Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year's at the Equator

Day 77 (December 31, 2012)
Pasto, Colombia to Cayambe, Ecuador
Day's Ride: 182 Miles

Google Maps hasn't learned how to cross the border from Colombia to Ecuador yet, so you all get two maps today....


 The Hostel I stayed at last night boasted the best pancakes in town. They weren't joking....

As I was rolling out of town, I saw the little effigies that I had been seeing recently everywhere. One guy had a whole row of them that he was selling beside the road.

I stopped and talked to a few more people today and got some more details concerning these things. Apparently these little dummies are called "Ano Viejo", or old year. They represent the past year. In the days leading up to New Year's Eve, people make their "Anos Viejos" then prop them up beside the road and stand around collecting money from passing drivers. They use the money to buy gasoline, gunpowder, and fireworks which they then pack into the Ano Viejo. At midnight, they ignite them. Like I said yesterday, this is definitely a charity that I'm willing to donate too.

Leaving Pasto the morning was cold and I spent all day with my electric vest on. The landscape and the road were both still incredible.

And then the weather turned to crap.....

After about an hour of riding in rain and mist, I arrived at the border. This was it. I was about to see whether I could make it across the border without getting snatched up for my speeding ticket the other day. I walked over to the Aduana (Custom's Office) and showed them my papers. The official took my papers, looked out the window at my bike, then told me that I was good to go. I was amazed. I asked him if that was all. He told me yes.

I didn't argue; I was out the door and on my way to Migracion before he had a chance to look at his database and see that I was a wanted felon.

All told, leaving Colombia took me all of five minutes.

And then I was in Ecuador! I pulled up to the Migracion office on the Ecuador side and met this Colombian couple on a little Yamaha 125 who were on their way to Peru to see the Dakar.

After chatting for a bit, I stepped into the Ecuadorian Migracion Office. Everything was super tranquilo. In and out in two minutes. Next stop was the Aduana, where I literally read off the information for my bike to the guy behind the computer. He didn't even bother going out to verify the information on my bike. We were done in about 10 minutes.

I stepped out the door and wondered if I was really done. All told, the whole crossing had taken about 30 minutes. I was astounded. I didn't feel right just waltzing out of there without having to pull some teeth or chase off a few tramitadores. I hope the rest of the South American borders are this easy.

Just across the border I ran into a series of road blocks set up by people trying to get money for their "Anos Viejos". They had some pretty legit setups with swing arms made of bamboo, guys dressed in drag trying to get coins, and old timers sitting in lawn chairs drinking aguardiente. I stopped to chat with a few of them and this old guy starts pouring me a glass....

Unfortunately I had to politely refuse. I'm a little leery of ingesting anything unknown after the Space Gravy incident.

I love how people can just go build random obstructions in the middle of the road, totally interrupt the flow of traffic, and pester people for money.

Some kids had ropes laid across the street that they would yank up into the air as a car approached. A couple of those cheeky bastards almost decapitated me when I came around the corner at 60 MPH and they had their little rope stretched out about neck high across the street, one side tied to a tree, the other held by a few 14 year olds. I slammed on the brakes and skidded sideways, almost high sided the bike, then recovered and ran through their road block, decrying their parentage and giving them angry hand gestures.

A little ways after the road blocks it started raining again and I stopped to put on rain gear. As I was about to open my panniers, I noticed that the right side of the rack seemed a little loose. I gave it a thorough eye-balling and found (no surprise here) another break in the rack.

TCI is about to receive a very angry email from me. This is the third time that this has happened on this trip. I've even reformed my misguided ways, reduced the weight on the bike, switched to Pelican cases, and secured the panniers with ratchet straps to keep them from vibrating. And this is what I get. The unfortunate thing about taking an XR650L on a trip like this is that no one makes a solid luggage rack. TCI's is the best that there is, and we can all see how well it's worked. I'm only carrying about 60-70 pounds total back there now, which is nothing compared to most people that are doing this trip.

After the first time it broke, back in San Diego, I called TCI and asked them what the weight limit was for their product. They told me that they didn't have one. If they had given me some sort of number, I could just be angry with myself for ignoring their warning. But because there is no warning, I blame them. 0

If anyone is reading this and is planning on taking an XR650L on a serious overland trip with lots of gear, spend some money and time (I had neither) and go have someone make a custom rack for you. And reinforce your subframe.

So, with miles left to cover, I pulled a page out of Ewan and Charlie's play book and made a splint with a tire iron and a bunch of zip ties.

This is going to have to hold until I can get to Quito and find a solid welder. I'm going to take the whole rack off and weld gussets to every corner and weight bearing point. I may even add some extra struts and build some more connections to reinforce the whole thing.

After my impromptu bike surgery, I got back on the road. Northern Ecuador is just as pretty as Southern Colombia and has much, much nicer roads.

I eventually arrived in Cayambe and hunted down the rally point for the New Year's Eve festivities: Hacienda Guachala. This place has been in operation since 1580 and is really impressive.

It's currently been turned into a fancy Ecuadorian Hotel, but was in operation as a Hacienda up until the 1960's. The grounds are beautiful....

After dropping my gear and exploring the Hacienda for a bit, I jumped back on the bike and cruised over to the Equator which is only about a quarter of a mile away. I really wanted to ride my bike up to the little sundial monument for a pictures, but they had all of these signs and it all looked so official and touristy; kind of like a place that you shouldn't ride your motorcycle into.....

So I gunned it down the path and ignored the two workers yelling at me to stop....I figure you can always just play the dumb gringo, act like you don't understand Spanish, and use that as an excuse to do really awesome stuff....

Happy New Year from the Equator!

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