The worst has happened. Well, getting into an accident and injuring ourselves or rendering the bike permanently useless would be the worst. So then I guess I should say the second to worst has happened: our rear shock has broken and now we are stuck in Ecuador without a motorcycle until it can be fixed.
But let me start at the beginning.
After our brief venture into the Amazon, we took a route through southern Ecuador to get to Peru, a route that would pass through some recommended towns. And the first of which was Baños.
I know you're thinking the town is named after bathrooms, but actually it's called Baños because of all the hot springs around the area. This geological activity is due to the nearby active volcano called Tungarahua which is said to actually protect the sacred town of Baños where multiple miracles have allegedly happened, mostly revolving around the Virgin Mary. And it's not just hot springs that the place is famous for. In fact, water is extremely abundant in Baños in all its forms, as it rained every day we were there, and there are waterfalls cascading down the green mountainsides in nearly every direction you look.
Baños sounds idyllic or course, and in some ways it is. But the problem that Tim and I had with Baños was the massive amount of tourists that descend upon this tiny village every day, driving the prices up, and making the whole place feel like an Ecuadorian version of Disney World. Baños is small, and despite that fact, it is the second most visited site in all of Ecuador, second only to the Galapagos Islands! And after all the incredibly stunning and peaceful places we'd already visited in Ecuador, seeing a waterfall for $20 surrounded by hundreds of people, or finding a corner in a concrete hot tub with dozens of screaming children around, just did not impress us.
Baños has also made a name for itself in the extreme sports world, as it has many bridges to bungee jump off of, lots of trails for hiking, biking, horse-back riding, there's white-water rafting, and it even has these extreme “Swings at the End of the World" where you can be pushed out on a swing overhanging a cliff. All that is fantastic stuff, and I can see why backpackers who are looking to meet fellow travelers while having a thrilling time love Banõs. But for Tim and I, we get plenty of excitement riding along gorgeous cliff edges all the time, and we did not feel the need to do any of these adrenaline-inducing activities.
So after a few wet and cold days of camping, we left Baños and headed south, slowly making our way to Peru.
After a night spent in the colonial city of Cuenca, our last stop in Ecuador would be Vilcabamba, a tiny village with warm weather where we were able to camp in a lovely mountainside park. A river ran beside our campsite, so clean you could drink the water, and we had fires every night while conversing with travelers from all over the world.
Feeling refreshed and having ended our tour of Ecuador on a good note, we were ready to head to Peru. And that is of course when disaster struck.
The road from Vilcabamba to the Peruvian border ran through a National Park called Podocarpus. At first it was gorgeous, when we could see, that is. Because soon the fog set in, and it started to bucket water over us. We climbed in altitude quickly, and could feel the bite of the cold eating through our jackets, along with the rain. It seemed pretty remote up there in the mountains, as there were signs everywhere to watch out for Speckled Bears crossing the road. And then the pavement ended, and the road turned into a muddy gravel mess pretty quickly.
But that was all fine, and we were going over the bumps and ridges as they appeared out of the fog with ease, until I heard a pop, and it sounded like we had run over a large branch, breaking it in half with a crunch as we rode over it. Actually, this was the rear shock failing beneath us, and we immediately pulled over, knowing that something was majorly wrong.
Sure enough, on closer inspection, the inner “monoshock" was broken, though the coil spring around the suspension looked alright. But his basically meant that the bike should no longer be ridden to prevent further damage.
Well, that put us in a bit of a situation as we stood in the middle of nowhere with the cold rain pouring over us like the heavens were laughing at us. All I could do was curse over and over again and stand there shivering, wondering why we were the most unlucky two people in the world. But Tim did not go into freak-out mode as I had, and instead sprang into action.
He said we have two options, either get someone to tow us out from there, or somehow get the bike to a place where we could find someone to tow us. Once on a tow truck, we would need to get the bike to a KTM repair shop, which the only one we knew of was way back in Quito, nearly 15 hours away. But I took a deep breath and told myself to take this one step at a time. First we needed to get ourselves and the bike out of the remote mountains before a Speckled Bear ate us.
By checking the GPS, we noticed that there was a village about 12 miles ahead of us. And after inspecting the shock, Tim decided that we could most likely ride the bike 12 miles without causing too much damage.
And so that's what we did, and we arrived in Valladolid, so small a village that it didn't even have a hotel or restaurant. It was still raining, so we pulled over at the only place that looked like it was open, a little store that sold chips and toilet paper. The guy inside shook his head at me when I asked about a tow truck, saying it was Saturday afternoon, and the nearest truck might come from over 3 hours away in Loja, though they're probably closed. And the next day was Sunday, so they'd be closed then too.
And then the man looked down the street and said, “Or you could put it in that guy's truck."
By the grace of God and whatever saint has patronage over that church and village, the guy with a truck seemed to think this was possible, and he pointed to the church as a perfect set of ramps to drive the bike up and get it into the truck bed. I still cannot believe how lucky we were to have the church ramp right there next to us.
And so after some ropes were securely attached to the bike frame, our great 5 hour ride to Cuenca began. We ended up paying the truck man $130 to get us there (as far as he would go), and I still have no idea whether we overpaid him or got the deal of the century, but after another stroke of luck of finding a park hill that we could use as a ramp to get the bike out, we safely got ourselves and the bike to Cuenca.
So we are either two incredibly unlucky people, or perhaps the luckiest. Because once we got internet at our hotel in Cuenca, we realized that there is a KTM dealership in Cuenca! By mere chance we ended up in the perfect spot, and there's no need to tow the bike 10 hours away to Quito!
We left the bike at the dealership yesterday, have ordered the Monoshock part that we need, and now all we have to do is wait ten days or so for it to arrive and be installed. So no more adventures for at least a week from now, but truth be told, I think I could take a break from adventures for a little while.
As always, we'll keep you posted.
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