Getting Azulo ready for his NEXT big adventure!

Time to spruce up Azulo and get him ready for the boat trip to Panama!

First though, I had to get him out of the Hostel and down those steps!

Getting Azulo out of the Hostel (It turned out there was a parking garage opposite!)

That achieved, I set out to get a new tyre and a service. I also had to fix my helmet as the visor had broken off.

I’ve got a technique of dealing with South Americans that seems to work for me…Let me share my secret with you…..It seems (generally) that when presented with a problem to solve (for example…how to fix my visor) the normal response is a shaking head….No possible! (go away)

My response  is now to stand firm, look distraught and wait. It’s amazing. So often I’ve found that when they decide to APPLY their mind to the problem, a solution usually occurs. In the example of my visor it was fixed in no time after this technique was applied!

All that done, my next assignment was to find my meeting place with CAPTAIN GILBERT of the SANTANA ….He wants to meet me at 6.00 AM to load the bike. …..I THINK I found the place….. but I’m not 100% sure….

last nightI had a patchy nights sleep as I didn’t want to oversleep. The next morning at 5.15 I set off.

Needless to say I was early (I’m ALWAYS early…ask Merry!) It took just 10 minutes without the traffic to get to the assigned spot. Police were everywhere.

5.15 AM...Waiting for Capt. Gilbert

5.30 Still waiting!

5.45 Still waiting...Is he going to come? Am I at the right spot?

6.16 Loading Azulo!

Securing Azulo

Eventually at 6.00 am sharp (Captain Gilbert is German!) the Santana arrived at the wharf (it was the right spot!!!)

The Police made a fuss and searched my bags and it looked as if they might prevent me from loading the bike. Eventually though, all was sorted and the agonising process of getting AZULO ON BOARD began.

The picture doesn’t really show how difficult it was. Once I had mounted the ramp, three of us had to LIFT Azulo over the rail and into the boat…all without tipping him into the sea!

Mission however was accomplished and Azulo is safely on the Santana

Ready to Sail!

Colombian Navy at dawn

Azulo and my home for five nights on SANTANA

 

The trip lasts five days. We sail to the Blass islands and it appears we have a few days on these beautiful Islands. After that we land at a town on the Panama coast (name forgotten at the moment)

Therefore, folks there will not be any blog update till around 8-9 April from Panama City!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

26-30 March- Medellin to Cartagena

Some more photos added

Well, I’ve made it to the top of South America… 18,000 km on the clock!

Cartagena (Fort San Filipe)

More pictures of Cartagena below

I’m somewhat relieved and very proud of Azulo who hasn’t missed a beat. Touch wood it continues like that for the remaining 6000 kms!

The only issues with the bike have been things like panniers snapping and the incorrectly fitted battery terminal thanks to the boys in the warehouse in Buenos Aries.

The good news too is that I am on the boat to Panama that sails on 31st March. It’s called SANTANA and is a Cat.

I have spoken to the Captain and all seems OK, which is a relief, as my fall back position was to ride back to Bogota and fly to Panama. It’s not cheap though. It is costing $900.00. Azulo costs as much as me!

The ride from Medellin was a shocker, at least for the first 300Kms.

It simply bucketed down and my waterproffs  proved next to useless and I got soaked. To make matters worse I thought I was lost for at least 200 kms!

My ride from Medellin

The road from Medellin was good for about 70kms then simply stopped and broke into three alternatives. Needless to say there were no signs and my GPS was as confused as me! All the time it told me to go back…I got so angry with it I turned it off for the next 600 kms!

The road I actually took (which the GPS didn’t like) disintergrated and went up into the mountains. It was so wet and misty I could only see about 10 yards ahead. (maybe the GPS was correct?)

I stopped several times and asked if this was the road to Cartagena and I was told unconvincingly that it was…I asked at least 5 times and got the same reply so I assumed maybe I was on a road that eventually leads to Cartagena even if it’s not the main road. In dry weather it would have been a stunning ride!

Anyway, I got within 100 Kms of Cartagena (about 700k) and it was getting dark so I started looking for somewhere to stop.

There was nothing. I thought the tent was about to have it’s second airing!….Then I spotted this very large “restaurant” (well, it was SORT OF a restaurant) It claimed it had rooms.

It was not the poshest place in Colombia I can assure you and I thought it expensive at $15.00 for a private room with an ensuite (amazing how one gets conditioned isn’t it?)

Azulo was parked in the restaurant and I tried and failed to get myself understood that I wanted dinner!

I eventually settled for a soup and a beer! I was too tired to try anymore!

I gave up and went to bed!

This was perhaps the hardest riding day since the “ripio” in Argentina. I slept like a log so I didn’t notice the bed bugs that almost certainly were having a good time at my expense!

I arrived in Cartagena at about 10.00 am and found the Hostel that had stuffed up my boat booking (they forgot to tell the Captain I had a bike)

There was no room at the Hostel, so they kindly booked me into a place nearby.

Well…the next issue, if you look at the photo below, is where to park the bike! No problem according to the Hostel owner…Just ride up the curb and up the two steps and into the Hostel….HAVE A LOOK AT THOSE STEPS!

I had to ride up the curb and two steps into the Hostel UGH

All this in a narrow street with lots of traffic and people just staring and giggling!

He produced a narrow ramp and somehow I made it. Six months ago I would NEVER have been able to do that! I must have improved my riding skills on this trip!

Today I’ve done the tourist things in Cartagena

Cartagena

 

It’s a very beautiful walled City that is quite large and full of Colonial Houses and buildings etc.

Cartagena

It is only ruined by all us tourists and the hundreds of hawkers selling sunglasses and panama hats. Still , without us tourists the place would not survive.

Lots of Police to keep order

Old City walls with new City "Bocagrande" behind

Swiss Friends, Daniel and Carine..Met them in Las Lagas and again here. They rode around S America too...Now on Santana to Panama without their bikes

Bocagrande...New part of Cartagena

Azulo in the Hostel Familiar (a nightmare to get him in here)

 

Cartagena was the most important Spanish Port in in the North of South America. Sir Francis Drake stormed the City in 1586 and only (kindly) agreed not to sack the city in return for 10 million Pesos!

I wonder how much Queen Elizabeth 1 got. That was an AWFUL LOT OF MONEY!

I bumped into my Swiss friends from “Santuario De Las Lagas” and they are also on the Santana which will be good. I also bumped into my German friends from Hacienda Venecia! It’s such a small world

I await the Captains call to load Azulo onto the Santana, probably tomorrow, then I have five days at sea!

That means 9 days without riding Azulo. Hooray! (Azulo is probably relieved

Visit to Hacienda Napoles…Ex Drug lord Pablo Escobar’s home

Just in case you’ve forgotten…Pablo Escobar is “The Colombian Godfather”

He built up a huge cocaine racket that, at it’s height in the 1980’s, was shipping half a BILLION DOLLARS of COCAINE A DAY TO USA!

It was claimed by his brother that they spent $2500 per month on rubber bands just to hold the money together!

At one time he was listed as the 7th richest man in the world…. He is linked to over 4000 murders and several bombings etc.

Clearly, he was a top bloke!

He was gunned down in Medellin in 1993.

Hacienda Napoles is a 20 square mile estate about 170 kms from Medellin towards Bogota. I rode there today.

The property is now owned by the State and they are trying to turn it into a theme park. it has a long way to go!

At the entrance there is an airplane on the gate. This plane was used by Escobar himself in the early days of his rise as a drug king!

Pablo Escobar ran Drug runs in this plane then had it put up on the entrance gate!

He also imported illegally all sorts of exotic animals and built huge concrete dinosaurs around the property. He built a private bull ring and had a big collection of cars.

His private Bull Fighting Ring

The House was largely destroyed after his death. The cars were burned but are still on display and most of the animals died. The Hippo’s however survived!

Remains of House

Escobar did a lot to foster a “Robin Hood’ image and gave a lot of money to the poor and built hospitals etc.

Today, his crimes are gradually being “forgotten’ and he is becoming almost a folk hero like Ned Kelly in Australia

 

21-25 March – Salento to Medellin Colombia

A six am start for the 430 kms to Salento, a little town high in the hills. I had been recommended the town and Hostel.

Salento

Selento

The town is lovely but the Hostel turned out to be a remote place mainly occupied by some 30 backpackers. A great place if you’re a backpacker in your early 20’s but for me it was definitely not my scene!

The scenery however is very beautiful

At my Hostel near Salento

Entrance to Hostel...Steven and i thought it a bit like Devon UK

Additionally, I was in a dorm with NINE others. Again, not my scene!

It’s funny how you bump into people. In Puera, Peru I had met an English guy, Steven who lives on a barge in Liverpool. I mentioned it in the blog.

Steven..Met him in Peru! he lives on a Barge in Liverpool!

Well….there he was, two countries later, in this remote place! We both half recognised each other!.

Anyway, we went into town and had a few beers and a chat and got away from the Hostel for a few hours. I didn’t get much sleep that night with all the noise and carry on…It’s the first time this trip that I REALLY felt like an old fart!

At the Hostel I met this young American girl who said she was an actor…Her name is Jane Levy. She said she has a starring role in a movie being shot in New Zealand. The movie is called “The Living Dead” Sounds terrific!
i gave her Val and Neville’s address in Auckland…(my sister and brother in law) ….So Val and Nev you might get a call from a future super star!

The next morning I scampered out of Salento and headed for HACIENDA VENECIA, a Coffee farm and Hostel near Manizales.

Hacienda Venecia is a huge Coffee Plantation but it has NO ADDRESS!

Finding it was a nightmare. I even telephoned at great difficulty to try and get directions! ….

I turned off the main road at the place I thought might be correct and descended down a muddy little track that quickly disintegrated.

At this point I had no way of turning back so I just kept going. My “ripio training’ in Argentina has made me quite a good OFF ROAD rider so I managed to stay upright!

Eventually after asking a few locals i came upon Hacienda Venecia….Unfortunately, i was at the main House and not the Hostel so i was directed over the river…

To my horror there was no bridge and i was expected to ride over the river bed which was full of big stones and through the river (which wasn’t that wide or deep but still……..have a look at the photo! ….Anyway, good old Azulo did his bit and we made it to the other side!

I had to ride through this

It is very peaceful at this place and the scenery is beautiful. The other guests were much more my scene than the backpacker Hostel in Salento.  There was two Germans, Anja and Sven and three Belgians, Marc and Dany and their daughter Judy. I spent two nice nights there

Home cooked dinner at Hacienda Venecia

I did a “Coffee tour”.

They show you how the coffee beans are harvested. It’s interesting and here in Colombia the beans are harvested all year around. Pickers go around the plants periodically picking ripe beans. The beans are then “crushed” to remove the skins, washed and dried.

Coffee Plantation

Strange tree ..lots of spikes

Very peaceful at the Hacienda Venecia

The weather here is quite wet. I had intended only to stay one night but it poured all night and all the next day!

Riding in the rain is not much fun so I stayed another night.

I went by jeep into Manizalis to check out the town and quickly headed back! Again i took a jeep but this time it was, in effect, a bus and it was full of local ladies!

 

Bumpy but pretty ride in the Jeep with the local ladies!

We bumped our way across the hills on literally impassible tracks and i wondered whether or not i was in the right jeep. the tracks were SO BAD there would have been no way i could have ridden Azulo on them…… It was good fun though, being with the locals and seeing how they live.

Eventually we arrived at the Hacienda Venecia!

On 23 March I headed for Medellin. This city was the centre of the drug trade and Pablo Escobar was gunned down here in 1993. I’ts safe now

On my way into town I got totally lost and asked a young guy for directions to my Hostel. I was miles away! Anyway, JAIRO got on his vespa and led me practically to the other side of town and delivered me to my Hostel. They are so very friendly and helpful here

Jairo...He led me to my Hostel...miles away!

Medellin is meant to be a nice place. Lonely Planet describes it as “An attractive City that seduces most travellers instantly”

Statues in Medellin

Good metro in Medellin

Cathedral in Bolivar Plaza

Well…I must NOT be one the “most’ as it certainly doesn’t seduce me. Actually, I’ve come to the conclusion that Lonely Planet puts a misleadingly positive spin on many places that don’t deserve it! However, the suburb “Poblado” is full of life and quite smart. It is where the tourists stay. Also, Medellin has a very new and impressive (overground) Metro

Tonight I went to an Italian Restaurant in Poblado. i had a superb meal in a lovely little place. i wish Merry was with me. The meal was superb. i just had bruschetta (spelt wrong I think) as an entre. Four little pieces but all different. wonderful! Then I had just a spagetti but it was magnificent! One of the best in years!

It is almost like there are two towns here. Old Medeiiin … Very grubby and old Colombia and very European Poblado. Poblado is just as good as we have in South Yarra/Chapel Street. Boutiques selling expensive but beautiful things, bars, restaurants etc but all very European unlike Quito

Guard with rifle guarding a BUTCHERS SHOP!!!!

They look after their Pigeons in Medellin!

Huge hail storm in Medellin

I booked myself into a nice Hostel for three nights but will cut my losses and leave tomorrow!

 

17-20 March – Las lagas to Popayan, Colombia

Thank you to all who sent emails of support and comments on the blog

following the “black week” in Quito.

Firstly, a postscript to poor John’s drama in Quito (see the last Post if you missed it)

I went with John to the airport at six pm in plenty of time to catch his plane to Santiago. He was so pleased to be leaving!

I returned to the Hotel and had a few drinks before an early night. I intended to leave at six am.

At 1 am there was a loud knock on the door of my room…John was back!

His flight was cancelled and he now has to wait till sunday. What a rotten run he has had.

It is now Monday and I’m pleased to say he is in Santiago being looked after by my relative Robert Peebles so hopefully things are on the improve for John

One other thing that may interest those going to Ecuador…Earlier in “black week” I took John to the Hospital as he wasn’t well.

The treatment and attention he got was first class. He didn’t have to wait long. Two doctors saw him and it all cost $27 for the consultation and $1.50 for the pills!

Now back to the present

Someone must be looking after me! Fingers crossed it continues…

I got my first puncture yesterday. This was one of my worst nightmares as I really didn’t do enough homework. I know HOW to fix a puncture on a motorbike but I’ve never actually DONE it…Needless to say it was the rear tyre which makes it much harder.

Luck was with me. I wasn’t in the mountains, I was just by a town…I pulled up at a service station. (Service stations here rarely do anything else but serve petrol)

I started unloading the bike and wondered what to do next….. It was Sunday, so I assumed everywhere was closed.

A guy came over and helped me put the bike on its centre stand (the bike is heavy and it’s really hard to do it alone, with the extra weight)

I asked him if there was anyone who could help. He looked around and pointed to a little workshop 20 yards away.

It was a funny little place and there was the usual old guys and family hanging around.

It was open and “Manuel, the main man” said he could fix my puncture…RELIEF …Within an hour I was on my way again!

 

Manuel and family with their Koalas..He saved me by fixing my puncture

The koalas were handed out to all and there was much laughing and good nature

The previous day I had left Quito at 6.00 am and rode to the border about 250Kms away. It was a nice ride and the weather was good. It was SO nice to leave Quito after the dramas of the last week.

The border crossing was the usual drag…I HATE border crossings.

This time I had a new experience!

At the Colombia side I had to get approval for Azulo’s entry.

There was a little office and a few blokes in grubby uniforms hanging around. They told me I needed photocopies of my passport and registration etc. I eventually managed to do that and went back to the little office.

It was lunch time!!!! They pointed to a chair and I sat down. They all started to eat lunch in front of me!…..That took at least half an hour and then they set about the work of stamping some papers…and off I went…What is wrong with these countries! Why don’t they do something about these awful Customs people!

I stopped for the night at a little place called LAS LAGAS. Merry had told me of this amazing SANTUARIO DE LAS LAGAS. It is really something. This huge Church straddles a narrow and incredibly deep gorge.

Sanctuario De Las Lagas

Santuario De Las Lagas

That night I stayed in a Hostel called “Casa Pastoral”.

Casa Pastoral (white place on hill)

It is run by the Nuns. It is in this HUGE building which COULD be fantastic. In 30 years time it probably will be a flash Hotel. Today it is anything but flash! However I had a clean room and it cost me $9.00.

Casa Pastoral..$9.00 per night..Will probably be a 5 star Hotel one day..Not today though!

I met a couple of Swiss bikers and we had a good chat and I had a local meal in a little place which was very Colombian…

It was a set meal with soup and a main course of Chicken, beans and some other things I have no idea what they were but tasted OK.  All up, including a beer cost $5.00. It is cheap here!

The next day I rode the 330 KMS to Popayan

The scenery was superb. Pictures don’t do it justice but here goes anyway!

Leaving Las lagas at 6.00am ..mist in valley

 

 

Popayan is a beautiful place. The historic centre is quite large and is ALL WHITE…There are lots of Colonial buildings. The centre however is completely empty at night. It is obviously a commercial centre and nobody lives there!

Popayan, Colombia

View from my Hotel

 

Popayan...same lanterns on every building

After my puncture episode I decided to lash out and found a very smart Hotel. I’m staying two nights….It still costs only $35.00 B&B!

My Hotel LA Herreria, Popayan (really nice place)

Updating my blog on the balcony of my Hotel!

My impression of Colombia so far is very positive. The scenery is beautiful…the traffic is less than Ecuador…the people are very friendly (virtually no English here) and it seems very cheap.

Colombia is obviously behind in the Tourist business, probably a result of all the bad press about guerrillas etc. There are lots of soldiers everywhere carrying guns which is a little off- putting…Luckily, so far they just wave at me…They seem friendly enough!

Everybody has warned me of violence and I am very conscious of that. Lonely Planet says that the place is as safe as anywhere and the much talked about guerrillas are not in the area I am travelling and in any case are less active now. Still, after the experience in Quito I am much more careful.

Crime is obviously a big problem in all these countries…Look at the photo below..The shop is actually OPEN but there are bars preventing entry. You purchase through the bars!

Bars prevent entry to this "milk bar" Shoppers buying through the bars!

Tomorrow I travel to Armenia. I may not get that far as I have no idea of the roads. Colombia is mountainous and it is slow going but very picturesque.

 

 

 

 

 

11 – 16 March – Drama in Quito

I’m sorry for the delay since my last post but I have had a very difficult time since the last post.

I’ll give a quick explanation of the dramas and then talk about some of the good things!

As you may remember, John has been sick in Peru and it keeps recurring. He has had enough and  decided to end his trip here, and ship his bike home

I decided to stay and help.

It took best on three days and lots of frustration but eventually we waved goodbye to Rojo!

Rojo's last ride in South America

Bye Bye Rojo

John was set to leave for Atlanta and we decided to have a good last meal together

It was about 7.30 and we were leaving MARISCAL FOCH PLAZA which is the square here where there are heaps of  bars etc. We walked about 100 yards from the Plaza down a well lit and busy street….. and suddenly we were robbed!

John lost everything. These guys came from nowhere and slashed the bag from his shoulders. He lost his passport, all his credit cards and most of his cash!

I was lucky. I felt this hand in my pocket and within the blink of an eye my glasses, (all of $2.00 and very scratched!) my mobile and a small amount of cash were gone. I wear my wallet on a string around my neck under my shirt. They didn’t see that! (I don’t carry my Passport or much money now!)

The next four days has been spent sorting out poor John’s dilemma.

It is a saga and I will describe it in more detail in a separate page  when I get time and am less emotional about the whole thing (look at the contents on the right of the screen) It may not be done for awhile though

Briefly, Australians in Ecuador are “supported” via the Canadian Consulate as Australia has no direct Embassy in Ecuador.

When we visited the Canadian Consulate, John was told that he would have to fly to Lima or Santiago where there is an Australian Embassy and where he could get a Temporary Passport. All the Canadians were authorised to do was organise a Travel Document for that journey.

John, remember had NO credit cards and no money but it was up to him to pay the $1000 + air ticket. No finacial advances were “possible”

WHAT A JOKE! The story goes on and on so I will not bore you here.

Those of you who are in Beaumaris Probus may remember Rod Murrell’s amazing 10 minute talk about “an Insurance Company”and the absurdities he and Ros endured. Rod, if you read this I will match your talk on this situation in a 10 minute talk to Probus on my return!

Anyway, we eventually got the document today, Friday and John is flying to Santiago to get a temporary passport. He then flies back to Australia (as the USA won’t accept Temporary passports as a valid entry document!).

Frankly, I am bitterly disappointed and very annoyed in the lack of support for Aussies here. We naively feel our government helps it’s citizens in trouble overseas…Not in Ecuador if you’re an Aussie!

Now for a few more positive things this week

Firstly our Hostel…Posada Tambuca. It is a family run little place in Mariscal. It is inexpensive and delightful. There is lots of space, a garden, great breakfast, clean rooms etc.

Timeout in Posada Tambuca

Yolanda, the owner was so sweet to us. She fussed over us and helped in every way she could. She almost cried when we told her of John’s dilemma.

Yolanda, Owner of Posada Tambuca...So helpful and kind

Yolanda’s sons, Carlos and Ceaser and staff, Mariana were all terrific. We can’t thank them enough but we have done a great review for them on “Trip Adviser”

Yolanda and Mariana in Posada Tambuca

Next, Horizons Unlimited…The Motorbike web site. I put out an SOS to the Quito HU Community and the emails ran wild. Everyone wanted to help. We met a few of them in the Plaza (Mariscal Foch) and had a right old time…All us “Bikers” together.

"AT" and me in the Mariscal Foch Plaza

‘AT” (Pictured, AT is short for Attila) is an American who now lives in Ecuador. He flies Helicopter runs that supply the oil rigs in the Amazon.

He had just come back from California to Quito on his bike…The reverse trip to mine….. so he gave me heaps of information.

He told us of his father, A Hungarian Officer who was in command of the Armory  in Budapest when the Revolution of 1956 took place. He opened the Armory for the people.

Not surprisingly the Russians didn’t like this and he and the family had to flee Hungary

Biker "get together' in Mariscal Foch Plaza

I was talking with an English biker who informed me he was having to go home for his mothers 60th birthday…UGH I’m 67!

Thirdly, I want to thank my Chilean relative and now great friend, Robert Peebles.

I asked him if he could see John OK in Chile. Well…Robert is meeting him off the plane at 05.50 AM tomorrow and has booked him a Hotel and more. Thanks so much Robert

There are so many great people around …It’s such a shame we have to put up with these sewer rats who come out of the drains after dark!

Tomorrow my journey continues into Colombia. Everybody tells me how beautiful it is.

Azulo and I can’t wait to be on the road again!

One last photo which will amuse those who know of my (now sold) Lolly Business….

U- Turn in Quito!

 

 

 

9 -11 March – Banos to Quito

I managed to extricate Azulo from the Restaurant at the Hostel in Cuenca, much to the amusement of the guests eating breakfast!

A few more photo’s of Cuenca.

Girls dancing in Cuenca

Selling srawberries (not a great photo, sorry!)

Then a 250 Kms ride to Banos.

Pleasant scenery on the road

To save time I took the short cut on a road that looked fine on the map….. but it quickly degenerated to a goat track down to a fast flowing river.

The GPS was having fits and I wondered just where I was going. Infact at one point the track split in two and it was a toss of the coin which way to go. Needless to say there were no signs.

I chose poorly!

Luckily for me, a car overtook me and stopped dead in front of me….. The driver got out and waved at me telling me I had taken the wrong turn!….. That was very lucky….  As I have found so often on this trip, the local people are so very helpful

Banos is a spa resort and a place for hikers and adventure sports etc. To treat myself I booked into a “Spa Hostel” that looks great in the photos!…… I suppose for $40.00 per night you’re not going to get much and I certainly didn’t. it was very faded.

My faded spa in Banos

The restaurant however was excellent and I had a superb pepper steak with TWO types of pepper sauce. Wonderful.

I'm the sole customer...Excellent Pepper steak, TWO sauces!

As you see from the photo the restaurant was completely empty and I was the only guest!

Banos...Nothing much there

The next day I rode the 150kms to Quito. The ride took me as high as 3600 m near Cotapaxi which is the big volcano.

I booked into a terrific Hostel just a couple of blocks from the Hotel where John and his wife Kathy were staying….$16 per night for a private room!

My excellent Hostel, Posada Tambuca in Mariscal District...$16.00 per night B&B!

John, you may remember had left me in Santiago when Merry arrived and subsequently  met his wife Kathy in Quito. John had had a bad time in Peru getting quite sick

We had lots of drinks at happy hour in the area called Meriscal before Kathy headed for the airport. Mariscal is the trendy district and there were literally hundreds of young people having a good time just walking about and listening to music in the square. Lots of life here!. One thing struck us about the crowd is that nobody was drinking. Just hanging about chatting.

There were lots of Police around though and as you see from the photo, they have good taste in Motor bikes, having Kawasaki KLR 650’s like Azulo.

Ecuador Police use KLR 650's like Azulo

Yesterday 10th I visited the old Historic Centre which was crawling with locals and the traffic is unbelievable. Sunday is the day to visit the Historic Centre as they close off the streets …Unfortunately it’s Saturday today!

Quito Historic Centre

Quito

I visited the Jesuit Church which is amazing…the inside is completely covered in gold leaf…..they don’t allow you to take photos . Sorry!

Jesuit Church Quito...Amazing inside with gold leaf, but no photo's allowed

I was cornered by a student and “interviewed”…. I have no idea what the interview was for, but I gave it my best shot anyway and said how wonderful everything is!

Me being interviewed...Start of a new career?

Today, 11th, John and I were intending to leave Quito and head for Colombia.

Unfortunately John is sick again and so we will have to stay here a little longer. He has obviously picked up some bug in Peru which keeps coming back? Any ideas? He has seen a doctor and has taken antibiotics!

Azulo and Rojo together again!

The next big issue for us is how to cross the Darien Peninsula into Panama.

There is no road linking Colombia and Panama and you either fly or take a boat. However, there is NO ferry.

There are a number of yachts that go from Cartagna  on the North coast of Colombia to Panama. These yachts vary in quality from OK to absolutely awful and in some cases downright dangerous.

The difficulty is actually getting onto a boat at all and sometimes it seems people can get stuck for weeks waiting for a boat!

So far, all I’ve found is a boat scheduled for 31 march. I was aiming at about 23rd March. So, we have a bit of a dilemma at the moment…. what with John’s health and the lack of ships crossing the Peninsula.

I’m sure we’ll work it out somehow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3-8 March – Piura, Peru to Loja & Cuenca, Ecuador

The dodgy police problem in North Peru was really annoying me! After my run in a few days ago I bumped into a couple of Bikers I had previously met in Arica and again in Lima. These guys are seasoned travellers who livc in Ecuador. I told them how I had got fleeced and they just laughed. “it happens all the time they said”…… A source of easy money for the Police from easy targets!

Anyway, they advised me either just to ignore the Police when they wave you down or just wave back and ride on!

Well, that is not the sort of thing I’m used to doing…being an obedient citizen like me!…..so I decided to try it out next time!

Actually there were THREE NEXT TIMES! The first two I just ignored the Police and drove through….The third time I got cheeky and waved!

All three times I looked anxiously into my rear view mirror expecting to see a furious Policeman chasing me….Nothing! …So, I probably saved myself about $200.00!

Piura, Peru is no tourist town but I had a great Hostel…Take a look at my ARTY photo!

Arty photo of my Hostel room in Piura

The only trouble was there was a raging party just outside my window that went on ALL NIGHT so I didn’t get a winks sleep!

Azulo was again parked in the reception. They are very concious of crime although (touch wood) I haven’t had any problems so far

Azulo in the Hostel Reception, Piura Peru

I met this English guy, Steven who lives on a barge in Liverpool! You meet the strangest people in these Hostels. We had a good chat and a few beers!

The next day I drove to LOJA, Ecuador through the mountains. It was a beautiful drive and so nice to be out of the desert…Height about 3500m.

Typical scenery although photo doesn't do it justice

In LOJA, I visited the daughter of my EX Business Partner, and dear friend, Arie Baalbergen……. Karine and John Woldhuis and their three kids, Mattias, Evie and little Annalise.

Woldhuis Family, Karine, Annalyse,Me,Mattias, John, Evie

Karine and John are Missionaries and are living in LOJA Ecuador.

I had a lovely couple of “family” days with them. We went to the park and had ice cream. The lids loved the ipad and Evie had made me a sweet “welcome” card!!

Future Bikers?

John took me to his office and to breakfast where I had a delicious fried banana and egg with a cup of very strange tea…all for $1.50! Loja is a nice town surrounded by beautiful mountains.

Breakfast in Loja

John makes an excellent Pizza…The best I’ve had in South America…Rod…you have some competition!

Karine and Annalyse

I was sad to leave and headed for Cuenca.

I must have taken the wrong road …My GPS is playing more tricks on me…It was a mud road through a beautiful valley. It simply could not have been the main road to Cuenca so I stopped THREE times to check and was told that I was on the Cuenca road!….( In South America you ALWAYS need to ask at least three times as they always give you directions regardless whether they actually know or not…It’a pride thing I suppose. By asking three times you sometimes get three different directions or hopefully at least two the same!)

I kept going as it was so beautiful. I’m regretting that I didn’t take photos. Sorry! The mud road eventually merged with the main road . it was a great ride…Lots of long bends through the mountains. It was very cold though!

Cuenca is a really beautiful place. I was here with Merry 12 years ago but don’t recognise it. It is very clean and has a big centre full of Colonial buildings. Well worth a couple of days R & R

Cuenca

Cuenca

Flower sellers in Cuenca

My Hostel in Cuenca is another gem. Expensive this time at $39.00 B&B.

Azulo is parked in the restaurant with my room directly behind. I have no idea how I’m going to get him out tomorrow!

Azulo in the Restaurant...My room behind

Tomorrow I take a short 200.00 Kms ride to Banos and then Quito where I should meet John again

28th February – 2nd March – Lima to Trujillo

MORE PHOTOS ADDED!

Before I update the blog, take a look at this photo! It’s a classic, don’t you think? Let me explain!

Johnny with Wife, daughter and AZULO's WHEEL

 

Yesterday when I was about 50kms from Trujillo, I hit a big rock in the road.

I saw it too late…Luckily I didn’t fall off, and,surprisingly, I didn’t have a puncture either… but the rim of the front wheel was badly dented. It needed to be fixed.

This morning I found a motorbike place in Trujillo. It is run by Johnny and is a racing bike workshop. I found it on “Horizons Unlimited”…That’s the motorbike website for travelling bikers. It’s brilliant and has saved me a couple of times on this trip!

His brother, wife and 2 year old daughter were there also.

In order to make myself popular I produced a koala bear for the little girl.

The magic Koala!

 

Well, it did the trick! Johnny dropped everything and tried to fix the rim with a hammer. No good….. He then took the wheel off and tried again. No good…… So, before I could say “Jack Robinson,” he packed his wife and daughter and my wheel on his bike and off they went to “somewhere” to get it pressed!

It took a couple of hours and he only charged me $10.00 all up. Fantastic. They’ve done a perfect job and Azulo is ready to fly again!

Now, back to the proper sequence!

After leaving NAZCA, (by the way it’s also spelt NASCA) Merry had found me a nice Hostel in LIMA in a suburb called Miraflores. This is a fashionable suburb of Lima by the sea. (It’s good to have some help with these things and Merry is an expert!)

I punched in the address onto my GPS…traps for young players……there are two streets with the same name in LIMA and guess what…I went to the wrong one. It was miles away in the slums…I didn’t think Merry would put me there????

I got to Miraflores eventually and went down to a huge and modern shopping mall by the cliffs.

View from Miraflores shopping Mall

I had a “Tony Roma” hamburger and went to the movies! I saw the movie about Maggie Thatcher with Merryl Streep (she is brilliant in it but I didn’t rate the movie much…too much of the senile old Maggie, I thought)

It was quite a change for me and almost like being back home! very nice!

I  got Azulo serviced and a new front tyre fitted and whilst this was being done, I did the touristy things in Lima.

Lima - Historic centre

The Police are always hanging around ...Just in case!

Lima

Lima is a big, busstling city but it has a lovely, but quite small Historic centre.

That evening in the Hostel, I met some really great  French guys….nothing like “Gilles” if you remember him from Tierra Del Fuego!

They had a bottle of something (don’t know what it was…but it was strong and nice) that they insisted on sharing with me!  One of the guys has an MBA but made his income from ON LINE POKER! He claims he can make more from that than from his MBA!……. What would his father be thinking!

The next day I drove to Trujillo where I had my little drama with the rock in the road. now resolved.

Jonnny the "Champion" working on Azulo's "sore" wheel!

En route I had my first experience of “DODGY POLICE”. I had heard about this but so far it hadn’t happened to me…Until now!

I was pulled over on an open road for speeding. That is doubtful as Azulo is not that fast with the load up. Anyway, the policeman showed me a book of fines and pointed to my offence which I deduced was to cost me P$450.00 (about US$150) I sat there and played the dumb foreigner. He then reduced the fine to $200.00 (US$65) I paid it but kicked myself later as I should have stood my ground and the fine probably would have got cheaper. Needless to say I received no ticket and the money disappeared into his pocket!. I’ll be wiser next time!

Trujillo, by the way, has an absolutely HUGE and very beautiful main Plaza.

Trujillo's HUGE Plaza. Photo can't capture size

I have decided to “chill out” by the beach near Trujillo at a place called HUANCHACO for a couple of nights, before heading to Ecuador.

Reed boats at Huanchaco

I have booked myself into a sea front Hostel called HUANKARUTE….This is pronounced WANKER..ROOT E….!!!! I’m sure you will have a chuckle at that (it REALLY is a Hostel, by the way!)

My Terrace at Huankarute Hostel (pronounced "Wanker Root!!!!")

My Hostel......Pool, Terrace, B & B, sea front views...$30.00!

View from my Terrace!

I have a Terrace and beautiful views. There is a pool! All for $30.00 B & B…Jealous???

Today, I visited CHAN CHAN. Merry had read about it. She’s a great tour guide!

It’s a HUGE pre-Inca mud city. It once had a pouulation of 50,000+ and was destroyed by the Incas. It is very different to anywhere i have seen. I had a guide called Napoleon who had a bit of trouble making me understand his English but I think I more or less understood him!

Chan Chan, Pre -Inca mud city used to have population of over 50,000

Peruvian dog...No hair and pointy ears. Not pretty and people don't want them..Very good nature.

PS You may be wondering why I’ve missed Machu Pichu, Cuzco and Lake Titicaca in Peru. The reason is that Merry and I vistied there some 12 years ago. These places are spectacular and should you visit Peru are absolute “MUST SEE”S. I just didn’t need to go to them again!