thing about arriving somewhere is the journey you make on the way - I think I have to agree. It has been a wonderful experience together and we hope there are many more adventures to come.

Jorge and Monica’s gentle hospitality kept us in Azul for the weekend where we just chilled out and relaxed under the shade of a tree in the garden. On Monday the 29th of October we were back on the road once again and noticed a distinct chill in the air and a strengthening wind. Our route would take us on Routa 3 towards the most southerly city via some of the most inhospitable countryside in Patagonia; the countryside is mainly flat and open. There are very few trees but the area is teeming with wildlife including foxes, guanaco lamas, pink flamingos and many different bird species, including the ‘ostrich-like’ rhea. Once again the roads are straight and long and the big skies are magnificent.

We had a wonderful long walk along the black sand beach at Monte Hermoso, the first bit of exercise we have had in ages. Since our weight loss in Ecuador the Brazilian "mega breakfasts" and the Argentinean huge portions and wine have been creeping up on us. For Nick it is a bonus as now he has some flesh on his rump, this padding and the Airhawk cover now makes the saddle much more comfortable for him. We also gained more weight in the shape of a large pot of fig jam which our host's mother-in-law had made. At breakfast Nick ate so much of it and commented on it that we were given a jar as a parting gift; just another fine example of peoples’ kindness.

Initially the "Campos", or open farmland, looks lush and green but, as always, the farmers say they need more rain. The skies became black and very dramatic with all types of lightning as storms raced across the open landscapes on our way to Veidma. Fortunately, by the end of the day we had almost dried out so we didn't drip all over the hotel

For me the highlight of this week has been the boat trip to watch the whales at the Valdes Peninsula. The bay at Puerto Piramides hosts the annual mating and birthing of large numbers of Southern Right Whales and for once we were in the right place at the right time. The sea was rather rough but I felt secure in my life jacket as we bounced out to see the whales, many of which are up to 12metres long. I soon spotted a mother and calf not far out to sea and could watch them closely. It was as though no one else existed for a while, just me and the whales as they moved through the water. I was treated to a show of breaching, spouts of smelly water and flashes of tail; it was a really magnificent sight. Nick could also see whales in the bay from his vantage point on the cliffs. It was much too rough for him but I really didn't notice - I was so absorbed in the spectacle.

The further south we travelled the wind got colder and stronger and the gaps between settlements were now becoming disconcertingly longer. The tidy Estancias, or farm settlements, tucked in sheltered spots were a welcome sight but I don't think I could cope with the isolation of living out there in the Campo. For 3 days we didn't see a tree and the shrubs were becoming shorter so we were lacking some places for "comfort stops", and all the while the wind was relentless. We were by now wearing 5 layers of clothes under our jackets and still feeling the chill.

We had a short ferry crossing which led us onto a border crossing into Chile. Then it was back into Argentina a couple of hours later, we were now getting very close to the End of the World. We could now see trees again and Mountains in the distance with a dusting of snow on their peaks.

Ushuaia," the most southern city in the world" is a full of tourists and very busy at this time of year. Cruise ships in the harbour drop off visitors who seem to swamp the streets and restaurants in huge waves. They seem all desperate to get that ‘classic photo’ at the End of the World in the national park and also fit in some Duty Free shopping while they get the chance. We managed to get our own ‘classic photo’, which tells us that it is 17,848km from Alaska to Ushuaia. No, we didn't get lost on the way; we just took the scenic route.

There are so many things to see and do here in Ushuaia so we have decided to stay for a few more days. We had 3 nights in the Tango B&B where we were treated to an evening of tango. We are now more than comfortable in our room which is only a short uphill stroll from the town centre.

This is the place for the classic "four seasons in one day" experience and today we had our first snowstorm since Mexico as we hiked to the nearby glacier. I am glad we came here earlier than originally planned as the surrounding mountains are looking their best with a good dusting of snow. The trees are fresh and spring-like and Beagle Bay is looking still and peaceful.

We plan to begin our journey north soon, but until then...... Lesley.


Trevelin, Argentina; 27th Nov 2007.

We had just endured five freezing cold days in Ushuaia, not surprising really considering we are only a spitting distance from the Antarctic. We thought we had just been unlucky with the weather until the locals informed us that this weather was unusual for this time of year, the temperature has been as low as -4 deg C.

We had to move accommodation as the Tango B&B already had some reservations, but Raul found us another room at the Los Notros and at only 145 pesos it was very good value, visit their site at  We settled into another brilliant room, our hosts, Lewis, Marian and their son Pancho looked after us very well indeed.

Whilst in Ushuaia we walked up to the Martial Glacier only 7 kilometres out of town and enjoyed a boat trip on the Beagle Channel.  As a form of escape from the biting chill we visited the Maritime museum on a freezing Sunday, it was an excellent, and warmer, place to be, especially when it’s snowing outside; After a night of snow showers I brushed the fresh powdered flakes off the bike, loaded her up and with one touch of the button, she fired up immediately. We rode out of town and retraced our route back along Routa 3 by climbing cautiously over the Garabaldi Pass. After a somewhat precarious journey with compressed snow in places we pulled in for a welcome coffee and cake at the Panaderia at Tolhuin.

My new snowboarder gloves and the heated grips staved off the worst of the cold, keeping my digits warm enough to get to Rio Grande where we found the Hostel Argentino, We arrived through the falling snow and I don't think we've had a warmer welcome, the lady owner ushered us around the back and straight into the conservatory and into the heat. Copious amounts of coffee and cake warmed the cockles of our hearts and all was good with the world again as we gazed out upon a snowy scene reminiscent of Christmas.

Alas, all good things must come to and end and next day it was time to move on once again. While still on the R3 we headed north to the border with Chile at San Sebastian and reversed the procedure we’d completed a week earlier. Whilst at the crossing we met three New Zealand girls on bicycles, they had just spent a night under canvas in no-mans-land between the borders, they all seemed very cheerful and enjoying their adventure so far – respect indeed.

Crossing back into Chile once again we decided to take a different route out of Tierra del Fuego but found a nice 104-mile stretch of gravel road, oh what bliss! Riding through a very cold and strong crosswind we both became very cold. It was a relief therefore when we pulled into the town of Porvenir where we were intending to take the ferry across to Punta Arenas; the only problem was a four hour wait. After unsuccessfully trying to get some Chilean pesos from the ATM we headed to the park and made like a tramps as we slept on a bench out of the biting wind!

After our enforced wait we headed to the small ferry terminal to catch the boat, we were somewhat relieved to find that they did in fact accept Argentinean pesos so with the bike wedged between sacks of seaweed and the rear of a truck we set sail. The short voyage afforded us quality time to reflect upon the good times we had just spent on Tierra del Fuego, a location many aspire to reach but few actually set foot on. This period of respite also gave us time to chat to Juergen Neffe, an interesting chap and an experienced world traveller who was retracing the steps of Darwin for a book he was writing, having already written one on Einstein, which was a German bestseller.

We were now gazing upon our next landfall, the mainland and wondering what adventures lay ahead as land drew closer.

After the 2½ hour bumpy boat trip we arrived in Punta Arenas as it was getting dark. Not wanting to venture further this evening we found the Hostel Ayelen at 30,000 pesos, about £30 pounds for a room. I know it sounds expensive but currency has changed once more, we're into thousands again, petrol is also more expensive at £3.15 a gallon.

Next day we followed a good concrete road across scrubby, gently rolling countryside, seemingly populated solely by sheep. It was an interesting road which led us into the snow-capped mountains and the town of Puerto Natales. There appeared to be hundreds of hostels in town, but after checking out several we settled for the Hostal Don Guillermo at 26,000 pesos, £26. It was comfortable and surprisingly empty; we enjoyed a nice steak meal and couple of bottles of wine for only £14.

We unanimously decided to have a day off the bike and warm up, read another book and feast our eyes upon the surrounding mountains. The town is a starting point for trekkers, climbers and kayakers and there are many shops supplying their kit. All in all, there is a nice outdoor atmosphere here and loads of Brits, amongst them we met a nice couple from Leeds who were just starting on a tour of South America - Good Luck!

Before leaving Natales the following day we filled up with fuel and met Ricardo, a Brazilian on tour who would come to our rescue later on!

We followed Ruta 9 north to the town of Cerro Castillio on the border with Argentina – again! The terrain and lay of the land between Argentina and Chile requires many crossings into each country in order to make progress north, or south for that matter.  After getting our passport exit stamps and handing in our temporary import form for the bike on the Chilean side we moved to the Argentinean offices where, for the first time at a border crossing, we had a problem. The small office was busy with bus loads of tourists but eventually we got our passports stamped with an entrance stamp. I then went to the Aduana official (customs), who went on about handing him the temporary import form from Chile. I'd never done that before, always handing it in when departing the country of issue. My limited Spanish in trying to explain this situation was becoming a problem and we weren’t going anywhere without this form, but then came our savour, Ricardo on his Suzuki V-Strom. He too had handed back the form to the Chileans and had the same problem with this Argentinean official who eventually backed down and, somewhat reluctantly, wrote out our new forms for us - Phew! To tell the truth, I don't think he knew what he was doing as several times he was asking his colleagues what to do. Needless to say, a big thank you to Ricardo for all his help; visit his site at

We rode with Ricardo along the infamous Ruta 40; a real “must ride” for all adventure motorcyclists with loose gravel, the trick is to keep in the tyre grooves and avoid the deep troughs of gravel on either side, very difficult though in a howling crosswind. It certainly focuses the attention, one false move and you’re off!

Thankfully we survived intact and found our way into the town of El Calafate, the gateway to several national parks in the area. We stayed at the Hospedaje Del Norte for a couple of days and rode out to the Moreno Glacier, and Wow! What a sight. It is 5 kilometres wide and 60 metres tall. We were lucky enough to watch some 'calfing', when massive, house-size chunks of ice break off and fall with an explosion into the water; all this with a backdrop of snow-capped mountains and condors – fantastic.

Les picked up another bug so we stayed another day before tackling more of the Ruta 40.

The bike has been running well, even in the freezing cold and wet she fires up first swing, considering I’ve had the heated handle bar grips on almost permanently! I topped up the oil and found it had only used a thimble-full in the last 3349 miles and that’s with a leaking lockable oil filler cap!

The lockable plastic catch on one of my panniers has broken but thankfully it is still usable, and two of the mounting points on the sump for the crash bars have also broken but I’ll get them welded sometime! I've been running the tyre pressures down a couple of pounds as we're on the rough stuff at present, it does makes the handling a bit soggy when we do find the occasional bit of asphalt mind you!

The winter snowboarder gloves and neck-warmer I bought are great. Another welcome addition to my winter gear are a pair of gaiters, I always got the bottom of my trousers wet somehow under the cylinders when the road is wet but not raining, and when it is raining, my waterproof leggings ride up my leg so these gaiters do the trick.

Another repair I had to carry out was to the map-holder which had split. This covers the 'Oxford' tank bag and stops anyone opening the zips easily. Finally, the Airhawk saddle covers are doing their job well, or has my bum got fatter??

We left Calafate and rejoined Ruta 40 where we stopped at the last reliable fuel source at Tres Lagos. The old man must have known the ‘bike-filling’ procedure by now, he filled me to overflow! His old lady sold me a Ruta 40 badge pin and wished us a safe ride, we were now back to the gravel. To be fair, the road wasn’t as bad as I had been expecting, we even managed to cruise at 50mph on some stages. We had a perfect day, blue sky and sunshine but I wouldn’t want to be caught out here in the rain with the mud making the road impassable in places.

Thank goodness we had a 30 fuel litre tank. After an 11½ hour, 225 mile ride through this beautiful, but bleak countryside, we eventually found civilisation and fuel at Bajo Caracoles. Totally shattered we stopped the night at the appropriately named Ruta 40 Hostel; another milestone was reached on our trek as we clocked up 51,000 miles for the trek so far.

Major construction work was now making the gravel road much worse but we eventually found asphalt once again and rode to Perto Morono then west on the Ruta 43 to Chile Chico and the crossing once again into Chile. Thankfully this time there were no problems at the border, but when we got to the ATM in Chile Chico, it wouldn’t accept my cards and the bank was closed. To top it all, the ferry we wanted to use wouldn’t take Argentinean pesos or American Dollars. After turning Les upside down and giving her a shake, I found some Chilean pesos, there was just enough to get me on the ferry, I even took poor Les.

We had a slow 2½ hour crossing of Lago Buenos Aires and arrived at Porto Ibanez to completely different scenery. We could so easily have been in the Swiss Alps with big rugged snow-capped mountains, green fields, wild flowers and lots of trees, something we hadn’t seen for days, it was all beautiful after several days of gently rolling scrub and howling cold winds. Later that day we meandered into Coihaique where we found a functioning ATM and stocked up on drinking vouchers. We then found the Residencia Monica on street number 664, nice!

Next day we found our way onto another famous motorcycling road in Chile; the Carratera Austral, another gravel road running up the south western side of Chile. On this beautiful warm day our senses were bombarded by spectacular scenery and those elusive trees running between the mountains and green fields, we were also back onto the gravel. In the village of Manihuales we found the Cafe Lusy Marc and ate some enormous empanadas, banana cake and fine coffee. Wiping our chins we mounted once again and headed off into the dust. And after a short section of asphalt we were once again back on the gravel. This time it was hard going, much harder than Ruta 40 and the Dalton, in Alaska. Imagine if you will, a hard surface covered in smooth rounded stones with no obvious track to follow, it was, I imagine, like riding on marbles; but the scenery through the mountains was spectacular. En-route we met a British/New Zealand couple cycling along this torturous surface

After another long hard day at 20mph we eventually rode our iron horse into Puyuhuapi and found the Casa Ludwg,, a beautiful B&B which overlooked the estuary to the sea and which was owned and run by friendly Americans, Jamie & Luisa.

We’ve just endured several very hard days on the bike and I could feel the pins and plates loosening off in my wrist, and my shoulder was also taking a pounding. It also came as no surprise to see the bike had suffered as well. We now had a fuel leak where one of the quick-release catches had split under the tank. With Jamie’s help with Spanish we visited the local mechanic who cut me a piece of metal brake pipe off a wrecker. We then visited a hardware store for jubilee clips. I removed the old plastic connector and replaced it with the metal pipe held in place by the clips. Now I've got to remember there's no quick release when I take the tank off! I've also noticed the rear brake pads have worn down quickly, we'll need some more soon.

Carrying on north along the Carratera Austral, things improved although we were still on the gravel but at least there was a groove to ride in for most of the time. We met more adventurers on the trail than we'd seen on the whole trip, cyclists, motorcyclists and 4x4's, all stopping for a chat and info exchange.

We left the Austral at Villa Lucia then southeast to Puto Ramirez and north to another border crossing at Futaleufu. Once again there were no problems here and it was back into Argentina. We found a campsite at Los Cipreses that wasn’t really open, the friendly lady owner, who'd been fishing on the beautiful river with her kids, gave us a trout for tea and left us with the whole site to ourselves. I fired up our MRS stove, when I remembered how it worked as it had been so long, and we dinned on fresh trout and rice, sheer bliss.

A short ride the following day brought us to the town of Trevelin nestling in the mountains. It was a little piece of Wales, having been settled by Welsh immigrants over 100 yrs ago and where we found the 'Cabanas Oregon', log cabins on a hill. They were self-contained with stunning views around to the snow-capped mountains that surrounded us. At only 100 pesos, about £16 a night, we decided to stay a few days.

We've sampled several of the excellent Argentinean wines and I've cooked some excellent beef steaks in our new home.

We watched a parade of gauchos and military on horse back which ended with a rodeo celebrating over a hundred years of Welsh history in the area. It looked as though we were the only foreigners here, or perhaps not; well I am half Welsh, perhaps not so much of a foreigner after all! Fun and festivities continued as we watched the locals at play, no doubt assisted by copious amounts of ale, it’s the same the world over - I like this place.

Until next time, Nick.

From Les

Trevelin, Argentina; 27th November 2007

We ended up staying in Ushuaia for 6 nights and the place just grew on us. We took a "Saga" boat trip around the Beagle Channel and watched the elderly "red-heads" fall asleep like nodding dogs, (Ed says, “Hey, what’s wrong with elderly red-heads?”) I am the only grey haired person I have seen in ages, I did get a really good hair cut and was offered the almost compulsory "colour" at the same time but I declined as it's very high maintenance!

The weather began to deteriorate however and by the time we left we had to slip and slide our way over the Garibaldi Pass to Rio Grande, will we ever be able to shed a layer or two?

The sun began to shine as we arrived at another border crossing where we met 3 girls from NZ on pedal cycles. Later we met a Swiss guy heading in the opposite direction, also on a pedal cycle. Big respect indeed! On these roads with the wind and cold it is difficult enough on two wheels with an engine. So we are back in Chile again and that means 1004ps to the £-pound. We didn't intend to stay here for long this time so didn’t bother with too much cash, just enough for a couple of nights. We took the ferry from Porvenir to Punta Arenas where the 2½hr journey was spent chatting with a writer, Jurgen Neffe who was following the trail of Darwin for his next book. Upon docking we found accommodation in a strange place at 9.30pm, it is not recommended but sometimes unavoidable, but we were lucky this time.

I do believe it is getting a little bit warmer or is it wishful thinking? We rode towards Puerto Natales and it wasn't long before the skies turned black and we were threatened by more foul weather. It is still very cold in the flat lands and the wind seems to come from the snowy mountains. The terrain became more hilly and covered with trees which looked dead but were in fact decorated with Spanish moss. We dropped down into Puerto Natales Bay where the large ferries leave to take trips along the glaciers and south to Tierra del Fuego. Black necked swans swam peacefully in pairs in the bay with a mountain backdrop, again it was very picturesque. We had a day in the town before heading for our most difficult border crossing to date. The border official on the Argentinean side really had no grasp on reality or the system of import/export. Thankfully, with the swift intervention of a Brazilian biker, Richardo, we were saved more stress and eventually got our import papers. Richardo joined us for the first few miles along the Famous Ruta 40 dirt road but carried on when we stopped for a comfort stop.

El Calafate is the stop-off point for visitors to Torres del Paine national park and the Perito Merino Glacier, one of earth’s most active glaciers. We were not disappointed. We rode the 60+miles to the glacier through national park and scenic lakes. The glacier is huge, filling the valley. It appears to be much whiter than the glaciers in Canada but the electric blues in the cracks and crevices give it an ice-blue colour. We were lucky enough to witness 3 "calvings" where chunks of ice break away from the glacier and crash into the icy water below. It sounds like loud gun fire; a truly amazing sight. The surrounding lakes and rivers are all a creamy turquoise colour filled with glacial milk and minerals, it too is awesome.

From El Calafate we picked up Ruta 40 through rolling dry pampa, refuelling at Tres Largos was the longest stretch without fuel stops of the trip - 255miles to Bajo Caracoles. En-route we met over15 veteran cars travelling south, all occupants waved and honked at us. We stayed in the friendly Ruta 40 Hostel which will be nice when it’s finished!

The further North we travelled the more interesting the scenery became. Rock formations of many pastel shades appeared and the area was looking decidedly greener. The lake near Chile Chico was the most amazing colour. We decided to cross into Chile via the ferry but as the bank shut at 2pm and the ATM wouldn't accept our cards we were facing a bit of a problem. We eventually found the required amount in the bottom of pockets and took the 2½hr trip, spending most of the time in a bus! But we still had no Chilean pesos! The moment we got off the ferry it felt as though we had been transported into the Alps. The mountains were snow-tipped and the rivers crystal clear, the roads were surfaced in good tarmac and full of twisty climbs...our cash flow issue was immediately forgotten as we rode the bends in the crazy evening light. At Coyhaique we found an ATM which was very user friendly - thank goodness.

During the planning of this trip, Ruta 40, Dalton Highway Alaska, and the Road of Death in Bolivia were the roads that made me rather nervous. I am happy to report that so far we have survived all three with no ill effects. However, I would not to like to travel on any of them when wet as the conditions dramatically deteriorate making them mud baths. We were lucky on all 3 occasions and had the perfect dry sunny conditions, thank goodness!

Recently we have been hearing what an excellent road the Carretera Austral is, so we have changed our route slightly to check it out. As we left Puyuhuapi the road was tarmac but only briefly before we were on dirt again. We passed through lush green valleys which appeared to be nurseries for all the new calves, lambs, kids, foals, geese etc who were enjoying the warmth and sunshine. Yes, we now have warmth and sunshine and down to 2 layers under the jackets! This has to be the best time of the year to visit this area as the wild flowers and shrubs are in full bloom. Lupins line the roadside along with dandelions, buttercups and the red-flowered Nostros shrub. The broom is bright yellow and the fragrances are almost overwhelming in places. The rivers are flowing with crystal clear icy water and there are numerous waterfalls, I love this place. The dirt road surface is not so good; in fact it's really hard work. There seems to be a covering of marble-like shingle all over the roads and in most places there is no definite line to follow. It makes it really hard work for Nick whose shoulders and wrists are taking a serious battering. There was never a scary moment though but unfortunately Nick missed most of the wonderful scenery as he concentrated on the road surface - a benefit of being pillion I suppose?

Over the past couple of days we had detected the occasional smell of petrol. When we stopped at the ‘recommended’ Casa Ludwig in Puyuhuapi Nick discovered that we had a leaking pipe that needed to be fixed. Jamie, our host, knew the right people so the next morning Nick and Jamie went out in search of piping. For under a pound, and with a little imagination and the Boy Scout skills, the problem has been solved. While at Casa Ludwig we learned that we had missed the "Globebusters" by 2 days, they are heading south and stayed here on the way. Over the next day or so we met several other travellers. A group of 4 motorcyclists from Spain, a Swiss guy in a jeep and several cyclists - big respect to the cyclists!

At Futaleufu we crossed back into Argentina where we were financially prepared! We found a campsite just over the border in Los Cipreses. It was closed but a lady who appeared from the riverbank with 3 children said we could stay for free and then promptly gutted and de-scaled a fresh trout for our tea. Nick cooked the trout to perfection and we enjoyed it against a wonderful backdrop of snowy mountains and a lake - Boy was it cold that night!!!

We are now in the Welsh town of Trevelin in a cosy log cabin, "Cabanas Oregon" with 360deg wonderful views. Nick has cooked 2 great steak meals, I have done the washing and we are having some ‘down time’. Tania, a German cyclist we met at Casa Ludwig, asked me if I missed having a home. I said “NO, but...It’s nice to have a home-like base like this on occasions”. We were lucky enough to be in town for the Town’s anniversary celebrations, parades of horses and Gaucho Rodeo. The sun shone and fun was had by all; it was great to watch such horsemanship. Musical chairs, barrel racing and bull riding featured and the more beer consumed the more agile the riders became. It appeared that we were the only non-locals there but no one seemed to mind.

We have found our first internet cafe in 10-days and once I have checked my mail, sent some photos and finished this I will be ready to move on in another couple of days so... Until next time


El Condor, Argentina; 8th December 2007.

We enjoyed our few days in Trevelin and were more than comfortable with the excellent accommodation offered by the Cabanas Oregon, check out their site at -  We could have stayed longer but the call of the road was stronger than the call of another asado, (BBQ) and yet another bottle of wine!!

On a downside though, I caught Les's cold, which has developed into what she terms as “Man Flu”. After a few days I felt much better so we ventured onward coughing and spluttering into my helmet as we did so!

With a blue sky, sunshine and a cool wind we headed north on a good road to Esquel, and then back onto the Ruta 40, but this time on asphalt. Leaving the snow-capped mountains and trees behind us we rode back into the familiar treeless scrub and rolling countryside. For hours we could still see the mountains to the west of us but they gradually dissolved into the distance as the day wore on.

The Ruta 40 peeled off onto gravel as we joined the R258 and headed along this winding fast road which led us into a new range of hills and mountains towards the very touristy area of El Bolson. It seemed a good stopover with many cabinas to rent; and thankfully, green fields and trees once again.

Eventually we rode into the town of Bariloche on the banks of Lake Nahuel Huapi, which nestles in the heart of the Argentinean Lake District. This is a beautiful area surrounded once again by snow-capped mountains, but the town’s busy touristy center just spoilt it somewhat and prices go up accordingly. We found a nice apartment at Apart Hotel Antu Mahuida, for 100 pesos a night and we were only a couple of blocks from the town centre.

I have noticed that in all Argentinean towns the local youth are keen on graffiti. You'll find it almost everywhere, in the central plaza, on national monuments and on most walls, what’s all that about I ask myself? It almost appears as if the authorities turn a blind eye to it all, it all seems very strange.

On another perfect but cold day we wound our way around the lake and onto the R231 northwest to Villa La Angostura, a mini Swiss-style mountain town with log cabins everywhere. A little further on we stopped for a hot drink and put on some more layers, then it was onto the rough R234 gravel road which followed the route of the Seven Lakes. Winding our way around the mountains we followed crystal-clear rivers which led into crystal clear lakes. I found it all a real treat, it is such a rare sight to observe such clarity in running water, and it really was beautiful. Having said all that, we did find some road construction further on; there was mud and loose deep gravel everywhere. Still, we're good at this stuff by now, so, tiptoeing our way safely through, we climb up to the snowline where it turned much colder.

We eventually cleared the gravel surface and found our way back onto asphalt on a great road through to the town of San Martin De Los Andes on the banks of Lake Lacar. Here we found La Posta Del Cazador,, a beautiful hotel clad in dark wood and quite expensive at 135 peso a night B&B, but we fancied a bit of luxury! We were glad we checked in as it was a nice little town, smaller than Bariloche but very pretty all the same, we could have stayed longer, but--- “To Infinity and Beyond” is our motto.

Next day we saddled up early and headed east across country on the R22. Leaving the mountains behind us once again, we headed back into the Campo. But the bonus of this was that it thankfully got warmer. For the first time in months we could ride with only one 'T' shirt under our jackets and not the usual 5 layers!

We headed onwards through cowboy-looking country to the town of Zapaza. We were now riding through oils fields, their oil pumps moving like nodding dogs. Later on we rode into Plaza Huincul, by now it was getting hotter – excellent. As if the increasing temperature wasn’t enough to life our spirits we were still observing the many ‘thumbs ups’ and headlight-flashes, which in reality I feel only reflects the friendliness of the Argentinean people, particularly to overland adventure motorcyclists.

On a Sunday we arrived into the deserted town of Neuquen. Finding the hotels in town quite expensive, we headed to the river to find the municipal campsite instead. Here we found the town at play, welcoming BBQ smells were wafting through the air and kids were playing in the warm water of the fast-running river. We had found this, local-police-run, campsite quite by accident and had hardly pitched the tent when we were invited to join a judo club asado, (BBQ). Yet again, another friendly crowd shared their food and drink with complete strangers. We had a great time and made many new friends and with the aid of my inflatable globe we told our story to the fascinated group. One thing I have noticed recently is that my Spanish seems to improve with a few glasses of wine; they were great people - thank you for your hospitality.

The following morning as we packed up and left the site, Les noticed she couldn’t see very well so we had to return to get her glasses she’d left behind! We then rode into town for breakfast and to a local motorbike bike shop as I needed some rear brake pads. Outside the first shop we came to there was a bike I recognised, a Suzuki V-Strom belonging to Darren, a Canadian we had met in Columbia – it really is a small world!

I picked up some EBC pads and, together with Darren, left town on R22 east through flat fruit-growing land and vineyards to Choele Choel where we found another campsite next to the river. Leaving Darren with the tents, Les and I went into town for supplies and another friendly encounter. Whilst looking for the supermarket we were joined by a couple of local bikers who escorted us to the shop and even helped us around the store. They helped us carry our goods and came back to the campsite with us where we found another one of their friends already with Darren. We enjoyed a fantastic evening of beer and friendly conversation, I just can’t emphasise this enough – everyone is so friendly in here in Argentina.

The following morning in a cool breeze we continued on the R250 southeast through flat scrub. We rode into the town of Viedma and found a restaurant for a late lunch. Just as we were leaving the restaurant a car pulls up and a beautiful girl got out and approaches. In perfect English she asks if we are okay and could she help in any way, now this wouldn’t happen back home! After giving us her phone number, (mainly for Darren’s benefit you understand), we continue and check out a few hotels. Darren eventually heads to the municipal campground while we try a few more hotels and have another pleasant encounter outside one hotel. While pondering where to go next, another BMWGS pulls up and the local rider escorts us to another hotel he thinks may fit the bill! We cross the river to the small town of Carmen De Patagones and find The Residencial Reggiani at only 80 pesos B&B; we stay here for three nights. It was a great spot, nice peaceful areas were we could walk the river bank, take a ferry across to Viedma and generally relax.

As you may remember, we came to Viedma on our way south some months ago and we have now returned because there's a,  rally here. We moved down to the nearby beach at El Condor where we're camping with other overland motorcycle adventurers from all over the world. We went to our first rally in British Columbia with this organisation over a year ago and now we've met up with friends we met there who, like us, had been slowly heading south. So with lots of eating, BBQs, meat feast's, copious amounts of beer, wine and tales of our travels it is proving to be and excellent weekend.

Did I mention, I love this place???

Until next time,  Nick.

From Les

Carmen de Patagones, Argentina; 8th December 2007.

Firstly, congratulations to Agnes and Eddie (the webmaster), who have become proud Grandparents once again. Well done Cass, Graeme and Nicole on the birth of Josh.

I am so glad we came to Patagonia in the spring. I may have moaned about the cold from time to time but the snow tipped mountains with contrasting blue skies and bright spring flowers have been stunning. I have been amazed by vast carpets of blue and pink lupin that cover the roadsides and the stunning bright yellow of the broom bushes that seem to mark our route. The mixture of fragrances is incredible and the streams and rivers are crystal clear....wonderful!

It seems that every time we decided to stop and chill for more than a couple of days our bodies rebel and we develop a slight ailment. It happened again while we stayed in Trevelin, I have had an irritating cough and Nick now has the cough and cold.

As we headed to Bariloche, the tourism centre of the Lake District, the scenery changed dramatically several times, from lovely mountains, to pampas, to pine and cypress forests covering the hills. Each area seems to have different plant life. In the forest area the lupin became pinker and large white daisies replaced the dandelions. Strange that all these plants can be found in the UK but we are rapidly loosing them while here they flourish. Where are we going wrong??

A day in Bariloche was more than enough for us. The town is totally touristy and also famous for its chocolate, every other shop sold stacks of it. The sickly sweet smells were quite overwhelming in places and even managed to dissolve my appetite for chocolate! I did manage a small piece or two!!

Up to this point we had managed to avoid MUD!! We have heard "mud" stories from fellow travellers and hoped that we would be able to avoid it but...on the road from Bariloche to San Martin de los Andes we encountered road works and mud slicks. On the mountains beside us we could see that it was snowing and the dirt road we were travelling on was wet and very muddy and slippery. There was a huge chocolate-coloured pool of water across the road and sheer slippery ‘drop offs’. Once again, Nick took it really gently and we passed through all in one piece and only muddy up to the footpegs. The rest of the ride was through more forest and past craggy rocks with flowing waterfalls and fast clear flowing streams.

San Martin is a busy town with many tourists using it as a base for treks, white-water rafting, riding and winter skiing. It does however, have a nice relaxed feel to it and we wished we had perhaps stayed a day or two. Once again the locals say that the weather has been unusually cold a "change of climate".

Argentina has different "opening hours" to most other places and we are struggling to come to grips with restaurants opening at 9pm at the earliest! It's almost my bed time! Breakfast is coffee and toast or croissant if you are lucky; lunch between 12-3pm is often fairly substantial. About 5pm tea and cakes or ice-cream and then a meat feast any time between 9pm-12 midnight. It’s playing havoc with my digestive system but Nick is really enjoying it. The general shops closed between midday and 4pm and close again 8ish. We have been caught out on several occasions as not every town works on the same system and in the Campo it’s a whole new world.

In several different regions we have noticed at the side of the roads, shrines which are covered with red streamers and often painted red. These shrines pay homage to Antonio Gil, an Argentinean "Robin Hood" type Gaucho (horseman), who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. Just before Gil was hung for Cattle rustling he told the executioner whose son was seriously ill and that if he buried Gil the son would recover. The executioner buried Gil, the son recovered and the legend was born. People who believe in the Gaucho's miracle performing abilities now leave gifts at the shrines, anything from photos, hair clippings, bottles of wine, clothing etc. It is said that if you pass such a shrine along the road, and there are many, you must sound your horn or you may not reach your destination!!

While on the subject of custom I must tell you about drinking "Mate", pronounced May-Tay. The vast majority of Argentineans and Uruguayans partake in the tradition. Shops are filled with Thermos flasks, gourds and silver drinking straws with filters at the base, and of course, huge bags of "Yerba mate", the dried, chopped leaf of a holly bush. Preparing the Mate is a ritual in itself. The server fills the gourd (cup) with the leaf and pours on hot water to cover the leaf. The drinkers then sip the liquid through the straw or "Bombilla". Each person empties the gourd and the server will refill it and pass it to the next person. This is repeated until there is no more flavour left in the leaf. It is really a social ritual shared with friends and family and we were lucky enough to partake when we were in Buenos Aires. In Uruguay in particular, Mate is drunk constantly by many people, they drive, ride pedal cycles, carry children, do the shopping etc whilst holding the gourd in their left hand and a flask tucked under their left armpit - a dangerous occupation. Apparently it is not addictive but I have my doubts.

From San Martin we headed east back into the pampa and heat! In one day we managed to strip down to T-shirts and jacket loosing 3 layers in less hours. It's camping weather again and we found a site by the river in Neuquen. The riverside was filled with locals swimming, picnicking and enjoying the weekend sunshine. The moment we arrived at the site a group nearby invited us across to share their BBQ, (asado). It was a reflection of the friendliness of the people in Argentina. All day we had people waving and flashing headlights at us. When we stopped at the many traffic lights in the town there was always someone chatting or giving the "thumbs up" with big smiles.

We were on our way to Viedma where the Argentina "Horizons Unlimited" meeting is being held. Many other travellers meet here before heading south to Ushuaia for Christmas so it was no great surprise to meet up with Darren, an acquaintance from Colombia. We travelled with him for a couple of days until we arrived in Viedma. We spent a couple of nights in a Residencia across the river in Carmen del Patagonia where we managed to wash the bike, change brake pads and catch up on email.

At the moment we are Camping by the beach, just a bit too close to a noisy colony of cliff dwelling parrots that are out and about before 5am! The site is filled with motorcycles and their riders from Canada, USA, Germany, Portugal, Australia, etc, including 8 Brits! We have met up with people we first met in Canada and others we have met on the road during the past 17months; it’s almost like a family reunion. It is a weekend of swapping stories and experiences, gleaning information about roads ahead, places to stay or avoid, valuable contacts and generally eating and drinking far too much and just relaxing. Fortunately everyone speaks English so we do not have to work too hard. We will continue to head North towards Buenos Aires again, enjoying the heat...... So until next time....... Lesley

Ps. It’s hard to believe it’s almost Christmas! The shops are only just beginning to decorate discretely and there are few TV adverts for Christmas goodies. I am sure lights have been glowing in the UK since November??

Happy Christmas to you all.


Azul, Argentina; 16th December 2007.

 We’ve just had a fun-filled and very informative weekend at El Condor, near Viedma during the Horizons Unlimited Rally. It was amazing really that here in Argentina we were gaining information about motorcycling around Asia from some seasoned world travellers from Canada. We also met up again with some old friends and made new with ones with our common interest in motorcycle travel.

The campsite at El Condor could have benefited from some grass all the same, by the end of the weekend we had all digested a few pounds of dust and grit kicked up by the strong wind, still this is Patagonia! After a few ride-outs from the site we clocked up 53,000miles for the trek so far, another landmark in our incredible adventure.

We left El Condor on Monday the 10th Dec after saying our farewells and headed north on Ruta 3, retracing our steps of a couple of months ago. At Bahia Blanca we followed Ruta 33 north to Tornquist where we went from gently rolling scenery and into the big hills of the Sierra La Ventana. Following Ruta 76 and 72 we found ourselves in the middle of a beautiful, grass-covered rocky outcrop which eventually led us to the town of Sierra De La Ventana. After checking the town out we then headed to one of the local campsites which had been recommended by Maria and Alistair, whom we had met in Ecuador a few months ago; we had been crossing each other’s paths ever since, most recently the HU Rally. We were very lucky on this occasion; we found a good campsite with only three other people camping. We now had plenty of space, and most importantly, it was all grass so no dust and it wasn’t long before I was drinking the local brew of ‘Mate' with Mario, one of the other campers.

While walking down the one-street town we bumped into Matt, a Texan living in Buenos Aires who we'd met at the rally. Over dinner he told us of the cabin he was staying in close by, so after a couple of nights camping we moved into Cabanas Maxi and had a bit of luxury at only 80 Pesos (£14) a night, check their site at -

One interesting thing I had noticed about this town was the high number of stray dogs and yet there appeared to be no mess on the pavement, how do they do that?

The temperature had now risen to 30-31 deg C, and even with the fan blowing in the cabin things started to get uncomfortable so we felt it was time to move on once again.

Slowly winding our way out of the hills we found our way back into the gently rolling arable countryside and headed for the beach. We continued onward along Routa 76 northeast, then 85 southeast to Tres Arroyos where we crossed Ruta 3 and down the 228 via Energia to the seaside resort town of Necochea. Thankfully it was still in the ‘off season’ here as we managed to find the Hotel Hawai, a stone’s throw from the beach and at only 50pesos - a real steal! We ended a beautiful day in a restaurant which served up the evening parilla, a meat grill which we washed down with a nice bottle of red wine.

The following day was mild with bright sunshine as we cut cross country on the R55 to the town of Balcarce. This pretty town was the hometown of the great Argentinean racing car driver, Fangio and I wanted to visit his museum housed in a big modern building in the centre of town. The museum plotted the history of this great man who won the World F1 car championship several times in the 50's before the age of roll cages and carbon fibre.

From here we followed the 226 northwest via Tandil and eventually arrived into the town of Azul and found a warm, enthusiastic welcome from Jorge at 'La Posta'. If you remember, we had first stopped here a month and a half ago but it just felt like yesterday as we pitched our tent once again in the garden. We met another couple of British lads who were just starting their tour of the Americas, and a German couple in a camper van several years into their trek.

I've changed the oils, checked the spokes and tyres, and given her a lube, that’s Les sorted out, now the bike!

It is now time to head back to Buenos Aires, “why?” You ask!

Well, we've decided that after nearly a year and a half on the road that we would head back to the UK for Christmas to see our boys and catch up with our old friends in Norfolk, and with any luck, we'll find a spare bed somewhere as we haven’t got a home to go to!  We fly out of Buenos Aires on the 20th Dec and return on the 7th Jan 08 after a two-week vacation and ready to resume our amazing adventure. Our bike will be safely stored in BA until our return.

So faithful followers of our story, don’t worry, normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Seasonal greetings to you all.  Until next time, Nick.

From Les

Azul, Argentina; 16th December 2007.

We had a chilled weekend at the "Overlanders", Horizons Unlimited meeting in Viedma, or more accurately, El Condor by the sea. It was really good to catch up with many of the folks we have met on route and to meet new people with a common goal. The weather was a bit unpredictable though and towards the end of the weekend we had given up on our attempts at digging out the sand and dust inside the tents as it was blowing a hoolie. Viedma is at the northern edge of Patagonia where the wind is always blowing! Ear plugs were essential to block out the dawn chorus of the nearby cliff-dwelling parrots. We all over indulged with the tasty BBQ (asados) and the exchange of stories lasted well into the early hours - a good time was had by all.

On Monday we said our farewells and headed north towards the low hills of Sierra de la Ventana where we found a grit free campsite. It was nice to be quiet again as it seems we are no longer used to large numbers of people. It was also a good time to reflect on the places we have been and people we have met and also to plan the next phase.

Harvest is in full swing in the agricultural areas south of Buenos Aires and north of Patagonia on the east of Argentina. Harvesters and grain trucks form large convoys as they travel from one vast area to the next. The corn is golden and ripe and the conditions are ideal at the moment. The smells are wonderful again hay-fever has kicked in for the first time on our trip. It is also warming up at last, in fact it has been high 20's and 30's for the past few days; the fleeces are now redundant for a while.

This morning I sat in Jorges garden at "La Posta", Azul, enjoying the sun when I realised that it is almost 2 months since we were last here. So much has happened since then. We were on our way to Tierra del Fuego and about to face the windy, flat and cold Routa 3. Now many of our new friends and acquaintances are heading along that same route to spend Christmas and New Year at Ushuaia. We, on the other hand, are heading north back to Buenos Aires and Dakar Motors where we will leave the bike in the safe hands of Javier and Sandra. We are taking a short break from our Americas adventure and flying back to the UK briefly to catch up with our lovely sons, who will be spending Christmas together for the first time in 5 years... a meeting not to miss! We will resume our adventures here in South America on 7th Jan 08.

We wish you all a Happy Christmas and Best wishes for 2008.

Until next year.... Lesley


Cordoba, Argentina; 15th January 2008.

   Christmas!! Ba Humbug! “Still, it’s only for two weeks then we can get back to the adventure”, I thought quietly to myself, not wishing to upset Les!

I wasn’t miserable for long because as we stepped off the coach at Norwich bus station we were met by our two sons, Daniel and Ian. What a great surprise, hugs and kisses all around, suddenly the 15hr flight from Buenos Aires was worthwhile.

We had left our trusty steed with Javier at Dakar Moto`s in the suburbs of Florida, Buenos Aires. When I walked away from it I felt a strange sense of guilt at leaving our trusty friend behind, a friend who’d looked after us for the last year and a half. After 54,000 miles through 16 countries I was leaving her behind in 33 deg C while we returned to England in the middle of winter! Having said all that, it was great seeing our boys and their girlfriends and some of our good friends during our whistle-stop, two week visit. During our two-week vacation we slept in ten different beds, continuing our nomadic lifestyle even while home in Norfolk!

It was very strange coming back after a year and a half away, and although I loved the company of our boys and friends, it didn’t feel like home anymore to me.

Everything seemed comfortably familiar and perhaps that’s what was wrong. I’ve grown used to change everyday, changes in hotel, hostel or campsites, a different bed each night, new towns and countries with their inherently different cultures, language, geography and climates. Here, back home, nothing has changed, or is it that I’ve changed? We were described by a member of the family in Norfolk as, “Like fish out of water”; perhaps that was quite an accurate observation? If so, then I’m proud of it.

All too suddenly our time was up and it was time to return to our comfort zone in South America! I’m just sorry we didn’t get around to seeing everyone we wanted too but it was time to fly back to Argentina and a southern hemisphere summer; we didn’t return empty handed though. After visiting Chris and Julia of `Hood Jeans` at Tibenham we collected a couple of new pairs of their ‘Top Quality’ armoured biker jeans. The old ones, although still in one piece after 54,000 miles, had faded badly, so this time, Les has another pair of the cargo style in green and I’m also trying something different in a pair of black denim jeans with extra pockets on the legs. Experience has taught us that you can’t have enough pockets whilst travelling! Visit the `Hood Jeans` link on our front page.

We also visited ‘KRS Motorcycles’ of Norwich and collected some spares, amongst them, another rear wheel bearing so we won’t be caught out next time! Kevin and Spencer had been of great help with their invaluable on-line mechanical advice during our trek so far.

And finally, Pooleglobaltrek leaps into the 21st century with our new lap top. Our son Ian, patiently lead us around PC World in Norwich. He talked us through the daunting process of lap tops as though we were 6-year olds in order that we understood this ‘technology thing’! We bought an `Advent` 9912 with a 12” wide screen, 1GB memory an 80 GB hard disc and a few other bits which I don’t yet understand. Watch this space and see if it survives bouncing around in the pannier and a couple of technophobes driving it!

Back in Buenos Aires we were re-acquainted with our old friend, our GS was safe and well. We also meet Tom, one of our Canadian friends who we’d last seen in Colombia recovering from surgery to his leg, he’s now a new bionic man! With another Canadian couple in our hotel I was beginning to wonder if there was anyone left in Canada for their winter or were they all down here?

Anyway, with a clean air filter and a new rear Metzler Tourence tyre fitted by Javier at Dakar Motos, (the last one did nearly 10,000 miles and having some tread left), we headed south along Ruta 3 to Azul and Jorges place, the `La Posta` biker’s hostel. Once again we were welcomed like long-lost friends. We were made to feel at home with another of his famous asadas, (an Argentinean BBQ), and plenty of wine. When we were last at La Posta I noticed that he didn’t have a Union Jack amongst the selection of national flags on display at his place. That has now been rectified with ours being the largest on the premises!

We had another surprise when we found another of our Canadian friends, Darren and Marisol, his Argentinean girlfriend whom we’d met in Viedma three weeks ago. With copious amounts of wine and beer we all caught up with what happened over our two very different Christmas and New Year’s celebrations.

From Azul I wanted to go to Alta Gracia near Cordoba and visit the Che Guvara museum, so we headed northwest and had two long days in the saddle across flat farming countryside through a tiring buffeting wind. We followed Ruta 226 to Bolivar, Pehuajo then Ruta 86 to Tejedor, stopping the night at General Villegas in a roadside motel. Throughout the day we observed many ‘flashes’ and ‘thumbs up’ from other motorists, such friendly people; it’s good to be back.

On a more disconcerting note I noticed that the bike’s been making a creaking sound from the rear end so I emailed KRS at Norwich with the symptoms and await their advice. We’ve also developed a rattle in the cockpit area which I can’t locate. I must also get the crash bars welded up soon, a job I’ve been putting off for some time now.

From General Villegas we cut cross country to Villa Maria following R33 north to Rufinn, then route 7 and 3 north to Bell Ville where we followed the 9 west into Villa Maria, the longest straight of the day being 25 miles! I carried out a fuel consumption check and found that whilst cruising at 70 mph we were returning 53 mpg – not bad. Petrol in this area is £1.50 a gallon, try not to cry back home!

The next day we had a short ride cross country to Alta Gracia which is not far from Cordoba. En route we stopped at a garage which had a cafe advertising Wi Fi wireless internet access so it was time to try our new box of tricks, I couldn’t work it. One of the younger members of staff couldn’t work it either so he finally phoned the local computer man who drove over but he also couldn’t get the Wi Fi working - money well spent I’m thinking!! Everyone was very helpful though and didn’t charge for their help, which is just typical of the Argentinean people.

At Alta Gracia we found the Posada B&B advertised in ‘Lonely Planet’ guide, it was a very comfortable place near the town centre at a very reasonable 85 pesos; visit their site at -  From here we had a short walk to one of Che Guevara`s childhood homes which now is a museum crammed with interesting photos and relics. The highlight for me though was seeing the 500cc side-valve Norton, believed to be the one they used in the Motorcycle Diaries tour of South America before it broke down.

Later I received an email from Kevin at KRS motorcycles in Norwich suggesting the creaking problem was in the paralever bearing adjustment so we headed to the nearest BMW dealers, just down the road in Cordoba. On a steaming and blisteringly hot day we found, ‘Big Motorcycles’ who cater for BMW, only to be told the workshops were closed and the mechanics were on holiday. They helpfully phoned the local BMW car dealership that would help us. We headed off and found ‘Mac Wagen’, BMW cars;  and the very helpful Diego, the service technician. They let me use a corner of the pristine workshop and lent me the tools I needed to do the job. Other mechanics dropped tools and gave me some help removing some tight nuts, once again everyone was so helpful and I couldn’t see this happening back home! With the paralever bearings adjusted the mystery creaking stopped, thanks KRS and Macwagen BMW Cordoba. Once loaded up and ready to go we were joined by all the staff for photos, what a happy crowd.

From the dealers we were led into the city by one of the BMW customers in his car who was keen to show us the way to our hostel. I’m sure he had a pre-conceived notion that, as BMW riders, we would be staying at a five-star hotel. No! Our bed on this occasion was at the ‘Hostel International’ in downtown Cordoba. The bike was safely parked on the street outside but goes into the hostel hallway during the hours of darkness, once again they were all very accommodating.

It’s really great to be back on the road again.

Until next time, Nick.

From Les

Cordoba, Argentina; 15th January 2008.

   We are back on the road again!!!!

Our whistle-stop break in the UK was brief and very busy but it was wonderful to do some “catching up”, especially with our sons, Daniel and Ian. We continued in our familiar nomadic style with 10 different locations in 14 days. Many thanks to all those who gave us a bed, hearty meals and all the updates. Apologies to all those that time and transport prevented us from seeing, we hadn't forgotten you, it was just time was against us.

Special thanks to the following:-

Chris and Julie Hood who did us a straight swap for my tired and faded Hood jeans which had been worn for 18 months and 54,000miles. A real test of endurance and quality, visit their site at

Andy Goddard of Anglia Chiropractic, Norwich, who did his magic, made a few things pop and straightened me out once again ready for the next 18-months on the road.

Ian and Shirley at Wymondham medical centre who took my blood and arranged for more medication to keep me going.

John and Hilly who shared their family Christmas and New Year with us and the boys.

Lark, the well known Norwich band who put on an excellent performance at the Arts Centre and special thanks to Ian for arranging it to coincide with our visit.

So, after 40-hrs from door to door we are back in Argentina where Buenos Aires was sweltering at 42 degs and 70% humidity, quite a contrast to the morning frosts in Norwich. Javier, at Dakar Motors, had looked after the bike and had a new rear tyre waiting for Nick to fit when we got back. We had a day sorting out the bike and our gear, trying to get everything to fit in the panniers again, and then a day spent in the city. We caught the local train into the centre and wandered to the Recoleta area where we visited the Cementerio de la Recoleta where Eva Peron, “Evita” was buried. We also visited the fine arts museum, National Bellas Artes where we saw works by Renoir, Monet,Rembrandt and Gaugiun, to name but a few. We really enjoyed it but our feet were killing us by the time we got back to base where we shared dinner and a few beers with fellow travellers, Tom, Corrine and Duane from Canada.

Dakar Motors was as busy as usual with more new arrivals awaiting their bikes and others, like us, saying our farewells. We eventually got on the road at lunchtime and headed south again towards Azul and our old friends Jorge and Monica at La Posta. It was Friday so an asado (BBQ) was the order of the day. Jorge was thrilled with the large Union Jack flag we had bought him and we were greeted by Darren and Marisol, whom we had met in Viedma. It was a bit cooler here, about 27 degs so we camped in our old spot in the garden surrounded by chickens.

It was good to have a break back home but I am really happy to be back on the road again. The sun is shining the cloudless sky and the roads are straight and flat as ever. We headed for Cordoba, stopping off at a few small towns en route. Harvest is still in full swing with convoys of machines slowly moving along the smaller roads. Fields of sunflowers stand proudly, their faces turned to the sun as if sunbathing. It is the summer holidays now and the roads are so much busier with families either escaping to the hills for some cool air or to the beaches to toast. The TV News shows the hotspots daily with all the scantily-clad sunbathers, I am sure the cameramen have to draw straws to win that job!!

We stopped at Alta Gracias in the Sierras to visit the Museo Casa de Ernesto Che Guevara, (Che Guevara's old family home). It was full of family photos and mementos and in pride of place was a replica of his Norton motorcycle. The town was very clean and tidy so we enjoyed our stroll around in the heat of the evening.

Today we rode into Cordoba finding the BMW shop easily, unfortunately the mechanics are all on holiday so we were sent to a car dealership which allowed us to use their tools and wash bay. No, the wash bay wasn't for washing the bike!!! Whatever next?? Nick had to do something very technical while I either lifted or pushed down the rear end of the bike. Whatever he did seems to have cured the awful squeak which was worse than my boots. The squeak happened when we got on or off or just passed over a rough surface.

We are now in a hostel in the centre of Cordoba and it is sooooo hot we have had to retreat to the aircon in our room. So tomorrow we head for the hills where we understand it's much cooler. The plan is to do a little loop north of the city and then head to Mendosa's vineyards and back to the Andes.

Wishing you all a belated Happy New Year, Until next time


Mantagua,  Chile; 28th January 2008.

   Now I know what it feels like to be ‘boiled in a bag’. I experienced very similar conditions as we rode out of Cordoba in the rain on a hot steamy morning wearing our waterproofs! Les’s navigation out of the city was perfectly timed as our small city map disintegrated in the rain as we cleared the suburbs and hit the countryside.

Heading north on a wet but nice winding rode we lose sight of the Sierra Cordoba in the thick fog. We headed on through Rio Ceballos to Ascochinga where we found plenty of accommodation for tourists. As we’re in the middle of the summer holidays here there are many holiday makers filling the towns and villages. I’m sure on a nice day you would enjoy the beautiful views of the rolling, tree covered hills, but not today!

From Ascochinga we found ourselves back on the dirt road climbing into the Sierra Cordoba. With the altitude comes the cold so it was on with the fleeces once more. We struggled on relentlessly, the thick fog making it even harder to pick a safe way through the loose rocks and sand. After an hour or so we rode into the ‘touristy’ town of La Cumbre and the crowds once more. While Les went shopping for supplies I had my first encounter with an Argentinian who mentioned the Falkland/ Malvinas War. The man asked where we were from and after my response asked if we had been to the Falklands, I told him no. He went onto tell me he had been a soldier and was in the battle. With this I was ready for an onslaught of abuse, but no. I told him I was sorry about the unnecessary waste of life. With this he just shrugged his shoulders and smiled then went onto describe some nice routes in this area for the bike. I had just encountered another friendly Argentinian. While no doubt bearing horrific memories involving our nation, he still had a smile and helpful advice for us; this encounter left me with a big lump in my throat.

We left La Cumbre on a nice asphalt road and headed south on the R38. The rain had stopped and the roads were dry as we passed through La Falda and Villa Carlos Paz where we stopped for lunch. After another welcome parrilla (grill), we were warmed up and were ready to rock and roll. Before we left we had several people come up to us and asking questions. They were genuinely amazed by our adventure and followed up their brief encounter with the usual photo opportunity.

We climbed over another mountain range on a nice dry road with sweeping bends; unfortunately, many careless diesel spills curtailed any ideas of sports riding!

We rode into Mina Clavero, another town heaving with holidaymakers. By now it was sizzling hot as we started knocking on doors seeking accommodation. Eventually we found the Stella Maris Hosteria and a comfortable room for the night.

Today we passed the 55,000 mile marker on the trip so far as the bike was now showing a running total of 69,631 miles on the odometer. The rattle from the front seems to be getting worse and I still can’t find it, it’s only noticeable on the off-road bits so I’m not unduly concerned at present!

We departed Mina Clavero southwest on Ruta 20 on a cool pleasant morning under blue skies. A great twisty road led us through tree-covered countryside surrounded by hills. All good things in life must come to and end and so it was back onto the long straight once roads again. We soldiered on via Villa Dolores to Quines where it got hot - very hot. Passing small and poor looking dwellings, dusty scrub and goats at the roadside brought back memories of our run through Central America.

On our way to San Luis we followed Ruta 146, the Sierra De San Luis was on our left and flat scrub on our right, and it was bliss. Reality beckoned once again as we were stopped by the police at a static road checkpoint. I found it difficult to understand the pretty little girl in her smart uniform and wrap-around Oakley shades. While trying hard not to smile, I couldn’t help but notice the near-comical image of her packing a hand gun as big as her buttock. After checking our temporary import form and passport she clicked her heels, gave us a smart salute and we were off; (“What no picture”? Ed).

In San Luis we stopped for lunch at another parrila restaurant. I just love these restaurants, grilled meat starting with some internal organs and black pudding followed by steaks of all sorts. If you really have to, you can even have some salad and other green stuff! Then just around the corner we found the Hotel Inca and another comfortable room for the night.

Next day commenced with a fresh morning after some overnight rain as we headed southwest towards San Rafael. Our plan was to head north from here, passing through the wine growing area of Argentina up to San Juan.

The roads were uninteresting, long and straight. The longest being 70 miles with barely a kink as we rode through the hot scrubland. The only interesting distraction to the monotony was a couple of tarantula spiders as big as my hand crossing the road. A little later we encountered a large armadillo which would not look out of place on the set of Lord of the Rings.

Once in San Rafael we were inundated by helpful people every time we stopped to look at our Lonely Planet guide book, we were even escorted to possible lodgings. Ignoring their well-meaning advice, we eventually found the Hotel Ciudad and bed and breakfast for 110 pesos, about £17. It’s the peak holiday season in Argentina and we knew we’d have a few problems finding accommodation easily, but so far we’ve always found somewhere, it just took a little longer than it did before Christmas.

Unfortunately, we could only have one night here at this hotel and, realising how difficult it would be to find another, we decided to move on and found a route taking us through the canyon Atuel. The dirt road was tricky in places with some sandy sections which made life very difficult but worthwhile as we dropped down into the beautiful, deep and rocky canyon. The rocks appeared to form faces and bodies, I wouldn’t have been surprised if they’d come to life as in the movie, “The Never Ending Story`. We also passed several hydro electric power stations and their dams which, either by accident or design didn’t appear to spoil the magic of the place too much. Inevitably, where you have wild rivers you get wild rafting so we stopped and listened to the nervous laughter of the adventurers as they hit the rapids, then moved on and made our own nervous laughter!

The loop returned us to San Rafael where we picked up Ruta 143 northwest to Pareditas and the famous Ruta 40. Thank goodness we now had asphalt as we passed several vineyards and onward into Mendoza. After several offers of help we eventually found the Hotel Crystal just off the city centre. We decided to take a break here and get the long-overdue welding done and try to locate the source of that elusive front-end rattle.

We started our search on a Sunday for a welder but to no avail, everywhere was closed. Instead we walked for miles, exploring the peaceful parks in the centre, relaxing in the shade of the massive trees and watching the fountains dancing in the sun. Families and many stray dogs appeared to be sharing the shady spots in perfect harmony.

That evening we went to a free rock concert only a few blocks from our hotel in a park with a purpose-built amphitheatre. Crowds of people of all ages passed through the gates and were frisked for weapons by the local police. A good selection of bands demonstrated their skills, and in the ‘mush pit’ things were quite still until a band, making noises not dissimilar to `Slip Knot`, came on and everyone woke up. The next band had a singer who could actually sing! And demonstrated a trained singing voice, not dissimilar to `Muse` and everyone went quite again. Still, I guess it would be difficult to jump around to some of Muse’s stuff! We left before the end but could still hear the music several blocks back to our hotel.

The next day we were collected from our hotel and taken around a couple of vineyards, an olive oil farm and a church dedicated to the to the wine workers. Sadly for Les, but not for me, we only got to sample reds, which Les doesn’t like! It would appear that the Malbec grape is the one having the most success over here, but to me and my uneducated pallet they all tasted quite good, especially after a glass or three, “spit it out”, you’re having a laugh!!

After a few enquires the next day I found a welder and took the bike a couple of blocks away to have the crash bar fixed which had broken in three places, twice at the mounting point on the sump guard and once on a top mounting point. The old boy welder wouldn’t stop talking as I took the tank off and then the crash bars. Some of the time I can understand what’s being said but it takes so much concentration that I couldn’t work and listen at the same time so, whilst he bombarded me with rapid fire Spanish, I threw in the odd `si` and just got on with the job! Anyway, he did a good job and I got everything back together. The old boy noticed that I didn’t have a Philips screwdriver, so gave me an old one of his for my tool roll, all this for about £12. On the ride back to the hotel the bike was still rattling, I had hoped the welding would have cured it, but no.

Back at the hotel car park, I washed the bike and found the problem. The front offside disc was loose on its mounting bolts. Being a floating disc it’s supposed to have some movement but not this amount, so I took off the bolts, re flexed the spring washers and refitted, problem sorted until I get some new bolts!

Now there’s a lesson to be learnt here, and I should know better. John Bailey, who was, `possibly`, the best police motorcycle instructor Norfolk Constabulary has ever had, taught me the importance of keeping the bike clean, because, as you wash and polish, you discover all the things that are broken or coming loose and this was a good example. Must make a mental note of that, “must wash bike more frequently”!! Whilst I was having fun with the bike, Les got the laundry done and we both met for another meat feast dinner.

Our final day in Mendoza was spent walking around the centre again, avoiding the busy shopping areas and poking around the back streets. It felt a comfortable and safe city but it was time to move on.

After a relatively short ride north on Ruta 40 through more vineyards from Mendoza we arrived in San Juan and stayed in an apart hotel, the `Valadero`. The rattle had gone and the welding held up but now and then we had a creak from the shaft drive, still she’s done over 70,000 miles now and entitled to creak a bit I suppose! Another milestone was passed as we clicked up 56,000 miles for the adventure so far.

Leaving San Juan we following the road on my map, hoping to cross a mountain range only to find they’ve since built a reservoir, we now had a long detour. After returning to San Juan we following Ruta 40 north to Talacasto, then the 436 northwest towards Iglesia, then south on what looked like a new road between the mountains to Puchuzon, Callingasta and eventually to Barreal. Occasionally, due to the heavy rains in the area, the road was covered in mud so the bike was filthy once again! But the ride through the Cordiller De La Totora Mountains, watching a massive condor above our heads, the green trees and wild horses all made up for it.

The village of Barreal is small, consisting only of a criss-cross of dirt roads. We found a new hostel, the `Hostal Barreal` in one of its back streets. We were given a comfortable double room for 80 pesos. Later we sat in the small service station on the high street having a coke when a beaten up Peugeot 504 saloon turned up. It had rust holes everywhere, held together with tape and full of scruffy-looking people from the mountains. One of them gets out and with one of the latest mobile phones proceeds to take our picture - you’ve got to love these people!

Overnight we had thunder, lightening and heavy rain which concerned me somewhat as we had a section of dirt road to cover today. We had to negotiate the odd gully with shallow water, firm packed gravel punctuated with a bit of asphalt with massive pot holes. Other than that we were fine until just outside Uspallata when we came upon a river crossing. We checked the depth and Les walked a safe shallow route while I ploughed on through with no problems.

At the service station in the next town we met up with Jim from England on his Triumph Tiger. He’s also on an Around the World adventure like us but he had come the other way, via Asia and Australia. We had met for the first time at Dakar Motos in Buenos Aires but now had more time to chat and exchange information. We rode together along Ruta 7 into the spectacular Andes, west via Polvaredas and Punta De Vacas, passing the southern hemisphere’s highest mountain, Aconcagua. At just under 7,000 meters its head is invisible in the low clouds, and then it was up to the border crossing into Chile. This was to be the most frustrating border crossing we’ve ever done.

The problems started when a policeman put us in a queue of traffic and gave us a fist-full of paperwork to do, and it’s raining! So we walk into the shelter of a big hanger which houses all the offices we eventually would need, we also get the bikes into the dry. In this building are the Argentinian and Chilean immigration and Aduana, (Customs). There are a lot of people about including bus loads of weary travellers, all queuing – a real nightmare! We eventually hand our passports to the Argentinian immigration to exit their country and get an exit stamp. Then I get in the big queue for the Aduanas to hand in the temporary import form, only they won’t except it at the hatch and direct me to another counter where there’s another big queue. They won’t except it either and send me back to the original where several officials look at it and eventually take it. We then go to the Chilean immigration counter and another big queue! Hand in our tourist card and get a stamp on it and in our passports. Then more confusion as I go to the Chilean Aduana to get a temporary import form for the bike. I had filled in the one given me by the first policeman. They send me to another counter to get a stamp on this form, another big queue!! I eventually get a stamp from a confused official and return to the original Chilean counter who then tells me that I don’t need that form after all; it’s only for Argentinian nationals!!

I go to another counter and another BIG QUEUE and get a new temporary import form printed nice and neatly from a computer which has my details from a previous visit which was great. Now he tells me I need three different stamps from both the Argentinian and Chilean immigration WHICH ALL HAVE BIG QUEUES!!!!

Jim meantime has done his paperwork, got all his stamps only to be sent back for more!!

We hand in our fruit and food declaration form and get the bike’s boxes casually searched and I pay 800pesos - 80 pence to bring the bike in - All done, thank goodness, or so I think!

We ride out of the hanger to a final checkout kiosk; he checks our passport and import form only to find there’s a stamp missing and I’ve got to go back. “NO, THIS CAN’T BE HAPPENING. I mildly, and embarrassingly, blow my top, breaking all the rules of remaining calm at frontiers and end up saying something like, “I’ve been through 16 countries and this is the worst border crossing ever”!!

I go back and find the BIG QUEUE. The officials look at the form and say they need another one, fortunately, my old one. I rant and rave then plead for a stamp on the form, “any stamp will do”. They don’t know what they’re doing and stamp the form more to get rid of me than to complete the important task of processing me into their country. I then return to the exit kiosk where they check everything again and thankfully we’re free to ride under the “Welcome to Chile” sign - it can only get better!!!

We descend a zigzagging, wet and slippery concrete road off the mountain. It would have been a spectacular descent if it hadn’t been so wet but as we drop down it dries out and eventually warms up. We catch up with Jim and find a place for us all to stay just past Los Andes on Ruta 5. We end up sharing a cabana at the Hotel San Francisco and later have dinner and reflect on the bureaucratic nightmare we’d just gone through. Jim has just come through Iran, Pakistan and India and had an easier time with border crossings. With our blood pressures returning to normal we sleep well.

The following morning we ride together down Ruta 5 and pick up the Autostrada, Nogales to La Ligua, where we say our farewells to Jim. He is heading north as we head for the coast.

We see the Pacific for the first time since Peru some months ago and pass through the very posh towns of Zapallar and Horcon. We pass a game of polo, something I’d wanted to watch whilst in Argentina but couldn’t get round to it, but here in Chile I get the chance. With no one on the gate we sneak in and hide the bike around the corner out of sight and watch the game. I see a banner on the other side of the pitch advertising BMW Motorcycles, strange I thought in this upper-class sport. Then suddenly about twenty posh BMW bikes turn up and the riders and wives go into the VIP area, someone sees us and invites us over where we’re fed and watered by BMW, meet a lot of interesting people and even get a baseball cap!

We must move on south further down the coast and find a cabana in the small village of Mantagua where we decide to have a couple of days off to relax, read a book and write this update, fortunately the laptop has survived the bumpy ride.

Since entering Chile we’ve lost an hour so we are now four hours behind the UK and the exchange rate is roughly1000 pesos to the £1.

We’re not far from Valparaiso and Santiago where we’ll either send the bike to New Zealand by boat or air, that’s what we’ve got to work on next. Hopefully it won’t be as difficult as that border crossing - can it??????

From Les

Mantagua, Chile; 29th January 2008.

   I think we have just “hit the wall”!!!

From the end of October till now we have endured some difficult riding through Patagonia and have not had more than 2 consecutive days off. The 2-week break in UK didn't help us rest up and relax as we were on the go the whole time. Since our return to Argentina we have been non stop, busy organising the bike, sightseeing in BA, visiting Jorges and then riding quite long, often tedious days. On the strength of that we based ourselves in a small “Hotel Crystal” in Mendoza. Not only did we enjoy the luxury of its very friendly staff for a few days but we also ha secure parking and breakfast.

We are constantly reminded that this height of the holiday season. Wherever there are places of interest, which are few and far between, they are invariably swamped by Argentineans and Chileans on holiday. The hostels and hotels are full and the prices have risen accordingly by almost 100%. Fuel prices have also risen quite sharply and it is becoming quite normal to have to queue for a fill up. The temperature has risen and risen, even at night it doesn't seem to drop much lower than a hot summer’s day in England.

It was a very dull wet morning as we departed Cordoba on the 16th of January and headed for the scenic hills and ‘Para-glider heaven’ at La Cumbre. Our map was missing some detail, such as the road is “Rough Dirt” and when we arrived it was swamped in thick cloud and fog. I am sure the following day would have been stunning but on this occasion we had to dig our fleeces out for that little bit of extra warmth. We arrived in Mina Clavero and were amazed at the huge number of scantily-clad people who were basking in the late sun on a river bank. We tried 9 hotels, all of which were full, but found somewhere just out of the town at a rather extortionate price for, what was in effect’ a metal box! The following morning we followed the meandering river for a while and passed the, already busy, waterholes where holiday makers swam and sunbathed. Later on we rode onto the long straights of the pampa once more. Along one of these straights we were stopped at a Police check. The young female officer checked all the papers but it seemed as though she was hinting that she was expecting a little more from us! Once again we played ignorant...sometimes a little language goes a long way! She looked quite annoyed as we rode away though.

We had an overnight stay in San Lois where we experienced a huge, loud electric storm. Mind you, it did freshen the air and cleaned the roads; the countryside now seemed slightly greener and more vibrant but maybe it was because the dust and dirt had been washed off?

San Rafael was much larger than I expected .The streets were incredibly wide but shady under its huge trees. On 3 occasions people stopped to ask if we needed any help, this wouldn't happen back home. We eventually found a small hotel and had a long walk around the town and endured the worst pizza ever. We had to walk some more to either let it settle or decide which way it was going! Next morning we were very disappointed when we discovered that our room, though verbally booked, had just been given to someone else so we had to move on. It couldn’t have come at a worst time as at this point we were on a bit of a low, feeling tired and fed up. We must have been really bad as we decided to follow one of the local tourist routes! Still, it was well worth it as we rode through some of the vineyards to the Canyon del Atuel, a smaller version of the Grand Canyon. Once again we found ourselves on a very sandy dirt road which made the front-end rattle sound even louder. The views at the end of the canyon where wonderful so I am really glad we made the effort. Cordoba was “full” so we decided to push on to Mendoza. The skies were magnificent and it was quite a surprise to see what looked like snow on the hillside nearby.

We found the Hotel Crystal, Mendoza by accident but decided to stay for a few days of R&R. We kept busy and walked miles discovering the central part of town. The giant Sycamore trees form canopies over the streets which provided welcome protection from the harsh sun. We attended a free Rock and Punk concert in a local park and even got frisked and searched before entry, it’s amazing what some girls keep in their handbags! Nick managed to clean the bike and get some welding done and we think we may have cured the rattle so it's that’s a bonus. We did think that we would have a nice relaxing day in the park rained so we just chilled and relaxed in our room. It is nice to have a base sometimes.

The border with Chile is getting closer all the time and I always feel a mixture of excitement and anxiety as we followed the Valle Callingasta with mountains either side. I lay awake that night watching and listening to a dramatic thunderstorm in the nearby mountains, it’s great to be back in the mountains again.

The following day we dodge puddles and streams with the Andes on our right and the pink craggy hills on the left, between the hills is the flat valley where people come to sand yacht. The closer to the Andes the more indigenous people we see and the more basic the houses become. We are now back in the mud adobe area where horses, mules and beaten up Peugeots are the main mode of transport. Just as we get to the main Mendoza /Chile road junction we are confronted by a river crossing the road. There are a couple of cars with bonnets up, their engines steaming having just attempted the crossing. I jumped off the back of the bike and decide to test the depth of the water, and the integrity of my 5-yr old boots! I am glad to say the water level didn't reach the top of me or my boots and we didn't leak so Nick took a run up and whoosh - he made it, no problems! A couple of miles down the road we stop for coffee and, who should we meet, but fellow Brit, Jim. We first met Jim at Dakar motors and picked his brains about Asia and Australia. Jim’s journey has taken him the other way around the world so we exchanged information and then decided to tackle the border crossing together.

We pass through the Uspallata where the movie ‘Seven years in Tibet’ with Brad Pitt was filmed. It was beautiful as we climbing up to the border then stopped off at Puente del Inca to look at a stone bridge that has been transformed by sediment deposited by sulphuric waters.

This Argentinean/Chile border has to be the worst crossing so far. It took ages for the paperwork to be done and no one seemed to want to help in any way. So many stamps were required on so many forms; it took 3 attempts to leave before we actually made it. I only needed to get exit and entry stamps on my passport but the officials had to deal with the importing of motorcycles, this is usually straight forward but not on this occasion. The golden rule is not to raise your voice or show annoyance! Both Nick and Jim broke the rule slightly. I was happy out of the way keeping an eye on the bikes and fetching coffees though I did loose it slightly when the “Fruit Police” wanted me to open all the bike’s boxes at once, No Way! It leaves you open to having bits going missing and who wants to see our dirty underwear anyway?

We entered Chile in the rain. It is about 4000mts high at this point and its downhill all the way to the coast. The roads were glossy with rain and diesel but wow, what a ride! I braved a look over the edge of one of the hairpin bends and Wow; it looked like a plate of spaghetti zigzagging steeply down the mountainside (see pics).

We all made it down hill safely and decided to spend the night at the next available place. We found a nice cabin to share, with a great shower. We were now surrounded by vineyards and slept well that night, no doubt exhausted from all the stress at the border.

The next day we parted company with Jim who was heading north as we headed for the coast. The Chileans are also on holiday so we rode south till we passed lots of stables and horses. A polo match was underway and it is something that Nick really wanted to see in Argentina. We hid the bike behind a building and watched the game for a while then realised that lots of BMW bikes were arriving. It turned out that the BMW polo team was playing in the finals of a competition and this was a reception for BMW bike owners. No one appeared to be watching the match but managed to consume large amounts of Pisco, sour wine, juices and empenadas (a Cornish pasty type pastry). It was a free lunch after all. The Team won but no one seemed to notice!

We are presently not far from the beach, which is shrouded by mist and staying in a comfy log cabin for a few days doing as little as possible for as long as possible. New Zealand is calling and the next step is to arrange transportation for the three of us.

Till Next time, Lesley

PS. During our time in Argentina we have noticed another type of roadside shrine. This time the shrine is surrounded by bottles, it’s almost like a bottle bank. The shrine is to the “Soul of the Difunta Correa”. Legend has it that Doelinda Correa followed her soldier husband on foot during the Civil War, carrying food and water and a young child. Doelinda died from exhaustion but when her body was found the child was still alive and suckling, hence the miracle. Truck drivers often stop and leave offerings of bottles of water in hope of their own small miracle.


Talca, Chile; 5th February 2008.

   We had a very pleasant couple of days in our log cabin in Mantagua. Our time was spent generally relaxing and reading - our down-time being punctuated with the odd walk down the lane only to be bitten by the local mosquitoes!

We’ve noticed there are many horses here in Chile, as in Argentina. They all look very healthy and well looked after, from the old boy with his cart to the polo ponies; without exception they all appear to love their horses here.

After a short ride south along the busy twisty coast road we arrived at Valparaiso, Chile’s major port. Our next quest was to find a ship that would take us to New Zealand.

Valparaiso is yet another big busy city surrounded by mountains which appear to flow down to the coast. Most the town is built on the side of steep hills, as we found out trying to navigate our way to a hostel in the historical, ‘Conception’ district, being chased by packs of dogs didn't help. Somehow we found ourselves running out of road as it ending up almost a footpath in, what appeared to be, a less-desirable side of the city seemingly populated by ‘hoods’. Having only 10-feet to turn our 500lbs beast around whilst on a 1-8 slope focused my attention somewhat. To make matters worse, I now had an audience, a youth on the corner who no doubt hadn’t seen anything like this before! Les wisely got off and scouted for another road out while I managing to get around and ride past the lad as we exchanged a smile and a greeting, or was that “loco gringo” I heard him say?

We eventually found our way down to sea level only to climb once again into the area we had originally wanted, which hadn't really been far away in the first place! Stopping at a cafe on the hill we found a friendly lady from Devon who pointed us in the right direction, and where we found a good selection of accommodation.

Nearby we found the ‘Hostel Pillonzyo’ and a comfortable double room with a shared bathroom for 18,000 pesos, about £18 including breakfast. The only downside was that the bike was to be parked in the street outside, but as it was a cul-de-sac I thought it was worth the risk, this proved to be a mistake!

As always, hostels are great places to meet fellow travellers and exchange stories. We met three young lads from the States taking a year out and a couple from Austria who’d come via Asia. They all had good tales to tell and valuable information to share with us.

I liked Valparaiso on the Hill of Conception. Most of the buildings are made adobe-style and covered in corrugated metal sheets. Mind you, some are in a more dilapidated state than others but many are painted with bright colours which somehow accentuates the fairly interesting street art in the form of graffiti. Cafes and restaurants are to be found nestling away in quiet alleyways. We detected great energy and a real pulse in this city, no doubt created by so many young people living comfortably in an old city. On the waterfront many of the buildings were old but magnificent in their detailed architecture which I felt reflected a once affluent port and major trading centre for the country, but now they were in a sorry and derelict state. But on the positive side, there is a lot of new building work going on with some interesting use of old and new buildings which created a pleasing abstract form.

We were here for nearly three days, in which time we visited several shipping companies looking for a ship to New Zealand. But at the end of the day we only visited one which promised to Email us if they found anything to suit our needs. On the strength of that relatively thin promise we will probably be flying out of Santiago. Mind you, a cruise had initially sounded good but I’m sure we’ll fit one in somewhere on our ride around the planet.

We arrived back to the hostel after visiting more shipping agents only to realise that my worse fear had came to fruition - the bike was no longer on its centre-stand but lying on its side. On closer examination I found slight damage to the left cylinder head protector and crash-bar. One of the car parking attendants, who was working the streets explained that a car had clipped the bike and knocked it over and that he had picked it up! Reading between the lines I think he had tried to move it himself to make more space for another car, and another quick peso, but dropped it. There was no apparent impact damage and I only found a piece of his flip flop!! “Guilty my Lord, prepare the gallows”! My fault I suppose, I should have put it on the footpath well away from the cars in the first place, still, you Live and learn!

The next day we moved on and headed south. Trying to navigate the smaller roads proved difficult with our large-scale map only showing the main roads. Climbing out of Valparaiso was cold and proved quite damp in the thick fog which didn’t burn off until we headed inland.

We worked our way south to San Antonio then inland to San Pedro where, thankfully, the sun was shining and we dried out. Passing through the many miles of vineyards reminded us that this was Chile’s major wine producing area. When it wasn't vines it was fruit, the smell of the fresh strawberries was beautiful.

Passing through one small town we were chased by another dog, a pastime I’d become accustomed to, but this time I misjudged the mongrel and it bit me on the leg. It was only a small nip and a bruise, Les is keen to see if the rabies shots we had before we left home were working and is now waiting to see if I start foaming at the mouth!

We are also constantly reminded how narrow Chile is as the Andes are always in sight to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. I have been told that in theory you can never get lost here!

From San Pedro we wound our way to the coast and into the town of Pichilemu - a favourite for the surfers. It is now peak-holiday season here and the place was heaving, needless to say we only stayed the one night and moved on.

Leaving town we headed inland through the forests, winding hills, valleys and vineyards once more and the temperature began to rise. We rode on south to Curico, then west in an effort to hug the coast again, but just after leaving a town called Villa Prat, I suddenly felt like one! The asphalt ran out and the tyre-shredding gravel returned so we rode slowly for a few miles but it only got deeper. In an effort to turn around I hit a deep bit and lost the front wheel and ended up holding the bike on one leg. Les gracefully slid off as I laid the bike gently on the gravel then got off and we picked it up together – “What a Prat”!!

We re-traced our way to Ruta 5 and headed south to Talca where we found the brilliant hostel, ‘Del Puenta’. It is owned by a very friendly couple and the wife speaks excellent English. We enjoyed a very comfortable double room with en-suit and breakfast for 21,000 pesos, about £21. The town was busy with locals but, thankfully, not too many tourists. The classic tree-lined streets and tree-shaded plaza provided a great selection of restaurants which made it harder to contemplate leaving the next morning - in fact we didn't. We had initially planned to stay here only one night as we packed and rode a scenic route to the coast the next morning. Climbing over some hills on twisty roads through some pretty countryside, vines and forests, we enjoyed a great view of the sea then returned by a different route, back to Talca and the same `Hostal Del Puenta` where we got the same room back!!

On this day we also clicked up 57,000 miles for the trek so far and the bike has done over 70,000 in total, including our start mileage of 13,000.

Today we’ve had time to write this update, wash some clothes and the bike before heading towards Santiago and the quest for a flight to New Zealand.

From Les

Talca, Chile; 5th February 2008

   Valparaiso is a real eye opener! We rode into town passing houses clinging precariously to the steep slopes, some propped up with flimsy stilts and others looking as though they were hanging by a thread. Valparaiso has a busy port in a crescent-shaped bay. Huge containers are loaded on and off vast vessels and the whole area is bustling. The coast road is the only flat part of the city, everything else involves a climb! Our very basic map and the always present one-way systems where very difficult to follow and within a very short time we were being chased by packs of dogs up into narrow alleyways until we literally ran out of road. I had to get off the bike and check out the paths in front which had long lost their tarmac or cobbles and where now dirt. Fortunately we were able to double back and managed to get out of the labyrinth of alleyways and narrow passages. My initial thoughts were “get me out of here” but we had another go and ended up in the very fashionable area of Cerro Concepcion. We found a very nice small hostel high above the port and had wonderful views of the rest of the hillside city and coastline.

The houses in the Concepcion area have mainly corrugated iron exteriors with wooden floors and adobe interior walls. Every house has been painted a different bright but contrasting colour and they are so very individual. The streets are very steep, often dirt or cobbled and there is a myriad of alleyways and steep stairways that lead downhill towards the docks. There is also a series of elevators that transport to higher levels. We were very good and walked all the time but it reminded us of muscles that we had forgotten!!

“Street art” is everywhere. Back home we would probably call it graffiti but here it is definitely an art form and covers walls, sides of houses and really brightens up the alleyways. There is some real talent out there. Talking of talent....One evening we found a bar which was an old sailors’ haunt. The bar was long with beautifully polished wood and the surroundings were full of memorabilia. An old man was sitting at the bar and crept closer to us. Suddenly he produced a harmonica and played us several tunes for the price of a glass of wine. He then became quite animated and talked almost continuously; further vigour was only prevented by his rather large, and loose, false teeth. I gathered he was about 83 and had 8 children but we couldn't work out what had happened to his wife. He started to pat me on the shoulder and then as the evening progressed his old hands got lower till he was enjoying himself patting me on the rump...time to leave now!!

During our stay we also got to see how the business sector works and took elevator rides to the top of glossy buildings on our visits to shipping agents. Surprisingly, Fridays appears to be a casual day at the office, just like many places of work in UK where employees can discard their suits and go casual for the day. Needless to say we didn't have much luck with our potential cruise so headed south to a recommended surfing beach at Pichilemu. Yes, there is a beach and surf but we discover it’s more like Yarmouth at the height of summer and we needed to get out, and fast!!!

We are now spending a couple of days in the Talca area. We had a wonderful ride out to the coast through the vineyards, mountains and the very rural villages - the real Chile? The houses are all adobe bungalows with huge overhanging verandas filled with plants and rocking chairs to while away the hours in the heat of the day. It is very hot just now even though the coast has been under a bank of cloud. There are many horses and horsemen in the fields and happily lots of green pine and eucalyptus forests. Constitucion is a seaside town and has a huge paper mill smack-bang in the centre and the awful smells fill the valley. The surrounding area has far too many sawmills I feel and vast stacks of wood, we just hope that they are replanting in the places that we cannot see from the road.

We are staying at nice hostel where Nick can clean the bike and I have just washed our jackets in the bath and almost blocked the drains! It's amazing how much the dust and road dirt clings to us.

Mental note 1 .... Must wash jackets more often!

Mental note 2 .... Must be more sympathetic when Nick gets bitten by dog!! I actually thought he was joking when he said “OUCH” and launched a boot at the savage beast; I did administer first aid - eventually... honest!

Tomorrow we head for Santiago another busy city but probably the last in the Americas.

Until next time, Lesley

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