Week 25 - Otavalo minus a bike!
Updated: Nov 24, 2019
Leaving Tena (no jokes) we headed North in the direction of Quito, and the dark clouds were closing in. It poured down but after about an hour the rain subsided. Climbing in altitude, it started to get quite cold. My bike was also feeling it, and there was something not quite right. I presumed it was the altitude. We kept going and as we passed through a little town my bike died, almost like there wasn't any fuel getting through. I tried to start it several times but there was a clattering inside the engine every time...not good! As luck would have it, we were two doors up from a small mechanic, so we asked him to check it over, if anything just to diagnose the issue and work out if it was fixable, or would need new parts. You guessed it...new parts required! He said it was something to do with the valve, and maybe it had broken.
Fortunately, literally the day before, a guy called Martín Burbano de Lara from Quito Dual Sport Moto club had added me to their What's App group (thanks Martin). It saved us. I had no idea what to do as we were in a small village, with no hotels and it was chucking it down again. I asked if anyone could help and almost immediately I was contacted by David Garces. He was the owner of a new company called Sleipnir (Ecuador Bike Rentals) in Quito. He arranged a truck to pick up the bike, he offered to keep my luggage safe and offered a bed for the night in his house! Relief. In just over an hour, a lovely guy called Marcelo from Tecnicentro moto grua turned up and loaded my bike onto his truck and all my stuff. Kelvin followed us back to Quito, which took quite a while once we hit Quito as the traffic was crazy. It must have been about 7pm by the time we got to David's shop and he and his brother Diego were there to greet us. We unloaded my stuff and then my bike continued to Marcelo's shop for diagnosis and repair. I got a ride on the back of David's lovely Ducati Duval to his place just outside of Quito, with Kelvin and Diego following on their bikes. We were greeted by his mother, who had cooked us dinner, and his son, who's bedroom we commondeered for the night. We all had a good chat about bikes and travel over dinner, then fell into bad. We were shattered. At least meeting David and Diego had made me forget about my broken bike for a bit.
The next day we got up, packed the stuff we needed into Kelvin's side panniers and top bag, made some peanut butter sarnies and then headed off, two-up in the direction of Otavalo. Within two minutes I was really uncomfortable and getting on and off the bike was almost impossible without a high step. No footpegs also made me overwork my hips so needless to say, once we finally reached Otavalo, I was in bits. We managed to find the Air BnB we had booked a couple of weeks before, primarily because we were having some parcels sent there. Eugenia, the lady of the house, greeted us and showed us our little 'casita'. After getting over the journey, we headed to the local market to get some supplies...tonnes of fruit and veg were everywhere, and super cheap I couldn't believe it. At least we would be really healthy for the next week.
So, this is where the parcel sagas began. Due to arrive in Otavalo were two parcels; one from a company called Drift in the UK (alternative to GoPro) and one from Rukka in Finland, who had kindly offered us support after I contacted them when my trousers failed. Most of the ten days we ended up spending in Otavalo was filled with e-mails to and from UPS, to and from Drift and Rukka, plus Ralph, the American guy who owned the Air BnB but lived in Guyaquil. To cut a VERY long story short, we ended up getting the Drift package on the morning we left Otavalo, and the Rukka package never made it due to Ecuador's strict rules on importing textiles. A word of warning...DO NOT try and get textiles sent to Ecuador. That parcel had to be returned to Finland. Another couple of words of warning...DO NOT use UPS to ship stuff to South America (as expensive as DHL is it is much better in South America), becuase UPS´s communication is absolutely useless and they give really bad advice. Ralph spent a while talking to one of the UPS agents, they explained to him that if the parcel came as five smaller parcels, all under 4Kg and all under $500, it would be fine. Ok, so we naiively took her advice. I will explain what happened in the next blog when shit hit the fan, but I think you can guess!!! The next hurdle was sorting out shock parts, but I needed to wait until we took the bike to the shock specialist, Diego Salvador from Ecuador RaceTec for assessment, which wouldn't happen until it was running and we were back in Quito.
Otavalo is a lovely town and despite the stress of parcel logistics, we did enjoy it there. It was a town with many indigenous people, the majority of whom couldn't have been taller than 4ft! I felt really tall for the first time in my life. There were a few things we really liked about Otavalo, and the main thing was the markets, especially the big saturday market, which was full of people, little stalls filled the streets for several blocks from the main square and the colours were vibrant and plentiful. One thing that made me smile there was how people gathered around the little shops that had TV's on and they would all stand in the street, watching whatever was on. It was quite amusing to watch.
On one of the days we stayed in Otavalo, we visited the 'Parque Condor', which was a bird sanctuary. The majority of the birds were rescue birds that either could not be returned to the wild or were being rehabilitated for return to the wild, plus a couple of birds to draw in the locals, primarily the Ecuadorean tourists like the Bald Eagle. Apparently over 80% of their visitors were Ecuadorean. We had stunning views over the countryside while we watched a bird demonstration, which was beautiful to watch. The birds of prey in particular were so graceful and magnificent to watch. There were plenty of species of birds there and owls, plus the gigantic Andean Condor, which looks like an overgrown turkey to me.
After a couple of hours there, we ventured off on foot in search of Peguche Waterfall. It was only about 2.5-3km away on foot but it was an interesting walk, including walking along a tiny little path in between scorched or still burning shrubbery, and then trying to follow a path which looked non-existent and quite steep in places. Again, I had taken Kelvin on one of my magical mystery walking tours again, and as ever he was not entirely impressed as he had flip-flops on, but we did make it to the waterfall and it was quite cool. The whole area was really pretty, and we walked around for a bit before hiking a few Km back to Otavalo. On our route we saw several locals doing their washing in the nearby river. I felt very thankful for washing machines as it looked hard going and monotonous.
By the time we returned to our accommodation, our feet were aching but it was a great day all in all. We slept well!
The following day we went to a 'spa' pool called Balneario y Paraiso, translating as Spa and Paradise (I think). Hmmmm, well it didn't quite live upto it's name. On the positive side, despite the damp, rust, mould and dirty changing rooms, the water in the pool and Jacuzzi seemed clean, so I had a bit of a swim and we sat in the jacuzzi for a long time, until we represented human prunes. The sauna was barely room temperature so we gave it a miss...maybe not a place to put on your list of things to do in Otavalo!
The main things we did in Otavalo was just mooch around, look at all the beautiful scenery, the busy locals, and the cool markets. The place was so much bigger than we anticipated, so there was a lot to see, and a good location for people watching. We also managed to catch up on some website editing, blog writing and I cooked a lot, which was nice.
We decided to leave Otavalo on a sunday as we needed to go and sort out my bike in Quito, and we had been reliably informed that traffic was so much better on a Sunday, which was quite appealing after the crazy traffic we had witnessed going into Quito after my bike broke down. I also managed to find another Air BnB, which was a nice little appartment not too far from the mechanics and Diego the suspension specialist, so anticipating a long stay in Quito I booked it for two weeks straight off.
So, Quito, here we come!