What does a typical day in my life as a moto-traveler look like? Someone recently asked me that, and all I could think was, "Hah! Not like the next day, or like the day before!" Every day is so different to me, depending on where I am traveling, what kinds of roads I am on, who I meet, and most importantly, WHAT I EAT!
But, I really appreciate the writer's question, and I'm going to try and answer it as best I can in one post.
Here is Stan's question--
"...tell us all about a day in the life of Louise the Adventure Rider - meals - laundry - showers - safety - and what is this insurance you speak of????"
To start with, we have spent 39 days tent camping, and 31 days hostel/hotel/boat.
Meals are a good place to start, since one typically starts the day. In my normal, everyday life, coffee starts the day. I am not typically up for a meal. There is something about my body that, unless it is a Sunday, absolutely revolts at the idea of eating real food most mornings.
But, things are different on the road. Riding a motorcycle, whether on-road or off, demands physical as well as mental efforts. If we are camping, we usually start the day with coffee, oatmeal, and hopefully a banana we picked up the night before. Before we left Denver, we had a large package of Krusteaz pancake mix. The night before we left, it was suggested we could just pour some into a ziplock, then we would have it if we wanted it. Josh was completely uninterested in the is idea, but the first morning he, Doug, and I woke up in the Grand Canyon, and I mashed a banana to make banana pancakes for breakfast, his mind changed! Occasionally I buy a couple of eggs and make them to go with.
If we are staying in a hotel--we just stayed in one in Colombia for about $10US--we might eat breakfast in their restaurant, or seek out a panaderia (bakery) for breakfast. The Central American typical breakfast usually includes an egg or two, beans, a small slab of cheese, and tortillas. It's usually delicious and filling, and I love it. In Guatemala, you get refried black beans that are to die for!
Lunch depends on where we are in the course of the day. If we're in the middle of nowhere, we eat off the food stores we carry--typically crackers, tuna, cheese (yes, we carry cheese over multiple hot days. It's fine) fruit, peanut butter. If we're riding pavement and rolling through small towns regularly, we stop at a shop/shack/restaurant on the side of the road, and eat whatever they happen to be making. It is always delicious, always, inexpensive, and the people who make the food make it as though they are cooking for their own families. These have been some of our most delicious meals!
|Typical Costa Rica lunch for about $6US total.|
|All the bakery goodies!|
We have cooked a lot of our own dinners. They are typically foods we've picked up at local stores, sometimes mixed with things we've brought along. I brought a few staples I thought could easily be combined with fresh veggies and meat, such as quinoa (we had a sizeable bag of that left in Denver) and some pasta. For all the food we cook, we have a MSR Dragonfly stove, a 9" non-stick frying pan (handle cut off to pack more easily), a Sea to Summit collapsible silicone 3 quart pot, and various utensils.
I have to laugh at this. We smell. There is no way to get around that. Everything has been wet for a month and a half--yay, humid jungle--and has a slight mildewy smell. I find laundry to be somewhat difficult, and often not worth my time...I've got riding and sight-seeing to do! But, it does get done in various ways.
1--Drain stop in the bathroom sink in a hotel or hostel. Anyone traveling outside of the U.S. should buy a simple flat, rubber drain stop. Few sinks have stoppers, and a sink is always big enough to hand wash some undies or t-shirts in. We carry Dr. Bronners soap for all the washing up--it rinses easily and is safe anywhere you are.
2--Dry bag method. For slightly larger pieces, or wanting to wash a number of things in one go without access to a washing machine. We half fill a 30 liter Sealine PVC dry bag with water, add a few drops of soap and some clothes, roll it closed, and then take turns "agitating" it by shaking and tossing it around. We then empty it, squeeze out the excess, refill with clean water, and repeat. This is basically how our washing machine works, and it does a okay job.
3--Washing machine. We have stayed a few places that have a washer we have been allowed to use. There is never a dryer, but always more than enough lines to hang-dry everything. We are currently using that method here in the mountains above Medellin, Colombia, drying things in the open when it isn't raining.
4--Lavanderia. We have been in a few cities that were large enough to have lavanderias. This is typically a home where you drop your laundry off for the day, and it comes back washed, dried, and folded. It is actually dried in a drier, so some of the wool stuff has shrunk a bit, but it's been worth it. Dumping out the fresh load of clean laundry to divvy up into our own bags always seems sooooooo marvelous!
Amazingly enough, almost everywhere we have stayed have had showers, including all but maybe two or three camping places. My rough estimation would be that about 75% of them have been cold, or roughly ambient air temp. Some places have had shower head water heaters that work-ish. I get pretty excited at a hot shower, though in Panama City, I burned myself. Sometimes the water drains well, sometimes not. I have definitely worn shoes in a lot of my showers. A lot of the showers have been outdoor, or partially outdoor. In the end, when I get out and feel clean, especially after a hard, hot day of riding, I'm just thankful to have had one!
So, this is kind of a big one, with a lot of angles to tackle. First and foremost, we do not carry a firearm, and never have on a trip. This is a big controversial subject within the adventure riding world, but I do not, and will not, attempt to carry a firearm across international borders. I don't do it on trips in the states, so I am not going to risk being caught with one in another country where I am not allowed to have one. As one friend mentioned to me before I left, "The bill of rights doesn't go with you into other countries."
We choose to travel smartly. No riding at night. It seems like a no brainier, but, we have broken that rule two different times. Both times, however, we knew where we were headed for the night, and just had to finish out the riding day after a border had taken longer than we expected. Besides the obvious reason of being vulnerable on a motorbike at night when people may be up to no good, many of the roads we have ridden have been riddled with potholes, large enough and deep enough to swallow a F700GS with me on it. No, thank you.
We are traveling with soft luggage, unlike most people who do this trip. I had my reasons for wanting this luggage, and it had proven to be wonderful. We have locking straps with airline cable for each piece, which have doubled as bike/wheel locks when we've left the bikes in a place we weren't ABSOLUTELY sure about.
We have never felt unsafe. We have never felt threatened. That isn't to say danger and threats aren't out there. We met a couple on the Stahlratte crossing from Panama to Cartegena, who had been attacked and robbed in Guatemala. They had no bodily harm done to them, but they were threatened with machetes and guns by masked men. Their tank bags were stolen with some bank cards and personal items. We carry fake wallets with photo-copied and laminated driver's license copies, fake credit cards, and a dollar or two. Real stuff is locked away. I'd be sad to lose my tank bag, but the trip wouldn't be crippled.
I briefly looked over the U.S. State department's warnings about traveling through Mexico, because something like 15 people sent me the link. I then only avoided the area of Mexico our Mexican neighbor told us he would avoid. The iOverlander app has a red warning symbol where people can report bad things that have happened to them on the road. I usually read these over in the area to which we are going, just to be prepared, but we haven't run into much more than a few kids with strings across the road, looking for money for something or other. They usually drop the lines as we get close and they see we are foreigners on big bikes. When they are holding buckets for school/community fundraisers, I always drop something in if I have it.
This question comes on the heels of a mad and frantic search for insurance in Colombia by 17 of 21 riders on the boat. For the most part, once you leave the U.S., your insurance is no longer valid, with the exception of Mexico. In Mexico, you need to have Mexican insurance in addition to your own. Some countries have no requirements for it, while some require you to buy insurance as soon as you enter the country,
Colombia requires that visitors purchase insurance if they bring a while into the country. It is referred to as liability, but it basically covers third parties injured or killed in an accident. There has been some abuse of the requirements, and the government has been cracking down by changing procedures the individual insurance companies have to go through. We spent two full days in Cartegena and then another half day or so in Medellin trying to get it. We visited eight different offices.
It. Was. A. Pain.
In the end, we spent Tuesday through Friday riding the bikes through Colombia without insurance, which is fairly risky. The fine is upwards of $200US if you are found to not have it. Also, the drivers here are the worst we have encountered on the trip. I felt very relieved to get it, as I know the others on the boat did as they, little by little, were able to acquire it.
It seems ridiculous, but the search exhausted me. A lot of the time spent was spent waiting to see if it would happen. It was stressful. People in the offices speaking to me in rapid-fire Spanish to explain what was needed, or why we were waiting, or why things couldn't be handled taxed my poor little brain. At the end of these days, I felt like I had failed culturally, and just wanted to go to bed at 7. It was also especially annoying because it was all to have been taken care of by the ship's agent--we paid a pretty good premium to have had that done. Then, not only was it not done, but I was unprepared to handle it because I thought it would be done. I didn't research anything--good offices, what was needed, what goes into a certain box on the form when you ride a F700GS and your bike is not in the system (the damn system!!!).
But, as of yesterday, it is done. We have insurance, and I am better prepared for how to deal with it when we return.
Want to know more? Is there something I didn't answer enough? Please ask. You can always comment here, shoot me an email. Or post on my FB page. Sometimes it's nice to have a goal when writing this blog, other than just talking about the motos or the places. Not everyone gets to travel this way, so I am happy to talk about how I (we) do it. I also know there are people who are wanting to do a trip like this, and trying to collect as much info as possible. I will share anything I know, I just don't always know what someone is curious about. Ask away! This trip is amazing, and I am happy to share!