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Old 12-13-2013, 08:17 AM   #121
UltiJayne OP
Sister on a KLR
Joined: Mar 2012
Location: Calgary, Alberta
Oddometer: 74
Cool2 Welcome to Ecuador

Gasoline in Ecuador is a fraction of the price it is in Colombia. If everywhere sold gasoline for $1.48 US a gallon, we'd be able to travel for a lot longer! It was strange going back to spending US dollars, but it does make stock piling them for our time in Argentina much easier.

The road to the Colombian border was fun. Especially after the cold wet ride to Pasto.

My route through Southern Colombia had a lot of beautiful views. I had to remember to keep my eyes on the road!

The border crossing from Colombia to Ecuador was straightforward. I rode past the very long line of trucks waiting to leave Colombia, parked and gave my bike documents to the customs man (who rather worryingly didn't give me anything back, but assured me everything was as it should be).

This is where you get your passport stamped out, yelling at scamming money changers is optional.

My passport was stamped out at the window with even less fuss. I then entered the fray of money changers to get rid of the fistful of Colombian pesos I had left. A guy near the customs place had said he'd give me $48 but he was no where to be seen when I was ready to make the deal.

A lady said she'd give me the same rate, and typed it into her calculator, but her calculator worked it out at $38! I was furious and started yelling at her for trying to rip me off. She disappeared pretty quickly. Not sure how she'd rigged her calculator but it was a scam that I could see people falling for. Be forewarned!

I found an honest money changer, and then hopped back on my bike and drove into Ecuador.

My first glimpse of Ecuador

The queue for getting my passport stamped into Ecuador was pretty long, without Phil to watch my bike, I parked it in the "taxi only" parking where I could see it from the line, and waited my turn. The Colombians in the line near me were very impressed that I was riding a motorcycle so far.

The customs man was very nice, he explained that I needed to have some photocopies, and to buy insurance, before he could process my temporary importation papers. I headed over to the insurance office (a corner shop across the road) and soon I had my copies and a month's worth of insurance for Cricket. I met a Belgian guy in the insurance office who had bought a car in Canada and he and his girlfriend were driving it down the Americas.

This is the row of shops you need to find to buy your insurance (from the one on the far left).

When I returned to the customs office there were two vehicles in front of me. I got chatting with the Colombian family who were on their way back to Colombia and we passed the time taking endless pictures of me with each member of the family, and then with the bike as well. They were really nice, and gave me a map of Ecuador, pointing out their favourite destinations.

Me and my new Colombian friends made while waiting to speak to Ecuadorian customs.

Once I was free to enter Ecuador, I rode to the nearest town for some lunch and to buy a SIM card for my phone. The kind man making my lunch was also Colombian, but had decided he'd rather live in Ecuador.

The rest of my ride to the small town of Otavalo was breathtakingly beautiful. Everything was so green and lush.

I am rarely inspired to stop and take a picture while on the road, but these views in Ecuador took my breath away.

Beautiful Ecuadorian landscape

Once in Otavalo I consulted my hardly used Footprints travel guide and decided to head to the only hostel listed as having parking. El Viajero del Rincon is a great hostel, with private rooms including breakfast. It is owned by a friendly American guy, who also has a campsite just outside of town.

A great place in Otavalo for motorcyclists to stay.

The hotel had great parking for my bike

The main attraction in Otavalo is an excellent market. I spent hours the next morning bartering with little old ladies dressed in traditional dress, selling me alpaca socks, wooly hats, silver jewelry and scarves.

Bags of all discriptions!

This sweet lady sold me alpaca socks. They are like wearing fairy wings on your feet.

I chatted to this lady and her friend for a while in the market. Cute baby!

The displays in the market were beautiful and very colourful

Beautiful Alpaca rugs. If only my moto was bigger...

My whole shopping spree came to less than $30.
The results of my morning in the market

Later that afternoon I left the sweet little town, headed for the big city – Quito!
Arctic Circle to Patagonia - on the road - started July 25, 2012

2007 Yamaha YBR125 with L plates! (UK)
2006 KLR650 (Canada)
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Old 12-16-2013, 01:15 PM   #122
UltiJayne OP
Sister on a KLR
Joined: Mar 2012
Location: Calgary, Alberta
Oddometer: 74
Cool2 The Ultimate Ride Reunited: Quito, Ecuador

I crossed the equator on the 17th of October, 2013, nearly 15 months after we left Vancouver. I don't have a picture of this momentous occasion, because there wasn't even a sign. Apparently if one wants to take a picture of the monument on the equator, one needs to take a different route. Sigh.

Every so often I email a community via the Horizons Unlimited website. You never know who will reply, or even how many people are on the list you are emailing. In Quito a man called Ernesto replied to my email asking about where to stay, and invited me to stay at his house where he lives with his daughter. (I don't have pictures of Ernesto or his daughter either, because I took them on my phone, which has since been lost.)

Ernesto rides a BMW and owns a company that provides security guards to companies and private individuals. He was very welcoming. His house was a lovely apartment, with underground parking, and maids who cooked me meals and washed my clothes. I was truly spoilt!

His 17 year old daughter was there with her newborn daughter, because she had had a fight with her 18 year old husband, who had gone out with his friends and lied about it. His other daughter, the one who normally lived there, was away for the night.

Ernesto's luxury apartment

That first night I was in Quito, Ernesto took me out for dinner and we fell foul of the 2 for 1 cocktail special. Too many cocktails later we stumbled home and I found myself having to explain to Ernesto that I was not interested in a relationship with a grandfather who had a daughter nearly the same age as me. He suggested that I should stay for a month and then we could travel around together, I explained that that wasn't going to happen.

Oh the perils of being a single motorcyling gal traveling solo - of course I must be in need of a man to look after me! I took it all with a grain of salt (and some headache pills in the morning when the mojitos came back to bite me). At least I could sleep as late as I wanted in a comfortable bed and I had the lovely ladies to make me coffee and breakfast.

Phil and Kelly were on their way to meet me, and unfortunately, with the teenage drama, there wasn't room for all of us in the luxury apartment, so I put in some Quito couchsurfing requests. Phil and Kelly were planning to ride all the way from Colombia to Quito that day. Having just made that trip, I suggested they may want to stop for the night in Otavalo.

Back in Quito, Lenin, a university professor, came to our rescue. He accepted our couchrequest, and that afternoon I packed up my freshly laundered clothes and rode to Lenin's house. Lenin lectures about cinema, and spent some time in Paris. We spoke a crazy mix of French and Spanish, which most other people would not have understood!

The view from Lenin's apartment building

The gate into Lenin's apartment building had two locks. A pain to get in and out of, but great for motorcycle security

Professor Lenin buying vegetables for dinner

This is the display found in a typical Ecaudorian corner store

Lenin's apartment overlooks a beautiful valley, and yet is still walking distance from the trendy La Mariscal area. As I had predicted, Phil and Kelly decided to stop in Otavalo for the night and so Lenin and I made dinner then went out to his favourite bar.

Watching a band at Lenin's favourite bar

Quito has an exciting night life, with a good mix of locals and foriegners.
The next day I set out on the bus to explore the historical centre of Quito.

Me looking colourful in my new scarf

Nice clouds over Historical Quito

Street art in Quito

This man caught my eye as I walked by. Recycling is a way of life.

Two course lunch for $1.25

My Quito lunch bill (in a nice restaurant in Old Town) hot chocolate cost the same as my 2 course lunch (with juice). Total bill? $5 including $0.21 tip!

As I was on my way home, Phil called to say they were also close. We got to the apartment at about the same time. We had to move some wood to park Jugs beside Cricket and then we settled into Casa Lenin. It was good to be back together after nearly two weeks apart.

Phil and Kelly glad to be home

I enjoyed traveling solo a lot. There's a lot to be said for being able to make your own schedule and choose your own route without having to take into consideration other people's desires. I made a lot of great friends, and felt a lot more adventurous when exploring places by myself. However there were moments when I felt lonely, and I was always worried about Phil and Kelly, hoping that they were okay. I love my brother, and it felt right to be back together.

So right that all three of us shared a bed

That evening Phil and I met up with Fernando, another motorcyclist whom I had been in touch with through the Horizons Unlimited community. He took us to another trendy bar, where we met two of his friends, who were also motorcyclists. They introduced us to "canelazo" a hot, cinnamon and orange drink, and they gave us loads of tips about what to see and where to go in Ecuador. It was this trio that encouraged us to visit the Ecuadorian Amazon jungle, a thought that had not occured to us previously.

In the bar with our new motorcyclist friends

The next day we went and played Ultimate Frisbee with the Quito Ultimate team. They were incredibly welcoming as Ultimate people always are, and several of them invited us to come and stay at their houses.

The Quito Ultimate frisbee crew

What do we do when not everyone fits inside the car?

Our stay in Quito was extremely pleasant. Lenin was an incredible host who gave us the keys to his apartment, and took us for typical Ecuadorian food down in the valley.

The resuable "coffee sock" is very popular in Latin America

Hanging out in a park with Lenin

We managed to regroup and relax in Quito, however soon it was time to say goodbye, get out of the big city and head towards volcanos and jungle.
Arctic Circle to Patagonia - on the road - started July 25, 2012

2007 Yamaha YBR125 with L plates! (UK)
2006 KLR650 (Canada)
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Old 12-16-2013, 01:18 PM   #123
Joined: Jun 2013
Location: Montana
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:) good to see ya back together.
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Old 12-16-2013, 01:27 PM   #124
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Joined: Jul 2009
Location: Quito, Ecuador
Oddometer: 224
sorry we missed you - great ride report! We are looking forward to the volcanoes and jungle!!!
Ecuador Freedom Bike Rental
Motorcycle Rentals, Guided and Self-Guided GPS Tours of Ecuador
Quito, Pichincha - Ecuador

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Old 12-18-2013, 01:53 PM   #125
aka Mister Wisker
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Joined: Jun 2013
Location: Back in Canada
Oddometer: 84
Well you already know that we reunite. Hereīs some pics from the time apart.

Sometimes part of spending time together, is spending time apart. After 14 months together, it appeared time to part ways. I wanted to head to Bogota to visit friends of my buddy Pacho and play some ultimate, and Jayne did not. Bogota is known to be cold, and Jayne wasn't interested.
Kelly goes where I go, so interested or not she was stuck with me. Mwhahaha!

Bogota and beyond.
After our night in Honda, it was a little tough to get going the next morning. Not because of any bike problems (there weren't yet) or because I was hungover (I was), but because so many people kept coming to talk about the bike, and ask the standard questions (how much? How fast? How far? How much further?). This delay proved fruitful however, as that lost time allowed me to later pull out of a gas stop just as Vladamir rode past on his Africa Twin! I pulled along side, made the “wanna pull over and talk bikes?” sign language, then pulled over and talked bikes. Turned out Vladamir lived in Bogota and was just returning from a short trip. He invited us to follow him and come stay at his house. We had nothing lined up in Bogota yet, so gratefully accepted his invitation. That's when the troubles started.

Even wearing the cloak, Jugs attracts attention.

Vladamir pulled over his Africa Twin for a chat, then offered his place for us to stay! ... Sadly Jugs renegged on the offer.

Jugs began hesitating. I had felt it before, but not since I changed my petcock in Medellin. Must be bad gas I figured. I mentioned the problem to Vladimir when we stopped to wait for construction. He said “no problem, I have a garage where you can work on it”. Sadly there was a problem, as five minutes after we were cleared to leave the construction stoppage, Vladimir passed a quintuplet of slow semi-trailers, and Jugs just wouldn't go. I limped up the hill until I found a place to pull off, but not having exchanged phone numbers, we would never see Vladimir again. Farewell Vladimir! Hello Rusty?

Rusty and Black Betty stop in to see what all the trouble is.

Rusty was heading to Bogota to ship Black Betty and himself back to the states. He noticed us looking miserable and pulled off to say hi. Jugs back running again after draining the carb, we set off in a mini-gang once more. An hour of great mountaing riding later, just as Rusty passed some cars, Jugs would act up again. And again we lost our companion!

Once in Bogota, we found Rusty for a visit in his hostel. Finally a tall-friendly hostel!!

Another height based photo, this from the Bogota library showing average Colombian height over the years.

some great Grafiti! but...

.... most of it looks like this...

... and by "it" I mean the city of Bogota. (In defense, there had been some recent large protests)

On the promenade 7th street, my favorite busker ever: 22 guinea pig houses on which you place your bets. He picks one of 6 guinea pigs and which ever house it crawls into wins! sure itīs a scam, but what a fun scam!

The gold museum is worth your time. So much neat gold!

Distracted by all the gold, we would lose Rusty again!

Joined in an Ultimate practice with "Raza". Limited and costly grass fields at night means they practice outside the major stadium (for the lights) on the brick courtyard! Great guys... but not many layouts.

I had hoped to play a lot of frisbee while in Bogota, bad timing only allowed me one practice. The national Championships were coming up back in Medellin, so all the players were leaving town.

Staying where he worked at the Martinik hostel (p.s. no parking), I traded with my amigo Diego for a Colombia Jersey. This caused strife with Kelly. I guess she is a big Blackfish fan.

I see you baby. There ainīt no glass.

Back home there is a "cash corner" where day labourers hang out waiting for someone to come by and offer a job for the day. Bogota has something similar, but instead of labourers, there are Mariachi bands!!

Ignoring street signs led Rusty and I into this Bus-only, still-under-construction metro tunnel. That it was not finished meant we had to turn around and ride out past the angry guard again on the way back out.

Rusty proving he owns Black Betty with a fingerprint. Ready to ship to Florida! (for only around 740$!)

Black Betty had to be cleansed of all its evil oils. The guard dog at the carwash took repeated comically sneaky attempts at eating the "sheep" from Rustyīs seat. Taunting the dog didnīt help.

After Bogota, Kelly and I took the fantastic ride to Villa de Leyva. Read about that here. Then it was time to start closing the gap on Jayne, heading towards Armenia.

Again sputtered to a stop on our way to Armenia. Once again draining the carb. Not really working longterm anymore, perhaps itīs something other than bad gas?

Love the free bypass lanes for motorbikes at toll booths!

Oil on your boots? Never a good sign. Slow leak from my valve cover, and still having loss of power from the bad gas.

Not enough to even need an oil top-up, but my valve cover was leaking from the front of the gasket and from around two of the bolts. Not great. Had several more stops to drain the Carb, seemed to work pretty well before, but now I was only getting an extra 20 km before having to stop again. Some terrible gas indeed.

After a long ride with several breakdowns, in much traffic on a holiday weekend, we finally reached the top of the mountain above the clouds on "la Linea" pass, the second highest in Colombia. (3265m) Next stop, La Mesa.

The pass is known to be quite dangerous given all the crazy semi-trailer traffic. It is the main supply route to Bogota from the coast. Sometimes not all "supplies" fit inside the truck...

Once over the pass, the sun was setting, so Kelly and I stopped in "La Mesa". Beers with the friendly locals, then took their recomendation on a cheap nearby hotel.

Outside out hotel were some older gents playing a very fast moving Gambling game. It plays a lot like the game "Sorry", except they arenīt so appologetic when they take your money. Beginners luck, I won the first game and was up 20000 Pesos. Second game I lost it all back. Pretty sure they stopped helping me as much after that backfired in round one.

Next up was a stop in Armenia, where our couchsurfing host Luis and his girlfriend Adriana awaited. At that time, Jayne was in Cali, ready to make a run for the border.
Top to the bottom with a frisbee:
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Old 12-19-2013, 01:35 PM   #126
aka Mister Wisker
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Joined: Jun 2013
Location: Back in Canada
Oddometer: 84
Hunting Jayne: Armenia to the end of Colombia, and the most amazing swingset in the w

In trying to catch up on the blog during this downtime while I heal, I find much must be omitted for space. I guess you will have to just go see it all for yourself!

The hunt to catch up with Jayne continues, but not before we encounter wheelies, thefts, many escorts and of course: the most amazing swingset in the world.

On our arrival to Armenia, we met our CS host Luis, settled in quickly, then went out to join every other person in Colombia to watch their world cup qualifier against Chile.

Down 3-0 at halftime, but after a goal in the second half the fans were back in it.

After Colombias third goal, completing the incredible world cup qualifying comeback, I was fully enjoying the emotions of the rollercoaster... and my hug with this guy.

The celebration for a tie game was incredible. Throwing flour on everyone is what the kids do here, and while we were able to dodge them for most of the evening, a drunken gang of hooligans brought brought us into their celebration just as we were headed home for the night. Nothing like a breaded beard.

The next day was a party at the University where Luis worked. Drunken students dancing and lining up to take photos with me like my no-longer-breaded-beard was a porn star.

Colombians know how to throw a good party!

Once one started, the photo-op went on and on until we left for the parade. Great people!

Right by the university, the Jeep Willys parade was passing by. Jeep Willys have been used for years in coffee country, known for their low-gearing, durable everything and incredible payload capacity. The parade showcased all these fine attributes and more.

One of the 100īs of Jeep Willyīs in the parade. This one gave me a mini woven basket!

Hello Willys, nice to overload you.

Part of the move-the-whole-house-in-one-load contingent. All have a picture of Jesus on the front...

...but only one had a live squirrel on the back!

The Plantain section. Someone snuck that new model jeep in somehow.

Itīs not a true parade without a jeep pulling a stripper pole.

Kelly and Luis with my favorite: Wheely Willys!!

The wheelie Willys wheely were wonderful! Check the clip below to see them in action!

If the imbed still isnīt working: click here

Luis and Ariana took us out in the evening to nearby Circasia for some coffee, snacks and then Tejo! Tejo is the national sport of Colombia, and Jayne played a couple rounds too in Salento.
For some time afterwards I took a lot of grief from Kelly for not causing any explosions, even more grief after we met up with Jayne again. Fair enough. I was a lesser player at Tejo... but then I read Jayneīs post and see the photos. We werenīt on even close to a level playing field!!

Regulation sized Tejo. Tiny triangles. Big Clay pit...

...thrown from far away. Kelly did well exploding more than one! "un punto para mi!"
(this is playing from the midway line too!)

Not that Iīm bitter or anything... stupid Tejo.
It was a blast anyways, as is any sport where you MUST be drinking to be allowed to play.
We had a really great time with Luis and his family.

Luisī Mom hops aboard Jugs for a trial. Sheīs not tiny at all, Jugs is just enormous.

Luis even came to join Kelly and I when I met up with my Pen-pal Kerry. I had been emailing since virtually introduced by Roger and Sasha. Both having motorcycles, we were of course fast friends.

Drinking boxed wine in the Calarca square with Kelly, Adriana, Kerry and Luis. Kelly is a spilly pourer.

Luis: "Just park it in the living room".

Post Armenia, we debated a day in Salento since everyone loved it so, but with Jayne still well ahead of us, and long days on the bike causing Kelly knee pain, we skipped Salento and head straight for Cali. Luis escorted us out of town through some nice back roads before saying goodbye.

I just canīt let go.

Also met the "Pulsar" moto club from Cali out for a ride on the same country roads.

Easy road to Cali. We followed Jayneīs footsteps and stayed at the same El Viajero hostel, looking forward to the highly touted Yoga and Salsa lessons. Sadly when we arrived we found that both were canceled for the next day. Ugh.

We were able to meet up with Fernando, a fellow KLR rider who came to meet us and guided us on a short ride through Cali at night. He told us his story of escaping death after a robbery of the pharmacy he works in left him filled with 5 bullets. I suppose some of the warnings of danger in Colombia do get substantiated at times, as in every country. Fernando offered for us to stay at his place the next night. We sadly had to turn down his offer in our bid to try to catch up to Jayne while avoiding long days on the road.

Death defying Fernando, his lady and Kelly out for a walk.

KLR riders... at night

From Cali down to Popayan, aka Papa Johnīs, a town that Kelly talks more about in her post. Leaving Cali I asked some moto police for directions out of town.

Rather than give directions, they gave us a police escort!

Once in Popayan, there was no parking at the hostel, so I dropped of Kelly and found a parking lot. There I took advantage of the space to drain the last of my gas (see motorcycle minute below). I checked-in with our spot tracker and set it down beside me out from the overhang covering the bikes so it could see satelites better.

See the sky, from beside the bike of that thief guy.

After some help from the lot owner to dump the last dregs of my gas (which he happily put in his bike regardless), I looked back to see a motorbike in the place where my Spot had been. I had seen the bike pull in. I did not see him when he pocketed my Spot. I asked the lot owner if he had moved it. He had not. We checked that his son hadnīt started playing with it. Nope.

Alright then. Now my bad temper exploded.

As calmly as I could (not very), I explained exactly what the spot tracker is, looks like, why it is useless to anyone else, and how I will uh, well, murder the guy when I see him... I miiiight have lost my mind.
Fortunately for all involved, before I even had the chance to start dismantling the thiefs bike piece by piece (for ransom/murder parts), the lot owner ran down the street and minutes later came running back. Spot in hand. He knew where the thief worked apparently. Homicide averted. I didnīt even have to cut off his finger.

Otherwise Popayan was a calm place, with friendly people, where again kind folks led us out of town rather than just giving directions!

Kind gent named Lorenzo and his daughter lead us to the highway out of town!

Pasto. Oh Pasto. Pasto is as dreary as Jayne says. We spent our night in a cheap sex hotel for just 15000 for the night!

Note the tiled walls for easy cleaning.

After heading to watch a movie to escape the cold miserable night, I left Colombia with a bang... Unfortunately that bang was from the explosion of vomit and diarrhea coming from my body. I guess restaurant “Mister Pollo” isn't such a gentleman after all. Regardless, I will miss Colombia and look forward to my return visit!

Stunning wide open landscapes welcome you to Ecuador. Plus cheap gas!

Entering Ecuador was about as easy as Jayne describes it. I did have some problems getting gas.

As I started to fill my tank at the first station, and a man came running over uttering that I wasn't allowed with my foreign plates. I paid the 0.78$ for the gas, at 1.48$/gallon: enough to tide me over for awhile.

As recomended by Jayne, Kelly and I stopped for a night in Otavalo.

"Ecuaaador...Equaaator...Ecuaaador... I never imagined it would be cold!" says Kelly, looking at the great view.

Kelly loooooved the market.

... but she haaaaated this toque, without which has now left my ears cold.

From Otavalo itīs a short ride through much contruction to Quito. Not long into the ride I spotted "The most amazing swingset in the world". It is. No lie. Being so magical, it took a moment to register that what I had seen was indeed real. But then it sunk in and I pulled a U-turn so Kelly and I could go play.

The holy grail of swings

Kelly and I had a couple swings to ourselves before a gaggle of kids swarmed to take advantage of my pushing-them-back-up abilities. I left exhausted. It was awesome! (In Ecuador and want to play? Map link!)

Great kids! The kneeling twin is the same one who wouldnīt swing on the swings. Twins, yet sooooo different. Like many twins I suppose.

Once in Quito, still buzzing from the great swing session, it was time for a catch up, now reunited with my sister!

Just minutes after arriving and getting the bike parked, we were welcomed with HAIL! Glad to have missed out on riding in that!

Motorcycle Minute:
With all the sputtering since starting the ride up to Bogota, and with it resolving each time I draing my carb, I was of the mind I must be dealing with bad gas. Fortunatley, I also was starting to notice a light oil leak, so I pulled the tank off at Luis place to investigate.

Pulled the tank to find a leak and... wait why is my spark plug wobbling like that?

Pulling the spark lead, the plug wobbled!! It was very loose, Iīm surprised the bike even ran at all. Plug tightened, I also checked the valve cover bolts for tightness since that was where the oil leak stemmed. Without a torque wrench I was hesitant to tighten too much. The valve cover bolts are pretty specific. Regardless, glad to have found the loose spark plug! Bad gas? Now doubtfull.
Regardless I dumped the remnants of the tank in Popayan just to be sure. Had made it 400km on a tank even with the extra load of Kelly and her gear, well impressed!

Footpeg: Leaving Cali I found a moto shop with a new passenger footpeg for Kelly. The right peg was slanted and we figured that may be contribuiting to her knee pain. It was. One 6000 peso (3$) footpeg later her knee pain was gone!

The shop only had one footpeg, luckily it was for the right side! Old one is notably worn out.

and Iīll leave you with this:

Nothing to do with motos, I just like the spanish Pun. (Itīs a bakery)
Top to the bottom with a frisbee:
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Old 12-20-2013, 05:53 PM   #127
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Joined: Feb 2008
Location: Long Beach, CA
Oddometer: 66
Thanks for posting your epic trip. Great attitudes, writing and photos. I'm looking forward to your next story.
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Old 12-20-2013, 11:03 PM   #128
aka Mister Wisker
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Joined: Jun 2013
Location: Back in Canada
Oddometer: 84
Baņos: Itīs not a bathroom, but we sure vomited in it. Bonus: Volcano erruptions!

The mountain roads through Ecuador proved excellent. Quality tarmac with lots of bends and great scenery. Baņos had been recommended by a few folks, and didnīt dissapoint. For starters, the nearby Tungurahua volcano was having a fit while we were in town! We stayed with Mary, who had ridden a similar trip to ours on the back of a BMW, only back in the 60īs! After an eventful stay, we head to an incredible jungle botanical garden called Omare.

Late October.
To start: Hey same bikes!

Jayne models a police KLR found in Equador. The officer claimed no modifications to the bike. Either heīs had leg extensions or his suspension is shot.

We did encounter a fair bit of construction. A recent push by the government to upgrade roads is welcomed by many locals I spoke to.

One of the many construction traffic "bypasses" we had to make in Ecuador on the way to Baņos (and elsewhere). The roads were generally in amazing shape though.

Welcome to Baņos!

Iīm used to being asked for money by folks to "watch my moto", but thereīs a limit. Crutches AND cataracts? You picked the wrong gringo tax business, amiga.

Aside from being heartless, I was also a little cranky after my interaction with miss crutchy. This was not improved when the lunch spot chosen by Kelly was a "gringo friendly" cafe. Unfortunately, Kelly and I are simply on different budgets and in different worlds when it comes to priorities on restaurants. Jayne is somewhat in the middle. I can eat cheap and plentiful rice, beans, plantains and meat every meal of the day. The girls cannot, or at least prefer not to.

I ate my small, over-priced sandwich while staring at a bunch of cute stuff on the walls, picked a fight and then left to fill my stomach. Kelly was upset at feeling guilty everytime she wants to eat somewhere "nice". On the other hand, I eat a substantial amount to fill my skinny frame, and when I have a choice of what to spend my limited budget on: "nice" restaurants simply donīt qualify. We discussed and agreed that we will often just have to eat in different places. I left to fill my giant stomach with a full meal "comida corriente" for 2.50$, eating where the locals ate. My tiny sandwich had been 3.75$. Yes, that may sounds like a small difference, but it would take 4 sandwiches to match my "comida corriente". And even if it didnīt, that extra dollar would pay to patch my pants.

Nothing quells the upset like a side of these fried mashed-potoato/cheese pucks. They were easy to find, cheap, and always worth a second helping.

While separated, Kelly tried to recharge her phone. She put 5$ on the wrong number, and the unhelpful girl at the tienda was unwilling/ unable to try to recover it. Free credit for someone!
Once reunited, we set off to find Mary, our CouchSurfing host.

Happily Maryīd.

Mary has lived in Baņos a couple years, and lives basically ON the Volcano, albeit near the bottom.

When she was younger, her boyfriend and her had a debate. He wanted to buy a motorbike; she wanted to go to Argentina. They agreed to do both. Thier trip took place in the 60īs, and took four years. She told many great stories, my favorite being of him drunkenly burning her jacket one night. Her Jacket which had all their money in it. Itīs not like they could just go to a bank or an ATM back then and get more. They had to find jobs and lie about where they were living, since they wouldnīt be hired if it was known they lived in a tent!

They also werenīt privy to the happenings in the world, news didnīt flow as freely and easily those days, and they ended up in Jail in Argentina for a little while during an uprising. I just love meeting other moto travelers and hearing their stories!

Inside Marys house, there were wisps of volcano dust to be found all, and reportedly refreshed often.

We had all been having some stiomach discomfort of late, and were due for some anti-parasite meds.

We learned in Mexico that every 6 months itīs not a bad plan to take an anti-parisite med to cure what ails the bowels. We were all due.

Mary makes handmade soaps and lotions. Great stuff!

Jayne jumped right in to help Mary with her "Natural Mosquito repellant lotion" and soaps.

Jaynes finished work.

Took a ride up to the local hot springs. Only a short ride but it seemed almost everytime you looked the volcano was errupting!

...All day every day, Volcano spewing ash up abooove me.

Pool party with Mary, Jayne and Kelly

Hair nets mandatory. Beards get away free...

...or at least they would normally.

Youīve got to get dirty if your want to stay warm

Nothing like a day at the pool that could be your last.

The pool deck was in great shape!

From there we walked back through town before the girls had to get back to the house for massages. Spa, massages... tough life for the ladies here in Baņos.

The girls errupting with joy

They were a little quiet, werenīt they Andi?

Walls are nice to lean on. Two-toned with a stripe? The best!

The girls awaiting on a bridge to nowhere

In the evening we would reunite with our amigo Tom who came over for burgers. We put him right to work.

We should have bought shrimp to make him feel at home

Post dinner we took a taxi ride up to the lookout over the town. From there we got our first view of REAL LAVA coming from the volcano! There had been debate over riding the bikes up, but the taxi would turn out to have been the best option. Let me rap at you why:

Baņos, at night...

...our stomachs were in for a fright...

...while other gringos rode out on their colourful buses...

... our burgers flowed back out our esophaguses!

Jayne and I were hit almost the same time while up at the look out. We required several stops on the way home. Kelly was the last hit. Thankfully Mary (and Tom) were spared the wrath of the homemade burgers.

I do sometimes get photoīs of EVERYTHING.

Sadly there was one other casualty of the night: my leatherman multi-tool escaped. I donīt know where, but I would spend the following weeks constantly borrowing Jayne or Toms. Tough loss, tough to replace.

In the morning, all recovered, we met in the square and took Maryīs suggestion to head off towards the Jungle via Puyo.

Cataract crutchy didnīt make another appearance. Smart lady.

Jayne and Tom drafting the bus to the Jungle

a tun-nel of fun!

We got to enjoy much of the twisty road to Puyo before the intermittent rain started.

Mary had recomended a stop at a unique botanical garden. A touch of resistance was felt since it was getting late in the day and i didnīt quite know how to get there, but in the end concensus was: fantastic stop!

Omaere botanical park.

Our incredibly knowledgeable guide Chris gives us a synopsis undercover before the rain starts. Married to a native Amazonian, he would enlighten us to all the powerful plants of the amazon, and the cultures of those who live(d) there.

Our walk through the garden, trying to dodge the intermittant rain under the occasional huge leaves. This plant had something to do with a cat.

This is a 16 year old cedar, used for hollowed out canoes (it needs a little more time). Iīm shirtless like the natives so Iīll dry faster when the rain stops. I decided against tucking my penis into a waist string however.

Sinus alleviating plant. Jayne would buy a bottle of its extract, but sadly later leave it at the restaurant. It worked well too!

While it REALLY poured outside, Chris taught Tom (our eldest Male) how to defend the house. Dark inside, with gaps in the wall slats, would be attackers canīt see in, but Tom and his spear could see out.

Chris also told us of the wife selection process, starting when the girl is 6! The man moves in with the family, and essentially helps to raise his future wife. Since he raised her, they have fewer disagreements. When she is of age, they move out together, and if he is a good providing husband, he may marry all her sisters too!

A precurser to the natural plant based paint job the girls would get on our Jungle trip. You are in for a treat!

instead of painting my face, I waged war on the arm bites Iīve had since PANAMA! It helped, but didnīt cure. (more on these in a future post)

Another preview: Ayahuasca vine in its natural state

14 months vs. 32 years.

an inginious set-up for hands-free jungle handwashing!

Out of bricks to build your forest path? Have bottles? Problem solved!

Want to capture rain water for handwashing, but donīt want the standing-water-associated mosquitoes? Add a fish. No joke. The fish in there (tough to see) eats nothing but mosquito larvae. Theyīve never had to give it fish food!

Our tour lasted a couple hours, eating a touch into our daylight, but so very well worth it. More than just a garden tour, we learned all about the cultures as well. Really got us excited for a trek into the Jungle!
Now off to the Amazon!
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Old 12-22-2013, 09:51 AM   #129
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Joined: Mar 2012
Location: Calgary, Alberta
Oddometer: 74
Cool2 An Amazon Adventure: Puerto Misahualli, EcuadorAn Amazon Adventure: Puerto Misahualli

There was a twisty stick in the middle of my lane. It was after sunset and I couldn't see well, but as I passed the stick I realised it was alive! Tom was riding behind me, and the stick, not happy with my passing so close, reared up and went for Tom's leg.

Luckily it missed, and Phil saw the whole thing so could report Tom's near brush with death.

Tom. Before his near fatal brush with the snake.

We never like to be riding after dark, but we'd had so much fun at the botanical garden that we ended up on the road to Puerto Misahualli at dusk. By the time we made it to the Banana Lodge, it was very dark.
We hadn't booked, but the Banana Lodge had a whole cabin with 4 beds just waiting for us.

That evening we hung out in hammocks around a campfire. Then the storm started! Rain bucketing down and lightning so bright it became like day for a second or two.


This picture of the flooded path to our cabin was taken in the dead of night, but perfectly timed with a flash of lightning.

The next day the rain had stopped and we prepared for our two day trek into the Amazon jungle.

The lodge provided us with rubber boots (they even had giant ones that fit Phil) and our guides, Enrique and Ermundo were there when we woke up.

All booted up and ready for adventure

After breakfast we jumped into the back of a pick up truck for the ride to the starting place. Then we all jumped out again and got in the cab of the truck. Apparently it's okay for the locals to ride in the back, but gringos have to ride inside.

Unloading from the truck, ready for adventure.

Enrique gives us the low down on what to expect, in Spanish only. I become the trek translator.

Within the first five minutes we had to take off our boots and pants and wade through a river. Yay Adventure!

Wading through the river was an exciting start to our six hour jungle trek. The first part was through secondary jungle, meaning that the original jungle had been cleared for agriculture at one point, and then allowed to regrow.

Enrique told us (while hacking away with his machete) that in the secondary forest a path could completely grow over in less than a month. In the primary forest, paths would stay forever, because the trees had grown big enough to stop the sunlight from coming through.

Bugs and trees and birds - oh my!!

I love recycling. This is how we carried eggs with us on our trek. Newspaper and a recycled water bottle with a slit cut in it.

The jungle is a truly fascinating place. Every tree, plant and animal has surprises in store. Enrique was excellent at showing us the jungle's secrets.
One of my favourites, which we had learnt the previous day at the botanical garden, was about the cinnamon tree. What we are all used to eating is the bark of the tree, but the leaves also taste amazing.

The leaves of the cinnamon tree are delicious!

Enrique was extremely willing to share his experience. Several times he stopped made animal calls to see if he could attract some wildlife. Unfortunately the area we were in was too close to civilisation, and most of the wildlife had been hunted.

This is Enrique imitating a toucan.

Lunch was cheese and jam sandwiches

The intrepid adventurers with a very big tree

Which way now?

It's been so long I can't remember what these were, but they still look cool.

Eventually we came upon a house in the jungle. This was our new home for the evening.

Our Amazon home beside the river

Closer up picture of the house on stilts

The house is home to a family with approximately six children, one of whom was away that afternoon having a baby. She and the baby came home later that evening.

The house has one open air room (where we slept), with a small kitchen area around the corner, and two enclosed bedrooms. No bathroom or running water of any kind.

There were, however, a lot of chickens. One of the daughters decided that it was her job to entertain us with them and proceeded to do so for at least an hour.

First she brought us some chicks to play with.

Three little chicks all in a row

Kelly with a fluffy chick

When we tired of the chicks, she upgraded to the bigger birds.

Her grand finale was when I asked for one of the cockerel's tail feathers. He was hard to catch because he kept running away, but the clever girl lured him in with corn and then jumped on him. Feathers flew everywhere!!

Unfortunately she didn't get one of my coveted tail feathers, but I didn't have the heart to ask her to jump on him again.

Her brothers picked fruit from the trees for us with a handy fruit picking stick.

The fruit looked like giant bean pods, and had a white, sweet flesh around the beans inside.

At about this time, the father, who is also a shaman, appeared out of the jungle with a big leaf in his hand, which he gave to his daughter.

Hungry? Grubs presented on a leaf platter

The others managed to eat these... I couldn't bring myself to do it.

Apparently it was now time for a snack. Fire roasted grubs. The girl was really sweet showing us how to bite a hole in the side so it wouldn't explode while cooking. She roasted one for Kelly, which Kelly gallantly ate, but I simply couldn't bring myself to eat one.

The kids teach Phil how to perfectly roast a grub

Tom and his tasty treat

Phil eating a roasted and salted grub

Phil, Tom and Kelly got pulled into playing games with the kids for ages.

One of the benefits of being hosted by a shaman was that he offered to perform an ayahuasca ceremony for us that evening. Ayahuasca is a medicine made from trees and leaves from the jungle. It is known to have hallucinogenic effects, and is reputed to help cleanse one of any problems or worries one may be having.

We accepted his kind offer, and so while all of this other fun and grubs was going on, he spent the rest of the day preparing the ayahuasca.

The best shamen have yellow trousers, gum boots and a machete. Fact.

Our shaman at work, while his son and Phil build the fire

The ayahuasca boiling on an open flame - for hours.

We didn't eat any dinner that evening because you are not meant to eat before an ayahuasca ceremony. It is almost guaranteed that you will vomit (part of the cleansing process) during the ceremony and it is best to not have too much in your stomach.

As the sun was going down, we were called outside to the fire, which they had built surrounded by benches. We sat and chatted for a while. It was under a clear, star filled sky that the shaman decided it was time to take our medicine.

The wood and leaves that had been boiling all day had been reduced down to an inch or two of concentrated brown liquid in the bottom of the pot.
It was served to us in half a carved coconut shell, with beads tied around the edge. We drank the strong, unpleasant tasting liquid, some of it dripping through the holes onto our shirts, and then quickly rinsed our mouths out with perfumed water that we were instructed not to swallow.
An amount of time later (Phil thinks it was only half an hour, I feel like it was at least an hour) the shaman asked if we'd like some more. There had been almost no talking in this time and Kelly was shocked that Tom, Phil and I said yes. Apparently she had been seeing pictures in the sky since almost immediately after she drank the medicine. Kelly was also the only one of us who vomited after the first dose.

Almost immediately after I had put the coconut shell down after the second, foul-tasting dose I started to feel high. It was so soon afterwards that I immediately thought perhaps I shouldn't have taken the second dose. It wasn't much longer before I had to visit some nearby trees and was glad that we hadn't eaten much all day.

Walking was difficult, a lot like being drunk. At one point I went into the house to put on a sweater and it felt like an enormous challenge to get up the few steps and figure out how to open the door.
Enrique asked if I would like to take a shower to clean myself. I though this was a strange request, but Phil jumped at the chance. He told Phil to sit on a piece of wood on the ground. It turned out to be trouble with translation, he was asking if we wanted to be spiritually cleansed by the shaman, not to physically take a shower.

The shaman had a bundle of leaves that he shook relentlessly over Phil's head for a while, and then he started whistling.

The sound that is like a train, that's the leaves shaking. After the whistling he started singing a song to the same tune. This continued for a very long time, that song is welded into my soul. I found out much later in Peru that every shaman has his own song, which he creates as part of his shamanic training.

Next the shaman started smoking some sort of tobacco and variously blowing it onto Phil's head and sucking the bad spirits out. (This is my interpretation, the shaman did not explain to us what he was doing.) This cleansing ceremony took a very long time, and when the shaman was finished with Phil, he repeated the whole process with each of the four of us, and also his daughter who had just had a baby earlier that day.

It was an incredible experience, one that I am struggling to put into words. I found myself extremely drawn in by the fire, I couldn't stop staring into it, and I saw many figures, shapes and images in it. At one point there was a mask with a burning eye that seemed to speak to me.

His messages? To love everyone, to live in the moment , to stop worrying about what's going to happen next and to be less selfish, to take pleasure in helping and supporting others. These are reoccurring themes in my life over the many months that we've been on the road, and I was very open to hearing them again.

It was late at night when we each individually decided to go to bed. Phil stayed up much later than the rest of us, he didn't really start to feel the effects of the medicine until after everyone else had gone to bed.

An ayahuasca ceremony is a very individual experience, each of us had a very different journey that night, and there was very little communication between us during the ceremony.

Our sleeping quarters for the night

The next morning we awoke to the crowing of the roosters.
After breakfast it rained, I don't mean a tiny sprinkling either.

When it rains in the Amazon, it really rains!

Once the rain had stopped, Enrique took us on another jungle adventure.

An interesting Amazon resident

Enrique chopped down a tree and hacked it to pieces just so we could taste fresh heart of palm. Delicious!

After the rain, the paths were pretty slippy!

Careful balance needed

We returned to the house for lunch and to treat our bug bites.

Our dad sent us a special hickey machine. It sucks the badness out of bug bites. Also works for scorpions and spiders, although we haven't tested that yet...

After lunch we headed to the river.

View of the river from the hammock

Enrique swam across to get a canoe. Phil made his own:

Phil built his own dug out canoe

It even floated!

Enrique's canoe was very unstable, so he took us across two at a time.

Enrique ferries the boys across the river in a very unstable canoe

On the other side of the river our guide showed us how to pan for gold. We only found a couple of tiny flecks!

Enrique used to pan for gold every day!

On the way back to the house to gather our belongings, Enrique used the jungle to transform Kelly and I into jungle queens. Palm leaves for crowns, flowers for noses, and natural facepaint from the pod of a tree (the same that Chris painted us with in the botanical garden in Tena).

Magical Amazon Queens with wands and fruit found in the jungle

Our last hike through the jungle took us to another river, further away from the one we'd been living beside.

We were told to wait for a boat to come pick us up here. Seemed unlikely, but we waited.

But it did show up! Driven by two young kids. Or maybe the locals just look really young?

Speeding along the river

We enjoyed the ride down the river. There were several fancy looking lodges along the shore, obviously catering to the tourist market who wanted a luxury jungle experience. We were all too soon out of the jungle and back in civilisation. This time we got to ride in the back of the truck, we'd obviously proven ourselves to be tough enough!

That evening we headed into town for dinner. On the way Phil joined these kids for a dodgeball/flipping bottlecap game.

Ready to leave the Banana Lodge the next morning.

The rest of our family are keen geocachers. We got an email from our dad saying that there was one nearby us that had never been found before. He sent us the coordinates and asked us to go find it.

On our way out of the jungle, finding the cache was our final challenge.
In the end it was Tom who found it hidden in a tree stump in a field of corn.

Tom and I with the cache

Unfortunately the cache was not waterproof and the treasure inside (an US $2 note and a steel penny) were water damaged.

Recording that the Ultimate Ride was the "first to find" this geocache

Having had an unforgettable Amazonian adventure, it was time to climb out of the jungle and up to the top of a volcano.
Arctic Circle to Patagonia - on the road - started July 25, 2012

2007 Yamaha YBR125 with L plates! (UK)
2006 KLR650 (Canada)
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Old 12-23-2013, 02:16 PM   #130
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Location: Back in Canada
Oddometer: 84
Fiesta and fights at 3900 metres: Laguna de Quilotoa, Ecuador

There was much debate about which way to go leaving the Amazon. Completing the loop and returning to Quito via some hot springs was the initial plan. However, weīre riding with a bit of a schedule as Kelly would really like to make it to Macchu Picchu before she has to fly home, and would like to get some beach time in before she returns to the grey skies of a Vancouver winter. Eventually we decided to gain ourselves a couple days, skip the return to Quito and head up. Waaaay up. From 400 metres in the Amazon to almost 4000 metres at Quilotoa lake, an old, cold volcano crater. But first we had to stop for a late lunch.

Discussion again within our helmet intercoms about where to eat, with a request to go back into Baņos for something "nice". Time was a concern with our late start, so highway shack it was. Tom, without an intercom, has little say. Mwhahaha.

And WHAT a highway shack! Deep fried in animal fat: The BEST plantains Iīve eaten this trip. And Iīve eaten a lot of Plantains. (skip the soup though)

Full of energy post lunch, we were really moving along the great road out of Baņos. At one point Jayne said I should "slow down a bit" as I was getting away from them. So I did slow down... when the nice officers asked me to. The speed limit was 60km/h, absurdly too low as it seems to be throughout latin America. After the policw waved me in, I heard our descriptions coming in over the radio from the man with the radar gun back up the road. Yep. Thatīs us! We had all been well over the limit, but got let off without a ticket "because we are tourists". Didnīt have the girls try to flirt, no bribe, no discussion even, the Police just said please slow down a little. Like an echo of Jayne moments earlier translated into Spanish. I would hear about that for awhile too.

More bikers! At the turn-off for Quilotoa, we met these kind folks on their Suzuki. Had a quick chat, got a heads up on the cold that awaited us, then rode onwards. They were excited by our trip and exchanged numbers. They might call us to come join in the ride for a ways south...

...we are still waiting by the phone every night.

Up and up and up we go!

Fantastic roads curve higher and higher. The views were so stunning I only mildly noticed the dropping power.

Tom up high

Llamaīs on high

Highlands taxi. Still lots of room if you need a ride

On arrival we split up and each scoped out a hostel, then came back to report our findings. They were all the same price, not unexpected. For 12.50$ they included dinner AND breakfast though. More importantly, both meals were satisfactory in size and quality.

Parking for the kids.

3900 meters doesnīt contain a lot of oxygen, especially for those coming straight up from the lowlands. For the first time this trip I was feeling the effects of oxygen deprivation. Tom and I bought some TERRIBLE aguadiente moonshine, but drank it anyways while we all went exploring. One discovered benefit of low oxygen: everything is more funny!
Turns out there was a big bull fight and fiesta this weekend, so it was a good call to ride straight here.

The band playing through the bull fighting "ring" the night before.

Dancing is the only way to stay warm. Dancing uses oxygen. There isnīt any oxygen. Dilema. Hee Hee.

Kids donīt need oxygen, apparently. These kids danced all night long!

Twas a great fiesta, with a huge band playing, cheap beer, terrible moonshine, dancing and six year olds fighting for five rounds.

Wait, what?

It started with some gentle goading from the older kids, pushing them together and telling them how much stronger they were than that other jerk. Next thing you know the kids were flying at each other, a big flurry of dust, then get pulled apart and taken to their "corner". then it got hilarious. Kids were giving them water, which they spat out, others were fanning them or massaging their shoulders. Time up, the 6 year olds would littlerally roll up their sleeves, one even did a bull hoof-the-dirt bluff charge. I couldnīt look away. None of the 40 people watching could. And since neither of the kids were really throwing damaging blows, everybody wins right?

I know, Iīm a terrible person.

The next, morning Kelly and I got up early and went for a walk around the lake.

Morning Lake

Morning Lake is breezy

Around the WHOLE lake?

I was so quickly out of breath, a 1 km out-and-back became the much preferred hiking route. Certainly not in the shape I once was.

In case of emergency, collapse on bench.

None of us really had much interest in the bullfights, especially after the children entertainment the night previous. So we decided to head off. The lake was quite incredible. The ride to and from equally so.

More moto amigos everywhere we go! Quick chat before we ride off.

To get from above to below the clouds,

You must go through.

The cloud was quite thick at times, and with a general latin dislike for the use of headlights, some surprises along the way.

Pause to let everyone catch up an catch their breath.

Thereīs a moment, when you drop so much altitude in one day (in this case 4 kilometers!), that you suddenly realize you once again have power! It is a great moment.

My favorite road type: The tree tunnel

"How long to ride the road from Quilotoa to the coast?" we had asked our hostel lady. "1-3 hours", she replied.

Try 7 or 8.

The last hour was getting dim and we were battling the worst kind of rain: light mist. You just cant keep your visor clear!
We battled through slowly and found a hotel in Peurto Cayo.
Beds and a roof? deal.

Motorcycle Minute:
Once again the bolts holding down my rear rack had sheared. Speedbumps, combined with having Kellys bag strapped on top of my top box, eventually proved too much for the undersized bolts. This had happened before in Costa Rica, anouncing itself with the telltale clunk and smack in Kellys back.

Once more, sheared bolts no longer holding down my rear rack

Ecuadorian easy-out. Worked better than any easy-out I've ever tried.

Much obliged for the help, Luis!

Backrest sacrifice.

To lessen the stress on the poor little bolts, I removed the "happy-trails" extension plate and moved the top box forward 3 inches. # inches is quite a lot it turns out, and made things quite cozy. May have to re-evaluate this plan again later. But for now, weīre on the coast!

One last look at the view

Top to the bottom with a frisbee:
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Old 12-24-2013, 08:05 AM   #131
UltiJayne OP
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Joined: Mar 2012
Location: Calgary, Alberta
Oddometer: 74
Cool2 Grey Skies and Skeletons: Montaņita down to Peru

Ever since she arrived in Cartagena, Kelly had been desperate to get to the beach. Phil and I had just spent weeks in Panama and before on beautiful beaches, but Kelly was coming directly from Canada and she wanted some hot beachy goodness. When we finally made it to the beach on the 28th of October, 2013 it was a bit of a disappointment.

Aside from our time in the Amazon, Ecuador proved not to be nearly as warm as its name suggests. Kelly said several times that she thought the country's being on the equator guaranteed hot weather. How wrong that proved to be.

After our freezing fiesta in the mountains at Laguna Quilotoa we rode down 4000m in elevation and when the sun set, we made an overnight stop in a beach town that time forgot, Puerto Cayo. We were the only guests in the hotel, and the owners were extremely helpful, even walking us down the street to help find a restaurant that was open.

Our own private hotel for the night

Phil and Jugs with the very helpful hotel owner.

The next morning we wandered down the deserted beach and ate breakfast in the only place that was open, then headed further south down the coast to a beach town that had been recommended to us several times.


The Ecuadorian beach party town, Montaņita has a selection of restaurants and tourist shops catering to, and priced for, gringos. (Here in South America the term “gringo” has evolved from meaning Americans, to meaning foreigners in general.)

It was low season, and the hostels were competing for business, all that was, except for the one we first stopped at. The lady at the front desk was one of the least welcoming and most unhelpful people we had run across in a long time.

While we were parked outside, a skinny, dodgy looking character called Mike came over to chat. He soon revealed himself as one of the local drug dealers. We told him that we weren't interested in what he had to offer, we were just looking for a cheap hostel. He told us he knew just the place.

While Phil and Tom investigated a couple of the other places along the street, Kelly and I went with drug-dealer Mike to check out the place he was recommending. Phil was slightly unsure that he would ever see us two ladies again.

Following Mike, we soon came to this road:

You want me to ride through that? I can't even walk through it!

I flat-out told him that there was no way that I was going to attempt to take Cricket through all that mud! He assured me that the hostel was just a little further, and that there was a different, better road to get to it.

Drug dealer Mike might have been dodgy, but he came through. The Paradise South hostel was $7.50 each per night for a room with two bunk beds and a private bathroom with hot water. There was wifi and a really nice courtyard to park the bikes in. And there WAS another road, that whilst still muddy, was nowhere near as bad as the original one he walked us down.

We spent two nights in Montaņita, and we really tried to enjoy it as much as the people who had recommended it to us. It didn't help that the constant grey skies were not good beach weather.

Who goes to the beach in jeans and boots? We do!

It seemed like every second building in town was under construction

Overall we found Montaņita very disappointing. We did have a couple of nights out. One where we spent a long time being talked at by an older lady who talked extensively of her days as a paid escort.

The lady of the night, well into her monologue.

The next night we met an Aussie guy who'd been in town for quite a while. He showed us the best cocktail stands, and where to buy burgers on the street for the best price. Even with this inside knowledge, we just didn't feel the vibe, and we left the next day.

Kelly and our Aussie friend, hanging in the hostel courtyard

We decided that our time in Ecuador had come to an end, and to make a beeline for Peru. We'd heard the Huaquillas/Tumbes crossing was terrible, busy and corrupt, but that was the one closest to us so we decided to chance it.

We stopped for the night in Naranjal, for no other reason than that it was where we happened to be when it seemed the right time to stop. When we woke up the next morning, it was the 31st of October, 2013. Halloween.

In Latin America the Day of the Dead (Nov 4th) is much more celebrated than Halloween is, but we decided to paint our faces as skeletons and cross the border that way. Surely that would make the busy, corrupt border crossing much better?? It's not like anyone would be comparing our faces to the pictures in our passports or anything...

Skeleton Kelly painting skeleton Tom

Our masterpieces, before they were attacked by our helmets.

The Ultimate Skeletons

Ready to cross the border. Are you scared?

The ride to the border was hilarious. Almost everyone who looked closely enough at our faces did a double take and then burst out laughing.
At one traffic light I slowly looked around at two schoolgirls in the back of a rickshaw, and one of them screamed with fright. We all melted in hysterics.

The riding dead.

When we neared Huaquillas Phil decided that he wanted to find a bank machine and take out some more US dollars to save for Argentina. We stopped at the only place we saw that had a bank sign, but it was some kind of customs checkpoint, and there was no ATM. We rode another 4km or so until it was clear we were about to get to the border which is when Phil and Kelly left Jugs' paperwork with me, and went back towards town in search of a bank machine.

Tom and I rode to the border, or what we thought was the border, and asked where the customs office was to clear our bikes out of Ecuador. They told us we had already passed it, it was back down the road on the right hand side. Remember the customs checkpoint with no bank machine? Yep – that was where we had to clear the bikes out. Luckily they didn't notice that I had paperwork for three bikes, but we only actually had two bikes there.

Tom and I rode back to the “border” which turned out not to be the border at all. The same guys who had sent us back to the customs place, told us to keep riding down the road to get to the border.

We rode for a few minutes and then saw this sign:

But we haven't left Ecuador yet...

Wait. We haven't had our passports stamped out of Ecuador yet. Have we missed yet another checkpoint? There was no way to turn around, so we just kept going into Peru. Soon we pulled up to a group of buildings with a big Peru sign on the grass in front of them. Tom and I pulled up to the first building, looking for Phil and Kelly, who surely must be there by now?

I asked the guy standing in front of building number one if he'd seen a tall hairy man with a face painted like mine. He hadn't. He did however want to take a picture of us and our scary faces. Soon all of the customs officers had come out and they all wanted pictures. With me, with Tom, with us both, in groups, individually, the photo shoot went on for at least 15 minutes, but there was still no sign of Phil and Kelly.

One of the many pictures taken with the customs officers

They just couldn't get enough of us!

When there were no more pictures to be taken, we asked if we were in the right place. They told us to pull up in one of the many empty parking spaces, and pointed in the general direction of the other buildings. Just after Tom and I had parked, Phil and Kelly pulled up to the customs guys, who, of course, took one look at their faces and knew they belonged with us.

Easy parking at the Peruvian border.

Kelly and I gathered all our passports and headed across the road to the building pointed out to us by a bored security guard, who also told us off for not using the crosswalk. I found this very surprising as no one anywhere since Mexico has paid any attention to crosswalks, and especially not in a traffic free place like that was!

In a wonderful display of cooperation, we had our passports stamped out of Ecuador at one desk, and in to Peru at the desk right beside it. Far from our painted faces causing trouble, the immigration agents loved them, and spent the whole process laughing and joking with us. They did insist on seeing the boys though before they would stamp their passports too.

Kelly enjoying the border crossing experience

We then had to return to our friends the customs agents in building number one. They were thrilled to welcome us back, and clamoured to help us. We were the only customers they had and so we had them all helping out.

There was a bored lady at an insurance stand who sold us a month's insurance for $35. Pretty expensive we thought (It was only $5 in Ecuador), but we wouldn't be allowed into Peru with the bikes without it.

Tom and I working with the most helpful customs agents in the world

I got two whole customs agents to myself!

Paperwork complete, a few more pictures with our new friends, and we were free to enter country number 13. Far from being the terrible, difficult, corrupt border we'd been warned about, the border into Peru was one of the nicest, quietest, friendliest borders we've crossed.

Phil and I saying goodbye to our customs friends with one final photo (or five).
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Old 12-24-2013, 09:25 AM   #132
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I have been lurking on your RR for a little while now, this last update from you I found myself laughing at y'all painting up your faces, it must have been alot of fun. I can only imagine the border staff seeing this group riding up. Have a Merry Christmas.
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Old 12-24-2013, 06:46 PM   #133
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Originally Posted by sandsman View Post
I have been lurking on your RR for a little while now, this last update from you I found myself laughing at y'all painting up your faces, it must have been alot of fun. I can only imagine the border staff seeing this group riding up. Have a Merry Christmas.
I look forward to the updates too! This is how you do it
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Old 12-25-2013, 11:11 PM   #134
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Originally Posted by sandsman View Post
I have been lurking on your RR for a little while now, this last update from you I found myself laughing at y'all painting up your faces, it must have been alot of fun. I can only imagine the border staff seeing this group riding up. Have a Merry Christmas.
Originally Posted by * SHAG * View Post
I look forward to the updates too! This is how you do it
Merry christmas guys! Next time you cross a border, I recommend the face paint. By far the best border so far! That said, part of my delay at getting cash was trying to walk into a bank while they were getting a delivery... wearing a moto helmet... and face paint. The guards were none too impressed, and made me wait a bit.
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Old 12-25-2013, 11:12 PM   #135
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The Hungry Bank Machine, and less hungry turtle: Zorritos, Peru

After our face-paint-fun border crossing, we ran out of light before our intended destination of Mancora, so stopped in Zorritos. Due to a hungry bank machine, this stop would last longer than intended. And involve meeting a turtle and lots of crabs. To start with, money: we had none.

This machine only partially helped.

After settling in to the "hotel" that we chose purely due to its existance at the side of the road at the exact moment the sun set, we caught a ride in the owners moto-taxi to this bank machine. The only bank machine in town. It promptly went "out of service" mid transaction on Jayne and ate her card. When it re-booted minutes later, her card did not re-appear.
After a local took a chance and succeeded in gaining cash, I also took the plunge and lucked out. I figured we had to come back anyways for Jayneīs card, so might as well try mine. With some luck, I won at the ATM game and we could buy dinner. That is where our luck ended however. When our hotel owner phoned the bank for us (we still struggle with spanish over-the-phone), he found out since the bank was closed the next day for a holiday, we would have to wait an extra day to get Jaynes card back. Looks like weīre staying in Zorritos awhile!

...and our faces are still painted from the border crossing. The local kids loved this fact.

After drinking adult beverages and chasing kids into oncoming traffic with our ghoulish selves, we bailed on the idea of a halloween pub night at an overpriced empty club. Went home, played card, and went to bed. Weīre getting old.

But not before chasing more kids with only one pant leg.

...and looking generally more dead than usual.

Post breakfast, the girls and boys split. Tom and I head down the deserted beach, while the girls walked in town. It was overcast, but still quite nice. On our adventure, we spoted an odd lump floating in the ocean. We thought it was garbage at first, but as we walked closer... "Hang on, is that a turtle?!".

Yes it is! Itīs Toby the turtle!

Toby the turtle washed ashore before our eyes. Unfortunately he was quite bloated and didnīt look very happy.

Toby didnīt look happy at all.

...So we tried to cheer him up!

Thatīs the spirit!

Toby much happier and chilled out given whatīs happened. You know, being dead and all.

Hey you leave toby alone!

Later on, even Kelly encountered Toby and gave him dirty looks.

Everyone is picking on him! Poor Toby.

Not easy being a dead turtle. Fortunately by nightfall toby was happier and more at peace.

All smiles. Toby is in a better place.

On to the live ones. Our night walk to check on Toby led us to catch crabs!

Tom nom nom

These crabs were really bad at running away

But pretty good at catching things themselves! And look at his eyes!

Zorritos is a nice, relaxed beach town. Which is a nice way to say there isnīt much going on there. We played cards, drank beer, ate nice mangoes and played with dead turtles to kill the time while we waited to get Jayneīs bank card back. It was a nice break. When the bank re-opened, Jayne regained her card and we set off towards Mancora.

The owner was a great host, helping in every way possible!

Our stay at the unfinished hotel "Hospedaje El Encanto" was remarkable, likely will be even more remarkable when itīs complete. Friendly folks who bent over backwards for us. If you are looking for beach without the crowds and party, Zorritos is a nice alternative to Mancora.

The whole family from our hotel in Zorritos. will be really nice when itīs finished!

You might even find yourself a pet dead turtle.
Next up: Saving lives and partying in Mancora!
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