On December the 10th we left San Agustin on what was to turn out as one of the best roads of the trip so far. The first 50km or so were paved but all that suddenly came to an abrupt end as the road soon turned to rock. Yes rock, that’s the best and only way to describe the surface we were riding on. The road twisted through the jungle winding up into the mountains for about 150km. There were many water crossings along the way, riding on rock these crossings were quite slippery. I almost ended up on my side in one such crossing but the determination to keep my laptop and cameras dry prevailed and I somehow managed to keep upright. The road was cut into the mountain side and in parts it was no more than 2 meters wide. Traffic was light luckily enough except for the odd convoy of trucks which had us pulling up on the verge of 300 meter drops at some stages.
Along route Andre got his 3rd puncture in 3 riding days. We’re pretty used to fixing Andre’s bike now and all set about doing our various tasks and had it fixed on the side of a cliff in no time.
We rode this 150km of rock for about 4 hours, it was a fantastic ride and well worth it. The road finally wound down to a little village where we stopped for lunch, the local girls wanted to know who was married and who had girlfriends, I think they wanted to hop on the back of the bikes and come with us.
About another hour later we arrived in the beautiful town of Pasto, only kidding, Pasto is a hole, that didn’t matter one bit though the people there are friendly and helpful. It just puzzles me that Colombia is such a beautiful place and that so many people choose to live in such crap holes. We found a hostel, had dinner and called it a night. Another great day in the saddle.
The next morning we loaded up our bikes while they were parked on the footpath outside the hostel. Soon a crowd had gathered to watch all the commotion. The’re were people taking photos of us from every angle. The locals all thought we were participants in the Dakar rally. Poor participants without support trucks no doubt.
We headed off towards the border a short hour or so’s ride through great mountain roads. We were reaching some crazy speeds racing everything in sight, the locals were doing there best to keep up which made the ride interesting and deadly to say the least.
The border crossing was the easiest to date. Exiting Colombia took about 20 minutes for the four of us, entering Ecuador was straight forward as well except for the guy in customs who filled out the forms typing slowly with one finger. He took over an hour to fill out 4 simple forms. All the same it was nice to have no one bothering or hassling you throughout the crossing. We were free in Ecuador, country number 31 on my motorcycle adventures.
We headed off through the Andes once again towards the town of Otavolo. The main roads in Ecuador are also well maintained, they twist up and down through some amazing scenery, it reminded me of northern Iran in parts, beautifully dry and mountainous.
Along route we were stopped by the cops again for no apparent reason. They weren’t too interested in myself, Mark or Andre though. It was Kerman they were after. They took all his paper work and started making phone calls. Kerman is riding a Honda 650 XLR bike that’s registered in his sisters name in the US, he’s French and rides on a fake Tanzanian licence, all great ingredients to get you in trouble in foreign lands. They let the rest of us go so we headed off slowly and waited at a restaurant in the next town. No point in hanging around with these guys , sooner or later they start looking for money for something or other. Kerman soon showed up and we found out what happened. Apparently there are 2 XLR’s registered in Ecuador, one belongs to the son of some big shot and was stolen recently. There is a country-wide search going on for Mr big shots sons bike. Not good news for Kerman who will most likely get stopped and questioned throughout Ecuador. We reached the town of Otavolo and called it a day.
Andre set about dismantling his whole bike again because it was running on one piston. After a bit of work and some prayer himself and Mark somehow managed to fix it. I pushed in one of his spark plugs properly while all this was going on, I reckon that was the problem all along but Andre wont admit it.
Later on that evening I checked my email to find another urgent message to contact home. I Skyped my girlfriend who had the unenviable task of informing me that one of my best friends had been found dead in Vietnam. This is the second time in six weeks she has had to give me terrible news. I informed the guys and went and found a bar, still in shock. We knocked back beer all night.
Now I had no choice but to ride to Quito and arrange to fly home to be with Michael’s family. It was a short sad ride to Quito for me.
Along the way we stopped off at the Equator to stand on the centre of the world. There is a giant monument to this imaginary line here built by the French. The 30-meter-tall monument was built between 1979 and 1982, the only problem is that it’s in the wrong place. The real Equator line is about 500 meters away on private property which the owners have turned into a park of sorts. There are some strange goings on there for sure. It’s possible to close your eye’s and walk a straight line anywhere except for right on the equator, you simply cannot do it. You can also balance an egg on a nail right on the line and nowhere else, your strength is easily halved while standing on it and my favourite of all is the water circulation observation.
A dish was placed right on the line with leaves in it, when the plug was pulled the water flowed straight down, move the dish 2 meters to the right and the water swirled clockwise and 2 meters to the left and the water swirled anticlockwise. Now I know all about the Coriolis force so don’t go writing to me telling me it was a trick. It may have been but I know what I saw an it was cool.
Afterwards we rode through Quito to the tourist area, it took ages to navigate around the city traffic. Quito is to put it mildly, huge. We found a hotel and I was able to go on-line and book a flight back to Ireland. The following morning I left my bike with a friend of a friend of a friend and headed back to Cork.
I am now typing this from Houston Airport while I make my way back to Quito. I will pick up my bike tomorrow and resume my trip.