The shipping from Panama, amazingly, went without a hitch and I even managed to clear Thelma through customs in one day, with help from Ralph and Maryanne (from Australia) who happened to be on their bike in Quito at the same time as me. Ricardo had a shock when he met me; apparently he was expecting me to be a bloke...
Ecuador has been fantastic, made even more so by the Caravana Bike Tour. This was a four-day bike extravaganza with motorcyclists from all over Ecuador, three from Louisiana in the States, myself and Anthony (Griffin), also from England on his Tenere who joined us in Baņos.
I opted for the off-road 1000 kms route - the best fun I have had in a long time. We went from high (4800 metres) in the mountains down to the jungle and then to the beaches on the coast. Some fairly extreme conditions - but then for anyone who has been intimate with Ecuadorian roads, if the locals are saying this is going to be an off-road trip it really is.
At one point the track was so narrow that Thelma got jammed, so we got lifted over the rocks by the Cuenca Boys (10 dirt riders from Cuenca)- for some reason it seemed a logical decision for me to stay on Thelma during this critical moment, perhaps the fact that I was the only woman there had some influence.
I was the only one not riding a Japanese bike, which meant that Thelma was the biggest and heaviest bike doing the route, luckily she didn't let me down and we coped with everything they threw at us including my old nemesis from Africa - sand! A couple of spills as I tried to remind myself it's all in the mind.
It was great fun to have the luxury of riding the dirt tracks with no luggage - my panniers travelled on the support vehicle. If anyone is in Ecuador with their bikes next year when Ricardo organises the next Caravana - definitely join in.
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