Cuenca, Ecuador; Saturday 28th September.
Trouble with the rubber, and other tales from the road.
Having had new tyres fitted professionally in San Diego, I wasn’t expecting to have to do anything with them apart from checking their condition and pressure regularly until getting them changed again in Lima, about 8,000 miles down the road. They were Bridgestone’s – a brand I had used previously with no problems, getting about 9,000 miles out of a set. However, within 5000 miles the rear was starting to show alarming amounts of wear, particularly on one side. Now the roads were admittedly nothing like as smooth as European standards, but even so this was not so good. I decided I would nurse it as best I could to the next major stop off on the route – Panama City and hope I could find a replacement there.
However, with 500 miles to go it was now getting very serious. The town I was in (David, Panama) had a Honda dealer but they had nothing remotely like what I needed and despite phoning around for me couldn’t find anyone else in town with what I needed. I had to get to Panama City or risk missing the hook up with the boat that was going to transport me and the bike across the Darién Gap.
So, although it’s breaking all the rules I had the tyre taken off and reversed i.e. put on back to front (motorcycle tyres, as you all know, are supposed to travel in one direction only)
And it got to me to Panama, where joy of joys I found a little shop with a really small supply of tyres but one the exact size that I needed.
After 3 days in Panama City it was off to Colombia, by a slightly eccentric route…
Video is here if you’ve not caught up with it yet:
The ‘Stahlratte’ (Steel Rat) arrived in Cartagena bright and early at 08.00 Friday 13th ready for us all to leave, clear Colombian immigration, get the bikes ashore, clear them through customs, sort out the mandatory Colombian insurance and go our separate ways. I eventually left Cartegena on Tuesday morning of the following week. The delay came down to a combination of Colombian efficiency it being the weekend and so I couldn’t buy the obligatory insurance, and waiting an extra day so I could ride with a couple of Mexican guys and Dave Mournian from the UK. Not that I minded the time in Cartegena; a beautiful city with a really nice feel to it apart from the crippling humidity that made even sitting and reading a sweat filled task.
Colombia is a fascinating country.
Having been told if I wasn’t kidnapped, beheaded or shot in Mexico, then it would definitely happen in Colombia. However, I’ve worked on the principal I should be OK unless:
1 – I decide to get involved in any of the drug related activities that account for the vast majority of the murders and so on;
2- I get really unlucky….
As it was I met some of the friendliest and most charming people; and there was a real and genuine interest in the bike and my trip. Stops in Medellin and Cali – names which not so long ago were synonymous with the infamous Colombian drug cartels were a revelation. Medellin in particular (where I stayed in a room over an Irish bar – well, a trip of 20,000 plus miles you’ve got to at least once, come on!), was voted world city of the year in a survey in 2010, and the murder rate from the bad old days has dropped 80%, putting it on a par with most other South American cities. Naturally, I was regaled with stories of how dangerous it still was, but the only evidence I came across were the inordinate number of armed police (often two up on a motorcycle with the guy on the back toting a pump action rifle). They were the only pillions I saw – the city banned riding two up for men earlier in the year as it was popular with the gangs for drive, or ride, by shootings. Now legally all motorcyclists in Medellin have to have the number plate of their machine on their helmet, to prove it is theirs, and that they pose no threat. If you’re interested, full story is here: (sorry about the ad before)
From Colombia passage into Ecuador was easy – about an hour for the photocopying of all the documents, signatures, stamps and insurance. Infuriatingly, having spent so much time getting the paperwork sorted out to get into Colombia, there was no check on it when I left.
So, having crossed the border (and subsequently the equator), I’ve spent 7 days in Ecuador. Quito was a good pit stop, but a combination of a bout of food poisoning and the altitude (at 10,000 feet it’s the worlds’ highest capital city), meant I wasn’t able to see as much of it as I wanted. It’s added to the list for a return visit.
I’m now in Cuenca, which I think has got to be one of my favourite stopovers. Beautiful buildings and a lovely climate; but also bizarrely stuffed full of American expats. I had dinner last night in an Italian restaurant run by two of them – it features in the ABC news report here:
I ate my pasta and was long gone before the rowdiness began, obviously….
So, now onto Peru – long day in the saddle tomorrow, 120 miles to the Ecuador / Peru border then another 100 odd miles to where I intend to overnight.
That will leave me about 750 miles North of Lima, where I’m meeting up with Judith , and 7 days to cover it.