Ecuador, 18 Mar '03
August 06, 2003 GMT

There were 4 young 'boys' standing guard on a balcony; i didn't waste my breath on them....things didn't improve by my going into the office, although the entertainment value sored!

Passport stamped for 90days. But the guy at the window for vehiculos couldn't deal with the bike. He said i'd have to go 7km into Tulcan.
The first place i came to happened to be a police stn. I went in to ask where the Aduana were; of course i was told to go to the frontera. No, no really... there are offices here in town...but where? He suggested i go around the corner to the main police compound.
There were 4 young 'boys' standing guard on a balcony; i didn't waste my breath on them. Even the older man knew nothing. Things didn't improve by my going into the office, although the entertainment value sored!
Knee-high boots shining, legs splayed wide, arms up on the back of the sofa; sat the classic version of a Latin Dictator. Wearing Gucci sunglasses. His green uniform was loaded with stripes and epaulettes.
He invited me to sit beside him.
30yrs old, single and just made lieutenant; what a catch! He knew nothing either, but asked me to come back sit and be cool on the sofa i guess!
He never took his glasses off and i never stopped grinning -trying not to laugh!
So.. back to the business of bringing the berloody bike in...
After everyone, including a taxi driver, told me to go to the border - i went to the town centre.
The first taxi driver i asked gave me near perfect directions and sure enough there were the Aduana offices. Just to wait for everyone to return from lunch and get stamped in.
Nothing complex; no papers, no copies, no typing...just a rubber stamp. They should have one made for the guy at the frontera...porque no.
I only got 25 days for the bike. No begging. I didn't care to offer payment.

There is a cloud forest on the way to Otavalo and i was tempted by a bit of bird watching; but didn't fancy getting wet! Funny duck.
Otavalo is a lovely little market town. For such a touristy place there were hardly any there! After being in Colombia where a huge percentage of the travelers are male, i was looking to have a laugh with some female travelers...where is everybody?
I enrolled in a spanish 'school' was more like meet Blanca for an afternoon tea and chat! Very pleasant way to learn, and she has a very good method of teaching. I learned a lot in 4 days.
On the way to Quito i crossed the Equator! Not a first for me, but the first with a moto. I had to pinch myself ...yes i am really in South America! loca.
I like to arrive in a big cities on sunday, very quiet traffic wise for hostal hunting.
Spotted BMW on the way in and went up there on monday to deal with the sump leak.
A lot of head shaking and dismay. I wanted to cry; but what's done is done.
They came up with a strange nut to fit the threads further up inside....threw in a new filter and oil. Then a hot wash- it had been some time; tons of mud washed away. 'Nowt' to pay...cheers boys!!
I was sat at a set of lights on my way out of Quito. Lights changed, traffic rolled. What i didn't realize was that the taxi in front was sat over an open!! Wow any wider and i'd have disappeared for sure. Cuidado.
My planned excursions btwn Quito and Baños were aborted for weather straight to Baños.
The toll roads in Ecuador are hit and miss; sometimes motos are free, sometimes i had to dig out 5 cents.
Baños is a lovely little place to wander in the hills, soak in the hot pools, and the zoo is worth a visit too. I'm never usually keen on zoos, but this one i enjoyed. There are tapirs roaming, or rather lounging free.
On the way to Riobamba and Cuenca, i took the 'wrong' road out of Ambato. I realized this after 30km, but i like the road less traveled so decided not to go back.
Great ride! Everyone should do this one, it makes a 360º (ok, nearly) around the country's highest peak; Volcun Chimborazo 6310m.
The clouds teased with brief glimses, then finally cleared away for amazing views; you can almost see it melting.


I stopped for photos of a herd of alpaca, with two baby ones - so fuzzy and cute. As i crept around behind; so the bike and volcun could be in the photo of course! 2 dogs came charging out of the tall grass!! I froze and they calmed down, i slowly backed away to the bike....buenos chicos.... Crickey.
It was windy and cold 'round the other side of the volcun. A stop for tea in a funky place, more Tibetan than American. There were a dozen kids, aged 2 to 6, under a table; laughing and playing with a spinning top. A little one, 3yrs, had the exact laugh as my niece - a real cracker straight from the gut. Pangs of home....
Anyway, what with my wonderful "wrong" turn, i ended up in Guayaquil!! Banana land. 36ºC at 7pm! It was getting dark as i zeroed-in on the hotel, then it started to pour cats and dogs. I asked a taxi for a quick
I had been lugging an old (heavy) OM1 and not using it enough. So along to Fed-X....expensive. $50 for the camera; $75 with the sw radio, (the radio was pissing me off - bad reception, poor programming -the Olympic Games stlye coverage of the Operation in Iraq).
They were busy packaging already, i was still stood in shock at the price. No no no.
"It's ok, we'll make a better price" ...Well can i have the better price first?
Both for $50. Oh, that is better, but $30 is even better! OK.
Ok,, just like that. You've got to love S.America; everything is possible.

I continued my zig-zag of this country by heading back through the cane and bananas, up into the clouds, to Cuenca. After miles of creeping through the mist, finally i popped up over a thick sea of cotton. Just like an aero plane!
More good times with more good people; but i had to make a move out of Cuenca.
A decision had to be made. At the cross roads...the black clouds in the mountains? Or the blue skies to banana land? Oh yes, follow the blue.
Although this brought me to 75km of the border, i wanted to visit the Bosque de Petrificado (petrified forest) near Poyang.
I had decided to over stay my 25 days, gambling that the aduana wouldn't count. I said wouldn't ...not couldn't!
So i zigged back inland to Poyang, then continued to the Macara crossing. Another lonely ride through misty mountains where villages seem to have no exit, and streets end with no warning in an abyss of construction. Of course the endless supply of chasing dogs.
Leaving Ecuador i didn't even get off the bike for Aduana. Curb service, right-on. No one counted how many days i stayed.

Posted by Jo-Anne Smith at 01:01 PM GMT

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