Today I learn that I want to visit Ecuador.
Episode 8 – Ecuador (45 minutes)
9,169 miles to LA!
Confusingly, when Episode 7 started they said that there were 8,542 miles to go to LA. Either someone in the editing team made a mistake, or I don’t understand how maps work, considering the previous episode started at the bottom of Peru. No worries – let’s soldier on. Early on we find out that the boys are going to be in Ecuador for 4-5 days – the trucks will hop on a ferry in Ecuador to get around the Darien Gap, while the bikes will continue to through Colombia before going through a similar process.
The first major stop is in Guayaquil, a port city that is best known for being the usual entrance to the Galapago Islands and for being full of art galleries. Looks like we won’t see the former on this trip, but the crew stops into one of the latter. Ewan says, “I’m so obsessed with charging the motorbike that I’m just drawn to the plug in this otherwise odd painting.”
Word gets out that Ewan’s in town, and while they’re at a coffee shop a crowd forms that’s so large the cops have to get involved. People just want to meet him and take a photo, and he seems to oblige pretty much everyone. I would hate this.
My education continues with Panama hats, which have never actually been made in Panama despite the name. Instead, they originate from the town of Montecristi, Ecuador (the name came about because Ecuadorian hat makers emigrated to Panama and had more commercial success there). The boys stop in Montecristi to buy a hat, and are surprised to find that they are handmade and not weaved together by a machine.
One of the makers says that it takes up to a month to make a hat, and prices can be as high as $2,000. Madness! There’s also designed to be rolled up so they can easily be transported on the LiveWires.
The next day the motorcycles end up at a conservancy program that attracts birders. Ewan asks a group of them if they have any “birding jokes” and one lady amusingly shakes her head in a way that implies (at least to me) that these aren’t funny people. So Ewan offers up a variant of:
A duck walks into a pharmacy and says, “Do you have any chapstick?” The pharmacist hands it to him, and says “that’ll be $2.50.” The duck replies, “That’s alright, just put it on my bill.”
We catch up with the Rivians, who may be having some logistical issues with getting on the boat. It only docks for an hour and they have plenty of paperwork to fill out beforehand. Simply put, “shipping stuff is problematic.” The motorcycles are having their own problems, unfortunately. Well, one of them. The morning after riding through a heavy downpour (not that it’s necessarily the cause), Ewan’s bike powers up but refuses to start. Instead, it just gives him the frustrating instruction to…wait.
A couple of power cycles doesn’t fix the problem, and when they pull the tank off to reveal the inner workings it’s clear from Charley’s face that he’s more comfortable troubleshooting internal combustion drivetrains than electric ones. They call Harley-Davidson, who determine after some troubleshooting, that the “prototype calibration” previously installed to increase the range has caused the software to lock up. Charley asks if this is something they can fix by plugging it into a laptop, and you get an idea of the severity of the situation from their faces when they hear “No.” and “At this point we have to shut the bike down.” Time for a drink, methinks.
The final determination is that the pre-production Battery Management Unit failed during a software update, and Harley-Davidson decides that the best option is to replace the entire battery assembly in the field versus replacing the management unit. Ewan and Charley have to drastically change their plans, taking a plane to Buenaventura, a boat to Bahia Solano, and then another plane to Panama City to hopefully find a Harley technician (not that they would have seen a LiveWire anyway) who can fix the bike.
Ewan ends up taking over Claudio’s (the cameraman) bike, and Claudio has to sit on the back. If you remember from the first installment of this story, Claudio’s on a gas-powered Harley-Davidson XL1200 Roadster. Amusingly, Ewan immediately stalls it the first time he tries to leave. Guess that’s what happens when you’ve spent the last several weeks and thousands of miles on an electric motorcycle without a clutch or shifter!
A customs agent in Colombia initially tells the bikes and their local producer that they have to wait till tomorrow for someone specific to come inspect all the equipment. The producer pleads with the agent, saying that they have a flight to catch early the next morning, but that doesn’t work. Someone else tries a different tact:
“Are you a Star Wars fan?”
“Do you know who was just sitting there?”
“Obi Wan Kenobi!”
A few minutes later, we’re in Colombia. So in this episode we see both the pluses and minuses of being famous.
The first few minutes in Colombia are spent discussing how guinea pigs are a local delicacy. Can’t say I’ve ever tried it. Have you?
Much more agreeable is the impressive Las Lajas Sanctuary, which was inspired after a supposed miracle in 1754 when a woman and her deaf/mute daughter were in the valley seeking refuge from a storm and the daughter was able to say that she saw the Virgin Mary in a rock. It became a popular pilgrimage destination and a few people claim that they were able to hear for the first time after visiting the site. The current version of the church was built between 1916 and 1949. It’s 330 feet tall and the bridge that connects it to the other side of the canyon is 160 feet tall itself.
The next morning the crew waits for an incoming plane…but the fog is so thick that pilots can’t see the runway so they haven’t departed yet. A couple of hours into the wait, the pilot (who has been texting the producer) says that they have too much gear from a weight standpoint.
Finally, the fog clears up so their plane comes in. Flights are a bit different in Colombia – luggage doesn’t get loaded until a drug sniffing dog has had a chance to go through it all. Problem is, the destination airport is now closed due to fog. But they load up the plane and continue the waiting game. Charley and Ewan get in one plane with all three bikes, while the rest of the crew and all of the camera equipment pack into a much smaller plane.
They’ve got an hour before the boat leaves, and they’re still waiting for the fog to clear at their destination. We’ll have to wait until the next episode to see if they make it in time…
On to Episode 9!