Bolivia

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Bolivia immediately seemed far more relaxed than Peru, we felt it straight away after crossing the border near Copacabana on Lake Titicaca. Once we stamped out of Peru we rode about 100m to the Bolivian border where we had to wait for around an hour because the customs official was on a liberal lunch break. On the door of the customs building it said closed between 12:00 and 13:00, it was around 14:00 when we arrived. Once he showed up it only took ten minutes for the import formalities, he didn’t even bother coming out to check the VIN number on the bike.

It was a short ride into Copacabana which is a small town on the shoreline of Titicaca, we found a hotel easily, checked in and went out to explore. Copacabana is small enough to walk around within an hour. There is one main street where most of the restaurants and cafes are based which slopes downhill towards the lake. The population is mostly native with a fair amount of backpackers hanging around. At one point we strolled through a local market and thought that something didn’t feel right, then we realised what it was. None of the vendors were approaching us or trying to sell us anything you could stop and look at something without being harassed. Completely different to our Cusco market experience and it again portrayed this relaxed vibe we were both feeling from the place. We enjoyed Copacabana but it is very small and we found it hard to spend more than a few days there. However what ultimately caused us to hit the road was that Franziska chipped one of her teeth while eating and we thought it best to go to La Paz where there are plenty of dentists to choose from.

Bolivia seemed less densely populated than Peru which made the roads feel much more quiet and calm to ride on. There were still some nutcase don’t give a damn drivers but far less than we had been accustomed to up to that point. If the road was a paved road it was generally in good condition and if it was unpaved it was general in very bad condition, only about 35% of the roads in Bolivia are paved. After La Paz we encountered some of Bolivia’s new highways, it was strange to ride down them because you could ride for 100km and only encounter one other vehicle.

La Paz itself is a little chaotic but what do you expect from the largest city in the country. Less than 24 hours after chipping her tooth Franziska was sitting in the dentist’s chair in La Paz, the dentist fixed the tooth with a composite filling – cost 80USD. In La Paz and Bolivia in general it is hard to find a large supermarket or well known brand shops. The trading is more individual with people setting up stalls and selling odds and ends, major commercialism hasn’t hit Bolivia yet. The food is almost standardised, you arrive on a street which looks like it has five to ten restaurants but when you enter each one you find that they only serve chicken and rice. In La Paz there were a number of good restaurants that made more of an effort which was a nice change. Usually these restaurants are owned by foreigners.

I knew beforehand that buying fuel in Bolivia would be an issue as it is government subsidised and foreigners are supposed to pay around 2.5 times what the locals pay plus they want all of your details like passport number and vehicle registration when you’re filling up. The day after Franziska’s tooth was fixed we set off north to reach the town of Corioco where we intended to spend the night and we would have to buy our first tank of fuel on the way. It was actually a little difficult to find a petrol station they are not as numerous as they are in other countries. I eventually chose one which had a long queue of cars outside it hoping that the attendant filling the cars would feel under pressure when I got to the pump and skip the normal formalities with the passport and so on. Luckily it worked when it was our turn he saw that we were on a foreign bike, thought about it for a minute looked at the line behind us and just got on with it so we got our first tank of Bolivian low grade petrol for the local price. I say low grade because I’m assuming it is, there is no choice at the pumps it is either diesel or petrol with no numbers beside it I never saw any petrol stations selling super or anything like it. With a full tank we set off north. The intention was to Staying Coroico and then ride the “Death Road” back to La Paz. The death road isn’t really dangerous it just acquired that name because of a few incidents where vehicles went off the edge more due to bad drivers than the road itself. Anyway the normal road to Coroico is also very interesting to ride. It rises up to around 4500m where you experience extremely cold temperatures and if you’re lucky some snow. Then it descends to 1300m and you find yourself in the warm tropical Amazon. We were stopped about three quarters of the way there by a lady with a two way radio she motioned us to take a road leading off the main road into the bush. Later I found out that the normal road had suffered a landslide and this was the detour around it. The detour was pretty unsafe, it was very steep and the ground was loose gravel sometimes with sharp turns. We popped out the other end and continued towards Coroico. Roughly ten minutes later we arrived at the turn off for the town which is situated on top of a hill that we were at the bottom of. Unfortunately this road was also closed because of a landslide and the workers directed us to continue on around the corner away from the road we wanted to take. At this point the road was mud but a very slippery type of mud it was like it had a layer of slime sprayed across the top of it. I could feel it and I rode slowly through a couple of muddy puddles but as I exited the second puddle the bike started to slip sideways. We were travelling at a very low speed at this point, I probably even had my feet on the ground for stability. I had no choice I had to let it go and we both plonked down on one knee. A half a second later we were standing again watching the bike bizarrely slide forward away from us while rotating 180 degrees. It was like watching a bad shot at the bowling alley when the ball slides slowly down the lane and into the gutter. It must have been the slimy surface on the mud that caused it. So we watched it and waited for it to stop. It didn’t slide fast just methodically slow eventually it came to a halt by slotting itself into a gutter at the side of the road in an upright position. All I could think was how am I going to get it out of there. Less than a minute later a small truck came around the corner and the two guys in it helped me lift the bike out. There was no damage at all. In addition we found out from these guys that the road we wanted to take back to La Paz was impassible, again due to a landslide. So with our planned destination for that night inaccessible and the old road back to La Paz blocked we had no choice but to go back the way we came. When we reached the part where we had earlier taken the diversion we were directed to continue on the normal road as the landslide had now been cleared but it actually wasn’t. We arrived at a blocked road and traffic mayhem a few kilometers later where a very annoyed excavator driver was trying to make it to the blockage past all of the vehicles which had been let through the barrier prematurely. Eventually he cleared the blockage and we were on our way again. After a long cold ride back to La Paz I decided to refuel at the same place and the guy gave us the local price again. We spent the next hour in La Paz rush hour traffic inching along towards our hostel. When we were about 1km away it began to rain which is a bad thing for motorbikes in La Paz, reason being some of the streets are sloped at very steep angles and they are made of cobble stones, very slippery in the rain and our hostel was on one of these streets. When we approached the hostel Franziska got off the bike to open the carpark gate, immediately after she got off I found it very difficult to stop the bike from sliding. There was a bus in front of me and cars behind and even with both front and back brakes applied I was sliding forward downhill on the wet cobbles. Eventually I had to let the bike go over on its side it was either that or slide forward at speed into the bus. Some tourists came over immediately and helped to pick it up and nurse it over to the hostel carpark. Inside the carpark I was on tarmac again so there were no more problems. Or at least that’s what I thought. When unloading the bike I smelled petrol, at first I thought it was leaking out of the overflow pipe because it had full tanks and was on its side a couple of minutes ago. But it wasn’t the overflow pipe the petrol was splurting from a small 2mm hole on the left hand tank that I had never noticed before. I looked at the right hand tank and it also has a hole in the same place but it wasn’t ejecting fuel. I looked again at the leaking side and thought there must be a lot of pressure behind that hole to make it squirt and splurt like that so I decided to open the tank cap incase the tank was pressurised. The second I opened it fuel shot out bubbling upwards into the air about 20-30cm like a fountain and ran all down the side of the bike. I must have lost a quarter of the fuel in the tank due to than action. I have no idea where all that pressurised gas came from, the right hand tank was also full but it was fine no pressure build up. It was the perfect end to a long day, I was really looking forward to bed that night.

Salar de Uyuni are the largest salt flats on Earth and they are situated about 730km south of La Paz. On our way there we stopped in Oruro for one night and because I didn’t really trust Googlemaps or the Internet fully when it comes to roads in Bolivia I decided to ask locals what the road between Oruro and Uyuni is like. I even downloaded pictures of a paved motorway and a dirt road and used them in the conversation flicking between each one and pointing to the road on a map just to be extra sure. I asked three different people and they all said it was paved so we set off early the next morning in the freezing cold planning for a five hour ride. The first half of the journey was brand new motorway but then much to our dismay it suddenly stopped and became road works which transitioned into no road. It took us five hours to ride the remaining 180km to Uyuni. It was all off road the surface changed between compacted sand, deep sand, mud, deep mud, gravel, washboard effect compacted dirt and more plus two river crossings. What were those people thinking who told me that the road is paved? Oddly now and then we would find a 2 or 3km stretch of perfectly laid tarmac motorway section in the middle of nowhere which was nice to climb up onto to have a break from the sand for a while. It wasn’t easy to stay on the road either, there is a long term plan to build a motorway over the existing dirt road so the area is criss crossed with diversion signs where the original road has been excavated and you are sent off into the wilderness desperately looking for the next diversion sign to point you back in the right direction. A number of times we had to stop and wait for a vehicle to drive by to ask them if we were on the right road. The adventure side was enjoyable but it was also exhausting. We rolled into Uyuni just before dark.

Uyuni as a town has real out in the middle of nowhere wilderness outpost feel to it. We met up with Greg again just for one night before he hit the road again towards Brazil. His plan was to cross the flats and enter Chile but he had to turn back as the mountain passes were closed due to snowfall. We visited the salt flats the next day, it really is a unique experience. They were dry when we visited but during the rainy season there can be an inch or two of water on them which probably makes for better pictures but must be worse for the bike. We spent a couple of hours out there just hanging around and taking pictures.

The road between Uyuni and Potosi our next destination was brand new and we had it almost to ourselves for the entire three and a half hours. The only danger was the Vicugnas which look like a cross between a deer and a lama. Every now and then they would dart out onto the road either alone or in herds. In Potosi we found comfortable accommodation but could not find a half decent place to eat. In the end we settled for one of the chicken and rice places which backfired on us when Franziska spent the night in the bathroom because of it. We had to prolong our stay in Potosi until she felt better, after two days of cramps, fever and the other usual stuff we headed south for the town of Vilazon which is situated right on the border with Argentina.

Travelling at high altitude and in cold weather is no fun at all when you’re feeling under the weather so we were anxious to start our decent out of the Andes inside Argentina. We just used Vilazon as an overnight stop before crossing the border the next day. There really isn’t much I can say about it other than our hotel room had a giant poster of Barbie hanging on the wall which was pretty inexplicable. Riding the five minutes to the border the next day I felt completely relaxed and happy that later we would start to descend from 3800m to a place where the air is rich with oxygen again. There was a long queue to stamp out of Bolivia then it was straight to Argentinian immigration which only took a couple of minutes. After that we hit a hurdle, the Argentinians would not allow me to import the bike without having valid insurance for Argentina. At first I thought fine where is the office and I’ll buy some because every other country we had entered where insurance is required had an insurance office at the border. That is until now. They explained we would have to go into town and buy it there then return to the border and carry on with the process. During this time the bike would have to remain at the border post. We had no choice so off we set.

 

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This is where the bike had to stay all day as we looked for insurance.

It was roughly a 2km walk to the insurance office where the lady told us she wouldn’t insure a foreign vehicle and sent us to another insurance agency. The lady in the second one said no motorbikes! We eventually found a third one and that lady initially said no but a younger guy working there intervened and said he can issue it. We were relieved because that was the last insurance agency in town. The only drawback was that it would not be ready until five o’clock in the evening! I gave him all of the details and we walked back to the border to let them know what was going on. In the end we had to check into a hotel and leave the bike at the border all day while we waited on the insurance. We finally received it at six in the evening and returned to the border to import the bike. We would have to wait until the next day to start our long awaited decent out of the Andes.

At the moment we are in Buenos Aires, the plan wasn’t to come here so soon but during the ride across Argentina the rear sprocket on the bike went from ok to rubbish in the space of a couple of days. It was completely worn out and Buenos Aires was the logical choice to find a replacement. In hindsight I should have changed it in Lima but I overlooked it.

Once we get this sorted we are looking forward to heading north into a warmer climate for a change.

Manatoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta

The same procedure as every post. German first, then English, and pictures at the end..

German by Franziska

 

Es liegen nach der Fahrt durch Manatoba und Saskatchewan nun schon 7000 km hinter uns und wir sind inzwischen in Peace River / Grimshaw in Alberta angekommen.

Nachdem wir Wawa hinter uns gelassen hatten, fuhren wir zu unserem nächsten Campingplatz im “Rainbow Falls Nationalpark”. Hier unternahmen wir eine Wanderung entlang des Wasserfalls. Wir sahen viele süße Streifenhörnchen, (chipmunks).
Am nächsten Tag trafen wir uns mit Dwana ( unserer nächsten Couchsurfing-Gastgeberin ) in Rossport. Sie fährt eine Harley und wir fuhren zusammen zu ihrem Haus in Thunder Bay. Auf dem Weg dorthin machten wir Halt und sie zeigte uns den “Ouimet Canyon”, der ca. 100 Meter tief ist. Leider war es ziemlich nebelig. In Thunder Bay angekommen, zeigte uns Sie die Gegend und die riesigen “Grain elevator” : Getreidespeicher am Hafen. Abends gab es Hot Dogs und selbstgebackenen Blaubeerkuchen – lecker!

In Winnipeg konnten wir bei Danielle und ihrem 3 Monate alten Sohn McKinley übernachten. Sie ist eine ehemalige Arbeitskollegin von einem Freund von Neil aus Irland. Ihr kleiner Neffe Tristan war ganz begeistert von unserem Motorrad und setzte immer wieder abwechselnd Meinen oder Neil’s Helm auf.

Als nächstes Ziel hatten wir einen Campingplatz in Lumsden ausgewählt. Auf dem Weg dorthin hielten wir bei einem Supermarkt in Regina, um ein Moskitospray für Neil zu besorgen, den die Mücken besonders lieben. Das mitgebrachte Spray aus Deutschland half nicht so gut. Als wir aus dem Supermarkt kamen, stand Ivan bei unserem Motorrad und erwartete uns schon. Er fährt selber eine BMW und wir erzählten von unserer Reise. Es stellte sich heraus, dass seine Frau Gladis und er in Lumdsen wohnten und wir wurden eingeladen in ihrem Garten zu campen. Gladis hatte einen wunderschönen Garten mit vielen unterschiedlichen Blumen und Gemüse. Abends saßen wir gemütlich zusammen und rösteten Marshmallos über einem Lagerfeuer.
Am nächsten Tag brachen wir gegen Mittag auf um Viktor, Ivans Bruder zu besuchen, der seit 20 Jahren an seinem eigenen “Skybolt Flugzeug” baut, das wir uns anschauen wollten. Er hatte auch eine eigene Start – und Landebahn und ein weiteres Flugzeug in einer Halle daneben, mit dem er Kunstflüge macht. Wir durften beide eine Runde mit ihm über Saskatchewan drehen – ich war vorher noch nie in so einem kleinen Flugzeug geflogen und es war super!!
Da es zu spät wurde, um noch nach einem Campingplatz zu suchen, konnten wir bei ihm übernachten.

Donnas Bruder Doug lebt in Macklin, einem kleinen Ort, der auf unserem Weg lag. Sie hatte für uns Kontakt aufgenommen und wir waren zu ihm
und seiner Frau Petra eingeladen worden. Da es wegen des “Labor Days” ein langes Wochenende war, lernten wir einen Großteil der Familie, die uns herzlich Willkommen hieß, kennen.
Macklin ist für das Spiel “Game of Bones oder Bunnock” bekannt, das wir nach einem leckeren Abendessen spielten. Es wurde von russischen Soldaten erfunden, die im Krieg viele Pferdeknochen hatten und war von Einwanderern nach Saskatchewan gebracht worden ( auf den Bildern sieht man, wie es gespielt wird ). Die Familie hat deutsche Vorfahren, lebt direkt an einem See und abends hörten wir beim Lagerfeier Kojoten heulen und sahen viele Sternschnuppen und sogar einige Nordlichter. Wir unterhielten uns auch mit der 88 jährigen Barbara, die in den 50er Jahren mit ihrem Mann von Köln nach Kanada eingewandert war.

Das Wetter hat sich inzwischen deutlich abgekühlt und manchmal haben wir nachts nur 5°C im Zelt – hoffentlich wird es schnell wieder wärmer!!

In Edmonton konnten wir bei Ivans Sohn Scott übernachten. Zusammen mit seiner Frau und ihm haben wir im Kino “Chefs” angeschaut.
Danach ging es weiter nach Barhead, wo wir Shawn und Penny mit ihren 3 Söhnen, die wir vor ein paar Tagen in einem “Tim Hortons” kennenlernten, besuchen wollten. Neil ging mit Shawn und den 3 Jungs “Dirtbiking” – oder Motocrossfahren und hatte dabei viel Spaß. Penny führte uns über das Grundstück mit dreistöckigem Baumhaus, eigener Eishockeybahn für den Winter und einer lustigen Hühnerbande ( die später zusammen mit Hund Dodge Maiskolben pickten ). Wir bekamen am nächten Tag auch eine Besichtigungstour durch das Chrysler Autohaus der Beiden.

Seit 3 Tagen sind wir jetzt in der Peace River Gegend auf einer Farm bei Brad, einem Freund, den wir aus Deutschland kennen. Hier leben Bisons, Black Angus Rinder, Pferde, Katzen und Hund Cooper. Außerdem werden einige große Getreidefelder bewirtschaftet. Ich bin auf einem der Felder das erste Mal Quad gefahre und wir haben am Wegesrand unseren ersten Bären, einen Elch und einige Kojoten ( die hier manchmal zu einer Pest werden ) gesehen. Neil fuhr einige der großen Maschinen und half bei der Heuballenproduktion mit. Als ich einmal allein auf dem Feld war, ( Neil war mit Brad unterwegs ) kam ein Pickup Truck mit Fahrer Billy vorbei – er hatte gerade einen Schwarzbären geschoßen, den er mir stolz präsentierte – die Jagdsaison hatte Anfang September begonnen und er wollte Bärenwurst machen..

Heute ist es ziemlich kühl und wir hatten sogar etwas Eisregen. Wir werden noch ein paar Tage hierbleiben und uns dann Richtung Nationalparks “Banff – und Jasper” aufmachen..

 

English by Neil

 

After three and half weeks of riding everyday we have finally arrived in northern Alberta eh.

We’ve covered about 7000km so far but we haven’t been pushing ourselves lately due to a sort of burn out point we reached back when we entered Saskatchewan. Up to then we had been riding four to five hours everyday and nerves were fraying. Since then we’ve cut down a lot on the riding time and it’s a good thing we did otherwise we would have ridden right by some great opportunities along the way. As you’ll find out…

Picking up from where we left off last time. After Wawa in Northern Ontario we continued to ride north west around lake Superior. The plan was to get to Thunder Bay where we had set up our next couchsurfing appointment with a lady named Dawna. She knew we were travelling east to west so suggested that we try to rendezvous at a town two hours east of Thunder Bay and ride in together. It worked out pretty well, we stayed in Rainbow Falls provincial park that night after leaving Wawa and the next morning met Dawna at her brothers place in Rossport. We all drank a coffee together and then set out towards Thunder Bay, along the way we stopped at Ouimet canyon for a look which was pretty impressive but a little bit fogged in. Two hours after leaving Rossport we arrived at Dwana’s place where we met her son Cameron and dog Jackie. Dawna gave us a tour of Thunder Bay in her car and we accompanied her on a grocery shopping trip. After a good feed we hit the sack and slept straight through till morning. Breakfast was greasy and sweet at a local breakfast diner themed on a Finnish sauna. We said our goodbyes to Dawna and hit the road headed for Dryden and then finally the boarder of Ontario!

The landscape between Thunder Bay and Dryden was typical of Ontario beyond Parry Sound. Mirror lakes with small islets with a couple of pine trees growing on them and there always seemed to be one pine tree that didn’t get the memo and instead of growing straight up grew at a fourty five degree angle out over the water. Add to these lakes, rolling forested hills and rocky outcrops and you’ve got our scenery for the previous seven days. It’s funny because at first we thought this is beautiful and after seven days we just wanted it to end. Bend after bend and hill after hill often in the rain, I couldn’t wait for this flat prairie promised land on the other side of the Ontario boarder.

On the trip to Dryden that day we almost ran out of fuel because the one and only gas station on the way had run out and only had diesel, luckily we made it on fumes. Due to being soaked we got a motel room to dry off. The most interesting thing about Dryden was a conversation I had with a truck driver who was staying in the same motel. I’d tell it but I’d be afraid in some way it might lead to his crazy ex wife finding him.

The sun rose to another grey and drizzly day and we set off for Kenora the last town in Ontario before the boarder with Manitoba. We took a beating from the wind and rain on the way but made it to the safety of a Tim Hortons a couple of hours later. While queuing up for a coffee and with our ears still ringing we were approached by an inquisitive family who had seen us pull up. After chatting for a short time it became clear that they live right on our route north of Edmonton. They were holidaying in Ontario with their three boys and waiting for the weather to change so they could fly home. Shawn, Penny and the three boys Reed, Jacob, and Reily invited us to stop by when we reached their area. We shared details and got back on the road.

 

At last we rode into Manitoba and the landscape changed to flat great plains, I set the throttle lock sat back and took it all in. After five minutes I’d taken it all in and spent the next two hours feeling like the guy in the movie Tron ridding his bike in a straight line over an endless grid. Just before we arrived at Winnepeg it was possible to see the curvature of the Earth from the road which was an impressive sight to see from a motorbike saddle. In Winnepeg we stayed with Danielle, who we were put in touch with through my friend Alan. She is canadian and they had worked together years ago when she lived in Dublin. She now has a young son and lives in Winnepeg so we were lucky enough once again to experience real canadian life. Danielle’s nephew Tristan is four and took a liking to the motorbike and our equipment, on the morning when we were leaving he borrowed my helmet and gloves and wore them on several missions upstairs somewhere.

Ever since we left Halifax people had been telling us that we would be through Manitoba and Saskatchewan in no time because they were so flat. They were absolutely right, at least for Manitoba. It was just a straight four to five hour drive from Winnepeg to the Saskatchawan boarder only slowing down for parts where the road was under repair. Manitoba received record rain fall in June and much of the road was damaged or washed away.

 

That night we stayed in Moosomin Saskatchewan and decided not to drive for so long the next day due to being a little burnt out. Good thing we did because the original plan was to head straight for Saskatoon but we decided instead to just drive two hours to Regina and camp there. The time flew by and before we knew it we were driving through Regina keeping our eyes open for campsite signs. We didn’t manage to see any so after popping out the other side of the city limits I decided to turn around and head for a Tim Hortons so that we could get a WiFi connection and search online for campsites, the usual procedure. We found a nice looking campsite in a small town called Lumsden about twenty minutes drive north west, finished our coffee and went for something to eat. When we came out of the burrito place I noticed one of those huge Walmart style shops on the other side of the road and remembered that I needed mosquito repellent so we headed over. After picking up mosquito repellent and a couple of other small things we were heading back to the bike which was parked in the car park. As I approached and open one of the boxes a man came over who I’d half noticed lurking over by the trolley bay. We started talking about motorbiking and we explained what we were doing on our trip. After a couple of minutes Ivan went over to his car and gave his wife Gladis the “it’s ok they’re not travelling murderers nod” and she came over too. I mentioned we were headed to Lumsden to a campsite there. It turned out that Ivan and Gladis also live in Lumsden around the corner from the campsite. So Ivan kindly put forward the invitation of camping in their back garden and he would cook dinner for us. An offer we were glad to take. We jumped on the bike and followed them to their home in Lumsden. Once we had set up the tent and settled in we chatted and I found out that they also have a son named Neil, but he lives in Cameroon with his Austrian wife and three children. We actually got to meet him over Skype video chat the next morning when he called. Dinner was wonderful and was followed by the Canadian tradition of lighting a fire and sitting around the fire pit drinking beers. Scott another one of their sons turned up with his friend Pete, they had a bit of a laugh at Pete because earlier that day he had referred to the split highway as a dual carriageway. None of the Canadians had heard that term before. One more addition Victor, Ivan’s brother turned up on his harley, he had just returned from a motorbike trip south into the States. It was interesting to hear about his experience as we would be going through some of the same areas. During the conversation I found out that Victor is building his own aircraft in his garage and that we could have a look at it the next day if we wanted. Scott is the same age as I am and lives in Edmonton so he offered a bed for when when we eventually got there. These are cool people and we would have never met if that perfect combination of Tim Hortons, the Burrito place, and remembering to buy mosquito repellent hadn’t happened.

 

Next morning after skyping with Africa we set off for Victor’s place which was only ten minutes down the road. We were introduced to Victor’s wife Breese and then got to check out his home build aircraft project which he is building from the blueprints so all pieces are made by hand. Victor is an aerobatics fan and it turned out that he has his own grass strip runway and aircraft (a Citabria) just down the road. So we went to check that out too. Once there he asked if we would like to go up for a ride, Franziska went first. She was pretty excited as she had never flown in a small aircraft. We wore parachutes which was also a first for for both of us. When Franziska landed I went up, it was interesting to see that Saskatchawan isn’t really as flat as everyone says it is and towards the end of the flight Victor pulled some lazy eights and rolled the aircraft. During the roll we pulled 2.75G. My first venture into aerobatics and I loved it. When we landed we realised that we weren’t the only ones flying, time had caught up with us. It was 1800 and we were still three hours from Saskatoon. Luckily Victor offered the spare room at his place and we all went to Red Lobster in Regina that evening for food.
Next day we headed for Saskatoon. We had a campsite in mind which had been recommended to us by Ivan but when we got there it was booked out so we ended up in their overflow which is just a field next door with no facilities. We only had to pay 16 dollars so we weren’t too bothered. We took a stroll around Saskatoon and found a nice place to eat. There was a fireworks display that night which we ended up not attending because we were tired and had just seen one about a week previous in Niagra.
We headed for the Alberta boarder the next day where we would stop at a small town called Macklin. Earlier in the trip we had met Donna and Floyd and they had put us in contact with Donna’s brother Doug who lives in Macklin with his family. Once we arrived in Macklin Doug came to pick us up at the petrol station in his pick up truck and we followed him back to the house. Once again we were blown away by super friendly Canadian ultra-hospitality. Doug introduced us to his family, wife Petra, daughter Michaela, and son Tobias. Yep all kinda German names, for good reason. Petra’s parents moved from Köln to Canada and her mother still lived in the house next door. Later we got to talk with her in German, she was quite happy to speak with Franziska as it was a total surprise to meet a fellow Deutsche that day.

 

We ate dinner together with the rest of the crew, Ingrid and Nikki Petra’s sisters, Tobias, his wife Jessica, their daughter and Ingrid’s daughter Katelyn with her fiancé Greg. After dinner we played a game called bones. It’s unique to Macklin, two teams face each other and line up a row of horse ankle bones with a blue coloured bone flanking at each end. The idea is each player has two red coloured ankle bones and has to throw them at the opposing teams line knocking the blue guards down first and then you’re allowed to hit the rest of them. Apparently the game was invented by some russian soldiers who were looking for a way to pass time and had an abundance of horse ankle bones left over from the battle field. If I remember right there is a championship held every year in Macklin, there is even a giant sculptor of a horse ankle bone at the entrance to town. Later we sat around the fire pit and we saw some northern lights for the first time. Before we left the next day we had coffee with Ingrid and she gave us some of her tips for riding in BC and the USA.

 

Next stop Edmonton. We stayed with Scott who met in Lumsden and his wife Havala.  Although Edmonton is supposed to have the largest mall in the world we didn’t bother going to see it. Instead we went to the cinema with Scott and Havala and the next day I helped Scott change the brakes on his VW Golf. After lunch we set off for Barrhead where we would meet up with Penny and Shawn and their three boys who we had met in Kenora Ontario. They have a really nice house off the beaten track and the boys are into dirt biking for which they have the perfect environment there. After an amazing dinner cooked up by Penny I was invited to go dirt biking, luckily I was able to use Shawns bike and leave my 200kg tank in the garage. While the others were getting ready Jacob lead me on a quick tour down to the river bed, as I followed him it became clear to me that these guys were experts compared to me I’d never dirt biked off road properly before. We rode back to the house to meet the others and after quick photo call we were off through the bush and up and down muddy hills. I fell a couple of times but nothing high speed I just got bogged down in some mud or sand every now and then and dirtied up Shawn’s bike, sorry about that Shawn:-) . This ride was definitely a highlight of the trip for me so far. Shawn works at the family business in Barrhead which is the local Chrysler dealership so we were able to have a tour before we left the next day. One thing that was cool was that they collect the oil from vehicles that they do oil changes on and burn it during the winter to heat the premises. Hopefully we’ll get to drop in again when we’re heading back down south in a few weeks.

 

After Barrhead we broke our long driving rule and pushed north towards Peace River. Ever since we left Halifax this has been our interim destination before heading south. My friend Brad lives in this area where the family farm is. They have Bison, cows, horses and various different crops. We arrived at the grass farm about five days ago right on Brad’s girlfriend Roxanne’s birthday and since then we have been helping out where we can. In the past seven days I’ve done a role in an aircraft, dirt biked through the bust and driven a tractor harrowing and baling timothy grass. Not bad for a weeks riding.