Saturday, 21 December 2013

264 Into Equador

Tuesday 17th December 2013
Miles Today  86 Total  29,079

Karen got her cat fix at breakfast. This little follow lives on the roof of the hotel.

So, how bad do you want me to look ?
We then set off late for the relatively short 80 odd mile trip to Popayan. The weather was atrocius and hence no photos. We sat through rain virtually all day. On arrival in Popayan, the town was a cute little place and is apparently on the UNESCO heritage list. The Hotel we picked to stay in was a bit decadent. It was the monastery attached to a cathedral. We popped into the centre of town for a bite. Karen went out without her sling for the first time (it was soaking wet).

Look Mum, no sling and arms up.

Llamas are so cute

The cathedral attached to our hotel

Wednesday 18th December 2013
Miles Today  154 Total  29,233

The weather improved slightly but we put our wet gear on anyway. 
In the daylight, the hotel we were in was impressive.

The courtyard of our hotel.

The hotel restaurant
Once we set off, the aftermath of yesterdays rain was apparent. There were landslides and trees down everywhere.

We nearly ran into this.

...and this
As the hill started to dry, they left some eerie clouds forming.

Again, as with previous journeys through Colombia, we passed through many mountain villages.  On either side of the road, there were little shelters and in them sat the elder people of the village.  I mostly saw, older women, but as a vehicle approached, they moved with an agility that belied their age, to hold out their hands, basically begging.   It would have been difficult to give them anything at the speeds we were traveling, (all within the limits), and once you'd dodged the old girls, there were families, I kid you not, either side of the road, with a rope across the carriageway, and as they saw you, they lifted it up to try and slow you down, a bit of extra throttle soon had them dropping it, but a little bit worrying at first.  I would help most people, but I found this all a bit sad.
In the main, I have really enjoyed Colombia.  It has been fun, noisy, bustling and in certain places, quiet.  We have both felt safe, the majority of the time, and it is obvious that the people want to move on from the reputation that Colombia has had.  I will be the first to admit, I didn't want to spend much time here, but I'm glad we did, it really is a beautiful country.  
The road became very bumpy so we stopped to adjust the suspension and found these critters in the ditch beside us.

Hundreds of mini butterflies.

We stopped for coffee and the local cops were were too.
 As usual the scenery was fantastic - when you could see it. We were often in the clouds as we were at around 2600m

Waiting for the roadworks.

Thursday 19th December 2013
Miles Today  224 Total  29,457

 Another early start for a 200 mile series of bends.

 Just before the border with Equador we stopped at a famous sanatorium where the church straddles the gorge.
Karen was worried I might swap her for one or two of these.

The long steep walk down into the gorge presented us with this. Another Disney church. We did not go in due to lack of time.

Going back up was hard work. At this altitude there is only 75% air. The walls of the path are adorned with plaques of the departed.

A view going back up the hill.
 We eventually arrived at the border of Ecuador and the exit from Colombia could not be simpler. All done in about 15 minutes. Immigration at Ecuador was simple too. The problem came when we tried to get Wallace into the country. At the customs office is a list of things needed to temporarily import a vehicle. I got these things ready and queued up. Once at the counter I was asked for photocopies of everything. Shame this detail was not on the list. I queued up again and this time they wanted a photo copy of my entry stamp too. Back to the copy shop. I went to queue up at the window again only to to have it shut in my face as the clerk had finished for the day. I queued up for a third time at a different window. As you can imagine, I was about to blow my stack but that would then have given them an excuse not to permit Wallace's entry.  We eventually got served and after a frustrating 3 hours we were off again. We were expecting 1 hour and now we knew we would be riding in the dark.

The calm before the storm.

We passed Ecuador's palaeontology museum.

Their health and safety differs from ours. We had to wait for our turn to pass the roadworks and having been let through we had to negotiate a sand storm.  There is a truck under the cloud being loaded up.
We hadn't eaten all day so stopped off at a little town for petrol and they had a restaurant serving local food.  Ray loves this, me I'm a little bit more reticent about trying the local cuisine. However it didn't look too bad.  Ray had a local stew thingy, and I thought I was safe with a chicken drumstick and  boiled potatoes.  I watched as the lady behind the counter dished up and saw her put 3 slices of what looked like lasagne pasta sheets on my plate, along with the potatoes, odd combination, but I'll give it a try.  The chicken and the potatoes were delicious, but the pasta sheets were thin slices of fat, unfortunately that was a big no from me.  Ray's stew was apparently quite good.  We got back on the road and  headed on towards Quito.
At around 7pm we crossed the Equator, in the dark and rain. It was an event I was looking forward to and there was not even a sign to mark it. We arrived at Quito, the capital of Ecuador at just after 8pm, it was very dark and we had driven through about 5 thunderstorms. We found a very nice (and cheap hotel) went for a Chinese meal and then just crashed into bed. Tomorrow is going to be an even harder day....

Friday 20th December 2013
Miles Today  270 Miles Total  29,727
We were on the road at 9 this morning, both dreading the long journey, but determined to do it so we could have tomorrow off for preparing for our flight to the Galapagos Islands for Christmas..... Yeah............  I am so excited. 
Getting out of Quito wasn't as bad as we has expected either, but I was surprised by the size of the place.  As you leave town, to head south, we felt like we were on a bridge almost, although it is just an elevated section of the road, you could look off to both sides and houses and the city just stretched out as far as the eye could see, down into the valley. 
The roads turned out to be pretty good, with the mountain section being on a similar level to that of Deals Gap in America, but on a much larger scale.  The weather was cool and grey, but not wet, thank goodness.  Ray seemed to really enjoy the swooping around the bends and the road surfaces were brilliant.  All in all, it passed by very pleasantly.   Lunch time arrived, and Ray wanted to stop for more local, traditional food, me, I was happy to wait for dinner time.  However, he spotted one little restaurant, and said we should go there.  I pointed out, that as there was no one eating there, it was probably not good, but undeterred we pulled in and ordered local soup, and within minutes, the whole place was packed out with locals, and after yesterday's grim dinner, today's, was absolutely delicious, and we had just got there at the right time.  First.
We decided to put some video clips together of the view from the back seat and to so show the gorgeous scenery and slick tarmac that we have had the pleasure to ride on in Colombia and Ecuador. The vid is a bit over 2 minutes and does not do the actual place any justice but here it is anyway.

The rest of the journey was completed and we got into Guayaquil about 3.30pm.  Ray wanted to visit the airport, to find out where the secure parking was, so we didn't waste time on Sunday morning, when we fly out to the Galapagos Islands for Christmas, (have I mentioned that already)?   In his unique style, and because anyone who rides a Yamaha bike, must be good, he asked this little guy, stopped next to us in a traffic jam, where the secure parking at the airport was.  To my surprise, he spoke English and said "follow me".   I can't help but wonder where we are going to end up, or how much the ransome might be, but as it turned out, he was a police officer from Ecuador, loved the fact that we were ex police officers, and got us following him down bus lanes and cutting through traffic being directed by his mates... You couldn't make it up, and how does Ray do that?   He got me to take a picture of him and Ray with his phone, but I didn't manage to get one myself, so Fernando Perez, many thanks.
We hadn't booked a hotel yet, so after a few false starts, (as in 126 dollars a night to 10 dollars, plus cockroaches, all declined),  we are booked into "Mi Casa" Hotel, which is in the center of town.  We have a few bits to sort out before we fly to The Galapagos on Sunday morning, but after Pizza and a couple of beers, we showed our age again and had another early night. 

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