Re-uniting with our friend Pej, the three of us checked into a hostel and after getting the feeling back in our hands, proceeded to roll a celebratory joint to mark the occasion. Swapping stories and smoking away we almost didn’t hear the Hostel owner knocking at the door, he was not happy. Apparently not a fan of Pink Floyd he swiftly ejected us before we even had a chance to change our socks and under a stern shaken fist we rode away and ducked into The Secret Garden hostel.

Though, in my opinion, not the best city we had visited, we took a few days to kick back and relax in Quito. If anything we needed some time to build up the bother to head back out into the rain, a daunting prospect given the regular downpours. It gave us a chance to check out the Cities nightlife and visit the equator, a yellow painted line marking the centre of the earth actually a good 200m in the wrong place. These times were fun and we always enjoyed shunning responsibility for a few days but truthfully it never took us long to grow restless and in spite of the rain we were happy to be back on the road and headed for Colombia.

Our aim was to reach the border town of Tulcan before nightfall but my bike had other ideas. Ever since the crash it had not been riding so well and as we approached a tollbooth my clutch cable snapped and I drifted to a clunky stop. Such an easy job would have taken us just minutes to fix but as Frank had been carrying our spare parts, they had of course been lost in the great Mancora tent robbery. We tried our best at bodging it but our expertise in maintenance did not extend beyond oil changes and chain tightening, we were left with no other option.

Damage from the crash

The town of Ibarra was thirty minutes back the other way and it didn’t take long for us to flag down a passing pick up truck. The drivers charity seemed so matter of fact as he helped us haul my crippled Suzuki onto the back of his truck, I had always loved hitch hiking as the truly kind people of the road are always the ones who stop. Sat in the back I held on tight to my bike as our new friend flew around the corners, watching as Frank disappeared into the distance. It was a bumpy ride but we got there fast and I was even dropped off at a mechanics who fixed the clutch in almost seconds flat. Now only one problem remained, where was Frank?

A chance reunion in an Internet café brought us back together and following a few beers and a night in Ibarra we once again hit the road, determined to make Colombia. The border was a particularly busy one but we eventually nudged our way through and out the other side. Finally we were in Colombia, land of Escobar and south America’s most beautiful women, a country we had been looking forward to for weeks, last stop and my girlfriends home.

We made a slight detour to Las Lajas, a cathedral spectacularly built into a canyon over Guaitara River. Already we could feel the good vibe of the Colombian people as we joined the crowds to marvel at the architectural masterpiece, beautifully out of place amongst the green foliage.

Leaving Las Lajas we followed the twisting potholed road ever north but under blue skies we were in good spirits. Colombia however brought new challenges and the heavily armed soldiers manning checkpoints were constant reminders, we were in guerrilla territory. We had been told to avoid the area south of Pasto after dark due to bandits and the local guerrillas, the FARC. We had time before the sun set but we would be cutting it fine and at times like that, a problem is inevitable.

Frank Crosses a bridge in southern Colombia

One firm jolt from my back wheel and all my power was gone, drifting once again to the side of the road I turned to see my chain, severed, lying on the tarmac. We had no tools or expertise for this and with time against us we again set out to flag down a ride. Before anyone had the chance to stop however, a petrol pump attendant came to our rescue. Armed with nothing more than a hammer and a small screwdriver he removed the damaged link and repaired the chain. Appreciative and somewhat emasculated we escaped bandit country but it was now clear that both bikes were in dire need of some tender loving care.

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