We decided to dry out and go the next day all the way to Pasto.
What was interesting is that there was no news or Internet coverage of the road closure at all. We initially heard of it from an Argentinean newspaper. Also the super nice people at Hacienda Guayabal in Chinchina emailed us to warn us that the road was closed. The first coverage in Colombia was the day after the road opened.
Leaving town the highway 25 heads right thru the market area. You can imagine how the meat cart smells in the heat.
We were stopped on the road to Popayan, but were told the road was open now, but that the local planned to block it again in the next few hours. Here the police are checking our Dian papers…..
On this very windy steep pass we ran into Daniel and Fabian who are hard-core dudes.
We passed this couple on a overland trip of their own.
After a few more stops for police checks and quite a bit of construction we arrived in Pasto after 385 km and 7 hours in the rain. We found a good hotel with a great kebab place two blocks away.
We got ourselves slowly packed up for the 84 km to Ipiales at the border of Ecuador, since we expected a quick drive to Tulcan just across on the Ecuador side.
Our first issue was when we passed a long line of cars and trucks and then a police van who we found was following a group of bike riders in a fondo. We should have suspected something when they were saying something at us over the load speaker.
The road was eerily empty this should have been a sign. About 5 km later we were stopped and told we needed to wait till we were told the road was open. It was a power trip since 5 min later we were “free to go”. Next the road was blocked because of an accident and we needed to wait for it to be cleared.
Then we ran into the last of the Fondo bikers for which they were blocking the Pan-American Highway in both directions. The rest had already reached Ipiales. He was going about 8 km an hour. We gave up and stopped at a house and asked to buy water.
One of the things I wanted to see since we left home was the Santuario de Las Lajas, which is just outside of Ipiales.
It is a Dominican church built over a canyon.
The church is built across the canyon and the back of the alter is the rocks of the cliff.
Then we headed the short distance to the border. Arriving at Rumichaca the first thing you do is head up the stairs to get your passport exit stamp.
Next you head out back to the Dian Office. Here is where it gets funny. We had been given a carbon copy of “our permits” in Bogota, which we had been handing out to the police. Armando pulled out this huge stack of papers to had in and Dan said “ what is all that”? Long story short we were never given the papers, but because it was the Dian officers fault they just sorted it out for us right there.
There will be several people changing dollars there so now is a good time to get rid of your Pesos at a good rate.
Leaving the parking in Colombia you head over to the Ecuador side and into the Migration to fill in your tourist paper and then get a passport stamp. “ Welcome to Ecuador for 90 days”.
After leaving the migration we needed to buy your SOAT or insurance for Ecuador for 5$. Then you head a few shops over to the copy place where they will colour copy your license, you SOAT, and your passport with the entry stamp for .85$.
The last thing we ahve to do is go to the aduana to get your temporary import permit.
This nice guy gave Daniel a Jesus card for his tank bag to keep him safe.
After 2 hours 30 min at the borders we finally made it to Tulcan at dusk. The last problem of the day was that not only was there a convention in town, but the ^&%$# Fondo people had taken every hotel room in town. We pulled into the large Imperial hotel and parked. Daniel went into 7 hotel before he found rooms, which were clean, not rented by the hour, had on demand hot water, thick blankets and all this for 10$. The Imperial was nice enough to let us park there for free.
Armando was smart to ask the Bike Official about the road for then next day. Of course they are going to block the Pan American Highway in both directions from 8 am till noon so the bikers can go a 120 km. That said we left Tulcan at 1130 so we would be unlikely to run into them in the 285 km to Quito. We stopped for lunch beside a small lake and 3 of us ate for 5$.
Setting out south all of the gas stations within about 5 km of the border were closed, as they had no gas. We finally found a station that had gas, but in this entire state there is a purchase limit if you do not have an Ecuadorian plate. For bikes it is 3$. Gas is 1.48$ per gallon for regular, which is the reason for the limit to prevent people crossing from Colombia where they are paying 4.50/ gallon. They did agree to break the rules and let us fill up since we were heading south.
The scenery here is also stunning, and I don’t even mind paying the tolls since the roads are like silk and motos only cost .20$.
Arriving just at 5 pm to Ecuador Freedom Bike Rentals and were glad to see they were still there. Sylvain and Court are great guys and they came out to great us with New Freedom T shirts! Looks like we found Freedom after all. They were kind enough to give us some advice on off road routes thru the country. We actually realized then that we met them when they were riding in 2009 in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua.
They had recommended a great place to stay near by too at Casa Helbling. They have super comfy beds and so much hot water it’s insane. Claus makes his own charcuterie meats, which we had both nights for dinner.
We met fellow KTM riders from Switzerland Claudia and Thomas. We set out walking from the hotel to the Old town.
First we visited the Cathedral, where if you go around back you can buy an entry ticket to climb to the spires for 2$.
First you climb up into the clock tower.
Walking in the old town there is a very European feel.
The San Fransisco Convent is very plain on the outside, but very ornate on the inside.
This guy was running down a steep hill with this load.
We finished off the day with a trip up the teleferico cable car to 4100 m.
Well today is Daniel’s midway birthday so we though we should go to the middle of the earth monument before we headed south. A year ago today we were fixing Daniel’s dead stator at Garry Dymond’s house in Mexico city…….
The monument is only 25 km from central Quito, but that take over 90 minutes in traffic. According to our GPS the monument is 60 m off the true equator.
Several people wanted pictures with our bikes, like this Ecuadorian family.
You have got to get ice cream at the middle of the world.
Heading back thru the heavy traffic it was 4 hours since we left the hotel and we were only 10 km south of the center. We were in a barrio trying to get a short cut to the Pan Americana to get out of town a bit quicker. Sara was driving and suddenly a yellow warning light came on then off. About 5 seconds later there was a VERY VERY steep cobble road with a speed bump at the top, because of cross traffic. For those of you who have been to Garry’s Steeper than that hill to his house. As soon as she reached the tope and put some gas on to get over the bump and around the turn at the top the bike died. Long story short bike died and fell over landing on her right foot. Several guys near by helped to pick it up and push Dan over the bump and up around the corner, because it would not restart. Pulling out the computer and the GS 911 we found the stator was dead!! We got a taxi to give us a jump, but that lasted less than 5 min. The locals came out to help with cell phones and water and food. These ladies stayed with me for more than two hours while Daniel drove the 10 km back to Ecuador Freedom Motorbikes to get Diego the mechanic and arrange for a truck for Lulu.
Also luckily for Sara Armando was still around to translate for her at the hospital. I went to the local hospital recommended by Claus at Casa Helbing. I got amazing care. In Canada for your super painful hurt toe you would likely wait many hours to be seen and many more to be treated. Here they apologized that I might have to wait 45 minutes. In the end I was in a trauma bay in ten minutes, I had seen the orthopedic med student and then the resident in less than 30. I had xrays showing thankfully no fractures, but a dislocated big toe. Now a miracle I saw the staff Ortho surgeon in less than an hour. He froze my toe and painfully realigned it. I will need to rest with a splint for 2 days, and then should be able walk/ride.
This is not my xray because they have a digital system just like home, but this was what my right big toe looked like.