June 11, 2015
Told in the collective first person, jointly from Stu and Janell Clarke's perspective.
Narrated Audio Blog
After three long days crossing the Sechura Desert of north western Peru, we finally arrived at the Ecuadorean border late in the afternoon. This would conclude our tour of all the main land Spanish speaking countries within the Americas. Note, I didn't say Latin American countries as we hadn't yet visited Canada, considered by some to be a Latin American country due to its French speaking parts or French Guiana although not a country on its own.
The border crossing at the La Tina Macará was fairly uneventful. There was very little traffic and we quickly took turns entering the Aduana office and completing the immigration and vehicle import paperwork. The border officers were older gentlemen and took a shine to Janell who is always very receptive to attention and happy to smile and chat to keep the crossing pleasant and hassle free.
We didn't have any specific agenda for Ecuador except for one task. Having lost a credit card in Bolivia, we'd made arrangements to have replacement cards sent to Janell's Mum in Australia who would then forward the new cards to a contact in Ecuador. The contact was a friend of a friend who lived in the mountain city of Cuenca. We allowed around 5 weeks from when we notified the Bank for the deliveries to occur. As far as we were aware, the precious parcel was tracking well so we made our way to Cuenca first. But not without a little drama.
Once you've crossed in to Ecuador the landscape changes so drastically from the sand hills in Peru. We were confronted with mountains and lush vegetation again along with the narrow twisty roads you'd expect. We never plan too much on a border crossing day so were headed for the small town of Catacocha near the border to find accomodation for the night. The buzz of being in a new country never wares off, there are always subtle difference in speech and presentation and even significant differences in customs and traditions.
Back to the drama. Stuart had been on the lookout for a replacement chain and sprocket for some time now. Janell was able to get hers changed in Sucre, Bolivia, but the shop only had one rear sprocket in stock and no fronts. Even the rear sprocket they did have wasn't an exact match for the 650GS but we were able to work with it and front sprockets often last us two times the length of a rear sprocket. Anyway the additional kilometres finally caught up with Stu's rear sprocket as we began the mountain ascent. His chain ate itself pulling all of us to a fast halt on a very narrow, steep bend.
The terrain in the south of Ecuador is very hilly; the main highway was a 2 lane road winding up and down the mountains with a light but slow flow of local traffic. We were constantly overtaking on the short straights as we could and then slowing ourselves for the next bend. During one of the climbs Stuarts engine revved and then stalled. He knew exactly what had happened and pulled over immediately.
The chain had come off the rear sprocket completely but seemed to be in one piece, this was a massive relief as we knew that if we could get the chain back on the sprocket we'd be able to ride again, nursing the clutch and throttle to at least make it to our destination for the night. We removed the front sprocket cover and found the chain wrapped around the sprocket and jammed in place, luckily the chain had not damaged the block or we would have been in real trouble. It took a lot of force and a bit of luck to release the chain but once freed we were able to line everything up again pretty easily. We made the chain really tight to provide more of a belt drive on the near toothless sprocket and rode very carefully onwards.
Geez it was a relief pulling in to Catacocha. Luckily we found a hotel on the main plaza for a reasonable price, a good sign for what to expect in this new country. With nothing else to do for the evening we showered up and headed out for an easy street meal and a beer before getting an early night.
It took us two days to reach Cuenca with some lazy mornings and taking it easy on Stu's sprocket in the hilly terrain but as always this allowed us to really take in the experience of travelling. Cuenca turned out to be one of our most favourite places in the world.
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