We have heard this sentence a lot of time “Oh, you are on a long vacation, that is nice” not just from family and friends back home, but also from locals and people who are on shorter vacations. But this is not a vacation, because on a vacation you relax and don’t have to deal with daily living. When you are on a vacation, there is a lot of things that you don’t deal with, that just have to wait until you get back home. We are traveling, and we have to make everything work, when we are on the road. We live a daily life on the road, and have to take care of grocery shopping, personal health, the motorcycles and everything else. Like laundry. When you are traveling the biggest challenge is, that things doesn’t work the same way as in your home country (fx the postal service is non existing in Central America and Columbia), the language is different and every time you enter a new country things change including the currency. This post is how we experience the life on the road, and focusing on the things that you don’t even think about before it is too late. As you have probably already read we have seen amazing things and have had a lot of great days, but there is always more to it. Just keep reading.
This is the challengers that springs to my mind:
1. You never shop twice in the same supermarket. It take longer time to find what you need, and it is not always that you can find what you need. I had to find shampoo and conditioner for my hair, but I wanted smaller bottles. In the supermarket a friendly and patient employee, told me that I had to ask for that at the pharmacy (here in Columbia).
2. When you ask for help it is difficult for us to explain it fully in Spanish fx at the pharmacy, ask for specific directions, finding specific things in the supermarket.
3. When you get sick, you don’t know how the system for medical care works. The two times we needed help during sickness, we were lucky that we were visiting friends, who could help us.
4. We don’t have cell service on our cellphones. We can only write text messages on WhatsApp. To make a phone call we have to have good Wi-Fi to be able to use Skype.
5. At home you can pretty much google everything, but here we have to ask around, which takes time and sometimes without any result.
6. It is not possible to book everything in advance, which makes it harder for us to plan. In Nicaragua we just drove out to the jungle in hope to find a place to camp and a guide, who could take us on a trip into the jungle.
7. Going on trips. You agree on a price, but you don’t know what you are gonna get for your money. Always bring water and food, because a lot things are badly organized.
8. When can we do laundry? A lot of places they don’t have washing machines, and it is rare to find a dryer. When you find a washing machine, how do you explain that our clothes don’t need softener? It is not always that our clothes got clean after a trip into the washing machine. So sometimes washing by hand in the only option.
9. Everything is paid in CASH. When we first came to Columbia we had to try 5 ATM’s before any of our credit cards worked. Now we know, that we need to go to an ATM at a Bancolumbia, and finding one takes time, because we haven’t been visiting the bigger cities. Every time we go across the border and enter a new country the currency change. This means that we have to exchange the money every time we enter a new country. At least the amount of money we have left, and we loose money because of the exchange fee or exchange rate. We try not to have too much cash left when we enter a new country, we typically exchange the money at the border (be aware of counterfeit money) or we give away the smaller coins the travelers going the opposite way of us.
10. Rain, rain and more rain through Central America has been hard . When traveling on motorcycles and sleeping in a tent the weather means a lot. After driving 3 days in rain, when we left Mexico and came to Xela in Guatemala it took my Gore-Tex boots 4 days to dry (because the water socked my motorcycles clothes, and the water ran down into my boots ). We still love to camp in our tent, but we have been staying overnight in a lot of hostels, hotels and Love hotels.
The love hotels always have safe parking for the motorcycles – we love it!
In the cities we sometimes have to be creative. Here I convinced the manager, that our motorcycles would fit in the lobby of the small hotel – and they did
(You should have seen the managers face, when we pulled the motorcycles into the lobby )
In the resent post “Panama City and the Panama Canal” we didn’t remember, when we last time had one day without rain. We felt that the rain kept following us – was it a curse? Maybe this is the answer… after a week in Cartagena with only 2 or 3 smaller rain showers, we were ready to leave, when it started raining.
Everything was already packed on the motorcycles, and we were in all our gear. We decided to leave while it was raining, sure that the rain soon would stop. But it rained a lot and the roads in Cartagena turned into rivers!
When we finally got out of Cartagena the rain stopped, and so far we have had really good weather in Columbia and no massive rain. We finally feel, that we are in a dryer country, and will try the follow the summer as we are driving further south.
11. Never trust the time on the GPS! The time calculations are much more optimistic than reality. We usually calculate our travel time from 50 km/h, so 250 kilometers takes 5 hours of riding. Remember to add time for breaks and refueling. Also the none of the maps really know what kind of roads it is. What is shown as a paved road might be a small shitty gravel road. You just never know before you are on it. But we try to guess by looking at the road on MAPS.ME and the GPS. IF there is many small cities and if there is stores and hotels there is a better chance of a good road. The less stuff that is marked on the maps the worse the road usually is.
In general you can not plug in an address where you want to go be cause there is no real address system in many areas. What we do most of the time is to find the spot on google maps or MAPS.ME and then plug in the GPS coordinates. This will get you to the right place. Maybe not the fastest way but you will get there.
After arriving in Cartagena the status of riding was this (photo of the GPS):
The GPS was brand new when we started our trip in California, United States. When we reached Cartagena in total we had driven 7278 miles (11.645 kilometers) spending 248 hours on the motorcycles. Of the 248 hours there was 41 hours of stopping and 207 hours of moving, which means that our overall average speed was 29 miles/h (46,4 km/h). That is a lot of slow kilometers! But some of the kilometers are also amazing.
Following a road in the mountains towards Valle de Cocora – no mountains in Denmark
Riding in the low lands and across big rivers – we don’t have that in Denmark
The slow kilometers gives Esben more time to take pictures while riding. Here in Columbia there are more motorcycles than cars, because the smaller motorcycles are cheaper. It is almost like being to a motorcycles rally, it is fun but it is also intense.
When riding a motorcycle through Mexico, Central America and Columbia you have to stay alert all the time and be ready for pretty much everything from dogs to big trucks. The roads through the mountains are often not built for the big trucks, and they take up space in the other lane in the sharp turns. It is important to ride in the middle or to the right in your own lane. The trucks drive really slow in the mountains, and the only way is the pass them, even if there are a lot.
It is totally normal to pass other vehicles, when the lines are double (or traffic signs saying “Do not pass”)
Look out for all kinds of vehicles
Here in Columbia it is possible to transport everything on a motorcycle – we collected some of the good ones for you
Totally safe way to transport a bottle of propane – oh, and the milk man
Coolers or taking a few kinds home from school
Just holding on to a latter or a metal roof – it is amazing what we have met
Here the hole family is on the motorcycle – if you don’t have room for a washing machine, just built a trailer for your motorcycle
Now you don’t have any excuse for taking the car instead of the motorcycle!
If you can’t get a ride on a motorcycle, just jump on one of the big trucks
But things also go wrong here in Columbia – but after more than 2000 kilometers we have only seen few accidents.
Our impression after riding through Columbia is that the country is more organized in terms of traffic, roads and traffic signs compared to Central America. Compared to Mexico, Columbia has fewer speed bumps and much more traffic signs.
Speaking of traffic signs, they are so cool compared to the ones we have in Denmark – SO WATCH OUT FOR…
That was it – about riding a lot of slow kilometers and what makes the daily life more challenging and tough, when we are on the road. We hope that you appreciate our honesty. If you have any questions, we will try to answer them from our point of view.