On Sunday, the 18th of September, we left Tena and heading north on dirt road. Although the road looked like a major route, it was rough dirt travel. Our total distance for the day was 11.7 miles, in air thick and stifling. Temperatures were 90 plus with humidity to match. We stumbled on a jungle lodge, of which we were the only visitors, and were treated like kings. The owners migrated from Belgium 7 years ago.
Then, for some reason I got the itch to head back into the Andes........
You may want to fast forward over the next picture. We have been in the jungle for 4 days, and not a bite, until we got in the river, in a spot that looked like paradise. Note to self..... No need to sign up for "Survivor"! The expansion about the belt line is due to having Filet Mignon for dinner nearly every night for 2 weeks.
Once on the coast of Ecuador we will e switching to fish..........
A few notes and Observations........
Ecuador is a country of unbelievable variety. And it changes from valley to valley and village to village. You can head down a 4,000 foot deep canyon that looks like it could be located in Baja California, with it's cactus and rocky terrain, and drive 10 miles over the next ridge, and you are in a garden paradise. Or leave the warmth of the jungles, with its noises, smells and sounds, and drive 40 miles to the west, and you will swear you are in Switzerland, with snow covered peaks, waterfalls and pine trees. Ecuador could be the "Motorcycle Dual Sport" capital of the world, if some customs processes were changed.
The people also vary from village to village. One moment it seems as though you are surrounded by Europeans, and 5 miles down the road you are surrounded by indigenous people where the tallest person is less than 5 feet tall, and then travel another 20 miles down the road and you would swear you were in Cuba with the Afro-American influence. The only thing everybody has in common is their friendliness!
Ecuador is a cultural and environmental smorgasbord. I wish everybody had the opportunity to experience what we have encountered during the past 3 weeks.
But, traveling on a motorcycle is not easy and we are just beginning! I now have a LOT of respect for Striking Viking (Two Wheels through Terror) , Ed Culberson (Obsessions Die Hard), Danny Liska (Two Wheels to Adventure), Ted Simon (Jupiter's Travels) and all the other people who wrote books about their adventures, which we have diligently read over the last 10 years.
You take the weather as it is delivered, whether it is cold, hot, rainy, hailing (yes, we have already experienced hail less then 15 miles north of the equator near San Pablo,, Ecuador) or humidity so high, you pray for a breeze.
But it is TOTALLY worth every inconvenience, discomfort and frustration. Prior to leaving on this journey, friends had suggested that we were crazy to take a trip like this, with its associated dangers. My prospective has now changed.
If you can manage the time and have the health for a trip similar to this, you may be missing an opportunity of a life time, if you do not take the time and effort to experience the cultural and environmental diversity of an adventure like this.
As we drive down a road, trail or cobblestone street, I feel as though I am riding a time machine through lands and times which I did not know exist. All the television travel shows and reading of books do not prepare you for a trip like this.
It sounds corny, but it is not the dots on the map which are interesting. It is the process of what you see as you connect the dots.
A visit to a Hilton or Marriot in Miami Beach, Maui, Cancun, Rio de Janeiro or any other location, will not take your imagination and turn it inside out. Places like Sangoiqui, Tena, San Francisco de Borja, Alausi and Otavalo will initiate a complete reevaluation of what the world is really like.........
I asked Sandy if she thought that this trip would be enjoyable in an SUV instead of a motorcycle. Her answer was yes, but she added that you would not smell it, see it and hear the things, which you do, on a motorcycle.
And a final observation is one concerning the maps of Latin America. They suck! The map may show, what appears to be a major artery, and it turns out to be a cobblestone trail, 20 miles long, over a 12,000 mountain pass with hairpin turns so sharp you can barely get a motorcycle around the corner without backing up, You would swear that it is the remnants of a 500 year old Inca trail. You have to be comfortable with the fact that you may be lost, and then elated when you finally obtain your planned destination. If your kind of trip is, "If it's Tuesday, this must be Belgium", traveling by motorcycle in Latin America may not be your cup of tea. You can not be committed to any time schedule or distance.
And now back to a little "Then and Now"
This was our next target, which we thought would be one of the easiest finds, but it was tougher than we thought. Many roads in Ecuador cross the equator, and we assumed that this monument would have been constructed on the Pan American Highway. WRONG! Wrong by about 25 miles and 2 hours of back tracking towards Quito through miserable traffic. This picture is from a book called "All the Best of South Americas West Coast", by Sidney Clark, printed in 1954, about his travels during the 1940's.
Well, it has changed, and this time, not for the better. It is in the center of a very poor area, and is very tourist oriented. The structure in the picture, above, was torn down, but rebuilt. It is now about 10 times the size of the original, with a museum built inside the tower. It visit the monument you must pay a parking fee and an entry fees. Then it is surrounded by restaurants, trinket shops, and every other tourist type business.
The old monument was about 30 feet tall. The new structure is about 80 feet high.
We were treated and felt like Kings. We had a formal 5 course dinner, and when we returned to our room, somebody had already set the fire ablaze. We had a personal staff of about 15 employees for our stay. It is amazing to sleep in a room built over 400 years ago. We received a 6 page history of the Hacienda, which made the stay very special. They usually get the tour bus group. The manager was very surprised that we were touring South America on a motorcycle. He wanted to pose with us to have his picture taken. He stated that it would be hung in the formal library. If anybody ever sees it, let us know.............
Otavalo, Ecuador is know for having one of the best marketplaces in all of Ecuador.
Our next "Then and Now" was to locate a "Casa" which was photographed in one of the old books. We knew it was located on San Pablo lake, which was just over the hill from Otavalo. This search was more of principle, then anything else. The lake is now circled with homes. So we had to look at the shapes of the mountains, then look for the home from the far side of the lake. It took two days of searching, as we were hampered by heavy rains and hail.
This is the original picture. It really has no historic significance, and to spend time looking for a "House", is purely due to my bullheaded nature. The picture is out of a book titled "Fireside Travels in South America", by James Fitzpatrick and printed in 1948.
We thought we found it from the far side of the lake, but rain made the pictures to blurry to be sure. So on Friday, the 23rd we circled the lake, yet another time. We found a small boat club on the shore of the lake, which had about 30 small sabots. At first everybody looked stunned as we rode the motorcycle through the grounds. We then pulled the laptop out and showed the manager, who was from Argentina, what we were trying do. He first called about 5 employees over to look at the laptop to see if anybody recognized the house. The indigenous gentleman in the hat knew the location immediately. He stated, in Spanish, that a large tree had partially destroyed the house about 8 years ago, but that the home was rebuilt and enlarged. Once they knew our interest in South America, they could not be stopped.
Don't ask me why, but I enjoy the process of the hunt. This search would not have been successful, had we not found a local who knew the history and restoration of the home. As we drove away from the boat club, Sandy said with a big smile "That one was fun"!
That's it for Friday the 23rd of September, 2005. Living the good life in Ecuador!