More on Quito and Rally Ecuador


4/1/2007 - More on Quito and Rally Ecuador


the casa of ricardo rocco is a very nice casa indeed... we were told to make ourselves at home, and we have done just that, all week long. no telling when the invisible man will be home, i only hope we'll be on our best behavior the moment he walks in the door. ricardo has a maid named rosie, who comes by every morning to clean. rosie has been educating me on the subject of ecuador, all in spanish. as far as the language is concerned, i'm improving every day. all the movies on tv are in english, with spanish subtitles, which has been helpful. thanks to cinemax latin america, i now have the ability to piece together whole sentences using only expletives, which may come in handy for the next border guide we have to hire.


we were supposed to drive back to ambato on thursday to travel to machachi with our rally friends, but neither of us have any interest in leaving senor rocco's casa any time soon. instead, we opted to drive to machachi a couple days before the rally to figure out where we needed to be. if an ecuadorian tells you that something is only an hour away, multiply that by two and you'd have a correct sense of how much time it will actually take you to get there. that's the new rule, and it has been effective one hundred percent of the time. two hours to machachi, two hours back, via the heavily diesel clouded travesty of a highway you could ever imagine. the bus drivers are all insane sociopaths, armed with vehicles large enough to make all their homicidal dreams come true. and in the middle of the multi laned highway that has come to a sudden screeching halt because there is a semi truck trying to make a u-turn, there are three and four year old children doing cartwheels between the cars for spare change. everyone else seems to be used to it, so we try our best to just go with the flow... "oh, that's cool, we almost drove through a tienda in order to avoid being hit by a bus. sweet, you can make u-turns on the highway. oh, okay, here's some change, thanks for the cartwheels." by the end of a south american driving day, we can hardly think straight.

machachi took all of five minutes to drive through, so we figured it wouldn't be too hard to spot a rally car on race day. with that out of the way, and neither of us looking forward to getting back on the panamerican highway, we headed in the opposite direction toward cotopaxi. yet another volcano in a long line of volcanoes that we've seen on this trip, cotopaxi is undisputably the best by far, and we would know, we've seen 'em all. a twenty some odd kilometer drive will take you to the barren tundra field that sits about thirteen thousand feet in elevation. cotopaxi sits on top that, and our poor little truck was only able to make it to fifteen thousand and change before it started choking. conditions were severe near the top, and you couldn't pay me enough to trade the warmth of the truck for the blowing snow. brian, on the other hand, was feeling brave. he piled on as many extra layers as twenty minutes would allow, and he slowly trudged up the side of the volcano so that he could find some souvenir snow. he returned fifteen minutes later with a windchapped, beet red face, and a bottle of snow. on the way back down, we came across a father and son who were left stranded due to a transmission problem. i guess they had been sitting there for a few hours, waiting for a friend from quito to come and rescue them, but it was getting dark, and they were a little worried about being stuck there. just as we began to tow them out, their friend arrived, and took over. e-mails and phone numbers were exchanged, and just like that, we had a couple more new friends. throughout our trip, we keep thinking we have found a place completely devoid of people, but they're everywhere! every little scrap of land has been touched by humans, no matter how difficult a place it is to reach. the only good thing about it is, wherever you go, you can probably find a new friend.


still no sign of senor rocco, we emptied all our equipment from our truck and loaded everything into his house, hoping he wouldn't mind. in rally, there's always some safety steward who takes his job way too seriously, so we didn't want to give the ecuadorian officials any reason to keep us from sweeping the stages. five o'clock comes a little too early no matter where you are, and in rally, early departure is just part of it. i have a theory that when all of the old fellas who like to get up early for some dumb reason, will retire from their rally organizing posts. their retirement will make way for a whole new generation of organizers who like to wake up well after the sun rises, allowing racers to actually be awake while they are driving. that will be a great day for the rally world as we know it, but until then, we'll just have to keep setting those alarm clocks for the wee hours of the manana. by the time we arrived in machachi, rally cars were already lining up for half-assed technical inspectons, maybe there would be no tight lipped safety steward after all. it was the biggest group 2 class either of us had ever been witness to, there were about thirty just for that particular class. like always, mitsubishi and subaru were in the front of the pack, but there was only one of each, instead of the usual twelve or so. we were required to have an escort for the first couple of stages, but we could tell that our escort wanted to spectate, and he could tell that we didn't want an escort... the poor guy hadn't been properly introduced to brian's swift pace, he kept flinching over brian's driving. meanwhile, i was making sandwiches in the back seat, knowing that i was in good hands, and thinking that this guy hasn't seen nothin' yet. we spared him any further despair, and we sneaked away to the last set of stages unescorted. it was the best solution for everyone.

our job was pretty lackluster for most of the day, only one car went off, and it was so badly damaged that we couldn't tow him out. sounds kind of bad, but we look forward to a little rally carnage, we get all excited at the thought of pulling cars out of ditches, assessing the damage, and hearing all the battle stories first hand. our hosts made sure that we had at least a little fun, though. they allowed us to sweep the final stage at speed. the thought that there was a possibility of damaging our truck/home did not occur to us until much later. neither did the lack of pace notes, safety equipment, etc... yeah, it was that good of a stage. the road turned from cobblestones, to dirt, to mud, and it was a super technical course of right-ones-into-left-ones, downhill-off-camber-slippy-definitely, into-right-one-over-donkey-bridge. i called it as i saw it, and brian drove the nissan to it's absolute limit. because we had more clearance than the rally cars, we were able to tear through the deep mud puddles and up the muddy hills with great efficiency. we were even gaining on the last car on the course, but felt it would go against good rally etiquette for the sweep to pass a competitor, so we pulled over to allow him to gain some time. true to form, the spectators made themselves present in the areas most likely for automotive mishaps, and it's a good thing we already knew that little rule of thumb. there were some pretty tight corners where if you blew it, you'd likely drive into some indigineous ladies' house just past the apex. the mud covered spectators went wild as we covered them with more mud. at the end of the stage, we were given the congratulations and approval of the ecuadorian rally community, we were welcome back any time. people were offering us places to stay, dinners, tours of ecuador, you name it. i think we even found a tire sponsor through maxxis, which would be great, we're about due. all in all, it was a great day, and i even had my picture taken with one of ecuador's former presi
ents. granted, ecuador goes through presidents like nobody's business, they've had about eight in the last five years, but it was still pretty cool.

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