7 aug. 2013

Life's been good to us!

Roemer's mother waves us Welcome Home from the beach of Dishoek -
when we passed by on the Grande Togo Grimaldi Lines - 60 km before disembarkation in Antwerp.
How great is that? (Photo Rien Bosman)
The next day we were able to finally give each other a hug.
In Ede we celebrated our return with Lisan's very pleased parents.
We feel privileged to be able to have made such a great journey.
We will not forget the faces of the planet we've seen and the faces of the people we've met. 

Our Best Of's...


Favorite country

Mexico because it's very diverse in nature and culture. Good food and great riding.

We did not have any expectations of Peru but the county is huge and very diverse in nature, cultural heritage and history. It has some of the best roads experiences that go into extremes (altitude, hairpins, off road).

Thailand is our long time favorite. It's pretty touristy but then again, it maintains it's beauty if you turn off the beaten track. Thai food (as spice as possible), sun, beaches, diving, mountains, temples and encounters with happy Thai people is what we love.

Favorite place

Göreme Turkey. This lime stone cave city is in Cappadocia retains it's mystery and beauty year after year.

Dharam Kot (1km up from Mc Loyd Ghanj) India. Residential place of the Dhala Lama. It is laid back, cheap accommodation, great food, inspirational (yoga, meditation, nature), many mountain trails (Triund e.g.).

Phokora, Nepal. Great place to start your hiking into the Himalaya's from, and to get back and rest and party for a while. 

Baja California is something special. It's desolateness and prehistoric-like nature (cacti) is fascinating. It has the best (free) camping spots (and fishing) in the world. Baja means the ultimate freedom.

Favorite city

Istanbul, Bangkok, LA (revisited), Buenos Aires...

Ugliest city

Quetta Pakistan. Really a dreadful, dirty, sad place. Two bombs went off when we were there.
Manny cities in Latin America pass this test too.

Friendliest people

The two countries on either side of the political spectrum have been very friendly to us: Iran and the USA.

Iran is notorious for their curiosity for the 'outside world'. And so we were 'chased' after by people that wanted to invite us for tea, lunch or diner several times, throughout every part of the country, even whilst riding on the road. On the other hand -after the city of Bam, we got into the 'military zone,' friendliness ceases to exist there, unfortunately (being escorted for many km's to the Pakistan border).

In the USA lots of people stop and offer their help when you have a flat tyre (we had ours in Arizona on a dirt road). Couch surfing was easy too, and every time great experiences. People like to talk to you all the time (our bike / our biking clothes, is a good reason to).

Strangest experience

Probably the weirdest event in our trip was sleeping in our tent at the Balluchastan Levi's Police Station in Dalbandin. Imagine car scraps, a few cell blocks (with murderers incarcerated) and a high adobe wall with a big green door to protect us from the evil outside world (Taliban?). The Pakistan police men slept on the ground around us, some of them under a mere blanket. 

An other experience that made me freak out, happened riding on the road from the Siem Reap junction to Battambang in Cambodia. I saw a guy – pants down on his ankles - jerking off along side the road. Then a little further, I saw a naked woman reaching out for her naked baby that was crawling on the ground. I could not believe what I had just seen. Lisan couldn't confirm as she'd looked the other way. I expected to have the hallucinations of malaria that I had contracted. Luckily it wasn't true.

Toughest border (longest time spent at it)

From Bolivia to Argentina.  Sometimes the smallest, quietest borders don't mean you can't get stuck there. At the Bermejo border you will need to show an international (Mercosur) insurance  (can't be bought at the border) and if you own one, they will find something else to stop you for a long time. In our case, it took us two days to cross here. We returned to Bolivia, sorted out our third party insurance and when we got to the border for the 2nd time, the officials thought we had 'stolen' the motorcycle from someone with the very same name (initials that is)...

Easiest border

No doubt: going from Argentina to Uruguay. These countries are so much related to each other, that they integrated the customs / immigration in one building, in fact: at one counter. Out and in within 15 minutes.

Cheapest country overall (acco, food, drinks, petrol)

Cambodia, Thailand (keeps up same price level as 10 years ago!)
Ecuador, Bolivia

Most expensive country (apart from Europe and USA)

Probably Colombia. And Uruguay. This little country has about the same price level for living as Europe (even the petrol).

Most memorable tourist attraction

High on our list: Angkor Wat, Saem Riep Cambodia (despite it is owned by the Koreans).
White Temple, Chiang Rai Thailand.
Taj Mahal, Agra India (Lisan was the most photographed attraction here).
Ayodhaya in India, village with Hindu / Moslim temples.
Uyuni Salt Flats, Uyuni Bolivia.

Most impressive paved road

Pakistan, Taftan to Quetta (Baluchastan Desert). Very barren, hot, dangerous, but beautiful.
Nepal, Tansen to Phokara. Extremely winding road passed beautiful little villages.
Nepal, the tiny road through the clouds to Bandipur 
Noord-Laos, Luang Namtha to Luan Prabang, 
Mexico, San Cristobal to Palenque
Peru, Cusco to Santa Maria. Switch backs all the way to 4.300 meters and down to 1.800 meters. Amazing views. Very hot and very cold in a single day.
Bolivia, Potosi to Trujillo via Camargo. Newly paved road through amazing mountain ranges. Quite an achievement for such a poor country. Corrugated stone formations in red and grey.

Most impressive unpaved road

Nepal, Besisahar to Gaunsahar (undo-able two up with gear!)
Peru, Canyon del Plato (aka Duck Canyon)

Pleasant surprise

Phnom Phen has changed considerably in 10 years!

Personal invitations, and help offered, from people on the streets (everywhere).

Definitely: Couch surfing. We had the best experiences of our trip thanks to the people we met on couchsurfing.com.

Unpleasant surprise

Colombia is perceived as the best coffee growing country in the world. But they don't know how to make good coffee. Still most people drink instant. Coffee ground is expensive too (Bolivia has the cheapest coffee in the world). When they do make real coffee, they make it worse than the Germans do (very weak taste). Don't be surprised that yesterday's coffee will be presented in the morning, microwaved that is, as a coupa of fresh beans. Aghhhh.

Biggest bike problem

Pulverization of bearing (rear wheel) on our way into Bangkok City.
Blow-out of rear-tyre at 80 km/h on freeway 10 to Phoenix, Arizona. 

Worst day

From Bam, Iran to Mervja / Taftan border. Lisan will also remember this as her worst birthday. We woke up at 05.00. It was hot, we did not eat nor drink, we lost our passports to at least 10 different army escorts. We were accused of photographing military personnel / objects. Just before dark we finally ended up in a hotel where we were the only guests. There was only old bread and tomatoes for dinner and peach flavored beer (alcohol-free) to make a toast on her birthday at last.

From Limòn to Cuencua. It was raining all day (for the second day) and we had to find a junction to a road that was entirely under construction. Lots of dirt and on top of that, the worst experience for heavy motorcycles: deep gravel / pebbles (including avoiding crashing into huge Caterpillar road material). Finally we passed the mountain top at 3.800 meters in the bare cold and started our slip and sliding decent to the main road.

Worst night

Pakse, Laos. We had a decent room in one of the hostels. At night we felt something touching our hands and legs. Turning on the light we found out it was a mouse. Chasing the damn rodent out of the room took us practically the whole night.

Worst road

Highway 6 North of Phnom Phen (coming from Skun). It was hot, the road dusty and very crowded with trucks and large cars that seemed to come from all directions but ours.

Worst driving

Maybe India / Nepal and definitely Cambodia (people with big SUV's like to drive you off the road deliberately). 

As the infrastructure in Argentina looks pretty modern, it's pretty deceiving to realize that people don't stick to any rule in traffic.

Worst near-traffic accident

We didn't have many btw.. 

Noteworthy was an accident in Nepal. Getting run over by a 'sleep walking' truck that started rolling down hill unintentionally. The driver lost control of it with it's engine off.

Best camping

In general, the camp grounds in the USA are the best value, not the cheapest but best in cleanliness, facilities (sometimes with pool and hot tub), camp space and  location (esp. NP's).

Our ultimate favorite camping destination are the shores of Baja California, where you free camping is possible and you can watch dolphins jumping at the morning sun. Specificity Coyote Beach and Los Frailes – sea fishing here is the best in the world. 

Favorite food

Turkish pide is better than pizza.
We are both addicted to the Thai and Indian (spicy) cuisine. 
Asian fruit – NR. one being Jack Fruit and (red) Dragon Fruit.
Lisan got hang up on coconut ice popsicles. 
Roemer kept searching for the ultimate alfajores chocolate cookie in Argentina.

Worst food we actually ate... (not just seen. seen so many)

Soup with fish balls and chicken blood in South Thailand (even stray cats and dogs didn't want to eat them tasteless balls).

A dish called 'Penza' in Bolivia, it means pork belly fried with batter. We thought it was a sort of Schnitzel at first.

Favorite beverage

Ice Cream Soda from Malaysia (Roemer).
Lisan had a strong preference for Lémon Soda (soda water with fresh lemon skunks in it).

Cheapest drink

Pretty 'decent' Mekong whiskey for $1 a bottle (375 ml) at Otres Beach, Cambodia.
Large bottles of beer (1250 ml) in Mexico are cheap (1 $). 
Beer pitchers in Phnom Phen ($1,5).

What we will miss the most when back home...

Freedom and adventure – each new day is different.
Warm weather. Asian food.

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