Showing posts from 2010

¡Perdito! Or; ¿GPS? We don' need no steenkeeng GPS

I actually planned to get lost on this trip, and unlike most plans, this one worked exceptionally well. I know a bit about planning, planning was one of the things I used to have to do for earning my daily crust. One thing I learned is that the more planning you do, the more likely your plan will fail. This appears so obvious now I write it down, but somehow it has totally escaped the notice of Mrs. Gant, Mr. Critical-Path and everybody's favorite, Ms. Microsoft Project. I determined that for this trip I was not going to repeat that failure prone exercise of having a detailed plan. I had goals and objectives. One needs to have goals and objectives before one can plan.  The good thing about goals and objectives, unlike planning, it is possible to come up with goals and objectives in a few minutes, freeing the rest of the afternoon for other things, like beverages. My goal was to have a good time, my objectives, to ride my motorcycle through the entire (Canadian) wint

Election day in Bolivia

On Good Friday I crossed the border from Peru to Bolivia. By now I was familiar with the procedure. First exit Peru, get the passport exit stamp and turn over the temporary import permit for my motorcycle. Now I will be in limbo until I can get my entry stamp from Bolivian immigration and the papers for the bike. Desaguadero is a grubby border town on the shore of Lake Titicaca that reminds me of the border crossings in Central America, a collection of shacks and decaying buildings stretched along the highway, a permanent flea market and country fair midway, jammed full of cars, trucks, buses, taxis and push carts trying to get the hell out or in, and the border entrepreneurs will try get a piece of the travellers before they leave. The immigration officer is courteous and friendly and I have my passport stamped in short order. Unfortunately the Aduana (customs) side of the operation has been waylaid by a dead computer network. It is the Aduana who issue the necessary papers requir

The what I learned posts; Driving in Latin America

One of my earlier blog posts was on driving in Latin America, I don't have much to add, so here is the link .  In that post, dated March 25, I made the observation that despite the apparent anarchy (strike that, there is nothing apparent about it)  I saw almost no accidents.  So I did a bit web research to see if my impressions were accurate.  According to W.H.O. statistics (Abbot and Costello,  please! Be quiet!), the number of deaths due to car collisions is a lot lower in Latin American countries than in the USA.  I was a bit surprised to see that the USA was not the most dangerous country to drive in, even though it has the largest overall number of deaths by car, the USA drops to 15th of 49 nations when the measure is adjusted for population (the US had 17.5 car deaths per million population). See for yourself , and oh, don't drive in Hungary.   The deadliest South American nation listed is Paraguay at number 18 or 13.2 deaths per million.  To my surprise, Canada is

The what I learned posts; You can take it with you.

Well some of it anyway; Once you have your bike it should be fitted with luggage.  I am totally satisfied with the Givi three bag set up I had on the KTM.   The de rigueur adventure look requires those boxy aluminum 'I made it myself in shop class' cases.  If you like em, more power to ya, but I don't and here's why. Square metal edges can do a lot of damage to whatever they hit (including el piloto). Lid style covers means the whole bag needs to be emptied to get whatever is on the bottom.  This is important, because you need to pack the heavy stuff (tools) on the bottom, and they may be what you need access to most often. They are generally not easily removed from the bike.  This is important because you may need to remove the bags to get your bike unstuck, get your bike through a narrow doorway into the hotel lobby, or be able to take your bags into your room.  All three of my Givis are off the bike using one key in less than a minute.

The what I learned posts; Choose Your Weapon

If you are going to ride to South America, almost any motorcycle will do, but some will do better than others.  Where are you going, and what would you like to see?  Central and South America have good roads and bad roads, mountains, plains and deserts.  Some areas are densely populated, and in some you may travel for hundreds of miles without seeing a soul.  If you are going all the way, you will be racking up many odometer digits, you will encounter every kind of road, including no road, just about every kind of weather short of a blizzard, and you will be gone for months.  We gringos lean towards bigger is better, and too much that is never enough.   Choose a bike that is light, 650 cc or less, has excellent suspension, some form of wind protection, can go a minimum of 300 km (200 miles) on a full tank, runs OK on regular gas, has simple maintenance requirements  and long service intervals.  Low speed handling in tight spots is going to be more important than extended high speed

Home Again!

For those who don't know about it yet, I am safe and sound and back home again.  Arranging for the bike for to be shipped back to Canada was rather anticlimactic compared to getting it out of Calama.  I arrived in Santiago on Friday afternoon, so did not return to the airport until the following Monday.  I had just planned to find out where everything was and prepare myself for the ordeal that was sure to follow, based on my experiences to date.  As it it turned out, the bike boxes were waiting for me when I arrived and it was a relatively simple matter to arrange for having them transported to Canada.  LAN Cargo gave me a choice of three Canadian airports, Toronto, Vancouver or Calgary.  Calgary is a mere 3 hours south of Edmonton, so that is where the bike will go. According to the LAN cargo tracking thingy on the internet the bike left Santiago today (the 14th), so it should be in Calgary by the end of the week.  The cost will be a bit over the USD 1500 and change LAN Cargo


Santiago is probably the most 'complete' city I have visited in South America, in that it has everything a city is expected to have, fine parks, a comprehensive public transportation system that includes modern buses, subway system, LRT to suburbia, excellent limited access roads that do not take a back seat to any in Canada and the USA, modern buildings and well kept old ones.  I was expecting to see more evidence of the recent earthquake, and really have seen nothing yet.  In my hotel they tell me it brought down the ceiling on the fifth floor, but apparently it is fixed now.  Some of the older buildings have hoarding on them, but nothing more than you would expect to see in any city that has old buildings, which do need maintenance from time to time. One somewhat interesting thing I have noticed about Chile, based on my staying in hotels and eating in restaurants, is that Chileans can give the Scotch lessons on tightfistedness.  Restaurant portions always leave me hungry

The Great Escape

Finally I am out of Calama, and hopefully so is the bike.  I am now in Santiago,  after 14 days and 14 nights in the desert, I have reached the promised land.  PTL! Woohoo!  Santiago is great, especially after Calama, which was nice enough, but hardly one of the world's great places to visit.  In an earlier post I compared it to Fort MacMurray, it could also be Flin Flon or Thompson Manitoba.  It is a mining town, full of hard working people, who probably look forward as much to putting Calama in their rear view mirrors as I did. In order to leave Calama I had to get the bike shipped to me in Santiago.  The LAN cargo people were unable to figure out how to get the bike shipped to Canada and were going to involve in DHL.  I have had experience with DHL in the past, and I would not want to use them to send a post card to someone I did not like, let alone ship my bike.  They have an office in Calama, I had already walked in there asked what it would cost, they quoted me $6,000 (!!!

Still here in Calama

It has been a stressful week and a half for me here in Calama, I never know what is going on, I can't communicate adequately when it comes to my now much more complicated needs.  I can order food, buy stuff, get hotels, ask for directions, but when it comes to the complexities of international shipping arrangements for motos, I am perdito (lost).  I am still not sure what is going on, but at least the bike is packed and at the cargo terminal at the Calama airport. I am being helped  by the 'jefe' of Hosteria Taira where I am staying.  He has been great, he has taken me to the local building supply outlet for crate materials and we used his truck to take the bike to airport, twice. I had all the stuff packed into the bike crate except the engine and we took it to LAN carga.  Turned out that the bike crate was overweight by 20 kg, the limit is 170 kg, and it was 190.  I took some stuff out of the crate to bring it to 170 but they said that the cardboard cover of the ste

End of the Ride

I suppose everybody is wondering what is going on.  The engine is full of iron filings from the trashed cam follower, so the best option is to ship it home.  I was planning to return in June anyway, and I am pretty far away.  I spent a bit of time spinning my wheels, getting nowhere.  Chilean Spanish is very difficult to understand for me, and they don't understand my limited Spanish either.  I was trying to find a shipping agent, but that was not working  out.  Finally I tried the obvious, contact the local airline.  Turns out that their web site even says they ship motorcycles, duh. They charge by the kilo, they don't care how many pieces there are, but they don't want anything to be heavier than 170 Kilos, which is why the engine is out.  My manual says that the bike weighs 150 kg, so it would have been close, but with the engine out it should be no problem.  It had to come out anyway, so I have a head start on that chore.  The local bike shop donated the crate, whi


Well I have determined what the problem is.  You are looking at the underside of the valve cover, in the middle is one good cam roller follower on the right, on the left is one that no longer rolls.  The overall effect are intake valves that do not open as far as they should, causing power loss.  I am sure it is just a coincidence, but it seems that every time I enter a new country they have a national holiday.  Chile was celebrating Glorias Navales on friday, and everything was cerrado (closed). There is a good bike shop here, but of course they were cerrado as well.  Saturday morning they were open, and there was another KTM in there.  A good sign.  They tried to get hold of the KTM dealer in Chile, but he is cerrado till lunes (monday).  So Calama will be my home for a few days while I arrange to have parts shipped. Glorias Navales celebrates a naval battle where Chile got their butt kicked by Peru, however that loss inspired Chile to win the war.  Calama belonged to Bo

It just gets better and effin better;

So there was no way I was going to stay in San Pedro, who's sole purpose in this universe is to separate stupid but rich tourists from their money.   The bike was running, albeit at moped velocities.  The next town is Calamas, 100 km of desert away.  So I load up and head out of San Pedro.  Before leaving, I checked the fuel and I could see nothing wrong with it, no water, no dirt.   About 20 km out I came across a big parking area beside the road, looked like a good place to do a carb overhaul, and I was getting tired of crawling along at 23 kmh, so I pulled in and pulled off the carb.  I could see nothing obviously wrong, so I put it together again.  No joy, everything still the same.  Then I got about 100 meters farther down the road when my rear tire decided to go flat. Good thing I was carrying a spare tube, so out with the bad and in with the good. It took me most of the day to get to Calamas.  It was definitely the right thing to do, as Calamas is a great place to stay

More Misadventures

Well I made it to Chile, just.  I am stuck in a tourist trap, San Pedro, about 170 km into Chile.  This is where the Chilean customs and immigration is, 170 km from the Argentina border.  To get here I had to cross over a 4,400 meter pass (14,400 feet).  Snow at the top, and a bike that would not go faster than 21 kmh up hill, and it was up hill most of the way.  I think I got bad gas, but I don't know for sure. I will have to find out tomorrow, as it was getting dark when I got here.  (It is not the altitude, if some of you moto techies were thinking that, as the KTM has managed this altitude before.) There was nothing but rocks and sand and snow, between the border and here, and hardly any traffic.  I did not want to stop so long as the bike was running, as I was not sure it would start again.  As it turned out, I found that it will start and run up to about 4000 RPM when I finally stopped at the aduana and migracion to get my documents in order to be in Chile. Meanwhile her

Out of the mud, but still no decent internet connection

This will be a post without pictures.  I was stuck in Lomitas till this AM but now I am in sunny Juyjuy Argentina  and if all goes well, Chile tomorrow. It was sunny and warm when I left Uruguay, as it turned out there was a bridge, so no boat crossing.  That night I stopped in Fontana, a tiny town in Argentina´s Formosa province.  The land is flat, marshy and covered with low bushes and mosquitos.  It looks as if it was once farmland, but not anymore.  Fontana looks like it is heading for ghost town status, empty buildings some of them falling down.  I asked where the hotel was, and a kind person led me there.  There is no sign on it to indicate it is a hotel.  This turned out to be typical for this area.  I got a nice room but very basic. The next morning it was pissing down rain, but I figured what the heck, I will just keep riding until I am out of it.  It only took about 20 km to realize I had made a big mistake. My Jacket and gloves work good in light rain, but this downpour was

Email update from Argentina

In case any one was wondering, I am fine and in Las Lomitas Argentina waiting for the rain to stop. This is a *very* small (and wet) town, but I have a dry place to stay, more later;


Asuncion is another post apocalyptic South American city.  It is evident that at one time there was a lot more prosperity here than there seems to be now.  The town is dominated by tall buildings that I am guessing were built in the 1970's that now look worse for wear.  I am seeing a lot of homeless children sleeping in the streets.  I also see the most expensive cars I have seen in South America, lots of new Mercedes and the latest in SUVs.  According to wikipedia, Paraguay has a developing economy, but that to me, is a very misleading statement.  Asuncion, like most other large South American cities will be celebrating its 500th birthday in about 27 years.  The land is more populated than either the US or Canada, and in many ways more civilized.  Asuncion and the other large cities in South America are more over developed than underdeveloped.  There is a lesson here, but I am not sure what it is, but I can't help but feeling that we Norte Americanos are travelling down a