Hasta la vista, Lima

[Jeff] Shipping the bikes is becoming an issue and we have to rethink our options. The impending problem is that our temporary vehicle import documents expire in two weeks, at first we thought that we should be able to overcome this by getting an extension, however it turned out to be a wake up call when we looked into it further. It was very difficult to get an extension (read...impossible), and our bikes would be confiscated if we tried to leave Peru after the expiry date, in other words we need to get a move on.

Over the past 4 weeks we have been pursuing a quote given to us by OrbeCargo to ship our bikes by sea to Los Angeles, we also asked them for a quote to send the bikes to Vancouver. They have been stringing us along and we're getting nowhere with them, every time the answer to our email is along the lines of "we are checking with U.S. customs and will give you an answer this evening". This is the answer to every email, by the way, regardless of the questions, I'm pretty convinced that we could ask "How do I successfully become a Justin Bieber fan?", and the answer would be "we are checking with U.S. customs and will give you an answer this evening".

We consider riding to Ecuador if we can't organise shipping in time, it's 1100km to the border and figure we'll need at least a week to ride it, as Sally hasn't ridden in 11 weeks. It's not ideal and we shelf it as a last resort. We decide to contact a freight forwarder that had given us a quote to fly the bikes to Vancouver. The company is Global Network Logistics and our contact is Cesar Gamero. Cesar is very responsive, but he hasn't shipped motorcycles before and doesn't speak any English. According to Cesar we can't ship our bags (mostly camping gear, tools and spare parts) in the same crates as the bikes, meaning that we have to unpack the bikes completely and get a seperate crate made to hold our camping and riding gear. This makes sense, as I'd heard a horror story from another motorcycle blogger about this situation (their bike was held up at customs for weeks because they wouldn't clear the luggage without a separate declaration). Cesar also says that we should put both bikes in one crate, but this also doesn't ring true from our experience as we know that each bike needs to travel on it's own Airway bill and therefore in a separate crate. We'll sort out these details later and agree to go ahead and setup a meeting for the coming Friday at the customs broker's office. 

In the meantime Sally is continuing with physiotherapy, it's at the same hospital but the physio department is run in a totally different manner to the surgery, they run to a schedule, an 8:30 appointment means 8:30, so the appointments mean much less waiting around and go far more smoothly.

Friday rolls around and we get a taxi to "Lima Cargo City" near the airport. Traffic around the area is bedlam, but we know Lima well enough by now to have guessed this and left plenty of time, arriving with 45 minutes to spare. Entering the office building we're asked to surrender our passports in exchange for a building pass, normally this would present a problem as we'll need our passport to complete the shipping arrangements, however as we carry both British and Australian passports we hand over the Oz ones with no qualms. Stepping into the elevator among a crowd of other people a man singles us out and makes motorcycle motions (the universal sign of the motorcycle by twisting the wrist back and forth), we assume he is Cesar, Sally later says she assumed this because his haircut looked like Julius Caesar's. 

We are brought up to an office belonging to a customs broker, M&D logistics solutions. Here we "meet" several people - no one really introduces themselves and no one says what they do, it makes for much confusion in the first hour of the meeting. Sally and I kept referring to the guy from the packing company, Jorge, who we'd hired to make the crates for us, only to find out after an hour that he was one of the guys sitting next to me.  We also keep thinking that the Julius haircut guy is Cesar, until the real Cesar shows up to the meeting an hour later. Slowly the plot unravels and we work out who is who by sheer deduction. There is a young man, Paulo who speaks reasonable English which helps abundantly.

Paulo [left] and Hernando [right]

We're there for 4 hours, but by the end we have made great progress. The customs broker agrees with us that we need each bike in a seperate crate but that we can put our camping and riding gear in with the bikes. Jorge, the packing guy comes back to our apartment with us (it's 7:00pm) to measure the bikes. He wants to prefabricate the crates and do the final packing at our apartment. From this point on we are mostly dealing with the customs broker, Hernando (aka Julius Caesar haircut guy) and Paulo.  

Jorge wants to come on Monday to pack the bikes. Before he comes I need to drain all the fuel out of them, disconnect the batteries and make sure they're clean so that they pass the dangerous goods inspection and Canadian customs soil inspections. Draining the fuel becomes an issue thanks to our giant bottomless petrol tanks. I fill one 7 litre bottle and another seven 2 litre soft drink bottles, unfortunately due to various people coming by and talking to me I am distracted and overflow the bottles several times, spilling copious amounts of fuel all over the place. People in the building complain about the smell and I have to leave my activities to be continued at various short intervals under cloak and dagger while no one is around. The bikes therefore don't get a good clean and I hope that they're not rejected by Canadian customs, especially since I've been talking to a guy recently who had this happen to him.  

The complaints about the petrol smell came from one person, a particularly grumpy woman who happens to live across the hall from us, she kicked up quite a fuss and I'm not looking forward to Monday when crating the bikes will no doubt cause some level of disturbance. I bump into her husband and we have a good chat, he's quite reasonable and I mention what I'm doing on Monday, he says it should be fine.

We now face another of Peru's small challenges, everyone wants paid in cash (US$)! That's right, no one will take a credit card and we can't do a bank transfer as it takes too long to process! It's going to be around 9K all up to ship both bikes, including crating. We scratch our heads to work out what the best way to access all this cash is, we look into doing a transfer to ourselves through Western Union but in the end the "cheapest" (in terms of bank fees) option is to stand in front of an ATM and get $400 at a time out (the maximum withdraw amount allowed from the ATM's). We're aware of the security problems around this activity, so we scope out a number of machines around Miraflores, trying our best not to look dodgy, but inevitably looking like we are up to no good as we hang around taking multiple turns at each machine.  


Monday comes and Jorge arrives with a truck full of wood and packing materials. We setup base on the pavement out front of the apartments and load the first bike onto a pallet before anyone has a chance to complain. I whip the front wheel off (a necessary step in crating motorcycles to reduce their overall size by dropping the motorcycle onto it's front forks) and Jorge and his partner proceed to strap down and wrap the first bike. At one point the bike topples over onto Jorge's partner as Jorge was securing it, I pretty much comprehend the string of Spanish expletives that follow. As the fist crate is assembled we are starting to draw attention, the tourist police show up on motorcycles, but my luck is in and I happen to know one on them from when I lost my bag. He screams up on his motorcycle, recognises me right away and gives me a huge thumbs up, we have a quick chat and he just wishes me luck and a good journey. As we get the second bike on it's pallet, grumpy woman wants out of the carpark. The driveway is clear but she can't see down the road because of the crates on the pavement, she overreacts, completely bewildered by the situation even when the doorman and Jorge help by stopping the traffic to guide her out. I need not worry, the doorman and Jorge brush off her barrage of whinging as she storms off. 

Jorge's principal to packing seems to be that he must use every scrap of material that his customer paid for, the end result is crates that are too big (costs us extra for freight) and bikes that have a billion layers of wrap on them.  Nevertheless, the bikes are all "put to bed" and the truck arrives, now the real fun begins. The truck blocks half the street, the police arrive in minutes, it's then that I notice the low-hanging power lines above our crates. I leave it to the truck driver / crane operator to placate the police and get on with it. The doorman is nervous about the power lines and the front fence of the apartment getting bashed in by the crane.  I sweat when our bikes are lifted off the ground on old worn out slings, the wood is soft and the crates buckle and groan under the strain, they are roughly jimmied this way and that until coming to rest on to the truck bed one at a time. The truck heads off and we bid farewell to Jorge - after paying him in cash.

Jorge and his partner starting on the first bike

One mummified bike

Here you can see the crate is too tall, we took accurate measurements afterwards for next time

Starting on the second bike

Second bike all wrapped up

The truck arrives...

We would never use such worn out slings back home... :-(

Almost there.

Three types of Police turn up...these guys...

...and yellow and blue ones, do we get a prize for collecting the whole set?

Loading the second bike

Keeping an eye on the power lines

Three different types of Police turn up. The Tourist Police (blue uniforms) were most confused and kept at arms length from the whole business, their job is to help tourists, but tourists aren't supposed to be behave like this!  




Hernando's office.....and lot's of this going on.

We're on track now, to get the bikes out of Peru just days before the papers expire. Our next meeting at the customs broker will involve getting the bikes through customs clearance. Turning up at Lima Cargo City again we collect Hernando and Paulo and they take us over to get some documents endorsed at a pokey and chaotic little office of the local court clerk. She refuses to sign the documents unless a translator is present, Hernando loses patience and storms out saying we'll just go straight to customs. Over at customs we enter the secure area by surrendering our Australian passports in exchange for a pass and go though a metal detector. Hernando almost bullies the customs agent into stamping the documents, nullifying the requirement of the court clerks endorsement. We now jump in an ancient disintegrating collectivo (call me crazy but I haven't missed them) back over the manic highway to Cargo city to wait for the customs inspection. A couple of hours go by and the customs agents haven't made themselves available to perform the inspection. Hernando says that we don't have to hang around, so we leave our passports with him and head back to the relative serenity of Miraflores.

The customs inspection never happened that day, but the next morning Hernando contacted us asking for another $60 to help "encourage" the customs agent to come and make the inspection. Later in the morning Hernando said that everything was ok and Cesar also contacted us saying that it was ok. We now had the Airway bill and confirmed booking in place so we booked our own flight out of Lima via Newark to Vancouver. We made one more trip to the mayhem of Lima Cargo City to collect our passports and say cheerio to Hernando and Paulo. 

Last night in Lima

That evening we had dinner at our favourite restaurant and one final round of Pisco Sours. Later we realised that we had been in Lima too long when we stopped into our local shop - as soon as the owner saw us he plonked down a bottle of "our" wine on the counter and asked "one bottle or two"? 

Our flight out of Lima is at 10:30pm, so we take it easy for the day, our host lets us stay in the apartment until 6. I hadn't been able to get hold of Alfredo, the good Samaritan who handed my bag and documents into the Australian embassy until now, despite several calls and texts, however I did have his address and had made up a thank you card (made, because such things had proven not to exist in Lima town), so I headed around to his house to see if he was in, he wasn't so I pushed the card containing a thank you token amount of dollars under his door. We headed off to the airport, taking 2 hours to do the 20km journey. We decided to treat ourselves on this last trip to the airport by picking up a "nice" taxi from the Marriott hotel, meaning that we could have a conversation with the driver in english and that we could concentrate on said conversation, because we would not have to hold the taxi doors shut or brace for the ever-present imminent impact of being crushed between two buses. 

The airport checkin queue is fairly busy, Sally still has her sling - not so much to support her arm anymore but to try and make people aware not to bump into her. Sally reeeeeeeely dislikes queues and will do just about anything to avoid it, so she decides to try her luck by donning the sling and asking the attendant if we can join the priority line (there is no line, we're the only ones in it). So 2 minutes later we are checked in and heading through security and customs. All the rest goes smoothly and we board the plane which is bound for Newark where we need to change for Vancouver. In Newark we have an 8 hour layover, so we settle into the United Airlines lounge for the wait. We end up arriving in Vancouver at around 7:00pm, fairly tired having had little sleep since two nights ago but excited to be in Canada. The customs agent queries us on how long we want to stay and whether we have a return ticket booked (we don't), but she seems to accept our answer that we don't need a forward travel ticket as we have motorcycles arriving and we declared them on the immigration card (under unaccompanied goods). It's now Saturday and our motorcycles are due to arrive on Monday morning. 

We have a room in a share house booked in Richmond which is 10 minutes from the airport. We drop our bags and wander off down the road to a group of shops, finding a Sushi restaurant for our first meal in Canada.    

The next morning we check on the bikes via the Airway bill tracking and see that they arrived safely in Toronto and are on track to arrive in Vancouver on Monday morning.  It's Sunday so we decide to checkout Vancouver by catching a train into town. On the way to the station we stop at a Canadian institution - Tim Hortons - for breakfast. Once in the city it doesn't take us long to discover that Vancouver has a fantastic micro-brewery scene and we find ourselves at one called Steamworks, sampling a few of the local ales. We decide to go and see a movie, the new Ghostbusters, Sally buys a box of popcorn, the smallest one available and it last her 4 days (no kidding!). When we come out of the cinema it's still light outside. We catch a train back to Richmond and then have a long walk back to the house which does us good to walk off the beer, dinner and popcorn.

One Monday morning we check on our Airway bills and it looks like the bikes have arrived in Vancouver. We make some calls before going out to organise insurance for Canada and the U.S. While we're having a late breakfast at an excellent little smoked sandwich joint up the road, I get a call from Air Canada Cargo to let us know that our bikes are ready for collection. The chef at the restaurant is good enough to call us a taxi and we find our way to the Air Canada Cargo office just outside the airport. Inside we hand over our Airway bills and the woman checks them over and makes sure the cargo is ready to collect, we're not allowed to touch them until customs has inspected them. We take the paper work over to the customs office a 5 minute walk away, the office is pretty quiet and we are seen straight away, they're very friendly and tell us they're going over to inspect the bikes right away, an immense difference from Lima where nothing was done right away. We go next door to Tim Hortons for a coffee and return to the customs office after half an hour, it's all fine and our papers are stamped. Back over to the Air Canada office and we pay $60 per bike clearance fees and are sent around to the warehouse. The woman on the front desk knows her stuff and has guessed that they are motorcycles because of the dangerous goods certification. She knows that we will need fuel and tells us how to get to the petrol station, then hops on a forklift and puts the crates in a shady spot for us and offers us tools to break the crates open. It couldn't be easier.

I break the first crate open, the bike has partly fallen over inside the Crate, but because of Jorge's enthusiastic use for cardboard and bubble wrap they are well protected. We work steadily on the bikes over the next couple of hours, unpacking, putting the front wheels on, loading the bags and panniers. At regular intervals we stop and chat to one of the forklift drivers who feeds us information on recommended routes and things to see. We originally planned to head directly south to the U.S. and go to Oregon where we'll fit steering dampers to our bikes, however by the time we finished talking to the forkie we've decided to head in the exact opposite direction to Whistler. It's late afternoon by the time we're ready to leave, Sally does a few practice rounds of the car park, her first time on the bike in twelve weeks and she looks comfortable and natural. It's an easy ride, wide streets and hardly any traffic back to the house. It's late and most restaurants close at 9pm, so we gather our remaining strength and resolve to walk to an Irish pub 5km away which we are pretty sure will be open, it is and - still serving food. We get back to the house at 2am.

2 Crates, good start!

Both bikes had fallen onto their sides, but no problems

Wallace is free, almost

Gromit joins him

Assembling Gromit

Gromit is read to roll

Wallace too.

Sally's taakes a spin

Thumbs up!

Wallace and Gromit put to bed at our house in Vancouver

Outlook from Stanley Park 

Tuesday morning, we decide to take a ride out to Stanley Park to see how Sally's arm holds up, we end up riding through the middle of Vancouver in fairly busy traffic, but it's a doddle after any South American city. After Stanley Park we look for a motorcycle shop, Sally wants slightly larger gloves and I need a new pair too as they're full of holes and the stitching is coming apart. I get a new disc lock too as I only have one key for mine, if I lose that and the disc lock is on I'll be kicking myself as I've been aware of it for a while.  We pick up another spare clutch lever as well, to replace the spare I was carrying and used on Sally's bike after a drop on Ruta 40 in Argentina.

Canadians are a friendly bunch and we're enjoying being able to converse freely in our native language. On the way back from the motorcycle store a guy in a huge old convertible pulls along side us at the traffic lights and yells over the throbbing V8 "Where you from?", Sally yells back "Australia", he gives us a big thumbs up. We end up behind him for a while, until he goes to turn off, he stops at the traffic lights even though they're green, hops out and runs back to give us a couple of new baseball caps. This is great, and do you know what - the cars behind didn't make a noise, the drivers just sat patiently for a few seconds until we moved off. How fantastic!

Wednesday arrives and it's a big day for us, we're back on the road after three months! We leave Vancouver and ride up to Whistler, stopping every 30 or 40km to give Sally's arm a short rest. Just before Whistler I pull over to wait for Sally and reset my phone's GPS app (which is prone to freezing from time to time), in the last three months it seems that I have forgotten how to ride......or stand..... or both, as I'm sitting on the bike relaxing I feel it start to tilt slightly to the side, at this stage I'm not concerned....right up to the point where I'm rolling head over heels and the DR is sitting upside down in the ditch beside me. 

In Whistler we make a beeline for the tourist centre to find some accommodation, turns out there is an Ironman competition on for the coming weekend and nearly everywhere is booked out, our only option is a rather expensive hotel so we decide to stay just one night. The village is packed with mountain bike riders but it's still a ski village at heart and so it feels comfortable and familiar to us. In the morning we arrange to leave the DR's in the underground carpark until the afternoon so that we can go up the gondola, watching the mountain bikers on their runs down the track that criss-crosses the ski runs. Whistler was host to the 2010 Winter Olympics and the done thing at the top is to pose for a photo on the podium under the Olympic rings. There is another gondola called the peak to peak which is a major attraction here too, it features a nearly 2 mile unsupported span and dangles 1427 feet off the ground, we take this and then another open chairlift down to Blackcomb and then walk back to Whistler village. Back at the bikes we gear up and ride out of town on route 99.

Sorry Sal, there's only room for one up here.

Peak to Peak gondola

View from the gondola

We decide to stop for the night in Pemberton, but the only place to stay is at the pub, the reviews on Tripadvisor are laughable (here's an example below), I've never seen anything like it, but we go in with the lowest of expectations and are very pleasantly surprised to find that there are new owners and it is actually a neat and tidy place to stay.

The roads just keep getting better and better and the views are jaw droppingly good, snow capped mountains, lush forest and aqua glacial lakes abound, we are also treated to near perfect weather for riding. Everywhere we go people stop to talk to us, our Australian licence plates attracting much attention. On the road all other bikers, even Harley riders, wave to each other and there is a constant flow of advice about which roads are best. We decide to visit Jasper and then take the spectacular Icefields Parkway through the Jasper and Banff National parks, which will take us into Alberta.  From there we'll make our way back to the Okanagan region and down to Oliver where we will visit a fellow DR650 rider who contacted me via Facebook. 

We are still taking regular breaks every 40km or so to give Sally's arm a rest, at one such stop I pull off the road into a lakeside carpark, there is a queue of cars waiting to park, as we're waiting a fellow comes over and starts to chat, he's from Western Australia and recognised our number plates, we have a good yarn and a laugh while we wait for the line of traffic to clear. We have no trouble finding a spot to  squeeze the bikes in and as we're getting our jackets off he comes running over to give us each a Tim Tam (a classic Aussie choc biscuit), we scoff them down gratefully before they melt.

And so it goes that we travel between 100 and 200km per day, stopping regularly for breaks and staying in budget motels. Each town has a unique character (and characters) so there's never a dull moment. In Lillooet we happen upon a impromptu drive through of old cars, which empties the pub of patrons for a few minutes, the first nation woman we talk to vaguely explains that they are people "from the hills" - take from that what you will.

Tim Tam Lake

Taking a short rest on the 99

Sally scouting for bears

Lillooet, the pub briefly empties in anticipation of a car show

"Hill people"

Another brief rest on the road

No shortage of places like this

The weather is warming up and motels with a swimming pool are too attractive to pass on. In Cache Creek we stop at a motel that turns out to be popular with bikers, the car park filling up with a dozen Harley's shortly after we arrive. Everyone congregates at the pool and it turns into a proper pool party when one of the Harley owners pulls his bike over and turns on the stereo - the amusing thing being that it only played cassette tapes and his top pannier was full of his music collection.

Pool party in Cache Creek, complete with Harley juke box.

One evening I step out of our cabin that we'd taken for the night in Téte Jaune, as I walk past my DR I get a waft of petrol, the bike is parked on dirt but I can see it's wet underneath and the dirt smells of fuel. I flip the tank's petcocks off and make a few checks determining that the fuel is coming from the carb overflow. It's a common problem on carbureted engines, the float needle or O-ring must be either worn or dirty. I check the oil, as the problem can turn catastrophic for the engine if the overflow fuel has made it's way into the cylinder and seeped into the oil. The oil level and consistency looks ok, so I think it's all just coming out of the carb overflow tube and onto the ground. I'll just have to turn the petcocks off whenever I stop and hope it doesn't get any worse in the next few weeks when I'll fix it in Oregon. 

Our cabin in Téte Jaune where I first noticed my fuel leak.

It did however have a pretty nice bar.

The sun setting over Téte Jaune

Mt. Robson, on the edge of Jasper Nat. Park

A rare view of the peak - cloud free.

My bear spray is kept close at hand.

As we roll into Jasper the next day, I pass a huge Elk on the side of the road (sorry, no picture), it starts to rain but the temperature is still warm. We find out that it's a long weekend coming up and so the accommodation is (a) Scarce and (b) Expensive, however we manage to find a B&B (without breakfast, so I guess it's just a 'B'), at a reasonable price run by a German woman Maria. We stay in Jasper for two nights, mainly so that we can sort out accomodation for the rest of the 5 day long weekend. To give you an idea of how busy it was, Jasper has a campground with 800 plots - these were all full by Wednesday. In Jasper we finally purchase some Bear spray, which we attach to our bikes in a handy spot. Two things on the instructions concern us (1) You have to be upwind of the bear to use it, so it doesn't spray back on yourself and, (2) If it does spray back on yourself, apart from being in significant pain, it actually attracts the bear - in other words you can just consider yourself seasoned.

The road South out of Jasper is the magical Icefields Parkway which takes the Glacial lake / Lush forest quota into top gear, we also realise that we are now in the Canadian Rockies! 

Athabasca falls, Jasper Nat Park

Athabasca falls, Jasper Nat Park

Taking a break on the Icefields Parkway, Jasper Nat Park

Lake Louise, Banff Nat Park

Athabasca falls, Jasper Nat Park

Bow Lake and glacier

Having a rest at Bow Lake, Banff Nat Park

Something we weren't expecting, we crossed the Continental divide

Bow Glacier, Banff Nat Park

Icefields Parkway, Jasper Nat Park

Another at Bow lake, Banff Nat Park

Even on the right side of the road.

We veered off onto route 93 just before getting to Banff to start heading over to Oliver. The road wound it's way down into Radium Hot Springs, we had been warned multiple times to watch out for wildlife on this stretch and we did see some goats with magnificent horns, but no Moose, Elk or Bears. Later in town when we were walking back from dinner we passed some goats walking down the road.

Nice grassy spot and a campfire near Salmo, BC

We decide to camp for a night just outside Salmo, the first time we have pitched our tent in North America (mainly due to the business of the campsites), the long weekend is over now and we are the only tent around.


Our friend in Oliver isn't going to be home until the following Monday, so we decide to make our way to Kelowna and spend a few days relaxing, doing some chores on the bikes and visiting some wineries. The lakeside campsites are all full, but we find a camping spot in an apple orchard overlooking some of the vineyards. The first day we attend to the bikes, cleaning and lubing the chains and a few small things needing some attention. The bikes are doing well and my fuel leak doesn't seem to be getting any worse. The next day we opt to visit a couple of vineyards, we could book a bus tour but instead we decide to just ride to them and save ourselves the cost (almost CAD$300 with taxes), we pick up a few bottles with our savings. The last day is spent pottering around, I work on the blog and Sally cleans and oils her tools which had started to go rusty.

Apple orchard camping, Kelowna, BC

Sally at work

Jeff at work

A Pannier makes a good esky

A good days work

I'm a member of a DR650 group on Facebook and during one of my posts I was contacted by a Canadian, Shawn, who invited us to visit if we were passing through his area. We decided to take him up on it and so headed down to Oliver. We're given a very warm welcome by Shawn, Cecilia and their boys Benjamin and Nathan. Their spare bed was also welcome after the days of camping. They're really cool guys and we all had a great night full of laughs, we're very glad to have made this detour. In the morning we pulled out our bikes and Shawn and Cecilia's DR's joined in for a nice photoshoot.

Sally, Cecilia, Jeff and Shawn and the 4 mighty DR's!

Oliver isn't far from the U.S. border, so today is the day to cross over. The border guard isn't a very friendly chap and is so quietly spoken that we have to listen hard to catch his questions. He asks if I have any firearms, I say no, but I have bear spray (they sometimes confiscate this at the border), he then asks to see in my panniers so I open one for him. They're really tightly packed and he just gives a half hearted tug to get my bag out but when it hardly moves he gives up and goes over to Sally.

Sally jumps in before he can ask anything and starts to declare everything (none of it interests him), "I have tuna....and gherkins, and I have a knife" the last one could have been perceived as a threat if he tried to take away the tuna or gherkins. Sally even declared the peanut butter that I was carrying (thank you). He seems confused about our bikes and how they came to be here, but then he suddenly seems to get bored of us and can't see any reason to detain us any longer. I think it's the most unfriendly border crossing we've experienced so far. We were slightly confused afterwards because we're used to formalities for both countries at each border crossing - you exit one country and then enter the next - but here there is no exit formality for Canada, you just enter the U.S.

After the border agent is done he directs us to a parking space so we can repack our documents out of the way. As we're doing this a woman rides up on her bike, her name is Leta and she has just crossed the border to do some shopping. She describes a road which is good for a ride and in the end decides to show us the way and join us for a while. After this nice jaunt down a traffic-less back road next to a lake we stop at a pub for lunch and Leta passes on some of her knowledge from many tours through the U.S. It's ideal because it comes from a bikers point of view. Leta takes our website and email details and the next day kindly sends us some more information and some routes to look out for.

Leta kindly offered to show us a neat backroad, fun to ride as a group for a short while at least

The landscape in this area of Washington state is still very dry, semi-arid desert and we look forward to getting back among the trees, but on the way there are some magnificent canyon roads to ride.

I've always wanted to see Mt. St. Helens, for the uninitiated it's a Volcano that blew it's stack on May 18, 1980 with catastrophic consequences to the surrounding landscape (and 57 unfortunate people), so that's where we're headed to now. Camping is no longer allowed anywhere near the volcano, but we find a fantastic one at Iron Creek about an hours ride from the Windy Ridge viewpoint. The weather is very hot, but the campsite is nestled right in among some old growth forest.

Iron Creek campground

Iron creek, next to the campsite

It was the perfect temperature at night

I prefer to use the flint on my knife to start the fire

Looking up through the canopy at night

The ride up to Mt. St.Helens was great, the road was slightly broken up in places but that just made it ideal for the dual sport bikes with their long suspension and free from the weight of our camping gear my bike leapt forwards at each twist of the wrist. I recognised the volcano as soon as it came into view for the first time, the shattered remains of what once stood as a classic volcano-shaped mountain, now the side eruption and subsequent massive landslide had left an impression of the havoc that had occurred. The hills facing the blast were stripped of trees and Spirit lake, into which the landslide had swept, had sloshed 800 feet up the opposite side of the valley and the receding waters had ripped all the trees out and taken them back into the lake. Although it was 36 years ago the remaining evidence of the blast is staggering. We took a hike down to spirit lake, a steep walk but worth it to get an appreciation of the environment close up.

Mt St.Helens in the background

The side that slid into the lake

View from the north as we are leaving

A view from the East

After 36 years the lake is still full of stripped trees

Taking a break at one of the viewpoints

The track down to Spirit Lake

Wildflowers in abundance though

This side of the valley was pummelled by the blast, stripping trees and topsoil away to be replaced by volcanic ash

After leaving Mt. St.Helens we head for Oregon, but as we approach the Columbia river which borders the two states the wind picks up enough to make riding difficult, as bad as this is it turns dangerous when we have to cross the Hood River bridge over the river. The bridge has a metal grate deck and is very narrow, combined with the strong crosswind, slow speed of the traffic and our dual sport knobby tyres on the grating the bikes weave and wobble horribly taking all our concentration to stay away from the oncoming traffic. By the time we get to the other end my hands are shaking and after paying the toll of 75c per bike for the pleasure, we pull off into a marina for a rest.

One mile of metal grated hell!

View of the Hood river bridge taken from the marina 

We stop for the evening at the oddly named town of Government Camp (apparently named because government troops abandoned some equipment there), but on the way we take a short detour up to Timberline lodge which is a ski resort but the lodge itself was used for the external shots of the lodge in "The Shining" with Jack Nicholson.

Timberline lodge - from "The Shining"

We're always meeting interesting people on the road, as we're sitting in the sun outside of our hotel we spot a GS rider go past, he spots us too, does a U and pulls up next to us. He saw the Ruta 3 stickers on our bikes from Ushuaia and wants to ask when we were there. It turn out he was there just a few weeks later than us, we have a good long chat about our travels. He ran into the blockade of Ushuaia that started just after we left and had quite an adventure getting in and out of town. The next day I'm resting on a country road, waiting on Sally, a Harley rider spots me from a cross-road, he rides over and asks if I'm ok. His name is Thad and we end up talking for quite a while, he's a farmer and ex-rodeo rider.     

Here's Thad and his '91 Harley, another cool and interesting character we met on the road.

That's it for this monster blog entry, onwards to Procycle in Oregon and some serious farkles for our mighty DR's!