Sunday, 23 September 2012

Vilcabamba to Peru. (not the easy way)

Because of a little confusion we headed South without a full tank of gas and hit some of the most horrible roads I had encountered yet.  Take a close look at the surface.  I can tell you with a heavy bike like this, it is still kinda fun, but mostly not.  Thank god I had put the TKC80 tires on.

I don't think we ate dirt that day, but little did we know, we were in for a few days of this and worse.  Much worse.

We finally got to a small town and the chain was very loose with no adjustment left in it.  We found a place to wash the bike first and the kind man who washed the bike, would accept and money from us.  People here are sooo dam nice some times.

We went to a little bike shop and started to look at the chain situation together.  Once we removed the pannier, it was evident, the bracket would need some repairs too.

After the bracket was welded, the chain broken and shortened we would a nice little hotel to stay in and settled in for the night.  This was the "REAL" Ecuador.  There was not another gringo in site.

It was pretty obvious this little town had a lot of  pride.
The Royal Palms are beautiful.
A huge meal for a couple dollars.  The Ecuador food may lack a little flavour at times, but the  portions and value somewhat compensate.
We finally got to the border of Peru.  Holy shit, what a ride.  Clearing out of Ecuador was a breeze, but holy crap was the Peruvian side ever messed up.  Be prepared for a lengthy clear-in at this border!  I've heard the same story from other people after-the-face as well.

Me looking maybe just a tad bit tired, but happy as hell.
It's sure looks beautiful here so far.  What adventures lie ahead???

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Igapirca to Vilacabamba

Ok guys, it's no trip is almost over.  The bike is on it's way back and so am I.  One thing I learned this trip is....a blog is a lot of work and it's REALLY easy to get behind.  So I'm about 2 months behind and I think what I will do is post up a lot of the pics minus commentary and slowly update and fill in the blanks to tell the story of the last leg of the journey.  

I believe the biggest Amara and Inca ruin in Ecuador is Ingapirca near the town called Cañar.  It's off the beaten track and overlooked by a lot of travellers, but we really thought it was worth while

If you ride up past the ruin there is a nice hotel/hostel there.  We just parked the bike there and didn't stay so I can't tell you the prices, but it's really nice and peaceful up there.  Turned out there  are lockers at the gate to ruins, so if you go, you can always lock up your stuff there.


They make the doors this shape to help with-stand earthquakes.

Definetly the centre piece of Ingapirca.  Lots of precision in these stones.

There have bee so many times I've been told rocks look like an Inca head, face, warrior etc...but I really think there is something to this one.  I just doesn't look like a fluke.

There is another recently archaeological site very close by that has recently been excavated.

After the ruins we headed south and made it all the way to the sleepy town of Vilcabamba, just east of Loja.  Make sure you get gas on the east side of Loja if you intend to go south from Vilcabamba or you will have to back track, or take your chances further away.   Good food, peaceful and some great hostels.  There is also some nice trails around, but there was a forest fire and we didn't make it all the way to the waterfall we wanted to see.  The road south of Vilcabamba is a dirt road with lots of construction.  Be prepared for a good ride in the rainy season.
But we made some friends.  This guy reminded me of Andy. (let's see if he reads my blog)
We bumped into the couple staying at a little place near the river and hung out with them a coupe times.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Solento to Canoa

After some relaxing, we headed out.(yes, there was a girl on the back of my bike...just a friend from Argentina)

Anyway the ride south was pleasant and this time I made sure we stopped at the Sanctuary just before the border and it was just amazing.  A large cathedral built right into a secluded canyon wall.  

Here is an exert from wikipedia I wanted to share, because it's such an interesting story.

"Las Lajas Sanctuary (in Spanish Santuario de Las Lajas) is a minor basilica church located in the southern ColombianDepartment of Nariño, municipality of Ipiales and built inside the canyon of the Guáitara River.
The present church was built in Gothic Revival style in 1949. The name Laja comes from the name of a type of flat sedimentary rock similar to shale.

The cascada

The inspiration for the church's creation was a result of a miraculous event in 1754 when an Amerindian named Maria Mueces and her deaf-mute daughter Rosa were caught in a very strong storm. The two sought refuge between the gigantic Lajas, when to Maria Mueces's surprise, her mute daughter, Rosa exclaimed "the mestiza is calling me..." and pointed to thelightning-illuminated silhouette over the laja. This apparition of the Virgin Mary caused pilgrimage to this location, with occasional miraculous cases of healing reported. The image on the stone is still visible today."

This place is a shrine and I could feel the energy. It literally radiated.
Looking down from the edge of he cathedral.

After the leaving the Sanctuary and crossing the border again, it was once again getting late and we found a town called San Gabriel and a quiet little hostal.  The next day we didn't waste any time and headed for the coast as per our plan.

The north coast of Ecuador is known for it's Caribbean influence and I was looking forward to something a bit different.  There was A LOT of very thick jungle which made for a bit of an interesting ride, but have to say I was a bit disappointed.    There was a lot of poverty and garbage and Esmeralda's seemed a bit like the "forgotten" part of Ecuador.   We stayed one night in the small town of  Atacames,which was one of the nicer spots in the north coast.  A bars really trying to overcharge us for a couple of drinks and we had to go to the place next door.
Lots of places for drinks and such on the beach, but not many tourists and a bit over-priced.

We had a great ride down the coast the next day and when we finally arrived in Canoa, I was like....yes!  This is the place.  The beach was lovely, not extremely white sand, but very nice and great waves.  This place rocks!

We got a hostel for the first night, then realised there was a great place next door for about the same price and promptly moved.

The view from the 1st hostel down to the yard and the beach beyond.

The next few days were spent surfing and kayak surfing.  There is quiet a few tourist and some great restaurants.  I also looked at some property, just to satisfy my curiosity.  If I wanted to live in a beach town, this would definitely be a contender.

On one of the side streets, one of the local guys making up some fishing nets.

Ya, it was really hard to leave Canoa.  Some people that we talked to said the rest of the south coast is pretty awesome too, but it was time to head in-land to go and see some ruins.  We took to the road and headed east towards Guayaquil and ultimately Ingapirca. 

Along the way we stopped for a needed break and there was something interesting at the gas station cafe.  A small group of people travelling together, (not sure if they were friends, family or co-workers)  but they had fighter chickens with them.  I obviously don't sanction that sort of shit, but I did take a few pictures.   They weren't shy showing off the roosters and seemed pretty proud of them.  Moments like this make you realise how different our society is from others.

These are the blades that they fix to the roosters beaks and ultimately they will kill each other with.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Café & Candy

Finally I make it to the much praised city of Medellín!  I ride in the city with only an address of the hostel I'm planning on staying in, and little more.  The GPS map I have for Colombia was pretty much useless.  After riding around aimlessly for a short time among the cars and tiny 100-400cc motos, I actually see a larger bike.  A larger V-twin Yamaha and I decide to play follow the leader for awhile, and we have a little bit of fun as he tries (not sure exactly how hard) to lose me.  Finally I pull up beside him at a light and low and behold he speaks English and then offers to lead me to my hostel!!!  Things are looking up already.

The next day the bike goes into the dealer for an oil change, tires and maintenance and I'm left feeling naked.
The typical scene of a vendor making candy on the street.
There is no admittance fee and there is some interesting things to see inside.  There was an art display when we went in.  I also should mention how much I love the two-tone bricks of this building.  You'll see what I mean in the picture down below.

The sculptures of Fernando Botero in Medellin are truly something that should not be missed.

Here's one of my favourites.
Here's the top of the Palacio De la Cultura.  It has to been seen to be appreciated.

The tires are finally on and the bike is listo (ready).  I leave Medellín after almost a week and head towards Solento.

It's a great ride and I manage to completely by-pass Cali.  If you go this way and don't feel like a large city, I suggest you take the time and plan your route to give Cali a wide berth.  The dancing and partying in Cali are supposed to be great, but I don't do either so it made sense to skip it this time.

I checked into a Hostel called the Plantation house.  A few positive and negative points on this place.  The owner was a super nice kiwi guy and let me park my bike right beside his house, but it was up the road out of my sight.  The negative things were that the kitchen was disgusting.  The garbage was overflowing all over the floor and when we mentioned it to the staff he simply shrugged his shoulders.  The other thing was it WAS very rustic to the point where you would almost be better off in a tent.  Cheaper and less insects.

Anyway, the coffee tour with them was good and it almost made it worth the stay there.
At the beginning of the tour the owner talked about coffee and the different kinds of plants.

The machine they use to skin the beans.
The different stages of coffee, including the flowers.

Roasting the coffee.
The gigantic flower in on the bottom of the banana tree and upside down,
You have to ask for them, but they do have nets and there isn't many mosquitos.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Tena and back to Colombia

After some exciting and strenuous kayaking I decided that I better finally take care of myself.  I went for a massage, which are dirt cheap in Ecuador, and I decided I would also try the steam bath at the hostel.

What awesome fun in the steam bath!  You go in this box and get steamed 6 times and in between you smash yourself with a freezing cold wet towel.  It's hilarious and you feel great after.  I recommend you go with a bunch of friends and laugh your asses off.

It was kinda odd, but I left a little noxious after the waterfalls.  Not sure what the was about, but I did bump my head a bit on first drop.  Anyway, I thought the massage would help and it did a bit, but I still felt a bit off.  

It came time in my trip to do some serious thinking.  My original plan to make it to Argentina and back to Canada for August and that was simply not going to work.  It was with great hesitation and disappointment I decided to head back to towards Colombia.  Later that day I arrived in Tena, Ecuador which is also known for amazing kayaking.  I checked myself into a hostel and the next day I kayaked a grade 4+ river,  The Quijos with "The River People" and a guide named Tim.

On the way to the river that day I felt really noxious again.  Luckily, by the time we reached the put-in I felt better.  I decided if I felt that way again, I'd seek some medical aid.

What an amazing day on the river.  Huge rapids, One tense moment when one of the guide got caught side surfing an epic hole, but was patient and eventually surfed off.   Also scary when I got run over by the raft.  We were paddling down the river, one of the guides was leading with me behind with the raft and another safety kayaker trailing.  The lead guide pulled into a micro eddy and I didn't find any room to follow.  A minute later I went straight into a monster hole and had only time to say a VERY short prayer, before I was torpedoed to the bottom of the river.  I held my breath and waited patiently for the right time to roll, but that opportunity didn't present itself and I needed to breathe.  I managed to get my head up long enough for air, but that was all.  When I finally tried to roll the third time I was blind-sided hard and felt my spray-deck come off the cockpit of my kayak.  Time to swim.  When I popped my head out of the water, the raft that had just collided with my floundering boat and was right beside me and so was one of the safety kayakers and the clean up was easy.  My helmet was knocked clean off my head!

So, a great day on the river with a little scare at the end,  but all-in-all, an amazing day.  Pictures for sure next time!

Immigration and vehicle permits are pretty into Columbia.

The road just before Medellin.

Going up the tram car in Medellin with some British Travellers.
When I finally got to Medellin, I was still experiencing some nausea .  I decided it was time to get into the hospital for some tests.
They put the IV on me while I waited for the test results.
So, all the tests came back negative. They tested me for Dengay Fever, Malaria and a whole slew of other things and everything looked good.  A bit of a relief, but it didn't answer the question of why I was feeling like shit.
These aren't quite Oreo's but they still made me feel better after all the the blood tests and waiting.  Good medicine.