http://lennyledoux.smugmug.com/Moto...ional/26432044_RMdTpP#!i=2205483569&k=zZznXfK Here in Cuenca, Ecuador I live in a valley at 8,000 ft surrounded by mountains which reach heights of 12,000 ft. There is no snow at these lower elevations as we are only three degrees south of the Equator. You have to get into the upper elevations, around 21,000 ft to get into snow. Cotapaxi in the North near Quito, is the highest in Ecuador at around 23,000 ft. They are all active volcanoes and these earth pimples pop from time to time. So I bought a new, unsold 2011 Yamaha XTZ250 in August on which to ride up into the mountains of my new country and see what there is to see. This motorcycle is not the same as the XT250 sold in the USA. I found this out after buying a Immix Racing luggage rack. Nice piece of equipment, doesn't fit this bike which is made in Brazil. Another difference is the new model for 2013 sold in the States will have Fuel Injection, this one already has it. So while it might be a trail bike in the States, it is just perfect for me down here. A 400 would be good, but I really have no complaints with this bike. I need something that is street legal in order to get to the mountains, although I don't have to go far. On this particular outing I was into the mountains in about 15km. To the West of Cuenca is Banos Cuenca, they have thermal springs there. Further West is Soldados and that was my destination. I didn't know there was an entrance to the El Cajas National Park there until I arrived at the blockade across the road. I didn't have my cedula, which is like a National I.D. card with me as my wife needed it for some business that day, and so I couldn't sign it. However, Xavier the Ranger fetched a nice park map for me and then raised the bar. I only went about 10km in, you can see that I was above the tree line and into some rugged beauty. I will return, and soon. The pictures don't do justice to the beauty of the river valley the road runs alongside. Large and small ranches raising cattle and horses. The pueblo of Soldados is quite small and I will stop and do some business at the local mini-mercado on my next trip and say Hola to the folks. I really need to study my Rosetta Stone Spanish, however, a career on the computer designing aircraft tooling has pretty well burned me out on sitting in front of one for very long. With great weather I much prefer getting out into the countryside. I have taken several trips, none of them longer than four or five hours and have seen places that most natives don't know exist. Sometimes one side of the road has electricity and the other side does not. In most of the places I may encounter a pickup truck or two, but most of the people are on horseback. On a couple of occasions I have asked to take pictures and the people have declined my offer. I have prepared a flyer that I will post in a few local places in Cuenca in hopes of finding a riding partner. I am also hoping to entice my good friend Don in Seattle to fly down this winter and spend a few days and check out the scenery. I think by January or February he should be pretty tired of the rain, don't you? Here in Cuenca it is perpetual springtime, the average low is 55 and the average high is 73. It is rumored to have the second best water in South America but I have not been able to verify that, nor the number one place. Gasoline is subsidized, probably by the high cost of imported goods, this motorcycle cost me $8K whereas in the States it is about $5,200. So diesel is $1.05, regular is $1.48 and premium is $2.19 but it does vary whereas the other two don't. I hope this smugmug link works and you enjoy the pictures. Lenny 0980535546.