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!