Saturday, April 20, 2013

Adventroubulus ride from Tumbaco/Quito to Banos
In Ecuador there are pretty much three roads running in N-S direction; one along the coast, other in the jungle and the third one - the busy Panamericana in the mountains. So since we want to stay in the mountains, but not necessarily breathing fumes of the trucks roaring along the big highway, we followed, already well beaten, cyclists track and looped first to the left and then to the right of PanAm. The first loop took us through Cotopaxi NP. On the way there we had to go through very through internal fight; we took an alternative route to avoid cobble, but we ended up on a cobbled road anyway - very bad, sharp and uneven stones. We had already tried cycling on cobble in Ecuador and with our rather thin tires and heavy weight in, gently speaking, a nightmare. So when we were standing there (4km of cobble behind us, half cycled half pushed; another 12km ahead), trying to decide if the Cotopaxi Volcano is really worth it, a car came and offer us a lift; it was a hard decision, but we accepted. It was the first time we took a lift, the first time the road won the battle...
The second loop, called after picturesque crater lake Quilotoa, was one of my favourite rides on this trip, even though I had all the reasons to be fed up with it. First my front inner tube exploded damaging the rim (after some filing down it still can be used) and the brand-new tire (this one most likely is damage beyond use), then for the next three days I had problem with the rear wheel loosing air (the protection tape inside of the rim over time hardened and its edges became hard and were cutting through the inner tube; we put an insulation tape over it, but the inner tube had already so many small cuts, that with the pressure they were just opening on by one) and when we were done with this and the ride was becoming 'boring' my rear gear cable lost tension. But the loop is truly beautiful; the road winds and rolls through hills covered with patchwork of fields and pasture lands, with snow-capped volcanoes in the background, small indigenous villages until it reaches stunning Quilotoa Lake at nearly 4000m asl. 
We actually bit our record and reached over 4000m asl on bikes on the way from the lake to Latacunga. We made a short stopover in Latacunga as we arrived there a day before one of the biggest markets in Central Highlands in a nearby village, Saquisili. So we couldn't miss it. The next day after a long ride against heavy wind we arrived to Banos. Today we go for well-deserved soak in thermal baths fed by water heated by nearby Volcano Tungurahua.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

In Quito

After a week cycling in Ecuador we are in Casa del Cyclista in Quito. Over this week we’ve already managed to fall in love with Equador. Just after crossing the border we took a dirt road through Paramo El Angel, truly magical landscape of high mountains in tropics – rolling peaks covered with fraylejones all the way until the horizon. There, we also beat our record of the highest altitude we reached on bikes – 3750 m asl, that, I’m sure, it is going to be beaten very soon J

From there we dropped down to Otavalo, very interesting indigenous town, where one of the biggest and oldest market in Andes is held every Saturday. We obviously couldn’t miss such event, where one can buy everything from livestock to finest crafts. We got ourselves only warm llama socks for the cold Andean evenings.

We left Otavalo on Easter Sunday just to cross the equator line on this exact day to be able to the ‘magic trick’ with balancing an egg  (in this case it was the Polish Easter egg) on a nail, that can be done with ease only on equator ;) And the day after we were already in Quito.

We stopped in very friendly Casa del Cyclista run by Santiago and his family where we’ll stay for a week or so; we need to do some bike maintenance as well as catch up a bit with the blog, so keep checking :)