Thursday, 20 August 2015

Big Hand For South America

Having covered over 13,000 miles here in South America alone, it is time to say goodbye to my 5th continent and prepare myself for the next leg of my journey. Continent No. 6, country No. 31 and seeing that clock turn to 40,000 miles (nearly 65,000km). Surely the longest ever journey on a 250cc or less! A world record perhaps (application submitted. Lets wait and see)? That's got to be worth a little celebration in Panama (although we are far from done)!

Before that though, I have to cross the Darian Gap! Taking a machete and braving the drug lords and mosquito-infested swamp would have been preferable to the brick-wall-bashing week I have had - and it's not over yet!

How can crossing from SA to CA still be so difficult? This is not a pioneering route I am taking here. Surely there are more 'overlanders' here than anywhere else in the world. People have been treading this path from Alaska to Ushuaia with all types of vehicles for many years. I'm not breaking new ground on this one! So why is it so difficult to cross the infamous Darian Gap after all these years?

After a week of dealing with dithering merchant ships, who could not give me a date (or a price in some cases) I was left with no choice but to quadruple my costs and go for the 'easier' option of flying!  The only other option is to take a sailing boat called the Stahlratte, which takes bikes. However, that takes 5 days, and seems a bit of a party boat. Not for everyone and very expensive. It only goes once a month as well and the dates didn't work for me.

Flying with Air Cargo Pack is not working for me either, it seems. They have given the wrong information, increased the price, added additional charges and insisted I come one day, only to be told to come back the next! The reason I have to come back is so the police can do their inspection where I am told they will take the entire bike to pieces. To do this I have to have a mechanic present, which I am told I have to pay for myself (more charges). At this point I explode and refuse to pay. I have to apologise to the translator at this point (brought in after much frustration) as I fear I am shouting at her. I turn to the guy giving the orders and shout at him instead while the translator furiously attempts to translate! I completely lose my cool! That is something I generally try to avoid because as a rule I find being calm and smiling during these negotiations works far better - but we all have our limit! I had just reached mine. On this occasion it worked. The boss was called and they agreed to pay for the mechanic themselves! I smiled politely and said 'Muchas gracias senor' in my best Spanish! If you are going to lose it then at least know when to stop and accept small victories graciously. The joys of international travel!

My mood had not been helped by the fact that, on my way out of the city, with a severely rattling chain, I managed to get in to a fight with a truck. The traffic is very unforgiving in Medellin, as with many big cities, and hesitation is not something that goes down well! The best way to ride in them is to attack. It's worked well for me so far. Today I was distracted and I was dithering. I was lost and going around in circles during morning rush hour. That's when the truck hit me from behind. I had hesitated and the truck driver was in no mood to stop. Luckily I'd seen him over my shoulder just a split second before and so I was throwing myself in the oposite direction as he hit.  I slid to a stop on my side in the next lane. It was none too lady-like I can tell you! The truck driver carried on and the cars just drove around me. Thankfully, some pedestrians ran over to help me get the bike up and out of the road, making sure I was OK before moving on.  This really was not my week - and so perhaps I can be forgiven for losing my cool when told to come back tomorrow AND to bring more money! Just sometimes, I feel it's OK to get angry!

Bar a few bruises, a broken clutch lever and many holes in my luggage, I was OK. It was all fixable or replaceable. My helmet had taken a knock and my luggage, (I think) was beyond repair, so there will be a few things I need to work out, but it's all do-able!

Now, safely back in my hotel,  I look forward to the delights of my next visit to the airport, where I will watch the police take Rhonda apart bit by bit. However, tomorrow I will be ready with a smile and a bucket load of patience. After all, I am alive and I'm still going strong. A few bruises and a lot less money - but I'm still here and ready for continent No. 6.

It doesn't pay to dwell on the minor set backs. Get it off your chest (just done that) and move on! After all it's been worth it, right? South America has been amazing. As with many of the other continents, it has brought highs and lows of epic proportion. My favourite part has to be the Atacama desert and least favourite was most definitely Ruta 3 through Argentina. DONT TAKE THAT TOUR! SAVE YOUR MONEY! I have met many other travellers here. It seems every biker and his dog (literally in some cases) want to ride here, and you can see why. It has everything nature ever created and in epic proportions. Volcanos, storms, jungle, glaciers and salt lakes. It really is a beauty! I loved the Amazon. I loved the mountains, and I loved the people (most of them!). South America has rhythm and passion and it's not afraid to show it! It also has some great off road!

Once I hit that 40,000 mile mark (in about 600 miles), I will do a review of the bike and all the accessories.

See you in Central America!


  1. Creative photography - it's all getting better....

  2. Another good blog entry... BTW. Don't worry about losing your cool, while you're on the road, as I did this a number of times. I found that controlled aggression worked wonders on occasions. More especially, when dealing with people who tried hiding behind bureaucracy. The technique became more refined, each time ... Usually it entailed me starting out by being polite, calm and following along with whatever was going on. Then once I'd identified that someone was being difficult, (usually with a view to trying to extract more money), would choose my moment to growl at them. Direct eye contact, resolute body-language and assertive tone of voice always did the trick. Have got lots of anecdotes in this vain ... Anyway, again thanks for an entertaining blog, with some more great travel piccys. Have a free tank of fuel Steph' ...

  3. You will be long way around Steph:-)! enjoy for ride,

  4. Steph really enjoying reading your updates on the trip and wishing you better luck than you've had of late. If you have access to email (or someone back home is representing you) would you be interested in an interview with my magazine Women On Wheels? It's a magazine for the female rider. It is so inspiring what you're doing. If you are able or would like to get in touch, my name is Vicky and my email is:

  5. Still following you, Steph. Awesome trip, and this lot of photos are brilliant. Hope you get across OK.
    What happened to the 'Route' tab, with BikeTrac, please?

    1. Hi Steve. Thanks. Made it safe and sound. The Route tab is down for some re construction but you can find the tracker here -

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