We met in South Sudan, East Africa in 2010 while on assignment with the American Refugee Committee. Jess (a typically friendly Canadian and untypically messy Swiss) lived on a hilltop overlooking the small town of Kajo Keji in the lush, fertile south and Greg (a sometimes accused [by Jess] of being an obnoxious, know-it-all American) lived in Malakal in the half-the-year-dry-and-other-half-horrendously-muddy northern frontier.
Noteworthy events: a motorbike ride through an unbeknownst-to-Greg minefield along with the Security Manager, A balloon flight over the UAE while Jess was on R&R in Dubai, and the number of times Greg grounded the Land Cruiser in the mud: lost to history.
In 2011 we moved to Liberia, West Africa, again on assignment with aid organizations. Since his first introduction to motorcycle travel – a six-month, 20,000km journey from Los Angeles, USA to the Darien Gap in Panama – Greg had been hankering (and saving) for the next, grander moto adventure. ‘I’d go with if you invite me,’ Jess offered. ‘I’ll invite you if you learn to ride your own motorcycle,’ Greg replied. 1,000 km of 160cc motorbike practice later and Jess was ready to set off.
Lessons learned: 1) boyfriends shouldn’t give motorbike riding lessons – find someone else! 2) You ain’t never seen flooded streets like Monrovia’s after a rain. 3) The fee for dropping a dead body at the hospital is $10, no exceptions.
After Liberia, we hunkered down in sunny Los Angeles, California (Greg’s hometown) for a few months in 2013 and set the motorcycle trip preparations in motion. A BMW F700GS for Greg and an only slightly lighter G650GS for Jess, riding outfits, moto travel and camping gear, and a few small freak-outs from Jess while learning to handle a 250kg motorbike and we were ready to set off.
Lessons not learned: 1) Layout everything you want to take and then get rid of half. 2) Hand signals while riding make a lot more sense to the signaler than to the signalee. 3) As partners preparing for something big, express each person’s expectations and agree on safe words and equal but not identical division of the labor.
From Los Angeles we set off north and made it halfway through British Columbia before the cold of oncoming winter sent us fleeing south again. Down through Baja for Jess’s first real off-road challenge; a ferry across to the mainland; a stay with friends in San Miguel de Allende; sad to leave Mexico-excited to enter Central America; one border and beautiful country after another; bikes and riders on a plane to Bogota because of Greg’s previous, miserable experience sailing from Panama to Colombia; the Tatacoa Desert and Jamundí in Colombia, Volcán Cotopaxi and hope-to-live-there-someday Quito; roadblocks and demonstrations through Cuzco but then Ayaviri to Espinar and Colca Canyon; the Bolivian DEA, oh, and the Uyuni Salt Flats, of course; Greg grounded and alone in the Atacama Desert; and then a big, ugly crash and safe arrival at route’s (and bank account’s) end in Santiago de Chile after eight months and 30,000km.
Noteworthy events and lessons learned: Drop us a line or buy us a beer and we’ll happily bore you with an endless list!
Overarching takeaway: Nothing better than having a moto travel adventure with your partner.
After repairs to Greg’s bike and an investigation into Chilean residency laws revealed a prohibition on importing used motorcycles, we moved to New Orleans, USA to try our hand at living in the developed world. A wonderful experience and New Orleans is brimming with character but after a couple years we started feelin' that ol' travellin’ bone again. With an NGO to support and remote contracts with our New Orleans employers, we packed up and rode our motorbikes south. Currently we’re on an extended visit in Panajachel on the shores of beautiful Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. The on-and-off tarmac riding opportunities abound and we've even added a new “GS” (German Shepherd) to our riding pack!
If you’re coming for a holiday or traveling through on a motorbike trip, drop us a line and stop by for a visit.