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Rumble in the Jungle, El Mirador

11 Jun

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A combination of all of this made my thinking very irrational or perhaps I just refused to give up. I decided to head out towards El Mirador. Not knowing the way, no civilization, no signal, an hour of daylight left and 60km of a narrow rocky path. Within miles I know I’m not going any further. I passed 2 junctions already with no idea if I am on the correct one. The path is now only a hair wider than the bike with boulders spicing things up. Trying to turn around the bike goes down. All right. I knew I will have to muster up what’s left. I left the bike in the sleeping position for about 5 minutes to get a breather. A little struggle and up it went and now to finish the 30 point U turn. El Mirador will be conquered next time. Assessing the damage, the luggage box must have picked the pointiest rocks to fall on putting a huge dent right in the middle and the other bending the bottom of the box to a point where it separated the seams. Woohoo. I got what I asked for. I am mad at my own stupidity. I run from Carmelita. My body and brain all go into emergency mode and gather strength from I don’t know where. What took me 3 hours before, I just did in just over an hour. I completely forgot that I could have stayed at the rancho there or pitch and ran for Isla Flores. I have never bottomed out the shocks on this 20 000km trip. During this hour alone, hitting speeds up to 100km/h, I bottomed out the front 8 times and even the rear once upon a landing. I make town just after dark almost dropping the bike at one of the roundabouts in town. My almost non existent rear tire must be getting to the last bit I’m thinking. Hotel Green World. Finally. Same place even the same room Alex and stayed four months ago. Anxious to get to bed I go outside to start the bike to drive it into the reception again. For those catching up now. Isla Flores is a picture perfect little island on Lake Petén with colourfull colonial homes and hotels pretty much glued on each other. No front yards, no backyards. I turn the key and nada. No way I’m thinking. After all this? Tried again and nothing. Not even the dash lights up. Well, I do like this place. I push the bike inside the reception and park it. No point of thinking about it today anymore. Almost 400km today with 75% in the dirt. I undress my bike gear and no food, no shower, exhausted I fall asleep.

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I don’t like tasking on an empty stomach so I go around the corner to get something in my stomach and in front of the hotel next to mine I see a guy mingling with a Suzuki Vstrom. Fellow rider from Georgia tackling on Central America. As it turns out, Ray, had a little mishap on the way to Samuc Champey. The same place where my headlight and front caliper fell off four months ago, Ray dropped his bike there and was stuck for 6 hours. He broke the shifter but unbelievably he carried a spare. The bikes get an unreal beating here.

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Stomach is now satisfied, now to the electrical problem. Within minutes it’s eureka as I realize it’s just a negative connection that must have gone loose on my insane trip back from El Mirador. Thinking back now I realize just how crazy yesterday was. Easy fix. I strap my bags on, put my gear on and ready to make way for Belize. I get the bike off the center stand and try to push it out of the reception but the thing does not want to move. Now what? Within seconds my eye catches the flat front tire. I must have punctured it last night coming back I’m thinking. Now it makes sense why I almost dropped the machine on the round about last night. I must have been riding almost on flat. No problem, I got a tire kit. But what the hell is this?? I notice the front rim is completely bent open about an inch from its original shape. Yup, I think I remember which pot hole that was. This could be a real delay.

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Head down I go back to the room to take all the bike gear off again. The hotel owner offered to call her mechanic last night when I had the what I thought electrical issue. After a short conversation he points me in the right direction. Or so I thought. I pop the front wheel off along with the bent left luggage box and jump in a tuk tuk to take me to a wheel repair shop. Upon arrival the driver and I realize that it’s just a tire shop. “I need somebody who can heat aluminium and bend this thing back”, I’m explaining to the owner as he’s filling the tire with air to check for anymore leaks. We submerge the wheel into the water tank and more problems. The tire is fine. It’s the rim that’s leaking. It must have been such an impact that it created crack through the rim, right at one of the ten spokes. Staring at him I say, “now I need someone who can weld aluminium also” He seems to know someone just down the street, so we pop the tire off and back in the tuk tuk again.
The place sells hydraulic lines and has some lathes in the back. One guy is saying yes, one no, as I explain to them what I need done. Like synchronized bobbing heads, bobbing in different directions. “I can do it”, a voice from the back that must have been listening to us. As the bobbing heads make room, out comes the biggest and dirtiest Guatemalan I have seen yet. “I can do it, come back in an hour” he repeats. With some hesitation but little choice I leave the bent rim and the luggage and head off to find an inner tube. Just in case the rim still leaks, I would prefer to have one in there. No more off roading I’m promising myself. I’m staying on asphalt all the way to Canada. Within an hour I’m picking up my items. Wow. Asides from a few spots where the hammer struck, the box is resembling its original shape. The rim, the rim! Let me see the rim!! Have I had not known where the impact was, I would have not been able to tell. The crack was cut into and refilled with aluminium. The heat treatment to bend it back scorched a lot of the paint but he took his time to sand and repaint with matching paint. Genius. “That will be $25, is it ok?” The big guy says. Not only would I never say no to him, I was refraining myself from giving him a friendly punch how happy I was. In Canada it would be way over $100 with leaving the rim there for a few days. Ok, back to the tire place, assemble it all with the inner tube and back to the hotel…

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The Sacrifice Altar and El Mirador

7 Jun

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Next morning I set off to the sacrificial altar as recommended by Josue. Riding now a dirt road in the altars direction, west towards Mexico. Within a few miles I have to take a ferry to get across one of the Rio Pasión arms. Hmm.. He never mentioned anything about a ferry.

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I had to chuckle at the sign as the bike is a silhouette of the BMW I’m riding.

After crossing I keep driving for about half an hour. Starting to have doubts I stop what was the only vehicle coming towards me. “Si, si, about half an hour” was the response. Well I’m this far already so I’m not turning around. After 45 minutes at close to 70km/h I finally get to the river and thus the end of the road with Mexico on the other side. Beside the road, a rumble of rocks without any resemblance of an sacrificial altar. Thanks Josue. Well at least I now know an escape route from Guatemala to Mexico. No ferry, no crossing no customs here though. Disappointed I drive back to Sayaxché. Semi tired and covered in dust I shared the ferry back with the typical colorful school bus a.k.a. chicken bus. Sort of wasted 120 km. When I got to Sayaxché, the big ferry was on the other side loading fuel trucks so I had to wait a bit. I was put on the ferry along with two fuel trucks and a dozen or so foot passengers. These trucks were obviously full as the ferry was so heavy it was not going to peel off the river bank. Watching the previous day from the floating restaurant I already knew what was about to happen so I put the bike on center stand, motor off, engage gear and sit on it with bith feet down foot down and both brakes on. There is about a 15 ft of room behind the semis so they back all the way up. All of the sudden the both simultaneously shoot out racing towards the end of the ferry. Yup, just 15 ft away. They barely get to put it in second gear and as if synchronized they come to a screeching stop. Bam. Quite a jerk and we are free. Last wave to Josue and Marina as they are waving at me from the restaurant.

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I have heard many awesome things about El Mirador. A way bigger than Tikal, recently discovered Mayan city to the north side of the Mexican border. Currently being excavated but still open to public. To the ones who dare rather.
After getting off the ferry I shoot 100 km to the north side of Lago Petén to San Andreas. That is about to become the only 100 paved km I do that day. To get to El Mirador there is 70km of a nasty dirt road that has to conquered to the small communinty of Carmelito. This I was clear on. It was the rest that was shady so I quickly started gathering up info from locals. After today’s adventures it was still only 2pm. Ok, so from Carmelito to El Mirador it’s another about 60km. The map confirmed that. After that I got a few stories on how to get there. It can be done by bike, it can be only be done on foot, it may be done with a mule. Challenge accepted. To my relief, if all fails, there is lodging in Carmelita. No time to waste. Some dry food, canned fish, refried beans, lots of water and a few beers.
As usual, deeper you get the nastier the road gets. Surprisingly given the road condition I drove through three communities on the first 35 km and there was a never ending colony of tractor trailers coming out of the jungle all fully loaded with no more than 3-4 enormous tree trunks. Kind of controversial when Guatemalan license plate slogan, including these semis, is ‘cuidamos los bosques’. We protect out forests. Sure. We don’t need trees. We need oil palms.

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Bizarrely, with no soul in sight, I still went through two military check points. Thankfully, the more you travel, the more you see, the more you learn, the less you are surprised. Nearing the end the semis finally became non existent and unfortunately the road also. Beat up and covered in white dust from the lime rock dirt road I reach Carmelita. A huge wood mill with about 15 straw huts, one being the lodging, gathered around an airstrip that also seems to serve as a soccer field.

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I am probably the most tired I have ever been. To add to the misery, because of the insane dust, and hot air I can barely keep my eyes open and my eye drops just aren’t cutting it anymore. I get pointed to the mill for El Mirador information. By now I am 100% positive it can’t be done with the bike. So my option are, guide and donkey to carry my gear or guide and two donkeys to carry me and my gear. But what? 5 day trip? Nobody in San Andreas ever mentioned this and it for some reason it has never occoured to me but it makes sense. 60-70km is about two days. Day there and the trip back. Remember the “defense mode”I mentioned earlier? It won. Well that and the fact I didn’t have with me the $300 necessary for this 5 day voyage. That was the biggie making this adventure unreal. The defensive part was that I would have been in no shape to walk or ride a donkey at 5am for the next 3-5 days. In reality I probably could have if I put my ass into it. See what I did there? This day was not meant to be. Really at the the edge of exhaustion, combined with chugging two nasty, warm beers, I made what was the worse decision….

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Sayaxché and Rio Pasión

30 May

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El Ceibal is a Mayan site that wasn’t discovered until 1959. I had to do some hardcore offroading to get to it. It was more of a walking path than a road. Well deserved though as I had the whole city to myself. Going through the guest book there was only a dozen visitors there all week. A couple from France earlier today. With the level of difficulty to reach this destination I was not surprised. I spent almost three hours on this, mostly unexcavated archeological site. The guard didn’t mind so I went back to my bike to grab my sleeping bag and made camp on top of the astrological circle structure for a while.

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Ceibal tree

Sayaxché is only a few miles away. I going refuge in one of the three hotels in the village.

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There is nowhere to run from here as there is no bridge over the vast river La Pasión but the ferry runs 24 hours.

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I treated myself and got an air conditioned room overlooking the river for $13. Stomach was growling now so after a shower I headed to town to get some grub. With nothing to suit my taste I find a floating restaurant right beside the ramp to the ferry. More like a bunch of planks nailed over empty oil barrels with a roof over it. The whole structure is tied to the river bank. There is only one table inside where a lady is washing laundry and two guys fishing in between the planks in the floor.

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My kind of place exactly. After a few minutes we are all best friends and they fish out three different types of fish for me. Since there is no kitchen in this restaurant, the lady runs up to the house to make dinner. And delicious it was.

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I ended up staying long into the night and, as I was the only customer that day, got told many stories about the surrounding area. My speculations only got confirmed as I was told about big companies taking over the native land to grow oil palms. Yes, they might have lived there forever but most of the elderly are illiterate thus applications for land titles were never submitted. Not only have they never adapted to something of this kind, they probably never even thought that someone would ever try to take this distant land from them. Now most of them are employed on what used to be their land.
Josue, one of the guys fishing through the floor, pointed me in a few directions to find some historic sites. Some of them I was familiar with but one particular sparked my attention. A sacrificing altar a few miles from here where I would set off to the next morning. Josue was very proud of the floating restaurant as he helped on with the construction. He said the original place burned down about three years ago. “There is no kitchen here. How could it have burned down?” I ask. I don’t think anyone could ever guess the answer. Rio Pasión is a fair size river that requires a ferry to get across. In the dry season, the electric wires that cross the river, hang about 25 ft above it. Are you starting to see where this is going? In the rainy season, the river goes so high that the floating restaurant reached pass the cables and set itself on fire. Whoever passes by has to stop by. What a joint. You will always find the owner Marina there. Unless the river was high that year.

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Cutting Across Guatemala

24 May

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A little celebration at the side of the road
Unlike getting into Honduras, there was absolutely no soul upon exiting so it took all but 5 minutes to check out.
Off to Rio Dulce, Guatemala. This is the same place where i got so insanely sick 5 months ago and got the syringe of an unknown substance in my right but cheek from the holistic healer.

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Despite the popularity of this place i managed to find a hostel for $8. My room had everything i needed and nothing I didn’t. 8×8 cell with no windows, a metal door, a fan and a bed.

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From Rio Dulce I really didn’t want to take the regular route up north to Tikal and than to Belize. I studied a few maps and google map but everything was pointing to that the route I wanted to take is not finished. I was looking for a connection between the Caribbean coast, from Rio Dulce to be exact, towards the inland in the direction of Mexico and than up. Reasoning for this is not only that I already know the other route but that there is almost a dozen Mayan sites on that route. After talking to a few locals of which some concurred that, yes it’s passable and some who haven’t. Challenge accepted!! I know I might be asking for trouble. Not only because I’m heading into the unknown, but now I’m riding solo and with with a rear tire that barely has any thread on it. A wipeout or a flat for the least are becoming imminent.
Right upon entering the dashed marked road on one of the maps I knew I might have chewed more than I can swallow. Road is obviously under construction. I’m pretty much walking the bike for the first 10km with about 90 more to go.

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Zig zaging the Caterpillars and Terexs with occasional explosions blowing away the mountains in the middle of the pristine jungle. A few times I had to get off the bike, put it in first and walk it. Boulders that were making the base of the new road were impassable. After about an hour of the battle I start to feel semi comfortable. As I get deeper into the center of the country I encounter more indigenous villages. No electricity, just a new road in progress and the jungle. Kind of sad as I figure a majority of these people haven’t encountered modern civilization little less a dozer plowing through their front yard. The further I get the better the road gets. They obviously started from the other end.

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The jungle starts changing into plowed ground as far as the eye can see. I can only imagine what’s next. Yup, oil palms. The further I get the more mature palms. To add to the rape, two pipe lines turn from the jungle and follow the road for the next 50km to a transfer/ storage station in a small village occupied by mostly people of Mayan descend. I know what you are up to, Chevron.

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As I near the intersection to hang it north, the palms are about 8-10 years mature. That’s how long it took to build the road than. It’s just a matter of time before the virgin jungle where they are working on the road now will be turned into palm fields. Through out this whole strip I have encountered only about 5 vehicles. The Mayans don’t drive, so who exactly is this road being built for? Is it the palm or the crude oil? Never mind, as I hang it right now in direction towards the Yucatan Peninsula. Thinking I’m getting away from the nightmare I now drive for another 120km in the middle of oil palm farms. As far towards the horizon, to the left and to the right with indigenous communities in between.

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Just Strolling Around

23 May

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I set off on April 4th 2013 at around 11 am. To make things more challenging, I set off to make this trip for as little money as possible. Anybody can be a Rolex rider so lets make this more difficult. Eating simple but heathy, none, or very little partying, a lot of camping and hosteling and keeping the throttle under 90km/h. How would it feel to disconnect? Lets find out as another part of the challenge and experiment. Roaming off, wifi off, Facebook off, viber off, whatsapp off, email on filter only letting through emails from the hands that feed.
I had an dentist appointment in San Jose at 4pm that afternoon. By 11 am the temperature is in the low thirties and after a quick bye to everyone I eagerly set off. Within an hour I catch a torrential rain ascending the Cordilleras to cross into San Jose. I have done this route a million times so surprises there. You never know what you are getting into. I took a gamble. Thinking that I won’t be seeing any, or very little rain on this 10 000km trip, my rain gear was packed deep in one of the boxes. Struggling to find my rain gear all my stuff inside is getting soaked as well. Within seconds I’m drenched. Great start. Miserable, but I finally manage and jump back on. Within seconds and only a few hundred meters from where I was dressing up the rain becomes non existent and the road is completely dry. Typical. Now I’m still ascending to 3500m ASL to a lousy 7 degrees and all wet. Upon arriving to San Jose and after my dentist appointment I have a little pow wow with some friends. Watching the Maple Leafs loose at a local sports bar and set off to bed quickly excited for the next day. Border crossings are a breeze now. Shortly after lunch the next day I’m in Nicaragua and over the next few days I’m strolling around places like San Juan del Sur, Grenada, and almost unwillingly, Managua.

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San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

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Grenada, Nicaragua

In Managua get stopped for crossing a double lane. It was about time. The policeman seemed very thrilled as he thought he had a lot of leverage to get a bribe. It was either $40 in his pocket or he takes my license. As it was a Friday afternoon, the banks were already closed. If he takes my license I would not get it back until Monday, after paying it. $40 is way too much for a bribe so I choose to give up my drivers license of which I carry three. Pretending that I don’t carry any cash and only use credit cards, I put on my sour/disgusted face and with no plans of seeing my license again, I reluctantly pull it out of my throw away wallet and hand it over. In my throw away wallet I carry an old credit and debit card, some membership cards, license with an old address and few small bills. As I’m sure thieves are aware of this trick and might want the real one, I have another throwaway in one of the boxes. Obviously satisfied that the officer will be seeing me again and with a grin on his face he says “see you monday”. Yeah right, little do you know. I’m not staying a minute in Managua and instead I keep going to Vulcan Valley and Leon to stay there for a day.

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The crossing into Honduras at Los Manos welcomed me with a huge line at customs from close to a hundred people that ran out four chicken buses. Not a big fan of reverse racism but in this case it probably saved me 2-3 hours of waiting in line. With lunch coming up, maybe more. From the back of the line I get called right into the office. Bam, bam. Few stamps and within minutes I’m rolling through the beautiful spruce covered hills of south central Honduras where I also chose to set up camp for the night.

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Sugar cane pressing

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Washed away road in the mountains

Strangely, unlike on the way down, not one customs has even come out to look at the bike, little less to check the VIN on the frame. Tegucigalpa was on the hit list next and from there over the mountains again and a descend to the Caribbean to a beautiful coastal community named Omoa for another sleepover.

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Omoa

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Old Spanish fort in Omoa

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From here, the border to my long awaited adventure destination of Guatemala is only around the corner.

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The Day Bofore

12 May

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My life for the next month compacted into three boxes and a dry bag

People often ask why I ride and often the answer is “just ’cause”. The real answer is because riding for me is like getting into a time machine. From the moment I put my helmet on, it seems to block off the outside world. Once I take it off, and combined with a few twists of the throttle I am in a whole different place. With so many places in the world to go , vacationing in the same place for an extensive amount of time seems like a waste.
“Aren’t you afraid?” Is another common one. Well, in my opinion, the human brain works on defensive mode. It will do whatever it can to prevent the body to get into danger. I call it the pu**y mode, derived from passive mode. There could be a dozen benefits to a certain action but a single doubt can make jeopardize the whole thing. Doubt, combined with modern days comfort by consumerism, passiveness and ignorance sadly leaves a lot us sitting at home , watching useless television and slowly turning into alcoholics. Block the doubt, and, I have to agree with Nike on this one, “Just do It”. Once you are in it, you can’t back out and you will learn to deal with the given situation, but you have to step out of your comfort zone to learn. As humans we are very adaptive. We have learned and adapted to any environment in the past. Extreme cold, extreme heat, poverty, even concentration camps. If things don’t turn out as expected, think of the errors as opportunities to make things better. Just please don’t tell me, show me…. Now, with this type of progressive thinking, getting stuck in the mountains in Guatemala seems like a cake walk.
After spending 3 months in and around Santerras and Costa Rica, I decide to ride back to Canada. This for a few reasons. First, any vehicle visa in Costa Rica expires after 90 days. Than you have the option of taking the bike out of the country for a 3 months before returning or paying the taxes and registering the bike in the country. At about $4000 this wasn’t really an option and just helped my previous decision to ride back due to missing a few attractions on the previous voyage. As maybe have read in the previous blogs, we have seen a lot on the way down but I still felt the month’s ride was rushed.

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Last but not least reason is my love for seafood. Don’t get me wrong, the seafood is Costa Rica is good and all but in no way does it compare to the selection on the caribbean. My weakness is the love for seafood, especially for conch which I can still get in Belize and some Mexican provinces before the conch season is over. I think all three, the Pacific, Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico will be relieved when I’m out of there.

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Long Way Up

11 May

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…it didnt take me long to decide to ride the bike back to Canada. I had a few options, one was leaving the bike at Santerras with the intention to ride it to Argentina in the near future and to fly back to Canada. The other was to pay the $4000 tax and leave it in Costa Rica as a personal vehicle. I don’t enjoy airplane food very much and I don’t see myself spending that kind of money just to put the bike under Costarican plates, so the decision was easy. That, and the fact that after this little adventure the bike will have over 50k by the time I return. They are known for reliability but to tackle the southern most drivable point on the planet I opt for a trade in for a new GS.

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I realized that in the last blog I never introduced the bike. How rude of me after all we have been together.
It started of as a insurance write off from Jevco insurance and was bought through Zdeno Cycle in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. I always wanted this same model but never really hunted for it. I thought that as with all my other bikes the opportunity will just present itself. And it did. That particular summer 2 years ago I was riding a Supermoto version of The Suzuki DR 650. An absolute awesome city bike. When I saw the 2009 BMW 800 GS Twin sitting there I knew It had to be mine. I quickly did a once over and besides a missing front signal light, a barely cracked up fairing, bent handle bars and a missing windscreen, I couldn’t see any other problem. Without hesitation I left a deposit and waited for the bike to be released from the insurance company. A week later I get a call from Linda from the shop that all is ok and I can come pick it up. Yeeeehawww, hours later I got it sitting in my garage thinking what to modify.

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Sadly I had to let go of one of the bikes as I am up to five by now. After less than a year’s relationship, I deceided to part way with the supermoto. Being only a handful of this type and one of this kind in town, it was gone to a good home within days.
I knew I wound not set off on a long trip for a while and only was going to ride around town for a while, so I thought a another supermoto/ street fighter would be a suitable choice. Within days the now GS was stripped, dropped, fatter street tires and a shorty windscreen. Looked and handled amazing but was useless for long trips.
A year later the planning came for the Costa Rica trip so I had all summer to turn the Bimmer into a long range machine. This was no easy task as there is many choices for accessories suitable for individual needs. Besides a few Ontario long hauls I had zero experience in cross country, little less continental trips. So some accessories were purchased twice and old ones resold on kijiji.
For those wondering why I am going into such an extensive detail. There is a link of this blog on adventurerider.com. An essential source of information for long haulers where hopefully some readers planning something similar might find some useful tips and tricks. So for the non techies, skip the next few paragraphs.
So what I got now is a naked BMW GS stripped complete of all accessories of which most have been sold. After endless hours on adventurerider.com and horizonsunlimited.com I’m starting to get an idea. First, through Happy Trails I contact Progressive. A company that specializes in offroad shocks. Proudly I can say that I am the owner of the prototypes of the rear shock for this particular model. 8 long months me, and about a dozen other 800GS owners were waiting for Progressive to get it just right. Not particularly cheap, but at $900, cheaper than the Swedish Ohlins, I must say they got it perfect. Fully rebuildable, fully adjustable. Height, rebound and external preload. The only problem I found is that the piggyback preload adjuster mounted waaay to close to the cylinder heads almost touching it. This resulted in the shock oil being very hot thus loosing its viscosity and running very thin through the chambers. All this had an impact on the rebound of the damper. After about an hour of speculating where to relocate the adjuster I found a space under the seat. Drilled a 5/8 hole in the triangular frame support a relocated the adjuster there.
Second was a front windscreen fairing. I knew I wanted something to hold a GPS and a few other gadgets. Two options. The Disierto at close to $900 or the Canadian made Mirage2 at $600. Mirage it was. Looks are almost identical and I saved $300 towards whatever else. Height adjustable screen, space for GPS, and I squeezed an USB port in there as well to charge up whatever toys.
The biggie now was the luggage. I really liked the BMW aluminium bags but I really could justify the $2800 tag. After tens of hours I got the $350 SW Motech rack and a set of $180 Pelican cases. It only took 2000km of riding around Ontario to realize that these will not suit my needs. Too hard to get into. Hold very little gear and if the bike is dropped, even though these were hard plastic, I felt they wouldn’t stand my abuse. This is where Vicious Cycle steps in. After proposing them the idea, they agree to do a partial sponsorship in the form of heavily discounted a set of three SW Motech aluminium bags, same brand crash bars and a Bags Connection tank bag with map option. Scoooooore.
Now that the big stuff is out of the way, its time for the nicks and nacks so here is a list of items gathered from around the world. From Australia, a set of Barkbusters hand guards. From South Africa a Kaoko cruise control, or throttle lock rather. From Germany a punch cut grille guard. Also from Germany, SW Motech, front and rear brake fluid reservoir guards, brake piston guard, alternator and radiator guard. A Czech Republic made, SW Motech chain guard. A set of halogens from China. At 96db, the Stebel Nautilus air horn from Italy. Alt Rider highway pegs, Razza Shortie brake and clutch lever, Suzuki DRZ 400 handle bars, Rox Handle bar risers, Hidenau 150 rear and Avon 110 front tire. Twisted Throttle tube with a drinking bottle filled with fuel mounted under the right luggage rack, Drift sport camera with a helmet and fairing holder. TomTom GPS, Extra 12V accessory plug that also works for boosting the battery, aaand that’s all I can think of.
My left luggage is full of survival gear. Cooking grille, wok style frying pan, metal food plate, metal cup, utensil set, hunting knife, flash light, head strap flash light, Letherman multi tool, fishing rod and accessories, survival kit, first aid kit including crazy glue (yes it’s true, crazy glue was originally developed for the army to treat open wounds instead of stitching, thanks for the info Tommy), fix a flat kit, Slime compressor. All BMW tool kits range between $180-230, its as simple as looking in the Internet what size tools you need and than buying them individually. My choice was a surplus store where tools are sold in bulk. I ended un paying no more than $40 including a ratchet and a needle nose wise grip. Also while there, a little emergency box with miscellaneous stuff including duct tape, electrical tape, zip ties, extra oil filter and nuts and bolts was put together.
Top luggage box holds the items that I don’t need access to as much. Liners for riding pants and jacket that are almost never needed in Central America, rain gear, sleeping bag, shoes and dirty laundry.
Right side is for all hygiene items and clothes. As I realized later, only about half were need. Besides the mandatories such as long johns and a few under armour long sleeve shirts, only a few tshirts, one pair of swimming shorts, regular shorts, few pairs of socks, jeans and a hoodie. Yes, there was no undies in there.
The Bags Connection tank bag with tons of pockets held all the necessities that needed to be accessed a few times a day. Cameras, sun screen, passport, maps, iPhone, copies of all documents, drinking bottle, etc.
So why this bike? I think I have evolved, thats why. I have owned and ridden a fair share of bikes that only serve one purpose. Not to diss other riders. To each their own, but while some bikes are just an inefficient way of turning gasoline into noise, on some you can’t even bring your lunch to work. Well, this particular bike is not perfect in anything either. With that being said its perfection lies in having a bit of everything. BMW combined with the Rotax motor have spelled undesputed reliability for decades. Its not the most powerfull thing but still has the kick if in need to pass three tracktor trailer on a single lane highway. As you read above it can carry more great that you could possibly need. Depending on your wrist, you can run very economically at 3.7l per 100km if you keep the needle under 90km/h. It’s not the fastest topping out at just under 200km/h. Last, but not least is that it can still look cool. BMW has really captured the market with these models as well. Of course there always was competition but none were even able to reach their heels in terms of sales. There was the indirect Kawasaki KLR and maybe, just maybe the Suzuki DR. Others such as the Ducati Multistrada, the Yamaha Tenerè, Triumph Tiger and the Aprila are just lately realizing the market potential. The only one that had it together all along was the KTM with their Adventure models but in my humble opinion they could have been much more ahead if they agreed to sponsoring Ewin McGregor and Whatshisname for the “Long Way Round” documentary. Unfortunately for KTM as they turned them down whereas BMW didn’t and that’s what really put them on the map.
With all this said, I purposely did not mention the Trans Alp and the Safari Twin as the late 80′s entry market is a whole new chapter.

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Santerras Jan/8/2013

31 Jan

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Playa Junquillal on the Nicoya Peninsula is the direction we set off in, to visit an old friend.

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With our destination in sight we only stayed until about lunch before saying our goodbyes to him. Despite the short stay, he was extremely happy to see us and promised to visit us at Santerras in the next few days. We pretty much did the last 400 km in one stretch and arrived just at dark with a small entourage of friends awaiting us at the local bar.

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Just short of 10 000 km and exactly one month to drive we have reached our destination. I can semi scratch this one of my bucket list. Now for part two is from here on to Argentina. This will have to wait a few months though and eventually Prague to Kamchatka and Tangier to Johannesburg. These will wait a lot longer. Now it’s time to chill, relax and explore locally.
Overall this trip was a great lifetime experience but only a fraction of what’s on the roads ahead. In the back of our minds we always knew that whatever situation we get into we always has the comfort of making it into some town. This will not be the case in the jungles of Brazil, Patagonia or Mongolian steppe. We figured what thing work and what don’t in terms of riding a survival. I would like to say we have seen how people in other places live but unfortunately that’s about all. We haven’t truly felt nor fully experienced their lifestyle as I felt that about half a year would be more suiting for a trip of this kind.
In a few days Alex is going to bail for a tour of Panama. I’m just going to stay at Santerras and venture off from here on locally.
I guess this is the closing chapter on this one. I promise, I will check back when something new and exciting comes up. In the mean time, stayed tuned folks, be nice, ride and explore. I’m off for a dive into the pool. Adios.

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Nicaragua/Costa Rica Jan/7/2013

19 Jan

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I know you have been wondering but I had to keep everyone on their toes.
As we head now towards the pacific, it’s through Volcano Valley in northern Nicaragua. Many times I have seen this from a plane. A stretch of about 80km with mostly active volcanos.

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Out of the almost dozen, three or four have been blowing grey smoke while we passed by. These places see very few tourists except for Cerro Negro perhaps that is renowned for boarding on its black ash. A must on my next visit. Perhaps it’s because of its lack of tourism, perhaps because of their pride but the guards at one of the volcanos were pretty upset with us when we turned down a visit to one of the sites. Gotta love the next to nil security. It was possible for an unguided hike all the way up to the crater. Unfortunately our bikes weren’t up to the beyond destroyed road challenge and none of us was up for the bike in the 40 degree weather.
Good thing as we might have ended up like the dead cows alongside the road surely by dehydration. If one wanted to declare a war on Nicaragua all they need to do is throw a match. Up to Lake Nicaragua, the west half of the country is bone dry.
Leon is the biggest city in northern Nicaragua, so with the unbearable heat we try to get out of there as fast as we can. Maybe too fast as the police officer thinks. Dishonoring the promise made the officer the previous day, I go on splitting lanes all through town with Alex in close pursuit. Out of nowhere I hear sirens through Mark Ronson pumping in my ears. So loud I almost jumped. I’m searching in my rear views but no one in sight. I took another blast on the siren for me to find a cop on a bike almost riding my license plate. In my head I’m preparing my sorrow speech, with my right hand now off the throttle, I’m turning on the remote for the helmet cam.
Seriously? All I had to do is present my case, in the form of putting the officer in my shoes driving a 500lb bike in scorching heat almost sucking the exhaust pipes of slow moving buses. We got a short briefing on why we shouldn’t do the things we do and after complimenting each others bikes we are on our way with a warning.
As I find out shortly after there is no way for us to disobey the officers orders thanks to me. I’m thinking what a shortcut it would be werving off the Inter Americana and staying on the west side of Lake Managua. Wrong!! I should have seen it coming with the lack of traffic coming towards us. A perfectly good road turns to what looks like well aged Swiss cheese with two foot craters. Not even enough asphalt for the bikes to zig zag through. The oncoming traffic consisted of a total of two dump trucks and a horse on a 50km stretch. With the Bimmer much more agile in this type of environment than the KLR I long lost Alex. After the nightmare was over and I experienced the first bottom out I parked the bike in a small village right at the side of the road and sat myself on the terrace of a small restaurant awaiting Alex. After an hour I start to wonder about Alexes no show but I set off anyway. A few miles down the road I get stopped in the ever so popular spot check and find out that Alex has passed by there about 45 minutes prior. What the? How did he pull off a Hudini like that? Oh well. I set off for Managua, bypass Grenada and set for Rivas and Ometepe. A road traveled many times in the past. A quick stop in Rivas to say hello to some friends and a short lunch with a few Swiss bikers at the beach in front of Ometepe.

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You can’t get lost, nor can you hide in Central America. I run into Alex at about 2pm in a small town near the Costarican border. I have done this crossing numerous times but was not prepared for such bureaucracy. Checking out of Nicaragua was a fair breeze but Costa Rica? A total of 16 copies had to be submitted into 5 different offices. A cycle of never ending forms, stamps, signatures, and taxes. By far the longest crossing totaling a whopping 4 hours. Beat and exhausted we settle for the night in Liberia.

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Beautiful Nicaragua Jan/6/2013

8 Jan

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I showed Alex where I stayed the night before so he comes by before 8am as we would like to cover some distance. The nature is absolutely amazing, but asides from Utila and Roatán, there isn’t much else to explore in Honduras. I don’t dive and have been to dozens of islands in the Caribbean so we are skipping these attractions. By 1:30pm we have the bottom half of this country covered and are at the northern most border with Nicaragua in El Manos. This time the bikes were easier to stamp out than ourselves as immigration just received a new 45 year old apprentice who was just getting his first lesson in IT as well. Nicaragua was smooth. Its amazing how much a smile, few jokes and answering a few questions about the bikes can speed things up.
I have now stimulated all my senses. Not sure why I didn’t listen to my iPod earlier. I’m positive that the BMW research and development team spent countless hours tuning the exhaust to have that deep, smooth, throaty sound reminiscent to the rest of the rest of the BMW family, and listening to it for the past 7000km was great but with the other senses fully satisfied the iPod was a great change. You feel as if in a zone. The whole thing becomes surreal as if in a video game. I noticed that with Skrillex my average speed increases about 10km/h. Not a good thing on a mountain road, so I opted for lighter options such as Grimes, The XX and Crystal Castles.
Finally we get pulled over by traffic cops. It’s caught up to us after all. Not to brag, but we have done a few hundred traffic infractions in each country alone and are over the speed limit 80% of the time. Sometimes it’s impossible with slow moving traffic, overloaded trucks, diesel spewing buses. Sometimes it’s by choice as you just want to twist the throttle on an open road. This one was legit. Going up a hill, there is a truck in the distance moving at about 20km/h. We got the speed so we just zoom by crossing the full lane and yes, the cops are waiting for us on top of the hill. I could not even see them against the setting sun so it takes me another 100 meters after I passed them to come to a full stop. Amazing. All we had to do is explain about the slow moving truck and they let us go. No ticket, no bribe. Really?
We parked it in Estelí. 2 hours north-east of Managua but will not take the Inter American highway tomorrow into Managua but head south west into Volcan Valley into León.

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