While i'm getting my life back together, please look at a fine selection of my photos:

Monday, September 21, 2009

Bolivia - Careterra del Muerte!!

My route so far: La Paz - Coroico (Death Road!!) - La Paz - Cochabamba.

La Paz. Spend way to much time there. Despite the the traffic congestions, polution, cold nights and hot days, i liked it. Met a bunch of expats who lived and worked there. For me it's interesting to talk to those people about their life. Maybe to help me decide weather or not to emigrate. And to where.

The "Deathroad" trip was quite interesting. I met my buddy Graham in La Paz and we did the road together. We shot some great footage with his videocamera(s). Hope i can upload that to youtube soon.

Here he is, at the toll booth on routa 3 with his totally reliable F650 Dakar (after 60kkm).

The first 50km winding roads on good tarmac with the occasional unexpected bit of gravel to keep you awake...this kind of scenery.

And this.

This stretch, on 4500 about altitute really, really reduces the few horsepower i have to almost none. Next time i take a bike with fuel injection. they suffer less.

Although... For example, a F650Dakar has starting problems on altitude. My TTR has not. FI engines compensate for lean air and use less fuel whereas a carburated engines just throws too much fuel in. It seems.

Just one more then...

El Careterra del Muerte! A 50 km narrow unpaved road with steep drop-offs and great scenery. If the weather is good....which wasn't.

Since the new road is in place there's hardly any traffic except from mountainbike touring groups, which, in particular are dangerous when you go back up i noticed... Almost run in to one of those guys.

The golden rule that you go where you look at sure is applicable here, so as long as you look ahead instead of left or right, there's nothing to worry about. Sort of. Despite all that, it do think this road is actually the safest in Bolivia. Mainly due to absence of other traffic. Man those Bolivians really can't drive! So far i could relate to some extend to the lack of traffic sence i encountered so far, in Bolivia they really pushing the envelope.  So yes, i do tend to hit mirrors these days if a dumb-ass taxidriver pulls up in front of me. I keep my music on in cities to ignore the useless honking. And pretend not to see other cars when manouvring through city traffic. In short, i behave like a local. With the big difference that i am  consious of what i'm doing. Usually. I like to believe. Some days i really look forward to be back in the overly regulated traffic in Holland with lines, lights, speeding cameras and in general intelligent traffic behavior. Anyway.

I was quite happy with my new MT21's, but less happy i took all my gear.  This road is more fun with less luggage, definetly.

Oh, the last few km to coroico is paved with cobblestone. Way worse than the unpaved part, actually.

The death road ends in Coroico, a pleasant village where time stands still and the concept of customer service is not yet common. (Imagine this. You go to a restaurant. You wait. Finally you get the menu. You look at the menu. You ask for food. Guys says there isn't any. And that we should go to the neighber....WTF!?!).

It seems that tourism here came to a halt since the new road opened, allowing touragencies to make the trip without spending a night in Coroico. Pitty. But also, the locals don't do much to market the place for weekend tourism from La Paz. I found some nice chilled out hostels, good food so you can easily spend a few days hanging about. Which i did. And there's some great trairiding to be done in the surrounding hills.

Made it back to the pavement without a scratch!

I write this post party from a Paris style Café at the corner Plaza 16 Sieptembre, with really excellent coffee (best so far in weeks).  Cochabamba is great. I am forced to hang around here for a day or two. I hit a rock on the road with my right foot and despite the fairly good boots i wear my big too is all swollen up. Limping around Cochabamba i found several cool places in this fairly big regional city with a great historical colonial center. I finished this post in Café Casablanca, nice bohhemian vibe. Slightly off the beaten track this city is not spoiled by tourists. It has a great climate and is economical well developt, resulting in an interesting mix of traditional and modern Bolivian culture. One can observe an indigenous girl breast feed her child in public while modern SUV's and hip and trendy youngsters passing by. As a 'gringo' you still stand out in the crowd. I like these cities. Not much to do touristwise, but more authentic than metro-poles like La Paz, Lima etc. (what is authentic?) And it's still cheap! And there's always an protest march or two a day to inform you about current problems in this country. After Colombia Bolivia is the next South American country which gets to me. It's diversity: 1/3th is Andes highlands, 2/3 is (semi)tropical lowlands. And the lowlands want to separate from the highlands. A bit more serious than the separation in Belgium though. For me a big supprise, i did associate Bolivia with Andes highlands only. This country should be very rich and developed based on their natural resources, but for years it's ruthlessly exploited by corrupt local government and western companies and (equally corrupt??) western governments. Lots of money goes out of the country to foreighners owning companies, or rich Bolivian families living abroad. I cannot do otherwise than sympathize with the current political direction. People are fed up with the exploitation. Hope they won't go the same radical direction as Venezuele though.

All Bolivia picture can be seen here.

Next route: Go to Sucre, then Potosi and finally Uyuni for the famous salt flats!


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Peru - Lima to Bolivia - Copacabana

Lima. Is there any reason to be there? I almost didn't found it if i wasn't for Juan, brother of my friend Ansreas' wife.
One night he took me around town and my conclusion is: the only beautiful part is Baranco. Oh, And maybe the beach area.

From Lima i took the fast road to Arequipa, Puno, Copacabana and La Paz. Not eventful. I've been to this part of Peru in 2006 and thus seen all the cool stuff. These pictures are here.

Meet the Grahams. Met these guys in Lima. Graham Jr. 22 years old, old DR650, did the trans-america trail and decided to continue through central and south america. Good decision! He met Graham Sr. 60 years old on his DRZ400 in Granada, Guatamala  (i think) and drove down from there in 2 months (fast!). Weird, in total i know three Grahams from the UK traveling on a bike, and one Graham on a bicycle. Anyway, we drove together till Ica. Where the DR650 started  pissing oil from the primary drive shaft seal. I convinced them to try to fix it here at the oasis just outside Ica. Knowing from my previous trip in Peru that Ica is a dunebuggy center. These buggies brake down frequently , so lots of repairshops and mechanics around, and therefore parts. This assumption turned out to be correct. Luckily.

The Panam through Peru is long and boring. Although for me the boring part wasn't that bad. Good roads, little traffic, cool views.

Not too bad if you want to cover distance fast. You have to actually, because there's not much to do between the regular tourist places, which are far apart.

Plaza del Armas, Arequipa. Beautiful city, so far the best in Peru i guess. I spend a few days enjoing Arequipa and one of it's exquisite female inhabitants. Te amo Pilar! Fue un placer conocerte!

Met the 3th Graham on a bike in Café Las Brujas (the wiches) by coincidence. Talking with a peruvian novelista this Graham walked in. Last time i saw him was long long long ago on Vancouver Island. We sort of keep the same pace, but managed to avoid each other till now. 

It was fun cathing up with him. He's hilarious. I strongly suggest to check out his website.  And read why you shouldn't go with a BMW...

The fast lane to Bolivia. Desert scenery starts wearing off actually.

Lago Titicaca. Really impressive.

It's a big pond... 204x65km!!


From Puno the closest bordercrossing is at Yunguyo. Again a pleasant noneventful exercise. After the official  immigration and douana formalities i was pointed to an office with some military guys. A guy wrote my name and vehicle info in a book and asked me for a voluntary contribution! Huh?  No way José. It's voluntairy right?! Bienvenidos a Bolivia. Poor guy, he asked it sort of embarrassed actually, probably his commandante ordered to do so. And he came after me when i was about to leave................handing me a flyer of a nice hotel in Copcabana. Friendly folks.

I didn't change money at the border (forgot, again, check the exchange rate) and did so at a restaurant in Copacabana, the first Bolivian town after this border.  After a lot of hard barganing i got a good enough price for my leftover Peruvian Pesos at a restaurant. But... the guy tried to fool me by giving 5 Bolivianos less than agreed. Bienvenidos a Bolivia II. My first hour in Bolivia didn't gave me a good first impression. Hope this changes...

Copacabana beach. The one real beach town in Bolivia since they lost the war with Chile in the war of the pacific (GUERRA DEL PACÍFICO - 1879-83) loosing the current part of Chile between 23th and 26th parallel. If your interested: read it all here.

Copacabana is a fun place to hang out. Nice bars and restaurants, Sunny, Pretty views and relatively inexpensive.

David from Santiago, Chili, and his 1983-ish Landrover. Traveling around Chili, Argentina and Peru. Nice guy, very knowledgeable about Bolivia.

Interesting: he personaly transplanted an Hyunday diesel engine in his Landrover. Took him a year to figure it all out.

Remarcable. David and his friend drew a map of Salar de Uyuni. At first i thought the altitude messed with my head, the map they drew didn't resamble the one in my head. Turned out that on this hemisphere people use south as being 'up'!!! Make sense south-pole is closer for these guys. Something to keep in mind... Hope left and right is the still the same though.

I write this post from La Paz, the busy high altitude capital of Bolivia. Mainly for bike maintainance and waiting  for a package to arrive from Holland. The last few days i run in to some interesting people and places which makes it easy to spend time here.
From what i heard from people around here, shipping a packagefrom europe can take 3 weeks easily. The bike part is dealt with, and right know i'm trying to draw up a plan for Bolivia and the last (long) stretch to Chile. Money's running out, and still got at least 4 months to go. Seems long but in my mind i have the feeling it's "already" coming to an end, stupid isn't it?

Anyway. Tomorrow it's time to do THE DEATH ROAD! The main attraction around here, it seems noticing the 100's of advertisements of mountainbike rental shops. I figured that its better to not have to deal with them on this road and decided to to leave after the mountainbike rush and go in the same direction.

Will post a message when i'm back. I met Graham III today and we'll do the trip together. He's got a video camera, so expect to see some footage of me plodding around this road soon.

Civilisation sure comes to an end around here if you take internet bandwidth as a measure, it's a struggle to upload pics. So there's not much of Bolivia on my site yet.

But all pictures of Peru can be seen here


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Peru - Border to Lima.

Peru is definetly different. Desert, empty, large distances. I had to get used to that. This harsh, brutal environment has its charm though. It definitely gives me a more adventurous ''just me and my bike in the middle of nowhere feeling". After 15 months being on the bike enjoying this feeling still makes me feel very, very happy. Luckily it's a cold desert environment, and not as in Mexico, a bloody hot one. Less tiring. But, as said, the long distances between cool places means long riding days.

I entered Peru at the Macará bordertown. Quit and easy passing. From there to Piura, Trujiillo and Huanchaco, Huaraz and now Lima. Covert a lot of miles. I don't intent to stay long in Peru, and my rout will be the shortest from Lima, Arequipa, Puno and La Paz, Bolivia. Enjoy the pictures!

First thing i saw enterering Peru heading to Piura, the first big city after the border. Deja-vúe? Looks pretty similar to what i saw when i entered Ecuador. Piura is friendly and has lots of cheap hostels, but has little of offer to tourists.

Piura to Trujillo. Did i mention desert?? Heavy cold sidewinds from the ocean. No fun. Max. 80 km/h in fourth gear. Too much noise to enjoy music on my ipod. Almost crashed overtaking a truck, because the sudden wind right after i passed the truck almost blow me and the bike away. Scary! Woke me up though.

Seems that in this season the wind starts in the afternoon In the mornings its quit and lightly overcast. Better for driving, worse for pictures.

The Pier at Huanchaco. Chilled out beach/surfvillage just outside Trujillo. In summer it's really good surfin' 'n beachin' here. In winter it's still good, but a lot of overcast. Tranquillo.

Trujillo to Huaraz. From beach to 3600m. Beautiful road, again. But still desert....

Heading to the mountains. Yup, more desert.

Interesting. I thought it would be an easy day. Only 180kms to Huaraz. Map showed a nice yellow line from the coast to Huaraz. Secunadary and paved i thought. Not! This particular map uses orange as secundary and yellow as tertiary, unpaved roads. Bugger.

Not a particular difficult, But slow. I noticed how fast temperatures drop when on altitude. At about 4 p.m. and 3000 altitude, it gets cold!

And another view...

Oh, I found a free routable GPSmap of Peru. It proved to be very, VERY accurate. Even this unpaved road was on it. So far i think the most detaild map of everything below the US. All bigger cities are on streetlevel. Download it here

Almost there! Right lower corner: Huaraz. First view of the cordilera blanca.

Leaving Huaraz to Lima. Last view of the cordilera blanca. Impressive sight. Guess whats my desktop background!

BTW. Huaraz as a city is pleasant, but not scenic. Tourists go there usually to do hiking, climbing or even snowboarding. On a bike it's just a cool place to pass through. Lots of backpacker touristy bars and restaurants.

From the high altitudes at the cordilera blanca, you take 10 minutes of switchbacks....

...and the road straightens out to follow a river. Impressive to see how fast you cross dfferent biospheres and how dry this country is. This road goes on towards the coast for about 60km.....

....back to the coast. Heading 200kms to Lima. One of those moments you cannot do without your iPod.

At Chancay the Panam splits in two. One heading inland to Lima, for light traffic and one following the coast, also to Lima, for heavy traffic.

I thought the coastal route would be nicer. Ignoring the sighns (multiple) "No Motos"....

Which also ment heavy bikes, accoording to the policepatrol who stopped me, 3kms before the end of the road. This aparantly VERY SERIOUS traffic violation was about to cost me 400 soles (Eur.100,-)! Ouch. Paying needed to be done at the bank in the next town. As such not a problem, however, the violation was that i wasn't allowed to be on this road, the road was only for heavy traffic, which explained that there were only trucks and busses, and therefore i wasn't allowed to either drive back, or forth. Or that's what the Man said.

The officials appeared friendly guys though. After the usual "no tengo dinero", the official said that problems could be easily solved by giving him a 'propina' (means tip, but in this context bribe) of S.50,-. Way less, but still 5 gallons fuel, or 400km or 10 beers, to give you an idea. A lot of money.... and after a bit of chit-chat about my travel, Holland, more "si, es caro! no tengo dinero" and such the price dropped to S.20 soles, 4 beers that is. Didn't want to push my luck and accepted the proposal and be done with it. Drink water with my dinner for a change. Other bikers i met in Lima didn't had problems at all on this road. But be warned...

So, there it is, after 15 months on the road, about 70000km and 11 countries FINALLY my first, and hopefully last, corrupt police experience! Although i wished i could write i got away with it again. Still debating if this was a bad thing though. In other parts of the world there's no way you can get away with a traffic violation.

Oh, and i sincerely apologize to the international biketraveler community for not being more persistent in not paying.