Day 297 – San Cristobal, Venezuela to Bucaramanga, Colombia

Day 297 – San Cristobal, Venezuela to Bucaramanga, Colombia       06/14/11       Mileage: 173

It was supposed to be a short run to the border, only 22 or so miles, but it took over an hour as the road was mountainous, full of slow moving trucks and largely in disrepair. Thankfully I had Silviu’s GPS waypoint for the immigration office that was buried in the border town maze of streets instead of being on somewhere on the road like usual. After getting stamped out I made my way to the border but had to wait for the aduana (customs) officials to return from siesta in order to cancel my import permit for the bike.

I paid this cute kid to watch my bike while I was in the aduana office….he got a kick out of sitting on the bike…

Once that was done, I crossed back into Colombia for the second time on this journey. The immigration office for Colombia was right at the border, and I had my entrance stamp in under 15 minutes, but the Colombian aduana office was 10 miles away in a small city called Cucuta and it would have been impossible to find had I not once again had Silviu’s GPS waypoint for it. (Thanks again bro!)

The aduana process was painfully slow and took over two hours…..and what made it worse was sitting there watching helpless bureaucrats chit-chat, drink coffee, flirt…pretty much anything but actual work…while me and the rest of the people waiting in line were losing our f–ing minds! By the time that was done it was mid afternoon and I still had many miles to ride if I had any hopes of dropping the bike of at the freight terminal tomorrow in Bogotá, so I got on the gas. The road was twisty and great fun to ride, but very slow going which was not helping me make progress.

I had it in my mind that I wanted to at least get as far as Bucaramanga, which I did eventually do…but not without 4 hours of riding in the dark on twisty and foggy mountain roads…a calculated risk for sure. Tomorrow will be my last day on the road in South America which is kind of hard to grasp…a sure sign that this journey is nearing it’s inevitable end.

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Day 295 – 296 – Tinaquilo to San Cristobal, Venezuela

Day 295 – 296 – Tinaquilo to San Cristobal, Venezuela       06/12 – 13/11       Mileage: 331

Today was all business getting down to San Cristobal, so I didn’t take many pictures, and by not many I mean none. The good news is the JB-Weld worked like magic on the radiator, not a single drop leaked all day. I found a nice room in a little posada that had decent wifi, so I spent the rest of the night getting caught up with email and doing some writing for the blog.

This little posada was so nice and relaxing in fact, I decided to stay an extra day so that I could continue to finalize my plans for me and the bike to get to Miami. Tomorrow, I’ll cross the border back into Colombia for the 2 day run down to Bogota.

Day 294 – Caracas to Tinaquilo, Venezuela

Day 294 – Caracas to Tinaquilo, Venezuela        06/11/11       Mileage: 135

This morning I would say adios to Ian who was off to Cartagena to rendezvous with John and from where they had arranged to put their bikes on a cargo ship home. I would head southwest through the Andes mountains towards Bogota where my bike had an airplane reservation to Miami. Like John, Ian is a fun and easy guy to travel with and I hope this will not be the last time we share some miles.

Adios mi amigo, buen viaje…

But, I wasn’t back on my own just yet, Silviu and Nelson came by on their bikes to take me around a bit and show me the way to the highway. So, shortly after 9 they showed up and they took me up to a great overlook not too far from Silviu’s house.

Nelson, me and Silviu with the skyline of Caracas…

We took the requisite photo’s after which we went to a local bike shop where and found a cheap taillight lens until I can get a proper replacement back in the US. We swung by Silviu’s house where they helped me fit the new lens with the help of some duct tape and an empty Motul bottle.

Silviu, being the prankster that he is, also picked me up a Mack truck sticker in honor of my wreck. Bastard.  lol

We also sat down with the map and he gave me more great information and waypoints for the various Venezuelan and Colombian border offices…something that will save me tons of time crossing the border. So with that done, we got back on the bikes and after a nice little ride on some twisty mountain roads, showed me the on ramp for the highway west. Muchas gracias mi amigos!

Silviu and Nelson waving goodby, ADV style…   lol

On the highway I ran the bike up to speed and it felt fine…which is hard to believe given the hit that it took. The only thing I had noticed is a small antifreeze leak after the accident, which was now slowly getting worse. I kept an eye on it as I made my way west but soon it became apparent that I could not put it off any longer. It was mid afternoon so I figured I would stop now and find a hotel while I still had daylight to fix the bike.

Once settled into the room, I stripped the left side fairing off and loosened the radiator mount to get a better look. It appeared the leak was coming from between two cooling fins…so not easy to pinpoint exactly. So, it seemed there was only one fix…JB-Weld to the rescue!

It’s steal reinforced two part epoxy that you just knead and apply….presto, job done! I carry two sticks of it…and it is the greatest thing since duct tape. Tomorrow will be the true test to see if it holds, but so far it looks good…

Day 293 – Piritu to Caracas, Venezuela

Day 293 – Piritu to Caracas, Venezuela        06/10/11       Mileage: 169

I felt like I was run over by a truck this morning, perhaps because of all the beer I drank, or maybe it was because I was actually run over by a truck? Either way, I was slow out of the gate but luckily we only had a short run to Caracas ahead of us. Ian gave me a hand bending my handlebar back as best we could, and after giving the bike the once over and tightening the chain, we hit the road.

The Peruvian flag took a bit of a beating….

The bike ran great and aside from the visible damage and the side racks being all bent to shit, you wouldn’t know it got rear ended by a semi truck the day before.

We made it to Caracas and made our way to a hostal that a fellow motorcyclist had recommended. His name is Silviu (ADV name: SS in Vzla) and he has been a great help with information about Venezuela and even helped my track down a flight for my KLR to get back to the US. Silviu swung by the hostal that night with his friend (and fellow motorcyclist) Nelson and they took us to a great pizza joint.

Afterwards we went to a hopping outside bar where we gorged on beer and smoked a few of Silviu’s fine Cuban cigars (one of the perks of living in Venezuela, besides the cheap gas!).

Me and Silviu smoking one of Fidel’s finest…or is it Raul now?

L to R: Ian, Nelson, Silviu and me….

We had a great night and to top it all, Silviu and Nelson wouldn’t let Ian and I pay. I’ve been humbled several times on this trip by people’s boundless generosity towards what nearly amounts to a perfect stranger…Scott, Becki and Glenn in Alaska…Santiago, Pablo and their family in Medellin…Gustavo and Helena in Buenos Aires to name a few…and to that list you can add Silviu and Nelson. Muchas gracias mi amigos! I hope one day I’ll be able to return the generosity….

Day 292 – Ciudad Bolivar to Piritu, Venezuela

Day 292 – Ciudad Bolivar to Piritu, Venezuela       06/09/11       Mileage: 201

Had I known I would be hit by a truck later today, I would have elected to just stay in bed. But, lacking that foreknowledge, Ian and I wandered out for breakfast at a street vender stand we found around the corner from the hotel. The vender ended up being a real nice guy, and being from Guyana he spoke English as well. We chatted for a bit while Ian and woofed down 2 hotdogs and some bad bubblegum flavor soda…not exactly the breakfast of champions, but it will do.

Once packed we split for the road to Caracas. The riding was hot and boring but we were making good time.

Getting low on fuel we stopped for gas, had some lunch and lingered in the restaurants A/C for a while. It’s at this point that my day went pear shaped. The highway was a 4 lane dived highway (2 lanes in either direction) with u-turns crossing the dividing median. We had stopped on the east bound side, but had to cross the highway to continue on the westbound side to Caracas. There was no entrance ramp per say, just a paved section connecting the service road and the highway. I was in front and as I pulled close to the highway I looked to my left and saw a truck in the right lane and another truck a little farther back in the left lane, so I turned onto the highway and accelerated toward the u-turn in the median. Having crossed both lanes I was slowing down and just about to turn onto the center median when the truck in the left lane slammed into me from behind. The bike went down on the right side along with me and luckily we both tumbled off onto the median clear of the path of the skidding truck. Ouch, that’s gonna leave a mark…and leave several marks it did. Fortunately though, none of them were that serious, except for my severely bruised ego. You see, the difficult thing to admit is that I was at fault. I put myself in front of that speeding truck, not the other way around…so ultimately I have no one to blame but myself. Was the truck speeding…pretty clearly it was, but that is moot and nothing new for Venezuelan roads.

The good news is that I got up and walked away…and miraculously the KLR was able to ride away. My armored Aerostitch Darien jacket and pants paid for themselves many times over.

The KLR took a pretty good beating to the rear factory cargo rack, the side cases and rack and the right side engine guard, but she will live to fight another day. For now though, Ian and I decided to stay put in Piritu so I can get my shit together and tend to the bike. After filling out some paperwork at the town highway patrol office, we got a room and then set out to try and get my side cases beat back into shape.

We found a repair shop /metal shop a few blocks away and the guys there set about making my side cases into boxes again.

The guys did such a good job on the side cases, I went and bought a case of beer to say thanks which started things down a slippery slope….and in fact after several more cases of beer it turned into a party of sorts!

This guy really though I would trade my Arai XD3 for the salad bowl and shoe lace he calls a helmet. Given todays incident, I think I’ll stick with my Arai….but thanks!  lol

In the middle of this a barber showed up and gave a few guys haircuts…including Ian…you just can’t make this shit up.

 

I nearly bought the farm a few hours ago, now I’m half drunk off my ass partying with a bunch of Venezuelan metal shop guys getting haircuts. Life is weird..and good…

Day 291 Santa Elena to Ciudad Bolivar, Venezuela

Day 291 Santa Elena to Ciudad Bolivar, Venezuela       06/08/11       Mileage: 442

John was up and out the door shortly after 5am this morning as he wanted to get to Ciudad Bolivar to get some local info on visiting Angel Falls before the business day ended. Ian and I had already pretty much written of going to the falls so we left at a more leisurely 8am. Our first stop was to get gas on the way out of town. Now, I had heard of the cheap gas here in Venezuela, but even I was taken aback by just how cheap….we’re talking 4.5 CENTS per gallon! Yep, you read that right…we filled up our motorcycles for under 25 cents….and that was for premium! Regular unleaded was only 3.5 cents per gallon!

After filling up the pump read 1.45 Bolivars……there are 8 Bolivars to 1 US dollar! 

That was a refreshing change after Brazil where gas is at least double of what it costs in the US. With our tanks filled for mere pennies we headed north into the Gran Sabana which is a beautiful place and a joy to ride through.

The Gran Sabana is particularly famous for its many waterfalls, so we took some time to visit a few.

After leaving the Gran Sabana there was nothing really of note…just laying down miles down long, hot, sweaty roads.

Some roadside art…

“I want to look in your bags.” Dude, you got the AK-47, you can look wherever you like!  😉

We arrived in Ciudad Bolivar right at dusk and found a hotel. We got in touch with John who had found a hotel nearby so we met for dinner. He found a flight the next morning out to the camp near Angel Falls, but was still not sure if he would get to see them. Ian and I were going to continue on to Caracas, so after we dinner I bid farewell to John. It has been almost 3 weeks we’ve been traveling together and it has been great fun. I hope we get to ride together again in some other far flung corner of the globe…

Day 290 Santa Elena, Venezuela

Day 290 Santa Elena, Venezuela       06/07/11       Mileage: Local miles

We were up pretty early and after drying out our camping gear, we went straight over to the insurance broker.

It took $%#&$% ages to process and there seemed to be a lot of trouble with mine in particular, so Ian and John left and went to get started at the border.

Meanwhile the agent said their system wouldn’t take my license plate number, and after several calls to the main office, it still was not resolved. This being Latin America, now of course it was siesta time, so they said to come back after 2pm. You’re f—king joking, right? So I left and went to the border and found John and Ian waiting to process their paperwork…why…siesta of course!

 Luckily by now we only had to wait about half an hour, but I still had no insurance. Undeterred, I decided to just try and pass off my NJ insurance as international insurance and hope they buy it, because I sure as shit ain’t going back to that insurance broker to watch the grass grow. So when the customs staff returned from siesta, they called us to the window and we bombarded them with our paperwork, which I think helped hide the fact that I didn’t have the insurance document that John and Ian had. But when she did directly asked me about insurance, I said that my insurance was good in every country in South America …and she bought it. Nice!

Hugo Chavez says welcome!

Border formalities complete, Ian and John had to return to town to send a few emails related to shipping their bikes home, and unfortunately by the time that was done it was too late in the day to even ride, so we ended up back in the same exact hotel room we left this morning. Oh well, that’s just the way it happens sometimes…