Monday, August 29, 2011

Northern Hemisphere Recap and on to Quito

The southern hemisphere!
Here we are at the biggest milestone of the trip, and we haven't given any sort of stats so far, sorry! Here are a few:

Total miles traveled since Lawrence: 9,420
Fuel consumed (approx.): 224 gallons
Days since leaving: 129 (including 25 back in Kansas)
Days on the road: 104
Average miles per day on the road 90.6
Longest riding day: 510 miles (on day one!)
Shortest ridng day: 12 miles (Veracruz to Boca del Rio, Mexico)
Put bike on a boat: 5 times

The Tampico PD, on the same bike as we have. Even this picture couldn't get us out of the "ticket" and "fine" from the next police, half a block later. Our crime: riding in the left lane.
Border crossings: 10
Searches: 4 (all on the first day in Mexico)
Traffic stops: 2 (both on one day in Tampico, Mexico)
Bribes paid: 3 (one to cops in Tampico, two at the El Salvador/Honduras border)
Money lost in bribes: $60USD

Not a breakdown, just $1500 worth of maintenance...
Breakdowns: 0 (thank you very much)
Oil changes: 3
Flat tires: 1 (in Nicaragua, easily repaired)

Beware of dog (getting caught in your wheels)
Stray dogs nearly run over: 200+ (seriously)
Stray dogs actually run over: 0 (somehow)
Tip overs: 3 (all while standing still, no injuries, very minor damage)

There's everything I could come up with off the top of my head, please comment or ask on Facebook if there are any other stats you would like to see!

We spent the night a few yards into the southern hemisphere, and first thing next morning headed into Quito. As the pilot on this trip, entering big cities is my least favorite part of the trip. Actually, I hate it. No matter how beautiful the roads are, how nice the weather is, and how straightforword the directions are, once you hit the city it always proves to be a hot, stressful two hour ordeal. Funny what you complain about after being on vacation for four months...

My glow-in-the-dark helmet in a tunnel on the outskirts of Quito
We were looking for the Marsical Sucre neighborhood, and after the obligatory two hours of wandering we found it! One of our major goals in Quito was finding relpalcement tires. On the way into town we say a V-Strom 650 with "Freedom Motorcycle Rentals" stickers all over it, and the Freedom shop turned out to be a few blocks from our hostel. So, we had a connection for motorcycle parts, but first things first...
Kim and Anna, the ever-present Kiwis, had beat us to Quito, and we went out for a reunion party! We've been meeting up with these girls since Flores, Guatemala, and that requires a toast!
We wandered around the very cool Mariscal neighborhood, and stumbled upon the absolute coolest bar that any of us had ever seen. We only had our third tier camera, but this is sort of what it looked like:

All of those photos are from ONE BAR. As I mentioned, none of us had ever seen a bar like this, anywhere, so it was a great introduction to a new city. After that we went to a salsa club, which was far too dark for photography. Kim educated the locals with her truly amazing dancing skills until three or so, and then we all headed home.
The next days the girls headed for the Galapagos islands, and we spent the day hanging around our hostel. Much to our surprise, there was a rather large hail storm that afternoon, 30 miles from the equator, in the middle of August.

I'm glad that the weather is not weird, or people might think we shouldn't burn every possible thing we can dig up.

$8 worth of really, really good Indian food.
When we finally got around to the Freedom bike shop, Court, the owner, was more than ready to help with our tire search. He handed us some half-helmets, and told us to jump on a scooter and follow him. What followed was a mad dash through the midday Quito traffic. Going from a 100 horsepower motorcycle to a 12 horsepower scooter was quite a change, and it was funny to give the bike full throttle at every stop light and barely pull away from buses. We visited four or five shops before realizing that the specific tire we were looking for did not exist in Quito. Not only that, thanks to the 90% import tax, even the tires we didn't want were twice as much as usual. Here's a visual on why we didn't settle for what was there:
The street only, double price tires available

The rugged, dual purpose tires we need
 Even though we were unsuccessful in our tire search we had a great time with the guys at Freedom Bikes and were able to see the city in a way we wouldn't have otherwise.  Our friends Anna and Kim recommended that we visit the Secret Garden Hostel at Cotopaxi (where a 19,000+ foot volcano is located) so the next day we packed up and headed out.

Attention! The Toilet Now Flushes In The Opposite Direction

It was hard to say goodbye to this man!
After reluctantly leaving beautiful Valle de Cocora (and saying goodbye to our new buddy, the yellow lab we made friends with their,) we headed off for Popayan as we made our way closer to the border.   After spending the night there (not much to report) our goal was to get to Pasto the next day.  After a beautiful drive on windy mountain roads we came up to a town where a big Supermoto race was just finishing up.  Ty knew what it was right away and was disappointed that we had missed it; we did get to see one of the bikes used in the race though.  Traffic was crazy and as we kept inching down the road we noticed two Colombian guys on motorcycles in a parking lot.  One of the guys was riding a BMW GS 800 and the other guy was on a KTM 990 (Ty's dream bike) so we pulled over to chat with them.  We found out that they both lived in Pasto and had driven up for the race.  They were super nice and asked if we wanted to follow them back into town.  Traffic was bad, so when we finally got into town it was close to dark.  The guys, Jaime and Javier, helped us find a hotel and even took us out to dinner that night...What a great welcome to Pasto!
The guys pose for a picture amidst the chaos
The next morning we headed off for the border town of Ipiales, but planned to stop at Laguna de la Cocha on the way.  The lake was very beautiful despite the fact that it was quite cold outside!  When it started to rain we decided to stop in a nice little restaurant on the lake for some coffee and crema de trucha (an awesome soup made with fresh trout.)  I swear we saw snow flakes outside!

Warming up with a cup of coffee...

Ty and I by the lake
We made it to Ipiales that evening, but not much to report here either; it was just another border town.  I did manage to pick up a new pair of hiking boots in Ipiales, which, despite the financial hurt of the purchase, have been an absolute lifesaver.  No more cold, wet feet which makes all the difference in the world on the bike!  On the way out of Ipiales the next morning right before we reached the border, we drove by El Santuario de las Lajas, a beautiful gothic church that has a giant bridge spanning over a river and gorge that leads up to it.  We wanted to go in, but couldn't leave the bike all packed up in the parking lot.  We were afraid these guys would steal something off of it...

Never trust a llama in disguise... :)
El Santuario de las Lajas
After crossing the most legitamite, well-organized border of the trip (what a difference a continent makes!) we headed in the general direction of Quito, not exactly sure where we wanted to end up for the night.  It was a beautiful drive through mountains and valleys for several hours.  As we came around a curve in the road, I saw a tiny sign out of the corner of my eye mentioning something about the equator; Turns out, we were there!

The GPS proved it!
 We turned around and finally noticed the monument that had been built for visitors to check out.  A really nice girl (who also spoke perfect English) was waiting at the entrance of the monument to give an explanation of the significance of the landmark and why Ecuadorians say it is the center of the world.  It was a very important moment for both of us since neither of us have ever been to the Southern Hemisphere...New half of the planet here we come!

We made it to the Southern Hemisphere!