Monday, 28 November 2011

Day 28: to Ipiales and Ibarra (481 kms)

Southern Colombia proved to be just as fascinating and beautiful as the north. It was (just) another day of spectacular riding through mountains and valleys. With this kind of constant elevation change, there follow changes in temp and pressure too. After yesterday's ride through the rain, I felt a cold coming on.

We made good time even though I had to stop a couple times to adjust little mechanical problems with the bike, from yesterday's bumps.

I wasn't expecting Colombia to be so diverse. We passed through towns that could have been somewhere in Africa given the people, the climate and vegetation, and then back up to quite obviously Andean communities.

After a late lunch in Ipiales, we headed for the border with Ecuador. Needing gas we bypassed several stations in town with longish queues. But everything has an explanation and it soon became clear that none of the stations out on the carreterra had fuel. This was probably due to the road closure in La Linea and the domestic orientation of supply chains. These stations are literally at the end of the line. In the event, however, it was a good thing we didn't fill up since gas prices in Ecuador were the cheapest we saw: about $0.50 a liter.

The border itself was straightforward, until the very last step (confirming my rule that it always one step in the process that slows you down). When we went to secure the temporary importation for the bikes from the aduana, there was nobody manning the post. I started asking around and finally found the main aduana office. A man in an Ecuadorean military uniform and a woman in a national aduana uniform pointed me back to the empty post. Then a man in a windbreaker and a ball cap emerged and gestured for me to follow him. En route he asked for my papers. I declined, perhaps with a little feeling, thinking he was a particularly well entrenched tout. (Avid readers will know my deeply held misgivings of touts.) He responded with great drama and clearly took great offence. When we reached the post and the delinquent, plain clothes customs officer went around behind his desk I thought we were finally in business. Unfortunately not. This man took it upon himself to teach us a lesson in respect for authority. He ploddingly assisted all those petitioners who had formed in a queue behind us and then, 45 mins later when his desk was clear, finally said "let's go look at the motos." Life on the road.

We pushed on for another 75kms or so to the first big town in Ecuador, Ibarra. The highlight of the evening was finding a sports bar that was full of rowdy soccer fans cheering on La Liga to a 2-0 home victory in the first match of the Copa Sud America semi-final. The place went nuts for the second goal (it's a home and away format) and for the victory.

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