A Lost Post From Entering Peru

After hitting the snooze on the alarm a record number of times, I still managed to be packed and ready to hit the road by 7am. However the hotel in Macara received many more guests since I arrived about 5pm last night. My bike was blocked in the small subterranean garage of the Hotel Katrina. So the front desk started knocking on doors waking people whose cars were blocking me. Finally by 7:30 I’m ready to go.

The two gas stations in town both had huge lines. I’d noticed this in Ecuador the last couple days. Huge lines in the morning at gas stations. And at prices that are well below U.S. prices, and far below the nearly $5 a gallon I paid in Colomibia. But both stations only had very low 86 octane fuel and not the 91 or 95 octane that Doc prefers. I decided to blow off filling and submitted to paying $4 plus for higher octane gas on the other side of the border.

Crossing the border including customs and immigration on both sides took just about an hour.

Winding down from 13,000 feet to 300 feet above sea level the terrain quckly turned to fertile arable land and then to vast desert. The northern atacama

The wind was insane. Passing through towns where housing was a mix of sticks and mud and block with corrugated metal roofs.

Winded my way through strange encampments. Then 120 miles of vast desert and sand. Flat, straight and boring. Though mother nature did manage to inject her creative endeavors through scenic sand dunes complete with geometric shapes carved by the wind.

I noticed motorcycle rickshaws. Different than the Tuk Tuk vehicles we saw in Guatemala, these had traditional motorcycle handlebars and seats with two bench seats and a canopy for carrying passengers. Many sported a luggage rack in the rear and were used to transport goods.

Then out of nowhere I found it: The cement kingdom in the middle of the desert. And the rice!

Finally rolling into Trujillo. Getting lost. Seeing the eye clinic. The $15 consultation and eye cleaning and the owner also owning a hotel just off the plaza de armas. Dinner at Romano’s.

Azogules to Macara. The Road To Peru.

This morning I surveyed the scene of last night’s accident. Scouring the mud, sidewalk and berm for a bolt, washer or other parts that fell off during the low speed crash, I found one extra part to the grip weight. In the daylight, I noticed that my right front signal light had snapped. The minor repairs would have to wait for a better day. Since losing some time yesterday with bad weather, I had a plan for a long day to make through the customs and immigration at the Peruvian border and a couple hours south.

As I traversed and winded around the Southern highlands of Ecuador I found myself winding through desolate and remote landscapes. Alone, cold and wet I barely so signs of life as I passed through Cumbe. Packs of women in Fedoras would occasionally appear on the side of the road carrying bunches of sticks and the occasional car or truck would pass in the opposite direction. But I was high in the Andes on a road that was paved only as recently as the late 1960’s.

As the rain continued to pour and the temperatures still chilling, I zoomed past a motorcyclist sitting off the road going the other way. It took a few moments for my mind to absorb the scene, but a few hundred yards past him I realized he was stuck. I slowed, turned around and met Fernando, a lean dark Ecuadorian in his early 30’s. His dark black hair neatly trimmed with sideburns and a mustache. He was barely suited for the cold ride here at 11,000 feet with a baseball cap, a light jacket, dress pants, black loafers and cotton gloves. His bike failed as he was climbing up from his village just 15 miles south. With just the frayed ends of a wire connected to his spark plug, we determined he had plenty of spark from what had to be the only new part on his 10 year or more old motorcycle. Turns out he just put a new spark-plug in this 125 enduro, but e didn’t tighten it. So there was no compression as air spit out of the cylinder with each kick. As I started to go through the process of removing the PVC tube that’s strapped to my crash bars to get a wrench to tighten his spark plug he tried to tell me not to bother. And that someone else would come along to help. Sure. I’d have none of that, and in a few moments we had his bike started and he was off and running.

Fernando Ecuador1 Fernando Ecuador2

Later as I rolled into the cute town of Saraguro, I was amazed at the simplicity of the housing and the colorful outfits complete with Fedora’s the woman wore. I stopped and spoke with several people in this village of 10,000. They sustain through cooperative cattle, sheep and goat ranching and farming. None of the three people I stopped on the side of the road to speak with would let me take pictures. But they answered my questions and were curious enough to ask some of me. One women in her 40’s has 6 children, the youngest in a cooperative school taught by her friend. She was on her way to pick up the 6 year old boy. A young 14 year old girl was walking along with her uncle. They don’t teach English in her school, but she had little desire to learn it anyway.

Finally several miles later in the outskirts of Saraguro I met Rosalagria, a 79 year old woman carrying water and a pail of some sort of soup. She’s married to a 59 year old man and all of her children have moved away. She was bringing dinner back to her home in the hills off the road. She couldn’t believe where I came from and the fact that I rode the motorcycle. She was happy to have her picture taken and even posed with my motorcycle. When asked if she was happy, she let out a big grin then pointed to the sole tooth protruding from her lower gum. She wants her teeth back and asked how much it would cost in the United STates to get new teeth. Turns out a dentist in Saraguro would give her ivories back for around $300 — much more than she could afford. But she was saving and hoped that one day she’d have teeth again.

As I scribbled notes in my Moleskin notebook, she asked if she could have the book. She wanted any book. I explained this was important because I’m a writer. She nosed around my belongings and asked if I had another book. I pulled a Lonely Planet guidebook out, but explained I needed this for my travels. Finally I found a small pamphlet that came with my Caberg Justissimo Helmet. It had drawings on how to remove the face-shield and sun screen and was written in 5 or 6 different languages. She was tickled when I place it with a handful of change into her warn and weathered hand. We hugged, shook and headed on our own respective journeys.

Rosa Ecuador3 Rosa Ecuador1

Rosa Ecuador2

Perhaps one day she’ll have teeth, but even if she doesn’t, I’ll never forget her smile, spirit and soulful confession of her simple desire: teeth.

My hopes of better weather as I traveled south were unrealized and by the time I was riding through Loja the rain started. Soft. Then hard. As I descend from the highlands into another valley, I’m greeted by a massive road construction project. Workers in yellow and orange foul weather rain-gear man shovels, wheel barrows and brooms. A couple tractors add color as I white-knuckled my journey down the steep road of recently oiled gravel. The sound of the rain beats on my helmet while my futile efforts to wife the rain from my face-shield sends my mind spinning.

Storming Ecuador Highlands

Pelted Oily Mess Ecuador“What the hell am I doing here?” Conversations with myself are common but with my motorcycle riding through the oiled gravel like a freshly waxed ski with bad edges I was just counting down the minutes before I was spitting gravel from my mouth. It was treacherous and filled me with the most fear I’ve experienced on this trip to date. And it went on for miles. Without the rain this would be a dangerous but manageable inconvenience, but with the pouring rain and impatient Ecuadorian drivers and suicidal busses passing me, I was going out of my mind. Later surveying my bike I find that the oil, gravel and chemicals on the road were pelted all over my jacket, helmet face-shield and bike. What a mess.

But I managed. And by the time I crossed the valley and started scaling the next range of mountains the rain had slowed to a drizzle and I could feel myself closer to the Peruvian border. But i was greeted with more terrible road conditions. More rock slides meant sharing a single lane with oncoming traffic. Later a whole section of highway was closed and a bridge washed out. The detour had me wind around a dirt path carved into the hillside and then over a makeshift bridge.

Ecuadorian Valley

Finally, I did make it to Macara just as the sun set. This is the nicest and most tranquil border town to date. An extremely clean room at the Hotel Karina and dinner at D’Marcos Restaurant Bar was my welcome reward for making it out of Ecuador safe and sound. I just hope things are better in Peru.

Photos: (1 & 2) Rescuing Fernando high at 12,000 feet in the Ecuadorian highlands (3, 4 & 5) Rosalagria from a small Pueblo outside Saraguro in Ecuador; (6) the weather threatened and beat me all day; (7) a horrible section of construction left me with a pitted windscreen, clothes and face-shield; (8) relief from weather as I descended into this valley south of Loja, Ecuador

Later Quito. Crashed & Ripped.

Quito Skyline

Quito Graffiti

The plan was simple and hardly ambitious. Get an early start and take in the monument that marks the equator. Known as the Mitad del Mundo (middle of the world), I figured why not spend a couple minutes in the Northern Hemisphere and then see how the Southern Hemisphere feels. I could even straddle the equatorial line and be in two Hemispheres at once.

Quito BeggerSo the day started to plan. I was up at 6-am and out of the hotel on my way to the Mitad del Mundo by 7. Turns out the Mitad del Mundo is closed and doesn’t open until 9:30-am. There’s no way I’m waiting until 9:30 to put my foot on some line that marks the equator. Being here is good enough. I watch security guards enter the park that surrounds the monument through a locked gate. Catching the attention of one of the handsomely uniformed staff, I try to talk my way in explaining my WorldRider journey and my eagerness to get out of the city before traffic and Quito confusion gets unbearable. Nothing works and I’m instantly shut down. Then I pull my camera out and start snapping photos through the chain link fence. I must have looked desperate because moments later a security guard comes running down the path and lets me in. The motorcycle must stay outside but he agrees to watch it. I relish in the quiet tranquility of the Mitad del Mundo and imagine that during open hours the site packed with tourists making photographs challenging. The place looks touristy. But this is the equator and I rode here.

Mitad Del Mundo Mitad Del Mundo2

Trying to get out of Quito is challenging. At least from Mitad del Mundo. I just followed my compass south and kept asking directions. No one could really tell me clearly how to find the Pan American Highway South. But soon I was on my way. — at just about the time the Mitad del Mundo was opening. I had hoped to be out of the city by 8 with a plan to get to Loja by nightfall. But with a bit of a push e I figured I could still make it by 5 or 6pm.

For the past couple days big puffy, low and dark cumulous rain clouds hung over Quito obscuring the mountain peaks and volcanoes that create such a dramatic setting for the capital of Ecuador. But for an adventure motorcycle rider these clouds can be boon or bane. In those heated days of crossing tropical zones or dry deserts clouds are a welcome relief from the beating sun. But those heavy, looming and ominous dark clouds could spell unwelcomed precipitation and even lightning. I had dealt with a couple days of rain in Colombia and was eagerly looking for dry weather so I could experience and ride through the highest mountains in Ecuador.

So with Quito in my rearview and the Andean mountain peaks barely piercing the grey hued clouds to the east, I winded my way through fertile valleys passing seemingly dozens of tiny villages to Latacunga and Ambato. As the clock ticked and miles racked skies grew darker unfortunately obscuring the magnificent peaks of 9 of Ecuador’s highest mountains and volcanoes including Chimborazo (Ecuador’s highest) and Cotopaxi. Passing small agricultural communities with large farms, I always attract attention riding slowly through these towns. Local people tend to cattle, sheep, goats or walk along the streets pushing carts full of produce or flowers. Others lead donkeys or mules loaded with firewood for their kitchen and cooking. Women in colorful woven wool garments all sport brown or dark sage colored fedoras, many complete with a tiny feather and balanced precariously on the tops of their heads. Even the young girls sport similar hats. Traffic circles in many of the communities traffic circles were brightened by large sculptures of the corn, tomatoes or the animals that served the livelihood of these towns.

Ecuador Highlands Corn Ecuador Highlands Traf Circ

Soon I was climbing past 11,000 feet and then descended into highlands through another valley sitting at 10,000 feet. The landscapes and distances between tiny towns grew greater. Just past Riobamba not far from Chimborazo it started raining lightly. My chants and prayers for relief fell on deaf ears as the sky grew darker and opened up with fierce and powerful pouring rain. Rolling into the tiny town of Guamote, I felt lucky to find shelter in just ten minutes after the sheets of water made vision and navigation practically impossible. I was riding without rain gear and wearing my light summer gloves and getting soaked, This was certainly the hardest rain I’ve experienced on my journey. But then again, the last two weeks since arriving in South America I’ve had more rain than the 5 months combined. So I took refuge under the overhang of the PS gas station in Guamote. Taking advantage of the shelter and a chance to beef up the layering of my jacket and add the gore tex liner to keep from getting wet. Not usually a quick operation, so I usually hold out hoping the rain is short and sweet rather than gearing up for a lengthy rainstorm. But this one looked to stay. After filling Doc’s tank with 95 octane gas, I changed into my foul weather gear. Half-dressed and layering up, four young local indigenous boys stepped into the bathroom. The sight of me in my motorcycle garb them a scare as they let out a scream and ran away back toward the little store next to the gas station.

Guambote Kids

As I finished suiting up my Westone MH-1 custom ear-molds (dual purpose for music and noise isolation), through which I was listening to great music while riding through these magnificent Ecuadorian highlands must have fallen from the collar of my jacket onto the floor. I remembered draping them over the jacket when zipping in my GoreTex liner. So by the time I got to my bike I realized the ear-molds were still in the bathroom with my group of boys shuffling in as the coast was no clear. Barely a minute later my search through the bathroom yielded nothing. One or all of those boys found my ear-molds and pocketed them.

I’ve left things behind in various places in the past. Sometimes in hotels. Sometimes on the counter of a store or gas station. Sometimes things might just fall out of a pocket. Things happen. In a dozen or more cases such as these over the last six months and 20,000 miles I’ve had them returned to me. So when I asked the crowd of children gathered for my ear-molds explaining that these were for protecting my ears from wind noise, nobody came forward with the goods. Meanwhile children were picked up and dropped off and I lost track of the few that used the bathroom in the 3 minutes I had left. I pulled a $5 bill from my pocket and flashed it at the blank faces of boys and girls aging from 7-12 years. Nothing. I sat there and emptied everything out of my motorcycle looking for these ear molds. I knew they were in the bathroom and my display of frantic searching must have been quite a show. And that was my intention. The women who ran the store was no help. The gas attendants were no help. I was pissed. For the first time in my journey I was duly angry at the local people. These ear-molds would do nobody any good. They were specially made for my ears. I burned an hour and a half at the gas station asking politely for my property. Then I made my speech. In front o the children, bus drivers, local people coming in and out of the store and gas station. I explained than I’d traveled all over the world and never once had anything stolen. And that why would this cute tiny town of Guamote earn the honor of being a bad place in my eyes.

It was futile and my speech was only a shallow attempt at trying to make myself feel better. I left the gas station without music. Pissed.

Ecuador Begging Kids

Ecuador Road Block Tangled Up In Hub-1

For the next hundred miles winding through poorly maintained roads lined with children holding their hands out and often holding string or rope across the road hoping to get vehicles to stop. The strings drop usually by the time they realize I’m not stopping. But one time passing in pelting rain, the children were too slow and pulling over later I found string wound around my rear hub and caught on the bottom of my kick-stand.

Ecuador Highlands Fog

Several sections of the road were washed out. Others had been diverted where massive rock slides littered the original road. No sense clearing the rocks, just build another road. As the road twisted around Alausi and Chunchi more children, mothers braving the chilling rain and freezing temperature looking for handouts. More women in colorful garb sporting the unusual fedoras. I had hoped to make it to Loja this evening. But the rain and my run-in with the child criminals in Guamote meant switching plans and aiming for Cuenca, the third largest city in Ecuador.

But the evening fell upon me quick and combined with the dark storm clouds I was losing light fast. Approaching Azogues, only 15km north of Cuenca, I decide I better get off the road. So pulling off the legendary PanAmerican I prepared to pass under a bridge toward the center of this sleepy and nondescript town in Southern Ecuador. Just as I was preparing to make a left turn under the bridge a truck passed under making me swing a bit wider and forcing me to take a line closer to the curb in the right lane. Not a problem. I just swung around and headed under the bridge.

Then I crashed.

Ecuador Crash Scene Day Ecuador Crash

It happened so quick. Next thing I remember was my front wheel sliding out from under me and then I found myself standing up and the bike was sliding down the curb. I could hear the Jesse bag scraping loud as the bike slid to a stop. Shaking and wet I quickly surveyed the scene, shut the bike off and flagged down the next car to help me lift the bike. Dark, gloomy and drizzling I spotted my handlebar end weight in the mud next to the sidewalk. The bike appeared okay. A few more scratches and a ding on the Jesse bag combined with a few gouges in the right hand-guards and it appeared that I lost the bolt that held the hand-guard and handlebar weight to the bike. Mud everywhere I was pissed. The road sloped gradually toward the curb where I crashed. Rains over the last two weeks had washed dirt which collected and turned into a fine mouse like texture of mud that I couldn’t see in the twilight as I rode under the bridge. After the truck had passed I must have slowly turned my wheel left toward the middle of the lane when it lost traction and sent the bike on its ride down the curb. I was going barely 15 miles per hour. Good thing. No injuries to me and a few scratches to Doc.

Cold, beaten and mad, Ecuador and I just weren’t getting along.

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Photos: (1) Quito skyline with Basilica commanding presence; (2) The sentiment of Ecuador I guess, so I’ll leave; (3)an indigenous women beggar on streets of Quito; (4 & 5) The middle of the world – the equator in Quito; (6 & 7) traffic circles in small villages in the Ecuador highlands south of Quito; (8) The good kids in Guamote, but they knew who had my earphones? (9, 10 & 11) the muddy roads of Ecuador central and southern highlands and the children trying to collect tolls, laying string/rope across the road and one of those ropes tangled in the hub of my rear wheel; (12) The mystic scene of rain, fog and mist in the Andes north of Cuenca, Ecuador; (13 & 14) The scene of the crash in Azogules, Ecuador

An Eyeful of Quito

Quito Basilica

Quito fascinates me. The city is divided into two parts. The historic colonial center and the bustling energetic modern downtown. With my bike safely nestled into the narrow corridor off the lobby of my hotel I set off to explore Quito at night. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978, Colonial Quito is a large scale museum of colonial churches, sculptures, paintings and buildings. Conquered by Sebastian de Benalcazar in 1534, Quito is the only place on earth where the equator crosses the highlands and has the notoriety of being the second highest capital in the world.

Three Up Quito Biker Guarding Ecuador Prez

Making my way around the Plaza Indepedencia surveying the four colonial buildings that represent the ruling powers of Quito’s colonial period, the Government Palace where Ecuador’s president lives, the Municipal Palace, the Archbishop’s Palace and the Cathedral facing north, I am immediately surrounded by young children looking to sell me cigarettes, gum, candy and shoe shines. With the sun long faded behind the Pinchincha volcano, shrouded in clouds during my stay, I suggest that they are up late and should be in bed. And switching roles I also suggest that being out alone at night on the plaza is dangerous. They laugh and eagerly lead me toward the Government’s Palace after I asked where the president lives. I ask them if I can meet the president and ask we get closer to the west side of the plaza I spot a man screaming at the Government Palace. Angered and appearing somewhat inebriated he’s telling the president he is no good because he is doing nothing for Ecuador’s poor. He screams there are no jobs and people are sick and I gather he says that the president has a deaf ear and does not hear or see the problems in the country. Ecuador is South America’s most densely populated country with 70% of its population below the poverty line. Armed guards flank the palace and tell me the president isn’t in residence so the man’s anger and words are futile except perhaps giving tourists a bit of a scare.

Quito Plaza Grande

Quito Sanfran Monastary Quito Folk Festival

Later basking in grand lighting accentuating the dramatic colonial architecture of churches and other buildings I watch two weddings exit and pour onto the street and plaza. A bride and groom are whisked away in a vintage Mercedes outside the La Compania de Jesus Church, regarded as perhaps the richest church in the Americas with its six Salomonic columns copied from those by Bernini in the Vatican. But the splendor of this church truly reveals itself walking inside where the gold leaf covered walls and vaulted ceiling with Moorish designs overshadows the equally gold-laced Baroque tribunes, the altar, pulpit and chapels.

Just southwest of the Grand Plaza (Plaza de Independencia) is the Plaza & Monastery of San Francisco, an expansive cobblestone plaza with a street market on one side. Ominous and sitting proud above the plaza is the Monastery of San Francisco. This is Quito’s largest colonial structure and its oldest church, built between 1534 and 1604. While closed at night the next day I watch traditional a traditional folk festival for Navidad in the Plaza and wander through the Museo Franciscano which gets me in to see the monastery’s beautiful courtyard and artwork.

Quito Compania 2Compania Quito

After the long drive from Ipiales and my night tour of Quito my left eye starts bothering me. Drives me crazy actually. It’s as if something is in it. I try every trick to get it out of my eye, but nothing works: Doc Quito Mag Glassflushing it with water, pulling on the eye lid, softly rubbing tissue under the eyelid. Sleeping is excruciating painful. The pain subsides with my eyes open, but when I try to settle into a peaceful slumber it feels like a huge pebble is pushing my eye deep into my head. I’ve had no worse night sleeping since I departed California in July. I’m angry, frustrated and exhausted. The next morning one of the hotel employees leads me to a medical clinic on the border of the old town. My nearly 100 year old doctor explains he’s not an opthamologist and that I should come back tomorrow — Monday. This is unacceptable and I ask if he can just look and possibly clean my eye. He disappears and then returns with a large magnifying glass. Well, maybe this is my penance for choosing to stay in Old Town Quito — I get old town medical methods. His hand shaking as he moves his eye and the glass toward my face.

“Muy inflammado,” he explains telling me that the eye is inflamed. I insist that there is something still in there. I can feel it. When I ask if he’s sure there’s no debris or particles in my eye he simply stands back proud in his white smock and says, “Absolutomente!” and scribbles a prescription for an eye wash antibiotic and I’m back on the street — feeling no better than when I entered the clinic.

Sunday night is another without sleeping. My eye is killing me. I worry about riding tomorrow to Cuenca. I dribble a few drops into my eye and resist from rubbing it further.

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Photos: (1) Basilica in Quito; (2) Why not three up cruising the streets of Quito?; (3) Guarding the president at the Government Palace; (4) The Archbishop’s Palace on Plaza de Independencia, Quito; (5) Courtyard at San Francisco Monastery; (6) Traditional Ecuadorian Folk Festival; (7&8) La Compania de Jesus Church; (9) My Doc who said “Absolutomente” there was nothing in my eye.

Las Lajas, Colombia to Quito, Ecuador.

Santuario de Las Lajas, Colombia.

Las Lajas Landscape

Las Lajas Cathedral2Before kissing Colombia goodbye I had to make my pilgrimage to Las Lajas, just 10 miles northeast of Ipiales. Without a guidebook or any prior knowledge of anything but the primary tourist jaunts or major cities, Las Lajas was a mystery to me. But nearly each Colombians who I discussed my travels with strongly urged a visit to Las Lajas. So on a leap of faith I motored out of Ipiales this morning and took the scenic ride through pastures and farms along a river and to a steep and narrow gorge where from nearly a mile away as I rode along the side of this hill I could see an incredible church seemingly sandwiched between the walls of the gorge.

As I rode into the village I saw my first Llamas. The town was nothing more than two cobblestone roads. One chained and blocked and the other with a couple food stalls and a souvenir stand. I knew the Church had to be close, but now down closer to the gorge I couldn’t see it. I stopped at the road with the chain across it and just looked around. Dozens of pedestrians walked up and down and I could see more souvenir stands lining the road. Then a truck pulls up behind me. And in seconds the chain comes down and I”m waved through.

I slowly weave my way through increasing density of pedestrians until a half mile or less down the road I come to the cathedral. It’s ominous Gothic steeples stretched out in front of me, the bulk of the church below. I want to walk down the steps to peer inside this church. But as I look around, I’m sure it’s not safe for I would be out of view of my bike for several minutes. Looking around and then over my shoulder to the Northeast of the church I see a huge waterfall tumbling down to the river below. The driver of the truck who snuck up behind me catches me in the conversation I’m so accustomed. He’s delivering flowers to the church, but agrees to watch my bike and things if I go real fast. I blaze down the steps and go on a five minute photo snapping frenzy.

it’s Santuario de Las Lajas. a Gothic church built between 1926 and 1944 on a bridge spanning this gorge. According to legend the church was built here to commemorate the appearance of the Virgin whose image appeared on a huge rock 150 feet above the river. And the church is designed in such a way that its sitting up against the wall of the gorge with rock and the “image” forming its main altar. Colombians make pilgrimage here year round and many leave thanksgiving plaques along the stairwell and alley leading to the church — I’m amazed at the number of miracles pilgrims have seen come true.

Las Lajas Cathedral

Lajas Waterfall



Crossing The Border To Ecuador.

Real Independia HotelAt the border I’m faced with the longest line and wait for immigration so far. It’s Saturday and the second Saturday border crossing for me. The customs portion in both Colombia and Ecuador is amazingly efficient and fast. But getting existing and entering burns more than an hour, but still giving me sufficient time to be in Quito by nightfall. The road from Ipiales to Quito runs through mountains and arid highlands. While I’m told the bustling market in Otalvo is a spectacular Saturday excursion, I’m anxious to get to Quito and blow through.

Quito is busy and heavy with traffic through the steep stoned streets of old town. There’s a huge Christmas festival and it takes me 15 minutes to get through intersections. Navigating the tight streets where cards and busses try to squeeze two lanes out of one, I’m frustrated after spending an hour and getting no where. But old town is where I want to be. I stop at a 5-star hotel where the receptionist spends 15 minutes calling hotels in the area — many are booked for the celebration — but succeeds in finding me one only 6 blocks away. But the one way streets, lack of signage and traffic contribute to another 40 minutes of frustration. When I finally find the hotel the receptionist tells me that there is parking but we’ll have to wait for her shift to change so that the guy coming on can help me carry my motorcycle down stairs to the laundry room.

“What?!” Carry this motorcycle. I looked at the stairs. 10 narrow steps drop to a small landing and another 10 steps to below. And that’s after getting the motorcycle into the narrow lobby up over a curb and then up a couple stairs. The hundred plus year-old hotel just isn’t set up for motorcycle travelers. I’m already holding traffic up on the narrow street, but someone holds up traffic while I go the wrong way up the street to make a running start to hop the curb, climb the stairs and ride into the lobby. I was most worried about the glass doors. If I lost my balance on the narrow steps going into the lobby the bike would fall into the 15 foot tall glass doors.

I made it. And convinced the owner of the hotel that trying to move the motorcycle anywhere else wouldn’t be easy nor a good idea. She agreed and assured me that it would be secure and watched 24/7.

Welcome to Quito.