Ecuador is top notch, my favorite country of the trip so far. Every day seems to be better than the last. Just when I think nothing can surpass the beauty of that days ride, the following day takes me somewhere even more beautiful and spectacular. Even the Panamerican highway, which I try to deviate from as much as possible, takes you up and over enormous mountains, through massive canyons, and deep into endless jungle
And you never know what to excpect. One second I’ll be on nice pavement in the beautiful sunshine, and the next I’ll be on a dirt road in the pouring rain that has gotten as slippery as black ice with cows and donkeys in the road charging me and 2x12s instead of bridges and bike eating puddles forming at an alarming rate.
Every turn in Ecuador has had me questioning whether I am still on planet earth. It’s incredible! I stopped at a shop in Quito that rents bikes and sends people off on 10-12 days self guided tours. They were super cool and told me how to find all the best routes and roads in Ecuador. They were amped on my trip (as everyone is. I get bought dinner and lunch and offered places to stay almost daily) and hooked up the goods! I was so excited to ride that I left Quito after only a day. There was certainly more to see, but o well.
First I rode a loop through the mountains that brought me to an unbelievable crater lake. The rim was jagged like sharks teeth and the water bright blue. It rained hard, making me the only one out battling the roads. I found a really nice inn for the night that had an A-frame bunk house, and a sauna, sort of a mix between a Native America sweat lodge and a traditional Finish sauna. It was cold at night so I slept under sheep skins and ate delicious meals (free tea and cookies).
Totally off topic, but I bought an alpaca skin for my seat. I feel pretty cool with it.
After the night at the inn I opted not to join back up with the panam and continued to climb up dirt roads to about 15,000 feet. This was the day that the map couldn’t begin to accurately reflect what I was in for. After driving along, looking about 10,000 ft down to an inversion layer that seemed a world away, I plunged into a valley with a series off small towns. I had an escort of teenage boys at one point, all wearing alpaca ponchos riding tandem on loose challenging roads. I thought for a little bit they might want to rob me, but I think they were just curious. This would have been a full day in and of itself, but I actually had to go back up and over the crest of the western Andes to reach my destination for the night. As I started to climb for the second time, early in the afternoon, the fog rolled in and I was essentially driving blind. I climbed from 5,000ft back up to 14,000 ft like this, with a couple near death run-ins with busses. It started to rain for the final couple hours to top things off. It was a Sunday afternoon and I was treated with a rodeo as I pulled into Salento. Basically a couple teenagers harrasing a bull. Also a band and a lot of drinking.
So that was two mind blowing days back-to-back, but I wasn’t done. The next day I drove up to the base of the biggest mountain/volcano in Ecuador. Over 20,000 ft! I was within a mile of the glacier. It was freezing cold, completely devoid of vegetation. I thought I was on the moon. It was so quite and unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Thankfully I hit it on a somewhat sunny morning.
Again, I followed that day up with a marathon in the saddle. I drove into the amazon basin, experiencing every type of weather possible, surrounded by mind blowing views. I probably climbed for 5 straight hours to get to Cuenca, he third biggest city in Ecuador. 5 hours of driving up hill! Everything is so big! It’s incredible.
I’ve had three pretty relaxing days in Cuenca, a real nice city. I got a new back tire put on he bike. Another Hedenoui K60 since it did such a good job up until now. I also replaced the back brake pads. It cost me $5. The shop had a bunch of xr400, my last bike before the KLR, and had an awesome poster of three of them wheeling next to each toner. I was excited about that. My bike is doing well under the stress of unrelenting beatings from the road. I did lose my license plate somewhere here in Ecuador, but I actually found a place that makes license plates. I’m not sure why or how that is a thing, but I’m not complaining. Hopefully it’s good enough to dupe customs officials going forward. I think it is. They did a great job. I will actually keep this in my bag so I don’t lose it again. I should have made two, but so it goes.
I have gotten use to eight to twelve hard hours on the road. When I stopped in Cuenca I could feel the fatigue in my lower half, from maybe two weeks of hard riding since leaving Medellin. When I recognized it, succumbing to the pull of my bed at merely 7 pm, I couldn’t help but grin, knowing I had seen and experienced a monumental amount, witnessing some of the most unique and extraordinary places in the world. Each day is so full of memories and amazing feelings.
I am in Vilcabamba now for Christmas. Tomorrow I will go to Peru. I am with my friend Franz from Germany. He is 30 and super young st heart, but has been riding since he was 6, been to Mongolia on the back of a bike, and is an all around great dude. I look forward to riding with him part of the way into Peru, maybe longer. Peru should be more insane high altitude riding. Merry Christmas everybody.