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Showing posts from 2011

Days 94-98: The Struggle for Beauty

In which Pete nearly loses Red and gives up once again, before crossing an ice field to spend the night with the Bolivian army at Laguna Colorada and returning to Uyuni for supplies.

Days 92-93: Lost in Bolivia

In which Pete discovers why the local roads are generally used only by 4x4’s, gets completely lost many times as a result of a horrible map, and is forced to decide between a risky river crossing or giving up.

Days 87-90: A Bolivian Welcome

In which Pete enters Bolivia, runs out of fuel, discovers steep mountain roads do not work well with low horsepower, spends hours rebuilding Red in the dirt, and resorts to portaging gear up hills and through sand before arriving at what was supposed to be the beginning of the difficult bits. Day 87 Begin: Abra Pampa, Jujuy, Argentina @ 10:30AM End: Somewhere between Tupiza and Uyuni, Bolivia @ 8:30PM Distance: 224km (140 miles) in [N/A time/speed average due to borders] Most of today was boring and normal. I didn’t even stop to take any photos the entire day, fairly unusual for me. The road north from Abra Pampa was very bland, and the only spice the day held was my inability to locate additional fuel – both of the stations in Abra Pampa had no gasoline. Before too long I made it to La Quiaca, the border town with Bolivia, only to find the same true of the two gas stations on the Argentina side. I’d read that Villazon on the Bolivian side was much bigger, so I decided to go ahead

Days 85-86: Back on the Horse

In which Pete goes for a “dry run” on horrid roads and nearly destroys his moto, only to run screaming back towards normal roads in order to buy much needed water. Day 85 Begin: Salta, Argentina @ 11AM End: Salinas Grandes, Ruta 40, Jujuy, Argentina @ 6PM Distance: 238km (149 miles) in 7 hours (34kmh / 21mph average speed) After so much time away from the open road, I had mixed feelings about leaving this morning. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to leave, more than I just couldn’t quite find the usual excitement about what the day would bring. I got lost in town for awhile before finally finding my way out; I had decided to head off to the west to reconnect with Ruta 40 instead of heading north on the very busy Ruta 9. At the outskirts of Salta I stopped at a YPF for gas only to find that, so typical for this area, they had no fuel available. I grabbed some water and soda and hit the road anyway, figuring I had just over a full tank and fuel enough for a solid couple hundred kilometer

Days 69-84: Timewarp

In which Pete struggles across northern Argentina spewing oil, finds beauty in the painted desert south of Salta, and takes a short mini-vacation within a vacation. Day 69 Begin: San Jose de Jachal, San Juan, Argentina @ 10:15AM End: Famatina, San Juan, Argentina @ 6:45PM Distance: 300km (187mi) in ~8.5hrs (35kmh / 22mph) When I woke up, I thought about maybe sticking around Jachal for another day to spend some time with the awesome people I had met. I knew it was around 1000km to Salta, but I wasn’t in a big hurry because I was planning on flying out of there seven days from now; plenty of time to travel 1000km and coordinate some repairs. Thankfully I remembered to pay attention to the day of the week and realized that if I took my time I would arrive in Salta on Saturday and might not be able to get the repairs I’d need done before leaving – who knows what kind of hassle it will be to coordinate a full engine teardown and rebuild. I got a bit lost on the way out of town and ended

Days 67-68: Fun with Lemons

In which Pete discovers he is stuck over a holiday weekend where everything is closed, manages to locate the only place with internet in town, makes new friends, explores the countryside by 4x4, and gets much needed attention for Red. Day 67 Location: San Jose de Jachal, San Juan, Argentina I was up and out the door shortly after 9:30AM, puttering around town on Red as we carefully looked for a mechanic and some spares. A quick drive down the main street showed something unexpected – everything was still closed! At first I thought the day was simply starting slow, a sort of hangover from Sunday, but as time passed and I continued to circulate the town looking for signs of life I began to get a bad feeling about things. Out near the highway I found the local gas station was open and it only took me a moment to confirm that sinking feeling: today was a holiday, and everything would be closed the entire day except for maybe the super markets which would open in the morning. It was frustr

Days 65-66: The Center Cannot Hold

In which Pete begins again on the fearsome Ruta 40, heading north into the mountains only to find continuous decay destroying poor little Red. (Missed days 63-64? Actually you didn’t – I spent those two days holed up in a hotel room in Mendoza mostly reading and snacking and napping, trying to crush what I hope is the tail end of a cold that has been dogging me for a month now) Day 65 Begin: Mendoza, Argentina @ 11:00AM End: San Jose de Jachal, San Juan, Argentina @ 8:15PM Distance: 331km (207mi) in ~7.5hrs (44kmh / 27mph), time lost to repairs It’s tough when you begin to lose confidence in a vehicle you expect to take you over some of the most brutal terrain on earth in a few days. Like those moments when you begin to wonder if the woman you’re seeing is as in to you as she was last week - a fleeting smirk at a joke she’d normally laugh at, a sudden drop in response rates to your texts, or the occasional restraining order. You’re no longer simply enjoying your time together, but

Days 61-62: The Little Engine that Could… Not?

In which Pete returns to Ruta 40 with a shiny new front wheel, struggles against mysterious engine problems, has an argument with a police officer in the dark, and survives a desert of prickly thorns only to get a flat at Walmart. Day 61 Begin: Santa Rosa, Las Pampas, Argentina @ 10:30AM End: Unknown Location, Ruta 143, Las Pampas, Argentina @ 6:15PM Distance: estimated 350km (218mi), no odometer and GPS datalogger failed I was pretty stoked this morning. Red was shiny and clean, his new front wheel was incredibly stable, swapping out the fat and loud MT40 in back for a normal road tire made him more quiet and docile, and all that ash and gunk was cleaned out of the intake system. The temperature was so warm (upper 50’sF) that I felt free and agile wearing less layers than normal and the wind was blowing straight south while I would be traveling mostly westward – incredible luck that I wouldn’t be traveling straight into the wind the entire day.

Days 56-60: Warmth and Wheels

The last four days have been a journey across far more than just terrain – I’ve traveled across climates and biomes, struggled through vicious wind, and dealt with massive continued problems with my front wheel. Emotionally I leveled out with calm confident enjoyment of the simple pleasure of the journey as temperatures creeping consistently out of freezing allowed me to finally relax and unclench the mental control required to maintain control in the deep cold. In spite of the problems with the wheel it’s been a good time overall, enough that I found myself disinterested in writing at the end of each day. As I look back at those four days, bits and pieces of each surface in my mind but there is no cohesive whole to any day. Without my log book and the very few photos I took I’m not sure if I’d be able to reconstruct an entire narrative, and even with these any attempt to do so would be lacking. Instead I have decided to detail a series of highlights over the last few days after sharin

Days 54-55: The Northward Struggle

In which Pete discovers a vicious headwind and horizontal rain to be a bit of a struggle and a cold wet weewee to be discomforting and misleading, then enjoys the balance of a tailwind against the need to rebuild the front wheel. Day 54 Begin: Piedrabuena, Patagonia, Argentina @ 10:30AM End: Puerto San Julian, Patagonia, Argentina @ 4:00PM Distance: approx. 133km (~83mi) in ~5.5 hours (~24KMH / ~15MPH average) Today wins the prize for the shortest distance traveled between destinations so far on this trip. I made a tough decision to stop early and rest up for a long day tomorrow after hours of struggling. It started when I woke up and went out to pack my moto only to find the sky covered in dismal gray clouds and the ground covered in water as more continued to fall. As a consolation, the temperature was well above freezing and nearly into the 40’sF, a countervailing omen for the day. Would it be warm and happy or wet and miserable? Only one way to find out: hit the road.

Days 51-53: Yet Another Beginning

In which Pete begins a new adventure on Red, heading north from the bottom of the world in a frenzy of snow, rain, ice, and brutally intense cold to seek warmth and longer days. Day 51 Begin: Ushuaia, southernmost city in the world @ 11:15AM End: San Sebastian, Chile, Tierra del Fuego @ 7:15PM Distance: approx. 312km (~195mi) in ~8 hours (~39KMH / ~24MPH average, +borders) Leaving Ushuaia was tough for a lot of reasons: subjecting myself to the physical torment of the weather after five nights in a nice hotel, breaking in what felt like an entirely new moto, mentally stabilizing myself for the long weeks of empty straight pavement, and feeling slightly aimless with a nebulous goal of “go north” for the first time on this trip to name a few. I had already put it off one day (the “missing” Day 50) by deciding to hang out in my hotel all day instead of leaving when Red was ready at 1PM… so it was time to man up.

Days 47-49: Rest and Repair in Ushuaia

The past few days in Ushuaia have been very different, a genuine rest and mental reset that hasn’t quite been matched since leaving Lima. In a nutshell, I probably spent 90% of my time just holed up in my hotel room, lying on my big comfy bed, and basically doing nothing. The rest of my time was spent grabbing groceries, eating the occasional meal outside, and organizing repairs to Red. The repairs, of course, were the most critical part of this stay – there was always a possibility, however minor, that I would be leaving here on wings instead of wheels. I’m happy to say that thanks to the amazing guys at Moto Pablo, that will not be the case.

Day 46: First Destination, Arrival!

In which Pete enjoys a relatively relaxed final day through snow, rain, cold, and intermittent mechanical problems to arrive at his first ultimate destination, the southernmost city in the world – 9,000+ km after leaving Lima, Peru. Day 46 Begin: Tolhuin (butchered this yesterday, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina @ 9:30AM End: Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina @ 3:00PM Distance: approx. 125km (~78mi) in ~6.5 hours (~19KMH / ~12MPH average) Knowing I faced the possibility of severe mechanical issues as I pushed the last 100km to Ushuaia, I woke early this morning to maximize the amount of time on the road. It was strange once again to awaken in a pitch black room, packing all of my gear and brewing coffee in the bathroom on my stove while light slowly began to seep into the world. Going outside to begin loading Red, I was greeted with a shock – the snow and ice was melting! Yes, it was raining mildly, and yes the air temperature was just barely above freezing, but something got warmer

Days 43-45: Tierra del Fuego At Last

In which Pete finds repairs to be a hassle and decides to forgo them, crosses the Straight of Magellan, and begins a frozen ride into the Land of Fire – which quickly turns to the Land of Ice. Day 43 Begin: Ruta 40, El Calafate, Argentina @ 10:30AM End: Rio Gallegos, Argentina @ 5:00PM Distance: approx. 339km (~211mi) in ~7.5 hours (~45KMH / ~28MPH average) Today felt strange. Still recovering from the strange emotions I’ve been dealing with since making it through a week of intensity, leaving El Calafate to head towards Rio Gallegos stirred little excitement in me. The road itself failed to please as well, simply being a road. A strange experience after so much time on horrible Ruta 40 – even the wind cooperated, being at my back the entire time, and the temperature stayed in the upper 40’s. In a nutshell, I crossed 300km of desert almost completely checked out. I did not even stop for a single photo.

Days 40-42: The World Fades

I feel broken. It’s as if some of the color has seeped out of the world, the sharpness faded. As if I’m behind my eyes, watching myself, performing on auto-pilot. Finding any sort of emotion is difficult, especially motivation. After the last week, it’s like everything is done. I am full.

5 Things that Suck about Traveling Solo

I find it telling that it seems a majority of the interesting travel blogs I run across are written by solo travelers, most often women. I think there’s a reason why we write more than people who travel with friends or in groups and that it’s pretty self evident: it’s an outlet for our loneliness. In the last year and a half, the vast majority of my time has been spent away from home, alone. As I write this, it’s been over a month since I’ve conversed with anyone in my native language, and I can remember every single conversation in English for the month before that. The truth is, I don’t think I could have done this without the internet – without a blog to share my thoughts, without Facebook to see what my friends are up to, without the occasional e-mail to provide a façade of normalcy… without these things I’d likely have driven myself insane with my internal dialogue. Now, I grant, there’s a reason I travel alone and I do love it, but lately it seems all I run across in the blogosp

Days 39-40: Sunlit Warmth

In which Pete survives a brutal sandstorm and finds making headway in 30+MPH winds with 9hp to be somewhat difficult, but eventually arrives in El Calafate for a day off. Day 39 Begin: Ruta 40, north of Gobernador Gregores Argentina @ 10:00AM End: Ruta 40, south of Tres Lagos, Argentina @ 6:00PM Distance: approx. 256km (~160mi) in ~8 hours (~32KMH / ~20MPH average) Last night was by far the worst night of the trip so far. It started out so well, nearly windless and well above freezing; inside my sleeping bag it was not only comfortable but actually warm for the first time in days. Outside the strong winds of the past few days had shifted to what could be generously termed only a strong breeze, so weak that I almost did not stake down my tent – a close call I won’t be making again. Around midnight, I finally dozed off, lulled to sleep by the warmth and soft breeze thumping against my tent. A bottle of ice was tucked inside my sleeping bag but outside my liner, slowly warming up and p

Days 37-38: There’s Snow in Them Thar Hills

In which Pete encounters fluffy white stuff and crunchy clear stuff then struggles through both before weeping like a baby at his own survival, amidst throwing his chain multiple times and finding frozen water difficult to drink. Day 37 Begin: Ruta 40, north of Perito Moreno Argentina @ 10:15AM End: Ruta 40, south of Perito Moreno Argentina @ 6:00PM Distance: approx. 229km (~143mi) in ~7.75 hours (~29KMH / ~18MPH average) This morning dawned surprisingly warm and cozy, the sun shining gloriously across the cold desert. Once again I skipped my morning coffee due to the hassle of the wind and decided to pack rapidly and get on the road immediately. I use the term “road” loosely – Ruta 40 was at this point a harsh gravel and rock road, and it stayed that way for many kilometers. I could not make any effective headway at first because the road was entirely too rough and I had some major concerns about my front suspension and steering, but eventually I got used to the strange sway dynam

Days 34-36: This is Patagonia

In which Pete finds amazing beauty amongst wet cold misery, finds 40kmh winds to be somewhat detrimental, flattens two tires and throws a chain, and unknowingly sleeps under an evil omen. Day 34 Begin: San Martin de Los Andes @ 11:30AM End: Unknown Location, Ruta 40, Argentina @ 9:00PM Distance: approx. 363km (~227mi) in ~9.5 hours (~38KMH / ~23MPH average) Leaving San Martin this morning was tough – not because I wanted to hang out in my posh cabin some more and wander this adorable little town, but because it was raining. Nothing makes a motorcycle ride as miserable as rain, especially when it’s cold. The physics of it is easy to understand; you get wet, you get colder. We all know this. Rain, especially in the mountains, usually comes with a cold front and a drop in temperature. We all know this too. Riding a moto mostly exposed to the elements, you are driving at a speed that increases all of these things… with a little bit of thought, we all can come to this conclusion and know

Patagonia Beckons

Today I begin what may become one of the most difficult tests of long term mental and physical endurance and strength I have ever undertaken: for most of its remaining 2500km through Patagonia, Ruta 40 is considered one of the most desolate highways in the world. Over half of the remaining road is gravel, sand, and dirt. The number of towns listed on a map once I pass Perito Moreno can be counted on one hand, and there are many stretches of hundreds of miles without provisions, fuel, or places to stay.

Days 29-33: The Calm Before

There’s not much to say about the last few days, so I won’t go into terrible detail. On Friday the 13th, I borrowed a spare wheel from Pirincho Motos in San Martin de Los Andes and made my way back up the road towards Red – a trip that turned out to be slightly more complicated than expected. From San Martin, I took the local collectivo to Junin de Los Andes where I found out that the “corte” (cut, or road block) south of Zapala on Ruta 40 that I just missed on my way south was still in effect. As a result, no transportation was heading north on Ruta 40, but was instead taking an alternate route.

30 Days of Data Visualization

In a past life, I had a bit of a reputation for data visualization – in fact, one of my biggest pet peeves was watching someone make a decision based on their perception of information, rather than using real data. It’s shocking how often this is done, and it’s especially horrible considering any basic study of human psychology shows that we trick ourselves constantly when it comes to processing information. Soap box aside, I have been trying to gather certain pieces of data about my travels over time. In some situations I have massively dropped the ball: I stopped gathering gas price and consumption data when I started using a spare gas can, something I really regret. In others, I’ve relied on technology that has failed at times: my detailed GPS datalogger locked up and was unusable for three days until the battery died. In spite of this, I have gathered some interesting data that I thought I’d share, as well as my analysis of said data where appropriate. Some of this has been gathere

Days 25-28: Harsh Ruta 40

In which Pete leaves the easy button roads, travels south into deep cold, and abandons his moto on the side of the road after a vicious wheel failure. Day 25 Begin: Mendoza, Argentina @ 12:15PM End: Unknown Location, Ruta 40, Argentina @ 7:00PM Distance: approx. 275km (~171mi) in ~7 hours (~39KMH / ~24MPH average) Leaving Mendoza was easier than I expected, even though I really didn’t get a chance to see much of the town or honestly do anything other than some shopping and some good eating. It was just that time to be on the move again. That didn’t prevent me from a very leisurely morning, with final updates and preparations delaying me until noon. From here I would be following Ruta 40 for some 3500km south and I was looking forward to the challenge – it’s supposed to get pretty awesome.

Days 22-24:

In which Pete makes his way into the land of steak and wine, ascends the highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere, sleeps with the Incas, and encounters something uniquely American. Day 22 Begin: Unknown Location, Chilean Desert @ 8:00AM End: Unknown Location, Argentina, Mendoza River Valley @ 6:00PM Distance: approx. 392km (~245mi) in ~9 hours (~43KMH / ~26MPH average, 1hr border) Waking up in an overlook is always a strange experience, especially when you pulled in while it was pitch black. What would I be greeted with when I exited the tent? An amazing cliff overlooking a lush valley full of windmills and beauty? Alas, no – it was simply a dip in the desert with more desert, little to inspire. As I popped back onto Ruta 5, it was decision time – go all the way into Santiago to explore, or head towards the mountains and Argentina. It wasn’t exactly the toughest decision of my trip, since I hate big cities and was getting tired of the high cost of Chile, so heading to Argentina w

Days 19-21: Mutually Assured Destruction

In which Pete’s front wheel nearly destroys itself, leading to hundreds of miles of careful searching for a replacement in the deserts of Chile and underscoring the high cost of decadent travel in Chile. Day 19 Begin: Taltal, Chile @ 9:00AM End: Copiapo, Chile @ 5:00PM Distance: approx. 337km (~210mi) in ~8 hours (~42KMH / ~26MPH average) A “completo” (hot dog with tomato, avocado, and an italian roll) may not be the healthiest breakfast in the world, but it certainly jump starts the taste buds – especially when accompanied by the first somewhat decent coffee I’ve had in months. Surprisingly, the random house-turned-hostel I spent the night at had a very fast internet connection, so I was also freshly stocked up on something new to pass the time: podcasts from Radiolab . On the surface, these two things may seem unrelated, and yet they would begin a nearly catastrophic series of events that almost culminated in the mutually assured destruction of both myself and my moto.

Days 16-18: Chillin’ in Chile

In which Pete successfully leaves Peru and enters Chile, finds himself lost without a map and picks a random road south, sleeps in the desert, runs out of gas on the coast, rescues himself by pushing his moto for an hour, then sleeps on a beach… still lost. Eventually a map is found. Day 16 Begin: Tacna, Peru @ 10:30AM End: Unknown Location, Chilean Desert @ 6:00PM Distance: approx. 243km (~158mi) in ~6 hours (~40KMH / ~25MPH average, 1hr for customs) Average Gas Mileage: N/A (calculations fried) Stopped by Police : Only at the border… I have to admit by this point I was looking forward to getting out of Peru and into someplace new. I do really enjoy Peru, but it has a justified reputation of frustration for travelers with the constant police checkpoints everywhere. Plus I was at sea level now and Red was like an entirely new bike, the pickup in 3rd and 4th gear was amazing!

Days 14-15: OMG NOOOOO…

After finding out that making it into Chile from Tacna should be easier, I pulled out my map of Peru and drew a line to Tacna. It was not a perfectly paved line, but rather had a large portion of “passable road” (i.e. dirt). What followed was one of the worst roads I’ve ever ridden on, and I guarantee I have ridden on some of the worst… It was ugly. Day 14 Begin: Desaguadero, Peru @ 10:30AM End: Unknown Location at ~16k feet, Peru @ 6:30PM Distance: approx. 183km (~114mi) in 8.5 hours (~21KMH / ~13MPH average) Average Gas Mileage: N/A Stopped by Police : Never saw any The road out of Desaguadero started innocuously enough, with a simple sign that read “Tacna, 458km” and an arrow. As I started along it, I noticed some strange vibration noises and pulled over to find that somehow my moto had started to fall apart overnight. The exhaust bolt and the left rear axle holder thingie were both so loose that the exhaust was almost falling off (ironically, happened to me in almost the same p

Days 11-13: Puno & Bolivia FAIL

Days 11-12 Location: Puno, Peru After the late night arrival, I intended to stay in Puno for an entire day to do some basic servicing on the motokar and look into some options for building a custom cage and the like. Equally importantly, I wanted to edit my first video and share it. Editing video can be very time intensive and is usually done best while stationary (I’ve been known to do it at McDonald’s and the like but there’s less luck at that down here), so I figured it would eat an entire day. I was right, after walking around town and exploring long enough to ensure myself that I remembered where everything was (weird), I banged out my first video for this trip introducing the motokar. I hope you enjoy it!

Days 7-10: Descansar - To De-Tiredify

Day 7 Begin: Abancay, Peru @ 9:30AM End: Cusco, Peru @ 4:00PM Distance: approx. 208km (~130mi) in 6.5 hours (~32KMH / ~20MPH average) Average Gas Mileage: ~60MPG Stopped by Police : 0x, waved through 4 checkpoints with a smile I woke up today, Thursday, April 21 and went looking to buy a SOAT, which is insurance required by law in Peru and without which I had been continually hassled over the past week of travel in Peru. I located a place that sold it and found out it was closed. Then I was shocked to be told that it was a holiday until Monday and that almost everything would be closed! I’m sure you can figure this one out – when I travel I become so disconnected from dates and calendars that it didn’t even occur to me. This weekend was Easter, a hugely critical holiday in a predominantly Catholic country, as I was told Holy Week here is considerably bigger than even Christmas (and most people only get one day off for that in the US!). So without much to be done I decided to head o

Days 5-6: Misery and Glee

Day 5 Begin: Coracora, Peru @ 12PM (noon) End: Puquio, Peru @ 5:30PM Distance: approx. 102km (~64mi) in 5.5 hours (~18KMH / ~11MPH average) Average Gas Mileage: ~45MPG Stopped by Police : Never saw any Misery! Or awesomeness, depending on how crazy you are… Every tried to drive 30km down a mountain through 2+ inches of mud? With horrid ruts torn into the road by trucks and buses that are barely wide enough for your vehicle? This was the end to my day – it was exhilarating and exhausting, endless fun combined with constant fear, and perhaps a bit of doubt. I woke up early in Coracora to pack my stuff and show up at Ponte Honda by 8AM as agreed to have my first service done. It was supposed to be at 500km, but it had taken me 821km to get to Coracora (Google had indicated 600km but did not know about twisty roads). In retrospect the decision to go to Coracora instead of Abancay was… ill inspired, to say the least – but the good thing is that it helped shake out a lot of problems with

Days 2-4: Sand, Mud, and Rock

Day 2: Huacachina Oasis is such an important place in Peru that it’s actually on the 50 soles bill! It’s also incredibly touristy, but an interesting area. I spent most of the morning relaxing before preparing for an afternoon dune buggy tour and – the entire reason I wanted to go – to try my hand at sandboarding! The dune buggies they use here are insane, massive contraptions of steel with a huge engine and a bunch of seats strapped on. The one I went on had seating for seventeen or so people! I thought the dune buggy tour would just be a nice little romp around the desert nearby and didn’t feel strongly about it either way – boy was I wrong!

Motokar Day 1: My Bottom is Sore

Begin: Lima, Peru @ 1PM End: Huacachina Oasis in Ica, Peru @ 10PM Distance: approx. 303km (~190mi) in 9 hours (~33KMH / ~21MPH average) Average Gas Mileage: ~57MPG Stopped by Police : 2x Almost exactly a month to the day from the initial purchase, my mototaxi (henceforth “motokar” or “moto” since the locals use those terms most) was finally going to be ready to go at 11AM today. It took a teeny bit longer, but before long I was tearily shaking hangs with Enrique at Desert Honda and waving goodbye to my home in Lima (at Pirwa Backpackers Hostel) to head out on this brave new adventure. I was quite surprised to escape the clutches of Lima with a minimum of hassle, I only missed a few turns and my map kept me under control. Soon enough I had made it to the Panamerican Highway where my real struggle would begin. I need to take this road south for quite awhile before I can cut away from it and there’s only one problem with this scenario: Motos are prohibited on the Panamerican. Time to

Easter Island Pt 2: Exploring

I got off the plane on Easter Island with a general awareness of the history of the island, yet somehow without having seen any sort of map or having really any idea what I was going to do there aside from a hopeful expectation that I could rent a scooter or something. I had purchased plane tickets barely two days before and was googling for a place to stay literally hours before leaving Peru. With only a cursory inspection, I settled on Camping Mihinoa as an ideal place, mostly because I am carting around my Big Agnes SL2 and love putting it to use… and didn’t want to pay much for a room I didn’t expect to be in very often. I shot them an e-mail and received a quick reply that they would pick me up at the airport and off I went!

Easter Island Pt 1: Musings

The image of the giant stone heads of Easter Island has been engraved on my mind for as long as I can remember – even as a child, there was something mysterious and amazing about the idea. Seeing them for myself has always been on my list and yet, if I’m honest, I never quite expected to actually travel there. I simply haven’t looked into it until recent times, and was shocked to find that this island, considered one of the more remote locations in the world, happens to be the proud owner of one of the largest runways in the Pacific. This runway, the most remote in the world, was completed in 1987 and crosses the entire width of the island, quite literally from coast to coast. It was provided by NASA as an optional failsafe landing zone for the space shuttle, but had the side effect of massively boosting tourism on the island thanks to the ability to land planes as large as 767’s with plenty of room to spare. I would not at all be surprised to find that the paved surface area of the ru

South America Expenses: Weeks 1-3

We have some weird taboos about discussing money in the US, but I personally think we’d all be a lot better of if we shared more. Like the politics or not, you can’t argue with the effectiveness of collective bargaining – from unions to Groupon, there’s a reason sharing knowledge of money is all over the news during a critical time in our economy. Going forward, I will try to summarize my expenses on a weekly basis where possible to give you guys an idea of how much a trip like this costs. One critical thing to note: I am not “traveling on a budget” like most people, but rather the inverse – I have a certain amount of money and plan to spend it. Instead of trying to make it stretch to a certain amount of time, I’m trying to get as much enjoyment out of it and will simply end the trip when it runs out (and slink back home to get a job). Novel, eh? As of April 2, here is my current general expense data (all amounts are USD, I arrived in Peru on March 14): One way ticket to Lima: $520 Mot

Documents, Documents, Documents

I’ve been in Lima since March 14 working towards ownership of a Honda CG125NL mototaxi with my decidedly non-fluent Spanish. After going through the initial hassle of establishing communication with a dealer, choosing a model, finding out how many were in country, and doing a wire transfer for the funds I thought I would be ready to go in 15 days – not too bad, all things considered. Well, there’s some good news and some bad news. The good news: I am now officially the proud owner of a red and yellow Honda mototaxi! All of the paperwork is mine and as far as everyone is concerned, this mototaxi is now proudly owned by me. It is still on a truck for delivery however it should be ready for me to get eyes on it and take some photos of the actual moto within a couple of days.

The Fourth Wave

In spite of seeing it hundreds of times in surfing movies and documentaries, nothing quite prepared me for the intensity of being smashed beneath a wave at high speed and tumbling deep down into the ocean. Blurry disoriented vision combines with overwhelmed physical senses struggling against the pressure and noise to create a sharp stab of fear and pain, suddenly smothered as all sensation focuses precisely on the massive rolling wave moving over me. For a moment, that wave is my entire existence. Upside down, legs and arms akimbo, the light filtering through it defines depth and motion, a single moment in which everything stops to allow my mind to process this intensity. As the calm acceptance of the power around me settles into my mind a single thought escapes, unexpectedly shaking me from my reverence. ”How can I possibly capture this experience?”

The Travel Bubble (and Peru Updates)

Every time I travel, my world seems to shrink, my sense of time completely changes, and I often lose track of what’s happening “today.” I become completely disconnected from myself and almost feel like a passenger in my own body as I interact with the world outside. It’s especially strong when I travel outside North America, because I am instantly alienated by the world around me. There is a strangely surreal effect on one’s psyche to be completely surrounded by people speaking a different language, following different rules, and interacting in different ways. No matter how you try to submerge yourself in another culture, you are always an oddity, an outsider, and the ever present knowledge of this is what creates this strange mental disconnection.

Snow Trip Gear

Tomorrow I am off to Park City, Utah for a few days of snowboarding before I head off to South America in three weeks. I thought it might be a cool opportunity to highlight the humorous fact that the gear load for a five day trip to a cushy place with a bunch of buddies is almost exactly the same as the load for a few months around South America on a motorcycle. Aside from my sleeping bag, liner, basic tools, and a couple pieces of camera gear not going with me to Utah, this will be the sum total of my worldly possessions for the next few months: For the picky or curious, there’s a detailed breakdown below.

ExOfficio ExO Dri Tee Mini-Review

[ Product Link ] Nothing gets abused like my shirts on an adventure – sure, my underwear gets worn as often and as hard but it’s (almost) always under something to protect it. Mostly I’ve given up on caring about t-shirts, instead I make it a point to buy cheap shirts locally when I’m on the move, wear them until they fall apart or start to stink (2-3 weeks usually), then give them away and buy new ones. In India I picked up a couple great Nike shirts that held up to the rigors of hand washing and generally didn’t stink too much, but even after a lot of care back home, well… let’s just say I can’t really wear them in polite company because they look pretty nasty. Worse, even in India they were damn expensive, they did well in heat but were useless in the cold, and generally had a constant low-grade funk that wasn’t obnoxious but could get annoying. Similarly I had a couple North Face shirts that I thought might make the grade until they started to come apart at the seams and hand w

First Ascent Downlight Sweater Mini-Review

[ link to product page ] Imagine spending nearly 80+ straight days wearing a jacket, only taking it off for brief periods of time while grabbing food or sleeping. Each time it’s worn over dirty, unwashed clothes and at night it’s wadded up for a pillow, drooled on and smashed out of shape. Never washed or maintained in any form, the jacket slowly becomes disheveled and discolored until it has aged many years in a few short months. Then, when the trip is over, without any receipt or proof of purchase or nary even a bit of fuss, the company let’s you trade it for a brand new one. That alone is enough of a mind-blowing reason for me to recommend this down jacket (and by extension any other First Ascent gear), but that reason doesn’t have to stand alone. In spite of some very clear negatives, the 2009 Downlight Sweater I bought last year was a fantastic piece of kit, and if you can find one on clearance and need some down, pull the trigger without hesitation.

ContourHD 720p Review: No Regrets, BUY ONE!

On September 24, 2009 I received an order from Amazon with my brand new ContourHD video camera. Five minutes later it was torn out of the box and the Hat Cam was born ; it’s that easy to get started with a Contour cam. In the time since then, I have recorded many hundreds of gigabytes and hours of video with my ContourHD on five different continents, from sea level to over 16,000 feet, in jungles, snowy mountains, deserts and other terrain. It’s been strapped to my head, peeked out from my jacket, smashed onto my backpack, held in my hand and mounted to all kinds of vehicles and devices. I’ve punted it off (small) cliffs, fumbled it onto the side of the road at 35MPH, driven over it, stepped on it, fallen on it and left it out in the rain and cold… all more than once.

Canon T2i/EOS 550D Review: Not Worth It

It’s very rare for me to suffer buyer’s remorse, as I typically research any product I am going to use quite carefully. When it comes to photography, I have always been a Point & Shoot fan for a number of reasons: smaller and lighter cameras, less complexity, and most importantly, lower cost. In my adventures I could carry two P&S cameras and not worry about one being broken or stolen and I was generally quite happy with the quality of the photos. This changed in a very subtle way sometime in early 2010, as I began to understand that photographs of people and things were just as interesting as photos of places and landscapes… I realized I was leaving out part of the story of my adventures because I often left the people around me out of them. As I changed some of my style, I became absolutely amazed with the quality of photos being taken by a friend I met in Nepal with a Nikon D5000. Her photos of the people around her told a completely different story than those I took due to

On Flexibility: An Initial 2011 Itinerary

One thing I learned when planning for last year – don’t get too caught up in any particular idea, keep everything as open as possible. It cost me more money in airfare to not plan months in advance but aside from the mistake of paying rent on a condo I wasn’t living in, the flexibility in that schedule allowed me a much greater set of experiences. After a fair bit of planning on thinking, I’m already seeing my 2011 completely change from how I imagined it two months ago. There’s still a month before anything really exciting starts other than preparation (paperwork, paperwork, paperwork), but as things are starting to come together I wanted to share my rough plans for 2011 as of right now: