Tag Archives: motorcycle touring

ADVrider Mini-Motorcycle Diaries: Central America


Countries are flying by, whole continents and mountain ranges left behind. Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador in just 1,500kms. Nicaragua was a favorite, with old colonial towns like Granada, the oldest town in all of the Americas, and beans and rice that somehow tasted better than anywhere else. I picked up an extra motorcycle helmet, made space on my motorcycle by sending things home I no longer needed, and have now carted around six people from between one mile to across whole (tiny) countries.DSC02421_1 Continue reading ADVrider Mini-Motorcycle Diaries: Central America

ADVrider Mini-Motorcycle Diaries: Rollin’ On

My mind went numb from the waiting, the paperwork, the hot Panamanian sun. I was melting in my boots and Kevlar jeans. My stomach gurgled and grumbled with hunger. Am I not a seasoned enough traveler to have known the process would take until well past lunchtime? In my excitement to get back on the solo-ride, I skipped breakfast and now waited at the Aduana in David. Continue reading ADVrider Mini-Motorcycle Diaries: Rollin’ On

ADVrider Mini-Motorcycle Diaries: Officer, am I being detained?



“Officer, am I being detained?” I ask Gustavo, the green uniformed man with the DPFA badge of Panama. “Not detained, exactly”, he says in Spanish. “You just can’t leave. We can’t allow you to ride your motorbike.” I ponder this and finally ask, “What if I leave it here and pick it up tomorrow when the immigration office opens in David?” The beach is just 30 minutes away and I’m a sticky mess from the Panamanian heat and the long ride. I can almost hear the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean. “No, you can’t leave your bike here either. What if something were to happen to it while you were gone?”

I see this is going to take a while, so I unlace my boots and prop my feet up near the fan an officer points in my direction. I take a swig of the sugary Big Roja “fruit” juice drink a tall cop silently hands me, and begin to read about the area in my guidebook. I arrange a hotel for the evening, and sit back while other men pop into the office or open the window from the outside to say hello to the gringa. I get the distinct impression girls don’t usually frequent this office building.

I’ve been in Panama for only 24 hours and I’ve already had my motorcycle impounded. When I landed at the Panama City airport yesterday, I apparently did not do the correct migration paperwork for my motorcycle at the nearby cargo airport, and have thus entered the country illegally. I remember the customs window clearly, the big bold words ADUANA DE PANAMA above, and the unhelpful ladies hidden back there. There was a frosted window with a small hole I had to crouch down to talk through. A hand came lazily out of the hole to retrieve whatever documents I had brought, but apparently I hadn’t made myself clear when I said I was bringing my motorcycle into the country and riding to Costa Rica. The police officers here tell me this happens all the time, and that the cargo airport Aduana causes them all sorts of trouble.

I sit and wait at the police checkpoint for some immigration official to come collect me and take me and my bike to the city of David, an hour away near the Costa Rica border, where I’ll spend the night waiting for the immigration office to open in the morning.

It could be much worse. I was exhausted anyway from the 350km ride from the city, it’s now pouring rain, and I have several officers bringing me food, coffee and sodas, rearranging the fan for maximum comfort…

Yup, things could definitely have been worse!


ADVrider Mini-Motorcycle Diaries: Monkey Love



The trees rustled in the wind as a young monkey played in the boughs. Lounging in a hammock near the Amazonian town of Tena, Ecuador, I marveled at the creature above. My biggest wish at that moment was to hold that monkey. It would be the pinnacle of happiness.

A branch snapped and the monkey tumbled a few feet down the hill. Springing up he scampered over to a neighboring hammock and swung in gracefully. Maybe he thought it was a better bet than the thin tree he had been playing on, or maybe he was just looking for some company, but I could barely believe he was so close. I held my hand out, not expecting anything to happen, but grabbing it, he lept into my lap in one quick jump, put his long arms around my waist, and immediately snuggled into my body. I could feel his little hands squeezing my sides tenderly. “Is this really happening?” I said aloud to Justin, frozen for a second in disbelieve. I didn’t know what to do, so cradling him like a baby, I laid gingerly back down on the hammock. He sat up, delicately rolled my t-shirt up with his long, slender fingers, exposing the warm skin of my stomach, and snuggled in again. A few times I pulled my shirt down, and he’d immediately sit up to carefully roll it up again.


He stayed with us for almost an hour, sometimes napping, sometimes playing, very gently nibbling on my shirt, ear or fingers, or picking through my hair with his human like hands. His mysterious big brown eyes would sometimes wander up to my own, staring at me intently and calmly. The wilder monkeys hooted and called from nearby trees, much bigger and looking ferocious.




Taking a bus to Lima from Huaraz the second week of May, I picked up Ash from the airport and rode the nauseating 7 hour bus back to Huaraz after spending the night in the beautiful Miraflores neighborhood of Lima, reminding me so much of Melbourne. After months of riding my own motorcycle, being a passenger would have been unbearable if Ash and I didn’t have so much catching up to do, distracting me from theIMG_1489 lurching bus and speedy hairpin turns. I was so happy she was with me. We had much to discuss. Wedding and bridesmaid dresses, flowers, invitations, cake, food, guest list and the music selection for her September wedding. One real regret on this trip is not being home to help her plan and prepare. I just had a dream I was in charge of the music, but could only get the Lion King soundtrack to play as she prepared to walk down the aisle (Ash, if you’re reading this, it was a terrible nightmare so please don’t put me on music duty!).

The next morning we set out on her first South American adventure. She had plenty of experience riding around Europe with me, but this time she was on her own bike in an even more foreign place. The keys to the Storm had been passed off by Tom, and she was both excited and nervous. She knew the driving conditions in Peru were perilous and that constant attention to the road needed to be maintained.

For the next week Peru introduced her to the glorious world of off-roading and insane Latin American driving. And she loved it. We have a bad habit of having motorcycles break down on us when we’re together though, so by the time we made it to Chiclayo on the Peruvian coast, and were just about to head into 200km of barren desert, my bike started stalling and we could go no further. Within a couple of hours, we had made it to a bus station, boarded the bus with motorcycles in the cargo hold below, and were on our way to Mancora, via Piura where I left both bikes to get serviced, and a new magneto for mine.


We spent the next couple of days catching up and relaxing on Peru’s most famous beach before she had to head back to the States.

The day after she left Justin arrived and we spent the next 8 days blasting through some of the most glorious rural roads of the entire trip, 1300km to Quito, following the western edge of the Amazon. The lush jungle beckoned, river crossings were plentiful, and steep muddy roads tested out our skills. An experienced mountain biker and world adventurer, Justin gave me a run for my money. His glorious pictures tell the story much better than I can.


ADVrider Mini-Motorcycle Diaries: La Cordillera Blanca


In the pitch black, the fog rolled heavily in and obscured everything: the stars, the dirt road, the 17,000 foot peak, the sheer cliff that lay a few feet to my left. We had followed a sign to Huaraz and were battling mother nature on a steep mountain track, crossing the width of the Cordillera Blanca. Late in the evening, in the cold dark, we wondered what we were thinking still being on the road and 190km from our destination.

It was too late, and too much. Turning around and finding our way back to the paved highway, we weaved and wound our way hundreds, maybe thousands of meters down the mountainside, slushy rain lashing at everything, snowflakes melting in our eyelashes.

I spot the irregular flashing of a light and pull over. A man on horseback- or was it a mule?- soaked in his brown poncho and broad brimmed hat, asks if we had seen a woman and her donkeys up the mountain. No, no woman, no donkeys, and we wish him luck. Unable to help we continued down, being passed by a gasoline truck with warming white, yellow and red lights. I didn’t want to be left behind in the dark, but couldn’t keep up with their glow.

Frozen and starting to worry about hypothermia, we finally descend into a drier valley, little lights dotting the way. Soaked, we pull up to a little restaurant with the words “alojamiento”, lodging, and share a twin bed and dinner for $5 dollars. A stack of wool pelts lay in the corner of the barren wooden room.