It was with great relief that I got to the Kazakh/Russia border! The last 50 km in Kazakhstan had been on horrible road where old broken tarmac was mixed with new road construction. It was dusty and sandy in places – perhaps the worst surface for a motorcycle.
We made the optimistic plan to start at 5 am from Atirau so I got up at 4.45 and started to get ready, however, it was still dark and wouldn’t get light until closer to 6. The “Green hotel” served breakfast early so we had a bite before leaving a bit after 6. The first 150 km of the road wasn’t too bad (but with deep tracks from heavy trucks) and we could keep a good speed. As we got closer to the border the road got worse to culminate in the terrible conditions of the last 50 km.
Horrible road leading west out of Kazakhstan to Russia.
Road under construction.
“Donkey head” oil pumps. Must be oil under ground.
Lots of free running horses along the road.
Since we gained an hour in Russia we were at the border around noon. My entry into Russia was straight forward but Mike’s took some time. He had a general entry into a number of countries, including Russia, and the immigration people at this entry point had not seen this before. After an hour we were in Russia! The road was now beautiful asphalt and it felt like heaven!
At one point we crossed a part of the river Volga that makes up the delta of the river as it enters the Caspian and it was a pontoon bridge made of metal, it was kind of weird as the tracks in the metal was pulling the bike in one direction. Before entering the bridge we had to pay a toll and we had no Rubles, however, Mike’s visa card worked without problems! Back to civilization were credit-cards and, later, ATM’s work! A big relief after the problems in, particularly, Uzbekistan to obtain cash. Surprisingly, “Pay-wave” works where you can make payments by waving the card close to the detector machine. Amazing!
Astrakhan 25 June, 2019
I wasn’t feeling great so I mainly stayed in the hotel but went out to see the sights and get something to eat. I found a burger place called “Kotleta” spelled with the Latin alphabet and they served me a very nice burger. As it happened one of the staff had a birthday and I was invited to join the celebration with tea and cake. It was very nice and they were very curious about my trip.
Astrakhan is a nice city with lots of green parks and the “Astrakhan Kremlin” which is very close to our hotel.
Lots of green parks.
Astrakhan to Volgograd (420 km)
We’re heading towards Moscow and the first leg was to Volgograd. Of course, Volgograd used to be Stalingrad where the most decisive battle of the 2nd world war took place with the Soviets beating the Nazis. It was the bloodiest battle in the history of warfare with close to 2 million casualties.
Coming into the city, it looked like a grimy industrial town, but as we got closer to the center it started to look nice. We’re staying in the center within walking distance of the Volga river and we went there for dinner and have a look around. There’s a park along the river with lots of activities for kids and adults and there were a lot of people around.
By the Volga river.
Kids playing in the water park by the river.
Volgograd June 27, 2019
Mamayev Kurgan is a dominant height fiercely fought over in the battle of Stalingrad, now it’s a large memorial park that commemorates the battle. It is very impressive with the big statue “The Motherland Calls” being 85m high. It was installed in 1967 and was under renovation at our visit but the scale of it is still clear.
The Motherland Calls.
The eternal flame with the walls showing names of soldiers that died during the battle.
Changing of the guards.
Murals depicting the street fighting nature of the battle of Stalingrad.
Volgograd to Tambov (520 km)
We’re getting further north and the temperature kept a pleasant 20-25 C for the duration of today’s ride. The road was good but many stretches of road construction slowed us down a bit. The vegetation is changing and there are a lot more birch trees and also pine trees which we have not seen before on the trip. The road goes straight for pretty much the whole stretch over very open land and to stop the wind being too strong on the road birch trees are planted along the road to break up the wind. The road goes in the middle in a wide swath of close to 100m with the birch trees being the boundary to the enormous wheat fields and steppe to the sides.
Birch trees planted on both sides of the road to stop the crosswind.
Finally some fir trees. Looks almost like Sweden!
The total distance traveled so far is 13964 km and around 4000 km since leaving China.
Tambov to Ryazan (320 km)
The weather turned cold and rainy when we set off. The plan was to go to Vladimir, 180 km east of Moscow, to attend a blues and bike festival but after 150 km in the miserable weather and worn road I decided to turn along M5 towards Moscow and stop in Ryazan while Mike carried on to Vladimir for the festival and to meet his friend. I figured the festival would not be much fun in the inclement weather and I saw for myself a muddy field with bikes falling over in the wet terrain which also might have meant the end for my clutch..
I thought M5 meant motorway 5 but as it turned out for most of the distance it was no motorway so I believe the M stands for Moscow. After 150 km along the M5 I turned off to Ryazan leaving around 200 km to Moscow. It’s continued raining all day but I think tomorrow is going to be better.
Ryazan to Moscow (220 km)
It was a Sunday and the traffic was light, there were some holdups in a town 50 km from Moscow but nothing major. My hotel is in the center of town and I rode past some of the buildings I’ve seen in the news. Later on I walked to the red square and admired it’s buildings and the sheer size of it. The centre of Moscow is very impressive!
The Moscow white house.
Moscow Jul 1, 2019
I spent the day sightseeing and in the afternoon I joined a Subway tour since I’ve read the subway stations are beautifully decorated.
Karl Marx monument on the Revolution square.
Our subway tour guide, Alina, took us to several stations and explained the art in them and the history behind and since we were only three in the group we had the chance to ask a lot of questions. The subway system was started to be constructed during the 1930s while Stalin was in power. The reason, we were told, to make such beautiful and elaborate stations was to motivate and make people happy while going to work in the morning. I’m not sure if it worked but it certainly made the Moscow subway a tourist attraction today!
Lenin. Alina told us there used to be a lot more pictures of Lenin previously but a lot of them had been taken down. Of course, Stalin, has been totally discredited and it’s difficult to find a single picture or statue of him.
The station where the motive was related to intellectuals.
Station depicting people of all walks of life, including soldiers, students, parents and athletes.
Moscow to Velikiye Luki (460 km)
I wanted to get out of Moscow while the traffic was light so I started a bit after 6 and was soon on the M9 highway leading to Riga. In the beginning there were 5 lanes diminishing to a normal highway after around 120km. I had booked a hotel at the halfway point to Riga and reached there soon after midday. The weather was sunny but cool and I was wearing the cold weather gear. The hotel turned out to be a motel with lots of big trucks parked and idling their engines making for a slightly noisy place to rest.
First Motel of the trip. Characterless but very practical!
Velikiye Luki to Paldiski – ferry port close to Tallinn (640 km)
The weather was gray, windy and rainy for most of the time to the Russia/Estonia border crossing which I reached around noon. The Russian official took a long time to figure out how to clear my bike out of the country and in the end his boss, a stern looking woman in a green uniform, came out and gave him an earful and soon after I was cleared to go to the immigration counter. The woman there looked at my forms and asked me which city I lived in and I told her Singapore. She asked; where is that – in Spain. I explained it was in Asia and it was it’s own country and after a while she said OK, you can go.
Miserable weather on road towards Tallinn!
So finally, in to Europe and Estonia where the immigration and custom formalities took all of 10 mins! Amazing! After all the long border crossings in Asia it was nice to come to a place where they really knew what they were doing and being very efficient at it. The weather also cleared up and gave me a good welcome to Europe and the 300 km to the ferry port went by pretty quickly.
I had to wait a few hours before I could board and found a nice restaurant nearby after I checked in to the ferry. Paldiski is right by the baltic sea and was very windy and I was afraid the bike would blow over so had to be careful how I parked it.
While waiting for the ferry I saw this home built vehicle based on a Ford V8. The couple riding it had been brave to take it to Russia.
The ferry arrived around 8.30 pm and they started to unload it. There were very few passenger cars but hundreds of huge trucks and I was impressed to see them reversing these juggernauts from the ferry. The ferry was emptied in about an hour and I was waved forward to board.
Bike tied down on the ferry to Sweden.
Kappelskar to Eksjo (400 km)
The ferry arrived early morning at Kappellskar, the port in Sweden which is about 100 km north-east of Stockholm. Riding the bike off the ferry posed no problem and I was soon on my way south. I stopped after a while to get some breakfast and had the classic Swedish Sibylla grilled sausages with mashed potatoes.
Swedish fighter jets displayed along the road in Linkoping. The one on the right is the “Draken” and on the left is the “Viggen”.
It was another windy day with some rain as I was getting closer to Eksjo but I arrived without problem at my sisters early afternoon.
Eksjo Jul 5 – 8, 2019
Spent several days in the lovely town of Eksjo. They were clever in the 60’s and 70’s not to demolish the old wooden houses in the center of the town and it’s now a tourist attraction. On the Saturday a marching band was playing in front of the church with a lot of people attending.
Well kept wooden houses in the center of the town which has kept it’s layout for centuries.
A stream runs through the town.
Every Saturday the marching band plays in front of the church and while marching through the town.
Eksjo to Goteborg (200 km)
I left my sisters place around noon to catch the ferry from Goteborg to Kiel leaving at 6.45 pm. Gray skies to begin with that gradually lightened up as I got closer to Goteborg. The road was great as it was snaking it’s way through the hills but not enough turns to make it interesting on a motorcycle. No jams until I reached Goteborg where I was stuck in traffic for a bit before getting to the ferry terminal where I was able to board the ferry pretty much immediately. There were around 20 bikes on the boat and I chatted with some of the riders. One couple had spent 6 weeks riding through Finland to North cape and back and the guy said he started on a Harley but was now standing by a very new RT 1250 and I asked him how the Harley could have transformed into the very new BMW. He said the Harley developed problems with the bearings and there was none available and somehow his insurance got him a BMW to continue his trip. Sounds like a great insurance! I had a cabin and after dinner I went straight to bed.
On board Stena Germanica, quite a few bikes on the ferry from Gothenburg to Kiel.
Kiel to Hook of Holland (600 km)
The ferry was a bit late so I wasn’t able to get off it until around 10 am after a good night sleep in the nice cabin. It seems I sleep well on ferries… There had been some discussion while with the group in China that a carnet de passage was required for non-European vehicles entering Germany so I was relieved that there were no checks whatsoever when driving off the ferry and into the town of Kiel. The road layout in the town was good for transiting the town and I was soon on the motorway to Hamburg. There were a lot of roadworks around Hamburg but the traffic was still flowing well with no queues. The autobahn in Germany is fantastic and with no speed limit! I was doing around 125 kph and was being overtaken making me feel like I was standing still!
For short stretches the speed was reduced to 120 km/h!
The weather was very good and I was by the Dutch boarder after 350 km around 2 pm and then it started raining which it carried on doing all the way to the ferry. There was a lot of traffic in Holland and several jams but I made it to the ferry and, again, boarded very quickly. I had a nice shower to warm up and had a good fish and chips dinner. The ferry would take me to Harwich and the start of the last day of my adventure.
Harwich to Feltham close to Heathrow airport(200 km)
The main reason for going to London was so that I could ship the bike back to Singapore. I was not able to find a shipper in Sweden and a couple of international shippers first said they could ship from Sweden but later said no. I also had a quote to ship from Rotterdam but that was close to twice the cost of shipping from London so to London I went, although it meant spending an extra day and ferry to get there. Anyway, the ferry arrived in Harwich on time and I started the ride to Feltham knowing I had to go on the London circular road, the M25, and as expected there were several accidents which meant the trip took a lot longer than it should have. However, I made it to Feltham and motofreight where I was warmly welcomed. It took me an hour to repack and get the bike ready for shipment and then I walked to a nearby pub for lunch.
So now fly to Stockholm for three weeks of vacation before going back to the trip origin in Singapore.
People asked me how I packed and what I brought along for the trip. The picture shows the bike with the two aluminium side bags (on a bike they’re called panniers). Above it is the yellow waterproof bag and on the tank the tank-bag. I packed so that I kept everything I need at the end of the day when not on the bike in the yellow bag such as change of clothes, toiletries etc. I kept my camera and snacks and drinks in the tank-bag so I could quickly access these needed while riding. In the panniers I kept spare parts (bearings, levers, break pads, fork-seals, light-bulbs, fuses), tools, electric air-pump, clothes I didn’t think I would need for a few days, tent, sleeping bag and air-mattress, and rain clothes. Also some medication like antibiotics, altitude medication, stomach upset tablets, band aid patches and some other stuff.
I know now that I should have carried an inner tube and tools for getting the tire off the rim. I was very lucky I was riding with Mike who had these. I should also have brought spare clutch plates (or changed them before leaving).
Summary and thanks
I did 18500 km in 10 weeks and had an amazing experience! It was hard work and worrying at times such as when I bent the rim so badly it did not hold air and for a while I was at a loss of what to do to carry on. The ride through China was far too compressed and I’m at a loss to remember many of the days there while I remember the more relaxed days after China a lot better.
My bike, the Triumph 800 Xrx performed exceptionally well and started every time I pressed the start button. It was among the most fuel efficient of all the bikes in the group through China, while still having great power to go uphill on the serpentine roads. The bike was great for 95% of the distance but for the other 5% it would have been better to have a bike with lower gearing, spoked bigger wheels with inner tubes, and longer suspension travel. The Honda Africa Twin was used by several guys on the trip and that bike is more suitable for the worst road conditions and much more suitable for off-road use. However, I should not complain – the Tiger got me from Singapore to London!
I thank you for having had the tenacity to follow along on my trip and hope you enjoyed my photos and ramblings.
Of course, special thanks goes to my lovely wife who gave me her blessings to go on the trip and supported me morally all along!
This was going to be a short day in my mind — but no! We started around 10 am with a new guide to take us to the Chinese/Kirghistan border. After about 50km we stopped at the first check-point. They checked papers and also wanted to check our cameras to make sure we had not taken pictures of “sensitive” areas”. After some time they got fed up and let us go and after a few kms we came to the immigration and customs control. We got there before noon and were not finished until 5 pm! The bikes were x-rayed (!) – not sure what they were checking for. Cameras were then checked again for illegal pictures and we were stamped out of the country. Then the personnel went for a long lunch and so did we, which was taken in a yurd (big tent) with kebabs, bread and ice-cream – actually very nice.
So at 5 pm we were finally cleared and set off for the border which was another 120km away. Getting out of China was fairly straight forward and then into Kirghistan. There was a big gate blocking the entrance but after some time a guard came and opened up. The procedure of immigration and customs was then fairly straight forward taking about one hour. We then set off for Naryn 180 km away. As the sun was setting I had beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and fields, actually, looking very different from the Chinese ones. The mountains had a softer shape and there was a lot more green nature to be seen. The last hour was in the dark, not much fun! Rule number one is to never ride in the dark but sometimes you must make an exception.
Naryn to Kazarman (200 km)
I was in a quandary where to go from Naryn. The first option was to go to Bishkek and then on to Osh on reportedly good roads while the second option was to go direct to Osh on smaller roads that were probably not great. I was persuaded to choose the 2nd option… For the first 100 km, or so, the road was not too bad with very coarse asphalt. Then this turned into coarse gravel and then as the road was ascending to cross a pass it turned into mud… With the tires on by bike this turned out to be troublesome and I was stuck in the mud. Not fun! One of the other guys helped and he got it a bit further up but then it wouldn’t go any further and he thought the clutch was burned… So two of the guys went ahead to the next village to get help and me and Andy were stuck on the mountain. Andy adjusted the clutch and managed to get the bike up the hill – a great achievement! So far I had fallen off the bike 3 times during that day and when we were setting off down the hill Andy fell off as well – even though his tires were much better suited for the conditions.
These beasts are heavy to raise!
Anyway, we managed to get down the hill! However, it was getting dark and started to rain so we decided to stop and set up the tent. After some swearing and perseverance we managed to raise the tent in the howling wind – not easy! As we were trying to sleep the rescue vehicle arrived and we were told to rush and get everything in the van. In my mind, the rush was completely unnecessary, and led to my bike was pounded in the van on the horribly poor road. So the result was a broken pannier on the bike and a big mess.
The bed and breakfast accommodation was brilliant when we finally reached at around midnight. We were welcomed with a nice hot dinner before going to bed and not so good sleep. It had been a nightmarish kind of day and it was difficult to drift off to sleep. Maybe, one day I will appreciate the adventures of the day but for now I’d rather not think about it.
Kazarman to Osh (could not make it with my bike)
We set off in the rain and it took us some time to find the road to Osh, it seems road signs are not a priority. The road would cross a pass at 3300 m and as i got higher up the mud became worse and it was clear that I could not make it. I decided to turn around and go back to Kazarman where I found a free room at the same b&b. When I arrived 4 motorcyclists from Holland had already arrived and I chatted for some time with them. They had come over the pass but on much more suitable bikes with good off road tires. Later, a party of 3 motorcyclists from New Zealand arrived, they had rented bikes in Bishkek and were doing a circle of the country, mainly off road.
Kazarman – June 7
Spent the day drying stuff that got wet the other night and wander around the village. I also needed to get some cash for the van transport so I went to the bank. It was a small one and it took some time for me to get some cash. There was a guard in military fatigues sitting by a desk supervising proceedings. I wanted to change a fairly small amount but they took their time investigating my passport and finally the cashier said OK. After a few signatures I got my money, quite a procedure!
Many of the buildings are left from the Soviet era and look really drab. However, it was nice to see kids playing outside in the sun shine, similar games as I was doing in Sweden in the 50’s and 60’s… Kids in the western world don’t know what they are missing!.
When traveling on the roads you can’t fail to notice there are a lot of old Audi 100’s around. About 30-35 years old and they’re still going strong! Having had two of these I know they were great cars, but why so many in Kirghistan? I guess they are fairly simple compared to modern cars and easy and cheap to maintain, or? Also note that they have adopted the European sign convention using the same pictograms.
A German guy who I met at the b&b is spending 3 years on a round the world trip on his bicycle and had spent 6 months on the road already. He will get to Singapore later this year so we’ll catch up then.
Remember the 80’s Audi 100? I think they’re all in Kirgistan!
Kazarman to Jalal-Abad – van transport
The lady running the b&b was quite formidable and hard working. She cooked great dinner and breakfast and also organized the transports of my bike. She was very strict not to allow anyone going indoors with the boots on and I was told off several times… The driver of the van to take me and the bike to Jalal-Abad was a friendly chap and organized 2 additional men to get the bike into the van and the loading went well. I brought straps for occasions like this and was able to securely tie the bike down properly. The trip took 5 hours on, sometimes, atrocious roads and we stopped several times to check on the bike straps but everything went without problems and once arrived the driver quickly rounded up another couple of guys to get the bike off the van. The driver’s 12 year old son came along on the trip and he was sick due to the road conditions many times during the trip so we had stop and let him throw up.
Secure tie down of bike in van. It’s the front yellow straps pushing the suspension half way down that kept the bike secure.
Pretty cold with lots of snow at the top of the pass at 3300m.
Atrocious road conditions on the mountain.
I walked around the town in the afternoon, it was market day and lots of people about. I managed to find a data only sim card and the girls selling it helped me install it in the phone while giggling. They tried to speak some English but showed with a small pinch how little they knew. I replied that my Russian was even worse than their English. The sim card was valid for a week and has unlimited data so should cover me for my time in Kirghistan and cost a paltry 200 Som (about 3 USD).
There was a cafe 20 m from the hotel that served nice food and tea in vast quantities. I had afternoon snack, dinner and breakfast there and the food tasted great!
Jalal-Abad to Osh (100 km)
As I handed the key to my room back and said thank you to the elderly platinum blond hotel lady she did not raise an eye-lid or acknowledge me in any way, and continued smoking her cigarette. However, her colleague rushed to the room to make sure I hadn’t wrecked it or stolen anything, mind you, the thread-bare towels were hardly worth stealing … It was if I had entered a time warp, the hotel block clearly came from the bygone Soviet era and the minuscule room had wall paper that looked like what we used to have in the 50’s.
My steed and Soviet style hotel block.
Well underway the usual road closure happened and the GPS desperately wanted me to turn back to the closed road. I finally stopped and asked for the way to Osh and with those directions the GPS finally gave up insisting I turn back and got on track again. The weather was beautiful and so was the scenery and I was starting to enjoy being on the bike again. I arrived in Osh after a couple of hours and got to the hotel without any further GPS malfunction. As I turned the bike off the bell-boy came out and helped me carry my stuff to the reception, amazing service!
Close to the hotel there was a car wash so I brought the bike there for a thorough cleaning, it was horribly muddy so really needed to get the grime off.
Had new tires mounted on the bike and walked around town, Osh does not have a lot to offer! A big square with a big statue, probably of Lenin. The square has a lot of lanes which perhaps is/was used for military displays on May 1?
Some of the pictures from my walks around town:
Statue of Lenin (?).
I walked past this wedding. They seemed happy to see me.
In the evening Jah and missus as well as Mike arrived at the hotel and we went out for a really nice meal of beef Stroganoff and red wine.
Osh to Tashkent in Uzbekistan (390 km)
Me and Mike did not get away until 11-ish and were at the border after 15 minutes. Getting out of Kirghistan only took a few minutes while the customs formalities in Uzbekistan took close to an hour. However, the Uzbek guards were very friendly and chatty and wanted to know everything about our trip. We were let go but without a temporary immigration form which as slightly worrying. Hopefully this will not cause a problem when we leave the country.
We stopped at a mobile phone shop to get sim cards but were told we needed to have local id’s. Of course we don’t have such, but a couple of local ladies allowed us to use their id’s! Amazing! So we ended up with 4G SIM cards that will last us for the time in Uzbekistan.
Coal fired power plant.
About halfway through the journey there was a pass with quite high elevation and a new and beautifully constructed highway led across it. The temperature sank by 10-15 degrees so the pass might have been 2000m high. However, there was some wet patches and with the new unfamiliar tires I rode very carefully… We found a hotel close to the city and made our way there without problems. Drivers in Uzbekistan seem to have a death wish going at high speed and worryingly for motorcyclists they give us very little space as the fly past.
Tashkent to Samarkand (320 km)
We rode through the city before turning south west towards Samarkand. Tashkent is a modern city with lots of new buildings, and wide tree lined avenues. However, there are no “famous” historic buildings in the city. Someone said it was the 2nd or third biggest city in the former Soviet union.
Hay transport. Nice stacking of the hay bales.
The road was good most of the way and we arrived mid afternoon to Samarkand. The temperature is getting higher – around 31C during the day-time. At night the temperature was a very pleasant 22C.
It’s not easy to get cash in this country, we have not found an ATM that will give us the local currency and credit cards are not accepted in many places. The only way to get local currency is to exchange pristine US $ bills, a slight crease in the bill will make it non-acceptable! It’s a real pain!
Samarkand – June 13
Walked around beautiful Samarkand, beautiful mosques and people.
Very old Lada. Lots of old cars on the road.
Ladies in beautiful dresses relaxing before a wedding reception at the Registan.
First night in Samarkand hotel. Very nice but no room available for the 2nd night.
Mosque close to the 2nd hotel.
Mosque at the Registan.
Registan is a big area with various mosques and buildings. The buildings are clad in beautiful tiles – very colourful.
When we got back from the Registan, Jah and his missus had arrived in our hotel. We spent a lovely evening in a restaurant driven there by our resident taxi driver.
Samarkand to Bukhara (280 km)
Before we left we said bye to Anton who I’d met a year ago in Bogota. I wonder where we’ll meet next?
Pretty boring but, oh so hot, ride from Samarkand to Bukhara. The temperature was getting close to 40C with very low humidity and I was pretty exhausted by the time I arrived at the “Old house hotel” which was located in a small street, only accessible by motorcycle, and which took some time for me to find. It’s newly refurbished and the beds are not concrete hard – hurray! Mike arrived a bit later than me and we went for a walk in the town. It’s much more touristy than Samarkand but very nicely done.
We found the “Ark” the most famous structure in the town and an exert from Wikipedia states:
“The Ark is a large earthen fortification located in the northwestern part of contemporary Bukhara. In layout it resembles a modified rectangle, a little elongated from the west to the east. The perimeter of the external walls is 789.6 metres (2,591 ft), the area enclosed being 3.96 hectares (9.8 acres). The height of the walls varies from 16 to 20 metres (52 to 66 ft).”
Entrance to the Ark!
Wall of the Ark in Bukhara.
It’s a huge and very impressive structure!
We found a nice place for dinner with some entertainment to go along.
My progress the last few weeks:
Rest day in Bukhara
We decided to stay a day in Bukhara before going on to Khiva.
Bukhara ladies just happened to be lining up for a photo.
Sunset in Bukhara.
Bukhara to Khiva (470 km)
We started early at 7 to avoid the heat. The first 100 km was pretty badly rutted asphalt and then there was an amazingly good 4 lane highway for 270 km so the day was a lot easier than we thought it would be. The landscape along the highway was very boring, almost desert like.
New highway in the desert landscape.
It’s low season in Khiva so no problem to find a hotel and we’re the only ones at this one. I walked around in the beautiful historic area in the evening. Amazing minarets and mosques.
Colourful minaret in Khiva
Protective wall surrounding the Khiva historical area.
Full moon shining on Khiva.
There were a couple of camels inside the Khiva historical area. A bit scraggly?
I’m sure all “adventure travelers” have doubts from time to time about what’s the point of the trip. You get to a new destination and wonder “what am I doing here?” and then stay a day or two and go to the next town. I’ve been traveling for 7 weeks and am starting to wonder “maybe I should cut the trip short”? When I get into Kazakhstan I can choose to go northwest towards Latvia and take a ferry across to Stockholm and finish the trip in a couple of weeks, or I can go south towards Georgia, Turkey and come up through Europe and spend, at least, another month. I do get tired of sitting on a motorcycle day in and out and I’m having some aches and pains and wondering if I’m still enjoying the adventure… I’ll have to make up my mind in the next week or so…
Khiva – June 17 – 19
Mike’s front tyre is shot! He talked to the hotel manager who found a tire in Tashkent so now we’re waiting for it to arrive in Khiva. People here are very friendly and helpful and will go out of their way to help, like the hotel manager did. I told him I was suffering from some hip pain and he quickly found a nurse to come to the hotel and give me a massage and some pain relieving pills. The nurse gave me a nice massage but I’m not sure that it will help with my hip ache…
We found a salon to cut our hair and the person doing the cutting was a boy of 17! He had his 12 year old twin brothers in the shop while we were getting the hair cut and they were very boisterous and curious about us. The 17 year old had a diploma and did a nice job!
Later in the afternoon Jah and missus arrived and stayed at the same hotel. Dinner was taken at a rooftop restaurant inside the historical area and was very nice. The full moon was amazingly yellow and together with the lit minarets produced a stunning display. Unfortunately I only had the phone camera so the image is not so good.
Khiva minaret along full moon.
It looks like we’ll be staying another day or two since Mike’s tire will not arrive until tomorrow the 19th…
The road from here to Kazakhstan is not so good in places and there is also a 300 km stretch with no petrol stations and in combination with the available fuel being only 80 octane we need to bring some extra fuel to make sure we’re not stranded in the middle of nowhere. I asked the hotel manager and he got us two 10 liter water containers we can use for fuel and this should be enough to get us safely to Kazakhstan.
I walked around the non historic part of town and got some pictures.
The hotel manager said this was a famous author from Khiva.
Couples getting married would walk around this statue for good luck…
On the last day in Khiva the hotel owner gave us a farewell dinner. We had a very nice 4 course meal with beer, red wine and vodka. We felt very full and slightly worried we wouldn’t be in good shape to get up early the next day.
Khiva farewell dinner
Khiva to Kungirot (300 km)
An early start at 7.30 meant it was pretty cool and we made good speed both on the rough potholed road and some newly built stretches so we arrived noon time. Kungirot town does not have a lot to show for itself, it’s dusty and with terrible roads.
As the day wore on first a German couple arrived on Husqvarna bikes having come from Kazakstan and later in the evening a group of more Germans arrived also from Kazakhstan. We chatted and they told us about the bad road close to the border of Uzbekistan. It was nice to meet other bikers.
Kungirot to Beyneu in Kazakhstan (430 km)
We started at 6 in the morning and made good speed the first 150 km on fairly good sealed roads. We were thinking this is not so bad but then the road got worse and worse with huge pot holes. I hit a big one and I knew straight away that something was wrong, the steering did not feel right… I stopped and confirmed a front wheel puncture and saw immediately that the rim was badly bent. I tried pumping up the wheel and kept going at 40 kph but it was no good, the air gradually went out. So I stopped and wondered what to do, there was no phone connection and I really was in the middle of nowhere with the temperature climbing into the mid thirties. Some people stopped to help but there was not much that could be done. So I waited for Mike who was way ahead of me and he appeared after some time. He immediately suggested we had to put a tube in the tire and luckily he had one. So we managed to get the wheel off, break the bead and get one side of the tire off. We put the tube in and managed to get the tire back on and pumped it up and put the wheel back on. Sounds simple but is not easy and in the blazing midday sun with temperatures reaching 40C it was a heroic effort!
Badly bent front rim. Can this be safely fixed?
Mike packing away the tools after fitting the tube on my front-wheel.
With this I could get going again and managed to ride to the border with Kazakhstan going over, possibly, the worst road on the planet…
After two hours at the border the road to Beyneu was fantastic for 60 km and then turned into a road of hell, first terrible dirt road and the last 5 km made up of sand as fine as flour. It was very difficult to ride in this but we eventually found the hotel after a 12 hour long day. I was completely exhausted but managed to go out to get some food and drink.
Beyneu to Atirau (420 km)
I was so tired I doubted I could make the trip to Atirau but somehow I managed to get going. Temperatures of 40C made the going tough and we had to stop to drink a lot. On top of that the front wheel is no longer round so the front of the bike vibrates a lot at slower speeds while at around 100 kph it was bearable.
A flock of sheep crossing the road.
A lot of camels along the road. They look incredibly docile and stoic and not one got onto the road.
I saw several O&G rigs.
This is what Wikipedia say about Kazakhstan Kashagan oil field:
“With 9 – 11 billion barrels, Kashagan is the largest oil field outside of the Middle East. It is estimated to come on stream in 2016 and reach production of 1.5 million barrels per day at its peak. Kazakhstan is a major oil producer with an estimated total production of 1.64 million barrels per day in 2013.”
Areas beside the road looked like it was covered by snow… It’s dried lakes covered in salt.
Lots of poles!
Atirau Jun 23, 2019
It is Sunday and I’m worried there will be no garages or workshops to straighten my rim. With the help of the iOverlander app I was able to find the area of some workshops and set off to find the place around 10. It was straight forward and we soon found the workshop that had previously helped to fix a bent rim. It took some time for the guy to get going and with the help of heat and a hammer he was able to straighten out the rim. Mike found a 19 inch inner tube and after a few hours I was on the road and the rim was now much better – mission accomplished!
I had thoughts about going due north towards Moscow to avoid the terrible road to Astrakhan but in the end we decided to go towards Astrakhan tomorrow. I’m worried that if I bend the rim again it might not be safe to fix it so I will need to take it very gingerly.
Route after China from Naryn, Kirghistan to Astrakhan, Russia.
Route after China from Naryn, Kirghistan to Astrakhan, Russia.
After riding for 10 days without a break it certainly was nice with a rest day in Lhasa, and today people, including me, were ready for another day on the road. To get out of Lhasa took the usual crazy manoeuvres but we did it without mishaps. As we have traveled we’ve seen a lot of engineering projects being done or that has been completed. Amazing concrete pillars for the construction of new high speed railways over deep valleys, or bridges for the road. I didn’t manage to photograph some of the more impressive ones but here is a nice looking bridge we passed early in the day.
Bride over the river at Lhasa.
The road was in good condition and we rode by some scenic lakes before starting the climb to higher elevations reaching 4800 m later in the day.
Mountains and water look nice on a sunny day.
Reflecting lake by the road.
Surrounded by dark looking mountains.
Sheep and rocks.
Impressive rock formations.
Interesting geology. Looks like sandstone brechsia?
Close to the glacier.
Beautiful lake nestled in between the mountains at around 4500 m.
After a very scenic day of riding we reached the destination around 5.30 and were to meet for a walk to the local fortress but I did my own thing staying at the hotel and having a nice meal of onion soup and spaghetti bolognese. Back to my room I worked on this missive. As we travel further west and north daylight lasts longer and today it got dark a bit after 9.
Gyangtse to Tingri (320 km)
We saw Everest for the first time today! However, it was far in the distance.
Mount Everest in the far distance.
Otherwise the ride was similar to yesterday’s one, a little bit longer, but only one high pass which was at 5200 m which is higher than the Mt Everest base camp where we are going tomorrow.
Snow by the roadside.
Cereal or grass fields at a high altitude.
Interesting gathering of colourful indians. Some of them were riding their horses up and down a stretch.
May 22, 2019 Tingri to Everest base camp (90km)
We are getting close to Everest! Tingri is a small town by any standards of 500 people and tiny by Chinese standards. It’s basically a town with a hotel or two and a petrol station… At the hotel we met up with another biker tour group that started the ride in Kathmandu and were also going to Everest base camp today. They were all riding Royal Enfield bikes and they claimed they were good for the riding they had done.
Back to Everest – we had an easy ride crossing one mountain pass at 5200m with amazing views of 5 peaks above 8000m. The 20km road up to the pass was made up of beautiful switchbacks on nice smooth road surface – pure joy on a motorcycle!
5 peaks above 8000m. The photo does not give justice to the amazing view.
Interesting geologic layering.
Mount Everest in all it’s glory.
Tonight we’re sleeping at a guest house close to the base camp, there is no heating so I’m afraid it’s going to get cold with a biting wind and sub zero temperatures.
Everest base camp to Xigaze (320 km)
We started the day very early and got up at 6 for breakfast at 6.30 and bus transport from the lodgings to the place where the bikes were stored. In previous years you were allowed to ride the motorcycle all the way, but now, because of environmental concerns, you have to take the electric bus. By 8 we were down by the bikes and made sure they would start since the temperature had been sub-zero during the night and we had to scrape some frost off the seats. Also scrambling to change into riding gear, that was stored in the service van during the night.
Mount Everest just before sunrise.
Well, we finally got away without incident and started riding in the cold morning – brrr… Today we would ride the same way we came – in the other direction. We again rode the amazing switch-back road, it must be one of the best roads in the world for a motorcycle. It’s close to 40 km going up and then coming down.
Race track or mountain road? The road leading to the Tibetan Everest base camp.
It’s not easy to get trees to grow at an altitude above 4500m.
Maybe not so easy to image this with seismic?
Desolate. Very inhospitable in winter.
We reached the hotel in Xigaze early – for a change around 4.30 and had time for a snooze before diner.
Xigaze rest day
Some people went to the famous and large local monastery, some worked on their bikes and I took it easy working on the blog to keep it to date. Anyway, it was very nice with a rest day before starting the last 2500km to Khasgar.
May 25, 2019 Xigaze to Saga (400km)
Before setting off we took farewell of 3 people in the group, they were going back to Lhasa to catch a flight either home or other vacation destinations. It was the third time we rode the first 150 km of today’s route and the rest was on the G219 that will lead us to northern Tibet and Khashgar. The ride went without problems although there were stretches with big pot holes that we had to navigate carefully. As we got closer to Saga the wind got much stronger and you had to ride at a lean angle to go straight.
Saga to Bagaxiang (490 km)
Nice views for the entire ride of the Tibetan landscape. It’s incredible grand with new mountains showing up all the time . The road was in general in good condition. One problem was that there was a distance of around 250km between petrol stations and some of the bikes could not handle that distance, the strong wind making the fuel consumption go up as well.
Map showing route from Lhasa to Everest base camp, back to Xigaze and onwards to Bagaxiang.
The vastness of the Tibetan high plateau can only be experienced by being there…
This is close to 5000m elevation and it was cold.
At the highest point of every pass there is colourful bunting.
Golden bull and a black tiger.
Ice on the water.
And it was cold! In the morning below freezing and at noon below 4C. Luckily I have electrically heated pants and jacket to help me keep warm but it’s still chilly.
Mountain on the Chinese side – still the Himalayas.
Bagaxiang to Tsaparang (540 km)
This was to be a day of true adventure! The ride was supposed to be a short one but me and Andy pulled out in front, got into a good rhythm and followed the main road, we had a great time without thoughts of if we were going the right way. After 170 km we stopped at a check point and sat down to wait for the rest of the group to arrive. We waited and waited… Finally I messaged Jah, the tour leader. He informed me we missed a turn off and were far away from where we should be and he had sent Mike to “retrieve” us. Mike arrived but the problem was we were out of fuel and to get to the petrol station we had to cross the check point.
We approached the police officers who turned out to be very nice (they even offered us a can of Red Bull) and after showing scans of our passports (the passports were carried by the Tibetan guide) and after various discussions we were let through to find fuel. Then we had to go back for 250 kms to find our nightly stop. After 130 km we turned off onto the X705 road that led us through some very scenic areas. The last part went through an area of clay-rock that displayed various colours and were amazingly beautiful.
Amazing views along X705 road.
Clay rock formations flanked by snow covered mountains – beautiful!
Tsaparang rest day
A beautiful day with glorious sunshine and blue skies, and at 3700 m much lower than the usual 4500 m so the outside temperature was higher. Some people went to look at some local site but I decided to stay at the hotel and relax – it’s so nice not being on the bike for a full day!
May 29, 2019 Tsaparang to Rutog (330 km)
We backtracked the 250 km we went wrong two days before. Since we were leaving Tibet and entering into a new province, Xinjiang, there was a long holdup before we could continue the last 120km to our hotel in Rutog. The hotel was not nice, no heating and in a rather dilapidated state, however, with electrically heated blankets it was still possible to keep warm. It got to -5 C during the night because the altitude was still large at around 3600m.
Filling up 12 motorcycles with petrol always takes time since the rules requires the use of a 2-stage process where first a can is filled and this is used to fill the bike. SOmetimes, we were allowed to push the bikes to the pump and fill.
Always beautiful scenery in the mountains of Tibet.
Rutog to Da Hong Liu Tan (580 km)
A long day on the road involving riding but also stops at check points which were starting to take even longer time. There was 370 km between petrol stations and we had to fill spare tanks with fuel for some of the bikes that did not have the required range using their “built in” tanks. We all made it so someone had made the right calculations.
India on the other side of the lake.
Colorful bunting in many places. Nice or an eye sore?
We arrived at the hotel town which turned out to be more of a military town late and was subjected to a thorough investigation to make sure we were the same person as shown in the passport. This took a considerable amount of time and, of course, we had to take it with a smile. So late in the evening we were finally in the hotel which turned out to be the worst on of the trip. There were no showers and heating and the toilets were broken. At night it got to several degrees below zero so the rooms got chilly during the night.
May 31, 2019 Da Hong Liu Tan to Kashgar (600 km)
This is the last leg of the trip through China and the longest day, both in terms of kilometers and hours. We started at 6 am while it was still dark and the first few hours were extremely cold – some people reported their bike thermometer as saying -8 C. We climbed to an elevation of 5000 m when the sun had just come up with the views from the top of the pass being fantastic. The road was really rutted with big pot-holes in places and, although some people love these conditions, I feel with my motorcycle for all the hard hits it takes when hitting the pot holes… As it turned out I had hit one so badly that the front wheel rim was badly bent, luckily, not so bad that the air leaked out.
View from the 5000 m pass early in the morning.
The road leading up to the pass. It was in a bad state of repair.
Camels in China? Oh yes! I was told the people here come from eastern Turkey originally and they brought camels.
After many stops for petrol and security check points we arrived in Kasgar at the hotel around 10.30, pm, any later and it would have been dark. We had ridden for 16.5 hours!
Kashgar rest days
There was a lot of work to be carried out on our bikes including oil and filter changes as well as other repairs. My front rim was miraculously bent back to it’s original shape without problems – I was really pleased to see that it could be done so well! We were originally planning to stay for 2 days but because the required work on the bikes could not be completed in that time we are staying for an additional day.
Kashgar, or Kashi, as it’s also known, has a history stretching back to 200 BC and with a current population of 500,000 it has served as a trading post and strategically important city on the silk road between China, the middle east and Europe. It’s modern day layout is pleasant with wide avenues lined with trees – so different from our travels through Tibet which showed very little greenery and was more dessert like. Kashgar is at an altitude of 1200 m and is nice and warm with daytime temperatures in the 30’s. So nice after the freezing temperatures we;ve seen the last few weeks.
The old bazaar.
Lots and lots of electric mopeds going at pretty high speed in their designated lanes. It’s an efficient and pollution free way of transport.
Tree lined wide avenues. In the middle the car lanes, to the side of that the moped lanes and at the edges the pedestrian lanes.
Since leaving Singapore I have ridden 10301 km in one month. The first 3000 km from Singapore to the Boten China border were easy with good roads and took no more than 5 days in the saddle. The 7000 km in China has been hard work with the first 10 days without a break. We’ve had more breaks since then but we did 7000 km in around 21 days on, at times, bad roads and 15-20 mountain passes. The Tibetan scenery has been breath taking – no doubt about that! However, somewhat sterile and very brown.
The RideChina company with Jah, it’s leader, did a brilliant job of putting together the trip and organizing hotels etc. The hard schedule could very well be because of the Chinese authorities putting a lot of restrictions on what they would accept. The group was not very disciplined with people disappearing for some time but Jah never let that affect his temper but remained calm throughout. I don’t think I could have in the same situation.
We left a bit after 7 to get to the border with China at the opening time at 8. After getting out of Laos we were met at the Chinese border by the organizer, Jah. After an hour or two of border formalities we were in China! We stopped for a lovely lunch before continuing to the next city to finalize the formalities allowing us to drive our bikes in the country. This involves getting a Chinese driving license and having the bikes inspected.
The formalities were finished around 2 or 3 in the afternoon and we got on the highway to Jinghong, the goal for the day. The highway is new and beautifully constructed but at one point it was closed and we had to get off it and ride the old road which was very twisty so should be fun on a bike, however, with a lot of big trucks going very slowly and difficult to overtake it was pretty hard work. After 60km of the old road we were back on the highway and were soon in Jinghong.
Our intrepid leaders
Boten China border
It had been a long day and I was very tired by the end of it.
Jinghong to Kunming (530 km)
We stayed in a nice hotel and were offered a very nice spread for breakfast. The idea was to start at 8 and we were probably on the road about that time.
Morning preparations and chats before setting off
Getting in and out of the Chinese cities is not easy and luckily our guide knows his way around. The traffic seems very chaotic, much more so than other Asian countries where I’ve been riding and it seems like a minor miracle that people do not get hurt.
We stopped for lunch at the halfway point and, unfortunately, one of the guys lost his phone and after reviewing CCTV footage it turned out that someone nicked it and he had taken off, but they knew the culprits car registration. Wonder what will happen to him?
Discussions with the police reagarding the missing phpne
So after a lengthy delay we were on our ways again. The highway is beautiful ly constructed as it cuts its way through the very hilly country. There are a large number of viaducts and tunnels with sweeping turns in between – it’s a very nice road to navigate on a motorcycle. Along the way there were other, very, impressive constructions with huge viaducts being built.
We stop every so often to drink water and stretch our legs.
We arrived at the Kunming hotel around 6.30 where we met additional adventurers joining the group.
Kunming to Linjiang (500km)
Another group of 5 people joined us so we are all together 14 bikes. This took some time to organize and then one guy had a scare thinking he’d lost his passport delaying us by close to an hour. He re-traced his walk to and fro the bank and finally figured out h’ed put it in a hidden pocket in his jacket. Without passport would probably mean aborting the trip plus having a lot of problems getting out of the country. So everyone drew a sigh of relief once it was found.
All this meant we didn’t get on the road until after 11 and we had a long way to go. On the way we we’re stopped at a roadblock because of an accident further along the road and it was quite a gathering of people with the locals wanting pictures of the bikers, a bit like we were from another planet. After half an hour the policeman let us go so we had the entire road to ourselves for quite some time. When we reached the accident it was a relatively small one and I can’t understand why the whole road was blocked for that.
Road block gathering
We arrived in the beautiful town of Linjiang after 6 some time and stayed in the old part of town which a a pedestrian precinct with cobblestone streets and old buildings – very nice! However, since we were so late there was no time to explore the town and I was very tired so after dinner I went back to the hotel and bed.
Linjian old town
Our hotel – very nice!
Linjiang to Shangri La (270 km)
Today was the first day we’d traverse a mountain pass and on the way admire the Tiger Leaping Gorge. After the first stop there was a bit of a problem and some guys, including me, got lost. It took some time to gather the group back together again and then we set off for the Gorge. It’s pretty amazing scenery with tall mountains surrounding it.
The Yangtze river in all it’s might flows at the bottom of the gorge.
The leaping tiger.
After admiring the gorge we had some nice twisty roads for 150 km reaching an elevation of 3800 m. The temperature also dropped to 10C and it felt pretty cold after the days of extremely hot riding conditions.
Shangri La to Guibading (190 km)
Today was a fairly short ride so we set off from Shangri La a bit later. On the way we stopped at a monastery and listen in on the service for a while. The buildings are set nicely on the mountain side.
By the entrance to the inner court yard of the monastery
Monks out in the courtyard after (or in between) services.
Rather than following the new main road which goes by a tunnel through the mountain we took the old road which goes over the pass at close to 4300m. The road is not well maintained so there were several places of dirt-road and stream crossings as well as rock-fall for most of the way. Some of the stretches were pretty rough so I got to practice my off-road riding skills which is nice and I’m getting more confident when not having full control of where the bike is going.
The lads having a laugh at the peak of today’s ride.
We’re now at the foothills of the Himalayas and tonight we’re staying at an elevation of around 3500 m and I can see the snow covered mountains from my hotel window.
Guibading to Zogang and into Tibet (380 km) Total distance 5164 km
We had an early start – this was going to be a long day. Some of the people in the group love roads that are not so good and today they were very happy. The road quality leaves a lot to be desired with a lot of gravel and ruts. We traversed two high passes with the 2nd one being above 5000m. It was getting late in the afternoon by the time we got there and it was rather cold so we quickly descended and reached the hotel at seven. It was indeed a long day.
Filling up the tank in Tibet
The pace is rather relentless with long days in the saddle, late dinners and early mornings. It is starting to not feel like a vacation but a grueling test of stamina. I did not have this in mind when I signed up :-(. The original itinerary included more rest days and some shorter riding days. However, I think there will be more rest days once we get to Lhasa.
Zogang to Ranwo (180 km)
We had our first puncture today! The wheel had an inner tube and to replace this the wheel had to come off and since the service van had a tire we fit both a new tire and inner tube. This took at least an hour but we had stopped at a sunny meadow with yaks eating of the grass. Quite serene really.
Once done we continued to lunch and then climbed up to above 4000 m. Beautiful scenery for most of the day.
Ranwo to Bayi (360 km)
This was another long day and I had no energy to update these pages and now a few days later I have a hard time remembering what went on during this ride… However, there was some nice mountainous scenery with wooded passages.
Bayi to Lhasa (400 km) Total distance 6255 km
A nice ride on undulating roads with good asphalt. Along the road we see a lot of Tibetan pilgrims on the way to the holy city of Lhasa. Many of them cycle, some walk while the most arduous walk a few steps (the length of their body) then lie and kiss the ground before repeating the process. There was risk of rain at one point and we stopped to don rain gear but it turned out to be false alarm since very little rain actually came down.
Morning sun on mountain lake
Snow covered mountain all around
There are yaks everywhere along the road and you must be prepared to stop at any time.
Highest point on today’s ride at 4900 m.
Since entering China in Mohan we first went due north until we reached the kink and since then pretty much due west. The map shows the route through China so far.
So we’re now due north of Bhutan and tomorrow we’ll continue our westward journey towards Mount Everest base camp. Since entering China I have traveled 3200 km which is more than half the total distance through the country. Lhasa is around 29 degrees north while the endpoint of London is at 51 degrees which means I’ve come more than half way north from SIngapore.
Today is a day off the bike and we spent several hours at the Potala palace. From wikipedia:
First day of the trip and I wanted to get through Malaysia into Thailand. I left home at 6 in the morning and got to the Tuas border station. Because of having acquired the Carnet de Passage I had to go through a special procedure at the border and it was obvious that customs rarely go through this procedure and it turned out they did not have the correct stamp, so the lady had to phone to get the stamp brought to the office… Still, the whole process did not take more than half an hour so can’t complain too much.
Leaving early in the morning on the 30th of April.
The Carnet duly filled in. About to leave Singapore.
The north-south highway in Malaysia is great for a quick transfer through the country and I made good time to Kuala Lumpur. Going on the road west of the capital it started raining and the traffic got really bad and I had to stop for a while in the thought I could wait the rain out. However, the rain did not let off so I had to don my rain gear and set off at a slow pace.
Gloomy and rainy around KL.
It was then raining on and off all through the Malaysia. Pretty miserable! Nevertheless, I persevered and got to the border with Thailand around 4pm. Since I was there last, the border crossing is completely redesigned and newly constructed. Getting out of Malaysia was no problem but the procedure to get into Thailand took a bit of time so the whole process took an hour and then I was on my way to Hat Yai where I found my hotel after the GPS got me lost a few times.
Once settled in I went to the Post Laser Disc Pub where I had dinner and some fluid replenishment. While sitting there this geezer had problems starting his moped and he spent a lot of time trying to make it go. He cleaned the spark plug and it would start but then stop and repeating the process several times. He did not let this affect his mood but had a good laugh while working. I started talking to another angmo (non-asian), turned out he was a British guy who had been in the town for 30 years teaching business English at the Songhkla university. He loved the town and the freedom of Thailand in general and had no plans to move back to the UK. Interesting!
May 1, 2019 Day 2 Hat Yai to Prachuap Khiri Khan (700km)
I felt so knackered after the first day that I thought I might stay another day in Hat Yai but when I woke up I felt reasonably OK so I set off towards Khiri Khan. It’s the 1st of May holiday so the traffic should be pretty good and in general it wasn’t so bad. I was surprised to see a lot of trucks towards the afternoon on a holiday, however, the traffic flowed well the whole day and I made good time and reached Khiri Khan around 4 in the afternoon. It was hot at 35C most of the day but I managed to keep going.
The main and state oil company in Thailand is PTT and their petrol stations are well equipped with stalls serving Thai food and 7-11 stores as well as Amazon coffee shops serving nice lattes. They are also air conditioned giving a respite from the blazing hot weather.
Amazon coffee shop serving nice coffee. There is one of these at every PTT petrol station.
Khiri Khan is a small town on the western side of the Gulf of Thailand set beautifully close to the water.
Khiri Khan beach in evening sunlight.
Khiri Khan with dramatic cloud
The nearest restaurant was German(!) so I went there and had a pork schnitzel. I talked to the German owner who moved here a few years ago after retiring. He loved it here and has a good crowd in the high season which is when northern Europeans come here to escape the cold and darkness of their home countries in winter. The low season has started and there weren’t many guests in the restaurant. However, outside there were a number of Europeans having beers and discussing football!
Local Europeans discussing football.
Khiri Khan days 3-4
Relaxing for a couple of days before going on towards Laos. The last couple of days have been sizzling with temperatures as high as 38C and high humidity. Unbearable to be outside in the mid-day sun.
Discussions at the dinner table. Probably football.
Locals having a morning coffee.
The morning catch laid to dry in the hot sun.
Feels like 49!
Feels like 49!
May 4, 2019 Khiri Khan to Nakhon Sawan (500km)
I got up very early at 5 to set off at first light because I knew it was going to be very hot. Nakhon Sawan is 200 km north of Bangkok and rather than go through Bangkok I turned north to the west of the city. I had no real problems apart from handling the hot weather getting up to 41C as I was nearing my destination. When you’re up to speed the heat is still bad but bearable while when stopping at a traffic light you really feel like melting. Luckily there were not so many stoplights so I managed to survive.
Nakhon Sawan to Lampang (370km)
Repeat of yesterday, pretty much. Still very hot! Did a shorter distance and arrived at the guesthouse in Lampang at 11. It’s located beautifully on the edge of the river Wang with a balcony area overlooking the flowing water. Very serene.
Riverside guesthouse by river Wang.
It’s run by a European woman who said she’s been here for 38 years. Her Thai husband has a garage with several bikes, the latest acquisition being a 2014 BMW GS.
After meeting Andy, who is also joining the group through China, we went for a walk and take in the night market. A whole km of various stands selling everything from food to clothes.
Busy night market.
Bridge over river Wang.
May 6, 2019 Lampang to Chiang Kong (319km)
Today I’m riding with Andy. Rather than riding the main road we took minor, but good, roads and stopped after 60km to look at a Buddhist temple high on a hill. This involved going up a few hundred meters from the main road and taking a car ride up a very steep road and a further one km walk up a steep path to the temple. We met with two Russian bikers that I’d met the day before in Lampang who had also stopped to view the temple.
Very hazy conditions.
At the top of the Wat. Exhausted after the steep climb in 38C heat.
Preparing to fly the drone.
Built on top of a height with towers scattered on the hill.
May 7, 2019 Chiang Kong to Louang Namtha in Laos (310 km) Total distance so far: 3051 km
Northern Laos was the destination today so we had to go through exit procedures in Thailand and entry procedures in Laos. It took a couple of hours and with a lot of papers with various stamps. Laos has introduced a new rule for bikers meaning payment of around USD 50 to the tourist police. I had a letter from the Laos ambassador in Singapore saying I was allowed to ride the bike in Laos but this, I was told, had no value so I still had to pay up. Never mind, I’m sure as we get into border crossings in the Stans there will also be unexpected charges so I’d better get used to it…
Laos is very hilly so the road was twisty with a lot of ups and downs and was reasonably good for 150 km, but after that it got a lot worse with stretches of gravel, huge potholes and washboard surface. The road is trafficked by big trucks going from China to Thailand and back and the road was not built for this kind of traffic. Maybe the China belt and road program will spend the money to improve the road?
I decided to split up and go straight to the guesthouse where we’re meeting the China ride organizers for the ride into China on Friday. I felt, I needed a few days off the bike and get some rest before China. I have done 3000 km in 8 days so I don’t feel so bad about it.
When I came to open my bag I found the lid of the skin moisturizer had partly come undone and there was cream everywhere and on everything – what a mess! It took me an hour to clean it up while swearing under my breath, damn, can’t I remember to close it tightly!
After this ordeal I found a bar and sat down with a beer to calm myself. Then three young Irishmen (do women count as Irishmen?) came in and we started a conversation covering many topics including what beer people in Ireland drink and the demise of local beers with big international companies buying up the smaller local breweries. There are quite a lot of young back-packers at the guest house, they come here for trecking in the national park and also river rafting.
Spent a couple of relaxing days in this town and met up with the group going through China. It’s an interesting bunch of characters with people from the UK, Switzerland, New Zealand and possibly others with varying professions like helicopter mechanic, plumber, solicitor and management consultant.
I started looking into this last year and found you are not allowed to ride through China on your own but must join a government approved travel agency organized ride. I found an agency called ridechina (https://www.ridechina.com) who seemed to have organized many tours in China over the years. I contacted them with my plans and they came back with a tour that would fit them. They will meet me at the border between Laos and China and get the formalities on entering China sorted out – which includes getting me a Chinese driving licence and Chinese plates on the bike!
After discussions on the home front I was given the go ahead :-), so now I need to get the bike ready and figure out what I need to bring. I found a place in Osh, Kirghistan that has the tires I need so I won’t need to bring tires with me. I’ll bring some spare parts though, such as bearings, levers and possibly fork seals.
I serviced the forks – new seals and fork oil. Although I asked a mechanic if my chain would do another 20k km, and he said no problem, I was not so sure since the chain was adjusted so far back that there was not much room for further adjustment. I went to the same workshop and another mechanic immediately said the chain was bad and needed changing!
The route up until the exit of China into Kirghistan is set, but from there to Europe there are several options – well actually 3. 1) Go through Russia either all the way to Europe or west of the Caspian through Georgia into Turkey and further towards Europe, or 2) Go through Turkmenistan to Iran and south of the Caspian into Turkey, or 3) Cross the Caspian on a boat from Kazakhstan to Azerbaijan. The big problem with option 1) is getting a visa to go through Russia, I might get it in time for the trip but possibly not. Option 2 is problematic. Getting visas to enter both Turkmenistan and Iran is not straight forward and seems to require “fixers” inside the countries. Iran also requires a Carnet de passage (CDP) and I’m in the process of applying for one through the Automobile Association of Singapore and I will get that before leaving. However, I’ve seen reports that you are not allowed to bring in motorcycles larger than 250cc to Iran, which if true, makes this option not useful. Option 3) is a possibility but the boats are not ferries, but rather cargo ships, and do not go on a regular schedule which makes this option somewhat uncertain. However, it might be the only option if the Russian visa does not materialize.
The following are the potential coutries I will be passing through:
Laos: Need visa and temporary import permit for the motorcycle. Got that at Singapore Laos embassy last week.
Kirghistan: Visa Waiver
Uzbekistan: Visa exemption
Tajikistan: Electronic visa acquired – no problem.
Turkmenistan: Need visa and not straight forward to obtain. However, people in the group have been in contact with an agency inside the country and it appears we can get a visa at the border with an invitation from the agency.
Azerbaijan: Electronic visa acquired. Will need this if we have to take the ferry across the Caspian.
Iran: When you fly into the country you can get a visa when you land but not sure what the situation is when crossing a land border. I also need the CDP.
Kazakhstan: No visa required.
Russia: Require an “Auto-visa” to be able to drive your own vehicle through russia. The russian embassy/consulate has said it will take 2-4 weeks to obtain the visa so I might need to give this up – not enough time.
Georgia: Visa free
Turkey: Visa free
The above are for me with a Swedish passport but European union countries in general have the same visa requirements.
So three weeks before departure the route after China is not clear…
Today is 25th April and it’s only 5 days until I set off! I picked up my passport with the approved Russia Visa today – Yay! This gives me more options regarding the route after leaving China, I can go through Russia on the western side of the Caspian sea to Georgia and then Turkey, or, if I feel really fed up after China, I can go straight to Latvia and get a ferry to Sweden… I also received the Carnet today but I think it will be of little use since Iran has banned any motorcycles larger than 250cc to enter the country and this was the only country along the route that requires the Carnet.
After picking up the pp I walked around the Marina bay area and snapped some photos, it’s really amazing what Singapore has accomplished in the last 20 years. Most of the buildings in the pictures were built after I arrived to Singapore 20 years ago.
I’m planning to ride my motorcycle from Singapore to Europe starting April/May this year, 2019. I will go through Malaysia, Thailand and Laos before joining a group ride through western China. After a month in China riding through Tibet I will enter Kirghistan. Then into Kazakhstan and further towards Europe.
This will be a long trip and there’s lot’s of stuff to prepare. I will be going through many countries and visa requirements will vary from country to country. There are also preparations to do for the bike.
Once out of China the real adventure starts! Kirghistan starts off as a bit of a bad dream, but Uzbekistan through Samarkand is amazing while the route through Kazakhstan is more of a transport stretch.
Russia turned out to be a lot nicer than it’s reputation and I particularly enjoyed Volgograd. Of course, Moscow was amazing and I got to see the famous buildings we often see on the news. After a ferry across the Baltic I spent some time in Sweden before going to London and the end of my adventure.
I arrived in Bogota last night with a direct flight from Houston. I had organized someone to pick me up and drive me to the hotel and this worked well so I was in bed a couple of hours after I landed. Bogota is at an altitude of 2640m so the air is “thinner” and one of the consequences is that it is difficult to sleep, and I didn’t sleep well. I had plans to tour Bogota today but I have no energy so I’ve been relaxing all day. I read it takes 4 days for the body to adjust to the altitude so I don’t feel too bad about relaxing all day.
Today the bike was supposed to arrive but no bike:-( I’m not that surprised since the shipping company I’m using don’t seem to have their act together. I had a bit more energy than yesterday so decided to do some sightseeing. The center of town is 10kms from the hotel so I got an Uber to get there. Traffic is really quite bad but I was warned about that so no surprise. I can’t say that Bogota is a beautiful city even though the government buildings and the area they’re in isn’t so bad. It’s nice they’ve decided to make that area a pedestrian zone with lots of coffee houses and restaurents. I went to the museo de oro and when I was about to buy the ticket I was asked for my age and after replying I was told it was free! So there are some benefits to being a pensioner!
The Bolivar square in Bogota. Lot’s of people and doves.
More doves and people.
Some demonstration. On the way from the hotel there were people marching along the main road. Not sure what they’re demonstrating about or against?
Statue of Simon Bolivar.
I was hoping the bike would arrive today – but no. I hope for tomorrow, otherwise I will need to spend the weekend here in Bogota and Monday is a holiday so it would delay my departure from here by close to a week from my original plan. But there is no reason to get upset about it, I think I will need to be ready for things like this. These things are sent to try us, as my mother used to say.
Today I went to Monserrate, a hill on the eastern edge of Bogota that rises close to 600m above the city. I took the funicular up and although I could have walked I didn’t fancy doing that before I’m more used to the high altitude. There is a church on the top as well as restaurants, souvenir shops and other touristy stuff. Walking up to the peak from the funicular station at 3200m was really hard work and I was puffed by the time I got up. The views of the city were nice once the clouds cleared.
Funicular to Monserrate. Reminds me of the one in Are, Sweden, where I used to take one of these several times a day when I was actively skiing.
In the clouds! Looks like a small version of “Christ the redeemer” in Rio.
Bogota is a large sprawling city – population 8 million, slightly less than all of Sweden.
As I suspected the bike did not arrive today. The company I’m using for the shipping must be categorized as incompetent:-(
I did something really stupid this morning when I was inserting my lens, instead of saline solution I put the cleansing solution Peroxide on the lens instead. Ouch! The burning sensation was incredible and I’ve been suffering all day with severe pain in the eye. I went out to find an eye bath and saline solution and in the four pharmacies I tried they had none. I guess people are not wearing contact-lenses much in Colombia? I finally talked to the hotel owner and with the help of online translation I could describe what was wrong and she immediately offered to take me to an ophthalmic doctor. Once there and after calling another lady to do the translation over the phone I bought the required drops and eye bath. Then she mothered me and told me exactly what to do and even administered the first application of the eye drops. Wow! I’m amazed at the friendliness and helpfulness of this lady! Perhaps this is a general trait of people here?
After enduring the pain in my eye all day yesterday I was totally exhausted and went to bed at 2000 and slept for 10 hours! The eye is a lot better today, at least there is no pain but it’s not good enough to put my lens in which means I only see with one eye. I took a long walk to the shopping mall to withdraw some money and taste empan￼adas for the first time – really yummy. The mall is nice and clean and would not have been out of place in the states or Europe…
Mall eating area. Very nice and clean and choice of foods.
On the way i walked past some kids being coached to learn to skate on inlines and there are plenty of open spaces and play-grounds for kids to roam. Skating is close to my heart having learnt at a very early age on the ice of lake Storsjon in my hometown Ostersund. I’m going to make sure that our toddler will learn early too.
Nice to see kids learning to skate on inlines wearing protective gear.
Day 6 -7
Looking back at the past couple of days I can’t say I’ve done much. I’ve walked around the area where I’m staying where there are lots of restaurants and cafes in walking distance. There are also a lot of barbers and I was brave enough to have a hair cut yesterday, I wasn’t sure whether the barber would leave 1 cm or cut 1 cm but it worked out fine and she was very quick finishing the cut. I had some stitches in my neck that I needed to have removed and it was very difficult for me to see them even in a mirror so I asked the lady at the hotel if she could help and she agreed and removed the stitches without any problems. Amazing! The climate in Bogota is almost perfect, around 20 C in the daytime and 10-15 C at night. So no need for A/C or heating.
So I am ready to start my trip and keeping my fingers crossed the bike arrives tomorrow.
Beautiful sky at dusk.
Nice flower arrangement
Fruit at the grocery store looks colorful and delicious
Day 9 – June 14
On Monday, the sacred heart holiday, I was bored so I decided to go to Monserrate again. There were a lot more people than last time and I had to queue for some time before getting up. After lunch I walked around a bit and it started to rain quite heavily and since all my gear is on the bike I had no rain coat so I got a bit wet and cold. Yesterday, I could feel the beginning of a cold and today I feel pretty lousy. Not good, I’m just hoping for a speedy recovery but I know it will take some time before I’m well. So it’s just as well the motorcycle hasn’t arrived, I don’t think I’m well enough to ride today anyway. Oh yes, the motorcycle, it’s looking like Friday now.
Today a gentleman my age checked into the hotel. Turns out he is from Switzerland and he is on his way home after having completed the route I’m planning to do but going the other way starting in BA and ending up in Bogota. He used three months on the trip so maybe I’ll be a bit rushed planning to do it in 8 weeks. I was planning to go to coffee growing region in Colombia for a few days but because of the late arrival of the motorcycle I’m thinking of skipping that.
The cold I got turned nasty and I spent the last few days in bed. The hotel owner was really concerned and she asked me questions about my symptoms, called a pharmacy and discussed what I needed to get better. After half an hour the pharmacy delivered a cough mixture to the hotel. It pretty much immediately stopped my cough and runny nose, however, it made me groggy and I couldn’t sleep so the next day I slept all day. But now I feel much better.
The arrival of the motorcycle became of secondary importance during the last few days but, of course, it has not arrived. The latest prediction￼￼ is now Monday. It’s frustrating because the shipping company is not keeping me informed of why it’s not arriving. US customs has approved the documents so there should be nothing holding the shipment up now.
The hotel is located in a residential area and it’s basically a converted home with 6 bedrooms. Security is tight in that the gate to the street is always locked and I must ask for it to be opened when I venture outside. There are no parked cars in the streets, they are parked behind the security gates of every house so security is definitively a priority even in this, seemingly, affluent area.
Yesterday, school kids were marching past the hotel so I took some pics from my window.
Schoolkids marching in the hotel street.
At lunch time an Austrian gentleman on a BMW GSA arrived at the hotel. He is a true adventure biker and is spending 7 years going around the world. He does 3 months travel and then returns to Vienna for three months. He’s put 100,000 kms on the bike in the last 3 years spending most of that time in South America. He reckons Bolivia and the northern part of Argentina are the most worthy places to visit.
Day 15 – June 19
Not much has happened in the last 4 days so I did not update the blog. Needless to say, the motorcycle did not arrive:-( It’s still stuck in Miami. This is getting more and more difficult to accept and sometimes I have ideas of aborting the trip because I’m now down to seven weeks for the trip. And still Aries, the company dealing with shipment can’t get their act together. Yesterday afternoon they told me everything was cleared and the bike would be arriving last night. Of course, this morning when Veronica, the lady helping me in Bogota, tried to figure out if the bike had arrived the result was negative.
In the meantime I’m chatting with my new friend Toni, the Austrian biker, reading books and watching the world cup on TV. Unfortunately, they only show matches where Central and South American teams are involved so the match between Sweden and South Korea was not shown. Sweden won 1-0 without the support of me watching so I’m happy anyway!
Day 18 – June 22
I finally have some good news! The motorcycle arrived last night and today I was picked up at 0900 and taken to the airport where two guys from Cargorider helped me clear the bike. There was a lot of paperwork and back and forth but by 1400 I had the bike in my hands! 4.5 hours – pretty good compared to 13 days in Miami. So today I rode the bike for the first time on Colombian roads.
The crate-box of the motorcycle looked huge.
Sides are coming off to reveal the Tiger.
Today’s the first day on the road, it feels nice to finally get going. It took me close to two hours to get out of Bogota, the traffic there is murderous, I also took a couple of wrong turns so it turned out to be a long day. Colombia 40 is very twisty, first coming down from Bogota at 2600 m and a temperature of 10 C down to 300m and 35 C, then up to 3300m before coming down to 1000 m where I am now. And this road is the main road from Bogota to Cali and further south so the traffic and number of trucks in both directions was incredible.
Getting out of Bogota took it’s sweet time.
At the first town after crossing this part of the Andes I stopped for a rest and liquid intake being pretty exhausted. There were a whole bunch of guys hanging around and one of them spoke really good English and we started talking and he suggested a hotel I could stay at. So this guy, Diego, got his friend on a moped to drive ahead of me and lead me to the hotel. I was a bit worried they were leading me to a remote area where they would rob me, but I needn’t have worried, the hotel is OK and I was too tired to find another hotel anyway.
My local fixer, Diego, is checking for available rooms.
Dinner was served cafeteria style but it was actually very good – or I was ravenous and didn’t care about the taste. It seems there was a meeting of the Panama hats distributor because half the people were wearing hats and the next morning they were selling hats from the back of a car.
Colourfull Panama hat.
Another Panama hat?
Outside of the Cafeteria building. Kids were playing soccer and basketball.!
Day 19 – June 24 – Popayan
I got up around 0600 and since there were lots of noise around it seems like most people got up early. I had a few tiny cups of very sweet coffee and looked up how far I would go. I decided to go to a town called Popayan around 300 kms further south. I also booked a hotel room there and got the GPS set up – wow, I felt really organized. It was raining in the morning and I found the “painted” parts of the road dangerously slippery. After passing one of the frequent painted speed bumps, opening up the throttle a tiny bit the rear wheel stepped out, I should have set the traction control to “rain” to prevent that happening.
I arrived Popayan around 1300 and found the hotel easily. It’s right by the main square of town and it’s very beautiful. I got my room and could hear the people across the street screaming excitedly, at first I couldn’t figure it out but then I saw Colombia was playing Poland in the worldcup and they went hysteric when Colombia scored. C!olombia won 3-0 so there was a lot of screaming!
Crusifixion display in the stairway of the hotel
The buildings of the square and the surrounding streets where painted white, very beautiful.
A lot of doves flying by the cupola..
Doves and dogs.
Balloons for sale.
Daddy and daughter having a good time.
Young ladies enjoying themselves.
I started around 0730 and was planning to reach the Ecuadorian border by afternoon. At first it was wet and I’m still not that comfortable riding in the wet so I was riding pretty slowly – better safe than sorry. I stopped around 0900 for a coffee and when setting off again the sun had come out and the road was drying up quickly. For several hours the weather was beautiful and so was the road with many fast sweepers and nice road conditions. I got to Pasto around 1300 and had lunch, After that it it was raining on and off all the way.
It was a long day and I was wet and exhausted by the time I got to the hotel. Somehow, I managed to get into Ecuador without going through passport control. It was a weird system and I was waved through, not sure how it happened. Somehow I need to get back to Colombia and go through the proper procedure, hopefully, they will not put me in jail for not entering the country the proper way…
Day 21 – June 26 – In to Ecuador
I was worried about getting through the border, first back to Colombia and then through the proper border procedures… It turns out you can enter Ecuador and back to Colombia without showing your passport as much as you want – there is no check. There are a lot of Venezuelans escaping their country going through Colombia to countries further south and the border controls are not dimensioned to handle this flood of people so it takes time. First through passport control to dimensionedexit Colombia, then customs to export the bike, then passport control into Ecuador and lastly import the bike to Ecuador… What a palaver! Some Argentinian bikers I met at the hotel managed to do it an hour quicker than me although we left the hotel at the same time.
Waiting for the bike to be cleared out of Colombia. Lots of bikers put stickers on the window so you can’t see the person dealing with you. It’s at 3000m elevation so pretty cold.
So after three hours clearing the border I set off for Quito, the capital of Ecuador. The roads in Ecuador are better than Colombia and the road from the border to Quito is really good with long stretches of dual carriageway in the mountainous parts so that slow trucks do not hinder the traffic flow. My phone LTE worked fine along the route as well so it seems Ecuador is keen to improve their infrastructure. So I was surprised to see that the average income in Ecuador is close to half of that in Colombia.
I’m staying in a quirky but nice place run by two Germans recommended by Anton called Zentrum hostel.
Breakfast is served in the garden. North Carolina anthropology students having been to the Amazonas part of Ecuador to observe staying at the hostel.
Progress so far.
Day 24 – June 27 – Quito
I just learned that Sweden beat Mexico by 3-0 and Germany finished last in the group after loosing 0-2 to South Korea. I can’t be too gloating since I’m staying at a German hostel…
I now booked flights and hotels to and at Galapagos so I’m leaving early tomorrow for the airport. I’m leaving the bike here at the hostel, it will be nice to be off the bike for a few days. My body is pretty sore so a few days rest should do me well.
I got some washing of clothes done and some other stuff and walked around Quito. It’s a pretty grimy kind of city but nice tall hills surrounding it. It’s the 2nd hdimensionedighest capital city in the world after La Paz so at night it got pretty cold and lots of exhaust fumes along the streets. Definitively not good for my asthma that’s not been good since the cold I caught in Bogota.
June 28 – Galapagos
After an early wakeup at 0430 the taxi picked me up at 0500 – oh so early! On the way to the airport the car got a puncture, however, the driver was quick to change to the spare tire and we were on our way again. It’s strange but on the way from home to the airport in Houston the Uber got a puncture as well, what’s the chance of that happening twice on the same trip?
I landed at San Cristobal, one of the islands of Galapagos, around noon, found the hostel and walked around the island. Lot’s of tame seals around as well as a few pelicans and an iguana. Of course a display with Darwin and the HMS Beagle.
Where’s my beer?
My asthma is clearly better at sea level and temperatures around 25C and I allowed myself the first beer on the trip, a local beer brewed at Galapagos. Otherwise alcohol in any form seems to make my cough worse 🙁
June 29 – Galapagos
This morning at breakfast I had a chat with the girl serving. Turns out she’s Australian and she used to work in Stavanger running a nightclub while after traveling around South America she met her to be husband who’s from Galapagos. So we had a chat about Stavanger where I worked long time ago and the horizontal rain and dark winters… It’s a small world.
After breakfast I went on the “highland tour” which takes in an extinguished volcano with a lake in the crater, unfortunately, it was in the clouds so couldn’t see much at all. We then went to a giant turtle sanctuary where they breed them from egg to huge turtle. There once was 100,000 turtles on the island but now there are very few left in the wild. The turtles on each of the Galapagos islands are unique and to prevent them from dying out they need to breed them. These guys are really huge! Must weigh several hundred kgs.
These guys are huge.
Lastly I was taken to a beach and nothing really special about it apart from the ever present sea lions.
Lovely flower on the way to the beach
Ever present seals. They are very tame and are not scared by humans. Their bleating noise is heard all over the place.
Very tame pelican.
Day 27 June 30 – Galapagos
I had to get up early to go on the boat from San Cristobal to Santa Cruz island which left at 0700. I had in my mind a big ferry boat but it turned out to be a smallish boat with room for 30 passengers. Although there was not much wind the sea was choppy and it turned out to be a very bumpy and uncomfortable two hour ride.
Speedboat to Santa Cruz – a very bumpy and uncomfortable ride
The White house.
Santa Cruz island is where most of the Galapagos population lives and it seems more like a “normal” town and not as touristy as San Christobal.
Arriving I had breakfast in a sports bar where they were showing the Argentina vs France game and with France winning I think there were a lot of unhappy people there. It was a good game with 7 goals and some spectacular goals…
I’m staying in the White House Galapagos hostel, it’s nice and clean with comfortable beds – what more could you want?
Day 28 – July 1 – Santa Cruz
I woke up very early like 0500 and did some reading before getting up. After breakfast I went to see Russia beating Spain on penalties in the world cup. It’s a shame Russia won – Spain clearly plays the more attacking and watchable game but the Russian defense was impressive.
It’s a long walk to Tortuga bay where you can see Iguanas. I made it there and got several pictures of these, you have to say, ugly creatures before walking back. I felt pretty proud, all in all I walked more than 10kms…
On the beach
Day 29 – July 2 – Santa Cruz
Today I’m going back to Quito but before that I went looking for postcards and stamps. Clearly, no one is sending these anymore, I had to walk for a couple of kms before finding postcards and then I ask the sales lady for stamps and she looks like me as if I come from a different planet and – no she doesn’t have any. I ask where I can find them and she clearly doesn’t have a clue and says “try a supermarket”. On the way back I ask in at least 5 stores but no one has any… I guess I’ll have to write the cards when I’m back in Houston….
The taxi is waiting so I’d better stop here for the time being….
The airport is on a small island just north of Santa Cruz and not having looked into this I’m surprised when the Taxi lets me off and explains I need to take a boat and then a bus to get to the airport. I’m getting worried I won’t reach my flight and the minutes tick past as I first wait for the boat and then the bus with less than one hour to go before the flight departs… Of course, when I finally get to the airport they tell me the flight is delayed by 2.5 hours! Oh well, worrying for nothing… Watched intermittent the Belgium vs Japan game while waiting, exciting game with 5 goals and the deciding goal came in the last minute.
Now I’m back in the same Quito hostel where I parked my bike and everything is fine. Tomorrow I’m going towards Cuenca which is 450kms further south and I hope to make it in one day.
Day 30 – Quito to Cuenca
Today I spent 9 hours in the saddle and I’m really sore and tired now! The scenery along the road from Quito to Cuenca is beautiful and in places breathtaking and riding up to the passes and down to the valleys is a lot of fun on a motorcycle but doing it for nine hours is really hard work… I made it to the hotel just as it was getting dark and I felt like I was going to fall off the bike… So it’s an early night for me – hope to post some pictures later on.
When checking in last night to the suites/hotel I chatted to the lady proprietor, who when she saw my Swedish passport revealed she was married to a Danish man and had lived in Copenhagen for 10 or so years. They decided to move to Cuenca, where she was from originally, when they realized they hardly got to spend time with each other or their children in Copenhagen with long working hours so now they own and run the hotel I was staying at. You meet so many people with interesting stories on a trip like this!
Stopped for some nice pieces of bread and this lady in local attire showed up. I saw lots of women dressed up similarly while working in the fields.
Breathtaking views. It’s a shame a photo can not give it justice.
Day 31 – Cuenca and Loja
When I woke up and had the left over dinner from last night for breakfast I didn’t really feel like riding today – body still aching and no energy… I walked around Cuenca for a while and while having coffee figured out I’d better make an effort. So I decided to go to Loja some 220 kms south of Cuenca. Before leaving I got some photos of Cuenca which is a nice town with an old central area with narrow streets and nice buildings.
The ride to Loja was relatively easy with long stretches riding above 3000 m elevation on fairly fast roads.
Donkey on the road.
Dramatic landscape and sky
July 4 – Day 31 – Loja to San Ignacious in Peru
I knew today was going to be a long day even though it was only 250 km from Loja to San Ignacious so I started around 0730. The first 150kms were easy with nice roads although there were some patches of dirt road and even crossing of streams. However the last 60kms before the border with Peru was on a badly rutted dirt road with very slow going, probably on average no more than 20km/h. I’ve never done much dirt riding so it was good to see I can manage pretty well and the bike held up very well with no problems and, as far as I know, no bits came off:-)
Getting through the border to Peru was easy and quick, the Ecuadorean side took 10 mins while on the Peru side it took somewhat longer since the customs guy did not seem to have done a temporary import of a vehicle before and was very slow entering stuff on the computer. In the end the whole process took one hour which is not bad. There were no other people entering Peru at the entry point while I was there, I don’t think many people could stand the dirt road for so many kms.
Many of these steel plate bridges. I’d hate to cross them in the wet.
Some small rutts.
Reflecting on the day once I sorted the hotel out I must say it was a great day. Beautiful sights and challenging roads – what more do you need to make an adventurous day?
Day 31 – July 5 San Ignacios to Bague Grande
When I got the temporary import papers for the bike I signed a declaration that I would get third party insurance which is obligatory in Peru. I found the place in San Ignacios and waited until they opened at 0900 and after waiting for a while the lady handling my case told me they don’t do motorcycle insurance… So I wasted an hour and a half being told this so set off for the next town, Jaen, where I hoped I could get the insurance. So around noon I found an insurance company that would do it, mapfre, and paid my Sol 240 – around USD 75 for a single month. It’s crazy, motorcycle insurance costs close to 3 times the amount of car insurance!
Road obstructions – you never know what’s around the corner!
The 4 legged type of obstruction.
So mid afternoon I arrived this place called Bagua Grande which seems like a pretty nice small town. I found a hotel using the iOverlander app but had to park the bike in a garage round the corner. The name of the hotel? Singapoura! As I arrived Brazil was playing Belgium and I felt the mood was pretty somber but when Brazil scored there were the usual loud cheers. In the end it was not enough and there are no South American teams left in the competition.
Lubricating the chain.
In the main square there was a dance competition for various age-groups and there was some adult dance coaching going on in a different part of the square as well. Lot’s of people milling about by the square at night – nice to see.
A bit older age group..
Day 32 – July 7 – Bague Grande to nueve Tingo
Today was a glorious day with blue skies and nice temperatures. I was planning to get an early start but, of course, there’s always a but… I could not get to the bike until 0800 so didn’t get on the road until half an hour later. But the road was great and scenic going through narrow valleys steadily gaining elevation. After a few hours I stopped for a break and soon a BMW GSA stopped and we started chatting – turns out it was a German couple who were on their 2nd year in South America, they asked if I’d been to the Inka ruins just up the road, I hadn’t and they told me this was a site worth visiting and Peru had recently installed a lift to take people to the ruins which start at an elevation of 3000 m. So I went back and then up to the base station and bought a ticket to be taken to Kuelap, as it’s called. Some facts about these ruins:
The fortress of Kuelap, associated with the Chachapoyas culture, consists of massive exterior stone walls containing more than four hundred buildings near Chachapoyascity in Amazonas.
The structure, situated on a ridge overlooking the Utcubamba Valley in northern Peru, is roughly 600 meters in length and 110 meters in width. It was likely built to defend against the Huari or other hostile peoples. Radiocarbon dating samples show that the structures construction started in the 6th century AD and occupied until the Early Colonial period (1532-1570).
So I spent the entire afternoon hiking in my motorcycle gear, looking and photographing the views. I’m pretty chuffed that I managed to hike for 5kms at 3000 meters elevation and climbing an additional 200m to the ruins from the top of the lift and not feeling exhausted! In fact, I felt really good!
I didn’t get back until after 1630 and rather than go an hour to the nearest town I found a hotel close to the lift which is very nice.
Day 33 – Nueve Tingi to Celedin
The route for the day is the continuation of Peru N8B, a narrow, windy and pretty rutted mountainous road. No guardrails and drops of 100s of meters but, oh, the views are out of this world. Nothing I’ve experienced comes near! Anton recommended this section, Leimebamba to Cajamarka and I’m glad I took him up on it.
View from my balcony before setting off
At the top of the pass at 3600 m elevation
There were some scary moments meeting cars coming at some speed against you and me having to back up and get closer to the edge to let the car by, but in the end everything was fine. I didn’t look much at the fuel level so I was surprised when the low fuel light came on but by pure luck I stopped at a place where they did sell fuel which was delivered in a bucket and filtered with a piece of cloth on top of a funnel – it worked fine with no problems… It was afternoon and I was hungry so I asked if they had lunch and, yes, they did. They took me to the kitchen to show what they had and I chose a piece of pork with potatoes and rice and it was delicious!
It was getting to 1600 hours so at the next town, Celedin, I stopped for the day. Cajamarka, which was my goal for the day, was 2 hours further away and there was no way I could comfortably make it so I called it a day.
Walking around the market on a Sunday afternoon in Celendin
Town square with the obligatory twin towered church
Day 34 – Celedin to Huanchako
Riding in the mountains is absolutely fantastic, great fun to ride and a feast for the eyes, however, it’s difficult to make any distance. A full day’s riding only gets you 150 – 200kms in a long day and I feel the need to cover a greater distance to be back in Houston by mid August. So I decided to go to the coast where roads make it possible to easily cover 400 kms in a day. The goal for the day was Huanchaco with the first 150kms in the mountains but then on to the coastal plains. Once there I soon realize that the landscape is really ugly, looking like a moon landscape and with very bad haze. It was also getting much cooler, the pacific at this time of year must be cold (someone told me the water is only 16C).
I got to Huanchaco by 1700 and was lucky to find a very nice hostel close to the beach… I was looking for a different hotel but when coming up the street from the coast I happened to see two bikes and their riders standing by this hostel and I asked if they had a room, and, yes, they did. The hostel is owned and run by a lady from Lima who speaks very good English, there is coffee and tea available all through the day and the room and bed are very nice. It’s a surfers place with lots of surfboards in the front yard and several surfers staying here as well.
After having ridden 6 long days without a break I decided to stop here for two nights giving me a chance to catch up on the blog as well as get some clothes washed and relax.
Walking around Huanchaco I snapped a few photos..
Discussing the day’s surfing action?
Surfers waiting for the right wave.
Progress Quito to Huanchaco. It took me six days to cover the 2000km.
Day 36 – Huanchaco to Huacho
After a day of rest in Huanchaco and the Punta hostel it was time to leave to go further south with the goal being 400 kms south to a town called Huacho. It was sad to leave the friendly and comfortable hostel but I had to get on. The road south was a mixture of Autopista outside of the towns and not so good roads and lots of traffic in the towns. The Autopista is very nice going through a desert like landscape with rocks and sand and little green but actually quite beautiful when you get used to it. When getting close to the hotel I found a place where they washed the bike and it now looks like new again!
Clean bike again. It was terribly dirty after the dirt-roads.
The hostel is close to the beach and the sound of the waves can be well heard – should make for good sleep. The hostel itself looks nice and clean but venture outside and it’s a different story. Behind it, the slope to the beach is used as a dump and looks awful and the street leading to it doesn’t look so nice either.
Kids play on their smartphones – it’s the same all over the world… The phone network mostly works well with 4G available almost everywhere.
Dogs everywhere in Peru. When I left next morning several dogs were sleeping in the street and couldn’t be bothered to move when I drove past them. And painted walls are also everywhere in Peru, seems to be a lot of election related murals but also ads.
The view towards the Huacho town from the hostel. Doesn’t look all that nice or?
Day 37 – July 12 – Huacho to Pisco – 370km
I got up early and was on my way 0715. Mind you, it took some time to get out of the town, the GPS led me down the wrong roads several times and it felt like I was going round in circles for a while. After half an hour I finally found the N1 road leading to Lima. After a couple of hours I approached Lima and I knew I had quite an arduous time ahead of me getting past the mega city of more than 10 million people. There were a couple of accidents meaning very slow progress for a while and stuck between big lorries who insists on leaving very little space between me and them didn’t feel so great. At one time the GPS led me to a toll road veering off the road I was going on, however, I was stopped by an official who said motorcycles were not allowed on this road and he told me to turn around and go against the traffic to the road I came from. This was not easy to maneuver the bike around the 300 degrees sharp edge of the “V” with a steady stream of cars who had no intention of stopping to help me. Luckily some bikers came and stopped their bikes allowing me to go back and forth a few time before I could continue on the road again. Not a fun moment! After that the traffic eased off and I made rapid progress.
Views from the road south.
Hazy and dusty air,
I arrived in Pisco around 1400 and this place, the Tambo Colorado, is well used to bikers. The receptionist came out in the street as I was getting ready to get off the bike and asked if she should open the gate so I could park it in the secure yard.