Week 26 to 30 - Destination Quito!
Yes, we spent almost an entire month in Quito! Although Quito is a nice city, spending more than a couple of days there was not what we had planned. We prefer the small towns and back roads, but needs must.
From Otavalo, we did something we hadn't yet done before...we travelled separately. I was SO uncomfortable being pillon on an already overcrowded bike with no rear footpegs on the way up to Otavalo that I couldn't face the same experience on our return to Quito, so I got the bus. It was simple, with a bus leaving for Quito within two minutes of me arriving at the bus terminal and cost a whole $2.50 for a 90 minute bus ride. It was so cheap, although quite bouncy, but the views were amazing so I didn't notice too much until I got off the bus and felt a bit queasy.
Kelvin had gone ahead and found where our accommodation was, and after I got off the bus I hopped in a taxi to go and find him. We had to wait a couple of hours until we could be let into the accommodation as the whole process of getting the bus had been a lot swifter than I anticipated, so we were quite early. Michnus and Elsebie were also arriving in Quito that day, so after we settled in and spread our stuff all over the appartment, we headed off to meet them for a drink or two. They were staying close by which was nice, and we found a little pizzeria. Perfecto! We caught up on the last couple of weeks news over some yummy food and a few beers.
All in all we spent about three and a half weeks in Quito due to my bike...this is how it went. The day after we arrived in Quito we went to Marcelo's place to pay for the work on my bike to get it running again. What had in fact happened was that one of the valve seats had fallen out, causing a big problem.
Fortunately my newly purchased cylinder, piston and rings etc from Pasto were ok. Phew! Another $315 dollars down, but the bike was working. Yippee! The bike was then taken to Diego at Racetech Ecuador to assess the damage to the shock. That afternoon he took the whole thing apart and we went to see him later to have a chat. To my amazement, the shock wasn't completely totalled, but it needed some new parts including a new main seal. Diego was very shocked that we had emulsion shocks for our trip and he explained to us his reasoning behind this, which made me wonder why we had ever been recommended these type of shocks in the first place, considering we had put our faith completely in a shock specialist to help choose the right type of shock. I was thoroughly unimpressed, especially when the manufacturer also confirmed our shocks were not ideal for purpose.
I got in contact with the German company who made the shocks, and we were directed to a dealer in the USA to sort us out as they were geographically closer. I got us four service kits as we decided to have Kelvin's shock serviced at the same time as we had now lost all faith in our shocks, plus two spare in case we had more issues. Sadly, because the company could not send warranty parts to an unauthoridsed dealer, despite it being a warranty case, we had to pay for everything, including postage and customs, so the total bill was around $400. Yikes! The dealer in the USA was really helpful, and after a bit of a delayed customs process and lots of fees, we were able to get the parts about two and a half weeks after our arrival in Quito. Diego managed to sort out our shocks really quick once he had the parts and also allowed Kelvin and Michnus to work on the bikes in his workshop while they were there. He also gave me a 'Suzie Q' sticker, which was cool.
Once the shocks were sorted, and another $240 later, the bikes went for some welding and on mine, a new oil cooler and oil leak repair at Hell's Motos, run by Angel and Michele. They were lovely, and in the short space of time they managed to sort several of the issues but there wasn't time to fix it all as it was a long bank holiday and we wanted to get shifting. As they couldn't fix everything (namely Kelvin's buckled back wheel and my left frame rack mounting bracket) they gave us a couple of oil filters for free. How nice is that? The final bill came in at about $171. So, forgetting all the costly work done in Medellin, Pereira and Pasto, the bill for bike repairs/maintenance just in Quito came in at about $1126!!! Fuckedy fuck! Also, the time now spent static waiting for bike repairs over the past seven months came to about two and a half months! At least we had no fixed agenda, and we got to really get to know places and people well, including making new friends. On the plus side, the bike was now fixed...again. Fingers crossed this time it was a good fix.
Besides the bikes having some TLC, we did quite a lot in Quito other than drinking coffee! We went back to See David and Diego at Sleipnir a couple of times, and introduced them to Michnus and Elsebie. This introduction ended up including David shooting two videos of us lot talking about Sleipnir, a nice lunch, us buying a new, lighter tent (it's a cheapo Chinese one, so hope it lasts), an introduction to 'Colada Morada' and a bottle of Limoncello. Not bad!
After that we visited the Quito Ducati shop to drool over some bikes. We almost fainted at the prices though. Due to stupidly high import fees in Ecuador, bikes like the basic model of Ducati Multistrada cost around $43,000 (or thereabouts). It was crazy! In fact, a basic KLR or DR650 would set you back around $12-14,000! How do people afford bikes in this country?! I guess, unless you have money you don't. We had already noticed that there was a huge drop in the number of bikes compared to Colombia, and most people who did have bikes owned the cheap chineese bikes, which you could buy in the same shops as you bought your fridge or freezer, very strange. Most of these bikes were around 100-200cc, and cost anywhere between $1500 and $3500 from what we saw anyway. Slightly more affordable.
We also met two lovely guys from Dual Moto Club Quito, Martin (who had saved us when the bike broke down as he had put us on the club's What's App group) and Andres, who had travelled extensively on his Kawasaki KLR650 throughout South America. We had a good time talking about travel, looking at maps, and discussing Ecuador's crazy taxes and import rules. We also met a local dentist called Ruben one evening at a local bar. He spoke great english and was super interested in what we were doing. We chatted to him for quite a while and he told us about a festival called 'Mama Negra' that would be happening on the first weekend in November in Latacunga, just South of Quito. We put it on our list of things to do, providing the bikes were ready. They were, just. We then met him again in the same place, a few weeks later. He happened to be there with a friend and his son. We ended up getting 2 for 1 cocktails, and then Ruben, who was celebrating 10 years of his practice being open in Quito, bought several rounds of Tequila shots. Not being great at stuff like that, I managed to get away with having only one shot (yes, I'm a wimp), and Kelvin ended up with about three or four! It was so fun though.
A couple of other adventure motorcyclists, Kevin Chow (worldoverland.ca) and Steve Perez (@motorcycle.diarraheas on Instagram), also arrived in Quito while we were there, and we arranged to all meet up. After finding the cheapest pasta meal at TGI friday's was $15, we opted for a local burger joint instead. Yum! They were really lovely guys and again, there was lots of talk about travel, experiences and the bikes...to be honest, we don't seem to get bored of it and it's great hearing other people's stories. We met up with them a few times as despite the plan being for them to leave the next day, Kevin's bike (BMW GS1200) developed a significant oil leak, which would require his bike to be split in half! Ouch! One of the evenings, I invited Andres over so he could give us some insider advice on route planning. He arrived, armed with maps, then Kevin and Steve joined us later. We discussed routes for Ecuador and Peru in detail and ate pizza. What a good evening!
Finally we met a couple from Colombia called Liane and Esteban who were two-up on a BMWGS, however normally Liane has her own bike but was pillion for this trip. We spent the evening with a few pizzas and lots of travel chat yet again, and then they were off the next morning so it was short but sweet!
Another awesome evening was spent getting together with Michnus and Elsebie at their hostal to cook a nice, big sunday dinner! It was the first one of the trip and it didn't disappoint, plus my yorkshire pudding came out quite well. Yummy!
From a touristy point of view, we did yet another 'free' walking tour all around the old historical part of Quito (UNESCO world heritage site) and also went to watch their changing of the guards in the main plaza, in front of the presidential building, which was really good to watch. Unlike the one in London, you can get right up next to the guards in Quito.
As well as sorting the bikes in Quito, and enjoying meeting new people, we still had the logistical nightmares of parcels to deal with, which I think I was involved in every single day of our stay. Talk about no rest for the wicked!
So, the easier but still time consuming parcel was the one from the USA with the shock parts. Luckily, DHL were slightly more on-it and efficient than UPS, so we actually sorted it in the end. As I mentioned in the previous blog, the first Rukka parcel was unable to be imported and having been given advice from one of UPS's agents, Maria Villon, Rukka organised for all of the clothing to be sent in five separate parcels, all weighing under 4Kg and all under $500. Tick! Sadly, although Rukka (Milla in particular) had been super efficient, and logistics had done all of the above, plus assigned five tracking numbers to the parcels, they only enclosed one invoice with all of the items listed with a total value and total weight on it. Oopsy! So, as soon as the parcels reached Ecuador, they were counted as one shipment and therefore they deemed them as over the weight and value thresholds. I contacted UPS, David from Sleipnir contacted UPS (I had used his address for delivery) and Rukka contacted UPS, to no avail. I even managed to get the number of an import agent with a really good reputation, but still, not possible to import the parcels without a lot of money, months of time and even then, no guarantee. The import agent advised she would not recommend even trying. Big fat fail...again! Needless to say, I won't be taking the advice of UPS again and I felt so bad that I had taken their advice and given it to Rukka. Bollocks! What had started as a really awesome opportunity, was turning out to be a right pain in the arse and a real stress for everyone involved. The saga continues...watch this space!
On a more positive note...Quito has some cool street art!
We were in Quito for several days after Michnus and Elsebie left to head South, with the aim to all meet up in Latacunga on Sunday 5th November for the Mama Negra festival. Steve also decided to join us, however on the day before our departure (Friday), with a really good route planned out from Andres, we found out that the festival was actually on Saturday 4th! Damn it! So, much to Kelvin's disappointment we scratched the planned route, and opted for a very early wake-up with a PanAmerican route instead!
Off to Latacunga we go!