Friday, September 16, 2011



This blog chronicles the day to day story of our motorcycle journey from Canada to Argentina. There was up, down and sideways moments, but overall it was a great experience. I hope you enjoy our story, and please get in contact if you have any questions or maybe you just want to say hi.

Thank you for visiting,

Naomi and Alberto

Please use the Archive on the right hand menu bar to start at the beginning of our story. 

Also please check out our new website for interesting content and projects. Hit us up on social media, we love to hear from you guys.

I am very proud to announce that 3 of our photos from our trip were selected to be featured in the HUBB 2012 Calendar. Thank you to everyone who voted, there is an amazing selection of pictures in the calendar!

Two years in a row! We are very happy to announce that two of our photos were selected for the HUBB 2013 Calendar. Thank you for the support. 

So proud to have our story featured in Bike Magazine!

The Best and Worst Awards

Best Adventure Road - Peru: Shorey to Cabana.

Best Scenic Road - Chile: Ruta 7 with mountains, glaciers, rivers, lakes, this road has it all.

Best Paved Road - Peru: Cabana to Chuquicara. A close runner-up is Nazca to Cusco also in Peru. This route lost because of the increased presence of crazy drivers.

Worst Adventure Road - Ruta 40, Anywhere in Argentina it’s not paved. The road surface is terrible and demands 100% concentration so that even if there were beautiful landscapes to admire, you can’t take your eyes of the road to enjoy them.

Worst Scenic Road - Chile: Santiago to Temuco. Apart from the odd winery there was pretty much nothing to see from this straight divided highway.

Worst Paved Road - Peru: Caraz to Huaraz. Truly the worst experience one can have on two wheels. Potholes, dust, cars swerving erratically to avoid the potholes. Painful. A close second is Espinazo del Diablo, Mexico. People spoke praises of this road for its curvy-ness. It’s hard to appreciate any semblance of curvy-ness though due to potholes and trucks that can’t stay in their lane. Knowing what I know now, I would have given it a miss.

Best Route - Anywhere in the Peruvian Sierra, so that the coast can be avoided.

Worst Route - Peru: Panamerican Highway 250km north of Lima until the south exit of Lima. having a major highway go through the capital of Peru is simply madness. And though we didn’t drive it (we avoided it on purpose) I imagine the Honduras section of the Panamericana would come a close second.

Country with the Best Food - Peru: The most variety coupled with the best flavours. There isn’t even a close second.

Country with the Worst Food - Mexico: Compared to all the other countries we didn’t enjoy Mexican food as much. Perhaps we had bad luck with the places we went out for food? As a side note Naomi really loved the fresh Guacamole.

Best Meal/Dish - Naomi: Palta a la Reina, Peru; Alberto: Lomo Saltado, Peru.

Worst Meal - Street food taquitos in Barra de Navidad, Mexico. Too much random parts: cow’s brain, eyes, tongue, ear, lips, stomach, etc... not enough of what I define as meat.

Favourite Country Overall - Naomi: Colombia. I like the energy of the places we visited. The people were really friendly, and the scenery was nice.

Alberto: Guatemala. I enjoyed the lakes, volcanoes, history. People were friendly and stuff was cheap. Also I ate the best stake of the entire trip in Huehuetenango.

Friendliest People - excluding Canadians we found Ticos (Costa Ricans) to be the most friendly.... Pura Vida!

Unfriendliest People - Northern Chileans with Coastal Peruvians as runners-up Not just on one occasion did we have negative encounters but several encounters. In particular in Calama, Chile. Coastal Peruvians as a whole were sneaky, and always trying to take advantage. DISCLAIMER - This is a blatant generalization.

Best Police - Naomi: Chile. Very professional; Alberto: Colombia. Very friendly and even stopped us to give us directions and warn us of road conditions.

Worst Police - Not even a contest: PERU!

Best Border Crossing - Colombia to Ecuador. Very professional with clearly marked buildings.

Worst Border Crossing - Anything involving Nicaragua. Honduras to Nicaragua and Nicaragua to Costa Rica.

Best Biking Culture - Colombia. Even though a lot of bikes were smaller cc, there was a wide range of riders. Also people wore helmets and riding gear.

Best Waterfall - El Chiflon, Chiapas, Mexico.
Best Mountain - Mt. Fitz Roy, Argentina.

Best Lake - Lago General Carrera, Chile.

Best Beach - West Bay, Isla Roatan, Honduras.

Hottest Girls - Costa Rica.

Best Kit Item - Naomi: Gore-tex socks ;Alberto: Airhawk Seat.

Worst Kit Item - Naomi: BMW Summer base-layers; Alberto: Collett Communication System.

Best Gadget -SPOT 2.

Worst Gadget - Collett Communication System it’s just that bad.

Best Aftermarket Bike Farkle - Gear-it-technology Crash Bars.
Worst Aftermarket Bike Farkle - Alberto’s Cheap but cool-looking Mirrors.

Best Camping Spot - EcoVenao in Playa Venao, Panama.

Worst Camping Spot - St John RV Park in St John New Mexico, USA.

Best Hotel - Hotel Oasis in Caborca, Mexico. Best bang for your buck.

Worst Hotel - Motel Viga Nueva in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

Best Day - Day #126 it had everything a GS could ask for: dirt, pavement, scenery. Peruvian Northern Highlands.

Worst Day - Day #182 because of having to deal with the police.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Budget

Our overall budget was 60 CAD per day for the two of us, plus shipping the bikes (Darien and home) and major services which we had budgeted for separately. We almost succeeded in keeping our costs below this number, and we did have our costs at about 55 CAD per day before the engines broke, but we had to significantly pick up the pace to finish our key parts of the trip after we got the bikes back. I think post engine meltdown we rarely came in under budget at the end of the day because we were averaging 311.36 km/day whereas before we were averaging 171.92 km/day. If we can pretend that we weren't spending unproductive dollars waiting around for working bikes we actually spent less overall because we covered the same amount of ground in less time.

This trip can be done for less or more than what we did it for. For the most part we weren't concerned with wasting time finding the most economical place in town to stay. As long as we found a place that met our criteria we were happy. We stayed at medium quality budget accommodations and ate at relatively economical places. Though we didn't put too much effort into reading guide books and finding cheap places to eat and sleep. We just made things up as we went along.

So my advice is: make a budget that realistically fits your travel style and doesn't bankrupt you. Finding the balance is the tricky part. If you've read our blog you probably have a sense of the places we went and what we did. For more details on our costs and spending hit the Trip in Numbers tab at the top of the blog page.


Throughout the entire trip is was clear that everyone is scared of their neighbour to the South, with the United States probably being the most terrified. Whenever we were in a particular country telling people about our trip they would warn us with genuine concern about the next country. They would tell us scary stories of things that had happened to people in those countries and while I do not doubt that they are true stories you can't do a trip like this in fear. You have to just take the leap of faith and hope that things will work out.

One of the top questions people ask us is about safety. We have been lucky and during the entire trip never found ourselves in a particularly scary situation. Do bad things happen? Sure, but I think you can take precautions to safe-guard yourself and then you also need a bit of luck. We follow a few rules to help eliminate our interaction with dangerous situations. We don't drive at night. We don't really venture out at night (unless it is with trusted locals) or just around the corner for food. We try to stay away from large cities and generally trust your instincts for situations that make us uncomfortable.

Alberto insisted on bringing disklocks for the bikes but after a few weeks in Mexico he stopped using them. We never went out of our way to secure things down (though most of our items on the bikes are relatively secure). We generally didn't leave the bikes unattended for long and on the rare occasions we did (Copper Canyon and Perito Moreno Glacier) we never had anything stolen. The only time we had something stolen on the entire trip was 100m from Alberto's parents house. Oh the irony. Alberto's old, smelly, knock-off shoes were stolen off the beach.

Security wasn't something we worried about too much, but that's not to say we were careless. The key is to be smart and trust your instincts.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Border

Oh what a foolish person I have been to complain about the sometimes over-the-top Canada/USA border. The great thing about the getting to cross the borders in Latin America is that they make great stories, and they are always a great conversation topic when you meet up with other bikers.

The Mexican border was quite tame, though it can be confusing as a first-timer because of the “travel free” zones for Americans. We thought we were lost since we had to drive 50km to the immigration offices. For the most part we tried to stay away from Panamericana border crossings but things were still hectic for pretty much all of our Central America border crossings. Even with the advantage of speaking fluent Spanish it's hard to make sense of the borders. Knowing Spanish did not seem to make things move any faster. South America was noticeably more organized though the experiences were still sometimes just as frustrating.

We managed to get away without paying any bribes whatsoever, but it can happen because you will find yourself at the mercy of the border officials. Some time and money can be saved by having copies of your driver's license, title and passport cause almost every border before crossing the Darien Gap will ask for copies. I've included a list of all the borders we crossed and what we encountered (fees paid, time etc...). The list can be found here. Also there is lots of information on the HUBB regarding border crossings and you can find lots of personal accounts on rider's blogs. I think that every experience is different but it's nice if you have an idea of what to expect.

Friday, June 3, 2011

My Police Rant

Numbers of Tickets Received: 5
Numbers of Times Pulled Over by the Police:
Mexico: 1
Nicaragua: 1
Panama: 2
Colombia: 2
Peru: 14*
Chile: 1
Argentina: 2
*Doesn't include times we ignored gestures to be pulled over
Our Traffic Violation paperwork collection
The times we were pulled over in Panama, Colombia and Chile were mostly harmless. Our interactions with the law in Mexico, Nicaragua and Argentina all resulted in one or both of us getting tickets. The Nicaragua ticket Alberto got was stupid but the other two were completely justified. Peru, on the other hand, very much felt like the exception because we were pulled over repeatedly by unbelievably corrupt police. The issues we had in Peru with the police got so bad that it really ruined my time in Peru and my opinion of the country.

I am not going to go into detail about the specific interactions, you can retrace the blog for all the juicy details. What drives me crazy about the corrupt police in Peru is the inconsistency. We had mild police interactions, such as Day 191, which lasted only a couple of minutes to long drawn out paper work competitions like on Day 177, to the most extreme where we just had to flee the scene Day 182. The police officers had no shame and it ruins it for any legit ones that might be hiding out there. Alberto had already warned me about police in Peru before we got there, so I was already skeptical of their dubious honor but even if I hadn't been per-warned I would have caught-on pretty quick. It was clear after only a few encounters that the police were lazy and always searching for a bribe not justice. It is disappointing for a country like Peru which has so much tourism potential.

Dealing with Police (in particular Peruvian Police since those were the only ones we had problems with):

Disclaimer: I am a total goody-two-shoes and always follow the rules, so much so that my own mother frequently makes fun of me. But I am also realistic and when the system doesn't work because the people in charge of enforcing the rules don't follow them it's every man for himself. I have never handed an official a fake document. All the documents I use are copies of real and valid documents, I just don't trust certain individuals with the real copies because they don't play by the rules.

How to deal – Our number one trump card was speaking only English, and taking this to the extreme. Even if the average person would understand what was going on we would continue to play dumb and speak only English. Most police we encountered in Peru were pretty lazy so sometimes this was all it took. They would quickly realize that they couldn't communicate and move on. The other critical thing to do is do not to give the police any power and do this by only giving them documents you can afford to lose. This ensures that the power stays in your corner. With the more persistent police try paper-working them to death. If they are asking for a specific document, like insurance, give them every official looking document you have. They most likely will become overwhelmed, and give your documents only a glance before sending you on your way. The key is to remain calm and stand your ground. Being really stubborn and animated can work to your advantage.

Chances are that when you undertake a trip like this you will be pulled over by the police at some point; either legitimately or not. My advice is to stay calm, stand your ground and enjoy the experience. Even the worst day of our trip (police-wise) really frustrated me at the time it makes for a great story later.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Final Final Thoughts

Getting to ride the Americas on a bike is an amazing experience. I have had the chance to see many different landscapes and meet tons of truly fantastic people. Since the Americas were never really at the top of my list of places to go visit I was able to experience all of the different places and countries without any per-disposed bias or favourites. Our trip was simple, we just quit normal life and set out with a course due South. We never really had a plan more than a few days out and chose places to visit and roads to ride on the fly. Doing our trip in this hap-hazard way helped us get an even experience of all 12 countries we visited. But if I think back at the whole experience as an overall package it wasn't something I would go back to do again and again.

Everyone has their own travel style and priorities and my main priority when I do motorcycle travel is the riding. For me it is not about where I end up but how I get there. This is why you will have seen throughout our trip that we didn't hit up some of the common places travelers do or when we did we didn't really get out and see stuff or stay long. In a perfect world I would have a day full of fun riding and then find somewhere remote and peaceful to camp for the evening. We were only really able to achieve this perfect travel nirvana in Peru and Chile, and not coincidentally these are the only two countries I would re-visit by motorbike.

I enjoyed the whole trip overall but there were long sections where it felt more like endurance instead of enjoyment. In particular Mexico and Central America didn't really match well with my style. In hindsight the driver's in Mexico weren't as bad as they seemed at the time but the weather was way to hot to be wearing riding gear. It's hard to fully appreciate the beauty of a country when you are constantly uncomfortable. In Mexico's defense we didn't go during the favourable weather season, but in order to time reaching Tierra del Fuego there isn't really much flexibility for riders starting in North America. Also it felt that Mexico didn't offer anything specific to my personal tastes that I could not find riding in Canada or the United States. At first we were really enjoying Central America but as the weeks went by the whole experience felt worn and repetitive. The riding wasn't satisfying enough so we tried to compensate with typical tourist activities. This just turned into a continuous loop between beaches, volcanoes, colonial cities and jungles. We were missing out on diversity. We experienced spectacular spots here and there, Roatan and Playa Venao stand out in my mind, but they alone could not make up for the monotony. The mostly uninteresting riding and the terrible borders made a bad combination. And the funny thing I found on the road was that most of the other riders we met felt the same way about Central America: fine to do once, but no need to do it again.

Arriving on the continent of South America was a huge breath of fresh air. The Andes breathed new life into our riding and scenery viewing. Also because of the difference in scale, South American countries are a lot bigger than Central American countries, it felt like there were more route choices which in turn resulted in better riding. There was also a downside to the larger countries, sometimes there were long periods of riding with little change in topography or scenery.

This is all part of any long journey. The cruel reality is that not everyday will be filled with hand picked epic riding, at some point you need to get where you are going and it can't all be fun times. That's what makes it a worthwhile experience though, the diversity and adversity. But in the meantime I will focus my riding trips to selective epic riding adventures and focus my energy on conquering a new continent. The Americas.... been there done that.

One of the best parts of traveling is meeting people, both locals and fellow travelers. There are exceptions of course but across the board we met amazingly friendly people in every single country we visited. Not to mention the joy you get when you meet a fellow adventure rider on the road. Despite having no clue what this person is like in normal life you immediately completely trust them and become friends. This trust is a two-way street as you will find that locals will invite you into their homes just because you are an adventure traveler. The human aspect is one of the truly amazing facets of travel.

I think that 8 months of travel was the perfect amount of time for me, maybe even a little long. Near the end I just wanted to come home. I think that traveling through Latin America has advantages and disadvantages. For Canadians and Americans it is very accessible. No paper work required you can jump on your bike and leave today. Also there is only one language to learn, however I think the harmony of Latin America was a negative for me. I got bored. The fact is, a large amount of land and countries share the same cultural foundations and it means that you aren't confronted with anything really new or fresh during the trip. Africa or Asia, in my opinion, has more diversity to offer for a similar amount of distance traveled.

There is a reason why it is called the comfort zone; it's comfortable. I missed my things and the freedom to do other things besides riding my bike. It was a great trip but I was okay when the end came after 8 months of travel.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Shipping the Bikes Part II

After what feels like an eternity we finally have our bikes back on Salt Spring Island, but sadly this is a story of trials and tribulations.

When we were informed that our bikes would be arriving in Vancouver (late I might add) we were also informed that they had been sent COD (cash on delivery). And thus started a several week fight between us, TBS Ship Peru and Choice Aduana Peru. As it turns out the money we paid for shipping before leaving Peru was not used appropriately and when it really comes down to it we got scammed. We made arrangements, we paid the agreed upon price and then things didn't go according to plan. Everyone is pointing the finger at everyone else and in the end we are the ones getting screwed.

We waited and waited for things to get properly sorted out hoping that the right thing would happen, but this is Peru and do-gooder spirit was smashed. Meanwhile our warehouse storage charges were mounting. We cleared the bikes through customs (96.32 CAD plus a trip to Vancouver) in the meantime so that we would be ready. Things in Peru started to become bleak at best so we cut our loses and paid the ransom for our bikes. Total legit charges were 305.50 CAD per bike in Canadian destination charges plus extra US charges (60 USD/bike) thanks to the shipping company that shipped our bikes through the US. Total additional scam charges totaled 540.40 USD per bike. We paid 80 CAD per bike at the warehouse plus an additional 15 CAD per day per bike for storage fees. What it amounts to is a lot of money that would have paid for the cost to fly the bikes home with Air Canada cargo. Lesson learned. To make matters worse both of our bikes suffered damage during shipping, though thankfully we were still able to ride them home.
Our first glimpse of the bikes

Happy to be reunited at least

What really pisses me off the most, apart from the frustrating feeling of being taken of advantage of, is that our bikes were shipped out of the country, nobody paid for the shipping (even though that the arrangement was set-up as pre-paid) and we didn't find out until the bikes had already arrived in Canada when we were getting billed for it (some 45 days later). Why was this not brought to our attention earlier!?!

I obviously do not recommend using any of the companies we used to do your shipping. Also, if possible, don't let the shipping company send your bike through the United States (if it is returning to Canada), it will cost you more.

What can I say.... it was a terrible experience and money NOT well spent. 

BMW #2 getting ready to be released
Okay, let's go

Shipping the Bikes Part I

We were chilling in Mancora and we needed to ship our bikes out of Lima. Mancora to Lima is two decent days of riding. When the time had finally come we set out for Huanchaco, our half way point and refuge. We got there with almost no problems. Alberto got a flat tire when we were still 1.5 hrs from his parent's house. It was getting late and if we stopped to fully fix it it probably would have been dark by the time we got to our destination. So being crafty, or lazy depending on your point of view, we decided to just keep filling it with air (since it was a slow leak) and hope for the best. This worked out and we made it to his parents house before dark. We only had to stop three times for a quick air boost. This was a Friday night. Knowing that we weren't going to be able to do anything productive in Lima on the weekend we decided to stay a second night at his parents house and sort out the bikes.

We spent Saturday organizing the items that would be flying home with us, and what we wanted to stay with the bikes. Oh and Alberto needed to fix his flat tire.

More than once over the past several weeks memories of corrupt police north of Lima had haunted my thoughts. I was absolutely dreading having to run that gauntlet again. I didn't think I would have the strength to deal with all the craziness again. So with great dread we set out for Lima on Sunday morning. To my surprise we didn't get pulled over by a single police officer. Actually for that matter we saw very few police today. I think the fact that it was a Sunday and a holiday (Mother's Day) worked to our advantage greatly. I was relatively happy to be in Peru. The one exciting thing that happened was that Alberto's exhaust fell off. Well the silencer part. It was amusing driving through Lima with his insanely loud bike (we just stuffed the silencer in one of our bags).
New exhaust configuration
On Monday we started with the shipping formalities. We brought the bikes over to the Lima BMW dealer. With the whole engine debacle back in February we had developed a close relationship with the personnel at the dealer. We asked them to keep some crates aside for us and they did, so we went there to pack up the bikes. They also kindly washed our bikes down, removing all those foreign contaminants. While we were hanging around waiting for things to get done we started contacting our shipping agent to get the ball rolling. By the end of the day we more or less had the bikes packed up in the crates. Now the tricky part. Based on my experience in receiving personal mail in Peru I was somewhat fearful of the gongshow that might await us but it is what must be done.
What a clean looking bike
After a rocky start things went pretty smoothly. We handed over all the paper work to the shipping agent so he could take things from there, and then turned our focus to crating the bikes. This was a relatively simple task and we had the bikes ready for pick up Wednesday morning. We had to arrange for a forklift and the agent sent a truck. Soon we were saying goodbye to the bikes as they drove down the street in the back of a Chinese made cargo truck.
Crating the bikes
Almost there, just need a roof
Make sure everything fits inside
Ready to be picked up
Alberto keeping a watchful eye
Onto the truck
The Lima BMW dealer was extremely helpful during the whole process. We used them as our base of operations and we thank them very much for their help.
We caught a bus back to Trujillo that evening because Alberto's friend was getting married. The bikes shipped out successfully on the Sunday. They are travelling via New York to Vancouver. Hopefully we will see them in 28 days. Total cost to us was 2,350 USD for both bikes.
Alberto sad to see his bike leaving him
Happy to see mine go. We both need a break from each other
See you in Canada Girls

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Day 194 (41km): The End

We couldn't get the house until 4pm so we still had lots of time to kill before we started our ~25km journey to Mancora.

We lounged around on the beach, me hiding under our shelter and Alberto swimming. Eventually I couldn't take it anymore and we packed up to leave. We slowly took the scenic route to Mancora passing through Cabo Blanco. Even so we got to Mancora around 1:30pm and decided to kill some time by having lunch. I was hungry anyways.

We found a nice place to have lunch, but the service was terribly slow. Ugh, back in civilisation. By the time we got our lunch we had to scoff it down to make sure we made it to the house by 4pm. I ended up with indigestion but as it turns out my family's flight was late and they hadn't beat us to the house (which was our main concern). We settled in and I made a b-line for the shower. After bush camping for the last few nights all I could think about was having a shower. Actually after being on this trip for 7 months all I can think about are regular showers with premium shower products.

Freshly clean we waited for my parents to show up. They got to the house just before dark, pretty exhausted from their Peruvian escapades. We had a nice evening chilling out and we are all looking forward to the next few weeks to relax at the beach.

So this is the end of our bike journey; 41,026kms driven. We still need to ship our bikes back to Canada, which we will sort out over the next month, but this is the end of our bike travels in Latin America.

Thanks for following along and stay tuned for more posts with my reflections on different aspects of the trip. 
The End

Day 193 (0km): Ahead of schedule

I noticed little crab tracks all around the tent when I woke up. There are tons of them everywhere. They are bright orange and they tend to hang out at the water line.
Cooking up some lunch
I'm a bit of an over the top planner, and I always allow a few days in a plan for incidentals. As it was, everything went well and we made it to Mancora, or at least pretty close, ahead of schedule. My parents arrive tomorrow to spend two weeks with us at a beach house we've rented in the area.
A surfing Pelican
So with nowhere to go, and a looming Easter weekend potentially filling up all hotels we decided to chill at the beach for the day.
Our cooler made on the beach
Beach camping isn't really my thing. I miss my West Coast homeland where shorelines are rockier and sand doesn't get everywhere. I'm just not a beach person, not enough going on if I don't have my windsurfing gear, so I was going a little crazy.
Trying to fight off the sand blasts and boredom
Alberto on the other hand was having a great time. I think he went for a swim once an hour.
Catching some waves
Boy, that looks like a big one
Another beautiful sunset

Day 192 (245km): Going North on the Panamericana

We wanted to break camp and get out of there as soon as possible. We managed to get away just after the sun was reaching full force and we were both sweating like crazy. Reminds me of our experiences on the Mexican coast. I was kind of hoping that that was all in the past.

Once we got to Piura we were fully integrated into the desert. It was easier to find our way out coming from the south than the north. Not sure why they have a round-about with a stop sign, traffic light and traffic control cop, that had me second guessing what to do. That single combination of three different traffic controls is probably the most hardcore roadway clusterf we've seen on the trip.

Not much to report from a driving perspective. Mostly straight and dry. We passed, as well as other vehicles, a traffic police SUV driving on the highway. From what I could tell it was going below the speed limit and all other traffic, except the moto-taxis, were passing it. It's no wonder that we managed to outrun one twice.

We stopped for some ice-cream at a gas station in El Alto. I was craving an icecream during the heat of yesterday but never got one. A little further down the road is El Nuro. We almost bought a beach property here about 2 years ago so we wanted to check it out in person. So we turned off and followed the road. There is one finished house and two that looked like they were almost done at the development we were looking at. It seemed like a nice place. We continued down the road a little further to check things out. There were some more nice beach houses and then nothing. That's where we decided to stop. It's legal to camp on the beach in Peru, since beaches are public land, so that's what we did. 
La Gringa is a bit heavy for this sort of thing
Our little spot was pretty quiet, just traffic passing every now and then going to the oil wells further down the road. Just us and the crabs.
Alberto getting the bikes into position
Our camp set up
Getting into relaxing mode
Our neighbours
The sun setting on another day
Our camp from the opposite angle