At the end of the first day of our trip, I have to admit that I got in bed thinking there was absolutely no way I would be in riding condition again by 7am the next morning. However, when my alarm went off at 6am the following day it was met with a much different reaction than it gets at home. I was dressed, packed, and ready to rock immediately. I think we all felt pretty damn good by the time we ate some breakfast and had our coffee. We took off on time and set out on what was supposed to be the longest day of our trip at 10hrs. Now, for reference here, the first day was supposed to take us 8hrs with stops and it took us like 11 and a half before we shut the bikes down for the night. We knew that we had to keep up the pace and plan for the unforeseeable if we were going to make our final destination before the day was over.
The day started on some sweet dirt roads right out of the town where we stayed. After a little while we popped out on a road and came to a town with a gas station, but they didn’t have “the right gas” because we were told the Husqvarna would run like crap without high octane gas. Then we came to some guys who sell gas out of barrels in their front yards. The first guy wasn’t home but his dog was, the next guy had about half a liter of regular gas in a dirty plastic bottle. We politely declined, but I did give his daughter a package of crayons.
We climbed for a while and the views became totally spectacular. We were climbing the side of the of the western most volcano of the Ecuadorian Andes. I don’t know exactly what happened, but my GPS stopped working at this point and we got off track some how or somewhere… point is that I don’t know exactly where we were for the early part of the day, but it was high and it was awesome. I saw some alpacas and unlike the ones we saw many times earlier in the trip, these did not have bridles and short ropes tied to them. There were about 6 standing along the mountain side with no farms as far as you could see in all directions. I have to assume that these were wild alpacas, which do in fact exist in the Andes. However I am not an Ecuadorian mountain guide, I’m just a guy who likes motorcycles, so your guess is as good as mine.
We started getting a little concerned about our fuel situation about mid-day. We descended out of the hills towards a small town where they had gasoline according to a random dude we talked to earlier. Clearly, a foolproof plan. We proceeded to ride circles around the middle of the town for 20 minutes following six different sets of directions from six different people who we couldn’t completely understand. Then we found the truck with a flammables symbol on it, which was parked out front of a door with no sign. This guy had gas. This dude totally had pay by the bucket, ladle it yourself, regular 87 octane gas. A bit of a novelty for us and a much needed replenishment after several fails earlier in the day. Turns out the Husky runs just fine on that stuff too.
We continued on and came to a small school up in the mountains where we decided we should stop and distribute some goodies we had brought with us to the kids. Now if I’m going to be totally honest here, I must say that I’m not a huge fan of kids in general. Call it what you will, never have been a fan. I do however enjoy the idea of giving back what you can. To give for the sake of giving and helping a fellow human being. Something that may seem insignificant to you or I, could mean a great deal to somebody who is in a different situation. So this was different for me, and these kids were so stoked about pens, paper, rulers and erasers. For a moment there I was actually really feeling like I was having some sort of epiphany about the innocence of children or something. Then more came, and more came, until we were completely swarmed with children grabbing at everything we touched or pulled out of out bags. They climbed up our legs, onto the bikes, hanging off the handlebars, everywhere. In my opinion, a little intense. But we did distribute pretty much everything we had and there were many, many smiles. After the initial mayhem subsided I watched them all share and trade and play along together. I gave some calculators and paper to a teacher at the school so as to be sure they would find their way to the classroom. It was really cool, and we hit the road after shaking hands with literally every man, women, and child in town. We were definitely smiling just as much as all the kids on the way out of there.
We rode for miles and miles afterwards through sugar cane plantations. The steep hill sides were completely filled with sugar cane on both sides of the road, until we came to a small and obviously old mountain town. This was El Corazon (which I always remember means “heart” because its in the name of a Rancid song) with cobble stone streets and a handful of people standing on the corner staring at us like we were a painting. We were told before hand that they make moonshine in El Corazon from the sugar cane and I really wanted to find some. I looked up a what I thought was the correct translation and asked a guy who sent me to a store, that sold me some water, which was cool because I was out of that too… but no moonshine. I asked again with some sign language this time and she sent me to another store, where there was a guy who didn’t have moonshine and he walked me back to the first store. Then he walked me to a hardware store and he didn’t have any moonshine either. The guy shrugged and I gave up. I can only imagine that it is so delicious that they drank it all.
On ward we rode, more sugar cane all around… ok that’s all about the sugar cane, but I really wanted that moonshine. We traversed along the dusty roads back up into the mountains, all the while taking in spectacular late afternoon views until we finally came to the last point on our route. This was a really awesome little town called Salinas. We had a comfortable little hostel booked where we got a much needed shower before walking into the town square for dinner. Salinas is almost 12,000 feet above sea level and is very well know for its chocolate and chesses. It was kind of different in that, the whole town was like a big co-op. They had a wool mill and other small factories and all the stuff was sold at one community store in the town. We got pizza in this town believe it or not, and when we did we obviously ordered beers as well. The guy went next-door to the community store got 3 beers and came back and gave them to us. Not 100% sure on how it was all working, but the pizza was amazing and the guy even made a second trip to grab tres mas cervezas. Once again I was asleep before I hit the pillow. We clocked 153 miles of rough roads, climbed as high as 13,500 feet and descended to just 3,400 feet above sea level. We saw some of the most amazing views and sights we had ever seen, experienced things that both thrilled us and confused us. We balanced endurance, emotions, strength, and energy all day as best as we could and we completed an absolutely unforgettable moto adventure ride. Thanks for following along, and long may you ride.