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Old 12-31-2011, 08:02 PM   #136
RevBill
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.. been wondering that myself .. hope they are having a great New Years Eve ..
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Old 01-13-2012, 05:20 PM   #137
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Panamaniacs

Our adventures continue, leaving San Juan del Sur for the nearby paradise of Coco Playa. Where San Juan had been a ballin' party full of opportunity to make bad decisions, Coco Playa was the opposite. A row of maybe a dozen houses and hotels on a beautiful, untouched piece of beach. In fact when we arrived there were more cattle than people on the beach with a grand total of 5 cows.





The place we stayed at was kind enough to let us just pop up tents or what have you for a fraction the price of a room. My hammock and bug net ended up hung under a palapa about 30 feet from the high tide. When the tide was in I could, and did, literally throw rocks into the ocean from my bed.


Being full of little aside from the odd cow or puppy, the beach made for some incredible beach combing. We found lots of interesting shells, and even this beaut of a sand dollar.




When we made our way down to the water to check out the surf, however, we were greeted with a strange, foreign and unexpected sight... snails. Thousands, hundreds of thousands of little snails. Each one buried down into the sand until the surf would pull back past them. Then they would emerge from the sand, with their two little feelers pulling whatever snails pull out of the water as it rolled by. Everywhere we looked there were these snails. I've never felt as if I was accidentally commiting xenocide by simply walking down the beach before.




If you look at the above photo you'll notice a ton of little pockmarks in the sand, each of those is a snail, and this extended down the entire beach and as far as the tide went. Simply bizarre.




After a lovely evening full of eating Ichiban noodles on the balcony as our gracious hosts plied us with cups of Kahlua we enjoyed a lovely Pacific sunset. Shortly after this we walked down the road to a protected area where turtles breed. Mere minutes after our arrival we were lucky enough to bear witness to dozens of leather back turtles hatching and making their way down to the ocean. To say the least it was an incredible thing to see, as these tiny animals made their own incredible journey.


Unfortunately for you, photos are not allowed as it is thoroughly dark when this occurs and flash or white light would impede the turtles, so you're stuck with a photo of the sunset at Coco Playa as we wait to go see the turtles so you'll have to take my word for it.


After leaving Coco Playa, making our way to Puntarenas, Costa Rica, Patrick's liberal application of a hatchet to try and repair a fairing came back to bite him. Apparently striking a metal housing repeatedly with a small axe has a propensity to break the small fragile pieces contained within. So there we have Pat, mere kilometers from a warm, safe place to rest our heads, when his headlight fails. With limited other options, a Petzl head-light is re-purposed as a Petzl headlight and an advertisement proposal is in the works.




The very next day, as Bill heads inland to Alajuala to pick up Anne; Colin, Pat and I head across the Nicoya Gulf towards Montezuma. A reasonably uneventful day proceeds until during a short stop situation, Colin gave Pat a little kiss on his backside, sending Pat into a ditch. A ditch which was comprised of a steep ass seven foot drop and was occupied by a small stream. As Pat's bike took a nap in the creek, damage was accessed and Colin's bike was righted. Thankfully there was very limited damage to both bikes, with Patrick's so called "muffler" taking the brunt of the damage. As Pat's muffler has been a constant source of headache; literal and figurative, for the duration of the trip there was speculation that this little kiss may not have been wholly accidental. At one point it was rumored that there was photographic evidence showing otherwise with a 12 meter long streak of melted rubber as Colin locked up his rear tire. This photo, however appears to be missing, once again opening the case to speculation.




Arriving in Montezuma, bruises rested and heads settled, the time to explore came near. One of the few activities in Montezuma which could be done for free was to hike up to a nearby waterfall to enjoy the deep pools under each of the falls.


The largest fall, about 60 vertical feet, had a beautiful swimming pool and rock formations that allowed us to swim in behind the falls and hang out before jumping through the falls into the water.



Shortly after enjoying the largest set of falls we found out about two more sets of falls just upriver from where we were swimming. These set of falls held the promise of even more fun, so after packing a picnic we made the journey up to the two higher sets of falls with some friends.





Just below the highest set of falls was an awesome rope swing, which provided minutes of fun, diving/falling into the water over and over. After a light lunch the real fun started. You see, between the highest falls, the pool with the rope swing, and the lower falls where we'd been swimming a few days before there was yet another waterfall. Measuring in at 40 feet it was the second largest set of falls, and no slouch either. So we jumped off it. Now this clearly goes against ones natural instinct, as as an individual who takes to heights like a cat to water, this was a simply terrifying proposal, but after seeing a couple people do it, and receiving some Imperial courage I was on the ledge, then quickly, oh so quickly, in the water.







From a rock at the top of the falls you could jump and fall, ever so gracefully into the pool below, reaching; according to Pat, who mathed it out with science, 85 km/h.





For reference, this is the set of falls we launched ourselves off of. You may be able to make out the people at the top enjoying themselves.





Unfortunately, as safe as this activity sounds, there are accidents. While we were at the falls we did suffer one tragic loss as Colin dropped his GoPro into the water below. A sad moment, and a moment of silence was had.





On a happier note, we shared the area around the falls with all sorts of birds, lizards and even monkeys!





Once my glorious week in Montezuma was over the time finally came for me to be reunited with my girl. Kate flew in and after a night in Alajuela, we mozied on towards San Jose. Two people on a KLR is effort, two people with all their gear is work. Unsecured our bags were nearly as tall as Kate. Thankfully everything packed down to a reasonably small package and with our gear and my precious cargo we were able to have a comfortable, cozy little bike.






We met up with the others in San Jose where we were lucky enough to be there for the annual festival of lights. A strange mix of Christmas, Disney and corporate interest kept the town excited for most of the evening.


The next day with Anne on a bus, we took off bound for David, Panama. A damned long drive two up, so Kate and I planned on stopping in Neilly, Costa Rica and continuing past David to Boquete the next day to enjoy the cloud forest. As the day progressed, making good time the turn-off for Neilly came and went as we decided to stick with the group and try to make it to David to meet up with Anne. Shortly here after a local suggested we take the northern border crossing as it would be significantly quicker. This might have been the case had it been anywhere we could find, or not raining incredibly hard. The rain came harder than we've seen since we left, and the road arched back and forth through the mountains, all but halting our progress. Somehow we found ourselves back on another road to Neilly after a few hours of detour through what was actually a very beautiful national park which Panama and Costa share.


Arriving in Neilly, wet and in the dark I was done riding. So Kate, Colin and myself stopped and got a couple rooms at a very nice little hotel and had a lovely supper of chinese food in the dry. Meanwhile Bill and Pat drove to David to meet with Anne.





The next morning, somewhat dry and in much better spirits, the three of us made our way to the Panama border, a relatively quick and simple border. Within two hours we were in Panama, cruising down a gorgeous 4 lane divided highway towards David, and then on to Boquete. Boquete is a lovely little town. Very eco-tourism and old people. After being ranked the number one retiree destination in 2001, the population seems to have grown a few grey hairs. That said it was an incredibly beautiful little town, nestled into a mountain valley high up in the cloud forest, it wasn't hard to find a breathtaking vista. Panama, you make a damned good first impression. Then we went to the grocery store to find supper.







$0.60 beer? You make a good second impression too! With local beers being so inexpensive, and imported beers like Guiness being only $0.75 cents we couldn't pass up the opportunity to try a little bit of liquid culture.


We were even able to rep some Huskie pride with the beer cozies my mother ever so lovingly sent down for Christmas.




The following day the three of us made our way across the street for a little zip-lining adventure. A three hour tour through the cloud forest, traversing 13 lines awaited us. As we walked towards our first platform our guides were able to show us many different species of plants: orchids of all shapes sizes and colours, rhubarb with leaves well over 2 meters across and many more. Then one of the guides gave each of us the stem of a flower and suggested we chew on it a little. OK, deal. And in it went. The strange stemmy bitterness of the plant was quickly replaced with a strange facial numbness as traditional anesthetic did its job, numbing our tongues and lips.
The numbness was just starting to wear off as we got to the first platform. Buckled up and off we went. Flying through the forest with the grace of a monkey, which needs a seat belt and training wheels.





Regardless of aesthetic, or testicular comfort, it was an awesome experience, and a great rush flying through the canopy at high speed. With lines up to 1200+ feet you definitely got some sense of flying, albeit backwards and upside down, and when you zipped out from the canopy for a few moments you instantly and acutely became aware of just how rainy it was.


Finished with Boquete we have since moved on. We are currently in Portobelo waiting for our ship to set sail for the San Blas, the weather seems to have broken, but more on that, and the rest of our adventures in between to come from Columbia!

Bray
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Old 01-13-2012, 05:21 PM   #138
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The end of one chapter and the start of another, with a nautical interlude.




Panama is a city that eludes definition. It's a place where a large colonial, historic center is mere blocks away from a large, modern downtown and beautifully restored, gentrified buildings reside next to crumbling shells of what used to be mansions. Our timeline didn't give us a lot of time in Panama city, but it warrants more time. We stayed in a renovated mansion in the middle of Casco Viejo, historic area of the city. The couple days we spent there gave us a great opportunity to walk around the city, take in the history and of course visit the Miraflores locks.




The locks are quite simply, incredible to behold. This is a relatively "small" ship apparently, but I assure you it is not. Not to get too techinical, but the little tugs you see at each corner are modified locomotive engines, 8 of which hold the ship in place while the water drops in the locks. The canals also create enough hydro-electric power to power then entire operation.


After not enough time in Panama City it was time to head towards Portobelo, where we had free accommodations until our departure from Panama. As we left Panama City the weather continued to pour on us, thoroughly soaking us. It didn't help that bridges were flooded and pot holes were hidden. Mixed with heavy semi-traffic, splashing up all this water there was no way to stay dry. We arrived at Captain Jacks hostel, the only place in town and a meeting point of Colombia bound travelers. Here we met a Quebecer, an American and a Russian, all on bikes bound for Cartegena. The nicest thing I can say about Captain Jacks is that it was free, at least for us. The deal is that when you book a charter through him you get to stay for free. This apparently wasn't the case for everyone and where two blocks you could get a beer for 60 cents, Captain Jack charged 2 dollars. Needless to say it wasn't a place to visit again.




After a few days of avoiding our hostel with the other travelers the time came to hit the high seas. Waking up to driving rain, yet again, bikes were loaded, by hand, down into a little skiff, where rather than tie bikes down, the owner would simply sit on the bike and hope not to hit a wave. This did not present a particularly good omen but this is the way in Panama. There was one section of boat large enough for a bike to sit in however after loading and unloading 3 bikes the local captain wanted to be done and insisted that the last two bikes go in one trip. Not only did this mean that the back wheel was balanced on a bench, making it too high to sit on, it meant the balance of the boat was thrown off so it took much more work to balance the bike. Combined with a rear wheel precariously close to falling off said bench and an affection for our toes it made for a long ride to the boat.






Safely loaded on the the Wild Card we met the crew and had a short safety briefing. This consisted of suggesting not to be drunk on deck while the boat is moving, not to step on the anchor retrieval button and don't fall off the boat. Then we were off.


Now a short aside. In Panama city we had purchased a pretty decent supply of Gravol, only to find out in Portobelo that these miracles of modern medicine had been forgotten in Panama city. After a quick visit to the medical clinic we found out that the entire city of Portobelo was out of any anti-nausea medicine it had. So Kate was the only one of us to have any Gravol (10 capsules) and the rest of us had some ginger, soda crackers and a prayer that Poseidon would be merciful. he was not. Within an hour the seas gave us a head wind and no shortage of large waves. After a long night of sea sickness among all but one us morning could not come fast enough.


We awoke in a calm bay in the San Blas after being pitched around our cabin for the majority of the night. We were lucky enough to have a beautiful day and were able to visit on of the Kuni indian villages. The Kuni are a totally unique people, while they technically live in Panama they have retained a completely independent form of governance and strive to maintain their culture. Even after spending 2 months in Central America, the culture shock was intense. The closest thing I can think of is a mixture of Gilligan's Island and a poverty stricken reserve. People were either dressed in incredibly ornate traditional garb, or clothes that the missionaries had brought, most of which lay discarded in piles about the village. It was the first time I've really felt uncomfortable in a long time. Especially when I found out that the chiefs daughter was dying and she was not allowed to travel to Panama City where she would be able to receive free medical care and money given to the chief for medicine for her had been used to buy rice to feed the rest of the village. It made the cookies we'd brought seem incredibly trivial, though the children didn't think so.





That morning took some time to digest. But a short boat ride to a group of deserted islands seemed to clear minds a little bit. We arrived around supper time, giving us a chance to relax on the deck. The bow of the ship had a collection of bean bags and a sun shade and light, making it a nice place to relax day or night. The boat also had a cat onboard. Purchased from the Kuni's, it hadn't been off the boat since. We affectionately called it boat cat, or alternately little beast. The only thing it enjoyed more attacking our feet was attacking our feet, or beards if you'd let it.





After catching up on sleep on a relatively stable bed, we awoke to a beautiful sunny day. We spent the day visiting white sand beaches, snorkeling a nearby reef and jumping off the boat. Aside from getting a little cut up on the coral, it was a great day. Easily the high point of the trip.







We left the next morning for Cartegena. 40 hours of motoring into up to 15 foot waves ensued. Slowing our progress at times to .3 knots at times. At least we weren't going backwards. Thankfully most of us had found our sea legs a little bit and no one got terribly sick again. It was however not a particularly fun two days. Days were spent below decks, trying to avoid leaky hatches, reading books or watching tv, and night were spent sleeplessly trying to stay in our beds as the sea threw us around the room.

None to soon Cartegena came into site. I instantly liked the city, so flat and immobile. After unloading our things and making it to a hostel we took to exploring the city. We were in a nice old area which was in the process of gentrification. Nearby was El Centro, the oldest and most well restored part of Cartegena. To quote my friend Mr. Billy fan, "It's just stupidly, cartoonishly pretty," a more than apt description.




We really enjoyed wandering around Cartegena, as well as enjoying the 2000 to 1 exchange rate pooling our money to become millionaires. Yes, that is in fact 1,000,000 Colombian pesos, and yes I did feel much more badass holding that than the $500 it actually was.




We also made friends with one of the local police, Felix. He was our guy in Cartegena. He'd swing by our hostel everyday to talk for a while, see how we were doing or if we needed any help with anything. Super nice guy and really contributed to the atmosphere of the city for us. The other local we met was Manuel, an Argentinian who was living in Cartegena and had just opened a pizza shop. Our first day looking for lunch, Kate and I were stopped by Manuel who was walking around the square, trying to drum up business by selling fresh calzones. By the next day we were hooked and searching desperately for more delicious calzones. In Cartegena a $2 lunch is a blessing, not to mention one that'll fill you up with ham, egg and tomato. We spread the good world around the hostel and within two days Manuel was making daily rounds by our hostel to stop and chat and empty his basket of goodness.


After loving the city for a few days, Christmas came about and we found out that we needed to take our bikes off the boat. Ho ho ho. Merry Christmas. After spending 3 or so hours moving 4 bikes from boat to dingy and dingy to dirt we fired up our faithful steeds and rode off into the sunset, or thats what we would have done had our bikes run. Two dead batteries, broken turn signals, and a pletora of other problems meant that while all but my bike would run, none were healthy. 5 days exposed to salt water, with no rinses or protection had wrecked havoc. This after our captain had assured us that tarps or lubrication were unnecessary, messy and noisy and he'd never had a bike not start upon arrival. Great. After spending 4 more hours wrenching on my bike, trying to make her fire, with the sun setting, two police showed up.



Thinking that they were here to tell us we had to leave, me with a broken bike on private property, and not in a good mood I did not expect this to go well. Instead they asked us what the problem was and told us it would not be a good idea to leave it on the street over night. A few minutes later, bike more assembled, the police returned to tell us that we could park the bike at their compound 2 blocks away. Joking that i should bring the guard lunch tomorrow as payment. We pushed the bike to the compound, thanking everyone profusely before going back to El Centro to enjoy the festivities.



Christmas night in Cartegena was a spectacle. People were dancing in the streets, there was live music and the ambiance of a huge party across the city. We went to Santo Domingo square, the center of El Centro for dinner with Neil, an American biker we met on the boat.


Boxing day was spent again fiddling with my moto and after Neil was kind enough to tow my back to the hostel with his gorgeous KTM. After some further trouble shooting I narrowed the issue down to the carb. Low and behold after a complete dis-assembly and cleaning and a newly charged battery Big Ugly Lived once more. Just in time for pat's bike to die.




After a few more days exploring the city and giving Colin a studly new hair cut, New years was upon us.





Again it was off to El Centro, where the streets had been closed to make room for restaurants to seat dinners, stages were set up for live bands and a big party. Walking around atmosphere was incredible and at midnight fireworks went off all around El Centro. We didn't know about the fireworks until about 30 feet from us we heard an explosion, then a larger explosion overhead. While in Canada there is generally a huge safety zone, keeping all the bystanders well away from the fireworks, this is a concept lost in Colombia. An armory of fireworks proceeded to go off, setting off dozens of car alarms and covering El Centro in a thick layer of smoke. Ash and still burning cardboard rained down around us as we watched a pretty incredible display of firepower.


On January first, Kate and I needed to get going towards Medellin. Billy and the two of us made our way, leaving Patrick and Colin to sort out Patrick's still broken bike. January 1st is a great day to drive down here. We got a late start after a nice breakfast and traffic was really light. Unfortunately I quickly found out that my fan had become inoperable because of the boat and I needed to pull over before my engine exploded. Some trouble shooting later I thought I might have it, and again we took to the road, making it a full 10 kms before my engine was about to overheat and we needed to stop again. After hot wiring my fan I realized that my fan motor was seized. Upon opening up what was once a sealed unit, it was clear that the salt had stuck a brush and the fan wasn't getting power. Unfortunately, being a national holiday, everything was closed, and since I had Kate and her things on my bike I only had my basic tools, not my normal plethora of tools, fluids and spares. After some prairie ingenuity and thanks to some motor oil and q-tips I once more had a functioning fan and we were once again off. In doing this I think I found the only real use for a q-tip other than the forbidden use on ears.


Just as dark set in we reached Medellin, a large modern city and found our way to the Tiger Paw Hostel. A hostel which on an online hostel site had stated it had parking, it did not. Thankfully, the owner was a really nice guy and lived only a few blocks away. He let us park our bikes at his apartment and we settled in. The Tiger Paw was super nice, although their funky pool table took some interesting rolls. The three of us spent a few days enjoying Medellin and walking around the town until the others met us. Pat and Colin dropped off bikes at a mechanic to deal with some latent issues and Kate and I started to sort out how to get her to Bogota and safely home. We quickly decided that riding 8-13 hours (weather dependent), solo through the mountains didn't sound fun so after looking for a bus we decided to go out on a limb and check flights. Low and behold there were two seats on a flight which connected to her Bogota flight, for less than it would've cost for all the buses! Easy decision. We spent the rest of our time in Medellin enjoying shopping, getting things together and spending some quality time together. We also found a local brewery with the best beer I've had since California. We spent a night doing a brewery tour, sampling all 5 of their different brews. After one more day together, there were some sad goodbyes as Kate ended her adventure and flew home.


After two more days and one birthday party, it was time to move on again. Yesterday morning we left Medellin bound for Manizales. Before we were able to get out of the city I got in an accident. Turning left I had someone suicide pass me in the oncoming lane. He t-boned me, hitting my knee and gas tank. Thankfully I was able to retain control of the bike, gently setting it down, without hitting the ground. If you've ever heard the quote about how when a car and a motorcycle argue, the motorcycle always loses, the guy that came up with that evidently never owner a KLR.




I suffered a good bruise on my knee, where the car hit me and the bike ended up with a dented tank and bent rad and fan assembly. Nothing broken on either of us. And after bending things kind of back in place, and replacing the fan fuse Big Ugly lived again. The car ended up with a big enough dent in the bumper that it blew out the inner fender lining on the wheel well. I think we'll call it a draw. After a good once over, checking that it rode straight and everything was functional we continued 4 hours to Manizales.


After 4 beautiful hours on great roads, winding through the Andes, we arrived in Manizales, where we promptly became lost. After driving around this maze of a town we finally found our hostel. Local secure parking was a ridiculous 1000 pesos an hour all night, for each bike (we'd previously been paying 3000 to 5000 for a whole day), so the hostel owner allowed us to leave our bikes in front of the bar. This morning we found out that we'd have to move them tonight for the bar. After some heavy lifting and monkeying around we are relaxing comfortably, knowing our bikes are safely parked on the second floor balcony and front lawn, respectively.






I know this was a little bit of a long one, so thanks for hanging in there.

Bray

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Old 01-13-2012, 05:44 PM   #139
RevBill
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.. good to hear from you guys ..

.. man what an adventure .. keep rolling and stay safe .. Ride Blessed ..
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Old 01-13-2012, 05:56 PM   #140
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no no, not too long at all, thanks for the update
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Old 01-17-2012, 05:41 PM   #141
Hishooter OP
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Ya.... well it had been quite a while since our last update, we have been having too much fun.
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Old 03-06-2012, 06:51 PM   #142
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The Southern Side of the World
After enjoying the hospitality of the Pit Stop in Manizales and the safety of a lovely looking college town, we decided to take in the cultural offerings on coffee country with a tour of a coffee farm. We were picked up from the hostel in this glorious Toyota and off we went to the mountains.



Not used to leaning the stiff ass suspension and leaning the wrong way in corners, Billy started feeling a little ill. Trying to roll down the windows he found out that the windows didn't work either. As we accepted the fact that despite looking nice, this was just another crappy mass transit vehicle the driver asked us to stop trying the windows and explained they didn't open because they were bullet proof. Apparently in this safe little college town, it was necessary to pick up tourists in bullet proof cars. Great. Needless to say this made us reevaluate the road we'd so enjoyed days before.



The coffee tour was pretty interesting. We followed the whole process, learning what makes a good bean and why, how to roast and of course properly make a coffee. All done with an espresso in hand. After the tour was over, six of us were packed into an open air Jeep TJ with a birdcage on the back. Somewhat less comfortable than the ride in and judging by the apparent need for bulletproof vehicles, somewhat disconcerting.



Our time up in Manizales we left, bound for the small mountain village of Salento. We stayed at a beautiful eco-farm/hostel where we met some friends from Manizales. There wasn't much to do in Salento if you don't like natural beauty, boardgames or playing with puppies. Thankfully we like all of those things and happily spent the day learning an ancient Greek version of connect 5 and various card games.



The biggest draw of people to Salento is the nearby Valle de Cocoro and its Quindio wax palms. Hiking up a river bed flanked on either side by a series of mountains made for some intense views and being surrounded by the worlds tallest palms didn't hurt its case. At elevation however a 10 km hike makes for a much more tiring day than one would expect.



Upon our return the time had come for a new tire for me. During the process we discovered that the tire I'd had mounted by a mechanic back in Saskatoon had pinched the tube when installing my last tire. I'm still surprised that I made about 19,000 kms on a pinched tube without a single flat. Lucky I guess. With tools out, and still with it's new dents and bruises I took the time to finally christen Big Ugly. Hopefully this means a little more luck to come.



After spending two days staring longingly at their movie style popcorn maker, we bought two bags of popcorn and our resident expert in all things explodey, Patrick, proceeded to pop all of it. It took a while to figure out why none of the popcorn was popping... until one of walked over and asked why the heating element was still unplugged. After a short intermission we had more popcorn than we could possibly eat and a popcorn party had begun. Everyone in the hostel was in the kitchen eating popcorn, making caramel sauce and getting a little bit social.



Our work done in Salento and ready for change a bee-line was made for the border. After an underwhelming over-night in Cali we posted up in Popayan for what was supposed to be one more night. As we arrived we were amazing by the architecture and how pretty the city was. Once we found our hostel, right on the town square, we drove into the pedestrian walkway to unpack. No sooner had we parked out front and removed our hats when a woman came over speaking rapid fire Spanish. Once the surprise of not being yelled at had passed, I figured out she was from the local tourism board and needed photos with us. As her and her photographer made an impromptu photoshoot with our bikes a crowd of locals started to gather. By the time our tourism board friend was done there was a group of at least 40 or 50 people around us taking photos of/with us and our bikes.


A night past at the incredible, inexpensive Park Life Hostel and we decided not to leave. Another day was spent enjoying walking around Popayan before we continued towards Ipiales and the border. In the same way that Popayan was unexpectedly beautiful, Ipiales was not. It was rainy, run down and had a lot of nothing to do. After supper we hit the hay pretty eary. Like 8:30, 9 pm. This worked out for the best though as we were unexpected woken up at about 3 or 4 in the morning to the sound of gunshots and people running screaming past our hotel. It was later explained to be a political shooting, but that didn't really warm us to the idea of bullets flying around by us.


First thing in the morning the bikes were packed and we were heading out of town without a second thought. We did make one final stop in Colombia at Las Lajas to see the famous church there. Built on a bridge over a gorge, it was probably the most impressive church I've ever seen. The back wall and alter was the gorge wall. The entire church was built around an apparition of the Virgin Mary and apparently deities don't appear in very convenient places.





From Las Lajas we went back to the border. We'd heard news from our friend Neil that the border was long and painful, so we arrived with low hopes, but clearly not low enough. Leaving Colombia could not have been easier. Roughly 5 minutes to export us and our bikes. Arriving at the Ecuadorian side was a different story. 4 hours waiting in line was punctuated only by a clash between the Ecuadorian and Colombian national youth soccer teams. After some short, and I'm sure polite keeping of international relations, beer bottles and steel signs began to be thrown around the square until police came in with pepper spray to restore the peace.


Driving in to Quito was an interesting experience. 17 kms through town before a single turn. We posted up at the Secret Garden for the time being and were surprised to see that all but one of our drom mates from Cali were occupying the Secret Garden. After going out with everyone to celebrate Chinese New Years we spent the night sitting in a little Shwarma joint drinking 83 cent 600 ml beers.



The next day we explored the historic center of the city. I think its still the most beautiful colonial city I've ever seen. It was just massive and so immaculately preserved. It was incredible to walk around after seeing all of it from the balcony at our hostel.


Another day was spent celebrating our halfway point. Off we went to the equator park. It felt real good to hit one of those tangible marks. So many photos were taken on and around the line.




After taking our share of pictures at the official marker of the equator we continued on to the real GPS verified equator, where there is, of course, another museum. With some new American friends we were first shown some 'cultural' ecuadorian displays. These consisted firstly of big ass spiders, 21 foot snakes and a preserved parasite that swims up ones urethra and hooks onto the bladder with a barb that would make a fishing hook look pleasant. I'm not sure what this has to do with the equator, but I know I will not be skinny-dipping the amazon.



They also showed us some locally shrunken heads and other weird amazonian things before taking us to the REAL equator. No water does not spin opposite ways on either side, it drains perfectly straight down. Sorry to disappoint, you have to be farther from the equator for it to work.







You can however balance an egg on the head of a nail, at least I can. I even have a certificate stating that I am an egg master. Well done Braydon. Well done.



Once our friends had departed it was time to move on to a new adventure. Cotopaxi marks the world highest active volcano. Its surrounded by beautiful farm land, and this is where we crashed for a few days. Again we were happy to see that many of our recently made friends had the same idea. Two cool, rainy days were spent happily camping at Secret gardens kissing cousin; Secret Garden Cotopaxi, where all our meals were included in the price of our camp site. While we enjoyed the conveniences of hot water, a hot tub and all you can eat bananas, Pat and Bill enjoyed tearing up the local flora on motorcycles. Climbing mountains and other manly endevours while Colin and myself busied ourselves back at the homestead warm and dry, playing Uno with our Australian friends.



Upon leaving the Secret Garden we had to drive down a long, muddy driveway back to the gravel road. Colin's bike failed him here, sending him sideways off the road. His bike bore the brunt of the impact with a bent highway peg and roughly one gardens worth of mud jammed in and around the right side of his bike. Worst of all his right case broke off. Thankfully he was carrying spares and after a brief stop back at the hostel Colin was ready to go with a shiny new latch on his case. Bikes more or less in one piece we were Banos bound.



Banos, also the name of the washroom in Spanish is a lovely, if not totally touristy small town. Upon pulling into town we immediately ran into (not literally) our buddy Mike, from Todos Santos, and later Cartegena and Medellin and within 5 minutes of parking to find a hostel we ran into Emma, Jane and Dean, our roomies from Cali. Small world. Once settled at our little hostel We were met by our Uno enthused Aussie friens; Karley, Kristen and Mark, who stayed next door at our hostel. This was roughly the same time we were lucky enough to meet Fernando, our room mate for the next few days. Within 30 seconds of meeting this gem of a man he had whipped out about 4 switch blades and other rediculous novelty knives, waving them around the room to show us his new toys. In total he had purchased 12 knives and wanted to show us all of them. This coupled with smoking in our room and suggesting two of our Aussie friends join him in bed made for a short conversation before we left.

Feeling adventurous one day we decided Cuy, Guinea Pig, would be an interesting lunch time experience. With a flavor like duck and an appearance out of a child's nightmare, it was a surprisingly tasty experience. You had to work surprisingly hard to get the somewhat scare meat off the bones, but that's all part of the fun I suppose. Definitely a culinary experience worth having, whether it is one to be repeated is yet to be seen. Interesting fact though. With a diet of spinach and other lovely greens these damned Cuy have nicer salads than I've been able to find in months.




Another day we decided to go check out some of the 12 waterfalls in close proximity to Banos. While Colin was otherwise occupied, Kristen, Karley and Mark with their big white topless 4x4 met up with us on our bikes for a cruise. We left in lovely weather, which quickly became driving rain. It didn't take long for us to be wet and our 4x4ing friends to realize their soft top had about as many holes as a block of Swiss. We also found out that our trusty 4x4 had about as many horsepower as the bikes. It couldn't drive uphill in any gear higher than 2nd, so a leisurely pace was the only option.



One of our stops was this beautiful waterfall, which you could walk in behind.



Back, safely in Banos the appeal of being warm again was overwhelming, so all 6 of use headed to the nearest hot springs for a rejuvenating dip. Unbeknownst to us, however, the baths were closed just as we wanted to go. This left us with an hour to kill and a big empty lot. Uno cards el far away-o, tic-tac-toe commenced, but as you know if you've ever played with someone who knows the pattern, it quickly becomes a silly game. Whats much more fun is trying to create a new three person version on a 5x5 square. Don't run out and grab your friends just yet, but lots of laughs were had.




The hot springs once more open, we went to enjoy a refreshing dip. A quick shower was necessary as per establishment rules, however after I snuck out in walked the apparent shower Nazi. Shoving her bar of soap into Mark's hands and telling him to wash up. Once done, she told him he was not thorough enough and to wash up again. Once down at the springs we discovered that they were indeed very hot. Not nearly as hot as the scald-your-ass springs in Guate, but uncomfortably hot for more than a few minutes. Thankfully they also had a near freezing pool very close where you could chill your body down to near hypothermic levels before once again going hyperthermic in the hot pool. Apparently its good for you. Sure felt good at least and definitely gave the old cardio a bit of a run around as heart rates spiked and dropped.




Bidding all of our Australian friends a fond farewell we headed back north towards Lake Quilatoa. The road to Zumbahua was an enriching experience, whether the road had never been made or was just being upgraded never really became clear, but either way it was terrible. Loose gravel, sand, mud and enough heavy machinery to tear it all apart was all that greeted us from the time we left the Pan-Am. Little did we know that this was the better side of the road.

After a nights stay in Zumbahu, where the Hotel receptionist asked us if we (the only customers in the hotel) to watch the place while she left, not to return until morning. The lake was incredible, as was the ride up to it. Brand new road and a beautiful destination. What more can you ask for?




From Lake Quilatoa we made our way back south to the highway where we continued our journey west towards the coast. As we made our way towards Puertoviejo the roads rapidly degraded to a series of potholes and gravel linked with small patched of cracked pavement. The kind of road that makes men grate their teeth and small children cry. Before nightfall we'd found our way, tired and covered in mud, to Manta. Compared to the beauty of Banos and Quito, Manta is a dirty, ugly industrial city with little other than Tuna canneries. Upon our arrival we were swarmed by a group of kids who were super happy to get Canada flag pins from me and even happier when Pat let them rev his bike. You see in our experience Latin culture doesn't frown on obnoxiously loud vehicles the way Canadians do, and they were more impressed than upset that his bike had just caused everyone within a two block radius acute hearing damage.

After the kids had all gotten pins, the dads and employees hanging out out front all wanted on too, so pins for all. Although I'm not sure my explanation of "For on your clothes," worked all too well as I later saw a pin being used as an impromptu earring.

In the morning we toured the nearby fish market where the local fishermen were displaying their wares. Tons of big 40 to 60 pound bluefins for next to nothing. It almost made me wish we were staying around long enough to cook supper. Almost.



From Manta we made our way down to Montanita, a small surf village of 1000 people. We were excited for some nice r and r and maybe a little surf at Ecuador's best surf spot. Little did we know that the Reef Classic Conquer Montanita surf competition was this same weekend. We showed up on Thursday afternoon to find this sleepy town had grown to at least 10,000 people and hostels were disturbingly hard to come by. We ended up finding what I believe was the last room in the town, and for pretty good reason. The hotel itself wasn't terribly dirty, but between the one washroom for all the dorms, sand covered floor and the four of us sandwiched into a room large enough for two people to be standing at a time with no fan, we knew we were scraping the bottom of the barrel.



Thankfully there was a view and a beach and a ton of people looking to have some fun, so it wasn't really a problem that our room sucked. We were rarely there. We met our friends from the Equator and enjoyed taking in the surf comp, the music stages and frisbee on the beach. Unfortunately, every party must finish and every morning some ass hole wants to start it back up with an obscenely loud car stereo parked outside our hotel room. Every day between 6:30 and 7am he'd start up his stereo and I'm sure if we were somewhere fancy enough to have glass in the windows, they'd have been shaking or shattered. But alas we weren't and just had to sit and nurse some self inflicted sickness to the tune of Latin music.



At least I was able to convince a bar to turn on the Super Bowl for a few of us. By half time the bar was full of gringos and good times were had by most. And in the morning the city had shrunk. As most left the town once more became a sleepy little surf town. A pretty place were it would have been nice to hang out.



Leaving Montanita for Guayaquil we had cause for an unwanted stop as Billy's rear brake spontaneously stopped braking. When we opened it up to see if it was still creating pressure there was nothing but a spurt of boiling brake fluid and then nothing. Carefully continuing to Guayaquil, which just became a longer pit stop, at some point the brakes came back. Who knows. In Guayaquil Billy had his bike serviced as we enjoyed the town and the pool at our hostel.

Bike repaired and safe once more we were on our way to Peru. A long uneventful ride brought us to the Ecuadorian border where a huge, modern border crossing met us. A fast, easy departure and off we went to Peru. On the Peruvian side things were not quite to modern. Despite seeing a nice new facility, we were stopped at a series of small trailers with a cop, an insurance sales woman and two people with stamps. Things went relatively smoothly, surprising us with its efficiency as well as proving our thoughts about insurance to be way off. Having talked to other riders we'd expected it to be necessary to buy a full year of insurance for the princely sum of $500. More accurately we expected some light fraud or simply to bribe the necessary people, as things seem to be done here. Instead, new tourist policies seem to be in place, allowing us to buy legitimate insurance for a much more reasonable price. Thank goodness.

It was incredible how stark the change as we entered Peru. Within no more than a few dozen km. our tropical green surroundings gave way to desert like we haven't seen since Mexico. After fighting our way through the Peruvian traffic we arrived in Mancora. A small town with not much to do without a board and a beer. We were unable to stay at the hostel we wanted, as it was booked fully for the next month, but the owner welcomed us with open arms and guest bands giving us access to all their facilities.Which is definitely cool seeing as this is possibly the most badass hostel we've been to. Pool table, pool, giant Jenga, and parties every night. What can go wrong. Oh ya. They also have a tattoo artist on call, so lots. Don't worry mom. I don't have anything permanent yet.

After our first night here Colin took off ahead of us to get to Lima where he'll be getting some repairs to stop the 1ml/km oil burning issue his bike has developed as well as meet up with Emma, our friend from Cali. Hilarity will ensue? I'll find out later.

As for us, tomorrow morning will find us once again mounting up as we drive to Trujillo to visit Pat's aunt and do whatever exciting things Trujillo has in store.
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Old 03-06-2012, 07:09 PM   #143
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Dear Everyone,

By now many of you are aware that differences in wants have caused us to separate for a portion of our trip. As a result you will now get twice as many contributions to the blog! Lucky you! But I am getting ahead of myself. First I must catch everyone up on our time altogether in Peru. So where we last left you Colin had left for Lima and me, Braydon and Patrick were on our way to Trujillo.

Riding through Peru and Chile can only be described as surreal. For all of us it was the first true desert experience. We went from riding on the Moon to Mars and all the while in a very long, very boring straight road. That said, it was a nice change of pace to be able to cover ground quickly and before we knew it we had gone the 700+ kilometers to arrive in Trujillo.

There we had a lovely time being shown around by Patrick’s aunt, Liana and got to see some very different ruins from what we had been used to.






Besides exploring Chan Chan and the Temple of the Moon, we just enjoyed the city and spent time with Liana before moving on to Lima in a few days. One long and desert-filled ride later we arrived in Lima where we caught up with Colin and met some very lovely people that I unfortunately don’t have any photos of! Lima was a nice place, but besides sorting out Colin’s motorcycle we didn’t do anything to noteworthy. It was there however that I had announced my intention to make for Ushuaia, Argentina. Up until that point me and Patrick had wanted to go, but we were disappointed to discover that on our current timeline, we’d be arriving in May… and this is an example of some of the roads at that time of year:



We didn’t particularly feel like being that guy, but after some thought I decided that it was important enough to me to make it to Ushuaia that I would be willing to either extend the trip or save the rest of Peru and Bolivia for another trip. Thankfully, Patrick shared my desires so I would not be going alone, but it didn’t end up fitting into what Braydon and Colin wanted out of the trip. No matter, we would miss each other and it felt strange to discuss being apart after five months together. So when we left Lima, Patrick and I had to say goodbye to Colin… and it was a bigger wrench than we expected. It felt wrong somehow, like we were leaving home again… but there it was and we were on our way to Huacachina, Peru, a desert oasis, with Braydon and Susanna, a darling Swedish girl (who we named new Colin), for some fun in the sun before our long trek south. And this is where we ended up…



In Huacachina we relaxed by the pool, soaked up the sun and went dune buggying and sand boarding in what was basically Peru’s equivalent of the Sahara. For all of us this was our first, nothing but sand, desert and it was both awe-inspiring and so very cool. Nothing is quite like sitting on the top of a dune and seeing nothing all the way to the horizon.


'
After a few days though, it was back on the road for us. And part way through our next ride after looking at some very cool Nazca lines from not nearly high enough, we had to say goodbye to Braydon.

'

Again, it felt wrong and was a big wrench… clearly Braydon didn’t take it so well.




From there Patrick and I began an epic 3-day journey that involved riding from dawn until dusk through desert flatter than Saskatchewan. Including a 2-hour border, we managed to cover 2400km until both our chains broke and stranded us in Copiapo, Chile. All things considered, we were lucky to get to a city and it was nice to have time to relax. With new chains in hand we made our way to Santiago in a leisurely and uneventful way. Here are some highlights from the whole little journey!








Now we find ourselves in Santiago where we are getting all the gear and spare parts we can. Patrick’s motorcycle had been burning an insane amount of oil and we just discovered the culprit! A broken piston… unfortunately that means we are here until Wednesday and Patrick has to spend quite a lot fixing his motorcycle, but soon we’ll be on our way again and we’ll keep you updated on our journey to Ushuaia. It’s been lovely catching up. Hasta luego!

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Old 03-06-2012, 09:34 PM   #144
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Awesome updates .. thanks for taking us along and for letting us know how y'all are doing .. Ride Blessed ..

.. looking forward to the rest of the trip(s) ..
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Old 03-07-2012, 08:05 PM   #145
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Glad to have you guys reporting again. Great pics and ride reports. Sounds like a great adventure with all the ups and downs with the bikes and the variety of landscape to ride through. Keep them coming.
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Old 03-08-2012, 12:35 AM   #146
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Awesome report!

Keep up the great report, guys. This has been an awesome read, and looking forward to much more.
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