So close but so far.. Border USA

The 900km seemed so easy at the time..
In truth, they were the hardest 900km I think i’ve had, my emotions reached both extreme ends of my spectrum.

I set out washed and cleaned with what should have been an easy ride to the USA with a camp out in between. The initial kilometres went well until I felt that ever familiar feeling of the rear beginning to wobble. At first i hoped it was the road but soon I begin to look for any facilities available to fix another flat.

Fortunately I spot a small house with a dozen old pick-ups of varied conditions in the front yard.

This was the scene of my first change, they had a pump and also drove the mile up the road to find an old tube that we put three patches on as well as an old knobbly tyre that fit but was full of dirt and cracking from age.

I couldn’t believe my luck!!

My old tyre looked like this, no surprise a stone had punctured the tube.

Where the repairs happened..

With about two hours left of sunset and feeling quietly confident to make the border the following morning, i set out to make some distance before it was dark.

80km more and i didn’t even have to look to check, I stopped the bike and rested the forehead of my helmet on my handlebars. Another flat, its nearly dark and at best estimate was 30 kilometres to anything.

I had been told about some bad guys who apparently existed along this route and I was also warned not to camp by the guy who had helped change my tyre an hour prior.

but with no options I thought I stopped and tried and stop a vehicle…. nothing came… so I walked…

ate some tuna….

and walked some more…

No one passed for the hour or so I had of light, I was defiantly concerned at the lack of traffic but became more concerned of who might come along at this time. So I found a spot to hide and sleep for the evening.

It was about 50m from the road, behind some trees. That night two semi-trailers passed. I remained in the tent…

The following morning I decided to ride on the flat. In the couple of hours it took to ride about 25km only two small vehicles overtook me as I wobbled my way forward to the sound of the flat tyre rubbing against my chain guard.

The village I eventually reached offered a well needed glass of water and the opportunity to put my original tyre and repaired tube back on. This ran for perhaps another hour into nowhere. Then again, I was sitting roadside with a flat tyre and no means to repair it.

This sign didn’t lift my spirits…

I was a broken man, fortunately the day still had plenty of light left in it, and some traffic on the road. It wasn’t more than an hour and I had the bike in the back of a pick-up and was on my way to Hermosillo. A town that promised to have a replacement tyre and was only four hours from the border.

That evening i was dropped at a motorcycle mechanics in a suburb at the fringe of Hermosillo. The shop didn’t have anything new, but I pulled a tyre and tube off an old bike in the yard and was also given permission to sleep on the garage floor that evening.

Santiago and his family, who owned the shop and lived adjacent, invited me to join them for dinner. I sat with the family and answered a long list of questions as well as listening patiently to grand father who claimed to be 93 years old and slept in a bed beside the household sink.

After dinner we all returned to the garage and I continued answering questions from the surrounding families, who had come to see what the fuss was about.

I slept well on the garage floor that night and was pleased to have breakfast with the family in the morning but when it came time to pay for the tyre and hospitality, money was refused.

I couldn’t convince them to take the $20 we had decided on the previous day for the tyre and floor space not including the food.

This was a family who only had access to water a few hours a day and it was complicated for me to work out where everyone slept in their humble little abode.

I was touched, very touched, and it makes me wonder where the bad guys really are¿

From the roof of the mechanics in the morning.

Again I left for the border, I hid behind a bus as it went through the pay station gate on the ‘toll road’ and settled in for the cruise to the first world…

Like clockwork, the rear tyre blew an hour into the journey. A small crack in the tyre had opened up and had left me in another predicament roadside.

The fortunate thing here was that it was a ‘toll road’ and I was given a lift from a tow-truck after a policeman found me pushing my bike along the shoulder. They promised to find me another tyre in the town at the end of the ‘toll road’ but after a couple of hours of searching with no result. I was left with the option of paying $50 for a lift with the tow-truck to the border or to find a lift myself.

A local man helped me search the town again that afternoon but again we had no luck. As I discussed paying him to take me the 80km to the border I stopped another passing car with a trailer. The three Mexican boys heading to Phoenix agreed to my $20 assistance with the gas and we loaded the bike and began the final stretch to the USA.

Three car spots from the border I checked my pocket for my passport….

I then told the guys who were giving me a lift, I think they thought I was trying to scam them and threw my stuff off the back. When I refused to give them my last $20 for gas as my bank cards are kept with my passport, they threatened that they had phoned a friend who would come and collect my cameras for the debt.

I was really worried as I pushed my bike to the US official at the border. I had photocopies but to cut a long story short I was told an hour or so later that I had to return to Mexico to get another passport.

Choking back the tears I rode my bike with the flat back into Nogales and began looking for a hotel with WiFi. After trying two that wouldn’t accept my cameras as a bond on the room, I hit my rock bottom. No where to go, No identification, no money and a flat tyre… I wished it all over…

The third attempt on a hotel was successful and I had a shower and began to work out my possibilities.

The following day I organised money from my family by paying the receptionist $10 to use her ID and send her money through Western Union. I then found a tyre that was a slick road tyre off the front of a sports bike and bought a new tube.

I also discovered that i would have to return to Mexico City to get a new passport. No flights left from Nogales (the border) so I began riding to Hermosillo where I had stayed previously on the garage floor.

On the way back I stopped at the town I was stranded at looking for a tyre 15 hours earlier.

Following my footsteps I asked if anyone had seen my passport and offered $100 as a reward. Hours latter after checking for the second time it was found under the seat of a vehicle I had been in when searching the town.

Ecstatic and weeping tears of joy, I had a couple of quite words of thanks to the unknown. The guys were so happy to see me so happy and didn’t take the reward.

I crossed the border a couple of hours later where I had a Mcdonalds meal and free Wifi

Oh…. and I ordered in English!!

4 flats and a clutch cable in 5 days. Chasing a canyon, Mexico

I left the coast at Percos and headed inland to the National Park (Barranca de Cobre) its route 25 and is a nice thick yellow line on my not-so-good map of Mexico.

The road turned to dirt in about half an hour, as a skirted across the top of it I had forgotten to lock a pannier on. It was inevitable… Just as I overtook a bus the pannier broke loose and bounced its way along beside me.

No sooner had I put it on and the bike, it toppled as i went to take a photo, tank-bag contents went everywhere!!!

It was here i realised that i had left the video camera back at the gas station that i took the shower at in the morning. I rapidly turned and did it Dakar style the 50km back…

Luckily the fuel attendant was looking after it for me. I thanked my lucky stars and started out along route 25 again.

I only got about 30 minutes past the point i had previously reached and the front tyre went really quickly, I pulled into a little piece of shade in the scorching heat to investigate.

I knew I didn’t have a pump any more, and all i could remember was Claudia in Mexico City telling me I should get one… I thought I knew best..

Yep… This one is beyond the patch fix. Fortunately I had a spare so I put the new one in like a professional and put the tire back on…. Now all I need is a pump!!

Three and a half hours later, after asking everyone that happened to pass and running out of water in the first 20 minutes a man came in a car loaded to the brim with people. He had a little electrical pump, just like the one i used to have.

I thought i was going to die out there in the Mexican desert, and how many times did i kick myself for not replacing my pump?? To many to count!!

The good thing is there were photos of this guy everywhere on this trail. His reassuring smile told me that there are no worries with him around.

And he shared my love for the Mexican moustache.

The afternoon was famous in my books, a huge climb up a goat trail into the mountains. Views were spectacular and the temperature dropped as the altitude rose. Approaching dusk i was in pine forest at the top of the world.

Tread on the tyre…well yea, im an idiot for not replacing it a while ago.
Lots of slipping and sliding.. certainly not ideal

It was almost dark when i pulled into a ranchito (small village of 7 families) after a day of many military encounters, a coked up guide on a quad bike, no food, little water and the flat tyre. I bought five litres of fuel, two cans of tuna and some pasta and asked if i could set up camp nearby.

The seniora of the house wouldn’t have this and insisted I have a plate of her food and that i stay in the school that didn’t have classes until 9am the following day.

I was really touched, especially when she refused payment for the meal.

This was the school house i slept in.

I was often made to sit under the blackboard as a disruptive child, but i never envisaged sleeping there.

I decided to leave a quick geography lesson on the blackboard in the morning and gave three stickers of the Australian flag to the teacher who lived with the family who had helped me. Everyone knew id stayed there and they were curious of this distant land. Excuse the Spanish…

I got quite emotional when my adopted Mexican mother refused payment for a large breakfast in the morning. It felt really good to be looked after again.

Out of the mountains I went, and then it was the rear tire to have a turn… going flat over a period of 10km i stopped and patched it roadside with the help of a logging truck driver who had also stopped to cool his brakes after the decent. He had air!!

The job wasn’t good enough because 60km later i was back in a mechanics fixing it again. Id missed a staple that was still lodged in the tire and had punctured it again. Three punctures in two days.. Setting an almost unbeatable personal record…

I was getting closer to the canyon though, i could feel it. The scenery was amazing, if i stopped for to take a picture every time i had a wow moment id never get there so i kept riding.

These rock walls went for miles across the countryside.

I asked the fuel attendant if i would reach Batopilas by dark, he said ‘no’ and that i should set up camp. Good thing i didn’t because at sunset i entered the canyon, 50km short of the end of the road (Batopilas). It was a sight to behold…

I could see the road in the bottom i was to follow but it was nearly dark so after pushing through a heard of goats 10 minutes into the decent i found a spot that was graded flat.. Perfect!

The morning was an absolute treat…

I got to Batolilas the following morning, a settlement at the end of the road, quite backward but substantial compared to many villages i had passed earlier. There was accommodation and restaurants so i had breakfast and then turned around to climb back out. It was everything i had hoped for!!

I had almost reached my camp-site from the night prior and the clutch cable went.

WHAT???? What have i done wrong? i thought as i got my bike to the side of the road by pulling the clutch cable with pliers. I nearly lost everything off the cliff as the back tire went over as i was concentrating on pulling the cable. With a huge push and heave i retrieved her from near death and scanned the area for shade. None, and it was frikkin hot!

I was quite pleased with myself as i had a spare clutch cable in my bag so i set about repairs, while the heat would have killed a large fish, the view was second to no other workshop ive seen.

The day ended when i got to Creel, another 100km. The front tire flattened as i had something to eat so i checked into this motel where i had my cloths washed, flat repaired a long shower and a mattress.

Approximately 900km to the USA, i plan to cross at Nogales and try and find tires, sprockets and chain in Tucson…. The land of opportunity!!

I have a mixed feeling of excitement and nervousness to be back in the English speaking world.

Solo begins!! Mexico Pacific

I wont lie, there were a few nerves when I packed the bags to venture off on my lonesome. Unsure of what was ahead and what i will have to deal with.

The day went well however, Mexico City is at quite a high altitude, and as i aimed for the pacific coast it was no surprise when the road began to wind down through some scenic bends. It was a Sunday and i left quite late but i knew i had chosen a good road when i passed probably 50 other bikes of all shapes and sizes heading back up towards the city.

Eventually as the power returned to my bike as more air became available the road flattened out, became dry and hot.

I was just pleased to be riding and when the sun began to go, its always a good time to stop and take it all in.

BUT when i started the bike back up after taking this photo, it was accompanied by a loud bang and a little puff of white smoke!! SHIT! i thought and forgot to return the wave to the passing pick-up. It was running however and i rode on. Only to stop two minutes later with hot oil on my left trouser leg.

At closer inspection the rubber gasket in the top of the engine had popped. Then i remembered the mechanic who had helped me through the head gasket process saying “No, No, no necessario” Grrr… Thanks buddy!

With only an hour or so left of light i pushed the bike through a small gate at the side of the road, i wanted to try and conceal myself as a man earlier at lunch had told me not to travel this road at night.

I took the bike apart and put some gasket glue where there should have been some in the first place. Fixing the bike was the easy part, concealment was more difficult, everyone could see me who came from one direction. I worried what they might think or who they might know so i didnt set the tent up until dark and tried my hand at a little camouflage.

See… almost cant see me!!

I found some water nearby that was for the cattle, it was a half hearted attempt at getting clean.

With the gasket goo set in the morning i hit the coastal road with great relief and stopped at the junction for some ceviche (fish spiced and cooked in lime juice).

The coastal ride was quite charming, it had been a while since i had been on the coast and with the bike thumping along and my new mirrored visa in my helmet i was a happy man, free from it all.

I stopped one night in a mango orchard, sorry i don’t have photos, i must have been to busy feasting on the abundance of fruit

The following day when i noticed a town on the map by the name of San Blass, the same name given to the islands we passed through in out motorcycle powered boat, i had to have a look.

It wasn’t very exciting, a small holiday town of no particular charm, but i stopped to use the internet just to let Claudia know that i was still alive after the three days.

An hour or so latter i was camped in a corn field beside these silos of sorts, what i didn’t realise is that they were full of bats ready to have a rave party later that evening. I slept well considering, i was getting tired and smelly.

In the morning it was back on the free-way north. There are usually two options on major roads, the pay roads and the free-way. The free-ways seem to be good roads except you get speed bumps on the way into and out of towns. Obviously i take the budget option.

As i entered Mazatlan a bearing in the rear was squealing like crazy. It was no surprise it had given out as thy haven’t been replaced since their encounter with the Caribbean.

Into another shop to change all three in the rear hub.

The guy in the shop told me he had another KLR the same with the engine ruined if i was interested in parts. I said, yea sure, he sounded even more convincing when he said the other one has a bigger tank. Which is typicall of the American model. “Not till 4pm” he said, when i get a chance to get away from the shop. It being 1pm I had some time to kill and think about what i would take.

Exaust, overflow bottle, tank, some plastics, CDI, carb. It was quite exciting!! but when 4pm rolled round, no bike! Its been sold/used, some other guy… I really should have seen it coming.

On i went..

I made camp on a dry river bank 50km north of Culiacan that night. By this stage i was really dirty and desperately needed a shower (5 days).

I got the shower the following morning, the fuel station provided so i bought some shampoo from the nearby mini-market and tiptoed around the aluminum cans floating at my feet. Slowly I removed the thick layer of mud, sweat and grease from my body. It felt amazing to be clean, i also discovered that i had acquired two pairs of undies from the couple i had shared the laundry washing service with back in Mexico City… BONUS!! … and sorry..

Mexico! To the big smoke..

Priority now in Mexico was the rear suspension…. AGAIN!

We made it from the border to Palenque in Mexico (known for more ruins) that night. We didn’t stay long as the mechanical options in town were limited so we pushed through the following morning to Villahermosa (2 hours).

After asking at a variety of mechanics it became obvious that a rebuild for the suspension wasn’t possible. Kindly a fatboy on a fatboy escorted us around to the local suspension experts for autos. Completely out of options i conceded to letting them begin the rear shock extraction.

The hours past…

And then, the combined forces of these three presented me their solution to our problem. A KLR rear shock built from the spare suspension of a Peugeot 206 combined with the KLR spring ($30!).

In truth its not amazing, actually quite rubbish as far as suspension goes. Not much travel and very stiff but a huge improvement and something im quite comfortable on for the time being.

The second major issue at hand was the difficulty the bike was having starting, back to a mechanics and we discovered water in the starter motor and the bushes in quite a bad state. This repaired it felt like a new machine.

It was then decision time, move on to Mexico City or go back to Palenque for the ruins. It was the last few days Claudia had on the road so the call was in her hands…. Back to Palenque we went for more ruins…

On the way back, tragedy struck, the bike refused to start when i turned it off at some roadwork’s. It eventually started and we got back to town. When I checked the the oil window it was fogged and water leaked out a hole in the exhaust when I cranked the starter. At closer inspection all fears were confirmed, the head gasket was spilling oil down the front of the engine. HEAD GASKET = GONE

It was a Sunday, we did however find some sort of a mechanic who lived in the storage section for the towns construction equipment. I pushed the bike into his yard and we begun disassembling.

Yep, We have a problem…

Water sitting on the piston… Not good.

Fortunately the gasket was still in tact, a clean and the best gasket glue money can buy in this area (200ml for $4), I took the the opportunity to re-seat the valves then it was a night spent on the floor of the construction office. The next day we were ready to ride.

Almost late for Claudia´s flight we smashed out the 850 km to Mexico City in the one day…

It was a somewhat upsetting departure .

Now solo, things didn’t start so well. I went to visit a camera shop in down town Mexico, during a few quick questions about getting my camera fixed a staff member tapped me on the shoulder just in time for me to turn and see the padlock snap shut on the front wheel of my bike.

How dare them!! I argued, refused to pay, said i didn’t understand the road sign (E crossed out), and then took advantage of the situation and went for a wonder around some other shops and sat down for lunch at a nearby restaurant… but eventually paid the $45 to the bank to get her released

It was time to start a fresh. A new look was in order, I decided to become a Mexican for this next leg of the venture. I bought some razorblades and transition was phenomenal!!

Quite happy with the new look it was time to get amongst it at the wresting! I joined some friends from the hostel for a quality night.

This bar we accidentally entered seemed to cater for all your needs unless it was outside these regulations..

Thanks Jonathan for the pics.