Category Archives: Ecuador

Pasto to Ibarra, Friday, 21 December 2012, Day 171

Las Lajas Sanctuary reminds me of Lourdes

I made a Skype call home and I then had my complementary breakfast which was just a couple of fried eggs I was expecting more considering the price I had paid for the room and it was about 10.30am when I finally hit the road I am crossing the border into Ecuador today but first a visit to Las Lajas Sanctuary a church built on a bridge over a river in a gorge.  It was quite impressive spent a while just wandering around taking in the sight impressive building and great location and the sun has decided to say hallo as it was raining when I arrived.

cool church

              

Cute!

Not so cute!

Next stop the border I first checked my bike out of Columbia  took 2 minutes changed some money with the a money changer took 5 minutes than it went all slow. A rather a large queue at immigration to check out of Columbia and even bigger ones on the Ecuadoran side. I fortunately bumped into Andrea who kept me company in the queue, Alex was trying to get insurance as he had been told by the Customs that this was now mandatory for Ecuador this is the first I have heard of this. Alex comes back and has not managed to get insurance something wrong with there systems so they leave me in the long queue and we arrange to meet in Ibarra later where who knows?

Queues into Ecuador

I finally get the to the front of the queue of immigration I have a bit of a joke with the lady when she asked if I was married and I asked if she was asking other than the  killer comedy I was in next the bike. Get a photocopy of my entrance visa than to Aduana who where rushed of there feet but I went through reasonably fast and there was no mention about the mandatory insurance and after a couple of hours I was in Ecuador. It was late so made haste to Ibarra and the GPS is not working yet another country that is not covered in any detail on the maps I have it took me a while to realise this.

New Country yeah

I got to Ibarra as it was getting dark and no obvious place to stay I had an address but I could not load this in the GPS so drove round and round in ever decreasing circles asking folks for directions until I finally found the street and then the Hostel. From the outside it did not look like it had parking facilities but joy of joy there was huge parking lot around the back I had to drive a couple blocks to get there but it was safe and reasonably priced compared with last night. Alex and Andrea bike was also there so it looks like they coincidently that they went to the same place as me and it turns out they are in the room opposite me. I check in and arrange to go for dinner with Alex and Andrea and Joop who is staying at a Hostel next door so we pick him up and go for dinner at some Ecuadorian lady’s place Alex had met earlier and she was also going on a big trip of South America with her husband so she wanted to chat about this and it was her restaurant. So a very pleasant evening chatting in Spanish as the husband did not speak English that well. (I have forgotten their names :-()

Had my first drink since Houston a glass of warm red wine so I am not sure that counts as falling of the wagon and it would have been rude to refuse.

Another long hard day another country life on the road is tough but I am still enjoying myself

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Ibarra to Quito, Saturday, 22 December 2012, Day 172

Otavalo Market

      

      

  

A short day planned today driving to Quito I get there about 3pm ish and I realise that I have just crossed the equator another milestone where you are supposed to stop and take mandatory picture of you on either side of the equator but as I never saw any signs or anything to remind me of this so that was another photo opportunity missed. I did however stop at a great little market a say little allegedly it one of the biggest in South America in Otavalo. As I drove into town I saw a sign saying Mercado so I followed that and find myself at a local fruit and veg place with a couple of stalls. So if this the biggest market in South America than I have been diddled. I asked a local and he says the market I am looking for is in the center of town so quick detour and I park the bike and I spend a couple of hours wandering round this nice little town who’s majority of streets have been taken over by market stalls selling everything conceivable. I Had some breakfast in a local restaurant next to the market where a strange old man kept trying to clear away stuff from my table even though it was quite clear I had not yet finished it This must be his way of turning tables quickly.

 

oi move your blocking my view!

  

Next stop Quito (It should have been the Equator :-() to a hostel address Andrea had given me the Casa Bambu. GPS is useless so I spent hours looking for it with a small map from my lonely planet  guidebook and Quito is huge so it took me for ages I got quite close on many occasion but then got lost again. I finally I find the place and its on a very steep hill that I dare not park my bike on on so stop at the top and walk down to inquire about a room. It is a really cool place its like a maize once you are in I kept getting lost and they had a garage for the bike and a great roof garden with great views over Quito. So I settle in and the first thing I did was try and figure out how to get my GPS working so went onto http://garmin.openstreetmap.nl and downloaded a map of Ecuador which was 10 times better than the one I have. I spent the rest of the afternoon experimenting with http://garmin.openstreetmap.nl and I finally had the whole of South America on my GPS so I may now have a vague idea where I am going from now on. It was about 6pm when I had finished so I walked to a supermarket a Dutch girl had told me about 20 minutes there and 20 minutes back and I brought a microwave lasagne and walked back bit out of breath as the hill as mentioned earlier was very steep and Quito is at 2800 meters. When I got back to the Hostel I realised that they had no microwave so I had to figure out how to cook me dinner so thats 50 minutes a Bain Marie (cooking term :-)) it was disgusting.

views from the roof terrace

I spent the rest of the evening playing catch up with this blog which is all I ever seem to do these days and then beddy byes in a large room with 5 big single beds me and two Chinese girls oh err missis.

Quito, Sunday, 23 December 2012, Day 173

Quito Quite Stunning!

I had decided yesterday that I was going to spend another day in Quito as I had seen nothing yesterday and I heard that every other Sunday the historical center has a car ban and the roads are blocked and only cyclist and pedestrians are allowed on the streets.

    

Opening statement I like Quito I really do a great place and a great day.

Could it be that the sun was shining but it is only a pleasant 22 degrees, could it be that my arse was finally back under my control, could it be no cars, could it it be that I was no longer a hot and sweaty mess, could be many things but I had a brilliant day.

Started with a leisurely breakfast at the hostel on the roof terrace overlooking Quito soaking up the sun not to hot 🙂

Breakfast views

  

Then walked for miles climbed loads of hills and stairs saw churches, squares and beautiful vista’s and took loads of photographs, saw load of local pipe bands,

local dances.

Oh I do like twirly dresses 🙂

      

      

I crawled all over the Cathedral up and into all of the towers and across the roof very scary as the stairs are steep and dodgy this would be a total no no in health and safety conscience Europe but here it was like being in an adventure park and great views 360 degrees in every direction.

Climbing all over the Cathedral

    

At one point I saw a sign saying ‘’Caution Tourists Robbery Zone Do not walk this street Danger” mmm a bit late as I am already here taking a picture! All on me own some luckily no one else around so I headed back to the crowds.

oops

At the end of day it tried to rain and was just about to explore the new town as I had covered the majority of the old town when I saw a McDonalds sign so that was dinner sorted. Back to the Hostel and again working on this! I do hope the effort put into this blog is appreciated as it is all I seem to do.

Quito to Macas, Monday, 24 December 2012, Day 174

Guess I am in the Amazon!

I had sort of arranged to meet Alex and Andrea, Joop and Fred for Christmas and the place was to be Cuenca. The problem was I had forgotten what day it was and thought I had an extra day to get there but nope it was going to be a one-day dash this should be doable especially with my navigations skills! I got out of Quito no problems thanks to my updated GPS maps that actually seem to work which was very strange for me as it has been a while since I had a clue to where I was 🙂

  

Nice run and the plan was to have a late breakfast early lunch in Riobamba as it is supposed to be a nice place. I did not like Riobamba that much so I drove straight through it and hit recalculate button on the GPS and I followed the instructions out of town through some little villages nice roads but I am not sure I am going in the right direction but I had new found faith in my GPS and surely it would not let me down and the road was great so I kept on going. Then it did it usual trick of turn left in 100 meters but there was no left turn! So kept going then it started telling me to do a U turn that I eventually I did and went back to the spot where the left turn was supposed to be. Yes there it was hidden behind the bushes was a dirt track leading into the mountains. Bugger if I am going down there check my Garmin settings to see if dirt track had been disabled and they had so Mr Garmin think this is a road. So I did what I always do in this situation I am not going to go back to Riobamba as I had done 50km already and so I just kept on going on this  road that was actually quite nice.

      

The signs where saying that this road was going to Macas and on my GPS it sort of looked like it was going in the right direction but I had forgotten that there are huge mountain ranges here with very few joining roads but onwards and forwards and at this point I had settled on the fact that I was no longer going to Cuenca but to Macas so lets have a look in the book and see where it is and if there is anywhere to stay.

Well it turns out its in the Amazon! So after driving through the Sangay National Park on a beautiful road cold and wet but very enjoyable it got down to 11 degrees at one stage so I had changed my gloves and put on a jumper for the first time since I am guessing Canada and there where a lot more trees and every so often huge lookout towers with great views when the clouds cleared. This is when I realised I was heading into the Amazon as there where huge signs saying Amazon. Well I was certainly was not planning on coming this way but its rather nice and Macas was going to my new destination for the night. About 25km out of Macas the perfect tarmac turned into a dirt track so it was off-road for the last hour or so and it started getting hot again as I descended into the Amazon cursing my GPS as I bounced down the mountain. I finally hit tarmac and Macas and I started looking for a Hotel the first one nice enough but no WI-FI next one had a swimming pool that I was never going to use but was reasonable enough so I settled in there and went for a wander now it is back up to 30 plus degrees so I had temperature variations of more than 20 degrees and my poor body has not got a clue what is going on 🙂

  

view from Macas

This evening entertainment is a pizza and watching the locals play volleyball I say volleyball but the net looks a lot higher and there are 3 on each team however its great to watch.

Back to the Hotel and a marathon update of this blog and I also found out that Fred and Joop did not make it to Cuenca because of bike trouble but Alex and Andrea had so plan to join them for Xmas. Yes it Christmas eve but it certainly does not feel like it.

Is it Xmas certainly does not feel like it!

Macas to Cuenca, Tuesday, 25 December 2012, Day 175

Merry Christmas from the Amazon!

looks like Philly is lost again 🙂

So I guess Santa does not deliver to the Amazon as there was nothing in my sock this morning except a bad smell. I did a Skype call to the folks to wish them a Merry Christmas and its back to the business of travelling to the point of South America. I was going to make a second attempt to get to Cuenca and meet up with Alex and Andrea. I had look at Google maps and there was no direct route I had to go South and double back however according to my GPS there was a more direct route through the mountains. Mmmm who do I believe I will make it up as I go along, as that is what I usually do 🙂

  

I grabbed some breakfast before I left town, as I did not want to be in the same position I was in yesterday hungry and nowhere for food. Gorgeous winding road through the foothills of the Andes and on the edge of the Amazon hot but okay as long as I kept moving this went on for about 100km I was really enjoying myself confident that its was going to be tarmac all the way to Cuenca. Then Mr Garmin GPS says turn right in 100 meter oh here we go again sharp U turn into a dirt track with a barrier that was open but a sign in Spanish saying Dangerous road enter at own risk. Mmmm another car pulled up next to me and the driver told me that yes this was the road to Cuenca. I ask what is it like his response was not bad and he points at his car saying he can do it in this so in other words I am wuz if I do not at least try. How far I ask is the road not bad response 60km so that 3 times further off road than I did yesterday and a good 2 hours hard slog. Oh well lets go for it, bouncy bounce Merry bloody Xmas of I set at between 20km and 30km an hour odd bits faster taking it easy as the surface was continually changing from hard compact mud to gravel to deep gravel to serious muddy mud up and down hills single track no track and everything in between. Biggest humiliation was being overtaken by the local bus but fortunately I had left my pride at the beginning of the track 🙂 Later on I saw the same bus in the distance and I was even slowly catching up with it and was keeping up with it for a while was I getting better at this off road malarkey nope the road was getting worse and worse yet my pace was not slowing so maybe I do have some talent for the dirt.

  

Trying to keep up with the local bus!

To add to my misery (Its not really that bad) I kept getting chased by dogs so here’s is me trying to keep the bike upright through whatever the terrain was kicking out and running along side me snapping at my legs are angry dogs. This is certainly a different way of spending Christmas. Later it got cool and even started to rain a bit making the road a tad more difficult and then after 2 hours plus of full on concentration I finally reached tarmac and an easy run into Cuenca to Hostel that Alex and Andrea where staying at and I was checked in bike parked in the hall and then I went for a quick wander round the town with Andrea before it got dark. That evening another Pizza (Its Xmas and that all that was open that’s my story and I am sticking to it :-)) and we watched a film called taken or kidnapped with Liam Neeson so finally a typical Xmas activity stuffed and watching a  film on the goggle box.

Xmas with Alex and Andrea 🙂

So that was my Xmas how was yours?

Cuenca to Canoas de Punta Sal, Wednesday, 26 December 2012,Day 176

Why did the chicken cross the road? So that he did not get squashed by Daisy

Riding with Alex and Andrea today so this is first time this trip except for the run to catch he boat in Panama City that I am riding with someone else. That was riding with a larger group with just the two bikes this should be easier. I am trusting my GPS to get us out of town with no problems and then  to the border into Peru and for once it does not disappoint so I may finally have a map that I can trust 🙂

Hot day and nice run first through the mountains road a mixed bag of good roads to awful lots of landslides so lots of rocks and loose debris on the road and road works where they have ripped the top surface of and left it like that for the time being so reasonable progress but you still had to be wary.

Dusty rough roads

  

We came out of the mountains on to a flat coastal plain next to the Pacific passing through banana plantations on our way to the border. We wanted to fill up before crossing the border, as fuel is cheap as chips in Ecuador but the petrol stations closest to the border where all shut so I am guessing it is to stop folk doing cheap petrol runs from Peru. We drove back about 5km and were able to fill up there we adversely jumped a huge queue which I did not see as I pulled into the station so a bit of laugh with the attendant and the soldier which where present at all the petrol stations near the border and then onto the border.

banana anyone?

First to the Aduana in Ecuador to check the bikes out we nearly missed this as it was not clearly marked and here we met the Columbian Bogotá V-strom club who were with about 10 bikes or so and we where behind them in all of the queues crossing the border which slowed us up a bit

Then to immigration for me which was in the same building so you queued to exit Ecuador and the right next to that the queue to enter Peru. Fortunately very few people so this part went quite quickly and the onto the Peruvian Aduana. Where we ended up behind the large group of Columbian Bogota V-strom club again.

Philly and Daisy Fan club waving us out of Ecuador

This is where we heard about mandatory insurance for Peru first time I heard of this as this was not one of the countries on my list that I needed to buy extra insurance as in theory this was covered in my total central and south America insurance so I was planning to bluff my way through this one and they did not ask for it but Alex had to pay 35USD for a months insurance. My problem was that they had put my Nationality down as Ireland again and my VIN number was incorrect so asked them to correct it but they refused they just crossed it out so I asked for a signature on the changes they got all pissy and so did I as I was hot tired and sweaty but there is no use in me getting angry as they have all the cards So the guy rips up my paper work and give me a blank form which I have to fill in by hand and this time with the right information. So with a bit of help from my new Columbian friends I had the paperwork completed and written in my bad handwriting but I had all the stamps and signatures on it so me and Daisy are allowed into yet another new country Peru wow we are really ticking them of the list 🙂

This had all taken about 2 hours and it just gone 4pm so we made tracks for Mancora which was about 129km away but we had already figured we where not going to make it before it got dark so we started stopping at all the beach type resorts places asking for rooms. This is where Andrea was useful we would  pull up and she would jump of and go in and check the prices and say yay or nay and if nay we would roll on the next one. She was also had been the official photographer for the day so loads of photos taken of Philly and Daisy on the move.

Alex & Andreas Ecuador Photos

Alex & Andreas Peru Photos

Not much luck on finding something as it is very expensive along this coast and when we did one last try before we where going to try again to get to Mancora where we knew there were cheaper options.

We had a bungalow on the beach 10USD each and they kept the kitchen open for us so fried fish and rice on the beach watching the sun go down with a mad kitten for company. Perfect I could not ask for much more even debating that it is so nice here we may have a rest day here tomorrow and that is awfully tempting as I have had a tough couple of days.

Nice here may stay another day