Posts Tagged quito

Vamos!

Posted on January 13, 2011 by 2 Comments

Mario from the Ecuakombi Club offered to give us tour around Quito, so again, we just could not refuse. Bode and Mario’s son Benjamin hit it off quickly and we set out to go see some of Quito’s loftier sights.

Of course, this required navigating Quito’s labyrinth of streets and climbing lots of hills. The bus barely made it up a few of them. We kept our finger’s crossed the whole time.

Another great trip with some super-friendly VW club people. We continue to be really grateful for so many wonderful folks in our VW famalia for helping us and making us feel at home in their country. I just couldn’t imagine what this trip would be like if we were driving any other vehicle.

Tags: ,

Filed Under: Ecuador

Mas Kombis

Posted on January 11, 2011 by 4 Comments

In one of those oddly typical moments, last night we were informed there was a VW bus club meeting in Quito the next morning and we should be their guests. Okay, sure. How could we not? It was a good thing we hadn’t dropped off the bus at the mechanic yet.

We met up in a park on the south side of town and it kid of reminded me of a park in California. Big eucalyptus trees, green green grass, nice cool weather, people biking and strolling everywhere. The only difference was that the playground equipment was way more dangerous and way more fun than anything in the U.S. Bode loved it.

The people from the Ecuakombi Club were really nice and we had a great time meeting everyone and hanging our for the day. The placas de California were a big hit. German Westafalias are rare beasts in Ecuador, so everyone wanted a peek at Red Beard. One of the guys there had a ’72, but that was the only one anyone knew of.

They also wanted to hear about our trip and we got lots of tips on where to go next. We even scored some cool merch. Thanks guys!

At the end, the editor of a Ecuadorian car magazine showed up and snapped some photos and asked to interview us. Who knows, maybe we’ll end up in Acelerando!

Tags: ,

Filed Under: Ecuador

Back in Ecuador!

Posted on January 8, 2011 by 13 Comments

Our return trip to Ecuador has had an inglorious beginning.

To start, we had mechanical problems on our plane and had to change planes, then multiple delays, but we finally make it to Quito around 1am. Still, Jason biggest stress was trying to figure out how to claim the solar panel and a few car parts through customs – the customs forms make it sound like an ordeal.  But, at that time of night, they just grab your papers, x-ray your luggage and send you through. No worries.

There to greet us in Quito at 1am were our amigos Cristian and Javier. We stayed at Cristian’s house this weekend, and he is helping us get the van back in good repair.

The bus was just as we left it – only with more dust. Jason gave it the full inspection and tune up and decided it was time to address some concerns.

Cristian’s friend, Diego, is a VW mechanic and he has 3 kids to play with. This is very important when hanging out at a VW shop for 6 hours.

Jason was afraid we needed some valve work because of ‘sub-optimal’ compression and was suspicious of a hint of oil vapor on a spark plug. So, they did some tests. Diego told us not to be too worried about the compression because of the altitude – about 2800 meters.

Anyway, one of the tests involved pressurizing each piston and listening. If you hear air in the tailpipe, the exhaust valve is leaking. If you hear air out the carb, an intake valve is leaking. If you hear air in the case (through the oil cap,) a piston ring is leaking. We had a bad piston ring – good ‘ole #3.

At least the kids got to blow up balloons with the compressor when we were done.

If we want to make it to the end of the road, it looks like Red Beard will need some work.  We’ll take it back and leave it for several days.

They will pull the engine, break it down and replace all the rings, make the valves like new, put in a new clutch and some other general maintenance while they are at it. It’s not as bad as it sounds – the work that was originally translated as costing $1, 200 USD is really only in the ballpark of $120 USD! Another Ecuadorian bargain! Phew! And, Bode will get to play with Sofia, Juan Diego and Martina more.

We also met up with (another) Javier. This one is driving a ’76 Mexican Bonanza combi to Argentina. He started in Guatemala, then looped up into Mexico before making his way here via Colombia. We’ve followed similar routes, but he’s done it in only 3 months. He has another 3 months to get his wife, kid, and dog to Buenos Aires to see their family. Obviously, he’s going to beat us there, but we’re going to try to meet up again somewhere along the way.

Tags: , ,

Filed Under: Ecuador

UIO to IAH

Posted on December 3, 2010 by 7 Comments

One of the the things that continually amazes us is the generosity of the people we meet and the global connections we are making on this trip.

Cristian is a VW guy we ‘met’ online, and he offered up his family’s garage for our bus while we return to Texas for the holidays. Not only that, but he and his mother met us downtown, took us back to their house outside of Quito and even made us homemade empanadas. Awesome! Thanks Cristian!

Unfortunately, I forgot the camera, so no photos.

The next morning, we carried a sleeping Bode to the taxi at 4 am. Despite being half-asleep, we did not fall for the plastic-wrap scam at the airport. Guys approach you with an official security-type looking uniform and tell you you need to have your bags wrapped. Sometimes in Spanish an sometimes not. Some of the weary travelers around us gave in and assumed it was required… and ended up paying $10 USD for each bag!

The next ‘scam’ is a required one, though. An “airport tax” of $40 USD per passenger. They are building a new airport north of here and apparently we are helping to pay for it.

We had no problems in Customs or Security on the way out. In fact, we didn’t even have to take off our shoes or remove the laptop from our bag. We passed at least 6 gates on the way to ours, all normal. Then, we get to our gate – a direct flight to Houston, TX.  Here is where the security is concentrated, and they go every person’s carry on bags.  Once you are allowed into the gate, they take your boarding pass if you want to leave to go the bathroom. Upon re-entry (with no bags), I got the full pat-down.

We got to see Volcan Cotopaxi on the way up – we’ll see it up close when we return. After, a 5.5 hour flight,we were back in the good ‘ole U.S of A

Going through customs, the security guy asked us how long we were outside of the U.S. We guessed “9 months” and after looking us over he replied “That’s what I thought.”  We’re still wondering what it was about us that tipped him off.

We’re glad to be home for the holidays and were greeted by some happy grandparents.

Tags: ,

Filed Under: Ecuador

This isn’t it either

Posted on December 2, 2010 by 2 Comments

Driving by the unmarked equator, and the poorly located equator monument left us a bit let down. We tried one last spot – the Inti Ñan Solar Museum. Supposedly, this site contains a “real” GPS-measured spot. Not according to ours, though.

The admission price included an English-speaking guide, who led us around a fairly odd museum first. We were shown an indigenous hut complete with blow darts, then taken to the display of poisonous Ecuadorian animals. Then, one of my personal favorites, the exhibit on shrunken heads, complete with instructions.

Sidenote: In high school, my friends Sheila, Melissa and I would go the the Museum of Natural History and ask the curator for explicit instructions on how to shrink heads. We’d even write them down, and ask things like “specifically, what plants are used? Where can I find those?” Of course, we thought we were hilarious at the time.

Finally, we got the painted line. I jumped over it a few more times, just for kicks.

Apparently, if you have a bucket of paint and a brush, you can draw a line and sell tickets.

We were demonstrated the ever-important clockwise/counterclockwise water draining parlor trick . It was a bucket of water poured into a basin, with a few leaves on top so we could see the action. It was subtle, but the water did drain the opposite way in each hemisphere – 5 feet away from their imaginary line.

By this time, Bode was done with equator experiments, so he and Jason headed back to the van for snacks. I stayed because I was loving it – Ecuador’s Mystery Spot.

Next up, balancing an egg on a nail. We were promised certificates if we could do it. The rest of the group did it and luckily I was last. The guide had moved on to the next experiment and didn’t see that I failed to balance the egg. But, I still got the certificate!

Then we discovered it was hard to walk a straight line with your eyes closed. Granted, this might always be hard, but they claim the equator is some kind of mystery spot where everyone seems to be failing a sobriety test. It’s gotta be the Coreolis Effect (or lack thereof.)

Finally, we got our passports stamped at the equator. They promised it was valid and wouldn’t cause us problems at the border . Everything else here was completely believable – we’re sure they’re right!

I actually thought this place was pretty entertaining – for a tourist trap. If you ever make it to the equator, skip the Mitad del Mundo and head here.

Oh, and the closest point to the equator we measured was leaving their parking lot. The equator might actually be in a scrapyard across the street.

Tags: ,

Filed Under: Ecuador

This is not the Equator

Posted on December 1, 2010 by 3 Comments

After several days in Otavalo, it was time to move on to Quito. The weather was pretty dreary while we were here, but it cleared up just enough for us to see one of the volcanoes on the way out.

The drive down to Quito was another nice high-altitude drive through the mountains. I had the GPS on the dash so I would know about when we crossed the equator. It was a non-event. I was expecting at least a sign or something, but saw nothing. Just around the next curve was a police car parked on the shoulder – presumably to wave on anyone who considered stopping.

This section of road was part of a ~1000 meter winding decent, so I guess I understand why they don’t want yahoos stopping to take photos in the middle of the road. Those yahoos should go take their photo next to the tourist trap equator monument north of Quito.

Guess where we went next.

Completely out of our way was the Mitad del Mundo – maybe a half-hour north of Quito in an ugly industrial area. We paid to park. We snapped a few photos. We told everyone selling stuff  ‘no gracias‘ and then we left.

The thing is, it’s not even on the equator. They built it long before we had global positioning satellites. They missed it by several hundred meters. It’s not even on the site.

You would think this might be a source of embarrassment, especially since they built a huge brick monument to commemorate it. Instead, we are supposed to be amazed at just how close they got without modern instruments (it was measured in the 18th century.) Fair enough.

The best part of the whole thing was actually standing there and reflecting for a moment.

We drove to the equator. Cool.

Tags: ,

Filed Under: Ecuador