Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Switch

I knew it would happen. I just didn’t know when.

As you may have noticed in my recent postings, I missed home a little too much, in fact I couldn’t stop dreaming about it. I really really missed home. All the strange environments I wake up to every day morning, always different and strange, sometimes clean, sometimes dirty or smelly, even worse buggy. The thought of home grew stronger and stronger, and I am nowhere near it. It was getting too much, and I knew I had to stop, but I didn’t know how.

I was so homesick that I couldn’t even make up my mind as to what to do for the next few months. Should we stay in South America, or perhaps go to another part of world, or settle down somewhere for a while? I couldn’t decide because what I wanted was a home. I began to feel like a baby who can’t take its mind off the unreachable cookie jar.

Then I sat myself down, and asked myself what does it take to stop obsessing about home. I don’t know about your conscious, but mine isn’t always available when I call. Eventually it came to me. Somewhere along the way, I forgot to look at what we have and simply appreciate them. We are having a once-in-a-life time and doing the things that we have been dreamt to do for ages.

So I switched myself back on, re-appreciating my two sets of clothes and Casa. And you know what, my home sickness is gone. Just like that. Now more than ever, I am looking forward to explore more of South America in the coming few months with Q, Casa, and everything else we have with us.

Speaking of which, you may wonder where Q was in this whole picture. Well, he was the silent supporter. Don´t we all love one. I love mine.

Happy New Year, Everyone! Enjoy your home for us. :)(:

(Photos from our Christmas celebration with friends in Puerto Madryn, Argentina. Muchas gracias, Gaby, Ber y la familia!)


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Roadside Stops

There is a reason why at some of the road-side stops, I only walk around and stretch my legs, but refuse to drink or eat, even if I could certainly use a bit of both. Because it is a 10-step process to get anything in my mouth.

1. Release right-hand glove velcro straps (2).

2. Release left-hand glove velcro straps (2).

3. Pull out sunglasses.

4. Release motorcycle helmet buckle.

5. Pull off helmet.

6. Stuff the sunglass in one of the gloves, and stuff gloves in helmet so they don’t get blown away or misplaced.

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7. Find a flat surface (ground usually) and put helmet on it so it doesn’t get blown off.

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8. Pull off balaclava off face. (Before you panick, the face below is not mine, but of a fellow overland motorcyclist.)

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9. Feed self with water and snacks.

10. Reverse steps 1-8 to get ready for the ride again.

I won’t bother you with the steps involved in dealing with nature calls.

That is why sometimes I try feed myself chocolate this way. Enjoy your ginger-bread cookies, everyone!!

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End of The World at Last

Six months into our travelling, we have reached a significant milestone of our travelling – Ushuaia, Argentina, known as “El Fin Del Mundo” (The End of the World). For situating at ~54 degree south, it is the most southern city in the world, and we are standing at it!!

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To be honest, Ushuaia didn’t quite feel like the end of the world with some more islands scattered to its south. But it is such a stunningly beautiful place, I am more than happy to live with this end-of-the-world memory.

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2010-12-08 16h37m53s DMC-LX3 P1010710_RW2So we should be jumping up and down at this highlight. Except there is something missing, or rather we are missing something. Home. Not just a Casa with two wheels and two sets of clothes. Our purple sofa. Our worn-out coffee-table. Our sharp knives. Half a year of bed-hopping (ha!) later, we have a serious case of home-sickness. So now you can guess what my new year’s resolution is.

Happy preparation for the holiday season, everyone! :)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Selected Views for You

When we travel with Casa, more than half of the time my view is the back of Q’s helmet, less than half of the time it is completely dark because I tend to doze off during the boring parts. Only occasionally – as occasional as one spots a Cindy Crawford I suppose - we come across some views that are so gorgeous that they are stuck in our minds. Here are some to share with you:

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We have just ridden through the Lake District of Argentina – another wonderful sight for all of us:

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Now on the front porch of the mystical Patagonia, and see what greeted us:

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And for the first time in South America, we know exactly where we are heading to for the next two weeks! This is very exciting, and I shall share with you once we reach THERE!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Our Luck in God’s Office

“People in the province are fond of saying, ‘God is everywhere, but his office is in Santiago.’” - Lonely Planet guidebook

We have been very lucky during our travelling so far: whenever something goes wrong with Casa, help always come along our way very quickly. This time, we were so lucky that we already had the help before we knew about the problem.

This occurred last Friday. Just as we pulled into Santiago de Chile city, Casa started making some really loud and disturbing clunky sound. We had to pull an emergency stop off a highway and take a closer look.

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It turned out that Casa’s rear wheel ball bearing was completely shot. So there we were, in the middle of nowhere, stuck again. Fortunately we had pre-arranged couchsurfing for Santiago, and our host Javier was quick to rescue. He called the local BMW shop, and was able to arrange for a pickup transportation for Casa.

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When we finally dragged our tired and hungry bodies to Javier’s house later that night, you can imagine the look on our faces when we were immediately greeted with delicious lentil stew and carrot rice. Talking about experiences that money cannot buy. (Sorry I was too eager to eat and forgot to take photos!)

Later on that weekend, fearing that we will be stuck in Santiago for a while for spare parts, I sent out a few more couchsurf requests, and received overwhelmingly positive responses. Thank you, Santiago hosts!

CS Hosts

The truth is that more and more, our travelling is less and less about tracking from point A to point B. The most interesting experiences often happen after the most frustrating incidents. In addition to tourist attractions, our journey are landmarked by friendly faces and warm families. It is incredible.

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Stuck as we are, we are more than happy to count our lucky stars in God’s office. Thanks, dude!

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Finally a big THANK YOU to Chile Moto Rent on their kind offer of test-driving their BMW F650GS. Good luck with your business!!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Good Morning from the Pacific Ocean!

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It took us a while to get back on the road since returning from China/Toronto, but we finally managed. And here we are in northern Chile, riding down south along the Pacific Ocean coast line. Personally I am loving the dramatic and gorgeous scenery of mountain-meets-ocean!

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Oh, and I have always wanted an opportunity to say this: we ate yummy CHILI in CHILLY CHILE!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

One Hundred Hours for Two

Dear family and friends, sorry for the lack of postings in the past few weeks, for Q and I have made a side trip to attend my cousin’s wedding in China. And since we started in South America, the travelling itself was already an epic.

First we bid farewell to Casa and stored our motorcycle travel equipment with the Incredible Two-cumanos Germán y Claudia (more on them later), and started with a 15 hour bus ride from Tucumán in northwestern Argentina to its capital Buenos Aires. Even though the bus ride was long, it was well-serviced, with dinner consisting of a snack, a cold plate of several small salads, and a hot plate of main dish and sides. The fully-inclined sleeper seats also spoiled us for the flights to come.


Our friend Claudia saw us off at the Tucumán bus station.


Us enjoying our dinner on the sleeper bus.

The flight from Buenos Aires to Toronto was about 13 hours including a stopover in Santiago de Chile and a fly-over of a live volcano. I have to say the Chilean Andes looked fantastic and I can’t wait till we get there with Casa. The 9 hours stopover in Toronto passed by quickly thanks to a dimsum brunch with our friends in Toronto (Thanks Cri for making it possible!)


Gorgeous view of Santiago de Chile

Thanks goodness that the 12 hours flight from Toronto to Beijing was rather uneventful, and 3 hours layover later I found myself dreamwalking onto yet another one-hour flight to Jinan, my home city and our final travel destination.

So we travelled for over 100 hours in return for a wedding, which lasted about two hours. However the family gathering made it worth every minute of our travelling. Congrats to my cousin Da and his wife Yi for their lovely wedding – dozens Argentinians have admired your wedding photos!!P1000991

Thankfully the return journey was somewhat less painful as we stopped over in Toronto for several days and Buenos Aires for a couple days. (Thanks to TH & Ron y Bas & Saskia for accommodating us!)

To all our dear family and friends: We always think of you and talk about you everywhere we travel. You travel with us.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Just Can’t Get Enough of Bolivia

After 11 days in southern Bolivia, we feel we barely scratched its surface. But what we had was an experience of a lifetime. EVERY DAY was tough, memorable and eventful in Bolivia – it felt like an adventure traveller’s dream and nightmare at the same time. Here are some made-us-stronger moments:

Border crossing through the Gran Chaco. We battled endless dust, sand, trucks, construction. Q and Casa had terribly hard work from the get-go.


Camping in a ranch under racks of fresh meat, which were taken away for dinner by the time I took the following photo. The whole night we were surrounded by the farm residents like dogs, pigs, chickens, cats, goats, sheep – you name it.


It was no easy matter to claim to have visited Potosi. Situated at 4000+ meters, it is as one of the world’s highest and most dramatic cities. After feeling constant nausea and headache for three days, I have added “suffering high altitude sickness” to the list of must-dos for adventure travellers.


Visiting Uyuni salt flat.  Just like Iguazu Falls, this is another top attractions of South America. And yes  it was salt – I can taste to that! Click here for the photo album.


Camping on the salt flat was not easy with gusting wind and dropping temperature, but it was most rewarding.


Watching moon rising on the salt flat. It was another magical moment on our trip. Opposite to fading sun, we witnessed the moon appearing in the eastern horizon so modestly and peacefully.


Riding through beautiful Tupiza canyons.


Savoring llama chops lunch platter for 1 Euro, including corn, veggie salad and various potato roots. And in case you are wondering, llama meat tasted GREAT. It has a much leaner texture than beef, but with just as much taste. YUM.


Having a flat tire outside beautiful Uyuni. We had a quiet and vast land to ourselves for a couple of tiring hours. Bless or curse – who can tell?


Enduring corrugated roads for days. I never knew my teeth can tap dance so well!


We are back in asphalt-lined Argentina now. But just like all our clothes still layered with Bolivian dirt, all my mind and senses are still filled with colors, taste and smell of the country. I want to say we will have to figure out a way to get back there, but I am also hesitant because it has been such a grueling challenge. Maybe take it in small doses somehow?

Anyway for now my puzzle is how to fit one of these under motorcycle helmet. I love ‘em little cutest Bolivian hats!


Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Day in Bolivia

Today is 17 September. We woke up in Tarija, a southern city of Bolivia. Our goal today was to travel up north and go half towards Potosi. Although the city was only 300 km away, we were told it takes 12 hours driving to get there. The rather long drive was a curious case since we were told by several locals that the road was “asphalt”. The following is a time capture of our day – yes, it’s a long one, so you might want to grab a cup of tea before continuing.

7:30 am – Woke up and went for the included breakfast. We were rather disappointed with it considering we splurged on the *4-star” hotel room – it was USD40 per night, five times what we paid for  the previous night. The room itself was quite a luxury relatively speaking, even though we never got the fridge working and the toilet seat kept on snapping down on our backs the moment one sits down, but just some minor details.

10:00 am – Finally finished packing and left the hotel. To replace the broken GPS unit, Q tried to get one of our cell phones working instead. A moment of excitement when we thought it worked, only to realize later at the end of day that it wasn’t configured correctly and so the day’s driving was not captured, but excitement was good while it lasted.

10:16 am – The joy of asphalt only lasted 15 minutes, we were told at the check point there was a 50 km of mountain pass that will take us two hours.


10:57 am – The road ascended quickly and continuously. It was tough, but still much better than the ones we encountered in the first couple days in Bolivia.


11:04 pm – We were in the Andes! Gorgeous view of the mountain range with some abandoned civilization trace.


12:05 pm – Ascending for 2000 m later, we have altiplano and asphalt! Q sends a big MUAH to the road.

12:19 pm – We stopped to replenish food and water. I picked up cocoa leaves and tried to use them as the locals do. They are supposed to reduce fatigue and effect of high altitude.


12:32 pm – The altiplatos (high planes) opened up to us. It is hard to believe we were cruising down at 3000 m in altitude.


12:39 pm – Heading into another mountain pass, which means the road becomes unpaved again.


12:42 pm – Again gorgeous view and by some miracle the road turned paved.




1:31 pm – Stopped for lunch and fuel. The gasoline was only available from container, and cost 5 Bolivian pesos/liter (about 70 US cents), about 30% more than service station. Fuel is subsidized by the government in Bolivia.P1000664

1:56 pm – A curious villager got Q into a half-understood conversation during lunch.


2:11 pm – Unpaved road after lunch. Blech! But at least we aren’t walking!

P1020439 2:22 pm – The sign announced “Pavement in 5o m”!


2:46 pm – Q was lo-lo-loving it!


3:19 pm – Came to a village that is half way to Potosi, and entertained the idea of staying for the night, but nah, we felt pretty good and wanted to make some extra mileage, so we got back on Casa and marched on. It turned out that was a bit of mistake – we should’ve quitted while we were ahead of game.


3:23 pm – Yikes.


3:41 pm – There was a detour that was even worse than the unpaved road if you can believe it.


4:03 pm – Back on pavement. P1020464

4:09 pm – …And we were off again.


4:50 pm – Finally came to another village and tried to find accommodation – but no luck! Had to continue on and with the sun start setting, we started regretting not stopping earlier.


5:10 pm – Another detour and this time it was wet, muddy and slippery from construction. The effect of high altitude was already quite notice-able as I panted from a short walk-up.


5:19 pm – The unpaved turn looked so evil and cool. Should we love it or hate it?


5:40 pm – We stopped at another village, considering camping out, but was told by a villager that there was hotel half an hour down the road, so we continued on, anxious about the sunset.


6:04 pm – Discovered one of the two screws holding head light in place was gone! That’s what the Bolivian roads do best! With time being the essence, we quickly derived a temporary solution with a smaller screw and some rubber. It worked and we are on.


6:13 pm – Told by a small construction village that we came across that there was hotel another half an hour away. No choice but to continue. No sight of any village or hotel as we were told.


6:34 pm – Accommodation at last. It was behind a small shop/restaurant in a village, but it will do. Plus, it cost just under 3 USD. Q said it’s possibly the cheapest he’s ever done.


As we started unpack, we discovered more broken things: the chain guard has been knocked out of place, the right pannier (the big metal luggage things) has a loose locking mechanism, AND our portable hard drive is making funny noise. I think Bolivian roads shake loose every nuts and bolts that we can or cannot imagine.

So this is our day 3 in Bolivia and it is one of the better ones. To be honest riding in Bolivia is a lot more challenging than we expected, but we are adapting, taking it easy, and most importantly keeping our spirits high.

No dull moments here! Wanna join us? :)