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April 17th, 2012 | Ecuador

Into Ecuador…!!

Tom and Fabio were up as early as I was, ready for what we expected to be a long ride up to the resort town of Montanita on the Ecuador coast…

Tom and I went for a quick swim in the flat and clam waters of the Pacific, which was barely 50 metres from our rooms, and then loaded the bikes and waited for the breakfast to be served…

Ready to roll out of Mancora... I was looking forward to riding with other bikers again...!!

Despite their complaints about the early start we had planned, Nigel and Jamie were ready to roll when we went to the hotel next door to let them know we were all set…

I could see myself living in a small, compact home on a coastline somewhere in the tropics...!!

After the guys had refueled, we left Mancora and headed up the coast towards Tumbes… The road along the coast was flat and hugged the shoreline, passing through a few small villages, most of which were still greeting the early morning… In amongst the local homes, stood a few that must have belonged to Europeans who had retired to this part of the world…

Their homes were far better maintained, built right up against the ocean, trees and flowers planted in the front yards, and large gates and walls to give them privacy…

The closer we got to the border, the more the scenery changed… Gone were the dry, arid conditions from the day before… In their place, grassland, large trees, and fields of maize and other crops… You could even feel a change in the air…

My nostrils no longer burned with the dry heat, but rather took in the cooler, moist air, laden with smells of flowers and the salty sea breeze…

I spent the first hour or so, sizing up my companions and the way they rode… We settled into a pattern that would remain the same for the best part of the day ahead…

Fabio and I on our bigger and quicker bikes shared time up at the front, followed by Tom on his KTM, and behind him rode Jamie’s, also on a KTM, and Nigel generally brought up the rear on his Dakar 650 GS…

Fabio Marcaccini on his experimental GS 1200...

Tommaso Piccioli on his KTM 950 Adventure...

Jamie on his KTM 675... The man traveled light, with just a single bag as pillion...!!

Nigel Halliwell-Axe on his BMW 650 Dakar... Hardy any brakes to speak of, and usually riding in a T-shirt... One of the most laid back riders I have come across...!!

I dropped back from time to time to try to see what speeds we were all riding at to calculate what sort of distance we were able to cover… I wanted to ensure that we did not stay too far apart and knew we would have to adjust our speed to the slowest rider in the bunch…

We made good time to the border and at this point, Montanita was still on the cards...

I could see that Fabio wanted to ride quicker, but would hang back and reel him in slowly, either making him slow down a bit, or pulling Tom and the others with me until we were spread out over barely a few hundred metres…

We settled down after a while and were very rarely out of each other’s sight… I had to smile to myself when I looked in my mirrors and saw the other bikes following behind… It was good to be among like-minded friends, sharing the journey and the things we were seeing…

It was easy to see that Fabio was a born biker… He seemed always to be at one with his bike, riding smoothly around sharp bends in the road, and taking far more speed into the corners than any of us could…

Before he rode the Dakar, he used to race bikes on many of the tracks on the European racing circuit, so I guess the way he handled his big BMW should not have come as any surprise…

On one section of road that twisted up and down a small range of mountains, I tried to shake him off my tail, by suddenly speeding up and riding away from him… It took only a few bends for him to sidle up alongside me, as if to tell me to mind my manners…!! When I turned to look at him, he gave me a little smile as if to say, “Wanna try that again…!!”

On the entry to most villages, there are a series of speed bumps to slow traffic down… Going over one of them too fast, I felt the bike veer off to the left, as my right hand pannier broke free and went skittering down the road… The pannier did not break open or tumble… It just touched down on its base and took a 6 metre slide along the asphalt…!!

I was riding point at the time, and Fabio narrowly avoided riding into the errant pannier as it broke off right in front of him… We tied the box back onto the bike with a few straps… I saw that the rivets had torn out of the catch where it joins to the panniers sub-frame… At least the catch that I had replaced in Malaysia had not broken… Repairs would be a simple but time-consuming affair…!!

Fabio said that he thought my rear shock absorber was not set properly and promised to look at it when we stopped that night… I was grateful that I was in the company of somebody who could finally get the bike set up properly, as I had been riding with the shocks on the same settings that they had been returned to me with in Buenos Aires…

As you can see, in keeping with the rest of the country, the Peruvian border post is a simple and spartan affair....!!

Goodbye Peru, it's been amazing...!! The Gods willing, we will see each other again....!!

formalities at the Peru border post were completed in no time at all… We had our passports stamped and returned our bike permits, and then were free to leave the country and enter Ecuador… We rode over a long new bridge, and I saw that we were entering a very different situation to that of Peru…

Ecuador...!! 90th country on the GBWT...!!

A far more modern border post than any I had come across in South America...

We were waved through the first checkpoint in the huge border complex and shown towards the immigration offices… We had our passports stamped, and while Fabio went to have his Carnet stamped (which he needn’t have done when he entered Peru…) the rest of hung around and waited…

The Ecuador customs offices were a further 5 km inside the border, on the edge of the small town of Huaquillas, and when we got there, the officer wanted to see our 3rd Party Insurance before he would issue us with our bike permits…

So began a five-hour ordeal that put paid to our plans to reach the coast that same day…!!

It's all fun and games until a computer goes on the blink...!! Parked outside the bank in Huaquillas, waiting for our insurance policies...

We were no longer sure where we would stop for the night, but hoped to reach Guayaquill before dark....

We rode back to the border, only to find that the computer issuing the insurance was off-line and would probably be so for the next few hours… We rode back to Customs to advice them of the problem, but the officials on duty would not relent and allow us into the country with the necessary insurance…

A guy from the nearby town was summoned, and arrived on his scooter to escort us to a bank there that sold policies… We sat at the bank for almost an hour before we had the documents we needed, and the rode back to Customs…

It took another hour before we were allowed to get on our way again… More documents to fill in, and a one on one consultation with the Customs Official… All the while, the long queue of locals were beating on the windows of the office in frustration… I guess they were annoyed that the Gringo’s were being given priority by the officials on duty…!!

We were out of the desert and into the Tropics at last...!! Banana plantations as far as the eye could see...!!

The landscape was such a huge contrast to that which I had been riding through for the past month... Green everywhere, trees, shade...!!

It was almost 3.00 pm before we got back on the road, and we had barely covered 140 km for the day…!! Fabio and I set out to ride as hard as our group could to make some headway into Ecuador, and soon lost sight of the three riders behind us… We had to slow down and rode alongside each other to discuss how far we would likely to get today…

We were all tired from the long, hot and dreary wait at the border…

Nigel and Jamie did not seem to want to push any harder than we already were, and we often had to pull over and wait for them to catch up… At the time, we did not realise that they were riding as hard as their bikes would allow them to… There is a vast difference between riding a 650 and a 1200…!!

We reached the town of Naranjal, and stopped to consider our options…

With the light fading and the weather closing in on us, Naranjal seemed the best place to stop for the night...

The light was fading fast and the next town along the route was even smaller than this one, Guayaquill too far away to even attempt…

We stopped to see if there were any hotels listed on our GPS's...

We cruised down the main road of the small and grubby town, and stopped at a few places which we rejected because either the rooms were sub-standard, or the establishments had no secure parking for the bikes…

Riding in a group as big as this poses a few problems that smaller groups or solo riders do not encounter… Parking for five big bikes is a lot harder to find that just one or two machines…!!

And we stopped to check on hotels, we took up more than just a few parking spaces out on the street...!!

We finally found a place that suited our needs… The rooms were air-conditioned, and not too expensive, but most important of all, our bikes would be off the street and secured in a large gated courtyard, right outside our rooms…

The GBWT Posse, safely parked for the night in Naranjal...

Strange name for a restaurant that does not serve any meals, but it would have to do...!!

We were directed to a small outdoor restaurant a few blocks away, where we ordered a simple meal which was cooked right out on the pavement…

Large sausages, surrounded by white rice and potatoes… No shortage of starch in this part of the world…!! Fabio and Jamie went off to find beer, and returned with half a crate of quart bottles which they had found at an off-license nearby…

We were probably the only Europeans in town, and people stared at us as they walked past…!! Naranjal is not a tourist destination by any means…!!

We walked down to the town square to see if there was anything else worth seeing in the town…,  The square was just a small park with a border of shrubbery that contained large bugs which leapt onto us with glee as we sat down to finish our beers…!!

We walked back to our hotel, returning our empty beer bottles as we passed the shop where they had been bought… The hotel had no internet so it was an early night for all of us…

It had been a long day, one in which we only covered 286 km in total… It was the longest I had spent at any border post during my travels, and odd that it took place at the one that was more modern than most…!!

We were all looking forward to getting to the coast and taking a short break… Montanita had come highly recommended… I hoped it would live up to its reputation as a lively beach resort, frequented by surfers and drifters from all over the world…

©GBWT 2012

1 comment to Into Ecuador…!!

  • Mark Behr

    Sometimes we just have to sit back and let time take its course. You did well – must be the company you are keeping 🙂

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