Saturday, October 9, 2010

64. Returning Home: Reflections about the trip (05/20/08)

After 7 months on the road in Latin America I have now with some reluctance returned home to Des Moines, Iowa. It has been great to see my family and friends. Readjusting to a less action packed lifestyle is taking some getting used to but at the same time it is nice to relax in the confines of your own house (I mean my parents house; exciting! I know.). The combination of living poorly and almost biting the dust many times has made me realize that life is too short to hold grudges or worry about things that are not important.
(It took a million headaches first but I managed to sell the motorcycle in Paraguay. After many hours of detailing it came out pretty shiny.)

 There were many unique experiences on the trip. I toured a salmon farm, a helicopter forest fire operation, a silver mine (where the miners still use picks), a jewlery factory and many ancient ruin sites. In Bolivia I walked over the ground where the shootout of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid took place. I drove the world's most dangerous road, detonated dynomite on cactus and rocks deep in Bolivia, hitchhiked the famed Carretera Austral in Chile and drove parts of Ruta 40 in Argentina. Some new meals included chicken hearts, fish heads, and intestines. It was my first time camping out under the  open stars. After losing my watch 2 times I became good at telling time using the sun. 

 So far, I have not missed my motorcycle at all. There were far too many days where I had to pretend to be MacGyver and try to fix a serious problem with hardly more than a swiss army knife, gum, and a paper clip. Problem after problem led to constant greasy hands and lots of bitching about the cost of BMW parts in South America. I did appreciate the durability of my motorcycle. Despite falling onto rocks, crashing at 40 mph, driving through rivers, and numerous falls it never changed the smooth handling or pull of the Rotax engine. (Note to motorcyclists: KLR's and XLR's are perfect for this trip! Do not bring a BMW!)

There have been a few times where I was very scared. In Colombia, my motorcycle broke down at dawn in the middle of no where and the military came by and warned that the area was unsafe. When walking the streets of Colon, Panama I left my helmet on until after I entered a shop because every 3rd local looked like he was recovering from a bar fight. In the Bolivian mountains I was surprised to hit the only patch of snow in fifty miles and be thrown 10 ft up in the air at 40 mph with cold asphalt to break my fall (enough force in the crash to bend my handlebar). When my chain broke on Ruta 40 I pushed the motorcycle for 3 hours until someone stopped to help. My advice to avoid some of these dangerous situations is pick a friend that you can run faster than and do the trip with him/her!

 Looking back on my trip the greatest thing about it has been the people I have met. In the beginning communication was difficult and my Spanish has not improved much but I can understand the jist of things now. People of all backgrounds helped me. There was the elderly lady who let me sleep on the floor of her 1 room house and than there was the owner of a jewlery chain who hosted me in his 5 bedroom penthouse condo. In Chile after being robbed of my tools, Rocky (an American helicopter pilot in Santiago) lent me his tools so I could finish my trip. A German couchsurfer in Paraguay spent many hours of his time answering phone calls, translating conversations, and doing research so that I could sell my motorcycle in Paraguay. Eduardo, a random motorcyclist in Argentina, let me stay at his house and helped me make inquiries on the day I was threatened by a police officer. There were also a lot of great motorcyclists from all around the world who I met on this trip. Now, I am trying to Pay It Forward and help out nearby travelers.

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