Writing before bed on July 15th, 2010: What a crazy ass day. It started out with a nice hotel breakfast and a little small amount of bike tech. This was followed by a short mountain ride to Ipiales where I found out that I was at the wrong Aduana (customs). The permisso for my bike said specifically “Ipiales” and the agent in Bogota impressed upon me “go to Ipiales” — so why didn’t they just say the name of the border town that I was to cross at anyways rather than being confusing and saying Ipiales. That was a wasted hour.
Exit stamps for myself and the bike were easy enough but getting into Ecuador was a PITA. I believe I waited at least an hour, maybe more as I was chatting with an Colombian of Ecuadorian background which passed the time. Finally the outside line was let into the building where I waited a little longer to get my entrance stamp. Once this was complete, I then had to get my bike in at the Aduana. There I met Ben, an Australian chap who had an interesting story. Arriving in February, he had purchased a KLR650 in Chile (or Argentina — not sure). Well, within a week of having that bike that major earthquake hit Chile crushing the KLR under a collapsed wall in a parking lot. He then bought a used Africa Twin, which is what he was which he was going to sell in Chile and return home and an object of confusion for the Aduana.
We had both been complaining about the wait. And I had thought some of the Central America crossing look a while. We huddled around some mysterious window where a guy comes out, takes some documents or asks you to get photocopies and then disappears. In the baseball cap and jeans, it was really hard to tell that he was a government official. Well, we played the waiting came. It was probably two hours before my bike cleared. There is a *lot* to do with respects to looking at my driver’s licenses (Ontario and International), ownership and passport and verifying the VIN on the bike. And getting me to get copies of it all and printing out a form letter with the details of the bike. Given that it should have taken ten minutes, where did the other 110 minutes go? So yes. It probably took me 5 hours start to finish to get from Colombia to Ecuador — plus under a dollar in copies. So it was cheap in dollars but not time.
The Aduana guy was a bit of a wise guy. He reminded me a little of the Aduana prick in Honduras, if you remember him. Upon completion, this guy went from wise guy to a bit of a dick. Yes, Ecuadorian high ranking government official — if you are reading this — your Aduana guy, even though he believed he was joking — threatening to vandalize my motorcycle with spray paint (a gesture and noise) when I stated that I did not have anymore (apparently coveted) Canadian flag stickers — is not very cool. Sorry, I have only one left which may end up on my bike if I feel the situation demands it — Sorry Senior Dick.
So, I left the border really late — perhaps 5:30PM, in part, thanks to Senior Dick. I had it in my mind to head to Otavalo. As mentioned earlier, I had met the guy in line who’s family is from there and he said there was a festival going on. I also heard it was a bit of a backpackers joint so it seemed better to head there for the night– and hit Quito later.
Darkness came pretty quickly. I knew I was going to be riding at night tonight, but for some reason, the idea didn’t bug me very much. I’m not sure why. The general rule of thumb is to avoid night riding — especially on the highways. Perhaps it was because I had a good feeling about the town I was headed towards. As darkness set I was “blessed” by some of the most beautiful scenery I have seen to date. Rose coloured clouds as the sun set, with a crisp white pie moon a la on a winter lake in Ontario, mountains in the distance and a snow capped volcano. It was an impressive site. With any luck, a taste was capture by way of photo.
Full darkness set and I was playing the old pass the tracker trailer game, and trying to make good time with moderate speed. It is dark after all. Here and there I did notice that beyond the guard rail was a vertical drop down the Andes. Yikes. Don’t worry. It wasn’t at all hairy, just one of those “holy shit, I wasn’t expecting that” moments. Throughout the trip people have been curious about the dual Trailtech HID lights I have mounted below my windshield. Here and there I have turn them on in the day but they only seem to make a partially impression. My secret weapon. In the dead of night I am one of the brightest things out there. When running my low and high beams, and flood and spot lights I can see so much that it might as well be day light. This includes surfaces right in front of me as well as a wide angle of peripheral. I do have to kill them when nearing other traffic but but they increase the road hazard safety of night riding immensely. All in all, the ride was quite enjoyable. Even the wisping fog, which was cause for reduced velocity, felt like it was out of a vampire movie — in a good way.
Arriving in Otavala, I notice a lot of people around. Indeed the festival was on. After riding around a bit sussing out places to stay by way of the Lonely Planet guide, I decided to stay at an Incan run hostel with $8 rooms and $2 internet. I’m not crazy about my bike being parked in a somewhat public parking lot. The hostel says they have an arrangement with the lot and 24/7 security. I have a hunch that it will be OK here. I dare complain about having to change my front brake pads on the street tomorrow given that almost all of my tech has been performed on the busy streets of Toronto 😉
Soon after I headed for the streets to check out the street party. It is the Intiraymi Festival of the Sun. Actually I grabbed pizza first a nearby tourist joint. It was a little expensive but tasty and I was in the mood for pizza. The crust wasn’t yeast risen dough, but a crust a la egg pie (or quiche as some know it). If you are into making your own pizza, try it with a pie crust some time — very interesting and very good.
So the festival was packed. The town is predominantly Incan and I was generally seemed to be a towering giant amongst the mostly petite inhabitants of this town. There was a mixture of traditional and contemporary dress and plenty of costumes. I don’t yet know the full details about Intiraymi as I kind of “just showed up” (where as I’m sure some of the other tourists had planned this occasion for weeks, if not months), but the costumes are not dissimilar to Halloween back home. There were priests, nuns, witches, Mexican wrestler masks, mohawk hairdo wigs, various woolen monster looking hat mask things and all sorts of weirdness. It didn’t really have a scary theme, however. From time to time a horde would run down the street hollering and playing instruments to the theme song. But largely there were some what static circles of people dancing in circles to what seems to be the same songs. It was pretty wild. Present were guitars, harmonicas, recorders, and plastic mouth blow keyboard organs, and probably other instruments. I was surprised to see how many people played an instrument, even if they only knew the one song. Every corner had a rendition. Very festive. As a write, another band of merry people go by with guitars, mouth organ things, hooting and hollering doing that little step dance.
With the plaza or park, various kiosk are set up selling food: cotton candy, meat, potatoes and vegetables on a stick (BBQ), rice plates, empenadas; and toys, whistles, glow sticks and that sort of thing.
Long story short, I am liking Ecuador so far. I believe that I have volcano to go visit 😉 Posting this in the AM, I awake to wait seems to be a volcano over yonder….