I got off to bit of a late start. Something was lost in translation with regards to my laundry and it was still drying well into the morning. I did my best to get addresses for the local Kawasaki dealership as well as finding the route to Volcan Guagua Pinchincha.
Actually it was my second late start in a row. Yesterday I spent the morning do bike tech. I changed the front break pads, replaced a blown fuse for my heated vest “whip”, fixed that gas tank vent tube which seems to collapse in the heat (as mentioned weeks ago), did a general inspection of common bolts, replaced a missing exhaust bolt, tightened the exhaust and a few other things. It was time.
I am back at the same hostel. It was a good place and my timing is as such that I didn’t dare head to another city. I’m keeping it simple tonight and am hitting the road early. I intend to make a bee line for Peru. Its not that I have seen enough of Ecuador but I have limited time.
So I managed to find the Kawi dealership and got a backup clutch cable. This is good news. I also picked up a replacement pair of goggles. My old ones got damaged by water. Go figure…motorcross googles getting a separated lens due to water — the fluid that changes tints in the sun washed out. That is a pretty stupid design. There were quite a few current model KLRs at the dealership. As I have been noticing, 2009 and 2010 KLRs are common police vehicles in Ecuadorian towns and cities. In Colombia, the KLR are military vehicles, while the police prefer Suzukis. Apparently they have exclusivity contracts.
So, having left the dealership, I went looking for the volcano. Quito is right at the edge of a series of volcanoes. I did my best to mine the hostel people for details — given that they also operate tours — but it didn’t help too much. I tried one place which looked like it but the hill was way to steep and choppy to climb. That GPS waypoint was way off 😉 Feral dogs were also abound. Canus Tiburonus. I haven’t yet been bit — which kind of surprise me.
I was started to give up on the idea. I pulled over randomly and start to look at the map. I then flag a guy down who was standing in front of a store to ask him if he was familiar with the volcano. He brought out another guy from the store who spoke reasonable English and ended up calling a friend. “Just go to Lloa”. Pronounced like “Joao”, a co-worker of mine, but with more of “y” with the “j”. Once I arrived in the small town of Lloa, I simply asked for “volcan?” — until I found the path.
I started to head up. The ride up wasn’t *too* challenging. It was *fun* challenging but not treacherous. In no time I was quite for up the twisty dirt roads. Don’t get me wrong. They are full of ruts and there is a potential to drop the bike, but I wasn’t attempting something beyond my skill level.
One guy a passed on the road managed to communicate to me by way of spoken language, hand gestures and stick drawings in the earth, that there was some sort of habitation up there. And something about locking up. Either that it was locked or that I would have to lock up my bike and proceed on foot.
As the elevation increased, so did the lack of air to Zilla. As long as I gunned the throttle things worked out. Further and further up it was hard to get enough power at low RPMs. What this meant is that each time I came to a sharp turn — which are almost all blind corners — I had to slow down, or even stop, and then start moving again up the incline. I ended up really beating on the engine and clutch to make it as far as I did. Zilla finally gave up at 4526 metres or so. Unfortunately it was in a precarious place. A stationary fully loaded KLR on a steep incline becomes rather unruly and hard to dismount. Down she went. Top end into the camber of the road — or almost a ditch — with access to the lifting side blocked by the roads excavation. All I could do is grab the handle bar, and later the front wheel, and turn the bike around by dragging it. Eventually I was able to grasp the lower handle bar and get behind the seat to right it.
At this point I am also suffering a little from lack of oxygen. I look my time and eventually got the think onto its side stand long enough to recover my helmet (which was acting as my hazard beacon up the curve of the road). I mounted it a coasted it down to a flat area. I locked her up, stuffed anything of value that is covered by the stainless steel net into my man purse, or murse — OK — my tank bag when hung on my should with my camera bag’s strap. I was quite close to an orange building containing beds. While it was locked, it is some sort of shelter — presumably for planned excursions up the volcano. OK. First milestone. The next milestone was a flatter area before the next section up to a white cross which was to be my summit. And the location in which Tyson took the photo which won him an award for the Horizons Unlimited calendar photo contest.
Boy-o-boy was I huffing and puffing. I didn’t begin the trip with particular cardio efficiency. Weeks and weeks on a bike don’t help this either. Surely my core, and to some degree legs, back and shoulder get mild resistance training but certainly no cardio. I would take something like 15 or 20 steps and would be huffing and puffing as if I had be at a moderate to hard run. A photo break. Some more steps. Another photo break. I finally made it to the flat-ish area. A heavy fog (clouds, I guess) came in and I was starting to get frustrated. I couldn’t even see where I was going. I once I did get there, what would I be looking at? Clouds? White? What was the point. I took a breather and came to my senses. I was, indeed, starting to get dizzy and light headed. But not to the point of worrying (too much) about collapsing up there in the volcano all by myself. I will probably never be here again. Who knows. I may never again have the opportunity to climb a volcano. Even if I huffed and puffed, and the fear of puking (up that recently consumed Snickers bar) didn’t put a halt to it. What if I did vomit? So what. That “summit” wasn’t and it became personal.
I persevered. I didn’t puke. I didn’t faint. Maybe partially physiological. And the clouds started to blow away revealing that I was almost there. I climbed up the rocky monument, past the shrine (of course there would be a religious shrine — this is Latin America), and up to the cross. I took quite a number of photos and attempted at capturing myself “on the ridge”. There were still too many clouds to even challenge Tyson’s photography, but hey, I made it.
Spending my time of there and having finished reflecting on whatever it was I was reflecting on, I began my descent. At this altitude, on emergency cell signals are available so a mobile post to Facebook had to wait until back at the cabin (oh, the humanity!). Luckily, gravity was on my side. I made it back to the bike without any issue and rather pleased with myself. De-mursing myself, I mounted the bike and rode it down the volcano, mostly with one hand as I decided to shoot the descent in video with my point and shoot camera. Actually, I have no idea whether it has audio, but it will be interesting to here my narration. I actually surprised myself how far I rode with (mostly) one hand while holding the point and shoot. Another wild dog crossed my path as well. I think it may have been a wolf, but then again it may have been a coyote — I’m pretty sure I caught a glimpse on video.
Arriving in Lloa, I quit filming and returned to the hostel in the darkness of night where I am now and starting to think about dinner 😉