A blog to record our motorbike adventure through the Americas

Posts tagged “Andes

The Highest Lake To The Driest Desert

We spent our last day in Cusco doing a final spot of sightseeing, I think everyone was pretty tired from the early mornings on our side trip to Machu Picchu, so we just wondered around the picturesque town, checked out the Inca museum and made a trip through San Pedro market.

01-Cusco Streets

The skills of the locals are incredible, if only we had more space for souvenirs on the bike. It’s amazing watching the ladies weaving without any pattern to follow – the textiles they produce must take days and days of work.

02-Peruvian Weaving

03-Peruvian Weaving (2)

The trip around the market ended up being an interesting one….to start with it was just the normal things you might see for sale….

04-Cusco Market

07-Cusco Market (2)

But then it got weird…..okay, frogs legs I can understand!

06-Frogs Legs at Cusco Market

…..but what on earth are these for!!! Ergh!

05-Weird Things at Cusco Market

Our last night in Cusco involved the first of three goodbyes. After Mike’s accident he was flying back home to Canada (to buy another bike and plan his next trip no doubt 🙂 ). It’s strange to think we wont be riding together again.

08-Farewell Meal with Mike

Mike waved us off the following morning and we headed out of town with Chris to Puno. My parents were taking a slightly more luxurious and warmer method of transport – the Andean Explorer Train which is part of the Orient Express.

Their train left before we headed off, partly because we were struggling to get the bike out of the hotel reception! In fact Dan almost took one of their glass entrance doors off whilst trying to ride up the steps onto the street. It all got a bit messy and passers by were helping out, definitely the most difficult exit yet!!

A couple of hours down the road and we caught up with the train. I was waving frantically as we rode along – I’m sure everyone else on board was probably wondering why 🙂 I was starting to feel quite envious of the passengers as we gained altitude and it got colder and colder.

09-Andean Explorer Train

Luckily the scenery made up for the chilly weather…even on a dull day it looks amazing.

10-Ride from Cusco to Puno

11-Ride from Cusco to Puno (2)

Chris bought some small LED torch’s from the UK and hands them out to the locals – they love them! Although it does look more like he’s trying to light the young boy a cigarette….haha – he really isn’t!

12-Chris chatting to the locals

We met back up with Mum & Dad in the town of Puno, which sits on the edge of Lake Titicaca. The town wasn’t quite as beautiful as Cusco, but a great base for checking out the highest navigable lake in the world.

13-Lake Titicaca

There was a huge street party going on one evening…we never did find out what it was in aid of – but as we’ve experienced in the past, they do enjoy a good street party in Central and South America!

14-Puno street celebrations

15-Puno Street Celebrations (3)

16-Puno street celebrations (2)

We took a day trip out on Lake Titicaca to visit the nearby Uros Islands – floating islands made from the reeds. It was interesting meeting the local Uru people who live here.

These guys look like they’re waiting at their local ‘boat’ stop, maybe to get back to the mainland.

17-Uros Floating Islands Lake Titicaca

18-Uros Floating Islands on Lake Titicaca (2)

19-Uros Floating Reed Islands

A local inhabitant explained the construction of the islands….it was weird to think people live out here. The base of the islands is made from cutting and floating sections of reed roots, they then lay several layers of reeds to create a surface on which they can build and walk around. The top layers rot and have to be replaced regularly and the islands are not permanent – some only last for 20 years before being rebuilt. The whole island feels squidgy under your feet as you walk. They have to anchor the islands with rope to the bottom of the lake to stop them from floating off and into Bolivia as they don’t have passports 🙂

20-Uros Floating Islands on Lake Titicaca

After nearly two weeks, it was now sadly time for my parents to head back to Lima for their flight home. Goodbye number two. I hate saying goodbye to my parents…but we’ll be back in the UK in March, so not long until I get to see them again! They had seen quite a lot on their holiday, including the Dakar Rally, Cusco, Machu Picchu & Lake Titicaca…..quite a tiring trip but I hope they enjoyed it 🙂

As they headed for the airport, we hit the road with Chris towards Chile. We reached an all time altitude high of approx 4650m and we stayed at over 4000m for hours, it was super cold and I hadn’t put enough layers on. Plus is was really foggy and at times we could barely see anything. Every time we started to descend a little bit I was hoping we would be on our way to the warmth of sea level…but then we would start ascending again…it went on forever!

21-Andean Llama and Alpaca

22-Atacama Desert Road (2)

23-Great Twisty Roads in the Andes

Finally we reached the warmth near the coast and after about a month in Peru, we crossed into Chile. I had read that people compared crossing from Peru into Chile as being like crossing from Mexico into the USA….they were kind of right. Peru was really poor and there was a definite noticeable difference entering Chile, it almost instantly seemed richer. Unfortunately they have prices to match….fuel is super expensive as is accommodation and food. I guess we wont be spending too much time here then.

24-Welcome to Chile

Our journey from Puno to the coast and into Chile had taken us into the Atacama Desert – the driest place in the world!! No need for my waterproof linings for a few days then 🙂

I’ve never seen scenery like it before….you would think driving through a desert would be boring – but this was far from boring.

25-Atacama Desert (2)

26-Atacama Desert

27-Atacama Desert Road

28-Atacama Desert (4)

29-Atacama Desert (3)

Some of the roads were long and straight, but that just gave us a chance to relax whilst still riding along – although I don’t have anywhere to put my feet up!!!

30-Chris relaxing on the long desert roads

A new country means new beer……for some anyway – I’m just here for the wine 🙂

31-Sampling the Chilean Beer

We hit the coastal road for a couple of hours before heading inland deeper into the desert.

32-Chilean Coastal Drive (2)

33-Long Atacama Desert Road

As we neared the town of San Pedro de Atacama the scenery changed again…so many different landscapes in one day on the road!

34-Road to San Pedro de Atacama

35-Views on Route to San Pedro de Atacama

36-Road to San Pedro de Atacama (2)

It was time to relax for a few days in San Pedro…..the sun was shining and we needed to plan some more of the trip – where will we go next??

37-Relaxing in San Pedro de Atacama

We also used the day off to check out the local salt flats of Salar de Atacama…..

38-Lizard on Salar de Atacama

…which along with being home to lizards are also home to one of the rarest flamingos in the world – the Andean Flamingo. Quite a strange thing to see at altitude on slat flats, but this is where they migrate to in the summer months.

46-Flamingos on Salar de Atacama

39-Flamingo at Salar de Atacama (2)

40-Flying Flamingo at the salt flats in Atacama

More great roads and scenery en route to and from the salt flats.

41-Salar de Atacama

42-Salar de Atacama (2)

43-San Pedro de Atacama (3)

44-San Pedro de Atacama (2)

Now time for our third goodbye….Chris has to be in Buenos Aires before the end of the month, so he’s headed off for the Argentinean border. Now we’re back on our own….other than the odd day here and there, we’ve not been on our own on the road for months – time to hunt down some more overlanders I think 🙂

45-San Pedro de Atacama


Colombia….Back On The Map!

Before we started this trip I had read and been told that Colombia was ‘Back on the Map’ in terms of tourism….it’s true and you can see why – what a beautiful country, full of super friendly people 🙂

Our first few days in Colombia were spent in Cartagena – for me that meant recovering from a few days being ill on the Stahlratte (I have decided that sailing really isn’t for me!!). It took a few days for the sensation of being on a boat whilst lying in bed to disappear.

We also met up with our fellow sailors for final meal together on dry land before all heading our separate ways. We met some great people and enjoyed exchanging stories of our trips.

01-Stahlratte Dinner

Dan also had some free time to ‘tweak’ a few things on the Transalp….I’m not sure what the other guests at the hotel thought about having 4 bikes parked around the pool, especially when everyone was carrying out maintenance too.

02-Pool Side Repairs

03-Poolside Repairs 2

A slight lack of concentration by Dan, who was chatting away whilst tightening a bolt, led to him shearing the bolt off. It was the clamp which holds the front axle in place. Unfortunately he continued to tighten the other 3 bolts but the uneven pressure caused another one to pop off….uh oh! A bit of research online and it seemed that Honda had discontinued these.

04-Broken Studs

With the bike now unrideable, Dan caught a Moto taxi into town to a local bike shop recommended by the hotel. Amazingly, they had the exact parts we needed…..panic over!!!

We did make a rather odd purchase of an old shoe whilst in Cartagena too (just the one, bought from some strange man selling them on the side of the road) – we needed a thick piece of rubber to stop our center stand banging under the bike – it seemed like a good idea at the time, but it didn’t do the trick so Dan had to pop to a DIY shop for something more suitable 🙂

12-Old Shoe

This did mean that we ended up staying a bit longer in Cartagena than the other bikers as we hadn’t yet ventured around the old city to see the sights.

Cartagena is an old walled colonial town, the supposed setting off the film ‘Romancing The Stone’. Although it turns out none of it was even filmed in Colombia – so walking around looking for familiar ‘sights’ from the movie wasn’t possible. Here’s a few snaps of the old city though…..it is a pretty cool place.

05-Cartagena

06-Cartagena Art

07-Cartagena Lisa

11-Cartagena (3)

09-Cartagena (2)

08-Cartagena Wall

10-Cartagena Ship

When we finally left Cartagena, we headed north towards the old fishing village of Taganga. We drove through the town of Barranquilla, which was a pretty unpleasant experience. It was super hot, the roads were crazy busy and the town was dirty and not a place most people would want to be – anyway, it turns out this was in fact the hometown of Shakira – I bet she never comes back here now though!!

Taganga was a nice place to spend a few days (especially because Dan wanted to watch the final F1 race of the season so we had to check-in for a couple of nights), although the heat and humidity was almost too much and a/c was a must.

13-Taganga Bay

15-Taganga Village

They did sell some odd gifts here…..

14-Taganga Gifts

Next up we started heading south towards the start of the Andes. We had an overnight stay in the town of Aguachicha at a really friendly hotel. They couldn’t do enough for us and then in the morning the husband and wife very excitedly handed us a gift – a porcelain Colombian mini truck. They looked so happy about giving it to us that we couldn’t say no – even though it’s way too big for us to carry with us – we don’t really have space for things like this. So we’re going to have to post this one home I think 🙂

29-Don Jose Gift

Horse and cart is still very much used over here – you often see them riding along through towns alongside brand new cars – it’s like they’ve moved on with the times….but also stayed in the past…I like it.

16-Aguachicha Hotel Parking

17-Aguachicha Horse & Cart

After Aguachicha we headed into the mountains to the town of San Gil. The scenery in Colombia is amazing, it changes so much throughout the day as you ride along.

19-Colombia Roads (2)

18-Colombia Roads

23-Colombia Roads (4)

24-Colombia View

26-Colombia View (2)

21-Colombia Roads (3)

25-Colombia Roads (5)

28-San Gil Church

30-San Gil Breakfast

The roads can be a bit scary though, lots of big slow moving trucks and crazy overtaking locals.

20-Colombia Crazy Trucks

27-Colombia Traffic

One of the good things in Colombia is that motorcycles don’t have to pay the tolls on the roads – they have a little motorcycle lane along the side so we can just nip down through and be on our way. The first time we did this I was sure I had read that this was correct, but it wasn’t signposted as a motorcycle lane and I wasn’t 100% sure, so I was looking back after we went through to check we weren’t being chased by any officials for not stopping to pay, thankfully I was correct and we’re not now on the run.

22-Colombia Toll Free

Next up we headed to the picturesque town of Villa de Leyva, a really quaint little town. We also caught back up with Mike, Uli and David who were on the Stahlratte with us. Mike helped to guide us to their hotel when we arrived in the main square looking lost.

32-Road to Villa de Leyva (2)

31-Road to Villa de Leyva

33-Villa de Leyva

And, just for a change, Dan had the Transalp in bits again when we arrived – nothing serious, we had just developed a squeak and needed to make sure everything was all nicely greased. This is becoming quite a regular thing though, the bike seems to require lots of attention – I guess that’s what happens when you ride a 25 year old bike.

34-Villa de Leyva Repairs

36-Villa de Leyva (3)

35-Villa de Leyva (2)

The following day, Uli and David headed off early as they both needed to go to Bogota to see their bike dealerships. We rode with Mike to Zipaquira to check out the underground Salt Cathedral.

38-Catedral de Sal (5)

37-Catedral de Sal (2)

40-Catedral de Sal (3)

39-Catedral de Sal (6)

41-Catedral de Sal (4)

42-Catedral de Sal (7)

They even had an LED display in the entrance tunnel to the salt mines which was displaying the flags from around the world – so we stopped for a while to wait for the Union Jack.

43-Catedral de Sal

We stayed at a hotel near the center of Zipaquira, which was also being used by a school as a base on their school trip. The children and teachers were all excited the following morning when they saw the bikes in the car park and we spent half an hour chatting with them – us practicing our Spanish and they were practicing their English.

44-Zipaquira Children (2)

45-Zipaquira Children

We planned to ride that morning to Salento, which would be around 380km’s – a long day but not impossible – we’ve ridden further before. Uli and David were also headed that way, so hopefully we would all reunite.

There were quite a few patches of roadworks which held us up a little bit and we did get lost a few times early in the day as we tried to navigate some minor roads to avoid the need to ride through Bogota.

46-Colombia Roads (6)

47-Road to Manizales roadworks

We stopped in the town of Honda for gas, a quick drink and of course, a photo of our Honda in Honda 🙂

48-Honda

As the day went on, the roads got more windy, the altitude got higher, the clouds thicker and lower (we were riding through them at times with zero visibility), the weather got colder and the rain started. With still well over 100km’s to go and our average speed getting slower, it was time to reassess. At another long wait where the road was temporarily closed, we got the guide book out and decided to just head to the city of Menizales which was closer.

49-Road to Manizales

By the time we reached the city we were soaked and freezing cold. Mike had had a puncture, which thankfully he was able to re-inflate and keep riding – changing a tube on the side of that road in that weather would not of been fun. We had picked a hostel out of the Lonely Planet and after getting a bit lost around the one way system, we finally arrived. The hostel had no parking, but they decided that as they were not opening their restaurant up for a couple more days, we could just park up in there.

50-Manizales Parking

A quick check of the email when we arrived and we discovered that Uli and David had also re-thought their plans before they headed off that morning and were heading our way. They had heard that 4 of the other bikers from the Stahlratte were staying at a hostel in the city as one of them had broken down – it turned out their hostel was right across the road from ours….so within a couple of hours, 8 of the bikes from the boat were all back together, even though it seemed none of us had planned on staying in Menizales intentionally….. 🙂

After a catch up over drinks that evening and then breakfast with some of the others the next day, we hit the road with Mike to head onto our previously planned destination of Salento. Uli and David would follow on later in the day – Uli needed to go get an X-ray first due to a slight mishap on some rough road – all is well though, no broken bones and no serious damage to his bike!!

We met up in a hotel in town and headed out for dinner…..

51-Salento Meal Time

And then shot some pool in town whilst some of the locals played dominoes and cards in the corner – this small town has a really great feel to it, in fact, this country has a really great feel to it 🙂

52-Salento Pool

53-Salento Dominos

We all had a bit of a laugh when a lady walked around the bar giving all of the guys free condoms. We were all looking intently trying to figure out what she had in the box as we wouldn’t want to miss out on a free gift – so they made sure they got one too!!

55-Salento Condoms

….perhaps something they should try in some other countries!

It’s definitely time for a rest day off the bike….we’re now relaxing and planning our onward journey. Not too sure how I feel about the prospect of being in the Andes for the next few months though – I’m missing the hot weather and not enjoying feeling cold – it might be time to buy some thermals 🙂