A Motorcycle Journey Aboard Honda's ST1100 - Fernando's World Tour

Five years, 100,000 miles, a Honda ST1100 and one big world

On June 28, 1995, I decided to embark on a motorcycle journey around the world. I have always enjoyed going on long trips during which I would perform a small challenge, such as walking across the Andes Mountains from Argentina to Chile. Now, my goal was to travel across five continents on my motorcycle, a Honda ST1100, which I decided to baptize with the name "Elisa," a combination of the names of my parents, Elio and Isabel.

So far, this journey has netted 100,000 miles traveled through situations of all kinds. I have found myself involved in social and political situations which were truly dangerous--and also miraculous. And now on my journey across the American continent, new stories and experiences have accompanied me and sustained my desire to travel from one end to the other; from the end of the Carretera Panamericana in the town of Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, to the other extreme: Alaska, USA. Let me share part of my journey with you.

Ecuador possesses a great number of volcanoes, and many are active. So I didn't want to miss out on the opportunity to visit the surroundings of Tungurahua, one of the most active volcanoes in the country--which at that moment was in complete activity. As I approached, it tried to impress me by showing me its great power.
Heading toward Bombay from the city of Agra in India, I came across a community of Bedouin nomads. I had some cookies and candy that I offered to them as a sign of friendship, while attempting to explain that I wanted to take a picture with them. This group had a leader who took my offering with the same attitude as a child would.
Coming across wild animals during a trip in remote and uninhabited places is good luck and a privilege. But when you take food with you, for those animals that can catch the scent from a distance, it is a temptation they very seldom can resist. This is the treatment I received from this wild creature of the southern part of the Patagonia region in Argentina. Left: When I left Spain five years ago, one goal was to make it back to my home of Argentina. When I finally arrived on the South American continent in early '99, I was very happy, and spent much time near the Oceano Atlantico in the town of Caleta Olivia praying and giving thanks to God for helping me reach one of my destinations.
I knew that crossing the Bolivian High Andes Plateau would not be an easy thing, but I never could have imagined just how difficult the road would be until I was actually on it. Sometimes it would take one hour just to travel 17 kilometers (10.54 miles). On many occasions the road lost its defining characteristics, transforming prints on the sand into tremendous diversities that pointed in all directions. Luckily, I only fell once.
Traveling through Asia meant discovering varied methods of transportation. This bike with a sidecar was the pride and joy of its owner, who offered rides in a boisterous voice to anyone who passed by. The bike did not have a single sign of neglect. It was impeccable and shiny.
It is interesting to see how regular people have access to truly dangerous places, such as here in northern Australia. One thing is for sure; those who have the potential of surviving are those who speak English or who can at least decipher signs.
After a month of daily attempts to get my bike into Indonesia by contacting a few transport companies and private vessels, I was able to illegally get Elisa in through a small port on the eastern coast of Sumatra Island. The illegal act took place on an old ship used for the transport of vegetables.
As always, the most beautiful places are sometimes the ones most difficult to get to. The thick forests of Sumatra, Indonesia, contain many animals, including tigers and a variety of monkeys and orangutans. When you travel through these places you hope your bike does not "get sick" at that moment so you can get to a safe and civilized place. It doesn't always happen, so you have to be willing to sleep anywhere.
The Mapuches are one of the indigenous peoples of Argentina and Chile. When the Spaniards arrived in South America 500 years ago, they practically extinguished the tribe. Mapuche children are the most innocent and loving children you can imagine.
When I arrived at the parking lot for Iguassu Falls (at the Argentina- Paraguay-Brazil border), I had just parked when a large number of coati began to surround me. These creatures are like a type of anteater, but smaller. These animals are so used to visitors feeding them that they instantly approached me assuming that I would do the same.
In this photo taken in Bangladesh, I was peacefully riding in my lane when a bus drove toward me. There was more than enough room for both of us, but the driver decided to leave the least room possible. It had [recently] rained, and the mud made me lose control. Fortunately, it was nothing more than what you see here.
Lonely Route 40 is one of the myths that all adventurers dream about: knowing the magic that envelops the territory farthest south on the planet--the Argentinean Patagonia. There are vast sections of land here where the hostility of the climate and the roads are like a filter; they're "guardians of nature," which protect that zone from conventional tourism.
I don't know whether a guardian angel exists and guides us without us knowing it in order to avoid a catastrophe. Sometimes you come close to leaving this world, or what could be even worse is the pain you have to endure when you get hurt. It is then that you stop and think about how fortunate you are.
The road to Milford Sound in New Zealand provides the most attractive scenery. The perfect roads are filled with curves and steep parts, which make riding a pleasure. I stopped to contemplate the snow and the view. In less than two minutes this visitor arrived, very typical of the area and famous for his attitude and lack of shame. He loves to greet visitors, especially those with cars or any other sort of vehicle.
Throughout my journey I relied on the support of Pirelli tires, yet in India, as in all the countries of southeast Asia, that brand was nowhere to be found. After a lot of paperwork the tires arrived 14 days later by plane, and at no charge! I was so anxious to see my bike with "new shoes" that within minutes I realized I could remove both tires at the same time! I was happier than a dog with two tails.
The Chimborazo is the highest mountain and volcano in Ecuador (20,561 feet), and at the same time, if you measure it from the center of the earth, it is considered the highest mountain in the world. At this time I was heading toward Quito, the capital of Ecuador.
The sign says: Administration of National Parks National Monument of Petrified Forest Welcome. Thousands of years ago, magnificent forests occupied this region in Argentina. Volcanoes erupted repeatedly and covered the forests with ashes. The combination of certain elements in the air and the wood of the trees caused the transformation of those huge wood trunks into stone.
In Pakistan, Customs decided I could continue my journey only if I traveled under the custody of a soldier. Socioeconomic problems forced the people to arm themselves and to protest against then-PM Benazir Bhutto. Many times during our trip, armed civilians blocking the roads tried to stop us. The soldier would yell, "Don't stop! Press on the gas and keep going!" We fell off the bike and my companion's foot was broken.
South American countries tempt you to travel through them in order to see their most remote areas. Other travelers on the road say things about certain places: "Didn't you go to this place? You have to go!" So you ask, "And how is the road that gets you there?" Usually, the answer is: "The road is a mess...but the place is definitely worth seeing."
The road that took us toward the Andes region of La Puna in Argentina rose 4100 meters (13,448 feet) above sea level. Although its condition was poor, we reached the top. From there we began to ride downhill; the dirt resembled flour, and potholes were numerous. The soft surface, heat, lack of oxygen and wind caused me to crash (again!), but we finally found shelter by nightfall in a police cabin. The dinner of roast lamb and a warm shower helped tremendously!
When I arrived in the USA I only had $165 in my pocket; my financial situation needed a boost. I soon got help from the people at Motorcyclist and American Honda, who took it upon themselves to help me repair Elisa and leave her in good condition, ready for what is to come. In Australia and New Zealand, Honda also treated me in a very special way, which in turn gave me the peace of mind I needed in respect to the maintenance of my bike while I was in those countries.
In my mind and my dreams Australia had always been synonymous with "wild land." I had pictured a vast extension of land in direct contact with nature and nothing more. In this place, the temperatures were also extreme. During the day we traveled in a temperature of about 113 degrees (F) and at night it dropped down to about 27 degrees (F).