Wednesday, January 20, 2016

ECUADOR TEACHES RALLY RIDERS SOME LESSONS



The two 1983 Honda GL650 motorcycles were so old they often did not appear on the lists of motorcycles in computer files at borders, confusing the government officials.  At this entry point the official decided the 33 year-old Honda was close enough to the many BMWs he had processed before, so he declared its value in the computer at $45,000.00 USD.

Ecuador, Paperwork, The Middle of the Earth and some Zen teachings. 

Exiting Colombia and entering Ecuador was a test that began at the border with a paperwork and mental exercise.  On the Colombia side of the border the passports had to be presented to Immigration officials to cancel the entry permits obtained when entering Colombia at Bogota. It was a quick and simple process, taking less than five minutes.  Then a short walk to the Customs office where the motorcycle Temporary Vehicle Import Permits were handed through a window where the information was to be imputed into a computer canceling permission to bring the motorcycles into Colombia without paying the high import tax.
 
All went well until the computer crashed.  Rather than wait for a computer fix, the Customs official decided to close the office for an early lunch.  The documents were left on top of a pile of other unprocessed paperwork. Livermore and Dr. G were told, “It’s nothing. Go on over to the Ecuador side. The highly efficient Colombian government Customs bureaucracy will take care of your vehicle exit paperwork later.”

As Livermore walked away, he asked, “Do you think it will be OK, leaving the paperwork undone like that?”

Dr. G replied, “Possibly, or possibly not. If not, you can start singing that old Johnny Cash song Wanted Man for not paying the government import tax. Let’s deal with the Ecuador side and get on down the road before the Colombian tax man starts looking for us.”

Entering Ecuador took much longer due to language barriers.  With Livermore’s rapidly expanding use of his two Spanish words (“thank you” and “toilet”) and Dr. G’s mixed use of his poor Spanish, Thai, German, French, Italian and English, the two travelers confused government officials so badly that finally out of frustration their passports were stamped allowing them entry into Ecuador and their Vehicle Import Permits were processed after an hour. Possibly the border officials were hoping the need for a “thank you toilet” said with a Michigan accent and smile in the offices would not become their need for fresh air and a good floor mopping.
Richard Livermore celebrated his having reached the Equator, marked by this cement globe. The rain and cold of the day did not dampen his enthusiasm for having crossed The Middle Of The Earth.
 
Ricardo Rocco Paz from Quito, joined the two Honda riders with his much newer and more powerful BMW GS.  As an official entrant in The Great Around The World Motorcycle Adventure Rally, his motorcycle was the rapid hare of the trio compared to the two smaller displacement and less powerful tortoise-like Hondas.
Ricardo Rocco Paz became a welcomed entrant because with his entry he brought the fluent use of English and Spanish to the rally. He also brought his great depth of knowledge of South American adventure motorcycling.
The BMW GS of Ricardo Rocco Paz was sponsored by the ESCULA DE MOTOS, the only motorcycle rider training school in Ecuador as well as a motorcycle mechanic school, both highly professional and well respected.

Piloting motorcycles in Ecuador was a chance to test the riders and their machines with modifications.  Opting for a side route over the mountains versus the main road used by most travelers, the Hondas bounced over nearly 100 miles of bad roads, which included mud, loose gravel, deep pot holes and sand while thick cloud cover and rain masked the treacherous section. Dr. G called it a test, to see how the motorcycles and Livermore could handle road conditions expected further south.  Livermore called it a different four letter word far away from a test or riding motorcycles across Kansas.

The learning curves for both Livermore and Dr. G were still in a steep upward swing as they traveled through Ecuador.  Frazier was learning to be patient with Livermore’s newness to riding in South America.  Livermore was adding Spanish words to his communication skills and both were learning to travel with another person, adjust to their way of thinking and doing things, better described as their individual Zen ways of motorcycle travel.

One morning Livermore set his motorcycle helmet on the ground next to his motorcycle while he went on an errand.  Several minutes later Dr. G saw the helmet on the ground and noticed a line of small ants or similar Ecuadorian bugs crawling up to and on top of the helmet.  Dr. G made an assumption, that being that after the many years of piloting motorcycles, Livermore knew the adage about never setting a motorcycle helmet on the ground because that was how small animals and insects could crawl into the helmet innards and onto to outer surface and into crevices to be found once the helmet was placed on the owners head.
Livermore’s motorcycle helmet was photographed here setting on the ground, in the gutter, in Cuenca, Ecuador.
 
Dr. G thought about picking the helmet up, scraping off the bugs and affixing it to Livermore’s motorcycle well above the ground, but then, rightly or wrongly, concluded Livermore had possibly placed his helmet on the ground for a Livermore Zen reason.  While Dr. G was pondering the conundrum, a street dog padded up to the Livermore’s motorcycle and sniffed the front and rear wheels.  When it spotted Livermore’s motorcycle helmet the boy dog did its boy dog thing.  It lifted its left rear leg and watered the helmet, and then padded away.

A passing tourist, having seen the dog sprinkling the helmet, said in perfect English, “Don’t you think the owner of that helmet might be upset?”

“Nah, he placed his helmet on the ground for his reason and the dog just washed off or killed all the ants. By the time the owner returns from wherever he went the helmet will be dry, so unless you or I say anything the experienced owner’s motorcycle adventure will remain in a cosmic balance, that being The Zen Of The Great Unknown.”