Monday 14 November 2022

We left you in Quito just after Heathers return and we started heading East towards the Amazon Rainforest. We headed out with a goodbye to Diego and a massive thanks for saving the bike and we hit the road. To begin with we climbed up into the mountains to about 4000m and as we crested over the pass and around a corner we find 5 bikes parked to the side of the road looking out across the valley. Seemed like a good time to stop and chat so we said hi. They were from Canada (Seriously, why are all the Canadians running from the homeland?) and had hired bikes to ride around Ecuador for 2 weeks. Turns out we were headed to the same town so we joined the group for a nice ride to Misahalli. When we arrived in town they told us they were booked into a hotel close to the river so we decided to follow to see what it was like and if we had time would stop for a drink or two. Best laid plans.... I think we might stop making plans beyond the next 30 seconds.

The road quickly turned from tarmac to dirt and gravel, followed by a few flooded streams. Nothing major but I quickly realised it wasn't exactly going to be a short ride back to town. Everyone was enjoying themselves and getting good photos. We arrived at the entrance to the hotel about half hour later but there didn't seem to be anywhere to go. A groundskeeper (already too posh for us) pointed us down this thin path heading into the jungle so of course on we go. There was a rickety wooden bridge spanning a small river, the others went over first and Heather and me brought up the rear with the heaviest bike. Can you see what's coming? Yup! We smashed through 3 planks of the bridge and we're left sitting, perfectly upright, wheels about half a foot lower than they should be and the bike balancing on the bashplate. Well someone had to do it right.

After destroying the bridge and our only exit we were resigned to staying the night in a slightly over budget hotel. No problem though it was nice enough and right by the river. We hung out with the Canadians, shared stories. Frances knew more about my trip than I did as he had managed to find this blog and read about it.

The next morning it was time to head south. The group kindly offered to pay for our stay at the hotel which was super kind of them. As you know we'd been freaking out about money and every little helps. So after a few repairs to various bikes we headed out across the newly repaired bridge, through the river crossings (One splashdown) and back onto the road headed to Baños. Ecuador's mini Switzerland.

We headed out as a group and as we got closer to Baños we headed our separate ways. With only two weeks they had a lot to see and we didn't want to intrude on their time together. We followed a bicycle route around the mountain which went through waterfalls and had amazing views of the Baños valley before reaching the town. The town was honestly a little Switzerland. Wooden cabins and swiss restaurants everywhere. It was just before Christmas and there were decorations all over the place. Really pretty. It's also a good base for adventure tourism so after some deliberation we picked canyoning to have a go at. Canyoning is basically abseiling down waterfalls, so donned in wet suits and hard hats we went for it! Six waterfalls in total to go down. Us beginners taking our time and gently lowering ourselves over the edge whereas once everybody was down the instructor would dive face first over the edge and run down in about two seconds. All good fun.

With time getting short we headed to Chimborazo, Ecuador's highest Volcano and also the highest mountain measured from the centre of the earth. We had been told there was a campsite you could ride to and camp for free at 5000m. Gotta be done so we headed out early. The physical shock of going from tropical mosquito infested rainforest up to 5000m is immense. As we climbed the volcano it rapidly got colder and wetter. We hit the cloud line and carried on, eventually we hit the snow line and carried on. at around 4600m we finally found the entrance to the national park. Cold wet and mosquito free (yay) we pulled in to find they were closing for the night and they didn't really want to let us in. They soon realised turning us away into the freezing night might be a bit mean so they put us up in a dorm room normally reserved for staff or school tour groups.

We shared a beer, made a dinner of whatever we could find in the panniers (we'll be down to chewing on fake leather boots one night I swear it), harassed some llamas and wrapped ourselves up for a cold night super glad to not be in a tent. Really worth it though, in the morning we woke up to this:


We left early and headed for the 5000m mark, one to test the bike and two because it was awesome. Bike ran fine up to 4800 where the road ran out. She wouldn't win any races but then I could barely walk and breathe at the same time so I can't exactly say anything. We continued on foot to 5000m stopping every 100m or so to catch our breathe and dump our jackets that we would pick up on the walk back down. Eventually we reached the refuge and true to form it was cloudy. We managed to get a few good photos from the breaks in the cloud before walking back down and starting our run for the Peru border.

We hit the road running over the next few days and made a strong push for the border. We even managed to overtake Andi and Ellen after a cockup with the GPS sent us down the wrong road to the coast instead of towards their hotel in the mountains. No Biggie, I was sure we would see them again and even if we didn't it'd been a good run for a few months.

I managed to navigate to the worst city on the planet, it was like being back in India but with none of the charm. tuk tuks and trash everywhere. The hotels had no parking and there was no way we were going to leave the bike on the street so I managed to find a "motel" that charged by the hour..... cost us $20 for the night in the dingiest little room you've ever seen. I'm pretty sure bank robbers get better accommodation at her majesties pleasure. bugs mud and god knows what else, we were glad to leave and made it to the Peruvian border the next day feeling slightly less clean than ever before (and that's saying something)

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