We were in northern Argentina, spending our days poolside in the shade of peach trees and vineyards, when we realized that it had to come to an end. Because if we were ever going to get to Patagonia's glaciers before the roads became impassable with snow, we would need to exchange this warm-weather grape-eating lifestyle for one of down jackets and wooly hats. And it had to be soon, before we'd miss our window of opportunity to get to the Antarctic regions of South America while it's still summer there.
After four months of roughing it in Peru and Bolivia, Tim and I arrived at the Chilean customs office dirty, tired, beaten down by the cold wind, and on our last drop of gas and food. But once crossing into Chile, we coasted down 6,000 feet in elevation on perfect pavement (no need for gas!), and we could feel the sun warming our Bolivian-chilled bones as we entered Chile's Atacama desert. In less than an hour, we found ourselves awe-struck in the town of San Pedro de Atacama, as foreigners walked around in shorts and sun dresses, and the place was as modern and expensive as anything we'd seen since the States.
Nearby Calama was just like home (though not in the best way) with its own Walmart, fast food chains, and strip malls. There were pharmacies with cash registers, and gas stations that took credit cards and even had handicapped parking spots labeled on the asphalt. Of course, all this luxury came at a high price, as the cheapest room we could find in San Pedro was $30 a night (the same as paying for camping), instead of the normal $10. We were in culture shock plus sticker shock.
With the bike not starting from our ride through Bolivia's salt flats, we were in a bit of a predicament. Our dear and wonderful friends who'd stayed by our sides throughout it all, Brendon and Kira Hak, were on the verge of overextending their visa in Bolivia, and needed to go. Unlike us, their bike was fully functional, and their plan was to take a difficult, but gorgeous route south and out of Bolivia: the Lagunas Route.
But as Tim and I found ourselves immobile in the town of Uyuni, we knew that if we didn't get our bike running before they had to leave, we would not want to do such a challenging road by ourselves with a questionable motorcycle. Our plans and dreams of riding the Lagunas Route were now falling apart.
So the pressure was on for Tim to fix the bike, and he needed to do it by 11:00 AM the next day, which was checkout time for the Haks and the latest possible moment before they had to leave.
Yes, it looks awesome: the mirror effect of the largest salt flats in the world during the wet season. But don't let the surreal image of us riding through the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia fool you, because it has rendered our motorcycle immobile.
The amazing photographers who took this shot are our friends Kira and Brendon Hak, the fellow KTM-riding duo called the Adventure Haks. We met up with them for Christmas in Sucre, Bolivia, and then headed south together a few days before this epic failure-of-a-ride.
We entered Bolivia a little more than a week ago, excited for this new country of dynamic culture, mountains, and jungle. And to celebrate the holidays, we wanted to be in the white-washed colonial city of Sucre to meet fellow motorcycle travelers and friends for Christmas. That gave us nine days to get there from the Peruvian border and see all the fantastic sites in between. So we were a little rushed, but it didn't seem to be an impossible task. At least in the beginning.
By Tim Notier
After having been on the road for over a year, it is time to look back at our favorite items, and some that didn't make the cut.
The following is a list of the things we brought with us and why. We have not received any discounts or free merchandise for promotional purposes. We purchased these items with our own money, and due to that fact, better-quality and more expensive items may exist out there. These are simply our honest, unfiltered opinions on what we decided to bring on our trip.
After exploring the world of the Inca around Cusco and Machu Picchu, we knew that our time in Peru was coming to a close. But before we headed into Bolivia (arrived today!), there were a couple of things left in Peru that we wanted to see and get done.
By Tim Notier
Here is a brief Christmas idea list for those motorcycle enthusiasts in your life. These are some of our favorite items which have served us well on our round-the-world trip and we highly recommend. We are not sponsored by any of the products below, and bought each item ourselves with our hard-earned money. These are simply our fair, honest opinions after putting them through hell for a year and four months.
One of the seven wonders of the world and rightfully so, the lost Incan city of Machu Picchu is on many people's bucket list. But as picturesque, breathtaking, and mysterious as it is, in recent years it has become a tourist hot-spot, and an expensive one. And I'm not just talking about the ticket price. The Peruvian government knows that they can get more than twice the ticket cost out of every visitor because Machu Picchu is inaccessible by road, which forces everyone to take overpriced train rides there (from Ollantaytambo it's $45 per person one way, from Cusco it's $75 one way!).
For many people this is fine, as they have been saving up all year to spend a weekend in Peru seeing the sights, and the train is certainly the quickest and most comfortable way of getting to Machu Picchu. But for long-term travelers trying to keep to a budget, getting there can be such a headache and a dent in the wallet, that many are now missing it simply for the cost involved. And that is a real shame.
In the 15th century, it was the largest empire in the world, and it still captures the hearts and minds of people today. Though the Inca Empire didn't last long, it made its mark on South America by reshaping the landscape and creating structures that are still marveled at by people from around the globe.
Getting up-close and personal to Peru's Incan past has been a dream of mine since I was a child. And now that Tim and I finally found ourselves in Cusco, the old Incan capital, I could just feel the excitement mounting inside me. I wanted to see and experience it all.
And so we made a plan.
Check out our newest book: a Road Guide to Peru