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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by chip8150, Nov 12, 2017.
Sir, play the lottery, you are one lucky guy!
Damn that's scary as shit. That was bad, but thank God it didn't get any worse. What a hell of a way to get introduced to certain cultural differences!
Here you likely would have ended up in court on a charge of leaving the scene of an accident (damage property) yet unlikely to be accosted. That would get the accoster(s) charged as well. Here the police are law enforcers; there, peace officers. The population is largely self policed.
Thanks for sharing that, it took balls!
A smooth day in Colombia
We were due, sooner or later you just get a good day while travelling. Today was one of those days I think, at least when you compare it to yesterdays fiasco. We started off in a somewhat small town called Planet Rica. Hit the road about 8am and headed south, our goal for the day was Medallion, one of the largest cities in Colombia. The roads were nice, and going was easy until we came upon a long line of traffic.... Obviously the memories of yesterday jumped into our heads as we wound our way past the stopped vehicles. It was a long line, which gives you more time to think 'what if" again. Luckily, today the issue was a malfunctioning toll booth. The toll plazas in Colombia have some that every country in the world should have, a bypass lane on the right just for motorcycles. There are other benefits that many countries extend to motorcycles that are ignored in the US, lane splitting is one of my favorites. When traffic is moving slow, or comes to a stop you can legally move past them on a bike, to the front of a long line of traffic at a road construction stop for instance. Its a great time saver, and we might have possibly been overextending our passing privileges to things like sidewalks and other areas a motorcycle will fit. But as they say, "when in Rome"
A few miles after the toll booth lineup, we stopped to top off our tanks, followed by our stomachs. A nice roadside stand provided a late breakfast of meat and dough pockets. I had something deep fried about the size of a tennis ball, filled with potatoes, spices, and a hardboiled egg, good stuff to get you through the day for sure. Followed by a sausage wrapped in a fried plantain. Chip had a couple empanadas and the same plantain wrapped sausage as I did. Before we left that town we made a quick stop at one of the many motorcycle shops to pic, up another can of chain lube for the bikes. Our sailboat trip around the Darien Gap has exposed the bikes to enough salt water that we are now at war with a formidable opponent, saltwater corrosion. I don't care if my exhaust system rusts away, but I kinda need my chain to keep the motor connected to the back wheel in order to continue making progress south. For anyone just joining us, the reason for the sailboat trip is there no road connecting North and South America. Even though the books say that the Pan American Highway stretches from Alaska to Argentina, they often forget to mention that there is abut 100 miles missing in a key area. The Darien Gap is some of the most mountainous, inhospitable, almost impassable terrain on the planet. Up until just a few month ago, the FARC rebels used the jungles as their stronghold, fighting the Colombian government, and running some kidnapping as a sideline business. With no roads, and some unsavory inhabitants, we opted for the island cruise around that particular section.
As the riding day continued, we passed through some beautiful countryside with many cattle ranches in the area. The road led us up into the mountains for some cooler air, and nice twisty roads. The bikes were running good, and traffic was light at times, and provided interesting passing opportunities at other times. Riding along the river there were many truck washes, fueled by water piped down the mountainside, spraying up into the air when it wasn't being used, it was an amazing number of fountains spraying along the side of the road. We commented back and forth about how things have changed from riots in a village with no water, to peaceful passing through an area that is just full of flowing water. As we climbed higher into the mountains we lost a bit of horsepower to the thinner air at 8500ft. The skies were clear and the views were incredible as we threw the bike from corner to corner eventually reaching the top of the mountain. We were greeted by the National Police, and they motioned for us to pull over. I greeted the first officer who walked over and he was smiling as he reached out to shake my hand. Apparently they were on safety patrol as they pulled over several other bikers and gave them a lecture about safety equipment. The locals ride in t-shirts and sometimes have a helmet sitting on their lap or draped over their arm. From what I could pick up the officers were telling them about the importance of wearing a helmet and proper protection. They didn't bother trying to translate any of the speech to us, since we are fully armored in our BMW riding suits. The common misconception is that BMW just put their badge on something for the look of it. The fact is, the German company put much effort into building one of the most protective and best venting motorcycle suits ever made. And when you buy them used, the price comes down to somewhat reasonable levels. I have to say, it was a great police stop. The weather was great, they didn't ask for any of our papers, they offered us candy, and posed for pictures with us.
The rest of our ride into Medellin was uneventful, just open roads with typical traffic. As we got closer to the city, we stopped for more gas, and to locate a hotel for the night. Chip found us a very nice place for $33 that has indoor parking for the bikes, and includes breakfast. We walked around the neighborhood and found a place to sit down for a happy hour snacks and drinks. As we were sitting at the table, a nearby TV stand fell over and hit Chip in the arm with very little damage to either the TV or his arm. I thought it was funny, and enjoyed the free chips and guacamole we were given because of it. Now we are back at our hotel room, enjoying a high speed internet connection and planning tomorrow. I called my wife while Chip was looking through his videos. Amazingly his camera was recording the whole incident yesterday, just don't expect it to get posted up on the blog, its not a PG film. But today was a good day, and tomorrow we head towards Cali to see that city.
Its late, I'm tired and it time to wrap it up with pictures
High in the mountings of Colombia
Yep, its the police
Cool roadside shrine and waterfall
Kinda hard to see, but he's riding on the back of a semi, going down the highway
Where will the non PG video be viewable at? LOL Edit: Great pic of you guys with the Policia. That officer in between the two of you is wearing police version of skinny jeans.
Bolón, that's what those stuffed balls of platano, usually with queso blanco, are called. At least in Ecuador.
Also, if you see people selling leaf-wrapped things on the street, those are humitas. mmmm.
Another thing we enjoy is a hot drink called morocho. Found at roadside stands and some establishments, more prevalent in cooler higher climates in the evenings.
Some stands offer a drink of fresh fruits blended. Delicious and nutritious. Ask if they add water and if so, the source.
I suppose they want to get a full range of motion rather than appeal to trendsetters?
I'd enjoy seeing that video, also!
CN - Medellin and the Road to Cali
Medellin was a pretty impressive city that I wish we would have had more time to explore. There was a vibrant night life and the area of the city we staying in was lit with Christmas lights and decor. I'll most definitely make an effort to come back for a longer visit.
We got a relatively early start and were on the bikes and into rush hour just before 8am. Luckily most of the traffic was coming the other way so it wasn't too terrible. Still, it took a bit of time to break free of the city. We chose a mountain road for the first part of the route to Cali - a bit out of the way but totally worth it. Narrow twisty roads and views of European Alps quality. The high elevations also kept the temps cool for the morning ride. I took a bunch of video from the helmet cam so hopefully got some keepers in the footage.
Once back down to the valley (still at over 5,000 ft.), tracking along a flowing river, we ran into constant delays for road construction teams making repairs and shoring up roads from the recent rainy season landslides. Every 5k or so there would be a flagger stopping traffic so cars could come the other way on the one available lane. Some stops were only a few minutes, some 5-10 minutes. At each stop, once the flagger turned the sign green, it as like the start of the Baja 1000 with cars and motorcycles racing to get to the front in the one available lane. Pretty comical actually because the race would only go about 5k before another flagger would be standing with a red PARE sign for all to stop.
As we turned away from the river we started going up and through dozens of coffee plantations. The scenery through here was also very pleasing to the eye - with coffee plants mixed with banana plants up and down the hillsides. After dropping down again we hit some four lane toll roads and were able to make some good late afternoon time. We got into Cali around 5pm covering the 420k in about 9 hours. The price was right for our chosen hotel with secured parking for the bikes, a/c and included breakfast. The neighborhood might be a bit sketchy but we were able to find a nice restaurant a few blocks away with some delicious pizza. There was no street food to be had in this section of town. Too bad, I could have gone for another couple of Arepas - my favorite Colombian food.
Colombia has shown to be a very economical country - especially since leaving the slightly expensive port city of Cartagena. I'm really enjoying Colombia (except for the demonstration/riot part) and plan to return to give it a thorough exploration. We have to be in Quito in two days and will be on a plane to the Galapagos Sunday morning.
On the street in Medellin.
Lots of Christmas lights around the city.
Up in the mountains on the way to Cali.
Looking back up once descended.
Beautiful morning in Colombia.
Man - I'm glad that you escaped that madness without harm. When you are in other parts of the world, it can get ugly in a hurry.
I'm loving your RR.
Crazy story. Glad you two are okay!
PS post the video
Almost to the Equator
This one is going to be short and sweet today, nothing major happened, and I'm just OK with that. We rolled out of Cali about 8am after breakfast at the hotel, nothing fancy, just eggs, bread, fruit and juice. Morning rush traffic was in full swing but luckily we were headed out of the city instead of in. Had a bit of a dueling GPS battle this morning, with all Garmin units being pretty much useless all day because they refused to let us drive on the Pan American Highway. Highway is a bit of a loose term, since the road narrows down to two lanes most of the time, and takes you through the heart of many towns. The good news is that the road was twisty and full of awesome views today. We dropped down out of the mountains for a bit, getting the opportunity to feel the heat again before climbing back up to cooler elevations. Typical stuff happened, pulled over by cops, turned out to be more of a social visit once we told them where we were headed. Its the first time we've been asked for our papers in Colombia, and we were glad to have them. Cool guys, but no pictures with them today. Then it was fill up the gas, top off the oil, lube up the chains, and head on down the road.
As we headed back up into the mountains the views were absolutely incredible. Running some of the roads reminded me of the Alps, steep, narrow, tight turns, and cut into impossibly vertical mountainsides. There was an impressive canyon off one side of the road, could almost pass for the Grand Canyon, except everything is lush and green.
During our late lunch stop, we picked a hotel in Pasto for the night and set our courses. Both of used the same mapping program (Google Maps) for this one, and became separated as we were led down different routes. Chips route was all big roads, mine on the other hand ended up being long tunnels, dirt, and extremely steep narrow streets through a shanty town. It was fun, some of the steepest roads Ive ridden down in a long time, and it made me wish my bike had better brakes, again. Other times I wish for more whoa are during higher speed multiple vehicle passing maneuvers when oncoming traffic dictates a very rapid reduction in velocity to squeeze back into the right lane. I stopped at waited for Chip for a while at one turnoff, but he never showed up, so I headed towards the hotel knowing he was headed for the same place. When I arrived he had not shown up yet so I called him and found that he had been routed to a non existent hotel and his phone was going dead. Saltwater has already destroyed his main charging port on the bike, but another one is on its way from Virginia. Through the marvels of modern technology I was able to send him a map with my location on it, and after a short while he pulled up to the hotel. Check in, park the bikes in a locked garage, and find some food. That pretty much sums it up. Tomorrow we hope to get an early start to make it to the border crossing into Ecuador before things get too busy. My wife is flying into Quito at 8pm tomorrow, which I'm sure Ive mentioned a couple times, and I will be there.
So, I'll finish with a couple pictures, and make a phone call for any last minute packing items from home.
This is Dick from Holland, met him yesterday, I'm sure well cross paths again
I see the light at this end of the tunnel
Pretty cool stuff
On the left side of the rocks, is a couple thousand foot drop.
Friday - Into Ecuador
We heard the Colombia/Ecuador border could get pretty crowded so we left Pasto around 6:30am to cover the 80k and arrive early. Well, we arrived around 8 and the Colombia side was already packed. First we had to delete the import docs at the DIAN window and although there were only a few people ahead of us in line it took over 30 minutes to get to the window. Once there it was just handing the agent our import paperwork and he stamped it out - maybe 20 seconds. Not sure what the deal was with the ones in front of us and why it took so long. So then it was to immigration where we found the line to be hundreds deep. There were two lines in front of the gate to get into the building with no signs on either so we chose the right side one - which turned out to be the wrong one. Once to the gate the agent asked for my documents and after seeing my US passport stated we were in the Colombian only line and turned us around to get to the back of the left side line - crap! The Colombia side had taken us 2.5 hours! On to getting checked into Ecuador. We rode the short distance through no mans land to find the lines on the Ecuador side to be even longer. By the time we got stamped in through immigration and imported the bikes through customs it was 1:30pm - 5 hours for the whole process. Oh well, on to Quito!
We got into Quito around 5pm into full on Friday rush hour. By now we are pros at aggressively splitting lanes, using sidewalks, etc - anything to keep moving. We got to the Hotel Finlandia that Marybeth had pre-booked - super nice and by far the best hotel of the trip. Ken jumped in a cab to meet Marybeth at the airport and I found a Japanese restaurant for a bowl of Ramen and a beer. Ken and Marybeth got back to the hotel around 9pm and we then all went out for sushi - a new flavor Ken and I haven't experienced for some time.
Saturday morning we dropped off the motorcycles at Freedom Bike Rental just down the street from our hotel. Marybeth is renting a motorcycle from them for when we return from the Galapagos and they agreed to store our bikes for us and do a bit of much needed maintenance. We have all day Saturday to kill in Quito before our Sunday morning flight and the boat cruize - looking so forward to it! May or may not be any posts until next w/e as I'm unsure of what we will have internet wise in the Galapagos.
Line up at the Colombian border to stamp out.
Freedom Bike Rental.
Merry Christmas from the Galapagos Islands. We'll post some updates in a few days.
To you as well.
Merry Christmas to you, also and thank you very much for taking us along on the ride.
Igual, amigo. Igual.
From my wife
MS - Féliz Navidad from the Galapagos! What an incredible opportunity to be able to say that. Chip, Ken and I had an early start yesterday. We headed to the airport at 6:30 AM for our 9:20 AM flight. That flight was delayed multiple times and we ended up leaving after Noon. We arrived at the Baltra airport after a 1 hour and 50 min flight. Immigration was a look at our passport and a collection of $100 per person for the National Park fee. This was after paying a $20 fee in Quito to go to the islands. Baggage is serious business. Ours was x-rayed and inspected on the mainland and then x-rayed again in Baltra after confirming that we were not bringing in produce or chickens. We then loaded onto a bus after throwing or bags below and rode for 10 minutes on sharply curved roads to a ferry. The ferry was passenger only where your luggage was hucked on top of the roof. That was a 5 minute ride across the canal. After disembarking and waiting for our luggage to be hucked to the ground, options were two-fold: another bus or a pick up truck taxi. We opted for taxi to escape the chaos and we knew it was a 45 min ride.
Our hotel is nice. A very romantic room for three! One double bed and two twins. There is a pool and a breakfast is included. We headed out on foot to explore the town of Puerto Ayora. We found amazing wildlife almost immediately. We have seen iguanas, lizards, crabs, pelicans, frigates, sea lions, sea turtles, black-tipped sharks, an eagle ray, and at least 3 of the 14 types of finches found here. We turned in early (like old people do) and called it a night by 9 PM but only after discovering a tasty ice cream treat of chocolate fudge, surrounded by banana ice cream, coated in a chocolate shell. I may have had two.
Today we were up by 7 AM. We had the standard breakfast that I've seen since arriving on Friday. Coffee, watermelon juice, sliced fruit, eggs with ham and veg, sliced cheese, "granola" (really macerated, similar to sawdust) and a pitcher of pourable yogurt. Today also included a deep fried surprise of potatoes and cheese that looked like a jalapeño popper.
We walked into town again to kill time until the rest of our group was to arrive at 1:30 PM. Not much was open as it was Christmas morning. The local fish market however was and it was a sight to behold. Freshly caught fish of many varieties and some locals cleaning it all to order for people. They were surrounded by animals trying to steal a taste including a sea lion who acted more like a dog and scored most of the fish skins when the fish were cleaned.
Returning to our hotel about 12:30 and found out that the rest of the group would be delayed as we were the day before and wouldn't be arriving until around 4 PM. A guide had been sent to start our tour so off we went on foot to Tortuga Bay. We clocked almost 20,000 steps today. There we saw our first Blue-footed Booby (insert childish snicker here) The guide was very knowledgeable and shared history of the islands as well as information about the birds and animals. He gave us a through run down on what to expect on the boat the next few days and where to eat tonight.
Headed out early tomorrow and will meet the rest of our group and go to the Darwin Center. Should be interesting... Merry Christmas everyone! Pictures to follow soon.
Wall map at our hotel
Ferry post airport, post bus, pre-taxi
Walking under the mangroves in town
Iguanas foreground and background
Local fish market
MS - Boxing Day! Today we visited two areas with our new naturalist guide, Roberto. He is a part of our crew on the Golondrina our boat for the week. http://golondrinayachtgalapagos.com This morning we visited the Darwin Center. Here they protect the giant tortoises by raising them and studying their habits. We saw them from one year old to 100+ yrs old. All in captivity. Lots of additional studies and information on native species both plants and animals.
This afternoon, after a delicious shrimp in coconut milk lunch on the boat, we visited "The Highlands" which had a ranch where we saw giant tortoises in the wild. AMAZING! So many, all over the lush grasslands that were just eating and relaxing and living great 100+ year old lives. The females, after they turn 25 years old, travel for 4 months to mate in the highlands, then travel 4 months back to the beach in the adjacent national park to lay their eggs. Then they turn back around and go back to mate - for decades upon decades.
Tonight we sail overnight to Isabella island and have a full day on Wednesday of hikes and snorkeling beginning at 6AM.
Cool mural along the street
2 year olds
Over 100 years old
Charles Darwin Center
Roberto showing us a shell of a tortoise that had died at more than 100 years old
Giant Galapagos tortoise in the wild
MS - Wednesday Dec 27. This morning we were up early to leave by 6AM for a hike to view sleeping sharks in a canal. We counted 25 of them. It is a myth that all sharks need to continue swimming in order to stay alive. These sharks were very comfortable, snuggled up to each other, laying on the bottom. A few were swimming laps overhead of the rest of the group. In general, the ones on the bottom reminded me of the way our pigs sleep together.
Back to the boat to change into our wetsuits to go snorkeling. Visibility was good and we saw lots of parrot fish, puffers, star fish, and eight spotted rays swimming together. We returned to the boat for breakfast by 8:30 AM. Quite a lot accomplished early today!
After breakfast we were back in our wetsuits to head out for another snorkel. We swam with sea lions that would come right up to your mask and blow bubbles at you. We saw a large, beautiful large sea turtle, and some penguins! Ken and Chip both took their GoPro Session 5 cameras and collected some great still shots and videos. We will need a solid connection to upload them to the blog and being at sea doesn't afford that luxury right now.
In the afternoon, we visited another part of the national park on Isabela island. We saw flamingos which were on my wish list. Do you know why they are pink? Because of the shrimp they eat!
Flamingos! Also water iguanas off to the left
Land iguana - Massive
MS - Thursday and Friday Dec 28 & 29. We are now back in Quito with great internet so I can catch up the blog. Yesterday, Thursday, we awoke at a new island, Rabid, where we had motored to overnight in 6 hours. This island has red sand beaches due to the iron in the lava that formed it. It is a total of 5 square km. We took a substantial hike and had great views and discovered some snakes.
We went back to the boat and motored back to Santa Cruz Island on the North West side to Cerro Dragon. Here we took another hike inland to see the areas where the land iguanas nest. We also got to see some more flamingos in the wild. When we returned to the beach, we snorkel for almost two hours. There were 1000s of fish in huge schools in this area. Chip and I saw the largest sea turtles yet. They were gigantic and shockingly fast. Ken discovered some white-tipped reef sharks just a few feet from the beach. When I went to investigate, I discovered that there were eight sharks all together hanging out under and overhang of rock. CRAZY!
All this nature has been amazing. The Galapagos have a rule that you must stay 2m (6 feet) from all wildlife. We did not touch any of the fantastic things that we have witnessed, but we could have! We were that close.
Last night on the boat the crew toasted the guests with a farewell cocktail of sangria. Everyone was smiling and thanking everyone else. Our guide Roberto showed a slideshow for us of pictures that he had taken during the week. There was samba dancing on the upper deck after dinner with lots of smiles. We hit the sack at a reasonable time because we had another 6AM activity.
This morning we took out our two dinghy boats and motored into Black Turtle Cove. There we saw turtles (of course), eagle rays, black-tipped sharks, white-tipped sharks, and baby hammerheads who were hunting! A great farewell activity. We returned to the boat for breakfast and then motored to Baltra Island for the airport.
We were at the airport by 8:30 am and were able to catch an earlier, and direct, flight into Quito. We checked into the same hotel we had stayed in previously. Another romantic room for three, this time with 3 twin beds. "Good night Ricky. Goodnight Lucy". We walked one block away to Freedom Bike Rentals http://freedombikerental.com/ and were able to secure my rental and pick up the guys bikes that had been stored and had their oil changed. We are all geared up and ready to go tomorrow morning. Heading to the middle of the world to see/experience the equator and then check out some volcanoes. The city is very alive tonight. Lots of fireworks can be heard and a string of bonfires are being set in the medians of the roads where people are bringing out papers and dolls and signs and throwing them into the fires to be burned. Perhaps some sort of New Year's Resolution?
Looks like a great tour! Appreciate the peek into your world.
Smart move, guys, letting Mb do the writing!
Have fun riding around. Wish i were there, i could guide you around and introduce you to people. The burning dolls are called año viejos. They represent leaving the old year behind for a virtual new beginning. You should be encountering stands where a vast variety of them are offered for sale. I've burned some there and we have a couple in the house we brought home. What you've seen is a few jumping the gun. It all goes down (or up!) new year's eve at midnight. The best show is in the neighborhoods of Guayaquil. If you can arrange to spend that night there you won't be disappointed. No words can do it justice.
Be safe above all!
Feliz año nuevo y que Dios les acompañe.
MS - Saturday December 30th. We left Quito this morning around 9AM to head to the Equator park. Google said it was about 35 min away. That was probably accurate with Saturday morning traffic. It was my first taste of international jockeying for position on the road. I believe I did OK but you'd have to ask Ken and Chip. Lines are more of a suggestion for marking lanes. You can be in one or two at the same time and it is completely acceptable. Turn signals are for suckas. They can mean, "I'm coming over" or "You can pass me on this side" or "I forgot about my indicator light". Some people just don't use them at all, EVER. Then it is a guessing game for everyone.
The park was interesting, not very crowded when we arrived. We were able to park for free right by the security guard who indicated he would watch the bikes. That made it easier so we wouldn't have to unload a bunch of gear. I tipped him $1 when I returned. Cost of the park was $3.50 each. We walked the equator and took some photos. There were a variety of hummingbird statues all decorated differently which reminded me of the cows in Chicago. Not sure if it is the same theory with different artists or not. Exceptionally cool to think you are at where the world gets sliced in half.
**Can we talk about $$$ for a minute? Ecuador uses the USD$. ATMs give you USD$. When you use a $20 bill, you will inevitably get coins as change. As much as $10 worth or even more! They have mainly US coins, lots of 50 cent pieces, but also dollar coins, quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies. Some of the dollars & quarters are only Ecuadorian money printed here in the country. We consistently have change jingling around in our pockets. The goal is always to pay for your purchase with all coins. Today Chip was a winner paying for fuel in all small coins.
We left 0 degrees latitude a little after 11AM and headed south, back through Quito. We wanted to get to the volcano crater lake in Quilatoa. We managed to get back through most of the city before the rain started. Once it started, it lasted all day. We passed many volcanoes on the way but could not see the peaks due to the fog and rain clouds. We turned off highway 35 towards Cigchos and the road became complete two lane, except for when it was one lane. We stopped in a small village for a break from the rain and to have a snack. There was an awning where a man and woman were frying something in hot oil so it seemed like a good idea. Turned out it was fried bread. The woman had a huge bowl of dough and was taking small pieces and letting them proof and rise under some fabric. Then she would take the dough balls and stretch them and throw them in the hot oil where the man ladled hot oil over the dough and turned it with care. They were huge and came out light as a feather. Very light egg taste that reminded me of pop overs. We each had two and a bottle of water for a grand total of $3 for ALL of it - three bottles of water and six breads.
We continued on for another 2 1/2 hours on a very windy, switchback filled road. It was fun riding and not a lot of traffic but coming up on a bus on a mountain road that is a little more than one lane wide is still unnerving for me. There were rocks that had fallen on the road, standing water or rushing water across the road, and the occasional mudslide. My gloves are not waterproof and there are no grip heaters on my rental so my hands were cold. We came into Chucchilán and started to look for a place to stop.
We checked into the Cloud Forest Hostel for $15 each that includes a room, hot shower, dinner tonight and breakfast in the morning. Big beers are $2 and there are two wood stoves in the "game room" where we have hung our stuff to dry next to the rest of the guests. The rest of the travelers all seem to be backpackers from England, France, the Netherlands, and the US.
Looking forward to hitting the road tomorrow to see the volcano crater lake for some hiking and head to the Banos where there are hot springs. They will be the best if we experience another all day rain and it looks like that is a distinct possibility.
0 degrees latitude
Middle of the globe
Our bread and water lunch