The Gravel King’s 8 Year Moped Adventure

Willem first came to South America in 2005. Since then he has explored most of the continent by moped.  Now in Bogota, Colombia, he plans to purchase a new moped and continue his journey.  The Gravel King rides on…

The Gravel King

          My first week staying in Bogota I met a an incredibly fascinating Dutch man who goes by the name of Willem.  His first four years in South America he traveled extensively by moped until he finally ran out of money in San Rafael, Argentina.  He used that as a home base for two years but his adventures didn’t stop there.  He has ridden over 35,000 Kilometers since he first arrived in South America and now he just arrived in Colombia to buy a new moped and continue living in a way that would rival the Dos Equis Most interesting man in the World.”

One of the reasons he chose to stay and live in San Rafael is because of it’s history.  Established in 1805, it is older than most Argentinian cities by 100 years.  What he loved most is how it’s culture and history still remain a focal point.  The city is an agricultural heaven with the Diamante River weaving it’s way through the center of town.  It splits into canals providing sustenance for the many tree’s and vineyards that grow abundantly.  The locals call it the Oasis del Sur or, Oasis of the South, because of its fertile soil and endless supply of water.  He found a small farm whose owners let him live on exchange for helping out occasionally to cover his room and board.  From this landing point he he revved the engine on his trusty Yamaha V 50 Degree and continued his journey.

Chapada dos Guimaraes - de brom, Brazil

      His best memory from these later moped adventures was when he stayed five months in Paraguay.  In the winter time, it is not practical to travel in the south of Argentina because of the weather.  So he chose to stay in Paraguay until the roads became passable again.  He told me he doesn’t think people really know Paraguay, yet after 5 months there he came to quit enjoy the country.  I asked him why and he told me it was because of the way the people won him over with their hospitality.  That’s saying a lot because over the course of the those two years he made trips from San Rafael to; Suriname, French Guinea, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Chile.  He loves them all, but for Willem Paraguay is a special .

So why is he back in Colombia now?  33 years ago he was here for the first time and met some friends who he wants to try to reconnect with.  For me that sounds like an awesome adventure to be on.  It would be like if I went back to South Africa in 2047 and looked up some of the people I became friends with last year.  Whether they reconnect or not, it is clear Willem is going to be just fine on his Colombian adventure.  We sit outside in the courtyard of our hostel, sipping freshly brewed coffee and discussing all things South America and Mopeds. He doesn’t have to convince me why Colombia is so great, I’ve only been here 10 days and already I’m sold!

Click through the gallery below to see some of the amazing photos from Willems journey and you can contact him to plan your own guided tour by email ~ willemmieras@fastmail.fm

Bike: Yamaha V 50 Degre
Yamaha made ​​in China (2005). 
- 49 cc 2-stroke engine 
- 3 speed 
- 5 liters tank (and an additional 
   6 liters of fuel) 
- 6 volt lighting system 
- Kickstarter 
- Average consumption 1: 35 
- Top speed 60 km (depending on the 
   mounted sprockets) 
- Two luggage racks 
- Comfort: Good 
- Weight 75 kg
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