Bill Shum, Unpaidbill.....Motorcycle riding in North, Central and South America. 70,000 kms from LA - South to Ushaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, 'The End of the World' then back to LA, then up North to Deadhorse, Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, 'The Top of the World'. 18 countries, 35 border crossings, 15 months.
Next 53 weeks on a 47' catamaran from Grenada in the Carib, via Venezuela, Colombia, San Blas, Colon, a short side trip to my favourite country, Cuba, back to Panama, back onboard, off across the big blue Pacific, Galapagos, Marquesas, Tuomotus, Societys, Cooks, Tonga and Fiji where I bail.
Back to NYC then Kentucky, Panama, Cuba, Medellin, back to Kentucky, Dallas, Washington, NYC, Chicago, LA and back to Oz.
Bought 25 acres on top of a hill at Brogo, South Coast, NSW, Oz. and built a little house, couldn't settle....now living and working in Hanoi, Vietnam.
VENI, VIDI, BLOGI
Blog Early, Blog Often..........
The story so far.....
I was surrounded by family, friends and colleagues getting to my age (57) and too many succumbing to cancers, heart attacks or stressed about retirement funding. I took the title of the house to the bank and bought a motorcycle.
I flew my BMW 1150 GS Adventure from Melbourne to LA and rode into Mexico on the 1st July 2005.
With me at the start were 2 friends on similar bikes and we stayed pretty much together for the first 6 months until we got to Ushaia, Tierra del Fuego, after which I headed off on my own.
We tended to ride 3 or 4 days and then have a lay-day to wash sweaty stuff and just relax. Initially the culture shock was more a language barrier. I spoke survival level Spanish, my friends, nothing. By the end I was reasonably fluent.
Travelling through Mexico fairly quickly we slowed down in Central America, sampling many beaches along the way as my 2 surf oriented companions searched for the elusive Shangri La of surf mythology. I think they got close a couple of times as we covered Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rico and Panama, the end of the road South.
From Panama we shipped the bikes to Venezuela and after travelling around that unexpectedly wonderful country, headed south to Manaus in the Amazon Jungle in Brasil. A 5 day river boat ride took us down the Amazon to the coast and we followed the beaches down to Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.
Cutting inland to the Igaucu Falls we crossed into Argentina, diverting into Uraguay (what a hidden treasure!) and then a ferry to Buenos Aires in Argentina.
We followed the East coast of Argentina, down through Patagonia, all the way down to Ushaia, ‘The End of the World’, in Tierra del Fuego. This latitude was quite a way south of the southernmost point of Australia. Seriously close to Antarctica. I enjoyed the 21 hours of daylight and the brilliantly stark snow covered mountains around. What a buzz to get here, one of the defining moments of this journey.
Riding off alone from Ushaia I travelled up through Western Argentina and Chile, over snow covered mountains, flooded rivers and rocky mountain roads, the alto-plano high desert of Bolivia, Machu Pichu in Peru, Ecuador (and a side trip to the Galapagos Islands) and on to Colombia.
After riding around Colombia I flew the bike to Panama, hitch-hiked on a small yacht through the Panama Canal, stopped in Bocas del Toro on the Caribbean coast to get my Scuba ticket, on to Costa Rico, back to some favourite places in Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and back to Mexico and some diving in Baja.
I crossed back into the US on 9 June 2006 and after a few days in LA I headed off North.
Our original plan had been to fly out of Santiago, Chile after 6 to 8 months travel but I knew from the start that I would go all around South America, and after meeting several bike riders in Ushaia with stickers saying "‘Alaska - Ushaia"’, I knew I was going to go all the way to the top.
One of my companions made it to Santiago, Chile and flew back, the other made it back to LA and flew back. I pressed on and made it to Fairbanks, Alaska, and then the last 800km ride out to Deadhorse on Prudhoe Bay, way inside the Arctic Circle, 24 hours daylight, ‘The Top of the World’. A similar, extraordinary buzz to that experienced in Ushaia at the other end of the Earth.
I took a ferry part of the way back from Alaska, the famous Inner Channel, surrounded by whales, orcas, seals, dolphins and unbelievable bird life, even moose, visible on shore, glaciers, snow capped mountains. I want to go back to Alaska, only in summer though!
While in Seattle I was fortunate to get a ride on another boat and went sailing for 3 weeks in the Canadian San Juan islands on a 48’ yacht. It’s a tough life!
Calling in to see my brother who has lived in Sun Valley, Idaho for 30 years I succumbed to an offer from one of his friends and sold my bike!
The last few weeks I travelled down to San Francisco, Las Vegas and LA, missing my bike but tired after all the travel and looking forward to getting home.
So much in 15 months, I was often overwhelmed by what I call ‘fantastic-scenery-overload’ and now, reading back through my blog, find it incredible that I got so far.
And I had a few spills, obviously not terminal, but no hassles with anybody, nothing lost or stolen and I got so much fabulously generous hospitality everywhere!
6 months back in Australia and I was ready to go back to anywhere in Latin America. I had completed a short course for teaching English so I sold the house and bought a ticket to Grenada, el caribe.
My brother had bought a 47’ catamaran and was sailing in the Caribbean so I flew to Grenada to join him for a month or two. One thing led to another and I stayed for 12 months and one week.
Grenada, Venezuela, Dutch Antilles, Colombia, San Blas Islands, Panama and the Canal. While the boat was in Panama I slipped over to Cuba for 4 weeks break. Then back on board and across the Pacific. The far islands of Galapagos, Marquesas, Tuamotus, Society (Tahiti, Bora Bora etc), Cook, Tonga and Fiji from where I flew back to New York.
New York for the third (and best) time. 4th of July, summer, holidays always so much to do and see. After 53 weeks on the yacht I was suffering withdrawal and went for a couple of boat trips, one by sail, on the East River. I met so many people this time, walked the Brooklyn Bridge and spent a day with the Henry Moore sculpture exhibition in the botanical gardens.
I found the most tiny restaurant, actually just the front room of a little house, in Brooklyn. I was the only customer and the owner/chef cooked me up a special lobster seafood bisque and we talked for several hours.
Finally I got to see Kentucky after hearing so much about it from friends in Australia. Staying with my friend David at his Mother’s house. Madeline is 90 and still going at it like a 30 year old. Endless fabulous meals including genuine southern fried chicken, peach, cherry and pecan pies. I also did a few days work with David’s boss Paul, an interesting man with an unusual business, designing, constructing and setting up garden railways.
By the end of July I was back in Cuba for another 4 weeks of that particularly different and fascinating country. Staying with my friend Natacha and her Mother in La Habana, renting a car and driving all over, catching up with old friends and meeting new ones. Looking at real estate, some bargains around but a near impossible process to get money into the country and buy something. Maybe later.
Back to Plan A and I was finally in Medellin, Colombia. A most fabulous city, wonderful people and the possibility of work teaching English. I travelled all over the city, riding the metro, walking the steep mountain-sided valley, off to the country and colonial towns, meeting my mate from Isla Fuerte and his friends.
Then I got the offer of more work in Kentucky and returned, putting Medellin on hold for now.
We left for Dallas, Texas to set up the railway for the Texas State Fair, a real big deal and a great opportunity for me to see more of the country. Then back to Kentucky, and work on new train sets for Washington, New York and Chicago in November.
The road trip, 3 weeks. First week in Washington DC, we set up in the Conservancy, right opposite the Capitol. We were there on election night, unbelievable experience. Then on to New York Botanical Gardens, it was starting to get cold. Then Chicago and it was really cold. Back in Kentucky some days it didn’t get above freezing. I’ve been to cold places but nothing like this. Living sub-zero. It hurt my teeth to breath. And it wasn’t even really winter.
Then the train from Cincinnati to LA. What a trip. And then back home for xmas.
Where to next? Ha, Good Question.
Took what was left after the GFC, bought 25 acres on top of a hill at Brogo, far south coast of NSW and built a little house....some understatement but that's another story. I couldn't really settle down and I couldn't afford to live in Oz, so now I'm living and working in Hanoi, Vietnam. And it's fantastic!