escape from Pasto

Everyday we check the news and everyday it’s the same, the roads are still closed. But things have been better – the motos and buses are back, people are more relaxed.

The three of us quite like Pasto. It’s a bit dull, but seems prosperous compared to other towns of a similar size. And it’s populated by Colombians, who we agree ar mostly the friendliest (when not at war) of the Latins except (imo) perhaps the Mexicans, who were also gringo-friendly for the most part.

We’ve been walking and exploring everyday. Here’s a better-than-average street in Pasto

It looks nice here, but there’s not much historic interest, window shopping or good food, everything is pretty dull, in contrast to the recent violence. Except the clumps of Agapanthus here in the median. Another escapee from South Africa. It seems the only perennials blooming in the last 5000 miles have been from there. Very strange.

So this morning there’s been a ceasefire and it’s announced that 5 roads have been opened, including ours to the border. The day’s track
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Off we go. The pictures today, excluding the above are screen grabs from Contour video. The Lumix is gone and a serious blow as it’s been a trusted part of the team. More on this later.

We set off up the main drag, past rows of semi’s that are raring to go. They’re all honking their horns either in celebration or frustration as they manuever to get the hell going.
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Into the countryside. It’s mountainous
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The remnants of blockades and fires are continuous. Generally the roads have been blocked with stone
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There are plenty of police and army with riot gear making sure things stay on track
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The road is blocked by huge boulders at one stage. We wait while heavy equipment clears it
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Motos are sometimes above the law in parts of CA and SA so we roll to the front of the line. Looking back are a mixture of observing protestors, farmers and police
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Close to the border we take a detour to see the beautiful Sanctuario de Las Lajas that bridges a gorge (photo borrowed from Ben)
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This is where I’ve lost my camera. I rolled away from a viewpoint above this church with the camera most likely on my duffel. We check thoroughly for it when I discover it’s missing and of course it’s long gone. Very sad but it doesn’t spoil the great mood we’re in to be on our way south again.  Th three of us have been through a lot and it’s good to be riding out of the epic together.

At about 2 or so we get to the Colombia/Ecuador border at Tulcan. The stories are that the borders in SA are much faster and more efficient that those in CA. The procedure is the same however with the usual requirements, procedures and complexities. But without being the torturous 4 or 6 hour battles we’ve been through a dozen times. I have a friend I rode with for a few days who said it upset him so much he’s never coming back. Be warned.

The border is modern-ish. So first, the usual – clear through Colombian immigration and get the temporary bike permit cancelled at customs. They’re both in this building and it’s a breeze
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Then off to Ecuador immigration, insurance and customs for a permit, in that order. Ben and Maddie up front
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The thing that’s good about the Equador border is that they have computers. Hooray. But they’re really slow across the street where we buy insurance and slow again at aduana (customs). All up I think it took about 90 minutes. So a big improvement over CA borders. We’re done, we’re into Equador ahead of any of the other riders backed up north of us (maybe 4 couples and a solo stuck mostly in Medellin). We’re happy.

But with the road block, the church and slow border we’re behind and not going to make it to Quito. But first, lunch in Tulan. A border town so not pretty. We stop for lunch
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We rip down the highway, new destination Otavalo, as it becomes dark
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Ben and Maddie
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We have some trouble finding a hotel in Otavalo but eventually do.

But we’re here, out of Colombia and south into the increasing exotica of South America, very happy.

But we’ve broken the number 1 rule of distance riding: we rode at night. There are many reasons not to, personal security being the top one. But secondly, the riding risks go up and surviving long distances is about reducing all risks where possible. A mutual friend of ours rode through into Ecuador two weeks ago and roughly at Tulcan, after dark, crashed into the back of a stalled car, broke his pelvis in 4 places and is now back in Australia. His damaged bike has been stolen, his dream over for the time being.

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2 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Hugh Thomas,

    Hi J.
    Glad you got out and the crossing went ok. I know what you mean about riding into the dark, not fun.
    Looking forward to more stories. Hoping for safe travel for you. Also, hope you can find a new camera.

    • Thanks Hugh.
      I think I have the camera situation sorted – trying a couple of options for a few days.
      Yet another crash at dark situation happened two days ago, no-one hurt.
      Say hi to Blake and Colin for me.

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