Sunday, October 28, 2012

Nasca / Puquio / Abancay

NASCA
One of the things on our list to visit on this trip was the Nasca Lines.  We had decided to forgo the cheaper solution of paying for a climb to the top of the viewing tower and actually forked over enough for the flying tour.  

Our Flight Plan

The tower from the air

I decided to try out my video capability, let's put it this way, the Amateur film makers have nothing to fear from my untapped talent.  But, just to give you a feel for what we experienced here is a view of the "Parrot", also is a picture of the route we took from Nasca to visit the lines.  All in all it was about a 35 minute flight and cost $110.00 US.  Chuck was a little woozy from the flight so we took a break after we landed to let him get back his land legs.

PUQUIO
When we finished the tour of the Nasca lines, it was only around noon, so we took off for the next town towards Machu Picchu; Puquio, about 150 kms.  It is just incredible to me the rise and fall as you cross west to east across Peru.  In those 150kms we climbed to around 13,900 feet and back down again to just over 10,000 feet in Puquio.  We found a nice little hotel on the plaza and parked the bikes.  Asked the proprietor for a restaurant recommendation and he gave us a recommendation.  It was really good food and the courtyard was a relaxing change from much of what we have experienced. 

Below is the church viewed from the hotel in the town square.  The bell tower on the left was actually rang by young parishioners who either had very good ear protection or came away with an extreme headache.



After dinner we turned in early, got up late, had deysayuno a the same restaurant, got packed and we were on our way again.  It was a little exciting getting down from the parking garage, that emptied into a street with busy traffic.  Many of the hotels / hostels have parking but it may be a small enclave in the hotel, which usually means steps and gutters to overcome.  The owner of this hotel had obviously experienced this before because he had blocks and boards specifically sized to overcome the obstacles.  However it was a good 20 degree incline with no place to put your feet.  But no incidents, not even a bobble.

ABANCAY
As we left Puquio it was obvious there was going to be rain, in fact there was even hail.  I stopped and put my rain gear on, and I was glad I did.  But once I have my rain gear on, it is really hard to take pictures.  The road actually began to accumulate hail and turned white like snow.  But it wasn't slick and we had no problems with traction or slipping.  

I did stop and take some pictures as we reached one of the high points, 14,960 feet.  There aren't even mountain tops in Colorado that high.  We reached this height several times and the lowest temperature we experienced was 38.8 deg as indicated on the bike. 


These guys were very suspicious of this gringo on a motorcycle taking pictures of their charges.

On to Machu Picchu! 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Pisco (Pes' Co)

A final word about Lima KTM.  I know there are different experiences people have with services and a lot has to do with expectations and communication.  We didn’t know what to expect when we went to Lima KTM having read about experiences from several different sources.  All I can say is that I am glad that Lima KTM, and in particular, Jesus didn’t charge us for every hour they actually spent helping us, first with the service on the KTM’s and then trying to find a decent hotel  in the area. 

I highly recommend stopping in at the KTM dealership in Lima if there is anything you need done while on your adventure.  Here is Jesus with my “Pretty”, clean and good as new Dakar. 


After leaving the hotel and having a small adventure on it’s own with the Taxi cab driver, we arrived at the KTM shop.  The Taxi cab driver didn’t seem to want to take directions from the two gringo’s in the back seat and we got to see some parts of Lima we did not expect to see. 

When we got into the KTM shop, the bikes were ready, the bill was ready, we made payment, got our stuff packed and we were on our way, in about an hour.  Leaving Lima wasn’t that big of a hassle either.  Drove down the main road in front of the shop, made a right onto the freeway, dodging taxi’s, trucks and motorbikes and out of town we went.  I am still struck by the desert sense from riding down the coastal highway. 


There does also seem to be these places where for random reasons something has broken down.  I don’t know what happened here, but it seems the trailer just lost a set of trucks.  I worry sometimes that this will happen right in front of me.


We are in Pisco now, and made arrangements to see the Nazca Lines tomorrow from the air.  Some of you may be aware that you really can’t get a sense of what these lines are unless you view them from the air.  There are also theories about aliens visiting earth in ancient times and leaving these lines for others to follow.  We will see them tomorrow, and will “phone home” if we are abducted.   

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Lima

The next morning we woke and Max was in front to help us with breakfast.  We must of misunderstood about breakfast because we thought it was included, however as we left the clerk came out to ask for payment for Daysenuno.  12 Sol or about $5.  No big deal.

The ride to Lima was uneventful, except to say, it was surprisingly cold, it was about 65 F.  For being on or near sea level, near the equator, we ended up having to put on more layers to ward off the cold.

People here work very hard and are tolerate of conditions that we in the US probably would not understand.  Here is a taxi that pulled up as we were sitting having a coke.  The person in red just got out of the back, paid the driver and one of the others is actually climbing back in.  There had to be 5 or 6 people packed into the back of this very small vehicle.

Lima is a very large city, I was told there are 20 million people in the metropolitan city.  There are no real freeways like we know.  There are roads with lights and intersections but it doesn’t flow like our freeways.  There are also toll booths.  Motorcycles get through free but you have to be in the right hand lane; which usually meant we had to cross four or five lanes of traffic, mostly trucks, bumper to bumper.  We would weave at walking pace in front of cars, trucks, whatever to get right then have to get back across traffic to get left again. 

When you came to a light, it is apparently ok to turn from any lane.   You must watch out if you were going straight, anyone could turn in front of you.  We had put the location of the KTM dealer in the GPS and followed the direction.  The location that KTM lists in their web site is wrong,  it shows it in the 2600 block of Av. Separadora Industrial where the location is actually closer to the city in the 600 block.(gps S12’ 4.300” and W76’ 59.125”).  We don’t have a cell phone so we couldn’t call.  Eventually we stopped and talked to a woman who looked like she might speak English.  She was so helpful, even though she was having an open house for her business.  She called KTM, got the address, gave us maps, and directions to lights to cross the freeway. 

We finally made it to KTM, and met Jesus Parades Cantreras manager of marketing at the KTM shop. 

The building is huge, bigger than anything I have seen in the states for any dealer.  He gave us a quick rundown of what was needed asked us if there was anything else then began helping us find a hotel.  It turned out that there were no available rooms for the evening so Jesus took us around to look at Hostels, which we picked from and then helped us the following day to find a better hotel.  Thanks Jesus for your real southern Hospitality.

I just got a note from Jesus who said it was 631 Sols for repair or about $233 per bike.  I am pretty sure we could not have had seals replaced with parts and labor in the US for that price.

Now we plan for our escape from Lima tomorrow.

Nuevo Chimbote (Chim' bow tee)

The road leading from Cajamarca was excellent asphalt, as good as any in the US.  Folks who ride sports bikes would just love the accent and decent from Cajamarca.  Nothing is straight, miles and miles of up, down, left and right.  It was fun.  Probably 30 or 40 miles of roads as crooked as the Dragon in Tennessee.  Unfortunately I was having so much fun I forgot to take pictures.

However, when we finally reached the Panamerican highway along the coast it was windy, straight and pretty boring except for watching trucks and cars jockeying for position.

We eventually reached our destination of Nuevo Chimbote (Chim’ bo tee).  I had located a well referenced hotel there, that we put in the GPS.  We turned off the Panamerican where the GPS indicated and drove through what seemed to be a very desperate neighborhood.  We stopped at the Hotel Buenos Aires not knowing what to expect.  There was a guard that opened the door and let us in on the bikes. What we found was much nicer than you could ever expect. 

The rooms were great, the owner (Max) met us and we parked the bikes in the garage.  Didn’t have to take everything off, which was very nice.  The owner’s son (Maximilian) checked us in and ordered a pizza. 
They had some beer in the back room.  Max, Chuck and I talked for hours about everything.  If anyone is looking for a place to stay on the way north from Lima or about a days ride to Lima, I highly recommend the Hotel Buenos Aires in Nuevo Chimbote.

Cajamarca (ka' ha mar ca)

The road from Balza to Celendin (See len din) was supposed to be more of the same that we had encountered from coming down into Balza.  However, other than the climb and switchbacks it was not bad.  However a number of kilometers before we reached Celendin the road turned really rough.  Because of road construction, I think they had just let the road go.  It looked like it had been made with large rocks as a base covered with gravel then sand.  The sand and gravel had long disappeared and what was left was the ends of the large rocks sticking out of the mud.  No way to avoid the rocks.  It was rough. 

By the time we reached Celendin we had decided to stop and clean the bikes.  Mud had lodged into the radiator decreasing the ability to cool.  The fans seemed to run all the time.  We found a car wash and while there someone in the group looking on, noticed that Chuck had a leak from one of his front forks.  We checked the others and all four forks were leaking, two on each bike.  We did some quick checking on the internet and found the nearest KTM dealer with new seals was in Lima.  We changed our plans and decided to spend the night in Cajamarca, and go from there to Lima. 

We had heard the road from Celendin to Cajamarca was asphalt.  That was mostly a lie.  We beat more crap out of the bikes and the clean bikes we started with in Celendin was now again packed in mud.   We stayed in a nice hotel on the square in Cajamarca and left the next day for Lima.

Balza

The road from Chachapoysa to Leymebamba is actually a very nice ride.  First pavement, then turning onto the road to Leymebamba it is dirt, but fairly smooth, no big ruts or rocks.  Easily navigable, at a good pace and very scenic.  It reminded me of a number of roads and scenes in Colorado.  At this point it really was enjoyable and yes fun.


As we left Leymebamba, and climbed again to the top of the pass it began to rain. 


This seems to be the theme.  Nice in the morning, rain in the afternoon.  We were stopped briefly for construction in the rain then on down the hill until we left the rain.  The road was a bit muddy, but not bad.  It was a little eerie though, the road wasn’t much wider then a single normal vehicle.  And almost vertical up the hill and absolutely vertical down the mountain for 1000 feet or more.  If you even just stepped off, you were going for a long way.  You could see this at first, then the fog came.  When the fog came it just filled in the valley so you couldn’t see anything below.  It was like a giant bowl of fog.  It was comforting not seeing this huge drop off, but by the same token a little weird knowing it was there only full of fog.

We rode out of the rain and the road got nicer again.  Then we came to another construction stoppage.  We were stopped for at least 3 and half hours.  It went from sunny and warm to rainy and cold.  While there we ran into Larry, a resident of Lima on vacation with his wife and 6 other friends.  They had never traveled this road before and told us the girls were all screaming on the turns.  He helped translate some of the conversations with the flag person.

Eventually we got moving again.  This time because we had waited long enough the road had turned to mud.  We could have easily made it to Cajamarca or at least Celendin had it not been for the construction, instead we were faced with riding mud all the way to the bottom of this mountain in dark AGAIN!

Larry and his crew were ahead of us in his van, but they stopped when we reached Balza to help us find a place to stay.  We landed this place where it was only a single room and no bathroom (which was about 2 blocks away and was basically a hole in the ground).  We had no choice; we could not go on in the dark. 


We made our arrangements, pack the bikes in the room, and found Larry and his group having dinner a local restaurant.  We joined them and had a really fun time.  Even managing to crack a few jokes at different peoples expense.

Here’s a picture of the group.  Notice the Los Gigantes in the back, on the right!  That’s Larry next to me.  I remember some of the names but forgive me my failing memory.  Left to right; George, his wife Shiwa?, ?, Azul Blue (the only words he new in English J), Gina, Walter, Chuck, Joe, Larry, Larry’s wife Marisa.


The next morning, we were up early.  Had breakfast of scrambled eggs, instant coffee and pan (bread).   Packed and headed for Cajamarca. 

Downtown Balza


The bridge across the river (Rio Maranon) leaving Balza.  The night before there was a bar blocking the crossing, but it was lifted when we decided to leave.

Chachapoyas (cha cha poi as)


It’s a new day, no rain, clear, there is a promise.  I make a pilgrimage to find an ATM for some Peruvian Sols.  I gather this is pretty normal, first town get some local money.  We were going to meet the Germans but for some reason the timing wasn’t right.  We pack and by the time we get going the Germans have already left.

The roads out of San Ignacio where not bad, not the mud we had experienced the night before.  But still dirt and winding back and forth.  We had ridden about 15k when we saw some bikes stopped up ahead.  It was the Germans.  And they had stopped with the French guy in the RV.  We visited for a while and then we took off.  The Germans followed and we road with them until Jaen or about 50k, where they stopped for lunch.

From Jaen to Chachapoyas the road is paved.  Not a lot of difficulty so there was some time to relax and enjoy the scenery.  In Chachapoyas we went to the town square.  There were several Hostels on the square and as we circled to pick on, I saw a couple who were obviously not Hispanic.  I stopped and asked if they had advice for a place to stay.  They said they were German, Stephan and Emma and driving a range rover.  They had just arrived themselves.  So we said we would keep looking but meet up with them later somewhere for a beer.  They did ask if we had seen three German motorcycle riders on the road … small world eh?

We drove around some more and stopped off the square.  Chuck said he would go look for a hostel if I would stay with the bikes.  Everywhere we go we get people coming up to us, asking about the bikes, we try to explain the best we can with our limited vocabulary.  This time, I think Chuck left me with the local drug dealers.  There was a lot of money changing hands for what reason, I don’t know.  At the same time they were trying to get information from me; size of bikes, how much they cost, where we were going, lots of laughing and hand slapping.  Eventually Chuck returned from a hostel where he had booked a room, so we left, unloaded and parked the bikes. 

As we were parking the bikes in a secure parking lot, Stephan came up.  They were staying in the Range Rover in the same parking lot.  We agreed to meet later for a beer and we went and finished unpacking.  We got out and walked to a restaurant the owner of the Hostel had recommended.  It didn’t open until 7p.  As we walked around we ran into Stephan and Emma.  We invited them to come along with us, back to the restaurant.  We had a great meal, some beer and good conversation.  We agreed to buy pastries if they made some GOOD coffee the next morning.  We met them at the Range Rover where they had the coffee on.

After a while they came and used our shower, with the electric heater (death heater) in the head.  It actually worked.  We packed the bikes and left for Cajamarca (Ka ha mark a).  Before we left, Emma mentioned she had heard from other friends that there was some road construction that had the road shut down all day between Chachapoyas and Cajamarca.  Oh great!

San Ignacio


We left Valladoid and traveled through the small city of Palanda and as we approached Zumba we were stopped by the police at a road block.  They were all quite young and none spoke English.  He asked where we were going and we told him Peru.  He looked over the bikes and motioned towards my cases.  I said; “no habla espanol!”  He motioned more aggressively and said something in spanish.  “no hable espanol” shaking my head.  Then he knocked on my cases, motioning to open them up.  “no habla espanol”.  Finally in frustration he just motioned my on.  That’s all it took, I was out of there and Chuck right behind.  The next checkpoint before the border, the guard was much more friendly, asked where we were going, how long we had been on the road, took our passport information and finally told us which way to go. We were only about 8 kilometers from the border but it took us the best part of an hour to reach the border.

By the time we reached the border it was around 11:30a.  We had done well; we had traveled about 90 kilometers in about three hours.  We found the border agent at a small cafĂ© eating lunch.  We followed him back to his “office”, he stamped our passports and we thought we were out of Ecuador.  Back to the bike, and waiting for someone to lift the gate.  The agent came out and said “Adunas” or bike check.  So we got off and went back to the Adunas agent.  Here is where it got a little difficult.

Apparently, we needed to have the paperwork for the bikes when we entered Ecuador, where the VIN’s had been checked and bike import authorized.  Now, we had asked about this when we came into Ecuador from Colombia.  We were both told that it was unnecessary.  Well, don’t ever believe them!  We should of gotten our bike authorization and the Adunas agent at the Peru border was not going to let us leave without them.  He said we needed to return to Loja (Low’ ha) to get the proper credentials.  It had started to rain hard and the roads were turning to mud.  To return to Loja meant about a two day ride.  There had to be another way. 

The border agent came by and seemed to be advocating for us.  We asked if the Adunas agent could call someone for special permission; “no!”.  We asked if there were a “fine we could pay there?”; “no!” with an emphasis of cutting ones throat.  Chuck, in his best Spanish whine asked “por favor, special excepcion!”  “No” again with the throat cutting.  Finally the border agent got him to call “el hefe” and there was a long, long conversation with the outcome of el hefe telling the Adunas agent to let Peru deal with it J!  We were through without having to go back to Loja.  But it had been raining hard now for an hour.

Next came the other side, Peru!  We stopped at the Peru side of the border bridge.  We walked to the Adunas building on the Peru side and the agent said we must go to the Passport check primary.  So down the sidewalk we go.  No agent.  We wait, and wait, sit more, walk across to the restaurant ask for a coke where they say “si” then sit down and watch television.  We sit there for thirty minutes and finally leave for another restaurant, where we finally get a coke.  Still no passport agent. 

Another person, of unknown authority tells me the passport agent is a home, points out his house and tells me to go knock on the door.  I didn’t know who this person was, so I didn’t go.  Turns out this is apparently very acceptable behavior, that many times people at this crossing go find the agent.  Mean time the Adunas agent takes pity on us and starts filling out the motorcycle import paperwork.  About the time he is done, someone has finally gotten the Passport agent out of bed an up to the office.  He fills out my passport paperwork but there is one more step.  I must be checked out by the police. 

Down the hill with my paperwork I go, to the police building.  Huh?  No one in the office!  No one in the back room, no one in the kitchen, so around the corner to the sleeping quarters I go.  Ah, there he is, asleep in the cot.  Clear my throat, nothing!  Perdon! Nothing!  Hola!!  Hola!  Hola! Finally, some movement.  “Una momento!”  “Si!” and back to the office I go.  He finally comes into the office with his uniform half on and fills out my paperwork.  Back to the Border agent and he stamps my passport.  All in all about 2 ½ hours.  Did I mention it had been raining!

After Chuck completed the same cycle we returned to the bikes, this unknown person I mentioned, unlocked the gate and let us into Peru.  Finally!  It’s about 2:30p, it had taken only about 3 hours but it seemed like an eternity.

Only 25 kilometers to San Ignacio, as the crow flies.  We are quickly learning though that 25 kilometers as the crow flies here in the mountains is probably more like 75 kilometers.  And, had I mentioned it had been raining.  Now everything was mud.  Not a real deep mud, but a very slimy, slippery mud. 



This is, in my opinion, the worst conditions to ride in.  Worse than snow, rain, sand or anything else.  The back end will just not stay behind you.  Your brakes work marginally but sometimes when they do they cause the front or back end to slip out.  We struggle, we push on in the rain and then we come to stopped traffic.  Apparently, due to the rain, there had been a mudslide that blocked the road. 

An hour and a half later they finally let us through, but the road was an absolute mud pit. 

Now it was getting dark.  We still had about 15 kilometers to go.  Chuck wanted to pitch a tent, I didn’t.  It was muddy and the only place was on the side of the road to pitch it, which, in my opinion would not have been safe.  We decided that we would just take it easy, work slowly towards San Ignacio.  But the mud was bad, it had been worked over by all the traffic including large trucks.  It was now dark and I watched in my headlight as a large 2 ½ ton truck tried to make it up a small incline.  Two spotters, one on each side, pushed against the truck frame to keep it from sliding sideways, but it still did.  But he eventually made it.  Now my turn, feet down, light on the gas, keep the back wheel behind me, slowly, clutch, gas, adjust and eventually success.

At the top of that hill, a French guy in an RV came out and waved me down.  We talked a little of the road and the mud, but he said he had had it and was stopping there for the night.  He could, he had an RV.  Chuck and I pressed on.  More and more mud, slow, slow in the turns, a little speed in the straight aways.  Eventually, we made it to San Ignacio around 8:30p.  We had started in Valladolid around 8:30a, so 12 hours to go about 150 kilometers or about 100 miles. 

In San Ignacio we started our pattern of looking for a place to stay.  We had asked on the road and had been told the best place was the Gran Hotel.  Asking for directions to this hotel just got the RCA dog look.  Eventually I asked a police man who took us to a hostel.  I tried to get them to tell me where we could park our bikes and they told me we could put them in the restaurant next door, but that didn’t close until 10p.  About this time, a German pops his head up from a computer there in the lobby, there are three of them there.  He says they are staying in a hostel down the road, but there is a big hotel just down from them.  Chuck and I have a long chat with the Germans, they are riding a couple older K100R’s and an Africa Twin.  Finally they help us find the Gran Hotel.

We check in, drag mud across everywhere, the lobby, the stairs into our room, then order some dinner, but they are closing and the only thing they still have available is Carne Seca, or dry meat (think beef jerky).  I was hungry but more tired.  I eat a little but it upsets my stomach so I go upstairs and go to bed.  A very long day!

Valladolid (Va' ha dol id)


After a late start from Cuenca, we left for the Ecuadorian / Peruvian border.  After Loja the Panamerican highway turned right and headed towards the coast.  We stayed straight.  Eventually the highway, turned to a country road, then finally dirt, but still easily passable.  As we rode the passes, up to 11,000 down to 5,000 the roads wound around the steep drops and creeks that cut into the mountain side.  Then it began to light rain and some road construction.  We were making the kind of distance we had planned and it soon became apparent we were going to need to stop for the night.  We came to a little town Valladolid. 

After a few questions at a local “tienda” (store), we were directed to the town Hotel!
The woman at the hotel; showed us where to park the bikes, as she worked to sweep out the parking place.  We stayed on the second floor.  I wish she hadn’t because we knew we were just going to mess it up again with the bikes.  We each took a room.  Mine with two beds, Chucks with one, windows that opened into the area below where the bikes were parked.  There was a common restroom with a shower and toilet.  The shower had the first electric heater (heater of death) located on the head.  It works by electrically heating the water as it comes out of shower.  However, it didn’t work, which is probably a good thing, so I had a VERY cold shower that evening, that took my breath away. 

Valladolid, from a distance is actually a very pretty little town.  This seems to be common of most south American towns.  Closer examination however revels an infrastructure in sad need of repair.  Houses are partially finished (as was the “hotel” we stayed in), exposed electrical systems held together with crimped wires and electrical tape, and plumbing that sometimes seemed to come from nowhere and lead to nowhere.  We had dinner just down the street. 

I came into the hotel after dinner to find a man changing out a light bulb dangling from the ceiling with a kitchen knife.  I went to my box and found my leatherman with a screw driver and lent it to him.  Chuck and I both wished we could bring extra tools to give to some of these people.

That night I slept on a mattress that was about two inches thick, underpinned by wooden slats.  Eventually I got up, went to the bike and got my air mattress, which finally led to sleep.  The next morning we were up, had some basic breakfast with instant coffee, packed and we were on our way.  We are slowly learning the language but still have no idea what we get when we order meals.  We had scrambled eggs, mixed with ham and some fruit.  The guy next to us had eggs, ham, some rice, fruit, bread and juice.  All we could do is look at him with envy.  J

Cuenca (Quen ka)


Cuenca
Based on information from Warner and others at Hostel Garisol, we decided that we would stop in Cuenca after leaving Quito.  It was a fairly large town, with an active downtown area.  In fact I had time to actually find a hotel that sounded like it was pretty good and put that in our GPS’s.  It seems it takes hours sometimes to find and book a hotel if we don’t do it ahead of time.

Getting out of Quito was entertaining.  We made a wrong turn (or two, or three) and took an indirect route to the freeway.  In fact we got to one point and ended up riding across a muddy soccer field, onto a side walk and then off the edge and on the Pan American highway.  This would be highly frowned upon in the States but normal course here in South America.

The ride to Cuenca from Quito was very uneventful.  While in Quito we found out that Ecuador had begun aggressively enforcing speed limits.  Anything over 15 Kph over the speed limit and you go to jail for three days.  We were lucking that we weren’t stopped going into Quito, because there were many times we were well over the speed limit.  So the ride out of Quito was right at the highway speed limit mostly 90kph (60 mph).  The highway was two or three lanes wide and moved most the time at freeway speeds.  Of course there is some potential for danger:

It was cold riding at over 11,000 feet.  Here I am dressed up with my scarf, which I nearly lost a few miles down the road from it almost blowing out.

When we arrived at Cuenca, we followed the GPS to close to the hotel.  Then it started taking us around in circles (it does this a lot here in SA).  We dead reckoned to close to the hotel, eventually finding a road, but it was one way the other way.  We spent at least an hour trying to find a way onto that road and never did find an entrance at the other end of the one way.  I honestly believe that most folks just drive up the road the wrong way, but not us gringos. 

We left the downtown area and eventually found a hotel out of town.  But all in all, we spent at least 2 to 2 ½ hours looking for a place to stay for the night.  

Quito (Key' toe)


We made it to Quito, and stopped for a quick bite to eat and some help finding the address we were given for the Hostel.  The mapping program would not find the address.  Quito is a city with a population about the same as Houston.  We drove from probably eight or ten miles into the heart of the city, finally stopping at a little Panaderia.  Had a quick bite and trapped a fellow customer into helping us with the address.  He looked at the address and said tres bloques directo y dos bloques izquerda.  We were within five blocks of the hostel.  Try doing that in Houston without any idea of where you are or where you are going.

We found the hostal Girasol, met Maja, got the motorcycles secured, got unpacked and ready for our trip to the Galapagos.  I have photos, but I left my camera in the van coming back from the islands.  They found my camera but another of the guests is bringing it back with her when she returns today.  Hopefully then I can add some photos.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Ipiales (Ipi' al ez)

We left Popayan to ride to Ipiales.  We intended to stay the night, cross the border and make it to Quito, Ecuador by the afternoon.  We got to Ipiales around 4:30p, before dark, which is good.  However, it seems we have a nack for finding the Farmers Markets as they are closing down.  And for Ipiales, this was no different.  Cars, taxis, buses, trucks, vendors, pedestrians, people carrying stuff; all in a hurry to beat the now nonexistent traffic flow.  In the middle of this, here we are "the Gringos" on big and wide motorcycles.  We don't get a lot of people honking at us, because I guess we are a novelty, something more to be observed.  

I didn't take many pictures here and what I did is on my camera coming back from the Galapagos.  If I get it back soon I will post them up here.

Anyway, we stopped at one hotel, who unbolted their three locks on their door to let me in, and inspect the room.  The room was fine, but they had no safe parking.  So on to the next hotel.  We had several in the GPS but there were a lot more just on the road.  We found one of many on a little traffic circle.  I went in to ask the price and look at the room.  It was 20,000 COP or about 11 bucks.  I looked at the rooms quickly and we decided on two or $22.  The parking was down the block for $1 / night.  

Of course after doing the deal, the rooms were on the third floor, 35 steps, three trips, all our luggage ...arggggh!  Once the bikes are parked and we are in our room, Chuck comes by to ask; "does your room have a lid on the toilet, not just porcelain?" I laugh and say yes.  He says his doesn't.  He went down to inform the female desk clerk.  I finish unpacking and meet him downstairs, where Chuck has drawn a picture of a toilet with no lid and also he informed me that he took her into her little toilet behind the desk to show her what his was missing.  I am still laughing.  He said he got it all worked out, but never did get a lid. :-)

So, I am thinking I got the best deal with the room because of the toilet lid.  But then I went to take a shower and didn't have any hot water and no shower head, just a pipe.  Chuck says he has hot water and a shower head so I borrow his shower.  

Let me tell you a little more about this hotel, on the walls were pictures of naked women, veiled and posed in  very suggestive manner. That was the first hint.  The second seemed like the desk clerk was surprised that a couple gringos wanted the room all night.  Finally about one in the morning a man with a couple of women came into the room across the hall, turned up the music and started partying.  Mean time the traffic in the circle was building, honking horns, loud music, people yelling.  Thank goodness for ear buds.

We were out of there fairly early, and on our way to the Border.  The border crossing was really a non-event other then standing in a long line at immagracion.  Then over to DIAN for checking off for the motocycle.  From thirty yards away, he looked at the serial numbers on the forms, then the bikes, "si! no problema!, ciao!"  And we were off!

The two gringo's.  Actually we heard something today that is probably better than the two gringo's, a man in the old town square of Quito came up to us and called us Los Gigantes!  The Giants ... hahahaha.  

We made it to Quito, and stopped for a quick bite to eat and some help finding the address we were given for the Hostel.  The mapping program would not find the address.  Quito is a city with a population about the same as Houston.  We drove from probably eight or ten miles into the heart of the city, finally stopping at a little Panaderia.  Had a quick bite and trapped a fellow customer into helping us with the address.  He looked at the address and said tres bloques directo y dos bloques izquerda.  We were within five blocks of the hostel.  Try doing that in Houston without any idea of where you are or where you are going.

We made it to the hostel, met Maja, got the motorcycles secured, got unpacked and ready for our trip to the Galapagos.  I have photos, but I left my camera in the van coming back from the islands.  They found my camera but another of the guests is bringing it back with her when she returns today.  Hopefully then I can add some photos.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Popayan (Papa' john), Colombia - just like the pizza


After the coffee plantation we returned to the EcoHotel La Juanita. We talked to Rosario about where we should stop next.  We planned to stop in Cali, but she said, no, no, you will need to go on to Popayan.  All the buildings are white, it is a very good site. 
Rosario and her daughter who tried to translate for us.
We got up early the next morning and left for Popayan.  After a little rain and some winding roads, some straight and hot stretches we made to Popayan.  The diversity of driving terrains is something to mention.  High altitudes over 10,000 feet give way to lower, 2,000 and 3,000 foot valleys sometimes rising and falling two times a day.  Temperatures as low as 55F up to 98F and then back down again, with fog, rain and blistering sun.  It is hard to dress appropriately.

At Popayan we found that the roads are mostly one way and everyone seems to know which way, except of course us Gringo’s.  Eventually we found that there are signs on the buildings indicating which way to go and what the street names were. 

We continue to laugh that everytime we get a room it is the furthest away from the street where our bikes are.  This time was no different.  Usually this means three trips with our crap.  We have to carry the top case, the sides cases, the camping luggage and miscellaneous helmets, jackets, GPS, Spot, etc., up to the second floor and all the way to the back.  By the time I am done with this trip, I should look like Arnold Swarzenegger, back before he became the governator.



After getting settled in, we went out for a bite to eat, tamales South American style. They were very good along with the middle of the road cervaisa’s they have here.  We then found a little bar where the beers were really expensive, about $5 bucks.  They actually had more of selection so we had a couple and left.  On the way back to they hostal we ran into a marching band, playing only percussion, even though they had a brass section, marching the streets of Popayan.  It was some religious ceremony, since there were catholic priest and some image of a saint carried on a platform by eight young men.  The thing that struck me as we walked behind was the beat of the drums sounded just like those from the Fleetwood Mac tune “Tusk”.  I couldn’t help but hum the rhythm guitar part.

We planned to stay in Popayan an additional day.  But, after we got back from our tour of the town that night I sent an e-mail to a contact we got from Regula at the Hostal in Santa Marta.  The next morning we received a response that said that she actually had a cancellation for a five day Galapagos tour that would work if we hustled it down to Quito.  So that’s what we did.  Packed quickly, loaded the bikes, checked out and we were off.

Even though we had figured out “una via” and street names, we had not figured out who stopped for whom, and never did find any signs.  Not knowing who had the right of way and probably somewhat in the haste to leave town, led to a little incident where I dropped my bike.  I thought I had the right of way but didn’t.  The bike coming the other way honked and I slammed on the brakes.  Because of the rebound on the shocks, the bike came back up slightly at a list and I could not hold it up.  Bam, but people came from all around to help me pick it up (and probably to laugh at the stupido gringo!)

On to Igiales for the night.  Igiales is a town on the border of Ecuador.  Not much in the way of tourism but plenty if you are interested in a brothel hotel, cold porcelain toilet bowls, showers without shower heads and sinks that drain onto the floors.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Manizales

Pronouced as it looks, Man' i zal ez.  We left Medellin planning for a leisurely ride and arrival at the EcoHotel La Juanita in Manizales.  Manizales is in the coffee region of Colombia and great place to visit the coffee fields and get a tour of the coffee process.  There are some coffee plantations even along the way to Manizales.  It makes the hills look very cultivated.

I had made a route plan and spoke with Chuck about a route that wasn't in the maps on our Garmin that took us up through La Cabana.  When we finally arrived at the point to make the turn, the GPS began to say that the direction we were going was incorrect.

Chuck felt strongly about not going the direction I suggested and follow the route indicated the GPS.  I asked Chuck if he trusted me, wisely he said 'probably not'!  And I threw down the gauntlet, I said "you are welcome to go that way, but I am going this way."  If any of you know the story of me and Chuck, a statement similar to that led to us going separate ways in California nine or ten years ago.

Fortunately for both of us, a fellow on a little Chinese bike came by and I asked him if the way I pointed was to La Cabana.  I learned after a few confused looks that the correct pronunciation is La Cabuya.  He graciously led us up the road to La Cabana.  This was one beautiful ride.  The road was narrow but nice and paved.  The views were spectacular and NO TRUCKS!  Ok, one or two but not that bad.  This is by far the best road we have ridden since being in Colombia.

View from the road to La Cabana
We arrived at the EcoHotel La Juanita and met, Rosaria, Ricardo and their son Ricardo Jr.  They are doing wonderful things with their little hotel.  We took the two single rooms and have a room to ourselves for the first time on our trip.  I will post some more pictures as we continue with our visit here.

This doesn't look that steep ... but it is.

Entrance to La Juanita

Hotel EcoHotel La Juanita
A view from El Terrace in Manizales

Dinner on El Terrace in downtown Manizales
When we arrived at the La Juanita, the water was out, but they had it back on later that night.  The pipe from the city had broken and the city was out fixing it.  Last night around 10:00p the power in my room went out. Just my room.  The owners had gone home (down the hill), but their daughter was still in the main house using the computer.  Again through hand signals, my limited spanish and her limited english, I communicated the problem.  She called her dad, first by whistling off the back porch (not sure why), and then calling on the cell phone.  The solution was for me to move into the "big house" into a fancy room.  I must be living right.

By the time I had all my stuff over, I had broke out in a sweat.  So I showered.  Good thing, because I found out this morning that the water is out again.  I don't know how Chuck feels about such things but I am learning to take it all in stride, deal with the inconvenient and revel in the experience.  A person is truly a happy soul if their worst experience is a learning experience and they don't bring those around them down.

I want to make sure that everyone understands that our hosts have done to make our visit enjoyable.  Rosario, Richardo and their family have gone out of their way to see that what we wanted to do and see was addressed.

Here is Rosario in her garden, that I reckon is needed to get away from the stress of two very high maintenance gringos.



Coffee Processing in Manizales
The area around Manizales is considered some of the best coffee producing areas in Colombia.  Today we visited the Venecia coffee farm, an approximately 300 acre coffee producing and process farm near Manizales.
Coffee plants on the hills of the Venecia coffee farm
Alexander (Alex) was our guide and did a great job of explaining how things worked.  Here he is making us a cappuccino and explaining how the coarseness of the grind and the amount of compaction of the cup effect the taste.  Then it was interesting to actually taste the difference between two different cups just with these changes.

Seedlings for new growth when old plants are removed.
Most of the coffee production is hot, hard work.
Something for my lovely wife, perhaps she can identify this? :-)
Alex told us that coffee workers earn about the equivalent of $16usd a day.  This is more than the average of $8 for laborers.