Local bikers' long Latin adventure
A group of 10 S'pore bikers went on a 40-day, 13,200km journey from Colombia to the south of Argentina
Among the 10 of them, they knew only a handful of Spanish words, like "comida" for food, "estacion de petroleo" for petrol station and "bano" for toilet.
Yet, their can-do spirit guided this group of Singaporean bikers on a 40-day South American adventure last December on their BMW R1200GS dual-purpose motorcycles.
Armed with GPS and Google Translate on their mobile phones, they started their 13,200km journey from Colombia to Ushuaia, at the southern tip of Argentina.
Along the way, they travelled across countries like Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Chile.
Ms Koh Lee Na, the only woman in the group, recalled going to a supermarket in a small town in Argentina to buy eggs.
Said Ms Koh, 45, a freelance technical producer: "I didn't know how to say eggs, so I flapped my arms and (acted out) a chicken laying an egg.
"Everybody around me started laughing when a staff member returned with toilet paper."
The group, which included firefighters, an engineer and a businessman, had shipped their motorcycles last October to a port in Colombia.
The terrain was tough, but the people they met were helpful.
Mr Noor Iibrahim Abdillah, a motorcycle sales executive who organised the ride, remembered his first brush with bad luck.
Just 80km into the group's journey from Colombia, he hit a pothole, which dented and cracked his front rim.
Said Mr Iibrahim, 40: "We had barely begun our journey and I faced a problem.
"It was like an omen."
They managed to flag down a vegetable lorry which took the motorcycle to a nearby village.
The damaged rim was taken to a car workshop and repaired in two hours, for about $30.
The scenery was beautiful - mountain passes and coastal roads - but they also encountered treacherous conditions such as loose gravel, muddy areas and roads flanked by cliffs and deep ravines.
Machu Picchu, the famous Inca ruins in Peru, and the Salar de Uyuni salt flat in Bolivia, were among sites they visited.
Mr Surinderpal Singh had to concentrate while riding on Bolivia's Yungas Road, or Death Road. It claims an estimated 200 to 300 lives a year.
The road is known for thick fog, rock falls, hairpin turns and narrow passages.
Mr Singh said: "In higher altitudes, you can feel sick and your breathing gets laboured.
"Your fingers freeze no matter how many layers of clothing you wear."
The riders faced temperatures ranging from 2 deg C to 38 deg Cin a single day.
Snow, crosswinds and hail also made the route challenging.
Problems with their motorcycles caused the group to split up. Mr Iibrahim and another biker stayed in Colombia to wait for parts to be shipped to them while the rest went on.
Some 6,000km and 16 days later, there was an emotional reunion at Salar de Uyuni, where coincidentally, one leg of the Dakar Rally was being held.
Said Ms Koh: "I hugged them both because I was so happy to see them. They didn't tell us they were arriving."
Mr Singh said the group was overwhelmed by the spectators at Dakar Rally.
He said: "They gave us high fives and some news crew interviewed us. They thought we were competitors in the race due to our big BMW motorcycles."