Tales from the Saddle

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by klous-1, Nov 29, 2010.

  1. GuateRider

    GuateRider Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2008
    Oddometer:
    1,422
    Location:
    Antigua , Guatemala
    Bad luck , and once again you didn't get laid :rofl:rofl:rofl:rofl:rofl:rofl:rofl:rofl:rofl:rofl:rofl
    #81
  2. klous-1

    klous-1 RTW on a 125cc

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2009
    Oddometer:
    216
    I still hit it....
    #82
  3. klous-1

    klous-1 RTW on a 125cc

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2009
    Oddometer:
    216
    Continued from Part 1....


    [​IMG]
    Dinner bubbles away on the purring stove, I take my eye from the the lake being lit by distant flashes of lightening to look back behind the tent to the house. In the glow of the interior I can see the two girls who allowed me to camp here, silouetted, watching with intrigue....or fear. A plane flies overhead, heading north, I wonder if it contains Adam, I wonder how he is? Does he wonder of me? Does anyone?



    I was heading north again, back towards El Cocuy with several other targets in mind along the way. First up, was to try and ride amongst the red and purple hills I'd spotted near Villa de Leyva, when I'd first met Adam two weeks prior.


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    I rode up from the south to the crest of a chilly pine forest, which stopped abruptly, opening up like a stage's curtains, and before me the space-scape of Mars etched into the rusty red dirt. Fine scenery and the substance behind the country's pottery too.


    [​IMG]


    Each house was a fabricator of the pottery, without exception. Each one with it's own large domed earth oven, with an even larger stockpile of wares....and half broken pots scattered about inside and out...and on the road. Plumes of black smoke dot the barren lunar countryside, rising up into the air, signifying the baking process in effect; forty hours at 1000ºF and some two-hundred pieces a time. The huge quantities of pottery descend the hills to flood the town of Raquira and the market, meaning for low prices...cheaper than the price of dirt. US75c will buy a small piece.





    [​IMG]




    I pass through the delightful town Barichara as I continue north, a beautifully tranquil place of white wash homes with a thick border of red dust painted on in times of heavy rain and passing traffic.




    [​IMG]






    "You want to see the canyon?" asks the bored youth as I pull up to the barrier and tug off my helmet, revealing my grease twist of blonde hair. I look over his shoulder towards the viewpoint, the cafes, the ski-lift, the people peering over in to the canyon.


    "Not really," I reply with a look of derision, "how do you get down there?" I ask pointing behind me to the adjacent and, in my eyes, much more unique and impressive valley. I feel like going in and telling all the
    people they're looking the wrong way, but like sheep, and modern consumers, they follow what the adverts and signs say. 'They' say it's good therefore it is. It's not Simon says, it's Walmart says...or "they" whoever the evil "they are." (Rant over).






    The youth shrugs his shoulders, unable to, likewise, think for himself. "It's 2000 pesos ($1) to park.....it's free if you put your bike there."



    "No thanks." I reply to the puppet, and ride off to look for a way down the other side.



    I find a dirt trail leading down as the sun starts to make it's final climax, sinking into the ugly canyon, setting my valley ablaze with a beautiful array of colour and shadow....if only I didn't have to find camp!







    [​IMG]




    Besides the quiet road and a tall fork of cactus blooming with flowering round balls, I find a spot, peering down to the silty strip of river creeping along silently far far below. I wake to the sound of an eagle perched upon the cactus, its screaming call lost to the depths of the canyon....the noisy chatter of other birds hidden amongst the thorny bushes and as well, road workers laughing and slowly getting to work on the road - sadly, making it paved. The still lovely dirt strip from the very top transcends down and down through the
    physical rainbow of fascinating colours, black to purple, red to orange, cream to white...correspondingly, the heat increases until at the bottom it is seemingly white hot. Here, somewhere amongst the haze of heat grows and dries large flat tobacco leaves.



    [​IMG]




    With the road not appearing on my map, I leave the completely soul-less furnace-town Cepita and explore the network of valleys, up a narrow trail of talcum powder, right along the very edge of a steep face,
    feels like I'm floating up over the valley floor, like the soaring eagles, though its Rodney doing the screaming, leaving the first and only knobbly imprint of tire marks in the soft dust it seems. Splendid!




    [​IMG]


    Riding up then pass beyond Bucaramanga, rolling treeless hills of pale grass and shades of muddy green on my way to Pamplona. Families work in the fields of potatoes, spring onions and carrots amongst the cold mist that holds the impending rain, bicyclists laden with pesticide sprayers upon their backs on their way home after a day of dousing the vegetables heavily with drums of yellow gunk.




    [​IMG]


    To my dismay, through the mist I see, hanging from the antique square petrol pumps, tatty signs that read, "No hay." Oh dear, and my petrol tank is almost empty. I twist the fuel tap to reserve but am soon empty...though luckily - with help of the quarter litre in the stove bottle, I make it to the top of this pass and cruise downhill to refill.



    <TABLE class=tr-caption-container style="CLEAR: left; PADDING-RIGHT: 6px; PADDING-LEFT: 6px; MARGIN-BOTTOM: 1em; PADDING-BOTTOM: 6px; WORD-SPACING: 0px; MARGIN-LEFT: auto; TEXT-TRANSFORM: none; TEXT-INDENT: 0px; MARGIN-RIGHT: auto; PADDING-TOP: 6px; FONT-FAMILY: 'Times New Roman'; LETTER-SPACING: normal; TEXT-ALIGN: center; webkit-text-size-adjust: auto; orphans: 2; widows: 2; webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px" cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 align=center><TBODY><TR><TD style="TEXT-ALIGN: center">[​IMG]

    </TD></TR><TR><TD class=tr-caption style="FONT-SIZE: 13px; PADDING-TOP: 4px; TEXT-ALIGN: center">Out of gas, using the stove fuel

    </TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>



    The traffic thins, the potholes grow and the mud thickens as the altitude gains and a broad valley of
    "frailejones" - the plants I recognise from El Cocuy's great heights - opens out before me, familiar now, these plants become a sure indication that I'm up into high altitudes and thin air. Air. Vital air. All important air. Evacuating, it seems, my tire....again.




    <TABLE class=tr-caption-container style="PADDING-RIGHT: 6px; PADDING-LEFT: 6px; MARGIN-BOTTOM: 0.5em; PADDING-BOTTOM: 6px; WORD-SPACING: 0px; MARGIN-LEFT: auto; TEXT-TRANSFORM: none; TEXT-INDENT: 0px; MARGIN-RIGHT: auto; PADDING-TOP: 6px; FONT-FAMILY: 'Times New Roman'; LETTER-SPACING: normal; TEXT-ALIGN: center; webkit-text-size-adjust: auto; orphans: 2; widows: 2; webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px" cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 align=center><TBODY><TR><TD style="TEXT-ALIGN: center">[​IMG]

    </TD></TR><TR><TD class=tr-caption style="FONT-SIZE: 13px; PADDING-TOP: 4px; TEXT-ALIGN: center">The bike just made it over this pass...and I mean 'just'!
    </TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>"You've had SIXTY-ONE punctures!?" exclaim the group of ponchoed and wellied spectators.
    "Yeah..." I say disgruntled, "and two in three days....!"


    [​IMG]


    Gentile gents, they were very friendly and helpful men, with plasticy red cheeks from days of cold high altitude air. They tell me of good camp spots nearby next to the river and also, further up, a waterfall. It was a lovely camp, too, not least as it reminded me of my second home; Snowdonia National Park in


    North Wales. I hate punctures, but fate is a funny thing.




    [​IMG]
    And, as if two punctures was not enough (or 61), it was to be three (62)...and this time fate was to be a much more unkind animal.




    Having returned to El Cocuy's jagged black massifs on my way back south I decided it was too good to simply pass through and spent several days amongst the mountains, lakes and glaciers, walking and riding, hoping for some clear weather permitting good views....and photos.




    Sitting in the shelter beneath a large slab, cut thousands or millions of years ago by the now much receded glacier, i eat my sandwiches. I have to chew and pause, and breathe, and then chew a little more. The sun is barely discernable behind the sick pallid grey of the sky and I beg out loud that it will clear up. I thought I'd be luckier this time, third time lucky...but....







    I plod on, until I finally pass the tall cone shaped cairn that has been guiding my way through the maze of boulders and rocks spat out by the glacier on it's slow and forceful retreat, and round the corner of the trail to glimpse my target...glimpsed and no more, vanished behind the bank of heavy plump cloud that moments earlier I watched tumble over the adjacent mountain ridge like the ominous dust behind a charging cavalry, reaching you inevitably, with catastrophe. Having worked myself to exhaustion at nearly 5000m, for the third time, I was deeply disappointed. I felt this time would be third time lucky, I deserved that, didn't I? I was tired, not just from the walk but also the lack of sleep; anxious with excitement, and fear - of the glaciers blankness, crevasses. However, I was determined to wait it out, to walk the glacier.....makes the summit. Until that is, the hail start to pelt down like arrows and any sense of direction was lost amongst the charging cavalry. As the only one on the mountain fighting this battle I decided against my lusting desires that descent


    was the sensible option.







    Then having descended. It cleared up.




    So I trudged my way back up, cursing the Gods, the lack of air, and my body's tardiness at aclimatising to altitude. Reaching the glacier, camera at the ready, the cloud came in again to close the curtains on the view. I despaired, and sat on a boulder to contemplate my bad luck - elephants - as the poison of altitude coursed through me, clouding my mind with tired negativity, breathing hard, trying to keep my lunch down.




    Apparently the balance just wasn't in my favour. Though, having said that, I did glimpse the monolith, 'El Pulpito', a tall red slate of warm rock piercing up through the glaciers cold barren white.


    [​IMG]








    The rain and sleet hammer down during the steep knee-jarring, meniscus tearing, descent path on my long way back to the bike. I warm the little engine carefully before tackling the very steep and fairly rough trail back to my fabulous camp spot....




    [​IMG]




    ...and get said third puncture. Three in less than a week...though this time, it is in fact the valve split from the
    tube. I'm exhausted, and too tired to contemplate repairing the tire, especially in the rain. So, I step off the bike, and start walking, leaving it there beside the road. It's a quiet road I tell myself, though in my gloom I have a tinge of hope that it will be stolen.




    [​IMG]






    A long and wet walk up out of this valley in to the next, thinking of the inside of my tent, dry, warm and not walking. However, when I reach my - paid for - camp spot at one of the park's cabins, I find that some nitwit has stolen my helmet, out from my tent's porch. Over the months in the Americas I've grown
    very confident in camping freely, almost anywhere at will, and I contemplate if I'd become "complacent". Exhausted, after a very tough hike I wanted only hot coffee and biscuits, whilst wrapped up in my sleeping bag. However, rather than dry feathery warmth I sat there amongst cold and sad thoughts that refused to warm the sleeping bag's plumes.


    "I don't envy you...." said Amos, his
    face lost in the protective shade of his jacket's rain hood, though his permanent broad grin is still clearly discernible. I met the amiable Canadian sprawled out
    exhausted and sick on one of Cocuy's high passes, and spent an enjoyable
    day together, descending, talking more than walking in the fog.




    [​IMG]
    "This is going to be rubbish." I state in the face of unavoidable misery as the white shops and restaurants of Cocuy take on a whole new hue as the sky blackens and blackens, and blackens.




    A pair of shocked disbelieving eyes peer from Amos' shadowy hood as a huge roll of thunder reverberates amongst the whitewashed buildings and the ponchoed men and women dart for cover. His perpetual smile, I
    note, has gone.







    "And no helmet." he reminds me...as if I need that, slipping on my woolly hat in its place. But, you couldn't help but like Amos, a great chap and I enjoyed my short time walking with him, and leaving him alone to ride into the storm contradicted common sense.




    <TABLE class=tr-caption-container style="PADDING-RIGHT: 6px; PADDING-LEFT: 6px; MARGIN-BOTTOM: 0.5em; PADDING-BOTTOM: 6px; WORD-SPACING: 0px; MARGIN-LEFT: auto; TEXT-TRANSFORM: none; TEXT-INDENT: 0px; MARGIN-RIGHT: auto; PADDING-TOP: 6px; FONT-FAMILY: 'Times New Roman'; LETTER-SPACING: normal; TEXT-ALIGN: center; webkit-text-size-adjust: auto; orphans: 2; widows: 2; webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px" cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 align=center><TBODY><TR><TD style="TEXT-ALIGN: center">[​IMG]

    </TD></TR><TR><TD class=tr-caption style="FONT-SIZE: 13px; PADDING-TOP: 4px; TEXT-ALIGN: center">Nick in his new 'helmet'
    </TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>Drops of rain pelt hard against my face and soak in to my medieval woolly hat. As the road twists left and right I peer up and ahead at the angry skies, trying to predict my own swirling fate, hoping that the road will take me to the brightest future....a blue future that I can see now I swear, far, far in the distance.


    The rain was to prove torrid over the following days, prevailing almost without halt on my way to Bogota to buy a new helmet, meaning low spirits at times, though I'd often find a patch of blue sky big enough to fit my tent under and savoured the dryness of it's shelter, and took warmth from listening to the sound of rain on the flysheet, reminding me of rainy days at home, hot tea and a warm fire.




    Leaving Bogota for the second time, I raced south away from the city's grip and peered happily out through my new helmet's clear visor.....into rain...at a small heard of cows grazing on the central reservation, traffic
    thundering by, sending up huge brown waves of standing water over them, and over me. A man waits patiently amongst the cows, waiting to cross the road, he seems little bothered by the soaking he or his smart suit and tie are getting from the torrential rain, and a group of men pass by going the wrong way on bicycles in jeans and T-shirts which cling heavily with damp, equally unperturbed. The rain made the news that day, though for Bogotanos it seemed to have little consequence as they fight to earn their daily bread...or arepas.






    As the city recedes to memories, so too thankfully does the rain and I drop down and down out of the eastern cordillera into the Desierto de Tatacoa. I set up camp atop one of the white sandy flutings, overlooking the maze of interlocking pyramids of grassy sand disappearing, far off to the horizon at the end of which the thunderstorms light up the the whole sky, though silently and safely off in the distance. It's a lovely camp, spoiled only by the irritation by the heat on the numerous bites from the previous camp's attacks by "Jejens" - miniscule biting bugs the size of pinheads! Nasty fellows!




    [​IMG]


    I'd hoped to cross the desert by compass, but the tight weave of hillocks is certainly impenetrable and anyway...this isn't the desert. I find this some time later, a small patch of red sandy flutings... I had
    had high expectations admittedly, expecting something like Egypt's White Desert, or Sudan's Atbara, or the USA's Death Valley or Anzaborrego! and though nice, Tatacoa was minuscule in comparison! And so a slight disappointment Still there's Atacama to come....




    [​IMG]






    The bridge is out over the mighty Rio Magdalena but another lancha helps me on my way across, to continue on to a splendid 14km hike amongst the ancient decorated tombs and statues of "Tierradentro" dating from 6-900AD, before those Spanish fellows came over....




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    </TD></TR><TR><TD class=tr-caption style="FONT-SIZE: 13px; PADDING-TOP: 4px; TEXT-ALIGN: center">Tierradentro

    </TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>

    <TABLE class=tr-caption-container style="PADDING-RIGHT: 6px; PADDING-LEFT: 6px; MARGIN-BOTTOM: 0.5em; PADDING-BOTTOM: 6px; WORD-SPACING: 0px; MARGIN-LEFT: auto; TEXT-TRANSFORM: none; TEXT-INDENT: 0px; MARGIN-RIGHT: auto; PADDING-TOP: 6px; FONT-FAMILY: 'Times New Roman'; LETTER-SPACING: normal; TEXT-ALIGN: center; webkit-text-size-adjust: auto; orphans: 2; widows: 2; webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px" cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 align=center><TBODY><TR><TD style="TEXT-ALIGN: center">[​IMG]

    </TD></TR><TR><TD class=tr-caption style="FONT-SIZE: 13px; PADDING-TOP: 4px; TEXT-ALIGN: center">Unloading the bike on the river crossign

    </TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>

    #83
  4. klous-1

    klous-1 RTW on a 125cc

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2009
    Oddometer:
    216
    Followingan interesting talk with one of the locals about Indian culture I took his advice and headed to Mosoco, deep in the indigenous area surrounding Volcan de Huila (5700m), for a lively market, apparently.




    <TABLE class=tr-caption-container style="PADDING-RIGHT: 6px; PADDING-LEFT: 6px; MARGIN-BOTTOM: 0.5em; PADDING-BOTTOM: 6px; WORD-SPACING: 0px; MARGIN-LEFT: auto; TEXT-TRANSFORM: none; TEXT-INDENT: 0px; MARGIN-RIGHT: auto; PADDING-TOP: 6px; FONT-FAMILY: 'Times New Roman'; LETTER-SPACING: normal; TEXT-ALIGN: center; webkit-text-size-adjust: auto; orphans: 2; widows: 2; webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px" cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 align=center><TBODY><TR><TD style="TEXT-ALIGN: center">[​IMG]

    </TD></TR><TR><TD class=tr-caption style="FONT-SIZE: 13px; PADDING-TOP: 4px; TEXT-ALIGN: center">Not quite there, here in Belacazar market.

    </TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>
    Footsteps. Outside the tent. More than several. Rain, too much. A voice, just one. Others, murmuring.


    I ignore it in the hope of sleep, but then it comes again, clearer, stern. "We need to speak with you."




    I struggle out of the sleeping bag, into clothes and clamber out of the tent, out into rain and a fifty strong crowd of short angry Indians. I could be in trouble here.


    I am bombarded with demanding questions, in tones hinting at expected guilty answers. Questions, questions, questions. I notice it's not just adults standing in the rain watching, but children and youths too and I feel as if I'm the village's Saturday night entertainment. They laugh and joke, at my expense. The short square faced men rifle through my things, count my money out in public view, look through my pictures, passing the camera around between each other, clambering in and out of the tent and taking a FULL inventory.




    "What's this?"

    "Cafe."

    "Cafe...." he mumbles as he jots it down.




    He tears a bag and sniffs it contents.

    "It's sugar!" I say exasperated.

    He mumbles and jots this down, passing it to someone else, who sniffs it, who passes it to someone else who sniffs it, lost to the crowd. Someone trips on the tent, another person leans on it trying to see better.




    "Can you be careful with my tent please." I ask, only to be met with more ridicule, as one man who ignores my explanations, tears open my sisters birthday present awaiting posting. I really wanted to hit this guy, one of the weak men who wouldn't individually look me in the face but were quick to turn on me together as a group...but knew I'd be buried amongst the potatoes if I did and so just stood with a face flicking between anger and sadness, whilst those near me stare and laugh the more.




    After three hours of this, at perhaps a little after midnight, I'm told quite flatly to take my tent down.




    "So, I can't sleep here then."

    "No, you follow them." says one, a stocky well fed man - obviously a man of position - gesturing to an old 4x4 parked in the darkness....




    "Can't I just leave, now?""No, you go, Vidonco. Follow..."

    I pack up the wet tent, hemmed in tightly all the while by the crowd, and I

    angrily shove past each laughing one of them on my way back and to to the bike. They're enjoying this, my

    misery.




    On the bike, the now larger crowd huddle in close, to see what will happen next, or to stop me trying to escape perhaps. An old man holds open the throttle of the bike to warm the engine whilst I put on my

    helmet, I look to him, his face is tilted and his eyes wrapped in tears, rain dripping down from his brow, and I am certain he is the only one who feels my plight, and I hope that he saw in my eyes my

    gratitude, as his small gesture sticks in my mind vividly as the one positive in a long period of negatives. I remember that, his eyes.




    A thirty minute ride behind a 4x4 full of people, and by full I mean 15-20 people, inside, outside, hanging on to windows and bumpers as we bounce our way through the dark and rain to Vidonco. The mood is better here, the group smaller, giving the chance to know me as a person rather than a strange - and guilty - anonymity at the centre of a crowd. In the town hall though they go through my USB memory and photos, every single one and at 2am, I am permitted to sleep, though only with the presence of two guards.




    "Don't sleep beneath the open window, it could be dangerous for you."

    "Riiight....OK...."

    The guerilla it seems, or possibly another Indian village have become aware of my presence, and have possibly been asking after me, and the faces of the talking village leaders take on a look of blank fear...could be a problem.







    <TABLE class=tr-caption-container style="PADDING-RIGHT: 6px; PADDING-LEFT: 6px; MARGIN-BOTTOM: 0.5em; PADDING-BOTTOM: 6px; WORD-SPACING: 0px; MARGIN-LEFT: auto; TEXT-TRANSFORM: none; TEXT-INDENT: 0px; MARGIN-RIGHT: auto; PADDING-TOP: 6px; FONT-FAMILY: 'Times New Roman'; LETTER-SPACING: normal; TEXT-ALIGN: center; webkit-text-size-adjust: auto; orphans: 2; widows: 2; webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px" cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 align=center><TBODY><TR><TD style="TEXT-ALIGN: center">[​IMG]

    </TD></TR><TR><TD class=tr-caption style="FONT-SIZE: 13px; PADDING-TOP: 4px; TEXT-ALIGN: center">The guard in the doorway

    </TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>


    This is deemed so in the morning when told that I can't go to the city of Popayan as hoped but must loop back with an escort ("for my safety") back to the town of Belacazar on the way back to Tierradentro (technically I'm in Tierradentro, and the tourist site is misnamed, and should be San Andres). But it
    seems, I shan't be going anywhere in a hurry and so set up the stove to make coffee for myself and the guards, who pull a face at the sugar.


    "It's sugar...." I explain, "sorry, I don't have any panela." as the locals exclusively use panela, making it themselves using large handmade wooden presses - I was not able to photograph one unfortunately.
    They also chew coca leaves (historically) and drink 'coca mate' (tea from coca) from small clay spouted cups. In it's natural state it is believed that coca provides many health benefits, and is widely believed to alleviate altitude sickness. But it is perhaps the indigenous growth and harvesting of coca leaves which has - possibly - led to the insurgence of the guerilla groups in the area that are refining the leaf in futuristic labs somewhere nearby and exporting the product; cocaine, to Europe and North America, making Colombia one of the world's top producers of cocaine. Despite the country tightening it's grip on production in recent years it is still quite clearly a problem, though one I felt residents were keen to fob off as western hype, and this went -sometimes- with other areas of Colombian society. I found myself having to bite my tongue again,
    stifling the truths I'd come to believe, a Communist-like attitude, people who simply believed what they were told and read on roadside hoardings...or on facebook, like the tourists at the canyon, .


    Back to the Town Hall....and my guard, a very amiable chap, with a broad beaming smile called Nelson, took me, together with a small group of guards, on a short tour of town. The guards it must be said looked a bit comical, almost literally, like jesters in their Robin Hood green and Maid Marrion red bandanners, regular clothes wielding a stick decorated likewise in green and red. Also, half the guards were kids. I wondered how they'd fare against the AK74 and AK47 armed, drugged up, guerilla.


    [​IMG]
    Pretty badly.




    Locked up in the hall I wait, and eventually a group forms and a disorganised meeting begins between village chiefs and youth guards to decide my fate. I recognise some of them from the night before, horrid faces, not a flicker of friendliness amongst them and the sure reason they have obtained positions of power; by not thinking of anyone but themselves on their way to the top.


    At the windows crowds gather. A woman suckles her child, men goose neck for a glimpse and kids frantically climb over each other for a view from every window. I feel like a zoo animal, and so rather at risk feel exasperated, desperate to leave. The crowds stand there motionless for five hours or more whilst I stand or sit inside, in one corner looking the other way, the meeting in the other corner, occasionally I'm asked a question.


    They have been maintaining that this is all for my benefit, to save me from the guerilla. It crosses my mind
    that maybe they are they, a stash of arms secreted away in the well-fed man's house. Eventually, seeing that I am not believing their story, a man speaks the truth and informs me that there are national laws in place
    banning foreigners from the area as they don't want them mining here, taking all the profit while the locals win little. I could point out that the investors money might make the place safer, would create paying jobs and improve infrastructure, but it's true the westerners are overwhelming winners and I found their plight admirable....though wondered if they could go about things a little better.


    "We want your GPS,""OK," I say."and your camera.""Absolutely no way." They tell me they will as planned take me to Belacazar, hand me to the police where I must wait several days whilst they check my things. I
    say there is absolutely no way I will do this - seemed to be working historically - and will fly home right now if that's necessary.


    Eventually this is deemed unnecessary and the original plan to escort me to the town is decided upon, without the need for the police and with four guards - I managed to lose the original two - we end up as
    expected....some time later.....with the police.




    [​IMG]




    Que putas! is all I have to say on that! (Thanks to Julio for that Spanish lesson).


    I bite my tongue again as the Indians explain to the police that this is all for my safety, whereas I'm sure the escort was to make sure I left the area, and giving me to the police is insurance that I don't go back. No chance of that!


    "Make sure no foreigners pass again!" says one man who looks half Polish as they walk away.


    All this said, there was one girl who held a position of some authority in the community, and without her help, I feel I'd be in much deeper waters, so I thank her....for she may read this! She is working to improve the community and I feel that she has a tough job ahead of her....especially with the well-fed idiots she is working alongside.


    The police say I must wait, still powerless, I sit dejected desperate to leave, to eat, to drink and my prayers are answered: a coke is thrust before me from a friendly guard! We sit chatting, and he tells me about finding two decapitated bodies two days before,


    "Lucky I wasn't here that day!" I say with a laugh.


    His face remains fixed, remembering.


    Forms are filled and just to make sure I understand for the police chief is certain I can't speak any Spanish, he gives me a google translated note, which can be described simply as "brass tacks".


    [​IMG]


    Finally, 530pm I'm able to leave, after that is answering the questions of a group of untimely and curious kids....I race away up the river valley as the sun sets to my right and finally dog tired, I reach the small village at Tierradentro and through some grace, find a friendly family who let me set up tent...not before food and tinto are given though! I love my tent, and tonight especially I regaled in it's silent shelter, sat absorbing the happiness of the family so clear to see as they laugh and chat, sat close arms around each other.


    It's with some scepticism that I ride towards the town of Silvia, a mere 38km east of Mosoco where I'd been had, but it's 100km for me in along loop through Inza and over the high muddy pass beyond Guanacas to Totoro. Pouring rain didn't help the mud which slopped up from the tires painting all in a thick pudding of dirt.


    [​IMG]



    But when I rounded the corner up and into the main square of Silvia I was greeted by the most amazing sight; and some relief! Beneath the cream church, hordes of people wearing bright bright blues, black sarongs, chunky camel coloured hiking boots with bright orange laces, children with flat straw hats hanging down their backs and the men in ponchos, scarves of brown and orange, and blue sarongs. So many people, so much colour, piled in and on 'chivas' the local buses along with bundles of their recent purchases.


    [​IMG]






    I buy a potato here, an onion there, cilantro, cheese, aselga leaves...all in the bid to get to chatting, to get photos. Many oblige that first day and as I go I meet the lovely Barco family and end up spending the
    night at their house, then breakfast and lunch too! (Thanks so much!).






    [​IMG]



    I returned to Silvia, hoping to catch a further glimpse despite it not being market day. But there are
    some there...and, against the advice of police I ride up to their village (though no further!) and have the pleasure of seeing a less touristy side of life. I meet a lovely woman who shows me herself at work on her "Telar" (weaving frame of thick wood) making a typical "Hanaco" the wraps that the girls and women wear as dresses. The common conception of the Indians is that we as gringos sell the pictures and make a lot of money, so they tend not to like you taking pictures, unless you pay. Something I refuse to do. I tell her - and others - this isn't true for me at least, and get some on the proviso that I get her a print of one of the pictures. I ride back to town, print it off and take it back to her with a group of intrigued staring women....she was pleased to say the least, and I took pleasure out of seeing her run excitedly to the house to show it off....as well as a picture of me! She was too shy to tell me her name....




    [​IMG]




    The women are constantly at work, spinning wool from soft pink cotton bags on their shoulders,
    into thread onto bobbins as they walk to Silvia or weaving 'maletins' (small handbags for money or their cellphones), or carrying small churns - cooking pot sized - of milk from the fields. I rode up and down that road as far as I'd dare over three days(!) trying to get photos of all these things....alas, I didn't
    get permission, always wanting money, I was refused again, and again and again.....demoralising!


    Still, I did pretty good....right...?




    [​IMG]






    The short trip to Popayan, a place that gave off good impressions, chance to write the blog and watch the Semana Santa (Holy Week) night parade, famous throughout Colombia...Here they parade many of the famous figures of the bible cast out of garish plastic through the streets surrounded by nude dolls; the angels, the crowd following behind with a burning candle...






    [​IMG]






    Overall Colombia has been good, and at times simply amazing. The ocean of opportunity here is vast,
    from beaches right up to glaciers, it's a land of contrasts, and I haven't even delved into the less accessible eastern territories of jungle or Amazonia. The people I feel follow the same suit though, some are incredibly nice (the Barcos for example!), but generally I missed the open warmth of the people of all of Central America, missed the constant tooting at passing motorbikes or holas in the street and therefore made me feel less at peace and more alone in Colombia. This said, I've had a great time, there are small glimpses of absolute brilliance...El Cocuy, Ruiz, Chicamocha and the indigenous of Silvia, only they are but islands in the vast ocean.
    #84
  5. GuateRider

    GuateRider Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2008
    Oddometer:
    1,422
    Location:
    Antigua , Guatemala
    Incredibly great,as usual !!!
    Good to see that you still remember some Spanish that you picked up at our place in Guate;-)
    Un abrazo
    #85
  6. Lunatic

    Lunatic Dan Keyhoety

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2006
    Oddometer:
    618
    Location:
    DOWN ON THE BORDER , LAS CRUCES, NUEVO MEHICO
    Subscribed !!!:clap:clap:clap:clap
    #86
  7. tommo2

    tommo2 Michiganee

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2008
    Oddometer:
    219
    Location:
    West Michigan motobarn/Condor Machining Goleta
    :clap
    #87
  8. klous-1

    klous-1 RTW on a 125cc

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2009
    Oddometer:
    216
    Un huuuuug!:D

    Cheers ears! Hope all is well!
    #88
  9. klous-1

    klous-1 RTW on a 125cc

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2009
    Oddometer:
    216
    About time too!!!:rofl
    #89
  10. rednax

    rednax Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2007
    Oddometer:
    119
    Location:
    Gothenburg Sweden
    I´ve been trying to visit your homepage, but get a warning that it is contaminated with some sort of troyan horses or virus everytime. Shit!!! Something needs to be done about that..
    Anyhow, exelent reading:trp are you considering publishing your material in bookform ?
    #90
  11. klous-1

    klous-1 RTW on a 125cc

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2009
    Oddometer:
    216
    yeah, I've been trying to fix that on and off for a few weeks...I think now it is ok. But please let e know if not....!! Thanks!

    Book form.....phew, I'd love to, one day. I plan to write it all properly but only after the trip; when I can sit down and do a real good job, at the moment it is a bit rushed and unedited....and I think alot of the books I read are just that, get home and throw it down on paper with little thought or effort. I want to do better than that, and hopefully later in life, my English will be better too, what with all the reading I do in the tent with teh rain pouring down!!! Here's hoping....there's not much that hasn't already been done.....but if I Can do it well, who knows....also, I need more guts to cross the Darien like Helge Pederson or something like that!

    Hope you like it!
    #91
  12. rednax

    rednax Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2007
    Oddometer:
    119
    Location:
    Gothenburg Sweden
    it seems like the problem is still there.....sad that some people enjoy fucking up other peoples stuff.. hate that!!

    you`ll make a good book out of all that material if you so decide. you´re allready better than a lot I´ve seen..and I´ve read quite a few travelling storys..keep rolling man:rayof
    #92
  13. klous-1

    klous-1 RTW on a 125cc

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2009
    Oddometer:
    216
    Yeah, I really can't understand people coming up with these viruses and whatnot....perhaps I pissed someone off when I camped on their property and left a turd tucked away somewhere and they found and wanted redemption?

    I've checked it though, and it seems ok now....I'll keep looking, perhaps the web address has been blacklisted! There's always the facebook page, which has all the pictures...and one or two updates between blog posts too.

    Thanks for the nice comments, these mean a lot!
    #93
  14. GuateRider

    GuateRider Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2008
    Oddometer:
    1,422
    Location:
    Antigua , Guatemala
    Hola Nick , HAPPY BIRTHDAY ,mate !!!!!:freaky:freaky:freaky:freaky

    And remember, no love, no love, no sympathie :D:D
    #94
  15. klous-1

    klous-1 RTW on a 125cc

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2009
    Oddometer:
    216
    But I can feel the love...so some sympathy perhaps too....or something....

    How on earth did you remember my birthday?! Thanks!
    #95
  16. Manneman

    Manneman Polarbear

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2011
    Oddometer:
    128
    Location:
    SCANIA
    Well then, happy birthday from me to! :lol3

    In 30 years this is the only birthday you´ll remember, remember that!:happay
    #96
  17. klous-1

    klous-1 RTW on a 125cc

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2009
    Oddometer:
    216
    Fanks!!!

    I think I'll remember my 21st birthday too....all two hours I lasted at the party....sick as a dog.
    #97
  18. nomadicbear

    nomadicbear Vagabond

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2007
    Oddometer:
    53
    Location:
    Clinton, Oklahoma - USA
    :doh HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! :kumbaya:ricky:beer:muutt:robin

    Keep on Keeping on Your ride report and photo's are A number 1.

    May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.
    May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. -Edward Abbey

    #98
  19. klous-1

    klous-1 RTW on a 125cc

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2009
    Oddometer:
    216
    That's a great collection of smileys!!! :clap Thanks for the message, genuinely appreciated! Take care, Nick
    #99
  20. klous-1

    klous-1 RTW on a 125cc

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2009
    Oddometer:
    216
    [​IMG]
    The vast swirl of purple grey marbles hangs desperately on but soon it will fall, soon it will hit earth with a deafening crack. I watch it from the tent, battered and bruised deep purple as it starts to bleed down from large gashes forming 'cortinas', curtains of rain. It really appears as if the sky is falling down, like the equalizer dots at the end of a song, called "Black clouds forming", seeming to just give up in the cooling evening air. When the marble hits, it lands with a deafening crack, of giant boulders, accompanied by long pulses of lightning. For once, I stay dry, a comfortable spectator. The stars come out then, a surprise, I can't remember when I last saw them.


    The morning routine has become one of drying; the sleeping bag, tent, wet clothes and shoes and once done all signs of rain are gone and I head towards to "Elusive lake Number 1"; the crater lakes of Azufral. However, the steepness, roughness and altitude have Rodney beaten. I push alongside until the all too familiar stomach cramps associated with pushing Rodney at altitude kick in and am forced to make an angry retreat to continue on to the border, Ecuador.

    [​IMG]
    First though is a stop at the cathedral which spans the canyon cut by Guáitara River, the site of a miracle; when a deaf mute spoke having seen some form of the Virgin Mary (she's full of tricks that Mary), and since then the place has been revered as a holy site, and sight. It didn't always span the canyon, the original church has long gone, replaced by its bigger brother; an impressive sight, though its grey brick reminds me of a concentration camp oven. Inside people kneel at the famous altar, the canyon wall and famous painting, or look upon the paintings and stain glass of such bold colours, or oddly touch a doll "The Patron Saint of Kitchen Utensils" or something and pray.

    [​IMG]
    Inside is not quite as impressive as another church, likewise built into the rock, and suspiciously not far away. I was lucky to stumble upon this one after a couple of days on dirt roads. However, as it does not span a canyon it is relegated to the depths of insignificance. And anyway, time is pressing and the border needs to be crossed before the day is out.
    -------------------------------------------------------------
    A man shouts at me as he shoves me out the door, I don't quite understand but gather at least that he's not happy and that the computers which process customs papers, are down. The door slams behind me and I go about picking my documents off the floor, looking up to a woman leaning in wait against the wall.

    "I think the computers are down." I say sarcastically, and she laughs.

    Five hours later I'm through the border and look about quickly stocking up on supplies, stopping at a small roadside shop. The lady leaves the gossiping group on the pavement outside to serve me.

    "How's Ecuador?" she asks.
    "Not sure! I only just got here from the border!"
    "Oh! You'll love it! It's fantastic! Lovely country, lovely people!"
    "I hope so, I didn't think much of the Colombians!"
    "Ohhh, bad people!" she says in low tones of agreement.
    "Yeah, I think so, though others would disagree. Maybe I was unlucky? But I think everyone else is just stupid!"

    She laughs asks me for the plastic drinks bottle for the school, "they get 5cents from the government for every one!"

    Two points Ecuador!

    I turn right on to some cobbles, giving way to dry dirt, whilst wondering to myself, 'where am I going to camp?' I stop to pee, damn ice tea, and notice something....there's no fences! I look behind me to the other side of the road, no fences....surely not....then deeper rummaging in the bushes, it's here somewhere I know it...but no! there are no fences and I continue along quite jollily, though with the dread that perhaps I'm riding into some banned Indian territory the "you just don't go there" type of land. On I go, a beautiful open swell of land, low cactus of broad leafs with tall artichoke like stems raising up out of the vastness, frailejones sit amongst the wind swept pampa, and to the north, straddling the border the Chiles volcano, and beyond that Cumbal volcano. I roll off the road and ask the only house between last town and the next if I can camp (I could camp almost anywhere but they have the best view!

    [​IMG]

    As I finish setting up a woman comes down, her teeth crooked and ringed with gold and her red weathered face looks gravely concerned.

    "IT'S VERY COLD!" she says.
    "Yeah, it's okay."
    "Why not camp up by the house?"
    "Mmm, I could.....but it's all set up now! It's fine no problems!"
    "It's very wet at night and there are lots of sancudos!"

    I explain that whilst I might look like a gay boarding school fag, I am in fact a tough as old boots journey man.

    "Do you have kids?" she asks, searching for confirmation.
    "Look lady, I'm not gay!" I didn't really, "No!" is what I really said.
    "Married?"
    "No, why want to come along?" and she blushes and says good night!

    She was lovely really, and already I was getting a good feeling about Ecuador and hoped it would continue.

    In the morning, a few minutes of perfect warm orange sunrise give way to flat white clouds and I continue along the desolate trail through huge expanse of frailjones in clearing weather to the lonely park outpost to hike (for free too) around the lake in the park .

    [​IMG]


    "Where'd you come from?" asks one of the rangers, "Ibarra?"
    "No, over there, the border...what's called?"
    "YOU CAME THAT WAY!"
    "Yeah..."
    "It's very bad!"

    It wasn't too bad admittedly and the man goes on to tell me that the frailjones only grow one centimetre every year and some are 12m tall! 1200 years old if your maths is rusty!

    Unfortunately the untouched lands of El Angel give way to a giant patchwork of crops and fields of pale yellow, green and brown covering every available square inch, the only exception sheer black rock, or occasionally a small cluster of trees which lend only to remind of what once was. Luckily however, these fields are farmed by the beautiful and beautifully dressed indigenous peoples and I go to explore the trails and fields in search of well, honest life. I stop to chat to two women working a heavy wooden plough pulled through the dark loam by labouring oxen. It's a team effort, that sees older daughter working the plough, mum yelling at the cows younger daughter on stand-by and younger daughter still faffing in the mud some distance off.

    [​IMG]

    "You wouldn't catch my sisters doing that!" I say.
    "What, ploughing?"
    "No, working! HA!" I jest, adding, "not really, in my country women don't really do this sort of thing, getting dirty. Actually not many men either, it's all offices, computers. We have machines for all this caper." And after a while I ask if I can get some photos,

    "Why?" she asks, and I explain at length, confusing her more than anything.


    The mother, heavy with gold beads, bares gold rimmed teeth as they laugh amongst themselves as the daughter translates. She sits in the mud then to weave and the older daughter hands over the plough to her seven year old sister.

    [​IMG]
    Happy as can be, I ride around the volcano up to a lake abutting its side, Laguna Cuicocha and ask the Indians if I can camp there, roadside,

    "It's very cold."
    "Yeah yeah...."

    [​IMG]


    Sadly the weather was grey and rainy and so in the morning I continue on my way to make it for Otavalo's Sunday market. First up the livestock market where women harangue men with baskets of chicks, ducklings, chickens, pigeons, cockerels (for fighting), boxes of puppies and kittens, tethered cows, pigs the size of a house, flocks of sheep and lams, sacks of rabbits and guinea-pigs which they show off by the scruffs of their necks.
    [​IMG]
    One can only guess why anyone would need to buy a dog here, Lord knows there's enough of them on the street, and in Ecuador they come-a-running for any motorbike or car. I've met men who've fallen from their bikes because of dogs, never to ride again. They like the front wheel the most (or hate it the most), and also my legs, having been bitten a few times and I've started kicking them now. However, I find the only way to actually get rid of them is stop the bike, they're all bark, though I take great pleasure if I can squuuuueeeeze the dog to the side of the trail into a tree or a ditch, or one day I hope an oncoming car. I've sat watching groups of dogs chase every single passing vehicle on a main road, without let-up, trucks, cars and motorbikes....chase, return home, chase, return home. "Ecuadogs", a completely different breed to any dog in your home, don't feel pity.


    "You want chickens!" says the woman to the man, a fairly nonplussed man at that and probably slightly drunk.
    "These are the best!" she says clearly not put off, come on love, read the body language!
    "Weigh them, they're very heavy!"

    She tells him the price, he hasn't even looked at her, he's clearly not in the market. She grabs two then, by the feet and shoves them into the man's midriff, he takes hold of them, bobs them up and down, a sideways nod....and actually buys them! What a woman! She could sell dirt!

    I move on, the spectacle over as another passer by gets the same treatment.

    "Five dollars."
    "You what?"
    "Five dollars, money, you pay."
    "I'm not paying."
    "No money, no photo."

    I explain why I won't pay, but she only repeats, "no money, no photo." In actual fact I don't think she spoke Spanish and she switches to her dialect to speak to her friends her all start to laugh.

    "What's that?" I ask knowing when I'm the butt of all jokes, I've been polite, I had the decency to ask for the photo at least, I don't deserve any mocking. She says something to the floor.

    "You what?" I say, switching from nice polite formal Spanish to scraping the dirt nasty. "Speak to me, I'm here, I'm not dirt down there!" They stop laughing, but only until I turned my back.

    Saddened, wondering if I was in the wrong, I watch groups of tourists taking pictures willy-nilly, without asking, perhaps I should just do that. Their guide stands by with disregard, a walking permission slip it seems. I ask many others, all say 'no', or ask for money and so unfortunately I get few pictures.

    I move on to the fruit market and the camera stays deep in my pocket, and I find this is much better, friendly conversations and no animosity. A huge market too, and a vast array of different people, wares and clothes, too much too list here I think.


    [​IMG]


    "Where are you going?" ask a lovely couple stood besides my bike, waiting for their bus home.
    "Lagunas de Mojanda"
    "Ohhh, it's very cold!"
    "Yeah, I've heard!!!"
    [​IMG]

    The bike splutters it way up the hill to the lagunas. The weather is ghastly and water runs off the grassy slopes in quick streams, down the road and into the lake which floods high over it. Luckily camp looks favourable here, even next to the road, despite the weather and miraculously it clears to give fine views; sun beating down on to the lake which is brooding dark beneath the tall black mountains and equally black sky.

    [​IMG]


    In the morning, somewhere in the mist, a man comes and sets up a wooden frame, throws a tarp over it to make a small restaurant.

    "Is it always this foggy and wet?"
    "Now yes, all day, every day. But June is better."

    I wonder if I should suggest he too come back in June, but don't and so head back down the hill of slick wet cobbles to Otavalo and beyond to the east in hopes of viewing more amiable Indians. The road out of town is disconcertingly bad and so I was unsurprised when it became worse further on; hard packed mud, wet from the rainy season, it's ruts and humps smoothed slick and I fell repeatedly on the slippery Teflon-pan like surfaces.

    [​IMG]


    I pass a woman sitting on a short stool, in the doorway of a mud-brick house, weaving and, about one hundred yards ahead, after much internal battle I give in,

    "Arrggghh, GO ON THEN!" I say aloud to the resolute part of me as I make a U-turn to try and get a photo.

    "What's in it for me?" she asks. I start putting the camera away, my gloves on as I explain despondently why I won't pay, but end up chatting for a long time. Avelina, in her 70's, with 12 children, she still comes each day from the city Ibarra to work her fields of 'choclo' (maize). She sits with the healthy posture of a twelve year old on the little wooden stool, huddled beneath her black shawl, peering through small glasses perched on her nose at the small table decoration she is weaving.

    "So, you still want that photo?" she asks as I prepare to leave, and as she perfects herself her bus passes by and she misses it. Selfishly, without thought I rode off and should have probably stayed behind to wait for the next bus (sorry Avelina).

    [​IMG]
    Next to another sagging mud-brick house, beneath Volcan Cayambe, I peg out the tent as a woman, nearby, pegs out her three tethered cows to fresher pastures, driving home the metal stake with hard smacks of a wooden block. She looks over, skin taught but wrinkled, and smiles nervously, never really quite sure what I'm doing, despite my obtaining her permission. She goes inside and brings out an almost pointlessly short stool, sits upon it and starts milking the feeble udder of one of the cows. I take her picture here, and learn that I need two cameras, one to show them the pictures and one to take a picture of their face when they see the picture, which was that of an incredulous child!

    [​IMG]


    In the morning she visits with her husband and their grand-daughter, who carries a small metal pot with a long handle. I've seen these a lot, particularly in the Indian areas, like Silvia and assumed that held either a small amount of fresh milk, or maybe even a packed lunch, I was wrong; it's for coffee! Even kids need their caffeine hit and I explain to them how in Korea, kids aren't allowed to drink caffeine (at least in coffee, I'm pretty sure they drink coke).

    When I go to leave the old woman kisses me me on the cheek with uncontrolled frenzy and hugs me like I was a giant tube of stubborn old glue, reminding me of when I was a tiny blonde seven year old being terrorised by my vivacious auntie Beral.

    The volcano was sadly hidden from view, though I was to camp nearby again that night having spent the whole day in search of Elusive lake Number 2. So, that night I find another delightful family, this time out in the fields milking who say, without hesitation that I can camp. Being able to sit in my tent and watch these people and other families in their environment beneath the mighty peaks of Cayambe dolloped in thick unblemished snow was a delight. I was very lucky.

    [​IMG]
    I ride into Quito with plans to change wheel bearings and chain-set, and with one thing or another, it took a whole day of me lugging the wheel around the city. As darkness fell I battled to get the axle in the wheel and tighten the nut so I could say, "FOR PETE'S SAKE RODNEY, TAKE THAT!!" (Only 25,000kms for those bearings, and now on the third chain-set, no thanks to a badly machined rear wheel I think).

    [​IMG]

    I spent a day walking around Ecuador's capital city, Quito, a splurge of photos, though people still refused.

    [​IMG]

    I'd hoped to 'couchsurf' here, and in the quest to do so I was invited to stay at a place near Mindo, out to the west and famous for bird watching, so I had at least a place to aim for.

    "What....you're not here?" I asked down the phone.
    "No, but my wife is, you speak Spanish, right?" asks my host, apparently in Quito.
    "Only if people ask me where I'm going and about the bike!"

    I felt I was acting husband for a wife and four kids and made a hasty retreat the next morning after a greasy yam flour pancake, to Mindo.

    I spent only enough time in Mindo to make a U-turn, rancidly touristy, I almost 'vommed'. Luckily this led to the 'old' road back towards Quito and back up the Andes, along a dirt road through secondary forest (the first one, the primary, having been chopped down to allow grass to grow for cows).

    Luckily not all of it is grass, Richard Parsons, a fellow Brit has taken it upon himself to save what little he can, and at the moment he has a fantastic set-up called Bellavista. which has grown now to 700hectares (I met one fellow with 7000!).

    [​IMG]


    Richard and I sat down to giant mugs of coffee amongst swarms of birds, flying, hopping, skipping, climbing and hovering. Richard moved to Ecuador in 1982 and has clearly not lost any of his love - nor energy - pointing out birds with the astonishment of a first time visitor.

    "Only twenty years ago this was all cow pastu....WOW LOOK AT THAT!"

    He tries to persuade me to buy an area nearby, lower down the slopes, but having been in Ecuador only a little over a week, it's hard to commit, despite Richards infectious passion and energy, I was mighty tempted. However, when I return from my splendid walk in the cloud forests, after some serious thought, I felt I was, somehow, letting him down when I told him so. "I have to finish."

    I can wholeheartedly recommend a trip to Bellavista, not least as I was able to see a TOUCAN! my sole reason for visiting. Magical! and finally a chance to tick off one of the many - largely unticked - animals from the list.

    <table class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;" align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0"><tbody> <tr><td style="text-align: center;">[​IMG]</td></tr> <tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">A toucan, I promise!</td></tr> </tbody></table> After puncture number 63, thanks be to God, I cross the middle of the earth, the country's namesake. It reminds me of the time in Africa when I was chased up the road by a black man with a jug of water and a funnel. At the time, I ignored him and continued.

    <table class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;" align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0"><tbody> <tr><td style="text-align: center;">[​IMG]</td></tr> <tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Puncture 63</td></tr> </tbody></table> "Where you going, the Mitad?" asks the policeman who has just pulled me over. The Mitad being a big statue on the equator, well just off it actually.
    "NO!" I scoff.
    "Why not?" he asks with a smile.
    "What's the point?!"
    "What do you mean?"
    "I didn't set off on my little motorbike here to tick stupid boxes; ' reach cape town', 'reach Ushuaia', they just happen to be places along the way, like Quito or Ibarra. The goal is...actually I don't know what the goal is, but it's not; 'go the equator'! And I make exceptions for toucans!"

    I'm fairly certain I didn't say most of that, but the point remains. Alas when I was stocking up on supplies I actually found another, lesser Mitad, and got the bloody photo.

    And then I ticked the box.

    Imbecile.

    [​IMG]

    The teenage attitude continues at Pululaphua....

    "Did you even look at it?" asks the woman in the car park.
    "Yeah, I didn't really umm, understand" trying to think of a better word in Spanish.
    "What do you mean?"
    "Well, it's just fields."
    "Well, there is another road you could try..."

    [​IMG]


    She explains at length as I succeed that perhaps I'm being too hasty or something....

    "You can't pass."
    "Why not?" I ask, they never tell you why, as if I'll just say "Oh, OK, see ya!"
    "It's not allowed."
    "Well, I can see that, but why not?"
    "It's the law."
    "What law?"
    "The law of 2007."
    "What that bans all people from entering the park?"
    "No! Just motorbikes!"
    "But, cars, buses and trucks with engine brakes, no problem?"
    "Yes, no problem."

    Little did I realise that I was to have this conversation many times, and told differing reasons for the enacting of this law; sometimes it was the noise, or that bikes ride on walking trails, or that they ride off trail completely, or that often banditos use motos in parks to do whatever banditos do?

    Indeed, I had the conversation at my next stop; Volcan Antisana, but the guard tells me about Laguna Muertopongo ("Elusive Lake Number 3") which I can visit.

    <table class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;" align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0"><tbody> <tr><td style="text-align: center;">[​IMG]</td></tr> <tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">On the way to Muertopongo</td></tr> </tbody></table>

    Alas, I can't visit, because feeble old Rodney couldn't make the steep, sometimes wet and sometimes muddy trail. I despaired and turned about, with stomach cramps again. I camped on the land of a lovely lady and her son, though sadly, all views were again lost to cloud and rain. In fact, I hadn't had a rain free day since I left El Cocuy in Northern Colombia, sometime in February (which explains my slow progress, I've read about 7 books in Ecuador, sat in the tent out of the rain).

    [​IMG]


    The rain I'd been getting daily soaked by was drowning my spirits, but it was nothing, absolutely nothing, compared to the deluge I took on board on my next trip, out to 'EL Oriente', Ecuador's patch of Amazon rainforest. I expected, read, and was told that the rain 'only lasts one hour and is lovely post hence'. I can confirm this is not always the case and after a severe pummelling and questioning some locals, I bid a hasty retreat, out of the amazon back the way I came, as far at least, as I could manage that day. I set up camp, shaking violently, soaked, nothing is waterproof! My pegs wouldn't go in the ground, I nearly cried! Finally, I can strip off, and get in to my sleeping bag. I instantly fall asleep. I woke up - surprisingly - at 10pm, still frozen (I was so very cold) and cook dinner, Warmer, my mind functioning again, decide in a moment of clarity that I will not go to the jungle again, unless it is in an enclosed vehicle, and probably truth be told, if I want to see tribes and animals, on an organised tour.

    <table class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;" align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0"><tbody> <tr><td style="text-align: center;">[​IMG]</td></tr> <tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Warm and dry, thinking about jungle trips in Pifo</td></tr> </tbody></table> After much deliberation the next day, I decide that a tour must really be short for 'tor-ture'. I couldn't possibly, without the risking of other people's lives at my hands, as well my own. And so I go about making new plans....after fixing puncture 64!

    <table class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;" align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0"><tbody> <tr><td style="text-align: center;">[​IMG]</td></tr> <tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Puncture 64</td></tr> </tbody></table>
    "Where's this road go?" I ask the family as I pass along another one of Ecuador's Roman-like cobbled roads, that must take many, many man hours to make!
    "Anywhere!"
    Wow, they really are Roman roads!
    "You can go to Cotopaxi if you want!" he adds as if that is at the very edge, of a very flat, world.
    It's not Rome, but decide that volcan Cotopaxi sounds pretty good and take to the cobbles! Hopefully, I'll get some clear weather for this one!

    [​IMG]

    This leads to dirt, and then mud and essentially I'm fairly well lost, but push on, on to grass, a few hoof prints here and there, down and down into a narrow canyon and urgh....what's this a bridge? Not sure about this....

    [​IMG]
    "Ummmm," thinks the old farmer when I ask if I can pass to Cotopaxi (I should really say, 'is this the way', a bad Spanish habit.), "onnnnn mooootttto, si, you can pass." he thinks for a second, and adds "There is another way, further back."
    "The one through the gate?"
    "Si."
    "That is locked?"
    "Si."
    "That leads to the river."
    "Si."
    "The one you have to cross, below the thundering waterfall?"
    "Not me, you!"
    "Yeah, it's my Spanish, I say these things like English..."
    "Yes, but that's the one!"
    "Yeah...saw that one, think I'll stick with the trail to the bottom of the insurmountable rocky boulder canyon, across the narrow bridge of death and hope, over the river churning ghostly grey waters threatening to take my life rapidly down into the depth of hell, thanks."
    "Great! Good luck!"

    <table class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;" align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0"><tbody> <tr><td style="text-align: center;">[​IMG]</td></tr> <tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">The other option</td></tr> </tbody></table>

    And so it was that I slid down to the bottom of the canyon on rocks like rollers, slipping, sliding. I breathe hard, fast, eyes fixed, wide, I see only the trail and hear only the sound of the water, the godforsaken water, thundering by, I want it to stop, to be at peace so I can think. Though all I can think is what will happen if the bike slides unstoppably towards the bridge...I'm done for.

    With the bike's top-case rubbing the back of my helmet I slide terrifyingly closer to the three planks. The front tire on the bridge, the back tire looks like it will just make the corner of the plank. At altitude I'm worried the engine will misfire, splutter, bog and stall mid-bridge....with no where top put my feet. Could I grab the bridge on my way down? Probably not. I have visions of the bike tumbling down the ravine, bouncing off the walls...

    What if there's something ahead I can't get past...I'd be trapped?


    No turning back now, couldn't turn the bike on this slope if I wanted to and anyway, Rodney couldn't surmount this beast of a hill!

    What's holding up these planks anyway?

    I let out the clutch, start moving forward, feet hanging over the angrywaters trying to reach up and grab a tire, the front wheel wobbles left and right as I get moving.

    Don't put your tire in the gaps between planks either Jones.....

    As speed rises, things get easier and I open the throttle to make the rocky hill on the far side, up and up, between boulders. Along the shoulder width trials course I go, up and down, between and around huge boulders, past the cacophony of the other option, the river crossing, and finally to some sort of road!

    [​IMG]

    GREAT! GREAT! GREAT! GREAT FUN! But by golly, I was nervous! (It was in fact the climbers path to a volcano nearby).

    "You can't enter."
    "What because of the laws enacted in 2007?" I say, not sure if I'm asking or stating.
    "Urgh, yes! That one."

    This at Cotopaxi, another of Ecuadors collection of mighty snowcapped volcanoes, where I'd hoped to climb to the snowline, on Rodney! In the morning I see two motorbikes, three huge army trucks, and of course the obligatory cloud - no volcano. And, still I was not allowed to pass.


    "You are very unlucky!" says the guard in face of the thick cloud.

    <table class="tr-caption-container" style="float: left; text-align: center;" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0"><tbody> <tr><td style="text-align: center;">[​IMG]</td></tr> <tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Puncture 65!!!</td></tr> </tbody></table> Puncture 65 confirms this on the way to Laguna Quilatoa, another cobble road, leading to dirt winding up out of the broad flat valley to give a view of the expanse of fields below, being worked by the Indians, red shawls flapping horizontal in the wind, raising hoes high over their heads and driving them in to the dark earth. By the road, children make the same actions, but with laundry, raising the wet clothes high and hammering them down as hard as they can on to the washing stone. Men stand around, beside thick hatch huts set down into the ground, in the mountains, out of the wind, or stand roadside chatting with each other, in bright red ponchos striped with black. I find camp here, and whilst the wind was bad in the day it grew ferocious as night fell and the temperatures plummeted.

    [​IMG]


    The door to a tiny village church opens, dilapidated, the sky blue paint peels, walls crumble. In the square all the buildings are the same, surplus in a world where fields rule, fields matter, food matters, not the unnecessary shops and schools and churches. As I peer down at the map looking for the name that appears on the church, out of the corners of my eyes I see the group coming closer in a fanning wave. A strike of fear runs through me as I recall the incident with the Indians in Colombia. With reluctance I look up, and thankfully I'm greeted with smiles and touching, touching everything, pulling, moving switches, rubbing skin, pulling hair..Yes I am real!

    After getting some directions and a lively chat I head off,

    "Sell me your gloves!!"
    "No, sorry I need them!"
    "What about your jacket?"

    [​IMG]


    Luckily I kept hold of that too, for when I reached Laguna de Quilatoa it was raining again, though trying hard to clear. Set deep in a volcanic crater, the sulphuric salty water still managed to glow a deep blue despite the bland sky, and the steep jagged walls of the bowl glowed a deep green and black. I decide a great photo would be off one of the Indians sitting or standing around, looking over the lake, but I'm only asked for money and mocked again and give up. Zumbahua nearby is the same story, "Don't take photos!", mocked by groups of men, scorned by women, and the inevitable "GRINGO!"

    <table class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;" align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0"><tbody> <tr><td style="text-align: center;">[​IMG]</td></tr> <tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Cow, Zumbahua</td></tr> </tbody></table> Alas, I tell myself it's Sunday, the day God rests, and the day when an opportunist Satan rules the world, here at least. I wake up to Sundays with dread and long for kind and friendly people this day especially. But most of all I long for Monday. But, still, this day puts me in a low mood. My memory is terrible, I forget names and faces as easily as one forgets a dream, but taking a photo seems to burn the image on my mind as well as it does the cameras memory and I fear I will forget all of the journey!