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Old 07-07-2014, 01:29 PM   #2026
LawMur
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A popular haircut for dogs in Latin America: all business up top, party on the bottom

Shouldn't that be called "mullet para perro"
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Old 07-07-2014, 06:54 PM   #2027
Saralou
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From Vancouver

Hi you guys. We are sending all our positive thoughts and prayers for Neda's mom and you two also. We are here in Van for the summer and missing the bikes in BA! I hope all goes well with the shipping.

Sara
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Old 07-10-2014, 06:06 AM   #2028
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blader54 View Post
Wedding, or quinceanera?
Might have been a quinceanera, I just assumed they were bridesmaid dresses...?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Phrog View Post
You don't have to count the number of stairs .... there numbered.
Only in Latin America! I haven't seen numbered stairs anywhere else in the world!

Quote:
Originally Posted by LawMur View Post
Shouldn't that be called "mullet para perro"
Dog, the Bounty Hunter...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Saralou View Post
Hi you guys. We are sending all our positive thoughts and prayers for Neda's mom and you two also. We are here in Van for the summer and missing the bikes in BA! I hope all goes well with the shipping.
Thanks, Sara. Appreciate all the positive thoughts. Have a great time with friends and family in Vancity!
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Old 07-14-2014, 12:30 AM   #2029
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We're both missing the sun and sand, and we debated long and hard about turning back the way we came from and heading back to the beaches of the west coast. But the pace has gotten too slow (even for us!) and we decide to move through Ecuador a bit quicker, so we're continuing our trek through the rainy Andean highlands.


Rain clouds greet us overhead as we ride through El Cajas National Park

El Cajas National Park lies just outside of Cuenca. It's a beautiful, but cold ride through the tundra vegetation of tall strawgrass. Parts of it remind me of Iceland... until you see the alpacas grazing by the side of the road.


Only mildly curious about the biker with the camera clicking away

This picture above reminds me of a couple of things:

1) I am constantly on reserve. El Cajas is about 30 kms outside of Cuenca, and yes, my display reads 29 kms till empty... Because Neda's range on her F650GS is about 50 kms more than mine, I'm always running on fumes when we stop for gas!

2) Gas is freakin' cheap in Ecuador! The price is fixed by the government at $1.48 USD per gallon. That's $0.41 CDN per liter! For once, it costs more to feed us than our motorcycles!


Twist and shout! in El Cajas


Riding through Colonial Cuenca

Cuenca is probably Ecuador's prettiest city. Its colonial past is proudly displayed front and centre as we ride through the narrow, cobblestone streets looking for a place to stay.


We find a nice hotel that lets us park inside, and every morning while we have breakfast, we can check up on the bikes


Although there are lots of indigenous people in Cuenca, the town is also popular with gringo tourists

As we walked through the streets exploring Cuenca, we realized we had just stumbled upon another Gringo Trail town. The shell of grand, old historic buildings now house swanky restaurants and souvenir shops. Store-owners and waiters practice their English trying to lure tourists into their establishments.

Our snobbishness is wearing off though. One evening, we nosh on Beef Vindaloo, then Mexican food another night. We also repeatedly walk by a Caribbean restaurant that remained stubbornly closed throughout our stay in Cuenca. To say that we are getting bored of the local tipico food is a gross understatement.


Another evening, we visit a German beerhouse

I got Neda blind drunk and took advantage of her later on that night in bed. In Married-Speak, that means I got to hog all the blankets with no fear of retaliation as she lay passed out beside me... kikiki...


The next day, with Neda nursing a severe hangover, we do more sightseeing. We have spaghetti for lunch.


Panama hats!

While we were in Ecuador, I found out the traditional white, straw hats that everyone was wearing was called a Panama Hat. What was more unusual is that they are made right here in Cuenca. So why is it called a Panama Hat and not an Ecuador Hat? Turns out that the manufacturers who originally made the hats forwarded them to the Isthmus of Panama, for international shipping to other parts of the world. So the hats were known for where they were shipped from, not where they were made.


We spent the day walking through lots of museums. This one housed Inca pottery and other household items

As we poked around all the vases, pots and cups, I wondered what would the ancient Incas think about us displaying their everyday cutlery with such reverence? And then I also wondered what far-future archaeologists would think of our own household kitchenware. Would our plastic Ikea cups and Ginsu knives be displayed under glass with little signs explaining how 21st century inhabitants lined up for hours in a warehouse or dialed 1-800 numbers to attain these treasures?


The remains of an ancient Inca rapper: Fiddy Centavo


Outside the museum were the ruins of Todos los Santos

The interesting things about these structures was how the builders cut the stones in such a way that they interlocked with one another, without any need for cement. The best Jenga players in the world come from Ecuador.

I was most interested in visiting the Museo del Banco Central. Neda told me there was a display of shrunken heads, the result of a ritual (even practiced quite recently) by a native Ecuadorian tribe. That was the coolest thing I'd heard in a while, so all day I kept pestering her, "Are we going to see the shrunken heads now", "How about now?", "Can we see them now?"...


Real live shrunken human heads! This head was about the size of a fist. So creepy and COOOOOOOOLLLLL!!!!

There are all these signs around the shrunken heads saying that we weren't allowed to take any pictures. And to underscore the point, there were surveillance cameras all over the exhibit. I really wanted to get a memento, so we scoped what we thought was a blind spot amongst the cameras (like Mission Impossible) and then surreptitiously stole shots of the shrunken heads.

Not soon after, we saw a security guard approach us, so we quickly turned around and fled the building, camera safely stashed away with our prized pictures inside!


A lot of the buildings in Cuenca are covered in amazing artwork


Neda can't walk past a pet store without stopping to go inside


Hanging out with Valentino in Jerez during breakfast

There aren't many things that dictate our travel schedule, but MotoGP is one of them. We stayed an extra few days just so that we could download the race that weekend, but to our surprise, the cafe where we stopped to have breakfast was actually showing the race live! Motorcycle racing is not very popular in North America, so it was quite a novelty to watch it in a public place.

We were the only ones watching the race in the restaurant, and we get quite excited and very loud when there's a close pass or a crash. One or twice (or maybe more often), the other patrons looked up from their nice and quiet Sunday brunch to frown at our outbursts...


Bucolic countryside scene?


Nope, a farm right in the middle of the city!


You don't realize how strange soap operas really are until you see one being filmed live...


Hiking up to the Mirador de Turi, to get the best view of the city


Reminds us of our trip to the Galapagos. Missing the beach so much!!!


Heterochromia (different coloured eyes) is a common trait in Huskies


Cuenca in Spanish means "Basin" made out of rivers

The city Cuenca is actually in the confluence of four rivers, hence its name. At night, multi-coloured lights illuminate the waters, a nice treat for midnight strollers or joggers. The city (and the country) feel very safe to walk around at all hours of the day.


Selling snacks outside the New Cathedral of Cuenca


Waiting for charity
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Old 07-14-2014, 01:14 AM   #2030
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In Married-Speak, that means I got to hog all the blankets with no fear of retaliation as she lay passed out beside me... kikiki...
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Old 07-14-2014, 03:05 AM   #2031
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Awesome report again Gene!

And as for the shrunken heads, I saw three of them just yesterday at Ripley's believe it or not in London!!
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I was most interested in visiting the Museo del Banco Central. Neda told me there was a display of shrunken heads, the result of a ritual (even practiced quite recently) by a native Ecuadorian tribe. That was the coolest thing I'd heard in a while, so all day I kept pestering her, "Are we going to see the shrunken heads now", "How about now?", "Can we see them now?"...


Real live shrunken human heads! This head was about the size of a fist. So creepy and COOOOOOOOLLLLL!!!!

There are all these signs around the shrunken heads saying that we weren't allowed to take any pictures. And to underscore the point, there were surveillance cameras all over the exhibit. I really wanted to get a memento, so we scoped what we thought was a blind spot amongst the cameras (like Mission Impossible) and then surreptitiously stole shots of the shrunken heads.

Not soon after, we saw a security guard approach us, so we quickly turned around and fled the building, camera safely stashed away with our prized pictures inside!
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Old 07-14-2014, 06:31 AM   #2032
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another great report Gene. Thanks
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Old 07-14-2014, 07:12 AM   #2033
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Fiddy Centavo… kikikiki
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Old 07-14-2014, 09:43 AM   #2034
Max Wedge
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Thanks again, Gene and Neda. Always a good read/look.
Fiddy Centavo - you're killing me, Gene!
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Old 07-14-2014, 12:58 PM   #2035
Trane Francks
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Fiddy Centavo… kikikiki
When I first read that in the report, I started giggling. At Starbucks. While it was busy. Totally unavoidable.
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Old 07-14-2014, 03:16 PM   #2036
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Gene,
Your last post has some of your better witticisms....and you are good at all of them.

And thanks for letting us know where to find James Brown's head:




However, it doesn't look like he is "feelin' too good"....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SzlpTRNIAvc
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Old 07-16-2014, 07:36 AM   #2037
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And as for the shrunken heads, I saw three of them just yesterday at Ripley's believe it or not in London!!
I did some research as to how these Amazon tribes (the only ones in the world) shrink the heads of their enemies: they remove the skull and replace it with a small wooden ball, then boil them in water with some tannins. Then they're dried and molded into human shape. Note the lips are sewn with cords to keep the evil spirits residing inside from escaping.

The funny (Neda thought it was gross) thing was that the nose hairs were still intact! Hehehe!

Quote:
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Gene,
And thanks for letting us know where to find James Brown's head:



However, it doesn't look like he is "feelin' too good"....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SzlpTRNIAvc
I thought he "had the Blues"...

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Old 07-17-2014, 04:44 PM   #2038
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..

At this point in your photographic career, you may want to look into a dive case for a point and shoot. They usually aren't TOO expensive if you use an older camera. They add some bulk but will save you in an impact and of course at depth. Those "waterproof" cams are about as waterproof as a 1985 "Cazio" bought at the flee market. They're more of "splash proof" or strictly surf/surface shooting.
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Old 07-17-2014, 05:31 PM   #2039
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Another great installment, Gene! Thanks for sharing, awesome pics!
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Old 07-20-2014, 06:26 PM   #2040
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Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/160.html



Hi Ho! Through the Andes Mountains we go!

We've struck a definite pattern traveling through South America, zig-zagging back and forth from the beach to the mountains. Riding through the curvy roads that twist around the peaks is definitely a lot of fun, but trying to beat the afternoon rains isn't, and the our forays back to the coast give us the much-needed sunshine and warmth to keep our motivations and morale high. Travel fatigue is still an issue and having to travel through the noise and traffic of large cities just hammers that weariness home.


Neda waves: "Bye-bye, Cuenca!"

We're headed to a place that the folks at Ecuador Freedom Bike Rental guys recommended, Vilcabamba. Aside from being a chill place to relax, take in the nature and hike, we're told that there are frequent UFO sightings there, and all sorts of alien encounter enthusiasts descend on the town hoping to catch a glimpse of ET, Alf, Mork or Mindy. I want to believe, too!


Back through twisty mountain roads

Neda found a great place called Izhcayluma Lodge, which is about 5 minutes away from the town of Vilcabamba. It's in the valley overlooking a scenic chain of mountains in the distance. Owned by a German, the ambiance and (especially) the restaurant offered a bit of a change-up of the Latin American fare we've been trying to get away from lately. We initially booked a room for a couple of nights, but deep down, both of us knew full well we'd be staying a bit longer than that...


Scanning the skies over Izhcayluma lodge. No UFOs yet, but a nice double rainbow. Because, you know... rain... *sigh*

It was a very relaxing time for us. Neda got a lot of reading done, I pretended to work on the blog, and we both enjoyed being surrounded by nature.


All Ami and Nieve do is lie around all day. We have a lot in common.

There are two resident dogs at Izhcayluma, Ami and Nieve, and they immediately attach themselves to us, because we're the only guests that play fetch and roughhouse with them. Every morning, they wait outside our room and then follow us back after meals. The other guests start to miss them because they're always with us.

We can't help it if we're the cool kids that the dogs want to hang around!


Bored vendors at the lodge passing away the time


Group yoga class

Izhcayluma Lodge is a bit Granola. But that's okay, because Neda is a Granola-Wannabe. She doesn't really get full acceptance by the Birkenstock-crowd because she prefers to hug trees using her dirtbike. Funny story: next time you talk to Neda, ask her about the time she forgot to air-down the tires on her WR250F after riding street, and literally "hit" the trails...


Neda's favorite breakfast is Yoga-rt with Granola

Other than UFOs, there is another peculiar phenomenon in the Vilcabamba. The area around here is known as the Valley of Longevity because the native population, known as the Hunza, are said to have unusually long lifespans, averaging 120 years. Studies in the 1950s concluded that it was combination of natural foods, clean air and an active lifestyle. Who knew all that stuff was actually good for you? Mindblowing...

A lot of the eco spas and granola lodges really capitalize on this Valley of Longevity reputation. I did all of this research while munching on a delicious German bratwurst.

Quote:
A man goes in for his regular medical check-up and asks, "Doctor, will I live till I'm 100 years old?"
Doctor responds, "Do you smoke or drink?"
Man replies, "No."
Doctor asks, "Do you eat red meat?"
"No.".
"Do you drive fast cars, gamble or chase after women?"
"Definitely not!"
Doctor frowns and asks, "Then why do you want to live to be 100?!"

I think Neda is well on her way to living to be 100 years old!

One afternoon, Neda pulls me away from my very important task of doing absolutely nothing and we ride into town looking for UFO hunters.


Vilcabamba's only a one-church town - tiny place!

There's only a couple of main streets in Vilcabambas intersecting at the town square, and a few smaller residential roads surrounded the square. We stop into a cafe for brunch and got to talking to a lady from the US who had the same bike as Neda. Disappointingly, she was not a UFO hunter though. The search continues.


A burst of activity in this quiet town when school lets out


Reflecting on our trip

We extend our stay at Izhcayluma a few more days. We do this because we still haven't seen any UFOs yet. Neda tells me that we may see some if we go hiking...


Neda says we might be able to see UFOs from that mountain ridge on the right.
I dunno... it looks kinda far...



But I get conned into it.

Izhcayluma hands us a rough map of the hike up to the ridge. I think it was about 14 kms round trip! There really isn't a trail to get there, as we have to walk through a couple of places that are marked private property. We got lost trying to find start of the ridge and had to follow another European couple from the lodge - the only other people that we saw up in the mountains.


Neda doing her Hindu Indian Deva prayer to help find our way. The view is spectacular up here!


Hiking along the ridge of the mountain

This was probably the most scenic hike we've done since leaving Utah! It was amazing getting a 360 degree panoramic view of the Vicabamba Valley and at one point, the ridge narrowed to a thin pathway about a foot wide with steep drops on either side. Exciting!


The ridgeline trail seemed to extend forever into the distance


You can see the town of Vilcabamba at the top-right hand corner


The trail ended here and then we were lost again...

The way down was not very well marked and we were unsure of whether we were on the right track or not. I was glad we didn't have our GPSs with us or we would have gotten even more lost for sure.

When we reached the valley floor, we were unprepared for the long and arduous hike back, which the map told us to follow the creek all the way back into town. The problem was that there was no trail beside the creek, just the thick undergrowth of trees on either side with thorny branches. Tired of our arms and legs being subjected to hundreds of tiny slashes, we ended up walking in the creek, slogging through calf-high waters.

I was wet, tired and cut up from the thorns and I took every single opportunity to complain and curse loudly. Neda just nodded her head understandingly, which made it even more worse because every single whine and complaint from me, dug me deeper into a hole that I knew I'd have to dig myself out with a ladder made of apologies. :(

No UFOs too.


So nice to be greeted by friendly, panting faces when we get back! Note shoes drying on the balcony...

We ended up staying at Izhcayluma for over a week. It was a really nice break, but after a month and a half in Ecuador, we're eager to head south and see more of this continent.


Ami looks so forlorn that we are leaving! :(
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