This is the last post about our South American motorbike tour. And fortune has it that we are on one of the best roads ever. We love to be on these roads, it gives us the feeling we are battling with nature. That we are part of what we are busy with, a sort of self inflicted hardship. These sort of roads give me, even when I sit on the back, a notion that I am working too. This is pure off-road motorcross, and sure enough it’s fun.
It is adventurous, as we are not sure whether the Kenton can handle this. It seems the fog has a bad effect on the motor, as if the lungs of the Kenton are sucking wet air. Our 150cc beast can not haul us over the steep inclinations and I have to get off midway an ascent. Geo needs to find more level ground to return back to and start over with gaining speed in order to get the whole circus -that is the heavily packed motorbike- over to a higher pitch. Sometimes the Kenton needs to be pushed, a terrible job where Geo hits all sort of iron parts sticking out. Of course, without proper motorbike boots, shoots of iron are directly for the skin.
Would the Kenton give up its ghost or simply can not haul us over, we need to turn and get on the main road. We both try to avoid the boring main road so we work, try and do not give up quickly. We have to get over the 3700 meter, through the fog, cloud forest and steep winding roads. We may not give up, as we don’t fancy sleeping in this cloudy jungle, where wild animals roam.
The route from Piuntza to San Felipe de Oña is steep. Geo has asked several people whether it is possible. The women usually said: ‘It is cold up there, and there are many clouds and it rains often, but it is beautiful, with lagunas.’ The young men would say it is perhaps possible but better don’t try it at night. However, none has ever taken that route. Our host, Arthur, said: ‘It is steep. You can not do it, I can not even go there with my car. Only four-wheel drive and little trucks ply the route. But it is beautiful up there, flowers and plants are lining the road. Truly magnificent.’ A few weeks ago, an Italian guy on a way stronger motorbike told us how hard the route was for him. Then we meet with the son of Arthur, Patricio, and he says: ‘I have done it 4 years ago, it is possible but your wife needs to get off at certain parts and walk.’
Then Geo placed the question at me: what to do?
We decide to take the risk. With only a few days left to reach the airport where we fly out to the USA, we have to make 150 kilometer a day. We have no buffer when something goes wrong, when the road is not doable for our capacity. We are both in for a risk, for adventure and for nature. By now, my admiration for the Kenton is great and the motorbike has more than proven its worth.
The evening before we leave, we are treated on a delicious, if not the best, meal of tilapia ever (we are aware though that tilapia is the pig under the fish). Patricio, son of Arthur and Angelita, brings bags and pots of food over to our little campo.
Next morning we leave, and it becomes the best drive since long. Since the altiplano in Peru. In fact, we are again at the altiplano. Now the Andes of Ecuador.
The ride starts of with moderate climbing over an unpaved track in the rain. Followed up by low hanging clouds in a jungle forest where neat little houses built from wood and mud dot the road side only now and then. Ultimate pure (but not necessarily easy) living, I imagine. Agriculture is vertical, cows need to battle the steepness and turn out to be as good a climber as a mountain goat.
Having belated breakfast in 28 de Mayo we are presented with a mixture of locals, many dressed very authentic, some young girls not giving in to the comforting leggings. It warms my heart.
We end the day with a proper camp spot, we had to wait a long time for that too. But this particular journey through the middle of South Ecuador offers us a cleared sky evening, a dry night and a fully intact little mud-house. Truly, what else can one wish for?
Although we are at 3500 meter in altitude, clouds covering the sky just a bit earlier, dense and packed, making the lagunas nearly invisible, I wish for a fire.
Too long without a proper fire makes you forget the comfort of it. It also make you forget the smoke pinching your eyes, the mucous membranes getting loosened.
The blackness, more of a deep indigo, surrounding me. Little specks like fireflies born in the fire swarming into the depths below me. Being at 3500 meter altitude it is cold and a fire gives me aliveness. Geo has helped me starting the fire as the wood was damp, using the gas burner to ignite the old wood.
But also I realize that a fire is a hassle, yet outdoor living demands it. Its good to be out camping again, because we deliberately went on a track not visible on the map. And stealth camping and a fire must accompany these sort of roads. Now it all comes together. Later, down in the village, continuing over the main road, Geo talks to a Peruvian motorcyclist, who is asking: ‘Which motorbike group are you part of?’ Uhm, that of my wife…
The route from Piuntza to San Felipe de Oña had hardly traffic. We went through área Ecológica de Conservación Yacuambi with a density of jungle never seen before, yet still on some sort of road.
This area is void of dwellings which makes it utterly attractive to my eyes. Though, the clouds obscured a lot.
A wonderful happening occurred when we reached the highest point and went down, as happens so often in the mountains but never fails to impress: a total change of nature. From jungle we are now among fir trees.
The sun shining. A fire going. What a difference! How I missed this!
Upon waking up, the sky still bright, Geo wants to drive back to the lagunas who were the day before covered in clouds. A high altitude laguna with partly visible sky made the blue of the water shimmer and give them a look alien to lowland people.
I had never imagined Ecuador to be so stunning? I dislike driving back, even on a motorbike, but it was so worth it. It would be rather stupid to miss out on such magical lakes, so nearby and not drive back 7 kilometer.
After having witnessed the lakes we track down a hardly visible unpaved road which will lead us down to the village.
I thought not much of Ecuador, having been here once when I was a 30 year young backpacker on a world trip, rushing rather than experiencing. I’d seen Cotopaxi and I’d bought a black woolen poncho, the only two things I remember about Ecuador. Yet Ecuador wins on many levels.
First: There are hardly televisions switched on in restaurants. Second: If the television is on, it often shows nature programs. Third: In the higher altitude villages young people still wear local dress. This elates me so much, the more because I studied fashion and always had a love for culture. Fourth: Car and truck drivers usually do not honk when passing and they drive quite safely, with a wider berth around us. Fifth: Drivers and road workers are very cheerful when we pass, overloaded, cheering us on. Sixth: Extremely well mannered youth! Seventh: almost every single person greets another, including us.
Ending the ride in Guayaquil, long before we were warned how dangerous this city is. Now, the police tells us the same: ‘Be careful, don’t stop on the road, keep driving until you reach where you need to be.’ It makes me worried and I imagine this will be the occasion where I will be robbed. Again, another police photographs us on her cellphone, perhaps for documentation.
Entering the city is dreadful, as all big cities are. I think I feel more vulnerable with Geo on a motorbike than I would be on a bicycle on my own. A woman by herself on something as pitiful as a bicycle is often seen as innocent. She is to be respected, big exception being Iran if it comes to sexually frustrated men. Now, I am just the wife of a man on a motorbike. No criminal will pity me. No robber will respect me for being the wife of a wealthy white man.
Tough in camp spots I feel much more protected with Geo by my side. I do not care that much whether we are seen or not, since all risk has fallen away with a man beside me. Our next camp spot, the way down to Guayaquil, turns out to be pleasant again. This time it is a favorite of Geo: the woods.
Before reaching Guayaquil we are going down via El Triunfo, through uninspiring village after village, often only a few wet moldy houses along the main route E40.
This uninspiring set up becomes impossible to ride through when the mist is tick, wet and cold and we can’t see a hand in front of our eyes. We drive back 2 kilometers to the only alojamiento we’ve seen.
An interesting off-road part.
And, one last…
The ride continues via huge banana plantations from Dole. We end our trip in a very big, ugly and poor looking city, without being robbed. Something which the police warned us for upon entering.
Grateful to be hosted at a Mexican Airbnb host who lives in a walled compound where two check points try to deny us entrance. The feeling of security flares up, in a city where all else is barred, walled and locked. An open city for the poor, desolate and lost and a walled city for the rich. How come I can never shake the feeling of pure sadness and uselessness in any big city…
Perhaps because the balance between my (easy) life and theirs is too big…
We are able to meet with Patricio again, and hand him over our Kenton. His mom presented us with a box full of wild tree fruits, which have a local name, translated as ‘snotties’.
February 2020. Piuntza, 28 de Mayo, Las Orquideas, Yacuambi, Cuenca, San Felipe de Oña, Suscal, Guayaquil.
Big hug to our Kenton! Now, we’re off to the USA, pre-Corona time and in for much physical exercise: the kickbike…