December 22, 2009 GMT

We set off at a reasonable hour the next day in gorgeous Colombian sunshine, but with in an hour of leaving, the skies had once again darkened, and as we neared Popayan, the heavens opened once more. We pulled into town in search of hot chocolate and nourishment, in the hope that the weather would clear up, but no such luck.
We decided to leave town anyway, Popayan didn’t look that appealing in the rain, so once more, we dressed up in our rain gear and got on the bike, we had ridded only a few blocks when I spied a couple on a BMW stopped at a junction. We rode over to them and asked where they were going. We got to talking to the young French couple, and decided that as we were all going in the same direction, we would look for a hotel in town and move off together in the morning. We rode around the town until we found a hotel with internet and parking, and just as we were getting back on the bikes to park up, another two BMW’s turned up. As it happened, a British couple that had met the frenchies previously in Cartagena owned these bikes. Now we were a real posse!
We all checked in to the hotel, and dined that night together in Popayan. We all got along great , and Jacquie and I were looking forward to riding with our new mates.

We left Popayan early the next morning in a 4 bike convoy. Somehow I ended up leading the group, and of course got us all lost on the way out of town, but soon we were back on the Pan American and en route to the border.

In Convoy with our new BMWist mates

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More stuning scenery in Southern Colombia

We all wanted to see one more sight before we left Colombia, the Cathedral built into the valley near Ipiales, so we rode down to the town , and found our last hotel in Colombia, a converted convent 5 minutes walk away from the Las Lajas cathedral. We parked our bikes inside the old convent, popped up the local eatery for dinner, and then returned to the convent to sleep.
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Parked up at the Convent

The Cathedral at Ipaiales, built on tyhe spot where the Virgin Mary appeared for the 1st time to an indigenous Colombian

We walked to the Cathedral in the morning, our last stop before the border, and 2 hours later, we entered Ecuador.


ecuador border.jpg

In Ecuador, our man in the customs office was just plain mean and miserable.
We all arrived at the border together, our French friends, Thom and Flo, 2 up on their BMW, and Rik and Emily, the Brits, on a BMW each. Rik took great pleasure in taking the Mickey out of our choice of bike, but stopped laughing when he couldn’t keep up with us on the smooth roads.
So six bikers rocked up to the customs office. The girls stayed with the bikes while the boys took the papers to the office. I knocked on the door, and when no one replied ,I opened it and poked my head inside to see what I should do.
The lone customs officer shouted at me to wait outside by the window. I retreated hastily and apologetically, and went over to the window. I told Rik and Thom that the dude had screamed at me to get out and wait so, that was exactly what I intended to do.
After 5 minutes and no movement, Thom knocked on the window. The angry little customs man opened up and now shouted at Thom, “ I am trying to work here! Just wait”
Thom tried to ask if we should come back later, or how long we should wait, but the window was shut in his face and the conversation abruptly ended. Next, it was Rik’s turn. We had waited outside this guy’s window for half an hour, and still nothing. Rik knocked on the door and gingerly popped his head in. Thom and I waited for the angry screams, but none came . Rik re-emerged a minute or so later to inform us that the custom guy was now on his lunch break. There were now a couple of other people also waiting, one of them, a local, told us this was quite normal. I had had enough by this stage, so I walked over to the uniformed police office who was randomly checking the contents of passing cars, and told him what was going on. He was surpised that we were still waiting outside and went over to talk to the customs officer. This seemed to have some effect. We were told to get our chassis numbers checked by the police, and to get our papers ready. By this stage the papers had been ready fro an hour.
One by one, the customs dude saw us, and as he processed our papers he did not stop complaining about how much work he has to do , and how unacceptable his conditions are and so on. At one point, he moaned to me, in Spanish, that he found it disgusting how many foreigners passed through his border and did not speak Spanish. I protested that all three of us spoke Spanish, and as it was his job to deal with foreigners on a daily basis, maybe he should be the one with linguistic capabilities. Oops, shouldn’t have said that! Fortunately, my papers were nearly done, so I just had to listen to him rant for a few minutes. Thom was in next, and I think he took the brunt of our customs mate’s wrath! Rik looked like he was waiting to go see the headmaster after getting into trouble at school, I was just pleased it was over.
A mere two and half hours later, we were in Ecuador for real, and we immediately started to enjoy our newest country.


Our first stop was at a famous cemetery, known for its huge hedge sculptures amongst other things. We split up and had a quick walk around here before bugging out and riding on to Otovalo. We followed the French who had already found a hostel with parking, and arrived at our lodgings just before the sunset.
We parked up, checked in, and went out for Pizza.





The next morning, we rose early to see the market. Otovalo has one of the biggest indigenous markets in South America, and we spent a good few hours walking round the market, trying on traditional hats and alpaca sweaters. After spending a little too much money in the market, we split into three groups, the French went into town , Rik and Em went to see Condors, and Jacquie and I went to the nearby waterfalls.


That evening, we all met up again and went out for dinner. I managed to persuade the waiter to let me behind the bar to make Passion fruit Caipirinhas for the table, and we got slowly drunk!
otbar.jpgotdrunk1.jpgotdrunk3.jpgotdrunk4.jpgotdrunk5.jpg The French looking slightly the worse for wear after one of my killer Caipirinhas!

On our way to the Equator

Next stop, the Equator, we rode past the monument on the Pan American and dropped in to take photos with the bikes in front of the Equator monument before continuing on to Quito.

equator mon.jpg

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Waiter , waiter, there's a foot in my soup!

We found suitable accommodations fairly easily, and set about doing what needed to be done in the city before moving south. I had to look up Ricardo Rocco, who had replied to my Horizons post, and also had to sort out a few bits and pieces for the bike, a new horn was desperately needed, riding without a horn in South America is almost suicidal, although I had gotten quite good at screaming warnings at drivers that were getting to close, I also needed to find a new hinge for one of the boxes and wanted to go visit the brand new Harley Dealer that was in the process of opening.
We met Ricardo in his office where he ran a Motorcycling School. He welcomed us with a huge grin and an even bigger ‘moto hug”. We liked Ricardo immediately; he exuded what they would call in Central America “Buen Honda” or “good vibes”.
We sat and chatted in his office for a while, then went out lunch. We talked more about bikes- Ricardo had 3, about bike trips, he was planning a trip in December from LA to Ecuador, and about the world wide community of bikers.
Ricardo fell in love with Garth, and we loved him!!A real super guy

We had received so much great hospitality from bikers throughout the trip, and it was really heart warming to experience it. Lois Pryce’s name came, and the book that almost everyone we met on the road seemed to have read, and it clicked that this was the guy with the ”porn star name” in her book. What a coincidence!
We laughed about this for a while, and then Ricardo led us up to the Harley dealers to meet the owner, Roger, who very proudly showed us a round his smart, new dealership.
Roger, on his spangly 2009 Police Harley

We fiddled around with the bike, still no joy trying to fix my headlights, and the horn I would have to find for myself, but the boxes were fixed, and I was given an old horn so I would know what to get .
Ricardo assisted me further by getting a mate of his to lead me round town to several moto accessory shops in search of a horn, which we finally found on the 4th try.
I went back to the hotel and fitted the horn, before going off to meet the rest of the posse. Today was our last day together, everyone off on their own journeys.
We celebrated Rik’s birthday at breakfast, then said our goodbyes.

Jacquie and I were off to “Metad del Mondo”, another “middle of the world” kind of mini theme park.



A shrunken head in the museum at the Metad del Mondo

Who's that on my HOG??

We had a lot of fun at the equator, we did the experiments with the water going down the plughole, on one side of the equator the water goes down the plughole clockwise, on the other side, anticlockwise, and bang on the equator, it goes straight down. I had seen this experiment on TV before, and had been really looking forward to seeing it for myself. We had a look around some of the other displays; shrunken heads, mock ups of traditional style mud houses and a huge display of insects and spiders, participated in a couple more experiments, and then we were on our way again, on the long road up to Esmeraldas beach.

We rode for 4 or five hours through some beautiful Ecuadorian scenery. The land changed so quickly and so dramatically from scorched brown earth, to lush fields, mountains, and finally cloud forest, before we descended once more to the coast. We arrived at Esmeraldas, and continued straight back down the coast again. Esmeraldas was a built up beach resort, towering sky-rises, busy beaches, and lots of bars and clubs. Not what we were looking for.


We rode on down the coast on harsh, bumpy roads until we could ride no more, and finally arrived at Monpiche. Our timing, once again, could not have been worse. We had pulled into one of Ecuador’s favorite beach spots in the middle of a long weekend. We traipsed around this cool, surfy beach town in search of a room, but lucked out. We were feeling despondent to say the least when a longhaired surfer dude came up to us and asked if we were looking for a room. He said he could let us sleep in a hammock at his place, as there were no rooms left in the town. We had a look, and I could see Jacquie was not thrilled at the prospect. We were desperate, so we said we would have another quick look around. Fortunately, a room had become available, and as we came out of our surfer mate’s pad, the owner shouted at us to come see the room he had.
It was nasty, small, smelly and dank, but it was a refuge from the mosquitoes, so we took it!
Our stay at Monpiche was short and sweet , and we left after breakfast the next day for Canoas, the next beach town down the coast.

Posted by Dan Shell at December 22, 2009 03:40 PM GMT

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