Day 157 – Trujillo, PE to Caraz, PE

Day 157 – Trujillo, PE to Caraz, PE      01/26/11      Mileage: 157

Before hitting the road south, I rode over to see the archaeological ruins of Chan Chan just north of town. I didn’t have a lot of time, so I decided to also hire a guide to make the most of my time there.

Gustave spent an hour with me showing and explaining the ruins and his services were well worth the extra $$.

Chan Chan was and still is the largest adobe city in the world…

Restoration work in progress….

Gustave demonstrating the acoustic quality of the ceremonial chamber….

  For more info….

With that ticked off the to do list, I pointed the KLR south and bombed down the Peruvian coast on the Pan American Highway.

Along the Pan Am south….

My planned route took me through the Canyon del Pato which I had read about and seen pictures of many times when researching this trip…and it was one of the roads that I wanted to ride for sure. It also would lead me to the Cordillera Blanca range of the Andes Mountains…the highest in Peru and second only in height to the range that divides Chile and Argentina further south….another must see. So after about 50 miles of high speed asphalt, I turned off onto the dirt and headed up into the mountains. I could have continued on the pavement, then took the paved road part way up the canyon, but where’s the fun in that, right?

So from near sea level the road steadily climbed higher into the mountains. The dirt road started out as smooth as pavement, but you know that wasn’t gonna’ last. Soon I was getting a steady diet of washboard mixed with parallel ruts from the last time it rained here 600 years ago. Did I mention it was dry and dusty? 😉 As bad as it gets sometimes, it still beats a vacation to Cancun with the masses…and it’s certainly better than work. So with a grin on my face and dust coating my teeth, I pressed ahead up the canyon. About a third of the way up, the dirt road crossed the river to join the paved road…and I’d be lying if said it wasn’t a nice little break from the constant pounding being dished out on the dirt washboard.

But alas, all good things…and pavement…must come to an end, so it was back on the dirt. This is where the Canyon del Pato really starts and what makes it famous with adventure riders.

Soon the road entered a canyon so narrow you’d think you could touch both sides of it with outstretched arms. The road crosses one lane bridges and tunnels one after another….some 40 in all.

The scenery is stunning and the air starts to get noticeably cooler…and thinner…as the road climbs farther up the canyon.

At the top of the canyon, the road mellows and I catch my first glimpse of the snow capped Cordillera Blanca. I’m in awe of the spectacle of mountains so high (over 22,000 ft!), they have a permanent snow cap despite their tropical latitude. Being a die hard skier, the sight of that luscious white snow makes me want to march right up there with my skis and ‘git some! The road turned back to pavement for a few miles and it’s always fun to let the bike run after hours of 2nd gear dirt and washboard. Like the aforementioned pavement, this ride too must end, and for me it ended in the town of Caraz where I found a nice room on the main square.

I quickly showered and did the obligatory walk around to see the town.

I had dinner and some beers at Cafe La Terraza (which was great!) before packing it in…another epic day on the bike.

Day 156 – Huamachuco, PE to Trujillo, PE

Day 156 – Huamachuco, PE to Trujillo, PE     01/24/11      Mileage: 144

After a quick bite at Doña Emilia Cafe, I was out the door at 8. My first stop was the archaeological site of Markawamachuco (or Marca Huamuchuco) only a few miles from town and according to my guide book…one of the most important pre-Inca sites in Peru. For being so close, I had a hell of a time finding it though.

The last mile up to the site was a narrow and rutted track as it is perched on a mountain top. The view alone from up there made it all worth it…and I was the only one there to boot! Luckily the information signs were in english too as my “archaeological spanish” is, umm, thin to say the least.

So after my one hour self guided private tour, I split for the coast and the town of Trujillo. The road out of Huamachuco climbed steadily and topped out at 13, 750 feet…the highest road yet on this trip.

The air was thin and cold…and well suited for…well, a llama! NOW I feel like I’m in South America! I sat there and watched him (or her?) for a good 10 minutes…and he didn’t seem bothered by me at all even though I was 15 feet away.

Well, it was all down hill from there…litteraly and figuratively. But, although the road was mostly down hill it was a horrid! There were more holes in the dirt then there was dirt road. It was a bone shaking, spine powdering 3 hour decent and I can’t believe the bike is still in one piece…though I did develop a squeak coming from the front fairing. The road did eventually turn to pavement and it was a nice roll down to the coast from there….

The temperature back down at sea level was balmy and warm and what you would expect in a tropical climate. Once in Trujillo I found a room, showered and hopped a taxi to the town center for a little look around. Like every Spanish colonial town, and almost every other town in Latin America, Trujillo has a central square…and a really nice one at that.

 There is also a nice pedestrian walk stretching several blocks from the southeast corner of the square. After dinner and some internet, I called it a night. Tomorrow it’s back up into the mountains via the Cañon del Pato…I highlight of this trip that I´ve been looking forward to.

Day 155 – Celendin, PE to Huamachuco, PE

Day 155 – Celendin, PE to Huamachuco, PE      01/23/11      Mileage: 169

I rolled out of town into the chilly mountain air at 7:45 this morning. The road immediately started climbing and the scenery was great, but not on the same scale as two days ago.

The road was dirt all the way up and over the pass but turned to fresh pavement shortly before the town of Banos del Inca where I stopped for a quick bite.

My first Inca Cola…tastes kind of like Red Bull I think…but I’m not a soda drinker.

Continuing south through the rolling hills on the fresh pavement was a nice reprieve from the dirt roads…but it wasn’t to last.

It wasn’t long before the new pavement gave way to a tar/gravel mixture that demands your full attention, but soon that was gone too and I was back on the dirt.

The last several miles into Huamachuco were the worst roads of the day and I was glad they were behind me when I pulled into town. I found a home for the night right on the central square which had secure parking in their center courtyard only feet from my room. I always sleep better when I know my girl is close by. 😉

I still had some daylight so I cleaned the air filter, topped up the oil and tightened the right side pannier. I also checked the brake pads and both the front and rear will need to be replaced soon…no problem though as I’m carrying 2 spare sets.

After a shower I went to an internet joint to work on the blog followed by dinner at the Cafe Dona Emilia on the main square, which the guide book says is biggest central square in Peru.

The main square is very big…and meticulously well kept.

Day 154 – Celendin, PE

Day 154 – Celendin, PE      01/22/11      Mileage: 0

I decided to stay put today to get some work done on the blog, catch up on my email and get some chores done. The internet was painfully slow here so it took forever. I also reorganized my gear and packed up so I’d be ready for an early start tomorrow.

Celendin town square…

So, what do dolphins, the Nike swoosh, Che Guevara and Looney Toons characters all have in common?

Answer: They are all popular motifs for 3 wheel motorcycle taxis in Celendin! Go figure….

Parting shot: A pic of the local footwear and machete shop….

Day 153 – Bagua Grande to Celendin, PE

Day 153 – Bagua Grande to Celendin, PE      01/21/11      Mileage: 219

I skipped breakfast this morning and just packed the bike and rolled out. The road flowed over rolling hills down the wide but scenic Rio Uteubamba valley.

Progress was slow as the road was under repair in many spots and the traffic piled up at each construction zone.

…and another…

…and another…

….you get the idea.

In the U.S., when the flag (wo)man gives the OK to go, the traffic proceeds in a nice orderly line through the construction zone. Not so here…it’s udder chaos like the flag dropping at the Le Mans Gran Prix. Cars and motorcycles all fighting to get ahead cramming into the work zone..and passing IN the work zone. My method was to scoot right to the front of all the stopped vehicles, then just get the hole shot as soon as the flag drops and just be well ahead of all the carnage. Anyway, the road then turned up into the mountains following alongside the river into a narrow picturesque canyon.

In spots they carved out room for the road right into the canyon rock wall…making what amounts to half a tunnel.

Oh, did I mention tolls are free for motorcycles in Peru as well…sweet!

 I took a small detour up to the town of Chachapoyas which is a pleasant town overlooking the river valley.


I stopped into the Ciomara Cafe & Art…which doesn’t look like much on the outside but is a really nice place.

After a quick look I continued south towards Celendin, my target stopping point for the day. The road turned to well graded dirt and continued to follow the upper reaches of the Rio Utcubamba…which was now gin clear and perfect for canoeing.

 After Leimebamba, the road turned sharply up hill through countless switchbacks, topping out at just under 12,000 feet.

 The view on the other side of the pass was breathtaking…along with the road…which was literally cut into the side of the mountains. The panorama and scale of the scenery before you is as impossible to put into words as it is to capture with a camera.

You had better ignore it when driving though, as there are absolutely no guard rails to help the complacent driver. Run one corner wide here, and you better have a parachute.

 It took hours to get up and over the pass, and once down in the town of Balsas I had a decision to make. Celendin, although only 7 linear miles away, was 34 road miles up and over another steep mountain pass that would take an 1:45 according to the policia. It was already 5:15, so that means I would be coming down off the pass in the dark. To boot, I was also low on gas, but including my reserve I should have just enough. Worst case is if I just made it to the top of the pass, I could always coast down into Celendin. With that I decided to go for it, and maybe I can trim that time to only 1:30 or even 1:15 on the bike.

The policia going to open the control gate for me…

I crossed the bridge and started up the pass, higher up on the pass I could see rain, but I pressed ahead.

Soon I was in the rain and the road turned slick as greased linoleum. My hopes of making it to Celendin in even 1:45 evaporated and I knew I would be riding in the dark if I continued. I also lost the backend and almost went down on a hairpin turn but managed to somehow keep the bike upright through sheer luck. I stopped to let more air out of the tires and to reevaluate continuing or to backtrack to Balsas. Very low on gas now, high on a narrow mountain pass with no guard rails, in the rain, at dusk, all points to backtracking down to Balsas. Did I mention I loath backtracking? So against my better judgment, I fired up the KLR and pointed the front wheel back up the pass. The lower tire pressure improved the grip and the bike felt more stable. Soon the rain gave way and the clouds began to let what was left of the light through. High up on the pass my perseverance (or stupidity) was rewarded with a brilliant twilight.

The passing rain made for nice twilight glow…

 After stopping for several pictures, it was back to the business of getting over the pass which I arrived at the top of just after sunset. Far below me I could see the lights of Celendin and the promised land, I was almost there.

Coming down off the pass in the dark was sketchy, but thankfully not as treacherous as the way up it. Pulling into Celendin, I breathed a big sigh of relief…life is good.

Day 152 – Zumba, EC to Bagua Grande, PE

Day 152 – Zumba, EC to Bagua Grande, PE      01/20/11      Mileage: 171

After a quick breakfast across the street from the hotel, I headed south for the border. It was only 15 road miles to the border down a 1 lane dirt road with nice views of the surrounding mountains.

I passed through the last military checkpoint in Ecuador, and this time I had the helmet cam going. Like all the other checkpoints I passed through, both police and military, they were polite and very professional. They asked questions about the bike and what I was doing and one of the soldiers almost fell over when I said I had ridden here from the U.S.

Checkpoint formalities complete, the pointed me in the direction of the border outpost of La Balsa a few miles away.

 There was nobody else crossing the border and the customs official was only busy with his morning paper, so he had bike processed out of Ecuador in just a few minutes.

 Next I got stamped out by the policia and I was done…..and with that it was goodbye Ecuador, and across the bridge to Peru.

 Like the Ecuador side of the border, I was the only one crossing, so it was nice and chill…just the way I like it and a far cry from many of the frenetic Central America borders.

 First stop was the immigration office, followed by checking in with the national policia.

This is the Peru immigration building…

 Next was customs for the bike which took around 45 minutes to complete all the import permit paperwork. I looked at his customs log and I was only the 4th vehicle to cross the border here this year!

….and the Peru customs building…

…and the Per customs officer, opening the gate for me!

 With that done, the customs official opened the gate and I was off into Peru…country number 13! The road continued to be scenic as it wound its way through the mountains towards the town of San Ignacio where I stopped for a quick lunch.

Pulling into the town of San Ignacio

Back on the bike I continued south along the Rio Chinchipe towards the town of Jaen.

 I still had some daylight left so I kept rolling until nightfall caught me in Bagua Grande…a hot and dusty roadside town. I did however find a nice room for the night with secure parking for around $10.

Tomorrow I plan to plunge right into the heart of mountains of northern Peru…one of the highlights I’ve been looking forward to on this trip…

Day 151 – Loja, EC to Zumba, EC

Day 151 – Loja, EC to Zumba, EC      01/19/11      Mileage: 109

This morning while I was out at an internet joint, the package that I’ve been waiting weeks for showed up! Now I was free to make a run for the border, so I quickly packed up the bike and rolled south towards Peru.

Looking back at Loja on the way out of town…

The road from Loja turned to dirt and stayed dirt all the way to Zumba…about 15 miles north of the Peru border.

Yep, another fresh land slide that I have to wait to be cleared…

Along the way I met 2 bicyclists from Scotland. They started out in Buenos Aires 5 months ago and plan to ride all the way to the U.S….and people think I’m crazy…ha! We chatted for a bit and exchanged maps…they gave me their Peru map and I gave them my maps of Ecuador and Central America.

I rolled into Zumba around 5 and found a hotel room for $6…no running water though.

The view of the Zumba town square from my hotel…

Not bad for $6…

No Egyptian cotton here, just alphabet sheets…

I had a bodega dinner…4 beers, crackers, and some spongy twinky like thingy. Tomorrow it’s on to Peru!

Day 149-150 – Loja, EC

Day 149-150 – Loja, EC      01/18/11      Mileage: 0

Squat. Well, I did go out to use the internet, made some calls, and did do some writing for the blog. But after that I basically did squat. Oh, and I did drink some beers if that counts. Why all this sitting on my ass you ask? Well, let’s just say I’m waiting for UPS to get their head out of theirs…and deliver my &%¥$# package that was supposed to in Ecuador in my hands on Jan 5th.

Here is my token shot of the Loja town square…

Day 148 – Banos, EC to Loja, EC

Day 148 – Banos, EC to Loja, EC      01/16/11      Mileage: 382

My hotel room overlooked the Sunday local market, so before I hit the road I went over to have a look around. Even though I’ve been to many of these local markets now, I’m still always amazed by the quantity, quality and variety of the fresh produce.

Fresh whole pig…it’s whats for breakfast…

I bought one of those delicious croissant like rolls….the price, 12 cents.

After my walk around the market I packed the bike and split town. It was basically a straight bomb down the Pan American, which I often try to avoid in lieu of for more interesting roads. But much of this section of the Pan American was supposed to be a very scenic and fun to ride, and it was! The only thing slowing me down was the pea soup fog I was in and out of all day long. The following 6 helmet cam shots were taken at 1 minute intervals…




So when the fog wasn’t blocking the scenery, here’s what the view from the road looked like….

After pulling into Loja I found a room, for $8, and then went out for some dinner. Being Sunday night, it seemed there was only fast food joints open, so instead I went to the market for some groceries and went back to the room. I also stumbled on an blue law in Ecuador…and that is you can’t buy beer, wine or booze after 4pm on Sunday. I tried to buy a few beers at the market, but got the wave off by the cashier. WTF…are they trying to make sure everyone get’s to work on Monday? Luckily though, I carry a bottle of Jack D for just such an emergency…   😉

Parting Shot: A heavenly day of riding….

Day 147 – Banos, EC

Day 147 – Banos, EC      01/15/11      Mileage: 0

This morning, or more likely long ago, I ran out of anything remotely interesting to say about the morning ritual of breakfast and updating the blog and email. I also spent a fair amount of time on the phone with UPS loosing my mind. I had sent some maps and parts for my helmet from the states and it was supposed to be delivered to Hostal San Blas a good 5 days prior to my arrival. Well, it never made it and UPS in Ecuador is NOTHING like the generally efficient and well run company in the states…it’s a total shit show…and that is to say nothing of the apparently equally as inefficient Ecuador customs. So, I’m now trying to have the package sent ahead to southern Ecuador…time will tell if that will work out or not. Afterwards I ran some small errands before heading back to the hotel to chill for a bit.

Another KLR policia bike….

What trip to Banos would be complete without a visit to one of the famous thermal pools, so in the early evening I went over to the Banos de la Virgen. It was Saturday night and it was packed! The cost was only $3 to get in and I did manage to find a bit of space in the upper pool, so it was all good.

After a good soak and a shower, I went over to the Swiss Bistro for a little dinner. Swiss food you say….in Ecuador? Sure! Why not, after all it is in the mountains, they do have a bit of snow on them and there are many cows…that’s close enough in my book!

Roughing it yet again….   😉

Day 146 – Banos, EC

Day 146 – Banos, EC     01/14/11     Mileage: Local miles

The Llanovientos is not much to look at from the outside, but it’s a very nice place to stay and the view from my room is great!

The garden patio…very nice….    😉

The view from my room…not to bad!

I took a walk around town before breakfast went and over to the waterfall and bath house at the east end of town.

The famous baths in Banos. The water is a brownish color because of the high dissolved mineral content…or so they say…  😉

Breakfast was at the Blah Blah Cafe, where I had a REAL coffee, not hot milk with Nescafe, which I now know from my visit to Cafe Ruiz in Panama is No-es-cafe. I got the “Americano” breakfast, eggs, toast and juice. I often order the “tipico” local dish, but always feel like an ass as an American ordering an Americano coffee, Americano breakfast, or even a hamburger…it feels like I’m falling into a stereotype trap, and maybe I am. Do Italians feel weird ordering an espresso in Ecuador instead of that steamed hot milk shit? I should have asked those Italians back at the Equator. Anyway, after breakfast and a wee bit of internet, I fired up the KLR to have a look around the area, specifically the road east of town towards Puyo.

The first stop was to the cross perched on an overlook above the town. Actually, the very fist stop was a police checkpoint, but all he want was a look at my license.

View of town from the overlook…

And the truth in advertising awards goes to…..Secret’s…

In spots where they had built new tunnels through the mountains, you had the option to take the “old road” which was only a single lane wide and sometimes cut right into a cliff face! It’s no wonder why they built the tunnels….there’s no way two trucks would be able to pass each other. Oh, and the views from the old road were spectacular!

I stopped off at a cable car that took you across the river gorge above two waterfalls. It was a great ride, but definitely not for those afraid of heights! The view of the river canyon and waterfalls was amazing from the dangling perch high above the gorge…and it only cost $1. Back on the bike, I followed the road along the gorge which had great views of the river and surrounding mountains.

You can see the cable car gangling above the gorge in front of the right waterfall. Got to do that!

The cable car was powered by an old truck engine….I guess it’s better than pulling by hand!

That was a great ride for sure! Back on the bike I enjoyed more of the great road…

Damn, I hope that ain’t a train coming!

Further down the road I pulled off to tour the Pailón Del Diablo (the Devil’s Cauldron) which was very cool. The river crashes down into an upper pool that is almost like a cave, then thunders down the last big drop into the gorge below….wow!

You had to walk across this rickety plank to get to one of the overlooks…and the view was great!

Back on the bike I headed back towards Banos, but made one more stop to watch a couple jump off a bridge.


Another great day on the bike complete…

After more pictures of the road back to Banos, I parked the bike at the hotel and went into town for a bite, which I found at a cool little joint called Ayahuaska. I’m definitely a sucker for tapas, so I had to give it a whirl….the hummus specifically….with a Pilesner chaser. They even gave me an iced coffee frap on the house to top off my snack…very nice!

So, when in Banos, check it out! After that, no surprise, I worked on the blog at an internet joint….and chased that with several more Pilesner’s before stumbling back to the room…

Day 145 – Quito, EC to Banos, EC

Day 145 – Quito, EC to Banos, EC      01/13/11       Mileage: 213

I skipped breakfast and just had a granola bar while I worked on getting another post up and return some emails. Once that was done I packed up the bike and headed south for Banos.

My camouflage parking spot….

I had read about a detour off the main road that went high up into the mountains through some small villages, so that seemed to good to pass up.

I left the main road near Saquisili and started up into the hills. The road was paved and full of twists and turns and the scenery was phenomenal! The best part about it was aside from the occasional farm truck, I had the road to myself.

After about 45 minutes, I came upon a fresh landslide that had buried the entire road and was still in the process of being cleared. They were building a path around the slide, as it seemed the entire hill at slid onto the road.

After about 30 minutes though, they allowed me and the few trucks that were waiting to sneak through.

Here’s a pic looking back at the slide, you can see that part of the hill just slumped onto te road.

The road then began to climb steeply and soon turned to rough cobbles up a series of switchbacks. The bike was floating over them like Muhammad Ali…it was awesome.

The iconic image of Che…

The cobbles soon gave way to a rough dirt road that was in spots full of washboard, holes and very rutted…but the bike was handling it great!

It seems the Ricor parts were working their magic….I know the bike did not handle this well last week on the dirt roads back in Colombia. It was confidence inspiring and it allowed me to ramp up the pace. Soon I was hauling ass over hill and dale grinning from ear to ear in my helmet. That was of course until reality, and the limits of my skill, brought me back down to earth…almost literally. I was jammin around a right hand corner when the front end began to slide out in some soft dirt. Once again my butt was sucking up my bike seat and it was just luck and perhaps a fresh new rear tire and a bit of throttle jockeying that saved it….probably more the luck though. Well, I had my near miss for today, glad I got that out of the way. Ha. The temperature was dropping as the road continued to climb right up into the clouds and topped out at around 12,500 feet.

Once over the pass the clouds cleared and before me was an idyllic high alpine valley with a little town of Quilotoa nestled into it.

The road also soon turned back to fresh pavement and they seem to be in the process of paving the entire road…though I think it will take them some time yet to pave the whole thing.

The road continued to twist and turn and started up one last pass, this time topping out at over 13,000 feet!

Great spot for a break and a granola bar…

 The bike handled the altitude great for a carbureted bike. The only noticeable difference being a loss of power, say maybe 20% for a round number…which still proved plenty to make some passes on the way up.

Just beyond the top of the pass the road came to spot where you could see for miles up and down the valley below and a volcano off in the distance.

At that point the road plunged into the valley below down a series of switchbacks and soon after I was back on the main road south. I pulled into Banos shortly before dark and settled into the Llanovientos hotel. They gave me a great corner room with a fantastic view overlooking the downtown. Once I dropped my gear I went out for dinner and a…eehhmm…few beers.  😛

Day 144 – Quito, EC

Day 144 – Quito, EC      01/12/11      Mileage: Local miles

The coffee that came with breakfast the last few days has been un-drinkable, and I’m not super picky by any means. Today, I figured out why. When my coffee came this morning, there wasn’t any coffee in it….just a hot steaming cup of milk filled to the rim. And by milk, I mean unpasteurized, whole milk as thick as cream….but piping hot. The coffee part of the coffee was Nescafe instant that you added yourself. So, coffee con leche was really leche con however much instant coffee you put in it yourself. Like yesterday, when left alone for a minute to cool, a skin forms on the top that one would need to scrape off the top before you drink it. No complaints though…I’m eating in the super local joints, where my complete breakfast, eggs, bread, cheese, fresh juice and leche con coffee, was only $1.80!

After breakfast I returned to the hostal to get another blog post up and return some emails. I also decided to replace my rear tire now after looking at the roads ahead of me and knowing the next place I could for sure replace it would probably be Lima…which is 2,000 miles from here. I also decided to save the the more aggressive T63 tires I’m carrying for Bolivia and the Altiplano, so I’ll get them put on in La Paz. That was the plan anyway, so I set off for the Kawasaki dealer in Quito. The traffic was horrid getting there, which made me wonder why anyone would drive a car if they could ride a motorcycle. At least on a motorcycle you can splits lanes and weave between the traffic and make some progress. Anyway, I arrived and was greeted by Andres who spoke very good english….probably because he did his undergrad at Iowa State and lived in Atlantic City for a year!!

They had two tires that would fit my bike, the stock Dunlop tire and the Maxxis 6006, which I have on my ’05 KLR, so I knew that tire well. The stock tire sucks, and I had good luck with the Maxxis, so the choice was easy…and I also picked up another oil filter. I was surprised they didn’t have more of a selection, since they sell…get this…over 800 KLR’s per year!

Here are just SOME of the KLR’s they have in stock!

Yep, you read that right boys…almost $12, 000 US dollars for a KLR down here! The price does include tax though…  😛

They had the new Maxxis mounted in half an hour and I was on my way.

That’s Andres on the right…

Ahhhh, nice chunk of fresh rubber goodness….  😀

Back at the San Blas, I parked again in the living room and then went out in search of dinner. Since I only spent $1.80 on breakfast and $2 on lunch, I splurged on a nice (but lite) dinner of tuna tar tar at a wine bar called the The Atrium.

And no comments from the peanut gallery because I’m having red wine with fish…  😛

Day 143 – Quito, EC

Day 143 – Quito, EC      01/11/11      Mileage: 0

Today I combined a walk around the New City with a few errands.

Two cops and a KLR…


This is a fast food chain…funny!

The top of the list was to find batteries for my SPOT Tracker. It runs only on AAA lithium batteries, and it eats them like candy. They are expensive at $8 for a 2 pack and down here they have proved difficult to find as well…I’ve been looking for them since Panama. I checked a number of stores but finally found them in a supermarket….score! I don’t remember the last time I was in a supermarket, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I missed it a little. Even at half the size of one in the U.S., it had everything you need, all neatly organized under one roof…ahhhh…no hunting around in 20 different stores. There, I said it! I’m a hypocrite….because as many of you know I don’t like shopping in supermarkets at home…I like Trader Joes and other small markets.

Nothing says convenience more than sangria, already in a carafe with the fruit on the top.

Next I did what has come to be my favorite thing to do no matter what city I’m in, and that is to sit in a sidewalk cafe and watch the city pass by. I also use the time to do some writing for the blog…if I didn’t the blog would be somewhere back in Baja Mexico! After my fill of passers by, I started walking back towards the hostal when I saw a Buel Ulysses sitting in the window of a shop. I went over to have a closer look and was greeted by Court, the owner of Ecuador Freedom Bike Rental. It turns out he was from NYC working a corporate job and got fed up, quite and rode his Buel down to South America. Hmmm, sounds eerily familiar. He liked Quito so much, he came back and opened up Freedom Bike Rental.

He does tours and rents everything from mountain bikes, to scooters, to KLR’s, to BMW R1200GSA’s. He also has self guided GPS tours available. We chatted for a bit and about my route through Ecuador and he gave me some good ideas. I’m so glad I stopped in! So, if you’re in Ecuador and need to rent a bicycle or motorcycle or want a fully guided tour or anything in between, Court is your man.

Here are his contact details…

Ecuador Freedom Bike Rental
Jeronimo Carrion E4-133 y Amazonas
Quito, Pinchincha, Ecuador
Tel: +593 (02) 600-4459
Owner: Court Rand

I said adios to Court and went back to the hostal to get some work done for my task master…I mean blog.  😛  After getting two more posts up, I’m now only 2 days behind…righteous! I think I’ll celebrate with a Pilsener or 10…and maybe even a Jagger if I can find a bottle…

Day 142 – Otavalo, EC to Quito, EC

Day 142 – Otavalo, EC to Quito, EC      01/10/11      Mileage: 68

So after the morning fog lifted outside and from between my ears, I walked out for breakfast and strolled the market in Otavalo.

Not bad for $7 with a private bathroom. I’ve stayed in much worse for a lot more!

The famous market in Otavalo, or I should say the main market square, because on Saturday I hear the whole town is the market!

This artist had amazing paintings. I wish there were room on the bike…

The morning tasks check off, I packed the bike and rolled south for Quito which was only some 60 road miles away. However, the big event for the day was crossing the equator! I had the GPS screen displaying my current coordinates, and I was watching the latitude decrease with every passing mile working it’s way to 00.0000. Just south of Cayambe, I made it official and crossed into the southern hemisphere!

There is also a small park and sundial marking the equator’s position. The only other people there were a small group of 5 of Italian tourists, and I listened in on the tour they were getting and took some pictures.

Two of the Italian gals wanted their picture taken with the smelly gringo biker, so who am I to disappoint a lady.

After they left I had the place to myself, so is asked the gal working there if I could pull my bike onto the equator line for a picture.

This is the gal working there who let me bring the bike onto the sundial…she’s also pretty cute!

There have been some spots along the way on this trip that I knew I wanted to get the iconic picture, like the sign at the general store in Deadhosre, the Tropic of Cancer, the Arctic Circle…and of course this one. I’ve got many more to go…the Tropic of Capricorn, The “Man of the Dessert”, and of course the National Park sign in Tierra del Fuego to name a few. Pulling away I was laughing in my helmet, because at times this whole trip seems so surreal even to me…and that I’m living it. I’ve seen a hundred pictures of that line at the equator with dozens of other bikers and travelers standing in front of it…so it somehow seemed strange to finally be there in person.

Here are some stats for the first hemisphere of the trip:

Days: 142
Countries: 12
Border crossings: 17
Miles: 19,831
Kilometers:  31,915
Top speed: 89 mph (Not sure where the GPS recorded that?)
Ferrys: 5
Airplane rides: KLR – 1      Me – 2
Sets of tires: 3 (4th pair going on any day now!)
Oil changes: 4
Repair welds: 3
Flats:  0   (I may have just jinxed myself there!)
Weeks in spanish school: 3
Least expensive hotel: $7 (Hostal Maria, Otavalo, Ecuador)
Most expensive hotel: $110 (Hotel Barcelo, Guatemal City, Guatemala)

The road south continued to be fun all the way into Quito. I made a reservation at Hostal San Blas and the route there took me near Albert’s old bar, The Turtles Head, so I detoured for a picture. It was closed at the time or I would have went in for a few pints for sure.

 At the San Blas I dropped my stuff and pulled the KLR into the living room right outside the door to my room….now that is as secure as it gets short of putting her in the bed with me.

Hostal San Blas is the house in the middle…

Then, armed with my Footprint Guide to South America for Quito (Thanks to Bob W for that going away gift!), I set out to explore Old Town Quito.

Plaza San Blas outside my hostal

I toured the Basilica del Voto Nacional which is an amazing gothic church with outstanding views of the whole city from the spires. I’ll let the pictures do the talking here….

This catwalk goes across the roof of the sanctuary to the spire on the other side of the cathedral…the views from up there were great!

This is Jen, my photographer, and she’s visiting Quito from a small town 5 hours south of Quito.

Inside the clock tower…

After that I walked down to Independence Plaza in the heart the Old Town which is a great place to relax and people watch.

The National Policia down here use many different motorcycles…but also KLR’s!!

Plaza San Blas at night…

That night I went to the Vista Hermosa which is a nice bar/restaurant on the 6th floor rooftop of a building in the middle of the Old Town. The night views of the city were fantastic so I lingered up there for hours…or maybe it was just the cheap beer….but either way it was great!

Although I only rode 68 miles, it was a very full and rewarding day…the kind of day that will stand out from the rest as a truly great day.

Day 141 – Pasto, CO to Otavalo, EC

Day 141 – Pasto, CO to Otavalo, EC      01/09/11      Mileage: 164

There was no power in the hotel this morning, so that slowed down the packing process a bit as my room had no natural light. I skipped breakfast and just had a granola bar while I did some routine maintenance on the bike. Once that was done I hit the road for Ecuador, but there was one more stop I wanted to make in Colombia, and that was to visit the famous Las Lajas Sanctuary.

Here are some bullet cam shots from the road…

There is an overlook on the road to the church that affords a great view of it, and from there I could see that it was packed.

It was after all Sunday around noon, so I guess that shouldn’t be a surprise. I decided to pass on going in for the tour, so I just took my pictures and split for the border.

Getting out of Colombia took only 15 minutes for both me and the bike, much less time than any of the gents in the picture above I suspect.

This nice lady had the bike processed out of Colombia in 2 minutes!

No lines at immigration to stamp myself out of Colombia…sweet!

Changing my Colombian Peso’s into good ‘ol U.S. greenbacks…

Ecuador took quite a while but was very straight forward and didn’t cost a dime. It took about 2 hours, partly because of the long line at immigration and the one gentleman working at customs was, shall we say, deliberate in his pace of work. Well, at least he won’t die from stress!

Pulling up to the Ecuador border buildings…

This is the immigration line inside the building…it went out the door and around the building, but I forgot to get a pic.

The KLR patiently waiting for her import permit at the aduana office….

With that done, I was set loose in Ecuador…country number 12 for this trip! The scenery continued to be rivaled only by how much fun the road was. There was some rain here and there along the way, but that certainly didn’t dampen my spirits.

The road from the border to Ibarra was fantastic both in scenery and fun to ride factor. The bullet cam was out of juice which was too bad, I might have had more great road shots. I stopped for the night in Otavalo which is famous for it’s local market, in particular the Saturday market. I found secure parking and a private room w/ bath at Hostal Maria for only $7. It was also nice to not have to convert all the prices to U.S. dollars, as Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar as it’s currency. The only thing missing at the hostal was wifi, so I set off to find dinner, beers and some wifi. Each country so far has had what amounts to a “national beer” (or maybe 2 or 3), and Ecuador’s is called Pilsener. Of all the “national beers” I’ve had along the way, this is by far my favorite and is very drinkable….and that’s the excuse I’m using for drinking my body weight that night. I certainly paid the price the next morning…

Day 140 – Cali, CO to Pasto, CO

Day 140 – Cali, CO to Pasto, CO      01/08/10      Mileage: 248

I was up, packed and on the road at the crack of 10am this morning….not exactly the alpine start I wanted. Either way, I should still make it to Pasto which was my target for today. The road started out flat down the valley in which Cali lies, but soon started climbing back up into the mountains. The views were great and the road was even better. I put more pre-load on the Ricor shock this morning and it was paying dividends, as the KLR felt even better than yesterday.

Today I mounted the bullet camera above my left grip, so you’re seeing what my left hand sees…


Doing the misty mountain hop…

Pulling into Pasto, and out of the rainy mountains….

I pulled into Pasto around 4pm and spent the next hour trying to track down a room. I finally ended up at the Koala Inn, which was decent and only $13 for a room with a private bathroom.

After settling in, I walked around town for a bit and had a lite dinner.

When I returned to the room, I worked on the blog for a bit and the hit the hay. Tomorrow it will be on to Ecuador….country #12!

Day 139 – Medellin, CO to Cali, CO

Day 139 – Medellin, CO to Cali, CO      01/07/11      Mileage: 266

Today was a transit day down to Cali and half of that road I had already ridden, so it was not a super exciting day. So after chatting with Albert over coffee and saying goodbye to his attractive staff, I hit the road.

The one exiting thing today was getting to try out the new Ricor suspension parts with the bike loaded up. As expected, the suspension is way better than stock! First off, the ass end of the bike now sits up where it’s supposed to instead of sagging like it was. The next thing I noticed is that the bike felt 100 lbs lighter, partly I’m sure due to the steering head angle now being back where it should be because the back end is up where it’s supposed to be. A problem I noticed with the stock KLR shock is that the rear end bounced around and lost contact with the ground under power over bumps. Now, when I gas it over rough sections of road, the rear tire remains planted and hooked up with the road… and does not bounce around…amazing! This is all just on pavement…I can’t wait to get it off-road! OK granted, the KLR’s stock suspension is not very sophisticated, but holy crap what a difference! So I knew that the Ricor shock would be a substantial improvement over the squishy stock unit, but I was shocked (pardon the pun) at how well the Intiminator inertia valves improved the front forks. For adventure travel, I didn’t really have a problem with the front forks and I think they are adequate for the job at hand. However, the stock forks have three weaknesses in my opinion, they dive a lot under braking, do not absorb square edge bumps well and loose contact with the road over chattery sections of road because they can’t react fast enough. All of those problems were mostly eliminated with the Ricor Intiminators. They use 5 weight oil, much lighter than the stock oil, so the forks feel much more lively and are faster to react. When braking, the Intiminator valve remains closed limiting the front end dive. When the wheel hits a bump, the valve opens allowing the fork to compress much faster to absorb the bump. I know a tiny bit about inertia valves as the rear suspension of my Stumpjumper mountain bike also has an inertia valve they call “the Brain”, and I know how well that works! I’m looking forward to really testing the Ricor parts back in the dirt where it counts! Also, just for the record, this is my honest no BS assessment of the Ricor parts, sponsorship aside.

Now, for the not so shameless plug:

So, I rolled into Cali shortly after dark and found the Casa Blanca hostel, popular with overland biker as they have secure parking 2 doors down. After dropping my gear, I went out for quick dinner before calling it a night.

Day 138 – Medellin, CO

Day 138 – Medellin, CO      01/06/11      Mileage: 0

At 7am there was a knock on the door to my room. I opened it to find the Shamrock’s cleaning lady with a notice she found taped to the door of the pub about my package. Score! So after some jawing with Albert over a coffee, I hopped a taxi to the central post office to retrieve the Ricor goodies! The form said I owed $45 for import duties…a real bargain compared to some of the horror stores I’ve heard, like $300 for an umbrella! After about 45 minutes of the usual photo copies, paper shuffle and bureaucratic bumbling, I had the Ricor box in my cabbage claspers! I was giddy like a 5 year old on Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza morning and promptly opened the box to inspect the goods. The shock is a beefy hunk of well machined aluminum and the spring looks to be double the diameter of the whimpy stock shock.  I hurried back at the Shamrock, loaded the new bits on the bike and went to the Kawasaki dealer a few blocks away. I was told that service was closed until Tuesday…it was only Thursday. Crap! Indeed, all of the shops seemed to be closed…apparently they all close at the same time for the holidays. Luckily for me, there was one shop still open…MSM.

 Inside I was greeted by Daniel and I told him my story. It turns out that my luck would continue as Daniel totally hooked me up! He brought the KLR right in and had the mechanic, Edwim, start right in on it.

Daniel is on the right, Edwim on the left.

First he dropped the forks and disassembled them to install the Intiminator’s.

It’s actually pretty simple, as they just drop in between the push rod and the spring, top it up with 5 weight oil and re-install the forks. Edwim made it look even easier as he knows all the little tricks of the trade.

What took him 40 minutes would have taken me 2 hours I’m sure! Next up was of course the Ricor shock. That just bolts directly in place of the old unit.

Comparing them side by side was almost laughable…the stock shock looks every bit as whimpy as it is next to the beefy Ricor unit, and the Ricor is noticeably lighter to boot! Edwim had the new shock in place in a few minutes and that was it….done!

The clean looking blue thing in the midst of the all the dried mud is my beautiful new Ricor shock!

I was also looking for a set of tires, which MSM didn’t have in stock, but Daniel made some calls and tracked down a set for me at another shop a few miles away. Awesome! So, if you guys find yourselves in Medellin and need anything for your moto, MSM is your shop and Daniel is your man! Oh, and he also speaks very good english also!

So, I thanked Daniel and Edwim for their excellent and prompt service and headed off to Africa Motos to pick up the tires Daniel had tracked down for me.

I was greeted by Andres who also took great care of me. I noticed some shops guys cleaning up some bikes in the back, so I asked Andres if he could squeeze the old war horse in for a cleaning, seeing as the last time it was washed was in Los Angeles! He said no problem at all and cued up the KLR next for a bath. While that was being done, I walked out for some lunch and found an ATM for more fun tickets.

When I returned the KLR was just coming out of the wash area and they did an outstanding job cleaning her up, considering the mud bath I had given her 3 days earlier.

So, with a fresh set of tires strapped to the back, Ricor suspension upgrades installed and a fresh cleaning, I was ready to get back on the road south! Tomorrow, I set off for Cali and hopefully I will be in Ecuador in 3 days time.

Day 137 – Cerca Valparaiso, CO to Medellin, CO

Day 137 – Cerca Valparaiso, CO to Medellin, CO      01/05/11      Mileage: 58

After breakfast I packed up the bike to head back to Medellin. The bike had another plan and stalled every time I put it in gear. Bollix! Well, there were two likely candidates…the clucth safety switch and the side-stand safety switch. On my 2005 KLR, I had bypassed both of these because all they do is cause you trouble for the small amount of safety they provide, in my opinion anyway. So, after some trouble shooting it ended up being the side-stand safety switch, but not the switch itself but the wire that runs to it. It seems over the last two days of rough roads, when I had bottomed out the bike a few times, the center-stand mount had bent just enough to pinch the wires going to the side-stansd switch causing a short. The fix was easy, cut the wires and twist them together, tape them up and zip tie them to the frame. Done.

So, that problem solved I hit the road back to Medellin hoping to collect the Ricor parts …which I really wish I had for the last 2 riding days!

I goofed around with the helmet cam also by mounting it on the left side engine guard, so your seeing what my left foot is seeing! lol.

Back at the Shamrock I met up with Albert who was back from Scotland so it was nice to finally meet him. unfortunately, there were no Ricor parts yet and I was beginning to formulate a plan B. As good as Medellin is to visit, I need to keep rolling south as the clock is now ticking in Ushuaia to arrive and get out of there before winter arrives. That night I returned to my favorite cafe in the Zona Rosa and wrote a bit more for the blog as I’m still several days behind.