Station KTM 690 On Your Radio Dial: Rock Steady

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by slidefighter, Mar 29, 2015.

  1. slidefighter

    slidefighter Gather it up, keep on...

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    Today we're in a nice hotel for a rest day, the Parada Del Arte in Banos. Recommended, run by an ex-pat U.S. couple, good food too! Walked about town and grabbed a couple of sundries. Rains here a lot, but today has been nice (with the exception of the occasional wind-burst).

    Okay, going back a couple of days and moving along: I have to apologize for my meagre captioning, I actually have no idea where we were most of the time! Maybe I can go back and correct some of that later.

    This is Angamarca, a typical market town. We stopped for some sugared pastries (for energy---I should have had a dozen!). The women typically wear some sort of head covering (often the well known felt Ecuadorean fedora). Apparently, dress varies widely from region to region. Many women wore relatively short dresses and what appeared almost to be silk stockings but I suspect they are actually wool, perhaps llama or vicuna.

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    Finally, a glimpse of the sun. These are my pictures, some of the others were using their cell phones, so they could pop them out somewhat at will, but pulling my DSLR out of my back pack in my be-fogged, oxygen poor state didn't work out so well. In any event this is from one of our few short photo stops as we 'attacked' mountain after mountain:

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    We were near this lovely little stream when these girls showed up wanting only to shake hands with everyone! Who could resist!

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    Typical home on the edge of a mountain village:

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    We spent the night here in Salinas (there is more than one if you go looking for it) at 13,000' in unheated rooms. Cozy warm under the blankets though. Of course the 'hard to breath' part was a whole 'nother thing especially with the mound of blankets involved!

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    Climbing up for a look at Chimborazo, just 1 degree south of the equator and the highest mountain in Ecuador at over 20,500'. It is not the highest mountain in the world above sea level, but because of the equatorial bulge is the farthest from the earth's center. In clear conditions it can be seen from 140km away in Guayaquil. Here we are headed up to over 14,500' on rough, semi-bulldozed roads for a disappointing look. With clouds in and out, we stopped several times for clear photos but didn't have a lot of luck. Chimborozo's summit is permanently covered with glaciers which provide water for several nearby provinces. As in the past in the Sierra Madres in Spain, today ice is "mined" regularly from the mountain. And yes, there is a perfectly good, paved road through this area. We took the "road less traveled":

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    On into Banos later in the day through deepening forests (as our altitude came down eventually to only 5,000'). This waterfall is just above this decidedly touristy city and visible from our hotel. Opposite the main plaza is La Basilica del Nuestra SeƱora del Rosario de Agua Santa, noted for its many beautiful murals all around the interior of the church. It is the most popular, famous, and visited building in the city. Unfortunately, it was too dark inside to be able to photograph the murals.

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    Ecuador's version of the Bougainvillea:

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    Actually, this explains rather a lot:

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    And finally our powerhouse assistant guide Sylvain, who never seems to slow down. Sorry for the water droplet spot, shot from just inside the cafe/restaurant of the hotel:

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    Off tomorrow for the Amazon basin!


    Lee...
  2. juanjo71

    juanjo71 n00b

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    Look like you are in very good and safety company. Beautiful landscapes and better adventure. Enjoy and keep some energy to IOM TT!!! Hahaha
  3. slidefighter

    slidefighter Gather it up, keep on...

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    Juanjo: Yes they are all taking good care of me (not as good as you maybe, but more than well enough!). Today we are in the western Amazon on an Amazon tributary, the Napo River. Since we are down much nearer sea level, breathing is not so laborious. We were all feeling it up higher in the Andes. Great trip and all the adventure you could stand!
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  4. slidefighter

    slidefighter Gather it up, keep on...

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    Finally got some good wi-fi this morning, but we're leaving pretty soon. I'll have to fill in all the blank spaces when I get back. Today is our last riding day as we head back to Quito. It's been a great ride and fully (and then some) met its advertised purpose of being a serious "adventure ride". We've put a lot of miles on the bikes and have ridden some difficult and challenging terrain. That said, it's been great!

    More later!


    Lee...
  5. kalonji

    kalonji nihilism or nothing

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    Get home safe and enjoy your last day.
  6. juanjo71

    juanjo71 n00b

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    No news good news
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  7. slidefighter

    slidefighter Gather it up, keep on...

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    Sorry everyone! Back at home but I've come down with a little something and haven't felt well since I got back. Lots more pictures and happenings to share. I'll get busy in a couple of days and finish this little saga off. Thanks for hanging in there everyone!


    Lee...
  8. slidefighter

    slidefighter Gather it up, keep on...

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    This part of the report will hopefully put the ride in better perspective. Here is what Freedom Equador's site says about the ride we took:

    "Overview:
    The goal of this tour is to bring you to places that are far-far off the beaten path. We'll be riding a combination of dirt and paved roads, but a majority of the tour is far away from paved roads. The goal is not to challenge you with highly technical offroading skills, but rather to take you to places that few people ever see and experience. You can only get to these places by leaving the pavement and, sometimes, the roads altogether. During this unforgettable tour we will leave the road completely behind when we load the motorcycles into a motorized canoe and float down the Napo River, deep in the Amazon River basin, through communities that are only accessible by this type of river canoe. This is also a ride high into the Andes; into small, isolated villages that time has forgotten, where farming is still done with the help of animals and the pace of life is to a very different rhythm from the rest of the world. We will not lack for comfort, however, staying in top-notch hotels, haciendas and lodges along the way with amazing meals, hot water and comfortable beds. This tour is for intermediate to advanced level riders. Endurance and stamina are required for portions of this trip particularly when we travel through the very remotest areas of Ecuador.

    WARNING: This is not a normal motorcycle ride. This tour requires elements of endurance and stamina. Riders must be able to ride in adverse weather conditions and adverse road conditions and for long time periods of time (up to 10 hours)."

    My impression was that we spent a significant majority of our riding distance and a very large majority of our riding time, on unimproved roads ranging from volcanic mud, to imbedded rocks, to cobblestone, and mixed roads. We saw many landslides but were stopped only once (and had to back track a considerable distance). In addition, there was one steep cobblestone road very late in the day that was covered with particularly slippery mud that also forced a backtrack/go-around effort. In short, this was a challenging ride but an exhilarating one. At my age, I was probably more challenged than anyone, but hey, if I could do it, so can you! We started and finished in Quito. Here is the route which we traveled counterclockwise:

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    We ranged from a high of 14,500' down to 500' on the Napo and (the very next day) right back up to 13,500' (as I remember). After the big mountain of Chimborazo and then the tourist city of Banos, the next day we had a bit of fun zip-lining. This might be best described as "discount" zip-lining (not obviously unsafe, but to be fair possibly a little outside of U.S. standards). Out over quite a chasm and back again.

    A restaurant/bar/hotel/laundry in Banos:

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    Our truck was cleaner than my bike!

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    The zip-line site:

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    Scott and E.B. coming back. Yes, this was "horizontal" zip-lining. All I could see were the vultures flying around down over the river. What were they looking for, I wonder:

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    A stop in a jungle lodge for lunch. Father and son David and Stephen, husband and wife Scott and E.B., our two L.A. former Israeli's, and my friend Dick who got me into this mess. Next time I'm picking: I'm thinking about riding feral pigs across Iceland using oyster encrusted saddles with Poison Ivy and thorn bridles, while sleeping in the open on concrete slabs with plywood boards held down by large boulders for blankets. If I can also give birth to a flaming porcupine on the floor of an igloo, all the better. Actually, this place was great, but it wasn't always like that---often it was just as advertised!

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    Loading the bikes on the Napo for the trip down river:

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    Overloaded? No way, we're not even getting started here. These boats can (apparently) handle anything:

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    The other boat fully loaded:

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    Downriver:

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    Up off the river for the night (hot water? Meh.)

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    Back on the river the next day:

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    The bike shop (and our canoe's) official mascot, Salina (named for the little town they picked her up in a couple of years ago). Village dogs in Ecuador seem very well cared for and don't (apparently) generally belong to anyone. Everyone in town sort of ensures they all get plenty to eat. Saw very few collars (essentially none except in Quito) and few if any dogs that didn't look to be healthy and in pretty good shape.

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    Well, enough for tonight. More for tomorrow. A beautiful country and a certified adventure.


    Lee...
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  9. kalonji

    kalonji nihilism or nothing

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    Nice. I had a look at their website. That sounds like the trip I was eyeing but didn't seem like I was up to the skill level. Maybe next year after some training and practice.
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  10. slidefighter

    slidefighter Gather it up, keep on...

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    Kalonji: Ecuador Freedom features 10 or so developed and guided tours. The one we took was the "High Andes, Deep Amazon" tour and is their most demanding. They make a conscious effort to take you "off the map" during this ride and it sure seemed that way! I'm pretty certain that no one who just showed up and went riding in Ecuador would ever find more than a couple of the hundreds of roads we rode or perhaps even any at all, really. Into the bargain, our guide (one of the company's owners) was a superb leader and took us to all sorts of sidelights of the Ecuadorian world: Tiny mountain villages, markets, schools (where we contributed school supplies and soccer balls, etc), village/cottage industries, and much more. I'm sure you'd be able to ride this, but other than for Scott, this was a tough ride for all of us. He just turned 50 on the first day of the ride and still competes in serious motocross on both modern and vintage Husqvarna's. Downhill in the mud, standing on the pegs, no hands while taking movies! Way above my motorcycling pay grade!

    More to come!


    Lee...
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  11. slidefighter

    slidefighter Gather it up, keep on...

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    You could actually travel all the way to the Atlantic via the Napo and the Amazon. Where we left the river, the elevation was down to only 500'---and we were still in Ecuador! The river system only drops another 500' all the way through the Amazon Basin, through Brazil down the Amazon, and on to the Allantic.

    On the road again, we paid a visit to a couple of (very) rural schools. The lady in the serape is the principal and also (it appeared) the only teacher. As you can see, dogs are everywhere! That's my long time friend Dick and my new friend Steven (with the mohawk). Steven is a very successful engineer/surveyor---he and his Dad are very close and do a lot of cool things together.

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    Here the students---including Steven, E.B. and Bruno (Sylvain's brother from France on "vacation") have taken their places in class. Bruno was terrific and even though on vacation, constantly helped his brother and all the rest of us with the significant logistics effort that was involved in getting nine motorcycle riders, the support truck (and Salina), through the wildest parts of Ecuador. Good guy.

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    Freedom Ecuador's owners, Court and Sylvain regularly support this and other schools in the high mountains. Their efforts seem to be much appreciated by the village people they help. Good on them. This is the school yard. Not exactly private school quality. Show this to your kids when they complain!

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    Next stop, one of the countless waterfalls we saw. Ecuador has two seasons, wet and dry; the temperatures are basically the same in all seasons. We were supposed to be there through the end of the dry season, but it came a month early this year (rained at some point, every day). Either way, you are rarely out of sight of a waterfall in highland Ecuador. This one is typical:

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    Long ride that day to get to (yet another) "eco lodge". Seems to be a bit of a game that foreign investors play in order to buy tracts of Ecuadorian rain forest---buy a large land holding with the excuse of putting Ecuadorians to work and supporting a business, and then build yourself a nice private vacation home miles away from it. Not sure that is exactly what is happening, but sure appears that way (okay, I'm jaded but...). Regardless, it does provide traveler's with very interesting places to stay. Welcome to "hobbit house". It was cold and raining when we got in but no problem. I didn't have heat, hot water, or a heated blanket. Dick was next door and hand all three! They must have been mad at me for crashing so much!:

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    Leaving the next day, we land on Mars or someplace similar:

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    Since the Freedom Ecuador team had a lot of ground for us to cover every day and they could never be sure what the weather would do next, we didn't take very many breaks. When we did, everyone ran for their cameras, personal logs, or toilet paper! What a show! Other than the occasional few miles on pavement (which nearly always had fairly serious potholes in it too), this was about as good a road as we were ever on. This was a very hard road, but even here you can see the little rivulets that the rainwater runoff follows. We must have crossed a million of them, especially on the much softer volcanic dirt roads.

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    Beautiful scenery was everywhere; later that day:

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    All in all, a very interesting and challenging ride. If you are a solid rider and in good shape you can certainly do this trip. By the end, I was riding better and better, not having ridden true off road in quite some time. The last day, we rode in a pouring downpour for hours and for several hours up, over, down and up and over again over several mountains in a row on very slippery, rough, and challenging cobblestones. Soon, you have to put your visor up to see anything at all, by then you are completely soaked, and then if like me, your glasses are so fogged and spotted over you have to take them off, you then ride for hours more with your helmet completely open. By then, I was loving it. You will too. Best day of the trip for me. Seriously!

    Hope you enjoyed the ride. Thanks for coming along and thanks too, to Freedom Ecuador. Don't know how they could have shown us a better time or a better ride.


    Lee...
  12. juanjo71

    juanjo71 n00b

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    My friend. We have enjoyed very much your trip. Thanks for all the pictures.
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  13. juanjo71

    juanjo71 n00b

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    In this moment I'm in mid Europe. Today we have visited the little Liechtenstein and now I hope to sleep in Munich. Me and my sister are going to "Elefantreffen", the oldest winter bike meeting in Europe. But I think the weather is not exactly the same

    Attached Files:

  14. slidefighter

    slidefighter Gather it up, keep on...

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    You two are way crazier than I am! Sure hope you have a good time and aren't too cold riding. Looks like one of your usual "race to the horizon", all day and half the night, rides! Have fun and be safe!


    Lee...
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  15. Jim Goose

    Jim Goose Bad Ass.

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    Great trip Lee! Impressive stamina!


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  16. slidefighter

    slidefighter Gather it up, keep on...

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    Thanks Jim Goose! I really had a good time but in some of the pictures I've seen taken by others, I look pretty beat up a lot of the time! I hadn't done a lot of dirt bike riding recently, so I was way out of shape for it at first but I got a bit better as time went on. By the time we were done, I was doing pretty well! Here's a shot of one of our last couple of days that someone on the trip sent me. Shows well how you tend to get up into the clouds at these altitudes---upland Ecuador at its best.

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    I'm off for Ireland and the NW200 and then to the IoM and the TT in about two weeks. Not taking a bike this time so I suppose that by the posting rulesI won't be "legal" to upload pictures (maybe I can slip a few of the best ones in!). My great friends in northern Ireland are hosting me again and apparently I will get a "front row" seat for all the action in the 200. I can't wait to see them and that part of the world again---it's a very special place. Two+ weeks in Ireland and three on the Isle of Man---AND, Guy Martin is back racing! Can't wait!


    Lee...
  17. slidefighter

    slidefighter Gather it up, keep on...

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    EGLINTON, NORTHERN IRELAND: Monday, 8 May, 2017

    Well, not to bore anyone with my continued wanderings but I am now in Northern Ireland after a couple of very nice days in Dublin. The weather has been wonderful since I arrived on Friday, four days ago. This is not a "motorcycle riding adventure", but for sure it is a "motorcycling adventure", so I'm hoping the moderators will give me a bit of a pass on the posting rules. I'm here for the NW200 (and a bit later, the IoM TT), the practice for which starts tomorrow with final practice Thursday morning and racing later on Thursday and Saturday. The "Northwest" as everyone around here calls it, seems to get bigger every year and this year is no exception. In fact, there is a particular feeling of excitement in the air here because all the big names in "real Road Racing" are here this year---the excitement about that is palpable. And with more entries and than ever, all the big teams are represented. Had a good look around the paddock today courtesy of my great friend Alistair, the (so far) unelected mayor of this part of the world (!) and we ran into several of the major players. This race is amazing, you can meet and greet just about anyone here; there is full access to the paddock and the teams are very open to visitors and just chatting when they aren't too busy. Maybe my South Carolina accent helps a little to make me an interesting oddity (!), but everyone is naturally friendly and engaging here anyway so---you just say hello and how-are-you, and you're "on"!.

    Glanced over and saw a couple of Honda's in one of the tents we were walking by and just stuck our heads in. Asked the mechs how things were going, etc, etc. and then Alistair asked, "so who are the riders for these two"? "John McGuinness and Guy Martin" was the answer. Oh...Just two of the two best known road racers in the world then? Didn't have my camera with me, wouldn't you know it? If you don't know who those two are and you're a motorcycle guy, then shame on you! Look'em up...it won't take much effort to find out all about them!

    Alistair did have his phone so he took a couple of shots of me bothering Mervyn Whyte, the Director of the NW200 himself, Hector O'Neill, the head of the legendary Tyco racing team, and finally we even ran into Guy Martin himself. So now I've actually spoken to the guy who resides in a framed poster on the wall of my workshop! If my Mom could see me now!

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    Guy was particularly nice to stop his preparations for a moment and say hello; (as you can see, he was wolfing down a few crackers!). A riders meeting had just been called and he really had to get going but still, he took a minute. It's my accent that gets 'em everytime---I'm sure of it!

    Warm regards all you, hope the moderators have a sense of humor and let me get away with a few race updates over the next six weeks. Best to everyone!


    Lee
  18. kalonji

    kalonji nihilism or nothing

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    I was just thinking this morning that you haven't given us an update.
  19. slidefighter

    slidefighter Gather it up, keep on...

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    Justin: Great racing, for sure. The NW200 went off without a hitch this year, even the weather cooperated really well. The main five races on Saturday all ran. The last four were delayed a bit by a small rain shower, but the wait was completely worth it. The Superbike final was absolutely spectacular. If you get a chance to watch on tv, don't miss it! I'm taking a few days now just cruising around until I head over to the IoM Tuesday of next week.

    Can't wait!
  20. slidefighter

    slidefighter Gather it up, keep on...

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    Just a quick update on the NW200 and the week I'm in the middle of now prior to taking the ferry to the Isle of Man. Got a couple of shots on the grid for the first race on Saturday (the racing mentioned above). Here is a look at New Zealander Bruce Anstey and some of the others on the grid awaiting the start of the Supertwins race. Unlike most other forms of motorcycle racing, many of these guys race every race! Nearly all of the top guys competed in the Supertwins, Supersport (600's), Superstock, and Superbike (1,000's). Counting the Supersports and Superbikes which effectively race twice each, between the races on Thursday and Saturday, there are eight races in total. Alistair Seeley won four of them. A few years back, Ian Hutchinson won five! The course doesn't change but the weather does and so do track surface conditions. These guys just jump from twins to 600's to 1,000's and from wets to slicks, without missing a beat. Amazing!

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    Touring the north coast the last few days and tomorrow, then to Belfast for the museums and such. Ferry to the TT next week!


    Lee...
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