DSC01053 View all posts on a map

What the flipping fuck!? Live de Leven is back!!?

That’s right maggot, Live de Leven is back in business. Before the storm comes silence. The silence has been, so you know what that means.

Things will be different though. This time, Julien and me will not be traveling together. We’re going solo and we’re moving in different directions. I hope that Julien will also make the occasional appearance on this blog, but I can not make any promises, because, as we all know, he’s a lazy bastard (but we love you Julien).

I just spent half a year working in the Netherlands. That’s done.

And I just spent a couple of days with lovely Chaz (or Charley, or Charlotte – she goes by many names) in England. We met in Peru and have been seeing each other quite regularly in Europe now, despite the distance between The Netherlands and England. And they say romance is dead…

DSC01490 (1)
When we met for the second time in Bolivia.

DSC_0480In London.

From England I took a plane straight to Montevideo, where my bike has been parked for half a year. I’ll recollect it and finish the unfinished.

What’s the unfinished? The super short recap of what happened during the previous lifespan of livedeleven.com.

In September 2014 Julien and me flew to Vancouver, Canada. There we bought two motorcycles. We rode down for 33,000 kilometers past Mexico, Central America, crossed into Colombia by boat from Panama, rode through South America and finally reached Montevideo, Uruguay.

The plan had been to ride all the way to the most southern city in the world: Ushuaia. Unfortunately, we never took into consideration that even in South America you have winters, especially as you get close to Antarctica. Who would have thought. 

On top of that, Julien was broke. And on top of that, I was more than broke, being heavily in debt (but thanks for lending me the money, mom, dad). So we parked the bikes in Uruguay (safely), and decided to call it a day and fly to the Netherlands together. That was July 2015, and it was the day that the great silence on our blog began.

A recap is no recap without some pics of highlights!

bikes-first-picBuying the bikes in Vancouver.

moneyshot-cropped-smallMade some riding friends in California.

DSC00398“Working hard” in Mexico.

DSC00893Living with a Guatemalan family for two weeks to improve our Spanish.

DSC00767Realizing how not-waterproof our tent really was.

DSC01477Riding death road in Bolivia.

DSC01591Riding through a motherfucking snowstorm in the desert. Julien’s battery didn’t work, so we needed to jumpstart it about 5-10 times a day.

DSC01568My frame breaking in half in the middle of the desert. Solution: tie the frame back together with rubber.

DSC01053Petting a very fat dog. Definitely a highlight.

DSC01636After almost a week of waiting on the snow to clear up finally being able to cross from Chile into Argentina.

DSC01649When we made it to Buenos Aires we drove our bikes onto a square in the centre and violently kicked our bikes onto the ground. That mess you see is champagne.

But does the bike still work after 33,000 km?

Barely. It has suffered. But, it is a KLR. A trusty, mighty, indestructible KLR. I’m carrying a bag filled with parts to get it back up to speed. So the first week or so will be spent in Montevideo, giving my old friend some sweet loving.

About the silence: what we have been doing for half a year

First, we partied. Then, we partied some more. We also got drunk. Then, we partied a bit more. It’s good to see your friends again after 10 months of being away, you know. 

We did more than partying though. De Leven also has to be Lived while not exactly traveling — even though one might say that life is one big trip — but that might be just a tad too much of a cliche.

Alas, let this be the main topic of this blogpost, and let us call it The Half Year of Silence Saga. A saga divided into 3 episodes, because let’s be fair, a blog post spanning half a year instead of the usual 2-4 weeks seems daunting.

As life is rarely chronological, neither will these episodes be.

The Half Year of Silence Saga – Episode 1 – The Housing Crisis

Being unable to pay for hostels or an apartment (do you understand just how broke we were?), and having no place to stay in Amsterdam, we faced a housing crisis that we both stood up to in our own way.

Julien is no stranger to crises of this nature and it wasn’t for long until he came up with a bulletproof solution: couches of friends. Friends’ places in Amsterdam that he’s crashed: Vigo, Nynke, Melanie, Remco, [Floris, Bart, Girish, Constant -> one house], mine (back when I still had an apartment) and certainly many more that I can’t come up with right now. This is a foolproof solution that has been thoroughly tested in our research facilities, certified by Livedeleven.com(tm).

My solution: a caravan.

DSC_0202Isn’t it beautiful?

You might wonder how I got my hands on a caravan. That was Robbin’s gift. He uses a caravan in summer for a festival that he works at, to live in it for a few months, but outside of summer he has no need for it. I did, so he lent it to me. Thanks, Robbin.

You might wonder where I parked it. On a dead-end street. Conveniently placed right in front of my friends’ house, which gave me some of the perks of living in an actual house: running water and electricity. Thanks, Floris, Bart, Girish and Constant.

Then you might also wonder how I was able to illegally park it on a street and live in it for three months without getting caught or kicked out. I wonder that too.

As Dutch autumn ungracefully kicked in and struck down upon me with furious anger, a caravan started to seem like less of a sunny adventure of happiness as it once did in summer. My clothes were wet. My sheets were wet. The mighty caravan seemed waterproof, but in constant rain the humidity did seem to sneak in through the creaks.

Luckily, but also sadly, an opportunity arose. Our beloved Girish, also known as Gier, Jesus, Huisgier, etc., was moving out. We’re still unsure why, but we believe that some birds’ feathers are just too bright to be caged. Obviously, I was first in line to occupy his now empty room.

vermist
Missing: Huisgier

However, there was one caveat. The house being designated student housing legally only allowed students to live there. A loophole had to be found. The loophole came in the form of someone who probably prefers not to be mentioned by name as I’m now about to describe a practice that is illegal.

128354873_bandbutt_brknlaw1_xlarge

This person wasn’t officially registered as living anywhere, besides at his parents. He is also a student. Which means he could officially register at the place where I wanted to live, and I would compensate him for the rent he paid, and I could sneakily live in the room that he was officially renting. Very cheeky indeed. 

The plan worked.

After taking the mattress from the caravan and throwing it unceremoniously on the floor of my new room, moving in was a finished project. It felt good to live in a house again, and it felt good to officially live in my favorite house of Amsterdam together with close friends.

Let’s introduce them.

DSC_0245

Luuk. The undisputed leader of the house. He is strict, yet fair.

DSC_0227

Floris. A true optimist. He can see the positive and the funny side to pretty much everything. If you ever feel like getting carried away and changing your perspective, have a chat with him.

DSC_0406

Constant. A major force behind Zuiderzee BV, the company that takes down walls relentlessly. The other day I saw Constant looking in his box of fucks that he gave, but the box was empty.

DSC_0173

Bart. Keeping classrooms under control like it’s nothing. Smackin’ babies at their christenin’. Meester Bart is masterlijk hard.

The Half Year of Silence Saga – Episode 2 – The Great Escape of Julien Soudy

As the bottom of his wallet was approaching him with lightning speed, The Great Soudy knew that drastic measures were imminent. He’d have to come up with a plan. A plan that would be so crazy, so crazy that it just might work.

DSC01571

He sat straight up on his couch. One of the many couches that he held so dear. Couch life is certainly not a bad life, The Great One decided. As he looked out of his window, he contemplated the impending doom of being out of money. Actually, to be fair it didn’t scare him that much as in his soul he found courage and bravery from being nearly broke for years. He tapped into this courage and knew that he would, as ALWAYS, come up with something to keep on traveling and never actually work.

You need to be a certain kind of man to be on the road for 4 years. The Great Soudy is exactly this kind of man.

IMG-20160114-WA0004

You have to be willing to give up your comforts. You have to go further than that and not simply live without comfort, but in a constant state of discomfort. That might sound unpleasant, but I told you before that it takes a very certain kind of man to be able to do this.

You have to not give a single fuck. Don’t give a fuck about eating like shit, sleeping in a tent, in the dirt, at a gas station, and working ridiculous “jobs”.

You shouldn’t only be indifferent to these things, you need to like them. You need to love living your life like this, in a way that many people would consider impossible.

The Great One loves it. And he is good at it. Some say he’s the best.

IMG-20160114-WA0005Discussing a business strategy in Amsterdam with Robbin.

So what was his plan this time?

It involves the United States of America, not being too bothered with breaking the law, and being there in the right season. It involved working with a certain type of plant. Let’s call it gardening.

He’d become a gardener.

Having made lots of other gardening friends on the trip, he was well set up to become a great gardener and work on fantastic gardens. How this eventually turned out, you’d have to ask the man himself. I can reveil merely a tip of veil, but I would be out of line to fully disclose this adventure, which is rightfully its own saga.

The Fantastic Soudy looked out onto the horizon of the shores of Zuiderzee and he knew it. It was time to leave this shithole and get rich — or die trying.

The Half Year of Silence Saga – Episode 3 – Get Rich — Or Die Trying

Now my story of getting rich — or dying trying — in The Netherlands.

I’m a programmer. That means I type code, and then you get software. I focus mainly on writing software for the web, so usually I’m programming websites, or applications that have a lot to do with the web but aren’t exactly websites. I do this in various programming languages, mainly these: PHP, JavaScript, CSS and HTML.

So you type stuff like this:

DSC_0201

And then you get stuff like this:

DSC_0202

A good thing for me is that I run my own business which goes by the name of Webvalid. That doesn’t mean I have employees or a fancy office somewhere, but it means that I’m unemployed. Makes it sound a bit less impressive, but this gives me great freedom, which is fantastic if you like to travel.

So I work for other IT companies that basically don’t have enough employees, or that don’t have employees with a specific skillset. I’m the reinforcement for those companies. I usually work for a company like that for a couple of months. In these months I don’t become an employee, but they outsource their work to my company. This is called contracting.

welcome

As mentioned a couple of times already, I was super broke at the end of our last adventure. I needed work fast. I already started looking for work while I was still in Argentina, knowing what date I would arrive. I spoke to a recruiter, who found me a potential job. The potential client: Us Media.

I would have a meeting with Us Media within a week of coming back to the Netherlands. The meeting took place on a Friday. We decided we liked each other and I went to work the Monday after.

The change of lifestyle was intense.

Just a week earlier I was camping in the desert and living like a bum. Suddenly I found myself wearing a buttoned shirt and sitting in an office from 9 to 5. That first week or so was weird. Going to meetings. Sitting at my computer all day. Pretending I wasn’t only thinking of a different life that I had so suddenly left.

While I was traveling I expected it would be very hard to return to The Netherlands, and hard to adapt. A thing that happens while traveling is that you change. Of course your friends and your country back home is also changing, but it doesn’t change as quickly as traveling makes you change. So I was worried I wouldn’t fit in anymore and that life back would become an absolute drag.

This was bullshit. Thank god.

It was easy to get used to The Netherlands. It was so nice to see all my friends again, and to see that the friend group was still intact. My new colleagues at Us Media were awesome. The work was interesting. The house I lived in was fantastic (well it was still a caravan back then, but whatever, I was sort of already living in the Zuiderzee grachtenpand). 

The lesson learned is that non-traveling certainly doesn’t have to suck, it can in fact be just as awesome. It just depends on what you’re doing. I think If I would have lived by myself again in a lone apartment it might have been a different story.

After two months the job at Us Media came to an end. A week before I finished working there, I already had a meeting with two old friends: Rob and Tinky, from The Knowledgebase Company.

IMG-20160111-WA0017Me signing a contract with The Knowledgebase Company with Mr. Strong.

I’ve worked with The Knowledgebase Company for years. Usually parttime, sometimes fulltime, and often not at all, because of other commitments. But we were no strangers to each other, even though it had been a while. In a short rendezvous it was decided I’d work for them again, for at least a couple of months. This ended up being 3,5 months, and I worked there until merely days before I left to go traveling again.

This is a fantastic company to work at. Many try to achieve what they have successfully created: a great company culture. Even though the work they do is serious, it’s fun to work there.

This means that no one shouts at you when you’re late. That you see people walk into the office at 9 in the morning with a smile on their face (yes, it’s apparently actually possible).

DSC_0198

Oh my god, look! It’s smiling people in an office! Arie and Joraaaaaaaaam!

But of course this also came to an end. I find it typical for my life that I’m a freelancer. So often I have to say goodbye. It’s a different side of the golden coin called traveling. For freelancing this is no different: getting to know people for a couple of months and then saying goodbye again. And you know it’s quite bonding to spend 40 hours a week sitting in a box with the same people? It’s sad, but a part of the deal.

DSC_0143Part of the job for The Knowledgebase Company was going to Denmark on a business trip. Fancy as fuck, check out the skybar of my hotel.

DSC_0145And the reception. Quite different from the usual hostel.

The Half Year of Silence Saga – Miscellaneous

Sometimes there simply isn’t that much to say and it’s better to tell the short stories through some pictures. An ode to various other things that happened in the past half year.

DSC_0187Created a fake postbox to convince tourists to put their drugs in before taking their bus.

DSC_0189The writing on it.

DSC_0135Went on a typical holiday to a Dutch island. You can not do this without renting a tandem, that would be offensive.

DSC_0119When we woke up Remco was surprised to find all his clothes ripped to pieces. You have no idea do you?

DSC_0111A wall was just standing there taking up space in our house. So we fucking wrecked the cunt.

DSC_0023

I just had to also buy a bike in the Netherlands.

DSC_0393-small

Family matters. Especially when they book you a flight for Thailand to come and invite you to come and chill with them for two weeks.

DSC_0338-smallLetting up the wishing balloons there made my mom a happy mom.

DSC_0302And I went on a road trip with my brother.

What’s happening right now

I just arrived at the airport of Montevideo.

I was very happy to pick up my bag from the conveyer belt, thinking that all my troubles were over. I was actually worried that my bag would get through customs, because I was carrying a goat skull with me (more on this in a future blogpost) and a lot of parts for my bike.

Then I turned a corner and saw that my bag was going to get scanned. Fuck.

Obviously I didn’t make it through without questions and I was made to unpack most of my bag. The skull? Illegal. All of the parts? Illegal, unless I’d pay taxes for them somewhere, somehow.

But there is always a solution. The face:

Photo on 1-23-16 at 1.22 PM

And also lying about how many parts exactly were in my backpack. “Yeah just two sprockets that’s all”.

To which the nice customs lady replied:

“Alright then, get out of here as quickly as you can. I didn’t see this.”

So yes I made it through, with the skull AND all of my parts!!!

After taking a bus to the centre, which was blazing ACDC at maximum volume, I got to my hostel. It’s the same as I stayed in when I left here and surprisingly I still kind-of remember the way here. It felt strange to walk the same road with the same backpack again, but now not in the direction to the airport, but in the direction of the hostel.

In a few hours I’ll go and see my old red and black friend again. Let’s see how he’s doing, and if he’s up for another adventure.

 

spetter-spatter-spater View all posts on a map

Oil Stained Pants

The stray dogs start barking at a truck that rolls in and I wonder if I should join them. Tonight, we sleep outside the same gas station.

Sitting on the ground somewhere in the middle of this industrial park, somewhere just outside of Antofagasta, Chile, the contrast with the Bolivian wilderness couldn’t be any sharper. White snow is exchanged for grey dust. Dirt roads for a four-lane highway. Flamingos for diseased dogs. Nature’s perfect silence for the forever ongoing beeping of backing-up trucks.

But we like it here. We’ve had our fair share of stunning landscapes and challenging terrain, and we feel accomplished. The last three hours were spent in the station’s restaurant making up storylines for Italian soap operas, after which we pitched our tent in the dirt. Don’t forget that the subtitle of our blog reads ‘In the end it’s all just jokes’.

There’s only one thing on my mind really: this morning I booked my plane ticket home.

I was thinking to say that it feels like the end, but with merely 2 weeks and 2,500 kilometers to go that would be an understatement. It is the end.

And feelings follow facts. It feels different to ride with such a clear destination and deadline in mind. A stroll through the park versus cycling to work.

I think about that first afternoon that we’ll sit in the park again, together. Friends reunited. The same friends, the same park and that same good old bottle of Mooi Kaap. Back into a familiar life with another life’s worth of unforgettable experiences.

Lots of people go traveling to find themselves. I don’t think that anyone knows what this means and I don’t believe in it. What I do believe, is that traveling changes people. The choices we make, the things we do, and the random shit that comes on our path is always defining who we are and therefore changing us. ‘He not busy being born is busy dying’, grandmaster Dylan once said.

You don’t need to be traveling to be changing, but traveling does tend to change you at a much higher pace than life back home. All these people you meet, all these things you see and all these experiences, experience, experience! A beautifully ambiguous word for the immense variety of ways in which traveling can shape you.

So did it? What changed in me? That’s like asking me the speed of Earth’s orbit around the sun. Judging is hard without a point of reference. Fucked if I know.

I do know you grow in unpredictable ways. If you go traveling looking for an answer to your question, chances are you won’t find it. You’ll find answers to questions you never had.

How do you feel when you just go on your first ride out of Vancouver and a bearded biker on a massive Harley throws a peace sign at you? Or when a Bolivian tells you they’re all poor because they’re stupid?

How do you say ‘I love you’ in Spanish?

Are you scared when you see one of your best friends crash his motorcycle at 80 kilometers per hour in your rearview mirror, after which you run back to help him, but you can’t find him? When you find a scorpion’s nest inside your tent when you wake up? When you have to race your coworker to the hospital after he got bitten by one of world’s most poisonous snakes and he might die within 20 minutes?

What does llama taste like?

Can you still be happy without wifi, electricity and when there is simply, absolutely nothing to do?

Does it humble you when people that live on a few dollars a day share their food with you? Or when filthy rich republicans let you stay in their aircraft hangar and supply you with food and beer for a week?

What is a carburetor?

How badass do you feel when you jumpstart a bike in a snowstorm with homemade jumper cables? When you get laid with a goddaughter of Pablo Escobar?

Are you lying when you say you don’t have that much money and that you’re just traveling on the cheap?

What does the sunrise at the Lagoon of Seven Colours look like on XTC, viewed from a catamaran filled with your speechless friends?

Can nature be so beautiful and desolate that it makes you cry?

What do you smell like after going without a shower for two weeks?

Questions that I never asked, but they and their answers make me who I am today, and for that I am ever so grateful for each and every single one of them.

The amount of experiences lived on this trip is overwhelming.

We laughed, we cried, sang, danced, bled, sweat, got drunk, scared, excited, we rode, we crashed, got back up, loved, hated, whispered, shouted, we remembered, forgot, we fought, joked, we were sad, happy, bored, awkward, rockstars and we LIVED and I feel like, I feel like, feel like I’ve lost my mind and it’s still gone and I don’t want it back and I swear to you that tears well up in my eyes as I type this and I’m shouting on the top of my lungs THAT. IT. WAS. SO.
FUCKING.
AWESOME.

ass View all posts on a map

Bolivian Adventures – Our Biggest Test

Some of you might have come to expect a certain formula from your favourite bloggers over here at Livedeleven.com. Sure we party, get up to some antics, omit some details, drive some beautiful roads, and meet a ton of locals with stories to tell. In some ways this blog post is no different, however as we sit here staring at the ceiling of our hospedaje, bruised and battered I still get the feeling that this chapter is different in someway…somehow.

DSC01385

We start this story however, in a familiar place. Not because we had ever been to Cusco before, but the thick atmosphere of Loki Hostel (one of many “party” hostels in Cusco) rings ever close to our hearts. As you’ve read from Thomas’ Peruvian Tales, the road to Cusco was rough and partying was a top priority for us.

Here at Loki, you are pretty much separated from the dangerous culture and beauty Cusco has to offer. A bar that runs almost non-stop, nightly games and activities (mostly revolving around drinking) and a cheap-ish restaurant that serves Western and Latin dishes from 6am to 12am.

DSC01415

The road to Cusco

Here we would meet a bunch of awesome people that luckily enough we would end up running into again later on down the road. Two of which are Joe and Eeva, whom we had befriended at the hostel but bonded mostly at an interesting bar located on top of a t-shirt shop. We decided a bike adventure was in order at this point and we soon found ourselves riding with some passengers around the foothills of Cusco, visiting salt mines, seeing llamas, and having a generally good time.

DSC01422

At the salt mines, yes we licked the ground

DSC01420

Shitloads of salt

DSC01419

The crew

In a way we became a bit “stuck” in Cusco, and the club I most hated (Temple) I ended up going about five times in a row. “No way am I going to Temple tonight” I found myself saying on a nightly basis, before flashing forward two hours and finding myself standing right in the middle of a crowd of fellow gringos spending another night stuck in the trap.

DSC01423

DSC01425

Delicious

Eventually though, after we “repaired” Thomas’ bike issue of leaking fork oil (by getting a guy to make a part that would fit the part we lost and adding more oil) we made our way onwards and upwards.

From here, Thomas and I broke off briefly. I had heard that a friend of mine was in Pisac, which was quite close to Cusco however in the opposite direction of where we wanted to go so we decided to ride separately for a while, with plans to meet up in La Paz, Bolivia.

DSC01427

As usual, a crowd gathers…

I rode solo to Pisac, which is a beautiful town about half an hour from Cusco in the “Sacred Valley” After having lunch with Jessica and chilling in a hostel where a one eyed Argentinian man with a mohawk was making a djembe, I decided it was time to leave. I rode a few hundred kilometers to a freezing cold town at an altitude somewhere in the 4500’s where I stayed for the night.

To my surprise, as I rode towards the Bolivian border I saw a familiar face riding in the OPPOSITE direction to Bolivia. My brain almost exploded at this confusion, he was meant to be a full days ride ahead and sitting in our hostel in La Paz smoking a cigarette.

DSC01417

Get a load of this guy

Turning around I started to chase him down, which proved to be no easy task at the altitude of Lake Titicaca with both of our bikes struggling to make 110km/hr and myself being nothing but a distant spec in his rear view mirror.

After a good 30kms of chasing I caught up, overtook him and signalled to stop. I stopped first, and Thomas unceremoniously crashed his bike next to me in the dirt, leaving it on the ground, jumping off and saying a big hello.

As it turned out, he had been pick pocketed the day before and only had a small amount of cash. He had lost the Peruvian immigration paper needed to cross the border to Bolivia and had fallen short of around 7 soles (2 euros) needed to bribe the immigration officer to let this slide. He was on his way back to civilisation to get to an ATM to get out more money when I ran in to him.

I had money though, so we proceeded to cross the border in to Bolivia and begin the toughest part of our trip so far.

We stayed in Copacabana and went on a boat ride to Isla del Sol (Means “The Isla of Sol” I think) which proved to be a BOATload of fun.

DSC01442

FUN FUN FUN

DSC01448

FUN

DSC01440

FUN FUN FUN

We walked around the isla, saw some sol and moved on to our main destination…La Paz.

DSC01453

Donkey on the Isla del Sol

DSC01469

To get to La Paz, we needed to board our bikes on a rickety boat and park on either side of a swaying truck.

DSC01470

Note how my bike is essentially UNDER the truck

Before I continue, let me state first that we had booked ourselves into The Wild Rover Hostel. There was also one of these in Cusco which we had been to briefly to check out the bar. There was also a Loki in La Paz. These are chain hostels notorious for parties.

Let me stall my impending continuation once again by explaining something else. If this sounds like a lot of gringo-and-not-so-cultural-travely-travelling then you are correct. No we did not go to Machu Picchu, no we did not do any hikes around Cusco. But travelling on a motorcycle you get your fair share of culture and off the beaten track moments so when arriving in a big city, we want to party.

And oh lord did we ever party.

Our first night we managed to find one of the most sought after pack animals in the wild…The Brit.

IMG_4648

A Brit in his natural habitat

Some despise the “Brit Abroad” but here at livedeleven.com we consider them official friends. Rowdy as they may be, I’m not sure if I have ever laughed so hard at their antics. Genuine louts are sometimes hard to come by in this “18-year old just out of high school, backpacking to find yourself” or “just taking a break from work” crowd. With the former traveller, conversations are nice and pleasant but with a lout, anything can come and thats what makes it so awesome.

If you find yourself agreeing with what I am saying here, you might want to hold your nod of approval for a moment. The following is a list of SOME of the ludicrous acts this magical “group of five or so” got up to. All of this taking place in the hostel bar or the dorm room, over the course of two nights (after the second night they were all kicked out…the first people EVER kicked out of Wild Rover apparently).

IMG_4655

Oh but it gets worse

Loud chants of the following drinking song: “There was a great big moose (crowd repeats) and he drank a lot of juice (repeat) and he drank it with glee (repeat) and he spilt it on his knee (crowd repeats and chant starter tips his beer over his knee” This song was sung by the entire group, as well as perhaps most enthusiastically by Thomas and I. Along with this, various other drinking songs, which I have since forgotten as well as English football chants about various clubs of which I have no idea what the names are.

Not so bad? Yeah, ok. Read on.

At one point during one of the songs, one of the brits started shaking the table with much zealous pride. The table had around 12 full and half drunken beers of which most fell off the table or spilt over their owners. This is not a way to make friends, especially if you just continue chanting and beating your chest like a baboon.

IMG_4652

BRITS BRITS BRITS!!!

The same guy, later decided he had enough of the table entirely and decided to carry it on his shoulders around the bar, once again with the table full of beer. Bottles were smashed and many laughs were had.

Throwing up was a thing, one brit being egged on by his friends to down his beer for whatever reason, managing to make it all the way down before throwing it back up in the same glass.

IMG_4623

This picture was enthusiastically shown to everyone at the hostel by one of the brits, very impressive…

Most threw up in the bar, others threw up in the dorm, others deciding the closest bin was the appropriate place.

Oh and they got naked. I won’t go into detail as to the various things they did with their body parts or which friends put what part in which orifice inside a packed hostel but I’ll let your imagination do the rest.

It gets worse, but I think I have said enough.

11651016_10153992565184167_531128286_n

Now read back up saying how they are friends, yes FRIENDS of livedeleven.com. This is the craziness we want to see while travelling. This is the Wild Rover, where most of the employees are former clients working off their bar tab and are usually (bar the brits, or perhaps Thomas or myself) the drunkest people in the bar.

We thought Loki was a party hostel. Wild Rover La Paz, makes Loki look like a kindergarden.

But hey, La Paz is the capital of Bolivia and is a MASSIVE city a fact we learned when getting hopelessly lost in the outskirts when arriving on our first night. Luckily we ran into a group of about six fellow adventure riders who lead us there in convoy to the front door. A cool experience to say the least.

11655209_10153992565844167_370422687_n

We had heard stories of “Crazy Dave” from our friend Joe-man in Cusco. From New York, Dave had been busted some 18 years ago flying from Bolivia to Miami with 8.5 kilos of cocaine, is currently on parole and can be found outside the San Pedro prison where he served his sentence where he gives tours in exchange for groceries or packets of cigarettes.

Of course we had to go check this out.

Sure enough, Dave was there and greeted us with a big smile. A small black dude, aged around 50 or so and covered in tattoos, he proceeded to walk us around the prison walls and explain to us some of the history of corruption, escapes, and the goings-on behind the prison where the book “Marching Powder” is set.

DSC00909

A picture of Guatemala, because we have none of La Paz

Cocaine is made inside the prison, and Dave’s job was to stamp on cocoa leaves for about an hour a day in exchange for a gram of coke. He thus developed a habit which is why, now on parole and able to fly back to New York in a year he does not accept cash for his tour but rather groceries which he can’t put up his nose.

He seemed quite wired when giving the tour, but I guess with a name like “Crazy [insert name]” you can get away with that sort of thing.

Here in La Paz we met back up with our friends from Cusco. Chaz and Z. Two English lassies who accompanied us on varying party and sightseeing adventures in and around La Paz. A highlight of which was a visit to the local market along with two other brits, Fiona and Alice where we found ourselves driving back in a taxi, Alice and Chaz in the boot of the car, Thomas and I wearing matching green turtleneck sweaters, and the taxi driver blaring his home-made CD of 80’s synth metal.

Yes, that happened.

We met other riders as well. Not just any riders either, like-minded riders. Chris and Mark rolled up on their beat up bikes (125cc or 150cc if I remember correctly) with their luggage strapped like a Christmas present wrapped at the last minute, Loving a party, we spent a few nights on the drink with them and exchanged riding stories like manly men who know what they are talking about.

DSC00735

More manly men…in Guatemala

Every night at the ‘Rover we’d tell ourselves we’d leave the next day but that never ended up happening. Well, until it did. We had made good friends with the bar tenders, the local pool sharks, security guards and pretty much everyone except the reception people who were not very pleased we had been sleeping in beds without actually extending our stay…oops.

From La Paz, we decided to do “Death Road”, the so-called “Most Dangerous Road in the World” where apparently 200-300 people die each year. It sounds scary, but when you see some fat dude wearing a “I Survived The Death Road” T-shirt at the Wild Rover your expectations drop quite a bit.

DSC01478

Still pretty steep

The road its self is best described by Chris when we asked him how the death road was “Death Road? More like Sweet Road!”. It is true that there are sheer cliff faces and many MANY blind corners on a one-lane road, HOWEVER you’d have to be rolling down death road on a wheelchair without any brakes to run any risk of death.

DSC01484

DSC01477

Easily driveable, and amazing

DSC01482

DSC01483

The road is not very narrow, it easily fits trucks. For motorcycles, you can easily ride without fear of falling, the only danger being oncoming traffic who don’t always slow down a huge amount and tend to blow a lot of dust in your face. For the most part, Death Road is beautiful. It was so nice actually that we rode it twice, downhill and uphill. We rode back through La Paz to make our way to Uyuni, the start of the Salt Flats.

DSC01489

The road to Uyuni

Let me take a pause here for a moment to remind anyone still reading from the beginning that I have not forgotten about my “this blog post is different” claim. To hint at a spoiler, it has to do with our Salt Flats adventure…and I don’t use the term “adventure” lightly here.

The ride from La Paz to Uyuni was rough. Very rough. A familiar sight in Western countries, the final 100 kilometer stretch to Uyuni is a huge “in construction” road that no-one has worked on for at least 6 months. For some reason, big patches of the road is sand that at some point reaches around 40cms in depth. Other parts is hard rocks and loose gravel, which gives both the bike and the body a battering.

After several hours of this onslaught, Thomas and I arrived safe and sound to Uyuni, where we proceeded to get in to several petty arguments with the owner of the hospedaje relating to the keeping of ID documents, the charging of money for services that should be free, and the lack of bed supplies in the dormitory. Not to bore you with the details, we were correct. Trust me.

DSC01463

A trustworthy individual and upstanding citizen

To our very pleasant surprise after storming out of the lodgement in search of a map for the Salt Flats (and surrounding national parks and other pretty things) we ran in to our good friends (and official friends of livedeleven.com) Chaz and Z who were sitting in a tour agency smoking cigarettes and using their plug to charge their phones.

A very big “How do you do, ladies” ensued and we decided the most pertinent course of action was to find a place to have a beer. After some wandering around in the cold we found the “Extreme Fun” bar in which we sat down and downed a beer.

The meeting however was brief with our homegirls needing to take a bus back to La Paz having already finished their Salt Flat tour. We went to bed and rested for what would turn out to be the greatest test for us so far.

DSC01569

It started simply enough with a realisation that we would never have enough gasoline to make it from Uyuni, across the salt flats, and a further 300 kilometers or so to the border with Chile. Our solution was simple: “Bah, we’ll find gas along the way anyway”. Further facts which made the task harder were that A) There are no signs or even roads to indicate the way, making our map pretty much useless. And B) There would be no civilisation at all.

But that didn’t scare us, not one bit. We are livedeleven.com gosh darn it, if we can create a website with monthly visits in the HUNDREDS then surely we can make it to Chile off road! So off we went.

DSC01526

The first part of our journey, surprisingly went exactly as planned. We were blown away by the absolute beauty of the Salt Flats and the sheer fun of driving in such wide open spaces. We even found time to get naked and drive our bikes with no hands, standing up. FUN!!!

ass

Best Picture Ever.

DSC01495

We could drive as fast as we wanted, unfortunately at altitude we couldn’t do much more than 100.

DSC01517

Obligatory perspective shot

DSC01500

Our first stop was to check out Isla Incahuasi, which is a sort of an “island” in the middle of the salt flats. It apparently has some sort of Incan significance, although neither of us ever bothered to find out what that is exactly.

DSC01503

Don’t know why the Incas would bother to come to some salt flats, but it sure is pretty.

Here our plan was quite simple. The man at the tour place said we could find the Isla by ourselves (which we did) but it would be suicidal to try and find our own way to San Juan, which is the first stopping point and only town within a days ride from anything.

The plan here was to ask a tour guide if we could follow them to San Juan, after some searching we managed to find a group heading there. We had to way at the Isla for a while for them to finish up, but once that was done, we got ready for the cold and followed our new found guide.

DSC01509

Waiting for departure.

It was freezing cold while we waited, and we asked our guide how fast he usually drove.  He said that he would “take it easy” for us and make it easy for us to follow. He kept a steady pace of 80kms an hour across the Salt Flats which was very pleasant.

Once we cleared the flats however, our lead car seemed to don a red bandana and transform into John Rambo, deciding he would keep the same pace as he did on the flats across rocky and sandy terrain as well. An even 80 k’s an hour.

b2027ed88c591017f448947d71a43dd9

Our driver had a fire in his eyes as we left the Isla. We’d get to San Juan or die trying

Not knowing the way, Thomas and I sped up not to lose sight of him. Our bikes were shaking and trembling as they powered through sand and dirt, making horrible noises which sounded like this was doing more harm than good. I managed to crash my bike (no injuries) in the gravel trying to keep up.

We eventually arrived in San Juan, hugged each other thankful to be alive and went to our hospedaje for the night with plans to leave in the morning.

DSC01529

As we prepared to leave the next day, Thomas noticed he had (once again) lost one of the bolts holding his frame together. That was far from the end of our worries though. When I started my bike, a steady stream of oil started pouring out near my front sprocket. The drive the day before had shaken loose the nut holding it in place and then I had an oil problem.

Once we had tightened my bolt and found a replacement for Thomas’ missing bolt we found out that all of a sudden my motorcycle would not start.

This is not the first time we have had bike troubles, every time we find ourselves saying “Well, there are worse places in the world to be stuck!” which is very easy to say when you have issues in Flores (Guatemala), Bacalar (Mexico), or Medellin (Colombia). However in San Juan, where the population numbers in the 20’s it becomes a lot more annoying.

DSC01520

The best part of the day…Sunset

Here there are no restaurants. No bars. No internet cafes, and barely any electricity. Our search for a mechanic to take a look at my bike was not going to be easy. I essentially went door to door in this town asking not for a mechanic, but for someone who knows more about motorcycles than I do.

DSC01543

Bolivian SPAM, the dinner of kings

I was eventually referred on to Maxi, a farmer who is apparently the “Go-To” guy for fixing things. We were held up an additional day because the entire town had a day long meeting for some reason, but eventually we went over to Maxi’s house and we got to work.

DSC01533

Taking things apart in his backyard.

DSC01539

I’m not a professional” – Maxi

Maxi turned out to be a very capable mechanic and after a few hours of troubleshooting, including taking off and disassembling my starter as well as the various removal and replacement of other parts it turned out that my battery was to blame. For some reason (possibly the shaky road where we followed Mr Rambo) it had completely died all of a sudden.

DSC01537

He invited us in for lunch with his family

So now with a dead battery in the middle of nowhere, the problem now became how to make it to civilisation? A push start was successful, but with a 230kg bike and 500 kilometers of off-roading to do we moved on to the jump start solution. This was the first thing we had tried which was why we didn’t think it was a battery problem, however the cables we were using at the time were far from perfect.

With this in mind, the team at livedeleven.com decided to make our own jumper cables. We went to a hardware store and bought some thick length of electrical wire, stripped it with a knife and connected it to my bike from Thomas’. SUCCESS!!! We’d be able to leave the next day.

ajeto

buurman en buurman

So with a “fixed” bike we set off from San Juan. Using our strategy of following someone, we found our way across another salt flat and towards the border with Chile, where we headed south. The weather was brutally cold on the bikes and we looked on enviously at those on the Jeep tour in the warmth.

Stalling or crashing my bike was a terrible idea, with our home made jumper cables however I was able to keep my bike going further. Things were going well for about 100kms until, in the middle of nowhere on a dirt road Thomas comes to a halt saying he has a “slight problem”

DSC01553

Those three things should be held together with a bolt

This problem was that the bolt that held the upper part of his frame together had completely broken in three places, his fuel tank almost coming off his bike in the process. The rough road was taking its toll. I drove off in search of a welder and headed back north, coming back empty handed (of course).

Luckily, Thomas had managed to wave down a rare car who had done some “bush mechanics” in his time. He tied Thomas’ bike together with rubber, estimating we could get another few hundred k’s out of it.

DSC01568

A Je To!

So after jump starting my handicapped bike, and Thomas holding his fuel tank on with his legs with his frame held in place with rubber we drove another 50kms to a town where apparently there would be someone who could weld.

We managed to find someone, and after yet another backyard job and a bit of sleep, we tried again to make it to our stop for the night, La Laguna Colorada. With no guide to follow, we just went with the tyre tracks, which in some cases would branch in to ten different tracks. We knew the direction though, and continued grinding our way towards the Laguna.

DSC01576

Steep climbs, rocky roads, and a dead battery.

DSC01545

Needing yet another jump start after crashing in the sand…again

Thomas was starting to feel sick at this point and the weather was getting freezing. After another long day we would end up finally making it to the Lagoon. We were riding from first light, and stopped around 3:30pm.

DSC01573

One of the lagoons we passed featuring flamingos

Thomas went to bed immediately and started getting feverish, so I went on a walk around the Lagoon. Here by chance I would run in to Coline, a friend of mine who worked with me in Australia four years ago. We had made no plans to meet up and by pure luck we were in the same middle-of-nowhere town in Bolivia.

DSC01582

Considered yet another “official friend of livedeleven.com”

The day had been hard on our bikes yet again, Thomas had lost Juan (the goat’s skull on the top of his bike) and I had lost yet another bolt which was holding my panniers together. Thomas tied Juan to the back of his bike, while I strangely found a random bolt which had come off a different part of my bike on my engine, which I then attached to my pannier. I still have no idea where that bolt came from.

The frame of Thomas’ pannier had completely snapped during the day as well, and was a top priority to get fixed in the morning.

That night, I hung around with the tour groups and caught up with Coline, managing to get more than my fair share of free wine from the table while also filling up a tupperware container with their spaghetti.

The first item on the to-do list for the next day was the pannier frame of Thomas. While there were no “welders” in this town, the mother of a deaf boy assured us that her son was up to the task of fixing Thomas’ bike.

DSC01584

Yet another “home job” for the bikes held together by South American know-how

The kid was around 14 years old, but he worked fast and well. Within about an hour, he had re-attached Juanito as well as fixed the pannier frame. With Thomas feeling better we hit the road again.

DSC01588

The “town” where we stopped to get Thomas’ bike fixed.

DCIM144GOPRO

The road

DCIM144GOPRO

No asphalt, not ever.

DCIM144GOPRO

Keeping my eyes on the road

To say at this point that it started to get cold would be an understatement of monumental proportions. We climbed over a volcano to over 5,000 meters and it started snowing.

DSC01591

You’re still beautiful Bolivia

We made our way to some geysers when we were caught in the middle of a snowstorm. Bikes slipping all over the place and without a way to start my bike without cables, we found ourselves being concerned for our safety. At one point, due to the cold both of our engines seized and we had to scramble to get the bikes started again in the blizzard.

With frozen hands it became very difficult to drive or even to see where we were going. With the occasional tour Jeep coming by, we were eventually able to clear the mountain range and get to lower altitude.

DSC01571

So Gangsta it hurts

DSC01572

Serious business

Shivering, but alive. We continued on towards the border, the occasional crash or dropped bike being the only hindrance to the juggernaut that is the team of livedeleven.com. We would continue for a further 80 kilometers of dirt and roughness before finally arriving at the end of Bolivia and the beginning of Chile.

Once crossing the border we came across a beautiful sight. The road once we arrived in Chile was paved and thankfully was a steep road downhill and out of altitude. At this point I had completely ran out of gas but managed to coast the bike downhill for about 20 kilometers before siphoning some gas from Thomas.

Currently in San Pedro de Atacama, we are enjoying some beers and reminiscing about the biggest hardship we have come across on the trip so far. We managed to watch Chile win La Copa America in the house of the custom’s agent at the border and are basking in the glory that is civilisation.

It is hard to believe at the moment that we have made it to Chile from our beginning in Vancounver, but as road to Buenos Aires becomes shorter and shorter it is becoming ever apparent that we just might make it.

Stay tuned.

 

 

DSC01377 View all posts on a map

Peruvian Tales

We were quite confused, those first couple of days in Peru.

I expected people with funky hats over their ears, high mountains, freezing weather, lamas, roasted guinnea pigs on sticks and Inca ruins.

But on our first day in Peru we didn’t see anyone with a funky hat. They weren’t even wearing ponchos! Also, we were riding in dry, flat, low lands. Not that pretty actually. On the second day of riding we even got to a desert. Pretty cool, very interesting, but, what the fuck. They have deserts in Peru? Confused looks were exchanged and we did the thing that we do best: keep riding.

DSC01229

DSC01237Peru’s coast, which we didn’t find particularly beautiful.

DSC01243We did make friends however.

This period of dry landscapes instead of gorgeous mountains was extended by taking a wrong turn and riding in the wrong direction for 70 kilometers. Too stubborn to turn back, of course, so we kept going. Just as the scenery was about to get good!

DSC01236In one of those cities on the coast, we met these two lovely ladies while driving in traffic. We were lost, and they were showing us the way. I forgot the name of the lady behind the wheel, but we prefer to call here Jane Rambo anyway. Jesus, that woman can drive that scooter like mad.

DSC01244Just a quick stop at a mechanic. Seems legit.

Speaking of legit mechanics, our bikes are starting to look better and better.

DSC01246 If a zip-tie can’t fix it, it’s broken.

DSC01248 DSC01247 This actually holds Julien’s gas supply in place.

DSC01245And this conspicuous contraption should make certain things better.

But how could we possibly have missed a turn? It might be that we don’t have a GPS. We also don’t have a map. That good-looking compass that I mounted on my handlebars? Doesn’t work. And since Julien’s watch stopped working a few weeks ago, we don’t even know what time it is anymore. Sailing blind. Livedeleven.com is rolling.

But fear not, we managed to get back on track. After a day and a half of low-land dryness, the mountains finally started to get big on our horizon. Very big. Before we knew it we were at 4000 meters altitude, in the gorgeous, stunning, intimidating Andes.
 
DSC01250
DSC01255
DSC01256
 
These rapid ascents and descents cause an insanely quick change in climates. Over the course of just 2 hours we have been in 30 degree sunshine beach-weather, then to 5 degree rainy Dutch autumn, only to return to a Californian spring at 25 degrees.
 
DSC01258
Startlehorse, fartleforce
Fartling – To emit wind from the anus, in response to feeling sudden shock or alarm
DSC01135
“This day went by so quickly. It feels like only yesterday that I woke up this morning.”
 
This whole coastal adventure wasn’t the last time we took a wrong turn.
 
We picked a route to Huaraz by looking at a map we found online and picking the most squiggly lines, in theory the best for riding motorcycles. This went very well, with staggering beauty being thrown at us from left and right. Until the road turned into a slow dirt road, which didn’t look like it was going to turn into pavement anytime soon. We found some cops, explained our not so carefully stippled out route, and they informed us it would take us, via that route, at least 6 days on the dirt to get to Huaraz. Ouch. That morning we had just made our peace with the idea that we maybe wouldn’t get there the next day.
 
Time to turn around and pick another route: past San Tiago and Cabana. This too, would take us a few days longer than expected. But the Andes can change one’s perspective on trip-planning.
DSC01287 DSC01289
DSC01314
 
Peru is painfully beautiful. The one amazing view, mountain, cliff, whatever, after the other. So who cares if you’re taking a few days longer to get to Huaraz?
 

DSC01297

DSC01300 DSC01291 DSC01302
And the roads get quite crazy
 
DSC01298
 
I’m not sure what’s more impressive about the Andes: the quality or the quantity. There is so much Andes. Fun facts: being 7000 kilometers long, it’s the longest mountain range in the world. It spans through seven countries in South America, from Venezuela to Argentina.
 
Sometimes I wonder if I can ever get enough of all this. And then I cross another mountain ridge for the next view and I realize that that isn’t going to happen anytime soon.
 
DSC01305 DSC01307 DSC01303 And that’s what we did. Seems excessive when you haven’t driven here, but trust me, on single-lane roads with multi-way traffic and plenty of blind turns, this saves lives.
 
DSC01290 DSC01279 DSC01278
On our way to San Tiago we met some dudes that were drinking beer on the street, getting ready for a saturday night. They were happy to point out that if we took this certain dirt road we would get there within just 2 hours! Woohoo shortcut!
 
DSC01267
 
Of course, it didn’t turn out to be 2 hours. We spent the next 4,5 hours battling through hail, rain, mud, river crossings and sketchy bridges. All the while getting lost in a maze of dirt roads without any signs, deep in the mountains of Peru. And it was awesome. And how glorious it was to finally arrive in San Tiago by nightfall, after beginning to doubt if the fucking town even exists.
 
DSC01268 The river that got the best of us and made us go ‘nah-ah’.
 
DSC01269 Luckily, there was a hidden bridge nearby!
 
DSC01272 DSC01283
San Tiago! It’s real!
 
It’s funny how I eventually managed to crash.
 
We had just spend a day and a half riding on dirt, after which we finally saw some pavement again. Sweet, let’s go fast! After a mere 15 kilometers, an unexpected tiny patch of gravel, hidden in the blind corner of turn, was my downfall. Dirt is okay, as long as you expect it.
 
DSC01315
 
Luckily, I wasn’t injured and the bike was doing alright as well. A small crack in the frame supporting my panniers was all. And in Latin America, a welder is never far away. We found a hotel soon after the crash as it was getting dark. Of course the hotel’s neighbor was a welder and he was happy to work on a sunday evening.
 
DSC01318
Listo! As good as new. That will be 5 dollars please.
 
The welder’s wife happened to run a restaurant, where we had spaggethi with all of the family. We were challenged to show some dance moves to the local Peruvian music. Challenge accepted. Challenge completed.
 
DSC01320 DSC01319
 
Recently all this mountainous beauty came to its pinnacle, in the form of Parque Huascaran, featuring the highest point in Peru. I will say no more and let the photos do the talking:

 

DSC01330 DSC01332 DSC01342 DSC01345 DSC01348 DSC01357 DSC01372 DSC01377 DSC01378

Met some Belgians! Truly hardcore. They biked from Belgium to Poland, then from Tanzania to South Africa, and now they were on their way from Ushuaia, Argentina.
 
DSC01381
 
All this mountaineering was coming to end though, as Peru’s coastal capital Lima was calling us to finally change our tires. Just having passed our 25,000 km milestone, a replacement was in order.
 
While changing the tires, Julien noticed his brakepads were also totally fucked. So we went on the hunt for some new ones, which led us to Christian, the owner of the bikeshop Endurance Motors. An amazingly nice dude. He didn’t only sell Julien the brakepads, he also invited us to come stay in his house for a night and have dinner with him. Dinner took place at a restaurant where a meeting was being held for an upcoming bike race. So suddenly, we found ourselves at a biker meeting. Life is funny.
 
DSC01398 Aftermath of the bike-race meeting. We rode with these guys after the meeting through the crazy traffic of Lima, by night. They are racers, need I say anything about how hectic that ride was?
 
DSC01399
Christian!
 
Currently, we’re on our way to Cusco, backpacker party town to the bone. We’ve been on the road for almost 2 weeks now, after leaving Montanita in Ecuador, riding every single day. It’s still awesome, the landscape is not tiring, but I have to say my ass is getting sour and I’m longing to stay in one place for a bit, make some friends and get fucking hammered.
 
Now let me close this blogpost by posting that wicked GoPro video again, for completion’s sake.

DSC01213 View all posts on a map

Open the door, Ecuador…Everybody do the dinosaur!

Ecuador, from what I can tell from my limited experience of South America is one of the most “European” (American, if you will) countries of the continent. When we arrived from Colombia we were greeting with a free map and a pamphlet informing us that all public hospitals are free, should we decide to fucking wreck ourselves on their beautifully paved roads (we didn’t take advantage of this offer).

Crossing over from Colombia was relatively painless, like getting drunk and running through the streets of Cali, falling over yourself in front of a packed bar, something I did in Cali that Thomas thankfully forgot to mention on his last blog post.

DSC01096

On the border we would meet a pair of Colombian brothers, going the other way around (like everyone else, except for us). They were riding bikes no more powerful than a 150cc, showing once again that you can do what we are doing on anything you can get your hands on. They gave us some sound advice of the road to come, but nothing could prepare us for the sheer beauty of Ecuador.

DSC01097

Pleasantly surprised with our night at the border town of San Gabriel at a “hospidaje” where for 3$ we had a bed (yes ONE bed) at a clean “hotel-of-sorts” with WiFi, we moved on to a cool lake spot of which we have both forgotten the name (but certainly not the view, or the drive.

DSC01103

Thomas being a derp.

DSC01105

At this point, having not yet decided whether we were going to party in Ecuador or not, we were greeted by a man, as we usually are, in the streets of San Gabriel wondering where we are going.

“Are you guys going to Montanita?” He asked

“Not sure yet, maybe…is it good” We responded

I won’t go in to too much details as to what he said Montanita was like, but needless to say, we were sold. Our previous plan of gunning it though Ecuador was out the window, like a parking ticket for our Canadian bikes registered to our hostel in Vancouver.

New Mission Unlocked: Montanita

But first, we had some riding to do. Not just any riding, Ecuadorian riding. It is difficult to understate how amazing the roads are here for motorcycles. It was a saying before that “There are no straight roads in Guatemala” but for Ecuador, this takes on a whole new meaning. Not only are the roads curvy AND well paved (sorry Guatemala) but the entire landscape is mountainous, and you get to cross the equator, something you don’t do every day.

DSC01107

The restaurant and the speed bump that separates the Northern and Southern hemispheres. 

Sadly, we nearly missed the damn thing, because for some reason the Ecuadorian government for whatever reason decided to completely underplay the entire reason their country was named and make some shithouse speed bump and a lame stone carving the line which links two worlds.

DSC01108

We were expecting fireworks or something, all we got was this stupid rock.

After stopping of at Otivalo and checking out the crafts market, we had stocked up on some winter gear (winter IS coming) and heading south, towards Quito. We stopped somewhere north of there, as it started to get dark and looked around for a hotel.

We were disgusted at the prices, most places wanting 10$ per person so we went on the search for something else. Luckily a man suggested we camp at a local sporting field. We were more than happy to take up the offer.

The only obstacle was getting our bikes on to the field, which required driving up a series of steps, which was accomplished with the help of Ecuadorian know-how. A local man, climbed on to the roof of his house and found some planks of wood, and with some difficulty, we hauled our 350kg bikes up the steps and in to safety.

DSC01109

There were a bunch of school kids there, who were quite interested as to what we were doing driving our bikes on to their football pitch, but with their approval, we ended up staying the night, spending a large part talking to David the manager of the pitch.

We were room mates with a horse, who was roaming the field and eating grass and spend a large part of the night joking (and legitimately concerned) that we would end up trampled to death by said horse. Luckily, nothing of the sort took place.

Getting back down the steps proved difficult as well. As you can see from the pics below.

DSC01113

Once this was done however, we were back on the open road.

DSC01198

DSC01101

We didn’t go to Quito. We opted to drive around it on a scenic road which would bypass most of the city (which is HUGE). Here we would see more windy roads, more mountains, and things like a bus carrying some sheep unsecured on the roof.

DSC01117

What.

The road here was epic, and unfortunately, we were enjoying ourselves too much to stop for too many pictures. One thing I will remember from Ecuador especially is the intense change in temperature, something you can only truly experience (in my opinion) on a motorcycle, or maybe driving a segway. The roads climb and fall in a whirl of curves and straights, and before you know it you go from mountainous peaks to tropical valleys.

DSC01124

The pic so nice we did it twice.

These sorts of changes you barely see coming, and before you know it you have to stop once again to remove (or put on) another layer of clothing to adapt yourself to the climate. This is not annoying in the slightest, but a true testament to the landscapes of Ecuador.

DSC01125

Getting close to our goal of Montanita, we decided to go and get stranded on the beach, having not seen the coast since Palomino in Colombia. We drove directly on the beach and got bogged down, needing both of us to get each of the bikes out of the sand as confused onlookers wondered what we were thinking driving on deep sand in the first place. Oh well, jokes.

DSC01126

The coastal road was awesome, we drove around fast curves feeling the road and the fresh sea breeze in our lungs. We arrived in Montanita early enough to find (the best) hostel with one thing on our mind…partying.

DSC01129

The calm before the storm

DSC01151

The storm.

Here we would get in early on the pre-drinks with the “tequila” we had bought in Cali (and surprisingly managed not to drink previously) for only 8,000 Colombian pesos, around 3 dollars for a litre. It is probably best that I do not go in to too much detail as to what happened that night, but suffice to say that in the morning there was no tequila left, we went to a night club, played beer pong, and everyone lost everyone. Gold members may enquire on facebook.

DSC01131

DSC01137

At this point for whatever reason, Thomas and I are staying at this hostel without actually staying in a bed, for only 4$. Works fine by us. I fell asleep in the couch, and I found Thomas asleep on a different couch the following morning (or, ahem…afternoon).

DSC01141

DSC01148

Sebastian, the owner of the hostel, was always down to party.

DSC01146

We woke up, sorted ourselves out, and made plans for the following night. I had heard on Resident Advisor that Andre Crom of OFF Recordings was doing a set at Lost Beach. Of course we had to go. It seemed like an appropriate time to wear a Hawaiian shirt (again).

DSC01176

The guy in this picture bought me a beer for dancing the hardest.

DSC01179

DSC01183

At this point it seems like in the interest of full disclosure that I should mention that I had already lost the keys to my motorcycle after parting in Medellin at a club called Calle Nueva. I had made spares, but in under two weeks I had managed to lose them again in the previous night of partying in Montanita. For the price of two beers, I had my panniers sawed open by a dude with a buzz saw and I was (after buying some new locks) back in business. As the great philosopher Dan Hoelscher once said:

dantheman

DSC01165

Getting drunk and losing your keys twice in a row…this is what we do…

All this however would never put me off the allure of seeing a big Berlin DJ playing in Ecuador. For this night, I must say, I was “that guy”. Barely talking to anyone, high fives from everyone.

DSC01184

DSC01189

For lack of a better word, the hostel we stayed at “La Roulette House” is amazing. Huge love and respect for all of those who partied with, and even with the legend who took a dick-pick with our camera when we left it unattended in the common room.

DSC01163

The Crew.

We were even at one point attacked by a band of cows, who had escaped from their owners and managed to get in to our hostel, they roamed the grounds for a while before getting wrangled again by their owner.

DSC01193

The cow invasion got the full attention of the hostel.

Unfortunately due to time and money constraints it came time to leave the magical place on Montanita. As previously stated, with unlimited funds we could both easily spend years doing this trip but the time had come to start to make our way to Peru.

We made our way along the coast, driving more super-nice roads before coming to a stop eventually in a place I don’t quite remember the name of (once again). It was a natural reserve (probably still is) and the owner allowed us to camp there for free. Aware of the mosquito problem on the premises he kindly let us sleep in the conference room of the establishment. This soon became the temporary Ecuadorian conference room of livedeleven.com

DSC01195

We made a bed made of chairs and slept like babies.

DSC01194

There were so many mosquitoes precautions had to be made. Like wearing full riding gear and smoking a cigarette through ones helmet. 

It was time to get down to business though, after doing some last minute packing while an actual conference was waiting to start outside, we cleaned up our mess and got going.

DSC01199

We would climb once again from this warm area up higher and higher, seeing more and more beauty of Ecuador. With altitude, we began to notice some problems with our bikes, mostly being sluggish in the higher gears. We eventually fixed this problem by simply revving the bike more. That fixed it more or less. More power, more speed.

DSC01202

DSC01205

Llamas doing their thing, being llamas. 

DSC01209

We stopped a fair bit to take in the scenery. 

DSC01211

DSC01213

Adding to the strange list of places we’ve stayed, we managed to organize a floor sleeping operation at a hotel, which strangely had neither guests nor free beds. We made toasties on the frying pan and lived de leven, as per usual.

DSC01224

After getting rained on hard, we took anything we could get.

DSC01225

It rained so much, we duct taped our riding boots to keep them dry (this did not work)

DSC01223

No expense spared.

We would eventually arrive towards Peru, from which I am currently writing this post. The border crossing should have been an easy affair except being morons we forgot to bring any money and had to drive back in to Ecuador to find an ATM (which was not as easy as you’d think) eventually though, we got through.

So here we are now. In Peru and in the midst of a great drive that has spanned from Montanita to our current position in Huaraz, Peru. The ride is far from over though, with plans to make it to Cusco in about a week before heading towards Bolivia and the Salt Flats. We’ve just crossed the 25,000 kilometer mark, with many more yet to come. Stay tuned for a Peruvian blog post from Thomas.

Until then…

scan-da-lous-classy