August 20, 2004 GMT
The Great Escape

It may look easy to get out of Ecuador but that just aint the case for us. Dont know who to blame it on but someone didn't want us to leave Quito, let alone Ecuador. Go on click on more to see how we did it, you know you want to.............

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What you looking at you bald git!!!

Finally we headed north out of Quito. Eager to get some miles behind us and drawn by the lure of Pacific beaches we stopped only breifly in Otavalo to catch a glimpse of market life. The road was smooth and the scenery spectacular. We passed through the Andes at 3000m with the occasional glimpses of the snow peaked volcanoe Caymbe, then dropped suddenly into grassy hillsides and then sub tropical forest where the temperature changed dramatically. By the time we had reached San Lorenzo in the far north west coast of Ecuador we had gone from 3000m to sea level and found ourselves in the Jungle amongst afro-caribeans. I was amazed we hadnŽt crossed a border as I was conviced we'd arrived in a different country. San Lorenzo was a scruffy chaotic town situated in a huge saltwater river system.It was dirty, humid and noisy and bustled with life.
Our motorbike caused a lot of interest and a few photos later with school kids sitting on the bike everyone was our friend. We left San lornzeo well and truly aclimitised, I dont think there are any places weve been too since that match it for the initial "culture" shock.
We spent four days touring the pacific coast , hangin out in the costa del sol of Ecuador, supping on cheap cocktails, swimming and looking for the beach of all beaches. Eventually we found it in Canoa, a small and very quite surf spot with 17km of white sand. We got ourseleves the compulsory bamboo hut and stayed for 3 days before we had to head back to Quito to catch our flight to the Galapogas.

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35kms there and back, nice!!

As we sat in the Departure lounge at Quito airport waiting to board our plane you could have forgiven us for our extremely cinical attitude. WeŽd paid over US$1300 for an experience it seemed we were going to share with 500 other English and Germans tourists. Who would we be sharing the boat with, that was the big question on our minds? Could it be that couple in the corner arguing, the English family dressed for an african safari or the large German group with name stickers on. God only knew what we were letting ourselves in for. As it turned out it was none of these, but a handful of Italians, a couple of French girls, a Dutch girl and only 3 English (inc us). For 8 days we boated around the islands in luxury, waking at 6.00 for a morning snorkel, breakfasting at 7am, animal watching till lunch, sleeping on deck till 2.00, more snorkelling, more animals, more sunbathing more food, ohh how we missed the life on the road. not!

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Dragons do exist!

Our fears that we had blown a big wedge of dosh on an overated tourist experience slowly melted away as we got see up close to a host of birds, marine and land iguanas, sea lions, turtles, giant tortoises, penguins, shark, and more still. In fact we were tripping over the wildlife, several times we came close to standing on marine iguanas sunbathing on the path or face to face with a colosal messe sea lion guarding his territory, but they never moved, just posed for another photo opportunity.

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You should have smelt their breath!!!

There were some days when we shared these unique experiences with the other 500 people from Quito departure lounge but for the most we had islands and beaches to ourselves. Oz paid a whopping $60 to dive in the hope of seeing hammer-head sharks but unfortunately only got ice-cream head and hypothermia instead. At the end of the week we were "animaled out". We took over 260 photos, so get ready back home cos you are all in for one long, long evening!

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Not very shy are they!

The happy stress free memories of life on a boat where soon dashed by our return to the diesel smog of Quito. But hey in a couple of days weŽd be on our way south!!! That was the idea but once again more mecahnical problems raised their ugly head with dropped valve seats and intermitment electrical failures . All of which dragged us further down into a pit of dispair. Days were robbed from us as we trawled the same streets between, home (which was now with Ricardo Rocco, a friend who had saved us from the hostals of gringoland) the bike shop, internet cafe, and the few select resturants we had found cheap and decent enough to eat at. A couple of highlights to mention during these two dark weeks was when Oz was pickpocketed for $90 , of course at a time when were carrying more money than we would do usually. and the next having my passport and 3 of our credit cards stolen by a mechanic at the bike shop. This second minor problem ended in a result!!! Two days later and after what we think were some serious threats leveled against the suspect mechanic we had the passport and the credit cards returned to us. As for the mechanic I no longer think they can hold his postion open for him as he is now enjoying a two year imprisonment for his folly.

My turn now. The day we rolled out of Quito was frought with more fears of having to deal with a busted bike. We made as much progress as possible and ended up in a small village at the base of a still very active volcanoe.

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It will go bang soon!

Banos was great, no smog and traffic and beautiful mountains and waterfalls. While we were here we hooked up with an Austrian biker I first met in Nicaragua, then again in Panama. Last time we met we spent most of the time getting trashed, this time was no different. After three days celebrating our escape from quito we thought we would give our livers a break and head south. For the next three three days we rode through stunning andean mountains on great roads passing through lots of interesting villages and following the famous Riobamba to Alauasi railway line.

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Who needs the train when you have a bike!

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Young shepardess.

On the last full day in Ecuador another attempt was made to stop us leaving this country. I dont know which particular religious sect were responsible for the act of terrorism that was waged on us, but they nearly succeded. We had spent most of the day on perfect roads swooping through fantastic corners, waving to locals blah blah blah and then it happened. At about 50mph out of the corner of my eye I spotted the bastard coming to get us. It was a fully trained suicide sheep and his target was my bike. I managed to avoid the full on attack as he collided with the side of the front wheel. He wasn't done yet however as he pulled his trump card out and planted hinself firmly in front of the back wheel and refussed to go under the bike. Appie tells me we were fishtailing down the road, every fishtail bigger than the last. From the cockpit I was really struggling to keep it all together, countersteering is a fine principal to read about but try doing it on an already overladed bike 2 up with a big hairy animal under your feet! The sheep eventually decided that enough was enough and thankfully popped under the back wheel. One last fishtail and some very loud squealing from the tyre and we had made it. Did I stop to picture the beast I had just slayed, did I hell. I had just survived a 95% certain crash and the idea of the farmer wanting me to pay for this experience was not worth the agro.
Next day saw us descend from the mountains and eventually reached the Peruvian border at Macara. One hour later we had done it. We had escaped Ecuador and were cruising through now desert scenery towards our first Peruvian town, Puira. Our first impressions of Peru were good. People were very friendly and always wanting to talk and ask questions. The refreshing difference here is that they did not want money as well! My ploy on the talking front was to leave it all to Jess as she has been here the shortest amount of time and needs the practice!!

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We stop, the crowd gathers.

The whole western coast of Peru is a huge desert. Although the roads are not very interesting, the landscape is. We had lots of stops where we could play on sand dunes and get all arty with the camera.

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Great sign, disgusting drink!

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You're never too old to play in the sand!

The first real stop was the beach resort of Huanchaco, just outside Trujillo . Really sleepy and great place to chill. Of course whats the first things you do in a new country, try the beer. We hung out for three days then were forced back to the road as we had a meeting planned in Lima. Jess was well and truly sick of seeing the back of my head and wanted a bike of her own, Lima was where the deal would be struck.

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Panamerican Highway of Northern Peru.

A two day ride along the most barren and isolated costal highway I have seen would lead us to Lima. It was really weird to see the Pacific ocean crashing onto a lunar lanscape with absoultely nothing growing in it. After the beach the land just climbs in featureless sandy hills untill it reaches the more fertile land of the Andes, barely visable in the distance. The most surprising thing however is that it was bloody cold. The Humbolt Current keeps the Pacific cold here and the land as well.

We made Lima in good time but had arrived with a few more souveniers than were had bargained for. Ciprofloxin to the rescue! Yup we both had eaten something bad and had won the right to sit on the loo 10 times a day! The worse I had felt on the whole trip, but at least we had the luxury of a nice hostal and flushing bog. As for Lima, it was a surprise. As well as a grubby noisy part of town, the place where we have ended up is clean, safe and would not be out of place anywhere in europe. Not a bad place to hustle a deal for another motorcycle. Anyway thats my bit over with, Jess can tell you about her new toy!

Ohhhh she's lovely!!! and a really nice colour too! kind of dark green with a flash of purple and red....uumm.. thats it really!

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My first bike!

Well thats what I would have said two months ago but not now. Now I know everything about bikes. I know my sprockets from my rocker arm and my cam chain from my head bearings. And mines got them all!! Yep very pleased with my new purchase except haven't actually been anywhere on it yet! I did take it for a test ride down the Panamerica, overtook a few trucks and buses quite comfortably and razed it round some dirt roads by the beach, but decided to leave the sand experience for another day. Forgot to mention its a Kawsaki KLR 250, she aint no looker but is mechanically sound (I hope!). Shes already been up and down South America twice and has circumnavigated Oz including a 100kmph crash with a kangaroo.. a few careful owners you could say! Armed with my new fake documents its all full speed ahead from here.....well it would be if we now weren't waiting for our new credit cards to arrive at the British Embassy. We hope they arrive on Monday and then next stop is a desert oasis who's waters are reputed to have theraputic healing powers. Oz reckons there aint no therapy to be had in green stagnant water, your better off sticking to a bottle of beer.

Next episode hopefully will see us doing what we came here to do, travelling on bikes and seeing amazing stuff, not dealing with lots of hassles as it seems the majority of the trip has involved so far. Check us out again soon.

Posted by Peter Slarke at August 20, 2004 05:18 PM GMT
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