Ecuador & First glimpse of the Andes

February 24, 2010

One of the BEST parts of visiting with Ricardo was that he helped me come up with a PLAN for arriving at Tierra del Fuego, my destination fr this trip.  I’d been suffering considerable angst watching the weather get colder and colder down there, and was no longer sure if I could make it. Ricardo wrote out for me a day-by-day plan for arriving in Ushuaia April 15th, which he deemed would still be reasonable weather. It was a BIG relief.

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I got a later start that I would have liked / should have gotten fore today was supposed to e a BIG riding day.

I’d read about the Quilatoa Loop in my “Lonely Planet” book, and wanted to ride it. Ben (www.aFewMoreMiles.com) Had emailed me and told me  it was great, and I was really looking forward to it.

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Luis Felipe led me out of Quito, for which I will forever be grateful. He was really good at giving me directions, but I wasn’t always so good at following them. (The night coming back from Diego’s I got lost in Quito and it took me three hours of riding to find Luis Felipe’s house since I’d stupidly left his phone number at his house. Grr) (Yup, there was another day that I was trying to find the car wash and got in the wrong lane and got funneled into a tunnel that took me the looooooooooooong way out of town. It was 20 miles before I could get turned around again!)

Once waved forward by Luis Felipe, I rode South on he Panamericana to Latacunga. I got gas here, and got onto the right road to lead me up to Sasquisili and Pujili, and enjoyed the change in the town sculptures.

Finally! I was in the Andes!!

I climbed and climbed.

Llama Llama!

Living conditions had changed dramatically. The landscape was completely agricultural.

Here was a strange roadside marker.

The vegetation changed dramatically.

And it seemed like every square inch of soil was being utilized.

The day was overcast, as it is quite often this high up.

Finally I got to the entrance to

Quilatoa…It took me 4.5 hours to make the 3 hour ride.

I paid my $2 entry to a gaggle of kids (and got a receipt!) and rode in.

It was cold and Overcast. I hoped I could see something. So I started down the path.

Nope. Nuthin’.
So I promptly turned around figuring to cut my losses quickly.

Hm. back out on the road the fog was settling in. It’s called neblina here, this misty cloudy foggy make-it-hard-to-see-anything haze. It’s wet, too.

So Ive passed all these great things on the road out, I pass through the construction again, and I am trying to get somewhere on my map that really doesn;t have a lot of detail. So I start asking how to get to El Corazon, which I figure is part of the  Quilatoa loop.

Now, silly me, but I have not re-read Lonely Planet, not reconfirmed which town the Quilatoa loop actually goes through, not really re-looked at the map. I just remember el Corazon and that’s good enough for now.

I am up at 13,500 feet. Yup, definitely in the Andes now.

OK, at this point I have been riding two hours in the neblina.  My helmet is fogging up so badly from the inside  have to leave it open. My eyes are raw. I am riding in this intense fog at over 13,000 feet, I am nearly soaking wet, and it is starting to matter whether I am on the right road or not. But I am tough. I keep going.

Every once in a while the fog clears and I am dumbfounded by the scenery. That keeps me moving forward.

Until I finally, FINALLY, get to a town. It’s, well, it’s just depressing.

Normally, I eschew touristy places. But I am hungry, I am now pretty wet, and I really wonder what I am doing here.

I also wonder what time it is since I have no watch and the Garmin GPS has stopped working again.

I take a pic and roll on.

I ride for a half hour, and see some men chatting roadside. I stop and ask them how far the next town is. 3  hours. Turns out it’s now 4:45. Yikes! Do I want to ride these roads in the DARK? And now it is drizzling…

Did I mention that it is COLD at 13000+ feet?

Nearest hotel? Back to the depressing town. Ugh.

I make it back there and the depressing little hotel in the depressing little town and it is $5 for the night.  I am sure I will get eaten alive by bedbugs, the bathroom is a hike up the hill and has 3″ of standing water and facilities covered in a kind of brown/black mold. I do not dare open the shower. But hey! The hostess has put a really lacey and ribboney blue cover on the back of the toilet. There is something equally frilly on the wall. I am too depressed to take a picture. The sky  has just opened up, and it is raining gatos and perros and sheesh, I still have to find a place to park the bike.

The hotel owner finds some folks down the street with a garage. They are very nice, want to know about me and my trip, and by the way one of them got stuck on his motorcycle on the road I was trying to go down–turns out it is a SEASONAL road–and doesn’t advise riding any further because the mud will be up over my front wheel with all this rain.

Great.

I return to depressing little hotel thoroughly soaked, and climb into bed in all my clothes as the sun goes down and the sky opens up even further. Battering rain is my sleeping companion. I am so depressed I don’t even bother to look for something to eat, even though I have not eaten since breakfast.

February 25, 2010

I wake up ridiculously early and wait for a reasonable hour to try to collect my bike. The fellow from the garage has to work in Latacunga, and has said he will ride out with me at 7. I wake him at 6 and no, he does not have to work today. i am relieved. I thank him and ride out, back the way I came in.

The good news is that it’s reasonably clear and I get to see everything I missed riding in yesterday.

The bad news is that on Day 1 of my “plan” I am already 1 day behind.

Llama Llama!

Llama Llama!

Llama Llama!

A note to other motorcyclists: NO, this is not the Quilatoa loop.

Cool ride in the dry season!

Hey, other good news: Today it is clearer, so I re-try Laguna Quilatoa.

I meet a Canadian family there and they tell me about a great hostal they stayed at in Baños. Cool.  Destination Baños.

Fourth time through this construction:

Ah, Breakfast. First food in 24 hours.

This and coffee for $1.25

Note to other Motorcyclists: Go RIGHT here. Towards El Mana is where I went. Gorgeous, but slippery.

Ha! This picture makes me smile.

This picture is for those f you that don’t care for the dog’s sacrilege.

Back in Latacunga a couple of hours later, I decide I need another cup of coffee.

I end up talking with the kids that are working there for an hour. They won’t let me pay for anything, they give me a bag of these tummy chocolate balls, they wont even let me pay for the bread I bought for a beggar when she came through (a gracious practice Catalina taught me–if I am eating somewhere and someone else is hungry, I buy something for them, too).

Pause.
[I want to say here that way back in Oaxaca I’d bought bread for an elderly beggar lady–she was standing in the door of a panaderia I entered–on the way out I handed her a bag of goodies equal to mine and she acted disgusted–seemed she only wanted money. I;d stopped buying food for people that night. Thanks Cata for your beautiful heart.]

Happy Happy meeting nice people, full of sugar and caffeine, I rode on South.

A section of the Panamericana was closed. I got re-routed on these great little side roads.

Then I got stuck I traffic behind a funeral. I was melting in my motor clothes, but ya just don’t beep and squeeze through a funeral procession.

Translated:

Cars and women are the same: the car never tells you when the brakes go, and a woman never tells you when she goes with another.

This was a cool little town. They had the prettiest town green  have ever seen. I wanted to chill here for a day, but heck, I needed to stay on my “plan”.  I was desperately thirsty so I got a Gatorade and kept on keeping on to Baños.

Baños was nice, but touristy. The well staffed tourist  information office had never heard of La Casa Verde, the hostal I was looking for. I asked them to look it up on the internet, and voila’! It was outside of time a wee bit, but that suits me even better than in town.

Super clean and comfy, the dorm room (4 beds) was $11 including free Wifi, a wall full of movies, and the best breakfast you will ever find traveling.

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