Monday, October 1, 2012

Trampoline of Death

The road from Mocoa to Pasto is called la Trampolín de la Muerte, or the Trampoline of Death, by locals. It is a non-paved one-lane road that has straight down drops of 1,000 feet or so much of the time. The German couple we met the day before told us they had a beautiful sunny day and the views were unbelievable. We had decided that we would maybe stay another day in Mocoa depending on the weather - we didn't want to do the Trampoline of Death in the rain if possible. When we woke up, the weather was borderline with lots of clouds but nothing too ominous, so we decided to attempt it.

We found out pretty quickly why they call it a trampoline. The road is very rocky and it feels like you are constantly bouncing on a trampoline as you start going up, especially on the pogo stick stock shocks of the 1989 TA. In the beginning we did get a few beautiful views. But within the first hour of driving, it got very rainy and very foggy and it stayed that way for the rest of the day. This was the last thing we wanted because while the corners are hard to see around in good weather, they are impossible with such low visablity due to the fog/cloud cover.

gettin foggy on the Trampoline of Death road between Mocoa and Pasto

really foggy (I think rainy may be more appropriate...) on the Trampoline of Death road between Mocoa and Pasto

Plus we were at over 10,000 feet for most of the day, so it was cold, cold, cold. By around 2 we had made it to a small roadside town about half way to Pasto. We went into a restaurant to eat and warm up. We were quite an attraction, but after 2 cups of coffee and soup, we were finally able to stop shivering and get back into the rain. The rest of the trip was much less trampoliney, as it was paved for the most part, but still pretty slow going because of lots of construction and still very low visability. Since Jill has developed a somewhat irrational fear of falling off the side of a cliff on this trip, probably the biggest positive of the day was not being able to see those beautiful sheer drop-offs that we knew were there but couldn't see. We were very happy to make it to Pasto in the late afternoon, although a hot shower would have been ideal after such a long day (you get what you pay for...).

still socked in on the Trampoline of Death road between Mocoa and Pasto

The next morning we crossed the border into Ecuador. On the way, about 8 kms outside of Ipiales we stopped into to see the las Lajas cathedral. This is the church Jill thought she was going to see when we went to the Salt Cathedral outside of Bogotá. This church was outside. See story of the history of the church HERE.

pilgramage procession on the way to Las Lajas cathedral (Ipiales, Colombia)
(We passed a group doing a pilgrammage on the way)

llama ride photo op, Las Lajas cathedral (Ipiales, Colombia)
(From the parking lot you walk about 1/2 a mile through back-to-back tourist stands, including llama ride photo ops)

Las Lajas cathedral (Ipiales, Colombia)

Las Lajas cathedral (Ipiales, Colombia)

We changed some money in Ipiales and hit the border soon after. On the Colombian side, we were able to check the bike out in about 2 minutes. We then had to wait about 5 minutes to get ourselves checked out. We loved Colombia from beginning to end and were a little sad to be leaving after a very enjoyable 5 weeks.

Then we got to Ecuador... We had to wait in line to get our passports stamped for about 2 hours

Line for Migración, Tulcán, Ecuador

We are fine with waiting, but the infuriating part was that people kept getting out of line and coming back to the front later. We had to wait outside first, and a police officer was monitoring who was allowed to come inside to wait more. But once we were inside we found that people kept sneaking inside and going to the front of the line. Everyone seemed to have a special issue that warranted their cutting in front of everyone else. After finally getting stamped in, we had to go around the corner to get the bike legal. Luckily, there was no line. The man working was a complete dick though. Our title does not have our license plate number on it. The man kept saying that in Ecuador, the paper has the number on it. Ok, we get it, but that is not how our state works (well, kind of... our registration, which does have our license number on it, is expired). We were afraid he wasn't going to accept our paperwork, but finally he did. Then, after talking to his co-worker for way too long about where he was going to eat lunch, he started filling out the computer form. He was having trouble understanding the drop-down boxes so asked Mike a few questions. Mike suggested that he change the date of the motorcycle to the correct date as that would affect his options for type of bike. He then told Mike not to tell him how to do his job. Uh, yes sir. Finally, the form was completed correctly and we were on the road.

We stopped in a small roadside restaurant for a late lunch. We must admit the food was good. But, when we had to pay, he charged us $20 US. Unfortunately, we only had a $20 bill. We both asked him several times for change, but he wouldn't give us any money back. To keep this huge rip off in perspective, in the rest of Ecuador we paid about $5 total for the both of us for each meal. We know, we know, we should have asked how much the meal was going to be in advance, and we usually do, but this was ridiculous.

While we were eating, another traveler on a big bike stopped. It was Alain, who Mike had met at the motorcycle shop in Cali. He is French but has been living in Calí with his wife and 2 kids for about 20 years. He takes a couple of months every year to cruise around South America. We traveled with him for the rest of the day and hung out that night in Otavalo. He is quite a character, and likes to talk.

Alain on the road

Between Tulcán and Otavalo, Ecuador

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