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December 31, 2017

Day 49 [Sun 12/31/2017] - Riobamba to Zapotillo, Ecuador

Day 49 [Sun 12/31/2017] - Riobamba to Zapotillo, Ecuador

Update: I am alive and well and resting peacefully in the Hostal Los Guayacanes in Zapotillo, Ecuador.

Starting Odometer: 12,618
Ending Odometer: 12,943
Distance Traveled Today: 325 miles
Distance Traveled This Trip: 8,340 miles [12,943 - 4,603]
Distance Traveled This Trip(in Km): 13,422 km

My ride today looks something like this.

Riobamba - Rain.
Lalamor - Rain.

In the morning, the road through the Andes is not very good.

It's marred by potholes. And this is the part that frustrates me, I think. Like....I'd like to be on the main road to Cusco. But my guess is that this is the main road, as it was suggested to me by google maps.

So I'm winding through the Andes again. Very beautiful. Hard to describe. I stop and shoot a few photos, and I shoot some with the GoPro.

Now, as I go through the mountains, I notice that the people are different. These are not the Africans that populate the coast, or the Spanish that populated the country up to this point. This are natives. They look similar to the natives I saw in Peru. These are indigenous people.

As I pass through one town, they're walking livestock down the shoulder of the road. Goats. Sheep. Pigs. You name it. They wear felt hats.
Very different scene here than what we saw in Ecuador up to this point.

Now, as I roll through these tiny mountain villages, they employ the strategy where they block the roads and plead for contributions/donations. Only now, it is more aggressive than when I saw it in Mexico. Now, when I come by, the lift up ropes and poles to block the entire road. THey hit my bike with sticks when I come by without paying.

In the United States, they'd be in jail for this. But I just keep riding. It's not like giving them money would make things better. They're not going to call ahead to the next village and say "he paid...he's good." So I just keep riding. I get some footage with the GoPro.

Also, at these roadblocks, they often have men dressed in drag, and manequins deployed on the shoulders of the road. I think that this is part of the New Year's Even celbration, but it's hard to know for sure.

Somehow, I've got to make it 1,000 miles on a smooth rear tire. That's the distance, roughly, to Lima, Peru. So, I'm trying to use my rear brakes and down-shifting less, and more front brakes. Now, I hear a sound coming from my front brakes. I'm not clear what it is, but I'm sure I've never heard it before. I assume is has to do with the hydraulic front brakes, for some reason they're making a racket. Great.

I'm trying to get in 100 miles before noon so that I can stop for lunch. Somehow, I make it and get in 100 miles by 11:57 a.m.

Just before Triunfo, there's a toll plaza (piaje), and he waves me off to the right. This is how motorcycle handled the toll roads in Colombia, but in Ecuador, they normally charge us a nominal amount like $0.25 or $1.00. But here, he waves me aside and it's free for motorcycles.

I'm having a hard time focusing. A car passes me (overtakes me) and catches me by surprise, so I stop for lunch in a roadside open restaurant where they're already grilling the food. I like this setup, because I can just pull up and eat, without having to wait.

Roosters crowing out back of the restaurant.

It threatened to rain on me in the Andes this morning, but it never really did. Basically, you're driving through the clouds, and now I'm out of the mountains, in the flatlands where they grow great plantations of banana plants. Now, I see that it's populated more by the Spanish, and the local natives must live up in the Andes only. Now that I'm out of the Andes, it looks more like the population I was familiar with from before.

Death penalty for car alarms that go off repeatedly with no obvious signs of criminal activity, and their owners standing within 20 yards.

Now, for some reason, neither my GPS nor my iPhone will route me to my destiation Lalamor, Ecuador.

So frustrating.

Sunday 12:00 noon - Lunch in Triunfo, Ecuador

$4.20 for carne asada, rice and beans, and diet coke.

Eventually, I just start following E-25 South, as it seems to be heading the right direction. My Waze app won't take me anywhere at all, hardly. It just says "Something went wrong" or "Waiting for network". Just meaningless drivel, that's of little consolation when you're lost in a 3rd world country in the Andes.

So, once I see the road sign that says E-25, I just start following that.

At some point on the journey, I drop my camera. Now, when I say I drop it, I didn't drop it. It fell onto the pavement, because that little medal loop that screws into the bottom of the camera frame wiggled loose. It was my fault though, because you're supposed to keep tightening it all of the time, and I sort of spaced it. With so much else going on 24/7, I neglected to keep tightening the little loop constantly, and the camera dropped onto the asphalt going about 50 mph. Now, this is not a new frame or a new lens. It is a Canon EOS50D with a 17-85mm zoon lens. And, if you can believe it, it still works. It broken the lens cap. And, the lens is damaged, but still largely functional. So, I just kept shooting with it. I'm not worried about breaking the cameras. That's part of the journey. If I wanted to keep my cameras in good shape, then I'd put them in the closet and never use them. That's not what I choose to do. I choose to take them into the field and, inevitably, break them. That's sort of part of the adventure. If it was easy, everyone would do it.

At some point, the road signs start to say 'Peru Fronterra', and I"m like...good enough. I'm heading for the border with Peru, that's sort of the general idea, anyway. So I keep rolling through the Andes. I can't really get the Garmin to do anything, because it won't route me...well...anywhere really. It's never heard of Quito, Ecuador. Very frustrating. I'm thinking of switching back to paper maps.

Some of the signs now say "Puente Internacional", so I'm like...."Aha. That's the bridge that crosses into Peru." Good enough. So, I'm folling signs roughly south, or southwest. And folliowing signs for "Puente Internacional".

What I missed was that there are two different E-25 highways. E-25, and E-25 A, as in Alternate. Thanks for that Ecuador. Well played. So, even though the road signs show that I'm following E-25, I'm really following E-25A, and heading further west than I had intended, and back into the Andes, as always.

So, at each town, I stop and ask someone..."Donde fronterra con Peru?" And, eventually, I get fairly close to the border. I don't want to try to cross in the dark. And, I'm not really at the border anyway, as best as I can tell, I'm still about 20 miles from the border, or so.

But it's dark, so when I pull into town, I roll around until I see a Hostal.

"Aguas caliente?"
"Quanto es?"

It turns out, the cost of a room for the night is $15.00, but for me, it's $12.50 for some reason. I'm not clear why really.

She indicates that she wants me to do something with my gas can, and I'm like...it's fine. It's not that big of a deal.

I tell her I need my bike to go for dinner, but she indicates that dinner is just around the corner.

5 minutes later, there's a man out front of the hostel in a car, and I get that I'm supposed to follow him to park my bike. So I follow him about 4 blocks, and I park the bike under his shed on a private ranch. Then, he brings me back to the hotel in his car.

Now I walk about 50 yards for dinner. I ask the cook what is for dinner, and she says pollo, carne, o chancho. ANd I'm like..."chancho"? What in the hell is "chancho". So I look it up with Google translate. It's "pig". So, "chancho" is pork. Very well. I'll have that then.

I'm sitting down eating dinner, and now the power goes out in the whole town.

It doesn't help that there are explosions going off all of the time. I'm guessing that they're celebrating the New Year, but they've been setting off M-80's for about the last week. And it always sort of sends my PTSD from Honduras into a tailspin.

So, I think that, what I'll do in the future, is I'll lock in both of my GPS devices so that they're set to navigate before I leave the hotel. It's just too frustrating otherwise.

Update 1: I saw a few riders yesterday on bikes with paniers, that did not have Colombian plates. Although, now that I think about it, they may have had Ecuadorian plates? But they all honked and waved at me as we passed in the Andes. They were always heading the other direction, of course.

Update 2: For some reason, Ecuador initially charged motorcycles for the toll roads, and then, halfway through the country, stopped charging motorcycles for the toll roads. Now, they want you to go around to the right, the way Colombia did. Only, Colombia was much more organized and had signs that said "Motorcycles dereche", or words to that effect.

Update 3: Although I was sure that I was lost in the Andes, now that I look at what my objective was, I was always on the right road yesterday. I think the confusion comes from the name of the border town in Ecuador...is it Lalamor, or is it El Alamor? It seems to change when I zoom in on it.

Lunch: $4.25
Dinner: $3.25
Hostel: $12.50
Gas: $5.66 + $4.75

Posted by Rob Kiser on December 31, 2017 at 5:57 AM


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