The Cursed Road to Peru
As many of you know, we were on the road to Peru two weeks ago when our monoshock broke and we were forced to haul the bike back to Cuenca, Ecuador, to get it fixed. What we didn't realize at the time was that the particular stretch of road between Cuenca, Ecuador and Jaén, Peru is cursed.
The good news is we have now made it to Peru, but not without first falling victims to a few misfortunate events.
Below is a map of our journey, and it's pretty much a straight line through the mountains from Cuenca, Ecuador, through Loja, down to the Peruvian border (straight is a relative term since it actually zig-zags through the mountains). On our first round, we made it all the way past Loja, past Vilcabamba, until we came into Podocarpus National Park, where both the road and weather turned for the worse and the rain and mud made the going quite difficult. But we were able to get through a good part of it until we heard a snap from underneath us, and knew that something had gone wrong with the bike.
We had broken the monoshock (the rear suspension system), and it was a break that the KTM dealership said they had only seen with motocross riders doing massive jumps. I'm still not sure how we managed that, but it was definitely broken.
We were able to still ride the bike to the next village, somehow get it into a truck bed, and paid the kind driver to take us all the way back to Cuenca where there was a KTM dealership. It was a five hour journey, but we safely got the bike and ourselves to a place where things could be fixed. And for a moment, we thought our troubles were behind us.
The new monoshock only took a week to arrive from Austria, and although our electronic suspension system was stuck in the two-up, fully-loaded mode (no problem for us since that's what we need), we figured that just fixing the monoshock would be fine. So in one week, and thanks to the wonderful people at KTM Cuenca, we had the monoshock installed and were packed and ready to leave Cuenca and get to Peru.
But after just one day of riding, we arrived in Vilcabamba to see that we were running low on coolant. Easy fix I thought, right? Everyone has coolant, but there are several different types, and the small town of Vilcabamba did not have a wide variety of coolants. Also, after digging around online on different forums, it was clear that mixing coolants is definitely not recommended.
So the next day we headed back up north to a large town called Loja, hoping they would have some of the right coolant in one of their many motorcycle and mechanic shops. We searched the whole of Loja, and finally learned that they don't. Luckily, we called the KTM dealership in Cuenca and they had some that they used for their large bikes, such as ours, but of course that was back in Cuenca.
At this point we thought we may never get out of Ecuador. It's such a lovely country, but to be stuck there unable to get out, really dampened our mood. Under no circumstances did we want to go all the way back to Cuenca for the third time for bike repairs. Because we had the front shocks repaired in Quito, all in all I think we spent a month total in Ecuador simply waiting to get our bike fixed. It has required a lot of money, a lot of hotel rooms, and a lot of patience.
Fortunately, someone in Loja knew someone else who was coming back from Cuenca the next day, and he would be able to bring us the special coolant that we needed. We thanked our lucky stars, and knew that we would only have to wait another day before we could be on the road again.
The old coolant in the bike was four years old, which is well past its expiration. So Tim had a mechanic help him bleed the whole system so he could fill it up with new coolant. We were so excited once the job was done, that we started the bike up with big smiles on our faces, until the engine simply died. Something else was wrong.
The bike wouldn't start again, and Tim quickly realized that our young mechanic friend had not properly hooked up the gas line to the tank. A simple fix, and soon we were on our way, back to the hotel, when Tim was trying to pass a truck and the bike died again.
Once again, we found ourselves on the side of the road, sadly standing beside a dead bike, and I couldn't help but think, “This is a curse. We're never going to get past this point." Tim thankfully did not share my doom and gloom philosophy, as he reattached the gas line to the tank, this time getting it connected just right with a reassuring “click".
At last we were on the road to Peru again, and got past the section in Podocarpus National Park that destroyed us the first time. At the same point that the monoshock had broken, we got off the bike, did a little dance, and headed on, feeling like we had finally shaken off the curse of the road. Tim did “the robot" as I celebrated traditionally.
The border did not take terribly long, and at last we entered Peru. But the ghosts of the road were not yet done with us, as we were just an hour away from our first Peruvian destination of Jaén when we hit a large screw and punctured our rear tire.
And so once again we were standing on the side of the road, this time watching the air hiss out of our new back tire. But again, due to Tim's skills, he plugged the hole like an expert, and within ten minutes we were on our way.
So we have made it to Peru, but we can only hope that our luck will turn for the better. Today we will head farther into the mountains where we will encounter our first real set of Peruvian ruins.
It was tough going, but we've made it through what has been perhaps the most difficult section of our trip so far. In all honesty, despite curses and road demons, we have been very lucky.
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