Will she hold…leaving La Paz
Graham & Graham were the first English overlanders I’d met since meeting Richard Harwood in Chile back in January. Young Graham (22) had flown his bike into Toronto in April and ridden north to the ice roads before turning south to cross the USA. Old(er) Graham had started in Los Angeles and the pair met in Guatemala, joining forces for the ride through Central America. We stood on the roadside for an hour or so having a good chat, swapping stories and info. At 4000m the sun on the road from La Paz to Lake Titicaca was pretty intense and after so long in the shade of the city I’d forgotten just how quickly my head burnt. After six months without seeing another overlander I was clearly back on the ‘Gringo’ trail; not since leaving Brian & Fie in Thailand in March 2007 had I seen three British number plates together.
After 19 days in La Paz I was not only glad to be on the road again but especially glad to be out in the countryside. The fields were bare but the sky was blue and the air was crisp as I cruised gently towards Copacabana on the shore of Lago Titicaca. Not just the largest in South America but at 3812m, possibly the world’s highest navigable lake. Having lost a lot of oil from the rear suspension, riding Lady P was like riding a giant Pogo Stick. Luckily though good road conditions meant it wasn’t too bad but stopping was proving a little tricky as the slightest movement made her bounce up and down, affecting my toehold on the ground.
As the road crossed the final pass to Copacabana so the view over the town and out across the lake was beautiful. A patchwork of bleached fields led to the lakeshore where the dark blue waters stretched to the horizon to meet the brilliant blue sky. I headed down into town and soon caught up with Kiwi Bryn Jones at the hostel he’d arranged. I’d met Bryn in La Paz whilst searching for parts for Lady P. He’d read one of my postings on the Horizons Unlimited website and sent me a message from the UK to say he was flying into La Paz and could bring anything (small) with him if it would help. Unfortunately I very rarely check the Horizons message box and he’d already left the UK when I read his message (DOH!). We did meet up in La Paz though and decided to ride together as far as Nasca in Peru whereupon he would turn south and I north. Bryn had bought his BMW K100 in Los Angeles last year and ridden it down to La Paz where he’d stored it whilst he returned to work for another 10 months. Having rushed through the southern part of Peru last year he was keen to back track a little and see what he’d missed.
We left the bikes in the hostel and caught the ferry to Isla del Sol where we spent a night in the perfectly located hostel Inca Kala, waited two hours for pizzas in the adjacent hut/restaurant and shared a table with Jan, a young Danish lad who’d recently qualified with a Physics degree having specialized in Cosmology. It was fascinating conversation in which he talked in numbers most of us cannot comprehend but to him were as normal as reading a bus timetable. The following morning we underestimated the effects of the sun, wind and altitude as we walked 4km along the ridgeline to the Inca ruins and returned to the mainland with split lips and burnt faces.
Bryn had been a little on edge as the time to leave Bolivia approached. My temporary import document for Lady P had expired three weeks ago but that was nothing compared to Bryn. He didn’t have one. At the border I’d hoped to get into the Customs office first before Bryn upset them but he was processed through immigration quicker than me and beat me to the office. The customs officer in charge had started ranting at Bryn and was talking about sending him back to the border he’d entered through 10 months previously. I presented my paperwork and held my breath as I was stamped out, the officer either overlooking or failing to notice the expiry date. Meanwhile, Bryn was telling his story to another officer and showing him around his bike. After much negotiating between the three and checking the registration document etc they let him through.
We’d heard stories of ‘Contributions to the Madonna’ being required by the border guards on the Peruvian side so whilst Bryn completed his paperwork I engaged the chief in conversation. He was soon writing down his favorite national dishes and telling me in which regions to find them and it wasn’t long before we were back outside without the word ‘contribution’ being mentioned. Outside the shop opposite, two local couples in their 60’s were sat at a table having a few beers and it wasn’t long before they’d insisted we join them. The brother of one of the men lived above the shop and they’d all come to visit. They spoke no English so conversation was slow and every understanding celebrated by more beer and a toast and soon an hour had disappeared. A young Peruvian lad who spoke good English joined us at the table and filled in all the gaps. It had been a good start to Peru and we rode on full of good feelings.
En-route to Cusco we spent a couple of nights in Puno inorder to visit the ‘floating islands’ on the Uros. In a very basic description, the islands are essentially clumps of floating reeds tied together to make ‘islands’ upon which the people of the Uros live. Tourism now supports (but can’t replace) their economy which comes mainly from hunting and fishing on the lake (Titicaca).
Hostel Estrellita in Cusco had been recommended by Carlos, Monica and Richard and with good reason. They were ready with a sturdy ramp to ride the bikes down the three steps into the huge courtyard, breakfast was great value and we were only a few minutes’ walk from the centre. Bryn said my brakelight wasn’t working but investigation showed the inside of the lens and the bulb to be covered in a thick coating of dust.
We visited a few museums in town including the Museum of pre-Colombian Art. An excellent collection of artifacts but all the descriptions seemed to have been written by a ‘modern’ artist describing their piece for exhibition at the Tate Gallery. I’ve never read such bullshit. Plenty of English words I didn’t understand along with many sentences whose words I did understand but whose meaning I didn’t. The last time I had read English like this was entering Syria from Turkey with Danny where a huge board had instructions written in English words but constructed into sentences that neither of us could fathom. On the corner of the ubiquitous Plaza de Armas we had lunch in the Norton Café, full of motorcycling memorabilia and photographs.
A visit to Machu Picchu is the main reason most people come to Cusco but without spending a ridiculous sum of money on a guided trip involved 120km or so of dirt road, something I wasn’t prepared to do whilst riding Lady P with her temporarily repaired rear suspension. It will have to wait until I return.
The 600km ride from Cusco to Nasca has been touted as one of the best routes in South America and we weren’t disappointed. It took us two days to cross four 4000m+ peaks and descend to 1800m in between. (If anyone can explain how I can display the ‘profile’ from my Garmin GPS on this site I’d be grateful)
We rode alongside the Apurimac River, famous the world over for its white water rafting, through terraced valleys and across vast treeless plains to the worlds’ highest sand dune (2070m) on the outskirts of Nasca.
We cruised along taking in the scenery and stopping often for drinks and for Bryn to do some filming and despite taking two days for the ride we still rolled into Nasca late afternoon. As we did, so we were met by a couple of hotel touts, something I don’t recall seeing since Turkey. We followed them to a hotel on the Plaza where we were offered a rather nice room for a third of the published price along with parking for our bikes in the lobby. There was already a BMW 1150 Adventure in the lobby so it was going to be a tight fit.
As we squeezed the bikes through the doorway so we met Mike, the owner of the BMW. Having sold his Chiropractor business in Washington State, Mike was heading south on the first leg of his world tour. He’d found Robert Wicks’ book Adventure Motorcycling (see sidebar link)quite inspirational during his research and so, he said, it was rather surreal to see me walk through the door. The three of us had a very sociable time over the next two evenings with a few beers and good steak.
My main reason for going to Nasca was to see the famous Nasca Lines. Best viewed from the air I took a short flight to do just that and being a single traveler I got the co-pilots seat. I was OK until I started looking through my cameras viewfinder to take some photos whereupon I felt quite sick. The pilot circles each geoglyph both clockwise and anti-clockwise so that everyone gets a good view and he does so with the aircraft banked over at maximum lean so you’re looking virtually straight down. I was glad I went but also glad to return. It doesn’t bode well for visiting my friend Ian Longstaff who is now competing in aerobatic competitions and is insistent on taking me up the next time I visit. I think I’ll have to strap my sick bag on nosebag style.
From Nasca the three of us went separate directions. Mike headed for Cusco along the route Bryn and I had travelled, Bryn headed south to Arequipa and I headed north to the coastal town of Pisco where I would hang out for a few days before entering Lima.
The day after my 40th birthday, 595 people died and 90% of Pisco was destroyed in an earthquake that measured 8.0 on the Richter scale. At least that’s what the International community said. The Peruvian government, so I was told, had declared it 7.9 ensuring it failed to meet the 8.0 requirement to receive government aid. The townsfolk were left to themselves.
The fault line ran right under the Plaza de Armas, alongside the government building and under the San Clemente Cathedral which was holding mass at the time. Whilst the government building remained intact, the Cathedral collapsed killing everyone bar the priest.
I found a very pleasant hostel a few km’s south of the city in Paracas and spent a couple of days taking it easy before heading into Lima.
The Early Retirement of Lady P
Whilst the engine (with the exception of the waterpump of which I’ve replaced 4) has been extremely reliable (apart from the cold starting) the chassis has been another story. The headlight has been held in with zip ties for 3 years + (all the mountings having vibrated themselves to bits), I’ve replaced 4 sets of steering head bearings, 6 fork seals, 7 engine cradle bolts, 4 sets link arm bearings (and the current set are seized), 1 pair of link arms, 1 set linkage bearings (and the current set are seized), 2 Ohlins suspension complete failures and 5 batteries. All that despite stripping cleaning and greasing with waterproof grease on several occasions. Had I been paying dealers to do my repairs I would have spent more repairing the bike than I did buying it.
I could’ve decided to repair Lady P properly and continue my journey to Alaska on paved highways and gentle gravel roads – but that’s not the kind of journey I want. I like to get off the beaten track, cross the mountains via the less travelled passes, camp in the bush, meet people who vary rarely encounter foreigners. To me that is the whole point of having my own transport.
It took a lot of thinking about but I finally decided to replace Lady P and replace her with a Suzuki DR650 (see Suzuki tab for why). After discussing the idea with my sister and old friend Ian Barr in Massachusetts I came up with the following plan: To ship Lady P back to Europe, fly to the USA, buy a used DR650 and ride it to Ian’s in Massachusetts where I would spend three weeks doing as much preparation work as I could before flying to Europe to collect Lady P. I would return to Ian’s at the end of January, finish preparing the DR and return to SA to pick up where I started missing places due to Lady P’s problems. (See Suzuki tab for DR build)
I rode into Lima early on a Sunday afternoon (the best time to enter any SA city) and soon found my way to Hostel Espańa as recommended by Maarten Munnik. A beautiful old colonial building that appeared as much stately home as it did hostel and is located just a few blocks away from the Plaza de Armas and many beautiful buildings. Being September though I’d arrived right in the middle of the Garua, a thick cloud/fog that covers the city from June to November.
I was in Lima to find a shipping agent for Lady P and doing so proved somewhat of a mission. In fact in turned out to be the worst shipping experience of the trip to date. Prior to my arrival in the city I’d been in touch with Shenker, a large shipping company recommended by Thierry (Switzerland F650). Despite several emails being exchanged it still took another three days and a visit to their office before they came back to me with a quote. I nearly fell off my chair when they did; at U$4500 it was three times what I’d paid from Singapore – a journey of double the distance.
I posted a request for information on the HUBB and received a reply from a very helpful Peruvian now residing in California. He said his brother still lived in Lima and had a friend who worked in a shipping agent. I contacted the friend and set into motion the process of obtaining a quote. His initial response was U$550 + Crating + Bill of Lading + Customs fees. That all sounded good and I guesstimated a final bill of U$800-900. WRONG! The stumbling block seemed to be crating and it took two days plus the weekend before I got a final quote – U$2100!! Better than the Shenker quote but still way more than I was prepared to pay. A look at his breakdown of cost showed U$200+ union fees and I began to wonder if Lima was just a particularly expensive port and set about making enquires up and down the coast as far south as Santiago in Chile to Quito in Ecuador.
Whilst awaiting replies I started looking through the phone book in the lobby when a taxi driver asked what I was looking for. Once I’d explained he took me to see a friend of his in the building next door who was a travel agent. I immediately thought the taxi driver hadn’t fully understood what I meant but it turned out the travel agent – Enrique – had contacts in the shipping world and within 24hrs had a quote for U$1215 which I naturally accepted.
Two days later I followed Enrique across the city to the shipping agents premises to deliver Lady P. Unfortunately the agent didn’t speak a word of English and whilst I can get by in Spanish on a daily basis, the technicalities of arranging a shipment were way beyond me and I was reliant on Enrique to translate though he was struggling to translate the technicalities also. It was agreed that Enrique and I would return in the morning to complete the paperwork and for me to disconnect the battery, drain the fuel and supervise the packaging.
When we arrived the following morning I was horrified to discover Lady P already packed and it seemed I threw the whole deal into question when I insisted she was unpacked sufficiently for me to disconnect the battery and pack a few extra things. I’d also given crate dimensions that involved removing the front wheel, mudguard and mirrors which they clearly hadn’t been able to do. I was incredulous when told I wouldn’t be able to pack Lady P like that as the shipment would be classified differently (spare parts) and become much more complicated!!
With the battery disconnected we set about the paperwork. This in itself was like nothing I’d experienced in other countries. All the SA countries I’ve travelled through so far use a ‘Notaria’, similar to a solicitor/lawyer just a little bit down the scale (so it appeared). They are used – amongst other things – to authenticate documents, give certain permissions etc. In my case my temporary import document, vehicle ownership document and written agreement with the shipping agent were checked against me and my passport; photocopied, stamped and signed with copies given to me and the agent.
Later that afternoon the agent appeared in my hostel looking rather stressed and insisting we go to the nearest Notaria. It transpired that the Customs office had refused to allow the agent to deal with my temporary import document on my behalf without having permission in writing and authenticated by a Notaria. As a result we sat in another Notarias office for another hour.
During this frustrating eleven days I was kept sane by a few good people in my hostel. Ian, who Id spent time with in Salta and Sucre arrived as did Christian, an American cycling home from Ushuaia and finally Australian Warren. We soon found a cracking lunchtime restaurant near the hostel that served the national dish Ceviche, raw fish marinated in lime or lemon juice and absolutely delicious. A few blocks from there a local baker served great apple pie and a lemon (meringue) pie to die for (5” thick!). A slice of either along with a coffee was less than a quid. Good for the budget – bad for the waistline.
My other task was to track down a suitable Suzuki DR650 for sale in the USA. I found three potentials online, the first of which sold very quickly. The second was a mere 2hr drive from my friends place near Boston and being already suitably modified was looking good but by the time the owner replied to my email it was sold. That left one in Salt Lake City, Utah. My first contact with the owner didn’t go well as he miss-interpreted my initial email and perceived a scam. Once I’d proved my identity and Ian (yes, another one) became very helpful. Working as an aircraft technician for Delta Airlines, not only was the bike properly looked after but he also got me a ‘Buddy Pass’ for my flight from Lima to Salt Lake City. It was the first time in my life I’d got on a plane and turned left (Business Class) and the first time I’d ever wished the flight longer than it was. “Would you like the wine menu sir?”, “Would you like waking for breakfast sir?” After supper I pushed the ‘sleep’ button on the automated chair and stretched out fully under the down duvet. I could learn to put up with that. J
The joy didn’t last long though. My Buddy Pass meant travelling standby and I was soon moving from gate to gate as I was repeatedly bumped from the list in Atlanta airport. Having arrived at 0800 I eventually left at 1820 on the 5th of 6th daily flights and was met by man mountain Ian in SLC. He took me to the cheapest Motel in town ( Motel 8 ) but at U$50 it was way out of my budget but I had to suck it up for the night. I bought an internet card and soon found a hostel in the city for U$15. That would be where I would head if I agreed to buy Ian’s bike. Ian picked me up and took me for breakfast before we headed over to his house. With four children the garage was pretty full of bikes and motorbikes for all ages. Amongst everything was the DR, every bit as tidy as Ian’s photo’s suggested, 2006 model, 2402miles on the clock and still wearing its original tyres. After a successful inspection and test ride we agreed a price and set about the paperwork.
I had intended to register the DR using my friends address near Boston but a complication that nobody could explain a way around prevented me from doing so. Utah State requires the vendor to remove the license plate(s) (registration plate) at the time of sale. The buyer then applies for a new one, a process which is completed whilst you wait if you attend a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Office. DMV’s only register vehicles in their own state so in order for a resident of another state to buy a vehicle they provide a ‘Temporary Tag’ valid for 96hrs. However, Massachusetts don’t allow a vehicle to enter their state on a Temporary Tag!
Luckily for me Ian came to the rescue and said I could keep the bike registered at his address and also use it for arranging insurance, which I did very quickly online. Ian was good to his word and forwarded the insurance papers to me in Massachusetts.
The only downside to the whole process was that it was Saturday and as an attempt at cost reduction the DMV’s opening hours had been changed to 0700-1800 Mon-Thurs which meant staying in SLC until Monday.
I arrived at the office just after opening on Monday morning and within 20 minutes was bolting a new license plate onto the DR.
Golden Arches Tour
No, not Canyonlands…McDonalds!! I became increasingly colder as climbed I-80 away from Salt Lake City. The DR had neither a screen for wind protection, heated grips, nor a power socket to plug in my heated vest and despite handlebar muffs and two pairs of gloves I couldn’t feel my fingers. As I crested the pass approaching Park City so the three lane interstate was reduced to one as snow covered the outer two. I was planning on taking US-40 across the mountains to Denver to visit Lora Felger whom I’d met in Chile back in February but the weather had other ideas. With snow settling on the Interstate there was no way I could risk a ride through the mountains – I needed an alternative route.
I pulled into McDonalds at Park City to warm up with a coffee, check my map and add a few layers of clothing. Being unable to turn off the engine brought home just how cold it was (the key was frozen in the ignition switch). I hit the kill switch before realizing the lights were still on and so had to park in the sun for 10 minutes before I could remove the key. I approached the counter bright red from the temperature change and with snot dripping from my nose I asked for a Café Latte only to be asked “Do you want that iced or hot?”!!! I think the position of my eyebrows gave away my answer before I could speak. There was, afterall, 5cm of snow on the ground and I was riding a motorcycle!
With my coffee drunk and a few more layers of clothing added I hit the road once more. To keep out of the mountains I followed I-80 due east through southern Wyoming to Cheyenne and I-25 south to Denver. Again the weather decided it was going to have some fun with me and it wasn’t long before I rode into the first of two snow storms. As the snowfall increased so my speed decreased and the intensity at which I wiped my visor clear increased. Eventually the snow on my visor was freezing on faster than I could wipe it off and I was forced to pull onto the shoulder. I put on my safety glasses that I keep for emergency use in the rain and dark and set off along the shoulder at 50km/h with the gap between glasses and helmet giving me the biggest dose of ‘ice cream head’ I’ve ever had. As I rode along I recalled the weather forecast I’d seen the previous day which said “showers”! I’d had better ideas.
I rode like this for some 30km or so before moving into some brighter, though windier weather as I entered Wyoming. A call of nature led to a roadside stop and my first incident on the DR. As you can see in the photo, Ian is a big fellow and whilst the 50mm taller than stock seat and extra stiff suspension suited him perfectly they made my life somewhat awkward. At traffic lights I would try to stop at the roadside and put a foot on the kerb but when that wasn’t possible I had to slide off the edge of the seat whereupon I could just about get a big toe on the ground. As I came to a halt I slid off the seat to the left and just touched the floor as a gust of wind blew from the left, blowing me over and snapping off the r/h rear footrest. Bollocks. I thought I’d wait a few minutes before unloading the bike to pick it up in the hope that someone would stop to offer a hand. Sure enough a monster sized 4×4 pulled over and the driver got out to help. After checking I was OK he quickly helped me with the bike and was on his way. He didn’t ask what had happened but I could see him glance at the road that was dead straight as far as you could see in either direction. I felt a complete knob.
Another snow storm came and went but fortunately wasn’t as bad as the first. It was still cold though. An ambient temperature of 3°C meant the windchill at 100km/h was about -12°C and despite good clothing the cold gradually crept in as I sat in it hour after hour. After one final stop for a warming coffee at Ronnies (McDonalds) where I-80 met I-25 I turned south to Denver and rolled into Lora’s just after dark.
Lora was flying down to Chile the following day en-route to Antartica for her annual 3 month visit – hence the need to ride to Denver in one day. She and Ron were great company and the evening soon raced by. Lora has become a BIG motorcycle racing fan and attended both US Moto GP’s and the WSB in 2009. I could have stayed at Lora’s place once she’d left but staying with Ron was a far more sociable option and the DR was at home in his garage with his immaculate BMW R80 GS, 2 Cagiva Elephants and a Norton Commando(?).
The big push east
Doing my best to avoid the Interstate I picked up US-36 and rode due east. Kansas was defined by mile after mile of undulating farmland. Farmland meant fences and fences meant limited (ie none) bush camping and so I opted to ride on after dark (to avoid being seen) then pitch my tent in a roadside rest stop somewhere NW of Kansa City. Thanks to Ron who’d leant me his camping stove I was able to brew some coffee and cook supper and being 80m or so from the surprisingly quiet rode I had a good nights sleep. I had my tent paced before sunrise and was riding soon after. Within an hour it had started raining and so it was to be for the next 2.5 days. Yep, you read that right, it rained non-stop for 2.5 days, 2500km across half of Kansas, all of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. In fact it didn’t stop raining until close to the Pennsylvania/New York border. Despite wearing a waterproof over my BMW jacket (which has a Goretex liner) I was still wet in a few places by the days end – the lack of a screen was driving the water through my riding gear and the thought of camping really had no appeal. Motels were expensive but I calculated that by riding for a few hours after dark and leaving again before sunrise I could get to my destination near Boston in three days. For U$60 Motel 8 provided a large room with an air-con/heater unit, a bath and a help yourself breakfast so with the heater set to MAX and the room looking like a Chinese laundry I took a long soak in the tub. Despite being wrapped in bin bags most of my kit was damp and I had to get up really early to re pack it all before hitting the road at dawn.
Once again it was Ronnies that kept me going; space to spread out my wet riding gear, a clear view of my bike and good coffee. At one such stop I peeled off three layers of clothing, two pairs of gloves, balaclava and facemask. It was still pissing down outside and as I approached the counter my boots squelched and oozed water. After placing my order I was asked “Is that to eat in or to go?” and I wondered whether the staff were trained or programmed.
Much of the countryside passed me by in a blur of spray from other vehicles but even that couldn’t hide the beauty that was autumn (Fall) in Pennsylvania, where the sheer variety of colours really did resemble an artist’s palette. Once I’d finally ridden out of the rain I should’ve stopped to take some photos but I was pushing my luck to make it to Milford, MA by dark so kept riding.
Ian Barr and I had been friends since 1993 when we’d met whilst working for Stannah Stairlifts in the UK and this was my third visit since he’d emigrated back in 1996. Ian has led a somewhat colourful life that has brought him a long way from Hull to here in MA where he lives with his wife Joanne, her daughter Nicole and a most beautiful, friendly, intelligent Golden Retriever – Ashley.
“Our home is your home – I’ve even cleared the garage out for you to work in”. I couldn’t have hoped for a warmer welcome and was soon in the thick of the banter the Barr household is built on. Halloween was the big event during my stay and I soon found myself sitting on the kitchen floor carving pumpkins with Nicole and the neighbors kids.
Three weeks flashed by in a blur of tracking down parts for the DR, replacing my worn-out tent and other camping kit etc. Ian knew where to source most raw materials but some things (like thin-walled steel tube) took some finding. Ian had me added to the insurance for the ‘Beast’, his old Ford pick-up which was a huge help and enabled me to go in search of tools/parts/materials etc. I won’t go into details about building the DR here but will change the tab ‘Bikes’ to ‘BMW’ and add another – ‘Suzuki’.
Joanne’s cooking and a regular supply of bagels and muffins along with a huge box of candy left over from Halloween helped me add a few pounds just when I least needed it – the run up to Christmas. I justified (or at least tried to) my over indulgence by reasoning that goodies like this were hard to find in South America and it was ok to fill my boots while they were available.
On November 9th I flew into Hamburg and two days later collected Lady P from the shipping agents warehouse. Having been told the earliest I could collect Lady P was the following day I visited the warehouse to arrange a customs inspection. I was surprised to be told that it was indeed the last day I could collect her and that if I returned tomorrow it would cost me another 45euros in storage fees. Having already paid 200euroes in port duties/handling fees etc I took delivery of Lady P there and then. The office staff were very helpful but the guys in the warehouse weren’t. In Thailand, Indonesia and Chile the warehouse workers fell over themselves to help uncrate my bike but here they wouldn’t even lend me a crowbar. I raced back to the train station, crossed the city and walked back to my hostel where I collected my tools, riding jacket and helmet before retracing my route back to the warehouse. I’d been told they were open until 1800 but as my German is virtually non-existent I may have got it wrong. I returned to find the warehouse in darkness and the main gates locked but with a few lights still glowing in the offices I walked to another entrance and managed to return to my bike where I’d left her in her crate under a spot light. Using a few pieces of timber from the skip I managed to pries open the crate and get her out by myself. After re-connecting the battery she fired-up first time and I set about re-fitting the seat, rack etc as quickly as possible whilst keeping one eye on the shrinking line of cars in the car park.
On the way back to my hostel I stopped for fuel and got the biggest shock I’d had in a long time. 50 euros for a tank full of petrol!!!!!!
Friends from the road
Riding from Hamburg to my sister’s in Jersey was something I’d never planned on doing but it was a great opportunity to visit some very special people I’d met along the way. Those of you who have been reading from the beginning will remember Brian & Fie (R1150GS Adventure) that Danny and I met in India, Cambodia and Thailand back in 2006/7 and so I took a detour to visit them and their 15 month old son Vincent in their ‘new ‘ home north of Copenhagen.
Leaving Copenhagen behind me I crossed the second suspension bridge to return to mainland Denmark and began looking for fuel – too late. On my way into the country I ran the main fuel tank dry (as I often do) and turned on the auxiliary tanks whilst still moving, only this time the engine didn’t re start. It took me a few seconds to realize I hadn’t re-connected them at the warehouse (they had to be drained for shipping) and by the time I managed to stop on the hard shoulder (I was of course passing an entry slip road when I ran out) I had lost a fair amount of fuel. During my stay with Brian & Fie I’d forgotten all about this episode and combined with the strong headwind my fuel calculations were way off.
I was, of course, miles from anywhere when I ran out but hoped the ⅓ltr I’d drained from my stove would get me off the motorway and into a fuel station – it didn’t. I could only push Lady P for 100m or so at a time as the combination of Goretex socks and Cold Killer long johns inside my boots wouldn’t allow my calf muscles to expand as they needed and they just seized up. A minute or so rest and I could push for another 100m or so. After 1.5km I was beginning to wonder if anyone would stop when a purple Golf Cabriolet with English licence plates pulled up behind me. David gave me the contents of his spare can and suggested we pull off the motorway for a chat. At the next exit we did just that and he asked how far I was planning to ride as there had been a severe weather warning on the radio, the road south was already blocked and the bridges I’d just crossed were set to be closed. When I told him I was heading to Holland he offered me a place to stay at his place, ½hr drive away.
I accepted and followed him back to his house where his garden contained three cars, a van and five motorcycles. After changing out of my riding gear and hanging it all up to dry we headed into town for some lunch. It turns out David had lived in Denmark for 23 years and was a University lecturer. I also learnt that he wrote for a Danish 250cc European Championship road racing team. Having myself raced motorcycles in the British Championship from 1988 to 1997 we soon realized we knew many of the same people and so the memories flowed. After lunch we drove to his girlfriends house where I enjoyed more Danish hospitality and a hearty evening meal.
Whilst at Davids I picked up a copy of ‘Bike ‘ magazine and flicked through it to find an article of a competition winner riding Barry Sheene’s 1976 world championship winning Suzuki. The winner had won a competition to find Britain’s Ultimate Biker and included competing in Motocross, Road Racing and on-road navigation amongst other skills and the winner turned out to be none other than Will Sawyer, a friend from home who I’d teamed up for the Dawn 2 Dusk 12hr enduro back in 2004. Nice 1 Will!
David had been a real Samaritan and epitomized the notion of travelers looking after fellow travelers that I’d discovered the world over. Another bad day turned good.
The morning dawned drier and brighter and I hit the road in time to get me to The Nederlands in daylight.
Next stop was close to Assen in the north of The Netherlands where I visited Steven & Marlouse, the cyclists we met in Malaysia and Sydney. Having spent 4 years cycling from Holland to Kathmandu, Shanghai to Sydney, New Zealand and India they returned to Europe and cycled home to announce they are expecting their first child in February.
It was a similar story for Maarten & Ilse (Africa Twin) whom we first met whilst staying in a houseboat on Nigin Lake in Kashmir. We spent plenty more time together in Thailand and Malaysia before going our separate ways – Danny and I to New Zealand and Maarten & Ilse to Italy for a slow ride back to Holland where, after two years, two months, two weeks and two days they announced they were no longer just a ‘twosome’ as Ilse was pregnant with their first child – the delightful Lilou.
Finally, I paid my first visit to Luxembourg to visit René (Africa Twin) who I’d met in Puerto Natales, Chile back in January on the day I also met Darren (Australia) and Thierry (Switzerland) both riding F650’s.
It was great to spend some time with all of them – their company as easy as I’d remembered.
Luxembourg to St.Malo was the longest leg of my ride to my sister’s. I wasn’t actually booked on the ferry until the following evening but severe weather had recently caused cancellations and was set to do so again the following day. I kept my head down for the 800km ride and was glad of the first decent weather since arriving in Europe. Having had just a quick snack en-route I rolled into St.Malo with enough time to visit the supermarket and strap as much Hoegarden and Leffe beer to my bike as possible before boarding the ferry for the one hour crossing.
Lady P…a Final Word…
My 2004 BMW F650 had carried me 133725km (83095miles) through 37 countries across four continents over the past 3yrs 9mths. Her Odometer reading is 141581km (87977miles). She’s carried me through deserts, along beaches, across rivers and over mountains in temperatures from -10°C to +48°C. Not once has she left me stranded at the roadside. Only time will tell as to whether I’ve made the right decision to replace her.
I cannot leave my ‘BMW Years’ behind without saying two thank you’s. Firstly to Tony Jakeman at BMW Motorrad UK who supported Danny and I from the beginning and provided our Rallye II riding suits which I will continue to wear. And secondly to Dean Buck of BMW Battersea. Dean started his career in the motorcycle industry by polishing bikes my local dealership whilst still at school. From apprentice mechanic to workshop manager Deans attention to detail has made him my first (and last) point of contact whenever trying to resolve a problem with Lady P. Unluckily for Dean (but luckily for me) he cut his teeth in a multi-franchise dealer and so just because I’m no longer riding a BMW doesn’t mean I won’t be emailing Dean when I’m stuck! – Thanks a lot guys.
Christmas and beyond…
Coming to Jersey wasn’t just about retiring Lady P but about spending Christmas with my sister Michele and her partner Paul. Shell and I have always spent Christmas together and in recent years she has visited me in Thailand and Australia. That’s all about to change as she is currently 6 months pregnant (first time) and therefore can’t fly.
I have a return ticket to Boston at the end of January whereupon I will finish preparing the DR and return to my journey. My heart wants to return to South America asap but early enquiries into the weather/seasons suggests I may be better to ride to Alaska this summer and return to South America afterwards. Another factor in re-commencing my journey will be the weather in the NE USA. When I told Ian and Joanne of my plan to leave them mid-February they just laughed and said I wouldn’t be going anywhere by motorcycle at that time of year. “Why not”? I asked… “…eeerrrr…..snow…. I’d completely overlooked that. So, until the snow melts…
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Chapter 20 photos in Boliva PtII and Peru