Blastoff Adventures: Calibrating to Zero (Ecuador)

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Dorito, Jan 31, 2016.

  1. Dorito

    Dorito Dreamer and Doer

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    Wanderlusters – or explorers, rebels, thrill-seekers, whatever you want to call them – who can’t sit still and have a constant itch to explore. Blaster and I knew that when we left Ecuador last trip, we had barely cracked this nut. We didn't know when we'd be back, but just that "back" would happen. As it turned it out, it was probably a fortuitous set of circumstances that made the return a bit sooner.

    For one, 2015 was the year that rebuilt. It was the year that Blaster finally got cleared from his 3 year ordeal with the foot/ankle doc. They say the hardest thing about modern medicine is just entertaining the patient long enough for the body to heal itself. Somehow the hours of intense pain, gradually weakened as each month melted away. The good/painfree days now far out number the bad days, and the activities that aggravate the old injuries are much better mapped. It's not the same old normal. Rather it's a new normal.

    The second fortuitous thing that made this trip possible, is that we had 2 free airline tickets on US Airways. However, US Airways didn't fly to Ecuador...well, they didn't fly to Ecuador until they merged with American Airlines. With the merger of the two airlines in the fall 2015, our free tickets now piqued our interest. However, anyone that has ever had had the 'joy' of using free airline tickets, knows that there are very few seats you can actually use them. We actually ended up booking them 4 months out, and luckily got really nice seat choices.

    Lastly, 2015 was comprised of many mini-trips. It had almost felt like someone had cancelled your birthday in a sense. While there were many highlights such as going to Maine for a long weekend of Lobsters, Key West, or the long weekend of corner carving through West Virginia to the old Greenbrier bunker, we still had not satiated that inner monster. It's that inner monster that knows we have stolen from him. The inner monster that we owed that one long trip too.
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    With health and airlines in the correct alignment, there was nothing left but let the DRD4 gene guide us. In 1999, four scientists from UC Irvine published a paper titled “Population Migration and the Variation of Dopamine D4 Receptor (DRD4) Allele Frequencies Around the Globe” that explored the migration patterns and gene pool distribution of pre-historic human beings. They were originally researching for links between dopamine receptor D4 (DRD4) and Attention Deficit Disorder. While conducting the study, they discovered another weird correlation: people with the DRD4 genes tend to be thrill-seeking and migratory.

    Only a small portion of the human genetic pool contains this trait.
    #1
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  2. keithmckenney

    keithmckenney Adventure riding for fun and adventure

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    Bruce and Dana off on another adventure!
    Way to go. You guys always have the most fun.
    Have a great trip and don't forget to post some your wonderful stories and pictures.
    #2
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  3. Dorito

    Dorito Dreamer and Doer

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    I have shoes on my feet and brains in my head...oh where will I go?

    In the words of Dr. Suess, it wasn't easy to decide where within Ecuador to see this time. Fundamentally, we had a requirements problem. The crux of the issue is that I am certain that our trek last time brought us through parts of Ecuador few tourist will ever see. That was the Ecuador that we fell in love with. Actually, during the more populated touristy areas, we couldn't wait to leave.

    The other issue is that we felt that the 5 days last time was too short. As luck is a lady for us, it was very good that Freedom Bike Rental was able to accommodate our every wish. We end up deciding on a 10 day dual sport tour which ends coast through rain forests to the Andes. It will also return to two of our favorite hostels, Mindo's DragonFly Inn and the Mama Mia's.

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    Yes, the thing about Ecuador is you are never in the same climatic region for long. If you remember the scene from Karate Kid with "Wax on, Wax off", then you will fully appreciate the need to layer your clothes all day long. Layers on, Layers off.
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    #3
  4. blaster11

    blaster11 Still having fun!

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    Lots of good things about Ecuador from our last trip which makes traveling to a foreign country a bit less foreign. Having traveled for work a fair a mount I have found that getting used to the host countries currency sometimes takes a little bit to get used to, but in this case they use the US dollar so not a problem. Leave your large bills at home and carry a lot of $1's and $5's as a $20 is hard to get rid of other than a large city. Also the power is just like home 110v 60Hz and using the same plug configuration in "most" locations. Another bonus for us is that they are on Eastern time so no jet lag due to the time change. Sometimes driving in foreign countries can be pretty scary but not so in this case as they drive on the same side of the road as we do. They don't drive bad but they do drive with a purpose.
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  5. Dorito

    Dorito Dreamer and Doer

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    Until you spread your wings, you have no idea how far you can walk

    Everyone needs that someone to call you up and tell you to get your riding kit on, we are going out. For Bruce, he's often been accused of being an "enabler". An "enabler" in the sense that things are going to happen, and likely others will be involved. They don't know that they will be coming along, but mark the words others will be involved. Here's Blaster next to his Canadian Inuktitut.
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    The blue ridge mountains, never fail to amaze me. Blue they are. One of the Dorito machines in action!
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    The last time we saw Keith he was heading north to visit the Cinnamon Bun Capitol of North American. I really think he's an adrenaline junkie and used to longer trips. Yes, he wants to head any direction but home. About 2 hours later, we are now heading the correct direction to cross a border.
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    The last one is Kelly. Bruce and I have never met Kelly. Part of me thinks that Kelly might look like this. Or maybe she looks different. Maybe she likes Cinnamon Bun too? Only time will tell...
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    #5
  6. poolman

    poolman Gnarly Poolside Adv.

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    Great start! I'll be following intently from back home in Maryland. Ecuador is dual sport paradise!

    :lurk:lurk:lurk

    Cheers,
    #6
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  7. blaster11

    blaster11 Still having fun!

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    Well yesterday was our nice short airplane ride to Ecuador, a bit over two hours to Miami and then a 4 hour jump into Quito. We arrived in town about 2:30 and made our way over to Freedom Bike Rental for the pickup. Today our 10 day trip begins with a little stop on the Equator for some science experiments and ending the day at a cabin on a lake....should be good day! We don't know how are connections will be or if we will be able to upload pictures but we will do what we can.
    #7
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  8. Dorito

    Dorito Dreamer and Doer

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    After being certified egg balancer at the Equator, we had such a marvelous ride. Old incan cobblestone roads. Had to leave the laptop at the bike rental, so ride report may wait for proper reporting.

    Here's tonight's hooch. Not too shabby
    #8
  9. Dorito

    Dorito Dreamer and Doer

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    #9
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  10. Dorito

    Dorito Dreamer and Doer

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    As we boarded the plane, the graphic of our flight path was displayed. It seems that Quito is pretty much due south of Miami! It's been said that world powers reside will always reside within the 38th & 40th parallels, and quite frankly it's a welcome relief to be leaving behind Washington politics.

    As the plan approaches the thin red line, also known as equator, we will soon calibrate ourselves to latitude 0. Changes in latitude, changes in attitude they say!

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    Landing at 1400 gives us plenty of time to clear customs. We are progressing rather nicely until the bags are sent through the final contraband x-ray. While the exit is within meters and within site, we now get a bit of impromptu luggage search. The bag in question was stuffed with 15 pounds of 700 Crayola crayons and 500 pencils. It seems that the customs is sensitive to items that will potentially need to pay duty. Nonetheless, our "Pack for Purpose" items are quickly dismissed.

    Our 3 full sized suitcases stuff the subcompact taxi we hire to tack us to Freedom Bike Rental. The taxi literally bounces it's way down the curvy valley. At one point, the "rear bonnet" bounces open nearly sending Bruce's helmet down the road too. Freedom Bike Rental moved since last time we were here, and a few more wrong turns, and we have arrived.

    Our rental doesn't start until tomorrow, but we are able to pick up the bikes this evening. Begin relocating the rather large amounts of cripity crap from our over sized suitcases, into the very petite Altrider Hemisphere saddle bags. We head off to dinner as Bruce's F800 gets a brand new rear tire. By 2100, the welcome comfort of the Marriott. In Quito, they have a congestion reduction policy. The last digit of the license plate indicates the day of the week that your vehicle can't be driven before 0930. It seems the "mighty" DR200 day is Friday, so we will get a late start.
    #10
  11. Dorito

    Dorito Dreamer and Doer

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    As the DR200 is grounded until 0930, and Bruce and I have already seen the Equator monument last time, the decision is that Keith and Kelly will depart 1.5 hours before us visit the Equator monument. We will then rejoin each other at the second stop of the day, the The Inti-ñan museum.

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    It was a somewhat flawless plan, which ends up somewhat poorly executed. First off, Keith and Kelly find themselves on the wrong side of the "law man" during the busy morning commute. After missing a turn, they apparently get a stern talking to by the Policia. For the most part, we've found that that Ecuadorian Policia have a very low corruption rate. Apparently, despite the Policia flailing his arms and demanding their papers (which were somewhat inconveniently stowed at the bottom of their panniers, because really how often do you need those?) he eventually gets so frustrated that he returns to his cruiser and leaves. I suppose you should take your wins how you can get them.

    Bruce and I arrive at the museum in really good time. The last time, we mistook the building at the road for the museum and thought it resembled a bit of "Ripley's believe it or not" style. This time, we mind as well get off the bikes since we need to wait anyhow. For a mere $4, we find ourselves entertained for the next 2 hours. Really it was worth it!

    Perhaps the best know things which comes out of the Amazon River basin are the infamous "headshrinkers". In case you ever wanted to know the proper way to do it, wonder no longer.
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    The above head is over 100 years old. Notice that the mouth has been sewn shut to prevent the enemy's soul from escaping! I quickly review the map of our next 9 days, and I am somewhat relieved that we don't go into the Amazon basin...as the "practice" is still somewhat persistent today.
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    First step, Remove the pesky head from the 'undesirable' bits
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    Sew the mouth shut, can't have the evil enemy soul ruining your next hunt! Don't forget the rock to maintain the roundness while shrinking!

    Yet another reason to be thankful for not visiting the Amazon basin, is the somewhat infamous Candiru fish. Apparently, the locals have noodled through a rather inventive way to deal with a fish that is attracted to your urine. One must properly "stow" all equipment.

    Besides being on the GPS defined equator, another reason for the museum on this particular site is this original house. The creosote from the cooking helped waterproof the thatched roof. Additionally, the guinea pig pen provided for many a ceremonial meals. They are kinda cute!
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    The mud/manure/stick walls are nearly impervious to any earthquakes.
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    Next up...the experiments!
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  12. Dorito

    Dorito Dreamer and Doer

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    As we depart the lifestyle of Ecuadorian families, we embark on few neat experiments. First let's play with some clocks which don't move.
    This clock works 354 days a year...with the only exception on the equinoxes. There are two equinoxes every year – in September and March – when the sun shines directly on the equator and the length of day and night is nearly equal. Also interesting, the length of day on the equator only varies by 5-10 mins. No need for Daylight savings time!

    If this photo was taken in another six months, the shadow would be below the center line (O-->E line). Do you know what time it is?
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    The correct time is 11:09AM.

    Here's another version of clock with no moving parts.
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    With that bright red line so ostensibly drawn on the ground, what could be more intriguing than to test the old which way does the water flush theorem? Yup, on the equator straight down, Northern Hemisphere counter clockwise, and Southern clockwise! Notice the globe mounted behind Kelly's head. If you spin the globe by pulling it towards the wash basin, a person on Kelly's side would say the globe is spinning counter clockwise (North America) . Likewise, continue spinning the globe the same, but now step around to the other side of the globe (Australia end). We've not changed the spin on the globe, but it person would say it's spinning clockwise.
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    I hope that none of you imbibe in your alcohol while to you drive on the equator. Apparently, the standard "close your eyes and walk the line" from tow to heal is really, really tough on the equator. Life with confused magnetism is not easy!
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    Next up egg university. Sometimes you need to think long and hard about what is on your life bucket list. Until today, I've never pondered the personal satisfaction that I might attain by balancing an egg on nail. Supposedly, because gravity is less on the equator this feat is much easier (only possible?) here. Nonetheless, the stage has been set.
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    And for all of our hard studies, we are officially documented as graduating from Egg University. If I actually had a facebook page, I think I would like this on my professional accomplishments:
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    Heck, it seems my "good idea fairy" is getting the best of me today. Now we have upped the ante and memorialized this visit by stamping my passport! I hope that one day I am not marooned in a 3rd world country for this deed!
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    #12
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  13. Dorito

    Dorito Dreamer and Doer

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    Initially, I was forlorn that that the laptop was unable to travel with our packout. Hindsight, I am perhaps giddy that that the cards folded that way. So many pictures, and so many stories that still have yet to come forward. And in many ways, I might not have otherwise had the effort to document in "real time".

    I am little concerned that when the end of the world occurs, I will don't have many notable skills. I have neither the color pallet, nor that the patience for any crafts that would either sustain life or be marketable trade. However, there is boundless talent in Ecuador.

    For instance, can you take a Alpaca and weave it?
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    Perhaps you are better at carving a wood or stone medium?
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    At any rate, we have just about overstayed our timeline for getting in before the 1830 witching hour. It's no joke to be off the road by sunset, as the roads are cave dark and the fog rolls in. We finally saddle up and head out of Quito...into the wild, wonderous, and willy Ecuador!
    #13
  14. Dorito

    Dorito Dreamer and Doer

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    We leave Quito in the rear view mirror, and head north for Otavalo. It's ridiculous close geographically to Quito, maybe only 90KMs via the Pan American Highway. However, those that know us, know that route simply won't be a sufficient mode for travel.

    It's a good thing that our GPS folks have the same idea. As the elevation drops, roads like this one abound.
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    Never a bad day when your road meanders by raging rivers!

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    KLR sneaking past
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    It seems that the hairpins turns claim the first victim of the trip. Seems the front brake got a little pear shaped on Kelly and proceeded to nicely deposit her on the tarmac. The Husky loses the glass on the mirror, but otherwise is no worse for the wear.
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    Back above the clouds we go again..
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    #14
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  15. Dorito

    Dorito Dreamer and Doer

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    Last time we traveled in this country, we struggled to feed ourselves. This trip however, lady luck (and a little local knowledge!), we find food very abundant. When in the small town squares, we just look for the tell tale signs of tables. Occasionally, like this one, there may be a menu on the outside glass, but not always.
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    We are sort of fans of "Arroz con pollo" (Chicken with Rice). I felt a bit like a grim reaper when about 5 minutes after we order, this man comes strutting into the restaurant with the said "Pollo". RIP little guy.
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    While the Pollo awaits his fate, Keith has brought packed about 20 soccer balls. He's giving them to kids as we meander through the ride. Unfortunately, we didn't bring the needle tip to pump them up, but hey, there is one thing that I will say about Ecuador is that if there is a will, there is a way!
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    Do you remember the days of walking into a castle and seeing the walls of arms to demonstrate their military prowess? Well, Keith has decided that his KLR war steed must bear arms. It's a noble, American thought, the right to bear arms. With that, he's completely made a mess of his handlebars, but he has one finger access to silly string to ward off all Mardi Gras invaders! He even has a back up bottle on his tail pack.
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    At the dry desert canyons fade into patchworks fields of vegetables, roses and dairy cattle, we find ourselves on cobblestone roads. Many of these roads have seen centuries of weary travelers. It's somewhat awe inspiring to visualize the all of the love, the war, the conquering that these roads have hosted, as it appears so serene today. The roads are so battle proven in their design, that you can still see the vertical lines in the cobble stoning. These vertical lines (next pic) were used to ensure the carts were properly spaced on the road.
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    We rattle our way over 3700M/12000 feet, where we sneak by the Fuya-Fuya Volcano. For our efforts, she rewards us with the majestic Mojanda Lake
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    #15
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  16. Dorito

    Dorito Dreamer and Doer

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    Despite all the fun we've had it's time to bed down for the end of the day 1. It's tough to balance. On one hand, we live for long days in the saddle. However, after our front tire breaks the threshold of the hostel for the night a part of me is absolutely forlorn that we didn't arrive this morning. Or maybe the real problem is that we need to stay for an entire week and just lollygag our worries away.

    I have to give accolades to Freedom Bike Rentals. First, they places we stay are second to none for each of the areas we are riding. Secondly, they book all the reservations and charge them to their account, so all we need to do it pilot the bikes to the door and enjoy ourselves.

    Hosteria Cabanas del Lago
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    Our entourage will show us to the room
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    Dinner is served on the open deck overlooking the lake.
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    This deck is so close to the water you could just fall in! Seriously, notice there is no guard rail?
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    This place could be so much fun!
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    Homemade bread
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    It seems the waft of fresh bread brings the locals out
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    I think if we had a little more to eat, we might not be hungry.ever.again
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    And at 1830, just like every other night of the year, the sun drops behind the horizon.
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    Long after the sun melts, we retreat to our rooms. We are pleasantly surprised that housekeeping has left a warm water bladder on each bed. While there is no heat in the rooms aside from a fireplace, the water bladder has preheated the mattress nicely. And to all a good night!
    #16
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  17. lakota

    lakota Geeser

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    Write faster
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  18. Dorito

    Dorito Dreamer and Doer

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    It's funny, at first I was fit to be tied when the tablet didn't make the packout to Ecuador. The frosting on the situation was when the ruggedized laptop was too porky to make it into the Altrider luggage on the bike.

    However, with 10 cameras shooting and some notes, I think this might actually work out in my favor. Not too tired now, and apparently electrons are free :D
    #18
  19. Dorito

    Dorito Dreamer and Doer

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    Color! Vibrant colors everywhere.

    We leave Hosteria Cabanas del Lago well rested and head into Otavalo. Someone Lady Luck was with us, although I had my doubts initially. It was somewhat by random 'happenstance' that there was no decent routing to Quito on Fridays or Saturdays. This meant using our free airline miles on a Thursday departure. But in doing so, our bike riding schedule has landed us on perhaps one of the best markets I've seen. And the with the stunning weather, the market is in full bloom.

    We are directed to park the bikes next to this Toyota HiLux. I guess these are attack pigs which will make sure our helmets and jackets aren't stolen as we peruse the market?
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    In all reality, Pacsafe nets are unbeatable. We put 4 riders gear in the net and locked them through the chassis of the bike.
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    I marvel at all the different wares that are on display.
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    It occurs to me that all this cripty crap is brought in the hard way. By hand!
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    Everything is made from Alpaca around here. And it's so soft
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    Some Alpacas gave some, and others give all
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    The blue swimmer crabs are bound by just a single string. I wonder how many times someone was pinched before all the claws were properly folded for tying? These are still LIVE.
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    All this excitement, and you are bound to work up an appetite. It's a shame that we aren't bold enough to give a try, and ironically we'll save that food poisoning for a few days from now and from a more reputable source!
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    This is Keith trying to figure out if this will be carry-on baggage on Copa Airlines
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    Keith has obviously forgotten that we are on small, nimble dual sports as he spends his life savings within the market. In order to contain his loot, he now needs to buy a duffle bag, and the poor KLR looks a bit like shanty town for the remainder of the trip
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    I thought that the best wares were further to 'centroid' of the market. The further in we went, the more interesting the wares became. We walked a few of the outside streets, but found most of that to be low end resale stuff which you'd find at any flea market. I really wish I would have figured out to mail stuff from enroute, because there was no lack of want for me. While we've only spent 2 hours here, it's clear that we are actually on a moto vacation. Time to rolls some tires, lest we not make Mindo tonight.
    #19
  20. Dorito

    Dorito Dreamer and Doer

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    As we head back to load up our wares from shopping, the Husky has marked her territory. There is oil all over the skid plate and the ground. Since last time gas was hens teeth to find, we decide to grab a quart of oil for her before we leave the civilization of Otavalo. Turns about to be an wise decision, as even finding a quart of wet clutch moto oil takes a few stores to locate.

    Before long, we are heading out. Blaster finds his big leaves again, and turns into a nice Cabana boy for our roadside stop.
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    This welcome sign is a almost a stitch. It's the biggest thing in this one horse town which protects only a handful of abodes. But to people that live her, Mardi Gras is in full swing (despite Fat Tues being 3 days from now). As we drive through, the kids have lined the street with a bucket and hose. The street is marred with moisture of past aggressions, that must have been at least partially successfully given the splat patterns. As every rider passes, a bucket of water comes whirling their direction. Luckily, the kids are not skilled enough to perceive the true speed of the motos, and for Keith and Kelly at the end, the kids are unable to adjust fire accordingly to get a direct hit. Could you imagine kids in America doing this same thing on Main Street? They'd be jailed for life.

    But, as Court told us since we can't beat them for Mardi Gras, it's best to join in the fun.

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    C(h)ow is where you find it. On the road or off
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    GPS leads us to this fascinating lunch stop...
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    Ever wondered what a $13.50 lunch might look like? 4 course lunch for 4 people
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    This river looks pretty angry. I can't believe that people are sitting in it just 20 yards upstream. Have you ever noticed that if a dog can get it's head through something, the body follows? Well, if I can get the bike's handlebar's to fit.....
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    It wasn't until a few days later, but we realize that despite living a tropical rain forest, many Ecuadorians can't swim.
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    So, it's even more curious that they are hanging out in this raging river.
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    This big guy was remarkably nimble. He's seen in the previous photo in the river. Somehow, he waddles over all those huge boulders to spray Kelly in the face with Silly String. He then retreats to the river rock, and returns again with a beer and plastic cup. He'd like Kelly to imbibe in some Ecuadorian beer with him.
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    #20