Thursday, April 28, 2011

Venezuela: Zombie Cars

After our two-week adventure in Venezuela, it feels so good to return to Colombia, where once again we feel peaceful and safe. Just about all the rumors/warnings we heard about Venezuela before our trip were confirmed during our trip: shockingly-cheap gas, messed-up currency exchange, widespread police corruption, constant military checkpoints, dysfunctional government, garbage pollution.. Sadly the list goes on.

I want to talk about the cheap gasoline first. Guess how shockingly cheap?

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We paid BLOODY US 1.2 CENT PER LITRE!!! And this isn’t the cheaper gasoline either, it was for 95-octane premium. So for 10 litres of gas, it’s only 12 cents; 40 litres, barely half a dollar! Yes, drool on that math. At times I wish I could gulp down gasoline like Casa - it would have saved us loads. 

While we enjoyed the almost-free gasoline, we also suffered its side effects. Traffic jams make a daily and constant hair-pulling exercise. Maximum filling limit has been set for cars at border towns, so it was common to spot dozens of car line-up over-spilling the gas stations.

Most annoyingly, thanks to lack of government regulations, any car with four wheels can be on the road, even those that should have died ages ago. I call them the Zombie Cars. They are the hell twins of Cuban vintage cars. The Zombie Cars are so poorly maintained that they often break down in the middle of roads, which, you guessed it, add to those frequent traffic jams.


The truth is that I found these Zombie Cars so disturbing yet fascinating. So I decided to dedicate the last day of our journey in Venezuela to taking pictures of some of them. It turned out to be such an easy task. These featured in the photo album are only a few of the many that we came across within a couple hours. Enjoy!

2011-04 Venezuela Zombie Cars

Oh, if you do recognize some of the car model, feel free to point them out.

We are very glad to have seen the controversial country with our own eyes, but one time in Venezuela is more than enough for a lifetime. My whole body let out a big sigh as we left these zombies and Venezuela behind. Can’t say I will miss you much.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

How to Get Dirty in Colombia

It doesn’t take much to get dirty in Colombia as long as there is plenty of rain and you are on the road. You see, day-long rain often causes landslides in the mountains. Here is how we did it. (If you cannot see the video link, click here.)

For me, pushing Casa forward was hugely rewarding – it’s amazing how great it feels to be of so little power help!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

You Asked, Now We Answer! (part II – techie special)

This following question came from a friend through Facebook, and once I started writing, it grew and grew, so I decided to make a separate post on it. I do like my gadgets, and this trip is no exception.
The post contains lots of links to product pages and Wikipedia-pages for reference.

WARNING: Nerd alert!

What technology do you use, what do you miss – Edwin

The center of our computing world at the moment is our trusty Sony VAIO-P788K in gold (a demo model we bought on eBay, so couldn’t be too picky ‘bout the color).

Yup, it’s that tiny
(picture courtesy of

I love it over a Netbook since it’s smaller, has much better screen resolution (1600x768 on an 8” screen vs. a meager 1024x600 (10”) on most Netbooks) and has a Solid State Drive, which is less prone to physical errors on its drive. But since the HD is ‘only’ 64Gb, and also because we need a good place to backup all our photos. And don’t forget all our TV series:


Boston Legal, Scrubs, The Inbetweeners,
Dexter, House M.D. and Mythbusters
(pictures courtesy of

and movies:


The World’s Fastest Indian  Little Miss Sunshine, Delicatessen,
Kick-Ass, How To Train Your Dragon, and The Cove
(pictures courtesy of

which we watch while on the road, To store all those we have a tiny Western Digital My Passport SE of 1Tb (which is almost full…).

We carry two cameras (not counting the one in the laptop and three in our two cellphones) with us. For those who know me a little, I love my cameras and usually carry more camera stuff with me on a trip than other stuff (my camera bag usually weighs in around 6-10kg). But since we had to weigh every gram for this trip, I forewent bringing my Canon 5D with either my 24mm f/1.4, 135mm f/2 or 24-105mm f/4 lens, I also left my Hasselblad at ‘home’. Instead we have two camera’s, the first is a Panasonic DMC-LX3 (from an online review: ‘The LX3 is a compact camera that photographers can get excited about’), with a wonderful 24mm f/2.0 wide angle lens, it’ll shoot RAW and you can tweak just about every setting that you can on a big DSLR.

Our Panasonic DMC-LX3
(picture courtesy of

Then we also carry a Panasonic DMC-TS2, which is water-, dust- and shock-proof, which comes in handy on the back of the bike!

Panasonic DMC-TS2 – dustproof
(picture courtesy of

We used to communicate on the bike through our Sena Bluetooth Communication headset SMH10, and loved it. It’s all we wanted from a comm-set, easy to use (2 buttons only), charged through USB, versatile (we can both listen to our own (Bluetooth) MP3-music).

Sena SMH10 Bluetooth communication headset
(picture courtesy of

But unfortunately my helmet got nicked one day in Ushuaia, so were minus one. We also had a problem with the other headset, so that one is somewhere in the world waiting for repairs under warranty. So in the meantime we have to shout at each other and we’re also perfecting our hand signals and taps-on-my-shoulder techniques :)

I left my fancy cell phone in storage with the rest of the stuff of our house, partly because running less risk of being robbed when people see a fancy phone, and partly because it’s quite chunky. So instead I bought a ‘chinese’ phone instead. Cheaper, runs on a regular Nokia battery, can take 2 (!) sim cards, even has Bluetooth so I can use it with the comm-set on the bike and the speakers on the phone are LOUD! Puts the ones in the laptop to shame (really, I love the laptop, but the speakers are cr*p)!
Our other phone is almost dead, unfortunately. It’s a Nokia E71 we bought in China in 2009 after the original one was stolen.2011-03-23 09h26m43s DMC-TS2 P1090751

Cellphones used as public phones, securely attached with a wire to a fixed object, I guess you can’t call it ‘mobile’ any more

We use our trusty Garmin GPS 60Csx, our second one, since the first ran out of steam earlier in our trip. The model is from 2006, so quite old, but she does the job just fine, is small, handy, and the screen is readable under direct sunlight. No fancy stuff on it, no touch screen, can’t play MP3’s on it, nor can I connect my cell phone. It doesn’t even say the direction, just points them on the screen, but that’s just fine.

2011-02-12 11h11m40s DMC-TS2 P1080126

Our GPS in Bolivia, showing an altitude of 4112m (~13,490ft) above sea level, we went over 4500m (~14,760ft) that day!

We also purchased two e-book readers, highly, highly recommended! It saves us from bringing tons of books with us. I purchased mine from the get-go, a Sony PRS-300, a very simple and cheap model, but it does the job: I can read books on it, the battery lasts forever, and it’s light. I got Shu hers (with the wonderful product name of 4FFF N618) in The Netherlands when the discount store Aldi had them on special, it’s fancier than mine, it has a touch screen, can play MP3’s, it even has Wi-Fi. But the battery life is on the short side (she charges every few days, I can do weeks without a recharge, and that’s not just because she reads more than I do…), and browsing the internet is not really recommended, let alone writing emails with it.

Sony PRS-300 e-book reader is nice and compact
(picture courtesy of

What do I/we miss? We miss our comm-set right now. That was really convenient, being able to talk on the bike driving at any speed at the press of a button. I also loved using it to listen to music, Dance Department podcast especially (‘The Best Beats On The Go!’).

What else? A cable to hook up our laptop to a TV so we can watch our favorite TV shows and movies on the big screen (add to that a projector! So far we stayed with 4 friends on this trip who had projectors to show movies on, we are HOOKED!).
And maybe a second laptop, or even just a smartphone so we can check our emails at the same time. Now we have to ‘share’ the laptop!

So now you know, this is the tech-side of our trip!

Speaking of technology, during the first part of our trip from UAE to The Netherlands, on top of our regular motorcycle gear, we wore Hit-Air Airbags.

How the airbag system works (click for large version)
(picture courtesy of Hit-Air)

Nope, not kidding, actual airbags that you can wear like a jacket, or in our case a vest on top of our jacket.

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In Iran wearing our (bright yellow!) airbag jackets

Due to the change in conditions in South America, we decided not to wear them here. But I will continue to wear them when back.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Reason Why I Love Colombia

2011-04-11 14h20m03s DMC-TS2 P1100534

….Well, it is one of the reasons! The Colombian delicacy is called hormiga culona, a fat-bottomed ant that is fried and eaten as snack or cooked with food. I was told that the ants grow for over a year before being picked from the earth.

2011-04-11 14h24m14s DMC-TS2 P1100538

In case you are curious about the taste, well, let me tell you, the head bit is quite crunchy and the bottom more meaty, so a nice mix. And it tastes quite earthy and woody – not that I had eaten either. Delicious and addictive. I can see why it’s a local favorite.

More on Colombia to follow… Yes, just like Brazil, we are finding it hard to move on from this amazing country.

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Saturday, April 2, 2011

The route and photos - Iran

(if you receive this post through our mailing list or Facebook, then unfortunately it will not show the way it’s supposed to –> please visit our blog to view it!)

Our trip through Iran was short in time, but quite a bit in distance. We started of from Bandar Abbas, drove via Shiraz, visited Persepolis, bypassed both Esfehan and Tehran since we visited them in 2008 already! Then up to the Caspian Sea, almost hit Azerbaijan, headed west again, via Tabriz to the border with Turkey, close to Mount Ararat.

The route that we took:

Click this link to view the route plus the photos full screen.
(if you read the Trip Stats in the map above, it says we drove it in 2 days and 3 hours, that’s a wee bit optimistic, although maybe it’s counting actual driving time, not real time. the 2715km total distance seems correct)


Click here for the full screen slideshow of the just photos without the map.