Engineer at work


Miscalculation I: How a long period of stress, quitting the job and the beginning of a long trip influences your ability to think.


To ship our bikes from Germany to Ecuador we had to empty the fuel tanks of them. We did this back in Germany by use of a hose that I fumbled into the gas tank and sucking the gas out (and since I am an German engineer I didn’t even get a mouth full of gas by using proper equipment).

So filling up the bikes after pick-up at Quito airport would be necessary. In Quito we happened on to the store of Freedom Bikes. They rent bikes and also offered us some help. To fill up our bikes with gas they loaned us a gas-can of 5 gallons (=19L). On the way to the airport we filled up the gas-can (not all the way, because the taxi driver was afraid it could leak).

Once we had the bikes out of customs we filled them up.

We were in a hurry since it was slowly getting dark (that sentence is maybe just an excuse of what follows…).

So I put about half the content of the gas-can into my bike (as an German engineer I have it in my guts to get that right!) and than the rest into Christy’s bike. I was a little bit surprised that the gas actually ran over on her bike, so her bike was totally full. But whatever, we were in a hurry…

HitchcockChristy’s bike has a 14L tank, Andy’s Dakar version has a 17L tank. Both have 4 L reserve. If you get the math right, you may find the mistake already…


We connected the batteries to our bikes (they had to be disconnected during the flight) and hoped all would be well.

Christy started her bike and all went well. I started my bike and it ran immediately. I love our bikes! But what is that? My fuel light wouldn’t turn off! Since I just put half of 5 gallons into my bike there must be something wrong with the fuel light. Well, the bike runs, lets just take care of that another day!

We made it safely back to our hotel that night.

The next day I searched to find the cause of the glowing fuel light. I checked the connectors to the fuel-sensor. Maybe something happened to the cables during the flight. But after a detailed examination all seemed to be ok. The only explanation seemed to be that the sensor itself got damaged. Maybe I damaged it while I was emptying the bike back in Germany? Maybe the hose I fumbled into the gas tank somehow damaged the fuel sensor?

Well, since Christy’s tank has less fuel capacity that wouldn’t be too much of a problem. If her fuel light turns on, I would have approx. another 100km before mine reserve would start.

So we happily started our trip going to the town of Mindo. We didn’t have to fuel up, since Christy’s fuel light hasn’t turn on yet. Mine was on the whole time, but as we know already it was faulty.

You may notice the beauty of logic of my way of thinking!

Maybe 20km before we reached the town of Mindo my engine suddenly stopped.

It was on a curvy road but on a downhill slope so I just let the bike roll to the next possible stop.

While I was rolling down that hill I made an engineering approach of finding the problem:

1.) I had maybe 18L of gas in the gas-can when filling up at the airport

2.) I was filling up half of it into my bike (=approximately 9L)

3.) I was filling up Christy’s bike till it was totally full (=14L)

4.) Together (2. and 3.) that is 23L

5.) waaait a second: didn’t we just have a 19L gas-can (not filled up all the way)

6.) sooo approx. 18L from the gas-can minus 14L of gas in Christy’s bike -> 18-14 = 4L


Conclusion 1: I only filled 4 L into my bike

Conclusion 2: I WAS running the whole time on reserve

Conclusion 3: the fuel light MAY NOT be faulty

Conclusion 4: I do NOT have it in my guts to split the content of a gas-can in two.

Conclusion 5: sometimes I AM such a fool


Well, there we were. No gas. It slowly got dark and I went on Christy’s bike to get some gas to bring us to the next town.

I asked a guy in which directions I would find the closest gas station (and I was pretty sure he said “take a right”). So I took a left and it took me forever to find the gas station (proof of conclusion 5!).

By the time I was back at Christy it had turned dark and a very thick fog had rolled in.

So poor Christy had to go down a curvy road, at night with visibility under 15m.


Well, now I knew I could really get 100km on my reserve before the engine finally stops. There is always something new to learn!


PS: My fuel light works perfectly fine.

A little paradise

Christy was not feeling well, so we took our time in the morning. We met Daniel an American lawyer who got into mining and owns a mine just inland of Trujillo. He invited us to stay with him if we would make it to his place. He goes to the Ecuadorian border 3 times a year to leave the country for a few minutes to renew his visa. He lives in Peru since almost 2 years like this and even though he is Mexican by birth and therefore has no language barrier at all, he told us he would have problems to get used to the country. As a business man it seems to be very difficult to get used to the Peruvian attitude to work and progress which is very different to what we are used in Europe or the US.

At 3pm we decided to keep going and to make it to either a campsite which has been recommended by a Frenchman we met in Baños or to Mancora a beach city further down the road.

The road was more or less all along the ocean side and really fantastic. The deep blue sea on our right and dry desert to our left.

We arrived at Zorritos after one hour of riding and found the campsite at the coordinates we got from the French guy (S3.72356, W80.75981).

We were welcome by Melba and her husband Jacques a Swiss from the French part of Switzerland. Their two dogs werebarking at us but they calmed down immediately and it turned out the dogs were very friendly once they get to know you.

One of the dogs is a Viringo, a Peruvian race which has no hairs and develops a higher body temperature. He looks pretty scary first and it is quite strange to touch him with his elephant like skin. He is really young and likes to play a lot and we had great fun with him. He is also making the place pretty safe, scaring everybody else away, even though that was not really necessary, since the area is very tranquilo.

A French couple on a 1 1/2 year trip through South America with their Toyota stayed on the campsite as well.

The campsite is really small and still under construction. But the facilities are very clean and good. The campsite is bordered by the seaside with a perfect sand beach. So we put up our tent just a few meters away from the beach and heard the waves all night long. Melba made dinner for us and it was delicious. We had a great evening speaking a wild mixture of French, Spanish and English. We watched sunset and were standing in the waves at night. The wind was cool, but with the feet in the warm sea we enjoyed the view of the moon reflecting in the Pacific Ocean.

The place was so peaceful, relaxing and beautiful, we decided to stay two nights.

Hats and colonial towns

We stayed in Cuenca 4 1/2 days and had some Spanish lessons. The town is an old colonial town with small streets, all one way which creates long traffic jams in the morning and the evening. Ecuador is the home of the Panama hat, which workers wore when constructing the panama canal. So this is how it got its name. You see the hats everywhere on the street. So we decided to visit a company where these hats are produced. It quite impressive how they do this, a done with machines which seem to be 100years old and a lot by means of the hands of experienced workers. The production site is quite famous and lots of celebrities have been there to visit. We left Alberto and his nice and friendly personal at around 1:30 since Christy had Spanish lessons in the morning. The countryside kept being beautiful. The road led through the mountains and went from 3500m down to 2000m and back up to 3500 within few kilometers. In some areas the landscape looked like Bavaria. Sheep and cows standing around on the meadows chewing up the fresh green grass.

It was pretty cold that day and we were freezing a lot.

It got slowly dark and after a nice sunset on the road we arrived in the dark in Lojas. We found a real nice restaurant around the corner of the hotel and went to bed real tired.


The first inch

We’ve been in South America for only a month and we’ve already seen so many fantastic places. We constantly get recommendations from locals which would probably all be worth an additional three week holiday.

We took one advice of Daniel, a Frenchman who retired and is on a two year trip together with his wife in the Americas. (Check out their blog here.) They told us of the “Swiss Wassi” a little camping place and home of a Swiss-Peruvian couple directly over the boarder in Peru. We’ve decided to spend a couple days here in this wonderful family atmosphere with the sound of the South Pacific waves constantly present. It’s a wonderful place to reflect on the amazing month we’ve had.

Ecuador is overwhelming and I can’t imagine how this trip could have possibly be better so far. The proximity of coast, volcanoes, Andes, Amazonia together with an abundance of friendly people and many new streets tempting us to stay longer and longer. However after three weeks of incredible roads and sites, we took a look at our 1:4 000 000 map and realized this is only the first inch and we have so much ground left to cover.

Omaere, in Puyo was a highlight:

As were wonderful rides


And getting to know about local life

Incredible Mountain roads to Cuenca

We had an early start, and again we had fantastic riding days on our way to Cuenca. The road crosses the Sangay NP. The scenery is fantastic, great views into the lower valleys, the vegetation still being incredibly rich. The air gets cooler and the landscape seems to change with every 15 minutes of riding. As we reached the highest point of the road the landscape reminds me a lot of Scotland, a mere 2 hour ride away from the deepest rainforest you can imagine.

Due to the cloudy sky we were not lucky enough to see the Sangay mountain itself, a 5300m glacier covered volcano which arises from the jungle.


There are very few cars and almost no trucks on the road. The riding itself is fantastic, new tarmac on perfect curves that makes every motorbiker smile. It was a nice and smooth riding today even though we hit some heavy rain as we covered the last couple of kilometers on our way to Alausi where we stayed for the night.

We kept following the Panamericana which at this stage is a very beautiful road winding through the mountains. Christy is improving a lot on her riding, and it is fantastic to see how much she is gaining confidence with all these curves and steep slopes.

We stopped at Ingapirca, the most important Inca ruins in Ecuador. The precision of how they put together the rocks to build their walls is stunning. I have heard of it before, but seeing it with our own eyes was very special and quite impressive.


We approach Cuenca pretty early and find a fantastic hotel where we plan to stay for a couple of days to get some Spanish lessons.

Into the jungle

The road leading from Baños to Puyo is called the road of waterfalls. And indeed we saw many of them. The valley in which we drove has the water coming from both sides, creating small and large waterfalls. There are many small cable cars that lead to them, it seems to be a very popular thing here in Ecuador.

Nice waterfall

Nice waterfall

The road to Punyo is called the road of waterfalls for a reason

The road to Puyo is called the road of waterfalls for a reason

IMG_0557 copy

With every km the vegation became richer and the air heavier as we are approaching the amazonas low lands of Ecuador. We find a little hotel which we approach over a small bridge which is actually for pedestrians only.

Christy enjoying the view during a break

Christy enjoying the view during a break


The next day we visit a small park where an amercian married to an indigines women shows the tradional way of living of the indian tribes from the amazon. His wife, born and raised in a tradional way, teached him the medical treatments the indigenes people do with all the different plants. He walked us through the park and explained a lot about the use of the plants and their characteristics, like the walking tree which actually walks up to 3m in a few years to optimize his position to gain more light.

A walking tree

Chris Canaday explaining a walking tree

We saw a lot of different small animals, like the bull ant, a giant ant that is quite peaceful but should be avoided due to its quite painful bite. He showed us a street of cutter ants dragging huge pieces of leaves to their home to fertilize a certain mushroom which they eat.

Cutting ants on their little procession

Cutting ants on their little procession

The variety of plants are incredible. And we learned (and already forgot) about the medical use of many of them..

The variety of plants are incredible. And we learned (and already forgot) about the medical use of many of them.

This one is just good for beauty I guess

This one is just good for beauty I guess

It was quite interesting and it was steaming hot when we finally returned to the hotel to pack our bikes.

The road to Macas is brand new, as most of the roads in Ecuador. The current president takes a lot of effort to invest into the infrastructure of the country.

On the road to Macas

On the road to Macas

Left and right of the road the jungle spreads, on the right side bordered by the mountains on the left side spreading endlessly to the horizon.

Riding was very relaxing.

Riding was very relaxing.

We arrive in Macas after dark. As we stopped to get something to drink, two police officers chat Christy up. They are curios about our travel and help us with the directions of the hotel we want to stay in. That’s how we end up with a police escort through the small town to our little hotel.

Christy started to take over the navigation.

Christy started to take over the navigation.

A giant’s burp

Baños is a very touristy little town with lots of outdoors activities going on. The climate is very nice, around 25 degrees, not humid, just nice and friendly. We had a little break there, taking care of our blog, did some laundry, reading and took half a day of Spanish lessons.

View on Banos

The town is situated directly underneath the Tungurahua volcano, which is not only active, but erupting momentarily. Just a few weeks ago a couple of explosions combined with lava flow and hot ashes floating down to the valley scared the inhabitants of Baños.

The danger is very present. Everywhere within the city there are emergency signs, showing the directions to the evacuation routes. In case of a larger eruption the population is meant to leave the valley on the opposite side of the volcano.

View on Banos

View of Baños

As we were sitting in our room one evening, suddenly a loud noise made us jump to our feed. The whole ground shook. We nervously looked at each other having both the possibility of a large eruption in mind.

After a few seconds the whole thing was over. We opened the window to hear whether there would be any sirens. We stood there at the window a few minutes, but beside the usual barking of the neighborhood dogs there was nothing to hear. So we decided that this was not that bad after all. We looked up the volcano in Google whether we could see some information, and indeed there was some sort of explosion at the Tungurahua that was shown on some seismographic measurement stations around. But in comparison to what the graph looks like on a “real” eruption it was clear this was only a small burp of this giant.

The little "burp"visible on the live measurement data

The little “burp” visible on the live measurement data

thats how it looks when it you should get ready to run (recorded August this year)

thats how it looks when it you should get ready to run (recorded August this year)

The Tungurahua volcano

The Tungurahua volcano


The volcano is momentarily erupting

The volcano is momentarily erupting

There are several viewpoints on the volcano, but since it was cloudy most of the days we didn’t go there. On the day of our departure from Baños we drove up the mountain opposite of the volcano to have a view. It was still in clouds, but as we were sitting up there the sky cleared up and we had a wonderful view on the Tungurahua.

The road to Quilotoa Crater

One of the places we wanted to see is the Quilotoa crater. The crater is filled with water, creating a great lake with steep walls that made the Incas believe the lake had no ground.

As so often the ride to Quilotoa crater proofed that motorbiking is more about the roads you ride on than the destinies you are actually going to.

Right after Latacunga the road led up the mountain in steep curves, offering a beautiful view into the valley and the momentarily erupting volcano of Tungurahua. We turned into a dirt road to get away from the main street for a short break. In the distance we could see a shepherd guarding his sheep and slowly moving from one place to the next, taking a short nap every time he moved himself for 100m.

Getting off the road for a little break

The road kept curling through the mountains, which got steeper and rockier. Dark clouds moved in and we realized we would end up in the middle of a thunderstorm. We looked for a shelter and found it underneath the roof of a gas station where we waited for the rain to stop. The rain has cleaned the air, everything smelled fresh when we continued. The landscape became wilder and it seemed the rain has intensified the colors of the surroundings. Steep mountain slopes with fields, which seemed to be hanging vertically on the side of the mountains. Everything is painted in different shades of brown and ocher. We rode into a broad valley on a winding road.

Suddenly a canyon opemsto our ride side

Suddenly a canyon opens to our ride side

Suddenly a steep canyon opens to our ride hand side. Vertical walls lead down to a wild river in the bottom of the canyon. It is a landscape like from a fantasy movie. Christy said it wouldn’t surprise her if she saw a dragon sitting next to the road somewhere. The dark clouds and the sun shining in between them, the intensive colors, all which created an out-of-this-world atmosphere.

After the thunderstorm on the way to Quilotoa

After the thunderstorm on the way to Quilotoa

We arrived at the Quilotoa crater just a few minutes before sunset, surrounded by clouds. Just as we approached the crater by foot, the clouds opened a little gap. The sun was shining right through that gap illuminating the tips of the crater and creating a fantastic double rainbow over the crater lake. It was more than beautiful. It was beyond kitsch. It was one of the most amazing views I have ever seen.

As the sun sets very quickly here so close to the equator, the whole scene only lasted a few moments before it got pitch-black.

Sunset at Quilotoa crater lake

Sunset at Quilotoa crater lake

Sunset at Quiltoa lakd

Sunset at Quiltoa lake

The next day we went back to the panamericana using another road that brought us back close to the Cotopaxi NP where we have been before.

Again we had fantastic views, another thunderstorm some dirt roads and Christy had her first little fall. Harmless and pretty unavoidable with her broad front tire and the very soft and slippery ground in a construction site of the road.

Some short dirt track sections

Some short dirt track sections

Soon the Quilotoa round will be fully asphalted

Soon the Quilotoa round will be fully asphalted

On the way back from Quilotoa

On the way back from Quilotoa

Winding roads all day long

Winding roads all day long

We ended up in a nice hostel, close to the Cotopaxi NP. A Swiss owned place with 5 huge Saint Bernard dogs that protect the place. It was quite a sight when I pulled up the place, stopping the engine and one, then two..three..finally 5 huge dogs approached and stared at me. I stood there for a moment not knowing what to do. I was afraid if I would get off the bike the calm dogs would suddenly turn into an aggressive pack of killerbeasts.

The swiss owner and his bernards

The swiss owner and his bernards

But another look at their sad and friendly eyes convinced me of their friendliness, which they immediately proved by cuddling up with me, once I got off the bike.

Dinner next to a fireplace made this day perfect.

The Cotopaxi volcano

We had bad weather for 2 days, so we decided to take a “day off” in Latacunga. There is not much to do in the city so we slept in and had a real lazy day. The next day we packed just what we needed to climb the Cotopaxi and rode to the entrance to the park.

You can’t enter the park with motorbikes and it is compulsory to have a guide with you. So we stopped the bikes and negotiated with the guides. With David we started in his 4×4 towards the Cotopaxi.

The Cotopaxi volcano

The Cotopaxi volcano

The volcano is still active and is one of the highest active volcanos. His last eruption was 100 years ago and he is getting warmer in the last years.

You can climb the volcano, it is an technical easy accent but takes it talls due to the altitude of almost 5900 m. With the guide you can drive the road up to 4300 m and ascent by foot to a mountain lodge at 4800m. 1 hour later you reach the glacier (yes, it takes that long for 200m …).

On the the way up to the mountain hut

On the the way up to the mountain hut

The weather was still uncertain with lots of dark clouds sorruounding the mountain. So we were not sure weather or not we would actually see anything or whether we would just stumble around in the clouds.

You enter the National Park on a dirtroad which swerves between 3 volcanoes with Cotopaxi being clearly the major and most beautiful.

Suddenly the clouds on our right opened and for the first time we had a fantastic view on the northern flank of the volcano. Standing on a flat gras plane we could see the mountain building up slowly with gras covered brown earth. It was steepening up and the ground turned into a red more rocky wall which finally ended in a perfect white cone head.

The road steepened up and led in sharp turns up the volcano. The guide got busy driving. On some hairpin turns the road seemed to end in the sky.

Finally we arrived on a small area where David parked the car. A few hundred metres above we spottet the hut and started walking. It was steep, and a cold wind blew, but the sun was shining and with its intenseness it was quite warm.

View into the broad valley

View into the broad valley of Cotopaxi NP

Even though we were already at 4300m the climb was ok, obvisouly we have been adjusted to the altitude in the meantime.

The view was incredible. The flat area underneath the volcano was spotted with shadows of small clouds that covered the sky north of us.

The east and west side of the volcano was in dark clouds. Just the north flank from which we were ascending was in the sun. We were really born lucky.

Great views from the Cotopaxi

Great views from the Cotopaxi

After we reached the mountain lodge I wanted to go on the reach the glacier. The guide was a little bit unhappy with it, but he couldn’t leave we walking alone and so he and Christy followed.

We walked up the steep path. The view changed every minute and was incredibly beautiful. We had a lot of breaks to enjoy the view since the altitude was taking its toll.

The difference between the start of the hike at 4300m and the last bit from the lodge to the glacier starting at 4800m was amazing.

The 500m difference in altitude made it so much harder to breath. Its not a new thing to me in general, but the effect within such a small altitude difference really surprised me.

The guide said, that the ascent from the lodge to the summit is usually 5hours for trained mountaineers, 7hours for “good-in-shape”-tourists. And it is only 1000m difference in altitude.

The glacier summit of the Cotopaxi

The glacier summit of the Cotopaxi

As we reached the glacier the guide started to hurry us up, since the clouds were thickening and became very dark. He was afraid of a thunderstorm that would very quickly develop at this mountain. In fact we heard some thundering on the way down, but finally I think he just had a private appointment that he didn’t want to miss. We took our time to shoot dozens of pictures from this wonderful place and view.

The hike up the hill is quite breathtaking, not only due to the thin air

The hike up the hill is quite breathtaking, not only due to the thin air

We were unbelievable lucky that day. With all the clouds surrounding us during the day, it could just as well been that we just stumbled around in the clouds, not seeing anything. I acutally found it wonderful to have all these clouds around us, since they created a dramatical atmosphere.

Dark clouds left and right of us

Dark clouds left and right of us

The “throat of the moon”as the name is translated in an indigenous language really meant it very well with us.

Our travel seems to get better and better….

Avenue of the volcanoes

In two days we drove from Mindo to Latacunga. The weather changed and so we got quite some rain one night. It was freezing cold at night and so we asked the owner of our hotel in Machachi to start the little oven we had in our nice apartment. The warmth of the fire was fantastic and created a very cozy athmosphere.

On the Avenue of the volcanoes

On the Avenue of the volcanoes

The place we stayed used to be an old train station.

The road of the volcanoes is impressive. Left and right one volcano after the other, in between the Panamericana. The road itself is nice to ride on: 3 lines in each directions, all very wide, little traffic, winding between the mountains. But of course it is a highway, so stopping is only possible on the shoulder. It became more and more cloudy and when we arrived at the Cotopaxi Nationalpark, it rained again. We couldn’t see anything of the Cotopaxi, a 5900m active volcano with a picture perfect cone shape. So we decided to find a nice hostel and stay there for a day to wait for better weather.