21.11.10 Farbahuusle, Liechtenstein - Sheepish

That last comment of mine (8 months ago!) was possibly a tad optimistic, but things are happening. There is a new story, the last on Peru, and my brother Karl is in the process of drawing us a new picture for the home page (That way it won't be so noticeable when months on end pass by without any updates!). Also new is a samdiaries calendar for 2011. To see a PDF preview click here. If you want one, send us an email. They cost 40 swiss Francs.

Updates: stories (no. 34)

24.03.10 Farbahuusle, Liechtenstein - Fohn winds

While the Fohn wind rages outside I proudly take note of the fact that this is the third story in one month. I may finish before I die after all!
Read all about Moro, Peru and their guardian angel.

Updates: stories (no. 33)

14.03.10 Triesen, Liechtenstein - making progress

'On the Panamericana' is about our time in southern Peru. Lachay national park, cruising the panamericana and encounters with corruption.
Hope you like it.

Updates: stories (no. 32)

6.03.10 Triesen, Liechtenstein - Finally

After many many months of procrastination I have finally gotten to work again on the stories. Spurred on by my brother's trip to Columbia (he is there right now) and with his help I am trying to catch up on Peru, Ecuador and Columbia. Watch this space...

Updates: stories (no. 31)

7.07.09 Triesen, Liechtenstein - we published our story

in this months edition of the german motorbike magazine 'Motorrad und Reisen' is a 12 page report about our journey across South America called 'Extracts from a South American Diary'. Click here to see the preview. I wrote it while we were in Colombia and it took me almost two months. Ok you guessed - I am not a very gifted writer.
an untalented Axel

Updates: photo gallery (no. 43), stories (no. 30)
15.06.09 Triesen, Liechtenstein - back from the mountains

yesterday evening we came back from a nice and exciting climbing weekend in the mountains. We did some multipitch routes near the Klausen pass and the long distances between bolts produced some adrenalin kicks.
Other than that life has settled in to what it used to be two years ago - I work and Renee is at home waiting for me to get back...
a working Axel

Updates: photo gallery (no. 42)

21.05.09 Triesen, Liechtenstein - the 'black hole'

almost a month since we last updated the website. Unbelieveable!! A few days ago we were invited round to friends and they complained that nothing ever happens on our site. So today, after a long day in the mountains climbing a route on Schaafberg, I managed to sit down and type a few lines with my raw fingers.
A lot has happened since the last update. I found a job in electronics which I'll start begining of june, Renee has been teaching a lot and whenever possible we are climbing on one of the crags nearby or head higher up.
Keeping busy is a good remedy against the 'black hole' long time travellers fall into when coming back home. It doesn't always work. Often my mind wanders off to South America, bringing back memories of an adventurous and wonderful experience.
a reflective Axel

Updates: photo gallery (no. 41)

28.04.09 Farbahuusle, Liechtenstein - warp speed 

has it really been a month since we last updated? Life seems to go by at warp speed and just like a rollercoaster with all it's ups and downs. We've had spring, winter and summer in the time we have been back.
rollercoaster renee

Updates: photo essay (no. 7), stories (no. 29)

27.03.09 Triesen, Liechtenstein - addicted to the white stuff

in the last two days more than 40 centimeters of snow fell and for the weekend the forecast predicted another 70(!) centimeters of this white and fluffy stuff. Everybody here is complaining about the never ending winter - I am in a state of delirium! Tomorrow I am off on another ski tour.
a delirious Axel

Updates: photo gallery (no. 40)
8.03.09 Planken, Liechtenstein - I am sore

Being back home means that I have all these options available for doing sport. Due to the nigh unbearable heat at the caribean coast I had to drink a lot of beer and therefore accquired some 'not-so-cute' love handles. So for the last three days I've been exercising. First fighting and kicking at karate and yesterday and today on skitours. The conditions for skitouring were perfect: powder snow and sun shine. But I think it was too much of the fun stuff - my pampered body has gone into a state of shock - there is hardly a muscle in me that isn't sore.
a stiff Axel

Updates: photo gallery (no. 39) and 'the route'
3.03.09 Planken, Liechtenstein - riding home on a bike

It was a long and tiring journey back home. We arrived at midnight in Sargans, a village 20 kilometers away from Planken. There Herbert, a friend of ours, was waiting to pick us up... with his Triumph sidecar motorbike! 'I thought you would want to ride the last few kilometers of your trip by bike' was his comment when he saw our bewildered looks. So we put Renee into the sidecar, packed our luggage (all 60kg) onto the bike, Herbert at the back and me in front riding. The setup looked a bit like something from the Che Guevara movie. So we set off into the mild winter night. We didn't get far before the police stopped us: no rear lights, totally overloaded we had some explaining to do. In South America we wouldn't have attracted any attention at all - welcome back home to organized Europe!
Right now we are busy settling in, packing away stuff and getting used to the cold. It hit me now - the trip is OVER, finally OVER.

Updates: photo gallery (no. 38)

27.02.09 Bogota, Colombia - our last few hours in South America

Six hours before our plane leaves for Madrid. It is time to say goodbye to Betty, Andres and Tatiana. Betty is Katy's mother - a Colombian friend of ours. We stayed with her and her kids when we were in Bogota and they are like a family to us. Betty worried about us when we were travelling at the coast or in the jungle, she cooked very tasty traditional dishes for us and never lost an opportunity to praise her beautiful country. Today she cooked Ajiaco, a thick soup with chicken, potatoes and capers. What a treat!
It is the end of our trip but not the end for the samdiaries website. We still have a lot of pictures from Ecuador and Colombia and many more stories that we are going to upload over the next few weeks.

'Want to escape the gray workday and dream a bit about beautiful places and adventures? Then stay tuned...' - says Axel
25.02.09 Leticia, Colombia - exotic breakfast

it is hot - very hot. The last five days we spent in the Amazon basin in Leticia and nearby. It was an amazing time. Together with Rudolfo, an indian of one of the tribes around here, we trekked for three days in the jungle and learned from him a lot about life in the jungle. We learned how to make backpacks out of leaves, which lianas contain water and set up a trap. One night we caught two big frogs which provided an exotic but tasty breakfast. Then we spent a night in the tranquil town Puerto Narino on the banks of the Amazon river. The town has no cars and electricity only for a few hours a day.
In two hours we fly back to cold Bogota. But we do have some souvenirs to take along: Renee has some handcrafts and I got a machete, a few hundred mosquito bites on my back and a big, infected scratch on my arm.
a wounded Axel

Updates: stories (no. 28)
19.02.09 Bogota, Colombia - end of the motorbike journey

yesterday we spent the whole day at the airport in the cargo area. We had to be present when the BMW, which is now packed in a wooden crate, was being inspected by customs officals, the guys from anti-narcotics, their dogs and the police. A lengthy process which involved lots of paper work and many hours wasted just waiting. But now the bike is on its way back to Europe and we are bikeless. Our motorbike journey has finally come to an end... 
Tomorrow we fly for a few days to the Amazon to explore and kayak that famous river and forest. Then on the 27th we have to say goodbye to wonderful Colombia as we fly back to a cold and snowy Switzerland.

Updates: 'the route'

16.02.09 Bogota, Colombia - saying good bye to an old friend

an hour ago we sold the russian for two thousand dollars. On the one hand I am quite happy about it as it would have been difficult and expensive to ship the bike back home. On the other hand we have loads of good memories and 'el Ruso' carried our stuff and me over many kilometres. As they say... the end of an era!
a sad Axel

Updates: photo gallery (no. 37) and stories (no. 27)

11.02.09 Cartagena, Colombia - volcano dipping

red turned into a nice brown and healthy color and now we look like two beach bums. On our way to Cartagena we came past a small volcano called Totumo. What is special about this one is that its crater is filled with warm mud and you can wallow in it. Needless to say that we didn't miss that opportunity and jumped right in. Quite a strange sensation as the crater is bottomless and you float in grey mud that has the consistency of thick cream soup.
Now we wander around the old part of Cartagena and absorb the Caribbean life style.
a muddy Axel

6.02.09 Taganga, Colombia - is rum an anesthetic?

palm tress, beaches, blue sea - thats what I always imagined the Caribbean would be like. And it is true. Yesterday we went out by boat to some remote beaches and did some snorkeling. We were a bit careless with the suncream and today our skin is tender. Hopefully rum will soothes the pain.
Axel the lobster

3.02.09 Taganga, Colombia - A sea of gringos

We have just arrived at what must be the largest concentration of Gringos in entire Colombia! With good reason as it is a heavenly little fishing village in a bay just north of Santa Marta and south of the National Park Tayrona on the Caribbean coast and is surrounded by other bays good for snorkeling. I think I'll go swimming...

Updates: photo gallery (no. 36) and 'links' (more South American climbing websites and from fellow travellers)

2.02.09 Riohacha, Colombia - El Mar de Caribe

We haven't had much luck on the internet front so our apologies for the long delay. After Suesca, it was a short trip back to Bogota to pack our things onto the BMW, organise it's shipping and meet some prospective buyers of the Russian. Since then it has been three long days ride to the Caribbean coast but it all went faster with us having left the Russian behind: we averaged 110km/h as opposed to 90 overtaking loads of antiquated american trucks along the way and we also saved ourselves a hefty sum of money at the toll roads (no humming and hawing as to whether it was a motorbike or something more...). After a visit to the desert-like Alta Guajira we are ready for the Caribbean of palm trees, ron cana, fruit in abundance, loud music, and the afro-caribbean flair for life. We got a taste of it last night at Riohachas Carnival and we still suffer a bit....

22.01.09 Suesca, Colombia - long distance visa applications

While the visa stuff is being processed (yes, I think I will be allowed back into paradise) we decided to do something constructive. So we have been in Suesca, a climbing hotspot of Colombia just north of Bogota, for the past week.
It's been great to get those smelly slippers on again, chalk up and climb.
A 'little-bit-stronger' Renee

15.01.09 Bogota, Colombia - Access denied

We have been away so long that all the rules have changed...Switzerland is now Schengen which means that for me to get home to Liechtenstein (via Zurich) I need to have a visa! The visa I need apparently takes 3 months and we just booked our flight for the 27th of February. Drama Drama Drama.
Axel as you can imagine is stressed, as am I.
Let's see what happens.

Updates: stories (no. 26) and a photo essay about Machu Picchu (no. 6)
10.01.09 Bogota, Colombia - Friday night fever

Together with some Colombian friends we hit the nightlife of Bogota. A live band playing Salsa and lots of other (some African) rhythms provided the necessary acoustic feeling. Liberal amounts of Aguardiente (anis flavored schnapps) and beer helped my notorious dancing inhibition and after a short lesson from Carolyn I was well on my way to become a 'pro' dancer. Thats what it felt like yesterday. Today, through the haze of a mild headache it looks a bit different. But it was fun!
Axel 'Travolta'

6.01.09 Bogota, Colombia - gold fever

We went to Bogota's gold museum today and were extremely impressed. Huge quantities of the most exquisite, intricately worked nosepieces, earrings, instruments, breastplates and animal figurines.... I shudder to think of the things that weren't saved and were melted down to fill the Spanish coffers!!!!

Updates: photo gallery (no. 35), stories (no. 25) and 'the route'

5.01.09 Bogota, Colombia - It's chilly again

We ended up spending two days camping at a holiday resort set in some sultry hilly lowlands about 350km west of Bogota. We were just soaking up some sunshine, swimming and whiling away our time chatting with the friendly staff. Then it was on the road again, up into the clouds and the mists and down into the heat and the sunshine then up up up into chilly Bogota.
We'll be here a couple of days to try and sell the Russian...
Anyone want to buy a Dnepr sidecar??

2.01.09 Popayan, Colombia - Feliz Año Nuevo!

We spent most of our New Years Eve wandering the deserted streets of Popayan looking for a place to celebrate and ended up in a bar where we were the only customers! Apparently New Year here is celebrated with the family, only after the midnight hour has struck are you free to escape to the clubs. So they only start filling up at 1 or 2 am, theoretically that is, as we didn't hang around so long to find out..
frustrated party girl

31.12.08 Popayan, Colombia - held up for ransom

I took a while to recover from the decolletage induced dizziness. After a good nights rest I was able to ride the bike again and we left Pasto along the Panamericana towards Popayan. In the past this stretch of road was notorious for hold ups by the FARC guerillas. The riding was spectacular: curvy roads along the sides of a steep valley and every now and then a waterfall appeared from the green and jungly slopes. Then I saw this rope across the road and a couple of people standing on either side. I feared the worst. As I slowly approched the blockade I saw that the group mainly consisted of children all running towards us asking for money. A local custom they celebrate at the end of the year...
a released Axel

Updates: stories (no. 24)

29.12.08 Pasto, Colombia - heaven and hell at the border

we faced a queue that wrapped around the building when we arrived at the border early afternoon - was Ecuador expressing it's displeasure with Colombia by punishing us poor travellers? We decided to return the next morning at 5:30am to be first in line and it still took us four hours to get our passport stamped!!! A reward was awaiting Axel in Colombian Aduana (customs) however....
a somewhat dizzying view of the deepest decolletage I have ever seen.
Needless to say Axel is looking forward to our stay in Colombia

27.12.08 Otavalo, Ecuador - a white Christmas

yes, you read correctly. We were only a few kilometers south of the equator and we had a white Christmas. We spent Christmas eve in a hut below the volcano Illiniza at an altitude of 4700m. After a cosy evening (we were the only ones in the hut) with a good meal and some Gluehwein we woke up the next morning and everything was covered in a light dusting of snow. We then climbed Illiniza Norte, a straight-forward peak except for the top where there was a scary scramble through loose and snow covered rock. But what an awesome view!
Now we are in Otavalo a town known for its big Saturday market. While I am at the Internet Cafe Renee is out shopping for souvenirs and presents. I fear that will make another big dent in our budget.
the 'powerless finance minister' Axel

Updates: photo gallery (no. 34)

20.12.08 Quito, Ecuador - Nightlife

We left the bikes in Machicha, only 20 or so kilometres away, to spend a few days in Quito. Last night we went out for a couple of drinks to find the streets of the La Mariscal neighbourhood choc-a-bloc full of people and very festive. We are feeling a bit tender today but still plan on exploring the Old town...

Updates: photo gallery (no. 33)

18.12.08 Machicha, Ecuador - Exploring

We have just came back from the 'Quilatoa loop', a firm favourite on the gringo trail but difficult enough to accomplish that the big crowds stay away. It was two days riding (on Perla Negra) through green patchwork valleys, passes and highlands on a mix of tar and dirt. We spent the night at the highlight of the circuit - the Quilatoa crater lake. This morning we stopped at a market, not to buy but to look at what's for sale in a Sierra town in Ecuador....guinea pigs, live chickens, containers made from tyres, doors, tools and lots of second hand stuff...

14.12.08 Banos, Ecuador - Infected

No, Renee isn't the infected one (she's on the way of recovery) but our hard drive and memory sticks. Because we don't have a laptop we rely on internet cafes to update the website and somewhere we picked up some viruses that infested all our memory sticks. It took me a few hours to sort everything out and get it working again. But it is a nice change from fixing bikes.
When I need a break from the computer I go running in the hills or wallow in the thermal pools. Renee is not allowed to do any sport or visit the pools (by order of the doctor aka Axel).
the doctor

Updates: photo gallery (no. 32), stories (no. 23) and 'the route'

11.12.08 Banos, Ecuador - Recuperation

From Alausi we rode north to Hacienda Releche, Candelaria. An old whitewashed wooden beamed farmhouse overlooking fertile checkerboard fields on the edge of the Parque National Sangay. It is also situated right at the trailhead for a two-day hike up to El Altar, an ampitheatre of glacier topped peaks formed  by a volcanic crater blowing out one of it's sides. Axel trudged up to it through ankle deep mud while I convalesced (I'll spare you the details) at the farmhouse with nothing but pigs, hand-sized moths and a T.C. Boyle for company. I was happy to see him back earlier than planned - chased off by the crazy weather up there. The thoeretically dry season could be translated as 'dry for some parts of the day'!
The convalescence now continues in Banos where we are thankfully lower and therefore in warmer climes and surrounded by lush hills at the foot of the smoke puffing Tungurahua volcano....hmmmmm
But they have a very high-tech warning system here!

05.12.08 Alausi, Ecuador - Nose of the Devil

We took a funky train ride down 'el nariz del diablo' or the devil's nose -a steep rockface - sitting on the roof of what we suspect is a bus on a train chassis. The only way they could get a train line down there was to make a zigzag and reverse the train down one of the zags.
A lot of gringos having fun on top of a train.

Updates: photo gallery (no. 31)

02.12.08 Cuenca, Ecuador - Rainy days

We did go so far as to pack all our climbing gear, ride out of  town, get lost, hike up to the rock where we were eaten alive by mosquitoes before it started to rain. So much for climbing! Cuenca is a nice town though so not all is lost and we will console ourselves with drinks in one of the many hip bars around.

Updates: photo gallery (no. 30) and stories (no. 22)

28.11.08 Cuenca, Ecuador - dodging the pot holes (ie. rough road)

Yesterday morning we left Loja expecting a quick and easy ride of maybe 3 hours to Cuenca. We were wrong! The road was rough with more pot holes than tarr and lots of construction sites. To make things worse dense fog that seemd to hang around those parts where the road turned into a single lane and cars appeared out of 'nowhere'. After 6 hours we arrived.
In the afternoon we'll go and explore the town and find out about possible climbing spots. I don't have much hope of doing a lot of climbing. At the moment it rains almost every day.

Updates: 'the route'
26.11.08 Loja, Ecuador - Trip to the jungle

We are back in Loja after three days in the nearby town of Zamora where we visited Parque Nacional Podocarpus and Nambija. Nambija is a gold mining town about a two and a half bumpy truck/bus hours from Zamora way up in the hills. Seeing the mines and meeting the people (our 'tour guides' were three schoolgirls) was a very interesting experience and the rickety roadless town itself was perched on steep lush slopes like something out of a fantasy book. The national park was beautiful, very green and jungly but we hardly saw a thing it is famous for - hummingbirds, spectacled bear, puma and jaguar are all at home there! Every night we were lulled to sleep by torrential downpours, but we are hoping it will be a little bit drier up here.

21.11.08 Loja, Ecuador - new country

Shew, hard to believe we are in another country already. It happened so fast! There we were cruising along the Panamericana humming and hawing as to whether we should head for the Sierra again -what with the rainy season having set in there- when a road from hell with road humps at every little casita (house) decided the mattter for us (definitely something political going on there). There was no way we could ride to Cajamarca on a road like that what with the Russians recent injuries. So here we are, in the hills, but in hot lovely friendly green Ecuador.

14.11.08 Trujillo, Peru - it is raining in the mountains

it worked! Today we did a test ride to the impressive temples of Huaca del Sol and Huaca de la Luna and it looks like everything sits tight around the cylinder.
Tomorrow we are heading north. Unfortunately the rainy season has started in the mountains. No point in going to Huaraz. What a pity - but a good reason to come back to Peru.
an 'eager to get on the road' Axel

Updates: photo gallery (no. 29)
12.11.08 Trujillo, Peru - tight moments

the glue didn't work. As you can imagine a lot of cursing and swearing was happening when I tightened the bolt and saw how it got pulled out of the engine block. As a last resort I have had a sleeve made up and cut a bigger thread into the engine block. Yesterday afternoon I cut the new thread. It was very delicate work and I had to use a lot of force, the one side is also not very thick and I was worried that it might crack there. Another tight moment this morning when I rode on the BMW to the mechanic to pick up the sleeve. I had to do a sudden stop in front of a red traffic light and the next thing I felt was something bump and scrape into the bike. With screeching tires a taxi appears right next to me. A guy looks out the window at me with a sheepish smile. He had hit the alu box on the bike. I was too surprised to find an appropriate swear word in Spanish.
a speechless Axel

Updates: stories (no. 21)
9.11.08 Trujillo, Peru - glueing things together

I took cylinder head, cylinder and the bolt off and it dosen't look so bad. The thread is not damaged. It looks like the bolt wasn't glued in properly. So I cleaned everything and glued the bolt in using Loctite. Tomorrow morning I'll put everything back together.
a hopeful Axel

Updates: photo gallery (no. 28) and 'the route'
7.11.08 Trujillo, Peru - getting my hands dirty again

Yesterday we left Moro and Sister Rebekka. Not via the Cordillera Negra to Huaraz but north to Trujillo. First because it started to rain in Huaraz and it looks like the wet season has started and secondly because I suspected a problem on the engine of the Russian. And my suspicion was confirmed today when I took the valve cover off. One of the engine bolts that I fixed a few months ago in Antofogasta (check diary entry 30.5.08) has come loose again. So I'll have to come up with a solution...
a not so happy mechanic - Axel
5.11.08 Moro, Peru - a day in the life of an NGO

After four days of getting to know the LED (Liechtenstein Development Service) supported non-profit organisation (A.C.U. - asociacion caminemos unidos) my head is swirling with the things they have accomplished, are accomplishing and are going to accomplish all under the powerhouse leadership of Sister Rebekka. We visited the Rio Loco (Crazy River) valley where they built a road and water canals, run a medical service, organise agricultural cooperatives and training etc. etc. Here in Moro we visited a juice and marmalade enterprise, a kindergarten, a boarding school and a sewing workshop. It has been fascinating and we will be sad to leave tomorrow. We will make our way to Huaraz via a pass of 4300m over the Cordillera Negra into the Rio Santo valley.

31.10.08 Barranca, Peru - on the Panamericana

we have just spent the past three nights in the Reserva Nacional Lomas de Lachay. An oasis of green fed only by the misty coolness of the pacific fogs. now we are back on the road and plan to meet up with Bidi (from FL) in Moro, a small town not far from Chimbote on the Panamericana.
a stress free Renee

Updates: photo gallery (no. 27)
25.10.08 Nazca, Peru - and the adventure continues

after 50 hours of travelling by plane, bus and taxi we arrived this morning at the campsite in Nazca looking like zombies. We pulled the bikes out of the garage, set up the tent and fell into it comatose.
The trip to South Africa was nice and we enjoyed seeing our families and friends but it also was a hectic time. Lots of running around, organising things and battling with Jo'burgs traffic and the governmental health system. Now back in Peru our lives are easy and simple again. All we have to worry about is where we sleep the next night and if the bikes are running well. What a great life!
a restless Axel

Updates: photo gallery (no. 26)

15.10.08 Johannesburg, South Africa - Sawubona (hello in Zulu)

it's hot in Jo'burg and everybody is waiting for rain. But it is a nice change from the cold of the Peruvian mountains. Tomorrow we drive with our mothers to the Kruger National Park for some game viewing. Then on the 23rd of October we fly back to Lima to continue with our trip. My mother brought some spare parts for the Russian...
can't wait to be back on the bike again

29.09.08 Lima, Peru - photo essay 'Cerro Rico'

The photo essay about the miners of Potosi is finished. It took us a long time to get the photos and information together but we wanted to give a bit of the history and insight into the miners and their beliefs. Have a look!

Updates: photo essays (no. 4)
28.09.08 Nazca, Peru - on the way to South Africa

Everything is packed and the bikes are safely stored. Tonight we catch an overnight bus to Lima and on Tuesday morning we fly to South Africa. Boerewors, Windhoek Lager, biltong...Jo'burg we are coming!!!!.
By the way the rotor is fixed. I found a guy that could rewire it. Amazing to watch - I don't think there are many people in Europe that still know how to do this.
a bikeless Axel :(

25.09.08 Nazca, Peru - broken rotor

Yes, the rotor on the alternator of the Russian is broken and therefore the battery doesn't get charged. Riding the 150km to Nazca we used the BMW as a mobile battery charger, changing batteries. Tuesday we fly for three weeks to South Africa and there we meet my mother. She'll bring a new rotor.
Danny, a friend from South Africa, suggested we should deal with the Russian like the people in Afghanistan once did. Now Afghanistan is full of Americans and Europeans. Are they any better off?

23.09.08 Puquoi, Peru - breakdowns and birthdays

After a tough four day hike to the impressive Choquequirao inca ruins we stopped over in Abancay before crossing a chilly 4300m pass and the altiplano. The problems started just before getting into Puquoi. Axel had to kickstart after every stop. Now the bike has been taken apart, examined, tested and put back together and the solution lies in a new rotor. Obviously something that is a BMW part and hence not available here. GRRRR
Not my idea of a fun birthday

Updates: photo essays (no. 3)

16.09.08 Cusco, Peru - close encounters

We're back from our exciting round trip to Macchu Picchu. It included a 4300m pass, some rough roads into the Yungas where we left the bikes to catch a bus, then a minivan, then another minivan and then a two hour hike to the tourist trap at the base of Macchu Picchu called Aguas Calientes. The whole route passed numerous Inca ruins with the crowning glory being Macchu Picchu perched on it's lush green summit in the Vilcabamba range. The only incident to mar it (apart from the trainloads of loud tourists) was a bus cutting corners on a hairpin bend to cause our first accident in our whole year of travel. Luckily a few broken cooling fins on the cylinder and a bent handlebar are the only damages.
Relieved Renee

Updates: stories (no. 20)

14.09.08 Ollantaytambo, Peru - 12 months and an abundance of rags

until a few months ago when working on the bikes (which happens quite often) I was always short of rags to clean parts and wipe my hands. Now I have more than enough. Not that the bikes require less work - no! The reason is that we have more and more clothes that are worn out, have holes and end up in the toolbox. We have been wearing the same two pairs of jeans, three shirts, a few socks and underwear since we left Liechtenstein.
Today a year ago we left Planken and headed off in search of new horizons and adventure. And we found it! There were days that were absolutely great and days we thought it can't get more miserable. But even those miserable days (or specially those) when looking back turned out to be the more memorable ones. The ones you call later on the 'epics'. And it is for those 'epics', adventures and new horizons why we enjoy traveling so much and still do. We left our families, friends, jobs and invested all our savings into this trip. Some people might call it a waste of time and money. As my grandmother used to say (and she must know she lived through two world wars): 'they can take everything from you - but what you have in your head, the knowledge and experiences - nobody can steal'.
That's why we are still on the road.
a rather philosophical Axel

9.09.08 Cusco, Peru -  high altitude and low octane

not a good combination the high altitude of the altiplano and low octane of the fuel (84 octane) of Bolivia and Peru. As reported earlier in one of our diary entries we had some engine problems with the BMW. Black, slimy deposits in the combustion chamber caused some starting problems. First I worried that oil leaking through the valves or piston rings caused the deposits but having checked the oil consumption for the last 1000km and with no smoke coming from the exhaust I figured it must be a combination of altitude and bad fuel. Good to know that it is not a serious engine problem. The sleepless nights are over!  
a well rested Axel

Updates: photo gallery (no. 25) and 'the route'

7.09.08 Cusco, Peru -  Customs official idiots

The border crossing into Peru took us a record-breaking 4 and a half hours, beating even the truckers blocade on the way into Bolivia. The man in charge of customs was a pompous power preener until (we suspect) the swiss embassy put the pressure on. Then the story changed and he suddenly assured us that we would not have to ride all the way back to our point of entry for the blasted temporary import papers that the customs there had neglected to give us!!! To make things even worse at another customs stop on the road to Puno, while I struggled to get my security wallet out from under my kidney belt, the customs official rudely commented (in spanish) that I must keep it in my vagina!!!
Thank goodness we could camp out next to thermal baths the next evening surrounded by sunshiny yellow mountains and just let all those troubles soak away.
Now we are in Cusco, the capital of the Inca empire, and plan to stay awhile. There are loads of Inca trails to wander along and archaeological sites to explore, including of course the famous Macchu Picchu.

Updates: stories (no. 19)

4.09.08 Copacabana, Bolivia - a few kilometres under the wheels

After a joyful reunion with the Russian in Coroico we made our way towards La Paz with a chill-out/acclimatisation camp-over on the 'death road'. Riding through La Paz went surprisingly well, obviously no political marches on at the moment, and we made it to Copacabana in one day. A visit to the Isla del Sol, birthplace of the first Incas according to legend, but now a bit tired-out, rundown and touristy. Not quite the spiritual experience I was expecting....Tomorrow we cross into Peru and on to Puno. We have to hurry up a bit as we have a flight from Lima to South Africa in exactly 26 days...Yay!

Updates: photo gallery (no. 24) and we divided the 'stories' and 'photo gallery' into countries.
29.08.08 Rurrenabaque, Bolivia - wildlife and bike problems

Five types of monkeys, a splendid array of birds, tortoises and capibaris, river dolphins and an uncomfortably large quantity of caimans and alligators were sighted as we cruised the river Yacuma in the pampas. We waded waist deep through swamps to catch a glimpse of an anaconda and went fishing for piranhas. We drank beers and played volleyball in the sunset bar -World versus Bolivia....World won.
Then we got back to Rurre and my Perla Negra to discover yet another mechanical problem. An oil leak in the piston chamber, we will probably need to order parts...Tomorrow though we put her and ourselves onto a boat that travels up the Rio Beni for 12 hours to Guanay and we will make our way back to Coroico where we left the Russian.

Updates: stories (no. 18)

24.08.08 Rurrenabaque, Bolivia - fight for survival

Everything in the jungle seems to be out to get you: poisonous caterpillars, tarantulas, stinging plants, snakes, biting ants, sandflies and of course mosquitoes. For me the last ten days were a constant struggle not to get eaten alive. Hundreds of mosquitoes must have feasted on my blood, a dog bit me in the leg and this morning a pet parrot buried it's beak in my finger.
But it was a great experience. We lived with a family in their hut and got some insight into their way of living. Everything is very basic - no electricity, they cook on an open fire, chickens and ducks roam around the open kitchen in search of the bits and pieces that fell off the table and we get up and go to bed with the sun.
Tomorrow we are going for three days on a tour to the Pampas and hope to see some more wildlife there.
a red polka dotted

13.08.08 Rurrenabaque, Bolivia - jungle fever

Tomorrow Renee and myself will be off for 2 weeks into the jungle at an ecolodge called San Miguel del Bala to help out at the lodge and in the community. Renee will be teaching english to the kids and guides and organising some enviromental awareness activities. My task is to build a garden, fix paths and do repairs at the lodge. Does anyone have any tips as to what to look out for when planning a garden? If so, let me know. 
The community is on the Rio Beni bordering the national park Madidi, about 45 minutes by boat from here. There is no electriciy and no telephone. No need to add that for the next two weeks there will be no updates on the website... But stay tuned - 've'll be back...!'
the gardener Axel

Updates: photo gallery (no. 23)

12.08.08 Rurrenabaque, Bolivia - steaming hot

It's Tuesday afternoon and we have just pulled into Rurre after four days ride and a descent of 4471m in altitude through gorgeous ravines filled with lush forests. The temperatures have adjusted themselves accordingly and we have gone from snowfall on the andes to swimming cozzies and ceiling fans.
The former 'worlds most dangerous road' was a spectacular part of our ride although tragically littered with crosses. In Coroico we left the poor Russian all alone again as the 330km of dirt would have been too tough on it.
Soon we will be off on another adventure: volunteering at San Miguel del Bala ecolodge in the Parque Madidi. (www.sanmigueldelbala.com)

8.08.08 La Paz, Bolivia - rain on the 'Death Road'

Friday morning, I am sitting in the restaurant drinking coffee and looking through the window at the rain. Today we want to ride to the Bolivian Jungle, the Yungas, via the infamous 'Death Road'. Cutting through steep slopes the road winds down in narrow serpentines from the Altiplano into the jungle. In dry weather the trip is a lot of fun with spectacular views. When wet it might be a dangerous fight to keep traction on a single track muddy road.
We'll see. I'll finish my coffee and then we'll have another look at the weather.

5.08.08 La Paz, Bolivia - back from the mountain

Yesterday evening we came back from a semi successful attempt at Huayna Potosi. Semi successful because only one of us made it to the top. Monday afternoon when we arrived at the hut Renee didn't feel well. She had stomach cramps and threw up the nice soup that I made for her. It wasn't the altitude - we think it was the olives that we bought at the market in La Paz and ate on the way up to the hut. So on Tuesday morning at 3am I left Renee in her warm and cosy sleeping bag and started on my own. It was a long and cold climb. The whole way up stomach cramps plagued me and above 5800m I felt the altitude. Eventually at 8am I stood on the summit at 6088m. It took me 5 hours for the 900m from the hut to the top. On the way down the cramps got so bad that I had to release the pressure in my stomach. Carefully I placed my bum on top of two penitientes (upright icicles that are particular to south america) to do my business. Afterwards my bum looked like it had been abused by a Dominatrix. Well, wounds heal and now I can sit again comfortably in front of the computer.
Updates: stories (no. 17)

30.07.08 La Paz, Bolivia - cold feet and low on sugar

We are back from Huayna Potosi. We had to turn back at 5700 meters (400 meters below the summit) because of cold feet. One thing I learned out of this: do not use leather boots when climbing above 5000 meters. On the way down Renee felt very tired and weak. First I thought it was due to the short night (sharing a room with lots of snoring mountaineers and getting up at 2am) but later we realised it was lack of sugar. Renee hardly ate and drank tea without sugar.
We found a shop in La Paz that rents plastic boots and bought a bag of brown sugar...
Axel with warm feet
Updates: the photo gallery (no. 22)

26.07.08 La Paz, Bolivia - working days

So the new shock absorber is fitted on the BMW. I am really jealous, maybe I can swap bikes with Renee?
Yesterday was a working day. I serviced the BMW and Renee lay in the shade spinning...
And today we organised our next trip to the mountains. Tomorrow we are off for three days to climb Huayna Potosi - an 'easy' 6000 meter peak. We'll see how our lungs perform at that altitude.
bis bald
Axel the mechanic

23.07.08 La Paz, Bolivia - accumulating red blood cells

Yesterday we got back from our trip to the Condoriri mountains where we had a fabulous time. We set up our tent next to a lake surrounded by impressive, 5000 meter high glaciated peaks. Every day we set off to climb one of the peaks and to my surprise Renee didn't complain too much at our 3am starts and the plodding up glaciers accompanied by sub-zero winds. It was all worthwhile once we were on the summit watching the sun rise above the sea of clouds that was 2000 meters below carpeting the tropical forest of the Yungas.
Back in the camp cold beer was waiting for us and every now and then a donkey that would have liked to join us for a meal.
Our acclimatisation period is over. We should have a few more red blood cells by now. A few days recovering in La Paz and then we want to go off to the mountains again.
By the way the shock absorber arrived yesterday (DHL is GREAT). So the BMW now has this fancy, high-tec racing shock absorber.
Axel with stiff legs

16.07.08 La Paz, Bolivia - lost shock absorber

Spent a few days in the city sightseeing, shopping, recovering from a cold and getting ready for the mountains. Tomorrow morning we are off to the Condoriri mountains for 5 to 6 days.
The shock absorber hasn't arrived. I phoned the states and it looks like it has been lost somewhere in the world. It can take weeks before they find it. So they are going to send us a new one free of charge. This time with DHL. Let's see how that goes. Do you want to take bets?
By the way we met up with two guys from Liechtenstein: Quirin and Thomas. They are also in Bolivia to do some mountaineering. Maybe we manage to do something together.
hasta luego
Updates: the photo gallery (no. 21)

14.07.08 La Paz, Bolivia - Acclimatising

We have arrived in the crazy sprawling city of La Paz which sits at the foot of a mighty range of snow covered mountains. A lot of 6000'ers like the Illimani and the Huayna Potosi loom up behind the city making it a great place to go mountaineering. Which we will be doing as soon as we have acclimatised and extended visas etc....

8.07.08 Patacamaya, Bolivia - Back to the Bikes

After a long overnight bus ride from Sucre we arrived at 5:15 on a misty and cold morning in Patacamaya. We lurked about the streets until we found a place that served Api (a warm maize drink)and pastel (a fried pastry). We are now happily reunited with our bikes and are looking forward to being on the road with them again as opposed to noisy, crowded long haul buses. No news about the shock absorber, hope it won't be another story like Fedex!
Updates: the route

7.07.08 Sucre, Bolivia - market day in Tarabuco

Yesterday we went to Tarabuco to see the sunday market. It was very interesting. On the two hour bus ride we were subjected to a barrage of questions from curious locals. Half in Spanish half in Quechua - one of the native languages. The market itself was very colourful with locals dressed in traditional clothes and a variety of hats. The stalls were full of wool products for tourists, fruit and vegetables, the odd goat with a slit throat and everything you need for a pachamama ritual.
Renee bought some raw wool and practised with her spindle drawing a crowd of old woman who each had a say in how it should be done. That drew another even larger crowd of giggling and amused locals.
On the ride back, squeezed into a small bus we were entertained by two old ladies and their man (we could not establish the correct relationship between those three). At one stage he took a jab at Renee's breast and seemed to compare it to the other two... Strange customs here.
Updates: the photo gallery (no. 20) and stories (no. 16) - check it out!

3.07.08 Sucre, Bolivia - hablo espagnol

Three days ago we arrived in Sucre the capital of Bolivia and every morning we went for 3 hours of Spanish lessons. "ahora hablo un poco mas espagnol". Studying together with Renee went surprisingly well. Last time it was on the cargo boat and it ended in an argument. Now I am off to the market to practice my Spanish.
hasto luego

30.06.08 Potosi, Bolivia - The  wonders of Uyuni

We are just back from Uyuni where we went on a 3 day 4WD tour of the surrounds. We drove across the famous Salar de Uyuni (salt flat) and took in a few high altitude sights such as lakes, geysers and volcanoes. The scenery was stunning, the nights freezing and the roads horrendous. It was just as well we weren't on the bikes because as Cath, our tour companion, liked to say ' the russki would never have made it!'.

24.06.08 Potosi, Bolivia - new spains silver and a lost wallet

Potosi is an incredible place. A UNESCO world heritage site and home to the infamous conquistador silver mines on whose riches it was built. The Cerro Rico (Rich hill) is also known as 'the mountain that eats men' as millions of indigenous people lost their lives working there. Willy, an ex-miner, was our tour guide through part of the 700km of tunnels that riddle the mountain. It was so interesting we are going again tomorrow.
On the way back we parted with some of our own riches...I lost Axels wallet.
PS: A moving documentary on the subject:  the devil's miners

22.06.08 Potosi, Bolivia - a crash and spilled oil

We rode 2-up (together on the BMW) south with the plan to take on the dirt roads of Bolivia and explore Uyuni on the BMW. We managed 30km on the horrendous sandy road to Uyuni before having a minor crash and doing an accordion trick on our pannier. We were fine but had serious doubts about continuing on that road. As it was only so bad due to roadworks and the road 'improved' with sand being replaced by corrugations we carried on. Another 55km down the line we discovered that the shock absorber had emptied all of its oil onto the wheel. Great, again in the middle of nowhere, at high altitude, with a stuffed bike. We limped along at 30km/h to the next village and managed to rustle up a pickup to take us back to the tar road and the village Hauri. The next day I bussed it back to Patacamaya with the panniers and Axel rode the BMW back.
Now we are in Potosi, the highest city in the world with it's 4065m and we have changed our mode of transport from motorbikes to buses...at least till we get a new shock absorber delivered from the states ( this time with DHL).
So for now we are backpackers...almost like a holiday
Updates: photo gallery, stories

17.06.08 Patacamaya, Bolivia - Long term parking for the Sidecar

From Arica we crossed the border into Bolivia (via 2 national parks) and spent a slightly restless night on the Altiplano at 4100m. Now we are in Patacamaya to put the Russian into parking and explore the south of Bolivia on the BMW for 2 weeks or so.We have learned the hard way that Rippio (gravel) is no friend of russian sidecars. I have to check in at migrations in Oruru on the way or face deportation... it's a long story.
We are finally in Bolivia, Hurray!

14.06.08 Arica, Chile - we need a zip

This afternoon we arrived in Arica, the very northern part of Chile. It was a long and at stages boring ride from San Pedro through the Atacama desert. In three days we covered a distance of about 700km. I must say the Russian runs well on tar roads.
Today we tried to find a zip for the tent. It broke a while ago and we want to fix it before getting to Bolivia. Nobody has a zip that size so we have to improvise something. There is always something to be repaired...

11.06.08 San Pedro de Atacama, Chile - Enjoying the sites

A few excursions from here out onto the Altiplano on the BMW have proven how cold, how unsuitable for Russian motorbikes and how stunningly beautiful it can be up there. Tomorrow we should be heading off  to Arica and then onto Bolivia. Only a 1000km or so to cover.
Updates: photo gallery, stories

6.06.08 San Pedro de Atacama, Chile - no petrol

surprise, surprise - the russian covered the 350km to San Pedro de Atacama without a single breakdown. I start to have hope again...
But one thing for sure - no more gravel roads for the sidecar. Due to road blockades by truck drivers angered by rising fuel prices, there is no petrol available. There should be again tomorrow. In the mean time we enjoy the laid-back atmosphere of this desert oasis. Tonight we go on a star gazing trip.
a laid-back Axel
Updates: "the route" and a new photo essay: "Patagonia" - check it out 
5.06.08 Antofagasta, Chile - on the road again

yesterday we went for a test drive and it looks ok - no oil leak on the cylinder and the engine running fine. We are leaving our cheap hostel this morning and driving towards San Pedro de Atacama. More news when we are there.

3.06.08 Antofagasta, Chile - fixing a broken thread

The last two days I spent running around trying to find a place to work on the bike, Helicoils, a matching tap and a torque wrench. I'm fed up working on the Russian all the time. If it breakes down again I'll donate the bike to the nearest ship as an anker! Tomorrow I'll take the bike for a test run and then I'll decide...
the manic mechanic Axel

30.05.08 Antofagasta, Chile - not again!

Well, we didn't make it far before our next major, possibly expensive breakdown. 150km out of Tierra Amarilla oil was leaking from the motor. On the side of the road Axel tightened that loose nut again and redid the valve clearance. This time he suspected the loose nut was the result of something more serious. 50km down the road this was confirmed with oil leaking again. We camped out back of a 'Posada' -a restaurant in the middle of nowhere-  where Axel stripped the motor down to try and figure out the problem. Looks like the bolt is pulling out of the engine! We made it another 200km down the road before spending the night at a very hospitable roadworkers camp. Today we made it into Antofogasta and Axel is out looking for a mechanic. According to the internet forums (thank god for internet) the problem is common and not too serious. The next question is whether we will find the helicoil we need to fix it here and whether Axel really wants to continue as full-time mechanic...
Axel stripped sy moer (in S'african)

25.5.08 Tierra Amarilla, Chile - the magneto has arrived

OK, so maybe I was jumping the gun when I said we would leave the next day. Axel has mounted the magneto and had to do some finnicky adjustments to set the ignition timing but he also noticed an oil leak on the cylinder head. When he removed the valve cover he also discovered a nut that had come off the rocker. There were also a few more cracks in both our boxes. This time we have really learnt our lesson - the russian is just not made for rough roads.
Maybe tomorrow?

23.5.08 Tierra Amarilla, Chile - still waiting

Guess what! The part has been sitting in Copiapo (10km down the road) for the last two days because Tierra Amarilla is not on the Fedex list of delivery places. So either we will personally go and fetch it or they get their act together and organise for it to be sent here. Which means we should finally be out of here by tomorrow. Yeah! As you can imagine Fedex will receive a long letter of complaint from us. Maybe we should mention we have a site with an average of 180 hits a week...

20.5.08 Tierra Amarilla, Chile - waiting

Monday passed and no magneto arrived. Yesterday I spoke to some supervisor at Fedex and he told me the parcel will arrive Tomorrow or on Wednesday. It didn't come today and tomorrow is a public holiday...more waiting.

17.5.08 Tierra Amarilla, Chile - an angry phone call

Still no magneto. Yesterday I checked on the tracking site of Fedex and it has been in customs since the 13th! So I phoned Fedex in Santiago to inquire and they required my passport number to release it. Instead of trying to contact me they've been waiting for me to contact them! I don't need to mention that I was very annoyed. My next question was how long in customs. It being Friday nothing would happen till monday, then another 1 to 3 days and yet another 5 to get it to Copiapo!I was fuming! When I wryly mentioned it would take me 2 days there and back to pick up the parcel I was told that that was against Fedex policy... That's when I slammed the phone down with a lot of swearing and cursing on my part - fortunately nobody in the internet cafe could understand me. I went back to our room to drown my sorrows in another telenovela only to discover that the TV wasn't working anymore!

Later that evening Fedex phoned and told our contact person that the parcel will arrive on saturday or monday.
a tense Axel
Updates: photo gallery, stories

15.5.08 Tierra Amarilla, Chile - waiting

Still waiting for the magneto. It arrived on monday in Santiago and has been sitting since then in customs. Just as well. Yesterday I came down with the flu and spent most of today in bed reading, learning spanish and watching telenovelas (the highlight of the day is at six o'clock: the Simpsons). Renee is busy as always: doing some handcraft stuff, washing clothes and of course looking after me. I don't know how long it will take for me to fully recover:)

13.5.08    Tierra Amarilla, Chile - stranded with a broken magneto

We are stranded in this small and bleak mining town. We were travelling on the Altiplano when the magneto on the Russian broke and we ended up having an epic. More about this in one of the stories that will follow soon.
Now we are stuck waiting for a magneto from the states. Having so much time on our hands we've done some more work on the website. Some people are really interested in what we are up to - we have had more than two and a half thousand hits. Writing the stories and creating the photogallery takes a lot of time and often we are weeks behind updating the stuff. We will try to keep "the diary" short and more up to date - so check it out every now and then for a new entry.

Updates: stories and a lot of interesting links (also on climbing in south america)