“My country is beautiful, please enjoy it.” With a warm handshake and a nice smile the gentleman at the border was both courteous and sincere. Some advice on places to see, an easy border crossing with good weather and we were into Ecuador. The bad traffic of Colombia was now next to gone and the roads are well constructed with passing lanes and pull outs for heavy transport. The level of courtesy on the road was also surprisingly good. We hadn’t been in Ecuador long enough to have a bias, this is simply the observation.
Needless to say, our first day in Ecuador was fantastic. We made it in one go all the way to Otavalo (altitude 2550 metres), sight of the largest open (weekend) market in South America. The city is beautiful and the market, even during the week is substantial and well placed. We stayed in Hostal Maria which had good enough parking and rooms with private baths for $12 dollars a night. The town felt very safe, as did the rest of Ecuador, and we could wander the busy streets after sundown without worry.
We even found a ‘Pie Shop’ that had fantastic pies, we had blueberry and strawberry and chocolate with ice cream, for only a $1.50 USD/each. The pie would easily run about 5-6 bucks in Canada. The town hosted pretty much everything you need and the food is cheap. We ate a huge meal in the market for $1-2 USD/each, 600 ml of beer is $1 dollar. This makes life better when the primary budget items are less expensive.
I was initially worried about the rumours of cheap fuel. Cheap is not the word I like to hear when it involves the motorcycles survival. What I was told in Colombia and Ecuador when I remarked about the difference between cheap and quality was that the gas in Ecuador is very high quality. Regular (Extra) and Super (Plus) are the two fuels of choice. Extra runs about $1.50 USD/gallon! With Super at about $2/gallon. That’s right, ‘a gallon’! Here is the tricky part that we figured out, Extra is 82 octane and Super is 92. This explains the price difference, correct me if I’m wrong, if you’re putting in the ‘cheap’ stuff you are going to end up with a lot of pre ignition (explosion versus combustion) unless you are driving around at 4000 metres (less oxygen for the explosion) every day.
The consequence of all this less expensive food, lodging and fuel means better food! I love to eat and the food here is just fine. In fact we haven’t been craving food from home nearly as much. One of the down sides, sort of, is the altitude. Deya and I think we have been feeling more fatigued from the altitude. I have had headaches and my bones and joints hurt a lot. I’m not sure if this is real of if we are just getting old, maybe both.
|Middle of the World|
Mitad del Mundo
When we first entered Quito we were looking for TECNIMOTO, the motorcycle shop of Carlos’ dad, which was introduced to us first in Cartagena. We found it without too much trouble. We talked to Carlos’s dad and brother Daniel and told them about our maintenance plans. We agreed to come back the next day to do some work but first had to find a place to stay. As luck would have it a fellow rider on a beautiful Harley, reconditioned LA police bike with working lights and siren was there. We started chatting with Bolivar about the bikes and our plans and he offered to show us around to some options for accommodations. We saw several places but most were out of our price range, the best one was near Bolivar’s house called La Casona de Mario and was $10 USD/each which was over our budget but the best price we could find. The place was really nice and comfortable. We checked out some other places but when you see graffiti, broken beer bottles and crack zombies everywhere the price doesn’t matter.
The next day we headed back to the shop for maintenance. I have to say this was a tough day for me, the altitude made it difficult to pay attention to the details. With a bit of a headache I missed some really small things that could have been a huge problem. Fortunately Hugo and Daniel were there to keep us from getting totally messed up. Hugo has a mind like a diamond and maybe as many years experience. It was a real pleasure to have him there and kind of reminded me of Tom’s Pan, F*&cking Idiot! We changed the oil and filter on both bikes, changed the break fluid on both bikes, removed Deya’s chain and sprocket which looked like they still had half life and replaced it with the F800GS chain and sprocket set, replaced the rear bearings on her back tire, made a new tool for removing the bearings and it only took us 9 hours.
Wow, I was knackered but the worst part was the blunders. First I put the bearing spacer in backwards which caused the bearings not to turn. Had to take the tire off and pull the new bearings, duh. Then I put the wheel spacers on the wrong side, this made the break disc bind on the calliper face causing the wheel to seize, brutal! I over tightened the Master Link and cracked the rivet, not a big deal but still dumb. Finally I dropped the oil from my bike, replaced the filter then started it up to get the oil moving, wondering why the sound of metal on metal wasn’t going away for what seemed like an eternity, having failed to put new oil in! There where a couple of smaller non important things but I think you get the idea. These are not things I would normally screw up so I was pretty much annoyed with myself.
Bolivar met up with us again and guided us back to our hostel, good thing because I was mentally done. We had a good sleep and headed out the next day for a walk. Walking is a good way to discover a place and getting lost is even better. We did a lot of both and when we returned in the early afternoon Kai and Annette had arrived, good! We enjoy these two travellers and their company is always rewarding.
Kai said something one afternoon when we were talking about BMW, their bikes and their service after seeing the ‘30 years GS’ sticker on my bike. He confirmed that BMW has a reputation as the moto to have for world travel, that they can go anywhere. This has been a long tough road not just for the motorcycles but for the people who have built that image and I agreed. Kai mentioned that when he deals with BMW, walks in their super clean showroom with mud on his shoes, messy hair, holes in the jacket and 400,000 kilometres on his old BMW with over 30 years on BMW bikes, having clearly helped build this image and reputation with his own meat, he quickly gets put to the back of the line. I mean who would want to help him when he’s not on a shinny new 1200GSA with more wingding’s and laser fed gadgets than you can shake a stick at? I didn’t know how to respond other than to acknowledge he’s right and my hats of to him and his wife for helping build the dream we find ourselves in today.
Before we left Quito we took a day trip to Papallacta where there was supposed to be some hot springs East of Quito. It was a cold, windy, wet and totally beautiful ride. The hot springs were not very enticing so we just had a coffee instead, the ride, over 4000 metres high, was worth it. Kai had a special coffee….hahaha..Kai…..(inside joke)..
Once we pulled out of Quito having spent the previous evening with Bolivar and his beautiful family we headed for the Quilotoa Loop. This loop is on the West side of the Panamerican Highway and is well worth the journey. The northern half of the road is simply fantastic, actually it’s perfect and the scenery is beautiful.
We stopped for a snack and to lounge. As the day progressed we made it about half way around the loop and decided to stop, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, in a little town called Chugchilan. The lodgings seemed expensive at $8.00 USD/each, for being way out in the hills, altitude about 3300 metres. It was really cold, I had the heated grips on full all day and most of my layers. We got the wood stove going and had some beer, this was good and the place would actually be a nice location to spend a few days.
|Crater of Laguna Quilotoa|
The day ended well with more fantastic riding, a plan and a place to stay in Baños. We will enjoy the last few days with Kai and Annette before moving on. They will stay to pick up some Spanish lessons for a couple of weeks and we are now on a time crunch.
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