Air Canada Cargo – Fly Your Bike

Holidays looming, Where to ride this to this summer? The Alps or Rockies again depending on whether you live in Europe or North America, but what about something different? Cross the Atlantic with your motorcycle and ride the other side of the pond. Difficult, costly and time-consuming you may say, but perhaps not. Have you seen Air Canada Cargo’s ‘Fly Your Bike’ offer? This innovative program enables transatlantic travel for motorcycles between May 1 and 30 September 2017 at extremely competitive prices. Below is my understanding of their destinations and pricing for 2017. Note that these prices are for Air Canada ticketed passengers and do not include local customs charges.

While not claiming to be airfreight motorcycle shipping experts, we have some experience as Streak and Storm are being prepared for their sixth flight from Vancouver to Seoul. We have shipped in crates, on pallets, directly with Airlines and through Shipping Agents on four continents. Each experience was different, but we have found that Air Canada’s Cargo’s ‘Fly Your Bike’ program is the easiest, quickest and most cost effective motorcycle shipping process. We have used Air Canada Cargo once each way across the Atlantic but I will not detail their process, best to read the relevant Air Canada documentation https://www.aircanada.com/cargo/en/shipping/shipping-solutions/ac-dgr/#tab_motorcycle then contact Air Canada Cargo directly with any questions. What I will say in our experience is that you can ride to and from Air Canada Cargo at each end without crating and it does not get any better than that.

Streak & Storm, ready to fly


Some may wonder why we have posted what could be considered an ‘infomercial’, but I simply think that the program is excellent value and in my view under publicised. We have not been sponsored by Air Canada in any way. Enjoy your 2017 Biking holiday whatever your destination and if you use the service, tell them the 2slowspeeds sent you!

– Anthony

Note to self – a temporary fix may be just that, temporary

We’re on the road again, as the song in my head goes. That was on the 16th August. Streak and Storm are purring beautifully as we head to the Poole ferry with Anthony’s brother-in-law John leading the way on his bike. Our first stop tonight is the Mont-Saint-Michel, a short 150km ride after a 3 hour ferry ride from Poole to Cherbourg. The scenery is gorgeous, we’re enjoying our leisurely ride through the small villages, past old stone houses. I suddenly realise it is my first time riding in France since my old moped days when I was a teenager and I am so excited. The roads are remarkably clear for mid August in France – the height of the tourist season. It seems we have picked our timing perfectly.

75km south of Cherbourg, I feel something is not quite right. My front brake is suddenly sluggish, I notice my tank has drops of oil which I immediately know this means something has happened to my brake fluid container, then the front brake is totally useless. I can pull the lever all the way, to no effect. We pull over and find out my front brake container is empty. The temporary fix I had built by an amazing mechanic in Chiang Mai, Thailand (after I smashed it after crashing into a wall in India) basically disintegrated. The beautiful fibreglass mold had done a fantastic job for 12 months, but brake fluid is corrosive and it eventually ate through the fibreglass. That is when I made a note to myself: a temporary fix may be just that, temporary. A good lesson for the future…

Thank goodness for the back brake but going through endless roundabouts in small towns and villages is proving to be tricky. We limp along, Anthony behind me protecting my back and with our flashers on, until I give up outside Bréhal as I spot a Peugeot repair place just off yet another roundabout and ask for directions to the nearest motorcycle store – I see they have a tow truck so, if need be, I am sure we can get Streak to the right place. We are in luck – there is a motorcycle store just 8kms away I am told, just 3 or 4 roundabouts away. Easy. No problem getting there in my situation they say. But I am not comfortable and decide to take Anthony’s bike while he waits for my return. Thank goodness I didn’t go on Streak: I get totally and utterly lost and end up in the tiny twisty streets of Granville teeming with tourists walking all over the place. It feels nightmarish, especially as I realise I didn’t make a note of where I left Anthony. It turns out I took the wrong exit at the first round about – I was not meant to follow the signs to Granville even though I was heading to Granville…. I eventually find the store, buy some brake fluid, ask for directions back to where I think I left Anthony and finally get back 1.5 hours later!! Lucky Anthony is not a worrier.

Anthony remembers what we did to refill my brake fluid container back in India, making sure to bleed the brake properly. We overfill the container, expecting continued seepage through the base and slowly make our way to the Mont St Michel, with our flashers going on the faster stretches of road to warn upcoming drivers behind us. I get splashes of oil all over the tank, my trousers and even helmet visor as it seeps out but on arrival at our hotel , we see I didn’t loose too much. We should be able to make Nantes tomorrow no problem. I call BMW Boxer-Passion in Nantes that evening to warn them of our arrival.

It has been a long day – 14 hours since we got up and Anthony started to cough badly today. He is stuffed and his ankle hurts. But he knows how much I had been looking forward to seeing the Mont St Michel again so he soldiers on so that we can have a quick visit of this fantastic Unesco site which I last saw when I was very little.

We made it to the Mont-Saint-Michel!

We made it to the Mont-Saint-Michel!

The Mont-Saint-Michel at dusk

The Mont-Saint-Michel at dusk

The medieval streets within the Mont-Saint-Michel

The medieval streets within the Mont-Saint-Michel

We set off the next morning for BMW Boxer-Passion in Nantes where Philippe, said he admired what we did to keep going while in SE Asia, but also gave me a telling off!! Unfortunately, and even to the surprise of the guys at BMW Boxer-Passion, we cannot just buy the container, but have to get the entire front brake system (as we had found out previously) – and yes, that means big €€€ and a week’s delay to get the part in. But they did try and see if they could find one from a broken bike they could give us. Very very helpful – thank you BMW Boxer-Passion Nantes for trying. And yes, I will remember in future that any temporary fix may need fixing ‘properly’. The angels are still on our side 🙂

– Anne

Our RTW is complete!!!

After we dropped the bikes off at Air Canada cargo and being separated from Streak and Storm, we feel like we have lost control of our destiny, in limbo. We have not quite finished the trip, yet this is another milestone – we can’t even work out how we feel. It is a strange time.

We get back to the UK on the 12th September after an overnight flight from Montreal, via Halifax. Clearing the bikes from Air Canada at Heathrow is quick and painless (except for an additional unexpected charge – from customs or Air Canada, not sure as each one claimed it was for the other…). It was still a very good deal overall, so no complaint, especially considering it was all done in 15′ and after a sleepless flight, we appreciate being reunited with Streak and Storm so quickly. We are lucky with the weather, clear blue skies, and we are able to repack in no time, even earning a congratulation from a truck driver who has been watching us from his cab. This friendly guy even offered me the use of his cab to change from as he saw I was about to take my jeans off. That is the least of my concerns, decline and I am back in my riding pants in no time.

Our first port of call is BMW Oxford, where we bought our demo bikes from. We thought they’d like to see the bikes after their round the world tour as the had commented when we left that it was nice to see that their bikes were going to be used for what they had been designed. We also wanted them to complete the bikes’ 36,000 miles service (we had already done the oil change and cleaned the re-usable K&N air filters).

A few hours later, we head for our hotel half way to Anthony’s sister Tansy in Dorset. We are exhausted, thought we would not be much company after an overnight flight, we didn’t want to ride too far and needed a long sleep before seeing family again.

I sleep for 11 hours and wake up refreshed – not so lucky for Anthony with his itchy skin. It looks like our last leg will be done in the rain. We rug up as it is cool too.

One last leg and the trip is complete

One last leg and the trip is complete

I recall how I had thought how long and boring the motorway journey to Dover nearly 15 months ago had felt – and it was our first day only – how will I cope with riding all around the world?!?! It seemed like such a massive task ahead of us. And we felt so green and inexperienced: we hadn’t even finished the beginner’s off road course and our motorcycle maintenance experience was next to nothing! Now, on our last day, the trip seems like it happened so fast and easily and it is just about over. Although it is raining, I am savouring these last couple of hours.

Welcome back to the UK!

Welcome back to the UK!


Approaching Verwood, Dorset where we started from

Approaching Verwood, Dorset where we started from


We approach Tansy’s home, the sun is out, the butterflies have reappeared, we see Tansy on the doorstep looking out for us, spotting us in the distance and waiving. What a sight. What a feeling. One last turn right, onto the gravel driveway, stop, the poppers and streamers go off, engines off. Wow. We have made it!!!!!!!!!!! Yes, the 2 Slow Speeds have just gone around the world on motorcycles and made it back with Streak and Storm, the 4 of us relatively unscathed. Our grateful thanks to our trusted companions, Streak and Storm, and our many guardian angels who can take a well deserved rest now.

We have made it!!

We have made it!!

Storm and Streak have made it back!!

Storm and Streak have made it back!!


What a great welcome back

What a great welcome back

Awwww

Awwww



I saw a little saying yesterday “what would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”. It made me wonder what I would do. I am so glad the YouTube videos of roads in Russia, Kazakhstan, India and Myanmar didn’t put me off – they terrified me, the videos that is and I dreaded riding in those places. But the experience was different, they made me feel alive. The people we met, the numerous generous actions of strangers, the friends we made – worth absolutely everything. And the whole trip was so easy really. We were never threatened, never robbed and never felt unsafe. I am so glad my fears didn’t end building barriers to a most amazing experience.

We finish our trip being so much richer than when we left, with our brains full of memories, hearts bursting with the kindness of people the world over and looking forward to seeing family again. We will be coming out of our retirement when we return, having spent a lot more than planned because we didn’t camp as much as originally planned and stayed in better hotels. But one thing is certain, we have absolutely no regrets.

What next is a big question mark. The result of Anthony’s skin biopsy this week (and 4 stitches) will determine what we do in the short term. But we have changed our plans for the next few months, and forfeited travel bookings in Europe to return to Australia next month. It will be easier for Anthony to be in one place over the next few months at least while his treatment is fine tuned. Sadly, it does mean that we will not be able to catch with many friends and family members in Europe as we had planned to. But the last couple of months have been quite horrid for Anthony (without counting his crushed ankle) and he has been incredibly brave to continue as he has. It is more than time to concentrate wholly on his health now.

We are grateful to you too, our followers, for your support during our trip – if we hadn’t written the blog, for you initially, if you hadn’t let us know you were following us, commented and encouraged us for more posts, it would have been easy, tempting even, to stop writing and we would have had no way of remembering all we have seen and done and the names of the wonderful people we have met along the way. After some months, we ended up writing the blog for ourselves too. So, so long, and thanks for all the memories…..

Anne for the 2SlowSpeeds

Stunning scenery from Quito to Pasto

Although Karen and Jos have very kindly invited to stay with them as long as we like, we feel we should move on. It is not that we want to leave Ecuador in a hurry, but spending more time in Quito which is huge has no appeal and we need to give ourselves a buffer if time to sort out how we will get out of Colombia (the ferry service to Panama having been terminated this week).  Before we leave, Jos and Karen, who have lived 18 years in Colombia before moving to Ecuador, give us some safety tips on security in Colombia which we will be sure to follow:  we should not stop between Pasto and Cali and definitely not ride there at night.

Ready to leave Jos and Karen's in Quito

Ready to leave Jos and Karen’s in Quito

What a ride out of Quito!!! How they managed to construct so many buildings and suburbs in this landscape, clinging to sheer cliffs, is incredible. You have to stay alert while driving around Quito as there are so many ramps and overpasses that go in opposite directions to where you are aiming, to get around cliffs or creeks and rivers. A bit of a maze. Luckily getting out of the city from Karen and Jos is a breeze and we are out into the beautiful countryside in no time.

Entrepreneur in Ecuador

Entrepreneur in Ecuador

Entrepreneur in Ecuador

Entrepreneur in Ecuador

On the equator in Ecuador

On the equator in Ecuador

We ride up and up again, up to 3,600 metres before going down again. Glorious roads and countryside.

Cayambe, Ecuador

Cayambe, Ecuador

Heading to Otavalo, Ecuador

Heading to Otavalo, Ecuador

Otavalo is renowned for one of its markets where people are dressed in traditional costumes and selling various clothes, shawls, ponchos, jewellery, most goods we are told resembling Peruvian goods – sounded way too touristy for us so Jos and Karen mentioned a route that took us near a lake on the outskirts of Otavalo and into tiny villages. We stop at a food market there and enjoy a quiet stroll and chat with an old lady. We chat, not quite understanding each other so hold hands and everything is clear. This is the side of travel we love. We started riding up towards a nature reserve, but after 3kms of pebbles up a narrow windy road, we turned back when it started raining, still going for the safe option as you see…

Pivarinshe, Ecuador

Pivarinshe, Ecuador

Pivarinshe, Ecuador

Pivarinshe, Ecuador

Outside Otavalo, Ecuador

Outside Otavalo, Ecuador

While Anthony rests at the hotel, I enjoy walking around the local market, watching a lady sewing, sitting in the main square watching people. Eventually, I make my way to the touristy market as many are packing up. What was interesting to see was that ladies there wear their traditional clothes everywhere. It is not just for tourists at the touristy market.

Otavalo, Ecuador

Otavalo, Ecuador

Inca warrior Rumiñawi, Otavalo, Ecuador

Inca warrior Rumiñawi, Otavalo, Ecuador

Local market in Otavalo, Ecuador

Local market in Otavalo, Ecuador

Otavalo lady

Otavalo lady

Traditional blouses in Otavalo, Ecuador

Traditional blouses in Otavalo, Ecuador

Otavalo, Ecuador

Otavalo, Ecuador

Otavalo, Ecuador

Otavalo, Ecuador

Otavalo, Ecuador

Otavalo, Ecuador

One of several music stores in Otavalo, Ecuador

One of several music stores in Otavalo, Ecuador

Otavalo, Ecuador

Otavalo, Ecuador

Ice cream seller in Otavalo, Ecuador

Ice cream seller in Otavalo, Ecuador

Otavalo, Ecuador

Otavalo, Ecuador

 

Lovely market seller in Otavalo, Ecuador

Lovely market seller in Otavalo, Ecuador

We get ready to leave Otavalo early as we will be crossing the border into Colombia today and want to make it to Pasto well before dark, and we have 227kms to cover plus an unknown amount of time at the border. We meet up with the hotel owner again as we are packing the bikes: did we find the stickers at the place he mentioned to us last night? No luck. So he decides to go off to the store himself and look for us. He has no luck either but how lovely of him!!

We enjoy our ride up to the border:

Ibarra, Ecuador

Ibarra, Ecuador

Flower greenhouses in Ecuador

Flower greenhouses in Ecuador

Bolivar county, Ecuador

Bolivar county, Ecuador

Tulcan, Ecuador

Tulcan, Ecuador

Tulcan, Ecuador

Tulcan, Ecuador

We arrive at the Rumichaca border at 10.30. The immigration processing office is so full that a security guard holds people back from entering. It takes us 2 hours to get the immigration exit stamp. Before going onto the Colombian border, we have a quick snack sitting on the side of the road – a can of salmon and dry biscuits – our favorite staple traveling diet. On we drive to the Colombian side which is very close, and up we walk to the immigration office which takes a couple of minutes and then onto the customs office. A gentleman in a crisp black suit greets us as we’re walking up to the office, and tells us in English that the office is closed but he’ll get someone to see us anyway. Very nice. They unlock the door and in we go. Unfortunately, the lady there is leaving her shift and her colleague who should be processing us is nowhere to be found. Just go and have lunch and come back she says. As we’ve had lunch, we decide it is best to ‘save’ our place in the queue, ie sitting at the desk waiting for someone to come back from lunch. We use that time for one of us to get the required photocopy of our passports with our immigration stamp (luckily, for once Kristjan had gone through the border before us, so we knew the process) and get our road insurance. An hour later, a customs guy arrives. It takes another hour for him to enter all the vehicule information into his computer, while about 20 people still wait outside the locked office. What delayed us a little more was the requirement to take a carbon rubbing of our chassis number – not easy when it is printed on a label, not engraved but they got enough and we were finally stamped into Colombia 4 hours after arriving at the border.

Our first priority is to drive into Ipiales to get our SOAT road insurance as the border office computer was down!! You can buy your SOAT at at supermarket but where is that supermarket? Once in the centre, I suggest that Anthony stays with bikes while I hop into a taxi there and back. I take a quick photo of where we are so I can find my way back!!

Parque San Felipe, Ipiales, Colombia

Parque San Felipe, Ipiales, Colombia

Finally, we are off. We are in Colombia!! Wow, I have butterflies of excitement.

Our road insurance complete, we finally head out of Ipiales and start our journey towards Pasto. The scenery is so gorgeous, once again, every new bend surprising us even more. As a bike rider, the road is paradise. Gentle bends, perfectly cambered road, vistas as far as the eye can see of beautifully green rolling hills, then suddenly cliffs and deep green gorges. Here is how the scenery changed within 15′ (luckily my Lumix camera records the time as I would never remember such details):

North of Ipiales, Colombia

North of Ipiales, Colombia

North of Ipiales, Colombia

North of Ipiales, Colombia

North of Ipiales, Colombia

North of Ipiales, Colombia

North of Ipiales, Colombia

North of Ipiales, Colombia

We get to our hotel in Pasto around 5pm – Hotel Frances La Maison which Anthony spotted online. It is owned by a Frenchman, Patrice, who has been living in Colombia for 20 years. It is good to speak French!! We have dinner at a little pizza place 5′ walk down the road: I can say it was the best pizza I have ever had and the owner of Alina was such a wonderful and gentle guy. Colombia has a great feel so far and we are enjoying being here.

– Anne

Chile’s Lake District

We are finally “back on the road again”, something Anne sings from time to time when she is happy to be back on the motorbike. We spend two half days riding down ‘Route 5’ which is the main dual highway road spine of Chile. Easy riding, but the tolls every 50km or so are a pain to pay the 1400 pesos for two bikes – fumbling with notes and coins in gloves is not the easiest. I have resorted to small envelopes pre-packed with one 1000 peso note and four 100 peso coins. Apart from this minor irritant, weather is good, not too hot, traffic is light and follows road rules, something we have not been used to for quite a while. Our first destination is Talca, a town some 250km south of Santiago, we overnight and then push on to Temuco, our jumping off point for the Chilean Lake District, our first area to explore in our southward meander. Temuco has an unusual statue in the town’s main square which is dedicated to all the peoples, including indigenous Mapuche, who contributed to the area’s development.

Monumento a la Araucania, Plaza de Armas, Temuco

Monumento a la Araucania, Plaza de Armas, Temuco

We are slowly adjusting to the the local timings, such as late breakfast, lunch and dinner. Here this pizza restaurant was open at 7pm, with one member of staff when we arrived, we were the only customers. I think we had finished dinner before all the staff arrived!

The backdrop to the main counter at Lola restaurant, Temuco, Chile

The backdrop to the main counter at Lola restaurant, Temuco, Chile

Thinking of the Cab Sav we are about to enjoy.

Thinking of the Cab Sav we are about to enjoy.

In Temuco, we visit the railway museum, which while they have retained some impressive buildings such as the coaling tower and roundhouse for locomotives, the level of carriage and engine maintenance is non existent with rusty coaches and deteriorating steam engines, a pity really as it could be a wonderful historic tourist attraction. We travelled parallel to a railway line down route 5 and while bridges and other infastructure appeared intact the track, catenary and signalling had a disused air about it, plus we saw no trains running. It appears some sections are no longer in use, probably due to the highway running parallel to the railway offering faster transportation options for people and goods.

Steam crane and coaling station at the railway museum, Temuco

Steam crane and coaling station at the railway museum, Temuco

Museo Nacional Ferroviario at Temuco, Engine Roundhouse

Museo Nacional Ferroviario at Temuco, Engine Roundhouse

We turn west heading for lago or lake Villarrica, traffic is heavy coming back as it is the end of the school holidays, every property we pass seems to offer Cabañas or camping of various quality. As we start to skirt the lake, we get our first glimpse of Mt Villarrica as we head towards Pucón.

Our first glimpse of Villarrica volcano, Chile

Our first glimpse of Villarrica volcano, Chile

Mt Villarrica dominates that landscape at 2,840m with a wisp of smoke coming from the top, we understand that the last volcanic activity started in December 2014 and has not finished yet! Each day at 12:00 they test the emergency alarm, which covers volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis on the coast. Warning signs give evacuation routes for the volcanic activity, we will be happy to avoid such potential excitement.

This sign was found in many places we went to in Chile

This sign was found in many places we went to in Chile

Pucón is a charming, if somewhat touristy, village at the eastern edge of Lake Villarrica under the watchful gaze of Mt Villarrica, seems everything is named after the volcano. We spend a relaxing afternoon and enjoy the long summer twilight, which lasts till about 9:30pm even at this time of the year.

In Pucón with Villarrica volcano in the background

In Pucón with Villarrica volcano in the background

South brings us to lake Calafquen in search of hot springs, mentionned in other travel blogs which can be a good source of current information. Our chosen hot springs destination is Termas Geometricas some 20 kilometers towards the Villarrica volcano, which I presume is the source of the warming waters. This beautifully developed hot springs is laid out above the stream that cuts through a verdant green gorge. We spend a relaxing afternoon testing various pools, which range between 36 and 45 degrees (and make us wonder how hot a couple of pools closed for being too hot were) and take a walk in the forest above the hot springs before returning to our campground in Coñaripe, on the edge of Calafquen lake.

Termas Geometricas, Coñaripe

Termas Geometricas, Coñaripe

Wildlife spotted at Termas Geometricas, Coñaripe, Chile

Wildlife spotted at Termas Geometricas, Coñaripe, Chile

Enjoying a soak in one of the many pools at Termas Geometricas, Coñaripe, Chile

Enjoying a soak in one of the many pools at Termas Geometricas, Coñaripe, Chile

Small lizard spotted during our forest walk

Small lizard spotted during our forest walk

Termas Geometricas viewed from our forest walk

Termas Geometricas viewed from our forest walk

Anne is excited at camping again.

Anthony