TLOB to Argentina Stats, Tips and Comments

As of 13/7/2012 - 31/05/2016

Bird kills = 2 (Before Durango bird hit front then leg and stuck in foot peg for 5 seconds, Going to Mendoza hwy 164)
Dog chases = 4 or way more!!! (To Yecora little guy acting tough, 2 big dogs at farmers house going to Guad'ra off hwy to take a piss (held piss and bolted), couple crazy dogs start barking then chase you...
Dog bites = 1 (Urubamba, no skin broken)
Animal Near Misses = 8 or more (Horse, cow, goat, dog...)
Car near misses = lots, mostly due to no brake lights at a speed bump
Center stand connecting with the ground or other things = 100+ times

Head knocks on low doorway, etc. = 18 (4 on light in Creel hotel room, 2 in Mazatlan hotel room 2nd was a big one and felt dizzy, over hang on stairwell)
Toe stubbs to bleeding = 4

Number 2 stats: 4 in Dan's room as he always had the best one (Boat, Taganga, Costena, Santa Marta)
, 4 outdoors (Copper Canyon, Mex. after Pasto, Col. Approaching Peru border. Steps down from Machu Picchu)
Toilet / Bathroom repairs = 5


Lost Water bottles = 3 + 1 Gatorade, 2 fell off in Colombian mountains and I retrieved.  Grip tape added so no more losses and bottle only last 1 week so I'm forced to change it out.
Computer drops = 1 (Cuenca, Ecu slipped out of my case because I didn't close the zipper, 1 metre high, no problem)

Bike Drops = 1 (Zihuatenango, Mexico caught helmet, not bike), 1(Coroico, Bolivia in the mud), 1(Salta, Argentina parked on too much tilt at Hotel Catedral)
Bike Almost laydowns = 4 (all near Cusco, Peru)
Helmet Drops = 1 (Pto Escondido) 1 (Cali) 1 (Give helmet to Mac in BA)
Bike pieces lost or broken = Main bolt cover both sides (1 in Medellin during chain replacement)
Not water proof = gloves, boots (90%, pretty good actually), light weight dry bag, camera (once the flash lens cover cracked)
Lost/broken items = string loop on board shorts (JB weld repair didn't work), long underwear (Lago de Atitlan, Guat), Blackberry (Medellin thief), light weight leather rain riding gloves - terrible repair next door to Casa Kiwi (Medellin) and have been duct taped ever since, Travel pen (Mancora, Peru), Oakley flip flop during Wine tour in Huacachina (JB Weld repair x 2 still holding), Bankcard (La Rioja, Arg old style machine that gives money before card and after a minute asks if you want to do another transaction, I was gone by then as I didn't want to hold up the line).

Riding Buddies = Dave Olson (Edmonton) /Greg Cumming (Ottawa) Oct. 26-30, 2011, David Fait (Phoenix) Nov. 28-Jan.18, 2012, Guillaume Maufette (Montreal) Dec. 16-Jan.18, 2012, Dan Hawes (Brisbane/Yellowknife) Jan. 7-Feb.1, 2012, Olivier (Paris) Feb. 26, 2012.

Repairs / Service =
Guadalajara (28,600km): checked Steering head bearing, changed fuel strainer, clutch cable, chain clean/adjust, oil change to 20W50 (only thing common in Mexico), rear pads, greased points, changed plugs (not burning oil, but consuming somewhere?).  Chavanne Moto - Value check and in spec.
Medellin, Colombia (36,500 km): New Chain ($150 US cheap!), install sprockets bought in LA, Air Filter, Oil Filter + synthetic 10W40 ($15/litre), Coolant change, Brake Fluid change (No), Valve covers were leaking.  Valves checked - in spec.
(38,300km) Vibration issue at 50kph - front tire balanced 3 times, changed back to old one, bearings changed, steering head tightened - so far determined to be bag weighting or engine vibration?
(39,300km) Change back to old Tourance EXP
(40,500km) Front bearing change, checked steering head and tighten (not needed).
(47,050km) Changed back to Trail Attack front tyre (Tourance made 24,000km total) and balanced (for the 4th time), Still have issue.
(50,000km) Changed brakes rear and front.  Installed good used condition ones - 60 to 70% left.
(52,500km) Used rear Bridgestone installed
(54,040km) Oil Filter 15W50 Syn, Clean Air Filter, 4 x spark plugs.
(55,710km) Bike stored June 25 to Dec. 20, 2012.
(56,050km) Front and Rear Metzeler Tourance installed Jan.16, 2013 at Fazio in Palermo, BA.
(57,900km) Air Filter, Fuel Strainer March 2, 2013.
(58,985km) Oil replace 15W50, Bike stored April 29 to Dec 11 2013 - starter switch /headlight cleaning (common vstrom problem)
(60,018km) Chain / sprockets 47/15 by Manuel
(61,150km) Oil 15W50,
(61,600km) Bike stored May 31 to Nov 3 2014
(69,390km) Oil Filter, Oil 15W50, Front brakes
(69,450km) Bike stored June 24 to Dec 11, 2015
(71,515km) Steering Head Bearing change and Moto cleaning and lubrication March 10, 2016
(74,780km) Starter switch repair, Rear Sprocket Bearing $55 USD, Front / Rear Metzeler Tourance.
(76,790km) Oil 15W50 Ipone
(76,815km) Bike stored May 31 to Nov 15, 2016.
(76,850km) Air Filter, Spark Plugs
(80,380km) Sold to German Felix near Montevideo March 24, 2017.

Note: Chain guard required welding x 2 (How? Likely in Medellin during chain replacement.  Broke in mountains near Pasto repaired in Quito and weld failed on the way to Tupiza, Bolivia and repaired again).  

YUSA battery is amazing!  2008 and still going!

Tyres (Rear 150/70 R17, Front 110/80 R19) = Spokane, WA front and back Metzeler Tourance EXP (at 22,300km), Bogota, Col back Metzeler Tourance (at 37,000km), Quito, Ec front Conti Trail Attack (at 38,300km to 39,400km) back to EXP front (47,050km changed back to Trail Attack).  BA, Argentina bought used Bridgestone and installed in Salto, Uruguay (52,500km).  Bought in BA for $400USD Front and Rear Metzeler Tourance installed Jan.16, 2013 (56,050km) .  Bought in Florianopolis for $350USD Front and Rear Metzeler Tourance installed April 28, 2016 (74,780km) .

Flats = 2; major on rear riding Periferico Circle in Guadalajara, patched on inside for $4, then patched again 2 days later.  Other flat on rear from metal sliver boarding boat to Roatan (Honduras) - 2 mushroom plug attempts and 2 sticky plugs.  Note: This rear has also been installed backwards twice.

TOP RIDES
Burrancas del Cobre, Mexico - C8/9R7T1V8
Espinoza del Diablo, Mexico - C8R5T3/4V8/9
Xela to Lake Atitlan, Guatamala - C7/8R8T3V9
El Paraiso/Nicaragua Border to Pan American - C8R8T2V7
Boca Del Toro to David, Panama - C7/8R6T2V8/9
Colombia? Descent to Medellin...
50km before Chata, Ecuador - C8R7/8T3/4V8
Machalilla National Park, Ecuador - Jipijapa to Montanita C6/7R7T2/3V8
100,000km passed 65km before Cuenca, Ecuador C6/8R6/7T2V8
Nazca towards Puquio, Peru (about 100km, 0 to 3000m elev.) - C7/8R7/5T2V8
Hwy 3S around Sicuani, Peru (Highlands) - C6R8T2V8
Copacabana to Tiquina, Bolivia skirting Titicaca - C7/8T6/7T2V8/9
First 100km out of Potosi to Uyuni (Hwy 701) - C6-8R6-8T1-3V8/9
Humahuaco to SS de Jujuy, Argentina (RN9) breathe taking mountain colours - C5R7T2V9
The Road of the Seven Lakes, Argentina (RN234) lakes and mountains - C5/6R7T3V8/9
First 50km out of Bariloche, Argentina (RN40) lakes and mountains - C5/6R7T1V8/9



General tips:
1) Give a gift to a flight attendant and you never know what you will get.
2) You can't wipe your hands on the grass in the desert because there isn't any!
3) Hotels.com is a sham and only posts the hotels that pay into it.  You can get a better price direct from the hotel or their website.
4) Watch out for Time zone changes, Durango to Mazatlan, Mexico is only 300km, but has a 2 hours difference.
5) No chance finding 10W40 Oil for the bike South of the USA.  20W50 is the choice.
6) Shit in public if you find a nice spot as you can't flush your TP at your friends house in Mexico.
7) Instead of patches for a tire carry a spare tube for tube or tubeless tires.  Don't use Slime!  Even if a certain shop owner says you should. (see 12)
8) Breathe out after sipping or shooting Tequila
9) 525 chains are not common in Mexico, hopefully in Colombia as I am carrying sprockets since Arizona
10) 2 Litre refundable Coke bottle can be used to carry fuel
11) Only 1 Suzuki shop in all of Guadalajara (8 million people), Moto Chavane and it's not that good.
12) If there is nothing wrong with your valves don't open them up to check under the advise of a shop owner you trust because he speaks English.
13) Always check the tire direction after a flat repair
14) Don't take what you have at home on your trip and make do, take or buy exactly what you need even if it is a little more expensive because it will be a lot more expensive on the trip.
15) Riding Copper Canyon, The Devils Spine and up to San Cristabol are not to be missed in Mexico!
16) I guess I confused an American girl: Cantonese is not what Canadians call their dialect of English
17) Mexican Border rip off.  I gave the Nogales border $444 US on my US credit card which they are to refund $400US when you leave.  They took $467 and returned $382, BULLSHIT!
18) SPOT doesn't work in Honduras and parts of Guatemala.
19) Gridian means Grigo indian mix - White mixed with Maya I guess
20) Guatemala vendors are like Seaguls, feed them and you will never lose them
21) Guatemala Soap Opera can be pretty bad - one screen done all in one take like a CBC kids show
22) Do not miss Santa Cruz and Hotel la Iguana Perdida on Lago de Atitlan
23) Do your personal immigration stamp in your passport before dealing with your vehicle.
24) LOWA boots are great against the rain if you keep the water from draining down your pant in to your boot.
25) Rain brings out some foul smells in Central America
26) Worst Towel of Trip - Hotel America, Comayagua, Honduras
27) Best Bed of Trip - Raul Tres Marias over the bridge, Zihuatanejo, Mexico
28) Credit fees can be anywhere from 2% to 12% so just pay cash.  Roatan bike shipping = 6% ouch.
29) It must be a requirement by law that you have to tint the windows of your entire car from Mexico to Nicaragua!
30) Wage for a house keeper in Nicaragua $100-150/month and Costa Rica $500/month making Costa more expensive for everything.
31) Light flashing in Guat, Hond and Nic means they either like your lights are on in the day time (which they always are if you ride Canadian or US bikes).  Light flashing in Costa Rica means cops are ahead (like Can, USA, NZ and Aussie)
32) BOOK YOUR BOAT CROSSING 1 MONTH AHEAD!!!  We lost our spot on Stahlratte for Jan. 3.
33) Don't let your travel stamp and open water bottle make love in the night.  Ink everywhere!
34) WIFI in the room, check it with your phone before agreeing to the room!!!
35) Ask a local if there is a free way to see or do something instead of mindlessly paying whatever tourist entry fee there is.
36) Be sure the camera and other electronics you buy are easily replaceable in other countries on your trip (Panasonic TS3 is not).
37) Best Bacon at Kaya's in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.
38) Sign of a good bar/hotel = resident drunk.
39) Learn how to fix toilets and showers to be ready for all the cheap hotel rooms and issues you will have.
40) Costa Rica has the worst borders during the holidays IN and OUT.
41) Only buy return tickets for things if you save a good amount of money as you never know where you'll end up and may find better return tickets once you get there (Roatan ferry!)
42) Don't recommend Bocas Bound Hostel on Bastimentes Island.  Too industrial.
43) Quietest toilet = Hotel Brisa Mar in Santa Catalina.
44) Not much for bike shops in Central America including Panama City (I didn't check San Jose).  Wait until Colombia for service as they have everything especially Suzuki and parts are some times cheaper than USA!  Buy parts in USA and install in Mexico and 2nd service in Colombia.
45) Slowest lunch of the trip at Volcano Mud Baths Colombia = 1.5 hours to prepare/serve a whole fish
46) Bags of water are typically 20% the price of bottles and I found them in Colombia and Ecuador
47) Best dive price is usually not the best dive experience.  Octopus divers in Taganga stayed at basically the same site for both dives.
48) Don't fall for the hooker eating street meat trick because you'll end up paying for two sticks.
49) 99% of the time restaurants one block back from the beach are cheaper.
50) Popped my sand riding cherry, but cheated with my feet down.  Need to bring that weight back.
51) Buy your beer or drink at a Tienda, then go in to the restaurant.  They won't say anything.
52) Road side RADAR cops wear fluro green, managed to spot them on the way to Puerto Berrio, Col.
53) Only a fool would buy another slice of cake from the same bad baker.  Sure it's different cake, but it's the same baker!
54) Best and strongest shower pressure = Hotel Central Plaza, Itague (Medellin).  Strong enough to hurt you nuts, ouch!
55) To get the best price tell them what you will pay.  Don't ask how much it is!
56) A cold water jacuzzi is not fun and doesn't sound fun, but it was an interesting experience.
57) Exploded Gold Bond powder in your case looks like a bag of cocaine opened in your gear, not good.
58) Better to stay 1 or 3 nights in a spot instead of 2.  2 nights you arrive late day 1 and leave early day 3 = 1 day to see the town in the light.
59) Ecuador is economical!  Food, Drink, Gas and Tires were probably the best cost / value of the trip.
60) Always get other contact details especially Latin Americans.  I've given out my card and stamp to at least 400 people with a FB and email contact rate of 10%.
61) In Latin America it's best to have change for everything although some times you can get things for free if they are cheap enough.  Only gas attendants have change.
62) Always break your big bills when getting petrol as per above point (61).
63) After dinner mints in Ecuador are basically halls cough drops, not sure I like this unless I have a cold.
64) Lucky not to wait in Cash Machine line ups in Central America, but not as lucky in South America.  It's quite normal that the cash machine doesn't even have money on Sunday.
65) Defective Continental Trail Attack tire is not supported by the company. Stick with Metzeler Tourance!
66) Never eat at the absolute cheapest restaurant unless you want rat or dog.
67) I actually met an American from Mississippi that couldn't understand me because of my accent, WTF!
68) Be careful, under elevation pressure your deodorant roller ball can pop out.  Watch your eyes.
69) Best shower of the trip at La Posada, Mancora.  8 setting adjustment, detachable and good pressure.
70) Worst pillow of the trip at Rivendell Hostel in Lima, Peru.  Threw it on the floor.
71) Best roast chicken of the trip in Puquio.
72) Cameras and GPS begin to fail at 4 deg C or less.
73) Crazy dogs and latin shops, especially restaurants and gas stations, who have dogs hanging around that like to chase cars.  Shop owners - Get rid of the dogs as it is not helping your business!
74) Altitude pills are basically diuretics drawing water away from the brain and lungs which protects you from altitude sickness.  Under pressure your body contracts, but the water does not = pressure.
75) First and only bath of the trip at Hotel Q'awana was a good idea as the body needed it.
76) Choose one: toothbrush or toothpaste if you were on a deserted island for a month?
77) Weak math skills?  Shop owners in Latin America seemed to miscalculate for the good and the bad.
78) DON'T forget your passport when you go to Machu Picchu, I was lucky to remember it!
79) Best Value for Money = Hostal Mosoq Inti Inn in Aguas Caliente; hot shower, private, comfy double.
80) Great Toilet Paper in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.  Bad TP in Argentina!
81) Bolivia is stunning, but you won't want to stay long.
82) Don't buy a 32GB USB stick, in original pack, from a street vendor for $7.  Really what were the odds of it working?  4000 to 1.
83) Highest Elevation of the trip on the way to the Death Road (Hwy 3), Bolivia = 4670m
84) Why do I need to pick up my toilet paper at the front desk of the hostel - example: Koala Den Potosi.
85) If you can find a super small town gas station in Bolivia you may be able to score gas at local prices!
86) Argentina is the only country to use Bidets and one of few with European power points in Latin america.
87) When they tell you the bike can be parked in the restaurant where it's safe, that means you can bring it inside at closing time around 3am, no thanks.
88) Using the Argentina Blue Dollar value versus the regulated exchange rate to buy pesos saves you Hundreds of dollars!
89) Shock in Mendoza when I asked is the bottled water 7 pesos?  The guy said no it's 6.  Unbelievable to me as most times on the trip if they get this chance they would charge you the 7.
90) To keep your expenses down eat before you invite girls out as you have to pay for them too in Latin America.  Very traditional and I believe men still earn more than women.
91) Everyone will want to buy your bike, but won't be able to do it because of Government restriction.
92) Bread with every meal in Argentina so be prepared to gain a couple kg.  Funny there is no talk of gluten intolerance yet.
93) Best bed (or Zihuatanejo) of the trip and worst toilet paper (use the bidet) was at Hotel Savannah in Cordoba.
94) Tough to find pepper on your table in South America and no ice is offered at restaurants in Argentina.
95) Think as a running toilet like a stream and you are out camping, it helps.
96) Apparently there is a proper way to use soap which Gui explained to me.  Minimal water is the trick.
97) Everything happens after 9pm in BA.  Eating before 10pm is crazy and walking your dog at 1am is normal.
98) I created something I call a French Luna, not sure which language to put it in yet.
99) Cooking with lemon is essential if you aren't using any sugary sauces, etc.  Nice meals Gui.
100) If you have a weak tooth in your mouth a nutshell filled tart will find it and break it, ouch!
101) Forget Brazil!  If you have less than 6 months on your passport (and you are Canadian) you can not get a 90 day tourist visa.  Kind of stupid if you have 5 months left on your passport like I did.  Urgh.
102) I have never seen more people drinking Mate (the tea type drink) in my life to date than in Uruguay.
103) Best Olives are from Argentina.
104) Bring USD to Argentina as the locals want it, but can't get it.
105) If Salt and Red meat are not in your recommended diet, may be Argentina is not for you.
106) In Latin America if you don't stop for police there's a good chance they won't care.
107) Don't take photos in front of or into banks.
108) The border at Salto between Uruguay and Argentina was the best on the trip.  Minimal traffic and a great bridge/dam crossing.
109) Never change money in a taxi in Latin America.  For example; giving a 100 pesos for a 35 peso ride will get you 5 and 10 peso notes along with a FAKE 50!  Urgh...
110) Latin economics - Labour is so much cheaper.  Dental, Laser hair removal, Tattoos, etc are all at a 1/3 the price of Canada.
111) You may think it's sexy that Argentinian women will share a beer with you, but that's actually a problem...You always have to share your beer!





USA
Good
Friendly People, cheaper parts, Great Couch Surfing network and people, good roads (no tolls!), beautiful scenery, safe, good drivers, pretty girls, clean water, good beer ($4).  BORDER: Me = Free, Bike = Free.
Bad
Eating big meals, higher prices, major cost for insurance,

MEXICO
Good
Friendly and helpful people, cheap food, cheap labour, cheap accommodation, good roads outside the cities, Walmart for familiar items, mostly good drivers (especially on hwy), patience when speaking Spanish to them!
Bad
Risk of going out after 10/11pm.  Not the best beer ($1.50) selection, rough roads in the cities, tough to get parts and consumables for bike, leaving signal light on for days (are they going to change lanes?) and trucks crossing the line on hwys, Mexican border rip offs.  Mexican Insurance is a waste ($91 for no coverage, 6 months).  BORDER: Me = $22 (twice if you lose your receipt), Bike = $44 with refund of $400 deposit (in reality it cost $467 and I got $385 which doesn't add to $444)

GUATEMALA
Good
Even more friendly than Mexico.  People will patiently correct your spanish and love that you speak so funny, roads can be amazing (two lanes climbing and descending mountains around Lago de Atitlan and more, less Topes (Tumulos), Santa Cruz on Lago de Atitlan (Iguana Hotel!), border crossing.  Rubber protectors on car doors. Beer = Monte Carlo and Moza (Dark) BORDER IN: Me = Free, Bike = $22+2(fumigation).  BORDER OUT: Me = $2, Bike = 1 photo copy. 
Bad
Roads can be pretty shit (even the Pan Am highway has bad spots), car back fires and constant fire cracker use, rare to find a street taco, chaos at Mex/Guat border crossing, Antigua is expensive.

HONDURAS
Good
Copan town and Ruins is a must and Roatan for diving (although go in March / April to avoid the rain), Great rate exchange at the border from quetzal to lempiras, good cheap food, beautiful women (likely some of the prettiest in Central America), Toll booths are free for bikes if you go through the correct lane, Roatan English accent is like Creol/Cajun in USA.  Best Beer: Port Royal.  Chicken and Bean Beleades at Cindy's in Roatan!  BORDER OUT: Los Manos, Me = $3, Bike = 0.
Bad
Don't do the TUNNELS in Copan!!! Roatan in the Rain (better in March)!  Border crossing in to Honduras (3 plus hours with lunch closing and tough changing of $100 USD)  BORDER IN: Me = $3 tax, Bike = 3 copies Rego, Passport, Guatemala bike check out and Honduras tax stamp.  Paying for a road toll because you went through the wrong gate (apparently you can't just turn around and go through the proper gate = $.40 per bike)!  Rain brings out some foul smells, Don't stay at Coconut Tree in Roatan or deal with dodgy owner Vincent!  Shipping bikes on passenger ferry to Roatan and back ($75 each way and full of sea spray). 6% Credit card fees.  Travelling to Roatan should be done by plane from Canada, etc.  Getting helper at border was a little chaotic and getting ripped off by exchange lady ($10 lost on $100 in exchange).

NICARAGUA
Good
Super cheap BEER!!!  Leon, Ometepe and San Juan del Sur including Maderas beach are musts.  Food is really cheap and good (beach front $12 for 3 lobster tails) Best roads in Central America, Barely any Topes, Apparently it's the safest country in central, BORDER IN: Los Manos, Me = $16, Bike $16 for insurance
Bad
Rice, Cheap Ciggies = too easy to smoke, school zones all over the highway and cars constantly flashing lights (I think to say my lights are one), people don't seem as trusting and friendly as other CA countries, TAX is not included in the prices!  Apparently crime is not reported that well so Nic being the safest country in CA is probably not correct. BORDER OUT :  Pam Am (terrible 2 days before Christmas) 1 hour, Me = $1 (helper), Bike = 0.

COSTA RICA
Good
People, food, roads, beaches, jungle.  Tamarindo for beach and eating (Gil's, Soda el buen Sabor de vida, Seasons restaurant for a splurge and way better value than El Lugarcito), Lake Arenal and Volcano Arenal.  Chollen Hot springs (the free one under the hwy).  Best Bacon at Kaya's in Pto Viejo.  Bike out took only minutes in an Air Conditioned room.
Bad
Too many police looking for speeders, a country with lots of rules should be safer, but it's not.  Pto Viejo is too dangerous for it's small size and location.  Don't get on the wrong side of Luigi jr at Luigi's in La Fortuna (2 girls damned money back after finding too many cockroaches in their room at 12am, there was some yelling). Hanging Bridges in La Fortuna are way over priced at $22.  BORDER IN :  Pam Am hwy(terrible 2 days before Christmas) 3 hours, Me = $0, Bike = $13 insurance, $4 Fumigation, $5 Tax, $10 helper.  BORDER OUT: Sixaola (1.5hour wait to get passport stamp Jan. 2) M = $0, B = $0.

PANAMA
Good
Bridge at La Mesa border, Balboa beer and $1 beer prices (as low as $.60 at shops), street food and cheap rice dishes, roads, beaches, jungle.  You can drink the water in some parts.  Bit safer than Costa Rica.  Bocas del Toro for partying, Santa Catalina for a quiet chilled out spot, Mountain pass between Bocas and David a must on a bike.  Panama Canal good to see.  Prive night club in Panama City where the girls are so hot you think you are in a strip club.  San Blas Island (just do a boat trip out to them and return to Panama would be my recommendation, may be 3 days or so)
Bad
Very conservative: Can't walk around with no shirt even in beach towns, no smoking in bars, 3 am bar close (either a country is loose or tight, not both) Bocas Bound Hostel on Bastimentes: Pineapple tasted like onion and cost $3 for a 1/4 of one, rooms were freezing cold with uncontrolled A/C, beds sucked).  Diving is expensive and not great in Santa Catalina. Too many police looking for speeders, a country with lots of rules should be safer, but it's not. Price to see Panama Canal $8. BORDER IN :  Sixaola (terrible Jan.2) 2 hours with thieving kids all around the bikes, Me = $0, Bike = $15 insurance, No Fumigation, No helper.

DARIEN GAP by boat
Bad
MS INDEPENDENCE ($450 per person and $400 per bike)
- The website advertises Air Con, jet ski, fishing, and other stuff that were never used.  Michel had reasons for everything and when he didn't he used his 24 yr old girlfriend (1st mate) to tell us we couldn't do or have something.  He was very verbally abusive to her.
- Only Michel is capable or allowed to use the launch, dingy and drive the boat (except when a passenger is doing it in the middle of the night on a straight course)
- Michel is also abusive to his crew and lacks foresight to prepare for what's ahead (ie: securing windows, packing stuff away, etc.).  So much clutter around the boat with disgusting pails of filters in greasy water which I asked him to clean up, but he never did.  The boat could be a fishing boat if it had nets and only crew.  Apparently it was restored in 2004, but who leaves carpet in the shower???
- Loading bikes was a nightmare starting at 4pm and finishing in the night around 8:30pm.   Why didn't we start at 10am?  A planless man.  In the end Michel said, "I didn't think the bikes were that heavy".  A 2"x10" plank we found on the ground was crucial.  If Michel would have just paid the locals $25 / bike it would have made it super easy.  He let them help on the last bike or two to make sure he kept a relationshit going.
- Too many bikes on deck.  Max bikes for this boat is 8 and we had 9 which included a 750lbs Harley!  No room for passengers to get around and especially no room for passengers to get around SAFELY.
- Don't even ask Michel about life jackets or weather reports.
- Toilets dependent on generator power which was only running less then half the day during cooking times.  Because of this the toilets had shit floating in them most of the time.  The smells mixed with the heat below deck were awful.
- Everyone had a bed, barely.  I stayed in the kids room at the front of the boat which had water leaks in multiple spots and the exit door could not close fully when the storm water was hitting the decks, so I got the hell out of there.
- Out of our 4 nights we anchored only one which is not the way any other boat does it!  We all were looking for a vacation and bought drinks for a couple good nights.  I was so focused on not puking I only managed to drink 6 beers the whole trip.
- In Cartagena Michel lets his import consultant ask for somewhere between $35 and 70 to help import the bikes in to Colombia (this is included with STAHLRATTE).  We actually got boarded by Customs as Michel had not reported correctly.
- During the trip Michel as two of the Europeans if they wanted to work on the boat to help with different language travellers.  They girls did not accept the job offer.
- BIKES NOT SAFE FROM SALT WATER AND SLIPPED AROUND DURING THE TRIP AS THEY WERE NOT FASTENED PROPERLY (few places to strap to the deck) 
Good
The San Blas islands are fantastic.
Other boats crossing the same time mid Jan 2012:
STAHLRATTE
- 3 crew that can run all equipment on the boat including 24 hours responsibility of driving the ship.
- 1 bathroom available 24 hours with a shower and a shower on deck also
- 2 separate nights docked at two different islands where you can relax and enjoy.
- 30 hours to do passage from San Blas to Cartagena
- crew wrap bikes to protect from Salt Water.
52' CATAMARAN - Name?
- 1 captain, 16 people.  He does the cooking and you are asked to do the dishes.
- They paid $450 for 4 nights and had 6 nights because the weather was not fit to do the crossing. 
- They did not cross to Cartagena, but entered Colombia earlier as the sea was rough.  The captain made smart choices on this boat.

COLOMBIA
Good
Cartagena, VOLCANO MUD BATH at El Tortumo, Santa Marta, Taganga, Costena Beach and sleeping in a kiosk and hammock, Medellin and Partying in Bogota.  A local experience in Pueto Berrio.  Attractive girls, fast good cheap lunches, late check outs (12-2pm), FREE toll roads for motorbikes, Bagged water saves money, pre-drinking at a local tienda for dirt cheap ($8 bottles of rum).  Watching hookers hang around is fun.  Breaking up two whimpy Colombians in a fight especially when the bouncer is half my size.  Roads are good for the most part.  Shower pressure at Hotel Central Plaza (Medellin).  Salsa Rosado = ketchup and mayo combined.  Streets with numbers, way better than names!  Carlos and Motohouse in Medellin.  Dias sin Carros in Bogota=less traffic.  Sam's buddy David and his family in Bogota.  Ambulance motos.  Great signage and a quadrant system in most cities = 1st street, 2nd street, etc.  Cautious rain driving in Cali, First city bypass of the trip!  Hervido de Maracuya.  LAS LAJAS AMAZING!  Friendly!
Great Toilet Paper. BORDER OUT = 5 minutes.
Bad
Food service can be slow for dinner, during lunch drinks turn up at the end, Lunch at Mud Baths, adjusting to Colombian drivers, phone thieves, fuel prices are higher, mountain roads when there are mudslides and all the construction associated with it, dry cake in Pto Berrio, too many hookers in Itague, rip offs if you let your guard down like the hamburger chick who went from $3 to $1.50 after Dan's good negotiation (should have passed on a late night street burger anyway!), 2 am bar closing in Medellin!  Paying Gringo prices.  Worse glove repair next door to Casa Kiwi in Medellin, Smeel of used hockey gear as I approached Bogota, their love of hot dogs and hamburgers, cops and paramedics riding double in Bogota.  Riding a moto in the center of Cali!  BORDER IN: passport cleared by boat captain = 6 hours. Bike took 1 day (including overnight) to clear customs.

ECUADOR
Good
Drivers a little less crazy than Colombia? Quito and the people (a lot of English speakers), Salsa lessons, Plaza Fuch, economical restaurants, low tire prices, El Arupo's unnamed Backpacker, the people are older than they look, Augusto Carrillo for storing my bike and taking me around town and Nelson Alava for helping with my bike issues and the rest of the Hormiga bikers, Pilsener beer, $0.25 bottle deposits can be collected to pay for more beer, Cockroach shots! Montanita for a bit of party (Cocktail Alley, $2.50 triples) and Beach Volleyball, Montanita during the week, Clean streets of Cuenca with so few garbage cans, Love of motorbikes.  BORDER OUT: 2 locations, First bike aduana simply drop of the paper, then 3km down the road get stamped out.  10min total (not passport immigration is a big blue compound on the left if you are heading south)
Bad
Northern road tolls for bikes = $0.20, simply annoying.  No change at shops.  Poor next day contact with people I met.  Halls after dinner mints.  Beer bottles have $0.25 deposits on each bottle and who knows which shop will honour the deposit.  Cockroach shots!  Montanita ocean has lots of rips.  Restaurants that are too cheap.  Finding accommodation in Montanita on the weekend.  BORDER IN: Not terrible, but missed it and it was lined up for the passport stamp.  No line for bike, but took 30 minutes.

PERU
Good
Friendly, cool, engaging, good main hwy roads, Mancora = Great showers and rolling waves, good accommodtion range, La Posada. No bike tolls, Huanchaco for super cheap ceviche!  Laynamp hostel,   Cusquena Negro is delicious beer, party potential in Lima, Homemade fries, Best roast chicken in Puquio, Machu Picchu, fantastic roads, Hotel Q'awana, Ollantaytambo, Aguas Caliente = Hostal Mosoq Inti Inn ($8!),
BORDER IN: Empty due to protests near Tumbes so 5 minutes and no line.
Bad
Dirtier than Ecuador which is emphasised due to the lack of trees, vegetation.  Heavy wind areas. Not many towns to stay in out side of tourist areas which can be quite spread out.  Protests and bombing during.  No bagged water so $1.50/3litres.  Gas is $5.50/gal, $1.40/litre and it's a big country so you feel the price more. Rivendell hostel Lima and their pillows. Miraflores/Lima, Huacachina and Cusco prices are very high compared to the Peru standard.  Why are there so many brick walls surrounding nothing in the desert?  Sand in your ears for 4 days after sand boarding.  Mountain dogs! Worst entry in to a tourist city was Cusco.  Altitude sickness. Finding out the best way to Machu Picchu.  Train costs to MP are ridiculously high in comparison to everything else. Cop stops and insurance checks. BORDER OUT: Only 20 min, but I was the only person. Got the feeling they were looking for bribes.  First police check point, migration for me, aduana for bike and police check again.  Leaving a country usually takes 5 min.  Definitely CHECK insurance.

BOLIVIA
Good
Best scenery of the trip! Less begging then other countries, super economical, Potosi beer.  Copacabana is a good spot, Lake Titicaca, La Cupula.  Hotel Astoria, Club 36, Eli's in La Paz.  Coroico, Death Road, Sol y Luna.  Highest point of my trip: 4670m. Potosi mine tour and beers with your fellow survivors after. (Candaleria).  Uyuni - Hotel Dairson, Salar de Uyuni and Train cemetery.  BORDER OUT: Small line that took 10 minutes for immigration and another 1 minute to hand in my aduana, once I found the exit line and I found the aduana window.
Bad
Worst TRAFFIC.  People are slower, not interested in your business and not very welcoming (especially hotels Julia and Avenida in Uyuni).  Multiple accommodation and buying of gas rejections. Introduction of a second gas price for non-bolivians.  Pacena beer.  Protesters.  El Alto.  Getting out of the Potosi mine the same when we came in.  Breathing at altitude inside a mine!  A miners life. Price of gas increase for non-bolivian as of March 2, 2012 about 3 times the price ($1.20/L).  Bad gas quality.  Pizza place in Uyuni with no running water in the bathroom?  BORDER IN: Migration for me was 3 minutes, but the Bike took 2 hours as per the Drunk Aduana Agent story http://thelifeofbrad.blogspot.com.ar/2012/06/mar-8-12-day-150-154-bolivia-north.html, also national police were snooping around for bribes.

ARGENTINA
Good
Very friendly and interested people.  Argies love motorbikes!  Quality gas up to 98 octane, shared borders so it all happens in one place more or less, BIDETS which addresses the no flush toilet paper issue! Dual power outlets, Empanadas, men and women sharing beer, medio lunas, some steak, Ruta 40 scenery, Salta Negra Beer, Schneider beer is smooth, parties begin after 12am, Salta, CAFAYATE, Mendoza, comfy, but narrow beds.  Paso de Los Libertadores, Bon O Bon chocolate.  Bariloche with great chocolate and scenery and good restaurants, 400 gram steaks!  San Luis was a pleasant surprise and the main hostel is quite good. No beggars in Villa de Merlo, Cordoba; Savannah Hotel has the best beds! Buenos Aires; Blowing through red lights, monthly rates for renting and parking are so much better, Quilmes Bock beer, Black market pesos/USD (5.8).  Adventure Hostel and their Banana Jam in San Ignacio, excellent empanadas at La Misionera in Puerto Iguazu, La Vaca restaurant and La Barrancas bar in Puerto Iguazu!  Pressured bottles of water. Great olives! BORDER OUT (Buenos Aires) via boat nice and easy expect for the booking and paying of the ferry ticket.  BORDER IN (Concordia) 10 minutes, but friendly with a great Dam/Bridge across.
Bad
Excessive police checks and slow borders (especially in Mendoza Province).  People continuously honking at you to say they like your bike (I guess it's not bad if you love the sound of a horn and know that's why they are riding your ass honking).  No St. Paddy's day in Salta. Fernet and coke.  Not asking how you like your steak!  Ruta 40 road.  Bad advice on directions and road conditions.  The myth that Argentina has smooth paved roads, haha. Losing bank cards because the machine pays you first.  "No senor you can not have the dinner menu yet - But it's 8:30pm."  Late starts to dinner and partying is ok, but 10am check outs are ridiculous in this system!  tissue thin serviettes.  Max withdrawal of 1000 pesos with $4 bank fees (exchange 4.2).  People looking to buy your bike and then bailing on the deal. Neuquen is more expensive because they have oil in the area.  Very hard to get food between 3 and 7pm.  Villa de Merlo no bank machines working (so changing money at a pub for 4.5 pesos to 1 USD) and gas station line ups 30min or more.  All-you-can-eat pizza places serve some rough pizza.  Argentinian Money is in the worst condition of all the money I have ever seen in my world travels.  Cordoba; Savannah Hotel has the worst Toilet paper (but they do use Bidets so it's not needed).  Buenos Aires; Arg girls seem more reserved then other latin countries.  Traffic light waits are massive - up to 5 minutes. Parking is $10/day for a moto.  Not enough smiling in the streets.  Yapeyu, North Arg not worth a visit.  Small bikes that make way too much noise suck at 3 am! Too many cop stops in the Northeast. Urinals are stack with moth balls, not a fan of that smell. BORDER IN (Bolivia/Villazon): Slow.  With a bike you get your passport stamped right away, but then the aduana guy takes his time and the bike gets a small inspection.  Could be better.  BORDER OUT (Mendoza/Santiago): Slow.  20 minute line just to park, then multiple counters on the entry and exit side depending if the people were on lunch or I'm not sure.  All I needed was a stamp in my passport and to hand back the Aduana.  It's was terrible, but could be better.  BORDER OUT (Volcano Lanin): 30 min for both bike and me, no inspection.  Small border so 10 people in line was busy.

CHILE
Good
Friendly people, high level road system, Paso de Los Libertadores, Valparaiso has a good location and university vibe, best empanadas, Santiago is nice, Hostel Ventana Sur - good beds and breaky, Good hamburgers at Yosanfood Colombian, Newen Kara and Liguria resto/bar for amazing steak.  Concepcion - Zappettini Moto! Hosts Rossio and Mari.  Great how close Santiago is to the coast and mountains.  BORDER OUT: 5 min for both me and the bike, easy.
Bad
Prices in general. Bank machines are very debit / credit card picky! Road tolls for motorbikes and expensive ($1/50km). Dogs peeing on my bike at Kunterbunt.  Terrible signage for hostels if any.  3 hole plug ins I've never seen before, nor has my adapter.  Gas is $0.10 higher a litre in the Lakes District. EARTHQUAKES.  BORDER IN (Mendoza):  Immigration was easy enough, Too many stamps on the aduana and I have no idea why.  Once I got in the right lines it only took about 15 minutes.

URUGUAY
Good
One of the most friendly people of the trip, smart, Montevideo; beach front everywhere, good size, good night life, Unplugged Hostel.  Punta del Este; huge party town in the summer with great beaches and nice restaurants.  Salto; Dayman thermals, Hotel Danaly and small town cheap labour for a tire change $6 including patch.  Zillertal beer.  The fact a restaurant in Salto (2000 Pizzeria) has a sandwich called the "Canadian".  BORDER IN (Colonia): friendly and easy.  Aduana good for 1 year!  Immigration done in BA.  BORDER OUT (Salto) 3 minutes all at one desk.
Bad
High costs; gas is $2/litre, accommodation in MVD and PDE was very high for your own room, food was a little higher than Argentina especially in Colonia; $14 for a sandwich and drink.  Government only allows 1 strength of cigarette from each brand (you can get Marlboro red, but not lights).  Only two bank machine providers even though there are many different bank machines - if you reach your daily limit with both of the two providers your done for the day $1500 USD.

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