A chain is needed

On the way to Machala from the border, I'd heard a loud "boingk" noise, so stopped.  A cursory check around the bike showed nothing untoward, except the chain was a little loose, so I rode on.  Through the city, until I finally found a hotel down near the docks. It was a pleasant evening, so I walked the few blocks to the esplanade, where there were several restaurants.  I chose the one cantilevered out over the water, and spent quite some time eating, and watching the fish jumping among the small boats anchored there in the protected waters. They have lovely icecream in Machala, too, as I found while licking my way back to the hotel.

The next morning preparatory to leaving, I manually oiled the chain, as my chain oiler was being cantankerous.  While doing this, I finally noticed that the lefthand section of the chain/mudguard had come totally adrift, and was lodged extremely tightly up under the frame, rubbing slightly on the tyre!  Now I knew what the noise the previous night was.  It took some effort to dislodge it, but it eventually succumbed to brute force and was strapped safely onto the pannier lid.

But the chain was my biggest concern. It wasn't looking too good, and I determined that a new one was needed - soon!  There were several bike shops in Machala, and after being pointed from one to another of the possibilities, I was unable to source a new chain of suitable size. There was no option but to continue on, the routing options being across country to Cuenca, or further north to Quito.  After much humming and hahing, I decided to take the shortest route, across to Cuenca.

It was lovely countryside, very green and pretty.  This region, too, had been ravaged by recent heavy rains, and there were quite a few landslides to dodge around, on a generally less than perfect road surface.  Little did I know .....

The rain started, although it was not particularly cold, just wet and miserable. It then became almost impossible to get photos, due to the misty rain and fog, and the danger of stopping on the roadway, as there was a fair amount of traffic.  Cuenca, the third largest city in Ecuador, appeared through the fog and rain, and I made my way to the KTM dealership with the help of an English-speaking local on a V-Strom, who told me he knew all about the difficulties of trying to find one's way through foreign cities, as he'd done a lot of travelling himself, and knew how I must feel, not speaking the language in a strange city.  But KTM were shut until 3pm, so lunch became a priority at the deli over the road, so that I could keep an eye on the bike.

They had a suitably sized chain, but didn't have a chain breaker to shorten it to the correct number of links, so they sold me a can of chain lube (I'd tried in a few towns along the way to buy some, but it hadn't been available, despite the squillions of bikes darting everywhere through each town!  One can only wonder how they lube their chains) and sent me off to another shop, Mr Motorcycle, some streets away.  Yes, they could get a chain, but not at that shop - at their other one.  Rather than draw me a map, the young guy grabbed a very noisy chookie and off we went, through the middle of the city.  But at least he didn't lane split, thankfully, realising that Big-Bummed Brutus wouldn't fit through the gaps.

We arrived at Mr Mechanic's large workshop, where the chain was inspected and someone despatched to obtain a new one. In the meantime, the owner fixed my broken wiring to the GPS, for which I was most thankful.  The chain arrived, it was shortened to the correct length, fitted and correctly adjusted. Then they elected to wash the bike, as it was quite muddy from all the rain and road construction mud.  I also bought another can of chain lube, to be on the safe side, and it was liberally applied after the bike was washed.  Time for the bill:  I knew the chain was $116, the chain lube was about $6.25.  The total bill was $132, meaning he'd charged me a whole $10 for the 1.5 hours the three of them had been working on/washing my bike! And they'd dropped what they were doing to help me.  Such wonderful service to foreigners.  Much appreciated.

Ahhhh, that felt better!  I set off, refuelled on the outskirts of the city, then reconsidered my options, as it was now 5.45pm, and raining lightly as dusk was falling.  Nope, no more riding in the rain for me today, so got a hotel, parked the bike inside the internet cafe attached to the hotel, and called it a night.

It was better weather next morning, although still cool, thankfully, as we were high up in the mountains, at about 2500metres.  Off I went, headed for Quito, the capital. The road deteriorated rapidly, becoming one of the roughest roads I'd even been on - and this was the MAIN road, the PanAmericana Highway!!! There was one section of about 30km where it was all rough dirt/gravel, through a tortuous, twisting series of mountain passes, necessitating dodging around many landslips and rockfalls, some of which were so fresh that the crews hadn't yet arrived to clear them away.  Thank heavens I'd had a new chain put on, as I'm sure the old one would have stretched further and bounced off, as it was SOOOO rough.  As it was, the oil supply bottle of my Loobman chain oiler system bounced out of its holder, disconnected itself from the supply cable, and was lost forever on this road.

A little bit of excitement on this section:-  I was riding along, following a large covered truck for a while, then it pulled out to pass the truck in front.  I was confronted by three lions in the flimsiest of cages, which was rocking sideways on a trailer behind a truck.  The lion and two lionesses prowled around the cage continually, then would squat for a couple of minutes looking out to the right, then prowl again.  Despite my being quite close to them at times, they showed very little interest in me, only one of the lionesses actually eyeballing me for the briefest of time.  Perhaps they don't fancy BMW riders for lunch!  They were more interested in the stock in the paddocks beside the road.  I think they were part of a circus, as the truck was gaudily painted.  But I was a bit concerned about the cage.  Had it fallen off the trailer for any reason on these winding mountain roads, there would surely have been three lions at large, as the cage had been mended in places by using baling twine to tie it back together, and it didn't seem to have a mesh floor, either, just the flat bed of the trailer.  Not the most secure of methods for restraining lions, I wouldn't think.

Quito appeared, and I spent the next three hours riding round and around, trying to find a hotel with parking for the bike.  If only I'd gone ONE block further north - there were HEAPS of hotels there - as I found out next morning!!!!   But at last a suitable one was found, and I negotiated the steep split ramp down into the bowels of the parking area.  The ramp had 2 foot wide concrete strips down each side, and the centre section was stepped, not entirely suitable for riding a bike down and up.  But I managed to keep a straight line and avoided knocking the pannier against the wall.

I walked up the road for dinner at a chinese restaurant.  I now wish I hadn't, as I think I got a slight dose of food poisoning, from the odd tasting meal.  All the next day on the ride to Ipiales, in Colombia, I had pains running through my gut.