Blogg

Border mania and the finale of this adventure

After the great trip with Stahlratte it was time to take on Central America. First of: Panama and Panama City. The road from where we unloaded the bikes to the airport was fun with a lot of twists and turns. We also had company with the eight other bikes on the boat which added to the fun!

After a brief detour to the wrong place at the airport to do the temporary import of the bikes we found the right place. Sadly it was closed but we were reassured that we could do the procedure the next day. Here we split up from the rest of the group and drove into the city to find our pre-booked hotel. Turned out to be a very nice place; Ramada Panama Centro. Here we spent a few days “recuperating” from the sailing. It’s very important not to get stressed when adventure riding!

After a bit of wildlife spotting in the middle of the city (Parque Recreativo Omar Torrijos) we decided to head on towards Costa Rica. We had at this point about a month to get to Mexico. A lot of countries to cover, but the distances are very short compared to South America.

We soon discovered that driving in Central America is…frankly quite boring :( After the spectacular views of Chile, Bolivia and Peru the scenery in CA is quite underwhelming. The landscape is flat so there is a lack of big scenery. Everything is very green and looks the same. But all the beautiful animals made up for the lack of excitement while driving. Oh, and everything (including you) is constantly damp. The heat is sometimes unbelievable, but after a while you just learn to ignore it since you can’t do much about it.

Now followed a part of the trip that gave us many new experiences, such as:

  • To stand in line for hours in riding gear (often not knowing if it was the right line to begin with)
  • To witness how painfully inefficient you can make paperwork, even with computers.
  • How to take really deep breaths to calm down while at the same time remember to smile warmly and politely ask where exactly is the correct line?

After a great time in Costa Rica we decided to press on and rode through Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Belize to get to Playa del Carmen in Mexico where we would meet up with Christians mom and do a bit of regular vacationing.

Besides the border crossings the ride was nice with a lot of good food and nice places to stay. During this time we started thinking about the rest of the trip. The plan was originally to continue to USA but we decided to leave it for another trip and end this trip in Cancun, Mexico. One reason for this is that it’s getting a bit late in the year so we couldn’t go as far north as we would like. Another reason is that our bikes are not ideal for riding long distances, something that USA has a lot of :) And lastly…apparently it cost a lot of money to travel by bike? I know, I’m as shocked as you.

The last weeks where wonderful. We went to Playa del Carmen and from there to Tulum and then Cancun. We swam with whale sharks. Laid back on beautiful beaches. Snorkeled in the ocean and in great cenotes. Visited a lot of mayan ruins. We topped it off with an all inclusive stay at GR Solaris in Cancun, the first time I’ve experienced all inclusive and I must say its quite addictive. A week spent training two times a day and eating great food. Can’t get much better than that.

The shipping of the bikes were done with Armerijet. They did most of the work for us. Packed the bikes and did all the paperwork. We just had to show up at the customs and pay a lot of money :)

On our way home we stopped in New York for a few days and then…the adventure was over for this time which always gives me mixed feelings. The change can be a bit surreal and hard to handle at times. Mostly it feels great though, really nice seeing all my family and friends back at home.

Thanks to all that have followed us on this adventure! Just lets us know if you have any questions. More pictures and videos will keep coming on our Facebook-page and on Instagram the following months.

Cheers!

Crossing the Darien Gap with Stahlratte

After a couple of nice and relaxing days in Cartagena (to be honest, all days are nice and relaxing…) it was time to leave South America.

Sadly you can’t cross by land, or not safely anyway (if you’re not a drug lord or something…in which case you would probably fly or take a luxury yacht).

So you have to ship your bike somehow. There are several ways to do this, and we chose to go with Stahlratte (a 38.5 meter sailing vessel). This way we got the bikes over and a nice boat trip through the San Blas Islands. Even though I get sea sick very easily I love the ocean and sailing. So I hoped for calm waters but stocked up with sea sick pills to be safe.

My master plan was “do not go below decks at all as long the boat is moving”. This was before I understood that the first part of the trip was around 30 hours of straight sailing :)

The loading of the bikes in Cartagena was done fast and professional under the somewhat frantic directions of Captain Ludvig.

He is one of those persons you just instantly like and we returned to our hotel looking forward to setting of the day after.

After boarding we were welcomed by Joan and Tilly, they explained the different parts of the trip for us. After a bit of waiting (for a bread delivery) we set off!

In the end I managed to stick with my plan and the sea sick pills made me very tired so spent the first 30 hours of the trip on a sun chair. The night on deck was quite spectacular. This area is known to have the highest concentration of lightning in the world. So with the lightning illuminating the horizon as we steadily advanced towards paradise I felt…quite good to put it mildly. Could have something to do with the sea sick pills as well… 😉

The second day started with a great breakfast buffet before we arrived to the islands.

It didn’t take long before we all were in the crystal clear water. After a lot of swimming and as the sun began to set we prepared a barbecue on the beach and enjoyed a great dinner together.

The third day began yet again with a great breakfast and then some snorkelling and relaxing.

We had a bit of rough weather for a while with a lot of wind. but the sun returned quickly. At sunset we went to another island where we enjoyed nothing less than an all-you-can-eat-lobster-buffet.

While moving to the pier in Panama on the fourth day we enjoyed yet another great breakfast. The unloading of the bikes went smoothly, even though your heart rate increases a bit when your bike is hanging on a few ropes above the water :)

After waving good bye to Stahlratte we packed our bikes (nine bikes in total on this trip) and rode of towards Panama City.

A new continent and new adventures to look forward to. Thanks Stahlratte for a great trip! Find them on Facebook: Stahlratte and Sailing Panama Colombia with Stahlratte

Cusco to Colombia

Yes, I know. Kind of a leap here :)

History isn’t really my thing most of the time. It’s just something that happened before you know? But it is important and the more I read about something, the more I find it interesting. When history combines with something nice to photograph….bingo! As you all well know, without history we wouldn’t bee here.

Rest easy, I won’t bore you with a lot of history. It’s enough with photos for this post.

When we arrived at Cusco we were quite tired from quite rough riding so we took a few days to enjoy the wonders of civilisation, a.k.a KFC :) Then we decided to try a national treat, cuy – a.k.a guinea pig a.k.a as a pet.We opted for getting it oven baked and apparently presentation of the dish was very important. This was quite an experience.

And the taste? Like chicken of course! No, not really. More of a rabbit kind of taste to the meat. Good, but I wouldn’t say wonderful. Love rabbit though. Another pet….seeing a worrying trend here….

I’ve been to Machu Picchu once before, in 2001. And things have definitely changed. Or rather, the prices have really changed. The ruins are the same – a bit disappointing, you think that they at least should have managed to get a bit of pavement in, an escalator or at least some roofs in 15 years.

But anyway. The price to do the trek was ridiculous so we decided to take the cheap route. First a mini-van ride of death to a place called hydroelectrica and then walking along the rail road to Aguas Calientes.

From here we took a bus up to the ruins (about 20 minutes). Now I know how sheep must feel when herded. And at every corner – pay some more. Ok, ok, I’m sounding a bit negative. It’s a really nice place and a great experience. Just bring a lot of money and be prepared to stand in line.

Oh, and book everything ahead by a couple of months at least.

The amount of people that visit Machu Picchu is quite extraordinary. In low season (which this was) the toilet alone brings in about 2000 dollars a day.

Restrictions are being discussed since the huge amount of people is causing the city to sink. Go humans! Even in the mountains we manage to sink a city.

Back in Cusco we ran to KFC again before setting of towards the coast and the heat. By the way, our fascination with KFC is quite strange since the main source of protein in Bolivia, Peru (and Ecuador) seems to be…chicken. There’s chicken everywhere in every kind of way. This youtube-video about the chicken industry made me feel kind of bad about he whole thing for a couple of minutes afterwards.

From Cusco we made our way to Nasca to see the famous Nasca lines. I get motion sickness easy. And even writing about these lines now a couple of weeks later gives me a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.

No, no. I did not throw up in the small airplane. But this took a lot of effort. Motion sickness is terrible. Cold sweaty and trying to keep my stomach where it’s supposed to be I still somehow managed to take a couple of photos.

Totally NOT worth it.

But now we at least where at the coast with very comfortable temperatures. We rode along the coast to Ica where we stayed in the middle of an oasis surrounded by sand dunes.

It’s a nice place – even though the oasis itself continuously depend on water being pumped in as not to evaporate. So, yeah, it’s a bit of a fake oasis. But there was a real one here before so it counts!

After a quick detour to India…

…we made our way toward La Cordillera Blanca (the white mountain range).

Here we rode through the most beautiful mountain passes so far on this trip! Simply…amazing scenery :)


From here we took a trip through a multiple of dark, hand made tunnels down Canyon del Pato (the ducks canyon) to the coast again.

In Trujillo we visited Fox motors Peru where our bikes got a bit of attention (20.000 km service).

At this point we were really craving for the beach. From the start in January we had only taken a swim in the ocean a handfull of times. Most of the time we spent in the mountains or along the coast in Chile where the water is freezing most of the time. So in Máncora we got stuck for a while. Perfect weather, perfect hostel with a pool and 200 meters from the beach. The days where spent reading, working on the computer, running on the beach and eating really good food.

And now we took a look in the kalender. Time is a funny thing that always have fascinated me. A month can at the same time pass in an instant an last an eternity. We realised that time had passed. And that we had to prioritise. So sorry Ecuador. I love your national song (Ecuador by Sash!) but we decided to just drive on to Colombia. So we entered Ecuador, blasted Sash! in our helmets, stopped for a quick cop of coffee (read tea) and then entered Colombia. (Not really that fast, it took us three days, below you se Quito)

In Colombia we couldn’t quite slow down fast enough, so before we knew it we arrived at the Caribbean Sea!

Ok, back up a bit.

This is what happened on the way:

  1. We stopped at a cool church in Ipiales.
  2. Saw impossible high palm trees in Valle del Cocora (and got a bit of good advice).

  3. We met with a facebook-friend (now real friend) in Medellin and also saw the new X-men movie.
  4. Climbed up a really big rock that boasted with “the best viewpoint in the world.”. Sadly it wasn’t (but still very nice).
  5. Reached Nirvana (our hostel).

And that’s where we are now (not quite…you’ll see)! The temperature outside our air-conditioned apartment in Taganga is around 30 degrees (celsius of course, who uses fahrenheit for real??). The temperature in the ocean is around 28 degrees on a cloudy day. The beach is a 5 minutes downhill walk and the pool a 1 minute walk next doors. After a bit of mix up with our room we ended up getting our own apartment.

Our days are filled with activities such as waking up, breakfast, swimming, lunch, running, dinner, watching tv-shows, drinking tea, reading, watching to many youtube videos, editing photos, learning cool stuff…and so on. So yeah, not complaining about much right now.

Next step? In a couple of days we move on to Cartagena to await the sailboat that is going to take us to Panama; The Stahlratte! What better way to change from South America to Central America than by a four day and three night cruise on a sailboat. With our bikes! In Cartagena we just booked an apartment right by the beach with a pool on the roof. Looking forward to…continue doing what we are doing right now with the added bonus of cinema and maybe, maybe a KFC? 😉

By the way. This is the best thing I’ve read in a long while: http://waitbutwhy.com/2015/05/elon-musk-the-worlds-raddest-man.html

Bye for now!

P.S The internet connection wasn’t good enough to upload so many pictures so we’re actually in Cartagena now :)

Bolivia to Peru

The road from Cochabamba to the start of the death road turned out to be quite…exhausting. The scenery in Bolivia continued to impress. Around each turn (and there are MANY turns) there is a new view that take your breath away.

_C9A5882

With our new Pirelli MT21 tyres we chose a road that looked promising in Google Maps. The mechanic that changed our tyres told us that the road was all gravel and perfect for our bikes, but that we needed to bring a lot of water and food since “there is nothing at all there, no people, no gas, no nothing” (said in spanish of course). We said: “You had us at hello” then proceeded to fill up all our gas canisters, bought food and water for three days and set off!

It’s one thing to calculate a rout on a map…a completely other thing to actually drive it. As mentioned, the scenery was fantastic, but the roads….equally fantastic towards to other end of the scale. I won’t say it wasn’t fun, because it was really really fun. But maintaining focus all day really takes it out of you. Add a couple of thousands of meters above sea level. Add not knowing if you are going to find a place to camp in the mountains. Add taking a wrong turn (thank you Garmin and Tom Tom for completely ignoring Bolivia) a few times while the daylight slowly, but inexorably, decreases. And you end up with quite a low energy level at the end of the day. Then do this for three days….Ah, adventure!

A word on adventures. I’ve often said that adventures are best enjoyed sitting on a couch, drinking a big cup of tea while looking at photos and chuckling at how incredibly tired, cold, sick, wet, scared, angry, lost (or any other terrible feeling) you where at that time when… The parts of a journey that sticks the most to memory (and admit it, that you like to hear about) are the times when you where the most miserable on your journey :) Don’t take me wrong; I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Bring on the adventures, or rather, bring on the romanticised telling of the adventure afterwards!

Anyway, after three days we arrived to the paradise on earth (if you believe the sign that greats you when you enter), Corico!

Once again iOverlander delivered, thanks to the app we found Hostal Sol y Luna. A real treat and a perfect place to relax (something we strive to become experts at).

You are completely surrounded by the forrest / jungle and all the sounds, smells and colours that come with it.

A stroll in town showed us a lot of traditional clothed cholitas with their characteristic bowler hats and beautiful dresses.

After two days of hammocking (yes, it’s a word) we where ready to take on the “Death Road” to La Paz.

It turned out not to be very deadly at all.

The most terrifying on the road was the look of horror on the faces of mountain bikers going downhill on the road. Especially those who met one of us i a curve…moahahahaha :) We went up the road which meant that we had the right to keep against the mountain….the mountain bikers had to hold left…against a quite formidable drop…*another evil laugh*. Since they built a new road where all the heavy traffic and buses go the death road has become a tourist attraction (and off course you have to pay to drive on it). This suited us just fine, I have no need of near death experiences (other than they make good stories, see above about adventures).

La Paz is a really nice city.

Especially seen from above where you are free of all the smog, people and crazy traffic.

We stayed at Hostal Flavia with a very friendly staff and a really, really nice sauna! Here we had a chance to practice our relaxing and I’m happy to say that it went really well.

After almost a month in Bolivia we were now ready to move on to Peru (only got 30 days visa anyway). We chose to cross at Desaguadero right by the Lake Titicaca. The border crossing was really easy, the only thing we were worried about was if they would accept our insurance paper from Sweden (SOAT). Other than complaining that it wasn’t an original (we got it by mail so it really is as original as it can be) they just chatted with us a little and welcomed us to Peru. We turned back our clocks one hour which gave us plenty of time to find a nice hostel. We arrived at Hostal Casa Blanca where we got our first taste of Peruvian food and it was really good!

From here we aimed towards Colca Canyon. Once again the planning of the route and the actual driving of it differed quite a bit. Google Maps, maps.me and Garmin gave us a nice mix of advice on which way was the correct one. We ended up at a dam, a lake, at a electrical plant (or something similar) and a village where no tourist ever been. After a couple of hours of adventuring in the middle of nowhere we finally found the correct road that thankfully was paved! From here my gps said we only had about 40 kilometres left to the village Chivas; We just had to cross an entire mountain range first. Up and up and up we went. At around 4800 meters we started to worry a bit, what if we didn’t come down before dark? Camping at this altitude isn’t very fun. So on we raced, chasing the light. The road was fantastic and the scenery stunning. Finally the road started descending and we saw the town well below us in the distance.

The last kilometres always seems to last forever, but even forever ends and just as the last rays of daylight disappeared we arrived at Hostal Hatun Colca that offered us a nice room for 30 soles a night (around 9 dollars). Yet another adventure to chuckle about :)

Next: Cusco and Machu Picchu!

The road to Bolivia

Warning: This blogpost is loooong with a LOT of pictures :) 

In Calama we did the 10.000 km service on Christians bike which led to a few days of eating good food and mostly watching movies. Calama wouldn’t really be so much to write about, except one very important fact; It’s where my mom is born, so therefore it’s the best city in the world!

After Calama we headed straight for San Pedro de Atacama where we did a lot of touristy things (like flamingo watching) and ate more great food.

One of the most important things we did in San Pedro was to acclimatise to the altitude. The town is at about 2400 m.s.l. That was a good starting point and we made sure to make trips to higher altitude during the days. “Go high – sleep low” is a good rule to follow and we hoped it would be sufficient preparation for Bolivias higher altitudes.

In to Bolivia
After stocking up on food, water and some Bobs (Bolivian money) we checked out from Chile in San Pedros immigration office and drove about 45 km to the nearest entry point to Bolivia. There we filled in the required paperwork under the rough guidance of the immigration officer. Bolivia was dubbed “the least friendly country for tourist in the world” by the World Economic Forum. The immigration officer did lend some credibility to that claim, we could only hope it would get better.

He told us that we had to drive about 6 km to get the paperwork done for the bikes, or if there wasn’t anybody there, we had to go 80 km to the next entry point. We set of straight through “Laguna Verde”.

Of course there wasn’t anybody at the first point so we drove to the next one. The roads where…terrible. Sand, soft gravel and kilometre after kilometre of wash-board required all of our concentration so we barely had time to watch the amazing surroundings. When we arrived at the aduana we felt a bit lightheaded and experienced a light tingling sensation in our fingers. A look at the altitude told us we where at 5000 m.s.l :)

Thanks to the wonderful app ioverlander we found a nice canyon to camp in for the first night. We felt the altitude (4500 m.s.l) but got no headache, our previous acclimatisation was working!

Uyuni and the Salar de Uyuni

After three days of tough riding through really beautiful landscapes we finally arrived to Uyuni.

The town itself isn’t very inspiring but from here it’s only a 30 minutes drive to get to the salar. We spent two days resting and then took a walk to the train cemetery.

After this we felt ready for the salar. It was…beautiful and surreal.

Felt like driving on hard snow/ice but with very good grip. White as far the eye could see :) We spent one night camping at Isla del Pescado. It was quite windy in the evening but around nine p.m the wind died down and we had a calm and quiet night.

In the morning we met a family that was out picking cactus fruits. They gave us a few and showed us how to eat them, sweet!

On to Potosi and Sucre
After the salar our bikes got a really nice wash (30 bobs per bike) to get rid of all the salt.

A couple of really nice burritos later and it was time to continue onward to Potosi. The way there was a really nice surprise; a very good and sinuous tarmac road through the mountains.

Once again we found a nice hostel thanks to ioverlander; Vicuña hostel. There we got a nice surprise since the owners spoke Swedish! So nice to speak a bit of Swedish with other people :)

Minas de Plata

Potosi has a very rich (and sad) history. It’s located by Cerro Rico de Potosi and is the worlds largest deposit of silver.

It has been mined since the sixteenth century under very bad conditions for the workers. It is estimated that around eight millions indigenous workers have died in the mines, as well as a lot of slaves brought in from Africa.

Today the citys narrow streets are filled with cars and pollution which makes it hard to walk around in. We took a tour to the mines which was a very humbling experience. To this day people are working under basically the same conditions as when the Spanish ruled.

Our guide Anthony, himself a former mine worker, took us to the mines and gave us (with a mix of humor and melancholy) a real insight to the lives of the mine workers and their rituals.

Sucre – The capital
Nope, La Paz is not the capital of Bolivia. All the decisions are made in La Paz but the capital is still Sucre. We are not very fond of citys, specially when they are filled with cars and pollution. But if you manage to get away from the narrow streets, it offers some nice views (and zeebras).

We spent two nights in the city and went on to Cochabamba. The way there became long and rather adventurous, specially at the end.

The way to Cochabamba

The road took us through the mountains and the scenery was very nice. We managed to take a wrong turn which led us to some gravel roads. Luckily we realised our mistake and doubled back. The road changed from tarmac to cobblestone…and continued to be cobblestone mile after mile. Must be some kind of world record; the longest cobblestone road in the world?

Thanks to the wrong turn (and very nice scenery) we arrived at Cochabamba just as the sun where setting. A rule we try our absolute best to hold is: Never drive when it’s dark. Just when it looked like we where going to make it before darkness we came upon a blockade. Arriving to Sucre we had the same experience, people blocking the roads.

There wasn’t much to do but trying to weave through the people and the barricades. The people didn’t seem to mind and we got directions of alternative routes. This led to a very interesting ride with two river crossings in the middle of the city! After successfully navigation around four different blockades we finally reached the inner city.

By now it was dark and getting late. The hostel we had in mind was a bit outside the inner city but we decided to go there anyway. And then….I got a flat tire. Luckily in low speed and I had no problem stopping. By this point we had driven a bit more than 400 km and where exhausted. Our intercom had run out of battery so I couldn’t tell Christian what had happened. He realised quite fast and managed to find me again. What to do? A car stopped and told me there was a repair shop just on the next block (!). I went to take a look and the guy told me to bring the bike and he would fix it right away. The only unfriendly people we have found in Bolivia so far are people in the immigration offices. Six patches later and my bike was ready to go again :)

We arrived at the hostel, Hostal Las Lilas around 9.30 PM and were welcomed by a couple of happy danish guys and a very hairy dog.

It turned out to be a very very nice hostel where we met a lot of nice people. We then spent a couple of days searching for new tires for the bikes. Not an easy thing to do in Bolivia, but after a lot of driving around and help from a lot of people we managed to get two Pirelli MT 21 for our back tyres. The front is still good to go.

Next stop: La Paz and the death road!