We decided to ride out of Pasto with Joe and Vern this morning because: they knew the way out (or had a GPS that would get us out), they were going to the church at Las Lajas and Joe, having seen it before and not feeling like walking back up the hill, was going to sit with the bikes while Vern went down, and Joe had been through the border crossing twice before. While the South American border crossings are widely reported to be cake it’d been so long since we’d crossed a border we both felt a bit out of the habit, and in no mood to turn down the ability to cross with someone who’d been there before.
So, we set off early, because they did, and skipped breakfast, because as we found out later in the day, they don’t eat breakfast or lunch. We suspect that this has something to do with the senior citizen metabolism. It makes no sense to me that the older you get the less you eat and the less you sleep. Anyway….
Off we went, a bit faster than normal, and passing notably more aggressively than normal, as we tried to keep up with the guys. Colombia was gorgeous, (as per usual) but I felt that I was missing a little of the sights by focusing on keeping up. They guys don’t ride blazingly fast, but with way more years in the saddle than us, a few iron butt rides, and a tighter deadline, they ride at a speed that’s just a bit more than what we prefer.
A wrong turn or two, a missing Vern, and we make it to the parking lot above the church. Soon Joe returns with a Vern in tow, and Vern, Dachary, and I proceed down the hill.
Dachary and I were both interested in the church from afar, but undecided if we’d actually go into it, because honestly, we don’t care much about churches. But, this was absolutely worth the time. The walk down is quiet and beautiful, with great views of the river and waterfall, and the church itself was honestly spectacular. We were very impressed and very glad that we’d come with the guys and gone all the way in.
Back on the bikes we headed for the border, where we encountered the RV travelers from yesterday having a little trouble with the language barrier at Ecuador’s customs. Because Dachary and I came with photocopies of everything we got to go first whilst the guys ran to get copies of the passport (main page), license, and title / registration (They used their titles, we used our registrations). And whilst the guys were getting their paperwork done Dachary ran to the Comidas Rapidas place by Ecuadorian immigration and we wolfed down a quick lunch which allowed us to not have to abandon the guys at this point, because having skipped breakfast we both needed something in our bellies.
Coming in to the town at the Colombian side of the border (Ipiales) was an absolute shit hole, unlike the rest of Colombia, although the outskirts of Bogota aren’t very pretty. The town on the Ecuadorian side wasn’t the prettiest, but it was livable, and not somewhere you’d feel you’d been sentenced to as punishment for multiple cases of manslaughter.
We made it through, and found that this part of Ecuador looks like someone laid a giant green patchwork quilt over it. It’s pretty, but not as pretty as Colombia, and even the very pretty bits we encountered so far didn’t affect me as much as the typical Colombian scenery.
But we discovered a couple reasons why having the right riding partner is so critical. Before now it’d all just been theory, but now… We were riding at a pace slightly greater than we were really comfortable at, they didn’t stop for photos like we do, and because they don’t have camelbacks and don’t drink, or eat, during the day, they never have to stop to pee. We suspect they’ve had special super secret Iron Butt training courses to enlarge their bladders.
We’ve totally enjoyed the past couple days with the guys, but it has also served to emphasize just how lucky we are to be such perfect riding partners. There were things we passed today that we’d totally have stopped to take pictures of on our own, and we both tend to want to eat at the same times, and are more inclined to pull over at a gas station when we need to pee than hold it.
It became apparent we weren’t going to make Quito today, and they guys figured it’d be better to call it a day early with time to fuck around with their bikes rather than push it, so we stopped at a place Joe noticed, but he didn’t catch that the price was per-person, rather than per-room so he ended up paying more than expected ($20 per person). It’s high for us too, but were both of the opinion that the extra night of chatting with the guys over dinner was worth it.
Nice rooms, actual hot water, tasty food….. All good, but just after we pulled in the RV people saw our bikes and pulled in to see if we knew something about the place, and find out if they could park their RV here for the night.
Later on the son came and chatted while we all futzed with our bikes, and Joe and Vern advised against our plan to change my rear tire tonight suggesting that the roads between here and Bolivia were fine and that the tire would totally make it, and give piece of mind of having the spare for those extra miles. I figured they’ve each been riding about 8 times longer than I have and have a far better sense of these things and their advice is probably damn worth it. So, I took it.
The RV folks joined us for dinner which was… interesting. I think I’d have preferred it to be just us bikers, but they’re nice folk, and the son was somewhat starved for conversation because they’ve been living in Mexico for a year, and then spent some time crossing Central America speaking zero Spanish. We’re practically fluent compared to them and we’re terrible.
As we headed back for our rooms we thanked the guys for letting us tag along for a couple days, wished them the best, and grabbed a couple of Joe’s stickers, which I’ve added to my panniers. I love getting stickers from other bikers, and I am proud to be sporting Joe’s. Joe and Vern are great guys, and we’re are totally in debt to them for the great info they gave us during our chats. Hopefully we can pass it on to other riders someday.
So, thank you Joe, and Vern. We had a great time riding with you, but we’re looking forward to taking things at our own pace tomorrow.