Ecuador 2

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.

Homes located along the road to Hakuna Matata were very basic, but usually very clean.
A "basic" existence....
Just another "Swinging Bridge".

The bridges sway enough that Sandy walked it.

On the way out she did ride on the bike.

Our "Suite" in the jungle.......
The room was clean and "BUGLESS"!

There were no glass windows, only screens.

We enjoy the room, hospitality and environment so much we elected to stay two days.

This was the cook, bartender and all around girl.  She was of the Quechua indigenous group, of which we had read much about.....
Another view of our room.
Another indigenous group which hung around the cocktail bar area.

Tropical plants were in abundance.
and more.....
and more....
and fungi everywhere...
and more...
and more fungi....

Klinger, our "local" tour guide took us for a 2 hour hike through the jungle.
Due to all the rivers and streams, there are swinging bridges all through the jungles.

This bridge had a large pipe on the right side, which took fresh water to the village of Tena.

Before we left Hakuna Matata, we were tempted to swim in the river under the swinging bridge.  It was one of the few times I had seen a "SAND" beach on a jungle river.

This is what I imagine the environment to be like in the "Survivor" show on CBS, but there were surprises.

It is not always as it appears..........

The location was idyllic, but....
So here we are in the Amazon Basin thinking that life was perfect until.......

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..........

So we say goodbye to our Hosts from Belgium and head further north towards the Colombian border.

Every meal at Hakuna Matata was excellent!

On Tuesday, the 20th of September, we are again on the move, heading towards the higher elevations of the Andes.
It was extremely hot, so when you finally get to an open space, where it is a little easier to breath, a short break is enjoyed.
Man and Beast work hard in the Amazon Basin.
At a fuel stop in Baeza, the girl in pink comes out of a room with orange Fanta and a roll with ham.
An hour later we stopped for a quick lunch which cost us a grand total of $3.00.
Half an hour later the rain started and within 10 minutes it turned into a torrential downpour.

We drove the bike into a ladies kitchen/patio and were warmly received.

Should have taken pictures of her, but felt awkward already, storming in as we did!

We finally made it back into the Andes.

Papallacta is a area with Hot Springs, so we got a room and enjoyed the hot waster, sitting in the rain.

No pictures (remember bug bitten back).

The room was at 10,840 feet, and got very cold during the night.

The hostel.......

This was the view at 6:45 am the next morning.

On Wednesday the 21st of September we got an early start for Otavalo, Ecuador, which is located about midway between Quito and the border with Columbia, to the north.

This was worth the early start.

Nearly froze my hands as my gloves were still wet from the day before.

The altitude reached 13,390 feet.

As you can see the temperature was 45 degrees, but dropped as low as 41 degrees.

And we were only about 20 miles south of the equator!

Quick stop for breakfast as we head west, back towards Quito and Otavalo.
It was not the IHOP, but we did not come to Ecuador looking for a Denny's, IHOP or another chain restaurant!

Again and again, the Ecuadorian warmth is everywhere.

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.

Our first llamas sighting!

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.


Snappy dresser...
View from top of tower.

In the top left of the picture is a bull ring, where half the stadium is south of the equator, and the other half of the ring is north of the equator!

Notice how the city has completely surrounded the monument.

In the 1940's it appeared that it was in the center of no where (except the earth)!

We were now headed to Otavalo, which, as the crow fly's, was only about 30 miles north of Quito.

The Pan America Highway, makes a huge loop to get there so we notices some small roads on the map which were more direct.

This looked more like Baja, then Ecuador.

Remote and desolate.

We ere sweating bullets, as we dropped 4,000 feet into this canyon, not knowing if there would be a bridge at the bottom.

We lucked out.

Three hours on remote dirt and cobblestone roads, and only saw one vehicle.

We were getting low on fuel and daylight.

The terrain changed from Desert to beautiful and steep mountains.  The road turned to single lane dirt road for about 10 miles, then 20 miles of bone and suspension jarring cobblestone road.  No cars for hours.

We were told that the road is only used when the indigenous put road blocks up on the main highways, then these cobblestone roads are used to bypass the road blocks.

This road sign induced a 5 mile, unneeded detour.
40 minutes prior to darkness we arrive in Otavalo.

We were both stressed by the low gas, minimum daylight and the thought that we might be lost.

I thought that Sandy deserved something special so we stayed at Hacienda Cusin.

The Hacienda was built in 1602, and the room we were in was the dining room of the estate.

 In the Moon travel guide the Hacienda Cusin is described as the "Oldest and one of the most famous and luxurious country inns in South America"!

The room rate was about 4 times our daily allowance for the trip, but they stated that we were the only guest for the next 2 nights, and offered us a suite for the standard rate.

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.............

This is the main house on the Hacienda, where our room was located.

Too cool!

It was like staying in an museum....
The ceiling was made of leather panels.

Tapestries hung on nearly all the walls.

Sandy waiting for breakfast on our day of departure....

Our waiter, Enrique......

Sandy is 5' 2"....

The receptionist (forgot her name), Cesar Arcos (the manager) and Sandy.

Cesar has managed the Hacienda for 5 years.  Prior to obtaining his management position, he attended Connell University.


Otavalo, Ecuador is know for having one of the best marketplaces in all of Ecuador.

Hanging meat was found everywhere.

I could only find one redhead in town!

What's with the chicken heads and feet......
Beans, peas and corn of every color imaginable....
At least 50 indigenous women would be sitting pulling one seed of corn off the ear, at a time.

Same with the peas.

Or you could order your meal right there on the spot.....
Now, if that does not get your appetite going, what does?
The market had different areas.

Meat, poultry, fruits and vegetables, beans, etc., etc., etc...

This was potato alley......

This case was interesting.

Room temperature meat in the top left section.

And a 3 year old taking care of his 6 month old brother in the lower right hand section.....

A few faces of the Otavalo marketplace.
It seemed that every women was carrying one. if not two babies.
Focus and determined attitudes.
Typical market place couple.

Picture is blurred, due to Sandy taking the picture while we drove the motorcycle around Otavalo.

All the men wore white pants, and the women wore white blouses with the embroidery.

Other sights in Otavalo....

Stick and mud construction.

Every 2 seconds a brick was tossed from the guy in the truck, to the guy standing on the board, laid across the truck, then to the guy near the window, then to the guy in the yellow shirt.

Notice the size of the flying bricks.  It was 3 times the size of our construction bricks.

The tossing continued within the building.

Washing of clothes, in the stream.

Pig on rope (not a dog).

More cleaning....

More friendly - arm waving Ecuadorian's.

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.  

The inflatable was hauled to the water.....
and launched......

All for a stupid picture.

But the conversations with the various people we met is sincerely priceless.

And off we go, across Lake San Pablo, at 8,500 feet elevation.



Not sure why I enjoy the HUNT, but I do.
And we find the "Casa", with additions on the front.
The picture is not worth a dime, but the experience was enjoyable.
Slightly different angle.

Then Now

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"!

Well, it is Friday night and approaching midnight.  Sandy is sleeping, so I better wrap this up......

We continued to head towards the Columbian border today.  Went to Ibarra, and then turned West towards the coast of Ecuador.  Many of the people we meet are from Columbia as we are only 15 miles south border.

There were at least 30 shoe shine stands on the median between the lanes.
I think it would be hard to get city approval anywhere in California for a statue like this, located in a traffic circle in Ibarra, Ecuador.........
Thought we were lost again, so we stopped in a very small village, and after about 30 minutes, found somebody that sold gas by the gallon bottle.......

We were not lost, but 15 miles of rough cobblestone, which, on the map, looked like a major highway had us concerned.

We stopped early today and relaxed and rested in a beautiful Hostel.
Columbian waiter.

But just as friendly as the Ecuadorians!

Sandy had fresh tomato soup.

I had Ecuadorian trout buried in Shrimp...

It looked great and tasted better!

That's it for Friday the 23rd of September, 2005.  Living the good life in Ecuador!

Back Home Up Next