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Old 01-08-2013, 09:13 AM   #301
El Explorador
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Just ENTERING central America

Hehe, well 3 months in Mexico was balanced out by only 10 days in Belize; I am in Guatemala now and with the new computer finally catching up on photos and blog! I should be caught up by the time I head out. Looks like you aren't going to make it home in time, whats the new timeline for you, I'm sure your readers are dying to know!
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Old 01-08-2013, 11:59 AM   #302
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Amazing trip, I didn't realize you were doing ALL of N.America, great photos, I really enjoyed following!
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Old 01-08-2013, 03:55 PM   #303
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Amazing trip, I didn't realize you were doing ALL of N.America, great photos, I really enjoyed following!
Thanks Durden for the nice words. But you are too kind, we just barely scratched the "surface" of the things that could be seen in North America :) An amazing experience though, short as it was. We would really like to stay in a lot of places for more time.

All the stories from North America can be found here, in chronological order:

Across Americas Part I : Canada and Alaska


Across Americas Part II: The United States of America

Or of course, right here on ADV :)
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Old 01-09-2013, 04:43 AM   #304
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A line, a fish can, and a stop between high mountains: 21-24 December
Ecuador! It might sound strange, but I remember this country from when I just a kid back home, looking through the geographic atlas and dreaming about far away journeys. I remember this country mainly because, although I never knew for sure what countries the equator line crosses, definitely it should cross Ecuador, right?. And the atlas confirmed this every time I was checking. I know, child logic, but now, many years later, we were in this country heading for… the equator line, surrounded by tall trees.

Dark clouds travel by our side but we don´t really care about this now. We are very careful not to miss the “sign” as we almost did with the Tropic of Cancer sign, back in Mexico.

We do not miss the sign and only a few kilometers before the capital city, Quito, we turn left towards the spot that marks “the middle of the world”.

We find a totally deserted place and a huge pole in the middle informing us that it is official, we are on the equator line.

Mmm, still, I know how this works. How these commercial places are made for tourist convenience whereas the real “landmark” is “a little bit further”. I don´t trust the exact spot of the pole, it has to be verified. So I take out my GPS (it might not have S.A. maps so it is useless for directions but it can still show the current location) and… they are right! Latitude read is: 0.00000. And we also discover that we are at 2753 meters altitude. We don´t know who to blame for our “loss of breath” our excitement or the altitude….

Oh well, let´s have our picture taken, each one in his own hemisphere. There you go, you can be in another hemisphere and still… so close!

We are smiling, we are happy but also nervous. This large and completely empty place makes everything seem very unreal. We cannot believe we´ve made it so far, it would be more easy to believe that rather somebody played a trick on us and put this pole here. But it is true, we are on the equator and from now on we will be traveling in the Southern Hemisphere. Let´s go!

Quito is not far away. We find it stretching over the valleys as if trying to reach the clouds. As far as I know it lays at 2800 meters altitude, and it´s the second highest capital in the world, after La Paz, Bolivia.

Ecuador is known for its geographic location but fewer people know that before the Spanish invasion in the Americas these places were part of the Inca Empire and Quito has been for a long time one of the two capitals of the empire (the other one was Cusco).

We only spend one night in Quito (thank you Felipe for having us) and we don´t have time to explore the old city centre (one of the most well kept historic centers in Latin America). We want to keep heading South. We get out of the city and we are in the mountains, on a 3 lane highway, 3000 meters altitude.

I don´t know when it has been built, how log it took and how much money. But I feel so sad when I am thinking for how long are we struggling back in Romania to build a (first) highway over the mountains in places that don´t get over 2000 meters. But political changes and corruption make us back home to start over and never finish. But we will finish. I think we are changing for the better and rather sooner than later I do hope we will over pass our own weaknesses. Still I would like to be more efficient. I don´t know how things are in Ecuador, but to me, as an outsider, things seem to be working rather well. And Ecuadorians seem united and active, always at work always building something. And we also see a lot of “patriotic” signs by the side of the road. I wonder if they really have any effect on the population?

We ride on through an area called “Avenue of the volcanoes” named after the numerous volcanoes that the road winds through, some of them even active.

Unfortunately weather is not on our side and we can barely see anything. We stop in Baños for the night where we could have been able to see Tungurahua volcano in action, if the sky would have been clear. Unfortunately the clouds are very low and nightfall doesn´t change anything.

We are pretty sad as we missed a very impressive show. Here´s and ideea of what we could have seen, compliments of Google.
On the second day we take a route that could have allowed us to see the volcano from multiple spots. We only see an agrarian mosaic at it’s base. The volcano peak remains hidden in the clouds.

We are not very disappointed though. The narrow and windy road seems to be carrying us into another world, an archaic one, where we seem to find our place. From time to time a spot of blue sky sets light over the fields.


We get lost several time. We have no GPS maps for S.A. and our paper map was not too good. We managed to buy some sort of a route atlas from Quito, but must have been a touristic one, it didn´t seem to be a serious one. But every time we got lost we managed to find locals to ask for directions. These interactions are very dear to us and almost every time I promise myself that for the next trip I will get an open face helmet or at least flip-up helmet.

It´s lunch time and we are still on the same isolated route, in the mountains. The altimeter tells us we are at 3500 meters. We realize that sometimes we are having trouble breathing although we don´t do too much effort. It´s the lack of oxygen. Our lungs are not yet used to this altitude.

We didn´t see a village for some time now. So we decide to stop by the side of the road and get into the food “reserve resources”: our last salmon can from Alaska. It had to travel for so long to help us now, in Ecuador.

The only shelter from the wind (that raises some sort of volcanic ash) is by the side of the road, next to Gunnar. So we take a sit and enjoy our delicious lunch: a fish can, some two days old bread and water. But we are truly happy!

There was no one around, we were surrounded by agrarian fields and the wind. Volcanoes are watching us from behind the clouds´curtain. My mind is far away. We are at 3500 meters and we can read that on an altimeter we received from friends in Romania 2 years ago. On the road we can listen to music from an mp3 player given by our friends in California. We heat water for tea on a burner received also from friends back home. The fish can is from Alaska and reminds us of the Russian guy (do you remember?). And so on, simple things, thoughts, pieces of advice or just a simple smile, we carry them all with us on this journey, received from people dear to us, old friends or friend that we hope to become old friends, from Europe and from Americas. We are all there together, far away, by the side of the road, sharing a fish can.

It´s Christmas time tomorrow and we don´t know where we will be. We are not worried though. We might be far away from home, but… we do have a Christmas tree with us! So it cannot be bad!

Route map for this story:

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Next time… Santa Claus is coming! Does he manage to find us in Ecuador? Stay tuned!
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Old 01-09-2013, 08:51 AM   #305
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Alex, a very heartfelt report. The philosopher in you. Muchas Gracias for taking us all along
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Old 01-09-2013, 01:45 PM   #306
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Alex, a very heartfelt report. The philosopher in you. Muchas Gracias for taking us all along
Gracias Tom!
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Old 01-10-2013, 06:27 PM   #307
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Nice report update.
I figure you are way behind but that means you are having fun riding and meeting new people and less time for the computer.... That's a good thing!

Reading your thoughts on the different countries you are traveling through is very interesting, please keep it up.... And after all: it is YOUR ride report.... You write what you want in it

Drum bun!
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Old 01-10-2013, 07:19 PM   #308
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I have spent the last 3 days at work reading through your ride report and viewing your spectacular photos!! What at mesmerizing experience!
Your attention to the little details make your reports so amazing. You are on the road less traveled and enjoying, what seems like, every opportunity.
I admit that I am also following with more than a little jealousy. A trip like this is years away for me, so the best I can do for now is follow your report. While it's not the real thing, I live vicariously through you and your wife's travels!!
Very much looking forward to your next post...

And, THANKS!! The fact that you take the time to do this is very special.
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Old 01-14-2013, 11:26 AM   #309
SASHA UKRAINE
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amazing post
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Old 01-14-2013, 04:11 PM   #310
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amazing post
Welcome.
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Old 01-14-2013, 04:59 PM   #311
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Originally Posted by SS in Vzla. View Post
Nice report update.
I figure you are way behind but that means you are having fun riding and meeting new people and less time for the computer.... That's a good thing!

Reading your thoughts on the different countries you are traveling through is very interesting, please keep it up.... And after all: it is YOUR ride report.... You write what you want in it

Drum bun!
Hey Silviu, yeah we are well behind with the RR and I hope I will not get the chance to recuperate as this indeed means that we are having fun on the road :) In the last 5 days we had some interesting times on Bolivian Altiplano, all without internet and to be honest we did not missed it. We figure that some delay is not a problem.

As for the writings... I realize that because I am writing in the hurry and because first I am writing in Romanian and then translate it, there probably are a lot of mistakes. Also I might be abrupt or blunt sometimes as English is not my primary language and it is hard to be subtle sometimes :)

And for this I apologize. It is far for me any wish to be radical, in any way, or to antagonize others views. So I do hope you will still enjoy the report and please forgive the faults. They belong integrally to the writer...
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Old 01-14-2013, 05:01 PM   #312
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amazing post
Hey Sasha! And as Ben was saying, welcome to ADV.
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Old 01-14-2013, 05:09 PM   #313
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So this is Christmas: 24-26 December
So… yeah, it’s December 24 decembrie and we are on the motorcycle, riding on. We have a Christmas tree but we would really like to find a nice place for the night and for tomorrow the whole day. We decide to head to Cuenca, a city in the South of Ecuador, more because of its geographical location (its a convenient distance from where we are).
But things get more and more milky-white along the way…
I don´t know at what altitude we are but it´s getting really cold. We put on our winter gloves and rain suits (pretty late as we are already wet). And visibility drops a lot.
We keep riding but try to stay very alert. I get less and less visibility. Only a few meters in front. It´s raining but I have to keep my visor open because it gets foggy instantly. Andreea says I might as well let it fog inside as you cannot see anything anyway because of the fog outside so….
We are passed by buses that go way too fast. It´s fast even for a normal day when there is good visibility. We were told the drivers know the road so well that they ride with the same speed no matter the weather conditions. Yap, they might know the road but they don´t know we are on it also. I turn on my blinkers and keep going. Slowly! And we wanted to reach Cuenca fast. Hmm… I guess that plan is gone…
We are both very quiet. We don´t even feel like listening to music on this kind of weather. I keep thinking about tonight. I would really like to find a nice and warm place. And maybe we can also find a supermarket to buy something to eat. I wonder what kind of “traditional” dishes they have? And as I was picturing all this….. I see something strange moving through the fog. Actually it´s three of them.
At that moment, my friends, I could only see walking bacon, steak, ham and sausages running in front of us. I open my intercom and have a good laugh with Andreea. “These three managed to get away from ending up on the Christmas table and now are using the fog to make their escape.”
Our steak and sausages disappear on the side of the road and we are alone again in the rain and fog. This encounter made us happier. We are now both trying to figure out how far our walking bacon will end up.
We get to Cuenca pretty late. And again we have to follow the “ritual” of find an accommodation.
There are many hotels around so we decide to split and start asking. I only find expensive hotels. I am told “es la temporada” Argh… I don´t care it´s high season. I am only passing by. But they do care so I wish them “Merry Christmas” and continue my search. I meet with Andreea and unfortunately she couldn´t find anything in our budget either.
I leave Andreea with the motorcycle and I go check another hostel “round the corner”. They have a room. Even a private one with double bed. Shared bathroom (hostel type), no window and very small. But it´s clean and matches our budget. I´ll go talk with Andreea. I am a little down. Usually we are not very demanding. We sleep where we can. Normally a room like this would be perfect and we would take it in a heart beat. But today… we don´t even get a window on Christmas day?
I go find Andreea and discuss what to do. We don´t really like it but it´s 7 p.m., it´s dark, Christmas Eve and we are with our motorcycle by the side of the road in a cold and wet weather. We will take the room we last found. It’s seems it will be the best we can have for Christmas. Or so we thought!
As we were deciding what to do we hear: “Hello, are you from Romania?” As we turn around we see a good looking gentlemen smiling at us and at Gunnar. He is English and his name is Christopher. He saw the license plate, that´s how he knows we are from Romania. We recognized it because his girlfriend´s name is Codruta and she is from… Romania. We tell him our names and he invites us two blocks down the road to their restaurant. “Come on, Codruta will be thrilled to meet you”. And indeed she is very happy to see us. She wants to know our story and she is even more happy to hear where we are coming from. We are looking around. It´s a select restaurant, candles on each table, people enjoying their dinner and… ROMANIAN carols playing!!!! We soon discover that Codruta insisted on teaching the Ecuadorians some Romanian traditions. We are looking around and cannot believe our eyes. We are dirty and wet from the road. We feel like we don´t belong there, among those well dressed people. But Codruta and Chris don’t let us feel uncomfortable. They are inviting us for dinner. We ask for little time to run to our hostel and change our clothes.

We go to our hostel and the room with no window but the night is not sad anymore. We put Gunnar in the hallway, take all our luggage upstairs, take a shower and change into normal clothes. We are clean and dry! And… there are people waiting for us in a warm place.
We are going back to the restaurant where Chris and Codruta invite us to dinner. We are happy and talking a lot. We cannot believe what is happening to us and that this place really exists. What are the chances for a British guy with a Romanian girlfriend to approach you on the street in Cuenca, Ecuador on Christmas Eve. That he doesn’t pass you by, but stops to say “Hello” and get to know us. And what are the chances for us to enter a restaurant in Ecuador where Romanian carols are playing and be invited to dinner, Romanian dinner, Romanian dishes, just like home! I have a self imposed rule to not post pictures with food on this blog. But this time I decided to break this rule because…. well, because these are real Romanian “sarmale”, cocked like home, that found their way to our stomach in Ecuador. Ha!
Oh, and if you want to know what “sarmale” are, then… well I guess you have to go either in Ecuador (on Christmas Eve) or come to Romania when we will be around
I will let you figure out what that night was all about. I can only say that for us was surreal. At the very end we can only say “Thank you” and be greatful for our lives.

We left the restaurant late in the night and cannot remember how we fell asleep in our small room. I do remember falling asleep thinking that tomorrow is December 25, we don´t have anything to eat and probably all business will be closed tomorrow. But these are tomorrow´s worries. Now we are thinking about the wonder that took place tonight.
In the morning Santa Claus manages to find us here in Ecuador! He brings me chocolate and Andreea gets flowers. We are both very happy! We are going out planning to walk around and hopefully find something to eat. But we are surprised to discover that all the stores are open. Even the market is open and it´s full of people.
We learned a secret in Colombia and it worked so far, if you go to the central market you can have a good and cheap meal with the locals. So we go to the food section of the market and we have another surprise: there are entire pigs waiting for us on the tables. Skilful cooks with huge knives ready to satisfy your culinary needs and serve you whichever piece of meat you want.
We are having a good and cheap meal with many of the locals.
OK, that was the last food-picture on this blog. I promise. Unless we will find another Romanian somewhere down the road…
And we go out on the street just in time to assist to an impressive religious procession. “Nino viajero”. Many cars dressed up to the “tip of their antennas” (extravagant I would say), music, horses, people dressed up as characters from “biblical scenes”.
This manifestation is one of great tradition here in Cuenca and indeed people who participate go to great lengths to prepare.
Other people are running on the side of the convoy, trying to catch some of the gifts (people from the convoy are throwing bags with sweets, bread and other aliments) that are given by those in the chariots.
On the side, sitting quietly on a door step, an old woman is watching all this show. I wonder what is she thinking about all this. How does this connect with earlier years? Was she once part of the those riding the chariots? We cross our views, making eye contact and she smiles. I do not dare ask her anything. I just smile back.

We continue our walk and when we get back at the hostel we meet Phill, one one the motorcyclists we shared the Stahlratte with crossing from Panama to Columbia. He got lost in Amazonia and spent Christmas Eve in a city in the jungle, he wanted to get to Cuenca also so we gave him our hostel coordinates. And here we are reunited and ready to hit the road again. The next day we decide to go together to Peru.
The way to Peru is interesting, some rocks on the road, some off-road and there, we are at the border.

Another border crossing. Another queue. While waiting to get our exit stamps out of Ecuador, a lot of people are gathering around the motorcycles. In these parts of the world the “etiquette” is more… permissive. It is not uncommon to have someone straddle your bike to have a picture taken, check out your acceleration, your brakes. The trick is to stay cool about it and understand that this is not seen as something unpolite or aggressive. It is just pure curiosity.
I confess that even knowing this I am still uncomfortable having a stranger on my bike without him asking permission. Luckily, most of the times while I run around for papers at borders, Andreea stays with Gunnar and you do NOT want to mess with the wife while she is guarding the bike This time she took care of both bikes. So when we are done we try to make our way out of the crowd. Here is Phill trying to “sneak out”
On the Peruvian side all is smooth. The only “hick-up” in my mood is that the mandatory insurance for motorcycles is $35 for one month. The same insurance for cars is only $8. Beyond the big amount of money they ask, that makes you think about how well are the motorcyclists respected in Peru… hmmm. But that we will discover in the next stories. For now, let’s be happy. We are in Peru! And we came here on our motorcycle!

The map of this post:

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Next time we find out why Peru is nicknamed “The Egypt of South America” and we manage to find a place from where we can start in full speed 2013. Stay tuned!
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Old 01-14-2013, 05:39 PM   #314
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You two continue to amaze me/us.

Very good pictures, excellent text.
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Old 01-14-2013, 06:02 PM   #315
AnjinSan OP
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I have spent the last 3 days at work reading through your ride report and viewing your spectacular photos!! What at mesmerizing experience!
Your attention to the little details make your reports so amazing. You are on the road less traveled and enjoying, what seems like, every opportunity.
I admit that I am also following with more than a little jealousy. A trip like this is years away for me, so the best I can do for now is follow your report. While it's not the real thing, I live vicariously through you and your wife's travels!!
Very much looking forward to your next post...

And, THANKS!! The fact that you take the time to do this is very special.
Frankenfeejeer please tell us that you did also some work during those 3 days, otherwise we will feel guilty :P

You know what is the interesting thing? I do not know how it is for others when they travel, but for us, everything we discover, every new day here, every new road is interesting and by novelty and difference with what we know/are used to, every road that we take is an amazing experience. Even if that road, or that place is "normal" or "boring" for the locals or for more seasoned travelers.

Sometimes I think we are just two little kids that escaped somehow from "school" (read work) and we try to make the most of our "get away".

Telling the stories here is another part of the "magic" as well. The kids sit with their friends (even though we haven't even met a lot of you in real life) around the fire and recount the day's happenings :) So we should thank all of you, for being part of our experience!
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