Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Colombia to Ecuador - Crossing the Equator, Quito Presidential Palace, seeing friends from Honduras in Ecuador! Eating Guinea Pig? Alpaca hoodie, Quilotoa Crater lake, Best rode in Ecuador! Police with KLR's?

So today I crossed the border from Pasto Colombia into Ecuador.

On my way out from my $9 dollar hotel, I was bombarded by the Pasto paparazzi.  I talked about my trip, they were amazed, and I had a fan club by the time I finished packing.

You know your really famous when someone take a picture of you with a phone camera


My exit out of Colombia has been the easiest border crossing my entire trip thus far! I stood in line for 2 minutes to get myself exported out, no questions were asked. I then proceeded to export my motorcycle out of Colombia, all I did was have to hand over my one importation paper to a Dian Colombian Aduana official, and he said, where’s your bike, I pointed over to it, he said, ok thanks, we’ll take care of the rest.

I couldn’t believe it! Fantastic, I wish all the crossings were as easy as this one.



So you remember that New Zealand couple I had met in the Guatemala/Honduras border and ran into them at the Copan Ruins as well, from my previous post http://motorcyclesouthamerica.blogspot.com/2010/12/tikal-guatemala-as-i-was-woken-up-this.html


Well the first thing I see walking into Ecuador is them standing in line at the Immigration office!


Chris and Alan- First random meeting in Guatamala/Honduras and now Ecuador! Small world!


I couldn’t believe it! The world such a huge place, and of all places I meet them up again in Ecuador!




We gave each other big hugs and laughed at our timing, all three of us couldn’t believe we ran into each other again, what crazy timing!

We proceeded to the vehicle importation office next, dealt with a grouchy official, and we were officially in Ecuador!

They even took a picture of me :)


We exchanged stories and information and planned on leaving together to Otavalo, for the famous market.

We kept talking, got some pictures, etc. I really wanted to ride together with this couple, they are really amazing people. They said they were taking off, I still needed to exchange money and that caused a bit of a delay. They said they didn’t want to hold me up, as she was on a 250cc bike and they only cruised at 50 mph, I usually cruise at 65 mph.

I just went along and said I would catch up to them, there was only one road to Otavalo, so I knew I would pass them. They agreed, so they left while I finished up some stuff.

10 minutes later and I finally got on the bike, and was off. The scenery was fantastic, nothing of what I expected of Ecuador.








I proceeded along the road excited to find my friends and catch up to them, and have a great time.

10 minutes passed by, nothing. 25 minutes passed, nothing. I was going 65 mph, they were at 50 mph and they had only a 10 minute head start. 30 minutes passed, nothing. Finally about after an hour I knew I lost them.

Coming out of the border there was only one road, it split into two on the way out, one to go through a small town, another that by-passed the small town. I took the by-pass.

I kept driving and headed toward Otavalo, we agreed we would look for each other there if we got separated.

So I enjoyed the rest of the driving and arrived in Otavalo many hours later. I found a $4 dollar hostel, but it had no parking, I would have loved to spend only $4, but I needed parking for the bike, so I had to pay a $7 hostel instead. Darn that would have been a new record for cheapest hostel yet!

So I went  to sleep to rest up for the famous Otavalo market in the morning, the best in South America apparently. I looked and waited outside the hostel and around the town square for the Chris and Alan, but nothing. I thought they got held up and didn’t make it in time before sunset. I thought all was well.

A few days later I jumped on their blog to find a picture of this.



 I was extremely concerned and saddened  to hear that when we departed at the border, they seemed to have taken the road into the town, and I the by-pass. They ran into some cyclist team, to which one of them cut in front of Alan blindly while driving at high speed. Alan did the best to hold control but dumped the bike in order to avoid a head on collision with the biker and possibly killing him.



His accident broke his collar bone, elbow and various other injuries and busted up his bike extremely bad. 

Check out there blog to see the full list of details http://etaunknown.com/and-shit-side

He’s ok now, but it could have been fatal.

I was very saddened to hear of this. I felt as I was part of that accident as I had seen them only an hour before it happened, I truly felt as I had been in that accident too.

But again it seems luck or destiny stepped in, I was trying really hard to find them and  catch up to them, but for some reason I didn’t. I too could have been involved in that crash and bad situation, but I was fortunate I was not.

Alan, Chris-I know you’ll read this, I’m terribly sorry of about your misfortune, I wish you a speedy recovery, I felt the blow of your accident as well. Check your email, I got you info on a dealership in Quito for parts, (Kawamoto on the street Granados) and a welder for your frame. I made friends with the staff and mechanic when I went in to buy tires and parts, they know who you are and arranged for them to take care of you well.

Seeing such an accident I am reminded again of the dangerous such a journey like this presents. 

I had previously witnessed a lady fall off a motorcycle in Venezuela right in front of me, it was a hard experience to watch. I’ve had my own accidents of falling off quite severely, but it never gets any easier to see or hear about.

So I visited the Otavalo market, called the market of the ponchos. It’s considered to be on the top 2 if not #1 market in South America, and I saw why.



I literally wanted to take everything home with me, but obviously can’t. The selection was amazing, the artists were fantastic with their work.








Wish I had room to take one of these home ha ha


There was alpaca stuff everywhere. Jewelry, handmade crafts, bracelets etc. And it was all pretty cheap.

I heard a hilarious story from a girl at a hostel that all her bunk mates had individualy gone out to buy sweaters like this, and when they all came back they realized they had all bought the same exact sweater with the same design just in different colors.


I continued my additions of bracelets from every country.

I’ve found another use for the bracelets, they cover up that part of my arm that is exposed to the sun everyday as having long arms, my riding jacket doesn’t cover the entire length of my arm and along with my gloves I’ve gotten a pretty funny tan line on my wrist.

Everytime I need a good laugh I just look at my wrists

Darn you long arms and never finding jackets that fit me



I’m hoping with the continued collection of more bracelets that tan won’t get worse.

The Otavalo market was completely amazing, and highly recommend it to anyone. It happens every day. 

There’s also another one down 7 blocks. And on Saturdays they have wild game and animals they sell, just some FYI for those gathering information off this blog.

I left the market and off I went to Quito.

On the way I kept seeing “Cuy” food restaurants. I had been told that it was delicacy of Ecuador and I should try it, I didn’t know what it was.

So I walked in, and saw that a plate was $15. Well as much as I want to try everything around here I declined the $15 meal as that is way over my food budge for the day. Personally I don’t hold much emphasis on food, I like the plain, healthy, good cheap stuff.

Later I found out that Cuy is actually Guinea pig! I would imagine it’s quite boney and has little meat. Glad I didn’t pay that $15 for that meal. On a funny not, you can buy yourself a pet Guinea pig in the United States for about the same price…. If not cheaper.

As I continued down the road, I realized that I was near the equator.

On the way to the Equator


I stopped over at the monument, this was sort of an achievement to reach the world’s equator.



Success! Things to do in life, stand in two hemispheres at the same time, check!





I realize I’ve driven now almost 10,000 miles to get here, and have another 10,000 more to go to reach the tip of Argentina and Tierra de Fuego.  Fantastic!

Half way around the world, let the adventure continue!

I finally arrived in Quito and settled down. I’ve heard good things about this town and looked forward to seeing it.

I stayed at the Posada Hostel on Juan Rodriguez Street. It cost $8 and had breakfast included. This street had about 14 other hostels, the most I’ve seen so close. This hostel was the best one, as it was the cheapest and biggest.

I first looked around at a dealership to find a much needed front tire.

I had purchased a front tire from Colombia as an emergency spare, but after looking at it, I wouldn’t trust my life to it. It was a cheap Japanese tire of poor quality.

Luckily the local Kawasaki dealership had everything I needed. 

Apparently the police here in Quito have KLR motorcycle’s as their patrol vehicles, and the dealership does maintenance on them so they have to have everything extra of KLR’s.



It was pretty cool to see.



When I grow up, I want to be a police officer in Ecuador so I can ride KLR’s all day! Oh wait, don’t have to do that to ride a KLR all day.



I was also surprised to find out the price of a brand new KLR in Ecuador. $13,000 dollars for a new one out the door, that more than double what mine cost in  the states. USA! USA!

So they had every accessory and extra part I needed. Along with the original stock tires! At a great price.

So I swapped the front tire, for a new one.

Tire change location
Old tire- was wearing very unevenly causing grip issues on turns

New tire!

I also bought a rubber chain guard. I lost the original one back in Mexico when I almost snapped the chain in half. And my “Mexican’ fix of a thick plastic bag just wasn’t cutting it anymore.

Mexican fix
Tried my best to recreate this with my red thing....not so easy

So I strapped the spare rear tire to the back of the bike  along with the crappy Japanese one to try and sell and off I went.

I visited the old town of Quito. I parked the bike back at the hostel and took the public bus. I was amazed that I made it to the old town, as I just hopped on the bus with not knowing where it was going, I just saw the bus was headed south where I needed to go. I like the sense of adventure of just jumping on a bus and see where you end up.

Quito Old town




Saw a funny handicap parking sign



So I made it to the center.


It was very beautiful. Many churches and cathedrals.





I even ran by the presidential palace, aka the White house of Ecuador.


I took a neat tour of the inside.

I was thoroughly searched and screened before entering.

We were even photographed for security purposes.



Saw some well preserved pre-colombian artifacts




They did the political thing showing how the president is trying to conserve the past and such for the people.


We saw great artifacts given to Ecuador by other nations significant of their country.








This was sent to Ecuador from Costa Rica. If you recall I actaully rode inside one of those in Costa Rica http://motorcyclesouthamerica.blogspot.com/2010/12/costa-rica-xmas-zip-line-superman.html

The table where the president holds his meetings.


The place of worship


Fresh flowers all over the palace

The official desk and area where the president signs all officials’ laws and documents along with other foreign dignitaries


I was surprised they just let us walk into almost every room




And I even had a short one word speech at the president’s podium. I said “peace”.



Met a nice guard.



Overall a fantastic experience!

I walked around exploring the old town some more and made my way back to the hostel.

Once again I jumped on a random bus I sensed was going where I needed to go, passed my some familiar places and found my way back home like a lost puppy. I can’t seem to make myself lost when I want to, it always seems to happen when I don’t want it to.

Met some great people from the states and England at the hostel. We went out to a Cuban live music restaurant later that night and danced with the locals.

Even got free Mojitos for giving up our table to another group of people.

Also had some great chicken hot dogs on the way back.

I was off the next day to Cotopaxi national park.

This volcano is 19,000 ft high and you can climb it. It is my intention to do so. Apparently it’s the world’s highest active volcano.

It’s been a cold rainy day and its sucky weather. When I arrived at the volcano it was full of rain clouds and couldn’t see a thing.

Having good meteorological instincts I knew it wasn’t going to clear up. So I reluctantly left.

Huge moth at the gas station



I proceed to what I’ve read is a beautiful Andean road through the mountains. The road was difficult to find and passed it many times before I figured out which one it was.

Alex lost reading his paper map



This road would have been on my top 5 roads I’ve seen if it hadn’t of been cloudy. Regardless it was still beautiful.





It felt like I was driving through Machu Pichu, funny how I haven’t been there yet, but from pictures it’s what it felt like.

Eat your heart out Machu Pichu


Went from 7000 ft altitude and climbed to 13,000 ft. It was also raining so I freezed the whole way up and down the mountain.

So you thought life was hard for you.... this lady was carrying this huge propane container up this crazy road, I offered to help her but kindly declined, she was one tuff determined women!


Through this amazing road I passed by a total of 4 BMW GS Adventure bikes and riders coming down the mountain. I guess I’m not the only one with an adventurous spirit today.

Llama


Some driving through this valley



Fantastic road.



I reached a volcanic crater filled with water. It was amazing.

I’m currently at 13,000ft and freezing, so I found a hostel and busted out with my new 100% alpaca reversible $5 dollar beanie I purchased at the Otavalo market. It’s super soft and incredibly warm.



Tomorrow I hope for the crater to clear up a bit more



Then I'll off -road myself through some trails back to civilization and have absolutely no idea where I’m headed to next, and I love it!

Until then adios!