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Bo 'n' Louise

A blog about one of our trips

The unprepared round-the-world tour starting 29th of June 2009.
First phase was from USA to South America on motorcycles. We made it, and the bikes are sold.
Second phase was the South Pacific... from island to island in old fashion backpacker style.
Third phase was around and around in Southeast Asia.
In fourth phase Louise went back to Denmark (August 2010) for work, while Bo continued in East Asia.
In fifth phase we were both on work, Louise in South America and Bo in Southeast Asia.
In the sixth phase Louise was in Denmark while Bo was making his way home through Russia.
By November 2010 both Louise and Bo were back in Denmark and an amazing journey has ended - but then there is always the next trip :-)

Trip data

Motorcycle info Posted on Sun, August 30, 2009 00:28:21

USA 64 km (plus side trips from San Diego)

Mexico 4890 km

Belize 864 km

Guatemala 1101 km

Honduras 208 km + 141 km (total 349 km)

El Salvador 334 km

Nicaragua 558 km

Costa Rica 902 km

Panama 1424 km

Colombia 4704 km + 496 km (total 5200 km)

Ecuador 2794 km

Total 18480 km



Border crossings

Motorcycle info Posted on Sun, August 30, 2009 00:21:07

All numbers are for one person with motorcycle.

USA – Mexcio: Tijuana

Cost: 0 USD + 260 Ps+ 404 Ps
Photo copies: 2
Time: 2 hours

Before we knew it we had left USA and entered Mexico. After custom we had to find the Banjercito office which is close to the border passage, but not adjoin to it. There are signs to it, but they are hard to see. We just asked people. The actual immigration and temporary vehicle permit is made here. The officers are nice and speak a little bit of English.

Mexico – Belize: Chetumal

Cost: 0 Ps+ 0 Ps + 0 Bz + 0 Bz
Photo copies: 0
Time: 2 hours

Get stamped out of Mexico, then go to Banjercito and cancel your temporary vehicle permission (important if you plan to visit Mexico again). They need to see your bike, so bring it to the Banjercito office after you got the stamp from immigration.

The Belize is easy, fast and friendly. Just ask the officials what to do.

Belize – Guatemala: Ben Viejo

Cost: 37.50 Bz + 60 Q
Photo copies: 10
Time: 2 hours

Getting out of Belize was easy. Got stamped out and then handed over the temporary vehicle permit we got when entering Belize. Entering Guatemala was surprising painless. The only thing is that custom need photocopies of all the papers and the photo copy shop charge 1 Q per copy (meaning per item that need photo copied, not per page)

Guatemala – Honduras: El Florido

Cost: 10 Q + 3 USD + 29 USD
Photo copies: 2
Time: 2 hours

We had heard horror stories about the Honduras custom, so we were delighted to experience a very painless crossing. The only weird thing was the custom needed one photocopy of passport and registration. When we already had that, she needed two copies, which we also had.

Honduras – El Salvador: El Poy

Cost: 0 L + 0 L + 0 USD + 0 USD
Photo copies: 0
Time: 3 hours

Friendly officials and it looked very promising when we were welcomed by an very efficient Honduras custom officer. Unfortunately our case changed hands and we got the most incompetent gentle man, who managed beside taking ages to print our passport number wrong and write on our original registration papers for the bikes. Moron.

El Salvador – Honduras: El Amatillo

Cost: 0 USD + 0 USD + 3 USD + 43 USD
Photo copies: 9
Time: 3 hours

This border crossing has a very bad reputation, and they deserve every single bit of it. Three kilometer before the border we were meet by the El Salvadorean custom along with a handful of border helpers. The custom officers needed to cancel our vehicle permit and needed one photocopy for that (which was done right there).

Then we got to the immigration building which the two countries shares. The El Salvador typed us in their computer system (even though we were not typed in when entered) while Honduras took 3 USD for entering, regardless of the CA-4 agreement stating it should be free of charge. At least we got a receipt. Then the Honduras circus started regarding the vehicle permit. The Aduana (customs) has their own building a bit further from immigration. They charge the same fee as other Honduras border crossing plus an additional AduanNet fee, making crossing here ridiculously expensive, and not worth the money or time if you have other options. The procedure was a following: First we got the formula filled out, then we visited AduanNet in a gray building 30 meters further up the road. Then two photocopies of pretty much everything and finally we only need to make a bank payment. The bank is only open during daytime weekdays and 8-12 on Saturdays. But of course border officials are willing to let you pay direct to them when the bank is closed under the promises that they first thing in the morning go to the bank. It seems that if they have a chance to delay your stay, so you can’t make it to the bank, they will. Of course we don’t know this for sure, maybe they are really going to the bank in the morning, but we have our doubts. We waited overnight at the border so we could go to the bank ourself (we didn’t want to grease the Honduran wheel of corruption, and it was late and there was a hotel at the border with save parking anyway).

Honduras – Nicaragua: Guasuala

Cost: 0 L+ 0 L + 7 USD + 0 USD
Photo copies: 0
Time: 3 hours


Nicaragua – Costa Rica: Peña Blancas

Cost: 2 USD + 0 C + 0 USD + 0 USD
Photo copies: 5
Time: 3 hours

Normally the exit formalities are the easy ones, but on this border crossing the most time consuming was figuring out how to exit Nicaragua correctly. First pay one dollar for something at the little white house before the Aduana gate. Then drive through the Aduana gate which is illogical located in the left side of the road. Show passport and then show vehicle permits to get at little slip of paper. Then go to the immigration building (which stated “entrance to Nicaragua”) and get stamped out of Nicaragua. Then find a custom officer to verify the slip of paper and then find a police officer to do the exact same. Not much checking was done, though the costum officer checked the license plates. Must say though that all officers were nice and friendly. Then we had to go to the custom building and get the vehicle permits cancalled.

Then we had to enter Costa Rica. First immigration, then buy mandatory insurance, take photo copies of passport (front and stamped page), drivers license, insurance, and title (or registration) and to the custom office to get the application. With that is filled out, we then had to find the custom bus (yes, a bus) which was hidden behind a parking lot packed with trucks. And wupti, we got our permits.

Costa Rica – Panama: Sixaola

Cost: 0 USD + 1 USD
Photo copies: 2
Time: 2 hours

As easy as it gets in Central America. Stamped out of Costa Rica before the bridge. Cross the bridge, which is actually the hardest bit, and then get fumigated on the Panama side (1 USD). Stamp in and then Aduana for the bike. Note that you now need mandatory insurance.

Panama – Colombia: Sailing through the San Blas to Cartagena

Cost: 0 USD + 0 USD
Photo copies: 3
Time: 2 days

We went by sailboat from Panama to Colombia. Our captain made sure that an officer came on board before departure to exit stamped our passport. The Panamanian vehicle permit got also stamped as proof that the bikes have left the country.
Entry to Colombia took a bit more time. Again our fine captain (from Stahlratte) took care of getting the entrance stamp to Colombia. It took some hours before we finally could get on land. Then the Aduana has to be visit, down next to the cargo harbor. The fine folks there are helpful and friendly (and the ladies pretty sexy… welcome to Colombia) and you only need 3 photocopies which can be obtained across the road. They check the bike, so bring it. And that is it… and then you just has to find the SOAT office (Seguros Del Estado S.A.) in the old part of town (Edificio Banco de Bogota Piso 8) to get the mandatory insurance (about 25 USD for two months).

Colombia – Ecuador:

Cost: 0 USD + 0 USD
Photo copies: 3
Time: 2 hours

Easy to get stamped out of Colombia. They didn’t even want to see the motorbikes. The Ecuadorean side was almost as smooth. First stamp in passport (well, machine print) and then find the little guy who was in charge of the temporary vehicle permit. He was a bit slow and was mostly interested in getting some numbers into the computer. He did have a look at the bikes though.



Insurance

Motorcycle info Posted on Sun, August 30, 2009 00:15:39

USA

Company: Progressive
Cost:

The rules are different from state to state, but in California it’s mandatory to have liability insurance (cover people and things you hit) when driving. But by having foreign motorcycle license (along with international) and only need insurance for a short time most companies don’t want to cover you. The trick is to pretend that you are settling down in the US and don’t have your US license yet. The Americans are super service minded so pretty much every insurance policy can be canceled at any time, which mean that before you have promised to provide your “newly acquired” US license (normally around 30 days), you are out of the country and have canceled the policy and ending up only paying insurance for a short time, maybe a month. You can also choose to cross into Mexico as soon as the bikes are bought and skip the hassle with the American insurance, but then you probably shouldn’t take the bike for test rides. We bought Progressive through an very helpful agent.

Mexico

Company: Qualitas
Cost: 71 USD for six months

Mandatory to have and police might ask for it. We bought ours at right before the border, before we entered Mexico.

Belize

Company: Insurance Corporation of Belize
Cost: 23 USD for 14 days

Mandatory to have and police will ask to see it (pretty much the only thing they ask for). Easy to get when you cross the border (don’t use the agents before the immigration claiming it’s the only place to buy it). We bought from company office across the road from the immigration area.

Guatemala

To our knowledge insurance is not mandatory and no one sold it at the border (though we didn’t look very hard). Claims are often settled on the spot, cash. Apparently best done before authorities are involved.

Honduras

None, the same as Guatemala.

El Salvador

None, the same as Guatemala.

Nicaragua

Company: Same price and cover for all companies at the border
Cost: 12 USD for 30 days

Mandatory for liability insurance and it is sold on the border (the ladies will find you).

Costa Rica

Company: One companies in the same building at immigration
Cost: 13.50 USD for three months

Mandatory for liability insurance and it is sold on the border.

Panama

Company: Only one company at the border.
Cost: 15 USD for one month

Everywhere you read it states that insurance in Panama is not mandatory, but this has changed per 2009. Liability insurance is now mandatory and sold at the border.

Colombia

Company: SOAT sold through agents
Cost: 25 USD for two months (which is the minimum)

Insurance is mandatory and the police is more interested in seeing this piece of paper than anything else. So get it, since there are many check points.

Ecuador

We asked at the border and they didn’t think we needed it. So we didn’t get it.



Bikes and gear

Motorcycle info Posted on Sun, August 30, 2009 00:11:10

Why buy motorcycles in USA

Initially we didn’t want to start in the US. Our plan was only to do South America (SA), but after many many hours on the web we found out that buying bikes in SA can be very limited. It seems pretty close to impossible to buy locally, get proper registration and bring the bikes out of that country. If you only want to tour one country, like Brazil or Argentina, buying a bike locally seems feasible but don’t count on crossing any borders on it. So the only real South American option was buying from other travellers with a foreign registered bike, forge the title with photoshop, and do the handover in no-mans land on a border crossing. But since we need two bikes at the same time, this option seemed risky. So we ended up in the US, in our case San Diego, where it’s possible for foreigners to buy motorcycles legally. The prices are good, there is a selection and you can buy the necessary equipment and gear if needed. But remember that things take time.. Shopping for used bikes is normally done through Craigs list (www.craigslist.org) and Kelley Blue Book (www.kbb.com) can give an indication of price, though the price level is normally higher.

What motorcycle to choose

There seems to be three options:

1) Kawasaki KLR 650
2) BMW GS of some sort
3) Suzuki DR 650

KLR
Pros: Simple mechanical and big tank (23 l)
Cons: Heavier than the Suzuki, tall and mods need to be done (like the doo-hickey)

Suzuki
Pros: Light and equal simple regarding mechanics as the KLR. The police use this bike in many countries through out the Americans, so spare parts and tires are more available than for the KLR.
Cons: Small tank and not that many used ones for sale in the US.

BMW
Pros: Well, it’s a BMW
Cons: Expensive and parts are more expensive and difficult to get throughout the America.

The most popular choice is the KLR, so we went with two KLRs from ’04 and ’06 (which mean they were identical beside the colors since nothing has changed with the model until ’08).

How to buy a motorcycle in USA

When buying used the safest way to change the ownership is to go to a DMV office together with the seller and do the paperwork there. If the paperwork is not in order the DMV will tell you. If the seller don’t have time to go (most won’t) they will hand you the signed “pink slip” (title), which you then has to bring to the DMV. Make sure the title is “clean” (that the bike isn’t salvaged, which means has been damaged). Do not buy if the seller don’t have the “pink slip” no matter what insane reason they might come up with – NO exception – else you can not be sure that the seller is the legal owner of the motorcycle. Check the “pink slip” to see if the owner name fits the seller’s (see seller driver license) and check the VIN of the motorcycle (it is stamped into the frame usual in the front). Any DMV office can be used, so pick one with the shortest wait (can be checked on the web) and an appointment (which can be booked online) can shorten the wait though it isn’t necessary. The time from when you have declared title transfer to you actually get the new title with your name on can take long time (you need a US address), up to three months though two to three weeks seems to be the norm. If you want to travel beyond USA before you get it, then bring the registration DMV gives you. Remember to send the “release of liability” (attached to the top of the “pink slip”) back to the DMV when you sell the bike to release you of ownership (this release form can also be obtained from the DMV without having the “pink slip”). Do note though that your name will still figure in the records until the new owner do the registration.

Buying gear in USA

Though some of bike shops are the sizes of hangars, their stock (for jackets, pants, boots and protection) is surprisingly small. Count on having to order gear, but luckily the wait is rarely more than a couple of days. We used South Bay Motorsports in Chula Vista in south of San Diego.

Needed modifications and extras

Any KLR going on a journey needs the “doo-hickey” upgrade (use google if you don’t know what it is). We were so lucky to be taken under the wing of Eagle Mike himself, which gave us a much needed insight in the for us secret world of the KLR.

The following upgrades/accessories are what we after month on the road consider a must:

1) Doo-hickey fix
2) Handguards
3) Skitplate
4) Panniers

and the following will be very very nice to have

1) Gel or custom seat (like Corbin or Sergeant)
2) Motorcross pegs
3) Progressive springs, both front and rear

Fixing and maintaining the bikes

The KLR is lucky fairly easy to maintain and the stuff that broke on the road we were able to fix ourself with our small tool kit.

Maintenance we did on the road:

1) Cleaning and lubing the chain
2) Changing oil and oil filter
3) Cleaning and reoiling the air filter
4) Tighting bolts and screws
5) Changing brake pads

Things we managed to fix on the side of the road:

1) Flat battery
2) Loose connections in the electric system
3) Broken wires

Things we got done at a workshop:

1) Change tires (make sure you supervise any service done by so-called mechanics… most don’t have a clue about parts that they are not use to fix… in Costa Rica they manage to damage the rear brake pads when changing the tire)
2) A broken control grip from a knock while sailing from Panama to Colombia (not really fixed, just made working).



Eagle Mike

Motorcycle info Posted on Sun, August 30, 2009 00:08:03

We only knew his name as the person who make the doo-hickey upgrade for the KLR. A name that keeps popping up in KLR forums. Little did we know that he actually lived in San Diego, where we also stayed. Another KLR owner told us that he had a workshop and that he might have some spare parts, so an innocent visit to his workshop was our gateway to learn how to fix a motorcycle, something we knew jack about before. Mike is big, bald and more than helpful. His knowledge about the KLR is equally huge, and even better, he is willing and have patience to share this. Mike took us under his wing even though he was busy with his real business (making custom parts). We had two bikes that need this-and-that and during a week we spend hours in his shop following his gentle instructions. It was a very cool felling splitting the bike apart for then putting it back together and make it run again (and for the better). Beside learning specific KLR stuff, he gave us the confidence to try to fix stuff. So when one of bikes didn’t want to start in jungle of Belize, we didn’t hesitate a sec to rip parts off and get to the battery. And yep, we made it run again… as well as all the other times later on.

A cool guy with a cool bike

Thanks Mike!