ECUADOR – ROLLING THROUGH VOLCANO ALLEY
Ecuador is like a lucky dip lolly bag, but one of the good ones.
Coming down through Central America the word from other cyclists and backpackers along the way is “wait for Colombia, you are going to love it”. And they are true. Colombia was bloody fantastic. But little is given for its southern neighbor. Most people fly into the Ecuadorian Capitol and then head straight for the Galapagos islands (still on my bucket-list) and not much is said about the rest of the country.
Ecuador is home to Volcano Alley and some amazing national parks that runs the length of the country. Ideal for riding a bike through. It had me picking up my jaw from the dirty floor more often than not and a it produced a ride to Volcan Cotopaxi that is going to be hard to beat.
First thoughts on Ecuador – like southern Colombia but with an extra hint of grit. I like it
The rough idea was to zig-zag my way through national parks and the famous volcano alley – over a dozen volcanoes some of which are still active. I missed out on seeing Volcano Tungurahua erupt just weeks before i arrived.
My first stop was El Angel Ecolgical Reserve. its a little tricky to find the turn off but other blogs provide some pretty specific information regarding some of these routes. in this case i had to look out for the giant statue of a Hitler caricature pumping his fist and holding a rifle. I found the turn off.
and i was on my way into the reserve
over a bridge
and the beginning of a nice mellow climb up to 3700m
As well as getting of the PanAm Highway and having some fun on a dirt road there was another reason for this side route. Endemic to parts of Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela the Frailejones species only grows above 3000m and are considered rare and endangered.
strange looking things – like an army of aliens with punk haircuts
I made it to the pass as the mist started to roll in. I had heard there is a refuge that has beds and hot showers. when i arrived the building had been gutted for renovations so i put on every piece of clothing i owned and got ready for a chilly night.
looking like the Michelin Man with all my clothes on i waddled over to the staff hut and sat by their fire and tried to get some of my clothes dry
I think this guys was fine. he seemed to be happy roaming around the camp site
After a 50km decent down from the reserve i bump into Carlos the Colombian. He was on his second day of a ride down to Bolivia.
Carlos works as an Industrial Designer so of course he makes his own bike gear. like these handcrafted panniers. two plastic tubs, some waterproof fabric and a little bit of welding. All for under $40
And the next day we team up with New Zealand farmer, James. He somehow manages to find about 10 weeks up his sleeve each year to get on his bike and go exploring
We set of for the southern hemisphere
walking the fine line along the middle of the world
After a night sleeping at the equator we set of for the Capitol where we would be taking a few days off
We find an old rail line that weaves its way through the fringes of the city
a few little pushes but its a nice back door that skips the hustle and bustle of the city
James taking it in
lots of bridges and tunnels
We all arrive at the Casa de Ciclistas in the suburb of Tumbaco and are welcomed to the family by owner Santiago
Santiago has been opening his house to cyclist for the past 23 years. Starting of with a trickle of cyclist passing through, he now receives close to 100 cyclist each year.
James flew down to Bolivia the next day as Carlos and I hit the streets of Quito
preachin’ in the square
the city church
eating in the park
Argentinian pizza..this stuff was good
After a good rest at the Casa de Ciclista I headed of for another national park to check out some volcanoes. Carlos decided to head to the coast but we agreed to meet up again to cross into Peru together.
The road was tough going for the first day as i was introduced to the infamous Ecuadorian cobbled road. my eyes love them but my bike seems to disagree.
That afternoon i rode through rain/hail/sleet as i climbed into some high elevation. shivering and numb from the cold i find one of the only lodges in the park but with a hefty price tag i ask the care take if i can stay in a small hut and she kindly obliges. complete with a roaring fire, hot water, tea and biscuits i was a happy camper. In the morning i woke to this view
I watch the sun come up and reveal Volcan Cotopaxi with this guy for company
you’re looking the wrong way buddy
The odd hut just a speck in the landscape
My memory card got a work out this day
i ❤ cotopaxi
Next up was Laguna Quilotoa. I head west into farm land
first through some rolling hills
and up into the buckles of the Andes
Past the school
O is for Orange legged Ostrich
Grab some lunch
Jam filled doughnut thingys are one of my favorites of Ecuador
After a steep and long climb i finally arrive at Laguna Quilotoa. it was a Sunday and lots of people had the same idea
It was well worth the climb/push up to 3800m. Turquoise water that shifted in shades as the clouds rolled by
A PLEASANT SURPRISE – WE ARE OFF TO PERU
Whilst riding towards Laguna Quilotoa I got word from a good friend that she would be arriving in Northern Peru in 2 weeks time. The timing couldn’t have been better as i was looking to catch up on my schedule for arriving in Patagonia and the chance to see a good friend was perfect. So Carlos and I jumped on a bus and within a few hours we were in Mancora, Peru.
Kendall, or KEB! I hadn’t seen this las in a few years. still a ripper of a human
Los Tres Amigos. We spent our time chilling on the beach, getting some small surf when it was there, stuffing our mouths at our local lunch spot, checking out the night life, trying out yoga, jumping on the bikes and doing nothing.
Mancora, a touristy town with a very chilled vibe. loved it. nice to be back on the coast after 4 months
KEB shredding in the background
Carlos and I stayed over a week in Mancora. We couldnt leave. We had a good crew at the hostel, the beach next door, it was a perfect holiday from the holiday
KEB was keen to get on a bike and do some touring so we went hunting
And then we were off
we found a small road that took us parallel to the coast
a bit soggy in some places
even for the moto-taxis. Keb and Carlos pushing
I now find my self back in the guts of the Andes. Exploring what Peru has to offer and so far it has thrown up some good challenges with the rewards being plentiful. But more on that later.